Posts Tagged ‘depression

16
Oct
18

Breaking Dreams

Something I – and many other artists, I imagine – struggle with is the feeling of worthiness. That my ideas matter, or might be of interest or value to someone else. I can’t speak for everyone of an artistic bent, but that feeling is compounded for me by numerous mental issues.

I do tend to believe that artistic folks tend to have a greater incidence of mental illness, but that’s probably a topic for another day.

But those issues pile up, combine with self-esteem problems, and the constant wondering if the work is good enough and the desire for input so you don’t feel like you’re creating in an echo chamber.

That’s when I get the most discouraged. I’m sure I’m not alone, here. You have what sounds like a really cool idea. You need a little input, or an opinion, or maybe just a sounding board to talk it out with so you can clarify it in your own head. You go to a loved one, a friend, a message board or whatever, and before you’ve even finished articulating whatever it was, someone whips out a hammer and crushes it.

Now, those people may not have known what they did. They may not have done it maliciously, or even meant to be harsh at all. But in my own depressed, fragile, constantly doubting mind that quick dismissal is like a knife shoved between my ribs. It kills discussion regarding that idea, and frequently reverberates through later ideas, shattering them before they even have a chance or form or subjecting them to “well, the last one didn’t fly so why bother with this one?”

For those like myself, those rejections and dismissals become grains of sand around which black pearls form, tended and brooded over for years after the fact, often receiving far more attention than the idea that led to them until they are so large there is no room for any actual creativity. It’s not healthy, but it’s true. Again, I’m pretty sure I can’t be alone in this line of thinking.

Two that I remember: While mulling over Ioudas and where it needed to go, having started with the premise that the concept of “sin” was a type of “energy.” Attempting to determine where that energy would need to go, and how one would ultimately get rid of it, I commented “So Jonas would have to fight literal, physical manifestations of the Seven Deadlies.” I got that far before I was cut off. I had more; images of what those sins would mean to Jonas, how those manifestations would be dealt with, almost a whole story complete and ready to go. Before I could do so, however, the person who I was speaking with said “Oh, the Seven Deadlies. Really fucking original.”

Ioudas has been sitting at 25% complete since then; about three years. Every time I open the manuscript and think about working on it, I hear that voice again and slam the iPad shut, snarling.

The other was in reference to “Little Miss No Name.” Now, she’s fared better than Ioudas, with actual progress occasionally being made, but she hasn’t had the exposure she deserves because of it, and the greater world hiding behind her remains a few scraps of paper at the bottom of the desk because of it. Someone asked what I was working on and I said “It’s a story about a doll who…” Instant cut off.

“Sounds like crap. Like Annabelle. Who gives a shit?”

That person then went on to explain how a real good story would involve JFK time-traveling and killing dinosaurs, which really puts in the wheelhouse of “Consider the source,” but that’s never been my specialty. It left a scar, one that I still pick at and worry at, and rub salt into, far more than any of my physical self-mutilation injuries.

One can always go back to “grow thicker skin” commentary. Certainly an option. But that’s not something that magically happens, or makes every previous wound just vanish.

So if any of you out there are close to an author, a painter, a designer, a creative of any stripe, and they start sharing an idea… please, for just a second, pause and consider your response. I’m not saying you can’t be negative… maybe even mean. There are times when we need those things. But there’s a difference between negativity to a bad or malformed idea and offhand dismissal without even knowing the nature of the idea, and the latter is what rankles me and leaves me awake at night, brooding over the grim treasures spawned from such dismissals.

If you have a creative in your life, let them finish their thought. Ask a question or two, if only to give the impression that you were actually listening. Don’t just break out a verbal hammer and crush it straightaway or – worse – throw up a wall and walk away without a thought.

Please.

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09
Oct
18

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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23
Sep
18

Keeping Boats Afloat

“Whatever floats your boat.” It’s a phrase I’m fond of, for no particular reason. It’s frequently spoken slightly dismissively, usually in relation to a habit or endeavor that evokes little or no emotional response in myself but that seems of interest or import to another. Doubly so if it’s an interest or important subject that I don’t understand why it’s important.

Everybody’s out there just doing their thing, living their lives. Frequently the things going on in one person’s life are of no relevance to another. That’s how we get along; doing our best to keep our own boats floating without crashing into someone else’s or letting them ship water onto ours to save their own.

Maybe I’m going too far with the analogy. Oh well.

There’s going to be some whining and begging here, so you are free to skip with no hard feelings. I’m doing my best to get more content up, which isn’t always easy for reasons we’ll delve into in a moment, but hopefully there’ll be some more stuff for fiction, gaming or general horror fans soon.

I’ve had a lot of health problems this year. Severe jaw infection, pneumonia twice, strep, mold infection in the lungs, severe asthmatic beatdown from multiple forest fires, poisoned by algae in the water supply, constant fights with depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and now the potential of autism rearing its head. I’m a bloody mess.

