Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Wonder, The Wonderful

The Wonder, The Wonderful

My last few blogs have been rather dark, I admit.  “After the dark comes the light” … somebody famous and probably really wise and intelligent has already said that in, most likely, a more poetic form.  And, I heartily agree.  It always does.  It is a hard concept to accept when people find themselves in the dark.  Especially the really darkest dark.  Sometimes it seems like that darkness will never end, 

And, I have found it very true that it does seem to get just a bit darker just before the dawn – just immediately prior to the sun breaking over the horizon.  Sort of like the sun is sucking up light, like a battery recharging, just before it creeps up and goes “Ta-Dah!!” – here I am boychiks and girlchicks.  “Let’s get going todos personnas.”
“Another great day ahead – ta-Dah!!.” 

And, he’s thinking, “I am somethin’ special!  Lookit mee-eee!  I am the SUN! Light and warm everywhere!  Where else ya gonna git thet?”

So the day begins – and each of us has the choice to make it something special – or not.  Let’s be fair, too.  It is a choice.  It is also true, very true, that some of us do, sort of, have to make an inventory of the sichiashun (situation).  Like, ”Okay.  It’s another morning and I feel like shit – again.  But, 1. Is that the residual of the sleep medication?  2. Am I going to feel different after I take my other medications my Doctor says I have to take?  Yeah, give it about an hour and I know I’ll feel better.  3. So what do I do first?  I have to eat something or the meds will make me sick.  4. So eat, then meds, then some caffeine … may decaf this morning.  5. Already, a decision!” 

Kinda like that.  Every morning!  Still, I have to remember every one of us has their own set of challenges starting a new day.  Mine are small, insignificant really, compared to probably 90% of the global population.  Sure, I have a neural challenge, my brain is kinda cracked because my skull was physically cracked several times – along with other shit that happened.  BUT (once again) I’m still breathin’.  I still have the use of all of my limbs, digits and senses.  I’m old, but I’m not busted, broke or fragile. 

And, that’s a wonder and what is wonderful is that, after all this time, and there has been a lot of that (time, I mean) is that I can still say that!  Since I was twelve years old, I have worked nearly every single day.  Big deal.” Some might say.  “Everybody should have to work.”  Yeah, yeah … maybe that’s true.  Even when I was on vacation, which was so rare, I can recount almost every single day I was supposedly on vacation. 

When I was younger, a young father, I had to drive hundreds of miles.  I had to look after my children first; keep them safe, keep them from breakin’ too much stuff I either had to fix or pay for.  I had to do what my wife told (she would say “asked”) me to do.  “Stop here, turn there or change the radio station.”  Something, never really had “time off.”  None of it matters really.

I fell in love with creating Art, when I was also twelve.  Just all I wanted to do, was make things.  Was totally focused on that joyous feeling of taking an idea straight out of my brain and making it real for everyone else to see.  Well, I didn’t really care about that.  I could see it and just looking at the stuff I made and realizing that, “I made that.  With my own hands, I made that!”  And, “It didn’t exist before and NOW there it is!.”  It was a wonder to me and it made me feel wonderful! 

I was so young when I discovered this.  I just didn’t know how much our American culture didn’t care.  Not to go into all that, but being an Artist was and remains still something weird in this country that is known for our ability to innovate and invent.  Still, I didn’t know I would have to face that challenge my whole life … at that time when I discovered Art.  It is wonderful that I was ignorant of all that.

It was wonderful that my parents only encouraged me to pursue my Art.  Never one word of discouragement, or “How are you going to make any money doing that?  How are you gonna git a job?”  None of that.  So I wound up spending most of my life making Art.  And, I wound up working at it every single day! For over 58 years.  Hundreds of thousands of drawing, paintings, pieces of pottery, pieces of sculpture and on and on.  “wa-hoo! For you.” Some of you, dear readers, might be saying.

The wonder of it, is that every day I knew I could make that choice; i.e. to make new stuff straight outa my brain, my imagination.  Along the way I did a lot of other stuff, yes.  I did my time in the Army.  I worked as a fry cook, a janitor, a dishwasher in a restaurant; I mowed lawns and delivered newspapers.  I taught school and designed furniture, houses and even a library in CAD – all of which were built and people are walking around in them today.  “Wa-hoo!” again.

