The Passion of the Tim

"It's just the beast in me..." --Elvis Presley, JAILHOUSE ROCK

Hiatus over.

The past couple of days were rough ones. Kate and I were getting along wonderfully again, then POW, we stumbled over some truly picayune stuff and suddenly were back in the stress zone.

Neither of us acted as well as we might have, both of us being human, but I have to lay claim to the lion’s share of the blame. I overreacted to some things, then my mind wouldn’t let me release it even as I kept trying to. Kate was visiting her family, and wanting to go be with them, and we were arguing via text. I kept saying stuff like “It’s okay, go, I want you to enjoy the time with your family,” and I was sincere…but there was a rhetorical snapping turtle in my head that would only let me sit calmly a minute or two before throwing some new antagonistic comment out and insisting I send it her way. And I would try to maintain self control and not send it, but would lose the fight. Then after some more shared friction, I’d be back to saying I didn’t want to keep her from her family.

And, I wound up damn near destroying our relationship, which we’d managed to rebuild from our earlier problems. By the time I went on “hiatus,” I felt I’d lost all hope, and was so devastated I didn’t think I’d be able to do anything positive or productive for a long time…if ever again. Continue reading

In My Write Mind (ECT)

"Get to work!"

Yesterday proved to be a very interesting counterpoint to the day before.

Whereas Thursday I’d been fogged in and unfocused,  after my ECT session Friday I went home and became nothing but focused.

Actually, it started earlier than that. For the second night in a row I slept terribly, my mind racing with thoughts of recent sadness. It just wouldn’t shut up. By three I was fully awake and couldn’t get back to sleep.

But after suffering a while longer, I realized something. My thoughts weren’t just a stream-of-consciousness parade of feelings and memories, they were self-organizing. My mind was composing sentences and paragraphs, actually editing each thoughtpolishing it up before moving to the next. I hadn’t planned to write anything more about my heartbreak, but my mind clearly disagreed and wasn’t going to leave me alone until I did. I got up and started trying to capture those thoughts, and as I wrote my mind calmed; it had my attention now, it no longer had to yell.

I wrote until it was time to get ready to go to ECT.

When I got back home, I started writing again, shaping all my thoughts into a blog post. I didn’t stop until deep into the evening. The result was a post nearly 3,500 words long (this from the guy who has trouble making 500-1,000 words a day). And it’s a pretty damn good post. I may even post it here, but not right now.

I have, at times in the past, written in journals to deal with tough times, but as far as I remember this is the first time my mind has insisted I do so. And it helped somewhat, especially while I was actually writing, focused on getting everything down. I’m still hurting though; that’s going to take a while to heal.

My brain kept me awake ruminating on the hurts of the past few weeks, then forced  me to write as a way of coping. For a writer, that’s not a bad sign. Perhaps it’s a signal that what’s going on in there right now, sparked by the ECT, is reawakening or reorganizing the parts of my mind that make me a writer in the first place. Maybe it cleared some rubble from the passageways and it’s easier to move around in there again. Or maybe my mind just did what it had to do to keep me from imploding fully into despair.

I’m still depressed. I’m still heartbroken. But I wrote. Was it because of the ECT? I don’t know.

Modern Day Frankenstein (ECT)

Or, to make the reference accurate, Frankenstein’s monster. But that doesn’t have the same ring.

I am just back from my second ECT session, in which they are trying to use lightning to spark life out of that which is dead, meaning my vitality and joy and ability to live fully. So far, we’re lacking an “IT’S ALIVE!” moment, but here’s hoping. We are still at the beginning.

Today wasn’t much different than Wednesday. The biggest difference was the nurse did a worse job putting in the IV and had to dig around a bit to get the catheter properly in the vein. Good times.

So far today I’m more clear-headed and alert than I was yesterday (described here). It’ll be interesting to see how I am tomorrow, if my brain seems to be motoring at a lower RPM, or if yesterday was just a temporary adjustment, if related to the ECT at all.

O Aimless Me (ECT)

Aimless Tim

I suspect it has something to do with my brain reacting to yesterday’s lightning strike, but I am utterly useless today.

