Archive for November, 2012

There I Am, In Younger Days…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 29, 2012 by tom

There’s a picture from my parents’ wedding that always gave me pause. It was one of those awkwardly staged post-ceremony photos taken while the wedding guests talk amongst themselves about “how lovely” the wedding had been, and “how lovely” the bride was, all the while waiting for the newlyweds to arrive so the reception proper could start. My parents are flanked by their parents. My mother’s father looked rather dashing in his tuxedo, and my grandmother looked like a fashionable 1920’s lady. My father’s parents looked happy, but a bit awkward in their formal dress.

But it is of my parents’ faces I write. They have this look of happiness, of joy at having found one another. This is to be expected. What always captivates me about that photograph, that one-sixtieth of a second preserved in black & white, is that they look like they’re ready to take on capital-L Life together. Their meeting and courtship, the proposal and engagement, these were the click-clacking of the rollercoaster climbing the first giant rise. Here they are–together–ready to face all the ups and downs life will throw their way.

Life has thrown them their ups and downs, yet they have remained together, steadfast and strong, handling all those unexpectable twists and hidden turns with love and grace and wisdom, knowing that they were still a team.

Their parents have all died–my dashing grandfather first at 67, the night my friends Mike, Jeff, John, and I were supposed to see The Pretenders in concert, a few months before my high school graduation; my more-awkward grandfather was the last, passing away at 88, the same night as I was best man in that same friend John’s wedding in Maryland. My parents handled each of these deaths with as much aplomb and grace as could anyone.

My parents put my brother, Marky, and me through college. We’ve each had our ups and downs, career-wise, but we’re generally okay. Marky has had injuries to deal with–a torn ACL, blown rotator cuff, and a back so bad the surgery kept him out of work for months. I’ve battled substance abuse and mental illness, and had one hell of a nasty infection which nearly killed me.

My parents were always there, accepting the scary parts of the ride as well as the fun parts.

I mention these events, this morning, because I was thinking of that picture, of the look on their faces, all smiles, but with a readiness and faith that they were in for a hell of a ride, and that they’d be taking it together.

And so they have.

I’m having a “fit of the sullens” this week, and I don’t know why. It could be my chemicals. More likely, I think it’s just this time of year. I loathe the Holidays®. Absolutely loathe them. I’m not one who likes the forced happiness and peaceonearthgoodwilltowardmen™, because to me it’s just a false veneer over an ocean of greed. Holidays are never easy for us megadepressives, and worse still for megadepressives who’ve made Xmas commercials for years, and worked for companies selling peaceonearthgoodwilltowardmen™.

The holidays have never bothered my parents. They put up their Christmas tree, set out the little Dickensian village on the hearth, hang Christmas lights from the eaves and trees. My mom bakes till the house smells like heaven. They like the holidays, and they accept as one of the weird bumps on their ride that I’m a pre-ghost Scrooge and a pre-Cindy Lou Who Grinch all in one.

The thought map that led me to this is a bit convoluted, so bear with me. My book maven, Kelly, recommended a book called “The End of Life Book Club.” I bought it, and I was just starting it. From the preface, it seemed like a book my mom would enjoy. That led me back to that picture of my parents, way back when they were half my current age.

And that led me to another picture just like that. It wasn’t a wedding photo–far from it–and the subjects were not dressed in any sort of finery. It was of me and this girl I’d been dating. It was my birthday, and the picture was outside the Texas Cattle Company, where we go each year for my free birthday steak. I was slouching down a little, resting my chin gently atop her head. We both had smiles…

We had that same shimmer on our faces. We weren’t just smiling at the happiness of the moment, but we looked like we were climbing aboard that rollercoaster together, ready to weather life’s twists, turns, and bumps.

It didn’t happen. We were kaput within a few months. We tried to be friends for awhile, but I realized that that futile exercise was more draining than it was worth. There came a day this past summer, while I was in the deepest part of my depression, where she texted me for some reason. I told her never to text me, e-mail me, call me, contact me, or even fucking think of me again. That hurt to say; it hurt worse to mean it.

