Emotional Control

Ok, I am taking a break from depression. Here’s a random topic that is not horribly and soul-crushingly sad.

 

Emotions have a very strong control over me. I have always been a very emotional person, whether or not I recognize or follow those emotions. I remember being told that ‘I wore my heart on my sleeve’ when I like 6 and I was so confused by what that meant. I still don’t get or like that phrase, but I have heard it many other times since then.

I used to cry – a lot – about anything and everything. That’s a hard thing for me to admit as an ‘adult-ish’ man, but hey, none of you know who I really am. I got made fun a lot in school for crying, which ironically, made me cry even more. I think about 8th grade was when I decided I would just stop feeling my emotions altogether and then I would stop getting made fun of by the other kids. My master plan was to just ignore everything and everyone, I would do nothing except go to school and then go home. No more ‘friends’, no more fun, no more sadness. Just pure blissful robotic-like life. It worked for about two weeks and then I went into a deep depression that lasted for a few years. Turns out, emotions are supposed to be felt. I have yet to find a perfect solution for dealing with them though.

I see emotions almost like a water hose without there is no knob to turn it on or off, it just flows out according to some random design. I can try to put my finger over the end of the hose and direct the flow of emotions in one direction. Things are great when that works. But frequently the flow of water is too strong for that. The emotions are flowing out too fast, and the only thing I can do is just try to hold on to it and not get washed away by the flow.

There are days when I wake up and I can tell that I will have no control over my emotions that day. Those days are really difficult. It is very hard, if not impossible, to be a ‘responsible adult’ on those days. Those are the days that I wake up and scream at my cereal because it’s too loud falling into the bowl, or I drop a cup and then get so mad that I smash three more cups because I feel like a monster who must destroy the world around me. Those are the days when I wake up and feel that there is no reason for me to exist, and that no one would even notice if I were to disappear suddenly.

I don’t think that other people have days like that, because they always seem to be so calm and constant. Everyone else manages to present the same face and personality day after day, and it makes me sick. How do other people do that? Why can’t I do that?

I know, rationally, that other people don’t really feel the exact same way every day. But it sure seems that way, and there is a huge gap between knowing something and believing something. I can know that I am not alone in my suffering because other people have gone through similar things, but that doesn’t mean that I believe it. Knowing something doesn’t change very much.

For me, the best solution I have found for dealing with this is to think of it in terms of fairness. Fairness and justice are hugely important to me because that is the way the world should work. People should all be treated the same, and people should be treated the way that you want to be treated. That just makes sense in the most fundamental way.

So if I am feeling really angry, it is not fair for me to treat others that way. If I treat them with anger, they are going to treat me with anger and I don’t like that. Therefore, I don’t treat them with anger. If I am feeling sad, then it is not fair for me to spread that sadness to others, so I don’t. It’s great when you can turn complex emotional scenarios into simplified formulas and equations.

I also apply this to work. If I am at work, then I am being paid to do some function. It is not fair for me to allow emotions to get in the way of that, because then I am not doing my job well. Doing my job well, or pride, is another hugely important concept to me. I have always believed that old saying “If you are going to do something, do it well.” Or as my mom used to tell me, “Don’t half-ass something!” I always imagined that the alternative was to ‘whole-ass’ something, which sounds like a weird and unsanitary bedroom routine. Same thing, that one just makes fundamental sense as a way of living. I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t follow that advice.

Now it’s easy to say that you control emotions and don’t change how you treat others, but incredibly hard to do. I still struggle with this. Someone once told me that they felt like ‘a slave to their emotions’, and I think that is a perfect way of describing the relationship. It often does feel like the emotions are the master and tell me where to go and what to do. I hate being told what to do, and I think that is the only reason I could break that relationship and gain control over them. I cannot tolerate anything being in control of me, except for me. I am fiercely independent.

The best thing that I have found to help this is to treat the emotions like a problem and solve it. Most emotions are caused because something doesn’t match what I want or expect to happen. So I try to figure out the source of that disconnect, and then fix it (if possible). It works fairly well. I don’t know if it is fully healthy advice to view emotions as problems, but it is an effective way.

