Tuesday, November 22, 2011
So I had to go to the cancer clinic today because I was having some really nasty side effects. Apparently, the anti-nauseant I was taking (stemetil) has a whole host of nasty side effect, including extra-pyramidal symptons. What that means kiddies, is that I had just about the worst side effects possible....I'm talking jittterness, shortness of breath, and trouble sleeping. Having these symptoms is the worst thing ever...imagine restless legs syndrome, times it by a hundred, and make it all over your body. Last night, I'm not ashamed to admit, for the first time I prayed for death. I wanted to be dead instead of spend 8 hours climbing out of my skin, trying to be comfortable but failing miserably.
Thats right.....a car can hit me, I can get kidney stones, and I can take the sickness that is chemo and still have hope. But the jitters did me in in a bad way.
Luckily, I was smart enough to call the doctors (I started callling about two hours before the cliinic even opened). So they figured it was probably the stemetil, took me off it, and gave me an iv injection of benadryl to counteract the other drug. I also got a precription for valium, which is supposed to completely take the jitters away while I get rid of the other drug from my body. Well, it doesnt work as well as it should, but Im happy for any relief. Seriously, its not every day you wish for death to get through some lame ass drug side effect.
There is nothing deeper or meaningful about my post today. Im basically just writing this to help me overcome the symptoms
One additional thing....because I'm done my first four rounds of chemo, I keep getting questions of what's next.
Well, next wednesday (the 30th), they will be putting me on a permanent low dose of one of my two drugs (the less nasty one) and then I will start getting radiation every day except weekends. After 5 or 6 weeks of that, then its surgery. Then after my recovery from surgery, I get another 4 chemos similar to the ones I get now.
So thats the agenda.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Yesterday, Bevin commented that I'm not nearly as fatigued as I was the first or second week. I had to admit that ...well...yeah, I sort of am, I just try to deal with it better. Also, the neuropathy has finally kicked in a bit, so on top of being exhausted, I'm restless and jittery as well. Sitting still i is just not an option.
I'm happy to add, though, that I've been eating a whole lot more since I've managed to deal with the nausea a bit better. For the first time since my diagnosis, I've managed to gain 3 or 4 pounds. Since I've lost about 15 pounds since about June or July, that's not all that bad.
Anyways, thats about it for the update. What I really wanted to talk about is the thread of my title.
How to see the best side of people?
Well, kiddies....the answer is easy. Get cancer. No seriously, it's a great way to see what people are made up. Now, because I assume that you guys don't want to go about getting cancer, I'll tell you myself how people behave.
When people first find out you have been diagnosed, the first response is always shock. Whether its your mother, or father, or some guy you just told at the store to explain your twitchy hand, people are always shocked and sorry about your condition. But then something else happens; people care. And not just the people who you think should care about your....your family, your friends, your coworkers. No, the people who care are all around you.
And it's not such a big suprise, is it? That people should care about other people? I sometimes can't believe the support I get at school, from people I barely know. The lady who I used to buy coffee from when I worked by the University found out now that I'm back at school. She remembered me from before and asked me how things are going? I answered....shock, followed by support. The professors from my class have all responded in a similar way...shock, followed by support. I have a fellow student, who went through leukemia, who almost made me cry by introducing himself to me and his past fight with cancer. A guy I barely knew has my back in this horrible fight.
And it's not suprising, because every one of those people I talked to has a story, and in almost every one of those stories, there is someone they loved who had to fight the same fight. They've been there, they've got the wounds, and they are willing to help a fellow fighter out.
The coffee lady has a mother who fought anal cancer. Professors of mine have sisters and brothers who have fought breast cancer and bladder cancer. And leukemia almost took the life of my fellow student.
Kiddies, when it comes down to it, I think people are basically decent. Sometimes we need to be reminded that other people are like us, and not just clones who annoy us with their driving, with their politics, or with their neediness. And it's funny to me that one of those things that brings us together has to be so horrible. Cancer is a way to see the best in people...trust me on this. I would never wish anybody have it, but if you ever do, best prepare yourself to see the beauty in people, and feel the support that you may have never felt otherwise.
Love you all,
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Well, I guess I can start with a general update on how things are going with the cancer. Got chemo this week, and that was not fun. Decidedly not fun. Today I'm feeling...okay..but the Day 1 of chemo pretty much kicked my ass. I lost a banana to a red bucket, and I'm probably not going to touch another banana for weeks. Yesterday was slightly better than the first, but I don't feel quite human until I get that damn chemo bag removed from my arm. If the last time I got chemo was any indication of what I'm going to go through, I suspect that tommorow I will feel better, the net day even better, and then I'll be completely creamed for about 3 days with fatigue.
You'd think it would be better knowing what's coming, but it's not. Its so much worse, it feels like an inevitibility. Yeah, I know what you're thinking...take it a day at a time, Dan, a day at a time.
Hell, that seems like a topic I can expound on. Of all the cliches...and I do appreciate cliches if they are given with an honest heart...thats gotta be the one I hear the most. I think I trained most of you with my last posts to stop with the "only worry about yourself" crap. That is not something I can do. I mentioned to you guys that I draw strength from my concern for you...not only because it makes me feel less lonely, but because you make me want to be a stronger person. When you guys tell me I'm strong, I want to be that person. I'm not saying I drive myself to impress you....I'm way past that shit. But I want to be something more than a guy just sitting on his couch, feeling sorry for myself. Thinking about you, concerning myself with your health and your lives, helps me get out of my own cancer funks.
But as far as I can tell, and I've tried and tried and tried to be otherwise, I am not "day at a time" guy. Fuck, I wish I could be. Day at a time people just seem a whole lot happier than us focus on the future types, and us worry about tommorow types. But kiddies, that's just not in my bones. With that being said, I just had an interesting conversation with a doctor at my Pharmacy Volunteer placement (remember, I am volunteering at a care home), and she told me that there was only one common characteristic that all of the oldest people in the world share (the people who live to their late 90s and 100s). And thats the ability to accept loss and not worry so much about the future. Well, fuck.
So you day at a time people keep on me. Because I want to live a long, happy life.
Anyways, I'm out. This is a short one. I'm feeling tired, and the fiancee has Jersey Shore on the Tv. For some reason, I can't write coherently with guidos fighting on the screen.
Love ya all,
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Today I wanted to talk about willpower. I've talked about it before, but I'm not sure I really understood what it was until lately. Despite all of our scientific advances and knowledge about the brain, I think even the best of us scientists often get caught up in separating ourselves into our bodies and our spirits (or souls, or whatever). We all do it.....and I think a big part of the reason we do is because we hate the thought that so much of us is biologically determined. We love the concept of free choice....even though it doesn't seem a logical result in a lot of the results we get from science (quantum mumbo jumbo nonwithstanding) or even logical when you throw a god in the equation (oh predestination...how can you have a choice when the big guy in the sky knows your fate?).
The reason I'm bringing up "the spirit" is that that's the place we usually put our willpower. You can't faulted when your muscles give out. You can't help it if your so winded you have to stop running. These things belong in the physical realm. We may be angry that we are so weak, and accept responsability that excercise would have helped, but we don't often give our psyches a beating when we reach our physical limits.
But those spiritual limitations....we find those a great deal more disconcerting, don't we kiddies?
You can't help it anymore...you need to eat that last piece of cake. "I'm such a fucking pig".
You can't muster up the will to study a couple of more hours you know you need to. "I'm so freaking lazy".
You know you need to finish that report for work but you watch TV instead. "I'm never going to get promoted because Im such a bad employeee."
I'm very much like this....I've always been proud that I had that extra little willpower that I needed to get things done. Sure, it's failed on occassion, but there was always a rationalization for it. For the most part, when something is hard and I don't want to do it, I just WILL myself to sit my ass down and just get it done.
After my little work and accident crisis, I found my will power really challenged. I knew I should be spending more time looking for work and asking for interviews, but a lot of times I just couldn't do it. On other other hand, sometimes I did. It was tough, but in the end, the will won out and I did apply for some jobs. I also applied for school.
But this week...well, I finally accepted something with my entire being that I previously only sort of believed. I finally accepted that willpower is absolutely physiological.
During my chemo, I've had a lot of pretty shitty side effects. Nausea sucks...even when it's controlled well, you can still feel it there, under the surface, ready to come out if you miss a med. I've had only slight neuropathy, though it is a bummer. The fatigue was especially bad this week, where walking three blocks feels like a marathon. But the worst thing the chemo did to me...the worst thing it took away from me, was my will power. Sapped it from me like a fucking milkshake. Even when I had the energy to do things, sometimes it was my will that gave out first.
