Depression: the Reason vs the Lesson

29 03 2016

You-Are-Not-Powerless

When my kids aren’t with me, I try to stay as connected to them as possible. I find funny videos or stories and text them links. Or try to remember what type of fruit snacks my daughter likes and shoot her a quick message. (It’s Kellogs, by the way – talk about brand loyalty). These things help me, a little, but as I have told only a few people, I fall into a depression during extended periods of not seeing them.

It feels like I remember feeling as an adolescent – the irritable feeling that there is a heightened sensitivity of some chemical that is coursing through my blood stream. It feels like a low grade sunburn – but from the inside. That’s the only way I can describe it.

For a while, I thwarted ideas that this was depression because it seemed so episodic and also, I was sensitive to my tiny, insignificant plight being a potential affront to those who suffer, truly suffer, from this disposition. But after this past week, there could be no denying it. Last week, I spent a good 3 days just telling myself, at every opportunity I could get, to just “be with the feeling” and “just get through it”. As it stands, I am with my kids now and it is the first time that I have felt like writing anything down in a coherent fashion.

I had tried journaling over and over again the past few days. Everything I wrote just sent me into a further state of disgust. I couldn’t articulate anything in a way that I thought could possibly be understood, let alone revered as some desperate, pathetic diatribe that no one would give two craps about. (Yes, that is the American Psychological Association approved metric for level of depression – the amount of craps others may give to your cause.)

I was in NYC for a couple days last week and at one point, went to a bar, alone, to sit down with my laptop, have a pint and try to describe how I was feeling, hoping that somehow I would not feel like crawling out of my skin. My goal was to write some amazing blog post about what depression feel likes, smells like, tastes like, etc. Oh, it was going to be both artsy and profound and garner me with a million likes and even a guest spot on Huff Po. Instead, I couldn’t make it through the first sentence and after getting a text message from a friend about going to an open mic, downed what was left of my Brooklyn Lager and got on the closest subway I could find to downtown.

The thing is that I have this thing where I am always “trying to keep myself honest” – you know, waiting for someone I respect to tell me I belong on the comedy circuit or a peer I respect to tell me I am a good marketer or writer or a psychologist to tell me that I do “have anxiety or depression”, whatever that is. I don’t need any of those. What I really need to do is just listen to myself. I don’t have to keep myself honest if I am honest…with myself. Having someone validate that I am having a tough time is like asking someone at the Hair Cuttery to officially designate my hair as “curly and unruly”. It just is.

I am anxious because I can tell that something has shifted and not necessarily for the better. I can tell that I am about to enter into a period that will not be easy but can be transformative if I am willing to take it day by day, hour by hour and breath by breath. I have a whole different (and growing) skill set to cope now that I did not have before and really, what other choice is there? I have to believe that I am here and at this point in this journey not necessarily for a reason but at least for a lesson. The two can be very different things. I can be passive about reason but with a lesson? Not so much. It’s up to me now.

Until next time,

Marc





Losing Custody of My Doodle

22 03 2016

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Is it me or does he look like Eric Roberts the younger years?

Of all the things that was the strangest over the past three years of living through the hell of divorce and separation, it was the cessation of something I have done for as long as I can remember that has struck me the most. I stopped doing it when, now I realize, it probably would have helped me a lot. No, it’s not that. (Yes, I know what you’re thinking.)

I stopped doodling.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been a doodler. It started out with me doodling tattoos and other bad reconstructive surgery on the pages of my mother’s TV Guide. Then, I doodled people a lot (especially women with big hair) and then, to keep it somewhat more innocuous, various 3-D shaded blocks with tunnels and elaborate Dali-like totem poles on the side margins of my notebooks. There has been plenty written about the neuroscience of doodling on focus and attention. For me, I think this is very true. 

I doodled so much that in a work-related deposition in front of a judge and court room, when my work documents were put up on a large screen, page after page featured memos with my wide eyed cartoon characters and brick walls for everyone to see. It was embarrassing, but I hope at least it was memorable.

I remember losing myself in a black ink doodle during a meeting at work only to be called on it in front of my colleagues. I was able to recall the exact conversation and even provide some input. The act of putting pen to paper in this way helped me concentrate and listen better. I was able to process what was going on in my head and around me.

