Walking Out Of The Darkness

I’ve been blogging a bit lately about my battles with depression and the impact it has had on my life. Now, leaving the wretched first decade of this millennium behind, I’m determined to turn this around and stop letting the monster control things.

Last year, I reached a point of near hopelessness. Therapy hadn’t helped much. Meds hadn’t helped much. And I was just getting worse. I decided extreme measures might be called for, and started looking into electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), the modern version of ye olde electro-shock.

ECT is intense, and it has side effects (most notably memory loss, sometimes dire and permanent memory loss). But it also has the highest success rate of any depression treatment, and many people who’ve undergone it have had their lives not only significantly improved, but pretty much saved.

Still, it’s a big scary thing to do. And while reading up on it,  I found out about a newer treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a more controlled and allegedly highly effective therapy without ECT’s scary side effects. I decided to try it, even though it’s so new it’s not covered by insurance in this country, even though it cost me $9,000 for the course of treatment.

I’m going to blog in detail about my TMS adventure, but here’s the short version: it didn’t do shit for me. In fact, it cost me a huge amount of savings while not doing shit for me, so if anything it contributed deeply to my overall sense of hopelessness and despair. [UPDATE: the detailed post about TMS can be found here.]

Looking ahead to the beginning of this year, I’d pretty much decided that, if I didn’t manage to at least finish up Doc Wilde and The Mad Skull and deliver it to my editor by now, I’d go ahead with the ECT. The book’s not done yet. But ECT’s still pretty scary, and I figure I owe myself at least one final attempt at a Hail Mary pass before going with the electrodes.

In the past, I’ve made big plans to overcome the depression and to get back on track, and clearly that has never worked to any consistent degree. So this time, I’m taking my cue from Bill Murray’s character in What About Bob?

Baby steps. “Baby steps through the office…baby steps out the door…all I have to do is take one little step at a time and I can do anything…baby steps out of the office…baby steps to the hall…baby steps to the elevator…”

The two most important things I need to do every day are:

  1. Write
  2. Exercise

So my new plan begins there. Whatever else I have on my to-do list, whatever else I may or may not accomplish in a day, I need to at minimum get at least some of both those things done. Every damn day.

So my daily to-do list from now on forms around this:

  • Write 500 words
  • Do 20-30 minutes of cardio of some sort

That’s my minimum daily requirement now. I will often write more, and exercise more, but when the will is weak, I can at least force myself to do that much.

My plan will evolve, and I’ll blog as I go. Hopefully I’ll be able to wrangle the dark beast enough that I won’t have to ride the lightning.

I start officially on Monday. Stay tuned.

Good Memories of 2010, Day 5: 1978

In 2009, my ex and I established a Christmas tradition of sharing music from our youths with my son by giving him a representative sampling from the year we were his current age.

This year, he’s fourteen, and since I was fourteen in 1978, I went on a sonic archaeological dig of that year to decide what to share.

I had this on my wall in 1978

My approach is to buy him two albums from the time, and to burn a collection of various hits as well. The two CDs I chose were Van Halen’s Van Halen (their hellaciously strong debut with a bunch of classics like “Runnin’ With The Devil” and “You Really Got Me”) and Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell (“Would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses…?”). Continue reading

Cold World

This whole week has been about snow.

At one point, it was reported that snow was falling in forty-nine of the fifty states. Only Florida had none.

For global warming deniers it’s been a grand old time, as they can all chortle to each other and say, “My my my, it sure is cold…guess that puts that old ‘global warming’ bullshit to rest,” as if they have a clue what they’re talking about. (Hint: they don’t, and this extreme weather is, if anything, likely evidence that climate change theories are correct).

Here, we’ve been solidly snowed in. Inches of snow have over the course of the week solidified into a hard slick shell over everything. The kids have missed (or, more likely, not) school since Monday, and tomorrow (Friday) remains to be seen. We don’t have the infrastructure for snow that northern states have, and our drivers are imbeciles as a rule (distracted by their kvetching about that stupid Al Gore, perhaps), so weather like this rightly makes us cautious.

I’ve had a wonderful time, just hanging out with my son here at the Byrdcave, playing games, watching old Seinfelds, reading. Taking Boone, our two year old Point Bernard (English Pointer/St. Bernard mix) for walks and watching him spin out on slopes.

We also spent some time at my kid’s mom’s, where we established a pretty speedy sled path down the backyard hill, using a boogie board left from some beach vacation as a sled.

Traversing the landscape when it’s slippery and glacial always reminds us of an amusing incident from another snowfall a few years ago. My son, his mom, and I were carefully negotiating a snow-packed sidewalk in downtown Decatur, and she told him “Watch out for the black ice.”

