Making the Bed (And Other Victories)

Making The Bed And Other Victories

For the last week, I’ve been trying to share a meaningful personal victory over depression, and have met with limited success.

I told a friend. They didn’t get it. “Doesn’t everyone?”, they asked me.

I told my brother. He didn’t get it. “Is that a…good…thing?” he inquired, hesitation in his voice.

So, I told my mother, but her encouragement is a given. I could tell her that I eviscerated a live chipmunk and she would metaphorically pat me on the head for what a good boy I have been. Right before she called a mental health professional on my behalf.

It seems that announcing “I made the bed three days in a row!” is not quite the watershed moment for the rest of the world that it is for me.

Rainbows and Unicorns

Last week, I admitted to you all that I have yet to get a therapist/counselor to work through my depression with. This is still true. I have gotten a referral to what I hope is a person able to deal with my idiosyncrasies and will be calling them for an appointment later today.

However, what has happened is apparently the Prozac has begun to kick in.

I will admit, I was expecting a more…dramatic result from the Prozac. I sort of had it in my head that there would be a period where my body got used to the medication. Then, one amazing morning, I would wake up and step into glorious sunshine, surrounded by rainbows and unicorns.

After all, that’s what happens to normal people every day, right?

Instead, I find that I’ve grown a little more stable. I am not yelling at Lor at the drop of a hat. Going outdoors is not causing me to burst into flame spontaneously. I wash the dishes without being prompted a half-dozen times.

And, oh yes, there is the subject of the bed…

The Bed, Unmade

Let me explain how depression works.

A normally adjusted person takes a look at an unmade bed and thinks: “I need to make the bed.” Maybe they get it done, maybe they don’t, depending on how late they are for work, etc. But the acknowledgment is there.

A depressed person takes a look at the unmade bed and thinks: “Why should I even bother to make that bed? I am just going to screw it up in a few hours anyway. Just like I screw everything else up. So what’s the point? In fact, I might as well just go back to my unmade bed and lie there…”

So, yes, the fact that I have been making the bed for a few days in a row is actually significant, though it probably doesn’t look like it to the untrained eye.

To me, a made bed is a victory. A small one, yes, but a victory nonetheless. It also represents potential. “If I can do this,” I think, “maybe I can do something else too!”

In the past week, I’ve completed a few things around the house, managed to get my professional life back off the ground, and even spent some time with my extended family.

All on the strength of making the bed in the first place.

Filling The Spaces

Of course, this is only the beginning of rebuilding a functional life after my depression derailment.

I still need to get back to regular posting here on Misdirected. Today will represent the first time I have posted in back to back weeks in a few months, so we will tentatively chalk that one up as “progress.”

But there are so many other things that I am going to have to start over on. it is literally tiring to think about. I haven’t been to a gym in weeks. I haven’t run over a mile in who knows how long. My personal trainer certificate hangs on the wall gathering dust, as the works I had intended to build around it remain unstarted.

And don’t even get me started on the subject of my fiction writing. I have probably not come up with an original idea since the beginning of the year.

So much remains undone, in fact, that I can actually feel the weight of them bearing down on me. There is so much, in fact, that I can feel the beginnings of a panic attack fluttering in my chest, just trying to comprehend how I am ever going to get it all done.

I just have to sit back for a minute and breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth, practicing mindfulness, all the things the self-help gurus tell you to do that you are secretly sure aren’t really working. I am just going to have to remind myself that change happens incrementally, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that all I can do is all I can do.

So, I’ll just wait with one ear listening for the sound of Lor getting out of bed. Then I can go collect my early-morning hug and kiss, and reassurance that someone loves me and believes in me, even if I don’t believe in myself.

And then, I’ll make the bed.

Not Looking Forward To My First Day Back At The Gym,

– Jeremy

PS: Five days left to go on my Epilepsy Birthday Fundraiser over on Facebook. Please consider it if you are looking for an important cause to support!

The Biggest Fire

The Biggest Fire

Yesterday, while surfing through unread Facebook entries, I came across an interesting post. My birthday is coming up later in the month, and apparently, I have the option of asking my Facebook followers to donate to a worthy non-profit in lieu of sending me gifts.

