Panic Time(s)

April 23, 2018

We’re at serious crunch time. My move out date is 9 days away and I don’t have a place to move into. If you read my last blog entry, you know staying really isn’t an option right now, but I need somewhere to go. It’s not that there haven’t been places, but they’ve gone to other people—lanlord’s choice, not mine. I am either between paralyzing anxiety and walking depression, neither of which helps me.

There are times when I hear myself say “I’ve never been this pannicked before.” Then I realize that it’s not true. This isn’t the first time that I’ve suddenly had to vacate a residence quickly. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to leave with no real place to go tet. It’s definitely harder with a child, but it’s not the first time dealing with that either. I’ve done it all before to one degree or another, and while it was hard, anxiety provoking, terrifying, and a breakdown of self on many levels., I made it through and got what I needed. A friend of mine told me, at a time of similar upheaval, that I am a survivor. Not that I didn’t believe him, but I was hoping to be able to do more than just survive. After getting through that time and knowing where I am now, knowing I can and will survive is a good things. I can navigate through Hell; I’ve done it before. Even if the path through is slightly unfamiliar, I’ve seen it in other forms already. I will survive this and make sure my daughter does too.

There’s a point where I need to make contingency plans and I know what they are. I have friends in my corner and that helps. Plus I am not giving up yet—I have a few places to look at and something will pan out. It’s very hard to be in the middle of this, but knowing my ability to get through all I have in the past means I will make it out of this too.

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I was never good at sales. I’m not very open by nature so the idea of pushing stuff on to people never was appealing—even if it was something people wanted. I’ve had sales jobs every so often over the years out of desperation and necessity, but I hated the task.

Political phone banking is similar, except you really are trying to get the word out about someone you believe in. I did it for Obama in 2008, as well as Democratic fundraising in 2010 (which was harder). But after all the crap I went through from the loss of a career in 2009, the spiraling decline through 2012, and dealing with single fatherhood for the last 3 years—all of which took a tool on my own mental health—I know I am no longer capable of doing any kind of telemarketing or phone banking.

The problem this time around is that the Bernie Sanders campaign needs the outreach of volunteers on the phones to help his run; not just getting the vote out but basic candidate knowledge. There has been a media blackout of his campaign since November 2015 and general dismissal of his candidacy up until now. Despite that he is a popular candidate, has a great platform, and can win if his message is heard. Sanders has been able to garner supporters by letting people hear his platform. So these phone banks become essential for his campaign. Yet I couldn’t do it. I want Sanders to get the nomination and the White House, but I can’t dial a single phone number without a panic attack.

Thankfully a friend pointed out that Sanders has a texting squad. They text get out the vote reminders, rally alerts, phone banking events, and such, to other Bernie supporters. I jumped on that in early March, but they had such a deluge of volunteers I had to wait until April so they can drastically upscale their operation so I can participate. I haven’t done a ton of shifts like others (the average is 3-4 text shifts a day, but I know one person who does 7-8 per day since their first day), but I’ve been regularly texting alerts to supporters for almost a month. I get plenty of “fuck offs”, but I get a higher amount of people thanking me for volunteering.

No it’s not cold calling numbers and trying to get support and/getting into arguments, but I believe every little bit counts. I’m better at writing anyway, and I can help a candidate I believe in. Luckily technology has allowed me to work around my mental illnesses and do necessary grunt work. I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing this all the way up to the convention and beyond.

Two Racist Events in One Day

February 26, 2016

I shouldn’t be surprise but it was pretty strange.

Last week I was with Sophia as she was waiting for the Orange line for school. She found a spot on a bench to sit, next to a couple of older white women. They seemed rather prim and proper in their demeanor and appearance; that was the first thing that struck me. I think Sophia accidentally brushed one of the ladies’ knee as she sat, because that woman had a look of horror on her face as if Sophia did something wrong. For hald a second I thought she might be a germaphobe with the way she reacted; however her reaction was so profound that it was more than that. I was going to say something to Sophia, but it really wasn’t her problem to worry about. While the two ladies whispered to each other (which seemed to me about what happened), a seat opened up next to Sophia and I sat down with my daughter. Maybe 20 seconds later, the two older women got up and walked towards the back of the station. All I could think was “Really?” I didn’t even bother to tell Sophia since she didn’t do anything to start it.

