01 March, 2017

Life

I have not written much, both due to life and intermittent internet. Putting a blog out every day is overwhelming, so I've had to back down from that.
I've been pretty busy with school and volunteer work, and I think that writing the blog was helpful, in realising just how lonely and exhausting my life is despite not really having  alot of work. I've been getting up at 2 am most days, after sleeping about 5 hours, wasting time, usually with art and or watching videos until I can go running and mostly trying to fill the day.
I am torn right now as to what to do in vet medicine. Anesthesia scares me because of the risks. I am very scatterbrained and dont pay attention well. I don't want to mess anything up. I feel like the best thing I can do quite often is nothing. You might think that is low self esteem, but it is just a reality of being depressed and unable to function well.
Most days follow a schedule. I am so tired of it, it seems so pointless.
I'm just so tired, emotionally, physically. Wish i could get more sleep or feel at peace for a few seconds.
I just don't know.

17 February, 2017

I can write at least for now

I was too depressed to write last night and tbh I think I've bit off more than i can chew, aiming to post these every day. As far as activities, diet and things like that go, I've noticed a few patterns the last few days.

I eat not much, a banana and some coffee and go about my daily routines. I tend to view it all as a lot of obstacles.  Go to gym. Volunteer. Do art work(that I can hopefully get paid for). Inevitably, feel tired, eat chocolate to wake up, hate self and feel worse also because of the hypoglycemic reaction. Want to go to school, but feel overwhelmed. Want to go to take psych drugs due to worsening depression, but I take them and feel inevitably just worse, still unable to cope with reality and numb. I see these self destructive patterns but don't see much way out of them or any place I can relax, so I keep doing the same things that are self destructive.

Today, I just survived the class. Not much else. I was miserable and running on empty. It looks like I have to do an externship to finish the class. I want to finish it but not sure what the point of it is and am not optimistic about what future prospects are. I could do vet assisting but it seems pointless and tiresome.

I will likely hide in my room for a few hours and watch free tv on amazon until I can sleep. It is not something i enjoy but don't have much motivation to do much else.

16 February, 2017

meh

i am too depressed to write a long post right now.

15 February, 2017

Be kind

I am not always kind to myself and amid expectations of doing an unrealistic daily journal amidst a busy schedule, it seemed destined that I would fail and hate myself.

I spend most days tired, fuzzy in the head, dissociated and depressed. I try to keep unrealistic expectations that I will go to school, volunteer and live on a meager income, all while alone and eating nothing but a bag of $2 potatoes(over the course of a week) and little else.

Yesterday, I ate again two bananas, then nothing until after I ran, donated blood, went for groceries, went to group and volunteereed at the food bank. I have been taking turmeric and ginseng and feeling better but fail to really do much to address realities. Of course there are complexities and my depression meds are worse than useless, and it is a hard hole to even want to come out of, but being unkind certainly does not help, especially going on an average of 6 hours of sleep.

I do not think I will learn much doing these every day, and though I am upset I am braking a promise, being too hard will not help- in fact it shows I need to step back, breathe and be kind and allow mistakes.

Anyway, thats all.

12 February, 2017

I've Been Bad

I was going to be posting these every day, but real life, ennui and inertia got in the way. I'm not terribly overbusy, just. . .

OK, so let's just get on with the show and our boring tabulation of minutae.
Yesterday, Saturday, we did not have school. I could not sleep well, got maybe 4 or 5 hours of sleep and although I woke up, unable to process information, I couldn't easily get back to sleep(not without heavy medication, I'm betting) so i stayed up, watched some videos on philosophy, wasted time and made art until it was a reasonable enough time to go out.

I think I ate a few bananas and had some coffee. I remember I thought I was eating too much and was worreid so I did not want to eat too much. This would bite me later.

I ran and coming back, was really tired, both from the run and from the cold and from the coldness of the trailer that is still broken and I'm too depressed to do anything about. I thought about going hiking but was terribly tired. Instead, I went for a drive to pick up more cold medicine and called my parents and came back.

I did some artwork for a few hours and watched a movie and needed a break from the schoolwork, but I am really not sure where the day went, which is always a bit frustrating. I am writing this on Sunday, when I've gotten a bit more sleep and overate a bit too much, having cereal both last night as a snack and this morning, and having bought household goods and volunteered at the nature center and been a little more productive, but it is ok to have down days, too. I am guessing pushing yourself so much, limiting food and being cold all the time isn't good for things like that. To tell the truth, I know this, but don't really see much hope of things ever getting better.

I am decreasing the pristiq very slowly. Only two pills this coming week. They were just making me more depressed and dissociative. I can feel some good and some bad coming with getting off of them, but overall, I need to get off of them. It seems that I do not see much hope except for pushing and pushing and I am so very tired.

That's enough writing for now.

10 February, 2017

Day 4 of TMI

So yesterday happened and this blog is just going to show how boring and predictable my life is.
There was not much of not yesteday. Looking at it, I ate the same things, mostly(bananas and later, soup for a later meal) and because I didn't eat enoguh it probably made me crave candy, i think.

My early morning was punctuated by running, giving blood, all things which I felt socially awkward doing. My weight was down which made me feel happy for a second, although I don't like to admit that. I also have a few extra dollars in my debit card which is nice. I was really tired after the plasma and it looked to be snowing, so I came home, had a hearty dinner of soup and bread and vegged out.

I worked on some art, wasted time and watched les Mis. I actually focused on it, which was good, although i wonder how much was the haldol that reduced my anxiety.
I fell asleep early which led to me waking at 10 and then finally at 12. I got some sleep, but now it is 6 am, I have been watching youtube and drawing comics for a few hours and am exhausted and really dreading the day at vet school.
I am sure I can physically do it, as I always do, but am emotionally exhausted and disconnected.
I don't know. Just looking to get it over with.

09 February, 2017

Day 3 (2/8/16)

Was really tired and did not post last night. This is becoming a pattern.
Diet: Bananas
Lentils soup and a few rolls
Coffee, a lot of h20, a coke zero

1/4 pristiq
no haldol

Notes: I did not eat as much, did not feel weak, but emotionally tired. Not sure how much is the cold and how much other things. I did not eat candy, am more aware of this but did have more coffee and took a nap.


Activity: Woke up with a cold. I think its getting better. Nose not running constantly. Did art and wasted time online, watching youtube. Went biking at the gym. Awkward, polite, hating myself for this. Was going to sauna, but felt too tired, probably from cold. Did not go hiking and went home for 4 hours until class. Was frustrated bc unfocused. Did art foir a while, but then watched dumb nintendo videos and read a bit on existentialism and animals.

I had a good time at class. Today was lab day and we were set free which i didn't know much what to do, but it turned out ok, despite my worries. Someone in class mentioned I shouldn't ignore dogs, but I was doing so purposely as I do not know much their disposition and did not want to startle them. Still, I think it hurt personally.



I came home  and was really tired and fell asleep after playing fire emblem on the ds.
I only slept 5 or so hours, but that is typical for me. I feel like this cold is still here, but better.

08 February, 2017

Day 2(2/7)

Was really tired and did not post last night.
Diet: Bananas w/Oats
Lentils soup and a few rolls
Coffee, a lot of h20, a coke zero
a few valentine chocolates

1/4 pristiq
no haldol

Notes: I have a craving at times for candy. I think this isn't good for the hypoglycemia. I also have tendency not to eat enough and get hungry, then reach for easily accessable chocolate.
The pristiq withdrawal is slow going but going well, am already experiencing less depression and derealisation.

Activity: Woke up with a cold. Went running outside, because I am OCD although I wonder the wisdom of this and if it makes the sickness worse. I definitely had trouble breathing. Later on, went to get dayquil to decrease running nose and sneezing and donated plasma. There was a new lady drawing blood, but she was good. I again beat myself up over not being too social, but tried to be genial to everyone. I used the money to buy groceries(typical stuff, lentils, bananas, etc, coke zero) as well as fill up on gas.

I came home to study and did some drawing, then wasted time on internet, unable to focus and about 1-2 i fell asleep for about an hour or hour and a half. I spent about an hour and a half studying before going to class.

I don't have a good balance at times, or focus and wind up wasting time so it is good to have a schedule but will be glad when night school is over.

We had our lectures which were about radiology, a bit boring but useful info and we got some time to look at our blood smear slides. I fell asleep prety quick. I think this cold is wearing on me.

I slept an entire 8 hours and feel refreshed but know one I get back to not having a cold, will go back to sleeping 3-5 hours a night.

