Celebrities and Role Models

I’d like to talk a little bit about modern celebrity culture, social media and it’s role in our lives, and some real positive role models.

Firstly, I’d like to completely admonish our current obsession with celebrities, and what constitutes a “celebrity” in modern media. It’s no big secret that with the rise of reality television, influencer culture, and social media – we have seen a remarkable shifting in our media reporting on people of “importance”.

The life and style sections are now littered with B-grade celebrities, meandering their way through life, creating faux scandals and outrage. When someone is famous due to being the daughter of someone famous and constantly in the zeitgeist for making a sex tape and has a billion dollar empire due to that – you can see how society has faulted.

These people are ever present on social media, promoted and seen by millions, often with little or nothing of use to say except doing exploitative capitalism.

Social media has created an environment where the world’s main communication platforms are effectively high schools, and the level of discourse on most of these platforms matches that age bracket also. Popularity contests that drive people to act in ways that demean us as rational animals.

Even with 280 characters, Twitter is an awful place for any sort of reasoned argument or discussion. While I use the platform, I find myself going to reply – typing a reasoned response, hitting the character limit, and then deciding not to publish the tweet as I cannot effectively construe the level of nuance required in such a small amount of text. Only long threads can resolve this, making it more of a here’s my case type scenario, I rarely reply to people if I cannot make my point clear within a single 280 character tweet.

Facebook on the other hand is by far the most toxic of all the platforms, a website based on sociopathic algorithms designed to keep you engaged as long as possible, and constantly using analytics to determine how to keep you on the site for longer, as this is how they generate their advertising revenue. The company itself has no ethical standards, shirks at it’s responsibility to maintaining democracy, and actively discourages it – as evidenced by their acceptance of political advertising based on lies and slander. Delete Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp now. If they’re really friends you’ll find a way to connect outside of these apps.

As Stoic practice has taught me, specifically memento mori (a reminder of the inevitability of death), the question I ask myself is this: Does social media actually benefit my life or do my contributions materially improve the lives of others? Would I regret not spending more time on it? Mostly no, recently yes to both, due to COVID-19.

Twitter is my social media poison of choice, and I’ve been drinking from the chalice a lot since COVID-19 hit. It’s had mostly positive effects, and despite how little it may seem, you can cause ripples in the waters of people’s lives. I’ve had people message me with their changes of voting intentions due to something I’ve posted. Generally using evidence based policy arguments to encourage people to vote Greens in Aotearoa.

My speaking out about mental health issues has both caused stress, anxiety and eliminated much chance of future employment at certain types of companies. This is of little consequence to me due to the people who respond to me to say thank you, or to let me know they feel a little less alone. Because we’re better if we know these things. I’ll shine a light on the darkest parts of my life if it helps someone.

Indeed, I have been influenced by others also. I left extinction rebellion after a deserved critique of their colonial nature by one of my favourite Twitter people, this was our first interaction. I’ve come from a yes to a no on euthanasia, despite me seeing the consequences first hand of what a no vote might mean for people like my Dad whom returned to nature. The lived experience of people affected is generally the strongest evidence on issues of morality such as this.

My Role Models

The rise of both social media and celebrity culture has created an environment where I believe that a lot of people today look to celebrities as role models, this is almost always detrimental – those actually possessing virtuous qualities are few and far between.

So I’d like to offer a few of my current role models:

Bernie Sanders

We need leadership in this country, which will improve the lives of working families, the children, the elderly, the sick and the poor. We need leadership which brings our people together and makes us stronger‘- Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders may never be president of the United States, however his life is something that most could only ever aspire to – a life dedicated to fighting for the underdog in society, championing issues such as civil rights, gay rights, and disability rights long before most of these issues became popular or even acceptable to support.

Looking back at Bernie Sanders’ record is the reason why I believe he is still, after losing the nomination, the best choice for President of the United States in 2020 (and was also in 2016). Authenticity and integrity with politicians seems to be a rare commodity in modern politics, one only has to look at most right wing parties to see the absolute void where these qualities should be. Especially so in US/UK/Australian politics.

