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Wednesday, September 2, 2015


I can't get to sleep, so I want to kill myself. That is ridiculous and overdramatic. I can remember even as a child, wanting to bang my head against the headboard to knock myself out so that I could sleep. So I've always had these horrible thoughts. Doesn't everyone?

Perhaps not. But I hold that they are not unusual or aberrant, even though to express them is. We are human, we think awful things, just like we think wonderful things. The measure of a person is: which does she act on? Sometimes I fear someone might be able to read my mind. Then I just hope he will understand. 

There are also the rare times that I am able to turn my mind to useful thought during a sleepless night. A valuable skill. 

I was also reading about– pay me a dollar for every story I write, and I'll write one just for you.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


I think it is important to remember that everything we do is a choice we make. 

Every time we use, every time we cut, every time we leave or stay, every time we yell, we make the choice to do it. It often doesn’t seem like it at the time,but we always have a choice. It can be hard to acknowledge this without blaming ourselves. When we are in an abusive situation, yes, he made me too scared to leave, and I made the choice to stay, under duress. I think we have to acknowledge that we make these choices, both good ones that we can be proud of, and shitty ones when all the options are terrible. Because if you say you had a choice when things were at their worst, that means you have a choice now. That means we are not doomed to this cycle of pain, this dark place. It means there is hope, we can break the cycle, and we will make good choices again. Every choice is an opportunity. And we each have the power to make choices, even when it doesn’t feel that way. 

We go through therapy to reconcile with the choices that we and others have made. To forgive ourselves for the decisions we made that hurt us, and to learn from all of them. We have to learn to accept and claim ownership over our thoughts and actions. I can't look back on the awful times and act like it was someone else who went through that, who allowed himself to be hurt and who hurt others. It was me. It happened from and to me, and it sucked, and I have to accept it as it is. It is past now, and I can move forward. Without denial, and without the feeling of helplessness. 

A big part of our journey of recovery sometimes is the process of learning to live with ourselves. That can be the hardest part. It is for me. 

Today, I had a very good day, and I felt more confident and comfortable with myself than I have in such a long time. I don't want to forget that days like this are possible. I was about to say I don't want to forget that I can be this person, but what I mean is: I shouldn't forget that I am this person. Every day. Whether I realize and enjoy it or not. 

People always tell us that it's not our circumstances that make us depressed, or anxious, or angry, but the attitude we take towards them. When I'm thinking clearly, I completely agree. But it is so hard and has taken me years of work in recovery to understand it and be able to apply that wisdom to my life. And still most days I cannot. I don't have enough mental energy most of the time to see things from any perspective but the one that hurts. We often complain how repetitive therapy and therapeutic literature is, but I've realized that I need to hear things like this hundreds of times before I can internalize them. 

What I left out in the beginning of this post is that although we are constantly making choices and we have to acknowledge that, it is extremely difficult to make them consciously. Another lesson that is really difficult to internalize is one that you read over and over again, perhaps the most common advice about success: that you have to fail again and again and be okay with it and get up and run ahead to the next attempt. You have to accept failure. And mistakes. And misfortune. We have to let go of the alternate realities we carry around where things happened differently. Most mental illness includes a disconnection from reality. That might be the definition of mental illness. It's okay to be unhappy with reality, and furious at it, and to cry about it. But we still have to live in it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Relative Direction

I spent the day Christmas shopping, of all things. I started at Barnes and Noble, then hit Goodwill. By lunchtime I needed a break, and instead of braving the mall, where I was ultimately headed and which has food built in, I stopped at Eat'n Park for their comprehensive soup and salad bar and my frequent treat, a Pepsi-Cola. (I do not drink soda pop at home, but I almost always order it when I go out. I've taken to calling it "soda pop" since I feel awkward just saying "pop," but I like the innocent sound of it. "Soda" is too clinical by itself. And around here, most places serve Pepsi and not Coke, so I usually ask for a Pepsi. Before I knew the lay of the land, I would ask for just "cola," but that only confused most people.) They also serve pie, but I didn't end up needing any.

I was having a hard time, and kept my head down, trying not to make unnecessary eye contact. It took a couple plates of greens and a cup of soup before I felt at all comfortable. But the first thing that shook me out of my self-absorption was the voice of the little girl with her sister and mother in the next booth.

At the table next to me, this Mom was a fantastic teacher with her two very little girls (1-3 years old). It first caught my attention when the older of the girls was talking about a fictional character. Her Mom couldn't figure out which she meant, and the girl said, "I'll show you when we get home." I expect that being able to put something off that is important to you ("delaying gratification") is a late-blooming and advanced skill requiring abstract thought. I have a lot of trouble with it, partially because I know I will forget about what I said by the time "later" comes. I was impressed; it sounded much more mature than I expected from such a small person.

