NO. This is NOT NORMAL.

Everyone is going kamikaze apeshit over the Sean Spicer appearance on the Emmys last night.

Seriously? The things that have been going on in this country and around the world, and you’re outraged at a joke? Would it have been “funnier” had Melissa McCarthy delivered it? Less “outrageous”? Less galling for you to digest?

Spicer is just another diversion. While we’re freaking out about his audacity to make a joke about crowd size, there are really shady things going on. But like that dog in the movie UP, someone just yelled “SQUIRREL” and there we go again, down another rabbit hole. Or squirrel. Except that I dont think squirrels live in holes. Okay, holes in trees, but not in the grou….wait. Sorry. I strayed off-subject.

(See what I did there?)

Like it or not, the guy did his job. Have you ever worked somewhere and had to play by the company’s rules because you NEEDED your job and were required to at least look like a team player until you could figure out a way to GTFO? I know that I have. I believe that I have shared those experiences right here from time to time. I know a lot of people who have. Please, spare me your platitudes about self-respect and honesty. The guy was working in politics, which, as far as I know, ranks up there with lawyers and used car salesmen (and televangelism) as being the most disingenuous, cutthroat, facetious profession in the world. He did his job; at times, very badly. But he did his job as well as anyone who has taken one despite knowing, in the pit of their stomach, that it was a bad idea, could do. He was rewarded for it by being ousted for another guy who lasted a week. For a guy who made the phrase “sucking my own cock” a part of the dinner conversation and the water cooler talk and the mainstream news media. That was HIS lesson to learn, not ours.

Perhaps it should have been our lesson.

The point is, we are normalizing this crap with every passing day. When school shootings were happening with increasing frequency, I worried out loud that we would stop being as horrified with every occurrence . I worried in the same way about terrorism. How many of us have watched the news, read it, felt pangs of sadness and been momentarily aghast at the atrocities man commits against man – and then simply gone about our day?

*Raises hand*

I’m not proud to admit it. It speaks more to my growing insulation against an outrageous and despicable world than I care to face. That I can read about someone walking into a school and shooting the place up, or driving down a crowded city street and mowing people down, and then go make myself a sandwich? In a less caustic and embittered world, who does that? Who does that?

I do. You do. We do.

We have to stop insulating ourselves. I know, it’s probably a form of self-preservation. We don our armor because we need to get through the day and thinking about the fact that this world is at a level of batshit fucking crazy that we’ve never experienced before is simply too hard to digest. The problem is, by waiving it aside; by shrugging our shoulders; by exclaiming “I can’t believe this shit!” and then walking blithely away, we are digesting it. Maybe we feel like we’re wrongfully incarcerated inmates and the food in front of us is shitty, but it’s all we got – but it’s also not. Because we are not inmates.

Neither, in the end, was Sean Spicer. The truth of his tale is yet to be told, but I think that we’re being fed little appetizers in the form of his recent appearances, and the whole meal is yet to come. We can argue that he lacked principles and that any self-respecting person would have never taken the job of Press Secretary for such a corrupt President in the first place, but the fact is, others have in the past. And others will in the future. Again: his lesson.

We have to shed the insulation and feel all the feels, so to speak. The only way to change a situation is to first change how we react to it, and then to act. How do we do that?

I don’t fucking know.

Look, I’m as frustrated and clueless as you are. I’m agitated, stressed, and I suspect that my new crop of stomach ulcers can be blamed equally on the fact that I am angry every single day at the state of the union. I’m as guilty of normalizing crazy and inviting it into my living room for an evening of charades as anyone else. I don’t have answers that I can articulate. What I have is action. My words, in print and voice, are action. My participation in civilized activism is action. My vote is action. My rejection of “normalizing” this shitshow is action. It’s the best that I have right now. I think that, if we all could come together as a collective and simply agree that none of this is normal, we might begin to dissolve the contrails overhead that have made things so overcast. Once we are out in the light, then maybe we’ll be able to see the path in front of us. All I know is that sitting complacent in our seats and muttering a mantra of “Mueller will make it better” isn’t going to work. While we are looking at the shiny objects in front of us, the dark magic is happening.

We need to get to work. I am not okay with leaving this dumpster fire for my grandkids to put out. That Sean Spicer lacks any modicum of self-respect is not my fight. I’m more concerned about the fact that so many others think it should be. And so should you.

Don’t get distracted.

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Things don’t go as planned for a reason, and it’s not because of God.

Crossroads: they’re part of life.

We all experience them at different points in time. They are the stuff of coming-of-age, meeting our destinies, and in many instances, confronting truths. I suppose that I could make an argument for life itself being one big crossroad event, but I’m not feeling that philosophical today.

