All I Need Is My Lamp and My Dog!

 

I suffered through a small depressive episode last night.

I think I felt over-exposed, after sharing some of my internal creative dialogue here, after this guest post (on depression and suicidal ideation) was published on The Mighty, and after The Videoblogs received a few bumps in attention.

On the surface, these are all good things. They also represent sincere efforts at helping others. Still, it is the curse of those so afflicted that even good things can kick up old fears and insecurities.

Except now I have a base of acceptance, understanding, and compassion that I can fall back on, when I’m having a tough night, or day, or week.

I’m still not feeling the best. It was tough to get out of bed this morning. I similarly didn’t feel like writing this.

But I have a lamp and my dog to help me. Let me explain.

I’m also, more importantly, married to someone who both understands mental illness and knows how to react compassionately when someone is struggling.

It started with some physical symptoms, that appeared on my way home. My body started to ache. I felt tired. I lost the energy to do much of anything. I eventually found myself standing, staring blankly, in the middle of the apartment.

My wife asked if I was okay. I talked to her. This is the first right thing I did — by telling the truth to someone I can trust.

I decided to lay down in bed. Sometimes, you just have to do that. It’s no different than if you have a cold.

Some time later, my wife came in and asked how I was feeling. Not much had changed. She gently suggested that lying alone in the dark might not be helping. I heard her, but didn’t want to move. She left to heat up dinner, and we talked about me joining her to eat and watch some TV.

After a few more minutes, the dog showed up.

It is well-documented how helpful a dog can be when you’re feeling down. I let her up into the bed. She seemed to want to play. It wasn’t long before we were playing a bit, and her joy lightened my mood.

I kept it up. During a lull, I thought about what my wife had said, and turned my bedside lamp on — at its dimmest setting. For the next several minutes, I continued to focus solely on the dog.

Eventually, it was time to eat, and I was able to get up and watch TV. I felt significantly better. Before bed, I journaled for a few minutes, as a means of (non-judgmentally) externalizing my feelings. I slept without too much trouble and had odd, but not entirely dark, dreams.

As I’ve mentioned, today has been less difficult, so far, though I’m still feeling somewhat…flat.

It helped that my wife gently nudged me this morning, when I was snoozing a bit, because she knew I wanted to get up and write. It furthered helped to turn on the living room lamp, to offset the predawn darkness, before I sit down to work. I do that every morning.

Finally, there’s the dog. Without fail, she settles in beside me while I write. She’s here right now.

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These are touchstones of light and connection. It helps to turn to them when thoughts go dark and lonely. As for the rest of the day, I plan to take it easy. To stay in touch with people. To take care of myself.

Already, these things are working. Thanks for reading, and have a great day.

This is part twenty of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Day 16: The Waiting Place

Day 17: 6 Ways to Bring Balance to the (Artistic) Force

Day 18: How to Decide What to Make Next

Day 19: Take Faith for Yourself, Give Them Skepticism

 

What I Liked This Week: Mental Health Edition

Zelda (showing off her Boyhood pose here) has improved my mental health by about 2,000%.
Zelda (showing off her Boyhood pose here) has improved my mental health by about 2,000 percent.

As promised in last week’s relaunch of this feature, I will be attempting to keep What I Liked This Week relatively short, from here forward. If I end up responding to something in a profoundly major way, I may break that rule again, but for now — here goes!

This wasn’t planned, but this week, the things I liked the most all fell into a single category: Mental Health.  I’m glad it shook out this way — especially because May is National Mental Health Awareness month.

Here are three things you might want to check out:

Tim Ferriss Talks About Suicide

I’m a big fan of Tim’s work, which has helped me take control of my life in many ways. Tim’s blog post, “ Some Practical Thoughts About Suicide,” is a good read. I can relate to quite a bit of what he shares. But what I like most about the piece is that it comes from a highly-visible person, with a large following of fans who often listen very seriously to what he has to say. It’s good, on a very basic level, that this is now “out there”.

The Mental Illness Happy Hour

I have been listening to comedian Paul Gilmartin’s podcast for a while now, especially after we reached out to him last year while assembling the jury for The Videoblogs Dialogue. That contest will launch soon (we’re a bit delayed) but I have especially been getting a lot out of the podcast lately and wanted to made sure readers know it’s out there.  Paul does a great job managing the process of conversing about difficult subjects in each episode, not only with guests or when speaking personally but also while reading anonymous surveys filled out by listeners “on air”.

I’m not always able to listen to the show — sometimes it gets a little too painful — but lately I’ve been listening more often and I just really appreciate that it’s out there. I also really like how funny it can be. Paul is funny on his own, but laughing at the darkness with him and his guests is frequently a great salve for me, that really helps in between other sources of relief.

