Losing with Dignity

I have mentioned a few times in recent history that I am excited about an online competition to interview Mark Z. Danielewski, the author of my favorite book, House of Leaves. I have been cautiously optimistic about winning, for various reasons that I convinced myself make sense. I believed that there would be relatively few entries, even fewer of which would stand a significant chance. I believed that I might have produced a sufficiently eloquent contest entry, and that I stood a good chance against most competitors, provided that the judges were not looking for professional interviewing experience.

If you truly believe in something, you are called an adherent, or perhaps a sucker, I forget which. Either way, I have been reminded of the one truism of my life: hope is bullshit. I have a lot of uncharacteristic hope right now, about many things, but knowing that all of my hope is bullshit helps me sleep at night.

The secret that depressed people hide so well is that they are extremely hopeful. It might be more accurate to say that they WERE extremely hopeful. Naturally, The Dark Knight Rises put it best: “… there can be no true despair without hope.” Why is that? It’s because you get used to despair. If depression were just despair, it would become routine, and you would adapt. The occasional injection of real hope is what makes it unbearable.

In the interest of fairness, I will point out that hope makes beautiful promises. On the other hand, hope never accomplishes anything by itself, and it is certainly never held accountable for its false promises. For depressed people, hope is a new medication, a new job, a new friend, a new girlfriend, a new apartment, a new city, a new hobby, a new day.

As for my life, I have shifted to yet another hope. I got a new program for writing in screenplay format, in the interest of approaching my ideas from a new angle. The screenplay format is fairly simple. It makes dialogue a lot easier and lets you paint visuals without lingering too much on every little detail. Because I am still mostly interested in animation, I know a lot of the work is done by the artists, who have real control over how things look. I’d like to have the chance to work with artists to create a better visual representation of my writing.

So I’m writing spec scripts for a cartoon series scheduled to start airing next year. I have ideas that I like and I intend to make at least a few good scripts. Once I finish those, I have to figure out what to do with them and try to make progress in a vicious industry in which thousands of writers fail. Here’s hoping.

Anyway, I didn’t win the competition. Somebody named Trevor will be interviewing Mark Z. Danielewski tomorrow morning. I may decide to watch, but I have no doubt that it will be a terrible interview. I could have done much better. I’m already sure of it.

Deficit Reduction

There’s something wrong with my brain … again. I’m starting to suspect that none of my neurotransmitters are doing what they are supposed to. This time, it’s a little more subtle. When you try to poison yourself, people always assume you have depression. When you steal tiny objects, the call you a kleptomaniac. When you vigorously rub up against people, you get arrested for frotteurism. But when you just float around like a turd in the ether, it could be something even worse. No, I don’t have a brain cloud. I have attention deficit disorder.

ADD is one of those diagnoses that annoys just about everyone. It’s overdiagnosed and oversimplified, which means it’s discredited. In kids, ADD is bad parenting, too much sugar, and a lack of direction. In teens, ADD is rebelliousness, too much caffeine, and a lack of direction. In adults, ADD is irresponsibility, too much alcohol, and a lack of direction. All it takes to fix ADD is a good spanking and plenty of criticism.

If you ever read a list of ADD symptoms, you’ll find that a lot of them apply to almost everyone. Who can say that they are always organized, pay attention to absolutely everything, and never get impatient? Lots of people lose things. Everyone fidgets in boring situations. Daydreaming is perfectly normal.

Like lots of other people, I think most of those statements make sense. I had the common misconception that ADD occurs in hyperactive boys who are have no interest in learning and lack discipline. It’s an easy stereotype, because those are often the times when ADD is diagnosed, right? Actually, even though ADD is often diagnosed in hyperactive kids (usually boys), it is just as common in kids who are not hyperactive, and most sufferers are fairly intelligent. And yes, it occurs in adults, too.

ADD is actually called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, predominantly inattentive. There is also ADHD, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, and ADHD combined. Historically, the disorder was known as hyperactivity (of course), and minimal brain dysfunction (seriously). Now, I never would have thought I suffered from any of those, but I’ve started to believe otherwise.

