Constant Tuesday

I am not quite at the same mental low as last week, but I would be lying if I said I felt 100% stable.

Reading that last bit, I sound like a complete basket case. I wish I could say I didn’t feel some element of truth to it either. Maybe not so much a basket case, more a Tupperware box case? If nothing else, it means my crazy is vacuum sealed! It would appear that this Tuesday, I am in the mood to waffle.

There is no What Culture article this week for three reasons. Firstly, I haven’t been paid for the work yet, so I am not putting my fingers on the keys until I get my September pay-out. Second, the guy who has edited all my articles up until now, Ewan, has left, and I am not sure how I feel about it. I am not the worlds biggest fan of “change”. I am not sure if this is a mental health thing or just a personality thing.

The third reason is I was taking part in the Chicken House Books – Open Coop submission call/competition/thing. I took the week and thought about which of my half-finished horror novels for children I wanted to submit and then went to work. I boiled the concept down to what I liked about it, found all the salvageable parts from my earlier drafts and then set about writing a synopsis, sample chapter and cover letter.

I was pleased with the sample chapter. I think I have finally found my voice when it comes to writing. I had never written a synopsis before, but it’s far more straightforward and a lot harder than I first thought. It would be best if you conveyed a lot of big ideas with a minimal amount of information. At some point, I will try and boil my other half-finished manuscripts down to this and see just how weak they are.

The synopsis more or less wrote itself once I had that first chapter and a basic idea of who my protagonists were. The plot just happened; “If A does this, then B will do that, which will cause C too…” and so on. I will be honest and say I am scared shitless now. This submission is the first time I have allowed myself to get passionate about something and feel pride in something I have submitted. I am not sure how devastating the rejection will be, but if I didn’t at least try, I would never know.

There is only so long I can go on admonishing myself for not writing and then promising that I will start on Monday, only just to read comics and play video games. As a wise man once said, it’s time to shit or get of the pot.

The hardest part of the entire submission was the cover letter. It started well enough, introducing the book, giving it an “Elevator Pitch”, and telling them how much of the manuscript I had completed. The point the wheels came off was when I had to write about that git in the mirror. How does one talk in favourable terms about the one person you genuinely don’t like? I had to pretend I was a character in one of my stories.

Thinking like this, I will admit, did make it easier to write, but I also had to make sure I wasn’t making myself out to be the J.K. Rowling or Eoin Colfer. I think I managed it with a strange mixture of humility and sticking to the facts. Keeping it dry made it slightly more bearable, even if it might have hampered my chances a little or looked out of place in the otherwise light-hearted and confident letter.

Now, I am off to do the old day job. It might not be my passion or dream, but it puts food on the table and a roof over my head, so the job has got to count for something. It no longer buys me graphic novels; they come from money made during writing. Being able to say that makes me smile, so I must be doing something to right.

You won second place in a writing competition collect $50

So that happened, but somehow I don’t feel any better. For the past few weeks, my moods have been pinballing between happy, stable and defeated. I wish I had some idea of the root cause, but it seems like the more effort I put into fixing my life to work the way I want it to, the further away from content I get.

And if truth be told, content is all I have ever wanted. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for out of life, really. When I was younger, I wanted to be Neil Gaiman or Warren Ellis, but the truth is I just want to be Kevin McHugh. Actually, what I really want to be is happy being Kevin McHugh. I know that the way my brain is wired up such a thing might not be possible, but there has to be some way to achieve a level of emotional consistency.

Work is going, and I can’t say much more about it than that. It’s as if every time I take one step forward, something is dragging me backwards. Usually, I either don’t want to be working on some project or should never have been asked to work on it. Actually, that last line is a lie. A few tasks are dragging on because I didn’t test the work properly or didn’t fully understand the brief. I could blame others, but then it’s too late for that. My pride got the better of me when I should have refused to start on a task because it hadn’t been adequately thought through in the first place.

The last time I posted, that retelling of my successes seemed to improve my mood. Still, this time it’s only making my unhappiness all more physical. I have to wonder if there is any coloration between low moods and Tuesdays? The wrestling fan in me wants to make a joke about the quality of Monday Night Raw. At least that got a little smile out of me.

Last weeks short story was a slog to finish, and on editing it, I had to question if it was worth it. On the one hand, it’s actually a reasonably complete story and feels like an entire narrative. On the other, it was poorly written, had no submission destination and is pretty bland. The handful of personal moments in it didn’t feel as cathartic as I had hoped.

