#SwiftFicFriday Week 143 : I Had A Plan

You have to understand. I had a plan. I did. I had an actual plan. I’d just quit work, and she and I had agreed I would retire. I did the math, if you want to call it that, and concluded, “Since I’m not working, and all that stress is gone, and I know that stress was hurting me, now that it’s gone, why not see if I can live without fluoxetine?”

It was a decision I consciously made. Pull myself off the fluoxetine that I’d been taking for eleven years. “I’ll try this and see what happens. I’ll remember to get outside, get fresh air, get sunshine. I’ll do the things I’ve been told by friends, relatives, cousins, and even my brother and his family, to manage without any drugs.”

That’s what I did. I stopped fluoxetine. November first, of last year.

At first, it went well. I went through the entire fall and winter without a depression problem. Everything was smooth. Everything was good. I was happy with how things were going.

Until June, if I’m honest. It was June when I started to crash. I didn’t really notice at first. But I started to take days off, days when I didn’t get a damn thing done. Gradually, that grew, until I had to fight myself to get anything done on any day.

Then August arrived. And I sat at my computer, and played video games, instead of working on the fence, watering the gardens, washing the dishes and laundry, working on what used to be our oldest child’s bedroom, and cleaning that up.

By September, even I had to admit the depression was back, and it was slowly wrecking me.

Like I said. I had a plan. Like most of my plans, it sucked.

297 Words

It’s Week 143 of #SwiftFicFriday, hosted by Katheryn Avila. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #SwiftFicFriday. They are always fun to read. And there are some great writers who show up regularly.


#ThursThreads Week 534 : I Think We All Have Them.

Tyler shot himself that night. He was alone in his apartment, it was dark, he was supposed to work the next day. That night, he got his handgun, loaded it, stuck the barrel under his chin, and pulled the trigger. He blew the top of his head off. He was dead before his body hit the floor.

Cindy cut herself that night. Her husband and children were asleep. It was dark, and her heart ached. She thought about crying, but decided not to. She got a paring knife from her kitchen, and drew three straight lines on her left arm, deep enough to bleed, but not enough she’d need stitches or a trip to the Emergency Room. She watched them bleed, but made sure she bled over the sink, so she could wash all the traces away.

Achmed took another pill that night. He was alone, on the beach at the oceanfront. It was dark. He’d had an awful day, his boss had chewed him out again for no reason, and two customers had called him a terrorist. He had to go back to that place in the morning. But right then, he wanted to escape everything for a little while. He took a pill, sat down on the sand, and hoped he’d wake up in time to get to work.

Call them demons. Call them dark thoughts. Call them the devil. I don’t care what you call them. I think we all have them. Even the best of us.

250 Words

It’s Week 534 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. Please go read all the stories in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read. And there are some great writers who show up every week.

#SwiftFicFriday Week 142 : When The Ground Falls Away

Lots of people like fall, and for lots of reasons. The summer heat fades, cool breezes show up, the leaves on trees turn all kinds of colors, and the holiday season is coming.

For me, fall is aptly named. It’s when I fall off the psychological cliff. Like some cartoon character that runs so fast off the edge of that cliff he doesn’t even know the ground is gone, and forward moment carries him along for a while. Until he realizes the ground has gone away, and holds up that little sign that says, “Oops…” as gravity finally catches up with him, and returns him to the ground that’s somewhere under the clouds, down there.

I’ve lived through that fall enough times that I recognize when the ground goes away. One night, when I’m still on solid ground, I go to bed. The next morning when I wake, the ground is gone, and I know when my momentum runs out, I will fall.

Like the leaves on the trees change from green to yellow, brown, pink, red, gold, and all the shades between. When they change colors, they will fall off the tree. The wind may catch them for a time, and blow them along. But they always end up on the ground.

I know how they feel.

When that fall comes for me, I know all I can do is wait, like the trees, for spring, when the leaves come back, and the ground rises once again, and lifts me up with it.

254 Words

It’s Week 142 of #SwiftFicFriday, hosted by Katheryn Avila. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #SwiftFicFriday. They are always fun to read. And there are some great writers who show up regularly.