06 February, 2017

Day 1 (2/6)

Diet
Banana and Coffee
Lentils with Potatoes
Water

1/4 Pristiq

Activity
Worked on artwork in the am and read and wasted time on the internet
Ran 5.2 miles and did various exercises
Drove around to find bloodwork for thyroid
Volunteered at Humane Society- played with dogs, made treats, did laundry
Drove home, then went to class

Notes: Was frustrated often at things I felt I was doing wrong- wasting time on internet, later I could not find the lab and hated myself because I get so lost and turned around, was unmotivated at animal shelter and class and hated myself also.
This is a definite pattern but things are ok.

On the plus side, I am starting to feel a little less depressed now that the antidepressants are wearing off. It is increasing for me my ability to get agitated, though, to not be as emotionally numb, but the drawbacks are just getting worse while the benefits almost nil.
On the down side, I thought I was just having cat allergies but I think I've got a mofo cold. :( headache and runny nose and itchy throat. Damn.


Weather

 Sunny and warm made me happy and now that the antidepressants are wearing off, I am not as depressed.

Seasonal Patterns

I tend to get depressed this time of year. I am glad it is warmer so I could run outside. It is good to have the class because it is allowing me to do something, but I feel like it is all pointless and I will not make a good thing of it anywway.

Life Events

I also started taking the turmeric and am trying to eat healthier and be more aware of patterns, especially more complex ones. Nothing comes from nowhere.

I am taking a break from the nettle in case it is causing allergies, too. Hopefully it is not and it is just a cold. I will probably need to take allegy shots if I have to work with cats.

Pesonal Accountability Journal

I've been thinking of how I can make a simple personal accountability journal and how I can do it quickly and easily and this is what I've come up with for the format:

Diet
Activity
Events and Reactions
Weather
Seasonal Patterns
Life Events

I don't think I will make it all public as it is tmi, but I may share them from time to time. Thanks.

13 January, 2015

Nature vs. Nurture

When I was living in Issaquah, Washington with an unbalanced manic lady and her cat, my own "schizotypal" symptoms, especially those concerning auditory hallucinations became much worse. I stayed busy, worked and volunteered and tried to do as many positive things as possible, but my life continued to deteriorate. It wasn't until I left that house that I retained some sense of balance. My personality and hers clashed and no amount of positive thinking could change that. Moving on from there and finding more balanced environments, I regained emotional stability.

Time after time I am surprised just how little I actually control in my life and how much is influenced by the circumstances I am in. It's empowering to believe that having a positive mindset and trying hard is all that is needed to lose weight or get a job or change the world, but I don't think that is how things work. The people around you, the geography, the weather- these all profoundly impact how you interface with the world. It makes a good story to think a man controls his destiny with his will, but I believe our cognitive mind does very little and the way we use it currently is causing all sorts of problems in our lives.


When I was a kid, I grew up in a neighborhood that was 99% white. The few minorities I met were from Baltimore and Baltimore was scary to a kid who lived in "Cow County". I knew on a cognitive level that there was no reason to be racist, but it wasn't until I was exposed to a larger sampling of people of all races that I really learned there was no reason to be racist.  I couldn't just think it, though, I had to experience it firasthand.

Similarly, I know it is a good idea to eat well, but it wasn't until I actually changed and was in an environment where I could change- that had organic produce available that things improved.
 This changed my sleep schedule, hormonal balance and stomach pH balance. Besides the stabilisation of blood sugar levels that comes with reducing and eliminating boxed foods, eating less meat, for example, changes the amounts of all sorts of hormones. If one eats a lot of soy, you'll start noticing decreased muscle mass, for example and all sorts of bodily changes because of this. Your sleep cycles will change, your reaction to anger will change and so will the microbial flora in your gut. If you have lentils, yams and potatoes one day, you'll be a lot more mellow the next day due to the slowly releasing starch and high amounts of tryptophan you had just consumed. It's a simple change, but has vast impacts.

Another thing I've noticed that has a vast impact on my life is how much time I am outdoors. I can try to think positive, once again, but nothing can change the fact that I am very depressed being inside a lot. If I am in a situation where I am able to be outside, my mind is much more active and I am less afraid of the world. I do not make a concious decision to be more confident- I simply am because my mind responds to the environment it is put in.

This is not at all to say that I think humans are weak pieces of trash, but simply that I think we vastly overestimate how important our own thinking process is and how much is dependent on how we interface and interact with reality. We can not simply think our way into being healthy and happy and kind- it is the end result of the positive interactions we have with the world. The mantra "it takes a village to raise a child" is true. We are not created by ourselves, but by the universe, which dreams us into existence.

And so we find ourselves in a pickle since our entire system is not set up to make happy and healthy people. We live cut off socially and disconnected from the environment- spending most of our time behind computer screens, behind a desk or behind a wheel and changing that is not always possible(not now, at least).

I don't know what the answer is to get to a healthier place, but I think the time for blaming the person needs to go. The time for saying "every man must find happiness for himself" is for the past. To me, It makes perfect sense that a person who sits all day and is presented with tasty sugary snacks would get fat. The solution isn't to impose more stress on the mind, by saying that willpower is the answer, but to place the person in an environment where he is getting the exercise he needs and such food is not easily available and so the person can develop the correct body that he naturally needs and be happier and healthier naturally.

Again, I don't know how we can get there, but if we can, it will take a village. Perhaps even a whole world to do it. We won't get there with positive thinking and the solution isn't to try harder. It's to try smarter.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Psych Meds

Antidepressants(of the ones I can tolerate: Effexor, Brintellix, Paxil)
Advantages
Not feeling overwhelmed as easily
Prevents "bottom dropping out" feeling
Able to speak better because of reduced anxiety

Disadvantages
Feeling numb and/or distant
Decreased motivation, feeling more depressed and tired
Side effects like Nausea, Diarrhea, Sexual Dysfunction, etc
Dependence

Antipsychotics(of the ones I can tolerate: Haldol, Risperdal)
Advantages
Decreased brain noise and anxiety

Disadvantages
Extreme drowsiness
Difficulty in thinking
Difficulty in feeling related to people
Increased heartrate, blood sugar abnormalities
Possibly can lead to EPS, tardive dyskenisia, diabetes
Dependence

Cannabis
Advantages: more effective for anxiety and depression
increased sociability
reduced anxiety
 reduced pain

Disadvantages:
unpredictable, dosage hard to determine
liable to lead to psychoses
can make very sleepy
cost
dependence

Herbal Remedies and Supplements for Anxiety(5HTP,SJW, Valerian, Chamomile)
Advantages:
Relatively safe, mild side effects
Tend to make more calm
No Prescription or Illegality Concerns

Disadvantages:
Doesn't tend to work very well

No medication/etc
Advantages:
Free, mind is in natural state

Disadvantages:
Still have trouble with anxiety
Not realistic solution. Vitamins are not helpful.

08 January, 2015

A boring update

I really don't like getting a car, but it looks like I will be getting a car. Forget about my egoic desire to be carfree and look at the long term picture and realise that the investment of a $1K Camry might be the way to go. It only has 170K miles, although I'm not 100% convinced it won't need more work to make it road safe.

I'm taking some courses in English and maybe some other things until I can figure out my job situation. This will at least get me out of the house, so it could be a good thing, since I have been avolitional in getting more paid art work projects.

There is still hope that one day I will get out of this shit hole that is Baltimore, that I will find some place that is more livable, but I'm trying real hard to temper that with patience so that I don't decide to just go up and eat mushrooms in the hills. I do miss it, though and know that this Baltimore suburb life really doesn't fit for me.

One of my small joys is doing artwork and cooking and the new show about Small Homes has given me some thought and motivation for things I could do if I could break these chains.

Being off of psych meds is a mixed bag. I'm definitely more cognizant of what is going on around me and able to work on artwork and do things a little bit easier. I have some extreme anxiety and paranoia, though, coming off the antipsychotics, although the trade off of increased mood and thought almost make up for it. Some days.

On other days, I wish I could sleep for 24 hours.

Of Self Deception and Dark Things

In Synechdoche, New York, the dark comedy(is it a comedy?) by Charlie Kaufman, (this might be spoilers if you haven't seen the film by the way), the main character played by Philip Seymour Hoffman gets more and more entrenched in creating his magnum opus play, eventually creating a set of a city inside a warehouse. The play is never completed and his life takes a million odd turns and in the end, he surely felt that his life was a failure.

I am not old by modern standards, but as life goes by, more and more it seems that things don't work out the way I dream them or wish them to. This is, after all, simply what happens when one lives in a world where the Sun does not revolve around them and happens to even the most beautiful and famous of us. I never got a book accepted to be published. My comics never really amounted to much. I never really had any great epiphanies despite my excessive travelling, experimenting and hoboing. In fact, if anything, my experiences have further cemented my belief that most of what we deem worthwhile is simply human myopism. Life has just continued on as it has always been- brutal at times, but as honest as gravity.

