A Blog about Career Changes, Madness, and My Awful Brain

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Thing That Keeps Screwing You Up: I Sort of Found Mine.

It's funny how a realization about yourself can sort of come up on you and smack you on the ass while you're not doing anything in particular. For a guy who does a lot of soul-searching, I find that I get a lot more answers when I'm doing it passively (i.e. when I'm sitting around listening to music) then when I'm doing it actively (i.e.meditating, searching the Internet for advice, and other mental masturbations).

The particular realization I will share with you today happened after listening to Stone Temple Pilot's "Sour Girl" and during Red Hot Chili Pepper's "Aeroplane". Before I share it with you (patience, kiddies, patience), I want to talk about a realization that occurred to me about a week ago, shortly after my last blog post. Some of it was due to the feedback you guys gave me after my post. Some of it was due to my THOUGHTS about you guys (specific people) after my post.

I realized that, complex as we all think we are, most of our problems can be boiled down to one thing. I can't tell you what that thing is because it is different for everyone. The problem is, we are terrible about finding our own thing, because we try to defend our psyches at all cost. So we make up bullshit to cover it up, and our problems multiply because of it.

Think about how often our arguments with our parents, our friends and our significant others repeat themselves. I bet you there is an argument you have had over and over with your spouse or significant other that you could recite by heart. You could probably have the argument by yourself at this point, and completely cut out the other person....rote arguments, if you will. Here's the kicker...if you continually have the same argument, and never seem to get your point across, then you are likely dealing with a person's thing. If you are having an argument, and are trying to deflect it or end it, then you are likely dealing with your own thing.

This thing is also why we so often continuously find ourselves in the same predicament. Whether you keep finding yourself with the wrong person or at the wrong job, or you keep finding yourself drawn to books and television shows with a certain theme, or you keep getting screwed in the same way, the chances are your being led by your thing to those situations.

What is your thing?

Do you like being a martyr?

Do you think you deserve to be treated like dirt?

Do you hate to commit?

Do you have an inappropriate attachment to a destructive habit?

What is it about your personality that keeps leading you over and over to conflict, problems, and angst?

Like I said, this little realization has something to with certain people in my life, and how there always seemed to be one thing that continuously created problems in their lives.

Now, before you start thinking that I'm some sort of guru with special insight, let me disabuse you of that notion (and no, I don't actually believe any of you actually think that). This idea has obviously gone back to...gee, I don't know...Shakespeare, if not before then. Yes, kiddies...we all have a tragic flaw. We are all heroes just waiting to be impaled by the sword of Damocles hanging just over our heads. No, this isn't exactly an original idea. Moreover, I did some Internet research on this concept, and came across this magnificent post by blogger/career advice columnist Penelope Trunk (incidentally, after I came across her blog, I spent hours perusing it..I'm surprised I've never heard of her, seeing as how she had great advice and resources for people like me).

So this got me to thinking about what my thing is. After all, I've got some problems I'm trying to deal with; if I've got a pretty good handle on other people's things, I don't seem to have a good handle on mine. So I did some brainstorming, and came across some good ideas. Could my thing be:

1)I hate responsibility and will try to stay away from it.
2)I need people to know how smart I am.
3)I have to have people's respect.
4)I can't live without positive feedback.
5)I hate conflict, and will do anything to avoid it.
6) Fear of failure.

Each of these things seemed like fundamental problems to me, and all of them seem to capture at least part of my personal flaw. But none of them seemed quite right to me. None of them seemed....complete.

Which brings me to today, when it hit me like a ton of bricks.

In a startling moment, I looked into myself and found that I loathe knowing the future and revel in uncertainty. I love being lost more than anything in the world, even if I find it terrifying and it leads me to losing things that I want, that I need. Don't get me wrong...in no way am I saying that I'm adventurous, brave, risk-loving person. In a perfect world, where I didn't have all the hang ups I have, I may have been that sort of person. But there is too much fear in me to be that way.

However, the hatred I have of a stable future is perversely true. It's a lot of little things that leads me to believe it, though I haven't seen the common thread until now. If I have any arguments with my fiancee (although we don't fight all that often), it's about making plans and staying on track "for the future". Furthermore, as much as I blame my old boss for being abusive (she was a horrible, horrible hag, and I wish her secondary...no tertiary stage syphilis), it's knowing that I had to go back over and over to the same job that really terrified me about the job. And that happens with EVERYTHING I do. Even the job I held with a professor I loved, doing work that was stimulating, sort of depressed me. How screwed up is it that I was elated when he told me he no longer had funding for me?

