Written by Patrick J Turner Jr

Published on May 5, 2023

Last Summer I had a garden on my back deck. It started as about 10 plastic pots filled with soil and newspaper along with some tomato, pepper, basil, eggplant, and strawberry plants. I had never grown a plant which produced fruit or flowers before. A good friend of mine once gifted me a few plants, most of which are still alive. I found the process of caring for these plants to be soothing on an existential level whilst living in an old, stuffy dorm during peak COVID restrictions.

Similarly, this garden my roommate, friends, and I had put together symbolized the essence of growth to me. We started the garden and it was not much to look at. At times I worried that we would not have any vegetables to show for our hard work. Yet as the year progressed our garden grew and grew. Somehow peppers and eggplants and strawberries would appear overnight. Many of them did not ripen and rotted on the vine, but the ones that survived the hardship were enjoyed by myself, my friends, my family, and my neighbors.

I would sit in the garden with my cat. He would walk around and sniff the plants while I enjoyed the breeze which bobbed their leaves. It was such a peaceful environment. Especially compared to the typically empty deck which exposed its disrepair, the plants provided shade, color, and something to do and look at out on the deck which made it a nicer space to exist in. After winter came along and the last of the plants died or had been fully harvested, we threw away the plants and the deck returned to its previously baren state.

In a sense, I feel that the trajectory of our garden was somewhat similar to that of my mental health. As the garden grew, so too did I. When the garden died, so too did I. I've written about how this past Winter was difficult for me. Entering the real world after graduation quickly exposed me to the pains of the 40-hour, 5-day work week along with the stress of having a boss who finds joy in yelling at you for minor mistakes and co-workers I feared I would not fit in with.

I feel I've been stagnating for the past four months or so, and only now am I starting to see the other side of things. I think I was having a hard time adjusting to the stress and responsibility of working a full time job and having to interact with people I didn't know very well for a large chunk of my waking hours. Being around people and making conversation with people I don't know well is outside of my comfort zone. I think that's a big part of why I disliked working retail and customer service for a brief period at Mystery Hill (a tourist trap down the road).

All of these adjustments I had to make to my daily life while trying to keep my personal life afloat, and in the end I just felt tired and worn out all the time. The headspace I inhabited at this time revolved around me being convinced there was something wrong with me and that everyone around me secretly hated me. I recognized I was in this headspace, but instead of identifying that it was a depressive, unrealistic mindset which actively degraded my self-esteem I continued down the path and tried to "better" myself by trying to find what others hated about me.

You can see this in my previous blog posts. I may have acknoledged how unhealthy the thoughts were at the time, but I was unable to pull myself away from actually thinking about them on a regular basis. This obviously began to wear away at my mental health and made me feel helpless. Often I would wake up and in my groggy, half-asleep state my mind would race with how screwed I was and how hopeless everything was. When I woke up and got going I would convince myself everything was okay and be able to go about my day normally. Yet in the back of my mind a looming sense of dread at my life and circumstances made me sick.

I still feel bad generally speaking. However lately I've found myself to be less obsessive with my flaws and not understanding others. I've accepted a lot of my flaws and am taking steps to address the ones within my power to change. I still feel insecure and find anxiety or depression creeping into my mind often, but I have rediscovered my coping mechanisms I've known for some time and have adapted them into my life once more.

When you don't know what to do or you feel powerless in the face of staggering odds, do what you can.

This is really the only way to live. Obsessing constantly over things I can't change or do anything about in the current moment will only make me neurotic and insane. I am currently working to identify my life and better understand the parts of it I like and dislike. I'm understanding my strengths, weaknesses, flaws, and insecurities and I'm taking the steps to handle them. This is something you can only do for yourself. Therapy, medicine, or clinical help may help with this process, but no one can do the hard work for you. Only you can save yourself and understand yourself.

I start by looking at my daily life laid out before me. What are the parts of it I like? What do I dislike? What could I change to address the things I dislike? For example, I am often tired during the work day due to lack of sleep or waking up right before I have to go into work. To address this I could make time to get coffee before going into work so I start the day off on a more energetic note. Alternatively, and perhaps the better solution, is just to go to bed at a better time and get more sleep altogether. I'm not in school anymore where I can get away with staying up late and getting less sleep. In the 8-hour workday poor sleep management leads to poor performance which opens a whole other can of worms.

I recognize I have trouble focusing at work as well. I have always had problems focusing in school and work before, however in an 8-hour workday where I have to work on things I may find boring or unfulfilling for hours at a time I am unable to use my typical coping mechanisms of taking frequent quick breaks. I have had to force myself to focus more on things I don't want to, which tires me and makes me frustrated, but is ultimately good for getting me outside of my comfort zone. It's a give and take situation. Just because I'm not always operating at peak efficiency does not mean I am worthless or lesser than others.

