Inside My Head, Smokescreen’s Gone.

Emotions are a weird thing. It’s simultaneously possible to be fully enjoying yourself and dreading the situation that you’re in. I’ve written about this before, but it happened to me again recently. I was surrounded by people that I know. But, while fully enjoying that, I was also isolated. I’ve been thinking about that since it happened.

As weird as it may sound to some people, very often I’m at my most comfortable when I’m by myself. I’ve been very careful to not say that I’m “alone.” I very rarely feel alone or lonely. Being by myself and being alone are two completely different things, at least as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve found a lot of outlets over the years. I’ve explained this in my entries. For over 25 years, I’ve been on social media sites and have been connecting with people that have similar interests. Those interests range from Professional Wrestling, old TV/movie references, music, and more. I have “real life” friends that I can go to discuss some of my interests, but if I don’t know which of them I can talk to, I have online forums where I can go. Social media can be destructive for some people. But, it’s really been an outlet for me. I really do believe that people that I interact with on those sites are what keep me from being “alone.”

I’m sure that if I gave it a lot of thought, I could pinpoint various situations from my childhood that helped create these feelings. But, I don’t know if I have the ability to do that right now. Detail like that would need a lot of time and effort.

The thing that I need to stress the most to anyone that reads this, and especially to any friend that has seen me recently, it’s very possible that you’ve been with me while I’ve been in one of these moods. I assure you that if I told you that it was good to see you that I meant it. I also assure you that if I said that I was having a good time, I really was. But, I also couldn’t wait to leave. That is more about me than it is about anything or anybody else.

I’ve been telling people lately that “there’s never been a better time to be me.” There isn’t sarcasm in that statement. It’s 100% true. But, it doesn’t mean that anything that anything else in this entry is invalid. It just means that I believe that I have a a pretty good concept of perspective of my current situation. I know where I am and I know where I’ve been. Where I am now is a lot better than where I’ve been.

I don’t know if I would be able to be in such a good place if I didn’t have my means of escape. My escapes are all of what I mentioned earlier, podcasts, movies, tv, concerts, and other events. And yet, sometimes while I’m attending those events, I want them to end so I can leave. And I may be fully enjoying myself while I’m there. I know there’s some mental/emotional contradictions there, but it seems so very normal to me.

If you read this and you start thinking that something’s wrong or that I’m not in a good place, don’t worry. I really am in a good place. But sometimes, I just don’t feel comfortable where I am, even if the most comforting of settings. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong, it just means that sometimes I’m very much in my own head. And maybe that’s the best place for me.

I Opened My Mind to All the Love Forsaken.

Your perspective on things can really change how you feel. I know that’s a simple and somewhat generic statement, but it’s very true. My own perspective about a lot of things has changed lately, and I think it’s for the better. I’m doing quite emotionally and mentally well and I’m still enjoying myself. I’m going to use this entry to get into that.

I’ve mentioned a few times that I have a few friends that have spoken to me about how awesome my life seems to be. While I don’t agree with the level of excitement that they’ve described my life to have, I have finally started to accept that I’ve done some things that some people see as pretty cool. And over the course of the last 2 or 3 years, I’ve really started to appreciate these things on my own. And while I do think not being to do much for a while due the Pandemic played a part of my appreciation, I know that I was speaking about it before that as well.

Just a few days ago, I had a conversation with someone that I knew from high school. This was the first time that she and I had seen in each other since we graduated. She was in my office to discuss some stuff related to my job and we just started catching up. She was someone that I never had problems with in school. In fact, she was always nice to me. The conversation was probably just about 30 minutes long, but it furthered this whole “perspective” thing that I’ve been talking about.

For various reasons, I don’t really have much contact with many people from high school or elementary school. I really did not have a great experience while I was there. I was bullied by classmates, teachers were not supportive, and the counsellors that were supposed to help me would belittle and insult me. I understand that it was a different time and that things would probably play out differently if I was in school now, but that doesn’t help the damage that was done to me.

Getting back to that conversations from a few days ago, we talked about some of the things that I just mentioned, about my own experiences there. And we also talked about what we know now about the kids that bullied me. We now know that the majority of the kids that were the bullies in school had difficult lives at home. They were taking out the home life frustrations on someone like me, who they perceived to be an easy target. I was different. I was the sci-fi geek. I watched Professional Wrestling. I read comic books. I liked hard rock. And I fit the mold of the bullied kid. But, while I do have an understanding of the situations that the bullies had, and I do have sympathy for them, it doesn’t make my experience better.

How does what I just said about the bullies tie into perspective? Well, I have enough perspective now to not have as much resentment towards them. By no means does his mean that I’m going to start hanging out with the people that caused me harm, but I’m able to understand them better. This also comes into play since I’ve recently been told that someone that caused a slew of problems for me is now working at a place that I often shop at. I’ve seen him there. But, I don’t think I’ll be starting any conversations at any point soon. Even if, he falls into the category of all that I’ve just said. I learned a lot about his childhood and his upbringing recently, and it wasn’t good stuff.

Just sitting here thinking about the person mentioned in the last paragraph gets my anxiety up a little bit.

I don’t think there’s a hypocrisy in being able to somewhat get past the issues that people caused you and still wanting to avoid those people. I see it as being mentally and emotionally safe. They have a different perspective of things than I do. It could, in theory, have a perfectly “normal” conversation with them and have them say something like “Hey, remember that time when we did (fill in whatever)” and while they may see it as a happy-go-lucky time, it may trigger a completely different feeling from me.

