Thursday, August 28, 2014


On the bipolar scale, I'd say right now, I'm neither manic nor depressive. Quite overwhelmed, with a lot of tasks I've procrastinated, but overall, I'd say I'm stable.

School at Argosy starts in a week and I still haven't submitted my stipend loan paperwork. I haven't purchased my books. I haven't finished my classes from last term at Adler. There are money woes, but I'm pretty much slacking in them off in favor of other pursuits.

Tonight's my first night not responsible for assuring that Luke gets to high school on time, walking to the bus at 6:45 am. The week's been harrowing with his schedule. The first day of school, my nephew came in from UIC for the evening and to surprise Luke. Our big surprise was that 2.5 hours later, we'd still be waiting in the school parking lot for my mechanic to jump my car battery so I could drive to the service station. While exasperated, I couldn't help but just chuckle at the predictability of my misfortune.

Everyone is on edge. The world is on edge. There is war, senseless death, racial tension and tragedy, famine, Pat Robertson, drought...pretty much every icky thing God promised He'd send our way in the Bible (I think).

What sparked this blog entry? What threw me over the cliff? I realized that I'd spent most of the day laughing. Maybe it's just  by-product of me being nuts, but then I saw this:

It's just a cat. But it's a cat wearing aviator sunglasses, who evidently leads a double life as another family's pet cat, and now they're in a custody battle over who gets the cat. It was at that point when I realized that life, if you dissect it into pieces, is quite honestly pretty ridiculous. This cracked me up.

Everybody's in such a rush. I'm no exception. I'm lucky if one task gets scratched of the to-do list on a daily basis, leaving the 100 other things undone. Is it my lack of motivation which makes me find literally everything funny? I'm not sure. We're in a rush to find jobs, to get our finances and school supplies in order. We run to meetings, breathless. Why? Truthfully, yes, we have to be responsible people completing the challenges we face, many of which aggravate or confuse us.

What grace will save you? The realization that all of this crap will work itself out--the way it's supposed to--when it's supposed to happen. If I were depressive right now,  I'd be ignoring and/or missing out on all of this goofy world. Color me blithe about the severity of the current events of the world and living in my own little crazy bubble if you want. Frankly, that doesn't bother me. Like the Beach Boys song above says, "Don't Worry, Baby....everything will turn out alright." Ditch the dread. Cling to the hope. Let the frenzy subside when you lay your head down on your pillow at night. 

Learn to suspend your reality, even if it's for just  few minutes a day and explore something silly. Engage with people, whether that's virtually or in-person. Half the reason I'm going into the field of psychology is for the fact that most people are just PRETTY. DAMN. WEIRD. I want to help these people. I'm not going to lie and repeat what my first therapy skills teacher said and make sure all of my clients are walking out with "bubbles and butterflies," but learn to appreciate the uniqueness of each individual you encounter. Trust me, there'll be something about them, even if they drive you apeshit, that will either bring a smile to your face or an outright guffaw. Maybe that's the lesson I learned as a result of Robin Williams' suicide. We miss people, we'll miss Robin, and while his depression devoured him, he left behind a powerful legacy and lessons, which are to be kind, compassionate, forgiving, and to make others smile. 

We all suffer, some more severely than others. When I'm depressed or even wondering if it's worth it to stick around, I remember that religion, money, the 1%, the poverty rate, the wars overseas...they're all horrible crises, but life is beautiful and enjoy it while it lasts. You might bear the burden of much--too much--on your shoulders, but relax. As Prince said in "Let's Go Crazy," (appropriately enough) "Hang tough, children." 

Love the people who love you, be them your family, your kids, your friends, your co-workers or fellow students. Hell, your drug store checker who tells you when you leave, "Have a good day and be well." (Thank you, Walgreens guy, by the way.) Try to remember that in most cases, we all want one another to have an opportunity to be happy and yes, to LAUGH.

I would't bet my stipend that my flowery mood will last really long, which is why I cherish it even more. Yesterday's headache might be tomorrow's migraine, but until that happens, which it invariably will at some point, this bipolar bear will carpe diem. 

