Hell is a Waiting Room…

…and the worst kind of music is played in this waiting room. It’s the waiting room for my shrink. I’m already irritable, because I know my visit with the shrink will be short, and I’ll put on a happy face and tell him all is well, when all I need him to do is approve my meds.

It’s not the meds that have me irritable, it’s having to take them.

And now I’m sitting in his waiting room, and the worst kind of Muzak is playing. Piano-laden version of “Wind Beneath My Wings” or some Dan Fogelberg track. This sonic assault would make me want to slash my throat in the waiting room, but thankfully I’m not suicidal. I’m far too vain for that. But I could have gone the rest of my life without hearing an even softer version of Christopher Cross’ “Sailing.”

I’ll bet he’s a depressed motherfucker. No one could write music that trite and be happy.

I’m amazed no one has tried to smash the speakers. I would be so inclined. Seriously, doctors need to rethink the music they pipe in their waiting rooms. If you’re trying to make me docile, it’s doing the opposite; it’s like poking a grizzly bear until it snaps.

No one needs to feel more depressed than what they already are by having to listen to this crap.

The Best-Laid Plans (Often Fall By the Shitter)

Several months ago, in the spirit of the New Year, I decided to set some personal goals for myself for this year. I wrote a lengthy blog post about setting realistic goals and finding ways to make myself more accountable for the things I want for myself.

I set for myself the following primary goals:

  • Continue with my diet and exercise regimen
  • Spend every available moment with Jaime and Sophia and make that time count.
  • Meet with my therapist once a week
  • Read one book per week
  • Write 8-10 hours/1,000-2,000 words per week
  • Post 3 blogs per week.

These primary goals have since gone by the wayside, ever since life got in the fucking way.

With May coming to a close, I thought I’d publicly humiliate myself take a look at the goals I’d set for myself and see how far I’ve gotten in achieving these goals. Drumroll, please.

  • Diet and Exercise: I was the Paleo diet kick, eat the way our cavemen forefathers eat. Lots of protein, zero processed foods. It was a bit of a bitch at first, as the sugar withdrawals were unbearable, but I grew to really enjoy Paleo-centric eating. I was also running again, and because Paleo was helping me feel lighter, I was able to run longer distances and not feel as worn out. But since my job’s become something of a 60-hour-a-week job, and with all the stress about possible relocations and a new home purchase and the uneasy feeling that we may be able to afford the new home after all, the diet and exercise has given way to apathy and emotional eating. I know I shouldn’t beat myself up about this, but I really feel like a shit. Oddly enough, I haven’t put on weight. Go. Fucking. Figure.
  • Time with my wife and daughter: No problems there. If anything, living in an apartment over the past eight months has meant we’re spending every available moment together, whether we like it or not. All kidding aside, I can’t complain. I want to spend more time with Jaime, and more time with Sophia. This is a complete win for me.
  • Meet with my therapist once a week: AND THANK THE GODS FOR THIS, BECAUSE IF I DIDN’T HAVE SOMEONE FOR WHOM MEDICAL INSURANCE DIDN’T PAY FOR ME TO BITCH TO ONCE A WEEK, I MIGHT JUST DO SOMETHING REALLY FUCKING STUPID. LIKE WRITE AN ENTIRE BLOG POST IN ALLCAPS.
  • Read one book per week: I’ve read fourteen books so far. For some of you voracious readers who read a book a day, you’re probably reading this and thinking to yourselves, “Geez, what a slacker.” Whatever. You have time. I clearly don’t. But I’m making more time for reading. I just started reading The Goldfinch. It’s over 800 pages. Light summer reading to enjoy while lounging by the pool, right? At any rate, one book per week roughly averages to about 50 books per year. I may need to read some James Patterson novels to help me pick up the slack, but then I would feel like a whore while knowing subjecting myself to the literary equivalent of a drunken bachelor party.
  • Write 8-10 hours/1,000-2,000 words per week: Ugh. My writing schedule’s been so ridiculously inconsistent, writing only in fits and uninspired spurts. I did manage to crank out seven short stories over the past few months, but my WIP is simply sitting there, waiting patiently for me to pick it up again. I’m almost afraid to , as if I don’t know how to even write it, or even a sentence, anymore. Think I’m joking? I just bought this course as a refresher. Hey, I’m not ashamed to admit I might need to re-learn how to write a sentence.
  • Blog 3x per week: See above. For a while, this blog was pretty dormant, but I’ve fired it up again, and as many of you may have noticed, it’s gotten a makeover. I realized what better tool for me to bounce off my frustrations than my blog? Why just limit my blogging to musing about the writing process, now that my writing has slowed to a crawl, and whatever I have to declare about writing is just bullshit, anyway?