There is some comfort I get by knowing that things that I have done in my life have helped people or animals. I spent a lot of time in Seattle planting trees for EarthCorp and making little pieces of art that a lot of school children have learned from. In the end, though, it has all fallen way short of what I had dreamed life would be and to tell the truth, it all seems like a bad drawn out Tarkovsky movie at times.

I am not sure what it is I wanted or why I came here. Joseph Campbell (the mythology and comparative religion professor made famous by Star Wars creator George Lucas) said that life isn't about finding meaning, but about experiencing life and what he says makes a lot of sense, even as I stay stuck in my own delusion and fear, continuing to search for the answer in crappy antidepressants and pointless jobs.

I feel like Hoffman in Synechdoche, New York, so attached to this life, and so focused on trying, but at the same time, so hopelessly lost and confused. I've attempted suicide before and seem to be even more confused than ever about why I didn't go through with it- it's not like life is suddenly going to get better- it's probably just going to be a little different.

But at the same time, killing oneself is an awfully messy thing to do in an awfully messy place. Not that staying around guarantees anything- the world will blow up with or without me and I could be an unwitting impetus behind some terrible mass genocide no matter what I do. Who knows?

01 January, 2015

Pills Pills Pills

It's not easy to explain how I can take antidepressant pills and yet completely distrust the psychiatric system, and yet that is where I find myself. The reason I do this is complex and probably involves more than a little self deception, coercion and fear.

To preface my essay, I am of the belief, backed up by science that antidepressants and antipsychotics are not chemical cures for any mental illness. They can be useful sleep aids, hypnotics and stimulants, but they are not anything close to resembling insulin or statins- drugs that have direct chemical therapeutic actions.

I did not take any antidepressants, unless you would count cannabis for the better part of the last 5 years. I had gone through the psychiatric system and found that taking the pills, I was worse rather than better off. The pills alternatively made me sleepy, agitated, anxious, dizzy, dumb and lazy. I was not able to deal with life or people any better, I was just more dependent on others.

I came off of the pills and although my health improved, I can't say my mental health did. It did not worsen, but I continued patterns of avoiding people and working menial jobs as well as travelling to avoid the stresses of modern life.

Very often I would find myself the subject of others disapproval of my situation. When i was homeless, I was unable to argue effectively the reason why I should not take medications, even though my reasoning(I did not want to feel worse) was sound. I was receiving help from others, so it was expected I would play the game and take medications that the doctors said were therapeutic.

I left that situation as soon as I was able to and was happy to be off of the lithium and tegretol that was making me feel ill and I travelled south on my bike and worked at an ecovillage.

Eventually, after spending a little bit too much time camping I found myself deperate and seeking help, while at the same time angry that I would have to agree to medication that I was almost positive would not help.

And so it was that I found myself jobless and while my situation was not terrible, agreeing to medications was. It is almost impossible to argue with psychiatrists in regards to medication, since they have the entirety of the medical profession behind them, while I only have my anectodotal evidence and small amount of research.

Given that the medication was a condition of treatment, I took it, but was not happy about it. The first pill made me sleep 12 hours a day. The next few gave me awful diarrhea and anxiety. Other pills killed my mind. The doctor, meanwhile ignored my pleas about wanting to change medication, insisting that the pills were helping. I found animosity and distrust growing.

The last straw, I believe was the insistence of the doctor to keep me on 9mg of invega, a medication I find useless, except to induce racing heartbeat, hunger, stupidity and sleepiness, although not in a fun way like cannabis. Given that the pills were 300$, I was recently forced to go off of them when they were not covered and the doctor did not renew my prescription.

Currently, I am not on any drugs, and this is seen as a bad thing to do, but given the refusal of the doctors to listen and work with me, I believe it is understandable. I mean who wants to take a pill that makes them continuously sick and profers no benefit? Who wants to be zombified while their dreams fade into the black?

Given the fact that I've run the gamut of most of the antidepressants and the doctor refuses to work with me on a mutually beneficial treatment plan, instead insisting on strong sedation to control all symptoms, not giving a fuck about what my dreams or desires in life may be, I don't think we would be getting anywhere anyway and until doctors realise that people with severe mental illness are people, too, people are going to continue to be "treatment resistant".

I am fairly certain that I will be coerced into taking some pill again and I am not looking forward to it, but until I am on my own medical plan and living in the forest again, it may have to be a sacrifice I am willing to make. I am not alone in my position. It sucks.

I am not sure where my life will lead and I know things are not that rosy, but I know things are at least a little bit better off of the pills than on them, and I'm really really tired and angry and I hate myself but I probably hate myself for not being able to get free of this bullshit coercive system even more.

Turn off the Brain, please

If I could, I would switch off my brain from time to time as it is an ability I am lacking that causes me much despair. It makes a lot of things intolerable and boring, chief among them, reading and watching movies.

I was recently watching the new Planet of the Apes movie with my mom. The one where the good ape and the bad ape fight. I started the movie somewhere about an hour in, but was able to successfully predict many of the plot twists in the movie. The good character lets the good human go. The bad ape does something bad. I would have fallen asleep except for the fact that there was a lot of gunsmoke and exploding things and so the movie was very loud. People and apes yelled a lot. If there had not been these things, the movie would have been more boring than watching yogurt ferment and more useful for sleep than Unisom.

It would be nice to watch a movie like this and to not notice all the predictable plot twists and strange assumptions that it makes. I would like at times to watch these movies, but I keep noticing things like "why is the bad ape darker while the good ape looks more humanistic and his voice is softer and his skin is paler? For once can't we have an animalistic looking good guy?", but alas, my mind can not slow down and not notice these things. As a result, I am bored by the cliches and tropes it abuses.

Some of my favorite movies and books are strange ones, probably because I don't fall asleep while watching them and it tells me something I haven't already heard or read about. I very much liked Adaptation by Charlie Kaufman and some other people. One of my favorite scenes is (spoiler) the car crash where Charlie's brother dies.

Part of the reason the scene is interesting to me is that the scene plays no music. It doesn't telegraph the accident terribly. There is just the sudden jolt of the accident and the subsequent death. To me, this is much more realistic and interesting, reflecting the way the world works.

Watching many movies and reading many books, you realise that people tell themselves stories and these stories are useful for a great many things. I think part of the problem is that as we grow older, we realise that the world is terribly complex and the story of the world is not centered on the whims and whimsies of humans. Music does not play at important times. You don't defeat your inner demons and things magically get better. People die for no reason and don't have famous last words that aren't a garbled morphine induced mess.

I like stories like this. They are interesting, sometimes, even if they are grim. 

29 December, 2014

An update

So my doctor wants me to put an update to keep up on where I am emotionally and mentally.

This Viibryd drug sucks. I refuse to take the other drug since the nurse refuses to work with me on a treatment plan and so I'm stuck with an antidepressant that doubles for Ex-Lax with a side order of Red Bull. I've been on meds for the past 4 months- switching every 2 or 4 weeks and I'm about done with it. I'm either sleeping half the day or experiencing the joy that is chronic diarrhea. The fact that the nurse refuses to work with me on a treatment plan and instead insists on continuing to up the dose of antipsychotic despite side effects and diminished mental capacity means the treatment is really shitty.

Life is coming along, as ever. I have a few art paid art projects- cards, mugs, drawings as well as a few projects(comics, books) that I am working on with hopes they amount to something.

I've been getting depressed because I don't really know anyone out here- the community is a suburbia full of rich 10 year olds and soccer moms and I miss my old friends and parks and places to pick mushrooms and berries. I know I need the support of the family but still, I'm working towards getting free of this place as psychologically it is leading me to be more neurotic, I fear.

I'm hopeful, somewhat, that things will get better, but I'm not sure where to go from here, not that it matters.

Put the Christ back in Christmas

"Put the Christ back in Christmas" is a phrase I often hear this time of year, but still don't know what it means. As I get older, I know less and less what Christmas and the Holidays are about, only that I feel they are anticlimactic every year. I make cards and candies, make and buy gifts and then the few days of celebration come and it all feels empty- I spend time with people I like but can't relate to and it seems we all exchange gifts that noone really wants anyway.

Looking at the history of "Christmas", it really is a multicultural holiday. Putting the "Christ" back in Christmas might mean to many the removal of commercialism from the holidays, but these folks often forget that Christmas was designed to replace Saturnalia and other Solstice festivals where people would drink to excess and exchange gifts. Our modern day version is an amalgamation of that old holiday, a few Christian moral messages and Capitalism and Consumerism. What Christmas "should" be is what we make it.

