All You Live, All You Give. All You Live Fits In a Teardrop.

Just a few years ago I was officially diagnosed with Dysthymia, which is sometimes defined as “a mood disorder consisting of the same cognitive and physical problems as depression, with less severe but longer-lasting symptoms.”

I no longer suffer from it. Well, actually I still do. But, the name of the condition has been officially changed to Persistent Depressive Disorder. With the new name, it’s a bit easier to understand. It’s very self descriptive now.

Why do I suffer from this? Is it genetic? Is it due to things that happened to me as a kid? Is it from my parents? If it is from my parents, again, I ask if it’s genetic?
Is it due to being bullied as a kid? Is it due to bad relationships? Did I allow myself to be bullied because I was verbally put down so much at home that I didn’t know I could stand up for myself? Was I in bad relationships because my parents didn’t set an example of one that was good? Maybe I was in bad relationships because it was all I knew? Is all of this my own fault?

I don’t have the answers to ANY of those questions, other than maybe the last one. I KNOW that not everything that I deal with is my fault. I know that there’s situations that I couldn’t avoid. I always feel that my quest for the answers is a source of more anxiety and depression for me. I don’t like when things don’t make sense. Much of my life doesn’t make sense. I don’t understand a lot of things about it. In fact, there are some things that I completely understand and they’re even bigger sources of depression.

Very often I feel like I’m a prisoner of my own life. And it’s a life sentence. There doesn’t seem to be a  out of the bad situations. I keep trying different things and they all produce the same results. This is something that I will definitely dig deeper into in a future entry.

Happiness confuses me. I think I’m comfortable in my misery. I know that’s not a good thing, or is it? Can comfort be bad? There’s a difference between comfort and complacency. I think I’m more comfortable than complacent. I think…

I was about to say that I could easily tell stories about my parents and their impact on my mental health, but I really can’t. This entry originally had specific things in it that I’ve deleted. I guess there’s specific things I don’t want to talk about on here. Although, sometimes I wonder if it’s because I’m afraid that some people’s visions of my parents may change. I really don’t know. I keep wanting to delete this entire paragraph.

This entry is one that is giving me a bit of anxiety. Then again, most of my entries do. Part of my condition is a fear of expression. That’s something I definitely got from my parents. Not only did they not express themselves in a positive or constructive way, more often than not, they didn’t say anything at all until it all blew up. I want to delete this paragraph too.

I’m noticing a trend and I’m not just talking about my “breaking the 4th wall” in this entry. I’m noticing that I’m hitting a wall. It’s a big one. I need to find a way to chip away at it.

From September of 2010 until the end of June, 2012 I was seeing a psychologist once a week. I felt it helped me a bit, although now I realize that I really never scratched the surface of what my issues really were. I was just focused on what I was going through at that time. Although, I do know that it’s all related.

Part of the inspiration for this particular post is a documentary I watched last week. That documentary is called “Bipolar Rock N’ Roller” and it deals with one man’s struggle with mental illness. I became familiar with it because the subject of the film is Mauro Ranallo, and he’s currently a commentator for WWE, among other sports.
This is not the first time that something I’ve seen related to WWE has inspired me to write a blog entry about my own battles with mental illness. A few years ago, I watched a reality series that WWE produced and one of the stars of that show came out during one of the episodes. Even though his sexuality well known before that, the simple fact that he said it publicly impacted me. I saw a weight lifted off of him. It motivated me to write more about how depression burdens me and to share more details in this forum. Sometimes my sources of inspiration are not what many of you would consider conventional.

How does my story have anything to do with a Professional Wrestling commentator’s issue with Bipolar Disorder? It doesn’t. But, watching Mauro Ranallo so openly tell his story inspired me to get a bit deeper into mine. One day soon I hope to really get into details, because I don’t see a professional about my issue anymore. This is therapy for me. This is what I do for myself to get my story out. This is me unpacking my baggage, one blog entry at a time.

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Smiling’s Just a Phase…

My original concepts for this entry were a lot darker than this will end up being. The reason for that is basically that I started out the month of April in a pretty bad depressive state. I’ve been there before and (unfortunately) I know I’ll be there again. It doesn’t matter how often I go through it, or how prepared I think I am, it’s never a good thing. Although, I did joke that I was glad it happened because it helped me lose some of the weight I was struggling to take off. April is just about over now and I’m doing better. But, for how long?

None of the issues that triggered my depression have seen any resolution. In fact, they’re basically all still as they were, if not worse. I’ve been able to cope with them though. And while I’m feeling a bit better, I still feel like I’m constantly on the verge of another bad spell.