I did promise that I would not beat myself up for not reaching these goals…OWWW!

I won’t beat myself up.

I won’t beat myself up.

I won’t beat myself up.

On the personal front, I want three things to happen:

  • I need to hit the pavement, and start running again. Even if it’s just fifteen minutes of me sucking wind. I need to shake off the cobwebs and send a shockwave through my system and jumpstart my drives again.
  • Give my WIP the attention she deserves. She shouldn’t be treated like a neglected housewife. This means I need to have at least a draft done by the fall, and revisions by Christmas.
  • Keep blogging 3x per week. Even if it’s just me babbling excitedly about the new Led Zeppelin reissues. In vinyl, no less. Hmm…maybe now I’ll finally buy me that turntable I’ve been dreaming of…

I won’t beat myself up.

Christians Behaving Badly, Or: There’s One in Every Family

Every family has one, that crazy relative that’s chock-full of badly-formed opinions and wants to get in your face about them. Maybe it’s your slightly senile grandmother. Maybe it’s that off-the-grid uncle no one likes to talk about. Hell, maybe it’s you. In my side of my family, it was my mother, and her sister. Clearly, there was a loony gene there, which, hooray for me, was passed down to me. My mother was prone to fits of violent outbursts and emotional abuse. My aunt was irrationally impulsive, at times bordering on the comically homicidal. I say comically because not a day went by where she didn’t threaten to either kill someone or herself. She’s done neither so far, but that doesn’t mean she still isn’t capable.

On my wife’s side, there’s her aunt. Let’s call her S. Crazy Aunt S. I’m not saying this lightly: she’s a psychiatrist’s wet dream, the very reason why the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders even exists.

Add to her mental instability is her religious fervor. She’s a born-again Christian. You know the type, the one who wants to tell everyone within earshot how much she’s been filled with God’s love, all the while conveniently ignoring the fact that she’s an insufferable asshole with the maturity of an 11-year-old boy who’s just discovered his daddy’s stash of nudie magazines. Oh, and a chronic liar, to boot.

Yes, liar. I’ll get to that in a bit.

For someone who talks a lot about loving everyone, her hatred for gays rears it’s ugly head frequently. Case in point: at a monthly dinner with her high school graduation class, one of her former classmates spoke to the group about his decision to come out of the closet many years ago. It was a difficult decision for him to make, being he came from a family of Southern Baptists, but a decision his family came to accept.

S wasn’t having any of this gay shit. She stopped at nothing to humiliate him in front of the entire group. “God won’t accept faggots into Heaven. You better repent or you’ll go to Hell when you die.” When S was told to keep her opinions to herself, she declared, “I am a good Christian and I am straight and I am going to Heaven!” And if her point wasn’t made enough, she continue to spew her venomous rhetoric on the HS reunion group’s Facebook page. She’s since been booted, but S declared its because she’s taken a principled stand against liberal permissiveness.

It’s one thing to spew hateful rhetoric towards others based upon their race, gender, religious or sexual preference. It’s another to hide behind the laughable yet offensive hypocrisy of “being a good Christian” to justify your rancor. Because S is anything but a good Christian. A Christian Behaving Badly, really.

