No, It’s Not The Coronavirus That’s Making Me Depressed

The thing that sucks about heading toward a depressive/anxiety episode, as my body is telling me that I’m doing is that there is very little I can do to stop it. It’s just part of the deal with bipolar disorder. I can call the doctor and ask them to up my meds, which I may do in the coming days, provided they don’t demand an office visit. I refuse to pay $152 for something they can just do over the phone. When they insist, I usually just tell them “Never mind, I’ll try to get by” and then I get my way.

I have to make sure that I’m also not helping along some self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t want to feel shitty and I have to constantly make sure that I’m not overblowing it. My grandmother left me scarred as far as knowing when I’m actually sick or not, so I constantly have to assess the situation and make sure I’m not telling myself that I’m better or worse than I actually am. It’s a little easier with a physical ailment, especially if it’s bleeding, but with a mental issue, I have to double-check that I’m being honest with myself.

One of the slightly annoying things is that I don’t feel like I have the manic upswings I once did. If I have to have the lows, the trade-off should be the highs that I experienced when I was younger. Maybe it’s a good thing they don’t happen now that I think about it.

I’m off to see my therapist in about an hour. I only visit her about once every three weeks now, but I’m going to suggest that we make the next appointment a little sooner. I really hope she doesn’t ask me what my mother and wife have: “This doesn’t have to do with being scared about the Coronavirus does it?”

I wrote about it last week and may have dismissed it a little more than I should have, but no, it’s nothing to do with that. I do think if Tom Hanks dies from it, we should rename it Tom Hanks’ Disease, like we have Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Maybe that’s morbid. No, that’s definitely morbid. The thing that hit me last night was that my uncle who died in late January has no idea that any of this happened. I don’t think his death has actually hit me yet. Maybe it won’t.

Mother Nature can be a bitch, but I think it’s important that humans are reminded now and then that we don’t have the power we think we do. We still can’t control the weather, nor natural disasters and we still can’t control pandemics. The world has had its share of volcanic eruptions that destroy the ecosystem or floods and fires that wipe out huge swaths of land. We’ve seen hurricanes and tsunamis take hundreds and thousands of lives and yes, there have been many diseases and plagues that took the lives of even more.

All that said, the human animal is resilient. We’ve gone 200,000 years and we’re going to go a lot more. In the coming days, you’re probably going to hear a lot more negative news and a ton of new cases, which is going to cause some people to have fatalistic, “the sky is falling” attitudes. To this, I say, “I don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.”

It’s interesting how people who haven’t experienced depression or anxiety think it works. When most people hear depression, they think sadness and when they hear anxiety they think scared. While I do get helpings of each, it’s more about a physical and mental paralysis with me. I physically feel both a tightness and a sense of detachment from my body and mind. For those who have smoked marijuana, it’s a little similar to that high. I just can’t operate at normal speed as I feel impaired.

Last year, I had a horrible bout of this, but I don’t see this one being even half as bad. I think what may have made it worse last year was that I didn’t recognize it soon enough and get the necessary rest to help move things along. I’m not going to make that mistake this time. I’ve cleared a bunch of my work for the next couple weeks and aside from a major radio show this weekend (if you’ve got Sirius XM, I’ll be on Sunday at 6 on Channel 131) I’m stepping back from marketing the book.

Anyway, I think I just needed to get this babbling out of my system before I see my therapist. I hope everyone has a good day. Wash your hands.

I Can Sense the Next Bipolar Spike is About to Begin

When my mind starts to really wander into metaphysical, philosophical and quantum mechanics areas of thinking at all times of day, I know that either a bipolar high or a bipolar low is about to make an appearance. I’ve made the decision to track some of these thoughts over the next few years so I can see if there are any trends in the content of the thoughts so I can predict which way things are going to go.

I tried to explain this to a woman at rehab once. I know people get songs caught in their head. That happens to me all the time, but a lot of the time it’s as if they are songs that aren’t in a language I can understand. It’s just background noise, like when you leave a fan running at night so the room isn’t quiet.

The best way I can describe this is as getting a really complex – yet utterly pointless – song caught in your head, and then getting like two or three songs caught at the same time. It’s like I’ve stumbled across an idea and I can’t just let it go. If you’ve ever binged at something, whether it’s a TV show or video game or something else, you might also understand this. For instance, when Tetris first came out 30 years ago for the Nintendo Gameboy, I played it so much that I was rotating blocks and hearing 8-bit classical music even in my sleep.

