Scenes on the Wind

20160727_192955There are no subways in Michigan

we write them off for Eastern fare

wind in our hair

lamenting the deathly slumber

of four-wheeled streets.

 

Meanwhile no one

listens to the rain

our souls spatter on the lakes

in the buzzing wake

of another ghostly tale.

 

The sun shines

on the creaking creep

of golden dunes

swallowing our memories year by—

imagination, drifting

 

over the gulls and with the wolves

reach for the hands that raised

skyscrapers spearing sky

alone in Detroit

longing for the city.

Advertisements

Depression Management: Public Perception vs. Internal Wars

With the onset of Mental Illness Awareness Week, I’d like to take a moment to discuss depression: some hard truths, some public misconceptions.

When you suffer from depression, wrangling your mental health is unpredictable at best. Yet time and again, that’s what you’re told: manage it. You’re better than this. You’re stronger than this. You’ve got this.

The thing is, more often than not, it has you, and you can throw down the gauntlet as many times as you want, but you’re not going to win. After all, the disease is there long before you ever notice its methodical creep.

I know, because it has been stealing my breath away since before I even reached high school.

Outsiders don’t tend to realize that depression isn’t just when my voice goes flat and my eyes go dead. Depression is always there. Perhaps 90 percent of my waking life I spend dealing with my depression, one way or another—thoughts of self-hate, mutilation or outright suicide. This doesn’t mean I don’t pick up a sword and drag its ass to the dueling field, but it does wear me down relentlessly, waiting for just the right moment to lunge.

Depression always has more energy than I do. It is more patient and more studious as well.

So when you see what many would consider “normal” me, with his easy smile, his incessant need for laughter, his outgoing adventurism, know that at the very same time, a second life can be living itself out beneath my skin. “Out” is a good term for it, too—since that second me is methodically going over all the reasons I do not deserve to exist any longer.

This is, bear in mind, even with pills in place to suppress it. People that hear you are on pills for this sort of thing tend to think one of two ways. Either: A. You’re crazy or B. Well you’re medicated, so why aren’t you happy yet? Pills are not end-all be-alls. They make you more susceptible to healing and to change, but they don’t themselves make the change. They make it possible to heal—they don’t heal on their own.

That’s the polite way of saying that, even on my pills—and by the way, I’m not even remotely going to go into the expansive discussion of finding pills that actually work for you—I can still feel like I’m losing my damn mind, and act like it too. This runs contrary to what we are taught and accustomed to with western medicine, I know. Take a pill, feel better. It confuses many when I say I am medicated and I am still struggling.

“Just give it time,” is a phrase that gets dropped more often than not. With mental health, time can be an ally every bit as much as a foe.

Frustrating the search for a cure is the fact that the same methodology of uplifting me from such dire straits may not be the same every time. Hell, what sets the depression off in the first place may not even be the same.

There are times it can be as simple as sleeping away the pain. Other times, I could lie in bed all day and still feel it welling inside, eating away at me. Those are the days I recognize I need to get up and move like everyone else, but convincing myself to do it takes on titanic levels of travail. In fact, this adds to the stress: this sense that I’m trapped in my own body.

There is rarely a point I don’t realize I’m acting irrationally, that this doesn’t make sense, that I shouldn’t be acting this way. Yet my mind won’t let me actively pursue any other direction.  The most perceptive truth bearer in the world can recognize all these things, lay out a concrete argument for why it should not be, and yet…

And yet. There’s a lot of “and yet.” The most rational, intelligent person in the world can still, in the face of depression, be dragged kicking and screaming into the dark—and I don’t claim to be the most intelligent person in the world.

Sometimes, depression doesn’t even have a source. I can just wake up to find it lying next to me with a big old grin on its sallow face, saying, “Hello, chicken shit,” and then the terror begins anew.

If you haven’t gathered by now, I am saying depression is not fun. Neither I nor any other sufferer chooses to be this way. When you see us withdraw and tell us to suck it up, or turn this into something about you, I want you to realize how cruel and undeserved that is. I can’t speak for everyone, but when I go quiet, it is an attempt to dissociate and protect.

I am not doing it to protect myself. I am doing it to protect you, be you my friend or common passerby. I lock it all down deep, put on a false face, and go numb. In fact, I will guilt myself without end if I feel like I am being unproductive or lazy. What you call relaxing, I begin to hound, ravaging myself with the cruelest internal monologue because “I should be useful.” Some call this high-functioning depression. By all outward appearances, I am still going through the motions of the day because the day demands it—but I am certainly not living. In fact, this is one of the most dangerous states.

This is precisely the point when someone should step in, no matter how much I seem unreceptive, because once I have hit disassociation, the world has ceased to be important to me. What is more, I have ceased to seem important to it—from my point of view. This is when self-harm tends to come into the picture. At this point, the numbness is worse than outright pain—I want to feel something. Anything. Of course I can hurt myself, because at least then I feel something, and if I do not belong anyways, what does it honestly hurt?

After every suicide, there is someone standing off to the side with a shake of their head saying, “It was the ultimate selfish act.” I had a teacher in high school, a brilliant, caring man in so many other aspects of life, who told us that phrase openly once. Then he carried on with discussion, as though by this act, the person who had ceased to exist had erased their relevance from the world. He thought it was about something he refused to give them.

Depression is not about attention. Most people do not understand this, and that is fine.

That is why I am writing this. To help people understand. They understand even less, however, the notion of hurting and not being the one to reach out.

In most situations, this is what we are taught to do. Get in a car accident? Reach out to the cops, the paramedics, everyone you can. Get fired from work? Go get some drinks with friends and shit talk all the crap that led to this. Family member passes? Gather everyone together and celebrate their memory.