Let’s use the holiest of Judeo-Christian principles, the Ten Commandments, to determine how good a Christian S is:

THOU SHALT NOT STEAL: Over the years, S has made it her personal mission to defraud as many government agencies as possible. Social Security, Medicaid, the Department of Social Services, Food Stamps. She claims poverty when she has assets, liquid assets at her disposal.

THOU SHALT NOT COVET: Being that this is the commandment that everyone’s guilty of not paying heed to – George Carlin’s legendary riff on the Ten Commandments basically called this commandment “bullshit,” as coveting fuels the economy – I won’t give S too much shit, but she’s a greedy fucker. Any way she can get get get without giving anything in return is a win-win for her.

THOU SHALT NOT COMMIT ADULTERY: She cheated on her husband. She cheated on the man she lived with (in sin!)…with his brother, no less.

THOU SHALL HONOR THY MOTHER AND THY FATHER: Let’s see…S robbed her parents of money and medication, used their social security numbers to open department store credit (which she never bothered to pay), and as they grow older and sicker, mishandled or outright denied them of basic medical needs.

A good Christian? No. A fucking hypocrite, plain and simple. She’s quick to judge a gay man living comfortably under his own skin, which begs the question: why, as a so-called “good Christian,” are you so fucking worked up over homosexuality in the first place? After all, if there is a God, isn’t it God’s work to judge who’s going to Heaven and who’s burning in Hell? If so, then let God judge.

If you ask anyone, they’ll tell you I’m the least judgmental person they’ll know. I simply do not and will not judge others. But I will call people out on their bullshit. Especially bullshit wrapped up in “good Christian” hypocrisy. And S is all full of “good Christian” hypocrisy.

Doesn’t read to me like the makings of a good Christian, does it? But in her mind, she is one, because a) she attends church every Sunday, so she’s good with God on the attendance thing, b) she hates faggots, like all good Christians do, and c) she votes Republican. The last point is an irony completely lost on her, as she’s exactly the kind of votes the GOP pays lip service to yet actively despises. If a complete Republican-run executive and legislative branch of our Federal government had its way, all those social programs Crazy Aunt S uses like her government-sponsored ATM would go the way of the dodo. A good thing, maybe, because then that might force her to, you know, stop being such a lazy cunt. Then again, it’s her fraud that’s the reason why Medicaid and SSI and Food Stamps are always on the GOP’s crosshairs, and someday when these programs do run out, the people that do actually depend on these social safety nets, honest, hard-working folks who want nothing more than to not have to depend on a government handout, can thank S for ripping them off like this. Let me know if you want her address and phone number.

I get that S isn’t indicative of any kind of behavior set of Christians everywhere, but having lived in the South (the Bible Belt of America) for nearly 15 years now, I’ve noticed two things: one, people here sure love God and Jesus, and, two, there’s a lot of people that say and do things that go against of a Christian life that Jesus preached in his lifetime. And one of those things is to not be judgmental.

Funny enough, some Christians want to be judgmental because they themselves want to be judged. It’s as if they can’t wait for their day of judgment, so they begin to judge one another, so as if to keep tabs as to who’s going to walk in the Kingdom of Heaven for all eternity.

Well fuck me! Because if the Kingdom of Heaven is filled with the likes of S, and Hell is populated with gays and lesbians and every other sinner, I’ll roast in damnation with the sinners. At least the music will be awesome.

Who the Hell Has Time to Write These Days?

To say it’s a busy and frantic time at Out Where the Buses Don’t Run doesn’t even begin to describe just how…busy and frantic things are. So where should I start?

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we put our home on the market. It was a frustrating process for us, working with an agent who, while is a nice person, doesn’t really act with the kind of urgency or loyalty one really should look for when working with a selling agent. In the month or so since we had our house listed, we had a grand total of five (yes, five) showings. Frankly, we expected more. Our house is very reasonably priced, and with the low property taxes, we figured this house would attract plenty of interested home buyers. We had the house built in 2007, and since we’ve lived in it, we’ve made some custom additions and modifications, such as new paint throughout the house, custom hardwoods in the first floor and master bedroom, new light fixtures, just to name a few. Yet, only five showings. So what gives? Our selling agent’s lack of urgency was a massive source of frustration and agitation for us.

