Editorial: How to Deal with a Blue Christmas

Photo by Cody Chan on Unsplash

Christmas can be a lonely and depressing time for many people in today’s society. The sometimes-overly-forced seasonal emphasis on good cheer, conviviality, and harmonious holiday gatherings with friends and family can often bring those people like me, with less than Instagram-perfect lives, down. And yes, I am one of those people who sometimes struggles at Christmastime.

Nika Talaj made the following wise observation on a recent thread in the official Second Life user forums:

SL is all about longing … often for things we lost in RL (real life). Longing for the body we lost years ago, longing for the dance moves we don’t have, longing for the perfect partner, longing for our own home. And Christmas, for many of us, also brings up feelings of loss and longing.

So, what can you do if you have a case of the Christmas blues? Here are 14 tips from the Health.com website:

  • Make plans ahead of time: Spend some time figuring out how to take care of yourself during this time, and be sure to schedule those activities.
  • Avoid family conflict as much as possible
  • Focus on the good: Especially the good people in your real and virtual lives.
  • Forget about trying to be perfect
  • Learn how to grieve: This is particularly important if this is your first Christmas without a loved one. Talk about your feelings or reach out to support groups in your community.
  • Don’t skimp on sleep
  • Limit social media consumption: Social media, where everybody seems to be having a better time than you, can often increase feelings of sadness and loneliness. Get off Facebook and other social media sites, or limit their use over the holidays.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it: here’s a list of helpful resources.
  • Make exercise a priority
  • Consider your light exposure: In the Northern hemisphere, especially if you live closer to the North Pole as I do, the lack of daylight can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). If you think you may be suffering from SAD, talk to your doctor about treatment options. I have a SAD lamp which I use when I am feeling depressed.
  • Make other plans: Deliberately plan and do some non-holiday things.
  • Focus on what matters: It’s not all about the Christmas presents.
  • Don’t binge on food or alcohol
  • Cut back on your commitments: It’s OK to say “no” once in a while.

I hope that this list of tips is helpful to you this holiday season. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any other tips you want to share, thanks!


Revisiting My Personal Mission Statement: Why I’m Back

I have had a rough couple of weeks. I’m still feeling cranky, and I have really been struggling with my depression, thinking about my life and my choices, ruminating over my mistakes and missteps over 55 years. I was originally planning to take an extended break from blogging, afraid that I had let my depression colour my work, that I was simply lashing out at people and companies unfairly.

And yes, Linden Lab was well within their rights to ban me from Second Life, for posting a version of that bitchslap picture to their community forums. I just thought I was being funny and sarcastic, but I can now see that some would find it offensive, especially those who have experienced physical abuse. To anyone I offended, please accept my sincere apologies. And Linden Lab did review my 3-day suspension and decided to remove it, for which I am grateful. Thank you, Linden Lab.

Back around the turn of the century, I was really into the Stephen R. Covey book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Now, let me tell you, I am far, far from a highly effective person. I am, in fact, a highly ineffective person. At times, I am the God damn Queen of Highly Ineffective People! In December 2017, I wrote about myself:

In real life, I’m an overweight, divorced, gay librarian with diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, and a long history of mental health issues. I’m not particularly close to the rest of my family, and I have few real-life friends. I’ve been on extended sick leaves for the treatment of serious clinical depression. I am getting old (I’m now 53), and I move one hell of a lot slower than I used to when I was young. It bothers me. A lot bothers me.

To be honest, I kinda suck at this whole reality business.

And the only thing that’s changed since I wrote that is that I’m now 55 instead of 53. And I now move even slower than I did two years ago! If anything, I have gained more weight, and it needs to be addressed because it is adversely affecting my health in numerous ways. I need to haul my raggedy ass back to Weight Watchers, pronto.

One of the things I did after reading the Covey book was to write a personal mission statement. I spent a lot of time lovingly crafting it, and I used to display it proudly on my then-blog (yes, I had a personal blog back then). In part, it says:

I take responsibility for myself in any and all circumstances. Every day, I create a balanced and integrated life by taking the time to identify and honour my needs: physical, social, emotional, mental, and spiritual. I invest in myself by making choices to:

■ Exercise my body, educate my mind, and rekindle my soul;

■ Connect with other people and continue to forge healthy, loving relationships;

■ Steward my career, time, money, and other possessions more effectively;

■ Simplify my baggage, but complicate my perspectives;

■ Continue to cultivate awareness and insight, casting aside my fear and despair.

And I realize with dismay that, despite all my pretty words, I really haven’t taken any of the steps I wrote about. I haven’t moved forward. I have stalled.

However (and you might well disagree with me about this), one of the relative bright spots of my life has been this blog and the Metaverse Newscast show. I discovered talents that I didn’t know I possessed, and I found and connected with an audience. I was able to be creative and social in way I hadn’t even dreamed of before.

