I’m Not Okay (I Promise)

I have had a very hard time coming up with things to write lately. I think some of the problem is that I have used up most of the cute little quirks that I can write about. I am left now with the soul-crushing and depressing things that I have not yet learned how to deal with myself, and much less how to communicate effectively. So the posts will be more ‘real’ and ‘brutal’ for a while, I guess. I plan to go back and edit them later. But for now, and for my own therapy process, I am trudging onward with whatever I can write. To me, it is far more important to keep writing things than it is to have them perfected.

But anyways, back to the depressing topic at hand today. I am not okay. I don’t know if I have ever been okay, and I don’t really believe that I ever will be okay in the future. And that is okay, sometimes.

I’m not okay (I promise). If you get that reference, then we should be friends. I make a lot of music references and almost no one ever gets them. For those who aren’t musically literate, that was the title of a song from My Chemical Romance’s 2004 album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. One of the top albums in my teenage angst years, and was actually the very first CD that I ever bought.

I have had a very difficult life so far for a lot of reasons. My childhood was very far from typical, and I faced a lot of things that most kids don’t have to deal with. My parents divorced when I was three, and I grew up never knowing my father. My mom was a struggling teacher, and we never had a lot of money. My mom was severely injured when I was in middle school and I had to take care of her for a while. We lost our house because my mom couldn’t pay the bills. We had to depend on the food pantry to survive while I was in high school. My mom was and still is a hoarder and that has affected me a huge amount. I had to get a job at 17 to help pay the bills so that we didn’t get evicted again. I paid my own way through college by working and getting scholarships, I never got any money from my parents to help with college. I have had to be completely independent since I was 17, and have no fallback options because neither one of my parents can really support me.

That is a short summary of some of the bigger things that I have had to deal with in my life. I am not looking for pity, I really don’t care about that stuff. All of those things are horrible yes, but they have also taught me an enormous amount about life and how to avoid those things in the future. I listed those out to help myself, but also to illustrate that life happens and it sucks for a lot of the time. I have had to deal with all of those things, and also being a trapezium. No wonder I have so much anxiety and stress. No wonder that now that I am a ‘grown up’, I spend my time mostly playing video games. Now I am at a point in my life, for really the first time, where I am stable and comfortable. I know that I have enough money to cover everything and don’t need to worry about where my food or rent money will come from next month. That is a luxury that I never experienced earlier in my life. So, I take advantage of that and spend a lot of time relaxing now!

I have always had huge life problems to deal with, for as long as I can remember. Big overarching things that seemed like huge demons and towering monsters that I had no way of fighting or coping with. These things threatened the very foundation of my life, and I saw no chance to overcome them. So when faced with that kind of thing, I ignored everything else in my life and lived out of fear. Most of my life has been spent in terror of those huge monsters killing me. I have never felt that I had the freedom or the ability to do simple things like have friends and have fun and go on dates and things like that. I am too busy fighting for my survival. I can remember as early as 5th grade seeing my classmates running around and playing and thinking that they were so carefree and happy and wondering what that felt like as I went home to deal with my life. I would look at everyone else and think that one day I will figure out how to beat these huge demons and then I too can begin my life and be free.

But there is always another and bigger monster to replace the one that you beat. Life gives you no freedom, you must take it for yourself. It has taken me my entire life to learn that lesson. There will never be a time when I feel that I am ‘okay’. Life is relentless in its assault. One problem grows into another and so on. You have to still go out and do things, because if you don’t then you never will. I have spent years waiting for the right time and the right feeling to happen, but that is impossible. At some point you have to make the leap.

All through high school, I spent every day thinking that the next day will be better, and that the next year will be better. It never was. I kept thinking that once I get to May then things will suddenly be better, or once I get to college suddenly everything will be fixed. I thought that when I graduated I would suddenly not have to deal with crushing anxiety and low self-esteem, that somehow I could be the person I felt I was on the inside.

But that never once happened. Things don’t usually change for the better, and when they do change for the better, you can always find something else to feel upset about.

