You can’t lose me

depression-94808_640

Among the many chronic conditions I deal with, I have depression. By all recollection, I have always had depression although at various times I have been able to assemble a life which has allowed me to avoid the debilitating symptoms of depression. Like most people, I am capable of experiencing genuine happiness. In fact, I’m actually quite good at it. But it’s a delicate balance. There are no quick fixes. Every treatment has its side effects. Actions have consequences and even right action can have unintended consequences.

I don’t claim to understand depression any better than anyone else; all I know is me, my life and how I experience it. Depression is a name given to me by doctors, invented by scientist, based on hypotheses and the shared experiences of everyday ordinary people. As a result of this diagnosis I have been able to tape into a wealth of knowledge and collective experience to better understand myself. I’ve been able to take comfort in the knowledge that I am not alone. I am able to feel connected, which is perhaps an even greater sensation that happiness.

Despite all this insight, I have not been able to eliminate this thing, this part of me called depression. Whatever it is I suspect it will be with me forever. I hope I’m wrong. I would love to be wrong about this. I welcome any information that would suggest that I am wrong about this because so far knowledge has only made me more knowledgeable, not less depressed.

What is interesting is that sharing knowledge does make me less depressed. Connecting my experience directly with other people who have similar experiences does make me less depressed. Helping other people move from conflusion or anger to acceptance and understanding totally makes me feel better. The sad irony is that when I’m depressed, when I’m angry and confused, the last thing I want to do is spread that energy into the universe. Connecting with other living, loving souls may be the best thing for me but it’s not the best thing for my fellow earthlings. Perhaps this is a functional and evolutionary aspect of depression. We know that depression leads to isolation and inactivity and for a time this may be for the best. Unfortunately, we also know of the tragic ends met by people who feel completely disconnected from life.

I am writing this in an attempt to connect, to share openly and honestly my experience. And because I can… right now, at this time, in this moment, I can write. It’s been months since I’ve been able to write anything of substance and even longer since I’ve completed and published anything. I’m publishing this regardless. I’m just enough pissed off at the world to not give a fuck and that has it’s benefits.

What I want to do is share my greatest fear at the moment. I’m afraid that I may have lost you in my absence. Relationships require some level of consistency and predictability. Unfortunately, the shit I deal with makes that impossible. I suppose I could present the face of consistency and predictability by lowering the bar to something reliably attainable but where is the fun in that? I prefer to act when I can and burn out when the fuel is gone. I know how fucking annoying this is to the people around me but I don’t know how else to do it. I choose not to act out of anger or fear but sometimes… like right now… that’s what I have to work with.

So my hope is that you won’t take it personally. This is my shit. I accept that I’m an asshole but I hope that you won’t think of me that way. I hope that you won’t take my absence as rejection. I’m still here. I’m working on me and doing the best I can. If you can’t understand what it’s like to deal with depression, consider yourself lucky. If someone in your life is dealing with depression, be patient. It’s harder than it looks. I’m sorry we haven’t talked in a while. Most of the time, I struggle to put words into sentences. I fight the choking feeling around my neck. But I know it’s just life… and life goes on. I’ll be back… I just want to know that you will still be there when I’m done doing this thing I’m doing. I want to know that you are taking care of yourself. I want to know that you are finding support where you can. The most comforting words I’ve ever heard are, “You can’t lose me.” Share them with someone you love.

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY

You must have had so much fun

Sunrise in the deep playa, Burning Man 2014

I’m back from touring with Against Me!, Burning Man and Shangri-la. I see the awe in people’s eyes as the ask me about my journey. It certainly has been an amazing journey. I am extremely grateful for all that I experienced over the past month. I had never been to Burning Man  before nor had I been on a tour of this caliber.  Very few people will ever have the opportunities bestowed upon me over the past month. They want to live vicariously through me. They want to hear my tales of adventure and triumph. They imagine me having the time of my life. Well I did, but you know what? It’s still just life and as we know… life suck. I think the imagined is probably far more exciting that the reality so in an attempt to be kind I will let you imagine how much fun I must have had.

I will say that life on the road sucks a whole lot less than life at home. I still don’t know about this concept of fun however. I enjoyed virtually every minute of

[I started writing this on September 9th and that is as far as I got before I broke into tears.]

