Tag Archives: depression

Giving and Taking Stupid Advice

Let’s begin with some stupid advice. I don’t have time to write a lot today because the Princess is ill and must go see the doctor in Plano.  So the advice is; Set aside time for writing and always allow plenty of time for it.  You will probably notice already that I am giving you advice that I am not taking myself this morning.  So don’t follow that advice.  It is stupid advice.  I have given it to creative writing classes for years and thought I meant it.  But looking back on real life, I realize, it has never been true for me.  My best ideas, my best writing, always seem to come in the middle of the pressure-cooker of daily struggle and strife.  I have battled serious illness for most of my adult life.  I have the luck of a man who tried to avoid letting a black cat cross his path by crashing his bicycle at the top of a hill covered in clover with only three leaves each and then rolling down the hill, under a ladder, and crashing into a doorpost which knocks the horseshoe off the top.  The horseshoe lands on my stupid head with the “U” facing downward so the luck all drains out.  Bad things happen to me all the time.  But it makes for good writing.  Tell me you didn’t at least smile at the picture I just painted in your mind.  You might’ve even been unable to suppress a chuckle.  I am under time pressure and misfortune pressure and the need to rearrange my entire daily schedule.  So it is the perfect time to write.

Val in the Yard

This essay, however, is about bad advice.  And I am a perfect person to rely on as a resource for bad advice.  I am full of it.  Of course, I mean I am full of bad advice, not that other thing we think of when someone tells me I am “Full of it!”  So here’s another bit of writing advice that is probably completely wrong and a bad idea to take without a grain of salt, or at least a doctor’s prescription.   You should stop bird-walking in your essay and get to the damn point!

 I know a lot about the subject of depression.  When I was a teenager, I came very close to suicide.  I experienced tidal waves of self-loathing and black-enveloping blankets of depression for reasons that I didn’t understand until I realized later in life that it all came from being a child-victim of sexual assault.  Somehow I muddled through and managed to self-medicate with journal writing and fantasy-fixations, thus avoiding a potentially serious alcohol or drug problem.  This is connected to my main idea, despite the fact that I am obviously not following the no bird-walking advice.  You see, with depression, Bad advice can kill you.  Seriously, people want to tell you to just, “Get over it!  Stop moping about and get on with life.  It isn’t real.  You are just being lazy.”

I have been on the inside of depression and I know for a fact that not taking it seriously can be deadly.  In fact, I have faced suicidal depression not only in myself, but in several former students and even my own children.  I have spent time in emergency rooms, mental hospitals, and therapists offices when I wasn’t myself the depression sufferer.  One of my high school classmates and one of my former students lost their battles and now are no longer among the living.  (Sorry, have to take a moment for tears again.)  But I learned how to help a depression sufferer.  You have to talk to them and make them listen at least to the part where you say, “I have been through this myself.  Don’t give in to it.  You can survive if you fight back.  And whatever you have to do, I will be right here for you.  You can talk to me about anything.  I will listen.  And I won’t try to give you any advice.”  Of course, after you say that to them, you do not leave them alone.  You stay by them and protect them from themselves, or make sure somebody that will do the same for them stays with them.  So far, that last bit of advice has worked for me.  But the fight can be life-long.  And it is a critical battle.

So taking advice from others is always an adventure.  Red pill?  Green pill?  Poison pill?  Which will you take?  I can’t decide for you.  Any advice I give you would probably just be stupid advice.  You have to weigh the evidence and decide for yourself.  What does this stupid essay even mean?  Isn’t it just a pile of stupid advice?  A concluding paragraph should tell you the answer if it can.  But, I fear, there is no answer this time.


Filed under artwork, autobiography, battling depression, commentary, compassion, Depression, empathy, healing, insight, Paffooney, sharing from YouTube, strange and wonderful ideas about life

How Mickey Battles the Blues

It should be noted that Mickey does not battle the St. Louis Blues.  That is his favorite hockey team.  And while they have never won the Stanley Cup, they do win a lot and are almost always in the playoffs.  So they help fight depression.  Battling them would not only be counter-productive, but might also result in losing all those big square white middle teeth in that goofy smile.

