Exit 24 Is Now Exit 25

Exit 24 Is Now Exit 25

Memory,

     There is a lot to be said for memory and perception, what we choose to remember and what we make ourselves forget, and how we choose to remember the things that we do.  I never gave a lot of thought to these ideas, for me memory has just always been the reality, how things come into my memory is the manner in which they must have happened, or so I always thought.  Losing a large chunk of time to the blur brought on by heavy medication changes things in a major way.  You can no longer rely on your own memory when it is not even there to begin with, when the only memory you have is the one that is pieced together for you by the people that you encountered and hurt along the way.  My memory of the more recent years of my life, approximately 2010-2012, is a collection of pieces given to me by many different people talking to me about things that happened, things that I did, and things that I said, as well as some memories that are far too vivid to have ever let go of, and the medical records that I have now taken into my possession.  My memory also comes back to me now in horrifying flashbacks, so real and so intense that they often take away my ability to breathe and never leave me any less than terrified.  I first started working on these pieces in June of 2013, I was struggling at the time to get over the recent trauma I had suffered and I was convinced that things were going well and that this was going to end up being a story of triumph.  As the months wore on, and I wrote more and more, a lot of things began to surface that I had pushed down very deep hoping to never see again.  This is something the mind allows us to do for only so long before it begins to bubble over and poison itself with the rage and anger it produces as a result of the brew of toxic memories.  There are moments of triumph in these pieces and I hope that they are moments that everyone can identify with.  But there are also a lot more dark moments than I first intended to share; there is more of a sense of desperation and hopelessness, but the thing is, I know there are a lot of you out there, rather, a lot of us out there.  When I started these pieces I told myself that now was the time for honesty, now was the time to come clean because I actually had the power, and hopefully the voice, to reach a lot of people, just like myself, who are at their wit’s end, who have also lived this life and to help them know that no matter what, they are not alone, as alone and empty as it may feel on those days that seem like they are never going to end, just after the last endless day and so far removed from the last good day, I have been there too, and you are not alone

 

The psychiatric years

Everything good comes to an end

 

            If you have made it this far I don’t need to tell you that I have been a drug user for the majority of my life, that I have done more drugs than I care to count, that I have fought away demons with intoxication, you already know that.  With that said I can tell you that out of every drug I have ever used, every combination of drugs and alcohol I have ever partaken in, nothing has been more destructive or soul raping than the psychiatric medication I began taking in the Summer of 2009.  There is something so insidious about this medication and the way it manipulates your feelings and emotions, and the way in which it is socially acceptable in the eyes of some while being a sign of weakness and instability in the eyes of others.  In 2009 I entered into a period in my life that I can honestly tell you I was lucky to survive and that for a long time I didn’t think I would make it out of.  I had made a bad habit over the years of trusting the wrong people, of not always thinking for myself, of trying to please others; it is amazing to me now the amount of effort I had put into holding it all together over the years, keeping everything inside, and how really, sickeningly easy it all fell apart.

            To be honest I had been running for a long time by the time 2009 rolled around, I had been running from the past, from a moment in time that I never wanted to remember and that I never wanted anyone else to know about.  I had been running from insecurity my whole life, whether it was about being too fat or too skinny, too neurotic or too strange, whatever sort of problem would come up in my life I would never deal with it, I would only run from it.  You can only run for so long, and you can only bury your problems in the ground for so long before they take root and start to sprout out in every possible way, and no matter how hard you try to cut them back they are like a weed that never stops growing, never stops creeping back into your life.  I had convinced myself in early 2009 that by conquering the pill demon that I had laid the other demons to rest, that I had moved far enough away from them that I wasn’t going to have to think about them anymore or face them again.  I really wanted to keep it together, I really wanted to pull through and come out on top, I wanted to be one of those people who could look at their life and say, even with all of the shit that happened to me; I still made it.

There are a few things I need to throw out there that I should have mentioned earlier.  First would be the relationship I had developed with my parents over time.  My father and I had developed a rather strong relationship over the years.  When I started getting in trouble in 1996 he stood by me, he made court appearances with me and one time when things got too heavy at my parents’ house between my mother and I he drove me back to Keene.  We didn’t speak on this trip until we got to Court Street in Keene right outside of my apartment.  He was very distraught, I had been arrested again and it was clear that I was not well.  He asked me,

“How long have you been doing this shit?” 

I find myself thinking about this conversation from time to time, would it have made things easier, more acceptable, if I had been honest?  Well, I wasn’t, my answer was that I hadn’t started until I got into college, I just didn’t want anyone to know anything more than they absolutely needed to about me.  There was also the problem of knowing that he wouldn’t really understand how it had all happened.  My father always lived in a world, and still does, where drugs are the cause of problems, not the result.  I am more than aware that my parents have long believed that my problems all started because of drugs, because of marijuana in particular.  They have long believed that everything was fine up until I got arrested in 1996 and when that happened and I got busted with weed, everything became about how awful it was that I smoked weed and that it was ruining my life.  Again there was never any talk about the massive amounts of alcohol I was consuming, there was never any question into whether or not I was a drug user, and we never talked about my eating habits, every condemning conversation we had was about marijuana.  I always found this to be very frustrating, marijuana is the one thing over the years that has brought me any sort of peace, I have never understood the negative connotations attached to it and I never will.  My relationship with my father had been strained when I was younger because of the pressure from my mother for the two of us to get along and work together, but he had never wavered in how much he cared about me and he had never shied away from showing it.  My mother and I didn’t really get close until a few years later when I had graduated college and moved to Maine.  When I was younger and in high school there were good moments and there were bad moments, but I had a real hard time being close with anybody at that point because in order to be close I risked exposure of the secret that was tearing me apart.  My years during college were very rocky times for our relationship.  She had expectations and I did not meet them, in fact I destroyed them.  Again, my mother is also a person that has never liked her business in the public eye and when my name appeared in the police logs of the Keene Sentinel this did not sit well with her.  When I moved to Maine, as rocky as I still was I managed to make people think I had changed for the better.  We walked together in the waves once at Seapoint and I remember talking with her about how I was not drinking as much and she seemed very relieved.  This is the funny thing, I never acknowledged that I had a drinking problem and she never asked, but I often spoke about how I was not drinking as heavily as I had been when I was living in Keene which was not always the case.  I am still confused by the acceptance in our culture, not just with my parents, of alcohol.  I destroyed so many things with my drinking, made so many stupid decisions, and lost so many opportunities and so much time to hangovers, but yet it is widely accepted, even advertised on television.

            I was carrying quite a bit of guilt at this point in my life and a lot of it stemmed from the death of my grandfather Leo.  I have always been haunted by the past, unable to let go of events, always stuck in regret, and this situation was no different.  I had been so close with both my grandmother Anne and my grandfather Leo; they had taken care of me like I was their own.  When my grandmother died in 1994 I really believe that my grandfather died with her, his body just kept pumping along.  When she died I was at such a loss and so emotionally ruined that I didn’t know how to proceed with everything.  It wasn’t just her death that had rocked me, it was the whole process that had been involved; the decay of the cancer, the horrors of the treatment and the turn in her personality and treatment of me as her death grew closer.  I was dealing with so much already when this happened that I just shut down and I am not sure if I ever really got going again, sometimes I think we just get stuck in a moment and yes our bodies keep moving along but our minds and our hearts are just shell shocked and can’t move forward.  I had continued to spend my afternoons with my grandfather for a while after her death; I would go down to his mobile home on the river and sit on the couch that she had withered away on, the couch that had seen her in so many different states.  I would sit there in silence across from him while he laid back in his recliner, sometimes in silence, sometimes with tears and we wouldn’t say anything to each other.  It was a very difficult situation because it made me sick to be there without her, to be in that house and on that couch, surrounded by her things and not have her be there.  To go there every day was torture because I missed her terribly but I was also so angry, I was angry at her for leaving, but I was even angrier for how she had left, the things she had said to me.  I kept this up for a while, I would run to the store for him and get his tobacco, I would come down and mow his lawn, I would take him for rides in his car since it was not safe for him to drive anymore, I still remember the fight he had with my father over surrendering his license, but it grew to be too difficult for me to process her not being there and I began to use her tactic of just destroying something to make it easier to let it go.  I stopped going to see him, I stopped going for rides with him.  At first it was gradual, rather than going down a couple of times a day I would go down only once, and then instead of every day I would only go down a couple of times a week.  My father and mother asked me about it a couple of times and when they did I would start going again a little more but as soon as it seemed like no one was paying attention I would just pull away more and more.  It was one of the reliefs I experienced when I headed off to college, leaving that feeling of responsibility behind, and I did my best not to think about the emotions attached to it, and I did my best not to think about how it must have made him feel, I had to.  When he got sick and entered a home it was too much for me to even process.  I only went there once and for that I will forever feel guilty.  This was a man who had been there for me whenever I needed him, we never had deep conversations but we could sit for hours in each other’s company without saying a word to each other but knowing just what the other person was feeling.  This was a man who had never compared me to my sister, who had never made me feel like I was anything less than great and I had abandoned him when he needed me the most because it just hurt too much to be around him.  When he lost his leg in the home I just drank away any feelings I had about it and I had plenty to drink away.  In the Summer of 1997 my good friend Beth and I took micro dots and tripped our balls off, right as I was hitting my peak the phone rang in my apartment and I am not sure what came over me that made me feel like I needed to answer it but I did.  It was my mother and she was calling to tell me they didn’t think my grandfather was going to make it through the night.  He died that night.  I didn’t cry at his funeral or burial, I never really cried for him because I knew if I started I would never stop.  I thought about this constantly for years after it happened, I still think about it, just another selfish move on my part.  I will not walk by the cemetery that my grandparents are buried at in Charlestown, I can’t do it.  I have driven by a couple of times but I can’t look when I do.  I know they are not there, but their stone is, with their names carved into it and I couldn’t bear to look at it. 