I’m unfocused. I don’t feel like going anywhere, or watching anything, or reading, or playing a video game. Unfortunately that leaves me spinning pointlessly through the internet on and on and on, not paying much attention. I have far too much day to spend dwelling on things I need to forget.

Well, there’s a reason they don’t let you drive while in ECT treatment. I guess while the brain works to fix things, it’s burning energy that normally would go to other things, like having an attention span or rational thought. I’m managing to write this, but I’m not really focused on it, and the writing’s slow.

I’m still gung-ho, though. This is kinda an adventure.

Lighting The Spark (ECT Day 1)

Survived.

It wasn’t nearly as harrowing as I expected.

They had me fill out some forms (“I agree that if my cerebellum sizzles like a frying egg, I absolve the cook from all responsibility…”). They encouraged me to empty my bladder, and recommended I put on a Depends diaper because sometimes people wet themselves when they’re on the muscle relaxants. I opted for no diaper. I’d expected to have to don a gown, but they let me keep my clothes on. Continue reading

THUNDER

When I’m writing this, I’m up way too early Monday morning. But when it appears on my blog Wednesday morning, I will be at the ZZZZZZZAAAAAAAAAP lab, possibly already riding the lightning.

To commemorate this first session (which I’ll try to blog about afterward), here’s some AC/DC.

Thanks to all my friends who are with me in spirit as I undergo this treatment…

More Thinking About Writing (Regarding Tools and Positioning)

Recently I’ve blogged about my attempts to optimize my approach to writing day to day, to hopefully become more productive and prolific. A huge part of that, by necessity, is that I have to deal with my depression; if I can’t, I might as well throw in the towel.

This week, I start a course of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), which will hopefully give me the edge in that fight. I’m assuming it will, so I’m working on setting the stage for the writing I plan once it’s over.

Kate gave me a book about writing for my birthday, Chapter By Chapter by Heather Sellers. Generally I find books about writing to be a waste of time for a writer; most of them say essentially the same things, and once you’ve read one, you’ve pretty much read the rest. If you’re trying to be a writer, your time is better spent writing than reading about writing. Till now, I’ve recommended only two books to writers looking for advice, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and On Writing by Stephen King.

Chapter By Chapter is now on that list, and not just because it came to me via hot redhead. Kate chose well; Sellers has some fresh perspectives on the work, and her book has been useful to me as I try to figure these things out.

One chapter proved pertinent to this post, the one about “positioning.” Sellers defines positioning as preparing to do the work, mentally and physically, in advance, so that when it’s time to get to work you can just sit down and write. Part of this is making a routine of connecting with your project every evening, thinking about the next day’s writing, staying involved. The other part of it is making sure you’re physically set up in advance so you don’t have to waste time gathering materials and setting up when you sit down to write again. Continue reading

Shock Me

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with the storm.

I’ve written here about my longtime depression, and my attempts at dealing with it. Last year, I spent a fuckton of money I couldn’t afford trying a treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation, with a local doctor named Brian Teliho. (You can read all about it here and here). I saw it as my last stop before taking the step of ECT, electroconvulsive therapy, the less barbaric modern version of ye olde electroshock. If the TMS didn’t work, I planned in January to sign on for ECT.

Well, the TMS was a complete waste of time and money. But come January, I went back to my regular pattern, which is, frankly, to try to do better. To try to get to the gym regularly. To try to write a bit every day. You can find my little plans and hopes in the posts I wrote here, and as always, the depression won out.

Then, I fell in love, and that did make a difference. Kate improved my life. She inspired me to write. I started to think, y’know, I sure am glad I didn’t do ECT, because all I really needed was Kate.

But the truth of the matter was that, as much as her support and presence helped, it didn’t help nearly enough. When I was with her, I functioned well enough, but most of that functioning was just hanging out with her, enjoying her and sharing things with her. When she was back home, hundreds of miles away, I tried to stay upbeat and buckle down, and I did get some writing done, but the usual fluctuations of energy and motivation were still there. Maintaining that same pace, I’d still get nowhere.

