Category Archives: mood

Irritations

It’s been about five weeks since I stopped taking nortriptyline, and things are still changing. Mostly I’m OK, althought for the past two weeks I’ve been irritable, not so much with the people around me as with words and especially words on the internet. Here’s a list I wrote in my journal last week and then immediately concluded hmm there’s a lot of stuff here, I guess it’s my mood.

  • the nerd identity, people identifying as such and having online arguments about it, I feel repulsed by it, if you know what I’m like you can laugh all you want at this but lately I feel like taking a schoolyard taunt and using it to describe any kind of intellectual excitement was a really bad development in our society’s relationship to knowledge and culture;
  • Wikipedia, both my own addiction to reading random articles and its stupid style;
  • programming culture, the articles I read on lobste.rs, especially all the endless whinging about the modern web stack and about JavaScript, and all the C/C++ macho bullshit;
  • This thread about an article complaining that astrology is too fashionable among young queer people; specifically it’s the commenters who are inexplicably furious about astrology and compare it to organised religion or bigotry and homophobia;
  • The ABC’s news app and the state of political coverage in general;
  • That the backlash against the Murdoch press revolved around their anti-Labor bias and not about their bigotry, homophobic, racism, misogyny against Gillard, etc.

There’s something bracing about this, although I’m relieved that it seems to be easing off this week. I went through most of my teens and twenties in a state of high indignation at dumb stuff like the above and I don’t want to be there all the time again. I feel like being off the meds is allowing certain emotional states to resurface, the job I have now is to learn how to handle them.

I’ve had to take a break from social media again: both Facebook and Mastodon, which is where I’ve been most active lately. Partly this is because the election result fallout on FB is too depressing, but, for the most part, it’s not about the content. I was hoping that my compulsiveness about social media would ease off when I stopped the meds, but it hasn’t, and the night of the election I realised that I was going off to read FB or Masto every ten minutes or so as a way to escape my own emotions. It could be that my irritability is getting better because I’ve shut off this avenue of escape and I’m having to sit with things more. Or it is just that I’m reading less random stuff. I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to go back.

I’m not even thinking of going back to Twitter, and I still feel vaguely guilty that I’m on Facebook at all, because they’re both awful companies and I don’t think they’ll ever reform themselves, but the more I think about the ways in which social media is bad for me (let alone what it’s doing to politics) the more I realise that I’ve been relying on it for social connection for years, and I need to find alternatives. I miss everyone, well, maybe not everyone, but most of you. You know who you are.

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Getting off the pills


Last night I took what I hope will be my last dose of my antidepressants, after three weeks of tapering off: nortriptyline, a tricyclic. These are the only family of antidepressants which I’ve been able to tolerate and which also seem to have any benefit. I tried four or five SSRIs (the most popular family, of which Prozac is the most famous member) when I was in my early twenties and they all either had unpleasant sexual side-effects or made me feel dangerously manic. I settled onto an MAOI back then but I think all that it really did was make me overeat.

I’ve been on nortriptyline for about two years. When I saw my psychiatrist a month ago about getting off it, he gave me the impression that it’s one of the big guns, which is not what I thought when he put me on it in 2017. But I was very depressed then, and his manner, I remember, was much more soothing. On my second visit I was far more businesslike and less desperate, and he responded in kind. It was all quite male and professional, as if I were meeting with a consultant to organise some financial endeavour, and I found myself stepping into the role of a customer or client, rather than a patient. This is the sort of realisation which would have alarmed or upset me when I was younger, but negotiating the weird ways in which class and the medical system intersect is a good skill to acquire.

Before the nortriptyline I had been on another tricyclic, amitriptyline, for about seven years, although the first few years of that were what one doctor had described as a “homeopathic” dose. I started taking them to get through a period of work-related stress, and somehow never felt ready to go off them, although I talked about it, and grumbled about the side-effects (sleepiness and constipation).

In 2016, I was in the middle of a family crisis. My son had come out to his family and close friends as trans a couple of years earlier. (To clear up any confusion: his assigned gender at birth was female: he presents as male now and has started physically transitioning.) He is also prone to depression, although I am now very cautious about the idea that he’s inherited my own. We have a lot in common, but the idea of depression as a sort of family curse is a trap, when you’re trying to care for the family member you suppose you’ve given it to. Moods resonate, whatever their genetic or biological basis, in the space of emotions and speech and family dynamics, and the ways in which we were reinforcing each others’ misery was really destructive.

His social anxiety about his gender presentation had stopped him being able to attend school, despite it being very welcoming for trans kids, with a protocol in place to tell teachers and students about new names and pronouns, a unisex bathroom, and so on. And I was desperate, feeling as though I’d failed him, and was also failing his twin sister, who was finishing her HSC in an environment interrupted by arguments and sorrow.

There are other serious aspects to his crisis which it’s not really my place to talk about. I’m trying to get back into the habit of personal blogging again, but writing this has made me realise that when I started blogging about being a single dad, my kids were toddlers, and one can’t write about teenagers or young adults in the same way.

On the other hand, this has made me realise that me going quiet hasn’t all been about my own withdrawal, or the mainstream internet becoming a much less enjoyable space, but about the natural course of a family. Kids grow up, and their problems become those of adults one is living with, and that’s different.

I’m trying to end this period of isolation, now that he and I are both doing a lot better, by talking more to friends and family about what’s been going on, and by starting to write about it here, despite the fact that blogging is not the same sort of activity now than it was when I started. I still think it’s worth doing. It’s become a commonplace, especially on less mainstream social media platforms like Mastodon, that Facebook and the other big players have eaten the web, but the old idiosyncratic web is still here. It’s the paths to virality which have been captured, not the space in which to write. I’ve written a lot of journal entries over the past three years, but writing for a readership is different, no matter the size. Just communicating with this blog’s regular readers or people who follow the link from Mastodon or Facebook is worth doing.

