Thursday, November 16, 2017


I'm thinking I'll take this up again. A lot has changed with me and a lot has remained the same. You can expect the same incoherent, navel gazing posts as before. Right now I'm just doing some housecleaning; this post is mostly just a test to make sure that everything looks ok. If you happen to notice any problems or have any suggestions for future posts, please let me know.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Following up...

This isn't a real post, just a follow up on the last one. That post was incredibly cathartic for me. Writing it was the last time I wept uncontrollably over the situation. I've squished out a few tears since but nothing like before. Clearly, I was angry at my wife over the situation and I still think that we had other options. But, that's in the past and I have to balance that against everything else. Dan Savage, who I think is incredibly wise in these things, talks about the price of admission. That is those things about your mate that you overlook or just get past in order to maintain the relationship. This has to be one of those for me. I'm not an easy person. But, I've found a person who is easy with me. I need to accept this price of admission. Actually, things have improved for me since I posted that last entry. Like I said, it was cathartic for me. My relationship with my wife has improved and I feel our bond is strengthening. Death happens. Life sucks.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Death and falling stars

I recently lost a close friend. Literally, as I typed that, a huge, fast burning, falling star appeared before me. I literally mean literally.

Let me tell you where I am as I write this. I’m in a suite – they keep calling it condo but, I’m pretty sure it’s a suite – on the beach in Destin, Florida. I’m on the balcony, smoking a rare cigar which I’m pretty sure is against the rules, listening to the surf. It’s just 5am and I’m recently awake. The sky is still dark so, instead of the gorgeous beach scene that I’m expecting any minute now, I’ve got the Milky Way which, is as good or better than most any terrestrial scene you can serve up.

I should be more content just now than I ever am. But, that’s not my MO. Looking back on life, thinking about some of the incredible things I’ve seen and experiences I’ve had, I know that at every moment I was always too much in my head. Look at me now. It only too me two an a half paragraphs to see a stunning falling star and then climb right back up my own ass.

I slept on the coach last night. When I went to climb into bed, after washing a good cry off my face, I found my wife on my side of the bed. Now, I’m not a dictator about things like this but, I’m also an extremely flawed man who has trouble dealing with change.

Oh, I said, I didn’t know we were switching sides, as I gathered my night-time things from the nightstand next to her head. She looked at me silently.

A sit-com rerun was on the TV so I tried to settle into that. No luck. I squirmed and flopped for about 30 minutes while she fell into a dead sleep.

I tried to sneak out without waking her. At the last moment she groggily asked what I was doing. Did I want her to sleep elsewhere? No. Okay.

Earlier last night, over dinner, her son asked why we had put the cat down. Her son, who is successfully carving out a career for himself in the Army, is treating us to this weekend. It’s my birthday now and hers in a week. It’s a sweet gesture that I don’t think he fully understands as his wife has been gently explaining the whole experience to him every step of the way.

My wife explained how Desi, a lifetime indoor cat, got fleas a few months ago. How? She’s not sure. (I brought fleas home from a temporary, outdoor job I had to take working with plants.) We tried and tried to get rid of them but nothing we tried seemed to work. The cat became more and more upset with the situation and stopped using his litter box. She decided the night that he peed in her gym bag, that he had to be put down. There was just no other choice.

His sister, Lucy, died a few years ago. She developed some sort of strangulation in her intestines and couldn’t eat. It was far too expensive and uncertain to risk surgery; she had to be euthanized. It was too much for me to take Lucy to the vet that day so my wife did. Later, she told me that she couldn’t bare go with her into the room so Lucy died scared, confused, and alone in the arms of a man she’d never seen before. It broke my heart.

I vowed that when it came Desi’s turn, I wouldn’t let that happen.

It wasn’t Desi’s turn. There were still a couple of options that we could try. They would take time and patience and more cleaning supplies but I wanted to try. My wife didn’t. She was mad at him for peeing in her gym bag and was certain that he planned to ruin our couch, next. She woke me up in the middle of the night and told me that I had to take him to be put down the next day.

I explained the options we still had, she wasn’t interested. We argued. I pleaded for more time but, she said that if I didn’t do it the next day she would do it in three days. Three days wasn’t enough time for the other options to start working so, I knew that if I didn’t do it, she would send him back to the death room, alone like Lucy.

