Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Depression, Teflon, Blogs, Sisyphus, and other Crap

I've been seeing a therapist since November. Not every week, but most weeks.

He's not a psychiatrist - I don't have high esteem for psychiatry since I my parents carted me off to an idiot shrink when I was 16 after I told them I was gay. He's probably a PhD or MSW, I never bothered to ask which. He's the only one at the local clinic that could take MediCare/Medicaide, so it's not like I had a choice.

He's a good guy. If he was a quack, I would have never scheduled appointment number two. Perhaps he's more of a counselor than a therapist. No one really does therapy nowadays - no insurance will pay for long term therapy, and really there is no other kind. I've done therapy and have seen more than one incompetent therapist in the past fifty years. A few OK ones and one excellent one. It's a crap shoot.

I sought out counseling this time because my life has become BLAH.

I walk the dog, grocery shop, blog and surf the web, cook, do laundry, watch TV, go to bed and get up and do the same thing. I thought about volunteering - I do help out with a few computer courses at the senior center - but I just can't seem to get my interest activated. Nothing interests me. Go to a movie, nah; go to a museum, ho-hum; go to the gym, ugh. Get a job - good luck.

So Bill, my counselor, said I was dealing with a life "adjustment" aka "retirement".

Until today. Today he said I was exhibiting signs of major depression, or "major depressive disorder".

He says I should think about psychopharmacology. Drugs.

I told him I've had no good experiences with chemical substances of any kind, including anti-depressants, sleep medications, anti-anxiety medications and pot. And I don't do alcohol well either.

I don't tolerate chemicals well. They usually have bad side effects or paradoxical effects. I avoid chemicals. I'm on no medications save an occasional aspirin or ibuprofen. So I think about going on meds and I feel more depressed. Like I should let some psychiatrist mess with my chemical imbalance by trial and error. I don't think so.

Yeah, I feel like shit. I don't enjoy my walks with the dog and Dottie and her dog. I don't enjoy cooking or baking, I don't feel like writing - I had nothing to offer in my writers' group, can't find anything that truly interests me. I feel used up, superfluous, invisible, dare I say useless, insignificant.

I said in the last post that I was whispering in a hurricane. And now I wonder why I even bother to do that. This blogging was supposed to be a way to do some original, creative writing. My blog has devolved into rehashing news that I find on the internet and reposting YouTube videos that are all over the place anyway. There are a multitude of blogs and news sites that report all the news, the gay and the anti-gay. No one need me to re-post stuff.

And being on here so much means I visit other sites and other bloggers.

A few weeks ago I read a blogger who posts commentary about Catholic/gay/theological issues. There was a reference to another site - a quasi-political/religion-related article written by some lawyer/theologian/journalist that I clicked on and read. Because it seemed it might be interesting. It left me cold.

The tone was, I felt, condescending, angry, disrespectful of the person it was written for, and reminded me of the tone reminiscent of the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) back in the 70's or some other propagandizing rhetoric. I thought the tone "obfuscated" the real important issues that the author was trying to convey. I commented (on the blog that cited the linked article), choosing my words carefully (I thought) and respectfully, not attacking the author, but expressing my subjective reaction which was much, much milder than I've expressed here.

Well, the author of the article commented on the blog where I had made my comment and practically blasted me off the face of the earth: how dare I suggest he had "obfuscated" anything. He is a professional with umpteen plus years of experience who knows whereof he speaks. How dare I criticize his "tone" in view of the fact that he was addressing issues that mattered. Things of great import that paled in comparison to my subjective reaction.

I am not teflon. Never had that attribute. I don't know how politicians do it. Someone should study them and find the teflon gene. They most all have it - at least the ones who stick around. Maybe they can invent a pill that makes people like me grow a teflon skin.

No, I take things too seriously, too personally. People have told me such before. Slap me with a white glove - and I bleed to death. I don't have the chutzpah to come back at you. I lose my voice, I'm at a loss for words, I become nobody. I won't ever win a war of words - or a physical fight either. I am no Panti Bliss.

