Category Archives: Real Life

Notes on the September 2020 Eviction for Posterity

It just happened today and it’s still raw, so let’s just stick with the facts.

  • At the beginning of March 2020, my family moves out of our hometown to seek support from my mother’s extended family down south. One of our goals is to separate myself from my mother and my little brother because we’re exacerbating each other’s mental issues, and I need peace and quiet in order to begin my slow recovery and tackle post-traumatic mental health issues getting in the way of work and now causing massive social anxiety.
  • The move is a massive fustercluck, involving secretly changing plans behind people’s backs, not supplying important information, and people generally assuming they know what’s best and others don’t. Standard family drama stuff, I’m told. The place I move to initially stresses me out immensely and causes another series of nervous breakdowns due to the presence of many loud children, which turns out to be one of my triggers even if it isn’t my little brother specifically.
  • Two weeks later, one of my Uncles offers to let me move in with him and his family. They are a quiet household and it should be perfect. I promptly move in. They set very generous terms for rent and utilities with the idea that it will help me move out sooner once things stabilize.
  • For about four months, things are nice and calm. I’m not terribly proactive about finding help or work, but I keep to myself, stay in my room, and make an effort not to be a bother or cause trouble at the very least.
  • Towards mid-summer, pressure mounts to start making steps towards recovery, work, independence, and moving out. There are some terse conversations, which gives me the kick in the pants required to finally bite the bullet and sign up for primary medical care.
  • From mid-August to early September, I focus on trying and balancing new medication, which ranges from being pretty effective to too effective.
  • Saturday, September 19th, there is a conversation with my Uncle about how, no really, I need to find a job, because the terms they set were very generous and unfair to them, and me being a hermit in my room most days bugs the snot out of my Uncle.
  • Monday, September 21st, I finally go see a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, who, on top of being very helpful for my one visit talking with her, gives me a line on some counseling I can afford. Things are looking up.
  • The morning of Wednesday, September 23rd, my Uncle suggests job opportunities at a couple of his old workplaces. He strongly suggests going over to one of them later in the day to pick up a paper application. I agree. A few hours later, however, I start to have a severe nervous breakdown about it. I’m too scared to talk with my Uncle about it, so I start texting my mother for guidance and emotional support.
  • The trip to this employer to pick up an application does not happen, though I am not told that plans have changed. I am simply left alone for the rest of the night. I do not know why. I assume I was heard crying, despite my efforts to be quiet.
  • No communication – NO communication – takes place between me and my Uncle between that morning and the following afternoon, despite passing by each other for dinner and breakfast.
  • Today, Thursday, September 24th, in the afternoon, I write a Facebook post about my mental breakdown the previous day and some of the thoughts it caused me to reflect on, like the physical nature of anxiety, and the ironic comfort that my nurse practitioner had given me on Monday regarding my possible personality disorder and that I was lucky I at least had the solid coping skills to never let it progress into rage-bender territory.
  • (About 3:50 PM, my mother is called by my Uncle, in which I am reportedly described as “playing everybody for chumps,” “making passive-aggressive comments,” and that I need to leave.)
  • Around 4PM, my mother comes into my room and tells me that I have been asked to leave. This is the first I’ve heard of this. No warning or discussion or any communication at all. We pack up promptly and without incident. When I finally ask why, my Uncle and his wife cite the Facebook post I made and the rage-bender comment, and concerns for danger for their teenager they’re raising when they’re not at home with him.
  • My only immediate option is to move back in with my mother and little brother once again, who thankfully have found their own house to rent. But considering the goal of moving down here was to try and separate us siblings in the first place, it’s not ideal. But hope springs eternal that maybe he’s mellowed out and quieted down. We look to see if I can move in with someone else in a similar situation in about 2-3 months, but for now I’ll be here.
  • And I’m pretty sure I lost my PS4 controller in the move. Not sure if I’m gonna get it back.

State of the Spud 2020: Global Reset

My troubles came into stark focus long before the COVID-19 pandemic, ironically enough. A little less than a year ago – shortly after the last State of the Spud post, even – I had a complete emotional breakdown, and since then I was already self-isolating because of severe social anxiety making it supremely difficult to go outside and be around people.

