On Work and Love

I’m plugging away with two jobs right now. I’m not really in high gear yet, but it’s going to steadily rise over the next few weeks. I’ve been cast in an adaptation of a turn of the century French farce called ‘A Flea in Her Ear’. I’ll be portraying Rugby, a randy English guest at the hotel the second act takes place in. I’m also Stage Managing said production. Ergo, things are going to pick up fast. However, I feel I can handle it. Things have been pretty chill lately. My health insurance went through and I finally got my ADHD meds. It’s too early to say if they’re helping or not as I start tomorrow, but I’m quite pleased to have that paperwork mess behind me. Playing phone quarterback between pharmacy, doctor’s office AND insurance company is absulutely agonizing. Has to be done, things being what they are. Still though, ick.

So yeah, I’ve never Stage Managed a show I’m in before. New challenge. Woo! It’s been slowly occuring to me that theatre could well be my ticket out of working in the kitchen. The local college has a technical theatre program I’m simply itching to check out. But… I have to wait a bit and keep doing what I’m doing. None of this will happen without a car or better money. If at all possible I have to maintain bank hours as it allows me to do nights and weekends in theatre. It’s what I love doing and I would therefore be a fool of profound magnitude to not pursue it.

I’m serious. I feel like in the nearly three years I’ve been at that Playhouse I’ve been slowly building my skills and knowledge. It’s time to go full steam with it and turn all this work into something I can live off. Getting off of disability was a good start. However, I need to challenge myself and do what I know in my heart I want to do. Acting is great. I love it. Paid acting would be neat too, but I want to really learn all the ins and outs of tech theatre, particularly lighting.

There were many times in my twenties I felt myself collapsing under the weight of my own angst and frustration. How I survived is honestly a bit of a puzzle to me. I’ve just calmed down a bit with age I suppose. With experience comes learning. A lot of that stuff I’ve just done my best to let go of and try to focus on the perplexing beauty of life’s many manifestations.

Between getting out of an awful relationship that sucked the life out of me and getting off the crazy check I feel something I’ve not felt in a while. Confident. Hopeful as well. Aside from that things have been pretty chill. Got some Bloom County, my King Diamond albums, and many other forms of nerdery at my disposal. All of which are keeping me highly amused. Little by little things fall in place for me as long as I maintain a state of steadfast persistence.

Spiritually I’m always in a very strange place. Having grown up with Catholic influence and having attended an Orthodox Church for a time, I do basically identify as a Christian. However, I lean more toward an esoteric understanding in the vein of Rosicrucianism and/or Gnosticism. I believe Christianity is a mystery religion with many mystical facets not known to the masses. I also highly disagree with the rote memorization, fanaticism and legalism of the various forms of Church Orthodoxy.  Simply not my cup of tea.

Anyhow, I feel that in a very real sense that my star is slowly but surely rising. Let’s see where it goes, eh?

Feral Sensibilities

Civilization can be such a loaded and ugly term. I mean, sure I’ll admit there are things that I do in the name of such. I was raised to act like a moderately sentient being who doesn’t spend all his time boozin’ and whorin’ and chewing on the language. But as a mentally interesting person there are many ways I’m abundantly familiar with how the word civilization and the standards and practices thereof can conjure graphic feelings of oppression, even horror. I’m NOT going on some Wah-Wah Scientology style anti-Psychiatry rant. I do not wish to flavor this as some sort of sob story about mein struggle or something like that. What I’m getting at is a bit more subtle.

What is sanity? Who gets to define it, or further, to treat it? At what precise point does a person stop being ‘creative’ and become divorced from reality? Why do some people manage to stay relatively functional besides the fact of being basically ‘out to lunch’? These are some of the questions vexing me here as I sit typing to the soundtrack of ‘Don’t Break the Oath’ by Mercyful Fate.

I MYSELF have not, by and large had that bad of an experience with mental health people. I’ve had a few gripes I’ve been powerless to resolve, but by and large I’ve been one of the fortunate ones. A lot of folks never return to work after two severe breakdowns and several hospitalizations. But I have seen people treated like dirt by mental health professionals. People sometimes say I’m crazy. I can live with that. What I feel in such situations is like how politicians make me feel. My gut reaction?

WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TO JUDGE ME?

All hyperbole aside, I’m attempting to be serious here. I don’t begrudge the psychiatric system it’s existence or the things it’s done to chill me the hell out. I’ll be the first to admit I’m a pretty ugly sight when I’m flipping out. In spite of that, I’ve managed to strike something approaching of a relative balance between “civilization” and my more feral sensibilities.

Feral, you say? Yup. Although perhaps primal is more what I’m driving at with it. That which refuses to be tamed, put in a box or otherwise annoyingly inhibited. That which spits and shrieks with pure unbridled fury into the cold void of hell’s machinations striking fear into all which lives. Or something like that.

I like intensity. It’s why I’m a spicy food-crazy Metalhead. It’s why my favorite beers are Stouts and Porters. It’s how I find the energy to roll out of bed before the sun every day. I wake up and look forward to some new form of toe-curling experience, be it music, food or beverage, historical tidbit or whatever else happens to strike my fancy at the time. It’s the very reason I draw breath instead of just playing in traffic. Because I am endlessly fascinated.

Case in point: I once saw the legendary Thrash Metal Band Slayer in Tampa. It was magnificent. Started slow with the opening bands. However, I staked out a spot by the stage and did not let go all night. Slayer was a twisted, sweaty churning mass of screaming gnashing I dare say FERAL behavior. Not people hurting one another, just an incredible release of energy. Slayer was the loudest band I have ever heard in my life. I was ground zero. The low end practically made me nauseous. In retrospect, a terrible thing to do to my hearing. Bah, I regret nothing.

I love Metal and I love going to shows. I feel like it keeps me in steady congress with the most raw and unspoiled essence of my being. It keeps me happy and it keeps me whole, the sense of wonder it brings to my life. Every time I sew a patch on my battle vest, every time I meet a Musician, every time I get a mail order anything. It is the one thing I truly nerd out over besides theatre.

I mean, some people have spider man comics, I have a signed ‘Resurrection of the Ancient Black Earth’ EP by Sadistic Intent. Some people go to cons, I go to see Napalm Death. It has seriously gotten me to where I am now and by that I mean, alive, kicking and not bored to tears. The real beauty of it is how incredibly diverse and spread out it is. You go to parts of the world outside of Europe and the US and it’s simply EXPLODING. The oldschool spirit is alive in so many countries which just came out from under longtime military dictatorships. It’s so inspiring in so many ways.

So yeah, I’ll settle at this point to call myself a semi-feral human. It seems to be working pretty well for me. I was in a lousy relationship for a few years and it just sucked the life out of me. For all I tried it was just a bad situation. As I made the final push to get this person out of my life, I was in the middle of a run of ‘Guys and Dolls’. As lousy as things were on the home front, I didn’t care. I was having so much fun with my 5 parts in that show that nothing else really existed.

Can a person who’s on 3 mg of Risperdal justifiably call himself semi-feral? I suppose I’ll have to leave that to you to decide. I do the best I can. I go to work, try not to smoke or drink too much, pay my taxes and all the other normal people stuff I can think of. Then I snicker and mutter ‘Normal? Is THAT what I am?’

I suppose I’m not that strange a person. I’m just a man of many moods, faces and thoughts I suppose. Theatre just enables me to see things I might not otherwise experience. As my buddy TJ said “Some of the best times of my life were spent pretending to be someone else”. Personally I find a great deal of merit and value in that statement.

I don’t know. As many have said before me “I just do what I do’. Perhaps it’s not that simple. I mean, I tend to sigh and eye-roll at people who think that their self-righteous musings are going to enlighten people or change the world. I just try to communicate experience to the best of my ability. I mean, I don’t have that much, but I do have some.