This entry may end up skipping around a little bit without good transitions from one thought to the next. But, that’s basically how my head has been for a while. So, bear with me.

I’ve gone into this before, but I like running in 5k races. I’ve often said that they’re usually good for my mental health. They give me a goal and no matter how I do, as long as I’ve finished a race, I’ve accomplished something. For various reasons, I skipped a few last year. Despite being in this depression, I was determined not to miss the first one that I usually do. I don’t like the course. I know it’s one of the more challenging ones that I do. I barely slept in the weeks or so leading up to the race. I did my best to get some sleep the night before and I did the race. My time was 31:12.8. That was my 2nd slowest finish out of 27 races that I’ve done. Normally, that would disappoint me. However, in this case it doesn’t bother me (that much). I was EXHAUSTED after the race. How my body felt after the race told me all I needed to know about it. I gave it EVERYTHING I had. I finished. I just didn’t finish as quickly as I would have liked. But, I still felt good afterwards. Drained, but good.

A few days later I went to see one of my favorite bands, Life of Agony, play two nights in a row in their hometown of Brooklyn. Concerts are usually a good thing for me. But, Life of Agony shows are different for me. I don’t just go to their shows to enjoy the music. I go to their shows to let out emotions. I feel like everyone there is dealing with something and we all let it out together, even if we don’t know each other. I was lucky enough to do this twice in two days. My high continued.

As I was writing the last few sentences I realized how similar of a story I wrote a few years ago. I guess it proves that my problems seem to be cyclical. It also shows me how important things such as music are to me. I already knew it, but these entries make it seem more tangible.

But what now? I don’t feel as good as I did after the shows. I don’t feel as bad as I did leading up to them. Life keeps piling on pressures and expenses for me. I’m doing what I can to survive. But, when will surviving turn into thriving? When will anything get easier? Notice that I’m attempting to be positive in my cynicism. I’m not thinking about when surviving becomes too much of a burden. I’m aiming for better things than that. Although, believe me, my mind struggles to believe there will be a change for the better.

These entries DO help me. They are a good outlet for me. When I’m at my job and a deep (sometimes dark) thought comes to my mind, I’ll write it down. Sometimes those thoughts will end up being the genesis of one of these blog entries. Sometimes they’ll end up on Twitter. Other times, they’re just written down and that’s it. As I was at my recent low point, the stuff I was posting on Twitter definitely took a darker tone than I’m used to posting on there. I’m sure some of those thoughts I had ended up there instead of here.
People that read those tweets did reach out to me. Some were very concerned. I even had someone that I don’t know from another country ask if he could help. Stuff like that makes me feel better, and yet lonely at the same time. That would seem weirder to me if it didn’t make total sense.

I think this entry is another one of my “scratching the surface” entries that has a few topics that I should dig deeper into at some point. If I do that I could find it very therapeutic. Or, maybe it could give me a lot of anxiety. Who knows?

I also think upcoming entries that I’ll be writing may have a more brooding tone to them. It’s not me being pessimistic, it’s just my gut feeling. It’s actually ironic to say that I’m having a feeling in my gut, since I spent much of the past month feeling empty inside.

That last sentence was an example of how I try to make fun of my own situation. It goes back to what one of my true heroes, Carrie Fisher said “If my life wasn’t funny, it would just be true. And that is unacceptable.” There’s times that laughter is the best medicine, even if what I’m laughing at is my own problems. It’s that type of insanity that keeps me sane.

I think the entire point of this entry is that when I’m down, I can’t stay down. I have to do things. I can’t just lay around and do nothing, as much as it’s my natural instinct to do. I’ve said a few times that it’s hard to be happy when my default is set to miserable. I need to do things that legitimately make me smile. I need to do things that genuinely make me feel good, even if for just a little while. A 5k race or seeing a particular band, even though I can barely afford to do any of those events, provides me with some of the relief that I desperately need. I try so hard to provide myself with those moments and I try to provide them to friends that are in need of the same.

Depression isn’t just a phase for me. It’s much bigger than that. Smiling may be a phase, but it’s a phase that I’m hoping to extend.

One Day the Wind Will Come up and You’ll Come Up Empty Again.

This entry is a follow up to one that I published 3 years ago. Like that one before, I’m posting this on March 12th because of the significance the day has for me. It was on March 12, 2013 when I became completely free from credit card debt. It was one of the proudest and happiest days of my life. But now, 5 years removed from the day and from all credit card debt, I am still struggling with every paycheck.