The good thing was our house “showed” very well. In all five showings, we received excellent feedback. The buyer’s agents all informed us the house was priced exactly right (as the market would bear, nor would they have recommended we lower the price), and the home improvements were a definite plus. But when it comes to buying a home, buyers are like Goldilocks: “This house is too big…this house is too small…this house is just right!” When you see the right house, you just know it.

Someone will think this is the right house.

Last week, out of the blue, we got an offer. My wife and I were surprised. When we saw the offer, we were offended. The buyer wanted to take $27,000 off our asking price, AND he was asking for our breakfast nook table set. It’s a granite top table with two bench chairs and two seats. What the hell, if he wants it, fine, but he needs to make a better offer. Also, he wanted the closing to take place the third week of September. That simply wouldn’t work, as my wife would be out of town on business that entire week. We rejected his offer, purely on principle, and made a counter: $219,500, not a penny less, breakfast nook table included, and closing takes place the week of October 14th.

Our selling agent remarked the buyer was a reverend who was relocating with his fiance from upstate South Carolina. I immediately thought of those irritating “What Whould Jesus Do?” slogans that Southern Baptists love to quote so much around here. I thought, “Jesus wouldn’t make such a fucking insulting offer.”

(I didn’t say this out loud; our selling agent is a very nice, church-going lady who probably would have died of sheer shock had she heard me say that. Also, I’m not really knocking WWJD. I know plenty of people who have embraced this as a personal motto and truly mean it, so no real judgment from me here. We good?)

Twenty-four hours later, our selling agent calls us back. The Reverend agreed to our counteroffer, and to the closing date, no questions asked.

My first thought was, “What the fuck? Not even a heated negotiation? He must REALLY love this house!”

My second thought was, “Oh, shit, now we have to move.”

You see, our plan is to build our new home, and it’s a fancy-dancy, slightly bigger, but not so ridiculously expensive new home in a quieter and smaller subdivision. And because this is a custom home builder, and not one of those rack-and-stack home builders that seem to pop up just about everywhere, building new homes in the span of about three weeks, it’s going to take, from the signing of the contract, to the visit with the builder’s home center consultant so we can choose our custom options (i.e., wall paint colors, granite counter style, appliance models, etc.), to the framing and actual building of the home, and, finally, when we close and make the actual purchase and take ownership, this entire process will take approximately nine months.

So from October to June of next year, my wife and daughter, plus a dog and a cat, will be living in a two-bedroom apartment, with the rest of our stuff in storage in the meantime. we’ve found an apartment community we like, and we’re excited. And scared to death.

No wonder I told my psychiatrist I needed something to quell my anxiety. More on that in a bit.
Additionally, things have taken an interesting and pleasantly unexpected turn on the employment front.

My manager reached out to me a few weeks back and casually mentioned that one of his peers is looking to put together a team to spearhead a company-wide initiative, and he thought I would be a good fit. Actually, he was trying to pawn me off on that group: it seems that my funding as a contract employee was about to get cut, but he didn’t want to see me go, so he worked out an arrangement with another business unit. I would be doing exactly what I’m doing right now, as a business data analyst on the Information Technology side, but what his peer is looking for is a subject matter expert (or SME, as we call them in the trade). Apparently, I am that SME. He said that there was a good chance this would happen.

This past Monday, it was official: I would transition to that new business unit as of next week. I had a lovely chat with my soon-to-be new manager, and we discussed expectations. We’re both excited about this; it’s an opportunity to put my own stamp on a role that hasn’t clearly been defined, but it’s something that has my name written alll over it.

The best thing is my contract will be extended longer. Even better is my soon-to-be new manager raised the possibility that my role could be transitioned into a full-time position with the company.

