[Sober Living] Externalizing Panic Attacks

I spent about five minutes aligning the lens flare’s blue dot just right. I first motioned the camera so the dot would be inside of two of the branches, then, between the three branches of this tree on the tail-end of my lunch break. This was the only way I could think to calm myself down from the panic attack I had just plowed through, which, somehow I was able to describe while having it.

“I can’t think of anything at all.[1]”

I motioned my fists into a tight ball before continuing. “I don’t know! My mind is completely blank. I-I can’t think of anything at all.[1]” Compared to my life-shattering panic attack that sent me to the emergency room after my mind completely disassociated with reality for about 30 minutes, which I haven’t completely explained in detail yet because I don’t have the writing chops to do it justice just yet, this one was just an inconvenient one.

It was interesting for one reason, though:

Directly after that life-shattering panic attack, I briefly became hooked on Lorazepam, as you do when you find something that makes you feel really, really good compared to your normal humdrum, depressed, or at best just adequate sensations. I know this sensation all too well. With Lorazepam, I’d either feel “nothing” or I’d feel that insane boost of confidence to where I could do anything and really didn’t care about the results. I flushed them all away because I’d been abusing them and it got to the point where any day I had free, I’d take them, because then I’d start to feel more elated than I previously had.

Sometimes, I still feel like I need them.

Anxiety in its purest form for me makes me feel like my breathing is irregular to the point of dying. It’d either be a complete stop of breathing like I’d experienced at around that time, or, it’d be hyperventilating like my heart was just going to beat its way out of my chest. When the medication isn’t abused and most helpful is returning those biological functions back to a normal amount. Not too fast, not too slow. About once a month or once every other month, sometimes in direct competition with someone or in some situation I’ve explored so thoroughly in my mind that it seems to have taken on a life of its own, or even in a direct cause-and-reaction example like this situation, my mind will stop along with all of that biological irregularity.

That’s when benzodiazepines have worked the best for me.

This day, however, in a combination of walking to a nearby restaurant, eating even though I wasn’t hungry, and taking some time to photograph, I returned in a nearly blissful state. My mind was still empty throughout the rest of the day, and could not be filled until I went to sleep, but at least I wasn’t in a panicked state that would cause me to do anything regrettable.

Because rather than conclude here, let me take this in a different direction:

Writing for Better Zombie all these years – in these formless essays that wind through my inner-most thoughts and fears, in my updates to “The Story” which try to structure the thoughts that race through my head randomly, and in my short stories which symbolically explore my inner thoughts through characters that I’ve never met – through a casually-estimated 300,000 words and counting, has led me to become better acquainted with how my mind works.

The expressions of my thoughts can be more direct.

In a way, it’s similar to how, in any discipline, the more you practice something the better you can be at doing that thing. I’m studying new disciplines for work and it seems like the more time I work in those new areas, easier it will become. It’s always been interesting to me how passion gets involved with all of this, because let’s be honest here – I’m writing this on the weekend, and I don’t want to spend any additional time doing anything related to that studying.

I’d rather be practicing my writing.

I’d rather be studying things that will help me become a better writer, whether it’s studying language and how people talk, writing short stories emulating how characters might act in situations. That’s what I can geek out for hours over. I can’t wrap my head around some of these concepts because I’m honestly in the frame of mind in my life where my work is just a means to pay bills and support my actual work – writing – rather than the other way around. I see people become obsessed with their career work perhaps as ways of filling in the voids that we all feel in life. That inner depression that expresses itself in the numbness of the day-to-day. That desperation that expresses itself through binging on alcohol or any drug to make us feel something.

Offices are artificial places where it’s safe so long as we dive into the work.

I often like to go to work just to distract myself from the urges of wanting to get drunk or high. It’s nice being in an environment where I can play around with these silly little things all day and pretend to be doing important things. I can focus on something for a while and then when I get bored with it I can either ask for help or walk around and socialize for a bit. These are nice distractions from life, and the reason, I think, why people are willing to sacrifice so much of their time for their jobs, even when they absolutely hate them, rather than put in the necessary time of self-reflection to find something that’s more appealing to them.

Of course, I’m no better.

I’m working jobs that I hate because it’s a good way to get money. What do I do with that money? I should be using it to downsize so that I can afford a cheaper place to stay so I won’t have to worry about taking jobs that pay more – which, contradictorily, are more expensive because of their inherent stresses for making sure we do well at them – but I haven’t focused too much time into thinking about what jobs will pay less and have less overall stress.

Instead, my focus is all over the place.

I’ve been having trouble lately, and perhaps always, focusing on one thing for more than a few minutes. Writing is typically where I focus my most energy, and I dedicate the most time and priorities throughout each day. Even that is just rushed time to get something out the door. That’s, perhaps, why I can express myself so quickly and perhaps not articulate the point, but describe it in enough detail over the course of enough sentences to get to the point. Through writing many more essays, I can practice the writing and editing processes enough to where I can get better at saying the exact words to express the exact thoughts I need to express for a particular essay.

Too bad I can’t seem to focus on other areas.

My moving, for example, has required me to condense many of the things I own that have been scattered about. My CD collections are in multiple areas, my action figures are everywhere, and the final move-out date looms ever closer, like a soft blow to the head by a baseball bat with a pillow as a helmet, where I will need to get all my shit out, but it’s also one of those “not facing reality” type things where it’s not really real as long as you ignore it, right?

That might be procrastination or just exhaustion talking.