This is a great little 2 1/2 minute oldie from The Monkees, entitled "Laugh." The video clip, from the television show, is a humorous romp. It's a good song. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Do You Realize That You Sound Like a Twat??

Some people come across as being hyper-smart and sassy. They are loved by the masses for their wit, charm and skill.

Oftentimes, such people can be snarky and total assholes too.

I received a mean Tweet early this morning from another blogger (who's far more popular than I am).

She subsequently deleted the Tweet, perhaps realizing what a twat she sounded like.

What I don't think she realized was that Tweets to me come into my email, and regardless if you delete them or not, I can read them.

I know her personally.

In my opinion, she got a little too big for her britches when her blog was turned into a book some years back. I don't read her blog anymore...haven't for years. She and her husband sided with Team Craig in the divorce.

Why bug me now? Don't I kind of have enough on my plate than to deal with hate statements?

Just as a lot of readers probably got tired of my adventures with Guy, the world is probably worn out from your observations of what life is life taking the bus in Chicago.

Unless you want to get lambasted, I'd suggest you leave me alone.

--The Offbeat Drummer

Sunday, August 17, 2014

An Open Statement To KISS leader Gene Simmons

Previously, while I hadn't agreed with many decisions KISS front man Gene Simmons has made (especially regarding his treatment of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, whom KISS fired), and his insatiable need to surround himself with $$$$, I regarded him as a man of some semblance of reasonable intellect and kindness. That said, however, in light of his (now cowardly retracted) statement about mentally ill addicts, "Fuck you, go kill yourself!" I have lost complete regard for this performer. I happened to mention on his daughter Sophie's Instagram (since I obviously have zero connection to The Great Star Himself) that I thought her father's remark was intolerable and unforgivable. She defended back that it's something I should take up with her father, not to clog her Instagram with my comments. OH would I EVER like to take that up with her father, the great Demon. Interestingly, he must have terrific public relations staffing, because I have been blocked from Tweeting anything to him on Twitter. "Shut up the addicts!" that said to me. Gene Simmons has long-held a bias against the disease model of addiction and has a general lack of sympathy towards the mentally ill. He went so far as to say that people should "worship" the money he has. That, to me, is an example of one of the most reprehensible human beings on earth. His defense is perpetually, "Well, my mother was in a Nazi concentration camp, so....blah blah blah." That doesn't give Simmons free will to be a complete prick to the rest of humanity. He also was widely publicized as saying that immigrants to this country (like himself) should "learn goddamn English." This is clearly a man using his fame for the most vile and unfortunate gain. I have nothing but respect and honor for Ace and Peter, but as for Paul and particularly Gene, KISS can go fuck themselves. While Peter Criss and his wife, Gigi, were simultaneously battling breast cancer, Simmons and his now-wife Shannon Tweed, were getting matching facelifts. Believe me, if even Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx is badmouthing Gene Simmons, things have gone loco. Shame on you, Gene Simmons.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tears of a Clown

I'm manic/depressive, but Robin Williams' suicide couldn't have come at a worse juncture. I'm still in one of the longest downward spirals of my recorded mental history, in terms of being depressed. Quite literally, I'm experiencing psychomotor retardation, and my mind isn't focused, sharp or intellectually balanced in order for me to complete projects that are really a matter of urgency. Almost as if it was scripted, both my mother and my brother asked me recently why I "act like I'm moving in slow motion." Reading up on the subject of bipolar, I found that THAT is exactly what psychomotor retardation is. I don't notice it at all. Maybe I AM robotic, but I sure as hell can't tell. There's an opposite of it, I can't remember what it's called, but it happens when you're manic.

 I don't want to do anything but sleep or sob, yet I find it close to impossible to do either.

