Drowning slowly

imagesBrain fog. Depression. Tiredness.

All part of my world for the last 48 hours.

I take the same pills every day. I go through the same routines every day.

I have been working out and for a while, the endorphins have been amazing.

There was a crushing blow to my sense of competence Wednesday evening that may be responsible for some of this, but not all.

I can get out of bed. I don’t want to.

I can go to work. I don’t want to.

Ever since I started working here, I have literally fought through one obstacle after another to keep and work this job as well as I could. It may not seem apparent, but the way I was put together, I have a hard time sitting at home and cashing a disability check.

I am avoiding my co-workers and people in general as much as I can the last few days. Explanations only go so far when I have trouble putting how this feels into words. Explanations also fall on bewildered ears. I can’t expect others to understand the landscape my mind inhabits – it is as foreign to them as the dark side of the Moon.

So I’ve been working out with weights both at home at work. I have been attempting my best self-care. But when you have this condition, sometimes all the king’s horses and king’s men can’t stop you from being smacked in the head with the bipolar bat.

I isolate myself in my office. It is a blessing management has been gone on a government paid junket to Nashville all week. I can have my door closed and suffer in silence. I grind my way slowly through my work, trying to pace myself while fighting to stay away and stay focused. Sometimes I lose the battle and put my head down just like we used to do in elementary school; a five minutes heads-on-desk rest before we get back to phonics.

I am not looking forward to this weekend in this respect – I will spend it crawling around the house in a daze trying to get my mojo back before having to come back here on Monday and knowing the shit storm I will be greeted with when all the projects that have lingered without management approval suddenly become priority one missions.

Yesterday I messaged my wife that if someone had come up and put I gun to my head, I would have begged them to pull the trigger. I just didn’t give a damn – about anything.

Can anyone understand this? Or, can anyone who is not affected by this damn disorder understand how much we hate living like this? Yes, there are good times. But when the bad times return, and they always do, we’re reminded they always will return and any plans must take into account the grenade in our brains may go off at any time.

The day the SWAT team came to my house, the phrase that led to the event, the words that set the whole chain of events into motion were in the form of a very simple question I asked my co-worker: “did you ever have one of the mornings when you wished you hadn’t woke up?”

It’s still a legitimate question. And one I almost died for asking.

If it happens again, they can take their best shot.

And, no, I know you don’t understand that at all.

Posted in bipolar, death, depression, existential dread, PTSD, self care, shame, stigma, suicide | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

September of my Years

One day you turn around and it’s summer
Next day you turn around and it’s fall
And the springs and the winters of a lifetime
Whatever happened to them all? – Frank Sinatra

I never thought about getting old until about six years ago. It hit me at 48 that the numbers were getting higher and I was getting slower. I tried my best to ignore it but here I am.

c15c2af97faebd106e71d1fd281cb304--autumn-leaves-autumn-fallI find it, perhaps, something of a condition that many people, when the reach a certain age, look back upon their parent’s music and culture with a bit of wistfulness. The world of the 50s and 60s seen through rose colored glasses and, indeed, our world of the 70s and 80s as well.

At some point around this age, my mother started watching Lawrence Welk. This was a woman who had come into the music scene with Elvis Presley and Bill Haley. Now she was listening to champagne music.

And so at some point I started becoming a big Sinatra fan – not of him personally but his music. It wasn’t all that long ago I first heard ‘The September of My Years.’ I had to sit down and contemplate that, as so many people made his songs their own, this song now applied to me.

And the song, included in the album of the same name, won a Grammy after its 1965 release. I was three when it was released. I do remember hearing it play at my maternal grandparent’s house in Cleveland late in the decade. The album they owned is now part of my collection. Amazing how things sometimes come full circle.download

Indeed, the years and seasons flew by and whatever happened to them all? I tell kids a truism: time crawls when you’re young until you reach about 25 then it starts speeding up. By the time you’re 45 it starts racing a breakneck speed and then you remember the hurry you were in to grow up and wish you hadn’t been.

I collect old things – radios, matchbooks, coins, magazines and newspapers. I guess my basement is my own private museum of the past and if I want to, I can get lost down there and never come back. I can speak only for my own mental condition that when one has blazed through their life with reckless abandon, the memories as less sweet and more regretful. If a few clear-headed decisions could have been made, so much grief could have been avoided.