Now, mind you, I don’t think I normally receive birthday presents from 99.9% of the folks following me on FB. But, still, it seemed like a nifty idea, right? Get the folks who follow me on Facebook plugged into the cause that matters the most to me.

Just about then, a problem occurred to me: I didn’t know which cause mattered the most to me.

Which Fire Burns Brightest

Seems like it should be simple enough, right? Just identify which of the causes that I support and advocate for has had the most impact on me. But, how do I quantify the negative effect of the things I care about?

Epilepsy changed my life forever and placed me in the position of no longer being able to hold down a “real” job.

Chronic obesity crippled me to the point that I had to have 75% of a major organ removed to deal with it.

Depression is waging a war against my ability to actually accomplish much of anything in my day-to-day life. Many days, depression is winning that war.

So – which one has impacted me the most, exactly?

Or, put another way, if I had the ability to make only one of these issues vanish off the face of the planet, which one would I pick?

Suddenly, any answer seems fraught with peril.

Weighed In The Balance (And Found Wanting)

Epilepsy affects roughly one in every hundred of us. It takes us out of the driver’s seat of our own brain and turns the controls over to an internal electrical storm. In many cases (like mine) it requires a constant babysitter – tying up two lives instead of just one. It shortens our lives, kills us in our sleep, and ruins our quality of life. So, of course, I should focus on epilepsy, right? Seems like a no-brainer. (Hah!)

Except that obesity is killing us nationally.  Over 35% of Americans are obese. Some estimates suggest that, as a nation, we are spending upwards of 190 BILLION dollars on the societal costs of obesity annually. Do the math, folks: 325 Million people are spending 190 Billion dollars on obesity… That’s $584 per person, every year. Can you imagine what that money could do if it wasn’t being used on the societal costs of weight?

The U.S. trade deficit is 560 Billion, people. Just sayin’.

Yeah, but…depression.

It is killing us, slowly and silently. Around 7% of us are suffering from depression. Depression crushes our productivity and removes our enjoyment from life. And, in many cases, it takes our best and brightest from us too soon. It is stigmatized and misunderstood, And, yet, it is frequently successfully treatable. Getting us to sign up for the treatment in the first place is apparently the major hurdle. (I, for instance, have yet to make my initial appointment to see a counselor. Because reasons.)

So, yeah. Pick one. Go ahead.

I’ll wait.

Negative Paralysis

The problem is that the problems all look SO large, that it seems impossible to choose just one. And, in many cases, that means that we don’t pick one at all.

We go through life ignoring ALL of them, instead of taking a breath and getting to work on at least one of them. The paralysis of indecision keeps so many of us from doing anything about anything.

It is very easy to forget that we can’t solve all of these issues by ourselves. It takes collective action to tackle world-shattering problems. And if small groups of us can get motivated to each work on the issues that speak to us the most strongly, progress gets made on all of them.

The idea isn’t to fix the whole world. It is for each of us to leave the place a little better than the way we found it.

In that spirit, I am going to go ahead and select one. It may not have the highest societal cost, and it may not be the one with the clearest solution, but it is the one I’ve been dealing with for a decade and a half now: Epilepsy.

If you agree with me, awesome. Toss a buck or two in the plate for the folks at the Epilepsy Foundation. They remain one of the major distributors of funds to community groups, education, and epilepsy research.

If not, no hard feelings. But pick something, for goodness sake. The world needs your active involvement in tackling the problems facing it. This is no time to sit on the sidelines and just sort of hope that things will get better on their own. Because we all know how well THAT works in the long run.

Trying To Leave The World Better Than The Way I Found It,

  • Jeremy

The Long, Dark Silence of the Soul

Long Dark Silence

Ever had a morning filled with good intentions and glorious plans for achievement? Only to arrive at the evening discovering that you not only didn’t accomplish anything but may have actually taken a step or two backward during the course of the day?

Yeah, I’ve had several months in a row like that.

Once upon a time, Misdirected was written every day of the week.

Then, it devolved to a couple times a week, as other projects ramped up.

Eventually, I moved it to a once a week publication schedule, determined to not let it slide any further back.