So, despite having been cracked in the noggin’ hard several times and surviving a number of really traumatic personal tragedies.  Despite learning to live with what can be a continuous state of nightmares going on in the back of my brain.  The majority of days, I can say, “Life is a wonder.  And if I just do what I do, it will be wonderful."

So, I say, “Live, love and do jazz hands! 


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Double-Tap

The Double-Tap

This is originally a saying that involves – like killing or shooting people, or I suppose large animals.  Like maybe lions, tigers, bears … oh my.  A person, or shooter, shoots the threat and if the threat is still wriggling, they get shot again – the double-tap. Make sure, for certain, that the threat is dead.  And, therefore no longer a threat.

However I believe there a lot of times when the double-tap comes in handy, even if there is no threat.  Or, sometimes there are situations in life where checking up on something a second time, can save your butt.  Such as giving your wallet a double-tap, or your cell phone, when you’re leaving the house – going somewhere.  These days your cell phone is almost the most important thing you own – or can carry with you.

Really.  Yes, really.

I have had a numerous occasions where having my cell phone on me has been far more important than having my wallet.  I can pay for things and services at a lot of places with my phone.  I can’t call for help, should I need it, on my wallet.  I can’t take important photos, such as where I parked my car, with my wallet.  I can’t override shitty music in a coffee shop with my wallet.  Like right now.  I cannot stand bad country music.  Cannot abide that wailing, stupid – “I love ma country, I ain’t got no edicashunn, I jes lu-huv ma pickup truhuk”  “wa-wa-didi-ahm dumb as shit an’ ah lak it thet wa-a-a-y”.

God save us all from idiots!!!

I’m in a tiny coffee shop in Florida.  Right on the beach.  Very nice place and they’re playing some truly awful stuff.  “Slimy Pete and the Monotones” or some kind of crap.  Jeez, how to totally ruin the atmosphere.  But the rest of the vibe is cool and the tea is good.  Coolest place on the boardwalk and it’s nearly empty.  Hot dog and ice cream and beer joints are crowded, this place is like a tomb.  Fortunately they started selling beer.  That oughta pick up business.  I hope so.

Anyway, I did the double-tap on my Bluetooth headphones in my beach bag and I’m cruisin’ to Jimmy Smith on the jazz organ.  Bee-yoo-ti-ful … Just did the double-tap on my wallet and it had fallen out of my pocket, right next to this coffee shop table.  Saved.!!!  Double-tap my cars keys – still clipped to my belt (whew!)  that’s a big one; i.e. the car keys.  My beautiful wife keeps about a half-dozen car keys duct-tapped to the outside of her car.  She doesn’t double-tap.  And has paid for that just a whole lotta times.

Just double-tapped my cell phone pocket – yep, it’s there.  Double-tapped my sunglasses and hat – covered.  Now, for some years I have practiced what I call, “Develop a system that works and never change it”.  The ACYB, or akib (ay-kib).  (Yes I should work on that acronym – suggestions accepted).  “Always Cover Your Butt”.  Simply, things like, “always carry a pair of pliers on your motorcycle and electrical tape and duct tape”.  Put an extra pocket knife in your bag.  Always have a tenner, ten dollar bill, tucked away on your bike and in your car.  Toll bridges don’t accept credit cards.

And, “if you don’t want sand in it (whatever it is), don’t take it to the beach.”  You will be blowing sand out of it for years.  And, “when you’re boating (anywhere in any kind of boat), everything gets wet.”  That’s just the way it is.  Systems – systems, and never ever change things within your systems.  Habits, if they are good habits can, and I guarantee will, save your butt

The very minute you change something, or break, your system, everything goes to hell until you get it back to that system.  This is life speaking, dear reader.  Threeslack brain, periods.  The only thing that has kept me from completely exploding into chaos has been my satchel full of systems.  
score and ten speaking here.  Lately I’ve been going through one of those absent minded,

So remember the double-tap and that the double-tap is not just for killing things, it is frequently a good thing for saving things.  No need to get all OCD (obsessive) about it, just double-tap it.


