Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Why are We Depressed?

I've been reading the book, “Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – And the Unexpected Solutions” by Johann Hari. Hari is actually a world renowned journalist, not a mental health professional, and because of this he got a few bad reviews on Amazon, reviews that stated since he was only a journalist, he is ill qualified to make any assessments or conclusions in the field of mental health.

The funny thing is, if one actually reads his book, one realizes that he's not so much making assessments or conclusions as he is doing what journalists do best: trying to find answers. And because he is a journalist, he goes all in, traveling around the world, interviewing doctors and experts alike, asking the deep questions nobody really wants to ask, and researching.

He never once claims to be any kind of expert – and yet cites many of those experts and doctors in a well-researched, logical book that, when one really thinks about it, makes a lot of sense and is almost painful in its simplicity. He has thirty-six pages of notes and citations, and a full index backing up and supporting the research in his book.

I can't understand why anyone would give this book one or two stars in a review except maybe someone who is still in denial. Although one one-starred review was given strictly because the reviewer claimed Hari as an atheist, and there is no way one can not be depressed if they don't have spirituality and religion in their lives.

I discount reviews like this. They have nothing to do with the subject matter of the book, and they just make the reviewer look silly.

I have long been a skeptic of modern medicine and doctors, and no, I am not anti-vaxxer. I'm not against antibiotics or doctors or hospitals. If I break my leg, you bet your boots I'm going to call an ambulance and have my ass hauled to the emergency room to get it set, and yes, to get a nice prescription of painkillers.

I just don't believe that doctors know everything, and I don't think the almighty pharmaceutical pill is the answer to all our woes. And anyone who thinks that the pharmaceutical companies actually want to help people feel better are extremely naïve. This is a country of capitalism, and the first goal of any company is to make a profit. If you don't believe me or Hari, just YouTube an antidepressant commercial and set your stopwatch for how long it takes them to list the side effects. No, I believe if you want to feel better and healthier, it is your job to take your health into your own hands and do as much reading and researching you can to figure out what works best for you.

I've struggled with depression and anxiety for several years now, and I am in treatment for it. The one thing I absolutely refuse is to take antidepressants. That's my choice. But I understand why people do take them. As Hari points out in his book, clinical depression is defined as a chemical imbalance in the brain, as if something has gone haywire, one's supply of serotonin has run out, and one is then prescribed an antidepressant to boost serotonin levels and bring the brain back in balance.

Hari actually discusses in Chapter 2 the history of how the, as he calls it, “serotonin story” first began, and it was quite by accident. I guess this made a lot of people angry, because as long as we hang on to the idea that there is something wrong with people's brains when they are depressed, then there is an easy way to fix it (antidepressants) and we don't have to talk about it so much.

Or you just sweep the loonies under the rug with their drugs, and call them cured. I have actually likened antidepressants to a lobotomy in the past, but only in my own situation. I can't even take Midol without going a little crazy, so pharmaceuticals have never really been my bag. As Hari points out in his book, he is not trying to take away antidepressants, or tell people they can't take them. If something is helping someone, by all means, they should continue its use.

What he is saying is, what if there is more to the story than just serotonin levels? What if instead of just putting a pill shaped bandaid on a person's mental health, we dig deeper and try to discover what is really going on here?

And this is what I think is so painfully simple. It really isn't that far of a stretch to believe that someone is severely depressed after they discover their spouse of twenty years is cheating on them. Or after the death of a child. Or because of some repressed trauma from childhood. Or being fired from a job they were working for fifteen years and then suddenly, pink slip. Or even some physical illness or pain that won't go away. These people are given an allotted time to grieve, and then told to get over it and move on with their lives, as if there is some kind set-in-stone time period for grieving.

I started getting depressed about the fact that for almost a year I had constant stomach issues and no doctor was able to tell me why, and then all they did was prescribe Nexium and tell me I had acid reflux. When every single thing you put in your mouth is a perpetual minefield, that starts to weigh on your mood. It's of course not the only thing that was causing my depression, but it was a good bit of it. So I got Nexium for my stomach and Prozac for my depression, and no one, except my naturopath practitioner thought to ask, hmmmm, are these two things connected and what can we do about it?

It's ridiculous to me that more people don't wrap their heads around the fact that our bodies work as a unit. We so often treat symptoms. Stomach ache? Here's some Pepto. Allergies? Here's some Allegra. Depression? Let me get the Prozac. But is it really so hard to believe that an issue with one body part might have something to do with another body part not working right? Dr William Davis of Wheat Belly and Undoctored fame says that all health begins in the gut. When the stomach ain't happy the rest of the body is miserable. But of course people don't want to adhere to that when it means that most of what we love to eat is the number one problem. Me included. I have to give up wine? And chocolate? And horror upon horrors, CHEESE? Well, shit.

Hari outlines nine causes for depression and anxiety in his book, at least the nine he feels he has uncovered so far. There are probably many more, he writes, but these are the nine he focuses on.

Cause One: Disconnection from Meaningful Work

  • Basically, we are trapped in a rat race of the most mundane, ridiculously boring work that takes up twelve hours of each day, and pays us shit. And what's more, companies don't care about their workers, won't give them decent health insurance or care, and can fire them on a whim (my state particularly is a right to work state). There is more to this story, but that about sums it up.
Cause Two: Disconnection from Other People

  • People are lonely. They can't figure out how to connect with each other anymore so they withdraw into that twelve hour work day that treats them like garbage, the Internet, or overindulging in substances or food. There was an interesting anecdote Hari added about gaming addicts, and how some people are so starved for some kind of connection they get hooked on online games just to have someone to talk to. I have actually seen this happen to a couple people in my life.
Cause Three: Disconnection from Meaningful Values

  • We are obsessed and addicted to stuff, and acquiring more and more stuff. Materialism has taken over. Every three years people buy new cars. They try to keep up with the Joneses. I'm guilty of it too. I've become obsessed with collecting tea sets. One really only needs one teapot when you think about it, but I just love them, so I have four.
Cause Four: Disconnection from Childhood Trauma

  • People who have suffered horrible things in childhood tend to be more depressed and anxious into adulthood. This is not to say that everyone who suffered childhood trauma is depressed, or everyone who is depressed has suffered childhood trauma. It's just another big factor.
Cause Five: Disconnection from Status and Respect