However Bernie is everything he says he is, and he has the record to prove it. He has consistently voted on the right side of all major issues – such as voting against going to war with Iraq, voting for the expansion of LGBT rights, voting for the expansion of health care for all. His plan for Medicare for All – something we are lucky to have (almost) here in New Zealand shows a level of understanding of the problems and issues within the US health system – with a reasoned solution to deal with the problem.

The man is 78 years old, and is still fighting for these rights for others, well past the age of retirement – as he believes his job is not done. If all politicians had as much integrity as Bernie Sanders, the world would be a better place.

Jacinda Ardern

Photograph: Kirk Hargreaves/Christchurch city council
“They are us” – Jacinda Ardern

It’s somewhat refreshing to have a role model so close to home. My current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, is definitely a role model to me, which may come as a surprise to those of you who have seen me be critical of her on various platforms.

After March 15th, 2019 – The Christchurch Mosque attack, the worst terrorist attack in New Zealand’s history that left 51 of our fellow Muslim countrymen lost to senseless violence – I remember seeing reported shooting on reddit that day, and was glued to news websites for updates once the threat seemed serious, a mixture of anxiety, grief, and despair coursing through me.

As a nation we entered into a state of severe grief – most of us unable to process the immense tragedy that had taken place. It was during this time that we got to see what a real compassionate leader should look like.

Jacinda’s speech in the hours that followed the atrocious attack was something we all needed to hear. While a lot of the sentiment in the speech is debatable – the key line “They are us” especially due to our racist culture, her belief in what she said and her respect to wear a headscarf whilst meeting the Muslim communities who had been directly affected by the attack showed a leader with real integrity.

Jacinda has also been a driving force on the world stage, for a country with very little in the way of hard power, she has used our soft power to drive forward conversations on inclusiveness, restriction of violent material on the internet, and climate change on a global level.

The main issue however I have with Jacinda is that her movement on child poverty, poverty in general, climate change action, and making a fairer New Zealand have been subdued to largely ineffective policies, and a failure of commitment of resources to tackle these issues. So while she speaks of these issues internationally, the domestic translation of her speeches seems to be missing – which is pretty heartbreaking to be honest.

TJ Perenara

“To anyone, young Māori/Pasifika people especially, who may be struggling with their identity – please know that it is ok to be you. You are perfect as you are. Do not let these comments keep you from being yourself. Polynesia has been sexually diverse since forever.” – TJ Perenara

One of the few mainstream (in New Zealand) celebrities from a media perspective that I actually really admire. TJ is possibly my favourite All Black ever. An extremely outspoken and positive male role model that uses his platform for good. When Israel Folau decided to go all old testament on the gay community, TJ was quick to refute and dismiss his harmful statements instead offering a message of inclusion.

Alongside this, TJ Perenara and Sonny Bill Williams were known for running a talking group within the All Blacks where men could come and discuss their real life problems in a safe and open environment in order to foster a community of support. This sort of real world application of positive masculinity only served to make me believe that TJ is the sort of person we could all learn something from, and his integrity will carry him far in life after he retires from playing sport.

Marcus Aurelius

“Poverty is the mother of crime”

Possibly one of the most influential figures in my life recently. He has inspired many great men, world leaders, politicians, sportsmen. He was a dedicated practicing Stoic philosopher, and considered the last of the five good Emperors of Rome.

His private writings and journaling are known the world over, the book labelled now “Meditations” consisted of his own personal account and dedication to his philosophy. He’s a constant source of inspiration. He lead his people with care and grace, fighting wars and countering insurgencies using sometimes only his words.

For a look at how you can improve your life using lessons from this truly remarkable person I really recommend How To Think Like A Roman Emperor – The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius by Donald Robertson. He gives an amazing account of the life, lessons, and the practical philosophy of Marcus Aurelius.

