My journal: years of depression and self-loathing; learning to accept myself and others; overcoming video game addiction

I was born in July 1997. I finished high school in June 2014 and started university in September 2014.

I was severely depressed for the last two years of high school and for the first year of university and saw a psychiatrist for several months, at some point convincing him to prescribe me antidepressants.

Below are my selected journal entries from 2014 to 2017. I was never planning to publish them but decided to do it because I thought that that they might be helpful to people who are in a similar position to the one I was in the past.


2014-04-16

Late December of 2013. “I really should do math olympiad”, – I’m telling myself but continue to dick around, browsing internet and playing StarCraft.

Almost at the same time, my therapist writes me that we’ll be unable to meet in few weeks due to his personal business. At this moment something clicked in my head.

It became clear to me how pathetic and awful I was, trying to do this olympiad. I recalled how I felt my life had negative value. And most importantly, I remembered about the words my classmate told me “Guzey, you either gonna be super cool or nothing” and The Threshold I had previously thought I had already passed – the threshoold that indicated whether I can be this super cool guy. These two revitalised memories in conjuction with temporal absense of therapist defined course of my life for the next 5 months.

I started to read /r/depression/ (and at some point I thought I have one) and became devoted to the idea of eleminating difficulties from my life. Doing chores is difficult? Fuck chores. Going to school is difficult? Fuck school.

I look back at these months and I see nothing good I’ve done. Just memories of me playing games and, literally, nothing else.

Sometime in February, it became clear how boring it is to sit at home all day, constantly trying to find new, interesting videogames. So, I decided to kill myself.

I started to research this topic and figured that the best way to properly perform suicide is to [redacted]. Awesome plan, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, it had one big hole in it: my intense fear of death, which, at the time, I thought I could overcome. I figured, if I start to think about death a lot, I would eventually accept it and stop being so horrified of it. And at first it seemed to work.

I had one huge cry and few smaller ones, and then something happened. I became unable to think about death.

This revealed that I probably won’t be able to kill myself this summer. Fucking crap.

2014-05-20

Addition to previous piece. My mood got back to normal I-fucking-hate-myself one and everything sucks even more. 6 months wasted as of now. Fuck existence.

2014-05-28

Watching Band of Brothers I recalled about map animations at http://pobediteli.ru, and wondered how did it portray Operation Overlord. I proceeded to site, rewinded to May 1944 and saw a video of D-day. It made me giddy with tears (http://thestrangerblog.com/im-scared-of-dying/). I reminisced the exact feeling why I wanted to achieve something and not just die in few months. I wanted to experience World War 2. I crave virtual reality. I’m willing to work for it. It is the same feeling, I think, that broke my “deppressed” mood 1.5 months ago. I can’t imagine anything more undepressing than real war video.

2014-08-12

I’m afraid to read this big note from 2014-04-16 but I’m sure this is total bullshit, and I was under a terrible delusion. I haven’t done DnB or Anki for a month already. Also, I’d been using SSRIs prescribed by therapist for 3 weeks and didn’t work at all.

This cycle of disillusionment with myself started a bit unorthodoxically. I woke up, did usual shit, felt okay, and BOOM! “Fuck, what a fucking retard I am; piece of retarded shit”.

Tried to create list of things that cheer me up, but discovered that the cheer up they provide ends instantly, just as watching a good movie. Few times a day I start thinking “maybe I’m not such a retard actually, I got 780 and other people apparently think I’m smart” but momentarily remember that this is obviously not the case, because “780 just didn’t happen and I totally imagined it to make myself feel better, I just tricked everybody into believing that I’m smart, and I should go fuck myself.”

Afraid of becoming illisuoned again I returned to seriously thinking about suicide; as a consequence – contemplation of joining military. I browsed US military site, and unfortunately one needs a job visa or green card in order to apply, so, apparently, I should just wait until I kicked out of ICEF and grabbed by Russian army (<3 u mandatory military service). Then I can get killed in a war or with a help of my own assault rifle, I guess.

