Coping Processes

I’ve been struggling with social anxiety a lot lately. I’m aware of my stressors, the main one being the way I’ve been framing my work. It’s gotten to low-level panic attacks for days on end. Yes, I know I work too much. Yes, I know I tend to care far too much about the wrong things. Let me re-state that. I mis-prioritize my actions based on the outcomes I would like (I don’t execute in ways that will further my end goals).

And then the crux of the problem – I am actually an introvert who just happens to be good at people. I feel like the stage tech who gets dragged out on stage to act, and I just want to be in the dark reading cues and flipping switches so other people can bare their souls. The people who like doing that sort of thing. That said, I find people fascinating. I love how individuals build a society out of their communities. But. Every single person I cross paths with, or see on the street, or see the lighted window in a building.. each of them has a life that is just as complex (if not more so) as mine. And most of it will never overlap with me – which is great. But it’s so.. massive. And complicated by all the other lives abutting theirs, the social factors they’re not even aware of, that we’re all monkeys in clothes with language. And then one person comes up to you and asks you where the bathroom is, and it’s like “do you even realize what that means? That we have bathrooms! History and context and memetics! And that so many people used that public restroom before you!” I don’t even care about the washed hands (I mean I do, but not in this context), there’s just so much past-ness (thanks, Dymaxion, for the term) behind that stall door. And should we even be using toilets? And that’s just a tiny portion of everyone’s day that no one really thinks about. And then the person just blinks at you, and you point them in the (supposedly) right direction, and they walk that way. And then someone else comes up to you. Rinse and repeat.

So. That. I’ve started medication that is situation-based, only in my system for so long, to deal with the anxiety. And there’s the possibility of mood-stabilizing drugs, but first I have to set up a double-blind and match a placebo. Which brings us to the point of this entry (you knew we’d get here eventually): processes for coping. But first another tangent!

One of the reasons I’m medicating is because it’s incredibly difficult to keep a routine when on the road, what with switching timezones constantly and staying in other people’s space. Pacing around half-naked and sweaty practicing German after a morning run can only be done in the closest of friends’ living rooms. But the nomadic lifestyle is so incredibly worth it. And even a routine is just a coping mechanism, a way to stave off the anxiety. Something my psych said that made me feel better about the situation was “I don’t think it’s psychosomatic – you would have dealt with it by sheer force of will. There is something going on in your brain you don’t have control over.” Which also freaks me out, but oh well.

Processes help. Routine when you can find it. Meditation is a process. Quantified Self can be a process. I talked to Ed of i3 Detroit (and recent transplant to Boston) about his process. He’s listed out people who are important to him in a column, and dates across the top row. He draws a smiley or frowny face for what sort of topic he called them about, when. He can see how to balance good calls and bad calls, and make sure that he’s been keeping up with folk. I’m going to try this out. The best I can hope to do is once a month – I hate the phone in general, and even this would be a vast improvement over the current complete lack.

What do you do to cope? What processes do you have?

How do you know who is important? My three criteria are that they make me think, they make me laugh, and they aren’t drama. I am blessed that my list of people is so long. That doesn’t mean I’m any good at keeping up with people who I should be indicating my fondness of. I *suck* at keeping up with people. I am very present where I am, which means I’m just not pinging people that aren’t there right then. Which has been a difficult place for me to get to. Apparently humans take some time every day to contact folk who aren’t physically present. I thought about auto-sending emails of affection and check-ins, but that seems fake. What I can do is set alarms for myself, to be sure I do things when I should. That’s more authentic, right?

Also, you should totally check out Ed. He’s awesome. He does things like Penflake, and now works with the Center For Civic Media, my biggest organizational crush right now. Be still my activist techie heart.

He also made a way for people to create easily in the same way.

I wanted to do something interactive for Maker Faire last year. I had been drawing my PenFlakes, and thought it would be cool if people could design their own and print them out. So I created FlakePad, a javascript/HTML5 web app that enforces the basic symmetry of a snowflake, and provides a hexagonal grid to work off of.

Aside from being a great way to get my hands dirty with HTML5, the most interesting part of the app was creating the hexagonal grid. I wound up learning about and utilizing Isometric Cubic Coordinates. These coordinates provide an amazingly simple way to label hexagons on a grid, as well as a relatively simple transformation to and from standard Cartesian Coordinates. The basic trick is to recognize that a hexagonal grid, can be seen as a projection of a 3D arrangement of cubes centered on the plane x+y+z=0 (imagine Q*bert, the old NES game).