Saturday, August 16, 2014

I need a day off from all my days off

Forgive me for going somewhat stream-of-conscious here. I'm feeling the need to write--and to share--today.

Often I wonder whether, by trying to better understand my own mental health issues, I actually make them worse. Other times, I know they don't need my help for that.

Mom and I were partners at the job I held for most of the last eleven years. While I managed my business at around 60 hours a week, she was my presence in the community. She did much of my leg work, phone calls, and emailing. We bounced ideas off one another, and shared in the excitement or frustration when those ideas were enacted. We vented, we shared. We had fun.

After she died in January, I wasn't sure how able I would be to keep working there. By March, I knew I couldn't do it. Simply looking around the place brought memories that would lead to tears; there wasn't an inch of the building that didn't have her touch. I found myself having to do some of the work that she used to do, actions which left me debilitated from loss. Not only had I lost my mother, with all of the obvious pain and loss which accompanies that, but I'd lost my best friend and partner. And I couldn't go to work to escape it; in fact, in many ways I felt the hurt even more acutely there than not. Being at work, doing the things I'd done (fairly successfully) since 2003, was killing me.

So I worked almost a month-long notice, helped find and train my replacement, and I quit.

Now, as for dealing with my bipolar issues, a couple of years ago my wife and I decided, as a team, that we'd see if I could make it without my medicines; after all, I wasn't even properly diagnosed until I was almost 30 years old, and I'd managed alright--it was only the occasional extreme manifestations that caused major problems (and major they were). The medicinal side effects were a pain; I was better now at managing stress; and my relationships with God and family were exponentially improved.

Almost 1½ years after I stopped taking my medicines was when Mom died. Needless to say, my psyche has been a full-on wreck ever since. Quitting the job helped take away some of the ugly reminders.

Since then, I've been at home. We've adjusted our budget to accommodate the change while Bethany and I rely on financial aid and part-time work, and we explore other occupational options. If it weren't for the anxiety side of being bipolar, I'd probably be doing a little better. The depression after so great a loss makes sense, of course, and Bethany and my friends have been wonderful in their attempts to hold it mostly at bay.

But anxiety is a fickle beast. Days like today it gets very bad. I cannot look anywhere in the house without feeling intensely overwhelmed. Our house is probably in about the same shape as most homes with three boys under seven years old. But, in my head, it's Hell. Nothing is where it should be, or clean enough, or organized enough. There is no peace or relaxation. And, because of my general lack of mood-lifting hormones, I cannot seem to force myself to take action on anything.

I know these things consciously: I should do things; I could do things; it's not nearly as bad as my anxiety says it is; I can relieve some of my depression by doing things that will release mood lifters into my system; small steps and small victories will help get my mood into balance. I know those things, but they may as well be meaningless. Mood disorders put you at odds with yourself.

And I so desperately wish my friends and family understood it more. It's been on my mind a lot since Robin Williams's death and the subsequent discussions about depression and suicide; most people still simply do not understand the disease. They don't understand that it's not about _choice_ or even willpower. They refuse to believe that it's about chemistry, as if admitting that our psyches are not completely abstract phenomena, but have biochemical components, somehow makes us lesser beings. And that puts people like us in a really lonely place, exacerbating our problems.

I now wonder whether I should try to start taking medicine for bipolar disorder again. Which makes me wonder how to do that now that I no longer have insurance. Sometimes I just want to throw everything I own away to see if it causes my anxiety to go away. Sometimes I don't get out of bed. Oftentimes I miss doing things with my friends. I even miss work, sometimes. I miss Mom always.

If you're reading this, I hope you're well. I hope you know that you're loved. I hope you remember to let your loved ones know how you feel about them. And I ask you, if you know people with mental health issues, mood disorders, or whatever, that you not judge them for their illnesses. Read about them. And love.

Remember, always, to love.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fair Warning!

