Boredom in the Time of Coronavirus

Out of all the feelings I generally try to avoid, the one im most afraid of by a long shot must be boredom. I can’t tell if it breeds anxiety, restlessness and emptiness… if it accompanies them… results from them… or if it’s just their more manageable manifestation.

Be that as it may, boredom fills me with dread i cannot begin to explain.

It makes me think. And when I start to think, it always ends badly.

Most people will try & do something productive to stave off boredom… I wallow in it. Whereas others distract themselves from negative thoughts, and manage to actually get something done, or engage in creative pursuits, or just go for a walk or watch TV for goodness sakes — I… think.

Or at least I used to. At some point, i’m not exactly sure when, being alone with my thoughts and “sitting with my feelings” just got too much. But because the thoughts and feelings were still there, as unbearable as ever, and I was still too bloody terrified to address them, I had to tune them out.

πŸžπŸ§‡πŸ₯žπŸ₯“πŸ—πŸπŸ¦πŸ₯§πŸ«πŸ©πŸͺ🍿πŸ₯€πŸ₯―πŸ³πŸ§€πŸ”πŸŸπŸ•πŸ§ˆπŸ§‚πŸ™ƒ

As I’ve said before, I don’t exactly overeat because I love it so much I cant stop myself. Quite the contrary; I eat enough to be physically uncomfortable and to hate myself… because guilt, shame, regret, self-disgust — these are more acceptable, and possibly less painful, than whatever I’m avoiding.

The problem with trying to do literally anything else — draw, read a book — is that these activities don’t distract me from my thoughts; it’s my thoughts that make it virtually impossible to focus on anything else. I would even go so far as to say that attempting to be productive when I’m alone is counterproductive, as it only intensifies the feelings of pointlessness.

My boredom is inextricably linked with my laziness. I’m “lazy” because it doesn’t matter what I do, I am simply always bored. The boredom is a complex feeling; it’s not a matter of being uninterested in whatever you’re doing…

it’s more like an inability to achieve a state of flow. I am so preoccupied with the how of things that I can’t be mindful about the what. And the “how” seems so absurd: how can I, I myself and I alone, just …. do stuff? How is it that I can engage with my environment in interesting, meaningful ways that will produce some tangible real-life results? Just, no.

I always have this fear that I’m wasting time; that I’m not doing enough. The problem is, nothing is ever “enough”. I’m simultaneously obsessed with the idea of productivity and crippled by it —

— possibly because I have no concept of being productive by your own standards. I can’t set goals for myself because I feel like i have no agency over my own actions. like they don’t truly belong to me. like im just living out somebody else’s idea of me. if i want to do something for myself, it doesn’t really matter.

The following is not my original thought, and I’m paraphrasing here, but there’s this quote about how usually it’s I think, therefore I am, but a borderline thinks more along the lines of You exist, therefore I exist. I could never quite grasp the diagnostic feature of

(…) may at times have feelings that they do not exist at all. Such experiences usually occur in situations in which the individual feels a lack of a meaningful relationship, nurturing, and support. These individuals may show worse performance in unstructured work or school situations.

DSM-5, p. 664

…oh… oh, okay. That makes sense. That’s maybe not how I would put it, but I agree that that’s the underlying assumption. I don’t exist, other than as an extra in other people’s lives.

Not to mention I also lack object permanence, so even when i do have a “meaningful relationship”, it’s not enough to sustain me in the long run. Out of sight, out of mind, and again I’m nothing.

This emptiness is now more pronounced than ever, as I find myself having to sit at home, alone with my thoughts, no job to go to or even errands to run. I have my books, my coloring books, my Netflix and my Spotify — but it’s all so… futile, so… insubstantial.

In truth, I blog to remind myself that I do exist.

walk down memory lane

A high school friend reached out to me (hi, P). It’s nice, though admittedly somewhat strange, to get back in touch with people who knew you way back when.

I feel so much different, but I am pretty much the same person I was all these years ago: just as dumb and aimless as i was, only now it’s more obvious. I’m more aware of it, so i dont even try to hide it anymore.

Because that’s all I talk about, it may seem as if I were capable of change. I don’t think I am though, and I worry that people like her will give me a chance and I’ll just disappoint them all over again.

(by the way, it’s really quite strange being able to tell you’re idealizing someone as it’s happening. She’s my savior. She understands. She inspired me to quit my job. P, if you’re reading this, please don’t be overwhelmed. it’s normal for me, it happens all the time. and let me tell you what comes next: i see a sign of rejection or mild disapproval, and i withdraw into my shell. Or that’s what usually happens… I’ll do my best not to let it.)

talking to her made me realize that my self-perception is even further from how other people see me. which one is more accurate, then? if, going by what she said, in high school I appeared driven and conscientious, does that mean I was? even though it was the last thing i wanted to be?

I have had people comment that i seem really calm, and i always had to stop myself from laughing in their faces. but, i mean, they only have my behavior to go on, so i guess their impression kind of makes sense??

all this makes me wonder how much of what I think about other people is drastically different from what they believe about themselves or feel internally.

But yeah, apparently people admired my good grades or my English or whatever. but who the fuck genuinely wants to be the teacher’s pet in fucking high school? of course i would rather have had a social life of some sort and had people actually like me,,,, but i was unlikeable and insecure, so i resorted to controlling the only things i knew how to control.