That reminds me of something that I mentioned in the conversation from a few days ago. I was telling her that another friend was telling me about a mini-reunion that some people went to at a local bar a few years ago. And when he was telling me who was in attendance, one by one I told him about things that they had either done or said to me in school, and why I was glad that I didn’t go to that event.

How did I start off by talking about great things are and then get sucked into a discussion about awful things used to be? Well, first of all, I didn’t write any outline for this entry. I’m just winging it. Secondly, I think it ties in pretty well. It’s all about perspective. I spent so much of life consumed by all that was wrong. I used to tell people that anger was the only thing that kept me awake, like it was my source of energy. As it turns out, that was a lie. The source of my energy is coffee, but I digress.

When I heard friends talking about how good things are for me, I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. My mind wasn’t programmed to believe it. My default was set to miserable. I didn’t believe praise. I didn’t believe that there was any hope. I stressed about everything. I had good days, but overall, it wasn’t fun to be me.

Now, bad days happen. Bad things happen. Setbacks happen. It’s part of life. But, my perspective is different. I’ve escaped into a part of my mind where things are good. I enjoy my routines. I enjoy doing things. I have fewer toxic people around me. The support system that I always hoped for is actually there. And my perspective now lets me know that they’ve probably been there for a while, I just couldn’t see it.

I Was Born in Another World, Strictly Connected to a Piece of My Mind.

I’ve often talked about the lack of a sense of belonging that I’ve had. To be honest, that goes pretty deep and it goes very far back into my story. It’s not just outside of my house, but within it as well. Even amongst the people that I’m genetically closest with, I’ve always been a bit of an outcast. I’m not going to use the entry to bash anyone and I’m not just going to discuss familial issues. There’s baggage there that I’m not necessarily emotionally able to unpack. But, I am going to attempt to scratch the surface of some deep stuff here. Some of it may be repeats of themes from previous entries, but I think it all ties together and leads me to where I am now.

I’ve been on the outside looking in for so much of my life. It’s been that way for so long that I really don’t know if it’s a choice, reaction, or instinct to keep a distance. But, I’m also at the point where I’m a part of so much that if I withdraw a bit now, it’s not an issue.

I don’t have religion in my life. I don’t want it. I don’t need it. My lack of religion comes from my choice, partly due to parental behavior, and partly just to do a lack of religion. For a very long time I’ve been good with this. I’ve grown to despise the concept of organized religion for many reasons, but I’ll not going to get into many of them here. My household was a mixed religion house. That was basically never an issue until every holiday season when my parents decided to make it an issue. As a child, I was told that I would be allowed to choose which one I wanted to belong to, while one of my parents strongly pushed me in their direction and would also flat out get very upset with me if I indicated anything other than wanting to chose theirs. I chose neither. Not one of theirs, not another option, none at all. Again, as I said there’s various reasons for it.

For much of my life, I didn’t have strong bonds to family and relatives. Again, there’s various reasons there. Some of which are as simple as a family feud that I got dragged into. But, while others patched things up, I took a bit longer to do that. I’m sure someone with a degree in psychology could dig deep into why I stayed away longer than everyone else, but I don’t really think that matters too much now. I have open and (somewhat) regular communication with the limited amount of relatives that I have.

When my classmates started forming all of their cliques in junior high school days, I was pretty much out of most social circles. Every once in a while, someone would invite me to something, but that was rare. It was even more rare if I was allowed to go, but that’s a different story for a different time. However, sometimes I would hear gossip about how some people were saying stuff behind my back at those few things that I was at. It made me not want to attend things much.

As I’ve said before, I spent a lot of time by myself. While most kids were doing things outdoors during summer vacation in high school days, I was probably in my room watching re-runs, late night talk shows, and movies. I was reading comic books. I was very much in my own world.

I didn’t always feel safe in high school. The long-haired kid with glasses and an over-bite was an easy target for bullies. And target me they did. So, retreating to my own world was what I did.

My interests, Star Wars and sci-fi movies, Marvel Comics, Professional Wrestling, to name a few, were very much fringe things that it wasn’t “cool” to like then. I didn’t have the Internet or ways to discuss my interests with people.

I was by myself, even when I wasn’t alone. I didn’t belong anywhere.

Fast forward to the last few years.

I still spend A LOT of time by myself, but I’ve never felt less alone. Ironically, I’m probably more emotionally distant from most people than ever before, but I’m so much more content and so much more connected. This is definitely a topic for another time, but I digress.

As I was saying, I’m not alone. I have found so many ways to channel my interests. For someone that has as many “strange” interests as I do, message boards, social media, and streaming services are a wonderful thing. If I want to find a clip of a talk show that I watched 30 years ago, I have access to it. If I want to discuss that with someone, I can go to a group online to discuss it. I even have a decent amount of “real life friends” that share some of those interests and we can have long talks about them.

I am definitely still in my own world. I’ll always be there. I’ll always be a bit of an outcast. But, I’ve found people and places that accept that. I’ve found people and things that welcome that. All of the old-school social norms that people cling to that I’ve rejected of I’ve been shunned from are very far back of my rear-view mirror. I don’t need them. I’ve found what I need. And right now, it’s just to be where I am. It took me a long time to get there, but where I am now is where I belong.

