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.

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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.

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The borderline narrative is a compelling one. But what it compels me to do is not altogether productive.

First learning about the disorder was a revelation, and the more I read about it, the more convinced I became that it described me to a T. Okay… so?

Even if that were true, or possible, it’s still only part of the story. It was so validating, and satisfying, to be understood so completely. Except I wasn’t. Nobody can be.

I know it’s basically the essence of BPD to look for things to fill that void where your identity should be, so I’m in something of a catch-22: as soon as I started identifying with it, it became all there was to me. But as I’ve come to realize, I don’t want it to be this way.

Borderline traits might accurately describe parts of my personality, which may be helpful in dealing with them. But no single word can account for the giant spectrum of thoughts and behaviors that any one person will exhibit irl.

The reason I’m saying all of this is because my boss gave me a lecture the other day about my rapidly deteriorating work ethic. He didn’t tell me anything I wouldn’t already know, but I needed to hear him say it out loud. I needed to hear somebody.

It was awful. In its own gentle way, it was probably the most humiliating thing I have ever experienced.

But it was also sobering.

I got exactly what I had always tried to force out of people: I got patronized. Because that’s what you get by acting even more clueless and confused than you really are. It’s cute. In puppies, and small children. Not so cute in a 25-year-old.

I was always looking either for validation or for pity, and when I finally found them, it was equal parts satisfying and pathetic. It was such a relief, though, to find out I had some dignity left to lose.

I overshare because I need people to understand why I am the way I am. I need them to tell me it’s okay and that it explains everything and there’s no more need for me to make any effort with anything ever. But being the way I am doesn’t absolve me of trying my best…

In a lot of ways I am still a child. I am immature, I can’t control my emotions, I refuse to take responsibility for my actions or for my life.

But as much as I crave to be accepted unconditionally, just the way I am right now, I have come to realize that that acceptance can be a double-edged sword. And for all the times I have abused my Mom’s selflessness & lack of consistency in enforcing any kind of discipline, I still resent her for trapping me in my own complacency.

Nothing was ever expected of me, nor did I hold myself to a particularly high standard. I grew up having my life lived for me, so I never had to develop / discover my own internal motivation.

I don’t want “poor mental health” to become a personality trait, or my defining characteristic. To my own surprise, I don’t even want it to be an excuse. When somebody else suggests that my struggles are valid, I’m relieved, yes, but somehow also almost offended. It’s like they’re agreeing that this right here is the best i can do. And i’m like, no!!!??

There were a number of times I have violated the rules of the employer/employee dynamic. I have treated him like a parent, like a friend, like a therapist (the last of which he is btw, though not to me…). And he has put up with all of it, and I’m so so grateful for that.

Most of the relationships in my life are these weird reenactments of my past experiences. But it’s different now. I’m more aware of it.

He — in true therapist fashion — was objective and to the point. And somehow, coming from him, I survived constructive criticism.

It was the other things the said that hit a bit too close to home. Things that should be obvious to somebody my age… but it was only when he said them that they started to make sense.

Things like, everybody’s got their own issues, and I can’t let my feelings interfere with my work. Things like, if I don’t attend to my responsibilities, somebody else will have to. He wasn’t blaming me …. he was giving me credit. Recognizing that I’m not doing something that I’m very much capable of.

And so I left his office feeling not guilty but … hopeful. It wasn’t any less embarrassing having had him explain to me the complexities of adulthood, but I’ve decided that embarrassment is a valid emotion, too, and one you can learn from as much as any other.

I want to grow up.

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.

a life of non-statements

I’d like to preface this by saying that I experience the world, including my own emotions, in very physical ways. which is to say that when i’m talking about food, for instance, i’m not really talking about food, you know what i mean? With that in mind, i present to you a conversation about moisturizing.

the back of my hands gotten all irritated again. I showed it to my parents and kind of laughed about it, but they didn’t seem amused one bit. Stern looks on their faces, they kept asking why i don’t do something about it, and i kind of just stood there limply, not really knowing how to respond.

They were both growing increasingly frustrated, so i thought about it for a moment and replied (let me remind you they are very right-wing), You might be relieved to learn that it’s not a feminist statement where i make myself purposely ugly or anything like that. I just… don’t care.

they looked at each other, their expressions going from blank to baffled to offended, and then my dad asked, Well is there anything you care about?

Another pause from me, then a tentative shake of the head “no”. they stared at me in disbelief. The conversation ended there, and i went to my room.

