Tag Archives: fear

Blue Lantern

Sitting down to write this particular post has proven difficult for me. I think there is a possibility that I may anger some folks and lose a few readers after this, though I’d prefer if that isn’t the case. But I’ve also made a promise that I would do my best to be open on this platform. So let’s do this.

Lots of things have been happening in this country since the election. I think I echo the sentiment of many when I say the 2016 Presidential Election was a nightmare process. For many people, the nightmare is continuing. Donald Trump hasn’t even been president-elect for a month and things aren’t looking good. Hate crime is increasing (some fake instances, but mostly not) and that is wrong. Violence has occurred from some of his more fanatical supporters and detractors. The latter only seems to be helping orange narcissist. He has stated he hopes to be a president for all Americans, but this seems to be another lie from one of the country’s biggest cyber bullies. He’s looking at Washington insiders (the people he claimed to be against) for cabinet positions. He campaigned on a platform of fascism, racism, misogyny, and fear. Trump offered snake oil to people who are financially hurting and they bought it. Now he’s planning to put known white supremacist Stephen Bannon into a key power role. Another guy on his team has called the Japanese internment camps a precedent for how they should treat Muslims. Then you have the nightmare that is Mike Pence and his belief that gay people should be jailed for wanting to get married. The damn KKK is glad Trump won!

I now have a huge number of people in my life who are upset and terrified. I know barely any people who voted for Trump, with those that did claiming it was because of economics or a belief that Hillary Clinton is a criminal. They fact that this other stuff wasn’t a deal-breaker for them is disappointing. Most of the people in my life either voted Clinton or went the third-party route. The point is there are a lot of very scared people, wondering if they will be attacked for just being themselves. I’m scared, though not for myself. I’m a straight white guy. But I’m worried about my wife and daughters. I’m worried about the other women of my family and many of my friends. But worrying isn’t the only thing I’ve been doing. I’ve been thinking about the people who aren’t worried because the things the Trump campaign promised didn’t threaten them. I’m thinking about the people on both sides who are taking the attitude of just giving up and moving on. The election is over and we can’t do anything for the next four years.

I don’t agree with that. So I’ve decided I am embracing the Blue Lantern Corps. This will be a symbol and attitude for me going forth.

There are probably some of you who have no idea what I’m getting at. Permit me to get my geek on and briefly delve into comic books. If you need more detail, get thee to a search engine! The Blue Lanterns are from the DC multiverse and are allies of the more famous Green Lanterns. There are multiple Lanterns, most emerging just before or within the “Blackest Night” crossover story. Each gains power from a specific emotion tied to the color spectrum. Green Lanterns have willpower. Sinestro’s Yellow Lanterns have fear, and so forth. For Blue Lanterns, their power comes from hope.

Hope. One of the most powerful, yet easy to forget, forces in existence. I have forgotten about it myself. Being prone to depression, it’s any easy thing to do. Then one of my Twitter friends made mention of the Blue Lanterns in a tweet. It was a slap to the back of my head that I desperately needed. So I am going to embody that symbol as best I can. I need to be hope.

What exactly does this entail for me? It means doing what I can to show everyone who is scared that I’m still with them. It means I’m donating whatever money or time I realistically can. I’m signing the petitions against the hate-monger appointees. It means making the phone calls to senators and representatives. It means wearing the Safety Pin and doing my best to be an ally. We are quickly seeing that this is an administration that will not unify people. Those that think it will are choosing to remain ignorant. And in case I haven’t been clear, this doesn’t have anything to do with who didn’t win the election. I have yet to see a candidate who I didn’t have doubts about in any election I’ve voted in, and that includes the often deified Bernie Sanders. Donald Trump is the first person I’ve been absolutely adamant against. Frankly, I could have lived with most of the other options. But I am hoping that those who did vote for Trump are realizing it was a mistake. I’m hopeful that most of those people will not stand by and ignore the harassment or the hate crimes. I hope, like me, they plan to call it out and hold those embracing the white nationalist poison accountable for it. We are in for a very long four years. This is not the time to pretend we can do nothing or blame everyone who isn’t ourselves.

