25 December, 2006

My Worst Christmas Ever

This has got to be the worst Christmas of my life. I'm writing this on my phone so I'll have to reformat it later.

For starters, let's talk about the fact that, for the first time that I can remember, I didn't purchase/make/etc. a single present for a single person. Even when I was young -- just a lad -- I remember being able to get presents for people. I had an allowance, or my grandmother would take me shopping, or SOMETHING. But this year, nothing. Not a single damned thing. Not a single present, for anybody. And I'm a very giving person (most of the time), so it really hurts that I haven't been able to give anyone anything. And, of course, it goes without saying that this situation isn't really helping out my depression any.

Next up, my father recently dropped the bomb that his marriage is basically falling apart. He's going down south next month to scope out some housing. His wife has no interest in living in the south, and he wants to move further south to a warmer climate because the cold weather up here aggravates his various injuries. His wife is a nice enough person, and they get along ok, but he thinks that she's having an affair, and she's not very sharing (she still considers many things to be "hers" instead of "theirs," as would be applicable in a real partnership, which is what a marriage really is about).

Next up comes mom, whose schmuck of a husband is leaving her (he already served the divorce papers) and trying to do so without leaving her with anything. In fact, he's already told people that he's running up his debt like crazy, because he intends to file for bankruptcy either very soon or as soon as the divorce goes through. At one point, he offered my mother $20,000 to get a divorce. I advised her against that because she's entitled to more (e.g., part of his pension, part of the proceeds of the house that he owns that she's helped to maintain, etc.). It's really a nasty situation.

So on Christmas afternoon, mom went into the hospital because she wasn't feeling very well. She was complaining of weakness and dizziness. She called 911 and was transported to Hartford Hospital by ambulance. In fact, I'm in the hospital's ER with her now, writing this on my mobile phone. We're waiting for the results of some bloodwork. Oh, and did I mention that mom, who had her second surgery (a lumpectomy) for breast cancer this year, was just diagnosed with Adult Onset Diabetes, Type II. And did I mention that her mother (that is, my mother's mother) died from complications arising from her battle with the disease? Happy happy, joy joy....

As for presents this year, I stopped off at my father's on the way back up to see my mother (in the hospital). He gave me a few small gifts (I felt like a heel not having anything to give him), nothing big but, even so, he did manage to put some thought into it. I feel sorry for him ... nobody that I know really has any money these days. It's too depressing. Oh, his wife gave me a box of Russian chocolates, which she knows I go ga-ga over.

So I'm sitting here in the ER with my mom, waiting for test results, waiting so I can go home with her. Oh, and did I mention that I've spent the past week sick out of my mind, camped out on a friend's couch, and I haven't had a change in clothing, so I've been wearing the same damned clothes for the past week?

In years past, I've been able to feel something during the holiday season. I'd see the decorations, and get those goosebumps that you get when you just feel all warm and fuzzy inside, you know what I'm talking about? I don't know the exact cause of it (certainly the depression is a major contributing factor) but this year, I feel absolutely nothing about the holidays. If anything, I wish they would all just go away.

And to make my guilt even a little bit more (on the side of receiving gifts and not being able to give any out), one of my friends, who has even less money than I do, and probably just as many bills, sent me a $15 fit card to one of my favourite retailers. And she's probably in the hospital with her kidney problems, because when I called to thank her, I didn't get an answer, and she hasn't called back -- which she usually does only when she's in the hospital dealing with her health issues.

So this is how I'm spending my worst Christmas ever. If you're having as pitiful a Christmas as I am, I'd love to hear about it. Please leave a comment and fill me in.

09 December, 2006

Get an e-mail when I post to my blog

OK, so I was a little bit bored and I decided to check out some of my friend's blogs -- they don't update their blogs too often, though (some of them made one or two (or *ahem, Dr. Dan* three) freakin post and now it looks like their blogs have been abandoned. Poivre, poivre abandoned blogs. :-(

So anyway, while I was on my friend triLcat's site, I saw this nifty little box: enter your e-mail address and you'll be notified by e-mail as to when there are new posts to the blog. Now, while my blog has this feature built-in, it's something that I have to manually do. That is, I have to manually add in someone's email address in my preferences/settings, and the only way I'll know if they want to be added is if they send an e-mail asking me to do so.