And I’m sitting here, confused as to what it was that so exasperated my parents. and also — was my answer accurate? was it genuine? im inclined to say yes to both, because it was spontaneous, and, in a way, uncalled for. What i should have said instead was something along the lines of a dismissive “ughh you know my lazy ass & how i am about wearing gloves!”.

i don’t know why i decided to be honest when put on the spot today. probably because i had never tried to get to the bottom of my own poor decisions before. I didn’t have time to process the conclusion that i arrived at at that very moment.

But it’s really quite simple: I just… don’t care.

part of it is because i don’t feel like i deserve to feel good about myself. another part is that i’m really too lazy and lack initiative. yet another is that im too indecisive & easily overwhelmed. maybe i want someone to take care of me. maybe i need attention. but it all comes down to the same thing.

let’s extrapolate to something more serious than my 80 year old’s hands. let’s take education. work. dating. friendships. that catch-all called “personal growth”. let’s take something as basic as physical health.

I used to care. but it was all… too much. too much effort & too little payoff. too many disappointed hopes. too much stress & pain. too many… options.

I’m still in two minds about the relationship between my lack of internal motivation and lack of self-esteem: i cant decide which one caused the other. but maybe at this point it doesn’t even matter. it’s a vicious circle, anyway.

I’m empty. I sympathize with nothing. I strive for nothing. I stand for nothing.

i learned a valuable lesson today. it’s that there’s only one way to find out what i want. i need to at least perform acts of caring, if only to realize at the end that i didn’t “truly want” anything; if only to be able to say that i didn’t give up.

but it’s so hard, so scary, to allow yourself to want.

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.

two I’s in friendship. one I in… I?

The day L left, I went into survival mode. I’ve been hanging on by a thread for going on a decade now, which is more time than we were close friends while she was still here. Of course L is her own person, and I shouldn’t be building my healing around her any more than I should have built my life. She has her own identity that goes way beyond being a signpost for my life or my recovery. Above all else, she’s a dear friend, and the last thing I want is to objectify her like that.

Regardless, in my mind, she stands for everything wrong with me. She wasn’t a person in my eyes; she was way too perfect for that. And by idealizing her, I failed to acknowledge that she, too, might have her own feelings & needs; I was too immature & superficial to meet them, though.

She went on to develop more mutually satisfying relationships, and I was hurt… now I know why: ours was a very asymmetrical one; I got emotional support, she got blind loyalty. Now she gets to be vulnerable and understood, too.

All this being said, even though I understand those dynamics in retrospect, I can’t change the past. Her departure was the catalyst for a process that had been a long time in the making: the disintegration of my own identity.

She is her own person. But, to me, she is also a stark representation of the idea of relying on someone else for your own sense of self, like I did for mine. She deserves more than being reduced to an archetype… but, again, to me she is both.

Since she left, I’ve been… getting by. Coming up with countless ways to not think for myself; to not think at all. I always had poor impulse control. I feel like it might have something to do with not using your internal monologue to its full potential. And when I shut it up altogether to avoid confronting painful feelings & ugly truths about myself, I also deprived myself of a tool that could have been incredibly helpful in regulating my behavior.

It’s not a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” kind of situation. I know I must have always gravitated towards certain types of people because of a natural inclination to follow rather than lead. It’s just that I wouldve saved myself a lot of pain if I had figured it out sooner, and perhaps taken steps to counteract it.

As things stand, I still seek that perfect relationship to lose myself in. I have this need to merge with the other person so completely that there is no more “you” or “I”, there’s just “us”. And I still believe that finding that person will solve all my problems: that they will live my life for me; that they will regulate my behavior; that they will fulfil all my needs.

I don’t (intentionally) deny the other person their right to privacy and their own complex and separate identity… As far as I’m concerned, they can even lead a life all of their own; Ill be sad and jealous, but I’ll understand that I’m not enough for them. But I need them to know & take care of me. To take the lead. Anticipate my needs. Tell me what to think. Is that mommy issues or what? 😬

In the absence of a favorite person to cling on to, and with no hope of ever finding one (because now I know it’s simply not possible in the sense in which i mean it), I am completely lost. I know I’ve discussed this before. But here I’m not talking about emptiness or idealization themselves; im talking about how they relate to impulsivity.

