jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
My brother killed himself yesterday. I'm still processing this. Mostly I'm sad for his family, who over the last twenty years got to know him far better than I ever did.

LJ - BillInThe70s.jpg
(The earliest picture of Bill that I have. Taken in the 70's I imagine)

We were never close, as I was seven years younger than him. We were never together at any age where we could really relate to each other. When I was old enough to want to hang around with my brother, he was of an age where it was deeply uncool to have your kid brother hanging around. I was an over-serious nerd, he was one of the kids who hung out with the bad crowd. That got so bad that my parents ended up sending him to live with family in Vancouver, where he straightened himself out. That sounds like some sort of weird military-school-exile-thing, but I'm pretty sure Bill was in on it, recognizing that he needed a clean break from the crowd. I remember shouting matches in the house, but not over that.

LJ - cadets.jpg
(Cadets. Bill is the one standing farthest to the right in the second row)

Due to his moving when I was a kid, we never got to know each other as young adults. He was living his life in Vancouver when I was in high school. He eventually moved back when I was in University.

We had different educations, life experiences, political views. He helped raise a family, and I'm a bachelor. But for all that I say we have nothing in common, it's not actually true.

We had similar senses of humour. Bill got most of my jokes and vice-versa. Mom and Dad certainly raised us in similar ways. We had a similar legacy from that. The values that were instilled on both of us were very strong.

LJ - Bill in Cadets.jpg
(This picture of Bill reacting to a sour note was taken by a Calgary Herald photographer. They were kind enough to send us a print, since I doubt we still have the actual newspaper anymore)

Later in life we bonded to a small extent over our shared burden - my sister. I grew to simply write-off her antics, but Bill took them more and more personally as time went on. Partly that was simply because he had a lot more contact with her growing up as well as when they were adults, but mostly it was because he was often the target of her BS.

LJ - BillMomDadAtExpo86.jpg
(Bill, Maxine, and Gordon Cyr. This was taken in Vancouver's Gastown during Expo86)

It wasn't until yesterday morning when my Aunt broke the news to me that I realized we shared one more thing: Depression. I'm guessing here, but if my brother felt he had to kill himself, then odds are he was depressed, and probably had been for a long time. I've been there, and I've felt the urge to kill myself. It got bad enough that I sought help for it. If only Bill had done that.

Depression lies. The worst lie that depression tells you is that there is no hope. Don't believe it. I'm living proof that you can, if not beat depression, at least negotiate a truce with it. I haven't thought seriously about suicide in years. My depressive incidents have become fewer and of shorter duration due to the mental tools I learned in therapy. And I know that there is help if I need it. My friends will support me and there are professionals out there who can help me.

If you are feeling suicidal, you can walk into any emergency room in this city and get help. "I'm thinking about killing myself" is what I told the triage nurse. It was the first step, and I'm glad I took it. I wish my brother had taken that step.

LJ - BillAndBeckyWedding.jpg
(Bill and his new bride Becky, at the Justice of the Peace office in the Palliser Hotel)

The last time I spoke to my brother was a year ago at the family Boxing day party. He left me a voice mail on my birthday, and I wish I'd done at least that much for him on his. Would it have mattered? Probably not, but who knows?

Right now, My brother's widow Becky is devastated. His children, Thor, Ruth, Russel, and Bill have had the carpet yanked out from under them. I am so very sad for them. I wish I had the words to help them through their grief, but that is beyond my ability.

jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I had an epiphany about school administrators and their faulty advice of "just ignore it" in reference to the relentless bullying I suffered in grade school. It came from two odd sources.

The first was an ongoing bullying of a friend's son in junior high school. This has resulted in actual arrests, and requests for transfer to another school, which was denied. Why would anyone deny that? It seems self evident to me that, if a kid is being bullied so bad that it's resulted in the bully being arrested, there's a real problem here.

(my own advice would be for the kid to respond with sufficient violence to put the bully into the hospital, preferably with injuries that will take a long time and therapy to treat. I recognize that this isn't the best advice, but it comes from my inner lizard, and it's one of the few topics I let my inner lizard express an opinion on. Also, this is a big part of why I will never have children. I am incapable of dealing with this sort of thing rationally)

The second source was a thread on Captain Awkward. One of the mods of the site wrote this:
What they teach in schools is “just ignore it.”
“Just ignore it” = “Just shut up about it.”
“Just shut up about it” = “Shady, irritating people getting away with no-good.”
I got Just Ignore It a lot. A lot! It was years before I could put my finger on why this was bad advice (Captain Awkward nails it though), but I always recognized that it was bad advice.

And now my epiphany: It's actually great advice.

Oh, not for me, and not for any other kid being bullied. It's great advice for school administrators. After all, if the kid isn't bitching to them, they don't have to do anything. Doesn't matter that they may be enduring abuse that will lead to a lifetime of mental problems. What a great idea for avoiding work and responsibility - and it makes the victim complicit in their own bullying.

Remember, to a teacher, all kids are temporary. If you can stall long enough, even the worst cases of bullying go away as the kids move to higher grades or graduate. It might take a whole term for bullying to become a problem. Then another year of stalling tactics like telling the kid to ignore it, or to tell the parents that there's nothing they can do. Year three (for a junior high, or high school kid), you can just say "well, they'll be going to a different school/graduating, and you don't want to disrupt them at this late point, and it'll all be over soon anyway, why make waves". Boom, problem resolves itself and you didn't have to do anything. It's a wonderfully banal sort of evil.

My actual advice? Don't let them get away with it. Fight. Escalate. Don't give up. Make them understand that you're not going away, and follow through. They're counting on you giving up.

And again, I am so glad I'm not a parent.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
It's funny how things set in your mind as a kid. To me, September 1st is the true beginning of the year, because that's the first day of school. Now, I've been at my current job as long as I was ever in school (and this isn't my first job after graduating), but it still feels that way.

