A Brief History of my Desperate Struggle to Do Anything

No one that knows me would describe me as “lazy”. I’m a dependable, consistent worker and I generally take on massive workloads. I’m always busy and I say yes to just about anything anyone asks me, within reason. However, when all of those things that I have to do begin to recede and I have time for the things I want to do I never actually do them. Most of my free time is spent in a haze, playing a game I’ve played hundreds of hours of while a show I’ve seen a dozen times plays in the background. It’s like a weird sort of meditation. The difference being that meditation is productive and makes me feel better, while zoning out on a game I couldn’t possibly still enjoy just makes me feel bitterness and shame as I watch the hours melt away.

I have nearly 500 games in my Steam Library and more than half of them are unplayed. My bookshelf is a little bit better in terms of ratio, but it’s still bad. I’ll grab bundles full of indie gems I missed or catch games on seemingly opportune sales. I’ll realize I have a literary blindspot and order a stack of Beat-Generation novels and half of them will just sit and collect dust. And that’s just the impact this has on my media diet. What I find to be infinitely worse is the impact it has on my creative life.

I’m a maker, it’s the one driving principle that’s been consistent my entire life. When I fell in love with words as a tween and aspired to be Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, desperately writing trashy short stories with convoluted plots and character dynamics. When I lacked the resources to play D&D properly and just made up my own RPG so my friends and I could play out of a patchwork of things I remembered from playing with my dad and my own imagination. In my woodshop class, the only place in school I could find anything resembling joy during a time of melancholy and squalor. I’m happiest when I make things, especially when I can share those things with others.

You would think, given all of what I just said, that I would just be making things every moment of the day. Unfortunately, that has not been the case for much of my adult life. You could call it depression, it probably is, but I go through long stretches of time where no matter how desperately I want to create, I can’t. I’ll sit down at my desk and instead of working on a game, a thing I love to do, I’ll scroll social media or watch stupid YouTube videos, a thing I hate to do. I do these things in an almost vegetative state and when I inevitably lose most of my day, I lay directly into punishing and shaming myself for wasting my own time.

Depression is a disease, but like many diseases, the answer doesn’t necessarily have to be medication. (I’ll take a moment to note that if medication works for you, that’s beautiful, keep doing it. It works for my wife, so much so that it has recently inspired me to change my own position on the subject.) High blood pressure can be treated with medication. Some people come by it naturally and it’s part of their physiology. However, there are a lot of people that have a lifestyle that leads them to hypertension and in those cases positive lifestyle changes can negate the necessity of medication. That has always been my fondest hope with my own mental health. That if I can do better, I’ll feel better.

Doing better to feel better actually does work for me most of the time. I’m a lover of spontaneity and impulse, I moved across the country at 18 and married the first person I met. My brain, however, doesn’t like those things. My brain feels healthy and normal when I have a routine. The simple answer, then, would seem to be “Set a routine and stick to it”. That is excellent advice and the times I’ve taken it have all worked out pretty well. This past winter break, I got into a routine that saw me exercising daily, living in a spotless home, and managing some small projects on the side. I even pulled off hosting a game development summit at my local library.

The problem was, I went back to school and the wheels came off immediately. My routine relied on me have regular blocks of time at key points during the day. I tried, like a contortionist to make my routine fit my altered schedule. It didn’t come close to working. I can’t live my life based on a routine that will crumble the moment any pressure is applied. I’m fairly emotionally fragile and I have a hard time coping when everything goes to shit. I have a tendency to throw my hands in the air and say fuck it. I’m competent for what I absolutely have to be competent for and everything else just goes out the window.

I’m trying my best to find a middle ground. A routine that stringent enough that I follow it, but not so stringent that when I pick up contract work or take an extra class, my entire composure goes out the window and I sit at my desk for 12-18 hours on off-days watching Letterkenny and playing Mount & Blade. For now, I’m going to try time-blocking. I’m giving myself certain times of the day where my attention belongs to a family of tasks. Right now, I’m in the blogging/social media block. I don’t know how it’ll work in the long term, but the only reason I’m writing this now is because I blocked off the time to do it. I also have time off baked into the program. After 8pm every day, I can do whatever I want. Last night I watched Double Fine Adventure and played Bannerlord. My next step is to make sure even my leisure time is a little productive, in that I’m actually exploring and enjoying media that I haven’t before. I’m about a third of the way through my buddy’s book (It’s the book listed on the main page), I could have gotten another third of the way through last night, but the call of absolutely vegging out and ceasing to be a person was much stronger. I’m hoping to get better at fighting these impulses, but it’s a battle I’ll probably fight for the rest of my life.

I wish I had the ceaseless creative energy to match my ceaseless creative ambition.

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