Tag Archives: mental illness

Harvey

There are two forces which tend to influence my mood in the attempt to get me to take action: the first is the result of an over-analytical mind, which has limited powers of prognostication, and the other is a sense of self-hatred which desires, above all else, that I place my head into the lion’s mouth to boldly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But, because I am a biochemical meat sack propped up by a skeleton, both forces are relegated to a painfully simple vocabulary, The result of this is that, while my gut may be shouting, “Go! Danger!”, I’ve no idea from what I should be running, to where I should escape, or, most importantly, why. And due to the fact that this communication is carried out chemically, on a subconscious level, I have no clue from whom I’m being warned.

I am a  creature of habit, fearing change much as would a germophobic panhandler, and often remain in harmful situations because I’ve come to know that devil, and, for all his faults, he’s a hell of a conversationalist. In an attempt to keep me from the inevitable despair of stagnation, my Hippocamp Nostradamus will begin flooding my awareness with subtle signals of disgust and frustration, in the hope that I will lose control and either quit the scenario outright, or scorch the very earth so that the status quo cannot continue.

This has happened any number of times, and though the process has been painful, I have always landed on my feet, and even wound up coming out ahead. That’s not to say that I am grateful, for I carry the stress of my entire life upon the diminishing capacity of my shoulders, like a mistreated and forgotten Atlas. That, and the extra three stone I carry about within my gut (a nod to the fears of harder times ahead) can make it difficult at times to stand up straight, hold my head up high, and tell the world to just fuck off.

Now, my depression is another matter entirely. In the past, I jave likened it to a sensual seductress, enticing me to fail, or some rotund, alcoholic, and abusive heckler, reminding me of all my failures (including those which resulted in a net victory, but with the redemptive postscript deliberately removed). In reality, such as it is, it is no more anthropomorphic than yesterday’s underwear (if anything, slightly less). That feeling of self-worthlessness is best represented by a hand-stitched quilt (always just a tad too warm), made up of every memory of when I had failed to be the man I know I should have been (every shame, embarrassment, and lie, neatly stitched up embroidered in a dazzling display of craftsmanship), draped over my shoulders to remind me not to get above myself.

Though metaphysical in their description, these entities seem very real, especially to someone who walks the narrow line of sanity to peer into the hidden depths of insight which the human condition may provide.

Now, for the sake of carrying on, imagine these two, not as disparate enemies, one foul, the other fair, but rather, as identical twins, down to the dimple on their left cheek, Got that image firmly in your mind? Good. Now get rid of it because it’s completely wrong.

Neither foul nor fair, nor twins of DoubleMint, this pair of overactive malcontents are, in fact, one in the same. They are a double-headed coin*, tarnished a bit from all the years, yet worn smooth from countless handling. They both despise the status quo, and hate me for who I am. One side would prefer that I live up to my ideals, while the other is more interested in my baser natures. And they can both read past and present to glimpse into the future, and nudge me toward one of their preferred destinies.

This isn’t a campaign waged on a scale of weeks, or months, or years, although I’m fairly certain that they’ve both and endgame in mind for me.

No, these skirmishes within my psyche happen in the beats between the moments which eventually coalesce to become that thing that I call life.

Say “fuck this!” now, and lose out on that promotion they were about to offer, but couldn’t yet discuss because they were checking the financials, but say “fuck this!” now, and miss out on a massive clusterfuck of corporate restructuring resulting in a stagnant wage and overwork ad infinitum.

It’s all contained within the spaces between words, in that anxious moment between heartbeats, and rather than being immediately obvious and clear cut, it can often take months or years to assess the benefits of damages of any given choice.

And that’s just if I am able to decipher the rumblings and pains of my padded tummy enough to make a choice at all.

Then there are the times when it’s just gas**.


* Phew, almost wrote dildo there.

** For the sake of appearances, I’ll not mention into how may existential crises I have launched myself in a response to lactose intolerance.

Outsmarting Reality

Today is the day that I put on pants and sit at my desk to pound out some pretty words. As far as Life Goals go, it’s not so bad, really. To be fair, I’m not really that into the whole notion of pants in general (as I may have mentioned a time or two before), but I do recognize that bumbling about in pajama pants while sipping on a beverage and munching on Gummy Bears isn’t a solid plan for success. If I had unreasonable amount of money (in the other direction, that is), I suppose that I could be called eccentric, but as it is, I’m just this dude who wanders about looking like shambling grump. At least the haircut I got a few weeks ago is helping. Now the only thing to really give me away is the wrinkled clothing and days’-old stubble. I can get away with it while I am holed up at home, safe from the judgments of the outside world, and if I’m not dressed for public consumption, I feel no obligation to step farther out my door than the requisite number of steps it takes until I can smoke a cigarette without a stern talking-to.

