Posts Tagged ‘my own neuroses’

the state of my mental health.

21 January 2011

i grew up in a room with red curtains, the window overlooking a shed where we planned to jump in the event of a fire. my wallpaper featured futuristic space stations. i pretended the sliding doors of my closet led into an elevator where every visitor was asked to enter for a few minutes. my bed was covered in a thick olive blanket. as i grew i started sleeping diagonally or curled in a ball so that my feet didn’t hang over the edge or my toes didn’t become uncovered.

from that bed, beginning at an early age, i wondered what happened when we died, crying when i thought about going from looking at something to everything becoming black, no longer sensing anything. i didn’t know how that made sense, how you could go from being awake and alive, to being nothing at all. for a minute, i imagined the grave (this was before i learned about cremation), the dirt, the darkness; no conversations, no friends, no self. slowly i came to terms with death, i suppose, because i stopped tearing up every night, thinking about where i was going to go. i accepted the idea that i would one day disappear, though hopefully not while i was sleeping so i could challenge death to a game of chess. it was as simple as that: i would be gone and everything i was doing and everything i could do would cease.

i stopped taking my medication in early december because my frustrations about its lack of efficacy were exacerbating my depression. also, i didn’t want to listen to my psychiatrist talk about sleep patterns anymore, but she can’t be blamed for thinking every single person is the same, so, for the record, my only true battle is with pristiq. i realized that all the things wrong with me are not merely symptoms of depression. i can handle being sad. it’s not as if i’m thinking about suicide all the time. i mean, some days i don’t even mind being alive.

i avoid using anti-bacterial soap so convincing me to take a daily pill that is altering my brain is not going to be appealing for long. i guess i kind of see medicine and god in the same way: i understand their value for some people, but i’m okay on my own. obviously, though, i’m not going to turn down a life-saving medical procedure, whereas, conversely, it’ll take a pretty large miracle for me to start believing in the existence of a higher being.

so, anyway, i wanted to let you know that i’m fine and moderately happy. and all the things wrong with me are less of a concern than they were right before i started taking the medication and during, though there are extenuating factors involved in my current and previous happinesses that i don’t wish to discuss at this time.


rapid cycling of thoughts.

30 December 2010

after we reached the end of our trip down the rio toro, the rafting guide told us that we had a situation. he explained how people abandon their pets when they no longer want them, before leading us up an embankment where there was a cat with its head sticking out of a bag of rice. another cat — emaciated, fur matted with rain and dirt — lay dead in the grass beside it.

we gathered around an overturned kayak, eating pieces of pineapple and yucca chips, while someone cut the cat free and washed it in the river as it shook and whined. wrapped in a towel, we fed it crumbled bits of coconut cookies. it couldn’t support its own weight.

we drove to town for lunch, the cat in the front seat of the van, nestled in the floorboards. we drove to town to put the cat down as humanely as possible.

i don’t know why i’m telling you this. i don’t know what motivated me to continue through this story, rather than talking about the whitewater rafting experience itself. i could have written about how the guide initially told me my strokes were lazy, and the irony of that statement when, upon viewing the pictures taken while we paddled, we noticed the girl behind me staring directly at the camera in each photograph and even flashing the peace sign in one. i could have told you that i became completely soaked, my shoes, formerly caked with mud from a hike on a muddy trail near an active volcano, now pristine. i could have just said that it wasn’t worth the money and left it at that (though then everyone would think of me as a curmudgeon that cannot be satisfied, instead of someone whose idea of adventure is skewed).

i’m sorry that my thoughts tend to go in these directions and that i become fixated on the details of an event outside the event, that i remember the way a dying cat was carefully bathed along the banks of a raging river rather than presenting a travel guide so that you know what places to visit and what tour companies to use. again, i am seeing how strangers come together to support each other at times of crisis, but, yeah, i could have achieved those ends by detailing how we synchronized our oars to navigate without capsizing.


30 August 2010

i cut myself a little over a week ago. i assure you that i wasn’t trying to kill myself. it was more like a young girl, locking herself in her room, music blaring, while she runs a razor across her inner thigh just so she can feel something in this terrible world. honestly, i’d rather be dead right now from self-afflicted wounds than admit that i’m a pathetic little teenager seeking attention, but it’s the truth, sort of. at least the sentence about cutting myself and the next one about not trying to kill myself are true: i mean, i barely even broke through the skin when i slid the knife back and forth across my upper arm a few times, i merely wanted to see how it felt (i’d remembered from years ago not feeling anything when i tried the same thing and this experience was consistent — the cuts produced a small crease, and the following day a scab formed, making it seem worse than it actually was).

