Leave the curse, bring the cannoli

Living with depression is like listening to Verdi on a transistor radio.

I’ve arrived at a place where I choose to see the blessings rather than consider myself cursed. Which gives me a fairly unique take on FOMO, the acronym for “Fear of missing out”. It’s a social media commodity and it’s a thing with kids . . of all ages. And since I really don’t get why that is, Imma guess that’s one of those blessings I mentioned a little bit earlier.

For as long as I can remember, my brain has been living independently of the societal tenets most adults tried to ingrain in my bony little ass. I pledged to their proverbs because I knew what they wanted to hear. I curled up to the narrow logistics with earnestness, even if it felt as if I was test tubing on the Upper Gauley. And when the answers to the questions didn’t make the least bit of sense to me, I simply smiled my best lie.

As a boy, I buried myself in books and curls; the former because they provided far away worlds through which I could venture. And the latter because they proffered riddles with such a furious magic. Whereas my boy pals were as nuanced as ball-peen hammers, girls spoke in balletic riddles whose mysteries soothed my deepest aches momentarily enough.

In my youth, I prospected all manner of clubs as if mining for gold. From Boy Scouts to little league, chess club to school newspaper to mock trials. I did so not because I wanted to fit in, but rather, because I wanted to see if maybe I was missing out on something. Because that’s what every adult insisted was happening when their son or daughter belonged to something I didn’t belong to. I was ‘missing out’ and it was a shame . . they insisted.

Sports was supposed to teach me all about teamwork, but of course, it didn’t work that way for me. It became a way in which I could hone my observational skills. I learned that our head coach was afforded the benefits of all the doubts he created, so long as he won. His drinking and carousing and leering at girls who could have been his daughters was time stamped for future processing: As in, when he started losing games, they became actionable. My teammates were easy to figure. The guys who constantly bragged about getting laid, weren’t. The guys who talked about gay people, were. And the guys who simply wanted to please the coaches were searching for something that didn’t exist.

So yeah, that whole teamwork thing was lost on me. I worked well within the parameters of it, and I still do. Even if I will always march to the beat of my own drum because I possess not a fig of Newton’s gravitas when it comes to the natural order of things.

I do not judge someone for wanting to be a part of something “bigger than themselves” even if I don’t understand it. I don’t outwardly defy convention even if inwardly I will not ride its coattails. I don’t swim in the ‘community’ pool because I’ve learned enough to know that being comfortable in my own skin is where it’s at. And where it needs to be at. For me.

There was a time when I would get pissed off at people who judged me for not seeing the value of some prescribed standard of living. Their rebukes served as a constant reminder to me. That from Boy Scouts to football to marriage to here, I have never been happy. Like, ever. So yanno, it’s rocket fuel personal when you add it up that way.

But I learned. To understand others, even if they do not always understand me. And it’s yet another blessing I’ve found on the way to my something else. Because I am proof positive that we may weave a tangled web, but it doesn’t mean we have to cry inside of it.

So yes, I’m missing out. On so very much, according to all those perfect lives being lived out on social media right this very minute. And I’m okay with that. Because I have what I have, and there is peace of mind attached to the fine print of that deed. And sometimes you have to count your blessings, because it’s a start. And Lord knows, life doesn’t give you very much in the way of breadcrumbs. So choose not to fear the things you do not have.

Love the things you do.

Sunday Morning Post

I was recently reminded of something my mother used to say when I was a little boy. I was doing little boy things,  like being needy and whiny with a checklist full of all the many things I had to have, like . . immediately if not sooner.

You can’t want what you don’t have, so stop asking for it already. 

I found this to be a particularly churlish retort to my obviously childish wants. Not to mention the fact that mom was being uber philosophical without even knowing it. A simple because would’ve done, but to go all Kierkegaard on my ass was plainly unfair and wholly undemocratic.

My mother’s intent was to branch out the lesson into places my formative brain couldn’t yet reach, so that I might shut the fuck up for five seconds. And it worked. The preach was graduate level, but not in a mocking sense. More to the point, it trusted my ability to play catch up with the facts. And in the doing, it took my mind off the static qualities of whining all my many needs.

