Archive for the 'Living Conditions' Category


How Broken Am I?

Happy New Year, everyone. December, and by extension 2018, are finally gone, leaving us a fresh 365 days to try to do better.

I hope to all higher and lower powers it’s better. In 2018 I missed roughly 8 months of work due to illness, saw progressive decay in my physical and mental state, and spent quite a bit of time wondering just how sharp the knives in the drawer were. That is not exaggeration, nor is it an attempt to elicit reactions. Merely truth.

Most followers know I’ve got quite a lot wrong with me. For those who don’t, here’s the laundry list:

Asthma. I’m on three kinds of steroid and two kinds of “as needed” meds so I can pretend to function at least semi-normally. Walking down the stairs or across my parking lot on a good day is liable to end with a severe coughing fit and potential vomiting, followed by an hour or more of wheezing. On a bad day it’s impossible and may result in crawling when I try to push myself to do it anyway.

Bipolar Disorder. Apparently I’m on the low end of this one, for which I should be grateful I guess. Doesn’t mean that I can’t go from feeling “okay” to “staring at the knives” in 10 seconds under the right – or wrong, depending on your viewpoint – circumstances. It can also go from placid and considering the knives for… ahem… personal use to contemplating how many times you can stab someone before they just…shut…up. Yes, I am unstable and sometimes not a pleasant person to be around. I do my best, and they gave me a bottle of lovely pills that I take to “even it out,” which helps… but not always.

Chronic Depressive Disorder. On top of being prone to psychotic mood swings, I’m also almost permanently stuck in a depressive state. That means I get all the negatives of the bipolar without the fun and occasionally useful manic periods. I’ve got pills for this, too, but even when they’re working on my brain there’s a lot of factors involved in depression besides just not having the right chemistry lab in your skull. Being a practical invalid, constantly being stressed about bills as you fight with your company’s disability reps – a situation that still hasn’t been resolved – and seeing nothing but doctor’s offices, the gas station between your house and those offices, and the walls of your tiny apartment for months on end, with similarly limited human contact takes its toll on one’s mood and ability to cope just as much as a lack of serotonin and dopamine.

Carpal Tunnel / Arthritis. My wrists and hands are turning into barely functioning hooks, and I spend the first two to three hours of the day – once I sort out my morning candy bag of pills and huff on my assorted aspirators, anyway – with alternating numbness and agony twisting through my forearms and hands. It’s not considered severe enough for medication at this point, and they’re afraid to try surgery due to my lung problems, so I chew naproxen sodium and ibuprofen like they’re going out of style and spend a lot of time trying to type or game with big clunky braces on (which then gets me frustrated and causes problems with the mental/emotional disorders, and what a merry-go-round that is.) I’m supposed to wear them to bed, too; problem is that I have a nasty tendency to strip them off and hide them when I’m asleep. Which leads us to our next issue.

Restless Leg Syndrome. I used to think this one was a joke. Then they did some tweaks on my other meds and I discovered that, hey, this is a thing. Your body will jump around and just do things whether you want it to or not. You can feel the muscles in your thighs and calves thrumming, begging to be flexed, and if you give in to it, it only gets worse. You then get two choices; endure it, and fight for every minute of sleep you manage to get, risking waking yourself up by kicking yourself, the wall, the cat, your sleepmate or whatever, or take the tranquilizers they prescribed, which stops that and helps you sleep, but tends to cause early-waking insomnia and general grogginess for a bit when you wake up. Which also leads to another fun one.

Severe Acid Reflux. With the asthma and allergies, I wheeze and cough a lot in my sleep. With a sensitive gut, sometimes that leads to nausea. More than once I’ve woken myself up with vomit burning in my throat, almost choking as I make a mad dash to the bathroom. Now do that with numb legs and a groggy head because of the tranquilizers you had to take to get to sleep at all and you have a fun situation. More pills for this, but I can’t take them all the time because apparently they can dissolve my stomach lining, so that severely limits diet and when it’s “safe” to eat. Combine with an odd work schedule – when I’m actually capable of working, ha ha – and I get to literally starve some days. Hooray.