I slept for a good 16 hours this morning. The alarms went off, I sent off an email to cancel an appointment I was going to attend later on in the day for my car, then went back to sleep. Realistically, I slept for about 10 hours, then another lighter 8. It’s been tough doing this sort of work I hate, but it’s also led to some good writing content, and it pays enough for me to tolerate it for the foreseeable future, or at least until I burn through every avenue I am afforded. Shouldn’t that be enough?

There’s still that inner voice yelling in the back of my head.

That voice telling me I’m inadequate. It tells me that I’ll be fired for this or that and that if that’s the case, then I’ll be out of options. This voice guides me through so many traumatic situations that it’s hard not to believe it. These visions are so real. They play like thumbnail videos in let’s play videos, where I’ll be talking to someone, or walking somewhere, and up pops this thumbnail video that plays some sort of hypothetical event in my head. It’ll be me sitting in an office, being fired. Or having to explain to someone why I screwed up on something that hasn’t even happened yet.

I hate those thoughts.

I want to run away from them. I’ll go to sleep early to avoid thinking about them, or I’ll press in harder into my professional work, or my writing work, just to distract me from them. It almost mostly effective. Given enough time, I can usually ignore them. It’s like how when I’m in a bright room, it’s either the reflection of the light off my eyes or glasses that make me see tracers in the forms of the molecules that live on the lens of your eyes. I see them constantly. Ignoring them has helped me learn to focus on my single most important task and when there are areas where I need to not focus on a particular stress, I can let them guide me around the room in some particular ways until I feel like rejoining that particular stress.

Then I wish I did more that day.

I feel an immense sense of dissatisfaction from doing things that don’t help my writing. Some things are a necessary waste of time, like using the restroom, eating, or anything that can help me feel well enough to write. But I’ve learned to cut out the things and people that don’t help me write. Why bother doing something that’s just going to waste a lot of your time and make you feel bad afterwards because you’re a day further from achieving your goals? That’s part of where my anxiety comes from. That strict sense of morality that comes from wanting to do my work well and the urge to write as much as I can to express myself better, more fully, and to get my break.

It could be happening soon.

Every day is full of new opportunities. We just might rather not choose to seize them because of how the changes might negatively affect us. I am willing to sacrifice quite a lot of where I’ve been up to this point because my current life is not all that it was advertised on television or growing up. I may have some material, financial, and career success, but it’s all a farce in a way, because I don’t have the time to enjoy any of it, and the time I do carve out every day I don’t spend enjoying the materials or career I’ve obtained. That’s where I look around at these CDs, action figures, videogames, and realize that just owning them doesn’t make me happy.

Just having achieved the goals of discovering them isn’t enough.

The satisfaction of having experienced the item is more important. I’m listening to the soundtrack of Final Fantasy 7 while writing this. Other than our collective infatuation with the game as a collective videogame liking community in 1997, and some playing here and there, I’ve never really played through the entire game, and certainly haven’t done so in many years. That might be why Let’s Plays are so popular. To vicariously play the game in a low-impact way. To observe the game without playing the game means that we can pop in for a few minutes if we so choose then return when some external obligation like getting ready for work, studying some materials, or even just doing something else takes us away from that.

Should we return to a more innocent childhood where we are free of obligation?

Perhaps that would help in certain regards. We are aiming ever closer toward a future where we have overwhelming pressure from all angles as our norms in life. We will drown in floods of stress unless our bodies give out to some kind of cancer or disease as a result. I know one month of solid stress lead to a panic attack for me. It took me about 3 months to get back into a more normal state, where I felt more like the me that could engage in regular activities. It was a month of me not taking care of myself, to be sure, but there’s no career counseling for that.

It’s not like we can test for career stress, and even so, what can we do?

I can take a day off from work if I’m feeling particularly stressed if I can articulate a decent physical excuse. I haven’t received any psychiatric assistance or mental counseling to have any justification for when I’m having a bad mental health day. I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m just more vocal about it. That gets me into trouble more often than most, even though we’re all feeling this same way, and in some ways, I don’t care about the results, and in other ways I do. The negatives are few but strong. What if I become unemployable before I can find some financial security? What if any future employers see me as a risk? I’m not attached to any writing organization that could take me “as I am,” as some weird writer that comments on the human experience. What I write isn’t something that can easily be packaged into a sellable product. At least for these Sober Living posts.

What if people judge me on those grounds?

These are really the thoughts that race through my head when I have a panic attack, except, instead of in a polite linear fashion as you’ve read so far, they are happening multi-channel, simultaneously, at such speed that I’m not really there in that room describing what I’m thinking. I’m addressing past and future events simultaneously. I’m time traveling through hundreds of hypotheticals, defending myself, fighting others, and my energy quickly depletes the more I fight. It’s not fun.

Do others feel this way?

I’ve always been alone in a sense. I’ve never really felt any degree of companionship in any regard. I have friends, but they were an abstract concept up until college, or maybe more like something to want but never fully attain. My friends all throughout compulsory school would use, abuse, and throw me away at their nearest convenience. If they could become friends with someone better by betraying me, they would. I wanted to have friends so badly that I would overly trust in people, and it felt shitty every time. Then I started to open up to people in college, and that was nice, but I never quite attained the social skills required to have larger circles of friends or any sort of romantic relationships.

So I don’t really know how people really think.

