Saturday, December 6, 2008

Walked through a cemetery archway into a wood that hung so happily alone (Day 2)

Day two.

With Lamictal, I guess they want you to get into a regiment. The problem with that is, sometimes it feels like I spend half my day popping pills. I can honestly empathize with someone like Heath Ledger who might've just mixed up what he was taking.

I take, as a shortlist: Darvocet, Naproxen, Two different prescribed allergy medications, Lamictal (of course) and Ambien. Theres probably a few others out there, too.

The only things I'm noticing now with the Lamictal, though, are headaches and light is much more enhanced. But I continuously keep trying to wrack my brain to figure out if theres any other changes. Truthfully, it'll be about two weeks before I begin to notice it, if anything. Apparently it takes that period of time for it to enter the bloodstream.

To be quite honest, one thing that terrifies me is if I go through all of this, and don't even notice the transition. To go through this many years without any type of clue or answer, and looking through this narrowed scope and not seeing the light for as long as its been to not see a change feels like I've been wronged. Robbed of something that I feel I deserve to have an answer for.

But it also fascinates me, the process. I love Science. It's the one thing I feel I can hold a candle to, because so many other things seem to taper out; it's nice to know that while you're free-falling you will eventually hit the ground. How hard you hit is a different story altogether, but just knowing theres an end in sight is somewhat alleviating.

This process is kind of interesting. Being my own scientific experiment. The aim of these psych drugs is to alter and change chemistry of my brain.

So to be robbed of that I feel is nothing short of anti-climactic. Kind of like if the Joker would've given up his life of crime to pursue something in financial advising in the end. Thats not what you paid for, thats not what you'd want to get, right?

I'd almost rather have a Frankenstein-like transformation than nothing at all.

I don't know, I guess that's how I've always been.

But a lot lately, whats been on my mind is an old friend I'd had in the past.

For all intents and purposes, I'll call him "John".

John and I had grown up together. We'd been friends from Kindergarten until well after High School was a fading memory drowning in a swirling mass of ambrosia; wine and beer.

He'd been a fairly normal kid, except he had a tendency to do things his way, and his way only. A lot of the time it landed him in trouble, but to be quite honest it was a trait you couldn't really help but love about the guy. But around the sixth grade he'd started experiencing epileptic seizures, and his entire life changed.

His parents never really knew how to deal with him, and in a lot of ways he got the short end of the stick. It's not that his parents were abusive; quite the opposite actually. But they were fairly inattentive. I guess that sort of happens when both parents are very career-oriented (both are successful lawyers) and when you're the seventh or eighth kid, well it's not exactly unforgivable if attention runs thin.

But his parents really only became involved in John's life around the time he was well into his teenage years. To be quite honest, he spent more time at my house (I'm kind of an only kid. I say 'kind of' because I have a step-brother who was already married by the time my step-father and mother were married) and we really loved having him around. When he was with us, or others friends he didn't seem to be so neglected. There were a lot of amazing things about him, and you honestly wanted to spend a fair amount of time with him because he really, more often than not was such a pleasure to know.

The last few years of our friendship began taking strain. I'm not out to deliver any judgment or offer my opinions on the matter, but eventually as some stories go John began experimenting with drugs you don't really "experiment" with. The kind where long after you're done experimenting with them, they aren't quite done with you. And it broke my heart, but I never wanted him to feel, at the end of the road that he would be alone. Another close friend and her family of mine really did fantastic things as well, to let him know he was always accepted somewhere when the good times turned into bad days.

The last year of our friendship hurts, still. We'd always been quite different, but with me I get along better with people that could be solid colors to my striped patterns. It's always made more sense to me, those types of relationships. Why hang around something where theres no difference, no variation? The same song gets old and boring, the same story gets ignored and you wind up taking people for granted.

Theres more to learn from the story written in the sand than there is buried in the same textbook you've read for years, I feel.

I mean, we weren't completely alien to each other; most of the differences were in our tastes for pop culture. Thats fine, to be honest. We had similar senses of humor, and a lot of it was just an unspoken bond.

But that final year things began to break up, and for a long time I was angry because I hated losing someone who'd been my longest friend. Who I'd grown up with, who'd been there in some of the darkest moments of my life. I mean, I'd learned about the death of someone I'd loved immensely while sitting in his living room. I can honestly say the three people in that room were the only people to have ever seen me cry.

But there was a division growing. A lot of it was my fault, and I think thats where most of the anger came from. For so long I'd tried so hard, but I'd gotten really involved with some girl and I failed. I failed to notice the signs of where his head was at, and the dark path his life was taking him. I was so predisposed with the rigors of trying to maintain this relationship, I completely withdrew from anyone that wasn't really her.

One night after we'd hung out with him, my girlfriend at the time (now referred to as the Departed, or Weapon X depending on my mood). Anywho, John and I were leaving and he needed to pick up some seizure meds at CVS.

