“SOUTH WACKO-LAKI”

 

An early morning thunderstorm has jarred me out of a sound sleep.  Sleeping soundly is unusual for me lately.  My sleep seems pain-filled, both from arthritis making its presence know if I lay in one position too long and from the dreams tormenting my mind.  Don’t feel too much concern and it’s not the point of this post.  Compared to many of my friends and family my age, physically I’m doing quite well.

The dreams…the dreams are due to my fragmented mind, torn asunder by depression and anxiety.  Some chemical in my brain has gone wacko, taking the rest of me with it.  I now reside in the state of “South Wacko-Laki” just across the river from “A-Kook-Among-Us.”

Could it have been triggered by diet; the sausage biscuits I should ‘never’ eat, the bee sting or a thousand other triggers that may or may not be the reason?  God how I hate asking, “Why?”  Maybe it’s just getting old.  Maybe there is no reason.  It is what it is…I hate ‘it is what it is’ too.

Anxiety is a new adversary while the depression an old enemy.  I have too much going on, too many things I need to be doing.  Plenty to be anxious about…but I’m retired, I have plenty of time to go forth and be productive…NOT.

My retirement has taught me one life lesson.  I am not a very good steward of my own time.  My lack of self-discipline explains why I’m failing in my early morning attempts at writing while simultaneously NOT really watching a rerun of Bobby Flay, staring at my computer screen wondering where my last thought came from or went to, all the while worrying about the lightning, thunder, and rain washing away my plans for the day.  What plans?

A checklist…that’s what I need.  Little square boxes to check as I complete small tasks.  I wonder how many trees would have to give their lives to create my checklist.  Okay, a few easy things to begin with like “Just get out of bed!”  Sometimes, even that is not easy.  “Walk three miles.”  Why has my walking become so much harder?  Not physically…MENTALLY!

A harder one, “Stay away from social media!”  Scrolling through Twitter or Facebook along with WordPress fits nicely with my fragmented mind…and probably contributes…not probably.  I can’t totally stay away because I use social platforms to advertise my books to people who are NOT buying them.  I must come up with a better plan.  Maybe write something people WANT to buy?  Purchase an advertising service? Quit entirely?

I have four stories I should be working on.  Should be an indication of how fragmented my dried up gourd of a head is.  If I shake my gourd does it rattle with dried seeds?  The seeds are not germinating, I can’t finish the stories.  I’ve reached a point in each…a barrier of some sort.  I can imagine the end but can’t quite find the rain-shrouded path to take me there.

Maybe a hiatus is in order.  Something to recharge my over-used but underutilized brain.  Go hide in a dark cave for a while…no, I’m already in a cave it seems, and the light from the computer screen doesn’t seem to be the light at the end of the tunnel.

Buffett’s lyrics echo in my fragmented head, “but I got to stop wishing, got to go fishing, down to rock bottom again.”  Could it be as simple?  Well, wishin’ sure ain’t gettin’ it done!  Fishing…maybe.  Probably should wait until the storms pass or maybe just embrace being at rock bottom in the state of “South Wacko-Laki.”

For a saner Don Miller, one should probably go to https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B018IT38GM?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

If interested in “Mommy Porn” with a twist, you might also consider Lena Christenson at  https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B07B6BDD19?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

The image is from “Rule the Wasteland”  http://rulethewasteland.com/?page_id=28

 

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The Easy Way Out

I first wrote this two years ago but with recent celebrity losses stimulating “discussion”, it bears repeating.  “Suicide is not an easy way out.” My own contemplations of suicide and my battles with clinical depression fuel my emotions, along with the thoughts of three friends and former students who in the last year have opted to take the “easy way out.”

“A brave man once requested me,
to answer questions that are key,
‘Is it to be or not to be,’
and I replied, ‘oh why ask me?’”

“’Cause suicide is painless,
it brings on many changes,
and I can take or leave it if I please…
and you can do the same thing if you please.”
Theme from MASH, “Suicide is Painless” by Johnny Mandel

I don’t believe there is anything easy about committing suicide nor do I think is it totally painless. That would be two of the major reasons I don’t attempt it. Some say, “It’s taking the easy way out.” When you are sick like me, one may find it may not be the easiest of ways out. I don’t mean sick as in “I have a terminal illness and it is going to eat me up from the inside out” kind of sickness but the “I’m crazy as a bed bug” kind of sickness. I have suffered from clinical depression for over forty years now so I believe I have the right to say, “I’m crazy as a bedbug.” Also, like a world-class alcoholic, I have become very adept at hiding it. You see, almost daily, I still have thoughts of suicide or when I do something I consider “wrong,” there are the thoughts that I deserve to be hurt in some way even if I do it to myself. YES, I JUST CUT OFF MY FINGER ON PURPOSE!!!! I’ve done neither so suicide may not be the easy way out after all.