When I decided to comment to that article, I felt anxious. I knew that perhaps my reaction was one others might have had, but maybe felt intimidated to express. I hesitated, but then I said my two cents. And then I found myself out front - a target of this author's intimidation. And I guess I allowed myself to be intimidated rather than to carry on a war of words or ideas or principles. Judging from his response, the man is not worth my time or words or energy. I became nobody. Again.

That was the event that shut me down here at Reluctant Rebel. That got me off the internet, at least a bit. That made me question this whole thing about blogging, about opinions, about civility and justice and truth and how to sort it all out and to question the wisdom of BLAH BLAH BLAH.

That was the thing that moved me from a "life adjustment" issue to a "major depressive" episode.

I have been shit since then. I thought that getting away from the internet, distancing myself from the danger therein, would be my cure. But it hasn't happened. It's just gotten worse.

Meanwhile I walk the dog, do the grocery shopping and the laundry, cook and watch TV, go to bed and get up to the same thing all over.

Sisyphus. My patron saint. I feel like shit. I've been here before. I guess I can deal with it. Drugs scare me. I'll ride it out.

Oh, and just so you know, I've had it with winter and snow and cold and putting on layers of clothing and lacing up boots and putting on the ice cleats and shoveling and paying the oil and electricity and being cold and not seeing anything green. So I'm not alone on that. The winter crap. Got it. Stop whining. Got it. Count my fucking blessings. Got it.

While you're at it feel sorry for Leon. He's living with me and my shit.


  1. Frank old buddy, this does remind me of the wonderful embroidered cushion that Alice Roosevelt Longworth used to keep on her sofa in the parlor of her D.C. mansion: "If you can't anything nice about somebody, come sit by me." Grin.

    I had a similar deflating and infuriating experience online a while back myself - but ya know, I've finally realized there is just no damn point in wasting my time and running up my blood pressure over some anonymous asshole. There's just no need to say anything at all - turn away and let the S.O.B. stew in his own silly juices.

    I can relate to much of what you wrote. I'm not anhedonic, not at the moment anyway, but I did battle the dreaded Major Depressive Episodes for much of my life. Spent 17 years off and on dragging around from one counselor/therapist/psycho-something to another - and like you, found some were for shit, most were mediocre, only one or two really knew what they were doing.

    And the drugs never helped me - I always felt that mental health is about 500 years behind where physical medicine is now - still a matter of totem dolls and incantations, you know? Even with all our vaunted high technology in this day and time, still nobody really knows how to fix a mind with a flat tire or leaky gasket, IMO.

    In my experience, counselors are professional friends - and damn expensive ones, at that - who can in fact be extremely helpful if you are going through a crisis and need a hand to hold while you grope your way through. But after years of dutifully pouring out my heart and soul to these well-meaning professionals, I finally woke up and realized that none of those hundreds of hours of talk - and thousands of dollars! - had done nothing to fix what was flat, bent, or broken in my life. And that nothing ever would.

    Some things you just have to accept and move on and live with - your face, your body, your soul. Like it or not, you have what you have, and you are what you are. And that sucks but there's no remedy, no magic wand or genie to change all that you would like to change. So deal with the best way you can. And in fact, just the simple passage of time usually brings a change in your feelings and outlook, if you hang on and wait it out, just as the winter does eventually pass and melt into sunny spring. (Cue sound of birds twittering.)

    At least that's been my experience and hard-won wisdom, such as it is. You have to find your own, of course, and your mileage may vary. Sounds like you already have heard all the regular platitudes, which all suck when you feel like shit to begin with, so I won't throw any of those on you.

    But what would it take to feel like you really mattered to the world right now? I'll bet if you sit with that thought, something rather interesting will come to mind soon.

    If not - hell, just move to Florida, at least you can be miserable in sunshine instead of snow! It's better that way, trust me.

    PS - Poor Leon, bless his heart!


