Down With the Sadness

I try to keep my blogs about my psych issues scarce, but I’m going to write one anyway. I’m not ashamed of my illness–it’s a chemical imbalance in my brain, not something I brought upon myself–but there’s still a terrible stigma against it. Even my own father doesn’t understand and thinks that I’m lazy. It rubs off on me, and though I rationally know that it’s not something I can control, I feel like I’m a lazy slacker that doesn’t deserve respect or happiness.

Then again, when I was diagnosed at age 14, he pretty much washed his hands of the whole thing and left it to my mother. I’m not bitter, I just think that he couldn’t handle that his American Dream didn’t turn out the way he wanted. He wasn’t strong enough to be an emotional support. Few people are.

Anyway, usually my bipolar cycles last about a month. My mania manifests as panic attacks (sometimes several a day), and my depression manifests as a numb nihilism and extreme fatigue. I’m in a depressive cycle right now. It’s lasted since February, which is a very long time for a cycle.

thatdbegreat

For about a month, I’ve been debating whether to add an anti-depressant to my anti-anxiety, OCD, and mood stabilizing drugs. The upside is that it’ll make me feel better. The downside is that anti-D’s always make me gain weight, significant weight.

Since January of 2013, when Valerie died, I have lost at least 135 pounds. I was so heavy that they couldn’t get an accurate reading, but I was somewhere between 375 and 400 pounds.I’m 235 now, still considered obese, but not terribly. The idea of putting on weight chills me. I’ve worked so hard, and gaining it back would be a nightmare.

But I finally gave in and went on Wellbutrin. Supposedly it doesn’t cause weight gain, but I’ve been on it before and gained about 30 pounds in 2 months. It’s gonna be a prescribe as needed thing. Hopefully I’ll only have to be on it for a month.

I’m scared. All of that work, down the crapper. Is it better to be fat and happy, or healthy and sad? Neither are good choices. I count calories, I go to the gym 3-4 days a week. There’s little more that I can do.

Thus is the life of the mentally ill.

In other news, I am trying to set up volunteer activity for MHA. There are a lot of people in the system that don’t do much besides sit around and smoke cigarettes. I feel that since the govt does so much to help us, we should find a way to pay it back. I don’t think that people should get something for nothing. I’ll feel better about myself if I earn that Medicare and disability check (though disability money is something I’ve paid into when I worked). Healing the world starts not with grand gestures and revolution, but with small steps and local involvement. In other words: if the roof is leaking, you plug the hole rather than burn the house down.

Hopefully I can break this depressive cycle. I’m sad that I’m so sad.

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Speaking for the Silent

I am a lucky person.

I have bipolar syndrome, and while it impairs my ability to hold a steady job (it’s why I freelance) I am still able to be a productive member of society. I’m proud of this. There are so many of us with disabilities that can’t, and part of that is because they can’t get treatment.

I consider myself an advocate for them…for us. There’s such a stigma around mental illness, and there shouldn’t be. It keeps people from getting the help that they need, and they suffer in silence. No one should have to suffer when there is treatment, and not because they’re afraid of what the world will think of them.

How many people suffer from PTSD and don’t get help? How about Depression? Anxiety? Drug and Alcohol Addiction? Borderline Personality Disorder? Rage Tendencies? We can help them if we allow them to speak up.

I was once homeless, sleeping in my car and on friends’ couches, staying up at night writing at diners. If it wasn’t for the Mental Health Association of Rockland County, I don’t know where i’d be. Thankfully they exist. I was lucky, but there isn’t enough help out there for everyone that needs it.

We need help. From you. From the government. From somebody! Think about how society would change if we treated all the mentally ill. Less homelessness, less addiction, more productive members of society. A better society.

More happiness.

That’s all anyone wants. Happiness. It’s elusive, slippery, but for some, completely unattainable. We can change that.

Speak up. Be heard. Don’t let the stigma keep you from getting treatment. And if you are perpetuating the stigma, realize that you are hurting–potentially killing–others, maybe even people you know.

If you need help:

Mental Health America

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHA)

MHA of Rockland

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(In Just Seven Years) Rocky Horror Made Me a Man

 

The Watchmage Is Coming

Pick up your copy of The Watchmage of Old New York here. If you like history, fantasy, and all-around weirdness, you won’t regret it. 4.8 stars on Amazon (23 reviews)!

Some of you will get the title reference. You are my people. Thank you for existing.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show turns 40 this year. I’m not sure if this is old or young, because it’s always been an old movie for me. Even though I’ve seen it hundreds (literally) of times, it’s always seemed like something from the past, brought into the present for lonely souls like me. It was a holy relic, and we were the cult that formed around it.

For better or worse, Rocky Horror made me who I am.