Me – Ten years from now

This is the role model that inspires me most, and that I look to constantly – yes – me. If I look back at myself, ten years ago, I was a completely different person – I took steps to rectify a lot of my worst qualities, took an honest look at my shortcomings (after overhearing friends speak frankly about them), and have made real strides to take responsibility for who I am as a person. I underwent a moral inventory, something I still do now to make sure I am being the best that my humanity has to offer.

In the last 10 years the following major life events have taken place:

  • I came out as bisexual – carrying this secret around with me for so long caused me an immense amount of personal anguish, constantly having to hide a part of who I was in order to try and fit in with what I thought was expected of me took a mental toll that I now no longer carry.
  • I got diagnosed with ADHD and Autism- while this might seem negative, having a name for the problems you are experiencing and a treatment plan go a long way to making your life better, despite the diagnosis.
  • I graduated my degree in a Bachelor of Software Engineering
  • I worked on and had published four mobile games – including the game I am most proud of FlutterVR.
  • I met and married my soulmate – and the strength of our bond sustains me on a daily basis.
  • I ‘cured’ my depression (I don’t suffer from depression these days, just massive emotional dysregulation – It’s different because I identify the source of the feelings).
  • I found a complete and satisfying philosophy that guides my living day to day – Stoicism has given me a far more complete sense of purpose and direction that I was lacking.
  • I began to live my strong moral code in everyday life. I will even do this at detriment to myself because if the cause is just, then whatever consequences come I know they exist in a place of immorality. (Being moral in an amoral world is hard at times and can have unintended consequences).
  • I became vegetarian, with very limited dairy.
  • I made a host of new friends with genuine and honest qualities. I also learned when to cut toxic people from my life.
  • I started a business with my wife.
  • I learned to finally listen, reflect and say these words without fear – “I’m sorry, I was wrong.”
  • I never stopped learning from people around me willing to give their time, and their advice has allowed me to thrive and become the best version of myself.

I also had some pretty major struggles also in the last ten years, and while difficult, these experiences have only strengthened my character, my beliefs, and my goals for the future. I am proud of who I am today, but I will be even prouder of the person I am in ten years. I live with the goal to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

I use Stoic practices to measure myself in a frank and honest fashion and to work on those areas where I can see my weaknesses. It’s through this constant assessment and planning that I know ten years from now, I will have done incredible things with my life, and improved the lives of others.

This is the role model we should all aspire to have, for what better role model to have than the person you really want to be in ten years.

this is me trying…

The song this is me trying by Taylor Swift came to me at an interesting time in my life… it felt oddly specific to my current trials in life.

Things have been hard since quarantine started. This is the first time that life has eased up the gas. For the first time in my life I had no goals or targets. Instead I had to do what I’d been running from my whole life, facing up to the trauma I’d experienced.

This song aptly describes someone on the edge of suicide and who has lived with a lifetime of trauma and lack of self worth from undiagnosed ADHD. I’ll explain…

"I've had the hardest time adjusting

I had the shinest wheels now they're rusting"

These sentences hit hard for me. Not producing or feeling the need to produce had finally ceased, for the first time at the age of 36 (with my age catching up to me and my rusted wheels) I had to reflect heavily on my life. It hasn’t gone well the next two sentences capture me speaking to both myself and wife.

“I didn’t know if you’d care if I came back

I have a lot of regrets about that”

At my lowest point recently I’ve been testing my anchors to living. Quite often these days I’m unsure of their strength. It’s an odd feeling waking up each day wondering if is will be your last. It is a feeling I wish I could shake.

The next part of the song:

"Pulled the car off the road to the lookout

could have followed my fears all the way down"

Gives me flashbacks of a similar suicidal moment I had in my 20’s. Suicidal thoughts have been part of my life since I was barely a teenager. Following my fears is taking the plunge off the cliff.

"And baby I do it know quite what to say

but I’m here in your doorway"

This is me talking to my wife, trying to let her know that I’m struggling in ways I haven’t experienced before, but I’ll always keep trying even if it seems like I’ve given up.