A few days later, Michelle came down for our weekly “sanity breakfast.” We drove out to Turtle Beach. For some reason, that picture fell out from beneath my sun visor. I’d forgotten it was there. Michelle and I parked the truck, and braved Tropical Storm Debbie’s winds to walk over to a picnic area. I tore that picture to shreds. We did our best to light the pieces on fire (in retrospect, it would have been wiser to sit in the truck and set the thing afire, then just throw it out into the rain-soaked grass).

I don’t know why I tore up that picture. I guess it was symbolic, blah-cubed, representing that I’d finally made a clean break, etc, and that I was no longer beholden to something the girl and I both knew could never be.

In reality, what I did was destroy a picture of me in a happy moment. No, in the grand scheme of things/the book of love, whatever, we failed as an “us.” That “climbing aboard a rollercoaster” thing…I don’t know. Maybe it was there; more likely, it was something I wanted to see.

Most likely, it was just one-sixtieth of a second’s worth of a happy three-hour date, across five years of acquaintance.

This is why I don’t take a lot of pictures. I obsess. I try to contextualize; I overanalyze. There’s a famous photo of a Vietnamese officer shooting a civilian prisoner in the head. If I stare at that photo, I think I can see what each is thinking–is the prisoner praying? Is the officer really going to pull the trigger? The other night, I watched a documentary that touched on Vietnam. The whole thing lasted about three seconds. The prisoner wasn’t praying or thinking of his family. The officer walked up and shot the prisoner in the head. Period. My analysis was all for naught.

So now–a couple hours after I started to analyze why I paused at the beginning of this book–I wonder why I thought of all this.

I can’t unshred that photograph, nor do I really want to. I realize now how much time and emotional energy, how much wasted hope, I spent looking at that one-sixtieth of a second of captured light. I’d see that picture, and I saw something non-existent. At that moment, we were two people who liked each other and were full of steak, nothing more. I wonder how many months of sunny afternoons I missed as a result.

“There I am in younger days,

Stargazing, painting picture-perfect maps

Of how my life and love would be.

Not counting the unmarked paths of misdirection,

My compass, faith in love’s perfection.

I missed a million miles of road I should’ve seen.

(Indigo Girls, “Love’s Recovery” (w/m by Emily Saliers))


Thanks, Y’all

Posted in Chronicles of chrazy (sic) on November 22, 2012 by tom


This year has been…well, let’s just say I’ve had better years than 2012. When it started, I was still dealing with what I unaffectionately called “stabbyfeet,” more commonly known as “peripheral neuropathy.” Some days, I’d wake up and it would feel like I had somebody stabbing me in the feet with a Garden Weasel. No problem: just take a bunch of Neurontin, and it would go away. This relieved the pain, and knocked me so loopy, that I couldn’t possibly go to work. Some days I was fine–no stabbyfeet; no medcoma. Other times, I’d miss a day of work, or even a week of work. To make this worse, of course, is that I’ve always danced with depression. The year or two of being fogged-up from the meds left me frustrated, and that frustration didn’t exactly help my depression. I felt largely worthless. I don’t know if I worked every day of a pay period from January till March. Then came April.

Oh, dear God, April.

I’ve written enough about the struggles I’ve dealt with from my major depressive meltdown–the brain kablooey, as I call it–and I’m not going to blather on about it this morning. You know what happened, and all the crap I’ve been through trying to get back to some semblance of being me…

And THAT is what I choose to dwell on this morning: those who have helped me as I try to climb out of the black hole.

I wouldn’t wish my April meltdown on anyone. It sucked, and I was isolated. Literally. I moved in with my parents for awhile, because I couldn’t really trust myself to be alone. I wasn’t going to kill myself, but I could see myself also not getting out of bed for days at a time, never bathing, diving even deeper down.

