2011-02-28

Radical Dishonesty

Lies! Lies!! Lies!!!: The Psychology of DeceitI am tired of people. The dishonesty and stupidity of them all, their obnoxious walking around as if it's not completely obvious, like their noses are not giving them all away.

It's not the let down. Really, it's not. It's the pretense that's so nauseating. That they're insisting that they are doing nothing wrong. Indeed, their actions are somehow normal, and the poison that oozes out of their mouths, why, it's the truth!

And then, inevitable, the sneaking suspicion that it's all me. I caused it somehow, and I deserve it. I am the unworthy one. I, with all my faults plastered all over my face, I am shit; everyone can see! How can I possibly believe that I am not?

About People

Lean On Me (Single Version)The thing to remember about people, when you're at your worst: feeling lonely and insecure, there is always going to be someone there ready to use that for her own purposes.

It may seem harmless, someone who just wants your attention a little too much. The person may be in a bad way herself, and you feel you should be there for decency's sake, because that's what you'd want, because you shouldn't judge. You can even understand where she is coming from. If the roles were reversed you'd want someone to give a shit about you even if the attention is half-assed like yours.
But you know what? If it doesn't feel right you shouldn't do it. That's it, period.

It's not going to help your insecurity or sense of inferiority or fucked-upness to sacrifice yourself for someone else. Especially not someone who can't back off, give you room to breathe, or take a look at her actions and ask herself if she is asking too much. In fact dealing with people who has figured out how to use your inability to say no and your guilt to get you to reluctantly agree to even to most innocent of activities can only make you feel worse about yourself.

How can doing things for someone, or with someone, who refuses to accept the boundaries that you set up, ever make you feel stronger and better? Isn't she rather increasing your sense of uselessness by confirming that what you feel is not important? In fact, isn't she telling you that all that matters is how others see you, and what others want, because you are no longer competent to judge?

It might give you something at times. You probably think it's worth it. Maybe there are moments of tenderness, of understanding, of closeness, but if on the whole, you want to withdraw, would rather be alone, would rather be dead because all your relationships are like this: people trying to make you do things, make you be someone, or just refusing to acknowledge you as a person, with feelings and innate value, then you got it wrong.

You may think there is only loneliness if you tear these people out of your life. Indeed, they're your only friends. Without them you're the horribly lonely cat-lady. And really, on your good days, it doesn't feel bad to indulge them at the expensive of you. It makes you feel generous.

But you are wrong. The only thing they're doing is sucking away the energy you need to reach out and form normal, healthy relationships with people who do not only take but also give. They are out there: the co-workers that seem nice, but you never get a chance to talk to because your time is always monopolized by someone else; or that instructor in that drawing class that was so concerned when you never showed up again that he called to ask where you'd gone.

Or those friends whose messages you never returned, who have given up on sending you more. They're still there. I promise. They liked you once; they're willing to pick it up again. No, they may never understand what's wrong with you, maybe they'll be more distant, but they'll still be your friends.

So, it doesn't matter if you know how the leeches feel, if you can understand how they struggle, if you see and feel their pain, or if you feel so intensely connected that nothing can replace it. You cannot let people suck the life out of you.

You may have felt like a leech yourself at times, and you may have wished for understanding, and felt overwhelmingly abandoned when you didn't get it, but honestly, if no one was willing to let you bleed them you shouldn't let someone else bleed you. There is only so much we can give, the rest we must save for ourselves.

And if you're here, chances are you have even less to give. Your own mind is your enemy, it's like a stormy sea of emotions all on its own. Don't add other unstable personalities to the mix. Try to find safe ones, who know themselves, who can offer you limited but assuring attention instead of brushes with insanity.

I am counting on you, if you can do it, so can I.

2011-02-24

Chocolate

I am sitting on the train. My companion got off at the last station. He left not knowing that while he was sharing the finer points on creating comic twists in writing, I was thinking about hazelnut chocolate from Whole Foods.

It's sold in fat chunks, wrapped in cellophane. It's clearly been divided up and labeled on-site, just like a side of lamb.

Each chunk is at least a pound.

When you cut it, you'll find it's softer than you'd expect a block of chocolate to be. As you press the knife through, it will separate into layers, and it crumbles as you pick it up.

The first bite is amazing. There is nothing quite as delicious as chocolate and hazelnuts together.

After you have eaten a lot it tastes like fat, solidified chocolate fat.

If I try I can eat a whole chunk in one go.

I'll pass Whole Foods on my way home.