Work goes okay, my insurance stuff is all sorted out and I should start ADHD meds in a few days. The job goes well, and I just recently conquered my bit of nerves and auditioned for a play. It’s an adaptation of a French Farce called ‘A Flea in Her Ear’. Should be good fun. Even if I don’t get a part, I’m glad I did it. I’ve been in four shows and this is the very first I’ve auditioned for. I didn’t want to get a reputation of being that guy who just gets handed parts. They were roles that were unfilled after auditions that I helped out by stepping into. I’m glad it did. Theatre and Metal have the same core purpose: Conquering one’s fear.

Isn’t that what it’s all about?
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Pressing Forth…

It’s simply the only option. What am I going to do? Shrivel away into nothingness? I THINK NOT!!!! Such behavior can seem alluring, even seductive like poppy juice…. for a glaringly similar reason. It is a dead-end.

Words fail to describe how useless I find such nonsense. I have no time for that which is counter-productive. I’ve wasted far too much time already on meaningless dreck.

Perhaps I should share some background to put my ramblings into a more proper context. I am mentally ill. Garden Variety Classic Bipolar type One and Severe ADHD. I have recently started working full time again after nearly five years on Disability Benefits. I am sore, tired and chewed up. I am also grateful to be back in relative control of my own destiny. It’s been troubling for me since my last mental collapse (2009) trying to manage my life. Through years of therapy, neuroleptic drugs and staying out of trouble I’ve been slowly but surely cobbling my life back together. It has not been easy by any stretch of the imagination. However, I can in all honesty say it has been worth it.

I almost cracked again from the pressure, to be completely truthful. I was flagged for review before I was truly well. I appealed the termination decision and may end up owing back my last year of SSDI payments. I plan to appeal, as I don’t think I should be punished for getting better. I switched from Lithium to Risperdal after filing the extension of benefits. This simple shift in my medications has made a world of difference in my degree of overall functionality. It was not until this point I felt comfortable dropping my case with Social Security. Anyhow, I’ll see how that unfolds. If I owe, I owe. I’m not going to lose my mind over a chunk of change, It simply is NOT worth it. That’s part of how I know I’m doing better is that I don’t let things eat away at me nearly as much as in days passed.

All that aside, I’m okay. I’m working as a prep cook. Money isn’t great but I’ve at least got bills covered. I do, however hope to get into something more lucrative eventually. ADHD is still a problem. It has been for years. Part of the reason getting off Lithium was such a good move is that it made so many medications toxic and/or dangerous to take. Including ADHD drugs. The only ones I could take (provigil/nuvigil) were so expensive my insurance company stalled paying for it constantly. Oh, Insurance. Another subject of interest of late.

I’ve been without medicare for a few months and finally caved and bought a private policy. I got a sweet tax credit so I was able to get a silver Florida Blue plan for cheap. How this relates to my ADHD is as follows:

Stopping lithium opened up a plethora of ADHD med possibilities for me. My new Psych Dr. is trying a low dose of Adderal XR in hopes that it will improve my attention span. I am happy to finally actually be getting some treatment for this.

Little by little, things are falling in place. I dare say, I may finally be on the right track.

For years I was drowning in my own irrationality, paranoia and seething fear. With recent developments as of the last few months I feel something I’ve not felt for years: Stable. Confident. Functional. I’m certain some of this has come from my continuing involvement in theatre and the lovely theatrical people who keep me whole,This blog has also been extremely helpful as a personal ‘research tool’ of sorts. I plan to be more diligent about it and maybe bring back and reflect on some older content as well as generating some new content. The introspection I get from this is extremely valuable to me.

I wish I could give a little of this newly found  confidence to those who currently struggle with mental health issues. It’s a gut-wrenching process of trial and error. Especially in Florida, with such a fragmented system to navigate.  But damn it, PERSISTENCE PAYS OFF!!!!

Aside from that, I recently attended my first Metal show in many years. Exhumed, Voivod, Iron Reagan and Napalm Death. It was incredible. Here’s a shot of me and my friend’s Kitty Sammich after the show!