Later, Mom successfully explained how your right and left stay with you when you face a different direction, but change relative to everything else. How as they were facing each other, their respective rights and lefts were different, but if she were to turn around, they would be lined up. Relative direction (e.g., right or left) versus absolute direction (east or west). This time, I was impressed by both parties involved. It brightened my day.

After lunch, I was able to do the rounds of two floors at the Mall,  finally finding relief with the kind ladies at Julia's Sweets and Stems. A candy store worthy of the name is what I'll call it. Spent a few dollars there on gifts. I was spent myself, and returned my library book into the Book Drop bin outside the library without getting out of the car. I was thirsty, too, but I didn't want to go anywhere and buy water. I put on Moira's sun hat, which was wedged between the dashboard and the windshield, to cheer myself up. If you're feeling crabby or blue, put on a silly hat. The quicker you say, "no, that's stupid," the more you need it. Put it on and give a big, goofy grin to the first person that snickers, and you won't be able to wipe that smile off your face. It's magic.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

On Middle Age

Is there such a thing as middle age?

I am a youth, and I am an old man. Right now the two are wrestling. I know who will win, but this doesn't end the match any sooner.

Monday, June 4, 2012

This is Sam.
Moira adopted him Saturday afternoon, while I was away visiting my Mom. I didn’t get home until very late, but it was good to meet him, and even that first night, he started teaching me things. 
Of course, Smudge was less than enthusiastic about the newcomer encroaching on her territory. She’ll still whining and occasionally hissing. At first she was very hostile, growling aggressively. But Sam was fearless, and although he was cautious not to provoke her too much, he continually approached her, trying to make friends. This sense of openness and lack of fear I found very inspiring. 
Right off the bat Sam was comfortable in his new home. He accepted us, and was excited to explore the entire apartment. He felt comfortable enough to sleep on the bed, and eat from the established area in the kitchen. 
  1. Be mindful and open to what’s around you, and also content with it. 
    1. Trust and don’t fear. What’s the worst that could happen?

Thank you, Sam, for widening my perspective.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Zen Art of Archery

Tonight, we visited Trader Jan's archery establishment in Fall River. We've been meaning to go for a while, since we bought a gift certificate online. It sounded fun.

I was quickly overwhelmed by the seemingly complex instruction and intimidating proprietor. He was a tough guy, and knew exactly how he wanted you to do this thing. He showed us the basics of Olympic-style archery. When I started, because I was so intimidated I could not relax and was choking up on the bow, sending my arrows flying consistently off-target. That's why he said they were doing that. I couldn't have told you what I was doing.

That's one example of not thinking: I wasn't able to think about what I was doing because I was too busy being defensive. I was in the presence of a very masculine authority figure, and my body was tense and on guard for conflict. I am a very fearful, anxious person. Forget that I had mouthed off to a very non-masculine authority figure earlier in the day. That speaks more to the road rage effect of feeling impervious when shrouded by automotive steel.

Near the end of our lesson, another couple arrived and joined us on the range, and he turned his attention to them. This relieved the pressure I felt some. Finally, once we all knew what to do, he left, and I was able to relax. The female half of the other couple had met Moira before, and that broke some of the tension I would feel towards them. They are in the same book club. As we shot our arrows and then retrieved them, a rhythm developed. Even as my left shoulder ached and my right fingertips started to burn, I became more and more calm.

The main philosophical point of our archery lesson was that you don't aim; you concentrate on the motions of setting your stance, nocking the arrow, drawing and releasing the bow. Rather than concentrating on improving your aim, you focus on perfecting the repetition and consistency of this motion sequence. It is a practice, like meditation or biofeedback or many noble pursuits such as writing. I did not aim the bow, rather I breathed deeply and focussed on the propriety of my actions and I found that the arrow happened to go where I was looking, and my posture and state of mind continued to improve. This is the other example of not thinking: being in the zone.

It was a lesson on this concept of practice. Do the right thing and the results will follow. You don't try to hit the target; you focus on doing the work of operating the bow. Don't concentrate on success; just do each task that you undertake mindfully.

Monday, April 23, 2012


I am mentally disabled. I suffer from major depression, recurring, with psychotic features; social phobia; Asperger Syndrome; and Tourette Syndrome. I lost my last full-time job in 2005. It was a very easy job. I left my part-time job a couple years ago, because I became debilitated with anxiety thinking about having to go to it.

I don't really know what to say. I just thought that might serve as some kind of introduction. I mean to write here about what it is like to live with mental illness.

It can be a thin line that separates me from the sane. Like today, when I was completely disgusted with life and gritting my teeth against suicidal thoughts, until I told my partner something that was bothering me, and quickly felt lighter, relieved, and then human again. How could I not see something so close within reach? How could I not realize how easy it is to let myself be happy?

As that same example illustrates, it can feel like an ocean between myself and sanity. Every day can be a learning experience if you let it. I am very grateful for that opportunity right now.