30 October 2016


Disclaimer: these feelings of gratitude could change at any time, especially tomorrow.

I've been struggling to write lately. Tomorrow is the soon-to-be-famous Address to the Director and I was thinking about writing on that but since I've been informed that the Stasi reads the blog, why tip my hand?

The old fallback for mental health bloggers and other pitchers of woo is to do 'the gratitude column.' Of course, that's akin to singing 'Climb Every Mountain' as their shoveling dirt in your grave, but whatever.

1. I am most grateful for my wife without whom, I would not be here today. Probably. Out of 7 billion mortals, I'm convinced she's the only one who not only gets me but can take living with me. Believe me, it isn't easy.

2. My hometown Cleveland Indians are one game away from winning their first World Series since 1948. As someone who attended their first Indians game as a 10 year old and skipped class in college to catch noon games, this is a big deal.

3. Despite an absolutely atrocious diet, for some reason, all the major organs, including the heart (!) are in pretty good shape. Yes, the liver has been battered but is better than it was three years ago. I have no idea why this is happening.

4. Even though it is rapidly filling with yarn and knitting accessories (caution to anyone marrying a knitter), I love my house and especially my basement sports bar/newseum. This is the only house I have lived in in my entire life that I feel totally comfortable in. It took awhile after the police raid to get back to a point of feeling somewhat secure, but that was not the house's fault.

5. I still like my Mustang. It was not a life-transforming machine, but then no one should count on a car to do that. It's still pretty sharp and fulfills a long-held dream from young adulthood to own one. And I figured, if mommy and daddy gave me one for my birthday in high school (as did happen) I probably would have crashed it anyway.

6. Coffee. I bought a new coffee machine yesterday and can taste the difference this morning. Thank whomever for coffee. How could we live without it?

7. Fall - my favorite time of year. After a particularly difficult getting-the-yard-ready-for-winter session yesterday, I sat for awhile and watched the wind whistle through the orange, red and green trees and felt a bit of childhood come back to me. Nothing like the feel and smell of fall. And when you get to be my age, you really have to stop and savor every one. You never know.

8. Friends - I still have some. They're mostly on the Internet. Some I haven't seen in awhile (since my high school reunion) and I hope they haven't given up on me. I know I'm a pill but I'd like to think I'm not really that bad a guy. At least my wife tells me so. I still have a friend in my home town - I don't get to see him and his wife very much anymore. Most of my IRL friends are my wife's friends and I don't get to see them much at all. And all the friends I lost, I still think about and wonder how they are doing.

9. Family -- not much left here. My two boys are really my pride and joy and even though I hardly ever see them, they know I love them with every Amazon delivery. Everyone else on my side is dead or not speaking to me because of long held grudges against my mother. My family, as it were, is my wife's family and I get the impression they think I'm a weirdo but they tolerate me the times I see them once a year.

10. The Cleveland Browns -- whenever I feel like the biggest loser on Earth, a pathetic waste of human space, a damaged, despised waste of potential, I think of the Browns and then I don't feel so bad.

Ah, hell, this is degenerating into 'gratitude with conditions,' so I'll stop it here. It's already a longer list than I thought it would be.

19 October 2016

Happiness Is (with extra Broadway)

I'm so happy. That little red-headed girl dropped her pencil. It has teeth marks all over it. She nibbles her pencil. She's human! It hasn't been such a bad day after all.
Without fleas
Today's cheap shot comes again at the expense of Canadian depression man-style HeadsUpGuys.

Don't get the wrong ideal -- I pick on because I love.

Anyway, today we behold Foster Eastman's (now THAT is a movie-star name!) tale of how he round-house kicked old man depression and then stomped on his head.

He's a creative guy (creative guys tend to get depression a lot) and was recently involved with a project: Recent exhibits have considered diverse issues including the challenges returning Veterans from Afghanistan face as they reintegrate into civilian life, as well as installations that leverage visual arts practices to give voice to those struggling with depression and suicide.

I like that because down here in the States when we think of Canada at all, it's usually about hockey, beavers or Celine Dion. Yes, the Canadian Forces fought in our wars and yes, their troops are afflicted with the same kind of problems ours are. And yes, they have similar issues with their government's Veterans services organization as well. 

But what I really want to highlight is Foster's advice for getting happy, or, how he did it:

What advice would you give to guys fighting depression?