I Will Protect You From Me.

Before she gave up trying to talk with me, she asked me one question. It wasn’t the first time I’d been asked that question, and it won’t be the last time I hear that question. “Why? Why are you doing this?”

As I’d done for years, for others who had asked me that question, I answered as honestly, and truthfully as I could. “I will protect you from me.”

She didn’t understand my answer. No one really ever had. Except for my psychotherapist, and it took him years to figure it out.

She was a member of this one particular church. I’d tried attending that church. For six months I tried. In the end, I walked away. I removed every phone number, every contact, every address I had for anyone who was a member of that church, and walked away.

“I will protect you from me.”

My therapist told me, shortly after I started seeing my psychiatrist, “Let’s not destroy his view of the world just yet, OK? Be nice to him.”

“OK, Doc. I will.”

Her church was ruled, yes ruled, not led, but ruled, by a charismatic, strong willed pastor whose decisions, and words, were the only ones that mattered. The word authoritarian comes to mind. Within  a few weeks of first visiting her church, I knew I had a decision to make. The same decision I have to make endlessly. “Do I lie about everything, about who I am, what I believe, what I think, what I feel, and construct an image of a person the people who attend this church want me to be? Or do I leave.”

It was a simple decision to make, but I let emotions get in the way, and spent months pretending I could find a solution.

I remember things she said to me, on several occasions. Things that screamed about the corrupt, damaged nature of that church. Things that screamed about its authoritarian pastor, and the sheep that attended all its services, and bleated to the pastor, “Tell us how to live, what to think, who to be, how to be, what is right, and what is wrong. Remove from us all our responsibilities in this life. Make our lives simple. The kind of lives that don’t give us headaches, that don’t cause us stress, that don’t make us worry about anything.”

“Don’t make me question my faith.” Words she spoke to me. Words others in that church also spoke. “Don’t make me question my faith.”

Really? How strong can your faith be if it’s so fragile you can’t have anyone ask questions? How strong can your faith be if you can’t tolerate, can’t withstand, other people having different beliefs, different faiths, different understandings than yours.

“Don’t make me question my faith.”

Words that have only one real, honest meaning. “I don’t want to know the truth.” Words that scream, “I know this is all a lie, but it’s the only thing keeping me sane in this insane world. This image in my head, about God and Jesus, and the world the pastor describes. Because, I’ll be blunt. The world we live in is fucked up, and I can’t cope with it.”

“Don’t make me question my faith.”

Oh, you are so weak, so child-like, so spoiled, that you can’t deal with life? That you’d have to become an alcoholic, or drug abuser? That you’d become another statistic in the drug overdose epidemic? That you might have to admit you like looking at pictures of men and women having sex? That you might have to admit you like smoking marajuana?a

Why can’t you question your faith? Because the questions scare you? And the answers scare you even more?

There are other words she spoke.

“I’ve worked hard to gain the trust of these people. I have an image here. They think of me in a good way. I’m going to keep that.”

And there it is. In broad daylight. In total clarity. Not hidden from anyone or anything. “I live a lie here. I pretend to be someone I know these people want me to be. I like the way these people treat me when I pretend to be that person.”

“I have an image here that I must maintain.”

As I looked around in that church, I saw precisely what she’d said. Everyone there had an image they had to maintain. Everyone there had a lie they had to live. Such that everyone else there would treat them as they wanted to be treated, with a specific kind of respect, with a specific kind of trust.

I saw everyone looking at each other with a smile, and a wink of the eye, “We know the truth. But we keep playing this game, because it gives us an escape from the reality of life, and we can’t handle that reality.”

So, I told her, “I will protect you from me.”

Because I know the truth. I know we are all darkness and light. Good and evil. Just and unjust. I know our society, or economy, our companies, our industries, don’t care if I live or die. That I’m just a human resource. Expendable. Replaceable. Just like the tires on a car. Or the lightbulbs in a house.

I know that’s the reality of the world we live in. I know that’s why people live in pain. In agony. And get high to escape that truth. Or get drunk. Or play basketball. Or go bowling. Or visit the bar on the way home every night.

