Shithouse rat

I'm a bipolar writer in the Naked City. I'm not playing with a full deck. I don't have all my dots on the dice. My cheese is sliding off my cracker. I don't have both oars in the water. I'm a bubble off plum. In other words, I'm crazier than a shithouse rat. These are my stories. Comments--short or long, nasty or nice--always welcome!

Friday, March 31, 2006

May the force be with you

Originally uploaded by MontyPython.
Well, knock wood, I think I'm finally pulling out of my slump.

I finally realized, after almost a year of having my nose pressed to the computer screen, that I need to attend to other things that need doing, including some that I also enjoy.

A few days ago, I went to the grocery store instead of just letting BG do it, and bought myself a whole slew of healthy foods. After a long interlude of being a virtual shut-in, I got out in the sunshine a little and enjoyed the springlike weather. I've made a concerted effort to cut down on my smoking as well. After three days, I feel immensely better physically and emotionally, and I feel eager to continue down this road; full of newfound energy.

I got through some chores that I had to do, and that made me feel like I'd accomplished some important matters even though it took some effort and I needed to force myself to do them. This, I've sometimes found, can help nip my depression in the bud. The sense of control is very empowering. It's heartening to realize that every bad patch or gloomy mood doesn't have to signal the start of a downward spiral.

Fortunately, in this instance I knew what had to be done and I had control over the means and the outcome. In the past, I've had periods in my work life where I did not have that kind of control over pressures and stress, and the results were disastrous.

It really can be true that there is always darkness before the dawn. By reaching a crisis point, I was forced to face up to my personal demons and take steps toward accomplishing very necessary goals. In the past, I've also found that self-help books have been an inspiration, but this time my motivation came from within.

Thank you for the comments on the previous post--I will respond to all. Your kind and supportive words helped me immensely as well.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The slippery slope

Waiting for Indiana Jones
Originally uploaded by Pandiyan.
I've been feeling pretty down lately, and one of the side effects is becoming evident here--namely, no new posts.

When I started blogging, I was hypomanic. The words and thoughts came easily to me, though I was never a once-a-day poster by any means. In fact, I loved the writing and the blogging so much that the internet pretty much took over my life--or rather, I let it take over.

Now it's been close to a year since I started my blog, and things have taken a turn for the worse. Aside from the problems getting my coop ready for market due in part to the fact that my ex boyfriend is just not doing his bit to get this accomplished, and the fact that my own inertia is making it harder for me to continue babying him, it honestly seems like getting a place I can call my own is some far off nearly impossible dream. Many people online and off that I've told about my plans can't understand what could possibly take so long, but if you saw the situation up close and the person I'm dealing with you might see why (or maybe not).

In addition, my immersion in the internet and my neglect of "real life" has had serious repercussions, and I now feel backed into a corner of my own making. I can feel the hopelessness starting to seep into my consciousness and unconsciousness. I've had disturbing dreams ever since I started on certain meds long ago, but now it's harder to shake off the effects when I awake than ever.

There's some things going on that I don't feel comfortable going into detail about here, but they have contributed to a feeling of near-despair of late. I know what has to be done, but it will likely take a very long time and be very hard to accomplish. If I can get over some major hurdles, I feel like I can have the life I want for myself and BG, but the road will be a long and difficult one.

Those who don't have to take meds for a mental/emotional condition may not understand how insidious the side effects can be. Of course, psych meds don't have the monopoly on side effects, and I take a few meds for other reasons which may also be biting me in the ass. It's hard to tell for sure what's going on.

There is a book I read long ago called "Flowers for Algernon" which was later made into a movie called "Charly" starring Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom. In it, a mentally retarded man is given an operation that increases his IQ gradually, til he reaches the point where he becomes a genius. Unfortunately, the operation's effects eventually wear off and he's doomed to go back to being mentally disabled again.

