Category Archives: mental health

Deep Dark Depression

I have been very limited for over a week in the amount of time I have to spend on writing and blog posting.  The start of a new novel has been delayed.  My posts have been short… and hopefully also sweet.  I have relied some on re-blogging old posts.  Depression is a demanding illness.  It requires the sacrifice of time, the sacrifice of energy, and even the sacrifice of self.  It can go so far as to demand the sacrifice of a human life.  And it can require you to offer up those things even when you are not the one depressed yourself.  Though I must admit, my health and mood have suffered through hospital visits, business arrangements made without money to spend, only mortifying promises of doing whatever you can.  And then doing those things.  And at the same time I have earned zero dollars from Uber.

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Ghosts from the past, long dead emotions, and ancient regrets all arise from crypts you have been keeping them in to remind you that you are mortal after all and subject to the slings and arrows that flesh is heir to.  And you must become a ghost-buster.  How do you do it?  How do you defeat the phantoms of past deeds and devilments?

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Dr. Pinkenstein and Pinkenstein’s Monster Mickenstein

Of course, Science can help.  You need professional help from a real psychiatrist, especially if you can find a good one.  The doctor we found is one who saved our family from darkness once before.  This time a mood drug called Lexipro and vitamin D supplements helped.  Before it was too much cortisol, the stress chemical, and lack of serotonin that threw things out of balance.  Better life through proper medication is actually a thing.

And a sense of humor doesn’t hurt.  Dr. Pinkenstein was not our psychiatrist.  But if he makes us laugh about things… well, laughter really is good medicine.

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And I have sailed these waters and fought these devils before.  My little boat was easier to navigate this time because I had a map through the labyrinth that I drew for myself before.  Experience and the wisdom to learn from it is seriously a super power.

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Up, up, and away, me!  We have come out of the darkness again, and it is time to get our lives back on track.

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Filed under battling depression, colored pencil, humor, illness, mental health, monsters, Paffooney

Friday We Recover

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Yesterday we went to see Les Miserables, the Broadway musical.  Fantine’s tragedy, Marius’s rescue, and Jean Valjean’s ultimate triumph made me cry again… copious amounts of tears… a waterfall of emotional floodwaters.  There is beauty in living through challenges.  Especially life-threatening ones.

We went to the musical in Fair Park as a celebration of the fact that a family member is now out of the hospital and on proper medication to be well again.  We are liberated from fear again for a time.  Of course, I can’t afford to go to a show like that, being newly bankrupted and swamped with medical bills.  But a family member provided the funds, victory over severe depression being a thing that needs celebration.

And Eponine’s song “On My Own” is such a powerful statement of the self-sacrificing nature of love that it makes me weep just thinking of it.  She loves a man who loves another and yet, loves him so well that she secures his happiness… with that other woman.  And she dies in the arms of the man she loves.  Valjean’s signature song, “Bring Him Home”, also makes me weep.  It is the main theme of the entire show, that the thing to do when life buries you beneath a blizzard of misfortune, cruelty, and unfairness is to turn that into self-sacrificing, generous love for others even if they are not your flesh-and-blood kin.  Love gives back more than you have given.  It is the notion that makes me cry with the beauty of it.

The point is, I have had a hard week.  I had to put a family member in the hospital for severe depression.  And other family members couldn’t help me because depression can be as infectious as a cold, taking one person after another through exposure to the harsh realities of the disease.  And though it is hard being the only one available to help someone through the dangerous darkness of the soul, I managed not to lose anybody again this time, the fifth time I have fought such a battle in a terrible, long war.

And now I have “One Day More” to enter into the new world I have made through sacrifice and suffering.  I am devastated, but still whole.  I am exhausted, but still standing.  I needed yesterday to happen.

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, Celebration, compassion, healing, humor, medical issues, mental health, music, review of music, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Body Image Advice for Truly Ugly People

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Yes, I, of all people, should probably not be trying to give advice to ugly people.  I have some wisdom about ugliness to share, but only by participation in the world as a member of that class of people that ordinary folk would really, really, extremely importantly not want to see naked.  I am not Boris Karloff’s Mummy unwrapped, but I am in no way pretty under my clothes.

So why would anybody with six incurable diseases, one of which is a skin disease that involves reddish pink bleedy spots, ever contemplate becoming a nudist?

