Alright, so World of Warcraft has been around for fifteen years at this point with their Classic iteration launching earlier this year. My own experience with the vanilla WoW began in the year of 2006, so naturally I had to try it. Here’s how that went.Continue reading Why ‘WoW Classic’ Did Not Capture Me
Vibrant technicolor swatches dance endlessly in front of your vision while talking heads babble until there is no more to say. In this age of twenty-four hour television, Wikipedia and its random-page function. Unlimited music with only one click and more information available than could ever be written in physical books, it’s important to understand where our boundaries are.
Day after day, we are taking in hoards of talking points, ideas and abstractions without questioning. Our favorite TV shows peddle jokes laced with popular culture and political subtleties. Oftentimes it’s hard to filter out what’s actually important when we’re being bombarded constantly and continuously. Before the why, we must first explore the what.
What is Clouding My Perspective?
Take some time to write down everything you saw and heard for an entire week. Skimp not on the detail, my friend. Our brains are extraordinary organs in the way that our memories tend to form more strongly with events that give us emotional reactions. Even if you hate this article, you’ll remember it more clearly in your drunken rage than if you’re merely apathetic. Get mad, do it.
While you’re writing down every single sentence that was carelessly flung toward your unsuspecting ears, I dare say you’ll realize the enormity of the task rather quickly. I think, with a side-sauce of chagrin, upon my own experiences daily with sitting in the lounge area at my place of work. People talk constantly about anything and everything. Afraid of the silence and the existential bogeymen lurking within their own thoughts, these men with far too long ear-hair reminisce about the OJ verdict and the best way to toast bread until the clock on the wall itself jumps from lonely perch to hang itself with its own entrails. There’s a picture for you.
Why Should I Filter My Perspective?
For your health. For your happiness. For your sanity. Taking the time to discard whole chunks of what is presented to you in your everyday life is enormously helpful. It’s not as simple as merely trashing every viewpoint that runs counter to yours, as much as learning to process what is useful, productive and healthy instead.
Imagine yourself as someone who has never watched the news before. You’ve never seen how many shootings are happening in the city, how many kids are being abducted, how many schools are underfunded and how the local labour union is going on strike. Imagine you were wholly disconnected from those ideas. What about instagram and twitch? How many users are vying for your precious attention that have absolutely nothing of use for you. It’s staggering, really. This isn’t simply an “ignorance is bliss” as much as it is understanding that knowing how much crime exists does not help you in any palpable way.
Knowing that there are car thieves on the loose will not save you from having your car stolen. What are you going to do, sit in your firebird with a loaded revolver in case the punks dare to try you? Pffft.
The common fallacy I hear as to why it’s important to watch the news, read the newspaper and spend hours online trawling through random articles (like this) is that if they didn’t do this, they’d feel like they’re missing out on the something.
To be extremely blunt, that genocide situation going on two thousand miles/leagues/furlongs away from you has nothing to do with you. While you’re sitting there fretting with your conscience about something you’re realistically going to do nothing about, you could be thinking about the people in your life actually can affect. Your mother, your wife, a coworker. That panhandler you see at the supermarket every Sunday. Narrow your perspective and focus on the important things.
By filtering what you see, hear and ultimately feel, you gain a measure of control over your life. How you feel leads to how you will act in the future and thus defines who you become as a person. Regardless of your age, it’s beneficial to gain an awareness of what all you’re taking in on a daily basis.
How Can I Focus My Awareness?
Food isn’t the only intake you should be watching. What your eyes see and your ears receive is equally as important. Just as nearly every man or woman I’ve ever met feels they could gain or lose a few pounds, so too can your other sensory input be so maintained.
- Step One: Identify which emotion you’d like to feel more or feel less.
- Step Two: Record what you were doing directly before feeling your targeted emotion. Triggers.
- Step Three: Cease your behavior or change your response to said trigger.
- Step Four: Find out if you’re a better person or a scumbag now, then go back to step one.
By treating our information and sensory input as we would an extremely fatty pizza, we can begin to find an emotional balance in our perspective and life overall. This is most certainly not an entreaty to become an ostrich with head buried piteously. Nay, I encourage you to reach out and get to know the people you see every day. I encourage you to take note of how your television programmes are making you feel. Who and what are you surrounding yourself with? We are, after all, extremely sensitive creatures, so take care of what you consume, dear human.