Seriously- I am reborn #invictus
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Articulation and Small Victories

It’s a crucial facet of living the meaningful life. Purpose in addition to the understanding thereof. I’ve covered a decent amount of territory with this humble weblog, but still I am disappointed with it. I mean, I’ve expressed a great many feelings and ideas, but I must confess it’s been a bit sloppy and slapdash. Such has been a creeping problem for some time, although things ARE improving. More on that later. In the meantime, articulation.

Thombot One: ‘So you say you aren’t happy with the existing history of your blog, eh Thom? What exactly troubles you?’

Thombot Two: ‘The time I’ve squandered on less than high quality thinking and exposition. I feel that I am failing my ideas by not properly using and applying them to my constantly self destructive body of work. Also, getting distracted from the original purpose of this blog has caused me much distress.’

T1: ‘Which purpose would that be?’

T2: ‘Being a vehicle from which I can derive insight, perspective and catharsis regarding my own experiences as a Bipolar ADHD eccentric as well as hopefully being something I could possibly use to help others who struggle with similar quirks’.

T1: ‘Was this snippet of dialogue worth staging simply for referring to your inner ebb and flow as T1 and T2?’

T2: ‘Yeah, I had fun.’

All wryness aside, I think I’ve unearthed it, I got too sprawling with my thoughts. This post as well as those to follow are something of a Favente Deo Supero Fundamentalist Revival. I don’t mean the Christian variety, either.  All Fundamentalism really implies is getting back to basics.

I don’t want to wax poetic over world affairs or *vomit* social justice. I’m not on a Crusade or a Jihad. I don’t plan on trying to convert anyone to my way of thinking. I honor the divine spark within my readers far too much to try to create a private army of ideological allies.

All I intend to do is share experience, honor that which I love and occasionally speak to my dearly departed. Sounds simple enough, although it can be quite the recipe for tangential black holes. But in all seriousness, up to this point it’s like I’ve had a simple enough framework that I’ve refused to adhere to. Enough of that, says I.

You may have noticed a new look. The header is a picture I took of the Florida Swamp near where I live. Back to basics is my jam of late. Getting in a somewhat selective frame of mind. Cultivating the valuable friends and discarding that which I do not need. Cut. Paste. Apply. Final Answer?

Not bloody yet. Now I get to that which I alluded to earlier. Now to apply a bit of the chutzpah I’ve only hinted of.  I am almost completely off Lithium in favor of Risperdal, I still have a modest dose of Lithium, but the Risperdal is doing pretty much all the work now. It’s the quiet cool. Aside from it working I barely feel like I’m on anything.

This is significant, methinks. I had no idea how emotionally and intellectually blunted I was from two years and some change on Lithium. It was just for a bit, but the first day or two ramping the Lithium down was the first time in years I honestly had the release of a decent cry. It was brief but much needed. If there’s no release because of your meds you just go batty faster in my experience.

Risperdal is pretty awesome in comparison. I feel as if I’ve regained some IQ points. I still totally need an ADHD med. Of this I am certain. But Risperdal has calmed my nerves in a far more subtle and effective way. I’m not streaking my way through a research paper but…. I can at least relatively speaking manage my day and handle a reasonably large list of tasks without going to pieces. These are the kind of things I’m talking about when I speak of small victories. Sometimes they’re the only ones you really get.

Provigil is great as an ADHD med but it’s impossibly expensive without insurance. Even with insurance it’s troublesome. But now…. I have more options now that I’m almost completely off lithium. That was part of the reasoning as well as being pretty well terrified of the health risks of long term exposure to lithium carbonate. It can completely ravage one’s kidneys. No thanks. My Dr. basically said Lithium isn’t worth it unless you’re getting great results. I’m inclined to agree.

In other news, I terminated my appeal for SSDI and am back at work regularly. I’m doing my best with it. I prep food at two stores for the same company. It’s whatever. I’m really trying not to get down on myself for the fact that I still do this kind of work. It truly is superior to no job.

So ja. That’s about where I’m at. Namaste.

The continuing adventures of a Bipolar ADHD Metalhead

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