“I just wanted you to know this is me tryin"

The next verse is hard not to believe its about ADHD. So much of our lives we are told that we’d be excellent if we could focus more, apply ourselves more, reach our potential…

"They told me all my cages were mental

So I got wasted like all my potential"

A lot of us with ADHD have turned towards substance abuse, a lot of that is driven by our failure to live up to our own expectations, our unrealised potential.

"And my words shoot to kill when I’m mad

I have a lot of regrets about that"

This next set of lines deals with the emotional dysregulation of ADHD and the ability we have to hone in on insecurities we see in others. It happens generally infrequently but when it does it’s vicious and followed by instant regret.

"I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere

Fell behind my classmates and I ended up here"

This personally to me feels like school did. I was a smart kid, too smart for my own good. I’d always get miles ahead at the start of each new subject, only to have ADHD memory recall issues make me feel like I knew nothing, and I’d fall behind in class to finally end up here at 36 with a lifetime of failures…

"Pouring out my heart to a stranger

But I didn't pour a whiskey"

This isn’t subtle, it seems that Taylor has found a way (like me) to pour out her addiction into a more creative outlet.

The chorus continues to show that we’re trying.
At least were trying.

The final verse is to me about having to face the public When you know your damaged for all to see.

“And it is hard to be at a party when you feel like an open wound”

When I’m in what I like to refer to these days on the sea of suicidal thoughts, drifting it feels hard for me to be anywhere while an open wound… but most of all I want to be with my wife.

“It's hard to be anywhere these days

When all I want is you”

As one of the last ruminating thoughts and strongest anchors – she sometimes feels a lifetime ago in a place I barely remember but she is always so important as she the only feature in my town.

“You’re a flashback in a film reel

On the one screen in my town”

Add the last chorus repeats my need to stay afloat, to return to her.. . to let her know Im’ trying.. at least I’m trying.

“And I just wanted you to know

That this is me trying. (Maybe I don’t quite know what to say)

I just wanted you to know

That this is me trying

At least I’m trying”

Wild conjecture and discovery thread

If I have medication off days, I tend to binge eat to generate dopamine. Seems counter productive. I’m not actually hungry, I just need the dopamine.

Someone mentioned exercise, it seems like if you have an excess of serotonin compared to dopamine (and Autistic people tend to have hyperserotonemia – a natural excess level of serotonin compared to controls), you get fatigued.

Exercise Serotonin and Dopamine

Interestingly also that elevated plasma levels of serotonin are linked to airway hypersensitivity, which can lead to asthma.

All of the science I’ve seen recently around serotonin makes me wonder just how much antidepressants and blocking the receptors I needed to absorb stuff might have exacerbated so many health issues I had.

Interestingly depression is linked to asthma development (with or without SSRI).

Depression and Asthma

Holy shit this is why venlafaxine nearly killed me… maybe.
Autistic people have increased levels of norepinephrine.

Norepinephrine and Autism

Giving someone who has an excess of serotonin and norepinephrine a drug that inhibits reuptake of both seems incredibly dangerous.

Excess norepinephrine seems to be linked to increased hyperactivity. So when I went to get diagnosed with ADHD and they rejected me without looking at evidence and put me on an SNRI they effectively nearly killed me. I was destroyed on this drug.

Ugh. They say it slows the reuptake, what is happening to the excess stuff that isn’t subject to reuptake. Where does it go? What causes SNRI withdrawal symptoms… so many questions. Apparently increased norepinephrine production happens with PTSD too.

So much stuff points to the intense world theory of Autism. I seem like a raw nerve exposed to the world. I feel everything cranked up to 11.

All of this is leading me to the hypothesis suggested in the 1970s that depression is a repeated life stress result.

I’m not saying this for everyone, but I truly wonder now if my ADHD is the result of being Autistic and subject to extreme trauma as a child. There are a number of studies that link ACEs with ADHD severity. I don’t know what to think anymore honestly.

“However, two studies presented results that showed children with ADHD had high levels of norepinephrine in their 24-hour urine sample. A higher level of norepinephrine in urine is associated with higher levels of hyperactivity.”
Sensory stress causes norepinephrine production.

