Week of 2 November, 2020

  • Biden won! This is great news not just for America, but the entire world. It’s a ray of hope for those of us who have been disillusioned the democratic process in recent years.
  • Now if only we could get rid of our own knock-off version of the Orange Man. Sadly, we have to endure until 2024 before we get a chance to vote him out.
  • In more good news, I finished the first part of Crafting Interpreters! I used Python for my implementation, which you can find here. Next step: do it all over again in Rust 🦀
  • The medication I was initially prescribed for anxiety had been working well for me until three weeks ago, when it inexplicably started giving me brain fog and putting me to sleep for most of the day. I was put a different medication last week, and this one makes me wired. Fun. Funfunfun.
  • Since I wrote my last weeknote, I’ve really gotten into Emacs. Like, really really really gotten into Emacs. Besides programming, I’m now using it to read RSS, take notes, keep a journal, manage files, and read email. I’ll maybe possibly probably write a longer post about this later.
  • Even though this has been a terrible year for musicians, a surprisingly large number of good albums were still released. My favorites so far are RTJ4, SAWAYAMA, how i’m feeling now, Saint Cloud, BOSS, and Ultra Mono. There’s still a few weeks to go before the end of the year, so I’ll probably end up expanding this list pretty soon.

Week of 27 July, 2020

  • I barely remember what I did this week. Whenever I wasn’t working, eating, or sleeping, I was playing Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked on the 3DS. The last game to hook me like this was Fire Emblem: Awakening, also on the 3DS. There’s something about RPGs on handheld devices that makes me want to pour my entire life into them. Maybe it’s because the experience is similar to reading a book — a book where you can choose your own outcomes and fall in love with the characters over a period of weeks rather than days.
  • It’s becoming clear to me that the only games I care about enough to see through to the end are story-driven RPGs, especially turn-based JRPGs. After I’m done with SMT, I’m planning to play through all the other RPGs I own until SMT V comes out next year: Yo-Kai Watch 2 (3DS), Dragon Quest 8 (3DS), Final Fantasy VII (Switch), Disgaea 4 (Switch) and Child of Light (Switch). I only have the time to play through one or two games each year so I doubt I’ll be able to finish all of these, but that won’t stop me from trying!
  • Mentally, I’ve been all over the place. I don’t feel anxious anymore, thanks to the medication, therapy, and exercise. However, the SSRIs still make me drowsy enough that some days I barely want to move from my couch. My doctor has asked me to try taking the medication at night, but it’s too early to tell if it’s making a difference.
  • I have now been writing in my Bullet Journal for a whole month. I’ve filled over sixty pages with tasks, notes, events, observations, and way too many lists. Looking back at what I’ve written, I’ve found that my perception of time is hilariously skewed. Things I could have sworn happened two or three months ago actually only happened two weeks ago. Conversely, things that happened at the start of the month feel like they happened just yesterday.
  • Incidentally, I only realized today that August has thirty-one days and not thirty, so I guess I need to be sent right back to Kindergarten.
  • For someone with a brain like mine, social media is a bigger health hazard than cigarettes or alcohol. I owe a large part of my professional success to being Very Online™, but I’m at a point where the negative effects it has on my mental health are far too nasty to ignore. I still check my social media a few times a week, but I rarely read anything outside of my replies or DMs, and most of my posts are jokes or pictures of my cats. Most of all, I immediately unfollow anyone who shares political posts, even if they’re a close friend.
  • I’m now part of a book club! We discussed Blake Crouch’s Recursion last week, and next up is Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s Hugo-winning This is How You Lose the Time War. I’m having a lot of fun.
  • You know what else is fun? Nintendo’s Ring Fit Adventure. It might not be as intense as working out at a gym, but it’s more than enough to get me sweating. I’m starting to feel healthy again after months of not moving my body.