So now, it's all automatic. I'm not quite certain as to how well this works, but we'll see. Try it out for yourself, now. It'll be in my sidebar, of course, where it should be. But for now, it's sitting right here:









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Envy by Sandra Brown

I started reading Sandra Brown's novel, Envy. I'm really getting into it. But more than that, it seems that ever since I started reading again (which was during my hospitalization in the Fall of 2005), I've been drawn to certain books, and have found that, at least for the type of books that I'm reading (fantasy, sci-fi, mystery thriller, suspense, etc.) they can be surprisingly insightful into the human psyche, as well as quite philosophical.

In any event, some of these books "speak" to me (if you're a reader, you'll know what I'm talking about). Envy is one such book. For instance, take the following passages (select portions quoted under Fair Use provisions of the US Copyright Act):
Not until recently had Daniel Matherly thought of himself as aged. He had refused to acknowledge his elderly status far past the reasonable time to do so. Unsolicited literature mailed to him by the AARP was discarded unopened, and he declined to take advantage of senior citizen discounts.
Lately, however, the reflection in his mirror was tough to dispute, and his joints made an even better argument that he was definitely a . . . graduating senior.
Today, as he sat behind his desk in his his home study, Daniel was amused by his own thoughts. If reflecting on one's life wasn't proof of advancing age, what was? His preoccupation with his degenerating body was a firm indication that it was degenerating. Who else but the very old dwelled on such things?
In addition to the very old, I would have to say that the disabled sometimes dwell on such things. At least, I can identify very much with the character of Daniel Matherly, a character of some 78 years of age. And I'm nothing close to that age (it's well beyond double my current age). This passage alone has me thinking about my very own physical disabilities, especially the joint pain. This is part of my depression -- I have ills, ailments, and the body of people who are much, much older than I, due mostly to the injuries that I sustained in my 2002 car accident.

The passage continues:
Young people didn't have the time. They didn't ponder death because they were too busy living. Getting an education. Pursuing their chosen profession. Entering or exiting marriages. Rearing children. They couldn't be bothered with thoughts of death. "Mortality" was just a word that they kept shelved to think about in the distant future. Occasionally they might glance at it and grow uneasy, but their attention was hastily diverted to matters relating to living, not dying.
People keep telling me that I'm young. I don't feel young, but this is what they say I am. So I'm inclined to believe it. But everything about young people described in the paragraph above, is the exact opposite of how I feel. I do have the time. I do ponder death. I'm not too busy living. I'm not getting an education, pursuing my chosen profession, entering or exiting marriage, rearing children, etc. Mortality is more than just a word to me. I escaped with my life on 9/11. (I was working in the towers for a law firm's document production department, somewhere in the 80th-floor region, until 7:30 that morning, and was asked to stay until 9:30; I declined and went home to sleep and, upon wakening, the world had changed.) A few months later, I escaped with my life from the car accident. You know how they say that things come in threes? Well, I'm waiting for the third brush with death, and I'm not so certain that I'll escape with my life.

Sandra Brown really knows the psyche of a person suffering from depression. Take, for instance, this passage:
"Big time. You could have sent me a curt letter. Said no thanks. Said I stunk. Said I should give up writing and try stringing beads or basket weaving instead. I'd have probably bought a package of razor blades and locked myself in the bathroom."
"That isn't funny."
"You're right, it isn't."
"Besides, you're too egotistical for suicide."
How little she knew. There had been times during those darkest days when his soul had been as twisted as his legs and his emotions were as raw as the flesh that defied healing, when, had he been able to move, he would have taken the path of least resistance and ended it there.
But while he was in that pit of despair, he had been imbued with a will to live. Determination had been breathed into him by some omnipotent power or cosmic authority greater than his paltry human spirit.
I'm still searching for that will to live. I haven't found it yet. Maybe I will, maybe I won't. I can't predict the future. Right now, my depression has me at a level of complete apathy for my well-being. Honestly, I don't care one way or the other whether or not I go on. The way I feel these days, why would anyone want to go on in this fucked up world we live in?

