Archive for the ‘Understanding Josh 101’ Category

I’ve been suffering a truly devastating creative drought since my last post, a case of writers block that just won’t quit.

I have lots of stuff I could write, projects I could work on, but the fuel for the fires just isn’t there.

I am frustrated beyond all description.

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There are days where I wake up and just ask myself, ‘What’s the point?’
Days where I just look at the vast catalog of unfinished projects, unrealized ideas and the daunting grind of making ends meet and wonder why I even bother trying to execute all the things running around my head.

I read over stuff I’ve written and find it shallow, contrite and derivative. I look at art projects and crafts and only see glaring flaws that flash ‘failure’ like neon vegas signs.
I wonder why I even bother.

It’s a constant struggle, and one that I frequently lose.

Today, I’m losing.

And I hate myself for it.

All I’ve ever really wanted was to write, to be successful at it. It’s always been a dream, to create things from the chaos in my own mind and mold them into something that will inspire others, create dreams, generate fantasies. I want to make people throw my book across the room when a character dies, only to race back over to it and keep reading because they want revenge. I want people to fall in love, to yearn for the moment where they can be the perfect voyeur on a single perfect moment between two people. I want to make them cry.

Today, all I’m doing it fighting to keep myself from crying, because I feel like I’ll never be good enough.

I was originally going to write today’s blog on what complete and utter bullshit Daylight Savings Time is and that my loyal and beloved little Pug, Tesla, needs to cut the shit when it comes to the utterly obscene noises he makes while licking his one testicle as I’m trying to go to sleep at night. It was going to be a clever and witty start to everyones Monday, but instead I remembered a post I said I’d write for my fellow Tumblr HouseOfFantasists and now find myself compelled towards something heavier and more real.

Last night, I went to dinner with the Wife, the Muppet and the in-laws and some visits family from out of town.

I spent half the evening outside in the backyard.

I felt my hands starting to shake, the world was starting to spin and the old familiar sensation of having a raw, live, wire pressed the the base of my skull came back. Habit, training and experience kicked in and I recused myself from the table and stood on the hill in the backyard with my beer and just sighed.
Another god damn attack.

Friends and Readers: I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I am a physical abuse survivor. A sexual abuse survivor. A psychological abuse survivor.

Now, before I got further, I’m not going to post a ‘Trigger Warning’. Trigger Warnings are fucking bullshit, and as someone with PTSD sometimes I just want to nut-punt anyone who posts ‘Trigger Warning’ on anything. You know who wants those warnings, the ones who claim to have PTSD. We all know at least one. The psychological hypochondriac, the Attention Seeker, the one whose ‘trauma’, when you actually dig in, consists of just arguing with a parent frequently. They demand that you never talk about a topic, freak out if you even mention something remotely related to it. I’ve dealt with many other people struggling with PTSD and I’ve yet to see a single one who will genuinely freak out at the mention of the word ‘rape’, ‘beating’, ‘abuse’, etc.
Why?
Because people with PTSD aren’t weak, and a word or a topic doesn’t set us off.
We are strong. We have to be.
Now, going into graphic or specific detail, whole different story in some cases. We aren’t stupid, and we know what triggers us and know when to bow out. All you do when you post TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE, ABUSE, PURPLE MONKEYS is give my a reason to bring my own internal defense grid online, put the shields to maximum and get ready to respond with a hair trigger, but all you did was mention a topic in passing…so now I’m all set internally for a borderline pornographic description of something…and you said the word…once…
TRIGGER WARNINGS MAKE THINGS WORSE FOR PEOPLE WITH PTSD. STOP IT.

Much more practical. That cracked out tiger can come out of nowhere.

Okay, now that’s out of my system.

For those reading this with PTSD, I’m not going to be graphic, but if your symptoms stem from physical and/or sexual abuse, this is your polite heads up. The the rest of you, deal with it. There’s a lesson here.

Yes, I struggle with PTSD. I have been struggling with it daily for over 14 years now. I don’t ‘have’ PTSD, I don’t ‘suffer from’ PTSD.
I struggle with it, because it isn’t a disease or a cancer, it’s who I am.
I struggle with it the way an Alcoholic struggles not to drink, or an Addict not to give in to the urge.
Only, my brain is addicted to memory. Shitty, painful, memory.

My first event happened when I was 16, in the middle of my Sophmore English class, not long after my adoptive mother died. Everyone had always known I was off, that was easy to see, and many suspected things had happened in my past that I didn’t want to talk about. No one really understood the full gravity of it, not even me, until my PTSD surfaced. In a single, 30 second event, my world crumbled as the repressed memories of over 8 years of physical, psychological and sexual abuse were set loose. I had my first Flashback, a full sensory complete recollection of only one incident of my abuse. It made me sick and I ran from the room before I got sick all over my desk. Thus began the struggle.

