When is it okay not to be okay?

When people ask me how I am, I reflexively say that I am fine. Even when I am anything but fine. It’s hard coded into me.

But why? Why is it so hard for me to admit things are not OK at all?

Even with my doctor. And your doctor is supposed to be one person you can tell anything if it is relevant to your health. But the moment I am talking to my GP, I snap right into “placate and vacate” mode, where I only want to get the authority’s approval for giving them the answer they want so that they will leave me alone.

That’s how it was with my family. I was always a-OK to them. Even when I was so depressed that nothing felt real and I was constantly filled with anxiety and dread.

I gave them the answer they wanted, and they went away.

Because honestly, what good would it have done to fess up? All that would happen is that they would stop for a moment after saying “Oh.”. Then they would change the subject. My family was not equipped to deal with a lot of emotion.

Instead of help, I would have ended up feeling more depressed than ever because I opened myself up and then got rejected. Actually, not even rejected. It was more like being ignored for being too much of a disruption to the person’s expectations and making emotional demands of people who, like me, were highly cerebral.

Unlike me, however, they were not natural empathic healers. Especially not to me. I was officially unimportant. My needs were irrelevant to their lives and I was expected to mroe or less just fade into the woodworking so they could go back to pretending that this surprise interloper hadn’t shown up and upset the apple-cart of the family dynamic.

They never made room for me. There was no room in their emotional budget for me. I was left to fend for myself in all things because I did not officially exist and there was no way they were going to tale anything away from what they already had in order to give me anything, let alone my fair share of the love, attention, consideration, feeling of importance, or even basic validation.

Instead, I had to live like a mouse. Fitting in where I could, trying hard not to be noticed (because I would be passively punished for drawing attention to myself) and being absurdly and pathetically grateful for even the smallest scraps of attention and approval because I was so lonely and starved for attention that a bread crumb was a feast to me.

I couldn’t ask for anything. If I tried, I would get that same awkward pause and then be treated like I had asked for a lung, a kidney, and a firstborn child.

The message was clear : there was no room on the budget for me. When someone does not officially exist, the very idea that they would have the temerity to actually ask for something is absolutely ridiculous, not to mention outrageous.

It was as if I was caught trying to steal from them.

No wonder, then, that I stopped trying, and started deflecting their insincere inquiries. It was the least painful option. To this day, I battle a deep sense of feeling like I don’t deserve anything, that I am unimportant to the point of irrelevancy and that I should never stop apologizing to the universe for existing.

How you treat your kids is way more important than what you say to them. Nobody ever told me I was unimportant and that they wanted me to disappear. If they had, they would have had to confront how badly they were treating me, and obviously I did not, in any way, warrant that level of discomfort, so they just went on thinking everything was fine.

And like a trained seal, I did what was expected of me and played along.

School was the same. Nobody wanted to deal with me. When I tried to tell the teachers about the brutal bullying I was experiencing, I was just told whatever it took to get my to go away so they could go back to dealing with something actually worthy of their attention.

Actually acting on my behalf was so far out of the question as to be unthinkable. After all, they would have had to get up from their desks, and go outside, and find the perpetrators, and haul them to the office and punish them, and oh my, they are exhausted just thinking about the going outside part of all that.

And all just to keep a grubby little smartass from getting what he deserves for being such a weird and difficult child?

No fucking way.  They resented even the effort it took to get rid of me. Anything more than that would be an unconscionable imposition.

If it had been another kid, one they liked as opposed to one they thought of like one would think of an incontinent old dog with fleas, they would have intervened. If it had been one of the keeners in my class, the very fact that they had been physically attacked would have been seen as a major indictment of the whole school and caused people to wonder what the world was coming to when an innocent (and highly presentable) child can’t even feel safe at school.

But it was just that weird Bertrand kid, and he brings it on himself by being weird, so to hell with it.  It’s not even worth the time and effort it takes to reject me. Only the absolute minimum of engagement is acceptable, and even that is deeply resented.

What happened on the playground stayed on the playground, along with my blood.

So whether it was home or school. I was treated like I was less than shit. I deserved absolutely nothing and should be grateful people ever notice me at all.

And that’s how I still feel to this very day.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

Where were we?

Hmmm. Now where did we leave off yesterday…. oh right.

I love my Dad.

I really do. It’s hard to remember that sometimes because of how much anger towards him I have, but I do still love the man.

