Wednesday, March 22, 2017

My Survival of Depression

Since about ages 8-10 I was aware that I was feeling depressed. How does an 8 year old figure that out? When I expressed thoughts of taking my own life and shocked family and loved ones. Why did I want to do that? I felt lonely and unwanted. I felt empty.
It got easier, and then it got harder, but never left me completely.
When I was 14 I'd been in a car accident, wasn't wearing my seat belt, we rolled off the road after trying to slowing down from sliding on the road at 75 mph.
For a young man with several attempted suicides it might seem cruel to keep an accidental death out of reach. But it did it's purpose and I questioned the reason for my own life.
A month later one of my role models died in a hockey accident, described by the doctors as being a chance event. Why him and not me? He was such a good man, his funeral was evidence that many loved and respected not only him but his family. And he was Mormon.
Then I looked into it and the first thing I learned was that God was more like us and we more like Him. He had a body, His Son Jesus Christ had a body. And they are perfect. So they can understand and help me not feel lonely. They know what depression left me with and I wouldn't feel alone or unwanted.
So I chased it down and became a Mormon. I imagined finding other people who would help me feel wanted and loved. And I did. I have met so many good people. Very good people.
And then I learned about marriage for eternity, family for eternity. The most important thing any individual could do in this life. And I imagined finding someone who would love me. I found some purpose! I need to live and learn so that I can have my own kids and show them how to live happier and better than me.
But, I thought then, and many times since, that pornography and self stimulation would stand in my way. I could live without alcohol or drugs, I never consumed those. It wasn't an inherent part of my humanity to want or yearn for chemical fixes.
For those who aren't Mormon, the Law of Chastity warns us that sexual activity prior to marriage can result in significant problems. The details of why that is are left to faith. Just like if a parent says to not touch the stove because its hot. And we should trust them, they know.
But I struggled with something each and every one of us feels, this very basic instinct. Whenever I sought help in overcoming what I thought was an addiction to pornography I encountered many different strategies for helping people through this. Encouragement, pray more, read more, trust and ask God for help, and then shame. I believe in the goodness of people and trust that everyone I went to for help were doing the best with what they had. I have never met a person that actively tried to destroy me when I asked them for help.
But the result was becoming aware of a stigma and fear that would haunt me for years.
Church leaders have described pornography as the greatest threat to family life in our time.
At 18 I told a nice Mormon girl I liked that this was something I struggled with. She went to her parents for support and her Mom reminded her of an uncle who ended up raping and abusing his own children.
Since then I haven't had such an extreme example of this fear playing out. Everything since has thankfully been much less intense.
I knew that eternal marriage and having a family in this life were the most important things I could do. I wanted it. But I was starting to think that this was going to stand in the way of reaching that. And it has!
It's scary being a young returned missionary at BYU and after liking a girl then deciding to tell her that this has been a struggle of my life. I did just that and then soon after broke off an engagement because I didn't want to put her through all of that.
(If you made it this far, some of you are thinking that this is ludicrous and bizarre to make such a big deal out of, kudos for making it this far)
I'm kind of dancing around it, but what I'm getting at is I still felt lonely or unwanted as a missionary and then afterwards in the years I spent going to a singles ward for church.
When these young people are so concerned about making the right choice of marriage so that they can be happy now and in the next life, of course they're going to worry and be careful about who they date.
But I had this problem which to many was scary and a sign that a future family with me would be in danger.
I tried to make friends, and often did. But we're in a singles ward in a college town, everyone is moving in and out, going on dates and finding someone to marry.
I felt lonely and unwanted and it seemed like something every single one of us feels was standing in the way.
So I stopped going to church. Not because I didn't believe in God or that He came and visited Joseph Smith, showing His own body and also that of Jesus Christ, revealing that we are not so far or distant from the God of our world, that He is involved in our lives. No. I still have that.
"But you won't make friends until you go out and try, you just need to get out" Is it that easy? I really wish it were. Serving a mission for two years would have been so much easier.
No, I still felt lonely, especially as a missionary. It wasn't because I wasn't close to God, it's because I wasn't close to the people around me.
And so here I am. 27 years old. Why aren't you going to church? It's going to help!
Yes. I can go and sit, sing, take the sacrament, attend Sunday school, and fulfill responsibilities. But all of that does not equal friends. Especially in a place where what's important is to find a partner for life and the hereafter.

Then it comes back to my own thoughts of why can't this just be easier? Why is this so hard for me? Why does it matter so much to me?
Because an 8 year old Chris started trying to take his own life after feeling lonely and unwanted. He found something that gave him hope for not feeling that way.
I do it so that I don't come back to that point at age 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19. 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, and so on.
I don't have a choice there. If I don't meet that need it becomes a matter of life or death for me. I wish It wasn't, but memories of past attempts tell me that it is this way.