I always used to assume that the latter was an attempt to remedy the former, substituting compulsions and obsessions for a personality. I’m afraid the truth is much simpler than that: because I don’t think for myself, all I’m left with are my urges & no way to talk myself out of giving in to them.

It’s hard to exercise any degree of self-control when you have no sense of self. I may or may not be capable of “self-discipline”, but I’ll never find out until I know what my goals are & what’s good for me. Without some sense of your own personhood, there’s no self-discipline; there are just random rules and restrictions. And why follow those, if going against them doesn’t seem to interfere with any of your goals?

Of course I do have goals. Hopes. Ambitions. Which is why numbing out is so frustrating: every time I engage in harmful behaviors, it takes me that one step further from what I’m too afraid to admit I want.

I

am so…

c o n f u s e d.

now that’s what i call _free_writing

song for today

do you believe in free will? i know it’s a complex topic, and (as per usual) i’m not equipped to do it justice. but you don’t need that much intellectual sophistication to be able to tell whether you, personally, on an emotional level, find the concept convincing.

i know i don’t.

for the sake of clarity: i’m not talking about your freedom to choose how you take your coffee or the friends you keep. i’m talking about something… larger. not just how you choose to live out your true nature, but your true nature itself: your personality, intellect, interests, inclinations; the very way you interact with the world.

you might have some influence over the environments / situations / contexts you find yourself in, or put yourself in, but you don’t have as much of a say in how exactly you respond to them. you can try to “curate” your repertoire of behaviors, but even then you’re limited to the pitifully small range of possibilities that occur to you.

similarly, no matter the particular details of the circumstances you’re under — no matter what, exactly, is happening — you can react in a number of ways, but they will always have YOU written all over them. i suppose this is less true the more self-control and discipline you have. then you can feign emotions, flirt, manipulate people, make jokes, act more like somebody else, do all sorts of things. but they will still be specific to YOU.

true free will would mean having access to an infinitely vast pool of possibilities. in reality, however, our freedom has very real physical limitations. how can you speak of free will if you can’t even will your own brain into approaching life with a sense of humor instead of the earnestness and fatalism that you know to be so unhelpful? you can teach (train?) yourself to always look on the bright side of life, but it will always be an uphill battle.

what if you’re emotionally unstable by nature, and the thing you want most in the entire world is to achieve a sense of balance at last? or — do you think I like being stuck up and condescending? Do you think I wouldn’t rather be spontaneous and generous?

I don’t intentionally act in ways that make me more miserable, any more than those of you with healthier personality profiles intentionally act otherwise; we kind of just… do. Most people probably don’t have to have their well-being at heart at all times, not explicitly, anyway; it’s more like an assumption on which they operate; a given, not a variable. and then they can fully commit to also factoring other people into their decisions.

My laziness and selfishness are patterns of behavior, individual instances of which i can rarely recognize for what they are in the moment im exhibiting them. and even if i were able to recognize them, i wouldnt know the first thing about how to change them.

a sense of self that is predicated on identifying as anything is bound to be unstable. why must i insist that people are monoliths… archetypes, or emblems, of such human concepts as kindness or cruelty? yes, some people better fit what we understand to be the definition of “kind”. but words themselves have their limits. i know that that’s kind of the point, but more than just limited, they end up also being limiting.

even constructs such as personality profiles, traits, etc., are only helpful to the extent that they give us a general idea of qualities otherwise nebulous & elusive, so that we can communicate & assume that we mean more or less the same thing. neither words nor images, nor our minds themselves, can comprehend or convey the entirety of the thing were trying to describe.

but if not with labels, how else (if at all) do you define yourself…?

and sure, some people are more creative, open-minded, flexible. by extension theyll have more free will, because they can act more freely, more spontaneously. it’s not that the options aren’t there for some people. (well, sometimes they aren’t. but lets not get into that whole mess right now.) potentially everything can be turned into an opportunity. it’s just that some of us see the opportunities more often than others.

who’s there to tell any one of us that we can’t start a career as singers? whether we’re any good at it or are lucky enough to get discovered is a whole different question. i could build my whole identity around being a singer, but that self-perception wouldn’t at all correspond to reality.

so, what if you want to see yourself as a “good person”, but some of your behaviors could be construed as evidence to the contrary? well, then you’re fucked & my previous post happens. you’re selfish, evil, and you’re facing a grim future of suffering imposed on self & others.

