Wednesday, August 13, 2014

OUTLET MALL!

Here in Ye Olde Eagantowne, an outlet mall is opening tomorrow just a stone's throw from my home. I'm not thrilled about the increased traffic on the perimeter of my sleepy neighborhood (yet it isn't the end of the world). But I believe this accurately expresses my feelings.




Lyle Lanley: I've built outlet malls from Albertville and Grand Prairie to Forest Lake and North Camden and, by gum, it put them on the map!
Well, sir, there's nothin' on earth like a genuine bona-fide true and tried hundred-store outlet mall! What'd I say?
Ned Flanders: Outlet mall!
Lyle Lanley: What's it called?
Patty and Selma: Outlet mall.
Lyle Lanley: That's right! Outlet mall!
Townsfolk: Outlet mall... outlet mall... outlet mall...
Miss Hoover: I hear those things are awfully loud.
Lyle Lanley: It increases your tax base with a crowd!
Apu: Is there a chance they missed a consumer trend?
Lyle Lanley: Not on your life, my Hindu friend.
Barney Gumble: What about us brain-dead slobs?
Lyle Lanley: You'll be given cushy jobs.
Grampa Simpson: Were you sent here by the devil?
Lyle Lanley: No, good sir, I'm on the level.
Chief Wiggum: The ring came off my pudding can.
Lyle Lanley: Take my pen knife, my good man.
I swear, it's Eagan's only choice!
Throw up your hands and raise your voice!
Townsfolk: Outlet mall...
Lyle Lanley: What's it called?
Townsfolk: Outlet mall...
Lyle Lanley: Once again!
Townsfolk: OUTLET MALL!
Marge: But Yankee Doodle Drive's still all cracked and broken.
Bart: Sorry, Mom, the mob has spoken!
Townsfolk: Outlet mall...
Outlet mall!
OUTLET MALL!!
OUTLET MALL!!!
Homer: Outlet—D'oh!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Good talk

With another half marathon coming up in August and plans early this evening, I decided to get my training run in bright and early before work. With the sun out, low humidity and temperatures in the mid-60's, you couldn't ask for a better day for a run. Or hell, to just sleep in with the sun and breeze streaming in through open bedroom windows (let's be honest, that's what I really would have preferred to do until I actually got out there).

As I rounded a bend about three-quarters of a mile into my run, I spotted a lone figure in the distance. On the opposite side of the street was a stocky fellow, leaning nonchalantly against the mailboxes for the complex of 1980's-era condominiums behind him. There wasn't a soul around other than him. In fact, there weren't even any cars parked on the street for as far as the eye could see. It was just him, chilling. Alone. It struck me as odd, even as I plodded close enough to see he was having a smoke. Perhaps he wasn't allowed to smoke in the house or even on the front step lest the smoke waft in through open windows. Perhaps he just dug leaning on mailboxes and making passersby suspicious and uncomfortable. I wasn't worried about violence or confrontation, mind you, but I could tell this guy was going to make shit weird.

Sure enough. "Are you running for me?" he called out as his features came into focus. I could tell he didn't mean it in the leering sense, but still it held kind of a creepy tone, as I imagined him catcalling a young girl out for a run. "Unnnnnggghh... Yeah, baby! Are you running for Daddy? Daddy likes it when you run. Jiggle for Daddy, sweetheart!" No, this wasn't how he meant it, but it still kind of took me aback as an unusual and ill-advised thing to yell at a stranger. Confirming my benign interpretation, he jokingly patted at his belly, as if to indicate he should also be out running. I smiled and chuckled politely, patting my own belly, and responding with something about how that's why I was out there.

Apparently my response was his signal that we were having an actual conversation, as he immediately shifted up into life story gear. "I'm 50 years old, and I used to be a runner..." I missed a huge swath of what he said, as I hadn't broken stride throughout this entire exchange. "...and my girlfriend wants me to take up a hobby..." I was already halfway down the block, and his voice, still yammering, trailed off behind me. I halfheartedly threw up my hand in a wave goodbye, as if to say, "Good talk, mailbox-leaning morning smoke guy who seemed to think a stranger out for a training run was going to interrupt what he was doing to stop and have a conversation with you. Good talk."

