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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?

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 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 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.

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.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

You're a Spade!

I always call him that.
{Neal, The Young Ones}

Not to put too fine a point on it, I've been dealing with unbe-fucking-redonkulous depression, most likely a double depression.  Every thought seems to throw me down a rabbit hole of misery, seeing only suffering reflected in the world.  I've spent the better part of the last two weekends cloistered in bed, finally managing to roust myself yesterday afternoon.  I have to muster the energy to get out of the car when I arrive home or put on my socks or do anything that doesn't have to be done.  I was already far behind at work, and I can't seem to concentrate or get anything accomplished.  I don't know if I should throw myself on my boss' mercy and hope for the best or if I should just soldier on and hope I can keep the plates spinning without it all crashing down.

I've tried to get help, but that's a fucking nightmare.  There's this implicit myth in popular culture that all you need to do is admit you need help, and it's right there waiting for you.  For me as for most people, the world doesn't stop, even in desperate need.  I still have to go to work and pay my bills and do my laundry and shop for groceries, etc., etc.  Being a weird loner, I don't have anyone around to pick up the slack or offer me any real support.  Many times in my past I tried to stop my world, but I never got any meaningful or lasting help.  And ultimately it only caused me a whole host of new problems in the long run.  So I keep going, pantomiming the steps.

I went to see my psychiatrist, but that was a waste of time and a co-pay.  He was, of course, only interested in the two-sentence summary and can only suggest upping my dosage (and waiting three weeks in the hopes it will have an effect that isn't adverse) or adding yet another potent drug (as if three psychotropics a day isn't enough) without taking enough consideration for the devastating side effects.  (I've been on several of those medications, and they improved my mood but destroyed my body.  I'm still struggling with the obesity caused by the metabolic changes.)  I also tried to find a therapist, but that's a full-time job in itself.  I haven't been able to find one that's covered by my insurance and available nights or weekends around my job and that I liked.  I spoke to one or two, but nothing clicked, and they didn't seem right for me.  My lasts two therapists were a complete and expensive bust, and I'm not willing to sink further into the mire of debt at $25 a session without some kind of connection.

I feel resigned to the fact that my depression, my endless struggle with mood, has ruined any potential I ever had and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.  I will endure and endure and occasionally hope, only to finally one day die and be glad of it.  I lulled myself to sleep on two bad nights during this latest intensity by imagining a final exit.  Of course it was all very adolescent and "won't they be sorry when I'm gone!"  I feel as if I have talent; I feel as if I have something to offer.  But it is apparently my role to be nothing more than a placeholder in life, wringing out what little pleasure I can, and nothing more.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Dearth of Hope

I've been thinking recently that I should go into a hospital for my depression, although it wouldn't gain me anything other than temporary respite.  My job is so stressful, and the demands of positive changes in my life takes such a toll when there's no return in my mood to help compensate.  Fortunately I'm so out of the habit of drinking that it hasn't been more than an occasional temptation, but I don't seem able to sustain any other beneficial behavior.  We live in a far from perfect society, and any attempts to seek in-patient care would only create a whole host of different problems, not the least of which financial ones.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper

Still struggling with obstinate depression.  This past weekend I was shuffling around like an old man because of the monumental effort of will it took just to put one foot in front of the other.  I was supposed to be catching up on all of the work I didn't get done while my energy and motivation have been tanked, but very little of that actually happened.  I may have to set up a GoFundMe page after I get fired for failing at my job.  (I'm not actually near that point, but juggling it all is another source of major stress.)  I've only gone to the gym six times this entire month, whereas I was going 4-6 times a week in May.  I'm trying to get it together to force myself there tonight.
My parents have gone out of town for three weeks, and I've been staying over at their place in the hopes that a change of scenery might energize me.  I've been playing the first game in the Mass Effect video game trilogy, reliving my life as Commander Shepard.  ("I'm Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite blog on the internet!")  Ironically, almost exactly a year ago, I was at my parents while they were out of town, trying to stay sober and playing Mass Effect.  In fact, what I'm playing now is just a continuation of the new game I started back then because I eventually got derailed by Dragon Age: Inquisition.  (Just finished my second playthrough of that.)
I do worry that it's inauspicious that I wrote that previous entry two or three relapses ago.  While I don't think video games are a waste of time in themselves—they can be quite rewarding and engaging, I also worry that I'm using the distraction to avoid all of the things I need to be doing in order to move my life forward, or at least, somewhere.  But when the bare minimum in life seems overwhelming, it's hardly a conducive atmosphere to go over and above in order to undo years, if not decades, of neglect.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Anything Goes

     O brave new world,
that has such people in't.
{William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act v, Scene 1}
I went and saw a local amateur production of the musical Anything Goes this evening.  The dishy male lead's blurb in the program said that he "would like to give a huge thank you to his husband...for all of his love and support."  I was pretty taken aback and impressed.  I would expect such openness when I lived in Los Angeles, but not in my provincial Southern city.  The climate of acceptance has (fortunately) changed so drastically during my lifetime, but I never seem able to wrap my head around it.
Armand: The world changes, we do not, therein lies the irony that kills us.
{Anne Rice, Interview with a Vampire}
Of course, I am always troubled by such things (see the title of this blog), even as I'm pleased by the apparent progress.  I'm not sure if I just feel as if things have passed me by.  Or if I'm confounded since I never seem able to develop a clear picture of the actual state of tolerance around me.  Or if I'm simply jealous.  Probably all of the above.
Louis: I am at odds with everything and always have been!  I have never belonged anywhere with anyone at any time!
{Anne Rice, Interview with a Vampire}