But battling depression is a constant necessity.  Not only am I subject to diabetic depression and Donald Trump overload, but my entire family is prone to deep and deadly bad blue funks.  It helps to be aware that there are a lot of ways to fight that old swamp of sadness. It doesn’t have to keep claiming the Atreyu’s horse of your soul.  (Yes, I know that Neverending Story metaphors seriously date me to the 80’s and signify that I am indeed old… another reason I have to constantly fight depression.)

Blue Dawn

I have some surefire methods for battling depression that apparently the science actually backs up.  It turns out that most of things that Mickey does actually stimulate the brain to produce more dopamine.

“Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional response, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them.”  – Psychology Today

So, I guess I am secretly a dopamine addict.  It is a brain chemical you cannot focus or function effectively without.

  1. Being creative in some way fosters the production of dopamine in the old think-organ.  So writing this blog helps.  Doodling excessively helps.  Writing novels, painting pictures, drawing cartoons, and writing really remarkably bad poetry also help, and I do all of those things every week.
  2. Chicken Dancing helps.  Really.  Flapping your arms and wiggling your butt in such a stupidly silly way is aerobic exercise, and the very act of exercising increases not only dopamine but also serotonin and endorphin get a boost.  These are your “natural high” brain drugs.  Have you ever noticed chicken dancers are never really sad while dancing?  The ones crying excessively are either crying from happiness or extremely embarrassed teenagers forced to chicken dance by their goofy old dad.
  3. For more information about chicken dancing and its possible uses for evil, check out this link The Dancing Poultry Conspiracy Theory.  Because laughing about stuff is also a cure for depression.  It tends to even bypass dopamine and take a left turn through serotonin straight into the pleasure centers of the brain.
  4. funny-gif-chicken-dance-animation
  5. Winning streaks also help immensely.  Of course, I can’t always count on the St. Louis Blues to give me winning streaks.  X-Box EA Sports MVP Baseball 2004 set on the rookie difficulty level for the last decade helps with that.  I have won over 300 consecutive games including two World Series sweeps that way.  And Albert Pujols has hit over 1,000 home runs in his Mickian baseball career.
  6. Check lists also help because they are the same thing as winning streaks.  The sense of accomplishment you get from checking off boxes on your To-Do List also boosts dopamine in the same way.  So what if I am listing routine things like walking the dog, picking up socks, and taking out the trash?  A check mark is still a check mark and a check mark by any other name still smells like marker.
  7. And, of course, there is listening to music.  I am seriously addicted to classical music because every emotion from beautiful and awe-inspiring to butt-ugly brutal can be found somewhere in the works of the great composers. And don’t forget, Paul Simon, Don Henly, and Paul McCartney are in that category too.

8. And please, don’t forget food.  Depressed eating can easily make you fat, but there are certain magical chemicals in certain foods that give you certain dopamine-building effects that can turn blue skies to bright sunshine.  The primary chemical is called Tyrosine, and it can be found in a variety of foods like;

– Almonds

– Avocados

– Bananas

– Beef

– Chicken

– Chocolate

– Coffee

– Eggs

– Green Tea

– Milk

– Watermelon

– Yogurt

9.  And finally, thinking skills are critical.  While thinking too much and obsessing can get you into the tiger trap pits of depression, meditation, decompressive mantras and positive thinking can all dig you out and keep you out.

You are probably wondering what kind of nitwit authority I can actually bring to this topic, but I have spent a lot of money on therapy, not all of it for me, and I not only listen to psychiatrists and psychologists, but I remember what they explained to me.  And I have tried enough things to know what works.

So while you are busy chicken dancing to Beethoven while eating a banana, rest assured, Mickey is probably doing something just as embarrassingly ridiculous at the very same time.