I mean, he’s my Dad. The only Dad I will ever have. He might not have been good at the job of parenting, but he is still one half of the parental influences on me from my childhood, and to try to simply excise him from my life and my mind entirely is to remove a very large part of me, both good and bad.

And yes, there is good in the man. Nobody is ever all bad or all good. Hitler loved dogs, and Mother Teresa let people suffer in her hospitals because “pain was good for the soul”.

How very Catholic of her.

And the thing is, when it was just me and my Dad together, we got along fine. I suspect that was because I am not particular about who is driving the conversation and I was perfectly happy to let it all revolve around him, with me as the student.

There is great strength in being harmless sometimes. When you don’t threaten people, even passively, they feel safe around you and trust you. That’s a great gift.

So he would hold forth and I would listen and contribute in my own way. I never felt like this meant he was “winning” or that my ego was somehow being threatened or suppressed by him. We got along fine.

And outside of his temper tantrums, he was a genial and wise kind of guy, with the typical Capricorn wry and gentle sense of irony about life, and human frailty. He was aware of (some of) his flaw, and loved to tell stories of times he had, in his words, “outsmarted himself” by getting a little too caught up in his own cleverness to think things through.

I spent many a pleasant evening with him. We’d watch the news, he would provide his analysis, I would provide my own, and we’d talk it over.

Perhaps my willingness to be deferential to him is what made him spare me his wrath. I never seemed like a threat to him, even at the dinner table.

Well, that wouldn’t last. He’s the one who turned the dinner table into a battlefield. I’m just the schmuck who took him on so the others could sit their passively, and occasionally make me feel like I was the problem, not him.

That’s how the cowed thing, I guess. From their point of view, everything was fine – that is to say, it was horrible but normal – until you came along and rocked the boat by sticking up for them against their oppressor.

Well too bad. I am a hero by nature. I don’t mean that in any grand sense, like I am some kind of icon or image of any form of purity.

I simply mean that when something wrong is going down, I have no choice but to intervene. It’s something I have to do. To do otherwise is almost literally unthinkable. I have to believe that when the time comes when the shit is going down, I did what I could to protect people from the badness.

I refuse to ever violate that, come what may. I accept the consequences of my need to act. I understand that it might lead to trouble I could have avoided if I had just kept my mouth shut. It could conceivably even get me hurt or killed one day.

But it’s both who I am and who I choose to be.

Anyhow, back to Larry.

He had a lot of genuine wisdom to share. He taught me things I still believe. Like that the best environments, especially work environments, are gender balanced enough so that neither gender can completely dominate.

Strange and terrible things happen when one gender has it all their way. Balance is lost and a in-group/out-group dynamic forms and with the diffusion of responsibility that exists within any group of people bringing out the worst in the in-group, things get incredibly ugly very fast. The in-group gets into the habit of taking all their aggression on the out-group while socially reinforcing the righteousness of doing so.

Thus the paradox of blaming everything on a powerless out-group with no ability to actually harm you.

It’s the perfect solution for intellectually dishonest cowards. They never have to face anyone who can actually fight back. Instead, they can take it out on people who are literally zero threat to them and they are perfectly willing to believe whatever it takes about the out-group to justify the abuse.

Hmmm. There I go, digressing yet again.

The fact that my father was an okay guy some of the time just makes his unwillingness to even try to restrain his temper even worse. I wish he could have just stayed the person he was when it was just him and me all the time. He would have been a pretty good Dad.

But no. And yes, I understand that, given the absolute nightmare that was his childhood as the only son of goddamned Satan,. aka my paternal grandfather, it is remarkable that he came through it with only a non-violent anger problem.

Instead of, for instance, becoming a serial killer. Or some other kind of sociopath. If that had been me,  I would have been ten different kinds of crazy by the time I hit puberty, and quite honestly, I probably would have killed the bastard.

But here’s the thing. Parenting can’t be graded on a curve. It is either good enough or it isn’t. The value is an absolute number, not a relative one. You either measure up or you don’t and it doesn’t matter where you came from.

And I am not expecting perfection from a parent. Everyone is going to make mistakes. I am not setting the bar impossibly high.

I am just saying that one of the minimum requirements for a passing grade in parenting should be “being able to refrain from taking your bullshit out on your kids”.

That’s not a lot to ask, is it?

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

 

Not this again!