2014-10-02-3

I’m thinking a lot about being friendless. I look around me, and literally everybody has friends. How come so? Do I actually just have such high standarts or am I just a repugnant asshole nobody likes? How would my life experience change, if I had friends? I still don’t really understand the appeal of “hanging out”.

2014-10-02-4

I still feel very shitty generally, and I’m pretty sure I understand it. It’s my desktop. With it being turned off I still feel shitty, but much less so. It steals the ability to do productive stuff even though there’s nothing to do on it, other than watch twitch and browse web. This is so retarded. Btw, I’m writing this note instead of doing calculus home assignement due tomorrow.

2014-10-18

I’ve been thinking about myself a huge lot lately. I know what I want. I’m aware of my biases. I understand my behavior. But I can’t change it. I’m watching twitch instead of doing calculus right this moment. Fuck me. 780. WWRMD. DTIO. Think about the future selves. Think about making this decision a thousand times. My greatest possible achievement is to accomplish more than destined to me by my genes. Nothing works. I’m gonna get kicked out of ICEF for sure.

2014-10-19

I feel like a rat with an electrode in its brain. I don’t enjoy pressing the button. But I have to do it. It drains satisfaction out of everything I do, it’s very presence kills me. And I can’t do anything about it.

2014-11-28

Truth:

  1. I’m stupid
  2. Nobody likes me
  3. Nobody will ever love me
  4. I can’t have friends
  5. I can’t talk to people
  6. I have no conscientiousness
  7. I will never achieve anything of any worth
  8. I don’t fit anywhere

2014-12-06

Just watched “Taking Chance”. Enlisting into an army is my legitimately biggest dream.

2014-12-08-1

I’ve been crying extensively as a result of [redacted] conversation today. I haven’t experienced such self-hatred in months. I wanna scream, why can’t I just kill myself. Why is it so cruel. I’m barely able to not shout as loud as I can. At least I have rubbers. Photo is attached.

2014-12-08-2

New life plan. I’m gonna make my life so miserable even my fear of death won’t stop me.

2014-12-14-1

Few days ago it became obvious that this plan is not viable. My dad decided to let me use all the internet I want. I know I will always have home, food to eat, and computer. There’s literally no way for me to create such an environment that will make my life too miserable to be lived.

2014-12-14-3

I saw a note from today in my google keep which said “Environment is literally everything”, and finally accepted my almost complete lack of agency. As of today, I appear to have some motivation, I created a spreadsheet for virtue points (should make an app for that), started the creation of one mini-habit (if opening shitty website out of shitty time, open book; I had some success with it about a month ago with Financier actually), I did first dual-n-back since early October.

2014-12-14-4

Regarding my mood from October mocks to today. For the last few months I’ve been trying to get rid of that 10 idea of me. It is the thing that really depresses me. With a fair success I was able to convince myself that I’m not all that smart, but smart enough to be something.

2015-01-18

I deplore myself. I fucking hate myself. I want to hurt myself and die. Just finished watching Across the Universe; I love this movie more than ever. I saw new things in it. I reminisced the profound dreams I had, based on its scenery. It’s fantastic. Since rubberband’s my best friend, took another picture of my arm. Uploaded it to computer, and instantaneously realised that my suspicions about these depressive states were true. The 3 pictures, all 40-45 days apart. My mood is, in fact, independendent. Fuck me. Fuck me. Fuck me. Kinda ironic – the holidays’ week, was literally the most productive of my life. Now, I have destroyed everything. Again. Fuck me.

2015-02-11

I’ve been in the pit of self-hatred for the last month of something. This is no longer up/down, but one long, long down.

2015-02-17

I can escape from all the self-hatred and endless brooding with Hearthstone. Fuck you Blizzard.

2015-02-18

Continuing the intentional harm theme. I’ve been wanting to write about it for some time now. Well, this is the time.

Up until 6th or 7th grade, I used to bully a classmate with other kids. I had intentionally been hurting him. Up till mid-2010 I used to casually trip up people. I intentionally hurt them for lulz. I can’t remember any other specific instances but I’m sure there are some.

Eventually, I recognized how awful these things were and stopped doing them. But still, I was 13 when I realised all of this. Maybe other people just genuinely need to understand it. Maybe they’re not intrinsically evil, but are in a state of twelve year old me? I can no longer judge them.