Week of 13 July, 2020

  • This week was a rollercoaster. Side effects from my anxiety medication either left me feeling too drowsy or too wired. These swings became markedly less pronounced over the weekend, so I suppose things will get better as my body gets used to all the new chemicals.
  • The good news is that the medication is working! I haven’t felt this calm, stable, and clear-headed in years. That’s not to say my anxiety is “cured”. It’s still there, only duller now. I’ll only truly be able to manage it with good diet, exercise, meditation, and therapy. It’s a long road ahead.
  • Talking of exercise: I bought myself a Ring Fit Adventure to keep myself moving through these quarantimes. The first time I played it, I underestimated how intense it would be and did forty squats without realizing it. I then spent the next hour panting on the couch. The game is super addictive, which makes it easy to overdo. However, with the intensity set to a level my body can handle, I’ve really started looking forward to my workout sessions.
  • Since my brain is not on fire anymore, I can read fiction again. I read Stephen King’s Bag of Bones over the week, and started working my way through Blake Crouch’s Recursion over the weekend. It’s been a little over a year since I’ve read fiction written by a man, and reading these two books back-to-back makes me feel a little guilty about breaking my streak. But both these stories are just so much fun that I’ll let it slide. Just this once.
  • I’ve decided to stay away from politics and the news cycle for a while, until I can figure out how to engage with them without affecting my mental health. I’ve cut down on the accounts I follow on Twitter, and even started spending less time on tech forums. There’s a lot of negativity in online discussions, and it rubs off on me at a subconscious level. I’m tired of feeling angry and wound-up all the time, so I’m checking out for the moment.
  • My Twitter is now 50% cat pictures and 50% shitposting.

Week of 6 July, 2020

The anxiety medication has been hitting me hard this entire week, making me feel drowsy and tired pretty much 24/7. I feel markedly less anxious, though, so maybe this is progress?

My brain is slush, and this is just about as much as I can manage to write today. I’m hoping next week will be better, as my body gets used to the SSRI.

Week of 29 June, 2020

  • My anxiety has been making it incredibly hard for me to function normally. In the past few weeks I’ve either been a giant ball of nerves, or walking around like a zombie because of mental exhaustion.
  • It has been impossible for me to maintain focus for long enough to type coherent sentences, which is why I’ve skipped writing weeknotes for the last two weeks.
  • The good news is that I’m finally speaking to a therapist!
  • Yay!
  • On the recommendation of my therapist, I’m also speaking to a psychiatrist. They’ve put me on an SSRI for a few months. Turns out I’ve had Generalized Anxiety Disorder for pretty much my whole life, which explains a lot of things.
  • To keep better track of my moods and medication, I’ve started keeping a Bullet Journal. I’d already been using a method that was pretty close to what BuJo prescribes, but BuJo gives my notes a little more structure.
  • As my anxiety has worsened, my ability to read fiction has deteriorated. I can understand the stories just fine, but I’ve completely lost the ability to visualize things in my head. I need to take my mind’s eye to an optometrist. I’m hoping things will improve as the SSRI and therapy start to work their magic. In the meantime, I’m welcoming suggestions for non-fiction books that (a) are comforting, and (b) can be parsed and understood by this drug addled brain of mine.
  • I’m staying away from everything political for the moment. I hope one day I can be politically engaged without damaging my mental health, but for now I need to take care of myself.
  • I’ve bought myself an adult coloring book. While it doesn’t help me feel more relaxed, it does keep the anxiety spirals in check. Whenever I’m feeling agitated, I can go and color for a while until I calm down. It also keeps me away from screens, which is always a win in my book.
  • SAWAYAMA is a 10/10 album. It’s currently tied with how i’m feeling now as my second favorite album of the year, with the top spot taken by RTJ4.

Week of 8 June, 2020

  • I didn’t post a weeknote last Sunday. For the last two weeks, my mental health has been at its lowest point in almost a decade. I’m better today, but some days it gets so bad that I can barely move.
  • On my worst day, when I was walking around the house in a kind of brain fog, I couldn’t even understand the dialog in one of my favorite TV shows.
  • The good news is that I’m finally speaking to a therapist. Yay?
  • Needless to say that I haven’t been cooking very much, but I did manage to make a great paneer butter masala on one of those rare days when I felt a bit like myself. Cooking continues to be a source of joy, an unlikely outlet for creative energies, and a way to connect with my friends.
  • I’m taking a break from the Earthsea books — not because I dislike them, but because I want to step out of that world for a little while. I’ve started reading Gideon the Ninth, which is sheer insanity. In a good way. I expect to write a lot more about this book in the future.
  • I discovered a game called Children of Morta through a Steam sale. It’s quite similar to Diablo 2 in terms of gameplay. Since my brain refuses to think straight anymore, this has been a good way for me to forget about the world while mindlessly slashing through skeletons, spiders, goblins, and unnameable blobs.
  • I’ve found that if I really want to have fun, I should really only be playing one game at a time. There just isn’t enough time in the day. So, I’ve decided that I’m not going to move on from Children of Morta until I finish it or get bored.
  • RTJ4 dropped, and it’s as flawless and magnificent and sublime as I imagined it would be. Please go listen to it. Now.

