2012: A Remembrance

The year 2012 will always bring to mind absolute, 100% suckage, the biggest piece-of-shit year ever to sully 366 days, a year where my high points were days that sucked a percentage point or two less than my usual Rogers Hornsby-like sucking average. (note: Rogers Hornsby had the second-highest batting average in baseball history, including one year when he hit .424; he did not suck. I was drawing the analogy that my 2012 sucking average was the equivalent of his 1924 batting average: he hit more than anyone else, and my life sucked at near-Hornsbyesque levels

To 2012, I offer this sentiment:

This one's for you, 2012!

This one’s for you, 2012!

We started 2012 with approximately 15 Republican Primary Debates per day. They were ubiquitous and annoying, much like the Republican Primary Candidates themselves. President Obama gets a pass for the first quarter, since he was running unopposed, thus meaning he could wait to piss me off till it became clear he was running against Mitt. And POTUS did end up pissing me off with an overabundance of ads. The only bi-partisan cooperation seemed to be in pissing me off with campaign ads.

On a happy, personal note, my peripheral neuropathy–affectionately called “stabbyfeet”–was going strong as we limped into 2012. This led to “stabbyfeet medcoma,” which led to me exhausting my year’s PTO before March. Fine. Nothing like really bad phantom nerve pain to ensuckify your life.

On April 4th, 2012, my dear friend and coworker, Lisa Olson, was killed instantly when a garbage truck ran a red light and t-boned her Lincoln. Everyone in our department was just destroyed. I don’t go to funerals or wakes or memorial services. They make me uncomfortable, because I don’t like to mourn for my loved ones. I want to celebrate their lives. So I wrote a tribute to Lisa.

Again, this is my “grieving process.” I write something nice to remember my friend, then I make sure it ends up getting to his or her loved ones, if appropriate. I never know if they’re going to be deemed appropriate, so I give it to somebody close to the family, and leave it to their judgment. For Lisa’s tribute, I e-mailed the link to Lisa’s supervisor. As it happens, my friends Basher and Nicole both had links to my blog, and they checked to see if I’d written anything. From there, it got printed out and passed around. Somebody put together a giant poster-sized collage of Lisa photos, and they stuck a copy of my essay–in a fancy font on nice paper, no less–right smack in the middle. So everyone in our ginormous office who came to see the collage also read what I’d written. This is fine. Many of them complimented me on my work. Again, this is fine–a simple “Thank you” was all I had to say in reply. What ended up happening, though, was people who read this thing started coming over to my desk, and lamenting how sad they were; they were actually looking to me for some sort of comforting, as if writing 800 reasonably eloquent words gave me some sort of insight into their grief. Admittedly, I’m usually good at being Father Doctor Rabbi Tom when somebody needs to vent or needs advice, or whatever, but when my own guts had been kicked out, I didn’t have anything in my tank to give them.

Then a couple weeks later, my brain did this:

Actual photograph of my mind one day in April.

Actual photograph of my mind one day in April.

Something happened, and I was mentally depleted. This was beyond any Abyss visit I’d ever had. I’d been taking Prozac everyday, and when this thing happened, the Darkness laughed at my Prozac, which evaporated into wisps of nothingness. I started having crippling panic attacks, even in my own bed. I knew there was no way I could take care of myself, so Wind and I moved in with my parents for a few months. Thank God for my parents, too: they were there if I needed them, and they left me alone if I needed that. Also, they helped me pay bills when my disability checks were slow in coming, which was about 200% of the time. Thanks Mom & Dad.

I took a Medical Leave of Absence from work–it ended up being nearly five months. Early on, I found an excellent therapist, who referred me to a godsend of a psychiatrist. In the 8.5 months since this happened, I bet I’ve been on 30 different permutations of meds, just trying to get back to “functional.” “Normal” may have waved b-bye forever. Some of the meds worked well from the start. Others had side-effects like I could never imagine (one gave me massive rage spikes, where, for example,  I’d get mega-pissed at the refrigerator, and violently shove the poor appliance till it rocked back and nearly crashed through the wall behind it; another gave me diabetes insipidus, which made me have to, um, micturate every 12-25 minutes (“micturate”=”pee” (and yes, I kept track, just in case the doc needed numbers))).

I’ve written enough about this battle, and thank you for being supportive.

The good parts were rediscovering Sarasota’s beaches, sending care packages of tacky touristy stuff & sea creature parts to various people, and finding therapeutic value in writing letters by hand (Christina ❤ and I were exchanging a couple a week for months).

I don’t have a lot of friends in real life. For some reason, I choose not to. I can charm the shit out of people, and make them laugh–skills honed by my radio years–but most of the time, I’d just rather be by myself. If I feel like going out, I can call somebody, and go out. (They’re called “prostitutes” (I’m kidding (I mean, they ARE called prostitutes, but I don’t use them for any purposes (i.e., neither escorting nor mounting))))

Nested parentheticals aside, my point is that I found amazing support from you, my online friends. I could not have survived this without you.

I returned to work in September (I think). I’ve had some great weeks, where I’ve worked every second I was scheduled to, and I had a recent three week spell where I had agoraphobia so bad, I couldn’t leave my house. It took every nanojoule of energy I had to walk downstairs, get in the USS Nimitz, and drive the 50 miles to see Dr Borgia. I definitely popped a couple Xanax en route both ways.

