22 June 2022

What Am I Living For?

I don’t know what I’m living for. Do you know what you’re living for? Is it even something people give much thought to or is it mostly the province of those having an existential crisis? I have no idea, but it’s been consuming my thoughts for about a year now and has gotten much worse ever since my first COVID reinfection earlier this year.

People like to throw out pat answers like “your kids” or “you can’t give up” but really – those are uninformed answers for me. If my kids were little, sure, but my kids are adults who barely talk to me or spend time with me as it is. They have their own lives. I can’t give up? Sure, I can. I’m a classic shut-in with a debilitating, terminal illness whose multiple Covid reinfections have made him phobic about leaving the apartment. If I’m going to just spend my life locked away in here on my own, what am I living for again?

CAN THERAPY HELP ME TO FIND WHAT I’M LIVING FOR

I’ve been in therapy for a long time trying to deal with my depression, PTSD, and ADHD. Once we started trying to deal with the sexual assault that occurred when I was thirteen, and things went awry with my cancer treatment, my inability to cope got really bad. I’ve been in weekly therapy ever since. I now have two therapists, and they come at me from different approaches, which is helping me to begin to grasp things and stop avoiding them finally.

Currently, these aren’t helping me to answer the question posed at the start of this post but are instead trying to help me build a better foundation for myself. It’s awfully hard to answer the question if you dislike yourself to begin with. Talk about bias – there’s none quite so much as self-loathing. So, what are the things we’re dealing with?

WHAT AM I LIVING FOR WHEN MY BODY IMAGE IS TERRIBLE?

My body image is completely shot. It had taken some major hits prior to cancer but since then, it’s plummeted. I’m unhealthily overweight and very different from the much thinner person I was in my consulting days thirty years ago. I’m also barely able to function many days due to the ravages of the cancer being unable to stand for more than a minute or two, unable to lift more than ten pounds, and with teeth that have never been great.

These are not things that crept up on me either. I’ve been all too aware the entire time they’ve been happening, and instead of reacting to it to make changes for the positive, I let it feed my self-loathing. This in turn became a vicious circle. With Covid, it’s gotten worse, and learning both to love me as I am and to find the determination to make as much change as my health allows is the first major challenge we’re trying to address.

ADHD

WHAT AM I LIVING FOR WHEN ADHD AND AUTISM MAKE IT SO HARD TO FUNCTION?

While I was diagnosed late in my forties with ADHD, due to being allergic to a base component present in a lot of ADHD meds, it has never really been treated. Even now I struggle trying to find an ADHD specialist as an increasing number of psychiatrists and therapists won’t take ADHD patients due to medication abuse concerns. The result is that we’re experimenting with different ways to build skills to help me that don’t rely upon medication but there’s a well-known truth: most ADHD patients won’t see relief without medication.

Additionally, they’ve finally determined I’m likely autistic. Many decades ago, the observation was made that ‘I hear everything at the same volume.’ This isn’t really the case, and as Quincy writes about in this post on Autism and Hearing, ‘everything I hear has the same presence’ is a more accurate description. As we’ve dived further into my mannerisms, way of speaking, and interactions with others, they’ve noticed I share many traits with other autistic persons. It’s a difficult diagnosis though because much of it may also be due to my mental health issues.

WHAT AM I LIVING FOR WHEN I HAVE LITTLE ABILITY TO SUCCEED IN MY WORK EFFORTS?

All of this affects my ability to work, which in turn leads me to many failed efforts. These failed efforts and the frustration and disappointments that come from them further feed my self-loathing. The consensus it that it was a minor miracle I was ever as successful as I was, and that between my mental health and my physical health, I’m likely to never be able to successfully work in an employed fashion again.

So once again, we need to build skills. Several of the things we’re trying to manage my ADHD would also help here, but additionally, there needs to be some acceptance of my reality. Without that acceptance, it’s going to be impossible to improve my self-image. We also can’t let it become an excuse to stop trying. There is a balance to find.

Man holding his head in his hands.

WHAT AM I LIVING FOR WHEN I HAVE NO RELATIONSHIPS NOR A LIBIDO?

I don’t have romantic relationships, but I want to. There are multiple problems though. First, I’d never recommend a romantic relationship with someone as self-loathing as I currently am. Second, I wouldn’t recommend a romantic relationship with someone as ill as I am. Finally, I wouldn’t recommend a romantic relationship as an adult to someone whose libido has vanished as completely as mine has. This is not to say that you need to have a libido to have an adult relationship – it’s that I had a very strong libido and it’s gone, which has greatly affected how I interact with those I desire relationships with.

To try and be clearer, I remember sex. I like sex. I haven’t suddenly become asexual. Rather, when we began diving into the effects of my sexual assault, my libido disappeared. I’m trying to get it back but in the meantime, it’s led to some very frustrating situations and caused issues with attempts at relationships. Some of the therapy related to this has led to some interesting discoveries I’ll talk about in a different blog post, but currently, it’s an issue.

WHAT’S TO COME

I’m going to be doing a lot more blog posting than I have been as we explore all these topics. Look for upcoming posts on everything from how I found out I was prediabetic to my efforts to regain my creative self to how an unexpectedly well-written adult visual novel led to questioning how I relate to other people. All these along with posts on struggles with healthcare, money, and more. I’ve always been an open individual and I’m not stopping now. Hopefully, others will find it helpful to relate to the struggles they may be going through as well.