Crossroads can be a brutal, bucket of suck. I have reached one such crossroad, and let me tell you this: any crossroad that involves being brutally honest with yourself about who you are is never going to be a fun-filled retrospective of memories. When you have to face certain realities and confront a less than optimistic truth, it is easy to bog yourself down in self-pity and sadness. You want to wallow. You should wallow. But not for long. No one wants to hear that, see that, accept that; not from themselves, and certainly not from others. We are an increasingly insensitive, isolated, narcissistic species and loads of us absolutely abhor the feeling of responsibility for someone else’s sadness. By responsibility, I don’t mean that we created it, but that we feel the need to “fix” it. We tell ourselves we’re just too busy, we have too many of our own concerns. We may even be so inclined as to actually be concerned and sad for them. We will attempt to quickly divert them with phrases and pithy responses. We pay lip service to their misery; “Cheer up! It’ll be fine.” With that in mind, you must choose your method of wallowing carefully, so as not to offend any of the dozens of easily-offended people in your immediate realm.

While my initial reaction to those who seem personally affronted by my wallowing is to say “Fuck all y’all” I know better than to do that. It is better to choose which direction you take without the bitter resentment at others’ indifference to your personal pain. Irrationality can color a situation in an unrealistic way. In my stubborn way, I am always tempted to insist, “I can do this on my own.” The truth, though? I shouldn’t.

I am a writer. Always have been, always will be. It doesn’t pay the bills, though, and hasn’t been a possibility due to other life events taking up my brain and my time. I began my adulthood working toward a career in writing but was quickly sidetracked. I faced a crossroads: continue with my education or drop out to follow a man and raise his children. I can never, ever say that I chose wrong.

Throughout that journey down that road, I often pondered returning to that life of study, if only part-time. I wanted to be something, someone. I was convinced, though, that writing wasn’t going to put food on the table and help our situation. My biggest influence in that life was my husband, and he treated my desire to write as if it was just a childish indulgence. Better to focus on something else I had always been interested in: nursing. I would get catalogs from the local university and plot my course. Invariably, though, something in life would force me to focus elsewhere. A few job losses (his), a natural disaster (flood), and the reality of raising 5 kids becoming more and more expensive. There will be time later, I would silently tell myself. You’re still young.

Later, when the children were getting older and the next crossroads loomed ahead, I made another choice: to love someone else. Thoughts of nursing school would surface, bobbing quietly in my stream of consciousness, and then eventually disappear. Life was so busy. Life demanded that I put out fires constantly. I began to write again, blogs, poetry, little story ideas. I was good. I knew it. Friends, strangers, family told me so. This was still possible.

The nursing thing, though? It was always there. I have always taken care of others in some way, from childhood to now. It’s been not so much a calling as it is a part of who I am at my core. I’m a nurturer, an empath, and apparently amongst the 1% of personality types classified as an

INFJ

INFJs are gentle, caring, complex and highly intuitive individuals. Artistic and creative, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities. Only one percent of the population has an INFJ Personality Type, making it the most rare of all the types.

How wonderful for me, right? It’s actually a pain in the ass to be this way and to be depressed. It’s probably why.

Be that as it may, nurture is what I do. Putting out fires is what I do. Combine the two, and you get a nurse. And it pays well, too.

The idea was this: go into nursing. Write in my spare time. Certain events coincided in such a way that it suddenly became possible. At 50, I was going to work in a subordinate nursing position and go to school. I was overjoyed. This, I told myself, was finally The Right Time.

Until it wasn’t.

No pity party here. I am 50. I have tried to be healthy, but my body has always had other ideas. The neck birth defect, the spleen compromise at 16, my heart deciding that it wanted to be a rock star and beat to its own, eventually dangerous rhythmn. The depression. The fucking depression!!!!

And now, this eye condition. We don’t know what it really is or how it began or if it will eventually be cured. We don’t know anything, really, except that I don’t have tears. None. I have tried everything, even watching The Notebook. On the one occasion that I cried because I had no tears, I ended up crying harder because I had no tears. (Cue Alanis.) My corneas are damaged. I can’t even get new glasses because my eyesight has degraded to a point where a new prescription is not possible. I am in pain. Discomfort. And I need to put drops into my eyes at an hourly rate. Sometimes more, if the sun and moving air get to them. I exist most days in the dimness of subdued lighting, venturing out only to do what is essential. My opthamologist has been less than helpful, and quite unavailable most of the time. We fired him. Next at bat is my PCP, and I admit, I have way more faith in her. She at least shows up for our appointments.