Monday, May 30, 2016

A Stick In the Eye … Chapter Two

A Stick In the Eye … Chapter Two

Don’cha just love the ellipse? 
First this and … wait … then this other thing.

Now, after a bipolar relapse, what does the afflicted person do?  How do you recover from a triggered episode?  This is a tricky wicket.  Everything was just peachy, even sometimes remarkably good.  After all thinking of this neural affliction as being more a matter of beyond the ordinary, or having what are often extraordinary brain functions.  So … (why yes, another ellipse) this also often means the bipolar person can have flights of mania that can result in just incredible achievements. 

And others are amazed, incredulous, applause (yeyyyy….)  and the bipolarist (person with bipolar disorder - my own nomenclature) is also amazed at what they themselves have just done.  But truthfully those achievements can frequently seem almost out-of-body experiences.  Like, “That was me?  I did that thing (whatever the remarkable achievement might be).  It is confusing because when I do something that other people are impressed with, I find I don’t quite get it.  My mind is saying, “What’s the big deal?  What did I do now?  Did I fuck up – again!?”

When I react all confused at their praise, when I feel like people are staring at me or making fun of me, I just want to become vapor.  I want only to disappear.  “Stop staring at me!!!”  I’m not a Martian or something.  Please just back up, back away.  I feel like they’re crowding in on me.  And, they get hurt.  Their feelings get hurt.  They want to praise me and I act all funky and weird.  Often the result of this, is a strike against me, in addition to appearing to seem egotistical, now they think I’m a jerk.

Even the good parts, and yes there are good parts to being bipolar, can become bad parts.  One thing leads to another.  The bipolar brain focuses so intently at a task, that all the rest of the world just fades.  What is not of consequence becomes inconsequential or just irrelevant.  Everything but the task at hand is simply not seen.  Things get stepped on and broken, people get ignored or worse, misinterpreted.  If the misinterpretation is sever enough, it becomes a trigger and a big blast of shit hits the fan – at high-speed and oscillating.    Meaning – shit everywhere and on everything.

What the average, or ordinary, brain sees within context as almost meaningless, a bipolar trigger causes a knee-jerk reaction of massive totally non-proportional behavior.  What can be done after this happens, or what is called an episode?  The short answer?  “Not much.”  What is a bipolar persons worst nightmare becomes manifest and the price must be paid!  THE PRICE MUST BE PAID!

The epileptic has a seizure, the blind man knocks over an expensive lamp, the one-legged man stumbles into a prized vase and THE PRICE MUST BE PAID!  The culprit is obvious, the smoking gun is in hand, the blood is on his shirtsleeve and the price must be paid.  There is forgiveness; there is sympathy (no empathy, but lots of sincere sympathy), but only after the price is paid. 

All the afflicted can do is pay that price and try to get on with life.  That’s about it really.  Own up, admit guilt, offer apologies, beg forgiveness.  What is done, however, is done.  The stick cannot be unbroken, the bell cannot be unrung, the rope cannot be uncut.  The rope can be spliced, but it will always leave a lump, a scar where the cut occurred. 

The greatest warrior is the one who has faced the greatest combat.  The one who has been tested intensely over and over, who becomes the strongest, the most fearless.  That warrior must carry the results of those battles in their muscle memory; for the brain is merely an evolutionary form of muscles tissue.  “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”  Yes, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t painful as hell.  And, the ability to tolerate and absorb pain and remain standing, sword in hand is proportional to the greatness of the warrior.

“Time heals all wounds”, but while a person is in the healing process, time can seem to slow down until it seems to be stopped.  The recovery is long and the pain unrelenting, until memory fades and recompense is made and accepted.  Knowing that the cycle will be repeated; having this as absolute knowledge, is like carrying a piano on your shoulders.  Still, and I repeat, life is a miracle and everyday has the potential of being a marvelous gift.

Better to just grow strong enough to carry that piano, rather than “a stick in the eye”. 