Thankfully, and in the spirit of starting out positive, a few important strides were made this year:

  • I am no longer living in the same home as the family member that was the biggest most toxic source of my anxiety and caretaker complex.
  • I got a lot of help with my Patreon-supported projects to help keep content churning during the worst of the breakdown (which I consider still ongoing), not the least of which being my friend GreatDinn producing a whole guest arc for Friendship is Dragons, and of course my Discord server community keeping the weekly Spudventures tabletop games a continuing event and generally being fun to play and hang out with.
  • Just this week at time of writing, I’ve started a new antidepressant that seems to be having a pretty strong positive effect, at least compared to the one I tried last year.
  • I’ve lost 50 pounds over the last year, started exercising a little bit regularly, and started eating more regularly rather than the starving and bingeing I usually ended up doing.

Still a long ways to go, and the question of “where to” is going to be the big one that will define the next year for me.

I’m staying with extended family at the moment, but there’s no uncertain terms between us that I’m going to need to move out into a place where I can support myself sooner rather than later. Which means finding a job that I can handle while I learn to control my anxiety, and finding an affordable living situation that will put me in range of how I want to develop myself without aggravating my hypersensitive introversion.

Not… exactly… easy.

It starts with making a goal, doesn’t it? What do I want to work towards? Both career-wise and short-term? What kind of rental opportunities are around, how much do they cost? What will put me on the path to getting there? What kind of jobs are available in the area that will eventually help support food, rent, and utilities, or at least help me build up a cushion of savings?

And my situation adds additional questions: If my social anxiety makes it hard to work a service job, and my physical weakness makes it hard to work a labor job, and my lack of a finished education makes it hard to work a technical job, and my unprofessional portfolio makes it hard to apply for a creative job…

Where is the way out of this dead-end? And quickly?

But that’s not unique. Everyone struggles with that stuff. On a deeper level, what I’ve discovered over the last few months of private introspection is that I’m suffering a severe crisis of confidence and identity.

I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what makes me happy. (And to the extent that I’m learning, I’m reminded at every turn that those things aren’t normal. Like wanting to be a hermit most of the time.)

I don’t trust my own judgment. I’ve been confident about these sorts of life decisions before, and I have a history of all of those initiatives ending in dumpster-fire fashion, so how can I trust myself?

I don’t know who I am.

I’ve spent most of my adult life escaping into different personas and personalities so I can work through my problems creatively and make/do something good, separate from me. And now I’m discovering that I don’t know what “me” really is. I’ve worked so hard to present myself the “right” way to so many people that it’s become a web of benign lies.

No, sometimes it’s felt more like programming, a robot that runs itself in my body. More than a couple times in the last year I’ve looked back on a conversation in real horror at myself, wondering why I agreed the ways I did and said all the “right” things. There are a few places where I should have put my foot down and said, “No. I’m sorry, but no.” I still struggle with that.

I’m struggling to find the “real” Alex and let him out, let him speak. I don’t think he’s very nice. He’s got reasons to resent a lot of people. Especially himself. But the part of me that was happy and content to be a yes-man robot broke down last year, and I don’t want to just get back inside it without addressing the underlying problems, or even acknowledging that those problems are really hurting me.

For that, I can’t just be a “strong young man” and plow through it. I tried plowing through it. The plow broke. I broke. I had to walk away. I’m building up the courage to ask (once again) for help building a new plow, a deeply humiliating thing to have to do. I have no patience for “well you should’ve just plowed through it the first time.”

I’m scared, I’m angry, all at myself. I’ve been teetering on the precipice for what feels like years now. The thing I’m most afraid of… I don’t want to take another bold step off a cliff and land in yet another dumpster-fire, after all this. I don’t know what kind of darkness that would put me in, or if I could take it.

So in a way, it’s been a medium-sized blessing for me personally that most of the world is staying home and distant while I grapple with all this. Because my real problems started well before the pandemic.

Sorry the post this year was even more sad than the last, but hey, it’s 2020. And I haven’t completely given up yet.