Then, of course, I lost her. I expected that to pretty much destroy me, at least for a while, but as I wrote in my last post, I recovered (mostly) from the trauma of it almost immediately. I was relieved and clear-headed and thoughtful…and I picked up the phone and called the ECT clinic.

The only thing this has to do with Kate is that I wasn’t doing it while I was with her because I was entertaining the false hope that I didn’t need it. This is what I need to do. I should have done it in January. I damn sure should have done it instead of TMS.

It’s a big step. It’s a harrowing process, it costs a lot (though not as much out of pocket as TMS, which insurance won’t cover), and there are dangers. The biggest danger is memory loss and possible losses in cognition; as a father, I’m terrified of losing memories of my son, and as a writer I’m worried I’ll lose the particular synergy between left brain and right which allows me to use language and imagery in the fanciful ways I do.

But you know what? If I can’t actually make myself write often enough to produce anything, it doesn’t matter how great that synergy is. And if I wind up losing all hope and killing myself, I lose my son altogether and worse, he loses me.

So, I have an appointment with the storm, and I’m going to ride the lightning.

Wish me luck.

Looking For Advice: Writing On The Ipad

I’m working on changing my work habits as a writer, and part of that is changing tools. Over the years I’ve progressed from fountain pen and legal pad to manual typewriter to desktop PC to portable pre-laptop to laptop to notebook to netbook…

Now, I’m typing this on my brand spankin’ new iPad 2, composing in Simplenote for cut & paste into WordPress. I’m loving the device as a new toy, but got it primarily to be my new main writing tool.

I knew in advance that I wasn’t going to be satisfied typing on the touchscreen’s virtual keyboard (which I’m doing right now, and it’s about like I expected it to be). So I have an order in for a Bluetooth keyboard to use with it, allowing me to use the combo pretty much as a netbook.

Thing is, I’m trying to decide what app or combination of apps is best to use for writing books. So if any writers out there have been down this road already, please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.

As I said, I’m using Simplenote right now. I also installed Plaintext to try, and have seen quite a few folks recommend IA Writer. Ideally I’d be able to automatically, or at least easily, sync files to Dropbox or something similar so that I could freely switch to other machines as need be. In that vein, I’m curious about DocsToGo as well.

I had also been thinking of starting to use Scrivener for Windows, and still might if there’s a good way to get it to interact with whatever app I wind up using on the iPad.

Again, if you have any experience with this stuff, please share.

“Wild Soul – Nature, Civilization, and the Ecological Spirit” (Now Available, Just 99¢)

 

JUST 99¢!!!

My essay “WILD SOUL – Nature, Civilization, and the Ecological Spiritis now available from Amazon as a Kindle download for 99 cents.

In the near future, it will be going up at other online venues, in other ebook formats. (If you don’t have a Kindle, you can still read Kindle books with free programs downloadable from Amazon, like Kindle for PC. I read Kindle books on my iPhone and desktop computer.)

Traditional tales across the world describe mankind’s joyful rise in a wild paradise like the Garden of Eden. But they also tell of our fall from such lives of bliss and natural grace.

Our technology, our cities, our toys, our wealth, all have done nothing to ground us as individuals or as societies. If they had, we would live in a near Utopia, rather than the reelingly chaotic and violent world-on-the-brink around us, for surely our affluence and level of comfort is greater than it has been for any people in the history of the earth.

Is Eden forever lost, or is there a way back?

Can we access that marvelous, mythic place in our souls, find a path to its joyful, natural wonders? Or have we slumbered so long in civilized ways that our vital selves are banished for the rest of time?

Can we reclaim the power of the primitive without denying ourselves the comforts and wonders of the modern world?

Exploring sources ranging from the Old Testament and Eastern mysticism, from poetry to popular fiction, from ancient fable to contemporary deep psychology, novelist Tim Byrd finds the prescription for our ills.

We need to live and love more fully, and do things that matter.

We need a renewal of a sense of sacredness towards the natural world, and intimacy with that world.

We need wild soul.