The ultimate decision to go inside is not impulse, because I have been considering it for at least half an hour now. Buying chocolate feels like a task that can be achieved for an easy and immediate reward. Similar to, say, helping someone by holding the door open. The need to avoid shame and self-loathing at loss of discipline is weak, and the long term gains of weightloss and health are vague, dreary and unrealistic.

It seems obvious to enjoy the moment and reject the shame, embracing both the logical conclusion that self-improvement is unlikely and staging a satisfying rebellion against the forbidding super-ego.

2011-02-23

Not Exactly Binging

When I was hospitalized, for a few weeks, a couple of years ago, I participated in daily group therapy. A range of mental difficulties were represented, from the depressed, like I, to manics, so wired they could barely be contained in the room, to the severely eating disordered.

The latter group was overrepresented, and at the time their strife seemed irrelevant and their problems inapplicable. Many of them were there as part of a very structured outpatient program. They had to take all their meals, except the "1 starch snack", in the hospital. Because they saw each other so often and had so much in common they displayed an intimidating, unified front, much like the cool kids in school.

They brought stories of intense self-flagellation: binging then purging with laxatives and vomiting, endless workouts, one girl have caused so much damage to herself that she had destroyed her bladder.

Bladder-Girl made the strongest impression on me. Despite her self-abuse she was strong, independent and intelligent. She was clearly exasperated by our and her carers' stupidity and poor logic. At one time she shared that she had been binging and purging. Amid the group's exclamations she scoffed and said it was an improvement. She was met with incomprehension, but it was clear to me and I earned an acknowledging nod when I said so, that she had successfully resisted the more damaging impulse of buying several packs of Tylenol and chugging them.

In Dialectical Behavior Therapy you learn alternate, non-harmful behaviors to use instead of cutting, binging, substance abuse, or sexually risky stuff. The idea is that rather than relieving tension by cutting long gashes in your arms with a piece of glass you hold ice cubes against your skin, snap rubber bands against your wrists, take a walk, a bath, anything to deflect your attention until the moment passes.

Binging and purging was in Bladder-Girl's eyes an infinitely more constructive action than the alternative. She deserved some validation.

Because everything is a contest and I wanted to participate, but had no equally self-desteuctive stuff to share, I talked about sexual humiliation. This earned my some horrified empathy. Nothing is ever clear-cut though: as I told my story of being black-mailed, "I'll stay with you if you do what I want sexually', and anally assaulted while filmed, I was ashamed it wasn't technically rape. And another part observed myself basking in the warm glow of the group's attention.

I wasn't able to break into the tightly knit group of eating disordered, despite my attempts to provide interesting fodder for group. They, on the other hand, shared endless tales of food, their relationships with their scales, bodies, toilet bowls, pantries and gyms. It irritated me; it drove me a little nuts.

But I can relate better now. Every weekend I buy two bags of cheese curls, a pound of gummy candy and a long baguette and cheese. After I have eaten the baguette smeared with a thick layer of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and several layers of Fontina, I start eating the gummy worms. Once I am full I start I eating mechanically and fast, as if somehow I must finish the bag. When I can't eat any more, or I make myself stop, I start in on the cheese curls. I don't stop until I feel overwhelmingly full and I spend most of the night on my side hugging my swelled up stomach.

Thirst in an issue at this point but each glass I chug adds to the sense of fullness. Many hours of discomfort follows. Thoroughly disgusted with myself I throw away the left-overs of my meal. But, although I historically have had a resistance toward taking stuff out of the trash, I have now gotten over that. The next day I can take the bag of cheese curls back out and have it for breakfast.

Most every day I go to an Indian buffet close to where I work. I eat the deep fried veggies, the naan, and the dessert, several plates full. When I leave I am inevitable uncomfortably full.

Last night I ate two thirds of a 8 inch quiche. Again, after a few slices worth, the eating became mechanical. I ate as if the goal was to empty the pie form. It wasn't even good. The texture and flavor were reminiscent of raw egg yolk.

Although purging technically seems like a way to deal with this I have found it practically difficult. The effect of laxatives is unpredictable and inducing vomiting is not straightforward. Even if I can make myself retch with some effort, it's almost impossible to affect an efficient emptying of the stomach. I throw up a few mouthfuls and that's it. I usually don't even bother trying.

So, I am gaining weight. It is particularly noticeable around my waist. Even my largest jeans have become snug. I think that's the most worrisome part, the swells and dips that make out my body shape seem the same, but the jeans and the way I almost burst out of my blouses are objective measures that those swells are getting more pronounced.

I don't know how to fix it. There is a switch that flips in my brain and I walk to the store like a robot and pick out those bags of highly refined, calorie-loaded foods, and then I walk home and eat until all I can do I lie on my bed and feel sorry for myself.