Friday, June 12, 2015

And Here's Johnny

Presidential not-so-hopeful Ben Carson is once again bristling at questions about his opinions on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.  Instead of continuing to stick his foot in his mouth about it, now he just gets mad when it comes up.  He is one of those people who also gets angry when the struggle for LGBT equality is compared to the struggle for racial equality and says that he doesn't see gays being forced to drink at a separate water fountain.  Of course people like him do want separate water fountains in the form of "straight only" businesses who would be free to use their religion as an excuse to discriminate against the LGBT community.
It's easy to downplay and dismiss discrimination when it isn't directed at you.  I've seen no shortage of "our discrimination matters and yours doesn't" in my time, and not just from those who believe we have no claim to the mantle of civil rights (and including from among my fellow gays).  But Mr. Carson wants to be the president for all Americans, not just the ones he deems worthy of notice, so questions about his attitudes towards segments of the population are relevant to his run for office.  His unwillingness to address the issue probably won't bode well for his chances at the nomination.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Frankie Says Relax

I thought I would take a break from my self-obsessive whinging to comment on something I saw in the news.  Rev. Franklin Graham wrote an op-ed piece wherein he says his decision to move his foundation's accounts from Wells Fargo wasn't because they were gay friendly but because they were pro-homosexual "advocates" by featuring an ad with a lesbian couple adopting a special needs child.  He goes so far as to say that all individuals and businesses should be "gay friendly" (by treating LGBT people decently) but never "endorsing" (by validating our desire to live outside the uncomfortable little box people that think his way have set aside for us).

As pleased as I am to see civility from the anti-gay crowd, I can't help but view it with suspicion.  They never bothered with this veneer of "hate the sin, love the sinner" tolerance back when the court of public opinion was on their side.  They sure as hell never bothered with it when I was growing up, listening to their rhetoric and thinking that the whole world hated me with no one to talk to or to tell me any different.  They just said horrible things about "those people"—laughing, sneering, dismissing and threatening violence, and no one called them out for it.  I can only think that the anti-gay lobby is being disingenuous now, as they makes their arguments minimally palatable—so as to fly under the radar of popular sentiment—all the while continuing their efforts to marginalize us.

I honestly believe that the entire piece was an effort to save face after it came to light that his new bank has a pretty LGBT-fabulous history as well.  Rev. Graham even mentions the fact that they were associated with gay pride and apparently have a high score with the Human Rights Campaign. All in all, I think Rev. Graham's track record speaks for itself, and his words mean nothing when his deeds demean an entire segment of the population that he and people like him see as a label first and as human second.

Also In the News

The not-really-news website CNS News ran an article about seven "homosexual" ambassadors wanting trade talks to include discussions of LGBT rights.  (I love how the author put "homosexual" right in the title, as if to tip you off that their gayness automatically invalidates their position.)  The subtext, of course, is that the "gay agenda" is gaying up foreign policy like it faggots up everything else.  I made the mistake of reading the comments, and so many of them echoed these sentiments.  (One prolific commenter warned of "homosexual outbreaks," so I guess we're the zombie apocalypse.)  Whether or not you approve of someone's "lifestyle" doesn't strip them of their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as was enshrined in our founding documents.

The main problem I have is the hypocrisy of it all.  Substitute the word "homosexual" for "Christian," and I'm willing to bet that all of these same people would be clamoring that defending foreign Christians should be a priority.  The same website even had another article taking this general tack and mentioning two (presumably "heterosexual") lawmakers sponsoring a bill calling for the global repeal of all blasphemy laws.  Where is all that indignation about interfering with other cultures and values?  (I assure you that same-sex attraction and transgenderism aren't choices, but being Christian certainly is.)  I personally agree that we should try to use our influence to improve human rights for all oppressed people, including Christian minorities.  We can start by getting out of bed with Saudi Arabia, a country that despises every aspect of our culture but wants us as its personal attack dog.  We can also start by holding ourselves to a higher standard—something that Obama has been trying to do—and not acting as if standards don't apply to us.

Monday, June 8, 2015

And Just Like the Rain

I'm in another low arc of depression.

Last Thursday at work, even though everything was going just fine, I was so tempted to storm out, quit my job and try to go on disability.  I called in sick on Friday and spent most of the last three days in bed.  I used to spend all day in bed almost every weekend, but my outlook has actually improved over the past several years.

I get tired of struggling all the time when I can't even find a reason—other than misplaced hope—as to why I bother.  Maybe everyone actually struggles that way.  Maybe not.  But you certainly won't ever find me siring any children.  I just wish I had the tools to build some kind of life for myself.

Anyway, I finally went back to the gym tonight after blowing it, and my diet, off for a week.  And I'm finally doing a load of laundry so I don't wear gym socks with my dress pants again tomorrow.  (At least I've been wearing clean underwear...Semper ubi!)  A million years ago (back in the '90's) I worked for quite a while with a cognitive behaviorist.  Her underlying message was that, if you change your behavior, your mood will eventually follow suit.  Perhaps that works for some people, but it certainly hasn't been my experience.  My mood has yet to tag along with all of the positive behaviors I've been forcing myself to perform over the past eight months and counting.  As much as I liked that therapist, I think I should get a refund for all of those sessions.