"A good example is the best sermon." - Thomas Fuller
November 20th, 2008
accused of looking for problems
Thousands of dollars of bills...100% supposed to be paid but learn in the small print there are $1000 limits...so chronic conditions cannot be treated.
Or when people owe you money...and choose not. Sure, you can bend over backwards, but when do you pass the point of negotiating and end up bending over backwards and taking it up the proverbial ass?
November 18th, 2008
Wow, I sure buggered it up. You see, normally when I write I have most of the ideas I intend to commit to paper fairly organized in my head. Yesterday was no different...except that I was going between writing, work, a movie, and playing with my cats...so I missed the e-mail reminder I had sent myself, the note I wanted to end on which was a hopeful one.
Yesterday, while listening to Fresh Air with Terri Gross, I heard an interview with a doctor who was a bright light amongst all the questionable experiences I've had. His name is Dr. Jim Withers and in 1991 he began walking the streets of Pittsburgh and giving care to those most in need of medical help, the homeless sleeping in hand made shelters, men and women suffering under the unsympathetic elements.
While I've had more than my share of dissapointment with doctors who make hundreds of dollars for a quick five minutes and an often incorrect diagnis I am aware there are good people out there in health care. My primary care physician, for instance, has been the best doctor I've had since I was a kid when I went to the same old town country doctor whenever I had a sniffle. Every time I see her she listens and we spend fifteen minutes or so talking, going over my symptoms, and examining possible diagnosis and solutions. While we haven't yet pinned the cause down she has given me the hope to keep at it so I've been to the rheumetologist, the urologist, the joint specialists, and now the pain management expert. When I shoot her a quick e-mail to update her on my progress she responds that same day (if it's Monday, Wednesday, or Friday that is, as those are the days she works at the clinic I go to).
It's heart warming to hear other examples of doctor's making a difference in a society where all too many are quick to prescribe quick bandaids. Here's a link to the Fresh Air interview which I hope you enjoy as much as I have:
November 17th, 2008
$500. That's about what the first visit to a pain management specialist cost last month. While my insurance pays a substantial portion of the visit I've recieved a statement indicating I owe a little more than $100 (contrary to the contract I signed up for which stated 100% coverage after co-pay--anyone see Michael Moore's Sicko lately?).
What amazing example of Western health care did I pay for, you ask?
- A nurse to take my blood pressure, heart rate, and a five second electrocardiogram.
- Another nurse who spent about ten minutes asking me questions--well, I assume he was a nurse, nobody bothered to tell me what his function was (except, as I later learned, to stand in for the specialist who was probably busy with other, more important, matters).
- Two minutes with the specialist who, to my recollection, didn't ask any questions. Instead he related the treatment for a condition no one to date has been able to properly diagnose.
Two minutes = $500. Good thing I have good insurance...well, "okay" insurance...well, it's better than no insurance at all!
I've learned a lot about the medical industry. I've learned, for instance, if you don't ask a lot of questions you won't be given many, if any, answers. I've also learned this organization meant to protect our health, the Federal Drug Administration, has their fingers deep in the pockets of American Drug companies--or at least the doctors do--or at least they're all in each other's pockets.
Gotta pay for that new Beamer and the $500,000 house somehow I guess.
I was sixteen when I first experienced something like this. I was struggling with depression and the phychiatrist I was seeing, a friendly-quiet man who reminded me greatly of the role Robin William's played in Good Will Hunting, prescribed me a new wonder drug. That drug was called Prozac.
Prozac. Oh, Prozac. Let's see. One Prozac in the morning before school and I spent the rest of the day with one cheek firmly placed against a desk, barely able to stay hear what my AP teachers were saying. My English teacher, Mrs. Dixon, had gone through her own difficulties and was sympathetic to my struggles and how the drugs were effecting me. And another teacher gave me a lot of slack and even shared that she, likewise, was taking Prozac which, I might add, seemed to make her bubbly as all hell. Merd.
That's what they saw at school. Those were the side-effects I couldn't hide.
Prozac did nothing to lift my spirits. It did not make me happy nor even take the edge of the dark feelings I was experiencing. Indeed, not only did this new silver bullet cause enormous fatigue, but it also seemed to intensify the negative thoughts and feelings I was already experiencing. So my psychiatrist switched me from that to another wonder drug and then another, all psychoactives that made my mouth dry, my appetite abscent, my arms shake, and my moods even less reliable.
Truth is, I wanted to kill myself.
Only a few years ago the FDA woke up and realized wow, there were sure a lot of kids taking psychoactive drugs not only wanting to kill themselves, but found hanging from nooses, over dosing on drugs (legal or otherwise), or with their heads mysteriously shot off. So maybe, just maybe, it wasn't because these kids were just struggling with the challenges their lives presented them with, maybe, just maybe, antidepressants were (forgive my French) FUCKING THEM UP!!!
I could have told them that in 1991. But then I thought it was the patient's health that was of the most importance. Golly, was I a silly dilly!