My articles for What Culture are still happening, but I struggle to find any passion for working on new ones. Playing “edits tennis” with my editor is nowhere near as fun as it had once been. I feel less like I am learning and more like I am working. Which, when I see it written down, is actually a bitter pill to swallow. If I don’t treat it like work, maybe I should just not bother or accept that I shouldn’t be getting paid for it. I should stop wasting everyone’s time and keep my thoughts to myself or ramble about the subjects on here.

This weekend I attended a Golden Egg webinar about writing for children, ultimately this is what I want to do. I left even more unsure of myself than when I started. It feels like wanting to be a plumber, but I have been making things out of old circuit boards and solder. The experience made me aware of several opportunities open to me that I should really consider. In truth, all I am is confused, insecure, panicked and have awful bloody heartburn. The last part might be down to poor diet, mind you.

I am staring down the barrel of a billion and one meetings. I have no enthusiasm for anything beyond sitting here, watching YouTube and feeling sorry for myself. I can’t even ask how I became so broken because the truth is I know the answer. I always thought that secret would make me feel better or give me some direction to focus my rage, but truth be told, I feel nothing.

I know I need to pull myself out of this hole before I slip down too deep and can’t get myself back out. This isn’t a cry for help; I am in no danger of harming myself or others. I just feel overwhelmed emotionally, exhausted physically and unfocused mentally. There is a song by Matt Nathanson called “Little Victories” that usually makes me feel comforted in the things I have achieved.

I was even thinking about taking my winnings from the competition and moving this to a proper domain. At the moment, even that seems like something that’s beyond me. Hopefully, next time I am on here, it will be more optimistic. I would hate to have come this far and fought this hard, only to throw it all away because it was a Tuesday.

If nothing else, I have learned one valuable lesson this past year. Never make any decisions when you feel like this, as you will only come to regret them. Not feeling mentally or emotionally strong enough is when you can’t be trusted to decide what you want for lunch, let alone why you should or shouldn’t be doing something you deeply care about.

Rant over. To those of you who need help. Please seek it out. You can’t carry this terrible burden on your own. Life becomes so much easier once you have some help to carry the load and you get a moment to breathe inside your own head. If nothing else, just stop, sit down and do something you enjoy. Even if it’s eating a bar of chocolate or watching YouTube. Things will get better.

Somethings about something

I honestly have no idea what to write here. I think the pressure in my sinuses and the resulting pain is not helping. It has been a long time since I wrote anything here, and to be frank, most of that time has been spent deep in self-pity and crashing headfirst into rock bottom. As a matter of fact, apart from the past couple of months, I have been in free fall.

If I am being honest with myself, that is the reason I am writing this. To somehow capture in words the current state of affairs with me. The hope is that if I can see what is happening, I can somehow stop sliding back into old destructive patterns. Especially when I think about how hard I have worked these past few months and all that I have achieved.

For anyone who hasn’t been following along with my Articles page, I have become a regular contributor to I have been averaging about one article a week. I have learned a considerable amount about the craft of writing and conveying ideas. I am on course to hit a hundred thousand views before the end of September, which is just mind-blowing.

For the past few weeks, I have also submitted short fiction pieces to various anthology calls. I took what I have learned from my articles and produced more robust and more coherent narratives. Hell, I have even let people other than me read them before I submit them. Even more staggeringly, I am taking their suggestions on board and rewriting what I have written.

There is one final piece of news on the creative fiction front, but I want to keep that a surprise for now. My own pessimistic nature will not allow me to be happy about it. I keep trying to convince myself that it only happened because of X, Y or Z.

And that dovetails quite nicely into talking about the nine thousand pound elephant sitting in the corner of the room and taking a massive shit. My mental health had all but flatlined back at the start of the year, and I came within an angles breath of losing everything. While that is not hyperbole, it is also not a cry for attention or me talking about trying to end my own life. I may have severe mental problems, but I am also a massive physical coward.

For the past few months, I have been going through EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) to see if I can deal with a lifetime worth of unprocessed emotions and traumas. To say it has been successful would be an understatement. For five months, I have watched forty years worth of shit just fall by the wayside. The feeling of not carrying around all of that unresolved and unprocessed emotional baggage is so monumental that I could honestly weep just thinking about it.

