Categories
Adventures

Poetry

In between two of my trips to the mental ward in March of 2010, I was driving around town on St. Patrick’s Day. I was driving around randomly while manic, late at night. I actually had no idea then, or now, what time it was or what day it was, I just knew it was dark. I realized it was St. Patrick’s Day because I had gone into a gas station near the university and seen tons of college kids dressed in green buying beer.  As I was driving away from the gas station, I saw a rather rotund man yelling at a cop. He was holding a sign, and seated on a milk crate. The cop was still in his cruiser, with the window rolled down. He was having some sort of exchange with the man, but after a few minutes, the officer gave up and drove off.  I was driving in the opposite direction, and after the police drove away, I turned around and pulled up to the gentleman on the milk crate.  He was sitting there on the crate: holding a sign, as you do when you’re homeless and begging for change. He appeared to be in his late 60s, wearing a green jacket, a hat, and sporting a gray beard. I rolled my window down and offered, “Hey, you need a ride?” He replied in the affirmative; after all it was fairly cold. I asked him if he wanted a beer, so I stopped at the gas station again and grabbed him a tall can of something like Fosters.  I got a few for myself as well.

I introduced myself, and asked his name. He told me it was Harry. “Where do you want to go,” I asked. He replied that it didn’t matter, so I wandered around for a while on the darkened streets of my city, mostly empty because it was late at night, I suppose. Eventually we made our way back to the apartment building where I recently had lived. My room had since been emptied and locked, and I had been dispossessed of my key. We spent a few minutes trying to see if there was any way to cheat the lock and get inside, as it was fairly cold, but alas, we could not. We kind of just hung out there, outside the place, drinking beer and carrying on late into the night, waking up half the apartment building. As I found out later, tenants claimed a big party involving many people was going on outside, late into the night.  Eventually, after all the beer was finished, we retired back to my little Saturn, and I turned the heat on.  At this point, Harry mentioned that he wrote poetry, and had been a Vietnam veteran. He asked me if I would like to hear one of his poems. I replied that I would.

Harry produced a worn out sheaf of yellow, dog-eared notebook papers and began to read. I listened with rapt attention. I don’t remember clearly what he said now, as I was in the middle of going rather insane, but I seem to recall one line clearly: “I cried so many tears.” His poem was about his life, what he had seen, and he shared with me his wisdom. I regret that I never got a copy of it, but again, insanity. It was warm in the car, and after we shared this poem I told him I was going to sleep, and that he was welcome to sleep next to me in the passenger seat. He took me up on my offer and we both dozed off.

Maybe three hours later we both woke up, restless, the car still running and pouring out heat. I asked him if he wanted to make a campfire, and he said sure, so I started driving. I took him a ways to my parents’ house (where I wasn’t really welcome), and we walked back to the yard, and sat around the fire pit behind the shed.  I produced my Swiss Army knife and started shaving wood. I don’t remember what we used to start it, but there was plenty of wood, and it didn’t take too long to get a nice big fire going. We relaxed a bit, and he rolled up a pant leg and showed me a big sore from an injury he had got a while back. We sat around the fire and talked some more and he read me another poem. I asked him to read me the first poem he had read to me again. He did, and I listened again, hearing the emotion in his voice. I was overcome by the heartfelt nature of this art he had created. We sat around the fire for a while longer, and then eventually it was time to go. I think he knew better than me that he did not belong there, in the suburban world of the housed, where people get things like health insurance and a paycheck. At some point in the night of our adventure, he had lost his panhandling sign, and he asked if I could get him some cardboard and a marker. I dashed back to the house and returned after a brief search. He made himself a new sign and we departed again.

I asked him where he wanted to be let off as we were nearing a highway off-ramp, and he insisted that right where we were, at the exit, was fine. I questioned him, asked him if I could buy him some food, but he declined. So I left him there, alone, with his sign, on the off-ramp. I drove away, with tears in my eyes. I never saw Harry again, but I’ll never forget him.

Categories
Thoughts

Stories

Humans rely on stories: the stories we tell our community, our family, our friends, and ourselves. We tell stories about why the weather turned bad. We tell stories about why we are here and where we’re going. We tell stories about why our loved ones pass away. Some of the most important stories we tell are the stories we tell about ourselves.

My own story comes in two versions: the one I tell others, and the one I tell myself. The one I tell others serves as a vehicle to explain my thoughts, feelings, and behavior to the outside world. The version I tell myself is similar, just not sanitized and much more negative and critical. I have found that this version of my story has been very self-limiting, as it has inhibited change and growth. I have avoided making changes by telling myself things like “That is impossible, you will fail because it’s always been this way.” There is good news, however: this is just a story. Because it’s just a story, it can be changed. This change can even occur rather quickly, without much resistance.

