Inside My Head, Electric Insomnia.

I live inside my head. There’s a decent amount of real estate there. There’s also a lot of roads inside there. Some of those roads go to very dark places. Some of those roads go to places that I’ve been to before. Some of those roads go to places that I’ve never been to. Some of those roads take me to places that I’ll never go to. But, all of those roads take me to where I am now. But, where am I?

2020 has been a weird year. As the world has mostly been shut down due to a pandemic, the overwhelming majority of things that I’ve done for my sanity aren’t available to me anymore. I can’t attend concerts or sporting events. Going to a bar with friends isn’t a viable options. So many of my routines, habits, and hobbies have been placed on hold. You would think that I would be absolutely miserable because of that. But, I’m not.

I would tell you that I’m in a good place mentally and emotionally, but to be honest, I don’t know if I ever truly am. I’ve often spoken about how I always question why things aren’t going wrong when I’m enjoying myself for an extended period of time. And I almost took that road yesterday, but, the road took a slight detour.

Instead of going to one of those dark places in my head, my mind took me on the road to the summer of 1990. When the majority of my classmates were outside during the day and playing with their friends, I was most likely asleep during the day. I didn’t see anyone. I slept all day and stayed in my room and watched TV and listened to the radio all night. No, this isn’t a dark place for me, it was a comfortable place. And, I think that’s where I am now.

In 1990, I really didn’t have many friends. I was getting ready to start high school. The concept of “fresh start” didn’t seem that appealing to me. I saw high school as the chance to have double the amount of classmates that didn’t like me. Yes, that part IS as bad as it sounds.

The TV shows that I was watching during that summer were Doctor Who episodes on PBS, Professional Wrestling, stand up comedy specials, and late night talk shows such as the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Late Night with David Letterman, Later with Bob Costas, and the Joe Franklin Show. Later was one of the first true sit down, one on one, interview shows that I enjoyed watching. The Joe Franklin show was on a local channel and at one point in his career, he would interview A-List celebrities. I don’t think he was getting those when I was watching. I also spent a lot of time watching reruns of sitcoms and listening to sports talk radio.

It’s now 2020. When I’m not at work, I’m at my house, in my room. I watch Doctor Who box sets, Professional Wrestling, stand up comedy specials, game shows from the 1970s and 1980s, and reruns of the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. I listen to podcasts that discuss things such as Later with Bob Costas and the Joe Franklin Show. To be clear, they aren’t just discussing things that are similar, they’re actually discussing those shows.

I do some other things besides that, but for the most part, I barely leave that one room, just like 30 years ago, and basically every day in between.

In 2020, I truly have more friends that I could ever imagine having. But, I don’t see them in person. It’s not necessarily safe to do that right now. I’m not upset about it. And I due to my mind going on a long road trip of pondering yesterday, I think I know why I’m okay with being where I am now.

The 1990 scenario that I described probably did a lot to enhance my social anxieties. I say enhance them and not cause them because I was always a bit shy. Being social is very difficult for me sometimes. I’ve described that in detail in some other entries. But, here we are in 2020 and being social isn’t an option. It’s actually kind of a freeing feeling. I’m capable of being me and doing what I want to do without worrying about anything else. It’s easy for me, and I feel safe here.

Of course, immediately after finishing that last paragraph, my mind went down another long road of thought. Is “easy” good for me? Am I comfortable being where I am? Is comfortable good? Should I question this a lot less? Should I just be glad that I’m doing well? What if I’m not really doing well? What if I’m doing well where I am now and don’t want to leave?

So yeah…
That’s how my mind works.
It sounds like a fun place to be, right?

Fun or not, good or bad, happy or sad, it’s where I am right now. It’s where my mind has taken me. It’s where 2020 has taken my mind. I want to make it as clear as I possibly can. Regardless of all of the places that my mind can go, I have not had one single major depressive episode during the year. I haven’t even come close. Maybe, sitting around and watching retro TV and movies is healthy for me. I mean, I know that I enjoy it…
well, at least I think that I do.

See, it happened again. Instant doubt.

The truth is, that regardless of all of the things that I’ve said in this post, I’m not in a dark place. Yes, sometimes my mind heads in that direction, but the comforting thoughts of binge watching an old TV series is a detour that my mind enjoys going on. And if there’s enjoyment, with no pressure and no anxiety, I should probably do my best not to take that road or let it take up too much space in my head.


An Archaic Way of Thinking, So Monstrous and Absurd.

If I publish an entry that is blatantly political, I know that a vast majority of my few regular readers will just skip over the post. This entry is going to deal with some issues that are in the news and are linked to politics. I’m going to do my best to stay away from directly referencing political aspects of it, while attempting to make sense of things that, to me, don’t make sense. I’m also going to try to explain how I got to the point that I’m at with my own beliefs.

I’m a middle-aged white male. That means that there’s a lot of things that I don’t need to worry about. I don’t need to be concerned with whether or not I have access to birth control (pills, abortion, etc). I don’t need to worry about not being paid equally because of who I am. I don’t need to worry about being profiled and harassed based on the color of my skin. I am someone that has White Privilege.

White Privilege does not mean that I don’t need to work hard to advance in life. And it doesn’t mean that non-whites get by with hand-outs. It just means that I have a head start, based on who I am. White Privilege doesn’t mean that I won’t get pulled over for speeding. It means that I’m more likely to not be harassed for doing it. But, this post is not about my White Privilege.

