Category Archives: battling depression

Doing Nothing

Yes, the retaining wall is leaning over the sidewalk and needs repair.

Being retired is a total pain in the Biblical word for donkey. I thought I would be challenged with nothing to do and probably die from lack of challenge as so many do who find their identity in their profession. I was a public school teacher. I loved being a public school teacher. I lived for the challenge of working with kids, especially trying to teach them to write well. And then my health began to betray me, and I was forced to retire.

In this country, loss of a job that defines who you are makes you basically worthless. Republicans will tell you that you go from being a “maker” into being a “taker”, and takers are basically parasites.

The wall began separating from the turf as it leaned, so we had to dig a trench to begin taking down the bricks one by one and re-staking them.

So, now I am a parasite, a blight on society, a “taker”. Decent hard-working people shouldn’t have to put up with a burden on society like me.

“If you don’t work, you shouldn’t be allowed to eat,” they self-righteously tell me.

“So, if I’m too ill to stand in front of a class all day, I should starve to death?”

“No, of course not! Don’t dramatize! You just need to do something else.”

Not having the money to buy expensive equipment, I had to improvise and do it myself.

So, I haven’t just sat back and enjoyed my pension which I worked 31 years to get. I have done things. I rebuilt the siding on the back wall of the house. I repaired all the cracks in the pool twice (once getting it back into shape for swimming, and then fixed only to be forced by the city to remove the pool because I couldn’t spend $9,000+ to bring the 1970 electrical system up to code.) I am now re-setting the bricks in the retaining wall.

I also took up driving for Uber to earn extra money. I needed extra money because hospitalizations cost me so much money I had to take out a bankruptcy which I will be paying off for the next five years while supervised by a State-appointed executor. And then a lovely Texas motorist bashed my car in the driver’s-side door costing me car-repair money (because insurance can’t be expected to pay everything) and leaving me unable to get well enough to return to driving for at least five months (up to the present day).

Doing masonry work takes some organization and some heavy lifting.

I have at no point had money enough to go on vacations or do the recreational activities that other retired seniors get to do (at least the rich white ones with lots of investment money and property). I haven’t been well enough even to be a substitute teacher (which I loved doing back in 2006-2007 when I was well enough and between teaching jobs). So what can I do with all my “free time”? Besides deal with aches and illness without the medicine I can’t afford, I mean?

Work has run into winter time when things get rather cold and wet.

Well, I did start out in life with a passion for writing and drawing. I am living proof you can’t even make pocket change for indulging those passions unless you’re as lucky as former teacher Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes. But I have the time and the incurable obsession.

We began flattening out the foundation row of bricks just as winter rains began to perpetually fill the trench with water.

I began the most creative and productive period of my life by writing eight YA novels. I have two more well into the writing of the first draft. I also re-started work on my graphic novel which takes lots of time when you have arthritic hands to draw with. And I have been blogging practically every day.

So, since I retired I have basically been doing nothing. Well, nothing for the greater good and advancing the fortunes of mankind as a whole as my Republican friends who criticize me for being a “taker” on the dole apparently do with their retirements.

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Filed under angry rant, autobiography, battling depression, being alone, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, health, humor, new projects, novel writing, photo paffoonies

The Art of Being Mickey

I have published my eighth novel in the last six years. Sure, it is through mostly self-publishing of novels that no one but me has ever read. Catch a Falling Star and Snow Babies both had a professional editor, one who had worked for Harcourt and one who worked for PDMI. Magical Miss Morgan has had a proofreader who made numerous stupid-mistake errors that I had to change back to the original meticulously by hand. But all three of those novels won an award or were finalists in a young adult novel contest. I do have reason to believe I am a competent writer and better even then some who have achieved commercial success.

But what is the real reason that I am so intent on producing the maximum amount of creative work possible in this decade? Well, to be coldly objective, I am a diabetic who cannot currently afford insulin. I have been betrayed by the for-profit healthcare system that treats me as a source of unending profit. I am like a laying hen in the chicken house, giving my eggs of effort away to a farmer who means to eat my very children if time and circumstance allows. I am the victim of six incurable diseases and conditions that I got most likely as a result of exposure to toxic farm chemicals in the early 70’s. I am also a cancer survivor from a malignant melanoma in 1983, and for three years now I have not been able to get the preventative cancer tests I am supposed to be receiving every year for the rest of my life. My prostate could very well be cancerous as I write this. If that is so, it will kill me unawares, because I don’t even want to know about having a disease I can’t possibly afford to fight all over again.’