Friday, May 31, 2013

Knock knock! Who's there? SAVINGS!

Every Friday morning on the way to work, after a week of eating bananas and other assorted healthy breakfasts, I treat myself to a mocha and apple fritter at Caribou Coffee. Usually they have a chalkboard with a trivia question written on it. If you answer correctly, you get 10 cents off your beverage. This morning the chalkboard said "Tell us a joke for 10 cents off your drink!" Since I'm more of a smartass and storyteller than one to tell jokes, the first one to pop into my head was told to me by my 3.5 year-old nephew Gage a couple weeks ago.

Knock knock...

Who's there?

Eat mop!

Eat mop who?

I'm not going to eat your poo!!!

Ladies and gentleman, I told that joke, quite loudly I might add, in a coffee shop packed with customers and got 10 cents off my drink as promised. And the manager had me re-tell it to the barista after I ordered. Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Funny guys don't get depressed

UPDATE: As I write this preface, it's been just a few days shy of a year since I first published this post. I've felt great, and have been off of all prescription medications of any kind since shortly after the original post was written. I wrote this for two reasons. First, it was an outlet and a way for me to finally put to words what I was going through for the benefit of my friends and family. Second, I wrote it in the hopes that someone who goes through depression, whether it's a seemingly situational bout like mine or an ongoing lifelong struggle*, will see themselves somewhere in what I wrote and get the help that they need. There is no shame in needing help, nor in asking for it. Even though I was on the very tail end of this journey when I wrote this, being able to finally put it into words and share it with people felt like a final stamp of closure. Talking (or writing) helps.

*Not that I presume I will never need help of this sort again in my life.

--

I'm rarely at a loss for words. Let's be honest, I'm normally even less at a loss for words when it comes to talking about myself. More than the last year my life, however, has often been beyond my descriptive grasp. Then today numerous people on Twitter, Facebook, and various blogs posted this: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html. This. This, this, this...

Have you ever sat with a group of friends and try to remember the name of an actor in a movie but can't?. Shit... uh, you know, that actor! He was was on that tv show briefly with the chick from you know what. Damn it! Then you all sit around struggling to remember. UGH! It's right there! Perched on the bridge of your nose, taunting you. But none of you can remember. Then a few days later, your friend texts you out of the blue, "DAVID WHATSHISNAME!" Yes!!! Yes, that's the guy! It's like a weight lifted from your neck that you didn't even know was there. The relief of knowing. The relief of being able to articulate what you knew all along. That's what I felt when I read this.

"No, I don't necessarily want to KILL myself... I just want to become dead somehow." I lost count of how many times a similar thought casually danced in front of me. Or in my case, it was "It sure would be easier if I were just dead." I didn't really want to die per se, but the prospect of my consciousness simply ceasing to exist seemed much easier and much more sensible that continuing to trudge through day after pointless day, not giving a shit about anything or anyone, including myself. I could feign joy, feign sadness, but ultimately I could not be bothered to give the slightest fuck, because I was incapable of feeling those things. I just kind of... was there. A relative I had cared for very much passed away, my mother was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, my niece was born, an incredible woman fell in love with me. I didn't possess the tools to deal with any of it, so I continued doing what I had been doing for so long. I woke up in the morning, took my pills out of the day-of-the-week pill organizer, mentally checked off another day, went to bed that night, and repeated until the pill organizer was empty, refilled it, then started anew.

That fucking pill organizer. Mostly it contained vitamins and supplements, but at varying points it also contained cocktails of antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. It saved me time by not having to open a half dozen bottles every morning, but mostly it served as a vivid reminder of yet another pointless, worthless day ahead of me and how many equally pointless, worthless days had already passed that week. Every morning. One slot empty. Two slots empty. Three slots... Empty. One pointless week down. Fill it. Another to go. It was like sitting and staring at the hands on a clock. None of this serves any purpose. I don't serve any purpose. Why am I bothering to go to work, make money, then come home to spend it on all of this pointless bullshit? Things. Cable. Internet. Food. Gas. Who cares?

