Monday, 12 November 2018

Depression: the not so cute version of procrastination

A couple of days ago I watched this TED Talk video on procrastination. It covered the fine balance between the responsible side of one's ego and the part that is more interested in having a good time, the 'monkey'. Most of the talk was about how important it is to keep the monkey restrained, lest one ends up spending hours watching fun videos or browsing Wikipedia.

This made me think about how this all works for me. Those many days spent just aimlessly clicking around on the internet, working up the motivation to do anything, was that the monkey having fun instead of facing up to the obligations in life?

The thing there is that I did not and still do not have fun while fighting against this procrastination. It's more of a struggle, trying to get myself to a point where I can do anything at all, while feeling the weight of my existence and all that I'm failing at threatening to crush me.

The ironic thing there is that I have never been the type to procrastinate. As a child and teenager I was always working on big projects with seemingly endless energy. Then, starting with my parents divorcing and moving around the country that all began to change.

I still tried to continue projects within the limitations of losing access to the farm's resources and space, but as the pressure to resume studying or get a job increased, I abandoned most projects in favour of self-improvement projects, from driving lessons to figuring out my next steps in life. This mostly resulted in me slipping into a bad depression.

Cut off from the environment where I grew up, without any clear goals in life or how to start feeling happy again, I simply drifted along for a while until finding out about being intersex. To me that seemed like the key to solving a lot of issues and questions I had about myself. I would get medical help, get answers, maybe surgery or something, and things would work out.

Fourteen years later I still don't really have answers, and have many more questions than those with which I started. Worse, because of the treatment by doctors and psychologists, I now have severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This is like depression times a thousand.

How does one keep motivated when one is beset by depression? When the expectation is that no matter what one does, it will just backfire? That everything which one attempts or does is futile? When one feels as if there's no point to one's existence, and it'd have been much better if one had never been born?

No monkey there, more like this black monster that sits on one's shoulder, discouraging and harassing one. Why even start that task when you know it's futile, or won't work anyway? Or maybe it's just that you know that you are incapable of doing it, or will just screw it up, or others will do a much better job, regardless of how many times you managed to pull off that same task with great success.

It's still procrastination, but unlike monkey-based procrastination here forcing and nudging the affected person will not help. Instead counteracting the black monster will have the best effect, by giving the person back their self-worth, their sense of reality and with it their reason to live.

It's not that we do not want to, it's more that we physically cannot, unless someone else gives us that little push and assists us so that we can get away from the black monster and with it the feeling of being incapacitated.


Monday, 29 October 2018

To let oneself be carried off by the current

Working long hours, rushing to make deadlines and still not feeling like one is getting anywhere. Going through job interview after job interview only to get rejected. Dealing with the crippling psychological impact of a looming eviction and the prospect of abandoning everything once more and resorting to the charity of others. That's my day to day life for months now.

Somewhere in the background is still the constant pains and discomfort of my body, even as it keeps going through physical changes, from the gradually vanishing scars and subtle changes to my face and skin in general, to the general development of female secondary characteristics. None of it explained, none of it making sense, no clue as to what will happen in the end. Is this just a normal puberty?

I can feel my sense of self, my ego, vanishing in the midst of this. My body is in flux, nothing around me in my environment is fixed or certain. I know what person I think I am, and what I want my future to look like, but all paths have been closed off, with no way forward. There's just waiting.

It feels so pointless to keep struggling, to wish for a better future. Even after so many years I have come little closer to my goals, or found a home.

Two weeks ago I found myself taken to the local psychiatric clinic by the police because my social worker was worried about me after a few remarks in an email I sent to her. I ended up staying two nights there, because they were afraid that I might hurt myself, or worse. I was let out during the day of the second day there, however, with the promise to return by dinner time. I was let out again on the third day, with the recommendation to visit a psychiatrist at their walk-in clinic.

Honestly, I do not want to hurt myself, or even end my own life, but this sense of pointlessness and futility is making me feel ever more disjointed from this body and my perception of reality. Thus I feel torn between the fun and interesting things in my life, the future I want to work towards to, and the strong desire to just give up and let all of those who wish me to vanish get their desire.

This body feels like a hindrance. I don't want to have to think about where to house it, how to feed and clothe it. How to deal with its changes and pains. Its mortality. I cannot comprehend human society. It all feels so wrong and distant, like a tune that's ever so slightly off-key.

There's still my third book to finish, a job to find, a home to find and move to. An eviction to avoid and chronic stress, PTSD and worrying abdominal pains to ignore. The question of whether this is possible at all doesn't apply, nor whether I still have the energy to continue. There's no choice, no freedom, no pity or empathy. Just the choice between continuing this struggle and giving up.