I watched a good portion of the movie but had to turn it off after awhile, before they reached the point where Charly's IQ began to diminish. I know there are a lot of hellish scenarios in life, but that has to be one of the most haunting. Though some may say it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, would it be better to be given the gift of intelligence and then stand by and see it inexorably slipping away again--or is it preferable to never have experienced this evolution/devolution in the first place?

The other reason I had to turn it off was that it hit a bit too close to home. I've experienced the roller coaster ride of bipolar disorder a number of times, and though it's not exactly the same situation, it definitely has its parallels, especially since my ability to think and reason clearly vanishes when the tidal wave hits. I literally "lose my mind" in the deluge.

Although my periods of major depression, when they hit, are still as severe as ever--if not worse--every time, perhaps due to my current meds my hypomanias have become more mild and manageable. Maybe this last one was just what you might otherwise describe as merely "being normal." There are some people who go through life with seemingly boundless energy and drive. When I'm in an "up" mode, writing becomes much more effortless, and my outlook much more positive and hopeful in general.

But time and again I've had "up" periods, only to encounter some stress or other triggering event and be in the awful dilemma of seeing myself descend into that slippery slope of depression again. I start to notice that things are becoming more difficult; that my brain is not working the way it should. I become more withdrawn and fearful. Then I reach the point where the depression hits full force and no meds and no doctor seem to be able to cure it.

Hopefully that won't happen this time. As one of BG's old docs said, depression tends to feed on itself. If you give into it and stop trying, the cycle can take hold that much more firmly. But I think if someone has clinical depression that involves your brain chemistry going out of whack, I'm not sure that anything can be done when the ground starts to give out beneath you and the sense of helplessness, hopelessness, self-recriminations and guilt start to settle in.

In any case, I've been hiding in front of this computer for a long time and now there's hell to pay. Truth be told, I do feel a bit better that I was able to write this post. But is kvetching online just another way to escape and procrastinate? Thing is, I know there are other bipolar blogpals out there who can really "get" what I'm saying through first hand experience. And I'm sure that even those who don't have this condition may be able to relate; after all, everyone goes through pain at some point--it's simply part of life.

Well, I'm grateful that I have a place where I can put my thoughts down, such as they are--though the demands of "real life" are calling to me even as I write this post. I suppose the fact that I'm still able to write is a hopeful sign.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A rant against myself

In my mind
Originally uploaded by SideLong.
Well, I have to admit that sometimes I can be a bit of an asshole. But at least I try to admit it and learn from my mistakes if I can--though there's no guarantees in that department either.

As I've noted in the comments section of the previous post, I was a tad hasty in my judgement of one or more of my fellow writers over at Blogcritics,and now I feel like a traitorous bitch. I guess I'll just blame it on the meds--that's always good for an seriously.

In my last post I linked to a Blogcritics article about blogging versus writing. I'd been reading a few posts and comments over at BC lately that had a cumulative effect of making me feel exasperated with what I felt were some pretentious attitudes held by some writers--especially those who had written novels and were either contemplating getting them published or had self-published and were hoping to gain visibility for them.

I have a bit of PTSD against aspiring novelists left over from my days as a member of a few Yahoo writer's groups. I think I managed to make an idiot of myself over at these groups on several occasions as well, but my pet peeve had always been those who wrote books but then did not bother to look into--and face the harsh realities of--the very very arduous, if not well-nigh impossible process of getting them either picked up by a traditional agent or publisher, or else self-marketing the shit out of them if they self-published.

Publishing is not an easy thing to get into, but fiction is probably the most difficult of all. The "problem" I had was that there were some folks who apparently wrote a novel in a vacuum, never ventured to "lower" themselves to trying to get a short piece published to test the waters (including--gasp--non fiction), never researched the process of submitting to agents and publishers, and then railed and ranted about the fact that the publishing industry is unfairly stacked against them. Well, yes it is, but that's life in a very competitive field.

