Transparency.

So, I’m writing again. Which is interesting, because for the past year I haven’t really had any inspiration to write anything.  Yet here I am, back to my normal soap box about mental illness with my 13 Reasons Why post, and over on my tumblr I’m writing poetry because I met someone who inspires me quite a bit.  Which is weird.  I’m in a new place that I haven’t ever been before, and I’m going to write my way through it.

If you missed my twitter rant about my current mental health, let me recap: I’ve been slowly losing my mind with the last month of school.  My anxiety has been the highest it has ever been, and my mind has been spinning stories of failing to finish online classes and the internet crashing for a week, and I started losing sleep, a lot of sleep.  I maybe got 2 hours a night for about 12 nights.  It was rough.  The day after that 12th night of horrible sleep, I had to hand in a draft of my capstone paper, and present/lead a discussion on one of my sources.  My stomach was in knots, because as you all should know, I have horrible social anxiety and I hate standing up in front of people and talking.  Somehow, I managed to not only stand up there and talk about this research study, but I was able to do it well.  Really well.  I’ve sat through everyone else in the class giving these presentations.  You can always tell who really understands their study and who doesn’t.  You can also tell who is really into what they’re talking about and who isn’t.   Well, I knew my study really well, and my topic is one that I’m super passionate about: the positive effects of gaming.  The class got to the point where they started asking me general questions about gaming and what else my paper covers, instead of just discussing the one source I was presenting on.  I don’t think I’ve ever been that sleep deprived in my entire life, but I still managed to absolutely rock that presentation.  And, not to toot my own horn, but I got a 100% on that presentation. toot toot.

I’m still medicated.  Klonopin.  I get to add a new drug to the list of everything I’ve ever been prescribed.  Back in the day no doctor dared to give me a benzodiazepine, because of the abuse risk.  So I’m obviously making progress.  And this is just a short term thing to get me through the end of the semester without having a heart attack.  I’m actually a big fan of this low dose. It doesn’t make me sleepy. I’m just mellow. My stomach isn’t constantly in knots and I can actually think coherently because I’m not trying to focus on 1000 different things at once.  If this is how people without anxiety feel all the time, I am insanely jealous of all of you.

Social media is full of people posting their life highlights:

I’m so blessed and honored to announce that I have accepted a position at XYZ company!

I’m just kind of over it.  People struggle. With mental illness, with family, with relationships.  I want to be real.  That’s what this blog started as, and even though I was delusional at the time and writing things that didn’t always hold up to facts, writing here helped me, and I know some of the things I’ve written have helped others as well.

I’m two weeks away from what I’m referring to as THE GREAT UNKNOWN.  I gave my official two weeks at my crappy retail job today because I’ve been there for a year and I just can’t keep doing it.  If it were more fast-paced, I think I could, but being bored for hours on end is just mind numbing to me.

I’ve decided to stay in Columbia.  I was originally thinking about moving to STL and taking this great paying retail job at Neiman Marcus.  I turned it down.  I want more out of my life than that.  I want to do something that actually matters. There’s so much bad shit going on in the world right now and I want to help people in some way.  I want to make an impact.

I’m looking at graduate programs.  I’m not entirely sure where I want to go or what I want to do.  I’m very interested in neuropsych.  The human brain fascinates me to no end.  I know I want to do clinical work, because I’m not a lab rat. I need to connect with people and not just hole up in front of a computer reading data for hours on end. I couldn’t do that.  So I’m applying for clinical jobs, and I’m going to volunteer at various places.  I’m terrified, because there’s no solid plan here, but I’m happy and excited and I feel like for once in my life my past isn’t holding me back anymore.

For a long time I held back because I felt like the world was waiting for me to fail.  It’s so interesting the effect that time and self-reflection has on your perspectives.  I’m so indifferent about people that I once used to loathe.  Things change.  Time really does heal.  And people grow up.

So this is my journey into the great unknown.  I’m graduating college on May 13th, and then I’m just gonna wing it.  What else can you do?

 

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Thoughts on 13 Reasons Why.

TW: Discussion of suicide, self-harm, rape, and mental illness.

I also relate a lot of it to my own personal experiences, so if you’re not familiar with my story, you’re about to be.

Aaand, spoiler alert for the show, I guess. Although I’m not sure why you’re reading this if you haven’t watched it yet.