            In summer, 2001, my grandfather Ernest died, I had a very different relationship with him than I did my grandfather Leo.  Er, as we called him, had tormented me my entire life about my weight, mocking me at every turn, never holding back in public and seemingly taking great pleasure in my emotional turmoil.  Regardless, it is very hard to watch anyone die, especially when you see the effect it has on the people around you who you love and who love you.  I remember going to see this man at Dartmouth Hitchcock as he was struggling to stay alive with the aid of so many machines and tubes and wires.  Do I think he was a bad man?  Not sure, I know he had some very good qualities, when my grandmother Anne died I remember him coming to console my father and I listened in on what he said to him and they were words of love and caring, and I know he loved my grandmother very deeply.  With his passing the door was opened for me to develop a strong relationship with my grandmother Marjorie, I called her Gram and a lot of people called her Minnie because of her size.  She was an amazing woman who had raised four very different but equally amazing children who were all kind, compassionate and loving, how this came to be in a household shared with my grandfather I will never understand.  It did not take long at all to become very close with my grandmother, she had a love of books that was ferocious, reading several at once and always having something interesting to talk about.  I never once in my life heard this woman speak a negative word about anyone.  I began to send her my writing by mail, we never really talked about it, here and there she would mention that she liked it, it just felt so good to have that bond again with someone, an unconditional bond where there is no judgment, no comparison.  I think she knew more about me than she ever let on, she was very wise and I always felt so calm and comfortable in her presence.

            Music and film remained pivotal parts of my life right up until 2010, I absorbed music, as much as iTunes was created for people like me, and as much as I took advantage of the format, I could not abandon the concept of albums and I continued to buy them and listen to them repeatedly.  I was drowning myself in the music of Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Tupac, The Band, Prince and Michael Jackson.  I went to concerts and saw great live acts, feeling more alive during those experiences than I ever had.  I saw The Black Crowes, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Madonna, Prince, Fleetwood Mac, Arlo Guthrie and many others.  I went to the movies all the time and watched them at home over and over; I followed the Academy Awards more and more, making sure to see the majority of the nominees in the theatre.  I wrote and read all the time, I was passionate about things and I cared about my wife and children.  I was a human being.   I was confident in my job; Exeter was the first place I had ever worked at, and really the first time in my life, that I came clean about my OCD.  I first confided the information to a manager that only worked there for a few months, but I was very comfortable talking with her.  I told her how I had to park in the same parking space every day and had to get to work at the exact time every day and sit in my car for twenty minutes before walking the same route to the building and making sure to run my hand along every guard rail and bannister along the way.  I later confided this information to my operations manager and our head chef when I started to notice myself getting over the top in the hopes that I would be able to rein it in if everyone knew what was going on.  When I got my promotion and moved to the Healthcare building I held a meeting where I told everyone that I was going to be working with that I had OCD and that they needed to let me know if it got out of hand or too intense for them as I did not want my shortcoming to impede upon anyone else.  I felt very good about letting people know, I felt to a certain extent that a shroud of secrecy had been lifted from my life and I could finally function without the fear of being exposed as someone with a mental illness, I had done the exposing myself. 

Looking back I am torn about the apprehension I had always had in telling people what was really going on with me, for me, it was always easier and more acceptable to just play like I had a drug problem and nothing else.  I just knew that to let people into even the smallest part of what was going on with me was to threaten exposure of other areas that I was just not comfortable sharing with anyone, I couldn’t and wouldn’t even think about it by myself, it was just something that I fought down over and over again and whenever it threatened to surface I would just turn up the other problems in the hopes that it would all drown it out.  It was extremely difficult and exhausting to go through life like this, I knew early on that there was something different about me, the anxiety attacks and the obsessions came early and only grew more relentless the older I got.  After the abuse they exploded into what felt like a rage, there was very little I could do to control my actions and behaviors so instead of trying to control them I just ended up trying to dull them, unfortunately they just got sharper over time.  One of the greatest downfalls of our society is that we make mental illness seem so shameful.  I always knew there was something wrong, I knew from the earliest I could remember in my life and there were plenty of times where I wanted to tell someone, where I wanted to beg for help, but there was always that wall.  That wall only got higher and thicker with the abuse and it was not like it was something I could get away from.  I saw my abuser often in the years immediately after it happened, less after I moved to Keene, I ran into him a couple of times when I would go back to Charlestown during my five years of college, a couple of times he tried to engage me in conversation like nothing had happened but I could feel his eyes crawling all over me and in those moments I could feel his hands again.  He moved a little ways outside of Charlestown a while back and I have only seen him once in the past ten years and I remember the feeling of paralysis and horror that overtook me.  I was pumping gas, my wife and kids were in the car and he saw me as he walked into the gas station and waved at me, I turned and looked away.  I had horrible nightmares that night and felt dirty for days afterward.

            2008 ended on a relatively good note in terms of things, my drinking had slowed, I had kicked painkillers on my own, I had two relapses and they were awful experiences full of guilt, lying to doctors, and switching bottles and throwing away containers and receipts, not sure who I was trying to fool at that point, there was so much fear and paranoia involved in the whole episode as I switched pills from one bottle into another and stuffed the new empty bottle in the trash outside of the pharmacy wondering what it would look like on the surveillance tape from the camera that I noticed only after I was finished, but I beat them.  It was something I really never thought I would be able to accomplish; it is an absolutely overwhelming addiction. 

I was flourishing at work, my promotion was made final, I was making a great living, meeting interesting new people, I had the pleasure of working at Exeter Healthcare where a large portion of the administration and human resources was located; I was more than pleasantly surprised at how welcoming and caring all of these people were.  I had the respect of my management, they actually took an interest in the things I was doing and the things I had to say and they continued to hand me new responsibilities, scheduling, employee reviews, and I was doing very well with them.  But as much as 2008 had ended well, 2009 began in a very horrible way for me. 

Between the years of 1995 and 2009 I had lost several friends at a young age, Jason, we were not on good terms when he died and again I blame myself for a lot of the habits he had developed.  Kevin, one of the kindest human beings I had ever met, I will never forget the time Samantha and I went to hang out with him at our friend Matt’s house in Norwalk Connecticut, we all drank too much but Samantha went even further and drank everything very fast, she ended up clutching a toilet bowl with Kevin holding her hair and talking her through it, that was the thing about him, he truly cared about the people he was friends with.  My friend Sylus died of cancer, he was a cool guy that I met through one of my connections, one of the few people I met through my connections who was a true human being through and through, funny and compassionate, we used to meet up on bikes and switch sacks and cash in the parking lots of Keene, and my friend Eileen, I met her through my good friends Forest and Rob, two of the coolest people I ever met.  Eileen could make you smile just by smiling, she was essentially a street kid with ambitions for finding a happy life and I think for a while she had, I hadn’t seen or heard from her in at least five or six years when I heard she died, but it hit me still the same.  No matter how many of my friends dropped dead before leaving their twenties I could never understand how I had survived mine or why. 