I feel that last point is what my recovery boils down to at the moment – if I can change the story I tell myself, anything is possible.

Categories
Health Thoughts

Failure

Funny thing, failure. It’s an unavoidable feature of life. I have tried my best to avoid failure and yet failure seemed to always find me. In the somewhat recent past I avoided failure by not trying. I avoided failure by avoiding making decisions. I mistakenly thought that this approach kept me safe, because if you don’t risk anything, you can’t fail. This approach was in response to repeated personal disasters in my life. These disasters included dropping out of school twice, as well as multiple hospitalizations and arrests due to mental health crises, related to untreated bipolar disorder and substance abuse. On top of that, my 20’s were marked by a general inability to get a career, friendships or relationships on track during that time. The weight of all this failure was felt deeply in 2010, a year in which I was arrested twice, went to jail, and was in 3 different mental hospitals and a rehab. This insane 4 month span of my life conspired to make me extremely risk averse and cautious. Once I managed to gain some mental health and life stability, I was determined to hang on to it at all costs. I was terrified of losing my freedom again. Hence the strategy of not trying, and extreme avoidance of any potential risk. One positive of this strategy is that I did manage to quit drinking alcohol completely. Quitting this one substance has turned out to have a huge positive impact on my life. On the whole though, this strategy of doing nothing as a way to avoid disaster, well, it quite ironically failed miserably.

This four year period of complete risk aversion, from 2010 to 2014, was in some ways much worse than the instability and chaos of my life before. Suicidal depression became the constant issue, and even though I had quit drinking and was taking medication, my mental health was not close to an ideal state. I basically retreated from the world for four years and took no risks. I was for the most part extremely miserable. I couldn’t hide that fact. I wasn’t trying to do anything with my life. At one point I was literally only smoking a large amount of weed, playing video games and eating and sleeping. I couldn’t shake the depression or the suicidal ideation. I suppose part of me knew there was more to life than that, and also knew I could do something interesting with my life, potentially. That knowledge just added to my despair because I believed I couldn’t achieve or accomplish anything. The difficulty was that in order to change my situation and get out of the spot I was stuck in, I would need to take risks and step into the unknown. By August of 2014, the depression and suicidal ideation I was experiencing during this period had finally become completely untenable. I found myself in a do or die moment.

I came to a place where I had to risk failure, or just continue to suffer in the pathetic misery of doing nothing with my life. I wrote a private essay on this website about how I felt no hope and wanted to die. I shared it with a trusted friend, who expressed to me serious concern. Through this process, it had finally become painfully apparent to me that my strategy of doing nothing, and taking no risks, wasn’t working. Someone in my life at that time suggested I check out addiction recovery, so on the couch that night some time in September, of 2014, I resolved to sober up and start making changes. It’s been mostly uphill since then. I’ve been hit with setbacks, and had some failures, but a lot more success than not. Part of learning to be successful has been coming to grips with the fact that failure and struggle are inevitable, especially for someone with my set of diagnoses (Bipolar Type 1, Anxiety, PTSD, Substance Abuse). My failures since September of 2014 need to be framed in the context of successful stability and sobriety. I haven’t used substances, I haven’t had a manic/psychotic episode, I’ve been able to successfully attend school and work. I completed a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. I’ve been active in volunteering communities, leading support groups and giving talks to audiences of peers, family members of the ill, and first responders. At times my stability has taken a hit, and I had to readjust. I even had to go back to the hospital at one point. I’m more able to accept setbacks not as failures but as opportunities for change and growth. It hasn’t always been fun, it hasn’t always been non-stop success. Sometimes, just existing has been pretty tough, especially when depression has me in its grips. At times I’ve contemplated getting drunk or high or just killing myself as a way out. I guess my brain just goes there organically. But I want to live. I want to fight. I want to matter. I have a choice: sit back, do nothing and decay, or get on with living and keep moving forward no matter what. I’m going forward.

Categories
Dreams

features of mania

One of the most common features of my bipolar mania were religious delusions. In the throes of a severe manic episode, at one time I came to believe that I had been immaculately conceived and was on Earth to announce the return of Jesus. At another time I believed I was the Anti-Christ. Both of those times, it made complete sense in my head. The universe was directing me for my special purpose. Luckily at no point was I able to perform any miracles. It’s interesting that my delusions were specifically based in Christianity, the faith I was raised in. Both of those delusions fell away as I verged into psychosis, with my thinking becoming increasingly scattered and incoherent, in 2010, during the worst mental health crisis of my life. Not that believing you are a prophet is coherent, but the place beyond that in terms of insanity is amazingly worse.

