These Weeds Have Grown Where the Sun Once Shown.

We’re currently living through one of the most important, most trying, and possibly the strangest time of (many of) our lives. The COVID-19 pandemic is literally impacting every single one of us in one way or another. I doubt that I’ll have anything really profound to say, but I’m going to write a bit about it anyway, to the best of my ability.

I honestly don’t know where to start. I’ve never seen anything like this and I hope to never see anything like again. I’ve never seen the majority of the world shut down like this, not even after September 11, 2001.

I’m not going to use this post to discuss any specific political views. I could easily go down that route, but I don’t want to do that just now. This is about where we are and we’re going from here.

The entire planet Earth is impacted by COVID-19. It isn’t just the United States. It’s not just China. It’s not just Italy. It’s the entire planet. We need to realize that and we all need to do our part to slow down the spread of this disease and eventually wipe it out. We, as human beings, not as Americans, or Chinese, or Italians, or Iranians, or Russians, or Spaniards, as human beings, need to come together to fix this. Yes, that we means we may have to isolate our selves from friends, family, and loved ones for a while. But, it’s for the greater good. I saw something online today that “You’re not trapped at home, you’re SAFE at home.” That’s very true.

As far as I know, I’m healthy. At the time that I’m writing this, I do not have COVID-19. At least, I don’t believe I do. I say that it way because it can sometimes linger for a few weeks before showing symptoms. However, if I did have it and I go out and have any type of contact with you, then you may have it. You may pass it on to your friends, you may pass it on to your children, you may pass it on to your parents, you may pass it on to an elderly person that may not survive. This needs to be taken seriously.

As businesses have been forced to shut down and people are being laid off from their job as a result of this, I feel for them. I’m considered an “essential” employee. I work for my town. And as tremendously grateful and appreciative as I am for my employment situation, I almost feel that calling what I do as “essential” is an insult to truly “essential” works such as first responders of any kind, anyone working in healthcare (nurses, doctors, etc), and even grocery employees. I work in an office. Yes, I’m helping to move along processes of every day life for people, but what I do isn’t nearly as important. I don’t feel I’m putting myself down by saying that, I just feel that I’m looking at it through a level of self-awareness and perspective.

There was a brief period of almost a full week when my office was closed due to a health concern for a co-worker. When I first realized that I was not going to be working for a few days, I thought about all of the things that I was going to do. I did almost none of them. I had no plan for those days. I had no structure. I had no routines. I’ve previously discussed how I’ve been called a “Creature of Habit” by some people. And they’re basically true. I do a lot of specific things on specific days. I’m now working half days, but that may soon change to working as much from home as possible, as we’re starting to get set up for that.

Even if I start working more from my house. I still need a plan. I need to map out what my days are going to look like. I had told some friends that I may dedicate an hour or two per day to listening to podcasts. I may spend up to an hour reading a book every day. I will definitely be doing at least one DDP Yoga workout per day. If the weather permits, I’ll go for a walk or a run. I don’t have access to gyms at the moment, so I need to figure out things to do for exercise.

The one thing I know that I can’t do is NOTHING. I’ve discussed nothing before. Feel free to go back and read about nothing if you want. My mental health has remained pretty good during the last few weeks. Yes, I’m experiencing various forms of anxiety, but it hasn’t become too much. I have not had any depressive episodes during this time. As I just said, I’m mostly mentally healthy. My concern is not about me, it’s really about the people that I care about. It’s also about what things are going to look like when this is over.

I truly hope that America, as a whole, realizes from this situation that the systems that we’ve had in place are not good. A health scare like this can financially ruin a person, family, and business. We need to look at ways to go about fixing the system to truly ensure that everybody has the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. As someone that has OFTEN worried about whether or not I could afford to put enough gas in my car to get to work the next day, I know what it’s like to worry about money. I’m beyond grateful that I’m not in that bind now. But, I easily could be again.

I have a few friends that are currently out of work due to this. They’re hairdressers, bartenders, waitresses, and book store employees. I’m more worried about them than I am about myself. I have a job. I’m being paid. They’re not being paid. And it’s possible that their jobs won’t be there when this is over. That is horrible. It’s frightening. These friends, out of no fault of their own, and out of no fault of their employers, may not have jobs to return to. I think that is definitely a sign that the system is broken.