Want to know something even more screwed up? Maybe it's because I've been watching too much news about Joplin, but the other night I had a dream that I lost everything I owned in a tornado. The apartment, all my stuff, and my car. And in my dream, and for five minutes after I woke up.....I was happy. I was happy that I lost everything, because it meant that I didn't know what was waiting for me the next day.

When I go for walks (which I do almost every day), I like to walk down strange alleys and streets, and I live for the moments where I don't know where I'm going, and what I'll see. The same goes for when I drive my car. When I finally manage to orient myself, I feel a little disappointed.

Even this...even all of this career angst that I'm having...I get off on it in some respects. If I didn't have some of the PTSD bullshit that I'm dealing with, I'd probably be having a hell of a good time right now. A future with uncertainty is an exciting future, ripe with possibility, if you allow the cliche. Before I had the accident, before I had my hell job, I had a dream that I would go to a new place, and have new experiences. It was great, and I was happy. And then I came to this new city, and realized it was the same thing, the same shit as before. And I grew despondent....

Like I said, I'm not super adventurous, nor am I a risk taker (although a big part of me wishes I was). As well, my drive for uncertainty doesn't seem to apply to my relationships. Although I enjoy meeting new people, I have an attachment to people that I don't seem to have for material things or places. I can't even fathom not being with my fiancee, or losing any one of my family members or friends. But losing a job, changing my career, moving to another city, losing all my stuff..well, it excites me and makes me happy in a way it doesn't seem to do to other people. I allow for the possibility that I am wrong about my thing. Maybe I'm describing something that everyone feels. Maybe it is my psychological problems talking. But somehow... I don't think so. It's way too scary and difficult for me to accept not to be the truth.

Who knows though...maybe this is all just bullshit covering up my real thing. You may know better than I.

Anyways, thanks for listening to this particular mental masturbation.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

PTSD: Why I'm Probably More Fucked Up Than You Think.

This is a post I've wanted to write for a while, but I guess I just never had the guts. Part of it stems from my personal issues with disclosure and with my excessive sensitivity to what others think of me. Writing this blog has always been difficult for me, for the same reason that I know many of you could never do it.

Fear. Fear of people finding you weak. Fear that people will use your issues to attack you. Fear that others will think less of you.

Maybe that isn't true for you, I don't know....maybe you are really private, and you don't think others should be privy to your emotional problems. Fair enough...like I said, it isn't easy putting it out there.

The reason I do it is two-fold. First of all, I'm combating what I think is my greatest fear..that others will hate me for who I am. Most of my life has felt like a charade...a charade to convince other people that I'm smart, that I'm talented, that I'm worthy. Like I've mentioned before, this has gotten me in a pickle, in that everything I've done and achieved has been for someone else. This blog takes away the reason for that fear. Like a person who is afraid of snakes, draping themselves with dozens of snakes or a person who is afraid of spiders, letting a fat hairy tarantula walk up their arms, I'm exposing myself to that fear in the hope that I will overcome it.

Second of all, I do it for you. I may not know you very well. We may have just talked a couple of times in real life, and I may not know who you really are. Or you may be very close to me, but are hiding something that you feel cripples you. I want you to know that YOU are not alone. There are millions of people like me....dissatisfied with their lives, unhappy with who they are. We are here, and you don't have to admit to anything in order to take solace in that fact. Yes, I'm exposing my throat, but I trust you not to take a bite because to do so would hurt you and other people you love.

But I'm digressing a bit. What I really wanted to discuss with you is the counseling I'm getting. Or rather, the results of it.

After I made the post "Bullied at Work: How I lost My Mind", I had a friend message me about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. She described the disorder, and gave me some personal feedback on what she was going through. I looked into it a bit, and though is seemed to describe some of what I was going through, I was a little skeptical. To begin with, I didn't feel like I had gone through anything really traumatic. Heck, it seemed to me that PTSD was reserved to people who had been through the hell of war, or through intense suffering because of sexual assault. Part of the problem is that, even now, I have a tendency to think that the problems I have are really small. Lots of people go through worse shit than I do. I've never been raped. I've been in some scraps, but I've never had the crap beat out of me. I've never been shot at, bombed, or been in prison.