Let me put it in perspective. I've written papers while sporting insanely high fevers. I've gone for long walks with the flu. Colds barely keep me in bed. But last night, my will power....the things that keeps me going, was absent. I. COULD. NOT. DO. ANYTHING. And for a little while, I hated myself for it. I had emails to check. I have a lab report to finish. Hell, all I needed was to text someone. I couldn't. And it messed me up. Because I thought I was different. I thought that I am a person with a strong will. I thought that I should be the exception, even in chemo, even with cancer.
I want you to ask yourself this too. Do you think you would be the exception? I think that if you ask yourself honestly, you do believe that you would be able to handle being sick with your will intact. You may see someone with cancer, or amputation, or parapalgia struggling; and though you feel empathy for their struggle, you think you could push through it better. If you don't, you're a better person than I....because I thought the will was inviolate. Transcendant.
Fuck that. It's just another part of your brain. And sometimes, it does give up on you.
But it comes back. I'm not here to depress you, kiddies. I tell ya...it comes back. Today I sent the email I had to send. I started studying for an exam that's a week away. And I'm almost ready to start my lab report.
I guess I wanted to share this subject with you for two reasons:
1)I want you to stop kicking yourself so hard when you have a lapse in will. It is physiological....it's a finite resource. Hell, eat some sugar, and try again. Your brain may just need glucose.
2) I wanted to vent my frustration on people who don't get it when I was having my bad day. I know they mean well, but sometimes telling a guy who is fatigued and has no will power that "you just need to muster up some will and maybe get outside or do something to make you feel better" is frustrating.
With all that said, I am finally starting to feel a bit better. The first 3 days of chemo were pretty crappy and made me sick, but the bad shit.....the fatigue and weird feelings...happened days later. Now, I'm in the getting better phase, right before I get my next drop of poison.
I want to thank everyone whose been going through this with me. You guys have no idea what it means to me to have your support and your messages. I'm especially touched when people send me stories or tell me about their friends who read my blog and get something out of it. Sometimes I forgot that there are more than just 5 or 6 of my friends reading it.
And please....if you know somebody who is suffering through cancer or who could benefit from reading my shitty blog, please feel free to reshare it.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Well, here is the long and short of it. I god a port surgically put into my arm, as shown in the pretty picture, last thursday. Then this Tuesday, I had my first show of chemo....a mix called FOLFOX that contains 5FLU, Leuvocorin, and Oxalipatin. I go in, sit for 3 or 4 hours while they fill me full of poison, then they attach a pump that gives me a flow of 5FLU for the next 48 hours.
This will be happening for every 2 weeks for the next 2 months. After that, I get radiation and chemo for a another 5 weeks....this is when it gets really hardcore. Because of the already sterilizing potion that is chemo, my baby makers already don't stand a chance. Now add high doses of radiation that low (rectal tumour, remember?) and my swimmers are going to all be dead or have 8 heads. I'm sure Bevin won't even want to give those little guys a chance lol.
After the radiation, I get a week or two of recovery, I think, and thats when I get the surgery. They cut the tumour out and a nice piece of the colon too. Yep, colostomy time. I am not looking forward to it. The last thing I need is two assholes. Oh well, whatever I gotta do to survive, I will do. Then after that, another 2 months of chemo.
Then after I've healed and hopefully recovered from cancer and the rest of the shit I will get, they might be able to reconnect the colon, although my doctor made it clear with it being so lows, there is not a very good chance of that happening.
So now that you know about all the specfic details, what about me? How am I doing?
Well...I'm okay. I feel sick as a dog, but better than I thought I would. The medication I'm taking helps a lot, so I dont feel too much nausea (though I still have some). I've been hiccuping like crazy, and I get weird flushing feelings.....but apart from a general sort of mailaise and fatigue, I'm not so bad. I won''t get too cocky, but I'm hoping to go to school tomoorow...if I can do that, then chemo will have lost it's round of keeping me down. Fingers crossed.
People, I'm going to take a little time right now and be comlpletely honest with. I'm taking some drugs right now that's making me sort of emotional (that's my excuse, so fuck off if you don't believe it). But I want to tell you that I honest to goodness cry when I get your messages, your letters of support, and when you tell me your remembering me. If you all even knew how much I love you then you'd cry too (or be awkward around me...whichever works for you.).
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. For thinking about me. For praying for me. For sending me good vibes. For giving me hope. For helping change me into a person I can respect. If something has to come from this, let it be a closesness with all of you who have my back.
You guys inspire me with your strength.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
So apart from being horribly fatigued, in constant discomfort from the tumour, and bloated worse than week old road kill, I'm not doing all together that bad.
I am, however, in considerable anxiety. Tomorrow I talk to my chemo and rad doctors, and I find out what my next 8 months or more will look like. Kiddies, I'm scared shitless of this chemo thing. Sleep is hard for me to do, even with drugs....thoughts, worries, fears....they plague me. A friend of mine suggested I take yoga for excercise and to calm me...I'll be looking into it. It sounds like something that might help me.
I've been trying to be regular with my school, but I haven't been as good as I should be. I made it to some classes this week, and I even made it through an 8 hour day complete with a lab class. It hasn't been easy for me, but I'm glad that I'm giving it my best. The lab was a bit of a gong show, and the results my partner and I got weren't so great. I feel especially bad sometimes because it should all be so easy for me. The lab is mickey mouse, but I get so tired and frustrated that I can't think straight and I make mistakes. The worst was a lab quiz I had to write...I'll be lucky if I pass it.
But you know, maybe this isn't such a bad thing. Maybe it's about time I learn that I don't have to be the best, and that bad marks or failure is not the end of the world. It's a lesson that I've never had to learn because school has always been easy for me (well, maybe not always easy, but always manageable). Maybe it's about time I learn that it's more important trying, then it is achieving. Maybe I need the humility that the cancer is delivering in spades.
Stupid cancer. I'll learn your lessons, but don't expect me to like it. And after this big fat lesson, you better cut me some fucking slack, because I think I've had enough lessons for a life time. The next lesson I want to learn is "What should I do with all this money". I definitely haven't learned that lesson yet.
Love you all,
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Okay, I may not be asleep, but I probably have enough drugs in me that this post probably won't make too much sense. That's okay...I've said it before, kiddies...I write for me, not for you. Especially when I feel like I'm at low points in my life....and I'm pretty damn low right now. I was handling shit pretty good considering how sick I am. But last weekend, I spent two and a half days in the emergency room, and it left my system reeling. I went to the ER because of severe constipation and abdominal pain, probably from taking T3 (although only about one a day) and not enough stool softner. Well, to make a long story short I spent the weekend on a clear liquid diet, and enough laxatives to make a pornstar blush. Try it someday, and see how great your mood is a couple of days later. Also, if you know a supermodel, hug them. Seriously. Give them a hug. Their work isn't easy.
So today I didn't make it to school, and I've been more or less locked up in the house feeling sorry for myself. I'm going to try my hardest not to make it a habit, but I'm giving myself permission to feel weak today. Fuck, okay..that's not true...I feel so bad, that I'm not even able to make myself be alright with feeling bad. It's funny how you can have stage 3 cancer, no energy from a diet of laxatives and water, and living on no sleep....and can still feel guilty for being sad and unable to function.
But enough of that....I actually wanted to tell all of you about a little thing that I used to do (and still do). I think about it every now and then, but today it's been playing over and over in my head. I actually came up with a spiffy little name for it too.
Awesome. So what is a life bookmark? Well, one day, when I was walking home from my friend Jason's house, I walked past a little park that I usually did when I walked the route (for my Regina friends....it's that shitty little park on the 900 block of MacIntosh Street). I remember this particular day in perfect deal. I remember that it was a warm day, with a pretty cool breeze. I was walking past a shopping cart that was just sitting there, with one of the front wheels bent. I remember looking at it and thinking....man, who knows where that cart has been, and how long it's been used, and now its just laying there because some kids probably decided to ride around with it in the park. Then that prompted me to think about where I'm going to end up in 10 or 20 years. What I did at that point was made a promise that I would never forget that moment....whatever happened, this moment would live on in my memories. Even the ugly broken cart. I took a snapshot in my head, and it's never left since. Life bookmark. Fuck that's awesome.
Okay, it really isn't all that sophisticated. Kind of dumb, really. But so many of the memories we carry and that we remember vividly are not not conscious. They are a product of focus and attention, and since we largely live in a state of disattention, we don't have vivid memories of...well, "nothing moments". Like looking at a broken cart almost 20 years ago. So I thought it would be cool if I occasionally made a mental snapshot, just to remember where I came from, and what I thought the future could hold. I've done it at least 10 or more times since then.
