Tag Archives: brain

The Brain Fight

dt_150501_depression_brain_dna_800x600.jpgThings change, whether you want them to or not. A method you use for years can slowly stop working. You may start to like slightly sour candy over sweet. The road you’ve driven down for years will suddenly have a new speed bump. How we react to the changes often leaves a mark on us as individuals. But as I’m constantly reminded change will come, whether I’m happy about it or not. Just like it has now.

I deal with major clinical depression. For a good portion of the last four or five months, it has been knocking my ass to the ground and dancing an Irish jig on my face. So I am now in the process of changing around my medications. The process of trying to wean myself off one prescription and figure out if the new one is working, I will say, is exactly as fun as you imagine it to be. I’ve encountered one drawback so far and we’re back to my previous baseline. Those of you that have personal experience with mental illness can likely relate. I went back to read some of my other blog posts, in particular the ones where I discuss my own depression. I realize that I’ve given a recap of the road to diagnosis and a brief piece about going to therapy. But what I haven’t really done is attempt to explain to you just what it feels like when this disease hits me. I’m going to try to do that. Let me emphasize that this is specific to myself, not anyone else with mental illness. The brain is complicated and we all have different battles with it. I’m going to do my best to try to describe mine.

There really isn’t any fixed situation that sets it off. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I can already tell it’s not going to be an easy day. I may go to bed when suddenly, something will hit me and then I’ll be up all night with insomnia. Or I can go days being perfectly functional and then, suddenly, I want to climb in bed and stay there for the rest of time. So if you think that I can plan ahead for a bout of depression, sorry but it doesn’t care what my plans are. It just waltzes up to my brain, punches it a few times, and say it’s in charge now.

Sometimes it shows up as exhaustion and apathy. I don’t want to get out of bed or interact with anyone. My body can be sore for no reason. I flat our just stop caring. To put it mildly, it sucks. With very few exceptions, I don’t want to be unproductive everyday. It gets boring and I have kids to take care of.  So it’s a fight with myself to get anything done and sometimes I don’t win.

Sometimes I’ll become anxious and irritable. I’m already prone to worrying and things just get intensified. I become angry for no reason and my heart can race. My mind will over-think everything. I have trouble clarifying my thoughts and stumble over words. I  have to try not to snap at everyone. This makes things more difficult when it comes to my kids. They’re too young to understand what’s going on in my head and I don’t want them to think of their dad as just an angry asshole. So I have to try to stop my depression from parenting for me.

Things have been really bad on those times when it all hits me at once. This is despair. There isn’t another word I can use for it. Full, cold despair. I have been suicidal. I do not and have not harmed myself, but it has gotten close. This is one of the reasons we are looking at a medication change. When my mind starts going to that place, I know something isn’t working. This is also why I will never let myself purchase a gun. I’m not making a political stance here. I’m pointing out that, for my own health, I think a having a gun in my home is a bad idea. If you know me outside of the internet and ever hear that I’ve bought one, consider that a HUGE red flag. Let me say again that I am currently safe. I’m not planning anything and I’m not a danger. But my mind has gone to that place. I’ve thought about how maybe my wife can do better than me and I’m ruining her life. I’ve thought about how I must be damaging my children and they’d be better off without me. Yes, I’ve shaken these thoughts off but they come back. Medication helps. Therapy helps. But the facts remain that this is something that can’t be completely cured. This is my brain. I can’t hire an Igor to transplant a new one. This is what I’ve got to work with, so I will do the work.

Interactions with other people can be a coin flip regarding my depression. They can help bring me back or make things worse. Being an introvert can make it harder, since big party situations exhaust rather than energize me. But I will tell you it’s worth making the attempt. I will try my best to reach out to others, but when most of my brain says no one wants to talk to me it makes that a struggle. I very much count on others to make an effort. In fact, I encourage all of you who know someone struggling to do the same. Reach out to them. Don’t just say you’re there for us. Come to us. I know it isn’t easy and we don’t always respond. Being the friend/spouse/child or any close relationship with a person in my situation is hard. But if you can do it you’re being an amazing person. I can’t express enough how helpful it is when friends at least try to hear you. You probably won’t understand everything. But this is not something we’re trying to use as an excuse or a way to manipulate you. We don’t want to be this way and we’re trying. We’re fighting. So don’t give up on us.