You think I would have learned the bigger lesson back then but I only learned a lesser one: to pay attention to how prescription drugs affect me. So years later when I suffered from terrible allergies brought on by living in the middle of the Willamette Valley, a beautiful area recognized as one of the worste regions of the world for those with allergies, and I was prescribed another new wonder drug called Clarinex--well, okay, I bloody well loved the stuff! Unlike antihistamines, which made me drowsy (and I later learned were largly responsible for my seasonal sinus infections), Clarinex WAS a wonder drug. I didn't spend every day blowing my nose, rubbing my eyes. I felt like a "normal" person again!
Great stuff, that Clarinex!
Then I began noticing something. During those long periods where I regularly took the medication I was more prone to boughts of subtle anxiety and it seemed as if my heart ran a little on the fast side. Indeed, not only did it seem my heart raced when it shouldn't, but it would sometimes skip a beat not too long after taking a Clarinex. I thought about talking to my allergist about this unexpected side-effect (actually none were expected, she hadn't told me squat), supposedly one of the best specialists in the Pacific Northwest, but she wasn't that great of a listener (terrible, in fact) so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I stopped taking Clarinex. My heart slowed down. Its rythm became steady and normal again. Fortunately by this time I had been taking allergy shots once a week for several years so I found that I could tolerate most of the year without anything but a hankerchief ready in my pocket and in the spring I might spend a few weeks taking antihistamines and being a little drowsier than I'd have liked. Still, much closer to "normal" and less worried about my heart.
So I'd learned to pay attention to my body and when necessary, stop taking something that seemed to have too many negative side-effects. And a good thing too, only a few years later the FDA realized that Clarinex was responsible for a few heart attacks here and there and it probably shouldn't be prescribed to those with cardiac issues--and while I haven't had any (that I'm aware of) my dad has and his father died from a heart attack so it's good fortune, in part, that I recognized it was time to discontinue something that might have eventually put me in an emergency room.
I didn't have a doctor after moving to Portland. Long story short, they'd more or less lost my trust. But I was struggling with smoking, a pack or more of Camel Lights a day, and really needed help so I found a family doctor practicing close to home, made an appointment, and visited his office. After a long wait--one which I can understand as he was focused on getting ready for his next big vacation--he came in, listened for a few seconds, walked out of the room, and handed me a bag full of pills. Actually, now that I think of it that's what happened with Clarinex too, I didn't go to a pharmacy, the doctor reached under the counter and pulled out a box of pills that was laying next to the Clarinex calendar and the Clarinex notepad and the Clarinex pen and pencil set. Only what my new doctor handed me wasn't Clarinex, that wouldn't help me stop smoking, but something with the a name that seemed to have been invented by an American car company.
The drug was Wellbutrin.
I spent the next few weeks up and down like a yo-yo. Thought it was because of my life. Work was often stressful and so was my home life. Yeah, that was it, and I was just having one of those random funky roller coaster periods that enters one's life every now and again. Then for some strange reason I decided to jump on Yahoo. You know what I discovered? Wellbutrin wasn't designed to help anyone stop smoking, it was an antidepressant, another inappropriately labeled "psychoactive" drug, a bottle full of chemicals the company tried to find other uses for in order to make even more money! No wonder I felt like a nutball!! So I stopped. I stopped and a few days latter I was right as rain...well, I felt a lot better except for my incredibly frustrating and expensive pack a day habit.
So today when I went to the pain management clinic and was handed a prescription for a drug I'd never heard of before called Avinza I was a little suspicious. Maybe it was the clock on the wall of the room I was waiting in with the word "Avinza" artistically blended into the background that clued me in. So I looked more closely at the prescription and there was this unchecked box which, if checked, would have indicated that a generic could be used instead of the "name brand" kind. Seemed a bit suspicious, the clock, the checkbox, and all, so I asked the doctor (not my doctor but the new doctor who's my doctor when my doctor is busy, which is 75% of the time) if it was possible to get a generic instead and, not knowing if I could, went to ask someone else who informed her that there was no generic version.
Great. Another new, barely tested, wonder drug, that this doctor knew next to nothing about (I probably knew more now thanks to Wikipedia). Still patented, the drug company clearly doing favours for the doctors who prescribed their medicine. Well, it would only be a two week trial to see how it effects me and I could always stop if and when I experience side-effects. At that point my main concern became how much the damn things would cost, fourteen pills for fourteen days, a patented new drug, the product of a greedy American drug company hoping to make as much money off those in pain as possible before the patent ran it's course.
Got to the pharmacy. I waited fourty five minutes to learn they didn't have it in stock. Wait! Didn't have it in stock? Oh my, I thought to myself, not only is this stuff new, but it's REALLY new! Here I am, Aslynn the guinea pig, yet again. Then again, two weeks and we'll see how it goes then if needed change course. One thing I know for certain, it won't be easy to cover a $50 co-pay every few weeks, not with every other medical bill hanging over my head.
