Friday, June 30, 2006

Vacation in Arkansas

I'm spending the week in Arkansas for my neice's one year old birthday (easily the cutest baby ever born.) We are also residence hunting, and decided to rent a house for a few months until we can decide exactly what we want to buy, and where. It means moving twice, but if it avoids making a bad purchase decision, its worth it. I had a TRUE Arkansas dining experience last night. We went to a joint called the "Backwoods Barn Catfish Buffet." It was called "Backwoods" for a damned good reason. This place was so remote, out this two lane highway, down this barely two laned just-better-than-gravel road, in Goshen, Arkansas (population 762) I am surprised anyone can find it. Its in this old barn, is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights only, and had a line out the door. The buffet is salads (including green tomato relish, usually, I beleive, only served with squirrel stew), corn served in a VAT of butter, and then fried: okra, hush puppies, hashed potatoes, chicken and catfish. I'm hopeful that the entire staff is CPR trained, because they must have at minium one cardiac incident there a day. And the food was incredible. I have more teeth in my mouth than any other 4 other people in there combined. I had a guy in line behind me, easily 400 pounds, who said (in reference to how hungry he was), and I quote, "[to be read with a serious hillbilly accent] I'm so hungry, my backbone is about to rub a hole through my belly button." It don't get no more Arkansas than that there, folks.

Its gonna be good to be home.

Ok, so, I mentioned in a post entitled "Freaked Out" a few days ago that there was a major title issue with selling my home. There appeared on title a judgment lien for $96,000 plus costs and interest (about $122,000 total). At first I was bown-away by this issue, but, after some reason, I thought it was all just a paperwork snag, and that the lien really had already been removed and just not filed. WRONG. The lien existed. It SHOULD have been dealt with at the time of my BK filing by my BK attorney. "Somehow" the secured position of this creditor got "overlooked", the the lien was never figured into the secured position against my home and never faced the homestead exemption and preferential transfer hurdles. WHAT?!?!?! SO, I really DO have a F***ing $122,000 lien against my house which will have to be paid at closing, leaving me with NO EQUITY? It seemed so. The horizon was DARK indeed.

I was able to get in touch with my BK attorney, after camping on his phone line for a day and a half. I think he saw pretty quickly that he had dropped the ball and had his reputation, as well as his malpractice policy, on the line. We could have re-opened the BK case and had the lien removed, but that would bring the trustee back into the matter and, with my house being worth $80,000 more now (3 years later) than it was then, there was a chance that he would remove or lessen the lien, but that HE would want part of the equity. Things seemed dismal, and Melissa and I were just zombied with stress. There were a couple of VERY dark days. Days in which it seemed that we basically had zero net worth (because our net worth is equal to our home equity.) My BK attorney assured me that, at worst, we could negotiate a compromised settlement, and only give away half of our equity. Yahoo!

My BK attorney was able to contact the attorney on the other side (the other attorney wouldn't talk to me) and convince him that if he reopened the case, the creditors would likely get nothing. The creditors, not wanting to spend the moeny to fight about it, offered that, if we would draft the paperwork, they would release the lien. I had expected to have to negotiate SOME buyout lesser than the lien value. We got out for ZERO, nothing, nada. Some good news, at last! Needless to say, I was exctatic. I ran, whooping and hollaring, through my front yard (if you know me...not my personality) in excitement (although reserving some excitment for the time at which I actually had the signed and filed Release in my possession.) Much angst, many lost hours of sleep, and several new gray hairs came free with this ordeal. Today, I got copied on the signed and filed Release. Relief!!

An equally great feature of all of this stress and tension is that, through it all, my mood held fast. Yep, I was stressed, and worried, but I was focused and thinking of ways to work out of this problem, and what we could do in the worst case scenario (not giving up, quitting, and seeing doom in everything in life.) A situation even a fraction of this magnitude a year ago would have sent me into an endless tailspin and I would have been no help at all getting it worked out. ECT has its problems, but it DOES work against depression.

On another topic,

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Response: Have I seen the report my psychiatrist wrote to SSDI?