In any case, to make a long story short, I'm now e-mailing back and forth with the author of the article I linked to in the previous post. I now understand why he had chosen to not respond to a lot of comments on his pieces, or even check his comments--and that he was not being stuck up by not doing so. Although he gets a lot of praise from commenters and BC editors alike, and many of his posts wind up on the Editor's Picks list, some of the comments he gets are horrifically nasty.

This is a guy who has the guts and determination to post a piece every single day on Blogcritics. I definitely can't do that, and my hat goes off to him. In any case, he's a talented and very nice guy, and I'm glad I'm getting to know him and his work better. In case anyone is interested, here's a link which leads to all his BC posts. Also, since I've refrained from "announcing" my new BC posts here lately, this is a link to the BC posts I've done so far. Some are original, and some are derived from old Shithouse pieces. Craven blogslut pimpout, over and out.

Another source of anxiety for me has to do with an old blogpal, Walker. He posted a brilliant piece the other day about his love/hate relationship with cigs, and has announced his intention to quit for good at the end of the month. He's invited me to take on this challenge as well, since we first "met" when he responded to one of my posts here about how bad my cig habit is.

Walker is roughly my age, and from what he says he has a number of health problems that are weighing on him. Not only am I worried about him, but I can relate absolutely, because I have come to the point where I am seriously afraid I may drop dead at any time-- especially if I keep up the bad habits I've developed to the max in the past year or so.

Since I started blogging and since my boyfriend BG (and thus I) quit AA (I'm not an alchoholic, but I've got an addictive personality and my own issues), I've stopped eating right, stopped exercising completely, and probably doubled my consumption of cigs. As a result, I feel physically sick whenever I walk half a block. I'm out of breath and have to stop for a minute or two. My 80-something year old aunts can get around better than I can nowadays. As if that isn't enough, both my parents smoked, didn't eat right, and died of heart disease early in life, leaving me an orphan before the age of 15. You think I'd be smarter, now wouldn't you?

My relationship with BG has suffered due to the blogging mania as well. Though I enjoy it no end, I've said here again and again that it's become an unbalanced force in my life.

Adding to my frustration is the fact that if my ex-boyfriend L and I had finished up the packing, discarding, and prep work in order to sell our coop, I could be buying the Bronx place I had my eye on for so long right now. I've been checking the real estate ads, and there are several listings for two-bedrooms in the complex I intend to move to, but since our place is still not ready to show, let alone sell, I'm sitting helplessly by while these choice deals will likely get grabbed up by others. I can only hope that there will be something good available to me when we finally do finish up this process, but it's seriously bumming me out.

So I guess I've got some work to do on myself--inside and out. But they do say that the unexamined life is not worth living, so I guess I'll just take it from there.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

A rant against "real writers"

If I Had Something to Say
Originally uploaded by re_birf.
OK, I'll admit I'm feeling like shit and in a terrible mood. Maybe it's the fact that my doc gave me some Provigil to try to work on my sluggishness, and after a few days I realized it wasn't the answer, so today I only took a quarter tablet instead of a half. It says right on the darn circular that the stuff can be habit forming, and it's a contolled substance--which spells trouble for an addictive personality like me. But I'm just gonna wean my way off this and nip it right in the bud. A stimulant for a bipolar? Methinks that's a mighty bad idea.

Anyway, my rant du jour concerns a certain sub-group of writer--namely, the novelist in search of a publisher, or one who has self-published and is not hitting the best seller list as of yet (lol). I'd encountered a number of these folks on the Yahoo writers' groups that I've long ago quit, and I'm starting to see even more insufferable examples over at Blogcritics, where I now write in addition to my Shithouse rants.

Although I could be an asshole of another sort over at the writer's "rooms" myself, I like to think that my motives were a little more pure and charitable than some of the snobs I'm encountering over at BC through their articles. Here, in essence, is a prototype:

A writer has slaved over a novel. It may be good, it may be bad, but in any case, I'd venture a guess that in many cases, it's just not all that remarkable, but that's pure conjecture. Sometimes you can tell by the title and description that even if the writer is brilliant, the subject matter is just too arcane to attract a whit of interest for the average reader.