Throughout the 40+ years that I’ve been alive, I’ve been picked on, made fun of, insulted, harassed, and even beaten up. I deserved none of that, but often I thought that I must have deserved it. Sometimes I felt scared to go to school. I didn’t want to tell my parents or my teachers about what was happening to me because I was afraid of retaliation. I never acted out or really fought back, because I was always afraid of consequences.

How many times have we heard stories about a high school kid that shoots his classmates? How many times have we heard stories about a high school kid that dies by suicide? In many cases, both of those horrible actions are the result of someone being treated like I was in school.

Beaten down. Figuratively, literally, emotionally, mentally. How much can one person take before there’s a breaking point? Imagine yourself in my shoes in high school. It wasn’t pleasant for me.

I was one person. I was afraid. I felt that I was nothing. I didn’t know what to do. I had a few bad experiences with some teachers and counselors. They made me feel that I was at fault. I was told that I was lazy. I was told that I didn’t work hard enough. They failed to address what my real problems were. They didn’t do anything to solve or even help me get past those problems and they certainly never held anyone accountable for what was done to me, even if they witnessed it.

Now imagine that an entire community of people that go through the same thing. Imagine that community is treated like they don’t belong with “the rest of us.” Imagine that people in that community are constantly threatened and harassed by the people in charge. Imagine that people that are supposed to protect that community are seen as threats instead of help. Imagine that when something goes wrong for that community that nobody assists them, and instead they’re constantly told that they’re at fault and deserve what’s happened to them.

What I vaguely described in the paragraph above is how I see issues facing the Black Community in the United States. It’s also why I empathize with them. I’ve been the person that’s felt how they feel. Just so it’s clear, I am by no means trying to make the comparison of my personal struggles with Blacks in America. I would diminishing them if I did that. I’m just trying to say that I understand.

In the past few months, we’ve seen more and more stories about Black Americans being shot, beaten, and harassed by authority figures. We’ve seen others in positions of power not step up to help, and in many cases, criticize them for being upset about what’s happened to them, and how they’re handling it.

Like the scenarios that I described earlier about the high school kids that snap and do somethings drastic, that’s where the Black Community in America is now. They’re that beaten down person that has had enough and is lashing out.

When your pleas for help are constantly ignored, you lash out. When you’ve always been treated like you don’t matter, you may not know what to do. When you have no way to improve your situation because there isn’t a system in place to help you, what can do you do?

I already know how some people will react to this post. I know how some people may criticize me for making the comparison that I’ve made. I know how some people believe that one side of the political aisle has done more damage (or more to help) to blacks than the other. To be honest, none of that really matters right now. To me, the issue is simple. The issue that we can say that all people have the same chances and opportunities in the United States, but that’s not true. It’s never been true. White males have always had an advantage and have made the rules. Those rules don’t benefit everyone else as much as they benefit themselves.

I’m doing my best to not turn this into an us vs. them post. I don’t want to get into politics here, but I know that what I’m going to say in the next few sentences is going to spark a certain response from some.

There was a time that I wouldn’t say “Black Lives Matter.” I felt it was silly to say that people are equal and then separate anyone, so I wrote someone on one of my social media pages about how we should all say “All Lives Matter.” I saw who was agreeing with me, and who wasn’t. The “Black Lives Matter” people were people whose opinions that I usually agree with and I thought I was agreeing them in my reasoning, but it looks like I didn’t get it yet.

Without publicly stating it, I did change my views on that. But it wasn’t until the George Floyd story happened when I first started publicly stating “Black Lives Matter.” I even wrote a retraction of my original post from a few years earlier. I really have no concept of time in 2020, so I don’t know exactly when I came to the realizations that I did, based on the comparisons that I spoke of in this entry, but I’m glad that I did.

I am an advocate for Mental Health Awareness. My experiences in that area over the past few years, and from what I’ve learned about myself and others, really has made me much more empathetic. I don’t want anyone to feel as bad about themselves as I have at times.

This entry isn’t as cohesive as maybe it should be. To be honest, even though this is something that I’ve given a lot of thought to, I didn’t plan to write this today. I didn’t come up with an outline for it. I actually had another entry half written before I even started this.

In my entries, I’ve often said that we need to do better. And we really do. “We” means all of us. Society continues to leave people behind. WE have to stop that. The people that believe and proudly say “All Lives Matter” need to do more to make that true. Because until Black Lives Matter, not All Lives Do.

Maximum Full Blown Weird Times. Destination Unknown.

Part of the problem with committing myself to write (at least) one entry per month is that sometimes I have very little to say. A lot of my entries are inspired by something that happened to me since my last entry. I know that the vast majority of my entries are posted at the end of the month. I’m pretty good about being aware of when the end of the month is coming and that I need to start writing. But, in 2020, there’s almost no concept of time. Days blend together. Months don’t seem to exist. Weeks ago seem like years ago.

So, in addition to having almost no concept of time, I haven’t really done anything. I have almost nothing new to discuss. I was thinking about writing about nothing, but I’ve done that already, literally.

I know that I’ve often discussed my need for routines. The insanity of my routines is probably keeping me very sane right now. I’ve started following a few new ones recently that aren’t that intense. One of those news ones consists of enjoying wings and beer on Saturday nights while watching recent episodes of the newest version of “Match Game.” It’s a simple thing, but it’s relaxing and comfortable.

