Living With Mental Illness

I have bipolar disorder.

This is something I never used to openly discuss, as it’s often met with fear, disgust, misunderstanding, and general uneasiness. Many people in my life have replaced the word “bipolar” with “psychotic” as though the words are fully interchangeable. Perhaps in some ways they are, but this is always said with disdain, and used to hurt. Sadly, this is a common reality for those who suffer from chronic and severe mental illnesses. Those who don’t understand it like to blame and hate, rather than learn and empathize.

So, what is bipolar disorder? I think most people know those with bipolar disorder fluctuate between periods of mania and depression, though there are a few different types of bipolar disorder, and their classifications can get confusing. I’ll admit to often “playing dumb” when it comes to bipolar disorder, because the second you sound educated on it, it’s pretty obvious you have it yourself. I tend to be slow to admit this, as it’s the equivalent of a scarlet letter. Something that makes you terribly undesirable to others. I’ve decided to be blaring and open, but please know everything I write here is my own personal experience, and doesn’t encapsulate all people with bipolar disorder. I am also not formally educated, so please seek the advice of a professional if you need assistance.

Rather than discuss the sometimes subtle or confusing distinctions between the different classifications of bipolar disorder, I’ll discuss what it’s like for me personally living with it. I have a rather severe form of bipolar disorder, in which I experience rapid cycling and what are referred to as “mixed episodes”. My symptoms are not subtle and are sometimes downright unmanageable. Though keep in mind, some people with bipolar disorder have somewhat mild cycles that are spread quite far apart. So, just because a person doesn’t have full blown manic episodes or extended periods of suicide ideation, it doesn’t mean they don’t have bipolar disorder. They may experience only hypomania, which is a milder form of mania, and moderate depressive episodes. These people will seem “moody”, but not particularly difficult to deal with. They are often bright, intelligent, creative, and productive when in the throes of hypomania, where those with more severe episodes of true mania will often seem “insane”. In a mixed episode, this can be even more extreme, and in my case, mania can also manifest as rage.

Let’s take a moment to discuss “mixed episodes”, and why they’re such a problem. A lot of people consider mixed episodes to be the worst feature of any bipolar disorder, and for good reason. This is because the person is experiencing the sensation of worthlessness and suicide ideation of a depressive episode while simultaneously experiencing the agitation, racing thoughts, and high energy of a manic episode. You can see how this creates a cocktail for extreme or reckless actions. Chiefly suicide. Those with bipolar disorder, but specifically with mixed episodes, have a much higher risk of suicide than any other group of people. That statistics are abysmal at best.

As I mentioned above, mixed episodes can also create intense rage, which I experience fairly often. Mania or hypomania are often highlighted by elevated mood or self-esteem, which I experience routinely as well, but in a mixed episode this doesn’t occur. The mood or self-esteem are not elevated. The person still feels worthless and hopeless, only with the energy and drive to do something to about it. They may experience vivid visualizations of their own death, ruthlessly insult themselves or others aloud, make drastic plans for life changes, harm themselves, throw objects, or even experience a “blackout”, where they won’t remember what occurred during the episode. This can create a terrifying situation, especially if other people are involved. Which leads me to the next topic I want to explore…

Bipolar Disorder and Relationships

I’ll refrain from going into immense, personal detail here, but I want to preface this by saying my experiences are only my own, and I’m not saying they will be the same for everyone. I speak only from my own personal reality. Still, no one would ever claim that living with or being romantically involved with someone who has bipolar disorder is easy or normal. If they do, I’d say they’re lying to themselves and their partner. Especially if the person has as severe a form of the disorder as I do. My partners all suffered because of it, especially the one who lived with me for an extended time. Obviously, this is difficult to talk about, but I’m doing so for the sake of others. I’m in a place now where I’ve accepted my situation, and no longer ache to change it. It cannot be changed, and I feel confident to speak on it, as it may help someone else.

For someone in a relationship with a bipolar person, life is often miserable, unpredictable, and even frightening depending on the particular behavior of the bipolar person. One day, their partner will be excitable, enthusiastic, and even funny, then the next they want to kill themselves, can’t get out of bed, or are going into a rage over a small mishap. These behaviors are never a choice on the bipolar person’s part, but they are no less frustrating and horrible for the person they’re with.

I understand my statements here might come across as harsh, and I know as a bipolar person reading this, it might even be hurtful, but it’s what I see as truth. Too many mentally ill people fail to grasp the idea that their behavior is an abnormality, and isn’t enjoyable to be around. It’s just a fact. I think some mentally ill people expect complete understanding and tolerance from their partners, which isn’t fair or realistic. No matter how well the person understands the disorder, it’s still inherently unpleasant to deal with the symptoms of any mental illness, but especially the extremes that often come with bipolar disorder.

In my particular case, my symptoms have always been so severe that I eventually decided that close, romantic relationships are not for me. It’s a matter of decency and empathy on my part, which I’m thankful to have. I don’t consider it a fair deal for any woman to have to put up with my disorder and the dreadful behaviors and outbursts that come with it. Yet even still, I have people who haven’t experienced it downplay it to me. Defending me. Saying, “It’s not so bad. Love conquers all.” Though these people are disillusioned. No woman on this earth can indefinitely tolerate a six foot three man throwing objects and screaming at them for absolutely no reason. They can’t endure the paranoia, intense jealousy, and depressive episodes that are so severe they have to question if he even loves them anymore. They can’t endure him staying up for days on end, not allowing them to sleep as he rants about nonsensical issues, gambles away his money, and repairs things in the home that aren’t even broken. They don’t want to live with the constant fear that he’ll kill himself. Though like with anything, people love to say it’s not a big deal until it happens to them. They love to say the person didn’t truly love the bipolar person if they left, which sometimes isn’t true at all. Sometimes, leaving is the only option. Sometimes, that love itself is the dagger that cuts the deepest.

Those who haven’t delved in deep with a person who is mentally ill can often be ignorant to how difficult it actually is being with them. Especially in a romantic relationship. I’ve been open about my disorder to every woman I’ve ever been romantically involved with, and I always told them before it became serious. Some of them knew the severity already and broke things off with me. Though the ones who stayed were the ones who didn’t know any better, and always ended up worse off after being with me. Though I never intentionally wanted to hurt anyone, it’s just inevitable. The one who was with me the longest ended up with PTSD, due to years of enduring my extreme episodes, and it honestly breaks my heart. I was incapable of changing or “curing” myself, even for a person I truly loved. A person who meant the world to me.