Mild Schizophrenia. At least, that’s what they’re debating right now. The docs are teetering on whether they think it’s harmless delusions that should be death with via therapy, just an overactive imagination and lack of stimuli, or actual psychosis that needs more magical pills, but regardless of the final diagnosis, I see shit that’s not there, I hear shit that’s not there, and my memory is only to be trusted about 80%. Fun.

I’m not trying to complain, though I’m not going to lie and say it’s a bloody picnic or anything. The meds help, in as much as they can, and I’m doing my best. But when I disappear for long periods, or the output seems to be suffering, one or some or all of these things are likely to blame.

As noted, it’s a new year. New chance to try again and post as much as I can and try to grow my YouTube and Twitch channels, and publish a new book and finish the one on the burner like it deserves to be. That’s my resolution. To do my best to do those things.

I can always use a little help; like, share, subscribe if you’re of a mind. Follow me on Twitter (or fill my timeline and DMs with vitriol, if you like!). Watch me play games badly here on Twitch. And if you are taken with the spirit, you can help keep my stuff working and my meds on order via Patreon or GoFundMe.

If you can’t – or just won’t – do those things, that’s okay, too. You read this, which means a lot. You’re still paying attention, even with all my bitching and long silences, which is pretty impressive. So thank you.

What about you folks out there? How broken are you, and how does that impact your creative endeavors? Got tips for helping others through those times? Drop your thoughts down below, if you’re of a mind.

Happy New Year!


Game Review: Darksiders III

It’s been an interesting year. I’m not going to go into all of it here; there will probably be a post about it later, but the short version is it’s been a long December, and one is hoping next year will be better than the last. Illness, financial concerns, and mental and emotional difficulties have plagued this one.

This is supposed to be a happy post. Despite all the bad press about gaming over the year, there’s been a lot of good things that have happened, with some amazing titles.

There’s the obvious ones; God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Red Dead Redemption. Everyone knows those names. Two of those are amazing games, the third is competent (unlike many, I am not a huge RDR fan. I don’t have anything against it… it just doesn’t hold me down and make me play it.)

There’s some lesser-known titles that deserved some love, too; Octopath Traveler was an incredible old-school RPG (and yes, I still think it was robbed on some counts at the video game awards) for the Switch fans, Call of Cthulhu was also pretty good and enjoyable title, though I don’t think it was worth the initial outlay. When it drops down to $30 or so, it’s well worth your time. Yakuza 6 and Shenmue HD both dropped this year, and if you enjoy brawling RPGs, crazy minigames, and “slice-of-life” sims, all three are well worth checking out.

The clear owner of my heart right now is Darksiders III. It’s taking a bit of a beating, with people complaining about too many Dark Souls similarities, unfair and unintuitive difficulty, graphics that aren’t quite photo-realistic and amazing.

I think they’re wrong.

Darksiders III looks good for what it is; a labor of love from a smaller studio who basically relied on that love, hope, and the support of fans – alongside a healthy dose of luck – to give rise to it. It’s not a AAA title, and it’s not meant to be. But the graphics are still damn good, pleasing and understandable. The character and enemy designs are great, clearly cut from the Darksiders mold. From the moment you start the game, you know what you’re getting into if you’re in any way a fan of the previous titles.

Gameplay wise, the Dark Souls comparisons are a little odd. The checkpoint and XP/currency system is similar, yes. Control and combat wise I think comparisons are being overblown; Fury is infinitely more maneuverable than any of the Soulsborne protagonists, and there’s a great deal more fast-paced hack and slash than you’d expect from those titles. Some enemies need you to drop back and study their patterns a bit more than your average God of War-like game, but those are intended to be the more difficult or mini-boss type enemies. Once you level up and unlock a few of the additional skills and weapons, it’s not quite like that.

So far as difficulty, I don’t see it. I’m going at it on Apocalyptic, as I did on the previous two titles, and yes. Combat is challenging. Not insurmountable, and I never feel as though my deaths are unfair. Grinding and learning patterns gets you past it. It feels appropriately difficult. A lot of folks complain about the lack of a minimap and the way the compass in the game works… but it doesn’t seem that hard to know where you are and where you’ve been. The compass adjusts quite quickly and is always pointing in the direction you need to go. If you can’t go the way it wants, swinging the camera around for a moment will typically show the path, usually a minor puzzle that needs dealing with (most of which are neon and color-coded to which power you need to do it.)

