Tag Archives: parenting

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.

Successful Failure

I’m going to start with a question. Are you successful? Just a quick “yes” or “no” for the moment. You can come back to it when you’re done here.

People tend to obsess over different things. Some more than others, but we are all guilty of something. And I think more than anything, we all focus to some degree on success. Which I find weird because it seems like such a subjective thing. I mean, what definition are you using? Your dad’s version or your teacher’s version? Your cat’s definitions of success? Are you a good mouser?

Focusing on success also means that we spend a lot of time obsessing over failure. That’s the opposite of success, right? If you didn’t succeed you failed. Pretty simple concept except that it isn’t that simple. Have I given you a headache yet? Take some ibuprofen and sit back down with me. I am going to give you a break and make a confession.

I’m a failure. I am a huge fucking failure. By so many definitions!

I’m a man in my late thirties who doesn’t make a lot of money, so I’m a failure by some societal standards. I’ve had more than one artistic pursuit come crashing to the ground. I struggle as a parent and I am positive I’m screwing up my kids. My depression likes to take feelings of failure and gobble them down like Cadbury Mini Eggs, so my brain usually hates me. Yeah, I’m a failure. And I keep reminding myself that it’s fine. There is nothing wrong with failure. Nothing.

I want to be clear that I’m not saying failure is something to be enjoyed. Failing sucks. It doesn’t feel good. But it’s important and, despite claims to the contrary, nothing to be ashamed of. If you’re alive, then you are ultimately going to fail at least a few times.  As the Mythbusters so eloquently stated, failure is always an option.

It can happen for many reasons. Timing can be off. You can misjudge the popularity of something and have an ugly surprise. A stranger can not like the answer you gave to a question and decide you aren’t fit for their company. These are all things that can lead to failure. You can even do everything “right” and still fail, through no fault of your own. That’s life sometimes. You just fail. And if you think you’ve never failed or never will I ask you to send me whatever hallucinogens you’re taking. The only way to not fail is to never try to do anything. Even if you’re the luckiest leprechaun in history you know, deep down in your four-leaf clovers, you will fail at some point.

I don’t enjoy failing, making mistakes, screwing up or any of that stuff. But it means I’m trying and hopefully learning. And those times I do succeed are awesome. But as important as failing is in our lives as a tool of growth it can still trip you up. When your failure makes you put a permanent stop on everything, you’re in trouble. It’s hard, but we all have to remember that we’re still alive and can keep going. Success is our there, in whatever form you need it to be. But you’ll fail first. So feel that failure and use it to keep going. This is why I can accept it. Failure isn’t forever. It’s just another step. We have to keep walking.

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.

 

More Dad Haikus

MYSTERIES

There must be answers.

Yet, daughter, I can’t explain

why you won’t eat lunch.

 

BATH

The screams of pure rage.

You thrash as if set aflame.

It’s only shampoo.

 

CAT

The toddler hugs you.

Feline eyes call out to me,

“What fresh hell is this?”

 

SILENCE

The talking has stopped.

Perhaps the kids are asleep.

No. They plot my doom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More years to come

My eldest daughter, Phoebe, will turn 5 in less than a week. In July, her sister Zoe will turn 3. I’m of mixed feelings about this whole growing up thing my kids are doing. It’s also really weird to think that it has been about 5 years since I’ve become someone’s parent.

How did that happen? Well, of course I know how it happened. I was there. Also, I’ve been to the zoo.

It’s just bizarre to me. I have these two little girls that call me “daddy” who I love more than I thought possible. There are also days they make me want to dig a hole in the yard and hide for the rest of my life. My wife and I constantly talk about which one is going to give us more trouble in the years ahead. They are both so different, yet both so stubborn! And they are both so cute and they make me laugh and smile. I look at them and get so scared thinking about the horrible shit they may go through. I constantly worry about how the world will treat them because they are girls, and how they will treat them when they are women. When it comes to them, I question almost everything I do for fear that I will screw them up. That being said, I think all parents screw up at some point. So chances are I probably have and will do so again, no matter how hard I try.

Phoebe is a talker and silly. She wants to say hello to everyone and is easily distracted. Zoe is sweet and sensitive. She gets so excited by animals and has a little temper.

My kids are getting older. I am getting older. Nothing is going to stop this and, unless something horrible occurs, I am in for many more years of this stuff. I will be tired and grumpy. I will be heartbroken. I will be proud and amused and terrified. And in the future, I will almost certainly embarrass some teenagers.

Cool.

Strange talent

People develop as they grow. I’m not just talking about puberty and aging and all the weird biological stuff. People develop abilities, skills, and talents. Some stuff you learn through formal lessons and practice. Other things come naturally to some without much in the way of training. Then there are the things you suddenly become good at without even realizing it. I have become very well acquainted with the third scenario.