But you know what...I don't remember any of them. Not a one, except for maybe vaguely one that I made about two years ago. But that first picture....that's stuck in my head.
Anyhow, I encourage you to try it out. Life Bookmark (tm). I hope it works for you. Maybe find a broken cart first though....it seems to be the magic glue that holds things together.
Now that I introduced the idea, I want to maybe expand on it in a future post. Maybe as a spring board for some inspirational tale or wise anecdote. For now, I'm feeling too tired. These drugs may be kicking in. I hope so.
P.s. Forgot to add...my chemo starts on the 22nd. Can't wait. Blech.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
My cancer is stage 3. I won't know for sure if it's stage 4 or not until I have my MRI this Friday. Even if the results are good, it doesn't actually change things very much. I talked to the surgeon during and after my ultrasound and he told me that the MRI may give them a better idea that the "node" in my liver is fat or cancer, but it is not definite. Whether I'm stage 3 or 4, my treatment will be the same, and they will probably give chemo and see whether it shrinks or not. If it does, they will do surgery on the liver as well as the rectal cancer. If it doesn't shrink, then they will probably do some exploration and biopsy during my rectal surgery.
The treatment doesn't change unless I decide to go for palliative care. And kiddies, homey don't play that.
The plain truth is that I've got entirely too much to live for. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have a future in front me. I've struggled too long and too hard with both my inner demons and the not so inner demons (hi, ex-boss) in my life to give up now. Even with all the shit news I've gotten lately, and all the crying, and all the feeling sorry for myself, I've yet to return to the dark place I was only a year ago. My life is threatened, and I feel weaker than I ever have before....but I'm still better off.
Because I have hope. And until you realize, in this destructive, scary way, that life could be taken away from you, you can't imagine how important living is. I used to think I was real, and that I had a pretty good idea what life was about. I was fucking delusional. I realize now how life is just slipping by in a way I never did before. Although I wish with every fibre of my being that I live a long life, in the end it doesn't really matter. All of us are dying. I was dying before I had cancer, and I'll be dying long after I beat it.
I've learned an important lesson. Maybe I've learned it late, but it's a lesson you can NEVER learn too late. Even if I die tomorrow, it wouldn't be too late. The most important lesson is that even if you accomplish every goal you ever dreamed of, go every place you've ever wanted, and make massive amounts of money, there will still be a DVD copy of Gigli with Ben Affleck somewhere in the world.
Sorry, that's not the lesson I wanted to teach here.
Uh....my actual lesson was going to be something about treating life with a sense of humour. I forget the specifics.
Anyhow, love you guys.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
I had an appointment with my doctor to go over the results of my CT scan. And the news wasn't good. It wasn't the most horrible news, but it could have been better. The scan found the tumour in my rectum and what looks like swelling in the lymph nodes. I'm not saying the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes....the doctor said that until we get an ultrasound on it, we just won't know. The CT scan also looked at the rest of my GI, my lungs, and my liver. The GI and lungs were clean, but a node was found on my liver. No need to panic yet though, because the doctor just couldn't tell if it was cancer or fatty tissue. See, I've had fatty liver for at least five years, and he couldn't be sure that it was cancer. I have to get an MRI either next week or the week after to make sure it's not cancer.
So we still aren't sure what we are looking at. It's definitely at least stage 2, but anything more than that we do not know.
So now that the technical information has been delivered....how am I feeling? Well, it's hard to say. Not well...not horrible. I have a headache from the stress of the day, but apart from that I seem to be okay. I was an emotional wreck this afternoon, but have calmed down a fair bit since then. But I'm trying to be "strong".
Which brings me to another matter that I wanted to express my feelings on in this post. I've already told a lot of people about my condition, and there are two things that I keep hearing over and over. The first is be strong, and the second is that I have all the support I need. The second is so appreciated....I'm having a hard time, and I need your support, and I appreciate your support, and I love you because of your support. The first....well, I'm having a bit of trouble with that one.
I'm guessing that a lot of you realize by now that I'm not the most optimistic person in the world. I know, shocking. At the same time, I'm also not a person who gives up easily. A big part of the problems I've had in the past were due to my tenacious nature. Hell, it's why I didn't quit that stupid job even though most normal, non-masochists probably would have. It's why I foolishly kept going on my career track, even though it was completely wrong for me. And it's why I won't give up on life until the universe pulls it out of me.
But here is the thing, kiddies. I'm not about putting on a stiff upper lip and bravely writing inspirational pap. I'm not Mr. Positive-Everything-Is-Going-To-Be-All-Right. If I have any strength in this world, I take it from being Real.....from expressing who I am and what I feel. I've said it to you in a previous post, and I'm going to do it again now. I will no longer lie about who I am, what I feel, and what is happening to me. I think, unconsciously, a lot of people want supernatural strength and positivity from cancer victims (and survivors) because it makes it easier for them. But that sort of positivity does not do the afflicted person any good if they are positive when others are around, and then they go home and drop the act when no is around.
I won't do that. I can't do that. To be strong, I need to show you what I'm feeling, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Don't ask me to be positive when I am not feeling positive. Don't ask me to be strong when I am feeling weak. Because that takes too much energy for me...energy I will be using to fucking fight.
And here's the thing....I don't need you to be happy and positive for me either, unless it's what YOU ARE FEELING. Because when you put on a happy face that isn't real, I can feel it. And when you refuse to tell me how shitty you feel, you make me feel alone. There is this idea out there that I should only be concentrating on my own fight, and that I shouldn't have to worry about other people's problems. But doing that makes me feel worse, if only because it makes me feel that I'm the only one with problems. Focusing only on my feelings, and my health, diminishes me....because part of being Dan, the most important part of being Dan, is caring about YOU.
So talk to me. Share with me. Give me support, but let me give you support. And maybe, together, we can get through this bullshit in one piece.
I love you.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Well folks I've finally learned the lessons the universe has taught me, and it couldn't be a moment too soon. Because now I'm dealing with something that isn't quite as easy to shake off.
You see, I've just been diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer. Like my last post intimated, I've been having some symptoms....problems with my ol' pooper. Yesterday, I got a colonscopy to see what was going on in there. My expectations were that it was some sort of ulcerative colitis or maybe, at worst, Chrohns. Cancer was not even in my mind.....cancer in the colon in people under 40 is extremely rare...something like 3% of colon cancer cases.
Well, they found a tumour in my rectum 3 to 4 cm big. The doctors think there is a very large chance of it being malignant, but have no idea of how long it's been there. The next couple of weeks I will be have ultrasounds, cat scans and other tests to get a better sense of the stage this cancer is in. The doctors will want to see if the cancer has spread, and this will give them an idea of how to go about fighting this thing.
And folks, I will fight. You have my guarantee.
Now, it seems to me that this is going to interrupt some of my plans. The surgery that I will eventually get will be a very intense one, that will have me in the hospital for some time. I also expect, based on the staging, that I will have to get radiation or chemotherapy.
My first thought, after learning about the cancer, was not about death or dying. My first thought was that I would have to quit school. My plans, plans that I was really excited about, were in the toilet. I wouldn't be able to go to school and handle this at the same time. I also thought about how tough it would be to be employed at all.
But I've thought long and hard about this. I'm no longer letting the world dictate what I do or do not do. I'm tired of having every plan I set up being knocked down. I'm tired of the jokes.
Dear Universe....fuck you. I am going to keep going to school. And no matter what bullshit you send at me, I'm going to handle it. Because I AM smart, goddamit. Because I am resilient. Because I am Daniel Contreras, you fucking cocksucker, and you can't beat me that easily.
My friends, I'm not going to pretend I don't need your help. I will need your support more than ever. I was sort of hesistant, at first, to announce this news. I won't lie to you...even though I'm making this public, I would appreciate some distance from you....I need your support, but right now I also need some space for my family and I. However, any of you who want to talk, either by phone or email or messaging, I am available. I won't promise you I won't break into tears if you call me, but that's just par for course for now.
I will keep you all updated...all of you who care about me. With a little luck, It won't be as serious as I think it will. But no matter how serious and bad this may be...I want to again asssure you that I'm not going to give up. Even in my moments of weakness, I won't give up. Because you won't let me give up. And I don't want to give up.
And if I ever feel like giving me up, just give me a hug, and kick my ass. But not my actual ass...cuz, you know...rectal cancer and everything. Just a little left of my ass. Okay no, maybe we'll say a slap in the face.
Just give me a slap in the face.
I love you all.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
When it rains, it pours.
