April 23, 2013 – Still exhausted

I’m finding I can’t seem to get enough sleep, much less feel rested. Right now my schedule consists of waking up, getting ready for work, going to work, coming home, eating, then going to bed again. It’s 8:45pm and this is a late night for me of late. I’m awake at odd hours in the night from time to time, but overall I need about 10+ hours of sleep just to get through the day. My mood is still pretty good overall, but physically I feel tapped out. This too is a cycle.. I just wonder how long this will last. When the exhaustion was bad before I was on a fairly strong (prescribed) dose of Adderall to keep me awake. Have you ever known anyone to take 40mg of Adderall XR, then sleep for several hours right after? I have to wonder if this is more of a reaction to external stress than it is something physiological. It’s hard to say… I am looking forward to leaving my job when my wife finds work in the city we’re moving to. Given the job market there, I think it’s time for a working-life reboot for me. We’ve talked about me getting a new (used) camera to replace my aging one. I’m actually in a good enough mood most days to actually consider doing portraits again without depressing whomever I’m photographing. There’s only a couple of other things I need equipment-wise to make that a reality.

My mind is swimming with many things I want to write about, but right now I need sleep.

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…Sometimes it’s harder to accept that it’s going to be alright..

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Just because someone has physically removed themselves from an abusive situation doesn’t mean that everything is automatically better. I’m 17 years older than when I moved out and some days the feeling of safety and knowing that things are going to be ok are terrifying. That’s often hard for people to understand. It feels safer to stay in that guarded place than to let go. The fear of things somehow going back to the way they were from a better place causes a visceral terror. This is why it’s hard for some to let go and move on. I know it’s going to be ok. And it scares the hell out of me. Some days, that is. It takes time.

April 15, 2013 – Horrified…

I.. Ugh.. It took me an hour and a half to conform that everyone I know and care for in Boston was okay, at least physically that is.. A friend sent me a text a few minutes into her commute home. She said it’s silent – completely silent in the packed rail car. People look scared and worried. She’s scared and worried, too. I’m scared and worried for her…. I’ve asked her to let me know when she’s made it home.

I’ve heard such profoundly ignorant things from the mouths of people in regards to terrorism and our constant need for war. I wish more people would stop and ask themselves the reasons for such things other than make assumptions or look at things from an us or them perspective. Sure, I’ve had times where I’ve felt the need and felt justified to use violence just as others have felt the same with me. I think in some situations violence is a reasonable and appropriate response. If someone is willing to try to compromise, then by all means, compromise… As blindingly infuriated as I am about what’s happened in Boston today, I am disheartened by the comments I’ve heard surrounding it. People’s true opinions and feelings come out when tragedy hits. Has anyone ever stopped to consider that they know as little about the people they profess to hate with ever fiber of their being as the people whom are attacking innocent people? It’s the idea that they hate. It’s the ignorance they have about a people, a culture and an ideology. It’s the same thing that’s cost the collective billions of lives over the centuries. Are people so naive as to think that an entire country woke one day and decided to pick a fight with the worlds largest military superpower? Even an unwashed uneducated public couldn’t get behind such a bad idea. So, for my sake and the sake of my unborn children and the futures of us all now and for the generations to come – ask yourselves why. Research. Learn. Understand. When you start to understand, reach out – try to gain mutual understanding. All of this blind depersonalized and dehumanized hate will only be met by others feeling the exact same way. I’m not saying we’re responsible for this mess.. Not at all. What I am saying is that by remaining fearful and complacent in the way things are we can’t expect things to change. I’ve seen too many young people who aren’t even old enough to be trusted with alcohol in the eyes of the law here getting shipped over to fight in wars that they can’t even begin to understand, much less comprehend what they are doing there in the first place given that wars are started by men in suits who will never see battle first-hand. If a leader isn’t willing to lead head-long into battle with his army, then there’s a good chance that the conflict isn’t something that they believe in strongly enough to risk spilling their own blood. But there seems to be absolutely no problem with spilling the blood of our children. I have my own opinions about why our country has done horrific things politically and militarily for so long, but I don’t have a full picture of the complexity of it all. I, just like the people that “we” fear so much am trying to keep a roof over my head, food on the table and relative safety for my loved ones. The way some talk though, you’d believe there are daily “how can we f’up the Americans” meetings. That’s not reality….