It’s a trap, of course. The constant ruminations of a life that had seemed so vital is buried in regret and shame without giving thanks for the good times and relative health. People like us tend to be that way.

And so the only way out is to plunge headfirst into some venture without thinking that, depending on what it is, time is so much shorter than it was. At some point, those who reach my age and are able to comfortably retire (which I could have been now if not for some of those decisions referenced above) find it more pleasurable to travel and hang out with friends and discuss the new and old over cocktails.

I suppose that would not be a bad way to spend one’s twilight years. For men, it can be a number of hobbies – golf, travel, volunteer mentoring, the arts – all the things there wasn’t time for when working for a living.

I face the prospect of working another eight years at least, perhaps 10. Truth be told, if I was to retire now, even with enough money to pay the bills, I’d be adrift without anything to do. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. But when you’re still working, well, for me, that holds on to a certain portion of youth where you can still imagine making grand plans with your time off. Some time off is good. Eternal time off would present me with problems.

The key thing in my life was, despite my numerous disastrous grand plans and personal reinventions, I always had another mountain to climb, another thing to experience, another vista to reach. Now it seems, as far as work, that I have gotten as far as I am going to go. With print journalism and radio dead as careers, I am stuck here making the best of it. There is no longer anywhere else to go.

I keep thinking – there must be one more mountain to climb, one more objective to reach. That has been my life. The things I reached for may have exploded but at least there was some sense of linear progression. Keep moving forward was my unofficial motto.

So what is left to do? In the song, Sinatra sings about slowing down to enjoy the parts of life we may have missed in our hurry to grow up and be successful. We become wistful and nostalgic.

As I man who has never paused at wishing wells
Now I’m watching children’s carousels
And their laughter’s music to my ears
And I find that I’m smiling gently as I near
September, the warm September of my years1c163c5ba988b6a5bdee10debbf7ec1b--forever-young-forever-love

There is something to said for aging gracefully, but although I have given up hiding my gray hair, I do not find wandering around musing at the sights and sounds I missed as a young man to be for me.

The last refuge of the spent career man is self-improvement. If I can no longer be the next Walter Cronkite, I can be someone better than I have been.

I am trying to accomplish something I’ve never done before. I have never lived quietly and I do not plan to die quietly but reaching out for one last goal. The September of my Years will be the September I never had. I’ll write about it next, but here is a clue:

Dead coaches live in the air, son   live

 In the ear

Like fathers, and urge   and urge. They want you better

Than you are. When needed, they rise and curse you  

they scream

When something must be saved.

EPSON MFP image

Posted in bipolar, Catholic school, fear, getting old, Lake Catholic, men, mental health, middle age, passion, Sinatra | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

An open letter to my dead father

Trigger warning: lots of them; read at your own risk.

That young boy without a name anywhere I’d know his face. 
In this city the kid’s my favorite. 
I’ve seen him. I see him every day. 
Seen him run outside looking for a place to hide from his father, 
the kid half naked and said to myself “O, what’s the matter here?”  — Natalie Merchant

child-abuse-660x350When I was a child, my father used to berate me for my moodiness. Being a child of the Depression, he couldn’t understand why I would not find my life an endless series of blissful experiences.

“I’m tired of feeling sorry for you. You are so spoiled you don’t know what it’s like to have it rough!”

I always wished I could tell him that whatever the problem with me was (and he always thought I had a problem) that I couldn’t turn it on and off like a light switch. He might well have hit me for being insolent and I kinda liked my teeth.

“I don’t know what your problem is kid, but I’m tired of you complaining all the time!”

You know what dad? You gave me the greatest gift you could have given me by dying when I was 20. God forbid you would have been more disappointed in me had you lived to see what kind of adult I became.

I hated you.

There was another reason. And wherever you are, you know what it is you sick pervert.

I’m tired of the excuses everybody uses, he’s your kid, do as you see fit,
but get this through that I don’t approve of what you did to you own flesh and blood.

I hate being fucked up. You never knew how much you made me hate myself. Almost as much as I hated you.

Heaven knows what you would have thought of my three marriages, all the jobs and careers I had and lost and all the goofy, embarrassing things I did. I’m sure I would have cut all communication with you at some point.