  • There is a reason why Facebook exists. It gives people the opportunity to post about themselves, screaming "look at me, look at me!" Hari discusses an interesting anecdote about baboons and the relationship between stress and status in baboon tribes. The omega baboon is infinitely more depressed than the alpha, unless it's "Fight for position in the tribe" time. And then the alphas are more stressed, trying to protect their status. Now we are not baboons, though we are related to them genetically (although, come to my job with me for a day, and tell me we are not baboons).
Cause Six: Disconnection from the Natural World

  • We crave nature even if we think we "don't do nature." I actually took that from Hari, who readily admits that he "doesn't do nature." And I laughed out loud. How do you not do nature? It's everywhere. A thirty minute walk outside with my dog peps me up more than anything else sometimes. I've started gardening every summer, because just being outside in the dirt is therapeutic. I don't have much a green thumb, but I still try. And waking up every morning to see the mountains in the near distance has still been one of my favorite things in the world.
Cause Seven: Disconnection from a Hopeful or Secure Future

  • Depressed people can't see the forest for the trees (to use an overused cliche), and I've been right there with the rest of them. It's almost impossible to look into the future and see anything good when one is at the bottom of a well of despair. 
Cause Eight and Nine: The Real Role of Genes and Brain Changes

  • This one I really found interesting. It's almost a chicken or the egg question. Are depression and anxiety caused by a changed brain, or do depression and anxiety change the brain? And as it turns out, according to one neuroscientist, the brain is always changing. And of course experiences over the years, and life in general is going to change someone's brain. The brain looks different from when someone is severely depressed as when that person is no longer depressed.
What it comes down to is that it's easier to “fix” a problem by doing nothing other than swallowing a pill. To believe that a problem stems from a chemical imbalance and all one has to do is take a pill and “fix” it, like an antibiotic, is intoxicating. One doesn't have to face issues. One doesn't have to change one's lifestyle (buy less, eat healthier, exercise, actually get outside and enjoy that tree). And the big one, society doesn't have to face the fact that in actuality it is sick and needs to change. One quote from the book stood out to me: "In a world that thinks there's no such thing as society, the idea that our depression and anxiety have social causes will seem incomprehensible" (pg. 258). And then, "But it turns out we are all still living in a society, even if we pretend we aren't. The longing for connection never really goes away" (pg. 258).

And maybe that's why Hari got one star reviews on his book. Demanding that society change is always a risky business.

And yet, having just looked at Amazon, the book is temporarily out of stock and listed as a bestseller.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

I'm Tired

I've been channeling a lot of Designing Women lately.

That could be because a lot of their episodes just resonated with how women think, feel, and act. Even thirty years later (since Designing Women aired in the eighties) the conversations they had and the issues they dealt with are still relevant.

One episode in particular sticks out to me this week when Mary Jo sat on the couch looking a bit dejected and said, "Boy, I tell you Julia, I am tired. Tired of going to the grocery store. Tired of standing in the checkout line. Tired of doing the laundry. As a matter of fact I pulled this shirt out of the dirty clothes hamper this morning and pressed it."

Julia: "Mary Jo, I can't believe you did that!"

Mary Jo: "Oh, come on, Julia. You live in another world. Everyone has done that at least once in their lives except you, and maybe Queen Elizabeth. I'll tell you something else, I'm tired of shaving my legs. I'm not dating anyone. So what's the point? It's not like the kids care. They don't say, 'Gee, Mom, your legs are so smoooooooth.'"

Boy, I know how that feels. I'm tired of going to the grocery store. I'm tired of doing the laundry, especially since I know any day now, that wash machine and dryer are going to go completely kaput and I'm going to have to replace them.

I am definitely tired of shaving my legs. To say nothing of other areas. And I'm not dating anyone anymore, so what is the point?

And honestly? The thought of starting to date again, or "Get back on that horse" as people who are happily coupled up like to tell losers like me who can't seem to keep an engagement together, just exhausts me even more. It's like one more thing to do on the errand list:

Go to the grocery store
Do the laundry
Vacuum
Dust
Pick up dog poop
Clean that infernal closet
Clean cat boxes
Clean cat boxes again
Clean cat boxes a third time
Date in order to find new relationship

And the thought of all that just makes me want to go back to bed. That just means I'll be back to reading Evan Marc Katz's blog, reading articles on how to understand men and what they want in a relationship, and how to avoid red flags.

Those articles themselves are exhausting. For example, click on this one and learn all about why men pull away and how to deal with it. By the time I finished reading the article I had lost interest in the man in question, and I wasn't even dating him. Honey, if it's this much work to keep you interested, then I'm no longer interested. There is a nap I could be taking instead.

Which brings me to my next question: Where are the articles for men, Why Women Pull Away and How to Deal With It? Where is the book, The Men Who Love Too Much? Where is Evana Mary Katz and her blog for men on how to understand women?

Exactly, because men don't read stuff like that. Because men don't care about how to attract women (unless it's to attract lots of women in order to have sex with them and up their numbers) or how to keep women interested or how to understand women. That's because in this world, there is always another woman out there for these men, and if one doesn't work out they happily move on to the next one.

And on that note, there is a reason I don't Google my favorite celebrities or read about their personal lives, and the reason is this:  Most of them are pigs. I broke my own rule the other day out of blatant curiosity when I scored tickets to a Bryan Adams concert in June. I have loved Bryan Adams since I was thirteen, since before Viggo Mortenson but still after Luke Skywalker. My favorite album that I wore out listening to was Waking Up the Neighbors. I joined his fan club and was a member for about six years. So I learned all kinds of fun facts about him like he's Canadian and lives in Vancouver, he loves animals and advocates for whales and is vegan, and he has a soft spot for women and advocates for breast cancer research.

He also really loves women.

The man slept his way through the Victoria's Secret lineup in the 90's. I stopped reading about him when I dropped out of the fan club and decided to leave him on the stage. Then he stopped singing and performing for a while when he decided to do photography, and I kind of forgot about him (especially when I discovered Viggo Mortenson).

