People keep telling me I need to step outside of my comfort zone. I don’t have one of those. The definition of a comfort zone seems to be things people do every day and have become accustomed to. Habits are things people do every day, but a lot of habits don’t really comfort people. For example, biting your fingernails is a habit, but I’ve never seen anybody biting their fingernails who looked comfortable. Smoking cigarettes is a habit, too, but now, you can only see people shivering outside while they do it. They don’t look very comfy, either, but people can get used to almost anything, even torture. If they’ve been convinced that they deserve to be tortured, they’ll even find a new torturer when the original one wears out or dies.
Loneliness is when you can’t find anyone who sees the world the way you do. It’s made of never watching football and not wanting to shop or be entertained anymore. It’s made of not wanting to compete with anybody for anything but being forced to compete anyway. Everything has been turned into a competition, even singing and dancing, and most competitions only have one winner. You can watch all the entrants’ love for music and dance be transformed into pain as, one by one, they are told they aren’t good enough to be number one and eliminated. Number one gets all the prize money and the chance to be able to keep singing and dancing instead of something else for a living, like asking people for proof of medical insurance. People with crushed spirits are at a disadvantage in competitions because they have trouble finishing things.
What you are reading right now might become the world’s longest suicide note because that’s the only competition I think I might be able to win. I might die of natural causes before I finish it, though. First off, dead people don’t buy anything, so the current record holder was nowhere near the top of my search results. It took say more time than I thought it would to find out that in 2011, a guy named Mitchell Heisman, who killed himself on the steps of Harvard University, left a 1,904 page suicide note—-and that didn’t even include a manifesto. I don’t know yet whether the pages were double-spaced or not. What I did find out using my phone calculator is that if I write one page a day, to have a shot at winning this contest, I’ll have to stay alive for five years, 2 months and 20 more days.
To make the thought of having to stay alive that much longer bearable, I had no choice but to sign up for some modern jazz dance classes. I’m probably going to have to do more than that, though. Who knows? If I can finish writing 1905 pages, I might be so proud of myself that I’ll change my mind. I’ll just have to resist the temptation to speed it up and write 10 pages a day, but so badly that I bore myself to death before I even get close. Did I mention that his suicide note has gotten some positive reviews on Goodreads? Maybe the worst thing about the contemplation of impending death is the desire to achieve some kind of immortality that so often accompanies it. Page 2 tomorrow.
Page 2. Okay, first I have to confess that it’s not the tomorrow I referred to on the previous page. It’s four days later. It turns out that having modern jazz dance classes to look forward to isn’t nearly enough to keep me from longing for a more timely death. That’s why I went to see my old therapist. She thought it might be a good idea for me to check myself into a hospital. I had to remind her that I wasn’t rich. By the end of the session, though, we had agreed that it would be a good idea for me to try medication. I’m on day four of Zoloft. Maybe you can help me determine whether or not it’s doing any good or if I start to sound either more rational or more optimistic after being on it for a few more days. I say more rational OR more optimistic because I’m not sure it’s possible to be both. More of either would be good.
I’ve been afraid of medication since my younger brother was put on Ritalin and Elavil as a child to help my parents hide that they were abusing him. The doctors diagnosed him as the one with the problem—ADD. When he got to be an adult and aged out of the foster care system, he didn’t have a regular doctor, so he replaced Ritalin with meth and Elavil with pot. He went to prison for that, and never recovered from the torture he suffered in there or the injustice of everyone always getting away with hurting him. A few years ago, for the second time in his life, he cut his own throat. He died that time. Because of his success, I’m classified in a higher risk category for suicide. I don’t want to become a boring statistic, so I’m hoping all the positive reviews people wrote for this medication are true and not written by freelance writers on assignment for the drug company. “Zoloft saved my life! It took away my panic attacks and depression. It allowed me to relax and be myself for the first time. Now I even find myself singing in the shower! ” At this point, I’d settle for just finding myself in the shower.
In the meantime, while missing work, I’ve been trying to figure out how Mr. Heisman managed to stay alive long enough to write 1,904 pages if he was really suicidal. What I have figured out is that everything he had to say in those 1904 pages could probably have been condensed into one sentence: I am unable to love or be loved. That’s really the crux of the matter of life or death. Oh, I get it. I’m not judging him for all that writing, for creating a linguistic labyrinth of complex philosophical concepts regarding historical events to hide in. It’s really tempting to write at length about all the possible reasons why you can’t love or be loved. That’s because you probably want your death, if not to have some kind of purpose, at least to have some kind of effect on those left alive. I think purpose is religious and effect is scientific. Love is neither. Ironically, many suicides are sacrificial last-ditch attempts at love, selfless gestures toward helping to rid the world of people incapable of love. They’re like red warning flares sent up to warn us about all the hazardous conditions that love can’t exist in.
For example, the day before yesterday, I tried this online suicide chat hotline. I had to create an account and then press “chat now”. As soon as I pressed it, I saw a message saying that there were 14 people in line ahead of me! I was advised to keep watching the screen and to press the start button as soon as it reappeared to avoid being timed out. During the visible fifteen-minute countdown of the suicidal people ahead of me, I wondered what kind of mental health magicians must be working on this hotline to be able to talk people out of suicide in under a minute. When my turn came, I pressed the button and was sent to a screen where I had to provide the same information that I’d provided to open the account. Then, another screen opened and said that someone named Justin was available to chat, but when I tried to type something, I was booted back to the log-in page. I tried logging back in and getting back in line twice but the same thing happened, although there were only 8 other people in line ahead of me the other two times. I’m not sure if it was a glitch in the system or something I did wrong. Maybe one of you could try it let me know whether you actually got to chat with someone and if it was helpful, or whether they just told you to call 911 to go to a hospital. That wouldn’t have been helpful for me. Just thinking about a hospital bill is enough to give me a panic attack, so maybe it’s a good thing I wasn’t able to chat with Justin after all. More later. I’ve already learned not to give specific dates right now.
Killing yourself is a major commitment, it takes a kind of courage. Most people just lead lives of cowardly desperation. It’s kinda half suicide where you just dull yourself with substances.
At the job I quit most recently, they named that desperation “Thirsty Thursdays” which was a blanket invitation for staff to meet at a local bar to anesthetize themselves with alcohol. If it were possible to choose to wake up retired or with a different job with the same pay and benefits, I wonder how many people would still be there. Is there a singular form of the word staff, or can it still be a staff if it’s just one person?
A lot of people think meeting for a drink at a local bar is relaxing and fun. It’s true that alcohol can make it easier to relax around other people. Unfortunately, it can also make it easier to accidentally stop acting. Most jobs require non-stop acting. Acting is so revered by our culture that celebrity actors are paid millions of dollars. Almost everybody is a better actor than the celebrity actors who are supposed to be our acting role models. Most people don’t get juicy interesting parts, but they have to pretend they’re happy with whatever part they got–even if that part only has like five lines that they have to say over and over hundreds of times a day every day. Maybe something like “Good morning, Stafford, Hamlin and Associates. How can I help you today?” Of course, after 12:00, they have to remember to change “Good morning” to “Good afternoon”. If they forget, they’ll likely lose the part to some understudy waiting in the wings.
Okay, where was I? That’s one of the symptoms of extreme anxiety. You forget what you’re doing. When you add depression to anxiety, you also forget why you’re doing it. We dedicate the majority of our life energy to staying alive. Most of our waking hours are spent trading our energy for money. If we’re lucky we can use some of that money to buy experiences that make us want to stay alive longer. Maybe that means sharing some of our money with people we care about, or going to a concert and being in celebratory rhythm with thousands of your fellow humans. It could mean exploring a part of the planet you’ve never seen before to get some new ideas and fresh inspiration. When there isn’t enough money left over after staying alive to buy any reasons to want to go on living, people stop wanting to live. That explains this study that showed that for every $1 increase in the minimum wage, the suicide rate would go down from 3.5% to 6%. See, this is exactly how the current record-holder of the world’s longest suicide note probably ended up with 1,904 pages. Instead of just saying something like “I don’t have anything good to share with anybody and it hurts, it hurts!” Probably not even an actor could say that without crying. He didn’t want to cry, so he went all the way back through the history of religion and government to try to understand the power structure that his inherited hurt started in. It IS kind of scary to cry because you can never be sure if you’ll be able to stop in time.
Sometimes statistics can help you feel so not alone while you’re waiting for your will to live to return. For example, the suicide rate in the U.S. has jumped 33 percent from 1999 to 2017. Actually, the word the statisticians used was “increased”, but I changed it to jumped because at least some of those people probably jumped to their deaths, making it a more accurate word. This statistic lets me know me that 14 of every 100,000 people feel at least similar to the way I do right now. Mental health professionals should probably make up a national phone tree of suicidal people so we could call each other, but then they’d be out of a job. Some of the suicidal people might make friends with each other and become part of understanding support systems. Others would probably try to compete with each other to see who could commit suicide first. Still others might try to start a suicide cult so they could finally be in charge of something and use the phone tree to recruit new members. It’s very important to the leaders of suicide cults that everybody in the cult kills themselves at exactly the same time, kind of like synchronized swimming. I guess you could call them death choreographers. People love choreography of any kind, even the kind of death choreography army generals perpetually create.
You can get all kinds of useful information from statistics, too. From this statistical chart, I learned that I would have a much better chance of not killing myself if I moved to Mexico right now. The U.S. ranks 27th in suicides, while Canada ranks 47th, probably because in Canada, people don’t have to pay extra to be sick or sad. Mexico is all the way down in 131st place! I can’t really be sure whether the people there are happier or just determined to stay alive no matter how miserable they are because they’re afraid of burning in hell for eternity if they kill themselves, though. I’ve been learning to speak Spanish for the last 30 years because I visited Mexico a few times and people did seem happier even if they still believe in hell. The subjunctive tense is really hard, though.
Another common symptom of extreme anxiety is frequent changes in subject. For example, now I’d like to talk for a moment about sheepherding. To get this sheepherding job, I’d need three months of previous experience. Sometimes the working conditions aren’t great, but it pays more than I thought it would, and benefits include such luxuries as water for bathing and laundry in addition to drinking water. Three meals a day are provided. Plus I’d be on the range 50% of the time. All these years of singing that song and I’ve never been home on a range even once. I’d have to give sheep medicine if they got sick and guard them from wild animals. I figure that once I quit my job due to social anxiety, and it goes on my record, I’ll only be able to apply for jobs that don’t require a lot of human interaction. I’m not sure how to go about getting three months of sheepherding experience. I’ve never even met a sheepherder and I don’t know anybody else who has, either. Never having to meet people must be an even better benefit than water for bathing. I just wish I’d run across this job a lot sooner. My whole life could have been different.
Yesterday, as you may recall, I ended by talking about sheepherding. For today’s anxiety-induced abrupt change of subject, I’ll be talking about boxing. This morning, I went to see my therapist so I could wonder out loud in front of somebody which part of me is going to win this internal battle. She only looked at her watch once while the parts took turns interrupting each other, which the judgmental observer part of me found both rude and counterproductive. My therapist says that a good goal would be to get rid of the judgmental observer part. That’s the part the berates me for being injured and having limitations that other people don’t have. I already know It’s going to take more than 25mg to shut that part up.
The battle between the other two parts can be described as a perpetual boxing match. In one corner, there’s the contender that wants to live long enough to be happy. Let’s call that part the Great Colorless Hope, which describes life without happiness while removing any hint of racism. The Great Colorless hope weighs in as a bantamweight at 118 pounds because she’s always needed to be accepted by a society that values her for her appearance. However, that makes her able to move unbelievably fast—and far, and gives her incredible stamina. Her footwork is impressive and she is able to bob and weave with great alacrity, avoiding the majority of her opponents’ attempted blows. One of the secrets of her success thus far is that she never lets her guard down. Unfortunately, this is also true outside the ring.
In the other corner, there’s the part of me that just wants to give up already. Let’s call that part the Great Promise of Peace. I don’t really think I need to explain that one. The Great Promise of Peace weighs in as a super bantamweight at 122 pounds. A four pound difference doesn’t sound like much, and it isn’t. She cares less whether people accept her for her looks. She also lets her guard down more often and takes more chances to go for the win. She’s more offensive than defensive, but she has less stamina. You might be tempted to think that they’re pretty evenly matched and that with superior footwork, focus, and defense the Great Colorless Hope stands a pretty good chance. Maybe you’re even ready to bet on her since that bet would pay more if she wins. But what makes the Great Promise of Peace so dangerous isn’t her weight class or her aggressiveness. It’s her reach— which can extend decades back into the past.
Then there’s the matter of who the contenders have in their respective corners. In a real boxing match, each contender has a corner man, but to avoid being sexist, I’ll say they each have a corner person. That person does a lot of important things, not the least of which is staunching any bleeding or throwing in the towel if a boxer is injured to the extent that to continue the fight could result in permanent injury or death. For many years, the Great Colorless Hope’s corner person was somebody that was also secretly working for the Great Promise of Peace. They’d show up without a water bottle or any vaseline, sometimes under the influence. If a series of uppercuts followed by a right cross was called for, they’d advise a body punch and a left jab. You get the idea. Finally, the Great Colorless Hope caught on and fired them. It took a long time to find a replacement she could trust, or to trust anyone at all, so she had a lot of matches without a corner person, which took a toll. But it’s not just the level of knowledge, commitment, skill and experience of a fighter’s actual corner person that can decide the outcome of a fight. It’s also the people in a fighter’s metaphorical corner.
Those corners can get really crowded. A lot of people pay for what I’ll call corner stuffers. They take up space and make a lot of supportive-sounding noise. If you do that, you have to be sure you pay them enough, though, or they’ll be tempted to accept offers to double their income by also cheering for your competitor. If you can’t afford to pay anyone to be in your corner, you have to depend on people liking you enough to volunteer. Since almost all people have to act for a living, it’s hard to tell which ones to believe. That’s been the only good thing about what I hope will be this final bout. Now that I’m thirsty, bleeding and almost down for the count, it’s showing me who’s really in my corner.
That whole boxing thing yesterday was exhausting. It definitely made me want to write more than one page a day to be able to get to 1,906 pages faster. Then it occurred to me that I don’t have to have a certain number of words on each page! In fact, Mark Z. Danielewski, one of the most brilliant writers alive today, has written books in which the number of words on each page is determined by the content and the meaning of the word. I’ll show you what I mean with this word.
See how to more fully express its meaning in a visual, visceral way, it can’t have any other words close to it? Anyway, my friend Bill (no, a different, alive Bill) recommended that I go to a meeting to break out of isolation. So, today, I went to a 6:30 a.m. 12-step recovery meeting held at a local church. They’re almost all at churches because churches charge less to rent rooms than other businesses do. On the door, there was a flyer advertising a women’s religious retreat. In this size font were the words
Women’s Retreat Feb. 7-8
Then, in this size font, it said
Near the bottom, it said in this font size
Great food and fun!
See, this is one of the reasons religion has never been a source of comfort for me. But this flyer did make me realize that I can use different font sizes to fill more pages, as well as better express the importance of things. Before I’m tempted to launch into some boring tirade about the patriarchy, let’s get past the flyer on the front door and into the meeting. I’m not allowed to say anybody’s name that was in the meeting because that would be breaking their anonymity. I can relate stuff that people say, though. Today, it was like a contest to see who could come up with the best story analogy to describe hitting bottom. I’m still pretty close to a bottom right now, so I listened closely. The winner, hands-down, was the well analogy.
This is a shorter version, but it went like this:
Back before I got sober I lived in darkness. It was a lot like being down inside a well, and with each passing year, I went a little further down, and the light became a little harder to see. Our eyes eventually adjust to darkness, and our perception changes. Instead of feeling trapped and scared, I started to feel safe and protected in the well. Nobody could hurt me there. After somebody threw me a ladder, sometimes I’d try to climb up, but a rung would break, or I’d slip and fall even further down. People dropped food into the well to keep me alive, and slowly, I got accustomed to just staying alive on whatever scraps people dropped down the well, and I quit trying. That’s when I fell all the way to the bottom—and that crash landing hurt. It hurt so bad. I was too far down to even reach the ladder anymore. People thought I might already be dead and stopped throwing scraps. For a while, I felt so broken I thought I’d just lay there until I really was dead. I don’t know how, but even though I could barely see the faint glimmer of light above, I used the remaining strength in my legs to brace myself against the sides and inch my way up the sides. As I progressed a little further up each day, my muscles grew stronger. It didn’t even matter what the light was and I didn’t try to idealize it—I just knew that it was something different and that anything had to be better than how I’d been living.
I thought he did a pretty good job describing depression and hopelessness and how, in the end, you have to save your own life. And how a lot of times, when people try to help you, they’re just enabling you to stay stuck. In fact, I thought he did a little bit too good of a job, like maybe he was auditioning to become a professional motivational speaker. His delivery was smooth and polished without a hint of strong emotion accompanying his words. I heard them, and related but I didn’t feel them. Maybe if I’d tried to talk today, I could have provided some teary, snot-filled accompaniment. You know, really made them come to life.
I’m not at the bottom of a well, but the state of my apartment reflects my current mental state, which could be described as “in disarray”. Here is the most comprehensive definition of array I could find. As you can see, one of the definitions is “a great number of items”. For example, there is a vast array of used Kleenexes on nearly every available surface of my apartment, including the floor. My body seems to be taking this breakdown as an opportunity to grieve every loss I’ve experienced throughout my life-time, but was too busy surviving to feel at the time. Another definition is “arranging items attractively for public display”, which I have not done for several days. Yet another is “arranging things in neat rows or columns”, which I have also not done. Several pairs of shoes litter the living room, coats are draped on chair backs, pajamas pooled on the bathroom floor. Neither does my mind currently fit the definition “a group of elements forming a complete unit.” I have to say that I found the number of military definitions disturbing. Being in array probably does help you find your car keys faster, but too much array, and all your creativity gets transformed into military conformity. It’s all about balance, right? If that’s true, shouldn’t really happy people hang out with really depressed people? Shouldn’t some really happy person be seeking me out right now to achieve balance? I wonder how long it will take them to find me. They might have a better chance if I left my apartment, or maybe that’s just the Zoloft talking.
Well, if the Zoloft is talking, it isn’t saying much. I managed to show up for one of those jazz dances classes I foolishly paid for right before having this nervous breakdown. That’s because I happened to mention it to a friend as a possibility. He then texted me every hour on the hour to encourage me to go until I finally said I would. Now there’s video in my phone of the dance instructor doing the shim-sham so I could provide proof that I’d gone and get him off my back. What made me temporarily believe that I had enough rhythm to learn modern jazz dancing, I can’t say. Clearly I was mistaken. I spent an hour trying unsuccessfully to emulate the teacher and the other three female post-middle- aged students in the class as they smoothly eight-counted steps, jumps, leaps, boogie-backs, and crossovers. Unable to stop crying last week, I’d missed the first session where they’d learned the terms and practiced all these moves. My performance, which I was forced to watch in the mirror that covered the entire back wall, could best be described as zombie-like. However, unlike this laughably low dose of Zoloft, the exercise did manage to keep me focused enough on something for an hour to keep from weeping uncontrollably.