Closed Was the Door to My Past Perception.

Sometimes before I write an entry, I’ll go back and read some other ones just in an effort to not repeat too many things. I haven’t done that today and I don’t plan to. I know that I’m going to be repeating some things from older entries, but I think it’s okay in this case. Because, I’m still in a good place and I want to attempt to get into that a bit.

One of the biggest problems with my own mental well being throughout my life has been my lack of ability to believe that things are good for me. Even when I may be at a peak, I’m waiting for the rapid decline to happen. And there were a lot of factors there. It wasn’t just that I was a pessimist, but I had very strong influences in my life that were putting me down, insulting my interests, bad mouthing my beliefs, and in general not being supportive of me. After (many figurative) trials and (too many judgement) errors, it doesn’t seem like many of those negative influences are around me any more.

There wasn’t one specific moment when a light went on or one any specific thing that turned my mindset around, but I think it was more a series of things. Various people, places, and things have helped me a bit there. The simplest way for me to look at thing is that maybe I all of my mental health puzzle pieces were in poured out and I was able to piece them together. The isolation of 2020 and 2021 really did contribute to that, I think. My solitude helped. My ability to appreciate the simple things was heightened.

Back in 2014, I was at a specific concert. At that show, I realized how much that specific band, its fans, and their shows meant to me. I had seen that band many times before then and I’ve seen that band multiple times since then and the members of the band have become friends of mine.

Just a few years ago, a friend of mine was listening to me talk about some of the experiences that I’ve had and she said something about how great my life seems to be. I did what I would normally do at that time. I dismissed the comment. But as time went on and I continued to be amazed by how surreal my life can be at times, I started to believe it. And now, I’m at the point where not only do I believe it, I accept it.

I’ve often said that “it’s good to know people.” Well, that’s true. Knowing the right people can be beneficial. But, more importantly knowing good people can increase the quality of your life. And right now the people I know are good people and they’re the right people for me.

Just about two months ago, I happened to be briefly seen on television. The circumstances behind that go in hand with what I said about knowing good people and the right people. A lot of people contacted me after that moment. The one comment that stood out to me the most was how incredibly happy I looked and how it was obvious that I was enjoying it just based on my big smile. Once again, I believed the comment. And I accept it.

None of what I’ve brought up here is to brag about people that I know. I’m bringing it up to emphasize that the good/right people that I know are positive influences in my life that provide me with positive experiences. For far too long, I had too many toxic people in my life. Way too many people that would make it impossible for me to experience such a smile that I mentioned a few minutes ago. I would also cling to that toxicity. I felt that it was where I needed to be in life and my where I was supposed to be.

To be honest. I still don’t where my life is “supposed to be.” By most conventional standards, I’m not where I’m “supposed to be” at this stage of my life. But right now, I’m where I need to be. And I really think that knowing the right people, who are good people, has helped me realize all of that. I know where I’ve been. I’m not focused on where I “should be.” I’m where I am, and for once, I’m not questioning if it’s good or not.

Refill the Porous Shell With Words That Mean So Many Things.

I always write an entry at the end of each year where I look back and ask myself the same question that I asked myself one year earlier. “Am I better off than I was one year ago?” 2021 was a year. It happened. For the most part, I enjoyed it. There’s truly very little about the year that personally went too badly for me. Not all of it was perfect, but it didn’t suck.

I did have some health concerns earlier in the year, but after a few visits to some doctors, those concerns were alleviated. My gratitude for my health insurance has never been higher. I don’t know if I would have even asked any doctors about any issues if I thought things wouldn’t be covered by my insurance. And to be perfectly honest, I would not have been able to afford any of the tests that were done if I didn’t have my coverage. The first day alone would have financially broken me.

I managed to avoid COVID-19 for the entire year. Unfortunately, I know too many people that weren’t able to avoid it. I didn’t lose anyone to it, but I know some people that were pretty sick from it. I really hope to not have much to say about COVID-19 in my 2022 year-end blog entry.

At the end of last year, I spoke about how I didn’t run any 5k races in 2020 (for somewhat obvious reasons). I had hoped to get back on track (literally) in 2021, but that didn’t happen. Some races did happen in my area. But, I didn’t participate in any. I certainly wasn’t in good enough shape to compete in them. And while I’ve often said that finishing a race, regardless of my time, is an accomplishment to be proud of, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to have any finishes that wouldn’t upset me if I had competed. Which brings me to my next area of opportunity for 2022.

I’m ending 2021 at basically the same weight that I started it, which is heavier than I should be. I did get back to the gym a little bit during the year and I did workout a little bit, but I didn’t do enough. I know that. I am going to refocus my efforts to getting myself back into somewhat good shape in 2022 and hopefully, I’ll lose the weight that I wasn’t able to lose during 2021 (and 2020). I’m basically going to start at the beginning again of a workout program and go from there. I’m not able to start off where I was. I need to get myself back to that point and then beyond it.

And speaking of workouts, each and every year that I write this year-end entry, I lament my inability to have ever done a Black Crow pose during a DDP Yoga session. This year, I can proudly report that I did one well enough that I think I would be given credit for doing it successfully. Granted, it was only once, but I can no longer say that I’ve never done it.

