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Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

When you think like a designer, when you are willing to ask the questions, when you realize that life is always about designing something that has never existed before, then your life can sparkle in a way that you could never have imagined.

designing-your-life

It’s been six years since I last posted something here. Inertia is a BITCH!

Life has taken a lot of twists and turns since then. I finally moved away from Northern California (and that damned mechanical turkey) (see my Nov. 24, 2009 post “Giving Thanks for an Epiphany“) and relocated to the East Coast. I’ve also begun to experiment with pharmaceuticals again, which I am not happy about. But with all of the stress that comes along with moving, and aging, etc., I felt that it was time to reach out to some new doctors and see if there were any new pills worth popping in an effort to stop a downward spiral. Yes. And no.

For a few months I was on and off some medications I had tried before. Since I couldn’t remember what I had taken, how many milligrams, and in what combination with what, I let the doctor convince me to try things I had already tried, like Abilify and Wellbutrin. When there was no luck with those, he was convinced that I would see some relief with Latuda, a drug I had never tried before but which I was aware of thanks to Sunovion‘s unrelenting TV advertisements. Since it seemed to be working for everyone else, why not me? Well, I don’t think I took it long enough to find out. I had to stop it cold turkey because it was making me want to crawl out of my skin. There’s an actual term for that side-effect. It’s Akathisia, which is also something I was quite familiar with.

On to a new doctor. And here I am, starting my second week with Rexulti, and upping the dosage from 1mg to 2mg.

I’ve also been seeing a counselor/therapist of sorts who has been trying to get me to try things like DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy). (He confessed last week that he didn’t think DBT would necessarily do me any good, but that having to adhere to the schedule might.) He also wondered, out loud, if perhaps my expectations were too high. “No,” I replied immediately. It wasn’t something I had to think about. “I’m trying to get from black to grey,” I said, “so, no, I don’t think my expectations are too high.”

Anyway, I’m at my desk writing again, so that’s something. And I feel it’s the only thing that keeps me sane, keeps me committed. The unexamined life is not worth living. But then neither is the over-examined life. But just by sitting at my computer THINKING about what works and what doesn’t, encourages me to keep trying. To re-establish all of those daily activities that have some impact, however small, on my mood-swings or depression; like eating right and exercising. And writing. So even if this new drug doesn’t work, I’m fairly certain it will be the last one I try, so I’m going to need something else to fall back on.

Be well, Marco

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Poems

Even though the house is deeply silent

and the room, with no moon,

is perfectly dark,

even though the body is a sack of exhaustion

inert on the bed,

someone inside me will not

get off his tricycle,

will not stop tracing the same tight circle

on the same green threadbare carpet.

It makes no difference whether I lie

staring at the ceiling

or pace the living-room floor,

he keeps on making his furious rounds,

little pedaler in his frenzy,

my own worst enemy, my oldest friend.

An excerpt from: “Insomnia” By Billy Collins

 

After many sleepless nights, I am finally rested and ready to tiptoe back into the blogosphere.

“Been away so long I hardly knew the place…Gee it’s good to be back home….”

One of the reasons I haven’t been posting is inertia. Once you stop anything it can be difficult to start up again. Conversely, once you start something it can be hard to stop….

Plus, I grew weary of talking about, thinking about, writing about, reading about…Drugs, Moods, Cycles…….

I felt stuck. The best part of writing for me was connecting with people, of knowing that, just by the virtue of sharing my experience, others felt validated, and in turn, validated me.

So, I’m still drug free. Still have my ups and downs, my good days and my bad. I will confess to having moments when I want to reach for the phone and call Dr. X to request (demand, plead…) a prescription for something, anything that might eliminate the ups and downs. But then I watch television for a few minutes and I am reminded, by the inundation of pharmaceutical company commercials, that more often than not, the side effects are worse than the disease.

One thing that just occurred to me, literally as I was writing this (another reason to keep at it) is that, subconsciously, knowing that I had sworn off drugs forever, I began to accept how I am. What I mean by that is, knowing that there would never be some “quick-fix,” or any fix for that matter, I got better at managing my moods myself. You see, I think if you hold out hope for some “cure,” you never become adept at living with, or managing whatever it is that you have. If you fall off a boat in the middle of a body of water and no one else is around to save you; you’d better learn to swim. You may not like it, you may swallow a lot of water, but if you survive, you know that you did it yourself. And you realize that no matter what happens, no matter how difficult things are, you can get through it. And you’ll be stronger and more resilient because of it.