As we parked, he wound up just sitting there and I saw him weeping profusely. So we sat there for a few minutes listening to the engine hum, when he came out of the closet. It was almost right after the words were out of his mouth that he practically ran inside to get his medication. I had no idea what to say to him. It's not that I cared if he was gay or not; I couldn't stand the thought of him feeling like he had to hide himself all these years. I tried my best to support him, but at the moment what do you say without coming across condescending or patronizing?

The next few months he seemed to ease up. But he'd started dating off of internet sites that led to a particularly momentous occasion when a spurned lover shot up his house.

But being wrapped up in this girl, I failed to see him falling deeper and deeper into depression.

As all things must, things come to an end. Weapon X and I parted company. To put it in a less than savory term, she dumped me and fucked a guy a few streets down.

The problem was, I'd bought her an early birthday present to go check out Cursive on Halloween. When she declined to go, John opted to take her place just because I needed to get out. It was during this time John expressed his true blue opinions on Weapon X, saying some less than complimentary things to the tune of: "You can always find another slut."

When we got to the show, all I'd wanted to do was drink. So I went straight to the bar. If you're ever in Tempe, and wanna catch a show at the Marquee yourself a favor and visit the bar. The prices aren't as bad as you might think, and the staff are just great.

But right after we'd gotten into the venue, he'd begun decided to leave because the people were bothering him. So...we left.

After that night, I never saw him again.

About two years later I received a call from him. That was earlier this year, actually. He'd suffered two complete breakdowns that had led him to be institutionalized on both occasions. But his voice sounded so empty, shallow and lost. It wasn't really him.

That was the last I've heard from John, and there isn't a day that goes by I don't hope my phone rings and it's him again. I want him to be alright.

To close up today, I'd like to say thanks to everyone who took time out of their day to email me (which you can do at aaron.halewilliams at gmail dot com). Everyone had a lot of nice things to say, but I also feel bad. You don't need to worry about me in the least, especially you citizens of the western world: the economy is collapsing and it's the holidays. Theres a lot more things to worry about, and celebrate.

Celebrate life, and whatever is thrown your way. It could always be worse: you could be Jim Belushi. That'd fucking suck.

I'd also like to say a special thanks to a friend of mine, who's own blog actually inspired this one. I can't take credit wholly, but God damn I wish I could. She's went through a lot this year, and she's come out of it looking like a million bucks. Plus her blog is really good, and her photos are amazing. Thanks Velvet!

Go check her out at: Have Tumor, Will Travel.

I leave you with one last little bit. Some photos I took the other day.

Thats all for today. Thanks guys, and please spread the word, leave comments and enjoy yourself.

See you tomorrow.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Stand and deliver, and the Devil...he may take ya (Day 1.)

For some of you, you may be thinking, "Christ, another blog? I don't even like Piss and Vinegar. Others who might not be aware of Piss and Vinegar, hey...check it out. It's a lot different from this blog.

And for the one or two of you who might be thinking, "I like Piss and Vinegar, what's going to happen to it?" Well, rest assured. It's not going anywhere, although it won't be updated nearly as often as Days Gone By.

All of my life I've dealt with extended bouts of depression. Which I guess most people do, because hey...such is life. Such if life, I suppose. But right around the age of twelve they began to become quite extended, sometimes for weeks on end. A lot of it led to these small bouts of anger where I literally could not control what was happening.

As time progressed it got a lot worse, at which point I began to attempt to counteract it with humor. And it's strange, when you think about it, how it's the person making people laugh the loudest, and joking the most...thats the one that needs to be watched closely. Just look at Richard Jeni.

By the time I was in High School though, it sort of came to a head. One afternoon, I'd make a joke about hanging myself in the auditorium in celebration of another Pep Rally. This off the cuff comment landed me square in the chair of a psychiatrist who'd came all the way from Phoenix to have a word with me. By the end of a very, very (very) lengthy session it was determined I was manic depressive/bi-polar disorder. Enough so that it was suggested I seek further help and get on medication.

I have, and always have had a strong disposition towards psychiatric medication. Not against anyone else taking it, but for myself solely, because taking those pills equaled so many things in my mind. It equaled weakness, it felt embarrassing that I couldn't function like a normal person and had to have the aide of something to dictate my moods and thought process. It still feels somewhat embarrassing; I feel weak and completely helpless and useless on one hand, and the other side of the coin tells me its okay, that sometimes you need assistance. You wouldn't continue (logically, I mean you might. Some people do.) driving a car 2,000 miles past when an oil change was needed. If a belt slipped, you'd replace it. But its so confusing, and right now its very polarizing inside my own head even.

But mostly I worried that I wouldn't be able to continue writing. Last year I lived for a good portion of the year in Albany, New York. During that time I had the longest bout of writers block I'd ever had. I also felt numb the entire year, and I truly believe that had a lot to do with it.