The insomnia is a mystery, since I'm on the famous Ambien, which is supposed to keep me asleep all night, combined with the Valium I'm supposed to take at night. Still, I'm awake 2-4 hours in the middle of the night, fiddling about, giving in to what we insiders call the "Ambien Walrus." See, the walrus controls our crazy actions during the night, which oftentimes, we don't remember in the morning. I'm pretty used to the quizzical questions of "Why did you...." or "Where'd you....?" the next day from my family, or a week later "When did you order THIS?". And I either cry instantaneously or I don't cry at all. I didn't cry for Robin Williams until I read the Pagliacci joke. The tears of a clown over the tears of a clown.

How I can fly through writing a blog entry with no roadblocks is a complete mystery to me, but the last one I wrote, the night Williams died, took me all of 15 minutes, no bullshit. I suppose I require something which brings me passion to unleash the Writer inside my heart. I have to finish my Adler projects, but I JUST. CAN'T.

 Pagliacci. The clown who cried tears. The clown who made so many so many laugh and marvel with his unique talents, who hurt so deeply inside. Remember the Smokey Robinson song?

 Although I have numerous projects of dire focus, I've followed the stories and articles about Robin Williams with keen interest, I think, in an effort not to justify my depression, but to normalize it, if that makes any sense. Perhaps it's one of those instances during which you relate to and empathize with the afflicted when you metaphorically pat yourself on the head, or throw your arms around yourself for a hug (given there are only like 2 humans I know around who hug me regularly, Luke and Meg), in an effort to reassure yourself that you'll pull through this.

My brother helps care-take this woman who's either schizophrenic or with major depressive disorder, who refuses to stay medication compliant. She tells my brother that she feels more like herself and better without the medication. Then he questions why I take so many different drugs, and wouldn't I be healthier off of all that medication. The short answer is no, because I would definitely kill myself. The long answer is that I've been on a finely tweaked cocktail of drugs for so long, I wouldn't know a "normal" me from an "abnormal" me if it stared me dead in the face. I've struggled with mental illness since my early 20's, and like Williams, spent far too many years self-medicating with drugs and alcohol before seeking proper psychiatric help. At first, the drugs sapped my creativity, which saddened me and no, I didn't feel like myself. But as I adjusted to them and them to me, and in therapy, I began to realize that the creative in me could come alive again with enough practice. I took up drumming again. I began writing again. It flowed naturally.

My best friend, Kate, asked me if the development of my sense of humor was a reaction to having lost my father when I was a child. I'm funny. I'm witty. I, at least, make Kate's insides hurt with laughter (which I sort of feel guilty about, seeing as she has Crohn's Disease!) Williams' mother was an alcoholic, like my father. I think, to a degree, that's correct in assigning it as a coping mechanism. Kate asked me to elaborate on the subject in hopes of understanding from where Williams' despair rooted; some type of explanation as to why someone with such a bright life and promising future would kill himself. Suicide and suicidiality is difficult to explain to someone who hasn't trenched through it....I mean REALLY trenched through it, calculating a plan, arranging things in order, putting on a facade of happiness, giving away prized possessions. This is what I answered Kate: 

"From my perspective, the loss of my father amplified what was already my goofy nature, which came from him. I do think making people laugh was a way to gain acceptance and friendship from other kids who might otherwise not want to be my friend. Obviously, my sense of humor has matured (slightly) and it's more intellectual now, more cheeky, more crude, but underneath that silly exterior is still, though I'm a 42 year old woman, an 11-year old girl who just wants love. If Robin's mother was an alcoholic, he may have felt similarly. When there's pain at home, or family problems, you try your damndest to put on a brave face. Williams just happened to hone that craft to the point of genius. He was VERY good at what he did, and made sure to take care of everyone around him, and as I've read, was very loving and giving. Those who knew him best said that he'd give every ounce of energy to make other people happy but didn't address his own problems or take care of himself. That's the nature of the child of an alcoholic, too. You become the ultimate caretaker. Adult children of alcoholics want to be peacekeepers, and want to stand out with at least one positive quality about themselves. For Williams, it was his comedic and actor genius. 