See, I know that some of this thinking is due to mild depression. I have struggled with that demon for my entire life. I think that the “depressasaur” also lives deep inside me and will never go away, he will only grow stronger and my only hope is to grow stronger and faster than he does. I have beaten depression several times, or just moved on past it. Most of my depression stems from unfortunate life circumstances (see the earlier paragraphs) because any one of those is enough to make someone depressed.

But I have never really cared much for feelings. For as long as I can remember, I have always told myself that feelings don’t matter, actions matter. I realize now that is completely false, but it is the only way I got through so many difficult times. If I had let myself wallow in pity, I truly do not think I would have survived most of my childhood. I had to pull myself out and do things in order to get out of those awful situations. So that mindset of ignoring feelings, was mostly a survival tactic, and a pretty good one. Until I got out of those situations and suddenly was unable to function without being a robot. I am still recovering from that one today.

All of this is to say that life is a struggle, and most often a mental struggle. I can know that I am doing okay at something, but still not believe it. I can know that I am doing really well at life compared to other people my age, but still feel like a complete wet fart of a person. I always feel like there is some big demon shadowing over me and my life, and it prevents me from being happy. If I ever figure out how to deal with it, I will gladly write my instructions on here. If anyone else knows, please let me know.

 

Advice Column

One of my intentions with this blog was to offer advice to others out there who have had some similar life experiences. I feel that I have not been living up to that goal very well, I have mostly been using this space to vent some of my frustrations and other such things that some could consider ‘complaining’. So I will be working more on having advice as part of every post. And to make up for it, here are some general life tips that I would like to share.

These are mainly directed at trapeziums or trapezium-like shapes, however I think this advice is all solid and applies to any shape.

 

You are not a computer, no matter how much you wish you were.

Life would be much easier as a computer, I will admit that. I have spent a lot of time trying to pretend that I was a computer. Not having to worry about feelings or eating, being able to turn off and on at will, and being unaffected by a lack of human contact would be great things to live with. But that is not reality. All of us are still human, we still have emotions. I have spent many years hiding and ignoring my emotions, and still do that to a large extent. Only the last few years have I been working with my emotions and trying to gain an understanding of them, and it is the hardest thing I have ever done. But I can truthfully say that the last few years, when I stopped trying to be a computer and have worked towards becoming more of a human, have been the best years of my life. I have felt pure joy (not just happiness) and that is something I pray that everyone gets to feel in their lives. I have cried from sadness, from sorrow, from pride, and from joy. I have never felt more alive and have never been happier to be alive. I want everyone to experience life that way.

 

Play video games, play them often.

I would not last long without video games to play. I have a very strict routine in the morning where I start my day with video games. If I don’t get to do that for any reason, then my day will almost universally be bad. Most days, I intentionally wake up hours before I need to so that I have time to play as many video games as I want to.

Video games also provide a fantastic escape from the terrors of the ‘real world’. I remember being like 10 or 11 and getting a Play Station 1 and Spyro the Dragon. I played that game non-stop for probably 2 years. I remember at one point explaining to my mom that I loved it so much because it was an escape from my real life. No matter how crappy my school day was I knew that I could go home and play Spyro. Nothing ever changed in that game, I knew all of the rules, I knew what to expect, what was coming, and I knew that I could complete the game. Real life is nothing like that for us trapeziums, real life is so complicated and scary and far out of reach. Video games offer a simpler and controlled world that is dictated by easily understood rules, video games offer rewards for doing things in the correct way, and punishments for doing them the wrong way. In a lot of ways, video games are like a simpler version of the way real life should be. Also, video games are just really cool and a lot of fun.

 

Logic and reason will help you in most situations, but not all. Sometimes emotion has to win over logic.

We tend to be very logical, which can be a great asset. For me, I have to have a logical reason for doing anything that I do, especially things involving other people. This is great because it means that I have always been very trustworthy and reliable, I never do anything crazy. But it is also terrible, because I have a hard time doing fun things, or doing spontaneous things. I also have a very hard time with things like dating and love and that. Logic says that dating someone will end badly, because it will. You will either break up or you will marry that person and live a happy life. But the odds are very low of that happening, so it’s safer and more logical to not date. However, that is a really awful way to live and incredulously lonely. I wish so much that I could stop being logical and date someone like all of my friends and peers seem to be able to do so easily. I am sick of being alone, but the logic is too strong.