So, my heart aches for those who have been touched by this tragedy. My heart also goes out to the countless lives that will be lost as result of it overseas and for the families that will be grieving soon as well. We need to stop this cycle. I know it won’t happen all at once and I know there will be a tremendous amount of bloodshed before we reach an understanding.. It will be never-ending if we don’t try to understand and educate ourselves though. Find common ground. We’re all just trying to do what’s best by those we care about. Put yourselves in their shoes – what would drive you to this point? What would it take? I’m not asking you to try to fully understand – just to think. Think critically and objectively.

April 14, 2013 PM – Exhausted

Exhausted, but in a mostly good way, that is.

Out of respect for her privacy (if I’m ever outed here), I won’t say anything specific other than my wife is struggling with some things right now unrelated to us or me. She confided in me the other morning, long before sunrise about it. This is rare – she has a tremendous amount of difficulty with talking about it. It’s hard seeing her going though this, but it’s one of those necessary things. I’ve been there. It sucks on many, many levels.

We’ll be relocating this year, as I’ve mentioned in a previous entry. She’s lived in this part of the country for the entirety of her life. In fact, she’s lived in about a 30 mile radius of her home town her entire life, so she’s wanting to stretch her legs for a number of reasons. I’ve moved across the country three times. Once from Michigan to Seattle, Seattle back to Michigan and then Michigan to Massachusetts. This will be move number four for me – back to Michigan.

My wife and I spoke about the more mundane and practical parts of the move this weekend. What we’re taking, what we’re selling and what we’re giving away. We also have tried to figure out how we’re going to manage getting two cars, two cats and an elderly dog to travel well for 14-16 hours. Chances are the pets will be with me and I’ll not stop along the way other than briefly for gas and food. Anyway… Details are still being hashed out.

Moving across the country or over a great distance is hard. You don’t expect to miss an area that much when you go, and once you do it’s not exactly practical to go back for a quick visit. Everything and everyone you’ve known are back in that one place (if you’ve not moved around a lot outside of a small area). The isolation really hits you. I’ve considered myself to be an introvert, but I’m really not. If anything I’m just more inclined to keep to myself for other reasons. My wife is the same way. Neither of us are the lively life of the party types. Far from it, really. I have a lot of friends and family back in Michigan. My wife is happy with being part of my family, dysfunction (tremendous dysfunction) aside. When I mentioned that she’ll likely feel very alone, she said that she’d be fine – she really likes my father and the rest of the family that we’ll see on a somewhat regular basis. I just know that the first 6-8 months in a new place is the difficult adjustment period. It takes that long to really know the roads and places you like, to meet some new people and maybe be part of a larger circle of friends – that sort of thing. The move to Seattle and back was difficult, but was overall ok. I did have a crippling depression while there though when the company I had moved there to work for had fallen apart and I was many weeks behind in pay (which I never saw). I had to call my father for help in moving back across the country. There wasn’t any other work to be found there at the time and all of my money had been used up. I lost everything – literally everything except for my car and some clothes. Moving here though 7 years ago was harder. I had become closer to my family and friends since moving back from Seattle. I wanted to move though. I’d even say that I needed to. My wife describes her desire to move as more of a need than a want. I get that – I really do, given my understanding of what she’s looking for.

My wife is the sentimental type. If I give her a sweet hand-written card she’ll often well up with tears and give me a nice hug. I always give my wife hand-written cards. The messages in regular cards are too impersonal and just signing my name under someone else’s words feels insincere to me. Anyway, I wanted her to be able to take something real and tangible from here – from her home that she’s always known for when that inevitable homesickness sets in. I had read something about a terrarium a few days ago and it seemed like a good idea, so yesterday I went out early before she was up and gathered most of the things necessary to make one. I gathered stones from one of her favorite beaches here and today we bought local-grown plants for it. She must have liked the idea for it. She picked up a second glass enclosure today for her other plants here that she wants to take with her. She cried this morning after a long pause as we talked about moving. She said she wanted me to take a portrait of her, her mother, her grandmother and niece all together (I’m a decent photographer) before we move. Her grandmother is quite old and her health is questionable. She said that when we move and she says her goodbyes to her family that it will likely be the last time she sees her grandmother alive before we’d be able to visit next. This made me tear up as well. I was with my grandmother at her bedside when she died. I was the only family member there with her even though she protested. I still miss her a lot and I’m still glad I was there with her even though at the time it was excruciating.

