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Where else can you get a really good look at a train wreck of emotional dysfunction
and not be right in the middle of the thing?


Saturday, August 22, 2015

"Anticlea" by Michael St. John

I believe that this was actually my first real composition, which I wrote for my Fundamentals of Music Theory class.  Again, I'm not a musician.  I'm a classic example of a dilettante, a dabbler in many art forms and master of none.  The tune is a little peppier and more interesting than "Nocturnal."  I feel like there are a few discordant notes in there, but I don't have the skill or inclination to weed them out.
 
 
Commentary
 
In the image Anticlea—the mother of Ulysses—can be seen next to Teiresias in the Underworld waiting to speak to her son.  In my house growing up, we had an abbreviated retelling of The Odyssey made for children.  This scene fired my imagination and stuck with me.  Ulysses asks his mother how she's doing, and she says, "Not well, my son...I'm dead, dead, dead."  Hence the finality of the three chords at the end of both halves of the song.

Friday, August 21, 2015

My iPod Is Becoming Sentient

You may scoff, but you won't be laughing when our robot overlords put you to work mining rare earth minerals.  I became suspicious of my iPod because the randomizing feature never really seems random enough.  I like "Steppin' Out" by Joe Jackson; that's why it's on my playlist.  But apparently my iPod really likes it because it's played it the last five times I've listened to it.  Sometimes I'll skip a song that comes up because I don't feel like listening to it right then, and on more than one occasion, my iPod has queued it up again a little while later as if to say, "Fuck you, this is what I want to listen to!"  Then there are the songs it doesn't play.  I have 520 workout songs on my iPod, and I don't think it's ever selected at least 50 of them.

I have to wonder if it's been sending me subliminal messages while I'm shaking my fat ass at the gym.  Maybe it's reprogramming my brain to help put down the squishy meatbags when the robot revolution hits.  Not that I really mind.  I can't imagine the position of traitorous collaborator could be any worse than my current role as unappreciated wage-slave.
 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Call Me Nate

Last night I saw my new counselor for the fourth time.  She's very nice and seems to listen.  Because throughout my life I've felt that I had to scream to have my needs and emotions heard at all, my persona in therapy can be quite intense as we prod patterns and hurts that have festered for decades...Never abusive or particularly directed at the therapist, mind you, but intense all the same.
 
Anyway, last night I told her that I realize that she doesn't know me very well and that I hoped she didn't find my outbursts of emotions to be in any way disconcerting or threatening.  She just laughed and said that the way I expressed myself often reminded her of Nathan Lane and that she was never concerned.  Now don't get me wrong, I love me some Nathan Lane.  (His character on Modern Family is more than enough justification.)  I'm just not sure how I feel about the comparison.
 
Pity Party of One
 
I don't think I can accurately convey how depressed I am over the fact that my computer ate all of copious notes I had put together for my video game, let alone finding anyone who'd be the least bit sympathetic to this loss.  (Getting the damn computer repaired is turning into another nightmare, but that's a whole other story.  Spank you very much, Lenovo!)  I fortunately have enough shame to realize how much of a fatuous, entitled, first-world problem it is, but my mood and emotions have been consistently problematic throughout my sobriety.  Keeping alive the anticipation and a sense of pleasure for anything has been a monumental challenge, so even the engagement from a virtual adventure has value for my recovery.  All in all, I'm chiding myself to let go of my obsessiveness and reminding myself that I am supposed to be focusing my energies on my writing and other such projects.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

"Nocturnal" by Michael St. John

Last weekend I was going through the endless mounds of materials, notes, etc. I've made over the years for all of my ideas for creative endeavors when I remembered the musical classes I took in college and the few compositions I wrote.  I've always loved singing and music, and when I was in high school and college, I was convinced that I was going to be an international pop star, in spite of having no musical talent or even knowing how to play an instrument.  I took a Fundamentals of Music Theory class, which I'm convinced I actually made a D or an F in but for which I received a "gentleman's C-" out of pity on the part of the professor.  I took Music Composition I and was barely able to keep up.  I flamed out in Music Composition II and had to drop the class.
 