A life of logic alone will leave you lonely. You have to have emotion to fully enjoy life. I’ll let you know if I figure out a good fix for that though. Knowing is half the battle, right?

 

There is no such thing as ‘normal’ or ‘weird’, and we will all be better off if people stop using those words.

I have spent a ridiculous amount of time watching other people and their behaviors and conversations and can assure that none of them have been what you might call ‘normal’. Everyone has strange ticks, strange phrases, quirks about them and all that. The one thing we have in common is that we are all weird. As long as I can remember, I was called the ‘weird kid’ and many worse things, and after a while it felt like it was true. I was pretty weird, even I could tell. I spent almost my entire life believing that I was the weird one, and wanting so badly to be ‘normal’. Again, my brain was lying to me. I knew the evidence showed me that others had many weird things about them too, but that didn’t matter. They were not picked on for being weird, therefore I was the problem. I hated myself so much for being weird, and did so many bad things trying to ‘fit in’ to whatever I thought would make me look more ‘normal’. I would never wish that upon anyone else. There is no such thing as normal, there is no such thing as ‘being cool’, and the sooner you stop trying and start being yourself, the better everything in your life and the lives of those around you will be.

 

Learn to notice and respect your body.

I know for me at least, my body has always felt kind of weird. I am constantly either completely unaware of the things my body does, or I am hyperaware of the things it does. There seems to be no middle ground in which I exist and my body exists on its own. But learning to listen to it and to follow the advice it gives will go a long way towards making your life better. By that I mean it will make you physically feel better, and if you physically feel better, then that makes everything else better too.

Exercise is one of the greatest things I can recommend for anyone. Exercise is fantastic to relieve stress, help you lose/maintain weight, sleep better, make you feel smarter, and so much more. It’s important to find some kind of exercise that you can enjoy enough to do it regularly. If you hate running, then don’t pick that one. You will not be able to force yourself to do it regularly enough to get any benefit.

For me, I enjoy running and weight lifting. Running is great because I can do it by myself or with friends. There is not any competition; I am only trying to beat myself. It requires no special equipment or money to do, and can be done almost anywhere. Weight lifting is great because it helps you develop a sense of what your body is doing. I look at it as training my body how to do things, learning certain muscle patterns and movements. I also enjoy seeing the numbers go up as I lift higher and higher weights. Weight lifting has some big drawbacks though, because you usually have to do it at a gym. I hate gyms so much. I am lucky enough to be able to go during the off hours, when there are fewer people. But I would say that about half the time, I cut my workout short because I can’t handle all the people there and I feel like they are all looking at me.

Listening to your body also means things like recognizing your sensitivities. Most of us have some things that we are more sensitive to, like sound, light, temperature, touch, that sort of thing. It can be really hard to identify these because they probably won’t be noticed right away. There is no label that comes with life that says “Warning: Fluorescent lights will make you angry and upset.” If only there had been, I would have had a much better time in school. It took me till I was 16 before I realized that I was so angry at school because of the lighting. I could hear (and still do) the humming of the fluorescent lights, it’s a very high pitched squealing that will drive me crazy.

I am also very sensitive to light. I love sunlight because it feels like a warm blanket wrapping around me. I hate any kind of non-natural light because it feels cold and empty and makes the colors of everything look different. I keep my house very dark at night for this reason, but also because it’s night time and I think it should be dark at night. My friends have complained that my house is like a cave at night, and I usually point out that their house glows like the white-washed fires of hell.

Pay attention to the times when you feel upset or angry, and try to notice any common themes around them. Do they always happen at a specific place? Do they happen after you hear a certain sound? Try to solve the mystery and figure out what physical things might be affecting your mood. It is exhausting and a very depressing process to go through every day, but eventually you will find some common things that you can avoid and then have better days.