Yes, this again. Back to talking about my father.

I hate him.

I hate him for his short temper and abusive ways. I hate him because he could not learn to control his temper and therefore did so, so much damage to the whole family. I hate him because he refuses to even admit he has a problem except under extreme circumstances, and even then, only in a vague, meaningless way.

“Oh, I guess I was too hard on you kids sometimes. ”

Um, no. That’s not it at all. You weren’t a harsh parent, you were an abusive parent. If you had been interested and involved in our lives enough to give us a hard time over slacking off or not applying ourselves, that would have been a lot better.

Or at least different.

No, you abused us. You abuse anyone who gets close to you. Hence you ending up all alone and working some crap McJob after working all your life for the government.

Does that strike you as a success story? Is that how you pictured your golden years? All alone, far away from your family, living paycheck to paycheck?

Which reminds me of another reason I hate my father, and this one is far more discrete and specific. I hate you for convincing Mom to do this crazy-ass early retirement shit, even though it meant taking both me and Dave out of university with some vague thought that student loans would take up the slack.

Where was your pull yourself up by your bootstraps ethic then?

Then you take the severance pay t from the government and blow it on a patently ridiculous home based business helping people with their resumes.

People who need help with their resumes don’t have money, Dad. Because they are unemployed. It astounds me that I could not see that at the time. I guess I was still part of the social illusion of my home back then.

You know, the illusion where you are practical and sensible and good with money and thus deserving of your position as administrative head of household.

Well you sure blew that out of the water when you started a resume polishing business in a small town on PEI with a high unemployment rate and where anyone with any brains and/or education leaves as soon as they can.

Great business plan. Totally worth the squandering of your legacy.

But hey, you got what you wanted. You got your little office where you could sit and feel important and pretend you are contributing. You got to buy gadgets, like a computer, a printer/fax/copier, an electric pencil sharpener, and other office bric-a-brac. You got to boss me around and have me dependent on your approval.

You even got the best space heater in the house.

So you blew a bunch of future income when you took early retirement (see Dad, that’s why the government offers it. – it means they save money by paying you less) then blew a bunch of the rest of it on a home based business that never stood a chance of being even remotely profitable. That’s two strikes right there.

The final stroke was that you drove Mom away, resulting in a divorce in which you sold the family home to strangers in order to make splitting assets easier.

Remember that home, Dad? Good ol 135 Belmont Street, home of the Battling Bertrands? The front room where we had our Christmases, the kitchen where all our meals were cooked and then consumed on the kitchen table you built with your own hands? How about the back yard, where once a garden grew? Our cherry tree, our rhubarb patch, our summer savory and our chives? The front yard where your roses and lilacs grew, and where your four children played together? The bedrooms where your children spent so many years growing up?. Does this ring a bell yet?

All of that is gone, gone, gone. Because of you. Because of you, a stranger looks out the east facing window where I used to look up at the stars. Someone else’s things are sitting where my crib was, and where I would lay my head for many years after? Strangers are walking the hallway where your picture of the Queen hung. Strangers go up and down the stairway I used to bounce down on my butt when I was a toddler and where I would clip my head when I hadn’t quite adjusted to being six foot tall yet. Strangers are using the basement where we did all our laundry and where I used to watch Voltron on the black and white TV while Mom watched her soaps upstairs. Strangers use the back steps  where we used to wait for the cats to decide whether or not they really wanted to go outside. Strangers use the second basement where you had your workshop. There is not one place in that home that is still how it was when I was young.

Because that’s the thing about selling the house, Dad. When you did that, you sold three decades of memories, and the only place which ever felt like home to me.

Now new people are making new memories there. And God bless them. We weren’t the first owners of that house, and they won’t be the last. Things change. Life goes on.

But that’s the house where you promised me many times that there would always be a home for me.

Guess you fucked that up too, huh? Another promise broken to go with the promise that you would pay for a college degree for me just like you did for Anne and Catherine.

I hate you, Larry Donald Bertrand, because you actively failed me on every level. You weren’t a competent father figure. You weren’t a competent provider – all the debt that was revealed in the divorce proves that. Ditto for your skills as head of household, naturally.

I hate you because I can directly trace at least sixty percent of what’s fucked up in my life to you and your inability to act like a grownup.

So yeah. I hate your stinking guts, Larry Donald Bertrand.

But God help me, I love you too.