If there is any purpose in this life I think it is to learn how to be happy, help others in that, and make connections with each other.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ultra Vivid Dream

I walk towards a tall (around 30 story) office building, with an exact one next to it. They stand in a park-like area, alone. I am somewhat dressed up. Taking elevators and stairs all the way to the top floor I come into a large, well-lit, window encased circle where the elevators and stairs are basically a central column to the room. It's decadent, old men dressed in nice clothes are milling about. I walk towards and open a door but unexpectedly interrupt a meeting of more old men at a dark wood conference table. They look up at me as I apologize and quickly shut the door. Embarrassed I walk around to the other side of this floor and go towards an open office. It is the only office on this floor and as I walk in I am greeted by another old man who welcomes me. Our conversation seems congenial and insignificant, and very short. I leave, but with some measure of anxiety.
Fast forward and I am in the same office building but barricaded in a lower floor room. The floor's layout is the same. Wrapping around the central column elevators and stairs. Our men are fighting their way to the top where we plan to assassinate the old men in nice clothes upstairs. As fighting breaks out up and around the hallway ahead, I go back to our operations room on this floor to discuss the situation. Someone breaks through, looking for the leaders. As they near our room we hide, but not for long. I realize that my opportunity is now, especially as our forces are being pushed back, obviously defeated. I take the stairway and hide as others come down. Up on the top floor there is a party just ending. Stragglers are drinking the last of the alcohol and mill about. All of them old and well-dressed. I feel very out of place in my operative clothes. The same office door is open and I find my way to it, quickly, but not running. The old man is there and in a short conversation explains our situation. My forces have all been captured or eliminated, I have the opportunity now to destroy the man before me, but whatever it is he stands at the head of, will go on. It is more than just him.
Broken, defeated, I am left with my freedom to leave. Except, there is an understanding that I will be sought after, either killed, or imprisoned.
Chaos in the settlements. Everyone from our town has been rounded up and imprisoned, or killed. I don't know where any of them are. I am struggling with the possibility that my whole family has been executed for my mistakes. No one is home, except the few newcomers who are taking our homes. In grief, the only option it seems is to take my own life, before they do. It's a cold day, with snow on the ground, where my family's home was. So I go inside and put on many pairs of socks. Through tears flowing I find more warm clothes to wear as the plan becomes more clear. With no gun, I will take my car into the mountains and, after numbing myself in the snow, cut my wrists and die. I go outside only to find that more of the old man's men are here. One is a large and burly man who, with no apparent worries, talks calmly to me, unaware of what I planned. That is, I hope he was unaware. He talks of the success they enjoyed, of my own success in coming as far as I did. Referring to my skills, he then proposes another option to me. An opportunity to work and train in the organization of the old man. He tells me we should celebrate and suggests we do so separately. I agree and then go to find alcohol for myself. In a pantry among one of the houses I find a collection of liquor and take with me two large, but previously opened, bottles of clear liquor.
The old man is at one of the houses (which takes the appearance and layout of my parent's home in Alaska). After drinking some, and planning to take my life in the downstairs bathroom, this man comes down asking after me. I go out and stand next to him as he stairs out of a downstairs window. He explains to me the situation of his organization, what they are trying to accomplish, and what I can contribute to his goal. He speaks of various people they meet, skilled people. They serve their purpose for a time and eventually their one-track skill set proves them unreliable for long-term service. Referring to me, he then describes people with a rounded ability that act as leaders in his organization. I am shown a recent mission where two leaders stand behind a woman, seemingly crazed by her power, taunts the fallen adversary of a rebel force. She is then killed by the opposing man, who is then overwhelmed by the organization forces. Standing behind these forces I recognize the large and burly man that I had met earlier.
Even though I am somewhat buzzed, I understand the situation I am in.
Fast-forward. I am walking with Zach through what seems to be a warehouse, like Costco. As we walk and talk I describe the hopelessness I feel about having lost my family and nearly everyone that I knew. He seems annoyed, saying that he is still here, and his friend Tyrone is still here (emphasizing the fact with a jab of a finger in my chest).
Fast-forward. Later that day I am back in the large building where the old man has an office at the top floor. On an upper floor I am acquainted with a few other operatives, younger than me. It appears that they don't share my conflict with the situation of the organization. I feel like an outsider. I ask them about their lives and where they are from. Their home towns sound nothing like that I am used to. As we prepare to go to bed I am invited to talk with the old man. He asks about what I expect to happen, I tell him it seems like it will be hard. He refers to my university education, and the hard work I put into that. Then, slower and more deliberately, he explains that I do not know what hard work is, yet.
I go to bed.
The next morning I go to the common area (surrounded by windows to the outside) and a lady is teaching this girl about air operations that involve jumping out of planes. I join the conversation and learn what I can. The burly man comes and informs me that I need to go with another operative to a train that currently houses a target. We go, I am nervous. After finding our way into the carriage where the target is, we break in and find a young father, Asian descent, holding a young girl. The carriage is of poor quality, but something the rebels would apparently think as high-class. My companion and I remark on how this man deserves better. He is noticeably scared while the little girl is confused. I console her and reassure her safety.
In the office building I am talking with the old man again. I ask him about the situation and what has happened. There is a gap in my knowledge of what happened between where I was and where I am now.
The earth was on its way to chaos and a breaking down of society. His company, Selving, anticipating this collapse, engineered a massive 'ark' in space that would carry the best of society away and return when the earth was ready. This massive sphere would have its own gravity and various peoples would inhabit the interior levels in different climates that reflect the variety of earth. Rebellions come and go and we must keep the order. I ask about the situation on earth and he says that it has no doubt already fallen to chaos.
I have up to this point found that my depression and desire to take my own life had reigned as the primary driver of my days. After this revelation about where I am and what is happening, I found motivation in the thought of bringing down this centralization of power and abuse therein. Wanting to hide my intentions I decided it would be the intensity and dedication to my training that would assure them of my loyalty. One day I would bring it down from the inside.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Relationships, Religion, and Radicals