So this is a day for new beginnings. first new beginning is something I've been putting off for months - I'm back on Weight Watchers. Sadly, that meant exposing my brain to the depression-inducing value that is my current weight. I've literally been avoiding this for that reason. well the verdict is in, I'm 17 pounds above "monster" and 8 pounds short of "jump off a bridge". Since suicide is not on my agenda, and not being a monster is, I guess that means I have to buckle down. And I'll do it right, since I've been half-assing it even when I was getting weighed in (I haven't sat through a meeting in years - pretty much since they shut down the early one that my favourite leader was at. I'm at my second favourite leader's meeting now.

Is there anything else I can start? Running, but that's not going to be until I can consistently walk 5K without any Plantar's pain. I can walk to work, and that's 3.5K, so I'm very nearly there. It will be nice to run again. The last time was last October. In Portland.

Unfucking my habitat is a perennial goal, which I'll be revisiting.

I think what I might do is go back to my letter grades.

Oh, and being less negative. The hard part here is that often means being less negative out loud, when it really should be at all. Still, I hope you all are a little forgiving on that front, since not beating myself up is actually really difficult.

Anyway, raise a glass to new beginnings.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Some statistics:
  • Nights: 17.
  • Beds: 11.
  • Estimated distance: 3847 Km.
  • Actual distance: 4258 Km.
  • Fills: 10.
  • Cost of gas: $297 CAD
  • Peanut M&Ms consumed: 85.
  • Depressive incidents: 0.
Overall, a good trip. It was relaxing and fun. I repeated a lot of components of earlier trips, but that's OK because I really didn't want to deal with any stress. I got to visit quite a few friends, including the ones I don't see despite living in the same goddamn city. There were plenty more I'd have like to have seen, or seen more of, but that's often the way these things go.

But it wasn't all wine and song.

I'm sad that I have to put in the effort to maintain all these relationships. I'd rather they were effortless, or that people would come visit me for a change. Still, that's not the fault of the people, it's simply the scourge of distance and finances. I have the time and wherewithal to make these trips, so it's up to me to go 99% of the way and count on everyone else to handle the last 1%.

Loneliness was a constant irritant. But I've long since accepted that I can't let the lack of a partner stop me from travelling. The alternative is to simply not go on trips. Plus, it's not like I'm any less lonely at home. When depression reared it's ugly head, that was usually why. On the plus side, my mental batteries were at peak charge, so all the anti-depression cognitive tools I've learned were easily wielded. No depression for me this trip. Just the occasional, "go away, demon, I don't have to put up with your shit today". Still, it would be nice to simply not be a depressive. Alas, it's not to be.

Well, I don't want to end this on a sour note. I really did enjoy myself, and I might do it again next year (though my travel plans might involve going somewhere farther - we'll see).

Oh, and I bought a bunch of stuff. Swag pictures ahead... )
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I hesitate to write this, lest someone use it against me. That's happened to me before. It's happened to me in adulthood.

I have a few phrases that are literally triggering. One of them is when people call me "big guy". There are few things in this world that will fill me with an instant, incandescent rage then when people refer to me that way. Why? Because growing up it was the go to phrase for any bully who was trying to be friendly with me, either as the setup for extra-cruel bullying, or because they wanted something from me. To me "big guy" is exactly synonymous with "I think you're too stupid to realize I'm patronizing you, and if I don't get what I want from you, the next thing I'll call you is big fat loser".

I was 100% accurate with that assessment as of graduating high school, and it happened more times than I can count. If someone called me "big guy" when trying to be friendly, that friendliness was fake, and it would be followed up soon after with real insults about my weight.

I get called that occasionally in adulthood. They're probably just trying to be friendly, and aren't actually bullies. Still, the trigger remains. When it happens, I tell them, flatly, "don't ever call me 'big guy' again". When this happens, I generally get some kind of excuse along the lines of "oh, it's because you're so tall". No it's not. Some really want to argue that they didn't mean anything by it, and should be allowed to keep doing it based on their good intentions. No. I get to decide what I'm called and I have a perfectly good name.

The correct response is "OK, I won't call you that again". I don't need an apology, because (assuming a first offence) this is something the person would have had no reason to know was a problem.

Today, an old acquaintance did it online and I was literally seconds from unfriending/blocking them on social media. They agreed not to do it again when I told them not to, so the triggering event is settled. However, I was still an anxiety-ridden grouch for the rest of the morning because of it. Only getting out of the office for an appointment/nice lunch snapped me out of it. That's when I realized that this was a trigger, and not simply something I don't like. My emotions were out of control. Hell, writing about it now has got me all fucked up emotionally, but I feel I need to write this down as a first step towards it not being a trigger.

In conclusion, don't call me that. If you do, knowing this, we're through. People who do so unwittingly will be told not to (hopefully politely, but it will likely be terse even with all my efforts to not be a jerk about it).
jamesq: (Head)
I did not have a good event. That's not to say that it wasn't a good event - it certainly seemed to have achieved all of it's goals with lots of people enjoying themselves. No, this was my usual mental issues.

My usual emo BS, you can safely skip this... )

So I keep having a bad time going to SCA events. What exactly is the problem here?

Well, it's not really the SCA per se. Well, one aspect of it is, but it's a minor thing. I've described it before and call it SCA Exclusivity.

Basically, as a society, we like a level of boasting and recognition that is over-the-top when compared to real world. Whenever someone is elevated or committing to a relationship in the SCA, we sing that person's praises long and loud. This person isn't just good, they're the greatest person ever.

There's nothing wrong with that. I think the real world could do with more of it, but it's generally unheard of outside of wedding speeches. Still, Valentine's day sucks if you're single, Mother's day sucks if your mother is dead, and hearing someone speechify about how this person is the best person ever when you know they're really not, and people never talk about you that way, except when they want something, sucks. I'm happy for these other people, but it always underlines that I'll never be good enough. (To clarify, I mean not good enough for the SCA. I'm plenty good enough as a person.)