The Perks of Being a Trapezium

So I realize that I have talked a lot about the negative sides of being a trapezium. I tend to do that a lot, it is much easier to focus on the negative things than it is to focus on the positive. I think that is something most people deal with. I will try to keep the Sarcastasaur (next post will be on the Sarcastasaur) away for this post, but forgive me if I let him take over for a little bit.

I am very good at spotting and recognizing patterns of any kind. I have an over developed sense of observation, if that counts as a sense. This leads to me noticing every detail of everything around me pretty much every second of every day. Over the years, I have developed the ability of turning it on and off sometimes. But as a kid, I would get very upset over small things that no one else would notice like the humming of a fridge or the ticking of a clock. Small little things like that can be more frustrating than bigger things.

I can very accurately assemble them into a bigger picture. This also means that when I am learning something new I always worry about those small little details and miss out on the bigger picture. This makes a lot of things very difficult for me to learn because most people don’t ever teach the small details; they give you a big picture description and expect that you can fill in the small details. But as someone who almost exclusively works the other way around, that kind of teaching never works for me. I remember when I was learning how to drive, no one ever mentioned what to do with your left foot, so I naturally put it on the brake pedal. It seemed to me that two pedals, and two feet it seemed pretty obvious. But then when I hit both pedals at the same time, it was suddenly a bad thing. I was overly concerned with that small little detail because for me to assimilate driving as a skill, I have to know what to do with every little detail like that.

The small details are really helpful for things like card games. I am extremely good at card games. I used to play poker and have a lot of fun. Not because I liked poker, poker is an incredibly vapid game, it takes about as much intellect as Candy Land to play. I liked playing poker because you can mess with people, and that is great fun. I am very good at controlling my behavior when I want to (or need to) and so I can turn on and off my ticks or tells, which is something most people can’t do. I also am excellent at spotting other people’s tells. I used to wait, figure out what they would do and then mimic that back to them. They would always start to freak out when they finally noticed, and inevitably get mad at me. They usually accused me of cheating, because I guess that being really good at observations equates to cheating.

I moved on to better games like spades, which is a fantastic game, lots of strategy and card counting. I played spades so much with my friends that we all learned how to count the cards well enough to call the last 5 or 6 rounds by identifying who had which cards. Spades is perfect for people like me who notice and observe everything, people who like to run up the probability of every possible outcome, and people who like to run different scenarios. I can completely and totally focus on a game of spades and tune out every other distraction in the world, something that doesn’t happen very often.

Anyways, we got bored with spades and moved on to bridge. Bridge is a very old card game, that virtually no one plays anymore. I think the game is too mentally stressing for people these days, it requires too much thinking for anyone to do. But that is precisely why I love playing bridge. It takes all of the card counting and probability modeling that I loved from spades and adds in new elements. I will save talking about card games for a separate post, I am trying to focus on the positive side here.

Being a trapezium and thinking in the different ways that I do is what allows me to excel at card games so much. I have the ability to calculate the odds of a player having a specific card at any point in the game, so with every play I make I can say that there is a 33% chance that they will play this card, so I need to play this card.

Observing everything so well also helps a lot with things like bird watching. For most birders, they look at a bird and try to identify it by sight. I look at a bird and I think of its shape, silhouette, beak, feathers, eyes, the current season, current weather, current time of day, the location, the bird’s position, the bird’s behavior. I use all of those patterns to determine the type of bird. Those are the methods that they teach in birding classes, but I do them all instinctually. To me, that method seems to be the only rational way to determine something unknown. You have to have data and reasons to back up your claim.

This kind of thought process might help explain why there are so many people like me in science fields. It makes sense to us, that sort of clear cut and defined thinking. I get really uncomfortable when I can’t use those methods to answer questions. I get incredibly nervous on any topic or area where I don’t have reliable data and previous info to back up what I do. I base pretty much everything that I ever do on past experiences. This is why a lot of us don’t like new things at first. It is very scary to go into something totally new. There are always subtle rules of how to act and react, and those are often very different from place to place, so applying the rules we already know to new things is tricky and almost never works. The interactions you can use while playing an online game are very different than the interactions you can use face to face, even if it is with the same people.