So imagine my surprise when my counselor informed me that some of my behaviour is indicative of PTSD. Now, before I go on, I want to tell you a little about my counsellor.

This is my first time seeing a professional mental health specialist (started about a month ago), so I didn't know what to expect. You see, in my pride, I never would have considered seeing a counsellor before. Even after making the appointment, my first instinct was to try to bullshit her, or to take an intellectual approach to the whole thing. But deep down inside, I knew (I know) that I needed help. So I swallowed my pride, and decided to approach counselling in a new way....I would drop my bullshit defenses, and tell the truth about what I was feeling (remember my quest for honesty?). It was the best thing I could have done. She is an extremely smart woman, who just seems to know when to listen, and what questions to ask. She's been doing it for a long time, and she seems to be able to keep me focused. All in all, it's been a pretty good experience so far.

Again, she suggested that I have a lot of the symptoms of PTSD, especially when it's job related. She gave me some specific resources, and we started on some exercises to overcome it. So I've been, of course, doing a lot of research on the subject, and it's all been quite fascinating.

The funny thing about trauma is how specific it is to the individual. One of the first things I learned is that what one person considers trauma, may not bother another person in a long term fashion at all. My specific trauma, the job bullying, attacked me at the core of what is important to me. Being competent, being respected, being admired. If I fell into a pit of spiders, I might be disgusted, but I don't think I would be traumatized.

The current research shows that immediate support and putting the traumatic event(s) in context can shorten the length of PTSD or prevent it. This is true for both animals and people. What is so cool about animals is that they have instinctual methods of recovering from traumatic events. In "Healing Trauma", Peter Levine, a medical researcher of stress and trauma explains that animals normalize themselves after a traumatic event (like being tranquilized and tagged) by spontaneous shaking, trembling, and breathing. Basically, they are expending the energy they used to escape death, and grounding themselves. One of the lines in the book, contributed by a park biologist for the Mzuzu Environmental Center, especially caught my attention..."If they have not trembled and breathed that way before they are released, they will not survive. They will die."

The big idea is, we need to deal with our trauma, and the sooner the better. When you experience a traumatic event, you need to fight, flee or freeze as you see fit, but then you have to deal with the feelings.

Another idea supported by research is that trauma is cumulative, especially if a person is not allowed to deal with it. Basically, it's a death by a thousand cuts. As Levine puts it, "..over time, a series of seemingly minor mishaps can have a damaging effect on a person. Trauma does not have to stem from a major catastrophe."

Well, shit.

Now the best thing about having read about PTSD is that I can start putting some of the crappy circumstances in my life, and their effects, in context. First of all, there was the bullying. The truth is, I didn't get a lot of support after I left my job. My fiancee tried, but she was going through her own heartbreaking event (we both were), that left her unable to fully support me. Other friends and family didn't know the extent of what I was going through because I kept a lot of it to myself. I'm also living in a city where I didn't have a lot of friends and family nearby to help me.

Second of all, as I was reeling from the job related stress, and trying to come up with a way to deal with it (my plan was a big trip to visit all my friends and family all over the country), I had another serious beating with the car accident. Before I could deal with my first bit of stress and trauma, I had a second helping. Of course, that the accident happened right after my appointment with a job counselor didn't help, as I connected the work/career concept with horrible pain (seriously, the accident happened about 5 blocks from, and about 20 minutes after, the appointment).

All of a sudden, a lot of things have started making sense. I've spent the last 8 months feeling horrible about myself, because I was having trouble looking for work. Every time I look at job ads and try to find work, I have a mini anxiety attack. Every time I look into a career change, I get numb and distracted. Worst of all is how it keeps perpetuating itself....everyone around me keeps asking me how my job search is going, and keeps telling me I need to find a job, and I keep feeling more and more bad about my...well...impotence..to do what I need to do. I keep feeling like people think I'm just being lazy, or comfortable on EI...even though, I busted my ass looking for work last time I was unemployed and have never been idle. I feel like I'm damaged in a way that 30 year old men are not allowed to be damaged.

Understanding this, I think I'm starting to deal with it. I've got some ideas from the literature and from my counselor about ways to dig myself out of this hole. Moreover, I'm never going to be able to find a good career or job if I don't get back some control over my mind. Like those animals, I've got to psychologically shake myself free of my trauma.