The point is, I can’t work in a healthcare setting without eyesight, and certainly not while being a slave to a bottle of drops. It’s not sterile, hygienic, or wise. If it corrects itself eventually, yay for me! I’m pragmatic, though, because have you met me? Nothing is ever simple. If I won the lottery, it would most likely coincide with the fucktard-in-chief deciding to raid all 50 states of their lottery coffers to pay for his goddamned Wall. I’d end up with an engraved brick somewhere along the Texas state line.

The neck has spoken, too. Because it can’t just be one, simple, mysterious eye affliction, can it? At 50, the neck has decided that Fuck this shit. It may tolerate some more shots before going kaput, but behaving as if I am not in pain when I am not, in fact, in pain is apparently baaaaad because when the pain eventually returns, it is worse. My left side is significantly weaker than my right. That means being careful. And that limits how much physical activity I can safely get away with. Bottom line? No joining Cirque De Soleil. No Wayne’s World, Bohemian Rhapsody-esque headbanging. And no nursing.

Crossroads: they suck sometimes. And the thing about dreams is that that’s all they really are. You can work hard and do everything right and sometimes, they just don’t happen. And so you wallow, and then you put drops in your eyes and it may take you three days of pecking away at this blog but you do it because guess what? You still have this.

I am a writer. No one can take THAT dream away from me. None of the roadblocks, and all of the five-gallon buckets of suck that life has dumped on me, can take this gift that I have away. If my eyes are fubared? I have a voice. There’s Braille.

Whatever it takes! Maybe all the crossroads I have found myself at were necessary to get me to this one. To the true path. I have options along the way, too.

So let’s get going, shall we? Bring a pillow for your ass – because riding with me is bumpy. Bring your sense of humor – because it will save your life. And bring pizza. And nachos. And wine. Because why fucking not?

Reality IS a thing.

Let’s try a new thing. I’m not one who enjoys change, but at this stage of my life, I’m making an uneasy peace with it.

Let me give you an accounting of a life lesson that has been taught to me. Call it fucknuggets of wisdom or the sounding of the douchetrumpets – whatever.

When I was a kid, I was bullied a lot. I was, short, dumpy, uncertain, clumsy, and had an oddly-shaped head (a friend of mine back then – kids have no tact or guile – said her dad referred to me as “moon-face” and I didn’t know what it meant, but instinctively knew he wasn’t being nice; he was a big, loud, angry fuck knuckle of a botard and he died in late middle age and I was glad) and poor, so I was easy prey.

There were these “rich kids” who lived in the neighborhood. In retrospect, they might not have been rich but their father had a good job, they had a big, nice house, and everything anyone could ask for. Their mom was a stay-at-home who was always in everyone’s business and who came from a huge, Italian family in the neighborhood, which was code for “We belong and you don’t” in this particular ward. They sent their kids to Catholic school and wrinkled their noses at anyone who A) wasn’t Italian, and B) didn’t have the same or better social status. These kids were spoiled, entitled, and mean. There can be no other word. They flaunted their clothes, their posessions, and acted as if they were royalty. Other kids treated them as such, so how were they ever going to know that they weren’t, right? They were both older than me; the boy was 2 years older and the girl, 6. He was a nasty little prick who once cornered me and threatened to punch me in the stomach just because I was walking past his house. He teased and taunted me. In later years, we actually got along but mostly because he was hired, through our contractor, to replace the kitchen cupboards in a remodel my first husband and I did of our house. I let it slide, because I was young, and still not the loudmouthed truth-telling bitch that I am now. Were this scenario to happen now, I’d have had my verbose way with him.

The girl? She was a cunt. Seriously. I don’t use that word unless I mean it. A bit on the chunky side, loud, snobby, and stupid. FUCK! Was she ever. I knew it, even then, but she was so mean to me that it took my breath away. When she deigned to pay attention to me, it was to ridicule and insult. I avoided her whenever possible, but she was so present, so in-your-face, and I was so much younger…..it was difficult to escape her. The memory of her is one of those shudder-inducing recollections that everyone has. Since she was so much older, I was able to avoid altercations with her in my teenaged tears. That was a fortunate thing for me, because that decade was fraught with so much turmoil and sadness and assorted fuckery that adding her to the mix might have tipped the suicide scales much farther than they leaned.

Apparently, life was not a bed of roses for this family. The dad had an affair. The parents got a divorce. The kids were taken out of private school and sent to public. The mother, a gay divorcee in her 40s, started dating a guy and then got *GASP!* pregnant and “had” to get married. How the mighty fell in the 80s. This was a big, fat, dramatic scandal! I lost track of the older girl over the years, not really giving even one fuck about what happened to her. She was a cunt, remember?