The significant conversations we are not having right now about whether or not we trust refugees coming into our country has consistently flashed across my Facebook and Imgur; another of my favorite time wasting activities. I'm assuming it's the same on Twitter, Tumblr, and maybe a few Myspace accounts. Regardless of where we see it, the same words and same arguments are being thrown back and forth. For the States, liberal  loony left is being anti-american screaming to open all of our borders, the righteous right believes all Muslims, especially those escaping war as refugees, are coming secretly as terrorists. I'll acknowledge everyone else whose voices echo quietly beside the constant reposts and sharing of extreme examples on either side. These quieter voices, I fear, are not being heard. But I'm not writing now in hope that you are going to listen to them. No. I am writing because my knowledge is better than your ignorance (Isaac Asimov).

Where are these terrorists coming from? The Middle East. Specifically? Radical Islam. But so many different people over there are considered radical! What about Saudi Arabia and their Wahhabi Islam? It's definitely not mainstream and so much does not jive with our Western ideals. It's definitely not mainstream Islam. Well the radicals are there in Syria, in Iraq, they're being funded and supported by this person and that group.
Our next big question is how did they happen? Why are they still here? Why are people following them?! If we want to believe that humans are humans are humans (I suggest you follow Humans of New York, Humans of Bombay, Humans of Tehran, Humans of....etc), then we want to believe that (or blatantly and stubbornly choose not to believe) these Syrians and Iraqi people are rational. That's likely the only belief that has kept the EU and many other countries open to refugees.
So who are these crazy people that stand behind Daesh and their absolutely batshit crazy ideas?!?! None of us ever want to meet a single one of them, unless that encounter found a nice gun in our hands and nothing in theirs.
I will say that these followers, the battle fodder, the ones being sent out to die, are people in need, or at least they were.
When we are alone, at the end of our rope, depressed, angry at life, enraged at God or Allah or whatever decided our place in life, we want something. That something is meaning. We want to feel important, that we are worth it, and that someone likes us, EVEN loves us.
Now consider Syria and Iraq, the Middle East. Power struggles, dictators, being tossed around by European imperialism during WW2 and after, having world powers play nuclear chess in their backyards. How many orphans have there been? How many family members lost? Jobs lost? Education lost? Hope.......lost?
These hopeless people, human beings, are left with nothing. An amount of nothing that few of us on Facebook right now will ever know or comprehend. It's not just a lack of home or clothes. It's a lack of future, no vision and no expectation that anything good will come.
Then comes a crusade. The warriors of their disenchanted religion come with promises of valor and glory. Sacrificing all will give you happiness after you find escape from this hell called life. Attractive and definitely appealing to the men, whose tribal (NOT religious) culture prizes manhood and pride above nearly everything.
For the men who lost brothers, sons, friends, companions, this community promised them connection and brotherhood. Promises of restored glory are not unfamiliar, think of Nazi Germany.
I'm close to losing you at this point, just as I'm starting to lose my insomniatic drive.
What I hoped to communicate is that these human problems will forever be more complex than we will ever understand with just one or two short videos or readings.
We are all human beings, and the strongest form of communication any one of us will ever know is the communication of love, of attachment, of closeness, of love.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Is Tinder Worth It?