There is of course a capitalist, neurotypical, normative value to being able to operate at peak efficiency more and more often, but accepting that I am human and cannot do everything perfectly and quickly all the time has helped me. I feel I often put others before myself and feel a sometimes overwhelming need to do things right and not make any mistakes. My bosses' need to yell and feel power over myself and the other contractors brushes harshly against this personal mindset harshly. I find it hard not to take him yelling at us about messing things up or not working to his standard personally. This is something I've been trying to deconstruct and is a big part of adapting to working at that job.

I have also adapted to being afraid of my co-workers not liking me. In new groups of people I worry a lot about people not understanding me or not liking me for being awkward and quiet. Being awkward and quiet are a sort of defense mechanism such that they prevent me from acting strange or annoying to others by being myself. I have recognized that communicating and making conversation to any degree with my co-workers is meaningful and makes the work environment so much more enjoyable. My favorite co-worker just left the job earlier today and I know I will miss him like a good friend tomorrow at work. This is not something I ever thought would happen when I first joined the team, and I now fully realize the value of connecting with people in the office and in general.

I'm trying to be sober more often. I don't think I have a problem with drugs or alcohol by any means, I'm always very careful and cases of me overdoing it are exceptionally rare. However, after work and often on the weekends I would find myself engaging with substances in an effort to forget or distract from my negative feelings toward myself or my job. This is very common and how many people get through the work week and life in general, but I still recognize it as a coping mechanism and as an activity which actively prevents me from growing or changing my life.

I'm trying to notice bad habits and form more good ones. I'm trying to care for myself more and do things that make me happy more. I've been shopping for clothes and working on my wardrobe and fashion sense for instance. For most of my life I have worn plain, neutral, bland clothes with earth tones. Recently, through seeing people with good style online, I've been wanting to experiment with how I dress and present myself. I've bought some more colorful pants and I wear nicer clothes that make me feel good about myself. Part of this is because I now work somewhere with a dress code and have to actively think about what I'm wearing and how I look most days, but another part of it is wanting to feel more confident in my outward appearance all the time.

I'm pretty sure I'm going bald. No one told me or commented on it for a while, but I think it's now obvious that I have a little bit of a receeding hairline. Earlier this year my boss (of course) commented on it and it made me feel insecure. I looked in the mirror for several weeks after and felt hopeless. Sometimes I still feel hopeless looking in the mirror and knowing that because of my genetics I just have to deal with losing my hair over the course of my 20s. It's embarrassing, annoying, and makes me feel like shit. I've started to take some suppliments to help me keep the hair I have and potentially regrow my thinning hairline, but the results of these suppliments have yet to be seen.

Generally speaking I've never really felt negative about the way I look, and even now I still do like the way I look, but I realize more and more flaws in how I present myself and want to address them. My hairline, a persistent spot of irritated skin on the center of my nose, my weak and skinny arms and legs, my fashion sense, my lack of communication skills, all of these are things I feel like I should have focused on or recognized earlier in life but am instead only noticing them now. It can be hard not to feel a little worthless when faced with all of these things at once, but I try to fight this feeling and do what I can to work on them.

In the end that's all I can do. I know I have flaws and problems and the fact that I understand them now is itself a big deal and a part of my growth as a person. I know that no one is perfect and everyone has things they are working on even if no one else notices them. Your biggest critic is always yourself, and I have a lot of self-hatred I have to actively fight against and unpack. I am proud of myself for recognizing these aspects of myself and for being in a better headspace where I can now work on them more effectively. Time will tell how these aspects of myself will progress, but I am hopeful that I have the skills and mentality necessary to deal with them. I believe everyone has the power to change and grow themselves, even if they haven't found it yet. We can all reach a better version of ourselves, even if it feels hopeless.

Lately I've felt a little embarrassed at my previous blog entries. I will keep them up in the interest of showing myself and others how I was feeling at the time, but reading them now I see how mentally unwell I was at the time. I hope that this entry and ones like it can serve as the opposite: proof of a healthy mind and the capacity for growth and learning. In a way, sticking to this blog and continuing to write about my life, concerns, and hopes is like charting the rising and falling states of my inner self, something which would otherwise be quite hard to quantify. I think that is the best value that this blog provides, if for no one else then at least for myself. So despite any current doubts about this blog's existence on the internet, I will keep writing periodically and hope to improve myself and my presentation on this platform. Thank you and goodnight.