As such, I knew I was never going to put myself or anyone else through that again, and have held to that for over two years now. The temptation to break that decision can often be strong, however, especially with the hypersexuality that often accompanies bipolar disorder. Though I always remind myself that relationships, for me, are always romanticized in my head, and the reality isn’t even close to that fantasy. The reality is painful and ugly. For me, but more so for the person I’m with. It selfishness for me to be with anyone, and I’m far too old and experienced to justify being selfish.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder, and How Do You Treat It?

I had a very early onset of bipolar disorder, in my late teens, brought on by an intensely abusive and traumatic childhood. Though I was experiencing significant mental disturbance as early as eleven. At a young age, I also started abusing alcohol, and still am to this day. In addition to this, I also suspect – even though it was never confirmed – that my father also had bipolar disorder. These factors for me created the perfect cocktail for serious, incurable mental illness. For others, it may be one factor. Genetics. A single traumatic event. Chemical imbalance. Substance abuse. The causes vary greatly from person to person, as does the severity of the disorder itself. As such, treatments will vary as well.

Over the course of my life, I’ve been hospitalized numerous times and have taken various medications, but nothing did much to improve my condition. I tried numerous drugs as I aged, and found none of them effective or worth the side-effects. However, I have to stress that if you have bipolar disorder, do not shy from trying medication. Many of them are effective for many people. My specific case has just proven particularly resistant to treatment, and I tired of taking so many pills which didn’t seem to help me at all. They only made me feel worse in numerous ways. Some even made me more suicidal, which was the last thing I needed as a person who has pressed the barrel of a gun to my temple more than once.

For me, medication took away the intense episodes most of the time, but I was left a vacant shell and as I said, more suicidal, just without the will to act on it. I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t enjoying life. I was heavily medicated, so it worked to subdue me, but it was nothing more than a tiny, adhesive bandage over a gaping wound. I was often asleep, sick, or nearly catatonic. I have much higher levels of functioning off of medication, just with the downside of frequent and extreme episodes. As such, I’ve sworn off medication and just endure the symptoms when they arise.

With this being said, cognitive behavioral therapy is considered quite effective in treating bipolar disorder, though it can’t cure it. Cognitive behavioral therapy changes your thought patterns, and is useful for many different psychological disorders. I’ve dabbled in this myself, and it’s one of the only reasons I can maintain a steady job and function enough to live, but as an adult I haven’t sought treatment of that kind from a professional. Therapy is expensive and irritating to me, so I’ve done the wrong thing in avoiding it. Don’t be like me. See a professional. It might change your life.

Self-Medicating

I can vouch for how common it is for those with bipolar disorder to self-medicate to reduce their symptoms. For me, and I’m going to be awkwardly honest here, this self-medicating cycle typically consists of whiskey, cigarettes, porn, and poker (gambling). It’s an endless loop, with my main coping mechanisms being cigarettes and alcohol. I can’t imagine ever having to go without either one at this point, but drinking is one of the worst things you can do as a bipolar person. Especially if you suffer from severe depressive episodes like I do. Yet I do it anyway. Why? Because it’s one of the only ways I can sleep if I’m on the manic end of the spectrum. Alcohol is incredibly numbing, and eases any sort of pain I’m feeling. Physical and mental. Of course, the downside is frequent sickness and a significant worsening of the depression when I crash.

Cigarettes are one of my deepest comforts in life, obviously with the downside of possible lung cancer. For me, that’s not much of a price to pay and I don’t really care about that (again, please don’t be like me). Cigarettes help with my depression. Giving me a reason to get up and go outside. They’re also a stimulant. They make me feel more “alive” for a few minutes. Living without them at this point would be impossible and downright disastrous for me.

Porn is obviously nothing more than an outlet for sexual frustration, but the gambling has been at times, a serious hindrance. I’ve learned to control it for the most part, making sure my affairs are in order and that I’m not gambling money I don’t have. Yet this “rush” of losing money is another addiction and coping mechanism common to people with bipolar disorder. You can imagine a partner of a bipolar person coming to them about rent being paid, and finding out the money is gone from a single game of poker. Why that’s a problem needs no explanation and has to be regulated before the person destroys their life. I’ve come close to that plenty of times in the past, and honestly, it could spiral back to that at any time.

Self-medicating, in theory, is never the right choice. Professionals are trained to help people with their mental illnesses, but it doesn’t always work. This is why sometimes it takes a persistent loved one to find the right doctor for a mentally ill person. The mentally ill person will often resist treatment, not have the will to go to appointments, or forget to take their medication. This is a massive burden on another person, and having this responsibility for a fully grown adult is another thing that leads to the end of relationships. When I was religiously taking medication, it took my partner at the time to remind me, bring it to me, etc. Otherwise, I would never have taken it. I’m not saying every bipolar person is like that. Some care for themselves just fine, depending on the severity of the condition. Many bipolar people are quite responsible and follow their doctor’s instructions to the letter. I am not one of those people, and many others aren’t as well.

The Never-ending Roller Coaster

“You were so happy yesterday, what happened?” “You’re so angry and I didn’t do anything.” “Why are you so down on yourself? You weren’t last week.” “Is something wrong?” Questions like these are constant for someone with bipolar disorder. The fact is, there’s always “something wrong”. In my case, a permanent dysfunction of the brain. I can be content one moment, then hopeless the next. Humorous one hour, enraged the next. Vacant one second, overly aroused a moment later. Working on a project one night, then wanting to kill myself the following morning. It’s just the reality of serious rapid cycling, and it will never go away. Yet a person who doesn’t know what it feels like always wants to find a concrete reason for every mood, when there isn’t one. When there is a serious reason, the episode for me will sometimes be catastrophic, but bipolar people don’t need to be “triggered” to experience these shifts.

“Normal” people find that hard to grasp, because their brains function the way they’re supposed to. They experience moods based on stimuli or the lack thereof, and their bodies respond accordingly. This isn’t the reality for many people with severe bipolar disorder. We experience extreme moods with absolutely no cause, yet in my case, this is coupled with a persistent lack of emotion. That sounds like a contradiction, but it isn’t.

Sometimes bipolar people are assumed to be highly “emotional”, where I experience the opposite. I don’t normally experience immense sadness, excitement, fondness, fear, etc. The only emotion I frequently experience to extremes is anger. Most of the time, I’m either empty or irate, but when I’m graced with a period of feeling more stable, I experience whispers of various emotions. It reminds me of carbonated, flavored water. You get a hint of artificial strawberry, but it’s mostly water. Absolutely nothing like biting into a ripe strawberry. Yet cognitively, I know it’s a strawberry flavor. I know what it’s supposed to taste like. I just can’t experience it to its fullest.

