Depression. (Or, A Steady Series Of Swift Suckerpunches To The Sack)

I’m going to start here by listing some things.

– I enjoy what I do for a living (normal work-related stress and frustrations notwithstanding)

– I have a wife who’s perfect for me in every way I can think of, and super-supportive family

– As far as I know, no one has ever tried to murder me

– I’ve got a group of close friends just big enough for me, considering I generally hate people

– We’ve got a steady stream of money coming in and have no problems paying bills on time or eating

– I can watch any Futurama episode any time I want with the power of Netflix. Remember the one where Fry spent his entire $300 kickback on coffee?

Now, how do I know I’m depressed? Despite all of that, I still have moments where I am completely, totally unhappy.

I chose the title of this post very carefully after the 20 seconds spent thinking about it. It’s the most accurate depiction I can think of to explain what depression actually feels like. It also feels like waking down the street on a sunny day with a spring in your step and a song in your pocket, and then except instead of a blue bird landing on your shoulder a big guy comes out of nowhere and punches you in the face without explanation. That’s a pretty bad title though.

As you may remember if you read about my Modest Mouse experience, I’ve been on Lexapro for a year now. It’s helped a ton, and people who knew me before and after have, I think, noticed a big difference. Still, you’ll also recall that it’s no miracle drug. I can be a nervous wreck in the right circumstances. For instance, I had to chug three beers to not feel sick about seeing Yoni Wolf in concert. It was worth it though because while I was waiting for the bathroom he poked his head out from backstage and asked if it was occupied.

Look for the full story in my next post, “Star-Struck Urinal Adventures.”

This really is the biggest takeaway I’d like people unfamiliar with true depression to understand. It’s not always feeling sad, suicidal or hopeless. Most of my worse episodes have been when everything is going well. I think that makes it worse. For me, it’s the frustration that stems from not being able to do anything about it. It’s one thing to go through the sorrow of losing a loved one, or a job, or a relationship. It’s another to have all of those things in their right place and still not be good enough for your dumb head.

In those moments, I tend to negatively feed off my stubbornness until I’m stuck in an ugly circle. “Why can’t I just be happy with all the good in my life? Now I’m mad at myself. That’s making me more depressed!” It’s a case of your brain, your stomach, every fiber of your mind and body judo-chopping logic right in the throat. At least for me, that’s the worst part: knowing you have no reason to be upset other than a chemical imbalance in your brain. It makes me feel selfish.

Hey, you should listen to “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse” by Of Montreal. Not just because it’s a great song, but because its lyrics are relevant to this topic!

“I’m in a crisis, I need help
Come on mood shift, shift back to good again
Come on mood shift, shift back to good again
Come on be a friend”

“Come on chemicals!
Come on chemicals!
Come on chemicals!”

That’s essentially it. Stop being a dick, angry-upset-sad-blah chemicals cruising through my head. I don’t have time for your nonsense.

I’m lucky in that my depression is manageable. There are countless people who don’t have that luxury. I wish there was an answer for them, but there isn’t. Watching a TV show or writing or spending a few hours alone with some headphones might be enough  to get me through rougher patches. For others, nothing helps. If you have depression and you can find one lone thing that helps you cope, even an hour at a time, you should cling to that like a g-d lifesaver.

I think that any little moment of happiness is the biggest tool you have in the battle against depression. Last week, my wife and I spent an impromptu night drinking wine and booing loudly at old episodes of Maury. Totally unplanned, totally enjoyable. Any attempt to actively manufacture a “good time” usually ends in disappointment, at least in personal experiences. So I try to ride out my depressive bouts the best I can. If that means spending hours of my life getting a buzz and loudly speculating on the facial similarities between a child and potential father on trashy TV, so be it.

The one thing I don’t want from this is sympathy. Understanding, sure. Some page views would be great too! But mostly the understanding. It’s not something that controls my life to such a degree that I can’t function. It’s led to less of a possibility for exciting adventures, maybe, because I’m not going to do something that might embarrass me in public. There have been events I’ve missed out on and opportunities wasted. In general, though, I am happy. I just can’t deny the illogical moments where I am anything but. It’s what makes me me, like a fingerprint or a weird birthmark!