2015-02-27-1

I’ve been working on my mental attitude quite a bit. I’ve made a big progress on being less judgemental and more charitable. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not, but I haven’t been really depressed for some time.

2015-02-27-2

Continuing the theme of harm (2015-02-18). I’ve been bragging about my empathy and about my ability to understand others’ feelings all the time. But what I realized is that most of the empathy comes from me having felt particular emotions.

Having been massively depressed enabled me to understand this in others and provided me with the insight about the fundamental difference between belief and Belief. Tomorrow’s gonna be cold is the former; I’m the biggest retard in the universe/God exists/Inequality is bad is the latter. Being infatuated enabled me to understand why people in love act that way. I used to scoff at them. Existential angst and related feelings changed my rating of The Catcher in the Rye from 310 to 910 and of The Hero of our Times from 710 to 910.

At the same time, emphasizing to feelings I have not experienced myself is hard. I’m making conscious effort to do so but I do not really succeed.

2015-03-18

In the afternoon some terrible switch inside my head flipped which signals the start of a depressive episode. I finished the pomo started in college amd left, not waiting for other office hours. During the commute I was almost gravely calm and confident that that’s it. Bye productivity, hi twitch. Somehow – that is with the help of Complice, the table, and mental redirect – I was able, by a very narrow margin, literally having typed twitch.tv into the browser window but not pressing enter, to avoid diving into this stuff and did a ton of stuff for Analytics Edge and macro, and a bit of calculus and Anki. Wow. Maybe something did change?

2015-03-19

It’s barely past 22 and I’m already falling asleep. That seems like a permanent side effect of not twitching all day but actually using the brain.

2015-04-03

Today is exactly one month since the day I stayed at home, skipping calculus and statistics lectures, and for some mysterious reason did 90 minutes of anki. The day that marked the beginning of the most productive and happy month of my life. Honestly, I have no idea why did this happen, why is everything going so well, and why I still haven’t gone back to videogames and feeling shitty about myself.

At almost exactly the same time several events happened, maybe by coincidence, maybe by causation, but there’s no doubt it’s this pool that together created what I am today. No gradual shifts. No spirals of success. Overnight, I lost the urge for videogames, twitch, reddit, started doing anki and home assignments, and started feeling my free time with moocs and exam preparation. Bad assosiations impede work? Fuck that. I will never listen to these arguments. Complice probably helped as well. The system of evening intentions, build-in pomos, and day’s results is actually incredible. StayFocusd also did help. The nuclear option, which allows to enter the workflow after coming home instead of being drawn into browsing web is really wonderful.

2015-04-16

Yesterday I sent the application to Cornell for Summer School. I broke the pattern. There was an course of actions I could fail at, and I took it. Fuck yeah. This is actually huge.

2015-04-19

3 days before I broke the pattern of my life. The very next day I skipped all the classes, installed Hearthstone, and ignored Complice. The next day, all in it’s entirety was spend laddering, redditing, and watching youtube. At least I was able to ask dad to change the password.

While the two days are indeed wasted I think they were quite useful and insightful.

Combining “My secret to getting rid of burnout permanently” (quote #5) and Kaj’s post about the importance of having clear next action in a project, I think the reason it happened this time was largely because I had been avoiding AP prep for quite some time. Learnerator; Barron’s; previous years’ materials; Having not decided what to use and in what order paralyzed me and left me only doing moocs/reading books, which I did not perceive as “important”. At the same time, I was completely absorbed in Kaggle and had been having trouble with Spivak. These three things, with, finally, frustration at the Amazon slowness in confirming my accound, caused me to install Hearthstone and succumb to cancer.

Almost forgot to mention an extremely important detail: there was no self-hate. Fuck yes! Non-judgement actually works.