I think the root problem isn’t with Darksiders; it’s more in the mindset of gamers. Old farts like myself probably played more games with minimal direction or confusing UIs, punishing difficulty spikes that were designed to suck up your quarters or your continues. Compared to some of those, Darksiders is a walk in the park; at least you have that wonky compass (which still works better than that found in, say, Destiny, cough cough) and the reasonable expectation that learning the mechanics and patterns of a fight will lead to victory without random chance and glitching screwing you out of it.

All in all, I have to say Darksiders III is well worth it, and a lot of places still have it discounted to $40 post-holiday, so a great time to jump into it. Give it a shot.

If you didn’t know, I have a Twitch channel; I’ve mostly been playing Binding of Isaac‘s new Forgotten update and the PSVR on there, but I try to get on reasonably regularly. It’s been a bit of solace, as gaming has been about all I can do lately. If you want to check it out or follow me, clicky-clicky here.

As always, if you enjoy my content and want to keep it coming and keep me breathing, you can always show your support by dropping a dime in the box over at Patreon or GoFundMe. If you can’t or don’t feel like it, that’s okay, too. Knowing someone is paying attention to my insane ramblings is certainly good enough. But it helps.


Black Friday Woes

[EDIT: A rep from Kohl’s did finally respond, as of Monday morning. Their response was a canned “Your credit will be available within 7 days, we’re sorry for any frustration.”]

Another Black Friday has come and gone, and with it ridiculous price cuts and psychotic shoppers. That’s not news. Nor do I particularly care. I did most of my Black Friday shopping online, and had no issues.

Well, except for one.

You see, I’ve been looking at the PlayStation VR for a bit. Not sure how much I’ll get out of it, having problems with depth perception and being mostly blind in one eye, but there’s piles of horror games I’d love to try that are only for that format. Plus there’s part of me that wants to see just how nasty Marguerite Baker from Resident Evil 7 looks when she’s literally in your face. Given my handicaps, I figured waiting for a sale was the best way to go. Pretty much everywhere had the units on sale for $100 off, so the time seemed ready to pounce.

There was much deliberation on what retailer to go with, and after that it was determined that Kohl’s was the way to go. The promise of $60 in Kohl’s Cash and having a coupon that would apply to the purchase tipped the scale. So the order was placed.

I’m going to be petty, now. I’m going to bitch and moan for no reason other than to vent in the vain hope that someone, somewhere, notices and cares. If anyone out there had issues with Kohl’s this holiday season, let loose your own rage and vent your frustrations in the comment box, so we can take solace in knowing it wasn’t just us.

Anyway, they gave an estimated delivery date of 11/30. 11/30 came and went. No headset. No word. “Not an issue; it was Black Friday after all, they’re probably just running a bit behind.” Checked on UPS, says there was a tracking ID created, and label printed, they just hadn’t gotten it from Kohl’s yet.

Another week passes. We’re on the 7th of December, now. Still no sign, no changes on the UPS site. Kohl’s site claims the order is “complete.” I give them a ring, just to see what’s up, and the friendly, heavily accented individual informs me “I’m sorry, we cannot answer any questions at this time, please call back in an hour,” before hanging up. This is before I’ve even been asked my name or what my issue might be. I tried calling back, and get a different individual who says the same and hangs up again.

I shrug, say “Okay” to myself, and prepare to wait out an hour. I call back. I am given the same spiel and a hangup yet again.

I wait another hour, call back. Same results, though this time there was 30 seconds of foreign language shrieking to someone in the background before the rep gave their speech.

One more hour, I call again. At this point I am told that the item is out of stock, will not be restocked, and that I’m out of luck. They’ll refund it, of course, but that will take up to 7 business days. Would I like to place another order?

Fuck no, I wouldn’t. They had no answers as to the initial hangups. Not even a canned response as to why they couldn’t be asked to e-mail me and tell me “Hey, we screwed up, you’re not getting your item.”

