Ask Your Doctor if a Near-Death Experience is Right For You

I’ve spent many years of my life plagued with anxiety, and as people with mental illnesses know all too well, these things do not tend to get better with age. If you work really hard at trying to fix yourself, get the right medications, and the right therapy, you may be able to slow it down, but it is certainly uncommon for a person’s mental health issues to improve dramatically. It’s even more rare for that to be a lasting improvement.

Nevertheless, I have found the secret to ease my anxiety, and all it took was nearly dying. No, this is not an exaggeration, though part of me certainly wishes it was. What I am about to say is completely true. Approximately three weeks ago, I had a legitimate near-death experience.

Odd for someone who rarely leaves the house to have a near-death experience, and stranger still for it to be self-induced. You see, my youngest brother Chris returned to Maine for a while after living in Texas for close to a decade (That in itself is odd, because 10 years went by so quickly!). He’s always been the more adventurous type, whereas my risk-taking days were left well behind when I was no longer a teenager (says the guy who got hooked on vicodin for years in his mid-twenties).

That aside, Chris is back home for a while, so we’ve been going out on adventures, something I’ve desperately needed. It would seem I didn’t realize how badly I needed these adventures even though I went whitewater kayaking in the literal ice-water of the Cathance River back in March… oh, did I mention I did it solo without any of the proper gear and nearly got hypothermia? That cold water really just sucks the energy out of you, and it happens so fast. Gives you an appreciation for how dangerous it really is.

Well, after that mishap, I ensured my subsequent adventures were with a buddy. In the case of nearly drowning, we went white-water kayaking up at The Forks. When I say we, this includes Chris and his friend Mary, who I had only just met the day of. I had some initial concerns, because I’m not a strong swimmer, I don’t know many women who are into your more extreme activities like whitewater, and I knew damn well if anything went wrong, I would be too busy saving myself to help her in any useful way. If anything, it was more likely she would have to rescue me, though to be fair, I wouldn’t have minded. That is oddly appealing to me.

When we got to the water, there was a memorial for a 14 year old who presumably drowned in that water. Seeing that memorial for Nolan, along with the body boards for emergency rescue should have caused a little bit of hesitation. I saw it, my nerves went a bit crazy, but I remembered I was with an experienced adventurer. Even if something did go wrong, Chris was prepared. We’d be able to count on him if shit really hit the fan.

Nolan Memorial

And indeed, there was shit all over the fan. At 9,000 cubic feet per minute, the water was quite intense. We had watched YouTube videos of similar conditions ahead of time, but no matter how many GoPro videos are out there, nothing holds a candle to the real thing. Even so, we held our own… for a bit.

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I Hate Pretending to be Happy

“Come on. Smile. It’s not that bad.”

This is the moment I imagine myself stabbing that person in the face. You know how women don’t like being told by men that they should smile? Well, this has some similarity to that, even if the reasoning behind the request is a little different. Sure, it’s not “You’d be prettier if you smiled.” Instead, it’s “You’d be happier if you would just smile more.” No I wouldn’t, you hapless fuckwit. You’d be happier, but I most certainly wouldn’t, and like the previously mentioned women, I was not put on this planet to make you happy.

Why should others dictate what I do with my body? Why should I fake a smile just to please you? I’m not some circus monkey. Every fake smile takes a bit more of my soul away. I’m sure people who are naturally happy or even just content do not understand this, but there is truth to what I say. Faking emotions is absolutely draining. I hate pretending to be happy.

I can’t help but wonder if part of the reason there are so many unhappy people in this world is because of the notion, especially in wealthy nations, that everyone should automatically be happy. Sure, I am richer than perhaps 90% of the people on this planet. I was lucky enough to be born in a place where that isn’t hard to make happen. I was lucky enough to be born with a skin color that keeps me from being immediately dismissed by the bulk of society. I am well aware of just how lucky I am.

But knowing this isn’t enough to make me happy. Like many, I’ve been hurt. I’ve been shunned. I’ve been spat upon, both figuratively and literally. Yes, I have many advantages, but all that means is I haven’t been pushed to the point of violence yet. Is it any wonder those without my privileges might turn to violence just to get the rest of the world to leave them the fuck alone?