©  Dale Clarence Peterson, 2016

Friday, May 27, 2016

A Stick in the Eye

A Stick in the Eye

We have all heard this many times … well most likely.  If not, it goes kinda like this, “Well, it’s better than a stick in the eye.”  Which is a reference to experiencing some kind of negative incident.  Oh, like say, getting stung by a bee or maybe a “Payment Overdue” letter.  Or, getting the big putdown when asking another person for a date.  Ya know, some kind of minor bad thing, but not a really serious bad thing.

“Well, it’s better than a stick in the eye.”

Having been diagnosed Bipolar, as in Bipolar II, the only “better than … the stick”, or worse than, as it were, is maybe dead.  Now that’s a tough statement, I realize, but that has been my experience.  Your life goes along with one emotional catastrophe after another, depressions where you can hardly get dressed in the morning, assuming you were already not in the same clothes from the day before – which is not all that infrequent.  And rages that flash up and you tell everyone from your deepest love interest to casual friends to “Fuck off!”  Some trigger and everything within a two-step radius gets destroyed and you find yourself on the floor in heaving sobs, wondering what the hell just happened! 

In-between those way way waay-out extremes, there are many simple ordinary flat days.  No big issues.  You can maintain ordinary conversations, polite small talk, a few chuckles, keep a smile on your face, even make new friendships (which in the back of your mind, you know you will most likely destroy at some point).  Your inner person just knowing that everything you prize, all that is good in your life, somehow at some time, you will fuck it up. 

Then there are the days when you see literally everything.  You hear everything.  Colors are acid clear and brilliantly bright.  Everything is in such perfect clarity, it seems to glow and hum.  Though you never tried heroin or whatever drugs, you think this is what it must be like.  Mozart is like the voice of God.  Creativity just springs geyser-like from your marrow.  Words are little jewels that fall perfectly into sequence … you are Wordsworth, Shakespeare, Hemmingway.

Trigger!!! Explosion!!!  An IED and your legs are gone!  Down the shitter – again!

There is a lot of talk these days about the stigma of Mental Illness; or, Mental Health, or more politically correct Neural Abnormality (abnormality?  Disability? Insert the synonym of your choice).  The stigma – oh, we have to fight back against the stigmas(s)?  “No more stigmas!!”  We need treatment, not stigmas or condemnations!  Etc., etc..

Oh yeah.  Oh yeah.  We need acceptance, inclusivity and understanding.  Compassion.  Oh yeah – wave a banner, march in a parade, get the t-shirt and wear it to Walmart.  Oh yeah, oh yeah.  No more stigmas!  Hmmm … reality check  -  umm, bullshit.  What we actually get is ostracism,  judgment, humiliation and outright condemnation.  Even,frequently, incarceration.  Not compassion or understanding.  Rarely help or compassion.  This is reality.  Never – never – true acceptance. 

It’s all jake, or just peachy fine, until there is an episode.  When the bipolar reality infringes on the normal reality, as normal people know it, that’s when it hits the fan.  Hold it down, bottle it up, medicate the holy crap out of it and it’s all cool.  Medicate until the only difference between you and a zombie is the lack of scabs on your face, maybe. 

That is the bipolar reality.  And yet, it is “better than a stick in the eye”, because as totally awful as it is, it is better than dead.  By only a little bit, but better none the less.  And, as a bipolar person you have to, you must, hold on to that fact.  Yes, every day has the potential to be a miracle.  Every day has the potential to be a wonderful day. 

When put to the test, reality as normal will never be a state you can expect, but if you can find any dignity at all in your life, you must hold onto that fact.  The only time you really loose, is when you quit trying.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Avoidance Is The Only Cure

Avoidance Is The Only Cure

Dealing with bipolarism and PTSD, I have found one of the only – or, at least, most helpful things I can do is avoidance.  That sounds kind of strange possibly”.  How does a person with significant neural challenges avoid the effects of those challenges?  It might seem that would be mostly impossible.

