National Men’s Health Week 2017

Quite confident the statistics cannot have changed much in one year.

And not in to squabbling over UK vs USA numbers. A bleak picture regardless.

Present Day, June 9th, 2017

Overwhelmed.

One word. The only word. The only word needed. And quite conveniently so, because the only word I can come up with.

My guess is that readers will fall into two categories (well…the majority of readers). Those with a mental illness will say, “Exactly. I know what you mean. What else needs to be said? That is it what I have been trying to tell people.” Those without will ask, “Can you describe your feelings further? Maybe help me understand better what you are going through? What is overwhelming you?”

It isn’t a panic attack. At least, I don’t think it is. Though maybe people that suffer from those would say the symptoms…or feelings…or sensings…or whatever plays out the same. It isn’t a manic episode or plunge into depression. Though I’m guessing it can lead to one or both of those (my recent experience definitely shot me directly and deeply into a state of depression). It isn’t a collection of emotions making some overbearing cocktail of explosive energy.

It is simply a singular feeling. That of being “overwhelmed.” Which is actually the past tense of the word overwhelm even though we feel “overwhelmed” in the present. Weird, huh?

By definition…

  • o·ver·whelm
    to bury or drown beneath a huge mass.
    to defeat completely.
    to give too much of a thing to (someone); inundate.
    to have a strong emotional effect on.
    to be too strong for; overpower.

Which one most recently applied to me? All of them. I was overwhelmed by the multitude definitions of being overwhelmed! What caused it? Not the point. At least not of this blog. The point is that it hit me like a Mack truck (possibly preferred), and I was almost instantly left paralyzed. And really all the Mack truck was, was life. Ordinary. Everyday. Run of the mill life.

But life instantly became a huge mass. It defeated me completely. It inundated me with too much. It had an incredibly strong emotional effect on me. It was way too strong for me and overpowered me. For the better part of five days, I was down for the count. It was all I could do to get out of bed, get to work, do whatever family socializing I needed to do, and get back to bed.

And there were two real kickers to this. First, it was quickly apparent that it takes less and less with each passing year to overwhelm me. That’s not supposed to be the case. I’m in therapy. I take a shit ton of pills every day. I get the sleep I am supposed to get. Doesn’t seem to matter. Life still wins. I still lose.

Second, the reality of being so easily overwhelmed was in and of itself, well, further overwhelming. This didn’t used to happen to me. In the past, less self-care would still result in less overwhelming. I would still know how to fight through it. And a fight it often was. But now it is just debilitating.

What was you ask? I told you, nothing. Just. Being. Overwhelmed.

Wednesday, August 31st, 1:30 p.m.

I found myself growing more and more used to the routine, and even finding my personality with no part of it probably harder to squelch for long than my natural competitiveness. All of which meant that eventually, I was going to need the daily time of recreational therapy to shift away from coloring and crafts, into the realm of the stock of board games that resided in the room.

This day seemed like as good as any for taking that plunge, and my timing could not have worked out better when our hospital staff member actually suggested that we try a game of Scattergories together. I am a fan of the game, but was a bit perplexed by a certain aspect of it. As I would later learn, these “therapy” hours were being billed out to my patient account at a clip of $125 per day. Call me crazy (which my location at the time might well have suggested I was…am), but it would seem like for that price we would have someone guiding us through the playing of the game who actually was familiar with the rules of the game.

That was when the “true” me sprung forth. I just can’t…or choose not to…or don’t know how to…or however the fuck you want to interpret it…I just don’t let it go when someone thinks they know how to play a game, but when compared to the instructions or formal rules of the game make it clear that they do not. This would prove to be no exception. So I did what any reasonable person who has ditched his job and family, jumped on a train, fled the state, been placed in protective custody and had his shoelaces removed less he off himself would do…I took over. And for better or for worse, she let me. She tried to guide us, but I think she grew weary of my correcting her (not the first one to experience that phenomenon in an encounter with me). Eventually she, or at least the other clients (because crazy people prefer to listen to another crazy person rather than the sane ones…I know, crazy…huh?) looked to me for game guidance. And I? Hell yeah. More than happy to provide it.

This all fit into what I would come to consider the abnormal normal. The abnormal normal was when I was doing something completely normal, such as playing a game of Scattergories with a group of adults, in a completely abnormal environment, such as a psych ward with the group of adults being people I really don’t know from Adam.

Other examples would come to include brushing my teeth (normal) with a prison toothbrush at a sink that required constant pumping to continue the water flow (abnormal). Placing an order for my dinner (normal) an entire day before with fairly decent certainty that it might not arrive as what I ordered (abnormal). Checking my email (normal) while someone paces behind me swearing loudly at another individual who does not visibly exist (abnormal). Or putting on my socks (normal) and them having those little no-slip rubber stripes on them and the face of a small teddy bear (abnormal…at least, for my wardrobe).