I'm still struggling and hoping, but it's so hard.


Sunday, 23 September 2018

To struggle for survival

What I want my life to look like in the short to medium term: to live somewhere quiet, work a day job to make money, write books and work on my software and hardware projects in my spare time. Finally get those robotics, AI, asynchronous CPU architecture and similar projects into a usable state. Have my autobiography published and hopefully change forever life for all intersex people around the world for the better.

Instead, where I am now: being thrown out of my current apartment despite having paid all my bills and not caused trouble. Not having a job despite many months of applying and flying all over the world for on-site interviews. Struggling to finish my current reference book within the deadlines as the full-time job search and dealing with depression and bouts of suicidal thoughts make it almost impossible to be productive.

Each day my situation feels more hopeless. The hope for an easy resolution to my situation has died months ago. With each new rejection after a job application or simply a lack of response it becomes ever more clear that my existence is optional and in no way required or essential.

But to survive is not about feeling comfortable. It's about still dragging yourself forward through the mud and freezing rain even after you have broken both legs, had an arm crushed, running a fever and almost delirious from the pain. All in the hope that things will get better if you keep going. For how long? Until you collapse and die.

While trying to find a job and with it the relocation help I seek, I am ignoring the worsening physical pains and warning signals by my body. At this point endometriosis seems almost certain, with peritonitis (inflammation of the lining of the abdominal wall) providing a clear explanation for the generalised abdominal pain and extreme abdominal swelling at the end of each monthly cycle. This in addition to the extreme and localised pain in the perineum around the same time, which would also be triggered by the blood and/or other fluids that get released.

Of course I have tried to find help for this during the past years, but without luck. And now the symptoms just keep getting worse, possibly also due to the stress that I'm under as a result of my current situation.

What will happen next? I do not know. I may get lucky and my wish for a more quiet, predictable life may come true next week after yet another on-site job interview. Or not, and I can keep struggling to somehow find that way out of this Hell. Yet I am terrified of this dark side, this voice that keeps pushing me to admit defeat, to give up and terminate this impossible existence.

Am I meant to exist? Hermaphroditic intersex people like myself are very rare, because most times embryos merge like that, a miscarriage results.

I don't even know what I am. Who I am. I'm still in the process of trying to make sense of this body of mine. Of what has happened so far. To somehow deal with the trauma of the past years, even as I try to move forward.

What's fair?

This is survival. There's nothing fair about surviving. It's when everything has gone wrong to the point where one's existence has practically been lost already.

I want to survive this. I want to move on, to move forward, but the deck is stacked against me. With the incredible physical and psychological pain combined, this makes it seem all too tempting to give up. That's my fear.

Like seven years ago, when I also found myself in a similar situation, I didn't know what to do and everything was hurting. That was when I remembered the two boxes of sleeping tablets which I had in my room. They were the only real way forward which I could see. I was so happy that I had found a solution. Something which I could do, instead of just letting things happen to me.

I slept really well after I realised this. The next morning I got up all cheerful and feeling extremely calm and at peace with everything. The pain and agony that I had been feeling inside for what seemed like years had all vanished. There was no hesitation as I took all of the tablets out of their packaging and swallowed all of them with some water.

I still feel that things should have ended there. Me having been born still feels like a mistake. Me not dying seven years ago feels like a mistake.

Yet I still want to live. I just want... no, what I need to live is for all of this pain to be taken away by others. The pain of being unwanted and unneeded, of being the cause of problems and just a collection of unfulfilled promises and regrets. For people to trust me, instead of seeking to betray and discard me. To accept that I have a traumatic past, but that things will be fine once I'm in safety.

If not, then there is no stack of sleeping tablets available to me. Yet the temptation remains. I don't know what may happen if this dark, traumatised part takes me over again. The point where I will have lost the fight to exist in society, in this life and also the fight against the traumas from my past.

Even as I prepare for yet another attempt next week to make this future I want work out, I notice how much my attitude has shifted over the past months. From feeling hopeful and quite certain that things will work out, to pessimistic and downcast in addition to feeling exhausted as I struggle to care about the fact that I am still alive. And still surviving.


Monday, 20 August 2018

Let's talk inclusivity in the tech industry

This year has been a weird one. After leaving my previous job at the end of last year I have undergone a number of medical procedures:

  • 3rd MRI scan at the neurologist for the cyclic weakness and pain in my right leg and arm.
  • appointments at the proctologist and gastroenterologist for the abdominal bloating and pains.
  • cycle monitoring and laproscopy surgery at the gynaecologist to gather data on my intersex condition.