It wasn’t often that I acted my age. I was sixteen when I was six, sneaking smokes and drinking mysterious potions my friends hustled out of their parents linen closets and kissing girls. I hung out with kids who were twice my age, because they were depressing as fuck and I related to that.

Granted, my understanding of philosophy was limited to wondering why it was that Leigh Ann Dence would talk about marrying me inside one moment and then flirt with my friend Steve inside the next. But a relative understanding was plenty good enough.

This particular lesson on wanting, it stuck. Because it learnt me a solid take on humanism and time management. Dwelling on the former demanded patience and humility and ample amounts of soul searching. It taught me that to want what I do not have was an extravagance to which the cosmos frowned upon.

Never mind that I tossed all of that hard earned perspective away as I got older. I became greedy in my wanting of things that were both illusory and damning in the sense of true appreciation. A cancer diagnosis in 2000 and divorce a few years later kicked my ass back to reality.

I teased this lesson I’d carried with me, and I teased it hard inside the aughts of 2000, once I had a few clean bills of health under my belt and had regained my sea legs on the dating scene. Each and every time I was met with a reminder, to go back to the beginning. To be okay with wanting what I had. Because for me, this lesson was a beacon.

It allows me to navigate my definition of happiness without falling into a place from which there ain’t no returning. This way ain’t for everyone, and thank God for that. Because this way comes at a cost. You’ll lose people. Because the world works on credit and all that great shit the stoics once penned is sold on Amazon now.

But I understand that judgement is nothing more than ignorance dressed in black. And on those days when I feel as if the people I trusted most done placed me inside the windows on Herald Square for everyone to gawk at, I let myself understand that anger for what it truly is. Knowledge.

Once you’re unencumbered from ideas that demand you to want- ideas like anger and hate, confusion and vengeance- you can actually fuse that energy into something more ambitious than a linear progression. As a writer, this means channeling the pulpy wrecks into vessels that float.

So goes the lesson.







My Mental Story- Part 2

Hey kids, this is the second part of a three part series by my lovely and amazing friend, Linds B. 

Every second of my existence was plagued with thoughts of her.

“Why wasn’t I good enough?”

“Am I really that unlovable?”

“What did I do wrong?”

“It was all my fault.”

Relentless self-blame. All I could think about was how my life would never be complete again without her. I was so sure I would never get out of this rut until I had her back in my life. I would try everything to get her back. With what little energy I could muster up, I would spend it all on efforts to reclaim her; which of course only made things worse. My breakdowns and anxiety attacks were more severe, more constant, to the point where I was always in pain, almost always in tears, vomiting on a daily basis. I had reached my breaking point. My old coping methods began to surface, I cut myself, many times. When I looked at my reckless decision, I cried, I watched my tears mix with my blood. It got so tricky to not explain the inner workings of my mind at the time to my parents, as I had never been one to share anything with my parents in spite of the fact I love them dearly. I tried talking to my mom about something so small and broke down, a panic attack quickly followed, I had never had one in front of either of my parents before. Through my tears I told my own mother I had lost the will to live.

There’s not a single doubt in my mind it’s the most difficult thing for any parent to hear that your child wants to die. In that moment, I could see how hard she tried to keep it together, but she didn’t lose her mind, she didn’t break down, she hugged me tight and told me that everything would end up okay in the end. In perhaps one of the strangest ways, that breakdown brought us closer than ever before in my life. Later that evening, as I sat alone in my bed, to my surprise, my mother came knocking on my door with two cups of coffee. She sat on the bed with me, and just talked to me about, well, everything. She broke her habitual evening ritual with my father; having coffee and watching Jeopardy and whatever else may come on TV until they both fall asleep, just to be with me. The most beautiful part about it all was that she didn’t fill my head with sweet delusions of perfect scenarios. It was in this moment I decided I was going to do something, I didn’t want to feel sad anymore, I didn’t just want to exist, I wanted to live, and I wanted to live my best life!