As a child, I was quite happy with Consumerism. I got lots of cool toys for Christmas including a Gameboy, a bike and various books, candies, socks and underwear. I'm not sure why I felt let down as I got older. Perhaps I was hoping for something more than just more toys- which I had plenty of anyway and was hoping for something deeper. Like my disillusionment with the church, I became disillusioned with the work world and even disillusioned about Christmas.

Part of me wants to be a cynic and deride the comedy contained in Christmas and religion, but there is still a part of me that dreams and hopes that Christmas is something more: That Santa Claus and God may not really exist, but that his mythical quality is a quality found in the universe itself.

I think we've lost touch with that real connection to the universe and it makes me really sad. I don't think putting the "Christ" back in Christmas is going to happen and fix everything.

26 December, 2014

Ozisoma

I was staring into the abyss of my empty pill case this morning and was dumbstruck with the realisation of just how silly the medication industry is.

One of the current pills the doctor has me taking is called "Viibryd". Pharmaceutical companies come up with all sorts of catchy names to trademark and make millions billions of dollars by marketing to an unsuspecting public. I am guessing this pill got its name because it is a Vibrant Hybrid- an antidepressant that has multiple modes of action. Very clever. Almost as clever as Haldol(halt all) Zoloft(ze 'loft(free of depression) or Effexor(effects your ((mind)).

On the surface coming up with catchy names does not seem so sinister, but when you consider that these catchy names are advertised in a way similar to the catchy names and logos for toys, cartoon characters and cars, the pills start to seem a bit dark indeed.

Commercials for Zoloft and Prozac gleefully proclaim that these pills "may" correct chemical imbalances even though doctors agree there is no evidence there is one in any mental disorder and they proclaim unsubstantiated efficacies while making light of serious side effects(like suicidality and akathisia). I am not saying these pills are not effective, but having them marketed to consumers in a glib fashion, the same way cars and cartoon characters are undermines the seriousness of their industry. In my opinion, we would all be better off if these pills were studied carefully by a trained professional who would work with the patient to decide.

So back to my pills- Currently, the empty box of Viibryd is staring at me. All of its contents are in my pill case. I doubt very much that I am going to continue to take this pill because it makes me feel like I've had 4 espresso shots along with tijuana tap water, but even if I did, I would run into a second problem- the money issue.

It is perfectly understandable that the pharmaceutical industry needs money to do research for newer, more effective medications, but most people, including me can not afford a medication that costs 300 to several thousand dollars per month. Doctors blame Big Pharma. Big Pharma blames the insutance companies and the little man (you and me) gets stuck with the bill. This is all complicated by Drug Reps who focus on the positives of their drugs, overstating their efficacy in order to sell more of the new drug, a claim that, in the case of first generation anti-psychotics, for example, is not backed up by evidence.

 So what happens is that new pills are overprescribed because of drug reps who oversell the pills and people who see the TV commercials and those lucky enough to have a good insurance plan can afford the pills, while the rest of us pay ludicrous prices for medication which may not be worth it in the first place. Sometimes the more expensive pills are useful and they're definitely cheaper than a hospital stay, but with so much overprescribing of more expensive and shiny things, it is understandable that the insurance company would want to cut costs. Sometimes the new expensive pills are just rebranded versions of drugs that are going generic- a shady cost making ploy. But the problem is, the insurance company doesn't know what's going on and shouldn't be the one to make decisions on peoples health and lives.

Case in point: I was once prescribed Lamictal (a mood stabiliser used for bipolar and depression) and I took it for six months. The insurance company eventually decided I should take something older like Lithium, not realising that I could not tolerate Lithium in the slightest. Since Lamictal was $300 and my rent was $450, I paid my rent and went cold turkey off of Lamictal. Luckily I did not have a seizure coming off of Lamictal, but I experienced many vivid hallucinations and a peculiar flesh creeping sensation for weeks. It was not fun, but some are not as lucky as me.

Some get denied coverage and die or wind up back in the hospital or wind up in debt.

I don't know what Obamacare has changed. Some people say things are better now, but I'm looking at the pills and the coverage I (don't) have and I've talked to the insurance company and it really doesn't seem that much better, if it is better at all.

My doctor wants to prescribe me medications I can't afford and doesn't believe me when I say a first generation ($5) antipsychotic has less side effects for me and my list of tolerable medications is growing ever smaller.

It's really frustrating. Maybe I should come up with my own pill with a clever name and make billions of dollars off of it and then I can afford to do whatever I want.

The magic pill I need is probably free, growing in the forest off the side of an ancient Hemlock, anyway.

20 December, 2014

The Hobbit: The Legend of Legolas

The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit were books that I read as a kid that introduced me to the world of mythology. While the books themselves weren't deep philosophical texts, they sparked my interest in Plato, Chinese Philosophy and Classical and Greek Myths. The Lord of the Rings is a richly textured, beautiful book and the Hobbit a fun read(although not as deep as The Lord of the Rings).
I won't bore you with the oft cited quip "the books are better than the movies", although they most definitely are, I will ask you to wonder - do they have to be?

The Lord of the Rings as a movie trilogy is quite close in plot and characterization to the books, but it diverges because it focuses primarily on battle scenes and plot points, whereas the books focus a lot more on the characters and the creation of a richly detailed world- both in philosophy and mythology.

According to Marshall MacLuhan, author of "The Medium is the Massage", "the form of a medium embeds itself in the message, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived." If you take that as a given and take into account the popularity of action, superhero and epic movies and the need of studios to make sure they make money, the fact that Lord of the Rings turned into a set of epic movies for it's film portrayal is not surprising. It was and is a popular film series, but due to the fact that it was a Hollywood film series, it was changed quite a bit. A few of the best examples I can think of of the changes in Lord of the Rings are the elimination of Tom Bombadil- a diversion in the book which would have slowed down the progression of the movies arc and the extension of the battle of Helms Deep- a chapter in the book but at least an hour in the series.

Books by the nature of them not being bound by budget or time constraints are more able to go into small details, more willing to delve into smaller plot points and character arcs. Film, especially mainstream film is quite expensive and so often follows a formula. Charcters are assigned mythological roles and a strict "act" structure is followed. While a lot can be done to experiment with the act structure, movies rarely run outside of the 90 minute to 150 minute mark and rarely experiment too much so as not to alienate their viewers.

I have to say I have mixed feelings, still about the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. I still vastly prefer the books, feeling that the movies are a schmaltzified, CGI-fest with unrealistic action and set pieces, but I did still see them all in the theaters and I'm not sure why, but I still get excited by movies even as the same time I am aware of their shortcomings.

The cynic in me says that movies are getting more superficial and more predictable all the time, but the optimist in me is still there, still hoping that these movies will rise above their medium. That they would be authentic recreations and additions to their source material. As it stands now, the Lord of the Rings movies seem more geared toward getting kids interested in "cool fantasy video games" rather than mythology, history and philosophy, but my hope is still there.

Maybe one of these years, someone will do a "Game of Thrones" style adaptation of "The Lord of the Rings".

But I'm not holding my breath.

18 December, 2014

Fountain House


My mom and me decided to spend the day in Manhattan to take in the magic of the holiday season. We saw all the usual tourist attractions as well as the original Fountain House, a beautiful brick building only ten minutes from Times Square, and founded in 1949 as a self-directed self-help program for those with major mental illness.

I set up a tour with Raj before coming and we were welcomed into a beautiful waiting room and then taken on a tour by Michael. To say I was impressed with Fountain House is an understatement. The tour given by Michael was superb and he told me about all the facets of the clubhouse I had questions on.

Fountain House is run in a similar fashion that I am familiar with at HERO House, only on a much larger scale. There are seven units, allowing members to participate in almost any facet of the clubhouse they are interested in, from horticulture, newsletter, reception, wellness, kitchen, outreach, a gym and more. Members set their own goals and work at their own pace, but are helped and encouraged to go back to work, finish schooling and secure stable housing and support systems.

Fountain House owns a 400 acre farm outside of New York City, which grows a lot of the healthy food that is served for breakfast and lunch. Members take turns doing work trips there. Along with the food at the farm, the horticulture unit supplies much of the greens for the lunches in a tightly controlled aquaponics room.

The clubhouse also coordinates housing for members and members of the clubhouse run a gallery just down the street. It is really inspiring to see the breadth and diversity of activity that goes on and to realise that there really are no limits to those with "unrecoverable mental illness".