Fast-forward to last year. I encountered her mother, who has been through a series of life-humbling events. We spoke, and she informed me that her daughter had died the year before. She’d had some sort of cancer and it killed her quite suddenly. I offered my condolences, because really? Telling her that her daughter was a loud cunt who had made my childhood even more hellish than it already was seemed unnecessarily cruel at that moment. Her treatment of me no longer mattered. I felt sorry for this grieving mom. I’m a mom too, and I wouldn’t ever wish that kind of pain on another parent.

A little more fast-forwarding, to the other day. Facebook has the ability to bring people together and put them in your peripheral vision even accidentally. I stumbled across a family member of these childhood nightmare kids and curiosity took over and I had a bit of a creep. We all fall victim to this temptation; don’t lie to me and say you never have!

The cunt of my past had a Facebook page. You know, the thing about Facebook is that it’s like schizophrenia, or herpes: it never goes away. She died, but her profile lives on. People still post things on her page, too. Her friends, family, kids, husband. Post after post, I read about how good she was, kind, loving, funny. Everyone seemed to miss her terribly. I thought to myself, maybe she changed. Maybe life taught her a lesson or three, and she became less of a cunt and more of a humble, caring person. Just as I became less of a victim and a doormat and more of a blunt, honest, kick-you-in-the-crotch warrior….maybe she became redeemable. Maybe she acquired some wisdom. I was actually feeling a little bad about my radical, extreme labeling of her.

Then I saw a post from early November of 2016. One of her family members had posted to let her know (because in the Afterlife the dead still get their news from Facebook. Duh!) that Donald Trump had won the election and was going to be President. Apparently, she loved him. She thought he was the greatest person ever. She admired his goodness. She had felt that he was going to save this country from the terrible path it was on. The family member wanted to let her know that her “hard work up there in Heaven” had succeeded! Her savior had won.

What a stupid cunt.

My life lesson, kids, is that people don’t fundamentally change who they really are. Just as I was a warrior deep down inside, this girl was the same vapid twit even at the end of her life. Anyone who condones, admires, and espouses the characteristics of the morally-bankrupt turd who currently sits in the Oval Office – and thinks his values are what this country needs – derserves to retain my early, first impression of her; even in death. First impressions can be misleading, but not if they keep on giving the same results over and over. Trust the gut. It never lies.

Class dismissed!

Let me be me for a moment. In all seriousness

Something has been weighing heavily on my mind.

I am 50 years old. There have been 10 Presidents in my lifetime. My recollection of 2 of them is vague, at best, because I was either an infant or very small. I remember President Ford’s term, albeit shorter than others.

This is the thing: I have always felt safe under the President’s watch. It has been almost an afterthought, an expectation, something taken for granted. You elect a candidate because he (And someday, inevitably, blessedly SHE) is capable, intelligent, knowledgeable, and up to the task. Even if your choice doesn’t win, the candidates put forth are expected to be of this high caliber. They answer a higher call to power not simply because they want to be the leader, but because they believe in this nation’s people and its ability to do good. Some have enjoyed the status a little more than others, but for the most part, becoming President of the United States requires selflessness. It requires tenacity. It requires a very thick skin. Those who answer this call take very seriously the commitment to the nation that they are making, and indeed, to the world.

I do not feel safe within the “protective arms” or leadership of the current President. I go to bed worried, and I wake up worried. I look at the news, and at Twitter, usually before I take my first sip of coffee. I go about my days constantly checking in with social media and news outlets because, let’s be honest here: this guy could launch a missile by first announcing it on Twitter. He could declare war on another country, or on a specific group of people, via a tweet. And, in fact, he has. The are no limits to his unhinged megalomania. He is a threat in and of itself.

I am not going to cite the things he has done during his six months in office that are bad, or negligent. Those who are still with him will simply say “Fake news!” like he has conditioned them to react. I know fake news, and I know the truth when I read it, or hear it. There are real enemies of the truth out there, printing falsehoods just to misguide people; a certain segment of the population doesn’t read past the headlines. A certain segment falls for every story published by TheOnion. A certain segment of the population thinks Alex Jones is a legitimate journalist and freedom fighter and they don’t see him for the grifting, wacko opportunist that he clearly is. A certain segment of the population thinks that Tomi Lahren is a cute l’il scrappy bunny and would you just bless her heart for all those smart, sassy things her little firecracker of a mouth says? Fox News is the anointed truthteller of this Presidency, and not Reuters, The Associated Press, or reliable, trusted guardians of “Just the facts” journalism like a Dan Rather, a Bob Schieffer, or a Diane Sawyer. Fuck those guys, right? If President Trump says they’re lying, they must be. He got elected, after all. He’s qualified.