While coming to that conclusion is a step, nothing will ever prepare you for what you must put up with in order to make it through all the things life will inevitably throw at you. At this time, I knew nothing of self-care, to be what always cured my moody-blues was surrounding myself with others. So, what do you do when there aren’t any “others”, I would think to myself. My brain wasted no time swiftly reminding me how lonely I was, and then, you guessed it, breakdown.

That repetitive cycle of lifting myself up and getting knocked back down progressed on for what felt like a lifetime. After another talk with my mother, I had come to the decision I was going to look into some therapy. I knew I was in far too deep to take all of this on by myself, which before I knew it was progress in itself to have a thought like that. Luckily, I had a connection through a work friend to a solid therapist. I wasted no time getting everything set up and before I knew it I was in for an appointment. No lie, I was skeptical of the whole thing for a moment, knowing perfectly well I have gone through plenty of therapists in my past and have gotten nothing from it; After my first appointment I was already feeling the progress, as small as it was. The second session rolled around, I spilled my guts about everything and anything I could think of that could contribute to my struggles. I also learned and accepted that there’s never a day in life where you stop learning about yourself; it was that day I was diagnosed with bipolar, on top of everything else that was going on in my brain. It was weirdly freeing to hear, as crazy as that may come off to others, to me it was an opportunity to further getting to know myself.


My Mental Story

The following post is part of a series written by Linds B. It follows her journey from there to here. It speaks to the change that is within us all.

In the past 2 years, I’ve spent hours, days . . weeks taking the time to better myself as a human and allow my mind to grow. I can truthfully say, as painful as it was, it was one of the most beneficial and gratifying experiences of my life. To those few rare humans out there who can attest to the fact that it is absolutely no easy task, my hat goes off to you. Self-transformation tries you in every way possible and even in aspects you never knew to exist. But here I am, standing proudly and so much better for everything I’ve endured. To those of you out there who struggle, I’m here to tell you that, as cliché as it sounds, it does get better and I beg you not to give up.

I write this in the hopes that my experience will drive you to keep pushing even on the hardest days where the only thought you can produce is “I can’t”.

Two years ago, at this time, I can tell you for damn sure I never thought I would be sitting in my own place, writing a story like this; my drive to move forward was all but nonexistent due to being comfortable in what I was yet to discover. I was in my own personal hell. I was googly-eyed, caught up in a woman who only knew of greed and manipulation. She used me for everything that I was and could have become at the time. However, I didn’t exactly realize that, and I can tell you if I did, I likely would have denied it to the ends of the earth. I allowed myself to get so comfy in working a job that offered me next to nothing, while living at her grandmother’s house. Getting a new, more challenging job? Getting a place of my own? “No thanks”.

The universe, however, was not having that mindset of mine. Our relationship started getting “rough”, for lack of a better term. Even in the midst of realizing that she was in fact cheating on me and had been for some time, I still didn’t want everything I “had” to go away. That would require a lot of change, and that’s scary. Thus, began the long strings of endless and unexpected breakdowns and anxiety attacks, to which I was told I was being “too loud and expressive about my emotions”. Fuck you! Stifling emotions never got anyone anywhere. As the strenuous emotional activity continued, things got more tense, and before I knew it, she had broken up with me in one of the shittiest ways possible; Showing up with her new “parasitic host”, or girlfriend, (whatever you want to call it) and not even looking me in the face; simply saying “it’s over”. She needed answers, she told me. To this day I still can’t help but wonder if those answers were indeed in another woman’s pussy, since that was the only place she seemed to look. All petty business aside, I didn’t know it yet, but that breakup was one of the best things that ever happened to me. With that, I got all of my things out of her grandmother’s place and moved it all back into my parent’s place.