Another goal that I miss every year is my goal of reading 12 books during the year. I got through 7 in 2021. I started 8. I’ll finish that 8th in a few days. I will try for 12 (or more) again in 2022. I really do enjoy reading, but I don’t seem to find the time to commit to it, which gets more and more difficult every year as I get more and more responsibilities and other things happening.

If there’s anything that is drastically different for me at the end of 2021 is that I now have 20/15 distance vision. I had LASIK done during the year and I no longer need glasses to see things far away. It’s made my driving, watching a baseball game in person, and attending movies experiences a bit different and better. I do need reading glasses now, which I’m wearing as I’m typing this. The LASIK basically reversed my vision. I no longer need help seeing things in the distance. But now, I can’t see things that are directly in front of me. That’s ironic, because some people have been accusing me of that for years.

Financially, whether I’m better off than I was one year ago is debatable. My bank account is about 1/3 of what it was at the end of 2020. However, I didn’t do much in 2020. I didn’t go on many long drives. I didn’t go to many concerts or events. I also didn’t start financing my LASIK surgery or my new laptop in 2020. In 2021, I did attend concerts and sporting events. I did go on a few long drives. I did start the aforementioned financings. I also had the pay for one of my job responsibilities get reduced due to the significant decrease in time needed to dedicate to the position. However, I also do make more now in my base salary than I did one year ago. So, there’s no complaining about my finances for 2021.

In some ways, I really feel that I became more comfortable with myself during the year. I’ve really started to appreciate a lot of things that I didn’t before. In many cases, those things are simple things that I like. And it really is simple. It bring me joy, I appreciate it. Those things are as simple as my social networking routines, my TV watching habits, or even the podcasts that I listen to. But, I also really do appreciate the relationships that I have. I’ve made a few new friends during the year, and I’m grateful for that.

In an early 2021 blog entry, I mentioned that there may be an “Easter Egg” hidden throughout all of my 2021 entries. I was able to pull that off. I’m not going to reveal what that is yet. There was one very specific thing that all of the entries has in common. I will offer the old-school Marvel Comics No-Prize to whoever figures it out.

My New Year’s Resolution is ALWAYS the same. It’s always “I want to make it better.” I want my 2022 to be better than my 2021. It’s simple, it’s to the point, it’s achievable. But, I think it’ll require a bit more effort than I put forth in 2021. I hope to be able to things during the year. I hope that the Pandemic ends. I want to not have to worry about that any more.

But, to answer the question that I asked at the beginning of this entry, “am I better off than I was one year ago?” Honestly, yes. I really think that I am. I hope that I’m able to say the same thing again next year.

A Kind of Anguish I Don’t Need…

As sarcastic and cynical as I can be, I really do take mental health seriously. It’s taken me a long time to understand it. It wouldn’t be accurate of me to say “fully understand it” because I don’t fully understand it, and I also know that I may never fully understand it. And while not understanding something can sometimes, or let’s face it, often cause me significant anxiety, in this case, I’m okay with not fully understanding things.

Just like it’s taken me a long time to understand things about my mental health, it’s also taken me just as long to arrive at a place where I’m content. This is where I would usually start to doubt all of what I’m saying here and question if me being content is really me being complacent, but at this very moment, I think it’s truly content. I truly do enjoy a lot of things in ways that I haven’t always been able to. I know that what I’m writing today may be repeating a lot of what I’ve said in other entries, but it’s stuff that needs to be repeated and it’s stuff that needs to be said within the context of this entry.

For much of my life, my interests were things that were mocked, belittled, insulted, and trashed by many. Classmates, co-workers, family members. People from all of those groups would find ways to pick apart things that I like. It caused me to be ashamed to like what I liked. It caused me to not want to talk about the things that I liked. It caused me to be afraid to discuss the things that I liked. And if you think that doesn’t plunge someone into the depths of depression, you’re quite wrong.

I’m so lucky now that I have outlets for myself. I’ve found friends that understand and share my interests. I belong to groups on various Social Media platforms that help me cultivate and enjoy my interests. It’s taken me a long time to find all of this and to be comfortable, but it happened.

I like older TV shows. I like old Hollywood stories. I like the larger than life personalities of TV commentators from the 1970s and 1980s. I like Professional Wrestling. I like Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, and other science fiction franchises. I like pretty specific musical acts that are usually not within the mainstream view. I have positive outlets to discuss all of my interests now. I certainly did not have that when I was younger.

Now I know what while I’m in such a good place at the moment, it could change at any time. My depression could be triggered very easily. I’m aware of that. Just look at my entries from month to month. My opinion of myself varies quite a bit from month to month. Hell, it sometimes varies week to week, day to day, minute to minute. But, right now, at this very moment, I like where I am. I’m not looking for my usual doubts to surface.

Ironically, one of the things that inspired this particular entry is a video that I just saw. This video had a few Professional Wrestlers sharing some of their own stories of their battles with Mental Health. I was so proud of them for sharing their stories. It’s so important for everyone to be able to find a way to properly, and positively express themselves. This is how I choose to express myself. It works for me.

I try my best to use Social Media in a positive way. I’ll use Twitter to express a random thought that popped into my head. I’ll vent a little bit on there. I’ll use other forums to attempt to spark a conversation about something of interest to me. Recently, I watched a pretty funny movie from the 1970s for the first time. I posted about it in a group and I just sat back and watched all of the replies. Something as simple as that is so good for someone like me. A simple validation like that can go A LONG way.