It’s a Match!
How many matches have I gotten so far? Wait, did I forget to message him back? I’ll be flirty and make up for it. So that’s a date for lunch, and a dinner date. Wow! I won’t have to buy myself food for awhile at this rate.
My very first Tinder date shocked me when I asked her how many dates she’d been on in the last month since she downloaded it. “I think it’s been around 30”. You think?! And this as we’re at the movies waiting for a current release to start, after I bought her a medium-priced dinner.
I find it extremely difficult for me to peer through my narrow lens of cynicism and experience to see the good in Tinder, yet here we go.
Appalling as this estimation was, it embodies the obvious benefit for women. Women swipe much less than men, leading me to believe it’s because of how many matches they have and can’t keep up. This girl was by no means a bombshell, and neither was she unattractive. She was mildly attractive at best, something the right angle can significantly mask on a profile picture. Yet her success could encourage any woman to get the app and start swiping today.
If your biggest concern is not getting asked out and not having options, sign up for Tinder. The stats favor you!
While you will have to use your instincts to weed out the ones you’ll never tell Mom about meeting, it can be fun and worthwhile. That is if your fun and worthwhile consists of spontaneous escapades and free food. Wait, that does sound pretty good. Can I get a sex change? Sorry, spaced for a moment to laugh at funny cat memes after losing myself down a rabbit hole of wondering where misogyny really is. Speaking of which, here’s a raccoon holding a kitten
Where were we? Oh right! Instant gratification.
If you aren’t in the game for something serious and are “looking for an adventure”, you should definitely check out the Tinder game. One woman made her success in actually turning it into a game with her friends! She is actually in the news for having stepped down from her infamous game of who could get the most food out of this app. If you don’t believe me yet, you won’t have to look farther than this account of a high rolling woman in the bay area of California.
She gives a fairly comprehensive insight into the benefits of Tinder in a fast-paced culture where efficiency cuts through the excess and gets you to right where you want. It’s just like if you were in a bar or club and notice someone hot, except now you get to choose from the comfort of your home without the trouble of putting on makeup and doing your hair.
But really. Let’s get down to it.
Self-esteem, body image, respect for women. These are all big issues today and sometimes we just need a boost to get us past the initial leap into confidence. Tinder is a great way to get matches and start that fire.
If you still don’t feel comfortable and think it will let a lot of people down if you aren’t actually there to date, just know that you’re in the majority. The Pew Research Center found that one dating sites, only a third of people actually go on dates with people they chat or match with. What are the other two-thirds doing? And just keep in mind that as of the end of last year, Tinder’s wikipedia page states that around 50 million people are using the app every month, with an average of 12 million matches per day. You are by no means in a minority if Tinder serves as a fun way to see who likes you and see who else is out there.

As new social media comes and goes, we need to adapt and learn how we can use it best for our own lives. If you find yourself struggling with self-esteem and wondering if anyone will ever like you, Tinder should put that thought to rest. Pick up your phone, search your app store for Tinder (try just typing in T and it will show up, likely as the top result). Spend a week on Tinder and see how much more attractive you will begin to feel.