I have stopped cutting, and ramped up on the food. Like Bladder-Girl my thinking is fundamentally broken. One self-destructive behaviour is not better than another, one may not be immediately lethal but it will be long term. Last time I was at the doctor I was told my blood pressure is getting high. My weight is creeping closer to the definition of obese (BMI 30), I am hardly eating a balanced diet and no amount of vitamins are going to make up for this kind of malnourishment. It has occurred to me to start cutting again.


2011-02-22

Not Depressed Enough

Growing up I cemented a behavior of comparison into my personality. By comparing myself to others I would gauge how I was doing in every possible aspect.

When I was miserable in school, because I was teased, left out, sometimes got stray hits and kicks, I compared this to bullying described in the books and magazines. Those kids there got their noses bloodied, their backpacks filled with water and were literally driven out of town by their tormenters.
I concluded that what happened to me was really nothing even though it felt like everything.


2011-02-21

Talking about Suicide

When I was younger I was fascinated by the mechanics of suicide; what method was more likely to succeed and why. There are websites dedicated to this how-to aspect of things, easily accessed through the appropriate google query.

I have a few layman observations though:

With trains speed matter
Jumping in front of a fast moving train has a very high probability of being successful. Almost everyone who end up in front of the local commuter train, as it's traveling at full speed, die. One day one my way home though, someone jumped in front of the train as it was leaving the station and just gathering speed. There was a loud crunch as her stuff went under the train but the person managed to jump out of the way, perhaps changing her mind.
She got lucky. If you're hit by a slow moving train, a light rail or a subway, you'll almost certainly end up maimed, but alive.

Privacy matters
Anything you're planning to do will almost certainly work better if you're alone and you are not expecting company for a long, long time. Some methods of dying take a relatively long time, for example pills or bleeding to death. The former has the additional problem of you getting sick and throwing up, and the second that it's exceedingly painful and difficult to cut deep enough to actually bleed to death. You could try shooting yourself, but you'd need a gun and you could actually miss.
It is my belief that hanging offers the higher success rate. As long as the fixture that you attach the rope to is strong enough to hold you.

Dedication Matters
However deeply unhappy I have been I have rarely felt that I really wanted to die. Rather it has been a theoretical solution to a very real problem. I think that under those circumstances you're less likely to succeed and more likely to hurt yourself very badly, possibly for life. If you really want to die, pick a method that's likely to succeed, do a little bit of planning, do the right thing and leave your shit in order, make sure no one will be around to stop you (or revive you), and execute (no particular pun intended.)

2011-02-14

Forgiving but Never Forgetting

One of my absolutely worst traits is that I can't seem to ever forget a slight. Ted used to say I kept a tally in my head. He was so irritated by this that he could see the numbers go up through my eyes. He was right, despite years, I could never forget the things he said that hurt me, and I'd recall them whenever we had an argument.

Forgiveness Is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope(I am also in need of forgiveness, it seems. Ted tried to forgive me, but failed. It makes me desperately sad to think of him spending that intense effort he is capable of, to research and come up with a book that would help us move on. I never read it. I tried. I can understand why people get embroiled in religion. I have no way to deal with the guilt, no way to make it up to him. It would help to have a entity that could step in and absolve me.)

With Frank it's the same: whenever I feel hurt all the old wounds start to itch, every little pinprick, every cut start to open up. I still remember and still dislike classmates from elementary school that betrayed me. I also remember teenage disputes with if not perfect recall, then at least much of the shame, anger, hurt still attached to the memories. And it influences my view of these people, even after conversations to the effect of "I am not longer the same person I used to be." And yet, and yet, when we speak and you're dismissing me or correcting me or being impatient about my inability to agree with you, I remember that's just who you used to be.

My acute memory, my fixation with things that made me feel bad, is why every altercation becomes such a catastrophe, especially if it's not resolved immediately. Every hour that goes by is just more time for me to remember how wronged I am. I simply can't seem to drop it, and I have to resolve it somehow. The fixes that I come up with are invariable final: I have to break it off.

The fact that I can't stick to my resolutions are added to the long list of evils that have been done to me.

Frank started talking to me again today. He can't comprehend my hurt or indignation at being ignored. And I have forgiven him. Anything else is unthinkable. I can't stand the intensiveness of feeling so hurt, and without the hurt I can't see a reason not to keep on keeping on. So, I'll just add it to the tally.

2011-02-12

Being no one

Everything seems to confirm that I truly am no one. Does this sound familiar? I know it's just temporary: my mind will soon do that trick it does and I'll feel, if not happy, then at least as if there is a layer of skin covering the raw emotions.

