Last Wednesday I went through my first hours-long episode of atrial fibrillation, which confirmed that my heart has a physical issue. I already suspected it because I had been experiencing weird heart hiccups. I ended up lying in a bed of the Observation Unit at the local hospital for hours, and the episode of atrial fibrillation only passed because they gave me 300 mg of flecainide, an apparently hardcore medicine that comes with plenty of warnings against its use. That medicine made me unable to even sit down for the remainder of the day, unless I wanted to break in cold sweat and get dizzy and nauseous. It took two days to get the drug out of my system.
I didn’t go to work for those two days, but I intended to return the following week unless I endured through a new episode of atrial fibrillation, which would have suggested that my heart was in an even worse state than I suspected. The doctor and nurses that attended me told me that I should monitor my heart rate in my spare time with a pulse oximeter, which I have access to because my mother was a nurse. I have a scheduled visit with a cardiologist in August, but apart from that, they told me that if another episode of atrial fibrillation starts, I should leave whatever I’m doing and go immediately to the nearest Emergency Department to get an ECG and possibly take some medicine. The related information I’ve found online is confusing and often contradictory, but in general people who suffer through atrial fibrillation are much more likely to suffer terrible issues such as ischemic strokes and other conditions caused by irregular blood flow or clots to vital organs.
This Sunday I woke up, prepared myself a cup of coffee and monitored my heart rate. It was in the mid 40s, the lowest I had ever noticed it. I walked around for a bit and it increased to the high 50s and low 60s, but it quickly fell to the 40s again. My heart still felt (and still does) sore, weird and weak in general. The doctor had told me I should monitor my heart rate, and this seemed like a bad sign, so I called to ask what I should do. They told me to visit the Emergency Department and get an ECG, at least to record that my heart rate had gotten that low, in case that factors in when I visit the cardiologist. After I lay on a different bed of the Observation Unit for half an hour, an attractive doctor in her early twenties told me that I shouldn’t worry about such a low heart rate, only if it fails to go up after some movement. She suggested that I have an athlete’s heart because I walk around quite a bit in the hospital complex where I work, and because I’ve lifted weights semi-regularly for years. I doubt that anyone who looks at me would seriously think that I’m an athlete of any sort.
Also, getting touched by the warm hands of attractive young women made me face that although I can’t stand to be around human beings for long, I do need to get touched. If I wasn’t so ashamed of my penis, I may consider visiting some professional.
As a somewhat random comment, suffering through a physical heart issue reminded me of Hisao Nakai from my favorite visual novel/dating sim ‘Katawa Shoujo’ (an obscure reference). I could swear that I played the game back in 2008, but the information I’ve found suggests it was released in 2012. Anyway, its protagonist suffers a heart attack in the very first scene, then he gets diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia and congenital heart muscle deficiency. He ends up getting sent to a private school for disabled students in which he may get to befriend, romance and possibly frick some peculiar, pained students who endure their own unfair disabilities. The director of this game suffered from the same heart issues, and he ended up passing away due to them a couple of years ago.
Back when I was lying in bed at the Observation Unit, I asked every professional who treated me if the stress I have to deal with on a regular basis contributed to this sudden health issue. They told me that atrial fibrillation is purely a physical matter, unrelated to stress. However, those professionals (all of them suspiciously young) were either ignorant or bold-faced liars, because every article I come across online states the opposite. For example, the following article says that stress and mental health issues may cause atrial fibrillation symptoms to worsen, and it adds that “there is a complex relationship between atrial fibrillation and anxiety and depression. Some research shows that people with atrial fibrillation may be more affected by depression and anxiety.”
I was born with high-functioning autism (formerly Asperger’s), dealing with increasing anxiety is a constant struggle from the moment I leave the safety of a locked room in which I’m alone, and I endure through cycles of a depression that a former psychiatrist diagnosed as “resistant to treatment”. Obviously I’m fucked. I have to assume that heart failure or a serious stroke is on the horizon for me. I don’t think I will go through the pain of trying to find another job that I can tolerate better. I am too old for that already, and although my current job as a computer technician at a hospital only keeps me employed for eight or so months out of a year, it’s still the most reliable job I’ve ever had. Previously I was a programmer; when I managed to get hired, half of the time I worked as an unpaid intern, and exploited as such.
These last four days I’ve rested as much as I could. Instead of writing as feverishly as I used to, I played a couple of sessions of my favorite card/board game of all time: ‘Arkham Horror’. I’m halfway through the ‘Edge of the Earth’ campaign with my personal decks for Zoey Samaras (who’s an OP beast with the Cyclopean Hammer; I suspect it’ll get tabooed at some point), Monterey Jack and my beloved Jacqueline Fine (unrelated), whose ability to manipulate the Chaos Bag makes for a very peculiar playstyle. I’m already playing with premium tokens from BuyTheSameToken (I had to pay sixty-five or so euros just to import them from the UK, though), and I’m waiting to receive in the mail additional 3D-printed stuff such as this fantastic deck/discard holder combo.
In general, movies and shows fail to grab my attention enough (in part because I can’t connect with people); I have very little patience with books and I bail on them if they annoy me, which happens more often than not; and videogames these days are almost fraudulent, or the dreaded FOMO causes me to wait until some vital updates/mods come out. I’m waiting for the Elder Scrolls mod to come out for ‘Crusader Kings 3’, and I’m also waiting for ‘Victoria 3’, the Steam version of ‘Dwarf Fortress’, and ‘Starfield’ to be released. Board games give me a tight, tense two-to-three hours of gameplay, which can go up to four in the case of ‘Arkham Horror’, then I can shelve them for another day.
