Monthly Archives: August 2014

Wearing hats

I have a big head. I mean that literally.

I like hats but it is very difficult for me to find ones that fit. My skull just seems to be on the very large side of headgear. I don’t have the disposable funds for specially made hats so when I get them, it becomes trial and error at Target or Wal-Mart and hopefully I find something I like that will fit. I got lucky for a bit and had a few hats in my size. Now I’m down to a baseball cap, a currently MIA fedora, and two winter hats.

Since this is my world when it comes to actual hats, it strikes me funny that I have a few invisible ones that I wear all the time. I know I’m not alone here. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we all have a few invisible hats of identity. They don’t give us any superpowers because that would be far too awesome. They mostly just frame how people see us and how we behave in those frames.

I have the work hat, which mostly involves behaving in a way to make a lot of people happy. That way I get paid in money, an unfortunate necessity but still a necessity.

I have the friend hat, which doesn’t get worn as much as it used to. It’s fun but sometimes it takes a lot out of you. It’s usually one I like wearing, when all is said and done.

I’m always wearing the husband/daddy hat. This one must have been stapled to my skin. A lot is involved with this one. And it seems to change constantly. It currently involves bill-paying, cleaning, and poop. Lots of poop.

I have a geek hat. I have a theatre artist hat. I have a son hat, a sibling hat, and if I spent awhile chipping away at my psyche I could probably come up with a few more.

Maybe I’ve piled on so many invisible hats that it interferes with me wearing actual ones. It would be really handy to just stitch them all together, making some kind of motley hat like you would see on fools or jesters. If we could all do that it could really simplify things. I don’t think it would make people any less complex, but it might at least keep you in a limited frame of reference. That has to be helpful for ones sanity.

Then again, I wonder if we need to have all these hats. Maybe trying to put them all together just isn’t possible. The brain is a funny, scary, amazing thing. So are a lot of people. We may actually need the different hats just to make it through our given time on this Earth.

I wonder if this is how the Hatter went mad?

 

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Cats and kids: an observation

I have two little girls. Phoebe and Zoe are pretty much the primary focus of my life. I also have Pepper, the neurotic, Prozac-taking, not super bright cat. My wife and I got her during our first year of marriage. She is 7 years old now and, with a few exceptions, is pretty much terrified of anyone that isn’t one of her human parents/servants. This includes the children. I am firmly convinced that Pepper thinks they want to eat her.

In defense of my children, Pepper is a little bitch even with the level of stupid she possesses. I kind of see her as the cat equivalent of Amanda Seyfried’s character in “Mean Girls.” I feel bad that she doesn’t want much to do with the girls. In defense of my cat, Phoebe and Zoe are loud and make lots of sudden movements. Not the favorites things of any cat I’ve ever met. Also, the times Pepper allows herself to be pet do not often end in her favor. A tail or some fur gets pulled and she is back to fleeing in terror. She’ll be in the same room as Phoebe and Zoe but that is about as far as it often goes.

It’s a shame, really, since they all have so much in common. In fact, I’m constantly seeing similar behavior patterns in the cat and the children.

All three, cat and girls, constantly demand food.

All three seem to be compelled to have random things end up on the floor.

You can give any of them toys, but they will probably be more excited about the box it came in.

They all seem to share the need to suddenly be in the next room for no reason. Zoe still only crawls, but she feeds this need as well as Pepper or Phoebe.

None of them have any problem with daddy cleaning up their poop.

I’m starting to think this is some kind of elaborate plan. But whose plan could it be? Is my wife secretly training them to be some kind of cute little spy squad? Is Pepper smarter than she lets on? Or am I just sleepy and seeing things that aren’t there? Eh, it’s probably all three.

 

A real disease

When I started this blog, I knew there where certain things I would want to address at some point. Some topics are easier to talk about than others. A few days ago Robin Williams, an actor and comedian who I and many people loved, took his own life. He had battled both substance abuse and depression, losing his fight with the second. This has prompted a lot of people to call attention to the topic of mental illness. It’s a topic a lot of people try to avoid in conversation, much like religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.

I suffer from depression. My official medical diagnosis is major depression with moderate severity. This isn’t something that I’m ashamed of but I also don’t open conversations with it. However, if you’re reading this I can only assume you’re somewhat interested in what I have to say. Let me continue.

I have dealt with depression for a very long time, starting back when I was twelve. I am now thirty-five. I didn’t start getting treatment for this until I was thirty. I now take medication. I have been in and out of therapy over the last few years, really only stopping when insurance/money issues forced me to. I have very good days and days that are really hard to get through. I have been suicidal and have, in the past, come very close to following through on it.

