Wise Words

I’ve been sitting here all day figuring out the subject for my next vlog. I wanted to talk about what it’s like spending the majority of your life getting through traumatic events, dealing with depression and all the things which accompany it.

But I’m not ready yet, because I haven’t really started rehabilitating myself to the point where I can feel comfortable enough talking about it on camera.

Writing about it is one thing. Actually speaking about it is another beast entirely and I’m not there yet.

That said, I remembered this video tonight as I was compiling stuff for the vlog I am working on this weekend.

Ze Frank says it all a whole lot better than I can, and I freely admit that I go back to this whenever I need the reminder that things hopefully can and will get better. Tally Ho.

Bang Your Head

Bang IThis is most definitely not normal.

I’ve never told anyone this before, but since I was a teenager, I have had moments where I’ve reached a point of such exasperation, anxiety, and full-bore panic that I proceeded to either throttle myself, or worse, repetitively slam my head into something like a desk, the floor, or the wall.

I was in the booth last night, going through the laborious and repetitive task of recording the news, and in the span of 30 seconds I went from okay to slightly annoyed to repetitively driving my forehead into the desk until I had a welt so red it would make Mikhail Gorbachev cringe.

I don’t know why I do it. There’s nothing healthy or beneficial in trying to essentially knock one’s self into unconsciousness, but it only happens in moments where I feel like I screwed up, whether the error was completely trivial or not.

Mistakes are unacceptable. Not doing something right the first time is unacceptable. Being anything less than perfect is unacceptable.

These are the things that are always going through my mind the instant before I try to smash it into oblivion and when I get to that point, try as I want to…I can’t stop.

I know that has to sound ridiculous, but the best I can equate it to is the split-second before someone jumps out of an airplane or off a bridge with a bungee cord tied around their ankles.

“You know this just might kill us, right?” says the rational, logical part of your brain.

“Yep, and we’re doing it anyway,” says the part screaming in your ear to jump anyway.

Over the years I’ve seen no end of stories of people on the autism scale had to wear hockey helmets or other things to keep them from doing the same thing. I’ve never been tested for autism or Asperger’s, because neither I or anyone else thought it might be something I could have, so I can only speculate as to why I get the sudden and highly reflexive urge to lash out at myself in such a fashion.

All I know is that I do. I have for a long time…and it scares the hell out of me.

I woke up this morning with a hell of a headache and called my doctor’s office to see if he could help me out. When he asked me during my physical three weeks ago why I wanted to get a neurological exam, I explained part of it, but I didn’t tell him about this because I didn’t want to feel like any more of a freak than I usually do, already having depression and other things to deal with.

My appointment is still scheduled for the middle of June and I’m still hoping then I can get some actual answers.

Until then, I’m glad I have a decent supply of ibuprofen handy. I just hope I won’t need it again anytime soon.

Rage Phase

 

Boxing IFor the past five years now, I’ve found myself trying to channel all the anger and hostile emotions I’ve stored up my whole life into a 100-lb. bag hanging on a rack.

I haven’t kept count of how many punches I’ve thrown in that span, but conservatively, it’s got to be about 50,000 or so and as I sank against my basement wall again tonight, gasping for air and prying my hands out of my gloves, a realization struck me like a well- timed counterpunch.

That’s not enough. It’s not nearly enough punches to drain that reservoir of pure, unabashed rage which resides at the center of my being.

Despite my affection for boxing, I haven’t been in a proper fight since I was in middle school for the simplest of reasons.

I know it doesn’t look it, but at my core, I’m just not a violent person.

I never got any enjoyment in hurting anybody, but that never stopped me from getting hurt by other people in the process, both physically and emotionally.

My way of coping with all that, rather than redirecting it (which I’ve also done to my regret because I often just go off without much tact and become an absolute asshole, no matter how justified I might feel in doing so) I just swallowed it, refusing to think about it in the hopes it would just go away.

Only it hasn’t. It’s never gone away.