If you get a chance to go to Manhattan, Fountain House is definitely worth a visit. It's only ten minutes from Times Square and being in the clubhouse felt like being home. I don't think I'll ever move to Manhattan, but if I do, I know where I'll be visiting often.

16 December, 2014

New York

Going to New York today and I'm up early, getting ready. I've been in the city a few times- a beautiful, interesting and complex place that I've barely scratched the surface of. On my first trip, I believe I saw a lot of the landmarks- times square, central park, rockefeller center and the empire state building. On other trips I saw Broadway shows and the Statue of Liberty, some Museum exhibits and some other pieces of neighborhoods. I don't know if I'll ever understand the city beyond as a tourist and I'm not sure I want to- the city is so fast paced, it makes me feel somewhat disjointed and nervous, and unable to withstand more than a day or two of it's mania. Still, I am curious about neighborhoods and finding something more interesting about the city. I'd like one day to see more of Queens- if for no other reason than to see where my mom was born and in this trip we're going to see a few more neighborhoods and the original Fountain House- the first "clubhouse" for mental illness.

It should be interesting, although probably as dyspepsic as usual.

I'll let you know how it goes in further updates on this blog, which I am renewing my resolution to post at least semi-regularly on, mostly as a way of documenting my thoughts and possibly finding a solution to nebulous problems.

Watch this space.

24 September, 2013

Modesto

It will take me some time to write in clarity about the entirety of this summer, journeying from west coast to east, living in an ecovillage, travelling in Baltimore and visitng family, coming back to Seattle only to head south with nothing but my bike and backpack, culminating in a visit to Symbiosis, a crazy 5 day music and arts festival, but I can write a little about Modesto.

Modesto is a little town about 3 hours east of San Francisco located in the flat, hot nowhere of agricultural production of California. Before coming here I didn't know anything about the city except that it was in the middle of California and George Lucas grew up here. And walnuts. There were walnut trees everywhere.

When I came here on the way to Symbiosis, there I was not terribly impressed with Modesto. Like a lot of places in the USA, it has a similar collection of fast food joints, Walmarts and strip malls. Like everywhere else in the country, people sit on buses and in cars and don't talk to eachother and you see the same general clothes and gestures and accents copied from the latest TV and rap and  hollywood stars.

The McDonalds in downtown Modesto caught my eye not because it was especially beautiful but because it was interesting. I've long held a love-hate relationship with a lot of big corporations like Disney, Coca Cola, Apple and McDonalds, companies which do a lot of harm to the public good, yet are incredibly good at changing and making themselves attractive. McDonalds has revamped itself to be a coffee bar, included health foods and nutritional information. It looks friendly, even and after a long bout of being in the wilderness, hiking or camping, I have often been tempted to a McDonalds milkshake or Ice Cold Coke, a pleasure which never lasts very long..

A few times at the ecovillage, I excitededly awaited my visits to town where I could pick up supplies and spend the day in the brightly lit coffeshops(a step up from the commercial McDonalds). These forays, although happily gave money to local stores, still left me feeling bored and overwhelmed and after the business of having a full belly was accomplished.

But time after time, I've found myself in this same predicament, this predicament of wanting and craving for something, yet being disappointed when it came. At Symbiosis, I craved the sun when it became cold, yet was bored when it became sunny. I came to town, excited to get some non-camp food and check my emails at Starbucks yet after my belly was full and emails read, I quickly became overwhelmed. I spent the night at a cheap hotel(although I didn't really want to) and although it was nice to get cleaned up, I quickly became bored without anything to do in town. I walked down the street at 6 in the morning, Walmart groceries was the only store open and the most economical way to eat, so I stepped in there. I haven't been to a Walmart in years and was quickly reminded of the comfort of those neon lights. I played the Nintendo Wii U console that was sitting out. The last game console I had was a Nintendo 64, and though I was initially excited, I got bored after beating the first level of Super Mario Wii U.

Again and again, these cycles of hope and disappointment continue. Right now I am a nomad, a traveller, homeless and though I crave rest, I am torn between the congestion and excitement and convenience of the city, which I know won't last and the coldness and loneliness of living out in the boonies. Any hope that having a settled place with green grass is in my mind an illusion. But where then are our dreams? I have a feeling it is in some deeper meaning, although that is something I am still figuring out. I want to be an idealistic artist, but truth be told, it is very hard when you are cold, wet, hungry and broke.

And so it goes. The train to Modesto comes. Joy and sun come and go. Rain and cold do too. Hunger comes and goes. It will be good if I can remember this, if we can all remember this, although it is something very difficult to do.

The temptation of Super Mario Wii U or Coke or coffee or any of a million different things, with their colorful rainbow hues beckon to us, in the end, being only empty calories.

The temptation is not much unlike a drug addiction and not much unlike lust. And for a while they can be nice, but they will not bring one home. And so I search for home, not that illustion of brightness and comfort, but not some place where I will suffer needlessly. I hope you all may find home as well. Maybe we are already there and don't know it?

29 August, 2013

Yes.

Why do so many of us spend our lives being unhappy? That question percolated in my mind as I shifted in my seat and watched the policeman ask a middle aged black man for ID and his ticket at the airport. I didn't have my ticket but also had the feeling they weren't going to bother approaching me. The black man left and I sat, just trying to stay awake after the red eye from Boston, waiting for the busses that wouldn't run for another hour.

What is the meaning of life?, I wondered, realizing that this was a wholly bourgeousie affair. Although I had been a homeless wanderer, I was and am resolutely middle-classed, white and priviliged. I survived homelessness because I was never where that black man was, I would or could never know the depths of depravity suffered by half the world forced to work, who didn't have the time or ability to question what it is they did. Who were too tired.

Would you like a croissant with that? the lady asked as she handed me my coffee at 6 in the morning. The lady didn't look like she wanted to be there, and I couldn't blame her. I got out my computer and started planning my approach to California. I looked at room rentals and places to stay in Cali and was disheartened to see that I would likely be stuck in some crappy apartment again and I wished I was better at enduring things like that. It's not about being comfortable and happy, I reminded myself, it's about the bigger picture.

I reminded myself that I was moving on from a lot of unhealthy codependency in Seattle and that I was following my dream as an artist and that life wouldn't necessarily be easy.

When I arrived on the red-eye I was depressed. I didn't want to be in the rainy city. I was disgusted by the coldness of the people, the sterileness of the architecture, the blandness of the culture. As I rode the bus, I was reminded of how over the past 4 years, Seattle has become home. I was overcome with wanting to connect with old friends, go to see interesting, quirky art installations and coffee shops.
I reminded myself to look at the bigger picture.
At least you're not working at Starbucks, I reminded myself.
But maybe one day you'll have to.
Perhaps. But I will always have my art and I can make a life I am proud of.
Even if you are poor and living in squalor.
Yes.
Even if I am poor and depressed and living in squalor.

I looked out the window of the American Hotel in Seattle. ($26 a night and free breakfast and wifi) and was overcome with no emotion whatsoever. Life goes on and so we all do.

20 July, 2013

Moooooovies

Over the years I've cut my media usage. I First eliminated TV and then video games. Being at the ecovillage, I've drastically cut my internet use and plan to keep it that way because I see what a time drain it is. But I've always hesitated cutting movies entirely out of my weekly existence. Be it the new superhero or action flick or a drama or foreign film, they've been a consistent presence in my life.

But aside from "Fiddler on the Roof" which I recently saw and was quite impressed with, all the movies I've seen recently play like video game cutscenes- devoid of subtlety, character development or any real sense of story or drama.

Dialog, which used to be an art is now so across the board horrendous(and not just in superhero movies but in recent romcoms and regurgitated comedy flicks) that it does not interest me in the least even if the special effects are kinda cool.

George Lucas was famous for saying something to the effect of "special effects should always be in the service of story."

He then blew his credibility by making a pale prequel trilogy to stand in the shadow of the original, still corny but infinitely more relatable original trilogy. I think the influence of Star Wars still echoes to this day, except instead of being influenced by the novelty of that movie, movies have tried to copy them over and over again in search of the almighty dollar. This has led to an obsession with special effects, blockbusters and set pieces over story and character and dialog.

There are some good movies which followed the hero myth but nowadays you get ten of them a summer and they're all the same. Hero is an outsider. Hero struggles. Hero saves the girl. Hero cries. Hero dies and is resurrected.

 On top of these you have regurgitated animated movie after animated movie, devoid of the animated essence that makes animation so much fun in the first place.

As a lover of comics and a novice animator myself, all of this is embarassing. Perhaps it would be better if I stuck to foreign and independent movies or at least stop being so cynical and just accept hollywood for what it has become.
Or maybe I should just stick to reading books.