And yet, barely one doodle between Spring of 2013 and now. Why? What could the correlation possibly be? 

For me, I think it has to do with the same thought process as my initial reluctance to try meditation. The idea of doing something that would focus me during a period of such extreme chaos was both foreign and missing the point (or so I thought) because when the ship is sinking, the last thing one should do is focus on one thing. However, this is exactly what is needed. For the Titanic, it was getting off the freaking ship! For the guy watching his family unfold in front of him, it’s getting off his mental sinking ship.

Instead of focusing myself in a 10 minute doodle to reframe my thoughts or a 10 minute meditation to try and bring myself to a single breath, I went into crisis control “to do” mode and it wasn’t good. These small moments of distracted focus (how’s that for a term) are critical, particularly when the world seems to be falling apart.

Now, it seems the world may be catching on with the onslaught of elaborate “adult color books”. I get it, though. We are moving further and further away from doing anything for extended periods of time. Maybe a coloring book or a doodling session is the thing to get us back on track, one stroke at a time.

Until next time,

Marc

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Heckling His Way to the Presidency

9 03 2016
trump

This man could actually be the leader of the free world. I think we can remove the word “free”.

I have not met one person who supports Donald Trump, not one. Which seems unlikely given the fact that the more vitriol and hate he spews into the system, the more popular he gets. Yet, he is where he is in this circus of an election process.

I am all for difference of opinion. In fact, I have a healthy respect for people who support other Republican candidates, even though I don’t, because at least there is some sort of reason other than “he is saying what I feel”. I actually think Ted Cruz is a lot more damaging should he ever get near the Oval Office, given his views on so many issues that are important to anyone who isn’t male, white, heterosexual and Christian, but at least I know what he stands for and he’s on message.

So, I have been really struggling with how Donald Trump could even get this far based on an agenda of pure hatred with absolutely no substance and seemingly innocuous to the very real protests of people even within his own party. I have come to the conclusion that it is because he is the loudest heckler in the worst comedy club in the city.

Let me explain. I don’t know of a single comedian who hasn’t had to deal with a heckler at some point in his or her career. When you are lucky enough to be in a really professional, well-run, and respectable club or venue, usually it will be clear that it just will not be tolerated for long (if the comedian even gets to the point where he/she hasn’t nipped it in the bud already). At that point, the owner, manager, hell, even the other patrons will shut down the heckler.

However, unfortunately, in many venues where the comics are left to their own devices and there seem to be no standards or guidelines regarding expectations of how things are going to be run, what is and isn’t acceptable, etc. – the louder the heckler, the more attention he gets. Even when the comedian destroys the heckler, the audience will remember the heckling that took place and that is the strategy of the Trump campaign. 

Donald Trump is the heckler in every piece of crap basement that bills themselves as a “comedy club” and specializes in an onslaught of blow job jokes and cheap vodka. And he loves every minute of it because he is an attention hound and has systematically gone to every show with a weak headliner and feature act. First it was Jeb Bush and now it’s Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. He doesn’t even have to worry about Kasich because Kasich won’t even play. He knows no amount of backlash can outdo his heckling skills.

Furthermore, Trump knows that since he can’t truly compete at the classy clubs (think those with actual content, intellect and rules), he will gain all his attention by annihilating social norms that others require and make his own and he does it by being an equal opportunity offender, or heckler in this case.

This is where the heckler has an unfair advantage because hecklers do not need to address the subject matter at hand. I was once talking about cougars and someone called me an asshole. It had nothing to do with my set. I mean, I could almost understand if they didn’t think I was funny or they lost a loved one to a vicious cougar attack but this guy just didn’t like me. Period. That’s how hecklers work.

Donald Trump can’t actually respond to anyone with anything of substance so he goes after their sweating, their birth place, their spouses, their looks, their religion, their nationality, their gender, their handicap, whatever. Anything is fair game and it grabs the attention of everyone, whether they agree or not. Everyone is talking about Trump the same way everyone talks about the asshole who heckled during the show.

The problem is that this heckler isn’t going home to nurse a hangover and beat up his dog (or maybe he is) but he is also dangerously too close to being the leader of the free world and applying junior high school playground tactics on the world stage thatmay have all of us asking for a refund sooner rather than later.

Until next time,

Marc








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