I’ve learned that it’s possible to have deep realizations in the midst of a nervous breakdown. One of those realizations is that even though I’ve tried not to be, in some ways I’m just like my mother. It’s been traumatic to discover that I’m just as jealous—I’m just jealous of different things. Maybe I wouldn’t starve my children so that I could go on a cruise because I was jealous that somebody where I work went on one and bragged about it. But I’m jealous, all right. I finally have to admit that. At first I was only jealous of people who’d been wanted and loved by their parents. Now, I find myself envying just about everybody. Take those lucky bastards with bi-polar disorder for example. I’d give my eye teeth to be able to stop crying and wishing for death long enough to grab my credit cards, life by the balls, and book a fabulous trip to Vegas, with none of those pesky thoughts about how —or how much —I’d pay for it in the future, either. I’d be able to whoop it up, buy everybody drinks, and believe, however briefly, that the sky’s the limit, baby!
Even schizophrenics have it better than I do. They get to wander around in their own little worlds hearing non-existent voices talking TO them. They get to remain oblivious to all of the very real voices talking ABOUT them behind their backs. Actually, I suspect that schizophrenia might be caused by being lied to all the time. Like when someone pretends to care about you in front of other people so they can look like a good person, but you know from what they do when nobody is looking that they really don’t. When those someones are your mom and dad, it’s hard to believe anybody else after that. Sometimes I feel that I might be one of them, because I sometimes imagine that people are talking about me, but then sometimes I find out that they really are, so I can never be sure when I’m just imagining it. The saddest part is that I never imagine they are saying anything good, just that they are disappointed in my limitations and consequent sub-standard performance. I just can’t seem to get removed far enough from reality to qualify for schizophrenia.
Then there are the people who are able to dissociate! What a fabulous super-power that would have been to have! When my father strangled my pet guinea pig to death in front of me because I didn’t clean my room, I could have just left my body and never even remembered that I’d seen it. Instead, even fifty years later, whenever anybody wants to evaluate my performance, I want to run away—and hundreds of times, I have, but now I’m too tired. I guess I’ll have to believe there’s a medication that can keep the terror down to a manageable level so I don’t make everyone around me uncomfortable. A lot of times, especially in the workplace, where they have the power of life and death over you, people are as uncomfortable around me as I am around them. The crippling anxiety of PTSD, coupled with my running-away habit don’t often let me stay at any interesting job long enough to get good at it. I’m no genius, mind you, just smart enough to be miserable knowing I’m intellectually capable of much more, yet emotionally capable of almost nothing. I’d have tried medication sooner if I hadn’t believed it might either give me the courage to actually commit suicide or dull my ethics to the point where I’d be willing to take a job at a payday lending establishment to survive. I may have to admit that I’m jealous like my mother, but unlike my parents, I have some principles I won’t compromise.
Page 8 Well, that was embarrassing. Two young police officers who looked like they might have graduated from high school in June of last year just showed up at my door to check on me. If I’d listened to my messages this morning, I would have known to expect them, and maybe I’d have gotten dressed and looked a little less like someone who needed checking on. Instead I opened the door red-eyed from weeping, wearing gray polka dot pajama bottoms, a peach-colored long sleeved t-shirt, and Santa footies. I found the Santa footies in a Christmas stocking that had been left for me in my locker at my other job when I went to pick up my last two paychecks yesterday. For some reason, I’ve still been able to go to my second job. Maybe that’s because helping to take care of a sweet little old lady is not very stressful. I know that my saying “little old lady sounds like a stereotype or cliche”, but she’s actually shrinking. That’s why, last night, I spent an hour hemming one of her nightgowns so she wouldn’t trip and fall over it getting up to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. She isn’t even done healing from the bruises from her last fall yet, so I want to do whatever I can to prevent another one. It seems like once people get to be 90 years old, they are adamant about never buying any more new clothes, even if they’re really rich and really need them. I suggested it, but she refused and didn’t even want me to tell her son that all of her nightgowns were too long for her now. I know how it feels not to want to be a bother. Sorry, there I go, abruptly changing subjects again.
One of the police officers at my door was a young woman who had a soothing voice and training in how to make the experience less humiliating. The other one was a young man with dark curly hair who just kept smiling uncomfortably. She told me about “resources”, like counselors who would come to your house if you can’t make yourself go out. When I asked how many thousands of dollars I would be billed for that, she said it was free. I was amazed. To my further amazement, I received a phone call shortly after that which I did not answer because it said it was from an unknown caller, but they left a message giving me an emergency phone number and said they’d call again later. I don’t know how to convince people that even though I can’t stop crying long enough to function right now, I’m not making any active plans to kill myself.
First off, I’m only 8 pages into this 1,906 page suicide note. To be fair, considering that I’ve not been able to force myself to go into the building of my first job even to sign my timesheet to get paid, I guess I can’t blame people for doubting my ability to reach my goals. I’m almost positive that I’ll never end up killing myself, though, especially right now. I realize it’s a terrible reason to refuse to die, but I wouldn’t want to give my mother the satisfaction of outliving all of us. She’s 81 now, which is older than anybody else in my family has ever lived to be, and I feel compelled to stay alive at least longer than her, even though sometimes it’s hard knowing that she’s still out there wishing me dead. Over the years, she’s only wished me dead intermittently, so it’s been hard to defend against. Or maybe I’m projecting. Admittedly, I have thought about how relaxing it would be to die. It would be even more relaxing than a 1 hour full body massage for just $139.99.
Anyway, it’s not really necessary to kill yourself these days. I was really surprised to learn how my brother died, because I always thought he would opt for suicide-by-cop. It was important to him to expose the injustice of the world. The fact that he didn’t was even sadder in a way because it meant that he’d given up on the idea that justice even exists. I don’t have to make a plan to kill myself. I don’t have to look for someone to sell me some street heroin to overdose on, or buy a gun to shoot myself with, or orchestrate a fatal car accident. I don’t have to do a thing but keep being unable to go to work. This is the fate which awaits me. Ironically, that knowledge is part of what paralyzes me. I’ve always been able to order myself to stop wallowing in self-pity and pull myself together, to remember what could happen if I don’t keep going, but that doesn’t seem to be working anymore. It’s like my body has already endured so many adrenaline surges in response to constant terror that to get any rest I have to just peacefully accept my fate. I do think it would be more humane if there were an assisted suicide program for people who experienced excruciating long-term psychic pain. That would make society look really bad, though, so they keep saying that people just have chemical imbalances in their brains and that if they just get on the right meds, they can live happy, productive (emphasis on the productive) lives. I can’t say I believe it, but I’m willing to try it.
Page 9 Here was the view from inside this morning:
H A M
g r o u n d
I said I’d go to the movies today to see Knives Out with one of the people who is worried about me and wants to help keep me from isolating. I’ve already had to tell her that I couldn’t do the pre-movie dinner part that we originally planned, but I’m still hoping I can do the movie. Theaters are dark and you get to stop performing for a while and let somebody else do it. Yesterday I went with her to look at a cat that showed up at a friend of her’s house two months ago. They put ads out, but couldn’t find the owner and it’s bossing their cat around, so it needs a new home. The ride in the country, smelling hay, and seeing horses was nice. It was also nice to see how this father loved his sons. It made me sad, though, that I’m not stable enough to have a pet that would help me be more stable. I still miss my bird every day. Maybe losing him was the last loss I could bear.
I hate to say it, but I’m becoming discouraged with this project already. Here I am, only on page ten, trying to compete with a guy who whipped out 1,904 pages. See, this is a prime example of how I set myself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals. I’m forever underestimating how much further back my starting line is. See, I tried to ignore the fact that the current record-holder of the world’s longest suicide note had an inherited trust fund to live on and I don’t. That means I have to maintain some kind of job to stay alive long enough to write 1,894 more pages. Call me a pessimist, but I question whether it’s possible for someone poor and suicidal to stay alive that long. It’s hard enough staying alive while you’re poor without becoming suicidal. Once you’ve done a cost benefit analysis that concludes that the rate of return on energy expended for survival no longer justifies the expenditure, it gets nearly impossible to take positive action. That’s why I need drugs to help me want to live right now. All I can say is I hope they start working pretty soon. Yesterday, I wasn’t able to stop crying long enough to go to see that movie and disappointed my friend. Today, I got to double my dosage to 50 mg, and I only cried for two hours. Hello, brave new world!
I just hope I don’t suddenly become so optimistic under the influence of these drugs that I start setting even more unachievable goals, like becoming physically fit or going on a date. This afternoon, while scanning Craigslist for less stressful jobs I might be able to do, I found this one. I called them immediately, and left my name and number after the beep. Forest ranger is the perfect job for someone like me. That’s why, like desperate people so often do, I started being tempted to look at this ad as a sign from the universe. That reminded me of the time that I was taking care of an old man who always watched religious channels on TV. His favorite preacher talked a lot about sowing seeds and reaping blessings. He said if you sent money for a prayer rug, he would combine his energy with the energy of the whole congregation to fill it full of blessings before sending it to you. I was thinking if I could get enough blessings, I might not have to get married again, but when the prayer rug arrived, it wasn’t even made of cloth—it was just paper with the letters RUG on it in the shape of a bath mat.
Not much has changed since then. Like Zoloft so far, the universe doesn’t have much to say, but other people do. Just last week, Facebook put an ad on my timeline for a free seminar on how to achieve permanent full recovery from PTSD. They told you to set aside two hours for receiving this life-changing information, and that at the end of the presentation, they would give you a book containing it for free. Well, they should have said three hours, because after the two hours, they spent another hour telling you that they were offering you a program with a $12,000 value for only $4,000 dollars and answering viewer questions that I suspected were fake. The free book turned out to have about one page of somewhat useful information on it. However, one of the things they said their $4,000 program included was a human support system. It turned out that there is a PTSD support group right on Facebook that you can join for free. Sometimes I go on there and say positive things like “PTSD isn’t a mental illness. It’s a normal human response to trauma and abuse”. Or maybe somebody says they haven’t punished themselves for a whole month and I’ll say “Way to go!”. You never know when an encouraging word might make a difference to someone.
Personally, I have mixed feelings about encouraging words. It’s hard to accept them from people who had parents who loved them and who have successful lives and families and homes of their own. On the one hand, it feels good that such people could care about me and what happens to me. On the other hand, it hurts to be reminded of how little I am capable of, and how little I therefore deserve, compared to them. It’s a good thing that I’ve read a lot of books and had a lot of adventures while running away over the years. I just hope I have 1,893 more pages of stuff to talk about that isn’t so sad or boring that it makes whoever reads it suicidal.
We’re going to fast forward a couple of days now. Being depressed doesn’t give you a lot to write about. That’s why you don’t see any TV sit-coms or reality shows featuring depressed people. We’re like the snow that used to appear on black and white televisions after the stations all went off the air. That was before people had to be entertained 24 hours a day. People seem to be really entertained by the misery of others. There are lots of reality shows about various kinds of misery, so why not depression? The Biggest Loser features the misery of overweight people. They put them in a competition to see who can lose the most weight and win the grand prize. You can watch them sweat while they exercise and cry when they aren’t able to achieve their goals. So you don’t feel like a bad person for being entertained or at least distracted from your own misery by their misery, you can cheer and be happy for them when they do achieve their goals.
To have a reality show for depressed people, the names of contestants would have to be sent in by their therapists because depressed people are less likely to enter contests or want to be filmed. Depressed people without therapists who submit their own names should be given a higher priority in the selection process. Those without a therapist or a permanent address would be moved to the top of the list. The competition could use a point system to determine the winner. For example, contestants would get 10 points for getting out of bed in the morning. Okay, let’s make that staying out of bed. That way, nobody could get points for just getting up to use the bathroom and then going back to bed. Getting dressed is harder, so that could be 15 points. Preparing and eating a meal could be 35 points, 40 if it isn’t a bowl of cold cereal eaten in bed or a sleeping bag. Leaving the house, apartment, tent, or freeway underpass with your face washed and hair combed is a big 75 points. If the reason you are leaving is to buy drugs or alcohol to numb the pain, subtract 50 points, because a) the show would be sponsored by pharmaceutical companies and b) tears, whether of misery or joy, increase viewer ratings.
One of the highest point values, let’s say 1,000 points, would be for smiling. That’s because smiling is the single most important tool for survival.
Of course, there would have to be strict criteria for what constitutes an actual smile. Judges would have to consider questions like:
- Are the sides of the mouth curved upwards in a symmetrically pleasing manner?
- Are both the zygomatic and the orbicularis oculi muscles fully engaged?
- Are the teeth, or, for those without dental insurance, gums, fully visible?
Until today, I didn’t even know I had a zygomaticus muscle in my face. Now that I do, I’m pretty sure that mine must be worn out. There seems to be some disagreement among experts about how many different kinds of smiles there are and what they mean. This article claims there are 19, but that only six of them are even remotely related to happiness. The rest of them are for reassurance, showing social subservience or dominance and hiding misery. Another article focuses on just 10 different kinds of smiles, but both articles agree that there’s something called a Duchenne smile, a genuine response to a happy feeling. I guess you could call Duchenne the ultimate judge of smiles because he conducted experiments on people’s faces using electric shocks to see how their facial muscles would respond. He really learned the difference between a smile and a grimace. Sorry, where was I? I was compelled to keep following links to learn more about electroshock therapy. So far I’ve learned that it got a bad
name because it was abused by hospital staff who wanted patients to suffer more silently. Also that Ernest Hemingway shot himself right after receiving some.
I’ve often wondered if electroshock therapy would be helpful for me. It might be like the ultimate clean slate. I’ve asked myself if I would be willing to trade losing whatever good memories I have to be rid of the traumatic ones, and the answer is yes. The day before yesterday, I had to ask my health care provider for permission to up the dosage of this antidepressant, to skip the 20- day 50 mg stage altogether and go straight to 100mg. I still couldn’t get through a day without crying, much less activate the zygomatic muscle in my face, that all-important smile muscle upon which my survival depends. I only have a few more days left of my leave of absence, after which I’ll be expected to resume my duties. That’s why I’ve been practicing in the mirror, but the best I’ve been able to achieve is what I think must be the expression that made it necessary for somebody to invent the word wan.
On Wednesday, perhaps in response to my overly oily, unlaundered appearance, my therapist suggested I stop punishing myself for being unable to function and do something nice for myself. She also said that just because my mind keeps alerting me that I will be homeless soon doesn’t mean homelessness is the only possible outcome for me in reality. She says that there are jobs out there I can get and do, and that there are resources that I haven’t explored yet. She also thought it was a good idea to up my dosage. While even 100 mg isn’t able to stop the panic whenever I think about my job, I have to admit that since upping the dosage,, I’ve been able to take a shower and wash my hair. (50 points) Also, yesterday, I played a music CD. It only took me 45 minutes to be able to find one that wasn’t attached to some pain-causing memory, some long-lost brief glimpse of happiness. Thank you, Aretha, for providing exactly the right balance between despair and hope, pain and joyful transcendence— but mostly for insisting on retaining your dignity through it all. See how I inserted a link so you could enjoy her music? I thought you could probably use a break about now, too.
In three more days, I have medical permission to raise the dosage to 200 mg. If the anti-depressant doesn’t restore my ability to smile soon enough, it’s good to know that some recent studies show that electroshock treatments have been effective for people with PTSD. Whether they are covered by my insurance, I don’t know. I suppose that point is moot, because if I can’t smile, I’ll lose the job and the health insurance. Anyway, let’s pretend I can get treatment without a job or insurance. It works like this: They have you think specifically about a traumatic experience and give you the shock while you’re reliving it in your mind. The shock has the effect of obliterating whatever you are thinking about when you receive it, which would be awesome! A few years back, I had high hopes for neurofeedback therapy . It was supposed to be a drug-free scientific way to retrain my brain patterns. The only difference I notice after having had 20 sessions is that now, whenever I have a flashback of some horrid event, my body physically shudders. It’s like it reestablished a previously severed connection between my brain and my body. Probably for most people, that would be a good thing, right?
I don’t know how many sessions of electroshock therapy I would need to get rid of all my traumatic memories. Wait, there I go again, being tempted to set another unreasonable goal. Even being able to get rid of a dozen or so would probably help. I’d name them the dirty dozen.
I’m going to try and ignore the superstition that thirteen is an unlucky number, except to pause for a brief moment to wonder why. Why, if they were going to skip the number thirteen in buildings, why not other things, like all the page thirteens in books, thirteenth birthdays, the thirteenth of every month. It seems like they should have been prepared to rid us of all number thirteens or not bothered with trying to rid us of any. My therapist would probably say that this is a prime example of my black and white thinking. Actually, wondering about this kind of stuff is what part of my mind does to help me protect myself from a different part of my mind.
While crying at work today, I also wondered whether the part that I need protection from might be immune to antidepressants. Luckily, my client was at church with her son while I was vacuuming and dusting all the lovely things she’s accumulated over the years from their family’s world travels, so she didn’t see me crying. That would have been super-unprofessional. Part of my mind tells me there’s no reason for anyone to feel demeaned or humiliated just because they’re cleaning someone else’s toilet for money to live. It’s just the luck of the draw. Some people are born with money and some aren’t. The different part of my mind tells me that this is America and anybody can do anything and if I had done anything right in my life, I could have gotten rich, too. It says I’ve got nobody to blame but myself. Sometimes part of my mind thinks maybe if my father hadn’t conducted midnight inspections of the dishes or dragged me down the stairs by my hair to rewash them, I wouldn’t cry when I clean for other people. But then the different part says that happened way back when I was eight or nine, so I should be over that by now and I’m just making excuses for being lazy.
I’m getting really fed up with this crying business. I’m starting to tell myself to knock it off or I’ll give myself something to cry about. Just look at you, I say to me, there are children starving and you have food and you’re not even grateful. You have a roof over your head, but do you appreciate it? No. You should be ashamed of yourself. All this whining and crying—you just want attention. Poor you. Do you think you’re the only one who’s had a hard life? You think you’re special that you shouldn’t have to suffer like everybody else? Aw, did somebody hurt your precious little feelings? You think other people don’t have to do things they don’t want to do every day? You think it’s fun for me to have to go to work every day to buy your food? I had a life before you came along. Oh, boohoo, you were abused as a child. You’ve had a few decades to get over it, but no, you just like whining. I’m used to all those words, though, and they don’t even make me cry anymore.
After I got used to all that, to make me cry, that part of my mind had to try harder, so now it says you don’t really matter to anybody except for what you can do for them or how much money you can make them. You used to matter for what you looked like and how entertaining you could be, but those days are over. You know you always eventually let people down, so it’s best if you don’t try to play any kind of significant role in their lives. If you do, they start counting on you, and then when you fall apart and can’t help them, they can die. There is nobody in the world whose life would be altered in any significant way were you to go back to being without form, and void; become again at one with the darkness upon the face of the deep.
That truth hurts, and still makes me cry every time. Once I’m homeless, that’s the part of my mind that’s going to try to try to whip me back into shape by saying stuff like “Get a job, you lazy bum”. A lot of other people will say it, too.
I didn’t cry day before yesterday, so I thought the anti-depressant was working even though I still felt anxious. I spent the day taking online employment skills tests . Passing them with flying colors made me feel more hopeful that even though I’m in my 60’s and nobody wants people my age in their insurance pool, I might get another job before I become homeless. I applied for five jobs before 9 a.m. Then yesterday, I was able to face going to the office of my second job to get my check and ask if they could give me more hours if I’m unable to do my first job anymore. Since I can’t even think about going into the building without feeling panic, I think that’s pretty likely. My supervisor said she could only give me a few more hours but they’d be spread over seven days a week.
Today, I’m crying again. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop by Thursday to get through an interview I got for a part-time work-from-home job. I have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow. Maybe she’ll say something more powerful and life-changing than this anti-depressant is turning out to be. They probably work better for people who have happy memories to remind them what life was like before they were depressed and how it could be again. My memory lane is littered with losses. Music used to be therapeutic for me. For example, this song never failed to lift my spirits, but now I know nobody’s really waiting for me. That’s actually kind of a relief because if they were, I’d probably let them down, too.
