TagDepression

Procrastination Monkey

Hi, my name is Nathan and I am a habitual procrastinator. I spend more time wasting time than I do, doing something productive. While that’s not always bad, it does hinder my ability to thrive. This TED Talk on procrastination I just watched (instead of doing my job) explains this perfectly.

A crude drawing of a person's head. Inside of this head is a space where a man stands behind the wheel of an old sailing ship, a monkey stands next to him. The man is labeled "Rational decision-maker" and the monkey is labeled "Instant Gratification Monkey".
Actual picture of the inside of my brain.

I have been like this all my life. I spend hours doing something that feels good now, but when it comes time to do something less fun, but needed, I end up hanging out with the monkey. This comes into clear relief many times in my life. Even this morning, I have a pile of stinky dishes to take care of, but I’d rather be here, writing about procrastination. Or, perhaps it was better expressed when I was looking for a job and spent almost 8 hours watching cut scenes from Metal Gear Solid.

Procrastination exacerbates my depression. I spend a fairly significant portion of my time worrying about deadlines and responses and the fact I haven’t done something I should have, than I do on actually doing those things. I worry to the point of being sick, or end up spending frantic, stress-filled hours trying to complete a task that I could have chunked up into smaller bits. Ironically, I usually have to tell my son “not to eat the elephant all in one bite” when he panics about his workload. I appear to need the same advice.

Hello darkness, my old friend…

Procrastination vs. Grit

My wife calls her almost obsessive level of work ethic “grit”. That seems pretty accurate. She has the willpower to dig in and get things done, even if she hates them. If it needs to be done, it’s rare that she’s not holding the banner and leading the charge. I am often in awe of her power, but I seldom wish I had that much myself.

I know that I have concentration issues, with some topics. Things that don’t interest me are difficult to get traction on. Subjects like math or politics, history or social studies. If I’m not “in to it”, you’ll find it hard for me to get anything but the bare minimum done. Many of the tasks aren’t even hard. They’re just monotonous, or boring, or drudge work. I would rather spend time day dreaming than do much of that.

How to Fix it?

I’ve discussed this with my therapist a couple of times. Generally it’s a matter of getting started that makes the most difference. Just taking a few dishes out of the dishwasher, or picking up a few things around the house is enough to push the monkey off the wheel. While I may not entirely finish that task all in one attempt, at least I’ve made it easier for Future Nathan to pick it back up and have an easier time completing it.

What I wish my project timelines looked like.

Tim Urban, the man in the TED talk, also has some advice for procrastinators that I think I’ll be looking at as well. Much like depression, procrastination doesn’t seem like it’s a “curable” thing. You just have to know how to manage it for yourself.

What I’m Feeling

The world is getting a face full of COVID-19 and is not taking it well. Many places are closed or have changed their procedures. Places like Starbucks have gone to drive through only. Other places where people congregate have just closed altogether. Techy companies are moving any available workers to remote-work.

Except me. I’m here in the office. I was actually looking forward to working from home, since it’s a much more comfortable environment and I could get some stuff done. I’m a home-body, so I think I would have really enjoyed it.

Well, I’m somehow deemed “critical”. So much for that staycation.

Additionally, Animal Crossing is delayed delivery due to this stupid virus. Our anniversary trip to Disney is canceled. Our Disney cruise is also similarly canceled. My son now has to take his instruction via the web and even my goddamn weigh loss group is going to Zoom.

Work is also piling on. We have constant meetings with Microsoft regarding issues with their Outlook client. Demanding logs of all shapes and sizes be uploaded and proof, undeniable proof, is levied before they lift a finger. I also have been conscripted to develop PowerShell scripts that I’ve never done before, and for deployment to masses of users.

I feel beat down. Burnt out. Tired.

I tried to take a walk. I was interrupted for more work.

I finally got outside. It feels like a middle-finger seeing all the people out, having a good time, walking and talking to friends. Basically the opposite of what we’re supposed to be doing.

I just don’t care anymore.

Holidays

Holiday parties are difficult for me. I enjoy the season and the sentiment. The problem is that many holiday parties are with people I don’t really know. This means I’m stuck trying to make small talk or glom onto a conversation that I know something about. Usually I just end up sitting alone or “holding a table” for people.

I know this is probably some sort of social anxiety. It sucks, though. I see people around me having fun, conversing and really enjoying it. All the while I can’t stop thinking about how long I am obligated to stay and what I’d rather be doing (like writing this post. Which is what I’m doing instead of partying).

The fact that we have such a large and on-the-clock party should have me thankful for working at such a wonderful company. I am, truly. I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere better than here. The problem is me. I am not a people person. Giant parties drain my already limited interaction fuel instantly.

I should really do myself a favor and skip out in the future. I am not required to be here and honesty it just puts me on edge.

What do you think about company Christmas parties?