One day a few years ago, Bryan Adams was blessed with a daughter. I thought well, how cool is that, and went on with my life. Then the other day, after scoring tickets to this concert because seeing Bryan Adams perform live is on my bucket list, I made the mistake of Googling him and discovered that he was with his long time girlfriend when he slipped up and impregnated his personal assistant with said daughter, and then refused to admit to it for the longest time. Girlfriend #1 cut and run, and he tried to reconcile with her but she was having none of it. He finally ended up settling down with personal assistant and mother of his child, and had another child with her.

But I bet he's still seeing models on the side.

Creep.

This will not stop me from going to see him live and enjoying his music, but that fun dream I had about him a few months ago where we got married and everyone in town turned out for the wedding, well, that remains a dream. I don't want to marry him. The man is a pig. Any woman who willingly goes for him is doing it for star power, bragging rights to "I slept with Bryan Adams," or the money. After all, he owns three or four houses in various foreign countries and his net worth is more than I will see in three lifetimes (see how much you can learn on Google?). I'm not saying there is anything wrong with this, but if you are going to get involved with Bryan, just make sure you are aware that he is a pig and will probably eventually cheat on you.

Kind of like the Drug Dealing Felon, but that's another story.

Talk about a pig.

The thing is, if someone wants to be unfaithful or realizes that they can't be monogamous, that's fine. Just be up front about it. Just tell prospective dates, "You know, I really like you, we have a lot of fun, but I have to be honest. I am not the monogamous type, and I  just can't be faithful." Then that person is free to make a decision based on the information presented. Then if that person gets upset at infidelity, they only have themselves to blame. Quite possibly going into a relationship with Bryan Adams, knowing this information, maybe I could have a whole ton of fun with him for three months or so, before releasing him back to the wild to find a new plaything. But at least then, I would have all the information, I could make a decision accordingly, and I could guard my heart accordingly.

But people want their cake and eat it too, and I'm already exhausted just thinking about a relationship with Bryan. I will never have one with him, thank God. I already know without the shadow of a doubt that I would not be able to handle it. He would be like one more pet to clean up after. I'd have one dog, three cats, and a Bryan, all of whom make nothing but messes for me to clean up. Instead of going home to clean litter boxes and scoop poop from the backyard, I would also be chasing after my man's many infidelities, trying to keep him from completely humiliating me and populating the world through five other sister wives.

Of course we are talking about celebrities. Most normal civilian men are probably not quite as much work as this, though they probably still require infinitely more care than my animals. And my animals are higher maintenance than most.

I mean, the Drug Dealing Felon was super high maintenance, and he wasn't nearly as cute as Bryan Adams.

And frankly, I just don't have the energy anymore. I'm not just being down on men. I wouldn't wish myself on any of those poor bastards either. If they are too much work, I can only imagine how much work me with my baggage of crazy pets and mental illnesses can generate. I exhaust myself.

It's all I can do just to get through the day sometimes, just going to work, then coming home and cleaning everything. Then there is still dinner to cook, laundry to do, novels and short stories to work on.

So I tell you, like Mary Jo, I'm tired. My energy is dwindling.

And apparently, according to Bryan Adams who is 58 and has tons of energy (loosely quoted from some dumbass interview I read after Googling him), going vegan is the best decision you can do for you health and body.

So if I go vegan I will be more energized to do the grocery shopping and the laundry and stop being so tired of my life all the time?

Maybe, but I'm still not going to want to marry someone like Bryan Adams.


Seriously, Bryan, what is going on with your hair?
But, still a cutie.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

White Chocolate and Rosé

White chocolate is the Rosé of the chocolate world.

I believe white chocolate gets a bad rap, and my personal opinion of why (based purely on non-scientific study) is that what most people think of as "white chocolate" is actually not chocolate at all. Good quality white chocolate consists of cocoa butter, sugar, milk products, and an emulsifier. Other types of "white chocolate" are mostly made of sugar, milk products, and oil.

Now some chocolate snobs will still maintain that even quality white chocolate is not really chocolate because it has no cocoa powder. I think that since it contains cocoa butter, it can still technically be considered chocolate. It should have at least 30% cacao content, and 40% is better.

Of course, some chocolate snobs poo poo milk chocolate as well, and as that is my favorite chocolate, I poo poo the chocolate snobs.

But I digress.

So that stuff in baking aisle called "white baking chips" or "white baking squares"?

Not actual white chocolate.

They do work in a pinch. I've used them to make truffles (practice truffles), and frosting for cakes, but to break out in true truffle-making fashion, I used real white chocolate. I've started using Lindt white chocolate bars because Ghiradelli, my favorite brand to make truffles with, faked me out. They don't actually make real white chocolate chips. Theirs is just "white baking chips."

Darn them.

Lindt is a Swiss company, or a French one. I don't really know, but if it's one or the other, you know they have to be on the level.  Or at least they should be.

When I say white chocolate is the Rosé of the chocolate world, I mean that Rosé gets just as bad a rap as white chocolate. I never used to like white chocolate (or I thought I didn't), until I tried a good quality white chocolate bar, in this case Green & Black's Organic White Chocolate. It had Madagascar vanilla added to it.

YUM.


And just like that I was sold on the white chocolate.

Same thing happened with Rosé. I'm not the wine snob my father is, but I still enjoy fine wines. I'm probably a bigger snob than most of my friends, but when I mentioned to these people that I actually drink and enjoy Rosé , they all gave me the nose-wrinkled "EW!" look, like I had just announced that I enjoy drinking pureed dog feces.

Hey, Rosé is some good stuff. You just have to be smart about it. Again, like white chocolate being associated with stuff that's not really chocolate at all, Rosé is associated with that awful pink Zinfandel one can buy for four bucks at the liquor store. It's mass produced, super sweet, and frankly, disgusting.

Sort of like Chardonnay, which also gets the wine snob nose-wrinkle. I tried a lightly oaked Chardonany from the Weston Wineries 307 label, and it was very good for a white wine. Take that, wine snobs!

But that's another blog.

I'm sure I'll have a truffle for it too. I'm already working on it.

But back to the Rosé. I have tried a few bottles of imported, dry Rosé. One from France, one from Portugal, and one from Spain. They were very good. Not too sweet, crisp, with a fresh finish. And they pair well with white chocolate. Sort of a nice Christmassy combo there, if you want my opinion. Chocolate and wine are always good, but if you're looking to spice up the party with something different than the usual party favors, pair a Rosé with a white chocolate truffle, and voila. Instant festivities.

