People often seem a bit…curious as to why I have frequent struggles with anxiety and depression. I mean, aside from the fact that I’m naturally prone to such things.
And a notable part of it is the constant intentional and unintentional downplaying of how much work I actually do.
It’s incredibly disheartening when you receive so very little in the way of compliments or positive feedback on your work (or any feedback at all, really). It’s a constant head game where I’m questioning if what I’m doing is any good, if my efforts–despite having proven in various ways (including through monetary rewards) that I indeed have quality, notable skills and abilities. But I am constantly questioning if all my efforts are anything other than wasted energy and the production of garbage. Even worse, I constantly question those rare instances when I do receive a compliment. In my head, it translates to a well-meaning but otherwise hollow pleasantry. People just being polite rather than honest.
I already don’t like me. I don’t have much more than a vague sense that I’m a burden or an annoyance to those around me. That what I put into the world is noise. The incredibly rare compliment, like, share, or, yes, monetary reward of my work gives me hope that, somehow, someway, I’m at least entertaining people. That for some brief period of time whatever I’m doing is making people feel something they want to feel rather than all the bullshit they have to feel. And, as a result, maybe I’m not so benign or, more likely, unwanted.
As a general rule, I’m never outright happy. I don’t feel happiness the way I imagine some people do–perhaps as this lingering, pleasant feeling people can carry around with them (even if they don’t actively notice it until it’s suddenly not there).
When I do feel what I think is happiness, it’s fleeting. It’s an occasional sense of ease. It feels almost like that incredibly brief sensation someone might normally have when they get into a hot bath after a long day or a hard workout. That brief, almost instant feeling of relief as your muscles relax and all the tension and pain subsides. It’s not the actual alleviation of it, not for me. It’s just that singular instance of something washing over you. And then, it’s gone.
Sometimes I get that after a good movie, or reading a good story. Sometimes I even get it after I finish whatever bit of nonsense I’m working on at the moment–a post, a tweet, a movie review, a set.
But it’s always that brief, instant moment that washes over and away.
And, so, I work. A lot. I don’t really stop. I don’t sleep well, even with assistance. My mind doesn’t calm down enough often enough. My dreams are vivid, lucid. It can be a draining, exhausting experience for me to sleep on my worst days. Working helps. Talking, writing, whatever. So I do it constantly. I tweet. I post to Facebook. I constantly put down notes into a memo on my phone or tablet or laptop. I don’t just relax with video games, I stream. Everything has to be “work” for me.
And I have to do it every chance I get, otherwise I feel useless. This heavy, overpowering sense of guilt just piles up on me if I’m not working on something. At times, it’s like I’m standing at the bottom of a hill, watching this little snowball just barrel towards me as it increases in mass and speed until it inevitably just plows me right the fuck over. And, in my head, I think I deserve it.
Well, maybe if you were busy working you wouldn’t have been standing around and getting hit, dipshit.
So when all you do is work and guilt-trip yourself for somehow not working enough, it’s, at the very least, disheartening to see so little for it. Eventually you can’t help but get even deeper into your own head and drown in negative thoughts.
But it’s a whole other thing when, for whatever reason, you receive way more judgement. Not criticism, because I can do something with criticism. I can work with criticism. No, in this case I mean “judgment.”
Like when friends and family tell you, “You don’t even have a job.”
In the past two weeks alone–from October 1st through October 14th–I have written, produced, and published 14 video-based movie reviews in as many days. Each review requires that I spend an average of two hours watching and critiquing a feature film. Each video for each review then requires several hours of writing a review, compressing it into a two-to-five minute long script, recording that script, editing the audio from that recording, and then animating and editing it all together for a final video that I then have to upload, catalog, and promote across different platforms. And all without any assistance.
That’s been me–all day, every day–for just the past two weeks.
Now, in addition to all of that, I’ve also not only rewritten two-thirds of a thirty-page screenplay but also converted it into a script for an audio drama. I’ve written the first, rough draft of the first act of a screenplay for a feature (that’s roughly another twenty or so pages). I’ve performed several times. I’ve helped out a buddy at another show. I’ve been lucky to get more bookings during that time for shows that are coming up in the next two weeks. I’ve written more jokes and posts and more ideas. I’ve woken up–or cut myself off from falling into a deep sleep–just to write down notes for future stories and jokes and whatever. I’ve even managed to half-assedly produce and upload some nonsense for a completely experimental podcast/vlogcast/tubecast…thing I’ve been calling Laugh the Pain Away.