18 July, 2013

Gotta Eat!

It seems like everything I read about nutrition or food contradicts something else. Canola oil is good for you. Canola oil is bad for you. Eat your raw veggies. Make sure to cook them so you get all the nutrients. A whole grain diet is the most well-rounded. Whole grains are bad for diabetes and place a lot of stress on the body. Eat lots of fruits. Too many fruits could put you at risk for pancreatic cancer.
A few general guidelines seem to hold true across the board- stay away from smoking, overdrinking and sugar. Experts opinions are mixed on things like chocolate, coffee and how much meat is good for you.
Spinach- should you cook it? Some say raw spinach has more enzymes while others say it has compounds that make it impossible to digest. Similar concerns surround chard, collards, kale and many cruciferous vegetables. Some stay completely away from all plants in the nightshade family(which includes everything from potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and more) while others swear off everything in the animal kingdom.
My grandmother, who is 99 was never a great cook or eater. My other grandparents lived similarly long lives, but none of them ate particularly well diets. Perhaps some of it was luck or perhaps some of it had to do with the fact that none of them were terribly obese- I really don't know.
One of my favorite books on diet and nutrition is Nourishing Traditions, and at the center is the idea that whole foods are at the center of our problems with obesity, diabetes and many other conditions.
I'm sure it contradicts half of what you are currently hearing from Dr. Oz or any other expert on the subject and who knows, maybe in 5 years we'll have conclusive proof that broccoli really is bad for you, sugar is good for you and coffee should be drunk at every meal.
But until that time, I think I'll enjoy the confusion along with my broccoli and coconut oil.

16 July, 2013

Homeopathy...

I like to think of myself as open-minded. For example- I am skeptical of astrology, but my logical mind reminds me that the yearly solar cycle influences our hormone production and the time of year often influences food choices as well(greens in the spring, berries in the fall, meat and kimchi in the winter) and consequently, influences behavior and mood aspects. I have trouble believing your birthdate influences your entire fate, since there are so many other factors at play but am willing to believe that perhaps there is a small bit of truth in there somewhere. Perhaps.

Acupuncture, Meditation, Ayurvedic Medicine, Chinese Medicine- they're still a little strange to my westernized mind, but they really do seem to work and the ideas presented for each body type in Ayurvedic seems to hold true for many people. Meditation has been scientifically proven and I have high hopes for the other perspectives as well.

But homeopathy(and its twin, Bach essences) as well as some of the more obscure alternative health therapies and ideas, including Numerology and Cranio Sacral therapy are just so beyond ridiculous I have trouble taking anyone who advocates for them seriously.

In other words, I believe homeopathy is nothing but sugar pills, Bach essences are nothing but water, numerology has no basis in anything except randomly assigning values to random numbers and perhaps it makes me closed-minded to not respect these therapies, but so be it.

13 July, 2013

What's in a Name?

Out of boredom, I try to think of names to name the children(or dogs) I will never have. I have a feeling that next to designing your own landscape and restaurant and dreaming of how you'd spend the Mega Millions winnings, this is a national pasttime.
I don't like my given last name Fortenbaugh(pronounced Forden bocgk) unless I want to bestow a first name such as Ludvig or Bela or something equally Eastern European sounding. With the last name Thomas, I have experimented with the first names Kafka and Dean(literary genius and the antagonist of On the Road respectively) I have also thought of using the name Joseph(the same as my late grandfather), perhaps relegating Kafka to a middle name status, which both sounds somewhat normal and serves as a literary reference if one uses the spelling Josef and simply abbreviates the middle initial(Josef K. appeared in many Kafka stories).
As for female names, I am prone to admiring the names Appalachia and Cheyenne. Gertrude also, the name of my late grandmother is a name I like. Appalachia can be shortened to Apple, which I like, but I fear it may be too cute. Cheyenne can be shortened to Shy, but again, maybe too cutesy. Gertrude shortens quite readily to either Gertie or Trudy, but there are many who feel this name is too old fashioned.
I have no idea why I spend so much time thinking of random things like this. I remember when I was 12 and I spend months picking out names for the dog I was going to pick up from the pound. Names such as Sebastian, Winsor and Eugene passed through my mind(I was an odd child), but when I found my dog I almost instantly knew that his name had to be Bernard.
I have no idea where it came from but it fit perfectly and I'm glad I went with it instead of Sebastian.

Disney Mind

Disney World was a big deal for me growing up. I dreamed of being an animator from the time I was about 4 and had made Bambi, DUmbo and Donald Duck my favorite friends. Disney was the place I wanted to go and work when I got old because it seemed magical. Aside from my collection of action figures and cartoon books, our family had a jar of Pixie Dust(just really a jar of glitter) on our bookshelf and I liked to open it and sprinkle some pixie dust in my hair much to the disgust of my mother.
I created comics with Top Duck, who I decided was Donalds unknown brother. Top was very friendly, unlike Donald, and he wore a green turtleneck and newsboy cap and went on adventures where he would talk to ghosts and animals and free the liliputians. As I got older my stories got more complex and I made many of my own characters, but the original inspiration remained.
As I got older, my love of Disney faded as I realized the difficulty of being an animator and the poor conditions DIsney workers actually enjoy. Interests in nature, philosophy and a growing disconnect with my peers in school led me away from the Disney animator path and into the path of the eccentric artist/traveller, but the lure and attraction of Disney and other related ephemera stayed with me.
I hate to admit it sometimes, but those childhood joys of Disney cartoons as well as associated memories of going to McDonalds after school are things that still bring a smile to my face.
Although there are plenty of more wholesome memories- memories playing cards with my grandfather, hiking and camping with scouts and biking, the early memories of Disney are particularly strong ones.
Although it's way too simple to think of Disney as the bad guys and to simply become disenchanted once you realise the mechanics behind animation or the simple economics that fueled your favorite theme park(MGM studios was created to lure people away from Universal), I can't say that there is absolutely no lure left to work for them(nor for Klasky-Csupo, a company I almost took an internship with).
Ideally, I like to think that there are other, more wholesome outlets for creativity. And realize that as a human, I'm capable of a hell of a lot of self deception, so maybe it's better not to work for Disney and to work on being OK with that, rather than work for them for peanuts, destroying my soul in the process.
I read a book recently that really caught my imagination. It was called No Logo and it talks a lot about branding and Disney in particular. It talked a lot about how companies started out creating products first and then making a name based on that reputation. Newer marketing makes the name first and then makes the products second.
As a result of this, you get the poor working conditions of Disney(as well as other chains) as well as outsourced jobs, dumbed down movies and a general disregard for the public good.
Top Duck would not stand for that.

05 July, 2013

Addiction

They're not always what you think they are. There are the obvious addictions like cannabis, alcohol, TV and gambling and then there are the more subtle addictions that come from simple living patterns that no longer serve us.

I've given up junk food and TV, video games and chocolate, cannabis and prozac and most recently movies and the internet. I meditate, run, eat well and do yoga just about every day and on the surface seem to have no addictions. Except I do.

My mind is obsessed with suicide and I have no desire to live. I've tried in the past to go to college, to find a normal job, to engage in my twin loves of art and nature in various ways- through animation, through botany and nurserywork, through illustration work, but in the end, I am still alone with my own mind and it tortures me endlessly.

I used to think yoga or medication or even cannabis would cure me. I used to hope that if I just found the right job or martyred myself for the right cause, everything would be OK. I used to think that if I just ate the right foods, I would feel better or if I just moved to the right place, I could start over and everything would be OK.

I'm in a place right now that I love dearly. There is nature and beauty everywhere. I am doing a little bit of art and have plans to do permaculture animations. I don't have a solid plan for the future but have a lot of good prospects with either making a small garden or doing some permie/activist art and yet I feel like shit and hate myself for it.

It's a strange condition in our modern world that we can often have so much and yet feel so disconnected from people and from life itself. I honestly have no reason to complain but just feel so disconnected from the stream of life and so naive about how to make it in this world that I push people away and I think about suicide all the time.

I've given up the internet and movies, chocolate and soda, but this might be a hell of a lot harder.

09 June, 2013

To Anyone in the World Who Cares

Writing this feels entirely too self-preoccupied right now but my thoughts on interning at the ecovillage, as naked as I can possibly convey them are of utmost importance right now.

I had a conversation with Patricia early on about living in community. Communities, such as ecovillages attract a lot of transients, a lot of hippies, but being there one has to confront oneself. I knew early on that moving across country for a half year would not be a panacea to cure my depression or any of my other various health ailments(chronic allergies and asthma and general weakness of physical constitution) but I hoped beyond hope that something would give or that I would at least survive.