It’s all just this polite abstraction of what people say, possible hypotheticals on what they could really mean aka “reading between the lines,” and taking people at face value. This leads me to constantly think of myself as a charlatan shill. I only have limited formal writing chops. I can express myself well, yes, but I haven’t read many of the classics, and my formal knowledge on writing style is still rather limited. At times, I think of this as an advantage, because to express yourself in a more primal sense means that you’re not bound by the rules of writers past. The way they right worked well for them, yes, but I have no need for that. My style and my writing topics are not about the polite satisfactions of living a humble life.

In these essays and some of my short stories, I write about the pains of life.

Jane, for example, is a tragic character. She had something great but between fucking it up and having it fucked up is barely able to put together the pieces. She lives with constant pressure but has some happiness. I don’t know what her future holds, but she most certainly will not have “as good of a life” as perhaps John and Trishna from “The Story” just because of the hardships she faces without a support system behind perhaps Sammohini and the Lanchester family. They’ll help her out as best they can because Jane and Sammohini, besides briefly having a relationship and staying in the Lanchester Farm, also appreciate how much Jane helped Sammohini through compulsory school and college.

There may be some event that slightly embarrasses that tie.

Or maybe Sammohini hooks up with Samuel, has Allie, and she moves on from the flings with Jane? I haven’t explored these hardships in “The Story,” but these are also hardships I could not explore myself if I had a stable life with everything “together,” because then instead of writing for now – what, one hour – I’d be either taking care of a kid, or engaged in some social event with the wife or casual friends. I wouldn’t be exploring my inner thoughts in this way to address why I’m feeling so shitty. I know some of the variables as to why, but some of them shouldn’t matter. I just address them when they come up.

This is deeper thinking, I suppose.

We are nearly approaching 3,000 words. No one but the bravest have reached this point, so I can begin to write more honestly, perhaps as a way to put my sins to rest: When I started this Sober Living series, I wondered if I’d ever try anything again. By that point, I’d been clean and sober for a few years from alcohol, cannabis, and even things like diphenhydramine or benzodiazepine were occasional flings. I’ve now got myself into something similar in a way that’s strikingly similar to how I’d be like during my alcohol or cannabis days. Any evening or day where my responsibilities were limited meant running wild. No point in being concerned with tomorrow when the emotions of today could be quenched with some sort of alcohol. No use worrying about the events of yesterday when a drink or smoke could put me in a different mindset.

Similarly now, and perhaps soon.

I’m not really sure I want to live any differently now. It’s not too bad to just be hyper-focused on something once it kicks in, and similarly to the amount of coffee I drink, all it does is get my nerves scattered for a few moments before focusing on something more. Thinking like this isn’t good and certainly will lead to a less happy lifestyle, but really, my life up until this point has been up and down with the winding, wild events being the only things that made me happy. I’d enjoy a pleasant hour or less masturbating to pornography and ejaculating as the most enjoyable experience each day throughout my teenage years and up until I started to write more – then that became more enjoyable. Sure, I still enjoy orgasms. It’s just now it’s more of an artificial abstraction necessitated by base desires, rather than anything like the long-term sense of satisfaction that arises from writing something particularly poignant or noteworthy.

I had a distraction from writing just now.

Let me externalize my priorities in life by looking around my current living room. Underneath the television are toys and action figure objects that have collected years of dust. I got some of them to complete their set, others for free, but mainly while I do like them they don’t really give me any daily sense of satisfaction. Some could go, but others could continue being display items for wherever I go next. I have some plush toys between me and the laptop. I collected many of these growing up, and still appreciate them. One of Totoro is nice, the other is one I got when I was a kid that I don’t have any attachment to, other than that it was something I had as a kid. Totoro could say, the other, I know may end up in some thrift store bin so it stays until my level of attachment to it grows so thin that that would be an acceptable fate- I don’t think this one will exactly end up there, but maybe someday it will.

These are difficult thoughts to parse through, huh?

That might be why it’s so difficult to decide what to keep and what to sell or donate. CDs are fairly generic. I have a stack to sort through to my right. Some will be sold or donated, others will be packaged away for six months or more. All around me are other CDs, DVDs, and assorted media that requires the same “first pass” checks that many of the other objects in this rental requires. The more stuff I hang onto, the more I have to maintain and take care of, including figuring out where to store them. The less stuff I hang onto, the more… empty I might feel, to some degree. I have no real attachment to my Masters of the Universe action figure collections – both old and new – yet I have them. I’ve photographed them a few times for essays and reviews here, so they have had some value, but I don’t really care about them on a deeply emotional level.

Similar to that plush, I just care that they’re not destroyed.

Maybe more so, though, I do like the Masters of the Universe characters and what the story is trying to achieve. It was a show pandering to action figure sales, but it has enough morals and ethics to have some weight even today as a way to teach kids and adults alike on some basic values in fantastical worlds. That’s enough to appreciate, but I’m not sure I need all of the characters that I’ve collected over the years. Perhaps they’ll be easier to part with once I’ve got the ball rolling on other collections.

I’ll keep my GI Joe sets for as long as I can.

When asked if everything were to burn down, what I’d recollect, I replied years ago with my GI Joe collection. They best represent my childhood, along with my X-Men collection, so I will probably just catalog, box, and move them en masse. My current roadblock is my NES collection, which is taking up valuable real estate on my workbench, waiting to be sorted. I should prioritize time tomorrow to address that, but I often find myself distracted by other priorities.

Here’s where things start to break down for me.

