Out of the Darkness Walk

But it isn’t all black roses and corpses. I manage to have good days in amongst the dark moments.

Yesterday, I participated in the Out of the Darkness Cincinnati Walk for the Ohio Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. It was incredibly cold and rainy but, as the hackneyed press would say, that didn’t dampen the resolve of the 2k+ people who registered for the walk. The walk was held at Sawyer Point on the riverfront of Cincinnati, Ohio.

A boy and his beads.

Participants were encouraged to wear different color beads to signify their connection to suicide. I chose Green (someone who has struggled with suicide) and Blue (someone who supports the cause of suicide prevention).

The walk itself was short, due I’m sure to Fall dropping on the tristate area like a collapsed wall. Though it was only a mile and a half, I really wanted to do this walk as one who struggles frequently with suicidal thoughts and ideations. Since my most recent hospital stay, I’ve been pretty upfront about my battle with depression, anxiety, negative self-talk, and so on. This was my first real outing to support this cause.

Speaking of being out there…

As has been mentioned here, I have a Doctor Who-based podcast, Harry Sullivan Is An Imbecile. Our most recent episode touches on using Doctor Who as a means of coping with anxiety and depression. It’s a good chat as my broadcasting partner and I discuss how we struggle with our own personal demons and I’m pretty forward and upfront about the struggles I’ve had in the past. If you’re inclined to give it a listen, which I encourage you do to, you can listen through the player here or visit this link here.

And a final note, if you are someone who struggles and you’ve taken the time to read this blog, thank you. I know you may not think it but there are people who love you and think you’re incredible awesome. Keep fighting. You matter.

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Catching up with my past

A couple months ago, I applied for disability for my depression. While I knew it’d be a long and drawn out process, I hadn’t counted on the toll that recounting all of the struggles, therapy visits, hospital stays, and so on, would leave. It’s not for weaklings, that’s for sure. My reasoning is that my day-to-day struggles are pretty hard and it’s been hard for me to find stable employment without quitting or, more often than not, getting fire. A check, if I got accepted, would at least help me get back on my feet as I tried to figure out what I’m doing and where I’m going.

A few days ago, I was notified that I was denied on the grounds that I didn’t qualify. That’s right, I wasn’t depressed enough to be considered disabled. Or something like that. It spurred a pleasant, anxious “Oh fuck, what now?” moment. As I said, getting a disability check would’ve seriously solved my financial issues and set me up for getting back on my feet. However, there was also a part of me that felt relief. Yay! I’m fucked up but not that fucked up. After all, I’m able to wash myself, I keep a good house, and I’m functional enough to hold a conversation with other people. Getting a check would be like a Get Out of Jail Free Card.

What a mindfuck.

These last nine years… eleven if I mark it from the day my mom died… have been brutal on me. I’ve been through a lot and just allowed each traumatic event to wash over me. It confirmed the negative messages that my brain was telling me about how much I sucked. “I couldn’t keep a marriage going. My own child wants nothing to do with me. I’m not responsible enough to have a car or live on my own. I’m not an adult. I deserve to make shit money because I applied myself once and that came to a festering collapse.” And so on.

I failed at being a manager when I worked at WCET-TV. I can admit that and know that it’s true and not some negative chatter my brain churns out. I can admit this because I failed at something I didn’t want. I didn’t want to be a manager but it was the safe choice since 1) it was being shoved at me and 2) my ex always insisted that, despite how happy my job was, I wasn’t making enough money. I took the easy choice. After all, it was more pay, I’d have more responsibility and the manager of the department was going to stick around and help ease me into the position.

Then she abruptly retired.

I floundered. I hired assistants to do the day-to-day stuff of scheduling promo tagging, creating monthly guides, etc. I still could edit video but I was also in charge of the department and had to attend manager meetings, make decisions, apply for grants, create marketing calendars, and a whole host of other things that I frankly wasn’t ready for. I felt like I was running in shoes that were six sizes too big for me. “Hey, wait!” I’d yell as I tried to keep up, my feet barely able to keep the shoes from flying off at each step.