Don’t give up on me. I am 38 years old and have been dealing with this monster for longer than I knew what it was. If I could just clap my hands together and change everything I would. This would also mean I’m an all-powerful wizard, which would rock. But this isn’t my reality. My reality is depression is a part of my life that I have to deal with. And whenever I see other people lose their battle, it terrifies me. It makes me wonder how much longer I can keep this up. So I remind myself that I’m stubborn. I can fight. Mental illness may be a huge venomous snake that slithers around my mind, so I need to show it that the brain it’s picking on is a mongoose. It can’t win. I won’t let it. Claws out and we’ll go another round.

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Before the coffee kicks in- the “it has mostly replaced my blood” edition

I haven’t done one of these in a while. My kindergartener is off to school. Her little sister is busy being three years old. The cat it hiding and my wife is getting ready for a pre-work appointment. I am trying to plan out the day’s errands and finding my brain is uncooperative. So the time has come once again to sit my ass down with more coffee, open up this blog, and write down the thought poops that drop out. So here we go.

Sometimes I think the cat is part owl.

Sometimes I think my children are part Chihuahua.

When did being intelligent start becoming a liability?

I need more fun socks.

I want to know why I have dreams about fighting for my life.

Where can I learn how to sew?

My wife looks really cute with glasses. And without glasses.

If my feet were hairy I would actually be a hobbit.

Has anyone actually tried to use a banana as a boomerang?

As a kid I wanted superpowers. As an adult nothing has changed.

If another species develops opposable thumbs and higher reasoning we’re screwed.

Someone should bring me pie.

What age will my kids be when they realize I have no idea what I’m doing?

I think my country should be called the Dysfunctional States of America. I’ve never known it to be united and doubt I ever will. Not necessarily a bad thing.

A hovercraft really isn’t practical for everyday use.

Am I going mad or is this just me getting old?

This is where I am going to stop. My thoughts are starting to become more coherent and that signals the end. Plus, I need to get my daughter ready to go buy some cat food. For the cat, not for my daughter. Though both my children have tasted cat food at one point. It was a learning experience. Enjoy your day.

 

Maybe time for a break

This is a short rant. It probably won’t be that amusing. Sorry, but I’m not in the mood.

My productivity on this blog has been suffering. I started with a weekly post. Then it was bi-weekly. Now I’m lucky if I can get two posts in a month. I think part of the issue is other things have been eating up my time. The kids, work, and just being plain tired. Nothing special and certainly no different from plenty of other people.

Really, I think the main reason is that I’m getting tired of assholes. I am encountering them way too much. They are non-stop at work. I go online to have fun or be creative and people just get nastier and more vicious every day. Frankly, half the time I keep thinking of just shutting down entirely. But then I figure this is just depression talking and that maybe isn’t the best idea. Still, I am tapped out and am going into survival mode.

So I think I’m taking a break from posting. Maybe just a few weeks. Possibly longer. I need to get my head together. There is no point in writing when I don’t want to say anything to anyone. This is not a place I want to be in, so I will be taking care of it. For those who are regular readers, I’m sorry. Hope to be back soon.

 

Being quiet

Let me be blunt. I’m writing this because I need to see it.

There has been a drop off in posts over the last few months. To those who have been consistent readers, I apologize. The reality is I have been finding it very difficult to gather my thoughts lately. Sure I can keep posting random thoughts while drinking coffee, which I enjoy doing, but my goal with this blog was to have a little more substance and include some more specific life observations. But frankly, my mind has been beating me over the head with a sack of symbolic doorknobs for a while. So I have been quiet.

