What Happened To Me (The Receipts)

I have spent the past 48 hours in bed, off sick from my paying job, significantly depressed and wishing I were dead. It’s only this evening that I have crept back into Twitter, to figure out how exactly I got into this mess.

I’m really not sure that explaining is going to do me any good (especially given responses such as Kai’s, Jessicat’s, and Cherry Thompson’s, which I have screencapped below), but I am angry at how I have been treated, ridiculed and shamed. One commenter recommended I read a self-help book on surviving public shaming, and another said that I had been “cancelled”, which seems to me to be rather overstating the case. Whatever you choose to call what happened to me, it was (and still is) extremely painful, and not something I would wish on my worst enemy.

What I originally wrote in that now-infamous original blogpost of 25 people in social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse was this preample, which started the whole thing:

I’ve had an opportunity to meet and interact with many people over the three-and-a-half years I have been writing this blog, and I thought today that I would introduce you to some of them: notable people who are active in social virtual reality, virtual worlds, and the metaverse. You might wish to follow them on social media, as I do.

I will apologize in advance to anybody whom I have inadvertently left off my list. And while I might have crossed swords with a few of the people on this list in the past, that does not mean that I do not respect and appreciate the valuable work that they do. Remember, everybody brings something to the table, and it takes all kinds of people to make a world.

With that said, here is my (purely subjective) list of 25 people you should be following. I have tried to include people of all genders and sexual orientations in this list (although I will admit that I need to try harder to follow more BiPOC people who are working in social VR and virtual worlds).

Also, as well as very white, this list is extremely First World-centered, with everybody (except Adam Frisby, who is Australian) coming from either North America or Europe! I do believe that deliberately broadening the diversity of who you choose to follow is a good way to hear about things and ideas that you might not have at first considered! Please accept my apologies, and if you are aggrieved that I have left somebody off this list, please let me know in the comments, thank you!

I had read it over, and I had no idea that what I had written would offend anybody (if that makes me stupid, and naive, then so be it).

Kai Frazier, who is a Black VR developer and CEO of the educational VR program KaiXR, got out her red pen and respectfully responded:

Now I want to make to 100% clear that I believe that Kai had a legitimate complaint with what I had written, and she was right to say what she had to say, and that I was wrong. In that list of 25 people, only three of them (Wagner James Au, Strawberry Singh, and Casandrea Vuong) were white. In fact, I had been trying so hard to be inclusive of all genders and sexual orientations in my list that I had not tried to include one Black person (Wagner, Berry and Cas are all South and/or East Asian). In response to Kai, I wrote:

I wrote up the episode as a blogpost, with my invitiation to interview her on the topic of her work and her opinions on diversity was a way for me to make amends. It was one of several direct messages I sent to her on Twitter in response to this tweet:

My first thought that something was wrong is that I received no responses to these messages. Anyway, I wrote up my blogpost about diversity (which has since been deleted from my blog), and let the matter rest.

Only to find that when I went back onto Twitter that evening, that several of Kai’s contacts on Twitter were responding to her criticism. One that was particularly painful and triggering was the following:

And Kai responded:

Now, Jessicat and Kai did not know that I have been struggling with serious clinical depression for most of my adult life, and that the combination of a bitterly cold Winnipeg winter and a province-wide pandemic lockdown had already left me near the breaking point. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.

To have somebody (Jessicat), who actually lists “mental health advocacy” in her Twitter profile, suggest to me that I should kill myself by walking into the sea was profoundly hurtful, even if it was just meant as a joke. And to see Kai agree with it was even more painful. This was somebody to whom I had apologized, to whom I had offered my blog as a space to educate others, and this is how they talk about me with their friends afterwards?

Are you enjoying picking me to pieces and then laughing about it amongst yourselves? Small wonder I spent 48 hours in bed afterwards.

I also had the following edifying discussion with Cherry Thompson, who took issue with my words and the capitalization of some terms like BiPOC which I used in that original blogpost:

Now, I had been taught that BiPOC (with the lowercase i) stood for “Biracial People of Colour”, not BIPOC (with the uppercase I) “Biracial Indigenous People of Colour”, hence that particular capitalization I used, which she took exception too. I had learned that Indigenous was capitalized in the Indigienous Canada course I took at the University of Manitoba, which is why I listed it separately from BIPOC, since I did not know that BIPOC *included* Indigenous people. I apologize for these errors.

However, since I was already considerably upset, demoralized, and depressed, I did not appreciate having somebody tell me that I should “research genuine apologies” especially after I had already apologized as best I could to Kai and several other people for my mistakes. Labelling someone “defensive” when they were only trying to explain themselves is harmful, unproductive, and painful. Cherry has a good point, and she is not wrong, but she could look at how it comes across to someone who is already struggling with severe clinical depression.