Anyway, I’m trying to get back into writing my current novel. Plenty of increasingly deranged stuff to come as we head into what will pass for a traditional third act in this tale. I’ll also try not to die, at least until I finish what I must.
I woke up at half past two in the morning and I figured that I may as well tell the tale of how I spent most of the previous afternoon in the Observation Unit of the local Emergency Department.
On Tuesday night I went through a routine that I have repeated from time to time at the lowest points of my life: as I was climbing on the bed to sleep, I thought to myself, “this was the last time I’ve stepped on this floor or any other. I’m going to pass away in my sleep. I’ve seen all the things I wanted to see, I’ve done all the stuff I wanted to do. Let it end already.” Well, it feels like I nearly got my wish.
Yesterday I ended up waking up anyway, at six in the morning. I prepared myself in a hurry to walk through my decaying city, get on the train, then on a bus so I could reach the hospital complex where I work. I’ve been feeling even more stressed than usual lately; on top of the maddening routine as a computer technician at a hospital complex where anything can go wrong at any moment, where most people consider their problems the most urgent, and where half of the users I handle are complete idiots no matter how good they may be as nurses, doctors or however the hell they ended up working at the hospital, I had a quarrel with a coworker because he locked me out of books related to a public examination that we bought together (I bought most of them, actually), for no good reason, which made me face I couldn’t trust this guy, which in turn made me realize I have to cut back on involving myself with people in person unless it’s absolutely necessary to earn a paycheck.
Anyway, for whatever reason my job kept piling up tasks on me, some labeled as urgent, while I was already having to schedule operations at specific times and half of my coworkers were free; the trio of loudmouths who spend most of their time at the office blabbering, ruining everyone else’s concentration, seemed to have worked half an hour at the most. Going through the emails I’ve received these last couple of days:
-A laptop located at an operating room of the Ophthalmology Department wasn’t loading their needed apps reliably. Their supervisor had refused to open a ticket about this beyond the first one weeks ago, and instead she was either emailing specific technicians (I was one of them), or phoning our secretary and naming technicians so we would handle the issue. I happened to be one of the technicians who had already seen this problem and was in the office at the moment, so I ended up dealing with this irate supervisor. She was right, though, because the usual solution for this common problem (restarting the computer so it can set up the network drives properly) didn’t work *all* the time; such intermittent issues are the most troublesome to handle. I ended up opening a couple of tickets to HQ so they would review all the basic details about that laptop’s presence in the general network of our organization, and they detected that its specific build of Windows was outdated. Great, I thought, that’s the solution. I convinced my boss to just exchange their oldish laptop for a new one. Eventually, though, when I got there not only the new laptop had the same issue of not loading the network drives reliably, but also did a laptop from a neighboring operating room. Now I think that the problem is more likely due to Wi-Fi coverage, a whole nonsense to diagnose that will involve coordinating ourselves with confused and chatty nurses to move the laptops around (most of the time such devices are under lock and key, because plenty of patients have stolen stuff) so the guys at HQ can check how strongly the specific MAC addresses receive the signal. This will take hours of a single technician’s time, and it hasn’t been done yet.
-Some doctor from a department that does some kind of animal testing complained that she couldn’t open certain Google Drive invites in Chrome, so she requested it to be updated. When I handled the issue I found out that the invites were getting loaded in Internet Explorer instead. I taught her to copy and paste the hyperlinks to Chrome, which opened them properly. However, she ended up calling me later because Google Drive wasn’t letting it open certain files, and it was due to certain idiots from Network Security at HQ that consider it necessary to block stuff from Google Drive, so I had to open a ticket to let that doctor’s requests pass through the firewall.
-They opened up a new “reports room” at a department that handles operating kids. I managed the move, but one of the computers that ended up there was ancient, one of those troublesome kinds who use very specific software that has never been updated for newer operating systems and that some of the time isn’t maintained anymore because the company no longer works with the healthcare organization. Anyway, this computer had a proprietary set of cables that went to specially mounted sockets on the wall, but the cables didn’t make clear which cable went where. I had to locate technicians from that random company and return to that “reports room” (a process that involves me dressing myself up, because it’s a sterile environment) and snap a few photos of the damn cables to mail them. They haven’t answered yet.
-Someone from a clinic located a couple dozen kilometers away wants to be able to print in a different printer, “just in case”. It takes me a good while to coordinate myself with her so she can free up her computer. When I finish, she asks, “hey, can you do that for this coworker and this one and this one too?” I tell her that they should open their own tickets.
-Some barcode scanner works intermittently. Half of the time the users are handling it wrong. The ticket doesn’t say anything about the model of the scanner nor its physical location, so I email the person for details.
-Suddenly nobody in a whole wing of the ICU could print on their assigned printer. Yesterday afternoon they called my department because there were blocked documents on the queue, but whatever my coworker did screwed stuff up for everybody. I connected remotely to the print server; it was still open on the list of printer addresses and focused on the one with the issue: my coworker linked the name of the printer to another IP address by mistake.
-Some lab technician can’t open certain attached images because it gives an error regarding virtual memory. The technician insists on me checking her disk space. It’s partially a RAM issue, but also there may be some weird allocation matter, because restarting the computer (she said she did, anyway) hasn’t solved it. I still haven’t finished dealing with it.
-There were also a few more mundane matters that don’t warrant me writing about them.
