mental health cat

Finding a way to co-operate with myself, Part 1

I came home to see if I could clear my head and solve some problems.

Some context:

I have an in-progress herniation (degenerative disc disease - not uncommon) which has been a problem for me since my early 20s. After a couple of minor crises (in retrospect at least; at the time, my life was even more chaotic and I didn’t think in those terms) it settled for a few years, and then in 2014 knocked me on my ass literally.

That episode took a month or more to become less acute, such that I could do much of anything. Ask someone you know about how bad this can feel, I’m not here for that, maybe another time. I learned how important my cat was during that time.

After that, I recovered quite a bit, ultimately losing sensation permanently in about 30% of my left calf and ankle. There was some earlier loss of power and control, but that returned to seemingly normal levels. (I say “seemingly” because I’ve noticed there is an instability in my gait which correlates with this too - so I feel there are small differences that perhaps change in response to the actual situation around the sciatic nerve exit from the spine, or indeed anywhere on the way down my leg.

Mostly it’s up high though, which is why the same process, which is glacial in human terms, can cause searing shrieking panic levels of pain in my calf and ankle one year, and then a fireball of white hot terror in my mid-left thigh seven years later. It’s just a matter of a millimeter or two. Over the years, the fact that this is what is known as “useless pain” has become obvious and salient. It’s an observation which helps me deal with it, and feel less helpful (and more creative) when looking for solutions.

For example, this last episode had me unable to walk very far without falling into a pain pit of escalating tension in my thigh. I found that if I crouch down like a Hong Kong craps player it will eventually recede, and if I pummel my upper thigh on the outside by my hip, or grind down hard on the gristle and lumpy core fibers on the top of my pelvis, and around toward the base of my spine, I can ease the pain way down in my thigh. Referred pain. Useless pain. It has no purpose and uses up valuable consciousness/bandwidth.

So dial back to mid-July, and this was coming up on me. I was already having attention problems, impulse control issues, focus deficit, anger, growing depression. After a while of being blocked and unproductive, Daniel, my manager, asked to chat about it. Being as I was not willing to explain myself to an employer, or be carried by another startup as I had been while working for CircleCI back in 2014, I quit. Feeling a bit defeated, and not interested in engaging with Berlin healthcare (healthcare is strangely hostile everywhere, but Berliners don’t like to live in the service industry agency gradient. It’s a uniquely inhuman industry, and somehow being in healthcare makes it possible to feel more righteous hostility, perhaps due to the uniquely compulsory nature of healthcare) I booked my flight to Toronto and started making appointments.

This is where I’m at now. I have a little time before I need to add funds to maintain cash flow for everyone. I’m trying to figure out a way to be which is compatible with how I am. I suspect that means I cannot be employed again, because each time my motivation runs out just a little bit sooner. Eventually I will arrive at a new job pre-burned out. So some learnings for the future:

  • No employment
  • Art, Activism (climate, fascism, capitalism, democracy)
  • Revolutionary praxis (syndicalism, dual power)

The first will require some creative thought, but there may be some consultant-ish things I can do to help with funding. The second should take up most of my time. The third should include reading and propagandizing, either by word or deed. This is likely to be project based.

I think Berlin is the right place to try to do this. But there are other considerations, mostly practical. More on that later.