For example, just a few days ago I hit some bad traffic on the way home and instead of my usual calm yelling, I lost it and screamed until my voice was gone and kept screaming till it hurt too badly to scream. Luckily, I was alone and in my car, so no one else was really bothered by my reaction. That reaction seemed a little intense, so I started to think about why I felt so angry all of the sudden. The first thing I noticed was that I was in fact angry about a lot of things. I thought over the last few hours and days and weeks, and I started to keep a list of all the things that had made me angry. The list got too long to remember. And I had spent almost all of my time around other people, so I had not had the chance to vent my anger because that is not fair to do to other people. So that anger had stayed inside of me until it exploded out in a ‘safer’ environment. I thought over the list of things that had made me angry, and almost all of them were in the past. They were mostly things that had already happened, and although not ideal, I had gotten through them. So I let them go. There is not any point in holding on to things from the past, because they just weigh you down. Like Pumbaa said “You gotta put your past behind you.” I always take advice from talking warthogs, but I don’t need to take advice from little hornbills for a start. (For those of you playing along at home, that was a reference to “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” from the Lion King. Seriously, do I have to keep explaining all of these references?)(Yes, I do, because I want people to appreciate my witty commentary!)

I apply this same method to anything that I can detect myself feeling. If I am tired, I think back to how I slept and then plan to take a nap when I can. If I am sad, I try to find what is making me sad and change that.

It can be challenging to do this process at first, but it gets easier with more practice. This is pretty much the only tool that I have found for dealing with emotions, so it has to work. Sometimes, it takes a few days of thinking to solve some emotions. Sometimes, the emotion can’t be solved. Those are the really rough ones, you just have to adapt to those I guess. I usually rage against the machine for a while and try to fix them until I give up.

 

 

PS: Here is an adorable fox picture. Because foxes are the best creatures, and I believe a lack of foxes (and donuts) is a leading cause of all the problems in our world.

Suicide: Part 1

The first time I ever thought of the word suicide must have been at about 13. That was when most of my life started falling apart. Home had turned into a place where I had to take care of my mother so I was no longer free while I was there. School had turned into a survival match between the bullies and the teachers: both parties seemed to want me to suffer every day.

Nothing was safe, and nothing was sacred any more. I felt more angst and pain than I thought was possible, and saw no way to express it. I tried writing, drawing, music, nothing seemed to help. I felt completely lost and scared and that I was all alone out there. Most of the time, it felt like I was trapped in a foreign planet where everyone else seemed to speak a whole different language than I did. They were all doing normal middle school things, and I was over there in existential crisis, trapped inside my own dark and abusive thoughts.

For weeks I stayed up all night trying to think of a way to fix these problems. I am firm believer that any problem can be fixed with the right strategy. Even in my depression, I felt that way. But I could not find any solution. I was too young to get a job, I was too scared to run away (and I didn’t want to leave my dog).

I finally realized that there was one way out – I could die. If I died, then suddenly I don’t have to go to school and get made fun of, I don’t have to go home and take care of my mother, I don’t have to figure out my life plans any more, I could just stop being a problem to the world. I felt sick the first time I thought of it and pushed it out of my head for a few days. But then, like a tiger hunting in the jungle, the thought pounced back onto me in a moment of weakness. I had a pang of longing in my heart as I realized that my death would take me out of this awful situation. This time it stuck with me for a while. I had heard people say that suicide was ‘selfish’, but I didn’t really understand what that meant (I still don’t to be honest). Living seems to be pretty selfish, why would dying be more so?

I thought a lot about what death meant. I had been a Christian for a while, but never really believed in the whole afterlife thing. I had no concept of what death was like and being such an unknown thing scared me. I tried to imagine what death was like by closing my eyes, holding my breath, and being perfectly still. I imagined doing that until the end of time. It sucked. I didn’t think that was what death was like.

So then, I thought about death being nothing. Death would mean that all that I was would suddenly cease to be and everything that I had learned and thought of, would suddenly disappear. It hurt my brain to think about that. I realized that death also meant that I would lose all of the things I cared about in life, that much I knew was certain. If I died, there would be no more mac and cheese, no more puppies, no more Lord of the Rings and so on.