Actually, it can be difficult, but not totally impossible.  The first thing you need to do, of course, is own up to the problem.  I.e., I think I’m a bit nuts.  A sign is having fits of sobbing for no reason, followed by uncontrollable rages (also for no apparent reason, or minimal provocation).  Anyhoo … not on that topic – let’s just assume that the crazy person (let’s say – me) has been diagnosed by several professional nut hunters (therapist and psychologists) as being loony.  Well, maybe just having difficulty processing proper social interaction and maybe life in general.  So, that part has been determined.

First comes a few days in some facility for observation, diagnosis, stupid support group sessions, etc..  Then you get the meds and more observation and all that.  Several rounds of those things until it would seem you can now handle the crap of living with a MH issue.  If you survive with any integrity, self-confidence, spiritual strength, or any of the human attributes where you no longer simply loath your self and your life, then you get to go out the Clinic door and reface life.  Whatever remaining life you haven’t managed to destroy, anyway.

You are now riding the motorcycle of various medications down the freeway (turnpike) of a new life.  And, truthfully, prior to this time you have never been on a 600 lbs., or more, two wheeled motorized monster.  AND, there is the lovely sidecar of side-effects of those medications.  Which can, and often will, include massive weight gain – even though you eat almost nothing but maybe heavy air.  Drowsiness on the order of a two-toed sloth and shaky hands like a Chihuahua in the snow.   Amongst a few others that are really scary.  And then, one month out ten, or so, the meds just stop working.

Then the whole process starts over.  Clinic, observation, diagnosis, etc.  Such fun can only be had while totally stink-asse drunk (or stoned, baked, whatever your preference) at the State Fair. 

Exercise like an Olympic Hopeful does help.  And I mean, running marathons, swimming wide deep-water channels or rowing from Florida to Cuba.  Any of these activities pursued religiously can be found helpful.  In no way curative, but somewhat helpful.  Exercise is one thing you do not want to avoid, no matter how much you might hate it or how painful it might be.  Just being strong does help and I mean, not just facing your problem and being emotionally and intellectually strong in dealing with it, but being, and knowing, that you are physically strong.

The daily discipline of getting out and doing something that makes you sweat, is really, really important.  Or, once you find out you are nuts, getting physically fit is a side-effect you shouldn’t complain about.

BUT, there are other parts of this scenario that do help by as much avoidance as possible.  Some are obvious; i.e. (again with the i.e.) – liquor (alcohol) and recreational drugs.  The interaction and side-effects of that plus the serious psychotropic meds can be really bad – as in, you could die or totally loose your mind, which might be worse than dying (I think).  Other obvious things like avoiding taking your meds – a millions stupid excuses can be made for doing this.  One of the worst is, “I feel fine, why should I continue to take this stuff that makes me fat and sleepy all the time.”  Sure you feel fine.  That’s partly because the meds are working!!!  Don’t be stupid.  When you put on your prosthetic leg, it doesn’t mean you are now normal and don’t need the fake leg.  Go ahead, take it off and see if you don’t fall over.

What you can avoid.  I used to love Classical Music (Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, etc.).  Now it depresses the shit out of me.  Really badly.  I can’t bear to have it playing anywhere.  Why?  Who’s knows?    Sad movies, cowboy music, uneducated or poorly informed people.  Really shallow sit-coms or chick flicks.  Worst of all, being alone.  Again, some of these things may seem like they are obvious personal preferences, but no … for me, these are things I quite literally cannot expose myself to.  For other psychos, this kind of list could be entirely different.

Some things that are really simple and maybe could apply to others with these MH issues.  I take my meds and I avoid letting my mind think I am any different than anyone else.  On the prescribed medications, under professional supervision, I am just a dude like any other dude.  I avoid goofing off.  Even if I am very physically tired, I avoid chillin’ out.  Keep it moving.  Any time, my mind starts to reflect on my life and fucked up experiences, I avoid letting those fill my brain.

I avoid, in the following order; negative (cynical) people, negative situations (like confronting a bigot or stupid lawn statements – a blog to come later), horror movies, any situation where I might be trapped into a conversation where I know that a differing opinion would not be welcomed.  And several other things I will include in a blog later.

This is not a good ending to this particular piece, but it is the last day of 2015 and I want to get this on-line.

So I wish all my readers a wonderful New Year and may the miracle of prosperity of happiness find you.