But we'll see. As I mentioned, I have learned to pay attention to how my body reacts to anything I put into it whether that be food or drugs. And more importantly, I've learned that doctor's aren't going to educate me. Hell, that seems to be relegated to pharmacists, people I've come to have an emormous amount of respect for and trust in. Indeed, I've surprised myself this last year. Instead of that mostly quiet guy simply listening to all the wisdom these authority figures with beautiful 8x10" degrees impart I ask question after question after question...until I have no more left...and when I'm done asking questions I get on the computer and I Google whatever drug's been prescribed whether it be an antibiotic or an analgesic. Good thing I did, too. While I don't drink often (maybe a few glasses of wine a month or a pint of beer at McMinneman's) I learned something just ever so slightly important about this new wonder drug, something my doctor (or his doppleganger) failed to mention: mixing ANY amount of alcohol with it would result in it being quickly released into my bloodstream resulting quite possibly in a lethal dose.
Anyhow, gotta stop writing and get back to work. Take care, my friend, and however difficult the struggle always learn, always grow, and always hope.
P.S. The solution to the medical crisis in America is simple. It begins with government regulation of medical costs. The care of a nation's health should not be "self regulated" by a market system which is obviously flawed, a price too many pay (sometimes with their very lives) for the greed of a select few. But then, who in Washington would have the balls to do the right thing when they've got their hands in other people's pockets playing with their balls.
November 11th, 2008
It was about 1994 where I got down on my knee and made a promise. It wasn't an easy promise to make. A significant part of my psyche rebelled. "What are you doing?" the little devil on my shoulder asked angrily. "Are you nuts?!" Indeed it was so and that's why I needed to make this promise, one that would take me five or so years to keep, one that often meant I would be alone in small, dingy apartments, personal demons on the one side and rays of far off hope on the other. Since that time I have only made a handful of promises. Actually, "handful" is an exaggeration, I've probably only made two.
The first, made around 2002, was to adopt a little girl. Until 2007 I believed I was going to be able to fulfill that promise but this year I've had to be realistic: a person's words and their actions don't always match and when they don't there's not much I can do about it. I must admit I've experienced a great deal of cognitive dissonance over it too; my personality is wired to keep promises regardless of how hard they are to keep, but some can't be without the cooperation of others. Like it or not, that's just a fact of life.
The second is a promise to my romantic partner who I love very dearly. We've had our ups and downs, but she's supported me and challenged me in more significant ways than anyone ever has. She's consistently stuck by my side and when she stumbles she always gets back up and demonstrates almost god-like strength, courage, loyalty, love, and compassion that is displayed with integrity I have not witnessed in another human being. I truly do not have the words to describe my admiration for her. She's been a shoulder to cry on during the absolute most difficult year of my life and she's helped me look on the bright side, especially recently, and helped me focus my energy on those aspects of my life I can control while being more compassionate towards myself in regards to those I cannot. What is our promise, you ask? Well, it's a personal matter, between her and I, so I hope you will forgive me for choosing not to share it here.
So the phrase, "I promise," is not something you'll hear me say without a long, long, (long) pause beforehand and in fact if you ever hear me say it you're in a unique and uncommon position. For me a promise is something I put a great deal of time into and ask myself a great many questions. How long am I willing to keep the promise? How much time, energy, or money, am I willing to devote to it? And so on. For me a promise must be examined from every angle, understood, and only when my heart and soul is completely in alignment do I take the step of making it.
For instance, when I promised to adopt a little girl I spent at least a month considering what it would mean. This wasn't just any old decision and unlike any other promise I've ever made it would require my total and undivided commitment for the rest of my life. I knew it wouldn't be easy. At the very least the next ten or more years of my life would be dedicated to raising her. It would be expensive, a serious consideration given the number of times I had experience the underside of layoffs. And truth is, there was ample evidence that I could spend a great deal of my time, energy, and money, only to one day find myself living alone. Had I been anyone else I probably would have taken the warning signs for what they were, given her a huge hug, said my goodbyes, and gotten on with my life; I'd certainly have much more money in the bank and be free of this case of PTSD if I had. Then again, that's not the kind of person I am. I saw a little girl who needed a father, who needed some consistency, boundaries, expectations, and a form of encouragement that stems in part from appropriate behavior, and for me a promise isn't something one does because external forces might some day make it impossible, a promise is something one commits oneself to because one's heart, mind, and soul, are in the right place.
That's just the way some of us are built--or at least, that's who we choose to be.
A promise should only be made after direct, conscientious, and mature deliberation. Once made, a promise can not be negotiated, it cannot be mediated, nor can it be modified, it is an unchanging contract between two people bound by one's word as well as honor, integrity, and trust. A promise may not be broken except in those rare cases where the person the promise was made to frees the promise maker from their commitment. How a person keeps (or doesn't keep) their promises says more about who they are than any other quality or behavior. Those who keep their promises, whether big or small, demonstrate a deep sense of honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness. A promise keeper displays a universal attractiveness to all like minded beings.
Or more simply: a promise is a promise. That's as complicated as it gets.