In addition to watching new episodes of Match Game, I’ve spent a lot of time watching older versions. I’ve always liked that show…
Well, most versions of it anyway. I’ve watched a lot of Password Plus and Super Password recently too. I’ve realized that Super Password’s host, Bert Convy, was actually awkward as a host. But, he was definitely better than Jon Bauman as host of the Hollywood Squares portion of the Match Game/Hollywood Squares hour.

No, this entry isn’t going to be a review of game shows, although, that concept is starting to sound good. Maybe one day, I’ll do that.

I’ve recently also started watching Animaniacs for the first time. I may have seen an episode or two at some point when it first aired, but I never really paid attention to it. I’m so genuinely glad that I’m new to the show. There’s so many old school Hollywood references and inside jokes. I have such an appreciation and a good enough understanding of what/who they’re making fun of. I wouldn’t have understood those jokes in 1993 when the show was first on.

It’s been four months since I’ve done any in-person socializing. Although, it seems like yesterday and longer than four months at the same time. Yes, there’s another reference to time not existing. But did it really exist before? Think about it. Did man invent the concept of time? Well, actually, yes, man did. That’s not debatable.

I’m not concerned about this entry being a rambling mess of concepts that have nothing to do with each other. That’s pretty much every day right now. There I go again with a time reference. Well, since I’m talking about time and things that I enjoy watching, I’ve bought a few box sets of full seasons of Classic Doctor Who. I should probably watch some of those soon. I’m also waiting for the price to drop on another few box sets before I buy them.

It’s the middle of the summer. I don’t like to complain about expected weather conditions during whatever season that condition is expected in, but we’re currently in the middle of a pretty serious heat wave. I would like it to stop. I wanted to start running again recently, but I don’t think it would be healthy for me to do that right now. It’s been consistently in the 90s recently and I would prefer at least 10-15 degrees cooler. Once that happens, I’ll get out there and start running, or at least walking more often.

There’s so much happening, and yet nothing is happening. There’s so much going on, yet nothing going on. It’s just a weird time right now. We just have to make the best of it. I think I’m doing that for myself. I haven’t come close to any depressive episodes during the pandemic. Although, I think part of the reason for that is that I’ve had so few real interactions with anyone. Isolation is good for someone like me. I think I may be stumbling on a topic for a future entry.

Since I am basically rambling on and on here without any set theme or concept in this entry, I think I’ll finish it here with a little summary. Things are weird. Time doesn’t exist. Bert Convy wasn’t nearly as good as Allen Ludden. I’m doing well.

The Scars that Bind Us.

Since I’ve started (somewhat) regularly writing entries here, I’ve often talked about how music has gotten me through so much of my troubles. I’ve spoken about the friendships that I’ve forged through concerts and message boards related to bands. This entry is going to be another one of those, and while it may repeat things that I’ve said before, it may also go a little deeper.

I’ve had a concept for this entry in my head for a long time. I pretty much knew that I would be writing it for this month’s entry. But, between the time the concept originally popped into my mind and now, a pandemic hit. I thought about putting this concept on hold and writing something else, but then I realized that what I’m going to say may be even more important now. So, please bear with me as I attempt to flesh out this idea.

Of all of the bands that I listen to that have lyrics that have impacted me the most, Katatonia and Life of Agony are at the top of the list. Their lyrics generally deal with depression, anxiety, despair, desperation, and other topics in the misery range. I’ve been listening them both since the 1990s. Their shows aren’t just concerts for me, they’re experiences.

What is the difference between just a concert and an “experience?” Well, the best way that I can sum it up is this. In 2016, I attended various days of a local music festival. Clutch played there on Friday, Life of Agony played there on Sunday. I ended up going to Radio City Music Hall on the Saturday in between to see Opeth, it was a long weekend. But anyway…
The person I was with at that festival on Friday and Sunday made a comment to me after Life of Agony’s performance. She asked me “What was that?” I didn’t quite understand her question, so I asked her to clarify. She said “I saw you watch Clutch on Friday and I saw you just now with Life of Agony, and you were totally different.” I told her that I go to see Clutch to have a good time. I go to see Life of Agony to “let it all out.” I don’t know if she understood the difference that much, but once I said that, a lot more things made sense to me about those experiences. Clutch shows have more of a “good times” and “party” vibe to them. Life of Agony, Katatonia, Paradise Lost, and other other bands’ shows are emotional experiences for me.

Going back a few years earlier, at another Life of Agony show, I had a moment that I can only really describe as an epiphany for me. This particular show took just a little more than a month after the death of Robin Williams. The reason that’s significant and sticks out in my mind is because of two people that were with me at the show. The day after his death, I wrote a blog entry. At the time, it may have been the most emotional entry that I had ever done. It was raw and unlike most of my entries, published without much editing.
Just minutes after hitting “post” on that entry, I received a text from a friend. She told me that she had just read the entry and started telling me about some of her own issues with depression and self harm. She asked me if she could reach out to me when things got bad. Minutes after that, someone else sent me a message letting me know about her own issues with depression and also asked if she could reach out to me. Of course, I told both of them yes.
How do these two people and Robin Williams tie in to a random Life of Agony show? Well, it’s simple. There was a moment when I was watching the concert when I was standing between the two of them at a bar in the venue. I was the only person that realized how strange that was, because up until a few minutes before that, those two had never met. I did not tell them about how they both texted me within minutes of each other, but I did enjoy hearing them both praise me for being a good friend.