I can’t remember who won the two games we played that day, which means it is highly likely that neither of the winners was me. That’s just how I roll. But I do remember who knew the “right” way to play the game, and for that afternoon at least…that felt normal.

Present Day, March 28th, 2017

A gift to you.

I recently completed a work by Albert Ellis entitled A Guide to Rational Living.

Granted, I am not a full advocate of Dr. Ellis’s therapy techniques (god rest his soul in peace). However, for most of us, and especially those of us struggling with racing minds and unhealthy thoughts, his work regarding irrational beliefs has a lot to offer.

After completing the roughly 250-page work (somewhat laboriously at times), I decided to journal out a snapshot of the key “stuff”. A quick reference guide of sorts for me to go back to from time to time.

So, here it is. A little out of focus, and in less than ideal handwriting, but maybe with enough clarity to bring you a thought or two which might help bring your mind in check when like mine it is trying to feed you a line of irrational nonsense.

Present Day, March 21st, 2017

I have started playing the piano again. Actually, I should probably say again, again. I gave it a go last year, but it wasn’t a very valiant or persistent effort. I printed out a few rudiments and songs, quickly found myself frustrated by my lack of ability, and surrendered before Christmas arrived.

I decided that a little cash investment might help this time around. So I purchased a book of classical pieces at a beginners level. Less than $10. I did say a “little cash investment.” I have set some practice goals, and so far am sticking to them. Very modest beginnings. A few times a week for a few minutes at a time. Just to develop some consistency.

Consistency is so difficult. Tomorrow is my bi-monthly therapy day. My therapist was proudly touting at my last session that I had never missed an appointment since being released from the hospital last September. I guess that might not be the norm.

I can’t think of a day in that same period of time when I have missed my medications. Been a little late a few times, but tomorrow makes 200 days without missing a beat. And trust me, that is a shit ton of pills. A shit ton of feeling drowsy. A shit ton of battling weight gain. A shit ton of wondering where in the hell my sex drive went. A shit ton of shit tons.

Since September I have not had a week go by where I did not average at least 7 hours of sleep per night. That is kind of a magic number for me, and not always an easy one to achieve with a job that sounds the alarm at 3 a.m. every morning, and a 2nd grader and 8th grader that return from school 12 hours later. But I have found a way to be consistent. To get the job done.

Yoga. Exercise. Reading. Journaling. Oh…and blogging. All things that I find valuable to my mental health and well-being. All things that require an effort at consistency.

And I know this is true for all of us. All of us as people. So this isn’t some attempt at a pity party, but it is a reality check. Because when my consistency fades…things turn bad. Real bad.

Little things aren’t little things when if they aren’t done the next thing on your mind is how to take your own life. Consistency isn’t “optional” when inconsistency creates a crisis that sends your life and all those directly connected to you into a violent tailspin. Checklists are more than check boxes when they are necessary to keep the thoughts between your ears in check.

HOWEVER, it is fatiguing. On a good day. Exhausting on a bad. And much like sitting down at the piano, it can often seem like having to start back where I left off decades ago.

March 4th, 2017 – Musical Truths

Hey, I hear the voice of a preacher from the back room
Calling my name and I follow just to find you
I trace the faith to a broken down television and put on the weather
And I’ve trained myself to give up on the past ’cause
I froze in time between hearses and caskets
Lost control when I panicked at the acid test

I wanna get better

While my friends were getting high and chasing girls down parkway lines
I was losing my mind because the love, the love, the love, the love, the love
That I gave wasted on a nice face
In a blaze of fear I put a helmet on a helmet
Counting seconds through the night and got carried away
So now I’m standing on the overpass screaming at the cars,

“Hey, I wanna get better!”

I didn’t know I was lonely ’til I saw your face
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better
I didn’t know I was broken ’til I wanted to change
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better

I go up to my room and there’s girls on the ceiling
Cut out their pictures and I chase that feeling
Of an eighteen year old who didn’t know what loss was

Now I’m a stranger

And I miss the days of a life still permanent
Mourn the years before I got carried away
So now I’m staring at the interstate screaming at myself,

“Hey, I wanna get better!”

I didn’t know I was lonely ’til I saw your face
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better
I didn’t know I was broken ’til I wanted to change
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better

‘Cause I’m sleeping in the back of a taxi
I’m screaming from my bedroom window
Even if its gonna kill me

Woke up this morning early before my family
From this dream where she was trying to show me
How a life can move from the darkness
She said to get better

So I put a bullet where I shoulda put a helmet
And I crash my car cause I wanna get carried away
That’s why I’m standing on the overpass screaming at myself,

“Hey, I wanna get better!”

I didn’t know I was lonely ’til I saw your face
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better
I didn’t know I was broken ’til I wanted to change
I wanna get better, better, better, better,
I wanna get better