Because they can’t cope with that truth. They can’t cope with being a lightbulb that you throw away when it burns out. They can’t cope with a society that places no value on them, on what they believe, on what they think, on what they feel.

Because they seek any means of escaping that truth.

So I told her, “I will protect you from me.”

Sometimes, I get sad, knowing how many others are terrified of that truth. Knowing how many others can’t cope with being a simple, expendable human resource in some big machine. Especially since it’s a machine of our own design, or our own making.

Sometimes, I get sad, knowing how many others can’t find a way to live with that truth, and elect, instead, to live in a lie that never ends. A lie that pretends everything is good. And right. And true. And as it should be.

As long as they don’t look too closely.

As long as they don’t ask questions.

So, I left. To protect her from me.

Because I know the truth, and I don’t hide from it.

But sometimes. I get sad.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2022/10/21 (Week 272)

When I look in the mirror, sometimes I swear I can see dragons, circling the top of a mountain, on a cloudy, storm filled night, with the moon breaking through the clouds now and then. They are there, waiting, watching, ready to turn everything in my heart, in my soul, to ash, to scorched, barren ground, covered in the ashes of what I was.

I know they are not real. I know it’s just a picture my brain cells have invented to explain what I live with, how I feel, all the time, every day, endlessly.

“You know, right? That I know the truth about all this. About you dragons. Dragons, demons, devils, evil spirits. Angels and heroes too. I know about all of it.”

I turned from the mirror, and walked to my computer, where I sat down, and put on some music. “Here I am again. Sitting in the dark, listening to music and talking to myself.” It was normal for me. It was part of how I lived with the darkness inside of me. How I kept that darkness from owning me. How I kept it from destroying me.

“Sometimes, I think they’d call an exorcist to cast out the demons that possess me.” I smiled. “Can’t you see that? From before we knew about unbalanced brain chemistry, and the diversity of life, when the church ruled everything in Western civilization. In Europe, and in North America.”

There I was, in my mind, strapped to a bed, a priest stood at the foot of that bed, with a bible, and a vial of holy water and screamed, “Out, foul demon! Out! In the name of Jesus!” Then he bowed his head and held up the crucifix he wore on a chain around his neck, kissed it, and mumbled an endless prayer. When he stopped praying, he walked to stand beside my head, and sprinkled holy water on it, “In the name of Jesus, I command you, leave this child of God alone!”

Then, he started the entire sequence over again.

“Yeah. That would certainly balance my defective neurochemistry, wouldn’t it.”

The thing with my depression was I took humor of any kind, wherever I could find it.

“Demons and angels. Ha. Our made up names to explain our behavior. Good people got possessed by angels, and no one cared. Bad people got possessed by demons. Whatever.”

Depression simply was. It was a fact of life. Part of my fabric of reality. It made me glad that I had enough brain cells that worked, enough intelligence, and enough life experience, to recognize it for what it was. To know that it preyed on emotions, and tried to bring despair to life. “Depression. Also known as Lucifer. The crusher of men’s souls.”

Sitting there, I knew another truth about the world I lived in. That even in my country, the richest country in the history of the world, stupid people were thriving, and exorcism was a booming business in certain sectors of the church. “Glad I’m free from those idiots. Glad I’m not strapped to a bed with some priest screaming at a demon that doesn’t exist, and trying to cure my depression by sprinkling holy water on my head.”

Don’t get me wrong. I knew all about the biochemical features of depression. The imbalance of brain chemistry. The distinct appearance of depressed people’s brains in MRI scans, when compared to brain scans of happy, well adjusted, carbon copy people that were just like everyone else.

“It’s invisible. The human eye can’t see it. Can’t see the differences in brain activity. To an ocean of people, it doesn’t exist.”

Just like that, there was my boss at work, “You need to pull your boots up, and get your act together.”

“No, boss. I don’t. I need to get a big damn truck and drive it right through the front doors of your office building. Because your work isn’t real. My depression is.” But, I could never do that. Or anything like that. That would be letting the imaginary dragons in my mirror take control of me, and burn everything in my soul to ashes.

“Hey, you dragons! Yeah, I’m talking to you! Can you guys do loop-de-loops? How about while breathing fire?”