I just finished watching 13 Reasons Why. Well, actually about twenty minutes ago, but it took me ten minutes to lower my heart rate from the brutal break down I had during the suicide scene.  A few days ago, I had firmly decided I wouldn’t touch this show.  I wouldn’t watch it. I didn’t want to wind up hyperventilating while sobbing hysterically during the rape and suicide scenes, like I knew I absolutely would (and I did).  Yet, all I’ve heard and read about lately has been this controversy. There’s a pretty clear split: people either love it or hate it.  I’m one of those people that likes to form my own opinion, especially when it comes to things that everyone is talking about, so I finally took a deep breath and began cautiously watching this show.

I have a lot of things I want to discuss in relation to this show, and I apologize if I go off on rants or tangents.  I’ll try to make my points eventually.

13 Reasons Why makes me so frustrated that I want to scream.  It’s decently close to really nailing what it’s trying to do, but the errors it makes in telling a story about suicide ruin the entire thing, even the good stuff.

As a writer, and someone who appreciates the art of storytelling, I think the mechanism it uses is really interesting.  Not necessarily something new, but still interesting. The tapes. Each episode is a different side of a tape, and through flashbacks and voiceovers, the story is told.  It’s intriguing.  It keeps the audience interested.  Who’s on the next tape? What did they do?

This entire concept is ruined by the fact that each tape is supposedly a reason why Hannah killed herself.  It’s an artistically detailed suicide note blaming those responsible for killing herself and overlooking the real culprit: mental fucking illness.

It’s 2017, so I hate that I have to state this, but mental illness is serious.  It can kill you. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States.  Approximately 121 suicides occur every day, with 25 attempts for every success. Think about that. This is real. While other diseases weaken your immune system and wind up killing you with pneumonia or organ failure, mental illness kills you with suicide.  It’s the fucker that gets you to do the dirty work.

There’s a movement to start saying “died by suicide” instead of “committed suicide” because “committed suicide” makes it sound like it was an active, coherent choice.  “Oh, I think I’ll die today.”  People who have never been in that place call it selfish.  Weak.  Inconsiderate to your friends and family.  But until you’ve been stuck at the bottom of the rabbit hole for months or years, don’t try to tell me it’s a choice. It’s the glowing exit sign out of the dark hell your mind has been trapped in.  It’s the warm sense of relief that in just a few minutes, all of your suffering will finally be over.  It’s warped perception, because your mind doesn’t go there until shit is really bad. It’s bullshit. And to this day, I will still scream from the rooftops that it does in fact get better if you just stick around to find out.  Like Hannah, I needed someone to pick up on the fact that I wasn’t okay.  And luckily for me, someone did. That didn’t magically fix my issues, but it bought me a little more time to at least get my head above water.  However, I didn’t attempt to get someone’s attention or to get back at anyone.  It doesn’t work that way.

It’s not a place you get to just because people are shitty to you.  People being shitty to you amplifies already existing issues.  Bullying does not cause suicide.  Bullying can amplify the symptoms of pre-existing mental illness, and in severe cases, that can lead to suicide.  There’s a difference here.

Another massive issue I have: this show basically walks you through a successful suicide step by step with visual aids.  If it’s something a viewer is considering, lo and behold! A perfectly good way to do it.  You can tell the story of suicide without a step-by-step visual.  I have a lot of issues with exploiting trauma for views, and that’s what the suicide and rape scenes felt like to me.  Showing a violent rape doesn’t help the story in any way.  You can get the point of what happened across without fully depicting it.

The suicide scene fucked me up. My attempt was basically the same method, only I didn’t bother with the tub, and I only had enough time to do one arm before someone was banging on my apartment door.  While watching, I was hysterical and seriously considered fast-forwarding through it, but instead I just closed my eyes and tried to not pass out from hyperventilating.  Even though I knew how the scene ended, I kept wishing someone would knock on the door like they had for me.

One thing I really liked about this show is that it showed the aftermath of suicide.  The people left in its wake.  The scenes with Hannah’s mother almost always had me tearing up.  Her daughter is dead.  She’s trying to cope and figure out why.  I feel like Kate Walsh nailed this.  The desperation, the grief, all while trying to hold her life together and barely doing so.  The only unbelievable moment was when she found Hannah’s body, and her first reaction was a very quiet, almost nonchalant, “oh no,” like she left her phone in the car.  After that, the shock built and it became more believable, and I once again lost my shit over imagining my mother finding my body.