So, I got out of bed and went upstairs to the living room. I made a bed on the couch and Desi, as he usually did when I lay on my back, came and curled up on my chest. We slept like that. Then, the next day, I killed him.

As he lay on that steel table, being held down by me and one of the nurses, or whatever they are in a vet’s clinic, I scratched him in all his favorite places and bawled. I kept saying, Desi, my love, a thing I used to say all the time, and I’m so sorry, a thing I’d rarely had to say to him before.

He craned his neck around, looking at the room and trying to understand what was going on. Finally, he found my face and stared in my eyes while the needle went in and he quickly drifted away.

That was well over a month ago and I’m still not close to being over it. I thought I was until last night when I heard the situation described so breezily. It was all I could do to keep from bawling uncontrollably right there at the table in the highly recommended seafood joint that the daughter in law so carefully picked out for us.

I’m aware of the thing with pets and I hope and believe that most of you have stopped reading this by now. No one really wants to hear about the death of another’s pet. Desi wasn’t a special cat to the rest of the world. He only knew about five people and, as far as I know, only two have cried at his death, my wife and me.

My problem is, I don’t know how to get around this. I thought I was getting there but I’m not. I can’t forgive her for forcing the situation and I can’t forgive myself for allowing her to do so. I didn’t get up and move to the couch last night because I was on the wrong side of the bed. I got up and moved to the couch because, since Desi’s death, I haven’t been able to sleep in the same bed as her without chemical assistance.

I want to recover from this. I don’t know how.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Trying it the Nerdist Way

I've been away. Long time readers will know that I do that. I won't make any promises that I'm back to updating regularly. But, for now, here's a post.

So, my life has continued to crumble. Just when I think I can't mess things up any worse than they already are, I find another thing to ruin. I'm still married. I'm stunned that my wife puts up with me but she does. I am so not the person that I was when we met but, I can still make her laugh and I suppose that's something. Oh, and there's all that love and commitment stuff...

My book deal, the thing that defined and sustained me for quite a few months, fell through. It was mostly my fault; it was like I set myself up to fail in horrible slow motion just so I could watch the train wreck frame by frame. There were a few contributing factors that were beyond my control. I haven't really given the whole situation a good, hard study and I probably never will. Chances are I just used those factors as excuses. Anyway, I now owe the publisher my advance back so, yippee!, more debt.

Finances are a huge problem for me at the moment. When the book deal collapsed, I started looking for work in earnest. I had been casually dipping my toe in the job pool before then but, when it all came down in December, I cranked up my job hunting dial to eleven. Even so, it took me until the end of April to land a job. It's seasonal work and ends in June. Luckily, I found another job that I start in a week so that's something. Still things are eye-ball poppingly tight and everything feels like an upstairs stumble to the next payday. Plus, this is not where I was supposed to be at this point in life.

I'm still writing. Financial desperation makes it difficult to keep a positive voice. Magazines have stopped buying my work. No doubt the editors can smell my desperation in my pitches. I've still got my regular online gigs which pay pretty well. The jobs I took, both the seasonal and the new one, are part-time so I've been able to keep up. So, I'm hoping that in a month or two my finances will be back in shape and my writing won't stink quite as much.

Which brings me to the title of this post. I'm reading my first self-help book. It's called The Nerdist Way. I didn't set out to find a self-help book as most of them seem like hooey to me. I came to it simply because I'm a fan of the author, Chris Hardwick. As you may have guessed, he is a self proclaimed nerd and one of the guys out in front of the nerds-are-cool movement. I'm pretty nerdy myself - I know, shocker, right? - and am pretty tuned into most of what he talks and writes about. In many ways he's like me except successful. So, when I learned about his book I thought I'd give it a try.

It's pretty good. I'm only a few chapters in but I have to admit that I'm feeling a little inspired. The book isn't about depression; it's about embracing our nerdly qualities to succeed in life. And I could do with a little success just now as it seems like everything in my life is covered in an oily, black sludge of depression.

It's going to be a long and horrible road up out of this pit. I don't know if I can do it but, with the new job and a bit of nudging from Hardwick, maybe I can turn this train wreck around. (I realize the metaphor makes no sense whatsoever but just roll with it, okay?)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lame update with a quote...

