Warning: Inside the Mind of a Highly Functioning Depressive 1.0

Warning: Language

It’s 1:30 in the morning as I write this now with my mind unable to sleep thanks to the millions of thoughts flitting across my head at 240kmh (that’s 150mph for us non-metric folk).

I feel the pain of the world too easily with all the tragedies unfolding this year, this week, today, right now, threatening to tear my heart and mind apart. Hopelessness sets in along with my weakness and sense of powerlessness to change or stop the daily horrors. Forget our politicians. We’d have a better chance of asking a group of orangutans to draft new laws that could carry out lasting change.

I wish peace could be attainable for our planet, but it doesn’t feel like it will ever happen. Sometimes it feels like hate runs deeper than love. That violence is our code instead of helping and caring for our fellow neighbor. And that we would rather cheer for those who scream the loudest and throw verbal vomit the farthest.

But most of us are asking the same question: What the fuck is wrong with humanity?

It’s not like it’s anything new. Generally, humans have always sucked since the beginning. It’s just with the countless social media options of our modern society, we now have the wonderful pleasure of knowing exactly how much we suck, and this shit can be quite overwhelming.

I know we can’t have a perfect world, but could we at least have a world that can work on dialing down the shittiness factor of humanity, its greed, lust for hate, death, and destruction? What would it take? What would we have to do? How long would we be willing to wait for it to happen? Why am I thinking about these things? Why do I care so much when all I’m doing is exacerbating my depression with all of these thoughts?

And yet, I can’t escape them because it’s who I am; it’s pretty much engrained in my DNA to be heavily concerned about the state of the world and humanity. Lucky me.

I know there’s more good than bad out there. Unfortunately, our social media outlets have a high propensity for tragedies and crude humor and cats, always the damn freaking cats. Okay, can’t hate too much on the cats because those little bastards are too cute and entertaining. I mean, just look at this.

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Catroll! Yeah!

But to get back on track, we need more good news to help balance out the bad. We’re not that starved for sensationalism and horrors that we would throw away the stories of humans not being shitty for once and actually accomplishing pretty amazing feats to help others and make the world a lot less horrible.

Maybe I’m simply talking to the wind, and we’ve long resigned to our fate to stay the same and not evolve into better versions of ourselves. I know that isn’t the case, but it certainly does feel that way.

We can’t stay stagnant and keep hoping someone else will the do the dirty work for us. The social upheaval our world needs today won’t come from one charismatic, uplifiting leader, but from everyone coming together to wake up and yell a resounding, “Enough is enough.” And then going there to do something about it.

Anyway, what about you? What keeps your mind running at night if it does?

Stay amazing

Samantha

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Being Alone and Lonely in Japan: An Introvert’s Perspective

 

Listen, you’ll need bottles of cheap wine, 500+ tracks of good music, some of it mindless like 2000s pop, a deeper appreciation for introversion, a good activity to speed up time—mine is writing (thank God or else I would’ve jumped in front of a Shinkansen already)—Netflix playing in the background, a quick dismissal of whatever qualms you’ve had about talking to yourself in public, your Kindle to tackle all that reading you’ve long neglected, and a big healthy dose of IDGAF anymore because it’s that serious.

Loneliness and being alone.

Two different concepts but living in a small town in Japan, I can no longer tell the difference.

Being alone is loving your own company because you think you’re the coolest even when you’re not, but it doesn’t matter. You must believe you’re the coolest if you’re going to get onboard with being alone.

You relish the silence that comes once you’ve entered your place after work. You don’t want to bang your head over the deafening sound of your endlessly rolling thoughts.

You can relax, stretch your limbs, get stuff done, eat ugly, forget the pants, and curse loudly at the stupidity of whatever show you’re watching. Sleep late or early. Read or waste time on YouTube videos or scrolling through Facebook.

No one is there to nag you. No one is there to ask you for any favors. No one is there to annoy you. No one is there to judge you.

No. One. Is. There.