November 6th, 2008
Last night I sat writing an important letter to someone I love and watching CNN streaming live over the internet. I meant to write this entry but after finishing the letter I began playing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and got a little lost in that.
I'm 34 so I've been through a few Presidential elections but last night was different. Sure, every year I listen to the radio or watch TV the entire day. The last few years I've kept the computer running, reading all the latest stats as they came up. And every year I've been excited, hoping beyond hope that the candidate of my choice would win. But last night was different.
Last night was the first year of my life where I felt that the next President would be the difference between a brighter future for America and going deeper into debt, moving farther away from listening to scientists when creating ecological legislation, and so on. While Obama was not my first choice (falling behind Senator Hillary Clinton and Ralph Nader), many of the things he represented and stood up for aligned closely with what I feel are best for the country, for the world. After 8 years of the worst President in American history, a complete idiot with the IQ of a college drop-out, I, a thinking, rational person with a fairly high IQ, was scared shitless that our next President might become a man with severe anger problems, another man who saw the world in shades of black and white, a Senator that as soon as he became the Republican front runner acted like he had a completely different personality than he did only one year ago.
I did not know this new McCain and frankly his personality, values, and behavior, scared me.
That's not to say I didn't feel in a similarly in previous elections. In 2000 the idea of having Bush the Younger elected made me anxious. Having watched him for months on TV I felt pretty confident he wouldn't mean. He was inept at speaking. He regularly demonstrated the intelligence of a musk rat. But when Bill cheated on Hillary I knew a lot of people would emotionally internalize his fuck up and the lie that followed as well as Vice President Gore's robotic speeches. Having been empathic my entire life I recognized just how easily people stopped thinking and were swayed by their emotional reactions to people so when Bush won the reasons were obvious. It wasn't about his ability to lead, after all, he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and failed at everything he'd ever taken on, I felt strongly there were four primary reasons:
- His laid back manner was easy for most working class people to empathize with (ironically, Bush the Younger had no clue what it was like being "normal" working class--not in the slightest).
- He was a Republican and this label means everything to some people--more so than the reality that his values, views, and past, were not characteristic of what the Republican party stood for up to 2000.
- He was a born again Christian and many people view this as more important than nearly anything else--though this boggles my mind as I believe if Jesus could vote he wouldn't vote for someone because of their religion but based on the walk they walked in life.
- He was a Bush and those who felt betrayed by Clinton as well as cheated because Bush Senior hadn't won a second term wanted to balance out the karma.
And so that, in my view, is why George Doubleya Bush won in 2000. Oh, that and the Republican's cheated, broke the law, tweaked voting machines, and illegally influenced the U.S. Supreme court. Don't believe me, check out the facts, they'll scare the fucking hell out of you.
Gore really won in 2000.
I didn't vote for Gore, though. I liked the guy, respected many of the positive things he'd done in the office, and knew he would continue to help build the healthy economy Clinton had given us. Nope, as I had since my first opportunity to vote, checked the box next to a looser, one of the most positive influences on American legal code in the twentieth century, Ralph Nader. I'd also voted for the looser four years before that, you know, that old guy with the big ears who did those infomercials; I liked him because he was a self-made man, did what he said, and damnit, I looked forward to four years watching him give ranting speeches from the White House. Man, he was a funny guy.
Up through 2000 I always voted my conscience. Unlike my family, who were either registered Democrat or Republican, I was a registered free thinker. For years I was officially an "independent" and then when I stumbled upon the home page of the Pacific Green Party I thought wow, they stand for everything that is good in the world, I'll sign up with them. Don't get me wrong, though, I always read those pamphlets, I voted for Democrats, I voted for Republicans, I voted for independents and socialists and everything in between. I viewed a true Democracy as a place where intelligent people weigh all the facts, toss out tribalistic labels, then vote with their conscience.
That all changed in 2004. After four years, two wars, and countless fucks ups by the Bush Administration I wanted that dolt out. And what did I have to choose from but anyone but our beloved Mr. Munster, John Kerry?
While I respect those who liked Kerry and I myself respected his service and stance against the Vietnam war, I couldn't imagine the Democratic party picking a worse candidate. The guy was tall, yes, and to my knowledge all elected Presidents have been six feet or taller, but he was kinda freaky looking, had a halted monotone when speaking (which sometimes even made Bush look eloquent), and didn't seem personable. He tended to shy away from personal attacks instead of confronting them and this was at it's worst when his wife was attacked and when asked about it he said, "No comment"--his own wife had more balls than he did. Day after day I saw him and the Democrats shoot themselves in the foot but for the first time in my life I voted for the lesser of two weevils instead of my conscience and wash in utter shock and dismay that Bush was able to keep his foot in the White House.
Obama is different though. He wasn't my first choice, but I respect the guy. He has real world experience helping people and didn't grow up with a silver spoon in his mouth. Sure, he didn't serve in Vietnam, but one's willingness to put one's life in danger does not imply one is ready to lead a country (although I'm apt to agree with Heinlein's suggestion from Starship Troupers that only those citizens willing to devote one or two years of their lives to government via organizations such as the military should be granted the right to vote--imagine how the world would look like if we had to earn the right, we'd bloody well value it!). And unlike McCain, Obama's got the world behind him. Other countries love him and see this as a symbolic change from having to engage with the ignorant self-centeredness of the Bush administration to one with someone who was savvy on the ways of the world.