Yes, I have. I have also seen the report she wrote at my request for LTD insirance purposes. Both state that my treatment has caused severe memory and cognitive impairment whcih , at this time, prohibit me from returning to work. They also state that, while my ability to return to work may increase over time, at present, she cannot release me to work and she expects to be unability to release me to return to work to for, at minimum, 6 to 18 months.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

To "The Same Anonymous"

We seem to be talking past each other. You are correct. I write this blog for me and my friends and family, and about me. I'm not taking up anyone's cause in doing so. I'm not advocating for the greater good or trying to change anyone's perception of ECT or anything else (except to the extent that, in describing my experiences, someone discovers something that they didn't know or they are motivated to look further into a question that they might have.) I'm reporting on my experiences (period.) I think its a little overboard to say that I don't "give a darn" about anyone else. I am a caring person and care for those around me. But in the realm of ECT, you are right, and I have no problem admitting, that my blog is not meant to be for the betterment of anyone else. My blog is about me. Again, if writing about me and my thoughts and feelings without becoming an expert, first, on ECT and its effects on other ECT patients makes me "selfish", then selfish I am.

If I can ask, what makes you an expert on ECT? Are you a psychiatrist or in the medical profession or a psychologist? Were you or a loved one an ECT patient? What interest do you have? From where does this passion that you seem to have come? I'm genuinely interested in your perspective. Feel free to e-mail me directly if you would prefer to converse other than in the public forum. Otherwise, I'll keep publishing your comments as I have been.

Freaked Out!!

Oh, the fun just never stops. Ok, so, Tuesday night my realtor calls me to ask me what I know about a judgment that is on record against me for $95,000. That would be a matter of someone having sued me and won, and the court awarding them the amount of $95,000 in damages. That’s basically my entire equity which I hope to walk away from this house that I have for sale. Somehow, the judgment came up in a Title search that the title company was doing in preparation for the house selling.

Freaked out!!! I didn’t actually talk to the realtor, Melissa did. It was at 6:00 at night…too late for me to find out much or do much about it. We had a bankruptcy that discharged in 2003 after the failure of a business that I owned. This judgment was in favor of the landlord for that business space. I had personally guaranteed the lease. The judgment SHOULD have been wiped out in the BK. Was it possible that I FORGOT to include the landlord in the list of creditors? Had I pledged my house in the personal guarantee for the lease? OH MY GOD!

Of course, as I calmed down (thanks to modern medicine) and thought through things, I realized that I couldn’t have pledged my house in the guarantee. We got a 2nd mortgage less than a year ago to buy new windows, and the judgment didn’t show up then (and it would have.) I realized about 8 months ago that, somehow, I have LOST the entire file on the BK, so I had no way of confirming that the landlord had been in the creditor list. But I was 99% sure that there was NO WAY that I and my lawyer could have forgotten to include them. But that 1% chance, that speck of doubt which could mean that I would have no equity from this house and would be unable to buy another house in Arkansas after the move, kept me awake and freaked out all night.

Of course, after getting a copy of my record from the BK Court on Wednesday and seeing that the landlord was included and realizing that this judgment was just a paperwork glitch, everything got better. But what I realized was that, while I have been SO FOCUSED on the house selling, during this 18 hours of insanity and doubt, I forgot all about the house SELLING and was focused on whether or not the house selling even MATTERED. Another lesson in perspective. I only wish life could have spread these important lessons out a little for me, had a better organized lesson plan for me. Learning so much in so little time is really pushing my mental stability to the limits.

I saw my long term disability insurance lawyer Wednesday. He has begun working on my case against The Hartford. He works for free unless he wins, so I’m out to rip The Hartford a new **shole. As one of my friends remarked “I guess they haven’t figured out that you are a lawyer, and a dick, have they?” I guess not.

Today (Thursday), I spent the day at Water World with my kids. Last Thursday, Denver had record heat, 100+ (in June!!) Today, or course, it was cloudy, windy and 73. A little chilly at the water park, but a great day, nonetheless. And a day that I couldn’t have enjoyed last year at this time.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Responses to Comments

There have been several recent comments. Following are my reactions to those that call for reaction:

(1) Sorry to be ignorant, but I don't know who Peggy Salter is or why I would be more sympathetic to her jury. I don't claim to be an expert on, or necesarily up to date or well read about, ECT and its effects on other people or the experiences that many others have had. I write about my own experience and my own philosophies.

(2) Grandma: I have found a psychiatrist that is working with me toward getting some things done on the "permenant disability" front. She is my own treating ECT doc, and we are working on getting my student loans from law school discharged because I will not be going back to that line of work. Likewise, she has written a supportive "report" for SSDI, supporting my claim for extended, if not permenant, disability. My intention, however, is to return to work, full time, as soon as I am able. I have no intention of being the "house-dad" for any longer than necessary.