I will talk to you nice people (and not my Dad) tomorrow.

 

 

The killer inside me

Warning, this song makes some people really angry.

 

Personally, I find it amusing as hell.

So. My father. Larry. My inner prosecutor. My terrible myself. .  The glowering eye in the sky eternally torturing the life out of me by holding me accountable to a systematically engineered to be  impossible standard and then punishing my noncompliance.

And the worst thing is that I have been believing everything it says about me.

It has to come from my father. He is the only abuser in my life. The only one who has perpetrated the classic abuser’s fraud of convincing you that it is possible to escape their wrath and that therefore everything they do to you is your fault.

After all, you could have spared yourself just by doing the right thing, right?

But there is no right thing. The abuse requires no justification because its purpose is not corrective, it’s sadistic. The abuser abuses because they need to abuse. It’s how they deal with stress. They take it out on others. That’s the very essence of sadism. Inflicting pain on others makes the sadist feel good because it externalizes their inner pressures.

At the expense of increasing the inner pressures in others.

It’s like a transfer of pain. Boss yells at Dad. Dad yells at Mom. Mom yells at Junior. Junior kicks the dog.

So it has to be him that is the killer inside me. I have not seen that before now because I thought the fact that his tirades were never directed at me, and that I not only saw through his bullshit. I called him on it and won,  somehow meant I was immune to him.

Seems silly when I put it like that.

After all, I still had to live with him. I was still afraid of him. He might not have focused his dinner table tirades at me but I could still bring his wrath down upon me with “wrong” action. I was walking on the same goddamned eggshells as everyone else.

And I bore witness to those dinner table tirades. I was there, I felt his anger, his insanity, his evil, and I saw the damage done to Ann and David by it. That’s why I interposed myself between father and child-victim when I was absurdly young.

I couldn’t just sit there and let it happen. And my illusion that it was all just a matter of poor communication and misunderstanding lasted a long time.

But then I saw through it all, and that’s when he and I did battle. And for what it’s worth, I won. I verbally kicked his ass so hard that he started eating his supper separately from the rest of us.

And we were much happier. Like I said at the time, if he can’t behave in a civilized manner at the dinner table, he doesn’t get to eat with the rest of us.

That was a pretty big step for me. developmentally speaking. I can see that now. It is the nature of fathers and sons that, at some point, there has to be some form of battle between them to sort out the hierarchy.

It can be as simple and innocent as the first time a boy beats his father at chess, or it can be as intense and dramatic as what I went through, or it can be as explosive and violent as someone storming out the door, never to return.

Most of the time, I imagine, it’s nothing more than a somewhat tense and awkward conversation where the father assures himself that his son still respects him even though the son has surpassed his father in some way, and/or the son gets reassurance that his father will always be a father to him no matter what.

See, this is the sort of insight I could bring to a family sitcom.

But that has nothing to do with me and my father. I really resent this new knowledge that he lurks within me still. I feel like it is yet another way that asshole is ruining my life. When I moved away from the Island, I foolishly convinced myself that because he was out of my life, he no longer had any effect on me.

And to seal the deal, I locked all my feelings toward him inside a deep vault made of acid bitterness and ice cold contempt.

That gave a sense of detachment, I suppose, but I see now that it was not a real solution. I still have a lot of his anger and the fear it generated and the long term stress of living around a fucking animal like him in me, and that is where my deadly pattern of being my own abuser came from.

I have not yet dreamed up a way to confront this about myself. Right now, when I contemplate this newly revealed truth about myself, all I see is a hard white void between me and it. Reaching out to it and integrating it back into my personality will be hard work.

I could write him that letter I have been meaning to write him. I feel more ready to do it now than I ever have before. I know that the process of doing so would un-can a very large can of worms and unlock all kinds of crazy shit in my mind, but it would be worth it if I could finally halt my inner persecution and feel comfortable being myself at last.

It might not happen soon. But I can feel this letter growing in my mind, and therefore it is only a matter of time before it is born unto the world.

Before now, I have been unable to even truly contemplate writing him because even the possibility of opening a line of communication to him made me so angry that all I could imagine doing is screaming at him incoherently for hours.

Once that was over, any letter I would write would be an act of aggression against him. An attempt to make him suffer for all he has done to his own goddamned family. Everyone he ever claimed to love. It would be an act of pure revenge.