So, what does this all mean? For one thing, it speaks to the dichotomy of life, the yin & the yang, the Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde of it all. The bipolarness of life in general, for everyone. I hope that you will join me on this new, expanded journey, this new format of looking at LIFE as bipolar, not just the disease. That you will offer up your questions, suggestions, your experiences, (your rants if that’s what’s going on for you at the moment), and occasionally a shoulder to cry on. And I promise to do the same for you.

Be well, Marco

 

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Michael Buble "That's Life"I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet,

a pawn and a king.

I’ve been up and down and over and out,

and I know one thing:

each time I find myself, flat on my face,

I pick myself up and get back in the race.

“That’s Life.”  Lyrics by, Dean Kay & Kelly L. Gordon

Ok, so I’ve reached rock bottom.  I hope.

Needing a respite from rejection I stopped sending out novel excerpts and short stories to literary magazines and agents.  Unfortunately, that hasn’t put an end to the negative responses.  Yesterday I received another form letter from Berkeley Fiction Review.  It was a lovely little missive submitted to me in response to a story I sent them on December 1, 2008.  Ten months ago.

That’s not the worst of it.  The rejection that’s been the hardest for me to take is one that never came.

Several months ago I volunteered to teach prisoners at San Quentin.  I sent them cover letters, resumes, a detailed suggested syllabus and numerous e-mails, and in return I received nothing.  No acknowledgement.  No “thanks, but no thanks.”  No “message undeliverable.”  Nothing.

What little self-esteem I had left was shattered by the realization that I was being rejected by the California prison system.  By virtue of their non-response, I was being told that I was not even worthy of teaching writing to convicted felons.  Here I was, willing to risk my life working side by side with individuals incarcerated for crimes they’d committed against society, and I, a law abiding citizen with a MFA and a desire to do something positive with my free time, was being told by the University Prison Project that I wasn’t even worthy of a dignified response.

My bipolarity is a blessing and a curse.  In some ways I believe it is partially responsible for my creativity, my desire to write in the first place.  But it’s a challenge because of the inconsistency it causes to my attention, to my ambition, and to the very source of my creativity.  So, here I am, trying to navigate the biochemical fluctuations in my brain without pharmaceuticals, while still being plagued with the emotional/ego issues that affect every one: fear, stress, rejection, etc.

I never know if my reaction to something is nature or nurture.  It would be ideal if I could separate them, study them independently, but I can’t.  Is the hopelessness I feel relative to the situation?  Is the despair triggered by the rejection or does the rejection merely amplify feelings that were already there?

I can be overly sensitive, susceptible to depression from even a simple (and perhaps unintended) slight.  So how do I forge ahead when I can’t be sure of what’s real?  Are others just insensitive brutes incapable of recognizing my significant talent?  Or is my wavering ego incapable of coming to terms with the fact that I don’t have any talent, that they are right?

I don’t profess to know why other writers have chosen to take their own lives, but I do believe on some level it had something to do with either the process and/or the business of writing.  You see, the thing with writing is that there is no right way, no one-way.  It is (to some extent) subjective, even to the author.  The brilliant sentences, the beautiful metaphors, the inspired alliteration that made it to the page yesterday, today sound flat, tired, clichéd.

That’s life

and I can’t deny it

many times I thought of cutting out

but my heart won’t buy it

but if there’s nothing shakin’ come this here July

I’m gonna roll myself up

in a big ball

and die

For various and unknowable reasons, the following authors died at their own hands.  Gifted individuals who had managed to make a name for themselves, support themselves doing what they loved, at some point decided that life wasn’t worth living.  The thought that these artists had come to such a conclusion even after they’d achieved success (and became the basis by which others would be measured), scares me to death.