The reality is that being back in Minneapolis has been really painful for me. I’ve spent my whole time back here trying to figure out why. The obvious answer is that I have depression, that I’m mentally ill, that there is something wrong with me. I’m fine with the depression label. I’ve got the t-shirt and I wear it proudly. What I reject is that having depression is somehow a defect. That there is something wrong with me. That I need to be fixed. If it is what I am, then so be it. If anything, it’s a super-power that I just need to learn how to control. There is no need for judgement about it.

Feelings are not wrong. Feeling are guideposts. They help us understand our world. But, feelings can cloud our perception of things. They can become overwhelming and distort our view of reality. They can accentuate each other and create a feedback loop to the point where everything just looks shitty. I’ve been there. I know about how that works and it can cause a whole lot of problems. When our choices are based on a false perception of reality we make some pretty fucked up choices. Nature has a way of correcting this though. In time, after a series of fucked up choices, reality and our perception of reality merge and we no longer feel insane. I think that is the world in which we live in, and it’s kind of fucked up.

Depression is not wrong but this pain which I’m feeling is an indication that something is wrong. And oh boy is there a lot of shit wrong! That is reality! My goal, is to not add to it. One solution would be to do nothing but to my brain, my depression brain, that literally means death. Now I know some pretty spiritually enlightened people who have become fairly good at doing nothing. I just don’t think that that is my path. It sounds awfully selfish to me. I’m not judging. I have no problem with people being selfish in this way. It’s all done in the name of God after all so it’s not really selfish, right?. I just think that we are all God so it looks selfish to me. Also, I kind of like people. If I’m going to serve God I’m going to do it by loving people. If I have to put anything out into the world I want it to be love.

So back to this idea of fun. I have a hard time with this concept of fun. It seems really important to a lot of people but I don’t worry about it that much. I have fun sometimes but it’s never my motivation. I don’t go out trying to have a “good time”. It just kind of happens sometimes. My motivation, first of all is to survive. For me, that means doing something, anything. My intention is for it to be meaningful and purposeful. My intent is to give. I want the fuel which puts a fire under my ass to be love. If along the way I have some fun, if I have a good time… that just a bonus.

So what do I find fun? I guess I can find fun in just about anything if I look for it. Breathing is pretty amazing if you think about it. I don’t need to go on a national tour. I don’t need to go to Burning Man. I don’t need to go to Harmony Park. That said, the most fun experience I had was sitting outside our camp at Burning Man, sipping my morning coffee while three naked women biked by. I’m pretty sure that if I started every day that way I wouldn’t have depression. Unfortunately you don’t see much naked biking  in Minneapolis. As amazing as that was, it still couldn’t compare to the awesomeness of watching the sun peak it’s head over the mountain range at the edge of the playa while sitting atop scaffolding that we weren’t suppose to be on. Some would say that I am wrong for this but I don’t see how that could possible be true.

Mixed bag

I was awakened this morning by a phone call from one of my dearest friends. She was feeling lonely and depressed and wanting to drink. She knew that I had a show last night so she didn’t want to call and wake me but after going through every name in her phone she had no choice. I’m glad that she did even though I wasn’t quite awake and didn’t have much to offer except a sympathetic ear.

I’m still waking up but I’ve decided to try and write something. I still may decide to say, “fuck it” and just drive over and see her. In any case, I do need another cup of coffee so here we go…

As I’m making this transition from summer pedicab driver to winter hermit I’ve found myself living in my brain.

[And that’s as far as I got before the phone rang again]

This time the call was from my best friend who is now living out in California. She is the number one reason why I am on the verge of exceeding my monthly allotment of cell phone minutes, but given that this is the weekend there is no harm in answering. It was quite literally the least I could do. Given that she is now two thousand miles away, it’s kind of the only thing I can do.

While talking to California for an hour I got dressed and drove to my friends house in south Minneapolis. Since I wasn’t going to be getting any writing done, I might as well be helping my friends who really need nothing more than a friend. I didn’t actually know whether my friend in Minneapolis still wanted or needed me to come over but I figured it was worth the risk.

It turned out to be a good call. She was still disappointed that she didn’t get a better response to all of her efforts at reaching out. I said, “it only takes one and I’m here.”