Except that he isn’t, and they’re not liars. But he is. Every day, he lies. Granted, he doesn’t call it lying; he calls it “hyperbole”. He is, as my grandma would say, a “big bullshitter”. His defenders cry out, “Let Trump be Trump!” but this is not an episode of The West Wing and we are not insisting “Let Bartlet be Bartlet” because Jed Bartlet was a FICTIONAL CHARACTER and even then, Donald Trump is no Jed Bartlet.

This constant tendency he has of bending the truth would not have been tolerated by any person during any other presidency and it should not be now. He does not get a pass because of who he is; an “outsider” new to the game. President Obama did not get a single pass because he was black; even now, he is criticized and in fact demonized, his very legacy under attack. He was not perfect; none of them are. He did, however, lead the country and strove to make us feel safe. He did, and does, possess more honesty and humility in his pinky toe than Donald Trump does in his entire family.

Donald Trump is a con artist and a scammer. He is thin-skinned, petulant, and a bully. His approval rating amongst his own supporters is falling like Thor’s hammer on an enemy. His party has zero faith in his abilities and is actively trying to limit his capability to inflict even more harm on his own people and, in fact, the rest of the world. That Congress must take these steps to safeguard us and our interests worldwide is both shocking and sobering.

But he still has the launch codes.

I miss the carefree days of President George W. Bush.

This is all true, I promise.

One of the hardest things to do, when trying to write, is to not revisit themes you’ve been to before. When you write a blog with specific ideas and parameters in mind, that can be hard. Sometimes, you need to abandon those specifics entirely and just write what you know. My intent, namely putting a real face on depression and calling it out for the nasty, lying bastard that it is, can be just that – depressing. One of the best ways to escape the daily drudgery is to do things to combat it. So for today, fuck depression. I have other things in my bag of tricks and experiences. I can write about other things that I know.

And, here is what I know: my life has been a series of “What the fuck is this?” moments. Some of it, you cannot make up. A lot of it, you can. But only in an Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland While on Drugs with a Good Half-Dozen Shots of Tequila sort of way.

Let’s recap last week, and not in a Breaking News fashion, because with what’s happening in this country alone, this could be the blog that never ends. I’ll hit on that this way:

The President is a stagnant dribble of douche-waste, a discarded baby diaper that has been left in a parking lot and run over by cars for a week. John McCain is an American hero.

There. That is the best I can do today, because I am exhausted by the minute-by-minute cacophony of political pundits, tweets, and “He did what?” exclamations that rise into the air in a muddled symphony of exasperation. Today, let’s be all about the love, the silliness, and the profane. I threw in profane because you all know how much I enjoy a perfectly-placed expletive.

I bought a bicycle last week. Not being able to drive because of my eye condition has been pretty confining, and definitely contributes to the tendency I have to burrow down into myself. I walk every day, but I thought that putting some serious exercise into that routine and being able to go farther in a shorter period of time would be grand. The local bus lines don’t get you everywhere, and not always at the times when you need to be places. Let’s set aside the fact that the last time I regularly biked, I was 19. I tried to revisit the activity one time in my late 20s but I weighed about 75 lbs more than I do now and that ended rather quickly. (Me, wilting in the summer sun on a bike trail at State park, tearfully crying to my ex-husband that this was a baaaaad idea and then walking the bike the rest of the way.) I wasn’t physically ready. Now, I am.

I picked out a sweet black bike with white and pink striping at my most favorite Hell Store in the world (the husband still works there, and a 10% discount is still a 10% discount, yo) and the husband took it back to the automotive department to have the tires inflated. He also adjusted the brakes. We headed for the check out and were ringing out when suddenly, a ear-shattering BANG! sounded. Bomb? Gunshot? The whole place went silent. Hesitant voices rose in unison: “What was that????” People emerged from crouched positions and hiding places. I should point out that we had an active shooter situation in our store last Autumn. You do not forget that shit and it kinda makes you expect it again. Especially there.

The husband said, very loudly, “IT WAS THE INNER TUBE IN THE BIKE TIRE EXPLODING.” He said this loudly because he was balancing the bike and his right ear had just taken on a deafening, concussive sound. Casualties that day included various pairs of underwear, his eardrum, my esophagus stretching to accommodate my heart, and let’s not leave out the possibility of cardiac arrests that could have occurred when various out-of-shape employees came huffing and puffing to the scene of the bang. Apparently whoever filled those tires is not very educated about tire pressure, which is frightening given that the department is Tire and Lube Express. Reason #676 not to shop there, kids.

Anyway, a replacement bike was procured and then I made the husband ride it home while I took the bus because I was scared. Yep. That is what I did, and he did it because he loves me, and we got home at the same time, which was interesting. I rode it that evening, just a couple of turns up and down the street. I didn’t wreck. I figured out the gears, which are on the hand grips now and not in the center of the yoke like they were back when Hector was a pup and I had a gorgeous turquoise ten-speed with the curled handlebars.

