OK, I've Remembered What I'm Doing

What a difference a good night’s sleep can make! While I rested during the night, my clever body was hard at work fighting this cold and getting me back to good health. I’m not quite 100%, but feeling way better.

My unconscious has been hard at work answering some of the questions I posed in yesterday’s blog post.

Conclusions

  • Just chill! I was feeling overwhelmed. So I just needed to relax, slow down and take a break. I chose to do one thing at a time and not get so stressed out.
  • I don’t need to worry about my goals for 2020. Or even next week. I’ll take life “Just for today” as Narcotics Anonymous suggest.
  • Sometimes even thinking about today feels like too much. In these instances, all I need to do is zoom in and focus on the present moment.
  • Being present, aware, mindful – that’s much more important than striving for some far-off goal.
  • My core values are: Truth, Courage, Love and Humility.
  • If I live in alignment with my values, I will feel proud of myself and will feel like my life is worth living. There’s no need for massive grand goals.
  • Money and “success” (however I choose to define it) will come as by-products of me doing work which truly helps others. This will take continual, persistent effort every day. It’s not always sexy or fun, but it’s worthwhile.
  • If in doubt, just be kind… both to myself and to others.

Ahhh, it feels good to have reconnected with my life’s mission!

Deep inhalation. Stretch overhead. Smile.

I’ve got this.

I’m already in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing.

Who I am in the world day-by-day – that’s much more important than what I achieve.


A Strange Place

I’m in a bit of a strange place this morning. I’ve noticed several things which don’t feel quite right in the last couple of days. It’s enough to make me say, “Hold up, what’s going on here?”

I’m finally starting to feel a bit better after having the worst cold of my life. Sounds dramatic I know, but this one has been a stinker. And yet, now my health is improving, I feel kinda generally deflated, when I ought to be feeling pleased.

Things which usually feel enjoyable are starting to feel a bit “meh”.

The money-making website I’ve talked previously about wanting to set up, it now feels just kinda icky and unpleasant.

I seem to have lost touch with what exactly I’m doing with my life. I’ve been so busy focussing on the next task, ploughing on regardless. I’m definitely putting in lots of effort and (hopefully) moving forward, but is it in the right direction? It’s time to look up and take in my surroundings.

Due to selling various items on eBay and Facebook, the area around my computer desk is feeling cluttered. Usually it doesn’t bother me when things get a bit messy, but right now it feels overbearing. And why is it that the more I sell, the more stuff seems to accumulate?!

Two different companies gave me money yesterday. I’d been half expecting it in both cases, but it still should have been a pleasant surprise… but it left me feeling flat.

I’ve been getting strong urges to escape from the present moment, mainly by just staying in bed. Being ill doesn’t help.

My feelings of disgust towards any form of marketing or manipulative behaviour are at an all-time high. All my heroes are totally honest and authentic. They ruthlessly self-assess to see where they’re going wrong and they course correct. So when I encounter people being arrogant, or deceitful, or selfish, or manipulative, it’s triggering major feelings of disgust.

In the last few days, whenever I encounter people trying to make money as their top priority, it makes me feel a bit sick.

Or again, is this just a reflection of my own internal state? Am I feeling a bit disgusted with my own recent focus with making money? Is it me that has lost his way and needs to reflect on his real values and priorities? Quite possibly.

I want to try to understand where all this is coming from. Is it all just because I’m a bit tired and ill?

Is my disappointment really with myself – and I’m just projecting it outwards?

Where do I want my life to go? What are my goals and priorities? How am I doing in terms of my progress towards them in 2020?

Am I busy making lots of noise and mess and problems for other people, rather than actually making others’ lives better?


Right now, I don’t even know where to start to answer all those questions. So instead I’m gonna escape and play some videogames for a bit. And watch hilarious clips from classic movies like Team America: World Police.

Durka Durka.

(Yes, I’m an incredibly lucky man. Maybe I just need to stop whining and practice more gratitude).

I'm Sorry

It’s human nature to criticise others for their mistakes and failures. It’s much harder to stop and take a long hard look in the mirror.

It takes courage and humility (i.e. balls) to admit when you were wrong.