And when he won, for the first time in my life I understood what it must have been like when John F. Kennedy won. I felt thrilled. I felt beside myself. I felt as if an alien space craft had landed on my roof and an alien had just come out and said, "You're free! You're free!" I could not believe in a few months time I wouldn't be under the dictatorship of an utter nincompoop. I could not believe a country with so much inherent racism had elected a "black" man (though I've always had a problem with calling him black--in some regard I find it a racist statement in and of itself, I mean, the guys half white, why don't we call him white, why the hell do we start labeling someone as black the moment 10% or more of their ancestors were "black"? Makes no logical sense to me...anyway, I'm rambling). And frankly I couldn't believe that someone I had voted for actually won!!!
The loosing streak was over. I was unjinxed. Not only had the man I voted for won, nearly every local measure I voted on, every local senator I voted for--those all won (or lost) according to how I voted (with the exception of one)! I was freaking near beside myself. I am still beside myself!
I'm in bizarro land.
Now, I put this picture here today to encourage people to get their asses out and perform their public duty to their country and their countrymen. The reason I did that is because our voting system is messed up. Think about it. Why should you or I have to register to vote? Why can't we just go to the DMV, get a driver's license (or official ID), take it to the polling places, and vote. Why do we have to go through all this red tape, spend millions upon millions of dollars, when we don't need to? In that regard I wish we'd adopt a system like Canada's; it's all taken care of if you're a citizen, all you need to do is show up on voting day and boom, done!
But we're America, apparently we don't like to take advice from those know-it-alls over the border.
In Australia voting is not just a right, it's the law. Don't vote, get a fine. Can you think of a better way to insure everyone's voice is heard (and raise money for whatever government program is hurting)? I like that idea, it makes it a true civic duty and like the lottery, punishes those that aren't thinking straight (while I wish we didn't need lotto dollars to support our schools I don't mind money people would have somehow spent foolishly anyway going to education).
Blah, blah, blah.
I am really dissapointed this time around, though. While I don't agree with most accusations regarding the media, I do agree with one thing: They've stifled third parties this time around. Sure, they did it the last two elections, but this is the first in my life where none of the third party candidates had a voice, were allowed in any of the debates, etc. This was the LONGEST run for the President in U.S. history and they couldn't make a half hour for Ralph Nader to debate McCain and Obama, or Ron Paul to, or whoever? Until we see that type of inclusion on a regular basis this is not a true Democracy and we are hypocrites to tout ourselves to the world as a role model of one.
Anyway, one last thing I wanted to mention.
When I was going over the ballot measures this year I noticed a pattern. Ballot measures which would increase the health of the entire community (say increasing property taxes to help schools or better take care of animals at our local zoo) were almost exclusively supported by people and groups, often liberal, who cared about something bigger than themselves (the Oregon Education Association and Oregon fire fighters were two such groups). Ballot measures which aimed to gain more for the individual, even and sometimes especially at the expense of the community, were always supported by right wing groups, often those with track records of bigotry. On the one side were ballot measures about "us" and on the other a bunch of measures about "Me, me, me!"
Guess what I voted for?
P.S. I'm happy to say "us" won in a landslide this time around!!!
November 2nd, 2008
Over the years I've learned a lot about writing in a public journal. For one thing, what I write is rarely understood in the way it was meant to be. That's the most difficult part of writing, for all one's desire to connect with people and communicate a clear and concise message others will read into what I write what they will. Their unique perspectives and life stories will colour the message.
Now that I think about it I learned that lesson years back when wandered the streets of Eugene at night. You see, back then I was a prolific letter writer. I wrote at least one letter a day either to a friend, family member, or pen-pal. I'd spend hours or even days working and reworking my letters, reading them, modifying them, until I felt my meaning was clear, my words perfectly picked. No matter how much I tried, people read what they wanted into my letters. Their pain, their hopes, their stories, that's what unconsciously squeezed between my meticulously placed words. I tried and I tried but there was no hope.
No word is empty once a man has read it.
So I've learned to be extraordinarily careful about what I choose to write about online. However objectively true the things I've said they've at times come back to bit me. Over the last three years this concern (and possibly wisdom) has influenced the topics I've chosen to write about, or at least the manner in which I write about them. So I've resorted to using a tool most artists do from time to time: metaphor.
With the exception of the physical difficulties I've been experiencing I've spent the year writing about my challenges in metaphors. For the most part I have been perfectly okay with this; it presents a creative challenge to my writing and forces to me to think in multiple dimensions. Yet there have been times (oh, there have been times) where I just want to sit down and tell you what's really going on, at least as near I can. Sure, the things I'd share would be from my unique perspective and would be coloured by my point of view, but they'd be out there, not obfuscated behind artsy fartsy word craft. They'd see the light of day.