Another feature of mania, and a most common one for me, was aggression and anger. This was unfortunately directed at other people at times, and it was not good for everyone involved. Other times, it was directed at the invisible, external forces guiding events, allegedly. I still sometimes rage at the absurd farce that is humans being cruel to other humans. I sometimes rage at the inherent unfair nature of existence. Obviously, as a mostly reasonable and sane person today, I have to set aside those problems I have with reality. Firstly because I need to accept the situation of existence on some level in order to function. Secondly because there’s nothing I can do about any of it. Naturally, I find the whole state of affairs that is “reality” quite ridiculous and upsetting (and really it deserves the air quotes). I’m sure at this point I sound petulant, but that’s tolerable. I simultaneously view my opinion of reality as a character defect while also being mostly correct. Unfortunately for me, when I’m manic, this character defect tends to go off the charts.

I think it was maybe 2006, summer time. I had some friends over, I made a camp fire. There was weed and alcohol involved. I don’t remember all the details because I was losing control. I was at home with parents. There were arguments, me with them, my friends with them. The fire. I threw some makeshift, symbolic cardboard sign I made into it. Everyone left or went to sleep and I was still wide awake. I was in my clothes, in blue jeans, jumped in the pool anyway. I started shouting angrily at nothing, cursing God, cursing Satan, daring them both individually over and over to kill me, letting them know they wouldn’t do shit. Informing the nothing I was shouting at that I didn’t believe in it. Just raging. Probably at nothing, because I’m still alive. I’m still here and would still like to file a complaint with the management of this universe. It was a long time after that when I would finally be okay for a moment, here and there. That happens more often today. I’m okay, some of the time. It could be a hell of a lot worse, because it has been, before.

Categories
Thoughts

Struggle

Everyone has some problems, some struggle. But my problems aren’t even that important or bothersome in the grand scheme of things. Except for one problem. The one, all-encompassing problem that has affected me my entire life: my thinking. My thinking, mainly about my situation and about myself makes every day a struggle. I don’t know how to turn off the negative critic. I’ve tried meditation, positive affirmations, therapy, group therapy, work in recovery, support groups, writing. Is it hatred of myself? Probably. Has it always been this way? Yes, to some degree, but as I’ve gotten older it’s actually gotten quite a lot worse, as I continually realize I’ve never accomplished anything significant with my life. As I’ve been in recovery and been sober for the last five plus years, in some ways it’s actually gotten much worse.

I have 5 years of trying to get my life together under my belt and don’t feel I really have anything to show for it. I have no drugs or alcohol to numb the pain or quiet the negative critic. I’m stuck with my self-destructive thoughts, and sometimes I just relentlessly attack myself. I realize some things have changed and that my perspective is twisted around, but I don’t know how to get out of this spot I’m in. I just want some days where it’s not a complete struggle. Is that too much to ask?

Categories
Politics

How to fix the American Welfare System

I think it’s time to bring back two old programs started under The New Deal: with the Civilian Conservation Corp and the Works Progress Administration

The benefit was that people that were unemployed were given meaningful work to do. I have four main suggestions.

1) Get people to do work improving infrastructure, cleaning up cities and towns, and building public amenities, like they used to do in the 1930’s and 40’s.

2) Remove the marriage penalty for getting welfare, to discourage the decline of nuclear families on benefits. In some states, marriage means you get fewer or no benefits, making parents more likely to split up or not live together.

3) Remove the welfare cliff so people on benefits don’t get punished for working as you earn more money. Instead of dropping off welfare completely and suffering a net loss for working, have the benefits gradually step down so you are encouraged to work and actually able to build up a savings.

4) Increase the food benefit – people should not have to depend on charity food banks to meet their basic food needs. It’s an abdication of responsibility by our society to offload these concerns onto private charities.

5) Medicare For All – healthcare is a human right. It should be available for all. Not having access to healthcare is a huge barrier to living a life of dignity and decency.

I strongly believe that when people are sure their basic needs will be met, and aren’t stressed and occupied with basic day to day survival, most people receiving these benefits will be much more likely to participate and engage with meaningful work. I believe more people would work, compared to the current system where those on benefits live under the threat of losing their safety net unless they work.

The system as it is designed today is fairly cruel.

The real question is something along the lines of: “why do the wealthy political elites allow the status quo to continue?”

The answer is because they can pat themselves on the back and say, “Look at all the programs we’ve created for the poor! We’re doing something!” In reality, the poor are ghettoized and cordoned off from middle and upper class society so that the rest of us don’t have to face what their lives are like.

Wealth and income inequality present an existential threat to society.

“The rich get richer. It’s the law of the land.”