As it turned out she actually had two.  Shortly after I arrived another friend came over to help. They talked for a while and I did some dishes. After that, the second friend left with my friend’s son so the we could have some time without the boy. We wound up heading to the studio so I could pick up my bike and then to the tanning salon. Go ahead and give me all the shit you want about how evil tanning beds are, but when you’re suffering with seasonal depression, ten minutes in a tanning bed can do wonders. We also got Chinese food – basically the best day every!

But this is how my winters go. Everyday I just try to do the best I can and usually the best I can has nothing to do with moving my life forward. I’m just trying to maintain. If I’m lucky, I will be able to help someone else. If I’m really lucky I’ll be able to make someone else’s life better.

That day was last Monday.

Last Sunday I went to a friend’s house to hang out and watch a movie. When I arrived I took off my coat and put it on the coat hook by her back door. Immediately, the entire fixture pulled out of the wall and fell to the floor. My mission for Monday was to make sure that never happened again.

I’m not the greatest handy man in the world but I can drill a hole and put up a shelf. I just have no passion for doing any of this when it comes to my own house. I was excited to do it for someone else. I not only secured the coat hooks, which I felt somewhat responsible for breaking, I also put a coat rod in her closet.

Knowing that I’ve been struggling to get my life moving, my friend wanted to do something to help me out. I’m not the best at asking for what I need but I’m working on it. I still haven’t filed my paperwork to receive the property tax refund I have coming to me. It’s not that hard and I can totally do it but for some reason I keep putting it off. I asked her if she would come over and help me get it filled out. This is something that is right up her alley.

So it worked out. My life moved forward. I couldn’t do it for myself but I was able to help someone who could help me. I think that is how things work most of the time. We can’t do it alone but when we come together we can do more that the sum of our parts.

But if that was enough, my life, your life, everyone’s life, would be working perfectly and it’s not. When I really need help it’s at a time when I feel like I have nothing left to give. That’s why I give regardless of whether anyone can give back to me. I just know that giving is the key to getting what we need.

Of course I could be wrong. Maybe taking is the key to getting what you need. I know that it is a successful way to get what you want. I just really doubt it can help you get what you need.

[At this point I’m tempted to retitle the post “wants vs. needs”. I would but it’s already so disjointed with no clear point that I don’t think any title could capture its essence.]

The only point I think I can make is that my life is still not working perfectly. I mean, it’s working. I’m not dead yet but it’s still not anywhere like I’d like it to be.

Let’s take Tuesday, for example. I did my best. I gave what I had to give. I wrote a blog post that I thought would appeal to both rock-n-roll and sci-fi geeks. That’s not an easy thing to do.  I should have been sitting on top of the world.

Instead I felt more alone than I have ever felt before. Actually, I don’t even know if that is what it was. Really, it was loneliness but a kind of loneliness that I’d never felt before. I was physically in pain over my longing for human contact. Now, I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve had my stomach in knots because I missed someone so much. But this was different. This was just generalized loneliness manifesting as physical pain.

I waited in agony until 8:59pm when my free nighttime minutes kicked in so that I could call someone… anyone! Actually, I called T-Moble earlier, in part to find out exactly when my free minutes started, but mostly just to have someone to talk to. Yup, I was that desperate.

I stayed up until four in the morning talking to anyone who would answer their phone. When you give as much as I give it’s remarkable how many people will answer the phone when you call. Still, life would be a lot easier if I didn’t need people so much.

When I finally woke up on Wednesday and I felt like shit again. I went to my refrigerator and learned that I had drank an entire three-liter box of white wine – that’s four bottles worth, all by myself. It was a beautiful, sunny day but I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy it at all. I was fucking hung-over!

Granted, I didn’t feel as bad, nor did I cause the embarrassment, as the last time I drank an entire bottle of whisky in one night. I love whiskey, but wine is still a better friend.

[At this point I feel the need to post this video. Go ahead and watch it. It’s pretty fucking awesome!!!]

I’ve known for a long time that I have a drinking problem. I struggle with it. I try to control it. I try to reduce the harm it causes. It’s never going away. Many of my friends have found sobriety. None have found it a perfect solution. Hell, I’ve found sobriety and look how it’s worked for me. The point is to keep going. I’m still on my path. There is no telling where it will lead but suicide is no solution.

If I didn’t have rehearsal Wednesday night I wouldn’t have accomplished anything that day.