Today I am going to go outside for no reason other than my desire to eat something other than Corn Nuts and Tootsie Rolls. Well, that, and there’s Crystal Pepsi at Walgreen’s, and I’m feeling a touch nostalgic. As part of my strategy to venture into the great outdoors, I’ve invited my stepdaughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren to come with me. At first glance, it would seem as though I’ve only done this to put a small measure of pressure upon myself so that I might actually make it happen, but anyone who actually knows us will understand that my intention was entirely more nefarious than it might otherwise appear. You see, there is a real chance that it might not actually come to pass. First, the adults have to get ready to go. Then, the wee ones have to be prepped for their adventure. For some reason today, this involves baths. So, add that in to the diaper changes, battles over wardrobe, complete domestic warfare and accusations of abandonment, tearing the apartment to shreds in search of something that may or may not have ever been there in the first place, tears and temper tantrums, and at the end of all of that, there’s a decent chance that everyone will be so upset and butthurt that they’ll decide that they don’t really want to go anywhere.

You see, I’ve made a foolproof plan to feel that I am actually accomplishing something whilst simultaneously ensuring that I might not have to go through with anything. There’s a certain smug satisfaction that comes with having outsmarted reality. Of course, there’s only one flaw with this entire scheme: There is a better than average chance that I will have to go through with everything, and I place the blame entirely upon the shoulders of my Wildflower.

She is hundreds of miles away on her vacation (which, as it happens, is kind of a vacation for me), spending time with my family on The Island. This was to be my time to really cut loose and let myself go truly and completely. My wife, it would seem, has other ideas. She is under the impression that I need sunlight and proper nutrition. I don’t even know how to react to that. It’s like she hasn’t been paying attention this past decade (or perhaps paying a little too much attention). Why she thinks that I will suddenly begin to give the slightest crap about self-preservation after three decades of neglect is not only unfathomable to me, but the source of at least forty percent of all of our arguments. And now she’s got her daughter on my case as well. Completely intolerable.

I guess what it all boils down to is that I don’t really know how to accept someone else caring about me. If I’m to be brutally honest, I think that I’m still under the delusion that I will die young and leave a moderately… well, I’ll leave a corpse at any rate. I’m sure that there are things that I could do to raise my quality of life, such as eating something apart from snacks and a drastic reduction in the amount of energy drinks which I consume on daily basis. Hell, I could even give up smoking, if I really wanted to make a change. But the fact is that I’m not all that interested in doing any of that. Sure, I’d love to eat something that wasn’t processed until it only nominally resembled a “food-like product”, but I have neither the time nor the money to cook the meals which I am interested in consuming. But this is only what sits upon the surface.

I think that if I were to be left to my own devices, I would simply allow myself to fade away. It’s just so hard sometimes to make myself exist for other people, especially when I don’t particularly wish to exist for my own self.

On a side note, thanks to Facebook, I’ve been able to look back at previous summers, and it looks like, statistically, they’re not my best time of the year. In the past, the only season which truly stood out in my mind as a festering pit of days I’d rather not risk was the month leading up to my birthday (or, as other people know it: November). As it turns out, however, the summer months seem more likely to cause trouble than any other time of year. Perhaps it’s the over-abundance of sunlight which is more likely to trigger manic episodes (something much harder to notice in the moment than depression), which are far more destructive than my depression.

So, what do I do?

I guess I’ll just put my head down for a moment, collect myself, and force a smile upon my face. This is the beginning, and the male equivalent of Resting Bitch Face is no way to face it. So let’s have a chuckle, shall we?

The Will To Be

I am not alone in feeling that 2016 cannot come to an end soon enough. Perhaps I’ve just let the various superstitions get into my head, but right now, at this very moment, I’m struggling to find the will to be. Not that last year was a whole lot better, but at least I managed to write for a decent stretch of time, and put some much needed distance between myself and the ever-quickening rat race. Of course, no good deed goes unpunished, and I managed to get myself fairly established within the world of debt. Do I regret it? Not really, because it set me up to actually start a novel (of which I’ve written 27,000 words), and I self-published a couple of things on Amazon (earning me a whopping $19!). But, in the end, I found myself drawn back to the industry which had threatened to unmake me in the first place. I feel like I just need some breathing room, some time to dedicate myself entirely to this endeavor, so that I can really focus on finishing Hiraeth, and see what kind of luck I’ll have with a proper novel. I’ve gotten decent feedback from my beta readers, and I think that I may have stumbled upon something here.

So what do I do? Obviously, I can’t take another six months off, as I’m still paying off The Great Sabbatical of 2015. And there’s a minimum dollar amount which I need to make progress of climbing out of debt, which limits what sort of employment I can consider. Unfortunately, those types of jobs also seem to be more time-intensive, which kind of defeats the purpose. What I really need to pull is this off is a work schedule which features two days off which aren’t separated by anything more than the changing of the day, and the ability to stay at home (or do whatever) on said days off, and not be required to go in for any reason whatsoever. The only thing that does is burn someone out like a candle within a sphere of blowtorches. Throw a little personal tragedy into the mix, and top it off with a dash (results may vary) of mental illness, and the sky’s the limit for a risk of a complete meltdown. All I know is that whatever the solution, I need to find it quickly. I’m tired of not doing what I love. It’s been over thirty years since I discovered my place within the universe, and aside from a handful of baby steps, I haven’t done anything to get there.