This leads to more questions…

How did that not make you cry?” Well, I know it should have. I recognize that it’s horrible. I sympathize with that. Yet my body doesn’t allow me to cry.

We could have died, and you weren’t scared!?” No. I wasn’t. Simple as that.

Do you even care about me?” Yes. Of course. I want to show you that I do, but I can only do so by being protective of you. By doing favors for you. By listening to you. I can’t be strident or terribly verbal with my affection.

Why are you emotional in bed and nowhere else?” I’m not emotional there either. You confuse physical instinct and my unusually high sexual intensity with emotion, making them one in the same, when they aren’t. For me, arousal isn’t akin to emotion at all. It’s closer to a sensation like hunger.

If you don’t feel the way I do, how can you love me?” Love is defined in countless ways. Some people would claim an unemotional person can’t love, because love is an emotion. I think this is myopic and false. The ability to “love” is closer to a drive and a choice than an emotion, and it depends on which areas of the brain are functioning normally and which ones aren’t. If the frontal lobe, for example, is significantly damaged, a person’s capacity for empathy is destroyed, thus rendering them incapable of “love”. Because what is love without the ability to put the needs of another above your own? People often confuse excitement, lust, and euphoria with love, when these sensations can be felt in so many other areas for so many other reasons, and they can be fleeting. Yet the ability to place importance in another person no matter what is going on outside of them is a clear demonstration of love, and it is a choice. When I love a woman, I choose to be her protector and provider. I choose to be with her and no other. In addition to that, my natural, instinctual drive to reproduce and preserve what I feel is mine compels me to put her on a pedestal above everything else in my life, and anything that gets in the way of that is subject to being eradicated. None of these things are dependent on intense emotion.

Drive. Choice. Instinct. To me, this defines a man’s ability to “love”. Not how excited, happy, or sad he can feel.

I’ve digressed, but I felt it needed to be said, that even an unemotional, bipolar person is indeed capable of “love”. Whether or not a person wants to subject themselves to their love and the intense, frustrating, and often painful wrapper it comes in is another story altogether.

How To Cope

I speak only for myself here. Keep that in mind.

For me, part of coping is being alone. I spent most of my life trying to get someone to “understand” me. I felt if they understood my nature I could maintain a lasting relationship, and that being with someone who understood me would make me “happy”. I was terribly wrong in that, and I learned everything in the hardest way imaginable. It’s still hard. I’ve recently been reminded, over and over, in different ways, how hard it truly is. Yet I would never lean on the feeble understanding of another towards me. I lean upon my own understanding of myself, because no one knows me the way I know myself. They never will. Experience is the greatest teacher, and to ignore experience in order to try to accomplish the same goal in the same way again and again, is the most foolish thing I can imagine.

For me, trying to be with someone is like two people mutually agreeing to cut each other. It doesn’t matter where you cut the flesh, what tool you use, it’s going to hurt, and it’s going to scar. No matter what you try to tell yourself or the other person.

I discussed self-medicating, but what about a healthy outlet? I think it’s incredibly important for any mentally ill person to have an outlet. I know this can be impossible to indulge in while in the throes of an episode, but when you can, it’s pivotal. This outlet could be anything. For me it’s writing. For another it could be music, art, fitness, reading, etc. Having a support animal can be helpful as well, but in my case, I’m not the type of person to have a pet. A mentally ill person needs this outlet even more than other people. They need something to focus on other than the turmoil they’re in most of the time, and they need to feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s essential to cope with life.

Even if a person isn’t a writer, I think journaling one’s thoughts is a valuable way to cope as well. For someone who is mentally ill, their feelings, thoughts, or expressions might seem bizarre, offensive, or shocking to others, so they tend to remain silent, bottling everything they feel. This only worsens the condition they’re suffering from. I know it does for me. I have a lot of angry, violent, and hateful thoughts (all directed at myself), and I can’t express these things to others. When I do, one of two things happens:

1. You get the typical, positive out-pour from the well meaning person: “No, you’re so wonderful and awesome, that’s not true!” They absolutely mean well. They believe that. Their perception is their own, and they hope to use it to change the other person’s perspective of themselves, and in vain. Self-worth comes from within. Nowhere else. These statements can even anger the mentally ill person and make them feel worse. They feel unheard and like their emotions are invalidated.

2. The negative reaction from the uneducated, apathetic person, which is more common. “Wow, you need help.” Any variation of that phrase or other abusive statements like, “So many people have it worse than you.” These people fail to understand that the brain is the cause of a mental illness. It’s not a choice. Mental illness rarely hinges solely on circumstance.

Only truly educated people respond in a rational way that is both empathetic and helpful. They relate the feelings to the person’s illness without robbing them of validation. “I understand you feel that way, and it’s horrible for you, but please remember this is your brain doing this to you. You can talk to me about it.” This is really the only appropriate way to respond to a mentally ill person (that has the capacity to understand they’re mentally ill, some cannot). It reminds the person they’re suffering from a disorder. They aren’t truly worthless. They don’t truly need to die. Their brain is attacking them the way the immune system attacks the body in an autoimmune disease. Many people can grasp that, and it can help ground them out of a self-hating or suicidal stint. I say this because it has helped me personally. Not every time, but it was probably one of the main reasons my last partner stayed so long. She could often snap me out of it by gently reminding me that I’m mentally ill.

Most people don’t have anyone to talk to, however. That’s why an outlet and writing one’s thoughts down can be crucial in maintaining some quality of life. Proper treatment and finding healthy ways to cope can greatly improve a mentally ill person’s life, but this can be more difficult to achieve than people think, especially if the person is alone. By choice or otherwise.

Conclusion

Life with bipolar disorder is never easy, though it doesn’t mean that a bipolar person can’t have a fulfilling existence in some ways. They’re often deep thinkers and talented creators. Their lives are just very different from those who don’t suffer from a mental illness. Their relationships are more challenging, when they’re possible at all. Their world is constantly fluctuating. Like an image routinely fading from vibrant color into an inverted grayscale. It’s disorienting, disheartening, and sometimes crushing. Yet a life is still carved from that fractured existence. One that can sometimes, due to their intensity, leave a massive impact on others. That’s why it’s important to make sure that impact is meaningful. Even beautiful.

Separating An Ideal From Reality

People have a natural tendency to create an ideal of everything in their minds. It’s in our nature to do so. We have the ability of foresight, but also a desperate need for everything to go well. To go as we’d planned. To go as we’d hoped. Many of us are able to balance this in our lives without much trouble, but this post is for those who spend their lives not only creating and clinging to ideals, but who waste an incredible amount of energy trying to force them as well.

What is an ideal?