As we’re now closing in on two years since the COVID-19 Pandemic started and we had to deal with lockdowns and more isolation than some people were used to, I’ve been able to put a lot of things into perspective with it. My Mental Health issues are well known to my friends. I DO talk about them. I NEED to talk about them. And many of them reached out to me just to check on me when this was all starting last year. My appreciation for that is something that I can’t really put into words beyond saying that I can’t put it into words. But, when I told my friends that I was THRIVING during the Pandemic, I wasn’t joking.

I’ve talked about my social anxieties many times in these entries. Because there was not much available to do, my social anxieties were basically gone. I’m well aware that they weren’t destroyed and will return, but they were gone for a long time. I was very calm during the worst of the Pandemic time. I was able to work on me. I was able to find new appreciation for the simple things that I enjoy and that’s really when I figured out how good I have it, as long as I don’t let the negative voices get to me. And in this case, I’m talking about outside voices and not the voices in my head that cause me so much doubt. Although, the voices in my head are usually just repeating things that other people have said and I’ve come to believe/doubt about myself. I’ll probably write about that at some point (again).

Over the past few months, I’ve been social again. I’ve attended baseball games, concerts, Professional Wrestling shows. I’ve gone to see a few movies in theaters. I’ve watched A LOT of movies at my house. I’ve listened to podcasts. I’ve listened to a lot of albums. I’ve read some books. I’ve been going to the gym regularly. I’m doing things that I enjoy.

I know that my overall good mood can change instantly. This isn’t my doubt talking here. It’s just the reality of how things are. But, I also know that there’s a lot of things that I can do to get back to where I am right now. I have outlets. I have people that I can turn to. I have places that I can go (physical and virtual). And, you have those outlets too. There’s always some person that can help if you ask. There’s not shame in asking. You don’t need to specially say “I need help.” Sometimes just saying “I’m not doing well” or “I’m a bad place” can spark the conversation that you need to start the process.

I’ve written blog entries about my anxieties that cause my anxieties to spike as I’m writing them. This one is one that is actually making me smile as I’m writing it. It’s because of all that’s good right now, and also because I know that if I had written the one that I was planning to write, my anxieties would be through the roof. Maybe I’ll get around to that one at some point.

I know this entry is getting to be a bit long, so I’m going to wrap it up. I’m not finishing this one just because it’s getting too long, but I think it’s almost too much of recap of events and I always save that for my December entries. I need to save some material for that. And when I write that one, I really do hope that my mood is just as good as it is now. If I may indulge my cynicism and my doubts for just a moment, there’s still a long time between now and the end of next month. A LOT can happen between now and then.

The distant smile, banished denial, no more denial.

This entry was inspired by a few tragic stories that I’ve recently heard about. Some were about people that I personally knew and some that I didn’t know personally. But, they all got me thinking about how awful people can be to others and how easily that awful behavior can have devastating outcomes.

One of those stories was about someone that I knew that had been sexually abused as child. The person making that accusation also named the abuser in a post on social media. I started thinking about those two and what I remembered about their childhoods and their families. It brought up a lot of thoughts.

The first thing that I thought about was the alleged victim. He grew up in a troubled household. It wouldn’t be described as healthy for anyone. Then I thought about the alleged abuser. I didn’t know him personally, but I knew others in his family. I knew one member of his family pretty well. He was the first person that I knew to utter racial slurs. He was also the first person to ever “beat me up.” I’ve heard other stories about the abuser’s family too. I don’t know how true they are, but there’s enough stories.

What is my point about bringing up the home lives of the people in question? Well, very often, children of mentally and verbally abusive parents will bully other children. It’s an ego boost. They make themselves feel better by making others feel worse. Unfortunately, it’s a very common situation. And while I do feel some sympathy for the situation that the bullies came from, it doesn’t excuse anything.

As a kid in high school that was starting to get into heavy metal music, liked comic books, liked Professional Wrestling, liked science fiction, had long hair, and wore glasses, I was a big time target for bullies. Every single interest that I just mentioned had been mentioned in some sort of verbal (and sometimes physical) attack on me. Finding people that I was comfortable with that shared my interests was not easy for me. I was the quiet kid in the back of the room that sat there because I didn’t want my back to anyone. I didn’t trust people enough not to keep my eyes on all of them.

I probably had/have an undiagnosed attention deficit disorder. I often drifted into my own world because of my lack of ability to fit in. I don’t know if I felt a pressure to fit in or if I just looked forward to getting out of school to attempt to return to my own world. But, as bad as I had it, some people have it so much worse.

Nowadays, I often hear people say that kids needs in-person socialization to thrive. I think there’s some level of truth there, but I also think that in-person is most definitely not the be-all, end-all. One of the best things to ever happen to me was easily online chat rooms and social media. From my love of Professional Wrestling to my love of obscure Hollywood references, I have forums to discuss them with likeminded people from all over. I don’t personally know them, but it doesn’t matter. Our common interests are enough of a bond. There’s one particular group that I belong to online that I can’t wait to post in after I watch an older movie. I look forward to the opinions, reviews, and even criticism of that movie that I might see in that group. There’s never a malice. It’s just a good natured discussion. I didn’t have access to something like that in high school. I didn’t have that comfort zone. I didn’t have a place to go.