Being suicidal and repeatedly not pulling the trigger, not slitting a wrist or taking a short step out of a very high window is hard. I spend some of my “very best” depressed “self-speak” contemplating, quite morbidly, the pain of a bullet entering my head as opposed to the pain the same bullet would have on the people I leave behind. The people I love and, despite my depressive hate speech, those I know to love me, at least I think…maybe. My wife, my daughter, and son-in-law, my grandchildren, who I don’t yet know as well as I want, my brother and my friends. So far, my belief is that the pain of my action on those I leave behind would be greater…therefore, I don’t do it. There is also the fear of the unknown. Am I going to find myself inside of a vat of boiling “hellfire and brimstone” for instance or am I just going to “wink” out of existence? Both options are scary, as are others, and I find I am not a very brave person or is “sticking out” the mental anguish, in itself, brave?

Clinical depression is one of the odd ducks of mental illness. “Oh you are just a little blue…” and the Grand Canyon is a little hole. Logically you ask yourself, repeatedly I might add, “What have you got to be depressed about?” Right now it is a non-functional tractor and lawn mower, but they should not be “life-altering” should they? Or, friends and loved ones ask, “Why are you depressed?” Those questions are quite tiring because there is no answer.

My depression is due to a tiny, little, itty bitty chemical imbalance in my brain. AND IT IS TREATABLE, once you figure out it is nothing more than a disease. No different than diabetes, or arthritis, or toenail fungus except that for some reason it seems to be much more embarrassing to say, “I am clinically depressed and suicidal” rather than “I have toenail fungus and it is yucky.” It shouldn’t be.  We need to dispell the stigma of “I’m crazy as a bedbug” and treat the illness.

These thoughts and my own depression were triggered by a phone call. A friend told me of a suicide. I didn’t know the man; I know the family he left behind and can only imagine the pain they are going through. The unanswered questions, “Why?”, “Why didn’t I see it coming?”, “What did I do wrong?” Suicide was not an easy way out for them. Suicide was not due to an incurable and painful illness like cancer. It was due to an incurable and painful illness like clinical depression.  There are no answers to the “Why” and “What” questions.

His suicide has me, selfishly, thinking about ME. I worry that someday suicide will appear to be the easy way out…that I won’t have enough clarity of thought to keep me from pulling that trigger. No there is nothing easy about suicide including the contemplation of it. Before you react, NO! I do not need to be put on suicide watch…at least yet. I’ll try to let you know and you should be paying attention. This blog post is for the people who have not had their clinical depression diagnosed or those who have and still battle it every day. You are not alone. There are many of us out there, a depressing estimate of one hundred and twenty-nine million worldwide, one out of every ten Americans and even more depressing, eighty percent never receive treatment. I was lucky. There ARE people you can talk to. If there is no one in your life, try these:
National Suicide Hotline (800) 273-8255
Teen Health and Wellness Suicide Hotline: 800-784-2433
Crisis Call Center: 800-273-8255 or
text ANSWER to 839863
For more statistics copy and paste http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic

If you are interested in reading more “Ravings of a Mad Southerner” or other writings by Don Miller, please use the following link:  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Tide Pods and Heroes

 

I wasn’t going to react…I really tried hard but the “daddy” teacher in me has reared its ugly head and I will not sit on the sidelines while thousands of young people exercise their First Amendment Rights…and get ridiculed and called names for doing it.  My inner child of the Sixties has stood up and grabbed me by the ass and shook me.  I was young once and so were you…and if you didn’t do stupid things, you should probably head to the doctor and find out what is wrong with your memory.

Yes, some of these youngsters are stupid…no not stupid.  Some are immature and do stupid things.  Like, take the Tide Pod challenge.  Stupid things like goldfish swallowing contests, flagpole sitting, telephone booth stuffing, pet rocks, flappers, zoot suits, platform shoes, lily-white Irishmen in Afros and lime green leisure suits.  Abuses like beer drinking, smoking marijuana and premarital sex with the wrong woman.  Stupid things that immature young people from previous generations did (I know this for a fact)…and went on to do great things.  Before you say that I’m advocating for beer drinking, marijuana use, and premarital sex…JUST STOP IT!  That is not my point.

Growing up is being taught by caring people if you are lucky enough to have them: parents, teachers, family members, the clergy of your choice…the village.  Unfortunately, or maybe, fortunately, it’s also about ignoring what you were taught, striking out on your own path, and somehow managing to survive it…and learning from it.  I was lucky…I survived.  I didn’t learn much, but I hope the newest generation survives and learns.  I believe the will and that they will go on and do great things too…but they won’t do it our way.

I saw plenty of heroic young people, not one of them had a Tide Pod in their hands…or mouth.  We focus on all the immature actions and fail to recognize that they have a voice that echoes their pain, their concern, and their fear…whether they are high school students or not. They don’t have the life experiences.  Tell that to a kid whose mother works two jobs and leaves him to care for a little brother…no don’t.  You don’t have the right.