I realized that I had two options: live or die. Dying contained a lot of unknowns which scared me. Living contained a lot of problems that I didn’t like and couldn’t solve. I really couldn’t decide which one was the better option. That was really my reason for stalling. Not some belief that every life is precious, not some faith-based reason, not a deep seated will to live, not a dramatic savior swooping in to save me. I didn’t kill myself because I couldn’t choose between life and death. One of the few times that indecision and black and white thinking can be a good thing.

I made a pro and con list of living. It seems crass now to distill life down to that level, but it made sense at the time. I wish that I still had that list, but it got lost in a move, along with my Bag of Emotional Baggage. That’s not a joke, I used to keep everything that I cared about and felt emotions for in a bag. I would look through that bag when I felt bad. Losing it was devastating, but that’s a sad story for another day.

I believe my list was something like this:

Pro for Living:

  • Puppies
  • Sunrises
  • Sunsets
  • Rain
  • Sunny days
  • Trees
  • Flowers
  • Books
  • Video games
  • Mac and Cheese

 

Con for Living:

  • Bullies – they will stop one day
  • Taking care of mom – she took care of me when I was younger
  • Hating myself – I will learn and be better one day…probably
  • Feeling lost – “Not all who wander are lost” – Gandalf the Grey
  • Emotions – ???
  • Puberty – will end at some point, right??

 

I remember very clearly writing in solutions for all the things that were on my con list. I had the mental capacity, even then, to see that those things were fixable problems. I think what helped me was to writie the pro list first. I then felt that there were so many things that I enjoyed, that I couldn’t miss out on those.

I decided that the problems from living could or would be fixed with enough time. The uncertainties of dying might be really really bad, or could be great. I don’t like to gamble, so I decided that the best option would be to live.

So I then sat down and thought about how to add more of the things I liked into my life.

 

Masking Depression

Another sad update from the pits of depression.

Lately I have been consumed by one thought: I want more than anything to be better, to be myself again. I want to be able to laugh and smile and enjoy things again. I want to be able to sleep through the night. I want to be able to go through a day without wanting to die.

But I am not there yet. There have been a few days that I have felt like that, and that should be giving me hope. However, it has the opposite effect. I feel that I am slipping further and further away from those days of being myself again.

I have given up on myself in a lot of ways. I don’t believe that my life will be good again, I don’t believe that I will ever have fun again. I don’t believe that there is anything in my future to look forward to. I want to believe those things so much, but I can’t. Believing in those hopeful things feels like lying, and I can’t tolerate lying.

I can sense that people around me are beginning to give up on me, like I have given up on myself. Sometimes I can tell that they are concerned about me, and sometimes they offer to help me. But they don’t know how, and I don’t even know how they could help me. I can tell they want me to get better but are starting to think that it is not possible too. I can feel them starting to move on with their lives and forget about me. I feel that I will soon become just another statistic, a data point to show a lost life due to mental illness.

I do not want that to happen. I want things to change, I want things to be good again. I have no idea how to do that.

So I have started putting on my ‘mask’ anytime I am around other people. I put on my mask that makes me seem happy and ok. I use the mask to make myself controlled and consistent enough so that I can go to work on bad days. The mask keeps me from melting into a puddle, and keeps me from screaming at small problems like the wind blowing in my face. I used to be able to keep the mask off, but now it is a necessity.

I have to hide my true feelings because I know that people are sick and tired of hearing it. When someone asks “How are you?”, the mask forces me to answer with “Good”. But the truth is something more like “Absolutely horrible in every way, I feel the crushing weight of the universe on my eyelids every morning and can barely keep them open because all I want to do is go to sleep forever.” But that is not an answer you can ever really give.

People like the mask, and I often think that they like it instead of me. I feel that no one would like the real me anymore, and I can’t blame them. I don’t even like the me that I am now (although I have rarely ever liked myself).