The same day, I was waiting for a bus to get to an appointment. The bus comes, a bunch of people get off, another woman and I got on. As the door was closed, I heard another woman trying to catch the bus. She sounded loud, obnoxious, and Bostonian saying “Hey, that’s my daughter in there!” which I thought was the woman next to me, but not. The woman had to put money on her T-pass to pay the fare, which kept us at the stop. I thought the driver would open the door, but he didn’t. I turns out the door would hit me if they were opened, which he did when I finally moved up to pay my fare. Of course that wasn;t enough for the obnoxious Boston lady. She lit up inot the driver as soon as she got on. The driver tried to calm things down but the lady wasn’t having any of it. She says “Well you seemed to open them for your own kind.” I was shocked she said that, mainly because the driver was white; if he only opened for his own kind, I wouldn’t be on the bus at all. I’m making my way to a seat while they’re still arguing. Driver says, “Own kind? Is that supposed to be some sort of racist comment you’re telling me?” She says “No Mr. Trump”—which doesn’t help at all—and she insists she said “other people.” The driver said he had to call it in for a report; she continues with a few more “Mr. Trumps” and the argument is over. I stay in my seat for the trip, but get up early before my stop to talk to the driver. I tell him if he needs a witness for his report, I heard her say “own kind” to back him up. He shrugged, shook his head, laughed it off, and said “What can you do?” I got off but I have no idea if reported it or not. Maybe living as that woman is punishment enough. Who knows?

Better Focus

February 5, 2016

Not sure how I’m doing lately, but it’s kind of a good thing. I’m not sure how to explain it except while things aren’t clearer, they are less fuzzy.

Funny thing happened. A few weeks back, I was talking about trying to get more organized this year, but specifically January would be a month to figure out where things stood and try to see what needs to be dealt with. I was thinking about it but not doing anything about it, when I remembered this happened to me awhile back. A friend of mine was able to knock some sense into me both when I was at my low point in job hunting, money problems, and Sophia’s mom—that perfect storm battering me to further ruin; and soon after Sophia’s mom died and I had to become a full-time father on a part time income overnight. One of the things she did was help me get my organizer into working shape and use it as a tool to get throught he day, the week, and once in a while minute by minute. I thought she gave me a custome organizing sheet to use. I thought I had it on my computer somewhere among various backups, so I went looking for it among the files. What I came across was everything else I’ve written and done over the years. Some of the things I hadn’t read in years, and some still held up. It was interesting to read things I didn’t so much leave behind as they got lost in the shuffle. One of these was my favorite unfinished piece of work” a web series that only had two episodes filmed, even though three scripts were writen. I forgot how well it worked, but also how well it was received by peers that I truly admired. And it is still unfinished. That might be my next project. Other things gave me hope as well. I’m not nor ever was ahead of my time in my writing, but I am a solid writer (still); it holds together well. That in itself gave me hope.

After the writings, and unable to find the sheet I was originally looking for, I found the organizer I used at the time. While it is mainly used for storage now, it was a daily reminder for everything back in the day—2011 to be exact. So much has in a short tme and I kind of forgot the chronology of it. Some people suggested I concentrate on what I was feeling during that time, but all I felt at that time was fear and anxiety. It kept coming in endless waves and a constant throbbing in my head. Looking at what happened when, helped me focus. I read these events as dates on a calendar and I can feel neural pathways open in my brain. That whole time was a jumble for survival. You forget everything you are for a way to keep going the next step. It’s frightening and the only way to deal with that fear is to become so myopic that you ignore the fear—which you can’t do, but you live in denial to take one more step forward. The time was a blur, but seeing what I did made some things a little clearer. Knowing the chronology of certain events put the jumble into order, especially at a time of chaos.

To me it’s amazing how much you have to abandon when you are in survival mode, but you don’t realize it until it’s all over. Even a sense of time, linear events and planning erode from fear of the weight of the current situation and what might lie ahead. It’s a horrible way to live and I can’t believe I was in that reptilian mindset for so long. Moreso I can’t belibe I made it out, scarred but together. Things are less out of focus than they have been lately and it’s possible to remember some of that time without panic. Knocking on wood, it will stay that way for a while.