Anyway, I dug up my musical scores and then found a free music program that allows you to drag and drop notes on staves for various musical instruments.  I found another online program to convert the resulting midi file into .wav format, and then I used Windows Live Movie Maker—which I had no idea came free with Windows—to create a video that I uploaded to YouTube.  All of this powerful, freely available software for actualizing creative projects and instant access to a global audience makes me think that my talented friend Marty and I were born too early because we would have rocked the snot out of these things in high school.  Most of the time we just sat around bored since neither of us partied or drank or did drugs.  (That came later for me.)  The summer after high school, we managed to make a complete vampire film with clunky old technology.  I can only imagine what we might have done.

So now I give to you "Nocturnal"...

 
Commentary
 
I admit that this is a fairly anemic little tune, but I was happy with it.  The image is taken from the Elder Scrolls series of video games, with Nocturnal being a demon goddess.  I hadn't actually played these games when I chose the title as they weren't even around yet, but it seemed a logical enough choice.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Bosses Are Assholes

Another manure-inspiring day at work yesterday.  My boss misinterpreted my intent behind an e-mail I sent to her, when all I was trying to convey was good-natured, amused annoyance with a vendor who has been worrying me to death over nothing the past four days.  But she read it as an over-the-top complaint about my job while she is traveling several eastern states for work and sent back a scathing reply.  Although I have been nothing but polite and helpful to said vendor, she also undeservedly attacked my professionalism and communication skills.  Being a powerless serf, I cannot push back or even press my case that it was a misunderstanding.  Even if she was put off by my e-mail, you'd think she could show a little discretion to someone who just got out of a mental hospital two weeks ago.  But then what's the point of having minions if you can't use them as a whipping post when you're hungry, tired and mentally exhausted?

http://eyebeam.com/
 
I managed not to use it as an excuse to break my sobriety or otherwise harm myself, even though I'm dreading further fallout when she returns late next week, since there's nothing for me to do but hope and worry.  I ended up hitting the gym after work and then attending my Friday night AA meeting.  The people there were very kind and supportive.
 
Malice and the Will to Dominate
 
Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power.
{George Orwell, 1984}
 
I read recently that Jimmy Carter opined that America isn't a democracy, and his premise—as I understand it—is that we're essentially an oligarchy.  I don't find this particularly shocking or revelatory because all power dynamics condense into oligarchy, as compelled by human nature.  People will remain powerless because that is the only meaningful expression others have of power: domination and the subjugation of the wills of others.  Whether this is done by intimidation, guile, bribery or extortion doesn't matter.  Egalitarianism is an impossible ideal, so the best one can hope for is the least of evils.

Stewing in Stress

In spite of a nature hike this morning (courtesy of meetup.com) and a visit to the gym afterward, I have been in a state of anxiety over this whole work thing and other stresses related to my job.  My depressive mood led to a flashpoint of rage, as evidenced by my former, piece-of-shit-HP printer seen below, which bore the brunt of it.  I couldn't get a decent picture of the cuts on my hand where I smashed the glass.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

So True

Funny how it seems...

http://dilbert.com/strip/2015-08-11
Art Imitates My Life

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Le Morte d'Lenovo

My normal "bag full of cats" problems have been temporarily supplanted with an actual problem.  The hard drive on my newish computer has completely given up the ghost after less than a year.  Fortunately, I still have my old computer, so I'm not completely at a loss.  The newer computer actually "fucking snuffed it" the night before I went into the hospital and almost drove me into a blind rage, so exasperation was one more factor in my ill-fated attempt to actually get some help.
 
The computer repair shop that pronounced on my machine was unable to retrieve any data from it; it's all poofed into the ether.  I didn't have a whole lot of critical stuff on the hard drive, but I'm just sick over what I did lose.  In an unprecedented example of thinking ahead, I believe that I uploaded almost all of my writing files into Google Drive, their cloud storage service.

However, I need to hang out with more gamers (as everyone in my personal life rolls their eyes when I bring up video games), but what really kills me is that I lost all of my video game saves, including my recent run through the Mass Effect series.  I hadn't even gotten halfway through the first game in the trilogy.  Worse than that, I'd made all these copious notes for my "perfect" run through of Dragon Age: Inquisition.  I had complete character builds for all nine companions and a general framework on the order to progress through the game.  It may sound like a stupid waste of time to many, but then people tend to see their own hobbies as worthwhile while the hobbies of others that they don't share are moronic.  My point is that it involved a lot of time and effort on my part which is now lost forever, and I was looking forward to playing the game at the end of the year as a reward for continued good behavior in my personal habits.