I really dislike my job, but it’s the only one that has employed me semi-reliably. As a programmer I ended up working half of the time as an unpaid intern, but even when I was getting paid, I barely made minimum wage. By the way, this is a country where some people can enter illegally from certain continents and earn three times minimum wage just for existing. Such are the ethnic backgrounds of more than half of the people that hang out at the Maternity building of my hospital complex.
Anyway, at a quarter past two I was heading to the Ophthalmology Department located in one of the farthest reaches of this complex to hand them a new laptop. Right as I reach their floor, I start sweating, feeling light-headed and getting a weird pressure in my chest. My heart goes arrhythmic. I feel it jumping, and as I check my pulse, it’s clearly all over the place.
The first time I experienced such arrhythmia was the very same day that I received my latest booster vaccine (which I was forced to take because I wouldn’t keep getting hired as a computer technician at any hospital otherwise). From then on I experienced such “heart jumps” semi-regularly, moments in which my heart seemed to hiccup in a disturbing way, but it had always passed a couple of heartbeats later. This time it didn’t stop. I could tell it wasn’t normal in any way, but I figured that I would give the Ophthalmology crew a new laptop to solve the issue they had been badgering us about, then visit the Workplace Health department or however it’s called in English.
As I waited for a few nurses to get me some disposable operating room clothing, one of the chatty nurses (have I said enough times that talking to people in person makes my skin crawl?) approached me and asked me, “by the way, do you work for [our Healthcare Organization]?”. Me, wearing a lab coat that features prominently the logo of said organization: “Yes.” “Can you help me with a problem? I haven’t been able to print reports with my credentials in forever. My coworker can’t do it either. We keep asking around and going crazy because nothing works and we have to ask other nurses to let us enter with their credentials.” “Have either of you opened a ticket for it?” “Well, no.” I realized quickly that they hadn’t assigned the printer correctly in the program like virtually every other department is told how to do.
I was expecting any of them to point out that I seemed sick, because I was sweating profusely, my pulse was trembling, and in general I must have looked like death. But they just ended up giving me one of those disposable sets of clothes. When I found myself alone in the locker room, my heart kept going crazy, I was getting weaker and weaker and experiencing weird electrical pains along my collarbone and shoulders. I thought, “I’m having a heart attack. I’m having a heart attack and the last thing I’ll do in my worthless life is set up a laptop for these motherfuckers who have been pestering us for weeks without following any proper protocol.” I wanted to cry, or throw myself out of the window. Instead I got dressed and walked to the operating room. There I discovered that changing the old laptop for a new one didn’t solve the issue, and I explained to a few nurses that we’d have to coordinate ourselves to arrange a Wi-Fi coverage study in the following days.
When I left that department, it was already time to go home. My arrhythmia hadn’t stopped; if anything it had gotten worse. I felt dizzy and confused, and I can’t remember almost anything about the ride home. I realized that my heart issue was serious; although usually I would avoid going to a hospital for any reason because it would be too much of a bother, this time I got my father to drive me to the Emergency Department of the local hospital at Irún. By then I could barely stay upright, so an orderly wheeled me to the Observation Unit in a wheelchair. They hooked me up to a vitals monitor that kept beeping because my heart rate was out of whack, jumping wildly from the 80s to the 140s, and beeping even more urgently when it hit the 140s. The main nurse that treated me had the same name as the girlfriend that fucked me over the worst, but this young woman was very kind. They referred to my condition as atrial fibrillation. I have forgotten most of the stuff they did to me, but they made me swallow three flecainide pills and told me that I would lie in bed for the foreseeable future. If in six hours my heart hadn’t gone back to normal, they would defibrillate me.
I lay there for hours (most of the afternoon), staring at the hooks hanging from the ceiling and at the curiously designed ventilation slits, which looked like the bidimensional version of one of those spiky balls that they use to detonate minefields. On the opposite box some woman in her forties was being treated for covid. I would have supposed that these observation units were reasonably quiet due to the rest that the patients require, but the son of a bitch they had on the box immediately to my left kept groaning in an obnoxious, obviously fake way every few seconds, annoying everyone to the extent that the nurses kept saying, “we have to do something about the guy from 7”, and even other patients were shushing that idiot. I figured he must have been an elderly man with dementia or such shit, but the orderly that later wheeled me around to get an X-Ray of my chest told me, “he’s a Hispanic guy, just forty years old. I don’t know what is it with these Hispanics, but we get such kinds all the time: habitual drunkards who sometimes come in also drugged up to their eyeballs.”
After the nurses had to rush at the Hispanic guy because he kept trying to get up and even push stuff around, they decided to move him to another box. Regarding where they had to move him, they specified that he should be “distanced from the guy on 6 (me); he has a heart condition.”
Eventually my heart stopped hiccuping. The main nurse talked to me about the health issue assuming that it would happen again in the future, and that when it does I should go immediately to the nearest Emergency Department to get an ECG. They also told me I should make an appointment with a cardiologist. I asked them if my stressful routine may have caused this, but they told me it was a purely physical issue. I asked them if I should end up carrying with me the kind of pills they made me swallow, in case I experienced such an episode again when I was out there in the wild. They told me no way.