recently i told someone that while i’ve had suicidal thoughts for most of my life i would never be able to carry it out. my ideas of death over the years have been focused on hoping something would happen, like a satellite falling out of the sky to crush me or an errant hoof hitting me square in the temple (you know, when i’m cleaning out the family stables).

i came across something i wrote over eight years ago: every time i breathe, the earth’s supply of oxygen is depleted to such a degree that other people begin to gasp and, after the blood vessels in their eyes burst and form branches, die. a couple of years ago, while walking between the lines of a crosswalk, i started to become plagued by the thought that, instead of pavement, the road was composed of babies, staring unblinkingly into the sky. no matter how gingerly i stepped, my footfalls crushed them, suffocated them. since then, i haven’t been able to walk through the full length of a crosswalk. i wonder how much longer it will be before i decide that breathing is not worth the possible fatalities.

i want to draw lines across my back yard, forming a grid. in one square, a land mine would be placed. if i were feeling especially charitable, i’d take bets (in which square resides the blast? how many steps before i choose poorly?) with all proceeds going to a worthy cause, like my parents’ son’s funerary preparation fund.

i know what you’re thinking — how is it possible that this guy used to be even more melodramatic? — but let us try to overlook this stunner. the fact remains that i’ve obviously been failing at treating my mental health on my own, and pretending that sometimes-debilitating depression and suicidal ideation is somehow necessary for creativity has robbed me of a good number of satisfying endeavors. and it goes further back then the text above: it’s just that my writings from the womb have been obscured by amniotic fluid and such.

it’s not too late to change. life is what it is, not what it was (yes, that is a conor oberst quote, evidence the melodrama is still present).

really, i’m a fungi to be around.

17 April 2009

i am a very sensitive person. through the years i’ve weathered all manner of bizarre ailments from sun poisoning after riding in a tube down the dan river (my fellow tubers referred to this condition as beaver fever, a name unused outside our polytheistic past when evil spirits were thought to cause all illnesses) to ingrown hairs quietly becoming inflamed metropolises, from large blisters festering on my palms after merely taking a two-hour golf lesson at a driving range (insert your preferred joke about tightly-gripped shafts here) to an almost ceaseless supply of canker sores due to minor immune imbalances.

the latest chronic skin irritation — tinea versicolor — to strike is undoubtedly my favorite mostly because the name reminds me of rainbows. it’s caused by malassezia globosa (even that sounds cool (i’m so lucky)), a yeast that occurs naturally on the skin of many animals including humans, that only becomes troublesome under certain circumstances like a warm and humid environment, though the reasons behind the initial outbreak are not understood.

the yeast feeds on skin oils and dead skin cells and appears as small circular patches of discolored skin (on light skin such as my own, the spots are darker, like dark pink or tan with a reddish undertone). it is thought to have been brought from the amazon river by peter elam, an american engineer who was developing clean water in poor villages.

it can disappear and reappear throughout the course of one’s life. some treatments, such as coating affected areas in selsun blue shampoo (which i’ve tried with some success) and waiting ten minutes before rinsing have show efficacy as well as other topical antifungal medications (yeast infection solutions, et cetera). there are also medications only available with a prescription that administer higher doses that suppress growth, lessen inflamation, or can even remove the problem completely.

let me add this bit of information before concluding: it is in no way contagious. many of those that have come into contact with me over the years have lived long fruitful lives, free of sickness and full of vigor. if i hadn’t already used the fungi joke in the subject, i would use it now. instead i have to fall back on a vastly inferior reference to rainbows and suggest that somewhere near me lies a pot of gold, to be shared in a way that we all become richer, more productive people, regardless of our many unexplained infections.

notes on a ledger.

2 April 2009

cynicism dictates that when heath ledger died the probable, that is, winning an oscar for best supporting actor, became a lock. for a long time i held that it was only due to his death that he would be given the award, but after contemplating further i decided that it was fruitless to worry about the reasoning behind a meaningless award. this is not to say, however, that his performance in the dark knight wasn’t deserving of a prize, especially in comparison to the other nominees who were adequate but not instantly memorable. while jack nicholson’s portrayal of the joker bordered on cartoonish, ledger’s was invested in the darker elements of the character, the maniacal tempered with sensitivity, the brutality and cunning counterbalanced by comedy and wittiness.

his victory was due as much to this role as it was a recognition of his previous. it goes without saying that he was great in brokeback mountain, but his performances were also noteworthy in the patriot, monster’s ball, ned kelly, and even, somehow, in ten things i hate about you. also he played the grimm, jacob, who shares a birthday with me, january four, instantly making him the cooler of the brothers.