So, what do I mean by an “ideal” anyway? An ideal is the ultimate example of any desirable thing. A thing of exquisite beauty. A seamless, flawless, end goal. As an adjective, it usually means “perfect”. Yet, as intelligent creatures, we know nothing is perfect, right? Of course we do, yet this doesn’t stop us from chasing and creating these often impossible ideals.

An ideal can be something as small as a meal or as large as a career or marriage. I myself go about my day moving from one ideal to the next. Starting with the ideal cup of black coffee, to smoking that ideal menthol cigarette, and listening to the ideal music as I start what I hope is an ideal day of work. I obviously want all these things to go well. I want to have a day free of strife and trouble. Yet when my ideal morning is ruined by spilling hot coffee everywhere or running out of cigarettes, my mood will be sour for some time. Does it have to be though?

Those things are inherently unpleasant, but how strongly I’d created that ideal morning in my head can often be a determining factor in just how angry I get when it all goes wrong. This is a very small, lighthearted example of how an ideal can be detrimental, based on how critical it is for the person to reach it. Had I never created that “ideal morning”, I may have been able to take things in stride. Possibly even laugh them off.

Ideals have a place in life. Sometimes they’re needed. Sometimes they’re healthy. Though sometimes, they can be downright destructive. We’ll discuss this in depth.

Ideals in Relationships

This is probably the best and most intense example of an ideal. Most people, whether they admit or not, have an “ideal” partner in their head. Even a person like me, who has chosen for some time now to be alone, still has that vision of what my “ideal” woman is. Sometimes this is built solely from a person’s inherent preferences, sometimes it’s based on a previous partner, or a combination, in my case. This ideal can strengthen over time, getting more rigid and complex with the passing of time. It seems fairly harmless, and it mostly is. Everyone has different tastes, and there’s nothing wrong with this, though it becomes problematic in two ways:

1. The vision of the ideal partner is unrealistic, especially in relation to one’s own reality.

A great example of this is a highly unattractive man who believes he should date a woman who looks like a supermodel. He’s obviously reaching so far beyond his reality that if he clings to that ideal, he’ll never find a partner. An extremely attractive woman will most often date a man of similar attractiveness. Of course, we occasionally see deviations here for various reasons, chiefly wealth, but in general, beautiful women will date handsome men. It’s just a concrete reality that many don’t want to accept. So in this example, how many great partners is this man missing out on because the girls, like him, don’t look like a magazine centerfold?

Another common example is a woman who idolizes and desires a celebrity to the point of not being interested in any men she can have, unless they’re exactly like him. This is somewhat harmless on the surface, but how much energy should this woman put into loving a man who will never even know she exists? Furthermore, is it fair of her to have an extensive checklist of specific traits from a celebrity, and expect every prospective partner to fit them? This is another example of a person with an ideal that heavily contrasts with their own personal reality. She will never be with that celebrity, nor will she ever find a man exactly like him, so all of that emotion and energy is wasted.

Of course, we’ve all seen unattractive men with gorgeous wives, or a celebrity who chose to date a fan. Yet these sporadic examples, which are usually due to other factors like wealth or abnormal circumstance, can strengthen a person’s vision of how possible their ideal is, when it is in fact, exceedingly unlikely to achieve.

2. The person tries to force their ideal on a partner who doesn’t fit.

This is just as common as the first reason. Sometimes a person will fall for another who fits their ideal in some ways, yet doesn’t in others. Instead of either loosening the grip on their ideal, or moving on to someone who might fit better, they try to fix, change, or heal the person in question. This is an excessively common practice, among women especially. Men are not houses. You don’t want to find a “fixer-upper” and try to make him your dream home. Men do this too, but in my experience, it’s usually a woman trying to change a man.

An example is a woman finds a man who fits her physical ideal, and even her emotional and intellectual ideal in some ways. Yet he’s insistent on not wanting children. Having children is important to her, so she tries to change his mind. To force him into liking the idea of having children. Could he change his mind over time? Sure. He very well could. Yet how much effort should she put into that? How long should she wait? Years? It could be that he’s simply not her ideal partner, and she would be better off finding a man who is already excited by the idea of fatherhood.

Another example is a man who falls for a woman with a chronic illness. He loves the way she looks, her interests, everything about her. Yet her illness causes great distress to her, and she knows it’s never going to subside. She chooses to be alone, and tells him she’s not interested in a relationship. The man proceeds to wait, to try to convince her, to try and force her into liking the idea of being with him. We could say it’s noble of him to desire her in spite of her struggles, but is it even respectful of him to put his desires above her insistence on being alone? In this case, the man is better off looking for someone who, like him, is actively seeking a relationship.

Having a vision of an ideal partner is healthy in most ways. A person should seek a standard, especially of moral inclination, in a romantic partner. This is critical to finding happiness with another. Yet this becomes problematic when a person reaches well beyond their station or tries to change a person to fit their ideal. Look at yourself. Where you are in life. What you believe in. Find a person who has similar goals, desires, and beliefs, and forgive the smaller discrepancies, (especially the physical ones).

Ideals in Creativity

Another area in which an ideal can act as a ball and chain is in the creation of art. I’ll use myself as an example here. I have plans to write a series of novels, yet I keep waiting and planning for the “ideal moment” to start this massive venture. An ideal moment that most likely won’t ever arrive. I’ve written numerous books in the past, yet this new project eludes me, and all of the barriers are self-inflicted. I could blame it on current life stresses. On the timing. On various, recent events. Yet the bottom line is, I’ve been more productive in truly worse moments of my life. The issue is a psychological one, built around this fictitious ideal that won’t ever grace me.

There comes a time in a person’s life where they have to accept that their ideal won’t ever happen, and they have to move forward regardless. What many creative types don’t realize, is that they don’t have to wait for inspiration to start creating or to begin a new project. The power is always present in an artist of any type and at any skill level. All a person needs is desire, a bit of time, and motivation. We often create an ideal out of inspiration itself, without realizing that inspiration can be engendered from nothing, should we choose to create it. It’s always there, waiting to be accessed. The issue is that most don’t realize they can access it.

Even worse, sometimes a person does know this, yet still chooses not to. Like in my case. I know I could write that first book in my series right now, yet I don’t. I see the wall I’ve built with this ideal setting in which to begin, yet I choose not to tear it down. I choose to allow various obstacles to keep me from devoting myself to the project.

If you find yourself in this situation, I believe it’s always best to try and force your way out of it. To take every bit of time you have and use it to try and move forward in your art. Whatever it may be. We only have one life to live, and it goes by quickly. Too quickly to waste so much time waiting on an ideal that won’t ever come.