Do what you need to do to be happy. Get out of town. Move 2000 miles away. Change your name. Go back to school. Get a new job. Find new friends. Keep your family at arms length. Do whatever it takes to be happy – that’s what I did. 

tap tap tap - that's my fingers tapping on the unused part of the keyboard as I try to fashion some kind of reply. . . 

As I've always said "WHEN YOU HAVE UNLIMITED CASH," but wait a minute, so what? 

Here in Pittsburgh when we tell someone 'get aughta town' it's an expression of disbelief in what someone is telling us. I think Foster is serious. Of course in Canada, 2,000 miles can be the distance between, oh, Gander, Newfoundland and Sudbury, especially via Air Canada. Canadian joke there. 

Anyway, let's polish these off in order:
1. Get out of town - previously covered. What people don't realize about Pittsburgh is you can check out any time you like; but you can never leave. Sorta like Cleveland.  

2. Move 2,000 miles away. Had a chance to move to Portland but it's now filled with assholes from California. And the pizza in Idaho is pretty sucky.

3. Change your name. Never thought of this. I always HATED my name, still do. What would I change it to? This one is a no cost move so let's see. . . maybe Charlton Eastwood. Has a nice ring to it, eh?

4. Go back to school - love to. I love arguing with history professors. But alas, money.

5. Get a new job - snap my fingers, presto! New job. Yeah, I agree. But alas, 53, too much government work, house, pending reprimand on file. Go ahead tell me - I screwed the pooch on this one. If I could do this, the others would fall in line. Except the name maybe. Hmmm. . . Clark Dean? Must think about this. . .

6. Find new friends - there they are! They've been hiding under the chesterfield (Canadian reference). Seriously, like Warren G. Harding, friends generally keep you walking the floor at nights. And I'm high maintenance. But yeah, I'd like to hang out with the guys from Animal House. I never had a college toga party.

7. Keep your family at arms length - good advice - I do, especially with my sister. All the rest of them are dead . . . or dead to me.

8. Do whatever it takes.

Look, I would but my bank account and my wife might have some objections.

But that name thing again - Leonardo De Niro. Eh, maybe not.

But seriously, is happiness even attainable? Is depression ever really beat (like the Nazis in '45, not the Viet Cong in'72)?

I don't know. Happiness is like that short but fast little punk in school who always teased you but was too fast to catch and pound. If I could just creep close enough.  . .

I dunno. Unlike Brock Easterbrook or whatever his name is, I don't have a success story or a formula. For me happiness, fleeting as it is, is a bowl of ice cream and a re-run of "Sex Sent Me to the ER."

Don't judge me.

But I think it's a good idea to read all of these stories because the 'solutions' are as variable and unique to the people themselves.

And as soon as I have the Holy Grail, I'll let you know what worked for me.

Look, no one ever follows this blog but if you get a yen to comment, do it now - tell me how you found happiness, how you beat depression, how you lost 50 lbs. and kept it off, etc.

Oh wait! The last Trump-Clinton debate is on tonight! Fun!
Wait! Out of ice cream. Damn.

See how fleeting happiness is?

OK, I'm dating myself, but when I remember kindergarten, I remember this song (being pounded out on a big upright piano) and because I'm actually in a decent mood, I'll share it (from You're a Good Man Charlie Brown):

17 October 2016

We were friends once, and young

Today's screed is a situation that probably everyone can relate to or has experienced in one form or another.

From The Washington Post:

Best friends just. . . disappear. They stop returning phone calls, texts, etc. And you're left wondering - what did I do? Sometimes you can figure it out, sometimes not. Although this piece is written by a woman, this does happen to guys too.

A woman I was dating back in the day did this to me but I knew exactly why and it was my fault. I won't get into the details because even now it's too hard for me to admit how stupid I was. There was no rancor, no anger, just a - 'no, this is not going to work' kind of feeling. I called her twice before I gave up. I knew. And I didn't blame her one bit.

Gemma Hartley's incident is a bit more baffling and, well, cruel. Her bestie was to be a bridesmaid. They had a long history together. Her friend joined the Marines but still had an obligation to at least tell Gemma 'you know, I'm just so busy with deployments/training and such, I just can't make it now but I wish you the best and we'll get back together as soon as I can.'

But that didn't happen. The comments are, are they usually are, pretty cruel in ascribing where the fault lies but I have two ideas in this case.