Of Forests and Men

There is some spectacular and gorgeous footage of forests in this video. Which is apropos, as it’s about forests.

Yann Arthus-Bertrand was appointed by the United Nations to produce the official film for the International Year of Forests.

Following the success of Home which was seen by 400 million people, the photographer began producing a short 7-minute film on forests made up of aerial images from Home and the Vu du Ciel television programmes.

This film will be shown during a plenary session of the Ninth Session of United Nations Forum on Forests (24 January – 4 February 2011) in New York. It will be available to all from February 2 – for free – so that it can be shown worldwide.

goodplanet.org/​forets

My TMS Adventure [UPDATED]

I mentioned in a post yesterday that last year, trying desperate measures to deal with my lifelong chronic depression, I’d looked into ECT (electroconvulsive therapy), and while researching it, found out about a newer, less harsh treatment called Neurostar transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

TMS seemed very promising. A sort of less powerful electro-shock which uses a targeted electromagnetic charge (about as strong as an MRI) to stimulate an area in the prefrontal lobe of the brain that controls mood, it lacked the potentially dire side effects of ECT, such as memory loss. It was a simple in-patient procedure that didn’t require anesthesia every time, as ECT does, so you don’t pay for an anesthesiologist and have to have someone drive you home every day because you’re so out of it. And the claims for its results, and the longevity of its effectiveness, sounded very appealing.

The biggest downside to trying it: insurance doesn’t cover it. It’s only been FDA-okayed for treatment of major depression since 2008 and insurance companies, always leery of paying for anything, haven’t accepted its use yet.

Still, it sounded promising, and nothing else had worked to any significant degree, and I was quite leery of ECT (which insurance does cover). So I decided to go for it.

There were a couple of places in Atlanta I could go, and I opted to be treated by Dr. Brian Teliho because he was the less expensive option. The course of treatment was a session every day Monday through Friday for 4-6 weeks, depending on how the patient responded.

Each session cost $300, so I was paying $1500 a week. This is a lot of fucking money for me, as it would be for most people.

But, I was desperate. Continue reading

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.

Depression

If you suffer from depression, you should watch the video below.

If you know someone who suffers from depression, you should watch it too.

The video is a lecture by Dr. Robert Sapolsky, a brilliant biologist (of the neuroendocrinologist sort) at Stanford. It’s less than an hour in length, and Sapolsky is a very engaging speaker who makes complicated topics very easy to understand.

I’ve suffered from depression for most of my life, been in therapy, read a book on it here and there….and in less than sixty minutes, Sapolsky gave me a much clearer vision of exactly what the hell is going on in my mind and soul. It’s enlightening, and somewhat terrifying.

I was particularly taken with his explanation about how nature (genetics) and nurture (trauma) can interact and literally change the way the brain functions. I already knew that emotional events could have lasting neurological effects, but now I understand how that probably happens. He explains very clearly how, say, a miserable childhood and possession of a certain gene can do crushing damage not just to a person’s psyche but to their brain chemistry. (Which reminds me of the Andrew Vachs column on emotional abuse I blogged about here).

You should watch.

Your Prostate Might Want a Cup of Joe

As a manly man who drinks a lot of coffee, I was pleased at this new report:

“Coffee has effects on insulin and glucose metabolism as well as sex hormone levels, all of which play a role in prostate cancer. It was plausible that there may be an association between coffee and prostate cancer,” said Kathryn M. Wilson, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the Channing Laboratory, Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health.

In a prospective investigation, Wilson and colleagues found that men who drank the most coffee had a 60 percent lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer than men who did not drink any coffee. This is the first study of its kind to look at both overall risk of prostate cancer and risk of localized, advanced and lethal disease.

“Few studies have looked prospectively at this association, and none have looked at coffee and specific prostate cancer outcomes,” said Wilson. “We specifically looked at different types of prostate cancer, such as advanced vs. localized cancers or high-grade vs. low-grade cancers.”

Caffeine is actually not the key factor in this association, according to Wilson. The researchers are unsure which components of the beverage are most important, as coffee contains many biologically active compounds like antioxidants and minerals.

Time for me to make a pot.