The first Blue Lantern is an alien called Saint Walker, who repeats the phrase “all will be well” as a mantra. If we do what we can to protect each other, all WILL be well. But the effort must be made.Doing nothing is only going to guarantee our problems will get worse.

It occurs to me that in the Lantern breakdown, orange is the color connected to avarice. Has Trump has actually been Agent Orange this whole time? Are the lines between fiction and reality blurring that much? Talk about scary!

Enough now. I’ve made my mind known. Time to focus. Stand against the hate. Speak against the fear. Be a safe space. People need you.

All will be well.

 

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Sometimes it is people

Let me begin with an understatement. Things are a little screwy in our country right now. Actually, there a little screwy in the world as a whole right now.

I think I’m probably not alone when I say I’m torn up when it comes to interacting with my fellow humans. We are social creatures and even the most reclusive of us need some interaction, even if it’s through social media. But for much of the past year, I find that being interactive and informed is giving my mental health a constant kick to the crotch. Seriously, just sitting down to write this has taken a few days of personal pep talks.

With all due respect to those of you with religious convictions, I am not a person who has ever gotten much comfort from an almighty anything. If it helps you, that’s cool. I agree there are things in the world that are hard to explain. But I’m someone who needs to put his faith in other things. Sometimes science, sometimes karma, sometimes nature. Sometimes it’s just Occam’s razor.

Sometimes it is people.

This is the one I struggle with the most. People, as a whole, are really hard to put faith in. An individual person is a little easier, but it’s also riskier. It hurts more if the individual fails you than the group.

So why do it? Why put any faith at all in people? We are prone to being greedy. We are easily scared and tend to react negatively to fear. It seems we are increasingly unlikely to listen to each other. So why do I even try to bother with people at all?

Because every now and then, I’m reminded that people are potential. People are capable of just as much good as bad. People are change, which is a crazy thought in itself since we can be so resistant to changing anything. Yet we continue to change, for the better or the worse, and we’ll continue to do so. Things will become amazing. Things will become terrible. This is due to the choices we make as people. And in the big scheme of the multiverse none of it matters. How crazy is that? Space and time continue while so many of our societies have fallen apart. But people continue to be here. We continue to move and make noise and try to make ourselves have significance. We continue to put on pants. Why is there any significance to pants?!? People made it so! Holy fuck!

It’s hard to remember this, but people give me hope. Not all the time. We like to pay attention to bad things. Frankly, negative is usually louder. For someone like myself, it doesn’t take a lot to send me into a swan dive towards depression. But a few times a week, I get a little reminder. Maybe it’s something my family does. Maybe a stranger is just unexpectedly kind. Maybe it’s just a really good cup of coffee or an amazing song I haven’t heard in a while. All these things involve people making a moment happen. Sure, I need to get away from other people to recharge my energy. That doesn’t mean I want a Twilight Zone, last man on Earth scenario. I want people to exist in my world. Even if it means I have to deal with the scary ones.

So sometimes, I have to put my faith in people. I think it’s worth it.  If I’m wrong, I guess there is always good old-fashioned voodoo.

 

What We Are: or, this is when I lose readers

If you know me on any kind of personal level, you know I hate talking about politics. I have a few reasons. I think that most of us have a tough time doing it without getting defensive. Mainly, it’s because I’ve become far too cynical where this kind of thing is concerned. We seem to get little done and the whole system is such a mess. No matter what people say, the ones who actually have any pull don’t seem to listen.

But over the last few weeks, particularly the last few days, I’ve gotten to the point where if I don’t say something I will make myself sick. And while I try to keep my sense of humor when I write, I just don’t feel like laughing at the moment.

I will never be one of those people who shouts their patriotism for all to hear. I’ve had moments when I’ve felt proud of my country and its people, and moments where I’m disappointed. But regardless of if I have pride or not, this is my home. I see it as something that just is, much like parts of my body just are. Whether I’m proud of my right arm or not, it is my right arm. I see no reason to change that. Still, I have to ask some questions.

When did we become so scared? When did we become so greedy?