i’d really like to find more similarities between heath ledger and myself, but i’m left with the tangential. sure, my family came close to moving to austrailia before we decided on north carolina. we were both born in the same year, on the fourth day of a month. we each have reported difficulty sleeping. members of the paparrazi also once squirted me with water pistols while i was on the red carpet.

there’s a detail that keeps coming back to me — something that fortunately we do not have in common — his access to health insurance. i will never accidentally overdose on prescription medications because i cannot afford to go to a doctor. i remain intentionally oblivious to my health, relying on my immune system to defeat all illnesses. it’s not completely alone in the struggle — i eat nutritiously on most occasions, i come very close to exercising at times, but for the most part i count on merely wishing my body could quit the pathogens that invade it.

midnight’s child.

3 March 2009

salman rushdie’s female characters are often, if not always, strong, able to influence with their charm and/or beauty. their gifts are not only reserved for men — or humans for that matter –, for everything is susceptible, including animals and illnesses (in his latest novel, the enchantress of florence, rushdie surmises about one young woman that maybe diseases loved her too, which was why she was dead before she was twenty-four years old).

in his work, every woman has some degree of magic contained within her, whether she can tell your fortune by looking at vegetables, land safely after falling off a precipice, remain as alive when a ghost as she was when she was corporeal, or lead others pied-piper style to follow her. maybe it’s this way of thinking that causes someone to marry four times, like he has. maybe i have him to blame then for my own exploits and mercurial tendencies. can i legitimately be faulted because i made the mistake of first picking up one of his books, the moor’s last sigh, when i was an impressionable sixteen-year-old boy, and, from it, learned that each girl is both charismatic and demented in her own special way? is it any wonder that ever since i flipped through those pages i’ve wanted to search the geography of each body to find the spot marked with an x that conceals a treasure chest? it’s as if within my heart resides a rainbow with its terminus located elsewhere, in another heart, and i am charged with discovering the pot of gold.

i didn’t have the chance to tell him any of the above as i was quickly ushered through the line during a book signing. he had just spoken at length about the world, politics, terrorism, and humanity, and now he was seated at a table waiting for books, open to the title page, to be placed in front of him. i’d like to think that when i shook his hand, some degree of appreciation was passed to him. this was my meeting-a-rock-star moment, fainting as elvis presley’s hips swivel but without the fainting (thankfully, i’m a bit more stoic and, probably, suffer less from feelings of inferiority).

he is the reason i began writing, the reason i have adopted this silly way of communicating with excessive commas and parenthetical references, the reason i continue extending metaphors far after i’ve baffled the majority of my audience. i share his uneasy relationship with pop culture (in his speech he referred to paris hilton as a second-rate person named after a second-rate hotel, but despite this notion continues to be aware of her career). his efforts made me even more captivated by puns: in the moor’s last sigh he calls someone who is part jewish and part catholic a cathjew nut; the enchantress of florence includes a song called my sweet polenta with lyrics like if she was a letter i would have sent her, if she was a coin i would have spent her.

he is the (partial) reason i possess the capacity to love every single one of you equally, if only for a short time. there are countless secrets below the surface, and i am willing to swallow the world’s collective and individual pain, to endure the struggle and the success, in order to reveal them, because i understand that each one of you has a story that you yearn to tell and each one of you has something up your sleeve, some feat of legerdemain, that only i can experience.

change i can believe in.

8 February 2009

earlier this week i found jars filled with pennies in my closet. my dad brought me a few more he had been saving. thus, for the past three days, off and on, i’ve sat on the bed, rolling coins. the act doesn’t seem particularly humorous now but if i could make a postcard and send it to myself five years from this date, the sound of laughter would no doubt reverberate off the walls of my mansion. i suppose one has to go to these lengths during a prolonged stay in the unemployment line during an economic downturn. perhaps i should find comfort in the small adjustments i’ve had to make, because while, admittedly, counting pennies isn’t nearly as hip as the alternative (holding a wealthy dowager at gunpoint for the contents of her pocketbook), five years from now i’ll understand it was the wiser decision.

a friend suggested that i speed up the process by depositing the coins in one of those machines that counts money for a small fee, but using such a service doesn’t make as much sense. it wasn’t as if i was in a hurry. after all, when a payment to chase is already two months late, i expect they care less about an additional few days of delinquency than about a check that is twenty bucks short. they weren’t even threatening to cut off my fingers, unless that’s why they’ve been calling fifteen times a day. however, i figure if it were really important, they would leave a message.

last night i slept on this bed, or, more accurately laid awake here, as three quarters of the blanket is overrun with coins. there are currently one hundred eighty-seven dollars worth of pennies and nearly one hundred more in silver sharing my sleeping space. my restlessness, though, was caused by a different concern, that is, i keep picturing myself entering a bank, struggling with a box of money, and having security mistake it for a bomb, reacting by filling me with lead before i can detonate it. i realize the scenario seems farfetched, but we’re living in desperate times, where nothing can be ruled out.

i look forward to the world, five years into the future, when everything will add up. violence won’t disappear, certainly, but fewer people will contemplate the use of force as necessary for their survival. struggle will again become funny.

a bunch of people who love you like crazy.