Right now, I'm making some plans to travel. I want to back up 9 months, and do what I have to do to make things right for me. My first instinct has always been to run, and I've been denied that way to deal with my issues. I'm giving myself permission to run for a while. Not very far, and not for a long time...but for a while. I don't have much money, but I'll make do. I think I'm going to do a mini circuit of Western Canada. If you want me to visit you, drop a line. I need my friends now more than ever.

Thank you for listening.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Nice Guys vs Jerks: Why You Are Wrong About Attracting Women.

Sorry I've gotten rather sporadic about posting lately....honestly, I haven't had many triggers lately that have urged me to go online and spew out either a rant or a story. Well, okay, there was the recent election here in Canada that had me severely disappointed with the Canadian people and made me want to lash out, but I've decided to keep this blog somewhat free of political opinions. Politic discussions tend to bring out the worst in people, and nobody ever EVER changes his/her mind, so I decided...fuck it. I've always wanted to bring people together....and how better to bring people together than to give people some great advice that will help them attract the person they love.

Well, okay...maybe not great advice. God knows I'm neither the most romantic nor the most sexy man out there. I haven't slept with hundreds of women, I've never had women knocking down doors to date me, and I've never hooked up with a stripper. I've only been in two relationships that have last more than a couple of months and I've never had a threesome.

So what makes me think my advice means anything? Well, I've been fairly successful dating with my limited looks, and despite the fact that I'm not neither cool nor charming, I've had the ability to get attractive women to consider me a romantic possibility and ....gasp....even let me see 'em naked. I haven't been turned down that many times, and even after having dated for awhile, I've usually been the one to break things off. Not always, but usually. Yep, it's usually MY fear of commitment that ruins things, and at 31, I'm neither married, nor have children, nor have a mortgage (Yep, commitment phobe across the board, but may I add that I am now engaged and desperately want to get married....no seriously.)

Now, the topic I want to discuss specifically is one that I've heard come up time and time again. I've heard the complaint come from the mouths of decent guys, nerdy guy, heart-broken guys, ugly guys and good looking guys. It may be expressed in different words, and in different ways, but it always has the same general idea..."Why do girls/women/ladies always turn down us NICE GUYS and go out with JERKS????"

Most of these Nice Guys have similar characteristics. They are usually dependable, polite, understanding, compassionate, loyal, and (in some cases) devoted. They can be funny, but usually not in a rude or mean way. When they meet a girl they like, they try to be friendly without coming on strong. Most times, they like to show a girl they respect her and will try to befriend them before asking them out. They will sometimes fixate on a girl, give her gifts, write her poetry, and otherwise try to "woo her" in understated, polite ways. Inevitably, the girl will turn them down, usually using one of the following lines:

"I just want to be friends"
"I think you're great, and will make some girl very happy some day, but I'm not looking for a relationship"
"I'm not ready for a relationship....my ex just broke my heart".

Of course, we all now what happens next, don't we? Right, she starts dating some other guy, a Jerk, someone who treats her like crap. The Jerk never calls her when he says he will, never gets her anything nice, and usually dumps her ass when he sees a hotter girl out there. Yep, that darned Jerk, he's a heartbreaker. After he's done his horrible deeds, girlfriend goes off crying to her Nice Guy friend. Does Mr. Nice Guy finally have a shot, kiddies?

Haha...fuck no. Maybe after the 10th or 11th Jerk, she might marry him out of pity, but usually the Nice Guy is shit out of luck.

Now, from what I wrote, you may make you think I have sympathy for the Nice Guy. You may think I'm rooting for him. You may think I hope he wins in the end. You would be wrong. I hate Nice Guys....I think they are pathetic, and when I see one of them in action, I want to punch him in the face. When they complain about women, or complain that they are single, I want to kick them in the brain stem. I'm very happy that I'm older, and that most of the Nice Guys I've known got their crap together enough to finally get married. But if you spend any significant time on the internet, like I have now that I'm an unemployed bum, you see them on websites and forums, shaking their ineffectual limp fists at all the girls who prefer Jerks over them. And boy their arguments drive me crazy.

If you know me and are reading this, you may be thinking to yourself...."Come on Dan...you are a nice guy. You are so full of shit, trying to portray yourself as some jerk."

But I'm not. I love my friends and family. I treat most people politely and with respect. You will never, ever catch me cheating on a girlfriend, hitting a women, or attacking someones self esteem. But I am not a Nice Guy. I'm a good guy. The reason I know the difference is that once upon a time, I WAS a Nice Guy. And boy was I full of shit.