I can't write unless I'm having an episode. When it feels like the entire world is crumbling inside myself, when I feel the familiar pangs of a panic attack lurking is when I feel I'm capable of writing. And so my biggest fear is that by going on these psychiatric meds, I sacrifice the biggest part of me just to be like everyone else. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that.

But I never went on the meds in High School. In the end not having health insurance, and other pressing medical maladies took precedence over being crazy.

But the longer it went, the more drastic and impulsive the spells were. Instead of finishing out High School and walking, I wound up dropping out a month before graduation. There are a few benefactors as to why; I'd completely blown out my right knee and missed a fuck-ton of school. Coupled with being crazy and on a lot of hydrocodone, it got to the point where the principal and nurse would get involved by waiting with security at the gates for me to not allow me on campus because of the narcotics I was on. I'd also had enough of everyone and everything seeming so fake, so one day I just...stopped going.

After about a year I'd been working at a hotel. I probably can't say the name, but I will say this; that Inn was quite Comfortable. After a while, things had been mounting up and panic attacks were becoming quite frequent, so I quit. The pressures of the job were astounding for such a shittily paying job. For example, it wasn't uncommon for me to wind up working...16-26 hour shifts a few times a week.

So one day I put in my two weeks. And I did what any self respecting self-deprecator would do, I went home and I drank. After about a week of drinking and blowing off steam, I received a phone call from my former boss asking me to work another night, as the person I'd train to replace me couldn't handle the infrequent hours. I agreed too, but I was also good and drunk, too.

Going to work drunk is the ultimate culmination of freedom...and it might just be why America is so great. Especially if you're like me, and hide your intoxications well.

But the problem with booze, and having a nice good drunken feeling going'll eventually fade without provocation of more booze. Around two am I had my first bout of psychosis, which thankfully was my only dance with Lady Lock-up.

Because I was a night auditor, I basically was alone. To tell you the truth I don't remember much, except while it was happening having enough wherewithal to lock the door, put up a no-vacancy sign, and get to a room where there weren't objects to hurt myself.

It lasted for a few hours until I realized I was bleeding from the nose, and had a bunch of my hair in my hands, and on the floor. Not a good look for anyone, I don't think. I don't remember anything else from that night except walking home and sleeping for 16 hours, which...I don't normally get more than three-five regularly.

The coming week, the best I can explain it as...I stopped sleeping, and I felt like a zombified version of myself. My drinking had increased substantially, and it was during this time that I drank pretty much four times a week anyway.

But you get to this point where you just...want to give up. Every moment feels like Hell, and theres no way out of it. Your heart races, and its the culmination of being scared, apathetic, nervous, elated, depressed and scared all in one. Your throat constricts and your thinking becomes erratic. Enough so that it never stops.

And all I wanted was to not feel anything.

It got to the point where I decided suicide was the one thing that made sense, and I prepared to down a whole bottle worth of hydrocodone and naproxen and just fuck it.

Instead I was on the next flight out to Los Angeles. I'll reserve that for another time.

The third big episode I had came directly after a break-up that lead me to move to Albany.

Recently I got on Government Health Care for the State of Arizona. It's called ACHHHS, and it's been very good to me. It's helped me catch (early) melanoma, it's helped with my re-occurring knee issue, as well as other issues.

But about six weeks ago I felt another episode forming. A lot's happened this year, and I don't deal with my own issues. I just don't have the heart anymore to try. It led me to have a long and serious introspection: What I decided was, I felt like I should have been institutionalized. I have more gun-in-the-mouth fantasies than I think are...well, healthy.

I started the process, and saw a few doctors in the span of less than four hours. I was 'advised' to come in for a psych-evaluation, which is similar to what happened back in High School. At the end, I was prescribed Ambien for my sleep issues, and Lamictal. The side-effects scare me to no end. Especially with my skin having a fancy for skin cancer.

For the next fourteen-days I will be taking one tablet of 25mg Lamictal. At the end of the fourteen-days, it's to be increased to two tablets a day until the 25mg is out. Once that ends, I begin taking one 100mg tablet of Lamictal a day for seven days. Once the period of seven days has passed, the dosage increases to two tablets a day. After this is done, I return to visit the psychiatrist and we see where things are, and continue taking it for...basically the rest of my life, as well as whatever added medication for depression.

Lamictal acts as anti-seizure medication, as well as being a mood stabilizer.

(Yes, that is a rubiks cube I mastered. Be jealous.)

The smaller ones are the 25mg's, and the big ones are the 100mg's.

I have to's strange looking at something that can possibly be the rest of your life in the palm of your hand.

After the first day, I've had headaches and been somewhat disoriented. I don't know how I feel right now, and it can take some time before I notice any time of change.

Feel free to email me at: aaron.halewilliams at gmail dot com. Please do if this is something you go through as well, or have went through. Please spread the word.

Thanks guys, I'll talk to you tomorrow.