Right now every situations just echoes the self-doubt. The beautiful man on the shuttle didn't smile at me, he didn't even look, in fact he seemed to go to some lengths to get out of my line of sight once we reached the train station. And why shouldn't he? I am fat, ugly, old, vulgar.

When Frank finally started talking to me it was to ask my opinion of a guy I once worked for. Frank is considering an offer to work for his company.  I don't get it, why bother asking me? I keep imagining we're close, but I didn't even know he was interviewing. Perhaps I am supposed to be flattered. I get it, it's all in my mind, to him I am no one.

I feels like I have to end this "friendship," end all this suffering that's for naught anyway. It occurred to me today that Sergey is to me as I am to Frank: poking, pushing, wanting unreasonable stuff, causing irritation, resentment, confusion.

It's also occurred to me that Frank is just a diversion from more important things such as work, life, living. Anything really, he is my excuse to never stray far from my comfort zone, because I feel too sad, tired, hurt.

2011-02-11

The Pendulum has Swung

On this side it's dark. This is where the self-haters live. I cannot turn the music up loud enough to block my co-workers out. The are reveling in the sunny Friday afternoon. Everything is lovely, because in just a few hours they will fly out of here to their beautiful houses and families. And that's worth a laugh; it's worth some cheerful jokes. And as the afternoon progresses the noise level goes up, and the jubilant mood sweeps through the office landscape.

No one cares about the morose, mousy little girl, shrinking into her cube, trying so hard not to hear their hateful happiness.

Ritalin

I started using Ritalin.

Being a Horrible Person

Frank has been ignoring my IMs for days. I think he is angry because I called his search for truth an attempt "to prove me wrong about something."

As a person who pride myself in my intellect I tend to be more certain that I am right, and less flexible about being challenged. I trust my own good judgement even in the light of others' better judgement and the many mistakes I have made. I also believe that the pursuit of logic, consistency and truth stand above all.

Use Me: FictionI hope it is clear that it's the pride that is causing the trouble here. I am an insecure person with one seemingly unquestionable asset: my mind. If you take that from me, I am quite literally left with nothing because I have no other redeemable qualities: I have no talents, no specific skills; without that, I am just one of millions and millions of other nondescript, unaccomplished people.

This, I think, Frank shares with me. He doesn't question his righteous quest for the truth. If someone has three flats in three days it seems unlikely to him that "it happens",  that randomness is to blame. It is far more likely that something affected this scenario, for example user error. He pokes and prods with regards to the normal occurrence of flats over time, refusing to accept "I don't know" as an answer, or indeed as a sign of growing irritation. He thinks that surely one should have some idea of the number of flats, but no, all he gets is that a bicyclist will generally carry an extra tube, two if the ride is long, just for the eventuality.

Man Crazy: A NovelBut this is not good enough, and the bicyclist just hoping for "wow, so many flats what a bummer, but you rode a lot!" is by now exasperated. She thinks: "Stop trying to make me feel bad just to prove how smart you are.  Just like your girlfriend (who ruined your night by not letting herself be goaded into saying she is a republican just because she was taught to be and doesn't really share any of the values), I refuse to participate in this destruction of myself to please you."

She says, "It feels like you're trying to prove me wrong about something." It's only later after hours of ignored messages she realizes that he is actually upset. And she can't help but find the silence hostile and punishing.

(So, I try to understand, amid Sergey's assertions that I let people spit in my face, why Frank behaves like this. It's the only way to justify being friends with a person who doesn't follow me in Google Reader, or on Twitter, and hides on Facebook; who furthermore refuses to acknowledge (instead chooses to be angry) that it's painful to have your invitations rejected, or eroding for your confidence to have sex with someone who doesn't offer any compliments, doesn't stay the night, sometimes doesn't even kiss you.

I have considered sharing this blog with Frank. It seems the most sure way of hurting him and making him hate me. He, who values his "privacy" so much he separates his "friends" into parallel layers, would have to watch his wrongdoings sliced open like a sacrifice, right here.)

A couple of sad, self-serving side-notes later: I do it too. In conversations about anything at all I will suddenly focus on the tiny but unforgivable discrepancy. "Wait? What? What did you say? How does that even make sense?" So, that when speaking about how happy and productive and free my mother feels I get stuck on the seeming stupidity of her Miracle Course, and I have to probe and prod and make her feel stupid for listening to and believing all that stupid crap, instead of just being happy for her and letting that one slide.

In my estimation being socially competent means being able to give people what they are not quite asking for, but what they want and need, when you're talking to them. It's often praise, admiration and encouragement. Why is this type of generosity so hard?