Perhaps this makes me some form of a Renaissance man, but one who was part of a very weak Renaissance. I will take this time to share some of these talents with you. Let me again state that these are not things I trained to do from any desire to better myself. These either came about through attempts at self-amusement or by accident. Basically, they just kind of happened over time.

Talent #1- I have found that I can detect smelly poops from another room. Be it diaper, litter box, or someone having a bad reaction to cheese I shall detect it.

Talent #2- If a popular song exists, I will turn it into a song about my cat. Possibly a song about my kids or whatever I’m currently doing. But more than likely the cat.

Talent #3- I have the ability to serve as a human sofa and jungle gym for the previously mentioned cat and children.

Talent #4- As I age, my changing appearance has informed me that I’ve developed a strange metamorphic ability. I appear to be turning into some form of hobbit wizard.

Talent #5- After years of dealing with the general public, I now have the talent to control my urge hit all stupid people with a rolled up magazine and say “Bad human” to them. This has kept me employed.

How about you folks? What strange talents have you developed? Are they a source of pride or a dark secret that you fear will make all shun you? Either way, feel free to share!

And on to another year

Here we are, members of the multiverse. 2015 is gone and 2016 has arrived. Yippee. Yay. Hooray. Huzzah. Poop. I guess that last one isn’t much of an exclamation of joy for most, but I figured everyone has there own thing. Just trying to make sure people feel included.

So what was this past year for me? Some positive moments to be sure. Some enormous piles of brachiosaurus dung as well, and those of us who have seen “Dinosaur Train” know just how enormous that is. We’re talking house-sized droppings, folks. I guess what I’m trying to get at is like many of us, I sometimes find it hard to focus on the good stuff that happened when it is so easy to only pay attention to the crap.

Last year around this time, I kind of pointed out that I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions. My view is that they are simply a way we set ourselves up for disappointment with a showy gesture. It makes no sense. You’d think we were trying to have sex with the New Year.We have no idea where it’s been. So what I will again try to do is give myself a few “Think I Cans” for 2016. Really some of these are continuations of stuff I tried to do in the previous year which need further progress. Some of it is new, though, so we’ll see where things go.

1) Try to be a better daddy. This doesn’t mean I think I’m bad at it. By nature I am a bit of a worrier, however, so I always want to do better where the girls are concerned.

2) Read more. I already read a lot but I think I can do even better.

3) Try to reconnect with people, even if it’s just to say hello. I struggle at keeping in touch so this will be a hard one for me.

4) In relation to the last one, don’t beat myself up if people don’t respond. If I can make an effort, so can everyone else. But everyone has their priorities and you can force anybody to make you one.

5) Never forget that my wife and I are a team. Maybe we can be called the Mighty Monotremes. Perhaps the Fighting Ground Sloths.

6) Allow myself a break now and then. It’s important for my physical and mental health. If anyone has an issue with that, they can shove a pineapple in their favorite orifice.

7) Try to stay informed while filtering out the stuff that messes with my head too much. This will likely mean taking social media in stride, and likely using the “unfollow” button a bit on Facebook.

8) Don’t let the bad stuff take me out. If I’ve learned anything in therapy it is that I’m a fairly tenacious person. That’s not going to change.

9) Remember that this is a crazy, random world and we are all screwy primates trying to get by. Many of us forget this. I can’t let myself be one of those people.

I think that’s enough to get me through the next round of existence. Happy 2016 everyone. Off we go.

Sock rebellion

The weather is (happily) becoming cooler. Now, even though I am pleased when it starts to get colder there are some people who wish it would stay warm. I can only assume these people are connected to some infernal bloodline which thrives on fire. It’s the only thing that makes sense.

Of course, I still have to dress differently for the cooler weather which is fine. Long pants, long sleeves, and socks. Preferably Smartwool socks, when I have a clean pair. But I notice that my children seem to differ in opinion, particularly Zoe. She seems to hate socks. We put them on her, but the get pulled off pretty quickly. Phoebe used to do this too, but she seems to have largely stopped. It could have something to do with the fact that she’s old enough to want to have socks with Disney princesses and My Little Ponies on them. But once in a while, she joins her little sister in combined sock rebellion.

Don’t get me wrong, the girls have cute little feet. But I worry that they will become cold little feet. Not that it seems to bug either of them. I’ll touch Zoe’s bare foot and it will be ice-cold. I ask why she keeps taking her socks off. Because she’s two, she pretty much just laughs at me. And the additional frustration comes from the fact that once taken off, the offending socks may disappear. If not collected quickly enough, they can get sucked into some kind of vortex in the multiverse. Or possibly Narnia. I’m not sure because we still have missing socks and the ones that do turn up offer no clues. As you know, socks don’t talk. Not unless you make them into sock puppets, but then they only know what you know which often isn’t much.