I’ve joked that as someone with social anxieties and other various mental issues, the concept of “Social Distancing” isn’t difficult for me. But, it’s one thing to want to be isolated for a while, it’s another thing to truly need to be. There is nothing more that I would like to do than to go to a local bar with a friend for a beer (or two… let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be just two). But, that isn’t an option. Even if any local bars were still open, it’s not safe to go to them. And yes, I do know that there’s irony there since just recently I wrote about a time when I did go to a crowded bar and I absolutely wanted to be left alone.

Allow me to break the 4th wall for a moment and reveal a little secret about my blog entries. The titles of them are almost always taken from song titles or lyrics. I do that because the songs they’re taken from are related to what I’m writing about. I also do it because I’ve noticed that I get a few more hits on my blog sometimes when people search for those songs or lyrics. The song I used for this entry is “Weeds” from Life of Agony. The reason I chose that song specifically is because of the line that I used for this title and because of the very first line of the song. I won’t put that line here, I’ll ask that you look it up. At some point in the near future, I may have another entry that discusses why that particular line means so damn much to me. That entry may be in a few months. Yes, I’m trying to create more interest in my blog by saying that.

I could probably ramble on and on a lot more in this entry, but I know that if I do, you’ll probably stop reading, if you haven’t already. Really, all I can say is that I hope you’re all safe, happy, and healthy. I hope you remain that way. I hope that we’re all taken care of in whatever ways we need to be during and after this crisis. And when this is over, hopefully we’ll be able to get that beer together.

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.

A Roman Candle in the Wind

On October 5, 1997 I was at Madison Square Garden watching the New York Rangers in the in their first home game of the season against the Los Angeles Kings. The game ended in a tie. When I got back to my house that night, my sister was waiting for me at the door. She asked if I had heard about Brian Pillman. I said “No, what did he do now?” She said “he’s dead.” I questioned what she was talking about before she repeated it and assured me that it wasn’t a play on words. I stood there totally stunned before I just sat on the floor for a few minutes trying to process what I was just told.

There’s a good chance that many of you don’t know who Brian Pillman was. He was a Professional Wrestler. His death obviously had an impact on me. I wouldn’t have had such a strong reaction to such news and I wouldn’t be writing about it if it didn’t. But, it wasn’t just his death that had an impact on me, it was his life.

From the first time I saw in him 1989, I was a fan. He was a great performer and in many ways, ahead of his time. When he became a villain in 1992, I wasn’t sure he could pull it off, but did he ever. He was great in the role. Not long after that, he was placed into a tag team with “Stunning” Steve Austin. They were the “Hollywood Blondes.” The two had instant chemistry and remain one of my favorite teams to this day.

In 1995, Pillman started to act weird on TV. His character started to “snap” and it got to the point where you never knew what he was going to say or do. He managed to convince his then employer, WCW to let him go. The plan was for him to go to ECW for a while, become a bigger star while being “nuts” and then return. He ended up signing with WWE and became a bigger star that way. For various reasons, including a horrific car accident, his WWE career never took off like it was expected (or hoped). But, this entry isn’t about Brian Pillman’s career. You can go to Wikipedia to read all about that. This is about how Brian Pillman understood the power of Internet way before anyone else. This is about how Brian Pillman took a bunch of fans under his wing online in the days when it wasn’t easy to interact with fans. This is about the bond that was created with those fans and how what it means to me (and us) today.

In 1995, there was no Facebook. There was no Twitter. Interaction with celebrities online was basically unheard of. But, hidden in a sports themed area of America Online was the Grandstand. There was an area specifically dedicated to Professional Wrestling there. A few of us that had already become bored with the official WWE area on AOL would post our thoughts on the product in that area. Also in the Grandstand were folders dedicated to specific wrestlers. Brian Pillman was one of them. He showed up and posted in those folders more than any of the other wrestlers. While “in character” he would sometimes go to the WWE chat room and start trouble and often get his account suspended. His wife, Melanie, often had to plead her case to AOL to get the account reinstated since her name was the “master account” and Brian was just using a name on her account.