Later on I googled flecainide; most of the websites warn against its use with notices like this one: “This drug has a Black Box Warning. This is the most serious warning from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A black box warning alerts doctors and patients to potentially dangerous effects. If you’ve had a heart attack within the past two years, flecainide may raise your risk of having another heart attack, which can be fatal. This drug should only be used if you have a life-threatening irregular heart rate. Tell your doctor if you have atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter. If you have these conditions where your heart does not beat correctly, you have an increased risk for developing certain types of irregular heartbeats. Flecainide is not recommended if you have chronic atrial fibrillation.” So either my nurses (or their hospital) were incompetent, or I’ve gone through a life-threatening irregular heart rate. Good to know.
They gave me the following report:
When they told me I could go home, I quickly discovered that I couldn’t even sit down without breaking in cold sweat and getting nauseous. I felt like I would pass out at any point. The same orderly wheeled me out to my father’s car. Soon after I got home, I emailed my boss to tell him that I would take it easy the two following days and that I would contact my GP to figure out what to do about this matter. Shortly after I went to bed and passed out.
I woke up at half past two in the morning and I decided to write this account, as I had nothing better to do. My heart feels physically weak and sore. Of course, I’m paranoid about it failing at any point. I read up on atrial fibrillation, and the following stuff bothered me the most: it’s associated with an increased risk of heart failure, dementia, and stroke. That’s on top of my regular migraines, which are also linked to an increased risk of stroke. The two fates I fear the most health-wise are dementia, Alzheimer’s and the likes, and strokes. One of my favorite writers, John Fowles, who wrote ‘The Collector’ and ‘The Magus’, suffered one in his sixties. Fowles never wrote another novel again, and stated that the stroke had “robbed him of his imagination”.
It’s nearly six in the morning, when I would need to wake up to go to work, but I’m going to sleep. I won’t have to work, which will likely cause me untold issues next week. However, as far as I care at the moment, it can fuck right off along with my failing body and my pointless life.
Last week was rough, but then again I don’t recall any week of work that hasn’t been grueling for one reason or another. I have been enduring stress-related pains such as upper back strains; many years ago I ended up getting such aches checked, and they confirmed that they were caused by stress. Last Monday, as I was standing on the bus on my way to the hospital complex where I work, I got the characteristic migraine aura that impedes my sight. In addition, every migraine seems to reduce my IQ for as long as it lasts, likely due to changes in the blood flow to my brain. Whenever I get one I fear that I’ll end up with permanent brain damage, which is apparently possible. Anyway, I always carry some ibuprofen with me, but I still had to deal with the resulting headache, that lasted two days.
I have forgotten the details of the many problems I had to solve at work; they have blurred into the general hellish sensation of navigating around in a hospital complex during a record-breaking heat wave while wearing a lab coat. I’m likely still depressed, which may explain part of why I’ve found half of my coworkers utterly unbearable these past few weeks. A group of them ruins whatever passes for peace in the office whenever they are present; although they are in their forties and fifties, they behave like children in a playground, bickering about stuff unrelated to work or goofing around with each other so loudly that if I were in charge of this place I would have admonished them almost daily. I’m forced to wear earplugs so I can concentrate on whatever the hell I’m doing.
The most bitter moment for me was a quarrel I had this Friday with a coworker. We are both preparing to pass a public examination in a few months, which requires the students to buy about twelve expensive textbooks. This guy and I decided to divide the purchases between us. He bought four and I bought about eight. It happened that way because he had already bought the first four, and I went ahead and bought the remainder. He decided to go through the trouble of paying a stationery store, or however they are called in English, to remove the spines and covers of the books, then use the industrial printers we have at the office to scan them, a process that he said took like a minute and a half per book. He then gave me access to a single folder of his Google Drive that only contained the scanned books in PDF format.
This guy is more than a bit paranoid, the kind who’ll get weird with you if he realizes you are talking to someone who may dislike him or have an issue with him for one reason or another. He told me that under no circumstance should I download the books on my workstation, because some other coworker may snatch them. I obliged him. After all, I could just go to the shared folder and open them there. I didn’t download most of them at home either, because I could access that folder.
I’m the second person that enters the office every morning. This guy is always the first one; he starts an hour early because it’s more convenient for him. Anyway, four of the five days of the week he wasn’t at his workstation when I came in, which was odd. We only greeted each other in passing otherwise.
At about ten in the morning on that Friday, I tried to open one of the PDF files located in the shared folder, so I could study for a bit between tasks. I found out that this coworker had revoked my access. This was a folder of his Google Drive that contains the digital versions of eight books that I paid for, and four that he did. Nobody else had access to this folder. He made the very conscious decision of shutting my access down.
Through Google Drive’s interface, I sent him a petition to regain access, saying that I hadn’t downloaded all the books. From my position I can see enough of his screens that I’m quite sure that he opened that request (I recognized the layout of the website), and let out a derisive chuckle. He wasn’t talking to anyone.
I gave him five minutes or so to grant me access again, but he didn’t. I was fuming. It was such a pointlessly malicious thing to do, to revoke access to a folder that just contains stuff that both of us had purchased, and for a shared purpose that won’t be resolved until October or November. There was no way I couldn’t interpret this except as a “fuck you” to me. In truth, I hadn’t gotten so internally enraged for good while, and it harkened me back to the years I had to live with my seven-years-younger sister, who stole money and jewelry from her family members to fund her drug habit, and in general started arguments and conflicts of every kind because she couldn’t tolerate boredom. I also grew to understand that although I’m a laid back person and I want as little conflict with people as possible (internally I’m often on the verge of brutally murdering someone), some will step on people like me because they consider us easy targets that won’t retaliate. I knew I had to confront my coworker about this immediately.