From our first moments in life, we are born with instincts. Crying, laughing, seeking comfort, being dazzled by the colorful objects around us. We want to be held in our mother’s arms and shushed back to sleep. In those moments, we want to escape being alone. In many ways, there’s nothing quite so terrifying as being a child and waking up alone in the dark. Just crawl into bed with your mama and papa, and everything will be alright.
And yet, as we grow, we learn quickly that our parents can’t solve our every needs. They draw the lines in the sand and we stand forlorn on the other side. That’s when you find an escape. Maybe it’s a hobby, maybe it’s a television program. Might be running like a turkey outside making all kinds of ungodly noises.
There’s a palpable unease that begins in the quiet moments of life, when we’re forced to look inward and see ourselves. It’s easier to escape, and it’s actually a good thing in every sense of the word.
What is an Escape?
Allow me to define: escaping is taking oneself out of the present moment and into something else. It’s reaching out with one’s focus and attention to an idea that is not yourself. Escaping can be altering your mindset with alcohol just as easily as it is getting engrossed in a good story. Our bodies and minds long for an adventure that is often not present in life. Life is actually quite dull most of the time. Let’s say you’re sitting on the toilet. It’s something everyone does, regardless of if you’re at work, home, or some strange swampy gas station. You are defecating and there’s nothing interesting nor enlightening about that. So what do you do? You find some means of escape, even if that means grabbing a can of Lysol so you can best inform yourself on cleaning techniques. Is this really what you want to be doing? Did you lose your phone or something? You’re escaping and if you take a look at what you’re doing, you’ll be able to find out something about yourself.
Why Must I Escape?
Life is scary sometimes, but mostly it’s just not that entertaining. Long lost are the times when we are fighting sabretooth tigers for dinner and having sex at will. Everything is so much more complicated now. We have to earn a paycheck, which is some bastardized way of assigning your own worth in a currency. We have to perform an elaborate song and dance ritual while presenting what we believe to be our best selves to win over potential mates. We have to look up reverse mortgage fees to see if we’re being scammed. Woo.
At work, how many times are you asked on Monday, “Joe, what’d you do on the weekend?” and how often did you have absolutely nothing to say. The weekend is supposed to be an escape from work, but is it? You’re left alone to your devices, which is inherently stressful. Might be that you have a family now which means there are several figures who might as well be bosses in different outfits. Everyone expects something from you now. It’s so hard to be carefree.
What if you could change that? What would your life look like if you dropped all of your inherited and bullshit responsibilities and just ran away? Most people dream about it, it’s not just you. The grass is so very green in Hawai’i or Las Vegas, maybe even Japan if that’s your thing.
The reality is that people are the same everywhere, just with different external rules to observe. If you move to Paris, it’s just a different set of social cues to pick up on and unwritten faux paus to observe. If you really want to escape, you’ll have to think deeper; differently.
Can Escapism Lead to Happiness?
Happiness is building something. Happiness is creation and fulfillment. Happiness is making a difference in your own little world. Remember when you were young and you created that really cool building with Legos? Then you destroyed it, right? We experience countless beginnings and endings to things, but how often are they within our control? Find some way of exerting your hands and your intellect to make a difference. That begins with getting away from yourself. Oft quoted is the phrase, “You’re your own worst enemy.” Who else has the power to destroy your life? It’s not really your boss at work that’s ruining your waking hours, it’s you. Stop it. Get out of your head and focus.
Is it Possible to Escape Too Much?
Sure. There are three contending realities in every human’s life. These personas are sleeping, public and private.
- Sleep: This is the you that is pretending to be dead. You combine all sorts of weird nonsensical remnant ideas together and create false narratives with them
- Public: This is the you that steps outside the door. You’ve got your own smile, clothing and a hairdo that tells everyone at a glance what you’re about. It’s all bullshit and people will constantly misunderstand you
- Private: This is the you that you can change and control. Craft and mold it wisely.
If you go too far in any of these three directions, you’ll lose sight of the other two. If your public persona dominates, you’ll find yourself like a ship lost at sea. You won’t even remember what it means to have fun. You’ll just be another dull, boring moron.
If you sleep too much, you’ll get lost in the dreams. Depression is made of sleep.