In the spring of 2009 I found out that my beloved friend Irene had lost her son Matthew, he was also in his twenties, I don’t know how he died and I don’t think it matters.  What matters is that he was a young and vital human being who was very loved by his mother.  I had worked with him for several years at the restaurant in Keene and he had always had a magnetic personality.  My heart crumbled when I heard the news and I didn’t care about having to miss work, I was going to go to at least his wake so that I could see Irene and at least offer her some of the compassion and caring she had shown me over the years.  I drove to Keene and picked Samantha up, she too had worked with Matt and had been friends with Irene, and we drove to the wake.  I had lived in Keene for six years and had known the streets well when I lived there, but in the eight years since I had moved away a lot of things had changed and we had trouble finding the funeral home.  It was truly a surreal experience populated with people from my past, people I had worked with, and people I had chilled with.  So many faces from the restaurant and even all the years later we still were friendly with each other. 

No matter how many times you see a dead body you can never adjust to it, it will always come as a shock when you see the utter lifelessness that has taken over the body, the perfection that is strived for in presentation, a perfection that is never there amongst the living.  I have never understood this practice and have always believed that it just hammered home the trauma associated with death and loss.  His body was displayed in this gross manner with his poor devastated mother displayed before him.  I was far back in the line of mourners and it was very difficult waiting my turn to offer my condolences.  Irene had been my rock since I had met her in 1996, we didn’t see each other nearly as much as we used to, but we still communicated through letters and occasionally on the phone and whenever I was in Keene I tried to go and see her.  She had accepted me for who I was and tried to help in so many ways and for that I will always be grateful.

Wakes and funeral services are just very traumatic events, you can’t get past them and I have never understood the purpose of a wake especially, why do we put ourselves through such things.  My grandmother’s funeral was one of the most traumatic events of my life until 2009, I still remember my poor grandfather Leo, outside of the church, weakened from age, poor health and a broken heart, he had loved my grandmother very dearly, he was a very kind man, sobbing and demanding that he go in the same way as his wife, she was going up the large set of stairs and in through the front door, but he couldn’t make it up the stairs because of his physical state, he was going to have to go through the side entrance.  I was stuck there waiting to carry my grandmother’s coffin, something you should never be forced to do, it should be a choice and you should not be made to feel guilty if you choose not to, and my poor grandfather was forced to walk in the side door.  I remember watching my father argue with him tearfully over this situation on the sidewalk in front of the church and just being amazed by how much crap we put ourselves through to say goodbye.  There is just too much celebration and display around death, and tragedy and all it does is compound the pain. 

My poor Irene was standing before an endless line of people come to say goodbye to her son.  She was visibly broken, the strength she had always held onto so well was not there now, my heart broke more and more with every step I took, Samantha and I made essential small talk back and forth to each other in an effort to keep sane, the first person we greeted was her older son, who I had both gotten along with very well at times and at other times not gotten along with in the least, we were very similar, it was something I had noticed from the first time I met him.  He was a relatively good guy, didn’t go out of his way to fight with people or anything like that, but he was very emotional and unbalanced much like myself, I truly believe it was our similarities that kept us from ever being good friends.  He shook my hand and said

“Wow, are the two of you ever apart?”

looking at Samantha, and after 14 years I could say no, we talked constantly, we supported each other emotionally and we made each other laugh, and most importantly we understood each other.  It is not often that you meet someone who can truly understand you and when you find that person you need to treasure it. 

When I moved onto Irene all I could do was hug her, I didn’t even know what to say.  She felt so fragile, so weak and it really shook me to my core.  Every time I had lost someone I had just buried the thoughts and pain and feelings away with booze and drugs, but there was something about this moment that I could not make go away, there was no way I could dismiss her fragility from my mind.  The only good thing to come from this event was that I was reintroduced to my great friend Beatrice Ross, a French woman who had moved to New York City in the Summer of 1977, not speaking English, she had learned her English from the people of New York and as such she had a very profound dialect with the most extraordinarily sexy accent you have ever heard.  I had waited tables with Bea for a number of years and had developed a very close friendship with her.  We used to chill out and smoke weed together and listen to Pink Floyd’s monumental album Meddle over and over.  I had learned a lot from this woman and from her boyfriend Mark, one of the nicest, most genuine and smartest guys I have ever met.  The two of them took me to New York City and let me stay with them on Staten Island for a couple of days and this was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life, the first time I ever saw New York City was at night as Mark and I approached on the highway.  I had been staying in New Jersey for a restaurant opening and he had picked me up, we had smoked weed like cigarettes on the way there, and after a couple of hours of driving and talking, he slid Radiohead’s phenomenal album Kid A into the cd players and the illuminated expanse of the city appeared on the horizon to the sounds of Everything In Its Right Place.  I had listened to this album non-stop since it had come out, sometimes I would just lay in the darkness of my room, stoned, sprawled out across my bed with the album on repeat; I always have been and always will be a huge Radiohead fan.  The city was so alive and the food was amazing, the first night there we ate at this crazy jazz club on Staten Island where this old man and his grandson were playing this incredible music together, the man had to be pushing eighty and the boy could not have been older than thirteen or fourteen.  Everyone around me seemed so far from concerned with anything I was doing, it was the first time in my life I had been somewhere without the paranoia that I was doing something wrong and being noticed.  The weed was incredible and constant, it was strong enough to make my head clear itself of the repetitive thoughts that plagued it so relentlessly, but a clean enough high where there was no paranoia or confusion and you didn’t feel like you wanted to cut yourself off from the world and just be stoned, you wanted to socialize, to feel the music, to look at the people and the scene and to just be alive.  It was a completely different world for me and I felt so comfortable there, more comfortable than I had ever felt anywhere in my life, there was just so much for me to lose myself in.  I went around the city with Mark and Bea on the second day and I was absolutely fascinated, as much with Mark and his knowledge and control of the city as I was with the city itself.  He told me if I ever went in the subway to never look up when I came out of the subway because it would make me an easy mark for a mugging or a robbery, it was easy to spot someone who was just visiting and probably had money on them by who looked up and gazed at the buildings as they reached towards the sky. 

Bea and I had kept in touch until about 2004 or 2005 and then we had just sort of lost contact with each other.  I always regretted this, I had been very close with her and had always had great conversations and laughed my ass off with her, she had an approach to life that I was constantly trying to adopt.  She had seen her share of adversity over the years and had always persevered, but she had done more than that, she had lived her life always aiming for happiness and she had always found it even without money or fancy things and she always had these amazing stories to tell about her life in France and her life in New York in the late seventies and early eighties.  To see her at this service was one of the best things that could have happened to me, I needed something or someone to reconnect me with a better time in my life, it lightened the mood for me, brought me back from the edge of despair, and made me remember that somehow or another things always work out.  We exchanged phone numbers and started in right away with genuine conversation like we had never been out of touch at all, that is one of the many ways you can tell if your friendship is real or not, if you can lose contact with someone for a number of years and then run into them again and feel like you never missed a day you know that relationship is true.  I have been lucky in this life to find several of these relationships and carry them with me through the stormy oceans of time. 

I went out for something to eat afterward with Samantha, we went to this restaurant that had not been there while I lived in Keene, there were several of those now, as well as several bars; it was such an odd feeling to be in Keene but not be in the Keene that I knew.  This whole moment was surreal for me.  Our conversation for the first time was about the road ahead instead of the road behind, it was like we had left a part of ourselves back at the wake and we couldn’t go back to that now.  I drove home to Maine that night and I cried the whole way, sometimes blubbering, I was just so frustrated.  My head was out of control, every little thing was getting to me, I couldn’t concentrate anymore and when I did concentrate on something it got out of hand dangerously fast.  I just wanted to put all of my emotions away and live for the day but it never happened for me.  I could never just sit around, I had to be actively engaged in something or I would just let my mind run wild and take me with it. 

