The Three Hundred and Fifty-Third Post: The One Where I Channel My Inner Arnold!

I was going to talk about my time in the facility, but I think I’m going to gently bypass that for now. Instead, I’m going to talk about a session I had with my counselor.

I know – thrilling stuff. Stick with me.

In talking with the counselor, I have been confronted with psychopharmacology. Yes, I am on an anti-depressant right now, but it’s a hit-and-miss sort of thing. The issue I’m having is not so much the depression, but what leads up to it. The thoughts, the trap, the pattern—going from funny fat guy to depressed fat guy several times in the course of a day. Like I said, the anti-depressants work every now and then, but sometimes they don’t. I’m also a diabetic, so I’m learning that the crying jags and suicide ideation might also be my blood sugar crashing. I’m not happy that a lot people make that their go-to reason.

Back to the counselor.

I had mentioned that I was having intrusive thoughts. I picked my words carefully (I’m a writer, it’s what I do) because I wanted to make sure she understood what I was going through. This is not a matter ‘I’m not over you, or the hurt’, it is a matter of ‘no matter what I do—you’re still in my head. Make it stop!’ So, she mentioned drugs, which I told her I wanted them as an assistant, not the end-all-be-all (yes, I still see people drooling and stumbling around blitzed out of their minds on lithium. Yes, I know they’ve come a long way).

So—she whipped out the DSM-V and read to me the diagnostic criteria (cut and pasted):

  • Clinical criteria (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition [DSM-5])

For a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, patients must have

  • A persistent pattern of preoccupation with order, perfectionism, and control of self, others, and situations

Yes. I am despairing about not being able to control my thoughts about the situation I have described earlier.

This pattern is shown by the presence of ≥ 4 of the following:

  • Preoccupation with details, rules, schedules, organization, and lists

Yes. Early is on time. On time is late. Late is unforgivable. I hate being even four minutes for anything.

  • A striving to do something perfectly that interferes with completion of the task

I have re-written chapter five of my current work 3 times because I can’t stand how it’s coming out. I’m still contemplating throwing it out and restarting right now, and my new deadline is end of June.

  • Excessive devotion to work and productivity (not due to financial necessity), resulting in neglect of leisure activities and friends

I wake up, try to write 600 words in the morning, go to work, write another 600 for lunch, go to the gym, write another 600 after dinner. If I fall short, I’m in a funk that negatively affects me for the rest of the day. In short, my days are thus: get up, write, work, write, work again, gym, dinner, write. No evening movies. No reading for pleasure. No TV shows. All work and no play makes Jack take an axe to his family.

  • Excessive conscientiousness, fastidiousness, and inflexibility regarding ethical and moral issues and values

You follow the rules for a reason.

  • Unwillingness to throw out worn-out or worthless objects, even those with no sentimental value

I have shirts from old jobs that I’m not going to throw out. They’re not sentimental. I just don’t throw out clothes. I keep them until they dissolve from my body heat.

  • Reluctance to delegate or work with other people unless those people agree to do things exactly as the patients want

“If you want a job done right, you do it yourself.” – I can’t trust others to do the job right. Let me do it and go away.

  • A miserly approach to spending for themselves and others because they see money as something to be saved for future disasters

HAHAHAHAHAAA – no. This is the only one I don’t meet.

  • Rigidity and stubbornness

If my wife, or my friends read this—they’re going to nod so hard that their head is going to fall off.

What does this mean?

For me, it means it has a name. Names mean power.
I know what it is.
I know what it looks like.
I know it bleeds.

I promise, more writerly stuff next time. Blogging about this might not bring in the fans, but it helps me to process what’s happening.
Next time: My adventures in writing smut.

The Three Hundred and Fifty-Second Post: The One Where I Listen for that Whooshing Sound…

I’m experimenting with a different work style this time…mostly to see if I can somehow get more efficient with the spare time I have, and mostly because I’m hearing the whooshing sound of another deadline fast approaching.