If you go too far into your private persona, you’ll forget what being fake and well-rested can do for you. Said every businessman ever.
How Do I Choose My Escape?
Close your eyes and forget everything in your life that you don’t want to do. What sounds good right now? Is it baking a cake and then eating the whole thing? Escaping is about engaging in your desires. It’s about making your fantasies more than just abstract ideas. This is your life. Get away from yourself and find something that makes you smile. Empathize with another human, soothe a crying baby, eat a whole chocolate cake. The only sin is passivity.
Religion and politics are great escapes, you know? Why does it feel so reassuring to sit in the pews and pray? You’re leaving yourself and joining the whole congregation in a collective thought bubble aimed at something external. It feels so good.
When they’re reading your eulogy while you spin around in an urn or ride that casket, they’ll just be talking about your public persona, but you’ll know the truth. While it’s just your sleep persona that won out in the end, you had some good times. Keep a journal, it might inspire someone later.
Ah, an article on depression. There are millions of them out there with people claiming to have answers to a problem that has plagued mankind since before written history. Ever taken the time to ogle the self-help section at Barnes & Noble? It’s hard not to be cynical when all these ‘happy people’ are neatly packaging their depression cures for public consumption. My ideas are not my own, in fact they are a culmination of my own research along with decades of having friends, family, and coworkers suffering from depression. If it’ll help you put me into a stereotypical box: I am age 30, male, and was diagnosed with depression at age 21. My father was diagnosed with a rare form of schizophrenia back in the 1970s and was told he should never leave the mental institution. He has since suffered from extreme bouts of depression for most of the years I’ve known him.
I’ve been hospitalized three times for suicide attempts and treated as an in-patient for about a week each time. The last stint was in 2013. Even so, my depression has not had a hold over me since early 2017, and I’m here to tell you the how and the why. Read on, dear friends. We’ll make quick work of some pertinent topics before arriving at oodles of revelations.
Is Medication the Best Way To Combat Depression?
Listen, I’ve taken SSRIs, SNRIs, Tricyclics, Antipsychotics, and others that I’ve simply forgotten about. Medications are not a cure-all, nor are they ineffective. They are most often aids that can assist in keeping certain suicidal ideation or anxieties at bay (sometimes having the opposite effect as well). I do not, however, enjoy the swallow-and-wait approach that doctors take with medication. Since no doctor on the planet can tell you precisely or even vaguely how any particular medication will affect you, it’s simply a guessing game. “I think this medication will work for you, but we won’t know for sure until the three-week to one-month mark.”
This guessing game is one that can end up being worthwhile as tracking your symptoms and mental health while you wait for the medicine to do its job is a decent habit to pick up. Learn yourself.
Is Psychotherapy Worthwhile in Treatment for Depression?
Yes. Sure. Therapy with the right person, that is. I have been regularly visiting the same therapist since 2014, nearly a year after my last institutional visit and suicide attempt. I had bounced around to different people until I found M. She was spastic and ADHD as they come, but she genuinely cared. When I was afraid to leave my house, or drive a car, or even check my email, she did not mock. She understood. I’m married now and she feels like she sees victory whenever I come to visit. It’s true; the right therapist can help you turn yourself around. A trained professional can give you advice or simply just a different perspective on a something you’ve been going over constantly in your mind.
Oftentimes you just need to talk, or more specifically, have someone listen.
Even so, psychotherapy and medication aren’t why you came here. You want to know about hidden secret techniques passed down from monk to monk in the Himilayas, yes? Yeah me too. For now, let’s go with this.
It’s All About Control
To control your body, you must first control your mind. To control your mind, you must know your mind intimately. This requires daily reflection in the option of journaling, praying, or any real quiet introspection of the day’s events. For all of this, we’ll create an elaborate metaphor for the mind using something we’ve all seen or been on: a school bus. How many wheels does your bus have? Does it go fast? Does the driver get distracted by squirrels? These are important question to ask your…school bus.
Now imagine this school bus has two dozen children and one very…tired driver. This driver is constantly yelling at the children to be quiet and finds that she has less and less motivation to keep things quiet. Thoughts and emotions can be seen as each child. The child as an entity is the thought, and its actions are the emotions. Screaming, yelling, cursing, crying. You know those types of children. Everyone’s mind has a few passengers they wish would get off at the next stop.