I felt out of my depth and I really wasn’t enjoying what I was doing. And then after my mom died, I lost all fire in my belly to do anything productive. I slacked off at work. When they downsized during the merger, I was one of the first to go. I felt shitty and had no desire to get back into television, deal with marketing/promotion jobs, and basically because a stubborn, depressed shit. That began the avalanche that led to my divorce, bankruptcy, and the other degenerative events that I loving refer to as My Litany.

And I’ve stayed that way for the last nine years. I’ve lost a lot and not once did anything I lose incite any desire to try to regain it. I just accepted it. Because it would be hard trying to win it back, I suppose, and I felt I’ve had all of the fight kicked out of me. This is how I find myself now, a year away from 50 and having spent one fifth of my life in some pretty dank waters.

So when I learned I was denied disability, two things happened. There was the anxiety but there was also the realization that I can’t always go for an easy fix if I’m to get out of this situation. Life isn’t going to hand me a big check just because I say so, it has to be something that I must work at. I’ve not been that happy with how my life has been these last nine years but it’s only been this year and especially these last few months that it’s hit me in the face how little control I exert over it. I want to change that, I want better than what I have now. I want to contribute more to the house and the living situation that I’m in. No longer do I want to just do one job and hope that it’s enough to carry me through, nor do I want to sweat each and every First of the Month to be sure I’ve got enough money in my bank account.

I want to discover what it is that I want to do, how I can make that happen, and develop the determination to get it all done. I need to turn my shoulds into musts. I want to figure out my purpose in life and make money and be able to contribute more to my situation. At the same time, I need to recognize what my gifts are.

Focus. I need focus. Wahey!

For a while now, I’ve been experiencing an existential moment, wondering what the fuck the purpose to all of this searching and seeking is. What is the end game here? What is the meaning that I’m looking for, what is the meaning of any of this endless searching, the reading of the self-help books, the improving of the mind, the yoga, all of this, does it really mean anything and does it get me closer to what I want to do? Hell, do I even know what I want to do? I quite enjoy writing but are these diatribes journals really publishable? Hecky nah. I definitely wouldn’t want anyone reading this stuff.

Except, y’know, that I keep putting this out there.

Why did I quit writing comedy? Because it became hard? Because a lot of the jokes I was making were so self-referential as to be unfunny? Maybe I just got overwhelmed. If anything, I need to get back to writing comedy. And rehearse more because that’s where my performance really worked. I’ve done it. I can do it again. I will do it again.

Why did I quit magick? It worked. Maybe because I got overwhelmed by liturgy when all I should be doing is the rock hard punk DIY shit that got me into it. Who gives a shit that I can’t quote Crowley verbatim?

For that matter, why did I quit writing?

Return of the Living Dead Blogger

Sorry for the disappearance. My computer decided that it was time to give up the ghost. While this is inconvenient most any time, the day it decided to do this was the day I was giving a presentation on podcasting. Thankfully, I was smart enough to have uploaded my PowerPoint presentation but notes, examples, and other things were simply gone and gone for good.

I need a computer to work and a prolonged downtime is very, very bad for me. However, in the near two weeks(!) that I’ve been offline, I’ve managed to scrape, borrow, and otherwise secure monies to procure another computer and… VOICI!

Y’know what’s consistent? Consistency, and without a computer, there was no way I could have any sort of consistency. My handwriting is abysmal — and I’d have to take my blog “on the road” by knocking on my readers’ doors — and I’m so used to typing on a keyboard that all of my writing and creative whatnots stopped dead. NO LONGER, DEAR READER, as I have returned from the outer regions with my brand new laptop.

On this computer, I’m forgoing Microsoft Office apps and starting anew with Google Docs. Yes, I know, Google is evil even though their motto once was “Don’t Be Evil”, but its ubiquity won me over. If I can remote login to a computer and have all of my stuff ready for use, I don’t mind whatever minor bit of data mining they get from me. I’m not really that important to be spied upon. Neither are you, really. We’re not that interesting enough, but it does give me a slight thrill to drop “did you hear that, NSA” in the middle of phone conversations.