Funny thing is, SCA exclusivity is not unique to me. I've described this often enough in other posts, here and on Facebook, that I know of a lot of people who've noticed the same thing. My curse of being alone in a crowd is not solely mine.

The next problem is that SCA events (especially very full day events like 12th Night) are so busy, with so many people. As an introvert, that's a very draining prospect. I much prefer seeing a few people in a deeper, more meaningful sense. An evening at a pub with a handful of friends will always be more enjoyable than an SCA event for me. If I could sit in a corner at an event, with a handful of friends, I'd count it as a great time. I've done this at camping events now and then. Some of my fondest non-nude memories of Quad War are basically this.

But I can't do this at a busy day event. For one thing, even if I set out to do this, the people I want to see can't oblige me. They're constantly being interrupted. Hell this happened yesterday. I thought "I'll hang out with X, that'll put me in a good mood", only to have someone grab a chair and sit between us so they could talk to them instead. The whole event for everyone (not just me) turns into a frustrating series of drive-by huggings and faux socializing.

In my rant, I mentioned "80 percent of the people here only barely tolerate me". Obviously, this is an exaggeration - I simply don't know that many people. Vast amounts of any SCA event are familiar looking strangers, and being, ahem, a unique looking individual, I'm sure I fall into that category for all of them too.

There are people who barely tolerate me though. If they're just random strangers who jumped to a conclusion about me, so be it. The real problem is there's plenty of people I used to call friends who are in that category. Having to spend significant time with former friends who snub you unless they need something, is unpleasant. And the worst part is, I often have no fucking clue what I did for them to go from "let's invite James over to the house party" to not acknowledging my presence unless forced to. I suspect that for a lot of them it's doesn't take the SCA as seriously as we do.

Again, none of this is unique to me, and I know plenty of other people in the snub-club. Hmm, maybe we should have a party at a camping event some time.

Next up, I have the constant reminder that becoming the archery champion cost me at least one friendship. If I knew then what I know now, I'd have never vied in the first place. I fully expect that statement to be thrown at me as a reason why I'm a bad person and should step down as archery champion. C'est la vie.

Finally, and let's not forget these all-important points that have nothing whatsoever to do with the SCA: I have a history of depression. I have social anxiety. I was in a lot of pain.

I really just want to go to my last few events as champion, then get the hell away from it all for awhile. The mental cost of events is simply too much for me to keep paying. Maybe I'll change my mind at some point (for example, A/T War still sounds like fun), but as of now, I'm done.

In the interest of not being a total downer, here are four things I truly enjoyed yesterday:

  • Witnessing a fun archery tournament with some really well-designed targets. They're going into the book.
  • [livejournal.com profile] wendy_licious is a sweetheart for putting up with my bullshit. No, she was not the receiver of the rant.
  • The presentation of Baron Kraig's Pelican scroll, by Sir Kian, gave me my one good solid belly laugh of the day. I needed that.
  • Baron James' feast. Oh god, that feast.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
Went to a party this weekend and a few simultaneous events occurred that helped crystallize some thought I've been having about confidence.

First, I was texting a woman I know and she told me that "confidence is sexy" (I was both relaxed due to drink, and happy when we were texting, and that came through). While that was going on, I overheard another conversation about how, at a recent event, the person had run into a supremely confident individual and used it as a teaching moment for some of the men she was with.

Basically, she was hanging out with a number of gentlemen with less than ideal romantic success. While doing that, a gentle dropped by who, while talking to her, turned on the charm. Afterward, she pointed out to the other men present what the gentle had done that was right. Mostly this came down to confidence in approaching and talking to women.

As an aside, it's not the first time I've heard of her doing this. I think if you could make a living teaching dating skills to the socially-stunted, she'd both love and be good at it. Best of all, it would be real advice and not pick-up artist bullshit.

Anyway, I did have one quibble, and that's conflating the cause with the effect. That confident gentle? He's an SCA knight, a Viscount, a body-builder, a father, and came damn close to being the first king of Avacal. I posit that he doesn't have to assume confidence - he's simply been very successful in achieving his goals, which imbues him with confidence. Telling people to "be more confident" assumes that what this gentle did, rather than him simply being a confident individual due to his accomplishments. He's confident because he's successful, rather than being successful by assuming confidence.

I'll cop to their being a feedback mechanism here, but I think the root is the successfulness, not the confidence. Certainly that's the way it's always been with me. When I accomplish something, I become more confident. The more weight I lose, the easier it gets, the more I think I look... OK. The more I exercise, the more I'm convinced that I can do more. And yes, if I'm actually getting attention from a woman, it's easier for me to approach other women (not that I'm interested in philandering - it's more that I can relax and be myself because I've got nothing to prove). One of the reasons I hate depression so much is because it often knocks me back to zero, and getting away from that state is initially a very steep climb. The farther I get away from it, the easier it gets, but it's so very hard to start.

I've seen this conflating of cause and effect in other places. Notably in forgiveness and closure after a hurt. So many people say "you need to forgive this person, so you can move on", but I think it's more the case that being able to move on is thing that allows one to forgive. It's like observing that the scab falls off a wound when you're healed and thinking that to heal you have to pull off the scab.

In the end, "be more confident" is one of those admonishments that I treat like "be taller" - not terribly concrete advice. Better advice is stuff like:

  • Don't be self-deprecating.
  • Engage in basic hygiene.
  • Dress to impress.
  • Don't second guess talking to people, just start asking questions.
(take my advice, I'm not using it)

These all have the advantage that they're all things one can do that are immediately observable. "Be more confident"? How? Does it involve concentrating really hard and sticking my tongue out to one side? "Engage in basic hygiene". OK, I've showered well, shaved, combed my hair nicely, and have just enough after shave to notice in a hug. Done.