But nowadays, I am lucky to get out one post a month.

So, what happened?

The Things We Do Not Talk About

First, let me qualify: It isn’t that I don’t have anything to say. It is more a case of not wanting to say it.

Which is unusual, for me, as you all well know. I can talk about epilepsy until I am blue in the face. I am willing to expose the dark underbelly (see what I did there?) of obesity. I’ve taken the Misdirected audience day-by-day through the good, bad, and ugly of bariatric surgery.

But the elephant in the room is that which I don’t talk about – the one subject that makes me intensely uncomfortable. I’ve tried to talk about it, heaven knows. My “Drafts” folder here is filled to the brim with halfway done to totally completed articles that never saw the light of day. A few even made it all the way to the final step before publication – the “Lor Review.” She would read them, shake her head a bit, and ask if I really wanted to publish that post.

See, the subject I am talking about is Depression.

Oh, THIS Again

In my opinion, the major problem with understanding Depression comes from its name. “Depression.” It sounds very straightforward – just a case of the blues, or “Feelz bad, man.”

I wish the folks that had named depression had called it something more descriptive. Maybe if they had named the diagnosis “I Hate Myself And I Want To Die And I Can’t Even Get Out of Bed Why The Hell Won’t You Just Leave Me Alone” it would have a bit more impact on those trying to understand it from the outside.

The frustrating thing is, there are so many of us suffering from this illness. Yet it still gets blown off. People say we are lazy, that we are feeling sorry for ourselves, that we need to just get over it.

Pretty similar to the way outsiders look at a diagnosis of chronic obesity, now that I am looking at the words in print. Interesting, that.

But, the fact of the matter is, I don’t have an explanation for my condition. For someone who has had life hand me pre-squeezed lemons, I’ve done pretty well. I’ve lived longer than I was expected to. I’ve accomplished personal and professional goals. I have loving meaningful relationships with my family and my spouse.

And, at the end of the day, I still feel worthless.

Self-Worth: What Aisle Is That On?

Still don’t get it? Don’t feel bad, many people don’t. Let me give you an example, for those who might not understand the mechanics of depression.

Last night we went to the 5 year anniversary for DaVita Bariatrics, the practice that performed the sleeve operations for both Lor and I. Being surrounded by success stories was nice. While we all chatted and praised each other’s progress, before and after photos of certain patients were projected on the wall. Lor’s looked amazing. Looking at mine, though, I literally could not see the “after” photo. All I could focus on was the “before” shot. There I sat, looking dejected and exhausted at my Mother-in-Laws at Christmas 2015. I weighed 300 pounds and in the picture, I look like I am pushing 400.

Standing there, surrounded by success stories, I couldn’t take my eyes off of what was supposedly the “old” me.

Yup, I thought, there I am. That is who I am.

Dropping the Bomb

And I am one of the lucky few who actually has a family who understands the condition. They’ve been down this road before with me. In fact, my family will be horrified when they read this. “Why didn’t you tell us?”

Well, guys, mainly because I am sick of being a burden. As anyone who has had to rely on an entire infrastructure of people just to make it from day to day will tell you, it gets old asking for help. Especially when you are convinced that those who are your support structure are secretly exhausted with your constant demands. This is why so many suffering from depression eventually commit suicide. It isn’t because they are out to do permanent emotional damage to their families and loved ones. It is because those of us suffering from the condition are convinced that the lives of those around them will be improved by our absence.

Now, nobody panic. I am not suffering from suicidal ideation currently. But, as someone who has walked those roads, I can tell you exactly what the thought process is. Those of us who suffer from depression don’t talk about it because we are embarrassed. We are ashamed. And we are exhausted from dealing with this condition that never seems to get better.

So, we assume that those who love us must also be embarrassed by us. That they must be secretly ashamed of us. That they have to be exhausted from caring for us.

So, we keep our mouths shut. And when everyone asks how we are doing, we say “Fine.”

Then we change the subject.

The Enemy In Action

Allow me to describe how depression affects your thinking.

While we were in California last week, jeremycschofield.com went down. There was an issue between my hosting provider and the company I used to originally register the domain name. (Who knew?) So, when we got home, I discovered that my website had not been functional for almost a week.