Week of 4 May, 2020

  • It’s been a bad, not good, very terrible week. Anxiety has been through the roof, and many evenings have been spent crying on the couch. At times like these exercise really helps me, except …
  • … the heat in Bangalore is getting unbearable, making it hard to do any kind of physical activity. The air conditioning has been broken for a while, so I’m keeping myself cool using a dinky little cooler that only works if you sit directly in front of it. How many baths a day are too many?
  • Turning off social media felt great for a while, but a few days ago I started feeling an intense isolation from everything that was happening in the world. For now, I’ve gone back to looking at some social media some of the time. I guess if you’ve been Very Online for more than half your adult life, simply cutting the wire does more harm than good.
  • My mind is reeling from all the new ideas in The Dispossessed. The writing is dry and the characters feel like placeholders, but it’s the what if of the whole thing that’s keeping me turning the pages.
  • I’d forgotten how wholesome Parks and Recreation was, though the presence of Aziz Ansari and Louis C.K. sours the experience a bit.

Darkest Dungeon

I never thought I’d be moved to tears by a review for a video game I haven’t even played, yet here we are. Nathan Grayson’s review for Darkest Dungeon touches on issues of burnout and overwork that I’ve struggled with throughout my twenties.

Darkest Dungeon is a turn-based RPG with an interesting mechanic: as you explore dungeons and battle enemies, your characters accumulate trauma and stress caused by those encounters. Left untreated, this trauma will make them entirely useless and you will have to remove them from your roster.

From Nathan’s review:

Trauma always leaves wounds. If left untreated for too long, those wounds fester, grow, and multiply. And yet, modern living subtly encourages people to ignore them. You gotta stay busy, the career world tells us. Taking care of yourself—whether that means taking some time off, seeing a therapist, or what have you—isn’t directly productive, and you’ve already got So Much To Do. If it’s not work, it’s social or family obligations. What will friends, significant others, or co-workers think if you disappear now? That you’re lazy? That you’re crazy? And anyway, where will you find the money?

You can try playing Darkest Dungeon like any other RPG — grind grind grind, fight enemy after enemy to get more XP, go deep into dungeons to get better loot — but you’re not going to have a good time.

As I played Darkest Dungeon, I tried so hard to follow the golden rule of progress, to play like I’d play any other video game. Sure, I’d retreat from battles or dungeons occasionally, but everything had to be in the name of slow advancement. I prioritized short-term gains over long-term decision-making, and I did it almost unconsciously. Other games taught me that it’d work; they told me that heroes are defined by the progress they’re making, the XP and items they’re earning, the stories they’re exerting agency over. So I picked my hill to die on, and god damn it I was gonna climb all the way to the top, no matter what got in my way.

I kept falling down, further and further.

It has taken me (nearly) thirty years of my life to know when to stop working and take a break. I still hurt myself, ignoring signs of burnout and pushing through the pain, but I’m slowly getting better at taking care of myself.

Turns out, willing yourself into being alright isn’t the same thing as being alright. Sometimes, digging your heels in and making one last push just gets you dirty feet.

Learning to be kind to yourself takes a long time. It’s almost an act of defiance against everything that has been drilled into our heads.

Sometimes, the best way to move forward is to find a way to stand still. On some occasions, you’ve gotta take a step back to create something sustainable. You have to take care of yourself.

Am I going to play Darkest Dungeon? Maybe. Probably. At some point. After I’ve finished these other twenty games in my backlog. Meanwhile, I’ll keep reminding myself every day that it doesn’t have to be so hard.