So, of course, I’m out a headset, since all the sales are long gone, and in my area at least, the units themselves seem to be pretty universally sold out. Whatever; I can live with that. I’ve gone this long without one, I won’t die. I’m a teensy bit irate about the games and accessories that were purchased to go with the unit, since they’re either digital or outside of the return period, but that’s secondary.

What’s got me riled is the goddamn psychosis of the way Kohl’s has handled this, without even giving a “Sorry.” I even Tweeted about it, at which point Kohl’s responded to me asking me to DM them the details. They did that tweet about 5 seconds after I posted mine, and I immediately DM’d them, but they didn’t see fit to answer for another 20 hours. At that point they asked for my order number, which I provided, and have said nothing since. That was two days ago; I’m not expecting results any time soon. Not a surprise. Given they couldn’t bother to tell me anything about the inability to fulfill the order, why would I expect any communication from them now that I am no longer of use to them?

Further investigation shows several thousand 1-star reviews and reports of others suffering the same problems, alongside several multiple charges, wrong items, Kohl’s cancelling orders because they were suspected of being fraudulent (and then charging full price to replace the order, as the sale had ended and Kohl’s doesn’t feel the need to adjust the pricing down or otherwise compensate those affected) and incredibly poor customer service on the rare occasions someone can get a response out of them at all.

The best part is their constant self-congratulatory articles, Tweets and posts, bragging about having had their most successful Black Friday ever. I bet; raking in cash from multiple charges and items you don’t intend to send, charging people and sitting on the money (some reports indicate that even now, approaching 3 weeks later, the charges for cancelled items and duplicate charges are still impacting customer’s balances), and forcing people to pay full price and pay for any Kohl’s cash they used during the sale will certainly inflate that accounting… and if/when it’s fixed, it’ll show on a different report, thus making them look even better to their shareholders and accountants. At least until the amended report with the refunds comes in. That’s assuming there aren’t folks out there still waiting to find out what happened to their items, or those who just forget or write it off. (You wouldn’t think that would happen, but I work in the financial sector and the number of times I’ve had to file claims against items not received a year or longer after the initial charge is far more than any credulous person would believe.)

I’m done complaining, now. At least here. As noted, if anyone else had similar experiences with Kohl’s – or other retailers – in the Black Friday frenzy, feel free to share your stories below. If you’ve any advice on what else can be done – or know a place where I can still find a PSVR for $200 that isn’t eBay – drop it down below.

Beyond that, Happy Holidays, everyone. Hopefully next year is better.


Game Review: Call of Cthulhu (2018)

It’s been a while since we had a proper cosmic evil video game. Call of Cthulhu has been making the rounds for a few years now, often whispered about like the rumors of what the neighbors are doing in the basement or what’s really in the meat you’re eating, occasionally bobbing to the surface in a brief and oh-so-tantalizing-yet-maddening bit of exposure before being submerged once more.

The call was finally answered this Halloween, and I was powerless against it. The question is, though, if it was worth it.

Short answer? No. At least, not right now.

I had some videos up of my playthrough, going over some of my issues and demonstrating some of them, but had to take them down due to potential copyright issues (apparently some of the music flags it), but I’ll try to speedrap some of the problems. My screencaps are likewise AWOL due to a faulty flash drive, but some of them made it onto my Twitter, at least.

One, the graphics. Now, the environments are great, though they were a little too in love with the color green – I mean, seriously, why do all the oil lamps glow green? I get it, in some instances, since what the whalers have been hauling up of late may not precisely be whales, but ALL the lighting? – but still well done, very detailed, and appropriately moody and atmospheric.

The denizens of Blackwater, on the other hand, are tripe. Their faces look wrong – and not in an Innsmouth Look way, but in a “poorly designed” way – and the generic NPCs have maybe 3-5 possible face/clothes combos, yet have as many as 10-15 in a small area, making you wonder if somehow the influence of Cthulhu has led to an upswing of twin and triplet births. The primary characters are a little better, but they’re still poorly animated, weirdly proportioned, and consist almost entirely of stock characters. (The drunk/drug addicted cop, the shady financier, Old Willie the Groundskeeper, etc etc etc.)