In case it's not blatantly obvious, I haven't been maintaining this blog. It is my plan to pick it back up again in the future, albeit with less egocentrism. For now, please enjoy looking at the old stones, and excuse the dust.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Brief Summary of Christianity and Other World Religions, Told in Simple Allegory

Right after school started at 8:00, everyone was given the following letter:

Hi everyone!
It’s me, your Dad. I love you all! I enjoyed our time together before you went to school this morning. I’ll be there in a little while to pick you up; in the meantime, I’ve given Jacob a list of simple rules and chores.
Jacob, you will be responsible for helping to keep things in order until mid-morning when the Teacher gets there. Everyone else, listen to Jacob, because he’s in charge – not yourselves or the others in the neighborhood!
About mid-morning, the Teacher will teach for a little while, and Jacob will (begrudgingly, I’m sure) relinquish his responsibility. After that, why don’t you all just enjoy one another’s company and wait for me to get back? Stay at the playground and make sure to be fair to each other. I am pleased with the Teacher, so follow His example. Remember, don’t talk to strangers! I will be there sometime before 12:00; be ready.

Love always, Your Father.

P.S. We’re gonna have a lot of fun when we get home!
P.P.S. Those of you who cause trouble or who aren’t ready are going to miss out; be ready! And those of you who disobey are going into time-out – you know better!

Here’s how everyone responded:

• Jacob, in his excitement, and the Jews stopped reading after the second paragraph. This created a rift with everyone else, especially the Teacher.
• One of Father’s casual acquaintances interrupted the Muslims after the first paragraph; they didn’t read the rest of the letter. Anyone who had followed Jacob, past or present, got on their bad side, and they chose the stranger for their teacher.
• The Catholics systemized everything on the playground, and pushed many of the others away, especially by deciding some were more favored by Father than others were.
• The Anglicans and Episcopalians split off from the Catholics, but ended up doing things pretty much the same stuff.
• The Baptists and Methodists argued with one another the whole time about whether or not Father was using military time, but otherwise just hung out and avoided the Catholics.
• The Amish, Mennonites, Quakers, and a few others, didn’t want to enjoy the others’ company and sometimes were beaten up. They mimicked the Teacher, but sometimes forgot the letter itself.
• The Calvinists and Presbyterians were bored and napped until 11:59.
• The Seventh-Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses are pretty sure it’s 12:00 right now.
• The Latter-Day Saints found another letter that seemed to be from Father, and started doing things a little differently, especially since one of them seemed to have Father on the phone.
• The agnostics decided there was no way to know that the letter was from Father.
• The atheists decided that the letter wasn’t real and that school would simply stop after 12:00, with nothing after it.
• The evangelists ran around with the letter, picking it apart and yelling about 12:00. They meant well.
• The New Age-ers thought they’d gotten this letter before.
• The 3rd World tribes and other isolated folk had to be taught how to read the letter; then they’d often go join one of the other groups.
• The Satanists and Wiccans decided that everyone was in charge. They broke lots of rules.
• The Scientologists got so imaginative they convinced themselves Father was an alien.
• The Hindi, Buddhists, Taoists, and many others went off and played with strangers.
• The littlest children played well, learned a lot from the Teacher, and had innocent fun until Father came to get them.

[Exposition: From “the beginning” until 6:00am, God created everything but man. From 6:00 to 8:00 He creates and spends time with man before the Fall. The letter represents the Bible. The first paragraph is the Torah. The second paragraph completes the Old Testament. The third paragraph is the New Testament; the Teacher is Jesus Christ. “12:00” represents the Second Coming. The post scripts are the Book of Revelations. The bullet-point analyses are simplified analogies of how various groups interpret “the letter”; many are tongue-in-cheek and meant to be somewhat humorous. The final bullet point is the only group that followed the Letter exactly (Matthew 18:3).]

Sunday, May 1, 2011

You make me sick?