Here’s the big difference between my 2015 post and this one, I make more money per hour than I did then. However, there were periods in between that I did not. At one point, I was working 2 jobs just to get by. Now, I work a 40 hours per week full-time job that pays me the most I’ve been paid since 2011. So, how am I still paycheck to paycheck with no savings?

One thing I’ve learned over the last few years is that our money has less value than it used to. What does that mean? How can one dollar not have the same value as it used to? One dollar is one dollar, right? Well, yes it is. But, you used to be able to get a lot more with that dollar than you can now. Every time there’s a price increase on an item or service, there doesn’t seem to be a matching decrease. There’s certainly not an increase in my wages.

The Middle Class in America can barely make ends meet. We are being smothered by debt and an increase in costs of living. As I stated, I work a full 40 hours per week, and I have nothing. I’m not alone. It’s a massive problem. It’s been over 8 years since I’ve used a credit card. Everything I buy comes directly from my account. This is why people have such debt, it’s the only way to save money. Isn’t that ironic?

I recently read that rich people spend about 30% of the income per year while Middle and Lower Income earners spend 90% of their income. I definitely fall into that 90% area. No, it’s not me spending frivolously. It’s me spending on things I can afford that I need. I need gas in my car, I need food, and I need health insurance. And every once in a while, I need to be social. I just can’t afford to do as much as I would like to do.

When I received my federal tax refund a month or so ago, I immediately spent it. Half of it went to pay off some work that I had done on my car. I also bought some new clothing. That money went to pay for things I needed that I couldn’t always afford. This is the struggle I deal with on an almost daily basis. I have very little buying power in the economic state the country is in.

The best example I can give anyone about what happens when Middle Class people have more buying power is the experiment that the Atlanta Falcons did with their concessions. When they moved into their new stadium last year, they lowered the prices of all of their concessions by 50%. They made 16% more on food and beverage sales than they did year before. How is it possible to decrease the cost that much and make more money? It’s very simple, they increased the buying power of their customers. It’s very common for people that attend football games to get to the stadium early, cook food and drink beer in the parking lot, and then go in right before the game starts. The prices of food and drinks inside stadiums are outrageous. In Atlanta, fans were (on average) going into the stadium 2 hours earlier than normal, buying more food, and even buying more merchandise. Their experiment worked because they lowered cost and made their customers’ money have more value. You can read more about that in this article from ESPN.

While what the Falcons did is very commendable and a great example of making dollars more valuable, their model is not the only solution to the problem. We need our wages to increase. Overall cost of living is still going up. Gas prices are rising. There could be an increase in the cost of cans of soup, beer, and other items we enjoy. We need more money and we need it to be more valuable.

Our roads need to get fixed. Tax money is used to fund these repairs. Less tax money coming from the Upper Class means less tax money going to fix the roads. History has shown that in times like this, tax cuts on Middle and Lower Class will go away. We are the ones that get taxed more and more to fund things. Our buying power decreases even more in the process. We have less money to spend. Our mental health declines as we worry about paying bills and providing for ourselves, or our families.
Also, poor road conditions can lead the need for car repairs. I know very well that I cannot afford any major car repairs right now and some of the roads I travel on just on my way to my job are not good.

I grew up in a single income house. Many people in my generation did. We had two parents in the house, but only one had an outside job. A second income wasn’t needed. It is now. I don’t want to get into a big discussion about politics in this entry, but the decline of single income households goes right along with everything else I’ve been talking about in this entry and it started in the 1980s. Again, our buying power has decreased because our money is not as valuable as it used to be.

Five years removed from debt. My bills get paid every month. That isn’t my problem. I know how to budget myself to make sure that happens. I just don’t have enough money for other things. I don’t see any real hope with our system as it is. It’s just more of the same that doesn’t help the people on the bottom. Something needs to change or else we’re just going to keep spinning our wheels with nowhere to go and we’re going to always wind up empty. Empty bank accounts, empty wallets, empty cabinets, and empty inside.

Very often when I try to wrap up one of my blog entries, I don’t really have a conclusion in mind, but I try to end on a positive note. I’ll say that I don’t know what to do about whatever situation I’m talking about and I’ll say something vague like “I’ll just keep on going.” But, I think in this case I’ll end it with a quote from the 20th Century philosopher, and more famously a Hall of Fame Major League Baseball Player, Yogi Berra. He said “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.” Unfortunately, it was true when he said, and it’s even more true now.

