Friday, July 29, 2005

Totally Bi...

Bipolar, that is. I went to my Bipolar Overview class yesterday afternoon, and it was very educational. I felt a bit of a dweeb, as most of the people there were in continuing treatment and already knew a lot about the topic. I was also, from what I could gather, the only Type II there, the manic symptoms that everyone discussed were way beyond the symptoms I have. One of the guys admitted that he'd come to believe that he was Jesus Christ when he was manic.

But I learned a lot of things I needed to know, about "mixed states" and the subtleties of such symptoms as grandiosity and lethargy, how a sympton in one end of the spectrum might make you think you're at the other end of the spectrum (like thinking you're manic, when really you're still depressed but suffering from anxiety), and how easy it is to go off your meds when you start feeling well after a while. It was very useful to have so many experienced wack-jobs sharing their knowledge.

We talked briefly about various medications, antidepressants and anticonvulsants and mood stabilizers and major tranquilizers and minor tranquilizers, with all these brand-names and generic names... wherein I felt entirely ignorant, and a little intimidated, trepidatious even.

There are so many options, so many choices, bipolar is trickier to medicate than depression or mania because a lot of antidepressants will trigger the mania and tranquilizers will trigger the depression, and mood-stabilizers frequently make you feel flat and dead; and the rule of thumb is that you don't get the right medication on the first try, there is frequently a period of experimentation in which you have to take meds that don't work or which have unpleasant side-effects.

Yay, I am so looking forward to that.

Nevertheless, the sensation of taking action is therapeutic in itself. I feel like I'm doing something, not just suffering. And even the worst of the treatment will therefore be better than the problem itself, because it is a step forward, a step toward relief. And anything is better than the despair I felt at the bottom of that last cycle... most unpleasant.


Well, I was going to write something about sexual identity, but I got sidetracked by a need for a nap, then I got sucked into the Hot Topics message boards at Just Us Boys, which is where I got the idea for what I was going to write in the first place. Anyway, it's eleven hours since I started this post, in fact I forgot I hadn't finished it, and so I'm going to close now and go to bed. I'll have to talk to you about sexual identity later.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

You Make Me Feel So Young

Still deep in the ... what? It's not the heart, it's too far to the west, and not quite the head... I guess I'm deep in the right shoulder of Texas! We're flying home tomorrow, and not a moment too soon... I'm exhausted! Who knew that being bored was so much work? Actually, it's not the boredom that's so much work, it's the effort involved in trying to not be bored.

I had all these grand ideas of what I was going to do with my time on this trip, I was going to get a lot of writing done and maybe a lot of reading, too... but instead, I have been doing a hell of a lot of driving, a good deal of eating, an awful lot of sitting around listening to old people talk... and have only achieved a little writing and hardly any reading to speak of.

Fortunately, all the motels we've stayed in have the WiFi, so I've been plugged in when I'm idle here in the room. But there's less of that here (idle time) than there is at home, so I'm not really doing anything out of the ordinary. Most of the writing and reading I've been doing has been on the message boards of my new favorite web domain, Just Us Boys. Porn and discussion, what more could a person ask? And I have written a little bit on Worst Luck, but I'm having a hard time framing the purpose for this next chunk of story. It's coming along, but slowly.

I've also been kind of stymied by the lack of privacy. I've only had about three hours alone since I've been here, Grandmother and I are sharing motel rooms and going everywhere together. It's not unpleasant, it's not like she's bothering me, and it's not like I can't go off by myself if I want to. But there's a psychic difference between thinking while I'm alone and thinking when there's someone else in the room with me. It's strangely stifling of my creativity.

What I've been trying to do, too, is to translate what I see and hear here into useful language. But this place isn't the kind of place I want to write about, these people are not the people I want to write about; and so while it's good exercise to wordsmith my way through people and places, it doesn't go very far... these people and places are simply too gloomy for words.

Visiting with Alice and Charles (my great-aunt and -uncle) is depressing. Charles has entered into the Reanimated Corpse stage of superannuation, and Alice is so shriveled up I'm afraid she's going to fall between the couch cushions and be lost forever. They have no conversation, either, only their rapidly deteriorating bodies and the various minutiae of their intensely boring days, interspersed with shorthand reminiscences that are only interesting to those who share the memories they invoke. But they're nice enough people, and Grandmother gets a lot out of visiting with them (Alice is her last remaining sibling).

But more depressing than the shrivelling up of old people is the shrivelling up of the towns. Alice and Charles live in Hereford (pronounced "hurr-furd"), which is a cattle town, and it's dingy and treeless and just wildly unattractive. It's also surrounded by feed-lots, so when the wind is up, the smell is stupefying. Pretty much everything is run-down and cheap-looking, and there are a lot of vacant businesses. After a couple of days in Hereford, Lubbock looks like a paradisaical metropolis with its one Starbucks and its big gorgeous university and its parks full of trees and its buildings more than two stories tall.