but yeah, never mind that a large portion of your choices is actually dictated by external factors. Even controlling for those outside influences, you’re still little more than a statistic, happening to fall some place on that goddamned bell curve at some point in time.

sound familiar? “Where am I going with this????” Fuck knows. i think it’s just my roundabout way of saying that im not happy with the fact that significant chunks of life go way over my head, and there’s not much i can do about it.

and that overwhelming feeling that free will is an illusion and my story has been written for me, long, long, long ago and it doesn’t really matter what i choose, because while the stage design might change, and i might deviate from the plot somewhat, im still destined to repeat those same tropes & mistakes & dilemmas that my ancestors struggled with.

regardless of what i do and how i get there, i’m still going to end up in pretty much the same place. Sometimes it feels like I’m already there, and i cant change the outcome because it’s sort of imprinted on my genes. everything feels pointless because try as i might to get better, i will always go back to my old ways and my original outlook on life, which is… not good.

i’m kind of all over the place today, sorry about that.

today was my first appointment with a therapist. my last post was the one she read when i showed her my blog, and it’s actually an accurate representation of my state of mind pre-psych meds. i’ve come to the conclusion that, among other things, they allow me to compartmentalize in a way i never thought possible. the day i wrote that post I was feeling kind of shitty, so i vented, and proceeded to go about my day as if nothing had happened. i smiled, i laughed, i joked around.

normally if my mood is shitty, my whole day ends up being shitty as well. right now, though, i can set my own feelings aside for a while and focus on the task at hand. not always, and not to the same extent as others around me usually do, but more than typical for me. also just because i can do it doesn’t mean i always choose to, but still. πŸ˜€ which is to say that i can now feel like shit and be in a great mood at the same time??

so anyway, because i feel like i could go on forever and somehow manage to still not say anything of substance, ill end here and hope i haven’t bored some of you to death by now.

i’m off to do my therapy.. homework.. assignment.. thingy πŸ˜€

how do i feel back

Do you find that regardless of how you feel at any given moment, in that moment it’s hard to remember or imagine what it might be like to feel any other way?

Or if you try to think back to a time when you did feel differently, you end up projecting your current mental state onto those memories, coloring nostalgia with regretfulness or grief with gratitude.

This makes relating to your own past experiences much harder, and pulling yourself out of a dark place — next to impossible.

Whereas the former makes your memories seem abstract, foreign, somehow scattered, or even “fake”, the latter suffocates you with a sense of utter hopelessness. Losing positive associations is bad enough, but it’s the incredulity about any chance of future happiness that slowly but surely chips away at your will to live. Not because living hurts — that in and of itself might be manageable — but because being numb isn’t much better.

That’s what happened to me: I was tired of the extremes, the neverending cycle of hopefulness and motivation inevitably followed by anxiety and inertia. The shame that comes from disappointing yourself once again is draining. The frustration and worthlessness are debilitating. So… I eventually settled for feeling nothing. Hoping for nothing, striving for nothing… doing nothing.

And I have felt nothing for so long, I can’t imagine ever feeling anything different.

Maybe my life only ever had any semblance of cohesion back when I had no self-awareness to speak of, and others were doing all my dirty work for me. My parents, expecting me to do well in school. My best friend, getting me to try new things. Religion, telling me the difference between good and evil.

The moment I start trying to think for myself, I get lost and indecisive. I’m overwhelmed by the mutitude of options, and by how much whatever decision I end up making is going to affect my life. I’m not sure if I’m afraid of change; I’d like to change, if only i could know the outcome of my efforts beforehand. What I cannot handle is uncertainty. Knowing that I might choose wrong.

All my attempts at happiness so far have backfired. Admittedly they were few and far between, but the result was always poor at best. Even things that on the face of it make me “happy”, I have a complicated relationship with. It’s as if I don’t think I deserve to do things I enjoy, so I come up with ways to make them less fun. Or prevent myself from reaping the benefits of the things that I do.

I gave up on running when I was in the best shape of my life. After three years at uni, I didn’t get a degree simply because I failed to write my goddamned thesis, even though I helped some of my friends write theirs (and loved it). No matter what I do, it feels like I’m playing pretend. Like I’m faking a life.

Eventually I got tired of faking.

But if I truly want things to change, it’s up to me to start making decisions for myself. Where do I begin, when it’s something I’ve never done before? And being as detached from my emotions as I am — past, future and present — how do I know how high I should be aiming and how much I can manage?

I’m gonna need to start small.