How Many Have to Drop Before it Stops?

There was not a school shooting in my hometown. But, there was reason to believe there could have been. The other day, a student in the high school that I attended made a threat to “shoot up” the school. Another student reported the threat, police and other law enforcement agencies came in, the student was arrested. No shots were fired, although a gun was found at his house during an investigation. This happened about two weeks after the latest mass shooting at a school that got national attention.

Guns are a problem. I’m not going to sugarcoat my opinion on that. Some of you may stop reading this after that last sentence.

Mental illness is a problem. Do I still have your attention?

Are we allowed to discuss both issues in conjunction with one another? Or are the abundance of mass shootings in America only due to mentally ill people that happen to have illegal guns? The gun used in the Florida shooting was legally purchased. What now? How can we debate that? Oh right, the shooter was sick in the head, and that was the only issue. Let’s offer “thoughts and prayers” and go about business as usual.

The United States of America is THE ONLY COUNTRY in the “developed world” that has a gun violence issue like this. We continue to ignore the issue and claim that the 2nd Amendment is under attack if changes to gun laws are proposed. Well, how about we think about things this way. We are allowing people to be killed because we’ve done NOTHING TO STOP IT.

Metal detectors at schools are not going to solve this. Armed guards at schools is not the answer. Giving guns to teachers is not the answer. To be honest, I don’t know what the answer is. I just know that whatever we’ve done so far, which is nothing, isn’t working.

Last year there was a mass shooting in Las Vegas. It was from a window or a hotel. People were gunned down while they were enjoying an outdoor concert. If more people had guns there, do you really think it would have solved anything? No, it wouldn’t have. It would have been more chaotic and more deadly. That, I’m sure of.
What action did we take with this incident? I know, we offered more “thoughts and prayers.”

We need help. We need help from Congress. We need help.
We need access to mental health care.
We need less access to guns. I’m not arguing pistols and hunting rifles. That’s a different topic for a different time. There is no reason for any person at all to own a machine gun caliber weapon. Nothing anybody ever says to attempt to justify that one will work.

We hear the slogans “America First,” “Americans First,” and “Make America Great Again” from the President. I don’t like him. I never will. I think he’s going have disastrous long-term effects on the economy, race relations, diplomatic relations with other countries, and so many other issues. However, if decent gun regulations are put into place that make it more difficult to buy a gun while he’s in office, I will not only support the move, I will praise him (if he is indeed a part of the process), and I will say that he’s put “American First” and taken a step to “Make America Great Again.”

I’m not looking for the removal of guns from law-abiding citizens. That’s not what this debate is about. And first of all, if you’re a law-abiding citizen, what are you worried about? Continue to abide by the law and you’ll be fine. But, buying a gun should not be so simple. There NEEDS TO BE more tests to determine if someone can handle it. This needs to be universal.

This is not about race or religion. Although, it’s obvious that some pundits try to turn it a discussion about that. I’ve heard people bring up inner-city violence. I’ve heard them talk about “black on black” crime as evidence that minorities are more likely to use guns. That’s a load of garbage. It’s a distraction method used by people that don’t want to discuss what the real issues are.

I can go on and on about how this isn’t just about an abundance of guns, it’s not just about a mental health issue, how (in some cases) it’s about economics, but what am I doing other than ranting? What good will come of it? Well, that depends on you. It depends on me. What are we going to do about it to make sure the mass shootings stop?

We talk about protection. How about we focus on prevention. No more empty talk. No more “thoughts and prayers.” It’s time for action. It’s time for us to realize causes. It’s time for us to realize that there’s more than one factor. It’s time for us to do something. Innocent people, sometimes children, are being killed. They’re being killed by people that society has failed. They’re being killed by outcasts that have been pushed too far without getting help. Instead of saying that someone is acting out because he or she “just wants attention,” how about we GIVE THEM SOME ATTENTION. Just sitting with someone for a few minutes and listening to what they have to say can make a world of difference.

Yes, I know this entry has gone in various directions. And I know that what I’ve written in a bit of a ramble. I was going to write about this topic a few days ago, but I wanted to clear my head and not be too emotional when I wrote it. That concept didn’t work. I’m full of emotions as I’m writing this. This is a serious topic. Actually, it’s various serious topics. We’re not doing enough to talk about them. And we’re definitely not doing enough to address them.

If you think it’s only a mental health issue, there’s nothing I can do to change your mind. But, I do implore you to do something about it. Do whatever you can to make healthcare more available and affordable to those that need it.