One of the things that dopamine production did for me was help me to realise how much sensory pain I’ve been in. I had very low awareness. Since attending to sensory stress levels I’ve lost my stress related health problems.

This is all conjecture based on a case study of one. These are my own personal musings based on science I have read. This is not ever medical advice.

Originally tweeted by Rory – ADHD Autistic OCD (@roryreckons) on October 15, 2021.

Pieces of advice to myself/others after diagnosis of ADHD (in retrospect)

You are going to doubt yourself massively before, during, and after getting diagnosed. You most certainly are an ADHD person – this is part of the process.

Learn to accept what is there, rather than fighting against it.

Get ready to cut toxic people from your life.

I spent six years working against my diagnosis – trying to 'cure' myself.

Once I accepted it, I realised how many people had been exploiting boundaries, and being derogatory toward me for being ADHD.

I tried to educate them, if they continued, I removed them from my life.

You deserve people who love you for who you are, not what they want you to be.

Those people do exist, and it's healthy to let those go who make you feel negative constantly by harassing you over pretty insignificant stuff in the scheme of things.

You will also likely experience a mix of anger and depression for a while – these are healthy to have – they are not pleasant – but you need to grieve for the fact that it wasn't detected earlier. I had to work toward not getting stuck here as it was detrimental.

Find a community somewhere. It doesn't have to be Twitter, but you need somewhere that people understand the challenges you have – or how hard your life has been. The shame I experienced for a while after was due to not seeing people being open about struggling.

No matter how late in life you discover it, with the right introspection and reassessment of your life through an ADHD lens – you can develop a lot more self-compassion, and go on to enjoy your life once this is done.

Most importantly ADHD traits are not a moral failing.

Once you get past seeing yourself as broken or if you never think that and you still feel stuck – if you can get a coach. I became one because it was the only ‘therapeutic’ support that worked.

It helped to have someone who helped me cultivate trust in myself again.

The effects of parenting and compliance

Of course the concept of fixed personality wont make sense to highly masked people of any type. When you are changing your social appearance to match who they expect, it's hard to identify who you are – also it does change due to plasticity. Very few traits are fixed (if any).

People can only change what they understand too. If you don't enquire, you can't change. I guess being a permanent chameleon for 37 years did give me a level of growth inaccessible to a lot of people.

Taking the positives out of a lifetime of mostly negative experiences is difficult. But this lyric is true:
"All the answers
To all our problems
Lie within the one who tries to dodge them"

The late identification of my differences is mainly about shedding the stuff I don't agree with I did to 'fit in', but it's so much work that has to happen. The closer I've become to my true self – the more congruent I feel. This is a key concept of Carl Rogers.

"Rogers identified the "real self" as the aspect of one's being that is founded in the actualizing tendency, follows organismic values and needs, and receives positive others' regard and self-regard. It is the "you" that, if all goes well, you will become.

On the other hand, to the extent that our society is out of sync with the actualizing tendency, and we are forced to live with conditions of worth that are out of step with organismic valuing, and receive only conditional positive regard and self-regard,

we develop instead an "ideal self". By ideal, Rogers is suggesting something not real, something that is always out of our reach, the standard we cannot meet. This gap between the real self and the ideal self, the "I am" and the "I should" is called incongruity."

No person I love more in the field of psychology than Carl Rogers. Everything he's written improved my understanding of me, and also people who truly embrace his approach are the best people to help others.

Masking could more easily be renamed "Forced Incongruence".

A simple guide to Carl Rogers: "Love what's there unconditionally" – every time people did that for stuff I was ashamed of, I got to release the shame and grow. I was damaged really young, a lot of stuff I did out of being hurt when people wouldn't realise that about me.

No ADHD or Autistic kid wants to be awful, there's unaddressed damage – even if no one intended it. One thing I definitely agree with Gabor Maté's book is that often the most defiant people are the ones who need the most love even in the face of the damage they are causing.