The only time I feel any measure of separation from it is after I’ve cranked a couple hundred punches out on the bag and even then, that separation’s fleeting at best.

Part of that, admittedly, is my own reluctance to let go of a lot of painful memories or experiences. There’s a lot of unresolved things with many people I am reluctant to confront. It’s far easier to just go down to my basement and use the bag as a proxy for the things I wish I could say instead.

I suppose if I don’t want to keep being so angry, then eventually I’m going to have to have those confrontations, as much as I don’t want to.

But after five years, I guess I expected to start feeling better. Unfortunately I don’t feel any different now than when I started. I’m still stuck in the rage phase when I should be moving on to the healing phase, or moving on in general.

Everyone else seems to have, from what I can tell.

Not the Average Writer’s Block

Success IA line from one of my favorite movies of the past 20 years, Finding Forrester, sums up my present conundrum quite well, I think.

“…we walk away from our dreams afraid that we may fail or worse yet, afraid that we may succeed.”

One of the things I planned to do this weekend was get back to work on revising and rewriting my novel, Terminal Offender, which I haven’t had a whole lot of time to do so far this year.

With said year approaching the halfway mark in a week’s time, I shudder to think that I’ve barely touched it when at this point last year, I was in the final weeks of completing the first draft after four months of sitting at my computer everyday, whether I was really in the mood or not, because I was both unemployed and highly motivated to get it done.

And I suppose that’s where things started to go a little awry.

With it done, I lobbied my friends for Alpha Readers who could take a look at it and offer me some pointers on what I needed to do in the second draft, knowing full well that the story needed a lot of work.

*Editorial Note: I may be a writer, which makes me inherently both narcissistic and extremely sensitive to even the most constructive criticisms, but I’m also not an idiot when it comes to recognizing that no writer’s ever gotten their first draft immediately published. Ever.

Only two people volunteered to look at my manuscript. Of those two, one couldn’t be bothered to finish it and we are now no longer friends on any level (for reasons far removed from the book).

More than 250 people I asked. Two participants with one bailing not even halfway through. Not exactly a good sign.

Any creative endeavor is also, at its heart, a collaborative one. Writers work with editors, proofreaders, publishers, illustrators and so on in creating the works they ultimately want other people to read and consume.

For reasons I’ve never really understood, when it comes to having those kind of connections, I’ve never been able to make them happen in any way that has helped me get my projects done. Either they decide they can’t be bothered or they bail halfway through, which leaves me having to continually going back to square one with the only person who seems really interested in bringing my ideas to fruition.

That person being me.

The person who is simultaneously horrified of being deemed a failure and of actually succeeding in anything, because in my experience, it’s almost always resulted in that success being marginalized, trivialized or otherwise written off as some bullshit fraud I’ve managed to pull on the unsuspecting masses.

The feeling I take away from being out on the proverbial island like this is that I don’t have any creative support system because to everyone who knows me, I’m not worth the time. My stories aren’t that good. My ideas are for shit, so why bother when there’s more important things to be doing?

Editorial Note #2: I know that observation is going to be cause for readers to get defensive and/or defiant. I can’t help with that other than to repeat that it’s an observation based on my feelings and perspective, not a criticism.

In the past few months, I’ve watched friends start Patreon campaigns, write novels that are going to soon be published, crank out low-budget B-movie scripts which are now being produced and filmed, create games they’ve been passionate about their whole lives, and perform in concerts, plays and otherwise work in all manner of the creative strata.

I’ve also watched them with an extreme amount of envy and vexation because they’re able to do something which I seemed incapable of for most of my adult life.

They ask for help and they get it, and I know that because in many of those cases, I have been helping them because they asked me to and I didn’t hesitate.

There’s a part of me that knows I am capable of getting this book done, while also acknowledging the fact that I cannot do that entirely on my own. Yes, I’m the one who has to write it, but I also acknowledge how immensely helpful it would be to have someone to bounce ideas off of, look over my work, or just even give me a smack upside the head when I’m mired in my omnipresent self-doubt or a kick in the ass when I’m not feeling motivated.