Sure, some left just to get out of class and there were, as my brother pointed out, some knuckleheads.  There would have been knuckleheads fifty years ago during YOUR or my generation, and after.

Others knelt in hallways when they weren’t allowed outside.  Peace signs were created by elementary school kids.  Shoes were placed in protest near the capital. Chicago students marched for mental illness awareness, equal educational opportunities, safety in their OWN communities and THE PARKLAND, FLORIDA, DEAD, and SURVIVORS.  I watched one young man march and stand silently…the only person in his march.  I think it was pretty goddammed heroic.

For you deflectors and detractors, sure the problem is more than JUST about gun control.  I don’t want your gun, I have one.  But their march…their conversation was about guns and dying in a school.  Organize your own march…I’ll march with you.

The PROBLEMS are about a failure in a law enforcement and background system that allows a mentally ill youngster to obtain a legal weapon that can kill thirty people in a minute.

It is about bullying, something some people still blame on the victim not being tough enough.

It’s about something being wrong with men of my race and gender who have a need to shoot up things with weapons only one or two steps down from a battlefield…and call it huntin’.

It is about violence in certain cities and the double, the national norm, unemployment figures that go with it…and the inequality in the education they receive.

It’s about prisons for profit that robs families of men who have minor brushes with the law when other men get a slap on the hand and community service.  But that’s something some of us don’t want to hear or even entertain.

It’s about a judicial system that seems to punish, more severely, one group over another.

It’s about moral depredation, Christ follower or Athiest, that must be someone else’s fault cause it ain’t mine.

And, it’s also about smart and consistent gun control, even if it means JUST enforcing the laws already on the books.

There are plenty of facets to the problem…just pick a cause…or not.  But that will be YOUR CAUSE, not theirs.  Or just sit back and denigrate young people who want to start a conversation…one we can’t seem to have without yelling.  I’d say you failed at quieting them and I think that is a good thing.

To quote Buffalo Springfield:

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

Don Miller is a multi-genre writer who may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The featured image was taken by Amber Nelson Wagner

Video from YouTube

 

 

A SLIP OR A SLIDE

When does the slip become a slide? A slide an uncontrolled skid? Or when does a skid become a full-fledged plunge over a cliff, my arms and legs flailing against air, hoping against hope to gain purchase, pinwheeling into the abyss. Everyone laughs when the comedic actor slips on a banana peel. I don’t. It reminds me of my metaphorical banana peel, depression. I don’t even laugh when Wile E. Coyote goes over the edge. I know he will survive the sudden stop at the end of his fall. I sometimes wonder if I want to survive mine…just go ahead, take that step. Falls have never killed anyone…but what about the crash at the end?

My depression hasn’t hit full force in decades. It doesn’t have to. My mini-depressions have hit like Wile E.’s anvil, just not in full force. Depression is a constant companion, offering me a taste, a bit of the poison, waiting for its chance to kick me over the edge. Every time my “blues” hit, I wonder, is this it? Is this going to be the one that lasts for a lifetime instead of two or three days? All I need is the memory, or is the remembrance a self-fulfilling prophecy? Does remembering make it more probable? Do all the questions with no answers depress me even more?

I napped heavily yesterday, a harbinger of depression? Was it the gloomy weather, lousy football games or my depression returning to sap not only my strength but my will to stay awake? Early the next morning I awoke in the darkness made heavier by the continued gloom and argued with two of the dozen or so voices normally residing in my head.

The feminine voice, one as smooth as aged whiskey implores, “Stay, pull the covers over your head. You have nothing to do…just stay, stay here with me.”

The other, a deep voice on steroids orders, “You lazy sumbitch, get your ass up, you’re burning daylight!”

They argued on and on until the drill sergeant’s voice wins and kicks me out of bed. Will there be a time when I ignore his deep baritone and succumb to the siren’s call of smooth whiskey, pulling the covers over my head and giving up? Is this the slip that starts it all?

Normally my exercise unscrambles and silences the voices. This morning the voices become shadows, flying behind my eyes in shapes and patterns resembling those found in a broken kaleidoscope. The colors and forms are there but I can make no sense of them. Is this the slide? The skid sending me over the edge?

Tomorrow is a new day. I pray for sunlight…bright and glorious sunlight to burn away the depression…if it will. In the winter of the year, my depression’s whisper become deafening, the slide more out of control. The nights are too long and the sun is still low in the sky. I pray for the sun and short nights. I dream of long days and a sun high in the sky even if it brings the heat, humidity and mosquitos of summer.

Until then I will have to try and battle my voices, wrap up against the cold when I go for a run, hoping the voices are silenced or at least softened and my slide ends up against a wall instead of over the edge and the abyss below.

For more of Don Miller’s unique views of life, humor and Southern stories of a bygone time, try http://goo.gl/lomuQf