On Friday, I wrote a list of things I wanted to do: transcribe some videos I took while on vacation, transcribe some other videos I took of a meeting, study up on some work concepts, get my car worked on, write my big essay related to “The Story” which will be an effective summary of where I am and where I want to go, clear off the workbench of all those NES games, get done with a few weeks of editing, and start writing an email that hopefully won’t change my life’s path too much but is something I need to write to air out weeks of grievances. Oh, and find my headphones.

That seems like a lot but really isn’t terribly bad.

The problem is, for example, transcribing the vacation videos was something I could only do for about five minutes before my mind raced away from that. I feel really shitty right now, so I couldn’t do much of anything besides let myself get distracted from all angles.

I’m better about not overplanning each day, but maybe I’m not?

Just taking the NES cartridges, for example, to do it right would take maybe 10 hours? Clean and test each cart, all while deciding if I want to keep it or sell it. Organizing the set into what I clearly want to keep and don’t – I don’t want duplicates – without cleaning and testing any except for the duplicates should take anywhere between 1 to 4 hours. I didn’t have to do all of that this weekend, or tomorrow. Just enough to clear off a space for my laptop so I can reuse the space again…

But that’s 1 to 4 hours of complete focus.

I’ve been often praised for my focus and ability to stick with problems through until completion, but I always feel like a charlatan that can’t actually do anything, because all too often I’m inadequate in actually focusing on issues for too long or sticking with problems until their appropriate completion. What do I do but just let the problems solve themselves? And give up when I can’t? I’m putting my videogame collections into deep storage because I never play videogames anyways, and the ones I’m most likely to play are on Steam or PC games from the Seattle Indies community. I can always emulate the games I want to play or watch a Let’s Play for a bit if I feel a particular hankering.

So things like that distract me from my writing.

I also have boxes and boxes of things to sort through from my childhood. I would prefer to do that rather than just lug them another hop to my next storage destination, whether it’s a storage unit, or a cheap apartment somewhere with enough security to not worry about being broken into while I’m away on some writing assignment.

There’s a conundrum to balance here.

Because on the one hand, I’d like the flexibility of minimalism with the entertainment of materialism. I can, at any moment’s notice, listen to any of the CDs I own. I just would need to find it, then place it in a CD player, and away I go! With my collections in such disarray, I don’t know what I have, and have more than once purchased something a few times because I wasn’t sure if I owned it or not.

This is something I’d like to stamp out.

The only problem is that I would need to focus a significant amount of time in a concentrated period, or some slight time over the period of a long amount of time, to concentrate my collections in a certain regard. Throughout this week of driving, I’ve been focusing on cataloging my collections alphabetically, but then I ran into the snag of having several discographies clog up one section of my CD rack. To clear these out would allow me to continue my alphabetical descent through my collection, but then I would have to have a box of randomly-sorted CDs. Luxuriously, it’d be better to have Clutch in with the C’s. Practically, it’d be better to have Clutch and NOFX in the same box, since then I could clear up that space. As much as I dislike it, I’ll soon box up my Clutch and NOFX CDs.

Time spent there prevents me from working on the NES collection.

Time spent on personal hygiene prevents me from working on any of those, but we are also not machines, so we need time to brush our teeth, wash our bodies of the sweat and grime of being alive, and take the necessary time to decompress not just from busy work weeks but also from the multitudes of stress we both sign up for and don’t.

It’s almost like I’m weighed down by these collections.

I don’t need these many CDs. I don’t need these many videogames, action figures, or things that weigh me down. I’m also obsessed with owning as many things as I can. Sometimes they make for interesting things to write about, but mostly, it’s just nice to look at something I own like my Marvel Legends Omega Red and smile for owning it. It’s a nice object. But I certainly don’t need the discount rack toys I got for shows or movies I barely care about.

I was talking to someone about the money I’ve earned over my career.

We estimated 50% of it went into rent, 25% went into other necessary items like groceries or maintenances, with the last 25% either being in the bank or going toward entertainment expenditures. On the one hand, I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had because of my living arrangements, but on the other hand, actions taken in my 20s prevented me from experiencing a life that might serve my 30s more fully. There is still time to correct that. I don’t need all of this stuff. I don’t need all the stress that comes from thinking about, owning, storing, or maintaining this stuff.

I also don’t need to do it all right now.

That’s how panic attacks are like for me. Thinking about transcribing videos, condensing my CD collection, sorting my NES collection, societal pressure, and writing all simultaneously. All necessary actions, but their order of operation instead of being prioritized by things like “what will affect me the most?” or “what can I get out the door the quickest to free up the most space?” will all be done simultaneously. I’ll hear all the voices of how I should do them all simultaneously. As a result, I’ll hear white noise, then my brain will stop.

That’s not quite how my big bad panic attack happened.

That was more of a side narrative involving the developing of careers for individuals across several generations of professionals on the major thought tangent, along with trying to figure out where I was, and many other things about figuring out a problem with a receipt. Man, I overanalyzed that receipt more than some agent looking to crack the multi-million dollar code of a crime drama. I wasn’t even on anything. My mind just couldn’t take the stress, so it threw me into some weird mental state I couldn’t return from…

So that minor one was just a polite thing by comparison.

Seeing those little tracers fly out from my television as I’m writing this, now 5,000 word and growing essay about anxiety, remembering that they’re not real, helps me return my focus to the cursor, the keyboard, and the “[]” that guides me along my path through this essay. It is the last bit of formatting that I have on any essay. It’s like my way of ensuring that each paragraph and sentence retain their formatting. That “[]” also in some way helps me return my focus to the sentence at hand. It’s the constant in a winding set of thoughts that end up toward some conclusion, in a way, whether positive, negative, or indifferent.