So far, I have survived. I came in and the first few days was in quite a haze. The first week I slept between 12 and 14 hours a day- closer to 10 or 11 now counting my frequent naps. I quickly acclimitized to living in a house of between 10 and 14 people, although I doubt I'll ever get used to the various dishes laying around, I can't complain about the housemates(no thieves, drunken liars or crack smokers) and given that I am the eldest of the interns at the house have taken to doing the best I can in hopes that I am something of a positive example. The others are college age or a bit older, definitely more social than I, but equally lost in different ways than I.

Yoga practice and running have opened most days, or hiking. I have been eating good food, although simple- grits for breakfast , usually a pb sandwich for lunch and rice and beans with salads and greens and potatoes mostly. In the mornings, there are a few hours of work and in the afternoons a few as well. It is not a lot of work and allows for a lot of time for reflection and resting. Although the work is not particularly hard, sleep often comes at midday after working in the garden or doing cobbing or whatever work had needed been done. I suppose it is what my body needs although at times it seems excessive. I then work a few more hours in the afternoon, after napping and try to work on my art projects which I have trouble keeping track of many days and so get little done(its mostly writing ideas for animations that I want to work on). I also work on mindfulness and other spiritual readings and half the time delve into pap like Stephen King because I feel tired and lazy. The house socializing seems to take up too much of my time other than that, although it's not necessarily a bad thing, I realise I need to be more clear and be OK with not always being social. Usually I try to be helpful but I need to balance my own needs as well as others desires to chat mindlessly, which I don't usually find interesting.

The ecovillage in general has been a welcoming place although it is definitely challenging. I feel like some aspects of communal living are beneficial, although very often I wish I had more of my own space to work in and garden in and could decide when and how to interact. I wonder if this would lead me in particular to being more isolated but I think it could work. I like being off-grid in general and out of the city, but realise the challenges of making this work. I appreciate the other workers in the house- especially being around much younger folks it has made me reflect a lot on my own pessimism and self-defeating nature, wonder why I always try to work so hard and try to regain some of that lost dream that seemed so approachable when I was 20 or so.

The ecovillage in North Carolina does not quite feel like North Carolina, or maybe not what I expected it to feel like. Many of the residents are transplants, so there is very little southern twang and the climate and area supports a lot of very liberal minded folks. Happily, there is a good mixture of ideals at Earthaven. No hive-mind although everyone is trying to live more sustainably.

I guess I am not sure exactly what I wanted to convey here. I am doing ok although my weak stomach and allergies and such are a hindrance. I am learning a lot although I am worried where I will go after this as I don't want to go back to being homeless and I need to keep hope somehow and doing that with crappy part time illustration work has been more frustrating than I want to admit and I'm more depressed and suicidal than most realise even though I seem to complain about it way too much.

OK that's enough writing from me. I hope everyone is doing well or at the least, hanging in there and not giving up hope, least of all on oneself even if one has made a lot of mistakes or has a hard time finding hope as I often do.

26 April, 2013

A day like any other

I was in Seattle for an appointment Monday and talked to some of the buskers and canvassers. I quickly became overcome with nostalgia of the time when I first moved to Seattle 4 and a half years ago. Staying in downtown, I eventually found cheap housing in the suburbs until I came downtown when I was homeless.

Downtown, even though it's rife with tourists and shops remains fascinating to me because of the diversity and activity of people and things. The shows and events quickly lost what little appeal they had and staying in a hostel until I had no money at all, I began to see a lot more of the darkness of the city. The drugs. The violence. The craziness. I always tried to be friendly to the homeless people, but when I became homeless, I began to wonder how much of what they were doing was an act. Dressing a little dirtier than they could, they could get more money. Feeling sorry for themselves, people would feel sorry for them.

I stopped giving money away, because it was inherently selfish, only done to make my guilt a little less prominent. I still tried to give a little to the Spare Change guys from time to time, because they were clean and I knew the money wasn't being thrown away at least, but I knew the guilt still haunted me.

Feeling empathy and actually doing real things are often quite different things. You can't really buy yourself into "heaven" if it is a place and it is a place based on merit just as you can't really buy other people out of their own hell. It's a place we all share. Together.

I flashed back again to Hagerstown. I volunteered at an art gallery while studying Multimedia, sometimes looking after it, sometimes cleaning and organizing art supplies. I had a few pieces up there and at a few other places but never liked teaching kids so I didn't. I stilll don't know if that was the right thing to do, but felt woefully unprepared and distant and often regretted it. I volunteer now at a Mental Health Community Center here and a feeling of obligation follows me when I go there, too. Something i am not sure exactly what to do about because I also have a very real need to actually do real things and not just volunteer all the time. At the clubhouse, I Mostly just cook lunch and try to organize their newsletter. I am going to miss that place and I am going to miss the old gallery in Hagerstown, but at the same time, I know life goes on and challenges await.

While I was walking around Seattle, I remembered quite a few things that day. It was a beautiful day, sunny for the first time in months and so there were a lot of happy faces. In Capitol Hill and Pioneer Square I saw some folks I knew from support groups and some I knew from the streets. I hung out in a Capitol Hill park, reading a book while overhearing a kid talk about getting clean. He reminded me of myself and a little of my friends. Listening to him talk about counseling kids and staying clean gave me a little bit of hope.

I walked to the bus late that night. A funny kid who had had a few drinks too many told the beautiful lady standing next to me that she was beautiful, many times. He was charming and harmless, but still I could tell she was nervous and many Seattlites eyed him cautiously, keeping an eye on them both but like polite Seattlites, keeping their distance. But he quickly disappeared when her bus came and she left.

I eventually arrived home, and now I am thinking about my bags, which are already mostly packed. I've moved around enough times to know that my social issues will follow me whereever I go, that no magical perfect job exists anywhere. I will feel like I'm making a bad decision whereever I go and whatever I do. I am thinking of perhaps teaching permaculture, just like I have thought of being a counselour or teaching in central America. I know there will be good things I have done and will leave behind and I think, if nothing else, hopefully I can say that I made a positive impact. Planted a lot of trees out here, led a lot of restoration events, tried to be active and do work despite my idiotic psychotic depression and anxiety, cooked a lot of good meals for $2 a plate. I hope it was enough.

I don't know.

It's scary.

I'll miss Seattle.

25 April, 2013

The kids are alright

Now that Washington state has OK'ed wine and liquor in grocery stores and we're well on our way to having weed being sold in restaurants(as a gourmet foodie thing), it probably won't be long before weed is sold in grocery stores, too. And what is the gateway drug these grocery stores give us? Caffeine.

It used to just be something adults had. That black coffee was a rite of passage. Something only inattentive parents would let their children near. Then came the soft drinks. Schools started with the soda pop machines to make a few bucks. The school lunch programs tried and some of them succeeded in banning this junk, but it's already here and it's here to stay.

I grew up in the '90s and by then, Jolt Cola, the predecessor of Red Bull and 5 hour energy was just being introduced. It was hard to find but it was out there. When you found it, you felt like a drug addict. It had something like two to three times the caffeine of Coke. Nowadays, a trip to any of a few close, local grocery stores reveals a full 1/4 aisle of these drinks- all brands and varieties. Some of them in cans. Some of them mixed with coffee. Some of them in convenient powdered form. This stuff is everywhere.

And if you want coffee, Starbucks makes only the strongest, bitterest coffee imaginable. Diarrhea and visual distortions are almost guaranteed. Half of these coffeshops are even inside of grocery stores, right next to the energy drinks, booze, beer and wine.

It is very interesting that we don't take the caffeine problem seriously. I am not suggesting that having a cup of coffee or hot cocoa every now and then is bad or that even a cup a day is really all that bad(except for the withdrawals), but the easy accessability and marketing of these products as being cool makes them a strong contender for being the REAL gateway drug.

Just think- if caffeine is everywhere and perceived as safe, what's to stop you from taking a few of your friends ritalin or provigil tablets? When you realise there is very little difference between the two(at the dosages some of these energy drinks are at, having one or two is the equivalent of having some amphetamines or cocaine), what's to stop you from experimenting even more?

We send a very mixed message. Drugs aren't black and white. I don't like beer or wine but wouldn't mind having some weed butter available to purchase and yet, I really don't like the way it's marketed and glamorized. I hate that some idiot named all the weed strands names that sound like candy. It's fucking stupid.

Just put it all in a plain paper bag. The coffee. The beer. The weed. Keep the kids safe. Don't lie to them. Let them make their own decisions.Don't use it as a quick means to boost profits and then not want to deal with the consequences.