The overall lack of understanding, kindness, and empathy I have received was astounding, particularly as I had offered my apologies and my platform as a place for Kai to talk about equity, diversity, and inclusion. I came away from this entire episode publicly shamed and feeling like absolute shit.

My hope is that all the people I have named in this blogpost will put themselves in my shoes, and understand why this triggered such an intense depressive episode. And the next time another somebody like me bumbles across your Twitter, and arouses your ire, please be kinder and have more empathy. You truly do no know who is on the other side of the keyboard, and assuming that you do hurts both sides.

I am very angry, and as you can see, I am naming names and showing receipts. (The original blogpost I wrote in response to Kai’s first message above I angrily trashed and then deleted permanently from WordPress after reading her agreeing with Jessicat.) I’m sure Kai, Jessicat, and Cherry are all fine people, but I am finding it difficult to be charitable about anyone involved at this point—including me.

The anger is what finally got me out of bed after 48 hours. Otherwise, I would still be lying there. Perhaps it is a sign that this depressive spiral will not last as long as the ones before them. I hope so. Regardless, I will be offline for the time being. Comments for this blogpost (and all the others) will remain turned off.

UPDATED: Ryan.exe Has Stopped Working

The RyanSchultz.com blog will be closed for an indefinite period. Given my past history of starts and stops over the past 3-1/2 years, I will probably be back at some point. But between the Winnipeg winter, the pandemic, and multiple other stressors, I have been stretched to the breaking point—and today I finally broke. Badly.

I just need to go away and heal for a while. It is now likely that I will have to take some extended sick time from my paying job with the University of Manitoba Libraries. The only thing that I have planned is to sit down for a chat with Kent Bye for his Voices of VR podcast in early March; other than that, I will be staying off Twitter, Reddit, and Discord, not blogging, and not checking my email. Please note that I have turned off the ability to leave comments on all my blogposts. You may have things you want to say to me, but I’m not really in a place to hear them. I’m sorry. I am in tears as I write this. Things are not going well.

My clinical depression, which I have struggled with for most of my teenage and adult life, is slowly getting worse again, but I am getting treatment and I am taking care of myself as best I can.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

UPDATE Feb. 25th, 10:11 p,m. The following thread of 5 tweets I pinned to the top of my Twitter profile this evening, I will be taking an extended break from Twitter.

1/4 Everybody is asking me what happened yesterday and if I am OK. I don’t know if my explaining what happened yesterday is going to help. No, I am not OK.

2/5 This all started when I drew up my first attempt at a list of 25 people in social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse whom I followed, that I thought you might also like to follow.

3/5 Christina Kinne (a.k.a XaosPrincess) gave a summary of what happened next: “Political Correctness backfired in the most cruel way on Ryan. He put up this list of 25 social VR people he follows, but he mentioned only a couple of POC folks in this…”

4/5 Xaos: “Therefore he got attacked from the left and the right, and even though he made big amends (expanding the list, inviting the lady who legitimately criticized him for an interview on inclusion), the attacks got viral & someone even told him to “walk directly into the sea”

5/5 Kaos “As much as I love PC for its original intent to change the social narrative in terms of equal rights & representation for everyone, as paradox it gets imo if someone (who has always been transparent about his issues with depression) is prompted to kill themselves.”

End. As a result, I will no longer be cross-posting my blog posts to my Twitter. I am also taking an extended break from all social media as of this evening (Twitter, Reddit, Discord), and taking a break from blogging.

Pandemic Diary, February 6th, 2021: I Need a Miracle

When my best friend John called me at 12:45 p.m., my iPhone announced his FaceTime call. I groaned, rolled over, and pulled the covers over my head. The winter cold and the pandemic lockdown combined have tipped me over into full-blown hibernation mode, and made me a grumpy, sleepy gay bear.

It is currently -27°C (-16°F) up here in Winnipeg, and with a strong north-west wind, it feels like -44°C (-47°F) with the wind chill. These are the kinds of things that you do not learn from the glossy Travel Manitoba brochures, people.

Even worse, we are expecting a full week of bone-chilling temperatures:

I have learned (and written previously about) how my subconscious sends me messages through song lyrics. At that precise moment when I become aware that I have a particular song running through my head, the lyrics usually have some sort of meaning—something that I’m not consciously thinking about, but which my subconscious is trying to tell me.

