Wednesday 22 February 2017

New Normative

My article about the playing of PC game American Truck Simulator as being quite a fun way to cope with depression is now up on a new website that I am contributing to: New Normative. New Normative is a website looking at the broader issues that gaming faces, from the problematic sides such as a lack of equality, to the more positive aspects such as when games and their communities do things in better ways. I hope to contribute many more articles to New Normative in the coming months, so have a browse and dig in to some really interesting stuff.

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Friday 17 February 2017

Realising You Are Ready To Tackle Your Oldest Enemy

Realising You Are Ready To Tackle Your Oldest Enemy

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. You need to know that for this post to make sense. It’s an anxiety disorder which brings obsessions into the mind of the sufferer (maybe “Is the door locked?” for example). These cause anxiety, which then leads to the sufferer carrying out compulsions to make the anxiety go way (checking the door is locked). The trap is that in checking that the door is locked, the sufferer embeds the obsession anxiety cycle even more deeply. That’s a simplistic view of a complex issue, but it will serve for now.

I have suffered with computer/internet-based OCD from the time that I first had the net way back in 1998. These have taken many forms but nearly all of them relate to security/maintenance fears: Is the security software I installed working, does Windows confirm that it's working, did I log out of that website, has that icon on my desktop changed or moved since I last booted, did my PC shut down or did I accidentally put it into Sleep mode? I could sit here for an hour coming up with all kinds of examples and that is no exaggeration, I’ve done it before as an exposure exercise.

To a non-sufferer, it might all seem quite baffling or even silly, and I can understand that. The thing is, an anxious mind can twist anything into an “issue”, and even if you know something is silly or not really worth worrying about, a body flooded with anxiety has a funny way of convincing you otherwise. Periods of external stress can make this even more pronounced, so you are always at the mercy of life (who isn’t), even in the midst of trying to recover.

I had a bout of PC related OCD this morning, something that thankfully has become only occasional rather than daily. There are always the little niggles but not usually the stuff that causes outright heart-pounding anxiety. This morning was somewhere in the middle on that scale, not a niggle but bad enough to make me feel drained and like I was slipping. I could feel my mind branching off into “Do I check again, do I check this too, when do I do it, do I delay it?” etc. While I took time out to rest on my bed, I came to an important realisation: I actually felt ready to eradicate this variant of OCD from my life once and for all.

In the last few years, I have found a number of techniques and approaches that actually help me shift my mental states without being avoidance-based or reassurance seeking. I won’t go into them here as this is turning into an unintended essay as it is. It’s taken twenty or so years for me to get to this point, by way of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, counselling, applying the principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Mindfulness, my own adapted version of Yoga nidra, self-compassion and other things I may be forgetting. My OCD reaches into many areas of my life, but to date I have gotten on top of my lock checking, tap tweaking, gas oven checking to name only a few. It was overcoming the little things, the almost inconsequential things, that helped me gain a momentum in living with my fears and slowly accepting that this is how things are for now, and before I knew it, I had passed through those too.

The biggest areas left to overcome are my PC/Net-based issues and issues around writing and being a freelancer. As I rested on my bed awhile ago, I realised that even after this morning’s flare up, I felt able to go the other way, to turn away from the compulsions that threatened to drag me down paths that I didn’t want to go (again) and head the other way, to overcoming all of the little niggles and rituals that make up my computer use. My god the energy that would save me! Even if it didn’t save energy, it would make one hell of a difference to my mental health and creativity. There is always a fear attached to my use of a computer, something I live with day in day out, something that I unintentionally feed with tidbits of respectful fear, rather than the compassion to bring it along with me while I work, and to let whatever happens, happen.

So that’s what this post signifies. It’s a way of putting into form something I intend to act on, to make it more concrete than a passing rush of adrenaline or a temporary mood. I want to reclaim some mental power and full productive use of my brain once more, rather than it chugging along like a computer running a 100 simultaneous anti-virus scans at once. Maybe I can get back to being myself in the process too.

Thursday 9 February 2017

Possibly Entering My Last Business Year As A Writer

I’d hoped for some kind of release after having finally written the title of a post that has been looming for about six months now. If there was a release, it was a tiny one. I just feel sad now.

The health issues I live with have made the last few years incredibly hard. To function on any kind of level as a freelance writer on top of these issues has bordered on self-abuse at times. But I’ve stuck with it and pushed myself far beyond my comfort zone on many occasions. I am trying to tell myself that, whatever happens next year, I can be proud of my efforts, but me being me, I am an expert in mental self-flaggelation: “Did you really try hard enough?” “Did you really give it your all?”. You get the picture.

One thing that I can’t choose to look at in a positive way is my lack of earnings. I’ve made losses year on year, and that doesn’t look set to change in the near future. I can’t let that carry on for too much longer, my meagre savings have already taken one hell of a battering. It’s with this in mind that I am putting a limit on how long this can carry on for, and a sensible deadline seems to be the end of the next business year (so that’s the end of March 2018).

I hope I can turn things around and I am genuinely going to try. Hopefully in a year’s time I will be writing another post saying “I can’t believe how close I came to calling it a day!” this time last year. The possibility also exists that I could be writing a post called “My final post”. Time will tell.

Fear Factory's song Expiration Date seems quite apt for my mood now. If you like a bit of metal, and even if you don't, check out the video below:

Wednesday 1 February 2017

Dark Game Review - YouTuber's Life

YouTube is quite a big thing. Big things give birth to other big things, often in the form of celebrity and money-making potential. U-Play Online's PC sim/tycoon game YouTuber's Life gives you the ups and downs of trying to make a success of yourself on YouTube, and it's quite good fun. You can read my full review over on Geek Syndicate at this link.