In any event, I'm in love with this book. I'll stick around long enough to finish reading it. Maybe it will give me something else to think about.

Get it. Read it. Comment on it. Let me know what you think.


08 December, 2006

AOL Mail prejudiced against Gays?

I received the following email from a friend, who asked that I email her whenever I post something to my blog (Blogger has a feature where you can set this up automatically, so if any of you out there want to be notified by email when I post to my blog, just send me your email address and I'll add you to the list):
I will have you know that all your e-mails come through to me except this one that has the word "Gay" in the subject and ended up in my Spam folder. I guess AOL thinks anything with the word "Gay" in it is Spam!
I've sent an email regarding this to a friend I have who just happens to work for AOL, in order to find out if he can figure out what's going on. Obviously, the friend who sent me this email has an AOL email address.

The troubling aspect about this occurrence, at least to me, is that I'm whitelisted on my friend's account, so nothing that I send to her should be ending up in her SPAM folder. Why is is that she's received all of my prior email notifications about posts to my blogs (and all other emails as well) but when the word "Gay" is in the subject line, it goes into her spam box?

Hopefully, since I put the word "Gay" into the title of this post, she'll let me know if she gets an email notification about this post or if it ends up in her SPAM folder again.

07 December, 2006

Connecticut CCSPC and the USPS

Ok, so this is a somewhat amusing situation that my father and step-mother are going through. My step-mother bought her house (where she lives with my father) back in the year 2000. Since she has moved in, a certain governmental agency in the State of Connecticut has been sending mail to the former owner of the property.

Just about every month, two letters from "Connecticut CCSPC" arrive in the mail for the previous owner. Here's the thing: my step-mother bought the house from the estate of the prior owner. That is, the prior owner had died, and it was his estate selling the house.

So ever since then, the Connecticut CCSPC (which turns out to be the CT Centralized Child Support Processing Center) has been sending two letters per month, over the past approximately seven years. And every time a letter comes, my father or step-mother put it back into the mailbox (unopened of course) with a note in red ink to the post office, instructing them to return the mail to send as recipient no longer resides here or recipient is deceased.

Yet, the extremely efficient mechinations of the government of the State of Connecticut
have persisted in sending out the letters, just as reliably as as was Old Yeller. Now, this basically amounts to a waste of taxpayer dollars. You see, the prior owner's estate could have been liable for paying whatever it is that the government of CT is sending these letters after him for (in this case, I posit that they're seeking child support payments). However, it's quite unusual for an estate not to have been settled after more than a few years. And we have no idea as to when the previous owner passed away; his estate could have been open for a few years before the house was sold.

So the state government is wasting lord only knows how much hard-earned taxpayer money by attempting to collect child support payments from somebody who's been dead at least six years. Isn't that just typical?

To try and stop this waste of taxpayer money, I wrote the following letter for my step-mother to sign (personal info is redacted), which she has, and it's going into the mail tomorrow (Friday):

Connecticut – CCSPC
PO Box 990031
Hartford, CT 06199-0031

Re: XXXXXXXXXX

Dear Madam or Sir:

I write with respect to the correspondence that you keeping sending to my address (XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX) for one XXXXXXXXXX. I received in the mail today two pieces of correspondence from you, addressed to “XXXXXXXXXX.” I have placed them back into my mailbox, unopened, for retrieval up by our postal carrier with instructions on the envelope to return to sender, as the recipient does not live here.

In fact, I bought my home from XXXXXXXXXX in the year 2000, and I have lived here ever since. I am quite sure that XXXXXXXXXX has not even set foot in this house since before I purchased it from him. Moreover, the reason for my certitude is that I purchased my home from XXXXXXXXXX’s estate. As such, I can say with absolute certainty that you will never find XXXXXXXXXX at my address. Perhaps you can determine where he is interred and hire a medium to contact him there?