Here’s a picture of the outward appearance I’m going to need to succeed at my job interview on Thursday.
Now, here’s a picture of my inner appearance right now, which is Tuesday.
Fifteen is how old I was when I was sent to a locked facility in Los Angeles for daily intensive group therapy. The high walls with the barbed wire on top were so reassuring. Nobody could get over those to come into our rooms in the night. There were girls and counselors of all colors. They taught us to play volleyball. Some of us had never been allowed to play before, so it took us a while to learn how. Once you’re an adult, it’s easy to forget again. Like kids in school, you still have to wake up in time to avoid being tardy for work. You also still have to sit through a lot of boring stuff that’s mostly lies, but now, you have to pretend that it’s interesting and true. The biggest difference is that there’s no recess.
Recess was one of the things I enjoyed about my job before it got too stressful. It was good to see children laughing and running free, even if it was only for a few minutes before they had to line up and be quiet again. It wasn’t all fun and games, though. Just like in my locked facility, a lot of children in school haven’t learned to play, either. Instead, they hit, kick, trip, insult, mock, and exclude each other. These used to be behaviors that qualified you for a locked facility, but now it’s just normal. Students that do those things the most get their own educational assistants instead. There’s no such thing as flunking anymore, so you can graduate even if you don’t know how to read. Overpaid administrators love high graduation rates that seem to justify their salaries.
That job is stressful, but having no job is also stressful, and so are job interviews. This morning, I woke up so anxious that the only thing that gave me any relief was thinking about how relaxing being dead would be. Clearly, Zoloft is over-rated. I never thought I would do this, but I’ve now added religious people to what I’ve started to refer to as my Lucky Bastardslist. All they have to do to comfort themselves and reduce their stress levels is think about how much Jesus loves them. Or about how God has the whole world, including the itty-bitty babies, in his hands. Nobody else seems to have a problem with him commanding someone to “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling…”, kind of like Charles Manson. Have these people even read the Bible? Jesus was kinder, and I might have had an easier time believing he loved me if there hadn’t been one of those pictures of him with the eyes that followed you everywhere on the wall in my parents’ bedroom. He saw everything and did nothing to stop any of it. It’s easier for me not to be angry at them if I don’t believe they exist.
I became a Catholic on purpose when I was in my late 30’s. I liked their architecture and their rituals. Plus they had hundreds of saints you could pray to in case God and Jesus were busy. I tried doing that a few times, like with St. Cayetano, the patron saint of employment. I wrote him this letter/prayer several years ago, but as you can see, I haven’t received an answer yet.
Sometimes, in desperation, I ask the universe to help me. I try not to be specific because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I don’t know what’s good for me. For example, one time, I thought it would be good for me to become a paralegal so I could get a full-time job that paid enough to live, which I had been unable to do for over two years with a mere four year degree. (Actually, I did have one for a while, but the organization lost its government funding when it was discovered that the directors were embezzling money and using company computers to watch porn.) After I got the certificate, I did get a full-time job, but it didn’t pay enough to live because my married boss only paid me half of what his former secretary, who’d had his baby, had earned for the job. It turned out he was still paying her the other half for coming in once a week. See what I mean? If I had known what was good for me, I never would have taken that job even though I was desperate because I had school loans to pay back. I would have recognized his former secretary being present and wearing short shorts at my job interview as a red flag. With PTSD, everything feels like a red flag, so it’s really hard to recognize real ones. It’s like being learning disabled even though tests say you’re smart.
I spend part of each day reminding myself that I’m probably just paranoid and imagining threats to calm my racing heartbeat and reduce my panic in order to function. Now, for your listening pleasure and in the interests of increasing your understanding how damaging the effects of PTSD-induced paranoia can be, I’ll insert this link. If I had to describe my life right now with one song, it would be this one.
I have to make two entries today because I missed the therapy session I had scheduled for today. Writing is sometimes therapeutic. It turned out that even making myself shower, dress, and leave the apartment for the appointment was, too. I got to my therapist’s office only to discover that her receptionist had accidentally overbooked her, so there were two of us there for the same appointment. I had to wait for them to decide which of us to see. I was okay with not being the chosen one today because the other patient was a little boy about 8 years old. I figured he probably had a better chance of the session actually helping him than I did anyway.
After weeping the whole time I was getting dressed for the appointment for no apparent reason, I started wondering how much it was possible for human tear ducts to actually produce, volume-wise. Ounces? Liters? Gallons? Is there such a thing as projectile crying? Actual pools form in my lap. According to researchers, “brain regions associated with emotional arousal, including areas of the hypothalamus and basal ganglia, are connected to a section of the brainstem called the lacrimal nucleus that stimulates tear production.” They’re produced by the lachrymal glands in your eyes and nose. After reading that article, I felt better about not being able to stop crying because it releases stress hormones, and I have way too many of those. It can also also stimulate endorphins, which I need more of. But the line I found most hopeful was “tears might help bring a person back to a baseline level of functioning”.
Nobody has been doing anything mean to me to make me cry. If anything, just about every person in my life has been the way I used to wish my parents were—kind and supportive. Their kindness makes me feel that maybe the world isn’t as mean a place as I’ve believed for most of my life. They’re offering to help in any way they can, but I can’t stop feeling ashamed of needing help long enough to accept much. Plus I feel guilty for not feeling able to rally one more time yet, adjust to one more low-paying job, or make one more move. They don’t know that I’ve already had to be strong enough to live through that over a hundred times already. Thats why part of me gets peeved when people tell me they want me to go on living when I’m pretty sure if they had to trade places with me, they wouldn’t want to go on, either. Not to brag, but I seriously doubt that many people, under the same circumstances, could have kept from killing themselves for as long as I have.
Maybe instead of trying to make suicidal people want to live longer, their friends should focus on increasing the quality of their death instead. For example, they could offer to throw them a fabulous going-away party. I found some awesome party game ideas on Pinterest. I also think there should be a Make-A-Wish Foundation for suicidal people. Kind of like how people on death row get to choose their last meal, only they could choose an awesome last experience. Some people would probably waste their wish on something foolish, like meeting a celebrity. Not me. I’d probably pick an adventure like parasailing. Last, but not least, friends of suicides should be ready to help them drift away painlessly and peacefully with an overdose of heroin. Think about it—part of what makes suicide so painful and so tragic is that most people have to do it all alone. Why? Because their friends and family refuse to accept or respect early death as a valid choice or to acknowledge that it is an act of compassion to end a living being’s suffering, even when that being is human.
I’m not sure how many days in a row somebody would have to suffer before it would be okay to ask their friends for all that. You’d have to consider the intensity of the suffering, too. With intense suffering, say the emotional equivalent of a toothache, three days feels like three months. Other kinds of suffering, like, say, lower back pain, are less intense but constant, wearing you down over time. None of us is able to fully understand the extent, intensity and duration of anyone else’s suffering. Only those with similar experiences can even come close. Hardly anybody with experiences similar to mine survives this long. That’s how I know loneliness is one of the things suffering is made of.
Today I made a commitment to my therapist to get out of an abusive relationship I’ve been in for decades—with myself. It seems I just took up where my parents left off. I was up most of the night having panic attacks that felt like they were going to become heart attacks just thinking about going back to work. All I have to say is Zoloft, schmoloft.
To calm myself down, I had to listen to two and a half hours worth of guided meditations for panic. Then I had to decide to resign from my job even though I don’t have another full-time job yet. I thought when I told my therapist, she would tell me the same kinds of things I was telling myself, like this proves I’m too damaged to be able to do anything , I’m irresponsible, and it will probably ruin my chances to ever be hired again. Instead she shrugged and said that people decide jobs aren’t a good fit for them and go find different ones all the time. It doesn’t make them lazy, incompetent or deserving of the death penalty. Then she said that I’d done a great job for over a year and that people become ill—it’s a normal part of life—and nobody punishes them for it by giving them a bad reference. Clearly, we are from different worlds.
Memories like my father pulling the car over and beating my brother bloody for throwing up in the back seat are still buried alive in my body because I wasn’t able to cry or scream or protect him or run away to get the horror out. They call getting stuff out “processing” it now. All those buried alive things are like land mines and you can never tell what will set one of them off or when. If you can believe it, a lot of them have already been de-activated, but some of them have too many wires to even attempt it. Those are the ones that can still make me shudder.
After I sent my letter of resignation, my boss wrote back and said it had been a pleasure and a privilege to work with me. All those imagined judgments, insults and punishments—all that terror— for nothing. That’s something one of the meditations pointed out—fear doesn’t exist outside you, and it’s true! My therapist said that having PTSD is like entering a swimming race with a 50 pound weight on your ankle. You can still swim, but not as fast as people without 50 pound weights, so you have to be nice to yourself even though you can’t be a top swimmer. Nobody can be the top everything, but most people have at least one thing they’re pretty good at. I hope I find what mine is before I die.
Today, I met a co-worker who recommended me to a rich woman for a four-hour-per-week assignment at the woman’s McMansion adjacent to the local golf course. By the end of the meeting, we’d agreed that I’d take the assignment for a week to see if I was a good fit. I made sure not to promise anything long-term because obviously, I’m not going to turn down a job that offers more than four hours a week. Home health care companies have a 2 hour minimum, and charge about $35 an hour. She only wants an hour a day, for each of which she will pay $20 cash money. This is an example of how the wealthy are able to pay less for everything by bypassing administrative costs, which, in this case, is okay by me.
On my way home from the meeting at the McMansion, I stopped at Bi-Mart to pick up my Zoloft prescription. Even though it doesn’t seem to be making much difference, they say it can take a while to get into your system, so I’m trying not to give up on it too soon. Remember when I said that people with bipolar disorder were on my Lucky Bastards list of people to be jealous of? Well, I got a taste of what that might be like today. While I was at Bi-Mart, I saw a shiny brushed stainless steel two-slice toaster with a keep-warm function and a beeper that lets you know when your toast has popped up so you can butter it while it’s still hot. The cheap plastic toaster I bought at Walmart for $9.99 stopped working after four months, and I haven’t had toast since. This is an example of how the poor pay more for everything by having to re-buy things because they can only afford cheap crap. Regularly $29.99, this name-brand toaster it was on sale for $19.99 —and I bought it. See, this is exactly the kind of wild extravagance that somebody with bipolar disorder would engage in while they were in a manic state, right? It wasn’t as much fun as going to Vegas, but spending $19.99 on a toaster the day after you resign from your job and you only have $1,704.36 left after the rent that’s due tomorrow is still taking a big gamble. I might as well have been shooting dice at the crap table.
Poverty provides all kinds of adrenaline rushes like that. I’ve read that adrenaline can become addictive. That’s a scary thought because it would mean that my body has an ulterior motive for creating these panic attacks—to get the adrenaline it’s addicted to because I’m too poor to go skydiving and other exciting stuff like that. Maybe you, the reader, will be in suspense while you wait to see whether I’ll be able to find another job before my $1,704.36 runs out. If I can’t, I might have to continue this saga from the public library.
Having the internet at home is expensive, but it helps when you’re looking for a job. The year-long promotional offer for my internet service was due to end today. So I called yesterday to cancel because the price went up $20.00. Sometimes, they offer to extend the promotional price so they don’t lose your business, but no such luck. Instead, their customer service representative from West Africa whose name I don’t remember sold me an iPhone 7 and unlimited talk and text for $12.99 per month. He did the math for me and I had to admit that I would only be paying five more dollars a month than I am now for internet and phone instead of $20 more a month. I told him I hoped he got a good commission and he thanked me for helping to put food on his table. He apologized for his accent when I asked him to repeat something. I told him his English was very good, better than my Spanish even after studying it for decades. He said his French was better and I didn’t say anything to that because then I just felt inferior.
The avocado toast I had last night before my shift at the McMansion was delicious. Despite my increasingly precarious status as one of the deserving poor, I remain unrepentant about my toaster purchase. This McMansion is smaller than the one on the golf course I went to yesterday. Maybe that’s because this client’s husband was a professor and the other one’s is a doctor. When we first met, though, she made a point of telling me that they’d formerly had a condo on the golf course, but had decided it wasn’t for them. Why she thought that was important for me to know, I can only speculate. Maybe it was the equivalent of cleaning your house before the maid comes so the maid doesn’t think badly of you. It’s the kind of thing people who weren’t born into great wealth, privilege and power, but manage to move up to upper middle class do.
Moving up a class isn’t easy. At least a few of the people in the class you’re leaving are usually jealous and accuse you of thinking you’re better than them now. Also, you’re likely to get snubbed a lot by people who were born into the class you’re becoming a new member of. A lot of them were sent to private schools where they learned to be gracious yet firm with the help and their social inferiors and which fork to use. The higher you climb on the social ladder, the more forks there are. That means if you want to try climbing it, you probably have to be prepared to live without any friends for a while, or even longer.
Friends are people you can relax, laugh, and be yourself with. I can hardly remember what it’s like to relax around other people. Maybe that’s because I usually had to have a few drinks to be able to. Alcohol can make you forgetful, although I was never able to achieve one of those total blackouts that people talk about in meetings. Needless to say, those people are on my Lucky Bastards list. I always remembered everything I did while under the influence in excruciating detail. The only thing it succeeded in making me forget was the level of shame I experienced the previous time I did something I later regretted while under the influence.
Even though I only drank for a few years, now that I don’t drink anymore, relaxing seems like an impossible dream. It isn’t easy switching from alcohol to meditation and medication to relax. It might be even harder than moving up a social class.
Having friends takes time and consistency. I’ve never been good at consistency, but even though I’m old, I’m learning. For example, according to the stats on my meditation app, in the last 14 days, I’ve meditated at least once for 7 of them. In all, I’ve done 23 guided meditations. During the seemingly everlasting panic attack I had the day before resigning my stressful job, I had to do 5 in one day. The rest of those days, I averaged 3. Having the stats function helps unstable people like me learn to be consistent or at least shows them exactly how consistent they aren’t. I like this app because even though you can pay to get even more or better guided meditations, or what they call “premium content”, they still make a lot of good stuff available for free. Also, at least they have the decency to call it “premium” instead of “exclusive”. Feeling excluded is why so many people are anxious in the first place. That’s one of the things that made my job so stressful. It wasn’t just having to switch student groups approximately every 20 minutes, with each group being a different age and having different behavioral issues which included screaming and hitting. It was feeling more like those students than my co-workers who shared a world of happy memories and loving families.
Last night when I got home from my shift, I applied for this job as a census taker. This is the kind of job that could really shake things up because you never know who you might meet. I’ve met a few people over the years that I instantly connected with, people I could laugh with until our stomachs hurt. Once was at a laundromat, and another was on a city bus. One of them I stayed friends with for years through letters, but she stopped talking to me when I went through a judgmental religious phase because she was gay. I hope I can meet another one of those people before I die. I don’t think there’s any danger of my going through another religious phase. If being suicidal doesn’t make you turn to religion or believing in some kind of god, maybe nothing can. On the other hand, maybe I’ve got it all backwards. Is it possible that some people start believing in a god because they’re so happy to be alive that they just want to thank somebody or something? Somebody should really conduct a survey.
“What doesn’t kill you just needs a little more time.” I’ve concluded the same thing, but I can’t take credit for coming up with that line. I’m quoting God, who I follow on Twitter. That’s about as close as I can get to religion. Unlike bible god, Twitter God is usually good for a laugh. Not today.
About the only form of human contact I can seem to tolerate right now is listening to audiobooks, and I’ve been listening to them nonstop. It’s like people who have to have the television on all the time just to hear another human voice, but more literary. I started falling asleep listening to novels. I’d forget to set the timer and then I’d be lost when I woke up, so I’ve started listening to short story collections at night. I Am An Executioner and Stories, edited by Neil Gaiman, are both excellent. You’re probably thinking hey, this is supposed to be a suicide note, not a book review. Books have helped keep me alive this long, though, and I’m going to need them if I’m going to stay alive long enough to write1095 pages.
Books aren’t just a way you can escape your own unbearable reality. They also give you something to talk about with other people besides your unbearable reality. For example, I can’t really participate in any conversations about parents. If I did, it might go something like this:
Other person: I’m proud of my dad. He taught me so many things, and he was always there for us. Even though he had to work a lot, every summer we’d go on a family vacation.
Me: I always had to call the police on my dad. Once, I had to call the sheriff because he was chasing my mom with an axe after chopping up all the furniture. Another time, he was drunk and told me that one of his drinking buddies had a four-year-old granddaughter with herpes. He’d been pretending for a while that he’d gotten religion by reading the bible a lot, but after he said that, I looked in the trunk of his car and found porn and children’s dolls.
Awkward! (This should be read in the voice of a valley girl. )
Whenever I lived in the same town with them, I’d feel obligated to try to protect society from them because they were considered upstanding, taxpaying citizens. Once you get locked up and labelled, nobody believes you anymore. It was exhausting, so I moved three thousand miles away so I wouldn’t have to know what they were doing anymore. There is only so much shame a person can endure. That’s why I’d read more books by the time I was sixteen than people read by the time they’re in graduate school, or at least that’s what the results of one test said. Reading so much gave me a lot of other things to talk about besides my life. The problem was, nobody else my age wanted to talk about Robespierre and the French revolution or the poetry of William Blake.
I didn’t have any panic attacks today. Most of the day, I felt sadly calm, kind of like a fish that’s been caught and has been out of the water and unable to breathe long enough to finally stop struggling. Sometimes, tears came out of my eyes and rolled down the sides of my face. I’m not sure whether I hope I can make myself get dressed to go to my one-hour assignment for twenty dollars in cold hard cash tomorrow or not.
Laughter is the best medicine. Sure, it’s an old cliche, but that doesn’t make it less true. I’ve been taking big pharma medicine for almost a month now and I haven’t even been able to crack a real smile yet, just the kind that show submission to those higher in the social hierarchy. I’ve already forgotten the formal name of a real smile. I just remember that it’s named after a guy that did experiments using electric shocks on people’s faces. I’m not sure if it’s the medication or the depression, but it seems like my memory is slipping lately. Maybe this is the beginning of early onset Alzheimer’s. Hey, I just realized something! I was starting to feel like there wasn’t a single person alive that I wasn’t jealous of. My Lucky Bastards list just kept getting longer by the day. Even starving children in Africa ended up on it because at least their mothers hold them while they die. But people with Alzheimers who had horrible childhoods aren’t on the list! For them, and me, having Alzheimer’s would be even worse than having PTSD. It would be like having a flashback and staying there for the rest of your life. Finally, something to be grateful for!
You’re probably thinking that the Zoloft is starting to work, but that’s not it. Last night, I found another way that books can be life-saving. This book, titled The Gone Away World actually made me laugh. Not only that, but its unpredictability shoved my thoughts out of the loop they were trapped in and onto a different pathway. It might have even created that different pathway. People who write books with the power to make you laugh or think differently should make more money than psychiatrists. This book made me want to send Nick Harkaway some money for writing it.
Relish is an excellent word. It’s so good they made it into a food that helps other food taste better. You have to be able to relish something to want to go on living. That’s why there’s an obesity epidemic. Food is one thing you don’t need anybody else to relish. You can still taste food even if you’re all alone. If that’s the only thing you’re able to relish, there’s always the danger that you’ll eat yourself to death, though, like right into a heart attack. I’ll have to give ice cream credit for keeping me alive a few times even if it did make me fat, which made it harder to exercise, which made me more depressed, which made me eat more ice cream. You’re probably starting to see some kind of pattern here.
