Risk in the Age of Dumpsters


CN: Politics, anxiety, Tr*mp

As my recent vacation ended (see my last blog post), I found myself gobsmacked at a truth about my social habits: the last time I had done anything social that was both a. outside my own living room and b. required I interact with humans who were not my relatives nor my wife was over a month ago, and the time before that was a month previous to that. I know that over the course of this year I have learned I am a more introverted person than I allowed myself to be in the Days Before Anxiety Medication, but that is still sparser than I am used to.

This led me back to a conversation a couple weeks ago, regarding a possible ongoing social obligation and my overall high-strung reaction to it: my friend said, and I think this was a fair assessment, that I seemed to be making my decision a binary between 100% comfort with the situation on my part, or not being involved at all, which is a rough position to put myself or anyone else in.

I've come to this conclusion: It really is about politics, and by politics I mean the President of the United States, and I have to learn to live with that and its aftereffects.

I have not and will not make a secret of the fact that I loathe this man and everything he and his supporters stand for; that I believe they are terrible human beings and bad for the country and the world; that I am scared about where things are going. I call or fax at least five times every week, about whatever we need to resist this time around, and I donate money and time wherever I can. And it is draining. The effort, the fear that backs that effort, the multiple worries about the future that my privilege never forced me to consider, it is all a gigantic vacuum applied to my energy level. Ceasing to resist is not an option; there are literal lives on the line, with more lost every single week if not every single day. But that, and the fear that underpins it, mean I do not have the capacity for risk that I had even a year ago.

My wife is the only person besides myself I am consistently comfortable around -- and by consistently I do not even mean 100% of the time (my particular mental health struggles mean it is easy for me to feel that people are mad at me, and I tend to want to temporarily flee that feeling). There are a dozen or so others who are never worse than a net zero in terms of social energy expended and regained. Even within that subset of people, my comfort zone is playing games; and even within that subset, my comfort zone is a specific list of games and game types and game experiences. (I mean, there are other things that are comfortable for me -- TV, movies, podcasts, books -- but they are not things I can share in the same way as games.) And beyond all that, there are so many factors that can change how taxing an experience is for me. Yes, generally speaking, Sentinels of the Multiverse with my wife and three of my besties is sublime -- but what if I didn't sleep well the night before? What if what I was planning to eat for lunch has gone bad? The shirt I wanted to wear was dirty? It's hot? It's humid? My stomach is upset? I hit a train delay? Someone on the highway we had to take to get there was driving erratically? Somebody is saying something that reminds me of a shitty thing somebody in high school said to me -- you know, that one guy who was always saying shitty things to me, here's exactly what he looked like and that one shirt he wore that one day that wasn't the same day as he said any shitty things but wow dude wow, remember all the things he said?

I'm not incapable of managing my mental health -- in fact most days I am the master of it, and that's really nice, good for me, A+ excellent work! But it can be unpredictable, and unpredictability will tend to make me want to stay home where I know I won't get sucker-punched by anxiety. And none of that is wrong or bad, but it's also not right to forcibly limit those around me to my comfort zones; and it's not necessarily helpful to my growth as a person and as a keeper of my own mental health to never stretch those boundaries. The hard part, though, is learning when and where to test and how much is too much; and it is all harder since November 2016, which is still the worst month of my life so far.

My capacity for risk is diminished, and the degree to which it is diminished is still not certain for me; I have to find the line by crossing it, and when I do find the line, that shuts me down for at least a day. It happened when I tried to be an active participant in an anti-hate rally and wound up triggering a panic attack. It happened when I had a friend get upset at a gaming event and was twitching and cold for hours afterwards. It happened when I thought I might have to see the one Trump voter in my family. All I can do is keep pushing when I know I can, and try to forgive myself for playing it safe sometimes, and try to ask myself when "safe" becomes its own kind of danger.

Please, do keep inviting me to things! Please do keep encouraging me to push! But please also understand how much energy has to go in trying to just keep the planet spinning with a minimum of swastikas, and how much of this is really, really not you, but me. I hope that some day soon, the news itself will not require spell slots just to look at. Until then...anybody want to play Sentinels?