Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Wanna know my secret?

My best pandemic secret is that I didn't need this long, dark night to lose everything. My work already suffered. I already couldn't pay my bills. I already spent most of my time in my apartment. My eating already went to shit. When I look at my scale or my bank account or my employer's latest comments about my job performance, I can lay zero blame at a plague's doorstep. It's all me.

It's not complicated. I just want to eat and sleep until I die. I wake up, I shower, I eat breakfast, I go back to sleep. I sleep as long as I can and once I can't sleep anymore I watch TV and play video games - anything but work. 

I need to work now, but I don't want to work now. I need to write about a comic book character who's going to be showing up in a movie sometime this year or next year or maybe in 2022 or who the fuck knows. But I don't want to. Even though I know nothing's open and I know I can't afford to pay this month's bills, I want to find a store and buy enough chocolate and peanut butter to kill a Klingon. I want to sleep and stay asleep. 

I owe so much fucking money to so many fucking people I may as well be the president. 

My back hurts. My shoulders hurt. All I can do is throw anti-inflammatories in my face and apply heat and ice and icy heat and hope it's enough to help me avoid an urgent care visit I can't afford.

I'm doing things. I'm on meds I can't afford. Maybe I should call the psych NP and ask for better or more meds, but I already owe her for my last appointment. I'm back in OA. I go to Zoom OA meetings. I like them better than in-person meetings actually. I don't know any of these people and haven't learned to dislike them yet. They're all in NYC and LA and Spain and Australia and beyond. I send my sponsor my food. I've lost a little weight. For two days in a row I've gone outside for walks, twice per day. Just like Jesse Owens.

Things have improved enough that when I tell myself everything's hopeless, a tiny sliver of me smells a lie. But sometimes that doesn't feel better. Sometimes hopelessness would be a comfort. Hope creates expectations. Expectations mean less sleep.

I'm not okay. I still haven't figured out any good reason for me to be alive other than someone has to feed my cats. But I'm doing the things I said I would do even though I hate every second.

I have to write about a comic book character now. I'd rather be sleeping. Not going to promise I won't go to sleep. My pillowcases are in the wash, but that won't stop me. I'll sleep with naked pillows. Just like Davy Crockett.  

Monday, February 17, 2020

Demons at my door

The meds seem to be doing their job. I am not crying at every song I hear. I am not crying at every episode of Star Trek I watch. Not every episode of Star Trek.

The depression is dialed down but louder than ever is a constant sense of anxiety revolving around my financial situation. I don't know if I regret my decision to leave the State to become a freelance writer full time. I am a professional writer. I am the thing I always wanted to be. But every dark possibility is always outside my door. What if my car breaks down? What if my cats get sick? What if my frozen shoulder comes back? What if my cancer comes back and I don't even know it?

When I reach deep I find something that tells me that this is my path. It's going to be hard, but it's where I'm supposed to go. But I don't know how to live every day with every demon pounding on my door.

And what's worse is that I don't have a clear idea of why I'm enduring this. What am I hoping for? Because this? This is not enough. But I don't know what is. Getting a full-time writing job at one of these sites so I can go to a medical appointment occasionally? Publishing a novel? Getting a job writing for a sitcom? Ghostwriting memoirs? Or maybe just grabbing onto whatever regular 9-5 job will have me whether it involves writing, filing, or calling up strangers all day to find out if they've considered this miraculous new weight loss drug?

I don't know. I just don't want to worry anymore. Every dark possibility will be there whether I worry about it or not. Fate doesn't need my imagination, and my worry doesn't provide a force field against it. But still I feed it and I don't know how to stop.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Mick + Meds, Day 1

Outside my psychiatric nurse practitioner's office yesterday, I cried listening to a Jewel song playing in the waiting room. I wasn't even listening to the words. I don't know what she was singing about. I know it was one of her hits and I could find it easily enough, but I don't care. I just cared enough to cry, but I cry at anything.