So where do we focus our priorities?

I think panic attacks are where our priorities get out whack. I will usually get the most panicked around some event with people. While the big one wasn’t a direct response to any interaction with people, two others I remember were because of a conversation I had with someone that went astray; too stressful of an event and my mind can’t handle it, I suppose, which is weird because in other times when I am fully-collected, I can charge into highly stressful situations without an issue.

It makes me a bit of a glass cannon, I suppose.

It sucks. I want more of the mental fortitude to endure people and their stupid problems more often. I want to be able to get through any busy day without having to worry about whether something will stress me out too much, and I want to be able to talk with or engage with anyone about any polite conversational item without concerns over being overly embarrassed. Is that really even possible? Or am I looking into some kind of perfect reality that might be better suited for “The Story?” I almost wonder if that story is a more perfect version of our reality where people can have hard times but come to terms with them better? Or at least, not be as heartbroken over them?

My life hasn’t been easy. It’s also been very easy.

On the surface, it’s been easy because I’ve had many career opportunities I really shouldn’t have had. Everything from happening to get into roles that I’m way underqualified for to be the lucky one out of a group to receive a promotion, things seem to just “work out” for me in ways I can’t quite explain. If that’s God, in the Christian sense, or some kind of force propelling me through this life toward some end goal where I’ve either written “The Story” or written some essay or document that has provided the necessary change the world needs at this moment, I don’t know.

Will I achieve surface-level and thorough happiness?

Right now the inner-most me is completely unhappy. He is in this constant state of despair over this situation. I imagine he will be happier after he’s moved into a more comfortable location, perhaps finding work that is more comfortable or becoming more comfortable with the stresses of this work, but even still – those are abstract concepts that obscure the truth of the matter. Will I ever be in a place where I feel comfortable? Have I ever really felt comfortable? Perhaps. Would that mean a weekend without any chemical distraction? I do rush to feel something positive, anything positive, really, when I’m at my lowest.

Why can’t I just be content where I am?

Because I hate waking up at 4 AM and going to bed past 9 PM five days a week doing work I overall dislike. I hate the drive or commute into work. I hate dealing with people that are rude or disagreeable just to put on a polite face for a paycheck. This hatred simmers through when I’m stressed out, has, and triggered that panic attack. As long as most of my day is spent lending my time in exchange for a little bit of money that will be wasted on housing or entertainment to distract myself from the vestiges of a stressful workday or commute, will I ever really be comfortable during those early morning writing sessions, evenings spent rowing then going to bed, or weekends spent dispelling that cortisol that’s invaded my system like some kind of disease only to rinse and repeat?

How many more years can I endure this stress?

At the end of the day, this money in my bank account isn’t making me feel any better. The ability to buy different things, new things, or new experiences isn’t helping me feel in tune with my inner self. That inner-most self that screams all the way along the commute, wishes more than anything that a problem could solve itself at work so it could be done with, wants most of all the time and ability to have the time like this to get to the bottom of issues that come up in life. I feel insecure at work because I hate the work I’m doing. That showed up in the stressor that caused the panic attack. I don’t want to confront this directly because that will certainly mean firing me.

If that’s the case, then what will happen?

I don’t have many more employment options lined up right now. Maybe that will mean receiving the time to move out. But where? Moving everything I want to keep to a storage unit for a few months could help me better articulate the remaining space in ways to help sort out the stuff I want to keep or sell. If that means giving up a good job and a few hundred dollars to a storage unit facility, will that be worth it for an overall sense of destressing from my life?

This reminds me of a time I was meditating.

It’s difficult to succinctly articulate why I was in this Buddhist temple meditating, trying to empty my mind, but after five minutes a loud voice came in telling me to organize my stuff! That’s been a constant of basically the last five years or so? I live in disarray. My mind, my collections, my work… none of it really is that organized. I never really plan out anything. Even two big assignments I will have completed before this essay publishes don’t really have a predefined plan in place yet. I will build a structure while I’m working on those essays, but typically, it’s just something like this: “I have an idea [point A], and let’s write until we arrive at a conclusion [point B].” Everything in between the idea either supports or encourages the conclusion. That might be why I find writing reviews so difficult. I’m not much of a fan of formal structure. As much as I enjoy owning collections of stuff, I can never keep them organized.

I have poor discipline when it comes to organization.

The files on my computers are a mess. Even when I aim to have strict hierachies of data, arranged per topic, their contents quickly become unwieldly as I never really spend the time to organize or delete anything. It all just accumulates. The most organized I’ve ever been in my life is with my publishing schedule. Having dedicated days throughout the week means that I have to prioritize my writings based on what and when it will publish. I can’t write too many Sober Living essays in a row without writing short stories, for example, because then that will ruin the website’s pacings, and I won’t be able to write about sobriety for a while. Even this essay won’t get published for another month out from when I wrote it because of that editing and publishing delay.

Many of these stresses are self-imposed.

I’ve become disengaged from perfection, but in its place is that grinding work ethic of getting as much done as I can. I’ll have wasted today if I didn’t produce something, change some variables around my environment, or improved myself in some way. As it stands right now, I have a bad stomach ache, am dehydrated beyond belief, cold, tired except for the caffeine that’s wearing off, and I feel like I’ve almost – almost – arrived at the answer to why my panic attacks are so powerful.