(3) And for the anonymous writer (who still lacks the balls to put in a profile so we can see where the comment is coming from), I began writing my blog for me, and me alone. Maybe I should say me and my family and friends. It began as a chronicle of MY experience through ECT and statements about MY philosophies regarding many things. The fact that others, like yourself, found my blog and don't like what I have to say is not only not my concern, it is entirely irrelevant. You say that I "can't prove" my statement about the fact that I would be dead without ECT. Here's a flash...I don't HAVE to prove it. I'm not trying to convince anyone. I'm merely reporting MY experience. And I am saying that if anyone asks me (which is what you have done by reading MY blog written for MY purposes), then my response would and will continue to be that ECT is effective in the treatment of depression, but there are side effects.

Your statement that it is "morally wrong" for me to elect a treatment, when others are being damaged by the same treatment is laughable. I didn't force anyone to agree to ECT. ITS A MATTER OF CHOICE. The fact that some doctors/facilities don't provide full disclosure (or a level of disclosure that would make you and others happy) had no bearing at all on my choice to undergo ECT. That's a matter of public policy, which is much greater than the purpose for which my blog was written I was worried, at the time, about ending MY pain. I elected ECT because my family pleased with me to give it a try instead of giving up.

I don't hold the opinion that the treatment is right for everyone. I don't hold the opinion that any one thing (be it ECT or Jesus or anything else) is right for everyone. People and thier circumstances differ, and each person has to make his/her own choices and be responsible for those choices. Frankly, I don't really care who decides to turn to ECT for help and who doesn't. But, at the same time, because some people don't like ECT for a number of reasons, I would NEVER advocate taking the option away from everyone. People should be able to make thier own choice (adter weighing the options and consulting with those they trust) how to treat the depression that haunts them. Like I said before, suicide was the option I had chosen before ECT, and I agreed to try something else for my family. I'm glad I did try the something else. But if my opinion of that choice changes, I still have the suicide option. The stats on the number of suicides pre versus post ECT are meaningless. Maybe all of those post-ECT suicides would have been pre-ECT suicides if the ECT option hadn't been there. Maybe ECT should just BE an option for those standing at that critical crossroad: suicide or ECT. Maybe it should be administered less often. Those are public policy questions that are not only beyond my reach, they are well outside of the purpose of my blog.

I'm not walking the streets with a picket sign advocating ECT or anythying else. I'm living my life and reporting how that life is progressing through and after ECT. Apparently, you ARE taking up the cause of ridding the free world of the ECT option for treatment of depression. Good for you. You go, brother. But if reading MY blog, which was written for MY purposes and to which you were never invited in the first place, bothers you so damned much, then DON'T FUCKING READ IT. I didn't come to you and push my opinion on you. You came to me and asked my opinion. You got my opinions. If writing a blog for my own purposes and about myself makes me a selfish boor, then it does. Ignore the thousands of dollars I raise for The Children's Hospital Psychiatric Services group through find-raising events and ignore the 3 marathons (out of the 6 that I've run) that I have run to raise money for the fight against leukemia, and forget the other things I have done in my community for others. Label me selfish for writing about myself for myself because I KNEW my memory was going to be disturbed. But remember, you came looking for me. I won't lose any sleep over your short-sighted opinion. But if you don't like what you found when you came looking for me, if you don't like what I have to say, too damned bad. Go looking further for something that says what you want to hear.

Little update

The weekend was pretty good, with Father’s Day and all. Nothing remarkable either good or bad. I’ve noticed, over the last couple of days, however, a marked drop in my enthusiasm about everything. Like, my energy level has dropped, my motivation to run or swim has fallen off. In fact, the usual one or two “hobbies” or obsessions I have (which change pretty often) aren’t even there. I’ve found myself bored often, and I never feel bored. I know this whole house selling, house buying, moving ordeal is kicking the crap out of me emotionally, and I’ve been pretty resilient to this point. I worry that this change over the last couple of days is depression creeping back in through the door that all of the stress has left open.

I now have 7 swimmers that I am “tutoring” privately a couple times a week. I enjoy doing it, but it will all come to an end on a couple of weeks as the summer swim season wraps up. I am giving some thought to looking into what it would take to become a coach for a youth league swim team (not high school, but club level.)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Being a "selfish boor"

This entry is in response to the "anonymous" comment which labels me a "selfish boor." First, have the balls to put your name or some profile in the system.