More Money Towards Mental Health System in NYC

Finally, I liked seeing that the deBlasio administration in New York City is seeking to budget for and implement additional mental health services around the city.

We desperately need a better infrastructure for mental health programs (around the country). Regardless of your political leanings (mine have tumbled in recent years into a loose pile of centrist debris), once you acknowledge this fact (it’s a fact) it stands to reason that trying anything at all — is a good thing.

Trying things cost money, and requires patience. I don’t believe the government should be solely responsible for either reform or maintaining/improving our current infrastructure of mental health programs or services. I wouldn’t work so hard personally to produce art that advocates for dealing with mental health issues if I did feel that way.

Like most things on such a scale, addressing this major national issue will take a mix of solutions, probably customized to the individual. First, though, those solutions need to be available (to everyone). I know, personally, that there are non-governmental systems and groups that exist, to help people when they’re suffering. The above-two examples are free resources that don’t necessarily solve anything on their own, but do provide information, comfort and hope.

Still, in an age where politics and government appear frequently callous and ineffective, it’s nice to believe that something like this could arrive soon, to help us combat The Mental Health Crisis as well.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to hit me up with questions/concerns in the comments.

What I Liked This Week is a weekly site  feature in which I briefly summarize three things I liked recently, that I would like to call to readers’ attention. They aren’t always recent to this week or even necessarily things. An experience can be a thing. The point is that I like them and you might, too!

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The Videoblogs Monologues, Part 2: “Billy”

Our second videoblog monologue
In his last videoblog, Billy determines to get help.

Hello, friends and supporters!

Here is Part 2 of our Videoblogs Monologues project. As a refresher, this side-project is being being produced in order to illustrate what we’re aiming to do not only with The Videoblogs but also “Phase 2” of our project. Basically, we’re trying to contribute to a greater dialogue on mental health, while also advocating for the positive use of technology for personal expression.

At the same time, we’re looking to collaborate with other writers and performers to just make stuff 🙂

Many thanks to Robert Dillon for submitting this script, to Rebecca DeOrnelas for directing and Alex Hollock for shooting. And of course our thanks go out to actor Bobby Brower.

We hope you enjoy it. Please Share/Comment/Like/Tweet if you do!

In our second Videoblog Monologue, college student Billy comes to terms with the state of depression he has been facing.

It's on.
It’s on.

The Videoblogs is an indie feature film about a struggling young woman whose life takes a surprise turn when a troubled teen finds her private video journal. We are currently crowdfunding.

What I Liked This Week: The Defiant Voice

Furious Faithful. Something must have been in the air this week. So much to talk about. Right into it. Attempting brevity. Probably going to fail. Okay. We all know I’m going to fail. But give me a break. It was another long week. The Furious Romantic literally limped to the finish line today.

Well, if there WAS a finish line. Onward.

I really liked this blog post by Marc Schiller, on the IFP (Independent Filmmaker Project) web site. It’s about “the one business model every filmmaker needs to know” — which essentially boils down to the filmmaker taking more responsibility over his/her fate in business terms. Here and now, this is a necessity, more than an opportunity. Great read. The only thing “missing” from the equation Marc puts forward (which I think is simply assumed in the post) is the importance of quality. It’s easy to look at smartly drawn, accurate equations and think that anything can be plugged into them in order to achieve success. Really, though, I think innovative paradigms like this are about quantifying the business side of Reaching Out Through The Screen. From my point of view, this starts with understanding the ethos behind the economic necessities of winning the day in the face of an all-around brokenness, of which outdated or crumbling business models are a result.

On a similar note, I like The Dogfish Accelerator. This is a brand new program from Dogfish Pictures that is aimed at helping independent film production teams get started off in the industry as entrepreneurs as well as artists. Accepted applicants get seed money from Dogfish in addition to being set up with mentors and other industry professionals during a summer “incubator” program. Rebecca and I applied to the accelerator and also met the Dogfish team at an Undiscovered networking event in Brooklyn this week. Even if we don’t get into the program, I will remain excited about this. It’s a brilliant idea — a forward-thinking solution that aims to disrupt old and dying business models and replace them with a new model of production wherein the filmmakers control their fate — by working (smartly) to control their fate. This is what Rebecca and I are trying to do anyway. This is why we’re here.