I made a cock up this afternoon. I spoke harshly to someone close to me. I said several things I really should not have.

Immediately I knew I shouldn’t have done it. I’d let myself get carried away with my emotions.

Now I’m off my antidepressants, I’m often getting surges of emotion, particularly anger and irritation. These surges seem to come from nowhere. And I’m still trying to adjust to them, whilst also trying not to say or do anything too stupid.

I’m not trying to make excuses (OK, maybe I am a little bit). I still shouldn’t have said what I said today.

The temptation is to protect our egos: to think of all the reasons we were justified in behaving the way we did. But we need to move beyond this.

I gave myself a couple of hours to calm down and reflect, then I swallowed my pride. I phoned the person I’d wronged and I apologised.

(Aren’t I just the perfect human being?!)

Steps 4 to 9

The process I’ve described above is actually a huge part of the 12 Steps. Though if you ask me, they needlessly over-complicate it.

Really, it’s as simple as this:

  1. Think about a situation that’s bothering you.
  2. Notice who you’re feeling resentful towards.
  3. Choose to let go of that resentment.
  4. Work out what part you played in the situation. Where were you wrong? What mistakes did you make? What fears and false beliefs underlie the way you behaved?
  5. Apologise and make amends, as long as doing so won’t make things worse.

Doing the above isn’t particularly comfortable. But it helps me feel proud of myself. It helps me feel like I’m taking responsibility for my life.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if each of us decided, on our own and without any coercion, to look in the mirror and apologise for our mistakes.


Are Antidepressants Worth Taking?

Since being diagnosed with clinical depression a few years ago, I’ve been on and off (mostly on) the anti-depressant Fluoxetine.

I’ve taken varying doses between the minimum and, most recently, the maximum.

What beneficial effects did Fluoxetine have for me? What were its side-effects?

Rather than writing about how anti-depressants are supposed to work, in this post I’ll share my subjective experiences, which may be typical, or they may be anomalous.

[Nerdy science warning: Care should be taken before drawing conclusions from a sample size of one with no experimental controls in place.]

Fluoxetine seems to take the edge off the more difficult aspects of life. And by “difficult” I really mean “intensely emotional.”

I experienced less emotion while on the medication. This felt a bit like having a force field, enabling me to more easily endure uncomfortable situations (whether they occurred in the external world, or purely in my internal world of thoughts and feelings).

Fortunately my emotions weren’t numbed completely. I think that would have felt unpleasant for me, though I can understand why someone who’s been through a lot of trauma might want to numb everything and feel nothing.

Often it’s really beneficial to have a force field which prevents you feeling so much emotion. For example, in stressful work environments, it’s easier to keep your cool.

Dull

Along with dulled emotions, I believe my thinking wasn’t as sharp. It’s hard to quantify exactly how dulled my cognition seemed to be. At a rough guess, maybe 10%?

I’m finding it easier to get out of bed now I’m off the antidepressants. And the morning’s mental grogginess fades faster. I concede this is partly because I’m simply enjoying life more, so I have more willingness to engage with the morning rather than trying to hide from it.

Sometimes life is fucking brutal. Our loved ones will die one day, many of them before we die ourselves. That kind of loss can cause immense suffering and pain.

Dr Jordan Peterson rather bleakly proclaims, “Life is tragedy tainted by malevolence.” I have some sympathy with that outlook.

So it’s no wonder people turn to antidepressants to get some temporary relief from the bleakest parts of life.

Was my life ready that bad?

I wasn’t taking Fluoxetine short-term. I’ve been on it for years. So what unbearable trauma happened to me? Why was my life so bad that I didn’t want to live any more?

In short, I simply didn’t like life. I wanted to escape from it. I spent large chunks of my time wishing I wasn’t around.

At the time, my understanding was that if life’s making you depressed, then it’s perfectly natural to take anti-depressants so you can cope with it.

I liked my Fluoxetine-powered force field. I didn’t want to give it up. It didn’t miraculously make me happier, but at least it reduced the intensity of negative emotions.

And that’s the key point: I had decided I didn’t want to deal with everyday life any more. I constantly wanted to escape, through anti-depressants, through videogames and eventually by taking drugs.