So, I’m grateful for my parents, who were supportive and encouraging, but knew enough not to push me. They understood that they really COULDN’T understand what had happened to their elder son, only that it was some really, really dark hell, and that there was absolutely nothing they could do to make it go away. They helped me with medical bills, didn’t question why I’d sometimes go for drives and come home amped-up on Monster Rehab Energy Beverage and smelling of Newports and salt water. They mailed packages for me to people they’d never heard of, and put up with my sometimes alarming mood swings, as the docs and I tried yet another in a seemingly endless series of psych med permutations. They didn’t complain when I would hole-up in my cool dark room at the other end of the house. I couldn’t stand to be around myself, so I can only imagine how hard it was for them to tolerate me.

I’m grateful for my doctor. Dr Borgia is, quite simply, the most brilliant doctor I’ve ever met, and I’m glad he chose to devote his brilliance to Psychiatry. Every time he prescribed a medication, I researched the shit out of it online, and his choices were always spot-on. They didn’t always work for me–no psych med works the same for everybody–but it was clear he knew what he was doing. When I had real problems with side-effects, or something wasn’t working, I would call his number, regardless of office hours or day of the week. His answering service always contacted him, and he called me back pretty quickly. He never tried to rush me off the phone, and he was willing to change a course of meds, even at 9 o’clock on a Saturday night. One night, I was having a horrible time with rage-spikes on one particular med. He told me how to start weaning off of it, and called in a prescription for something new. He doesn’t take any insurance, and he ain’t cheap, but I don’t begrudge him one cent. He’s worth it. And finally, we seem to have hit on a phab pharmacological phour (sic). It’s a shitload of pills–some of which, if the cops ever checked my pockets, would trigger phone calls to pharmacies to make sure I had legal prescriptions–but it’s a small price to pay for feeling better. Thanks, doc.

My “shrink,” as I call him, is actually Rick, my therapist. He runs a faith-based counseling center in Sarasota. Although he is an ordained minister, he never preaches to me. He’s simply an awesome therapist. I’ve been to too many therapists who can’t play in my ballpark. I don’t mean to sound like an arrogant dickbag, but I’m not an easy patient for a therapist. I’m more intelligent and a better bullshitter than the average human, and when a therapist can’t keep up, I lose all respect, and I don’t take them seriously. If I don’t take you seriously, I will play you so slickly, that you won’t even know how badly I’m fucking with you. I’ll be out the door and halfway home before you realize I talked the whole session, and never answered your question. Sure, I’m the one who’s not getting any benefit, but for Jung’s sake, at least recognize when I’m snowing you; act like you know what you’re doing, and get my ass back on track.

Rick is an ace. I respect his intelligence. He doesn’t shy away from tough questions, and he’s like a border collie: when I start to stray from the topic, he gets me back on point. He’s also sharp enough to read my moods, and to adapt our session’s focus based on that. Some days, I’ve gone in there feeling good, almost like I’m cured. Other days, I’m a mumbling, dark cloud of a human. He’s stuck with me through a hell of a ride these past seven months, and I’m thankful for Rick. If he weren’t something special, I wouldn’t drive the 110 mile round trip every Thursday afternoon for our 3pm appointments.

I’m thankful for my Michelle, whom I met in that secret club I’m in. She was a sobbing, raw nerve the first time I met her, in a Sunday night meeting almost seven years ago. I made it my mission to make her laugh. I did. We became friends, far more than friends. I’m godfather to her son, and my parents love her. More Fridays than not during my dark months, she’d drive down from St Pete to Sarasota, and we’d go to breakfast. She’s been in her own Abyss, where no light can reach. No matter how bad my week was, we always ended up laughing like loons. I could laugh with her, because she knew what it was like to be where I was. I felt safe. We had fun, and I’m sure the Shell Girl misses our weekly visits.

I don’t have a lot of friends, in the traditional sense. I’m good around people when I have to be, but other humans can leave me weary and stressed. I like to fulfill my mission with them–working ten hours shifts alongside them, buying stuff from them, or visiting friends or family as required–then get back to my solitary cave as quickly as possible. I never really feel lonely. I have people I could do things with, friendships I could cultivate more thoroughly, but I feel like I still have too much heavy lifting to do, too much healing left, too many callouses to develop. I’m getting really good at making it to work most of the time, and I don’t freak out too much most days. (There are a number of Xanaxes secreted about my desk and in my pocket, lest one of those anxiety attacks sneak up on me) Work and other inevitable social situations pretty much exhaust all my “being around other people” energy. I’ve gotten better, and I hope that will continue, but I’m not going to push it unnecessarily.