For all I know, the rest of the conversation went exactly like that. I hope so.

BTW, in case you think I'm being too hard on her ad hoc students, it was only by the grace of the event steward that I wasn't in their number.
jamesq: (genius)
Did you know that, including today, there are 100 days from now until the new year? And so this gives me an interesting threshold date for a medium term goal that occurred to me recently. Grade myself on my ability to do all those things I ought to do. Adulting as it were.

So here's how it's going to play out: At the end of each day (or the next day, if I forget), I'm going to grade myself, from A to D based on the following four criteria, each one adding a letter grade:

  • Food journalling: I don't necessarily have to stay in my points, but I do need to keep track of everything I consume that day.
  • Fitness: I have to do something for exercise. Running will obviously fit the bill, but so will walking to or from work, or going for a hike or a bike ride.
  • Major Work: This means putting a productive day at work, or getting some major chore done if it's not a work day.
  • Minor Work: At least 15 minutes of minor chores, based on the philosophy that you can unfuck your habitat by consistently doing 15 minutes of work at it each day. There's lots of little things I want to get done, that I haven't, because I tend to get home and plop myself in front of a screen. Time to start forming those habits.
If I do none of those, that's an F. One of them, a D. Two of them, a C, three of them, a B, and all four, an A. I'll also tack on a plus, if I think I did something especially well, or a minus if I technically did one of those four, but I half-assed it.

Finally, if I'm sick or injured, I'll skip the letter grade, and just count a day as "completed", the alternative being something I'd rather not contemplate.

100 days begins... now!
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I've discovered a new trigger - illness. If I'm sick, that means most of my physical and mental resources are going towards combating whatever bug I've caught. I'm also not exercising and I'm isolated from people, and I'm probably stress eating. I've had hints of this before. This time, 100% of the symptoms are bone-weary fatigue.

OK. Knowing that means I'm halfway to avoiding it/dealing with it in the future. I'll take that little victory. Can I not be sick anymore now?

Not sure how I got this recent bug. Nobody else has been reporting a fatigue/fever illness without the usual gastrointestinal or nasal symptoms. I've been joking that my trip to the zoo on Monday included the Rocky Mountain Tick exhibit.

Aw well. Writing could make it worse, so I'm going to watch TV for the rest of the night and hope I have enough energy to go to work tomorrow.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
So this all makes me anxious. And I mean that literally in the I just had an anxiety attack way. But still, I will try to explain myself.

Yesterday I was going through photos of this weekend's event. I happened upon one of myself. It was not flattering. Oh, the photo was well composed and shot (the photographer has a keen eye for candid portrait shots), but I wasn't aware of being shot, so I didn't do all the little things I do to make sure the picture is flattering. I didn't smile, or suck in my gut, or push my head forward. I was just standing there having just loosed an arrow. All I could see were my faults.

Coincidentally, I knew which end the shot was taken, and I had missed one of the shots (in the middle, and I got complimented for recovering the remaining arrows. If you're an archer, you know how hard that can be). I mentioned then that having any sort of talent means that you hit a stage where all you can see are your faults. I had several good shots that end, and one failure. All I could see was the failure. Likewise with the photo, all I could see was every feature I hate about myself.

There are photos of myself that I like. The avatar picture attached to this post for example, is the single best photo of me ever taken. I'm relaxed, having a good time, my smile touches my eyes and my hat is at a jaunty angle - what's not to like? Beothuk asked to take it when I was in the perfect mood to have my photo taken (notably, he asked first). There's a few others.

When I was younger, I was one of those folks who would admonish the photographer to not take my photo. Later I relaxed on this stance since it only pissed off a bunch of people who didn't stop taking my photo anyway. Go ahead and take my photo, I thought, so long as I don't have to look at it. I'd also try to avoid being in the shot if I was able. Turning my head, moving so there was an obstacle between me and the camera. Subtle things, I thought, until I realized that I was probably about as subtle as a six-year old's knock knock joke to someone with a telephoto lens aimed at me.

I've been battling depression recently (can't run due to a reoccurring back injury, just got a nasty reminder that a long hard winter is just around the corner), but hadn't quite slipped over the edge. Then I saw a photo of myself that I didn't like. Because I hadn't wished for it to be taken. Because it slapped me in the face with my flaws. Because everybody else this guy took a picture of looked luminous. Because of my demons.

So I though, fuck it, I'm going to go to bed. I'm tired and I recognize that this was going to upset me if I dwelled on it. And had I left it at that, I wouldn't be writing a therapy piece right now. No, instead I made a (what my tired ass thought was funny) quip about it.

God damn. Sometimes I forget how spectacularly ugly I am.
Must avoid cameras at events more.
And then I went to bed.

I woke up to find everyone had dog-piled on me. They had good intentions. They were mostly my friends, with a few acquaintances thrown in for good measure. mostly they admonished me about being hard on myself. There was also threats of violence.

Just a short aside about the threats of violence, then back to the main thread of my self-deprecation and its aftermath: Don't do that. I really hate it when people think saying "If you do that again, I'll kick you in the balls" is helpful. An old ex-friend used to do that all the time. He'd use vague unspecified threats (e.g. "If you do that again, I won't be held responsible for what I do next"), but still he did it. It was a shitty way of trying to deal with interpersonal problems when he should have just used his words instead. I still run into that jackass now and then. I've more or less resolved to call him on his BS if he ever does it again in my presence. Anyway, it reminds me of him is only one aspect. The other is that you're either lying about the threat, or you're not lying about it. Neither of these are things that friends should be doing. And yeah, call me on it if you see me doing it.

Ahem, where was I?