It’s hard to think of myself as having ADD for a few reasons. First of all, I never struggled in school. By that, I mean I never struggled with my studies. I was able to pass most classes without too much trouble, especially math classes. I never acted out, although I was known for not showing my work in math (it was always obvious). Second, I never had trouble reading. I spent a large portion of my childhood reading books. Many people with ADD can’t focus on one thing for that amount of time, although there are exceptions. Finally, I have a bunch of other mental issues. Attention deficit disorder is yet another log on the burning pile in my brain, which so far includes social anxiety and bipolar depression. I also have a facial tic.

Earlier this year, a friend mentioned that I might suffer from ADD. I thought briefly about it, but decided not to look into it, because I was so busy. I thought that my problems with focus and completing things were just part of that. Once I reached the end of the summer, I was no longer teaching or traveling to weddings, and I had the same problems. When I ran out of practical things to blame, I looked back into ADD. I bought a book (“Driven to Distraction”), I went over the list of symptoms with my therapist, and I came to the conclusion that this was worth looking into.

In retrospect, I can see several signs that I have ADD. I always enjoyed puzzles, but I also had to be doing something else at the same time. I would watch movies while playing computer or video games. In class, I would do puzzles or read, although I would take notes occasionally. I often said that doing puzzles in class helped me pay attention, despite the fact that it would seem to do the opposite. I have learned a lot about coping, but that can only take me so far.

After discussing the matter with my psychiatrist, I began taking Ritalin. I hoped that medication would improve my ability to focus when I study or write, among other things. Because I am already on 3 psychiatric medications, I had to start at a low dose and see how things went before making any increases. I started at 5mg daily, which is the lowest dose, and moved up to 5mg twice a day, which is still a fairly low dose. In addition to prescribing the medication, my psychiatrist instructed me to get my blood pressure checked every week.

I have been on Ritalin for about 5 weeks. I haven’t noticed much of a change, although I suppose there might be a little improvement. Anyway, I have gotten my blood pressure checked regularly. This week, there was a marked increase, from 122/82 to 138/84. I’m seeing my psychiatrist tomorrow to discuss whether or not I will continue the Ritalin at an increased dose, but I doubt that I will. I will probably have to start a new medication at a very low dose. Although it feels weird to be tired of symptoms I hadn’t exactly identified two months ago, I’m eager to see some improvement.

Fortunately, my ADD diagnosis has done one thing for me: it has given me hope. Funnily enough, the thing I want to pursue most right now is creativity, by working with writing and eventually, visual media (I hope). Unlike depression, medication for ADD is more effective and usually works much more quickly. Even if I have to start a new medication from square effin’ one, I will still be able to monitor my ability to focus, and things could improve in no time. I’ll report back on my progress … unless I get distracted.

After Today

I was in a good mood for a while today. After tomorrow, I’ll have a wonderful long weekend. I intend to read, sleep, and watch films. In the meantime, I have to do some History of Math homework (I didn’t get the assignment yet, even though it’s due tomorrow) and I have to mow grandpa’s lawn. I am not thrilled. If I never mow another lawn, it would be too soon. I just hope it’s not going to be too wet, because if it is, the mower will clog like a bitch. A cloggy bitch.

I had to eat at Arby’s for dinner; they were raising funds for cancer. I always avoid their roast beef, because it comes in a tube. Or powder. Something. Either way, it’s disgusting, diarrhea-ridden “beef.” I had some chicken sandwich without the bread, because it was gross. I did get a fantastic chocolate turnover. I’ve had one there before and it was awesome. Chocolate turnover. Yeah.

My classes today were pretty short, because of tests. In one, it was a midterm I had to take. In another, it was a retest I didn’t have to take. The other class went long because one student’s presentation kept going and going. Math people don’t know how to condense reports and spare their audience. Mine was weird, because it was geometry and I didn’t have any tools, but I think I got the point across. I can now trisect an angle in 3 different ways. If I need to, as I so often do.

