Category Archives: battling depression

Hope Comes From Science

Of late I have been rather obsessed with the coming darkness. Death. Ragnarok. Mass extinction of all life on Earth. My own situation as a pessimist quickly approaching the end of my own personal life has probably colored my obsession to a very large degree. And I should point out, my own prognosis is not going to change for the better. I do not have the financial power to prevent the problems I already have using modern effective healthcare. I am personally doomed. But even though the whole world seems easily as doomed by climate change, that doesn’t mean everyone shares my sad fate. There are potential solutions to the problem that only require the people who do have the financial power to fix it to decide that life on Earth has more value than their personal wealth and privilege. (Uh-oh… there’s a dependence on goodness where it seems like none actually exists.)

I often turn to science and books by very smart people to give me ideas that comfort me and give me hope. I recently did some binging on YouTube’s Answers With Joe. He does an excellent job of providing answers to things that worry me underpinned with scientific facts.

Thomas Malthus (from Wikipedia)

I have been worried about the environment from the times in high school science class when we learned about Paul Ehrlich and his book The Population Bomb.

Then we were learning about how the overpopulation of the Earth and its attendant need to produce food for all those people threatened massive famine, resource scarcity, and eventual extinction for humans. It was pointed out that, at the time in the 1970s, we were using chemical fertilizers and pesticides on the fields in Iowa to increase yields that would not only pollute the water and air in Iowa, but would eventually make its way through the watershed system into the oceans where it would overstimulate the algae and create an ocean environment throughout the world devoid of oxygen, fish, and all other lifeforms. I could see the threat and the validity of the science that Ehrlich had done.

Paul Ehrlich

I learned, over time, that population stresses do not necessarily cause extinction events in a matter of decades. The 1980s came and went and we were not extinct, despite eight years of Ronny Ray-gun, the jelly-bean president, and massive success in increasing food production. As Joe does an excellent job of explaining in the video above which you didn’t watch, population problems proved at least partially self-correcting. Families generally slowed their growth rate as health and wealth improved and made them more productive, more intelligent, and better able to support the heavy layer of living people that now covered the Earth.

Recently I became obsessively and pessimistically concerned with the dire predictions of environmental scientist Guy McPherson. I do recognize that his work reflects the extremist point of view among climate scientists, but ;there are a number of facts that he presents that are irrefutable in the same way as the arguments of… Paul Ehrlich.

In the second video above that you also didn’t watch, Joe explains how the problem of greenhouse gasses can be undone by renewable energy, carbon capture and air-scrubbers, and the search for viable products made from CO2, helping to reverse greenhouse gasses. He also explains how chemical cooling of the atmosphere and actual planetary weather control are possible. Technology already exists to solve the climate problem. The only drawback is that somebody has to pay for it. And the people in control of that kind of financial power are all entitled low-down greedy bastards that would rather build massive survival bunkers in the Ozarks than pay for the rest of us to survive. So, there is hope, which comes not with a grain of salt, but with a giant’s saltshaker filled with rock salt. Still, it isn’t time for all of you to give up. Just me. I am the one most completely doomed.

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Impending Darkness

I recently learned from the eye doctor that I may be at the doorstep of glaucoma, a disease that darkened my grandmother Beyer’s vision and connection to the light.

I am doing some serious editing now on my completed manuscript, Sing Sad Songs. There is serious foreshadowing going on in this novel. I think I mentioned once or twice before that I only rarely write a comic young adult novel without having some important character dying at the end. Death and dying and going blind are all on my mind.

News on the global warming front is increasingly bleak. Temperatures are rising faster than predicted. The date cited for the end of life on Earth is now 2030 (possibly within the scope of my lifetime if I get luckier than I have been on past health issues). The outlook is bleak and getting bleaker. Soon there has to be an absolutely miraculous technological or cultural revolution to help the optimists prove themselves right, a thing that they are totally not good at.

The government seems increasingly incapable of helping with anything, even though some of us are paying increasingly large tax bills that we can’t afford. (I do realize some of you who are not on a fixed income actually got a small benefit from Republican tax cuts. Did that solve your financial problems?) It increasingly looks like the corrupt clown show currently in charge is blowing themselves up. We stand to get a whole new government soon that is marginally better at best. So, we are, as a society, marching forward into the darkness with neo-fascist, goose-stepping zeal.

I am not saying that I have no hope. My grandmother got help and never went completely blind. There are breakthroughs happening all the time in science and sociology. But the darkness in my personal future is growing ever closer. And I have less and less control over its advance.

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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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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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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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