But maybe the image we project unintentionally is more genuine and has more merit than your own self-judgment? if i seemed like a nerd, then, well, i must have been a nerd. so what i didn’t feel like one. so what “driven” or “ambitious” were far from what i would have considered accurate descriptions.

I was so lost. So lost. I had absolutely no clue what i was doing. I clung onto school because that was what gave my life a semblance of meaning or a sense of direction, but the truth was, all I needed was a friend, a true friend who would have called me out on my bs and made me confront all my pain and grief and get real about what i wanted.

but none of that had any chance of happening since i was so proficient in the art of denial and keeping people at arm’s length.

still nothing’s changed.

bottomless well

You seek to protect your ego at all costs. But that requires a great deal of cognitive dissonance, since your particular brand of self-acceptance, if you can even call it that, is very conditional: you’re only worthy IF.

And every time you find out that you don’t meet your own arbitrary criteria, you have to go through a grieving process. One of a number of things can happen as a result:

  • total denial of the issue (not sustainable)
  • you can tweak something here and there by lowering the bar and/or overestimating your own abilities (not likely)
  • or, you can accept that you’re a failure & give up on yourself altogether, which is what I usually go for.

and you keep letting go of condition after condition, but not of their “objective” significance. Meaning, you still believe them to be true and right, you just lower your standards to accommodate your new & ever evolving definition of “bare minimum”: you expect less of yourself, but you also think less & less of yourself.

and you keep adjusting to the new lows, until apparently there is nowhere else to go, but it is never enough. and right when you think youve reached rock bottom, it turns out there is one more thing you’ve been taking for granted.

and you keep reevaluating your situation. You’re forever chasing after the most accurate way to assess how you compare to others, because you cant be happy UNLESS.

Of course a happiness predicated on the notion of being somehow “better” (as “good enough” naturally implies that some people… aren’t) is presumptuous, superficial, and bound to always induce anxiety and a lingering sense of inadequacy — ready to come out the moment you sense that you are “worse” at this thing or another.

What’s more, I don’t actually believe the same things about other people: I think everyone else can & should be happy, regardless of their looks, health, intelligence, personality, sense of humor, you name it. Well… that is all fine and dandy, but people who were blessed with more desirable traits probably are happier.

But okay… let’s not consider social approval for a second. How do you maintain a steady sense of self worth regardless of external validation? Or put differently, what amount of reassurance and compliments would it take to make you feel secure?

…ah… I see.

I didn’t mean to yell at you

Life has a way of making everything seem normal after a while. It’s an adaptive mechanism. Regardless of how weird it would seem to someone else, if you experience something often enough, you will start assuming that that’s the way it’s “supposed to” be (even if it feels wrong).

A friend was talking on the phone yesterday. He raised his voice, ever so slightly, and after a pause he said, I’m not yelling! And i thought to myself, obviously he isn’t… is he? Now, granted, the person at the other end of the line was joking; nevertheless, they made a valid point, and I didn’t notice.

Because the pitch he adopted didn’t seem at all unusual to me; I had heard it too many times before, always followed by, “I’M NOT YELLING!”. What was communicated was incompatible with how I perceived the way it was communicated. I couldn’t hold two conflicting beliefs about reality at the same time, so being the trusting kid that i was, I dismissed my own feelings and went with what Mommy told me, because she knows best, right?

I’d like to qualify this whole post by once again pointing out that I do not intend to blame anybody for anything. If i seem to talk a lot about how i was wronged by other people, that’s because that may have been how I experienced it at the time, not because I believe that they intentionally hurt me or that they are bad people. I love my family and friends dearly, and I can absolutely accept that there is more wrong with me than there is with them.

Furthermore, let me just acknowledge the absurdity of what I’m doing: at any point in time, there are people in the world going through indescribable suffering, and here I am indulging my first-world sadness about Mom losing her temper sometimes… as if I was perfect.

Some hypothesize that mental illness is a natural extension of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In other words, (some) humans will always find something to be miserable about. I certainly will always find something to hold a grudge for. Not because I want to, and believe you me, I feel shit about it. But I can’t help feeling hurt.

Even if i did hate or resent anyone — and I don’t, but let’s just pretend for the sake of argument — you can be sure that I would still hate myself thousandfold worse.

Wait… what was i talking about again? Ah, yes, Mom yelling. …is one of those things I feel bad about feeling bad about. But then again, denying feelings I think are “trivial” only gives them more power over my life.

It may not seem obvious from the few posts I’ve published so far, but you don’t realize the extent of my self-loathing. Right now I’m in limbo, suspended in this strange state halfway between counterproductive, defensive self-hatred, and realizing my actual flaws/shortcomings and possible ways of fixing them. But I’m gonna have to get through piles and piles of garbage before i can see the important stuff.

I’m selfish. Impatient. Manipulative. Lazy. Entitled. Sometimes I can even be mean for no apparent reason. I could go on endlessly. That’s been more or less my internal monologue since… forever, basically. And I want to change. But I believe that my feelings and irrational beliefs are preventing me from accepting these qualities in myself enough to be able to change.

Antidepressants are weird… I don’t recognize myself anymore. The sheer idea of getting a blog and practically broadcasting all my thoughts as they occur to me (never mind starting a facebook page, which is the very thing i said i wouldnt do) runs counter to everything i believed about myself. Yet for some strange reason drawing attention to myself in this way feels… right, and i feel more true to myself than ever before.

I can’t wait to find out which of my flaws are integral aspects of my personality, and which ones are amenable to… therapy, for instance.

I hope I can learn empathy, most of all.