Sidebar: who is Hector? Is/was he an actual puppy or was he referred to as a pup because he was young? What did he do to gain such fame as to have a “saying” coined about him? Did anyone ever actually meet Hector or is he an urban legend?

Anyway, the bike revealed the fact that I will need wind-canceling goggles to wear over my glasses because that’s one bad aspect of having severe dry eye syndrome. This means that I will either look like a complete moron or a serious poseur when I ride depending the style of eye coverage I buy. Or can afford, more importantly. The bottom line is that there can be no vicarious bicycling until I do, which is probably good, because you just know that there will be a crash in my future. Let’s put that off for a while, shall we?

On Friday, I was walking as usual, and passed one of the 4 churches I usually lower my head and look away from so as not to catch any Christianity cooties. This is what I encountered on the sidewalk in front:

A man had apparently dropped his undershorts. In front of the church.This happened to be a Baptist Church, and you know those Baptists are passionate about their worship. I speculated with my friends that perhaps this was a new religious movement, or maybe it’s like Vacation Bible School, where a bunch of guys stand in the community hall bare-assed and speak in tongues. Then they have cookies and Hawaiian Punch and color a picture to take home and put on the fridge. I came up with some titles for the program:

Get Naked For The Lord

Moon If You Love Jesus!

Geeking Out For God

Mother Mary Says ‘Never leave home without clean underwear!’

Shake Your Willie For the Holy Trinity!

Nude Christian Men For God

Commando For Christ

Commando For Christ was the clear winner. On Saturday, the skivvies were still there but on Sunday, they were suspiciously absent. It can only be one of three things:

1. A bad advertising angle

2. The group was secret, like a cult, and didn’t want to risk being found out

3. My suspicions were wrong and someone just dropped their laundry and a conscientous church member considerately retrieved them and deposited them in the Lost and Found

My money’s on #2.

At any rate, it is Monday again. This means there are all-new and interesting “What the fuck?” moments to come. Stay tuned, because I guarantee you that I attract them like flies to shit.

What I mean to say is that I don’t know anymore.

I’ve got a confession to make, and it’s not one I will ever be able to be comfortable with making. The people who care about me won’t be, either, but if they are being totally honest with themselves, they already know this, deep within.

I think about killing myself all the time. There are long stretches in which the thought crosses my mind at least once a day. Most days, I can push it away, knowing, on an intellectual level, that this is just a chemical in my brain tricking me. It’s sort of like the Mucinex blob from the tv commercials; a hateful, horrible creature tucked away up there, living in a corner, feeding on my thoughts. It malevolently whispers in my ear about how hard this life is and how much better it would be to depart from the pain of it all. In my case, this asshole resembles Rockhound, the Steve Buscemi character from the movie Armageddon. Remember when Rockhound got the space dementia and was riding the nuclear device and whooping and hollering? That’s sorta how my guy is up there. Demented, certainly. But smart.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, I promised, when I began this blog, to leave no stone unturned in my dialogue about the things that are very fucked up about me. I promised to write about my journey with mental illness. I promised to be transparent. My thought was that if I could do that, I would be able to help others with their magical mental mystery tours, so to speak. In doing so, it would give me a sense of purpose and keep me from the darkness and doing something “bad”. Many people are great believers in writing things down and then burning the pages. This purges them of the poison within. I don’t want to burn the pages. I want to free the thoughts but I also believe that returning to read them when I’m feeling whole is a key factor in keeping me alive. The way, I can conduct a rationale between fact and fiction, so to speak. And I don’t believe that we should be silent about mental illness. I think it’s every bit as lethal as cancer, or heart disease. It kills people. Every day. It kills wonderful people.

Can we agree on one thing right now? Can we agree that suicide is reaching epidemic proportions? People are sad. People are born sad, or their circumstances make them sad. The ones with circumstances causing the sadness are a little luckier, because they can fix it, fix the circumstances. There is hope. Those of us who were born sad face greater challenges, because we’re just chemically wired in a different way, and we could have every little thing, be everything, and still be sad. We would never, ever choose it. We never, ever enjoy it. We sometimes wallow, but most of us are great pretenders, great actors. How many times have you heard someone say, “He/She always seemed so positive” when discussing a suicide victim? Sad people are really, really good at deception. We can function as extroverts, even! It’s fucked up, isn’t it? Trust me, though: we are counting the moments until we can take that mask off and just wilt. Because it is exhausting, playing that part. There is a great cost.