And I am not saying he doesn’t deserve it. But that’s not the path I want to travel. If I write this letter, it will be an attempted not to hurt him but simply to make him understand.

That may well hurt him. But that would not be my intention.

I just want him to get that he fucked up big time with us.

After that, I can go back to having nothing whatsoever to do with him.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

On The Road : Painful Dawn Edition

Here I am at school with a lunch hour to kill and no appetite for the chaos in the student lounge. So, might as well blog.

After all, this IS the Writing Floor.

Not feeling too good at the moment. I’m not sick, but I’m not well.

 

Morning class was Adaptation. Pretty easy course. Basically, we talked about POV for an hour, had our break, then watched a large chunk of Shawshank Redemption for the rest of the time. Damn, that’s a good movie.

I really should watch the whole thing some day.

There are a lot of moral lessons one make take from that movie. Like “beauty is important to the soul of man”, or “never abandon hope”, or “good things don’t die”.

But my choice would be “if you are an evil and corrupt prison warden, do not fuck over the smartest guy in your prison who also happens to keep the books. ”

It is so satisfying to watch him go to pieces when he realizes Dufrense is gone. I wonder what would have happened if he had not thrown a hissy fit and started throwing Defrense’s rock sculptures around.

That’s the only reason he found the tunnel Defrense dug. Imagine the legend that would have grown had they not discovered that right away. It would be the sort of thing that made lists of great mysteries, even after it was solved.

So arguably, the warden’s hissy fit was a tad contrived. What were the odds he would do exactly that? But it’s acceptable because it’s merely a storytelling device that lets us skip a much longer and duller sequence where they show the guards searching the room, one guard yanking down the poster, that guard going to get the warden, etc.

The only flaw in the justice visited upon that bastard Warden is that, because he kills himself before the cops get to him, he never has to be a prisoner himself.

Perfect justice would have had him put in his own prison where he is treated as roughly and inhumanely as he treated others.

That is, until the other inmates kill him.

So for like…. ten minutes.

Of course, being morning class, I was falling asleep during most of it. Damn that has got to stop. It makes things so much more stressful.

Having the lights turned down while we watched the movie didn’t help.

Oh well. After I graduate, I will be full time job hunting, and therefore working to my own schedule. And that means not getting up before 10 am!

I figure I am going to target all the animation studios in this area first. I have a show to pitch (Sam) plus my spec is for an animated show (Bob’s Burgers), so I am already partway there. And I would love to write for animation.

Next priority would be the video game studios. Writing for them would be pretty cool, but not high on my list of priorities. That would be strictly “pay the bills” type work for me.

Not to disparage anyone in the industry, it’s just not my life dream.

Writing for TV is my life dream.

My afternoon class is TV Pilot 3. I spent last night writing notes on people’s work for it. Once more, I found myself mostly writing about language and logic, which means that when people talk about deeper issues in class today, I will feel stupid.

But there’s just something deep inside me that refuses to take things apart like we are supposed to do it. Don’t get me wrong, I analyze everything, but in my own way that I have developed over a long, long time.

Taking it apart into beats and such feels so….. unnatural.

And the thing is, I know it works. It makes people’s work better. And I really want to help people like that. But I guess I have to do it my own way.

Story of my life. Just once, I would like the off the shelf solution that works for everyone else to work for me, too. Instead, I have to invent solutions or go without.

Being a total original can be such a drag.

Still, I am working on learning to accept it. My latest motto is “Fuck you, I’m awesome” or “Fuck you, that was awesome”. It’s something to say to myself when I try something, like a joke, and it just doesn’t work. A way to counter my automatic assumption that it is my fault because I suck.

Obviously, that will not always be true. Sometimes it will be my fault. But right now I judge myself against a nigh-impossible standard and that shit needs to go home and rest.

No wait… that’s me. I need to go home and rest.

But I have to go to class instead. Durn it.

It’s like I am in an abusive relationship with myself.  I constantly punish myself for not meeting an impossible standard and maintain the illusion that freedom from my own wrath is possible if only I do everything right.

But it just ain’t true. I abuse myself because I need to do it. It’s my rage directed inward. I take my pain out on myself, and then I have more pain, which I assume is my fault, and the whole goddamned downward spiral takes another turn.


Almost finished during lunch time, but not quite.  Home now.

Where was I? Oh right. Self-abuse.