People should not be made to feel ashamed to be who they are. People should not be made to be afraid to like what they like. People should not be made to hide who they are. But, because of bullies, they often are ashamed, they often after afraid, and they often do hide. It’s not just peers that bully them thought. It’s parents, teachers, siblings, teammates, TV personalities. Bullying can come from anywhere. It has to stop.

This entry was partially inspired by a documentary that I recently watched about a Professional Wrestler that took his own life. He was gay, and did all that he could to hide it. He was made to be ashamed of who he was. I cannot imagine that struggle. in a world of alpha males, he always felt less than. He couldn’t let anyone know who he really was. He was afraid of the abuse that he may be subjected to. I was just into things that weren’t considered cool and mocked for that.

Being made to feel lesser than at all times can drive people to do drastic things. I can cause people to believe that they’re not worth anything. It can cause people to want their suffering to end and sometimes they only way that they know how to end the suffering is to end their lives. It’s a horribly sad thing any time that it happens. But it’s beyond preventable. WE CAN PREVENT this cycle from continuing. WE just have to be better.

I have never had any active thoughts in my head about hurting myself in any way, but I have had the “what if I wasn’t here” thought. Luckily for me, those thoughts were fleeting, never prominent, and led to any desire to do anything bad. It’s been a long time since I’ve had any thought like that at all. I’m in a comfortable place now. I think I’m where I should be now. It may not be where I thought I would be or could be, but where I am is good. I don’t want it to change, even though I know it can, very easily.

Part of what people with mental illness deal with is the constant worry that everything can crumble around them. And that can happen without warning, without a lot of prompting, and it can be very difficult to deal with. That’s why I urge anyone that reads this to do their part to be kinder to each other. Be on the lookout for friends that in trouble. Do something to let your friends know that you’re there for them. Warning signs may be hard to see sometimes. But, if you see anything that you think is a cry for help, or an attention seeking thing, pay attention to it. Do not dismiss what could be the last thing that you see from that person. Be there. If we just cared a bit more, if we were a bit kinder to “different” people, the world would be a much better place for all of it. It’s not that difficult of a path to take, and it’s much better than the alternatives.

Life is All the Pain We Endeavor.

We all deal with our own personal issues. Some of us deal with things better than others do. We all deal with our issues in a different way. Any comment that you make to someone may not get the same reaction if you make the same comment to someone else. No two experiences are ever exactly the same, no matter how similar they are. These are things that we all need to realize.

A few years ago, I was with some friends for a small gathering at their place. I don’t remember how we started discussing various mental health topics, but we did. Two of us, in particular, were going back and forth describing various things that have been said, or done, to us. It was almost a game of one-upmanship as we were trying to see who really had it worse. She and I could “go there” in our discussion because (I think it’s safe to say that) we’re comfortable with our individual stories to discuss them in that manner and have a bit of humor about them. However, some of the people in the room with us couldn’t believe what they were hearing.

But, while that one friend and I could do that, I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, that not everyone else handles things remotely similarly. I have definitely made comments to people that seemed innocent or humorous enough to me, to others and had incredibly bad reactions. I’ve apologized for such things when necessary. I’m not proud of offending anyone that I consider a friend, but I do look back at those experiences as learning experiences and I’m glad that they happened, for the sake of my own personal growth.

Even though the friend that I talked about earlier and I were able to compare our experiences and pretty much joke about them, that doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to compare your situation to others. I know that, by many definitions, a lot of people have had more more difficult lives and experiences than I have. That doesn’t mean that my own personal story is easy. It just makes it different from theirs. And from my own experiences, I would like to think that I’ve gained some perspective on life and from that perspective, I’m able to know (and maybe sometimes believe) how bad I haven’t had it. But, again, that doesn’t mean it’s always been good.

Just telling someone that something that’s been said to you makes you uncomfortable may not be enough though. I can tell you from my own personal experiences that I’ve done that. I’ve told someone that what they’ve said to me was cruel or mean and sometimes it’s been resolved. But, there’s also been times when I’ve been told “you should be glad that I didn’t tell you what I really think” or “that’s just the start of it.” It does wonders for someone’s already frail self-esteem when you’re being belittled and the person doing it is letting you know that they’re holding back on their real opinions. It’s even better when it’s a family member and you’re not in a position to break away from that scenario. It’s also better when that scenario repeats… often.

As I’ve looked back at some of the personal relationships that I’ve had, I do look at a lot of them differently than I did before. I may think about a particular situation where something was said or done and how I may not have realized it at the time, but it was pretty damaging to my ego. It could be something as simple being in a conversation with someone from my past and her asking me a question about someone that we both know. In my reply I said that he was a Professional Wrestler and I started mentioning specific things that I’ve seen him do, only to be told “yeah, I don’t care about wrestling.” To some of you, that comment is not a big deal. But, to others, it’s diminishing someone’s personal interests. Why something as seemingly simple as this matters is that it was part of a repeating behavior of comments and antics that belittled me. I just didn’t do anything about it, because, as I’ve noticed, I’m really too used to it happening to me.

The scenario that I just mentioned really goes back to the stuff that I talked about in my most recent entry. For so much of my life, I’ve always felt that the things that I like weren’t good enough and the fact that people who were close to me (often) let me know about it gave me (a few) complexes about publicly enjoying them. I really hope that I haven’t done anything similar to anyone. I know a lot of people that like many of the same things that I like. But, I don’t say “that’s stupid” when they bring up something that I don’t like. But, I also put serious effort into not making people feel the same pain that I’ve felt.