Realistically, I think that I could get everything accomplished that I need to for the low, low price of $30,000. Check out the Benefactors page if you’re interested in contributing… The only thing that I can do is lower my head and hope that this time I can pull it off. I’ve happened to work miracles on countless occasions before, extricating myself from the fires in which I’d put myself, but I’d love to somehow get ahead of the curve, and not have to wait until the final moment to manage some kind of magic. Number One: I can’t count on my unblemished record of victories snatched from the jaws of defeat, and Number Two: that kind of strategy is, honestly, exhausting. I know that I can do it. I know that I have the skills to make it happen. All I need now is the time to try. If I can only pull myself up from within the grips of my depression, and find within myself the will to be, I think that everything will be okay.

Mental Illness: Edification

Perhaps it’s mean-spirited, but I truly wish that everyone could suffer from mental illness. Well, for the most part, that statement isn’t entirely accurate, but there are days, or even single moments where I wholeheartedly wish for it. I’ve touched on this subject several times before, but I felt (for some reason or other) like it needed revisiting. Mental illness is, by and large, invisible. Sure, its effects can be as plain as day, but it’s not like jaundice or chicken pox. It gets even worse when its sufferer is intelligent, and capable of “maintaining” for some length of time. At least, believing that he (or she) is maintaining. It’s not always obvious what is wrong, and there are many people who are terrified of admitting that they suffer, for fear of retribution due to the stigma of mental irregularities. Sometimes I wish that I had never learned any coping mechanisms (effectiveness and results may vary), so that I could not force myself to hide behind the curtain of normality. For all the progress we have made in erasing the myths of mental illness, we are not so very far removed from the world in which my father lived (the father who suffers from a depression so severe that he could not bring himself to open the letter which I sent him, relying instead upon his brother, who was back for a visit from Japan).

I honestly believe that the only reason that what little progress has been made came only after Big Pharma realized that they could make a profit off of inner demons and melancholia. I remember, twenty years ago, when Prozac was the Next Big Thing. My family practitioner diagnosed me as “Manic Depressive” (yet more evidence of how old I am), and was eager (a little overly so, in my opinion) to get me going on this new class of crazy pills. As I was a minor at the time, and suffering from a contentious relationship with my mother, I am grateful that I had second thoughts. Can’t say why, but I felt this cold chill in the pit of my stomach at the very thought of those pills, and graciously declined (as graciously as any teenaged Caucasian male is able). A year later, I did decided to try Prozac (just one pill), and suffered immediately from auditory hallucinations and a sense of dread. A year after that, I gave Wellbutrin a try. When I was in the hospital, they taught us that depression is just rage turned inwards (psychologically- biologically it is something else entirely). Wellbutrin took my depression away, but left me with an overabundance of rage (directed in each and every direction).

It wasn’t until my hospitalization that someone decided to try Lithium. You know, the medicine prescribed for well over a century. The element. The drug off of which there is no money to be made. If I’d had the money back then, I might have been able to afford to stay on it. But, you see, it wasn’t the prescription which I could not afford, but the blood draws which were required to ensure that the levels in my system remained below toxicity. A few years later, I managed to get another prescription, but lost my insurance too soon to be able to continue. That was in 2004.

Since then, no matter where I’ve gone, or to whom I’ve spoken, I cannot seem to get the one thing which has ever been effective. Either I get brushed off all together, or the doctor insists on trying out all manner of medications which I know (with a growing level of experience) are only going to mess me up far more. No one seems to want to hear that Lithium actually works for me. Sure, I feel exhausted all the time (nothing out of the ordinary these days), and wrapped in a numbing insulation, but I also do feel safe from the pendulum’s swings. It also stifles my creative instincts, which would be unacceptable if the preponderance of my income came from writing, but is tolerable if I have to deal with other people. Not that it actually matters: there are no drug rep kickbacks for a freaking element.

So no wonder that so many people have turned towards self-medication. When you can’t get help from medical professionals, you look to squelch the pain in any manner you are able. Some turn to drink, other to pills, and others to any other number of substances. When the illness exists, for all intents and purposes, in one’s own head, it’s impossible to accurately convey the struggle to someone who doesn’t understand. And then are some people who have it easier than others, or have had better luck in dealing with their own private demons. Hell, I’ve been extremely fortunate myself, as I’ve been able to pass for “normal” for the majority of my life by merely accepting the mantle of “asshole.”

It had been my intention of seeking out medical help tomorrow, to enlist the aid of those who are able, to assist me in fighting my own particular demons. Don’t really see the point now. Everything repeats and falls victim to entropy, and there’s not much point in fighting it anymore. Exhaustion has set in, and apathy is ever-present. I’m just tired of fighting, you know? Better to just throw in my hat, and let everyone have their laugh. I guess I should have finished up Hiraeth, but it’s kind of epic where it’s at.

Thanks, everybody.

Don’t know where the night will take me, but if I see you all on the other side, so be it.