As I said, all of this is pleasantly unexpected. It comes with a tremendous upside. It also comes with gigantic doses of stress and agitation that will leave me anxious. I’ve been living with anxiety throughout much of my life, and while it’s not crippling, it’s also not something I’ve managed well at times. I had a lengthy talk with my shrink about this, and he wants to put me on anti-anxiety meds.

Part of me says yes, do this.

Part of me says, no, learn to cope with your anxiety better.

And something in my life will have to give.

Unfortunately, something’s had to give, and that something has been my writing. I’ve been so damned distracted, so much so that I feel as I have no time to write. Whatever writing that does happen, it happens in rather tepid fits and spurts. I feel like regardless of what’s been going on in my life, I should be making progress, but I can’t, because of time (obviously), and because I’m mentally drained. So when I do sit down to write, what comes out isn’t anything new and fresh, but instead me focusing on what isn’t working with my work-in-progress.

There comes a point where you have to simply look at the progress you’ve made and take stock. Is the progress you’ve made fruitfull, and worth reaping, or are you simply still spinning your wheels in a field of dirt that yields no fruit. Sadly, it’s been the latter, no matter how many times I’ve taken my WIP apart and put it back together. It just isn’t working, and I’m frustrated.

And then I realized, that a WIP is a lot like a relationship – I’ve touched upon this before: sometimes, it’s not you, it’s me. Sometimes, it’s not me, it’s you. In this case, my WIP and I simply aren’t a solid relationship anymore, so it’s time I moved on. Yeah, I’m not the first writer to have abandoned a WIP, and boldly declare that I will someday return to it. And I probably will, but right now, I need a new point of view.

That new point of view did appear before me, out of the blue, last night. A new idea for a WIP. Something that prompted me to actually sit up, with pen and notebook in hand, regardless of the hour into the night, and jot down a three-page outline. I read it again this morning, and it made me cackle.

Cackle with delight, because it’s bat-shit crazy. And maybe that’s what I need, a work-in-progress that gets me to ride the bat-shit crazy train to Gonzoville, stress and anxiety be damned.

ALL ABOARD!!!

A Post-Thanksgiving NaNoWriMo Update, Or: Little Miracles Do Happen

Happy Cyber Monday, everyone! Cyber Monday is a holiday, right? It better damned well be, if my slow-assed internet connection is any indication. Anyhow, I hope everyone’s had a terrific Thanksgiving. Well, at least us Americans have. You non-Americans don’t get to pig out on turkey and stuffing and candied yams and stuffing and more turkey and sweet potatoes and more stuffing and pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce and more turkey for 4 straight days. Suckers. You’ll never know what it’s like to open your fridge and stare at yet more turkey to be eaten, and you just can’t give the turkey to your dogs, because too much turkey can actually kill your dog, so you’re wondering, is it possible to make Turkey Soup? Turkey Pancakes? Turkey Milkshakes? 

Sorry if I just made you puke in your mouth. My Thanksgiving was fine, thank you for asking. What I was most thankful for was the relative lack of leftovers; the turkey and all the trimmings had been devoured by Friday night. We were smart this time: a smaller bird, less side dishes, less leftovers. And no worries.

On to the business of NaNoWriMo…

STATS (as of Day 26)

TOTAL WORDS: 39,038

WORDS PER DAY (AVERAGE): 1,501

The fact that I’m even averaging 1500 words per day is something of a miracle for me. By my count, I’ve lost 6 complete days of writing this month, either because of time away or Thanksgiving. I still think holding NaNoWriMo during November is a shitty idea, but I don’t call the shots, I only write the words. Still, the finish line is within striking distance. Like in the races I run, I can feel myself picking up the pace once the end is within sight. Shit, I can even smell the end of the month from here, and my sense of smell sucks.

I’m a bit more than 10,000 words away from the 50K goal. With five days to go, that rounds out to more than 2,000 words per day. And I am not sweating this. At. All.  But I can’t help but wonder how much progress I would have made had I even had but 3 or 4 of those days I lost. Is it possible I’d be at the 45-47K mark by now? Or would I be at 37-38K, procrastinating like usually, and revving myself up for the mother of all literary surges? Like cramming an entire semester of Molecular Biology in one night. Doable? Hell yes. Crazy? You bet your ass.