But even though I was a fucked up parent as well, I never did to my kids what you did to me. My parenting guidance was simple – remember everything my father did and do exactly the opposite.

But what I did didn’t always work. And I take full responsibility for that. My son’s standoffishness bears witness to how my actions made our families disposable. And I will never forgive myself for that.

I have only come to see the deep wounds you gave me were mostly mental and not physical. Not physical because I spent my entire childhood in mortal fear of you and therefore walked on eggshells until you died.

But hey, I had a roof over my head and food on the table and private school education so I should be grateful. That’s how it goes. So what if I lived in constant fear and shame? Hell, I remember taking calls on the radio and hearing people tell me their old man beat the shit out of them when they were kids and they turned out just fine.

Sure they did.

In America, violence is the norm. Once you make a friend of violence and all it encompasses, you too can grow up to be a hard and tough man and take on the world and be a winner!

Just like you dad – the carpet salesman who spent his married life grinding his teeth over the fact that the woman you married always out-earned you. And you made her life hell for it too.

You made life hell for everyone except your hunting buddies. And when I didn’t fit in with that crowd, you emotionally abandoned me for the rest of your short life.
You died at 51. I’m 54. I beat you.

Remember that wonderful color Olan Mills portrait of our family that you and mom paid extra to have it look like a painting? The one that hung on the wall of the living room until mom died and I sold the house?

Yeah, well, a month ago I took it out to the back porch of MY home and poured lighter fluid on it and lit a match. I watched that motherfucker burn. And I enjoyed every second of it; especially the part where your face caught fire and crumpled into ash.

I also didn’t mourn when the fire consumed my psychotic sister (it does take one to know one) and my mother who enabled you and never greeted an aspiration I had that she didn’t discourage.

Hey mom, I started going through your old photo albums and guess what — yep, into the dumpster too.

And then the fire reached me. I watched me burn too. It was a cathartic moment, I assure you. If I could burn my entire past of my memory, I would too.

It’s so easy and cheap to blame your parents isn’t it? Even when they deserve it, you’re supposed to conform to our social tastes and worship them for simply not killing you.

But you did kill a part of me dad. I’ve spent an entire life trying to get it back. I probably never will.

So here’s to all the happy families on Facebook. I wish you all smiles and exotic vacations. I look at all the love and togetherness and wish you the best. I love it when the happy smiling Facebook people post pictures of their parents and memorialize them and thank them for making them the men and women they are today.

And I tried. Honestly, I tried to play the happy game. But I just can’t. It’s a lie. Dad, I will no longer put that photo of you holding me as a baby with that smile on your face on Facebook for Father’s Day. Because I know what came later. And mom, you too — sorry, but you were part of the package as well. And I think you know why I can’t. But I might write more about that another day. Maybe I’ll post my sister’s mug shot from the Lee County Florida Sheriff’s Department. It really captures the essence of her soul. May I never speak to you or see you again.

Ungrateful little bastard, aren’t I?

When you grow up in a dysfunctional family, often you don’t realize just how dysfunctional it really was until years later, when you can look back on it with a clear head and realize – that shit was really fucked up.

The reason is simple – we lie to ourselves that it was just the way it was. Fathers terrorize their children, mothers enable it and siblings land up resenting you for being born first.

It’s just the way it is. Despite all the memoirs (I’m looking at you Augusten Burroughs) and self-help books, no one really wants to admit they came from a fucked up family. It doesn’t get you hits on Facebook and most conservatives generally dismiss it as whining.

But if I’m going to write about my family, I have to be truthful. And things do happen behind closed doors. And I needed to write this. Take it for what it’s worth – an admission that life is not as ordered or pretty for some people as it may appear on the outside. And, finally, that some of us who deal with mental illness are also dealing with a host of other issues that impact on our ‘recovery.’

So my advice is — burn your family portrait if you need to.

It’s cheaper than an hour of therapy.

Answer me and take your time, 
what could be the awful crime he could do at such young an age? 
If I’m the only witness to your madness offer me some words to balance out what I see and what I hear. 
Oh these cold and lowly things that you do I suppose you do because he belongs to you 
and instead of love and the feel of warmth you’ve given him these cuts and sores don’t heal with time or with age. 