Like I said. The thing with my depression was I took humor of any kind, wherever I could find it.

I listened to music for who knows how long, then I finally went to bed, and dreamed of dragons, and exorcists.

Sometimes, sleep sucked.

757 words.

Written for Week 265 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can learn about Miranda’s challenge here. The stories people share for the weekly challenge are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. Please go read them.

#ThursThreads Week 533 : They Aren’t Real

In the picture it was night, with the moon fighting to break through the clouds, and two black dragons illuminated in its white light. “Dragons.” I looked at my therapist. “They aren’t real. At least, that’s what everyone says.”

She didn’t say anything, instead using her silence to urge me to say what I actually thought.

“What if they’re not physical?”

“What do you mean?”

“What if we can’t see them, can’t touch them, can’t shoot them with our guns, can’t take pictures of them. And despite all that, what if they’re still real.”

“What do you mean?”

“What if they’re like demons, angels, spirits, or ghosts?” I scratched my chin. “What if they are real, but live in other dimensions, or don’t have physical forms, so we can’t prove they exist?”

“Do you believe in demons and dragons?”

“Not really. But I think they are good names for the parts of ourselves that haunt us. The voices in our heads. The nightmares in our sleep. The dark thoughts, the anger, the rage, we all have.”

“But what do you think of those parts of ourselves?”

“Those are real. I think we all have them.” I took a deep breath, “My father told me, the last time I visited him before he died, that there was darkness in me. That it was part of me.”


“I don’t know. Maybe we’re both black dragons and white knights. Darkness and light. Maybe in some of us, darkness wins.”

247 Words

It’s Week 532 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. Please go read all the stories in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read. And there are some great writers who show up every week.

And Now For Something Completely Different.

I’m done for the day. I know that as I sit here at my computer, listening to Dreamcatcher’s Apocalypse : Follow Us mini album. It’s the first time I’ve listened to the entire album. If it’s like the other 5 recordings I have from Dreamcatcher, I will love it.

I’m supposed to be writing a flash fiction story for Miranda Kate. Week 271 of her weekly challenge. But, really, I’m not into writing much right now. I am eating my bowl of cereal, drinking tea, and listening to music.

It was a good workout tonight. Sort of fun to hear the thunder outside while I was watching two more episodes of Robotech. It’s what I do right now. Watch two episodes of Robotech and ride the Stationary Bike. Something like an average of 17 miles in 47 minutes or so. Not bad for an old man. Too bad I think I’ve managed to wear the bike out, so I don’t think it’s accurate anymore.

In what, 15 days? In 15 days it will be November first. A lot of things happen on November first. I’m trying not to be terrified about it. Not to panic about it. Not to let the rage and anger out.

November first. Everyone knows about National Novel Writing Month. In the 30 days of November, write a draft of a 50,000 word novel. The big question everyone who dares to try it always asks is, “What the fuck do I write?”

I decided, back in July, I was going to write this year. I’ve done it before. I know I can. All I have to do is decide I’m going to, and then stick with it. The story doesn’t even have to be good. It’s the first draft. The idea is to get it down on paper, and worry about fixing it, and cleaning it up after it’s written.

But… This November is going to be different for me. On November first, I am scheduled for my first visit with a new psychotherapist. And on November second, I am scheduled for my first visit with a new psychiatrist.

My brain cells just screamed, “He’s going in blind!” They do that. My brain cells. They scream. A lot.

That changed everything about National Novel Writing Month for me. I realized one night, a couple of weeks ago, that I’m face to face with a chance to write down 30 days of my life. 30 days where I start therapy, and work with a psychiatrist to see if we need to adjust my medication. 30 days where I’m working my way out of a major depression episode.

I learned in my six years of therapy, from October of 2010 through May of 2016, that writing is part of how I deal with the chaos that life is. Part of how I figure things out. Which means I get to write. Usually, I write fiction, but in the past few months, I’ve been fictionalizing things that happened to me, things that I’ve experienced, felt, dreamed, or lived. That I’ve been writing them from my perspective. And it’s helped me to come to grips with a lot of my anger and rage.