Today I have no one to talk to, no one to share my struggles with, and no one to hold me. My soul is screaming for the truth, my truth, to finally see the light of day.
And yet and yet the more I think about it the fewer reasons I have for sharing exactly what's going on in an explicit manner. First and foremost, being specific has the potential of loosing readers who don't relate to the story (or who don't see the parallels to their own lives). Second, since these are things one would typically want to tell a best friend, someone I sometimes lack in my so called life, I instead want to write here-but at what benefit? Wouldn't I simply be talking to the only person who is really listening at that moment, aka "me"? Third and finally, what's the point in sharing a subjective truth regardless of how many facts it's based on if my words will result in denial, rejection, or worse, hate mail.
Had enough hate mail in 2008 for the next five.
So what do I have to say today? Nothing. I spent six hours writing the other day in some vein hope to hold onto sanity and now I'm back to 1/10th of what I had before. So I don't know why I keep typing. Part of me is ready to just take a virtual bull dozer to The Temple, another part of me wants to start an advise column on the site for anyone interested in my advice maybe the latter is just me looking to feel important and maybe part of that is someone with some real world experience wanting to share it with those few kind souls who visit these sage filled halls.
Maybe, maybe, maybe, someday but tomorrow is Monday it's back to work again.
November 1st, 2008
I don't talk about it much, but when I was seven I began to experience my first symptoms of Depression. Until that time I'd been a very happy, innocent, and loving little boy and while I was overly shy everyone and everything interested me. And then I started to wake up to the real world. In the real world I'd meet another kid and they'd literally scream at me for touching one of their toys. In the real world that person would become my best friend, but he refused to allow me to play with him and his friends at recess. In the real world I spent my recesses walking around the play ground, looking at my feet, and crying. In the real world I walked into the third grade advanced english class, smiled, said hi, and sat down to my best friend at the time, my Lutheran church's pastor's daughter, and from that moment forward she ignored me. In the real world the adults said, "That's just how girls act when they're that age." In the real world another kid put reigns around my kneck so I could play Rudolph the Red nose reindeer for a play he was writing but in the real world what he was really doing was making a fool of me in front of all his peers. In the real world I'd meet the next door neighbors kids. They'd lie to me and when I asked why they'd lied to me they said, "We didn't lie." In the real world my older cousin pressured me to tease my little brother and it was exactly the opposite of what I wanted to do. In the real world my dad critisized and cussed out my mother for the most mundane things and I'd swear to myself, at seven years of age, that if he ever physically attacked her I'd kill him in his sleep. In the real world I had no one to share these feelings with, no way to express my pain. In the real world I would hide under the covers clutching my stuffed eliphant crying for hours at a time.
You wouldn't have known this by looking at me. On your average day I usually had a smile on my face and was open to talking or playing with anyone. I was interested in anything and everything and would endlessly draw, write stories, put together little newspapers and distribute them to neighbors. Once I became a third grader I had this moment of enlightenment where I realized that school was a place to learn, not simply recreate, and I tried my best at everything wanting sincerely to do better and better and better, to earn the respect and admiration of my teachers, and to help out my classmates, help them see they were just as capable of anything as I was.
Somehow the magic number was seven. Holding Eli close to my chest, tears endlessly streaming down my face, turning my pillow into a soggy mass, I said to myself those magic words: "I want to die." I was seven, though, and couldn't fathom how I might end my existence without the help of God and in particular Jesus who loved me, who would come down from Heaven to my room, who would take me to the safety of Sanctuary. He didn't come, though, so my focus changed to running away and every time I found myself balling uncontrollably I planned my escape. I'd need Eli, of course, and some other things for survival as the plan was to jump out my bedroom window, sneak through the alf-alfa field, climb the fence, cross the road, climb the second fense, and run through the mint fields until I got to the huge hill in front of our home, the one with the large vertical white stripe on the left side and rimrocks adorning the top, and I'd climb up to those rimrocks until I found a crevace or cave, knowing there had to be one somewhere up there, and I'd live the rest of my life alone, where no one could hurt me. I'd imagine myself packing my bag with the necessary accutraments. I'd need Eli, of course, as everyone needs at least one "person" to talk to. I'd need at least one change of clothes and my sleeping bag. Matches were necessary to start a fire and I'd need to bring a knife or something to help me hunt rabbits, chipmunks, or birds. A few books would be necessary too, as I never tired of reading, and maybe some art supplies so I could draw or write. I never considered how difficult living in the elements would be. It didn't matter. Per Abraham Maslow's hiearchy of human needs I didn't have the most basic of needs, specifically a sense of safety, and hence running away from everything and everyone was the only means by which I would be able to find love, belonging, self-esteem, and a sense of self-actualization.
Nearly a decade later, submersed in the indescribable agony of suicidal Depression, that same fantasy would sometimes come to my mind. There was a huge hill just to the south of Eugene and I saw myself walking there, an old army back pack strapped to me, walking through the rain, walking endlessly until I'd hiked to the top of that hill where I'd sit down and let the rain caress my face because I was no longer able to cry. I was out of tears. I did not know where to get any more. And that's where the fantasy ended, me sitting there under a pine tree, rain drops shooting down my face. There was no more.