I have tried to raise this issue with the USPS but, because I do not have any forwarding address for XXXXXXXXXX’s estate (i.e., the address of his estate’s administrator/executor), the USPS is unable to prevent your mail to him from being delivered to me at my address.

Consequentially, I respectfully request that you stop sending correspondence to XXXXXXXXXX at my address (
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX). Every time you send these letters (amounting to two letters per month over the past almost seven years), I have placed them back into the mailbox, unopened, with a note to “return to sender as recipient is deceased.” Your continuing attempts at contacting XXXXXXXXXX, who has been deceased since at least the year 2000, is a complete and total waste of my money as a tax-paying citizen.

Thank you for your time and kind cooperation.

Sincerely yours,

/s/

cc: United States Postal Service
The Stamford Advocate
The Honorable M. Jodi Rell, Governor of the State of Connecticut

Do I have a flair for the dramatic, tongue-in-cheek letter, or what?

06 December, 2006

Gay News Blog

Well, it's about time I finally came across a nice blog that pretty much sums up all the interesting news out there affecting the LGBT community, around the world. Sure, I could keep going to sites like gay.com but, the thing with them is all the clutter that's thrown at you when you're just trying to find out what the damned story is.

But this blog I came across (through Digg.com, actually, I believe...) does a great job of summarizing the relavant information, and compiling it all together. Take, for instance, this article on the growing phenomenae of the acceptance of gay marriage around the world, and the increasing rejection of gay marriage and refusal to recognize any sort of gay relationship on the same terms as heterosexual relationships within our soon-to-be dearly departed (especially if our government continues on its current kamikaze run) United States. I mean, in order for me to get all of this information, I'd probably have to run around the Internet visiting site after site specific to each country. But here, our fabulous blogger has put it all into one nicely presented basket of succinctly summarized information.

The only criticism I might have of our fabulous gay news blogger is that he appears to use only one source of news for each entry. That is, rather than checking out a few different sources, he relies primarly on one source. If I were him, I'd try to incorporate different sources (with quotes/references to same) when reporting on an item.

There's just so much out there for me to read and catch up on I don't know how I'm ever going to get it all done.

Which File Extension Are You?

I'm a .dll:
You are .dll You are dynamic.  You are constantly in danger of bringing down the house, because you don't play well with others.
Which File Extension are You?



Isn't that fun? I'm in danger of bringing down the house because I don't play well with others. Hrm ... I have this friend whom I always accuse of not playing nice, because she just wants to nuke most of the world. Note to the nuclear regulatory agencies out there: Please ensure that JLW does not get her hands on any nuclear material of any sort, whatsoever....

So take the test, and then leave a comment here with your result.

05 December, 2006

Being Sad vs. Depression -- What's the Difference?

Over the past few months, in dealing with my depression, I've noticed something that's both disturbing and annoying. When I tell people -- especially my friends and acquaintances -- that I have depression, they really don't understand what I'm talking about. I put most of the blame for this on the English language, itself.

You see, "depression" is a synonym for "sadness," the meaning of which is related to "being sad." However, having depression is much, much more than "just" being sad or being in a state of sadness. In searching for definitions of these words, the meanings themselves become convoluted and twisted, intertwining different aspects of the different definitions together. Let's take a look:

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, defines depression as
    1. The act of depressing.
    2. The condition of being depressed.
which then goes on to define "depressed" as
  1. To lower in spirits; deject.
Now let's switch for a minute to the definition of "sad" (sadness):
  1. Affected or characterized by sorrow or unhappiness.
  2. Expressive of sorrow or unhappiness.
  3. Causing sorrow or gloom; depressing: a sad movie; sad news.
  4. Deplorable; sorry: a sad state of affairs; a sad excuse.
  5. Dark-hued; somber.
As can be seen, the third definition for "sadness" is "depressing," which is defined as "to lower in spirits; deject." So in essence, sadness and depressed are one and the same, which is why it gets very, very confusing when talking about depression, because depression, although remotely related to sadness, is much, much more than merely having one's spirits lowered or dejected. As Wikipedia goes on to explain,
This is quite distinct from the medical diagnosis of clinical depression. However, if depressed mood lasts at least two weeks, and is accompanied by other symptoms that interfere with daily living, it may be seen as a symptom of clinical depression, dysthymia or some other diagnosable mental illness, or alternatively as sub-syndromal depression.