I watched a really good movie called Interstate 60 this afternoon on Netflix Instant on my brother’s PS3, using his convenient streaming disc. Hell yes. It also helped to cheer me up. I can’t remember why I put it on my queue in the first place, but I’m glad I did. I am awesome.

Anyway, my brief spate of mellow cheer was pretty cool. I suspect it has a lot to do with caffeine, which I imbibed today in great amounts. Hoo-ah. Anyway, it was one of those rare times when I feel like my future exists and won’t suck too much. I look forward to relaxing some this weekend. I think I will be able to, although I also assume other stuff is going to make my time off crappy. We’ll see.

Whenever I can breathe, it is fleeting at best. Now I have stuff to do that is weighing on me. I’ll be seeing my trainer tomorrow and I’ll have to talk some about goals or whatnot. I need to do a better job with my food intake, as I am fat. Now that I wrote that, I’m actually going to go get some mint chocolate chip ice cream, even though it’s crappy all-natural Breyer’s bullshit. Mint chip should be awesome and bright green. This isn’t. I can’t believe there’s no “all-natural” bright green dye. Can’t they just use chlorophyll?

Anyway, exercise is pretty much a waste, as I have no reason to be in good shape. Although I must have done something right, because the rest of my family has some kind of infection. Mark’s is bronchitis. I guess that’s what the parents have as well. Anyway, my piano recital is a week from today, and I still have a few errors. I’m at the “overpracticed” part of the recital cycle, because I’m now screwing up things I had down before. My conscious mind thinks it’s better than the subconscious. Not so. Anyway, I keep practicing a bunch of songs, in part because there’s another recital in a month. Dunno what I’m playing then, but it will probably be my Bach piece, if I can get that right.

I just want some time off. I can’t help but think it’s going to get fucked up some how. Cross your fingers for me.

It’s Djibouti and I’ll Cry If I Want To

Of all the time in my life, the most frustrating moments are spent in front of a blank computer screen. I sit, wishing I had something in my head worth transcribing as the background shoots white light into my eyeballs. Because I often use EditPad Lite, there aren’t even many fun icons to stare at above the text area. In other words, this program is compact and efficient. It’s clear that editing is my true strength because I can always start revising something that is (partially) complete, but once I get to the end, I can’t keep going into the blankness.

Enough about that, though. Today was my 21st birthday, so I had my first legal drink this afternoon. I had about a sip and a half of a whiskey sour, a girly drink recommended by Lindsay, before I decided that my dislike of the taste of alcohol was simply too great and let Mom have the rest.

Mark and Alan had come down (separately) from Lincoln for the weekend, and I think we all had a pretty good time. The true celebration was last night, when I invited Beth over and we all had dinner on the patio. Alan didn’t show up until 9 because he had a highly important Warmachine competition in which he had to compete. Unfortunately, he only won 1 of the 3 games yesterday, making him a FAILURE, by percentages at least. Mark had already come down on Friday, so we got games accomplished Friday night as well. Our favorite 4-player games are Spades and Hearts, and while Mark and I sucked miserably at the former, I managed to rock everyone’s world in Hearts.

After dinner on Saturday, Grandpa left after I opened all of the cards, and Beth lingered to play still more games. We ended up playing Spinner (a domino game), the Game of Things, and Pictionary. I won Spinner, lost badly at the Game of Things, and managed to drag Alan to the finish in Pictionary. We were highly reliant on my expert drawing skills, perhaps best demonstrated by my blobby Texas with pointy arrow for “Dallas Cowboys.” I still do not know where Dallas is located in that state, but Alan knew what he was doing.

The meal and DQ ice cream cake went well, so I went to bed satisfied. We also had two kinds of cookies, one of which was supplied by Beth and contained both fruit and vegetables. “What could those possibly be?” you ask. Well, I will tell you. They were oatmeal cookies with zucchini in the dough and also raisins. Furthermore, they had sugar in them, which I feel is a reasonable approach to making cookies.