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Filed under battling depression, commentary, Depression, family, healing, health, humor, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Pessimism as a Super Power


Castle Cardboard 2

The Cardboard Castle at its current state of completion. I built this thing from Ritz Cracker boxes and a wooden bird house.

I have shared before the fact that those of us who are pessimists are never unpleasantly surprised.  We plan for failure, and cannot be destroyed by the worst that can happen.  Being indestructible is a very good thing.  In fact, it is a super power, just like the Incredible Hulk or something.


Yesterday a year’s worth of work and waiting came to an end.  I reached the final round of the Chanticleer Book Reviews’ Rosetti Awards for YA novel writing.  I had a second chance to win a prize and a second chance to be noticed by literary agents, publishers, and the reading public.  But it ended the same way as the first chance did.  Magical Miss Morgan didn’t win.

So, I have to rely on my super powers once again to navigate my way through the dark valleys where a body lands once we fall off the mountain we are climbing.

I spent a good deal of time this weekend doing little things to make myself feel better.  I worked on my cardboard castle project.  I took my daughter, the Princess, on a daddy-daughter date.  We saw a very good movie, The Good Dinosaur from Pixar, and we had dinner at a Steak n’ Shake in Plano, Texas.  Last night my wife and I watched the finale of Downton Abbey on PBS.


I am not devastated.  I didn’t win.  I didn’t get the boost I had hoped for in marketing and publication and seeing my stories in print.  But the book still exists.  There are still ways to get it published.  And I still believe it is a very good piece of writing.

Cool School Blue

So being a pessimist and preparing for the worst held up as a super power.  I should get a black cape and black tights.  Gloomy Man to the rescue!  Villains and opposers will find me indestructible.  I will find a way to save the day!


Filed under autobiography, Depression, feeling sorry for myself, humor, NOVEL WRITING, pessimism, Uncategorized

A Simple Matter of Recovery

ugly bug222222

Ah, my poor little Ford Fiesta has been declared dead by the insurance company.  Soon I will have to give up the chibi clown car I have been driving and buy something new.  Can I get a used car for the money they will give me for the accident?  I was counting on not having a car payment every month after June of this year.  Ah, but it means a new member of the family to replace the loved one I have lost.


The ghost dog continues to haunt me in the night.  Last night, outside my bedroom door, I heard a whining and whimpering again.  I checked (had to make a nocturnal potty-stop anyway) and it was not our family dog.  The downstairs family room door was closed to her and she sleeps in the other end of the house in my son’s room.  So, either it was the ghost dog whom I totally don’t believe in, or I was dreaming that part (do I really have dreams as weird as that?), or maybe I am going insane… the most probable explanation.


I am still working in dedicated fashion on my hometown novels.  I have added to the rewrite of When the Captain Came Calling and I have started a new novel project I am calling Recipes for Gingerbread Children.  It is a novel about the old German lady who inhabited our little town in the 1960’s and 70’s.  She was a Holocaust survivor with a tattoo on her forearm.  Mother still can’t talk about her without mentioning what a terrible life she must’ve had, yet she was one of the most sunshiny people I have ever known.  It is a new idea that excites me, like the one that became Magical Miss Morgan.

Blue Faun22

I am also still desperately trying to overcome illness without doctor’s visits or medication.  A lot can be done with careful monitoring of diet and blood-sugar levels.  I owe my life to over-the-counter Mucinex and Vicks Vaporub.  My son is also suffering at present, and I have to talk to professionals about it today, because I will not risk his health to protect my empty pocketbook.

So challenges remain challenging and I keep moving forward and upward.  What more can be done?  I have in the past couple of months not only faced several different difficulties, but I have reached new levels of success with this blog, much of it by writing a lot in ways that are full of self-medicating thoughts with healing words and ideas.  People seem to like that.  My average daily views is up above thirty.  I am nearing 800 followers.  I may not have writing income, but I do seem to have a personal brand that others respond to.  So, if you have read all the way through this recycled oatmeal post with nothing but old pictures in it, please be reassured… oatmeal is good for you… and for me.