Last but not least, I am thankful for you, my Interweb People. I got cards, letters, hand-crocheted zombie-vampires, books–you name it–from all over the continent (even Lego people from the U.K.!). Thanks to everyone who dropped something in the mail–especially Christina ❤ for crocheting and sending me Vlad, the zombie-vampire doll, with whom I had much fun. Also, so many of you were quick with e-mails or Vox comments–SHIT, I mean, “Word Press” comments–or DM’s, texts, Facebook messages–the list goes on. I may or may not have met you in person, but you are a very real part of my life, far moreso than most of my “flesh and blood” friends and relatives. You’ll never understand how much a sentence or two on a Facebook post or blog entry meant to me. You were my lifeline, and I am grateful.

Vlad on the bow of the USS Nimitz

Ah, yes. And I’m thankful for the USS Nimitz (aka, my truck) for getting me where I needed to go, as well as places I didn’t actually NEED to go, but just sort of wandered into.

Well, it’s after 10am Thanksgiving morning. Dinner at my parents’ house is at 2pm, so maybe I should try and sleep an hour or two. I’m scheduled to work OT tonight from 1800 to 0200. I can always cancel. Maybe I will. Maybe this will just be a really long day, and I’ll have to power through on Monster Rehab and Adderall. (NOT a recommended combination for amateurs. 😉 )

One of the bright spots during the early, darkest part of my journey back, was this little shell shop out on Siesta Key. I’m not sure of its name, but the girl who ran it was cute as a bug, always sweet and smiling and happy to see me. She loved Led Zeppelin, and had a great laugh. My Michelle and I always visited her on Fridays, and I dropped a few bucks there on multiple occasions (Lord knows, I mailed out enough sharks teeth and starfish to populate a small bay).  Shell Girl’s name? What else: Michelle.

Here’s a picture from around the midpoint of my adventure. I was waaay slouched down so she and I could be in the same frame, and I’m still sporting lovely eye-bags and a general manic, lithiumish look.

Shell Girl and me (I’m on the left, if you were wondering)

Smiles were rare this past summer. When I had them, it was likely one or more of you were responsible (or my darling little Shell Girl).

The image at the very top of this post is a still from Fellini’s “Armacord,” and it pretty well shows how I’m feeling recently. Things aren’t all bright and springy inside my head–there are neither bright flowers nor verdant lawns–but there is light enough to see, and the promise of more light to come. And there, through the snow and gray murk, I can see this grandiose blue thing, so long invisible in the dark; that hopeful blue thing that is my soul.

Happy Thanksgiving. (And thanks be to you as well)