Maybe that’s what I’m living for? To help others understand they aren’t alone and to find ways to deal with their own struggles. I don’t know but time will tell.

Category: Mental Health | Comments Off on What Am I Living For?
22 February 2022

Welcome Back, Self

Welcome back, self – you’ve been lost for a while. That said, even now I’m not entirely certain that more than a small bit of you has been found but I’m starting a concerted effort to pull all of the pieces of you back together. It’s important, you see, that I try to find and recall most if not all of you because I haven’t been myself for a very long time now. Instead, I’ve been a pretty hollow shell, hiding away from the world, having lost all of the joys I used to feel and increasingly becoming so detached from almost everything and everyone that the only reason I still exist is that I don’t trust that my precious kitty would be taken care of well if I were to die. Needless to say, that’s no way to live.

‘Nightly Calm’ – Acrylics on 8×10-inch Canvas Panel by Keith Krueger

Calm Waters Do Not Mean Contentment

My therapist told me a couple of weeks ago that I really haven’t been living for a while, at least not in a meaningful sense. My detachment had become my sense of calm, like still water, occasionally punctured by pebbles of emotion. Because those waters were so still and for so much of my days, any pebble that hit the surface caused ripples that made the feelings associated with those pebbles much more intense. If those still waters had been filled with joy, then even large rocks might have had a splash of an impact but the surrounding water would have quickly filled the impact with positive feelings to balance out the disturbance and things would have been okay. My water isn’t made of joy. My water is made of antipathy, depression, and detachment, so when things broke the surface, I’d panic but then I’d return to not feeling anything. I mistook this for calm. It was really just me trying to keep from further disturbing the world with my presence by trying to isolate everything except when those pebbles and rocks hit and I’d shout out in pain.

Starting to Reclaim Myself

So what’s changed? What ‘self’ have I reclaimed? I started learning to identify the slight currents within the water that actually gave me warmth and made me feel like there could be buoyancy in my life. My aforementioned kitty Mossy is incredibly sweet and I love her. She’s been my best companion for a couple of years now ever since I brought her home. Lately, she’s decided to sleep on my son’s lap when he comes to visit. She’s never done that with me. I realized that it bothered me in an odd way. I like her and my son getting along but I was also jealous. I’m not used to feeling jealous or envious. Now, this could be seen as a negative emotion but for me, it’s something of a positive. It means I do have something I care about enough to hold onto. That, other than my children, I do have something in my life that can stir me from my detachment. Will I change anything in how I live with Mossy or how I let my kids interact with her? No — of course not — but I might dote on her a little more than I do even now.

I’ve also returned to painting after a break of around 18 months. I enjoy painting but it has always far too easily gotten pulled under the waters and sunk to the bottom. I forget the enjoyment I get from it. I forget the relaxation and sense of accomplishment I get when I complete a new work of art. I’m currently focusing on seascapes. They’re one of my favorite types of paintings to be certain but I also chose it as a bit of catharsis in discussions with my therapist. If water is the metaphor for my emotions and mental health over the years, it’s time to pay attention to how I handle rough, choppy waters as well as calm ones so I can manage both.

‘Sunset Waves’ – 5×7 Oils on Hardboard by Keith Krueger

For a very long time now, despite telling myself I loved teaching and video game development, I’ve actively avoided getting back into it. I even stopped playing games other than a couple of mobile things this last year. I stopped watching anime, which was my primary source of entertainment for decades. I stopped cooking, and while a large part of that was due to my poor health making it hard to manage in the kitchen, it was also due to my losing the joy in making meals and baking. I mostly stopped reading.

Therapy Was Merely Venting

In fact, I even really stopped taking my therapy seriously. It became a paid place to vent out all of the week’s ripples so that I could return to the still waters I had grown used to instead of being a place where I would learn how to build and strengthen the skills I need to deal with the ups and downs of life. Two weeks ago, the therapist finally called me out on it. It led to a rather sharp argument that almost led to me being placed on an involuntary hold. Instead, I agreed to think hard about what I wanted my life to be.

Last week we discussed the future. At the same time, a different therapist I see when I am undergoing treatments for my cancer talked to me about what they’d been seeing in me. Between the two of them, I started to get a sense of what had gone wrong inside of me. I haven’t seen either one yet this week due to scheduling but I will. I’m going to point them to this blog.

Change Has To Start Somewhere

This blog is, for me, a safe space to let out the things that bother me in a way I’m often better at than speech – through writing. I’m not the best writer and I’m certainly not concise — I’m wordy and often ramble, but when I write I get things out that I often overthink in person and therefore avoid sharing.

Frankly, this will become another piece of therapy for me, in a way I used to really enjoy and believe I can again. It won’t be all mental health talk like this initial post is but instead will cover all aspects of my life. I really want to focus on the creative lessons I embark upon. Despite being a painter for 15 years now, I have a lot to learn because self-teaching has led me to a niche place that I don’t even do enough exploration in. I want to get back to teaching, game development, cooking, and everything else I used to enjoy. Just as important, I want to share it because a large piece of what’s been missing in retaining myself has been the social aspect of my life.

So this post is just the first of many. I’m challenging myself to write and post at least one entry related to creativity and learning every week. If I can do that, it’ll be great progress on finding all of the pieces of myself again. I look forward to seeing what comes next. I hope you will too.