In the field of psychiatry, the word depression can also have this meaning of low mood but more specifically refers to a mental illness when it has reached a severity and duration to warrant a diagnosis, whether there is an obvious situational cause or not; see Clinical depression. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) states that a depressed mood is often reported as being: "... depressed, sad, hopeless, discouraged, or 'down in the dumps'." In a clinical setting, a depressed mood can be something a patient reports (a symptom), or something a clinician observes (a sign), or both.

Are we confused yet? Let's try some other definitions out there. The National Alliance of Mental Illness has this to say about depression:
Major depression is a serious medical illness affecting 15 million American adults, or approximately 5 to 8 percent of the adult population in a given year. Unlike normal emotional experiences of sadness, loss, or passing mood states, major depression is persistent and can significantly interfere with an individualÂ’s thoughts, behavior, mood, activity, and physical health. Among all medical illnesses, major depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and many other developed countries.
And in their fact sheet publication entitled Understanding Major Depression and Recovery (PDF), they restate the definition in somewhat simpler terms:
Major depression is a mood state that goes well beyond temporarily feeling sad or blue. It is a serious medical illness that affects oneÂ’s thoughts, feelings, behavior, mood, and physical health.
About.com further explains the differences between beindepresseded and having depression:
Although depression is often thought of a being an extreme state of sadness, there is a vast difference between clinical depression and sadness. Sadness is a part of being human, a natural reaction to painful circumstances. All of us will experience sadness at some point in our lives. Depression, however, is a physical illness with many more symptoms than an unhappy mood.
Now, here's where I find their response to become quite interesting and meaningful to me:
The person with clinical depression finds that there is not always a logical reason for his dark feelings. Exhortations from well-meaning friends and family for him to "snap out of it" provide only frustration[,] for he can no more "snap out of it" than the diabetic can will his pancreas to produce more insulin. [Emphasis supplied.]
I can't tell you how many times I've had people -- including friends and even some healthcare workers in the mental health field, tell me that I just need to "snap out of it." Depression the illness (as opposed to depression the feeling) is not something that you choose or have much control over (untreated), just as in all other illnesses. I think that that's one of the key points that really needs to be stressed about Depression: it's an illness. Just because it's a illness doesn't mean that it is any less of an illness as, e.g., cancer, heart disease, or Alzheimer's. The only differencbetweenen Depression and the other diseases is that the part of the body that's affected is the human brain.

In other words, people who say "that depression is 'just the blues' or worse a 'made-up disease'" are in reality "obscur[ing] the real facts about a debilitating and potentially deadly medical condition." Depression Is Real -- it's a real illness, not something that's made up. It's not me being lazy. It's not something that I can just snap out of. Like most other diseases where treatments are available, there are symptoms and guidelines for diagnosis, which include
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Thoughts of death or suicidesuicidede attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
About.com has an on-line screening test for depression. I took it. Here are my answers to the questions, as they as them:
  1. Yes, sad and irritable at times.
  2. Yes, there are very few activities that I now enjoy, even if I can perform the same activities as before my accident, I don't receive a sense of joy or pleasure from them.
  3. Yes, my weight has gone up and down a lot lately, and my appetite has decreased, except that one of my medications has caused mappetitete to increase dramatically.
  4. Yes, I've either been sleeping too much (20 hours a day) or not enough (3 hours a day).
  5. Yes, I feel guilty for being alive. I survived 9/11, and then a horrendous automobile accident.
  6. Yes, my concentration and memory are horrible. I've been working on this entry for the past eight hours now, and I have all of the information in front of my fingertips on the computer screen, but I'm still having difficulty pulling it all together.
  7. Yes, my energy level is horrendous. Most days I don't even want to get out of bed. And this is where people think I'm just being lazy because I lie around all day. It's not that I want
  8. to lie around all day, it's literally because I can't gather up the energy to move about. It gets so bad at times that I have had a conversation with myself as to whether or not I can get up to go to the bathroom or whether I should just urinate on myself, because I literally don't have the energy to get out of bed to walk the ten feet over to the bathroom and relieve myself.
  9. Yes, others have asked me what's wrong because I appear to be restless, or lethargic.
  10. I don't feel completely worthless, as I do know that I have some capabilities, but nothing like before my accident. So I do feel worthless, for the most part, but not completely. As for hope, there's no hope in life anymore. Why do I even want to continue living in this world? It's not going to change, and things are just going to get worse.
  11. Yes, I've had thoughts of suicide and death. I've had plans, and when I start making plans to kill myself I put myself into the hospital. Right now, I'm not thinking of killing myself, but I am thinking that I wish I could just die. I mean, I wish there was some sort of thought process that we, as humans, could transverse which, when performed in a certain ritualistic way, would cause our immediate and sudden death. Kind of like a self-destruct mechanism or something along those lines.
So that's ten out of ten questions that I answered affirmatively, and according to the site, answering a mere half of the ten questions in the affirmative could result in a diagnosis of clinical depression. Not that there really was any doubt about it, of course.