I'm not going to get into the particulars of my maladies, but lets just say it's a really bad cherry on top of the shit sundae my life has been lately. This brother can't catch a break.
Luckily (?), my symptoms have been horrible enough that an appointment I have with a specialist has been expediated. I can't really concentrate or sit still long enough to give you all those great, amazing blog posts your used to, but I'm hoping that once I start feeling better I will write more often. I just wanted to let you guys know that I haven't completely abandoned this blog and there is a reason why I haven't been writing.
I guess the focus of the blog will probably change a little in the future. I'm really no longer thinking about career changes now that I'm going to school. I'll give it some thought and see where I want to go with this.
Other than that shitty update, I don't have anything to add.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Well, a lot has been going on in both the categories of Career Change and My Awful brain.
My biggest news is that I was accepted into a Pharmacy program. Although I was happy to be accepted, I had a lot of worries about actually going back to school. There are the typical worries that I have to deal with, chief among them being the debt I will have to go into to go through my new career. There is also the fact that I feel kind of old to go back to school, and the trepidation that comes with realizing I'll be doing tests, labs, and studying again after being away from it for some time.
Then there are the worries that are unique to my own awful mind (or maybe not so unique, who knows). In a lot of way, I have become a new person in the last year. I've endeavoured to be a lot more self aware about why I make the choices I do, and I don't want to repeat the mistakes that I've made in my past. Most of my mistakes have been caused by my false pride, by my idiotic attempts to prove my intelligence, by my laziness, and by my fear.
I really don't want to do something, and end up at the same place I am right now. So I've had a lot of angsty doubts about whether or not I should accept entry into pharmacy, or if I should take a risk and just get some job, and keep an eye out for a dream. Is it funny that I consider NOT going to school a risk, but going to school as the safe alternative?
So I did a lot of soul searching about my motives for entering pharmacy, and one by one I ruled out my concerns.
I think my fears about false pride and proving my intelligence are unfounded. I looked deep inside and I found something interesting....I don't care anymore what people think of me, or my occupation. I've already told you so much about what I'm going through, that I no longer feel any fear about what my friends and family think about me. I don't want to go into pharmacy because it makes me look smart. Not at all. I felt like crying when I realized I've been more or less freed from that burden. You can think I'm a brilliant, or you can think I'm an idiot. It's irrelevant. I'm me, and that's what counts.
My fears that I am just being lazy and going into pharmacy because it is convenient, when I really looked into it, seemed almost laughable. A lazy person does not commit to four years of difficult school because they are lazy. Is school an easier out than trying to find a job and just working? No. Is school easier than trying to find a passion in life and committing to it? I don't know. Maybe. But I've been looking for ten months, and I'm really no closer to finding what I really want to do with my life. I do know that pharmacy is a good choice in that, even if it's not a passion, it still gives me some of what I need in a job. Helping people. Providing a useful service. Giving me a fair compensation so I can do what I want outside the job. All things that my last path couldn't give me.
Despite all of my reasoning, when it came down to it, I still had problems deciding if it is what I want. I think reasoning and deliberating only ever takes you so far. In the end, you know how I made my decision?
Why the fuck not?
My biggest realization, the thing that I did not realize before my accident or before my last job or before these last couple of shitty years, is that in the end, the future doesn't really matter all that much. I've been thinking about the future so much, that I've missed out on what life really is.... a shit-load of "right nows".
I don't really care about a retirement fund, or buying a house so I'm comfy in the future, or any of the stuff most people seem to care about. I don't care, because life is what I'm living now and I have no guarantee that I'm even going to be alive in the future.
There is a choice before me. Go back to school or don't. And going back to school seems a lot more interesting and attractive than not going to school. So I'm going back to school. I WANT to go into pharmacy, so I'm going. It's exciting to finally WANT to do something. It's exciting to learn something new and it's exciting to try something different.
And if I don't like pharmacy once I leave school, so what? I'll do it for a couple of years, live on the cheap, and pay off my loans like I do know. And I'll go on to the next thing. I'll just live my life. The nice thing about my realization is that it takes a lot of my regrets and puts them in perspective. Yes, I've had a lot of bad shit happen. Yes, I've made some mistakes. But who cares...it's made me who I am.
And whereas before I did the wrong things for the wrong reasons, I like to think that now I'm doing things for the right reason, whether the "things" themselves are right or wrong.
So let's do this thing.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
How often does your inner voice attack you in ways it would never attack other people? When you and your friend both have an exam the next day, how many times have you turned to your friend and told them that they were going to fail because they didn't study enough? When your friend or coworker has to do a presentation at work, how often do you tell them they are stupid for being nervous, and that everyone is going to laugh at them and see how nervous they are? How many times do you say those things to yourself?
Even knowing that fear of public speaking is the greatest fear shared by the largest number of people, you feel you SHOULD be an exception to the rule. Even knowing that most people burnout if they work too much and have too much stress in their work, you feel you SHOULD be the exception to the rule. Even though many people every day deal with mental illness due to a combination of genetics and environmental stimuli, you feel YOU ARE the exception to the rule.
I came face to face with this destructive tendency in myself last Wednesday, when my counselor asked me one simple question.
"Dan, you seem to be a very compassionate person. Why don't you have any compassion for yourself?"
The question knocked me (figuratively) on my ass. The truth is, even though I've accepted that I may be dealing with some PTSD, I'm incapable of accepting that it should have any bearing on what I get done. Before she asked me the question, I had been telling her how silly it was that such a little thing like workplace bullying or an accident should be keeping me from finding a job. I kept insisting that my trauma was such a minor thing, and that I hadn't even been as badly hurt as I could have been. I kept insisting that other people had been through worse than me.
In fact, in a lot of ways, I feel like a complete fake. I feel like I'm using some negative things that happened in my life as a way to tell myself a pretty little story so I don't have to take personal responsibility. Even as I get panicky considering career searching, I tell myself how stupid I'm being, and how lame I am for ever believing that it's because of something as ridiculous as PTSD.
And my counselor listened to all this and told me that maybe I should be more compassionate with myself, like I would be if I had witnessed all the crap that happened to me happen to a friend. Then she told me something that almost left me in tears (almost...remember..I don't cry...the only time it's okay to cry is if you get mauled by a bear...and that's only to lull it into a false sense of your weakness before you uppercut it). She told me that transition periods in a person's life, whether it's work-related or divorce, is extremely difficult and can cause a lot of anxiety and depression in and of itself. Many of her clients visited her for that reason alone. To add a life-threatening accident to the mix was almost unthinkable.
And, kiddies, do you want to know what I, in all my wisdom, told her?
"Well, my accident wasn't really life threatening"
Of course she asked me if I had known that at the time. After I got hit, did I know that? Did I know that when I was laying bleeding on the concrete?
I couldn't answer her. I didn't trust my voice at that moment to tell her the truth. Because I absolutely thought, at the time, that I could die. I kept trying to feel my face, to see how bad I was hurt, and I couldn't move my arm, and I thought I might die. I thought I might die.
And at that point, I was taught an important lesson. I learned that I am a normal person, and as such, deserve compassion. When I get it from others, I should accept it, and I don't need to feel like a fake. More importantly, I deserve it from myself.
I want all of you to learn this too. You are not an exception in the universal human experience. We are all strong, and we are all weak, and you are no different. You deserve respect and dignity, and your inner voice should give it to you. You should never beat yourself up for something that you aren't willing to beat someone else up for. And finally...take it easy on yourself. Life is hard enough, without you making it harder.
And as always, if you need an ear, I am here for you. You are never alone.
Friday, June 3, 2011
However, the one thing I could never see myself doing was visiting a counselor or therapist, even when people I knew suggested it. I always thought I knew my mind better than any other person, and I figured that I could do it without any help. The only thing worse than visiting some mind shrink was the horror of other people finding out that I was visiting a therapist. Knowing I was weak was barely tolerable...letting others know I was weak was unthinkable.
The fucked up thing about it is that I honestly never considered OTHER people who visited therapists weak. I may have felt sad for them, and empathy for them, but I didn't think LESS of them as people. Like usual, the stupid voice in my head criticizes me way more than it does other people. Stupid brain.
Of course, I was completely wrong about visiting my counsellor. Although I still think I'm the best person for the job at dealing with some of my mental issues, accepting help from someone with experience is absolutely vital for my well being. If you feel like you have any issues that are getting in the way of you being the best person you can be, I recommend that you talk to a trained professional. I'm going to give you some reasons why you should, and hopefully help you with your doubts.