This same spring, at the urging of my wife, I talked with my doctor about my issues with OCD, depression and anxiety.  I talked to her again about my trip to California and how I had suffered relentless panic attacks before and after getting on the plane home and how my OCD was beginning to overtake other aspects of my life and that I was growing increasingly depressed and anxious with all of my new responsibilities at work and that I wanted to get things under control before I completely lost it.  I never explained what the root of my issues was, I never talked about what had happened to me and she never asked.  She had seen me in action and knew that what I was talking about was real, she herself had commented on it before.  As much as I held back the truth this was the first time I had ever asked for any sort of help with the situation, I had been expecting a sense of relief to overtake me when I did and to some extent I experienced a small amount of relief, but to a greater extent I felt a sense of apprehension. 

To be honest I was terrified of the idea of trying again to control my issues with medication, I had screwed up so much over the years trying to control it with chemicals, trying to keep myself in line.  What it comes down to for me is that sometimes you have to make choices, I had put Nichole and the kids through so much and if she had an idea of how I could stop putting her through even more then I was going to listen to it.  I owed her that.  Nichole had always joked with me about my OCD, when I would get really crazy at home she would call me on it, we would laugh and move on.  This had been getting harder and harder to do and there was a lot less joking about it by the summer of 2009 and a lot less patience for it.  My doctor had mentioned the idea to me on more than one occasion since my return from California and I had resisted, telling myself over and over again that the last thing I needed to do was develop a new drug habit, I knew what my tendencies were, but my doctor made it all seem very reasonable and reassured me that she was not going to let me form a habit, she too knew and understood my tendencies. 

I started out with a prescription for an antidepressant and Xanax.  The medication made me feel sick and fatigued right off the bat.  We were supposed to go to a barbecue at our neighbor’s daughter’s house that weekend and it was long in the planning and I had to cancel because of just how crappy I felt.  The doctor had told me this might happen to start with while I adjusted to the medication.  I was quiet about this at first, I didn’t want too many people knowing what was going on with me, I told my neighbor in the hopes they would understand why I wasn’t going to their barbecue, I told a couple of people at work so they would hopefully understand if I suffered any severe mood swings at work and reluctantly I told my mother and instructed her to not tell my father as I did not feel that he would understand.  The side effects were unpleasant and constant but I convinced myself that they were just part of the adjustment period.  A couple of weeks after I started taking this medication I noticed that my weight was already increasing, this didn’t sit well with me.  My doctor had warned me there might be a little weight gain and I had thought I would be okay with it but when it actually started happening I was definitely not okay with it.  I had put myself through hell to lose the weight that I had.  I immediately started to change my eating habits again, starting to starve myself in the morning again, something that was not the greatest of ideas but was actually easy to do because of how sick the medication made me feel.  My anxiety attacks on the way to work actually got worse after I started taking this medication and often times I couldn’t get it together before I got to the tolls.  I also started having anxiety attacks when I got to work and would be alone for a couple of hours in the morning before anyone got there.  I would be running around the kitchen trying to get my work done and crying hysterically about nothing and everything.  I was concerned about this but I kept telling myself it was just an adjustment period and that it was probably all in my head anyway.  It wasn’t long though before even worse things started happening, I began to suffer severe migraine headaches for which I started to take handfuls of Excedrin and Excedrin Migraine.  Nothing would make these headaches go away.  I had gotten headaches in the past, usually from a hangover, but I could always make them go away and they were never debilitating, just annoying.  These headaches would overtake everything and the pressure I would feel in my head and behind my eyes was like nothing I had ever experienced before, but I refused to associate them with the medication, they had to be something else.  I began turning off the lights at work and working in the dim light provided by the windows in the kitchen, out front in the serving area I kept the lights off in the small area in which I worked.  I struggled with this for about a week before going to the doctor and telling her what was going on.  These were never really addressed as a side effect of the medications I had started taking; instead they were addressed as a new issue for which new medication was prescribed.  I was prescribed a strong migraine medication which worked rather quickly but was also very expensive, it was $65 for five pills and that was with insurance.  The migraines and the medication were the first steps in my losing control at work.  I began to suffer from these at least once a week and had to leave shifts early or miss an entire day.  Eventually they planed out and instead of becoming full blown migraines they just became severe headaches which were by no means pleasant but were a lot more bearable.  The funny thing is the medication never really did anything to help with my OCD or my depression and anxiety, but I wanted them to and I needed them to and instead of not taking them I took more.  It’s weird to think about it now because in those moments it wasn’t apparent to me but now looking back it is, my depression and my anxiety and my OCD were growing steadily and noticeably worse.  I was crying all the time, I was going into the walk in more and more to steal myself away from the eyes of the people I worked with, I was reading more into emails that were actually harmless but I felt like they were the end of the world, I was becoming more and more internalized in my head.

One night in the late spring of 2010 Nichole and I met my father at a halfway point between his house and ours with the kids so that we could have a weekend to ourselves; we met on the side of 101 and switched the kids from one car to another.  I had no idea at the time that my father was very sick, and he had only a small idea of how sick he was and even that he wasn’t sharing.   He had developed a very close relationship with my son over the course of his young life and my son adored him.  I never thought my father would get sick, I knew he wasn’t in great shape, he had never been a drinker or anything like that, but he had always eaten like crap and drank soda like it was going out of style.  I had always feared he was going to have a heart attack, his father had had more than one, and I went through a period just prior to this where I had severe anxiety attacks on an almost daily basis as I drove into work imagining the phone call I would get telling me he was gone.  I never understood how truly close I had become with my father until I was presented with the very real possibility of his death. 

I was at work the following Wednesday when for some reason or another I decided to check my email on my phone, I didn’t usually do this because we were not supposed to be on our phones at work.  I was surprised to see an email from my father so I opened it and my life changed forever.  The email was very long and took a few lines to get to the point but I knew right away that something was very wrong.  My father had been diagnosed with colon cancer.  At first I didn’t know how to react and I thought I was going to be okay, I didn’t say anything, I closed the email and walked away from my phone like nothing had happened, nothing had changed.  I walked over to the door that led out from the kitchen into the serving area, I was supposed to open for breakfast in the next couple of minutes and there were already people starting to come in and get there coffee.  Something inside of me snapped and I couldn’t catch my breath, all of my emotions went into overdrive.  I went into the walk in cooler immediately thinking I could pull it back together before I had to open but it didn’t work out that way.  Within about five minutes I was hyperventilating, I called up to the hospital, a call I dreaded making because my performance had been so inconsistent of late with my migraines and when the voice on the other end answered there was a mocking tone and questions that I didn’t want to have to answer, I couldn’t get it together and I had to go to my car.  Once I was in my car I completely lost control, there was no hope of pulling myself together, I watched as people walked through the parking lot on their way into the building, people I saw every day, who I knew by name and I hoped they couldn’t see me, I didn’t want anyone to see me.  I called back up to the hospital from my cell phone and told them that I couldn’t get myself together and that I had to leave, they were not happy and I don’t blame them, I should have been able to pull myself together, I should have been able to handle it, any normal human being would have been able to and it wasn’t their problem.  I crept up the highway on my way home barely able to drive as I was so upset, I couldn’t rationalize anything with myself, I couldn’t foresee any conclusion to the situation other than my father’s death and I couldn’t picture any type of life without him in it.   I had sent a text to Nichole telling her what was going on and I was waiting and waiting to hear back from her, I pulled up to the tolls and I didn’t have any toll money, the guy running the booth could see how upset I was and he let me through without paying and told me to drive safely.  That day is a blur of emotions and panic, I wonder now what my reaction would have been had I not been on the medication.  It was a scenario I had gone over in my head so many times in the more recent weeks leading up to the event and it always seemed real and ended in an anxiety attack, but I had dealt with death and sickness before in my life and not lost it, I had actually managed to shut the emotional factor down and just press onward, but that was an impossibility for me in this situation, there was nothing rational about my thought process whatsoever.  