I attempted suicide at age 13. The circumstances surrounding it are very complicated and would take forever to explain. The condensed version is this: I was mentally abused at home. It began when I was about 7 and continued relentlessly until I escaped. And then, it continued from time to time because I allowed it. At the same time that this was occuring, I was entering that awkward phase we all experience when we become teenagers. Hormones, peer pressure, all of it; and I was not pretty, or thin, or possessing of the essentials of surviving. I was poor, had old clothes, and was a nerd. You either sink or swim in 7th grade. I could not swim and I had no life preserver. Thus, the bullying began early in the year and culminated in a mass-bullying incident that lasted for weeks and weeks at the bidding of “the most popular girl in the class” and was aimed directly at me. I could not escape it; even the handful of friends I had shied away from me for fear of being targeted themselves. I began a daily complaint of stomach pains and refused to go to school. I’d miss a week, go back for a day. I’d hope that my classmates had forgotten. Tenacious and cruel as they were, they hadn’t. My mother would take me to the doctor. I had tests done. Of course, there was nothing physically wrong. My homelife was such that I didn’t feel that I could tell anyone about the living Hell that was school. My pediatrician was wise, though; he prescribed me a tiny dose of valium.

When I had missed 40 days of school, my mother began to insist that I had to go. During this time, there was a nasty evening in which she and my grandmother took turns reminding me just how unwanted I was. My grandmother had dementia and was confined to a wheelchair. She had psychotic breaks from time to time and we were her punching bags. But when she would attack my mother, my mother would then attack me, and then they would both fixate on me.

I had simply endured too much. My family didn’t like me. I had no friends. Most of all, I hated myself. The only person who gave a crap about me was The Male Sibling Unit, and he would be fine. It was all too painful, and so I decided that it was time to do us all a favor and remove myself from the equation. It was what everyone wanted, wasn’t it?

It was a Sunday night. I cried for a while, and then my movements became robotic. I knew pills would be best. I would take them and just go to sleep forever. I remember methodically shaking out little handfuls of my grandmother’s heart meds, my valium, and then a big handful of aspirin. I swallowed them all, then went to bed. Then I worried that maybe it wasn’t enough, and went back and got more. I added Tylenol into the mix, because I didn’t want to leave my grandma with nothing, or she could die. The irony of that isn’t lost on me, okay? The things she would say to me aren’t anything I want to put in print, but they are things no grandmother – no human being – should say to another. I shouldn’t have given a single fuck, given that I was hoping that I’d be dead by the time she’d need them again.

The fact that I’m writing this means that I didn’t take enough to kill me, although it did make me very sick and I did have a nervous breakdown and there was a hospital visit and subsequent intense therapy. The therapy should have continued for longer and there should have been intervention in the form of medication much sooner than there was, but there is now, and that is what keeps me from trying again. This time, I guarantee that the drugs used would do the job.

The thing is, the drugs put up a barrier between thinking and doing. They don’t remove the thinking entirely, and they don’t remove the impulse to do self-destructive things. I worry, when it is particularly bad, that the drugs will stop working. I try to send up signals that those I love will understand, because there is not a more wretched feeling than to look at some someone I love and say “I am thinking I might just kill myself.” It’s equal, In my eyes, to looking at them and saying, “You don’t matter enough to me to stick around and I don’t care if it hurts you.” While I may feel as though I’m commiting a tender mercy upon them, I know that they won’t see it that way. And that’s the part of the drugs I take that do their job.

It doesn’t help with the sadness, though. Nor does it help me to understand why I am sad. I just am. Sometimes less so, but sometimes so much that I think, “What is the point?”

This is the reality for millions who suffer from depression and other forms of mental illness. This is the reality for millions who live with chronic pain and illness. This is the reality for millions who struggle with addiction. No one gets to judge when enough is enough for them, so this rhetoric that suicide is an act of cowardice/selfishness needs to stop, and those who have never been in that dark, low place need to open their hearts and minds to empathy.

We need to listen and to hear. We need to understand. We are losing precious lives. Every day, someone important chooses to succumb to the dark. By “important” I don’t mean a Chris Cornell, a Robin Williams, or the latest, a Chester Bennington. I mean a human. Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy.

Can we agree?

Oh, Brother!

The Male Sibling Unit has spent the afternoon at a mental health-sponsored community center he visits at least twice a week. It was opened by the local mental health facility that treats the many individuals in our community with anything from mental disorders to actual mental and physical handicaps. I say “handicap” with no fear of being chastized by someone who has adopted whatever new terminology it is acceptable to use when identifying individuals with a permanent mental or physical disability. When I was a kid, the label “mentally retarded” was quickly going out of style as other, kinder words were being adopted.

Mentally Handicapped. To the point, if a little bit blunt. We used this for a long time.

Developmentally Delayed. I liked that one. It was kinda scientific but seemed sympathetic.