The More Things Change…

I should probably go back a few of months (or a half-dozen posts), and verify this before I say it, but I hate what this industry does to me, and I’m not talking about writing. It’s not job-specific, as I would have to be a complete moron to speak ill of my current place of employment in anything other than plausibly deniable code, but rather my indictment of the restaurant industry. In many ways, it’s like a drug, something that I desperately want to give up, but seem inexorably drawn back towards. I know that it’s not good for me to work in a place like that, as the constant shifting between dead and slammed is a microcosm of the swirling madness within me. But, again, this isn’t what I’m actually getting at. I could probably find studies to back me up on my belief that this industry tends to draw the intelligent dropouts, drug addicts, and the mentally unstable, but, at the risk of repetition, not really what I’m getting at. I guess what makes this so hard for me is just how much of a damn I give. I’m always stressing out about things I need to do, and the little voice inside my head that’s freakishly insistent upon screaming out my flaws within the echo chamber of my skull spends every bus ride out to work making me feel like today will be the day that I will be let go. It’s not that I am negligent, or that I actually believe that I will be let go for anything approaching a valid reason. Of course, I’m still in my first 90 days, and employed in a “right-to-work” state, so there doesn’t have to be a reason. Maybe Bad Leon is right: perhaps I am a bad person.

Or it could be that I simply need to start back up on my medication. I keep saying that as long as I am not doing anything that requires creativity or inspiration, I might as well get my noggin back under control. Of course, my ability to think on my feet, and troubleshoot the worst catastrophes is a direct result of the way I’m drawn to harming myself psychologically. Anyone who’s capable of spending hours a day thinking up all the ways that he could irrevocably screw things up, is also capable of seeing the early warning signs of something which is about to hit the fan, and take action to prevent it, or at least ride the tsunami of excrement and minimize the damage along the way. Now that we’re a month into full operations, the plethora of variables have been winnowed away, and I’m starting to get a better handle on preventative worrying. I’ve seen how shifts run, and I’ve begun to identify the [I cannot use this word, for fear of its misinterpretation] in our armor. It’s a process. And of course, all this last paragraph has done has undermine the point I’d been trying to make about the benefits of being healthy.

I suppose that I could probably be fine if I took measures to ensure my health. I mean, it’s not like other people haven’t taken care of themselves before. And now we’re back to the major point, the reason why those suffering from mental illness almost pathologically refuse to take their medication: the feeling that, for all the reasonable benefits of getting one’s head on straight, the nagging doubt about that action’s worth. I know that I could probably do the normal stuff in my life much, much better if I got back on the Lithium. Hell, I’d probably even start to be a better dad: calmer, less likely to fly off the handle, more… stable. They say that kids need… crave… stability, right? I’d probably even be a better husband, without random days and weeks of inspiration sending me off to battle windmills instead of just buckling down and dedicating myself to the team that my wife and I have legally signed off upon. I mean, there are literally so many reasons to do it, and there are only two reasons not to. The first, and most practical, is that there seem to be ridiculously difficult-to-navigate hoops between myself and my medication. I could understand if there was a possibility that I might get high, or something similar, but I’m only looking to get back on Lithium, which is a damned element. Maybe I should just start sucking on a battery.

The second has no bearing on reality, and seems unbelievably petty and selfish: It makes me so damned boring that I cannot, even now, bear to contemplate it. Sure, I might not be a barrel of laughs, but at least I’m interesting. I’d like to imagine that whether they love or hate me, that people will at least remember me. Maybe that’s why I write. I know that my time drawing breath is, by necessity, limited (though it does tend to drag on a bit), but my words have the potential to preserve the most perfect aspects of myself for as long as they can be read. They will not feel pain, nor the weight of weariness, but will stand in steady testament to those times when I was able to surpass myself, and contribute something of beauty to the world. And then there’s the ego, which insists that I am worth remembering. And the hole in the shape of my self-esteem which assures me that I’m not. I should probably talk to a professional. I think that I am finally ready to seek a professional opinion without harboring the fear (or desire) to rip that person down over a perceived slight, or to simply show off how much more clever I am than the person who I am paying to wade through my issues. It almost feels that I am gradually approaching adulthood, but I know better. I know the steps I need to take, but I refuse to do anything about it because I don’t want to. As bad as it may ever get, I am terrified of losing who I am, and what that means for the tale I’ve told myself regarding the meaning of my life.

State Of Batmart

For those of you who have been worrying about what appears to be my deteriorating state of mind, please put yourselves at ease. I’ve gone through all of this before, and will probably go through it all again, and it feels like maybe this ride is coming to an end for now. Like a tender ankle, I’m trying not to put my full weight upon my… well, that metaphor didn’t go as well as I might have liked. Let’s just say that I am tentatively optimistic that my psyche is on the mend, but I’m not going to commit to smiles and rainbows just yet. But I will say that when I woke up, I actually remained conscious for some time before going back to sleep, and when I got up for real, a couple of hours later, I wasn’t in excruciating pain, be it psychological or physical. I mean, my muscles were a bit sore, but nothing like the pain I’ve been feeling for the past several weeks. And I when I went back to sleep for my early morning nap, it was because I couldn’t sleep last night and was exhausted, as opposed to seeking solace in the nothingness of dreams. Again, it may not seem like a huge improvement, with the behavior remaining the same, but the motivations behind the actions are slightly more benevolent this time around.