Posted in abuse, anxiety, bipolar, Catholic school, childhood terror, existential dread, growing up, mom, my father, parenting, parents | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Solitary Man

Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2015There’s a movement that’s been active for a number of years to get rid of solitary confinement. There are prisoners in America that are put in solitary for years and years. Eventually they go mad. This is not a secret – the very first prison built by the Quakers in New York put human beings in impossibly small and dark bricked up rooms so they could ‘contemplate’ what they had done.

And they went insane.

When the movement to release these prisoners to the general population succeeds, the prison staff notices an interesting effect. When the cells of these prisoners are opened and they are told they can now be out and about among other human beings, they don’t want to go.

They cower in the corners of their cells. The environment that has driven them insane is the only one they know. They literally have to be dragged out screaming.

Of course, most Americans never hear about this and have been conditioned to regard prisoners as less than human anyway. I write about this not as a plea to end endless solitary confinement (although I do) but to simply remark about this phenomenon.

I recently applied for another job inside the VA where I work. It is for a program that is worthwhile and helpful to Veterans. The time has come and gone from the interview and I don’t think I got the job and I don’t care.

Amazing isn’t it? I could have given my eyeteeth a year ago for any release from my present work environment.

But strangely, I have become used to the daily paranoia, insane make-work, incompetent and craven management and the stark realization that it probably never will get better.
After almost seven years, it is the devil I know.

Yes, even after the SWAT team incident and the yearlong inquisition (what a show!) intended to fire me or drive me to suicide, even after all that, my fevered mind imagines that as bad as this was and is, it could be worse somewhere else.

And now that I have survived all that they threw at little old bipolar me (I was using my condition as an excuse, the Director said), I find that I am, in a sick way, proud to still be standing. Other people have come and gone and, despite the odds, my strange behavior and my spotty work record, I remain – bloody but unbowed. Well, unbowed to a degree.
I contemplate this. Wouldn’t I want to get out of here? Well, yes. Well, maybe. I don’t know.

This is how sick minds work. Sometimes, we make a friend of the things that have made us miserable because we have become used to them – and we have the knowledge that things could, and have been, worse.

I have changed jobs many times – some were my choice, some not by choice. Every time I started a new job, it reminded me of the first day of school, I’d be filled with hope and anticipation that would inevitably be smashed within a few days or weeks.

Someone once told me that all jobs suck. I know this is not true. I have had a few jobs that did not suck. But they were long ago and far away and in fields that no longer have a future. Like it or not, I am in government to stay.

For the moment, everything is under control. I realized that I if I did get this position, I would not approach it with anticipation and excitement, but with dread. And, of course, I hate myself for this.

But I understand it. If nothing else, as I age, I understand more of why I feel and react the way I do. The trick is in acceptance and accommodation – as much as is possible.
And so I am here, still standing, still looking over my shoulder, but strangely comfortable enough with the situation not to want to leave the cell.

Posted in bipolar, existential dread, PTSD, regret, torture, work | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unnatural life

I threw a party yesterday. And this morning, I am recovering.

There’s an expression about ‘feeling all of (add your own number) years. And I get that. But even at 54, for the amount of physical labor I performed preparing for this get together, it doesn’t make sense to feel this wasted.

Spoons? I spent a lot of ‘em apparently. But it still doesn’t make sense.

I am slowly coming about this morning. I started writing this at 10 a.m. Before that it was the usual coffee drip that no longer does much for me.

I think about my exhaustion a lot because I get exhausted a lot.

This was the first party of this scale I had thrown since. . . wait for it – 1994. Two marriages ago. I used to be quite a party-thrower. Ask anyone who might remember me from back then if you can find them.

This was a party for members of the cast of Listen to Your Mother Pittsburgh. In the beginning, I was planning on 20+ people so my wife and I prepared a party for that number. Circumstances cut the number to about half that size. I was prepared for kids and we hoped we had enough to provide diversion.

Maybe I was worried I hadn’t planned anything like this in so long. Maybe I was worried about keeping the kids happy. Maybe I didn’t have the supreme confidence I had as a social director nearing the end of my salad days of 1994. Maybe, unlike 1994, I wanted to make friends so much that I was worried about making a good impression.