It’s no secret that I deal with clinical depression. Recently, it has been winning. My weeks have had more crap days than good ones. And the part that pisses me off the most? The fact that there really isn’t a thing I can point to that has caused it. Is work stressful? Yes, but my job deals with the general public so that’s expected. Financial struggles? Yes, but this is also not new.  Neither is being worn out from lack of sleep or frustrated that my wife and I don’t get enough time together with the girls. These are all things I deal with in my everyday life so why should they have suddenly become harder to handle? So I have tried to be quiet. I go to therapy. I go to work. I take care of my kids. I behave like a goddamn adult.

There have been more days than I want where I’ve felt like falling apart. There have been days when I’ve felt like I’m failing my wife and kids. I’ve had way too many days where things are more or less going fine and I’ve still wanted to just hide pray for everything to just stop.

As of today, my doctor and therapist agreed to increase my medication. My first increase in three years. I guess that’s pretty good. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that medication doesn’t fix everything. It’s job is to help my brain get to a level where I can handle things like a regular human. I still have to make things happen. I still have to take a breath and remind myself that I will continue. To do that, certain parts of my brain need to stay quiet. That’s where medication helps. That’s where therapy helps. And this is why, every so often, I need to write posts like this. I need to see it. I also need to share it because I hope that maybe, by not being quiet, I’m helping someone else. Maybe someone who is having a hard time needs to be reminded that it’s not simple, that depression doesn’t always make sense and that is okay. Keep trying, keep fighting. There are going to be days when depression kicks your ass. It will continue to feel like depression is winning. But it doesn’t really win if you keep going.

And like I said, I needed to see this. I need to acknowledge when things are bad. Being quiet does nothing.

Before the coffee kicks in–the late cup edition

This morning, we had to make our way out the door almost immediately. My car had been worked on and needed to be picked up before my wife went to work. The kids were put in Lisa’s car, we picked up mine, transferred the girls, and I drove them back home. Phoebe and Zoe are hanging out in the playroom and I’m just now getting to have some coffee. Also realizing I haven’t posted in a few weeks. So perfect time for me to post the brain marbles that roll around as I wait for the caffeine to do its job.

This last week hurt. I loved David Bowie and Alan Rickman and we lost them both to cancer. It just sucks.

I will never understand people who have to be angry that someone else is happy. They’re not responsible for you not being miserable. But if for some reason they are, just throw mayonnaise at them and move on with your life.

Our cat will never be a professional boxer.

I get to play D&D tomorrow. This pleases me.

My children both seem very interested in what their own feet smell like.

My wife and I have started referring to any nighttime snacks we have as the Fattening.

I hope everyone who cares about it has seen The Force Awakens by now. As for those that do not care, I can only assume they’re plotting something horrible.

There have been a few days lately when hiding under a nest of blankets has been very tempting.

It seems that something you do as an adult is talk about the virtues of crescent roll dough.

I miss Jell-O Pudding Pops, but I fear their legacy has been tainted by the whole Bill Cosby situation.

Okay, folks. That’s all I’ve got in me right now. My girls are also currently demanding that I go join them in the playroom. Never let it by said I’m not willing to spend time with my kids. Hope everyone enjoys their day or, at the very least, doesn’t have a crappy one.

A very nerdy “Thank You”

I love to read. I think I’ve made that pretty clear by now. Whether you know me personally or simply from these posts, I make no secret about loving stories and books. They are an important part of life in general, but particularly important to mine. I don’t care how much of a nerd it makes me, and I’m actually proud if it increases my nerdiness. It’s brain fuel and rejuvenates the spirit. I also believe that the characters we meet in books impact lives as much as any non-fictional person. Some of them stay with you forever.

It never stops unless you stop.  I will soon hit my 37th year on this planet. That makes for a good amount of reading. Some of it has been wonderful. I’ve also read some crap I’d never pick up again, even with a set of tongs. I’ve read some books that in the big scheme of things are glorified love letters to a genre, but still succeeded in creating a character or two I’ll never forget. And there are “classics” that I’ve read that left me with nothing. So much of it is a variable factor, different for each person who turns the page.