Memes That Hit Home

November 7, 2015

I saw these two memes a few days back and it messed me up a bit.12188916_895316753850335_3922937498143956587_n  10831900_135079473516939_1580206197_n

The sense of humor thing I’ve been saying for a few years now. Since 2009 with losing the job at WGBH then all the financial fallout from trying to reduce child support from a greedy angry bipolar woman, I have been on a downward spiral since then. It’s not that it ended with the death of Sophia’s mom, but it stabilized at a level I’ve never been comfortable with. Yes I do realize that I was in an abusive situation with Sophia’s mom, but it does not make being abused any easier. I’m already prone to depression and have—as a therapist once said—a high tolerance for misery, so the damage was done; but compound that with the economic upheaval I was in that I never experienced before and I’ve been a mess. That I’ve seen my sense of humor worn down to a nub has been distressing to me in general and as I used to be.

This sort of lead me to the second meme. What do you do when you can’t remember who you were before everything that happened to tamp down your spirit? My first memory of childhood was sitting on a couch listening to my parents talk to me and having the conscious thought of “Who are these people?” I’ve been in different shades of distress ever since then. I think I was three at the time; maybe younger. I honestly remember very few times when I was truly happy and content, and it was fleeting at best. Something would soon happen that threw me back into turmoil. There’s the old addage of faking it til you make it, but I think I’ve been doing that most of my life. Trying to get to a point where I am settled or content with things is a big goal, but I’m not even sure what that looks like.

There’s some truth to these memes, but getting to that point is pretty intense and painful.

Dating for Misanthropes

October 31, 2015

I’m torn about dating. I think I’m of three minds about things. First, I know I’m in no financial, mental or emotional state to go on a date with anyone; I know this so I have sworn off dating for a while. Whether that’s until I’m more stable or when Sophia is off at college I haven’t figured out. The second part thinks maybe it would help my mental state to meet someone new, or at least see what is out there that is possible for me. Human connections are helpful and are needed for those that are isolated. So maybe trying to meet someone—with no preconceived expectiations—might help out. The third part of me really wants to get laid. If human connection is helpful but a long-term commitment is doubtful (and/or detrimental to others), there’s always splitting the difference with sex. Studes have proven sexual activity (with a partner) can do wonders staving off depression and anxiety. The downside is the whole meeting people thing. Craigslist is an invitation to death and other sites are filled with spambots, catfishers and shut ins.

And as usual I only have my blog to complain about it on. Yeah I could post a dating profile somewhere, but not sure how the brutal honesty would go over.

“46 year old single Latino father, part-time delivery driver, history of mental illness seeking partner/girlfriend/significant other/fuck buddy/other (please circle one). Likes movies/TV/movies on TV, cooking, writing, free-form philosophical arguments, good animation, Star Trek, and light bondage (not a deal breaker). Must be willing to take T as I have no car. Not sure if this will work, but I figure I’d be an optimist and give it a shot.”

I’m not sure whether to post this on Christian Mingle or Tinder. Which one is more misanthropic?

I don’t know why I feel so out of it these days. I know I have goog daya snd bad days with my own particular depressive/anxiety problems, but do the lows always have to feel so sould crushing? It’s not like I can be depressed AND go to the gym or write or whatever; I have to be so depressed that I don’t wan tto go anywhere, except to work when I have to. I also haven’t written in a few weeks. It’s not even that I’m stuck in a story; I can’t muster the will needed to pick up a pen. I know what I have is a problem of chemistry, not about laziness. Mental illness is a biologic disorder, at the very least a medical one. I just feel more lost than usual.

Why is trying to take care of yourself and your own needs such a struggle? I know I need to carve out time to write, exercize and rest so I can be functional; but why, when faced with the other priorities of the day—work, shopping, cleaning, picking up Sophia, etc.—why do I always put my needs last? Or better yet, why do I see it as an all or nothing proposition? If I take care of myself, I forsake everyone and everything else; or if I want to help Sophia, everything personal gets throuwn out the window. It shouldn’t be an eithter/or situation but my head keeps turning it into one. Why? I have no clue.

What’s funny is I can’t completely blame it on mental illness. It’s a huge component of it, but putting me last is something ingrained in me since childhood. Yes it’s a learned trait that can be unlearned, but how easy had that ever been? I’m still fighting fights with myself that should have died long ago. Just add this to the list. Meanwhile I’ll petition to get a 28 hour day—that’ll be easier.

No Joy in Mudville

October 18, 2014

Near the beginning of the month, a friend of mine tagged me online to do a 30-day Joy Challenge. This is where you post one thing on Facebook (or Twitter or blog) that brings you joy every day for 30 days. Since I got them to do a 5-day Positivity Challenge, it made sense to tag me for this challenge. But I didn’t think I was ready to do it at that time, but I would try soon. One more step in trying to improve my outlook on things. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized tat there was no way I could do a challenge about joy.