Initially, I scrambled to get everything back up and running. But, once repairs were carried out, I was suddenly done with the process. It just all seemed so overwhelming and exhausting.

I should’ve put out an email to my followers explaining what happened. I didn’t.

Even a post on Twitter and Facebook would have been a good idea. But, I didn’t do either.

Why not? Because I was unable to convince myself that anyone cared enough to hear about it. This despite the fact that my very own statistics showed that I had several hundred people a day visiting Misdirected. I literally could not make the evidence in front of my eyes overcome the feeling of worthlessness inside my head.

The conclusions that a person suffering from depression arrives at make no logical sense. But this disconnect exists everywhere around me. When I speak to Lor I can’t figure out why she is married to me. Looking around my house, I am positive that “someone” is going to take it away from me. I stare at my Personal Training Certificate on the wall and have no idea how I ever managed to earn it.

I can even hold a copy of Inheritance in my hand, and still feel as though someone else must’ve written it.  In fact, my personal copy now sits on a shelf above my head, buried under spiral notebooks filled with other things. I don’t want to have to look at it anymore.

Daylight

It took Wil Wheaton’s blog post from a few days ago to motivate me to tackle this head-on. If someone as successful as he is can still be wrestling with these invisible demons, and brave enough to admit it, then the least I can do is tell the truth as well. I not only owe it to my loved ones, but I owe it to anyone else going through this. It needs to be said: if you are suffering from depression, you are not alone. You are not the only one on the face of the planet feeling the way you do.

So, before any of my readers starts worrying, let me just say that I am ok. Well, not exactly ok. I am SAFE is a better word. Lor, bless her heart, is staying on top of me. This ain’t her first rodeo. Which comes back to making me feel like crap for putting her through this, but, yeah. At some point, I have to accept that those around me put up with me out of love and not because they are all masochists.

But it has become apparent that I am going to have to go back into some kind of therapy/treatment. Back, you say? Yeah, I struggled with depression, self-loathing and suicidal thoughts for years after developing epilepsy. Only the love and support of my family and a very talented counselor got me through it.

So, if this ain’t my first go-round, why haven’t I just gotten some help, you might ask. That’s the tricky thing about depression. I just keep waiting to wake up and feel ok again. After all, I had just started to turn the corner. Things were looking up – 2017 was an awesome year for me.

So, why would anyone believe me when I say I’ve relapsed? Never mind that I obviously have. Surely a professional is just going to pat me on the back and tell me “Chin up” or something…right?

TL;DR (Because Why Would You?)

Normally, I will finish a blog post in an hour – two at most. I started this one at 6 AM this morning.

It is now 6:27 PM.

So, let me just summarize: Yes, there is something currently wrong with me. I am aware of the problem and am screwing up my nerve to talk to someone about potential treatment options.

The logical part of me says this is all due to chemical imbalances in my brain and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

The rest of me wants to apologize to all of you for not being who I think I should be for you.

If you have a loved one who is suffering from depression, please be gentle and patient with them. And encourage them to get some help.

If you are the one suffering along with me – talk to your friends and loved ones. Talk to your doctor. And start taking care of yourself. The way you feel is not your fault, and you are not alone in the world.

Talk to you all again soon.

But Probably Not On A Daily Basis,

  • Jeremy

 

2017: The Recap

2018The Misdirected 2017 Recap

By the time you are reading this, it will be 2018.

I’m actually putting this together on New Year’s Eve, 2017, during the early morning hours while everyone else in the house is asleep. But, by the time it reaches the world, another year will have passed. Our household will be on our way to Colorado to return our nephew to his parents. And we’ll be staring down the throat of another oncoming year.

Why the negative imagery? Reflexive action, I suppose. We were SO happy to see 2016 in the rear-view mirror. “Wow, glad that’s over with! 2016 was such a lousy year. We will never see anything that bad again!”

2017: “Challenge Accepted.”

So, now, I want to be a little more circumspect. Yes, I am glad this year is over. Yes, 2017 was a pretty crap year for the general public residing in the USA. But, it was actually a decent year for our household, all things considered.

