Help! I Need Somebody… (ABC Wednesday, 3/5/14)

Helping Hand

[Wednesday falls on Friday today…it’s been that sort of week]

Do you understand suicide?

I do. I don’t want to do it, but I have it on my list of options. Worst case scenario sort of thing. This is because I have chronic, often debilitating depression, and it often makes me doubt I have the ability to maintain my life for its natural duration.

Lose the people I love, not able to take it? Suicide’s an option. Don’t sell enough books and fall into poverty? Suicide’s an option, better than living in a soggy box under a bridge. Fall into a permanent depressive funk in which I can’t even take care of myself day-to-day (which is what started to happen to me last year, which is why I re-entered therapy, got back on the meds, and had electroshock therapy for the second time in three years)? Suicide is always there.

It’s like the cyanide capsule hidden in my molar, ready to be crunched in dire circumstances.

Not a day passes that I don’t think about it, at least in passing. It’s a bloodsoaked thread woven through the fabric of my life, not dominant but always dripping. It’s been this way for years.

Do I think I’ll do it some day? No. Would I be surprised if I did? No.

So yeah, I understand suicide. It is dark and terrible and fucked up, but it can also be practical. Or at least seem so to a mind in pain.

I tell you that so that you know I’m talking to you from the darkness. It can be tough to tell most of the time, because I’m largely a low-key yet upbeat guy, forthright about my problems but not whiny or melancholy or gloomy to be around. But I live in the darkness of this disease, and I speak as something of an expert. And the thing I want to tell you is this:

Help them.

If you have someone in your life who suffers from depression:

Help them.

One of the hardest things to do is to ask for help. I will go days without doing the dishes, or taking out the trash,  or going to get the mail, or showering. I’ll avoid the phone and not answer emails. I am utterly useless during those times, and I am mostly without hope. During times like this, I lose all my faith that I can do the things I want to do with my life. I think of the places I’ll never go, the people I’ll never get to hang out with, the books I will never be able to write, and I despair.

I hate asking for help. So I don’t. But I need it.

So, if you know someone with depression:

Help them.

I think there are many lives lost that may have been saved had the people who cared about the folks in pain actually found meaningful ways to be there for them. It can be a burden, yes. But if you care for them, you won’t think of it in those terms, or at least won’t let them know you feel that way. Help them get the professional assistance they need. Cook them a meal every week. Help them clean their home (even little things like taking out the damned trash can make a difference). Talk to them, show them you care about them, show them you have faith in them.

Help them.

You may just save their life.

H

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter I. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

Also, feel free try to check out my adventure novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of DoomIt’s been very well reviewed (KIRKUS REVIEWS: “Written in fast-paced, intelligent prose laced with humor and literary allusions ranging from Dante to Dr. Seuss, the story has all of the fun of old-fashioned pulp adventures.”) and is great for action-adventure lovers of all ages.

DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOM

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

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If You Have Ghosts… (ABC Wednesday, 2/26/14)

Ghosts

Late at night
When I’m standing in a darkened room
I can feel your eyes on me
Watching me
Everything that I do
Watching me
And I know that it’s true…

I know you’re haunting me
I know you’re haunting me
I can’t see you there
But I know you’re with me everywhere
I know you’re haunting me…

Thats all I remember of a (mediocre) song I wrote roughly thirty years ago, which makes me sound a lot older than I feel. It, of course, conflates the natural obsession with a loved one lost with the supernatural presence of things unseen. It doesn’t take a ghost to haunt us, the world is full of people and things and events that can serve that purpose just fine. The things that we carry past their time, the things that obsess us, the things, for good or ill, that mold us, those things are our ghosts, metaphorically speaking.

But are there literal ghosts out there, haunting folks, drifting down cold hallways, moaning like they’re having the saddest possible orgasm, posing for blobular, out-of-focus pictures?

When I was a kid, I had what some folks would deem an encounter with a ghost, though others would reckon it an alien visitation. Lying in my bed one night, curled under my blankets, I saw a strange light outside my window that spooked the hell out of me. Though the light faded, I still felt like there was a presence out there, a presence I wanted nothing to do with. So I rolled over to face the wall, putting my back to the window in an act of sheer denial. Nope. I didn’t see anything. I didn’t feel any sort of presence, that would just be crazy.

A minute or three passed. Then, my sense that something — someone — was there got a lot stronger. I became convinced it was in the room with me. I didn’t want to look, but I had to; denial only goes so far. So I peeked.

Something was at the foot of the bed, standing there. It was indistinct, but it was taller than most adults. And it was glowing in the darkness.