She gave me meds (my psychiatric nurse practitioner gave me meds, not Jewel). I finally have meds again. A kind I've never tried before. They might work in a week. In a week I'll be happy I started them when I did, today I'm just regretting the absence of a silver bullet. I took my first pill after breakfast and I told myself a hundred thousand times it wouldn't fix everything and I wouldn't feel anything right away and then I didn't feel anything right away and I thought, "this is bullshit."

I'm going to OA again. It's hard. It's hard to be present. It's hard to not be angry. It's hard to grieve my mother and be surrounded by all these my-mother-aged women. It's hard to keep hearing about God and God and God and God and God and God. Someone said they know God is there because when she can't find a parking space she asks God for a parking space and hey, alakazam, there's a parking space. I wanted to ask her where "Higher Power" was when I "put my intention to the universe" for help in the wake of my mother's death and the universe gave me a middle finger, because at the time I strongly felt like I could find my own fucking parking spaces. I wanted to ask her if she's considered traveling to places where people have seen their families chopped up by machetes so she can share with them the miracle of her available parking spaces. I wanted to ask her if she's ever considered she finds the parking spaces because roughly 73 fucking percent of America is fucking parking spaces. Saying any of these things would, I suspect, be frowned upon in a 12-step meeting, I think. So instead I just sat there and hated.

But the meetings help. They do. I don't know how but they do.

When I am writing, I am okay and then I have to go home to my neighbors who are just people but their slightest sound drives me to rage. And the rage only exacerbates the constant, doubtless, torturous sense that everything is wrong and everything is futile and everything is pain.

I just want to sleep. I want to sleep and I want to be warm and I want the world to go away.

I care about myself. This is a revelation. The other day, I mentioned to Jolene that I knew something was terribly wrong because as depressed as I am, I don't want to binge on food. The urge is not there. I don't want to go to the drug store and buy five different "party" or "family" size bags of candy and finish them all before it gets dark. It wouldn't help. It wouldn't even give me a temporary respite, and I know that, but that's never stopped me before. So, I told Jolene, that was a bad sign. Like, I care so little about anything that I don't even have the energy to engage in my usual method of self-destruction. And then I said I was worried I might start using alcohol. Because I'm not immune to that yet. It would give me a couple of hours of comfort. Maybe.

But then I thought about all that yesterday, and it occurred to me that, yes, the alcohol would give me a temporary comfort but I'm not drinking it. So maybe the urge to binge on food isn't there because I care about myself. Because I want to get better. That, in fact, maybe that was the only possibility.

Because things are harder than they have ever been. This is grief but this is also more. This is constant, unceasing despair. There's no break from it, it's always there - there are simply times when it takes me over and times when I'm distracted so it's waiting to take me over and there are times when I'm asleep. So if I didn't care about myself, if I wanted to destroy myself for the sake of temporary relief, I would.

So I give a shit about myself, yay. And that's good. That's great. That's as close to a miracle as I'll get. But I'm still in Hell.

Maybe it'll be better in a week. I think it might be. I feel like it will never be. I hope feelings are stupid.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Mick, Dinosaur News Manager

This is me. There will be typos. I'm not going to edit. I don't have the time.


This morning I got on the scale and it told me my weight was "E." You step on it and first it say 0.00 and then it does this cycling thing like it's thinking about your weight and then it should give you a number, but my scale says I weigh "E."

My weight is Extraordinary. Exciting.

I weigh Empty.

Other people weigh numbers. I weigh E.

I don't know what E means. It could mean anything or Everything. I weigh Excellent. I weigh Everyone. I weigh Elephant.

Ask Sesame Street. The fuck do I know.


I should be writing. I mean, I am writing, but I should be writing something else. I should be writing about Harley Quinn or samurai or Jean-Luc Picard

(okay, I should mention I am going back and correcting things as I write them, just for full disclosure)

but I'm not because I can't stand to.