Of Mythos horrors, you won’t see much. A couple of mutant freaks, the suggestion of a squid-monster, and, if you get the bad ending, a pretty badass Cthulhu design for about 3 seconds. To be fair, for a Mythos story, it’s not what you see, but what you don’t, and knowing that what you see could be far worse, not having them front and center is almost okay. What isn’t is that you never really feel like they’re close. They don’t provide the looming intensity of knowing that insanity lies just around the bend, and the couple you DO see are almost cartoonish and not really that intimidating.

Sound-wise, again, the background noise is great. The subtle sloshing of waves when you’re on the beach, the groans and echoes of the mental asylum, the ominous chanting when infiltrating a cult’s secret lair… all good stuff. Music is minimal – except for the lovely copyright strike-inducing radios in a couple of areas – and not intrusive. The voice acting, though… ugh.

Our hero is the best of the lot, which isn’t saying much, but at least he reads the lines like a normal human being. The problem with him is that he’s also the voice of Jonathan from Vampyr, with a similar overall design and attitude. I spent half the game mocking him for being in the wrong game and wondering why he was lamenting his sanity instead of eating rats.

The others are varying degrees of bad, from Groundskeeper Willie feeling lifted out of the Simpsons, your cop buddy sounding like the worst combo JFK/Joker impression ever, and the Mysterious Woman trying to sound threatening and seductive but coming off like a bad Neptunia NPC. The generic NPCs all seem to have the same voice actor, and they sound like they’re trying to portray someone who’s performing a bad Russian accent who in turn is attempting to mock a Boston accent. While channeling their inner Wishmaster djinn on top of it.

Controls are… okay. There’s not really anything to be said, there; given that the game is essentially a glorified walking simulator, it just needs to be competent, which it is. A button to run, one to duck, one to search, and one to flick your light on and off. It’s all you need, really.

Story wise is where the game shines – even if it does have a few plot holes that are never explained, or even lampshaded with “Because you’re crazy, yo” – with a properly Lovecraftian slow burn building up to final madness. (Especially fun is, if you’re been poking at the things you shouldn’t, you’ll start getting dialogue options on R’leyhan) There isn’t much one can say about it without spoilers, but anyone reasonably well versed in Lovecraft or the Mythos can probably guess the broad strokes not too far in, and find the joy in watching it play out and seeing their guesses proven right or wrong.

All in all, the story redeems the poor character graphics and voices to a great degree. The backgrounds are great, and the controls are serviceable. So why say it’s not worth it?

Length vs. cost. At $60 you’re looking at 6-7 hours if you poke every corner on your way to the end. 4 or so if you’re speedrunning. About 12 hours, give or take, for a Platinum on a game that costs $60 and is half broken isn’t exactly good value in my mind. If the game was $40? Oh hell yes. At $30 it’d be considered freaking amazing. But $60 is just too high. Wait for a sale, or Redbox it.

The Call of Cthulhu is worth answering, yes.. but wait for the collect cost to come down a bit, first.

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Twitestinal Blockage

Twitter is an interesting place. Reminds me a lot of the digestive system, really; throw a bunch of stuff in, let it churn in heat and acid for a while, and hope something nutritious comes of it.

But it’s like that in another way; to be crude, a lot of what comes out is just shit. Now, that’s not all bad; gotta get rid of it to keep functional, after all. But some folks, like some eaters, have a problem. They’re all blocked up. So they keep jamming the same thing in, until they’re stuffed to the brim with it, but then due to blockage, they never actually get rid of it or try anything else. That can’t be healthy.

I’m talking about the folks – and there are likely hundreds, if not thousands of them at this point – who just slap blocks on people for no discernible reason. It may be that the blockee followed someone the blocker doesn’t like, or “liked” a YouTube video, Tweet or Facebook post that the blocker didn’t like (or one that was made by a person the blocker didn’t like), or maybe just because. But one thing I’ve noticed is that it is very rarely due to something the blockee directly said or did in relation to the blocker.