Worse than Hereford, though, are the tiny little out-of-the-way towns where Grandmother actually grew up. Returning from Hereford to Lubbock, we took a detour to go through some of the towns of Grandmother's childhood: Muleshoe is the county seat and seems to be alright, but Needmore is all boarded-up buildings and Baileyboro is simply gone, only a barn and a grown-over cemetery remain; Maple and Watson disappeared without even that much to show, the only thing left of Grandmother's childhood was a small adobe building that was originally a blacksmith's shop and is now being used as some kind of a storage shed; Enochs and Bula are similarly decrepit, with uncounted abandoned houses and abandoned storefronts and abandoned mills and abandoned everything. It was kind of creepy, really, so much abandonment... post-apocalyptic in a way.

The abandoned houses depressed me more than anything else. There's something about a sweet little brick or stucco residence of turn-of-the-century to 1920s vintage, a place where families lived and loved and fought and cared for each other, where generations struggled against an inhospitable land and carved out an existence and a little sliver of civilization despite overwhelming odds... now lost in an overgrowth of grass with its windows out and its roof gaping, tilting on its foundations or folding in on itself. These remnants are like corpses, skeletons testifying to a lost battle some time ago, the detritus of an industrial revolution, the sad leavings of the war lost by agrarianism and won by agribusiness. (It took me an hour's drive to come up with all those phrases).

We passed through Littlefield on the way back to Lubbock, looking for some ice cream and to get some gas, and it was depressing, too. At least half of its stores were closed and boarded up, the downtown area was like a 1960s ghost town, and it didn't even have a Dairy Queen! Waylon Jennings was born there, and that's the nicest thing you can say about Littlefield.

There is one thing about all this, though: I feel really young. Being around Alice and Charles made me feel like an absolute infant... and even though Alice is only four years older than Grandmother, the former makes the latter seem so robust and hearty by comparison that she feels younger, too. Perhaps its a form of Schadenfreude, but looking at myself in the mirror after spending a couple of hours looking at Charles' used-wax-paper skin, folded-up shoulders and hands, red-rimmed rheumy eyes, wispy-bald head, and puffy curled-up feet, (he looks exactly like David Bowie in The Hunger, when Catherine Deneuve is carrying him up to the attic), I feel quite pretty.

So here we are back in Lubbock, in a different motel, nearer the airport. My fellow B'Way-lovin' fags will appreciate that this motel is on Avenue Q, one of the main drags in this town. I've been humming the opening number every time I see the street-signs... I don't know the words, though. I'll have to get the soundtrack and memorize it.

We're getting up at the ass-crack of dawn again, though we have so much less to do to prepare for our flight home than we did for the flight out. But Grandmother is a worrier, and she'll worry less when we're sitting safely in the airport two hours before the plane is meant to leave.

You know what the first thing I'm going to do when I get home? Drink a big glass of crystal-clear additive-free EBMUD tap water! And make a pot of black strong French coffee with that crystal-clear water. The water here is sooooo nasty, it's like pool-water it's so hard. And so the coffee tastes indescribably nasty, and everyone makes it really weak so you can taste the water, and the only water you can drink is bottled. Geah!

Well anyway, that's enough for now. I'm off to bed, and you're off to whatever you're about to do.

Y'all come back now, y'hear?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Howdy... From Texas!

So here I sit in a motel room in Lubbock TX, after a long and harrowing two or three days. I count the day before we left as harrowing because getting the Grandmother pulled together was something of an undertaking. Details simply undo her, and she gets all "flippety-flappety" (a state of mind and of behavior somewhere between hysteria and dementia, best characterized by flapping your hands helplessly while screaming about some inessential detail or another... a word of my own invention, feel free to use it yourself).

Then, after getting to sleep a little after midnight, I had to get up at the ass-crack of pre-dawn (4:30 a.m.) in order to drive all the way to my uncle's house in Alameda just to save ten or fifteen bucks on a cab-ride. On the way, my cell-phone crapped out for no apparent reason, so I had to find a pay-phone in Alameda (no mean feat, let me tell you), and call the cab-driver from there.

The aiport was pretty much a breeze... I have learned that the perfect travel accessory is a white-haired old lady in a wheelchair. We were whisked through security in a trice, and though we were quite thoroughly checked (I got felt, patted down... and we had to take off our shoes), we were pretty much treated like VIPs. We also got on the plane first, though we got off last, and the ground crews went out of their ways to make our passage pleasant. All Hail Southwest Airlines (hi, Will)!

When we changed planes in Albuquerque (I like to pronounce it wrong, alternating between "al-bu-queer-quee" and "al-bu-cue-er-cue") I stumbled out of the tunnel into an utter ocean of late-teen Boy Scouts... and was reminded of Dorothy Shaw in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: "The Olympic Team? For me? Well, wasn't that thoughtful of someone?" But they were getting on the plane and I was getting off; and as we all know, there's no such thing as a gay Boy Scout (I'll give you a moment to quit giggling).

The flight was uneventful, except for Southwest's peculiar habit of stopping at three or four places along the way. I particularly enjoyed our flight steward for the Oakland/LA leg of the trip, a weensy little blond boy named Marek (pronounced "Merrick") who had to most amazingly gorgeous skin... as well as a darling smile and a cute little butt. Most amusingly, neither he nor any of the other flight attendants during the whole trip could remember where all the stops were, and kept having to look them up when they made announcements (from Oakland to LA to Albuquerque to St Louis to Baltimore to Hartford, but we changed at Albuquerque to a plane that had started in Phoenix and continued on to Lubbock, Austin, and Houston... I mean, I knew the route before I got on the plane).