This death has broken my heart, because I know the depths of that depression and the glare of ending the pain once and for all. Thank God for Luke. And, like I said in my blog, I wasn't making myself out to be a martyr, but it takes someone who's been THAT depressed and has self-medicated through drugs and alcohol SO LONG that it's a unique club of people who can honestly relate."

I've been reading varying perspectives on the soul of one who commits suicide, as I am chiefly a Christian, albeit lapsed, and universally, apart from religious fundamentalist extremists, God met Robin's soul and said, "It's not your fault." I'm not sure from where the position of "automatic hell" as a result of suicide came from, but it's not valid. 

 I've read tributes and reactions from fellow actors and comedians, and yes, some have been mean, but for the most part, everyone's heart is broken. (Except Rush Limbaugh. Don't EVEN GET ME STARTED ON THAT SHIT PANCAKE, who had the balls to blame the suicide as a leftist political movement of liberal America to thrust a vicious agenda. That's just total bullshit.) 

I've taken a break from worrying about Hamas and Gaza and Israel and Palestine to personally reflect on matters which affect my own heart.  For those who think Robin Williams was a "coward," or a lesser person for taking his own life, screw you brother OR sister, because you weren't in that room with him tightening the belt. 

Depression can be physically overwhelming. It can cause physical pain as well as emotional turmoil, and you can only put that humorous face (like Pagliacci) for so long until you crack. I'll be interested in hearing when the toxicology reports come back whether or not he had any substances in his body at the time of his death, but I'm going to take a blind guess and say no. One might argue, "But no one in his right mind would hang himself if he wasn't on drugs." Bullshit. Depression propels you into a constant state of not being in your right mind. For those who deem it an act of selfishness towards those left behind as a result of a suicide, please do not think that the feelings and love for family and friends were discounted. It's the depression which overtakes you. And it's a chemical imbalance in the brain. Left untreated through both medication and therapy, it will kill you. Literally. Mental illness can be as fatal a disease as cancer or diabetes, and there's no romanticizing of it.  

I certainly hope Robin Williams frolicked to a packed house in Heaven yesterday, causing God to chortle and the angels to wet their robes. And I hope he did it this way:


Monday, August 11, 2014

One Spark of Madness: Remembering Robin Williams

Growing up, I didn't particularly like "Mork & Mindy." Even at a young age, It just seemed too hokey and my childhood brain refused to suspend reality for 23 minutes a week in an effort to enjoy this alien-come-househusband.  I found it predictable, slapstick, goofy. Yet people would howl in laughter at the character of Mork, especially how he got along with Mindy's father. Still, it propelled Robin Williams into becoming a household name, a respected comedian in a murky, giant sea of comedians coming out of the late 1970's and early 1980's. Williams cut his teeth in the comedy clubs on the West coast for years before landing the role of "Mork," a role which launched him into becoming a celebrity.

Earlier today, the world was informed that Williams committed suicide by asphyxiation. How brutal. How calculated. How utterly heartbreaking. How unexpected.

Sometimes, and this isn't boasting by any means, only someone who has suffered from major depression and/or substance abuse (dual-diagnosis, co-occurring disorders) can fully appreciate the inherent energy it takes that aforementioned spark to remain afire. Then there is that terrible, horrifying moment that can last, pre-meditated, for ages, or as the result of a knee-jerk reaction during which one simply resigns oneself to the dark side of the madness. The side we, as funny people, try so hard, SO HARD, to mask. My personal belief as a manic/depressive is that no matter how much therapy, how much rehab, how many attempts to stay on track, how many accolades he was awarded, his despair IN THAT MOMENT was SO overwhelming that he simply felt that the world would be a better place without him. Or, conversely, that he'd spare his family and loved ones any more of "having to deal" with his mood disorder and substance abuse. 

There's a song by The Flaming Lips (isn't there always?) that has always reminded me of the ramifications of my own personal suicidiality, which, folks, has threatened to engulf me far too many times than I wish to claim. It's called "If I Go Mad/Funeral In My Head." To me, it's an opus about which one is to be remembered. It addresses not only Williams' statement to embracing the madness, but also looking outward at that which is left behind when we pass away. 