Early on, I was so annoyed by Hannah.  Her tone in the first few tapes is superior, like she’s happy to finally get her revenge on these people. But as the show continued to develop, and her condition begins to get more and more unstable, I began to see myself in her.  Which is interesting, because I know a few people that have the opposite opinion: that as she becomes more unstable, they find her more annoying.

As Hannah becomes more unstable, she begins to lash out more. She pushes people away while secretly hoping they’ll run back, and then is disappointed when they don’t.  She screams at Clay and tells him to leave, when she just wants him to understand that she’s been through some serious shit with dudes and has trust issues.  People cut her out because she’s a lot to deal with, and she winds up alone and isolated and contemplating suicide.

I actually overheard someone talking about the show today and they mentioned how crazy she was.  Boy, did that strike a chord with me.

The general public seems to be way more understanding with internalizing disorders, because to some degree, almost everyone has experienced some type of depression or anxiety, and they can easily wrap their head around the concept of, “Okay it’s like that day you were really in a funk but every day for months or years on end.”   People who don’t suffer from Major Depressive Disorder or an anxiety spectrum disorder can sort of understand that and try to empathize.

But as soon as symptoms become external, it’s a completely different situation. People can’t wrap their head around irrational thoughts or saying one thing and meaning the exact opposite. That makes no sense in their minds that are fully capable of rational thought. They don’t understand what it’s like for your mind to jump to conclusions so fast that you wind up with a version of reality that defies all logic. They don’t understand how crippling paranoia can be.  They just see you, yelling about something that doesn’t even make sense.  And all of a sudden, you’re difficult. Or a drama queen. Or overreacting.  Or crazy.  Or psycho. Insane. Too much to handle. The list goes on and on.  For some reason, people don’t want to recognize that those people need help too.

I’m not part of the intended audience. I realize that. Trauma survivors are not the intended audience.  But we still have to watch to see if they’re telling our stories correctly, and when they don’t, we have to call them out.  Because our stories matter.  Our stories help eliminate stigma and assure others who are struggling that they are not alone, and it’s okay to ask for help.  Our stories of rape and suicide and abuse deserve to be told correctly.

So I will end by restating my main point that prompted this giant rant.  The parts that 13 Reasons Why gets right are completely ruined by the overarching theme of the story: that thirteen people caused a girl to take her life.  I’m sorry, but that’s just total bullshit.

If you have thoughts of self-harm, seek professional help or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you have experienced sexual assault, call RAINN at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Thoughts on the Nintendo Switch & The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Alright, so I’ve been trying to figure out what platform I wanted to create this review for, since you know, I dabble in all aspects of the interwebs, but I decided that this was probably the best and fastest way to get it done.  YouTube would be good if I had gameplay footage, but I don’t, and the amount of editing that would have to go into using enough screenshots would take way more time than I’m willing to spend not actually playing this game.

So, without further ado, I present to you,

MY THOUGHTS ON THE NINTENDO SWITCH

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            We’re gonna start with the console and just get it out of the way, and then I’ll get to some general thoughts/fangirling over Breath of the Wild.

I preordered the Nintendo Switch, along with Breath of the Wild, about 24 hours after preorders went live.  It took some scrambling, because they went FAST, but I managed to snag the Special Edition bundle of BotW from Best Buy, and the actual console from GameStop.  Then I just had to wait.  They both arrived by UPS on March 3rd (release date) around 5 pm, and I dove head first down the rabbit hole.

The console has potential.  I’m not exactly someone who is big on portable gaming, so that aspect wasn’t a huge selling point for me, and to be completely honest, if Breath of the Wild hadn’t been the launch title, I wouldn’t have preordered.  But it was, so here I am, and my bank account hates me, again.

I played on the tablet for a bit because the Joy-Cons weren’t charged out of the box, but the tablet had a partial charge. When the Joy-Cons are attached to the tablet, they charge, so I did that for a while.  Eventually, the console started warning about low battery, and I switched (lol) to the TV.  After a little bit, the Joy-Cons were almost drained, because they hadn’t fully charged, so I wound up taking a break to make dinner and give my dog some attention. After about 45 minutes, the Joy-Cons were fully charged and I got back to exploring Hyrule.

I did not preorder the pro controller.  I went hunting for one on launch day and failed to find one at Walmart, Target, GameStop, Best Buy, or Toys R Us.  Basically all they had left were some screen protectors and some amiibos.  I managed to find one online at Walmart.com.  It arrived on Monday, March 6th.  So for the entire first weekend, I played with the Joy-Cons attached to the grip that comes with the console.