So far, I’ve written two times a day – 850 words at lunch (about an hour) and another 850 words when I get home. 1,700 words isn’t shabby. At that pace, I could finish a small novel in about a month. Valentina’s Feast, however, is suffering by being written by me. While, yes—I can string together 1,700 words a day…but getting me to write more than three or four days in a row is the challenge. I’ll get a good head of steam going, and then peter out. Most of the times, this petering out just means I’ve come to a scene that I haven’t completed in my head. Happens a lot, and it just means I need to step away from the keyboard and let it play out in my head before committing it to paper.

Sometimes, I just think that the 850 pace is a little hard for me to maintain because I tell myself ‘OK—you gotta sit down and put 850 words on the screen and you gotta do it now!’ and the pressure gets to me. When I’m not focusing on the fact that this whole book was to be done by this Friday (hint: nope), the words come easy. When I look at the calendar and see where I am in the story as opposed to what day of the month it is, then it becomes hard. I’m supposed to be writing the stirring climax, but I haven’t even gotten to the first sex scene…and I really want to write that scene!

I’m pushing back the deadline to end of June. Gives me thirty-one more days to get it done and get back on track. Since I don’t really have the time for a deep line-by-line editing that I know this book needs (and I know who could do it, but they couldn’t do it in my time frame), I’m going to have to try to be as diligent as I can with the writing now. I know you’re not supposed to edit as you write. I have to get this book done and out there before August 28th for reasons.

Once, someone asked me what sort of advice I wish I had before I started writing at the semi-pro level. This is the advice I wish I had: if you’re not having fun, you’re not really writing. This book was meant to be my foray into horror. So far, the only horror I’m having is not meeting my first deadline. I’m going to get this book done, but it’s going to be by the skin of my teeth. Whether or not I have any pride in this remains to be seen.

Want to help? I need coffee. Click on the coffee picture on the right-hand side of the screen and donate a buck or two so that I can stave off sleep for one more day. If coffee is not your thing, then check out the books written by dear friends and help support them.

I wish you all good luck, and now I must poison a twenty-year-old woman to get the two lovers together.

For the book, of course.

The Three Hundred and Forty-eighth post: The One Where I Get Interviewed! (part one)

Hello, all! I tried to get the actual file uploaded here, but for some odd reason, it’s not getting in. So…here is the link to the podcast itself:
https://www.podbean.com/media/player/b8fpe-daf01c?from=usersite&vjs=1&skin=1&fonts=Helvetica&auto=0&download=1” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>From Thinking to Inking Podcast

It’s going to be in four parts. As each part comes up, I am going to post it here. Thanks for listening, and please support this guy!

The Three Hundred and Forty-Seventh Post: The One Where I Am Interrupting My Narrative About Insanity By Sounding Even More Insane…

04/14/20

There is something wrong. I can’t put my finger on it. It’s like the Thatcher effect picture:

56d8164cdd0895230f8b4697

There is something just wrong—not even wrong: not-right. Something wrong can be found and fixed. It’s a matter of looking for the for the error and making the necessary adjustments. Squeaky door? WD-40. Pain in your knee? Take some medicine. Spouse making problems for you? Divorce them. Easy Peasy.

This isn’t something that can be fixed by either oil, opiates or writs of divorce. I can’t say anything else about it because I don’t know what it is. I just have this feeling of wrongness. I’ve asked a couple of close friends if they’re doing OK, and I might take Lisa’s charm to be with me tonight. The only other way I can explain this feeling is like hearing you name just as you fall asleep. You can’t tell if it’s from being in a hypnagogic state, or someone is trying to get your attention just before you skinny dip through the waves of the River Lethe.

Normally, I’ m pretty good a describing what I’m feeling for perceiving—for fuck’s sake, it’s my calling and vocation, but not today. All I can do is point out into that unfeeling dark void and say: it knows and hates us, as much as it know and hates itself. That’s not even a useful warning. Is it that there are forces arrayed against me? Is it that I didn’t cook the rib meat right? My toenails need trimming?