In this space, I feel safe.

Everything outside of this space is unknown territory. It’s possible that it could be terrible. I could have my laptop set up somewhere, writing, and then receive an interruption either positive or negative. We all probably focus on those worst case scenarios, some to a more healthy degree than others that are riddled with paranoia and fear. I’ve never really had anyone rude approach me while I’m writing, so it’s more just my childhood fears over sharing bits of myself with the world. Their teasing and tourmenting followed me for years longer than the actual events. They need to be put to rest. They aren’t here anymore. It’s been over 20 years.

It’s OK to accept life as a weird place full of weirdos.

What’s the value of hanging onto victimhood except perhaps your mind taking pity on you and not focusing so harshly on your mistakes? That sentence had so many typos but I was able to delete them and write what I acutally was intending to say. That’s how we should address our failures. Even when I publish mistakes, if I can catch them later, how big of a deal was it… really? If those mistakes were published into bigger publications, well, hey, I’ve made it a career over fixing mistakes. It’s not like even during a root cause analysis we point to a person or team over an issue and blame them in such heavy regards that we ruin their careers.

Even when I want to.

Even when I think of people that really have made my career difficult, everyone from people that treat me poorly, don’t trust in my abilities, or don’t seem to care, I might lash out in ways that ensure my career will never quite be as stable as the rest of you, but it’s one of those things where I feel that speaking the truth will always lead to the best possible outcome. If I lie, even if that means hiding my true feelings, then where will I be but miserable? I’ve had plenty of moments of non-manufactured elation over the years. I’ve enjoyed plenty of events, had fun, all without this fading caffeine or any orgasm.

All without sharing this life’s experience with anyone.

I’ve been asked a few times recently about my intentions for marriage. I don’t know if there’s anyone that could really tolerate this life I’m living where I will prioritize writing over going to concerts. This isn’t the sort of life for anyone looking for a quick dollar. I don’t know if I really should share my financials before and after starting Better Zombie, but broadly, I have fewer finances now. Compared to before where I might have been happy maybe twenty or thirty times a week, I’m now happy closer to forty to ninety times a week, so there is that. Maybe a long-term relationship will improve those numbers? Maybe a kid would improve those numbers even more? More likely, some of the reverse sad or mad moments would be more intense. Arguments, sacrificing time for events, sicknesses… stuff like that.

My life isn’t that figured out.

Maybe that’s why I get so anxious. I have to juggle so many things I want to do, have to do, and am interested in doing. How much time can I sacrifice for a relationship if I have to write 500 words a day? Or keep my publication going for as long as I can? I have maintained this writing schedule through the most grueling of circumstances through sacrificing other ambitions, but that’s through my own justification to myself that writing these things will be helpful for me overall. No one will care until there’s a net positive of finance through these sacrifices. To tell the full truth of a matter, I will need to sacrifice two days of excellent pay to earn one – possibly, two – journalistic credits to my name.

That’s crazy talk no one would ever support.

Who wouldn’t want the short-term guarantee of finances in the bank from an actual company? Who would sacrifice that for a long-shot opportunity? Me, and few others. I’m willing to give up my Saturday to explore my inner thoughts in this essay that maybe one person will read. (Thank you.) I’ve done a lot of other stuff in life and have found no greater pleasure than where I am right now. It could be more comfortable, but channeling my thoughts directly onto the screen like this with as little abstraction as possible – just the typos, just the grammar of completing a sentence properly, just trying to get through this thought without raising faster than my fingers can type – is much more satisfying than playing a videogame to me. Sure, there are moments that are particularly striking.

“Aerith’s Theme” is playing right now.

But to be honest, all throughout my childhood and adulthood, most everything in life has felt muted and fake. I’ve been stressed out over failing a test or not getting a job, but they’ve all seemed to work out, like I was playing a videogame with cheat codes or emulator. I could never really die at this spot, because even if I did, I could just restart from a save state moments before and continue my “perfect” run. Working throughout life to achieve the success I have attained now has led to a nice goal. I have the financial freedom to afford myself nice collections of things, but how much freedom do I really have?

I accept these gigs to maintain this lifestyle.

If I can drop my finances significantly, then I won’t have to worry so much about taking these high-pay, high-stress gigs. As I told those people that asked about my marriage plans, moving out of Zeal, and taking that concept on the road with me wherever I go has led to a change in priorities. I’m no longer interested in owning a plot of land to settle down and start a family. I spent my 20s with that as the goal. It never happened. I either couldn’t find anyone or couldn’t work up the nerves to ask anyone out. Now at 32, I am too irresponsible to be anything but the fuck up that I am and too responsible to consider quitting now to pursue my more idealized lifestyle. Because what will happen after I move? Will I find a less stressful job?

What job can I actually do?

This is something I’ve been contemplating with another friend of mine that’s also considering dropping out of the technical support field. We are both of the same mindset. We want to help people but are constantly belittled by employers and colleagues over the this’s and that’s that we can’t quite grasp. We’re not in the right cliques. We also have too much time and money invested into this career to even know where to start in terms of migrating over into another field.

I’ve considered a transition into programming.