I remember coming home and getting stoned, it calmed me down, it made me okay and I sat myself down on the couch and tried to make sense of things, had this actually happened?  The answer was undeniably yes.  I was just overwhelmed with emotion to the point of feeling physically sick and weak.  I watched Last House on the Left and had lunch and Nichole came home.  I didn’t lose it when she came home, I had calmed down considerably.  She talked to me very calmly and lovingly and I felt okay with her, but there was just this sense of unease that I could not kick, as much as I wanted to feel calm I just couldn’t.  The day dragged on and towards the end of the day I finally got the nerve to call my parents, my mother answered the phone, I didn’t hear from my father until the following day, he was like a big kid and did not handle these situations well.  My mother tried to make it seem not quite as bad as it was but she would only downplay it a certain amount.  My mother has always been a realist, that is one of her strongpoints, she does not bullshit people and she does not like to be on the receiving end of bullshit either.  I remember asking if he was going to be okay and she said she didn’t know, she didn’t offer any sort of reassurance.  I cried myself to sleep that night. 

Cancer is a very insidious disease that lacks any sense of humanity.  Cancer decimates not only the individual who is sick with it but also their entire family.  I tried to live my life normally after this revelation but it proved to be impossible.  My father was further diagnosed with prostate cancer, bladder cancer and rectal cancer.  He began chemotherapy and radiation in preparation for a massive surgery that was scheduled for the fall.  I began to suffer severe panic attacks on a daily basis, often times having to excuse myself into either the bathroom or the walk in cooler so that no one would see me losing my cool.  I was starting to lose sleep and I had started eating to treat my anxiety, gone were the days of strict dieting where I would starve myself for a bag of mnms, instead I would eat anything I could get my hands on.  I guess you could say this is one area of my OCD where the medications were able to break it down and make me not care about what I was taking in, my weight continued to grow, I easily put on twenty pounds in the first few months I was on this medication, but you don’t wear this type of weight in the same way as you do other weight, this type of weight comes from bloating and expanding and with it comes more fatigue and an overwhelming sense of lethargy.

At the time I didn’t understand my reaction, I was very confused by it because I had handled myself so stoically in the past.  When my grandmother had gotten sick I had gotten angry, not sad, and I never shed a tear, I just did everything I could to block it out and I rode out the tide of emotions that tried to work their way out.  When my grandfather died I just got really fucked up and stopped thinking about anything, it was the only way that I knew how to handle this type of situation, I knew if I tried to process any sort of emotion I would just lose control.  I had the ability to rationalize, to look at a situation and say this is how I need to act, this is how I need to present myself; I don’t want anyone to see me lose it.  I didn’t have the ability to rationalize the moment I went on this medication, and I didn’t have the ability to hold back my emotions, I didn’t have control of that part of my mind that I had valued so much for so long.  What ended up happening is that the moment I saw the words cancer I was immediately back in those moments with my grandmother when I found out she was sick, when I was bringing her to doctor’s appointments and helping her in and out of wheelchairs, listening to her throw up over and over in her bathroom, watching her trying not to cry, seeing her whither away in a hospital bed, listening to her suddenly turn cruel to me, all of it came back in a tidal wave and I couldn’t get out of those moments and I couldn’t breathe.

I went again to see my physician and explain to her what was happening; I didn’t grasp at the time that my depression and anxiety, and my OCD, getting worse were actually side effects of the medication I was taking.  But my depression had reached new depths, dark thoughts had begun to spin around in my head and my energy levels were dropping dramatically.  I was beginning to think about things that I hadn’t thought about in years, I was beginning to be back in places I never wanted to be in.  My dreams, when I slept which was less and less each night, were wall to wall horrors, they involved the anxieties of my father’s health and the horrors and sickness of what had happened to me when I was younger.  I began to see myself back in that room with the photos turned down so no one would look at what was happening and I began to feel those hands on me again.  I shut down sexually in any way, I was no longer interested in any sort of physical contact with Nichole and I know that had to be hard to deal with but I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to touch me and I didn’t want to be touched.  I would catch myself at random times just locked in a memory like it was happening all over again and when I would come to there would be the terror that I said something out loud and that someone heard me and the secret was exposed.    

At one point, if you had asked people who knew me, they would have described me as hyper, and wired, wound to a T, but they would have also used words like driven and motivated, social, again, it was never something I understood but people used to actually like me, I had actually acquired a good number of friends over the years and I had also befriended a lot of the management I had worked under.  All of that changed.  I became very paranoid, even for me, I became outwardly hostile at times, something I had never really been before, I had always been one more for avoiding conflict than causing or addressing conflict.  I lost my energy, I didn’t want to go anywhere and I didn’t want to do anything, I became lethargic, uncaring and disconnected in a very short period of time.  I talked with my doctor about this in a very long appointment, I told her what had happened with my father and how I had reacted, I didn’t tell her anything about the thoughts I had been having, I still didn’t want anyone to know and I was willing to do anything to keep it hidden at that point though it was becoming harder and harder to do.  She was very kind to me, the nurse came in several times to remind her that she had other patients but she just kept talking to me.  The end result of the appointment was that we were going to try a higher dose; I must have just been overwhelmed emotionally by the seriousness of my father’s condition.  I listened to her because that is what I had always been taught to do; you listen to doctors because they are supposed to know what to do. 

  My depression at this point became alarming even for me, I began to lose interest in anything and everything almost immediately, the first things to go were the books, I couldn’t concentrate on them anymore in the least; the last book I read before completely fading out was Joe Hill’s Horns.  This was huge for me, I had always been able to lose myself in pages and imaginary worlds or the philosophies of the real world, I had been able to get away from things and calm myself down when I needed to.  I should have been alarmed by this, I was aggravated by it, I know that because I loved to read, but I just couldn’t find any sense of passion in it anymore and I couldn’t commit myself to any book and I tried a few before I just gave up.  Movies lingered throughout the next three years, but that is all they did, I had a very hard time connecting with anything on an even remotely emotional level and as such I had a very difficult time making it through even some of my favorite films.  The music stopped.  I stopped caring about music.  I stopped listening to music.  My days were filled with silence, my car rides were filled with silence, but the thoughts in my head were just beginning to scream out and to take me down.  I think a lot of the disconnection came from fear; I was terrified of triggering any sort of memory that I was not going to be able to control and I have always used film to mark time.  I know that sounds odd but I have always related events in my life to what movie came out when it was happening and I was terrified of making some sort of connection that was going to bring more of the past into the light.  Music was off the table because it was very connected to emotion for me, so many of the things I had felt and experienced over the years were connected to certain songs, certain albums and when you are terrified of certain memories and feelings you will do anything and everything that you can to make sure that you don’t experience them.         

My behaviors were becoming increasingly erratic, it was becoming more and more rare for me to work an entire day or an entire work week, I couldn’t concentrate and I was missing items on my order or ordering too much of something else, I began to lose track of the days certain orders had to be placed.  My eating had gone from anorexic tendencies to gorging on whatever I could get my hands on, I was gaining a noticeable amount of weight and I didn’t care, clothes that had fit me a few short weeks before no longer fit me at all.  It wasn’t long into summer when my behaviors went from erratic to self-destructive.  I was driving home from work on a Friday, it was the weekend of the air show, and planes were flying low overhead on the highway, the traffic was bumper to bumper, stop and go and I was convinced that people were looking in my windows, staring at me, knowing things about me that I didn’t want them to know and I started to panic.  The sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the sky, just the thunder of the low flying planes and the crowding of the cars and the pressure in my body and my head that just kept building and building, it was very surreal.  I looked at my hands and convinced myself there was a burning itching sensation beneath the skin; it was the first time anything like this had ever happened with me.  I don’t really think there was a burning or itching sensation but the thought came into my head and I couldn’t stop it, it just kept growing and cycling, intensifying in a matter of seconds.  I began to dig furiously at my skin on my left hand.  I made five deep gashes, scratching the skin down to the raw.  When I was done with my left hand I did my right hand to even things out.  It seemed very rational to me at the time and the feeling was near euphoric as the hot air touched the moisture of my raw skin, stinging it but sending the most amazing tingle down my spine.  I felt in that moment that I had released mountains of tension and pain and made a grasp at the reality that was slipping away from me.  I drove home and didn’t even think of how I was going to explain the marks to Nichole or anyone for that matter, in my head they didn’t need explaining, in my head the behavior seemed perfectly normal and justified. 

 

again these are some long form pieces and I will post more tomorrow. 