Though ideals in creativity don’t stop with inspiration and beginning a project, they can exist in one’s own output as well. I see a lot of artists comparing themselves to others, and this can often create a toxic relationship with one’s own creations. The artist begins to imagine an ideal reaction, an ideal audience, an ideal profit off their creation, when this is most often unattainable. Yet, even if they do attain it and find some success, when they’re ruled by toxic ideals, they’ll then compare their one hundred thousand followers to another artist’s million.

At this point, an artist isn’t creating for the right reasons, and the “ideal” is constantly out of reach, like a carrot held on a string in front of a pig. They’re always moving forward, but never reaching their goals. Healthy ideals in creation lie in the act of creating. In the completion of projects. In improving the craft. The moment an ideal lies beyond an artist’s control, the passion for their work will wane.

Ideals Concerning One’s Own Appearance

Of course, we all want to look a certain way. In my case, I like to attempt keeping myself in shape by lifting weights, I tend to shave my face every day, I have certain clothes I like to wear, I religiously brush my teeth, etc. This is all healthy self-image; aspects of daily life that make a person feel better about themselves. If we didn’t do any of these things for our self-image, we’d begin to look haggard and unkempt. This is all healthy, and not what I’m referring to. Having an unrealistic ideal concerning yourself, however, can be detrimental to your mental health. Let’s analyze how and why.

Sometimes, usually through the consumption of media, a person will develop a physical ideal concerning themselves that isn’t even remotely obtainable. They desire something that’s beyond their reach, due to physical limitations. This subject is where a person could raise many arguments, especially as it relates to gender identity, but we’ll leave that out of this particular conversation. Simply because someone’s perception of their own gender is a deeper, more complex psychological discussion than that of “beauty” or typical “self-esteem”, which is what I’m discussing here.

Beauty, as a concept, is something that permeates our culture, and has forever. Though I can’t stress enough how exaggerated its importance truly is in our modern era. Media constantly tells women to look a certain way, tells men to desire a certain thing, etc. Humans are often visual, and very impressionable. We see this reflected in beauty trends, where women will adhere to them without much question, and men will encourage them in most cases. Sometimes, these ideals are reasonable, even healthy, yet other times they’re foolish and damaging.

One example of a detrimental ideal is having large, unnatural looking lips. A woman sees this trend, and looks in the mirror at her lovely, albeit petite lips and decides she needs to adhere to it. She resorts to injections to get the look. Yet, was that really necessary? The trend forced into her an unhealthy ideal. One that contrasted with her physical reality of having smaller lips. In my opinion, someone should never resort to an invasive procedure for strictly aesthetic reasons. Part of the uniqueness of humanity is the variety in our appearances, yet these trends cause many people to try and look exactly like one another.

In contrast, an example of a healthy ideal is a man who is underweight and lacking strength, so he decides to build muscle. It would be healthy for him to try and increase his protein, and start strengthening his body. It would create a feeling of self-esteem, but also give him a stronger, healthier, more able-bodied frame. Of course, certain health conditions might prevent a person from either losing or gaining weight, but in general, being around one’s healthy weight or gaining muscle isn’t a detrimental ideal at all.

The main reason why physical ideals which rest outside of health or general self-image are detrimental is because they make a person waste an immense amount of energy, thought, time, and even money on something with no real importance. Our bodies are nothing more than the vessel which carries our minds. We want them to work properly, certainly. We want them to be clean. Presentable. Capable. Yet a tireless pursuit of physical beauty is, in and of itself, pointless. Our bodies will wither and fade as we age, no matter what we do. The real importance lies in our actions. Our creations. The way we impact the lives of others. So, if you’re clinging to an unhealthy physical ideal concerning yourself, I’d urge you to let it go. Accept yourself as you are, and broaden your mind.

Focusing on Reality

Those were just a few of the biggest examples of ideals, and how they can be both healthy and unhealthy. The important thing is to balance healthy ideals with a firm grasp on reality. To understand our own goals, the intentions behind them, what we want out of life, and find a way that’s both practical and possible to achieve what we want is crucial to a worthwhile existence. Focusing on reality rather than fantasy is critical to achieving this balance.

Many people choose to live in a fictional reality in order to escape their limitations. While this can seem mostly harmless, it can cloud a person’s vision of themselves, and prevent them from doing things they’re actually capable of. It’s always better to take control of your own reality. Stop yearning for the impossible. Use what you have. Embrace who you are, and everything you do, create, and love will be better for it.

Never Rush Relationships

How To Protect Yourself From Manipulators

We’ve all been in a situation where we met someone and felt a swift and potent connection, either a platonic one or a romantic one. This can indicate that two people are compatible for companionship, but it can also indicate that you’re dealing with a dysfunctional manipulator. Sadly, the latter is far more common.

First, understand that manipulative personalities will learn what they can about you through your social media, or in an in-person setting, through other people who know you. They then use this information to emulate your interests, mimicking back to you, like a parrot, to create a false sense of familiarity and affinity with you. This builds trust quicker, and if there’s very little to argue or disagree about, you’ll likely let your guard down.

Do your own research into people. It’s healthy to do so. You might discover without much difficulty that the person is lying to you. For example, they tell you they love the same bands as you, but when you look at their playlists, or liked/followed bands, you don’t see the bands you mentioned to them. They may also express to you a deep love for animals, yet you see no evidence of it anywhere. It’s not a reason to stop talking to them, per se, but it can be useful to help you determine whether the person is truthful or not. More likely, however, you won’t see such obvious signs if the person is a more seasoned manipulator.

Why Do They Do it?

At this point, you’re probably going to ask something along the lines of, “Why though? Why would someone do this?” You have to separate what you understand as “normal” behavior, and look at the broader picture.

To begin to understand why dysfunctional, manipulative types do what they do, ask yourself why murderers, rapists, and con artists do what they do. They do what they do because they have no empathy. They do not have a fully functioning frontal lobe, and more specifically, the anterior insular cortex, which is the epicenter of empathy in the human brain. People without the capacity for empathy use people as one would use an object. They seek position, control, and dominance, as this is what brings them pleasure in life, and they are almost always incapable of change. There’s very little emotion in these toxic behaviors. They are not “scared”, “overcompensating”, or “hurting”. Archaic psychology often teaches these false ideas, yet it’s dangerously inaccurate. The reality is that these people are masses of flesh and bone who do not have properly functioning brains, which in turn means that they do not have proper emotional responses. This, you have to understand first. Separate your emotional, empathetic responses, because you viewing abusive behavior with empathy is a dire mistake. One that can and will ruin your life.