During that show, Life of Agony played one of the songs that is usually in their set list, “Weeds.” For some reason, that song never really did much for me, until that day and that moment. The first line of the song is “If tomorrow never shows, I want you all to know that I loved you all, you’re beautiful and I had myself a ball.” Because of where I was mentally and emotionally at that point, as I sang along with that line, I got choked up.
The band ended the show with what was their (and still should be) traditional closing song, “Underground.” That song is about members of society being cast out, and coming together to positively express their emotions. I remember looking at the crowd during that song and realizing that the people in the crowd are MY people. There’s a good chance that I didn’t personally know 98% of the people in the crowd, but it didn’t matter. We were all there for the same thing.

The people at that show, the fans of the band, we come from different backgrounds. We’ve had different life experiences. We have differing views on life. But for the 90 or so minutes that Life of Agony was on stage, NONE OF THAT mattered. And at that particular show, at that particular moment, it started to sink in.

As the Coronavirus pandemic spread through the world, concerts and other events started to get postponed or canceled one by one. There were two Life of Agony shows that I was planning to attend that have been postponed. Of course, that bothered me, since it’s an outlet for me and because I’ve made some great friends from their shows, and at this point, those friends include band members and their families as well as the crew members of the band. But, as the virus spread, I was glad to see the shows not happen. I would rather not see the shows now and have everybody be healthy than have them happen and not ever be able to see some of those people again.

Katatonia, who I once drove from New Jersey to Cleveland to see, and then from Cleveland to Montreal to see, did an online concert a few weeks ago. I knew I would enjoy that show, but I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. I watched it from the comfort of my bedroom. I had the lights out in the room and the concert was being streamed on my TV. From the very first note, I got chills and tears were flowing as I was happily singing along to some of the most depressing songs that I’ve ever heard. I was also texting a few people that were also watching the show and having similar experiences. And the friends that I was talking to during that time live in various parts of the country. But, that wonderfully miserable band brought us together. Some of us even joked that it was “our first Katatonia show together” since we’ve never actually attended any of their shows together.

Now, how does all of this tie together? That’s simple. Sometimes, none of our differences matter. When we’re at those shows, we’re with friends. Some of those friends are more like family to us than our actual relatives. We’re all hurting. We’re all there with our own demons and issues. We’re there to forget that for a little while. We’re there to let our aggression out. We’re there to hear every voice scream. We’re there for the words and music. We’re there to see beyond our darkness. We’re there for the message in the music. We’re there because the scars that bind us brought us there.

It’s very possible that we won’t see any shows in person for a while. But, as I said before, I’m okay with that if it means we’re all healthy. If I go to a show and someone that I expect to be there is missing, I want to know that they’re not there just because they couldn’t get to the show. I don’t want their absence to be because they’re not with us anymore.

At some point, concerts will resume. I will see you again. This will all end, we will overcome and we will be able to scream those words, together. And for that brief time, just like the words of the Allman Brothers Band, we can “leave our blues at home.”

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.

Hold On, Face to Face. Damaged by the Sad Disgrace. But, All I Need is a Simple Reminder.

I spent much of 2019 stating that I hadn’t had a major depressive issue in a while. We’re a few weeks in 2020, and while I still haven’t had one, I feel like I could be on the verge of one.

Last week, I discovered a slight financial issue that won’t necessarily majorly impact me, but it will set my plans for the year back a little bit. That isn’t really a big deal, but sometimes something as simple as that can be the incident that triggers an episode. Especially, when things just haven’t been great. And, they haven’t been.

I want to make it very clear to any person reading this that I’m not in any danger. I’m not near rock bottom. I’m not even near a figurative cliff, but I am in a slight slope on my own emotional roller coaster.

A few days ago was when I was probably feeling the lowest that I’ve felt in a very long time. I went out that night to see my friends’ band. They were playing at a local bar. For a good portion of the night, I sat by myself, and that was my own choice. I wasn’t being shunned by anyone. In fact, I had a good amount of friends there. And as a side note, considering how busy that bar was, sitting by myself could actually be considered an accomplishment, but I digress. One particular person there actually insisted that I join a group he was sitting with. I did that, sort of. I still sat off to the side, pretty much by myself. Again, it was my choice. It’s just where I was, because that’s where I needed to be.

While I was at the bar, I genuinely did have a good time. I talked to many of my friends. I had a few drinks. I enjoyed the music. But, it didn’t change my overall mood. And unless I had told you that I was not doing well mentally, you wouldn’t have known it. Apparently, I’m pretty good at going through the motions. And, sometimes going through the motions is good.

If I didn’t have those plans, there’s an excellent chance that I would have stayed at my house that night. I may have watched TV. But, depending on my how great my attention span was, it may have just been short YouTube videos. Is staying at my house by myself a better or worse choice than going out when I know that not much will change for me? I guess that’s a matter of your perspective.

One thing that I know very clearly about Mental Health issues is that my issues are MY issues. They’re not your issues. While you and I may be experiencing similar things, how they impact us is not the same. And how we deal with them isn’t the same either. The funk I’m in now is something that I need to go through. I don’t mean that in a “I need to suffer” way, although, I have felt that many times before. I just think that I need to go through this to let it run its course, just like I would with a common cold. There’s not much anyone can do for a cold, except let it happen.

It’s very possible that people reading this may not agree with what I said about me needing to just go through this, and I understand that. I am struggling with some things, but I am attempting to force myself to remain active and get through my days. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. I get through what I need to get through.