I wanted to scream for my father. But I knew with dread certainty that if I did, the thing would vanish before he got to my room, and he’d be pissed that I woke him. My father pissed off was an ugly thing. I also feared that once he went back to bed, the glowing figure would come back. And having it return seemed even more terrifying than it being there in the first place.

So I squeezed my eyes shut and turned back toward the wall. I would just continue to ignore it until it went away.

Then, somehow, it reached through my covers…and touched my right shin. What I felt seemed to be cold, hard, bone fingers, as if the thing were a skeleton.

I started, my heart pounding, but stayed in position, eyes tightly closed, face toward the wall.

The fingers, if that was what they were, withdrew.

And I lay there for what seemed hours, until I no longer sensed the thing. I looked, and it was gone.

I have no idea what it was, or even if it was just a particularly vivid nightmare. As an avowed skeptic, I try to think it was just that, but it has the weight of true memory and sometimes I acknowledge I believe something did visit me that night. Maybe.

Like I said: skeptic.

Once upon a time, such an encounter might have been seen as a visit from the fae. Now, as I mentioned earlier, there are many similar tales told by folks who think an extraterrestrial came to see them. My maternal grandmother told me it was my mother (who died when I was a baby) coming to see me. But would my mother have seemed so sinister, so terrifying, so horrible?

Had to be a dream.

 G

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter H. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

Also, if you’re in the mood for ghostly doings, check out my story “Dead Folks,” available on Amazon for only 99 centsWhat would you do if your town was mysteriously inundated with the corpses of historical figures?

Dead Folks

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

Ermahgerd! Electricity! (ABC Wednesday, 2/12/14)

Thor's Wrath

Recently, Jesus gave Zeus the finger. Or, rather, Zeus took it.

There was a huge lightning storm over Rio de Janeiro and a bolt blasted the statue of Christ which looks over the city, knocking off one of His fingers. While you’d think that Jesus could protect Himself from such an attack, it’s probably not our place as mere mortals to adjudicate the MMA matches of the gods.

Lightning is a scary thing, electricity in its most feral state. Crackling death from above. Surprisingly, though, only about 10% of people who have intimate encounters with it don’t survive. Some that do are scarred with fractal maps in their skin, branching networks of sizzling branchwork like tattoos of evergreen fronds or ivy.

               

I’ve had a special relationship with lightning for years, starting, I guess, when I was struck by lightning when I was a teenager. I survived. I had no visible scars. I wasn’t even hurt, as far as anyone could tell.

It happened one stormy day. A friend and I were cavorting in the rain, chasing each other, jumping at the crashes of thunder, laughing our asses off. Ultimately, soaked and getting cold, we headed for his house. We splashed in, drenched, and his mother informed us that there was a tornado warning. Later, we found out one had touched down less than a mile away. She insisted we dry off, so we headed to the bathroom, and as we entered, a bolt of lightning crashed through the window (open, as his mother had forgotten to close it for the rain, so I think the lightning was riding the breeze as lightning can do). It went through my friend and me, knocking us off our feet, and scorched the floor under our feet.

We were incredibly lucky. Neither of us was hurt, though we were scared shitless and our ears were ringing. This amount of luck in a lightning strike is rare but not unheard of; most burn damage resulting from a strike is from superheated objects (like change in someone’s pocket, for example), and most deaths result from cardiac arrest. We were both young and fit, so if our hearts were spooked by the blast, we didn’t know it. We didn’t even go to the ER.

Of course, not all damage is visible. Brain damage is a common effect of lightning strikes and can lead to memory impairment, irritability, terrible headaches, even personality change. And, unsurprisingly, depression. And, as regular readers of this blog know, I have depression big time.

Through therapy, I’ve learned that much of my struggle is attributable to loss of my mother as a baby and familial abuse throughout my formative years. But it’s possible the strike contributed.

But electricity in the brain has also proven helpful in my fight. I’ve had two rounds of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy, aka shock treatment) in the past few years, the second as recently as last November and December. My depression is a stubborn, mean mother fucker and was highly resistant to everything we were throwing at it until we decided to sing the brain electric. Afterward, my short term memory is sort of crap (though it already was, as depression itself is hell on the memory), but my focus and motivation are remarkably improved. This strategic use of electricity blasted straight into my brain has been literally life-changing. The fact that you’re reading this now, and that I’m blogging again in general, is directly attributable to it.

So, thank you, Zeus, thank you Thor, thank you spirits of thunder and lightning. Thank you for not killing me years ago, and thank you for saving my life now.

E

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter F. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

Also, my adventure novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom is currently on sale to celebrate Valentine’s Day

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

The Creature from the Blog Lagoon (ABC Wednesday, 1/29/14)

C is for Creature

We all know the creature.