It’s strange, but what I really think has been getting to me is the loneliness. Don’t get me wrong: I still even can’t stand the notion of other people, but I do miss seeing and speaking with my friends. Sometimes I forget just how much my friends mean to me. Most of the time, I prefer to be alone, thinking deep things and feeling the seductive torture of debilitating misery. Even now, when given the opportunity to spend time with people whom I have befriended in California, I usually find some reason or another not to go. To be fair, they don’t know me nearly as well as my friends who’ve known me since before I was Tex Batmart. Mostly, I just talk to Bad Leon Suave, though that seems moderately unfair to him. Then again, we have known each other for nearly thirty years, and I’ve done my share of therapy sessions with him, so I suppose that it all balances out. But even then, there is only so much that Mr. Suave can do. I don’t know what makes me think that I could survive living in a cave somewhere, no matter how attractive the idea has become.

But then I’ll post something on Facebook, something random and personal, and I see the names of friends from long ago joining together to let me know that I am still in their thoughts. I know that we have all gone our separate ways, and most of us have families and other grownup things to concern ourselves with, but there are times when I wish that I could get us all together so that we could engage uncomfortably in small talk for a while, and then find excuses to leave early. It’s probably not that bad, I realize. We’d probably talk about what’s new, retell some of the old tales of glory, and then proceed to get blind drunk, depending on how late we could afford to pay the babysitters. I suppose that I could just call some people up, but I just can’t get over how much of a failure I feel that I’ve become. I don’t mind letting Bad Leon in, but that’s only because we were in Cub Scouts together, and therefore the bar has been lowered for our standard interactions. And while I’d like to think that I would enjoy it if my friends were one day to call, I don’t know that I would even pick up the phone (I also wonder how long that phrase will survive in a world where a phone is answered by pushing a button, and has nothing to do with a handset and base).

I can see how it might appear that I am begging for my friends to call, or visit, or track me down and force a hug upon me. Please don’t. Well, I mean, if you really want to fly out here and embrace me, I guess that’s okay, but I can’t promise that I’ll answer the phone if you would rather call. Wow, that seems pretty messed up, even to me. The hermit proclaims his loneliness and sense of isolation, and then tells people that he’d probably rather be alone. It’s no wonder that I’m alone. That kind of nonsense is rather frustrating. And there’s the little matter of my wife and children. I don’t suppose that I am truly alone, but it still kind of feels that way sometimes. My wife has an entire life of her own, and her own problems to worry about, and my son is almost eight, and for all intents and purposes, completely devoid of functional empathy (idea for band name: Functional Empathy and the Infinite Bummers).

Okay, it appears that I was right: It looks like I’m not completely out of the woods quite yet. At least I can find the humor in my situation. I have the family which I wanted, am doing what I’ve always wanted to (though at a wage which is, generously, unsustainable), and what am I going on about? Feeling lonely. Oh well, I suppose that for my next trick I will look around at all the crap I have and decide that I am bored. Or look through the dresser and decide that I don’t really want to put on pants. Wait… strike that last example.

I guess what I’ve been rambling on toward, and yet manage to fail to reach, is this feeling of gratitude within me which I feel for those who I have been lucky enough to call my friends. Thank you for being there when I have needed you, whether I knew it or not. You have helped to ease my suffering, and for that, I am eternally grateful (well, grateful at least as long as I remain alive). Thank you.

The End Of All Things

Time is marching ever on, and I am left here to wonder if this is all there is. My son is set to finish with the Second Grade in just about one month, and my granddaughter should be born within the week. I have no choice but to end my sabbatical sometime in the very near future, if just to pay the bills, and the adult kids may or may not be moving out. It’s strange: for a man who is terrified of change down to his very core, I seem to be taking all of this with a surprisingly calm demeanor, as if I am squarely centered in the eye of all this chaos, able to witness it unfold with reckless beauty and untold power, yet protected from it due to my sheer, dumb luck of having nestled myself safely ‘gainst its breast. At the end of it all, I will climb out of the wreckage of my life, brush off the dust, and shield my eyes from the summer sun as I move ever onward.

But for everything that’s set to change, it’s also strange how everything seems to be staying in place. I can feel the weight of waiting weighing down upon me, and I just want to know how I’m going to manage to pull off another miracle. I had a small glimmer of hope the other day when my sister-in-law, Valentina, became the first person to support The Cause through the “Donate” button on my page. It’s not enough to keep the dream going at full speed, but it might be enough to keep the dream alive. When I finish this post, I’ll be going through Terracrats with a fine-tooth comb, looking it over a final time before I get it ready for sale on Amazon. And I also need to finish up the first Quarterly Edition of The Vaults of Uncle Walt (which, as I recall, stalled out somewhere toward the month of February). I know that there will be a waiting period before I’ll see any money from either of those, but at least I will be able to say that I’ve made some money doing something which I love.

I will also be starting work on The Novel, which I had been able to put off for the past couple of years, but which seems ready to begin the process of actually existing outside of my mind. Of course, this is still entirely academic. I need to figure out how to pump some cash into my life while I’m waiting for my words to starting pulling their own weight. But I am going to be the Little Writer That Could. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. And so on. Every single time in my life when I have had the opportunity to try and make this happen, I have always found a reason to shy away, whether it was a nervous breakdown, or that I was living in the woods behind the local Safeway, or that I simply had to have something to eat that week. I know that I’ve gone about this all wrong, and that I should have been more cautious in my life decisions. Except that when I’m cautious, I never take any chances, which means that I keep shoving the words within me down a little deeper, doing my best to suffocate my hopes and dreams before they break my heart. Almost thirty years I’ve had to get this done, and for all of that time, all of those dreams, I haven’t made it happen. That has got to change.