Unfortunately, just as she did, a small group of black kids my son knew from school passed us, close enough to hear, and from their expressions, we were pretty sure what they thought they’d heard her say was, “Watch out for the black guys.”

So now, when it’s frozen underfoot, my son and I make sure to bring that up, and it never gets old.

Good Memories of 2010, Day 4: MR. SHIVERS

By the time the number nineteen crossed the Missouri state line the sun had crawled low in the sky and afternoon was fading into evening. The train had built up a wild head of steam over the last few miles. As Tennessee fell behind it began picking up speed, the wheels chanting and chuckling, the fields blurring into jaundice-yellow streaks by the track. A fresh gout of black smoke unfurled from the train’s crown and folded back to clutch the cars like a great black cloak.

I met Robert Jackson Bennett briefly at SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) in September 2009. When I did my signing for Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, he was signing at the next table, and we chatted briefly (I recall telling him his title was cool) and exchanged inscribed copies of our books.

Here’s his inscription:

Know what? When I finally picked the book up months later, I did enjoy it. A hell of a lot. Continue reading

What’s Eating Your Head?

I only just became aware of the new fashion accessory called a SpiritHood, and while it appeals to me on a certain paganistic, carnal level (and I am generally quite paganistic and carnal myself), I have to say I have yet to see a picture of a guy wearing one in which said guy doesn’t look like a tool.

Women, on the other hand, can be pretty damn sexy in these things.

This picture sorta makes me want to start sleeping with a teddy bear again…

Snow Is Lightly Falling (Song of the Week, 1/10/11)

Someone dumped Alaska on Decatur last night. I half expect Sarah Palin to show up trying to slaughter our squirrels and steal medicine from our sick children.

Overnight we had a phenomenal snowfall here in Decatur, and at 7 am it’s still falling. It must be 5-6 inches deep out there.

Nathaniel and I took Boone for a walk in it last night, and it was incredible. By the time we returned to the apartment (and we were only out maybe 15 minutes), I had at least half an inch of snow layered on the brim of my fedora.

Boone, who is a big goofy St. Bernard/English Pointer mix (we call him a Point Bernard), was delighted, snorfeling about, leaping in the air, and wrestling with us.

In honor of this great, white, schoolless snow day, I present to you this song of the week, by Nightnoise.

Good Memories of 2010, Day 3: The Black Widow

Fifteen or more years back, some friends and I were talking and the question arose, “If you could write and direct a movie about any Marvel Comics character, who would it be?”

I didn’t even think about it. “The Black Widow.”

It wasn’t an answer I’d have predicted. I wasn’t an enormous Black Widow fan, and hadn’t really given her much consideration in any way when I wasn’t reading about her or admiring some George Perez portraiture. But when the question appeared, my mind was on the case, and the sultry sexiness, mystery, and espionage background of the heroine offered up exactly the sort of cool superheroic options I was in the mood for.

And there’s just never enough hot femme fatales in catsuits on the screen. Continue reading

Taken By The Wind (A Personal History, Part 3): The Beard of Loneliness

When things never get better, when do you give up hope that they will?

I’m not there yet, but I’ve been on the edge of that chasm for a long time.

For most of my life, I’ve alternated between times when I have to struggle to get anything at all done, and times when I was on task, organized, and convinced I could make permanent change. Note that these have never been “manic” times, just times when I was operating closer to the norm, closer to what I should be, what I might have been had it not been ripped out of me as a child.

But those productive times are always followed by collapse. To-do lists curl and die like leaves in a fire. Lonely chapters gather virtual dust on the hard drive, awaiting fellows who’ll never show. The bed forgets what it’s like to be made. And my chin thickens with whiskers, a barometer of my efficacy in my own life because I do not want a beard.

I have one now. Continue reading

More Great Gaga

This morning I posted one of my “Good Memories of 2010,” in which I praised the monstrous(ly talented) Lady Gaga.

I shared a couple of lesser-known acoustic performances of hers, since most folks have probably seen her official vids. There were others I was tempted to toss in, but didn’t wish to overload that blog entry.

So here’s the overflow. ;)

First up is another live take on “Pokerface,” different and possibly more wonderful than the one I shared earlier…(and unfortunately, due to embedding restrictions you have to click through each to watch on YouTube, but it’s worth it)… Continue reading

Good Memories of 2010, Day 2: The Freak Bitch

Lady Gaga is a monster.

And I mean that in the very best way.

Early last year, I actually had the impulse to tweet “I have no idea who Lady Gaga is, and I’m glad.” Rarely listening to the radio, and never watching celebrity-fetish TV, I’d absorbed her name only through some collective unconscious osmosis, and I literally had no idea who she was other than the latest outré pop diva. Which made me reflexively dismiss her as just another turd floating in the bowl of MTV/Perez Hilton culture.