Yeah, a lot of my time is spent looking at a screen or wallowing in and actively exploring a murky swamp of thoughts nobody should ever be so unfortunate to find themselves in. I spend a lot of my time typing away at a keyboard or on a touchscreen. I spend a lot of my time watching and thinking and talking.
Yeah, I do that instead of working in an office for a steady paycheck that covers the rent on a lovely little apartment just down the street from a lovely Southern California beach.
Now, I used to do that. I used to have the office and the apartment and the steady paycheck. I used to do that sort of work. I used to be able to afford things. I used to be able to say that the frequent stress and adverse toll such a thing took on my physical and mental health were worth it.
And then it got to a point where I couldn’t say that. It got to the point where it nearly cost me my life.
So, I don’t do that no mo’. I don’t want to.
Thankfully I have a wife who doesn’t want that for me either. She wants me to have something better, something more.
(She also insists I relax more and just have fun with shit like video games instead of trying to turn it all into some sort of “work” for myself. She hasn’t been entirely successful on that front just yet.)
But I still have people in my life who, for whatever reason (intentionally and unintentionally) like to downplay the sheer amount of work I do. Because it doesn’t generate enough money for me. Because it’s not as steady as a job flipping burgers or tossing pizza. Because I don’t go to an office or some other place of business and have set shifts and a time-sheet to fill out (anymore). Because it’s not within a more professional part of this or that industry. Because I’m not taking center stage on the biggest stages.
I’m a lunatic attempting to make a little spot for himself on the outskirts of it all while I also desperately claw my way up and through a wall to be inside, even on the very edge of it all. Just to have more people to reach. More work to do. Just a few more of the very brief moments washing over me. Those moments where, for even a short while, I get to help other people to not feel the way I do almost ceaselessly. A few more paydays and some of those fleeting moments where I don’t feel like killing myself.
Other people often have the pleasure of going somewhere else, away from their personal problems. But I’ve turned my personal problems into work–my anxiety, depression, my fears, my nightmares. I don’t get to walk away from those things from 9-to-5. Instead, I’m the sick fuck running towards it–all day, every day.
I’m the sick fuck who, for him, this is the healthier alternative.
And I’m judged for it. My work and contributions are stripped of any value they might have.
You don’t have a job.
He’s a third wheel.
If every last one of my subscribers or followers on the various platforms where I published my bullshit contributed $1 to my Patreon (the only tier I even have, and intentionally so. Because I don’t want people to think I’d withhold my work from them because they’re not constantly shoving enough coins and bills into my little cup.) If they did that, I’d have enough money for a car payment. I could cover some serious bills. I couldn’t pay rent for that apartment near the beach–not even half. But that’s still around $300-$400 based off my current numbers across various, unrelated platforms and projects.
And I built that on my own, organically. I haven’t paid for a single ad. I haven’t boosted my posts or videos. I don’t have a bankable name or brand to leech off of. And it isn’t just family and friends and peers who casually follow me and my work. These are, by and large, total and utter strangers to me–strangers who have actively enjoyed my work, for whatever reason. My work has done that for me, just like how it once used to pay for that apartment. I did that.
But I don’t work. I don’t know what I’m saying or doing because I haven’t been doing it as much as others (and never will, because I’ll always be younger and less experienced than someone still living and active in this or that field). I’m just a tag-along. I’m not punching a clock and working in a cubicle or behind a register.
I’m just some jackass who watches movies, writes and publishes stupid shit online, and says silly shit in public. I’m always wrong because other people think they’re right, unless they happen to agree with me (and even then, it’s “tl;dr”). I’m always just off the mark unless it’s someone else making use of my work. I’m just a lazy, worthless piece of shit who isn’t good enough for…whatever, I guess.
And people genuinely seem confused by my anxiety, depression, and lack of self-worth.
Maybe they have a point.