So, the basic reason I am going through the most productive and creative period of my entire life is because I have a great rage to create before I die and I could be dying as soon as tonight. All of the countless stories in my head clamoring to be written down before it is too late cry out to me desperately for my immediate attention.

I will, then, continue to write stories and draw cartoons and other Paffoonies for as long as I am still able, and possibly even afterward. I have, after all, threatened repeatedly to become a ghostwriter after I die. And, yes, I understand when you scream at my essay that that is not what a ghostwriter is. But if a woman can channel the ghost of Franz Schubert and finish his unfinished symphony…(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosemary_Brown_(spiritualist))

—then I should also be able to tell my stories from beyond the grave. I have been percolating them in my head and writing and drawing them in whole or in part since 1974. I have too much time and too many daydreams wrapped up in them to let it all just evaporate into the ether. In summation, I am claiming stupidly that my novels, crack-brained and wacky as they are, are somehow destined to exist, either because of me or in spite of me. So just be happy that I write what I write, for there is an art to being Mickey, and I am the one artist and writer who is the best Mickey possible if truly there ever was a real Mickey.

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Filed under battling depression, commentary, goofy thoughts, humor, novel writing, Paffooney

Ginger Ale


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Long about the middle of October every year I have to partake of the miracle that is Ginger Ale during pollen season.  And believe me, in Texas, pollen season lasts until the parched grass and dry air sets in again during the droughts of middle July through September.  Sometimes in a wet year (which used to be rarer than now) the tree pollen, mold spores, mountain cedar, and ragweed fill the air year around.  Ginger in any form is a god-sent cure-all for ailments of the lungs, ears, nose, and throat.  It reduces inflammation, dilutes mucus, and helps you restore the breath of life.  I have developed a real taste for ginger products of all sorts as a result of the medicinal boost it gives me every year.  It explains my addiction to gingerbread.  Also why I often put ginger root in a pot on the stove filled with boiling water and then inhale the fumes.  I love Ginger Ale because it makes me feel good.

Simon’s Cat on YouTube is another kind of Ginger Ale for me.  Admittedly it is a mental sort of medicine, not a drink or a cookie or a steam inhaler.  But watching those simple black and white cartoon antics that are so realistically catlike makes me laugh and increases serotonin in the brain, and it provides a very real depression medicine.

Now, I know full well that I am connecting two very unlike things and calling them both Ginger Ale on the mere passing similarity of the medicinal benefits.  But life is far more metaphorical than it is literal.  And that is why I continue to maintain that poets live better lives than the rest of us even if they die young for love of beauty.  And it is better to be a cartoon cat than a literal king.

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Filed under artists I admire, battling depression, cartoon review, commentary, goofy thoughts, healing, health, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Terminal Thoughts

This is not an essay about what I am thinking while sitting in an airport terminal.  This is about the end of things.  Not just my own personal end, which via heart attack or stroke may happen at any moment.  But the ends of hope and dreams, of birds and bees, and possibly life on earth.

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On his last hunt, Eric bagged two illegal immigrants and a lion.  He would’ve bagged the girl too, but his dad the President reminded him that Judy Garland is a white girl and he doesn’t have a current hunting license for that.

Now, I just eliminated 75% of Trumpkins with that last joke, mainly because they didn’t understand, but also because they feel insulted by it.  Whenever I say anything about how the current government policies have impacted my health, wealth, and happiness they tell me I am a snowflake and they insult me further because I hurt their feelings.  25% will keep reading to find ammunition to use in hate memes on Facebook and rage tweets on Twitter.  After that last Facebook kerfluffle, I am tempted to disengage from social media.  They are not buying my books because of it.   They are only getting madder and madder at me and hating me more and more for being a goddam liberal.  Though, when asked, they still assure me they would never unfriend me.

Relationships with people I have always known and cared about are one of the things threatened with imminent demise.    The domination of politics and government by the Republican Party is the reason why.I

I myself don’t have to worry too much about the demise of prosperity.  I am already bankrupt and planning for a future life living in a cardboard box.  But as Trumpian economics continue to work on world markets, everyone else will soon be joining me in suburban-yard farming and eating insects for protein.  Tariffs and trade wars are already destabilizing the world’s economy.  Stocks are beginning to fall.  Of course, the consequences won’t fall on us like a ton of bricks until after enough Republicans win re-election in 2018 to protect Cinnamon Hitler from the crimes he committed to become President.