I’m excited to see what happens with Dogfish. The films that founder James Belfer has set up over the past few years (Compliance, Like Crazy) are great. The company seems locked in to what people want and need on the independent level right now. That they feel compelled to elevate their mission and draw more like-minded people into their sucess speaks volumes to their commitment to truly addressing the challenges facing the future of the industry. It’s a tangled mess we’re in, and getting out of it is going to require creativity on both an artistic and business level. Because, as we all know, a film is a strange, often contradictory confluence of these two vital aspects of social life. That doesn’t mean art and commerce can’t be reconciled with one another, especially when the barriers of entry in so many industries are being lowered by technology. All we have to do is be patient, think and feel and analyze — and do the work.

Getting back to our roots — I liked this article from The New York Post. It’s about wealthy Manhattan mothers who have been hiring “black market” handicapped tour guides to pose as family members, so that they and their children can jump lines at Disney World. Quote: “This is how the 1% does Disney.” I don’t actually like this.

I liked Angelina Jolie’s op-ed in The New York Times about her decision to have a preventive double mastectomy after a genetic screening revealed that she was at a high risk of developing breast cancer. Obviously, the decision was brave. But I particularly like that she chose to control the message behind that decision and turn it into an advantage for others — by choosing to write the piece so that she could point out both the value of the procedure and the tragedy represented by the relative cost of the screening that lead her to have it. That cost: $3,000 — which is a lot of money to a lot of women and families around the world who simply don’t/won’t/can’t spend that amount to order the same potentially life-saving test.

I liked this article about the resignation of the Republican Director of Hispanic Outreach in Florida, who mentioned in his resignation letter that: “It doesn’t take much to see the culture of intolerance surrounding the Republican Party today.” I’m glad this man came around. Republicans have been making efforts to court Hispanics after faring  poorly among the Hispanic population in the most recent election. Instead of, say, expanding their general political outreach to include Hispanics (and thus treating them the same way as they treat white people), they treat the voting data as the problem. I could go on forever about this one, so we’ll just move on.

So what’s next? Maybe we could read about House Republicans wasting time and money by choosing to vote for the 37th time to repeal Health Care Reform. Just a fresh reminder that the current incarnation of the Republican party is more concerned with obstructing and sabotaging any type of progress — and with pouring lemon juice over their heaping bowls of sour grapes — rather than doing anything constructive to help the majority of Americans. I don’t really like this.

I liked this article from The Nation, by Farai Chideya, on the problem and consequences of the current demographic breakdown of our country’s journalistic corps. The gist: classes other than the upper class, and colors other than white, are underrepresented. I’m not going to go into detail about why that’s a problem. Chideya does an excellent job breaking the issue down. What I will say is that journalism has unique and special role to play in our society in terms of identifying injustice and raising awareness and spreading information about the failings of the status quo. When the majority of our journalistic corps is made up increasingly of the “elite” and privileged only, the quality and breadth of reporting — and of this crucial oversight — invariably suffers and falls short of fully representing the entirety of the populace. This is an important issue. The underground, populist, unpredictable, “amateur” reporting that rides through the internet, in a meagre attempt to fill the void left by our incomplete journalistic corps — it’s efforts are sometimes noble but they are not enough.

To end on a bright and hopeful note, I also liked this brief article from The Atlantic that asks the question: What’s driving the rise in suicide among middle-aged men? As difficult and sad a topic as this is, I believe we have a responsibility to be thinking about the question. The data suggests that the rise is due to the continued disintegration of the family unit as well as economic stress and strain.

And therein is the central contradiction of contemporary America, Furious Faithful. Times get tough, necessitating action, and, as a rule, we retreat instead. We run away from the problem. Or, in the case of this last article, we do something far, far worse. And the tragedy of it all is that we are together in our dysfunction. We all need more in the way of family, of community. We all need more from the defunct systems of life that have reversed course on us, such that we feed the needs of the system rather than it feeding ours — or rather than both exchanges proceeding perpetually in more-or-less equal measure. No, instead of digging our way out, instead of searching for solutions, we do nothing. We destroy ourselves rather than fight for ourselves.

I’m allowed to be so harsh because I’ve made these sort of mistakes in my own life. I still spend large parts of my day working to reverse the damage I inflicted on myself during the last several lean years. But you know what else I did over that time? I didn’t give up. I didn’t commit fully to the idea that this loneliness, this fundamental dissatisfaction, this void inside me — is completely my fault, and on top of that insurmountable.

Somewhere inside me, a defiant voice refused to go down. I owe that voice nearly everything.

The Furious Romantic returned because I did everything I could — as hard as it was — to bring him back. I’m going to allow myself to be proud of this, and to recommend that more people — especially more of my fellow “white American males” — do the same. Seems like a real man should be capable of doing that.

Yeah. I went there. Balls on the table.

Have a good week.