2015-05-17

Productivity suffers. I’m seriously contemplating videogames. Decision: I forgo all the videogames till December 31, 2015. On that day I have the right to install whatever I want, drop out of university, whatever. Before that, I’m conducting an experiment to find whether I can be long-term satisfied just learning stuff, polymath-wannabe style, so my goal for the next 5.5 months is to learn, learn, learn, without regrets and without thinking about usefulness. On December 31, 2015 I can conclude that this experiment has failed and spend the rest of my life living with my parents sitting by the new desktop, but no earlier.

2015-05-24

The very fact that I needed to introduce “project ‘polymath” should’ve indicated that it’s not gonna work.

I’ve been plaing SC2/HS for the past 3 days. I didn’t feel guilty or anything, and I’m happy about it; what else I didn’t feel is the deep satisfaction I got from doing stuff. I can imagine myself actually plaing videogames all day, it’d be okay. But I would never feel the same way I felt while working 10 hours a day and actually doing stuff. The existential satisfaction, it just wouldn’t be there.

My mistake was that I forgot that these things happen. I need to install HS every month or so, remind myself of how it feels and be done with it; instead I tried to become forever productive, without any dips or stops. Lesson learned, I guess.

2015-10-24

No new entries for the last 5 months, and the only reason for this one is because I’m procrastinaing on preparing for the exam the day after tomorrow. Well, nice time to sort of summarize what’s been going on. I’ve been to Cornell, which was probably the best decision I had ever made in my life; I started second year of ICEF. I started a job at AC. I feel only remnants of insecurity. I’m geniunely happy for others, and non-judgemental of other people. I’m doing more stuff on a whim, not waiting till thinking-till-total-inaction spiral kicks in. I still can’t handle the productivity. I’ve had two dates and scheduled another one next week.

The most important thing, though is my sense of self-worth. I’m actually feeling awesome. I’m feeling handsome. I might get depressed, if “I’m worthless” creeps in, it is immediately laught off. FeelsGood, man. FeelsGood.

2017-01-01 Look back on Nov-Dec 2016

A lot of stuff happened from Nov-2016 to Jan-2017, mainly productivity-wise. It mostly went to gkeep. Some of the key pieces:

I didn’t get anything done in Nov-Dec 2016 because I destroyed the home environment fully, and spent 200-300 hours on videogames and stuff, although closer to the end of December I was able to maintain a pretty good routine centered around college, which resulted in okay-ish winter exams’ scores. After a feeble attempt to recreate environment in late Nov, I commited to wait till 2017, which worked really well, as the signal was really costly. I did a ritual at Dec 31 23:59 - Jan 1 00:03, after which I was able to have the most productive week of my life (even more productive than 2 years earlier, because didn’t spend time riding to Grandma). I did a lot of algorithms, some deep stuff, and a ton of cleaning up shit, e.g. I transferred the entire Evernote to OneNote!

2017-02-24

Here’s an earlier note from 2016-01-01:

So I played 1.5 hours of sc2 and hs while coming from having a really good mood and it felt so empty. They were dragging mood lower, but really unable to. The most prominent feature though – really no actual interest. The moment you get distracted, it’s like “why the fuck am I still playing this?”

Here’s me, yesterday, after playing starcraft for 7 hours straight:

Note for my future self: I sometimes think that I should’ve become a professional sc2 player or at least have gotten really good at it, etc. etc. but here’s the problem: sc2 is fundamentally unenjoyable! I just don’t like playing it! I only can ever force myself to do stupid shit like baneling busts or something but I do not get pleasure from playing it. It’s a lot like Super Hexagon: it feels like work, not like play. Ok? So just stop with this sc2 shit. This is final. Just don’t play sc2. Yes, I am good at it; got placed in diamond in two hours lol, but so what? It’s not fun.

Here’s me right now, morning of 2017-02-24:

wait, why not play some starcraft? Don’t I like starcraft? I don’t remember feeling bad about it or anything.

This is insanely interesting. I do trust my yesterday self, but when I consciously try to rememebrer my feeling, I ABSOLUTELY DO NOT HAVE ANY MEMORY OF SC2 BEING UNENJOYABLE. In my head I only remember playing it, that I thought about strategies, that I won sometimes, that I lost sometimes; I have zero subjective experience of sc2 being unenjoyable. I’m actually installing it again right now.