Anyway, I got a lot of "you're not ugly" in return. That more than anything else upset me more. Because deep down, I can't take compliments. I always think it's friendship-pity. And I always want to dig in and argue the point, as if being right is more important than trusting your friends. Still, it's not about being right, it's that the demons are fighting to survive, and their survival depends on me being miserable. Nothing quite like turning around every compliment into an insult.

And it's a surprisingly hard thing to break oneself of - hell, I've been self-deprecating about my being self-deprecating here in this article. How's that for a vicious downward spiral of emo bullshit.

When I was in elementary, I learned early that if people were blowing smoke up your ass, it's because they wanted something. Often that something was to simply make fun of you. When I was the school outcast, I'd occasionally have the cool kids befriend me. They'd pay me compliments and talk about how much they actually liked me. They'd do this long enough for me to help them with something, or share my candy bar, or just until I'd bought it so that they could make fun of me for buying it. "You actually think we liked you? Loser."

Obviously my adult friends aren't like that. I've got friends whom I've been through the wringer with. They've been through thick and thin with me. Still, my inner nine-year old remembers.

On the bright side, when the Alistairs of the world come knocking, I can spot them from a mile away. It's the primary reason I refused to let baby-crazy-girl get closer to me when she was briefly in the SCA.

Another thing I learned as a child? If you insult yourself first, it means the bullies can't. If you want to know the genesis of my self-deprecating sense of humour, that's it.

All of this is unhealthy and I have therapeutic techniques to deal with it. Countering thoughts ("No. You're friends really do think you're average-to-attractive. Don't second guess them") for example. But sometimes I'm too tired to wield them.

A lot of this is a long-winded way of saying, complimenting me when I'm beating myself isn't that helpful. If you want to do so in the future, a simple "I like you", without qualifications is appreciated. If you say "I like you and you're attractive", my computer programmer's brain will go "Hmm, logically that evaluates to false because 1 & 0 == 0".

I appreciate all the concern folks - I just needed to vent. Now that I'm done, I'd rather not dwell on it more. Let's keep it to a single day so that tomorrow will be better.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
An Tir September Crown is coming up and I'm going. However, it's the most likely sort of SCA event for me to have adverse mental reactions to. Which is to say that I often find SCA events triggering, despite my overall enjoyment of them.

Events that don't have much for me to do, or are very lengthy, or have many people I don't know - these are the sorts of events that trigger a depressive incident. Events that have what I think of as "SCA Exclusivity" are often the worst. Those are the events where some lucky person gets elevated from the pack and everyone declares long and loudly how special they are and how much they belong. I find that sort of thing underlines my own outsider status. I know it's not rational, but it's still there.

September Crown promises to have all that. In fact, one of the reasons I'm going is I had a premonition that someone I know is going to get the SCA Exclusivity treatment, and I'd like to see it (It being long overdue, and no, I don't care if thinking "about damn time" upsets some people). I'm not going to jinx it by saying who that person is here, but ask me in private and I'll likely tell you. And no, I don't have supernatural powers or any sort of insider knowledge. I just think it's the right time for them.

Other triggers are all well represented: It's an event outside of my home area, that focuses on the Crown tournament. Travel time is long so I can't bug out early. Plus I'm currently fighting a cold. The illness isn't really restricting me in any way, but it will sap my mental defenses, so I need to be aware of that.

On the other hand, there will be a lot of people whom I do know at the event, including people I only see rarely. Enough Montengarde folk will be there that I can socialize without feeling like any one person's fifth wheel.

Finally, the event is in the Greater Vancouver area, which is a plus. If all else fails, I can simply leave for awhile to get my head on straight. The trick will be to recognize the point where that will do me good, rather than after I've crashed. It's still good to get away after a crash, since I don't want to alienate all the people around me by being Eeyore, but it's not exactly Plan-A.

Plan-A is to have a good time. Plan-B is have as good a time as possible, while using exit-strategies in an intelligent and restrained manner. Plan-C is to EJECT EJECT EJECT.

So, don't drink unless I'm having a good time. Be prepared to leave the site (temporarily if possible) if I'm feeling down. Remember that other people getting accolades is a good thing and it's not all about me.

So yeah, tomorrow I start my road trip.
  • Thursday: Leave work early, drive to Revelstoke.
  • Friday: Drive to Crown, set up camp, reconnoiter.
  • Saturday: Shoot things, watch people beat each other with sticks, drink (maybe).
  • Sunday: Shoot more things, hang out.
  • Monday: Break camp, find a hotel, stand under the shower for two hours.
  • Tuesday-Wednesday: Hang around Port Wood and visit the Vancouver peeps.
  • Thursday: Bid farewell to [livejournal.com profile] othelianna.
  • Thursday or Friday: Drive to Revelstoke (depending on timing).
  • Friday or Saturday: Home again, home again. Jiggity-jig.
jamesq: (An actual picture of me.)
I was walking to the Commercial/Broadway Skytrain today and didn't make it past the gauntlet. The gauntlet being the assorted panhandlers, hucksters and pollsters that inhabit the bridge over the Grandview Cut, where the station is built. A young woman is there with a clipboard and she managed to get my attention. Like an idiot, I let her.
There's a behavior that annoys me that I'm seeing more and more. Salespeople use it all the time now, especially if they work at mall kiosks that have a lot of foot traffic that goes by. It depends on there being a base level of social expectation in society. The young woman was using this method good and hard. I didn't follow the script though.

She started by asking my name. I didn't give it, instead saying she needed to make her pitch first. So she goes on to tell me about a charity. She asked lots of leading questions - questions designed to get me involved in a positive conversation about the charity. She described successful stories of the charity. She guesses (correctly) that I'm in favour of gender equality, education and democracy, and appeals to that sense of justice. She got into my personal space, looked me in the eye and smiled a lot. If her hands weren't occupied, I'm sure she'd have been repeatedly touching my arm.