I accept your opinion that I am selfish. But you missed the big boat, buddy. I'm not an advocate for ECT because I hated my work. I hated being the mortgage counselor that I was, but previously, I loved being a lawyer. Depression took THAT away, not ECT. I advocate for ECT because it saved my life, which has nothing to do with whether or not I liked my job. And I don't advise ECT for everyone. Everyone has thier own circumstances and has to judge, for themselves, if the risks are worth the potential reward. If you read enough of the blog, you will see that I was at a crossroad and my choices were to end my life and end the pain from my illness, or give ECT a try (having tried all the meds available.) Choosing ECT had nothing to do with my profession. It had to do with saving my life. Would I advocate ECT to someone to address heart disease? Of course not. Would I advocate ECT to someone who still had treatment options available to them which might work to better thier depression? Maybe, but probably not. Would I advocate ECT to someone at the end of the road, preparing themselves and thier family for suicide? Hell yes.

I KNEW going in that there were risks inherent in ECT. I chose not to delve too deeply into those risks at that time because i really didn't want to know. What was the purpose? My choices were simple, and I was already scared enough. The risks inherent in ECT were certainly no worse than death (in my opinion.) I always had (and still have) the option for death, if ECT went aray or if I can't live with the side effects.

Many people oppose my view, and they have the absolute right to do so. Many people are pissed off about the experience they had with ECT, and they have the right to that also. But why dwell on that? There's a legal system for things like being wronged by the medical professionals that treated them. Use it, if you have a case. Otherwise, in my situation, I can only look at the fact that there is a new "me." Actually, its the third "me." There was the "pre-depression" me, the "depressed" me, and the "post-ECT" me. I've accepted that, and accepted the fact that I'm alive because of ECT. My family would rather have me alive but changed than dead and gone. I agree. And understand that I didn't WANT to go the ECT route. I didn't want to put my family through that. At the time, I wanted to simply end my life and give my family access to the rather large life insurance policy that I have in place (and on which I am WELL past the "suicide" clause.) It was only after my wife pleaded with me for quite some time that I agreed to give ECT a try, for better or worse. So, selfish can be your opinion, oh wise unnamed one. And I know that everyone isn't as fortunate as me, to have the support of a family through the recovery period (however long that turns out to be.) I know that not everyone has good things to say about ECT. But would you advise people in the position in which I was to kill themselves, instead of trying a controversial and risky treatment as a last resort? Would you take away from those in my position the option of ECT because you and/or yours had a bad experience? Who's selfish?

An old Chinese proverb goes something like "One should avoid strong opinion on that about which he/she has little knowledge." And, by the way, you didn't have to choose your words so as to avoid sensorship. I don't "sensor" anything. If you have more to say, say it in the words to which you are inspired. But try stepping outside of your little world and understanding that ECT is a good choice for some people. I'm sorry your experience (seemingly) was negative. I know I lost a lot with ECT. But I'm alive to discuss the pros and cons. Without ECT, I wouldn't be alive.

SSDI and Long Term Disability Insurance

Thursday, June 15: Met with SSDI psychiatrist today for official evaluation. I think it went well. He told me he wouldn’t disagree with any of my doctors’ diagnoses or recommendations, and that he was writing the report to support my claim for disability. We shall see. I have an appointment to meet with a long-term disability attorney next week about going after The Hartford. They denied my LTD claim on appeal, relying on a “pre-existing condition” clause, claiming that my depression pre-dated the policy and that my disability is caused by that depression. My argument will be that the disability isn’t caused by depression, but by the treatment FOR depression. Not the same thing.

Mood has been pretty stable, with minor ups and downs (I think everyone has those, right?) The house sale is still progressing, but slowly. No offers yet, but much more activity since dropping the price and changing realtors. The job horizon for Melissa (in Arkansas) is looking up. She has applied for (and is quite qualified for) several jobs that she is excited about. Life goes on.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Just when I think things can’t GET any worse…

I just keep thinking that we are at the "bottom" and that things have to start improving because they can’t get any worse. I have decided that this is "life" teaching Mike a lesson. Things can ALWAYS get worse. The house isn't sold, that job in Arkansas that we thought Melissa had locked up didn't materialize, and we can't seem to catch a break in any way. Or can we? Am I looking at the glass half empty?