Quantum theory contradicts itself, in terms of binary choices. The waveform on this particular issue has collapsed to a fine point. Maybe duality isn’t the thing we’re looking for.

Let me backtrack…

I spend a lot of time trying to grapple with fourth dimensional thinking. My science background isn’t quite stellar and my maths is rudimentary at best, but they are hurdles to be overcome. For now, I’m trying to visualize myself as a fourth dimensional being, a time worm, a line segment that goes from A to Z in a curvy, wavy, chunky little line. It starts from my conception and ends whereever my physical body ends up being. The me that is typing when I’m typing this is a point on that space/timeline alone this hopefully long journey.

And that’s just the physical aspect of it. My mind exists in a more fluid state, exponentially larger than the worm-me that skitters along 4D space. Because the mind is a highly complex machine. According to the book Rebel Buddha, we have a day-to-day (or moment-to-moment) mind made up of three minds: perceptual, conceptual, and emotional. The perceptual mind takes in the information, (ex., a leaf during the fall), while our conceptual mind tells us that it is a “leaf”, and our emotional mind gives us our response. However, a leaf becomes an abstraction in that as soon as we perceive that we see a leaf, our mind is already labelling it as a leaf. This then subverts our concept of leaf unless we allow ourselves to have a direct experience, such as picking up the leaf and observing it closely, admiring the colors, twirling it in our hands, and so on.

The mind is quite an interesting organ. Imagine just looking at what’s right in front of you. For example, if you’re in a familiar setting — for me it is the living room where I am typing on this laptop — your mind has already filled in the blanks and labelled everything you see within your field of view. Therefore, everything you see is an abstract concept. If your mind has filled in the blanks and defined everything you see. So one could say that we let something else do the observing for us, so we sleepwalk through a lot of what we perceive on a day to day basis.

But it’s only when I perceive with knowing, with having a direct experience, that I can start to consider this table that my computer rests on. This table was built by a student in a class, which gives me a lot of threads to consider such as:

  • How he built the table.
  • Where the wood came from.
  • What store did he purchase the supplies to make the table (the screws, the varnish, etc.)
  • Where he built it.
  • Who built the place where he built this table.
  • What he had for breakfast each day.
  • Where the food that he had for breakfast came from.
  • And so on and so on and so on…

Obviously, sourcing everything within our field of vision is a great path to madness — if not obsessive behaviors —  but it does serve as a reminder to “stop and smell the roses”. In other words, to perceive, conceive, and feel the moments that we’re having.

I remember reading an article on the director David Lynch and how he would stop to observe an anthill and be completely engrossed and fascinated by what he saw. In a lot of ways, this is the path I’m looking into.

What all of this has to do with quantum theory is never mind.

Coming Out of Hiding

The author

I recently got out of the hospital.

That’s a killer opening line, I know. It got your attention and I bet your eyes are all perked up wondering just why I was in the hospital. Was it surgery? Was it to gain super powers? Was it to remove a growth? Alas, none of these. But I will share what happened.

For years, I’ve been battling depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. It’s safe to say that these three factors have played a major part in my life for quite some time. The anxiety and low self-esteem have been a companion with me since I was a lad. Without going into extreme details, my upbringing was pleasant and idyllic but also slightly traumatic. My mother had a temper and both of my parents were very into “capital punishment” whenever it was time to mete out discipline. But mostly, it was the verbal portion of my upbringing. I can safely say that my issues are based on my mother’s voice, my grandmother’s voice (“candor”, the preacher at her funeral called it), as well as a moderately sadistic older brother who took glee in making fun of me, pushing my buttons, bullying, and generally making me dread being around him whenever he visited my parents.

That said, a lot of the negative self-talk and bad self-image is wrapped up in these three people.

