Failure

Funny thing, failure. It’s an unavoidable feature of life. I have tried my best to avoid failure and yet failure seemed to always find me. In the somewhat recent past I avoided failure by not trying. I avoided failure by avoiding making decisions. I mistakenly thought that this approach kept me safe, because if you don’t risk anything, you can’t fail. This approach was in response to repeated personal disasters in my life. These disasters included dropping out of school twice, as well as multiple hospitalizations and arrests due to mental health crises, related to untreated bipolar disorder and substance abuse. On top of that, my 20’s were marked by a general inability to get a career, friendships or relationships on track during that time. The weight of all this failure was felt deeply in 2010, a year in which I was arrested twice, went to jail, and was in 3 different mental hospitals and a rehab. This insane 4 month span of my life conspired to make me extremely risk averse and cautious. Once I managed to gain some mental health and life stability, I was determined to hang on to it at all costs. I was terrified of losing my freedom again. Hence the strategy of not trying, and extreme avoidance of any potential risk. One positive of this strategy is that I did manage to quit drinking alcohol completely. Quitting this one substance has turned out to have a huge positive impact on my life. On the whole though, this strategy of doing nothing as a way to avoid disaster, well, it quite ironically failed miserably.

This four year period of complete risk aversion, from 2010 to 2014, was in some ways much worse than the instability and chaos of my life before. Suicidal depression became the constant issue, and even though I had quit drinking and was taking medication, my mental health was not close to an ideal state. I basically retreated from the world for four years and took no risks. I was for the most part extremely miserable. I couldn’t hide that fact. I wasn’t trying to do anything with my life. At one point I was literally only smoking a large amount of weed, playing video games and eating and sleeping. I couldn’t shake the depression or the suicidal ideation. I suppose part of me knew there was more to life than that, and also knew I could do something interesting with my life, potentially. That knowledge just added to my despair because I believed I couldn’t achieve or accomplish anything. The difficulty was that in order to change my situation and get out of the spot I was stuck in, I would need to take risks and step into the unknown. By August of 2014, the depression and suicidal ideation I was experiencing during this period had finally become completely untenable. I found myself in a do or die moment.

I came to a place where I had to risk failure, or just continue to suffer in the pathetic misery of doing nothing with my life. I wrote a private essay on this website about how I felt no hope and wanted to die. I shared it with a trusted friend, who expressed to me serious concern. Through this process, it had finally become painfully apparent to me that my strategy of doing nothing, and taking no risks, wasn’t working. Someone in my life at that time suggested I check out addiction recovery, so on the couch that night some time in September, of 2014, I resolved to sober up and start making changes. It’s been mostly uphill since then. I’ve been hit with setbacks, and had some failures, but a lot more success than not. Part of learning to be successful has been coming to grips with the fact that failure and struggle are inevitable, especially for someone with my set of diagnoses (Bipolar Type 1, Anxiety, PTSD, Substance Abuse). My failures since September of 2014 need to be framed in the context of successful stability and sobriety. I haven’t used substances, I haven’t had a manic/psychotic episode, I’ve been able to successfully attend school and work. I completed a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. I’ve been active in volunteering communities, leading support groups and giving talks to audiences of peers, family members of the ill, and first responders. At times my stability has taken a hit, and I had to readjust. I even had to go back to the hospital at one point. I’m more able to accept setbacks not as failures but as opportunities for change and growth. It hasn’t always been fun, it hasn’t always been non-stop success. Sometimes it just existing has been pretty tough, especially when depression has me in its grips. At times I’ve contemplated getting drunk or high or just killing myself as a way out. I guess my brain just goes there organically. But I want to live. I want to fight. I want to matter. I have a choice: sit back, do nothing and decay, or get on with living and keep moving forward no matter what. I’m going forward.

features of mania

One of the most common features of my bipolar mania were religious delusions. In the throes of a severe manic episode, at one time I came to believe that I had been immaculately conceived and was on Earth to announce the return of Jesus. At another time I believed I was the Anti-Christ. Both of those times, it made complete sense in my head. The universe was directing me for my special purpose. Luckily at no point was I able to perform any miracles. It’s interesting that my delusions were specifically based in Christianity, the faith I was raised in. Both of those delusions fell away as I verged into psychosis, with my thinking becoming increasingly scattered and incoherent, in 2010, during the worst mental health crisis of my life. Not that believing you are a prophet is coherent, but the place beyond that in terms of insanity is amazingly worse.