OK, so they've written the darn thing. Some have not even tested the waters by sending out, say, a short story, or even (gasp) an op ed or other piece of nonfiction to see if that is up to snuff in the eyes of an Almighty Editor. They may or may not have entered the arduous fray that is an inevitable step in getting virtually anything published, period, and thus have not steeled themselves for the almost inevitable rejection letters and consequent humility that greet the newbie.

Writers tend to be in love with their own prose. It is therefore sometimes quite a shock to them to realize (though some never do) that no one has asked them to write, and they do so and submit their work at their own risk.

The type of writer I am thinking of is an embittered snob. They bemoan the fact that the internet allows "regular folk" to blog about everyday things which don't seem transcendent enough to them, but which may garner more feedback from readers than their own sometimes self- indulgent tomes. Then they turn around and imply that agents and publishers who don't acknowlege their brilliance are too snobby or commercially oriented to recognize their unparalleled talents.

Some of these people are even so elitist that when people compliment their work they consider it beneath them to write a simple thank you in a return comment. They expect instant adoration, but don't seem to understand the concept of karma--viz: you often get what you give. On Blogcritics, they sometimes even bite the hand that feeds them with snide remarks about how other BC pieces of what they consider lesser value in tenor or subject matter are unfairly sharing an audience with "real writers" such as themselves.

I have tried to maintain an upbeat and supportive attitude toward my fellow Blogcritics. If I like an article, I will say so, and try to leave an intelligent comment that adds something to the "blogersation." When I write a post, I respond to all comments if I can. This is not only something that I love to do, but it also serves me well since posts with the most comments in the past 72 hours get on the "hot topics" board, thus increasing their potential readership and keeping their post in the spotlight longer. Again, karma at work. Those who refuse to respond to comments often fail to get the recognition they seem to crave by not doing the same.

In any case, just as an example, I'm providing a link to a BC post which finally led me to be a bit of a bitch. My comment to the author is there. He happens to be a very good and prolific writer, and I and others have often shown support and delight in his writing abilities. But he is also one of those aspiring novelists who is, in my opinion, an insufferable snob.

I may very well air my views in a post on BC as well--but maybe I'm better off just venting here. Have to watch my own karma, after all.

And here it is--one of the posts which set me off on my little hissy fit:

Writing and blogging: not necessarily the same thing

Hope some of you guys will check it out--it's not a long one--and let me know what you think.

Just a random thought...

one less tv
Originally uploaded by Kevin Steele.
...since I can't seem to think of anything more profound to write about at the moment:

Here's three TV programs I wish they'd bring back in reruns:

The Mary Tyler Moore Show:
I lost my mom when I was a young teen in the early 70s, and I didn't show much grief in front of my friends on the outside, though I was devastated beyond description. The thing that got me through that dark time was being able to immerse myself in the comfort of TV shows like MTM.

The backstory on "Mare" was that she'd been living with a guy, putting him through med school, and then got dumped when he graduated. Pretty risque back in 1970. These and other shows I watched during my "formative years" helped me see what an independent woman could accomplish with or without a man by her side.

In my 80s partying days, they brought back MTM and showed several episodes at, like, 3 am every Sunday night. Many's the time my ex-boyfriend L and I would still be wide awake with the pre-Monday blues, not willing to accept that the weekend was over before finally collapsing after MTM and getting a few hours sleep before work. Ugh.

The Bob Newhart Show (the older one with Suzanne Pleshette):
Another one from the same era. Suzanne as Bob's wife Emily was a great foil for Newhart. His gentle, self-effacing, low-key comedy was also very soothing. To me, Bob and Emily were the perfect childless urban couple--another set of role models for me. I loved their Chicago high rise apartment and the fact that at the end of the day they always snuggled in their big bed with the designer comforter and talked and joked together. If I remember correctly, the same network that showed MTM in the 80s also brought back Bob N--leading to even later Sunday night marathons.