There’s no cure for this. Drugs can help, as can positive thinking, distraction, and support. Things that work for one person may have no effect on another. In my experience, the only thing you can do is try and understand your depression, rather than fight it. It’s likely going to be with you for a long time, in some capacity or another. Part of the healing process is accepting that and learning to co-exist.

Try that Futurama episode with the coffee. It’s helped me.

October 19th, 2013.

Late October reminds a lot of people of Halloween and dead leaves. It reminds me of those things, plus cake. I got married a year ago and will be trying very hard to top that day, probably forever.

As is probably obvious to anyone who knows me or who has followed this page, I love Halloween. My wife Caitlin loves it even more, which made the placement calendar-wise of our wedding day easy to narrow down. Once we had the day and the venue, attentions were turned to the decorations. We did pretty much everything ourselves, by which I of course mean Caitlin because I have the artistic capabilities of a kindergartener who also was raised by wolves. Wolves who have no artistic ability.

We also knew what we wanted out of our wedding reception. Here’s a hint; it involved plastic glow-in-the-dark fangs for all. Essentially, if it belonged in a cheesy haunted house, we wanted it. Our gifts bags contained witch fingers and wind-up skeletons. We had amazing centerpieces that Caitlin hand-made.

Those also featured bats and spiders.

Most importantly, we encouraged people to wear costumes. I was happy to see that about half the guests decided to go for it. We went with an open bar spanning the reception as well, because alcohol will greatly increase the likelihood of dancing monsters. I know I had my fair share of spirits. It helped accomplish our goal of having one big celebration. I am confident that our wedding has been the only one in history where a guy dressed as WWE superstar Goldust could be found dancing next to a great-aunt wearing a gorilla mask backwards on her head like a wig.

The DJ was excellent as well, playing the part with a mask and an endless supply of season-appropriate songs. Yes, of course Thriller was played. Monster Mash, obviously. We didn’t dance to the Ghostbuster theme, but only because that’s the song we cut our cake to. Love is beautiful.

Speaking of the cake, we defied the logic of every wedding-planning couple ever and agreed on the style and flavor in about four minutes flat. The below was what we chose, as it fit our cutlery and wedding topper perfectly.

I’d say that it was a wonderful-tasting cake as the obligatory cake-smash left it all over my face. However, Caitlin decided to skip my mouth entirely and go straight to the eyeball with a loooong, slow slide. I got her back, but not before having to clean frosting off of my contact.

Our friend Kelly Nason was our photographer, and she did an amazing job. No opportunity to get a shot of a dancing Peter Pan or flying monkey was wasted. She also set up some stellar photos outside.See, Caitlin and I can look classy and not awkward if we have a lot of help and computer image-editing technology!

As mentioned, I partook in a few beverages. It’s for that reason that I found myself on the dance floor. Let’s not get too crazy, I didn’t go crazy, but a handful of beers goes a long way in making a person like me comfortable enough to slow dance in front of people. We also were mobbed by the guests for the final song. It was just one giant hug which would normally be my worst enemy. But somehow, for this day it was perfect.

Our photos can be found at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/tk2pcc3o8b300k4/uRPk3-8Vci. You should check them out if you want to see how machetes can be used to illustrate true love.

I try not to end my posts with anything cliché or serious. I have to say, though, that our wedding day honestly turned out just how we wanted. It was a giant party where everyone seemed to legitimately have a good time. All you can ask for, no matter how traditional or costume-party your wedding may be, is that you’re surrounded by friends and family who are happy to be there and happy to help you celebrate a new chapter of life.

If you can do all that while dressed as a vampire, then buddy, you’ve really got something.

Happy anniversary, Caitlin. There’s no one else I’d rather bite with plastic fangs.

The House Is Alive And The House Is Hungry

I’ve never really considered the Friday the 13th series to be Halloween movies. They seem to work better as late-night summer films. Obviously that’s due to the setting of a summer camp over-run by the dumbest and oldest “teenagers” ever put on screen. It’s more fun to watch that when it’s hot enough out that you feel you’d be tempted to jump into the lake, knowing full well you’ll end up with a machete through your face.