So I have decided that, even though I am still going through a rough patch, I need to resume blogging. It makes no sense to give up something that I enjoy doing, that (most of the time, at least) makes me happy. We all need to do things that make us happy; it keeps us sane in a crazy world.

But I also need to pay attention to the words in my mission statement. My life is badly out of balance at the moment, and I need to address that. Social VR and virtual worlds have been my joy, but also my escape from reality, and I can’t keep escaping reality forever. I need to “cast aside my fear and despair” and take come concrete steps to improve my life.

And it’s probably time to completely re-write my mission statement. Parts of it (which I haven’t shared here because it’s several paragraphs long) really need to be updated. For example, I talked a lot about God, and I really now consider myself to be an atheist. And I have to add my blog and show to the mix of things I do, and take out some things I don’t do anymore (like sing in an LGBTQ chorus, which fulfilled a longtime dream of mine, but in the end turned out to be too much for a non-musical person like me to keep up with).

It’s time to take stock, make choices, and take steps. So, in addition to blogging about social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse, I will also be sharing stories of my progress in real life (losing weight, exercising, finally cleaning up my Red Cross disaster area of an apartment, etc.). Please wish me luck and send me good vibes!

Sansar Comedian Brody Stevens Has Died In an Apparent Suicide

Brody Stevens (from Instagram)

This is tragic news. A comedian who appeared as part of last week’s episode of the Comedy Gladiators stand-up comedy series in Sansar has been found dead. Police are treating the case as a suicide.

Brody Stevens, a Los Angeles-based stand-up comedian, who had been very open about his issues with depression in the past, had confided in friends recently that he had taken himself off his medications because he felt they “dulled” his creativity as a comic. The news report from The Blast also says:

After hearing of his passing, comedian Patton Oswalt said, “If you are depressed or feeling suicidal please please please please please reach out to ANYONE. I never get to see Brody Stevens again I can’t stand this.”

Fellow comedian Steve Hofstetter, who hosted the show in Sansar, posted a series of tweets about his friend:

I had this VR show we were doing live from my house. It was the second time we’d ever done it, but after a few comedians asked me about how it works, I invited everyone over to hang before the next show. Brody was one of the first people to tell me he was coming…

Brody somehow figured out that if you sat down in real life and pushed forward on the hand control[lers], your avatar runs around on its butt. It was hilarious. And he did that of the next two minutes, just crushing with how goofy it looked.

As somebody who has dealt with chronic clinical depression in his own life, and who has sometimes had to fight back against thoughts of suicide, this is heartbreaking. As Patton Oswalt says, you need to seek help if you are suffering. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It is not a solution.

I’m going to repeat a list of resources from an earlier blogpost (a rant about BetterHelp.com):

If you are currently experiencing a mental health or addictions related crisis:

If you are not in crisis, but still need help, here are some other good places to get started:

When you absolutely need someone to talk to online, one of the best places to try is The KindVoice subReddit and Discord channel, both of which are staffed by volunteers:

“Sometimes we need to hear a human voice on the other end of the line telling us that everything’s going to be ok. This subreddit is for people that aren’t in a suicidal crisis, but feel depressed, alone, or want someone to talk to.”

A similar service is called The Haven, another Discord channel for people who need someone to talk to. Both Kind Voice and The Haven are free, volunteer-run services.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. NEVER. Give. Up! There is always hope, even when things look their bleakest.

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

I Need to Take a Break, But I’ll Be Back

Photo by Asdrubal luna on Unsplash

Some of you may have noticed that I haven’t blogged anything this week, except for one post last Monday.

The storm clouds have rolled in, and I’ve got a serious week-long case of the Mondays. Things have been going wrong for me just about everywhere I choose to look.

I flubbed up a simple series of tasks I was supposed to do at a certain time in my off-hours in Second Life, and as a result, I landed up ending a working relationship that had started out so well, which I destroyed through my own thoughtlessness and stupidity. (I’ve already apologized to the person involved, and removed myself from the project. I won’t write more about it.)

But I see that single trip-up as a warning sign. Everywhere I look this week, I see evidence of my difficulties in moving ahead. I’m really not very happy with myself right now, and I know that my depression is colouring everything with the darkest of colours.

I guess what I am saying is that I need to give myself some time to admit that not everything is O.K., that I need some time to rebalance my life and refocus on the essential stuff, and that I need to go forth and battle my depression (again).  So I’m taking a break from blogging for the next little while. How long? I don’t know.

Don’t worry about me; I have plans to go for dinner with my best friend tonight and he’s sure to get an earful. I will have supper with my Mom like I always do on Sundays. I have a real-life social support network full of people who love me and care about me, and I intend to make use of it to get back up on my feet again. I have absolutely no plans to do anything drastic, so don’t worry about that.

But I do need to take a break from blogging.

You’ll all be the first to know when I do come back.