I want to do something more than just give her a photograph of her together with them though. Her grandmother doesn’t speak any English and I don’t speak Portuguese, so there’s more than a little barrier there. Her grandmother is also unable to read or write. My father has been telling me parts of the story of his own life. It’s odd, the things you miss or simply aren’t aware of about your parents when you’re growing up. So many things I simply had no idea of. The pictures we often paint of our parents and loved ones tend to cast the light upon them that we choose to see. There are many sides to our loved ones just as there are with us. We don’t show our parents certain sides or tell them certain things just as they don’t tell us things. My father and I have broken down that wall. Last fall when I was hospitalized I couldn’t deny things anymore and I certainly didn’t want to hide any longer. So, we’ve reintroduced ourselves and gotten to know each other, rather than holding onto the ideas we have of each other. I’m glad to know these stories now and I’ll hold onto them when he’s gone someday. It’s not a day I’m hardly ready for, but I don’t think anyone is if they’re close to their parents. Anyway, I want my wife to have these stories of her grandmother’s life. I’m thinking of taking my laptop and a decent microphone with me to see her and have her tell me the story of her life – in her words, in her voice. If it takes a couple of hours or several visits, I want to have that for her. It will help me to know the story of her family, too.

It’s an odd thing to me.. I remember walking through Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston to take photos a few years ago and there were small headstones and large mausoleums there. Some of the headstones were more like monuments to certain people speaking of their greatness, where as others simply had a name and their birth and death years. Sure, there were great people with prominence or notoriety, but there are so many people that you’ll not hear of past their own death. The only people that would care of their story are those whom were touched by them in some meaningful way. Most people mean something significant to someone, but beyond a couple of generations are people remembered or known for who they were? A couple of paragraphs on a monument or large headstone are the summary – a highlight reel of a more complex life and a far more complex person. So to me, having someone tell their story in their own words and choosing what they deem to be important to tell is a gift for them and their loved ones. If I do this for my wife’s grandmother I won’t have the pleasure of knowing what she’s saying. Sure, my mother in law will be there and could translate, but I don’t want that to interrupt or overshadow her simply being able to speak freely at her own pace. Aside from that… I don’t know what else to do.. There’s all this stuff about people living on in your hearts or dreams, which is true to some degree, but I wish I had more than a photograph of my grandmother or a photograph of my best friend who died many years ago. I don’t even remember my friends voice anymore. I remember details of her accent, but the tone of her voice is gone from my memory. Her laughs, her cries, her giggling, the way she’d say “I love you.” That’s all gone. The emails are all gone too. All that’s left is that photo of her.. The same of my grandmother, too.

It was chilly here today. We drive to Newport, RI this morning, which is only a few miles south of where we live. We drove down the streets looking at the shops, then stopped at Starbucks for something to drink. We drove past the mansions and down Ocean Drive, part of which is still closed for repairs from hurricane Sandy. We sat and talked a little and just took in that ocean air smell. If only we could bottle that and take it with us. My memory is so dodgy at times.. That’s part of why I love photos. If I take that photo, at a mere glance I can recall with great detail and accuracy the things surrounding that photo. I can recall the day, the time it was taken, what the weather was like, other events from the day, how I was feeling and what was going on in my life. My photos are my mental diary and my memory is somewhat bound to them. Each photo means something to me. Some may look and see a photo they love for aesthetic reasons, or some might actually feel something looking at my work, but I feel it for a whole other reason. For me it’s a documentary thing. I’m chronicling what I see. I tend to see beauty in the everyday – the often overlooked mundane. Much like I see people that are passed by or are greatly unnoticed. I see everyday hero’s, not just those in medicine or public service, but the kind barber who always brightens people’s day. My barber is from Syria and he’s one of the most kind and friendly people I’ve ever met. I ask him about his family every time I see him and he really appreciated that I remember and ask. He’s someone I want a portrait of before we move. With any luck I’ll get his email address – I care to maintain contact. He’s such an interesting person and has stories to tell of a part of the world that I’ll likely never see.

I don’t fully understand my need – not desire – my need, to photograph and document things. I do share some of it with the world. I’ve had photos published and it’s always a wild feeling when that happens. I’ve never sought publication. The times that I’ve been published it’s been from my portfolio online or blog entries from a blog I’ve not maintained in years. It’s odd when something I’ve written gets picked up as well. Apparently some things resonate with people.

I’m rambling now… Sorry about that. Thoughts are all over the place tonight. I’m feeling pretty good, but I can’t concentrate. I need to get some sleep. I need to be up in 5 hours for work.

April 11, 2013 – Not again…

I can feel it trying to set in again.. I’m resisting, but if it’s like any other time in the past, the resisting is futile. I mustn’t let this happen. It’s been months – months! The medication is working – it has been working for some time now. I can’t go back to that place.. I simply can’t..