Today was the 2nd swim meet of the year. As I have mentioned, I have been tutoring a couple swimmers on the side, sort of private lessons. So, today, instead of just yelling for and coaching my own daughter, I had 4 kids to keep track of. Maggie swam like the champion she is, bettering her best times in 2 of 3 personal events (and it would have been all three except she had a bad turn in the 50 meter freestyle.) One of my prodigies, Mick (a 7 yr old boy) was fixated this week on improving his 25 meter freestyle time by a whopping 4 seconds so that he could beat this friend of his from school who swims for the team against whom we swam today. 4 seconds is an eternity in any swimming event, but something as short as 25 meters? Give me a break, please. I told him not to get his hopes up, to race against himself and his own times and not worry about the other kid, and all of those other "coach" lessons. When he dropped the 4 seconds, and some, and beat the other kid I was out of my mind ecstatic, like I'd done it myself. I was whooping and hollering like he was my own kid. When I found out that the kid he beat was the LEAGUE CHAMPION last year? You've got to be kidding me! I might have missed my calling as a swimming coach.

Today, we had the first showing of our house in 2 weeks. I also switched realtors today. Partly to get a realtor with a little deeper experience, partly so that my home, at the new lower price, would show up as a new listing again. I knew better than to do business with friends. I have never seen Melissa as emotionally upset as she has been the last few days. There is a lot of stress in general right now, but I think a lot of it was from the whole realtor-friend thing. Telling our friends that I was canceling my listing with them, but didn’t want to lose their friendship, was damned hard. Melissa was an emotional wreck, so I stepped up and did the dirty work. 6 months ago, I couldn't have done it.

So, this lesson that "things can always be worse" is taunting me. I have convinced myself that until I can learn to stop looking at what is BAD in my life, and start looking at what I have that is GOOD, I am damned to keep getting the shit kicked out of me. I think life is like this invisible pendulum, an ebb and flow kind of thing. We had 9 really good, hell, even great, years out of law school. 12 years on the upswing, if you count law school too. The last 7 or 8 years have been on the downswing of life's pendulum. Until I stop expecting things to turn around, stop looking for "better" times to start, accept that things will, eventually, turn around, and learn to be happy with what I have and where I am, the downswing will probably continue.

But how am I supposed to be happy with a house that I can't sell and can't afford anymore, no income, a seriously ECT damaged memory and cognitive capacity, a severely mentally ill son and an increasingly sad, stressed-out and despondent wife? I guess I have to look at the fact that I have a great family that takes care of each other, feel lucky to have the greatest daughter in the world, fell lucky to have a mother-in-law that has been there for my family in time of need, learn to accept my son for who he is instead of who I wanted him to be, recognize what a great spouse I have and what a great home I live in, and figure out how to make the most of those pieces of this wacky puzzle we call life. Then, and only then I think, can things begin to improve. I'd better get to work.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

My turn in the "Watch Tower"

Today’s Business Section headline: “Selling your house? Good luck!” There are more houses on the market in Denver right now than ever in history. Over 30,000. What a time to be trying to sell our house, and quickly. I find myself trying to be the emotional strong point in the family today. Not a role I'm used to, nor one i could play six months ago even if necessary. Melissa is really down and sad. Stress from the house not selling, the job situation in Arkansas, her new part time job here, money, etc really seem to be getting to her. My mood has been pretty good all day. I wrote Melissa an e-mail trying to lift her spirits a little (and reminding her how absolutely amazing she is for her family, and that she is entitled to a down day or two), mowed the lawn, and wrote a letter to go in a card to my mother-in-law thanking her for all she has done to help us out through my treatment and some very tough times. We all really need for this move to Arkansas to take some steps forward. First, we have to sell this house.

I have begun teaching “private” swim lessons to kids on the neighborhood swim team who’s parents want them to improve. I used to teach lessons, group lessons, to kids that, for the most part, didn’t know how to swim at all. I’ve done a limited amount of coaching also. But as a state champion swimmer (THAT was a long time ago!) and someone with some extensive swimming background, I’ve had parents approach me about these lessons. I’m up to 3 “clients”, and I’ve talked to several others, each seeing me a couple times each week. I absolutely love doing the sessions. Its like working on a car engine. I check out how it runs, figure out where the problem areas are, tackle the big problems first and then tweak little aspects until I get a stroke that looks like I want it to and that works better for the swimmer. I tweak a kid’s freestyle stroke a little here, it throws off something in another place, and then I fix that little part of the stroke and find a way to get the whole stroke put back together and all of it working correctly in harmony. And then, I get to watch them swim faster and better at swim meets, and congratulate them on a great race. Very gratifying work, and the pay, per hour, is pretty good too. More than I’m making otherwise right now.