It takes effort to be happy. No matter the privileges you have grown up with, happiness is not some magical thing. Hell, I’d settle for just being content. Content would be nice. I’m not saying I don’t have my happy moments from time to time, but when melancholy makes up a large portion of your life, those happy moments aren’t enough.

With all the challenges that come from the issues I have, the biggest is when the rest of the world puts pressure on me simply for not being happy. I’ve heard the following far too many times:

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I’m Not Going to Praise You for How You’re Supposed to Be!

switzerland_donkey

There is always at least one person who has to come in and say this when someone is praised for doing a decent thing. Sure, the decent thing should be the societal standard, but if that were true, nobody would ever notice it to begin with. The fact that people are praising a behavior means it’s what people want to see more of in the world. Why should we stop doing that?

I suspect the average person is jealous when someone who is doing the same things they are is getting praise when they themselves are not being noticed. Of course that stinks. You feel envy. You feel left out. You feel unseen. You feel ignored. It’s reasonable to be upset about this. I think most anyone would be. But it’s not reasonable to become a shithead because of it.

Instead of saying those people shouldn’t be praised, why don’t we focus the attention on the other people who do good things and aren’t being praised for it? If a person picks up a piece of litter and throws it in a bin, shouldn’t we thank them or praise them in some way? Yes, picking it up is what you’re supposed to do. Hell, the person who left it there in the first place didn’t do what they were supposed to do. For all we know, though, it fell out of their pocket or they thought they got it into the bin and just barely missed. These things happen, yet someone comes behind to pick it up and we would frown upon the thought of thanking them for an action that society pretty much says they should do?

This really goes for anything, in my view. Yes, it may seem silly when someone praises themselves for not robbing banks, not killing people, not raping people, etc. Maybe for those people, simply exhibiting the base level of social decency is a challenge for them. Maybe deep down they really are terrible people who want to be better, so they put in great efforts to barely be ordinary. Knowing first-hand how dark a human mind can get, I most certainly think a person should be praised for being decent, especially if we want more people in this world to be just that.

Maybe, just maybe, we can stop being negative envious assholes because an ordinary person gets praised for ordinary actions. I myself would be pleased if every single person on the planet was ordinary at the minimum. Were that the case, this would be a much better world. People don’t have to be extraordinary to make the world better, and we should never punish them with the bullshit attitude of “that’s what you’re supposed to do!” Good. They’re doing what they’re supposed to do. Let’s thank them, compliment them, or praise them so they keep doing what they’re supposed to do.

After all, if you always do what you’re supposed to do, never hear any praise for it, and get shit on from time to time for it, where exactly is the motivation to be decent? It’s real easy to become an asshole in an environment like that. Assholes aren’t born. They’re created by the people around them. So stop creating more assholes because you feel the need to be an asshole yourself. Be better. Be mediocre. Do what you’re supposed to do. Because there’s no fucking reason to be on this planet if you’re not going to try to be better and help others to do the same.

Be better, Asshole.

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Who am I?

candle

I’m not certain when it happened, and I’m not sure how, but somewhere in the last year or two, I have managed to lose my identity. I really don’t know who I am. I made an effort today to walk around a bit, and since the weather was garbage, I did it at Lowe’s. I’m not entirely sure it was best to go back to a place I worked for five years, because it just reminded me of the person I was then. I was irresponsible, angry, difficult, addicted to painkillers, and quite frankly a liability to the company, to my family, and to my friends.

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The Rule of Two

 

no

Ah, social interaction. It’s certainly difficult at times if not downright impossible, but it’s a skill we must all learn. I was rather socially retarded for quite some time, for reasons I will not get into in great depth today. I had suffered some traumas that caused me to put up a shield. I didn’t pay attention to social cues, and for a while I may have been barely capable of trying. It didn’t occur to me until my mid-twenties that I was well behind my peers in basic everyday social skills. I wanted to be a better person, so I chose to work on those skills.

One of the challenging ones was determining if a person actually meant ‘no’ when they said it. I know, it sounds simple. No means no, right? Except, it doesn’t always. In some cultures, it is customary to refuse an offer the first time in order to be seen as polite. Sometimes people may say no the first time because they are awkward, uncomfortable, nervous, or any other number of reasons. I know of many times in my life where my mouth said no but my stupid brain was screaming “YES! THIS IS SOMETHING I WANT!”