That said, it seems like the perfect time of year to tell you about the House of Death. We’ve reached September as the sun sets on another summer. It’s mid-transition, with the last outdoor activities being planned as stores fill with marshmallows shaped vaguely like ghosts. It’s a great mix of gross humidity and terror, as is this story.

Last summer, my mom and her cousins decided to rent a house in New Hampshire for a week of relaxation. Caitlin, my sister Jessica, brother-in-law Cliff and I were invited to stop up for a night or two. The house had a private beach! A finished basement!

It also nearly killed us.

Look at it. We should have known something was wrong in the first 40 seconds on the property. The four of us arrived before anyone else, having been told there was a key waiting. There was no key waiting. Very quickly we found ourselves in the middle of the woods, locked outside of a run-down house, surrounded by approaching darkness and 8,000 cobwebs.

This was the last we saw of Caitlin and Jessie.

Okay no,we didn’t get killed when investigating the grounds. YET. Attempting to walk and find the private beach, we only found more trees, including one blocking the path ahead. All of my instincts and horror movie expertise told me that this was a bad sign. Sure enough, we discovered the tell-tale Bad Omen; a weird leathery thing that looked sort of similar to a shriveled monkey paw, like in that short story The Monkey’s Paw.

[image missing but it would have been too scary anyway]

I guess as some point we also found this toad.

Once we managed to actually get into the house, things started to deviate a bit from the typical horror movie formula. Specifically, instead of a lunatic hacking at us with a screwdriver or something, a door fell off the hinges and almost landed on my mom. I realize that doesn’t sound so scary. However, if you are able to stand in an abandoned cabin and hear “AHH!” followed by a loud thud and NOT think “Jason is real and we are all dead,” then you’re the weird one. Not us.

Once we made sure my mom was okay, we started checking out the basement. We found some cool things, like a Beatles album and a Nintendo 64 with Goldeneye. Things were looking up for almost a whole minute, which is how long it took until we heard a really loud, really shrill screeching. That turned out to be the carbon monoxide sensor. Again, probably not the most terrifying of circumstances, but it was still unexpected.

I just want to recap that we’d been at this vacation house for all of an hour and had encountered a blocked off forest path, a MONKEY PAW MAYBE, a scream, a crash, and a piercing whistle that indicated there might be a deadly gas seeping into our lungs. But honestly, what was worse than all of that was that the Nintendo 64 ended up not working : (

Eventually we all ran to the package store and got some alcohol. I picked up some coffee brandy because I love coffee and I love brandy. Somehow, this stuff was pretty vile. I still drank it though. If I was going to be murdered, it wasn’t going to be while sober enough to realize it. We also got some stuff to make s’mores, and lacking an actual campfire we put the marshmallows in the microwave. Not recommended unless you want s’mores that look like airbags deployed in them.

Then night set in. The house seemed to infect us. In what was probably my favorite creepy moment, I awoke in the middle of the night. I sat up and squinted into the dark. My sister had gotten up from across the room to get another blanket, because it’d gotten pretty chilly. What I saw was her shadowy figure crouched down, slowly moving across the room. She then turned to me and silently put a finger up in a shushing gesture like a deranged Santa Claus. I was a little foggy from the brandy and a Xanax, but I know what I saw.

You might be noticing that I didn’t take many pictures of the actual house or things we encountered. Correct, but I didn’t think I’d be writing about it two years later and would need them, okay? Here, all I have left is these weird novelty teeth from a convenience store we stopped at on our way.

The morning light brought with it a reprieve from the previous evening’s hellish events. We awoke to a breakfast of bacon and eggs, which we almost revisited shortly thereafter. This is because we found a playground on our way down the mountain when we were heading home. Obviously we stopped and played on the carousel. I don’t know about the rest of the group, but I used my leftover fear and adrenaline to try and fling whoever was riding into space. Soon we were all nauseous and dizzy, and thus ready for the four-hour ride home.