I have come to the conclusion that, in my head, what I’m really doing is what I saw (no kidding, in “Psychology Today” magazine) described as an “inner makeover”: Instead of thinking about things I can no longer do, focusing my energy on things I can contribute now that I couldn’t before (due to illness or time), such as being an influence and mentor for my kids, volunteer work in my community, and being a bigger part of my world than going to work every day and coming home and being generally miserable.

Another concept I am trying to get drilled into my head is that a sense of optimism and hope, gratifying relationships and purpose in life have much more influence on happiness, and much better defines who one is, than financial status and what one does for a living. With the changes in my life, this seems to me to be a poignant philosophy.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


I’m still figuring out how much memory and learning I have lost. I was working on some mortgage and financial stuff for the move and the new house. It became apparent to me just how little mortgage profession I still have in my head. Simple things, like how mortgage insurance applies to an FHA loan, what qualifying ratios are for conforming loans, that non FHA and non sub-prime loans are referred to as “conforming” loans, how long after a bankruptcy you had to go before a conforming loan would work, and which lines of credit I had to include in calculating my debt-to-income ratio. I know that I couldn’t pull a credit report or run an automated underwriter if I wanted to. Plain and simple, there’s no way I could go back to my old job, today, and know how to do it.

This evening, my mind feels like it is going a thousand directions at once, and none of them are productive. Today has been overwhelming. My day has consisted of falling down the stairs of our house (first thing this morning), then going on a bad run with Beau on which he was scared of traffic and tried to run over me a couple of times, running errands with my kids all morning, mowing the lawn, meeting with Melissa and Mic’s therapist to discuss a “plan” for Mic, Mic having issues while at the “skate park” with neighborhood kid (why I thought he could go someplace with someone and NOT have issues, I have no idea), teaching swimming lessons to a friend’s child (a highlight of the day), Melissa starting a new job that she hates, and finding out that Social Security Disability wants me to meet with their psychiatrist for evaluation. We are having NO activity on the sale of our house and our realtors are out of town on vacation. A friend of mine has told me that he doesn’t think he can get a mortgage done for us on a new house (although I know there is a way to get it done with the help of my mother-in-law if push comes to shove.) My long-term disability insurer has denied my claim on appeal, and I'm thinking about hiring an attorney to fight them. Melissa told me today that she doesn't think my memory is getting better, but that, if anything, its getting worse 9and I appreciate her honesty, but its hard to hear.) There is WAY too much tension in this house and in my head tonight, and I can feel my mind just shutting down in an effort to defend itself. I find myself sitting and staring at nothing. I feel like hiding away in the basement, isolating. I don’t like this feeling. It feels like the foreshadow of depression. THAT scares the hell out of me.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Building the city walls

Beau (my 4 yr old lab mix dog) and I did a 9 mile run this morning. It was a great run. One of the things I will miss terribly about Denver is its immense trail system, most of which is fed by the “Highline Canal Trail” (which is where we ran today.) The “Highline” runs a total of 66 miles from the south-western metro area (Waterton Canyon) to the northeastern part of Green Valley Ranch in the northern metro. I’ve run all of it at one time or another. The northern part is concrete and not a good place to run, but I digress. This trail system is a beautiful place to run, hike bike and ride horses (you have to pick up after your dog, but its ok to let your horse shit all over the trail (?)) This morning was incredibly gorgeous, and the prelude to a really hot sunny day. I’m not sure how far beau can go, and I hesitate to take him much beyond 9 or 10 miles, but he LOVES it. He sees me putting on my shoes and he goes nuts. He’s really become a good running buddy, leaves people and most other dogs alone, and just runs in front of me at the end of the double length leash. Great morning, and the beginning of what was really a great day.

Melissa and I were talking about life the other evening. It’s those conversations or times similar to those that make me look inward and examine what really drives my feelings and my fears and my enthusiasms. I realized, the other night, that from the time I graduated from high school, and maybe before then, I spent my life building a wall around what I had, what I was acquiring in life and what I wanted for myself. I fought hard for an education in college and two graduate degrees, something no one else in my family had ever had. I went to work during law school, working as a “Legal Assistant” doing grunt work and lining myself up for a lawyer job when I was legitimate for such a position. I fought hard to get that position, and fought hard to advance in that profession so that I could reach the highest level possible in the shortest time possible. I left a good job, at which I had been working and advancing for seven years for a more prestigious position at a fledgling company. Man, I was there. I had a six figure salary, a huge office with fifteen feet of window that looked out over the Rocky Mountain front range, an administrative assistant, a paralegal and a lawyer working under me. I had a health club membership, drove the car of my choice, and had stock options that were just about to mature and vest. I had savings and investments. I was on the top of the world for a “bottom third of my high school class redneck from Arkansas”, and I was reaching for the top of the universe. And I was as discontent as I thought I could ever be. Nothing was enough, nothing was good enough, and I wanted more all the time. I thought that what I had was mine forever, and that more and better was the only direction I had to go.