 

Here are a few examples of these things that get stuck in my head…

 

Almost every religious text references the end of the world. I was flipping through the TV channels the other night and one of the religious channels had a guy preaching that the coronavirus was the signal of “end times.”

Then, I was driving in the car and the song “In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans came on the radio. It basically talks about mankind moving toward an unknown future and considering it was written in 1968, it probably makes more sense now than then. It got me wondering if mankind will still be around in 5,000 years.

Let’s say we do something stupid and we’re not around in 5,000 years. I think that’s entirely possible. Our ability to develop technology far outstrips our ability to recognizes consequences. Disregarding our similar, yet different, relatives, the modern human has been on Earth for 200,000 years.

If we have less than 5,000 years to go, we are 39/40ths of the way to extinction. If you’re on vacation for 40 days, don’t you consider the 39th day the end of the vacation?

Maybe end times aren’t coming. Maybe we’re living in them now.

Is the head technically a body part? The head is a collection of body parts, but is it a part itself? Is it more of just a concept? Can a part be a collection of other parts?

You could say that the ear is part of the head, but the ear is just a collection of other parts – the eardrum, the tiny bones, etc., so is the ear truly a part? I’ll admit I know nothing about the eardrum, and it’s too early to go researching, but it’s possible that’s made up of other parts.

So let’s say, yes the head is a body part. Does that make the body itself a body part because it encapsulates everything or does it stop being a part because it’s a whole? If I am in an accident and lose a finger, my body is still a whole…or is it?

If you take a piece of pie, the rest of the pie is still the pie. But when there is less than half the pie left, we talk about it in the past tense, “How much of the pie is left?” It was once a whole but is now less than that. If it’s less than a whole, it should be a part.

In this same vein, what would it take to officially exhume the Titanic and not just parts of it? At what point would we say we have the boat from the ocean floor? A lot of stuff has just rotted away and is gone. How much of the boat had to come to the surface of what’s still left to be considered saving “the boat” and not just pieces?

But, if things like head, pie and boat are concepts just as much as they are actual things, what isn’t a concept. Aren’t words just concepts used to codify and identify things? If that’s true, why dwell on this?

 

Anyway, that’s just a tony look at the kind of stuff that’s clouding my head right now. I’m also thinking a lot about the fact that every person I see has a complete, complex life and if there are any types of ranking systems to determine what a good life or bad life would be.

Sometimes my head doesn’t buzz with this kind of nonsense and other times it feels almost debilitating. It’s kind of exhausting, which I guess is why I’m drinking more caffeine than I have had in a while. I’m also sleeping a lot, which makes me think things are on a downward slope, but there’s nothing concrete signaling depression on its way.

I’ve been like this forever and I know that part of my addiction was not just to cope with trauma, but to escape this kind of thinking that is just loud random chatter happening in my head. I’ve talked to doctors and shrinks about it and none of them seem too considered, so I won’t be either. The addictions helped slow my mind. I know there are things like meditation that is supposed to help, but I can’t get there. I’ve tried many times. Meditation is either me going deeper into these crazy thoughts, or falling asleep altogether.

Don’t worry about me. I can cope with this stuff. I just wonder if anybody else has stuff like this happen.

 

The Grateful Eight…on the Right Date!

I haven’t managed to get one of these posted on the eighth for a couple of months, but dang it, I’m going to get it right this month. It’s time for the Grateful Eight…eight things I’m grateful for in my everyday life. They can be super important – like being grateful for oxygen or your family – or they can be rather mundane and silly. Feel free to contribute your own thoughts in the comments or steal the entire concept.

Balance – While I am clumsy and will roll an ankle with no warning, I’ve noticed I’m continually getting better managing the balance of professional and personal life and devoting the proper amount of time and energy to each. I feel like I’m learning when to pull back if I’m tired and need a break, but almost as importantly, not feeling guilty for it. I spent decades not being able to do this, so I know it’ll always be a work in progress, but I feel good about my ability to balance things better than in the past and I think it’s important to recognize when we’re getting better at a skill that has alluded us.