Books don’t make you fat and they can help you feel less lonely. Even if you can’t take a shower, get dressed, put on make-up, put gas in the car, drive to a meeting place and make fascinating conversation with someone in person, you can still feel human. Reading and understanding someone’s words can be a safe form of connection in an unsafe world. A world in which the many are pitted against one another in competition to profit, serve, and entertain the wealthy few.
Does all art come from suffering? Is it like the lava from a volcanic explosion, an eruption caused by the constant pressure of not just forcing yourself to submit to those with more power, but to smile while you’re doing it? Why does the phrase “deserving poor” exist, but not the phrase “deserving rich”? If the golden rule is that he who has the gold makes the rules, maybe he makes the phrases, too. With every genocide and subsequent assimilation of another culture, we lose another language, another perspective, and concepts impossible to comprehend with our own. Sorry, there’s that abrupt change of subject thing again. Now I’ll show you how my mind connects all these seemingly unrelated things. If art comes from suffering, then, maybe the wealthy cause extreme suffering on purpose because they know it will result in art for them to appreciate because they don’t suffer enough to create any of their own. See, it’s like one of those questions on the law school exam. If Betty is fat and only fat people get invited to the prom, and only three girls get invitations to the prom and two of them are thin, does Betty go to the prom? Sometimes the answer is “not enough information”.
“Sometimes, when one door closes, God changes all the locks, throws all your hopes and dreams out the window and sets them on fire.”
I like the idea of starting each page with a relevant quote, so I’m going to do that until I abruptly change my mind again or become so obsessed with finding the right quote that I never get around to writing the page at all. It could really go either way.
Remember yesterday when I was all hopeful because the book The Gone Away World made me laugh? Well, it turns out that before you even get halfway through, there’s war and death in it, just like on the daily news. At least it isn’t war porn, though. In fact war porn is a phrase the author uses in the book. I think it’s a phrase as worthy of disseminating as a bee disseminating pollen.
Yesterday, I was able to take a shower, wash my hair, get dressed and go to a client’s home to help her take her husband to the bathroom and put him to bed. I even went to the grocery store afterwards and smiled at the cashier. My body seemed to be on my side, so I started daring to hope. I even found this on a job search website.
“Galt Foundation is a non-profit staffing agency. We are working toward a future in which every person with disabilities can live a productive life in the community of their choice – where each person can contribute and all of us are enriched by the experience.”
Further down in this job description for an administrative assistant, I found even more hope.
“We give first priority in hiring to individuals with verifiable conditions, including ongoing medical, physical and psychological conditions. Some condition examples may include:
- Psychological conditions: Depression, Anxiety, ADHD, PTSD, Learning disorders, etc.
- Medical conditions: Cancer, Diabetes, MS, etc.
- Physical conditions: Hearing impairments, Back injuries, Amputation, etc.”
I applied immediately, even though I’d have to drive an hour each way. Then, last night, I woke up sobbing because in my dream, I’d turned 18 and aged out of the foster care system and I wanted to go back to my group home. I’ve had this dream before, and in the end, they’ve always bent the rules and allowed me to come back. Last night, they didn’t. It took me hours to go back to sleep, and when I did, I went to another person I’d felt safe with for a while to see if they would take me in, but they wouldn’t either, because they had a new family already. By the time I ran away from my parents, I was too old to find a forever home. I guess it was always just a matter of time before my outsides would match my homeless insides. I don’t want to be here long enough for the world to make it official. I’ve solved the used Kleenexes everywhere problem, though. I got a handkerchief. It’s stiff already.
Depression is super boring. That’s why I’ve started thinking about leaving the country. I still have a passport from when I went to Mexico for six months to teach English in 2011. If I’m going to die, I should at least try to make it interesting. Just about anything would be more interesting than the process of being evicted from a low-rent apartment onto the streets and dying of exposure or tuberculosis. For example, I could go to some country where the U.S. has
installed a dictatorship and get shot in the streets along with some other protesters. I’ve always rather fancied the idea of dying in a revolution or an attempted coup of some sort, and there’s a really long list of countries to choose from. You can probably tell that the audiobook I’m listening to right now was written by a Brit, can’t you?
The first country I checked on was Venezuela, partly because after studying for 50 years, I can speak a little Spanish. It would probably be a pretty quick death, but you have to get a visa three months in advance. It’s almost like the government doesn’t want people going to see for themselves what the “freedom and democracy” they’re spreading worldwide looks like in person. Yemen would be another option, but there are similar restrictions for going there, too, and I don’t speak Arabic.
For years, I wanted to emigrate to Costa Rica because they don’t even have a military. I was too scared to try to do it by myself, though, and I couldn’t talk anybody else into going with me. I used to wonder if my father might have been less sadistic if the military hadn’t taught him how to torture people in Viet Nam or if he was already that way and that’s why he went there. He came back from one tour and got out of the military, but he could only find a dishwashing job at Sambo’s restaurant, so he went back in. They sent him to Japan, where there were geisha girls, as a reward. He really liked them because they could follow orders even before he gave them. Maybe growing up having to learn to be a geisha girl to survive is the reason I can’t bear any more subservience.
Some people with traumatic childhoods become fabulously successful. They’re able to turn that burning desire to never be abused, humiliated, or disrespected again into a laser focus, an impenetrable will to do whatever it takes to become independently wealthy enough to make that possible. Those people are just fooling themselves, because it’s not possible. Sure, you can be wealthy enough that nobody can make you serve them or pretend to like them if you don’t. You can be wealthy enough to never be evicted —or convicted, wealthy enough to do anything you like, go anywhere you want to go. But nobody can become wealthy enough not to need to be held or touched anymore, can they? And anytime you let another person into your life, there’s the risk of being used or humiliated. Anybody can pretend to be nice for a while, and non-wealthy people have to pretend almost every minute they’re awake.
Touch is for sale now, too, though, along with everything else. They call it “massage therapy”. I used to be able to afford to buy some occasionally but not anymore. It’s not as therapeutic as someone touching you or holding you for free just because they really want to, though. I’m pretty sure that one element of depression is touch hunger. It’s how people in wealthy countries starve to death.
“I ignored you and you didn’t go away. This is some bullshit.”
Some people on Twitter like to joke about being anti-social. Today, depression doesn’t feel like a joke, but because it’s making me want to stay under the covers and be alone, I get it even if I can’t laugh. One of the reasons I want to stay under the covers is because I was crying during the night again. I don’t remember why, but when I woke up my eyes were glued shut with salt crystals, and when I looked in the mirror, they were swollen and there were bags under them. This must be because I asked the universe for help to stop crying long enough to earn my $20 cash money yesterday. I guess the crying still had to be done, but at least my body did it when nobody could see me. There’s another reason I’m relieved to be crying in my sleep, too. I was starting to tell myself that I was just wallowing in self-pity, and that there was no good reason to be crying all the time. Is it even possible to wallow in self-pity when you’re sleeping?
Yesterday, I talked about leaving the country. You probably thought that was just my instability talking louder than the Zoloft, which only seems to be able to whisper. But today, it still seems like a pretty good plan B if I can’t get another job before my money runs out. It’s a lot less humiliating to be homeless in a foreign country where nobody you know can see you. It’s also hard to feel like a charity case when people want to help you. For example, yesterday, I got a get well card from the school I just resigned from. It said I was missed and that everybody hoped I could rest and relax and feel better soon. It had a cartoon picture of somebody’s feet up in a recliner and their hands holding a cup of tea. Inside, there was a $25 Visa gift card. That made me question whether everybody there had really thought me as incompetent as I felt or wanted to be rid of me as much as I believed they did. I’m still pretty sure that at least a couple of them did, but I guess there were some that didn’t, too. Maybe it’s like that for everybody.
That kindness made me feel even more insane for quitting even though the stress was giving me eczema, gastric problems and panic attacks and weakening my immune system so I’d catch every cold and flu that students brought into the building. I had hoped it could be my forever job because I loved how I got to see the same students grow from year to year and feel like a positive part of the community. I felt what stability might be like for the first time since before my parents left the town we’d lived in for most of our lives in the middle of the night, before we had to sleep in city parks until they found the tiny house where they starved us until I ran away. That hope for stability made me willing to overlook how I really don’t believe it’s good for children to make them learn how to be quiet and line up and sit still in a classroom all day listening to mostly lies from 20 year old textbooks. I was glad I only had to teach reading and math, because those things are true.
Now I don’t know what my forever job could be. Maybe it could be in an office because I’m not as likely to feel incompetent in a job where I don’t have to pretend I’ve had a normal life like everybody else to avoid traumatizing others. I’ve already proved to myself that I can competently run an office—I just have to learn more ways to cope with the mind-numbing boredom of doing and saying the same things over and over again and the humiliation of being subordinate. Being subordinate is easier when the person you’re subordinate to is either as smart or smarter than you or extremely competent. If they aren’t, it’s doubly humiliating. Why aren’t there any self-help books with titles like “Ten Tips for Working for People Who Got Their Jobs Through Money or Politics”? It’s almost like people think if they ignore that reality, it will go away.
“The Four of Wands is a card about rites of passage, a warm and supportive home environment, and family gatherings. Reversed, this card indicates blocks or troubles in one of those areas.”
-Galaxy Tarot App
See how you can use other sources besides the bible when you’re looking for reasons to live or possible reasons that you’re still alive? Yes, I realize that any remaining credibility I may have left may be compromised by quoting a tarot card app. I will, however, then have to ask you to explain the fact that every major newspaper in the United States has a daily horoscope. Of course, that doesn’t include the Wall Street Journal, because people with money don’t have to believe in anything else. I’m not sure why tarot cards are considered beneath horoscopes in terms of social acceptability. Maybe it’s the gypsy factor. There aren’t any holocaust memorials for them. I guess that’s understandable, because memorials require real estate and gypsies were kind of known for being nomadic, which is a mortal sin in the religion of private property.
Even though I don’t really believe in either horoscopes or tarot cards, they can both provide wise insights if you happen to be looking for those. So can healing and recovery self-help daily meditation books, which I also don’t really believe in. Two of my favorites not to believe in are The Book of Awakening and Beyond Belief . If you’re looking for inspirational quotes or to learn more about the many ways in which you do not provide a warm supportive internal home environment for yourself, these are the books for you. They have 365 entries, one for every day of the year. They’re meant to be read every day to help you develop positive habits. The only thing I’ve ever been able to do every single day for a whole year was smoke. Now that I’ve quit that, there’s nothing. I’ll read them for a few days, then forget about them for months at a time. Today was the first of this cycle of a few days. I consider it a minor miracle that I’ve even written 26 pages of this suicide note. I usually give up on things long before this.
If there’s one thing I’ve read in all the self-help literature over the years that I do believe, it’s that we are as sick as our secrets. It’s no accident that the Catholic church has had more power and more real estate than any other entity on the planet, although the British Royal Family is a contender. Church leaders know both the power of confession and the power of the sexual thrill of the forbidden. This has been the most profitable combined knowledge and manipulation of human psychology in existence. It’s also how Trump got to be president. Granted, all the lawsuits against pedophile priests have cut into their profits somewhat. It would even be tempting to believe that so many victims of child sexual abuse winning so many lawsuits means that abusers are outnumbered and can eventually be eradicated. Sadly, perversions are just like ideas. They can’t be killed. As long as unequal power dynamics exist, there will be abuses of it. That’s why it’s almost impossible to have an honest, mutually respectful, intimate relationship with someone who has more or less power than you. People don’t like to admit that, or even think about it.
Once you’ve read Foucault, it’s hard not to think about human relationships in terms of power dynamics, especially since we live in a society based on dominance and submission. The mindset that these photos represent wasn’t created in a vacuum. It was created by a lifetime of bullying, exclusion, being economically terrorized into submission. This is the kind of thing that makes it hard to accept being human. To go on living, knowing there’s always the possibility that you too could become monstrous, that to preserve your own privilege, your taxes fund such atrocities. Having spent most of my life avoiding most human contact to reduce the possibility of becoming a monster like my parents, it’s a hard thing to accept.
“I am One with the Universe and it hurts.”
― Andrew Boyd, Daily Afflictions
This quote is from Daily Afflictions, one of my favorite books of all time. If Diogenes had written a self-help book, this would have been it. While I was looking for the link about Diogenes in case you didn’t know who he was, I discovered that there’s a mental “disorder” called Diogenes Syndrome. It’s a good thing I found this because I can use it as a checklist to keep track of the rate of my decline. From the symptoms, I’d say it’s a fancy title for somebody completely giving up on themselves.
Here are some of them:
- extreme self-neglect
- filthy surroundings
- excessive hoarding
- denial about their situation
- no embarrassment or shame about their surroundings or lack of cleanliness
- refusal of support or help
This disorder affects people over 60, so as of this year, I qualify. Every time I run across a new disorder, I have to check to see if I have it. For this one, I’m going to have to find some sort of checklist that clarifies the difference between self-neglect and extreme self-neglect. What if you’re still eating, but you’re eating mostly junk food? Or the only exercise you get is stretching in bed and walking to the car to go to work? My surroundings aren’t exactly filthy, but I still have plenty of embarrassment about their lack of cleanliness. I’m the opposite of a hoarder, although at one point I did own a ridiculous amount of clothing. It was one of the few years I earned enough to buy new clothes on sale instead of used clothes from Goodwill and I went a little overboard. I wouldn’t be writing this if I were in denial of my situation. It’s true that I’m no good at accepting help, but I don’t have any rashes caused by fleas or a rodent infestation. My fingernails are overgrown, but I don’t have body odor. I’m pretty sure that only people who don’t have to go to work anymore to survive can get this “disorder”, which bears a striking resemblance to getting old and being thrown away like garbage and then treating yourself like garbage.
Getting old has become a sin because it reminds everybody that they’re going to get old and die, too. In fact, the Denial of Death is one of the foundational cornerstones upon which our society is built. The realization of that truth won a Pulitzer Prize in 1974, but people have forgotten it again since then. Sorry, I forgot to warn you in advance about the sudden change of subject. Now, back to my overgrown fingernails. I’d have to say that this is the most serious of my symptoms. If left unchecked, they could be fatal. That’s because to get a job, you have to look like you don’t need a job, just like to get a loan, you have to prove you don’t need one. This
system is based on creating debt that generates interest. Realistically, preparing for a job interview would cost a minimum of $200. First, I’d have to get my hair cut and colored to erase the gray. I’d also have to get my nails professionally done so people would know that I’m in compliance with their cultural standards. I know that I’m going to have to make that investment even though it won’t be justified by the return. I’ve just been avoiding it because just last month, I finally finished paying off my school loans. Never having any extra money to have fun for so long was one of the things that led to this breakdown. Now, to get a job, I’ll have to go into debt all over again. That $200, with minimum payments over time, will end up to be more than twice that amount.
I have to present myself as a perfectly groomed positive team player able to multi-task, prioritize, and handle any and all stressful situations with ease and grace while maintaining a warm and humorous yet highly disciplined and organized professional demeanor and consistently demonstrating a high level of competence who for some reason finds themselves unemployed and in the position of needing money to live. I think you see my dilemma here. The only thing that might save me is that I’m not 100% unemployed. Since in order to get any job that won’t eventually make you suicidal, you have to appear not to need one. Because I have credit, I still have a chance. I’d probably have a better chance if I were able to lose the 20 pounds I’ve gained while being depressed for the last month overnight. I suppose I could go all the way and get liposuction and plastic surgery in addition to coloring my hair and getting my nails done, but I’m not even able to visualize a job that would be worth paying the interest on that kind of investment.
On the other hand, maybe I should be focusing on finding love instead of finding a job. If I did all that, I’d probably be able to get a date if I were to leave my apartment to go somewhere besides work. The problem is, I probably wouldn’t want to date anyone so shallow that they wanted to date someone with colored hair and professionally done fingernails and without any fat or wrinkles.
My I’d Rather Die list is almost as long as my Lucky Bastards list. Getting involved with somebody and then later finding out they’re a child molester is near the top of it. Considering how family history repeats itself, the odds of that happening were pretty high. For example, my father’s beautiful older sister Vera killed herself by jumping off a building in Reno after her second divorce. His older brother Jack, (which became my brother’s middle name) killed himself by jumping in front of a train. Okay, maybe the birth order is different, since both of my brothers, who have already killed themselves, were younger than me, but I think you see what I’m getting at here. This is the kind of generational stuff that allows the system to continue to pretend that it’s genetic and not systemic, that it’s from an imbalance in brain chemistry instead of poverty, abuse, and neglect. My father’s father was a migrant farm worker and his mother was a cook for a wealthy ranch owner. At the very least, it’s not a matter of either/or, as in nature vs. nurture. It’s a matter of nature AND nurture. Poverty and nurture are antonyms.
“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end.”
― Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation
This is true. Depression is compounded, just like the interest charged on the poverty that creates most depression. Rich people get depressed, too though. I think it’s because their parents love money and power more than people, including their own children. That’s why they buy their children nannies to take care of them and then send them to boarding schools to learn how to stay rich.
You can pay people to do a lot of things. For example, you can pay them to kiss your ass, with their lips being either perfectly puckered on your actual ass, or being used to form words that agree with everything you say. You can pay to get on their knees and either scrub your floors or give you a pedicure. You can even pay people to stand next to you at all times and anticipate and cater to your every whim. Those people used to be called man-servants and ladies-in-waiting, but now they’re called personal assistants. That’s because we’re trying to pretend we’ve evolved past the feudalism that Disney exists to maintain. Not even Disney has been able to completely erase the collective realization of the truth that the Beatles made public in 1964, though. The one thing you can’t pay anybody to do is love you.
Today, I paid someone to take care of my potentially fatal overgrown fingernails. That means I actually left my apartment to go somewhere besides work or to get more bread for avocado toast. It felt kind of surreal. I felt a lot like the sun, since it temporarily overpowered the dark gray, perpetually precipitating rainclouds that have dominated the sky for the last six weeks, even it was only for fifteen minutes. I’m not really comfortable paying people to take care of me, but this process makes my nails look job-interview acceptable for a whole month. I was glad that all the nail technicians were able to speak to each other in Vietnamese while they worked. Being able to gossip and insult people without them realizing it while you’re on your knees sawing away at the corns on their feet to make them feel pampered would probably help take some of the sting out of subservience. Or maybe there is no sting because they can laugh all the way to the bank, their homes are bigger than their clients’ and they all have personal assistants.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that most of the women were there to get their nails painted red with white hearts on them for Valentine’s Day. This entire culture seems to be built around holiday decorations. Decorating for the holidays is my next-door-neighbors favorite activity, besides gossiping, and she isn’t the only one. In fact, there seems to be a holiday decorating competition going on. It’s not just major holidays like Christmas, Halloween and Easter, either. I think these people have special holiday calendars.
In October, my PTSD was triggered when I was confronted by a human-sized scarecrow when the elevator doors opened, a fall “decoration” placed in the hallway by the neighbor three doors down. Not to be outdone, the neighbor two doors down promptly purchased a miniature bale of hay, a wooden wagon and some dolls to create a kind of hayride nativity scene. While I generally view decorating for holidays as a wasteful idiotic practice of buying a lot of cheap crap made in China, I have to admit that I was tempted to take a picture of that one.
I don’t really understand the need to decorate for holidays, but it’s definitely something people are trained to do in public school. Every holiday, all the educational assistants have to spend hours taking down the previous holiday decorations and putting up the most current ones. That’s a lot of staples to remove, and a lot of paper to waste, although some of them are used more than once. The only thing I can figure is that it’s both a way to mark time and a way to get to experience some change when you have to live in the same house, go to the same job, do the same things over and over, day after day, year after year. Changing decorations might be like taking an imaginary vacation, or mentally traveling somewhere different since Americans aren’t guaranteed any real vacations.