Thursday I had a date with one of my oldest and dearest friends. We met when I was seventeen years old, back when I was in AA. She has now been sober for 25 years. I’m 46 now  – do your own math! She knows what a drunk I am and loves me anyway. Still, I respect her sobriety and wasn’t going to drink before seeing her. Drinking still crossed my mind but I was lucky and managed to find ways to keep myself busy. Once I was with her it didn’t matter. Even though we went to a restaurant that served alcohol, I had no desire to drink.

Friday was a different story. Friday I had nothing to do except go to a birthday party where I knew that drinking would be the theme of the evening. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to go. It was a good ten mile bike ride from my house and I’m suppose to be a hermit and not going out this winter. Still, I really like this friend and my California friend’s lover/business partner was going to be DJing at the party and I’d never met him. I was determined to try my best to make it.

I finally had enough drinks in me to feel like I could accomplish anything so I hopped on my bike and headed to south Minneapolis. I realized that I hadn’t really eaten much that day so I stopped in at Cause Spirits and Soundbar for a beer and a slice of pizza.

I had no idea what was going on that night. I just needed some food. It turned out that it was the “hipster” spot for the evening. I knew half the people there. I was instantly thrown back into my old life. Back to the days when I considered it my job description to be at all the happening events. I made my way through the crowd of people wanting to say “hi” to me; being as polite as I could.

I really just wanted to get to the bar and get some food. I wound up talking to some Joe who was on his own little pub crawl. He had stopped in at this place because some girl he likes had said that she was going to be here. Fuck, that’s as good a reason as any…

I also talked to Scott Seekins. He is a local artist with a very iconic look. We have had conversations in the past about the power of an iconic look and since I had changed mine, I thought it would be a good idea to check in with him. He still thought I could make it work which made me feel good.

Here’s a picture of my friend, Scott Seekins.

Scott Seekins

I also talked to some other people at Cause. Just because it was a hipster douchebag event doesn’t mean that there weren’t good people there. I know right?!?  Now who sounds like the hipster douchebag? This guy here!

Anyway… on to the party where I was a total fucking hit! All these people where half my age and thought of me as a god! No seriously, I don’t know what I said or what I did but I was told flat out that I changed their life. I had people begging for my number saying, “We have to hang out!”

Again, I should have been sitting on top of the world. But really, all I wanted was to get laid. I was still just that lonely guy. At that point, all the admiration in the world didn’t mean shit if nobody wanted to bang me.

And oh my god where there people there that I wanted to fuck. Granted, when you are in your forties pretty much anyone in their twenties looks pretty damn good but this was a party of some of the hottest looking people in the city.

And I was not getting any more sober and they were not getting any less good looking.

I may not remember any of the conversations that changed lives but I do remember this one: Towards the end of the night, after a shot of whiskey, I was talking with an extremely attractive woman and I said, “I really want to bite your face!” I wan’t feeling violent; it was pure labido and she knew that.

Her response was, ” That’s pretty creepy.”

I said, “I know, and I’m not a creepy guy. That’s just the thought in my head and apparently I have no filter.”

Suffice it to say, I realized at that point that I was probably too drunk and was not going to get laid that night so I had better go home. I still had a couple more conversations before I left. They had to do with helping other people come to terms with their own sexual proclivities but I was done trying to meet my own. I was just hoping that I could find a cab that could take me and my bike back to north Minneapolis.

That didn’t happen either. I wound up biking the whole ten miles or so back home. I did make it; much to my surprise. It was 5:43 in the morning  and I had a show that night. I think I was still awake enough to make some food and make some drunken post on Facebook.

But would I make it to the show that night???

Here is the proof that I did.

LeFreak - Sound Unseen

Thanks for reading the longest post I have ever made. You are a real trooper. I think you are amazing!!! Please let me know who you are by liking this post if you do or by leaving a comment telling me how much you think it sucks! You can leave me a comment even if you like it – I won’t mind.

The first day of the rest of my life

Yesterday was the start of something new. There was no fanfare or ribbon-cutting ceremony but it did mark the day that I turned my focus to the future. Even so, it turned out to be not much different than any other day. Thomas Dolby being in town was not the distraction I feared it would be. I just kept doing the next thing and going to a concert never became one of them. I did still find plenty of things to distraction me.