 

always hope always peace always love

20 Years 7/7/14

Time is a funny thing, the way things happen and the way we remember things, the way it washes over the good and the bad like a wave and then all of a sudden it catches us off guard and reminds us of how much time has passed.  My grandmother Anne, one of the most profound influences in my life so far, died twenty years ago, it caught me off guard last night.  I had let the days slip away and hadn't paid attention to their passing of late, I kknew it was this year and I think I just blocked it out as the anniversary got closer, but then yesterday I read an article about it being the 20th anniversary of Forrest Gump opening in theatres and she died that day and it all came flooding back in.  To say that I miss this woman would be a massive understatement, to say that I never really got over losing her would be another.  I'm not going to write too much more about this because it just makes me upset and I can't go there right now, I am going to Charlestown tomorrow to see my dad and spend the night and I think I might finally be ready to go backk to her grave, maybe leave her a smoke, I know she is not there but part of her is and I need that connection right now.I have been having a hard time this past week, my anxiety is high, my depression has set in for a short stay hopefully and I have been very emotional when no one has been around, last night I could not shut my brain off.  Nichole slept out back in the tent with the kids, I slept inside because I needed to get good rest as I have to work all day today, and I was very obsessive, it too a very long time to fall asleep and then even my dreams were obsessive, I woke up pretty tired this morning.  I am going to do everything I can to pull it together today, I have been doing very good at my job, getting lots of compliments and that feels very good but it is the downtime that gets me, thats makkes me think about things, its all good though, we all go through spells.  I am hoping for a good day today, I am going to do everything I can to make it happen.

 

always hope

always peace

always love

4th of July

Sorry I didn't write yesterday but my family and I traveled to northern Maine and spent the afternoon at a beach on a lake and then the evening in a beautiful cabin that is owned by some very good friends of ours who were nice enough to invite us along for the evening.  We lucked out weather wise yesterday, it was beautiful and sunny all afternoon and I swam in a lake that was surround by beautiful mountain scapes that were nothing less than breathtaking, it had been a while since I had done actual swimming, I go in the water all the time but I have never been a fan of going out deep in the waters of the ocean.  I swam out several times to a dock that was floating in the lake and dove off with my son.  It was an awesome afternoon and it felt great to be in a different environment, very refreshing.  In the evening we had had great food, our friends are vegetarian and they made a beautiful salad with mesculin greens, avocado, pecans, and fresh lemon, some sauteed asparagus, tofurky sausages and some skewers that I brought with some homemade seitan and tofu that I marinated in ginger, lime, cilantro and soy dressing that I blended together the night before.  It is such a rewarding and good feeling to be able to be in the presence of people who are drinking wine and catching a buzz and be able to maintain my cool and not drink, I continue to impress myself.  The weather last night turned to severe thunderstorms and it was a very intense experience in the middle of the woods, my dog was very anxious, I have never seen him freak out quite like he did last night but we all survived.  We packed up early and drove home this morning, taking the back roads through maine and stopping at a very over priced thai food restaurant where the prices were outlandish and the food, which was quite good, was served on styrofoam.  Tomorrow is my first day working on my own in the morning, I am confident that I will do well, I am sure there will be some glitches along the way but I am not going to let them overpower my confidence and I am going to come out on top.  Things are getting better.  I had a rough winter, that is undeniable, and I had a couple of really strong months in March in April, May was a mixed bag, I had a hard time at the work environment I was in, but I am not there anymore and I feel that in the place I am in now I am going to be able to make it, I am confident that I am going to be able to continue to get it together and hopefully within a year my life will be back together and my mental health will be at a state of which I can call full recovery.  You can never give up, you can't rely on drugs, you have to rely on yourself and you will never have good mental health without having good physical health.

 

always hope

always peace

always love

Basking 6/28/14

Things are great today, the weather is phenomenal, 78 and pure sun, we just went to a strawberry festival in South Berwick and we are headed tto the beach in a couple of hours when the tide should be pretty far out and we will soak in the rays and enjoy the water, summer is such a phenomenal season, it is really quite impossible to feel bad in the summer, everything just lines up.  I have to work the next two days but I don't even care, I enjoy my job and I enjoy succeeding so that is good.  I have been basking in the sun all day and I feel jazzed, its crazy, I used to be uncomfortable in the summer because I was always either overweight or unhealthy or both and now I am neither so I can take the heat much better, we have only used the air conditioner twice so far this year and that is pretty cool, I much prefer the fresh cool air of the summer nights in Maine breezing in through my window pushed by the fan.  I have my son completely addicted to Lou Reed now, he puts Transformer and New York on all the time on his own now and he walks around singing a combination of Lou and the Velvet Underground so I feel I am doing a good job, there is nothin quite like the crap music that comes out now, there are some catchy songs and some good bands but for the most part all IU hear on the radio is crap music, really bad techno and dance music and grueling pop music, any sort of meaningful music I can get my kids to listen to is a step in the right direction.  I hope all of you are doing well and that the waether is good where you are.

 

always hope

always peace

always love

Interesting 6/26/14

Today is my amazing wife's birthday and we are celebrating with a delicious dinner of seitan satay, a cabbage salad and some spicy sauteed spinach and oyster mushrooms, going to be so good.  I had a good day today, completed my orientation at my new place of work, was a little awkward because I ate mushrooms with my breakfast this morning and they always digest very loudly so my stomach was rumbling the entire time.  I have the next two days off and then work three days on, I am hopeful that the further along I get the more days I will get, even one more day would make it feel a little more regular but I don't want to stir anything up right now, I am just grateful to have a good job again that I don't mind going to and I am looking forward to proving myself.  I have had an interesting sort of feeling all afternoon, like I am right on the verge of getting sick and that is not something I am interested in, nichole was sick yesterday and she still feels a little down today so I think there might be some sort of bug going around but I am going to work to boos my immune system and get rid of the lousy feeling.  I also don't think I have been drinking enough water and that always has a detrimental effect on me.  Nichole and I are starting a complete body cleanse next monday night, I will have four straight days off and I am looking forward to eliminating some toxins from my body, Monday will be the colon cleanse, it takes three day so then I will have one more day off to recover before working three and then beginning the liver cleanse the following mondy.  My goal is to reach optimal health.  I hope everyone is well.

 

always hope

always peace

always love

Sun 6/25/14

It is absolutely beautiful out this morning, already in the seventies we are heading to the beach as soon as Nichole gets home from the gym.  I listened to some Michael Jackson this morning, it has been five years since he died, I used to listen to his music all the time, I remember waiting for his videos to come on MTV when I was a kid and I was devistated when he died, five years is a long time to go without such a legendary figure but at least he is at peace now.  We went to the drive in in saco last night, I had never been to a drive in before so it was pretty cool, we took the kids to see Pitch Perfect and it was a really cool time.  I am anxious this morning without any sort of explanation but I am doing whatever I can to make it go away, I want this to be a good day.  I don't have a lot to say this morning and I don't like to waste my time or yours, hopefully I will be back with more later in the day.

 

always hope

always peace

always love

Beautiful 6/23/14

It is absolutely beautiful out this morning and the day is supposed to be the same with a perfect temperature of 69 for the high without a cloud in the sky.  I just took my dog for a walk and it felt great to be out in the sun getting exercise and taking in the world around me.  I have to work at 11 and I don't even mind, I am at such a great place now with such great people that it is actually enjoyable to go into work.  It is a very rewarding job, I get to interact with the residents and they are wonderful people and it feels so good to make people smile.  Today is my friday, five days in a row of a job that I enjoy is so much different than the hell I was in before.  I worked with the nicest guy last night, he is thirty and fully committed to what he does and making the residents happy, he used to work at this very popular restaurant in the area that his grandfather used to own before he died, we used to dine there, he and his mother and his aunt all used to work at the restaurant and now they work in this kitchen and they are some of the most remarkable and genuine people I have ever met, and people like that create a very rewarding environment as they are open to sharing their knowledge and accepting my knowledge, I couldn't be in a better place.  The one thing that has been hard is eating during the day, I get free meals but none of the food is vegan so I have been having a banana and then just going the rest of the day without eating, this is mainly because we need to go grocery shopping so I have some stuff to make for lunch but that will all get figured out so it is really nothing to complain about.  I hope you all are well.

 

always hope

always peace

always love

Off 6/19/14

I just started my new job this morning, it is very good and I really like it, but I am exhausted and I am taking today off from posting.