It's a great idea for an afternoon wedding shower, too.

Milk chocolate pairs well with Rosé too, maybe better than the white chocolate. With chocolate/wine pairings it always depends on the bottle of wine.

This weekend, I tried a Garnacha Rosé paired with just a classic unflavored white truffles. I didn't add anything to my ganache, though I've used peppermint, anisette, and vanilla in my white chocolate ganache before. The result actually improved the wine. The wine on its own was almost too tart for me. I like dry, but not sour. It was close to vinegary. Food smoothed it out (I had some with my butternut squash soup). And the white chocolate really smoothed it out, giving it almost a candy/berry flavor.

All in all, a lovely pairing. I'm going to try the 307 Rosé  with the truffles next, because that's one of my favorite labels, and because their Rosé is a great one to try if one is looking to leave behind their snobbish ways and dive into the new party that is Rosé. Also, I want to try some milk chocolate with a Rosé as well, provided that this time I don't mess up my milk chocolate truffles like the last time (gooey mess everywhere).

 

I also tried a dark, espresso flavored truffle with the Rosé and surprisingly, it was not horrible. Dark chocolate still pairs best with the bold, darker red wines (like Syrah or Zinfandel), but it was palatable with the Rosé. That might have been due to the sourness of the Rosé, but still, a good experiment.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Ignorance is Bliss

It's the loss of innocence, I believe, that haunts me the most. The knowing. And the knowledge that once something is known, it cannot be unknown. You can't go back. You can't take it back.

You can't unsee things too, like the back of that lady who should not have worn skintight leggings with no underwear. That haunts me too.

Some people want to know. They would rather know than not know, and I think I've gotten to a point where the not knowing hurts less than the knowing. Ignorance is bliss. I've reverted to the belief that everyone deserves to be happy, and I hope they are, but I sure don't need it rubbed in my face.

For me, it seems like the more knowledge we acquire, the more miserable we seem to be. And it becomes addictive. The more I know, the more I want to know. And I can't rest until I know everything. But as soon as I know everything, I'm not any better off. I'm not any happier. The only difference is, now I know. Now I have to navigate the world with a little less innocence.

I think I was a lot happier before I was diagnosed with every mental illness under the sun (yes, I have a flair for hyperbole and tend to lean toward the dramatic). It just seems like now the more I learn about my host of mental illnesses, the easier it is to manage them, but I'm more miserable about it.

I don't want to be like this.

And yes, there are several ways to look at it. One can take the pessimistic view of, "This sucks and I don't want to be like this." Or one can take a more positive outlook of, "This is the way I am, and I will just do what I can to handle it and not make it everyone else's problem." After all, everyone has warts, everyone has issues, and no one is perfect. It doesn't mean we are broken. It just means we each have a unique set of problems to learn to navigate, and that's our lot in life.

Or maybe it does mean we are broken. I feel broken a lot.

My own personal view of the Adam and Eve story is that God didn't necessarily want to keep the two of them in the dark. He just wanted them to realize that there are consequences to wanting to know everything. They decided they wanted to know anyway, and thus found themselves in a world of misery and shit.

Literally.

I know my world is full of shit. Literally. Just ask my cat who takes a dump four times a day, and if he runs out of actual poop, he still manages to squeeze a drop of something into the litter box after I've just cleaned it.

My other world of shit is that my flash drive just died, taking a whole folder full of edited short stories with it that I apparently forgot to back up.

The fact, is now I'm well aware of how much work went down the commode because of one faulty flash drive. I know things. And I'm miserable.

I also know I should make sure I back up, and I still managed to somehow forget. I don't think that kind of knowing has anything to do with what I'm talking about, I'm just saying I know. And because I know, I'm angry. At myself. At this flash drive. At my computer.

When I was younger I would have thrown a small tantrum, shrugged it off, and gone immediately to work to rectify the problem, because when one is young and ambitious, one tends to see the glass as half full.

The older I get, the less full that glass is. And you know, it really isn't helpful when people keep pointing out that my point of view sucks and I need to change it.

Yes, thank you, Dr. Phil.

The half full side of this whole debacle is that I do still have the first drafts of the original stories. I just don't have the hours and hours of editing and formatting that went into them afterwards. Because that is all on my flash drive. That died.

Ugh.

But back to the mental illnesses. Over the last ten years I've had a host of illnesses tossed my way: hormone imbalance, gluten intolerance, adrenal fatigue, panic anxiety, atypical depression, low stomach acid, Candida, codependency. With each diagnosis, I am seized in an overwhelming desire to understand my condition and deal with it in the best possible way.

And so that I don't become a burden upon society. I just unleash it all in this blog, and if you don't want to know about it, you don''t have to read about it.

The problem is the more I read and understand my conditions, the more depressed I become because I keep thinking, wow. That's a lot of static and stupidity going on in one messed up head. True, none of my conditions are terminal (yet, there is always the possibility that I lose my will to live), but sometimes I wonder if that makes it worse. Because I know what I'm waking up to every morning. I know that each day it's going to be a struggle just to get through, and sometimes the thought of just not having to do that anymore seems like a better option. And instead of waking up to enjoy life, I'm waking up to another day of exhaustive managing of illnesses.

One thing in particular is the more I understand my codependency, the less I want to subject other people to it. I dismantled my relationship and engagement partially because my codependent traits got so far out of hand, I was making myself miserable. The only way to get out of the rat maze that was my head was to cut everything and run. My anxiety over the codependency was running at about a fifteen on a scale of one to ten. This all triggered a seriously deep funk of depression, worse than I've experienced before, and there was no light at the end of the tunnel.

So many people have to deal with such things. Some with mental illnesses, some with cancer, some with diabetes, or poverty or malnutrition or something. So many things can cause anxiety and depression. Anxiety is actually the not knowing that is causing misery, but one also knows that the anxiety is completely irrational. There is just no way to turn it off. You know, yet you don't know. It's the need to know everything right this minute at a much higher scale, and while you don't know, you obsess about how you don't know.

It's exhausting.

We know that cancer can be terminal, and often it is. We also know that cancer may not be terminal and can go into remission. And some people who are terminal learn to accept this and end up being joyful and living out the rest of their lives happily because they will soon walk into the unknown, a new adventure.