And that lead me to addiction and Narcotics Anonymous.

It might seem strange, but I’m incredibly grateful I hit that low point.

Because it was there, as my life teetered on the edge of total destruction, that I learned the last little secret to curing myself of depression.


The root problem wasn’t that I was depressed. My core problem was that I couldn’t cope with everyday life.

And the solution wasn’t to mask or escape from reality (via games, drugs etc). The solution was to learn how to accept life on life’s terms.


I needed to stop running away. I needed to take responsibility for my life.

It’s thanks to Dr Jordan Peterson and to Narcotics Anonymous that I’ve made these astonishing realisations.

It’s taken me literally years to get to this point. Change is often really hard.


It’s been almost 8 weeks since I cold-turkeyed Fluoxetine. I don’t recommend that anyone else does this – it can be very risky to suddenly stop taking antidepressants, in some cases fatal.

Two months ago I couldn’t fully articulate why I wanted to stop taking my medication. But I knew it felt like the right thing to do for me personally.

It’s only now that all of this is becoming increasingly clear to me, almost 5 months clean from drugs and 2 months free from anti-depressants.

Ultimately, I needed to learn how to cope with everyday life again.

I needed to start taking responsibility for myself. And I needed to learn a better way to relate to so-called “negative” emotions.

Without Jordan Peterson and NA, I expect I’d still be on anti-depressants… possibly for the rest of my life.

So, it’s difficult for me to understate how grateful I am to both NA and Dr Peterson (via his YouTube videos).

Who knows where I’d be without their help.


[Caveat: depression is a complex disease. It has many different causes and seems to affect different people in different ways. In this post I talk only about my own experiences. I’m not a doctor or a medical professional. I am not recommending what I did for anyone else.]

What Makes a Day Into a Good (or Bad) Day?

Can we divide emotions into good and bad? The app Moodscope uses this approach. I used to think this way myself…

But now that idea seems unhelpful.

I used to think my day was bad if I experienced a lot of sadness, or despair during those 24 hours.

Here’s what I now think instead…

Emotions are just emotions. They’re neither good nor bad. They’re just a natural part of life.

Same thing with thoughts. Neither good nor bad. Neither true nor untrue… unless I decide they are.

Nowadays, the quality of my day isn’t dictated by the emotions I’ve experienced.

My day isn’t even bad just because bad events have happened.

My day is good if I have acted in ways which make me feel proud of myself.

But even if I made mistakes, did I learn from them? Did I make amends for the things I did wrong? If so, then it’s not a bad day.

Maybe this change in perspective is partly why I seem to have had a pretty solid 7 weeks of good days according to the Pixels app.

There were certainly days where I felt intensely angry, others where I felt deeply sad. And yet, I still classed them as good days.

As a result, I seem to be enjoying life more. I’m not running away from “bad” feelings. I’m not obsessing over depressing thoughts.

Emotions no longer have such power to ruin (or make) my day.

I’m facing life on life’s terms. I’m not wanting to escape as much (via drugs, videogames, TV or Facebook).

Even just the thought of me committing suicide seems preposterous. But it wasn’t long ago when I fantasised about dying almost every day.

I now have so much to live for.

Partly this is thanks to changing the way I relate to my thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness has been a big help here.

Another big help has been living in alignment with my core values. So don’t underestimate them, they’re not some kind of luxury. They’re at the core of our everyday experience.

And if you have no idea what your values are, check out my mate Tim Brownson’s book, The Clarity Method.


Tune of the Day – Petrichor by Tek Genesis

Before I even share this tune, I know that a maximum of 3 other sentient beings in the Universe will like it. So why am I bothering to write about it?

I guess it’s a note to myself. The note says, “On this day, 3rd January 2020, I loved this tune more than any other. And that deserves celebration, even if it’s solitary.”

It’s more Flume-like than Flume’s own music.

The rising tones make me happy. I imagine the track as a whole is a representation of our brain’s inner workings… Competing sub-units of processing, loudly clamouring to be noticed. They overlap and interfere with each other. And yet, all of them are part of a greater whole. When combined, the mechanical noises transform into something life-like and beautiful.