If you think it’s only a gun issue, then doing something about it.

If you think it’s both, do something about it.

“Thoughts and prayers” are meaningless without action.

And no actual action is killing us…

in mass.

Because, the next time something happens in my town (or yours), maybe we won’t be so lucky.

The Process of Trying to Act Unharmed.

For many of us, life can be a journey through pressure. It can overwhelm us so easily. Sometimes the difficulty of dealing with that pressure can be too much to handle. It can make day to day activities seem impossible to manage. Even the simplest of things can seem like burdens due to pressures that we experience.

I feel pressure very often. I feel the pressure to improve my situations in life. I feel the pressure to save money. I feel the pressure to not be single and sometimes the pressure that being in a relationship brings. I feel the pressure to live on my own. I feel the pressure to just survive.

All of the pressures I feel are connected. They stem from expectations put on me by my parents, my friends, my peers, my job, and society in general. Sometimes, the biggest source of pressure that’s put on me comes from myself. But, why? What am I trying to prove and to whom am I trying to prove it?

How someone handles pressure is key to survival, I think. Very often, I’m guilty of letting things build up inside. Of course, I come from a household that thrives on that. Positive expression of feelings was not something I dealt with a lot. Any negative feelings I had were belittled and often dismissed. I was conditioned to not be able (or allowed) to express myself. It would often cause me to feel lots of internal pressure and anxiety.

Expectations of how things should be versus the way they really are can be crushing. Trying to make ends meet when there’s no end in sight. Paying off bills just to watch more pile up. Looking forward to that next paycheck just because you know you’ll be able to put a full tank of gas into your car when you get that paycheck.

I deal with those scenarios. I deal with them endlessly. Some days are easier than others. Some day are a lot more difficult than others. What can I do about it? What am I doing about it? What options are there? I don’t know if doing anything different would matter. I wake up, I go to work. I work 40 hours per week. I have nothing to show for it. I don’t have any savings. I work so I can afford to get back to work and have enough food to live. I don’t feel like I’m succeeding at life. But, am I failing? Why are so many people that work a full 40 hour work week struggling? Are they failing the system, or has the system failed them?

I’m not going to get too into my financial situation in this entry. I have ideas for an upcoming entry about that. But, I don’t think it’s possible for me to talk about anxiety and pressure in my life without at least mentioning the burdens and pressure that borderline poverty bring.

I do place a lot of pressure on myself too. I think and I think and I think some more. I overthink scenarios in my head. I have visions of how they’re going to unfold. Then when it comes time to confront the issue head-on, I get very anxious. The pressure mounts and when the situation doesn’t go as expected, which is often the case, I don’t feel the sense of relief I was hoping for. In fact, my mind has already started thinking about the next step, or the remedy, to the situation. The cycle continues.

There are some situations in my life that I am intentionally vague about when I talk about them. There’s things I’m not particularly comfortable talking about in forms like this. Those situations are some of the biggest pressure cookers in my life. What makes it worse for me is that I see no way to escape them. There is no way to alleviate those pressures, at least not positively. Way too often, a boiling point is reached. And, there’s usually no change in anything as a result. It just starts building again.

I know that as bad as I may think my life’s situations can be, there’s a lot of people dealing with things much worse. I don’t take any pleasure in that. It’s not a comfort to know that people are worse off, but there is a slight bit of comfort knowing that I’m not alone. Commiseration is not necessarily bad. It can be a bonding experience, and it’s one that I don’t run from. Which is odd for someone with as many social anxieties as me.

But, even with all of that perspective, on an almost daily basis I wonder if I’m good enough. I wonder if I’m just a constant disappointment to everyone around me. Some people say I should do more for myself, but what if what I’m doing is the best I can do? What if this is the best it’s going to get? What then? Should I be proud or should I be ashamed? All of those thoughts add to the internal pressure.

Like my other entries when I start digging into this stuff, I’m not writing them for a “woe is me” tale. I’m not writing them to get sympathy. I’m writing them so I can get understanding. I want you to understand me. I want you to know I went through this, and I’m still going through this. If you have a similar story, I want you to know you’re not alone. I want you to know there’s someone that understands.

I try my best to not be ashamed of my situation. I know that a good deal of what I go through isn’t necessarily my fault. A lot of my situation is due to circumstances. A lot of those circumstances have gone wrong. Or maybe I just think they have.

See, I doubt things I don’t even have to doubt…
Or do I?
I really don’t know.

This confusion just adds to my anxiety and the pressures I feel.