After not having anything decorating my doorway space for over a year, I finally broke down and got a little table shaped like a three-leaf clover and a metal tree with stained glass leaves from Goodwill. Even though it felt a little like caving in to peer pressure, it does makes my doorway look more attractive. Welcoming, even, which just goes to show that appearances can be deceiving. About a week after I put it there, one of my other neighbors put a cute little plant on the clover-shaped table for me, which was nice. She doesn’t participate in the holiday decoration competition. She just has a small table with a phallus-shaped cactus growing out of a ceramic clown that’s wearing a pair of real aviator sunglasses on it.
Sorry, I was talking about fingernails, wasn’t I?
Isn’t it the moment of most profound doubt that gives birth to new certainties? Perhaps hopelessness is the very soil that nourishes human hope; perhaps one could never find sense in life without first experiencing its absurdity.
Vaclav Havel was the last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic. He’s one of the people I used to idolize. My therapist says idolizing people isn’t a good idea because sooner or later, everybody does something disgusting. Okay, maybe I’m paraphrasing. She pointed out that I have this pattern of putting people on pedestals by only seeing the goodness and light in them. However, all my pedestals are cleverly placed atop trap doors which are activated by the slightest misdeed, at which time the occupant plummets to their death, as in “you’re dead to me”, while, in the same moment, all previously perceived goodness and light are immediately transformed into badness and dark so I don’t have to grieve losing them. At first, I thought I’d just have to learn to accept that everybody is capable of doing both good and evil things and that nobody is either just good or just evil, you know, shades of gray. But I’m wondering whether it wouldn’t be better to just stop pretending to be godlike enough to be able to judge who or what is good or evil at all.
Now that the internet exists, it’s a lot easier to find out whether public figures deserve to be idolized, or even marginally respected, or not. Take Vaclav Havel, for example. Our mainstream media never mentioned that he was from an extremely wealthy family of real estate owners and developers. Or that at least some of the world leaders who bestowed humanitarian awards upon him were dictators installed by the U.S. government. It’s hard to tell what someone’s actual motives are while they’re being used to help demonize communism and angelize capitalism. (I’ve decided angelize should be a word, no matter what spellcheck thinks.)
Havel championed artists and working people. He even married one. Actually, his wife Olga, who I didn’t even know about until today, should have received as much credit and as many awards as him. Did he marry a poverty-stricken woman who lost four fingers in a sewing sweatshop to rebel against his parents? Did he marry her in desperation to demonstrate that the capitalist nobility had a human heart upon seeing the masses sharpening their pitchforks and preparing to come for his family’s real estate fortune? Or did he marry for love, and that love forever transform his perspective? Nobody can ever know what’s in someone else’s heart. Sometimes it may seem like the answer can be A) or B) or C) none of the above or D) all of the above, in reality, the answer is always E) not enough information.
If you’re going to have human relationships, you have to accept that nobody is 100% trustworthy, and trust people anyway. That’s the hardest thing in the world. Can Zoloft help me do it? Will medication make it possible to disconnect my fight or flight trigger from the trap door my pedestals are placed upon? Can it accurately determine which color wire to cut to prevent the next death? Dismantle the pedestals? Board up the trap door? Or will it be necessary to demolish the entire edifice the trapdoor is located in, which is me? Remember when I was going through the list of symptoms of Diogenes Syndrome and I said I wasn’t a hoarder? I don’t hoard material things, but maybe I hoard wrongs instead, keeping them on file like police photos of convicted criminals that I can compare against everyone I meet. No wonder I’m tired.
“A disruption of the circadian cycle—the metabolic and glandular rhythms that are central to our workaday life—seems to be involved in many, if not most, cases of depression; this is why brutal insomnia so often occurs and is most likely why each day’s pattern of distress exhibits fairly predictable alternating periods of intensity and relief.”
― William Styron, Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness
I’m writing this at 9:00 a.m.! That probably doesn’t seem worthy of an exclamation point to you, but then, you probably enjoy being alive. William Styron is right about depression disrupting workaday rhythms, but he’s wrong about everything else. He’s wrong in the same way that society was wrong to diagnose people who were convinced that the government was spying on them as paranoid, and then not apologize and give them back their credibility when it turned out they were right. Discovering that the government is actually spying on us should have raised the question of whether what is called paranoia is actually a disorder—- or just superior bullshit detection, for public debate, but it hasn’t. I submit that insomnia isn’t a real disorder, either. It’s a normal human response to not being allowed to have a natural circadian rhythm, but having to follow orders as to what time to go to sleep and what time to wake up.
I think humans, if we were allowed our own circadian rhythms, would be more like bears. We’d store enough food for the winter, and not leave our caves except to visit each other, until spring. Instead, we label people whose bodies begin rebelling at getting up every morning to scrape ice off their windshields and drive on dangerous roads to get to an office to sell insurance or high interest loans to their fellow humans as suffering from the disorder of insomnia. People naturally need more sleep at some times than at others, like when they’re under stress.
Like paranoia, the “disorder” of insomnia seems to have been invented specifically to keep the profit-making machine in working order. Humans have been designated as parts of that machine, so maybe “malfunction” would be a more apt description than “disorder”. On the other hand, the word “disorder” implies a challenge to the existing order, or status quo. Mental health professionals are charged with ensuring that order is maintained. That ALL orders are maintained—pecking orders, marching
orders, religious orders, market orders, fast-food orders, gag orders, restraining orders, and standing orders.
Maybe you’re wondering what any of this has to do with my being excited about writing this at 9:00 a.m., so I’ll tell you. Last night, I ordered myself to be out of bed before 9:00 a.m. That means I followed my own order! I didn’t have to be at work, or meet anybody for breakfast. In short, I was accountable to no-one but myself. Yet instead of shutting off the alarm, curling into a fetal position and sleeping until I had to be somewhere to survive, I got up. It might be the Zoloft, or it could be some of the compassion training I had last year kicking in. Usually, my orders are like my sadistic Marine drill sergeant father’s. “Get your lazy ass out of bed and get to work”. That sort of thing. But this one was more like “It’s hard to get up when you’re sad and discouraged and feel like you really have no good reason to, but you can do it. For now, you can make your environment more pleasant while you prepare yourself for getting up for work at a job you like even if you might not ever get one.” I was able to follow some other orders I gave myself yesterday, too, like to clean the bathroom and wash the dishes.
Another symptom of PTSD is not feeling safe enough to feel things while they’re happening. Living in sustained trauma permanently throws your timing off, because you have to learn to feel everything later to survive. You don’t get to schedule an appropriate time to feel them, though. Sometimes, they just overflow. That’s probably why society starting referring to people damaged by trauma as “off” in the head. You can’t relate to other people easily because by the time you’re able to feel the feelings from an interaction, they’ve already moved on to something else and wonder why you haven’t. It’s a little like living in another dimension, or staying on daylight savings time when everybody else switches back to regular time as soon as they’re ordered to. Loneliness is the hardest part of staying alive
“No person is free who is not master of himself.”
Epictetus, Epic for short, was born a slave, so I tend to believe he knows what he’s talking about here. I’ve always been drawn to stoicism. I used to think it was because Diogenes was such a badass that he was homeless on purpose, and was still admired by Alexander the Great. But after reading that James Stockdale credits Epic’s writings for helping him survive the torture he was subjected to for 7 years while he was a prisoner of war in Viet Nam, I now understand there’s another reason. Stoicism is for people who had to learn how to endure torture. For your enjoyment, here’s an epic example of Epic’s teachings in action.
I was master of myself just this morning. At 7:30 a.m., I got out of bed to use the bathroom. Then, as if that wasn’t a stellar enough accomplishment for a depressed person, I stayed up! Once I was up, the daily battle between the carrot and the stick began. Like always, the the stick showed up first, threatening loudly that there would be “No coffee for lazy-ass bums who haven’t done the dishes”. It took a few minutes, but the carrot finally arrived, gently whispering “You can reward yourself with a delicious cup of coffee right after you’ve done the dishes.” The carrot is always late, and some days, it doesn’t bother to show up at all. Those are the worst. Sometimes I try to imagine what life without sticks and carrots might be like. I’d probably have to hire a professional cult deprogrammer to find out. Therapists just try to keep your focus on the carrots and away from the fact that somebody else has the power to either give them to you or not. Somebody should write a self-help book titled “Whittling Your Inner Stick”. It could be a kind of occupational art therapy.
Sorry, I’ve done it again. Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, I was being master of myself this morning. Actually, I think I started in the middle of the night. I had another one of those dreams in which I’m naked and ashamed. Sometimes, in those dreams, I’m a child on a playground and I magically become able to fly to escape being stared at and ridiculed. Other times, I’m an adult and after frantically searching everywhere, manage to find something to at least partially cover myself with. It’s never a fig leaf, but it’s usually about the same size. Sometimes I luck out and find a towel. Last night was different, though—I was naked, but I wasn’t ashamed. When I saw a big group of people coming towards me on the path, aside from a momentary passing fear that I might be raped, my attitude was “If you’re staring at me, it’s because you have a problem, not because it’s wrong to be naked.”. I just kept walking straight toward the group without even trying to hide, which turned out to be a big hiking group of people of all ages, including children. I didn’t even try to avoid eye contact. None of them looked at me any longer than they would have at someone who wasn’t naked. So maybe this dream was just telling me not to even bother applying for any pole dancing jobs.
Speaking of jobs, I accepted a writing assignment yesterday, the first since August. It felt really good, even though it’s only writing about how trans fats can kill you. That means I’m going to have to learn what trans fats are, and fast. I’m actually more interested in why they’re called trans fats, especially now that trans has come to mean transgender. Is it because these fats are shape-shifters that can transform themselves into other things? I’m about to find out. One thing I enjoy about these writing assignments is the opportunity to learn all kinds of information that could possibly be useful if I were to ever be chosen to be a contestant on Jeopardy. One time, I was chosen to come to Los Angeles to take the next round of tests, but that day’s test just happened to have three questions about the novels of Charles Dickens, whose writing I can’t stand, so I’d never read. Alex Trebek’s assistant told me she liked my hat, though.
Another thing I used to enjoy about writing assignments was having a professional identity I could feel good about. During the time I made enough money to live by accepting writing assignments, I never wanted to die. Those were my good old days. That was before most of the assignments became things I couldn’t feel good about accepting, so didn’t. Things like writing an article that would convince people to take out a loan for a big wedding or an article singing the praises of somebody despicable to improve their public image. It was also before I had to have proof of a steady paycheck to be able to rent a place to live. It’s been mostly all downhill from there, but not in an exhilarating downhill skiing or snowboarding kind of way. More like a Wile E. Coyote falling from yet another cliff kind of way.
Yet another way I was master of myself yesterday was that I went outside for a walk. The walk was my carrot for turning in my keys and badge at the district office, which I’d been dreading. I still haven’t been able to make myself go clean out my desk, and don’t think I ever will be able to. Facing all that whispering as soon as I’m out of earshot just feels like too much. While I was walking, I made a new rule that at least one of the photos I use for these entries has to be one I took myself, instead of getting them all from Pixabay. So here’s a photo I took of an ideal place to sleep once I become homeless. It would be awesome to be cradled by a tree.
“Regret is just perfectionism plus time.”
Perfectionism can be deadly. It makes life even more stressful that it already is. Unfortunately, perfectionism is also the perfect answer to the question “What is your greatest weakness?” asked by potential employers during job interviews. Employers only want people who are willing to strive for perfection even though it isn’t possible for humans to achieve. That’s part of what makes jobs so dehumanizing. It’s also why so many jobs formerly done by humans are now automated and why you have to listen to several minutes of a recorded message that tells you which number to press for your issue, which isn’t listed among the issues with numbers, and then offers you the opportunity to either buy more insurance, get a new credit card, or take advantage of a limited-time-only promotion of their newest product before you’re finally allowed to press 0 to speak with a customer service representative about your actual issue.
I was worried that Zoloft might further dehumanize me by making me unable to cry, but I cried this morning. The difference was that I also stopped crying this morning instead of continuing to cry until sometime next week. I cried because I had to text a former co-worker to ask them to clean out my desk and box my things because the secretary kept calling me with reminders to do that. The coworker responded by telling me that the secretary had already asked her to do that yesterday and asked if I would come to pick the box up. This is the coworker who was always kind and supportive towards me, so I feel terrible that I’m probably making her, and everyone else there, feel like I think they’re horrible monsters because I can’t face going there and because I didn’t ask her to do it myself a long time ago when she said to let her know if there was anything she could do to help me. While it’s true that some of them are unkind and like to gossip behind people’s backs, it’s also true that some of them are kind and are at least probably not judging me even if they don’t know me well enough to have actual concern for my well-being. Now that I’m learning that everything is not black and white, it’s also possible that even people who sometimes talk about me behind my back can also sometimes be genuinely concerned with my well-being. That’s a reality that it’s really hard for me to know what to do with, and I don’t know how other people learn to live with it.
It seems that people do hurtful things to people they care about, and then they’re sorry and ask for forgiveness and the people they hurt forgive them. I’m pretty sure that the only way people can stay friends for 50 years. I don’t have a lot of experience with that. The things my parents did to hurt me were unforgivable, so I only learned how to run away from people when they hurt me. My hurt served as irrefutable evidence proving that not only did they not care about me, they were dangerous and not to be trusted. Here I am all these years later, still running away from people who hurt me and situations that demean me. Demean is a strange word. The prefix de- usually means negating the thing it precedes, yet demean doesn’t mean to make not mean, as in not cruel. It means to lower someone’s status or reputation. Demean also means conduct—which is how the word misdemeanor was invented. It’s not until you add the -ing that it becomes synonymous with belittling, degrading, and disparaging.
Being unable to overcome my social anxiety at work enough to be able to demonstrate my Spanish language skills made me look like I lied about even having those skills. Getting assigned to special ed as a result felt demeaning. So did being grabbed, insulted, and/or screamed at by students with “behavioral issues” on a daily basis. The stress weakened my immune system, so I caught every illness brought into the building by children of poverty-stricken parents who can’t afford to lose work to stay home and care for them, so send them to school despite the vomiting, the rash, or the fever. Being sick so much was how my long period of extreme isolation that led to this severe depression started. Or maybe it really started with being demeaned.
Since I’ve been depressed, it makes me sadder when I see things that show that I used to care about myself even if I wasn’t always consistent about it. For example, a couple of months ago, I bought myself a Britta water filtering system and a year’s worth of replacement filters, just like someone who would still want to be alive in six months and who cared enough about themselves to refuse to drink city water that smells like chlorine and possibly contains lead. I also bought two 500-count packages of Q-tips, which were on sale two for $6, because in that moment, I not only cared enough to buy myself the best name brand, but took it for granted that I would be alive for at least 500 more days, using two per day, one for each ear. I even bought myself some rubber gloves to protect my hands from the toxic chemicals contained in cleaning products.
It wasn’t just physical things, either. There are also the jazz dance and Spanish conversation classes that I haven’t been going to for weeks despite having paid for them already. I tried to go to the Spanish class last night, but it had been cancelled because the teacher was ill. I gave myself credit for trying anyway. I also pointed out to myself that I probably hadn’t missed anything important because most of the people in the class are total beginners, so the first few classes would have been pretty boring for me since I’m at an upper intermediate level even if I’m not able to demonstrate that when I’m in the life or death situation of having to in order to keep from being demeaned at my job.
This is the third day in a row that I’ve been able to get up at 7:30. Maybe this is my real circadian rhythm, because I didn’t set an alarm. Tomorrow, I have a telephone interview with, are you ready for this, a wealth management company! You may be tempted to believe that just because I’m on the fast track to homelessness I don’t know anything about the stock market or investments, but you’d be wrong about that. When I found out that the PERS system was invested in Halliburton, I cashed out of it and invested the money in the market myself, choosing sustainable green companies, and actually making money while others were losing their retirement incomes. Those were some more of my good old days, before I had to sell almost all of it off little by little just to pay for space to exist, medical deductibles, and mandatory car insurance because jobs don’t pay enough to cover all those things.
I applied for this job this morning, right before my telephone interview with the wealth management company. A job like this would be perfect for me, so I really hope it’s real and not just a scam designed to get free articles by calling them “writing samples”. I sent them three. The interview with the wealth management company did not go well. Amazingly enough, I did fairly well on the always dreaded “Tell me about yourself” question—probably better than I ever have before. Because the job was advertised as a temporary position for 25 to 30 hours a week, I’d imagined that maybe their regular receptionist was away on maternity leave or taking a leave of absence. When I asked about the length of the temporary position, they said they wanted it to be for six months, ideally for 30 hours a week. After the six months, it might or might not turn into either a permanent part or full time position, depending on the needs of the company. I said I couldn’t afford to invest more than 20 hours a week into a temporary position. I should have added for “for six months” or “for that long”, because the interviewer, who had been polite enough to apologize profusely for coughing into the phone several times, suddenly turned cold and angry, saying it had been advertised at 30 hours, so she might as well not waste any more of her time thank you very much and goodbye.
I would have been willing to do it for maybe three months, but the ad didn’t specify how long they considered “temporary”. Basically, they are looking for someone that they can work just enough hours not to have to give them any benefits who would be on probation with no promise of a job after the probationary period. Someone who would try desperately to become valuable enough to be hired permanently. Mostly by volunteering to do everything nobody else wants to do, like answering a phone 200 times a day and saying the exact same words each time. Pretty good business strategy, but my exploitation alarms went off and I listened to them this time. Being suicidal can be helpful when you’re looking for a job. Just think, if I weren’t suicidal, I’d be desperate enough to survive to spend the rest of my life accepting positions like that!
Instead, I’ll just add it to my I’d Rather Die list. Maybe you think that only spoiled brats who have tantrums and threaten to kill themselves whenever they don’t get their own way make I’d Rather Die lists. But I submit that the world would be a better place if everyone had one. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that the world becoming a living hell for the vast majority of people in it is the direct result of too many people not having one. Society seems to accept the premise that a strong survival instinct is an essential element of good mental health—that healthy people want to stay alive—no matter what.
That’s why most people probably think it’s sick to have anI’d Rather Die list, but I think it’s sick not to. I’ll give you a few examples to illustrate what I mean. Let’s start with individual and go outward from there to societal.
Let’s say you’re kidnapped by a serial child killer who has already kidnapped a five year old child. He or she points a loaded gun to your head and threatens to blow your brains out unless you stab the child to death while they watch. How much do you want to live? You have children at home that depend on you. If you survive, you can do a lot of good things to make up for what you had to do to survive, right? The serial killer probably won’t make you stab the child right away. Maybe they’ll starve you for a couple of weeks first, and then tell you that if you just pinch the child until they cry, you can have some food. Doing something a little heinous makes it easier to to something more heinous later. But what if the serial child killer also turns out to be a liar? What if you eventually stab the child to death and he or she blows your brains out anyway? See, by taking the time to make an I’d Rather Die list in advance, you’ll never have to make those kinds of important decisions with a gun pointed to your head.
Ghandi knew the importance of having an I’d Rather Die list. It’s really the only way to keep from being enslaved or forced to do heinous things to other people to survive. Freedom is something everybody has to be willing to die themselves to have. It’s not really possible to pay poor people to die for it for you. That’s a super popular myth, though.
“There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, and nothing worth killing for.”