Back home, I enjoyed being alone. But here in Japan, it’s a different story because I’m alone every day even when I’m with people, sometimes especially when I’m with people.

Back home, I’m not alone every day because when I’m over being alone, I can go ahead and be with people I love and enjoy talking with. I can take a break from being alone. I have a choice.

But here, six thousand plus miles away from people who like hugging (I’m a hugger; people aren’t huggers here), who can keep me engaged in a good conversation, and who have a strong connection with the real me, I can’t take a break from being alone. Guess what happens? My time alone eventually turns into the beast called loneliness.

Hold on tight because I’m about to drop some bombs about loneliness in Japan, especially when you live in a rural town where the most exciting thing is an earthquake tremor.

First, let me get this one simple thought out of the way: being lonely in Japan sucks.

Okay, now we can go ahead and hit the deeper points.

1.) Communication:

If I ever plan to live in a foreign country where the people don’t speak either French, English, or Spanish, I’ll make sure to be enrolled in real, not online, language classes. My Japanese ability is enough to get me by and fulfill essential needs: shopping, eating out, traveling, and banking.

But a person needs more to maintain a healthy mind. A person needs conversations that go beyond likes and dislikes and what you think about Japan or why you’re here.

After answering these questions multiple times, you don’t want to talk to anyone anymore. You instead end up talking to yourself since you’re under the impression that you’re the most interesting person you know.

Just kidding, of course. Maybe.

There have been times when I didn’t make any attempt to start a conversation because I knew it wouldn’t lead anywhere significant. I chose to stay quiet and only talk when spoken to.

As an introvert, keeping up a superficial conversation drains so much energy out of me. It augments my depression and feelings of loneliness. In fact, relief  spreads all over me when the conversation ends.

Of course, I talk with my family and friends back home and it helps a great deal, sometimes even saves my life. But nothing can match the simple joy of talking to someone in person, seeing each other’s eyes, smiles, funny grimaces, and feeling each other’s energies.

Here, I am no better than a talking doll with a string you can pull on her back. A doll’s probably more alive, though.

2.) Weekends:

In a previous post, I wrote about how Japan has been great for my writing in term of getting the words down. Why? Because my weekends consist mostly of drinking white wine, cleaning my apartment, and writing.

I’ve written more than I’ve ever had here. It’s the result of not having my weekends booked with the laughter and joy of family and friends. Instead, it’s me, the laptop, and a fiery passion to get work done.

Writing is great. I love it to death. You all know that already. But my sanity needs more than writing. In fact, too much writing has made me colder, more introverted (yes, that can be a bad thing; balance is key, people), and a tad more obsessed with writing itself, which I didn’t think was even possible considering how passionate I am already.

I’m sad to say that I’ve also lost a good chunk of interest in traveling to other cities here. Depression does that to you. Robs you of things you once enjoyed like traveling and exploring new places (thank goodness it hasn’t taken writing yet; the universe knows I’d end it if I lost that). So I prefer to stay in and write at my desk or sit in the corner of my favorite café in town and spend hours writing there.

Another culprit behind my not traveling so much is having to do it alone. This is hard for me to admit, but I don’t like traveling alone.

Kudos to those who can do it, but it’s not for me. I can live alone, no problem, but traveling alone pushes me further into my head and thoughts, which makes me talk out loud more than I’m comfortable with before I can check myself.

If I do have to travel alone, it needs to be in nature with a sparse sprinkling of folks. I can’t stay in crowded places or else I’ll suffocate. So it’s hard to explore a new city because those have lots of people, right? What can I do except run away back to my room where—spoiler alert—no people.

But if I’m with someone, my mind takes a break from the crowds and inner thoughts to focus on the person beside me. I feel better and can endure a trip for quite a long time. I become a happy traveler.

3.) Daily Life:

No. I don’t exist in my daily life. Reality doesn’t exist in my daily life. Nothing exists in my daily life. Monday morning through Friday night is known as THE VOID, the zenith of my loneliness. I escape it somewhat unscathed on Friday nights with lots of wine.