I walked up to him as we were surrounded by six or so other coworkers. I told him that I give him the benefit of the doubt, but that he must reinstate my access to the folder, because I hadn’t gotten to download all the books. This guy usually turns around on his chair with a self-assured smile as soon as anyone approaches him, but this time he remained still for my entire part of the dialogue, as if he went “oh shit” internally. That was my impression anyway. He told me that he didn’t know what I was talking about. I asked him whether or not he had revoked my access to the folder. He told me that he had, because he thought I would have already downloaded the files (why revoke my access, though, to a folder that just contains those files, when there’s no security risk?). I reminded him how particular he got about not downloading the books at work; I’m not sure if he opens the books at the office, but I did tell him that I was studying them when I’m not busy. Anyway, he told me that he would reinstate my access. I proceeded to immediately download all the PDFs and store them in a pen drive.
He didn’t speak to me again, and in fact he still hasn’t, but when I got home from work I had received two emails. The first one said that he thought I would have downloaded the files already, and that he had meant not to download them at work. The second email, in a sterner tone, told me to download the files this weekend because he would revoke my access again early on Monday. I still have access to the folder, though.
After this nonsense, I want to cut back on dealing with people in person as much as humanly possible. Due to autism, my brain simply can’t tell others’ intentions as normal people apparently can, and due its inability to process and register people’s faces properly (prosopagnosia; bad enough that I have no clue if I ever saw again people I was romantically involved with), I can’t read much on their faces. I’ve always had to distrust people to survive; I get taught that lesson over and over again. I just can’t ever know when someone is going to fuck me over, and the intentions and motivations of people often seem incomprehensible to me.
Obviously my job isn’t fulfilling; I only work to add money to my bank account at the end of the month. And I can only consider it tolerable because I have no social life nor a family of my own. When I get back home, half of the week I barely have the energy to stay awake. At the most I can invest two hours and a half of lucidity into whatever scene of my novel I’m working on at the moment. During my last long-term relationship I was so exhausted and mentally worn out from my nine-to-five job that I once took the train in the opposite direction by mistake, and I didn’t find out for forty minutes because I fell asleep; and after I went to my then girlfriend’s place just to spend the afternoon together, I sat on her sofa and passed out. She was mad at me often during those last months because I barely had the energy to shamble around.
Having to keep a job is truly a disaster, as it steals the most valuable things of your life: your time and your energy that should be spent on stuff that matters. Obviously I wish I could write from morning to night, which I’ve done gladly whenever I’m unemployed. However, if you expect to make a living writing, you are delusional; you may as well base your future on winning the lottery. It’s always been in part about having the right connections, but these days you need to belong to some preferred group and have the right opinions as well.
I’m getting assailed by the intrusive thoughts that have visited me regularly for as long as I remember, and that suggest that I should kill myself and get this whole bullshit over with. When I think about why I still stick around, I can only come up with the following: I want to finish my current novel, I have some campaigns of Arkham Horror to play through, and one of these days both ‘Victoria 3’ and ‘Starfield’ will get released. Otherwise, the sensory issues that autism causes make navigating virtually any environment a low-level torture (or even trauma inducing), at least beyond the confines of a locked room containing only me. I’m always bloated and gassy, and several times during the workday I’m even on the verge of shitting myself, due to Irritable Bowel Syndrome that I can’t regulate because it’s linked to anxiety, and I’m always anxious whenever I’m around people. I deal with life-long health issues caused in part by the pituitary tumor with which I was born. Virtually every interaction with other human beings in person is damn near unbearable. The intimate relationships I got involved in, until I gave up in my early-to-mid twenties, were humiliating, painful, forced me to run on a treadmill to fulfill someone else’s wishes and goals although mine remained neglected, and in the end those girls/women just left. I don’t see myself ever wanting to have children, because I’d only curse them with conditions that make me wish I wasn’t born; besides, I’d be a horrible father because I can’t give enough of a shit about anyone, even myself. I can’t look forward to the future on this continent, because in a generation or two Europe will become an extension of Africa and the Middle East, and I lack any support system to move elsewhere. It seems inevitable that one day the growing mountain of painful memories and traumas will tip the scales in favor of getting the hell out of Dodge as soon as possible.
Right now I have to prepare a couple of computers and hook them up to the network, and this afternoon I’ll work on my next scene. I’m close to finishing its first draft already. How did Cioran put it? “Man starts over again everyday, in spite of all he knows, against all he knows.”
Today I ended up getting sent home from work due to the health issues I experienced these past two days. Here’s how it went: yesterday morning I felt like shit at the office, although I can’t recall any concrete details beyond a weariness, mental fog and weird chest sensations. When I got home, I wasted the entire afternoon trying to stay awake. My body felt like it weighed twice as much. As expected, I barely progressed the current scene of my novel (writing is virtually the only thing that matters to me these days, because life in general feels like a ceaseless nightmare). I know what happens if I take a nap in the afternoons: even if I just sleep for an hour, it’s very likely that I will spend the whole night dealing with insomnia. The days when I’ve ended up going to work on zero sleep, or at the most an hour, are fucking harrowing.
Anyway, this morning on the train I found myself unable to concentrate on my reading, so I just closed my eyes and tried to disappear inside my mind by blasting storm sounds through my earbuds. Once I reached the office, I couldn’t muster the strength to look at my coworkers in the eye, and I could barely make sense of what was happening around me. I was experiencing hot and cold flashes. My chest ached, particularly the area of my heart. I wasn’t surprised about any of it, because a week or so ago I deduced that I’m depressed again.