Today we went to High Noon Saloon for the aforementioned drinks, and I also had a sandwich with onion rings. Everyone else (conformists!) had Chicken Fried Chicken. Finally, I demonstrated the proper way to kick ass at Super Mario Bros. 3 for Alan. I opened my gifts, all of which I had picked out, and Mark and Alan made their way back to Lincoln. It’s nice to choose what you want when it comes to technology and such. The list: I got Super Mario Galaxy 2, Picross 3D, a laptop “chill pad,” Little Billy’s Letters, the Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook Collection, and a Sansa Clip mp3 player with accoutrements.

Now I’m watching the new stuff on the Food Network. Tomorrow I have class and an appointment at St. Mary’s, plus I need to clean my room and deposit some birthday money. I also need to get up early and I’ll have to figure out what I’m going to start reading next. Unfortunately, Little Billy’s Letters had half of a page missing (ripped out), so we had to return it to Amazon. I still have a ton of other books, but I have to make a choice.

I’m ready to do my next speech for Public Speaking, but in the meantime I need to pick a topic and write it. In terms of other things coming up, Top Chef D.C. starts this week and that’s exciting. I need to exercise more regularly this week. Starting next weekend we’re going to be moving Mark’s stuff back to the house and storage here in Leavenworth. I need to start a couple of new songs on the piano, I think. Practice, practice, practice.

We’ll see what happens from here, I suppose.

Jumping

I know it’s hard to get it up every time I have a suicide crisis, but try to feign interest for my sake.

Yes, I was close to attempting again. No, I did not do so. I went to a hotel in Kansas City with the intent of jumping out of the 19th floor. I was not properly committed, so I did not properly commit. I came back home after having disappeared for something like 20 hours. My family and I decided this was probably a pretty serious matter, so after meeting with my therapist and psychiatrist, I returned to Research Psychiatric Center, a mental hospital in a Kansas City.

After a 10-day stay and 3 ECT treatments, I am feeling much better and have returned home. I’m not working at KCKCC for the rest of the spring semester, but I am going to try finishing my 3 classes this spring and take one more this summer (public speaking) to finish an AA degree. I may also work there this summer (full time, even), depending on what I can figure out in terms of having stuff to do at work.

The plan in terms of mental health is somewhat more complex. I have to find a new therapist, because Dr. G doesn’t feel comfortable working with me right now (for some reason). I need to make a med change, which I haven’t done yet, under Dr. Owens’s direction. I think I’m going to switch from Pristiq to Cymbalta, keeping everything else the same. I will also be looking into maintenance ECT treatments, which means I will have to keep going back to Research every couple of months (6 weeks, I think).

I have no idea where to go from here. I’m hoping my AA will help me with shit and shit, but I don’t have any direction. My dream would be to write an animated TV series that I have sort of planned out, but I have no idea how to get started. I’m also enjoying the piano, which I’m playing a lot more lately as well.

Anyway, I just wanted to report in and let everyone know that I’m doing okay. Further news as events warrant.

Prepare for Excitement

I have a bunch of books I should start reading. I also have many movies in a pile, but I’ve seen most of them, so I am not as eager to work through that stack.

I finally finished the Keys to the Kingdom, a book series I started in high school at some point (junior or senior year, I believe). It had a pretty solid ending, and I’m glad I read it. Reading kids’ fantasy made me want to go through Harry Potter again to relieve memories from a simpler time, so that’s on the list. I also have some mainstream novels, some esoteric stuff, a few graphic novels, and some essays and stuff.

I’m still doing the online classes, and they still suck. Nothing makes me question the education system more than attending a community college (and working there as well. Yeah, I got a job as a student helper, so I do pretty much whatever no one else wants to do and read the rest of the time. 15 hours a week at relatively little pay. While I’m mentioning work, I’m also tutoring math (elementary algebra) for two students. I hate it. Never be a tutor.).