None of those things help with writing, obviously; worse, they make it hard if not occasionally impossible to work, which means no money, which means no meds, which exacerbates the problem, compounding it exponentially.

To continue the above metaphor, the boat is springing leaks faster than I can find corks and bail water; drowning becomes an ever-more-realistic prospect… in a more literal way than one would like, given the penchant for lung problems I possess.

So, anyway. That’s why you haven’t seen much of me lately; I’m either lying on the couch staring at a visual novel while hooked up to a nebulizer or scrambling in brief periods of wellness to try to catch up or sleeping off the latest cocktail of medications that will supposedly fix me “any day now.”

I need help. (“So what?” I hear you say, “So does everyone!” I hear you shout.) So I turn here, where there are supposedly roughly 400 people who pay at least some attention to the things I say and do.

First, to each of you that reads this blog, pays attention to my Tweets, watches my videos or has bought or read my books, thank you. Intellectual and moral support by way of the idea that someone, somewhere is paying attention and may even like my stuff matters. Keep at it.

To those of you who’ve been in bad places and crawled out, or take pity on those who are sitting in their mental and physical caves somewhere despite not having been there themselves, or those who’ve drawn some entertainment or inspiration from the things I’ve done, thank you.

To all of them (and anyone not already covered who happens to read this) give me a moment of your time; I have a GoFundMe and a Patreon, both of which are there to help me keep paying for my meds and keep the lights on in those periods where I can’t work. If you feel like it, you can drop by and drop something in the bucket. Doesn’t matter if it’s a dime or a thousand, it’s appreciated and helps. But don’t think this is just a begging drive; sure, cash is great, but there’s less physical ways to show that what I do matters to someone.

A like. A share. A “keep at it, bro” e-mail or Tweet. Something to show that I’m not beating my head against a wall in the hopes that the concrete cracks before my skull and shouldn’t just throw my hands up in the air and walk away or let myself go down with the ship.

Okay, I’m done whinging for now. For those more interested in “real” content, I should have the second chunk of “Three Blue Hearts” up during the coming week, and I’m trying to put something together for Halloween – might be a stream of Death Mark or Call of Cthulhu, might be a livechat, might be something else, suggestions are welcome.

That’s all for now. And don’t forget, go hug your favorite artist or mentally ill person (or both) today. They probably need it.

15
Jul
18

Brain Surgery

I’m crazy. Absolutely batshit. That’s been known for some time, and I’m not one to pretend otherwise, or shy away from admitting it, or worry about what anyone else says about my particular brand of madness. It’s just a fact, as much a part of my makeup as black hair, bad teeth and my asthma.

Being broken that way doesn’t mean useless, though. It’s treatable. Not “fixable” by some standards, but certainly livable. Hell, I muddled through 37 years before having a stable and functional chemical cocktail to keep me running.

But we’re not talking about me. We’re talking about you. Yes. You. Someone out there reading this is suffering from mental illness and not doing what they can to treat it. Because nobody bothered to tell me this stuff, I feel the need to say it, on the off chance it helps someone else. So here’s a quick list of things to remember.

1. It’s not your fault. Sometimes the chemicals just don’t work right and that’s not something you can will to be otherwise. Stop blaming yourself.

2. Don’t let other people tell you how to feel or how to deal with it. “Cheer up!” or other platitudes – offered in various levels of exasperation – doesn’t do anything except make you feel worse if you fixate on it. Other people don’t get it unless they’ve been there, and that’s not their fault. Hating on them or hating yourself because you can’t do as they say isn’t going to get you anywhere.

3. Get a psychiatrist. Not a therapist, not a psychologist, not a GP. A head-shrinker who does that and nothing but. Try to find one who specializes in whatever you think you have; if you’re right, they’ll know how to treat it. If you’re wrong, they’ll be the first to notice and offer a referral to someone else.

4. Get two. No, really. A second opinion is always a good idea. Shrinks are just as fallible as anyone else, seeing the world through the lens of their experiences, biases and education. Finding two who agree – at least generally – is a good sign you’re on the right track.

5. Talk to your shrink. Tell them everything. Hiding things, misrepresenting things, or outright lying isn’t helping anyone. Their job is to help you, and they can’t do that if they don’t have all the facts.

6. Take your meds. If they were prescribed to you, you should take them. That means take them as prescribed, when prescribed. Most psychoactive drugs take time to kick in, and need to maintain a presence in the bloodstream to work. Skipping doses or deciding you “feel good” one day and just not taking them is a quick right straight back to where you started.

7. Talk to your shrink. Toying with brain chemicals is more art than science, because everyone’s illness and internal chemistry is different. The first thing they give you may not work. The dosage may be too high or too low. They may need to add something else to it. Stay in touch with the doctor, tell him how each tweak is working (or not working) and adjust accordingly.