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Filed under healing, health, humor, illness, Paffooney, photo paffoonies

Down and Blue

Life for me has always been a struggle with poor health and depression, ill fortune and difficult circumstances.  I have always been a “make lemonade” sort of life-gives-you-lemons problem-solver, but the more I make lemonade, the more my sorry old puss gets puckered.  I am having chest pains and breathing problems again.  I don’t have money for doctor’s visit co-pays and medication.  My car is in the shop with more than $6,000 dollars worth of damages, hit by a passing motorist going too fast while it was parked outside my house.  Insurance is probably not going to pay that much to fix a five-year-old car.  My family in Iowa have recently been buried under huge snowdrifts.  And the grim reaper has been knocking on my bedroom door asking if I want to play a game of chess.


But I will tag this post as humor.  Because, ironically, humor is not always funny.  Sometimes it has the sour puckering effect of lemonade with too little sugar in the mix.  When you have worked hard all your life for very little reward, it’s hard to appreciate the tiny amounts of sugar you have been allotted.  I see myself ending much the way Mother Mendocino ended, except the community will not even hear about my passing.

My Jester

The more I sing songs, and rattle the boards, and try to make my puppets dance, the more arthritis crabs up my fingers and makes me ache.  Sometimes happy simply comes hard.  But self-pity is easy.  And I am a pratfall clown most of the time.  I use my injuries to make others laugh.  And there is still magic to be found here and there in my art.  Today’s paffoonies were all culled from my Postable Paffooney file.  They are all old artworks of which I am pathetically proud.


Pathos is a part of humor too, you know.  You tell a story about someone whose been on a lonely journey, and he finally gets to come home to the ones he loves, and you smile at the end of that.  If you laughed at the clown for falling down, you smiled too when he got up again.  After all, he wasn’t hurt.  In many ways we are all made of spoof and rubber, and while the bullets don’t bounce off, we are more like Superman than we think.  There is definitely wisdom buried somewhere in this pile of old quilts I am calling an essay today.  I just wish I had the words to make it clearer than I do in this poor excuse for a paragraph.

Cool School Blue

My sister reads posts like this and tells me they are too depressing, that I need to write happier stuff.  But don’t worry the way she does.  I do spend a lot of time writing about the low spots.  But I would like to point out that most of the time I am climbing out of holes.  So I may start the essay in a very low place, but the direction I am going is always up.


Now I have said my 500 words for today, and while I still need bed-rest… there is no doubt the sun will come up again.


Filed under Depression, healing, health, humor, Paffooney, philosophy, Uncategorized

Morning Has Broken

Today is off to a miserable start.  I heard on the radio that David Bowie has died.  Ziggy Stardust… the Goblin King… The Man Who Fell to Earth… the Thin White Duke…is gone.  And even though since high school in the 1970’s I have never been quite sure how I felt about his music, I wept.  The man was a musical maker of lyrical poetry.  He could make you feel really really terrible… but he always made you feel.  And he made me depressed as he led me through the Labyrinth… but he also made me soar… on the wings of a barn owl.  It was about facing the darkness and finding your way.   Finding the way out.  Singing the Little Drummer Boy with Bing Crosby, but not actually singing it… making peace on Earth instead.  Sometimes things are just so weirdly beautiful it hurts.

I dropped my daughter off at her middle school, and then Jody Dean & the Morning Team played this on the radio.

I wept again.  Darkness is my old friend…  I have lived with and through depression after depression.  My own… my wife’s… my children’s…  And it is a miracle I have lived this long without succumbing to the Darkness.  It took Robin Williams.  It took Ernest Hemingway.  But somehow, the Goblin King always goaded me onward, to find the answer at the end of the Labyrinth.  “You… you have no power over me.”  And then I am okay once again.


