Where have I been?
How am I doing?
What’s happening with the Doc Wilde books? Or any other writing I might be doing?
It’s time for a general update, and probably past time for a Doc Wilde update since Kickstarter supporters and other fans are patiently waiting for me to get the next book out.
First, if you would, read my post from back in February, “I’m Back. Ish.” It covers some important ground and remains pertinent, especially regarding the state of Doc Wilde, and whether the coming books will be illustrated or not. (And there will be coming books, it’s just going to take a bit longer.)
Now, since that post, which itself was part of an effort to drag myself back into the world and into health and productivity, things have improved somewhat, but I’ve also had a realization: I’m in convalescence. I’m making progress, but I’m doing so far more gradually than I’d like, and far more gradually than I tend to allow for. I’m fighting a depression monster that has had me pinned beneath its claws for many years, a monster which has beaten me and ruined my plans over and over and over again, a monster that has laughed at everything the psychiatric community has thrown at it from therapy to all sorts of drugs to electroshock therapy.
I have had to accept something about myself that batters what pride I still have: I have a disability. I look in the mirror and I don’t see someone who’s disabled, but I look at my life and I certainly do. And I fucking hate it, and I hate that I have to struggle, and I hate that it’s so goddamned hard, and I hate knowing how much I could accomplish if it weren’t a factor, but none of that actually makes any difference because it it what it is and I have to deal with it.
If I don’t, it will kill me.
I’ve left psychiatry behind. Like I said, it’s been very little help in fighting the monster, and it’s very expensive. Even when it made any difference, it was always slight and didn’t change things in any meaningful way. I’m not saying that the tools psychiatry has to offer are worthless — they help a great many people, and I certainly got some small benefit from them — but my depression is clearly highly resistant to their treatments.
So, I’m back to dealing with it on my own, and I’m actually making progress. A crucial element of my plan of attack is to constantly remind myself that I can’t try to do everything all at once. I’m learning to take things a step at a time, to not just assume that I can suddenly fix everything simultaneously without overloading myself and collapsing once more into a worthless heap of despond.
So, a few months back, I looked at everything I’ve been through, and the state of my life, and decided to start rebuilding myself piece by piece. And the most essential place to begin was with my physical health and fitness. Progress in those areas would be foundational and translate into progress in all other areas; exercise would make me healthier and more focused and give me more energy that I would then be able to start using to get other things done.
In the past, I’ve often thrown myself suddenly into elaborate exercise plans at the same time as I’ve tried to buckle down and get other things going, like writing, and I just haven’t had the energy to handle everything. This time, I kept it simple, basing my initial workout plan on two programs which I could follow and track using apps on my iPhone and iPad.
The first was the “100 Pushups” routine, which is designed to get you to the point where you can drop and do (you guessed it) 100 pushups. I’d had some success with this routine a few years ago, back about the time I first had ECT, but ultimately hit a wall and floundered. This time, I tried to start back at the point I’d left off, which was a workout of several sets adding up to a total of 79 pushups. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do that many after being indolent so long, but figured I’d do as many as I could each day and work up to mastering that particular workout.
The first day, I did a total of 60. I was quite pleased with this…until the pain set in over the next few days and I could barely move. I’ve overtrained before, and am no stranger to muscular aches after working out, but I’ve never experienced molten muscle pain like I did then. After a few days, I recovered enough to try again and decided I’d start the program over at the beginning; I did 42 that second day, and progressed at a more reasonable rate thereafter. I’m now doing just over a hundred pushups total each session, broken into several sets, and can probably do about 50 or 60 straight through.
I do the pushups on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. On Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, I’ve been doing the Couch-to-5K program, using an app on my phone which gradually trains a newbie runner to run a 5K. Early on, I had a few issues with joint pain, and for a while my first step in prepping for a run was popping a couple of Ibuprofen, but as my body has strengthened those issues have disappeared. I have yet to feel anything at all like the legendary “runner’s high,” but I am starting to enjoy running. Sort of.
I started all this at the end of May, and have also made slight adjustments to my diet, mainly cutting back on snacks. And I’ve allowed this to be my current focus, getting fit, getting healthy, building up my energy and discipline so that I’ll be able to start adding other projects to my routine again. As a result, I’m undeniably healthier and more grounded and I can see the changes in my body. I had gotten up to about 185 lbs, which isn’t objectively overweight for someone 6′ tall, but for me the extra padding made me feel ungainly and even more lethargic. Now I’m back down to about 170, and I’m feeling younger, more positive. Happier.
My relationships are helping, too. One of the many results of my years of depression has been a terrible diminishment of my human world. Most of my good friends have drifted away or faded to casual acquaintances rarely seen, mostly because it gets tough to stay in touch with someone too depressed to answer your calls. And I’ve been effectively without family for years, as I’m estranged from my father (for very good reasons) and had no contact with my late mother’s side of the family for decades.
Recently, though, I reconnected with my favorite maternal cousin from my teen years. I hadn’t really felt like I was missing anything by not having an extended family — as I’ve said before, family for me was always something to build, not something that was already there — but once I made contact with her, and became part of that family tree again, I was overwhelmed. Cousin Laura is even trying to get some photographs of my mother for me, which is wonderful as my mom died when I was a baby and I’ve never had any.
For years, the one relationship that has never faltered, the relationship that, indeed, a therapist said she thought had literally saved my life, has been my relationship with my son. He’s at university now, thriving, and we’re as close as ever. Watching him grow as a man is as marvelous as watching him grow as a boy…though there is an undeniable sadness that the boy has flown. I will never accomplish more than a sliver of what I want to, what I could have had it not been for my depression…but I was an incredible father and I have an incredible son and we love each other. As accomplishments go, there are none I’d value more. Had I not achieved that, whatever else I’d done, I’d consider myself a degenerate failure.
And, of course, there is Nydia, my north star…which is ironic, as she lives in the southern hemisphere, in Brazil. She is the brightest light in my firmament, the direction I travel, my constant destination. We’ve been good friends a few years, and a couple about three, and in spite of the obstacles of a relationship bisected by an equator, we couldn’t be happier. Well, unless we actually lived together all the time rather than for long visits, and that’s in the works.
I’ve never enjoyed another person as much as I enjoy Nyd. She’s smart and funny and creative and passionate and very, very sexy. And our relationship is easy. There is no “work” to it, no hard effort to stay connected or toil to understand. We’re just in sync. We enjoy the same things (which isn’t a requirement in a relationship, but let me tell you, it’s nice). We enjoy each other; when we get together, it’s always for a month or more, together nearly every minute, and it’s pure delight. With her, my spirit is calm, my insecurities fade, and I am able to feel joy in a way that I’d been certain I had lost to my depression.
So, I’m making progress. It’s still difficult, and simple everyday things like dishes and laundry and such are often incredible obstacles, but I’m dragging myself up, and I will keep on keeping on. For the first time in years, I feel like I can beat this dark monster back and actually make something great of the rest of my life rather than just running out the fucking clock till I die.