cx: A Couple Brief Notes

Posted in Uncategorized on November 20, 2012 by tom
  1. The “cx” above is a secret message from Wind. I asked him what it meant, and he responded with a cryptic, “Mmm???” Then again, that’s how he responds to everything, except when I get home from work. When he hears me lumbering up the stairs, he joyfully starts swatting “that little spring thingy on the bottom part of the door and keeps the door from punching holes in your wall” (I know not it’s true name). Thus, I’m greeted with a welcoming “Whack-ack-ack-ack-ack,” which amuses the hell out of me, though it could annoy the neighbors.
  2. Anyway, Wind typed the “cx” above. As best I can tell, it means one of three things. First, it could be the Roman Numerals for 110. Maybe 110 means something world-critical. Second, it could be the suffix for web addresses located in the Christmas Islands. No joke. Third, he walked on the keyboard, and one of his fancy white paws happened to mash those two adjacent keys.
  3. I’m betting on the Christmas Island thing, personally. Hell, maybe there’s a correlation between a Christmas Island website and the number 110. He’s furtive like that.
  4. I mentioned a few days ago that I’d taken a long drive, wherein I was able to ponder stuff, and think about Indigo Girls, and laugh at how my imaginary young mentorees are named Amy and Emily, just like Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, from IG. What I didn’t mention was that after that nice drive, I went to my beloved Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market. This is not a full-blown Wal-Mart–I won’t enter one of those–but a 24 hour grocery store. I love mine. I like that it’s fairly small, and the people are friendly, from the stockers to the managers to the checkout people. Love ’em.
  5. Except that a couple weeks ago, they installed these infernal “self-checkout” lanes, and we are expected to use them. I wouldn’t mind this, except the fuckers never work. Also, I actually LIKED the people who checked and bagged my groceries. They were awesome! I wouldn’t let any of them enter my cave, but for people, they’re okay.
  6. So, that night, I had a machine that kept malfunctioning. I was nice the first time. By like the fifth time, I was…what’s the term, “Devil-Boom Voice f-bombing” the machine. I was angry and frustrated, and I allowed the few people in my vicinity to know this.
  7. I had to go shopping after work tonight. The manager from Sunday night was working, and I apologized for my behavior. “I’m very sorry I got loud and profane the other night, but I absolutely loathe those self-checkout things, and it finally pissed me off. That was no reason for me to be an obnoxious jackass, and I apologize.” He said, “Hell, I hate those damn things, too. They made us put ’em in, and I can’t stand ’em. Nobody likes them. That’s why I always try and have at least one person up here who can do checkout. If you come in, I’ll check you out myself.”
  8. Thanks Mr. Manager!
  9. Further to my Indigo Girls post the other night, I had a padded envelope from on my doorstep when I headed out to work. I didn’t have time to open it then, but I spent my night trying to remember if I’d ordered anything recently. Nope.
  10. The envelope contained this:
  11. There was no invoice. No note. Nothing. Just the Indigo Girls excellent cd, “Rites of Passage.” I played a few songs on 102.5, back when both it and I were cool, and I love it. Still…it’s a mystery.
  12. So, whoever sent me “Rites of Passage,” thank you very much.
  13. Thank you CX times. 😉
  14. Happy Tuesday, y’all.

Prayers, Platelets, and Quirky Faith

Posted in Uncategorized on November 19, 2012 by tom

My friend and former partner-in-crime, Ann-Marie, is dealing with a scary situation. Her son, Shilo, developed a condition called Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. In short, his body stopped making enough platelets, the things that help blood to clot. According to her doctor, a child his age should have 100,000 platelets per μl of blood; Shilo had 2000. Ann-Marie said he’s doing a little better now, but he’s bruised all over–his butt is black and blue just from sitting; he was at one point bleeding from his eyes, ears, and nose, etc. He’ll have to be home-schooled till next year, at least, because he can’t get bumped or anything like that. Again, he’s beyond the potential bleeding-out phase, but he bruises if you touch him. That sucks for a little kid (or anyone, really). I’m sure he’d rather be running around, playing with other kids, and getting banged up like they do.

In her Facebook post dealing with this, Ann-Marie asked for prayers on Shilo’s behalf. I did what I always do when someone I know or love needs prayers: I e-mailed some friends and family members who have prayer chains in their churches, and had them add Shilo. So he has people all across the US praying for him.

I respond that way, because prayer is one of the things I struggle with, faith-wise. I wonder how much our beseeching really does as far as God’s activities. Especially, if we believe that He has a plan for each of us, as some do; that “God is working his purpose out,” as the hymn goes.

When I was more devoutly practicing the AA program, an element of our daily routine was prayer and meditation. To me, prayer was asking questions, and meditation was listening for the answers.

I didn’t ever really do this part. I tried, but it never felt right. In meetings, I could read the hell out of the eleventh step: “We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

In the program, I knew Native Americans for whom God was found in nature. I knew atheists in AA, whose Higher Power was just the strength of belonging to the group. Some individual AA groups are geared toward specific groups: Christians, GLBT’s, young people, atheists. As far as the program itself, there was no right or wrong answer as to that italicized part about God. It was truly as we understood him.

Or don’t understand him.

