• Who am I?

    I am Qrystal; or at least, that's my dot-name! Har har. (My name is really Crystal, but that's not as internet-searchable; hence, switching the C for the little-used letter Q.)

    I am here because I enjoy writing. I do this mostly for myself, but I also have a passion for helping others learn things from the things I write. Now that I am done my Ph.D. in Physics, I am stepping away from academic research so that I can indulge in some creative ways to share my knowledge and inspire the appreciation of scientific thinking in others. I am also working as a tutor, which is one of the jobs I've most enjoyed doing in my life so far.

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  • Mental Battlefield

    Posted by Qrystal on September 24, 2009 at 13:51.
    Category: Life. Tags: .

    So. It is down to me, and it is down to me*. Me versus me, as it seems: my tendency to avoid That Which Must Be Done**, versus the desire to get finished That Which Must Be Done.

    There was a mighty duel.  It ranged all over. They were both masters.

    For the longest time, I was not alone on this battlefield. Two years ago, I had enlisted the help of one Venlafaxine to act as a morale officer, to help boost the enthusiasm that was waning after a long four years. My battle-weary mind felt unable to provide its own enthusiasm towards anything, not even the things meant to provide relief between battles, things like music or companionship.  But with Vennie’s help, I remembered how to enjoy those things, and even found myself keeping enthusiastic in the face of adversity.

    Eventually, I was starting to stand taller on my own, leaning on Vennie less and less.  I turned to music or friendship or haiku or other fun activities for restoration, and developed exciting goals to pursue after the current battle.  The desire to finish That Which Must Be Done was increasing in intensity, and the enthusiasm required to do so was aflame within me.

    Unfortunately, the tendency to avoid That Which Must Be Done had also strengthened in the meantime.  The ways to restore myself had multiplied into too many avenues for distraction, avenues that were more like rivers of fascinated enthusiasm whose currents keep pulling me in every direction.  I wanted to explore them all, and as always, Vennie was so supportive, encouraging me to enjoy what excitement I could draw from everywhere.

    Eventually, I realized that Vennie was playing on both sides of the battlefield, supporting my tendency to avoid my foe at least as much as encouraging me to keep pressing forward.  I didn’t feel particularly betrayed, but I still knew I had to break off the relationship with Vennie sooner rather than later.  If the reason to hire Vennie was my lack of enthusiasm, and if that aspect of myself had been restored successfully and was strengthening on its own, it was time for a change.

    Slowly, carefully, I worked towards reducing Vennie’s ability to influence me, even though each step away was disorienting and made me feel mildly ill.  But these effects were merely physical, perhaps a result of becoming accustomed to using a crutch for so long, and I was not deterred by the challenge.  The enthusiasm I had developed over the time with Vennie was still glowing within me, pulling me toward the goals I was determined to pursue after the battle was over.

    Then, one day, Vennie was gone.  Consciously, I knew that I had been working towards this moment, and I was pretty sure I was ready to move forward on my own, but I was a little concerned still.  The battle had gotten a little more complicated, but the newly-arrived other Things Which Must Be Done** were not as fearsome because I had enjoyed my previous encounters with them, and I was confident of my ability to handle them.  However, in the past I had let them take my attention away from the main target, and I couldn’t let that happen this time.  I needed the battle to be over, for good.

    There were two of these other Things Which Must Be Done vying for my attention, and I started by parrying both, trying to determine a pattern that would let me subdue them without straining myself.  In fact, I had a mind to turn these Things into my allies:  if I could craft an intricate dance out of our interactions, I could use their closeness to help me space out my attacks on the main target, That Which Must Be Done.  I could also use the energy of built-up adrenaline to create a sort of inertia to keep me moving forward, without the need to force myself.

    So I circled around, and then slowly backed away, preparing for the next round.  I can’t be sure, but I think I managed to keep my shakiness from being noticed.  In the meantime, however, a third Thing** was galloping headlong toward me, but I had seen it coming and was prepared, if a little nervous.  I knew this third Thing was only going to let me have one chance to strike, and I also knew I would be watched by many others who have battles similar to my own.  Thankfully, this interaction was along the lines of the encounters I enjoy, the ones involving Things** other than That Which Must Be Done**, and taking care of it was exhilerating.

