22 February 2022

Welcome Back, Self

Welcome back, self – you’ve been lost for a while. That said, even now I’m not entirely certain that more than a small bit of you has been found but I’m starting a concerted effort to pull all of the pieces of you back together. It’s important, you see, that I try to find and recall most if not all of you because I haven’t been myself for a very long time now. Instead, I’ve been a pretty hollow shell, hiding away from the world, having lost all of the joys I used to feel and increasingly becoming so detached from almost everything and everyone that the only reason I still exist is that I don’t trust that my precious kitty would be taken care of well if I were to die. Needless to say, that’s no way to live.

‘Nightly Calm’ – Acrylics on 8×10-inch Canvas Panel by Keith Krueger

Calm Waters Do Not Mean Contentment

My therapist told me a couple of weeks ago that I really haven’t been living for a while, at least not in a meaningful sense. My detachment had become my sense of calm, like still water, occasionally punctured by pebbles of emotion. Because those waters were so still and for so much of my days, any pebble that hit the surface caused ripples that made the feelings associated with those pebbles much more intense. If those still waters had been filled with joy, then even large rocks might have had a splash of an impact but the surrounding water would have quickly filled the impact with positive feelings to balance out the disturbance and things would have been okay. My water isn’t made of joy. My water is made of antipathy, depression, and detachment, so when things broke the surface, I’d panic but then I’d return to not feeling anything. I mistook this for calm. It was really just me trying to keep from further disturbing the world with my presence by trying to isolate everything except when those pebbles and rocks hit and I’d shout out in pain.

Starting to Reclaim Myself

So what’s changed? What ‘self’ have I reclaimed? I started learning to identify the slight currents within the water that actually gave me warmth and made me feel like there could be buoyancy in my life. My aforementioned kitty Mossy is incredibly sweet and I love her. She’s been my best companion for a couple of years now ever since I brought her home. Lately, she’s decided to sleep on my son’s lap when he comes to visit. She’s never done that with me. I realized that it bothered me in an odd way. I like her and my son getting along but I was also jealous. I’m not used to feeling jealous or envious. Now, this could be seen as a negative emotion but for me, it’s something of a positive. It means I do have something I care about enough to hold onto. That, other than my children, I do have something in my life that can stir me from my detachment. Will I change anything in how I live with Mossy or how I let my kids interact with her? No — of course not — but I might dote on her a little more than I do even now.

I’ve also returned to painting after a break of around 18 months. I enjoy painting but it has always far too easily gotten pulled under the waters and sunk to the bottom. I forget the enjoyment I get from it. I forget the relaxation and sense of accomplishment I get when I complete a new work of art. I’m currently focusing on seascapes. They’re one of my favorite types of paintings to be certain but I also chose it as a bit of catharsis in discussions with my therapist. If water is the metaphor for my emotions and mental health over the years, it’s time to pay attention to how I handle rough, choppy waters as well as calm ones so I can manage both.

‘Sunset Waves’ – 5×7 Oils on Hardboard by Keith Krueger

For a very long time now, despite telling myself I loved teaching and video game development, I’ve actively avoided getting back into it. I even stopped playing games other than a couple of mobile things this last year. I stopped watching anime, which was my primary source of entertainment for decades. I stopped cooking, and while a large part of that was due to my poor health making it hard to manage in the kitchen, it was also due to my losing the joy in making meals and baking. I mostly stopped reading.

Therapy Was Merely Venting

In fact, I even really stopped taking my therapy seriously. It became a paid place to vent out all of the week’s ripples so that I could return to the still waters I had grown used to instead of being a place where I would learn how to build and strengthen the skills I need to deal with the ups and downs of life. Two weeks ago, the therapist finally called me out on it. It led to a rather sharp argument that almost led to me being placed on an involuntary hold. Instead, I agreed to think hard about what I wanted my life to be.

Last week we discussed the future. At the same time, a different therapist I see when I am undergoing treatments for my cancer talked to me about what they’d been seeing in me. Between the two of them, I started to get a sense of what had gone wrong inside of me. I haven’t seen either one yet this week due to scheduling but I will. I’m going to point them to this blog.

Change Has To Start Somewhere

This blog is, for me, a safe space to let out the things that bother me in a way I’m often better at than speech – through writing. I’m not the best writer and I’m certainly not concise — I’m wordy and often ramble, but when I write I get things out that I often overthink in person and therefore avoid sharing.

Frankly, this will become another piece of therapy for me, in a way I used to really enjoy and believe I can again. It won’t be all mental health talk like this initial post is but instead will cover all aspects of my life. I really want to focus on the creative lessons I embark upon. Despite being a painter for 15 years now, I have a lot to learn because self-teaching has led me to a niche place that I don’t even do enough exploration in. I want to get back to teaching, game development, cooking, and everything else I used to enjoy. Just as important, I want to share it because a large piece of what’s been missing in retaining myself has been the social aspect of my life.

So this post is just the first of many. I’m challenging myself to write and post at least one entry related to creativity and learning every week. If I can do that, it’ll be great progress on finding all of the pieces of myself again. I look forward to seeing what comes next. I hope you will too.