Depression

It was One AM. Timmy was still awake, sitting on the floor of the kitchen, leaning against the cabinets. The lights were out, and had been for three hours. His wife was upstairs, sleeping peacefully in their bed. His daughter was asleep in her room.

Timmy couldn’t sleep. His two cats, Havoc and Chaos, wouldn’t come near him. They knew he wasn’t doing well. He knew it too. He knew all too well what was wrong, why he was awake at such a stupid hour. Why he wouldn’t sleep for another hour or more.

He sat on the floor in silence. The dishwasher had finished the dishes two hours earlier. The TV in the next room was off. The only sound came from the refrigerator as it cycled its compressor to cool its interior as needed.

Timmy didn’t even have his music player with him. He couldn’t have listened to any music right then, so it didn’t matter.

That was what was wrong. Nothing mattered. What he felt didn’t matter. What he wanted. What he dreamed of. None of it mattered. None of it had ever mattered. He closed his eyes and saw pages from user manuals for every program the office used. He saw procedure documents describing how to set up a computer for use on the office network. He saw the broken computers sitting on the workbench, waiting for him.

There was no escape. No peace. No sleep. No calm. No hope.

“I can’t sleep to that,” he opened his eyes, stared at the ceiling. He tried to find shapes in the corners, though he knew nothing was there. He stared at the fluorescent light cover until he could see the pattern of the plastic diamonds that gave it texture. “At least my eyes still work.” He wondered how long his eyes would work. How long it would be until he started developing macular degeneration, where staring into computer screens all day, forever, gradually burned his retinas up.

“Damn wrist.” He wrapped his left hand around his right wrist. “Stupid wrist.” He knew it was a stress injury that made his wrist hurt. Sometimes, it was like someone put a nail gun to his wrist, and pulled the trigger. Sometimes, it was a twinge, a reminder, his body telling him, “Remember all the nasty things you’ve done to me?”

Did he hate his job? Did he hate his life? Did he feel trapped? Hell, Timmy didn’t know. He didn’t care. Because it didn’t matter if he did. “Take care of your family, boy. Be a man about it. Take care of them.”

He crossed his arms, his hands on his elbows, and huddled on the floor, like it was winter, and he was cold, despite it being summer, and in the low eighties outside. “I’m OK,” he told himself. “I’m OK.” He knew it was a lie. He knew what depression was. He knew how depressed people behaved. He’d studied depression in college, in the psychology classes he’d taken. He knew depressed people did strange things, like stay awake all night, and sit on the kitchen floor in the dark.

“I’m OK.”

He didn’t cry. It wasn’t worth crying about. It just was. Whatever it was, whatever kept him awake, didn’t matter. His alarm would go off like it did every morning. And he’d move, like every morning, no matter how much it hurt. No matter how much he hurt.

So he sat on the floor of the kitchen, in the dark, until he felt he could sleep. Then, he walked to the sofa in the Family Room, and stretched out. He closed his eyes, and all too soon, his alarm woke him.


It’s April 4th, the fourth day of the 2015 A to Z Challenge. This is the fourth of 26 pieces I’m writing in April. Today, the letter D. Monday, the letter E. We get Sundays off. Time to start rolling the dice, and see what they tell me to write Monday.

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Two Steps To The Side

[Content Warning: This post speaks of depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. Proceed at your own risk.]

I used to walk more than a mile down Princess Anne Boulevard and Dam Neck Boulevard on my daily walks. It was part of how I survived the events of 2010 and 2011. Many mornings during those days I walked during morning rush hour, with both roads filled with cars, busses, pickup trucks, SUVs, and commercial trucks.

More than once, on those walks, I knew a simple truth. If I turned to the side and took two steps, I wouldn’t have to live with the emotional and spiritual pain I was in. Two steps to the side, and one big truck, doing 45 or 50 miles per hour. I’d never know what hit me.

I knew how to die, escape, leave, abandon this world I never made. A world that had torn my heart out with its fingernails, then threw it on the ground, and stomped on it. A world that said to me, “You’re done!”