DDLC

Warning: The game I’m about to talk about is not for minors, people who aren’t up for handling intense themes or really bothered by suicide and self-harm.


Doki-Doki Literature Club (henceforth “DDLC”) is a “visual novel” game that appears, at first, to be another game following the “Dating Sim” trope. Released in 2017, it has been a cult hit and free-to-play. That all being said: It is not a dating sim game, it’s cleverly packaged computer/horror.

Suffice it to say, if you’re not into it, you can read a summary of the game and the various acts it goes through on this wiki, or watch any of the playthroughs on YouTube. Honestly, you’re not missing much “gameplay” by doing so. I will be discussing spoiler like material, so if you want to play blind, read no further. Otherwise, it’s a almost three-year old game, get over it.

One of the biggest shocks, and painful moments of the game (and there are many) is the death of Sayori. While I’m sure not everyone who plays the game is sympathetic to every character, I identified with her especially.

You see, Sayori is depressed. Deeply so. She hides it behind a carefully designed mask of cheerful aloofness. This throws people off, even if she lets the mask slip (on purpose, or by accident). Her behavior of sleeping in, clumsiness and desire for others to be happy is a really clever cover and one that I identify with. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to see through it. As the kids say: Game recognizes game.

DDLC even goes so far as to drag you into a false sense of relief as you “end” her segment of the game, making you believe that, while not better, things are on the up-and-up. Only to throw it back in your face. I know I was warned. Still, I felt it.

Obviously the game begins to slide right off the rails into surreal horror/computer spookiness, subtexted by realistic people issues. The Yuri character enjoys self harm, which is something people suffer with every day. Natsuki is the child of abuse and neglect and offers up a tough front because of it. All of these characters are sympathetic and probably why the game is so popular. Additionally, the developer did some neat behind the scenes stuff with files in the game directory.

Overall, I really enjoyed the relatively short play through. It’s packaged as a type of game that I’d normally avoid, on principal, but recommendations and mild spoilers directed me otherwise. If you’re not bothered by some of the material in the game, then you’re in for a treat. It’s got more depth than it has any right to, and delivers real emotional stuff in a genre rife with the direct opposite.

The best part is that the game is free to download and play. It runs on Windows, Mac and Linux and if you’re so inclined, the developer has some extra special stuff in the $10 DLC.

Depression

I feel like I’ve written about this before, but I can’t seem to find anything on it. Now is as good a time as ever to write a post about it, because I’m in it.

Hello, I’m Nathan, I’m 36 years old and I live with severe depression. Depression is not an illness people like to talk about. Probably because they either have no real concept of it, or it’s a sticky mess of an illness and can color their perception of you. It’s not fun having, either, but I digress. Depression, for me is a lot like having a judge from one of those talent shows on television inspect everything you’ve done and pointing out just how bad it is. Nothing is good enough, any slight mistake or error is magnified to poster-board size so it can be shown to a jury of your peers.

I never get to let go of things, either. I’ll be driving to work and depression will creep up next to me and replay an embarrassing moment, opening the wound up fresh. It’ll poke it’s head in when seeing happy people just to remind me that I am a loathsome sloth and will never be happy because, to be fair, I don’t really deserve it. The worst one for me is the more generic, rationalization of deficiency. This is where I actually build up a logical and rational argument as to why I really am worthless and terrible and a fraud, and that I deserve to be depressed because that’s the way you should feel when you’re as bad as I am.

This is all exhausting. It gets setup as a feedback loop where I put myself down and, when I got to look for the reason why I’m down, my depression gives me a perfectly formatted list of reasons. You can’t win because you’re setting yourself up in a loosing position before you even start.

I got lucky. My wife gave me an ultimatum: Seek help or we’re out. It wasn’t pretty. It was during lunch, in my office. There were tears and a strong sense of urgency to get that help. Once I did, I started feeling better, but it wasn’t enough to keep me going. I was in a high-stress position at work and while talking is nice, it only goes so far. Eventually I changed positions and my doctor prescribed me medicine. So far, I’m doing okay.

That’s not to say that the battle is won and I’m no longer depressed. The reason why I’m even writing this post is to use it as a form of therapy for my depression. Today was a very stressful day, some of it my own doing, some of it not. Thankfully I have an understanding wife and a solid outlet in which to express myself. I know many do not.

What Was the Point Behind All of This?

People shy away from this topic because mental illness is a serious taboo. The stigma is barely addressed, even when we have mentally ill people shooting up gatherings and making our whole country a more dangerous place. It has to stop. Thankfully there are organizations out there to help and mental health is finally getting some sunlight. People have a wide variety of mental disorders and diseases. All of these, once exposed can lead to becoming ostracized and depression and suicide. People who you think are fun-loving and even mannered may be faking it, I know I did for years. The good news is that you’re not alone, and with issues like depression being so common, there is hope. Keep moving, keep trying to make it better, and keep trying to love yourself.

And don’t stop believin’!

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