2011-02-09

The things I wish I had known

Sergey invited me to lunch with a friend of his. The friend has some significant trouble with his family and the low is reverberating through his life. Not only is his family behaving badly, but he has started an unrelenting and unforgiving introspection that's leaving him with a set of logical conclusions: he is useless, his life is meaningless and people are awful and selfish.

The friend spent a week trying to drink it all away, but it was too exhausting, and now he just want to curl up with the only companion he can trust: himself.

Sergey asked me to give his friend some advice; what do I wish I had known before I spiralled into my first pit of despair? At first I didn't know what to say, but after a while this is what I came up with:

  • Hang out with people. Doesn't matter if you hate it. They will give you other input than your own.
  • Stay away from alcohol. You're going to overdo it, and it's a depressant. It will make you feel worse, both by the stupid things you'll do and its chemical impact on your brain.
  • See a professional. The job of this person is to agree with you and see things from your perspective. It will be reassuring.
  • If you find yourself alone, go hang out in a live chat online. There is one at Depression Haven. The conversation is rather trite, but it's going to be better than the shit in your head.
  • Exercise, take hot showers, cold showers, see how long you can hold ice cubes in your armpit; do anything that creates strong sensation that's not harmful to yourself or others. It will jolt you out of that state at least for a moment.

2011-02-07

Smells and politeness

I am at my therapist office. Next to me sits a grossly overweight man that by the state of his clothes is homeless. Wafts of stale urine is coming off of him and yet we're all sitting down around him keeping our faces impassive.

But we don't look at him, we don't smile and exchange those little meaningless but friendly phrases.

The doctor I once used to see comes to fetch him for his appointment and endlessly politely the large, smelly bear of a man asks: "Are you sure?" And my old doctor smiles, looks him in the eye and nods, "yes." 

No one really cares

There suddenly seem to be so many men with a stake in my life. There is nothing quite as dangerous as being liked. It affirms you in ways the worst delusions can't. It makes you feel safe, as if someone is there with you ready to face the consequences. 

2011-02-02

The OkCupid Experiment

Last summer I decided that online dating would be worth a shot. My workplace offered no interesting specimen, my social life was and still is non-existent, and I met my previous two husbands online, so what could possibly go wrong?

I signed up for a number of sites and I was appalled at the ridiculous prices charged by eHarmony and match.com. For reoccurring monthly fee of $50 or more the guy better come with a gold-plated dick.  The interfaces for most of these sites are just horrible, further emphasizing the price: they want me to pay for tolerating their bugs? Insufferable. Most of these sites don't even let you try them (you can't contact other members) unless you pay, so I ended up signing up for some of them.

 I did pay for speeddating.com, but I find the whole concept goes against my approach to the world. I like to lurk, to observe, and then approach carefully, I don't like to have a chat thrust in my face. I find it intimidating and too intimate, like someone stepping close and staring you in the eyes for no reason.

I tried a few socializing apps on my iphone too, where goal is to just kill time talking and flirting with strangers rather than the more serious pursuit of finding a mate.

2011-02-01

Stop Bitching about Kanye West

I am tired of hearing about what a misogynist Kanye West is, and how horrible Monster is. How is this news?

The other day a protester outside of the White House was saying of Mubarak and Egypt that the US's stance is "unacceptable!" Mubarak has been in power for a long time, why is it unacceptable now, and why the outraged tone of voice as if suddenly some new information has come to light that changes everything?

Kanye West has always had a troubled relationship to women. Did you ever listen to Drunk & Hot Girls or Gold Digger? Honestly, all you have to do is read the lyrics online. Can't Tell Me Nothing, for example,  contains the gem "how do you stay faithful in a room full of hoes?"

But it seems that trying to sort out his actual feelings and thoughts about women, by reading and ingesting his massive collection of music (or talking to him), would be too much work.  And to figure out why he seems to be just another caricature of the stereotypical Angry Black Man, even more so. It's easier to jump on the Monster band wagon. The video is said to have pictures of Kanye fiddling with dead girls' bodies. Very unpalatable and very, very visual.

I know, it's horrible, but it's a) a fictional work and b) the song is a metaphor. Stop being so fucking literal.  Pay attention, many of his other songs are not metaphors. If you bother to listen you'll find that he seems to take a pretty strong anti-educational position. I find that outrageous. But hey, no dead chicks.

If you want to be annoyed follow Kanye West on Twitter or Facebook. His endless self-promotion makes him sound like a pimply high school outcast with low self-esteem. Hid feed is full of lazy-ass headlines for you.

Whatever his faults, he does produce some dope shit. And really, he is not the actual issue: I am far more concerned with the wage gap. Kanye is just a big, shiny distraction.