It’s fascinating, really. What’s more fascinating is how folks of this particular stripe enjoy playing the victim and claiming that nobody wants to listen to them or have rational discourse with them. Neglecting to mention, of course, that they slap that block on so many folks before those folks are even aware of the individual that it would be impossible for the people they seem to want to reach to actually hear the message or discuss it. Frequently, the only people allowed to follow such individuals are those who already subscribe to the same worldview and are typically already aware of the blocker’s ideology and personality and are in line with it to a greater or lesser degree.

Continuing with the poop analogy, one notes that someone suffering from intestinal blockage spends a great deal of time in the loo, attempting to pass said blockage. I also note that many modern bathrooms, being covered in tile, tend to provide excellent acoustics. Not unlike an echo chamber, eh?

I really think the “block” feature needs an overhaul. Sure, there’s reasons it’s there – abusive commentary, doxxing, criminal stalking, all things to be avoided – but the way it unilaterally says “you can’t see what I said, neener neener neener,” especially when one may be interested in learning about a public or semi-public figure’s opinions and attitudes on things seems rather foolish. Especially because such individuals wield it like some form of sterilizing club, ensuring that they don’t have to interact with anyone who just possibly might disagree with them while simultaneously ensuring that those potential fence sitters or genuinely curious individuals who like to hear both sides of something will never be able to. Further, it seems really counterintuitive; “I am on the interwebs to explain my philosophy, religion, political stance or social commentary to the masses! But I only let people who already agree with my stance on those things see it!”

Er, wot, mate?

Anyway. Only crawled out of the hole for long enough to vent my frustration in this department. What’re your opinions? Is a complete ability to both silence and blind your potential dissenters a proper way to deal with the internet, or should some changes be made? What should those changes be? Drop your thoughts down below! I’m back to my nebulizer and scouring Twitter to see who else might have decided I am unworthy of their knowledge…

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In Nomine Satanas – Labels

We live in a world where everything has to be labeled. You’re nothing if you aren’t sticking a half-dozen or more random adjectives in front of every viewpoint, artwork, opinion or pronoun you use to define or describe yourself.

I don’t want to get bogged down in identity politics and all the shit-slinging (on both sides) that entails… at least, not today. But I do want to touch on how amusing it is that some of those labels continue to be maligned or ignored (frequently by those who are all-too-eager to explain to you just how wrong you are for misunderstanding an alphabet soup acronym that theoretically bands people together while actually Balkanizing them into enemy states united only by their hatred of something or someone else.)

This comes up due to a discussion I had with someone who is very much in that camp, constantly doing nothing but complaining about the evils of the alt-right and our current overlord – generally based on “news” obtained more from Saturday Night Live than either Fox News or The Young Turks. I call it a discussion, but really it was more her hearing one label that gets applied to me and proceeding to berate me from her position of ignorance. Now, if I wasn’t all the other labels that are applied to me, I could claim some form of hate speech or discrimination was going on and feel vindicated, but since I have the privilege of being white, male, straight, and cis, I am apparently not subject to any sort of abuse, stereotyping, profiling, or discrimination.

The label in question? “Satanist.”

Spoopy! I subscribe to some Satanic ideals, therefore I must murder cats, sacrifice virgins, blaspheme the One True God (TM) and generally be a horrible person. Obviously.

Or, you know, I could believe in the rule of law, the importance of rationality, progress and advancement based on merit, suffering the consequences of your actions, self-responsibility, and prefer not to blame an invisible Sky Wizard (or other stand in for same) for life’s blessings and misfortunes. Potato, potato.

Now, considering myself a Satanist – or at least aligned with the ideals conveyed in LaVeyan Satanism moreso than any other faith, religion, dogma, or creed – does not mean I consider my work Satanic. I don’t immediately feel the need to explain to everyone I meet that I am a Satanist. I don’t feel that my philosophy is the single most defining trait of my existence. (I don’t consider depression, schizophrenia, autism, asthma, having a preference for Rubenesque ladies or being able to grow body and facial hair defining characteristics worthy of telling everyone I meet as often as possible, either. Just noting.)