There are many other positives as well, but I am struggling to write about them now so I’ll save them for later. Writing this blog is incredulously difficult because I have a very limited understanding of the things that go on inside my head, and an even more limited capacity to express them in a way that other people can understand.

But Trapezium isn’t in the DSM-V…

I am using the term trapezium here to vaguely refer some very specific things. I know that sounds confusing and it is confusing. My reason for that is that I have not been officially diagnosed as a ‘trapezium’. I believe with complete certainty that I know the disorder that I have, and those of you playing along at home can probably figure it out with some attention. I will not mention anything specific here unless I get an official diagnosis someday. I am aware that many others feel that ‘self-diagnosis’ is not valid, and I respect their opinions a great deal. As a lifelong hypochondriac, I too feel that self-diagnosis is usually pointless (although I can’t help think that I have brain cancer every time I get a headache, but that’s a topic for another day ((thanks WebMD!)) (((Wait, can you use parenthetical asides within other parenthetical asides?! I hope my English teachers never see this))) ). I also believe that overuse of terms and diagnosis does contribute to a degradation of the disorder and a lessening of the meaning. And it is never my intent to be a part of that process. So trapezium is my metaphor of choice, and I think it’s a good one (of course, why else would I be writing about it?).

I do not think that I will likely pursue an official diagnosis for myself. I am not opposed to it at all, it’s something I would like to do. But it is incredibly costly and not something that I think will help me very much. Most of the services that could be provided are geared towards children, and I have already learned those skills. I have spent a lifetime building up alternative ways to solve all of these common problems and found my own ways that work (most of the time). There is very little that an official diagnosis would offer me, other that peace of mind. But peace of mind is always temporary; spending thousands on extra doctor bills is not nearly as fleeting.

My intent with this blog is to share my stories and to stop hiding my differences. I have spent my life hiding away out of fear and shame for who I was and how my brain works. I learned at a young age that I was ‘weird’ and weird kids got picked on and beat up. So I learned how to disguise myself and learned to not ever talk about things that happened inside my head. But that is a load of crap (sorry for the cursing, it seemed appropriately placed). I don’t want anyone else to go through a lot of my negative experiences, and it is my hope that some of the things I share on here will resonate with someone and they can benefit. I am also writing this blog as a form of therapy for myself. I struggle a lot with communicating my thoughts and feelings, but I have learned that communication is a skill. And any skill can be improved upon with repeated and directed practice. So this blog is my attempt to practice that skill and improve my skills.

More about the Trapezium

So I am adopting the name of ‘the Trapezium’ because I feel like I need to have an official name for myself versus the other trapeziums. But I will not use the capital The because that seems pretentious.

Here is some more background on me, there will substantially more to come, so don’t worry if this all seems a bit cursory. Trust me, I can tell more stories than you will ever care to listen to.

The Trapezium has always been a bit off. From looking back at all my earliest memories, I can tell now that I was never like the regular shapes at all. My first memories are from around the time when I learned to read. Before that, all I have are small ‘flashbulb memories’ that have nothing but a picture and a sound. There are no words or talking in those early memories. I also have no memory of learning how to read, it is like I just knew it one day when I woke up.

I got in trouble numerous times for reading inappropriate material in school. For some reason, the first grade teacher thought that I should not be reading “The Hot Zone”. I guess Ebola was a bit much for my classmates, but I was so fascinated with Ebola. I also vaguely remember describing the wonders of hemorrhagic fevers to my classmates and reenacting the finale in which the patient vomits up their own liquefied internal organs. I feel like that might explain why I had very few friends at that time.

Anyways, I got through elementary school unscathed, like most children I suppose. But middle school was rough. I think we need to get rid of middle school. Send the kids to Disneyland for 3 years. Nothing is really learned in middle school, it’s just an awful experience.

I was bullied a lot in middle school. I was a very easy target. I was overweight, my clothes never fit right, my family was poor, I didn’t shower very regularly, my hair was a disaster. Those were just the physical things, I made it far worse with my actions. I was obsessed with Lord of the Rings, and taught myself to sew so that I could make my wizard robes. Which, I am ashamed to admit that I wore to school one day. I deserved to laughed at that day.