Control is about taking stock of what all is in your mind. Your thoughts, feelings, aspirations, motivations. These are the abstract qualities that make you a person and not just a human.
Work Toward Increasing Your Sphere of Control
My good friend Ian is to credit for this phrase. When he first told me of it, I had to ask many questions. As I understand it, it relates to sitting down one-on-one with each of the children on your mental bus and having an in-depth conversation. Understand your mind. Understand why you choose to do certain things. Understand which things make you smile. I know some of these things may be seen as henna (strange in Japanese) but that’s what makes you an individual.
As your sphere of control increases, so does your ability to handle what happens or doesn’t happen during daily life. Understanding breeds control. Control breeds peace.
Controlling Your Body Can Help Take Charge of Your Depression
Notice that I call it ‘your depression.’ You have to own it, friendo. This depression wasn’t given to you by your ex or by your parents. You found it and gave it a home. Now, just like a good pet-owner, you must take charge of what you own.
Look at your hands and feet. Slowly. Don’t attract too much attention. That would be bad. Our hands and feet offer so many possibilities in life. My best friend of 23 years has limited use of his body. Due to an incurable disease, he cannot quite brush his teeth anymore. Or wipe his ass. He can only walk for a few minutes at a time. He’s only a year younger than I am, too. And yet, through his depression and anxieties, he still manages to get the fuck out of bed and do things. I’m very proud of him. What’s your excuse?
As for me, with my hands, I work with tools to make tables, chairs, and bookshelves mainly. I love woodworking. I also work on and build computers, fix eyeglasses and play video games. With my feet, I walk nearly ten miles a day, walked along the beach where I got married, and walked to a local grocery store earlier. Don’t get caught up in the connotation of the situation. Doesn’t matter what what you’re doing is seen as objectively small potatoes, when it’s big potatoes for you. I love potatoes.
Yes, yes. I realize that I have potential to do things. So what?
What I’m saying is more subtle than that. I’m not saying that because you can do things, therefore you must. What I am saying, is that by exerting your control over your body to choose to do things, anything, is a step toward mental stability.
Charles Darwin first posed the idea that emotional responses influence our feelings in 1872. “The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it,” he wrote.
There are hundreds of studies out there that postulate that smiling, even with a fake intention, can produce brain chemicals that craft the happiness that we so dearly desire. That’s a nice idea, but I’ll give you something more concrete to work with. Craft something. Whether it be your hair or a barn-wood table. Make something. Take the time to do it right. You may not be feeling anything during or right after, but ’tis a good exercise and habit to acquire.
How Many Things Do You Actually Have Control Over in Your Life?
Can you control your teachers, coworkers, bosses, friends? Can you make them do things? It’s possible to change the way they see you, sure. It’s also possible to get everyone to like you. From my own experience, that takes a toll. Doing so changes who you are to suit others.
The only one you can truly control is you. Know your mind, know your body, know your limitations. Endeavor to create rather than destroy. Try to build bridges rather than burn them.
There are so many times in daily life that we feel as though we have no control over what happens. I’ve been blindsided by denied promotions, relationships gone awry, and family members’ deaths. Feeling helpless and hopeless are the easiest responses to these situations. I challenge you to not take the path of least resistance, and fight instead. Gather ye armor and do battle with the darkest thoughts of your mind. You have taken the time to know yourself, have you not?
Know Your Enemy: Despair
Depression is essentially despair with a side order of the void. Everyone’s depression manifests differently, but the two types that I’ve seen most often are these.
- Pervasive sadness and lack of hope.
- Loss of feeling toward anything and anyone. Loss of motivations
Both have a tendency to end up in the realm of despair. I have been in both arenas at once, and it’s quite easy to give up. I’ll tell you of a story, briefly. The year was 2017. Due to extreme stress, relationship struggles, and the death of my son, I found myself laying in a field. It was a field near-ish to my home, yet it felt like somewhere I could just stay forever. I did not have any motivation to live or to leave. I was done. My girlfriend sat near me in a patch of grass, watching me with bated breath. She knew that if she got up and went home, she’d never see me again. So she stayed. She was as tired and sad as I, but yet she still desired life. I did not understand it at the time, but I had given in to despair.
