Saturday, July 26, 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

When I Grow Up

I went to the brain doctor on Monday without any good news and the bad news was old news.

After a year of seeing him I've finally made him understand that more people in my life isn't the way to increase my happiness for the long term. In short visits I can, and often do, feel better spending time with people I know well and like and trust. Once those visits hit a certain point, I start getting uncomfortable and feeling icky. Long term is never good.

The thing is, he said, that for people with my level of depression having them go out with people and visiting friends and family all the time would be his first suggestion. For most people it works and he's pretty much been pushing this idea on me for a year. Monday, he didn't.

Instead of focusing on a social life he switched gears to my work life. It started with how I feel about my current job, which is okay. I don't LOVE or really like my job, but I don't dislike or HATE it, either. It just is. The people are nice enough and seem to be here more to work than make others look like fools. My boss is great and trusts me. The actual work is mostly mind-numbing and repetitive, but sometimes there're things that require real brain power. The pay's okay. It's not going to buy me the house and land I'd like, but I can rent comfortably and not worry about shopping or going to plays or visiting people to the North or to the South. It's not a bad job, but if offered full pay I'd rather not come each day.

He then asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up and the honest answer I gave him is I don't know. Everything I've said in the past -- engineer, lawyer, writer, WWE Superstar, astronaut-fireman-president, etc. -- aren't wrong answers, but they were answers to get people to stop asking me about the future. I told him that there isn't one job I can think of that I wouldn't be happy to retire from or forced to stop doing because of some horrible physical problem. I look at my parents as they approach retirement and I can see them missing things.

My dad loves working with the students at the community college. He loves helping them put together an education plan to help guide them through their years at the school. I think he'll be glad to leave the daily grind of his job when he retires, but I think he'll miss the students. I've told him that he's going to go back and help out a few times a year and it won't be about the money, but the time he gets to spend helping people.

My mom, on the other hand, won't miss her job at all. She won't miss the kids or the teachers or the administration. When she retires she plans on doing her art and selling it and her art is the thing she will miss if she can't do it. Hell, I've seen it for years. Because of the high stress levels at school she doesn't art off and it makes her sad. On those few weekends when she does art off she's rejuvenated, at least in the moment. When she gets to the point that she can art off most of the week and then she gets to a point where she can't art off anymore she'll be crushed.

I don't have anything like that. Yeah, if I have my eyes pecked out by a canary I'll miss reading, but there are still books and tapes (anachronistic) and television to listen to for stories.

What do I like doing besides read? he asked. I like to cook and bake, I said. So the brain doctor tried to come up with something I could do in that area, as if I hadn't thought about it before. I'd go nuts working a line, just flipping burgers or putting on the condiments or taking orders. So many people to deal with. At my own place it would be even harder because I'd have to depend on and trust other people. There's no way I could do everything. If I wanted to be in the back and never come out then I'd need people to wait and take orders and handle the cash and do the books and I don't have it in me to trust **anyone** that much. The only way I could see me being happy is if I had a window and I could make whatever I wanted to make and sell it and when the food is gone it's gone, too bad for the next person.

He suggested getting into publishing. To which I replied that I'd have to move to a big city, a place I don't want to be, and start at the bottom and push to make quotas and harass people who are running late. Then he tried to suggest doing something with publishing online and I explained that most online publishing are vanity presses and not real publishers.

He then asked what I'd really like to do. I said I'd like to be paid to lay on a couch all day reading. I'd like to be an eccentric billionaire, I said. He asked if that would make me happy and I said that I don't know, but I'd feel safe. We bounced around on this for a while, discussing things that I like to do and how to feel safe in my life. Nothing was resolved. And in the end he told me to keep thinking about what I like to do so that I can find a job that will make me happy. I said okay, but I don't believe anything'll happen.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Storm

I love thunderstorms in California during the summer. The temperature always drops because the air is so dry and the smell of petrichor is strong in the air for a long time.

Friday, July 18, 2014

YOLO?

If I were to die tonight I'd die with
no regrets. There's plenty that's not yet done
and I know that I will not do a fifth
of what's half planned. For what is not begun
can only be missed through dreams in the day.
The meaning of dreams comes from the meaning
we give. What we think is told, dreams don't say.
All dreams do is a little brain cleaning.
Each day I re-decide that what I did
or did not do was what I required.
Why regret the outcome? Heaven forbid
I work through what may be undesired.
Still, while I'm young I keep regretting it
and must wait for age to be forgetting it.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I went to the theater last night and saw the Broadway version of Mary Poppins.

It was different from the movie in many ways. The best difference was not making Winifred a suffragette. When I was little I didn't know what a suffragette was. All I knew was that Sister suffragette was a fun song to sing along and was funny. As I grew and learned about the suffrage movement in Britain and what so many of the women went through the song stayed funny, but the way Winifred just turned her back on the movement because her husband suddenly realized how important his family is never sat right with me. Sometimes it really bothers me. Especially when I learned it wasn't in the books.