I used to have friends and some family that I could be genuine with, people who never expected me to wear the mask and who accepted me without it. But now, anytime I try to take it off and be open with them, they clam up and start to freak out. They run away from me when I try to share or resist me. That makes me feel so much worse. I don’t want or expect them to fix me, I just want someone to actually listen. I don’t even care if they do nothing other than say “Yeah” and “Uh-huh” in-between my sentences. I don’t even care if they care or not. I just want the dignity of another human being caring about me enough to let me explain how I feel. And not to have them interrupt me to try to correct me or try to solve my problems as I explain them. I just want to take off the mask and share actual honesty with someone. I used to be able to that, but now I can tell that people are too worried about me. They judge me too much. So I have to keep all those awful feelings inside of me, bottle them up and hope that they don’t leak their toxins into my bloodstream.

I hate when I have to take the mask off at the end of the day. It feels as if my face is rotting underneath the mask. Every time I take it off, it smells and feels a little more rank. I am unsure who I am without that mask now. I keep trying to wear the mask constantly, but I can’t fall asleep with that thing on. But then when I take it off, I realize how bad of shape I really am in and how I can’t even talk to anyone about it and I get too scared. I am constantly terrified. I don’t know how much longer I can keep up this fight, I am running out of options and out of time. Something has to change soon.

 

Finally some good news: I wrote that post last week, and between then and now some huge things have happened. I saw my psychiatrist, who said that I could be a good candidate for a procedure called Trans-Cranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). It is a treatment used to help when anti-depressants have not really worked very well and there has not been much recovery. The process is basically powerful magnets that send waves into the brain to help reactivate parts of the brain that do not function well in depressed patients. It also has been shown to help with anxiety, OCD, and improve autism as well (still not entirely sure how that one works).

I found out my insurance approved it and would pay 99% of the huge amount (I won’t say how much exactly, but that it cost about as much as my college degree). I spent the last remnants of my medical savings account to pay for it because it seemed like a great option. I am hoping that it works. I am currently on Day 4 and so far all it has done is give me headaches and make me very very sleepy. But those are perfectly normal side effects so far.

 

PS: Apologies if my posts here have drifted a bit. My intent was to keep this blog about autism related things and life stories/perspectives and all that, but my life has been totally taken over by this depression. I feel like a lot of my depression is because of my autism, or at least exacerbated by it. And depression is a very common problem for those with autism, so it technically isn’t too far off base.

The Depressodon

So I haven’t been able to write a post for a while now. I have been busy, but more importantly, the reason I haven’t been able to write for a while is that I have been feeling really depressed lately. I think I have lived most of my life in a state of mild depression. Not trying to sound dramatic or anything, because I don’t really care about drama.

Often times I feel that there is a huge creature of sadness that sits on my shoulders and holds me down to the ground. I want to be happy and free and float in the sky with the lightness of being (bonus points if you catch both references in that sentence). But I can’t do those things because I am held down by this awful ugly and lumpy thing that chains me to the ground. Since I love dinosaurs, I will call it the ‘Depressodon’. He is a beast that is constantly around me, lurking behind every happy memory and everything that will come. The Depressodon just waits, his looming presence is awful enough so he never really does much.

Life is really hard sometimes. Other people seem to be able to tune out the bad things and somehow feel happy or at least feel better for a short while. I can’t do that, I can’t just make myself happy. If there are things that are bothering me or making me upset, then they will continue to do so until I fix them or they go away of their own causes. Occasionally, I can forget about them.

A lot of what bothers me is that I never really feel like I am getting what I want out of life. Invariably, feeling that way always makes me question what exactly it is that I want out of life. And the truth is that I have no answer for that. I truly don’t know what I want, which is also a large part of the problem. Even down to small things like do I want to go to the store now or later, I have no clear picture of what I want. It is very rare that I get a strong feeling of something that I want to do or that I want to get. That feeling stretches up to bigger life things, like a ‘career’ or ‘relationship’ and that sort of thing. I have a vague sense of wanting something more than I have now, but I can’t really define it any clearer than that.

The vagueness stresses me out a lot more than not being able to get it. I know that the reason I can’t get what I want is because I don’t know what I want. Once you know what it is that you want, it is pretty easy to get started on the process to get it. But finding out what you want, that part I have no clue how to do.