This was a true guilty pleasure for me when I was twentysomething. Now that I'm fortysomething, I'd love to see those shows again. They had a marathon a few years ago one holiday weekend, but that's the last time I've seen it.

L hated that show, and I actually had to turn down the volume when it came on because he detested the opening theme tune so much. I guess it's what you might call "a chick's show," and I couldn't get enough of it, though I had no intention of settling in the burbs and having kids. For me, it was kind of like observing someone's older and more mature brothers and sisters being "real adults." I put myself on a wait list in case the show ever does become available on tape/DVD, but so far no go.

Anyone else out there miss these shows? Or are there any others that you wish they'd bring back?

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Now is the winter of my discontent

Snow Worker
Originally uploaded by kirby10011.
Indoor sunlight is a very big deal to me. My boyfriend BG tends to be a blinds drawn kind of guy, while I love to "let the sunshine in." So when I'm at my place downtown with my ex-boyfriend L, I love the fact that there's so many windows and the apartment gets an abundance of light from dawn to dusk.

Today the pale morning sun streaming through my downtown abode brought to mind the kind of unparalelled elation I once felt upon waking up the morning after with someone I'd just fallen in love with. There's that feeling that life is starting anew, and is truly worth living to the full.

But just the other day the skies were steel grey. We were having what may be the last snowfall of the season in New York after a very unseasonably warm winter. It's made for a peculiar--even bizarre--few months. Though mild weather is pleasant, of course, still and all I felt a bit gypped, because I'm one of those folks who thoroughly enjoys the changing seasons. I believe, literally and figuratively, that sunlight loses some of its significance without the cloudiness and darkness which sets it off, and the full joys of spring require, for me, enduring the ardors of the winter which precedes it.

So on this day I watched the snowfall, and observed the downtown skyline from one of the bedroom windows. The tops of the buildings were cut off by fog rather ominously , which brought to mind the melancholy fact that I would never again see the tip of the antennae from one of the towers of the World Trade Center from this window again.

Looking down, I could see the row of ancient four story tenements across the street, most of which are old synagoges. There are still a community of Orthodox Jews here, though many of the older members have died off. I imagine that some of the smaller shuls I see struggle mightily each day to get the quorum of twelve together that they need to conduct their morning and evening prayers, especially when the winter months make it hard for the old timers to climb up the steep steps leading up to the shul.

Despite it all, I daresay if I lived in Southern California I would be one unhappy camper. The unrelenting blue skys and bright sunshine would be as oppressive to me as the overabundance of rain in Seattle. I like snow, but not all winter long, as in Wisconsin. In short, I like to mix it up.

If New York had Southern California weather, I think it would lose some of its essential character and tough 'tude. For example, while watching Law and Order, whose outdoor scenes (if not the whole show) are filmed in NYC, seeing detectives in their overcoats huddled over a corpse dumped by the East River somehow seems more authentic to me than a similar scene on CSI: Miami. It just seems more like a vacation than a life or death vocation when you can sport a short sleeve shirt, with no need to turn up your collar to block out the cruel wind, while surveying mangled remains.

There's also something bizarre about living in a climate where a white Christmas is as rare as plague of locusts. Is there anything quite as comforting as coming in from the freezing cold into a nice warm house with gifts around the tree and a warm fireplace, or waking on a frighteningly cold weekend morning with the steam pipes whistling gently, keeping you cozy and warm while you smugly glance out your apartment window to see those poor sods battling the cruel weather outside? By the same token, Thanksgiving just doesn't seem right without that forboding purple-grey sky threatening snow or sleet, and Halloween doesn't sit well with me unless there's a distinct chill in the air.