I love Tom Robbins. His books made me laugh out loud, especially Still Life With Woodpecker. Sadly, I couldn’t tell you what it was about. I think that might be because I didn’t have anybody to talk to about it when I read it. That’s true about most of the books on the shelves of my inner library. If a book moved me deeply, or caused me to think deeply or perceive something differently, it got put on the shelf. They’re all still there, and I can still see the titles on their spines, but I can’t remember exactly what’s inside most of them.
I was glad to discover today while searching for a quote that Tom Robbins has an I’d Rather Die list, too. I was sad to discover that he was born in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and that I didn’t know that when I was there, staying at the summer home of one set of former in-laws for several weeks or months in 1981. I remember reading War and Peace during that time as an escape from that set of former in-laws. Obviously, I had no-one to talk to about it, so I don’t remember what happens in it. I just know it didn’t make the cut for the shelves of my inner library. Only one book by Tolstoy did-Anna Karenina, although everything ever written by Dostoevsky is in there. Maybe that’s because Dostoevsky understood crime and punishment so well that it’s the title of one of his books. If it weren’t already taken, that could be the title of my auto-biography. I’m a master at self-punishment.
Most of the things I punish myself for happened more than half a century ago, some a quarter of a century ago, and only one or two less than a decade ago. Since all of our cells get replaced every seven years, I’m literally not even the same person I was when my inner judge handed down my life sentence. But it’s kind of like when an anorexic person who weighs 69 pounds looks in the mirror and still sees their formerly fat self that weighed 169 pounds. Those inner judge positions are lifetime appointments, like Supreme Court justices. It would be nice if I had nine of them, like the Supreme Court does. At least one of them would probably argue for leniency or time off for good behavior, but no, I’m stuck with only one and it’s the hanging judge. I already had three strikes by the time I was eleven. That’s when I started my I’d Rather Die list.
The first item on the list was “Just wait until your father gets home.” I probably don’t have to tell you that I didn’t actually write those words down in a notebook under the heading of “I’d Rather Die”. What I actually did was take every pill in the medicine chest in the bathroom so I wouldn’t be alive by then. They weren’t very fast-acting though, and I was still alive when he got home. I vomited some of them up mid-beating, and he saw them. On the way to the hospital to have my stomach pumped to avoid being blamed for my death, I was ordered to say that I’d mistaken the pills for candy. You might think that attempting suicide is extreme, but I’d already tried running away. I made it from Sacramento to Los Angeles, but the girl I talked into going
with me got scared because there were black people there and she’d never seen any before. She called her parents, and they called mine. My father drove to Los Angeles, re-captured me, and then killed the man whose apartment I was in. I didn’t find that out until a few years later, but the guilt from that death was even worse than the guilt when he killed my guinea pig because I didn’t clean my room. People say the the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I wish they didn’t, because that just makes it harder for people who are trying fall far, far away instead of just jumping from a tall building.
“If I can’t be beautiful, I want to be invisible.”
― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
Chuck Palahniuk is one of my writing idols. I used to dream of meeting him, and even had the chance to once. He was on a book-signing tour scheduled for an appearance at a local bookstore. After putting the event on my calendar, I looked forward to it for weeks. I didn’t let myself actually go, though. No matter how many sentences I mentally wrote and rehearsed to say to him while he signed my book, none of them seemed brilliant enough to make it impossible for him not to ask me out for coffee after the signing for the purpose of inviting me to join his writer’s group, so what was the point? I concluded that to be distinguished as anything more that one more fawning fan among millions would have required at least a paragraph. A paragraph that would have to be delivered in front of a crowd of people, just the thought of which was enough to trigger a panic attack. See the many ways that PTSD can prevent you from having a life worth living?
Another way is having flashbacks. Keeping busy and focused on something is one of the only ways to keep from having flashbacks. Having flashbacks all the time can make it look like you have ADHD, which is what they call attention deficit hyperactivity disorder for short. It’s the diagnosis psychiatrists came up with for people with a low tolerance for being forced to hold still and do boring unpleasant shit for long periods of time. This diagnosis allows them to drug those people into submission because there is always a lot of boring unpleasant shit that rich people want done for them. If you’re not drugged and you want your mind not to wander back into the horrible past, the dreaded future, or just anywhere away from where you actually are, the present has to be pleasant, or at least interesting. That’s why it’s so important for me to have a job that isn’t boring.
Now, to demonstrate how PTSD can look a lot like ADHD, I’m going to abruptly change the subject to an apparently unrelated topic. This morning, after reading some sadistically abusive tweets insulting President Trump for being sadistically abusive and insulting, by people pretending to be outraged by sadistic abuse, I had an idea. It might even be a good idea. I’ll show you some sample dialogue of my idea and see if you can guess what it is.
“Hi, I’m Jason or Pam. Although I’m proud of reaching this milestone, I know that I have to admit out loud that I couldn’t have done it without all of you. When I first got here, I couldn’t even get an erection unless someone was groveling at my feet, begging me not to humiliate them in front of their children, but that was before I worked the steps of this program”.
“Hi, my name is Pam or Jason. I want to thank everyone for their understanding and support during my struggle. I’ve come a long way since I got here. I know I’ve still got a long way to go, but today, I know what it’s like to feel that someone cares without their having to beat or insult me to prove I’m worth someone’s time and attention. time and effort. I’ve even begun to feel a pleasurable sensation when I’m complimented.”
I made it too easy, didn’t I? Did you notice how I didn’t stereotype by gender? Yes, it’s a 12-step program for recovering sadists and masochists! They’d have to be separate, though, for obvious reasons. Otherwise, you’d just be setting people up for perpetual relapse. (On the other hand, getting them together might increase the amount of consensual versus non-consensual sadomasochism pretty significantly.) I don’t have a lot of hope that this will ever happen, because despite overwhelming evidence like the picture below, nobody wants to admit that this society has that collective condition. Here’s a checklist so you can see the specific behaviors associated with the condition. It’s also an opportunity to practice some of that delayed gratification you’ve spent so much of your life training for because the checklist is all the way at the bottom of a really long detailed explanation of the data collected by using it.
“#YouKnowYou’reGoingStirCrazy when the heated arguments you have while talking to yourself begin escalating into domestic violence. “
This quote was my response to one of the hashtags trending on Twitter this morning. It’s also starting to be my actual response to the level of isolation I’ve managed to achieve. It’s the level that prompts your therapist to send the police to your door for a safety check when you cancel an appointment. I could have avoided this latest embarrassing visit if I hadn’t had my telephone turned off and had gotten her voice message sooner. Oh, well, it gives the other poor people living in the building another much-needed gossip topic. It’s hard to do more interesting things than gossip when your’e on a fixed income, especially when it’s fixed below poverty level. I’ve only been out of the apartment to either earn money or pick up money I’ve already earned. When I went to pick up my check, my supervisor offered to give me more hours, which started another one of those heated arguments with myself.
Me: See, you were just being a drama queen. You didn’t quit your job without having any job at all, which means you’re not a total loser. Quitting a stressful job that negatively affects your health is a good thing, not a failure. You don’t have to be terrified of homelessness anymore. Even if this might not be an ideal forever job, without being terrified you’ll have more energy and confidence to find another one. Just let yourself feel relieved and relax a little. Besides, you actually enjoy talking with and helping these people, even if there are unpleasant aspects and it doesn’t pay well.
Anti-Me: This is just a trap. They don’t really care about you, they just want you to make money for them. You’ll accept more hours and then what? You get to go on living a life that’s not worth living for years longer? So you can live your life-long dream of one day becoming a human pooper scooper? So you can watch your friends go to restaurants and concerts and take four or five vacations every year while you only earn enough to buy canned chili and pancakes to eat alone in your sad little apartment?
See how writing can be therapeutic? I just named the sarcastic, punishing part of myself Anti-Me. Anti-Me wants me dead. The word “alone” is the most convincing part of Anti-Me’s argument. Even though I’m engaged in a life and death struggle, I’m not insane enough yet not to realize that Anti-Me isn’t actually a real separate person. Ralph, who was a real person, and possibly even a real prophet, always said that you have to acknowledge reality before you can change it. Acknowledging, and having to hold still and actually feel all my past reality has been shudderingly, body-jerkingly, nightmarishly, and often sleeplessly, horrible. Maybe it’s possible to get through it all and come out the other side with a brand spanking new will to live.
Another hashtag trending this morning was #Eugenics. That’s because Richard Dawkins said eugenics would work for humans just like it works for animals and roses. Richard Dawkins is a famous evolutionary biologist and an ethologist. I had to look up the word ethologist to see if my guess that it might have something to do with ethics was even close. It’s a good thing I did, because it wasn’t. Greek and Latin word roots can only take you so far when you’re playing linguistic guessing games. Ethology is the study of animal behavior. Most people believe that we’re not animals because we have a soul. They also believe that our souls enable us to tell right from wrong— and that the god connected to our souls allows us to kill people for doing things that are wrong, like killing. The psychiatric community does not consider this belief insane. Also, if you kill someone for money or revenge, it proves you’re sane, but if you kill somebody for another reason, like just to get your name in the newspaper, it can prove you’re insane. Killing someone for something besides money is called “senseless killing”. I’ve always had a hard time making sense of the rules, which is probably one reason it’s so hard to follow them.
Speaking of not following rules, I had another idea. Since there’s no such thing as a Make-A-Wish Foundation for suicidal people, I’ve been thinking about a lottery instead. It could be like those football pools where people buy a chance to win the pot by coming the closest to guessing what the final score of a game between two teams will be. Only in this lottery, you’d have to come closest to guessing the date of a person’s suicide. Obviously, people in the mental health industry would be excluded from participating since they would have an unfair advantage. They have more experience with spotting tell-tale signs and delaying the inevitable.
The size of the pot would depend on how many people purchased a ticket with a guess. The suicidal person would have to kill themselves within a reasonable period of time, like maybe the five years it would take for me to achieve the record of longest suicide note. You couldn’t expect people to wait a decade to win. There would also have to be a closing date for entries to give everybody who entered the same odds of winning. Since there are only 1,825 days in five years, if a million people entered, having to split the pot that many ways could be a problem. So, it’s probably a good idea to add the hour of the day, which would result in15,987,000 different dates and times, which should be a sufficient number for most suicides.
If for some reason, the suicidal person is really well-known and billions of people want them dead, and I won’t mention any names, you could always make it down to the minute or even the second. Actually, this might be a good way for hated dictators to both raise money to make amends for their misdeeds simultaneously convincing humanity that they’re really sorry.
The suicidal person would be allowed to use a percentage of the ticket sales to do some of the things they’ve always wanted to do before they have kill themselves. A lot of people would probably go to Disneyland and Hawaii. The one thing I’ve always wanted to do more than anything else is just see the planet I was born on. Nature is very therapeutic, and so is travel. It would be a kind of consolation prize for not being able to belong anywhere. I don’t want to see it as a soldier or a tourist, though. My goal would be to visit every country in the world as an invited guest of someone who actually lives there.
I guess this lottery would have to be conducted on “the dark web”, assuming that the dark web actually exists. Otherwise, you’d have the government trying to get a piece of the action or shut it down to eliminate the competition. Of course, there’s always the danger that non-suicidal people might fraudulently claim to be suicidal to get the money and then not kill themselves. You could report those people to the government, but you’d probably have to use a disposable cell phone to remain anonymous.
“Here, from her ashes you lay. A broken girl so lost in despondency that you know that even if she does find her way out of this labyrinth in hell, that she will never see, feel, taste, or touch life the same again.”
― Amanda Steele, The Cliff
Well, Amanda’s quite the Debbie Downer, isn’t she? Whoever she’s talking to probably wouldn’t stand a chance of performing well at a job interview. Apparently, they don’t stand a very good chance of sleeping, either, because I found this quote under the topic of insomnia. Mine wasn’t helped by the fire alarm of my apartment building going off before sunrise this morning.
Because you have to be at least 55 years old to live in this building, I guess they figure there must be a lot of severely hearing impaired and deaf people here. That’s why the alarm has flashing lights in addition to a decibel level set at “make a dog’s ears bleed.” Those of us with normal hearing were forced to evacuate the building before the fire department even arrived to escape the unbearable noise. Despite them finding no evidence of smoke or fire, the horrid noise continued for nearly 30 minutes.
I can’t prove it, but I suspect the guy who keeps plastering fliers advertising his emergency preparedness classes on every door, window and wall in the building deliberately pulled the fire alarm. I couldn’t help but notice the orgasmic expression he was wearing along with his fully stocked emergency preparedness backpack as people shuffled out of the building into the cold pre-dawn air to stand shivering in their bathrobes waiting for
the all-clear. Some people just need to feel important. Me, I’d rather feel unimportant so I don’t get blamed when things go wrong.
Remember this dream job I was so excited about that I sent three writing samples to apply for the other day? Well, while I was out shivering in the cold, I received an email notification from the company! Mr. Drake, from the content department at Mindmaven, informed me that “we had a small mountain of applications come in. But amidst that mountain, your writing background and samples and those of a few others stood out…” He then asked if I would be willing to take on a trial “quick-and-simple project that’d allow us both to determine whether or not this might be a good fit.”
After I replied that I would, he sent me the instructions for the project. I was instructed to download a 20-minute long audio file to my computer, listen to it, then write a post in response to the information on it. “ There’s no “ideal length” for the post, so just make it as long or short as you feel it needs to be engaging, entertaining and, most importantly, valuable…And as a final step, please visit iStockPhoto.com and find an image you feel would make for a good featured image for the post.” Further suggestions included “For the image, try and avoid classic “stock photo” looking graphics. You know the type: Two business people shaking hands, etc. Try and find one that’s more symbolic of the message; something that tells a story.” and “ Remember to separate the blog post into sections with headers, and do your best to match the Mindmaven tone.”
Here’s my response to his instructions.
Thank you for providing the writing audition material for my consideration. I’d thought the assignment might be a proofreading test to correct the many spelling and grammatical errors I found on the website. I would have gladly undertaken that. However, to download anything to my computer from a Craigslist ad seeking articles they don’t have to pay for would be sheer folly.
This is why they’re called “dream jobs”, right? They only exist in people’s dreams. If I’m going to last another five years, I’m really going to need to learn how to give myself compliments. I’m starting to understand exactly how Stuart Smalley got so popular.
“Suicide is the most sincere form of self-criticism.”
I thought this was an appropriate quote to celebrate getting to page 50. Maybe you think filling a whole page with it is cheating. The truth is that the truth requires very few words. In fact, silence contains more truth than words do. Body language doesn’t use any words. Silent action is the ultimate example of show, don’t tell. The actual cause of most mental “disorders” is words and actions that don’t match. See? Simple. Only six words.
Psychiatrists use hundreds of thousands of words to describe “disorders” every time they identify a new one. Then they use thousands more words to speculate about its causes, and explain the results of experiments they conduct to discover the best way to “treat” it or the best medication to make people stop talking about it and keep working. The only real cure is sincerity.
If my mother had really loved me and was really sorry for what she did to me, to us, she would have killed herself instead of staying alive and going on cruises. Since she didn’t love me, I became unlovable with rage. For too long, I thought there was some way she might be able to pay for what she did, so I could forgive her and become lovable again, but accepting guilt-hugs and hush money just made me feel like some kind of extortionist after a while and even more unlovable, especially when she’d point out my complicity in accepting it, which, if she was a monster, made me a double monster.
Some things are unforgivable, which is why that word exists. If you ever want to really live, as a free person, you have to be able to accept that and stay far far away from the people who did them and anybody who was even there when they did them who can remind you of them, not just for a year or a decade here and there, but forever, even if they are your own brothers and the only ones who can really understand a fraction of the horror inside you. Otherwise, you will never be free of them or stop being afraid of being like them or be able to believe you’re lovable. I know this now.
I also know, from learning to understand body language, that love is as rare as painite, which was the rarest gem on earth until they found a little more of it. Most of what passes for love is guilt, obligation and social duty. Love requires trust. Every time I’ve caught a glimpse of it, I’ve cried happy tears that it exists, and then sad tears because it couldn’t exist for me. When you’re raised by monsters and suspect you might be or could become one, the best way to love somebody is send them far, far, away from you and then spend the rest of your life missing them.
“Suicide does not mean there was no killer.”
This quote is so good that it makes me sad that anonymous had such low self-esteem that they couldn’t allow themselves to take credit for it.
I like this one, too:
“She gave me a look that would’ve frozen the balls off a bronze statue of Charles Manson”.
See how abruptly changing subjects can be a valuable survival mechanism? I almost called it a tool, but that would imply that I can take it out and use it whenever I want, and then put it away until I decide to use it again, while a mechanism is more like a pre-programmed process set in motion in response to a specific type of stimuli, or in my case, types of stimuli, maybe even any and all stimuli.
If you don’t want to kill yourself while you’re smack-dab in the middle of conducting a homicide investigation to determine the exact date of your inner death and who killed you, it’s a good idea to expose yourself to some occasional humor. Maybe if all suicides were treated as homicides, there wouldn’t be so many of them. On the other hand, unlike other homicides, most suicides are killed by degrees, over time. It’s kind of like dying of multiple stab wounds that never stop bleeding. If none of them hit a vital organ, it’s impossible to tell which stab wound was the most responsible.
That’s why I’m still haven’t been able to narrow down my list of suspects very much. However, I’m pleased to report that during the course of my investigation, I did discover the best way to prevent suicide. I used to believe that the degradation, humiliation, and mind-numbing boredom of poverty was the leading cause of suicide, but I just realized that it’s actually the second leading cause. Now I know what the number one cause is. This may sound more like something that someone diagnosed with delusions of grandeur instead of suicidal PTSD would say, but hear me out.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. If you agree with this premise, here is the second premise of my argument. Adults wield absolute power over children. If you agree that both of these premises are true, then you must also agree that that no adult should ever be left alone and unsupervised with a child. There should always be witnesses present, people who can intervene when they see cruelty and model healthy alternative behaviors. The barbaric concept of child ownership and the right of biological parents to raise their children, in private, in whatever way they see fit, is the leading cause of suicide. It’s what makes the first stab wound possible.
In our society, the more money and power you have, the more privacy you can buy. All you have to do is look at what happened to Jeffrey Epstein to see just how much privacy it can buy. Our privacy is violated all the time, but it’s only violated to keep the powerful in power by revealing potential threats against them or to increase corporate profits by personalizing advertising. It’s not violated to protect children. Sure, there are politicians who pretend they want internet surveillance laws for that purpose, but a lot of them just demonstrate the truth of the power corrupts proverb. Most people know about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. They just don’t know how to stop reenacting it. The first step is recognizing children as people, not possessions.
“Suicide seemed to me the greatest kind of freedom, a release from everything, from a life that had been ruined a long time ago.”
This quote made me wonder who in the hell Natascha Kampusch was and how her life was ruined, so I googled her. She was kidnapped when she was 10 years old, held captive and tortured for eight years. She wrote a book about it, which was made into a movie. I guess kidnap victims are immediately swarmed by agents as soon as they escape.
After she escaped, her kidnapper killed himself. She got a lot of hate mail because she was sad that he was dead and she said it out loud. After that, a lot of people accused her of having an affair with him of her own free will. I wonder how they thought she could grow a free will in captivity. I suspect those people secretly wish someone would want them enough to kidnap them, too.
Even though being tortured by a kidnapper is hard, her life was no picnic even before she was captured. I’d like to submit her story as a prime example of why adults, including parents, should never be left alone with children. She wrote some books about what it was like. The reader gets to decide which “it” was worse. I say what her parents did was worse, because it hurts less to be abused by strangers than by people who are supposed to love you. Her parents didn’t kill themselves, though, so you can tell they aren’t really sorry. The kidnapper, on the other hand, did kill himself. Was it because he was sorry, or just because he wanted to escape being exposed as who he really was and going to prison?