My greatest obstacle, of course, in none other than myself. Better than any imaginable archenemy, I know exactly how to foil my best laid plans so that they yield only ruination. It’s funny: I was talking to Wildflower as we were walking home (the Minkey and I met her at work and then walked back with her), and she was telling me that sometimes it is hard for her to see that anything is actually wrong inside me. That is, for me, the worst part of mental illness. From the outside, it just looks like someone is lazy, and all they need to get going is a swift kick to the posterior. I mean, if I can still crack a joke or two, and actually get out of bed, then why can’t I bear to face a stranger for a shitty cashier job? Well, let me let you in on a little secret, one which makes me grateful that I am not seeking to impress any members of the opposite sex:

I’m not taking care of myself. Ooh, big surprise, I know. But I’m talking about the basic things: showers, brushing teeth, changing my pair of jeans. Now, it’s not as gross as it might appear, as I do change my underwear, socks, and t-shirts daily. But the background level of apathy is so high, that I just don’t give enough of a crap about myself to actually make any of the most basic bits of care seem worth the time and effort. This isn’t because I am lazy, or that I cannot get out of bed (although that has happened once or twice), it’s just that I do not see the point. It’s difficult to see the sickness which hides behind a carefully constructed façade of jokes and misdirection. I do my best to make people laugh so that they won’t think to judge me for my failings. And I’ve learned to make myself laugh because I know that it’s better than collapsing into a pile of booger-streaming tears. Well, that, and I know that if it’s especially painful, it will make the most amusing anecdote in four or five years, so why not tell it now, and find the humor in it?

I just have to keep reminding myself that I can do this. I just wish that I believed me…

Don’t forget to come back this evening for my long-awaited review of Girlfiend’s E.P., Comrade Isodora Duncan. It will be up at 6 o’clock Pacific.

Stiff Upper Lip

I don’t want to give you the wrong idea, and make you think that I am feeling better, but I’m no longer looking at oncoming traffic with a sense of longing in my eyes. Of course, to look at traffic, one would actually have to go outside, so I don’t know how positive a development it really is. I seem to have found a handful of minutes when the crushing weight of sadness seems to have taken the time to smoke a cigarette outside my door. I would have thought that after decades of dealing with this, it would have gotten at least a little easier, but the only thing that I seem to have learned how to do is see when the melancholia is coming, so that I can wait for it with a growing sense of dread. There’s nothing quite like staring down the barrel of your imminent self-destruction while strapped into an office chair which has been kicked down a hallway directly toward your doom. At least I know what’s going on now. When I was a kid, it felt like the world suddenly became a dark and distant place, and I couldn’t even think about what might have been causing it.

It’s difficult to know what’s been a normal reaction to the impossibility of the situation in which I have placed myself, and what is just the expected dysfunction of my self-perception. I’d like to believe that it was all in my head, and that things weren’t so bad as they appeared to be, but there’s also a decent chance that I may have backed myself into a corner, and this current break with reality is simply my brain’s way of coping with the spectacular mess that I have made of things. It’s been a hell of a ride, though. Aside from those times when I feel like I am drowning in a world without a single drop of water, I have no regrets about the choices I have made. It merely appears that I have run out of time, because I do not know how to do things any faster. But I’ve managed to realize (at least, partially) a dream that I have had for nearly thirty years. And if someone can look through these ramblings tinged with madness, and find some measure of comfort in them, feel that they are not alone in what they feel. Maybe someone will see these words, and come to understand what’s going on with someone whom they love.

Seven Hours Later…

It’s perhaps a measure of arrogance to think that I could change or help the world. I mean, I can’t even figure out how to be a good dad; how am I supposed to help people I care even less about? Maybe it’s easier to care about someone in the abstract, kind of like reverse racism. If you never get to know someone, become intimately familiar with all their flaws, maybe it’s easier to believe the best about them. I suppose, then, that I’ve blown all chance of that with all of you over these past five months. But at least maybe someday my son can look back at these words, either because I have, against all odds, become successful, or perhaps because I have long since passed away and he is looking for answers as to why. I guess that means that I should get back to work on the quarterly versions of this blog, as I don’t know for how long after I expire that I will be able to maintain this site. Unless Fed or Bad Leon Suave decide to keep it up and running, as some sort of digital memorial to me.

Okay, enough of the morbid thoughts and dreams. I took a break of several hours precisely because I wanted to avoid another 1,000 words of sheer mopery.  I’ve been trying to think of funny ways to describe all of this nonsense, but the best I seem to be able to manage is a bitter chuckle here and there, mostly at my own expense, and for my own… well, for lack of a better word. amusement. I really am kind of done with wanting to ever feel like this again. I used to almost relish when the darkness came. Of course, that was in my teens and early twenties, when being dark and brooding was a surefire way to attract the ladies. Except that it never really did. But it became so comfortable, the twisting agony of anguish. Now I’m just irritated because I have better things to do. I want to be writing, both on the novel and here on the blog, and for the blog, I don’t want to simply be rehashing the same old miseries time and time again. I would much prefer to go on rants once more about iniquities and things that piss me off.