I walked those mornings knowing everything was wrong. I wasn’t in my car, driving to work, like everyone else was. Instead, I was spending my days at home. Writing. Watching TV. Doing household chores. And wondering what everyone I’d known, everyone I’d worked with, felt was so wrong, so broken, with me.

I walked when I needed to walk. When my emotional state became so tense, so confusing to me, I couldn’t think at all, let alone think straight, or rationally. I walked when I wanted to scream, when I wanted to punch people in the face, when I wanted to argue with everyone I’d ever met, when I felt completely numb, when I couldn’t feel anything, or think anything.

I walked to find my way back to me.

I can’t explain things better than I have. I haven’t found any words for what I felt in those days. Anguish is such a disposable word. Depression has become a sheet of paper people use to cover up emotional topics. Too many words we use in our society have lost their meaning to me. They’ve become disposable, wink and nod and the world’s OK, cover up words. Words used to filter out things people don’t want to deal with.

I can say I knew, even as I walked, I never would take two steps to the side. I’d have walked through a hallway filled with fire, with a floor covered in burning coals, but I’d never take those two steps to the side. Because I knew. If I took those two steps I’d be running from what I was afraid of.

And I don’t run.

I have learned my doctor, and my family, were more than a little scared about my long walks. Part of what scared them was whether I’d take those two steps. They never spoke of it, other than to say how concerned they were when I had to take a walk.

I’m still figuring that part of my story out. Still figuring out how people reacted to what I was going through. How they felt about my behavior, the things I said, the things I did. I remember being asked, more than once, why I was so angry. If I was OK. If everything was alright. I remember my answer was always, “Yes. I’m fine.” To me, I was. By my standard, by my understanding of life, everything was OK. I was enduring some changes, long overdue ones at that, I was angry, frustrated, scared. Scared of what was happening. Of the unknown, of moving away from everything I’d known, everything I’d done, everything I’d been.

To me, everything was normal. To me, knowing how to remove myself from this Earth is normal. And I do know more than a few ways. Doesn’t everybody?

I’ve also learned my doctor took a while to figure out how tough I am. I know this is true because I didn’t end up locked away in a room somewhere on suicide watch. My doctor figure out I wasn’t at risk. No one needed to lock me up, to protect me from myself.

All I needed was time.

Turned out time was all I had.

To this day, I know the truth. Two steps to the side, and it’s over.

To this day, I know the truth. I won’t take those steps.

I don’t run.

Bring it, life. Bring it.

Mark.

Robin Williams Has Gone Home.

Things started off normal enough. CNN had a banner headline across the bottom of it’s feed that announced the breaking news was Robin Williams was dead at 63.

We were in the Jersey Mike’s Sub Shop. I couldn’t hear the news, the volume was off. All I got was the headlines, and any text on the screen. But that was enough. I knew, reading the words on the screen, all hell was about to break loose.

See. I knew how people would react to the news.

Just like I knew, in a few days, or maybe a week or two, the thing would blow over, and nothing would change. That’s how life is. That’s how people are. Things don’t change until there’s a reason for them to change.

Let me say that another way. If it was your spouse or lover that had ended their life, you’d change. But, because it was someone you only knew from a movie screen, or a TV screen, that wouldn’t change a thing. You’d say, “That’s too bad.” Then, “People should get the help they need. It’s there. They just have to ask.” Then, you wouldn’t say a thing, ‘cause it wouldn’t matter anymore.

Just like donating platelets or blood. If you best friend gets cancer, you’ll consider it. But only while they’re in Chemotherapy.

Did I mention I hate people?

I hate people.

I hate more, knowing that nothing will change. That time will pass, and another big name will commit suicide, and we’ll all go through these same motions again. And again. And again. And nothing will change.

It never has.

History’s littered with suicides of depressed, different people. Big names. Freddy Prinze. Curt Cobain. Robin Williams. Jimmy Hendrix (yes, a drug overdose is the same thing). You can name them yourself.

The first person that tells me how selfish those people were to kill themselves, or that they took the easy way out, I’m going to push all their teeth down their throat in one brutal move. All that shows is you’re stupid, and don’t understand a God damned thing, and don’t want to. You’re just being “social” and behaving according to some mythical rule set that we’re all supposed to follow.