You see, in my mind, these things weren’t things about which to be proud. They were all ways of isolating myself, securing myself and my family, against all of the many vulnerabilities that might lie in wait out there in the world. Those vulnerabilities that would gobble up other people, but not me. With money comes security. With a powerful job comes assurance that there were other powerful jobs out there just waiting to be had. Being vulnerable was something that scared the hell out of me, and I was doing everything in my power to secure myself against it. I assumed that if I ignored possible pitfalls and just worked as hard as I could toward building my walls, nothing could get me. I was working furiously to build the city walls to keep the barbarians at the gate, and away from me and mine.

Naivety is a great grease for the slippery slope of life’s potential pitfalls and setbacks. Naivety is one of the easy causes of disaster when coming from the country and moving into and up in the big city. And man, was I naïve. My hording, wall building life-concept is also one that can, to some extent, be explained by an OCD/manic nature, but I won’t try to lay it all off in that direction. I would only be kidding myself. I have no idea where to draw the line, if a line exists, between where my “personality” ends and my “illness” begins.

I had this concept that I could work and buy my way to happiness with a perfect family and enough money to secure my future and barricade myself from the pitfalls and potholes of life. I had the concept that it didn’t matter “who” I was, but rather, “what” I made myself to be. Maybe in what “costume” I dressed myself, ignoring the fact that the same old, country boy, “me” was still driving. It didn’t matter how I treated people, but rather, it was all just a big competition to see who could get the highest, farthest, and become the most “successful”, defining “success” with material things. And let’s just say that I wasn’t the nicest, most altruistic, compassionate and caring person. It was all about me. Altruism flies in the face of hording and wall-building, a dead-on conflict. And I boosted my own ego, compensated for my own short-comings and allied my own fears about failure and the pitfalls I was desperately trying to avoid by minimizing, laughing at, and mocking those less fortunate than me. I made myself believe that I was bullet-proof, while building a karma-debt that I was unaware that, someday, I had to repay.

There is a song (about which I can’t remember the artist or the song title) with lyrics that talk about life being a liquid running through your hands, not a solid that you can have and hold. I knew when I heard the song, I should have written down the title, artist and exact lyrics, because I knew I would want that info at some point. Anyway, the lyrics are very poignant. I thought, at one point, that I had “life by the horns” and was in control of my destiny. I thought that I had secured my future, and built the city walls. And then came my son, Mic, and his mental illness. And then came my own mental illness, and then came those walls, crumbling at first, and then crashing down. As I look back on the rubble that were my city walls, I see that the foundation and structure is all still there. The things that were real, the things that really matter, haven’t gone anywhere. Melissa, my wife, is the foundation upon which the walls were built (albeit, I didn’t recognize this fact for many years), and I was lucky enough to build a solid foundation (from a bad foundation can only come a bad structure.) At the time Melissa and I got married, I had no idea that I was putting in place a foundation upon which the rest of my life would be built. The foundation and structure is all still there. But it’s the fascade, the filler, the part that I fought so hard for and was sure would keep the bad guys out that has eroded, betrayed me, and fallen around me as life has progressed.

I guess the lesson is that all the hard work, money, and material things in the world can’t secure a future of happiness and contentment. Its only those things that make you “who you are” in your community and in your family and in the world that can bring security. Everybody needs someone to lean on, someone’s help, at some point. Needing someone else is a vulnerability that has made me uncomfortable. Having someone there to help has been a life-saver. Those things that you do for others, the compassion and altruism and help that you give to others in need and the love that you have for those around you is what keeps the wolves at bay in times of trouble. Those things are either “re-paying forward” the help that someone has given you in time of need, or building that karma investment account for use later, when you need help. Melissa and I are in different places in this context. She’s always been building the karma account, and is now drawing on it. I’m building a debt that I will be paying forward in the future. All of this has been a hard lesson for me, and one I’ve had to learn the hard way. Melissa seems to have learned it much sooner than I, and her practice of that lifestyle is what has kept me alive long enough to begin to understand a better way of life. Taking it as it comes, being there for others, and living the moment to its fullest, taking advantage of what you have now, instead of always longing for what you want to have in the future.

Live life as it comes, and enjoy every precious minute. Later.