Very recently, a friend of mine reached out because she was really not in a good place. She said that was down on her luck and near her breaking point. I offered some supportive words and let her know that I was glad that she reached out. Her luck changed very shortly after that and things definitely turned around. Not long after that, she I went out for dinner and some drinks. I know she needed it, but I did too. I don’t do good things for other people to know that I do them. I do them because it’s the right thing to do. I felt good after that.

I have other people that are very important to me that are going through difficult times. They all deal with them differently. I cannot force them to be social. I cannot force them to reach out. I cannot force them to break out of their slumps. But, I can (and will) remind that I’m available for them. And, I do.

There are days when it’s more difficult to get out of bed and go through the motions than others. I’ve had a few difficult days with that recently. My alarms go off every morning and I hit the snooze buttons multiple times. But, eventually I do get out of bed and I’ll go to work (always on time). I’ll do what I have to do at work and then do whatever else that I have to do during the day. Whatever things I’m obligated to do, I get them done. I’m highly functional like that.

At some point, possibly in the near future, this minor episode will pass. I’ll be in a better mood. Or maybe it won’t. Maybe it’ll linger for a while. Maybe it’ll even get worse. I really don’t know how much personal control that I have over that. I just have to keep doing whatever it is that I need to keep doing. And some of what I need to keep doing is just getting through each day, waiting for something to change. It could be something really good, it could be something simple. It could just be a simple reminder.

2019 Album of the Year

1- Life of Agony – The Sound of Scars
2- Lacuna Coil – Black Anima
3- Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind
4- The Allman Betts Band – Down to the River
5- Those Poor Bastards – Evil Seeds
6- Within Temptation – Resist
7- A Bad Think – The Savior
8- Opeth – In Cauda Venenum
9- King Hobo – Mauga
10- Whitechapel – The Valley

Life of Agony’s 1993 debut album River Runs Red is their masterpiece. That’s pretty much not debatable. That album was a concept album about someone going through a very rough time and at the end of the album, it appeared that the main character had killed himself.

They’ve put out some very good albums since then, but none of them had the impact that The Sound of Scars had, in my opinion. The Sound of Scars is the follow-up to River Runs Red, in that it tells the next chapter of the life of that character. As it turns out, he didn’t die and this album is that story. This album is also, (in my opinion) easily, their best work since River Runs Red.

The day that The Sound of Scars was released, I made sure that I had free time in my day and listened to the album from uninterrupted, from beginning to end, while reading the lyrics. Honestly, I cannot remember a time when any new album gave me the emotional response that this one did. I often get goosebumps when discussing it. Yes, I think it’s THAT good.

Usually, I’ll recommend a few tracks from each album that stand out as my favorites, but I feel doing that here does the album a disservice. This album is intended to be listened to from beginning to end. If you are a fan of Life of Agony and have not heard this album, you’re missing out. If you haven’t listened to Life of Agony for a while, this is when you should start again.

Lacuna Coil’s last album, Delirium was my 2016 Album of the Year. When talking about that album, I said it was ” was really the Lacuna Coil album I’ve been waiting for.” Well, they followed it up with Black Anima, which I consider to be just as good and they almost got the top spot again this year.

They’ve embraced a darker, heavier sound and it really does work for them. Their “new” style is continuing to evolve and I hope it continues on this path.

Tracks I recommend from Black Anima include “Layers of Time,” “Sword of Anger,” “the End is All I Can See,” and especially “Reckless.” Although, I do have to say the video for “Reckless” was a bit, ummm… interesting. If you watch it, you’ll understand.

Slipknot has been around for almost 25 years. While I’ve known about them and have heard their songs, I’ve barely paid attention to them until recently. I am completely willing to admit that I have probably missed out on a lot of good music. We Are Not Your Kind is Slipknot’s 6th studio album, but the first that I’ve ever really listened to. I think it’s a really good record and I’m glad that I got it. At some point I’ll go back and listen their older stuff.

Some of the tracks that I think I really good from We Are Not Your Kind include “Unsainted,” “Solway Firth,” and “A Liar’s Funeral.”

Between 1996 and 2014, I saw the Allman Brothers Band in concert 45 times. You could say that I’m a fan of their work. When I heard that Devon Allman and Duane Betts, the sons of founding Allman Brothers Band members Gregg Allman and Dickey Betts (respectively) were forming a group called the Allman Betts Band, I was intrigued. They released their debut album, Down to the River, in the summer. Without hearing a single song from it, I purchased the album. Any fan of the Allman Brothers Band should love this album. Not only does it sound like early Allman Brothers’ albums, but Duane Betts sounds almost exactly like his father. He looks like him too. In all seriousness, there are a few songs on Down to the River that could easily be on the Allman Brothers’s albums such as Idlewild South or Brothers and Sisters, and I think that is a big compliment to them.

Songs that I think stand out “Autumn Breeze,” “All Night,” and especially “Shinin’.”

I’ve been listening to Those Poor Bastards for a few years now and while I have liked some of their albums more than others, they’ve yet to disappoint me. How many American gothic country doom bands do you know? I mentioned earlier that I like that Lacuna Coil was able to put out consecutively good albums, but not only did Those Poor Bastards do it, they’ve done it two years in a row. 2019’s Evil Seeds gets the 5th spot on my list 2018’s Inhuman Nature was ranked as the 8th Best Album in my list.