I captured the dawn once again this morning.  Once again I failed to truly ensnare the subtle reds and pinks and purples that were actually there.  But there it is, anyhow.  The morning has broken.  The blackbird has spoken.  The morning is new.

My heart is still sore this morning.  The dog didn’t help when she spilled the trash to get at the napkins with bacon grease on them.  We may have a dog-skin rug as a doormat later today.  But David Bowie left so many words and ideas behind to comfort me.  Is he one of those “neon gods we made”?  Of course he is.  But as the owl flutters off in the closing credits, we can take comfort in the knowledge that no one is ever really gone.  And we can always anticipate some… Serious Moonlight.


Filed under commentary, music, photo paffoonies, poetry

Rainy Saturday Blues (a poem about depression )

Blue Dawn

I must make a confession about crippling depression,

Cause today I have the blues.

It requires a concession of time for regression,

And dark days enveloping all views.

There is no progression in a working profession,

Cause clouds leave me missing all news.

I start the procession of blue notes in session,

And all melodies tend to be blues.


Filed under Paffooney, pessimism, poem, Uncategorized


When you have six incurable diseases, are a cancer survivor since 1983, and were forced to retire early due to health and income problems, you have probably seen your share of really, really bad, horrible, rotten, no-good, black-hearted, totally-depressive days.  Yep, me too.  I just made it through a four-day, no-air-breathing illness, potential car problems, and too much work with too little energy to apply to it.  But I made it through.  I have secret knowledge.


I have restored myself to light and life in a number of ways.  One was through happy discovery.  I was able to peanutize myself with the help of a movie promotion I have been following on Facebook.  http://www.peanutizeme.com/  This link allows you to turn yourself into a Charles M. Schulz comic strip character with Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang.  Doing something nutty and foolish is a way to charm and dig and laugh yourself out of depression.  It wasn’t all easy and stuff, though.  I had to copy my hair and twirl it upside down to get the beard.  And I also had to laugh about the chimney growing out of the top of my head like a brick unicorn horn. It’s the kind of goofy stuff that gives a semi-serious artist fits of giggling.  So I owe BlueSky Studios not only my thanks, but the link in this paragraph as well.  The advertising campaign for the new movie may have saved my life.

Another thing that helped was solving the automobobble problem.  My little Ford Fiesta, the Ozzy Osbourne of motor cars, had a heat-fit yesterday in the middle of Lewisville, Texas, Interstate Thirty-Five rush-hour traffic.  It developed a seemingly permanent “check-engine” light that threatened an Ozzy at the Alamo moment on the access road.  The rush-hour stress built up in me to the point that my blood-sugar dropped and we barely crawled into Taco Bueno to cure it with crispy beef tacos and bean burritos.  I have absolutely no money left in savings for more car repairs.  So, I crawled into the Walmart oil-change center this morning and pried twenty dollars out of my wallet to get the car-juice sloshed and swirled.  Low and behold, after having to sign a waiver that said the problems the car had were the ones it came in with, the new car-juice solved the problem.  The engine purrs again and the car has completely forgotten about that “check engine” light, and possibly the biting-the-heads-off-bats thing as well.

20150923_142418So, here is me.  You can compare Grumpy-Me to the Peanutized-Me and evaluate whether I appear to be worth saving or not.  Notice, I am either holding a newly-purchased Barbie’s little sister doll to add to my maddeningly growing doll collection, or I have managed to kidnap a middle-school girl from Lilliput. I am happy again.  At least, I have that old goofy grin again that indicates the pain is not overwhelming… and once again I have overcome!

I should also add that I have been getting work done on my novel, Snow Babies.


Filed under autobiography, humor, Paffooney

When Comes the Dawn?


We never seem to see it coming,

When the dark times are here,

Depression, black… is out of whack,

And everything looks drear…

And then a glimmer… maybe hope?

When will the sun appear?

But gray men in their dread gray suits,

Make the paperwork loom near…

And we must fill out in triplicate,

The forms you sign right here.

This dawn you want is pink and blue?