This question that nobody will ever know the answer to is precisely why none of us are qualified to be judges. We can never really know what someone is thinking. Or the reason they do anything. Maybe we can know positively that someone is a liar, because their actions don’t match their words, or their private lives don’t match their public personas, but we can’t know what their truth actually is. We can’t know their reasons, because even if they tell us, we can’t believe them. Because they’re liars.
I used to be a liar. I got to be so good at it that I even believed myself. It got to where no whopper was too big for me to swallow. Life is more painful since I started telling the truth. Lies are a kind of anesthetic, just like drugs and alcohol, only they’re more economically affordable. They’re more socially acceptable, too. Because we live in a racist society, the most acceptable, and even expected, ones are called white lies. They’re also a lot like makeup because can make ugly truths look more attractive, which makes looking in the mirror less traumatic. So far, I haven’t been very successful at accepting who I see in there without that makeup. But if you’re reading this, you probably knew that before I did, didn’t you?
When one realizes that his life is worthless he either commits suicide or travels.
This quote gave me another idea. You’re probably thinking it’s just some kind of new pyramid scheme, but my idea uses one that already exists. It’s the one that the generation that was alive in 1935 voted into law that all future generations would have to pay for even though they didn’t, and still don’t, get to vote on it. Call me crazy, but that seems like taxation without representation to me. It also seems a little bit like sick animals devouring their young.
Maybe I’m just getting really good at playing the blame game, but I think social security is responsible for a lot of child abuse. Before social security became law, poor parents had to treat their children at least well enough that they would want to return the favor and take care of them in their old age. Once there was a mandatory program that taxed their children so the government could provide for them in their old age, they didn’t have to treat their children decently anymore. They could just sit them in front of televisions while they worked to buy themselves more luxury items advertised on the televisions.
Sorry, I abruptly changed subjects again. Back to my idea. I’ll call this one the Social Security Suicide Program. The longer people live, the more unsustainable Social Security becomes because the long-living people end up taking out way more than they put in. You could ask Ida May Fuller, who paid in a total of $24.75 before she retired in 1939, but she died in 1975 at the age of 100 after collecting $22,888.92.
The chance to get more for less, or something for nothing, is the reason it was so easy to get it voted into law in the first place. They’ve known since 1939 that it wouldn’t be sustainable unless people died sooner. That’s why they keep raising the retirement age. The working poor dream all their working lives of all the things they’ll get to experience after they’re retired. By the time they finally do get to retire, the only thing most of them get to experience is pain— as their body deteriorates, their friends die off, and they can’t afford to leave the house except to buy spagetti-o’s. That’s because, like minimum wage, social security benefits aren’t really adjusted for inflation. Retired people’s incomes are fixed, but the price of food, shelter, and electricity aren’t. They might give a 1% cost of living increase for every 20% the cost of living actually increases.
My idea is, instead of driving the elderly to suicide with the despair of poverty and isolation, to let the opt to participate in the Social Security Suicide Program. Under this program, instead of getting small monthly payments over the course of an unknown number of years, they could choose to accept five years of payments in one lump sum. That would be enough to travel and really enjoy life for at least a year. It could make the lifelong dream of
simultaneously having money and the freedom from a time clock to spend it come true for millions! In return, they’d have to agree to commit suicide when their money ran out.
But wait, there’s more. Upon awakening from living their lifelong dream, they would be offered a number of attractive and painless suicide options. Personally, I’m partial to the freezing-to-death-on-an-ice-floe method and think it could really become a popular group activity, like river rafting, only more relaxing. The saddest thing about suicide is the same as the saddest thing about life—-having to do it alone. If group options were available, I think the popularity of solitary choices like a heroin overdose on a toilet or a one person fatal car crash into a tree would plummet.
People that wanted to make someone feel guilty about their suicide would probably choose more painful, public methods, like jumping from a bridge or maybe hiring somebody to murder them as brutally as possible so it would be sensational enough to make the front pages of and be described as “jaw-dropping”. Some people, after experiencing economic freedom and life enjoyment for the first time, might choose to invest some of their money wisely and it wouldn’t run out before they died of natural causes.
I can already see that I’m going to have to change the name of the program, though. Societies don’t like to admit that its members would rather die than continue to live as part of them. How about the Social Security Voluntary Exit Program? Or maybe the Social Security Ensuring a Better Future for All Program? I almost forgot—we live in a democracy. I should probably insert a poll here so people can vote on it.
The day before yesterday, I made myself get up and be in the same room as a group of other people. It was good to see familiar faces and I realized how much I actually miss some of the people the faces are attached to. I was going to go to another one yesterday, but nightmares and insomnia wouldn’t let me sleep long enough during the night to wake up in time. One of those people convinced me that I probably won’t even last long enough to achieve breaking the record for the longest suicide note in the world if I don’t get out of my own mind and around other people more.
Yesterday, I was able to keep from crying long enough to be around other people at a staff meeting I had to attend. The owner of the business spent an hour telling Bible stories to illustrate the importance of empathy and working together. The first story was about the baby Moses. He pointed out that the princess, daughter of the evil king who ordered all the Jewish baby boys to be murdered, saved Moses because she saw his face and held him, thereby making him a real person to her and not just a murdered baby statistic. Basically, she helped ensure that her royal family was successfully infiltrated by a future union organizer. The owner, who pays less than any of his competitors, didn’t acknowledge that particular fact, though.
His other bible story was about the prodigal son and how important it is not to be jealous or resentful of other people even when they get the same rewards as you when you have to do your work plus theirs. The important thing is that nobody is excluded because everybody is capable of less at some times and more at others and we should all remember we’re working towards the same goal. Then he compared us to a team of Clydesdale horses. See, I’m not the only one who abruptly changes the subject. It was more fun imagining myself as the prodigal son being given a welcome home party after being away on an extended vacation for several years than having to imagine myself as one of a team of Clydesdale horse harnessed to a giant plough, wearing blinders and maybe being whipped. Being around people on purpose at meetings without owners that pay people to be there is more fun than being around them because your survival depends on it. I’m going to try to do more of that.
“No neurotic harbors thoughts of suicide which are not murderous impulses against others redirected upon himself.”
― Sigmund Freud
Wow. Freud is right. I definitely harbor murderous impulses against him even though he’s already dead. That’s because monsters like Freud never really die—they just pass on their monstrousness to the next generation. When you ask people “If you could go back in time and kill somebody, who would it be?”, most of them say “Baby Adolf Hitler”, because killing him would save millions of lives. My answer to that question would be Freud. I think he’s responsible for more mental illness, human suffering and deaths than Hitler. Of course, there’s the counter-argument that it’s not ethical to kill babies even if you know they’re going to grow up to be mass murderers.
I think it would be really hard to kill a baby or a child, and even harder to live with yourself afterwards. It’s even hard to kill someone after they’ve already grown up to be a monster. For example, I wasn’t able to kill my father even though I knew he was going to keep torturing people. It’s hard to say whether it was because he showed me pictures of himself when he was a little boy or because I believed he was too evil to die. It was probably a combination.
Compassion + Terror = Weakness + Cowardice = Complicity
If I’d been brave and strong enough to do it, I could have saved some lives. I’m not sure exactly how many, but at least five. I can’t even claim I never had the chance. One day when I was eleven and we were being quiet because he was sleeping, I tiptoed into their bedroom, gently took the loaded .38 he kept under his pillow and pointed it at his head. I didn’t pull the hammer back, because I knew the click would wake him up and I didn’t know if I could pull the trigger fast enough or whether he would even die if I did, so I missed my chance. I snuck the gun out, though, and gave it to my boyfriend. Maybe I hoped he would be brave enough to kill him, but I don’t think I asked him to.
This is the kind of thing that makes you feel different from other people. When you’re a child from a family that no child with parents who actually care about them is allowed to play with, you grow up believing that if somebody wants to be your friend, there must be something dangerously wrong with them, too. And that it’s it’s probably safer for everyone just to keep your distance from people. That’s how I became a ghost.
“In my view, suicide is not really a wish for life to end.’
It is the only way a powerless person can find to make everybody else look away from his shame. The wish is not to die, but to hide.”
― Orson Scott Card
I have an autographed copy of one of Orson Scott Card’s books. It was a gift from my uncle, who was also Mormon, and knew him. My uncle was one of the three people in my family who loved me. They’re all dead now, though.
The worst thing about being a ghost is that people can see right through you. Sure, it might take them some time, depending on your acting ability—how well and how long you’re able to remain in character while playing the part of a still-alive person with nothing to hide. It’s a lot like being in a permanent job interview. Okay, it’s exactly like being in a permanent job interview. I can only play the part of someone without PTSD, crippling social anxiety, extreme emotional sensitivity and self-punishing perfectionism all topped off with a touch of paranoia, for a few months at a time. My acting must be brilliant for me to have gotten hired so often. That level of brilliant acting isn’t sustainable long-term though, which is why I’ve had so many—job interviews, that is. I’ll bet I could make a handsome living if there were such a thing as a job interview stunt double.
At the job I quit most recently, once my PTSD started to show, I started imagining how uncomfortable everyone was around me because of it and how they probably wished they hadn’t hired me. And that they were giving me the most unpleasant and difficult assignments hoping I would quit so they could replace me. My imagination is powerful enough to make things like that true. Once I heard one of my supervisors talking to someone about filling the position I had last year with someone who actually was everything I had seemed to be, but really wasn’t, I felt too ashamed to work there anymore. I’d been told I was doing fine in my new position, but they probably just couldn’t find anyone else willing to do it. I couldn’t even go back into the building to pick up the things from my desk.
If I’m going to live long enough to make this the world’s longest suicide note, I’m going to have to learn to accept myself more even though I’m permanently damaged. Just because my mother says it was all my own fault doesn’t make it true. It would be great if I could at least be the one child that outlived her before killing themselves. Last week someone told me it was important to get all the poison out. Maybe I can write it out and my last days can be happier.
I went to get an hour long massage this morning. That wasn’t very suicidal of me, was it? While I was at that staff meeting listening to Bible stories, I remembered that they have a massage therapist and that employees get a discount, so I made an appointment. The massage room is on the basement floor of the hospice building. That’s the building where people go after the medical experts tell them they only have a few weeks left to live, but it’s so pleasant there that eight months later, everybody is still alive. I wondered if getting massages might have something to do with it and whether if being touched can resurrect people from physical deathbeds, it might work for spiritual deathbeds, too. Maybe Jesus was really onto something, but he just wasn’t very good at explaining how it worked. It’s hard to say if the people he healed by touching them would have stayed healed if right afterwards, he’d said “That will be 200 shekels and either two goats now or four goats next month. Next!”
The lady who gave me the massage was very good at it—and she even gave me almost double the time for no extra charge. Maybe she sensed how close to death I am because I wasn’t wearing makeup or socks. Untidiness seems to be a side effect of depression. After the hunt for clean underwear this morning, which, against all odds, I had somehow put in the drawer they belong in, I didn’t have enough time left to look for socks. This kind lady also provided me with something just as good as the massage—a surprise. She had transformed her massage room, into an enchanted forest—complete with a life-sized fake tree with a trunk covered in fake moss. Like all enchanted environments, lighting is everything, and she did not disappoint by not having any stars twinkling in the ceiling sky. All this didn’t come without an additional cost, though. I had to listen to soothing religious hymns the whole time. She didn’t offer me any Kool-Aid, though. What a Friend We Have in Jesus and Rock of Ages were among the songs in the continuous loop, but there were a few modern religious pop numbers, too. Missing was my absolute favorite—This Little Light of Mine.
Today’s cliff-hanger is: Will the healing power of touch win over the depressing fact that I had to pay someone to touch me? Adults can die from not being touched just like babies can. It just takes them a lot longer. A lot of people don’t have enough money to pay someone to touch them so they have to pay with sex, hard labor, or humiliation instead. There should be a service, but instead of dating, it would be a cuddle bartering service, and then nobody would have to pay to be touched. I’m pretty sure that almost got going on Craigslist, and that’s why they shut it down. Not having to pay or have sex or get married to be touched would destroy the foundation of our civilization.
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”
― C.G. Jung
Carl Jung is one of the few people in the psychiatric canon that was capable of independent thought. That’s because he married into money. It wasn’t just money, though. It was clean money, made by manufacturing and selling Swiss watches. A watch-making company cannot be held responsible if someone decides to use a watch for an evil purpose like making trains run on time at the expense of humanity. The company can’t take credit if someone uses one to coordinate a life-saving medical procedure or a joyous reunion between long-separated loved ones, either. What makes the money clean is that people buy watches of their own free will. A watch could potentially improve someone’s life, but not having one wouldn’t threaten it. Because Jung married into clean money, he didn’t have to depend on wealthy patrons investing in developing techniques to correct any type of social deviance that would threaten their positions of power and privilege purchased by dirty money. The kind of money that funded Freud, the kind that can buy its own publishing house to promote their favorite new psychological control techniques.
Right now, it’s 10:42 a.m. It’s also Ash Wednesday. Before rich people created psychiatry to create social norms and enforce conformity, they used to depend on churches to do that for them. Now churches and psychiatry have to share the job because a lot of people believe in science instead of the bible god. Oh, sure, a lot of people pretend they still believe in the bible god, but that’s mostly because they don’t want to lose their gang membership benefits. Some people believe in science AND the bible god and they’re not even diagnosed as schizophrenic! That should tell you something, right?
Ash Wednesday is the perfect religious holidays for self-punishing people like me. It’s also a good example of the formula religion uses for social control. The formula is forty days of punishment for every one day of sinful enjoyment. Fat Tuesday symbolizes fleeting earthly pleasure and enjoyment. It lasts one day. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, which lasts forty days, and symbolizes how long you have to deny yourself any earthly pleasure to prove you’re sorry enough for having experienced any earthly pleasure to keep god from punishing you with eternal death and damnation. You get to sin, purify yourself, then sin again—the cycle, like time, is never-ending! It’s been going on so long that most people can’t even get excited about sex anymore unless there’s something forbidden about it, which is not good news for children. Even though pedophiles are in charge of a lot of things, most people still disapprove of them no matter how many publishing houses they own or powerful political offices they hold. If this was a real democracy, their disapproval might matter more. Instead, child sex trafficking is becoming big business.
Since I haven’t been experiencing much earthly pleasure lately, I don’t really have anything to give up for Lent except coffee and sugar. The sin of sloth isn’t really that pleasurable, but maybe I should give it up for Lent anyway. Looking for things isn’t pleasurable, either. Plus it’s really time-consuming. I remain unconvinced that sloth is wrong. Maybe that’s because I don’t want anybody, including myself, calculating my value, worth, or usefulness, with the total offered as proof that I deserve to live. The point is that I don’t even want to live in a world in which such proof is required or people with the power to require it. That’s why I’m shooting for self-acceptance, despite my human capability for monstrousness, instead of trying to increase my sense of “self-worth”. I don’t even want to think in the conceptual language of my oppressors. The church says sloth is a deadly sin, while psychiatry says it’s a symptom of depression, but both have the same goal of getting you back to work producing profits they get a share of for their services.
Maybe I should write some more prayer ditties while I’m trying to give up sloth. That’s about as close as I can get to praying for the strength to be tidy.
“I think the warning labels on alcoholic beverages are too bland. They should be more vivid. Here is one I would suggest: “Alcohol will turn you into the same asshole your father was.”
― George Carlin
My father was actually less of an asshole after the first couple of drinks. If he was playing his country music and everybody was obeying and staying silent and out of sight unless they were summoned to listen to his speech about how this was real music and rock and roll was just noise. Sometimes he even forgot to try to catch us doing something wrong for a few songs. The thing about people that drink every day is they forget how many times they’ve already given the same speech.
Today is the anniversary of my youngest brother’s death. He shot himself in the head when he was 26. I started crying yesterday, but had to make myself stop so I could earn my $20 cash money. I started again this morning while I was making oatmeal, my face leaking into the pan as I stirred it. Now that I’m living without any anesthetic, I can see that some important part of me died with him. It was the last fragment of me that believed I could make any difference to anyone except a bad one.
He lived with me and a girlfriend I talked into coming with me to Oregon when I was eighteen and aged out of the California foster care system. He hadn’t aged out of the Oregon foster care system. He’d been molested out by his foster father, a school teacher and pillar of the community, and had chosen homelessness after he told and nobody believed him. When he tried to go back to my parents, they let him in, but the padlock on the refrigerator didn’t make him feel welcome. He wasn’t old enough to buy alcohol, so he sniffed glue and huffed paint to anesthetize himself. While he lived with me, I made him stop doing that.
We lived in an abandoned house that belonged to my parents. They bought it with an insurance settlement from a mysterious fire that had burned down the first house they’d bought when they moved there. With the money, they’d put down payments on two cheap houses. They’d lived in this one until they got rid of all of us, and then they moved into the bigger, nicer one. After that, they rented the smallest one out cheaply for a
while to a family with young children my father could visit frequently. But that family had sued my father after somebody fell down the rickety front steps. They won the lawsuit, and my parents stopped renting to people. My father would let old drifters and winos that would drink with him stay there, though. He called them “good old boys”. They didn’t care that the bathtub had fallen through the rotten bathroom floor or that instead of a refrigerator, there was just an old ice chest on the kitchen floor. When we got there, there wasn’t much but some smelly blankets on an old mattress, a bunch of porn magazines, and several bottles full of quaaludes with the name of the last drifter who’d died in the house on the prescription label. Those didn’t last long.
For me, nothing lasted long. If my calculations are correct and I haven’t forgotten anywhere, I’d had sixteen different addresses in the five years since I’d last seen my brother. I don’t know why I thought I was stable enough to take care of him. Maybe it was all the group therapy I’d had.
“As long as there’s hate in your heart, there’ll be hate in the world. You can’t fight for peace and you cannot capture freedom.” ***
I agree with this quote, but I’m not going to tell you who said it until later. Agreeing with this quote must mean I have something in common with that person. I suspect that something is that we both hate our mothers. That person’s hate is in the past tense because they’re dead now, but mine is still present. There, I said it. I’ve tried not to hate her. Over the years, I’ve even imagined myself as her attorney, building a defense, which included making the jury picture her as a little girl at the mercy of her own greedy, selfish, critical, envious, social climbing mother. But it’s no good. As soon as the judge reads the charges brought by the prosecuting attorney, I hate her all over again.
“And to the charge of purchasing gold high heels and a mini-skirt for your eleven-year-old daughter and providing drugs to make her oblivious during out-of-town photo sessions with pedophiles for money to pay your husband’s gambling debts? How do you plead?”
“Guilty, your honor”.
“And to the charge of uprooting your children in the middle of the night and moving them away from everyone and everything they knew to escape a potential legal investigation into child sex abuse and/or community intervention? How do you plead?
“Guilty, your honor.”
“And to the charge of eating the only food in the one-bedroom house you moved them to while your three children went hungry?
“Guilty, your honor.”
“And to the charge of sleeping indoors while your sons were forced to sleep outside on top of a snow-covered woodpile until they contracted pneumonia and your daughter, to escape the sound of their coughing and their resentment for her being allowed to sleep indoors as a reward for keeping their secrets, had to run away from home, thereby abandoning them and her life-long responsibilities as their primary caretaker? How do you plead? ”
“Guilty, your honor”.