1. Her friend was fully inculcated into the Corps lifestyle. In many ways, it's like becoming a cop. You're taught the Marines are your family, the only family you can trust and those 'civilians' back on the block represent your life before the Marines. Family doesn't count: you are still expected to cherish your family as you do God and country. But having friends outside the Marines can be problematic depending on the unit. You need serious friends in the Corps because you might be fighting and dying with them. God help you if your outside friends are seen as more important. It's hard social conditioning to overcome. 

2. Gemma herself may have been a bit too clingy, especially to a friend who is living in a whole different world now.  What seems cute and normal growing up may seem childish in light of life in the Corps. The Marines, like cops and doctors, tend to believe only their own kind can understand them. This make outside relationships difficult. In this case, it's really a case of two people going on widely different life tracks.

Still Gemma's friend should have made some effort to explain or at least apologize for running out on a wedding - that's pretty cold.

This is something I have had to face and I bet you have as well. People I been friends with for many years slowly fell by the wayside for one reason or another. After awhile, I found some of them had let the world turn them into unlikable people (by my standard) and some of my friends must have felt that I had turned into some kind of maladjusted misanthrope.

It happens. But as Gemma said, for some of us the memories of these people last, literally, forever. I remember people I met in kindergarten and I wonder about them from time to time as well. There's always Facebook and many other ways if you really want to find out what's going on with lost friends. Rarely does an individual leave any electronic record behind them nowadays. 

OK, I was in military intelligence - this kind of thing is what I do. What? None of YOU have ever Facebook-stalked anyone? Hey, I never post or interfere. Sadly, I just look and remember. My memory bank is full of regret, not hatred.

Thirty-five years after high school graduation, I re-acquainted with a lot of people who, like I, had grown up and had lives. Many of them had become whatever they became but in each of them I could still see a thread of their personality stretching back to high school. The pressures of modern life affect each of us differently. We break a little on the good and bad side but rarely, thank God, do we break all the way over to evil. The class of '81 was still a fun bunch and glad to be together. 

I was of course, worried that I wouldn't fit in or become a wallflower again, but it didn't happen. Ten years after, we still were comfortable in our own cliques. Thirty-five years later, we were one big happy family. And that was great.

I had a good friend in high school who was not at the reunion. I really didn't expect to see him so I was not disappointed. I wasn't 'ghosted' by him but perhaps we could call it a long-term ghosting. We used to really tear up Mentor Avenue in the day and had lots of great times together. 

It took a little while but I remember the moment it was over, but I didn't get it at the time. 

It was his bachelor party and he'd rented a bus so none of us would drive drunk. Near the end of the night, something strange happened. This friend, who was never one for sentimentality, looked at me straight in the eye and said "Keith, you've been a very good friend." I was taken aback for a second. I felt great about that and mumbled sometime back about 'you too.' But it was the way he looked at me - like a last long look. I didn't know this was really goodbye.

To make a long story short, our lives really did diverge after that. He has worked very hard to make a name for himself in his industry and has succeeded admirably. He's earned everything he's got. Now with a wife and two adorable sons and a nice house, he's living the dream - really. His job takes him all over the world and it seems like one big party. I am genuinely happy for him.

As for me, the road has not been as smooth but then, with my conditions, I've been something of a fuck-up, like Moonlight Graham, getting so close to my dreams I could almost taste them but then they were lost forever. Still, I didn't do too bad for myself, all things considered.

We friended back on Facebook and I suppose would could look at each others lives. I would like and comment on his posts, he would like mine - but I don't recall comments. I once texted a suggestion we get together sometime for beers following up on an similar text from him when we re-acquainted. I never got a reply. 

Recently, I defriended him. Not because I was angry, but as an admission that we were never going to relive old times and I was deluded to think we would. I live in the past - he does not. I would probably not mix well with his friends - we would have almost nothing in common. In fact, I would bet he's worried that I would embarrass him in front of his high powered friends by bring up 'old times' that he'd rather not revisit. 

But looking at pictures of his life and remembering the good times we had so long ago was too much for me. These forays into 'yearbook yearnings' are not good for me. I need to try to be more in the 'here and now' even though I know I'll never be fully successful at it and the 'now' is a daily struggle.

There were others that I was truly ghosted by and again I understand why. It still stings a little but I had something to do with every one of them so I am not blameless by any means. But in the case of this one friend, it was nothing that was done, no offense committed, just a calculation made that I would not fit into the lifestyle and circle of friends he was going to be a part of - maybe like Gemma's friend. And I get that.