Empathetic people have a terrible habit of viewing others and the world through the haze of their own perception. They are often unable to separate their own realities from the reality of the outside world. “I would never do that, surely there’s another reason.” “Everyone is good at heart, right?” “I bet he hurts people because he was abused as a child.” These are all false and never an absolute. Just because your brain produces certain responses, it doesn’t mean other people’s brains will. Everyone does not have the capacity to understand or care about “goodness”. There are many people who were abused as children who don’t intentionally hurt others (I’m a living, breathing example of this).

Why do some people do it then? Because we, as people, rely on our brains for every thought and emotion we possess. If the brain is damaged or malfunctioning in certain ways, behavior will be altered accordingly. In the case of the abusive manipulator, the capacity for empathy is nonexistent, which makes a true connection impossible. Regardless of what you feel.

Speeding Up The Process

Once the reason is understood, a person can begin to accurately identify and deal with manipulative personalities. One of the most common tactics is trying to establish an instant friendship or relationship. You might get someone telling you within a week or less, “I feel so close to you.” “I really feel myself falling in love with you.” “You’re so perfect.” “I feel like I’ve known you my whole life.” These statements can feel enthralling, flattering, shocking, and tend to separate you from logic. Yet they are almost always a red flag.

Manipulators don’t want to waste time building a real connection with people. They lack patience, and want to accomplish their goals as quickly as possible. They might want your money, your body, position over you, to destroy a brand or business you’ve built, etc. The first step for most of them is earning your trust. This is why it’s absolutely critical to keep a clear, logical stance with new connections. Establish firm boundaries, and don’t concern yourself with the idea that they’ll stop talking to you if you don’t concede. Start getting used to the word “no”, and use it often. A person who might become a valuable friend or lover to you will always respect the word “no”.

Be aware of tactics they may use to get you to go against your decisions. A few examples:

Example 1:

You say: “I don’t feel comfortable doing video chats.”

They say: “I feel like you might not be real then.”

This might make you feel you have to concede to “prove” you’re real. You know you’re real. Why do you need to have a video chat to prove it to a random person? You have the freedom to go at your own pace and do these things as you feel comfortable. Video chats are recorded all the time. Some manipulators collect these videos. You don’t have to do a video chat with a person if you don’t want to, and they should never press the issue.

Example 2:

You say: “I need to get to know someone before I consider them a friend.”

They say: “We’ve been chatting a month, it hurts that you don’t consider me a friend.”

This is an unnecessary guilt trip. A month is not an adequate amount of time to get to know a person. Someone saying this is a clear indicator that the process to manipulate you is taking too long for their liking. Any rational person would not be pressuring you to have a deeper emotional connection with them. It would happen naturally, as all connections should.

Example 3:

You say: “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel safe sending you pictures of my body.”

They say: “You can trust me, I’d never show them to anyone. If you care, you’ll send them.”

This is more an issue for women, but it happens to men too. No one, and I repeat, no one, should ever try to “convince” you to send nudes over social media. Please understand I’m not demonizing sending nudes if two people are free with themselves and don’t care about consequences. I’m talking about a person trying to con you into doing it when you’ve clearly stated you’re uncomfortable. This is never acceptable, and you should stop talking to anyone who does this. No one has a “right” to see your body if you don’t want them to, and only predators will press the issue.

When you meet someone new, you have to give yourself time to get to know them. A lot of time. This protects you from developing a premature emotional attachment that will most often lead to pain and disappointment. People are good at hiding their true natures… for a while. They will always reveal themselves in time. This is why you have to wait before giving away your emotion to anyone, no matter how wonderful they seem.

In fact, keep in mind that some of the best connections don’t start out perfect. There might be arguments as you get to know each other. Disagreements as you discover their views on life, interests, lifestyle, etc. yet if you talk through these things a friendship can form over time. You’ll find yourself experiencing moments like, “He doesn’t like my favorite band, but he listened and gave me a fair opinion.” “She’s not vegetarian, but she respects my choices when we eat out.” “I don’t like how he smokes, but he always does it outside when he comes over.” “She’s a dog person, I’m a cat person, but we both love our pets.” And so on. When everything is “perfect”, it’s usually a bad omen. It’s fantastic to have things in common, but there should be differences. Variety is, after all, the spice of life.

The Red Flags

I often say that after a year of consistent, dependable behavior, a person is worthy of trust. Of course, some people may be able to hide their true natures longer, but it’s not common. Most manipulators reveal themselves within 3-6 months, on average. Though it can happen even earlier. You’ll begin to see red flags, that make you question the connection.

These signs are often subtle at first, then will increase in intensity as they get away with it. If you allowed yourself to attach too quickly, without establishing a long period of consistent behavior, you’ll often forgive these slights and allow the manipulator to use your empathy against you. I’ll provide some of the most common examples:

1. They discard you or ghost you for weeks or even months, then return with excuses which appeal to your sympathies: “I was having a rough time.”or “I needed some space.”

Please remember, it only takes a moment to let someone know you won’t be online for such a long period of time. This is a common tactic used by manipulators to devalue you. When they return, they discard the standards of human decency to make you look “insane”, “needy”, or “demanding”. Simply for wanting to be notified of a lengthy absence after a period of often intense communication. It’s normal to get busy or distracted for a day or a weekend or even a work week, but weeks or months on end without being notified is unacceptable if you were previously in continuous communication with a person. (Also, ignoring your messages for an extended time while they are clearly active online is another sign which falls into this category).

2. They begin to insult you or hurt your feelings on purpose.

For example, they once said you were beautiful or that they loved your art, but begin saying things like, “I like you better with with black hair.” or “I wish you didn’t paint the same thing all the time.” This might seem like constructive criticism, but look more closely at it. Saying they “like you better” with a different hair color, when you chose to change it, is a subtle way to not only try to control your appearance, but also to show you their affection for you is conditional. A person saying they “wished you didn’t paint the same thing all the time” is doing so for the same reason. They’re insulting your style in your art and what you want to express, and hoping to change your output. If you only like to paint skeletons, for example, who are they to try to change it? If they like you for you, they will enjoy your skeleton paintings as well.

3. You notice their identity changing rapidly without reason.

We all adopt new interests and have a wide variety of them, but our core identities don’t change quickly. They slowly evolve over time as we grow and acquire new experiences. Manipulative types who lack empathy never posses a sound identity. They are always borrowing from others. Most of us have experienced a person “copying us”. It’s normal to be influenced by a person, inspired to try something new, and this is a beautiful thing. Though it’s a red flag when you wake up one day to see your “friend” acting like a completely different person. Maybe they dressed goth after meeting you and only listened to the black metal bands you told them you liked, then all of a sudden they’re wearing colorful, floral print dresses and listening to modern pop music exclusively. Why? Because they’ve acquired a new target you’re unaware of. A target who has replaced you.