I Don’t Know Where I Belong or Where it All Goes From Here.

2017 is just about over. This entry will be my annual look back at the year that was as I ask myself the question “am I better off than I was one year ago?” Last year, it was easy for me to answer. I simply said “YES.” I actually did use all capital letters to emphasize it. I can’t say anything as certain as that this year, in fact, I’m not even sure if I am better off than I was a year ago. There’s just too many questions to have definitive answers.

Just under two weeks ago marked my 1 year anniversary at my job. In last year’s entry, I spoke about how I liked it, so far. Well, after one year, I still like it. I don’t know if I could say that I got off to a rocky start there, but it was a totally new environment for me and I had to learn something completely from the beginning. Over the year I’ve become one of the more trusted and relied upon associates in my department. And those words aren’t just coming from me, they’ve been said to me by higher ups. I’m very proud of that.

I didn’t do nearly as many 5k races as I had in previous years. In fact, I only did three in 2017. I made excuse after excuse as to why I didn’t run them. Sometimes there were schedule conflicts and other times I just said “I’m not ready.” I didn’t come to close to setting any new records for myself during the three races that I completed, and I actually ran my 2nd slowest ever during one of them. But, I did finish all three. I hope to do a few more races in 2018. And I’m going to do my best to erase the reasons/excuses that held me back in 2017.

One thing I am very proud of us is my (small) contribution to making one of those races happen. I am part of a committee in my town that does a lot of community organizing and events. Getting my town’s 5k race back from the dead was our crowning achievement. Many people in the group did A LOT more actual work than I did to get that race going, but I did have some contributions and as I said, I’m very proud of it.

Last year I wrote about how much better my social life was than one year earlier. I was in a relationship that I was very happy in. Sadly, that relationship did not last. But, there’s no regrets or ill will in any aspect of it. Sometimes those things just can’t be sustained. It happens. And as 2017 ends, I’m actually hopeful about my social life. I think there’s a chance for something. I’m not pushing the issue. I’m letting the cards fall where they may and I’ll see how it plays out.

I said that two of my biggest regrets in  2015 and 2016 were not hitting my book reading goal and not being able to perform a Black Crow pose in my DDP Yoga sessions. History has repeated itself, yet again in 2017. I didn’t come close with either. Maybe in 2018…
Maybe…

One aspect of my life that isn’t better than last year is my financial situation. I’m in a complete paycheck to paycheck cycle. I don’t know if there’s any way out of that at the moment, but I’ll keep going. It’s what I do. Of course, the political climate and situation in America also contributes to the fears I have about my finances. I don’t believe for one second that the direction we’re going will help me, or anyone in my situation.

Building on that, I do have hope for America’s future. I saw a lot of things happen in 2017 that give me the feeling that we will see a change. I think we will see a progressive movement that will help the greater good of society and not just a select few. That change has actually already started, and I’m cautiously optimistic about it.

Much like 2016, I saw friendships develop and strengthen in 2017. Some people that were just acquaintances became very good friends of mine. I reconnected with some people that I hadn’t talked to for a little while. I even talked to someone (online) that I hadn’t heard from in close to 20 years.

My overall mental health isn’t too bad. I still have my reoccurring feelings of isolation, a lack of belonging, desperation, anxiety, shame, and overall depression. I’m pretty sure they’re always going to be there in some form or another. But, as weird as this may sound, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be depressed. There’s such awareness and so many support systems available now through social media that I think people have new ways to reach out. I know that I often browse various forums and will reply to posts about depression from people I don’t know. If nothing else, I want them to know that they’re not alone.

My blogs got some attention in 2017. As usual, some got more than others. One entry that I’m particularly proud of was the one I wrote about Brian Pillman. In my mind, I wrote that entry for me and the few members of the “Cannon Cult” that used to talk to Brian on AOL in the mid-90s. I thought a few others may read it, but I didn’t expect it to get such attention from Brian’s son. I also didn’t expect someone that was writing a book about Brian to read my entry and then (through a “Cannon Cult” member) reach out to me for stories. And believe me, I certainly didn’t expect to see my name in that book as a contributor after one of my stories was used. I’m so proud of that. It’s actually a bit surreal.

But now, with 2018 only a few hours away, one of the questions I’m asking myself is:
How does one truly start fresh in a new year when we just start our routines over?