The reason that the suffragette stuff was added was, probably, to allow American audiences be okay with the family having a nanny. Nannies haven't ever been a common thing in the US, especially among the middle class, even the upper-middle class, but in England nannies were used by anyone who could afford one. If Mrs. Banks hadn't had an obsession that kept her out of the house all day American audience would have been left wondering why the family needed a nanny when they already had a cook and a housekeeper. Why couldn't Winifred take care of her own children?

*** Culture clash! FIGHT! ***

So, the suffragette thing was cut, thankfully. Mr. Banks pretty much declares that having a nanny is a status symbol. A way to free up his wife's time and allow her to throw parties for the "right" people. By putting this in there it shows where the older Banks's priorities lie and allow Jane and Michael a visible reason for their anger and resentment toward their nannies. They see their mother at home all day, but she doesn't spend time with them. At the same time she's conflicted because she wants to spend time with them, but she also wants to please her husband and help him in any way she can.

Other changes I liked:

The games Mary Poppins played with the kids, like Walk-in-the-Park. Walk-in-the-Park is exactly what it sounds like, Mary Poppins and the children go for a walk in the park. Michael complains because a walk in the park is not a game, at which point things begin to change, including a statue. Out comes Mary Poppins and Burt dressed up finely and they sing Jolly Holiday, with adjusted lyrics. Other games involve cleaning up the kitchen, and visiting the bank. Of course none of them are as straight forward as they seem.

I enjoyed the new supercalifragilisticexpialidocious scene and most of the changes to the song. The scene takes place in a shop where you can buy conversation. Mary Poppins only wanted an ounce, but ended up having to buy letters to find the conversation.

Changes I didn't so much care for:

"Chim Chim Cher-ee" is used a lot to transition scenes, but the new reprises seemed off. The meter didn't seem to fit properly. Maybe it was the guy playing Burt. I'm not sure. It's especially disheartening because I always wanted Burt doing more chim chim cher-ee-ing in the movie.

They cut out Mr. Banks's first song where he talks about how perfect and disciplined his life is. Yes, it was replaced with a song with a similar theme, but the new song doesn't have the same joy as the old song. In the old song you could hear how much Mr. Banks likes his life. How much he revels in the "order" he's achieved. The new song is somber and it sounds like Mr. Banks doesn't actually believe what he's singing, he just thinks it's how he should act.

The song in the bank was cut out, too. To be fair, it wouldn't have made sense anymore and I do like the bank stuff in the play, but the original bank song is so much fun and who doesn't get creeped out as the old men slowly circle Jane and Michael and then get closer and closer to the children before stealing Michael’s money. It's a spectacular scene and song in the movie that has no place in the play, but was sorely missed by me.

Other things:

"Step in Time" is just as pointless in the play as it is in the movie. Sure they add some lyrics to try to make it seem like there's a message, but, like the movie, it's all about the dancing. The dancing is good in both, but it doesn't do anything for the story or for the characters. Well, maybe Mary Poppins and her need to be the best with her magical spinning, but that's it.

I've never been so touched by "Feed the Birds" as I was last night when I heard it sung live. The song was sung by the bird lady and Mary Poppins. The bird lady sung her request for money and Mary Poppins filled in the story. It was lovely and I ached a bit, in a good way, when I heard it. Quite lovely.

The songs from the move were simply better than the new songs. They're just catchier, easier for normal folks to learn and sing. The new songs just aren't. However, the new songs do drive the story and characters better than the old songs.

There's an anti-Mary Poppins. She's outrageous and her song is very funny. I wish she'd been around longer, but the battle between her and Mary Poppins was great.

What I hated:

Burt sang "Let's Go Fly a Kite" to try to cheer up the kids and taught them to fly a kite rather than being Mr. Banks's demonstration of love for his children. In the movie it was the final song, the culmination of everything Mary Poppins was teaching the whole family. Instead the last song is about reaching beyond what you desire so you get your desire and more. It's a good message song, but it isn't strong for the characters. After that song the plot gets tied up as you'd expect and the cast does a reprise of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." The ending felt weak, to me. There's the promise that Mr. Banks will spend more time with his family and everything will be happy ever after, but this ending doesn't show the happiness. They really should have kept "Let's Go Fly a Kite" as the closing number.

Despite the weak ending, I enjoyed the play. I'd see it again, but it'll never be able to replace the movie.

Monday, July 07, 2014

There and Back Again

My accidental experiment with the generic version of my medication was a failure. But a relatively cheap failure.

Twice I have ordered 90-day supplies of the meds. Twice I have shelled out more than $400 dollars because I nearly did the s-word on the generics. The name brand didn't work as well at it should have, though. When I found myself thinking a lot about the s-word and had to remind myself not to do or to do certain things because of the s-word, I went, right away, to the brain doctor to talk about it. His decision was to supplement my medication.