The idea that I may be able to lower my medications, maybe even ween off them, at the end of the process is something I had not expected. It’s like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and then discovering it’s a pot of cold if I can mix my metaphors for a moment. There is a part of me that wishes I hadn’t waited so long to get treatment. Still, my rational mind knows that I was not ready to admit how big my problems were or how lost I actually was.

Another huge factor in the positive upswing my life has taken recently is changing jobs. My previous position was toxic, and it was eating away at me like cancer. To give an example of how bad things had gotten. When a doctor signed me off work for two weeks due to the collapse of my mental health. My line manager was more interested in telling me off for some minor failure to follow an internal process. I was actually in the right in that situation anyway, but it was beside the point.

My new job is brilliant, and it affords me opportunities to work with interesting people and use the latest technologies and platforms. I couldn’t have asked for more. If I am being one hundred percent honest with myself again, I am worried that the other shoe will drop, and it will all get taken away from me. No matter how well my therapy is progressing, I suspect some things will never change. But if I have learned nothing, it’s that “good” and “bad” are not really part of mental health; Only “Healthy” and “Not-Healthy”. And I think that a little “not taking things for granted” is a very healthy thing indeed.

I got a rejection letter this morning, and before I started writing this, I felt pretty awful about it. Now I just don’t. Reading all I have achieved, it would be churlish to throw it all away because one person felt a story I had written was not the right fit for their anthology. That’s not a slight no me but a reality of life. Sausages are great, cheese is excellent, but sausages and cheese together? Not so much.

I took last week “off” writing and EMDR because I had a cold and felt pretty worn out. I have been worried about getting back on the horse today, not helped by the rejection letter. Still, I think now that I am ready to go and really looking forward to it. I have a half this week article written and the outline for a short story based on “Dream On” by Aerosmith.

And somehow, a reference to that song seems like the perfect note to leave this post on.

Break The Cycle

People say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. It turns out they are not only right but that I am the literal definition of insane. Today I finally discovered the cycle of regression that I have been in for the better part of ten years.

If you are waiting for me to tell you about some earth-shattering moment of clarity or blinding light on the road to Damascus, then I am afraid you are going to be bitterly disappointed. The truth is that when the big moment arrived, it was marked by little more than a half-hearted sigh.

The best way I can describe the situation is an endless series of attempts to turn back the clock to a time where I felt happier and more fulfilled. Several times a year, I would make an active attempt to reestablish a relationship that I should never have had in the first place.

It was as if I was trying to trick my brain into releasing that dopamine rush it was so fond of handing out back in my late twenties. Never once did I take the time to consider why I was doing such things, or for that matter what I hoped I would achieve by upsetting everyone else’s life.

The truth is that when I find myself under emotional or mental stress, then I have a habit of regressing to earlier stages in my life. While not a new phenomenon, it is one that I am perfectly well aware: Only in a more extreme form as a self-preservation mechanism.

Other times I typically regress to some child-like state, retreating into a world of superheroes, model soldiers, video games or old TV shows: Basically anything that would give me a sense of place and security one most associates with childhood or early adolescence.

From time to time, the regression manifest in a much simpler form, and I take on a child-like attitude being equal measures flippant and ignorant of my more immediate problems. Thankfully this kind backwards step only last for an hour or so and does surprisingly little damage to the present.

Today’s discovery is a third flavour, one where I try to return to a time when I had more control and less responsibility: One where I felt loved, happy and secure, not as a child but as an adult. The problem with this form of regression is that it requires others to return to that earlier period with me.

At best this results in “What the fuck?” and at worst I end up opening old wounds and pulling others down into my self-indulgent drama. The only thing worse than my discovery is that it means confronting the idea I might not always be the good guy in these things.

Fortunately, my self-image is a problem for another time. For today I will be happy enough knowing that I have at least broken out of a destructive pattern.

Don’t Fall Asleep To Dream

Yesterday I forgot to take my tablets and last night I paid the price for it. In the past, I have alluded to what happens to my nocturnal mental state upon missing my daily dose of crazy pills. In the early hours of this morning, I found myself in such a state of distress that I thought it worth sharing.