Another feature of mania, and a most common one for me, was aggression and anger. This was unfortunately directed at other people at times, and it was not good for everyone involved. Other times, it was directed at the invisible, external forces guiding events, allegedly. I still sometimes rage at the absurd farce that is humans being cruel to other humans. I sometimes rage at the inherent unfair nature of existence. Obviously, as a mostly reasonable and sane person today, I have to set aside those problems I have with reality. Firstly because I need to accept the situation of existence on some level in order to function. Secondly because there’s nothing I can do about any of it. Naturally, I find the whole state of affairs that is “reality” quite ridiculous and upsetting (and really it deserves the air quotes). I’m sure at this point I sound petulant, but that’s tolerable. I simultaneously view my opinion of reality as a character defect while also being mostly correct. Unfortunately for me, when I’m manic, this character defect tends to go off the charts.

I think it was maybe 2006, summer time. I had some friends over, I made a camp fire. There was weed and alcohol involved. I don’t remember all the details because I was losing control. I was at home with parents. There were arguments, me with them, my friends with them. The fire. I threw some makeshift, symbolic cardboard sign I made into it. Everyone left or went to sleep and I was still wide awake. I was in my clothes, in blue jeans, jumped in the pool anyway. I started shouting angrily at nothing, cursing God, cursing Satan, daring them both individually over and over to kill me, letting them know they wouldn’t do shit. Informing the nothing I was shouting at that I didn’t believe in it. Just raging. Probably at nothing, because I’m still alive. I’m still here and would still like to file a complaint with the management of this universe. It was a long time after that when I would finally be okay for a moment, here and there. That happens more often today. I’m okay, some of the time. It could be a hell of a lot worse, because it has been, before.

Struggle

Everyone has some problems, some struggle. But my problems aren’t even that important or bothersome in the grand scheme of things. Except for one problem. The one, all-encompassing problem that has affected me my entire life: my thinking. My thinking, mainly about my situation and about myself makes every day a struggle. I don’t know how to turn off the negative critic. I’ve tried meditation, positive affirmations, therapy, group therapy, work in recovery, support groups, writing. Is it hatred of myself? Probably. Has it always been this way? Yes, to some degree, but as I’ve gotten older it’s actually gotten quite a lot worse, as I continually realize I’ve never accomplished anything significant with my life. As I’ve been in recovery and been sober for the last five plus years, in some ways it’s actually gotten much worse.

I have 5 years of trying to get my life together under my belt and don’t feel I really have anything to show for it. I have no drugs or alcohol to numb the pain or quiet the negative critic. I’m stuck with my self-destructive thoughts, and sometimes I just relentlessly attack myself. I realize some things have changed and that my perspective is twisted around, but I don’t know how to get out of this spot I’m in. I just want some days where it’s not a complete struggle. Is that too much to ask?

How to fix the American Welfare System

I think it’s time to bring back two old programs started under The New Deal: with the Civilian Conservation Corp and the Works Progress Administration

The benefit was that people that were unemployed were given meaningful work to do. That way they weren’t just on the dole and doing nothing. I have four main suggestions.

1) Get people to do work improving infrastructure, cleaning up cities and towns, and building public amenities, like they used to do in the 30s and 40s.

2) Remove the marriage penalty for getting welfare, to discourage the decline of nuclear families on benefits. In some states, marriage means you get fewer or no benefits, making parents more likely to split up or not live together.

3) Remove the welfare cliff so people on benefits don’t get punished for working as you earn more money. Instead of dropping off welfare completely and suffering a net loss for working, have the benefits gradually step down so you are encouraged to work and actually able to build up a savings.

4) Eliminate the ability to use food stamps for pop, fast food, and unhealthy snacks that are bad for developing brains. Fucking duh.