Well, on Friday morning, I woke up to this song running through my head:

In other words, my subconscious is telling me: I need a miracle. Or something akin to a miracle, to get me out of this weeks-long period of acedia, depression, and despair, triggered by these unprecedented circumstances. I am having serious trouble getting out of bed and facing the day, and I am having serious trouble feeling motivated to get any work done, both around my house and at work (which, of course, is also “around my house”, as I have been working from home since March 16th, 2020).

I know that a great many other people are struggling, and I also know that I am luckier than most. But honestly, the combination of a bitterly cold patch of Winnipeg winter, combined with the continued province-wide pandemic lockdown (which has been in place since early November), leaves me struggling to cope at times.

Finally out of bed, and low on staples like bread, I decide to bundle up in my down-filled winter parka, don an N95 mask, and head out to warm up the car. My local McDonalds has been closed to in-store dining for three months, but the drive-through is still busy, and I place my order for a burger, fries, and a diet Coke (lunch) and a box of six muffins (breakfast tomorrow, I tell myself, although they will likely all be gone by midnight).

I carefully remove my mask, scrub my hands liberally with hand sanitizer (just in case), and dine in my car, engine running to keep the heat going full blast, in the McDonalds parking lot. This time, when John calls, I pick up, and we chat via FaceTime about how our respective weeks have gone. My day has finally begun, albeit a bit later than usual! And so it goes…I drive home, brew a large pot of coffee, put I Need a Miracle on auto-repeat and crank it, and face whatever challenges come my way.

I hope that you are all taking good care of yourselves and each other in these unprecedented times. Stay strong, say safe, and stay healthy!

UPDATED! Pandemic Diary, January 18th, 2021

Today is officially Day 309 of my working in self-isolation from my apartment for my university library system: 309 days, or 7,416 hours, or 444,960 minutes.

I have not left my home in the past month, except to drop my trash bags into the nearest dumpster, and to start the engine on my car in the parking lot and let it run for 10-15 minutes, to make sure that my car battery doesn’t lose its charge during our bitterly cold Winnipeg winter. (As a matter of fact, I am typing the first part of this blogpost out on my WordPress app on my iPhone, sitting behind the steering wheel of my car in my apartment’s outdoor parking lot, while my car is warming up.)

I’ve actually completely lost track of how long it’s been since I’ve been in the vicinity of another human being! The province of Manitoba is still under a code-red pandemic lockdown, and I don’t expect that any of the social distancing and other restrictions will be relaxed or lifted anytime soon. Vaccination is still mostly limited to front-line healthcare workers, and it is happening here at a frustratingly slow pace, with announcements of vaccine delivery delays by Pfizer over the next few weeks to add to the delays.

My car battery recharged, I come inside from the -18°C/-1°F cold, shed my parka, gloves, and face mask, and thoroughly wash my hands, singing Happy Birthday to myself twice under my breath.*

I have been going through a rough patch these past few weeks, which started as I concluded my Christmas holidays and returned to my full-time paying job with the University of Manitoba Libraries. I know that many people are in much worse circumstances than I am during this pandemic, and I know that I am lucky to be able to work from home. But I do not feel very lucky at the moment. All of the classic symptoms of depression are present: low mood, lack of motivation, insomnia.

My brand new Valve Index VR headset and my fancy Knuckles hand controllers sit on my desktop, infrequently used since I installed them in early January.

The Valve Index VR Headset

I do believe that using my then-new Oculus Rift headset four years ago was instrumental to my recovery from my last bout of serious clinical depression, as I wrote on my blog back in May 2018:

I first got my Oculus Rift headset back in January 2017, when I was on sick leave for depression from my job, and my life was feeling pretty bleak. Shortly afterwards, I also got the Oculus Touch hand controllers to be able to handle objects in VR.

I have no scientific proof, but I do believe that using that VR headset regularly—creating art using TiltBrush and Oculus Medium, using apps like Guided Meditation VR and Nature Treks VR, and interacting with other avatars and exploring new experiences in High Fidelity and the then-closed Sansar beta—was indeed a beneficial factor in my most recent recovery from depression. The best way I can describe it was that VR got my neurons firing again!

Now, I am not feeling as depressed as I did four years ago, but I can already see the warning signs. Therefore, I intend to slip on my Valve Index and explore as many social VR platforms, games, and creative apps as I can over the next few long, cold months, as a sort of preventative inoculation against isolation, depression and acedia. And, of course, blogging about them here.

Stay tuned for reports from my virtual excursions and adventures!

*No, today is not my birthday; I only sang Happy Birthday twice because that is how long you are supposed to wash your hands for. My actual birthday is on January 23rd (hint, hint, hint).

UPDATE January 20th, 2021: Wow! Somebody sent me a $50 Amazon gift card! Thank you!! The gift is much appreciated, and will definitely be put to good use. 🙂