The EZ Pass – I know it’s called other things in different parts of the country, but the ability to just glide by those other drivers who don’t have the electronic toll payer is priceless. On my recent roadtrip, I probably saved 20 minutes at the George Washington Bridge not having to stop and pay whatever the ridiculous toll is for the pleasure (?) of going from New York to New Jersey and vice versa. I bet on the entire trip, I saved 45 minutes not having to stop to pay tolls.

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Pre-Cut Cheese – Maybe I’m just too young to understand the concept of something being “the greatest thing since sliced bread” but I’ve noticed in the last few years they now sell pre-cut blocks of cheese, the perfect size for putting on a Ritz cracker. While it pains me to write this entry without a single “cutting the cheese” joke, those of us who love cheese and have wasted too much of our life cutting slices too thin, too thick, or at a weird angle were given a gift when the fine people at Cracker Barrel started packaging it pre-cut.

Cheers – I’ve decided to binge watch my first streaming TV show. I literally haven’t used Netflix in years, and it just happened to be on the TV when I took over the living room the other night. Now I watch about 3-4 episodes of this NBC classic from the 80s and early 90s most nights. This was such a great show. It’s one of those I never see in reruns which is a shame because I think there would still be a huge audience for it.

Coronavirus – Because weren’t we all getting tired of the Australian Wildfires and ready for something else to worry about we can’t control? Remember to wash your hands. And when the scare is over, for God’s sake, keep washing your hands. We use Clorox wipes in our house, even pre-plague, but I had to go to four places to get them yesterday. In one sense I’m glad…people are finally not being disgusting, but I have a sense they won’t be tough to find in a few weeks.

People Still Buying My Book – The softcover version has been out 10 weeks as of today. It’s still regularly in the top 1% of all titles on Amazon and it’s now in the phase where libraries are buying it and they’re snapping it up much more than my first book. It won’t ever get to the point where I can even claim to make close to minimum wage for writing and promoting the book, but I’m not doing it for money at this point. I just feel validated people are interested. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s still like 20% off cover price on Amazon as I write this.

My immune system – Not only do I not have the Coronavirus, I don’t have the nasty sinus infection my wife has nor whatever my son seems to be fighting off. I’ve probably had two colds in five years and (knock on wood) don’t think I’ve been sick in about two years. As an aside about washing your hands and keeping your area clean…I was in jail for six months back in 2016. We kept that pod sparkling clean, mopping, washing tables, the bathroom, doorknobs, faucet handles, etc. every day. I didn’t see a single person come through their in my time and end up getting sick. There is something to battling germs, even if it’s just spraying Lysol a couple of times a day. I work from home and am not often around big groups. I should get sick more often, but because I maintain a clean environment, I generally don’t get sick very often.

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Time Healing Wounds/Making Things Seem Less Important – I’ve slowed down my interviews for the current book as I work on other things, and in not giving 5 a week, I’m noticing in those I do give far less attention being paid to my personal story, and the parts of it that I got in trouble for. As I approach the six-year anniversary of being arrested, I’m grateful that we reach a point where people’s pasts aren’t forgotten, but don’t need to be dredged up every moment. I did some horrible, stupid shit in 2013, was called on it in 2014, and finally paid the price in 2016. But I also turned everything around, became a porn addiction expert and am now doing good in the present. It’s reassuring that while I should never forget, nor should others, what happened, it’s possible to move past it and focus on what I’m doing today.

Like I ask every month, I’d love to hear some of the things you’re grateful for. Just take a minute and reflect on today or the last few days. What has made you stop and say, “I like this…This is convenient…This is important…I am grateful”? As I said, it’s important things and not-so-important things, but it’s a great exercise to be thankful for things.

Let Facts and Perspective, Not Hype and Misinformation, Be Your Guide this Weekend

My wife is dealing with her yearly, almost-springtime sinus infection. You can set the time to set forward the clocks by it. She is a medical assistant in a doctor’s office and despite sinus infections not being one of the symptoms of the coronavirus (which, BTW, three weeks ago was not a word that was in Autocorrect, but now is – who makes these day-to-day calls?) she’s dealing with the hype and has actually had patients who did not want her to help them.

We had a discussion about this last night, because it reminded both of us when I was arrested, the incorrect news reports, and needless hype it caused.