But still, for someone as mired in identity politics as this person to become judgmental and hostile over one of the labels that can be applied to me struck me as both intensely hypocritical and frustrating. She then proceeded to state the real reason for my poor health isn’t bad genes or luck of the draw; nay, I say, it is due to my heretical beliefs and miring myself in those “kill ’em all nasty mean” video games.

That last part, by the way, was brought up when she glanced at my games shelf and saw such horrendous titles as Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, Forza Horizon 4, Eternal Sonata, Norn9, and Splatterhouse. To be fair, that last one is pretty gruesome, but… (also, given that I generally feel better after smashing a few dozen faces in Yakuza, I don’t really subscribe to the theory.)

She’s also not a fan of my writing, what few snippets she’s read discarded as being horrible, mean-spirited and “nasty.” Of course, according to this person, I would write about sunshine and rainbows if I were to play happy games (or stop playing them entirely), hide all the nicotine and caffeine, and accept a properly Christian faith structure.

This whole thing may come off a trifle bitchy. That’s probably to be expected. As noted, I’m not in the best place right now, and things like this are added crap I don’t need. But I’m still curious – at least for those of you still reading and not cowering in fear at the evil Devil Worshipper in your midst – what about you out there? Are there labels applied to you – chosen or otherwise – that are used more as weapons than descriptives? Things that aren’t part of the current trend of “diversity” where everyone’s labels are good, important, and not to be judged? Let us know down below.

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Depression: Lock & Key

Depression is a fascinating feeling. It’s not any one thing, really; it’s a pile of conflicting emotions and responses, finely tuned to subtly twist everything you think or feel, seemingly with the sole intent of making you miserable.

When factored in with a physical malady, such as asthma, that seems intent on doing the same to your body that the depression does to your mind and heart, it leads to all kinds of fun metaphors.

I’ve decided that the duo together are rather like a combination lock. You know, those old Masters or Schlages that were on your locker or bedroom once upon a time. But this is no dinky lock that if you got irritated enough you could just snap off with a pair of pliers and a bit of determination. Nope. It’s one of those two pound monstrosities with an inch-thick hasp. Covered with rust and marred by the tool marks of those who’d tried – and failed – to force it open.

That lock is being used to hold together heavy-duty chain, the gaps threaded with barbed wire so old, gnarled and rusted that you probably could get tetanus just looking at it. It’s wrapped around my chest – extra tight, can’t have those lungs working, can we, buddy? – my throat, my mouth, my eyes, my balls, my brain.

The only thing that feels like it’s free are my hands… but they have a job to do.

Before I can do anything else, before I can try to be a productive member of society, before I can pretend that everything’s okay and today isn’t the day I drive off a cliff or get creative with my dosages, those hands have to twiddle the dial on that bastardly lock and find the combination.

That lock doesn’t want the combination found, though. So it finds all kinds of fun ways to stop you. The dial doesn’t want to turn, and the notches on the face are eroded so you can’t tell if you just turned 35 clockwise or 41 counterclock, assuming you even came close to where you wanted to be. Fine motor control goes out the window when you’re having to exert near-Herculean force to move it an inch in the first place, and the lock is tricksy. It’s stuck… except when it doesn’t want to be.

Maybe it takes an hour. Maybe two. Maybe all damn day. But you can’t do anything else until you find the combination. And the lock is, as I said, tricksy. “You beat me today,” it clicks and clacks out the hole the hasp was plugging a moment ago. “But I’ll still be here tomorrow.”

So I get on with the day, best I can, whatever’s left of it. But come the next, the chains have crept up on me again, wrapping tighter than the day before, the barbs now sharper with everything that didn’t get done the day before. The lock has changed the combination, and maybe even the rules; perhaps it will only have two numbers today, but will have to be spun backwards, or it might be ten digits today and they change every time you miss one.

So when I’m quiet, and haven’t been able to work or write or make snide commentary on trophy lists or do much of anything beyond staring at the television and trying to make sense of the pictures, it’s not laziness, stubbornness or stupidity – though I am sure I am guilty of all three in various measures.

It’s me being busy. Trying to pick locks.

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