  2. I'm the last person to give advice in these matters. I'm kind of going through the same thing myself. It's been a rough winter for me too. I'll be 63 next month and I often think what the hell am I doing? I'm single and haven't been with anyone in about 9 years. I go to the gym 4-5 times a week but will never have a gym body. I'm retired too and don't have a whole hell of a lot going on but I get up every morning go through the same routine and deal with it.
    I don't know the answer. I've had two serious health events so far so I should feel lucky to just being here. I will say though leaving the apartment going to the gym and working out for a couple of hours getting those Endorphins going gives me a feeling of well-being.
    I pooh poohed excise for the longest time but really got to know and feel the benefits.
    Anyway I hope you feel better and snap out of it. At least we have spring to look forward to. I saw my first Robin the other day and that made me smile.
    Here's looking at you kid.

  3. Russ, Stan

    You guys are the best.

    I know we all go through shitty times and we get through them. How else did we get to be in our 50s,and 60s?

    My 66th is coming up soon, so maybe that's got to be part of it...another year gone and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. (Besides being young, sexy and carefree - but I guess that's not growing up at all, ah, the Peter Pan syndrome). Running out of options.

    I share with both of you a certain stoicism - although I tend to complain a lot more than a true stoic. Leon, poor guy, can attest to that. But I carry on and shovel the snow and do what needs to be done.

    I get the health issues too - always a joy to experience along with aging - though I haven't had anything serious, just aches and pains, mostly - but I've had numerous tests and scans - without any answers. So I've sworn off doctors and tests for the time being - therefore won't be seeing any pharmaceutical dispensing shrink any time soon, or later for that matter.

    I have my MA degree in Counseling, so I've studied along those lines. Back when I was in the profession I came to adhere to what I called the Roseanne Barr school of therapy "Get over it". Kind of like Stan's "Snap out of it".

    (Though I've come to appreciate Cher as Loretta in Moonstruck when she slaps Ronnie and says "Get over it." - the difference between Cher's and Roseanne's therapy is subtle). But I digress.

    Snap out of it - I will do, soon, I hope. Sometimes it requires taking off the mask, barring the soul, just being human. Which is why I needed to post this.

    Again, Russ and Stan, thank you for checking in, for your words of encouragement, for your camaraderie, empathy, soul barring and humanity.

    Leon and I have some little adventure in the I am trying to muster just a bit of excitement...will be sharing more soon, I hope. Be well.

  4. Dear Frank,

    I just randomly found your post and felt compelled to comment, as I have been feeling exactly the same as you. Living here in Minnesota, I can certainly understand your frustrations with this horrible winter.

    I am not qualified to give you any answers, but I noticed in your post that you have a degree in counseling? Have you thought about volunteering for a GLBT youth organization or perhaps a men's center? Skills such as yours would be very helpful in such a setting. Maybe you could even do it on-line, since you enjoy writing but seem to have lost interest in that pursuit. My partner was doing that for a while (he's a social worker) while between jobs.

    Thank you for sharing your feelings and please know that you are not suffering alone, Frank. I wish you the best and hope your adventure with Leon helps snap you out of your fog. --Jack

  5. Sorry to hear about the bully you ran across.

    In my case bully's don't bother me. And I can dish out as much as they can.

    I suspect it has to do when that I was on the net when it was just cutting it's first set of teeth. I participated in the legendary Usenet Flame Wars and even go the Asbestos Underpants award for it.

    And I love the challenge of taking down a bully or bigot. It's just too much fun.

  6. Jack,
    Thank you for the comments.
    I do some volunteer work at the senior center, not much but it does give me some contact and satisfaction.

    Not to poo-poo your suggestion, but as a way of explanation regarding my reluctance to go back: I spent a good part of my life in non-profits: residential treatment centers, children's psych hospitals, gay health organizations as both a volunteer and employee, health departments, homeless shelters, HIV counseling; I coordinated the LGBT youth group for many years as a volunteer and belonged to several LGBT organizations as a board member or active member.

    I must have been "invisible "throughout my "career". Others got the awards and recognition, not that that was my motivation, but it's nice to get a thank you once every 4 or 5 years.

    So, been there, done that, and I don't care to return. I hope that doesn't sound too bitter.

    Thanks for commenting. From reading your blog over the years, I'm not surprised you have some teflon. It's just who you are. I considered a direct retort to the gentleman who dissed me, but I don't think it polite it to get into a scuffle on someone else's blog - someone who had no part in the exchange. I am trying to have something of a Zen outlook on this...