But I didn’t make the tweet, because I don’t like commenting on things I don’t actually know about, and because I didn’t want to be unfair to Gaga, whoever she was. I’m quirkily integrous like that.

Having resisted the impulse to blindly besmirch her, I found my curiosity roused. Did she deserve my scorn or not? I sat down with my good friend YouTube to find out.

She most definitely did not.

Continue reading

Just How Selfish WAS Jesus, Exactly?

It’s not often you see a true man of faith who’s a public figure in our culture who actually walks the walk.

Stephen Colbert is exactly that.

A devout Catholic (who actually teaches Sunday school), he not only bases his political views on principles like compassion and rationality, he’s extremely active with a long list of charities. He’s clearly a much better man than the buffoon he lampoons, Bill O’Reilly (who this week hilariously tried to one-up an atheist on his show by telling him we don’t know what causes the tides to go in and out).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Well Nigh Apocalypse

An undead ex-VP rejects another heart…

Thousands of black birds with blood-red marks fall from the sky…

Dead fish choke the shores…

A troll doll from a northern state gets a book deal…

Orcs seize control of the House…

A newt and a hagfish in grizzly furs set their crazed eyes to the White House…

The Rupture is nigh.

Good Memories of 2010, Day 1: My New Phone

My relationship with my phone is traditionally contentious at best.

I hate talking on the phone. I hate when the phone rings. I often ignore it, I rarely check messages, and I’m a pain in the ass to get in touch with.

But I love my new iPhone 4.

I still hate talking on it, and its ring still makes my soul bristle. But oh the things I can do with this little gadget…

I’ve watched movies and TV shows on its gorgeous, high rez screen, streaming from Netflix. I’ve watched many a clip on YouTube. I’ve absorbed some great TED conference presentations via their dedicated app.

I’ve read several novels, and been amazed at what a pleasant experience it is. The screen is sharp, the text clear (and resizeable). It automatically saves my place. I can lay on my side in bed and hold it in my palm, tapping the screen with my thumb to flip pages. And I always have a library in my pocket, ever ready for reading emergencies.

I listen to a lot more music. I have an 80 GB iPod with over 9,000 songs on it, but rarely carried it anywhere. My iPhone has only 16 GB, so I can’t get all my music on it, but I can get a hell of a lot, and since it’s my phone, I always have it with me. I also listen to Pandora, discovering new music, and there are other great music apps like Bing’s (which lets you listen to the top 100 songs of any year back to 1947) or Wolfgang’s Vault, a treasure trove of live concert recordings.

If I want to identify a song I’m hearing, I can let the SoundHound app listen a few moments, then it’ll not only ID it but give me lyrics, links to YouTube vids of the song, and buying info.

I can plan workouts and keep track of my progress at the gym.

I can keep up with my peeps on Facebook and Twitter, check email, do on the spot research, identify constellations, get directions and maps (including topo maps of wilderness areas), explore with Google Earth, track the weather, make notes, shop, and of course take pictures and videos. Which I can instantly upload to share if I want.

All with this little wafer of tech.

Good Memories of 2010, Prologue

2010 kinda blew.

I had major health issues and major struggles with my depression. As a result, I blew a deadline on my next book, which I still have yet to finish.

I realized that some people I thought I was close to weren’t really there for me in a meaningful way. These epiphanies come when you’re sitting around week after week thinking dark, with no one around.

I watched a Democratic president with overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress govern with his fucking hat in his hand, accomplishing some good things that could have been great had he acted with a tenth the chutzpah his ridiculous and vile predecessor had.

I watched ignorant rabble and theocratic authoritarians rebuild their power and influence in a time when rationality and progressive values were initially emergent, thanks to the lack of effective political leadership by that president and his party in general.

I didn’t get to sleep with Olivia Wilde.

And, basically, not a whole lot of good happened in my life otherwise.

Now my year has opened again with illness, and my “fine Irish melancholy” is clawing my eyes, and I feel somewhat  less than motivated to write about the good things I experienced last year. It’s an effort of memory even to recall such things. But I’m going to, because I’ve established that tradition and keeping to it is good discipline, and because it may do me some good to think back on some positive things.

Auld Lang Syne (Song of the Week, 1/3/11)

I hope the year ahead is great for all of you. And for me too.

That it started with the date 1/1/11 seems auspicious, as if we get to start over after a nightmarish decade of strife and stupidity. Here’s hoping.

This week’s song  is one of the loveliest takes on this tune I’ve ever heard. Thanks to Betsy Burnam for sharing it.

Song of the Week, 1/3/11