At first, I thought I was ill. God damn it, this virus will not go away! I slept, and slept, and slept but was constantly on the brink of a pervasive exhaustion I had never felt before in my entire life. I was convinced I had a sleep disorder (which wouldn't be surprising, given my lifelong struggles with insomnia). I completed a sleep study in which I was observed overnight. I felt like I laid in bed for hours that night trying to get to sleep, but the doctor said I was out within 15 minutes of going to bed and stayed that way throughout the night. No sleep apnea, no abnormal brainwave patterns, no heart palpitations. Sound and deep sleep, as perfect and as regenerative as can medically be. I was so desperately tired of being tired. Month after month after month. That's when the prospect of just not existing seemed so tantalizing. That's when I knew this was no virus.

"Would you like me to refer you to a psychologist?"

Huh?

"A therapist -- would you like to talk to someone? Sometimes it's very helpful to talk."

My family practice doctor, who wasn't really MY doctor, but some guy I had gone to a few times because my long-time doctor had retired, finally was talking to me instead of just throwing pills down my throat or hunting and pecking in vain on the clinic computer throughout my visit, unable to find anything because he didn't know how to spell.

"Um... yeah, I guess that would be good." I knew better than that. I knew damn well it was what I should have done months ago but was too afraid to ask.

"You should know that our initial consults for mental health services are usually quite backlogged. Sometimes they cannot schedule the first appointment for several months out." He returned to tentative clacking on the computer keyboard.

"Yeah, that's fine. Let's go ahead and do that."

"Ok, I will have the nurse give you a number to call." She did, and I didn't wait. I made the call in the car before leaving the parking lot. I knew myself too well. If I didn't do it now, I would sit on it for weeks or months. Or just never do it. This was too important. Fortunately, they had an opening just 3 weeks later.

Therapy ended up not being anything like I had seen on tv. I expected a pair of big overstuffed leather chairs facing each other with perhaps a coffee table or little potted plant between them. A cozy space where Adrian Monk's doctor would ask me about my childhood. But it was just like a regular doctor's office, except with what can only be described as a "medical grade" couch. I sat there, while the doctor sat in his wheeled office chair, nodding his head and swigging water from a CamelBak. His mannerisms and inflections gave me the strong impression that he was gay. Somehow that comforted me. I would have prefered to have talked to a woman -- I've always communicated better and more openly with women. But if I couldn't have a woman doctor, I would much rather have a gay therapist than a straight one. Women know about feelings. Gay men know about feelings. I can trust this guy. He's gay. In retrospect, that seems such a silly thing with which to concern myself, but in the moment, it helped me open up and talk to him.

After 5 or 6 sessions over the course of a few months, we both agreed we had pretty much covered all of the ground there was to cover. I didn't have a horrible childhood. I didn't suffer through years of abuse and torment. I'd just had a rough handful of years that I still hadn't quite finished processing. There was still work to be done on my end, of course, and talking about it hadn't magically cured me. In the meantime, I was still sorting through medications with a psychiatrist and had finally landed on one that didn't make me want tear my own skin off.

Oddly enough, it was the medication that seemed to be the worst of it. Except I was so numbed by it, I thought I was feeling better. I wasn't. I was just that -- numb. I didn't get angry about much of anything, I wasn't sad, I wasn't worried, and I wasn't overjoyed by much of anything. Then I felt something -- guilt. I knew I SHOULD be feeling something. I should care about other people's problems. I should care about my friend going through a tough time. I should care about my mom's health problems. I should care about this woman in my arms. I couldn't. I was incapable. And the numbness was soon replaced with overwhelming guilt. It was a guilt I had never felt before. I was like grief. I was grieving for my loss of empathy and ability to love or just give two shits about much of anything, really.

A very small number of people in my inner circle were aware of what I was going through. I was too ashamed to talk about it, even though I knew and was told outright, there was nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I knew it would likely relieve some of the growing resentment and anger from a handful of my friends when I abruptly ended my relationship with the woman, who ironically was probably the most understanding of anyone of what I was going through. But I wasn't ready.

I didn't wake up feeling ready today. Under proper medical supervision (with a swift kick in the ass from a friend), I'm just about completely free of "the meds" now, but I'm still in a bit of a void. Slowly, I feel like I'm returning to normal, connecting to people in ways I haven't felt capable of in over a year. Then today I read a comic that said everything I have been unable to express and somehow felt a lot braver. Still not ready, but braver.