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Of course, the biggest coming demise that I wish to lament in this post will basically take care of all other things.  The demise of all life on earth will pretty much take care of anyone’s need to lament about anything.  As the world becomes hotter and hotter, and the oceans turn to acid and rise to swallow Miami, and the planet becomes more of a twin to Venus, the Koch Brothers and others who profit from polluting will be laughing about it.  They will either be safely dead of old age or ensconced in gilded survival bunkers.  They may even have another planet to live on already.

Okay, as I hyperbolize and carry on about doom and gloom, I need to remind you that I am a pessimist.  I always plan for the worst so that I can only be pleasantly surprised.  And it really can’t get worse than what I am planning for here.  But that is not to say there is no hope.  All of these problems have solutions.  But I don’t anticipate they will be solved under present conditions.

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Singing the Blues

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People like me, people who depend so much on a sense of humor and a good laugh on frequent occasions, are usually subject to depression.  The bad thing about being up is that eventually, you come down.  And the higher up you go, the further down you fall.

I have learned a great deal about surviving a depression in my time on Earth.  I have been in the emergency room for a sufferer of depression three times, one of those when a child hurt himself.  I have talked people out of a suicidal depression in the middle of the night exactly three times… three very long nights, two of them over the phone, not knowing where the sufferer actually was.  I have had three different family members in psychiatric care, hospitalized for a week, five separate times.  They don’t tell you these things can happen in teacher’s college.  They don’t tell you that sometimes it is part of a teacher’s job to deal with it, both the depression of students in your care and family members subject to the effects of stress in teachers’ lives.

I have lost three former students to suicide. (Typing that line just made me cry again.)  One of my high school classmates ended it all with a gun.  And, of course, we all lost Robin Williams to the deadly darkness of the mind as well.

And I am depressed right now, a depression brought on by a week’s worth of weather-related arthritis pain.  I was also betrayed today by someone whom I thought was a friend.  But before you panic for my safety and call a hotline in my name, don’t worry.  I know the answer.  I fought depression long and hard enough to know where the ladders are in the mythical dark pit of despair.

For one thing, you have to make the sufferer remember the good things in life.  There are people and places and things to do that everyone can use as that wonderful good that you have to live on for.  Listing things you have to stay alive for is a ladder.  I have children still in school.   I have pictures to draw and stories to write before I am through.  There are people I love that I have to live for.  I wrote about one of those yesterday, and I have at least two thousand more.

In fact, I met a former student in the Walmart parking lot the other day.  She had lost her mother to suicide.  She suffered bipolar disorder and depression herself, and in her junior year of high school, we almost lost her.  But she had to stop me and make me recognize her to show me that she has made it.  She is alive and happy, years after the fact.  She is now a rung in my ladder.

When you have to talk to somebody who is dangerously depressed, it is not enough to keep saying that everything is going to be all right.  You have to show them the ladders. It helps to know where the suicide hotline telephone number is posted, or have a copy of it in your wallet.  It helps to know where to find good professional help.  It helps to know that every school has a counselor who will either provide the help or direct that help to you.  That is another important ladder.

Eating chocolate helps, or fruit.   Serotonin levels in the brain are low if you are depressed.  My wife left apple turnovers in the refrigerator for me.  Of course, non-chocolate candy is a bad thing.  A sugar high leads to a sugar crash, and that is worse than where you started.

Singing songs also works for me.  Hence, the novel I am working on is called Sing Sad Songs.  Even singing sad songs increases the oxygen flow to the old brain and helps it think more clearly, sing more melodiously (not odiously), and feel better.  Ladders made of candy and ladders made of song… bet you didn’t see that one coming.  Telling a joke, even a bad one, can make a ladder too.

Writing this blog can be used as a ladder.  As I close in on 700 words, I am feeling better than I did when I started.  So, please, don’t be afraid of the darkness, and don’t let it defeat you.  You can win.  I know it. Because I have walked that path, fallen into that pit, and found the ladder out.