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I also want to throw out there really quickly, that the charging grip that you can order is completely unnecessary. Once the Joy-Cons are fully charged, reviewers have said that they’re good for 20 hours or so.  To be completely honest, I was logging about 15-18 hours/day (yes, I’m a piece of shit human being) and they weren’t even halfway drained by the time I finally decided my brain needed sleep.

The Joy-Cons are…different.  They are absolutely tiny.  I have decently large hands for a woman, and I felt like I was holding a child’s toy.  The grip does help, but it’s still an awkward setup, with buttons directly above or below the control sticks.  I wish the grip had more depth to the part you hold on to, because towards the end of my gaming sessions, my hands were actually cramping.

I did experience the lagging from the left Joy-Con that other reviewers have mentioned. It wasn’t full disconnection; it was usually just a lag.  Link would continue to run even when I had stopped moving the analog stick for another second or two, and then he would stop.  This was especially annoying on cliffs because he would run right off to his death. It usually occurred when I had made my way into an interesting position on the couch as an attempt to be comfortable despite spending my entire day sitting, or when I had my feet propped up on the coffee table with my legs being physically between the Joy-Cons and the console.  So we’re talking some sort of Bluetooth issue. Not entirely sure why it’s happening, I’m not that big of a tech person to try and speculate and figure it out, I’ll sound like an idiot, but it’s a thing that a lot of people have brought to the attention of Nintendo, and hopefully a patch will fix it.  Maybe hold off on purchasing extra Joy-Con sets for multiplayer games, in case it is a hardware problem.

I feel like the Joy-Cons have potential, and will probably be more relevant for titles being released sometime in the future, but for extensively long gaming sessions of Breath of the Wild, the pro controller is where it’s at.

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My pro controller arrived yesterday.  I played for a few hours after my work shift with it, and all I can say is, BUY IT.  I know it’s a hefty price tag ($70), but like I already said, it’s just so much more comfortable to play with.   I did not experience any lagging/disconnecting/Bluetooth issues with it whatsoever.  Also the layout of it just makes it more convenient to use.

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I have not experienced any blue or orange screens of death. *knocks on wood* Thank god.  I would probably cry.

All in all, I think it’s a cool console.  I’m really looking forward to see what else comes out for it. I’m stoked for Super Mario Odyssey.  I watched an interview with Miyamoto where he mentioned that they were going back to Super Mario 64/Super Mario Sunshine gameplay style for Odyssey, and that makes me so excited because both of those games are bomb.  Also looking forward to a new Smash Bros, Mario Kart, and I even think Mario Party could be really fun on this.

As a lifelong Nintendo fan, it makes me so happy to see them making a comeback.

Now, on to the good shit.

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If you’re a purist and don’t want to hear ANYTHING WHATSOEVER about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, turn back now!  I’m not going to disclose any main quest plot spoilers, but I am going to talk about some of my favorite aspects of this game so far, and might do a second post with plot spoilers because I NEED TO DISCUSS THEM WITH SOMEONE AND NONE OF MY FRIENDS WHO HAVE THIS GAME ARE AS FAR AS I AM.

I’m going to try and keep this as general as possible.  This is the main reason why I decided to blog this, because I can just keep editing it.  I tend to ramble in my podcasts, and I just post them completely unedited, so I feel like this is the best way to not only keep my thoughts on track, but to also not piss anybody off.

Brief background of my love for Zelda:

            The first game I played was Ocarina of Time for N64. It was released in 1998, I was six years old.  That’s actually a good starter game because it gives you most of the history and background and is just a solid starting point for the world of Zelda.  I fell in love. I played the rest as they came out: Majora’s Mask, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword.  Eventually I found the original NES title and I played that as well.  I have not played the Gameboy Zelda titles.  [As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never really been big on portable gaming.  Pokemon Blue, Yellow, and Crystal are about the only games I’ve really gotten into on a Gameboy.  There have been others, and I distinctly remember how exciting it was to get a GameBoy Color (we also have the original grey GameBoy that’s an actual brick), but I’ve pretty much always been a main console kind of person.  It’s more comfortable for one, I’d rather stare straight ahead at a TV than stare downwards and screw my neck up.] I’ve played all the main console games multiple times, while sober, while drunk, while trying to see how fast I can beat them (Ocarina: 18 hours w/o massive skipping of cut scenes or hacking). Anyway, I’m a die-hard Zelda fan. I love the stories, the characters, and the lore.  So as soon as I heard Breath of the Wild was the launch title for the Nintendo Switch, I immediately knew I was ordering a new gaming console.  There wasn’t even anything to think about.  It was happening.