I "moved" to Eugene when I was eighteen or nineteen. It wasn't a conscious choice or one that I wanted to make but the result of cumulative events. For one thing, my high school sweetheart, who had been living with my family at the time, moved to Eugene to attend Lane Community College. Me? I was stuck working at McDonald's and going to cock on a rock (the nickname we'd given Central Oregon Community College or COCC). My social life was on the parifee of a small group of friends, maybe six in all, who I shared classes with, but they didn't seem interested including me in their Reindeer games however hard I tried. Generally I wasn't invited to extracaricular activities and at least once I learned that there was a party, a party I wasn't invited to, where they or their friends made bets as to whether or not I'd kill myself. Driving thirty miles to college every day and to college every other began to take its toll. I drove there alone. I drove home alone. The rest of my free time was spent struggling to keep up in my classes or sitting at the computer writing stories and stupid little computer programs. Then I just quit my job. Stopped going. A few days later my manager called me, begged me to come back, said they needed me, and I just said, "I don't feel like it." Then one night on the way home from college a large deer ran into my car (I'd even come to a full stop to avoid it!), smashing the entire left front side and driver's side door. A few days later, after weeks of suffering from inescapable insomnia, I woke to my dad standing at my bedroom door yelling, "Get up! You're wasting your life!!!" That afternoon, completely broken, I waited until my parents were gone, packed my silver Volvo stationwagon with a few things--though I doubt I was able to think straight enough to grab more than an extra pair of clothes and a toothbrush, and left for Eugene.
I remember that night like it was yesterday. It was raining lightly on the mountain. Sometimes the rain would get up in the engine wetting the timing belt, causing it to squeel. I had the windows open, Pink Floyd screaming over my 100 watt speaker system, and I chain smoked the entire way. In Eugene it had stopped raining. I turned left, I turned right, dutifully using my blinkers, otherwise numb to the world. I pulled into the driveway where my old sweetheart lived, went through the front door, and to her room. She wasn't home and I didn't know what I was doing. I sat down on her bed. And I sat there. I just sat there and I kept sitting there for hours until she came home, smelling of the McDonald's kitchen where she worked. She tried to talk to me. I couldn't hear her. I could but I couldn't. All I know is I couldn't respond. Maybe I cried. Maybe not. I don't remember anymore. That's where it all went black. That's when Jesus should have come got me.
The first year was spent in blackness. I had no money and was emotionally incapable of working. Getting up every day was hard enough. No one in my old home town, including my parents, knew where I was, and I didn't think I'd ever see them again. I hated them. I hated their part in my pain. So I lived there with my girlfriend/x-girlfriend and her two roomates. Despite my pain I attempted to create friendships with the roomates, who were cousins to the person I considered my best friend for most of my life, and yet they always kept a distance. They did not like me. They did not want me there. They, frankly, put up with me though I did my best to give them their space. Granted, I was hogging the phone line all night dailing up BBS's with my first computer, a 386sx33mhz that I saved an entire year to purchase, and true, I was depressed, but I did my best to simply keep that to myself, to spend most of my time hidden in the corner of a cold little room playing Castle Wolfenstein all night until the sun came up. If I wasn't doing that I went outside, walked up and down the streets of Eugene meeting whomever. I had to get away. I had to get away from the hate-filled looks, the snide remarks, from the drugs and fucked up behavior of a house I considered my first adult home away from home, the place even to this day I call the Ferry House.
I would not wish the next five years of my life on anyone. They were not easy. I struggled. I cried. I reestablished my relationship with my parents. I started going to college again. I studied. I ate. I was far from happy, I often found myself trying to take my life whether with the help of razor blades or overdosing on sleeping pills (fyi - eight Tylanol-PM is not enough), yet somewhere deep down I had hope. I believed one day I'd be able to get a degree and find a job where I would not only earn my daily bread but would also find meaning. I believed I would one day be a published author and that my fables would enrich people's lives. I believed one day I'd have a diet other than Super Big Gulps, peanut butter sandwhiches, and Raman Noodles, and I believed I would find physical, as well as emotional, health. I believed that one day I'd meet another human being, a woman, who would understand my wounds and who would love me despite them. I believed we'd get married, have children, grow old together, then one day decades and decades away our lives would naturally conclude themselves. That was my hope. That was my dream.
And so I got odd minimum wage jobs. I earned my daily bread. I attended LCC, the most challenging class which was Human Anatomy and Physiology, graduated with an Associative of the Arts in psychology, then moved on to the University of Oregon where after three years of constant classes, including summers, I earned my Bachelor's in Computer and Information Science. I slowly began to eat better and for some time had a mostly vegetarian diet. And I met a woman who I loved with all my heart, who I hurt with all mine.