State of the Spud 2019: And Knowing Is Half the Battle

It’s my 27th birthday. Let’s start with a good news recap of the last year:

  • Created 144 comic pages for Friendship is Dragons (not counting the 13 guest pages received and published in the last year)
  • Posted 93 videos to the Newbiespud YouTube channel, both video gaming and tabletop gaming
  • Finished the Tales of New Dunhaven tabletop podcast, the Dusk City Outlaws campaign
  • Started the Spudventures variety tabletop podcast series (and its sibling the X Presents video series)
  • Started The Interference HD ReMIX, a ground-up rewriting of my inaugural fanfic – haven’t gotten far into it, but I still consider it an important step as a writer that I no longer consider my original work and its narrative sacrosanct
  • Made significant progress on a little RPG Maker fangame side-project for the first time, my first gamedev project since dropping out of DigiPen that’s gotten off the ground
  • Slight overall production quality improvements to streams and podcasts
  • Acquired a Playstation VR headset, which is just pretty cool

All of that – and my general survival – has been possible thanks to all y’all supporting me via the ol’ Patreon. Adequate thanks can never be given.

On to the bad news. Don’t worry, there’s a hopeful arc to it.

In last year’s State of the Spud, I said that I was pursuing an online certificate in paralegal studies, something I was very excited about at the time. Earlier this year, I dropped out due to unbearable anxiety and depression and generally falling behind on my work.

I saw it coming from a mile away, too. I seemed to be caught in a multi-year cycle of inspiration, intense work, burnout, procrastination, stress, giving up, laying low, then getting inspired by something else all over again. I can see this pattern in so many places in my past. It was only during this latest iteration that I finally noticed.

So I decided: No more. Instead of bouncing off this wall and going into a dark hole to blame myself, I’m going to stick around at the edge of this abyss and face it head-on. I’m going to start pursuing counseling and therapy and investment in my own health, if only because it’s clear that I can’t move forward until I address these mental blocks.

It took a while to wrangle the first few counseling sessions due to, well, money. But I’ve finally been to a few and I feel like I’ve already uncovered a lot.

Because I’ve discovered that these mental issues are even more all-encompassing than I suspected, and it affects how I work on, well, everything, including the Patreon, I think it’s only fair that I be a little public about it.

When I was just starting high school, my little half-brother was born. My mother got a job working night shift at a call center. So it fell to me and my sister to help raise the infant, watching over his sleep in the night and keeping him from bothering our sleeping mother in the day. Except that my sister was receding into her shell due to multiple terrible events all in a row, some of which I didn’t even fully understand at the time. So I ended up with what felt like the lion’s share of the responsibility.

Early on, an idea was put into my head: If I don’t step up and do my part, we would be evicted. Out of a home. My inaction would lead to joblessness, homelessness, starvation, and the ruin of our family.

I was 13.

I had no choice but to take these responsibilities very seriously, even though I didn’t want them. No matter what else I was doing at home, I kept an ear out for the baby, ready to jump in at a moment’s notice. Always “on-call.” Any activity I did for myself felt like sneaking it in between babysitting, or stealing time from the rest of the family.

This was how I lived for more than four years, as I grew from a teenager to a young adult. I was already working up to high expectations as a straight-A student, a “smart young man,” pursuing an advanced diploma at that. And now hypervigilant at home. The first cycle of burnout hit in junior year.

Then I went to my dream college to pursue my dream career of being a video game designer. Woohoo. Only now I look back and realize that I never lost those habits. I was still hypervigilant at home, even though the baby brother was three hours away, and explicitly no longer my responsibility. I didn’t realize it at the time, and on top of that I was starting to battle sleep apnea without realizing it either.

Naturally, I burned out and eventually came back home. Back to the family role I had put myself in debt to escape. Back to keeping an ear out for the outgoing, quick-tempered toddler who had been diagnosed with Asperger’s before I left.

For years from high school until now, this was my normal. I blamed myself for being lazy, low stamina, and incapable of getting anything done at home. When I’m out and about, I can think more clearly, pretend to be a man, make all the promises and commitments in the world, but when I walk back in through that door I become a 13-year-old again, sitting at his computer and keeping an ear out for the next bomb to drop, like I’m in a warzone.

It’s only now, through the help of just a few visits with multiple counselors from several different organizations, including my current place of work, that I’ve finally started to see that this isn’t normal, and that this way of living has severely impacted just about every single aspect of my life.

When I’m at home, I can’t focus on anything for more than about 90 minutes. Games, writing, studying, work, everything. I always feel a need to back out and “reset,” check on the living room, on a toddler who’s already a rather self-sufficient (if even shorter-tempered) teenager. If I hear a shout or a bang through the walls, any at all, I stop everything and focus my entire attention outward. This has just been my normal. Even on a good day, these are the habits half a life of hypervigilance has baked into me. And never realizing, I always blamed myself when these habits got in the way, calling myself lazy, lazy, lazy.