Special Needs. Now, this really takes you to a safe place, doesn’t it? In a vague, glossed-over way. Hell, have special needs. My need for wine at 5pm could be construed as “special”, right? My need for the Skittles to be in pairs of two with different colored Skittles before going into my mouth is obviously special.

The latest, most politically or socially correct “labels” used by those in the mental health/educational community range from Cognitive Disability to Intellectually Impaired. Okay. Whatever. The bottom line? It all means the same thing, and there are varying degrees, conditions, and impairments. I quit giving a shit about how I refer to my brother or his friends and coworkers because at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean anything anymore. I  know who he is and where he has limitations unique to him. The only word I cannot bring myself to use is “retarded” because, when he was 18 months old and my mother had been given the devastating, soul-crushing (for her) diagnosis, she sat me down and forbade me to use any manifestation of the word at all. It was officially a curse word in our family. It would have been better for me to have been caught calling some dumb boy in our neighborhood a “stupid, motherfucking cocksucker” than it would have been had I uttered, “You retard.”

The Male Sibling Unit has many “labels”. Our mother was 39 when she gave birth to him in 1975, and while that’s no big deal now, it sure was then. She was morbidly obese, smoked, and lived a very sedentary lifestyle, despite caring for both me and my grandmother, who had been partially paralyzed by a stroke when I was 5. My mother developed toxemia – we call it pre-eclampsia now – in her third trimester and had to be hospitalised for the last two weeks of her pregnancy. My brother was delivered at a bloated weight of 9 lbs, 5 ounces; he couldn’t even open his eyes because he was so filled with fluid. Even worse, there was a period of time, during his birth, when he was without oxygen and I will never forget the description in his records: bloated and blue. Still, the doctor got him breathing and everything seemed okay for a while. He was colicky at first, but sweet. He was a good-natured baby who drank his bottles and filled his diapers just like any other infant. I was 8 when he was born, so it fell to me to help. A lot. And I didn’t mind it, being a solitary, awkward kid myself.

When he turned 1 and he still couldn’t walk or even crawl, my mother was worried. Tests were performed. Xrays were done. A healed, hairline fracture of his skull was discovered. It was eventually surmised that he had hit his head on the edge of the kitchen table while in his walker. He had never reacted to what had to have been a painful event. But while running these batteries of tests, psychological ones were run, too, and that’s where all the labels came from. “Mentally retarded” was the first, and, as the years passed, “autistic” was another.

Was he born that way? No one seemed to be able to agree. It could have been the toxemia that interfered with his development in utero, but there was that “period of time” where he was not breathing, too. Both the Obstetrician and the Pediatrician were understandably defensive about that fact. Back in the late 70s, there were a lot of experts throwing their weight around, and it was eventually determined that the Male Sibling Unit would “never reach an intellectual age past that of a 4th grader” and require care for the rest of his life.

Those experts were stupid, retarded motherfuckers.

The Male Sibling Unit is developmentally delayed, yes. He is on the Autism Spectrum, too. He has OCD. He has various medical issues including Type 2 Diabetes and Hyperthyroidism. He is unavoidably, through no fault of his own, a narcissist. He does not feel pain like a normal person; his threshold is frighteningly high.  He also is, as he refers to himself, “a horse’s ass”. Nothing could be truer when he is being everything on the list at the same time but it simply is what it is.

The OCD stuff is the worst. The fact that he has a cell phone, which tethers him to me and anyone else who is on his contact list, makes the OCD harder to manage. He worries about himself and his circumstances and his routines constantly and those thoughts translate into multiple text messages a day. He will begin worrying about his prescriptions 10 days before they need to be filled and remind me that he will take care of them. Every day. Multiple times. Until it is time to actually do it. He will fight with his friends and revisit the fights over and over. When a special event is upcoming – meaning it is weeks or even months away – he begins a daily countdown.

We discuss how he feels about every little thing, every single day. When you’re me, with my own, unique set of mental albatrosses around my neck, managing another person’s is challenging.  There are days when I simply need that community center time, for him to go there for a while; to leave me to the peaceful silence of a quiet house. He’ll come home, filled with the happiness of a day spent with friends, and go up to his room to post it on Facebook. Yeah, you read that right.  The “mentally retarded” boy who would “never function past a 4th grade level” is now a 42 year-old who has a robust social media life. It is quiet. I am watching a news program.

Then my phone vibrates.

And yet, I can’t imagine life being any different. I knew what I was in for when I swore to take care of my baby brother for the rest of his – or my – life. It is the most challenging, infuriating, frustrating, hysterically funny, wonderful reality. I’m going to write about him more, because it’s cathartic and also because he is one funny motherfucker.