I once had someone comment that my site, my journals, are pretty fucking depressing. The irony, to me at least, is that I keep most of the "shit" to myself. Here and there I'll lay down a clue, but for the most part if you really dig deep down there's hope under everything I say. I've seen life, I've had the shit kicked out of me by life, and yet somehow I keep moving forward, defining goals and acheiving them, one after another. An education. A job. A house. Friends. A family.
Friends? A family?
That's the only thing I haven't been able to build. Sure, I've tried, but it's not like going out and signing up for a mortgage. You can't make people like you. Hell, you can't even make people be polite if they don't want to.
Ever since I was seven I have not understood this. Why don't people just get along? Why don't people love and accept each other for who they are? Why do people feel it's necessary to lie and control each other? I have never truly understood that and I truly don't now. That's not to say I haven't tried. Sure as hell I try. Every year I find I'm ready to look, to open up my heart and mind to a few people, and then the real world hits me. Maybe it was the pot smoking girlfriend who didn't validate my needs, however clear I made them. Maybe it was coworker who, for some still unknown reason, convinced me I was going to loose my job, triggering all the fear a dozen lay-offs had instilled in me after getting my degree. Maybe it was the internet stalker who wouldn't leave me alone or maybe it was the woman who fell madly in love with you and wouldn't respect a simple, "I'm sorry, I'm open to a friendship but I'm not interested in a relationship right now."
I can't believe everyone is messed up, but in the real world I somehow manage to attract the most messed up people to me. Perhaps this is simply a matter of like attracts like; I'm sure there's enough truth to that. I truly don't know. All I know is that after ten years of trying I've got the house, the white picket fence, but absolutely no friends.
I could have friends. I used to have one, for instance, who on more than one occassion told me they hated me. I'd probably still have that friend except I made the mistake of saying, "I really don't like it when you do that." Boom. Like that the friendship was over. Then I'd get a threat, stand up for myself, and boom, "You're the most selfish person I know!" Certainly I agree it's selfish to say I don't want to be put down, but then, who wouldn't?
I've never understood this. Never have. In fact, that's what my nightmares used to be about. Unlike so many others my nightmares weren't about people chasing me, but were instead about the people I was closest to, those I loved and believed somehow loved me. In these dreams they would ignore me or worse, they'd do something blatantly hurtful. For instance, I might have a dream where someone I knew would take a baseball bat to my bedroom. In shock I'd run up to them and attempt to grab the bat. "Why are you doing this?!" I'd scream in horror. "Please stop." But they wouldn't. Or they would. Either way, it wasn't as a reaction to me saying they were hurting me. In general...or always...when I made any statement of personal pain I was met with denail mixed with excuses. "You had it coming," or "What the fuck is your problem?" or "Jesus, stop being so sensitive!". These were the answers I heard anytime I said their actions were hurtful to me. Though I am fortunate to have weened myself from these dreams (the random one does occur from time to time) I still find that in life the quickest way to get someone to tell me they hate me, that they don't care, that they're walking out the door, is to say three simple arguably innocuous words: "You hurt me."
What is it about me that makes this true? I don't know. I've asked myself this question for years but damnit, I simply don't know. Most people I've known throughout life, when articulating their pain, are typically met with a more understanding reaction from friends and families. Me? I end up sitting here on the chouch, my four cats orbitting me, eating pumkin cheesecake by myself and asking myself deep questions about the meaning of life, questions like, "Is there an bullseye tatooed on my forehead that I can't see?" and "If I'm ever to have long-term friendships I should simply push when I feel hurt deep back into the recesses of my heart, smile, and say, 'Oh yeah, I am just fine, don't ya know?'" I admit this sounds dark, but then, this is all I've known, this is all I've ever known, and no matter how much I've hoped for a change, no matter how much I've grown as an individual, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually, no matter how significantly different my present mind-set and behavior is from that deeply wounded boy cutting his wrists in the shower, no matter what change I create in my own life, how different I've become, I do not seem to be able to say I'm hurt without having to immediately duck.
Fifteen years ago I would have assumed this could mean only one thing: I don't deserve to be loved, much less treated with respect. Today? Today when someone hurts me I say, "Hey, you hurt me." I'm not the person I used to be, I don't go into a Depressed funk, and I don't give up. At most, when I recognize that my boundaries aren't being respected, I remove myself from the situation. That's not to say I'm not hurt, I am, but I find it healthier to walk away with hope in my heart than to run like a frightened child. I stay tall. I believe. I hope that I'll be heard and shown the respect I deserve.
I don't have a lot of friends, at last count two (one in Eugene, one moving to Ohio). That doesn't mean I am not worthy of love or respect and it doesn't mean I'm so terrible I cannot attract them, it just means I've taken my bruises, one, two, three, four, fifty-thousand, and I'm still here. I'm sitting here writing, thinking, trying to make sense of it all, and hoping some how, some way, some day, I will turn to someone and say, "What you said was hurtful," then consistently and always hear this: "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you." Don't you want the same in your life???
Breathing, food, water, sleep, homeostasis, and excretion. Six out of twenty-two ain't all that bad, right?