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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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. 🙂
Today is officially Day 249 since I began working from home for the University of Manitoba Libraries due to the coronavirus pandemic. I am still on holidays this week; I “go back to work” on Monday (while remaining in self-isolation in my apartment).
food, beverages and food preparation products; personal care products such as soap and dental care products; health-related products such as prescription drugs and vitamins; mobility or assistive devices; baby and child-care accessories such as diapers and formula; household cleaning products, safety devices, batteries and lightbulbs; outdoor winter apparel such as jackets and boots; personal protective equipment for the workplace; pet food and supplies; postage stamps; cellphones and cellphone accessories; parts and supplies for all types of motor vehicles and watercraft; major household appliances; hunting, fishing and trapping supplies; tools and hardware; materials for home maintenance, repair or construction; and property maintenance products such as shovels.
Non-essential items refers to any good and products not set out in the orders. This includes jewelry, flowers, perfume, consumer electronics, sporting equipment, books and toys.
Also, the document takes great care to note that “liquor and cannabis stores may continue to open and sell products” (you don’t want to have to deal with people going through withdrawal on top of everything else that’s going on, I guess!). And it looks very much like there will be no Black Friday sales in Manitoba next weekend.
New restrictions in Manitoba will limit the number of people allowed to gather in private homes to further halt the spread of COVID-19.
The enhanced orders, announced on Thursday by Premier Brian Pallister and chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin, will take effect on Friday, Nov. 20th.
The orders come one week after strict public health measures were put in place to get Manitobans to reduce their contacts. Roussin has made repeated pleas for Manitobans to stay at home and has warned of stretched hospital capacity in the province.
“Despite that, we saw people gathering at rallies, we saw crowded parking lots at big box stores, we saw people continue to go out for non-essential items — so we are left with no choice but to announce further measures to protect Manitobans to limit the spread of this virus,” said Roussin.
Under the new orders, gatherings at private residences, including homes, cottages, and other vacation properties, are restricted, and nobody is permitted aside from the people who live there. There are some exceptions to allow for child-care, health-care and home-care services, tutoring services, construction, repairs, and emergency response services.
The new orders also prohibit people from gathering in groups of more than five people at any indoor or outdoor public space. This includes the common areas of a multi-unit residence with the exception of a health-care facility or critical business that adheres to public health measures.
The new rules also allow for people who live alone (such as me) to have one person from outside their household visit their home. If I were pressed to choose, that person would probably be my best friend John, but we communicate regularly using Face Time on our iPhones, and I am satisfied with that.
Yesterday, I went and did my grocery shopping on the Walmart website, and first thing this morning, I donned an N95 facemask, got in my car, and drove to the grocery pick-up parking spaces at the rear of the my neighbourhood Walmart store, where someone wearing a mask wheeled out a cart with bins, and loaded up the back of my car, and I drove away. Thankfully, the Shopping Cart Gods smiled upon me, and there was a wayward shopping cart in the vicinity of my apartment, which made for only two trips ferrying my groceries between my car and my home. I am now stocked up on enough food to last me at least two months. I have also just had all my prescription medications renewed for another three months and delivered from my local pharmacy to my doorstep.
I have zero plans to set foot outside my apartment, unless it is to throw out the garbage or to go for masked, socially-distanced walks in my neighbourhood. As I barely leave my apartment as it was, the latest restrictions will not affect me very much. It does mean that I not be able to visit my mother and stepfather in their seniors life-lease condo, but I did pay a visit to see them the day before the Nov. 10th restrictions came into effect, and it was good to see them (again, socially distanced).
My mother wants me to commit to coming over for supper on Christmas Day, which she considers an iron-clad tradition, but I only told her that we would have to wait and see what happens between now and then. The way things have been going lately, I will not be surprised in the slightest if I spend Christmas alone in my apartment. At our face-to-face last week, we discussed Christmas presents. Mom usually gives me gift cards, but she worries that she will land up buying me gift cards for stores that will go belly-up because of the pandemic. We agreed that cash would be an appropriate gift instead, which relieves my mother of at least that one worry.
At the moment, as I write this, I am sitting in a Zoom meeting, my microphone and video muted, listening to my faculty union executive report on the results of the most recent round of bargaining with my employer, the University of Manitoba. This virtual meeting will be followed by a ratification vote over the next 24 hours by the 1,200 union members: professors, instructors, and librarians (again, this will be conducted securely, remotely, and online). So the results of the ratification vote will not be known until late Friday evening. There exists the possibility that I will be out on strike come Monday.
I am learning—trying to learn— to become more comfortable with all the uncertainty swirling around me, and I am working, every day, all day, to make sure that I do not allow my circumstances to drag me back down into the bottomless black pit of clinical depression. Some days I feel as if I am drowning.
So I take naps, and go for walks, and sit cross-legged in obliging patches of warm sunshine on my bedroom carpet. I go hide out in Second Life, or Sinespace, or Sansar, and find places to visit, and people to talk to. I take my antidepressant and anti-anxiety prescriptions, and I talk with my psychiatrist on the phone, and chat with other safe, supportive people, both in real life and in my many virtual worlds. I binge watch shows on Netflix. I read books. I cook. I clean. When I cannot sleep, I brew a pot of black coffee, get up and sit in front of my computer, and I blog.
I do whatever it takes to get me through the day, one day at a time. That’s really all I can do, all that anybody can reasonably ask me to do.
Tomorrow will be Day 250 since I started working from home, and it will be a day much like today, with its uncertainties, fears, and worries. I will get through it.