I don’t get it. Is this something that all little kids do? I don’t remember doing this. Neither of my parents ever told me that I did. Is this a new thing? Did some kind of psychic memo start to circulate between toddlers of the world? Do they consider socks a tool of the parental establishment? Or are my kids just a pair of sock-hating goofballs? Maybe this is an omen of things to come. What if the girls slowly rebel against all clothes and join a nudist community? What if they start trying to wear gloves on their feet and hats as pants? I just don’t know where this ends.

Bully

I like to think of myself as a very tolerant guy. With most things I’m pretty easy-going. I don’t make a habit of judging because I don’t know how to be perfect. I get frustrated, I screw up, I let my faults get the best of me sometimes. I try my best to be a little better each day. Sure there are things that people do I don’t like. Sometimes I get pissed off about it. But in the end, there are very few things that I truly hate and refuse to put up with.

I hate bullying. I am against the practice and it enrages me more than just about anything else.

Does this come from personal experience? You bet it goes. I’m one of those people who was a geek before it was socially acceptable. I’m also not a very big guy. So yeah, I was a target of more than one bully. I also look back on my life and realize something that I’m not proud of. I’m pretty sure there were a few times when acted like a bully myself. What? Someone can get bullied and then tries to do the same to someone else? What form of voodoo is this?

Do I still encounter this as an adult? Yes, I do. Not from the same people, of course. I’ve actually had the experience of being bullied by someone when we were young and then, when we were both older, being friends because people can actually grow and change. Sadly, this isn’t everyone. And to me, adults who bully other adults are just pathetic examples of humanity. It reinforces the idea that some people never move past who they were as children. And now the tactic doesn’t scare me. It just gets me mad. But it does make me wonder who made this particular bully. Was it a peer? A parent? Just poor decision-making?

This brings me to something that really upsets me, which is parents who are bullies. Do you honestly think you are raising a well-adjusted person? You think that’s making your child strong? Sorry, but you are just raising an asshole and probably another bully. And don’t think it won’t bite you in the ass when you’re old. The bully you’ve helped create isn’t going to have much empathy for an elderly parent. I know people who were raised this way. They now have part of their personality that is a bully. I give credit to the ones who have acknowledged this and try to be better. The ones who can’t or won’t, I simply have no use for them in my life. Trust me, I understand that kids are a pain. I’ve been one and I’m raising two. But I refuse to sink to the level of bullying to get my kids to act a certain way. I’ll put it like this. Do you bully your child? Is that your go-to parenting tactic? Then you SUCK as a parent. You’ve failed. Period. You will never convince me otherwise.

I am happy that there has started to be a social backlash to bully behavior. And people who throw around the whole “We’re making pussies out of America” argument need to stop yelling and use their eyes and brains for a minute. Look at the country and the world at large. Do you really think raising the Legion of Ass-hats worked out well? And I’m willing to acknowledge that this argument has a point. A world of weak minds and hearts won’t get us anywhere either. But bullying does not build character. At best, it builds stand-up comedians. At worst, you get people who will cause pain with anything they can. They will use their politics, their religion, their money, their sheer physical strength. Because they have determined that this is how you get your way. Basically, we are a world of toddlers throwing temper tantrums. You can have a middle ground, people. I’m not in favor of handing out participation trophies when you didn’t win the game, but you can still acknowledge a person’s effort and encourage them to do better. It’s fine to thank someone for doing their job, especially if it’s not an easy one. No one is asking you to shower them with pots of gold and cupcakes. How hard is it for us to learn that we should treat people how we want to be treated? Apparently, pretty fucking hard.

Do you want to know what makes me the most angry about bullying now? You can’t escape it anymore. I’m terrified of what this means for my kids. Technology has made it easier to be a bully and never have to see the pain on your target’s face. They never have to see how alone, how less than human, this person now feels. Every time I hear about a kid trying to kill themselves (or succeeding in doing so) and bullying was the reason, I feel sick. It’s so much easier to do terrible things and not be accountable for it. It’s so tempting to just become a bully yourself. I love my kids and I’m confident that I can accept pretty much any choice they could make in their lives. If I ever find out that they were a bully to someone, I will unleash science fiction levels of punishment on them! And if anyone bullies them? In the words of one of my favorite authors, there will be a reckoning.

I’ve rambled a bit, and I apologize for that. Like I said, this enrages me. What is this need to cause pain in order to make ourselves feel big? I’m not completely naive. I know that bullying will never completely go away. But no one will ever convince me that trying to be a good person is a weakness. This is what I want my kids to embrace. It may be hard to do, but people need to realize there is a difference between a firm hand and a fist.