I just find myself becoming confused these days. I understand being afraid. There are a lot of things that keep me up at night. I also understand wanting money. Not having it causes an insane amount of stress. But I thought that the point was to acknowledge these things and not let them run your life. Yet every time I go on Facebook or turn on the TV or read a news article, the opposite seems to be true. Is it baseless? No. There are scary things going on in the world. The economy, while a little better than it was, is still a mess. Now, do I think this excuses the behavior I’m seeing? Again, and emphatically, no!

What happened? Yes, I know that 9/11 happened. I know war has happened. I know people have been elected and blamed and defended and all that other stuff. Recently, I know that people in this country have been assaulted and shot and killed. I know that other places like Beirut and Paris have been victims of disgusting terrorist attacks. But rather than becoming stronger, we just seem to fall apart more each year. We could be trying to be better, which I understand is really hard to do. Trust me, I’m stubborn. I get how hard it can be to change anything! That’s why I try to make little changes, one at a time. But at least I’m trying. I’m sure a lot of people are trying just as hard, if not harder. But as a whole, I’ve been having a rough time with what we appear to have become. And what is that? What are we now?

What we are is a contradictory, confused mess. I see people who are terrified of refugees and want stricter background checks or to just make them go away. But suggest stronger checks for people buying guns and you hate freedom. You are trying to take their rights away. We lose our minds when people do crazy shit in the name of one religion, but turn away when it gets done in the name of another. People are throwing around hashtags and phrases like “pro-life” and “All Lives Matter” but couldn’t be bothered to do anything for the homeless, some of which are veterans. And yes, I can despise war and fighting and still support veterans. If you get to be complicated, so do I.

What we are is a society in which we demand people pay for what they want, which is fine. Not everything can be free. But not let them earn enough money to do so because some jobs are “more important than others” is ridiculous. We tell kids to get an education, then try to make it impossible to do so. And if they do, we only hire them for jobs they didn’t need an education to perform. And then we don’t have to pay them more because, again, some jobs are apparently more important than others. Besides, education can lead to science and that seems to be a bad thing now. Seriously, when did science and learning and just THINKING become bad?

What we are is a country where the type of person you are matters less than your gender, your religion, your income, your love life, your damn skin color. We are a society with a political system that has basically made the office of President pointless, because the rest of the government just wants to argue and BE right instead of DO right. We have politicians and people running for office who think that internment camps and making people wear religion-based ID is a good idea! And we still have individuals out there who think the so-called American Dream exists? I’m sorry, but the only “American Dream” that I’ve ever been aware of was a wrestler named Dusty Rhodes and he’s no longer with us.

I’m not looking to pick a fight. I’m just tired. And I make a lot of mistakes. But we have to do better and it won’t happen if we stay the way we are. But I don’t know what the answer is. I look at my daughters and as much as I love them, I get sad. I feel like they are doomed to live in a society that will always look down on them for something. Maybe their bodies, or their personalities, or their passions. I have to keep telling myself that there is still a lot of good in this world, but it gets harder the uglier I see people become. We don’t want to help each other anymore. I sometimes wonder if we ever really did.

This won’t break me. I will keep going. I just had to let it out. I don’t know what the answer is. I just know I have enough stomach issues without letting all this stuff turn into an ulcer. So I guess stop following me if I offend you. Stop talking to me if I disgust you. I won’t take it personally. I’m just done. If you stick around I’ll try to make the next post more fun. But right now I need a ginger ale.

Supervillain

Hollywood seems to be continuing their love affair with superheroes. I’m not surprised. Despite the current supersaturation, they are a big deal to people. I’ve talked about superheroes before. Specifically, in the following post if you didn’t read it yet:

https://theballadofabetamale.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/superhero/

It seems fair that I now give some time to the other side of the coin. Supervillains are just as important as their heroic counterparts. On some days, what they do makes a little more sense to us. At least it does as we get older and a little more jaded, and if we’re honest with ourselves. Not that we’re anymore likely to behave like villains than we are like heroes. We do, sometimes, like to root for the bad guy. A lot of them do seem to be having more fun than some of the heroes do.

Have I ever thought of myself as the villain? I’d be lying if I said that I saw myself as the paragon of good. I’ve got flaws and a lot of the time they get the better of me. So as much as I’d like to think I would be the next Spider-Man if I did get super powers, I don’t think I’d handle power very well. I’m just a little too human.