Once I felt that I was no longer in crisis, and that I no longer needed the help of antidepressants to keep things together enough to get to work, do the shopping and keep the house clean, the side-effects began to seem too annoying. I had never intended to be on them for a decade, but I am also now at the age when the idea of being on medication for the rest of my life doesn’t seem as upsetting as it did when I was twenty. But I’m looking forward to seeing what I’m like without them. I’m already feeling more myself, in various subtle ways. (Andrew Solomon, I think, describes antidepressants as mood-altering drugs which are boring enough that there’s no danger that people will use them recreationally.) There’s a sort of mild pleasure in experiencing the passage of time, of being in a day-to-day routine, which I’m puzzled to find had gone completely and which I’m very glad to have back.

Various moods

There are now two disposable razor blades on the sink, because my son started transitioning two months ago and the testosterone gel is working.

When something uniquely stupid happens in Australian politics, the feeling of relief that comes when I remember that I quit Twitter. This even makes the Clive Palmer billboards easier to handle. It seems clear that Twitter is never going to fix its problems: corporations don’t often change their characters, any more than people do, and Twitter’s personality has always been one of mealy-mouthed neglect. At this stage, harassment and abuse are part of their business model: each time nazis or fans chase someone off their platform, each time the President has another meltdown, it’s more publicity for them. They’ve made the political crisis part of their business model, a way to position themselves in the market. I really miss it but they’re just grifters and they don’t deserve the communities which have formed there, or any more of our trust.

I took on a bit more extracurricular work than I could manage last month but it’s all finished now. I’m still enjoying the feeling of not having to work on code after dinner most nights. I can just tune out or write or watch TV.

Seeing the five naked-eye planets lined up from horizon to horizon. Mercury’s not visible any more but you can still see Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars every clear evening. Both Venus and Mars are spectacular right now.

The flipside, in a way, of Twitter regret, is compulsively checking Mastodon, even though I’ve only made a few and fleeting connections there. Somehow, compulsively checking something which I’m not that invested in seems healthier, more mindless, like worry beads. There was a hashtag going around on it a couple of weeks ago, #WhyIStayOnMastodon: I said because I wanted to see where it went. There isn’t going to be “a new Twitter” because this whole thing is still in a state of constant flux, platforms come and go on this thing we call “the internet” and act like we’re old hands because we’ve seen its first few decades. So many people will tell you all about what it represents but I don’t think we know that yet. Mastodon can seem like the early days of the web, probably because the programmer-to-normie ratio is still very high, but it’s also something new and evolving its own culture. It’s healthy to not know where this particular part of it is going or if it will last.

Also, there are heaps of trans folk there. Most of my irl trans acquaintances are my son’s friends, it does me good to connect with a wider community.

There’s another whole blog post in how I feel about JavaScript right now, in the final stages of a long project where I feel like I’ve spent too much time trying to code in a language which I’ve always defended but which honestly has a lot of flaws. I’ve had moments lately where I worry that my ability to code is going away with age, or, what’s worse, that I’m too old to be learning new things. This is a symptom both of depression and of mild burnout on the stuff I’ve been working on, and I’m trying to wait for it to pass.

Blogging again

Screenshot 2018-07-04 07.59.22.png

S L I T S C A N S P A C E

I’m going to be posting regularly here again, as a replacement for Twitter. I still miss it but  can’t see myself going back there anytime soon. I’m still persisting with Mastodon but it’s very much its own world.

Two projects and an absence

My entry for NaNoGenMo 2016 is ANNALES, a procedurally-generated chronology of rulers, courtiers, tribes and intrigue:

Being a faithful narration of the history of the realm from the reign of Fobbial Artesia I to the present day

As transcribed by the algorithm annales-exe using the pseudo-random seed 1835917550 1 during the reign of Armey Engine III

“For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground / And tell sad stories of the death of kings”

Reign of Fobbial Artesia I the Unbridgeable.

Fobbial Artesia I, surnamed the Unbridgeable, won the throne by divination.

Fobbial Artesia I espoused Sidentilation with wild channession.

Rumours of morees in Wire Star.

3.FA.I

Fobbial Artesia I the Unbridgeable gave birth to a son, Lavaloman, under the influence of Kabdhilinan.

Rumours of rederes in Vectary Viroth.

The source code is here and I’ll be blogging a bit about the technical details on mikelynch.org when I get around to it.

I also got around to implementing my dumbest Twitter bot idea, @TVisoTropes.

I’ve been away from Twitter proper since the US election: my mental health has been poor this year, so I’ve had a couple of enforced absences, but the way I was reacting late stages of the campaign and Trump’s victory were pretty decisive in showing me that the way I’ve been using social media is really bad for my brain. I miss it a lot but I still don’t know how to return: maybe when my mood improves? Maybe I should start a new account and reset things?

Antisocial August – the home stretch

Twitter, I miss you, but there’ll have to be a brutal follow-purge before I return.

It’s been great not having constant reminders of political news, and I’ve been thinking quite a bit about what the whole process of “paying attention to political news” actually means, in terms of day-to-day emotional life. Along the lines of this analogy, but less glib and simplistic. And informed by Anne Cvetkovich’s Depression: A Public Feelingwhich I just finished based on Yatima‘s recommendation.

Antisocial August

A voluntary break from social media, named by @nerdfish. I’ll be avoiding Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram until September

I am allowing myself a loophole for the upcoming @FSVO series, as that’s more of a weird microblogging persona than a social media presence. In other words, I don’t hang out on it.

Why? I think it will clear my head and improve my mood, especially getting away from Twitter.