I'm going to now write about something that I've only shared with a handful of people in my life. Chances are you'll think I'm full of crap. Or simply not understand. Or think I'm vying for attention. Or, most likely, you'll not even read it, so it won't matter anyway. Regardless, I want to talk about it, so there!
For as long as I can remember, at least as far back as elementary school, I have struggled sometimes with being around too many people. And by struggled, I mean that it can cause me anything from a massive headache, to anxiety attacks, to even physically becoming sick and throwing up. I remember even at my birthday parties in elementary school, some of which had 30-ish kids running around, suddenly getting nauseous and running outside to puke. In high school band, we'd occasionally have field trips to huge competitions with tons of people, or visits to big theme parks like Six Flags or Disney; at some point I'd get a terrible headache and/or sick to my stomach. The local fair has always been one of the worst experiences with it; I have refused to go since middle school. Big shopping days, like the day after Thanksgiving, do it to me; I remember once or twice at a teen going shopping with the family and eventually ending up incapacities; most of the time, I'd buy a book or some drawing paper and go wait in the van. Much of the visiting Wal-Mart does it to me regardless of whether there's a special shopping day involved; I usually just wait until late at night if I have to go there. I remember it happening at the few parties I attended, school dances, or clubs. Even at family get-togethers, like Christmas or Thanksgiving, I've had it - I'll just be visiting, then the headache will hit; I'll try to withdraw until, at some point, I finally have to go puke my guts out and lay down. Obviously, in all of these cases, it makes feel guilty and makes the others involved feel awkward or downright offended. When I go to events with more than just a few people anymore, I simply sit and attempt to control myself - I'll pray, or focus on the TV, read, or even meditate. That way I can make the social appearance and hopefully not get sick.
I've researched it a lot. The most obvious prognosis is that the problem is somewhat psychosomatic. For instance, let's say that, in general, I have a problem with confidence, or perhaps a problem with social environments; so, as a defense mechanism, my body creates these physical issues to give me reason to excuse myself from the situation. The problem with that is that, with friends and family, I don't believe that I -have- a social personality disorder or confidence. At parties, band trips, and family get-togethers I truly -want- to participate! Of course, one could argue that my wanting to be there is a conscious social device, but that subconsciously I would rather not be there, so the psychosomatic idea remains validated.
Another prognosis could simply be anxiety in general; within the last year, I've been diagnosed with anxiety issues potentially stemming back into my youth. There's certainly no question that it manifest itself occasionally the eight years I was general manager for Papa John's. Anxiety attacks are known to cause headaches and nausea, among other things. Once again, it seems that it would have to be some subconscious issue, though, because in -most- of the above circumstances, I -want- to be there! My anxiety episodes which I have consciously recognized have often been related to organization problems, being late, feeling inadequate, etc. But never around my friends and family! So again, it's possible that that's the issue, but it still doesn't sit right with me. I can't recall, as a musician who's played countless weddings and luncheons, numerous solo performances and rock band performances, school band solos (not to mention that I was the only synth player in the school band, making me stick out pretty easily), and piano recitals, ever having had the anxiety, headaches, or nausea; if anything, I'd have the typical butterflies and sweaty palms that everyone experiences at some point. Heck, I even commandeered (more like my friend Gary commandeered for me) the piano bar one night on a Caribbean cruise ship, playing for over an hour for the dinner crowd, packing the entire room, and taking requests!
So, when viewing the previous couple of potential prognoses, it doesn't really add up.
Then, there's the "new age" concept that I read about once that might truly explain it; I'll save that for tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Home PC Maintenance for the OCD

Do you ever feel like you organize your way into disorganization? That’s how I’ve been all my life. I spend so much time planning, decluttering, organizing, re-organizing, etc., that what I really end up with is a big mess.

“It’s my mess, and I like it'” – From an old poster I had on the wall when I was a kid.

Well, my digital life is the same way. My music has to be properly sorted into folders by artist, then album; MP3 tags must be correct. My photos and pictures must be sorted – if it’s art, it’s sorted by artist; if it’s a personal photograph, it’s sorted by person or subject-matter. Funny stuff, icons, wallpapers, astronomy pics and art, video game screenshots – they all get their own folders and sub-folders.

My documents are all specifically sorted – stuff for my books, stuff for school, stuff for music writing, IT stuff – again, all with folders & subfolders.

As a technology enthusiast, I accumulate a lot of software; I like trying freeware for various needs, and have quite a collection of portable software that I use for troubleshooting others’ PCs. These, too, are all sorted by use. To make matters worse, I can’t stand having out-of-date software or hardware drivers, so once a month I go through all of it and update it where necessary. There are a handful of useful programs out there to help with the endeavor, such as SUMo, but many of the more obscure programs I have simply require manually checking. Sigh.