If I had a possible terminal disease I'd be having anxiety over that. I'm a mess just as I am right now. I can't even imagine how those brave souls manage.

Some people are in so much pain that all they know is pain and they know that is all they will wake up to each morning, so they too are eager to walk into something new and unknown.

Where they don't know anything.

And maybe they can be happy again. Maybe we can be happy again.

Spirituality works like that a lot. Much of the science world wants us to embrace the idea that spirituality and God and religion are just fantasy, and we are all going to be worm food when we die. They study and study and study and write and publish, desperately trying to prove the nonexistence of anything in their desperate desire to keep on knowing, knowing, knowing. And then they develop a kind of arrogance about it.

And you know what? They are probably just as miserable as the rest of us. That arrogance is a mask to cover up the terror and misery. Because even they don't know everything, and I bet that causes a bit of anxiety for them too. The vicious cycle.

Hell is the eternal separation from God. The definition of God is trickier, because He is basically whatever people want him to be. And knowing too much separates us from our spirituality, from God. And makes us less happy.

In other words, we might just be in hell.

Or on our way there.

Not because hell is a fire pit of endless torture because we have sinned and are "bad," but because it is the eternal misery. who wants an eternity of misery?

Not me.

I believe another fifty years of being a codependent neurotic mess spinning in my own head over and over sounds a lot like hell to me.

I just reread this post and realized it makes absolutely no sense. It is, however, basically what goes on in my head constantly. I can't seem to ever turn it off. Not even during yoga. Not even when I'm trying to fall asleep at night. Not even when I read my devotionals.

Probably drives God nuts that I can't focus for five seconds on talking to Him without being stuck in my own head.

I'm not trying to get anyone to feel sorry for me. We all have our own version of hell and we are all living through it. We try to distract ourselves. Sometimes we even believe we are joyful or happy.

All I know is that this isn't where we belong. If it is we are already doomed.





Padme: the original Star Wars codependent
I guess I don't have it as bad as her. I didn't get pregnant by a raging sociopathic narcissist

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Face that Time SHOULD Forget

The other day I looked in the mirror and screamed.

My reflection put me in mind of a line from Designing Women when Mary Jo - discussing "that time of the month" - made a comment about, "Personally, I have one day every month when I look like Broderick Crawford."

For some reason every time I get around my period, my face decides to do something weird. I never had this problem in the past. In the past, when I was a couple of days from my period, I would feel all bloated, eat everything in sight, maybe get a pimple here and there, but my face, for the most part, would remain something that I recognized.

The last few months, I've noticed that whenever I look in the mirror around two or three days before my period, my face has become this discolored, blotchy, dry, itchy thing that I just want to peel off and toss across the room.

What the hell?

To add insult to injury, I was recently at a concert for a used-to-be-favorite local band and everyone there was twenty years younger than me, and fresh-faced even without the makeup. Girls that age don't even have to be pretty and they're pretty. They have smooth, even skin, like butter. Sure, they wear makeup, but they don't need it. Sometimes the makeup actually makes them look older and less attractive. They have that dewy young skin that just glows no matter how many drinks they consume or how many burgers they chow down on.

I remember when I first started going to this guy's concerts. That was back before he was big. Now he's big and a huge prima donna on top of it, so he's just not that much fun anymore. When I used to go, I was fifteen years younger, had that dewy, fresh-faced, glowy look, and my makeup looked good on me. Now, when I go to this guy's concerts, I feel old, I'm kind of over him, the place is crawling with girls young enough to be his daughter (okay, that's an exaggeration), and it's so loud I can't hear anything when I leave the building.

You know you're not that twentysomething-year-old anymore when the couch, the German shepherd, a blanket, and Netflix sound like a much better option than getting your ears blasted out by some overrated country western star who still acts (and drinks) the same as he did fifteen years ago when you discovered him.

I have grown up. He has not. And I don't miss him.

Before the concert, I was to meet my girlfriends for dinner, and in the past the joke was always that I could be ready in twenty minutes while everyone else took hours to get ready. This time I was late getting to dinner because I had two makeup malfunctions, and by the time I attempted to fix the second one, I just said screw it. I was already five minutes late, not dressed, and still had to fix my eye shadow.

I used to be able to throw on some tinted moisturizer, some eyeliner and mascara, do a smoky eye, and apply some lip gloss, all in twenty minutes, and out the door I'd go feeling and looking fabulous.

This time the smoky eye made me look like a forty-year-old crack addict who attended one too many parties. I took it all off and started over with a lighter, more shimmery gold, look. The shimmer settled into the lines on my face, making me look like a sixty-year-old trying to pass as a thirty-year-old. The tinted moisturizer did nothing to even the blotchy, red complexion I'd been toting around the last few days, and I had a zit cropping out on my chin.

I gave up and went out anyway. It's not like I was looking for dudes or trying to hustle the prima donna of said band. I just wanted to stand in a corner and listen to the music, which was too loud for me to enjoy anyway, so I ended up pulling a Cinderella and going home before the coach turned back into a pumpkin.

I have officially hit middle age. I'm not even forty yet.

I don't get it. I rarely use makeup, I eat a healthy diet rich in greens and bone broth, I get plenty of sleep, and I drink plenty of water. I don't smoke, drink soda, consume too much sugar or gluten (or grains really), and while I don't exercise as much as I should, I do exercise. I also drink alcohol, but I'm not sucking it down night after night. I drink one or two drinks a night on the weekends, sometimes more, sometimes less. Lately I haven't been feeling it at all, so I haven't been drinking. I use all natural products on my face, smear it with coconut oil, use clay or charcoal masks once a week, and exfoliate.

So why the hell does my face look like this? At thirty-nine??

Maybe I'm not forty yet, but I will be in about two months, and while I'm not exactly dreading it, I am wondering, "How on Earth did this happen?"

I'm sure everyone feels that way as they rapidly approach forty. No one ever pictures themselves at forty. I thought thirty was hard. Actually thirty-four was hard. I guess I had always assumed I'd be living some fabulous life, married to someone fabulous, and maybe have a book or two published by now. Instead, I can't seem to get my writing together, I still work at the same library job where there is no opportunity to move up or forward (and it isn't like I haven't applied to other jobs), I live in a pretty dead-end town that people are fleeing from (at least a lot of my friends are), and I have a broken engagement to show for my troubles.