I have 365 days to figure that one out. I have a lot of things to figure out in 2018. I have things I want to accomplish. I have places I want to go. I have things I want to do. Some of my goals are really simple. Some may not be as simple. But, like every single year, my resolution for the new year is just “to make it better.” I don’t know what exactly that means yet. But, as I said, I have 365 days to figure that out. With any luck, when I write my 2018 recap, I’ll be able to say that I hit goals and accomplished a lot. I guess we’ll just have to wait to see how it turns out.

2017 Album of the Year

Medusa

1- Paradise Lost – Medusa
2- Blondie – Pollinator
3- Depeche Mode – Spirit
4- Life of Agony – a Place Where There’s No More Pain
5- Dead Cross – Dead Cross
6- Butcher Babies – Lilith
7- Arch Enemy – Will to Power
8- Fozzy – Judas
9- Scott H. Biram – the Bad Testament
10- Crystal Fairy – Crystal Fairy

Paradise Lost need to retire.
Yes, that’s how I’m starting off my Album of the Year post. Yes, that’s how I’m talking about the band responsible for the album that I believe is the best album to come out in 2017. The reason I say they need to retire is that their sound has gone full circle. The evolution of Paradise Lost from beginning to now makes a lot of sense if you listen to their albums in order. You may be confused if you skip around without prior knowledge of their changes. Medusa’s sound is very much like their original sound. That does not mean they’ve regressed, it means they just got back to the sound. And I’m glad they did. This album has a great mix of death metal vocals and clean vocals. It also has the signature doomy sound from the guitars that Paradise Lost is known for. I don’t know where they can go from here. They keep reinventing themselves and genres, but what’s left? If you’re a fan of Paradise Lost and you haven’t heard this record, you’re really missing out.

Some of the better tracks on Medusa include “the Longest Winter,” “Shrines,” “No Passage for the Dead,” and especially “Fearless Sky.” I’ve joked that “Fearless Sky” is the best Opeth song to be released in 10 years. It’s over 8 minutes long and it takes me on a slow musical rollercoaster. It’s a great song.

I don’t know if I could praise Blondie’s Pollinator enough. Like Medusa, it’s reminiscent of its band’s early work. Blondie has been around since the mid-1970s and there’s songs on this album that will most definitely be a “best of” compilation one day. It’s just a damn good record. It starts off with “Doom or Destiny” which reminds of their hit “Call Me” with the tempo. It has a few good songs after that one, my favorite song on the album, “Fun” comes on. It sounds like it could have come out during the end of the disco era, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Just like I said about Paradise Lost’s Medusa, if you’re a fan of Blondie and you haven’t heard this one, you’re really missing out.

“Long Time,” “Too Much,” and “Love Level” are also some of my favorite tracks from Pollinator. “Love Level” also features the What Cheer? Brigade as the horn section. They’re a fun act to see.

Depeche Mode’s Spirit is a bit political. But, it resonates with me. And it resonated enough to be ranked as the 3rd best Album of the Year. “Going Backwards” is the opening track and it is a damning view of the world’s political scene as it currently is. The album continues to strike chords about the direction of the world, but with the classic Depeche Mode sound.

“Going Backwards” is my favorite track from the album. I think it’s the most damning song I’ve heard about the current state of the world. “Poor Man” is another song that I relate to. “Where’s the Revolution?” and “Poison Heart” are also worth checking out.

Life of Agony hadn’t put out an album of new songs since 2005. Their 2017 release, A Place Where There’s No More Pain, picked up right where they left off. It’s like they didn’t miss a beat. Of course, they had been touring on and off since then, but that doesn’t necessarily mean new material would be good. In this case, the songs are good. They didn’t play a lot of the new songs during their 2017 tour, and honestly I like the album enough that maybe if I had heard a few more of them done live, I may have ranked this album higher. Live performances can make a difference sometimes, but regardless of that, they put out a damn good album.

“Meet My Maker,” “A New Low,” “Right the Wrong,” and the title track are some of my favorites from this album and I think they fit in with the Life of Agony catalog very well.

Mike Patton has appeared in my Top 10 lists with Faith No More, Peeping Tom, Tomahawk, and his Mondo Cane project. He’s one here again with Dead Cross. I never know what to expect with Patton. Dead Cross’s sound is a mixture of punk, thrash metal, and grind core. With Patton screaming and growling throughout most of the album, it just works. I saw them perform this album in its entirety in September and it was worth it. I’ve never seen Mike Patton so aggressive on stage.

The album starts off with “Seizure and Desist,” which I really enjoy. I also really like their cover of Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” But, I think my favorite track is “Shillelagh.” It’s probably the best example of what Dead Cross is. This album may not be for everyone, but if you’re a Mike Patton fan, it’s worth checking out.