Mental Problems are Physical Problems
Your brain is a physical organ, just like your liver, your muscles, or your heart. Your thoughts and feelings are made up of neural pathways, and like any other organ, can be "damaged". If you go to the gym and do dangerous exercises with bad form, you hurt yourself. Fixing the damage requires proper guidance, and in the worst cases, medical help. Similarly, depression, anxiety, etc are all "bad forms" of thinking, that reinforce neural pathways which are not good for you. The good news is, the brain has plasticity and you can change the way you think, learn and feel if you have someone help you. If there is no shame going to the doctor for a torn muscle, there should be no shame in going to a mental health specialist.
Family and Friends are helpful, but are not necessarily a suitable replacement
Yes, we all turn to our families and friends in our time of need. They can be there to support you mentally, financially, spiritually, etc. The problem is that sometimes our loved ones have biases or ideas that prevent them from helping us to the best of our abilities. For example, as much as I love my family and use them for support, they were unable to give me help I needed when I was going through the worst of my depression. I was getting help for how to deal with my boss, and advice on "sticking it out", because my family and friends believed that making money was important and leaving without another job would be a mistake. Part of the problem, of course, was that I was not completely open and honest about what was going on in my job. Nor was I completely honest about how difficult a time I was having after my accident. But that's part of the problem; your friends and family will give you advice without delving deeper into your mind and situation. A counsellor is a lot more careful, and listens a lot better. Even after I left the job and recovered from my accident, most of the advice I was getting was "get off your ass and do something" advice that wasn't dealing with the core of my problem and wasn't very helpful. I know that I need to "get off my ass". I'm trying to "get off my ass". It's just that I'm having a terrible time doing it. Going to see a counselor gave me an understanding of why it is so hard, and gave me resources so "getting of my ass" can become a possibility, instead of something I beat me self up over everyday.
You will Eventually Deal with Your Issues: A therapist can make sure you do so constructively instead of destructively.
When mental pain becomes to much to bear, we as organisms will find a way to get through it. The problem is, most times we are not equipped to deal with it in a constructive manner. How many people do you know who find the solutions to their problems at the bottom of a bottle? I find it funny (but not ha-ha funny) that some of the most macho guys out there will insist they don't need a shrink or emotional pansy shit, and then go home and beat the crap out of their wives. Or get into street fights. Or drink and do drugs. Or buy a gun and blow their brains out. There are better ways; you at least owe it to your friends and family to think about counselling.
Talking to Someone Can Crystallize your Problems in a way Thinking Can't
Often times, the solutions that you need for your problems is in your head. Speaking with a counsellor isn't always about getting advice; it's also about having someone listen as you deal with your own problems. When we write and speak, we open up and use parts of our brain that we aren't using when we are using "the voice" in our head, that niggling little jerk who leads you astray. In the same way that making a list on paper can help you organize your day, talking to someone and bouncing ideas off them can make you aware of solutions or give you new insight into what may really going on in your life. Speaking with a counselor allows you to talk openly and honestly in a confidential setting, with someone whose feelings you can not hurt.
It's not as expensive as you may think.
There are plenty of organizations such as Family Services or Catholic Family Services that have a tiered payment structure that allows you to pay based on your economic situation. Since I'm unemployed, I pay only 10 dollars per visit. You may have to pay a little more if you make more money, but it's absolutely worth it.
I've been seeing a counsellor for a little over a month, and it's been absolutely an eye opening experience for me. I hope I've given you some good reasons why visiting a mental health professional can be a rewarding activity. If you have any questions or comments for me, feel free to ask. Also, please feel free to link to this post if you have any friends or family that could benefit from it.
Thanks for listening.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
The particular realization I will share with you today happened after listening to Stone Temple Pilot's "Sour Girl" and during Red Hot Chili Pepper's "Aeroplane". Before I share it with you (patience, kiddies, patience), I want to talk about a realization that occurred to me about a week ago, shortly after my last blog post. Some of it was due to the feedback you guys gave me after my post. Some of it was due to my THOUGHTS about you guys (specific people) after my post.
I realized that, complex as we all think we are, most of our problems can be boiled down to one thing. I can't tell you what that thing is because it is different for everyone. The problem is, we are terrible about finding our own thing, because we try to defend our psyches at all cost. So we make up bullshit to cover it up, and our problems multiply because of it.
Think about how often our arguments with our parents, our friends and our significant others repeat themselves. I bet you there is an argument you have had over and over with your spouse or significant other that you could recite by heart. You could probably have the argument by yourself at this point, and completely cut out the other person....rote arguments, if you will. Here's the kicker...if you continually have the same argument, and never seem to get your point across, then you are likely dealing with a person's thing. If you are having an argument, and are trying to deflect it or end it, then you are likely dealing with your own thing.
This thing is also why we so often continuously find ourselves in the same predicament. Whether you keep finding yourself with the wrong person or at the wrong job, or you keep finding yourself drawn to books and television shows with a certain theme, or you keep getting screwed in the same way, the chances are your being led by your thing to those situations.
What is your thing?
Do you like being a martyr?
Do you think you deserve to be treated like dirt?
Do you hate to commit?
Do you have an inappropriate attachment to a destructive habit?
What is it about your personality that keeps leading you over and over to conflict, problems, and angst?
Like I said, this little realization has something to with certain people in my life, and how there always seemed to be one thing that continuously created problems in their lives.
Now, before you start thinking that I'm some sort of guru with special insight, let me disabuse you of that notion (and no, I don't actually believe any of you actually think that). This idea has obviously gone back to...gee, I don't know...Shakespeare, if not before then. Yes, kiddies...we all have a tragic flaw. We are all heroes just waiting to be impaled by the sword of Damocles hanging just over our heads. No, this isn't exactly an original idea. Moreover, I did some Internet research on this concept, and came across this magnificent post by blogger/career advice columnist Penelope Trunk (incidentally, after I came across her blog, I spent hours perusing it..I'm surprised I've never heard of her, seeing as how she had great advice and resources for people like me).
So this got me to thinking about what my thing is. After all, I've got some problems I'm trying to deal with; if I've got a pretty good handle on other people's things, I don't seem to have a good handle on mine. So I did some brainstorming, and came across some good ideas. Could my thing be:
1)I hate responsibility and will try to stay away from it.
2)I need people to know how smart I am.
3)I have to have people's respect.
4)I can't live without positive feedback.
5)I hate conflict, and will do anything to avoid it.
6) Fear of failure.
Each of these things seemed like fundamental problems to me, and all of them seem to capture at least part of my personal flaw. But none of them seemed quite right to me. None of them seemed....complete.
Which brings me to today, when it hit me like a ton of bricks.
In a startling moment, I looked into myself and found that I loathe knowing the future and revel in uncertainty. I love being lost more than anything in the world, even if I find it terrifying and it leads me to losing things that I want, that I need. Don't get me wrong...in no way am I saying that I'm adventurous, brave, risk-loving person. In a perfect world, where I didn't have all the hang ups I have, I may have been that sort of person. But there is too much fear in me to be that way.
However, the hatred I have of a stable future is perversely true. It's a lot of little things that leads me to believe it, though I haven't seen the common thread until now. If I have any arguments with my fiancee (although we don't fight all that often), it's about making plans and staying on track "for the future". Furthermore, as much as I blame my old boss for being abusive (she was a horrible, horrible hag, and I wish her secondary...no tertiary stage syphilis), it's knowing that I had to go back over and over to the same job that really terrified me about the job. And that happens with EVERYTHING I do. Even the job I held with a professor I loved, doing work that was stimulating, sort of depressed me. How screwed up is it that I was elated when he told me he no longer had funding for me?
Want to know something even more screwed up? Maybe it's because I've been watching too much news about Joplin, but the other night I had a dream that I lost everything I owned in a tornado. The apartment, all my stuff, and my car. And in my dream, and for five minutes after I woke up.....I was happy. I was happy that I lost everything, because it meant that I didn't know what was waiting for me the next day.
When I go for walks (which I do almost every day), I like to walk down strange alleys and streets, and I live for the moments where I don't know where I'm going, and what I'll see. The same goes for when I drive my car. When I finally manage to orient myself, I feel a little disappointed.
Even this...even all of this career angst that I'm having...I get off on it in some respects. If I didn't have some of the PTSD bullshit that I'm dealing with, I'd probably be having a hell of a good time right now. A future with uncertainty is an exciting future, ripe with possibility, if you allow the cliche. Before I had the accident, before I had my hell job, I had a dream that I would go to a new place, and have new experiences. It was great, and I was happy. And then I came to this new city, and realized it was the same thing, the same shit as before. And I grew despondent....