But not before I took this really funny picture of a disoriented Jessie. It’s the photo I use for her as a contact on my phone currently.

It was a magical adventure, the kind you don’t get many of. Sometimes these things work out how you plan. Sometimes you have a super relaxing day at the beach and come inside to share memories with family. And then sometimes you eat mutant marshmallows before fighting mosquitoes for a sleeping spot on the floor. If you ask me, the latter can be just as fun.

Plus they had a ping pong table. I would go back in a heartbeat.

Leela- One Part Fuzzball and Two Parts Badass

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, please forgive this post. It’s going to be filled with pictures you’ve probably already seen. I’m sorry, but when you get a new kitten you’re required to take a photo every time it crosses its paws in a new way. Either way, I’ll try not to drag this out. Maybe I’ll be done writing by the time I finish this glass of wine.

This is the story of Leela. We picked her up on Saturday from the animal hospital where Caitlin’s aunt and mom work. Anyone who watches slightly nerdy animated shows about the future should understand how we chose her name very shortly:

You might be noticing that she only has one eye. It’s an astute observation, and accurate. She was found in a factory/power plant with her brother with a badly infected eye. Once she had it surgically removed, she was good as new. And obviously we decided to name her Leela, after the captain of the Planet Express ship in the hit animated tv show, Futurama!

It’s uncanny, isn’t it?

We quickly learned that the loss of half her vision wasn’t enough to slow her down. Leela was a good choice of name personality-wise, too. She’s definitely an explorer. She’s been running on what seems like 15 total minutes of sleep for the last five days. The rest of her time has been spent running upstairs, bolting back downstairs, carrying her toy ball around in her mouth for no reason, somersaulting, and doing that funny cat crab walk thing. It has truly been exhausting just to watch.

However, it’s also been rewarding. For the longest time, I’ve wanted a kid. It’s probably because I come from an Italian family. Having a kitten is sort of like caring for a baby, or at least must be good practice. A kitten is more resilient than a baby, sure: not many human infants I know would survive a serious eye infection in a power plant. At the same time, you don’t have to stop a baby from chewing on electrical cables. Or do you? I’m going to be the worst father.

We got Leela at the perfect time with Halloween just around the corner. When you have a black cat with one eye, the photo opportunities are infinite. I should have waited to write this so that I could have included a picture of a tiny cat pirate on top of a pumpkin. She’s got a built-in costume for life.

When my sister and brother-in-law got their kitten Curious six years ago, I watched him for a day. Of course, I had him sit and watch Mystery Science Theater with me. Unfortunately, Leela is too excitable and insane to sit through that. I hope that one day, though, I’ll convince her to watch a Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th marathon. It will be then that I can accurately claim to own the greatest cat of all time.

This experience has revealed what kind of parents we’ll be, too. Both Caitlin and I are over-protective and constantly worrying about Leela. I can only imagine how neurotic we’ll be when we actually have a kid. I’m anticipating an attempt to break the world’s record for most consecutive hours awake. Who can sleep when there’s a bay who might need attending to? And geez, we’re already giving Leela foot rubs because she likes to have her paws massaged. I have to remember to not let our child read this site, or he/she will own us.

She knows she has us right in her adorable clutches.

In the end, obviously it’s worth it to take in a kitten who needs you. Caitlin and I have had cats since we were children. Last year we had to put down Caitlin’s cat, and for the first time in 15 years we had no pets to take care of. We both decided that we were ready, and then immediately realize that no, we weren’t. Fourteen straight hours of watching a tiny black blur fly around the house can change your mind pretty quickly.

Just kidding. Leela’s energy is nuts and makes me want to take a nap, yes. But we wouldn’t trade it now. We get as much enjoyment from her as I’m sure she does from not being in a power pant with an injured eye. Any time two entities can make each other mutually happy, you can’t ask for more.

And any time a tough kitten from the streets lives to show off her gold and war wounds, the world shines just a little bit brighter.

I finished my wine over an hour ago, by the way. The Simpsons marathon was on and distracted me.