In American culture, our friends and relationships outside our family circles are generally transactional. That is, they exist if both parties are getting something tangible out of the relationship. Not just power, money or status but emotional support as well. When of of those supports is lost for whatever reason, the friendship tends to disintegrate. Liking someone as a person is often just not good enough. What your friends think of the friendship is equally powerful and there still is a strong attachment to our own kind whether it be race, income, education or whatever. It is what it is. 

The big one now is politics. Many, many friendships, even family relationships are being torn asunder during this Presidential election campaign. We used to be able to disagree and still love and respect one another. That has gone by the wayside and we are a poorer people for that.

It's tougher, of course, with a mental condition. People regard us warily as if we're going to go psycho any minute or just flake out. We may seem to needy or worry people that we will become too needy, emotional or clingy. I get that. 

But I guess where this article struck a chord with me is that real friendships, no matter how long lasting, are, essentially, thin threads that can break surprisingly fast and leave a lot of pain and bitterness. Some of us try to shield ourselves from that pain by have few or no relationships. Some stick to acquaintance level friendships where no firm commitments are made. 

I just think perhaps we could be a little more decent to each other when we go our separate ways. We're so afraid of each others reactions nowadays that people cut themselves off so as not to engender 'drama.' It may be the way of the future. But it is kind of sad when you think about it: we are, especially as we age, the collections of our memories and past relationships, good or bad. It would be better for all of us if the closures were make with kindness rather than a cold split. I'm probably engaging in hopeless sentimentality here.

It's hard to realize that, in many situations, you can never 'go home again' and that good times once had can't return. You mourn, like Genna does, but in the end it seems so cold to close a mental door on someone even though they've done that to you. So we leave it open because, I guess, memories of a friendship is better than never having one at all.

Perhaps this is the best way to think about it. But it's hard

16 October 2016

Hospital stay

Addendum: I need to mention something that may have gotten lost in this post - the staff, nurses and doctors at the hospital were first rate all the way and I am grateful for their care.

I'm home after over 24 hours in the hospital. It still feels like I went a few rounds with Mike Tyson. I'm sore about everywhere and have three IV holes in my arm. I thought it might be a heart attack (I had almost all the warning signs), but that was quickly ruled out by an EKG. 
Well, if you're me, you start running up a big bill for nothing

Then the frustration built: lots of blood work: all normal; CT scan: normal. Finally barium fluoroscope: normal. And yet when I was in ER, the pain and discomfort were so bad a nitro tablet did nothing and I need 2 mg of morphine (yes) to get the pain down. 

After all that, I'll be left with a big bill and a provisional diagnosis: well since you have had esophageal spasms before, this must be another one. But it wasn't because I know myself. The E spasms come on quick and hard but leave after 5-10 minutes. This was a whole other kettle of fish. Yes there were some E spasm issues but they were light - it was a whole different chest and stomach pain with lightheadedness and nausea. 

After all those tests I can only conclude one thing - the E spasms are often (not not always) triggered by stress. And so was this.

This had been building up all week - even though this was a three day week (which I find embarrassing). But when you never know when the next blow will come from, where the next little paper from your boss and HR will drop for something you said but forgot weeks ago, when all these people smile in your face when you find out what they do behind your back, knowing that yearly job review is coming up and wondering if that will be the next thing they'll use to get rid of you, when the date for appealing your case to a director is coming up (10/31) when your union rep says it'll be futile anyway, knowing that the letter being dropped in your file means there is no escape from this constant stress, still remembering all that has gone one before including the lasting repercussions to me and my wife over the SWAT team raid. . . . well . . .I've said this place will kill me and people just grin a little and think I'm kidding. 

And let me be clear because I've been told the Gestapo at work read this: I don't have to do anything to myself. The stress and worry alone will do it. Slowly but surely, when you work at a place full of smiling faces you cannot trust, wondering if every assignment you get is meant to trap you, having to watch every.single.word you say - well, how would you do? 

Added to my bipolar2, depression and generalized anxiety disorder, I'm actually, in a weird way, proud of myself for not dropping from a stroke or heart attack yet. I still stand. Not just for myself, but for my wife whom I love so dearly that I would give the world (and my life) and for but for every hung out person in the whole damn universe (h/t Bob Dylan) who has to put up with a brutal and ignorant workplace every day without the nominal protection of a union. 