Like I said, I'm not super adventurous, nor am I a risk taker (although a big part of me wishes I was). As well, my drive for uncertainty doesn't seem to apply to my relationships. Although I enjoy meeting new people, I have an attachment to people that I don't seem to have for material things or places. I can't even fathom not being with my fiancee, or losing any one of my family members or friends. But losing a job, changing my career, moving to another city, losing all my stuff..well, it excites me and makes me happy in a way it doesn't seem to do to other people. I allow for the possibility that I am wrong about my thing. Maybe I'm describing something that everyone feels. Maybe it is my psychological problems talking. But somehow... I don't think so. It's way too scary and difficult for me to accept not to be the truth.
Who knows though...maybe this is all just bullshit covering up my real thing. You may know better than I.
Anyways, thanks for listening to this particular mental masturbation.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Fear. Fear of people finding you weak. Fear that people will use your issues to attack you. Fear that others will think less of you.
Maybe that isn't true for you, I don't know....maybe you are really private, and you don't think others should be privy to your emotional problems. Fair enough...like I said, it isn't easy putting it out there.
The reason I do it is two-fold. First of all, I'm combating what I think is my greatest fear..that others will hate me for who I am. Most of my life has felt like a charade...a charade to convince other people that I'm smart, that I'm talented, that I'm worthy. Like I've mentioned before, this has gotten me in a pickle, in that everything I've done and achieved has been for someone else. This blog takes away the reason for that fear. Like a person who is afraid of snakes, draping themselves with dozens of snakes or a person who is afraid of spiders, letting a fat hairy tarantula walk up their arms, I'm exposing myself to that fear in the hope that I will overcome it.
Second of all, I do it for you. I may not know you very well. We may have just talked a couple of times in real life, and I may not know who you really are. Or you may be very close to me, but are hiding something that you feel cripples you. I want you to know that YOU are not alone. There are millions of people like me....dissatisfied with their lives, unhappy with who they are. We are here, and you don't have to admit to anything in order to take solace in that fact. Yes, I'm exposing my throat, but I trust you not to take a bite because to do so would hurt you and other people you love.
But I'm digressing a bit. What I really wanted to discuss with you is the counseling I'm getting. Or rather, the results of it.
After I made the post "Bullied at Work: How I lost My Mind", I had a friend message me about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. She described the disorder, and gave me some personal feedback on what she was going through. I looked into it a bit, and though is seemed to describe some of what I was going through, I was a little skeptical. To begin with, I didn't feel like I had gone through anything really traumatic. Heck, it seemed to me that PTSD was reserved to people who had been through the hell of war, or through intense suffering because of sexual assault. Part of the problem is that, even now, I have a tendency to think that the problems I have are really small. Lots of people go through worse shit than I do. I've never been raped. I've been in some scraps, but I've never had the crap beat out of me. I've never been shot at, bombed, or been in prison.
So imagine my surprise when my counselor informed me that some of my behaviour is indicative of PTSD. Now, before I go on, I want to tell you a little about my counsellor.
This is my first time seeing a professional mental health specialist (started about a month ago), so I didn't know what to expect. You see, in my pride, I never would have considered seeing a counsellor before. Even after making the appointment, my first instinct was to try to bullshit her, or to take an intellectual approach to the whole thing. But deep down inside, I knew (I know) that I needed help. So I swallowed my pride, and decided to approach counselling in a new way....I would drop my bullshit defenses, and tell the truth about what I was feeling (remember my quest for honesty?). It was the best thing I could have done. She is an extremely smart woman, who just seems to know when to listen, and what questions to ask. She's been doing it for a long time, and she seems to be able to keep me focused. All in all, it's been a pretty good experience so far.
Again, she suggested that I have a lot of the symptoms of PTSD, especially when it's job related. She gave me some specific resources, and we started on some exercises to overcome it. So I've been, of course, doing a lot of research on the subject, and it's all been quite fascinating.
The funny thing about trauma is how specific it is to the individual. One of the first things I learned is that what one person considers trauma, may not bother another person in a long term fashion at all. My specific trauma, the job bullying, attacked me at the core of what is important to me. Being competent, being respected, being admired. If I fell into a pit of spiders, I might be disgusted, but I don't think I would be traumatized.
The current research shows that immediate support and putting the traumatic event(s) in context can shorten the length of PTSD or prevent it. This is true for both animals and people. What is so cool about animals is that they have instinctual methods of recovering from traumatic events. In "Healing Trauma", Peter Levine, a medical researcher of stress and trauma explains that animals normalize themselves after a traumatic event (like being tranquilized and tagged) by spontaneous shaking, trembling, and breathing. Basically, they are expending the energy they used to escape death, and grounding themselves. One of the lines in the book, contributed by a park biologist for the Mzuzu Environmental Center, especially caught my attention..."If they have not trembled and breathed that way before they are released, they will not survive. They will die."
The big idea is, we need to deal with our trauma, and the sooner the better. When you experience a traumatic event, you need to fight, flee or freeze as you see fit, but then you have to deal with the feelings.
Another idea supported by research is that trauma is cumulative, especially if a person is not allowed to deal with it. Basically, it's a death by a thousand cuts. As Levine puts it, "..over time, a series of seemingly minor mishaps can have a damaging effect on a person. Trauma does not have to stem from a major catastrophe."
Now the best thing about having read about PTSD is that I can start putting some of the crappy circumstances in my life, and their effects, in context. First of all, there was the bullying. The truth is, I didn't get a lot of support after I left my job. My fiancee tried, but she was going through her own heartbreaking event (we both were), that left her unable to fully support me. Other friends and family didn't know the extent of what I was going through because I kept a lot of it to myself. I'm also living in a city where I didn't have a lot of friends and family nearby to help me.
Second of all, as I was reeling from the job related stress, and trying to come up with a way to deal with it (my plan was a big trip to visit all my friends and family all over the country), I had another serious beating with the car accident. Before I could deal with my first bit of stress and trauma, I had a second helping. Of course, that the accident happened right after my appointment with a job counselor didn't help, as I connected the work/career concept with horrible pain (seriously, the accident happened about 5 blocks from, and about 20 minutes after, the appointment).
All of a sudden, a lot of things have started making sense. I've spent the last 8 months feeling horrible about myself, because I was having trouble looking for work. Every time I look at job ads and try to find work, I have a mini anxiety attack. Every time I look into a career change, I get numb and distracted. Worst of all is how it keeps perpetuating itself....everyone around me keeps asking me how my job search is going, and keeps telling me I need to find a job, and I keep feeling more and more bad about my...well...impotence..to do what I need to do. I keep feeling like people think I'm just being lazy, or comfortable on EI...even though, I busted my ass looking for work last time I was unemployed and have never been idle. I feel like I'm damaged in a way that 30 year old men are not allowed to be damaged.
Understanding this, I think I'm starting to deal with it. I've got some ideas from the literature and from my counselor about ways to dig myself out of this hole. Moreover, I'm never going to be able to find a good career or job if I don't get back some control over my mind. Like those animals, I've got to psychologically shake myself free of my trauma.
Right now, I'm making some plans to travel. I want to back up 9 months, and do what I have to do to make things right for me. My first instinct has always been to run, and I've been denied that way to deal with my issues. I'm giving myself permission to run for a while. Not very far, and not for a long time...but for a while. I don't have much money, but I'll make do. I think I'm going to do a mini circuit of Western Canada. If you want me to visit you, drop a line. I need my friends now more than ever.
Thank you for listening.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Well, okay...maybe not great advice. God knows I'm neither the most romantic nor the most sexy man out there. I haven't slept with hundreds of women, I've never had women knocking down doors to date me, and I've never hooked up with a stripper. I've only been in two relationships that have last more than a couple of months and I've never had a threesome.
So what makes me think my advice means anything? Well, I've been fairly successful dating with my limited looks, and despite the fact that I'm not neither cool nor charming, I've had the ability to get attractive women to consider me a romantic possibility and ....gasp....even let me see 'em naked. I haven't been turned down that many times, and even after having dated for awhile, I've usually been the one to break things off. Not always, but usually. Yep, it's usually MY fear of commitment that ruins things, and at 31, I'm neither married, nor have children, nor have a mortgage (Yep, commitment phobe across the board, but may I add that I am now engaged and desperately want to get married....no seriously.)
Now, the topic I want to discuss specifically is one that I've heard come up time and time again. I've heard the complaint come from the mouths of decent guys, nerdy guy, heart-broken guys, ugly guys and good looking guys. It may be expressed in different words, and in different ways, but it always has the same general idea..."Why do girls/women/ladies always turn down us NICE GUYS and go out with JERKS????"