  7. Try some lite things like karaoke or open mic stand up comedy. I believe that everyone has at least one or two songs in them.Their songs. In my area there's a weekly group that sits around and tells each other jokes and funny stories. I've always wanted to start a left-footed dance group for people like myself who are left-footed(not clumbsy or gauche).

  8. I'd be pelted with the produce section of the local market and banned from karaoke in ten seconds - can't carry a tune if my life depended on it! And that's no joke! I was laughed out of the gay square dancing group years ago and I think they disbanded rather than have to put up with people like me!

  9. Fell sorry for you, my friend. I had my first episode of "depression" at that age of 23. I am now two months away from 80. Several times I have contemplate ending it all, but just leaves a big mess for others to clean up - if you know whet I mean. My last "serious" episode was seven years ago. My psychologist tells me that I always bounce back. I'm on medication which helps me. Try to find something to keep you interested. Last July I published a book of a selection of the poems that I had written over the 40 previous years. They are selling like pork chops in the Jewish Quarter! But I did it! I had a call from the publisher just the other day, asking if I had another book to publish! That made me smile! With 200 unsold books in storage, would I be fool enough to do it all again? Hang in there, man. Things can only get better. They usually do.

  10. Thank you, LP.
    Doing this post and hearing from all who have experienced similar feelings has helped immensely. I too have written a book, waiting for a local newly formed publishing company who has promised to publish me, to get their act together enough to produce a few copies.
    As I have just purchased a book by a well known gay author online for one cent plus $3.99 shipping - I am under no illusions about making my second career as an author. It's all just another form of pastime and therapy.
    I agree, wait a while and things get better...

  11. Oh, Frank. So sorry I'm so late in seeing this having fallen way behind in my reading.

    As someone who's lived almost his entire life with clinical depression, let me just say, "I empathize." I won't say I know exactly how you feel... because I only know exactly how I feel (and even then).

    I did my share of drugs and alcohol (well, and a few other's people's shares for that matter) into my early 30s. Now, I only do what is prescribed; and I'm, surprisingly, a lightweight with very low tolerance for meds. However, I do swear by my anti-depressants. They've saved my life. Sadly, I had to try different ones and they do tend to wear out in effectiveness forcing me to start with new ones. But, once they're working, I'm glad I powered through. (Until I get settled on a medication, it really sucks.)

    I don't feel sorry for Leon. I empathize with you both. It's called love and it isn't easy. You have been there for him and I'm sure he's glad to be there for you -- only wishing you weren't suffering.

    By the way, screw the asshole "professional" who writes his own strong opinions hoping for feedback, but only wants everyone to agree with him. Clearly from his response to your thoughtful comments, he is condescending, angry, and disrespectful.

    I love what you write. I love what you share. And I've always found you open-minded, intelligent, funny, and accepting of other opinions (and especially encouraging and respectful of other voices).

    From my view, your blog has not "devolved" into anything. You offer a fresh view. You share things I sometimes miss (no matter who else may be posting similar info). I look forward to seeing what you have to say and share. And I don't expect every post to be worthy of a Pulitzer.

    I hope the flowers start blooming soon!

  12. Mitchell,
    Thanks for the very thoughtful and generous comment. It has been reassuring and healing to hear from so many loyal readers who, like you have taken the time and care to share your/their own experiences with depression and life struggles. It humbles me and makes me realize, not only that I am not alone, but that my personal issues are somehow not as grand and overwhelming as I sometimes imagine. I thank you and all of the above and reiterate my appreciation.
    I've followed your and Geraldo's adventures with a mixture of amusement and envy and will continue to do so ... currently a little less often...but i do check in.
    My posts will probably also continue to be sparse for a few more weeks and my reading of all your blogs will also continue to be sporadic and cursory for a bit longer. Sorry about that.

  13. No apologies needed!

    I know it's nice to realize you're not alone. And that you're loved, appreciated, respected, admired...

    But, when you're in it, it doesn't make much difference. You're still in it. Just be kind to yourself.

    You are in my thoughts. Sending you a huge abrazo from Southern Spain.



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