I had taken the enemy’s hand and chosen to lay down and give up. Only by my significant other’s help did I stand up and limp home. I don’t mean it figuratively. I limped. I stopped many times, as well. I’m not proud of myself, but it’s the truth. I was done. Done with everything. Since then, I’ve gotten to know my enemy despair very well, so that it holds no sway over me at all.
I Have Control Over My Mind, Body, and Self. What Next?
Do some good. I know it sound silly, but it really isn’t. You can really make someone’s day, or do a great job at work. No one will likely pat you on the back, but you will know. Back to that metaphor of the bus, won’t everyone be just thrilled if you take the time to bring snacks for the trip? Every time you do something positive for yourself or another, it’s like giving your brain some chocolate. Tastes good, and is quite satisfying.
At the end of the day, you’re the only one that can help yourself. You have to get off the damn couch and seek to crawl your way out of the abyss. You are the only one that can control you. Why wouldn’t you want to take charge of yourself? I believe in you. I write these articles as a sort of conversation between myself and my readers. I’m talking to you, and I believe in you. Start small and keep grinding away. You’ll get it.
One Last Secret Technique For Fighting Depression
This one is mine own. I’m sure you could find similar ideas elsewhere, but this one is my baby. In essence, it’s a compartmentalization of our thoughts, but I’d rather see it in the form of imagery rather than concept. If your mind was a row of mailboxes, with your thoughts being the mail itself, how would you label the mailboxes themselves? Let’s use one that I’ve been working on recently.
You have two mailboxes:
All of your thoughts can be whittled down to these two categories. As the mail comes in, sort through it and place them in their separate boxes. Constructive thoughts are worthwhile. They are positive, helpful and pragmatic. Destructive thoughts are harmful. They don’t help anyone. Envy, jealousy, greed, wishing harm on others, misplaced anger.
Now imagine that second mailbox has an open back and its mail just conspicuously falls into a trash bin. Ah, isn’t that better? So nice not that have to listen to those unhelpful thoughts. You see them, recognize them, and then let them pass on by. It sounds simple, and depending on you, it can be. Try it out. What’s the worst that could happen?
Learning to sort through your thoughts impassively, without scorn and yet with sound judgment is a learned trait. This is not something that is taught by parents or teachers of this era, sadly.
Depression Is For Life
Those that have true depression, know that it’s a lifelong thing. Just like eating a proper diet is a lifelong thing, so too is managing and learning to control your depression. You are the only one who can arrive at the conclusion that life itself isn’t meaningless. That your actions matter somehow. Like I said before, I believe in you. If you know yourself, learn your enemies, and learn not to ruminate on destructive ideas, you’ll be fine. Maybe even find a glimmering slice of happiness again. Good luck, dear friend.
Retirement plans. The thing we must all have, yet is simultaneously the least enticing notion in existence. Who, besides those in commercials, sits eagerly around the dinner table discussing their 401k last quarter earnings. “Oh honey, it looks like the market is up today, I think that’ll really boost my retirement per year!” said no one ever. It is, however, something that deserves genuine thought. Even so, how we will survive financially past our 60s is something that receives less thought than how many drivers pulled out in front of us recently. Or how much we hate the busy work that’s shoveled onto us every day by that incompetent and undeserving rat bastard of a boss.
That’s because retirement is an intangible. It’s just a concept: something far off in the future that doesn’t really have a whole lot to do with today. So that’s where the idea of taking money out of your paycheck before you really have a chance to notice it comes in. No sane individual is going to willingly choose to fork over $100 of their hard-earned money per period just so you can be better off down the road, right? We just aren’t wired that way. I speak for everyone, it’s okay.
What if I were to say there’s another option; something that’s less abstract and more…sexy? A way of saving that is both as potent as your 401k or 403b but also as real as seeing your saving’s account next to your checking each day. There’s an app called Acorns. It downloads like all those other apps, installs, lets you sign up and processes your information. It’s rudimentary, Bob! Sure, sure, but what does it do?
How Does Acorns Let Me Save For The Future?
Little by little, like digging out your cell wall with a spoon. I joke, I joke. Retirement isn’t anything like prison, I swear! Acorns does a nifty (but also rather common) thing of connecting to your bank account. Being the introspective detective that I am, I was concerned about handing out that information. I checked the Better Business Bureau (fat lot of good they ever do, but hey, worth a try), reader reviews and also any whiff or hint of a scam from editorials online. All things considered, Reddit has proven to be a lie detector in many ways. People may lie or be polite about controversy in-person but on-line is certain a difference maker.