This new medication is also a brand name. Unfortunately, the new med is causing some problems. Not with my brain setting, not that I've noticed, at least. In fact, it's helped me feel better. The problem is that even though this medication has been shown to help people who are depressed, the FDA hasn't classified it (or has refused to) for use with major depression. Therefore, my insurance won't cover any part of the cost.

Oh, sure, the first bottle was free because the brain doctor gave me a coupon and I can cut the pills into thirds because he prescribed the big ones, but how much will the next one cost? I'm afraid to find out, even though I have to. I'm betting it'll be at least $500 for the 30 pills that I cut into thirds. That about $1000 every three months. $4000 a year. About 15% of my current net pay. So much for putting anything extra aside for retirement!

I'm sure that some people are saying that I should just stick with the generics. The thing is that I'm taking something that currently works for a problem that is unlikely to go away. This isn't strep throat or pink-eye where you get the medication, take it for however long to make the problem go away. This is a problem that's there all the time and the medication helps to mitigate what's happening. If it takes the full dose to make things better, it takes the full dose every day. Generic medications only have to be within (plus or minus) 20% of the original brand. (Look up bioequivalence.) That means, on the low end you're losing a fifth of the medication. (Sure, it's possible to get above the mark, but isn't it usually cheaper to have more filler than the actual stuff?)

Losing the potency is more or less okay for something like antibiotics because that's usually built into the prescription, even if the doctor doesn't actually think about it. That's why you're supposed to finish your damn antibiotics. You take them until the infection is gone and then take some more to make sure the infection is actually gone.

If you get on the low end of the spectrum with generic pain pills and they're not working for you, you can probably ask for something stronger and your doctor will probably give it to you. (What do you mean there's prescription pain medication abuse?)

With anti-depressants, though, you’re taking them to help regulate your mood. If you need the full dose and you’re not getting it, you change. You sink back into that pit; creep back into the shadow; curl up into a quivering ball.

At the time I accidently went on the generics I was getting my meds at the local pharmacy every thirty days. It cost a bit more, but it felt like I had some control. By the end of those thirty days, I wasn't the person I had been at the beginning. Even my family saw how much I had changed, how hopeless I had become.

I did get back to the name brand stuff and I did start to feel better, but because I had been on a dose that didn't help me much, I had started to build a tolerance to the active parts. I may have felt better, but I didn't feel good and I knew I was never going to reach where I had been before the generics.

Even with the supplimental meds, I still don't feel as well as I did way back when.

Sometimes I'm not sure it's worth trying to get there again.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

In Social Situations:

When I am by myself, I pretty much know how I am going to react to anything.

When I'm with one or two people I know fairly well, I can make strong assumptions about how they are going to act and react.

If those one or two people are people I don't know well, I can't really know how they are going to react. I can make guesses based on my lifetime of general human behavior, but individuals often go outside of general behavior. Here is where I start getting uncomfortable.

The more people there are, the harder it is for me to figure out exactly what sort of reaction they will have, in part because I can't know everyone very well and in part because people in large groups don't always react the same as they would by themselves or in a smaller group. I start getting nervous and feeling very uncomfortable at this point because there is no way for me to predict anything. I might be able to make educated guesses based on the situation, but people at a movie theater usually stay in their seats for the entire movie, people at a fair or a party are pretty much allowed to do as they please.

Similarly, I rarely feel alone when I'm by myself. I'm there and I communicate with myself fairly well and I don't ever have to try and interpret nonverbal cues.

With one or two people who I know I also rarely feel alone. These are people who I've been around enough that I understand most of their nonverbal cues, often instinctually, and since I'm not uncomfortable around them I'm also a talker and will ask if I'm confused.

When those two people are people I don't know I sometimes feel alone. I don't talk much around people I don't know. I often can't force my voice out of my throat. I'll just stand there. If there's no talking I have to try to make an educated guess at their nonverbal cues. Sure, I've got the smile and frown thing down and I'm okay with detecting how those expressions change when the eyebrows are up or down or furrowed, but what about the one hand in the pocket and the other across the stomach? What does that mean?

Add more and more people and the noises and the motions increase and start getting muddled together. The person behind me telling and laughing at a racist joke doesn't match the person hunched over with arms across their chest in front of me doesn't match slowly getting louder argument to the left doesn't match the person strutting across my line of sight doesn't match a million other things going on in the room. Here is where I start to feel alone and lonely, surrounded by all these people.

Worse is when I see a group of two or three talking and laughing, enjoying themselves. Here is where the loneliness becomes a stomach pang as well as emotionally crippling. It hurts because that's my comfort zone I see, but I don't have it and can't have it because I'm either there by myself or I the people I came with have scattered because they are fine in a crowd and hovering on the outside of their conversations is just as lonely as if they weren't there to begin with.

Those times I am out with one or two people I know and we stick together, I don't get lonely. I suppose it's because I have what I need a unit I basically understand.