The Epidemic

I didn’t know Anthony Bourdain like some of you did. I admired him from afar. I knew he was a world traveler, a chef, a brilliant storyteller, a dad, a former heroin addict and the boyfriend of Asia Argento. I’d see the CNN commercials for his show and say, “Man, I have to see that,” but I never did. Never had the time or the energy to set the DVR.

When we lose someone to suicide I think, “Damn, he/she lost the war.” Or, “I never would have thought that he/she was fighting the same war that I’m fighting.” But then I remember that depression is so easy to mask. There’s that wide smile for the public and the tears for when you’re alone; the tears that run down your face like a hard summer rain.

Millions across the globe fight the same war and millions lose each year. In America we lose, on average, 44,965 people to suicide each year. That’s 7,000 more people that can fit into Boston’s Fenway Park. On average, 123 people commit suicide each day.

It’s an epidemic.

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I don’t think I was completely aware of my problems until I was in my forties. Before that I accepted that I grew anxious in crowds, experiencing new things, and meeting new people. If the situation allowed it, I’d drink into oblivion. Instead of being uncomfortable, I would make everyone else uncomfortable.

While intoxicated, the words would fly out of my mouth with precision aim. I was opinionated, argumentative at times but not in a violent or frightening way. I made sense (at least to me). But if there wasn’t any liquor or if having any was a social faux pas, I’d take deep breaths, wring my hands, occasionally dragging them through my long hair. When people approached me, I recoiled. I was always looking for the person or party who brought me to the event. Aftewards I wanted to kick myself for being so anti-social, so anxious. “Why couldn’t I be like everyone else?”

I was late to the internet. When I finally made my first footprint on the internet, Facebook had been around for a year or two and Twitter was something I read about in the news. I thought Twitter was some sort of news ticker that I had no way of joining. But when I joined the internet, I realized I wasn’t alone with my anxiety and depression. I was not only alone but I learned there were medications that could control how I was feeling. The crux of it all was that I had to go to a doctor to get them and I hated doctors. With a passion. I wasn’t scared to visit a doctor but the process made me anxious. I went from my teens through my late twenties without seeing a doctor. My streak ended when my appendix nearly exploded in my body.

Flash foward to the mid ‘00’s through the mid ’10s. My family was gone (left because they’d had enough) and I was alone. I self-medicated with liquor. It was how I did things. After each session, I begged to die. I took sleep aids with the liquor to push it along. They made me sleep hard and wake up groggy and hungover. No death. I felt ashamed. Ashamed that I had tried and failed, ashamed that I even tried at all.

Six months ago, after decades of self-medicating with alochol, I was prescribed Xanax. Xanax and Paxil (prescribed four years before) became my partners-in-crime. I was less anxious, less suicidal, less likely to self-medicate with alcohol than I was ten years before. The suicidal thoughts continued but they don’t dominate me. They don’t push me to the edge. I know where the edge is but I keep doing what I’m doing.

Things continue to be difficult (I don’t think they’ll ever be easy) but I can manage it. Life is not about winning, it’s about how long you can stay in the game, how long you are willing to stay in the game. I’ve heard this a zillion times but I get it now. It’s part of how I keep rolling along.

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Mother’s Son

My mother died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1995. It took a few months from diagnoses to death. I don’t know why I didn’t notice the fatigue, the yellow skin, etc. I didn’t even realize she was drinking uncontrollably. It all seems obvious now that she was both mentally and physically ill.

I would get calls from her at all hours. Her voice slurred, she’d either tell me she loved me over and over again or how disappointed she was in me, that I didn’t visit enough.

As I grow older I have learned to accept that I am my mother’s son. Well, minus the diabetes and liver disease. So far, at least. I drink uncontrollably at times. I’m not as self destructive as I was in my youth but there are days. I am a quiet drunk, a sleepy drunk. I’m not talky.

I don’t remember having the support for depression and anxiety back when my mother was alive or when I was younger. I don’t know why I drank so much and so hard, made decisions that could have caused great injury or death, or felt a need to argue and fight with my loved ones about the most trivial things. I made life a living hell for some people. I thought I was just fucked up and there was no way I could be fixed. Then the internet came along and I found people who were just like me and learned that there was medication and support. I didn’t have to feel hopeless.

I’m not ‘fixed’ but I function within normal parameters. I don’t drink the day before I have to devote a large amount of attention to something. I refuse to make other people’s lives a living hell. Now I am willing to sit down and discuss things without screaming and shouting. Trivial things are trivial things and they are put in their place. Things have changed.