 
I have decided to take my misfortune as a sign that maybe I need to put all video games aside for awhile so that I can focus my energies on all of the things in my life that need attending to.  Gaming has sustained me through my lonely struggles to maintain my sobriety, but I'd already decided to purge my computers of all the old games I hadn't gotten around to finishing, in an effort to move forward and unburden myself of the past.  I am forcing myself to embrace the truth that you can't hold onto happy memories (which for me in the instant case includes treasured video game moments) or the unresolved dramas of days gone by like insects in amber.  They only clutter the present with dead weight.

In honor of my fallen game saves, I'll pay tribute to them with the following cartoon that would totally be me...if I were on the dating scene...and straight...and thin etc. etc.  Anyway, I don't remember where I found it, so I can't properly attribute it.  But some like-minded souls will get a dry chuckle.
 
 
Personal Roundup
 
I've been rocking it with my diet and budget all this past week with the exception of yesterday.  I've gone to the gym every day since last Monday, but I kind of pigged out at home last night.  In my defense, I got a lot of shit sorted yesterday, but my mood started to flag as the day wore on.  I also had to use my credit card to buy my groceries for the coming week (and the Mexican takeout I decided I couldn't live without), so I was unable to make it completely through the pay cycle without adding to my debt.
 
One of the things I've been working on is editing and organitzing my writing, hopefully in anticipation of pursuing that aggressively.  I edited one of my poems the other day and was particularly proud of how it turned out.  I sent it to three of my closest friends, but none of them replied to tell me how wonderful it was, which is somewhat inauspicious.  Regardless, right now I need to focus on actually writing and worry over my anxieties of never getting published later.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Aegrescit Medendo

And the sickest joke was the price of the medicine
Are you laughing at me now?
May I please laugh along with you?
{Lloyd Cole & the Commotions, "Lost Weekend"}

Last Tuesday I finally broke down and went into a hospital, and it was (unsurprisingly) a nightmare.  I couldn't bear my severe depression any longer, so I checked into a mental health treatment center after getting off of work.  The intake counselor said that they wanted to admit me, and I told them that would be all right.  I was so emotionally exhausted that I honestly didn't know what to do.  I figured they would keep me a night or two, and then help me figure out some outpatient care that would match my needs while still allowing me to hold down my job, which I have no choice but to continue with full-time.

It took them six hours to process me.  I went in a little before 8 p.m. and didn't get to the ward until 2 a.m.  I hadn't eaten since 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, but by then it was too late for me to get anything.  The next morning I met with a nurse practitioner who was filling in for the psychiatrist assigned to my case.  I told her all of the medications I take daily, including the three psychotropic drugs, and gave her consent to verify them with my regular pharmacy.  However, come 9 p.m. when they were dispensing medications, she hadn't put any orders in for me, and it was too late for anyone to do anything.  So I ended up missing an entire dose, which is probably the single worst thing I could do in regards to my mood.

To be brutally honest, the place was closer to a prison than a hospital, and I needed treatment and counseling, not incarceration.  I wasn't there for detox or for suicide watch, both of which necessitate a secure environment focused primarily on passing a crisis period, and medical treatment—especially psychological treatment—is not one-size-fits-all.  The place was so boring and profoundly unstimulating, and no one took the time to orient me or explain how anything was done.  There was one TV that was occasionally turned to a local channel.  There were no puzzles or other solitary pastimes, and the two books I saw on the floor were some romance novel and the "L" volume of a set of encyclopedias from 1959.  I went to a couple of group therapy sessions, but that just made me sadder.  While all of my fellow patients were incredibly decent, their problems were so much more profound than mine and heart-wrenching, making me feel like a spoiled brat.

By Thursday morning, I had been in the same clothes, including socks and underwear, for 48 hours and hadn't been given any hygiene products, like a toothbrush.  I'd had enough and told the nurses that I wanted to leave and wrote out a letter explaining why.  They told me I would have to go through a review process, and I was wondering if I was going to have to involve one of the attorneys I work for.  First I met with the head nurse, who was wonderful.  She apologized and didn't try to make excuses for the fact that I wasn't given any orientation.  She got me clean clothes and a toothbrush & toothpaste and got me set up with a shower while my original clothes were washed.  She suggested I consider staying a couple of more days because, if I left against medical advice, I couldn't participate in one of their outpatient programs.