This is something still affecting me today, right now. During my latest visit, when the counselor asked “On a scale of 1-10, how big of an impact would you say this issue has had on your life,” I surprised myself when I couldn’t honestly bring it any lower than a 9, leaning higher. This is everything, this is who I am. This is how I live, this is how I work. And all the ways I blamed and punished myself over the years, cultivating an implicit belief that I was destined for failure in all things and that my only role was to survive and support the family, did. not. help.

(Let’s all take a breather now.)

Coming to terms with all of this has been a huge step. Now I have an image of the massive tangle in my head of all these mental issues and problems stemming from way back when. Any desire, every initiative that I’ve ever had to improve has been and is currently blocked by this tangle of martyrdom and self-blame.

It’s hard to justify going back to school. It’s hard to want to diet and exercise. It’s hard to look for a better job. All of those things would take longer than 90 minutes.

Frankly, it’s amazing in retrospect that I’ve gotten anything done.

I don’t know what the next step is. This is just a few sessions in, a few months in on a process of untangling the last probably 14 years of my life, 14 years where there’s plenty of evidence of failure that I can berate myself with.

But hey. That G. I. Joe meme had a point.

State of the Spud June 2018: Picking Myself Up

There’s a lot I don’t like to share about my private non-internet life, both for some attempt at security and because there’s usually not a whole lot going on. But this month has seen some developments in the direction of my life that will affect how I spend my time.

I’m gonna try to be as succinct as possible.

  • I’ve been working as a thrift store sales floor associate since January. It’s been pretty hard on my legs.
  • Back in late March, I got a jury summons. I managed to land on a grand jury through the month of April. Grand juries don’t see just one trial, they see many per day and decide whether the state will indict and move forward towards a criminal trial. I actually enjoyed it a lot. It’s awakened an interest in working in the public sector, in a place where I get to see so many people’s stories.
  • After 10-odd years, I’m finally seeing doctors. I developed plantar fasciitis from all the new physical activity, and I’ve probably been dealing with moderate sleep apnea for most of my adult life, but I still need to undergo a sleep study to make sure. This ultimately means that medical bills are a new reason to beg for money.
  • Because of my newfound interest in the legal system, I’ve applied to take on an online paralegal studies certificate course. Being a paralegal or legal assistant is a potential way I can support my creative projects without so much of the crunch or dread of pursuing a volatile creative career, considering what I’ve heard and read of the game industry and whatnot.
  • Patreon-wise, I’m letting the players of the Dusk City Outlaws campaign openly plan their last ultra-long mega-heist across multiple sessions. Once that’s done, I’m probably gonna run another round of SpudShots to try out some more RPG systems before I start the next big project. I’m also floating an idea of making mini-campaigns a regular thing.

Those are the major points. This is all stuff that had been brewing for a few months now. Those of you who have been supporting me and rooting for me so far deserve to know what’s going on.

I still need a lot of help, to be honest, but I’m climbing out of the hole I’ve been wallowing in for more than three years. Slowly.

State of the Spud May 2014: Not Good

As a general rule, I lurk and don’t keep contact with anyone unless it’s absolutely necessary. Part of that’s introversion and social anxiety, part of that’s a voyeuristic desire to see what people are saying when I’m not there, and part of that’s not trusting myself not to say something stupid or say too much when I make comments.

Makes keeping a blog up kind of a conflict of interests, but that’s a question for another day.

What little contact I’ve made has probably seemed especially distant and depressed of late, so I realize I owe people an explanation. Here’s what’s going on in my life right now:

After months of stress and stress and stress, I’ve been informed that I am not welcome to live in my current situation starting next month. I have to move out. I have to move back home.

This is the culmination of many, many months – in fact, basically a whole year – of a chaotic, uncertain life, barely scraping by on goodwill and lucky breaks. Luck and goodwill that has finally run out. Months of stressing over money has exploded into this climactic downer.

So right now, to summarize: I’m broke, being forced to move, soon to be between jobs, and generally feeling like I’ve failed at life.

On the plus side, I’ve gotten my food budget down to $20-$30 a week. I used to be terrible about that, you don’t even know.