Well, horrible as I am, I have had a lifelong yearning for a life lived naked.  I recently found an online quiz thing that asked the question, “Should you become a nudist?”  Here is the result it gave me;

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So, apparently, I have nudist tendencies.  I have been concealing a long-standing desire to throw off all my clothes and walk around naked all the time.  And I have been doing it all my life.  But I am not some mentally ill pervert, or even an exhibitionist.  I just have an innate feeling, as I suspect most people do, that I was meant to live a more natural life wearing only the things that God clothed me with.  When I think of myself naked, I try to think of myself more like the boy I have drawn here to picture the feelings I have about nudity;

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There is a certain innocence and rightness involved in being nude.  I don’t generally push it in people’s faces.  I don’t plaster a bunch of naked pictures of myself on the internet.  Some nudists do.  I see a lot of naked people on Twitter now that I have written articles for nudist blogs and joined a couple of nudist websites. But they are not Playboy magazine nudes.  They are more often than not the slightly overweight, blobby sort of people that look like oddly bulbous stacks of uncooked pancake dough.  They are the kind of unfettered and unashamed personal body images that go a long way toward making me feel better about my fat old blobby-spotty self.  If people like that can be proud of their naked form, then my bugged-out eyes help convince my stupid head that I could do it too.

I have been to a nudist park precisely one time.  As chronicled in this blog last July, I visited the Bluebonnet Nudist Park in Alvord, Texas.  I have been naked in the presence of other naked people.  And it really is a liberating experience.  Being seen naked by naked girls is not nearly as soul-crushingly embarrassing as I once believed.  Especially since being a nudist is in no way about sex.  In fact, lewd behavior of any kind gets you kicked out of a nudist park faster than if you were doing the same thing at the Ballpark at Arlington for a Texas Rangers baseball game.  (Most of those lewd dudes, admittedly, were fueled more by alcohol than hormones.)  Those people at the nudist park did not look at me, scream in horror, and run away.  They looked me in the eye, smiled, and talked to me as if I were the same as they are.

 

So my advice to sincerely ugly people, based on my own experiences as a bug-ugly human being is… become a nudist.  Learn to accept your whole ugly, horrible self as an ordinary human being with no artificial veneer.  Do not cover up who you actually are.  Then, you may begin to see that what you always thought of as ugliness and horribleness is really beauty and grace and healthy human-ness.

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Filed under commentary, empathy, goofy thoughts, healing, humor, mental health, nudes, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Mickey and the Mother of Invention

Cool title, right?  No? It needs a lot of further explanation?  All right, here goes.

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“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist of creating out of void, but out of chaos”—Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Whether you prefer the stealer of Tesla inventions or the author of Frankenstein for invention quotes, you have to admit they are both right.  Those of us who think creatively try with all our might and mind to take the wreckage life has given us and make something new.  Preferably we make something that is good for us and improves our situation.  But sometimes it turns out that it only makes matters worse and creates monsters of the mind.

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When I was ten, I was sexually assaulted by a neighbor boy who was older and stronger and decidedly crueler than me.  It split my world into pieces.  I retreated into fantasy worlds and lived in my imagination far more than the real world.  The monster in my memory was locked away in a tightly sealed forget-me box.  I repressed the memory successfully until I was twenty-two.  My creativity and inventiveness turned to fantasy art and fanciful fiction.  I worked at having a good sense of humor, being a tough athlete on the high school football field, and trying to force people to accept me as the brainiac weird kid who always knew the answers in science class and could do practically anything except successfully talk to girls.

Surprisingly my greatest invention would turn out to be me.  I reinvented myself.

I would’ve never believed when I was young that I was made to be a teacher.  I lived inside my own head.  How could I be a teacher and control a classroom and make people listen to the various shards of nonsense that I was completely full of?  But, through gradual problem-solving, I learned to be an effective public speaker.  I learned how to be an engaging presenter.  I did a few magic tricks.  I told more than a few jokes.  Some of them were even funny.  I learned how to put ideas in front of children in visual displays and organization charts.  I learned how to teach people to read.  And more than that, I learned how to teach people to learn.

I honestly don’t think I would’ve learned to do all of that if my childhood psyche hadn’t been broken and hidden away in brain boxes when I was ten.  I might still have been an artist.  But not the teacher and story-teller I ultimately became.  Without the mountain to climb, a boy can never become a mountain-climber.  Without a star to see and study, he can never be an astrophysicist.  And without a brain filled with broken brain bits, a man can never learn how to put himself back together again, let alone teach others how to do it.  All the king’s horses and all the king’s men are no help with this endeavor.