Luckily, there are –some- methods out there to help me keep my digital life organized. I’ll be going into some detail with those in upcoming posts.

Speaking of keeping things working…. Do you have a Wii? Or, for that matter, do you have kids? If so, doubtless you’ve run into situations where you wish your TV didn’t seem quite so likely to be ruined by a throw Wii-mote. Enter TvScreenProtector! For the price, these vinyl screen protectors may not be worth it for your 15-year-old 19” clunky box television. BUT if you’ve forked out some serious cash for a nice HD flat-screen or the like, the TvScreenProtector could add some serious peace-of-mind to those moms (and dads!) out there when the kids are playing near your TV. Check ‘em out!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tired All Day

What the heck? It’s like I haven’t been able to wake up today. Full moon? I don’t know.

Unfortunately, that also means I don’t really have much to say. Enjoy the babble-fest.

In tech news, one of my brand new sticks of RAM kicked the bucket yesterday. Just came home, and it had stopped working. Hopefully I’ll b able to return it for a new one tomorrow; we’ll see. I’m also considering trying to sell my motherboard for a higher-end one….

Tomorrow morning I begin my life as an hourly (un-salaried) employee, a fact for which I’m incredibly excited. I’m still working five-day week, at my suggestion, but at nearly half the hours I’ve worked the past eight years. Bethany and I are going to try to accelerate our moving plans because electricity is about 1/5 the cost in the city versus what we’re paying in the county here. $400 electric bills? Financial rape – not to be rude, but seriously!

We’ll probably be getting the new van tomorrow, unless negotiations fall through, or the loan we’re offered doesn’t make sense. I hope we do, because it’s the best we’ve found in two months.

I have lots of stuff to go through at home and digitally to collect all the PJ’s stuff in my possession to gift to the new GM. Maybe I’ll get to it Monday or Tuesday; I was going to try to do that today, but, as I said, I have no energy! More than likely I’ll go read some of The Dragon Reborn for a little while and then go to bed early. I finished the Book of Hebrews last night, so I think I’m going to go back to an Old Testament book… maybe Numbers. Leviticus ended up being less tough to read than I’d imagined; may the Holy Spirit be with me so that Numbers reads as easily.

This is going to sound incredibly materialistic, but I’d really like a Windows Phone. I have a low-end Blackberry, which is just nice enough to lure me into the convenience factors of smart phones. But I use Windows for everything, particularly MS Office, that having a phone that synced well with the PC would be rockin’. But we currently use a pre-paid plan through Boost, and a contract phone is truly out of the question right now; unfortunately, Windows Phones seem to be exclusive to contracts. Boo.

I’m looking forward to delivering tomorrow. I’ve always enjoyed that; I think everyone in the country should have either mandatory military service, EMS service, or pizza delivery service for at least six months before being given the right to vote. Delivery drivers are the most qualified sociologists I’ve ever known. I think I argued this point a few years back on my MySpace blog (yeah, back when people used MySpace); perhaps I’ll resurrect it just to post on the blog here.

I figured out how to do some very amateur recording on the PC today. Recorded a new song idea that came to me, which was a cool way to get the idea down. Most of the time it involves napkins. Or recording Voice Notes on my Blackberry. Trust me, it’s not good enough to post online, but it’s a step in that direction; I’ve promised for a few years now that I’d eventually put some music on the ‘Net – I like to think that it will be very soon now that I’ll just be able to record myself singing and playing live, and then upload the video wherever for sharing.

Now what to do with my hair?

Only 150 words to go! Does it count if part of writing my daily words is wasted writing about writing my words? I’m counting it, so there.

I talked with my friend Kim for a little while yesterday, which was nice because we’ve not had a chance to talk in a long time. She’s kind of my spiritual twin, if you will, so it did me good to catch up with her. Texted with Jeremy a little early today about Lent and it’s history. I’ll not go into the details, because people can be touchier about the particulars of faith than they are about whether to have faith at all!

I really want to watch Stargate: SG1 from the beginning again; I never even watched the last couple of seasons. And Star Trek: TNG also. Man, I loved those shows. But yet, look at what we get to keep instead: American Idol & Survivor. Whoop-di-doo.

See? Aren’t you glad you read this? :P