I am, after all, a complete and utter relationship failure. At least now I can say I have one broken engagement under my belt.

Yes, I'm a little bitter.

Maybe that's the problem. They always tell you (who the hell are "they," by the way? And why do "they" have so much to say all the time? Can't "they" just keep their yaps shut?) that age is just a number, and you are only as old as you feel. I don't think it's so much forty that bothers me as it is what forty means. As ridiculous as it sounds, forty feels to me like it means total failure.

Well, not total. I have managed to sock away enough money in savings that I am not panicking now that my dryer literally blew something out and quit working the other day. It was drying away and suddenly, I heard this very loud pop, like a gunshot, and the thing just quit. And wouldn't turn on again. And since it and the washer are the same age, and the washer is starting to make really loud squeaking noises, I might as well replace both of them.

God, remember when things like that were your parents' problem?

If I have anything to show for forty, I have learned to responsibly adult. I have learned to put money away for a rainy day so when this kind of shit happens I can deal with it without having a total panic attack.

Because that is what else forty means to me. Instead of growing up and becoming more comfortable in my skin, I have discovered a host of psychological problems and mental illnesses that seem to be getting worse as I get older, and not better. And they aren't even getting better with the copious amounts of treatment I fling myself into. On the one hand, I am adulting better than ever. On the other hand, I can't seem to get my shit together so I can actually leave the house without wanting to heavily medicate myself. I suffer from panic anxiety, atypical depression, social anxiety, codependency, and a general feeling of worthlessness and low self-esteem. Most days it's a struggle just to get through.

And my face isn't helping matters. At the very least, it could help me out a little by not insisting on looking like something the cat dragged in last night and then peed on.

See what I mean about that low self-esteem?

The reward for getting older is that you're supposed to feel wiser, or at least feel like you've learned something and aren't making the same damn mistakes over and over. I haven't quite learned that, and I guess I feel that by forty, I should have figured a few things out.

More than just, "Hey, that smoky eye really doesn't work for you anymore, face."

The smoky eye was hard to give up. I remember how much it hurt to give up my favorite glitter pencil that I used on my eyes in my twenties. "They" say women in their thirties shouldn't wear glitter, and "they" are sure right about that one.

Turns out "they" are also right about the smoky eye and women pushing forty.

I guess, if I'm going to steamroll right into my forties, then I should start looking for a new signature makeup look. At least then I can say I've learned a little something.

Baby steps.


I can no longer get away with all this eyeliner. Now, when I attempt it, I end up looking like someone punched me in both eyes.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

I Was Pretty Enough to Assault

The whole world has gone crazy.

Accusations are flying, people are losing their jobs, men are blaming women, women are blaming men.

I remember one of my favorite Designing Women episodes, "Reservations for Eight," when the whole clan (the girls and their boyfriends) went away together on a ski vacation and ended up getting into a huge battle of the sexes. Julia, naturally, had the best comeback that shut everyone else down:

"It has been the men who have done the raping and the robbing and the killing and the war-mongering for the last two thousand years.... and it has been the men who have done the pillaging and the beheading and the subjugating of whole races into slavery. It has been the men who have done the law making and the money making and most of the mischief making, so if the world isn't quite what you had in mind you have only yourselves to thank!"

To which Reese responded with: "Oh yeah? That's what you think about men? Well, let me tell you something about women............... They're always late."

Now, there may have been a double entendre there.

Julia Sugarbaker was known for her big mouth and liberal ways, but she also had a heart of gold, and she really wasn't wrong. She could be outrageous and sometimes out of line, but she also spoke the truth about the treatment of women even back in the Eighties.  Designing Women did several episodes on things like the objectification of women, women not being allowed to be pastors in their churches, and domestic abuse.

With all this garbage going on in Hollywood now, as well as in the political circle, the lines have clearly been drawn, and the outcome is worse than the beginning of a Junior High dance. Men on one side, women on the other, and both parties think they are right.

And both parties are right. To a degree. Not all men are sexually abusive pigs treating women like objects. Women should come forward when a crime has been committed against them. The police should not poo poo a woman when she does come forward, insinuating that she had it coming depending on how she was dressed or how drunk she was. Women do have a responsibility in what happens to them as well when they get blitzed out drunk. In a perfect world, one can get blitzed out drunk and lie in a ditch somewhere without having to worry about what might happen to them, but in this world, that is unrealistic and we should take steps in protecting ourselves. That is not victim blaming, that is just a fact. I've been guilty of it too, drinking too much and getting myself into a less than desirable situation. I've also seen the other side, when I helped a young lady who showed up at my car one night at 2 a.m. claiming she'd been raped. I drove her to the emergency room, where she was examined and I was questioned. The cop questioning me actually did say something along the lines of, "Who knows what really happened. The girl is drunk, and look what she is wearing." While giving me a knowing smile.

Holy hell. He's supposed to be protecting his citizens and he basically implied that the girl got what was coming to her because of her clothes and the fact that she'd been drinking. She did the right thing, finding help for her situation, and I took her to the hospital immediately, and yet, we were both treated like silly little females.

And people wonder why women don't always come forward?

The biggest beef men have now is that women are accusing everyone willy nilly and they are afraid to even say hello to a woman anymore for fear it might come back to bite him in the ass. Every man is an abuser! Every woman is an accuser! Hey, that rhymed!

The thing is, I'm not sure this is about sexual assault so much anymore. Sure on a level it is. And yes, women coming forward ten to thirty years later does diminish their credibility. But this is all the symptom of a larger disease. Men are raised thinking they have this entitlement to women's bodies and women are raised thinking that this is just "how men are." So we accept it on both sides. Look at college frat parties. The guys think it's okay to drink like idiots and bang everything in the vicinity, and the women line up, willing to be banged in order to get in good with the frat guys because they think that's just how it's done. Because that's how it's been done for years. It never crosses the girl's mind if she wants to or not.

It's just "what you do."