It's been a while since I said anything. Things have not been good for me personally or professionally but I'm surviving. I have no patience for people whining about their life's circumstances so I won't bore you with mine.

So, here's a quote I stumbled upon:
"You can accept or reject the way you are treated by other people. But until you heal the wounds of your past, you will continue to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex, but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life. You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside, pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past, the memories, and make peace with them." ~ Iyanla Vanzant

I don't know if I can do that but it sounds pretty good.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Folic fail

I finished off my fourth bottle of the mmthff-whatever a couple of days ago. Apart from the first week which I chalk up to a placebo effect, I saw no change over the many weeks while I took it. This doesn't mean that it doesn't work for anybody, JL and Melanie have clearly benefited from the stuff. It just happens to be that I don't.

So, what now? A reader asked that question back when I started trying the folic solution and I didn't have an answer. I still don't. Maybe I'll look into JL's meditation. Maybe I'll give walking another try. Or, most likely, I'll just sit here and keep self-medicating with booze. I really wish I could afford a therapist.


My father in law visited yesterday. He lives 1100 miles away so it's kind of a big deal when he stops in. On the other hand, we see him two or three times a year so it's kind of not a big deal. Anyway, we had lunch at a BBQ place downtown. I live in an old river town on the Mississippi. Downtown is right on the river and is bisected by a railroad. After we were done eating, we sat around and chatted. I quite like this restaurant and even have a bit of a history with it but, yesterday they were blasting the worst of the '70's and '80's so, after a while, I just had to get out of there.

I left and wandered out in the street, aiming to sit on a quiet park bench near the railroad tracks. As if on cue, a train came screaming up on me. I couldn't sit through that so I stood up, as if in some sort of respect. After the engine passed with it's blasting horn, I was confronted with what seemed to be miles and miles of train cars rumbling past with horrible, magnificent noise. I could only stand and watch.

I wondered how hard it would be to time it to dive under the cars, between the wheels, and put my head on the tracks for a quick and, mostly, painless death. I watched a rusty old car come rumbling up to me as it swayed back and forth on it's unstable wheels and secretly hoped that it would tumble over and take me. In short, I had one of the more suicidal moments that I've had for some time. And, I must say, it was a bit refreshing. I actually feel better now for having had it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Living with depression

This is something I really haven’t given much thought to. If you were to look back at this blog, which constitutes pretty much all my thinkin about depression since I started it, you’d probably find that around 75% of it are posts featuring me whining about my self-diagnosed chronic depression, around 20% about one or another alternative cure I’ve considered, 5% about miscellaneous stuff, and the remaining 37% about how bad I am at math. But, actually coping with depression, living day after day with this dark companion, is something that I’ve avoided altogether both in my head and on this blog, at least as an explicit topic of conversation. I’ve been so concerned about how much it sucks and how great it will be when I get over it that I’ve missed the obvious. To quote Jack Nicholson’s line, “What if this is as good as it gets?” What then? How have I coped and survived until now and how will I continue to do so?

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a teenager in Australia. Let’s call him Tom. He is also depressed. It appears to be chronic and he’s getting help. He’s not hiding it and, under the Australian health-care system, he has access to real help. So good so far, right? He emailed me because he felt that I, being someone more than twice his age with roughly the same set of problems, could provide some insight that the best of his counselors haven’t so far. To paraphrase because I didn’t ask permission to quote him, he basically had two questions based on the single premise that, since he seems to be stuck with this depression thing for life: 1) Is it really worth it to go on? 2) If so, then how does he cope with it because all the meds and counseling in the world, though they can help, might never make it really go away.

I didn’t ask his permission because I didn’t know if I would respond at all. I’m still not sure, as I type this sentence, if I can come up with something worth saying. I’ve been pretty flummoxed since I got his email. Given that I’ve never really considered question 2, it gave me a lot to think about. How have I coped? Do I really know or do I plod through the day, fearful of the alternative? I’m still not entirely sure.