They say life is what you make it. Yeah, well, I’m hanging by my teeth on the highest ledge of the Burj Khalifa to make it through the rest of my stay here in Japan. But the key to surviving this great leviathan called loneliness is not giving in to it.

Never give in, just keep pushing and another day will come one after the other until it’s all over, and you can go back and ask yourself, “What the hell was I doing with my life then?”

Living. You were living and you keep doing it, except way smarter this time around.

So, what are your experiences with being alone and lonely? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Samantha

Feeding on Rejection, Criticism, and Reality Checks

This is how it goes. I submitted a short story to a horror magazine last month and received a response about four days later. Before I clicked open the email, I knew it’d be a rejection, and lo and behold, it was a rejection. I promptly dropped it into my Rejections Folder, bringing the count up to 63 big fat NOs from literary agents and magazines.

Now, some might say I brought the rejection to myself for calling it out. Negative. As a writer, I’ve learned to expect rejection 99% of the time and hope for a positive response 1% of the time. It’s not that I think I’m a shitty writer, or else I would’ve quit torturing myself years ago and slide into living a more normal and stable life like most people. You know, be happy.

But I can’t quit writing because a powerful spirit of creation possesses my body: I must write, create, or I die. I’m totally seriously. This is deeper than a calling. It’s like having a second heart. Kill it and my real heart will die soon after. Try to take it away from me and I’ll cut you off cold. Writing has been with me for twenty-one years. Guess who will win in a relationship? Yes, that’s right.

I live in a passionate hell of my own making: it burns, but the flames are never hot enough to destroy me. Sometimes the flames purify me before they go back to burning again. And so I keep writing and grinding hard to get my work published.

Each literary rejection I receive adds a layer of steel around my heart where now even the criticisms, both helpful and painful, I receive from people in situations unrelated to writing have a minuscule effect on me.

I used to be a highly sensitive person with a raging temper who would chew your head off if you offended me. My response to heated environments would turn me into a twister of dramatic outbursts, rushing to make a series of bad decisions based on my current emotional state. In short, I was a walking bomb of rage, ready to explode at the slightest mean poke.

When I received my first batch of rejections, I wanted to throw my laptop out the window and eat a carton of ice cream to heal my scorched soul. The second and third wave of rejections forced me to work harder to improve my craft, read, write more, edit, rinse and repeat. By the fourth and fifth wave, I knew and understood why I was rejected and simply worked on fixing that.

This is what goes through my head now when I receive a rejection:

Oh, I probably should’ve done this and that, or my style doesn’t suit their tastes. Ok, back at it to do some edits or find new people to submit.

I get a small prick in my chest, of course, because I’m human, but I’m no longer devastated or start cursing everything aside from that one obligatory ah, f**k. My hardened writer mindset propels me forward so I don’t stay stuck in a haze of self-pity or low self-esteem.

I don’t have time for that. There’s writing, editing, reading, and learning to be done, and I, unfortunately, don’t have an android version of myself to do it all. It can be hard and frustrating, but I’ve got to do it anyway.

They say writing to get published is a long waiting game, but for me, it’s also a race against myself. How can I be better than my old self in terms of writing speed, quality, word choice, characterization, pacing, tension, and making a reader laugh out loud or get teary-eyed?

The truth is that this race never ends. I’ve signed up for a lifetime journey of self-discovery, pushing my limits, and experiencing the amazing exhilaration of bringing worlds and characters to life.

All the negatives that come with writing—the self-isolation, neurosis, deadlines, rainstorm of rejections and critiques, and so on—can’t compete with the deep self-satisfaction, self-affirmation, and, definitely for my case, the pure thrill of creating.

Sometimes it’s beyond logic and reason, beyond getting published, beyond living forever in your books; it’s knowing exactly why you exist despite what everyone and everything believes and suggests.

And so it goes like this. I feed on rejections, the criticisms, and the occasional harsh reality checks. I don’t ignore them, though. That’s different and unwise. I use them as fertilizer to help my craft grow into a robust green garden full of vitality and beauty.