The Darkness sucked, no doubt. What was more insidious was that I couldn’t blog my illness. I just couldn’t do it. For months, I would watch a pretty damned eclectic bunch of films, and I’d write reviews of them. On some level, this is just instinct for me, with my English major and Film Theory and Criticism minor. But film reviews were the only “serious” things I could write. It’s curious that I had little trouble writing letters by hand. I guess that was so simple and basic, that it was soothing. Like prune juice or magnesium citrate (I’m joking about the latter: the space shuttle’s solid rocket boosters didn’t equal the thrust with which mag-citrate will make you evacuate your bowels–some people actually fly up and hit their ceilings).

Nor could I read books. Over four months, I think I read 13 books, if that. I’d set my Goodreads 2012 Reading Challenge goal at 100 books. I was ahead of my pace until this meltdown occurred. Then, by October, when I was finally able to read again, I was waythehell behind. It sounds stupid, but this was something horribly important to me. The Darkness had taken away so much of my 2012–it had so thoroughly beat the shit out of me–that I wanted this one little victory. “Franny and Zooey” was my 100th–I finished it on December 17th, with two whole weeks to spare. I felt a sense of accomplishment.

Since “Franny and Zooey,” I’ve read 15 more, so I finished the year at 115% of my goal. SUCK IT, DARKNESS!!!

I say that was my lone accomplishment, but it wasn’t. At no point during The Darkness did I get drunk (I’d be dead now if I had). At no point did I seriously contemplate suicide. At no point did I OD on my meds, or fail to keep a doctor’s appointment–with four doctors & therapists over a four-county area, that’s not bad.

Most of all, the greatest victory I had is one of the simplest. Five years ago tonight, I was in St. Anthony’s Hospital, fighting Fournier’s Gangrene. I was hooked up to IV’s all day, had horribly painful dressing changes, blah-blah-blah.

But what’s easy for me to lose when The Darkness is just bashing my soul in, is one simple thing I used to say back then: ten fingers, ten toes, one belly button, and a steady pulse.

No matter how dark things got, those simple basics were almost always true (Panic attacks, natch, cause a little poundy-heartedness).

I had to concede 2012 to The Darkness. It fucked me up good, and I can accept that. But I’ve battled back these past 8.75 months. My goal for 2013 is not to let The Darkness take away one damn thing: not work, not reading or writing, not health, nothing. I can handle being depressed–I’ve battled depression nonstop for 20 years–but this year, I’m not going to let The Darkness screw around with anything else.

To paraphrase Indigo Girls, “I will not be a pawn for The frackin’ Darkness any longer.”

So 2012? You can just blow me. 2013? I’m going to swat you like Babe Ruth with a badly placed fastball.

Happy New Year, y’all. And thanks for getting me through.


6 Responses to “2012: A Remembrance”

  1. Happy New Year, Tom. My heartstrings are so tugged right now.
    And a big FU to The Darkness.
    2013 belongs to Tom!

  2. It’s hard to write about the Darkness when you’re inside of it: I’ve compared it to being inside of a whale’s belly or getting lost in a cave after your lantern’s gone out. The only good thing you can say about it anyway is that once you’ve made it out, you gain some clarity on yourself and what’s been going on over the past year.

    I agree with you, let’s give 2012 the Big Finger and move on! Here’s hoping you have a great 2013. May the light shine and melt the Darkness until it’s like a candy bar left on a car seat in July. (And not on your car seat, hopefully.)

  3. <4

    * I admire the hell out of you, if that's even possible. I would send you another video of our tree this year, but it just wouldn't be just the same. I can't believe it's been 5 years. I'm so glad I still know you.

    * I didn't realize one doesn't have to go to funerals/memorials. I'm being honest. I guess it makes sense. But the only people I've lost so far in life have been my mentor/grand-dad; my best friend Deb; and my mother. There was also my grandmother who hated my mother, but I even went to hers too. I certainly could have skipped that and been okay.

    * Franny and Zooey is one of my favorite books. (My brother made me read it, go figure.) I despise Catcher in the Rye with it's bloated entitle character. Well maybe — Maybe I'm supposed to hate him. If so, Salinger did a bang-up job, didn't he?

    * Did the Darkness happen at a distinctive day/time or gradually? Did you live one way and gradually sunk below sea level and then suddenly realized it? Gradually realized it? Immediately realized it right before sinking below sea level?

    * I was going to say a few other things but I forgot. Just know I love you, appreciate you and think you are an amazing person. <4

    In the future, I want you to ask me for help if you need it. History has shown that I am up to the job. NOT that it's needed, but it needed to be said.

  4. Ahh, my friend, what a tough year. From my cross-continental perch, I have been impressed at how you’ve worked through the Darkness. I don’t concede the year to it all — it may have taken a lot of days from you, but you’re still kickin’ into the New Year.

    Heartiest of wishes for a much better and brighter 2013.

  5. Holy crap…nice job on the books. If there’s an area of my life where I can’t get my act together, it’s reading. And dammit, reading is important.

    I can understand going ka-blooey after something like that…not just the loss, but people leaning on you. That can really take it out of you. I hope 2013 is free from any shit hitting your personal fan, and that you can keep beating that darkness back.

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