In the past few years, I’ve heard some stories about former classmates of mine that used to bully me (and others) a bit. I’ve heard about their home life during those days. A common theme there is emotional, mental, and (sometimes) physical abuse from parents and siblings. The kids that were the bullies were often bullied at home. How they dealt with it was to lash out other, seemingly easy, targets. I was often that target. I don’t want my anxiety levels to spike right now, so I’m not going to attempt to remember many specific incidents. But, of course, as I’m writing this, a few more things came to my mind.

One of the things about myself that I’ve never really been able to be completely sure about is if I really do enjoy the solitude that I often have or is it just that I’m comfortable in it. Is my comfort a defense or is it a true comfort? Am I by myself because I truly enjoy it or am I by myself to avoid further anguish? I have a strange dichotomous social life in which I actually do enjoy my friends and doing things, but I also really enjoy being by myself and doing nothing. I ponder reasons for this often and I may try to dig deeper into it in a future entry.

And while on the subject of future entries, I’m going to wrap this one up because I think if I keep going, I’m going to drift even further from the original concept that I have. And while I know that they say that time may heal all wounds, how long do those wounds need to stay open? Sometimes they do close, but something can very easily open them. In my case, I don’t know if I’m looking to heal my wounds or just live with them. I know that my yearning for a change will eventually lead me onward.

The Sharpest Point is Aimed at You.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to get home from school so I could watch weekday afternoon cartoons. GI Joe, Transformers, He-Man and the Master of the Universe, and Voltron were some of the ones that I looked forward to the most. Every day, I would sit in front of the TV in the living room and I would watch those shows. And very often, my mother would tell me how bad the animation was. She would tell me how it wasn’t nearly as good as the cartoons that she watched. This wasn’t a once or twice thing, it was very often.

I would watch Professional Wrestling shows on the weekends. I would read Star Wars and GI Joe comic books too. And since we spent many weekends cleaning out my grandparents’ house in the Bronx, much of my comic book reading was spent in a tree in the backyard there. Because those books were monthly ones, I would read the same issues for weeks at a time. And very often, my mother would tell me how much of a waste of time it was for me to read them.

When I started finding my own musical tastes in my teens, I would do what most teens do and play songs at very loud volumes. At this point, the bands that I was listening to weren’t as far from the mainstream as stuff that I listen to now. And no matter how popular a band was, how many Grammys they may have won, and no matter how much acclaim they may have received, I would be told that they weren’t as good as the bands that my mother listened to.

I was often told of the faults of all of my friends. Any girl that I was dating wasn’t any good. I wouldn’t want to make plans with anyone because I would hear about how much I was wasting my time with whomever I was attempting to make the plans with. I would find ways to not talk about my plans or just not make them. If I did make plans and no talk about them, I would be accused of “sneaking around” and lying.

While I was in school, my classmates, and even a few teachers (well, one in particular) would make fun of my interests. Star Wars, Professional Wrestling, Heavy Metal Music. Enjoying these things were often easy sources of ridicule by the “popular kids.”

I didn’t have a “safe space” to enjoy myself without judgment. I didn’t have a place to go where I felt comfortable. If was bullied in school (which was frequent), I would go to my house and not want to talk about it. I would go to my bedroom, which was the same room that I was sent to by my parents as a punishment. You know, the old “go to your room” thing. So, I’m my bedroom, the punishment room, and I’m watching inferior cartoons or listening to inferior music.

It’s very easy to feel like you’re “less than” when you’re constantly told that you are, and especially when it’s in various aspects of your life.

Cartoons, Wrestling, Comic Books, and Music have all been very important to me at one point or another in my life. And at various points in my life, I’ve been mocked for liking the things that I like. It’s not easy to dismiss the mocking or the taunts when they’re consistent. It’s not easy to dismiss them when they’re coming from parents, teachers, or other authority like figures. In reality, it’s a lot easier to have their words become permanently part of your thoughts, to the point where they’re subconscious thoughts.

Over the past few years as much of the stuff that I liked in the 1980s has become popular again, I would get excited when I found out something like that a DVD box set of the old Voltron cartoon was being released. I would make sure to buy it for myself, but there was always a voice in my head telling me that it wasn’t any good and that I was wasting my time and money with it.

I think part of what made me think about some of this recently is the COVID-19 Pandemic. In a previous entry, I talked about how I spent much of 2020 in my old comfort zone. But, my comfort zone also includes a lot of baggage. And there’s definitely a lot of baggage.

I’m sure that some people wonder how and why a 45 year old is worried about what people said to him 35 years and longer ago, but it’s because it’s all engrained in my psyche and my personality. I’m often afraid to like what I like. I know that the stigma attached to many of my interests has dissipated in recent years, and I have found people to share my interests with, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy for me.

I really do have a difficult time enjoying things to the fullest due what I’ve discussed here. It’s almost as if a ceiling was placed on my enjoyment levels. I don’t know if I’m capable of breaking through that ceiling and enjoying anything at 100%. There’s always something telling me that I’m doing is wrong, even if it’s not. That voice is always there. And, it’s not just one voice. It’s many.