 

always hope

always peace

always love

Success 6/15/14

Held my first vegan potluck last night and it was a rousing success, the weather ended up being perfect and we were able to have a fire out back and so many of my good friends came.  The food was incredible, my friends Kate and John brought stuffed zuchini boats with garam masala, it was delicious, sweet and savory.  My friends Chris and Lori brought a delicious chili, some dal that was out of this world and guacamole that was to die for.  My friend Joe brought some bread that he made, the guy even grinds his own flour, and an amazing blueberry pie that was even better than the last pie he brought.  I made vegan mac and cheese, I have never had success with this dish until last night, I used the gentle chef's recipe and it was so good, I believe it was the addition of nutmeg that made it so tasty, I also made tandoori seitan with a cilantro cream sauce, I love making seitan, it is so easy to do and always tastes so good, and nichole made an incredible roasted beet salad, using both red and golden beets, with a peanut sauce.  I ate so much food last night that I felt like I was going to explode but it was more than worth it.  Everyone really enjoyed themselves and had fun with the idea of creating vegan dishes so that made it even better.  Today is father's day and I am driving to Charlestown to see my dad, I am not really sure what to expect, I am hoping he is in a good place today but it is very hard to know what to expect because he is on a bit of an emotional roller coaster ride lately, the death of my neighbor who was diagnosed with the same cancer only a couple of months before him hit him really hard and I just hope the subject doesn't come up because I don't want to go there right now.  I am just happy I still get to see him and that he gets to see my kids, it is so important that he is a part of their lives and they are a part of his.  I hope everyone is well this morning.

 

always hope

always peace

always love

Beginnings 6/10/14

I went and signed all the paperwork for my new job today, completed my orientation and walked out a very happy man.  I receive earned time off, life insurance that is paid for by the company, health insurance, and after a year tuition reimbursement so I can begin a degree in nutrition.  I am so flat out happy about this situation that it is hard to even put it into words.  The past few weeks have been hell at the job I have been working, I have never been in a more unprofessional and disgusting environment than I was in at this job and I will be glad to see it in my past, my last day is supposed to be saturday but I will be surprised if I make it that long.  I just feel like my life is now fully back on track, I am back in a professional environment where I get to use my skills and feel appreciated.  I have said this before and I will say it again, it is very difficult to have your life fall apart, and it happens to a lot of us for a variety of resons, but it is even harder to put it all back together, but it can be done, you have to be willing to work as hard as possible for as long as needed to get there, I have never worked harder for anything in my life and it makes me appreciate my health and well being even more, but you can never give up, you need to keep on pushing, there were plenty of times over the last year or so where I just wanted to give up and slip away but I didn't and I am stronger for fighting through it.  I feel like I can breathe now, like I can be at peace, I don't have to hide in shame anymore and that is a wonderful feeling.  I hope you all are well.

 

always hope

always peace

always love

Good News 6/7/14

I didn't write yesterday, I didn't have time and I was very tense while I waited for news of whether or not I had gotten the job that I really wanted.  I got the job, I am returning to work in a healthcare facility, cooking and supervising to start with the potential to move forward and plans to get a degree in nutrition.  I will receive a full benefits package, earned time off, insurance, it is just a really great thing.  I have more than reclaimed my life at this point and I can't tell you how good that feels.  It is very very hard to have your life fall apart, but as hard as that is, it is even harder to put it back together, to pick up the pieces and make it work again, but you can't ever give up.  I have a few people to thank for where I am now at, one person in particular would be my friend Larry who I reconnected with a few months back, I worked with him a number of years ago at a hospital, he is now the head cook at the facility I will be working at and he recommened me for the job, that takes a huge leap of faith to put your reputation on the line for a friend and I will not let him down.  I also need to thank my friends Rick, Curtis, Tina, Patrick and Dawn, a couple of them were my managers from my last job, they were very kind and supportive to me through my whole ordeal and gave me glowing recommendations for which I am forever grateful and the rest are coworkers and friends that I have known for a number of years and worked with and learned from and they also gave me excellent recommendations.  That really means something, I was very messed up for a long time, making very poor choices and using up all the good will I had managed to gather over the years, but these people saw that I have worked really hard to get where I am at and they believe in me enough to speak on my behalf, that is a huge gesture on their parts.  I also have to thank my friend Samantha again, 19 years this girl and I have been friends through thick and thin and she has stood by me through my very highs and my extreme lows and I have always done the same, she has been extremely supportive the past few years and especially the past few months while I really tried to get running again, if you ever get a friend like her, and I hope you do, you hold onto them and do what you can to reciprocate.  Lastly I have to thank myself, I have worked m ass off to prove that I am ready to rejoin the real world and to move ahead once again, I have never felt better physically and I am very strong mentally right now and only getting stronger, for the first time in my life I feel like I have made some real accomplishments and it is a feeling I will cherish and work to feel again and again.

 

always hope

always peace

always love

Losing My Friend 6/4/14

I didn't think this would be as hard as it is, I really thought I could just disconnect from it.  I have lived in my house now for 12 years, and I have lived next door to the same man for those 12 years and over the course of those 12 years I became very good friends with him and he remained my friend and was kind to me through my entire ordeal.  He is dying today, he is not expected to live out the day, he has been sick for a few months longer than m father with the same horrific disease, cancer, and he has had surgeries and chemo right along the same time line as my father, my father has gotten to know him as well over the years and I had a very hard time even telling him about what is happening to my dear friend.  I have been sad all day, I had a hard time at work not thinking about it, combined with the anxiety of waiting to hear about this other job it has been a very rough day.  I have been crying this afternoon and I don't want to go outside because there are cars all over his lawn of family members and I don't want to see them, it makes it to real and I don't even want to think about when the news finally comes that he is gone.  I think a lot of it is that he is so tied to the same timeline as my father that I am terrified of those moments to come and it happened so fast with this man, he was good this winter, I was talking to him outside all the time, shoveling his walk for him so he could get to his paper, and then right around the time that I went back to work he started feeling sick again, that was three months ago.  The other part of it is that he was always so kind to me, I was really messed up for a while, and not a lot of people would talk to me, but he always would, he would always wave to me as he drove down the street, and now he is leaving and my heart is just breaking.  He has lived on this street for thirty years, his garden was always beautiful and it is empty this year, last year he was bringing me over vegetables every day, I helped him hang lattice on the side of my garage so he could grow his cucmbers there this year and it is empty. 

 

always hope

always peace

always love 

Things 6/4/14

Since I lsat wrote on Monday things have taken a turn for the better, a friend of mine runs the kitchen in a local nursing home and he and his manager contacted me and asked if I woud be interested in a 24 hour position with full benefits, I replied yes and did an interview, that I think went well, yesterday, my friend who runs the kitchen also thinks it went well and has messaged me several times to let me know he thinks that I got it, something I almost wish he wouldn't do because I don't want to think that I got it and then not get because that will be very hard to handle and I am not going to hear anything until probably Tuesday of next week.  I don't want to talk to my current boss about less hours until I hear from this other place because I don't want that to come up in any reference they might give me.  I am hopeful, this is the field I do well in and it is working with someone I know,in an environment that seems calm, and professional and it is just the right amount of hours, so even though I am not into superstitions I do have my fingers crossed.  I will write more later.  I hope you all are well.

 

always hope

always peace

always love

Shock to the System 6/1/14

Its a strange thing to go back to working after three years of not working, it's a good thing, a very good thing, but a strange and exhausting thing as well.  When I was home I was isolated and after a while really the only person I had to worry about dealing with was myself so I got out of the practice of processing people and their habits and tendencies.  I encountered a situation at work about six weeks ago involving a woman saying some racially charged things to me and I have done my best to just drown her out since then, I probably could have had her fired but that is not the type of person I am though I am now regretting it as this woman has made it her life's work now to get a reaction out of me, she has the maturity level of a fourteen year old girl and it is very hard to deal with, today was oppressive with her constant badgering of me but I just ignore her because that obviously just makes her more and more agitated, but it gets hard to ignore someone day in and day out, moment to moment, luckily I have extensive training in dealing with issues like this from when I used to be a manager at a healthcare facility so I just take it in stride.  I don't talk at work anymore because I don't want to give her anything to go off on, I just don't care enough to give her anything to engage with.  It sucks because iit eliminates the social aspect of it all but I am realizing each and every day this is not a forever job for me, it is a springboard and I am going to make the most of it.  I have nine months to go until I have held the job down for a year and from there I am going to take a stelllar reference and move onto something else while at the same time pursuing an education.  On a positive not I had another person contact me today about mentoring them in going vegan and I am proud to be a part of that so I agreed to work with them and that feels really good that people have been reading about m and my recovery and are now looking at me as some sort of role model, I can handle that.  I am feeling good today, tired, but good and the weather is perfect so I am going to head back outside now, I hope you all are well.