Even after nearly fourteen years, I still know very little about my body, and finding specialists who got a clue and/or show interest is so hard that I envy those who are merely seeking for needles in haystacks. Currently I'm suffering more and more frequently from nausea during each cycle, though the sciatica (pain and weakness in my right leg) seems to have mostly gone away, indicating that things are changing.

After my body suddenly started undergoing its first proper puberty in 2015, with a dramatic increase in female secondary characteristics, it's been a confusing and harrowing time for me. I do not understand what is happening with my body, and how far it will keep developing like this, or whether there'll be any consequences of such a delayed puberty.

I know that my natural female hormone levels are pretty low for a woman, but adding additional hormones result in the symptoms of estrogen overdosing, so this is apparently the level my body is now comfortable with. I have also noticed old scars changing, wrinkles fading and of course the fat distribution in my body shifting around again, as if the hormone therapy I used to be on did just about almost nothing. Nothing about this makes any sense, and there's nothing in the literature that may help me with this. My best and only help so far seems to be one of those cycle tracking apps, allowing me to at least gather some data on the symptoms while giving me at least some useful hints and tips.

Oh, did I mention that I'm looking for a new job?

It's been eight months now since I started my search for a new job, and collected a few dozen rejection notes in that time. I'm supposed to have a new job by next month according to the lease extension I got for my current apartment, or I'm looking for a new place to stay. Worst case I'd be forced to return to the Netherlands without a job and no place to stay. After the 11 years of horror that I went through there, that's the last thing I want or can deal with.

I'm frantically working to catch up on the deadlines for my upcoming book on embedded C++ development, which I started on earlier this year. Fortunately my second book on C++ multithreading that came out last year is selling well. Combining writing a book with the job hunt and dealing with my medical condition is hard.

So, inclusivity.

It's a big word, which has been thrown around a lot the past years. Basically it means that everybody gets an equal opportunity, regardless of their circumstances. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Naturally, no employer who has rejected an application of mine has said why they did so, or gave any specific reasons. How would one even know whether one got rejected due to one's medical condition, circumstances of birth, or having opted to pursue medical help over a career?

I could be totally wrong about this, but at the same time I cannot exclude the possibility that after doing my best for months now to get hired, and having literally flown around the world for a multitude of on-site interviews, that in the end the primary reason why I do not get hired is because I'm an intersex individual. Someone who is open about it online, even.

Since I have no guarantee that this is not the case, and my professional experience should at least give me a fair shot at a job, it's sadly becoming a question which I and others are beginning to ask more frequently now.

Am I not getting a job because I am open about being an intersex person? Is the very fact that I'm intersex a factor in getting rejected from job applications?

It could just be that I have wasted all those years on not pursuing a career which is coming back to haunt me now, since employers do not like gaps in one's education-to-jobs timeline, but 'maybe' and 'possibly' aren't of much comfort here. With zero feedback from any job interview as a rule, one is left grasping in the dark for clues.

I like to think - and others confirm this - that I'm a highly dedicated person with a keen interest in science and technology, who is friendly and helpful, and more than willing to learn new skills for a project or job, while always being ready for a challenge.

It's hard to not feel like this is where inclusivity in the tech industry falls flat. Someone like me is different, yes. I have taken a course through life unlike what most people will ever experience in their entire life. Yet this should make me a unique asset to a team. Not a liability. Yet that's what it feels like.

Like I'm back in primary school, getting bullied and excluded for being 'different'. Ditto for my later school experiences and so on. Ironically those experiences taught me the value of communicating with others, even if it had to be initiated with one's fists. Some of those bullies actually became my friends later on. Yet back then I didn't know I was intersex, nor did anyone else. Being gifted was already enough of a struggle to deal with.

I got through all of those years. I got through the past thirteen years mostly unscathed, even when it seemed as if my body, doctors, psychologists and the rest of the world were all against me. There was always someone there who offered me that one chance to move on, which I accepted even if it meant more big changes and massive effort on my side.

I just wish someone would give me that chance now.


Sunday, 15 July 2018

Thus we go on

All of us are living, breathing, human beings, with complex feelings and emotions. All that we differ in, is in how much we accept these, and with it ourselves.

When I got bullied and beaten up during almost every year that I spent at school, I never blamed or felt hate for those who hurt me. I bore it as one does everything in life which one cannot change. If anything, I felt sorry for those who are so conflicted and damaged inside, that they can no longer feel their own feelings.