Although, it doesn’t seem that this experience is an exclusively starcraftian. The same thing had happened with hearthstone: while in the moment it’s at best neutral, at worst enraging, afterwards there’s no memory of it. How does that happen??????? Does that videogame optimization of hitting the dopamine channels, even at the expense of enjoyment really work so well?

8pm READ THIS THE NEXT TIME WANT TO PLAY STARCRAFT HEARTHSTONE OR GENERALLY SOMETHING ADDICTIVE BUT NOT REALLY PLEASANT

I spent around 8 hours today playing starcraft. I guess I do okay; it’s not like it’s even that much unpleasant, but it just seems that it’s just not the kind of game I like. It is kinda addictive. Still, right after playing it, I have absolutely no memory of not wanting to play it anymore! Again, this is a really cool state of mind and that’s the one to look for when you’re trying to avoid the addiction. I think I will just have to accept that this aversion-amnesia is something that does happen with starcraft and remembering it will not play it. If I do play it, I’ll ask mom or dad or something to set a password, so it’d be okay.

The key lesson: I do accept that there’s going to be inclination to play and absense of subjective aversion to playing it that does quite often come up during the game.

Finally, In all 15 hours of playing starcraft yesterday and today I don’t think I once had any of the really deep feelings that leave lasting impact. So there’s that.

P.S. I did not give in to temptation and didn’t play any team games or arcade games. Yay!

Algorithms etc.

I’m taking an algorithms course on Coursera right now. It’s the hardest mooc I’ve ever taken. In fact, I spent about 2 weeks on a single assignment, grinding over it, searching for bugs and ways to speed up the algorithm.

I also started taking this course sometime during the high school. I don’t think that it was feasiblue. It seems that the amount of personal growth and mental patterns such as (1) I can learn literally anything if I work hard enough, (2) I made a decision not to give up, and probably others, enable me to do insane amount of stuff. I don’t think I would be able to take this course any time before 2016, so this is close to optimal, actually.

2017-10-08 Kind of a review of 2017

I notice I haven’t written about my life much if at all this year. So I want to rectify that.

I’m becoming much more social, I’m quite now certainly ENFP and not INTP; I’ve had more than 120 convos with people on VK/Telegram this year; I’ve finally started going to parties! The first one was Station 2 organized by people from Sovbak to which I went with [redacted] and [redacted] on September 1. Got quite drunk and had a ton of fun. Then on Sep 22, also by people from Sovbak. Then on Sep 30th with guys from Sovbak to buhai&tancui, which was also super awesome. Decided not to drink there and was complimented a ton by girls for glitter and one girl actually danced with me 3 songs (physically) but was too timid to reciprocate that ://///// Still getting used to the idea that girls love me lol.

Career/college-wise all is not perfect. I’ve completely abandonded the idea of Econ PhD and started to try to branch out to CS more directly. So I took Algorithms-1 in the spring (got 510 lol), so kinda failed getting in ETH CS Master’s program. Over the first half of the year been working on CS stuff more and figured that actually AI research is maybe not the best idea ever. I really dislike neural nets stuff and actual AI seems to be really far off. Maybe rather do something more biologically inspired, maybe simulation of simpler stuff or building organs and shit. Alternatively, I really want to solve StarCraft 2. So, actually, current plan is (1) get masters from HSE in Neuroscience (or maybe Statistics from Zurich, if it allows), then maybe PhD in something biological or Cognitive Science or something.

Productivity-wise–I finally moved to Grandma, after mostly wasting the summer. Ended up playing videogames for hundreds of hours during that time and doing pretty bad at the exams. Managed to stabilize by mid-August and now everything is ok, though. But I have discovered that the system of “Ritual with delay” doesn’t work lmao. Wanted to do the ritual on Sep 1st, did it but it stopped working in like 2 days and went to shit.

Also, I’m feeling so much at home at HSE’s CS department, while taking Algorithms-2 and RL and DL there :(( Absolutely fucking hate economics.

Oh, on an interpersonal level, I’ve really, uh, cooled of towards [redacted], became quite good friends with [redacted].

Summary: life is awesome, everything is great, yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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