Depression doesn’t work like that. Depression is not an immediate problem and it does not have an immediate cure. It is the slow motion creep of decay that makes you feel constantly old before your time. It made me feel decrepit in Middle School, when I first made its acquaintance; it still makes me feel aged at 28. And this steady creep is what makes it so different.

When you do not believe you deserve to exist, or see any point in continuing to exist, you also do not see much point in reaching out to others.

Again: this is not for attention. I could not care less about attention. When I am hurting I do not want to bring that pain to others and I retreat a little more each day.

So, why doesn’t someone cognizant enough to write an essay like this call the crisis line? Why hasn’t your friend, with seemingly everything to live for, called their therapist?

I hurt

=

Call doctor

I don’t deserve to exist

=

Go silent

Numbers like the crisis line are important. They do save lives. I am not saying they don’t. What I am saying is, expecting the depressed person to recognize this and take the initiative is setting up a lot of room for failure. Numb people do not tend to reach out. Distraught people do. They need encouragement from others to do so, not abstract messages from nameless sources. People—real people—actively breaking through the barrier, telling them they need help because PEOPLE care if they are gone, PEOPLE care if they hurt, PEOPLE still have a place set out for them, is what helps. Will it make them distraught? Sad? Angry? Yes, all of the above. No one wants to be the person that made another weep.

But I’m here to say that a person weeping is worlds better than a person with no feeling at all, pondering what lies on the other side of a knife’s edge. Depression ravages. It destroys those it lurks within and ripples outward, hurting the lives of all those with which it comes into contact.

Do not make the mistake of treating it like any physical illness. It can feel impossible to weather, seeing a friend cave to it time and again, and seemingly never being able to get through to them. Think how they feel, actually living with that demon inside. If you want to help, and understand, just be there. Do not go into the battle with preconceived notions. Learn the signs. Reach out.

It has saved my life more than once.

Book Birthday for The Company of the Eagles!

So this here is one of those good news, bad news situations. I won’t beat around the bush: publishing efforts on my two outstanding standalone novels have stalled. It’s why I have been so quiet on that front since making all those less than subtle announcements a few months back.

EaglesCoverEbookWhile I find my footing in literary limbo, though, it’s my pleasure to announce that on Monday–yes, this Monday, October 2–I will be releasing a collection of fantasy shorts set in days well before the events of my Haunted Shadows novels. Which means that the month of Spooktober will begin with sword duels, rabid gryphons and some good old fashioned bounty hunting, care of: THE COMPANY OF THE EAGLES–the first part of a two part collection. There will be six short stories in total, though their lengths vary significantly, with the second collection of seven to follow in early 2018, if everything goes according to plan.

It’s only going to be coming out in ebook form, though, at least for the foreseeable future. That has less to do with an aversion to ye olde classic forms–I have enough bookshelves to disprove THAT–and more to do with number crunching. Nearly all my previous sales have come from ebook purchases, leaving little reason for a print run at this time. If any of you are interested, though, write me, and I’ll see what I can do.

Additionally, in honor of the release, the first book in the aforementioned series (The Hollow March) will also see a price drop to $0.99 for the first week! If you’ve been waiting to pick it up, on the fence, or just want to be able to grab two books for less than two dollars, now is definitely the time.

And remember, if you want to help my little book get out into the world, spread the word anyway you can! Every RT, share, review or chit-chat at the local drinking establishment helps.

I hope you all enjoy! I’ll post links when the book goes live.

Never Say Never, Space Cadets

nasa-63032
Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Let’s take a moment to address the state of affairs which led me to take up these auspicious dares—true, the speech might yet be dubbed a pipe dream dragged up from my very seams, but in the depth of sleep I found and knew the world and hid it oh so deep. It lay somewhere past the quasar, strummed and strung out like an old sitar; a Sirius look, it held, one rendered of imperious intent but, by and large, stood nothing less than deliriously under bowed heads and thick craniums, but with none of the internal fortitude of titanium. It stood inverted to me, like the eyes of the perverted crowd looking out at me—which is to say, looking in so deep they like to think they’re taking a peep, but amidst all the scorching oxygen and vacuum flow, it’s been withered under the blow by blow until it’s nothing but a magnification of our own stratification, and the rub, well, the rub friends is that the future’s based upon a flub—that just because the light blurs out into forever, that we might endeavor to learn the word never—

Never to Cry

Never to Lie

Never to Die

When in truth there comes a time we’ll see the state we’ve set upon a dime, and find ourselves with no choice but the bow of grace, and drift away into sweet empty space.

The Great Wall

baher-khairy-98238
Photo by Baher Khairy

Laid end to end

Sartre’s bones

constitute the mortar

 

of our allegorical wall

martyred concrete

filling the gap

 

between mortality and

obscurity by repetitious fame

stacking high the shadows

 

empty sockets cast

on nameless trenches, moats

long ago stormed

 

but never held;

by dusk they’ve lost the words

to ending plastic patriarchy

 

leaving them with the bleakness

bonemeal’s philosophy extends

across the consciousness of the world.

The Garden or the Flower

By Luis Camacho
Photo by Luis Camacho.

Bewilderment begot Death’s remorse

a flower, wilting in the cup of hands

flesh made against the source

as the prince, in all his

benevolence sang,

I would give for you

a garden, love, if only you should bear

those tears with silent devotion.

She looked on its gold, its promised names

of flowers not yet birthed

but as she wept she turned away

to reside among the fields:

for in that gloried cage she knew

no place for petals time had stolen

no roots in which its name might roost.

Passing Fancies

By Cam Adams
Image by Cam Adams

Today

today

is always the day we lose our way.

 

Constricted verbosity

like moss on a rolling stone

gathers

syntax

articulation

on which to fly.

 

Twerked tics

swarm characters.

 

Beyond the light

blind men hack

at their roots

focused on the shorter road

not the forest sound.