So, tonight, when I looked at the picture for Miranda’s challenge, I decided, “Let me write something like what I’ll be writing in November. Let me practice that kind of writing.”

It’s been a good day, too. For once. Good days have been rare lately, but the past few days have been better than the entire last month. Some things got done. Mowed the side yard, just before the rain got here. Got laundry started this morning. One load in the dryer, one load in the washer. Cleaned the shower. Vacuumed the bedroom. Got a shower, and even shaved.

I hate shaving.

God made facial hair to drive guys like me bonkers. I hate shaving. But it grows out. And when it gets long enough, that stuff itches something awful. And I hate the itching more than I hate shaving. When it itches enough, I mow the facial weeds, and the itching stops for a week or so.

This is how it will be in November. I won’t write fiction. I mean, the prompt for Miranda’s challenge this week is great. That ancient typewriter, with paper in it. I thought about having a ghost writing stories, in an old, abandoned house, that everyone was too afraid to tear down, because they knew it was haunted, and didn’t want to piss off a ghost, and end up being haunted themselves.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll write that story some other time?

For now, I just have to remember to breathe, to monitor my pulse rate, my blood pressure, the tension in my shoulders, the way my hands shake. So I can head off any panic attacks, and remain calm about November first, when it all starts. I want to give these people a chance. I want to find out if they have any ideas that could help me better manage the depression I live with.

Maybe this is enough for now. Maybe I should put a title on this when I post it. “And now for something completely different.” Whatever.

Don’t be a wreck on November first, Marcus. Don’t be a wreck on November first. Breathe, damn-it. Breathe. And give them a chance.

#ThursThreads Week 532 : I Would Tell You If I Could

My cousin sat across the table from me, “Sometimes, you’re so smart you’re an idiot, and can’t see the obvious.”

“You really don’t believe what I have said.” I backed away from the table.

“There is nothing wrong with you! Nothing! You’ve just bought into all the lies about defective brain chemistry that the Deep State wants you to believe!”

I stood up. “There is no point in explaining to you. No point. I would tell you if I could. But you would not listen.”

She stood up too, and glared at me, “You’ve become one of them!”

I took a breath, held it, counted to ten, slowly let it out. “Because you can’t see what is there. What is there is invisible to human eyes. Our eyes can’t see it. So, for you it doesn’t exist.”

She started ranting about how depression was a made up, fictional illness, designed to suck money out of all of us by making us spend endless amounts on medication and treatment that didn’t work.

I didn’t listen. I knew too well what she had to say. What she believed.

She wasn’t me. She didn’t look in the mirror and see the hollowness, the emptiness, that I saw every time I looked. She didn’t know the feeling of walking by the street, and knowing freedom from that emptiness was two steps to the side. One hit and it would be over.

She was totally blind to what she could not see with her eyes.

250 Words

It’s Week 532 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. Please go read all the stories in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read. And there are some great writers who show up every week.

#ThursThreads Week 531 : How Does It Work Again

Everybody always told me, “You have to get it out, into the open, so you can deal with it. So you can heal.”

When I stopped laughing, I turned the volume up on my computer’s sound system. I was flirting with having it too loud, loud enough to wake her. That wouldn’t be good, but it was a risk I took anyway.

“Get it out in the open. How does it work again? Let’s find out.”

I listened to the music. Then lowered my head, and rested it on my arms, on my desk, and let the rage burn inside my soul, as I thanked God above that I didn’t have the ability to do what I wanted.

In my mind, in that rage, I took my neighbor’s big damn pickup truck, and drove, like a man possessed. I didn’t know where I was going, and I didn’t care. Nothing mattered, except the rage, and giving it a voice. Striking back at that which had wounded me to the core.

The truck stopped moving, and through the rage, in that dream, I found myself staring at the front doors of the church I went to in high school. The church where I got told there was something wrong with me. Something different. The church that wrecked me. That judged me. That found me in need of fixing.

I let the rage run free, floored the gas pedal on that truck, and collided with the front doors of that church.

249 Words

It’s Week 531 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. Please go read all the stories in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read. And there are some great writers who show up every week.