I know that all of this will pass. It has every other time, so I don’t know why this should be any exception. If it weren’t for that damnable clock which keeps on ticking in the background, I think that it might not even seem so bad. I suppose the one upside to all of this is that it feels like for the first time in our nine years together, my wife finally seems to be taking all of this seriously. I don’t mean to sound critical; if you haven’t really gone through something like this, it’s pretty hard to wrap your head around. Before, she just wanted me to “get over it,” and that was that. This time, however, I feel like she can really see that something’s wrong, and, though there’s not much that she can do, she truly wants to help. Of course, it could just be that she wants to help make me well again so that she can lay the smack down on a moving target (otherwise it’s probably just not as fun). Like when you send a Death Row inmate to the infirmary just days before you’re scheduled to execute him.

No, but my wife has actually been amazing this past week, and I honestly don’t know what I would have done all of these past years without her. I guess now that it’s just a matter of trying on a stiff upper lip, and attempting to face the world again. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Depression: Apathy and Appetizers

Welcome to the world of muddled thoughts, where everything is just a little darker than it was just moments before. I seem to have built up enough self-recrimination to nudge myself into action, so I’m going to try to describe the hellish landscape within my mind. If it was up to me, I think that I might prefer to write about things which made me happy, or things which are important, but the only thing that I can see right now is the magnitude of this depressive wave, and how it feels like I am being carried out to see. There must be a small break in the action, however, as I managed to stick with just one metaphor for an entire sentence. And I’m sorry if this seems a little disjointed- I feel like I screaming out tiny whispers through the cracks in my prison wall between the routine patrols of the prison guards who would seek to keep me quiet. And here you thought I would be writing something funny. I know that this isn’t really a good example of what I think that my writing should be, but I also feel that it’s important to remind myself of how it feels when I cannot bear to feel things anymore.

It always seems that for every victory I achieve, I am dealt a crushing defeat. I managed to write more last week than I thought I would be able, and this week I cannot even bear to face my daily blog. Hell, I was reduced to putting down my hat and begging for handouts because the outside world just terrifies me right now. Not that it matters: no one has called back about the résumés I’ve left. The time has most likely come that I should go and see someone about this swirling jumble of nonsense in the ethers of my brain. It’s one thing to carry on a one-sided therapy session with the internet, but without someone asking me how all this nonsense makes me feel, it’s hard to make any forward progress. And I’ve managed to isolate myself from human contact outside my home, though my wife has been amazingly supportive of me during these past few days, and I don’t know what to make of that. I guess I just need some telephonic hugs from people who matter to me (not that I think that I would actually answer the phone if they were to call).

I am afraid to talk to them because I don’t want them to know just how much this is affecting me. I mean, they read the blog, but it’s different when I cannot pause and just collect my thoughts to make myself appear to be a little bit more normal (I’m coming off as normal, right?). The truth is that I want to just slap myself and yell at myself to just pull myself together, and get over it, which, if you have been paying attention, is about the worst thing that you can do to someone who suffers from depression. I guess I’ve just been living with this for so long that even have run out of patience. I cannot even begin to imagine what all of you in the mists of the interwebz are thinking. Hey, wasn’t he funnier before? Didn’t he at least think that he was funnier before? Is he going to write about anything else, ’cause I’m kind of tired of reading about Captain Mopey and Bummers. I mean, I get it: he’s depressed. But does he have to whinge on about it so much? Is he just making this all up so that he doesn’t have to try and find a job?

Okay, that last one was me. Sometimes I worry that all of this is just something in my head. And then I laugh a bitter little laugh, because obviously it is. It’s like when my doctor postulated that my pain might be in my head (well, until the physical therapist discovered that I apparently did not possess the capability to relax, and realized that a majority of my discomfort was brought about by tension in my muscles). I wanted to mention that all pain is in people’s heads. It’s all just electrochemical signals flowing back and forth between the body and the brain, and that the reason that chili peppers are painful is that our brains are stupid at so very many things. I kept that to myself though, because getting philosophical with medical professionals only seems to relieve my psychic pain, while my legs and back remain untreated. I just wish that I wasn’t so functional. I mean, here I am, crippled by… all of this… and I’m focused on the times when I have actually been able to hold down a steady job, sometimes for years at time. Of course, of you were to go through my files, you’d probably find mentions of some spectacularly poor decisions and reprimands for… things which seemed the only course of action at the time.

I am a quick learner. I am willing to literally and figuratively kill myself for the benefit of my employer (the literal part refers to a cumulative effect of all of the little ways in which I neglect my well-being). I have shown time and again that I will put my job first, and let my family have what few scraps remain. Isn’t that why I quit in the first place? Didn’t I want to show my son that there was a better way? Good job, Dad! Way to show him all of the benefits of financial ruin, destitution, and applied homelessness. I know that this will pass, one way or another. I know that I’m just lost here in an echo chamber of mortal misery. I have to believe that things will be better. They have been before, and who am I to argue statistics? I just wish that there was some sort of button which I could press to simply make all of this… nonsense… go away. Never mind that I’ve tried that before, and I wound up more miserable than when I was my normal, charming self.