I was always different, quiet, weird. I suppose the term is “socially awkward.” I was more comfortable playing alone or reading than with hanging out with friends. I had some success with sports (particularly baseball), but it never won me any friends. I was bullied in school, and no matter how many times I fought back, it never stopped (Every time someone says that if you stand up to a bully, they’ll stop, I want to laugh at them. It doesn’t stop, it escalates). I hid behind my long, greasy hair and didn’t speak to anyone. Eventually I stopped going to school and just lived my life as far from people as possible.

The doctors diagnosed me with Bipolar Syndrome. I got loaded up with Lithium (the only drug available at the time) and sent to a special school. It was the best thing that ever happened to me, but that’s a different story.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but that school was the link to Rocky. Like I said, it was Rocky that transformed me from a shy, awkward kid to a semi-outgoing, but even more awkward, adult.

I was 16, and I went with a friend from the special school and some of his friends. Suddenly I was surrounded by people in half-naked costumes and makeup, yelling, joking, and…hugging! I don’t think I had ever been hugged by a stranger until that first night, definitely the first time I was ever hugged by a man in fishnets. People were actually friendly to me. I was confused, titillated, and entranced. When the movie started and people started yelling awful things in unison, it was all over for me. It became an addiction. I ended up going every Saturday night, getting home at 3 or 4 in the morning (because you have to take over the local diner afterwards, order one plate of disco fries between 10 people, and drink coffee until you vibrate).

I think it was the anonymity of it all. In the dark, no one could judge you. You shed your outer self–the mask you wear for acceptance–and just let go. The thing was, I never had a mask, so I never had acceptance. Suddenly I was in a place where everyone was like me. For two hours a week, we were all equals.

I memorized every line and every call back. I made friends with other socially awkward people, so we could be awkward together. Yelling terrible things at a movie screen brought us together (like how Cards Against Humanity is such a great party game). Rocky was a vehicle that allowed me to be social in a judgment-free area.

As I got older, I got bolder. In college, me and my friend (I had friends now) staged a bi-weekly Rocky in our dorm lounge. I played Riff Raff and sometimes Eddie (and I was freaking good at it). It empowered me. In a few short years I went from hiding in corners to dancing in a spotlight.

I really wish I had pics of me performing.

So what did going to hundreds of Rocky Horror performances teach me? It taught me to get over it. I was so busy worrying about what people thought of me that I couldn’t be myself. There will always be people that judge, and those that will never accept you. Fuck them. Be yourself, be weird, and the people you want to be around will find you.

I’m proud of my weirdness now. I used to be afraid to say that I love D&D and cartoons. Now I shout it out. I’ll sing and dance in public. I’ll wear facepaint at a football game. I’ll embarrass myself, and I don’t care what people think.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Rocky in the theater, yet it’s still latched firmly in my heart. It makes me sad that there are only a few places to see it live now. Every generation needs something like Rocky, a place where the weird can be weird without fear of judgment.

The one near me closed down a good 15 years ago. There’s one within an hour of me, but I can never get up the will to go. I have no idea why. Maybe I don’t need Rocky anymore. Maybe I used to go as social therapy, and now I’m confident enough that I don’t need it. No. It’s because I can’t stay up till 3 or 4 in the morning anymore.

I’m old, Rocky is immortal.

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Sign up here for a free PDF of short stories. They kick ass.

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Inside Out Was the Movie of the Summer

I finally got around to seeing Inside Out last week, and I was stunned at how great it was. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a movie that managed to be funny, moving, and intellectually compelling. Disney continues to nail it.

Inside_Out_(2015_film)_poster

Disney always puts out excellent movies, and I think that the big reason is that they hire the best writers and directors. Pete Docter–the director and one of the writers on Inside Out–is a certified genius. He’s been nominated for 6 Oscars, and won 1 (For Up, a beautiful movie) Check out his filmography. He’s hardly had a single miss.

It doesn’t matter if it’s in a song, a book, tv show, or a movie, story must always come first. Disney gets that.

Warning: Some spoilers below

Feelings suck

What really struck me was how well they portrayed how the human brain works, and especially the function of Sadness. It’s all a metaphor of course, but it’s true. Sadness is the hero of the story. The other emotions stifling her is what causes the trouble, and her taking control at the end is what ends it. As Rosey Grier once sang: “It’s alright to cry. Crying gets the sad out of you.”

It also created a great allegory for depression. One by one, the aspects of her personality crumbled until her emotions were locked out of the controls and she felt nothing. That’s what Depression is. it’s not Sadness, it’s Apathy. You don’t feel joy, you don’t feel anger. You don’t feel. You lose your personality. As someone who has fought with depression (and mania, and anxiety) for most of my life, I understand. I hope other people understand too.

And when Bing Bong (Riley’s childhood imaginary friend) sacrificed himself…

Feelings suck

Yep

The moral of the story is that as you age, your emotions and memories become more complex. A memory can be colored (in the movie, literally) with joy, sadness, fear, anger, and disgust. To a child, everything is one emotion or another. To an adult, nothing is.

inside out emotion overlap

This chart only shows when two emotions combine. What do you get when three, four, or five do?

Feelings suck.