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if my mother would have taken a similar journey like mine. How it would have been like to have her around as I close in on the big 5-0.

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The Overnight

A few weeks ago I was asked to exchange my five-day-a-week/eight hour shift for a three-day-a-week/twelve hour shift. The three days are on the weekend and they are during the overnight whereas my old schedule was from 3 PM to 11 PM during the week. That’s not me in the picture below but an incredible simulation.


It’s not bad, though. My commute is a long one and doing it three days a week instead of five is alright. And seventy-five percent of the shifts I’m working are slow as hell. We’re lucky if we receive three emails during the overnight hours. (I won’t get into what I do because that’s another story altogether.)

Early in the shift I was drifting away. My head was bobbing like a broken bobble head doll. But I recovered and I’ve been okay ever since.

This might be a permanent gig for me. It would give me four days to pursue my real passions. I’m jamming a five day work week into three in order to have four days to stay in my neck of the woods and do whatever I want. And what I want is self improvement. I haven’t put a lot of effort into that in recent years and it shows. The blood tests came back last week and I’m a heart attack waiting to happen. “Gotta make some changes,” the girlfriend said. I agree.

I never thought I’d live past fifty years of age. My father died at thirty-seven and my mother at forty-nine. Now I’m worried that I’ll live into my hundreds and feel like shit because I ate a gazillion strips of bacon for fifty years. I’ll sit there drooling and wondering who the hell the people around me are. Occasionally I’ll shout, “Kill me!” but they’ll roll their eyes and tell me to kindly shut the hell up because others are trying to sleep.

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Two Weeks

For two weeks I have tried to ween myself away from social media. I’ve read many articles on the subject, from quitting cold turkey to simply logging off or, going nuclear and deleting the accounts.

I’ve deleted the apps from my phone and promised myself I would only check them on my desktop. I rarely use a desktop since surprise! I am always on the go. I thought that would solve the problem but a few hours later, there I was, downloading the apps and scrolling and scrolling…

I think what bothers me the most is that I lack the discipline to stay offline for more than a few hours. I would consider it an accomplishment to stay off for a day or two. And it’s not like I’m very active on social media. I have my days but they are few and far between. It’s just that instead of spending my time reading or binge watching a show I’ve longed to see, I’m scrolling and scrolling…

Next week is full of offline activities. In theory. I’ve planned dinners with the significant other and her family, doing a little maintenance around the house and reading. I have two books I am dying to finish so I can start another two books immediately thereafter. 2018 was supposed to be the year that I read a gazillion books. Gotta get my ass in gear.

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300 Writing Prompts

The other day I went to Target and picked up a notebook with 300 writing prompts. A part of me embraces the technology around me; the computers, the sites that you can post your works, etcetera. But sometimes I like writing in a notebook.

For a few years now I have noticed that my handwriting has suffered. I don’t do it often so naturally it would get worse in time. And I’m not the best typist so I might be out of luck in a few years when it comes to sharing the written word. Buying it gave me stimulation I needed to finally get going when it comes to writing and work on my handwriting.

The first prompts were easy. The first one asked how I spent my lazy days. I spent them watching TV, or playing my Playstation or reading. The second one asked if I ever spoke up when I saw something unfair happen. I have. I wrote about the time I was walking down a dark avenue and heard an argument between a man and a woman. It was loud, there was shoving, crying. I walked over to the payphone (this was pre-cell phone days) and called 9-1-1. When I hung up I looked over and saw the man shove the woman into a car and drive away. That was it. I have no idea how it turned out for them.

I hope this prompt notebook gets me going. It’s been so long since I’ve written anything worthwhile.

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Last Night

I witnessed a road rage incident while heading home last night. An SUV in front of me was delayed somewhat by the driver of an old Nissan Sentra who was backing into a parking space.

The driver of the SUV laid on his horn and the driver of the Nissan Sentra must have done something offensive ( I couldn’t see because the SUV was blocking my view) because the SUV’s driver jumped out of his vehicle and angrily charged at the Nissan. His wife jumped out of the passenger side a few minutes later in complete hysterics.

A few seconds later there was a loud boom. The Nissan no longer had a driver’s side window. Most of it was on the Nissan driver’s lap. I heard the Nissan driver cry out, “Are you crazy? Get back in your car! Get the fuck back in your car!”

And the SUV’s driver did. He got back in and drove away, a police cruiser in hot pursuit. I guess he didn’t realize there was a police car a few cars behind us.

Anyway, what the hell is wrong with people?

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