I spent a good deal of time poking around facebook and reading various blogs. I’ve really been enjoying Kenneth Justice’s blog The Culture Monk and Lauren Cropper’s Between Fear and Love. I spent a little too much time watching TV shows on Netflix. I’ve started watching the BBC series, Sherlock. It’s a great stand-in while waiting for Doctor Who to return. Sometimes it’s hard for me to sit down and watch an hour and a half long drama so I’ve also been watching the sitcom, Don’t Trust the B—– in Apt. 23. Funny, but for some reason I can watch four episodes in a row of that show. I think it reminds me of some of my friends.

I did do some things that were a little more productive. I did some dishes, laundry and took care of some accounting work. I spent an hour playing guitar which was inspiring. I also managed to vote, the only thing I absolutely had to do yesterday.

So far my activities have been of the maintenance variety. These are the things that just allow me to keep treading water but don’t actually move me forward. That may just be the way things go for a while but eventually that won’t be enough to keep me busy. I will be forced to make progress because I won’t have anywhere else to go.

For me, this is where self-motivation comes from. Deadlines are good but boredom and passion are better. I’m a great procrastinator but eventually I run out of distractions and nothing left to do but everything I have to do. It’s in that moment that shit starts happening. The only time I ever get anything done is “right now”.

I have my goals and dreams but there is no clear path as to how to get there. I will keep documenting progress on my goals but I’m reluctant to specifically identify what they are. Maybe I will, but for now I will hesitate. I know that my goals will change over time. I know that I will change over time and I know that when I finally achieve my goals that it won’t look anything like I currently imagine.

Most people wait until after they have accomplished something great to write about it. Then they can look back and say, “that’s how it’s done”. But that’s not how its done. Goals are achieved in the moment. That’s why I’m writing about this as I go. To me, the process is more important than the goal.

It’s already not going as planned or as expected. I expected that I would be spending these first two weeks of November unable to do anything. I expected that I would find the road ahead so overwhelming that I would slip into a deep depression.  I figured that might take up to two weeks but eventually I would either give up and quit or I would decide that killing myself was not an option and that I had no choice but to move forward.

Instead I had my break-down / break-through / spiritual awakening two weeks ago. While it was nothing like I imagined it would be, it might be fair to say that I am two weeks ahead of schedule. In truth, I am still now and always will be right on time.

Do better

Seriously, what the fuck?!? I had really hoped that I would wake up in a better mood. I have plenty to look forward to today and tomorrow but anticipation is not enough to get me out of the now. It seems that all I do is just a way to distract myself from what is otherwise a shitty and painful life.

Well so be it! If I’m depressed, I’m depressed. I know it won’t go on forever even if I do nothing. If I do nothing I will find boredom. Through boredom I will find inspiration. I will find a distraction that will allow me to keep moving. If I keep moving I know I will once again find beauty in life.

There is beauty in life, there is also misery. No matter what I do, as long as I’m paying attention, I will find both. I don’t think that means it doesn’t matter what I do. Certainly some things are better than others but I can only do what I do… so I’m going to do that.

If I’m depressed I’m going to do depression…

Okay, I’m done with that now!

Now I’m going to play SuperBetter!

Not gonna happen

As I was  biking home I was lost in anticipation about telling you about the totally worthwhile day I had. I know that people follow this blog and I felt like I owed you that. But then when I got home I was overwhelmed with depressing thoughts. I don’t want to give you that. Instead I’m going to go to bed and see how things look tomorrow.

Life is like riding a bicycle

I’m on the verge of falling apart. I can feel it in my body – the tightness in my stomach, invisible hands wrapped around my throat, the tingling in my back as if to warn me of some impending danger. Regardless of how many times my evolved brain tries to convince me that everything will be okay, no matter what happens I will be fine, my reptilian brain is on high alert.

My residual animal defence mechanisms know that winter is coming and after months of intense stress I may be too weak to survive it. My body is ready to fight for it’s life. I’m on edge, I’m anxious, I’m exhausted and depressed. One wrong move and I’m liable to bite someone’s head off.

The threats are real, the pain I feel is real but my ability to cope and adapt is more developed than my body gives credit. The greatest battle being waged is within myself. The greatest threat to my survival is me. In an internal struggle for power the best chance of survival is balance. Like riding a bicycle, the only way to stay balanced is to keep moving… or stop and put your foot down.

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