Another minor miracle – well, I’m being modest here; the miracle, for me, is pretty massive, but it’s moot if it doesn’t pay off down the road – is my realization as I’m hammering out the ending of the story that Daniel’s story is incomplete, because it dawned on me that I really didn’t know much about him. I knew about his background, his dysfunctional upbringing, but did I really know what the roots of his trauma and his (deadly) dance with bipolarity and schizophrenia were?

So I made the plunge, and what I learned stunned me: the most important character, next to my protagonist, is his father. The father he hardly knew.

I’ve written some truly dark material, even during Thanksgiving – yeah, I begged off and carved out about 2000-3000 words per night this weekend – that came surprisingly easily for me. For one, it’s helped me see some of the traumatic events in my own childhood that have caused me trouble as an adult. It’s also been fun exploring some of my childhood memories: going to Shea Stadium when the early 80s Mets were truly dire, seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark for the first time, wandering the aisles at the local Key Food or Path Mark, just to name a few.

Obviously, fleshing out a protagonist’s back story should have been left for the outlining process, but writing out his childhood memories has become an integral part of the novel itself. And it’s been a liberating experience; I’ve found that the real story was in the past, and not the present, nor the future.

Alright, gang…5 days left. If you’ve finished, and you’ve gotten your novel’s word count validated, then I say fuck you, you fucking showoffs I mean who the fucking fuck hell do you fucking think you fucking are, fucking Hemingway or something job well done! For those of us who are still plugging away, let’s do this. 5 days. No guts, no glory. Make it happen!

Day 14 of NaNoWriMo, Or: Hot Streaks and Breaking the Deadlock

STATS (As of Day 14)

TOTAL WORDS: 20,663

WORDS PER DAY (AVERAGE): 1,475
First, some housekeeping: this is my 50th blog on this site. Normally, I’d say this is cause for a shrug, but I’m pretty pleased I’ve made it this far. This blog wouldn’t be what it is where it not for you, dear reader. Thanks for coming back and reading my blog.

On to the updates…

I’m still about 2,000 words behind pace, but I’m making enough progress to where I’m chipping away at the word count like a fat kid at a cupcake store. Mmm…cupcakes.

You may recall me complaining mildly in my last blog about being stuck. Yesterday, I started allowing the story to come to me, rather than force the story onto paper, and I made something of a breakthrough: I’m killing off a major character at the beginning of the novel. Yes, my antagonist will die in the first chapter. Don’t worry, he’s not actually going to die, but the reader will think he’s dead. Oh no, I just gave it away!

Breaking this Gordian Knot I’d gotten myself to really unleashed the story, and it allowed me to take a less dark path than what I’d been taking recently. I’m letting Daniel be melancholy, and not a snivelling little bitch about his depression. This has also allowed the satire I’d wanted to be prevalent in the story to finally come to light. I wrote a pretty funny scene in which our hero calls an Employee Assistance Program – he’s “employed” as a superhero, after all, and as an employee, he gets medical benefits…seriously – for a referral to a psychiatrist. The dialogue was pretty snappy. I liked it.

Wanna read this scene? Of course you!

——————————————————————————————-

I stayed awake and watched the sun rise from the rooftop. I later went back into the apartment, phone number in hand, but not before pacing somewhat. I dislike talking on the phone to begin with. Finally, I dialed.
“Thank you for calling Meridian Healthcare’s Employee Assistance Program. Your call is important to us. Please listen to our menu options, as our menu options have changed. Press ‘1’ for…” I’m not sure which option to choose, so I press zero for an operator. “Your call may be monitored for quality assurance…”
“Meridian Healthcare, this is Angie speaking. How may I be of assistance to you today?” says the voice on the other line, a bit too cheerful for my tastes this morning. I want to hang up; I can feel my throat tighten.
“Yeah, um…I was calling…um…I need a…a…a referral.”
“Of course, I can help you with that. Can you tell me what kind of referral you’ll be needing.”
“Um…what kind? I don’t understand…”
“What kind of doctor do you need to see? What’s the medical condition you’re seeking treatment for? Do you need to be referred to a primary care physician?”
This should be easy for me, but my head’s swimming right now. I don’t want Angie’s help right now. I take a deep breath. “I’m sorry, I’m not sure how to ask…um…I’m kind of embarrassed…”
“Oh, do you need to see a urologist,” Angie whispers, helpfully. A urologist?
“Oh no no no! I’m fine…down there…yeah…um…oh wow.”
Angie chuckles. “I’m sorry, sir, if I seemed out of line. We can get you the right help you need, and I’m happy to ask you all the right questions. Are you in any kind of physical pain?”
For some reason, I stare at my gut. “No, no physical pain,” I reply. “I…I need to see a therapist.”
“A mental help therapist,” she adds, once again cheerfully but not as loudly this time. “Will you need a therapist, or a medical profession to manage medication.”
“I don’t really know. I’m just depressed, really bad.”
There it was. Someone once said the first step to treating depression is to acknowledge it exists. “I’m sorry to hear that, sir. Um…” I could hear Angie rustling some papers. “Sir, are you in any danger of hurting yourself or someone else?”
“Too late for that,” I blurt.
“Sir? Can you repeat that?”
“Never mind…actually, no, I’m not trying to kill myself or harming someone else. It’s just that I’m very depressed about some people getting hurt over something I did wrong.”
There’s a pause. In my head, I can hear Angie: I know who I’m talking to. She’s saying this in a sing-song voice. I brace myself for the inevitable “Is that you?” question, but, instead, nothing. Just professionalism. “But you’re in no danger right now, is that correct?” she asks. No, I reply.
“I guess I need to see someone who prescribes medicine. Is that a psychiatrist or a psychologist? I can’t ever get that right.”
“A psychiatrist, sir. Okay, can I get your name and social, please?”
“Daniel Torres. ###-##-####.”
“Terrific. One moment while I pull up your account information. Alright, I’m showing that your benefit plan allows you 8 visits at no charge, and all other subsequent visits, should you choose to continue your treatment, will require a $15 copay. Can I have your zip code, please, so I can locate a provider in your area?”
“10022.”
“One moment, please, while I look up a provider. May I put you on hold, Mr. Torres?”
Some more silence. I’m imagining what Angie looks like. Married. Mid-forties. Maybe she’s overweight. 3 kids, ages 10, 7, and 3. Loves needlepoint and baking. She’s been praised for her optimism, but I wonder if she’s truly happy. Is anyone truly happy? My mother asked that once. She said the answer was no. No one was capable of happiness. No one…
“Mr. Torres, thanks for holding. I have the name of a provider in your network. Do you have a pen and paper handy?”
“Hang on,” I reply, looking around slightly frantically for a scrap of paper and something to write with. “Okay, go ahead.”
“Dr. Shawn Stanfield, telephone number 212-###-####. She’s a psychiatrist, and she’s currently taking new patients. Once you make an appointment with Dr. Stanfield, the doctor’s office will file a claim with Meridian, so there’s no paperwork you’ll need to complete, other than whatever paperwork the doctor’s office requires for their purposes. So, again, you’re covered for 8 visits at no cost. Is there anything else I can help you with, Mr. Torres?”
“No,” I sigh. “You’ve been very helpful, Angie.”
“Thank you again for calling Meridian Healthcare, Mr. Torres. You have yourself a very good day.” Her voice is warm and comforting. For some reason, her voice suddenly reminds me of Emma’s voice.
I look around the apartment. I need to clean up, right now. I pick up the piles of clutter I’ve built for myself, throw in some laundry, and grab some cleaners from under the kitchen sink. Several hours later, there are 6 garbage bags piled next to the front door, and not a spot of clutter or trash to be found. The surfaces are clean once again. The apartment smells new, refreshed. The drapes are pulled open, the blinds drawn, there’s sunlight in the apartment in as long as I could remember.
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This section, plus more, was the outcome of a two-hour writing frenzy today. 2 hours, 2,228 words. I love it when I’m in the groove like that.
I’ve also written a pretty tight action sequence, but I’ll share that one with you on my next blog. Speaking of which, by the time I post my next blog, this site will have been viewed more than 2,000 times. Not bad for a blog that’s been online for a little more than two months.