The depression really started setting in. To shine a tinge of positivity on this situation, I had landed a better paying, full time job as a vendor. Unfortunately, that proceeded to push my limits even further, which at the time I could not handle. Before anything could begin in that job I had to complete a thirty-six-hour online training seminar. Sounds like a breeze, right? No, of course not. I knew not of an easy time. I went a solid two months with minimal sleep due to waking up at all hours with severe anxiety attacks and unmovable depression, thus triggering constant vomiting. I don’t think I could have told you what happiness was, that wasn’t even a word my mind understood anymore. I was fragile, alone, I pushed everyone away for the sake of putting all of my being into one poisonous bitch. I never left the house, I hadn’t been outside for the longest time, until I finished that training and had to leave the house in order to work. My emotional state remained the same, broken, I was an empty shell. “New opportunities are a good thing.” I attempted to convince myself, as the entirety of what makes me, me, was stripped away. Hire me first and then tell me how you find my hair unprofessional. Every morning began the same way, six thirty in the morning . . a piercing alarm. I would lay in bed trying to decide if I actually must work and try not to vomit at the idea of leaving my room. I’d work up enough strength to remind myself I needed to make money, then I would proceed to all but fall out of bed, put on my “good Christian straight woman attire”, and cram my rainbow hair into a long brown wig. “Who the fuck are you?” I’d ask myself, staring into the mirror. I wasn’t happy, nothing could make me happy.

There is no I in acceptance

I remember the time I almost went mad in the middle of a beautiful day.

Everything went quiet, as if my brain was busy spinning the sounds into a dull series of thuds whose trespass became increasingly indecipherable to me. Simple conversations required a herculean effort. Words became pin pricks, sentences became wildly rampaging herds.

As far as anxiety attacks go, this fucker was ambitious, It went on this way for several hours with no real let up. There were ebbs, but it was mostly just a long and rolling flow of my heart beating out of my chest, my legs shaking as I walked, sweating as if I’d just gone for a run and shallow breathing.

I was working, which actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I don’t know what I would have done if I’d been home alone. So there I was, going just a little bit insane, in the middle of a beautiful day.

And nobody saw a thing.

That was my last serious anxiety attack, and it’s been three years since that day. Almost. I say this with a cautious respect for the goings on inside my brain. Because I know how things can change, in an instant. I know how a beautiful day can turn into a struggle not to drown. I am humbled, but I am also hopeful. Both.

When you learn yourself, truly learn yourself . . that’s when you grow. You can’t lie about it though. There’s no cheating to the process, hells no. You have to be bluntly honest in your appraisal. And then you have to do one of the hardest things known to man, woman and sometimes beast. It’s called acceptance. This is the sticky part of the label for a lot of peeps, because they confuse acceptance with resignation. And lemme tell you, the one ain’t the other. Being resigned to something is like wearing concrete boots, whereas accepting something is akin to running barefoot in a meadow. One is limiting, the other limitless.

You become you when you begin to see the character in your warts and the medals in your scars. You will find there is an extraordinary quality to just being who you are. You’ll find that your spirit becomes the same thing as water in that it finds a way. It’s all about moving in the direction of that little voice inside you; the sensible sounding voice . . not the one who sounds just like Keith Richards.

I find Zen in the passionate embrace of words, being there for a friend in need and volunteering my time to a cause I love. I find rhythm in a smile and a laugh and a kiss. I find music in the warble of restaurant conversations whose waves crash robustly on top of each other before dying in the mysterious foam. I find peace in climbing rock walls, long runs and carving black diamonds.

The flip side is a low down dirty shame who has ridden off into many a tenuously sublime sunset. I’ve laughed with the sinners when I didn’t feel like crying with the saints no more. Because the truth of it is, for every positive and healthy choice I’ve made over the course of my life, I’ve followed through on some really bad ideas.  I somehow managed to survive catastrophes of all shapes and sizes and flavors.

So that’s the thing right there. To not hold it against myself just because my cerebral cortex has been sweet talked into just as many bad ideas as good ones. Being true to yourself is a diet for the soul. It demands that you be accountable, disciplined and infinitely patient. When you rise up, be grateful. When you fall, learn from it.

Understand yourself as that old Tennessee Williams quote that goes, If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels. I remember that one every time I think back to that beautiful day, three years ago.