However, as I was talking to a couple of secretaries to handle a ticket (and I was begging in my mind for them to please stop talking to me and let me return to the office), one of them mentioned a rash around my eyes. I looked in a mirror a bit later and I saw something like this (that’s someone else’s photo):
I’m not allergic to anything, nor had I touched or consumed anything in particular. I found the same spots on my neck. I went to the workplace health service, but they were only interested in ruling out whether or not I had covid, so they told me to go home and wait for the call that’ll provide the schedule for the covid test. I ended up receiving the call as I was waiting for the bus. When I got home, my temperature was higher than normal, although not to the level of a fever; however, it wouldn’t surprise me if I always ran a higher than normal temperature as I get back from the hospital complex to my place, given that the experience of venturing through this ruinous society is a feverish ordeal. The test turned out negative, although my symptoms started less than forty-eight hours ago. I don’t consider my symptoms covid related, but what do I know.
Anyway, right now I have no clue if I should go to work tomorrow or not, or if I even can. I called the help service for this whole covid nonsense and they told me to ask my general practitioner (or however it’s called in English), contact the workplace health service (they close at three in the afternoon), or just contact my boss. I wrote my boss an email, but he hasn’t answered.
I don’t know where my depression ends and other health issues begin. I can’t think clearly, and of course the baseline of everything feels meaningless and hopeless. It’s better for my brain if I push myself to go to work; otherwise I may just hide under a blanket and wish I didn’t exist.
This last Sunday I failed to write a single word of my ongoing novel. After a while I gave up and spent the rest of that day playing a board game. I also failed to write on Monday, then again on Tuesday. Although I started my current contract, which will last until October, merely three weeks ago, I’m struggling with the exhaustion and dizziness that ten hours or so a day of surrounding myself with sentient creatures causes to my broken brain.
I’m someone whose instincts and particular neurological configuration require him to spend as much time as possible alone in a quiet room, but I have to wake up at six in the morning, plough through my ruined town to the train station, sit among dozens of commuters, then take a bus and stand among dozens of commuters so I can reach the hospital complex where I work at. Usually by the time I get to the office I’m already overwhelmed. I don’t drive (can’t drive, actually), so I have no choice but to take the public transport.
I usually read on the train, but for two days I had given up on doing so, and instead I closed my eyes and listened through my earbuds to a MP3 (ripped from YouTube) of a torrential storm while I tried to lose myself in daydreams. It didn’t help that recently I had been struggling to get through a collection of stories by David Foster Wallace, that involved sifting through innumerable details and getting little enjoyment, but I didn’t feel like reading anything else either.
This week started with me suffering another migraine; at about nine in the morning on Monday I experienced the common symptom of losing sight in my left eye and becoming increasingly unable to understand whatever I needed to read for my job. Thankfully I always carry some ibuprofen with me, but I still struggled through the visual disturbance (a floating multicolored rod in the left side of my vision) for half an hour, and the resulting headache lasted a couple of days as a throbbing discomfort in the right side of my brain. Whenever I endure a migraine, afterwards I get the feeling that I’ve become a bit dumber. Apparently migraines can also “increase the risk of stroke, coronary events, and other related death by roughly 50%”, so that’s some wonderful stuff to look forward to.
I didn’t want to give up on the current scene of my novel for a fourth day, but yesterday I only managed to progress three or four sentences. However, I struggled so much to put them together that I considered the effort a success, so I gave myself a break and moved on to play another scenario of my ongoing Arkham Horror campaign. I had only finished setting up all the moving pieces and drawing the initial hand for my lead investigator when I felt like I was facing the prospect of clambering up a mountain slope. I wasn’t feeling any enthusiasm, let alone joy. I suddenly understood the whole picture of my recent symptoms (persistent brain fog, increased difficulty interacting with people even to the restrained level that I force myself to, lethargy that made me feel like I was dragging my body around, crushing exhaustion, constant irritability, a dull ache in my chest, ghost-like cold flashes): I must be depressed.
These periods, whenever they get serious, may last a few weeks during which I can do little else than sit tight in my head and get used to the dark. Back when I was blissfully unemployed, I could have just hidden under a blanket and tried to convince myself that I had successfully disappeared from reality, but today I had no choice but to wake up before sunrise and try to prepare myself mentally to endure through another meaningless workday.
Yesterday, at about half past one in the afternoon, I had donned my lab coat and headed to solve someone’s problem (I can’t recall what was that particular issue, but I retain very little of what I do, to the extent that I don’t remember the circumstances that led me to write the notes I rely on to solve many recurrent problems; I’m quite sure that life-long depression is linked to memory loss). Anyway, I was waiting for the elevator when someone asks me, loudly, “what’s the matter, Jon?” from nearly the other end of that long hospital hallway. It was our secretary, whom I suspect had been standing there for a while looking at me as these nasty humans do, waiting for the other person to notice them and acknowledge their existence.
I have no idea what I was doing at that moment that prompted the look of concern in that woman, but I had believed myself to be isolated from anyone who knows me, so I had dropped my hypervigilance. My body may have been busy with the stuff it does when I lose focus: idling in circles like the autistic spaz that I am, grimacing and rubbing my face to dispel whatever flashback to a past trauma with which my brain assailed me, or who knows what else. Although I was wearing a mask (I’m forced to breathe in my CO2 throughout most of the workday), I must have looked troubled (or troubling) enough, given that the secretary went out of her way to voice her concern.