See. I’m autistic.

That fucking rule set you can’t live without doesn’t exist to me. And I see stupid behavior everywhere I look. Every day. That’s why I’m in therapy. Not because I’m fucked up. But because the world’s fucked up, and I have to live in it.

I particularly love the commentary along the lines of, “If you’re contemplating suicide, get help! Talk to someone!” Helpful words. Like saying, “Here’s a cup of water. Hope you can put out the fire with it.”

Yes, if you haven’t noticed, I’m rather emotional on this topic.

Robin Williams escaped the hell he was in. And the first person that tells me it’s too bad he took his own life, and so he’s going to hell, I’m going to send that person straight to hell myself. Because you understand nothing. Nothing at all. Except what you WANT to understand.

Robin Williams escaped the hell he was in. A hell he never made. Do you think he caused his depression? Do you think he elected to be depressed? Do you think he elected to have no one to talk to? Do you think he elected to live where he lived, alone, or nearly so? Do you think he didn’t talk to anyone? That he didn’t seek help?

He did all those things. That you can’t understand why he ended his pain, and misery, and turned from the nightmare he saw everywhere, everyday, isn’t his fault. That you wonder why he ended his life indicates you’re part of the problem. Part of the reason 38,000+ people end their lives every year.

Find someone to talk to. OK. I did. I found a handful of people to talk to. Then, on October 11th, 2010, they told me I was not allowed in the same workplace as them. Then, on October 25th, 2010, they told me I was to not talk with any of them, even through smoke signals. No contact.

The people I needed. The ones I’d found to help me through my depression. Turned and walked away.

So shut the fuck up about this shit of, “Fiind someone to talk to.” Be honest about what the fuck you’re saying. You’re not saying find someone to talk to. You’re saying, “Send yourself to a psych ward, and talk to a bunch of clinical analysts, and other freakazoids like yourself, and when you’re normal, like us, maybe we’ll talk with you. But don’t bet on it.”

Think about that a while. Because that’s what your world tried to do to me.

What does it mean, what does it say, about the world, when the world says, “Find someone to talk to,” and doesn’t say, “So long as it’s not me. Leave me out of your disturbing shit. I don’t want to get involved. And quit disrupting my harmony! Go the fuck away!”

Because, let’s be honest here, that’s what our social system actually says. What it actually does. It’s like the prayer game. You know. Where everyone says, “I’ll pray for you,” and that’s all they do for you when you need help. “I’ll pray for you, and beyond that, go jump off a fucking cliff, ‘cause I’m not getting involved!”

Did I mention I hate people?

I hate people.

You want to know why Robin Williams killed himself? Because he saw things as they really, truly are. He saw past the lies our social system tells. He saw the misery our social system inflicts on people, especially people who are different.

See. Different equals disruptive. Knowledge equals disruptive. Independence equals disruptive. And we’ll remove anything disruptive from our social system, so it won’t gum up the works. As the song says, “Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls, it’s a mixed up, shook up, fucked up world. Except for Lola.”

You close your eyes. You pretend the world is OK. You imagine our society is functional. You pretend it’s sad when someone decided they’ve had enough, and leave. You get pissed off when they leave.

You get pissed off because you can’t. You’re still here. In a world you never made.

Shut the fuck up about all this. Nothing’s going to change. Don’t pretend it will. And if you pretend it will, then don’t get pissed off at me for recognizing it won’t. And look back, in a year or two, and see how things have changed because of this.

And yes. In case you’re wondering. I’ve donated platelets over 70 times now. And there will be more donations in my future. And Gina A Baker is long past her chemo therapy. Of course, for all I know, she could be dead. She’s one of the few friends I had that ordered me to go away on 10/25/2010. And I haven’t heard from her since.

Because.

I was disruptive.

And you know. We can’t have that shit in the working world. We can’t have that shit at all.

Mark.

When Will Your First Book Be Ready?

A good friend asked, yesterday, when my first book was coming out. Of course, I answered with a, “When it’s ready” answer.. Isn’t that what everyone that’s never published a novel answers? “When it’s ready.”