Of the two episodes I had the first is the tamer them:

I was Spider-Man swinging through the nighttime skyline of New York City when the lights began to die. Building by building they would blink out, the darkness surrounding me as I manoeuvred in search of safety. No matter which way I would turn nothingness would be there ready to consume me. They area of security shrinking by the second. Then I could hear the creatures moving through the shadows of the city, searching for me. As I ascended higher and higher, desperately trying to jump into the sky and away from the faceless terrors below the stars began to go out one by one and the moon started to turn dark. In the end, I had no choice but to fall into the oblivion and whatever was awaiting for me within.

There are probably a multitude of interpretations of this dream, and if that had been the only one I had, I think I would have been able to cope or at the very least not have been so badly shaken.

However, the second episode exceeded the first in just about every way possible:

I was one of four detectives assigned to investigate the death of a prostitute involved with WWE Superstar The Undertaker. We arrived at the woman’s flat. It was a sad little studio apartment that was mainly a bedroom and a hall connecting it to the front door. One side of the room had been converted into a makeshift kitchen. The whole place stank of rotting food. The carpets were damp with mould caused by leakage from the defrosting fridge. Beyond that, the area was empty. The bed had been stripped, and there were no personal effects lying around.

The female detective opened the sizeable wardrobe and found a handful of clothes hanging up, belonging to both the woman and a child. The top part of the fitted wardrobe was a separate cupboard. Upon opening it, we discovered the mummified body of a small boy. Folded away like it was being stored for future use.

As we removed the child’s husk, we found stacks and stacks of electronic tablets, each one with a different family or child upon the lock screen along with a date. Without it being expressed to me, I knew that these people had all been murdered. I stood in the doorway and watched my colleague build a mosaic out of the tablets on the floor before collapsing to my knees and weeping as wave hopelessness washed over me. How could we possibly hope to defeat such relentless evil.

The scientific reason for the intensity of my dreams is because my medication affects my brain chemistry and that if my body misses the usual dosage of whatever chemical the drugs produce vivid dreams are a side effect. The problem is that I don’t dream and only have nightmares. This is life long problem and nothing new, but in forgetting to take my medication, the problem is exacerbated beyond all measure.

The lesson of the day; don’t break routine as it only leads to dark places.

And Burn Your Assumptions

People spend a lot of time talking about “writing for the market”. The idea is that you think about categories, age range etc. your book could potentially be placed in, should it ever make it to publication before you start writing. I suppose it’s a bit like having an idea of your destination before you get behind the wheel of the car.

Now I am not saying that the above is the correct way to do it. I think it’s just as valid an approach to write what you want to write and see where it fits. If writing to the market is a planned journey, then I guess this style of writing is like exploring. It might be more exciting, but there is a much higher chance of getting lost or ending up nowhere.

This isn’t the usual “ganders vs architects” argument or anything like that. I am 100% in the “architects” camp. I am thinking here more about what you do with the finished product and whether the investment of your time is worth it for something that may never see the light of day.

That sentence alone has really gotten me thinking, how much of my time have I spent writing unfinished novels. Things that will never see completion, let alone submission. Can my argument really be all that valid, if I am already wasting that time? Let alone asking the question of what constitutes a “waste of time”!

What does all this have to with my life on the unbearably hot June afternoon? I have an idea for a book that doesn’t really “fit” anywhere. When the idea first came to me, I was sure it was a “YA Novel“, maybe even “Middle Grade Fiction“. The themes did seem a little “adult”, but I have never been one to pander or dumb things down for children.

The problems really arose in the practicalities of telling the story. It would only work if it was set in the recent past, most likely the 90s as that’s “my era”. So now I am moving into “retro” territory and with themes and concept’s that could be considered “adult”. The closest cultural touchstones I could use are the TV show Stranger Things and the novel The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

Neither one of these, I think, are really my target audience. And that’s where my problem lies, in the phrase “I think”, because the truth is this is more an assumption than any kind of provable theorem. Is it just that I need to more research and see if there is a market for this particular book?

Or do I need to loose the idea “books I should be writing” and just write whatever the hell is in my head? Do I need to stop trying to make myself into the type of author I aspire to be and just be the kind of author I am?

The first rule of writing is, write what you know. The problem is when you have as many mental health issues as I do, does that not bring into question my judgement? How can I write about what I know when I don’t even know myself…..