The Good…

In terms of fitness, it was really a banner year.

Our fitness journey continued from 2016’s double-barrelled bariatric surgeries. In May of 2017, I actually hit my post-surgical goal weight of 185 pounds. That same month, Lor and I participated in our first ever 5K, the Albuquerque “Run For The Zoo”.

By July, I had settled in at what is apparently my new “normal” weight – 175 pounds. I was able to go into my one-year follow up at this weight, and at 25% body fat to boot. I’ve successfully lost just a hair under 130 pounds total, thanks to the combination of surgery and lifestyle changes.

July also brought me my exam for the ACE Fitness Physical Trainer certification. I have never been prouder of a “C” passing grade in my life. Since my development of Adult-Onset Epilepsy in 2004, I had pretty much resigned myself to never being able to learn anything long-term again. That professional certification means the world to me.

I was also able to meet another long-term personal goal: In September, my first novel, Inheritance, was published by Fiction Vortex. I literally have placed the novel on a shelf above my desk, just above eye level. Not as an ego-prop, mind you. (Though it certainly works for that.) Mainly it reminds me that I can do things that I had never thought were possible for someone with my disabilities.

Just to top off the year, we were able to re-enter foster care in November. We didn’t expect it and had made no plans for it. But, when a previous foster kid calls out of the blue and asks for help, you do your best to pitch in. We did, and now have a seventeen-year-old girl in our household. She is wild and unsettled and drives me crazy and I love her to death.

Other parents inform me that this is just about par for the course for raising a seventeen-year-old.

…The Bad…

Yikes, where to begin. Our country still reels from crisis to crisis like a drunken monkey. Racism and factionalism have been released to begin openly taking a place among us again. Our national governmental processes were screwed with at the highest level by a hostile foreign nation. Hundreds of our fellow citizens are being gunned down in the streets by both private individuals and bad-apple law enforcement officers.

Yet, we still manage to pay attention to the Kardashians as if they were somehow of equal importance to all this.

Personally, our families are aging and ailing. We buried family members and watched others continue wasting away. The immortal titans of our childhood were revealed to be mortal, and fragile. The very bedrock that our families are built upon seems to be shifting and eroding.

And, as a bitter topping for the crap-cake, freakin’ Tom Petty died.

…And, The Ugly.

For a year filled with success, there were sure a bunch of failures to go right along with them.

We were supposed to actually run a 5K before the end of the year. Never happened.

I wanted to tackle the La Luz trail up the front of Sandia Crest this summer. It was to be my demonstration of my personal victory over the limitations of obesity and epilepsy. Except it never happened, either.

For that matter, we never managed to go camping even ONCE in 2017. Mainly this had to do with my work with Fiction Vortex. But this does not represent any malice on their part – it just represents my inability to plan.

And NaNoWriMo was probably the biggest single artistic failure I have ever undertaken. Not only was I unable to complete the goal, but it left me so emotionally tapped out that I lay mostly fallow for the entire month of December. No fiction, no blog posts, no marketing, barely any contract work and editing. Very little contact with the outside world, in fact.

Basically, I lost two months of productivity by trying to write an entire novel in one.

So, yeah. There was that.

The Shining Goals of 2018

I have no desire to jinx us all by talking about how 2018 has to be better than 2017 or anything like that.

That said, I do have some intentions and goals for 2018.

Misdirected will continue on its merry way for 2018. Now nearing 2 years out from surgery, we will be focusing more and more on lifestyle and diet maintenance, social and emotional issues, and other community-specific thoughts. Given that I am now a Personal Trainer we will probably include some exercise-based content.

The rest of my Fiction Vortex team will be finishing up their Season One novels in February and March of 2018. I am looking forward to getting those novels published and into the hands of our readers. And just wait till you see what Season TWO has in store…

Speaking of Fiction Vortex, Fictionite has launched and is gaining traction as we speak. I am pretty excited to be acting as an ambassador for our awesome fiction-sharing app. (Starting at the Albuquerque Comic Con, January 12 – 14, 2018.)