The Snows of KilimanjaroThe lion still stood looking majestically and coolly toward this object that his eyes only showed in silhouette, bulking like some super-rhino.  There was no man smell carried toward him and he watched the object, moving his great head a little from side to side.  Then watching the object, not afraid, but hesitating before going down the bank to drink with such a thing opposite him, he saw a man figure detach itself from it and he turned his heavy head and swung away toward the cover of the trees as he heard a cracking crash and felt the slam of a .30-06 220-grain solid bullet that bit his flank and ripped in sudden hot scalding nausea through his stomach.  He trotted, heavy, big-footed, swinging wounded full-bellied, through the trees toward the tall grass and cover, and the crash came again to go past him ripping the air apart.  Then it crashed again and he felt the blow as it hit his lower ribs and ripped on through, blood sudden hot and frothy in his mouth, and he galloped toward the high grass where he could crouch and not be seen and make them bring the crashing thing close enough so he could make a rush and get the man that held it.”  “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” by Ernest Hemingway.

Being There

Once in a while Chance would turn off the water and sit on the grass and think.  The wind, mindless of direction, intermittently swayed the bushes and trees.  The city’s dust settled evenly, darkening the flowers, which waited patiently to be rinsed by the rain and dried by the sunshine.  And yet, with all its life, even at the peak of its bloom, the garden was its own graveyard.  Under every tree and bush lay rotten trunks and disintegrated and decomposing roots.  It was hard to know which was more important: the garden’s surface or the graveyard from which it grew and into which it was constantly lapsing.”  “Being There,” by Jerzy Kosinski

Fear & Loathing in Las VegasBy this time the drink was beginning to cut the acid and my hallucinations were down to a tolerable level.  The room service waiter had a vaguely reptilian cast to his features, but I was no longer seeing huge pterodactyls lumbering around the corridors in pools of fresh blood.  The only problem now was a gigantic neon sign outside the window, blocking our view of the mountains—millions of colored balls running around a very complicated track, strange symbols & filigree, giving off a loud hum….”Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” by Hunter S. Thompson

Like the song says, “I’ll pick myself up and get back on my feet.”  Or, perhaps, “Roll myself up in a big ball and die.”  Only time will tell.  But for now…I’m still writing!!!

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Operating InstructionsI am the piece of shit the world revolves around.” Anne Lamott, author of “Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year” and “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.” 

I was on the freeway yesterday, driving home, thinking about God knows what, or, perhaps trying NOT to think about God knows what, when my peripheral vision captured the image of a driver with blonde hair cruising past me in the slow lane.  The car I didn’t recognize, the hair was unmistakable.  It was Anne Lamott.  And as always, whenever I see her or hear her name, I am reminded of the above quote.  As someone who has been bipolar as long as he can remember (and long before it became fashionable (or profitable to the pharmaceutical companies)) I have had the distinct impression that I am both incompetent when it comes to handling even the simplest of tasks, and at the same time, fully capable of taking over the world.  At least my world.

Floored the first time I read it, I have since come to believe that it should be the bipolar slogan. 

Seeing her also reminded me of my first encounter with her, which was a reading of  “Operating Instructions,” and of my previous post on authenticity.  “Operating Instructions” was a revelation as well.  Long before everyone and their dog was publishing memoirs, and long before every last human being felt compelled to share their innermost thoughts with the world via the web and reality TV, Lamott dared to expose herself.  I can remember being both shocked and impressed when she wrote this about watching her infant son: “I look blearily over at him in the bassinet, and think, with great hostility, Oh, God, he’s raising his loathsome reptilian head again.” 

How horrible?  How honest?  How funny!  How refreshing! 

Bird by BirdA writer is at their best when s/he bleeds on the page, which is not an easy thing to do.  I attempt to do that here, but there is a fine line between sharing and dumping, between expressing and complaining.  What Lamott manages to do in that journal, and again in her follow up book on the craft of writing, “Bird by Bird,” is to open an artery. 

This all comes back to authenticity.  She is not afraid to be who she is.  She is not concerned about what we might think of her.  Whether she’s “selling out” writing a magazine article to make a buck, or confiding in us that her son, Sam “…is an awful baby,” she’s real, she’s herself. 

Who am I trying to be?  Who do I pretend to be so that others will like me, so that I’ll fit in?  Part of that is habit, from trying to present a “sane” front to the world, from trying to take control when I feel out of control.  Of course, sometimes we have to, to keep a job, to get a promotion, etc.  Or do we? 

How do you compromise yourself to get what you want?  And is it worth it?

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