Today, my whole routine has been thrown in disarray. Dinner was ready a few minutes after I got home, the couch was crowed with clean clothes in need of folding. I watched a little more Critical Role (come back guys…), but then the feeling settled in. It rode in on the wings of a developing headache. This is also the second day I’ve had such a headache. Long time readers of this blog (all two of you) will know that I just don’t get headaches that often. When I do, there’s a good reason involving caffeine. I’ve also had problems sleeping, but I can track that to a magnesium deficiency which I am trying to correct.

I feel like I should be running down the street with a lantern screaming that God is not dead, but he was coughing up blood last night. I can only hope that either this feeling will disappear with the first light of dawn, or the source of this nameless unease will reveal itself to me in a dream.

Of course, having dreams means I’m having sleep. Those little slices of death do elude me currently. I’ll get an hour in, then my legs twitch me awake so I’ll walk around to try to alleviate them and settle back down for another two to three hour nap. Wash, rinse and repeat until frazzled.

Maybe that’s all this feeling is—just my brain trying to alert me to unhealth by firing off different neurons, being the odd soldier out who breaks the march to keep the bridge intact.

Or maybe, that hairline crack in the concrete under my foot is growing faster than I would care to admit.

The Three Hundred and Forty-Sixth Post: The One Where I Embody the Definition of Insanity…

Hello, everyone — I know I have been away for a while. Long suffering readers of this blog (all two of you) will recognize the pattern. Furious activity for days or weeks, followed by months of silence. However, this time there a really good and medically sound reason for it.

I have mentioned in other posts that I suffer from depression. Normally, I would leave it at that, but I want to give a more detailed explanation as to why this is pertinent to the blog. If you feel I am repeating myself and refusing to change anything, I beg you to read further.

On December 26th of 2019, I had an emotional breakdown that was frankly a long time coming. I’m not going into the particulars, because it’s something I am working on (more on that below), but I will say this. Ignorance is indeed bliss.

Normally, when I have a depressive episode, I ride it out and try to soldier through it. I know these episodes will come and go. I can maintain a mental and emotional fortitude long enough to get home to engage in other practices: writing, games, reading, listening to loud music on my headphones, screaming. With 80% of those methods come very close to being healthy, I have been able to keep the drumbeat of suicide to a minimum. I faced this new and very, very intense episode as best I could.

When my wife asked me what was wrong, why I was staying in the bedroom on the day after Christmas…I broke down. Not a dramatic single tears rolling down my cheek and me saying that I need help. I couldn’t summon up the fake smile and say ‘Everything is OK, I just wanted to not be underfoot while you got ready for work.’ It was an ugly, ugly cry with screams and sobs that I am certain disturbed her.

She did her best, to her credit, to try to comfort me, but I was honestly not having any of it. She did the next best thing and asked if it would help to talk to Charles–my brother-in-law who is a pastor. I said yes, because I knew I needed to talk to someone, and my wife had to go to work. She walked me over to the couch and sat me down. She went into the kitchen and I heard her talking to him. Keep in mind–this is the day after Christmas. These are still the holidays. Through my sniffling, I hear her say something and close the phone. She comes back into the room, gently puts her hand on my back and tells me that Charles will be over soon.

A normal drive from my house to where Charles lives is a little over an hour. Charles showed up under forty-five minutes. Wife left to go to work, I mumble an offer of something to drink out of habit which Charles politely declines. I offer a seat in the living room. I tell Charles everything. Every sorted detail of the origin of his particular break-down. My whole history from 1992 on up to today. I hold little back, and I wait for him to say that I’m really fucked up and on my own. My previous experience with family and depression is toxic to say the least.

Charles instead talks to me. He identifies the problem, he shows me different facets of it and calmly and without judging gives me advice. “I want you to read the book of Romans.” Let’s not forget he is a Southern Baptist Minister. I tell him that I’ll start on it today. After a few more words, he excuses himself. I walk to the door, and before he left, he looked right in my eyes and said something that no one in my family has ever said to me when depression hit: you are loved. You are worth it.