Even Heroes Fall…

As anyone who reads this will know I am prone to “Hero-Worship”. I don’t know if it’s some fetishistic or compulsive trait that I have developed or one that I have always had. Either way, I take people I admire creatively and imbue them with a kind of perennial sanctity.

In the past, on here I have named writers such as Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker and Terry Pratchett in just such terms. If such a list were to have a structure, then the name at the very top would be Warren Ellis. He was the first creator I saw as an actual person and not just a name in the credit’s box. Like so many other aspiring creators, he showed us the way, blazed a trail for us to follow and in the process became something of a cult of personality.

The problem with deifying anyone to any extent is that you tend to forget they are only human and just as fallible as anyone else.

This article on bleeding cool has broken my heart. I wish I could say it was hyperbole or me merely being overdramatic, but the truth of being confronted by the man’s humanity has left me lost.

People are people, and we are complex multi-faceted machines that cannot be assigned a binary value of merely one thing or the other. This truth is where partisan politics fails us because it requires simple solutions for complex problems. No one is 100% liberal, like no one, can be 100% conservative. Most of humanity belongs in that swampy middle between the two. Whether they wish to admit this or not is another matter entirely.

The contradiction in who I thought someone was and who they are has left me looking at the admiration and respect I apportion to people based upon what they bring to my life. Especially when weighted against actions that I find personally reprehensible.

Should I value the comics Warren Ellis has created any less because of accusations of immorality on such a grand scale? I am inclined to believe not. Should the man whose every word I have hung on for the better part of 15 years be held accountable for his actions, without question.

I am not naive enough to think that I am not as responsible for the extent of his fall, that if I hadn’t put someone on such a high pedestal that I wouldn’t be feeling as confused and lost as I currently do.

Could it be that it brings into question my moral code? If I aspire to be Warren Ellis would I have done the things he did given the same circumstances? Ideally, I would like to believe not, but I cannot say with any degree of certainty as I have not walked a mile in his shoes.

I have no more clarity now as I did when I started to type. All I can say for sure is that it’s going to take me a few days to process the news and decided on what kind of relationship I wish to have with the man who gave the world Transmetropolitan and The Authority. The man who introduced me to Bruce Sterling, The Pixies and Bryan Talbot.

A man who is just that a man. One who has been accused of morally reprehensible actions. As I mentioned earlier this is a complex problem and one I don’t think has a simple solution, if there even is such a thing.

It’s Been A While.

It is possibly the most cliched blog title of all time. Especially if you are of a certain age and you remember Aaron Lewis and his alternative metal cohorts in the band “Staind”. I am sure there is a multitude of alternative titles I could have chosen, but I try to use song lyrics, and it was the only one I could think of on short notice.

The most important aspect of the title is that it conveys some sense of the time it has taken me to write anything. I went from writing every day to every other day to about twice a week, sure that the decrease in my productivity was more a general malaise over writing than anything in particular.

As a man who has struggled with mental health issues most of his life, I should have seen the warning signs. Perhaps if I had taken the time to recognise what my behaviour was trying to tell me I might not have crashed as hard as I did last week. For those of you keeping score, it was Wednesday when my slowly dropping mood took a full-on nose dive into the ground.

If I was to put my analytical hat on for a moment and try to list the triggers for this particular breakdown I would have to say; Work pressures, lock down, the sudden change to the status quo and a distinct lack of control within my own life.

Actually looking back at that list it’s the last point which is the root cause of all my anxieties. For months know the world has been in a kind of suspended animation, frozen between two states; the way the world was and the way it will be. And I found myself cast adrift between the two.

There was also the one-two punch of my medication and my day job. The amount of drugs I have access too has dwindled since lock down began. Forcing me to consult my GP before they would prescribe a significant amount but not being able to get an appointment as the medical world has more significant problems.

The other is that I am being micro-managed at work and am finding the experience more than a little soul-destroying. If the world was not in such a state, I would be searching for another job, in control of my own destiny. Instead, I am trapped having to take whatever shit is being dished out to support myself.

Having hit rock bottom, I am back on something of an upswing. Writing on here helps a lot, unloading whatever crap is clogging up the filters of my mind and maybe helping others in my situation to feel a little less alone. I might not be “back on track” just yet, but I have my map and I looking for the right route onto the main road.

I even took some time yesterday to do some “creative writing”. It was only some flash fiction, but it was a fun exercise and also I have something that I could submit. The rest I will post on here, just to prove that I am not all “Tell and no show”.