Brian was Professional Wrestling’s “Loose Cannon” and a few of us were his “Cannon Cult.” We were the ones he would sometimes ask to start trouble in a folder. Those folders would usually belong to another wrestler that he just wanted to mess with. He would usually pick up where we left off. All of this was in good fun, as we got to interact with one of our favorite personalities, and he got to help increase the awareness of his character and got more attention on himself, even in the days when most people didn’t know what the Internet was.

From time to time, Brian and Melanie would talk to us on AOL Instant Messenger and we became close. As close as possible on the Internet. Another wrestler that was on AOL at the time was “Diamond” Dallas Page. DDP and I would also talk online from time to time. I remember one day in late Summer of 1996 when DDP signed on and I asked him if he had heard from Brian recently. He said no, and that Brian hadn’t returned his calls for a while. I asked him for a deal, I said “if Brian signs on, I’ll tell him to call you. If you talk to him first, tell him his AOL friends miss him.” DDP agreed.

A few weeks later, one of the most controversial episodes of WWE Monday Night Raw ever happened. It’s known as “Pillman’s Got a Gun” and the premise was that Steve Austin was going to break into Brian’s house to injure him more than he recently had. Brian had a gun. Just watch the clip HERE.

I watched the show live that night and I went on AOL when the show was over. Not long after I signed on, Brian’s name showed up on my buddy list. I sent him a message letting him know how great I thought the episode was. We talked briefly and he said he had to go. I didn’t get to deliver the message.

Just a few minutes later, Melanie Pillman signed on. I chatted with her for a few minutes. She wanted to know if her hair looked good. I asked her where Steve Austin was and she told me that he and Brian were downstairs on the couch enjoying some beer. I loved that answer considering I had just seen Brian pull a gun on him. She said she had to get going, but before she did I told her that DDP said Brian hadn’t returned his calls. She said she would get on him about it. I emailed DDP about it. A few days later, he replied letting me know that Brian had called him.

I got to meet Dallas Page in 2013 and I told him that story. He laughed about and told me that he remembered that happening. I’m proud that I played a part in those two reconnecting.

Brian’s WWE career never really took off, for various reasons. Mostly due to nagging injuries. But we didn’t know about his alleged issues with pain killers and other substances. Unfortunately, it all caught up to him on October 5th, 1997. He was found dead in his hotel room. The official cause of death was ruled as heart failure due to an undetected condition.

I have no doubt in my mind that if Brian Pillman was healthy and substance free that he would have been one of the biggest stars in Professional Wrestling during its boom period of 1997-2001. In many ways, much of what happened in the business since his death is due to doors he’s opened online and how seriously he took his character.

To me, his legacy is complex. His in ring work was great. His personality was ahead of it’s time. But, what he did in 1995 and 1996 on AOL is what’s most personal for me. He talked to fans before it was cool to do that. He treated us with respect. He also taught me very early on how much somebody can use the Internet to communicate. He showed me the importance of words and, when used carefully and intelligently, just how powerful they can be.

This post isn’t doing justice to Brian Pillman’s career and influence. I’m not trying to recap his highlights here. I know this entry may make me seem like a “Mark” or a “fanboy,” but so what? Access to someone you thought so highly of was not common in 1995 and I was thrilled to have such access.

He was a big part of what made a few of us lifelong friends. Yes, I still talk to some members of the “Cannon Cult” to this day. It’s something I’m very grateful for.

To some, his death is just another death in a long string of Professional Wrestling deaths. And I understand that. But, as I’ve tried to explain here, this one was personal. He had a profound impact on me and many others. I hope he knew that and I hope he understood that.

CLPTLESS, MFLCannon, IamTheJer, TonyFlair, T725, and EcMFW were all proud members of the “Cannon Cult” and 20 years later, we still are.

tumblr_static_9dy4t1x9bz0go88cokoggwsc4.png

Brian William Pillman aka “Flyin'” Brian aka “the Loose Cannon.”
May 22, 1962 – October 5, 1997

#CannonCult4Life