Here is a complete list of things I am capable of doing right now:

1. Sleeping.


My mom's been dead for over a year and at this point I'm supposed to be fine according to the rules but I'm not. I have not been okay and I am not okay and it is still impossible to imagine I will ever be okay again.

I am supposed to be able to do my work. I was, in May 2018, supposed to be able to get up out of bed and go to work and sort through patient files and sign up people for Medicare and Medicaid and food stamps, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't do it, so since I was already freelance writing part time on the side, I stopped going to work and started freelance writing full time.

Everyone thinks this was brave. Everyone thinks I made a bold move to realize my dreams. I did not.

There is a show called The Office about a stupid, privileged, self-absorbed moron named Michael who runs an office and there is a character on that show, played by Leslie David Baker, named Stanley Hudson. To most people the hero of the office is Jim, the torch-bearing salesman. Or Pam, the secretary scared of her true feelings. Or worse, the idiot boss himself, or his ignorant survivalist douchebag assistant Dwight. Most people will not tell you this, but Stanley is the true hero of The Office because he is the only sane member of the staff. Stanley doesn't take center stage often. He does his crosswords and weathers his stupid, racist supervisor's idiocy with eye rolls and grunts. Because that's the only sane way to both stay in this ridiculous work environment -- to not care, to do the bare minimum, and distract yourself until retirement.

In season 3's "Grief Counseling," Michael's old boss dies and because in his limited mind everything in the universe orbits his dumb face, Michael makes it all about himself. He insists on running a faux grief counseling session even though few people in the office even knew his old boss. He uses a toy and tells his staff anyone holding the toy must speak about a death in their lives that cut deep. He tosses the toy to Stanley, who refuses and tosses the toy back. Michael insists Stanley share and throws the toy back to him. Stanley, now upset enough that his usual facade of apathy crumbles, throws the toy back at his boss as hard as he can and says


This is Stanley's most naked moment in the series. It's brief and it comes without fanfare, but in this exchange you see Stanley has true grief but this baboon throwing a toy at him is not worthy of its sharing. Michael and his coworkers are not his family, are not close, are not even truly friends, and Stanley makes his boundaries clear.


That's all I did. Except no one was asking me to share my grief at work. My coworkers were good people and so was my boss. But I could not be there anymore because I couldn't help but share my grief because it was all I had left. I spent hours sobbing in my cubicle, trying my best to do it quietly and praying no one heard me even though I knew they had to. I did that for months. And I could see the confusion in my coworkers' faces, that my mother had died in October and it had been Halloween and thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years and then January and Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day and I still was a wreck? There was no help. It's not their fault, I don't blame them. It was as if death was as far from them as Mars.

The Monday that I didn't go to work didn't come with courage or boldness. It just came with a refusal. I will not be there today. I will not sob there today or any other day. I will not be enveloped in utter despair and need to act as if it's just another day. I will not. I can't.

I wasn't brave. I wasn't bold. I had the courage of a trapped animal gnawing off its own paw.


So now I'm writing full time and all I've ever wanted to do is write for a living and holy shit, look what I'm writing about! Comic book movies and Star Wars and samurai. It's a geek writer's dream come true.

But I don't want to do anything. Here is a complete list of things I want to do:

1. Sleep.

2. Stop. Fucking. Crying. for one. fucking. day.


God this is all bullshit and so am I.


There is a comic book character named Doctor Manhattan. He does not experience time as humans do. He is simultaneously in the past, present, and future. When he narrates a story, he is constantly going either back or forward saying things like, "It is 1968 and I am killing Viet Cong" or "It is 1985 and I am killing someone in the snow." The main character of Kurt Vonneut's Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy Pilgrim, experiences similar non-linear time jumps.

I feel like I finally understand Doctor Manhattan and Billy Pilgrim, to a certain extent. Often -- sometimes it seems like every few moments -- I am somewhere and somewhen else.

It's July 2018 and I am in my dining room feeling the cold of the air conditioning.