The proper form, my dear…

Sign it, scribe it, write in ink,

And make no mistake appear

And then you write and write and write…

To make the dawn shine clear.


I guess the thing to do… sometimes… when everything is going against you, is to write a poem… or take a picture of the sunrise… maybe two.


Filed under Paffooney, photos, poetry

The Dark Side


The thing about depression is that it really is not very funny.  That’s what makes it difficult for someone like me who relies on humor and wit to deal with every problem that attacks in life.   Sometimes you have to stand toe to toe with the devil and look him square in the eye.

Robin Williams’ death is one of those things that can send you on a downward spiral into depression and darkness.  Whenever someone loses the battle, you are reminded how hard it is to pull yourself out of the old black oubliette, the dark hole that is depression.  I had to take some time this weekend to mourn and be alone.  No one else can really do anything to help, other than to be there and be willing to listen.  People think you have to say something to help someone with depression, but, in truth, talking makes it worse.  If you tell the person you know what they are going through, or you know how hard it is, they might become violently upset.  Nothing is more personal or individual than suffering depression.


Now, I know some skeptical sorts of know-it-alls out there are going to immediately think, “What the hell makes this guy a so-called expert?”  And they are probably right to question it.  But here is what you probably didn’t know.    Of the five members of my immediate family, two of them have been hospitalized for depression a total of four times.  One incident involved self-inflicted injury.  We reacted quicker than is financially sensible the next three times.  Two members of my family suffer from bi-polar disorder, though only one of those has been diagnosed by a doctor, and only one of those was ever hospitalized.  We don’t get many visitors in our home any more.  My wife is rightly embarrassed by all the holes that have been punched through the plaster of the walls.  I have been thrown down the stairs once.  I have had to hide all the knives in the house three times.  One of my children had to dodge a knife that was thrown at them.  We have called the police on at least one occasion, and been called in by child protective services once.  Through it all, I have been the one faced with talking down the sufferer.  You look them in the eyes and see their pupils dilate, and sometimes the eye-twitch, and you know, “uh-oh, it’s time for the hurting again.”  There is nothing I can say.  There is nothing I can really do.  I just have to stay there (you can’t leave the sufferer alone for obvious reasons).  I have to keep the sufferer safe, and hopefully calm, and wait it out.   And I have to be ready to listen.  No jokes are allowed.  If you haven’t stopped reading this yet because it is too hard and ugly to consider, I can offer a little bit of light and hope.  I have gotten so good at doing this, that when a girl in one of my classes had a suicidal bi-polar meltdown, I was the one who knew what to do.  (All those hours spent with psychologists and therapists count for something.)  The principals and the counselors helped to keep her safe, but I’m the one who allowed her to vent and have her say, who took the time to listen and assure her that she really was being heard.  I’m also the one who got the thank-you and the apology for having to listen to how much she hated me and hated the school when she was at the bottom of the dark hole.  I never asked for any of this, but I have come away with a rare set of skills.  For now my children are safe and happy, and for now my worries seem to have come to a close… well, a temporary reprieve.  These problems never go away.  You get to keep them for a life time.   But they are not 24/7.



So, you would think, with my ability to help others, I might not be totally without resources when battling my own depression.   You would, of course, be wrong.  You cannot beat back the darkness by yourself.  Long hours of staying in bed and hating your life do not help.  They are easy, but they do not help.  So, I have to take to the keyboard and write.  I fight back with words on paper.  And more than that, I have to write for others to read, even if I have written personal things that really aren’t other people’s business and will probably be used against me if I ever try to do something totally stupid like run for public office.  And from being a wordless wonder suffering in the bedroom yesterday, I have transformed myself into an eight-hundred-plus word fountain today.   To get through life I have to sing and dance and tell jokes and write and play harmonica and write and spend time with my kids and write and write some more.  Those things help when even the depression medication has no effect…  when your favorite movie comedian loses his own battle.




Filed under Uncategorized