But my point is that having depression is something very real, and it goes way beyond mere feelings. I know I have a lot more to say about it, but I need to take a break. So I'll write more later. And I'll probably edit this over the next few days, as well, to clean up my writing and throw in a few more links. But if you're one of my friend's who's concerned about me, instead of telling me to snap out of it, maybe you could be a bit more understanding, and read up on some of the resources I've outlined above. CBS also has a list of some resources for depression on their web site.

There are some great tips on how to deal with people you care about who have been diagnosed with depression. The site is geared toward children with depression, but I believe that what they have to say is more universal in nature:

What Can I Do to Help?

Most parents think that it's their job to ensure the happiness of their child. When your child's depressed, you may feel guilty because you can't cheer him or her up. You also may think that your child is suffering because of something you did or didn't do. This isn't true. If you're struggling with guilt, frustration, or anger, you may want to consider counseling for yourself. In the long run, this can only help both you and your child.

Other ways to help:

  • Make sure your child takes any prescribed medicines and encourage healthy eating too, as this may help improve your childÂ’s mood and outlook.
  • Make sure your child stays active. Physical activity has been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of depression. Incorporate physical activities, such as bike rides or walks, into your family's routine.
  • Say that you're there, that you love and care about your child and want to hear what he or she has to say, even if it isn't pleasant. Although these things may be difficult for your child to believe, it's important for you to say them. Eventually, they'll be acknowledged.
  • Accept the situation and never tell your child to "snap out of it." Remind yourself that it isn't laziness causing your child's inability to get out of bed, complete chores, or do homework. He or she simply doesn't have the desire or the energy.
  • Keep up treatment for your child and watch for warning signs. Make sure the prescribed treatment is followed, whether itÂ’s medication, therapy, or both. Call the doctor if you see signs that your child may be thinking about suicide because untreated depression is the top cause of suicide. If your child talks about suicide, to you or anyone else, or shows warning signs such as giving belongings away and being preoccupied with death, call your child's doctor or mental health professional immediately.
And now, I'll leave you with these true stories of famous people who have been diagnosed with depression, until I can get up enough energy again to continue this posting.

01 December, 2006

World AIDS Day 2006

Today is World AIDS Day. What are you doing to increase awareness, and remember those who have passed into another realm as a result of being defeated by this deadly disease?

Just how much do you know about AIDS and HIV (the virus that is suspected of causing AIDS)? Test your knowledge on HIV/AIDS. Even if you think you know everthing that there is to know, why not visit a few sites and learn just a little bit more, and then tell other people what you know.

AmFAR has a lot of information about HIV and AIDS, and breaks down a lot of statistics into easy-to-understand plain English. It's a great resource site. Some other sites that you'll want to check out to expand your knowledge, and let your friends/colleagues know about them are: