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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rouse the King, the Jesters are Dying


When I was a child, I reasoned that the world would become what I could imagine. I believed that the push of a thought, the strength of a few words, could alter reality. After all, I used my words to make people laugh, make them cry, and make them wonder. Through my lenses the world revolved at exactly the pace I expected.

This was not arrogance, nor narcissism. It was perception. I had always wondered if the people I encountered were really there or if they were merely my interpretation of people; that perhaps they were who they were only relative to our interactions. How could anyone really know anyone else? People never ceased to transform, to evolve, sometimes right in front of me.

My memory builds monuments to the strangest things: granite faces protruding from the mushy walls of mind, endowed with feeling in place of name. Their plaques list longing, distrust, love, and shame where identity once was etched, the names long since evaporated by the heat of emotion's furnace, melted away as so much wax. But I remember you, the essence of you, that which identifies you as the person I once knew; you are fixed there, static. Your actions are meaningless, I only know your essence is pure or polluted, clear or muddied; that is all I need to know.

I will give you love and laughter, forgiveness and kindness,  if you are hanging in that bright gallery, the one that I wish was the only great hall in this weathered, broken castle. You are among the unsullied and illuminated.

The other, darker, dank repository is for the rest. I cannot enter that place too often or my calm will vanish and I will be devoured by the rages and fears.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Other

As the days trickle by, distancing me in time from my darkest moments, the windows through which I view the collision of events around me change, their shape morphing and undulating, alternately obscuring and drawing into focus my reality. I have made many changes in my life since the awful day when my wife revealed she wanted a divorce. Mostly changes for the better, some movement toward light, away from the shadowed alleys and byways of the hunkered depression of just a few months ago.

But all is not always as it seems in the mind. Not every step is in the right direction, not every rock overturned reveals a treasure. Depression is a tenacious opponent. Its machinations are subtle, its goals oblique and often unfathomable. There are setbacks, traps and blind alleys, along the path away from this demon. The way is rocky and slick and dark; a seeker could easily lose his way.

I was so very proud of myself, so confident of my progress, that I all but abandoned this journal. Instead I tried to brush away the stabs of thought of my wife's indiscretions, of my failings as a husband, of the pain of my children. I knew the thoughts would eventually evaporate, sublimating and rerouting, leaving me with only the memory of the pain they inflict. And so, these thoughts decreased over time - but they never have vanished.

The truth is that I dealt with only one of the matters that my depression had fed upon, destroyed only one of the demons. Now, as I stare, panting, down at the corpse of this hideous beast, I sense a presence, hot and putrid breath on my neck, a barely audible scrape of a razor-claw. I turn and see this other, this new beast, just for a moment, a glimpse of his tattered clothes as he scurries into shadow.

BUT I HAD WON! I scream, the hoarse, animal sound echoing in my mind. I BEAT YOU. THIS IS NOT...FAIR. THIS IS...EVIL.

Why would a disease seek to destroy it's host? Why would my mind seek to defeat me? To destroy me? Why should this be?

But I have only a very brief time for these contemplations, I know. This other, he hunts, circling and measuring. I have to pick up this now somewhat dulled axe again and pursue this new demon, to crush him, end him, bring myself to an easy, restful state in my own mind.

This demon must die. This demon will die. Do you hear me, you Count of Corrosion, you Baron of Bellicosity? I WILL DESTROY YOU AS WELL. Your twin underestimated me, as you have, and paid the price. Never question my strength or my resolve.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

An open letter to the Unbelievers

It has come to my attention that there are those people in this world to whom mental illnesses are a sham, a cop out, a convenient excuse to escape reality, to absolve oneself of responsibility. This letter is a response to that notion.

Reality is subjective. Ask two people to relate  the events after an accident and they will often have very different tales to tell. Give a group of people blue cheese and some will say it is delicious while others will gag. To some, a barking dog is happy to see them; to others, it is a reason for terror. What we perceive, the output from our mind's computer, every firing synapse and its resulting signal, is unique to our mind.

So how do we have any common experience at all? How is it that we can communicate with one another and understand the meaning, come to the same sum at the end of the column of figures? It is through learned patterns, recognition of arbitrary language given to us by our family, friends and community, that our minds can accept a consensus of perception. It is in this way that we accept that thunder doesn't mean the gods are angry or that it is unnecessary to sacrifice a goat when the volcano erupts, while just a few hundred years ago these things were commonplace and generally accepted as part of the human lexicon of knowledge.

But sometimes there is a ghost in the system. Sometimes the machine gives a sum that nobody else can understand. The internal logic of some people's computer is different (different, not "wrong"). In the rhetorical tradition of logic, the Mind Projection Fallacy states that just because we perceive a given phenomenon does not, in fact, mean that it exists. Conversely, how can we then state emphatically that a given phenomenon does not exist? How can we presume to tell anyone that their interpretation of reality is false, or that our own is correct?  [It is important to note that this argument was developed to explain a concept that followed an internal logic which was in direct contrast to the accepted understanding of the fabric of reality. See information related to The Copenhagen Interpretation - Bohr/Heisenberg for more information. It is a fascinating concept. I recommend  H. Margeneau, The Nature of Physical Reality, McGraw-Hill 1950 for a mind-opening primer.]

Because of the subjective nature of our minds, judging any person's understanding of the data their mind collects as wrong or flawed is patently ridiculous. Yes, it often requires a sharp mind to fully understand the intricacies of mental illness; however, that does not give license to dismiss it as psychobabble or "an excuse".

Moreover, ignoring it does not provide any assistance to those who suffer from its often cruel grasp, be they a "diagnosed" person, or the people who love that person. The propensity for people to say "just snap out of it" is a childish and, frankly, stupid practice, designed to absolve those who use that phrase from having to deal with a problem they do not understand.

Unfortunately, too few people are actually willing to lace up the shoes of mental illness and walk a mile in the footprints of those who have trod before them. I implore everyone to try for understanding and empathy, rather than pretend that it doesn't exist.

G. Boccia, June 16, 2012     

Saturday, March 3, 2012


 "I will go mad!", he announced.

"Good idea," said Ford Prefect, clambering down from the rock on which he had been sitting.

Arthur's brain somersaulted. His jaw did press-ups.

"I went mad for a while," said Ford, "did me no end of good."
                                                                                               Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Trilogy


 Two hours of sleep. Fantastic. The last couple of days have been pretty low. I have attempted to write in
 this blog three or four times but all I really wanted to write was "fuck it". Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it. I know
 I need to be more positive, to be more engaged in life, to get back on the horse as it were, but there are
 days when nothing seems to go well, when problems mount, and fuck it is the mantra. I try to redirect
 those thoughts, to find a positive outlet, but sometimes I just can't.

That's ok, though. It really is. One cannot win every battle in a war. Small victories are sometimes the only thing you get. Hey, I managed to get out of bed today and go to work. The rest of the day sucked. Some mistake is made, thoughts lean to black, the whole thing wants to come unraveled. Fall back, regroup, the enemy is still out there, we'll get 'em next time, soldier. I have to view it this way. Otherwise, I really shall go mad like the hapless Arthur Dent.

Medication and therapy, both useful tools for recovery, cannot substitute for effort and resolve. They are there to help facilitate things, to make it easier to continue the fight. Sometimes, it is necessary to at least let the negative thoughts come to the surface, identify them, bring them into the light, so as to realize what things need dealing with. As long as I am still fighting, still have my boots on, it's ok to feel bad. There are situations and circumstances that will come along, some consequences of the disease, that will be unpleasant and negative. Some may be beyond my control. It is ok to look to the sky and say "Oh, come on. What the hell did I do to deserve this?". But I have to know, really know, in the back of my mind, that I will persevere. Until I can look at my reflection and see that resolve, the steel, I will use the medications and therapy.

I will likely have another day, sometime in the near future, like yesterday. It will suck the wind out of me for a little while, knock me down. But I am determined to climb to my feet and keep going. I will win this war. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Manual Transmission

 How many times do I have to say it? How many times do I repeat the words, the mantra of recovery, this fight song? Is there that moment, that singular fiery moment, epiphany, a supernova of healing? The moment when I stand up, facing the future, eyes alive, and say, "I am free of this blackness. I have won!". It seems there must be and if I look hard enough, hold my head just right, I can see the flicker in the distance.

I deserve to be happy. It is the birthright of the free, the refuge of we who deny fate its due, who take control of our lives and our minds. It belongs to me, this happiness, it is mine and mine alone, I have only to find it, to pick it up where I left it, to sling it on my back and walk on. There are setbacks, the lies I still tell myself, the pictures in the hall, their color fading, yellowing, fraying at the edges. I still feel them, hear their whispers, see the flashes, but I will not let them stab quite as deeply. I am the curator here, I run this place, not them. I will not take them down, they will hang there always, reminders of the past, facts now, simple reflections of what was, not some power I cannot control.

