Sunday, January 21, 2018

Love, Joy, Empathy, and Why I I'm Not Giving Up

Last night I had the awesome experience of going to see Mikey Neumann's Movies with Mikey Live, courtesy of my friend Anders as a 30th birthday gift. Mikey reviews films and is a video game writer, and he is one of my favorite people. It was amazing - I laughed, I cried, and it hit some nerves in important ways.

There are a few things Mikey said that made an impact more than all the rest, and some of them weren't just a few words. I'm gonna go through the hard ones first then roll it back to good. This will relate to games, I swear.

Mikey at one point asked, "how many of you have been alone with your thoughts for two months?"

I raised my hand (I think there were two or three of us). When he said it, my mind rubberbanded - shot backwards and snapped forward. When my husband John was deployed in Iraq, I lived alone for over a year in an unfamiliar neighborhood. I shut myself inside, I tried to vent it out in journals or on places like LiveJournal that was mostly screaming into a void, but I couldn't escape my own mind.

My mental health deteriorated rapidly, and my physical health didn't do well - I'd lock myself in the house for days. I saw people, but it wasn't broken until I sat on the floor of my mom's house, completely delusional and fully in belief that the world was ending. I sobbed for hours and sat in terror of what would come and my biggest fear, the scariest thing about an apocalypse, was that I might live and be alone with myself forever.

That fear hasn't faded. It's still scary to me, and I worry that my being a trash fire to be around will make that a reality - my behavior and incompetence will lead to my partners and friends deserting me, because I know I would desert me.

So there was that.

Then Mikey talked about his experiences in the hospital when he had his frankly terrifying event last year. I have not been hospitalized long term, but the facts of physically deteriorating, not having diagnoses, and sudden onset symptoms are familiar - and the experience he described is one I desperately fear. Every time I have a twinge in my back, a cold, a night where waking up seems like the worst option. So it shook me up, just like listening to him talk about things close to this before. I cried a lot.

I'm struggling right now because every thing that goes wrong just wrecks me. I made one mistake at work the other day and just destroyed myself over it for hours. I'm still thinking about it. I struggled with design work and almost bailed out on a contract because I can't look at my own work and see value. I told myself I wasn't allowed a birthday because I don't deserve it.

So that also happened.

Mikey also, earlier, had talked about altering perspectives, helping people see movies in different ways that might change how they feel about them. He talked about Deep Dive, and it reminded me how I wished he would do a do-over of the Jupiter Ascending episode because John said it wasn't nice and that I would get upset. See, I love Jupiter Ascending, and it's often hard to get people to see the good in it. But it made me think about how our first tries are often not our best ones. That gave me a little shiver of hope. Over the past few years I've nearly shut down this blog and quit games multiple times, after my work continued to be inadequate and the blog floundered. I don't want to end things, but my self-loathing and lack of success has been heavy. But maybe if I keep trying?

Then he talked about the important part - love, joy, empathy.

I honestly can't remember everything he said. I was so overwhelmed. A lot of people might know that I've been struggling with my mental and physical health for a long time, and one of the ways I've tried to do that is to try to be kinder.

I'm an angry person. I always have been, angry, ready to fight, every day. I'm bitter and fiery and it's exhausting. But ever since the Dark Years, I've been trying so hard to be better.

I worked on not calling people names and swearing at them. I disengaged from relationships that allowed my anger to grow and fester. I preached to be kinder, to love people, and I asked people to stop hurting people.

But lately, I have not done this. I have been exhausted, surrounded by everyone else's anger, boiling in hurt every day by the words of my friends, colleagues, and the people who control my life. My work makes me angry. School makes me angry. I am so angry all of the time, and it turns into this cycle of self loathing because I don't want to be angry, but it often feels like my only alternative is sadness.

My doctors have told me that a happy medium will always be a challenge for me, and that experiencing joy will be fraught because it'll be hard to find and the crash can often be very brutal. I'm glad they told me, but it's something I struggle with because it's true.

I need to change that. I may never normalize to happy, and I might not be able to be joyful without a crash. But that has to be okay. It must be. With that in mind, I'm reflecting on how I pursue games and create them, and how I engage with the community.

- I will give my love freely in all ways, even if it's just a general love of humanity.
- I will try to ensure that love is a part of my games, encouraged and recognized.
- I will remember that hate is less effective than love.

- I will have more fun! I want to find at least one fun thing a week to enjoy, in games or out.
- I will support joyful games, bring attention, and encourage more joyful games to be made.
- I will put joy out, too, by trying to post more about good in my life, including the positive work I'm doing in design.

- I will support those in my community who struggle in the ways I can.
- I will continue to fight against injustice, and against harassment, and try to find opportunities to change our landscape to support those in need.
- I will let go of bitterness against those who have wronged me.

The last of those is one I have already started pursuing, with my apology weekend where I asked people to apologize to me freely, without any given reason, and I forgave everyone who did. It was revolutionary for me.

I have realized, just while thinking on this, that my recent deep struggles might not be solved by these efforts, but that it doesn't actually matter. This isn't about fixing me, or anyone else.

It's about living.

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