And that’s where I am tonight. I wonder about the role of faith in my life. If pinned down, I’d identify myself as a Christian Agnostic, which sounds idiotic but is actually a thing. In other words, I think Jesus was awesome, and that His principles and teachings would make me a better person if I lived more like He prescribed. However, I don’t think you have to have a Jesus membership card to get a room in the Afterlife Hyatt, and I have no idea who or what God is.
Further murkying things, The Bible isn’t something God banged out on His IBM Selectric One-Billion. It was assembled over time, by various committees from countless manuscripts. I can only imagine the behind-the-scenes machinations and back-stabbing when they took a smoke break. “Look, Bob. Help me out. You vote to get BOTH of my Thessalonians included, and I’ll vote with you to remand Dave’s silly Maccabees piece of drivel to the Apocrypha. Then your favorite book, Judges, is a lock for the O.T.”

Of course, I’m not saying the Bible is flawed soup to nuts. Like Henry Drummond says in “Inherit the Wind,” “The Bible is a book. It’s a GOOD book. But it’s not the ONLY book.” There is much wisdom and inspiration–Divine or otherwise–to be found in the Bible, despite its piecemeal provenance, despite how various cretins have twisted its words to their evil causes.

So, I’m still lost. Is God the Old Testament God, or the kinder, gentler New Testament God? The grumpy, punishing smiter, or the huggable, forgiving embracer? Or is God something defying my meager comprehension?

In Beethoven’s Ninth, Friedrich Schiller’s original German lyrics to “Joy” are amazingly powerful, and defy easy translation. They speak of God as a God of joy (Freude), who is also a God abiding in nature, a God for whom all men become brothers where He passes. A God whose “magic binds together what all this crap happening today has torn apart.” Schiller’s God is a God of unity, not divisiveness, of positivity, not negativity. Of celebrating our common humanity, not despising our meager differences.

I could believe in that God. That God wouldn’t sign-off on people killing each other in one of His names, or claiming that one person is better than another because of his or her beliefs. I doubt God is about micromanagement and minutiae. I don’t believe in a God with a desk, a computer, and an overflowing In Box of prayers to answer and sins to punish; I don’t see that this God would have a business card with just “God” printed on it. I imagine there are many names on that business card, and that none of them are more readily acknowledged than the others.

In J.D. Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey,” both siblings were once admonished by their eldest brother, Seymour, to “Do it for The Fat Lady.” Even though petulant Zooey had no respect for the producers or audience of their radio show, Seymour told him to shine his shoes “for The Fat Lady.” Seymour told Franny to “Be funny for The Fat Lady.” In other words, don’t do it for the producer, the host, or the sponsors. Do it for the “least of the people,” this nameless, anonymous fat lady, who sits on her front porch, sweating and drinking lemonade while the radio plays. In the end, Zooey identifies The Fat Lady as “Christ Himself.”

In other words, there’s a spark of God even in the least of us.

In Matthew 25:40, The Boss concurs with Zooey, saying, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (KJV)

Where that and similar passages led me, at an early point on my journey, is that God is God; He’s everywhere, and He dwells inside each of us, knowing us completely and personally.

This made perfect sense to me, back when I knew everything.

I really miss knowing everything. I miss that simple, comforting faith, too.

Now, I know that there can’t be a God whom I both comprehend AND believe is divine. I mean, who or what kind of God could I understand, who can be inside me now, but also everywhen and everywhere–as present next to my 7-Eleven’s Slurpee machine next Wednesday as He is in the Helix Nebula 3000 years ago?

My brilliant friend and fellow blogger, Gunderson Bee, had a lovely image of this in a recent post: When you send something out into the universe intended for someone, does it end up falling upon the intended recipient? Or is all this light and love and good vibrations just a big bank of goodness we deposit into, where those of us who need it can make a withdrawal when we recognize the need for it?

That summarizes my questioning perfectly. What really happens when we pray? Is there a Customer Service Team that answers prayers in the order they come in? What about emergency ones, like “Jesus, take the wheel”? Are all prayers answered by God? Is there a triage team, who puts Shilo’s platelet crisis at the top, and little Susie’s 900th request for a pony at the bottom? Are we sure the right person’s account gets credited?