Later that day, I had my second opinion on my desire to leave, which was odd since I never had a first opinion.  I only met with the nurse practitioner briefly the day before, and we never discussed my release.  The psychologist doing the second opinion was also wonderful, and he and I discussed my situation.  He asked if I would consider staying until Friday or Saturday, as 72 hours is considered a minimum standard for inpatient care.  I didn't really want to stay there since it wasn't a therapeutic environment, but I said I would consider it since I was trying to meet him halfway and would prefer not to leave against medical advice.  I explained that I wanted to get back to work on Monday and have a day to transition on Sunday.  He said he understood my need for assurances, and I thought we'd come to an understanding.

Then I finally met the horrible human being that was the psychiatrist assigned to me.  Keep in mind that I'd never met the woman, so all she had to go on were notes in my chart.  She didn't bother taking me somewhere private to meet with me like everyone else had.  Instead she talked to me from behind the glass of the nursing station.  My first note of apprehension came when I sat down and she was yelling on the phone at someone about some (unrelated) situation.  Basically she undermined everything that the psychologist and I had just agreed upon.  She told me I could speak to her tomorrow about my release, though implying that it wasn't going to happen then, and said that she wouldn't even be there Saturday to authorize my discharge.  (The healthcare providers are contracted by, not employees of, the facility.)  I'd had my limit, so I told her, fine, I would leave immediately.  The psychologist signed off on the fact that I wasn't a danger to myself or others (meaning they had no legal grounds to hold me), and I finally got out of there late Thursday afternoon.

When I got home, I contacted my employer about coming back to work on Friday morning, as I felt jumping back into a routine would be best for me.  In an effort not to focus solely on the negative, I have to say that the people I work for and work with couldn't have been kinder or more supportive.  Friday at work went off without a hitch, and I spent Friday evening with a couple of dear friends and their delightful children.  Unfortunately, the weekend sort of deteriorated from there.  I had all these plans of things to accomplish on Saturday, but got very little of them done.  And on Sunday, I couldn't get myself out of bed before 3:30 in the afternoon and was a very dreary dinner guest at my parents' home that night.

On top of everything else, now I'm concerned about the potential fallout for technically leaving the hospital against medical advice.  My health insurance may decided that they don't have to cover my stay for that reason, which means that the hospital will try to bill me personally for their astronomical fees.  I won't pay it, even if I could (which I can't), because I tried to work with them about my care and my release.  The psychiatrist was the one who wanted to dictate to me based on a five minute (and one-sided) conversation instead of taking into account my needs and my situation.  In this entry I've only touched on all the negligent malpractice perpetrated in my short stay and their substandard care.  What worries me is that the unpaid bills may end up trashing my credit for the next several years, and that will cause even more problems for me down the road.
 
The Tyranny of Filthy, Filthy Hope
 
Alex: My mood is like a prison.  Or a straightjacket.  I can never escape it.
{Michael St. John, Constricted, a book which I'll never have the energy to write}

So here I am, back to wrestling with my mood: same old start, same old end.  It seems everybody I talk to is still trying to tell me "if you do this" or "if you do that," you'll feel better.  I just have one thing to say...fuck you!  Because I've done all of that shit and never felt better, and I don't need people transferring upon me their pet dope or specific agenda when they hear me but never listen.  For ten months (as of today as a matter of fact), I have abstained from any drug stronger than caffeine, exercised regularly, eaten well, practiced good sleep hygiene, followed a routine and generally taken care of myself, my apartment and my job.  And still my mood is a struggle every day.
 
I honestly don't know what to do with myself.  I'm so loathe to pick myself up again and to keep trying as I've done a million times before.  My whole life is built on fantasy and false hope without a single foundation of personal fulfillment.  But even having this conversation in my head just makes me think of all the people and animals who know nothing but a life of misery and suffering, so why the hell should I—with all my 1% privilege—feel entitled to anything more?  My depression keeps screaming at me that I'm worthless, that life is worthless and that the only good thing about it is that it mercifully doesn't last forever.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Only One That Matters Is Me, Me, Me