As a writer, creative, or any person pursuing a project with an insane passion, we can’t let the failures and defeats snuff us out from under the soles of their feet. We push back, get ourselves back up and running again, and seek to learn more. Always. Because what doesn’t kill us shouldn’t only make us stronger, it should make us smarter so that the same old shit doesn’t keep happening again.

And while rejections are important for growth, victories are still better. And that’s what I want. Victory.

What’s your experience with rejection or criticism? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Samantha

Featured Image credit: by Park Pyeongjun via totorrl0107 

 

Living in Japan as a Creative

Coming to Japan helped my writing. It helped me understand what I needed to do as a writer in terms of meeting my reader and her needs. Now that I’ve taken what I’ve needed from Japan, I want to leave. Without a doubt, this country is beautiful. The people kind and hospitable. The food delicious. The culture poised and steady. Like a perfect square glass sitting on four pillars. I definitely feel the old meeting the new here, hundreds of years of history meshed with crazy modern beats. As a visitor from the West, I’ve experienced a strange and magnificent world that never ceases to astound me.

But my soul struggles to hold it together now that I’ve passed the sixth month mark of my stay here. Japan is beautiful, that’s true. But depression, sadness, repression, and brokenness choke the air here. Sometimes I feel like I’ve stepped back into 1950s America with the old fashioned uniforms of the train conductors, sea of black suits, and housewives doing laundry every early morning.

The conformity is strong here. Even the hipsters have their own rules. And the rules are hardly broken. Now, I don’t live in Tokyo, but a small town in the Aichi prefecture and that could be why I feel so out of place here. But even when I visit the big cities, I can’t shake off the pain from my shoulders or brush aside the tears soaking my sleeves.

The people here need a hug. Someone to say, “It’s okay, be yourself and release everything you’ve got bottled up inside your chest. ”

Before, I sometimes thought that maybe I was an empath. Coming to Japan has convinced me that I am. The people here want more out of life but they can’t or won’t do anything about it. So shouganai (しょうがない) prevails (the philosophy that a current situation can’t be helped; nothing can be done) and it allows everyone here to get through their dreary work routine until retirement when they can finally enjoy life. It’s what helps them live so long, too. It works for them.

But I find the scheme, the script, all of it, so constricting. Like being in a jail cell. My spirit can’t stand it any longer and I wish more and more to leave as the days go by. Sometimes I don’t feel this way. As I enjoy the peaceful landscapes and the sounds of carefree children playing by the river banks, safe and adventurous, I smile, a wave of bliss washing all over me, and think: Japan is beautiful. But that’s all I think. I can’t seem to find the words to say more, which is disturbing for this writer.

I should’ve probably visited this country instead of moving here to teach ESL, which will be my last year of doing so. I’m done supporting myself and my dream to become a published writer through teaching English. Five years is enough.

I can’t regret coming to Japan. My brain says I do, but my heart doesn’t because deep down I am grateful. In some ways, I had to come here to make my dream of visiting the country come true and to fully understand who I am as a person. Some of what I’ve discovered isn’t pretty at all. Some parts are more encouraging though.

At this moment, I really don’t feel anything. Japan’s shouganai attitude is rubbing off on me, but I don’t want it to. Screw shouganai. I don’t want to be resigned to my fate even though doing so would ensure I’d live a longer life. I’ve spent too much time already fighting against fate, conventions, restrictions, and so on to shrug my shoulders and let life happen. I make life happen. That’s how I’ve decided to live even if doing so is hard as hell.

I’m reminded of the lyrics to a DJ Okawari song featuring Brittany Campbell called Brown Eyes:

“Save me from this place. I’m so empty like my heart has been erased.”

Although the song is about a broken heart and betrayal, these lines resonate the most with me about my current situation in Japan.

Hear the full song here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOIaEbm4vgs

Have you ever lived somewhere and felt something was wrong despite all the beauty surrounding you? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Samantha