On Depression and the Creative Process

A thoughtful essay on mental illness from tryingtowriteit got me thinking about my own mental state of affairs. I’d been meaning to write something about this for some time now.

Depression has been a part of my life for more than 20 of my 40 years. Half my life, really. Whether it’s been mild depression or serious bouts, depression is an unmistakable aspect of my being. I won’t, however, let depression define me. Not at all.

My personal life has been brutal lately. I don’t want to go into gory details about what’s taken place in my life over the past 12 months. This isn’t the time or place for me to reveal myself so openly, but I will acknowledge, and own up to, the facts: I’ve made some conscious choices in my life recently that have caused a lot of hurt for people that are near and dear to me, people I love. People I should have done a better part loving. And not hurting.

The past 12 months have been an emotional rollercoaster, a juggling act of emotions and thoughts and actions that I fear I’m not mentally equipped to handle properly. One refuge for me has been writing. The novel I’m currently working on – a pseudo fabulist fiction piece about a superhero who comes to the realization that he’s not so heroic – is sort of a mea culpa, an outlet for me to examine choices I’ve made in my life, and how those choices have formed who am I and what I want to do with my life. Writing has become greatly important, urgent, even. Forgive me for the hyperbole, but I get the sense that I’m writing as if my life depends on it.

During this period that’s been taking place in my life recently, I underwent a manic phase unlike any I’d ever undergone before in my life. Even though I was in a self-destructive mode (again, my apologies for not going into further detail here), my writing has never been better. My writing has never been more focused, more muscular. It became clear to me, finally, that after so many years of dabbling with the idea of being a writer, that I more than anything wanted to live the writer’s life.

For a four-month period, my writing was relentless. Ideas were forming quickly before my eyes. I found the words were simply pouring from my pen, and I felt no urge to self-edit. Even better, the Doubt Monster wasn’t rearing his ugly head anymore.

I felt like Bradley Cooper’s character in the film Limitless. What if a pill could unlock your brain’s potential for learning, for creativity? Mania was that pill, along with the circumstances that were driving my mania. The future, my future, was mapped out in front of me. I could see myself as a writer. Finally.

Composition-style notebooks and PBR…ah, the writer’s life!

Fast-forward to this very moment, and my writing has sputtered. I’m no longer writing freehand. I’ve forced myself to outline my novel (a necessary evil, of course). I’m using Scrivener to help me organize. But the truth I’m dealing with right now is that the depression phase I’m going through right now is stiffing my creativity.

Or is it?

The depression phase has had a silver lining: I’ve been able to slow down and give greater thought into what I want my novel to read like. The first draft of the manuscript, forged during the emotional high of mania, is chock full of snappy dialogue and scenes I’ve written that were full of energy, concision, and clarity. But there was no real plot that connected everything together. It was as if mania was simply willing my story into life; how it all pieced together was of no concern. Funny enough, my novel’s making more sense to me, now that I’m in the midst of a depression that’s keeping me up at night and filling me with dread and anxiety.

I’d love to say the manic phase is the phase I’m desperately craving right now, if only to kick-start my writing again. But what I’m missing is the high. And that’s a stupid thing for me to be missing right now, because creativity will always come to function no matter what my mental state currently is. I made the mistake of confusing the “high” with creativity, when in fact I’ve sometimes been at my most creative when I’m at my lowest.

I’m learning to embrace my bipolarity. I’m learning to live with what either mania or depression will do for me, in terms of my creativity. I’m learning to understand the signs, and what those signs mean for me. And I’m learning that maybe, just maybe, my bipolar disorder will make me a better writer.