 

always hope

always peace

always love

Strong Feelings 5/31/14

Just some forewarning, this post is going to have some talk about veganism.  I will start light first and you can jump ship when it doesn't appeal to you anymore.  I volunteered this morning at the special olympics, this was a huge step for me, I have never been one to volunteer for anything or to put myself into situations where there are large amounts of people, this has always been a very stressful and anxiety inducing situaton for me, but the healthier I get the more I am willing to take chances and today I took the chance and had a very good time doing it and felt good about myself for doing it.  I am getting better at taking risks and putting myself out there, buildng my confidence and showing myself and others that I am a good and strong person.  I also have to say that I made the decision today to begin wearing clothes that fit me, for the better part of 37 years I have always worn clothes that were way too big for me in an effort to hid a body that I was ashamed of, I no longer feel that shame and as such I want to present myself in a way that shows my newfound confidence and it feels very good to make such a decision.  Alright, I am now going to switch to vegan speak so feel free to bale.   I am currently engaged in a debate as part of my commitment to perform non violent vegan advocacy where the topic is how do you talk about being vegan and what should be tolerated in terms of non vegans.  I will say that for me, after extensive reading and a deep personal transformation, I stand by the assertion that you are ether vegan or you are directly participating in the torture, death, suffering and exploitation of animals, there is no third choice, this is a belief that has been instilled in me by the great Gary Francione, a man who I highly recommend you look into.  I am engaged in this debate on a site on facebook called veganism, if you are a vegan then this should be easy to understand.  I knoow not everyone who reads this page is vegan, but I also know that several of the people who I have connected with from all over the world, my friend Kiri in the UK, Debbi in LA and Michael in Australia, are vegan and they are reading this page and spreading the word, we understand and accept veganism as the moral baseline and if you are going to be on a vegan page on facebook then you probably shouldn't be fighting against the beliefs that veganism is based upon.  I think that is all I am going to say today.

 

always hope

always peace

always love

Life as it should be 5/29/14

Wow, things are great.  Tomorrow my absolutely amazing wife Nichole graduates with her masters of education from the university of massachusetts in boston and we are going to the ceremony, she worked her ass off and has accomplished absolutely amazing things and I couldn't be more proud of her.  I am doing very well, I am feeling much much better than I was a couple of days ago, I doubled up on the graviola and started the cider vinegar in the evening again as well as the morning and I feel like a different person, I acutally went running today and ran almost the full two miles.  I am diving further and further into my vegan passion, I have converted another friend of mine, they have been asking me for recipes for the past few weeks and tonight asked me for another and they really like where they are headed and I feel so good about that.  I am making some decisions in the next week about what area I want to head in in terms of education, I want to move forward in the area of natural medicine and nutrition and I need to figure out which direction makes the most sense for me moving forward.  I want to make a plan for the next three years as I want to experience an even richer life as I move further on into my years, I am no longer content to just be, I want to be more, I want to help people and I want to do what I am passionate about, the past is the past and I don't live there anymore and I don't intend to visit it anymore.  I am trying to come up with some more creative ideas forr meals over the next couple of weeks, I am going to really move my kids towards veganism, I have been talking to them a great deal about it and my son is really excited for it and I know it is good for them not just physically but emotionally, there is no moral confusion when you go vegan, there is no guilt on your plate that you need to find a way to disassociate yourself from.  I am trying not to head towards a vegan rant here because I don't want to alienate anyone and if you feel like I am moving towards that shoot me a message or email me and I will take it under consideration, find some way to even things out.  I am hoping that everyone is well tonight and I want to thank all of you for reading, my views have increased by over a thousand a week so someone is reading and I am so thankful for that.

 

always hope

always peace

always love

Eating to heal and be happy 5/27/14

I have always made the mistake of finding my comfort in food, of working through my emotions with fod, of shielding myself with food, food has always controlled me and I have never understood how to take control of it, that is until a little over a year ago.  I first started eating to heal when I met Dr. Lebro and he taught me about the idea of food either being the best medicine you could take or the worst poison you could put into your body, but then I thought more and more about it and went vegan on May 2nd of 2013, and yes I went vegan for my health and not the animals but like anyone else I have evolved and I have come to understand the importance of the ethics that are involved.  But thats another story for another time.  I am now in love with food, it is a passion of mine, I have always been involved with food, I worked in restaurants for six years before working in hospital kitchens for another 8 years, and I have always loved cooking, making sauces, listening to people talk about the food that I have cooked for them, people are very emotional about food and they never fail to give a reaction.  But now that I am a clean eater, now that I eat real food, gone are the days of over processed crap and endless orders of takeout, I enjoy food more and more with less and less guilt and I feel for the first time in my life like I am in control of the food instead of the other way around.  I have been cooking a lot lately and last night I got to cook for my father, he wanted me to cook him vegan food and you know what he gave it an honest shot, had a great attitude and had he felt better I have no doubt he would have eaten all of what I cooked for him.  I find myself talking about food all the time to so many people, the health benefits of certain foods, vitamin D in mushrooms, B12 is spirulina and Nutritional yeast, calcium in Kale and Broccoli, celery and grapes as a muscle relaxer as well as almonds, chia as a superfood, and I find myself trying so many things that I never would have tried before.  I used to hate beets, the earthy flavor of them really just flat out disgusted me, but I have come to really appreciate and enjoy them over the past year.  The same goes for cabbage, huge anti cancer benefits and I eat every day as if I am already battling cancer because I am pretty sure that I one day will be, but now I love cabbage, in particular sauerkraut which I used to detest I now eat it by the forkful.  It is amazing once you open your mind and decide that you want to be well and you want to be happy and you want to feel good what amazing choices you can begin to make and how food can be a part of that.  One thing that I really enjoy right now is that people are asking me questions about food, how to make things, what they should eat, what might make them feel better what might be making them feel not so good.  That is another thing, I love researching food and what it can do to you, both good and bad.  Dairy, gluten and refined sugar are the three worst things you can possibly eat if you experience any sort of depression or anxiety or obsessive compulsive behaviors, I eat no dairy, any of you who have been reading this page know of the struggles I have had with my mental health and you know how I have worked to regain my mental health, when I eliminated dairy it was like the switch turned of and my depression and anxiety began to lift, things seemed so much better right away, I felt lighter, more able to breathe.  When I eliminated gluten I became more able to rationalize with myself, to understand my feelings and make sense of things, I will say that now I do eat some gluten because I found myself becoming massively overstimulated without any of it in my system and at that point in my life it wasn't a good thing for me though this summer I am giving more consideration to once again going gluten free.  Refined sugar, we don't realize how much of it we consume, it is in everything, almost every type of packaged food there is contains some sort of refined sugar, we put it in our coffee and on our cereal, and it is horrible, it jacks anxiety up to a level that I can't even begin to explain.  I find it very easy to not eat refined sugar now due in large part to my veganism, refined sugar usually has bone char in it and that is a no no and I want nothing to do with it.  Eliminateing, one or two or all three of these items from your diet will work better than any sort of chemical crap a doctor might be able to pump you full of to lift depression, not to mention you will lose weight and gain energy and peace of mind.  I am going to be finishing up for right now but I will be back, I am going to make dinner right now, we are having spaghetti squash with mushrooms and a vegan alfredo sauce and it is going to be balls to the wall good.

 

always hope

always peace

always love

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10.06 | 18:33

Well written and needed to be said.

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21.05 | 17:47

you are an amazing man i hope you get well my friend

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21.05 | 17:41

This is the Fred we know and love! Dad

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23.01 | 11:10

glad to see you found the page, you should check out the works of Rushdie for an especially compelling take on secularism/aetheism 4am is a thing of paradise

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