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Have I now explained my terribly tilted title?  Does this help you see how I have sung the songs taught to me by the Mother of Invention?  Probably not.  I am a rather dense little goof and the work of making me into me is not yet finished.  I crashed and burned again a couple of years ago when I had to retire from teaching.  I had to invent myself again as something new.  I am certainly not done hitting the metal work with a big black hammer.  But, perhaps, you can see the tool-marks on this blog and learn something from it too.

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Filed under artwork, colored pencil, humor, imagination, insight, mental health, Paffooney, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life, teaching

Downloading Darkness

I just finished a novel project last Thursday, completing the manuscript of Recipes for Gingerbread Children.  But being the excessively creative goofball that I am, this was not a stand-alone project.  The companion book, The Baby Werewolf,  is an incomplete manuscript of a comedy horror story about a boy with hypertrichosis, sometimes known as werewolf-hair disease.  Both books happen in the same period of time in 1974 and share both characters and events.  The boy, Torrie Brownfield, has lost his mother.  His father has brought him back to a small Iowa town where he himself was once a boy, to live in the same house where the boy’s father and uncle grew up.  The uncle, hiding some dark secrets of his own, requires that Torrie be raised in hiding up in the attic.  But this only lasts until a local farm boy,  Todd Niland, discovers Torrie’s sad existence and becomes his friend. This is a much darker story than I have tackled before, and I am no stranger to dark humor.  It is significant, though, that both Todd and Torrie are gingerbread children from the book I just finished, and even though some sad, dark things come to light in that book, they are not nearly as sad and dark as what is present in this next project.  So I had to find some inspiration before trying to re-ignite the novel forge for The Baby Werewolf.

That led me to watch the video Donnie Darko for the very first time.

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Oofah!  What a strange, horrible, yet beautiful movie!  Richard Kelly’s first film is an incredible artwork that makes your soul sing darkly.  Talk about listening to dark rabbits from the future… really, I mean, no one told anyone they should talk about about dark rabbits from the future… but this film does with a twisted elegance and ironically terrible beauty.  It discusses the sex lives of Smurfs, raises alarms with old women wandering aimlessly to the mailbox in the path of oncoming cars, and fires teachers from their jobs for discussing the short stories of Graham Greene.  There is no way I can explain in a witless-wordless movie review.  You must simply watch the movie for yourself.

Remember this musical masterpiece?  “Hello, Darkness, my old friend… I’ve come to talk with you again…”  Yes, I am entertaining the darkness again because I will be depending on her to help me write this book whose theme is going to be, “Everyone dies in the end, but the real life depends on how we deal with that fact.”

Yes, people who know me, I mean really know me, including the facts behind what I can’t actually say in this blog because the innocent must be protected, will probably worry that I am undertaking a writing project about monsters and depression and suicidal thoughts and child abuse.  I do have scars.  But I am at peace with the hard parts of the life behind me.  And from great pain and profound suffering, beautiful things can be made.  So don’t worry.  Downloading a bunch of monster-movie darkness into my stupid old head is not going to hurt me at this point in my life.  And if I can’t write it now, it will never be written.

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Filed under artists I admire, artwork, battling depression, Depression, feeling sorry for myself, forgiveness, horror movie, humor, mental health, movie review, novel, novel plans, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

The Boogendorfer

 

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This is not actually a picture of Boogendorf, this is Toonerville where the clocks are wrong and a giant Mickey Mouse lurks in the foothills beyond.

Today I mean to justify my existence before God and everybody.  Apparently in the modern world you have to be certain things in your basic foundation to justify getting travel visas, citizenship, and a basic right to continue to exist unmolested.  We apparently elected a new leader, the Mad King of Boogendorf, to make sure all Boogendorfers are suitably qualified to live in Boogendorf.  So this is a brief photo essay to justify my case for why Boogendorf should accept me as a citizen and not execute me outright.

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First of all, I am not one hundred per cent crazy.  You can tell from this photo, can’t you?

This kooky dorfleflop can’t be any more than 65% crazy because his pin head is not large enough to harbor more than 65 out of every 100 truly derfy and sanity-stealing notions.  (What is a dorfleflop, you say?  Well, dorf is a German word for town, and dorfleflops flop in a dorf and think they belong like everybody else who has flopped there before.)