I will try to dream up a solution to the problem. There has to be some way to end the cycle. Finding a safe way to externalize my anger sure as hell could help. Take it out on something other than myself.

This impossible to please raging superego of mine is beginning to sound more and more like my father, good ol Larry Bertrand.

I guess being able to see through his bullshit and peg him right between the eyes with what a nasty piece of work he is does not automatically erase the damage done by being around him for my entire childhood. Nor does it strike my internalized version of him from my mind and leave me in peace.

Guess I will have to deal with him after all.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

The future’s so bright

Might as well get this out of the way :

 

 

Just got back from Writer’s Room class, and it continues to be AWE SOME.

We spent the whole class roughing together a beat sheet for the episode of the new One Day At A Time, and it was a blast.

It feels so very, very good to not have the whole thing on my shoulders for once. All my other school work has been me, all by myself, creating the thing from beginning to end without any input from anyone else.

And while that suits my loner personality – when I am actually writing, I would bite[1] the head off of anyone who dared to job my elbow or give me unsolicited advice, believe me – that doesn’t mean that I enjoy being the only one responsible for the whole deal.

In the Writer’s Room class, it’s one hundred percent collaborative. Not only am I free of having to carry the whole thing myself, I am sharing the load with seven other students plus my instructor. All that is expected of me is that I contribute.

That’s a massive load off my shoulders. In fact, to be honest, it almost feels like I am getting away with something. Like it can’t possibly be that easy.

And it’s true that it won’t always be that easy. After next class, I will be assigned a scene to write. So like, actual work will have to be done.

BRING IT. After all the writing I have done, writing a single scene, even a long one, seems super easy to me now. It’s the sort of thing I love to write, too, namely sitcom dialogue. I have watched almost all of the series now and I am quite sure I have the various character’s voices down in my head. I could write dialogue for them for hours.

And of course, my scene will be hilariously funny. One thing I have established during my time at VFS is that I write really funny dialogue, and you know what?

Sitcoms are almost entirely funny dialogue.

The real takeaway from this Writer’s Room course for me, at least right now, is that I can totally do the job. Hands down. No problem. I can do this job with both hands tied behind my back, a blindfold over both eyes, and an enraged bull bearing down on me.

Well, maybe not that last part. But you get the idea.

I am not experiencing any serious ego issues. There’s definitely some stuff relating to struggling to be heard going on in the back rooms of my mind and I can foresee a future in which I have to deal with it before it interferes with my work life.

It would revolve around whether or not I thought people were really listening to me or not. As long as I felt like I was being heard, I could put up with a dry spell where none of the ideas I contribute go anywhere. All who are heard contribute, even if they are only contribute by giving other people ideas.

But if I started to feel like people were not even listening, well, that would activate some very large issues for me about being treated like I do not exist. My strongest urge would be to leave and go somewhere where I could be alone.

Because being alone beats being ignored every single time.

Obviously, not a good idea in a work environment. It would behoove me, in such a fix, to be professional about it. Maybe talk to my immediate superior (head writer?) about it, see if they think I am failing to contribute or whatever.

But if they are fine with it, so am I. I am still getting paid and I an doing the amount of work expected of me. I can put up with some bullshit for that.

Besides, I would still have scenes to write! And in those I could demonstrate what fools they are for ignoring me, because I am freaking hilarious.

And quite deep too, when it is called for. One of the millions of wonderful things about working on a script for the new One Day At A Time is that, as a Norman Lear production, it follows my exact formula for a sitcom : funny, gentle, humanist comedy that holds our hand as we visit some very dark – but relatable – places.

We touched on the subject of Penelope (main character) and her history of depression from her PTSD today. I really wanted to go into that deeper, but it would have not have fit into the rest of the episode at all.

But I really want to do it, maybe in a spec I write alone. I really want to tackle the reality of depression as it takes everything away from somebody like her, who is used to being the competent one who holds everything together.

It’s not my own experience, obviously – with me, the center never holds – but it’s the experience of a lot of the people I met in group therapy and I think it is a story that really needs to be told.

People need to know that it happens, that it’s not necessarily anyone’s fault, that it is terrible but not the end of the world because you can recover from it. That it is going to be very hard on the depressive’s friends and family, but that it never means that the depressive doesn’t love you any more.

They just can’t feel it properly right now.

Admittedly, that would be a lot to cram into a single episode of a comedy show. I might have to, ya know, prioritize.