The real question is something along the lines of: “why do the wealthy political elites allow the status quo to continue?”

The answer is because they can pat themselves on the back and say, “Look at all the programs we’ve created for the poor! We’re doing something!” In reality, the poor are ghettoized and cordoned off from middle and upper class society so that the rest of us don’t have to face what their lives are like.

Then the welfare system keeps those on benefits dependent and desperate, so it is a virtual guarantee that they will always vote (if they do vote) in favor of the politicians that promise to keep the benefits flowing. It’s learned dependency because you aren’t able to get a good job and keep your benefits and you aren’t able to build up a savings or ever have enough money to buy your own home. You have to keep your benefits to survive, so you’ll toe the line and keep voting for those who are not a direct threat to your survival, even though these same people offer you no hope for advancement or chance to move up in society.

The rich get richer. It’s the law of the land.

Dream Journal – Dirk Gently and the T-Rex

This dream didn’t feel like it lasted too long. It happened during a 2 hour nap. In the dream, I am Dirk Gently’s assistant. I’m with the Dirk Gently from the new show. The show is based on the Douglas Adams novels by the same name, Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective. In the dream, I am in a radioactive wasteland. Outside, there’s a radioactive storm. The dream begins with Dirk Gently and I exploring a staircase in an old, rusted, molded over industrial building. We ascend to the top of this warehouse/factory, and I recall in the dream thinking it looks exactly like the interior environments in the video game Fallout 4. I’ve played Fallout this year. As we conclude exploring the building, we step outside into the radiation storm. I happen upon a large egg, the size of an ostrich egg. It takes both hands to hold it. As I am holding it, the egg warms and begins to hatch, with one end of the shell breaking and then falling off. Inside is a baby T-Rex, which crawls out and into my hands.

The dream then immediately moves to the inside of an industrial building, possibly the same one from earlier.  Inside is the body of a dead piglet. On the wall is what I recognize as a soul-switcher, kind of like the one in the tv show. We then hook up the piglet to one end of the soul-switcher and the baby T-Rex to the other. I don’t recall anyone flipping a switch, but suddenly there’s a huge flash of blue electricity which fills the room. The T-Rex soul goes into the piglet, resurrecting its body, and then the piglet soul goes into the dinosaur’s body. I recall distinctly in the dream thinking this is what was happening. I then observed the piglet acting like a dinosaur and the dinosaur acting like a pig. Dirk and I spoke a few words, of which I cannot remember. I then saw each animal firing out their blue aura in the form of electricity. The piglet projected it’s internal T-Rex aura and the T-Rex did the same with it’s piglet aura. I don’t recall anything bad happening although I seemed to think it was dangerous. Then the dream ended.

Dream Journal – Hope Diamond Heist

This dream began with me driving my 1990 Oldsmobile 98 up a winding road towards a large castle. It was in the country and looked nothing like the actual Kensington District of London, which I’ve visited in real life. After driving alongside a large castle or university type building, the road lead through some hedges into an archway. The next thing I remember is being in a basement room of this complex with Tom Cruise, who was dressed as a British cop or security officer. I think he was looking over one of his guns, and I handed him a gift. We both shared a laugh.

Continue reading Dream Journal – Hope Diamond Heist

Dream Journal – Pancakes

It began with me in a public park during the morning. I wanted pancakes. Apparently I was at a pancake breakfast. I observed a big block of ice with pancakes inside, so I began chipping away at it, melting the ice. Eventually, there was only a little ice left, so I left for a moment to let the sun finish thawing out the ice. I’m not sure where I left for or for how long.

When I returned, my pancakes were gone. I immediately flew into a rage at the theft of my pancakes. I then proceeded to start flipping over swingsets and playground equipment as my temper took over. This one was a bit intense, even though it was so silly. The last thing I remember in the dream is being really angry. The crazy part was when I woke up, I was still angry.