Characters that I’ve been impacted by have, in a good number of cases, found their way into TV and movies. You know the old phrase “the book was better” that gets tossed around? There is a lot of truth behind it. This is nothing against the adaptations. Yes, some are awful. That’s going to happen just as frequently with original work. I’ve made some attempts at original work that was probably the written equivalent of my cat launching out a hairball. There are also great adaptations from comic books, classics, modern novels and short stories. And yes, comics qualify as far as I’m concerned. Deal with it.

This is not going to be a particularly long post, but it does have a purpose other than me talking about my raging book boner. It is a simple thank you. To authors but also to characters. You mold us. You teach us how to think. You show us how to jump the hurdles and take the punches. For me, you gave me the chance to live different lives while I built my own. So thank you. Thank you for shaping some of the better aspects of who I am.

I will leave you with a short list of characters and the places to find them. I could make it very long, but consider this a suggestion if you need a place to get started or restarted with books.

Carrot Ironfoundersson: The Discworld Series – Terry Pratchett

Shadow: American Gods – Neil Gaiman

Gandalf: The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien

Fiver: Watership Down – Richard Adams

the Creature: Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

the Cowardly Lion: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum

Rorschach: Watchmen – Alan Moore

Death: The Discworld Series  – Terry Pratchett

Harry Dresden: The Dresden Files Series – Jim Butcher

Bilbo Baggins: The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

Rubeus Hagrid: The Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling

Grendel: Grendel – John Gardner

Before the coffee kicks in — the “Pot number 2” edition

Woke up this morning feeling tired, likely from being up a few times last night. My hip feels like it got wacked by someone drunkenly swinging a bat. Okay, maybe just really hard with a badminton racquet but it still hurts. The kids are eating graham crackers. My wife finished off the coffee and I’m on the next pot. Time to let my mind poop and write what comes out.

The days are a series of laundry and dishwasher cycles, broken up by going to work and listening to people behave poorly.

The cat might believe she’s the Hypnotoad of “Futurama” fame. Yet I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know what “Futurama” is. Seriously, Pepper, stop staring at me.

I haven’t been able to spend Halloween, my favorite holiday, with the kids yet. I hate that.

I need to bake more frequently.

I need to eat what I bake less frequently.

My older daughter had one of her toys telling the other that popcorn would give them gas. I don’t know where she came up with that one.

I don’t remember the last time I had fish and chips.

My youngest daughter thinks that giraffes go “vvvvvvffff,” and I’m not completely sure if she’s wrong.

I’m currently humming a song about the cat to the tune of a Backstreet Boys song. I blame many of the girls I was friends with in the late 90s for the fact that I know the tune of a Backstreet Boys song.

I think having children has caused me to detect poopy diaper smells when there are no actual poopy diapers. Either that, or I’m haunted by flatulent ghosts.

I wonder when the next time I get fudge will be? I don’t exactly have excess fudge money.

That’s all I have left. I started drinking the next pot of coffee. But I don’t think it’s working too well. I actually feel sleepier. So I should probably go hang out with the girls. All glory to the Hypnocat.

Run down into fall

It has been a few weeks since I’ve tried to write anything. I can’t make no excuses other than it’s been hard to make myself sit down and take the time. Still, I have to admit there have been contributing factors.

My stress level has been super high, which in turn messes with controlling the depression. It can be exhausting having to fight your own brain. The external factors of working hard for not enough money, which I’m aware is a common problem, has kept it difficult to find a moment to really breath. In addition, social media has been a kind of curse for me lately. I am easily prodded by my environment and the constant craziness and level of asshole I am encountering blows my mind. Basically, the unfollow button on Facebook is my new friend. Finally, I have just been trying to survive the summer weather. Hot and humid is not my idea of fun. All of this together has made me want to go dig myself a little hole and not tell anyone where it is.