Friday, June 02, 2006


Had a good run today. No shin problems. I stretched really well and massaged the hell out of both of them before starting my run. I figured the more blood flow the better off I’d be. There was no hint of cramping. Good sign. I was getting concerned that I was mistaking cramps for shin splints.

I’ve begun swimming on my non-running days. No, for those of you paying attention, that doesn’t mean I’m depressed, with the outdoor pool open and a quearter-mile from my house, its just easier than loading up to play racquetball (plus, I’m at the pool about every day at some point, anyway.). Really, only the A players play ball in the summer. I’ll go back to it when fall rolls around.

I was asked yesterday, by a friend of the family, to do private swimming lessons with her son. He’s about 8 and is on the neighborhood swim team, but she feels he needs some individual attention. This is going to bring back memories of some good times gone by. I taught swimming to groups of kids for about 7 years and individual (“private”) lessons for much of that time as well. I love teaching kids to swim, and it will be such a thrill to watch Mick (the child in question) excel under my tutelage. I’m looking forward to it very much.

I was also given the opportunity yesterday to go on a church “mission trip” to Belize this summer. Those that know me know that I’m not religious in the least. Dealing with the church part of the trip will be a little trying. But I will be spending a week building a pre-school in a very poor part of a very poor country. The experience, the chance to help someone out and feel good about every day when I wake up, knowing that my time will be for a worthy purpose, and “roughing it” for a week in the sweltering tropical weather will be a “religious” experience of its own kind. And lest you think that this is purely an altruistic venture, I will have the opportunity at the end of the week to scuba dive the largest barrier reef complex in the northern hemisphere for a couple of days, including (I think), the infamous “Blue Hole.” Time to put my newly acquired (last summer) advanced scuba certifications (deep diver, advanced open water, and navigation diver) to some use!

Another writing from my past. This one was written July 30, 2003. I had stopped living my life, and was just existing. I hadn’t experienced the epiphany of living life as it comes, and enjoying it while its here, with all of its many experiences and learning opportunities.


Here we sit, all living on this planet. What is YOUR purpose? Do you know? Have you given it ANY thought? Do you agree that you must have a purpose? Why else would we be here? Is this just a stop-over to someplace else? Is this IT? Is there nothing else to life, existence, and being other than this ruthless monotonous pattern practiced day-in, day-out, week after week?

My typical day involves waking up, showering, getting dressed, drinking coffee, work, work, work, work, eating lunch, work, work, work, and then rushing home to workout, eat dinner, get the kids to bed, get stoned to ease the pain of the day, and sleep so I can get up tomorrow and do it all over again. THIS is what I have come to call “living”. But when you look at it, and dissect it, there is no living going on. There is NO fun involved, unless you count the social interactions with colleagues or the workout. Neither of those, and none of the rest of the day, generates that emotion people call “happiness.”

I have always remarked that “I do not live to work. I work to live.” Its bullshit. Somewhere along the way, I forgot what happiness feels like. I forgot how to have fun. And until I can return to “working to live”, my life will be a dismal one.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Half of the Family Out of Town

It is Thursday, and Melissa and Mic have been gone since Sunday, leaving Maggie and I at home to fend for ourselves. Maggie has been at the pool nearly every waking moment since it opened on Saturday. She got her dad’s “pool rat” genes. We’ve done well, kept the house clean for the zero showings we’ve had, and not starved to death (quite the opposite, in fact.) My mood has been very solid. I have managed to get some things done around the house, clean, pack most of the basement for the move, and still allow myself some leisure time. The allowance of leisure time is something that, until ECT and Respirdal, I was unable to do. Between the Risperdal controlling one of my primary mood triggers (OCD/mania) and my other trigger gone for the week (Mic), things have had no reason to be anything but good.

In looking back through old journals, and after some consideration, I notice that I usually don’t let stress get to me while things are stressful. I can think of times when I’ve felt stress while it was happening, but it’s not usually until its over, and some time passes, when stress effects my mood. In many places in my old journals, and in several anecdotal incidences, I find that it may be a day or two after a particularly stressful time when my mood takes the beating from the previous stress.

Something strange (“strange”, “typical”, call it what you like): Since ECT, I have noticed that smells linger with me. What I mean is that I can smell something unpleasant and that smell will stay with me for the next 24-48 hours. I will smell it from time to time, usually just faintly, but in the strangest places (places where I know the same smell doesn’t really exist.) Its like my mind takes a “snapshot” of the bad smell and then shows it to me every so often for a day or two.