I read their stories everyday in numerous websites and Facebook sites for people with mental afflictions. They are my people, my brotherhood, and, for once in my life I can honestly say: I feel your pain. I will never understand why some people get such a charge from being sneaky and cruel. I can't understand how I could have worked for over 35 years and only run up against this kind of reaction from my current employer. I don't understand, with all I have done for them including defending them on camera when no one else would, what horrible thing I have done to be treated this way? 

I realize I am rambling a little stream of consciousness here but sleep has been hard to come by in the last 48 hours and I'm still dopey from the meds and the constant interruptions of hospital life. But I just had to get this out of my system this morning. 

At least as long as I can come in and work, I have one thing I can do I feel really helps the Veterans I'm supposed to serve. When Vets write their Congressional representative with an issue they feel hasn't been resolved any other way, the aides write me and I get to work getting a solution or at least a response from the department of our hospital that can help. I feel an immense satisfaction with a Veteran get a home modification they need, a bill paid, a appointment made. 

That's the way it should be - for everyone. But that is 20 percent of my experience and all the other stuff easily overwhelms the good. I was a Army Reservist, my father was a Marine in Korea. This was never just a job for me.  I remember when I was called and offered the job how thrilled I was. I was literally jumping for joy - a chance to work on the side of the angels and honor the people who signed Uncle Sam a blank check. I had no idea how naive that sentiment was. And it saddens me. 

So I'll go in Tuesday and do what I can even though I get the willies just approaching the front gate. I actually have this worry in the back of my mind, the cop at the gate will ask me to pull to the side and. . .well. . .

I got a form letter response from the Federal job I applied for a few weeks ago. It doesn't look promising but it was my last chance until the letter drops in my file. I wanted to give them what they wanted - rid of me. But it is not to be.

Like many in this situation, all I can do is what I can do - go in and work as much as I can. 

But the next time I start collapsing like I did Friday morning, I'll assume it's just accumulated stress and I'll try to take leave and get myself out of the situation for awhile -- take some deep breaths and some rest. I will never go to the ER again unless I get dragged there. If, someday, it really is a heart attack, well, whatever. Nobody lives forever.

13 October 2016

Me and a tree

In the backyard there was a pine tree. 
  Where I used to sit on the roof. The tree is marked with an arrow. The pool was not there when I climbed it.
On the trunk, some branches had been cut off leaving protrusions that one could imagine as ladder rungs. Up about 12 feet there was a Y-shaped branch split that my neighbor, a guy a few years older than me, would climb up and sit on.

Just for reference, I was eight-years-old.

He would try to cajole me to come up.

“Aw come on,” he’d say. “It’s easy.”

“Well, I don’t know,” I’d say. “I don’t think my parents want me to climb up there and I don’t think they want you up there either.”

But if my parents weren’t home, he didn’t care what I said.

The bully kid a few doors down would come over and make fun of me for not climbing the tree. I guess it was a rite of manhood that my fear of heights was preventing me from passing. He was the kind of kid that would hit me in the head with a baseball when we played ‘running bases.’

So I as did then and do now, I stewed and ruminated until the whole issue got under my skin. 

You ever see weightlifters psych themselves out before a big lift? I saw this guy on TV walking around the barbell shouting about how he was not going to let this weight ruin his day. And then he lifted it. 

I was thinking the same thing about this tree. 

I waited until none of the neighbor kids were around and gingerly climbed up the first few ‘rungs.’ That was easy – I’d done that before. 

There were the last two larger tree branches and I grabbed one with both hands and went over on my stomach with an audible “oof!”

I had one more to go to the Y branch which was about a foot wide on both sides. I remember looking down. I remember thinking going up one more branch would be a lot easier than going down at this point. And then I could say I did it.

With one more heave, I did and sat on the Y branch with a sense of accomplishment. I imagined myself as the frog from the story that sat on the largest lily pad and “was the king of all he could see.”

That sense of accomplishment lasted about a minute. I looked down and all of the sudden the branches that seemed so doable going up now seemed so perilous going down. It was all a matter of perspective, another lesson I would learn that day. Looking up, the Y branch didn’t seem like such a high place. Looking down from it was akin to the observation deck of the Empire State Building.
So there I sat, trying to think my way out of this when the neighbor kid comes sauntering over.

“Hey you finally did it,” he said.

“Yep,” I said. “I made it.”

“So come on down and we’ll play catch,” said the neighbor kid.

“Ummmmmm . . . in a while,” I stammered.