Dream Journal – Crystal Pepsi

“As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.”
-Proverbs 25:25

Occasionally, I have an extremely vivid and partly lucid dream. Usually when this happens I lucid dream on some level, where I’m aware that I’m dreaming and can exert some control over the events of the dream. The rare thing about this dream is the level of detail I am able to recall. When a dream is extended in length, is at least partly lucid, and is easily remembered, I have learned to pay attention. I have many vivid dreams but typically when I wake up I can’t recall what happened. There have been a few prior, very memorable dreams that had significance in my life that I only understood much later. This one was… interesting, to say the least. It follows. The text is taken directly from an instant message conversation.

I dreamt that I was at Wright State with one of my friends someone I know in real life I believe but I can’t recall who now
I dreamed that I found the only 2 remaining cans of clear Pepsi existing on Earth
And my friend told me in the dream that each can was worth 3 million dollars
And then three old school Nazis from the forties who I recognized but couldn’t place tried to take the cans from me and I had to get rid of them somehow I don’t know what I did to escape them
But I realize that to defeat them I would need special powers
So I got on like a train that was like the kids toy train you see in the mall but it was full size and I ride this train I somehow found to the bottom of the ocean to this house
And I fucking rang the doorbell and went into this house but somehow no water got into the house at the bottom of the ocean and I remember looking up through a big glass window and seen the train near the house on the ridge
And the dude inside I’m not sure who he was he was an old dude with a beard he was either Santa Claus or Jesus as an old guy or Prospero from Shakespeare’s The Tempest
And then I remember being extremely thirsty and he was trying to talk to me and I wanted to speak to him but I couldn’t because I was so thirsty
And so he gave me a glass of water and I drank it and then I woke up
And when I woke up and realized I wasn’t thirsty and I didn’t need to pee

My New Website Experiment: greenedata.com

So I have become increasingly dissatisfied with a host of news aggregators, from Huffington Post to Google News to reddit to the Drudge Report. This is for a variety of reasons. The agendas of places like HuffPost or Drudge I find highly disagreeable. I disagree with HuffPost for their brazen support of Hillary Clinton and Drudge for his non-stop agitating for Donald Trump.  This type of agenda-driven news reporting is problematic because it means the reader must filter through the bias of both the aggregator and the story that it links to. I have problems with social news sites like reddit because the inherent bias and popularity towards certain kinds of stories, as well as a highly flawed upvote/downvote system, mean some important news items get ignored. The problem with sites like Google News is that it is highly reliant on algorithms instead of human editors, so very important stories can be left behind and not featured on their main pages. It should also be noted that most aggregators generate exactly none of their own content. I figured if I am going to have to filter through a thousand different news sites to get to the stories I want to see, maybe someone else would be interested in what I find. So that’s when I decided to create my own website, greenedata.com, where I also don’t generate any of my own content (ha ha), but I provide a limited number of links each day. I link to the stories I view as either the most important and relevant, or the most interesting.

Greene Data Screen Capture

I don’t really have any rules for how I do this, but I am developing a method to find things. I do have preferences for what I post. I will never link to a website like Forbes, which has a hard paywall and harasses you for using an ad-blocker. I prefer to always link to stories that are on sites with no kind of paywall if I can help it. I also try to link to local news stories when possible. If I see something on Yahoo! News that is just a republication of an interesting AP or Reuters story, I will attempt to find the original story on either AP or Reuter’s website as well.  My standards are simple: is it important, relevant, or interesting? In terms of bias, I am basically critical of everyone. I don’t have a rooting interest for any major political party, corporation, or institution. I don’t receive payment from anyone. I don’t show ads. I have no one giving me money to put forth a point of view. I have no one giving me money for this, period. The purpose of the website at this stage is how to best execute my idea and to test the market to see if there is a demand for this kind of thing. For example, I imagine many Bernie Sanders supporters are very unhappy with CNN and Huffington Post for their poor treatment of Sanders and their highly favorable coverage of Hillary Clinton. In the same way, many conservatives and libertarians who do not like or support Donald Trump are currently disgusted with people like Matt Drudge. If I can demonstrate there is a demand for this website from people like this, as well as others, maybe I have something here.

For now I just want to present a daily set of links to stories. I want the website to load quickly and be as simple and easy to use as possible. Hopefully so far I have achieved those goals. Give it a look, won’t you?