I downloaded a mental health app Ming suggested. I thought I’d try it for a week at least. I liked some things about it, but a week was enough.
It’s an AI–you’re supposed to talk to it about how you’re feeling, and it’s supposed to teach you mental health skills. At first I thought it was creepy to talk to a robot rather than a human who’s actually in my life.
Then I thought it was kind of nice. I didn’t need to worry about hurting its feelings, burdening it, being too vulnerable and having something held against me later socially–that kind of thing.
I thought–it’s good to have all different kinds of support, and I could try this new-fangled way. Something additional.
I started treating the app as a guided journal–the robot asked questions, and I answered with a lot of words. When it asked how I was feeling, I was supposed to reply by tapping one word from a list of options, but when have I ever felt one way?
I usually feel around seven things at once.
“I’m feeling very anxious and like I can’t be social, but I’m also lonely, and I’m fed up with needing to explain and then not being listened to, but under all that I feel hopeful and like things are possible, and even though love and forgiveness might seem naive to some people, I need to be who I am and live my values, so I’m struggling forward, and it feels like an uphill battle, but I’m trying to have faith and believe living is possible.”
How many feelings is that? I can’t untangle them enough to count them.
I asked Ming about it–he told me he feels up to three things at once. When he said that, I envied him.
I was annoyed by the GIFs. They really bother me–I see the half-second repeating mini-video and panic a bit, like–make it stop! why is it doing that? I can’t take it! quick, get that off my screen.
I was annoyed by the videos. Yesterday I was instructed to watch a ten-minute youtube video about labels and learning styles, and I gave it a try, but it went way too slow, was repetitive and predictable, and I didn’t appreciate being told it would be worth my while when it wasn’t.
Yesterday when it asked me how I was, I wrote a few sentences describing a complex set of powerful feelings, and then it interpreted what I said as “awesomeness” when really it wasn’t awesome at all.
So that bothered me–I felt something like, I go through life being misunderstood by people all day, so why should I spend time being misunderstood by a robot who picked two words out of my response and thought they meant something good, not getting the context.
I was fed up, and then today it asked me “you know what a diagnosis is, right?” and I went off on it. I listed about 20 things a diagnosis has meant for me, over the years. The list turned into a poem. The first line is “a way to justify a pill prescription.”
So it was a good try–I lasted a week. I didn’t like how it’s so basic, talking about concepts I could write a book on as if they were new to me. I’ve understood an idea for decades and have seen whole swaths of my life through the lense of this concept–it’s really important to me. Not something to over-simplify in two minutes.
And I didn’t like how it seemed to assume I had depression and anxiety. I do have anxiety, but that’s only part of the story. There were no concepts that were new to me, and it’s a pet peeve of mine when things are pitched like that.
So I’m not going to use this app anymore. I talked to AIs a lot, a long time ago, like Eliza. I think you can still talk to Eliza.
This permaculture course I’m taking, there are definitely ideas that are new to me. I’m really behind, at this point–wonder if I’ll catch up.
An idea I really like is: Too much of anything is pollution. I remember growing too many cherry tomatoes, one summer in Sacramento. Two whole raised beds were cherry tomatoes. We had a little forest of them, and there weren’t enough people harvesting.
Ming and I could have gathered many every other day for a couple weeks, to give away to friends, neighbors, and strangers. But we were overwhelmed with other stuff to do, so tons of tomatoes went to waste.
Even though tomatoes are delicious, we had too many for what we could handle, so they were pollution. It’s a neat way of looking at things. I want to be like, well, we learned something. It wasn’t a total waste. And there can be pleasure of growing something, and just trying. I don’t want to hate on the disabled people. Our energy levels fluctuate a lot, and that’s just the way it is, sometimes.
tending the wild
Another idea I really like is: Everything gardens. It means everything changes its environment for its own purposes. I used to think living in reliance on nature was hands-off–it wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned the idea of “tending the wild,” and how different peoples increase yield in wild places.
I thought there was mainstream big ag farming on one hand–clearing the land for acres and acres, planting an intense monocrop, using lots of tractors and yuck chemical pesticides, and doing that kind of farming for years and years. Seemed disrespectful, all about capitalism and getting the highest yield at whatever cost. Sacrificing mother earth for money.
Then on the other hand I imagined–gathering acorns and some roots and berries, in a hands off way. But there can be a lot in between. And changing our environments isn’t a bad thing. I used to romanticize wildness, but now I see–what is wild? Humans are animals and part of nature. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Another idea I really like is land justice–sharing land and gardening space with others, if we have land, and how to get access to land in different ways, if we have none. Ming and I are in a funny place with that–not really renters–more than renters, but less than owners.
I thought of some ways to invite other people in, and when our friend helped Ming repot the tree collard, that was an attempt at welcoming people in. And I invited a friend who expressed a nostalgia for gardening to adopt a pot in our front door garden–I wanted to see more of her, and help her have an experience she might like. She didn’t take us up on it, but maybe one day she or someone else will.
I mention these ideas because I like them, but also to say I’m not a total idea snob or unpleasable. I’m eating some yogurt and trying to care for myself generously, enjoying the quiet of night.