Tracks to check out on this include “One of Us,” “Just Tonight,” and “Wake Up in the Gutter.”

I’ve thought that Within Temptation has relied on guest vocalists too much in previous years. Many of their songs have had a second singer on them. But, there’s something about them doing it on Resist that really worked well. They have a very rich and elegant sound that not many other bands that they’re associated with also have.

Some of my favorites from Resist include “Endless War,” “Raise Your Banner,” and “Supernova.”

I had never heard of A Bad Think until this summer. I didn’t know they were a group. I honestly didn’t know they existed. But then I started seeing ads for their new album pop up all over my social media sites. I remember one saying “If you like Blackfield, you’ll like A Bad Think.” Well, I finally checked out songs from A Bad Think on YouTube. I don’t understand the Blackfield comparison at all, but I ended up liking A Bad Think. A Bad Think is Michael Marquart, a former member of Flock of Seagulls. A Bad Think is his project. I believe it’s him doing every instrument and writing every song. And it’s good. I’m glad I gave in to the advertising pressure online.

“Feel Me” and “Falling Star” are good tracks to check out.

I don’t know what to expect from Opeth albums now, and at the same time, I do. I know they’re probably not going to feature any death metal growls, but they’ll still take me on a ride like they used to. Their latest album, In Cauda Venenum, is a good example of that. I do have to admit that this album took a little while to grow on me. It’s got a bit more of a jazzy tone to it than previous Opeth albums do. That isn’t an issue for me, but I don’t know that I expected it. See what I’m saying? The songs on this album flow very well together, almost to the point that I don’t know where one song ends and the next begins. That’s almost a flaw in the album, but I still liked it enough to rank it as the 8th Best Album of 2019.

Songs I was able to figure out the beginning and end to that I liked include “Dignity,” “Lovelorn Crime,” and “Universal Truth.”

King Hobo formed by accident. During the 2005 Sounds of the Underground tour, members of Clutch and Opeth would hang out and jam between sets. That sparked a friendship and eventually their self-titled album in 2008, which I ranked very high in my Top 10 list that year. Their second album, Mauga, is also very good and worth checking out, especially if you like Clutch, “stoner bands,” or “jam bands.”

The opening track on Mauga is “Hobo Ride” which immediately became one of my favorite songs from this year. The title track and “King Blues” are also good ones to try.

Finishing off my Top 10 list is another band that I wasn’t aware of until this year, Whitechapel. Apparently, their 2019 album, the Valley, is their 7th studio album. Who knew? Well, actually a good friend of mine knew and she texted me about one of their songs and she said it was “depressing as Hell. It’s amazing.” She got my attention. I watched the video. It was very emotional. It “went there” in ways that I’m not used to seeing. It was actually a very graphic video, which she warned me about. But, based on that, I wanted to see/hear more. I got the album and listened to the whole thing. Wow. They have a new fan. They’re classified as Deathcore and Progressive. That’s a weird combination for bands, but it works for them.

If my vague description of the Valley didn’t do enough for you, check out their video for the song that my friend recommended to me, “When a Demon Defiles a Witch.” But, be warned that it deals with serious stuff. My other favorite song from the album is “Doom Woods.”

Other albums that were in consideration for my Top 10, but just didn’t make it were Le Butcheretts’ bi/Mental, Corpse Flower from Mike Patton and Jean Claude Vannier, Signs by the Tedeschi-Trucks Band, and Agonizing Love from Lonesome Wyatt (from Those Poor Bastards).

The Black Keys put out Let’s Rock during 2019 and I just think it’s very forgettable. That’s a shame, because I’ve really liked their albums up until this point. I saw them in concert this year and the new songs didn’t win me over.

I became aware of Jinjer during the year and liked one song that I heard. I got the album, Macro, and thought it sounded too much like other bands that I’ve heard. I lost interest quickly.

Imperial Teen’s second album Now We Are Timeless really isn’t timeless.

I’m not too aware of which bands will be putting out new albums in 2020. I believe Paradise Lost and Clutch may have ones. I’m hoping to discover a new band or two during the year. Who knows, maybe social media ads will work again. But, I hope that 2020 gives me a few good albums to enjoy. If any of them are half as good as some of the ones in this year’s Top 10, I won’t have much to complain about.

A note about eligibility for my 2019 Album of the Year:
– the album must have had a United States street date in 2019.
– the album must be new material (for the band or artist).
– live albums are only eligible if they’re new material.

The Road to Happiness I Never Knew.

As I’ve said in recent entries, things have been going well for me. And as I’ve also said in some recent entries, that worries me.

Just a few weeks ago, I told someone that I had not had any major depression episodes in 2019. Instead of looking at that as an accomplishment, I actually see it as something being wrong. Yeah, I know that’s not a good thing.

I’m in a weird emotional place right now. I’ve in a much better social, mental, economical, and (possibly) emotional place than I’ve been in years. I’m happy with my finances. I’m happy with my job. I’m happy with my friends. I’m just not happy with myself.

So, what’s causing my unhappiness? Is it the (somewhat simple) fact that I’ve gained some weight over the past few months? I know the cause of the weight gain and (in theory) it’s simple to reverse. Is it more than my weight? Is it deeper? What’s the problem?

Of course, I know that none of my problems are necessarily simple problems. Or are they? Yeah, this is what keeps me up at night. Seriously. It does. I have trouble shutting my brain off at night and I keep thinking, and thinking, and over-thinking my issues. That causes me anxiety, fatigue, and an overall reluctance to do anything.