Call me crazy (trust me, you won’t be the first), but I don’t think I’m asking for a lot.

Solitaire

Jung II was fortunate enough to be given a four-day holiday weekend by my boss, thanks in part to all the long hours I’ve been putting in at the office over the last few weeks.

I’ve been trying to figure out what, if anything, I’m going to do with all that free time and so far, it hasn’t come to much. I went shopping for window screens for my apartment, vacuumed my living room, and played some video games.

A regular social butterfly…yep, that’s me.

I got asked recently if I’ve met anyone outside of work since I moved out to the desert last year. The short answer, of course, is no.

The long answer is that I haven’t met, befriended, socialized or otherwise interacted with another human being on both a platonic and non-platonic basis in nearly four years.

Not one.

That’s a long time, I know, but it’s also been both necessary and unavoidable.

At one point in my life, interacting with other people came a lot easier. I felt more comfortable being in big and small crowds. Conversation wasn’t difficult. Lowering my guard long enough to share what I knew or thought, cracking a joke or being vulnerable wasn’t nearly as intimidating a prospect.

As I write this, I do so honestly having no idea how I ever managed any of that.

I’ve been asked by some of the people I still associate with, people I’ve known since long before I went into “retirement” as I call it, why and how I could just disconnect from the world like that. Such a level of deliberate isolation isn’t very healthy, after all.

Perhaps not, but it’s a whole lot easier than trying to relate and communicate with people who either can’t or won’t listen or understand why I express myself as I do.

Part of that is my fault. I’ve always been socially awkward, introverted and quick to put my guard up when I felt anxious or uncertain about what to say or do in most situations. I was never good at telling people what they wanted to hear, which always seemed like something light and fluffy.

My life has never been light or fluffy and that brought with it additional layers of alienation, rejection and isolation from the most important people I’ve ever known. The lesson I took away is the very hard and very real realization that I’m always going to be one who’s on the outside looking in.

Once I understood that, being alone was the next logical conclusion.

The loneliness still sucks and some days are a lot worse than others, but it comes with the territory.

Contrary to popular belief, it also doesn’t hurt as much as being reminded how much you just don’t fit, even when you just want to say something as innocuous as, “Hello.”

Night Shift

Image: David LettermanI was in the fourth grade in Ashburnham, Massachusetts when I was asked to construct a skit for me and three other boys in my music class. My average bedtime at that age was about 8:30 p.m. and I’d never been within earshot of anything like late night TV.

However, when pressed with an idea, the only thing I could come up that sounded even halfway decent was to do my best impression of it. So this scruffy, ragamuffin, 10-year-old kid who knew nothing about comedy, stagecraft or television became, for about five minutes…David Letterman.

Editorial Note: I went with Letterman because 1.) Johnny Carson seemed old enough to be my grandfather and B.) we just so happened to share a gap in our front teeth and 3.) The whole skit was based around Dave’s patented and legendary “Top 10” lists. I went with the ol’ “Home Office” being Ashburnham because it was eclectic enough to rival Dave’s usual selections.

The skit went rather well, based upon the reception we got. I tried to emulate all the mannerisms I heard Dave did, despite never being up late enough to watch his show. One of the other boys was my Paul Shaffer, dropping musical accouterments courtesy of the upright piano (filling in for the legendary “World’s Most Dangerous Band”), when needed and somehow we made it work.

It was one of my first tastes of performing and to my memory we only got one good laugh out of it, which was in turn, the first such deliberate reaction I got from a group of peers.

And it was all because I thought to totally plagiarize David Letterman.

If I’m honest, I stopped watching Dave and most late-night TV when I was still in high school. Life just was never light enough where his jokes helped bring any levity and I was so preoccupied with other things that I couldn’t be bothered to watch his interviews.