My stay in the hospital was triggered by a very manic depressive/anxiety state. I guess you could say that I’ve been sliding for quite a long time before the episode occurred. I’d had gone camping back in July and was woefully unprepared for facing the elements. To add to my stress, I was a bit homesick, missing my comfortable bed and the CPAP I use to sleep at night. Then, I lost my wallet and I think that began the slide towards the episode which led me to my hospitalization.

I spent five days in the hospital before being discharged. My meds were adjusted and I have seen some progress on my new regime. After the stay, I did some day treatment program that went for about three weeks. It was good to have something to do, even though what we did in the program was pretty routine and regular: Work Occupational Therapy (ie, painting stuff like sun catchers and ceramics), Art Therapy (a favorite as it gave me a chance to flex some artistic muscles in my head), then Cognitive, Assertive, and Goal-oriented group therapy. That ended and… well, I’m back to my own devices.

Since the hospital stay and med change, I’ve been trying to reintegrate myself into normal routines. The catch is that my brain is… mush. I don’t feel like I’m as smart or as interesting. Maybe it’s the information overload of books I’m trying to shove into my head, books on Chaos Magick, the Upanishads, self-help books, fiction books. I suppose it’s a possibility. All I know is that most days, I feel like my brain is sluggish and it feels like I’m not able to hold conversations like I was once able to do. It’s led to a new depression strain that I’m currently stuck with, fighting hard to make myself somewhere near the semblance of who I used to be.

I feel like a drag most days and really wish there was something, anything that I could focus on to take my mind off the tedious new cycle it’s on. I’d like to enjoy things again, maybe start climbing out of this dank and deep pit I seem to find myself in. It was so bad last night that my girlfriend asked if I needed to go back to the hospital. I would hate that idea but if I needed to, I would do it. It just doesn’t seem like I need to.

I called my therapist after hours and after a few over-the-phone breathing exercises and suggestions of journaling, reading, and a shower, I was able to get my fretting head to a manageable level so I could go to sleep.

Thoughts of suicide do go in and out of my head but I have so many people who depend on me for things that I can’t go through with it. In a way, I just feel stuck. Stuck in this life, stuck in this head trying to make sense of where I’ve been and where I need to go. I only wish I had the nib of a clue to point me in that direction. Otherwise, I just go about my daily duties, cook, clean, and then go to bed. It’s a very dull brain, did I mention that? Mostly, I just want to feel normal, to get out of this headset. As for now, I just do what I do. It’s what’s expected of me.

So this is me, coming out of hiding for a brief update. Maybe writing more about my condition here will make things better. I don’t know. I really don’t know anything at the moment and that’s what’s the hardest thing I have to deal with.

Checking in…

It’s the Fourth of July and I’m bored (and not particularly patriotic) which means it’s a perfect time to update my readers (both of you). So…

At the start of June, the basement of the house where I was living in flooded, displacing me and my possessions. Luckily for me, my girlfriend swooped in to the rescue (she’s pretty awesome and generous and loving (also, very sexy)) so I’ve been staying at her house. Because I’m all for being fair and helpful, I’ve taken over her house duties as well as cooking and other sundry duties. Since I’m a pretty awesome cook and very industrious, she’s happy with the arrangement as it stands and, well, I’m not one to argue.

A few weeks ago, I moved a ton of logs and probably two tons of rocks for separate projects. That might’ve been a bit too ambitious for my former doughy self because I’ve ended up with a burst Baker’s cyst (yeah, it looks as lovely as it sounds). I didn’t know this right away, I just woke up last week with what I thought was a bad leg cramp. I ended up heading to the ER because my lady was concerned that it was a blood clot, the symptoms can be similar. Thankfully, it wasn’t, just an egg-sized cyst hanging out behind my knee. Woot!

The standup is still going on. I’ve had some good reviews from fellow comics and a couple “You Were Awesome!” comments from audience members. As it stand, I’ll be hosting a comedy night at the end of July. More details as they become tumescent.

This weekend, I’m heading out to camp for a week at a festival. I’m hoping it to be a pretty unique, positive, and profound experience.

I need to write more, I suppose. My brain feels flabby.