“When,” he asked.

I looked at him and he looked at me and he knew. 

“You’re too scared to come down from there aint’cha,” he said.

I didn’t say anything. 

“OK look, I’ll help ya,” the neighbor said. “I’ll stand here under the tree and guide ya down. OK first slide down and put your foot on that one branch.”

I did and then froze.

“OK, swing your other foot over to the same branch,” he said.

Yep, I was stuck with my legs doing the splits, ass-side up in a tree.

To make an excruciating story shorter, gradually, other neighborhood kids came over to gawk at my ass in the tree, each one alternating between giving me advice and laughing at me. One kid, I don’t know who, just said “jump – “you won’t get hurt bad.”

Oh, that was all I needed to hear.

Then my dad came home. He looked around at his son making a spectacle of himself in his own backyard.

“Geez-us-Christ get down from the tree already,” was the first thing dad said. 

The neighbor on the other side came over. He went hunting with my dad.

“Well, well, well,” he said with that Southern Ohio drawl. “Your boy seems to be stuck in the tree.” 

So he stood under me and offered some advice. I managed to get my other leg down and now my hands were on one branch and my feet on another. Next was the tough part. I had to bend down from here and squat to get my feet to the next branch down. After that, it was only the smaller rung-like branches and I was home free.

But if I squatted, I was afraid of losing my balance. I was already embarrassed and I felt falling would add more embarrassment and a broken neck.  I’ve always feared the worst, as you know.

Eventually, dad got so frustrated with me; he stood directly under me and ordered me, as only a Marine can, to get down one more branch.

What I did was slither down vertically, shaking like a leaf in a, well, you know; doing a kind of half-sit until I was sitting on the lower branch. From there, I lowered myself and my dad grabbed me and pulled me to the ground.

Everyone had a good laugh and since the show was over, they left. I felt like Charlie Brown. I always wished Charlie Brown was real so I could commiserate with him.

I don’t remember what dad said. He wasn’t as mad as he was channeling a yet-to-be Hank Hill: that boy ain’t right.

I did the walk of shame back to the house. 

On the last day at the house after selling it, I went to the backyard as part of my ‘goodbye house tour’ and took one last look at the tree, remembering that humiliation from 42 years before.

It’s strange how we forget so much in our single digit years and the things we remember are usually moments of joy and triumph mixed with moments of shame and pain. I guess that’s normal.

What isn’t normal is this: I believe that tree, in all its innocence, started me down the road to being risk-averse. I guess that’s the nice way to put it.

I never climbed a tree again and remained scared of heights. There are folks who get an adrenaline rush from things like skydiving, motorcycle riding, bungee jumping and so on. I will never know that.
How I got through the obstacle course in basic training is still a wonder to me. Extreme peer pressure and a screaming drill sergeant will do that. In like for Ft. Jackson’s Victory Tower, – a tangle of logs to climb and ropes to swing from, one of the drill sergeants saw the fear in my face. 

“Hey you got one of your troops that’s looking a little too hard at that tower,” one drill told my drill.
I found myself on one side of the rope swing (over a net) and everyone was calling my name and it felt just like. . . you know. I had no choice -- I grabbed the rope and jumped. I didn’t quite make it and my jaw hit the lower log post with a resounding ‘thwack.’ I ate out of one side of my mouth for a week.

I remember that moment as I looked at the tree, cursing it and myself. Thankfully, one only had to do the tower once. The ropes gave me calluses I still have on my hands.

The funny thing is when I get a real good dose of hypomania, I’ll take all kind of risks with relationships, careers and money. But I still will not take physical risks. 

Some people wear their bruises, bone breaks and scars with pride. It is a sign they have challenged themselves and have no regrets. 

I look at them and feel small and wonder what part of life I have missed. 

I took one last look at the tree, sighed, took my wife’s hand and walked slowly back to the house and to the rest of my life.

Footnote: on this day in 1987, I shipped off to basic training at Fort Jackson, SC.Hua!

12 October 2016

Sell it and they will come. . .

So many books!

I should really write a book.

This blog is intended someday to become a memoir. If it doesn’t, I’m OK with that. The writing is more therapy than anything. But the more I look for books on bipolar/depression, the more I am convinced that many of them are written so the writer can gain fame and fortune.

I won’t name names. Just google search bipolar and dig a little into some of the author sites and you’ll see what I mean.