But I feel very strongly that, despite many noble attempts, nobody has really captured the experience of depression as I have experienced it, and I would like to correct that.

People like me are out there. People who have had their lives stolen by depression.

They need to know that there is hope for them, too.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Figuratively speaking, of course. Mostly.

Too much whelm

I was feeling pretty overwhelmed earlier today.

The proximate cause was Career Launch class. I’ve been super eager for this class because this is where we learn the biz. I am quite eager to launch my career, of course, and I am so damned ready to learn the necessary lore and get out there and start kicking ass in the world of entertainment.

At least, that was the idea going in. But there was so much information coming at me so fast that it overwhelmed my defenses and I found myself feeling like I was never going to get a job, that all my writing was crap and not nearly good enough to send to anyone, that I was going to be undone by all my forgetfulness and laziness, and that I was basically going to go right back to being completely useless, only with enormous debt.

This is partly due to the teacher’s personal style. She is very sweet but she crackles with energy and it gives her this intensity that kind of frightens me. Having her teaching me feels like I am just barely keeping up and that if I fall behind, there will be no slowing down for me. The group will just go on without me, not even missing me.

That, of course, has a heck of a lot more to do with me and my issues than her. But being around her stresses me out. I feel like I am being rushed into things before I am ready and that gives me anxiety and stress.

And it’s not the sort of thing I can talk to her about. What would I say? You scare me, please slow down? I don’t want that. And I really do not want to be the dumb guy that slows down the whole class.

That would make me want to crawl into a hole and die.

So I guess I am going to have to keep struggling to keep up. And learn to take notes. Maybe even (gasp!) get some looseleaf for my binder like a real student.

I have been so damned lazy about that. All the other students diligently taking notes while I sit there doing nothing but listen. And then I have the nerve to ask people for help when I forget something I should have written down.

I can be such a jerk, and I don’t even know it.

One of the things that crossed my mind when I was feeling overwhelmed was that I have more or less been coasting through VFS. It’s still not that hard for me. I mean sure, some of the work has been difficult for me, but I still don’t feel like a lot is being demanded of me.

I don’t feel like I am being truly challenged.

And I am passing my course, so from a narrow view, I should be happy. But I have never been in it just for the piece of paper. I want to be a good enough writer to get work. And right now, I have no idea where I stand relative to that goal.

That one of my problems with VFS. I have no real idea how I am doing. Everything is so relative and I rarely even get graded on my assignments, especially if I submitted them online in one form or another.

Am I doing well? Am I just barely scraping by? Am I dangling by a thread? Am I good enough to get work writing TV? Is there, realistically, any chance that a 43 year old guy can get work in the writer’s room of a TV show? Am I too old and slow now?

Was this whole thing a waste of time?

Well, no. It can’t be. Because I have definitely become a much better writer by being there. It may be that when I graduate, I am simply going to have to accept that the only way for me to get a job is to invent one for myself.

Do some kind of web show out of my bedroom. Maybe make hilariously crude puppets and do a terrible (in a funny way) web show. Or try to master standup and do that online. Or maybe start my own political commentary show like the Young Turks.

I definitely have a lot to say about politics, and to say I have a unique point of view is a vast understatement. I think I could add valuable ingredients to public debate. And I think I have the power of personality to pull it off.

But it always comes back to the same thing : how to get anyone to watch.

We talked about agents today in class. I won’t get one of those any time soon, of course. Not until I have some decent accomplishments, like contest wins or a very cool short video or something like that.

I can go back to being a one man media empire again, I suppose. I would have to take it a lot more seriously and improve my overall quality of output, though, and that means putting a lot more work into stuff.

In the past, I have been limited by depression’s heavy toll on my energy reserves, and the related need to do things in one sitting. That meant that there was only so long I could spend on, say, one of my videos, and I think the work suffered from that.

If I go into production for myself, I will definitely need to make a clean break from being Fruvous. Don’t panic, I will always be that silly ol fox, but I think I will need to create a professional version of me that is separate and distances from all my half assed work.

And only attached to the good stuff.

Plus I will have to get used to the idea of taking my writing and editing it to within an inch of its life so that it is good enough to show to potential employers.

Time for me to grow up a little.

At least until I get an agent.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.

 

 

Walking on my grave

Today was not a great day in class, but it wasn’t the class’ fault. Or mine.

It was the fault of a blood sugar crash.