So here I find myself working really hard at what I do, not really making much progress on getting a ‘career’, not really saving enough money to buy a house soon, not getting married or starting my own family, not even really getting enough time to hang out with my friends, not having enough time to enjoy life and do the random things that I think of doing (like going to kayaking on a Tuesday), and ultimately feeling at the end of every day that I have done absolutely nothing to move my own life forward and I am not any small bit closer to getting what I want out of life and I didn’t spend any time thinking of what exactly it is that I want to get out of life. See why that kind of thing can lead to feeling depressed? I hate it. I don’t really know how to fix it, which I know is a part of my autism. But knowing it’s a part of my autism doesn’t help in any way, it actually makes it a lot worse because then I know that it will not improve unless I do something about it.

But I don’t know how to improve it. So, I get stuck in that loop, and that depressing loop is why I haven’t slept for more than 4 hours in the last month. Every morning I wake up that awful thought creeps into my head within a few minutes and fixates my brain until I finally pass out from exhaustion late that night. Sure, I can distract myself with my work or a video game and feel a little better. But as soon as I stop those things, then I feel worse than I did before. Then I realize that I have wasted another day and gotten older, and still gotten nothing accomplished at the major life things that I want to do.

Writing this out is really helpful to me, I encourage everyone to write about the things that they are struggling with in life. It is a great process to explain and solidify the ambient stresses of life and confine them into the syntax and word structure required by language. Once I have tamed the Depressodon and forced it to bow to my will, then I have a sense that I can defeat it. Even if I don’t currently have the tools I need to slay it, I at least know that I can explain it to someone who might know the tools that I need and that maybe together we can take it down.

Eye Contact

I think that looking into someone’s eyes is creepy. I tend to distrust people who look into my eyes too much. If eyes are the window to your soul, as the old saying goes, then why should others be expected to look into your window? What if I want to put up some blinds? What if there are some areas of my soul that I don’t want someone else to see right away?

I feel that looking someone directly in the eyes is overpowering. There is a lot of ‘energy’ that gets sent back and forth when making eye contact with someone. I don’t really know how to describe it, I am trying my best, but a lot of these things are just so fundamental there that they are impossible to describe. It feels like if I asked you to describe what the word ‘what’ means, or asked you to describe the feeling of your ring finger as compared to the feeling of your middle finger.

I have a really hard time making eye contact for a sustained time. Sure, I can force myself to do it when I know that I am supposed. But you can force yourself to do anything for a short amount of time. Those who have met me have probably noticed that I am not very good at eye contact. I can do the whole handshake with direct eye contact thing, mainly because I know it is an old tradition. Beyond that, I don’t like it and I usually avoid it.

I have learned that you are supposed to maintain eye contact while having a conversation, so I typically try to avoid those sorts of conversations. I usually try to have conversations while doing some activity, because then there are no expectations about eye position. If I am talking to someone while working on a project, then suddenly I can focus on the conversation rather than on trying to maintain an appropriate amount of eye contact. I know that doesn’t make much sense, because usually doing something would distract you from the conversation. But I have the opposite problem. If I am sitting and staring at someone and trying to have a conversation, then I am hopelessly distracted. I have to then focus on looking at them the acceptable amount of time, on not making weird facial expressions randomly (which is alarmingly difficult for some reason), on not fidgeting too much, and I have to focus a lot on making sure that I do not appear to be doing any of those things. You have to make it look natural and easy otherwise people think you don’t like to talk to them.

I also have noticed that when talking to other people on the spectrum, there is none of that pressure. They also do not like eye contact, and I have had entire conversations without any eye contact. Those have been some of the most beautiful conversations ever. Without eye contact, I feel free to actually say things and express things.

I like to have conversations in groups because then I can switch my eyes around and not get distracted, and it also means that I have more time to process what everyone is saying. That extra processing time is hugely important, because then I don’t say stupid things at the wrong time and sound like an idiot.