A recent TV show – Ted Lasso – does a really good look at how hurt people end up hurting people. They need to be seen for what is underneath and loved for it, when they mess up and admit it they need to be loved and forgiven if it came from a place of hurt.

Don't excuse the behaviour, but also don't attribute it to the person. These concepts need to be split out. Behaviour doesn't occur in a vacuum.

The idea of punishing kids harshly who admit they've done bad things is one of the worst pieces of parenting advice that exists. Unless the child agrees that there should be some further consequences, or you negotiate that. Punishing people for telling the truth makes liars.

If your kid shows shame and embarrassment for their actions, the psychological effect of that has done the work. Reinforcing further shame doesn't allow for growth.

It does teach the child your love is conditional on their behaviour, and they are children. They are still learning how to be a person.

Honestly negotiation of punishments seems like it won't work, but it will – and you are respecting the child's autonomy. They will understand their actions have consequences and they won't feel controlled rather than disciplined.

"So what you did here you realise was bad, what do you think we should do about it?"
"<child comes up with suggestion>"
"Ok, that sounds reasonable" OR "I think it should be slightly more"
"I'm really glad you told me, and I love you, but we both agree this behaviour isn't good"

Kids need to know they can make mistakes, otherwise they hide them. If punishments are too severe they are counter intuitive. Avoiding pain is a natural thing to do, so making sure you don't inflict more without some input from the child teaches the wrong lesson.

Also don't make a big deal about motor coordination errors – where stuff gets broken. No person ever intends to have an accident. That's the very premise of the word.

"I can't believe you dropped the milk, how could you be so stupid"
vs
"That milk was probably a little too heavy for you, feel free to ask me to help you next time, now lets clean this up together"

Which of these actions do you think benefits the child more and allows for learning? It's basic logic.

If you demonstrate future actions that align with your goals, then these issues happen less.

Authoritative parenting (like I've described) has the best outcomes in all studies, Permissive parenting (letting the child run free) is still better than Authoritarian Parenting which doesn't allow child growth.

Compliance and growth are two completely different outcomes.

One traps a kid in the development stage of childhood with an appearance of development (while hating themselves), the other allows them to grow out of it.

Compliance should never be the goal.

Your child is their own person, if you treat them as an extension of yourself, they don't get to be one. Authoritarian parenting is about riddling your child with your anxieties – people who get to be themselves, have more flourishing lives.

"I did everything I could, I was on their case I don't know how they didn't turn out well"

Really? Nearly all parents I've seen say this had to deprogram their parenting only to repeat it to their children.

They say stuff like "The best day I had was the day I left home" not realising that maybe that was when they were first allowed to grow properly. But unless they deal with the implicit emotional memories they end up using the same things, the guilt they feel is overwhelming.

Originally tweeted by Rory – ADHD Autistic OCD (@roryreckons) on November 1, 2021.

Acknowledging the hurt of late diagnosis

One of the hardest parts of late identification of ADHD and/or Autism is realising how many people in your life chose to hurt you over trying to understand you. 💔😥

No matter how defiant you were, you didn’t deserve to be treated as anything other than a growing person who still had things to learn. There’s nothing that should be offered to children except unconditional positive regard and autonomy. Parents should have owned their mistakes.

A developmental delay means you are generally spikey in skill sets and abilities, this meant that school hated you for being inconsistent, so you internalised that as your fault, not the system built for someone else.

Everything I’ve read shows the problem is a lack of understanding of these differences causes the negative aspects, if reasonable accommodations were made in all parts of life, we’d thrive. No matter how impacted we are.

And thriving doesn’t mean productive, thriving means we would enjoy life – we’d value our own existence innately.

People contribute more than labour to society. We do more than appease capital. We are not burdens, the society built burdens us all. People are afraid of ageing due to the looming disconnection. The worst possible system.

It’s a lot easier living in this world when you find out everyone is terrified of something even if they don’t realise it. We should change the system so we don’t have to be terrified. Capitalism operates on fear.

Originally tweeted by Rory – ADHD Autistic OCD (@roryreckons) on November 1, 2021.