Let’s tackle question 1 first. We’re talking about suicide although he never said it. It’s something to talk about. Most professionals and patients seem to treat suicide as the no-no, hush-hush alternative that we must never speak of or even allow ourselves to consider. I don’t really have a problem with it, I really don’t. Who’s to say that a person in a severe depressive episode is in any less pain than something who’s body is failing from a terminal disease. Your conclusion about whether or not someone in the latter situation should be given the ability to kill herself may be different from mine but, in the post-Kevorkian world, I think that we can all agree it’s something that should be considered and discussed. Ah, you say, depressive episodes pass and the person has the chance at life beyond it. True, but a life punctuated by random, unpredictable depressive episodes may be too much for one to deal with. Ultimately, the moral positions on suicide are not unlike abortion – they are too wrapped up in personal ethics, religious beliefs and societal mores for there to be a clear, universal answer. I believe it should be a personal choice. I do not consider someone who commits suicide to be immoral or even wrong. (The exception in my mind is when one commits suicide when he has obligations, financial or otherwise, to his friends or family. It is condemnable to leave behind someone to clean up the mess that he was too cowardly to clean up himself.)

But, none of that really addresses Tom’s question, does it? Is it worth it to go on? Here’s the answer that seems to have evolved in my life. Yes, for the most part, it’s worth it to go on. I have more good days than bad and, most of the time, I’m hopeful about the future. I’m also curious about the future; I really want to know how things will turn out. It seems a little silly to base my mortality on seeing the plot through but it works for me, somehow. I’m also damn scared of killing myself. At my lowest moments, the thing that kept me from doing the deed can only be described as pure cowardice. So, is it worth it to go on? As I said before, so far, for me, it beats the alternative.

Okay, then, on to Tom’s second question. How to cope with it? This is the bit that really stymied me. I really don’t know how I’ve coped. As I turned this question and the answers I could think of over in my head I began to realize that I was writing a commencement address – seek your happiness, be true to yourself, love your family, blah, blah, blah. Like I said, Tom’s a teenager and he’s set to graduate soon enough. I’ll leave the platitudes for the C-list actor who happened to graduate from Tom’s high-school and gives that speech the year he graduates.

So, I tried harder to come up with real answers. The thing about depression is that it is our problem. It is fairly well defined and we kind of have a list of things it does to us. However, everyone has problems, right? I heard of a study a few years ago that says that babies and toddlers feel the same level of anxiety over their little dramas as we adults do. It seems silly to consider that a missing toy leads to the same amount of stress as trying to figure out how to pay the utilities on a limited budget but, apparently, it does. My point is that I think humans tend to look for and focus on points of tension in our lives. We depressives are lucky in a twisted way in that we know the source of our tension and we sort of know what to expect from it. Other people with a different set of less definable problems are trying to deal with them as best as they can. I’m not sure if I’m making my point very clearly here or if I even really had one to begin with. Let’s move on.

As I’ve stumbled through life, I seem to have settled to two key points that guide me.

The first is to know your depression. This means that it’s important to learn when depression is making you feel a certain way or real life circumstances are. Rage, anxiety and sadness are all occasional symptoms of depression. They are also symptoms of the human experience. Whenever you feel extreme emotions, take a beat and try to identify if it’s a result of real life or some meaningless, internal storm. I’ve lost friends and alienated family members over not being able to tell the difference. Innocent comments can be misinterpreted when observed through a depressive filter and turned into insults.

My second best bit of advice is never blame your depression. I’m talking about both externally and internally. Externally is easy. Just don’t do it. Never use your depression as an excuse for your actions. If you are an ass to your best friend because you misinterpreted an innocent comment while you were having a particularly low day, don’t say you did it because you are a depressive. Your depression might have influenced you but final decision to lash out was yours. Apologize, hope he accepts it and move on. This isn’t to say that you never talk about your depression – your friends might be a great source of support for you - just don’t rely on it as an excuse for your bad actions.

More importantly, never tell yourself that you acted a certain way or made a bad decision because of your depression. Once again, depression might have influenced you but, ultimately, you are responsible for what you do. Blaming depression becomes a crutch, relieving you of all responsibility and that can become a vicious cycle: I’m even more depressed now because my life sucks because I made bad decisions because I was depressed at the time so now my decisions are going to be even worse and my life will suck all the more. Depression may be a part of who you are until the day you die but never let it define who you are.

I tried to avoid platitudes but that last sentence came dangerously close, didn’t it.

So, Tom, there’s my answer. I’m sorry it took so long but you really threw me on that one. You gave me a lot to think about and I hope I gave you a little insight, too. Best of luck, brother!

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