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We Are All Gonna Die

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I hope you listened to Joe.  Not just the first part, then got bored and disgusted and turned on Fox News.  I hope you listened all the way to the end and heard the hopeful things he says there.  He is a very good video essayist who uses real science to reason with you about questions that are really about life and death.  One way we may be going to die as a species is through climate change and global warming.  The dire predictions we get from climate scientists, whom nobody seems to take seriously, are becoming increasingly alarming.  If we are too stuck in our own little kingdoms and don’t look the castle windows at the weather outside, we are not only going to have our parades rained on, it will be acid rain, and the parade marchers will get boiled on the hoof as they march.

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Those of us who put too much faith in the Trump Train, burning its beautiful clean coal, are going down to the bottom when we get to the canyon bridge and the train roars off the tracks.  Just ask Paul Manafort after his trial ends, or Jeff Sessions after Trump fires him to make racist sausages out of him to serve at an I-Love-Putin Picnic, what the ride has been like on the Trump Tongue Express.

But, of course, the Pumpkinhead in Chief is not the only reason we have no money and no jobs and are going to be roasted to death in a polluted world.  There is also the little matter of Trillions of Dollars in Debt that was racked up to make the rich richer and people like me foot the bill.

I know you may be suspicious of an interview conducted on RT which is an arm of Russian propaganda in the USA.  But I should point out, if you like Trump, you like Russia already, and both of these journalists, Chris Hedges and David Cay Johnston, are not afraid to tell the unvarnished truth.  That means the mainstream media is uncomfortable about putting them on the air, and those who want to stir up trouble find it easiest to do that by simply allowing access to researched facts and basic truths we are reluctant to hear.

If you don’t believe in the predictions offered by science, it is bound to be because of one of two different things.  Either you see the science and follow how the results of computer models become overwhelmingly dire, disgusting you with a total lack of optimistic outcomes, or you reject science in favor of the oil companies’ rose-colored fairy-tale outlooks where unicorns will consume CO2 clouds and fart out benevolent rainbows.  From where I stand now, broke and old and ill, it doesn’t matter much to me.  In the short time frames we are looking at for global-warming Armageddon, I will undoubtedly reach the end of my natural life.  I probably won’t be around for the horrific-suffering part of how this all is going to end.

I know if you haven’t turned away from this heat-death-of-the-planet idea already, you are probably pretty depressed by this point in the essay.  I know I am.  It does not bode well for my children and any future grandchildren.  But I will leave you with the reminder that we are human beings.  And human beings are complex and able to solve large complex problems.  We put men on the moon.  (Or we did the even harder job of faking it and not letting the secret be discovered for fifty years, complete with space-travel debris on the moon that you can take photographs of from earth with a really good telescope.)  So, just maybe this massive terrifyingly horrible problem can yet be solved in the nick of time.  I do believe in the good that can be found in mankind.  But I also see the corruption and evil.  So hopefully Mark Twain’s final hope for mankind, that this time when God drowns us, there will be no Ark, will be thwarted.  Believe me, I have no wish to die a horrible death.  But I am a pessimist after all.

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Filed under angry rant, battling depression, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, horror writing, Liberal ideas, pessimism

Flying the Magic Flying Carpet

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There are many ways to fly.  Airplanes, bird wings, hot air balloons, bubble-gum-blowing goldfish… well, maybe I am really talking about flying by imagination.  The more my six incurable diseases and old age limit my movement, my ability to get out of bed and do things, the more I rely on reading, writing, and the movie in my head to go places I want to be.

Wings of Imagination

Sometimes the wings I use to fly come from other writers.  I get the flight feathers I need not only from books, but also from YouTube videos, movies, and television shows.

This magic carpet ride in video form is by the thoughtful creative thinker Will Schoder.  In it he carefully explains how Mister Rogers used the persuasion techniques of Logos, Ethos, and Pathos to talk to elephants and convinced a congressman intent on cutting the budget to actually give Public Television more money for educational programming.  This is a video full of warmth and grace and lovingly crafted magic flight feathers that anybody can use to soar across new skies and blue skies and higher skies than before.  I hope you will watch it more than once like I did, to see how beautifully the central explanation spreads its wings and gives us ideas that can keep us aloft in the realm of ideas.

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It is important to stay in the air of fresh ideas and new thinking.  The magic carpet ride that takes you there is the product of vivid imagination, cogent thinking, and the accurate connection of idea to better idea.  So instead of falling from the sunlit sky into the darkness that so easily consumes us on the ground, keep imagining, keep dreaming, and keep flying.  You won’t regret having learned to fly.

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