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.