The arrival of fall is something that at least helps with one of those crap piles. The weather is slowly becoming more manageable and, for me, more pleasant. I like when we start having those autumn days when I can throw a long sleeve shirt over a t-shirt and be comfortable. No need for a coat yet. And if it’s too warm, I can lose the layer.

This is my favorite season because I really like fall things. I like when the leaves change color. I happen to enjoy apple cider and pumpkin donuts. Also, I’m a fan of both things in pie format. And next month, we come to Halloween. Probably my favorite holiday even if I don’t get to participate much anymore. My kids do. My preschooler has had her costume picked out for most of this past year. Hazel from the show “Little Charmers” is currently being crafted by my mother-in-law.

So does any of this change things for me? Not in the big scheme, I guess. Fall doesn’t add to my finances. Colorful leaves don’t make things better for my family. Apple cider doesn’t cure depression. Halloween doesn’t make people easier to deal with. But for little bits at a time, these things make me feel kind of happy. Maybe that’s what this post is about. Just to serve as a reminder that there are things that help, even if only for a little while. And I keep going. For my wife. For my kids. For myself. I keep going.

Nightmares

Some people sleep  easily. I don’t. I’ve fought insomnia for years. In the last six, I learned that it’s likely connected to the depression. That actually helped me manage it a bit better, but a good, restful sleep is still a challenge. I have to take an over the counter sleep aid most nights, otherwise it takes me a few hours just to drift off.

I don’t usually remember dreams. I know they are pretty much my brain trying to work through stuff while I’m asleep. I’m just not one of those people who consistently remembers what they were dreaming. I do believe that whatever your mood is on any given day can connect to what you were dreaming the night before.

Today feels like it will suck. I spent most of last night having nightmares. My wife had to wake me up twice because I was yelling out in my sleep. I know in at least one of them, something terrible happened to my kids. I remember that they disappeared. I think something inhuman took them. There was nothing I could do. I can’t recall anymore than that. So I’m very tired. I’m irritable. I’m worried what triggered those dreams is something I saw and my brain is trying to warn me about.

Why don’t I remember good dreams? The closest I get is the random really weird dream. The ones I can never forget. I had a dream in high school where I was toasting bagels at Burger King for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which they kept ordering with no stop in sight. Years later, I dreamed that I had been cast in a new musical and every other member of this cast was made of Play-doh. Again, weird stuff.

Otherwise, it’s nightmares that throw my whole day off. And why pick on my kids, brain? It was bad enough when you gave me that dream where our cat was stomped on and thrown in a trash can, sadly mewing the whole time. Then I had the one where my wife sent ghosts after me. So now we’re picking on the girls? Seriously? Is it because I’m not giving you as much sugar as I used to?

Today is definitely going to be a long day. That’s not even counting the large amount of pooping I’ve already had to do.

Before the coffee kicks in—the afternoon edition

I feel like I just woke up, even though I have been going since about 7 am this morning. My children are, momentarily, contained in the playroom. The cat, once again making me question how smart she actually is, has buried herself under the covers of our bed and shows no sign of leaving. I am ready to flop down on the floor, but instead I pour myself more coffee in hopes it will revive me. So I will again take this moment to share my brain bugs, only I no longer have the excuse of having just rolled out of bed.

I sometimes wonder if a lack of opposable thumbs is the only things stopping pets from revolting.

We are using ice cream as a potty training reward. Will my daughter forever connect ice cream with poop?

I need to stop making inappropriate versions of the songs on kid’s shows.

I want the power to teleport like Nightcrawler, complete with the “BAMF” and brimstone.

Can a person actually feel themselves getting old or is that just gas?

Ben Franklin and Chris Hardwick are right. Our national bird should have been the turkey.

I can’t change how my brain works. I can just learn how to deal with it better.

Expiration dates have wiggle room, but not in years.

No one tells you that being married gives you someone who thinks it’s funny to fart on you.

The above also applies to children.

This is as far as I can go. I’m starting to over think this too much and my girls are demanding “Yo Gabba Gabba” for the second time. Also, all this coffee is making me have to pee.