Maintaining a Write-to-Live Attitude in the Social Media Era

I feel sorry for my English professor who wanted to put my essay up for an award! The glare I gave him and the lack of response: it was, at its best, very rude.

 

The fact is, I only learned it bothered him because my best friend who was fifteen years older than me got an invite to the professor’s house for dinner. My friend who had a lifetime of experience using and dealing drugs reported that the professor had called his cute, sleeping hound a beast repeatedly throughout the night and talked about how alcohol was his drug of choice while toasting his guest’s sobriety. However, my friend reported, when it came to me, the professor admitted that he just didn’t know what to say.

 

“I think I know what that kid’s problem is,” the professor had conceded.

 

Continue reading “Maintaining a Write-to-Live Attitude in the Social Media Era”

A Vacation Day for a Schizophrenic:

Fifteen years ago, I remember hearing a psychiatrist who had just been away for two weeks say, “There is no such thing as a vacation when you are schizophrenic!” As an unlicensed professional vying to get a staff position on the unit, I had carefully avoided rolling my eyes. I had politely nodded my head as though it had been a thoughtful thing to say.

***

This year’s weekend of April 1st, my wife supports me in insisting that we take a vacation day. She packs up her hybrid SUV with camping materials and when I finish my Friday commute, we hit the interstate headed north. We plan to camp and hike at the Kings Range on the Lost Coast in Humboldt County, but we know even before we sift through the remains of the Bay Area traffic, there’s no way we are going to make it the whole way.

We make it to the city of Ukiah and drive until we find a Safeway. I am about ready to drop as we load our shit into the front of the car and depart to hit the restroom. We pass the panhandlers and the no camping sign and I start to stress about the possibility that the security will force us to move on in the middle of the night.

“Don’t worry about it my boobie,” says my wife.

I look into the eyes of a particular panhandler and hate our privilege. There sure are a significant amount of late night shoppers who are finishing their long weeks. I ponder the meaning of it all over the urinal. After we regroup, we steal into the back of the SUV.

Continue reading “A Vacation Day for a Schizophrenic:”

On a Writer’s Need for Acknowledgement

Ever since I finally, at the age of forty-three, published some of my writing, I’ve found that I am particularly prone to pain again. Ever since, each morning I have woken up driven to find ways to get people to read my book.

A year and a month later, I have primarily had to pay people to check out my work. There are those who accepted the free book without giving it a read, let alone write promised reviews. Sure the memoir itself has collected two awards and primarily five star reviews, but amid the boom of self-published authors I find myself more hurt by the silent echo, than grateful to the friends who have read, and not balked.

After a tough week,  I find  this pain expounding itself through every facet of my consciousness. I am out walking with my wife and I think about how psychiatrists have hustled me through explanation of my psychotherapy; about the numerous presentations I have provided that ended up empty; about leaders of the psychiatric survivors movement who promote those with less experience; about the presentation when I had people finally laughing and listening to me, and the smoke bomb that forced evacuation. There were past company owners who hired me, ignored statistics as I worked sixty hour weeks and demoted me . . .

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Honoring traditions that helped me escape:

My revolt against my father’s and my family’s legacy was not well understood without lists of psychiatric labels. Now, as I am preparing to honor my father in a seventy-fifth birthday reunion in the belly of the beast from which I fled, I have a better sense of how I let the traditions of my family down.

The reunion is to happen in a small company town in upstate New York that was founded a century ago. The town provided timber for city-folk and funded a family structure that I have chosen to leave. Those profits are perhaps dwindling due to close of the family business in the fifties. As far as I know, the just property taxes that exist for swaths of vacation property that remain kill any kind of profit. My father has honorably and at times thanklessly managed the whole deal for us all.

The gifts that I was given: Continue reading “Honoring traditions that helped me escape:”

Learning Life’s Lessons in the Least Likely of Places

I look out the window feeling like I am straight out of the mental institution as my wife’s SUV pulls off the freeway toward the Marriot Hotel. We are on our way to visit my wife’s dear friend and goddaughter at an Irish Dance competition. I know I will be feeling straight out of it: trying not to let my face go flat; exhibiting all the buoyant pleasantries. It is one of those rare occasions that I will be integrating with the “Normal” folk. I dread this. Often all I learn in these kinds of contexts is that I am less than.

Perhaps I feel this way because I work nine to five in a mental health ward that serves inner-city Boston in the Roxbury neighborhood. I have done this for thirteen years.  I work with an extremely deprived lot of people and it can be hard to leave it behind.  Before that I was underemployed for a significant amount of time having just moved into Boston from an out-of-state, State Hospital where I was an inmate for three months.

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