Or, to paraphrase GB, is there just a First Universal Bank of Goodness account, into which we deposit and from which we withdraw our positive energy?

One of my best friends’ son is sick, and she requested prayers for him. I sent his name and info to various friends of mine who have strong faith, and have circles of friends who would also pray for him. I knew they would pray on behalf of this child they’ve never met, the son of a mother they don’t know. They wouldn’t care whether Shilo is black or white or Hispanic or Asian, a Christian or a Hindu, whether he’s a good boy or bad. They wouldn’t ask these things; they would just pray for him.

And I knew that I probably wouldn’t.

At day’s end, I don’t disbelieve that there’s a Something. In fact, I really DO believe there’s a Something. I just find myself unsure that this Something is going to listen to me, and do what I ask.

It’s a paradox: I believe that my friends’ prayers will do some good, because they have faith their God will hear their prayers, and I don’t have faith mine will.

I wonder, too, if I’m only alive today because somebody once added me to a prayer chain.

I’ve rambled too long, and I’ve cited a J.D. Salinger novella, a Spencer Tracy film, and a poem from Beethoven’s 9th in this warble about faith and prayer. (Although, to my credit, I did tie Salinger to the Book of St. Matthew, for which I’m certain they’re both grateful)

Ann Marie asked people to pray for Shilo. I outsourced my prayers to other people, but I know they followed through, while I, uncharacteristically, had n’ary a thing to say.

So I’ll end with this:
Whoever, Whatever, God is, I hope He helps you heal, Shi. And I hope you end up with your mother’s steadfast faith, and not my rattling Yahtzee cup of beliefs and doubts. With love from Tom–a guy you met twice four years ago–and purrs from your former cat, Wind. Saecula saeculorum. Amen.

The Helix Nebula (aka, “The God’s Eye Nebula”)

The Tipping Point

Posted in Chronicles of chrazy (sic) on November 16, 2012 by tom

Last night, somewhere during my long drive to nowhere and back, I felt like I’ve reached the tipping point in this particular Abyss journey. Since April, I’ve felt like a massive depressive meltdown carrying around a Tom. Now, I feel like I’m Tom, and I’m carrying around a depressive meltdown. The difference is in the semantics, I suppose: I feel like maybe I’m getting my legs under me a little.

My therapist asked me today (well, Thursday) about the Fournier’s adventure. I mentioned one session that I’d had this horrible, potentially lethal bacterial infection in…well, in a most inconvenient place; that I’d been about thisfuckingclose to dying, had two surgeries, and spent five weeks in the hospital.

And that I’d happily choose an encore of Fournier’s Gangrene over my 2012 meltdown ten times out of ten. Without a doubt.

He asked me how I could say that, when I almost died. I told him that I wasn’t at all afraid of dying. I was totally at peace: if they put me under anesthesia, and I never woke up, I’d be perfectly fine with that. The entire thing was out of my hands. As far as why Fournier’s is preferable to a massive depressive breakdown,  I think it’s because there were metrics involved with the Fournier’s. They could test my blood, and see that my kidneys were once again filtering out bad stuff. They could do cultures, and see that the bacterial infestation was waning. They could measure the wound, check for healthy epithelialization and that all the necrotic tissue was gone. They administered my IV antibiotics according to a precise schedule. They noted my performance in physical therapy–how far I could walk, how many reps with the resistance bands. Hell, they kept track of how much urine I produced (I blew their minds, too: I had friends sneak in 12-packs of Diet Mountain Dew. It was Urination Domination in Room 142! 😉 ) Finally, there came a point where the empiric data showed clearly that I could safely come home.

With the Depression, it’s impossible to quantify improvement, simply because the only thing capable of assessing whether I’m being repaired is the thing that’s broken in the first place. Yesterday, I felt like I reached the tipping point, where I’ve crested the hill, or whatever metaphor you want to use. That’s just a feeling, though: how much credence does that really hold? I could be completely cratered tomorrow, so what then?