But here’s where things get different. With me, “When it’s ready,” may translate to “Never.” It’s an anxiety and depression thing. It’s a war with myself thing. A conflict I’m all too familiar with, and have struggled with all my life. These days, when I think of writing the 2nd and 3rd drafts of “White Witch”, then getting beta readers, and finding an editor to help me clean it up, an artist to help me with the cover design, and learning what I’ll need to learn to publish my book, I panic.

Yes, I panic.

And until now, this morning, sitting here, writing these words, I’ve never admitted I panic at the thought of completing my first novel. But I do. Every symptom, every signal, shows. My fingers vibrate like the tines of a tuning fork. My left wrist does its “I can’t support any weight” number. My chest constricts, all the muscles in my neck, shoulders, and chest behave like I’m lifting a five-drawer file cabinet over my head. My pulse rate pushes up to near 3 digit levels, and I have to force myself to take full, deep breaths, to breathe normally.

See. I know. I just don’t talk about it. I hide it, and pray it goes away. I pray everything goes away. As I have all my life.

Because I want to fail.

Yes. You read that correctly. I want to fail.

It’s a hard thing to explain to people. A thing that makes no sense to anyone, except me. It’s not a refusal of responsibility. It’s something deeper, much more complex that not wanting to grown up and be responsible. Because I am a grown up, responsible adult.

It’s a fight even I have trouble finding the words to explain. The only words I’ve ever found are, “I want to fail,” which doesn’t really explain what I feel. So, let me explain a bit more.

In October, 2010, my last career came to a spectacular end, with me out on medical leave for 13 weeks. If you’re not familiar with the story, perhaps I’ll explain it someday. My doctor will tell you I wanted out of that job, and my subconscious did what I had to, to get me out of that job.

Here I am, in 2014, back at full-time work status, in another job. One I wasn’t even working to get. It just kind of happened. Like the last job I had. Like things always have. I’ve explained countless times, “I don’t have to look for work. Work always finds me.”

I know why this happens. It happens because I’m good at what I do. I’m not top ranked, far from it. It’s one of those things my Doctor and I have talked about many times (after 4 years of therapy, I’ve lost count of how many times). I’m damn good at what I do. Whatever I decide to do, I do it well. This past week, my doctor explained it to me this way, “Mark, if the best people at this are in the 99th percentile, you’re in the 97th, or 98th. Your not the best, but you’re damn good. Exceptionally good.”

Yeah. That’s the problem. Everyone knows that. Everyone who knows me knows that. And I can’t escape that. I can’t escape people knowing I’m good at the things I choose to do. And it’s not just in the land of computers, and computer software. Things would be far simpler if I had such limits.

I write, too. As more and more people are finding out. I write. And I’m not bad at it. To the point where I’ve been told, and have lost count of how many people have told me, I’m not bad at it, and should write a book.

I take pictures, too. With a $400 (US) Canon point and shoot camera with a 840 mm optical zoom lens. Not even a real camera. A point and shoot camera. A camera a lot of people look at, and laugh at, because it’s not a “real” camera.

Yet, even with that “toy” camera, I take pictures people like. I’ve heard many times, “You’re a photographer, right?”

Wrong. I’m not. I just take pictures. Snap-shots. I’m not a photographer.

I’m not a writer.

I’m not a computer genius.

And I struggle, every day, with the idea, the thought, that I am, and that people think I am.

Could I start a computer services business? Yes. Easily. Would I be successful at it? Almost certainly. Then why don’t I? Because I want to fail. Because the thought of meeting those expectations leaves me gasping for breath, and needing to take a long walk to make it through yet another panic attack.

Could I write, and publish, my first book? Yes. For me, it would be surprisingly easy. Would it sell? Who cares? That wouldn’t be the point. Do I want to? Yes. Then why don’t I? Because I want to fail. Because the thought of completing my first book, and publishing it, and putting it out in the world, triggers another panic attack. And leaves me terrified of the knowledge I would publish more stories. The first book wouldn’t be the only book. And again, I end up taking long walks to de-stress myself, and beat back the panic.

There you have it, people. What I’m really saying when I answer the question, “When will your book be ready?”

Me. Screaming at life, trying to run and hide, because I know where that next step leads, and I’m terrified to take that step as a result.