After my rigorous review of Acorns’ credibility, I felt confident that handing over my digits wouldn’t be a mistake. Acorns makes the promise that whenever you, being the credit card hero that you are, pull out your shiny magic rectangle to pay for things, each transaction will effectively be rounded up to the nearest dollar. The extra expenditure will then be pooled into Acorns to be invested into a modestly aggressive stock market portfolio.
If you spent $23.67 on groceries at your local supermarket, Acorns will then snag that excess $0.33 with the intent that you’ll never feel the hurt by missing $0.33. The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t quite work as smoothly as all that. You won’t see a grocery bill of $24.00 if that’s what you were hoping. I like those clean, round, sexy number too, but that’s not how Acorns likes to play ball. The app waits until you hit a $5.00 threshold before transferring anything out of your account. While I would prefer to see those round numbers instead of a $5.00 app withdrawal, I’ll deal with it. Might be that one day they’re able to make that dreamy number of $24.00 a reality. A man can dream.
Does Acorns Earn Money Faster Than My 401k?
That depends, bucko. Acorns works by rounding up your purchases, so if you only purchase one item per week, no, your totals won’t come anywhere close to what your 401k is producing. If you’re like me and swipe your card anywhere between one and five times per day, then you might see some decent returns. Let’s do some math. Grab your ruler and compass, please.
Let’s say I use my debit card five times per day, for an average rounding-up of $0.33. That’s a decent average because how many items do you know sit at $19.25 versus $19.97? You can tell your wife it was basically $15.00 regardless, and retailers know that. So yeah, $0.33 x 5 = $1.65. $1.65 per day for a year equals $602.25. Say you threw in a couple one-time payments and then did the $5.00 a month auto-transfer. Three one-time payments of $25.00 plus another $60.00 from the auto-transfers brings us to a grand total of $737.25.
What Kind of Returns Can I Expect With Acorns?
*Brings back out my ledger* Yes, yes, I see, I see. $737.25 scheduled against a modest one percent return is $7.37. That’s about the bare minimum that you can expect on a cautious total. Markets aren’t all run by stable geniuses (genii?), so things fluctuate a bit. The more you put in, the more you’ll get out. I do both 401k, automatic emergency fund withdrawal, and Acorns, so it’s nice to be able to see them side-by-side. 401ks can work before-tax or after-tax but the only real difference is if you’ll be paying the taxes now or later. It’s taxes like income, whereas Acorns is just you putting your money into a savings account after you’ve paid your run-of-the-mill-horrorfest of income tax.
Yeah, it’s essentially a savings account that can earn you decent cash. It sneakily saves money right under your nose and it startlingly easy to keep tabs on. There’s a flipping widget you can put on your your iPhone or Android mobile phone. The widget shows you the ups and downs of the daily stock market and also how much money you’ve made today.
Will I Still Have Access to My Money?
Absofruitly! As it functions as something akin to Paypal in terms of balances, you can send money to and fro with wild abandon. Retirement plans usually require an early-withdrawal fee or also slap you with a loan for trying to take any of your earned money. With Acorns, it’s your money. Use it when you’d like. Best thing is to let the balance grow, though. Can’t earn mad returns with a small balance, that’s what I always say.
What Features Does Acorns Have Versus Other Apps?
Acorns has a few other nifty features that are worth mentioning:
- Real-time analysis of future potential of account based upon someone’s algorithm
- Found Money aka extra investments made by Acorns for spending money at certain retailers (Between 1% and 25% of money spent, typically)
- Calculation of dividends-received for year-end tax purposes
- Grow aka their free information services about retirement topics
That All Sounds Too Good To Be True. What Does Acorns Really Do With My Money?
Alright, you paranoid bastard, they do charge a fee for this service. One, whole, Dollar for a month. One dollar. Uno dolore. That’s it. If you think about it, though, most Acorns accounts don’t make it past the $100 mark very quickly. That means that at a 1% return-on-investment, you’d just be breaking even. I don’t see it that way, however. This is a service. It saves my money into an account that simply isn’t my checking account, a little at a time. It invests it, and pays me dividends for my investment. That’s worth a dollar, bro. Go get you a retirement.