All of this bullying bothered me a lot, of course. But what really got to me was when my ‘friends’ started bullying me. I was in the smart kid classes (LEAP they called it) because I had scored ridiculously high on an IQ test in 5th grade. I know the number, but I don’t want to brag. Anyways, these kids were supposed to be like me. They were supposed to be smart, open, and good kids – they were supposed to be my refuge from the terrors of middle school.

But they soon became my nightmare. They began to make fun of me for being dumb. I could deal with all the other bullies. They only made fun of things that I could fix. I could exercise and lose weight, I could buy clothes that fit me, I could take showers every morning, I could someday hope to not be poor, and I could certainly never wear my wizard robe to school again. But I could not change being dumb. “You can’t fix stupid”, as Ron White said so eloquently.

They kept reminding me that I was the token dumb kid that they let in to their class to make the rest of them look good. I eventually internalized that mindset and considered myself to be ‘dumb’ until I got through college. I never really questioned it, they told me what I was and I accepted, because surely middle-schoolers would not lie. That demographic is so well known for their honesty. Once I joined the ‘real world’ I realized that I was in fact not dumb at all, but just very different from those around me. But that’s another story to come later.

I think what those nasty smart kids were getting at was that I was in fact different from them. And being immature rich brats who had constantly been told that they are smarter than everyone else around them, they naturally assumed that anyone who is different than them must be dumb.

Shortly after I lost that safe place, I began desperately searching for a place where I could belong. I went through a long and painful series of teenage phases. The first phase was where I pretended to be an elf – Tolkien style, not Keebler. That was a pretty bad one to start out on, I got made fun of a lot for talking in a British accent and walking on my tiptoes everywhere. There was my goth year where I wore all black every day, including combat boots and a trench coat. There was my emo phase, which was similar to the goth phase but with purple hair. Then I had a punk rock phase where I wore a lot of leather and spikes everywhere, and yes I dyed my hair red and did liberty spikes several times. After that I had a stoner phase, only I never smoked anything, I just really liked the beach look. I rocked a pooka shell necklace and a Bob Marley shirt most every day, and used the word ‘tubular’ far more than anyone should ever use it. I had a brief Hawaiian shirt phase, brief mainly because Hawaiian shirts were too expensive (thankfully). I also had a phase where I pretended to be a character from MASH for most of a winter…yeah that was a weird one.

None of those led to me gaining any long term friends. I got bored with all the random ‘phase friends’ I made because they didn’t have enough to interest me. I still struggle with that today. People are just mostly boring. I can figure them out in a few seconds and then I am bored with them. Most people have a job, and maybe a significant other or a small family, and that’s it. Most people don’t have a dream or a goal for themselves, they don’t have a plan to do something one day. Most people don’t have any hobbies or interests, and most people are not able to maintain an intellectual discussion for more than 2 minutes (not that I am a big fan of long conversations, but if they are intellectual then I can talk for hours). Most people are more interested in reality TV and talking about the news. I think everyone needs to have a crazy dream. Even though I know that I will never live in my own well designed castle and staff it with an army of well trained (and impeccably dressed) Capuchin monkeys (all named Sir Richard of course), that silly dream helps me get through a lot of difficult times. (I have no clue if I am using parenthetical asides correctly here. I hope that I am, because I used to be a technical editor many years ago when I was but a young lad.)

I never understood why people are so boring. There are so many things to do and so many new things to learn! As Harvey Danger said, “If you’re bored then you’re boring”. I have never once in my life been bored. I can always find 500 things that I could do at any given moment. Now I constantly struggle with choosing which one to do, but that is different.

Sorry, I strayed off topic there for a while. That happens with trapeziums a lot, I gather. We tend to go off on tangents (See what I did there? Another math pun!). And tangents are great. Most of my thoughts are loose tangents based on something I was once thinking about or if I am lucky, a tangent based on whatever I was supposed to be doing at that time. Anyway, I think that’s enough for now.