    After this, a pause in the action gave me some needed recovery time, which I celebrated by surrounding myself with good people and music. The next day, I took some time to sort through some of the rubble that had accumulated over the years of battling, hoping it would help provide clarity for what I needed to accomplish in the weeks to come.  However, it took quite a toll on my time, and I ended up talking myself out of some further recreation that probably would’ve put me in a better position to handle the next week.

    But, as they tend to do, Mondays happen… and the battle to begin was a fierce one.  The tendency to avoid That Which Must Be Done was so overwhelming, I found myself cowering behind battle plans instead of making any effort to enact any of them.  In fact, I was even cowering from the less-frightening but still-crucial Thing which needed be handled before the next day, and that drained my energy and confidence even more.

    By the next day, I had steeled my nerves enough to strike instead of merely parry the Thing, but it felt like too little, too late.  Luckily, I discovered a way to duck through its attacks and avoid getting too beaten up, but the Thing increased in intensity while I avoided fighting.  Meanwhile, the other Thing was pressing towardme, but I took the initiative and kept it at bay by jabbing at it a few times, resulting in an increase of my own confidence.

    The newfound momentum inspired me to take a running leap at my ultimate target, That Which Must Be Done. I readied my weapons, started the battle music, but then–oh no!–I tripped and stumbled to the ground, burying my face in the dirt!  I stood slowly, shaking my head, wondering what hit me.  But I was not deterred, and somehow I held on to the determination to make at least a single strike against That Which Must Be Done.

    Unfortunately, every step forward was thwarted, and I was constantly getting spun around to face in any direction other than the one I wanted to go.  I kept falling, crashing to my knees, each impact battering my determination, which was crumbling but somehow holding together.  I dragged myself away from the battlefield to gather my thoughts, and then turned to face my foe.

    The battle felt different than any other I could remember… or perhaps, I was different.  I was not succumbing to the urge to avoid the battle, but instead, kept trying to press forward, despite my efforts being totally ineffective against That Which Must Be Done.  Instead, it seemed I was tearing apart something within myself, and it was hurting, but I didn’t stop until all that was left of me was a sobbing heap of what felt like uselessness.

    I was carried away from the battlefield by wings of love, but the tears and confusion continued until my mind was far enough away that I could feel myself relax.

    When I turned to analyze what had happened, a realization struck me:  this was my first attempt at battling That Which Must Be Done without Vennie’s presence!  I was still feeling empowered from my own ways of building my enthusiasm, but I was missing (and misunderstanding the effects of) that emotional crutch, which would explain the recent feelings of frustration over little things.

    It is such a relief to know that my system is probably still recovering, and that it should pass with time. Emotions are pretty confusing things, especially when they overshadow the logic that could’ve helped me realize that it’s only been a week since my last dose of Vennie’s encouragement, and only about a month since I cut my doses to one every other day. Somehow, I had convinced myself that the fading of physical discomfort would coincide with the fading of emotional confusion, but there is no reason to assume this to be true.  Now I know I just need to be sure to be careful for at least another week or so, because I am still fragile, and healing takes time.

    Anyways, thank you for reading this far… I want to wrap this up with special thanks to the wonderful people who sent me support yesterday when I was feeling especially low.  Hugs (in approximate chronological order of support received, because I’m still amazed at how quickly people responded!) to @candace_nast@bpick, my dear sweet husband@Stephanie_Bauer@Victoria__Rose (haha sis, your message was at 5:37! 37 strikes again!), @timtfj, @PesciTriD, and the little girls who delivered chocolate without knowing how much they were helping.

    *By the way, the first line of this post was, indeed, a nod to one of my favourite movies of all time:  The Princess Bride.  It’s based on a quote from the Battle of Wits between Vizzini and the Man in Black, which I thought seemed delightfully appropriate to this post… and not only because laughter really is such a great medicine.

    **Also, in case it wasn’t clear,  ”That Which Must Be Done” is my thesis;  the two other “Things Which Must Be Done” are my teaching assistant duties for two physics classes, and the third “Thing” was a workshop on Explaining Difficult Concepts to Others.

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