If my current weight is such an issue, I should just eat healthier, workout more, and take better care of myself, right? The thing is that I’m aware of all of that, but there’s a mental block that’s preventing me from going in that direction. I could easily do a workout each and every morning before I leave for work, except that I can’t. And THAT is causing me more stress.

The only stretching that I’ve consistently done in recent months is stretching the time that I get to lay in my bed and hit the snooze button on the various alarms that are needed to wake me from the sleep that I’ve barely had.

It’s possible that this entry will be the catalyst that I need to change my course and start re-focusing on my fitness. However, if I start to do it out of routine and not out of joy, will it seem like too much of a chore for me? Do you see why things are sometimes difficult for me? My mind goes all over the place very easily.

When I started this entry, I didn’t know that I was going to focus so much on my lack of physical activity. I knew that I was going to focus on my lack of self-happiness. But, as I’m writing this (over the course of a few days), I’ve realized that there’s a few things that make me unhappy about myself. And of those things, there’s a few that I don’t necessarily have total control over. And there’s also some that I have no control over (yet). So maybe, I should focus on what I do have control over and do my best to fix that. If my current weight is THE issue that I can fix, then that’s what I should work on.

My brain is sort of like a highway with many exits. There’s cloverleaf exits, jughandles, u-turns, and dead ends. Sometimes the problem with me accomplishing something is that my brain takes the wrong exit or just keeps going in a self-destructive way that stops me from getting to where I need to be. It’s not as simple as just taking the right exit. It’s a long road and the time I spend on that road varies often. But, maybe if I can get my brain to take a detour, I’ll somehow end up on the right road and get there. Of course, I’m not even sure where that destination is. And if I start to worry about that right now, we’ll be here for a LONG time.

Between Striking Out and Striking Rich, Just a Risk. One I’ll Take and Take Again…

What a difference a year makes.

My late June blog entry is always about my upcoming birthday and what that means to me. Last year’s entry was a bit darker than others that I’ve written. And after just reading it again to get a feel of what I was thinking at that time, I noticed that I had I said that I had originally written a darker draft of it. I almost wish I had saved that draft just to see how bad it was.

One year ago I felt that I had nothing going on. I was at a dead end job that I could barely afford to work at. My social life was not what I wanted it to be. My financial situation was horrible. I just wasn’t in a good place.

But, as I wrote in the follow up entry, a lot changed very quickly.

I’m in such a better place than I was last year at this time. I have a much better job than last year. The travel time is significantly less (I can walk there), I’m paid better than I was, and I have affordable health coverage.

My social life is better than it was a year ago at this time, but not exactly where I had hoped it would be. By no means is it bad. I haven’t felt lonely in a very long time. I’ve actually felt like I belong in the situations that I’ve been in. Not feeling like an outcast is a massive improvement.

Over the past year, my circle of friends has grown. I’ve had a few people return, only to disappear again. I’ve met some wonderful new people and I’ve reconnected with a few that I honestly thought I might never talk to again.

I’ve recently had a series of things go wrong, that a year ago, would have been financially crippling for me. But when they happened, I was able to take care of them. Now, instead of those things causing me to worry about if I’m going to be able to afford food or if I can afford the gas for my car just to get me to work, I’m just upset that my bank account is lower than I want it to be. I cannot stress enough how much better that makes me feel.
Money may not solve all of life’s problems, but having more of it than you did before certainly does alleviate some burdens.

This entry, like a few that I’ve written recently is difficult for me. Not because I have a hard time discussing my issues, but because I’m not in a bad place right now. Misery is so much easier to be creative about.

I don’t want to say that I’m “happy,” but I’m definitely not “not happy.” I’m not sad, nor am I complacent. I know that I’m in a better position in life than I’ve been in a long time, if not ever. But, I’m also VERY much aware of how bad things have been for me. I don’t want to ever to forget how bad things were. I NEED that perspective.

There’s still a lot that I can improve about my life. There’s a lot that I can change and a lot that I can’t. Unfortunately, the stuff that I can’t change actually does frustrate me quite a bit. I keep hoping for different outcomes there, but I don’t know if I’ll ever see one. Yes, I’m aware of the definition of insanity. I know it well.

The things that I can change are sometimes difficult for me to achieve. My depression and my programming is hard to overcome at times. I get more stressed about things I haven’t done than needing to do them. I don’t know if that makes sense. Part of the problem is how regimented my days have become. Doing extra things seems like a break from a pattern. I know things need to get done, but if they’re done at certain times, they’re interfering with other things. I think this particular topic should be saved for another entry and I should try to go into detail on it.

Last year I said “I do know that I’m tired of starting over. I feel like I’m constantly starting over. I’m just not going anywhere. There’s beginnings and endings. The middle part seems very stagnant.” Ironically, I basically did start over not long after that. It was good for me too. I don’t think I’m going nowhere now. I THINK I’m moving forward, just not at a very fast pace.

In just a few days, I’ll turn 43 years old. Am I where someone my age “should be?” Probably not. But, I am where I am, and that’s not where I was. Where I was wasn’t good. Where I am is not great. But, where I am is a lot better than where I was, and that’s a good thing.

I’m Wandering Through Thin Skies and the Transparent Air I’ve Missed.