Arriving in Lubbock, everything continued to run smooth as glass... except that I forgot the rule about putting perfume or cologne in the luggage that you check. When my suitcase came out onto the carousel, I smelled it before I saw it, the fresh and lovely scent of Voluspa #4 filling the room. Two thirds of the bottle had leaked out into my toiletry bag, a terrible waste of relatively expensive scent, the alcohol melting some of the labels off my other toiletries, and mixing with the cuticle oil that also expanded hugely and spilled out all over the place (which I'd never heard of happening before), rendering my toiletries a sticky fragrant mess. Fortunately, it didn't soak through the bag or into the next compartment, so though my clothes smell especially nice, it's only as much smell as if I were wearing scent myself, and they aren't stained or anything.

And then we stepped outside... into a roaring dryer. They said it was eighty-three degrees when we landed, but either they were lying or there's something about being closer to the sun here... it felt like at least a hundred. Every time I have to go outside, my whole body and mind freak out. But what are you going to do? You can't control the weather, and you can't get anywhere avoiding it completely, so you just suck it up and take it. And, of course, complain loudly.

The rental car is a big-assed Chevy Impala, gray, comfortable to sit in but all of the buttons and levers are in entirely different places than I'm used to... the gear-shift is on the steering column and the parking brake is on the floor, whereas in Miss Jane both of those are on the hump between the seats.

Driving around in Lubbock is something of a trial... every time I get a little bit confused, Grandmother believes we are lost and starts carping. And at one point I really did get lost, taking a wrong turn and ending up way out in the countryside, and though I found our way back again in only twenty minutes, I doubt seriously I'll ever hear the end of it. It's an untidy town, though, with a loop going all the way around it and a highway shooting through the middle of it; but these are just the elevated freeways... there are a number of highways, which all seem to have the same three letters arranged differently, and sometimes they have regular names as well as numbers but not always, and there are one-way avenues on either side of the loop. And then these roads just peter off, or turn into something else, without explanation. And, and, the whole place is totally flat, so I can't see landmarks from any distance. I'm accustomed to living in a place where the hills are on one side and the water is on the other, with all sorts of tall objects in between, and that makes life a lot easier than I thought.

So, let's see... here we are at the Holiday Inn Park Plaza in Lubbock Texas (the birthplace of Buddy Holly) for Grandmother's high school reunion. Bula High opened in 1925 and closed in 1974, and the largest graduating class in its history was 28 people, so they don't do single-class reunions like larger schools do... they just all get together every five years. Grandmother was in the class of '37. Out of thirteen people, eight are known to be dead and two have slipped out of knowledge and are as good as dead, leaving Grandmother, Lena Johnson (née Snitker) and Ashel "Dink" Richardson to represent their year. Which is pretty good odds, if you think about it, considering that there was a World War to get through and much lower life-expectancy rates back then.

The reunion was so boring that I had to actually take a break and nap for half an hour. I mean, out of 250 people, I knew nobody, and Grandmother only knew a handful, her two classmates and maybe five other people she knew from Way Back When. I had to stick with her in case she needed anything, but there was absolutely nothing for me to do, not even anything worth looking at.

Which brings me to my chief complaint about this place: there are no cute boys here. I don't only mean from the reunion, where the youngest graduate would be ten years older than me... but I mean everywhere in this town! I've been running around this motel and various shops and restaurants, and I've seen maybe five good-looking young men. Perhaps if school was in session and the place was crawling with Texas Tech and Lubbock Christian College students, there might be something... but as it is, it's ugly and old as far as the eye can see. Mostly old, too, I think fewer than ten percent of the people I've seen around town were under sixty or over ten. That's just wrong!

Well, tomorrow we go out to Hereford, where we will be visiting with Grandmother's older sister Alice and her husband Charles. I expect to be able to drop Grandmother off with Alice & Charles and not stick around for very much longer than it takes to say how-d-ye-do, whereafter I shall find some stray WiFi and get online. I'm told that even McDonald's has WiFi, and no town is so podunk as to not have an internet cafe somewhere in its vicinity.

Before I go, I'll tell you about how the world of electronics has turned against me. I already reported how my cell-phone crapped out for no reason at all, even though it was fully charged? And then once I found a pay-phone in Alameda, I discovered that its earpiece was covered with some kind of food substance that looked rather like a Little Debbie fruit pie. And then when I cleaned it off, I discovered that the phone didn't even work in the first place. So I had to get back in the car and find another phone.

Then when I got here, I realized that nobody has free dial-up access anymore, and my laptop simply didn't have WiFi. So today, after the reunion but before dinner, I went over to the Best Buy I found when I was lost last night and bought a USB wireless adapter. But it didn't work, every time I plugged it into the laptop, it would crash the whole system. So after dinner, I called up Best Buy, "Home of the Geek Squad," and asked what I should do... they said I should get a different doohickey, a more reputable brand perhaps, that would be able to adapt to more different systems. So I dashed over there before they closed and picked out a Linksys adapter that is a lot nicer and only cost five dollars more... and now here I am using the motel's free WiFi and telling you all about it!

So that's what's going on with me today. I'd better get into bed now, it's almost midnight, and we have to drive tomorrow... first to Enochs and Bula, where Grandmother lived as a teenager, then on to Hereford. It's a few hundred miles of flat, hot, and way-too-sunny, and I'll need to be rested.

Toodly-yoo-hoo! Or rather, Happy Trails!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


It's interesting, trying to be aware of one's own moods and physical state. When I wake up in the morning, I actually have to ask myself "How are you? How are you feeling?" And it's a legitimate question, because I usually don't know right away and have to think about it.

And then, of course, it tends to change after I've been awake for a while. Some days I wake up and wonder if maybe this depressive cycle is really over, if maybe I'll have a few days or weeks of Normal; but then I start wanting to cry, or wanting to jump up and down, or wanting to slash my own throat just to make the feelings stop. And then I try to remember what Normal feels like, and I can't. I can never recall the feelings of Normal, or even of Depressed or Manic, I only have the feeling of Now.

But Oh am I tired of Now. It occurs to me that the depression isn't making me feel bad, per se... rather, it simply casts a harsher light on my failures and weaknesses while putting the dimmer on my accomplishments and strengths. When I think about the past, and I do think about the past quite frequently now, I see everything I missed and everything I did wrong and everything I always wanted but never had, all the things I will never get.

I sometimes think that the depression wouldn't bother me so much if it didn't have so much regrettable material to work with. Just as I think my manic episodes would be a lot worse if I didn't have this overwhelming sense of appropriateness and dignity that prevents me from acting out my violent or sexual (or violently sexual) urges. And both ends of the spectrum would be a lot worse if I didn't have the tools of the Program to help me. And if I didn't have friends to tell these things to who know what I'm talking about.

But you know, we all have regrets. I don't think it's possible to get through life without them. The trick is to learn from them and accept them. That's the thing I haven't been able to do for most of my regrets, I haven't come to truly accept that there's no going back and fixing things, that some opportunities go by and never come back. I know this to be true, but I haven't accepted it, if you see the difference.

Despite all rational knowledge, it burns my ass that I'll never be twenty-two again. It burns my ass that I'll never be a pretty little twink. It burns my ass that I'll never be "Young and In Love." It burns my ass that no big Daddy man is going to come sweep me off my feet and take care of me. And there's absolutely no reason for me to feel this way, I know on a rational and logical level that these are not and never were among my many choices, and that even if they were, I probably wouldn't want them if I got them; but emotionally, irrationally, on a deeply subconscious level, I am simply burning with anger and regret.

This is a central mystery of my character, a defect without cure because it is a defect without cause. I don't understand it, I don't comprehend where these feelings come from, and so I can't see how to cure or even ameliorate the feelings.

I sometimes think it's a curse, being rational. Why can't I just feel things, why do I have to think about them? And, conversely, why do I have to feel things that do not respond to rational deconstruction? I sometimes think it would be better to be all one or the other, either completely rational or completely emotional, and not have to struggle all the time to make the two sides fit together and operate peaceably. I always envied Data on Star Trek: TNG and felt that he was an idiot to wish for emotions.

But the feelings are coming fast and furious right now, and my rationale can't cope with them all, can't even find a foothold in some of them. I feel lonely right now, and horny, and I hate my body but I hate that I have to do something to change it... I want it to change by itself, right now, just stop being fat and start being trim. I hate that I'm so afraid of rejection that I can't even ask a guy I like for his phone number without having a nervous breakdown, so afraid of being hurt that I haven't had even a whisper of a glimmer of a possibility of a relationship in five years, haven't had sex in nine years, haven't made out with anybody in eleven years, haven't had a boyfriend since 1992.

My youth is gone, and I wasted it. My friend Jen put it so concisely the other night when we were talking about our shared past and what we would do differently if we could do it all over again: "If I knew then what I know now, I would have been a slut instead of a lush." Truer words were never spoken, in my humble opinion.

Now, I know perfectly well that I never had the ability to be a slut, that happy sexual promiscuity was never one of the Choices, that I could no more have had great sex with a cast of thousands than I could have pushed a Sherman tank up a flight of stairs while inventing a cold fission machine. But I want that life so badly, and it is even more not-available now that I'm thirty-seven and overweight than it was when I was twenty-seven and fairly cute (though I didn't think so at the time... I've always hated my body, since I was a small child).

Fortunately, I know that the intensity of this feeling is chemical rather than real... that my body is making me feel this way, not my heart. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to treating this condition medically. I do wish it would happen in a speedier fashion, but the fact that it is happening puts some heart into me. I'm just counting the days to group therapy (next Thursday, huzzah!); I'm trying to not build up any expectations about drug therapies, but I cherish the hope of being normalized by something, I fantasize about waking up Normal every day.

Still, today, this week, right now, I am miserable; and seeing things like this picture makes me want to tear my heart out of my chest and scream to the heavens because I will never be this. It makes no sense, but there it is.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Me No Feel So Good

The Depression continues to kick my ass, and the heat kicks my ass, and unemployment kicks my ass. In general, my ass is pretty well kicked. My ass is, in fact, getting pretty sore... and not for any of the right reasons.

The world is this fucked-up mess, everywhere I turn there's bad news or some disturbing social trend or some tragedy happening somewhere. The Republicans continue to rape the country, religious zanies undermine our civil liberties, and the newest generations of passionate young people simply couldn't care less. When even Vanity Fair makes you want to cry, your world is simply not a happy place. I am on the verge of declaring a media blackout in my life until I'm better able to cope.

Part of the sadness comes from my reading material, though... I was sifting through a shelf of books looking for something to revisit, and realized that I'd never read Christopher Rice's A Density of Souls, which I bought pretty soon after it came out a couple of years ago. It was good, beautifull written and chillingly characterized, but by no means a cheerful little tome; actually it was quite sad in places, and in some places I would go so far as to say it was irredeemably grim. I should have read some Wodehouse instead.

Something really terrible happened to my world this week, too: Most Sexy Guys, my favorite web domain, closed down because of those stupid new laws governing internet images. I used to spend the whole day surfing that site in between doing other things; hundreds and hundreds of images were added daily, and even with DSL and no job, I could never see everything that was posted in a twenty-four hour period... but I sure loved trying! Now what am I supposed to do with my day? And where am I supposed to get my fix of male beauty? It's the saddest thing.

On the other hand, I was so bored yesterday that I finally managed to finish rewriting "Chapter 7 Part 1," which you can read here. It covers the same bit of story, uses many of the same paragraphs (heavily edited), and ends in the same place as the first version; but I think it is truer to the characters, furthers the plot better, and is paced and worded more elegantly. As always, I crave to hear what you think.

Tonight was Ducal Ball, from which I just returned, and I performed this year. I had a good time, too; Madasin and Angelique and everyone was there. It was pretty low-key, and therefore low-pressure. Still, I wasn't quite satisfied with my performance... I had one wardrobe malfunction after another and so ended up wearing a dress I hadn't intended to wear, and which didn't fit quite right; I also made the mistake of wearing four-inch heels and a super-tight corset after having not been in drag for almost two months, nearly a record for me. But everyone loved my number (I did "Glitter and be Gay" from Candide, one of my favorite numbers), and the outfit I wore afterward was quite comfortable (with lower heels and a looser corset), so it all worked out fine.

And the best news yet, my very own personal copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came in the mail today (I pre-ordered it months ago), and I couldn't be thrillederer... more thrilled, that is. In fact, I want to go read it right now.

Have a beautiful day! And for my next trick, I am going to try out Blogger's new image-hosting system. I hope it works!

Cool, it does work! But let's try something larger this time...

Monday, July 11, 2005

Slower Than [Substance] in [Month]

Wow, has nearly a week gone by since last I wrote? It doesn't seem that long. I can't even think what I've been doing these last six days that prevented me from writing. I mean, aside from not having anything to write about. I can't really think what I did all last week.

Well, of course, weeks are always shorter than I think they are... I wrote on Tuesday, and I went out with Shiloh on Friday and with Caroline on Saturday, and then had dinner-and-a-movie with Dean and Dalton in their new home on Saturday evening, and then church-and-all yesterday... so that only leaves Wednesday and Thursday unaccounted for. And, yeah, I have no memory of doing anything in particular on either of those days.

Oh, wait, now I remember Wednesday: I went out to Concord to help Daddy pack for his move. We didn't do much packing, though... I drove him out to the VA hospital in Martinez to get some medical release so his regular doctor can send his records up to Yountville, then helped him finish his applications papers; then we went to the post office, then stopped at the store to pick up some cantaloupe and ice-cream (I had one of my sudden cravings), and then watched two reruns of Who Wants to be a Millionaire on the Game Show Network.

Then I went out and put some junk from his shed into the garbage can, but after about ten minutes of inhaling mildew fumes and encountering an entire metropolis of termite grubs policed by a few dozen enormous centipedes (I think they're called centipedes, you know those big flat oval-shaped bugs with the jillions of tiny legs), I freaked out and had to stop work for a while (and wash my hands all the way up to the armpit and comb my hair thoroughly... the bugs hadn't touched me, but I felt like they were crawling all over me anyway); then we watched two episodes of Win Ben Stein's Money, and then Daddy went to a meeting and I packed up his videos and started on his office. Then I got tired and went home. So after a whole day in Concord, I packed one and a half boxes and filled one garbage can: woo-hoo!

Since I did all that on Wednesday, it's a fair assumption to believe that I spent all day Thursday doing absolutely nothing at all... probably tweaking with my Sims, and wondering why all of a sudden my staircases install as windows. It's a terrible mystery.

I've been working on Worst Luck all week, too, I decided to start "Chapter 7 Part 1" over again from scratch, not using any of the text from the first version. But it's been slow-going, I've only got a couple dozen paragraphs... and though I think they're infinitely better than the first version of the chapter-part, I can't be sure. That's why I need an audience. But I'll let you know when something is done.

I have things I could write about now, like topics of conversation I had with Shiloh and our friend Andrew on Friday, and how Shiloh locked his keys in his truck and had to pay a buttload of money to some shady locksmiths to get them out because he doesn't have AAA, or the fun I had with Caroline out shopping in Berkeley and eating Korean soup for lunch, or about the very disturbing movie I saw with Dean and Dalton (Final Destination 2, the imagery of some of the deaths was extremely, well, vivid), or some thoughts on letting Grandmother think that all this church-going is actually turning me into a Christian... but I'm afraid I really just don't feel like it. Sorry.

Anyway, I'm off in a few minutes to take the Grandmother over to Kaiser to have her hearing-aids looked at (she has follow-up appointments all the time to make sure she's using them correctly), and then I think I'll do some more work on Worst Luck. Or maybe I'll just watch TV. I don't know.

Hope you're having a super day!

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Good Morning, Heartache!

Heartache, depression, whatever. Mr. D (as I have taken to calling it) has steamrollered me again. Kicked my ass, really.

I've felt the depression building up this last few weeks, but it felt so manageable that I started believing that it was something I could, in fact, manage. I thought that, since my life is so stress-free at the moment, I was able to handle the depression on my own. What I forgot, though, is that I never remember exactly what depression feels like, I forgot that there are levels below the level I am currently on... I forgot that, yes, Virginia, it can get worse than this.

I've been feeling kind of extra-low the last week or so, and that low-feeling had filtered into my writing... the beginning of "Chapter 7" quite simply sucked, it sounded bitter and it felt bitter. That was upsetting; but it was even more upsetting when I tried to fix it and couldn't... the second stab at that section sounded less bitter, in fact it was a much better try, but it still felt all wrong. It felt forced, and unfocused, and irrelevant. I felt forced, and unfocused, and irrelevant.

Then on Friday, something stressful happened, and that's when I found out just exactly how depressed I really was, discovered just how well I was "handling" the depression.

When I woke up, I already felt like crap... I'd had a long day on Thursday, taking Grandmother hither and thither and going to the mall with her and pushing the wheelchair and all. It had been really hot, several of the stores at the mall were not air-conditioned, and I got dehydrated. So when I woke up, I felt unhappy, muscle-weary, and dried-up, which together felt a lot like a hangover. Bleah.

Then the first thing that happened when I stepped out of my room, I encountered Grandmother having one of her hyperactive snits... a water main up the street had broken, and EBMUD (that's what our water company is called, East Bay Municipal Utility District, and I've always thought it an unpropitious acronym, not remotely connotative of the kind of crystal-clear mountainy freshness one wants for one's water supply) was due to come out sometime in the next few days to fix it; when they did, according to our neighbor up the street, our water would be shut off for some undeterminable amount of time... and so we had to do everything in the house that required water, right this minute.

Of course, the first thing that Grandmother thought of was the plants outside, you can take the girl off the farm, but... So before I even got a cup of coffee, I was out front watering the fucking lawn while she was out back with her goddamned tomatoes and hydrangeas.

You remember, the lawn? That useless expanse of pointless plant-life, the contemplation of which never fails to trigger my deep and inexplicably dense resentments? There I was, sad and weary and dehydrated, sans morning coffee, watering this piece-of-crap lawn I hate... and boy did I feel sour. And while I was out there, I started thinking of all the things that should be done before we lost water, things that are actually important... like showering and washing the dishes that were piled in the sink. You remember, dishwashing? That normal day-to-day activity that most people don't even think about but which somehow never fails to trigger my deep and inexplicably dense resentments?

Then in the middle of all that (though thankfully after I'd had some coffee and taken a shower) the bank called, demanding payment on my credit-card. I had forgotten to make the phone call I was supposed to make two months ago to turn on the card-holder protection plan on my Visa. Not only had I forgotten to make the call, I somehow managed to convince myself that I had made the call, and that the whole thing was taken care of.

Those who know me will know how much I hate making phone-calls of that nature, that's why I do everything online or by letter whenever possible. I thought this card-holder protection thing (an insurance plan for which I pay, on average, about fifty dollars a month, so that if I lose my job or have financial difficulty of some kind, I don't have to pay to my credit card for a few months without accruing fees and interest) could be activated by a phone call, all I had to do was steel myself to talk to a stranger over the phone. But I discovered when I did call that there is a much longer process involved, I have to file a claim form by mail, and then wait for them to process it; and in the meantime I have to keep the balance current or else the whole thing goes null and void.

So my dislike of making phone-calls got me into a situation that was simply impossible, I was over my credit limit and my payment was a month past due, and so I had to pay over $300 immediately to keep my credit-card going until I could get the cardholder-protection plan activated. And I had about $180 to my name. Plus my car-insurance payment and my cable payment were going to hit my bank account any day now, being near the first of the month, and those together add up to $220. My car-payment could be put off, since it's not an automatic debit, my student loan payment wouldn't hit the bank for another couple of weeks, and I figured I could live without cash for a little while if necessary; but I needed $500 in my account immediately.

I panicked. I mean, I actually had a real-live panic attack, something I don't remember ever having before. It was extremely unpleasant: I couldn't breathe and I couldn't think and I couldn't stand being in my own skin. I wanted to claw my way out of my own body and just stop existing altogether. And all this while I was washing dishes.

Grandmother wanted to know what the bank wanted, and I started telling her... pouring out the whole thing, my stupid terror of financial insecurity, my anger and resentment against myself for letting things come to such a pass, and how awful I felt, my self-esteem buttresses of independence and buying-power knocked out from under me, and my depression destroying whatever ability I might have had to handle these things... a depression I keep putting off getting help for, the same way I kept putting off the credit-card issue, because of this stupid irrational fear of talking to strangers on the phone.

It's the same fear that was making me procrastinate about getting a job, and about selling my old books and videos, and about a few other things, as well. Procrastination is one of my worst character defects, and definitely the one I hate most about myself: I know I'll feel better after I've done whatever it is, I'd feel even better if I'd just do it when I should do it and not put it off, and yet I still put things off for so long that I get myself into trouble over it. I hate that.

Anyway, I felt humiliated, talking to Grandmother about the weakness and helplessness and self-hatred I was feeling that morning. I was even more humiliated having to ask her to lend me money. The sensation of wanting to get out of my own body got even stronger, so strong that I was simply writhing inside.

I mean, I knew she would lend me money, I was counting on her lending me some money... but having to ask her to lend me the money was something else entirely, and I felt like an utter asshole doing it. Then there was the amount that I would have to ask for, which was suddenly a lot more than I expected to have to ask for, because of my stupidity about the credit-card.

Well, Grandmother told me to stop being so silly, she understood completely and was happy to give me the money, and she wrote me a check that covers all of my bills for this month with a tidy chunk left over for incidentals like gas and co-pays and what-have-you. I got it into the bank and got my bills all paid online when I got home, and I felt a lot better about the financial insecurity thing... though I still felt like a schmuck for having to take money from Grandmother to do it. I bought her a big box of See's peanut-brittle on the way home from the bank, using the money I had in my pocket instead of the money she'd just given me, which made me feel a little better, but not much.

If you've never had a panic attack before, I'm here to tell you: they're exhausting! I spent the rest of the day in bed, reading a little and napping a little and drinking a lot of water. And I prayed and meditated a good deal as well, though by the end of the day I was still struggling under the weight of monumental helplessness, hopelessness, and self-loathing.

The next day, Saturday, I had planned to go to the Living Sober Conference and spend the day there. But while I thought about it on Friday, thought about getting up really early and getting there at nine or ten, and then staying there all day and into the evening... and doing the traditional Drag Invasion (the theme this year was Miss Texas in honor of a Living Sober icon who passed away earlier this year), and what could I wear, and thinking about when to shave and what to wear before drag and what if I decided to not do drag at all would I disappoint people or dishonor the memory of a man I admired... and thinking about how much money it would cost to register and to park and to eat, and thinking about all the people who would be there, so many friends I wanted to see and so many strangers I might want to see but might find intimidating and scary, and so on and so forth... I started panicking again.

So I decided not to go after all; the heartbreaking disappointment I felt at having to miss one of the highlights of my year was a lot easier to bear than the blind panic I felt when I tried to plan on going.

When I did wake up on Saturday, I still felt utterly miserable. But then Caroline came over; since I wasn't going to Living Sober as I'd planned, she wanted me to come bead-shopping with her in San Rafael instead. Well, I didn't want to go anywhere, much less bead-shopping; but I was lured out with the promise of free lunch and the suggestion that I'd probably feel better if I got a little fresh air... and I certainly wouldn't feel any better if I sat in my darkened room trying desperately to write.

So we went to San Rafael and I ended up having a really good time. I even enjoyed the bead shop, they had such interesting doo-dads there. We had lunch and browsed a lot of stores and there were some cute boys and some stuff I wish I'd had money to buy. When I got home, though, I was utterly exhausted and spent the rest of the day in bed.

Sunday, the same thing: I was really tired, a little dehydrated, and not happy, but I got up and did the things I am expected to do. We had lunch after church, and I got overheated again (I really don't do well with heat, and it was boiling out in Concord that day), and so spent the rest of that day in my room, too... this time obsessively building Sims houses and downloading new furniture.

And then Monday we went out to Alameda for the Fourth of July Parade. It was weird, and hokey, but amusing in its own weird hokey way. Then we ate again (I should point out that I overate considerably at each of the occasions mentioned above, and the dehydration was giving me constipation, and so my insides didn't feel so good), and then came home, where I took another long nap. Then I went to a Fourth of July party a friend of mine was having... and while I had a very good time there, I still didn't feel right.

I was telling Daddy, when we were talking about this after the parade, that I felt like I was inside of a tunnel, or a large tin-can, able to see and hear but not really feel anything... I felt separated from everyone and everything by some kind of psychic or emotional barrier. So even though I was techincally enjoying myself, I felt like I was missing something. Daddy told me that was a quite common symptom, it was how he often felt before his bipolar disorder was diagnosed and treated (Daddy has been bipolar for most of his life, but was not diagnosed as such until he went into recovery). It was somehow very comforting to know that I was not alone in that feeling.

The feeling continued for the rest of the day, though, even at the party. That's one of the things I don't like about depression, knowing about it doesn't make it feel any different, you're just able to react to the feelings more rationally.

I'm glad I went to that party, though: my instinct at times like this is to isolate myself, and I know that isn't healthy. It was wonderful to instead take part in a celebration with other sober gay men (especially after the heterofest that is Alameda), Shiloh was there among many other good friends, and I felt supported and loved there... even though that feeling was muffled by the tin-can of my depression, it was very heartening all the same.

So here I am. I still feel depressed, though not so badly as before, it seems to be lifting somewhat. I have started the process for getting treatment through my HMO, but like all things it just isn't as easy and quick as I want it to be. I just want someone to give me some fucking pills or something to make the pain stop; but that's just the alcoholic talking. I will take the proper steps, go through the proper channels, use rational problem-solving techniques, and refuse to foster unrealistic expectations of what can be done for my condition. That's what normal healthy people do (or so I'm told).

[Update... I just got a call from the psych office, they had a cancellation and can put me through the Depression Intake Process this afternoon at 3... so, I'm on my way to treatment! Yay!]

In the meantime, I'm going to go play the Sims some more, build another house, get some more furniture, and wait for Mr. D. to get up and go. And I am going to let Worst Luck simmer and percolate for a little while before I try to pick it up again... I made some good notes about where I need to be going and what I need to be focusing on, but mostly I just need to let it cook for a little while until it's ready to be written again. And other than that, I'm going to drink lots of water, eat plenty of fiber, and get a lot of sleep.

I'll talk to you again soon, and hope you're having a fabulous day!

PS: (10:39 p.m.) I went to the Intake appointment and was given, like, ten pages of questionnaires to fill out; and I got there early and was kept waiting for quite a while, so I filled them all out and still had time to go back and futz with my answers. There was a very cute boy at the intake appointment with me (tall, thin, pretty dark brown eyes and bleached butter-yellow hair, a cute little walk, his name is James...), and I wanted to talk to him but I felt extraordinarily awkward; there I was, at least ten and maybe fifteen years older than him, not particularly good-looking, not very well-dressed, a little overweight and entirely out-of-shape... and what do you talk about? "So, I think I'm manic depressive, and the only thing that has stopped me killing myself is my overwhelming sense of responsibility to my friends and family... what are you in for?"

And as soon as I felt awkward, I started going manic, and found myself futzing with my questionnaires some more. Then the doctor (or rather the intern, I guess he's not quite a doctor yet, or is a doctor but not fully licensed, or something that I had to sign a waiver saying I understood) took my questionnaires into his office and "crunched the numbers" while I waited alone in the waiting room that had no magazines.

I panicked while sitting there... not a full-on panic attack like on Friday, but still a panic. I was sure that I had answered the questions wrong, or incompletely, that I had exaggerated some things or downplayed other things, that I was going to be misdiagnosed because of my mistakes... that I was going to be told to go home and stop being a big baby, or that the doctor was going to come out weilding a needleful of sedatives and a straitjacket.

Of course no such things happened, but I was ramping into manic the whole time I was there, and fortunately had the sense to tell the young almost-a-doctor this while we were discussing my symptoms. He said that it figured I'd be ramping in such a situation, since according to my test results, I am Bipolar Type Two... a condition commonly known among the psychiatric cognoscenti as "Hypomania." That means I am bipolar, but my manic spikes are stress-induced rather than part of the cycle. Or at least that's what I understood it to mean. I'm going to be doing some web research on this so I can understand it better.

[Update: I just read up on Hypomania, and it's not at all what I had assumed... my manic phases being stress-induced is still my own hypothesis; hypomania or Bipolar II just means that my manic spikes aren't as severe as Bipolar I; though I think my mania would be more severe if I didn't have the tools of AA to use.]

Of course, my main reaction is: "Type Two? You mean I'm only a second-class nutjob? B-list crazy? The nerve!"

My other reaction, though, is relief. To be able to call it a name, to know it as an official medically endorsed condition rather than just something I think I have, something that's only happening inside my head, is a huge load off. I mean, there really was a part of me that thought maybe I was making the whole thing up, and another part that thought I might just be way crazier than I think I am.

I am also relieved to be really started on the road to recovery, or at least to coping. I have another appointment for a Bipolar Overview class, followed by a five-week course of Coping with Bipolar class that will filter out into an ongoing support group; I also have an appointment with an MD psychiatrist to discuss medication. Of course, all this is moving at a rather sedate pace, my same-day intake appointment was a seriously rare fluke... my Overview class is on the 28th of this month, my five-week course starts on August 9th, and my medical appointment is on August 19th.

But the wait isn't so bad, knowing that there's a light at the end of the tunnel, that I just have to hang on, continue coping as I have been coping... help is coming.

So that's where I am now... thanks so much to all of you who have supported me through these low times. The intake doctor was impressed that I had so many coping mechanisms and support systems already, that I was a lot less dysfunctional than my symptoms would suggest. You are the wind beneath my wings!

(Okay, that was too sappy. I'm going to bed now... I've been manic for several hours, and now that I'm coming down, I'm all tuckered out. Smooches!)