27 January 2009

friends and relatives gathered at the house, bringing along every snack known to heaven and every liquor known to hell. we shared stories and looked through family photographs, laughing often, eating and drinking a lot.

as night fell, some guests returned to their houses and hotels, leaving empty bottles of vodka and rum, two of wine, and eighteen cans of beer as reminders. my sister’s and my friends remained to finish what was left, and to watch intervention on a & e, as we have on many previous monday nights.

the episode centered around lawrence, a guy in his early thirties who owned a chain of prosperous tanning salons. throughout the day he filled large brightly-colored plastic cups with vodka. testicular cancer weakened his body, and his resolve. he had surgery to remove the tumor, but rebuked the doctor’s pleas to get frequent check ups. his torso heavily bruised, a sign of low blood clotting as a result of diminished liver function.

lawrence’s loyal employees took over the operations of his company, even visiting his house daily — bringing him lunch, reading his mail, and tucking him into bed. his younger brothers obviously admired him years before but now avoided him. at dinner, his mother skirted around his problems, frightened of the confrontation.

i always feel compelled to act antithetical to a program’s message, continuing to drink while i watch people self-destruct due to alcohol addiction, eating during a show about a half-ton teen undergoing gastric bypass surgery, having sex every time abstinence is promoted.

those familiar with the show know that following the intervention, once acquiescence is reached, the subject is sent to one of various recovery centers throughout the united states, usually in california or florida. then the davenports five steps begins to play, as viewers learn the results of treatment.

as we raised our glasses to what would no doubt be another successful journey, we learned that lawrence was asked to leave after thirty days for failing to focus on his recovery. he retuned home to las vegas, remaining sober for another three weeks before relapsing and dying due to complications stemming from cirrhosis of the liver.

honestly, i’d like to blame cancer for everything. one night, walking out of beacon place, my dad said, fuck cancer, under his breath. it was only the second or third time i’ve heard him use the f-word, all in relation to this disease. i’m against anything that can repeatedly bring a two-hundred-twenty-five-pound man to tears, so i will blame it for everything without impunity, not just my mom’s death, or lawrence’s, but war and genocide, rape and murder, tsunamis and hurricanes, and my sixteen-hour post-intervention hangover.

the charm of the highway strip.

18 October 2008

one of my favorite things in the world is driving at night. i often delay trips so that i can maximize the hours spent in the dark, lulled into a sense of calmness by the music and the glowing red lights of the cars in front of me. sometimes i listen to a single song for an hour or two, starting over each time i mess up a line. it helps me clear my head. i never want to stop; i just want open road, i want the vastness of this world to make me comfortable with how small i am.

it’s no secret that, to paraphrase samuel beam, i want to live like my ghost will live. i long to travel, invisible to everything, save for those for whom i choose to appear (i don’t know if i really buy into that last bit). the night makes me anxious usually, but only when i try to sleep. i often lay awake where a thousand and one lonely thoughts creep in and thrash about. someone once told me that all i needed to do was turn my thoughts into waves and envision those waves crashing into the beach and let them steadily become quieter, until they’re just part of the landscape, the everyday, and you don’t notice them anymore. it worked for her; my seas, on the other hand, are always populated by sharks and shipwrecks and portuguese man o’ war.

i’m frightened that if i sleep i’ll miss something important. in grade school i hated being absent because invariably one would come in the day after being sick and hear about something that happened in the classroom or during recess and then be awash in regret. i’ll always be a child, with big green eyes, taking pleasure in minute details and plumbing the depths, wary that, without warning, i can be engulfed.

excuse the poor segue: i attended the magnetic fields show in raleigh, alone. upon arriving at the meymandi concert hall at the progress energy center for the performing arts (i think they could have successfully made the name longer), i sat on a bench inside, pretending i was waiting for a friend to arrive. there was a couple sitting beside me, who fortunately only stayed until the intermission, as i couldn’t stomach much more trivia from him or outbursts from her — when someone on stage mentioned boston, she shouted, what’s the score of the game? i overheard one of the tickettakers describe the crowd as odd. apparently she’s not familiar with irony.

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