It’s not “when will the book be ready?” It’s actually, “When will I be ready?”

And I don’t have an answer to that question. Other than to look at my hands, and scream at them, “Stop doing that!” and then go walk until my heels bleed.

That’s what terror is.

That’s what anxiety is.

That’s what I live with. Every breath and every heartbeat of every day.

Commentary : A Rough Time

I’ve had a hard week. If I was a mythic night of old, I’d say the dragons won this week, and I lost. But I’m not, and life’s not that simple, and clean-cut. Life has oceans of colors, not just black and white. Not yes or no. It’s not binary.

Life’s complicated.

Today, as I left my Doctor’s office, he reminded me, “You can call during the week. Any time during the week. If you need help to get through the rough parts.” He knows I won’t, unless I’m desperate.

I want, desperately, to learn to stand on my own. To learn to face the life that causes me such distress. To learn to live. Feel. Laugh, cry, dance, sing, play, care, sit silently, alone, help. I want to learn all the things I never learned.

My doctor knows I will face whatever comes. Not because I’m strong. Not because I’m proud. Not because I’m not afraid.

Because I want to learn.

Because I want to grow.

There are times I feel like an infant in a giant world. Like I just woke up from a decades long sleep, and have to learn how to live in a strange, new world. A work I don’t always understand. A world that hurts everyone.

Yes, I suffer from depression. No, it’s not something I can decide I don’t have. It’s a biochemical imbalance, aggravated by the life I see around me every day. It’s a serotonin imbalance, coupled with autistic wiring of my nervous system and brain cells. It’s so many things.

Then I remember what I see around me every day. I remember I’m awake. I’m aware. I’m learning. I’m growing. In a world filled with people who are sleeping. I remember I’m in a world filled with people who stopped growing long ago.

It used to make me angry when someone I worked with said they leave the job behind when they walk out of the building. They pronounced they work with this stuff 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and that was enough. They couldn’t and wouldn’t touch it at home.

I always answered them, “Go ahead. Stand still. It makes you easier to run over.” No one understood. They just looked at me like I was crazy, and declared not everyone was nuts like I was.

My doc and I have spoken of this very topic. He’s very much aware of the way people stop learning, growing, maturing. They fought through 12 years of education. Then four or more years of college. Then through any testing and certifications they had to have for their profession. Then, they fought for the job they wanted. The one they’d worked for all their lives. And when they got it. When they became successful. They stopped. As if they’d reached the end of the journey, and had no where left to go.

When I think of that, of what it means, of what it says about people, my heart aches. And my soul cries tears of sorrow, tears of despair. And my depression grows. For to me, those people are waiting to die. Waiting for the end. Waiting for the working part of life to end, so they can enjoy retirement, and wait, in retirement, for the end of life to come for them.

I pray to God as I understand and believe God is, and to the universe, and to life, for all those around me to wake up, though I know most never will. And most of those who wake up will push themselves back to the peaceful escape of endless sleep.

I won’t contact my doctor unless I find I am unable to find my way through this week. Or the next. Or the one after that. Instead, I’ll use all I’ve learned, and practice, and grow, until I learn to stand, and walk through life, as I continue along the path life has for me.

And I’ll cry a million tears across countless nights, for those who stopped somewhere along their own journeys through this life, and are lost somewhere in time, and don’t even know it.

Sitting In The Dark

Here I am, again.
In the dark.
Alone.
The cat sleeping
On my lap.

I suspect a normal person
Would give up,
And go to bed.
“Tomorrow’s another day.
I’ll be better.”

Or perhaps they’d
Have a drink.
And watch a movie on TV.
Or something like that.

Perhaps a normal person
Would text message a friend.
And the two of them
Could keep each other company.
Cheer each other up.

I don’t really know,
You know.
What a normal person would do.
On a night like this.
When their depression
Cuts them to the bone.

Sometimes I scream at God.
“Why?
Why me?”
But I know.
It wasn’t God.
It was random chance.
The luck of the draw.
The way the genes
Of Mom and Dad
Mixed.

No sense,
And no use,
Being upset about that.