Robin Williams worked tirelessly in an effort to make other people make people laugh and have a good time, even when he himself, perhaps, had a psyche hanging by a thread. He was known for his warmth and graciousness, though he never really took care of his own problems first. Recent reports claim he returned to rehab for a "tune-up" in order to maintain his sobriety, notoriously sketched with drug and alcohol abuse, for which he was seldom apologetic and even addressed in his stand-up routines. If you can't mock the disease with which you are afflicted, I believe you succumb to it far more quickly, pitifully.  He tried to give a face to depression, true despair. Maybe we would've taken him more seriously if he wasn't so goddamn funny all the time, bringing so much joy to everyone. The breadth of his roles, be they more dramatic ("Dead Poets Society," "Good Will Hunting") to the silliness of "Mrs. Doubtfire" paid testimony to his versatility as an actor and as a man of many faces. 

The face we could not see today was that of his war-torn eyes, exhausted from fighting his inner demons and seeking permanent relief from what, in all likelihood, with enough therapy and support, could possibly been a temporary emotional condition. What goes through one's mind at that final, grave moment? It's something I've thought about numerous times. Hang myself? Heavens no. Too complicated. Shoot myself? Too messy. OD? Easiest way out, most pragmatic, least wretched. That speaks purely to the physicality of the person deciding to commit suicide. Disregarding the notions of whether or not one's religious beliefs condemn one to a fiery eternity or a blessed heaven for taking the decision of one's death out of the hands of God, I, instead, try to empathize with the decision--whether rational or irrational, chemically-fueled or stone cold sober. I realize in those moments of despair that I have a child to raise, and work to be done on this earth, and I speak out and talk to those whom I love most, who I know won't blow me off or judge me with contempt or dismissal of my feelings.

Loved ones will undoubtedly ask themselves "What could we have done to keep this from happening?" and too often, the answer is absolutely nothing. A horrifying statistic, isn't it? I can only imagine someone in Robin's state of mind finally resigning himself to his depression, and those truly determined to finalize the ending of their lives at their own hands succumbing to diffusing the spark of madness which has kept their facade so intact for so long while inside, they struggled just to catch a breath every day. Think of it this way, albeit graphically: releasing the chair and letting the rope strangle you is akin to taking your two index fingers, wetting them slightly and pressing the fire of that spark of madness into darkness. 

Robin Williams' suicide doesn't make him a bad man. It doesn't make him a dishonorable man. It doesn't make him a cowardly man, really. It makes him a thinly blown glass ball being tossed around direction by direction until it finally is dropped, cracked and shatters. It's nobody's fault

Sixty-three is too young to die when he was in talks to reprise his role as "Mrs. Doubtfire," and had a number of other projects in the works. That's the thing about depression--if you're not laid up in bed, curled into a ball for 3 weeks, you're on the go-go-go, making all sorts of grand plans. That is, in fact, one of the signs people should look for in someone one suspects may be contemplating suicide. That person will want the world to think they're at the top of their game, ready to tackle it all and happy to do so, when the exact opposite is the truth. As in a lot of cases of suicide, it occurs when family and friends least expect it, because the person who wants to die genuinely is trying to get as much fun and love out of his/her last days. The disillusion of life. 

Robin, thank you not only for sharing your comedic brilliance and thousands of personas with the world as an actor and comedian, but also for admitting and exposing yourself as a human who has struggled with depression and substance abuse. You brought hope to the hopeless, happiness to the sad, and laughs all around. 

My sincere hope is that he find rest and comfort in the face of a horrid exit from this mortal coil. I hope he makes the universe continue to laugh and contemplate. I pray his family peace in knowing he did not leave them because he did not love them; rather, his overwhelming personal grief, those monsters, got the best of him. 

Again, thank you, Robin Williams, for the funny voices, the silly impersonations, the frankness of your stand-up routines, and your keen ability to inspire and be a response to inspiration. You will not soon be forgotten. I'll even forgive you for "Mork & Mindy."

Rest in peace.