The fact is, most Nice Guys are lying sacks of crap. The reason women prefer Jerks, is that the Jerk is also a lying sack of crap, but at least he is doesn't lie about what is important. You see, kiddies, a Jerk may lie that he will call you back. A jerk may lie that he faithful. A jerk may lie that he will help you get the abortion when he knocks you up, but at least he isn't lying about WHAT HE WANTS. But a Nice Guy....he will lie about what he wants, so he doesn't scare a girl.

If I have anything good to say about myself, is that I tend to be a good learner. I pretty much learned in my first year of University that fawning over a women, being overly nice, and being something I'm not to impress them is useless. Putting a woman on a pedestal, showering her with gifts, and doing anything in my power to not offend her was a complete turn off. Not only that, but like most Nice Guys, I somehow had an idea that women were exalted beings; they were better than me, purer than me. That also added another dimension to my complete incompetence at attracting women....I was terrified of asking them out for fear that they might think I'm some sort of perv.

Like I said, I have an advantage, in that I'm fairly good at second guessing myself (it is sometimes an advantage, thank god), and in the case of women, I pretty much knew that if I wasn't getting results with my nice guy shit, then there was probably something wrong with me, and not womankind. So I learned, and I'm ready to pass on my learnins'.

The very first thing I learned....it's going to blow your fucking mind. You ready for it? You ready to learn the secret that will change your life? Here you go....

Fucking nuts, I know. They eat, piss, and shit like the rest of us. They pick their noses. Some of them probably even eat the stuff they pick. There are smart women, dumb women, women that probably are too good for you, women that look like they are too good for you but aren't, and women that don't deserve you. Women, like you Mr. Nice Guy, are attracted to different things, and most of them make complete sense. They tend to be attracted to people who are confident, fun, a little edgy, funny, daring, interesting, opinionated, and who have nice physiques. Look at yourself and see if you have these qualities. Women, like men, also tend to ignore bad qualities if the person has the good qualities they are looking for.

That is, they are willing to put up with Jerky behaviour, if that behaviour comes along with some other attractive qualities. If you are nice, but exhibit none of the other attractive qualities, what is the point of dating you?

Some other things I've learned....I put them in list form because people love lists. I bet you some of you actually didn't read the whole article and just skipped to this. Well, go back up and get some context....then finish reading this. Here we go:

1) Nice guys are boring as shit. Be more fun.

2)It's not about being an asshole, it's about being interesting. At least assholes are entertaining, not like boring old nice guys.

3) The key to being able to attract a women, and not be a complete douche, is to treat her well (which is NOT the same thing as being a rug she walks all over or a kiss ass), but keep an edge. Some mystery. Some independence. Some interest.

4) If you are telling her how much you like her on the first date, you are doing it wrong.

5) If you are not making your intentions clear, and instead just try to "friend her until she likes you", you are doing it wrong. She knows you are after sex and/or a relationship. Might as well be clear.

6) If you do everything she asks, not matter what it is (including compromising your principles or integrity), you are doing it wrong.

7) Being a jerk is not necessary. I'll never understand why most guys take one extreme or the other. A woman should never be treated as a goddess or as a meaningless ho. She should be treated as a person. Crazy, ain't it.

8) Don't bring flowers on a first date. Also, don't bring flavored condoms. Like I said...careful with the extremes.

9)Women don't usually bite or laugh at you when you ask them out. The worst thing most of them do if you ask for numbers is say no or give you a wrong number. Don't be so afraid of rejection.

10)Go to the gym. Excercise. Eat some vegetables. You'll feel better AND be more attractive.

11)Wash your hair. Brush your teeth. I wish I didn't have to write this stuff down but some morons just don't get it. Women aren't usually attracted to greasy haired nerds with bad breath.

12)Attracting women or men isn't about not being yourself. It's about being the best you that you can be.

13) Don't fixate on one woman. Seriously, if she is your friend, but never wants to date you, then give it the fuck up. She is probably never going to date you.

14) Don't be afraid of being a bit offensive. Women like dirty jokes just as much as we do. They also like to be teased every now and then. Women can be horrible people too, and that's why they are so much fun.

15) Okay, bring the flavored condoms just in case...just keep them out of sight.

There. Now you have some advice from a moderately successful joe blow. If you have any issues with anything I've said, or want some more advice, let me know. Like I said, I'm no player or pimp, but haven't done so bad for a nerd with no job.

Later Kiddies,

Dan Evoman