Categories
Poetry

Warm Winter Haiku

Sixty degrees and

The term winter means nothing

Chinese global hoax

Categories
Dreams

Dream Journal – Dirk Gently and the T-Rex

This dream didn’t feel like it lasted too long. It happened during a 2 hour nap. In the dream, I am Dirk Gently’s assistant. I’m with the Dirk Gently from the new show. The show is based on the Douglas Adams novels by the same name, Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective. In the dream, I am in a radioactive wasteland. Outside, there’s a radioactive storm. The dream begins with Dirk Gently and I exploring a staircase in an old, rusted, molded over industrial building. We ascend to the top of this warehouse/factory, and I recall in the dream thinking it looks exactly like the interior environments in the video game Fallout 4. I’ve played Fallout this year. As we conclude exploring the building, we step outside into the radiation storm. I happen upon a large egg, the size of an ostrich egg. It takes both hands to hold it. As I am holding it, the egg warms and begins to hatch, with one end of the shell breaking and then falling off. Inside is a baby T-Rex, which crawls out and into my hands.

The dream then immediately moves to the inside of an industrial building, possibly the same one from earlier.  Inside is the body of a dead piglet. On the wall is what I recognize as a soul-switcher, kind of like the one in the tv show. We then hook up the piglet to one end of the soul-switcher and the baby T-Rex to the other. I don’t recall anyone flipping a switch, but suddenly there’s a huge flash of blue electricity which fills the room. The T-Rex soul goes into the piglet, resurrecting its body, and then the piglet soul goes into the dinosaur’s body. I recall distinctly in the dream thinking this is what was happening. I then observed the piglet acting like a dinosaur and the dinosaur acting like a pig. Dirk and I spoke a few words, of which I cannot remember. I then saw each animal firing out their blue aura in the form of electricity. The piglet projected it’s internal T-Rex aura and the T-Rex did the same with it’s piglet aura. I don’t recall anything bad happening although I seemed to think it was dangerous. Then the dream ended.

Categories
Dreams

Dream Journal – Hope Diamond Heist

This dream began with me driving my 1990 Oldsmobile 98 up a winding road towards a large castle. It was in the country and looked nothing like the actual Kensington District of London, which I’ve visited in real life. After driving alongside a large castle or university type building, the road lead through some hedges into an archway. The next thing I remember is being in a basement room of this complex with Tom Cruise, who was dressed as a British cop or security officer. I think he was looking over one of his guns, and I handed him a gift. We both shared a laugh.

Categories
Dreams

Dream Journal – Pancakes

It began with me in a public park during the morning. I wanted pancakes. Apparently I was at a pancake breakfast. I observed a big block of ice with pancakes inside, so I began chipping away at it, melting the ice. Eventually, there was only a little ice left, so I left for a moment to let the sun finish thawing out the ice. I’m not sure where I left for or for how long.

When I returned, my pancakes were gone. I immediately flew into a rage at the theft of my pancakes. I then proceeded to start flipping over swingsets and playground equipment as my temper took over. This one was a bit intense, even though it was so silly. The last thing I remember in the dream is being really angry. The crazy part was when I woke up, I was still angry.

Categories
Dreams Thoughts

Dream Journal – Crystal Pepsi

“As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.”
-Proverbs 25:25

Occasionally, I have an extremely vivid and partly lucid dream. Usually when this happens I lucid dream on some level, where I’m aware that I’m dreaming and can exert some control over the events of the dream. The rare thing about this dream is the level of detail I am able to recall. When a dream is extended in length, is at least partly lucid, and is easily remembered, I have learned to pay attention. I have many vivid dreams but typically when I wake up I can’t recall what happened. There have been a few prior, very memorable dreams that had significance in my life that I only understood much later. This one was… interesting, to say the least. It follows. The text is taken directly from an instant message conversation.

I dreamt that I was at Wright State with one of my friends someone I know in real life I believe but I can’t recall who now
I dreamed that I found the only 2 remaining cans of clear Pepsi existing on Earth
And my friend told me in the dream that each can was worth 3 million dollars
And then three old school Nazis from the forties who I recognized but couldn’t place tried to take the cans from me and I had to get rid of them somehow I don’t know what I did to escape them
But I realize that to defeat them I would need special powers
So I got on like a train that was like the kids toy train you see in the mall but it was full size and I ride this train I somehow found to the bottom of the ocean to this house
And I fucking rang the doorbell and went into this house but somehow no water got into the house at the bottom of the ocean and I remember looking up through a big glass window and seen the train near the house on the ridge
And the dude inside I’m not sure who he was he was an old dude with a beard he was either Santa Claus or Jesus as an old guy or Prospero from Shakespeare’s The Tempest
And then I remember being extremely thirsty and he was trying to talk to me and I wanted to speak to him but I couldn’t because I was so thirsty
And so he gave me a glass of water and I drank it and then I woke up
And when I woke up and realized I wasn’t thirsty and I didn’t need to pee