In the meantime, stay safe and stay sane.

Disciplined And Strange, Focused And Restrained

When did I go from writing on here every day to writing on here every other day? I can’t remember the exact moment I began to lose my focus, but it has been waning at an alarming rate in the past few weeks.  Not just when it comes to writing either, my day job has become something of a slog due to finding interest in the most benign and incendental things around me.

I usually try not to write about two subjects at once, but I think the two are actually connected beneath the surface. Either that or I just really want to mention the fact that I have begun to think about my transitions between sentences an unhealthy amount.

Last night I was working on my latest What Culture article and my focus began to wonder, I would read a paragraph and correct it a bit and then go off and look at some shiny thing that was distracting me from across the other side of the room.

Whatever the distraction, when I compelled myself back to what I was doing I began to notice that there points in various paragraphs where I would finish one train of thought and jump straight into the next one. I think it’s tied to my visual interpretation of the text: Does that block of writing look like a paragraph and if not, then I would just continue.

As processes go, it’s a pretty terrible one, to be honest, but the fact that I know a paragraph should convey a single thought or idea and choose to ignore it is unforgivable. I could maybe get away with it if I was on here but something that I intend to be paid for, I should really be ashamed of myself.

The fact that this failing has been highlighted by my lack of focus is an exciting turn of events. Up until now, I have always thought of not being able to focus as an entirely negative thing but in freeing myself up a little from a dogged concentration upon individual words or sentences,  I improved the quality of the work.

Ideally, I would like to be able to strike a happy medium. To control my focus and “Zoom in and out” of a given project to see it as both as a complete work and the various “nuts and bolts” should they require tightening.  Turns out I also need to work on my metaphors, but that’s a problem for another day.

Maybe I will try writing with my internet connection disabled and my phone hidden from view. This will at least tell me what my self-discipline currently looks like and whether or not my focus is just a bit off due to the “lockdown” or if there is a more serious underlying mental health issue happening.

Writing as a tool for medical diagnosis? I am sure that’s actually a thing…

Dissecting Distractions

This is a distraction. This is a distraction in a fire in a barrel. Any questions? – Gordon Bombay, D2: The Mighty Ducks

That particular quote is up there today for two reasons. Firstly, in these troubling times, I think we could always use a little of Coach Gordon Bombay’s guidance and secondly because I really wish I could take all my distractions and set fire to them.

Upon reflection, it’s maybe a good thing none the distractions are people, or I would be advocating something far more sinister than I intended. I make jokes when I am nervous or uncomfortable, it’s a defence mechanism, and I feel like this post is me owning up to my misdeeds the past few days. Worrying if my silent audience is judging me harshly or not at all.

The phrase “misdeeds” should be a red flag to anyone with mental health issues as most people should have them in their normal life. Real misdeeds happen only a handful of times in anyone life at worst. They have ramifications far more significant than not performing a self-assigned task in an arbitrary time frame.

My rational mind understands that playing Elder Scrolls Online is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s an enjoyable pass time, and like all video gaming, when done in moderation, it’s therapeutic and stimulating mentally. I should feel no guilt or shame for spending an hour or so a night playing it.

Yet, here I am confessing as if it’s some kind of cardinal sin. Somehow when the time comes, I don’t think Saint Peter is actually going to care that I spent a couple of extra hours a week running around as an Elf in a virtual landscape. The problem is the man in the mirror can’t cope with it.

He looks back at me, silently judging and asking where the words you have promised me are?  Is that article finished? Have you posted a blog today? Do you have any flash fiction hidden down the back of the couch? And when I fail to answer these, he turns away from me in disgust. I know this is my own poor mental health and that I have attached too much importance to writing.

If I should have anger towards anything, it should be my lack of focus. It doesn’t matter if I write a billion words or none. What matters is that I can concentrate on anything long enough to actually finish it without recrimination or guilt. This over-analysis of how I spend my “free” time is by far the most detrimental pressure on my mental health.

If I want to play a video game, watch a movie or read a book, then I should be able to do it without always thinking of “What I should be doing” and how this clearly isn’t it. Life without distraction or fun is not a life; it’s an almost sure-fire route to an early grave and even more pills than I am already one.

Surely a handful of comics, short stories and articles is a better epithet than achieving nothing other than a list of things I should have done?