There would be a lot more charges, but I can’t even get past these to get to those. Probably the only thing that would have helped me not hate her is if this trial had been in real life, not just in
my imagination. In real life, my mother made a handsome living working as a nurse in the psych ward of a hospital while my father worked at a lumber mill. While I was aging out of foster care and becoming homeless, they were becoming home-owning, taxpaying citizens and never suffered a single consequence.
Hating your mother makes it harder to relate to other people.The thing I hate her most for is making me responsible for my brothers before was even old to be responsible for myself. I can remember washing out cloth diapers in the toilet before I was even in kindergarten. When my youngest brother killed himself, I gave up all hope of ever being able to be a good mother to anyone. Or a good anything to anyone, really.
That’s probably the one thing that made me as much of a drifter as the other hobos my father let live in that dilapidated house. Lately, there are days I feel grateful that I made some kind of stand in this town, to stay somewhere. Maybe I was just tired of trying to outrun the past and pretending it didn’t damage me by always having to focus on adapting to new environments to survive. I’m glad I finally got that tired because there are a lot of kind, decent people here, and some of them even care about me.
Most people my age are taking care of their aging parents. I’m taking care of other people’s aging parents for a living instead, which is kind of ironic. I’m right back to what I was doing before college and paralegal school. I sometimes berate myself for that, but now I’m finding that I actually enjoy this work and spending time with people who were good enough parents that their children want them well taken care of. I like listening to their stories.
When they die, their children will inherit the lovely big homes they live in. It’s like a cycle for normal people. My father left his money to a woman he grew up with. My mother signed her
house over to my middle brother for enough cash to pay for a vacation in Italy for herself. She probably thought he was going to take care of her in her old age. He lasted longer than my youngest brother, who’d been my mother’s favorite, but three years ago, he killed himself, too. Now she’s at the mercy of low-paid strangers. Maybe it makes me a bad person, but I hope it’s a little bit like prison.
”This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”
I love Alan Watts. I’m also falling in love with Chuck Klosterman, whose most recent book, What If We’re Wrong? reveals the extent of his brilliance and capability for original thought. I wish I could become a real writer like him. Instead, I wrote an article about intermittent fasting this morning. Admittedly, it was a nice change from writing about hating my mother yesterday. The article was a total of six hundred and ninety words, for which I will be paid twenty three dollars and ten cents. It took me three hours to research and write, which means that I only earned $7.70 per hour. This is what happens when you have to be perfect. Everything takes longer. I did have some fun writing it, though, despite my perfectionism, which seems to be a combination of fear of rejection and an unhealthy need for praise.
I haven’t cried or eaten yet today. Considering I’ve gained 20 pounds in addition to crying almost every day since I started taking Zoloft, I’m going to call this a good sign. There’s no way for me to know if I would have cried the same amount or more if I hadn’t been taking Zoloft for the last month. Or if I would have had days during which I felt I might want to stay alive long enough to buy a twelve roll package of toilet paper on sale. I do know that I won’t be writing one of those testimonials about how Zoloft changed my life by releasing serotonin into my brain and making me happy to be alive again. It’s becoming obvious that their drugs are no substitute for, or as effective as, writing out the poison.
Because of my perfectionism, I always want to earn the “exceeded my expectations” rating. Now that I’m mostly unemployed, I also want to earn more future assignments. On one of the sites I write for, out of 176 completed articles, 54 of them, or just over 30%, earned an “exceeded my expectations” rating instead of a mere “met my expectations”. Sometimes writing an article promoting something inspires me to do it myself. Is there such a thing as influencing yourself? That’s one reason I only accept articles about things I believe in promoting. Sadly, things worth promoting don’t need to be promoted as much as things people have to be convinced that they need. Like Zoloft, for instance.
“Social support is not the same as merely being in the presence of others. The critical issue is reciprocity: being truly heard and seen by the people around us, feeling that we are held in someone else’s mind and heart. For our physiology to calm down, heal, and grow we need a visceral feeling of safety. No doctor can write a prescription for friendship and love: These are complex and hard-earned capacities. You don’t need a history of trauma to feel self-conscious and even panicked at a party with strangers – but trauma can turn the whole world into a gathering of aliens…Managing your terror all by yourself gives rise to another set of problems: dissociation, despair, addictions, a chronic sense of panic, and relationships that are marked by alienation, disconnections, and explosions. Patients with these histories rarely make the connection between what has happened to them a long time ago and how they currently feel and behave. Everything just seems unmanageable.”
― Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Bessel A. Van Der Kolk understands more about trauma than anybody else I’ve ever read. I almost just posted the above quotes by themselves as a public service in case anybody else with PTSD happens to read this.
The part about alienation is the reason I made myself get up at 5:30 this morning to go to a 12-step recovery meeting. The method I used to make myself go was to make a new rule that I’m not allowed to have any more coffee except at meetings. Even though the coffee there isn’t very good, especially with cheap, powdered non-dairy creamer instead of half and half, there are people there. I really enjoy and care about some of them. They probably either don’t know or don’t believe it since I just completely disappeared with no explanation for a couple of months. But even if the coffee is bad, no pain, no gain, right? And the purpose of life in America is to never stop gaining, even if it’s just weight. Besides the sayings, the other thing you hear at meetings is about all the things people gain when they stop drinking. Cars, houses, wives. Actually, about half the time, it’s wives with cars and houses.
I don’t really believe in the disease concept of alcoholism, so whenever I talk at these meetings, instead of saying my name and that I’m an alcoholic, I say my name and that I’m a recovering liar— with a desire not to drink. Sometimes people laugh, but I’m okay with that. Maybe some people think I’m in denial, and that sooner or later, I’ll break down and say it. Those are probably the same people that like to break up the phrase that begins step two, which is “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” They say “First I came. Then I came to. Then I came to believe.” See how “came to” can also mean awakening from a drunken stupor to reality? When you put it all together as came to believe it means you believe in god or at least no longer believe that you are god. A number of us seem to have control issues.
Meetings are chock-full of clever sayings, passed on by old-timers or people fresh out of rehab, and then perpetually parroted by newcomers. That’s one reason it’s always more interesting when people visit from out of town. Visitors share their own local meeting sayings, so we get to hear different ones. I’m pretty sure rehab centers hire people just to come up with new ones and sometimes, that’s all a meeting is—people parroting sayings. That’s how this morning’s was—one big attitude of gratitude for the blessings of the bible god whose favorite people in all the world are white Americans. He likes them so much that he intervenes on their behalf to make the color of traffic lights change faster so they aren’t late for work when they oversleep, while not bothering to stop children from starving to death in other countries or being caged in this one. That’s why most of
what people call “blessings” look suspiciously like privileges gained though the collective purchase of violence to me.
I’ve been going to these meetings long enough to know that if I want a meeting to be different, I have to do my part to make it different or not complain. I didn’t do my part today, except for showing up, which can be important. I was lucky a few people showed up every week for an agnostic meeting, or I wouldn’t have stuck around long enough to care about anybody or for anybody to care about me. Other people are way better at showing they care than I am, especially when I don’t want to live. This morning, I cried with real gratitude for the people in my life who haven’t
given up on me even though I have nothing of value to offer anyone right now. The worst thing about being in pain is that it keeps you from helping other people relieve theirs. At least I don’t want to hurt anyone else just so they’ll understand how much I hurt. I guess that’s something.
“Impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion…”
Muhammed Ali’s existence and what he did with it has made mine easier to bear. Even though nobody’s perfect, it helps to know that there are people who refuse to participate in evil even if they are threatened with punishment.
The color I’m using to type this is navy blue. Font color doesn’t carry over into WordPress, so you’ll have to use your imagination to see that. Now I’m going to type a word in red. See how I gave you a variety of reds to choose from? Personally, I’m partial to crimsons. I wrote an article about crosswords this morning. Maybe you can use the number of subject changes you’ve experienced in the time it’s taken you to read this far as a clue to guess how long it took me to write 450 words on a single subject. I’m pretty sure I set a new personal record of three hours, thereby reducing my hourly earnings to about $6.50.
One minute, I’m writing about thematic crosswords, using Valentine’s Day as an example of a theme, and the next, I’m learning all about George “Bugs” Moran. He was one of the criminals that sold liquor while it was illegal. Apparently, unlike some others, he refused to pay a sufficient amount to officials to look the other way. In case you don’t see the connection, he was one of the people said to be involved in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929. His second wife’s name was Lucille. Next I learned that Eunice Pringle was the name of the 17-year- old who accused Alexander Pantages of rape after he refused to sell his chain of movie theaters to Joseph Kennedy for $8 million and that after being ruined by the publicity surrounding the trial, he sold it to him for $3.5 million.
I’m not sure how many minutes after that I was trying to decide what’s more important, that the annual Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford Connecticut was founded in 1978 by Will Shortz, that British crossword grids have more black squares than American ones do, or that cryptic crossword clues contain subsidiary indicators. There’s a lot of information about crosswords out there. Maybe the most disappointing information was that the grand prize for the winner of the United States Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford Connecticut is a measly $5,000, so I didn’t mention that.
Sometimes I wonder if I have ADD in addition to PTSD. Then I remember that ADD is just the result of having your attention constantly interrupted by commercials. Like cable TV, the internet used to be a place you could escape from commercials. Now, there’s nowhere. Even worse, it’s getting harder every day to tell the difference between truth and propaganda, facts and fiction. Political propaganda is just another kind of commercial, but it’s for selling ideas and versions of reality instead of products. It’s what made people believe that all families were like those on Leave It To Beaver and The Cosby Show, and if they weren’t, they should pretend to be, until Archie Bunker and Roseanne came along anyway. They’re selling a slightly more honest version of reality these days, but every version is designed by the same people for the same purpose–to maintain the illusion of liberty and justice while justifying their own power and privilege.
“One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.”
—Rita Mae Brown
I’ve decided to replace quotes about suicide with quotes about happiness. Maybe it’s because I’m listening to a book titled Something Like Happy. Okay, now it’s four days later, and I abandoned that book before finishing it. It was about how a dying person completes a list of things to do to be happy, mostly things for other people so they can forget about dying for a while, and how watching her do it changes someone else whole life. It’s true that single experiences can completely change people’s lives. In my experience, the most life-changing experiences are unplanned ones. That’s because nothing can cut through our internal belief systems and/or social indoctrination like the element of surprise.
I got surprised speechless on Saturday, which is why it’s been four days since I wrote the first sentence of this page. At 5:15 p.m. I drove to my client’s house for my regular four hour shift. I usually arrive there at 5;00 but I had agreed to drive her to a concert at her church that lasted until past my shift, so I came later to stay later. I imagined that the concert would be mostly hymns, and maybe a few songs about hell, but I thought there might be some musical instruments even if no dancing was allowed because of the hell thing.
I usually administer her medication, then prepare her dinner when I arrive, but when I got there, she told me that her son was providing dinner for us both and driving us to the event. That meant that I was going to be paid to enjoy a free dinner and a concert, even if it was a choir concert at a Baptist church. On the way to the church, I was informed that this Baptist church was the only one in town that welcomed openly gay people, and that there had been a big split and a lot of people had left because of that vote. When we arrived, there was a full band, drums, keyboards, guitars, cello, violin, flute, and ukuleles. In addition to songs that invited us to “get in the boat” because we can’t walk on water like Jesus, the program also included songs by the Beatles. There was also an enthusiastic full-participation sing-a-long of Elvis Presley’s “I Can’t Help Falling in Love”. Only those as deeply cynical as me understand how good it can feel to be wrong.
I was so wrong that I remembered that, lacking the eternal perspective of immortality, I was probably wrong about almost everything else, too. And that we’re all wrong about almost everything, but we’re doing the best we can even if our best is still shit and we need to be forgiven and allowed to keep trying to get better at not hurting ourselves and others because that’s what we’re trained to do from the moment we’re born and start being taught that God loves some of us more than others and that we have to compare and compete to get our share of blessings, so that people have to invent tools to use to survive that with at least some of their humanity intact, so they gather together to remind each other that Jesus came to tell us to be kinder to each other while we do it, and to say thank you, Jesus. Nobody even added “and pass the ammunition”. A single song, sung in the right place, at the right time, by the right person, for someone who needs to hear it, can change the world.
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
Albert Camus is one of the authors I carry inside me. Having read his work decades ago, I am unable to remember or describe a single character, plot, or event from any of his novels. However, my body retains vivid memories of the experience: the vast and overwhelming wave of joyous relief upon learning that I was not alone in my desperate hunger for truth, to both tell and be told it, the sheer gratitude for the sensation of expansion as new synaptic pathways were created to accommodate this welcome alteration of my internal reality. I sought out and devoured every word he wrote. This only further alienated me from others’ external realities.
It’s hard enough to understand the meaning of the word meaning, much less the meaning of life. Meaning only has these five definitions, while life has fourteen. I think Camus is talking about number five here.
1. the thing or idea that a sound, word, sign, etc. represents
2. the things or ideas that somebody wishes to communicate to you by what they say or do
3. the degree of importance of a feeling or an experience
4.the ideas that a writer, artist, etc. wishes to communicate through a book, painting, etc.
5.the quality or sense of purpose that makes you feel that your life is valuable
Valuable to who? Why? A lot of people want to make their life valuable to the bible god. That’s how they get convinced to participate in wars that corporate owned governments tell them god would approve of. A lot of people also make their beds every day. There’s even a study proving that people who make their beds every day are more successful in life. Okay, maybe the study was conducted by a mattress manufacturer, but still. Also, you have to actually be able to get out of a bed to make it, which I’m still unable to do some days. I contend that it’s not making the bed, it’s the consistent discipline required to do anything every morning that makes the difference. What if instead of making beds, everyone used that discipline to say good morning to their neighbors every day? I think there might me a lot less competitive decorating if they did.
I’ve spent my life trying to earn my right to exist, setting new goals, earning new certificates and degrees in the hope of increasing my value to those with the money and power to alleviate my poverty. Now, the only goal I see as worthwhile of setting and pursuing is gaining the ability to make someone’s face light up because they’re genuinely happy to see me— even though I don’t improve their socioeconomic circumstances in any way.
“The Seven Social Sins are:
Wealth without work.
Pleasure without conscience.
Knowledge without character.
Commerce without morality.
Science without humanity.
Worship without sacrifice.
Politics without principle.
For some reason, this quote was on the first page of Goodread’s quotes about happiness. Maybe that’s because real happiness is like real justice—nobody can have it unless everybody does. It’s also like love, because there are a lot of things that pose as happiness just like there are a lot of things that pose as love. Sexual attraction, jealousy, and the fear of loneliness are a few things that pose as love. Economic success, winning competitions, and having fun with special privileges are some of the things that pose as happiness. In reality, only expertly trained patriotic consumers are able to experience guilt-free enjoyment of anything obtained at the expense of others. That’s what mass media is for.
I’ve been managing the stress caused by the job interview I had for the position of part time office manager at a church being cancelled due to the Corona virus pandemic by obsessively checking Twitter, which is very stressful. Oh, and eating. Zoloft seems to have side effects that weren’t listed on that piece of paper the pharmacist gave me. It didn’t inform me that my stomach would expand to the size of a football field. Or that it would completely shut down whatever system that used to be responsible for providing me with the following messages: “You’re full now. Stop eating.” and “That isn’t real food”.
The cancellation of the job interview was how I discovered that it’s possible to be both relieved and panic-stricken simultaneously. I was relieved that I’d have some time to lose enough weight to fit into my interview clothes, but panic-stricken that not enough people would still believe in god after the
pandemic for that to still exist by then. Meanwhile, I continue to earn my daily $20 cash money, and yesterday, was given a bonus of six freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. I’ve always been lucky like that.
It has occurred to me that I may not have to commit suicide at all now that there is a pandemic. It has also occurred to me that if I become homeless before I find a job, there will be millions of other people in the same position! Maybe they’ll provide us all with shopping carts, free of charge. Why, this pandemic could even result in an end to feudalism entirely, with both shelter/space to exist and health care being recognized as human rights not to be held hostage for profit by the capitalist nobility. Luckily for feudalism, real estate barroness Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Shumer are fighting to ensure that only the most deserving of the poor will receive aid.
“Relax. Everything’s out of control.”
I know I’m not going to earn any popularity points for this but I’m excited about this pandemic. I’ll even admit to a kind of love for natural disasters. I don’t love that people die in them, but they do provide opportunities for positive change. Natural disasters are one of the only things capable of shaking up the entrenched social order responsible for mass anxiety and depression, including my own. Why? Because natural disasters are equal opportunity and recognize no social privilege. Of course, that’s not true of all natural disasters or even unnatural disasters, like pollution. Tornadoes and hurricanes affect lower income mobile home owners more than the wealthy. It’s almost like nobody ever read The Three Little Pigs. Pollution also affects low income people more since factories are built in their neighborhoods. However, no zip code, tax bracket, or social position is exempt from a virus.
Of course, economically, the wealthy are much less affected by the virus. They have savings and investments and no mortgage or rent to take the majority of their earnings. They are not terrorized by the constant specter of homelessness or starvation. Sorry, I’m going to insert an abrupt subject change here. Happily, I’ve been learning to relax. It’s really hard. First, I had to recognize when I wasn’t relaxed, which was basically 24/7. The next step was to order my muscles to relax. Over, and over, and over. By staying in bed and focusing on just that for hours at a time, I can now stay relaxed for about five minutes before tensing up again, which is an improvement over the 30 seconds I could do it when I first started. Maybe you’re thinking “Ha! You’re only poor because you’re a lazy bum lying in bed learning to relax all day”. However, I’m only able to do this because the two job interviews I had after applying for dozens of jobs were cancelled due to the corona virus. I did actually get another job, though, as Census taker, but that won’t start until May and only lasts eight weeks. I’ll get to talk to all the people too poor to have a computer or internet. The 20 hour per week job does, however, pay three dollars an hour over the $15 wage considered to be a “living wage”.
What I’m excited about is that so far, the pandemic has exposed the barbarity and the inefficiency of a for-profit health care system. It has also exposed the consequences of allowing our resources to be used to destroy other cultures rather than humanize our own. For example, our massive military could have been used to build hospitals instead of bombing hospitals in other countries. Another hopeful sign of positive change is that suddenly, the value of the low-paid people who do the vast majority of the actual work in this country has suddenly been recognized. Many workers deemed “essential”, none of which are billionaire CEOs, have been given temporary wage raises that may actually be sufficient to temporarily pay their skyrocketing rents. Plus, it is now being widely recognized that workers having no sick pay in addition to a minimum wage that hasn’t been raised in a quarter of a century is inhumane, but more importantly, puts rich people at potential risk.
In short, we are being provided with a much needed reminder of the reality of our interconnectedness, and shown, in detail, how competitive capitalist nationalism is a selfish, idiotic, and destructive refusal to acknowledge that reality. Just one glance at the empty shelves in our supermarkets provides an in-depth look at the extent to which this inhumane system has eroded our humanity. How constant economic terrorism has replaced generosity and compassion with selfishness and fear. This is our opportunity to create a more just and equal global society, not just temporarily, but permanently. Let’s not fuck it up. Here’s an intelligent conversation on the subject.
I had to get off the Zoloft, so had just been doing the eat, sleep, work routine of mind-numbing boredom when suddenly, the Census called and said it was safe enough for me to go door to door wearing a mask! I’ve been busy doing that to earn money since almost nobody where I live is hiring during the pandemic and for every opening for a bearable job, there are about 240 applicants. Having three part time jobs at once keeps you too busy to work on your suicide note On Sundays, I got time and a half AND an extra shift differential for bothering people during dinner. I may have made enough money in just six weeks to lose my eligibility for low-income housing! More tomorrow.