Maybe it was all of the above. And I’ve come to believe that just because I can’t feel the worry, my body isn’t registering it somewhere deep inside.

Life used to go so fast – not time wise – it goes extremely fast that way now. What I mean is that I was constantly pinging from one event to another. I was moving, experiencing – life – for better or worse. Now it takes me forever to get anything done. I must set gobs of time aside to accomplish things that used to take no time at all.

I know part of this is age. I can admit that, although it’s tough. In my mind, I will forever be 35.

But I also know all the things that have happened to me in the last 10 years have taken their toll as well. I forget that I do have liver disease, which was diagnosed right after I noticed that I had slowed down and was constantly out of gas.

Then there are the meds I take for depression, bipolar, anxiety, etc. They slow your brain and body down on purpose.

And then there is the PTSD stretching back from taking care of my dying mother through the trials at work including the SWAT team episode. I have never looked at, nor experienced, life the same way since. The best I can describe it is that the color has drained out of my existence.

I have been trying to get it back.

A part of me wants to stay home. But I keep fighting it all the time. That’s part of the reason I had this party – I need to try my best to maintain human connection and try to make friends.

I don’t want to stop working unless I absolutely must. But with each day that goes by I feel less and less sure I can make it to retirement.

And even if I do, what can I do with myself then?

I don’t believe you reach a stage of your life where you should just wait to die. It seems unnatural to me.

As unnatural as wanting to sleep all day.

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A Modest Proposal

Publication1It just hit me this morning.

As a Federal employee, I assumed that whatever havoc Trumpcare would wreak on the population, our benefits under the Federal Employee Healthcare Benefits (FEHB) plans would not be affected.

I forgot a few things that became clear when reading more on Trumpcare.

First, Federal health care means you don’t get insurance from the government itself, or from Congress. Private insurers and union care insurers (like Mail Carriers) choose to participate.

When I started in the civil service in 1985, there were pages of plans that participated in FEHB. Making a choice among all those plans was a challenge.

Now there are only about 1/3rd as many plans to choose from reflecting a consolidation of the insurance industry. Still, plans seem to compete for Federal workers most likely because the government pays 70 percent of the premiums. Plans still hold ‘fairs’ during every open season. I used to go for the swag. There’s much less swag today. You’re lucky to get a pen or a plastic bag.

One thing I’ve only become dimly aware of: since returning to the Civil Service in 2009, I’ve noticed that premiums keep rising (as they have, but at a higher rate), the co-payments and yearly deductibles keep rising, and the coverage itself shrinks a little every year.

Making that year deductible has become a pain. I was recently charged $425 for c-pap supplies I could have bought on Amazon for $100 less. If I had met the $1,500 yearly family deductible, I would have gotten them for a pittance.

Now the saving grace is that the Federal government dictates the rules of coverage for insurers participating in FEHB. In order to be a part of the program, plans have to agree to abide by coverage rules.

I bet you see where I am going with this.

With this administration, it’s a whole new ballgame. Although our union (the American Federation of Government Employees, or AFGE) doesn’t know what will happen, it’s a sure bet that those coverage rules will probably be loosened dramatically.

Back in January there was a lot of chatter about changing Federal benefits in general, including the FEHB. I give you Spicey:

“Federal employee health and retirement benefits continue to be based on antiquated assumptions and require a level of generosity long since abandoned by most of the private sector,” Spicer said. “Those costs are unsustainable for the federal government, just as they are proving to be unsustainable for state and local governments with similar health and retirement packages.”

They would also like to give us vouchers (from a December CBO report):

Under a voucher system, the government share would start as a fixed dollar amount—potentially $6,100 for self-only, $13,200 for self plus one and $14,000 for family coverage, CBO said—and increased by general inflation, not by the typically higher rate the FEHB program experiences. That would “increase enrollees’ incentive to choose lower-premium plans” CBO said, and for the lowest-cost, the voucher could cover the entire premium. However, overall, “participants would eventually pay more for their health coverage” and some might give it up altogether.

Why am engaging in a discussion of Federal employee insurance arcana?

There are approximately 22 million Americans employed by the government. Add the military and it’s around 23.5 million – dwarfing any private employer. In fact, the entire employee base of all Fortune 500 companies checks in at 26.8 million people.