IMG_2737Size comparison.  No need for a giant case when the cartridge is tiny.

Open your eyes.

This game is a masterpiece.  And I do not say that lightly.  As someone who has played each 3D Zelda multiple times, I have a lot of opinions.  There are things I like, there are things I don’t like.  Things that are annoying, things that make me squeal in delight at how magnificent they are.  This is why I don’t really have a favorite Zelda game, because there are things I love and dislike about all of them. (Yes, even Ocarina, sue me.)  Breath of the Wild is magnificent.  This game is everything I have wanted a Zelda game to be since I first picked up that N64 controller back in 1998 and beat Ganon for the first time.

The open world is absolutely massive and I’ve spent so much time exploring. Just when I think I’ve checked an area out completely, I look at my map and I’ve only explored a quarter of that particular province.  It’s incredible.  Hyrule truly feels like a massive country with diverse areas and people.  Some familiar places exist: Gerudo Desert, Zora’s Domain, The Lost Woods, Kakariko Village, Death Mountain, and Goron City, just to name a few, as well as countless new villages and areas.  Provinces that were introduced in Twilight Princess (Eldin, Faron, Lanayru) combined with classic towns and areas create a version of Hyrule where the entire timeline makes sense.  It’s incredible.

This game is challenging.  I think it was Polygon’s review that said something along the lines of how this is a product of creators taking their audience’s intelligence seriously.  I don’t feel babied along. There are no tutorials, and very few explanations.  You figure it out by trial and error, and it’s so satisfying when you stare at a situation for so long and are completely dumbfounded by how to make it work, and then you finally figure it out.

The dungeons (not exaaaactly dungeons, but I’m not touching the plot in this post, so we’ll just go with dungeons) are clever as hell.  They are not your traditional make your way through, find keys, fight a mini boss, get an item, find the boss key, fight the boss-type dungeons.  They’re giant puzzles that eventually lead you to EPIC bosses.  The downside of this is that if you’re not entirely sure if you’re strong enough to be there, you don’t really find out until you get to the boss and one hit kills you. Then you’re like, oh hey, maybe I shouldn’t be here yet.

The good news is you can easily warp to the dungeons. If you realize that you’re not strong enough to fight the boss, you can go get stronger and then come back.  And it’s not like the boss is buried deep within the dungeon, like previous designs have been.  They’re pretty much waiting for you right at the front once you’ve unlocked them. So far, I’ve completed one dungeon that I’m pretty sure is the one you’re supposed to start with, just because I made it through the boss battle with it being difficult, but not totally impossible.  But I have another that I made it to the boss, and one hit was leaving me with about a quarter of a heart. So I’ve been hunting heart containers, and wound up starting another dungeon, that I’m realizing is probably the one you’re supposed to do second.  The non-linear quest thing really keeps you on your toes.

I’m going to try and wrap this up, because I realize this is getting really long.

A few final thoughts:

I really love the cooking/survival aspects of the game.  It makes it more realistic and requires more thought to go into what you’re doing and the decisions that you’re making.

THE WEATHER AFFECTS YOU. Oh my god, I love this.  If it’s raining, it’s reeeeally hard to climb mountains. Duh.  And you can get struck by lightning if you’re carrying metal weapons during a thunderstorm! I love it.

Your horse can die. This freaks me out so much. It shouldn’t, because it’s a game, but it does.  But you basically have an endless supply of wild horses to catch so it’s not the end of the world if you lose one.

The fact that your weapons can break is really frustrating, but again, makes it more of a challenge.  The Master Sword does exist though, because it HAS to, this is Zelda after all, and I just recently found it. Haven’t acquired it yet, but I’m assuming it doesn’t break. So I’m really trying to get it just because I’m so sick of my weapons breaking.

I think that’s about all I have for now without getting into the plot/pissing people off.

This game is really magical.  It’s hands down the best thing I’ve ever played.  It’s not a traditional Zelda game, and I know that’s making it a very tempting purchase for people who haven’t been into these games in the past.  If you’re on the fence about it, let me make it easy for you:

You need this game in your life.

Alright, that is all. If I think of more things, I might make a part 2, and I also might do more plot-related thoughts, because again, THE STORY IS SO GOOD.

Peace out.