I never told anyone before.
Why I stopped Prozac
In 2003.
December 6th.
I remember the day.
It was the day I took
The last pill.

I’d taken 20 mg a day
For three years
And two months.
And for the last six months
I felt it.
The depression.
Growing.
Gaining strength.

I knew the Prozac
Wouldn’t work.
Wouldn’t help.
So I stopped taking it.

Now, I’m at that point again.
But I know so much more.
I know how to manage
My biochemical imbalance.
My screwed up neurochemistry.

I walk.
I visit the flowers
In the Botanical Garden.
I watch the ocean
As I walk on the sand.
I stop.
And breathe.
And remember now.
This moment.
This heartbeat.

I used to think
My hands
Were a curse to me.
I’ve learned.
They’re not.
They’re a gift.

I can feel the air I breathe
With them.
I can spread my fingers wide
And feel the air move
In the room.
Feel it pass between
My fingers.
Flow across my palms.

My hands are not a curse.
They’re a gift.
They remind me,
Even in my darkest times,
Even on my darkest nights.

I’m alive.

And I can feel.

I can feel the carpet
With my toes,
And the soles
Of my feet.

I can feel the shirt I wear,
Where it touches me.
If I decide I want to.
All I have to do is stop.
And remember.

I’m alive.

Prozac didn’t teach me that.
I didn’t learn it from a book.
From a friend.
From a doctor.

I learned that
Long ago.
When I was so young.
I had no words
To explain
Anything I’d learned.

And I buried everything.
To be like everyone.

But my heart
And soul.
They knew.
And they found a way
To explain the truth
To me.

I’m not broken.
I’m not evil.
I’m not defective.

I’m Me.

I don’t know
What a normal person
Would do
On a night like this.

Somehow,
I don’t wish to ever know.
Instead,
I wish
The normal people
I have known,
And know now,
Could stop.
And listen.
To their hearts
And souls.

And perhaps they’d know
The drugs,
The medications,
They don’t cure a thing.
All they do
Is help.
Let you catch your breath.
Give you time
To get back on your feet.
And remember how to walk.

No.
The meds don’t kill
My depression.
They don’t remove it
From my life
At all.

Its me that cures
What ails me.
It’s me that remembers
I’m alive.
That learns to live
In each heartbeat.
And each breath.

It’s me that learns to walk.

So I sit here.
Alone.
In the dark.
And I face my self.
My heart.
And soul.
And my depression
That never really goes away.

And I take care of me.
Until I can once more
Smile.

Play It Loud (VIII)

I play my music loud tonight.
I play my music long.
I play my music in the dark.
Sitting all alone.

Sometimes
I must be free.
Sometimes
I must escape.
If only for a little while.
If only for a moment.
If only for a few heartbeats
In the life I’ve been blessed with.

Sometimes
I play my music loud
So I can’t hear anything.
Only my music exists.

Sometimes
I play my music in the dark
So I can’t see
The world in which I live.

Sometimes
I play my music loud
To escape
From this world
I never made.

Sometimes
I wish there was a way
I could show you what I see
In this life
Every day.

Sometimes
I wish there was a way
For you to feel the things
I feel
Each day.

Sometimes
I wish you could know
The pain,
The hurt,
Of facing yet another day
In the grip
Of the depression
That runs my life.

It never goes away.
It’s always there.
I see it in the mirror.
Looking out a me
From my own eyes.

It touches everything.
Like a poison vine run wild.
Choking everything it touches.
Slowly.
Inexorably.
Relentlessly.
Every day.

I try to tell myself
It’s OK.
It’s like the story of Paul.
In the Bible.
Where he says God won’t take away
That thing that curses him.
That thorn in his side.

I wish you could understand.
There is no magic pill
I can take.
There is no medicine
That can take my depression away.
No surgery to perform.

All I can do
Is live with it.
Every day.
And manage it.
With the help of my doctors.
My weekly therapy.
And the medicine
I have to take.

To manage the darkness
That threatens to consume me
With every breath I take.

I play my music loud tonight.
As I sit
In the dark.
Alone.

For I know.
I just need some time.
To escape.
To be free.

From a world I never made.

Before I try once more.
To walk
In the land of gray.