09 June 2015

It's Been A While...

  Good day, eh?

  Why has it been months since I've posted?  Glad you asked.  I am now 91.7% complete on my MA program.  All that's left is my thesis, and I'm now in week 2 of my 16-week thesis seminar.  Life has been interesting in the Chinese since in the last few months, and I'll recap some of that here before I go into a separate post about gaming.  If all things work out the way I want, this will be the beginning of much more regular posting from me, but I've learned not to make promises on that front.  If you're mostly here for the gaming commentary, this post is mostly personal stuff.  Skip ahead.

  School - well, I pretty much covered that.  The long road to my MA is almost at an end, and I have a 3.94 GPA to show for it.  Damn A- scores.  Anyway, the more I study Military History for my MA in that subject, the more I'm convinced I'd rather be teaching and studying the history of my twin hobbies- tabletop gaming and classic console gaming.  The interesting thing is that both these subjects have been getting scholarly attention of late to include some very good books on the subject.  I hope to speak to our video game development program at work and see if they would be interested in a course on the history of the game industry.

  Family - Kaylee has turned 4.  Zane is about to turn 6.  I am continually amazed by both of them.  Kaylee and Zane are incredible kids.  Kaylee's speech has become much more clear, and her vocabulary has grown immensely.  I had to laugh yesterday when we were driving to Grandma's house and Kaylee said "Come on, light!" as we sat at a red light.  She has developed a love of my movies to the point that she asks to watch some of them repeatedly.  She's still a fan of Frozen and E.T., but she's added Ghostbusters, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Big Trouble in Little China to her list.  Zane's down with those films, too, and both kids are fans of the excellent Star Wars Rebels.  Kaylee is a fan of Sabine Wren, the Mandalorian graffiti artist.  Zane loves Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger.  Oh, he's also a huge fan of The Avengers, and asked for a Captain America costume for his birthday.  Cosplay FTW!  Zane's also been asking to watch Star Trek with Daddy, so we have been sampling TOS and TNG together.  I love being a geek dad.

  Zane's behavior issues are improving by leaps and bounds.  As he graduated Kindergarten, he hadn't been in serious trouble more than once in the past month.  He takes great pride in bringing home perfect behavioral report cards.  He's a very caring, and conscientious young man.  He looks out for his sister and his mom.  Heck, he was even telling me to sit down and get a drink when I was sick a few months ago and having balance issues.  Whatever trauma triggered his issues last year, I think we're working through it.  He has an incredible support team, from school and from Dell Circle of Care.  I am incredibly thankful.

  Mental State - Well...  I've come to terms with the fact that my mental issues are ones I wouldn't admit to myself.  It's not that I don't think I have issues - I know I do - it's just that the issues I have are uncomfortably similar to those brought back by combat vets, so I tend to accuse my psyche of stolen valor.  I always said to myself that I can't be having issues with X, because X is something only combat personnel get, and I am not entitled to that sort of issue.

  Turns out you don't have to be shot at to have issues with hypervigilance or stress/anxiety.  The more we dig into my issues, the more I'm learning about myself and how I deal with my past and with adversity.  As near as we've figured out so far, I have a form of hypervigilance caused not by combat stress, but by placing nearly all the responsibility for everything on myself in an effort to take care of Mary and later the kids, and adding school and for a time Guard and weight loss stress - all of it combined to make something in my head snap.  Probably about the time we had the water leak issues that drove us out of our home during the holidays just a month after becoming parents.  A perfect storm of stress, and my own stubborn unwillingness to let anyone else help with the load.  In my head, it was enough that Mary took care of the house and her own day job- I could handle everything else.  Finances, home issues, kid issues, diet frustration, Kaylee's heath issues, term papers...  I pushed myself to make it all work.  I didn't want to burden Mary or anyone else with the things I could have gotten help with, and the things that were my own to bear I berated myself for not doing well enough.

  The result is that I am functional, but not in a complete way.  I'm constantly looking for the next problem to occur - which is where the hypervigilance comes in - it's not looking for snipers and IEDs, it's looking for the next catastrophic vehicle failure and knowing we can't cover it with what we've got in the bank.  It's waiting for the minor flooding we had in the garage do beget mold and rot that probably won't happen- but at 2AM my brain assures me it's going on RIGHT NOW INSIDE THE WALLS.  It's contemplating the nature of mortality at the wee hours of the morning, and fretting over everything from paying down the Carnival card to avoiding bombing my thesis (or the classes I was taking at the time.)  I cannot stop waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I am convinced the next disaster is just around the corner, and therefore I don't sleep well, and I have trouble relaxing.

  With this comes depression, and a desire to "turtle."  I spend a lot of my time wanting to hide in a dark room that's about 66 degrees with a stack of books and a locked door.  I am not that person, yet it's the person I feel I am more and more as stress pushes me farther and farther toward isolationism.  I keep wanting to hide. 

  My kids help bring me out of this funk, as does gaming- but both are the fun part of a roller coaster ride.  The highs are fleeting and the lows fill in the vast majority of my days.  The really frustrating part is that I know, intellectually, that we're doing OK.  So we're not rich, our bills are paid.  We didn't take nearly the flood damage other families did - in fact, two weeks on and there seem to be no long-term problems since the water got into the converted garage.  The concrete construction of the floors and baseboards might just have saved us some headache.  I'm doing fine in school, and Zane is doing well, and Kaylee is learning and growing and Mary isn't miserable with her job and life is basically good... so why do I always feel impending doom?  It's illogical, but then, I'm not a Vulcan...

  To use gamer terms, imagine my stress and depression as the heat level of a BattleMech.  My life is proceeding as if I have lost most of my heat sinks and my heat level is riding high.  Periods of happy and calm lower the heat level, but only slowly.  Any low-heat activity that would be negligible to a fully functional 'Mech push me right back into that zone where I'm rolling for ammo explosions and shutdowns.  Heck, maybe I've lost a few heat sinks AND taken an Engine crit or two.

  So there we go.  The State of the Union.  That's where I'm at.  Now... to write a post about awesome shit to remind myself that I just came back from the most incredible weekend ever.

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