With online classes, the bar is extremely low and people still fail to meet those meager expectations. It amazes me. In my general biology class online, people are supposed to make a (weekly!) original post about the current topic that only has to be 5 sentences. I’m no expert, but I think that’s probably between 50 and 100 words a WEEK. Yet people still don’t write that much. They post 1-sentence responses to other people’s posts that contain amazing typos (I didn’t know there were that many ways of trying to spell some of those words.). I can’t believe this counts as a college-level class.

I’ve managed to go to the gym 3 times a week so far this year, which is pretty good. I’m noticing a bit of progress, but it’s still a huge pain in the ass as far as I’m concerned.

I’m doing paperwork and shit for all of my various pursuits. I had to fill out more forms to be a merit badge counselor, and I had to accept a scholarship for Park University (75%, a pretty impressive bargain. I’ll only be taking like 24 hours next year for a math B.A. Then, who knows.).

I finally found a piano teacher and I’ve taken 3 lessons. I have mixed feelings about it. I like playing the piano, but I hate all of the nitpicky shit she wants me to work on. I hate using the pedal and I don’t pay much attention to dynamics until long after I can play the song.

I hope to visit Lincoln over spring break, and I should work on a campaign for D&D Day. I still don’t have anything in mind for that.

I was going to write a note about cowardice, but I couldn’t get it to work right (maybe I wasn’t courageous enough). Basically the punchline is that I don’t like to take risks and that’s not likely to change. The world is just too dangerous. Better to just relax.

Suck My Pie

This is the first week of online classes at KCKCC. I’m taking 3 classes: General Biology, the Psychology of Personal Adjustment, and Social Psychology. The two psychology classes have been fairly rudimentary so far, mostly just introductions and syllabus quizzes, etc. I have started work in the biology text, reading a basic introduction about life and science. I got through it without much trouble. I don’t know yet what to expect from any of these classes, but I still expect that will be fairly simple, particularly because none of them involve any long-term projects, just tests and weekly homework.

I’m down to 2 choices for piano teacher, because the first teacher I tried to contact is far too busy for me, apparently. My choices are down to the Carnegie Art Center and a private tutor. I’m eager to get to a point where I can just kick ass on the piano. Practice, practice, practice.

I sent in my application to the Boy Scout council to be a merit badge counselor. I may have said this before, but I’m hoping to teach 4 merit badges: Computers, Journalism, Reading, and Scholarship. I think it would be an interesting experience. There is an upcoming merit badge conference on Ft. Leavenworth that I’d like to participate in, but I guess we’ll see. I have a lot of ideas for the Computers merit badge, but not so many for Journalism. It’s kind of hard to make newspapers and radio interesting.

Tonight I cooked a peanut butter pie, based on a recipe from Good Eats on the Food Network. It was highly complicated, and I learned two things: Oreo crusts are not worth making on your own (just buy them), and do all the work at once, from making the peanut butter to putting the pie together. Transferring peanut butter from food processor to jar back to food processor is a pain. So yeah. I have yet to taste it, but it’s in the fridge cooling off.

That’s about it, really. Things are kind of uneventful right now. I mean, really, really, uneventful. Let’s hope exciting things happen soon.

Discussing Oneself

Today was my second day in group therapy at Research Psychiatric Center. Compared to many other patients, my problems are far less pressing or serious. Most of the time I talk about what’s going on in my life, I feel like I am wasting everyone’s time. I also talk about how I feel like I’m not getting anything accomplished when I’m at home, largely because I just surf the net and watch television. However, I have been going to the gym three times a week, as planned, and I also meet with a trainer to keep my fat ass accountable.

Anyway, I’m hoping to get around to taking care of stuff soon, and I am actively making plans to get back to being active. You heard me. I’m hoping to return to playing the piano, and I want to find a place in town to take lessons. I’m looking at a couple of places, and I’m planning on taking it more seriously than when I did as kid.