And I think that might be what has finally stuck in my craw. What I've grown tired of is the blatant sense of entitlement over women's bodies. And not just by men, by other women. By society as a whole. It happens when a group of people think they can tell a woman what kind of birth control to use. It happens when a group of mean girls spreads rumors or speaks snidely of another women wearing a miniskirt, saying they hope she gets gang raped to teach her a lesson. It happens when a man expects sex from his wife in return for doing the dishes. It happens when a man expects a blow job on a first date in return for buying a woman dinner. It happened to me when an ex-boyfriend, drunk after hours of drinking with "the guys" called me up and wanted me to come over because he was horny and I'd better be prepared because I was "in for it" due to his drinking. Then got mad when I refused to come over. It happened when another ex-boyfriend took it personally and got offended when I refused to swallow after sucking him off.

And we are told to suck it up. Literally and figuratively I guess. Blue balls are a thing. Tit for tat. I do this, you pay for it with your body somehow. Don't want to give me a blow job? Give me a hand job instead.

My God, I'd rather just pay for my own dinner.

I apologize, I just read Denis Leary's new book, Why We Don't Suck: and How All of Us Need to Stop Being Such Partisan Little Bitches. Apparently his dirty mouth has rubbed off on me some.

And for the record, Denis Leary wrote a whole chapter in his new book about how he admires women, and how this country will be a better place when we finally elect a woman president (but not Hillary, he didn't advocate for her any more than he advocated for Trump. But I'll end the fangirl rave over Denis here).

There are all kinds of weird sexual proclivities alive and well in this world. And that's fine. I don't judge. As long as there is consent. If she wants to swallow and gets off on it, great. If she doesn't, guilting her into it or telling her that's offensive is not okay. If a guy wants to buy a woman dinner and have the pleasure of her company because he found her interesting enough to ask out, then that's what he signed up for. She does not owe him sex or a kiss or a blow job at the end of the night - unless she wants to do it because she's just as horned up.

And then we run in to, "Well that guy was just a jerk. Just don't go out with him again." But WHY is he a jerk? WHY does he expect that? It's like the situation I got myself in to. Yes, I should have shut it down, and I have taken responsibility for that, but why did he think my body was his right? And why did he think it was okay to get angry when I finally did shut it down?

Men are running scared, and that's sad. Even good innocent men. They are walking around on eggshells, terrified that they might piss off a woman, and then they blame women for it. Well, it's just as frustrating on my end when I make a comment about how sick I am of women being treated like property and I get, "Oh, you're one of those?"

Well, I don't want to be, but hey, buddy, I have been harassed, I have been assaulted, and I have been objectified. I'm not saying you're the one doing it, or that you ever would, but I am saying we need to be aware that this can no longer be acceptable. It's not acceptable to falsely accuse a man of wrongdoing just because we can. But it's also not acceptable for a guy to ask me, "Well, what were you wearing?" when some stranger gooses me at the bar. Or even worse, "That's a compliment!"

I had a conversation with two friends the other day, and one friend made the comment "Men now have to not sexually harass or rape us, and they think that's unfair." This is a person who loves men, has a great husband, great brothers, a lovely dad, and several upstanding, sweet men as friends. She was always one who looked on the bright side, saw the good in everyone, was the first to forgive. And even she has had enough of the misogyny that is flying everywhere in response to women speaking up and saying, "Hey. I want you to treat me like a human being."

And that's really what it is. Some women have stepped up and spoken out finally about how they've been treated and this is what they get in response:

"Soon no man will be safe."
"Why did she wait so long to come forward? I have no sympathy for her if she doesn't report the crime when it happens."
"Another man getting knocked down in this witch hunt."
"Cory Feldman has been speaking out about abuse for years and no one listened to him because he's a white male." (for the record what happened to Cory Feldman was a tragedy, but he was abused by the same pigs and they got away with it, so I'm thinking he probably knows how women feel).
"No wonder men want nothing to do with American women anymore." (as if the sole problem here is American women).
"Women have it great in this country. It's worse in other places." (yes, I should be thankful I don't have to wear a burqa).
"These women were just furthering their careers. If they hadn't cared so much about their careers, they would have reported this sooner."

And on and on and on. Now some of these statements may have a grain of truth. I certainly feel for Cory Feldman. Who by the way is a victim of this greater problem, that some men are in such high positions of power in this society that they think they are entitled to everyone and anyone's body.  But the problem with these statements is that they have managed to make a very real issue about sexual abuse and harassment all about men. And how this is making them feel. And how it is ruining their lives. And making things more difficult for them.

It hasn't been any walk in the park for us either.

There is no easy answer here. There will be women who take advantage of this situation to throw innocent men under the bus. There will be more women not believed because it's become such a shit show. This is a country of extremes, always has been. When something bad happens the response is to swing so widely to the other side that the pendulum nearly falls off the clock and lands in left field somewhere. All that does is cause a host of new problems.

It causes division.

Hell, it causes massive fissures, even among victims. "My abuse was worse than yours." "You did everyone a disservice for not speaking out sooner." Men hate women, women hate men. Women hate each other.

This is not a partisan or a political issue. This is a basic human rights issue. I'll leave you with this thought: On Facebook the other day I saw a post supporting President Trump with a picture of Melania and another picture of an elderly woman. It said "Trump is married to this (Melania) and he forced himself on this (elderly woman). Not buying it, liberals." Regardless of whether one is a Republican or a Democrat, a Trump supporter, or not, that post is offensive. What it is basically saying is the second lady was too old or unattractive for Trump to assault. Why would he when he is married to such a beautiful woman? The second lady must be lying if she's accusing Trump of assault.

So, I guess that means I was attractive enough to be assaulted. Which puts the blame back on me and my pretty face.

As if assault and rape are not about power. As if elderly or unattractive women never get assaulted or raped.

As if assault and rape are some kind of compliment.


Julia Sugarbaker





Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Maybe Luke was Just Depressed

I take it back.

Everything I said about Luke Skywalker in the last post, I just take it back.

You know, call me cynical, but maybe Disney had the right idea. Maybe how they portrayed Luke wasn't so far off. Maybe that's how it works. One really does just keep skipping through life, constantly making the same dumb mistakes over and over without ever learning a damn thing, ignoring God/the Force or whatever, until one finally loses faith in God/the Force. And maybe that's what happened to Luke. He never learned shit. He just kept doing the same stupid thing over and over despite knowing better, and knowing what he ought to be doing. He finally lost faith in the Force, and stopped listening to it to the point of closing himself off completely.