I’m going to try to get some work done on my review of Girlfiend’s EP, Comrade Isodora DuncanAs always, thanks for listening.

Mental Health: Nervous Breakdancing

Mental Health Week is upon us, and I figured that I should check in with everyone. In the years since I was first diagnosed with Manic Depression, back when it was still called Manic Depression, I have seen a general decrease in the stigma surrounding mental illness. At least, until the issue of gun control becomes involved, or the police decide that they just don’t feel like putting up with it that day. But at least it’s not something which must be swept under the rug, and hidden deep within the family histories. I’m cynical enough to think that maybe this drive toward understanding was not brought about by the goodness of mankind, but rather that pharmaceutical companies finally had a way to make a fortune off of those of us who had to battle the demons in our mind. And they couldn’t run all those massive ad campaigns if depression was something that nobody could talk about. And now I’ve got a bitter taste in my mouth, forced to admit to myself that maybe The Free Market might have been good for something. Well, I suppose that even evil can wind up doing some measure of good from time to time, if only by sheer accident.

I’ve never gotten a chance to meet my dad, and it looks like I probably never will. I’ve had to piece together the family history of mental illness from anecdotes from people who knew that side of my family, and the reaction from my father when I tried to contact him. My father’s brother, who lives and teaches in Japan, comes back to Idaho every year to check up on his brother and take care of other family things. He was the one who found and read my letter, and got in touch with me. He told me that my father was wrapped up in depression, and suffering from a heart condition. And damn it, if my dad didn’t see that letter exactly as I would have seen it. He kept off to the side, terrified to open it, and then indignant when it was read to him. He blames my mother for a comment she made in passing, and it would take a paternity test, which I would have to pay for, to convince him that I am his son. Part of me wants to just do it, so that I can throw the results in his face, and sit down and talk to him. That’s the part of me that needs to know absolutely everything so that I can try to prepare for when my son displays the signs of what I’m beginning to believe is direct line heredity of mental instability.

My son, the Minkey. The school believes that he’s got ADHD, and so does his doctor. Well, his last doctor did, his current doctor isn’t entirely convinced. The type of pills he takes have also had the same effect on me when I… sampled them a couple of decades ago, and I do not suffer from ADHD. Maybe I’m just looking for something that isn’t there; I wouldn’t put it past me. But from the stories which I’ve been told, both of my father as an adult, and myself at my son’s age, it seems that it will only be a matter of time before my son will face the same challenges which I was forced to face. The only advantage which my son possesses is that his father has been through it all before. I wish I thought that it would matter, though. I’ve never really found a good answer to the melancholia. But at least I will be able to know what’s going on with him, and I can try to help him cope in a less self-destructive manner than I chose for myself. Maybe that will help him feel slightly less alone. That is, if I make it long enough.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for me. It’s hard to tell what’s a product of the swirling ups and downs, and what’s a normal reaction to the situation that I’m in. All I know for sure, is that I don’t know what to do. No one is calling back about the résumés I’ve left. I’ve been questioning my choice to jump back into writing, foregoing a steady paycheck (or any paycheck). But then I look at what I’ve managed to accomplish, and I know that I made the right decision. I’ve written more over the past five months than at any other point during the past twenty-eight years. I’m better than I ever was, though after rewriting Terracrats, I’m not sure how impressive that statement might be. Last night, when I couldn’t get to sleep, I finally figured out how to structure the novel which I’ve been working out inside my head for the past couple of years. But it’s all come too late. I’ve run out of time, and I don’t know what to do.

Normally, when backed into this type of corner, my instinct is to curl into a little ball and try to build up the courage to finally end it all. I’ll be honest with all of you: Last night, after I’d had my revelation about the book, and then realized that I’d figured it out too late, I locked myself in my bathroom, and… considered certain things. I don’t know what it was that stopped me. I don’t know what’s keeping me from sinking into the soothing madness of a nervous breakdown. I’d like to think that I’ve discovered some secret source of strength within myself, but I think it’s just that I’m a coward. I’m afraid to leave the things I feel I need to do undone. I don’t want all of this to have been for nothing. I just don’t know if I’ve still got the strength to see things through until the very end. What’s worse is when I open up to Flor, trying to find some comfort in her love for me, and she tells me that I cannot go because of David, Cream Soda, and the granddaughter who’ll be born any day now. As she hurls those words against me, I feel the weight of all those years upon me, and I feel that I cannot stand it anymore.

Why do they need me? Why did I give into the loneliness, and drag someone down with me? Why did I bring a life into this world who will most likely face the same things to which I still have never found an answer? What gives me the right to make them suffer with me? Why even bother dragging everything out like this? I’m nervous breakdancing all around inside my head, and I’m trying to find my equilibrium. I know that if I can just stick it out a little longer, that everything will soon seem better. I know that all of this is only in my head. Also, why does it feel like August?

Thanks for bearing with me.