In terms of other desires, I have decided I want to pursue psychology, at least for now. I don’t know what I will think about it, having taken only general psych, but I’m taking a couple more classes online from KCKCC this spring, so hopefully that will give me a good experience. I’m still looking at finishing my math degree at Park University next school year, and I recently applied for financial aid for transfer students. Because my cumulative GPA is above 3.9, I have a pretty good chance of getting a full ride, at least for one year.

My other random dream is to actually write something, like a complicated novel or really anything that another human being might actually read and enjoy. I’m not sure I have the talent at this point, but I’m going to start working on it if it kills me.

When I finally finish the partial hospitalization program, I will be able to return to reading, movies, and video games. I am still holding off on those activities until my memory seems to be mostly back to normal. I will also have more time to spend doing such things, as well as my fascinating (I hope) online courses. I’m sick of being in Kansas City after these two months of treatment, and I’d just like to be more active. Maybe soon.

Of course there’s other assorted shit going on, but none of it is really worth mentioning. I suppose the above doesn’t really qualify either. Sigh.

Practical Problems of Memory Loss

As I mentioned in a previous note, I am undergoing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which causes rather serious short-term memory loss. I have yet to find out if I will recover the memories I have lost as a part of the treatment, and I won’t know for sure until a few weeks after I finish my final treatment. Right now my psychiatrist has reduced me to one treatment a week (from three), and I will start seeing my regular psychiatrist again for medication management. I have noticed some improvement in my mood, and I hope to keep things stable with meds and psychotherapy after I finish ECT.

Plans for the future include taking more classes from KCKCC in the spring in order to finish an AS degree by next fall, then looking at transferring to another school (likely Park University) to finish a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and possibly one in psychology. It’s quite possible I could get a full ride provided I keep my GPA up, and that’s good news.

Anyway, due to my heightened sense of emotion, some of my regrets have been popping into my head frequently, and I will have to take some action eventually. I need to make contact with a few people about things I have done or said that should have gone differently. I’m trying hard to make notes on my computer so I won’t forget what I need to do in the future.

In less important news, I am growing a beard and joining the local gym. I need to be in better shape and I think the beard looks pretty badass.

Finally, as a result of the memory loss, I am playing games with myself. Although I have forgotten many significant and memorable things and I cannot be trusted to be left alone, I can still have fun. I plan on buying Christmas gifts for everyone in my immediate family, including myself, that I will not remember but can still take credit for. It’s the perfect plan. I only wish I had thought of it sooner. Then again, maybe I did…

Before I Forget

As many of you probably know already, I was fairly close to attempting suicide again earlier this month, so I checked myself into the hospital in Lincoln. I had made an agreement with my parents that if anything like that happened, I would return to Leavenworth, so I did. I spent another couple of weeks in a psychiatric hospital in Kansas City, and during that stay I began electroconvulsive therapy. I am continuing ECT on an outpatient basis for the next couple of weeks, and I hope to see continued improvement.

ECT is one of the strangest experiences I have ever undergone. For those not in the know, ECT is when a psychiatrist shocks your brain with electricitity until you have a seizure (under anasthesia, of course). It seriously fucks with your memory and confuses the hell out of you. Most of the memory loss is of recent events, and it takes the form of delayed recall. Also, old memories pop back up in your head at random. This has no doubt made me a whole lot of fun to be around, giving my family the opportunity to answer some very strange questions like “what did I do all day yesterday?”

Anyway, it really does seem to have improved my mood, and I am trying to be more patient about achieving my goals. I think I’m going to go back to school in the spring semester, at the local community college. After that, I’m not sure where I want to go, but I’m thinking I’ll finish a degree in math and look at getting one in psychology, a subject that appealed to me long ago but for some reason I abandoned in high school. I need to stop sitting around doing nothing and start actually making an effort with life.

I have a lot more to say about recent events, but my addled brain can’t organize my thoughts properly, so I’ll wait and post again later.