4. They blatantly value a newer acquaintance over you.

You were previously their favorite person. They were constantly talking to you. Always wanting to spend time with you, then without reason, this stops. All of a sudden, So-and-so is all they talk about. Now, if this new person is a love interest, and your relationship with them is platonic, there’s a lot of forgiveness here. You’ll have to recognize their bodies are going absolutely wild with instinct and hormones, and there’s very little logic in that initial obsession. This is normal, and not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about, is in platonic relationships, where they acquire a new friend who is suddenly more important than you, and without reason. They’re going on group outings and not inviting you. They’re posting on social media that this new person is their “best friend”. This is another devaluation tactic, and is a sign to end the connection with the person. Loyalty matters in friendships too. Not just romantic connections.

5. They’re never happy when you succeed.

When something great happens in your life, instead of celebrating with you, they try to make you feel bad. “I wish I had what you have.” “I’d trade lives with you in a heartbeat.” “You’re so lucky, that never happens to me.” This is their way of diminishing your accomplishments or good fortunes and bringing all of the focus back onto themselves. Someone who truly cares for you will derive pleasure from your happiness and success, even if it’s something they themselves don’t have. A little jealousy or sadness can be normal, especially if a person is in a particularly desolate place in life, but to try to make you feel guilty for your good fortune is never acceptable.

6. They always play the victim and never apologize.

No matter what happens, they never admit they’re wrong. You know they started an argument, you proved them wrong, and they turn the entire situation around to where you hurt them. One of the most critical aspects to any relationship is the ability to analyze your own behavior, admit fault, and apologize. If a person is unable to do that, you can guarantee they are a manipulative, toxic person.

7. They engage in frequent “hot and cold”.

This one is a little more difficult to define, because people’s moods will vary. They’ll be busier some days than others. This is especially true for someone like me. One day, I’ll have more time to respond to someone in length. Some days I’ll engage in a really active back and forth because I have both the time and energy. Some days, I don’t.

This is mainly due to the fact that I suffer from both alcoholism and chronic depression. Mental illnesses can create drastic shifts in mood that sometimes look like “hot and cold” behavior, when it isn’t at all. As you get closer to someone though, it’s important to make them aware, in a way you feel comfortable, that your communication habits may vary. That way, there’s an understanding that prevents any hurt or confusion.

So what is “hot and cold” then? I’ll try to explain enough to where you’ll be able to tell the difference. For shits and giggles, I’ll use a text conversation generator (where do you think all those memes come from?) to try and show what I’m talking about. We’ll use some fictional characters, Bob and Sally. Bob will represent the manipulator. Let’s say Bob and Sally have been dating for just a few weeks, and this is the typical way Bob texts her since they met:

He’s a real sweetheart, isn’t he? He puts so much effort into his texts and he’s doing it every day. What a guy! Though… It’s a little intense, isn’t it? They’ve only known each other a few weeks, after all. Is she really the best thing that’s ever happened in his entire life? Maybe, but it’s unlikely after such a short time.

Let’s say after a few more days, Sally starts to reciprocate more. Yet the moment she does, the texts start going more like this:

What could the reason be for such a drastic change? If we assume nothing negative has happened between them, this is an example of blatant “hot and cold”, and it’s an intentional devaluation tactic. He was previously making Sally believe she was the center of his world, yet just days later, for no apparent reason, he’s aloof and distant. Improper spelling, no emotes, no punctuation. If that was now he normally texted, there wouldn’t be an issue, but this is a drastic change, and he offers no explanation when she asks why. If he offered that he was tired, overwhelmed, or busy, it would be passable. Yet he leaves her to wonder on purpose.

When Sally begins to feel despondent, confused, and disparaged, he will swoop back in with the overzealous texting, only to repeat the process over and over to keep her disillusioned and always fighting for his attention. When will he go distant again? When will he write her longer, loving texts? It’s always a guessing game. This is a common behavior for narcissistic/manipulative types, and when you see it continuously, you should always back off the communication permanently. To them, communicating with you is a game, and you are never, ever the only one they’re doing it to.

Watch out for these common red flags, as they’re going to be your first indication that you’re dealing with a manipulative person who lacks empathy. Don’t be extreme though, don’t cut someone off for exhibiting one or even a few of these behaviors once or twice. It’s important to establish first that the behaviors are truly willful and possess a destructive pattern. A toxic person will eventually do these things often, and it will be clear to you that they don’t actually care about you. Ask yourself often, “Would I do this to them?” If the answer is no, you aren’t obligated to keep talking to that person, and you’re better off without them.

Protect Yourself and Connections Will Last

I often have a bad habit of protecting myself too much. I’ll go years without divulging much about my past to people, and if I do find myself sharing something, I often panic. This is too far the other way. You should absolutely protect yourself, but offer a little more as trust is built with a new connection. This should take time though, occurring over months to a year, and never with any pressure or stipulations. Go at your own pace, sharing only what you need to as conversations and situations arise. There’s a time when sharing feels “right”. Listen to that gut feeling.

Some people have the opposite problem from me. They overshare, and at the wrong times. They write long paragraphs about their pasts to people they hardly know. This is never a good idea, because if you do that, you’re putting yourself in a vulnerable position. Allowing someone not only access to your emotional energy, but to your most intimate memories. These things should be earned over time, through demonstrations of trust and consistency that go both ways.

Once you understand the nature of manipulative behavior, you can identify it. Once you can identify it, you can avoid it and remove it from your life. Only then will you be able to focus on not only yourself, but on the people you’ll be able to form genuine, fulfilling connections with. Connections that have the potential to last a lifetime.

Always remember… The people who are worth your time reciprocate your energy. They make you feel good when you talk to them. They add value to your life. They will apologize and consider your feelings. They are honest, even when it’s uncomfortable to be. Above everything though, the people you should give your energy to are the ones who, like you, have a powerful capacity for and a deep understanding of human empathy.

Don’t Be Miserable On Valentine’s Day

I know the feeling. The “day of love” is approaching, or maybe even upon you already, depending on where you’re at. You’re seeing it all over social media. Everything is pink and red. The stores are bloated with overpriced boxes of mediocre chocolate and maniacal looking teddy bears. You can’t really escape it. It’s a time when people do one of two things:

1. Gloat and show off their relationship.

2. Lament about being alone.

Though, there’s also a third option: Not Giving a Fuck.