Kids are a growing market in bipolar
I get it though. Book deals and speaking tours are great if you can’t work a conventional job. I have this fantasy that I’ll just go around the country doing TED talks and other seminars where I can add a whole lot of psychobabble bullshit to my personal experiences.

But I can’t do that. There’s enough of that already.

The problem is America doesn’t really want to face up to the reality of mental illness. They want to read stories of overcoming, of triumph. They want a happy ending, believing everything has a fix if we only work/read/meditate/pray enough. The books reinforce that perception.

The whole idea of suicide prevention in this county is to keep people alive. That’s admirable, of course, but in many instances, that’s it. Great, you’ve rescued them from killing themselves – now are you going to provide affordable and compassionate mental health services in the community so they won’t do it again?

Of course you won’t. There’s so much more that needs to be spent on weapons and subsidies to corporations. Besides, if you can’t afford the services, it’s because you’ve failed, and why should I have to pay for someone else’s treatment?

Unfortunately that is who we are.

BUT, we have lots of cheap cures in the form of books and tapes and, my, oh, my, drugs (some of the most widely used are generic and therefore, by comparison, cheap) that you can have, but geez, having the taxpayers furnish luxury hotels with compassionate, well-trained staff is a bit much, don’t you think? 

The problem is that too many people watch ‘reality’ shows like ‘Intervention’ and think everyone gets to go to the Mental Health Club Med where the kind director meets you at the door and starts scheduling your horseback riding therapy classes in the morning.
So. . . who ordered the wine? Dinner at six!

These places are anywhere from $15-30,000 a month and even if you have insurance, forget it.
An attack at the Arizona state mental hospital
The real reality is that you are taken by force, usually by the police (they don’t usually send men in white coats anymore) to some kind of county facility which resembles something out of Dickens’ time, where staff that get $9 an hour throw you in with people who may or may not cause you physical harm. If you’re lucky, you get to see a real, live therapist for 30 minutes a week or every other day. Your insurance, if you have any, may pay for 30 days of inpatient treatment. Then, ‘cured’ or not, it’s out on the street you go. Good luck!

If we are going to keep people alive, we, as a society, have to ask ourselves: why?

If it’s just a ‘feel good’ exercise, for the love of God, stop it. Let these people have their eternal relief. Yes, I know, many mentally ill people (usually with means and an already existing support system) get ‘cured’ and never try it again. But I can almost guarantee you; they think about it the rest of their lives. 

And then there are the people who get out of our medieval mental health facilities and, faced at some point with the prospect of having to go back, and unable to afford therapy, quietly hang themselves in a closet. Where are all the self-congratulators then?

He. . . is. . . .serious. I got nothing.
What I’m getting at is there is nothing sexy, trendy or hip about having a mental illness regardless of what you see on TV or read in these books. I can speak to bipolar, depression and anxiety. Believe me, there is nothing glamourous about it. The reality is, for most of us, there is no cure but a gritty, grinding, awful existence that is punctuated occasionally by brief periods of relief.

It is a hard life and for the vast majority of people suffering, there is no cure; it is something they have to deal with all of their lives. 

The cruel thing is not only the stigma we face – it’s all the quackery sold to us by the books, the seminars, the yoga teachers, the sweat lodge shamans, the homeo- and naturopaths – all more affordable than decent therapy and medications and all promising something they can’t deliver.
And if you fail, it’s because you ‘didn’t try hard enough.’

Yeah, eat your way to sanity. Woo!
There is not one physical ailment in this country that someone isn’t hustling a quack cure. ‘Buyer beware’ has never been more relevant than with the mental illness community.

I have a son with autism. I remember going to some of the Autism Society seminars and, looking around at the booths and companies offering this and that. I felt the atmosphere the same as a sales convention – because that’s exactly what it was. 
Step right up! Can I get a witness!?

So my message today is that if you suffer from these maladies, don’t buy into anyone’s quick fix – it’s a long hard road and beware those who say they have been ‘cured’ by any one method: often they have an investment in that method.
This one I recommend

For society, please understand that we as a community are always keeping the wolf from the door. If we could snap our fingers and ‘snap out of it,’ we would. Don’t push the Dr. Oz snake oil on us and then blame us for our own lack of effort. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to feel like this and we are doing all we can. 

There’s nothing to sell here except blood, sweat, toil and tears. Every day we rise again, it is our own little triumph. Understand that. 

I could write a book about it. But I don’t think it would ever get published.