Gratitude is not too hard. Gratitude is about being grateful for the things, people and abilities you have in you life. For every thing I listed in my challenge, I am truly grateful to have and appreciate it every day. But joy is different. Joy is the feeling of happiness or bliss you get from special things, activities and people in your life. It’s internal feeling about external things. The problem is that I haven’t felt truly happy for a long time.

Even when I was bored at my job, still dealing with my daughter’s mother’s abuse and craziness, I was depressed for sure, but there were people, projects and things that could make me happy. I may have been more by-the-numbers, but I could occasionally feel good. Since the 2008 recession, the management trap that cost me a career, and the fallout from that and child court issues, I had all the joy knocked out of me. And it wasn’t all at once; it was a steady constant pressure that squeezed the “life” out of my life. My depression and anxiety didn’t help, but the external triggers were too much and persistent. While I’m nowhere near getting better, I have some perspective to see how it happened.

There are times when I feel some happiness, but not exuberantly enough to call it joy, and certainly not enough to do it for 30 days. I’d like to, but I’d be lying if I said I could do it right now. I don’t take for granted what I have, but it will be some time before I have enough joy inside to do a 30-day joy challenge.

Stir of Echos

August 29, 2014

As a writer, I constantly have voices in my head. Voices of characters and dialogue, scene descriptions, events unfolding in surround sound—all these I hear before and during the writing process. Not every writer hears things, but that seems to be my primary sensory focus when inspiration strikes or during the writing itself. At its best, it can be like dictation—simply writing what you hear going on in your head. However there’s another reason I occasionally hear voices: depression. Now I’m not talking serious auditory hallucinations telling me to kill my neighbors with a fork (though that would make an interesting short story); I’m talking about a lot of negative voices I’ve heard in the past that get louder and drown out normal emotional perceptions. I thought about it this last week because of that email exchange with a former FB friend where he brought up something I wrote in his yearbook when we were in high school (see my previous blog entry Reason to be Grateful). He threw that quote at me and it set the anger sensory overload in motion—I get so I’m hyperaware of what’s being said and some of those words get stuck in my head. I used to call it a “tape loop”—recorded phrases of damnation hurled at me that I kept in storage and would automatically play when I’m at my most nervous. The thing is I’m not sure it is or ever was a tape; it’s like echos. You hear these things over and over again being said at you, and seeing that my primary sensory intake is sound, these sounds reverberate in my head. When I was younger, the repetitions were clear and loud. Now that I have some distance and age, they’re there but fainter. Incidents like this past week bring some of those echos back up, but I need to remember they’re only echos: things I’ve heard in the past that bounced around my brain for too long, that may not even mean anything or be true anymore. These echos can damage when they’re always present and loud, but when they soften and far in between, it’s less painful.

Sometimes those echos hinder the writing process. One voice every writer has is the inner critic. Its a voice that doesn’t seem to shut up either and gets in the way of writing. The thing is the inner critic voice gets crossed with and boosted by those harmful echos—even when they’re faint. This makes the writing harder which only worsens the depression which makes the whole thing sustain itself. To make matters stranger, like any writer I use things in my life in my writing, including things I’ve heard. Sometimes it’s therapeutic to process those feelings in my writing; other times it’s like creating a sustained flashback. The thing is I need the helpful voices in my head when I write, but not the ones that hinder me. This is a very subtle battle: the need to differentiate which are the echos of the past and which are conversations I want to use. Not easy but I’m trying to process all the voices in my head.

A little while ago, a comedian committed suicide. He was hilariously funny on stage, had his own sitcom, made movies and was living a relatively charmed life. But he suffered from mental illness—depression among other things—and that meant no matter what he had in his life—work, family, money—he would never feel whole. And one morning after making an irrationally rational decision, he killed himself. With the outpouring of emotions and tributes, his girlfriend urged people to learn about mental illness and to help others. That comedian was Richard Jeni, and he died in 2007. This last week we lost Robin Williams in the same way. While the death certificate would never list depression as the cause of death, it was the mental illness that made the decision to take his own life the only logical option. While we didn’t heed the words of Richard Jeni’s girlfriend, more people have taken the death of Robin Williams to heart and are opening up about their own battles with depression and to better educate people on mental illness.

I have written and spoken out about my own dealings with mental illness, but with all the misconceptions and misplaced emotions/accusations about Williams’ death, I felt it necessary to add my voice to the national conversation.