Then he got so depressed and so disillusioned by his own stupidity that he said "Fuck it all," and took off for a deserted island to hide alone with a bunch of Porgos that actually kind of look like cats (penguin cats).

He's the crazy hermit Porgo guy.

He didn't blame the Force, he blamed himself. But I can understand the reasoning behind giving up listening to the Force/God or whatever. If you are so stupid that you can't even listen to the Force/God or whatever that you just keep doing the same stupid thing over and over, and you know it's your own fault, well, why bother listening anymore? Clearly even the Force/God can't save you from yourself.

So, then, when Luke finally was able to make a life for himself without having to worry about carrying the damn weight of the universe on his shoulders, some Millennial shows up, already knowing everything and being perfect at everything despite having only been exposed to it for maybe a week (like all Millennials), demanding his help, and it probably just pissed him off to no end.

What they didn't show in the movie is Luke telling Rey, "Hey, since you're so perfect and know so much about the Force and can already wield a lightsaber while it took me years to learn proper Jedi training, why don't you go save the damn universe and leave me out of it?" Fucking Millennials.

Okay, so maybe I'm projecting just a tad, but hey, Luke Skywalker is my twin flame. We understand each other. We feel each others' pain. I mean, here's Luke who had to fight and train and scrap for everything he got, and constantly be in control of his emotions, and never get angry because Jedi can't get angry, and never get laid, because well, look what happened to Anakin, and then become a legend with every last hope riding on his shoulders. It's no wonder he went a little crazy when he caused the ultimate of all fuckups by failing with Kylo Ren. He had a total Force meltdown. I guess he can't be blamed for that. And what's worse is, here's this upstart Miss Perfect infringing on his solitude, DEMANDING he do as she says, because, well she's young and female so she's got to be right. All she's whining about is that she doesn't know who her parents are. But everyone should feel so sorry for her because wah, wah, her parents abandoned her.

Well, honey, Luke's dad was Darth Vader. And he didn't feel the need to go cry in his safe place with a puppy and an ice cream sundae.

Not that I'm excusing Luke. As I said, he was well aware that he was just constantly making the same stupid mistakes over and over and seemed powerless to stop himself. Meanwhile, he stopped listening to the Force, because well, when's the last time I had a conversation with God? He's not listening anymore either, because he's tired of my stupidity. Maybe the Force isn't either. And the cherry on top is that Luke KNOWS he's at fault, he KNOWS he's making the same mistakes over and over, and he BLAMES himself.

Eventually one just gets sick of themselves and their own stupidity.

And that's when the depression sets in.

That's when the fatigue sets in.

That's when the desire to run and hide becomes overwhelming.

In a perfect Disney world people do pull themselves up by the bootstraps, stop sniveling, stop whining, and stop wallowing. They get up and DO something. They pull themselves out of it and carry on. They force themselves to seek treatment and get better and keep trying and not give up.

And then God invented antidepressants.

Luke had weird alien milk. That seemed to be the only thing lining his ass out on that island.

At least he didn't become an alcoholic. He had every reason to.

Maybe it was fermented milk.

But that isn't how it always works. They tell you to change things if you don't like the mistakes you're making. They never tell you how to change it. There are antidepressants, and strict meal plans to rebalance hormones, and exercises, and meditating, and yoga. All those things help. But they never tell you how you can actually shift your feelings. You're supposed to just know.

Like a Millennial.

But only Millennials know everything. The rest of us are just mere mortals. So it turned out Luke was also a mere mortal who happened to at one time wield incredible power in the Force. Now he wants to be left alone to live out the rest of his life in peace...and they won't let him. He can't just sit on an island and wallow in depression. No, he has to make everyone else feel better, cease making everyone uncomfortable with his mental illness, and save the universe.

Somehow Rey, Chewy, and the rest of the universe managed to make Luke's depression all about them.

It's like some really bad Dear Abby letter: Dear Abby, Our Jedi Master abandoned us and everyone in the universe to run away to some deserted island due to his severe mental illness, leaving us to actually have to step up and do things ourselves. He's supposed to be our hero and legend, and his selfish mental illness has really made things inconvenient for us. How can we get him to see the error of his ways and return to his rightful duty in saving the day like he always has?

Or, Dear Abby: Our Jedi Master has severe clinical depression and mental illness. How can we make this all about us?

Because that's how it is, isn't it? When someone doesn't feel at their optimal, it suddenly becomes their job to mask it, hide it, fake it till they make it in order to make everyone else feel better so that they don't have the uncomfortable task of actually dealing with someone else's inadequacies and imperfections.

Instead they are told to quit whining and buck up.

But Luke wasn't whining. He wasn't bothering anyone with his depression. He took his intolerable self and depression off to no man's land where no one had to BE uncomfortable with his depression. But you know what? When his depression finally became inconvenient for them, they came looking for him anyway. Then they blamed him for not being what they wanted. They got angry about his inadequacies. They got upset about the fact that even the most powerful Jedi has moments of weakness and humanity. And plenty of moments of stupidity.

How dare he.

And therein lies the real problem. If even someone like Luke can fall from grace and give into his emotions, that means no one is safe from it. Everyone is inadequate and everyone fails and everyone has issues, and eventually they will have to accept that, warts and all. If one chooses to deal with their issues by hiding them and NOT dealing with them and pretending everything is okay, then what gives them the right to demand another person do the same? Because that person's depression and mental illness makes THEM uncomfortable? Maybe Luke got tired of pretending everything was okay, because clearly, it wasn't.

So if Luke wants to wallow in self-pity and depression on a deserted island where he isn't bothering anyone except maybe a mess of Porgos, that should be his right. And he shouldn't have to apologize that his issues make everyone else uncomfortable. Too bad if his mental illness became inconvenient for others. It's not like he was using it as an excuse to mass murder a bunch of people.

If they didn't like it, maybe they shouldn't have gone looking for him.

Though he did, of course, end up saving their rear ends at the end. So he did what they asked and what was expected of him. Despite his depression and feelings of inadequacies and self-loathing, he did what needed to be done.

That probably makes him more of a hero than what he did in Return of the Jedi.

Ironic, isn't it? Because the last thing he wanted was to be a hero. They all got what they wanted. Hopefully, he finally got what he wanted when he disappeared from that ledge: Peace.