But using the Mad King of Boogendorf as a measuring stick (an orange measuring stick with an extra-long tie), that is clearly not crazy enough by half.

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What’s the deal with the clocks always being wrong in Boogendorf?

I have always heard it said, “It takes a village to raise a child”.  And I think that saying I heard is probably true.  I was raised by the village of Rowan, Iowa in the 60’s and 70’s.  I learned to draw there.  And I can draw real cartoon human beings.

Of course, one must be careful to note that if you could actually draw real cartoon human beings they would be alive after that, and that would make you like God, able to create life from nothing more than pencil, pen, and paper.  And in Boogendorf there is only room for one God.  That, of course, is the Mad King of Boogendorf.  So I guess that is a disqualifying quality too.

And that saying about a child raised by a village is a saying somehow connected to Hillary Clinton, and Hillary Clinton was defeated (I have also heard disgraced, demoralized, and denounced) in the last election by getting more votes than the Mad King of Boogendorf.  So I am judged lacking by my upbringing too.

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I am also undeniably guilty of playing with dolls.  I mean, I collect them, I comb their hair, dress them in different clothes, take them apart and repair them, and pose them for pictures.  That can’t be normal.  But is it abnormal enough to make me qualified to be a Boogendorfer from the village of Boogendorf?  Maybe if I plated them in gold or something, or had enough money to go to “golden shower” extremes?  I guess I don’t understand how to be Boogendorfy enough to live in Boogendorf.  The “Boo” in Boogendorf proves that you have to be pathologically afraid of things more, just like other Boogendorfers are.   I am sure the average Boogendorfer is afraid of people who play with dolls.  Especially if those weird people don’t own any guns and don’t like to kill stuff.  That just ain’t natural.  You even need to give guns to little girls to make them safe against those evil anti-Boogendorfers.

So, I guess I am doomed to live a life outside of the walls of Boogendorf (and they are really great walls, too).  I should be grateful that the citizens of Boogendorf have only rejected me and not used their sacred second-amendment rights to execute me.  For now, I am simply not a Boogendorfer.

 

 

 

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Filed under angry rant, cartoons, humor, mental health, politics, satire

The Car Radio Keeps Me Alive

Today I had to deliver my daughter, the Princess, to her high school in the rain.  It is hard enough make the circuitous trip to the west in order to go south and then east again through all the construction and roadwork going on with stupid people who are somehow allowed to drive a car and carry a gun in Texas even though they don’t know what a turn signal is for or that a speed limit sign shows the maximum rather than the minimum speed you should go at every red stoplight and corner without there being rain to obscure vision and make the mangled pavement slick.  You have to be able to concentrate and perform like a virtuoso while driving to make it there alive.  I would simply not be able to do it without the car radio.

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Driving the family car in Texas

The radio keeps me calm and gives my brain the power it needs to overcome obstacles.  The jump across the river with the man-eating fish in it alone requires an energized brain and a cool head.  I listen to oldies on the radio with KLUV in the mornings.  It is how my children have come to love Don Henley and the Eagles as much as I do.

For the last seven years of my teaching career, I had to learn the hard way that music is critical to driving well, and driving well is the only way to stay alive on the mean streets of Dallas.  I had a morning commute of 40 minutes, 30 miles, and 45 stoplights one way to my teaching job in Garland.  I drove it starting at six in the morning to avoid traffic.  But after school, I often had to labor for three hours through rush hour traffic on the way back home.  I learned to switch the station to 101.1, the classical music station.  Listening to Mozart and Beethoven not only makes you smarter, it makes you calmer.  Calm enough not to get out of your car at the stop light and beat the guy in the car ahead of you with the detached bumper of your car that he knocked off while cutting in front of you because he was in the wrong lane to make the turn he needed to make and didn’t realize until 15 minutes into the wait for the red light to change enough times that our cars actually had a chance to make it through the intersection.  Yes, that is a run-on sentence about road rage.  And road rage is real.  But in real life I didn’t beat him to death because of Mendelssohn playing on the car radio.  It only played out that way in my head while the radio soothed my brain and prevented my hair from catching fire.

I owe my life and sanity to the car radio many times over.  And I am resigned to the notion that I will probably need it many times more before the curtain closes the last time.

 

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Filed under angry rant, classical music, feeling sorry for myself, grumpiness, humor, mental health, Paffooney