On a side note, the short in the beginning, Lava, was emotionally manipulative and made me cry. Fuck that shit. I hate crying at movies, and I hate having my buttons pushed.

Feelings suck.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (they both exist). Song of Simon currently has a 4.7/5.0 rating on Amazon, so it’s pretty damn good. If you’re looking for something FREE, you can read my serial (soon to be an expanded series of novels) The Watchmage of Old New York. Though it ended in February, 2014, it remains one of the most popular serials on JukePop OF ALL TIME!

doge in space card redux

“Watchmage” Novel Update

I was planning for a May release of the novelized version of The Watchmage of Old New York. That isn’t going to happen. My editor is working very diligently on it, as is my cover artist. Neither will be ready for a while.

I’m ok with that. I’d rather put out something late, but of higher quality, than something rushed and faulty.

In the mean time, I’m working on the sequels, and some short stories for an anthology.

The short stories are affecting me. I have professional level stories going back fifteen years, and many have been published in magazines or journals. That’s great, but to me they are examples of how far I’ve come since those first trembling words. They take me back to a place I once was, but will never be again. Once I was full of hope. I thought that by now I’d have a major publishing deal and would be a true success. Instead, I let my madness overwhelm me. Writing has become less a dream and more a necessity. Writing keeps me alive, and it’s the closest I get to “happy.”

I am miserable by nature, and that is not going to change. I’ve found that I can’t even talk about my past anymore without triggering depression and/or anxiety. My anxiety is getting worse. I’m not a success. I’m a writer trying not to die.

Yeah, I know that I’m bitching and moaning. I also know that if you don’t have bipolar syndrome, any comment you make about “sucking it up” is ignorant and presumptuous. Live in these shoes. See how they fit. Take my meds and suffer the side effects. Suffer the twitches and ticks. Suffer the failing endocrine system. Enjoy living on a disability check, not because you don’t work, but because without Medicare, you are dead. I dare you.

Yet I still manage to work part-time. I still manage to scape out a living. People say that if you’re on disability, you’re lazy and sponge off the government and honest tax payers. Be thankful that you don’t have to.

By the way, I receive 800 dollars a month from disability, and 150 dollars from food stamps. Can you live on 950 a month? In one of the richest counties in the world (my rent for a studio apt is 1150? And be trapped here because you are so entrenched in the system? Try it. I dare you.

Or shut up. They both work.

This post took an ugly turn. Here’s a meme to make you happy.

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Crazy Week Is Crazy

I guess it’s time for another “how the hell is Craiggers doing” post.

It’s been a pretty awful week. My transmission blew on Saturday. I found out the cost on Tuesday. Since last Thursday I’ve been dealing with pains in my stomach. I’m not sure if they’re anxiety or what. I’ve been in a pretty bad depressive cycle since January, to the point where I can hardly write. It’s a circle of suck: when I can’t write, I get depressed, and when I get depressed, I can’t write.

What’s concerning is that the depressive cycle began perhaps a week after a manic cycle. This has never happened before. Usually there are many months between cycles. While I am a rapid cycler (I think more than four a year is considered rapid cycling, and that’s where I usually am), they never happen one after the other like this. Even as I write this, I’m having an anxiety attack, the second today. I suppose this is more of a mixed state cycle then.

I have heard that bipolar syndrome gets worse as you get older. I’ve seen the old men and women in the group homes and treatment housing. I see how badly they’re treated–worse than you imagine–and they don’t even realize the abuse. I’m terrified that their present is my future. It’s not an irrational fear. I’m already in the system, and when I cease to be able to care for myself, that’s where they will stick me.

I couldn’t bear to be surrounded by so many people. It’s hard to be in the room with anyone at times. I need quiet, and I need focus.

Ok, this anxiety attack is growing into a full-sized panic attack. I think I might go sit in a corner now and pretend that it’s ok.

What It’s Like To Be Bipolar

Imagine that you’re a six year old. Out of nowhere, you get a puppy. It’s a beautiful black and white terrier that smothers you in kisses and loves nothing more than to play. He snuggles with you every night, and wakes you in the morning with a lick on the ear. For months you bond with that puppy and go on all sorts of adventures. You play Spaceman and Stardog. You play Cops and K9s. You make up your own games just to spend time with your beloved best friend.

Then your puppy gets run over by a BMW, that backs over him again and then drives away. You stand mute as your best friend lies broken in the street.

Repeat this for the rest of your life.

Like my posts? Follow my website or “Like” my facebook fan page and/or follow me on Twitter. You can also purchase my debut novel, Song of Simon, at any online bookstore or a real one (you’ll probably have to order it). Of course, you can always buy an autographed one from me, just send me a message. Song of Simon currently has a 4.7/5.0 rating on Amazon, so people seem to like it. If you’re looking for something FREE, you can read my serial (soon to be an expanded series of novels) The Watchmage of Old New York. Though it ended in February, it remains one of the most popular serials on JukePop OF ALL TIME!