And then it's July 2016 and I am in the hospital with a foot long zipper across my torso, a day after the doctors pulled out my kidney and removed the tumors.

I don't think I'm there. I don't hallucinate. I am not divorced from reality. But in every other way, I am there. I am back in the hospital room and the orderly is cleaning me or my then girlfriend is taking pictures of my scars for her friend. Or it's August 2018 and I've spent 5 hours on my recliner watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine because I'm weak and my side still hurts and even though it's the middle of the night my then girlfriend, Amanda, keeps running outside every hour because I live kitty corner from a church which is a "PokeStop" and every time she leaves I worry about what I could possibly do if someone attacks her because it's the middle of the night (and I don't live in a warzone but it isn't fucking Leave it to Beaver out there either) and I can't because I can barely move and everything hurts and it's all I can do to wash the dishes (Amanda will only wash dishes she uses and not all of them) and feed the cats (which Amanda refuses to do before 10 pm) and change the cat litter (which Amanda refuses to do).

I'm not there, I don't think I'm there, but in every other conceivable way, I'm there.


Not long ago, my girlfriend Jolene's cat died. I wish I got to know him better. He was already 18 by the time we were going out, and he lost his sight not long after we started dating. In fact, the few times he let me pet him I was pretty sure because he couldn't see me and so didn't know where to hide.

He died on her kitchen floor and I drove over to help. She was heartbroken and of course she was, and I hated myself because I wanted to be there for her, because this is the time you have to be there for people. It was already late so we were going to wrap him in a towel and Jolene would bring him to the vets in the morning.

I picked him up and put him on a towel. Jolene came over and started petting him, saying sweet things to her sweet boy.

And then it was October 2018 and I was standing over my mother's body. Her hospice nurse was cleaning her with a wash cloth, saying sweet, wonderful things to her. And my mother was not my mother. It was her body and there was nothing of her in it. Deflated. Lost. She was not there she was not in her body she was not anywhere that I could see. And as much as I thought this hospice nurse was sweet and kind, and as much as I was grateful that my mother had her and other nurses to help care for her, I couldn't help but think who the fuck this stupid fucking little nurse thought she was talking to because she was talking to meat. She was talking to a silent stranger. My mother was not there on that bed with her mouth hanging open. My mother was gone. That was not my mother. Who are you talking to?


The face won't leave me. The face of this thing that wasn't my mother anymore. This face tells me there is nothing. There is no light. No hope. There is no paradise beyond the veil. There is no fucking veil. There are these years and then nothing. Oblivion. Buried under an avalanche of nothing. Vapor. We are blasted into a million pieces and we are gone. We are flies heading for a wall.


I cannot handle this. And I cannot handle life.

Here is a complete list of what I want to feel:

1. At the end of Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow, the main character is on a plane that has to land on or near a frozen lake. He has a lion cub with him and he holds the cub in his arms and he dances and jumps, laughing, across the ice. It's a man joyously defiant in the face of the bleak, cold inevitable.

Two or three times in the past week I have tried to describe this scene to different people, and each time I sobbed before I finished a single sentence of my description. I want that. I want that to live in my heart and my soul and my mind, but all I see is death and utter meaninglessness.


My mother is gone. One day I will be gone. What's worth doing? What's worth achieving? I don't want to die, but I don't know what's worth doing while I'm here. Who cares what a fly's wings do on its way do on the way to the wall? Would it be any better if I believed in a magical hereafter?


Last night my friend Jen asked me what I believed about the afterlife when I was a child. The main thing I remembered? I was sure that after I died, I'd be able to ask God anything and that excited me because it meant I could find out what happened to the dinosaurs.



GOD: Come on in, that's St. Peter -- he confirms your reservations. And this is Mick. He lets you know what happened to the dinosaurs.

MICK: Aliens -- no, I know, right? I was betting on an asteroid too. Fucking aliens, man.


When I sleep everything is warm.