Anyway, I dismissed her nosiness with some measured response, then I got on the elevator. When I returned to the office fifteen or so minutes later, she eyed me as if she intended to bring it up, but I ignored her and walked past. Thankfully she must have gotten the right idea, because this morning she greeted me normally.
Sometimes I feel some coworker’s gaze on me, and I can tell that they are expecting me to look up and acknowledge them, usually to hear them say “what’s up” or make some pointless comment. I guess that most human beings want others to pay attention to them even just to find some semblance of moral support to whatever minor issue they are dealing with (am I doing that now, although I feel like I’m just writing to order my thoughts?), or just because they are bored. However, whenever anyone demands my attention through insistent staring, I’m tempted to snap at them, ask them what the fuck do they want, and tell them to leave me alone. I’m the kind of person that in some previous century would have been employed at an isolated lighthouse (hopefully one unrelated to Robert Eggers), where I’d do little else than daydream, masturbate and go insane. I really can’t handle people. I’m only willing to interact with them in a controlled environment (online messages, mostly), but being physically in their presence makes my skin crawl and forces me into a state of constant alertness and anxiety.
In summary, I’m not doing good at the moment. I want to go to sleep for a long, long time.
I’ve been working on the latest chapter of my ongoing novel ‘We’re Fucked’ for about a week. Maybe more, but I’ve also spent most of the last two weeks dazed, so I can’t be sure.
Last Saturday I woke up at six in the morning to go to work. As I was traversing my city’s dimly lit main street, some guy in his early twenties, with most of his head shaved except for a bun, crossed the road to my sidewalk. He was walking further ahead as he kept shouting to nobody, just to wake everyone up I guess. The only concrete utterance I recall was him yelling, “[This city] is a pile of shit!”
We were the only two people walking down main street at that hour, and when he noticed me, he turned towards me and said in a mocking tone something to the effect of, “hey you, I have a question”, as if he was going to blame me for how terrible this city has become. Or maybe he intended to rob me. In any case, I quickened my pace as I ignored him. When that shithead realized that I wasn’t going to pay attention to him, he followed me for a bit while calling me all sorts of names except pleasant ones. As I headed towards the train station, I turned a corner and lost him.
I agree that this city has turned into a cesspool, partially due to scum like that guy. I don’t even want to get into the two rape attempts near my house (one real bloody), the break-ins (one attempt at my place, in the middle of the day), that time someone nearly broke a bottle on my head as I was reading in front of a coffee shop, etc. I would kill so many people if I could get away with it.
I don’t drive; I’m such a maniac that I would likely crash the car deliberately or not in less than a week, so every workday I take a train to Donostia. After that shithead shouted insults at me, I got on my usual train car and tried to distract myself by reading some manga. I was thinking that with my luck, that son of a bitch was likely going to take this train as well. A couple of minutes later, a young guy with a partially shaved head and a bun entered my train car and sat down relatively close. I paid attention to him in case I would need to defend myself, but he was behaving normally, very unlike the hoodlum from before. A couple of stops later, another young guy with a partially shaved head and a bun got on the adjoined train car, so I figured that I must have come across three guys with the same douchey haircut in the same Saturday morning. Maybe that style has become popular for their particular demographic, but I wouldn’t have had any reason to notice it until that morning.
Anyway, like last week, I’ve spent this one running around my hospital and having to talk to some of the doctors and nurses involved with about twenty five departments, because I was ordered to grab a tablet from each at a time, perform a factory reboot, configure it, test the apps that the medical staff use, and then return it. I couldn’t browse the internet nor barely think in between each step of those tasks; configuring those tablets is a very involved process.
I had to visit the psychiatric building as part of my quest to fix all the tablets. I dislike walking into that place, because I always get the feeling that one of these days they won’t let me leave. Anyway, the current nurse in charge of unlocking each door to let me into the B wing’s staff room told me to go ahead on my own, because one of the nurses working inside that room would see me and open the locked door to let me in. The previous nurse left, locking me in the hallway of that wing, but turns out that the staff room was empty.
I ended up trapped in a hallway of that mental hospital during what seemed like rush hour (although I have no clue if they force the patients to stay inside their rooms at other times). I had the usual mumblers and babblers approach me to share their meaningless thoughts that their insanity didn’t allow them to keep quiet. A teenage goth girl was sitting at a table near a corner of the hallway; I seem to recall that she was looking around anxiously, but on the table she had an open notebook and a book about vampires. I wish I had dated one of those when I was her age (or a bit older), honestly.
A short, middle-aged woman with grey hair approached me, looked up at my 6’1” self and asked with a smile, “Are you an actor?” I considered not engaging, the same as with most of the others (I have more than enough dealing with my own craziness), but I answered, “Nope, just the computer guy.”
Later on, when I survived the encounter, I reflected on her words and found them quite chilling. Hell, I am an actor with about thirty years of experience! A very proficient method actor, I’d say. Certainly much better as an actor than as an IT guy. But the crazy woman presumably didn’t know that.
There was also this guy in his late twenties that they referred to as Hassan, who kept pacing up and down the hallway with a fiery look in his eyes. It wouldn’t be the first so-called extremist that I’ve had the terrible displeasure of meeting, as I’ve been involved in the local systems of care for people with disabilities as an autistic person.