If anything, though, I don’t have the tolerance to spend hours troubleshooting an issue. I like introductory helpdesks because if I can’t solve a problem in a short period of time, I can escalate it and call it a day. There’s no fussing about, as I have, where I’d be showering at 6 AM while thinking of how to solve an issue. I hate lending out my mind to employers, but when I’m unemployed, I rent my mind out to aggressors, be them real or artificial. They are quick to yell during meditation sessions that I need to organize my stuff. Or they’ll tell me how terrible other people are that I need to collaborate with. These voices will fill my head with anxieties over everything.

That’s why I can’t sit still watching movies.

My mind is overly-engaged with the scenarios they are presenting, but I’m watching multiple things going on in the movie, while my ears – the hearing impairments have started to kick in – try to catch up. I’ve stopped watching serial anime mainly because of time and also because I just can’t find that hour it takes me to watch 30 minutes of something, where I’ll pause, rewind, take screenshots, or think about things, or get sidetracked with a distraction like I just did because of some visual thing that I noticed out of the corner of my eye, or my eyes wander in a particular direction because they’re bored with what they’re currently seeing.

We’re approaching the root of my anxieties, don’t worry.

Maybe I just don’t like repetition? I like this writing format I’ve developed because it prevents me from thinking too much into a certain area, or going on for too long about something. I can, if I want to, but then the paragraph break usually forces me to summarize a thought into something, or if I’ve been writing a sentence or paragraph for too long, it becomes a nice mental break to then consider something else for a time. That’s the stress I’ve found with my work that beats me down the most. I don’t like focusing too much on my work. I am there physically, doing the best I can, but I don’t like renting out more than those 8 hours of mind time to my employer. Before I started writing in Better Zombie, it’d be closer to every waking hour I’d spend thinking about my employment in some regard.

Now, at least, I can distract myself from that.

All I think about is work. All I do is work. Even when I’m with friends, it’s all exchanging information or talking about topics that I might be thinking through to write about, or roadblocks that are preventing me from writing. I’m a terrible person in this regard. I should be more concerned with people and how they act, but frankly, this life has thrown me through so many scenarios of friends betraying me and more that I just don’t really care, yet deep down, that honor system means I care deeply what people think.

Why?

Why do I care about the opinions of the person that helped trigger my most recent panic attack? Is it because I’m worried that he will be able to influence my employment status, either directly, or indirectly? Most certainly, but what happens if I am fired? Then shouldn’t I get what I want? That time to sort out my life? That’s what I’ve been trying to do for the past two+ years now, really, but it’s hard because I never really make any progress. I get one thing done and five other things pop up. My Habitica for today has seen the least amount of progress I’ve made since I started using it again. I feel like I’m falling behind, sinking into despair, and not making progress toward any of those goals I’d set up and wanted to achieve yesterday.

But I’m achieving today’s biggest goal: writing.

Throughout this process, I’ve been feeling better about myself in certain regards. I am an addict to the feeling of getting away from that negativity that permeates throughout my life. I don’t know if it’s just my perspective or some kind of psychological issue, but in every positive event, there’s a negative that tends to linger around the surface and ruin the entire thing. I can’t just be happy with things as they are. As much as I try to accept things at face value, I always want more. Maybe that’s a human thing, or some deeper psychological issue I need to address? I’ve spent the past 32 years to be where I am now, and where I am now I partially like but also partially dislike. I am surrounded by stuff that should make me happy but isn’t making me happy right now. Engaging more with it could and should make me happy, but when can I find the time to engage with it?

Listening to music is easier than playing videogames.

Still, when can I listen to the right song to help me feel a certain positive way? When I listen to negative music, that catharsis helps me through negative moments. Maybe I’m expecting too much from myself, others, and things in life? Being able to sit with myself, either in a quiet room, a busy room, a float tank, or in an office space, and be proud of what I am able to do is a rare feat. I can tolerate the “me” of today, the experiences I’ve encountered, the things I’ve done, but I don’t love myself to any major degree. I don’t love many people or many things – if at all.

I don’t practice self-love enough.

Not in the masturbation har-har sense, but in the sense of accepting myself as I am. I am constantly rushing to improve myself, but why? What is there to improve? What’s the rush? If I get out of this rut, I’ll be in another rut. I have to, then, think more broadly than where I am now. What can I do tonight and tomorrow that will make me happier throughout tonight, tomorrow, and the rest of my life? Is it really the unorganized collection, the move, and the career that are making me unhappy? Or my interpretation of them? Maybe I just don’t want this level of responsibility? The collections, jobs, and relationships require too much upkeep for me, maybe?

I just want to write.

I don’t want to deal with the bullshit of having to drive places or write during inadequate situations. I don’t mind writing abroad, by any means, but I’d just prefer not having the number of layers of delay between writing and publishing that I’ve been forced into having. Not having the proper space or Internet connection to write and publish spontaneously sucks. Even if it means a typo leaks through, whatever. I like writing. I don’t find as much satisfaction in reading, playing videogames, listening to music by itself, hanging out with friends, going to concerts, or even masturbating for the most part. Alcohol, cannabis, diphenhydramine and anything else, they only make me feel good for a short amount of time.

I still look back fondly to some of my writings.

Certain essays, short stories, sentences, or word choices feel better to me than achieving some high score or chatting with friends about our lives. In some ways. In other ways, without those non-writing activities, what would I be but just a boring person reflecting on events that happened or never did? To get out there and lead an exciting life does mean that most of it gets dull, but there are quiet satisfactions in having achieved something that few doubted was possible, whether it’s getting the job you’re vastly underqualified for, writing something that gets published in a major publication, getting noticed by someone you respect, or feeling happy throughout a day or workweek.