Most of these Nice Guys have similar characteristics. They are usually dependable, polite, understanding, compassionate, loyal, and (in some cases) devoted. They can be funny, but usually not in a rude or mean way. When they meet a girl they like, they try to be friendly without coming on strong. Most times, they like to show a girl they respect her and will try to befriend them before asking them out. They will sometimes fixate on a girl, give her gifts, write her poetry, and otherwise try to "woo her" in understated, polite ways. Inevitably, the girl will turn them down, usually using one of the following lines:
"I just want to be friends"
"I think you're great, and will make some girl very happy some day, but I'm not looking for a relationship"
"I'm not ready for a relationship....my ex just broke my heart".
Of course, we all now what happens next, don't we? Right, she starts dating some other guy, a Jerk, someone who treats her like crap. The Jerk never calls her when he says he will, never gets her anything nice, and usually dumps her ass when he sees a hotter girl out there. Yep, that darned Jerk, he's a heartbreaker. After he's done his horrible deeds, girlfriend goes off crying to her Nice Guy friend. Does Mr. Nice Guy finally have a shot, kiddies?
Haha...fuck no. Maybe after the 10th or 11th Jerk, she might marry him out of pity, but usually the Nice Guy is shit out of luck.
Now, from what I wrote, you may make you think I have sympathy for the Nice Guy. You may think I'm rooting for him. You may think I hope he wins in the end. You would be wrong. I hate Nice Guys....I think they are pathetic, and when I see one of them in action, I want to punch him in the face. When they complain about women, or complain that they are single, I want to kick them in the brain stem. I'm very happy that I'm older, and that most of the Nice Guys I've known got their crap together enough to finally get married. But if you spend any significant time on the internet, like I have now that I'm an unemployed bum, you see them on websites and forums, shaking their ineffectual limp fists at all the girls who prefer Jerks over them. And boy their arguments drive me crazy.
If you know me and are reading this, you may be thinking to yourself...."Come on Dan...you are a nice guy. You are so full of shit, trying to portray yourself as some jerk."
But I'm not. I love my friends and family. I treat most people politely and with respect. You will never, ever catch me cheating on a girlfriend, hitting a women, or attacking someones self esteem. But I am not a Nice Guy. I'm a good guy. The reason I know the difference is that once upon a time, I WAS a Nice Guy. And boy was I full of shit.
The fact is, most Nice Guys are lying sacks of crap. The reason women prefer Jerks, is that the Jerk is also a lying sack of crap, but at least he is doesn't lie about what is important. You see, kiddies, a Jerk may lie that he will call you back. A jerk may lie that he faithful. A jerk may lie that he will help you get the abortion when he knocks you up, but at least he isn't lying about WHAT HE WANTS. But a Nice Guy....he will lie about what he wants, so he doesn't scare a girl.
If I have anything good to say about myself, is that I tend to be a good learner. I pretty much learned in my first year of University that fawning over a women, being overly nice, and being something I'm not to impress them is useless. Putting a woman on a pedestal, showering her with gifts, and doing anything in my power to not offend her was a complete turn off. Not only that, but like most Nice Guys, I somehow had an idea that women were exalted beings; they were better than me, purer than me. That also added another dimension to my complete incompetence at attracting women....I was terrified of asking them out for fear that they might think I'm some sort of perv.
Like I said, I have an advantage, in that I'm fairly good at second guessing myself (it is sometimes an advantage, thank god), and in the case of women, I pretty much knew that if I wasn't getting results with my nice guy shit, then there was probably something wrong with me, and not womankind. So I learned, and I'm ready to pass on my learnins'.
The very first thing I learned....it's going to blow your fucking mind. You ready for it? You ready to learn the secret that will change your life? Here you go....
WOMEN ARE PEOPLE.
Fucking nuts, I know. They eat, piss, and shit like the rest of us. They pick their noses. Some of them probably even eat the stuff they pick. There are smart women, dumb women, women that probably are too good for you, women that look like they are too good for you but aren't, and women that don't deserve you. Women, like you Mr. Nice Guy, are attracted to different things, and most of them make complete sense. They tend to be attracted to people who are confident, fun, a little edgy, funny, daring, interesting, opinionated, and who have nice physiques. Look at yourself and see if you have these qualities. Women, like men, also tend to ignore bad qualities if the person has the good qualities they are looking for.
That is, they are willing to put up with Jerky behaviour, if that behaviour comes along with some other attractive qualities. If you are nice, but exhibit none of the other attractive qualities, what is the point of dating you?
Some other things I've learned....I put them in list form because people love lists. I bet you some of you actually didn't read the whole article and just skipped to this. Well, go back up and get some context....then finish reading this. Here we go:
1) Nice guys are boring as shit. Be more fun.
2)It's not about being an asshole, it's about being interesting. At least assholes are entertaining, not like boring old nice guys.
3) The key to being able to attract a women, and not be a complete douche, is to treat her well (which is NOT the same thing as being a rug she walks all over or a kiss ass), but keep an edge. Some mystery. Some independence. Some interest.
4) If you are telling her how much you like her on the first date, you are doing it wrong.
5) If you are not making your intentions clear, and instead just try to "friend her until she likes you", you are doing it wrong. She knows you are after sex and/or a relationship. Might as well be clear.
6) If you do everything she asks, not matter what it is (including compromising your principles or integrity), you are doing it wrong.
7) Being a jerk is not necessary. I'll never understand why most guys take one extreme or the other. A woman should never be treated as a goddess or as a meaningless ho. She should be treated as a person. Crazy, ain't it.
8) Don't bring flowers on a first date. Also, don't bring flavored condoms. Like I said...careful with the extremes.
9)Women don't usually bite or laugh at you when you ask them out. The worst thing most of them do if you ask for numbers is say no or give you a wrong number. Don't be so afraid of rejection.
10)Go to the gym. Excercise. Eat some vegetables. You'll feel better AND be more attractive.
11)Wash your hair. Brush your teeth. I wish I didn't have to write this stuff down but some morons just don't get it. Women aren't usually attracted to greasy haired nerds with bad breath.
12)Attracting women or men isn't about not being yourself. It's about being the best you that you can be.
13) Don't fixate on one woman. Seriously, if she is your friend, but never wants to date you, then give it the fuck up. She is probably never going to date you.
14) Don't be afraid of being a bit offensive. Women like dirty jokes just as much as we do. They also like to be teased every now and then. Women can be horrible people too, and that's why they are so much fun.
15) Okay, bring the flavored condoms just in case...just keep them out of sight.
There. Now you have some advice from a moderately successful joe blow. If you have any issues with anything I've said, or want some more advice, let me know. Like I said, I'm no player or pimp, but haven't done so bad for a nerd with no job.
Saturday, April 30, 2011
Which is actually what I wanted to write about today. Truth, lies and everything in between.
I hope that in these entries, you've gotten a sense of how sincere and truthful I'm trying to be. I've told you all some pretty personal stuff...and kiddies, every word that I write (barring satire and exaggeration, perhaps) has been true. True as I see it, true as I can be. You see, I'm on a bit of a quest...a quest to be an honest person. Honest to myself, honest to other, honest to the world....and it hasn't always been easy.
So am I telling you that I used to be a liar? A dishonest rogue, perhaps? Well....yes and no. I don't think I'm that more dishonest than the rest of you, but I have found that I have a disturbing tendency to twist the truth, and I'm not proud of it. So now you're probably curious....how do I lie? Why do I lie? Some of you who know me personally, are probably wondering if I've ever lied to you.
Well, let me break down the most common situations. And while I'm sharing them with you, I want you to ask yourself if maybe you have been dishonest in similar ways.
1)I lie to make myself look better. This is probably the most pride damaging way I lie. Maybe I add twelve pounds when you ask me how much I can bench. Maybe I tell you I got a higher mark or make more money than I do. Realistically, I don't do this that often...I used to when I was younger, but not so much anymore.
2) I lie so you will like me. In some cases, I might agree with your opinion, even if I disagree with it. I'll pretend that I don't find a certain political or religious idea reprehensible so that you won't be offended. I might even pretend I like a movie or TV show.
3)I lie to stay out of trouble. Granted, I don't usually do this...whenever I don't take responsibility for a mistake, I usually get crushing guilt, so I almost always admit when I make mistakes. The fact that I don't lie very often about mistakes got me in trouble a lot at my last job, so I did finally start practicing lies by omission just to survive. Which actually got me into trouble a couple of time because my boss literally checked every little thing I did.