Tinder On the Fire

Swiper No Swiping
“When I was a kid, it felt like they made something new everyday. Some gadget or idea. Like everyday was Christmas. But 6, billion people. Just try to imagine that. And every last one of them trying to have it all.”
Born September of 2012 in sunny California to a group of enterprising young men, this dating app made for the smartphone has lived up to its namesake in spreading like a wildfire across not only this nation but to many other countries.
What part of our humanity provided the spark for this blaze? We want to connect with each other. But not just that, we want to have the admiration of our peers. We want to know that we are liked, “I only wanted the gratification of knowing that I was wanted, that someone else found me attractive”.
Hot-or-Not was the predecessor and required some extra effort to sign in and create a profile. Tinder is only minutes from downloading to liking and being liked. It’s easy and semi-anonymous. Using connections from Facebook, without actually posting to your wall, Tinder will show you seemingly endless potential matches living nearby. Real people with real pictures showing off? For the horny 14 year old that’s just a simple Facebook account away from passing the must-be-18-or-older limit. Just be sure next time you swipe that they really are as old as their profile says.
But what if you actually want to meet and find real connections and maybe even a relationship? Some friends will tell you of their knowing someone whose boyfriend or girlfriend was found on Tinder. Or some may even have stories of getting married to someone they met on Tinder. There’s no questioning you can find that golden one by knocking on a thousand doors. It happens. But how many stories of duds and sometimes terrifyingly creepy dates are being passed around? Unless it’s worth a few laughs then those will never see the light of day.
What happens in the mean time?
It’s abused for free food, such as one woman who created a whole game out of it.  “The latest data shows that women are pickier than men. They swipe left (say no) three times more often than men do (46 per cent of the time versus 14)” so women are treated to what seems like an endless buffet and men are left to feel like meat. And how many actually end up on dates with people they match up with on dating sites generally? According to the Pew Research Center, only about a third.  And if you want more proof as to why Tinder isn’t actually about dating, read this (let’s judge each other! Except in the comfort of our own home), and this (a 36 hour stint on Tinder according to a woman).
Sometimes humor is said to always have some basis in truth. The next two are links to videos, with their respective titles.
Why this happened isn’t necessarily as significant as the fact that it has and is still.
What does this mean for young Latter-day Saints?
The short run? Fantastic, with low expectations and a time cap.
The long run? Bad news bears.
Where Tinder is concerned, the cover is what matters. One need not look farther than Utah county to see that high achievement culture when pitted against itself breeds stereotypes of pretty faces hiding knives behind their backs. Not a pretty sight. There is no need to perpetuate or feed Tinder into a culture already ablaze with judgmentalism. Now, it’s obvious that making snap judgements about people and situations is not leaving our evolutionary makeup anytime soon, it keeps us safe and warns us to potential dangers. How else will you know if that shirtless, faceless ab machine really wants to discuss your life aspirations? Many of us are already quick to assume and create or enforce stereotypes, instead of the long and difficult process of considering each person can be different. Once a player always a player, right?
As for the men who start with a genuine desire to mix and mingle with the beautiful ladies of Tinder, they get tossed in the meat Grindr and this is what we get in the long run. Insecurities and itching doubts of self-worth. Is it any wonder so many men have reduced their expectations to using it for hooking up, a quick fix for their carnal appetite?
So women swipe less than men. This could be a result of men having decided, “This is only good for one-night stands”. Lowered standards means any mildly attractive woman will do, and the only way to find success is cast the line often, or swipe more often. With matches piling up for women, it can seem as though popularity has suddenly burst through the doors and carried you away on a wave of overwhelming “likes”. It’s infectious. It’s Tinder on the already existing fire of egocentrism. You must be quite the looker, why else would so many men want you?
As a Latter-day Saint, how does that sound? Doesn’t it jive with your ideas of self-worth being based in the fact that we are all children of God? It mixes about as well as fire and ice.
How you use the app will ultimately determine your opinion of it. My bet is that if you’re a man, you’ll come to find disappointment and discouragement while deciding it may only be useful for hooking up. If you’re a woman, you’ll be left with an inflated ego and more men chasing your skirt then you can shake a stick at.
While you’re at it, throw that stick.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Heart Beats in a Hot Tub

Much of my time spent in thought this summer has been rather self-centered. I can tell because I feel lonely and my problems seems ridiculously large.
Since joining the LDS church I have learned a great deal about my life and this world. One aspect of everything that I am reminded is balance. Nearly everything has a balance that is in constant maintenance. The easiest example is breathing. Always in and out, and as long as I live it will never stop going back and forth.
It is important that I look to my own care and be sure of my health. However, I am not alone, and I can provide for more than just myself. But not always. Here is where I see a balance. Between independence and interdependence.
I believe that it is important to be independent and interdependent. This because I saw ripples in the still water of the hot tub. It was my heart beat causing the ripples. Rhythmic and without fail, ripple after ripple moving in the water.
In a way my just being alive causes ripples around me and affects everyone else.
So anyways, it's about time I begin realizing where I am and who is around me.
God help me. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Am I Willing?

We visited the Pearl Harbor monument today. It took awhile to drive down to Pearl city and I slept most of the way. After a night of dancing I was tired and not really into a long day.
Spending the time at this particular place was moving for me.
I never learned much about the surprise attack from the Japanese in WWII. Being there was particularly unique. The iconic white monument out on the water sits above the Navy destroyer the USS Arizona. It was one of those completely destroyed in the attack. Most of the crew perished and their bodies still lie under the water where the ship had sunk in the bay.
My great uncle Charlie, my Mom's Dad's brother, was in Pearl harbor during the attack but was one of the soldiers given leave and he was at church during the attack. He survived because of this.
Anyways. I reflected and wondered at my own willingness to sacrifice.
I appreciate these moments.