Seeking joy and meaning in a joyless mind and meaningless existence

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Helpful Advice
What if people treated physical illness like mental illness?

Loneliness and Despair

I've been pretty isolated since quitting my job Thursday night, and it hasn't helped my panic and crushing despair.  But then not many people know my situation or that I impulsively changed my cell phone number.  My friend Marty has been in touch, but he's in St. Louis so there's not much he can do other than reach out by phone.  I went to my AA meeting Friday night for the first time in a long time and went to dinner after.  But I didn't really share anything or let anyone know about my depression or quitting my job.  A local friend e-mailed me some very kind, very heartfelt words in response to my last blog post, and her husband was very kind to me when I opened a checking account at his bank on Friday.  They're both extremely busy people, with three wonderful children, and they were leaving on a week-long vacation this morning.  I know I'm being selfish by wanting to hear from them yesterday, but I was just so incredibly lonely and sad.  My parents called me Friday afternoon to summon me to their house, but I'd taken a (legally prescribed) tranquilizer and told them I couldn't go.  I haven't heard from them since then.  I'm supposed to go over there for Father's Day tonight, and I'm nervous about what kind of evening it will be, particularly since I finally opened the emotional can of worms of sending them a link to my last entry in this blog.  (This blog is fairly raw in its personal honesty, and I've never let my parents know about it in all the years I've been writing it.)
As usual, I'm extremely conflicted in my feelings about the people in my life and their reaction to my crisis.  It's immature for me to expect people to rush over to babysit me and my emotions.  It's self-absorbed for me to assume they would drop everything in their lives to attend to my emotional breakdown.  On the other hand, any resource on dealing with a loved one struggling with mental illness will tell you not to let them isolate themselves and to proactively make yourself available, especially when one is in crisis.  I've been carrying my phone around with me and constantly checking it, just hoping someone will reach out to me.  For the most part it's been quiet, except for Marty, a friend I'm so lucky to have.  While I understand the perspective of others, it doesn't change the fact of how isolated and truly alone I've been feeling, absolutely panicked over what to do and what will become of me.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Broke and Unemployed

I quit my job of three years and nine months this evening.  One too many corpses floated up from the ocean floor, and I finally decided that I couldn't bear the stress anymore.  It wasn't helped by the fact that I had once again started the day praying for the strength to buy a gun and blow out the back of my head.  I pussied out of my first suicide with pills, calling 911 as soon as I took them.  The second suicide should have worked if not for the peculiarities of my body's metabolism.  I took about 60 prescription sleeping pills and tranquilizers and was unconscious for four days.  With a gun, I'd only need a split-second decision of irreversible resolve, safely unable to go back.

Through sheer force of will—while weighted down by unhappiness and the ever-present aversion to activity—I managed to laboriously put one foot in front of the other and get myself ready for work.  I thought about calling in sick, but of course I wanted to be mature and responsible.  And you see how far that ended up going.  By eleven o'clock, my pervasive inability to concentrate was robbing me of any pretext of productivity.  When the attorneys assign me discreet, time-sensitive projects, then I'm all over it, focused and productive.  But when I'm expected to beat tasks out of the files while also being held responsible for all of the clerical BS they refuse to delegate to the office receptionist and expected to have the preternatural ability to find the one needed document in a file of ten thousand pages, I quickly end up in a Sisyphean rat race of coming up short on billable hours.  The specter of BILLABLE hangs over my head like the Sword of Damocles.  When I billed at my firm in Los Angeles, I was working on substantive tasks that took hours to complete: reviewing case files, drafting discovery responses, meeting with clients, drafting motions for the Court.  I wasn't trying to fill most days with writing letters and making short phone calls and following up on medical record requests.  Trying to fill a day with tasks that are 0.1 hours or 0.2 hours or 0.3 hours takes a huge toll, especially when you spend half of your time shifting gears from one thing to another to another, which is time you can't bill for.