I don’t know for sure if that guy was one or not, but I know that this country treats extreme religious fundamentalists, usually of the Islamic variety because they are the most murderous (overtly at least), as merely mentally ill and at risk of societal exclusion; therefore victims of the environment, their own brains or whatever. In a month-long course I was forced to attend so a center for people with disabilities would hook me up with a job trial (I ended up working for free as a programmer for six months, then they refused to hire me arguing that I wouldn’t work well in a team), one of the students was a guy who admitted that he didn’t have any disability, but he was as virulently fundamentalist of his particular Abrahamic curse as one can be without blowing himself and others up. He derailed every damn class by going on about how our society was rotten and we needed to convert to his religion. He got real nasty about it too. I would have sued the people who organized the course if I had the resources and/or thought that the effort would change anything for the better.
For me the most telling moment I recall from that course was a discussion in which a guy with some intellectual disability was asked if he would date a girl with a disability. He argued, very meekly, that he would rather not, because he already had serious trouble dealing with his own issues, and would prefer some support himself. A couple of women blasted him for his opinion, tagging him with a couple of -ists that, as intended, shamed and shut the guy up. The Islamist bastard spoke next, about how he went out every night to pursue girls in night clubs. “When women say no, what they really mean is yes.” The same two women who had berated the previous guy now giggled at this creature’s comments. For me it remains as one of many “we are utterly fucked as a civilization” moments that I’ve had to experience throughout my life.
How would the pre-Constantine Roman Empire have dealt with this? In a way that would have guaranteed their own survival, for sure. But the Christianized Romans eagerly opened the borders to foreign tribes because they were convinced that Christ would pacify them, and when Rome was sacked, the leading theologian/”thinker” of the time seemingly commented that Romans shouldn’t care that Rome fell, because they should only be concerned about the survival of Jerusalem. I get so angry about this shit. Start your own god-fearing societal nightmare in another planet, you bunch of fucking cultists, and leave the rest of us in peace. On second thought, take the marxists with you too.
When that nurse that had locked me in that hallway reappeared and saw me standing there surrounded by crazier people, she apologized and ushered me into the staff room. The young nurse got real nervous; I guess she had fucked up bad, and if I was a tiny IT woman instead of a big guy eager for any excuse to destroy others physically, I could have gotten assaulted or molested or who knows what. Afterwards, this nurse made sure to follow me to another staff room on the opposite side of that floor, and then unlocked the exit so I could abandon that nightmarish place. I returned a couple of hours later, though. One of the babblers repeated, “Here’s the computer guy again.”
So much shit happens every day at a hospital that I’m well aware that any minor lapse of judgement could cause serious issues or even kill someone. One of the departments that I visit regularly killed a baby by mistake (this is a matter of public record, and there’s a lawsuit pending). It seems that a recently graduated nurse injected the baby with a lethal dose of some drug. The following day one of her coworkers called our office partly attempting to blame us because the involuntarily murderous nurse had listed the dosages incorrectly in the program (grouping them by week or something like that), and she was too unexperienced and/or incompetent to realize what she was going to inject into that kid. We don’t program that software, nor even have anything to do with explaining how to use it. It’s one of the basic programs; it contains the databases of the medication that all patients must take, and they come preloaded in every PC and tablet hooked to the network.
As I’ve had to do plenty of other days, today I also entered the network closet located in the waiting room of that very department where the dead baby’s parents must have received the news that a recently graduated nurse killed their spawn. I don’t want to imagine that scene. I don’t even want to remember many, many moments from my own life, but my brain bombards me with inopportune flashbacks regularly.
Anyway, my current contract has finally ended, so tomorrow I intend to finish the latest chapter and upload it. I can’t wait to get rid of this one, honestly, because I get increasingly antsy when the days pass and I can’t conclude one of these segments. Unfortunately, due to work nonsense, I’ve spent all afternoons so exhausted and dazed that each day I’ve barely managed to devote an hour and a half or two to write. My own personal standards have grown over the years, so I usually iterate on a piece until it feels memorable enough by itself; some refuse to flow properly for hours, sometimes days.
I’d love to say that now that I’m blissfully unemployed for about a couple of weeks (unless they call me in because one of my coworkers stubbed his toe or something), I’ll be able to write from the moment I wake up until I collapse from exhaustion at night, but unfortunately I have to start studying for the next public examination. To keep working in the public sector I have to pass these exams every couple of years or so, until they hire me permanently, which will never happen because I can’t speak Basque and I never will because I despise the fucking language (and to get half of the required certification, others have had to give up on reading or watching anything in any language other than Basque for about a year, and that would kill me, quite literally).
I’m also turning thirty seven in a few days, more than twice as old as I ever expected to become. I’m not happy about it, so to placate myself I’ve bought a few board games that will arrive soon enough. I picked ‘Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition’, ‘Marvel Champions’ and the second edition of ‘Pax Pamir’, although now I wish I had picked instead the second edition of ‘Pax Renaissance’, but I had already paid. They seem to have really good solo modes. Leire can’t fix her own shit enough to at least play through her pile of board games, but I have a better head on my shoulders than that dreadful wretch.
Why did I write this? Why did you read it? Who cares.
I got the Moderna booster shot yesterday; I had little choice in the matter, given that I live in the province with the highest number of cases, I work at a hospital, and the politicians are moving towards restricting access to everything if you aren’t vaccinated “enough”, so likely in the near future unvaccinated people will have issues even buying food. Your ability to complain will be curtailed too, of course, for your safety.
Anyway, I woke up at three in the morning with severe diarrhea and a fever of 38.6ºC. Not sure why I’m even posting this development on here; my mind doesn’t work very well at the moment.
If I happen to die from this nonsense, nothing of value would have been lost. The world would likely be a bit better, too.