I’m sure there’s something else I’m forgetting, but I think that covers most of the bases. If any of you out there have stories you’d like to share, words of encouragement, or other things you think should be on the list, drop them in the box below.

Until next time.

20
Apr
18

The Dark Beast, Depression

Things everyone should know. (Comments disabled here; please visit the original post.)

The Dark Beast, Depression

The Dark Beast, Depression
— Read on jamesedgarskye.com/2018/04/20/the-dark-beast-depression/

05
Feb
18

Self-Healing

It’s been a little over a year since I visited the nice man in the long white coat who put a name to what was wrong with me and gave me a bottle of pills for it. They helped – a bit – but he wasn’t 100% correct in his diagnosis.

A year later, and a different nice man in a long white coat with a pile of sheets upon a clipboard decided that maybe the first nice man was a little wrong and was giving me a different bottle of pills, and that helped – a lot – but he still wasn’t spot on.

According to them, I suffered from bipolar disorder and depression. Which is true. They had wonderful drugs like Lamictal and Prozac, which make you feel so much better. But they’re not the whole story.

Whether you’re clinically mentally ill (as in, there is a chemical imbalance requiring chemical and medicinal correction) or merely “disturbed” (as in it’s all in your head, your way of thinking), doctors and pills can only take you so far. Some of it you’re going to have to do yourself.

I think the real reason I feel so much better lately isn’t just the pills, or the progress my therapist says I’m making. It’s far simpler than that.

I’m writing again. I’m reading again. I’m watching something on Netflix that isn’t just Bob Ross reruns to help me get to sleep and playing games that aren’t just the mindless clickfest of Diablo III again. In other words, doing all the stuff I should have been doing all along, the things that used to make me happy in some way.

That’s the key – and the trick. Depression can best be combatted by doing things that make you happy, but it makes you not want to do those things. I diminishes or removes any joy you might have had in the activity. It throws a black shroud of helplessness and hopelessness over it until all you can bring yourself to do is sleep and mull over the depression itself, turning itself into your version of Gollum’s precious, the thing around which your life revolves.

Don’t let it.

Depression.jpg

I know, that sounds simplistic and almost as bad as when someone who is happily not afflicted by mental illness of one flavor or another says “Cheer up,” but it’s not meant to be taken that way. It’s meant to mean that you have to take an active role in getting better. You can’t sit placidly and wait for the pills to work or expect a therapist to drag out the one offhand comment from thirty years ago that broke you and rendered you unloving and unlovable. You need to work for it, the same as anyone else who’s ill.

Your effort will be rewarded. You may not enjoy it when you force yourself out of the house to go watch the umpteenth sequel to a movie series you used to love. You may find yourself full of pessimism, thinking of how much a waste of time and resources the excursion was. That’s fine. That’s the illness talking.

What’s important is that you did it. You pushed back against the illness, at least a little, and that’s what you need to do.

Of course, this could be so much self-serving bullshit or things that only worked for me and won’t help anyone else out there. But I like to think otherwise.

So if you feel depressed or otherwise in an altered state, at least give it a try. Find something you used to love and do it. Just for a few minutes, at least. Try it a few times.

You might find things looking up.

All that being said, though… you should really see a doctor. Because sometimes it’s going to need more than just an attitude adjustment. Some folks are just unlucky and don’t produce enough of the right mood chemicals (or produce too much, or in the wrong mix) and need a quick knock of the wrench and tightening of the screws to help get things going straight.

But that’s just my two cents. What about you out there? Are you suffering with mental illness? Do you know someone else who is? What do you think helps in those fights? What makes it worse? Share down below, if you’re of a mind.

KA Spiral no signature

03
Jan
18

Reevaluation

As noted yesterday, things are a bit in flux. Redesigning some things on the site, cleaning up my presence on other social media, shuffling through manuscripts to see what’s still salvageable, what needs work, and what just needs to go to the digital garbage bin.

In the process of that, I found myself rereading some of my short stories. I’m sure that, to a greater or lesser degree, most artists have those moments where they find themselves hating their own work. Doubt, self-loathing, proximity apathy, they are the ever-lurking companions of a creator.

I thought that was normal. But then something happened. I was reading some of these stories, and I actually enjoyed them. I saw flaws, yes, but they were flaws I could live with or easily repair. They did not diminish the value of what I had written, or send me howling into the night with a torch, hell-bent on burning the abominations.

They’ve been tinkering with my meds of late. Decided I was “only a little” bipolar, and that my actual problem is depression.

kyle on prozac

Now, I do feel better, but as I read these old pages that I had grown to hate so much, that I could see only flaws and worthlessness in, and actually take some measure of pride and joy in, I have to wonder… are the stories actually better than I thought, and I was just unable to see it through the fog of my little broken brain? Or have the meds just impaired my ability to actually tell if something is any good or not?

I don’t know… but I hope it’s the former.

KA Spiral no signature




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