I think what led me to believe I’d reached the tipping point was that I’ve been waking up reasonably optimistic that I’ll survive the day. The past week or two, I’ve been able to do those “normal” things that have been hit-or-miss the past seven months. I can wake up to my alarm, shower, brush my teeth, and go to work. I take my breaks when I’m scheduled to, go to lunch on time, and do my job well. It’s become the norm, not the exception.

And I think Dr. Borgia was dead right: the more I’m able to do “normal” things, the easier it will be to get back to normal.

The one thing that bothers me is the sheer number of different psychotropic meds I take. I have a little pill compact I carry with me everywhere. I have, oxcarbazapine, Xanax, Adderall, and a couple of lithium, in case I get over-Adderalled. I take those multiple times throughout the day. There’s another med I take when I wake up then at bedtime, and two more that I only take at bedtime.

I’m feeling–to quote Indigo Girls–closer to fine, but how much of that “fine” is my brain healing, and how much of it is straight pharmacology? Am I beginning to emerge from this depression? Or could you take all my meds, toss them out the window, and have one of the oleander bushes downstairs start doing laundry and going to work regularly?

A good friend of mine has had her own bouts with depression, et al. A few times since I’ve known her, she’s just stopped taking her meds. I promptly yell at her until she takes them again. I mean, there’s nothing stupider than quitting all your psych meds, especially all at once. I asked her why she did it, and she said it’s because she didn’t want to keep taking pills: she couldn’t tell how she really felt anymore.

I now understand what she means. I’m doing okay this week, but is it because I’m okay? Or is it that the various handfuls of pills I swallow have propped me up? To what degree have I improved? And am I going to be on these meds forever?

All I can do right now is take them when I’m supposed to, and hope for the best. Yes, it was a bit odd taking a giant dextroamphetamine pill at two o’clock in the morning, but that’s where it was scheduled.

When I had the Fournier’s, I quickly accepted that my doctors knew far better than I how to treat this thing. If they wanted to put me on 15 hours a day of IV antibiotics, then I was fine with that. If they decided it should be 10 or 24 or 3, then I’d have been fine with that, too. If they said I needed debridement? Knock yourself out. If they’d told me to sing George Jones songs at the top of every hour, I’d be wearing out “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

Mental illness is different. I told my therapist that he could have asked me a question in late April, when I first started seeing him, and ask me the same question today, and he could get two completely different answers. And both of them would have been the absolute truth.

Hell,  if nothing else, I think it’s progress that I’m asking myself these questions. Maybe I’m still healing slowly. Maybe I’m propped up on a kabillion different chemicals. All I know is that I have to be at work in 16.75 hours, and I’ll be there.

By no means am I all shiny and new, but I can see I’ve come a long way since April. I don’t care if I’m on these meds the rest of my life, as long as they work. If the balanced regimen Dr Borgia and I have come up with continues to work, I’ll take it. It’s gotten me to the tipping point, and that is a big step. As long as I can remember how bad it was in April or May, I can appreciate being here. The election is behind us–except for Ohio, which Carl Rove insists the GOP won–and life is reasonably tolerable.

I can work with that.

Happy Friday.


Just in Case…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 16, 2012 by tom

Just in case you are unfamiliar with Texas, here’s one featuring the divine Sharleen Spiteri channeling Al Green.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Posted in Uncategorized on November 16, 2012 by tom

I don’t know what possessed me to watch this video today. I was in a weird, introspective sort of mood, and somehow this pairing popped into my head. One of my shrinks said something very wise (after he handed me a sheaf of psych med prescriptions). The more days I can wake up, take a shower, brush my teeth, and go to work–the more “normal” days I have–the easier they will become. “You’ll be practicing living normally, and the more you practice, the more natural it will become. You’ll be healing with every day.”

Naturally, that led me to this. These two guys make what they do look so easy, even though they’re both extraordinary. I watch this, and I think, “Hell, my fingers can do that,” or “Jeez, it’s just opening your mouth and singing.”

Not quite that simple. Singing a song composed to honor Richard Manuel of the Band, who hanged himself in a motel room a county or two away, here are two guys who practiced their asses off to make it look really, really easy.

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