I am going to get my Patreon site out of Neutral and moving forward once more. My patrons have been essential in making sure that I am able to create blog content, market books, etc. Imagine what we will be able to do with, say, double the amount of patronage…

And, of course, I will be completing the next book in the Brian Drake series in 2018. In fact, the first episode of Inheritance: Executor will be arriving on Fictionite in March of 2018.

You’d better go download Fictionite now, in fact. You’ve got a lot to read through to get ready for Season Two of Ash Falls.

Have A Safe, Happy, And Blessed 2018,

-Jeremy

 

The Loneliest Job Of All

Though the image references Alzheimer’s, the message applies to all caretakers.

First, thanks for the emails, Tweets, and Facebook posts. Last week’s major seizure was totally unexpected, and I appreciate everyone’s concern and encouragement.

What was most interesting to me, though, was the amount of support Lor received. Messages ranged from “You go, girl!” to “EWWWWW! Do you really have to…?”

The short answer is yes, she does. Lor does periodically get to essentially change the diapers on her middle-aged husband.

Let’s talk about the role of a caregiver for a moment, shall we?

The Anchor Below The Surface

I might not be writing this today without the help of my caretakers over the years.

Seriously. As a person who has dealt with not one but two disabilities (epilepsy and morbid obesity), I have a certain perspective on this. And I simply could not enjoy the life I do without people willing to make my life possible.

Without Lor’s assistance, my ongoing recovery from obesity would not have been half as successful. She has acted as a fitness coach, a cheerleader, and a drill sergeant.  Meals have been prepped. Visits to the gym and to the doctor have been scheduled. Dire threats have been issued about the potential results of bad food choices. Lor has alternately led the way, stood beside me, and gotten behind me to power me over obstacles.

Anytime I have begun to drift away from new lifestyle practices, Lor has kept me in place – an invisible anchor below the surface of the stormy seas of my waxing and waning enthusiasm.

My success in beginning to overcome obesity is entirely due to her help. But even that pales when compared to what caretakers have done for my other disability.

The Never-Ending Struggle

It is one thing to work in concert with someone as you help them overcome an obstacle. You can encourage success and share the pain of failure as you work toward a common goal. At the end, you can look back and congratulate yourself on helping someone reach what they could not do on their own.

It is something else entirely to be acting as the caregiver for someone who is never going to “get there.”

Those caring for loved ones with degenerative conditions have the loneliest jobs of all. The only thing you can do is to try to improve the quality of life within the constraints imposed by illness.

These are the people who get to turn over bed-ridden parents regularly. Who have to schedule their lives around patients who can’t be left unattended. They might end up watching as a loved one withers away from cancer or Parkinson’s. Some are no longer recognized due to the effects of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

And, yes, these are the folks who get to clean up after seizures and other humiliating losses of bodily control.

Caring for someone with a degenerative condition is no joke. Though Lor shoulders the majority of the burden for my care, it requires assistance from a whole lot of other people. A team of caregivers, if you will.

And, in the end, what does all this effort result in, anyway?

Return on Investment

Well, Misdirected, for one thing.

If not for the assistance (and insistence) of my Mom back in 2008, I would never have received my Vagus Nerve Stimulator. The VNS has been the single most effective treatment for my seizures to date. Before the VNS I had clusters of seizures every single day.

If not for the support of my best friends I would not have gotten over my depression and suicidal urges.

Without the encouragement of my Father, I would have been afraid to try to “increase the size of the box” of my limitations.

Without Lor’s constant, daily work to facilitate my life, I would be sitting in a corner, staring at a television.

Instead, I don’t have enough hours in a given day to keep up with my projects. When I am not working on my novel, I am studying for my PT certification. I spend time working in advocacy and support for those with epilepsy and those going through bariatric surgery.

And, of course, I write the words you are reading right now. About 100,000 of them every year, in fact – on Misdirected alone.

None of this would happen without caregivers.

If you are a caregiver, sincerely, thank you. You are shedding light into very dark corners. And, on behalf of those of us whose conditions make us unable to communicate any appreciation to you, let me say this:

You are single-handedly changing someone’s world for the better.

How many other jobs give you that opportunity?

Stay Strong,

Jeremy