That’s a huge chunk of the American population. And to hear the Republicans say it, we’ve been coddled for too long with too generous a list of benefits.

Call me a socialist, but I think, at the very least, the entire population should get the health care benefits we get. Actually, I would like a national health care system in America but to believe that is possible would be akin to believing in unicorns.

Our benefit package and especially our health care benefits, have been sticking out like a middle finger in the face of the right for a long time. They are personally aggrieved by what we get and believe we should feel the same pain and frustration as every other ordinary American they will throw to the tender mercies of the private insurance market.

This is their big opportunity to get us. And they probably will unless the tide turns in 2018.

The other major point to all of this is that, in the discussion of Trumpcare’s effects on private plans, almost every analysis concludes that coverage for mental health will be first on the chopping block and may disappear completely as a benefit on many major plans.

I have no doubt when private employers are freed to do what they want with their FEHB offerings, the same thing will happen.

So let’s bring the Federal and private insurance pools together and discuss what this will mean for the people who depend on insurance for mental health issues.

As the number of people covered decreases, you can expect:

  • More homeless
  • More violence from people who can’t afford their meds anymore
  • More suicides
  • More emergency room visits
  • More dysfunctional family situations with people marrying for benefits (it happens)
  • More people trying desperately to retire on disability

This will, ultimately, cost more to the public than providing decent coverage. What I’m more concerned with is the social cost.

The big one up there is suicide. The numbers should grow dramatically.

Maybe that’s what they want – trim the herd of the mentally ill, the ‘takers,’ and create a new Randian world of normals producing and consuming like a herd of contented cows.

I had hoped we wouldn’t turn into that kind of nation.

So eventually, the civil service will no longer be a place of refuge and 22 million Americans will be added to the Vegas roulette table of private insurance.

How many of the total population suffer from mental illness?

According to 2014 figures:

Every year, about 42.5 million American adults (or 18.2 percent of the total adult population in the United States) suffers from some mental illness, enduring conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

I think if the right is going to do what they want to health insurance for the mentally ill, there is one humane and lost cost service they could provide.

I am reminded of two movies.

The first is ‘Children of Men.’ In a future society in which all women are rendered infertile, violence ensues as the population inevitably declines. Britain, in this story, is trying to prevent refugees from flooding its shores (sound familiar?). As you might guess, people living in such situations are not at all happy. The government, in its benevolence, hands out suicide kits for those to whom living has become too much. They advertise them on TV with tag lines like – ‘it’s your choice; when the time is right’ and so on.

The other is, of course, ‘Soylent Green,’ where, in this dystopian nightmare, ‘ethical suicide parlors’ are provided for those who wish to end it all (and be turned into food). They look like abandoned sports arenas, where people can have a happy euthanasia complete with movies about how the planet used to look like and Beethoven playing on the sound system. In the movie, Dick Van Patten takes you under.

Now to suggest such a thing is dystopia on hyper drive. But look at what has happened up until now and what is rumored to be in the works. There is now loose talk, especially in the UK, of internment camps, ostensibly for refugees. In a future world where the sick and dying are literally in the streets or robbing pharmacies and supermarkets, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the government, under Trump or someone like him, could decide to speed up the process, if for no other reason than area beautification for city centers.

I should point out that in Cleveland, when downtown festivities would take place and the city wanted to show a clean, family friendly public square, the police would round up all the homeless people and take them for a little drive out to Brookpark Road and dump them.

Some people are such a nuisance, like Donald Trump Jr. has tweeted, that they can scarcely be regarded as human at all.

 

Posted in American Way, death, insurance, meds, mental health, suicide | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recovery is a myth

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There are a lot of these info boxes about recovery and this is the closest to one I can agree with. One thing I noticed – all of them have leading ‘a productive life’ as one of the goals. I wonder if that means productive for the afflicted person or Wall Street? And no thought is ever given to the pain people go through leading these drugged ‘full and productive’ lives. Reading these make me feel like a defective widget

I always love going to the ‘hip mentally ill media,’ i.e. The Mighty, OC87 Recovery Diaries, etc., and reading these stories from media people about their ‘recovery’ from some mental illness or another.