I had been in class for half an hour or so when I felt this deathly chill go through me. At the time, I had no idea what it was. But that instantly turned what had been a pretty pleasant day into one of these murky miasmas of confusion and frantically treading water that I seem to get myself into far too often.

Seriously. Why can’s I just have some stability? Life is so hard when your mood might alter in radical ways and you might find yourself awash in conflicting emotions and mental confusion. And all you can do is run to stand still.

This time, it was clearly a blood sugar thing. But other times, it’s more nebulous, and probably has something to do with the chemical imbalance in my brain that makes me mentally ill. Subtle shifts in brain chemistry can send me into a nosedive or make me feel super disconnected to reality and like I am dangling over the abyss.

It’s just not fair. I didn’t do anything wrong. But I suffer nevertheless.

Anyhow, so there I was all mentally fucked up and feeling both lethargic and crazed at the same time. Not fun. And I had to present (in a mild informal way) twice today.

That did not go well. I can be very good at presenting when my head is in the right space and I have all necessary facts loaded into my brain and I can concentrate on delivering the message with warmth, strength, and conviction.

Today was not such a day.

So I feel like I did my ideas an injustice by being all confused and nervous when presenting them. I can do so much better!

It wasn’t until I got up to leave that I realized what my problem had been all along : low blood sugar. I realized I was very hungry, at least physically, and that tipped me off. So despite not wanting to spend my cash before this weekend’s convention,  I had lunch at Bon Chaz, and picked up some ginger cookies too.

Which means I broke my sugar fast. I had gone almost two weeks eating nothing naughty. Not bad. And this was an emergency. After eating my wrap and my vegan chili and drinking my mango juice, I felt I needed a kickstarter to get my blood sugar to a good place while I digested the healthier fare.

Plus, to be honest, after feeling so bad, I really needed a pick me up.

I have indulging in self-denial lately. It was for a good cause – my Vancoufur weekend – but I am thinking maybe I should not have so offhandedly removed a bunch of little pleasures from my life. It may have contributed to my mood struggles this week.

The higher dose of my psych meds is still working, thank god, in that I still feel far more focused and energetic than I did before the bump. And that, in turn, helps me to feel less helpless and confused and more like I just might be able to handle life.

But it doesn’t guarantee happiness. Nothing can, really. Nothing safe, anyhow.

I feel like i might be processing some stuff. I can feel something like a heavy load in my mentation. If only you could get the recovery without doing the work!

But that’s impossible. It’s your frozen emotions that need to be resolved, and nobody, no matter how much they love you, can do that for you.

It’s like cleaning out a closet. It’s a lot of work and for a long time it can seem like you are not getting anywhere. But if you stick to it, you will be so happy to have all that old garbage around any more, and to have so much more room to maneuver.

Still, sometimes I wish I could just climb down the riverbank to the pure and cleansing waters of the river of life, and lower myself naked into their cold clean waters, and there, in the safety of such overwhelming purity, release all the toxins from my soul, and be made whole and clean again.

Kind of tough to do that kind of transformation without religion, though. No belief in the supernatural at all. I cannot mediate my being through the power of faith and belief and thus create the kind of transformative event for myself that another might employ.

I have to play by the rules of my austere pragmatism, and limit myself to only what makes sense. I can understand the religious experiences of others and I envy them their ability to resolve emotional crises and take comfort from their imaginary intercedent.

It’s a long hard road through rough weather that I have chosen. And it’s one that, if you have been on it long enough, completely removes your ability to change paths.

There is no going back for me. Oh, I suppose some intense emotional experience might put me into the properly malleable and receptive frame of mind. I am certainly capable of a kind of transcendent frame of mind.

It happens all the time, in fact, and often at the worst possible moments.

And in such a state, I might even reach the necessary state of extreme agitation necessary to overload the consciousness and create a vivid hallucinatory episode where I could resolve some of these goddamned internal conflicts once at for all.

But it still wouldn’t be magic to me. It would be brain science. That speaks a lot to how I look at the world. I would be very grateful for the experience but it is not the sort of thing I could bring on myself via religious practice, nor do I have a handy set of deep metaphors taken from religion to help me understand my inner world.

Instead, I am constrained by a sharp but narrow kind of rationality. I suppose I can take some comfort in knowing that what I do know is “real”.

I just wish it made me happy instead of merely smart.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.