It's simple really, it's feigned friendliness to draw you in so they have a greater chance of succeeding with their sales pitch. It depends on people responding properly, politely. I think it's ultimately going to hurt us all. We're engaged in a sort of behavior one-upmanship where salespeople are more and more aggressive and their marks become more and more callous to calls for help from strangers under the belief that those people are trying to trick them. It drives us all to be more rude and isolated from each other.

Now I don't deny that it works - if it didn't work, it wouldn't be used. And that doesn't mean that it has to work with everyone - it only has to work over a population, not the individuals in the population.

As an aside, when I was the social outcast as a child, this sort of behavior was used on me to make the bullying worse. Someone socially popular would "befriend" me, usually to get some kind of information out of me (that would be used against me) or to place me in a situation where I could be isolated or attacked. I fell for it a lot. I fell for it when I knew better, such is the desperate desire to be part of the group.

What that means is I'm hyper-alert to the tactic, and when I twig to it, I react very negatively to it. That's not to say that other people don't have a negative reaction to it, or that they're not alert to it when it happens, just that I, personally, have good reasons for reacting the way I do. I'm positive that plenty of the people reading this will agree with me about it without having to be a traumatic lesson from childhood.

Getting back to the young woman, she finally twigged to the fact that my not following the script was deliberate rather than me being obtuse.

"Now what could you buy me for $1.20?"

I don't respond. I am thinking that I'd rather not buy her anything at all.

"Um. pardon?", she asks when she interprets my failure to respond as her not hearing what I said. "So what could you buy me for $1.20?"

I dig my heels in, look her straight in the eye and don't say anything.

"Could you buy a... doughnut for $1.20?"

Another awkward moment passes.

"Um. I'm getting the feeling you're not interested in this charity."
Finally, I respond. "Quite the contrary, the charity seems reasonable. It's your approach that I don't like."

She's taken aback. "May I ask why?"

"Because this whole time you've been talking like you want to get to know me better, but what you really want is my money. That's dishonest. You've done it by feigning friendliness to get close to me and that's creepy. and it's all unnecessary - the charity speaks for itself and doesn't need you to trick me into supporting it. But now I'm in the awkward position of liking the cause, but not wanting to reward your methods."

Let's say the situation was somewhat reversed. Let's say I encountered this woman in a nightclub and I used all of the same tactics on her in an attempt to pick her up. I'd be rightly judged as a creepy PUA type who depended on the fact that people are socialized not to be confrontational to succeed.

I compromised by asking for how I could look it up later rather than sign my name to a form that would obligate me to donating over and over again.

It's hours later now and it still bothers me. First, I has overly critical to a front-line worker who was just doing her job. She didn't know she was stepping into my drama. It also bothers me that I care about that - that I'm worried about the feelings of someone who was trying to emotionally manipulate me. It makes me simultaneously guilty and angry. Finally, it depresses me to recognize that building this sort of emotional armour comes with a terrible cost - I'm bitter and paranoid. In this case, reasonably so, but how many people have I turned away because I've assumed the worst from them?
jamesq: (San Francisco)
Part of my tour included a solo walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. As one of the tour guides put it, in language designed to not reveal her meaning to any children present, more people have strolled off this bridge than any other.

Pictures of Golden Gate Bridge, and musings on its grim notoriety... )

There is only one god, and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: 'Not Today'
jamesq: (Default)
I was authorized for SCA heavy fighting in 2009. In that time I've gone to one practice and participated in one scenario requiring the use of armour (Estrella's Quick and the Dead combat archery duel competition). I was in largely borrowed armour.

I learned a couple of not terribly complimentary things:
  • I don't like being used as a pell.
  • I see red when I get hit in the face.
  • When it comes to contact sports, I'm a sore loser.
Since then, I've made a completely half-assed attempt at getting proper armour for myself. This includes having several people making repeated offers to help. I haven't so much rebuffed those offers as simply ignored them. Anything like actual progress towards being able to fight has always filled me with a deep anxiety.

Now anxiety (and here I'm talking about the sort of crippling social anxiety that's plagued me my whole life) isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's fear basically, and fear is often something you need to face down. If I faced down my fear of asking women out more often, my life would likely be significantly better (or not, the sample size is small, but I'm still 0.000 for getting a date on those occasions where I've asked).

But not all fear is indicative of something that needs facing down. It's perfectly reasonable to be afraid of large predators (if the confrontation were likely), but I don't think my life would be improved by seeking out a mama grizzly bear so I could stand between her and her cub while yelling "You want a piece of me".

Ultimately it's a cost benefit analysis. Do I think I'll get something positive out of this activity - and would that outweigh the effort?

Benefits of SCA heavy fighting:
  • It's a martial art. Martial arts in general provide a host of related benefits to most people - things like self-defense skills and confidence.
  • additional social connections within the SCA.
  • Fitness. I'd certainly increase my shoulder and arm strength if I practiced regularly.
  • Fun. Despite looking like they've been taken through the wringer, fighters coming off the field look like they're having a grand time.
  • No-Shit-There-I-Was stories.
Of course, none of those are clear-cut examples of why I should devote my time to SCA heavy combat specifically. After all, there are other martial arts (including inside the SCA) that would give me similar benefits. There are other (non-combat oriented) activities that would provide me with social benefits.

Drawbacks to SCA heavy fighting:
  • It's very damaging. There's a reason why there's a constant one-upmanship with regards to visible bruising; it's because people get hurt - a lot.
  • A significant minority of the participants are people I'd rather not get to know.
  • There's a significant buy in cost before you know if you like it.
Nothing insurmountable there.

I'm sure my second point about the significant minority will be contentious. Let's just say that the sort of people who bullied me in school have found a home in SCA heavy fighting. It doesn't mean all heavy fighters are like that (most aren't). Nor does it mean that those people are engaging in bullying now (though I've seen it). However, long experience means I know the type when I encounter them. I'm a big boy, I can handle difficult people. But do I want to hang out with them?