I don’t want anyone to think that I believe coronavirus isn’t an important thing to keep a close eye on, but I think the most startling part about it is that it’s revealing just how many people don’t wash their hands or use hand sanitizer. There should not be empty store shelves where hand soap and sanitizer once sat. Shelves are empty because demand wasn’t there previously. Let’s hope that people’s hygiene continues to stay at improved levels once this hype is over.

There’s a universal truth in this world that the media and politicians understand. Scared people provide the best word-of-mouth. Once you’re scared, you don’t concern yourself, nor scrutinize the facts of a situation. In doomsday mode, you just prepare for and expect the worse.

In North Dakota, there hasn’t been one confirmed case of coronavirus this year. As of three days ago, there has been 9,979 cases of influenza, with 88 hospitalizations. Thankfully, nobody has died, but 9,979 is a bit more than 0. However, because it’s not been decided that it’s a good news story that will make money for media companies, and it’s not been prioritized by politicians seeking attention from those media companies, the flu is just something that happens.

Vice President Mike Pence was put in charge of doing something about coronavirus. A lot of people got angry because he made some dumb comment about cigarette smoking not killing people years ago. Yeah, it was an ignorant thing to say, but dumber yet is that we don’t seem to care that the Center for Disease Control says cigarette smoking kills 480,000 Americans every year (worldwide estimates are about 6 million people). Coronavirus, as of Thursday night, has killed 12 Americans.

Does anybody remember last year when 12 people died in the UK because of a rare outbreak of a bacterial infection that was a cousin of strep throat? No? The American media didn’t jump on that one, so nobody cared, yet the same number of people died.

Far more children will be accidentally killed this year in incidents involving their backyard pool than in accidental household gun deaths, yet the National Swimming Pool Association (if there even is a group like that) doesn’t have to battle public hype like the National Rifle Association because the public – following the lead of the media and politicians, haven’t decided accidental pool deaths are an important cause.

With 12 Americans dead of the coronavirus, the Senate passed an emergency $8.3 billion bill to fight the spread of the virus. You probably won’t be shocked to hear that the Senate only approved $5.9 billion in the 2020 budget for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, despite the fact that drugs and mental health conditions have killed far, far, far more people than the coronavirus. You don’t get your picture on CNN or FOX News when you’re funding mental health. You do when you fund what the media wants you to think is the next plague.

When I was arrested six years ago, there were two photos of a topless teenage girl found by police on my computer. I’m not going to rationalize or defend that, but it was far less than the hundreds of photos of children under 12 that was reported in the media. It was months before that was ever corrected, and it wasn’t even called to attention that the previous reporting was wrong. Yet guess what I was convicted of? Two photos. It was reported I couldn’t be around my children, which was clearly wrong as I could not only be around them, I was still living with them through my legal ordeal. I don’t think the police, nor the media really cared if the information they shared was accurate.

What did that misinformation cause? Many, many people taking on social media locally, tearing me apart based on wrong information that was spun and hyped and spun and hyped. Reading those comments was like reading about somebody else it was that incorrect. There were people who I’m pretty sure thought I was snatching little kids directly off playgrounds. When public hype spins already incorrect information, there’s little anybody can do to bring things under control.

About four years ago, I wrote an op-ed for the local newspaper giving very rational, science-based reasons why a proposed rules change on where former sex offenders could live didn’t make sense for the city next to the one I live in. It was obvious that it would made getting help and certain resources that the lowest socio-economic demographic of sex offenders needed even more difficult, and statistics prove that hands-on offenders know their victims more than 90% of the time. It actually has nothing to do with how close to a school or church they live. Ultimately, the needless, tighter restrictions were approved 7-0 by the City Council. Isn’t it nice when Democrats and Republicans can get together on something because it’s easier to wave a finger at and demonize sex offenders than understand anything actually true about them? It also looks better the next morning in the newspaper to the readers who aren’t going to be bothered to understand nuance.

My wife is off to work again this morning. She’s not contagious, yet I still have a feeling I may see her by lunch, being sent home not because of good science, but because politicians and the media have whipped people into a frenzy about a virus that has hit 19 states – and only 3 states have more than 6 cases. Maine is not one of those 19 states, BTW.

Wash your hands. Take care of yourself. Be careful with kids around the pool. Lock up your guns. Don’t smoke. Understand sex offenders are people, too. Make your health decisions and reactions based on fact, not hype and scare tactics. And don’t perpetuate anything that isn’t true. Memes do enough of that already.