So why, if this started so long ago, did I only recently seek treatment? A few reasons. One was that for quite some time I never felt that anyone would take me seriously. The few times I had tried to really talk to people about it weren’t very successful. I did speak to a doctor once who decided to try me on samples of a medication. It did nothing for me so the  conclusion was that there wasn’t a problem. It actually got to a point where my stubborn streak kicked in. I really started to think that if no one thought I had a problem, then I didn’t need any help. I had made it this far on my own and could continue to do so. Also, there was a certain level of feeling that I was weak if I asked for help. Part of me felt that I was broken but I couldn’t let anyone else know it. I would deal with it alone.

How did that work out? Not well. The turning point was when I took a job that made my depression worse to the point where I also started getting panic attacks. Eventually, I had a nervous breakdown. Fortunately, I had already started seeking help. My wife encouraged me to talk to my doctor and I started seeing a therapist. When I fell apart, I called both individually and they both recommended I go to a local mental hospital for evaluation. That was when I got officially diagnosed and I spent a little over a week in out-patient psychiatric care. I’ve been on medication since.

It’s weird to look back on my life prior to those events and after. I’ve had a few friends point out that I had changed once I started getting help. I wonder if parts of my life would have been better had I done something sooner, but that isn’t something I dwell on. It isn’t a perfect fix. Like I said, I do have days that are harder than others. And one thing that the whole Robin Williams thing has done is scare me. It makes me worried that one day I will lose my fight too. Will the steps I’ve taken, the progress I think I’ve made, ultimately mean nothing? I know I can’t dwell on it, but it’s a genuine fear. All I know is if I do lose, it won’t be because I didn’t fight.

I also worry that I will pass this on to my kids. My depression is the chemical kind, connected to my brain not producing the right happy juice. That makes it part of my genetics. Will Phoebe develop it? Will Zoe? Will I be able to tell if they do?

Depression, like other forms of mental illness, is a real disease. It’s not something that happens because you did something wrong. It’s not something you chose to be. It’s not something you can just “get over” like some people still think. You don’t just get over skin cancer or lupus. You don’t tell someone with asthma that they should just stop having asthma. It doesn’t make someone weak or stupid if they lose their battle with mental illness. When that happens, it’s just sad because it didn’t have to end that way. I refuse to let it end that way. I want to be here. I will be here.

All right. Let me wrap this up. I honestly feel I have made progress as a person, and part of that was dealing with my depression. It is not, however, something I could do alone. No one can. I know we don’t always like to hear the problems of other people. I’m like that too. But try to listen. When you do, you can tell if someone is genuinely asking for help. It sounds different from someone who is just whining or bitching. Take it seriously. And if you are someone dealing with mental illness, don’t be stubborn about it. Talk to someone. If they won’t listen, find someone who will.

Do everything you can to be here.

Soothing the savage baby

My youngest daughter, Zoe, is just over a year old. She basically has two settings. The first is a sweet little thing who wants to get into increasingly more mischief. I think it just comes with the crawling and trying to walk. The second is this a very upset little doodle monster, inconsolable and acting as if the world is ganging up to torture her. I think they mentioned something like this in Revelations.

The other day she was having dinner and suddenly slipped into mode two. There was no apparent reason for this. My guess is that her mouth was hurting since more teeth are coming in. While this is happening, her sister Phoebe is at the other end of the table with her fingers in her ears. She hates it when Zoe starts fussing.

I  pick Zoe up from her little seat and try rocking her. That doesn’t help, so I start to sing. I like to sing and most of the singing I do these days is in one  of two scenarios: either in my car or to my daughters. I have been told I have a good voice. In my opinion, it’s not anything spectacular but I more than hold my own. No one will ever mistake me for an opera singer, but if I can do the musical theatre thing and I’m pretty comfortable with rock songs. So what do I sing to my daughter? While I can do a solid version of some Alice in Chains and some Warren Zevon, they usually aren’t my go-to with the kids.

That tends to be Muppets. More often than not, it’s Sesame Street. The one that I do the most is the Ernie classic, “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon.”

So I sing to Zoe. She starts to quiet down and stares at me as I sing. I look up and because Phoebe has left the table and followed us into the other room. Now I am trying to sing to Zoe while not laughing because of my older daughter. Phoebe has now begun to enjoy my singing by doing her own interpretive dance routine.

I want to crack up. I keep singing instead. Not only because Zoe is calm but because Phoebe is just having way too much fun. I finish singing and get applause from the baby and a “Nice singing, Daddy” from Phoebe.

I really hope one or both of my girls sings when they get older. Mostly because I want to be able to perform my own interpretive dance.