In my case, many of my actions are rooted in guilt. I will often say no to something because saying yes may make me feel guilty, especially if saying yes benefits me in some way. Maybe someone is offering me something to eat, I’m hungry, but I say no because I don’t like eating in front of most people. That’s a thing that comes with being a fat person with anxiety. Every bite feels like judgment. Doesn’t matter if you’re eating something healthy in a normal quantity. The judgment is there.

So, we will often say no to things we want, and many times we will be sad because we didn’t speak up. We weren’t brave enough to say yes, or we were being polite because we didn’t want to impose. This is a truth for many.

This is why I always make sure to make use of the Rule of Two. If a person says no to a request, an offer, or any other social choice I am a part of, I will give them another opportunity to refuse. Some may see this as being pushy, and if you’re on a sales floor or in the bedroom, it’s easy to see why it would be construed that way. Much of the time, though, a person’s true feelings will come out the second time. “Well, okay, I guess I could go for a slice of pie, thank you.”

I do want to emphasize that point about the bedroom, though. That is a place where being asked something a second time after being told no can be frustrating and turn an otherwise normal disagreement into something of bitterness, anger, or pain (and rightfully so). Perhaps use caution in that area and only utilize The Rule of Two if it’s with someone you are already close with. Even then, it’s a risk, so maybe play it safe and take the ‘no’ as the truth, even if it may not be. Better to be safe than sorry.

I have found the majority of the time, though, The Rule of Two is a useful rule to follow. In some delicate situations it may lead to annoyance, but for the most part it seems a reasonable rule, and in my experience it rarely causes any real problems.

Would you mind sharing this article with a friend? No? Are you certain? Okay. I respect your choice. Thank you for your time.

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15 Years Since I Dared…

Naomi Barton WIP 1

I was not fond of the arts when I was younger. It wasn’t something that came naturally to me, and like many young people, that discouraged me from pursuing it further. On top of that, I didn’t want to end up being that particular stereotype, something that’s pretty much guaranteed to happen in high school.

Around the time I was 19 or 20 (15+ years ago), I decided to try drawing. I was less frustrated in not being good at it, because I didn’t show it to anyone. However, it didn’t hold my interest, in part because I didn’t have the patience to see it through much of the time.

Now I am older. I find peace in creating things. It is good for my mind and helps ease stress. So, I trolled through the people I followed on Twitter looking for a good person to draw. I couldn’t do odd perspectives, as the skill just isn’t there yet, but then I found someone who was looking right at the camera. So, I began.

I’ve learned a few things. Shading with pencil is a little easier for me than it used to be. I am thankful for that. However, there are still many imperfections I wish to improve upon. The biggest surprise was being unable to draw the bird that’s on the subject’s shoulder. I just couldn’t get it remotely right to save my life. So, I left it out.

I am not sure what my next drawing will be or when I will do it, but I have invested in more than just a simple mechanical pencil, so I should be able to take the next one a few steps further. If nothing else, it is a peaceful hobby which I hope I don’t give up on. As you can see, I will be sharing my progress here, in hopes it helps keep me motivated.

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Christmas Presents!!!

metal dice

Time for a Christmas lottery! There will be a total of three Christmas presents given out to my Twitter friends. If you’re interested in taking part in the lottery, here are the rules:

  • DM me on Twitter with the message “Christmas Lottery!” (@allenstenhaus)
  • Then, you will need to pick your numbers. I will be using D&D dice to determine the winners, so you will need to pick six numbers corresponding with the dice and send them to me in that DM. For those unfamiliar, please choose your numbers accordingly
    • 1d4 – Any number, 1 through 4
    • 1d6 – Any number, 1 through 6
    • 1d8 – Any number, 1 through 8
    • 1d10 – Any number, 1 through 10
    • 1d12 – Any number, 1 through 12
    • 1d20 – Any number, 1 through 20
  • The drawing closes on November 19th

When the drawing closes, I’ll roll the dice. Whoever gets the most numbers wins!

If you are one of the winners, I will reach out to you for mailing information as well as a few questions to try to personalize your gift a little bit. I hope we all have some fun with this! =D

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