In the story, hyperlinked above, Liz Spikol retells how hard it was to lose her job writing for a magazine. Liz has pretty much worked continuously since graduation from college. She got fired from one job and spent two months in bed.

Two months. Who paid the bills?

Sometimes I wonder if I’m really not bipolar, depressed or have PTSD. Because of Liz and all the other brave recovered media people who write for these online publications. Story after story of disaster, trial and rebirth – after a while you can predict the story arc before it occurs.

By the way, another constant is that most of them are young and attractive and their target audience seems to be strictly under 40, if not 30. Being 54, you might consider me bitter – and I am. I think middle aged and elderly people with mental illness deserve to be heard as well. But I guess we make for lousy target demographics when you’re looking for clicks and online ads.

I have now found its true what I heard growing up – in America, you start disappearing when you hit 40 (even before that if you’re a woman). By 50 you’re invisible – to media, marketers, opinion leaders and your children perhaps. Remember this when wondering why so many older Americans voted for Trump. Being marginalized and ignored has a way of making one vindictive.

By the way, get off my lawn (throws empty scrip bottle of Lexapro at a whippersnapper).

Unlike Liz, I was fired from three media jobs and damn near fired from three other jobs. Somehow (perhaps the mania!), I managed to get back up and start job hunting again. In 39 years of work, I have been unemployed a total of six months.

I can’t be mentally ill. I never did a Brian Wilson act, never spent time in a mental institution and was never arrested by the police for acting out in public.

OK, I was almost shot by the police because of something said at work, but you can read that story elsewhere on the blog.

But, really, shouldn’t I have cycled through the entire ‘mentally ill experience’ to consider myself a bona fide, certified, stamped and sealed looney?

Of course (here comes the disclaimer), every person fighting mental illness is different. Every person has a different course of handling the illness, reacting to medications and ultimately, making a way in the world.

Except in the ‘hip mentally ill media.’

But here’s the thing – you rarely hear of the stories that don’t have a happy ending – because everyone ‘recovers’ or is in ‘recovery,’ right?

Well, you DO hear about some (not all) of the suicides. Most of the suicide stories are about celebrities or the kind of people who write for the ‘hip mentally ill media,’ their friends, or other connected people who chose that way out.

Those stories also follow a familiar story arc, but that subject is for another day.

What you don’t hear about are the people who are soldiering on, hanging by a hair. A lot of these people you will only find on Twitter or if you stumble across their blog. They’re lives are fairly miserable and they complain, but they still find a way to hold on for one more day.

This is not ‘recovery,’ this is real bravery.

Some have conditions that wax and wane – as I do – and you can suss out their moods by their style of writing or the periods where they don’t write at all – like me.

For so many people who will live and die with their mental illness there is no recovery – only life as they know it. By the time you’re my age, you have no conception of what ‘normal’ is in human behavior. It’s just your life as it has been, for many of us, since we were kids.

Here’s the punchline: recovery is a myth invented to sell stories. It makes for great Ted talks as well. Everyone wants a happy ending; everyone wants to see shining examples of triumph – even if the sample among the mentally ill population is statistically small.

To some, I might seem like I’m in ‘recovery.’ I managed to keep my job; my marriage (this time), my life (“it’s just a cell phone!”), and I’ve recently even been part of a stage show. Yea me!

That’s all nice, but it’s not ‘recovery?’ There is never recovery.

What you don’t see are the times when I’m staring at the wall at home not wanting to move. Holding my head in my hands at work trying to get my shit together. The PTSD paranoia I feel every day walking into work. The times I feel like I’d be better off dead. The shakes of anxiety attacks. The mood swings you’d have to experience to believe. And, finally, the thoughts and feelings I struggle to keep under wraps in public because I don’t want anyone to be afraid of me or shun me.

There are better times and worse times but even during the better times, the illness is always present in some form, inflicting varying degrees of mental torture.. Behind the forced smile, the polite ‘thank yous,’ and the acceptable work performance, lie a bundle of fears, compulsions, nightmares and voices that, dear reader, should put you on your hands and knees every night praying to whatever gods you worship that you never experience.

The only recovery that is true and complete is when you die.

Put that in your hip online magazine.

Posted in anxiety, bipolar, depression, meds, mental health, middle age, social anxiety, society, stigma, suicide, TEDx, torture | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment