Life's Not All Crap

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This morning was rough. Work is like that sometimes. Stress builds until my hands are shaking, thoughts racing through my head. You’re doomed. You’re going to crack. One day this will be over. Finally lunch came and I had to go to the bank. This gave me an extra ten minutes away from work. I savor it. 
The teller tells me his name and says it will only take a minute. I say thank you, cognizant of how I’m sounding. I try to sound self-assured, confident, and kind. The voices and thoughts tell me this is how I should behave.
When I returned to work the pain was gone. It didn’t return. That happens sometimes. I’m having a rotten day and then everything around me shifts: my attitude, the customers, my colleagues. It seems contrived.
When work ended I headed toward my doctor’s office. As I got to the first light I thought about what I was going to say. My right foot started to shake uncontrollably. On the way to the office my thoughts battled each other, one side trying to convince me that I shouldn’t say anything the other side standing in stark opposition. On the highway I saw a suburban, red and black, with a license plate that ended in the letters WTF. I read into this. This was a signal from one team to the other team that their behavior was unacceptable. While entering chick-fil-a I read a marketing sign with the word “stop” in it, another signal. I was being told not to say anything but the thoughts and the voices also played the other angle. We’re telling you not to so you’ll want to. I had made up my mind. I played in my head what I would say.
I entered the doctor’s office and read a psychology magazine. I found an article about the effect of thinking someone might like you but not being sure, the uncertainty principle. Apparently this has a more amorous effect than if you know they like you. From personal experience I know this to be true, too true.
Dr. Martin invited me in and we chit chatted over my new apparel. I have to dress up for my new promotion so I was dressed in khakis and a button down shirt. We shifted to work and discussed my fears of what is to come. I’m afraid I can’t handle my job when my boss and good friend Tim transfers to Austin. Dr. Martin reassures me and somehow the conversation shifts to my psychosis which I say isn’t going well. I use the word bad. She probes a little and this gives me the window I’ve been looking for. “This is hard for me to say.” “I’ve been thinking of hurting people.” I go over the thoughts I’ve had after being turned down by Crystal and the sexual excitement about the gun. Dr. Martin says the sexual excitement is nothing to worry about. Guns are phallic symbols. We talk awhile about my violent thoughts and she ascertains that I don’t like them but that I’m worried about them taking over. She seems concerned but in a clinical way that is reassuring. I feel no judgments. She decided to add another antipsychotic to my regiment, instructs me to take my Ativan once a day to help with the stress, and talks about having me start a mood stabilizer the next time we meet. We talk some about the illness and she mentions a book she has read called Henry’s Demons. It’s about a boy who suffers from schizophrenia. I’m interested. I tell her I’m writing down my experiences too. Dr. Martin tells me how important it is for people to share their stories. She says it’s an invaluable way for her to understand her patients.
While she tells me a little about the book she mentions the boy tried to drown himself. From the way she described it I inferred it was a reflex act of desperation, not planned out. I imagine the boy sitting by the pool in immense pain and reflexively trying to free himself from it. I’ve never been that bad. It puts me in an appreciative mood. I think it’s important to keep things in perspective. This boy reminds me of a friend I met while at the Menninger Clinic. John was a soft spoken compassionate person who suffered from immense depression. Before being admitted John tried to kill himself by walking into traffic. The police had to come to his school and handcuff him at lunch. These reflexive acts of suicide are indications of pain unimaginable. I drive home in a good mood. Visits with Dr. Martin usually do that, but the thoughts come at me half way home. Dr. Martin had mentioned that I’m not a wuss, that my illness decreases my ability to handle stress. The voices and thoughts tell me this was an insult. They tell me I’m whining and need to suck it up. I listen. I’m determined to be strong. By the time I get to the house the voices and thoughts have shifted back into a good place. They tell me I will make enough money from this story to be able to flip real estate for a living. The fantasy takes on a life of its own incorporating the fact that a good friend Brian works in real estate. We will partner up, make a lot of money, and have fun together. It’s a nice thought as I pull into the drive. My dad’s cat welcomes me home with his tail high in the air. Life’s not all crap.

Today's Perspective

Wednesday February 12, 2014

I'm grateful that I no longer have to "savor" ten minutes. When I was in coping mode I had to take every victory, every positive, and try and enlarge it because they were so far and few between.  Today the savoring lasted the majority of the day and I feel blessed.

In this entry I'm comparing my suffering to that of others. I think people suffering need to be careful when doing this. I believe it's a good thing to be grateful that your not worse than you are but I also believe strongly that you have to allow yourself room to suffer. I talked with a very depressed alcoholic once who was so negative towards himself that despite his immense pain he felt he needed to "suck it up" because there are children in Africa starving.

That's true. But I think it would be a little insensitive to insist that those same kids "suck it up" just because across the world in some prison in China there is invariably some dissident being tortured. According to this philosophy there is only one person in the world allowed to get any empathy. Finding this person would be difficult and indeed my heart goes out to him or her. I think our hearts are big enough to include empathy for the suffering of someone stubbing their toe to someone with a mental illness to someone starving in Africa. So please, if you are suffering give yourself permission to feel empathy for yourself. You are worth it. We all are.


  1. You're a brave guy. Undergoing all this isn't easy, but still you say that life isn't a crap. This is an enlightening piece. Plus, I love your narration.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. I appreciate it.