4)I lie to get something I want. This, I expect, is a pretty common reason to lie. Many of us might call it "stretching the truth", but you stretch that fucker enough, it's an outright goddamn lie. This is the kind of lie you tell at a job interview when they ask you for your strengths and weaknesses. It's the kind of lie you tell the store when you are returning something you broke, but swear it came like that out of the box. It's all the dead grandmas' funerals you had to go to when you really just wanted a day off or an extension on your paper. Me...well, I've taken many a sick day when I haven't really been sick.
5)I lie to cover up weakness. Oh, my job is going alright. Oh, he didn't hurt my feeling at all. Oh, everything is great at home.
6)I lie to make people comfortable. The white lie....who doesn't do it, right? When you tell a kid he sounds great playing the flute, when it's just about the worst thing you've ever heard. When you tell a friend you love their new girlfriend or boyfriend, even though they are the biggest douches you've ever met.
Do you lie for any of these reasons? I'm sure you do. We all do, to some extent. If anyone tells you otherwise, or claims not too, you better damn well watch your back.
Many times, we lie because we have to. It's survival at a very basic level.
The problem is that if you lie a lot, you start believing your own lies. In many ways, I feel that that's a big reason that my life has gone off the rails. God, you have no idea how often I've lied about my education or career. Lied about liking what I do. Lied about how my success made me feel. Lied about who I am and what my strength are. Lied about who I am as a person.
And I'll be damned, I started to believe my own shit. And even when I didn't believe my own shit, I felt like I was compromising my own principles...well, whatever principles I had. Not always mind you....if I'm gonna be honest here, I'll come out and tell you that I have told plenty of lies with no hesitation or guilt. But the more I lied, the smaller I became as a person. The smaller I felt. I think that if you're lying about things that matter to you, opinions you hold, and feelings you have, your really betraying who YOU are. Moreover, I really believe that people can pick up on it. People can sense that you are not an honest person, even if they can't point out a single lie you are telling.
So I decided that I was going to change. This blog was an attempt at being honest, and I'm telling you (cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye) that so far, I haven't told a single lie. Although I hold to the right to embellish a story to make it interesting, I want to stay true to the spirit of truth (ha...the "spirit of truth"...if that's not a suspicious statement I don't know what is). But that's not good enough...I want to be more honest in real life too.
Well, I've had the opportunity to be completely, heart-breakingly honest in the last couple of months. Those of you on my facebook know that I joined toastmasters a while back, and have given two speeches. One of those speeches, my first, was the "Ice Breaker". Oh, how sweet the opportunity to impress people....my greatest weakness, by biggest temptation. I had five to seven minutes to tell people who I am, where I come from, and what I do. I didn't have to lie, of course, but I could use the truth as I saw it to really impress some people I barely knew. Or I could have given them a boring overview of my life, not letting them know the real Dan...again, not a lie, but not REAL either.
But I didn't do either of those things. I said fuck it, I'm gonna give these people a taste of the truth. In short, I did something I never would have done a couple of years ago. I showed them who I was...I let them see the good side of me, and I showed them my flaws. By the end of it, there were tears in the crowd. At the end, I almost cried myself. I spit the freakin' truth, and I can't believe the response I got.
I can't share that speech with you, although I wish I could. The reason is because I didn't write it down....well, not beyond a couple of phrases and a general outline. When you tell the truth, when it comes from inside you, you don't have to refer to notes. You don't have anything to keep track of. You know your story; you stand up, and you tell it.
My second speech, in some ways, was even better. If you read my entry "The Voice in Your Head is an Asshole", then you basically read my speech. It didn't have the emotional aspect of my Ice Breaker, but the audience really enjoyed it. They related to it. And I realized how important, how powerful being sincere, and honest, can be.
Now, I'm starting to feel like I'm bragging, so I'm going to stop right here. I do, however, want to encourage you to start being a little more honest, if you can. Hell, I bet most of you are still more honest than I am....I'm a recovering lie-aholic. Still, give it a shot.
Also, if your wondering, the job I interviewed for (that I referred to in my last entry)...well, I didn't get it. Ha...maybe I was a little too honest, who knows.....but I did get some good feedback from my interviewers, and they assured me they went with another candidate because he was very experienced. They said I had a great interview and are keeping my resume on file. Here's to hoping they were honest.......
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Well, I do....all the fucking time.
"Oh god, Dan. Not another neurosis on top of the long list you already have."
Fuck off. I can't help I'm crazy.
Seriously, in a lot of ways, being unemployed has been a blessing to me. Depressingly, it's because a lot of the time I feel like it's where I, a person who has tricked people into thinking he's smart and skilled, belong. For once, I don't have to feel like I'm having to work hard to put up the pretense of being a good worker, a smart guy, a guy who "can do this". When I have a job or school, I feel like it's all a big charade, and I feel like at any moment some little kid is going to point up at me and say, "That guy isn't wearing any clothes".
I don't mean that literally. I'm way past the phase where I used to expose myself to families in the park. What I mean is I feel like an imposter, and I feel like I'm just biding my time until I get exposed as a charlatan.
In many ways, this is the hardest post I've ever written. For one, instead of pretending I've got my crap together despite my past, I'm coming out and TELLING you I'm an imposter. I'm not as smart as you think I am. I'm not a good scientist. I don't really have any original ideas. I'm just a guy who has managed to trick every person he's met (okay, not every person..some of you know I'm full of shit) that I know what I'm talking about.
But that's not really true, is it?
I have enough intellectual reasoning abilities that I can recognize that my problem is a distortion in my mental processes. I have enough experience with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that I realize that maybe I AM successful for reasons besides good luck and manipulation, and that what I think is truth, is nothing but a distortion.
Yep, kiddies...there is a name for what I have. And if there is a name for what you have, then chances are that there are a lot of people who also have what you have. Hell, maybe even one or two of you, who I always assumed are successful and have your stuff together.
It's called Imposter Syndrome. Here is the wiki link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome (hey, I learned how to link properly..cool huh?)
And I quote:
"The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. It is not an officially recognized psychological disorder, but has been the subject of numerous books and articles by psychologists and educators. The term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978.
Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.
The impostor syndrome, in which competent people find it impossible to believe in their own competence, can be viewed as complementary to the Dunning–Kruger effect, in which incompetent people find it impossible to believe in their own incompetence."
Yep, sounds like me, except that I had problems actually identifying any "proofs of success". But then I tried to penetrate that haze of distortion and...well...the truth is, until recently, I have had a lot of successes. Top marks in University. A master's degree. Two (and soon to be three) pretty well received papers. Success at most of the jobs I've held. It was also pointed out to me by my amazing fiancee that I do have several talents and other successes (brains out of the gutter, I think she meant things like my speech at toastmasters and writing this blog). Yeah, well....most of the time, I barely see these things as accomplishments. And this blog...hell, who isn't writing a blog these days....a monkey could write a better blog than I. Fucking monkey would probably make less mistakes with "your" and "you're" than I do.
Still (according to wikipedia), it's an extremely common phenomena, especially in academics and in graduate students. I don't doubt that....I've detected similar feelings in ither grad students when I was in school. In fact, it's a fairly common condition in general: http://www.inc.com/magazine/20060901/handson-leadership.html
So what's got me thinking about imposter syndrome and beating myself up for being a fraud. Well, in truth, I have a job interview. I wasn't going to say anything, because a lot of my friends and relatives read this blog and I didn't want anybody hassling me to see how I did. The job that I wrote about in my last blog....well, I applied for it, and I got an interview. I've been doing a bunch of research on the company, spoke to people who know about the company, and have been getting helpful information about interviewing from my family. However, although I have what the company needs on paper (resume, school, etc), I feel, even without detailed information about the job, completely unable to do the work. I'm an imposter. I'm a shitty writer. I have no critical thinking skills. I'm only good at taking simple instructions. Negotiating policy? WHAT THE FUCK MAKES ME THINK I COULD DO THAT. I can trick them with my resume. Maybe I can trick them at the job interview. I can maybe string 'em along for 3 or 4 month. Ultimately, they will see me for who I really am, and I'll be unemployed again, except this time not comfortable sucking on the government tit.
Is that true? I don't know any more. In a lot of ways, I've felt like in the last job I had, I was finally revealed for the imposter I am. I don't know if I could handle going through that again.
You know what though? Fuck it. I'm going to give it a try. I'm going to do my damnedest to convince those people that I can do the job. I'm going to do my damndest to do the job if they hire me. What else can I do?
So what about you, kiddies? Ever feel like imposters? Ever feel like people might find out that you aren't the great worker, student, or person you make yourself out to be? Leave your comments here...and take solace that you aren't alone. Also, take solace that you haven't just exposed yourself to all your friends and family on your crappy blog like I have!