I had never heard anything from Butcher Babies until a few months ago. They were recommended to me and I sought out a few songs. I was impressed. I noticed they had a new album coming out and I ordered a copy. I was even more impressed. I have no idea how they had escaped my radar. Their album Lilith is one that I will definitely be listening to for a long time. I’ve already listened to it A LOT. Their sound is a heavy and guitar driven. They have two female singers and I really enjoy how they trade back and forth.

“Burn the Straw Man” opens the album and blew me away. The title track “Lilith” is the second track and I had heard that before I got the album because they had a video for it. They continued with “Headspin,” which I really like, but the 4th track, “Korova” is probably my favorite track. Give them a listen.

It’s because I like bands such as Arch Enemy that I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of Butcher Babies before. Arch Enemy also put out an album in 2017, Will to Power. This is their second studio release with Alissa White-Gluz on vocals. As I said about her debut with them, I think she’s breathed new life into them. I know some fans weren’t happy that she incorporated clean (non-growl) vocals into one track, “Reason to Believe,” but I liked it. It was not expected and it works with the Arch Enemy sound. It’s my favorite song on the album.

Other tracks I really like include “Dreams of Retribution,” “the Race,” and “the World is Yours.”

Chris Jericho is a promotional genius. He knows how to get his name out there and how to get attention on himself. He had been playing the title track from his band Fozzy’s new album, Judas, on his podcast for months before it was released. I didn’t mind because it’s a good song. He was able to market the album in a way that I was very excited about the release date. Fozzy is consistently good. I’ve ranked them in my lists a few times.

“Burn Me Out,” “Drinking with Jesus,” and “Weight of My World” are other favorite of mine from this album.

I don’t know why Scott H. Biram’s the Bad Testament took a while to grow on me. But, once it did, I realized how damn good it is. Maybe I was thinking it would sound differently, but what I got was an album that reminded me of (what I think are) his best albums the Dirty Old One Man Band and Graveyard Shift. Those two albums were the first things I heard from him after I had been introduced to his act after I saw him open for Clutch. What I like about Biram’s stuff is that while each album is good by itself, I can put his catalog on random and just lose myself in his blues/country/punk style. That’s needed sometimes.

I know I’m saying this a lot, but if you’re a fan of Scott H. Biram, you need to hear this album. Some of tracks that stand out (more than others) to me include “Set Me Free,” “Still Around,” “Train Wrecker,” “Crippled & Crazy,” and “True Religion.”

2015’s 10th best album was A Raw Youth from Le Butcherettes. I saw them open for Faith No More and I was intrigued. Their singer, Terri Gender Bender is a captivating performer. She’s different. Along with some other people on the Ipecac Records label, she formed Crystal Fairy, and their debut album is this year’s 10th best album. They have a heavy sound and her vocal style ranges from singing, to screaming, to screeching, none of which is bad.

I recommend “Chiseler,” “Necklace of Divorce,” the title track “Crystal Fairy,” and “Secret Agent Rat” as songs worth trying.

A few albums that were good, but just didn’t crack my Top 10 list include Steven Wilson’s To the Bone, the Front Porch Sessions by the Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, and TajMo by Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’.

Some notes about other albums from the year:
Anneke Van Giersbergen’s new project VUUR released their debut album In This Moment We Are Free – Cities. She’s my favorite female voice in music, but this album didn’t draw me in.

Anathema’s the Optimist starts off great, but lost my interest.

Moonspell put out 1775. But, all the lyrics are in Portuguese. I couldn’t follow along.

Ayreon’s the Source was a major disappointment.

Blackfield V was just boring.

Gov’t Mule’s Revolution Come, Revolution Go has good stuff on it, but it nothing too special.

Gregg Allman released what will likely be his final album, Southern Blood. He died during the year and that made this album difficult for me to listen to. There’s definitely good songs on it, but some of them deal with his impending demise and that made it too real. Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band meant so much to me for so long. I wish this album wasn’t his last.

Neither Garbage nor Muse released new albums in 2017, but they both released one new song. “No Horses” and “Dig Down,” respectively. Both songs are fantastic and make me look forward to their next albums.

I know Clutch and Lacuna Coil have new albums being worked on and I think both will be relased in 2018. Lacuna Coil’s 2016 album, Delirium, was my album of the year. I really hope they follow up with something good. I guess time will tell.

A note about eligibility for my 2017 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2017
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist)
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material