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08 January 2016

Small steps and hacking with trees

Much of what I've been writing lately has been (sort of) me complaining about things that are not quite right. There are a lot of those things in my life. There are also a lot of things that are right and good and positive, it's just that memories and PTSD symptoms are really good at tipping the balance. Many of the things that worked in the past either don't work or don't quite work as well as they did before. PTSD's good at adapting, apparently. As winter break continues (it's almost over), I've been slowly moving towards a tipping point where I'm quite frankly tired of feeling bad a lot of the time and I'm ready to do something about making changes. I'm quite aware that this is (and has been) a slow process. It's one of those things where you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other until you look up and you're somewhere better. There have been some, let's say recurring things in my posts the past few weeks and months (I'd say I've been sounding like a broken record, but that'd probably make me sound old. Phooey on that).

I have actually been doing a lot of work; the past couple of weeks of holidays and reduced hours at work have upset the apple cart, but now that that's all done for a while I'm working five out of seven days like a normal human. Work is one of those things that can offset PTSD-- if you're working, doing something productive, it's harder for the PTSD to take over. There are still those times when you lose the battle and instead of being at your desk you're back in the Desert, but in general work is a good thing in reasonable moderation. Programming gives me some amount of inner peace. It's something I enjoy doing, and provided things are in balance I can sit and code for hours. It's my passion. It's what I do.

Work can be a way to avoid a lot of things, like people and the world outside. Being always busy working means you don't have a social life, which quite neatly allows you to dodge a lot of the emotional stuff that relationships and friendships usually involve. In that sense, working a lot becomes a thing that's not so good. A person can only work so much, and for so long at a time, before things get derailed. This is kinda the point I've reached, where life is work (professional or personal projects, in this context it doesn't matter) and there's not that much else going on. I manage to get up every day and get cleaned up, get dressed, and get over to campus to either go to work or to find a quiet spot to hack. It's a positive thing that I do this, but in a way I'm living in a very isolated state that takes a lot of energy and resources to maintain without giving a lot back in terms of feeling decent from one day to the next.

Unless something major happens, and I don't expect that it will, I'll be in classes at the local community college this spring. I'm very okay with that, because I get to learn some new things that hopefully I'll use and because doing so means I can keep being a student university employee. I'm taking in person classes again, which helps because I'll actually have to go interact with a prof and other students-- things that online classes don't offer. More education = closer to a bachelor's degree. I'm not giving that up. So classes are a positive.

I'm going to have to GI clean my kitchen, because it's been a while, because I haven't been cooking at home. Not cooking at home means that a) I'm well fed but in terms of nutrition I'm not doing so well and b) I'm spending a lot of money on food that I really could use for other things. I know how to cook. I'm actually a pretty good cook, it's just that I'm not so into the washing dishes part. Some of my cooking stuff is still in storage and I need to get a vehicle and move it into my apartment where I can use it. Cooking at home means I need to go get groceries, which means I have to go out in the cold. These are excuses, and they're bullshit. I can cut what I spend on food by a third and probably eat three times better, just by getting off my ass and cooking at home.

I might use paper plates though.

On the days (actually nights) when I work, I'll probably continue to get to work early or hang around a little while after so I can get some hacking time in. On the days (actually nights) when I'm not working, I've been spending my time in a lab that I won't be spending time in this semester. It's a positive thing that I get up and get here every day, but it's also a negative that I'm here all the time. Over winter break it's not so bad, because it's usually pretty quiet. During the semester there are a lot of people moving around, a lot of people making noise, it's harder to find a suitable place to sit and work. I don't want to give up the hours I spend hacking, because they're productive hours-- but if I don't have a lab to work in and take care of, and if I'm not on a mission to graduate from here, it means less to be physically here in my free time. The responsibility I have is to myself, and as time goes on I'm less and less comfortable sitting where I've been sitting.

For a long time, being physically located in the computer sciences building meant a great deal. It meant a lot because it was a way of saying "Hey, I'm still here." I've transferred out. I'm going to transfer again to a school on the other side of the country in a few months. I don't have shit to prove by sitting in a particular building, and in fact it's probably going to be a huge relief to not have to do that. I live downtown, where there are lots of places with good coffee and free wifi. It's likely better that I'm at one of those places, out in the world and among people, than hidden away in a corner of a building where I'm not comfortable.

I've already started keeping a pair of earplugs in my pocket to turn ambient noise down, so figuring that will offset the noise level of a coffee house.

And, finally, I need to decide what I'm going to do about therapy for the PTSD and the depression. I'm trying to cognitively convince myself to to back to the VA Hospital, or the Vet Center, and having very little success in doing so. I'm pretty sure that I need to have my medication adjusted upward, or switch to something else. I'm looking at other options for support more than therapy; I need to talk to other veterans. This too is difficult, because I've had less than supportive responses from some veterans organizations. This again is the PTSD whispering in my ear with excuses. It's more than walking distance away, so I need to get either bus tickets or cash. It's only open until 1800. Blah, blah, blah-- excuses. Each one takes time and energy and effort to get past, though. Getting into a peer support group will be a pretty major step.

In other news, I just booked flights to go to TreeHacks, which is a hackathon at Stanford University that's happening next month. I'm really excited about going, because I had to first apply to be able to go and they're offering me money to help pay for my flights. Not everyone that applies to hackathons gets accepted, and even fewer get travel reimbursement, so I'm really honored that I get to attend-- it means that all of the software development I've been doing on my own and at work, as well as the fight I've been putting up against the PTSD and depression is worth something. And, it means that I'll get to talk to some people about a job in California, which happens to be exactly where I'm planning to be this time next year.

Woot.





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