The monster. The dangerous thing, stalking, creeping, hunting in the silence of the night. Hairy, clawed, savage. Less than human…or is it?

For me, and many others who grew up with Universal monster movies, the word creature evokes the Creature From The Black Lagoon. Who, when you get down to it, is clawed and savage, but not so hairy. The Creature stalks and kidnaps the gorgeous Julie Adams, mesmerized by her preternatural beauty, no doubt with thoughts of ichthyological rape and scaly little spawn cavorting in the lagoon’s dark waters. The movie he’s in is undeniably a “monster movie,” but is he a monster? No. But he is, obviously, a beast, an animal, an inhuman thing. A creature. He operates on instinct more than thought, and in his case, because he comes into conflict with anti-instinctual man, it proves his undoing. Had he stayed hidden, not tried to woo, in his way, the beauty (a common failing among beasts), he would never have been harpooned, brought to man’s world, had his gills sliced off (a clumsy attempt to make a man of him), and ultimately killed.

Stories often warn us that this is what will happen if we let our creature side out. Our instinct. Our wild. Our Id. We aren’t animals, right? Never mind the blood and bile, our often maddening emotional lives, our wonderfully messy means of procreation. The fangs in our mouths, the hair on our pelts.

I’ve always been fascinated with werewolves, and themes of transformation often manifest in my writing. Often the transfiguration is into a wilder state, like the werewolf, rather than an “ascended” state. But is it therefore a devolution? Or is it an imperfect call toward wholeness? I believe we are at our best when we are comfortable with both sides of our nature, the primal and the thoughtful, the rational and the passionate. Be a creature and be a man. Be a creature and be a woman. Be complete.

Evolution isn’t a paved road away from the creature, it’s a forest path toward a better creature.

C

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter D. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

The Secret To Desire

By the light...

Interested in long term romantic relationships? Marriage? Sexual satisfaction? Sexual adventure?

Give a listen to this TED Talk by Psychotherapist Esther Perel, the author of Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic. I think she’s on the right track.

The Nature of Apology

I’ve been thinking, of late, about apologies.

Saying “I’m sorry” is an act of humility, and of strength. But it can also just be a tool used, insincerely, to alleviate conflict and evade direct responsibility for one’s actions.

Interestingly, this week I had someone pull out an apology I had made to them months ago and try to use it as a bludgeon against me. She pointed to the fact that I had apologized to her, for whatever part I had in the collapse of our friendship, as proof that I was not only fully at fault but downright malicious. That’s right: by apologizing, I had apparently admitted to complete culpability and that culpability proves that I’m a vicious bastard.

Had I not apologized for anything, like her, I’d presumably have the high ground. I’d be free of all guilt. I’d be the victim.

For the record, if I sat down with you and tried to tell you what the hell happened, what I did that was worth throwing a friendship away for, I couldn’t do it. I’m as perplexed now as I was then. And ultimately it doesn’t matter, because clearly a friendship so cagey and fragile is no friendship at all, and its demise is to be celebrated, not mourned.

She was the one who turned hostile. She was the one who literally refused to discuss whatever was happening. She was the one who responded to my apology by blocking me on Facebook. She was the one who then wrote a lengthy blog post that wasn’t about me, but in which she defined herself by listing things she doesn’t like, which happened to be things I like (pulp fiction, comics, Bruce Springsteen) which she had apparently been pretending interest in to get close to me for months.

So, if I say I’m not sure what I did to enrage her so much, and that she acted with such unreasoning hostility, why did I apologize in the first place? Continue reading

Kate Elliott’s Omniscient Breasts

I’m usually annoyed when someone pulls out the “male gaze” concept in a discussion of art and culture. While the idea has undeniable merit, it is often wielded as a bludgeon of ABSOLUTE TRUTH. In other words, men like looking at sexy women and it ruins the world, do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars.

I happen to think that much of this sort of thing has its roots in the innate differences in men’s and women’s cognitive wiring. That doesn’t mean we should just accept the baseline set by our neurology as the sole standard to consider, but it does mean that there’s probably nothing wrong with men liking to look at sexy women, or vice versa, or even having art that caters to such desire.

Still, just as we aspire to more than simple orgasm in our relationships, we should aspire to higher levels of cultural relationship as well. At the very least, we should think about these things, and consider how the ways that we think and create impact the way we relate to each other.

Author Kate Elliott has written a very balanced, thoughtful post considering the male gaze (and other gazes) in fiction, and I recommend it for everyone, but particularly for writers. She avoids the fanatic’s tendency to use the concept as a blanket condemnation of men and their wicked staring eyes, which I appreciate as a man with a finely tuned male gaze of my own, and shares some insights I’ve never considered. I’m a better person, and likely a better writer, for having read it.

You can read it here.