Anyway, around eleven o'clock, one of the partners said that he fielded a call from our largest client, not just locally but for all three offices in three states, over discrepancies in my last month's billing.  Being legally trained and thus over-cautious, I don't want to go into any further detail.  The upshot was that I had to work maniacally all afternoon to right the wrong in the best way possible.  ("Nothing like a hanging in the morning to focus the mind.")  While I was in anxiety overdrive over Floating Corpse No. 1, the same partner comes back to my desk and says that he got another call from the same client about a different case and another discrepancy in my billing.  (Floating Corpse No. 2)  That one wasn't entirely my fault, just mostly, with some of the blame going to poor communication channels.  However, I'm pretty sure everyone involved lays on the blame squarely on me, and it was just enough to make me realize that I was done and today was my last day.
To my credit, I was very classy about the whole thing.  I spent most of the day putting out the fire my ill-conceived actions ignited.  After that crisis was managed as well as it was going to be, I entered all of the remaining billable time I had for the month of June into the system and organized my desk as best I could.  I wrote out a polite resignation letter and made notes of everything I could think of to make the transition easier for the firm, such as my workstation password and where to find the credentials for the different online professional sites.  I thanked my boss for employing me.  After everyone else had left for the day ("See you tomorrow, Michael!"), I scanned and e-mailed the letter to my boss and the HR manager.  I put the hard copy on my boss' desk with my office key and parking fob.  I didn't do anything vindictive or petty, though that's generally in line with my character.  Actually, the real surprise is that I didn't use this boondoggle of bad ideas (the full weight of which has yet to come crashing down on my head *tick tock*) as an excuse to get black out drunk with a couple of packs of smokes along for the ride.  When I got home from work, I took my regular trip to the gym and spent the rest of the evening writing this.
So This Is My Life

Every day I feel I'm a failure, a burden to others, trapped in an existence without viable options while spending almost all of my time alone and lonely.  So frankly, I've decided that I'm fucking sick to death with trying to keep all of these plates in the air when nothing that I do, no matter how hard I try, has any measurable impact on my life as it continues its active decay into inevitable entropic doom.  My sobriety is a case in point.  No one helped me through that, and I had no meaningful social support from family or friends through that intensely difficult struggle.  I didn't have the luxury of going through detox or any formal program and didn't have the option to put off work while I focused on my sobriety.  I white-knuckled the months and months of post-acute withdrawal symptoms towards a state of protracted sobriety while still holding down a stressful job and paying my bills and taking care of all the needs of living independently all on my own.
So what did all of that struggle get me when my life is no better than when I was a pathetic drunk?  Sure, my family gets categorize me in the sobriety box, and it doesn't matter that I'm miserable and unhappy and unfulfilled all the time as long as I keep up the charade by holding down a job and living independently.  It doesn't matter that I've dug myself into a financial pit to where a third of my income each month is used to slowly pay down my unsecured debt.  Mental illness and addiction have put me in this position, but I might as well attribute it to voodoo and ancient curses for as much leeway those constantly struggling with mental illness are allowed.  I just can't be assed anymore, and it's time for those plates to fall (and crash) where they may.

I hate that I have to endure life, and I find nothing redeeming about existence.  I think our opinions about deities and consciousness after death are entirely moot and nothing but self-serving mental masturbation.  Either individual existence ends at death or it doesn't.  I have no opinions about the unknowable, but what I want is for oblivion to obliterate my consciousness and completely erase the entirety of my existence.  I want to be unmade upon the lathe of Heaven.  Cowardice is the only reason I don't follow through with my will towards death, cowardice plain and simple.  I eagerly anticipate the dream of unbeing while living in crippling fear of the process of dying, the unknown and the potential for pain and panic.  I was reading a deposition about an 80 year old man with lung cancer, and he says the knows he'll die eventually, but he wants to live just a little longer.  I found myself wondering if this desire for more life is just a panicked desire to postpone the horrors of the dying process rather than a positive desire for life.  I find it nearly impossible to reconcile my perceptions with the idea that others would want more life for its own sake.

A Current Look at Chronic Depression
An article on PsychCentral provides a succinct but thorough examination of the dysthymic disorder that I struggle with every day, and the following highlights speak eloquently to my existence:
  • Other signs include low self-esteem, plummeting energy, poor concentration, hopelessness, irritability and insomnia.
  • [D]ysthymic disorder — is typically described as a mild depression. But the data show a different story: Dysthymia is often a serious and severe disorder
  • Experts refer to dysthymia as a paradoxical condition because it appears mild day to day but becomes brutal long-term
  • Epidemiological studies reveal that dysthymia frequently has a devastating impact on people’s lives.
  • If they do work, they typically work part-time or report under-achieving because of emotional problems. They also tend to be single because depression can make relationships more challenging.
  • In fact, as many as 80 to 90 percent will get major depression. ... There’s evidence that dysthymia boosts the risk for suicidal behavior.
  • Comorbidity with anxiety disorders also is common. And dysthymia tends to co-occur with alcohol problems and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • Dysthymia still largely goes undiagnosed and untreated. ... They may assume that they’re just pessimistic or self-conscious or moody. After struggling for so many years, people come to view the fog of depression as their normal functioning.
  • Lifestyle changes, exercise, and social support are usually enough to improve short-term mild depression. But this doesn’t work for dysthymia. Most people with dysthymia have typically tried modifying their lifestyle; yet their depression doesn’t disappear