Now, I understand this can be difficult. I’ve been single for a couple of years now, so I get it. You’re reminded more than ever on Valentine’s Day that you don’t have anyone to spend it with. You focus more intently on the fact that no one is going to kiss you, hold you, make love to you, give you a gift, etc. This is a lonely, depressing, frustrating feeling for many people. Yet I want to remind you of a couple important ideas in relation to this…

Firstly, you being alone is not inherently a bad thing. You are the conductor of your life. You make the rules. You decide how you spend your days, your money, your time. The moment we tie ourselves to another, we are giving away a portion of our freedom. We have to constantly consider the other person, even in the smallest of affairs. I’m not saying to never be in a relationship, but try not to focus only on the cons of being single. There are many pros as well. You have the time, space, and freedom to further craft and nurture your identity. That’s more priceless than any relationship, where permanence is very rarely guaranteed. You will be with yourself for your entire life, so focusing on who you are is vastly more important. Companionship can always come later, at any stage in life. Try not to feel an urgency to throw away the invaluable time you have with yourself.

Secondly, as a species, humans are social. We instinctively desire a mate. That urge doesn’t have to be viewed so emotionally. Why do animals seek a partner? Instinct tells them to find one another and reproduce to ensure the survival of the species. This effect is present in humans beings as well, despite deviations in sexuality. That urge to meet together physically is a biological one. If anything, Valentine’s Day strikes a nerve because it reminds single people they have not met the criteria of their own biological urges. Yet in our society, it’s viewed with emotion exclusively: I’m so lonely. No one loves me. I can’t find a special someone. Try telling yourself: I haven’t found a suitable partner to ease my natural desire to mate with another of my kind. It no longer seems so dire or heartbreaking, does it?

Emotions are valid signals from our brains that help us properly interpret and interact with one another, and our world. Yet when we abandon science and the reality of instinct, the world becomes a place of constant emotional anguish that doesn’t have to exist. Don’t spend a foolish holiday wallowing in unnecessary turmoil. Spend the day focusing on yourself. Your projects. The platonic connections you maintain. It’s simply another day, and every day holds the potential for you to move forward.

Introduction: How Did I End Up Here? And Where Am I Going?

Well. This is it. My first post on my new blog. If you’re here reading this, I appreciate you.

Since last November, I’ve been active online in a more “social” sense than I ever have before. For quite a few years, my time online was spent only on obscure forums and at virtual poker tables, where I was nothing more than an unassuming username. I even ran a creative writing forum for a while, and no one ever even knew my first name. The only social interactions I had for years online were through voice chats with old Russian language partners, where we were mostly cursing at one another over Texas Hold ’em. In good humor, of course, but there was very little depth exchanged. I wanted my life online to mirror my actual life, in some sense. I was a ghost. Known only as some shadowy figure who never offered much of himself.

Things changed somewhat several years back, when I decided I was going to release a novel I’d written. Over the course of a few years, I went on to release numerous books under a penname, as I was still wanting to remain unknown in every sense. These books had no audience. I didn’t know how to market them. Only a handful of people ever read them, and in time, I saw it as a complete failure. I’d written close to a million words, literally, for novels that were only ever seen by a few people. I yanked them from the internet, and wallowed in the failure for quite some time. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to write for myself anymore. I grew to hate the books I’d written, and even took a copy of each of them outside, walked to the edge of the woods, and burned them. It was a kind of ceremony. A symbol of letting go, and as I watched the flames engulf those stories I put every ounce of myself into, I felt the old version of myself die.

When I decided to emerge on the internet, one of the first things I posted on Instagram was about that moment. I said, “From the ashes of failure, let a new creation arise.” No one can tell me that venture wasn’t a failure. I like the fact that it was a failure. I relish in the fact that it was a failure. I needed it to be to realize who I honestly wanted to be as a writer. When I do mention this, people always say, “Can’t you re-release them?” The answer is no. It would feel like taking photos of my ex and I, hanging them up in my house, and telling people we’re still together. It’s the past, and to pretend it’s relevant is almost an insult to myself. Novels are disposable to me. I can write them within a few months once I settle on an idea, and move on to another one within weeks. The issue is finding the right project to finally slap “Tomas Harlund” on and release to the world.

This leads me back to Instagram. It’s an app most people have been using for years, but I only signed up last November. I figured it was a way for me to use my photography, write some content numerous times a week, and get used to people reading and commenting on my work. Though I went into it knowing I was going to retain some level of anonymity, no matter what. The decision to alter the spelling of my name being the main factor. I write a lot of personal shit. Deeply personal shit most people wouldn’t be comfortable posting on the internet. Trust me, I’m not really either, hence how I need some level of separation. If I had my face online with my full, correctly spelled name, I wouldn’t say a damn word at all. Though the authenticity is more potent than ever for me, because this is the first time I’ve ever posted pictures of myself and actually went by real name online: Tomas.

When I decided to try my hand at “social media” I decided I was going to be a truer version of myself than even the people who know me in real life have seen. A version of myself that bares my emotions and thoughts in a way that, I hope, inspires others to do the same. This world we live in is so obsessed with appearances. Fame. Fortune. Popularity. Social media reflects this more than anything else at this point, and I want to swim against the current with a tenacity that helps others be more real with themselves. What’s more revealing, in the end? A photo of your face with the caption “Sunny Day”, or a photo of a flower with a four paragraph description about how you’re feeling at that moment in your life? I’ll look at a face for a couple of seconds and forget it, but I won’t soon forget about what’s going in a person’s head.

Social media preys upon the lazy. If you’re reading to this point, you’re a rarity, believe me. Yet I see the mechanics of how social media works. The science of algorithm. The exploitation of basic, human instinct. I’m a man, so, of course, if I see an attractive body, I’m going to look at it, for example. Will it hold my interest? Probably not, yet social media uses the absolute base of human desire to be profitable. It’s why the same content is shared over and over, and what’s “popular”, in essence, never really changes.

So, it seems absurd, in a way, that after so many years of being a ghost online, I would decide to create an online presence that goes against everything that would make a person “popular”. None of my images create a perfect, desirable aesthetic. I write absurdly long captions, yet they aren’t long enough… That’s why you’re here. Reading this rambling mess of an introduction to my blog. I wanted to be able to write more. Much, much more than that 2,200 character description Instagram allows. I’m sure most people don’t even know the limit. Why would they need to when all they put is a single emote as a description?

Anyway, this post is about what led me to here. Why this page even exists. I promise you my future posts will have a more cohesive, concrete point. This one is just revealing the road to this location, but there will be many stops going forward. So, I hope you’ll come with me. It’ll be weird, often depressing, sometimes funny, but always uncomfortably honest. You can choose the music, and I promise I’ll always crack the window when I have to light a cigarette.