When I got told over and over by doctors, psychologists and others that what I was observing about my body being intersex was merely in my head, I felt frustrated at how they just didn't want to see what was in front of their eyes. I felt sorry that they had become ensnared by their ignorance and obsession with falsehoods.

All of us are living, breathing, human beings, with complex feelings and emotions. We are capable of inflicting enormous damage upon others by closing ourselves off from these.

One bears the effects of the flaws of others, even as one does their best to help them see their flaws, so that they can work on repairing them. One never blames others. Just oneself for not grasping the exact nature of the flaws of others and being unable to help them.

Even as I prepared to take my own life in early 2011 I didn't blame anyone. In the end I was taking my own life so that I could live up to my own inadequacies. Those I would be leaving behind would understand and accept that I was now in a better place.

All of us are living, breathing, human beings, with complex feelings and emotions. We can bring unimaginable joy to those around us by realising their emotions and feelings, and acting upon those.

When my suicide attempt failed, my mother was there to give me a new chance at life, even as almost everybody else dropped me like I was poison. Slowly I recovered and things began to look up, with concrete gains in figuring out my intersex condition, and ultimately me getting started on my career as a software developer.

All of us are living, breathing, human beings. We can destroy others without so much as a single caring thought.

I do not feel hate or animosity towards the owner of the apartment or the court which saw fit to remove me by force if necessary over their lack of communication about when an earlier agreed-up rent reduction would stop. That would be like trying to argue with an avalanche or pyroclastic flow, or any other force of nature.

I feel that I have failed in some way again, by being somehow inadequate. For having missed something obvious and failing to act on something which anyone else would have picked up on. I know with great certainty that I am the problem. Somehow.

Every rejection during now half a year of applying for a new job simply reinforces this notion. The world is fine. Other people are fine. I just missed something obvious and as much as I try to figure out what this thing about myself is that I should be changing, I do not understand.

All of us are living, breathing, human beings, with complex feelings and emotions. We can choose to end our lives at will.

I fear that it has taken me too long to figure what I did wrong. I fear that it is now too late.

Too late to keep living. I simply wasn't good enough. Not fast enough. Not smart enough. Not lucky enough.

Even as I have found myself once again begging to have people give me another chance, I am beginning to find it exceedingly hard to keep up this charade that somehow I'll turn into a real person.

I don't feel real.


Saturday, 7 July 2018

Watching movies on transatlantic flights, or: don't cry in public

As I'm typing this, I am sitting in my Cupertino hotel room, in the very heart of Silicon Valley. On Monday this week I travelled to Canada, for an on-site job interview there. After the Tuesday interview, I travelled to San Jose on Wednesday, where for the past two days I had additional job interviews. In a short while I'll be taking a taxi to SFO to travel back to Europe.

On the flight back I expect to be watching in-flight movies again, just like I did on Monday. During that flight I immediately dove into the Chinese and Japanese movies sections. Though fairly limited in the offerings, I ended up watching one Chinese movie (of which I do not remember the title any more), and two Japanese movies.

Of the latter two movies, 'The last shot in the bar' (Tantai ha bar ni naru 3) [1][2] was a really fun yet still serious Japanese detective movie combining both slapstick elements and intense emotional scenes. By the end of the movie I found myself definitely engaged and interested in how things would work out. The twists the movie threw at me were not obvious and improved the story immensely. I have to watch the first two parts now, for sure.

The second Japanese movie was ゆらり ('yurari', English title: Last Night Rewind) [3][4]. This is a movie that was adapted from a theater play, and one can definitely notice this in how the scenes are put together. This is absolutely not a negative, however, as it allows one to focus on the characters. The movie description made me expect a different kind of movie than what I ended up watching.

Basically, this movie is far better than what I had expected, with the struggles of a number of characters from a couple of families followed as they try to work things out. The first resolutions are emotionally intense, but they are just the beginning. This was the movie were during the final scenes and afterwards I had to fight to not burst out in tears.

Watching an emotional drama in public is slightly awkward at the best of times. In a cinema everyone is at least watching the same movie, so everybody is likely to respond the same way. In a public space where it's just you watching the movie, awkwardness increases exponentially.

Not having to hold back may make a movie even better. Just letting those tears flow freely while experiencing the crushing emotional depths of the story, instead of having to keep them in check. I think this is a good reason to rewatch those movies at some point in a more private setting.

I'm curious to see whether there's a new selection available on the in-flight entertainment system as I fly back in a few hours. And then of course to see how my own story will continue, as I receive the feedback of this week's job interviews.



Monday, 28 May 2018

Vlog: Flying and soaring, or...

  • On getting evicted.
  • Maybe a new job and moving.
  • Working on my autobiography, part I.