Slightly related to this, there are heavy fighters who believe that heavy fighting should have a privileged position in the SCA. This is politically incorrect, so you generally need to get a few drinks into them before it becomes obvious. While this knowledge doesn't affect my reasoning strongly, I do acknowledge that it's there. It's a negative pressure, making me want to not do heavy fighting because it validates them.

I'm human, not every reason is rational.

All this could simply be over-analyzing. It's been in the back of my mind for a long time now with me bouncing between the extremes of just do it and admit that you're not going to do it. An SCA swap-meet yesterday forced my hand.

Being a very strong INTP, I have a very good intuition that I paradoxically hate relying on. Yesterday I did. I made the snap judgement to give it all up counting on the shakeup to clear the dross from my mind on this topic. Jumping into an idea can clarify your feelings - if you feel relief, it was a good idea; if you feel regret, it was probably a bad idea. It helps that this is the sort of idea that can be corrected if I got it wrong. So how did it go?

First, getting rid of my armour simply felt right, like a burden had been lifted. Second, I was reminded about my last major attempt to fit in with the cool kids back in high school:

I was on my Alma Mater's junior football team. New to high school, I was voluntold to come out for the team by a coach who saw that I was bigger then most of the other kids. And I gave it the old college try. I stuck around for the whole season, I went out for practices, I tried to get be friendly with my teammates. Nope, I was still a nerd and they were still jocks. I got picked on my whole time there and about the only thing it accomplished was the bullies knew my name in the subsequent years, whereas if I wasn't on the team that first year, I'd have just been "that guy".

Aside: I had four plays in one game the whole season. It was the one thing in my school career that my father was proud of until I got my post-secondary degree. *I* was glad I stuck out the whole season, but wild dogs couldn't have dragged me back as a sophomore.

Giving up heavy fighting reminded me of all this. Looking back, the only reason I was interested in it was peer-pressure. Like high school football, this was an attempt to fit in with the cool kids and that's a piss-poor reason to do anything.

I suspect everyone came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to do it long before I admitted it to myself. Certainly when I brought everything out there were no statements along the lines of "Are you sure you want to get rid of this". Nope, it was all "Getting rid of your blunts? How much are they?"

In conclusion, I have nothing against heavy fighting. To use the cliche, some of my best friends are heavy fighters. It's exciting to watch and I freely acknowledge that they're having a great time. It's just not for me.
jamesq: (Villain)
So I just got back from watching Chronicle, which I had not even heard of until about an hour before curtain time. I saw a very brief description of the movie (Three teens gain superpowers) and the fact that it was getting much better reviews than you'd think based on that premise. I was looking at an evening in front of the television anyway, so I figured I'd just go and have a look. The worst that could have happened was wasting two hours.

Chronicle was really really good. I was worried when I saw that this was a so-called "found footage" film (like The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield). I really dislike them as a story-telling medium. The footage is by one of the protagonists, who has decided to film his life, and if that was all we saw, my fears would be realised. Chronicle gets around all the things I hate about found footage films, first by introducing a secondary character who also videotapes her life, and later by using security tapes, cell phone video and all the other videography that is ubiquitous in today's world. It is probably the best filmed movie using this technique, precisely because it can use "found video" from multiple sources. Especially the extended action sequences at the end. The director and editor did a spectacular job.

Anyway go see it, you'll enjoy it a lot more than The Phantom Menace 3D.

Now for some spoilers as well as why Chronicle affected me so deeply. )
jamesq: (Default)
I'm down 6.9 pounds, which almost gets me down to the weight I mistakenly thought I was before rejoining WW. 260.4 - I really should give myself some kind of treat when I cross over to 260 (and 250, and 240, etc.). As long as that treat isn't food, I should be OK.

I'm still mildly depressed. This is more due to a lack of triggering events then to anything positive on my part. You can tell that by the way I downplay my weight loss. 20 people "liked" it on FB (which is some kind of record for me), but I still look at it as a sort of failure. Like blowing up the house then congratulating myself on subsequently sweeping debris off the sidewalk. Still, this weight loss seems to be easy so long as I stick to the plan.

The plan? Journal; keep the junk food to a minimum; Minimal carbs for supper; Two pieces of fruit a day; cook a proper meal on any evening I'm home, rather then eat out or have prepared food; get back into running. Pretty much the only thing I haven't done is the exercising, and I really have no excuse - the cold snap ended weeks ago and we've had unseasonably warm and dry weather. No reason not to run, so I should get to it.

I have been walking to work though, which is good, if somewhat lighter exercise and also good for my mental health.

So the mental health has been improving even though it's still not very good. I'll be better when I'm running regular and the annual BTVDSS is over (only two more weeks!). Also when I'm down enough pounds that I can believe women will actually not be repulsed by me.

Just stick to it Cyr - that's all you have to do.

In minor mental health adjustments, me and some friends have actually booked a trip to Vegas. More details on that in another post though.

Long term, I need to find a group to volunteer with. Looking back on my life, the times when I've gained friends have all been times when I've had an actual job in some nerdy group (Fandom, EQ, SCA). I gain a lot of social capital doing that (plus it's fun). When I don't do it, I tend to retract back into myself and the friendships evaporate away. I'm seeing that with the SCA since so many people in that group tend to socialize only within that group (which says more for how time consuming the SCA can be rather than the people in it).

I could start volunteering in the SCA again, but ever since the bank account debacle, I frankly don't want to volunteer in any sort of organizational capacity in a group that I disagree with on basic policy. I might run an event in the future, but at a minimum, I want the Baronial Seneschal standing between me and anyone higher up. It would take someone awfully special to convince me to actually be Seneschal again, and I'd have to be loyal to that person outside the SCA to consider it. Beothuk and Wilma for example, if they couldn't find anyone else. Thankfully they did.