The world around you fades to the point where you barely notice it. You retract into your mind and are consumed by your thoughts, feelings and memories. There’s a heaviness to this feeling. It weighs upon your soul so deeply that you can physically feel your chest weighted down. You feel the muscles in your face lose all sense of expression. You’re told you look sad by others around you. This is the first part of it. Part of you wants to say that you are sad – that you’re terrified. Terrified that you don’t know how long it will last and that it’s completely out of your hands. If you’ve ever been in a car accident and had seen it coming, this is what it’s like. You see where you are heading and you know it’s going to cause you tremendous pain. You feel weak. Your body starts to feel heavy. You want to fall to your knees and beg for mercy. Why does this keep happening? Will it ever stop? You become starkly aware of how this will affect your life.. How it will strain your marriage, your friendships and the relationships with your family – provided any of them still speak to you. With each cycle you find yourself more and more isolated than the last. You go into hiding – you have to hide in plain sight. If others see another cycle this might be the time that they give up like so many before. This may sound like paranoia, but these cycles have destroyed so many relationships, romantic or otherwise. It’s caused such strain that you can hear the irritation in the voices of those closest to you as you repeat the same things. You become irritated as they tell you essentially the same things they have in the past. The implication always being that this is a choice and if you just tried harder or changed your perspective that this would fade or go away. Your inevitable withdrawing socially is taken any number of negative ways, most commonly being selfish in some way. There’s no sense of being alone like that of being alone in your own mind with this. Even if you can muster the strength and energy to talk about it, there’s no way of describing how this feels to anyone. I’ve had horrific physical injuries that had years of lasting pain. Pain so terrible that I wasn’t able to even walk without heavy pain medications. That doesn’t even come close to the amount of suffering that you experience with chemically-based depression. It’s a double-hit of depression though. There’s the chemical component, but there’s the cognitive part to it too. The cognitive part is the guilt – guilt for simply being born this way. For being defective. For failing to overcome it. It feels like a personal failure on a deeply personal level. I’ve had a couple of people tell me to stop being weak with this. Weak? Live with this. Get through a day without finding a way to end your pulse and rid yourself of this mortal prison. This is by no means weakness. There’s shame with this too. Emotional suffering for most growing up in this culture is met with harsh judgments and whispers. You’re looked down on as if you’re less a person for having “those problems”. You hear people say such cruel things about those who suffer from mental or emotional maladies. You don’t hear such cruelty in relation to physical injuries. When you hear those close to you whispering or talking very softly as you enter a room and things go silent as soon as you’re noticed it strikes you at the very core. When your spouse is subjected to this it’s terrible. Terrible for them as others pass harsh or fearful judgment on you. They are damaged simply by proxy, as if living with you though these cycles time and again isn’t cruel enough. You don’t hate yourself, but you do hate the condition. It’s hard to know where the line between you and the condition lies though, so your hate is equally confused. I’m a valuable person. I’m a loving and loyal husband, friend and relative. I offer a lot to those close to me. When shit really hits the fan, I’m the one that’s called – I’m one of the most reliable people you’ll ever know. When the chips are down, I’ll always have your back. The thing is though… I cause a lot of grief too. Objectively I do more good than bad in the lives of those closest to me, but not by a large margin. Even my (current – third) marriage has been on the brink within the last year. Not theoretically, but where us splitting was imminent. If my wife hadn’t learned about how suicidal I was last fall she’d surely have surely left. I didn’t play the “if you leave I’ll kill myself” card. I didn’t tell anyone aside from one close friend.

So, here I sit.. Looking down into darkness wondering if I’ll lose my footing and take the plunge again. I don’t want to. I am resisting it. The sad thing though, I’m completely at the mercy of my biochemistry. With everything else going haywire in my body, the imbalance may be a direct result. I don’t know.. I hope this is a passing feeling. I hope that in the next day or two I’ll wake feeling fine again. The onset for me is so, so rapid. I may be in the thralls of this cursed condition by night’s end. This is the part I hate most. It’s chemical. There’s not anything I can do about it. I get to sit here and wait.

Fuck me….

For anyone that’s reading this and are concerned, I’m not going to give up fighting. I’ll get through this. I always do. Having had medication that’s worked has reignited my sense of hope. I can carry on when it’s bad. I carried on through far worse times than last fall. Last fall was about losing all hope. I have hope now, and I’m damn resilient. I’ll get through this as I have every time before. If this does go full-swing though, I’m going to write about it. It’s for my own reference as well as anyone wanting to know what this condition is like. This started to set in a couple of hours ago. It’s odd trying to frame depression in the same context as being attacked, but that’s what it’s like when it’s chemical. It comes out of nowhere. You feel sucker-punched.