I’ve sometimes joked that there’s never been a better time to be depressed. And honestly, I stand by that statement, as weird as it may be. There’s so many more resources and things available to people that suffer from whatever kind of mental illness that they suffer from.

I’ve recently had the pleasure of hearing stories from some high school kids. I’ve heard about their battles with depression. I’ve seen how positive, uplifting, and even inspiring these kids are. They spoke about how friends rally around them. They spoke about their support system in the school and the support that the school provides. And while I was hearing these stories I thought to myself “where the Hell were these support systems when I was in high school?”
In just a little under a month, 25 years will have passed since I graduated from high school. It looks like a lot has changed in those 25 years.

A friend once told me that she was being bullied by some other students while in 8th grade. She told one teacher about it. He pulled those kids aside and said “leave her alone, you know she’s crazy.”

I remember very clearly when I was speaking to a guidance counselor about a class that I wanted to take. She was told that my grades weren’t good enough for that class and then proceeded to mention how lazy I was. When I got upset about that comment, instead of seeing a lack of motivation possibly due some form of mental illness, she was doubled down on my laziness.

My friend’s example and the my story about the guidance counselor seem to be a stark contrast to the things I heard from the students that I talked to recently. Teachers and counselors are so much more aware of mental health now. Students can go to them for help and not fear being made to feel worse like I did.

The stigma attached to mental illness needs to be eradicated.

I purposely left that last sentence by itself. It needs to stand out. If someone needs help, they should be able to get it. If they’re reaching out to someone, the last thing they need is to be made to feel worse.

I’m now a part of my town’s Stigma Free Committee. I’m proud of that. I’m glad to be a founding member of something so important. But, at the same time, the whole thing terrifies me. I have a bit of social anxiety. I don’t like being the center of attention. I don’t want to be the face of anything. I like lurking in the background and doing what I have to do.

A few years ago, I had a conversation with one of my elementary school teachers. I’ll never forget when he said “I was always worried about you. You were that quiet kid in the corner.” I laughed at that and told him “I’m still the quiet kid in the corner.” But, what I didn’t realize at that point, and probably until the idea for this blog entry started is that I’m turning that “quiet kid in the corner” thing into a strength. I’m not saying it was ever a weakness, but it’s definitely a good thing for me.

As I said, I don’t want to be the face of things. I don’t mind being a part of something, but I don’t want to be the main focus. This blog allows me to do that. Yes, the majority of people that read my entries may actually know me, but my real name isn’t on most social networks. I’m able to hide behind a screen name. I’m able to be in the background, but still make a difference.

Some may think it’s ironic when I say that many of my friendships have been formed due to my misery and depression. But, it’s absolutely true. Music has much to do with that. I listen to a lot of miserably depressing music. And I have a great time doing it. Bands like Paradise Lost, Katatonia, Anathema, and Life of Agony have been therapeutic for me at times. Let me give you an example.

In the summer of 2016 I went to 2 days of a 3 day music festival somewhere near me. The person I was with at those shows saw me watch a band on day 1 and saw me thoroughly enjoy myself. She saw me watch Life of Agony on the other day and commented that she’s “never seen me like that” and wanted to know what was different for me about the experiences. I told that I attend that first bands shows just for a good time. I see Life of Agony to let out my problems.

Life of Agony shows are great experiences for me. I’ve had vastly different experiences at them too. There’s times when I’ve gone to see them when I’ve been in one heck of a depression spell and I’ve walked out of their shows feeling refreshed. There’s also times when I’ve gone to their shows in a great mood and just enjoyed the show for what it was. And not to mention that I’ve made some incredibly great friends at those shows.

I’ve drifted a bit from the original concept of this entry, but that’s fine. I only had a loose set of concepts for it. I’m not going to edit this one much. I’m not going to do a ton of re-writes. I’m going to leave it as it is. I’m going to try to tie the various themes together, but after another brief turn. in the meantime, if you want to read more about my experiences at Life of Agony shows, you can read this entry.

We really do live in strange times. The political climate in the United States may be more divided than it’s ever been, if you don’t include that time leading up to the Civil War. But, Civil War aside, we’re pretty divided. There’s very little common ground anymore. It’s either one side or the other. That’s another reason I like my music and the concerts that I go to. I know there’s people there of different political beliefs as me, but for the time that we’re at that show, none of that matters.
Music can be a universal language. It doesn’t speak to one type of person. It speaks to everyone. It doesn’t know race, gender, religion, or political affiliation. But, you know what else doesn’t know any of those? Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. It can impact anyone, regardless of their background.

We need to do something. After talking to the students that I’ve talked to, and after hearing some of the things the schools in my town are doing now to help kids cope, I have to admit that I have a little bit of hope. Although, hope usually scares me. Hope means something could be going well, and it’s my nature to assume that something will go drastically wrong once there’s hope. But, in this case, I want to keep believing in that hope and prove my usual doubts wrong.

I know my blog entries have helped people. There’s been a few people that have reached out to me to tell me. In fact, one of them is someone I met because of the concerts I spoke about earlier. See, I told you I would keep this all tied together.

The things I write, even if it’s just once per month (as it usually is) are very helpful to me. But, if anyone else gets something positive from them, I think that’s great. It’s also a bit overwhelming to know that I’m making any kind of positive impact, even if I’m hiding in the darkness while I’m doing it. But, I’ve said countless times that we need to do something to END the stigma attached to mental illness. And even if JUST ONE person feels the need to reach out to me about something, I’m doing my part.

Will you do yours?