Last night, I slept fitfully again. I flopped in my bed like a landed fish, listening to the night sounds, my mind like a DVD on fast-forward, disjointed visions out of sequence. I worried, I planned, I wrestled the damn pictures. I got out of bed, knowing I had a busy hour ahead readying the children for school, showering, shaving, little rituals, and my mind downshifted, allowed me to focus. It allowed me to forget, temporarily, the hallway, the fast-forward. There is a lesson there. I know I can adjust the lens, change the focus of my thoughts. This is something I think many people suffering from depression do not immediately realize, that they have a choice. The tricky part is actually allowing yourself to do it.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Echoes and footprints

Feeling a little out of sorts today. Not sure if it is the medication or what. I didn't sleep well which I am sure couldn't help. My mind raced as I tried to ease into sleep, disjointed thoughts careening through my head, snippets of memory, vague scenes. I could not focus on any one particular thing before it was replaced by some other thought, kaleidoscopic and vague segues, making finding the rest stop in my mind difficult. However, none of the thoughts ricocheting about my skull were negative or disturbing, just a jumble of sensory information, as though I was turning a radio dial quickly through the frequencies, hoping to settle on some serene station that would accompany me into the silken void of sleep.

Fitful as my sleep was, I still awoke at six o'clock, my newly acquired routine. I haven't made any conscious decision that I should wake up earlier, my brain has just selected this for me. I have awoken most days before my alarm sounds and on those rare occasions when I do not and have tried to hit the snooze button, my mind drives me from the bed, slightly anxious, with a vague sense of purpose. This, in and of itself is not too bad a thing, but it is accompanied by a sensation of being late for something, though at that hour there is no pressing appointment. I have to merely get up and get the kids their breakfast and get them ready for school and six o'clock gives me plenty of time to do that.

It may, on reflection, be related to the memory test the psychiatrist administered just a couple of days ago. Since I could not remember a simple sequence of three nouns, I have been unsettled by the notion that I may be forgetting all kinds of things. Little things, things that taken each by each are not of extreme importance but when summed up result in a lot of wasted time scrambling to take care of them. I forget to grab an item for work from the kitchen table, or to get gas before I leave for my commute, or realize I have forgotten to brush my teeth. So I turn around, go back to that small task, complete it and then shift into high gear to make up for the lost time. From time to time, I will also forget some big, necessary task, or, to be more accurate, I forget to plan for them, so that when the time arrives to do it I am harried and flustered.

This is one of the minute and, in comparison to other symptoms of depression, seemingly inconsequential effects of this disease. It is not the Demon himself, more his footprints, the evidence of his passing through. It is a source of frustration, however, more tiny failings to warrant another round of self-flagellation, and so an oblique and subtle attack of that monster, an echo of his efforts.

Well, back to it. The day must go on, things need doing. These musings must wait.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rhythm to my Madness

A little while ago, I received a very nice note from a friend. It is always gratifying to encounter the selflessness and empathy friends are capable of. I decided to post my reply to her as it contains my method by which I am dealing with depression spelled out as well as I can muster. I will not print her original note and I have changed the name as her privacy need not be shared in this place.

The note:

Thanks, M. Actually, another good friend suggested meditation as well. I may try some of the techniques at some point. For now, however, writing is my meditation, my exploration of my psyche, the method I use to digest the world. I write all kinds of things, some direct examinations, others oblique, reflected thoughts. Writing is more than a manipulation of words to make a coherent sentence. It is truth and clarity and reason, it is music and poetry and painting, a world within a world. It is impossible for me to lie to myself when I write: the words are there, all perfect and drawn, a snapshot of truth. When I pause and read what I write, I read with a rhythm, a pulse of synapse, ticking away, a metronome of thought. And when that rhythm is interrupted, a hitch in the truth or a false mirror, I feel it, as when a drummer is dragging the beat. That is the same rhythm, I suspect, of meditation, the same internal tick, the Godhead, the only absolute. I am a translator, interpreting my mind for my mind, acknowledging always the rhythm of my conscience.
Thank you for your interest in my thoughts. It really means a lot that you take the time to send me such suggestions. Camus was a charlatan and a nihilist: the world has within it many good people, like you, who have genuine feelings of empathy and concern and it is a better place for it.

Yours in hope ,