Let me now take some time to focus on a few of my favorite supervillains. I do find that I’m drawn to a few particular rogues galleries (Batman, Spider-Man, the X-men) but, for the sake of focusing on different motivations, I’ll try to mix it up a bit.

THE JOKER: I have to start with the self-proclaimed Clown Prince of Crime. This character, more than any other, has a grip on pop culture with no signs of letting go. People are fascinated by the Joker and have very strong opinions regarding him. Look at the many interpretations of him in comics and other media. He’s been portrayed differently in television and multiple films (with another on the way), and they’ve all focused on specific aspects of the Joker’s personality. He is a crime lord, a prankster, a psychopath, and a violent anarchist.

He is chaos personified and is guilty of numerous horrors in the Batman canon. The Joker has crippled people, committed physical and psychological torture, and flat-out murdered more than once. And perhaps the most terrifying thing about him is that you can never be a hundred percent sure about the reason. Is it an obsession with Batman? Is it revenge for something we don’t know? Possibly, it may just be the reason given in the Nolan interpretation. He just wants to watch the world burn.

VENOM: While the Joker is definitely Batman’s arch-nemesis, Spider-Man has other villains who could make that claim before Venom. Doctor Octopus and, more notably, the Green Goblin. But Venom is my favorite because it’s a little more personal. Peter Parker gets a new costume that turns out to be an alien symbiote. He rejects it. The symbiote now feels hatred for its former host and merges with ex-journalist Eddie Brock, himself a man with a grudge against Spider-Man and Peter Parker. They become Venom, consumed with desire to hurt and kill Spider-Man. Now Spidey has an enemy who has more intimate personal knowledge of him than any before.

Venom is a psychotic, obsessed, force of destruction. He knows Peter’s secret identity and can bypass his Spider sense. But at the same time, he’s a little conflicted. He’s actually had the occasional temporary alliance with Spider-Man to go after bigger threats. It never lasts, but it has still happened. In recent years the alien has moved on from Eddie and joined up with others, sometimes in a partnership and other times taking full control. However, Venom is a walking time bomb. The symbiote will always explode into violence at some point. It is just a question of when.

DARKSEID: While he’s not the most recognized foe of Superman and the Justice League, Darkseid is serious bad news. I mean, you pretty much have to be when you’re one of the New Gods and rule a place called Apokolips.

Much like another favorite of mine, Doctor Doom in the Marvel Universe, Darkseid is obsessed with domination over destruction. But Victor von Doom has somewhat pure intentions corrupted by his arrogance. No so with Darkseid. He wants to break the universe in both body and spirit. All must be subjugated and worship the power that is Darkseid. And the thing that makes him dangerous is that he could do it. He has THAT much power. With an entire destructive world under his control, Darkseid himself is damn near impossible to take down one on one. The Man of Steel hasn’t really done it. This is why when Darkseid shows up, Superman tends to call for all hands on deck. It usually takes the combined efforts of members of the DC Universe to put the ruler of Apokolips down.

When you are dealing with hatred personified, you really can’t hold back.

MAGNETO: The last villain I want to talk about is Magneto, and I was a little torn about including him in this post. One of the primary foes of Charles Xavier and the X-men, Magneto is complicated. He has been defeated by the X-men countless times but, at the end of the day, they are still not able to accomplish one thing.

They haven’t proved that Magneto is wrong.

The Master of Magnetism is motivated by anger. He has seen firsthand the atrocities that mankind is capable of, having himself been a survivor of Nazi persecution. He sees his fellow mutants facing the same. And unlike Xavier, he does not see peaceful coexistence as even a possibility. The only way to save his people is by force. Humans will never change, and so they must be struck down. If it is truly humans or mutants, then Magneto will see that mutantkind prevails. He doesn’t see himself as a villain, but as someone who is making the hard decision to protect his people by any means necessary.

It’s hard not to sympathize with Magneto. Look at the world we live in. Racism still exists. Homophobia still exists. People get killed far to frequently due to fear and hatred of a difference. The same thing that Magneto sees happening to mutants.

What if he’s right?

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.

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.