18 April, 2013

Trauma

We remember traumatic events. Be they good or bad. Years from now I still remember that I was sitting at home, drawing, on sick leave when my mom called and told me to turn on the news. I turned on FoxNews or MSNBC and saw the airplanes hitting the towers. I remember my dad telling me he had cancer. I remember when I rode in a police car and spent the day in a holding cell. I was looking up a recipe for Spanokipita when I heard about Boston.

There are things I don't remember that I wish I did. Whole weeks and months of my life that I spent working that seemed to flash by or not even happen at all. My grandfathers death. My whole high school experience was a numb, barely remembered dream. I vaguely recall the birth of my niece, although I was in a homeless confusion at the time and moved from one strange living condition to another. I remember the dumbest movie quotes but can't for the life of me recall any of Amerika even though I've read it at least 3 times.

They say that ongoing anxiety and trauma can result in a kind of numbed state. I vaguely remember many news events growing up- the Waco bombing, the airplane crashes but they seemed to happen so often, they merge into a kind of vague idea of what happened. At a few times in my life I have had tweakers as neighbors. At first I was agitated and would wake up when I would hear them at 3 in the morning or when they would start screaming. I quickly grew used to their erratic behavior and odd hours and even slept through their constant alarms.

I know this is not always a good response to terror- this apathy and anaesthesia that kicks in after all the adrenaline has run out, but it does help one to survive. I noticed it when I was homeless, sleeping along the Columbia River. At first I was persistently watchful, but over the course of weeks I soon became comfortable sleeping in the strangest places, dumpster diving and walking around in filthy rags.

Finishing up the newsletter at the community center today, it could have been any day. Nothing really especially memorable. People came and went. Meetings happened or didn't.  But then there was an incident. I don't want to mention specifics on here, even though I have a tendency to overshare, I will say it could be/have been a sexual assault lawsuit.

The event caused a lot of tension. Mostly because there was a lot of confusion surrounding how to react. A lot of anxiety. From me, I noticed a lot of anaesthesia and mental withdrawal. Things were resolved but I can't say for certain I will remember this event in the future. I only hope that if something important happens I'm not too traumatised to respond.

Sometimes

Since I live near a community college here in Bellevue and it stands between me and my weekly meetings with my case manager, I often find myself walking through the campus and can't help but flash back to my college days.

When I think of my college days, I invariably think of my brother and sister's days as well. My sister's many boyfriends and girlfriends who would carouse the bars and clubs and games and events. My brother sneaking in at 4 am, making strange art projects, my dad finding pot in the car, his drunk shenanigans and funny stories, and then there's me. My recollection of college comes mostly from a corner in a library, where I would find a place to study or from an empty parking lot at UMBC. When I wasn't in class, I was dreading the long commute there. Most times, I envied my brother and sister because they seemed to be having a good time at college while I was miserable, eating my lunch in the bathroom, working in the stock room of a hardware and lumber store and spending my nights drawing pictures(this was before facebook) and watching strange art house films.

Flash forward years later. I eventually did go back and at least finish a certificate although the college experience was pretty sedate. I went to Hagerstown Community College and took half of a course load of graphic design classes for a few years. I made a few acquiantances there. Drank coffee with a few friends. Had a few utterly bizarre and clumsy dates but then college ended and life went on. If you knew Hagerstown, this isn't surprising. It's still a small town in Western Maryland that closes down at 5 every day. The main attraction is the Dairy Queen and the Valley Mall(not the vibrant downtown as the tourism industry wants to sell you). My exciting list of things to do included riding my bike, reading various things, from time to time, going to the new art or poetry opening and sitting at home, cooking and watching weird art house movies.

So there I was, walking through the college in Bellevue again, except even more time has passed. My sister now has a kid. My brother stopped smoking and goes to sleep at normal hours now. It's been five years since I've been in college and I realise more and more that life is pretty open-ended.

I can't read minds but I see the boy walking by himself and realise that could be me. I see a group of girls that reminds me of my sister and I suddenly realise I am quite older and quite different and all of this is OK.
The kids at school are really into fashion. Into cliques. Into identifying themselves. It's terribly superficial because as we grow older we realise how much more complicated we are than our likes and dislikes and sexual preference and religion and job. We realise how nobody really knows what they are doing.

I still worry quite  alot about being weird and asocial and introverted and wanting to sit at home and cook. I can definitely get into ruts and fear change quite  a lot. I still feel like an alien amidst people and think I always will. Hopefully I will learn to be more accepting of how I am and how my brother and sister and everyone else is and realise that college and life is not at all like how I thought it would be.

16 April, 2013

Seattle

Woke up at three for some reason could not sleep or eat
Read Andrea's blog and facebook and watched part of "Rango".
5 o'clock drank coffee(I know, I know) and went running at gym
The only thing to watch was Spongebob. Did not want to watch scare tactics about Boston.
Arrived to prep lunch. Finished Spanakopita, Veggies. Tried to keep H calm and on task but mostly non confrontational as he kept pacing in and out of the kitchen.
Snuck out at noon. R talked to me and I tried to dodge the conversation because of my appointment.
He had dyed his hair and his face looked like smudged makeup.
I should be a better friend sometimes to people.
Continued reading Chalice and Blade on bus while overhearing some homeless people talk about an interesting adventure they went on. Pretended to read while I listened.
Second bus breaks down.
For some reason I am not worried. Realise I have not eaten anything all day. Almost 2.
Other bus comes. La di da.
Bright sun in Seatle. So beautiful. Walk up hill to appointment. When Seattle is sunny it's fucking amazing. Everyone seems so happy.
Apologize to counselor. Don't know what to talk about. Parent issues. Relationship issues. I'm leaving in May. Afraid. I sit on my hands because I'm nervous.
Walk up hill. Talk to tattoo guy to see about getting work finished before I go.
See sun setting. Awkwardly following someone back down hill. Try not to invade space/follow too close or make them uncomfortable.
Give dollar bill to homeless man. He also wants the 5 I have.
Hold bus door for lady.
Sit and read at bus stop.
Seattle is amazing when it's sunny.

12 April, 2013

The day after

I've been doing a lot more volunteer work than paid work recently. Planting trees, cooking at a mental health community center. I don't mind it- because I like doing these things and they get me out of my head. If I stay at home too long doing freelance art I invariably wind up cleaning the refrigerator with a toothbrush or huddled in a corner, afriad of everything. I wish things would magically get better, but the truth is, I don't think if anything gets better it will happen suddenly or easily and I don't think things will really just "get better". I've been afriad of everything my whole life. As far as the volunteer work, the remarks are good on my resume but I tend to spend too much time doing these things and randomly traveling facebook than doing anything "normal" or "future thinking".

Sometimes I forget how weird my brain behaves. Amidst the cooking and mundane chores at the community center we also have an art group. Sometimes, when I'm not terribly unsocial I can participate in the groups. We sat down for this latest group and it seemed straight-forward enough. The question was "Who are you and what keeps you from your authentic self?" For the first part, the answers ranged from I'm a man to I'm an artist to I'm a Christian were shared with the group. I declined to share because I couldn't decide if I was my brain, my physical environment or God herself.

The I that is me needs to stop thinking about this stuff so much because it's not really that helpful. Things are beter when I can leave my room and simply do something. But it always feels like a monumental struggle and sometimes I just give up because I am tired of it all.

I'll be starting an internship soon. Leaving the stable housing and unstable work situation here to try something different. My counselor isn't working out and I'm not finding work but still, moving across cuntry is scary and uncertain, even though staying here is just as scary. I'm not sure if it's the right choice or the wrong choice. I've laid things out on paper, but usually these things look clearer on hindsight. I'm not terribly worried about being homeless or starving, although I am terribly worried about other people and police.

There was an incident on the bus this morning. A man, either high or slightly manic was yelling in some foreign language, gesticulating loudly. Like the polite Seattleites we all are, noone said anything. The bus driver assured us she was calling the police. The man had a bit of lucidity and apologized. She still called the police.

I felt really bad leaving the bus because I could empathise with this man. But again, I was scared too.

I took today off to watch a movie, came home and took a nap, then woke up but was afriad to leave my room because my loud roommate was out, playing his Christian music and cooking and I knew seeing him would mean a ten minute conversation about his sexual conquests, and so I stayed in my room for an hour. Finally I got the courage to leave.

I hope that I, now 33, can have some sort of courage. I'm tired of being a failure for everything. To have courage it would not be to make money and talk about sexual conquests or to be a person confined to my body, but to at least be. Even if all I do is sit in a shack in the woods, make art and hemp yogurt and sing off-key.

I, now 33.