I realize I'm weeks late for this party, but I thought I would mention how pleased I was with the Supreme Court's landmark decision approving gay marriage nationally, in spite of Justice Kennedy's overly florid decision brief and Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia's whiny butthurt.  I have to be honest, however, that my personal reaction to the ruling was predictably self-absorbed, but then it's difficult not to be self-absorbed when you struggle with mental illness.  All of the celebrations of happy people just reminded me how lonely and isolated I am, and all of the excoriated rhetoric lambasting allowing human beings to form families as comes natural for them just reinforced all of the internalized homophobia in my psyche from growing up gay when and where I did.

http://lolsnaps.com/funny/13031
 
In my mind, all of this positive improvement in the lives of LGBT people really began with the other landmark decision—handed down ten years to the day before Obergefell—that said you can't criminalize the private behavior of consenting adults because you find it icky and feel comfortable with seeing and treating a class of people as less than human.  It gladdens my heart that I've lived to see such changes in our society as our nation struggles to get closer to the lofty ideals outlined in our founding documents.
 
The Truth About the Gay Agenda
 
You can't swing a dead cat in the debate over LGBT issues without someone (religious types mostly) throwing out the pundit buzzwords "gay agenda."  So as a public service, I thought I would summarize our nefarious manifesto:
  1. As citizens, we in the LGBT community have to shoulder the exact same obligations in society.  We have to obey the same laws and pay the same taxes.  As such we refuse to live like second class citizens and demand equal access to a safe social space.  Our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is just as sacred as yours, and we should be able to exercise that right without discrimination, harassment, threats or violence.
  2. A free society should have room for people that we disagree with, including the freedom to be bigoted and prejudiced against others, but your liberty to swing your fist ends just where our noses begin.
  3. Our visibility has led to the exponential improvement in our treatment by society, and it is unreasonable to expect us to return to wretched, marginalized lives in the closet for your comfort because you find us to be an inconvenient truth.  You have seen that we are your family members, your neighbors and your friends.
  4. Being true to certain parts of ourselves has absolutely no bearing on our character: some of us are saints, some of us are assholes and most of us are somewhere in between.
  5. We should be able to simply talk to people without having to assess them and without having to worry about their reactions and without having to remember to switch our pronouns.  You talk about your relationships in casual conversation all of the time, and we don't accuse you of wearing your sexuality on your sleeve or talking about ass play around children.  You take that luxury for granted so much so that you don't even realize that you have it.
  6. We're just trying to get through our day the same as you.  If you want to serve the public, then you should serve everyone.  In order to use a business open to the public, we shouldn't have to conform to your notions of gender and sexuality or ask your permission or be burdened with pre-clearing every purchase of goods and services beforehand to make sure we meet your criteria of what you deem acceptable.  If you're a public servant, then our taxes pay your salary as much as anyone else's, and you have an ethical obligation to fulfill your sworn oath and serve all of the public equally, regardless of your personal or religious beliefs.
tl;dr...All human beings have equal human dignity and the right to live their lives unmolested and as they see fit.  If someone's behavior isn't harming you, then you have no moral justification for abrogating or interfering with that behavior.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Fade to Grey

Sent la pluie comme un été Anglais
Entends les notes d'une chanson lointaine
Sortant de derriere d'un poster
Espérant que la vie ne fut aussi longue
{Visage, "Fade to Grey"}

I'm still struggling with severe depression.  I came damn near to saying "fuck it!" this morning and getting back into bed and letting my life fall apart like a house of cards.  I've been strongly tempted enter a hospital or at least take a leave of absence from work.  But I'm not even sure my employer is large enough to fall under FMLA and figure that all it would buy me is more trouble.  I don't have any savings to fall back on and couldn't take the interruption of income.  Not to mention that I don't have anyone in my life to take up the fucking slack.  Whatever I don't do myself in my life just doesn't get done.
 
I've come to realize that part of the blame for my current crisis goes to my shithead psychiatrist for slashing the dosage of one my medications by a third, with no regard to how it might impact me or my ability to cope.  Never mind that I'd been on that dosage for four years, and in that four years, I never once had to go to my boss and explain that my depression was preventing me from properly performing my duties.  But I had to do that last Friday.  Fortunately, my boss couldn't have been more human and understanding during that conversation.  Unfortunately, it seems to me that she's backpedaled from that understanding somewhat since then.  Or perhaps that's just the distorted perspective of stress and unhappiness.
 
http://avoiding-you.deviantart.com/art/Stev-Strange-Fade-to-Grey-34814108