To be completely honest, I’m not very comfortable talking about some of the stuff that I’ve said in this entry, but I’m going to publish it anyway. I think that I NEED to. I’ve always felt that if I put some of my stories out into the world, it’s very helpful to me. “Hiding behind a computer” and a screen name is good for me. It allows me to maintain my Mask of Sanity a bit. My anxiety levels have risen a little bit since I’ve started this paragraph. This is usually the part where I would scrap this entry and start a new one. But, the voices that are telling me not to publish this one are not going to win this battle. I’m scratching the surface of some stuff here and I think it’s time for me to dig a little deeper as I search for the elusive cure to my own concerns and worries.

I Become the One You Haven’t Seen For Years.

I always write an entry at the end of each year where I look back and ask myself the same question that I asked myself one year earlier. “Am I better off than I was one year ago?” 2020 has been a weird year. It’s been like nothing that we’ve ever experienced and I hope that none of us have to experience anything like it again. The COVID-19 Pandemic that hit us this year changed so much about how we go about our daily lives. I will usually look at my year-end entry from the year before to make comparisons. I want to remind myself of where I mentally was when I wrote whatever I wrote in the previous year. I want to know what I thought I may struggle with. I want to know what my goals were. I want to be able to accurately gauge my personal progress. But, in a year when I wasn’t able to do much, there’s a few things that I can’t compare. I also can’t get upset about it.

Because of the Pandemic, my social life pretty much came to a screeching halt in March. There were no concerts, no sporting events, no BBQs, and no parties. I have barely seen anybody on a social level, in any capacity since this started. I attended a concert (Mr. Bungle) on February 11th and I saw a comedy show (Daniel Sloss) a few days later. Since then, I haven’t done anything in any type of group setting. This is completely not like any year that I’ve had in recent memory. Concerts are what I do. I usually attend many shows in any given year, and I had some plans for a few in 2020. I had some road trips planned. None of that happened.

I was hoping to compete in more 5K races than I had done in previous years. I was looking to add one or two that I had never done before, but again, the Pandemic happened. I figured that training for the races would allow me to drop the extra weight that my doctor had recommended that I lose when I saw her in January. However, when the races started getting canceled, I pretty much stopped training and I ended up gaining weight. I am glad to say that I’m basically back to where I started and I’m making sure to do my DDP Yoga workouts daily. I’ve recently started doing some more intense and longer ones. And just like every single year-end entry that I’ve ever written since I’ve started doing DDP Yoga, I still end the year not being able to do the Black Crow pose. However, the last time that it came up during a session, I was closer than I’ve ever been before. Maybe it’ll finally happen in 2021.

I spend A LOT of time in my entries and social media talking about Mental Health. I know that 2020 has been very difficult for a lot of people. I ALMOST feel bad saying this, but my mental health is great. Social anxiety is a big thing for me. I’m not comfortable in group settings. Regardless of how often you may see at a party or with a few people, I can assure you that it’s not easy for me to be there. However, that really hasn’t been an issue for me for much of the year. All joking aside, I feel great. My social anxieties are more calm than I can think of at any point since I’ve become aware of them. However, I do fear that my re-integration to society could be difficult for me when things calm down and we can get back to “normal.” But, I’ll slowly cross that bridge when we get to it.

Another bright side to doing practically nothing in 2020 is that my bank account is doing better than ever. I am an “essential” employee. I didn’t lose a cent of pay during the year. I understand that not everyone that I know can say the same. I am beyond grateful that I have a job that made sure the employees are taken care of during this unprecedented time. There’s been so many points in my life where I was so worried about money. I would have to cancel plans with friends because I couldn’t afford to keep them. That isn’t a problem now. It hasn’t been for a while. It’s an amazing difference. There’s been a few times during the year where I had to replace something that broke or pay for something that would previously have financially ruined me. It’s not a concern for me right now. I have the financial “safety net” that I’ve never had before. I’m actually almost confused by the level of comfort that I have here. But, I’m not going to let it be a bad thing.

Much like the Black Crow Pose not being achieved in 2020, I also didn’t achieve my goal of reading 12 books in the year. Both of these things seem to be common issues in my year-end entry. But, as I said earlier, I got close to the Black Crow. But, I didn’t read nearly as much as I would liked. I spent more time watching old TV and movies than reading. I will try to make the 12 books (or more) goal happen in 2021.

I noticed that one of the things that I wrote in my 2019 end of year entry was that I had a hard time writing entries in 2019 because I had a good year and I felt that I didn’t have much to talk about. I had the same problem in 2020. And as weird as 2020 was, I don’t have much to complain about. I do know a few people that got sick with COVID, but I didn’t lose anyone to it. I’m lucky there. Too many people can’t say the same thing.

My New Year’s Resolution is ALWAYS the same. It’s always “I want to make it better.” I want my 2021 to be better than my 2020. But, in addition to my own personal efforts to improve things for myself in 2021, it’s my wish that everyone else does their part to get through the Pandemic, so we can put in behind us. I really do hope that the entry that I write on this day in 2021 will have a little bit more to talk about. But, as I wrap this up, I’m very glad that I have enough perspective to know just how good I have it right now. By no means is this how I thought my year would be, but I also cannot complain about it. I’m healthy. My friends are healthy. I may not see my friends in person, but I have plenty of ways to communicate with them, and I do. 2020 was weird for me, but it wasn’t bad for me.

But, to answer the question that I asked at the beginning of this entry, “am I better off than I was one year ago?” Honestly, yes. I really think that I am. I hope that I’m able to say the same thing again next year.