A few months ago, I went to a weekend training for work. We were in a very small group the whole weekend, so we got to spend a lot of time together. The man leading the training was interesting, a very old-fashioned kind of guy. He made direct and constant eye contact the entire time and it was horrible. I was so distracted by his intense eye contact that I could not listen to a word he said. I kept looking away from him just so that I could breathe and stay alive. It felt as though he was a monster who was draining my soul away by looking in my eyes. He was a very amiable man, but this eye contact was killing me. At the end of the weekend, he took us aside individually for a feedback session. He told me that I needed to work on focusing more and maintaining better eye contact. He said that I seemed to be bored and looked untrustworthy. I was so close to screaming and punching my way into a jail cell, I could not believe that he was going to call me out on that shit. Who does he think he is? He was not there to talk about that kind of thing at all, he was there to train us on kayak safety. I managed to leave calmly, but it took a lot of effort.

I read that not making eye contact is one of the diagnostic criteria used, and that they have studied very young kids and monitored their eye movements while showing them pictures of people. Typically, the children will gravitate quickly towards the eyes. Kids with autism will instead wander around the face, pausing at random features, and maybe eventually get to the eyes. That was one of the most painful articles I have ever read because it is depressingly accurate. Anytime that I see a picture or a movie, I do that exact same thing. I will stare at their hair, their teeth, their eyebrows, pretty much anything other than the eyes. I often look at their mouths, which is apparently also very common. I don’t really know why this one feature upsets me so much, but it does. Maybe it is because I watch a lot of TV and movies and I catch myself doing it constantly, so it serves as a constant reminder that I am different. It is enough to take me out of whatever I was watching and make me feel really sad and awful about myself. It’s probably also because I think way too much about it and that stresses me out too.

Apologies for the darker ending there. I am not really sure of any good advice to give out on this topic. Eye contact is weird and I think it is a terrible social custom that we should get rid of. I think many people on the spectrum will agree with me on that account.

Veg Days

Veg Days are a crucial survival tool for me. A Veg Day is my way of coping with the inordinate stress of life, specifically the stress that no one else seems to experience; running out of energy (or mana as I call it). I use up a lot of mana in my daily life, and it is difficult to replace. A Veg Day is a process that has taken me years to develop and refine.

It all started sometime in college. I was supremely busy in college. I know everyone says that, but I really was. I went to school full time, supported myself by working 2 (sometimes 3) jobs, and ran a non-profit corporation for almost 2 years. I also had a very severe coffee addiction (I still do). I loved being able to do so many things at once, so I had a great time even though I was busy for about 16 hours every.

After a few months, it started to catch up with me. I couldn’t sleep, even when I had the free time to do so. I stopped having fun, I stopped caring about things. I started getting so angry with everyone and I lost many friends in a few weeks. I finally cracked one day, and got really sick. I couldn’t do anything, so I had to lay around the house. I felt the entire time like death was hovering over me, waiting to take me away. But, I had to sleep and take a few days off.

I went back to life after that and noticed that I felt so much better. I had so much more energy, and I was so happy. It lasted for a few weeks, and then I started to feel the same miserable way I had before. I got sick again, and then spent a few days hiding away from the world. I emerged from my darkened room feeling like a beautiful butterfly again.

It took me about a year of this pattern before I finally noticed the connection. Somehow, it eluded me, but eventually I noticed the connection between taking some time off and feeling better. I did the same thing I always do, I made it into an experiment. I tried to take a ‘mental health day’, and spent a day pretending I was sick. I told everyone that I was sick and spent the day hiding away. It worked so well. Apparently, you can get more rest if you are not actually sick.

I then decided to experiment with doing this ‘day off’ on a regular basis to see if it helped me feel better. It changed my life around. I started planning these ‘days off’, and coming up with some ways to make them better. I felt so much better about life when I started incorporating these into my schedule. I slept better, I felt better, I rarely got sick, I was happier, I could think more clearly. It really seemed to fix a lot of the issues I had dealt with up to that point.

 

So, here is my system for Veg Days:

A Veg Day is a day that I set aside for ‘me time’. It is a day where I destress myself as much as I can. It is a day that I spend as far away from responsibilities as I can get.

A Veg Day consists of some important rules that are to be followed as much as possible.