To my credit, I don’t cry again that day.

The next few days were filled with ups and downs. There are a couple of people (one of them might be reading this) who were kind enough to sit with me in Messenger and talk me through the lower episodes. The ones where I would sit in the middle of the kitchen and bawl over choices I made decades ago. The ones where the only say I cold comfort myself was to say that if I could hold out for payday, I could kill myself and end this torment. I had a very specific plan for suicide. A plan that hinged on gas prices not being as absurd as they were during the holidays.

Sadly, the holidays had to come to an end I had to get back to work. I again tried to do what I did best, what got me through ten years of customer service and the worst summer of my life: I tried to push on. A stiff upper lip in the finest British Tradition.

Depression shoved back hard. The crying jags and suicide ideation intruded into work. I would retreat to the bathroom often to try to stifle my crying. I took less lunches in the break room and more in my car, retreating to a lonely corner where I could be alone.

me before a crying jag

an honest to goodness picture of me right before a crying jag

The highs were not getting as high, and the lows were crushing. Like metal being heated and then suddenly cooled, I knew I was going to break. I kept telling myself that I could get help later. Once the peak months are done, once the overtime is finished–then I can get some help. I just have to hold out one more day.

Depression makes me a very good liar.

It was the 6th of February when I couldn’t lie to myself any more. I knew that if I did not stop, if I did not make an effort to go get help I was going to die. Telling myself to wait was no longer a matter of saying I could ride through this, telling myself to wait was now saying if you can hold out until payday, you can end it.

To be unflinchingly honest, Dear Reader–I was going to immolate myself. I wanted something sure, something reliable and something easy to get. Even looked it up online how long it would take to burn to death: 30 seconds to 2 minutes. I had spent the better part of over two decades in misery, what’s another two minutes worse case scenario? Did you also know that the brain does not distinguish between physical pain and emotional pain? So, before someone says ‘you just needed to toughen up’, I would ask you to break your own arm and imagine having that pain, that intense pain day after day, year after year for twenty-seven years.

Anyway, I came to the final realization that another crash was going to be it. I could not take that whiplash of emotions again. So, during break, I went into one of the unused offices and made some phone calls to find a counselor. I found one who was in my insurance network, had an opening and would see me…

…next Monday.

Through a fresh set of choking tears, I told the person on the other end that I could not wait until next Monday. Keep in mind, this was a Thursday. These periods were coming and settling in longer. I knew that Saturday was going to be my last day. Even as one part of my mind exulted over the idea of my life coming to an end in a matter of days, the other part said to find help elsewhere. If there ever was a time to be the scrappy one, it was now.

The woman on the other line asked me if I intended to hurt myself, and I said yes. I had a plan, I was going to implement it if I couldn’t get help. She told me, in a very calm voice, that there was a mental health wellness facility that had outpatient services (which is what I was looking for). She asked me to wait and she would talk to them about getting me in immediately. While she talked on the other line, I tried to force down the tears (a family tradition) and got a pencil and paper handy. she came back and told me the address of the hospital, and they would have an outpatient meeting with me if I got there Right. Now.

Armed with the address, I walked back in and asked Terri, my supervisor, if I could see her privately for a moment. She walked me into her office, closed the door and I laid out almost everything. I didn’t tell her that I was two full gas cans and a nine hour drive away from dying, but I did tell her I needed help immediately, and that I was sorry to be throwing everything into disarray.

“Go get help. We’ll be OK.”

With that, I grabbed my things from my desk and walked out the door. Next Thursday, I think I’ll go into a little more detail about my arrival to the hospital.

After that…we’ll see.

Due to technical difficulties…

…I am going to delay a couple of reviews. Work and mental health have been at odds lately, leaving me with little time to watch and review films.

I will get back to it in a few days, and I will make sure that I get caught up. I know that I owe two reviews, and I’ll probably try to get one in tomorrow and get the rest caught up over the weekend.

I’m just really tired and a little overwrought.

Thank you for your patience and understanding in this matter.

Seething Apathy