I watched Carson’s farewell in 1992, too young to realize the full gravity of what it meant. Now Dave is gone and I feel like I missed out on what a lot of other people are taking time to appreciate tonight. Thirty-three years is a long time to do anything and even longer to do anything well.

Letterman did it well and like Carson before him, we shall not see his like again.

You helped me get my first big laugh, Dave.

Thank you and good night.

Dangerous Days

Depression IA couple of months ago, I was asked to write an article about what it’s like living with depression, not from a clinical or antiseptic perspective, but from the emotional side, with all the ups and downs contained therein.

I wrote two drafts, each more or less worse than the other, because I couldn’t bring myself to go to those parts of my mind and articulate what resided there.

This past weekend wasn’t a good one. I barely slept, had little motivation to be productive in any measure and mostly sat on my ass playing video games and trying to keep myself otherwise occupied from thinking or feeling as little as possible.

When I woke up this morning, I knew it wasn’t going to be much better, because within five minutes of getting out of bed, I had the all-too-familiar feeling I have at times like this.

The feeling of this being the day I could finally die before it’s over.

I’m not saying that to be glib or melodramatic, and the fact that I have to make such a disclaimer says a lot about how people in my position are often looked upon by those who don’t or can’t understand what it’s like.

That feeling is one I’ve felt maybe a thousand times since I was a child. It’s an argument I hate having with my own subconscious and every other part of my brain which fuels it.

On these kind of days, the argument usually lasts their entirety and go something like this:

Him: You’re going to die today. You know that, right, Dev?

Me: You’ve been telling me that for about the past thirty years and it hasn’t happened yet.

Him: Because you kept giving yourself reasons not to. You kept finding excuses and motivations but you don’t have a lot of those anymore now, do you?

Me: Your point?

Him: So why keep fighting? What’s the point? Stop lying to yourself and look at the world for what it is. You’ll never find what you want here. The people who say they care…they’re lying. You know that. They always have which is why you can’t trust them.

Me: Says you.

Him: True, but history speaks for itself. Why do you care so much about them when all they’ve ever done is hurt you in the most painful ways possible?

Me: Because hurting them in return is selfish.

Him: That’s the point. It’s not selfish. It’s actually the single most selfless thing you can do. Think. You’ll be doing them a huge favor. They don’t have to hear about you or see you and all your bullshit anymore. You won’t be bothering them by putting such a big friggin’ monkeywrench into their lives. If there was ever a singular good thing you could do for everyone you ever cared about, it’s this. Trust me.

Me: But I don’t want to.

Him: Then you’re both a coward and a fool. If you had any common sense, you’d realize it’s all your fault that your life is what it is. It’s a delusion to think you’ll ever have anything resembling a normal existence. You’re the reason why no one loves you and why you make everyone else so miserable, no matter how much you cling to the delusion that you can make yourself into something better.
Try all you want, it’s not going to change anything, so do the smart thing and just end it already. No one will shed a tear about it. You’ll be forgotten before anyone realizes you’re gone and they sure as hell won’t miss you.

It’s at this point where I can usually tap into my very deep reservoir of anger and force the argument into the background long enough to try and concentrate on other things, but this is just a part of what it’s like to exist inside my head when things are bad.

It’s not that I believe that voice in my head telling me those things. I don’t a lot of the time and when I find myself starting to only makes me angrier, which also doesn’t help me in the long run. I’ve dealt with this long enough to know I’m being persuaded to believe in false realities.

What terrifies me is the possibility that at some point, I’m going to stop realizing that and start thinking that those illusions are the truth.

These are the most dangerous days I ever have and I know it’s going to take a lot more than sitting down with a shrink to make them hopefully end.

And I want them to end, because after this long, I’m beyond tired of this argument and it’s one I don’t want to lose.

Desert Roses

 

When you start living in the high desert, you expect the most prodigious form of plant life you’ll encounter are the masses of tumbleweeds which seem to be everywhere.

However, these reside on the ledges out in front of my townhouse and I must say they’re a nice bit of color in another wise very brown landscape.

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