I was stressed out on Friday.

A person that went through a door before me was a little embarrassed. I told this person: “if nearly getting the door slammed in my face was the worst thing to happen to me today, it’d be a pretty good day.” We both nervously chuckled over that realization that we were both entering a minefield of anxiety and pressure. Writing as much as I have, nearly 9,000 words today and the aforementioned, 300,000+ words overall, has helped me with some abilities of self-examination. I can be self-critical while still remaining positive. I haven’t reached that point of mental fortitude that successful authors seem to have, or people in general, or maybe they’ve put up enough of a front where they can pretend that they aren’t dissuaded by the pains of reality.

I don’t know.

I know that I’m willing to sacrifice most of the stuff that I’ve earned over this professional career if it means that tomorrow is not the conclusion to a weekend disengaged from such intense stress that I could barely function. Who cares about the money? Who cares about the appearance of career success? All that comes with it is stress. People may be pettier in minimum wage jobs, but at least those stresses are similarly petty, and can usually be ignored. Why, then, should I keep putting up with it? I’m already in way over my head. I don’t understand many of the concepts presented to us and my aptitude for learning, patience, and resilience were at an all-time low. Might as well accept the consequences of my current reality than try to front and work for another few months in fear before failing in agony.

Maybe there will be some future for me elsewhere?

Where can I go where there is no fear of stress that consumes me from failing at something at work? Writing seems to be that Nirvana point for me. I haven’t yet reached the critics that will be quick to tear me apart. Maybe there is no true solace for people like me? Our addictions will always consume us from the inside when there isn’t an outside force gnawing away at us. The need to engage in escapist activities is always strongest when we are hiding away from something or someone. I signed up for this lifestyle years ago, not just the Better Zombie writer lifestyle, but the lifestyle of an addict, when I chose to engage in my addictions over addressing my problems with others and concepts in real-time.

I still have problems with this.

It never really goes away. It helps reading the stories of fellow addicts that relapse and recover because I know that day will happen to me, whether a few years in the future or a few more months of constant stress. If this week is a trend of what’s to come, I can’t tolerate much more of it. The oxygen in my blood was replaced with cortisol. I feared everything from being late to work to not understanding every nuance of everything, then my mind just snapped and I said fuck it. Maybe I’m not cut out for these lifestyles of mine? Or maybe I’m trying to bite off much more than I can chew?

I’ve been writing for almost four hours now.

There were brief tangents and asides throughout this exploration of my psyche. Did I have any major revelations? Nothing more than some float tank sessions where I was able to explore the pains of my psyche and figure out ways out. I’ve cleared out some of that same space. I don’t think I’ll spend any time tomorrow trying to study any of the work material that I thought about studying. I had considered working for 3 hours on that tomorrow, and not bill the company, but what is that but illegal, and why is that but for the pressure of trying to not lag behind? I was even told that. Don’t be the last one.

The degree of toxicity I was sold into…

Let’s talk about my action items as the force of “One-Winged Angel” blares through my speakers:

  • I will not concern myself over the pacing of this move.
  • I will do as much as I can and no more.
  • If something is not done, it will not be a big deal.
  • There is no need to fuss over inadequacies.
  • I will not work on things that don’t matter.
  • I will do my best to work as hard as I can, and no more.
  • I will not sacrifice myself today for a better tomorrow.
  • If I am too stressed out over something, I won’t let it get the best of me.

More specifically, tomorrow:

  1. Organize important things.
  2. Write what I must.
  3. Find relaxation time.

My life has been in a constant state of being burned out.

I can’t handle this persistent sense of stress that overwhelms me and turns me into a corporate zombie. I dislike living that sort of lifestyle where that is not only encouraged but mandatory in order to succeed. If that means switching careers, I will find a way to do it, because even if I become a professional writer, who knows where my money or benefits will come from? I haven’t been to a doctor in years and my last dentist visit was too long ago for me to remember off-hand. I’d like some of these health concerns I’ve been having to be addressed, even if it’s a flu shot and some anti-anxiety medication to use when I feel like my world is falling apart and my body is being ripped asunder.

Maybe there is no better place for me?

Maybe I’m stuck where I am for as long as my body and mind can endure? Maybe there is no solace for people like me? Maybe my fate is to suffer, to grind through, and eventually fade away once a heart attack is certain to take me during one of these anxiety attacks? Maybe I should learn to distance myself more from life? Just let it go, roll with the punches, don’t make a big splash, and have some fun along the way? Maybe a drink will help me destress? Maybe I don’t want to be a paid writer? Just a writer that can express anything without the sense of repercussion? I don’t know, really.

I just know I don’t want to be here.

Worried about the bullshit and problems of Monday morning.

Endtable:
Quotes: [1] Me.
Sources: My experiences.
Inspirations: First, writing about the anxiety attack, then the “more” tag where I just wrote something off-hand about thinking deeper, finally, my curiosity over whether I could explore this thought more fully. Through 10,000 words, I may have, but I omitted some incriminating information. Hopefully enough. If not, then I’ve gambled and lost. Honestly, I wrote this rather than a short story because I didn’t want to imagine anything, I just wanted to write without thinking.
Related: My Sober Living series.
Photo: Nowhere in particular.
Written On: October 20th [4 hours]
Last Edited: No additional edits.
My big goal is to write. My important goal is to write "The Story." My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame a fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. Let's strive to be better everyday. (Avatar)