Anyway, the easiest way for me to meet new people in the SCA would be to volunteer again, but what's the point? Maybe I'll reconsider local amateur theatre. Organizing isn't sexy, but it is a skill that I can bring to the table.

Sigh. The things an asocial introvert has to do to keep loneliness at bay. Maybe I'll dig up that rapier mask I bought and try it out.
jamesq: (Default)
A link to look at if you are, like me, subject to depression:


I think I found it on Making Light.

I visualize it somewhat differently than the author (for me it's more like a Jekyll-like person has taken over, and for that person to survive, I must be miserable), but it all still has the ring of truth.

Anyway, something for me to be mindful of since Birthday-to-Valentines-Suicide-Season is beginning soon. Get outside as much as I can; exercise; don't isolate myself. I've gotten through it before and I can do it again.
jamesq: (Default)
I got off work quasi-early Friday so that I could hang out at a pub with some friends. I got to the pub only to discover that I didn't know anyone there. The person organizing it (whom I've met once), was already encircled by conversation. At that point I decided, "fuck it, I'm out of here".

Simply put, I'm tired of apologizing for being an introvert. Trying to make interesting conversation with a bunch of strangers is not my idea of a good time, and expecting the host (the organizer who doesn't know me at all) to help me in that regard is a waste of both of our times.

So I took off from the pub. It being late afternoon and sort of near the neighbourhood I grew up in, I decided to take a walk down memory lane. Went to the ice cream shop near the former Casa Cyr and bought a cone that was too big (they cracked the cone, so doubled the amount of ice cream on it to compensate - which is nice an all, but it all got in my mouth).

Casa Cyr is long gone. It was knocked down about six years ago and replaced with a giant duplex. In fact, of the seven houses on my old block, only four remain in the state I remember them. The rest of the neighbourhood was much the same. Not quite half of the houses were new construction less than ten years old. The older houses were dwarfed by the new ones. Clearly Altadore is a highly desirable area of the city (close to downtown, plenty of amenities, not in any way scummy), so much so that the property is worth more than the buildings.

I walked down to my old school, St. Raymond.

It is still standing, though I think the Catholic School Board stopped using the building for actual teaching in 1980 and used it as storage for much of the intervening time. Apparently the Rundle College Society decided to use it as an elementary school at some point. As an aside, there's something Stepford-esque about them, but I can't put my finger on exactly what. Their website doesn't make them out to be bible-thumpers. Maybe it's just their bragging about how much the Fraser Institute likes them.

Anyway, I really shouldn't blame a building for the actions of its occupants those many years ago. Still, no prisoner is fond of his prison, even long after being released.

I may have raised a few eyebrows walking around the perimeter of the building. 40-something men wandering around elementary schools is not something that today's paranoid society looks fondly upon. Thankfully it's summer holidays right now, so I just looked like a thief, not a pervert.

I continued on to Glenmore Dam, which I wrote about recently. I walked across it and back, which took about an hour due to my slow pace. All-in-all this was more exercise then I get walking to work. The bad news being I still haven't recovered from my cold, so it kind of wiped me out.

While I was physically visiting the sites of old traumas, I was mentally revisiting them too, which is not terribly healthy. I had many dark and violent fantasies about confronting my tormentors in the past or the present. You'd think this would be cathartic, but it isn't really. Closure never really comes - even if I was to act out some (strictly verbal) violence against one of my tormentors, the end result would never be the positive thing I imagine it would be. They'd not realize what damage they did, or they wouldn't care, or worst of all, they simply wouldn't remember the thing that consumes my thoughts.

I returned to my car and went to archery. I was too tired to effectively shoot things, but I did get to hang out with some friends and socialize. It put me back onto an even kilter and depression did not come. Frankly things are going pretty nicely in my life right now, so it's hard to feel sorry for myself. I've got people to see, things to do and adventures to plan.
jamesq: (Default)
I took down yesterday's emo post. I wrote it when I was emotionally exhausted and don't really want a permanent record of it, even if it was behind a few filters. LJ stats tells me only a few people accessed it. None of them relevant to the narrative.

I am currently depressed. Not as bad as it could be (I'm functional) but it's still frustrating because the sources never go away. Eventually this episode will pass, but there will be others. Why can't mental injuries simply heal and not bother you anymore the way physical injuries do. I don't get "relapses" of my busted shoulder every year. The bullying ended years ago but the trauma and the coping mechanisms that keep me broken-but-functional remain decades later.

A fairly detailed description of what I've recently put together about my emotional stimulus/response mechanisms... )

So when you say "You're not that fat", don't be surprised if I react like you said "your childhood bullying wasn't that bad". Or if your advice for when I complain about not having anyone to ask out is "Just join a computer dating service", don't be surprised if I find that advice as useful as "Just play a concerto or perform surgery".

Anyway, I'm not putting this out there to make anyone change their behavior (though understanding is always appreciated). It's more for me to be able to recognize it when it happens to me and try to react differently. The first step to not falling into a hole is to recognize that one is in your path.
jamesq: (Default)
Via [livejournal.com profile] lihan161051 and TED

It's 20 minutes long, but well worth a look. tl;dr version: You need to allow yourself to be vulnerable to achieve happiness.

I had a big damn post partially written about this, but I find my thoughts are in too much of a jumble to make the post coherent no matter how much I hammer at the edges. So I'll just leave the Powerpoint version:
  • I fail at every item on her checklist for success.
  • While I believe intellectually that she's right, my every instinct screams not to do it.
  • That being said, I have no idea how to begin - even if I could stomp the demons into submission.
Until such a time as I achieve a spine, I'll stick with plan-A: Fix my physical shortcomings and trust that some success in that venue will translate to better romantic success and/or general confidence.

Keeping this from triggering an incident is taking a lot of mental effort. I'll be happy when Valentine's Day is past.


jamesq: (Default)

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