The reason for my melancholy these past few winter days has to do with the fact that before long, I will no longer be able to see the winter in quite this way, from these windows, for we are, as I've mentioned many times, getting ready to sell our coop.

At times like this I recall the first winter we spent here. We'd moved from the glitzy Upper East Side down to the humble Lower East Side. Even as the surrounding neighborhood gradually became more hip, this little enclave of coops is still a little world unto itself, with a decidedly non-hip gestalt.

When we moved, our financial situation had become as austere as the bare-treed winter. Our credit cards were maxed out from all our fancy Upper East Side high living days, and we had to watch every penny. But this was both a valuable lesson to me as well as a rather enjoyable exercise, for I soon came to enjoy traveling from supermarket to supermarket following the weekly sales. Many's the weekend I spent shlepping groceries home on the bus because I loved the large (for Manhattan) Key Food on Avenue A--too far to walk back with heavy packages. There was a Pathmark not far from there, and a largish local supermarket two blocks down as well.

Rather than our old routine of eating out, I brought my treasures home and utilized my new eat-in kitchen to cook all sorts of dinners from scratch. I went from being an abysmal cook to a halfway decent one, and there was nothing quite like the smell of chicken or roast beef cooking in the oven to make me feel like a true homemaker at last.

On our first Christmas at our new apartment, my now ex-boyfriend L hung blinking Christmas lights in the living room windows and beautiful little globe lights around the perimeter of the bedroom windows. We kept the latter on all night long, and it was immensely comforting to sleep by the glow of these gently colorful orbs.

On the first night we hung the new lights up, we went out into the winter night and stood in front of our apartment building. Looking up, we could see our lights up there in our windows, and it was a humble epiphany that I will remember forever.

I can't honestly say that I don't look forward to the warm breezes of spring. For one thing, so many of my hypomanic episodes, large and small, seemed to coincide with this time of year that I have another set of cherished memories and ephiphanies to match the season. But it still saddens me that soon I will no longer be able to watch the seasons pass in my cherished downtown abode. Without these windows which have given me such an abundance of light and a unique perspective to the outside world, my view of the seasons will never be the same.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Carnival whose time has come...

What a great idea...the Carnival of the Bipolars has arrived! Two carnivals have been posted so far--one by Joel at Pax Nortona and the other by Dan at Scenes from a wasted life.

I'm somewhat familiar with blog carnivals, and have seen a lot of different formats, but I must say this carnival has to be the most inventive I've seen yet. Pure brilliance, you guys--but then, one would expect no less from my BP bretheren.

Hurry, hurry, step right up and check them out for the rollercoaster ride of a lifetime!

Friday, March 03, 2006

A big New York thank you--fuhgeddahboudit!

The Ghosts of Soho
Originally uploaded by Thomas Hawk.
I wanted to once again thank all my blogpals for their kind comments on the previous post. I'm working on a new "gloomfest" Shithouse piece right now (lol), but just wanted to say that your positive reactions to some of my old posts have encouraged me to gradually republish some of them on Blogcritics--along with the new pieces I'm writing there.

In the wee hours of Tuesday morning, I took a piece I'd posted here awhile back called New York Stories, tweaked the title and did a few minor edits, and reposted it over at Blogcritics. To my delight, it generated a nice number of comments, and I had a ball bantering back and forth and talking real estate with various folks. It quickly made it to the "hot topics" board and was named an Editor's Pick of the Week. I'm proud to say that in the two months I've been over at BC, this piece is the sixth Editor's Pick I've garnered.

I'd republished two other New York Story Shithouse posts to "the BC," and I now officially have a column called "New York Stories" for these kinds of essays. I plan to import some other New York stories I've printed here, as well as devise some new ones--so it's all good.

I'm grateful that I have a forum here where I can let it all out and kvetch, and my blogpals will understand and sympathize. It means so much to me, so thank you guys!