  1. No work! This one is crucial, and so hard to follow. Even if I have one hour of work, then it will ruin the veg day. The way my brain works, I can’t relax if there is anything that I ‘have’ to do that day, like work. Work, in this sense, means anything that I have to force myself to do. So this means chores, laundry, actual work, anything like that.
  2. No phone calls or texting. This one is also pretty hard to follow, but I do my best. Talking to people or even sending texts is still stressful, so I keep it out of the Veg Day sanctuary.
  3. Nothing is off limits. Well, somethings are off limits I guess. But, I mean that I let myself do whatever random thing I think of without judging. I allow myself to follow anything that I feel like doing, which is a great liberty that I think we often don’t allow ourselves to experience. When I first started this step, it was difficult. I wound up laying on the grass and staring at the sky for a while, which was pretty good in itself. But then, I decided that I needed to make a hammock, which required me to make rope first, which required me to find a bunch of grass, which led me to go walk in the fields near my house and collect grass. It’s not important at all what activity I do, but it is important that I don’t ever try to control that activity.
  4. No pants! This rule is not too literal, but I used to have a rule of not putting pants on because putting pants on signifies that you are somehow more serious.

There are other rules that come and go as I see fit. Sometimes I will stay inside the house all day if I am feeling low. Sometimes, I will just sit in front of the TV all day. Sometimes I will just play video games for 14 hours. Most of the time, I work on random projects and play games in small bursts.

Some words of caution: Don’t take too many veg days in a row. I have taken up to 3 veg days before, and it gets real weird. After the 2nd day, you start to forget how to interact with people, you forget what things are acceptable to say around them, and you forget how to walk in public. These skills can be recovered pretty quickly, but just beware that you will look weird for the first few hours after returning to regular life. Plan your schedule accordingly.

Patterns

I have been obsessed with patterns for as long as I can remember. Patterns are very soothing to look at, I am not sure how else to describe it other than amazing. Patterns are anything that can be seen to repeat a few times, and it seems to add some consistency and stability to a world that lacks both of those.

Visual patterns are the easiest to spot first. Things like buildings being in a perfect line, or a house having windows in a row are really awesome. I love symmetrical patterns of plants. I really love geometric art, like Escher. I had a book of Escher art as a kid and could stare at that stuff for hours. But that stuff is pretty typical. I think everyone can appreciate a beautiful pattern like that. Let’s get to the weird stuff.

I really love anagrams. I used to do anagrams constantly while in school because I was bored. I would try to see how many words I could make out of a longer word. I haven’t done that for a while. I read the words on signs and make anagrams out of those too.

But it gets better. I can see words as numbers, and I can see numbers as objects in my mindspace. I guess it’s a part of synesthesia and doesn’t make sense to other people, but it feels perfectly normal to me. I can’t really describe it very well, because it is the only way I have experienced those things. To me, that’s just how the universe works and I don’t have the vocabulary to explain it.

I count the number of letters in a sign and I think about that number. I really like signs are a multiple of 3 or 5. “Highland Village” is a great name because it is both a multiple of 3 and 5, “Flower Mound” is ugly because it is prime. A sign that says Exit 54 is ugly because it equals 13, but Exit 55 is a little better because it equals 14. Exit 56 is the best of that family.

I find it unsettling to go to places that have what I consider ugly names, like Walmart. It’s prime and it just sounds awful. I will often count other punctuation marks to make it into a better number. Like Rosa’s Café, it has 9, which is normally a good number, but it is not a good number for a restaurant. A restaurant needs to be solid and strong, so it needs a multiple of 5. I read Rosa’s Café as 10 because I count the apostrophe.

I read the titles of things and care a great deal about those. I was really into Lord of the Rings as a kid, notice I said “Lord of the Rings” and not “The Lord of the Rings”. The first one has 14 letters, the second 17 letters.

I will often take a title or a sign and split it in half. Take “The Legend of Zelda”, I like it because it has 16 letters. If you split it in half you get “TheLegen DofZelda”, which is useless but mildly entertaining.

I have learned to stop doing this as much now, but it used to occupy my brain a lot. I think I mostly stopped because I found better ways to fill my mind. The only time that I start doing that sort of neurotic pattern spotting is when I am really stressed out.  I don’t really talk about it much because even as a kid I realized that this would make me sound like I belonged in a padded room.