Depression isn’t a state of being sad. As Freud pointed out, it’s anger turned inward. But that’s only clinical talk from someone who reads too many articles and thinks he knows everything. As someone who deals with depression, it’s more than that.

A couple of weeks back, I was in a bad state. A lot of pressure and not medicated properly (missed a few doses and awaiting another prescription to be refilled) pushed me further inward; as I like to say, I hide under a desk in the fetal position waiting for things to go away—all inside me. I vague-blogged a post on Facebook, and of course people were scared that I might really hurt myself. One of my friends said I should try to remember the love I have for my daughter and that she feels for me, and of course that nearly sent me over the edge; because one big problem was that I couldn’t feel that love at all at the moment. It’s not that I didn’t want to feel it or that I didn’t love my daughter; not that at all. I did, but because of the way my depression works, I wasn’t able to feel it (or had access to those feelings).

The void people with depressive disorders often talk about isn’t about having something physical or emotional in their life or enough of something material to feel good; the void is the distance between the emotional receptors of my brain and the correct synapses needed to feel emotional truth. Sometimes the serotonin doesn’t build up enough so we feel empty and stretch for anything to feel something, and other times the serotonin builds up too much so we go into emotional overload and need sanctuary from the flood. Either extreme is enough to put me in a state of confusion. When people ask me what I could use, I couldn’t tell you because I don’t know myself. I’m not trying to push people away; I literally don’t have an answer and it’s frustrating—which only adds to the emotional turmoil. That’s one thing that makes it hard to deal with people who are depressed: we don’t have the answers to how to solve the problem no matter how often you ask us. Unfortunately this gives people the idea that we want to be like this, or just are negative people, or get annoyed because they can’t help us with any magic words. So instead of hanging in there—which we really do need whether we can say it or not—people walk away; sometimes blaming us in the process, which continues to shame us and exacerbate the problem.

The thing is we don’t know what can bring us around, but when it does come it’s good to know we have people in our corner. When I was 17, I had a particularly bad day and was trying to do a mental inventory of what was in the bathroom medicine chest; I was hoping to figure out what was lethal in there that I could swallow. At that about that time, I heard John Cougar Mellancamp’s song “Scarecrow” on the radio, which gave me a vision of my own funeral. All my friends, past and present, were there mourning. What struck me at that moment was how many friends I did have. I cried the rest of the evening before going to sleep. That stopped me from suicide. What kept me from attempting it after that was what a friend of mine said the next day when I told him about the dream. He said “I would never come to your funeral if you killed yourself, because you threw away all your potential.” For decades I was able to have that phrase in my mind when times got that hard and it kept me from trying or considering the unthinkable. That is until last year, when things were so hard and overwhelming that those words couldn’t stop me from thinking that there was a butcher knife only a foot away from me in the SRO I was about to get thrown out of and how easy it would be to use it. I happened to pick up on that and make a call to the Samaritan’s hotline. I wasn’t an urgent case as I wasn’t going to do it at that moment, but the guy stayed on the phone to get me though a little bit. He asked me if I was reading anything lately. I told him “I was reading Hamlet, which, considering my current state of mind, was probably not the best choice of material at the moment. ”He said it was good that I still had a sense of humor about things. We talked another minute or two and then he had to hang up. I wasn’t suicidal anymore but definitely still depressed. Later in the winter when things calmed a bit, I called that same high school friend who helped when I was 17. I told him what he said to me all those years ago and how it helped, but that it was tougher to hear this time around. He told me, “Okay, if you do kill yourself, I will show up to your funeral. And sing.” That’s kept me going a while now as well. It was vitally important to absolutely know I had a friend in my corner, and he knew how to talk to me and let me know he was there.

I was lucky because not everyone has that, and some don’t know exactly what to say or how to hang in there. But that’s something a lot of those with mental illness absolutely need: persistence. People who are persistent in sticking with someone who suffers from mental illness; persistence to find the right combination of medication and therapy; persistence to live with an illness that is equally persistent as it is devastating. It’s treatable, but not easy. We see that with the death this week of someone who could make the world laugh but had little joy in his own mind. If anything can come out of the tragedy of Robin Williams’ death, it is that more light can be shone on the problems of mental illness and bring people out of the shadows of confusion and stigma to be treated. Maybe then we can heed the wishes of Richard Jeni’s girlfriend from years ago.