Now, not everyone who struggles with PTSD has the same symptoms or even the same experiences with the disorder.
To loosely quote my old therapist, “PTSD is probably the healthiest psychological disorder someone can have, because it’s your brain realizing ‘Oh crap, I can’t deal with this crazy shit I’m going through, so I’m going to stash it away until I can.'”
There’s some kind of sick, ironic comfort in that. PTSD is, essentially, your brains immune response to trauma to keep yourself from breaking in the situation.
It’s a circuit breaker that keeps your brain from overloading. The trauma happens, the breaker flips, and eventually it flips back all on its own once you’re able to process the trauma.
It’s actually kind of cool to think about, but someone with it will likely tell you otherwise.

Scumbag Brain: The Totem Spirit of PTSD.

The reality, once that breaker gets flipped back, is that you spend weeks or months or even years trying to work out the trauma that would’ve broken you at the time. That struggle causes all kinds of secondary and tertiary issues that can haunt you, effect your daily life and relationships and make functioning in society extremely difficult.
Below is a list of the symptoms I deal with every day. It’s by no means a complete catalog of what someone with PTSD will experience 100% of the time, because like any Disorder there is a broad range of symptoms that can be present or even develop later on.

1) Flashbacks
Imagine having a DVD player in your head. At some point, you see or hear or feel or smell something, and that thing pushes the play button. The DVD skips to a random chapter, and you have to watch the whole damn thing before you can go back to what you were doing. Sounds annoying, right? Now imagine if you could not only see and hear, but feel and smell and taste everything as well. That’s what a Flashback is like for me. A full sensory playback of an event. I don’t suddenly start freaking out. I don’t dive under a table. I don’t talk to people that aren’t there or think I’m somewhere else. When I have a flashback, people say it looks like I just suddenly sat down or leaned against a wall and fell asleep. It’s disorienting and upsetting, because what could be 20 seconds in the real world can feel like hours in my own head. During one of these events I also become hypersensitive to touch, and even the most gentle of reassuring hands is like a white hot brand on my skin. It’s also not always the same event I’m reliving. I have 8 years worth of crap in my head for it to randomly cycle through.

2) Hyper-Stimulation
Over stimulation is one thing, but there comes a point with me where noise and light and people become this all consuming tide that just crash over me and set off every internal alarm I have. A good example is last night. I was engaged, enjoying dinner and conversation with my family, but suddenly everyone talking at once. The echoes got louder, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t hear anything but stray words. I felt my heart starting to pound. My hands started to shake. I knew it was pushing me over the edge, so I politely stood up and went to the other room where it was darker and the noise was slightly muffled to calm down, but things kept going and eventually I had to go outside and stay out there for a good 20 to 30 minutes while my wife had to explain why I suddenly disappeared.

3) Hyper-Emotion
When I get into an episode, I don’t just follow the socially accepted norm of the appropriate level of emotion for a situation. If I get angry or upset, I break into sobbing tears. If I’m feeling good, I’m irrationally manic and bouncy. I can also have sudden emotional surges, where if I get annoyed by something I get irrationally offended instantly. Because of this, and the Hyper-Stimulation, I’ve actually been confused for having Asperger Syndrome.

4) Self Defeatism / Deprecation
Even writing this now, I have to fight the urge not to delete this and just write about my dog licking his one ball.
“No one cares.”
“You’re going to fail.”
“You sound stupid, or crazy, or both.”
These are all the little voices that gnaw on my brain and hold me back, the ones that keep me from finishing projects and from keep me from commitments. Sometimes, all I can do is just hide in my ‘Chaos Corner’ and pretend to be busy, but the whole time I’m locked in a spin of tearing myself and all my work apart.

5) Panic Attacks
Oh, these are fun. Sudden change or crisis brings these on, although they can also just randomly show up and kick me in the head. Take everything above, drop it on me at once and double it. All of it. These are day wreckers for me, the thing that can just shut me down for the rest of a day being a quiet, shaken mess. A Panic Attack can result in me needing to take the one medication I still keep around, Klonopin, because it’s the only thing that can level me out at that point.

PTSD effects the daily life you lead, taxes and strains relationships and pushes you to want to just give in. But many people struggling with PTSD lead relatively normal lives, myself included. My wife is patient and understanding, my daughter knows when ‘Joshy needs space’. I wish it didn’t have to be like that, but without the wonderful support they’ve given me the past 3 years, I wouldn’t begin to guess where I’d be.
If you have a friend struggling with PTSD, or a family member, odds are you’re looking at the strongest person you know.
They might not realize it.
They might not know it.
But they should.

The lesson for today kids is this: Don’t insult me, or someone else struggling with PTSD, with a ‘Trigger Warning’ because it undermines all the work I’ve done to be where I am. That prima donna screaming that you need to put Trigger Warnings on things is full of it and assumes I’m weak enough where some black letters on a screen can bring me down. I struggle every day to move ahead, and sometimes I stumble, but even if I fall I make sure I fall forward.
For those of you who, for some reason, insist on posting that god awful act of self sabotage, here’s some advice from someone who has dealt with it for over a decade: YOU DON’T NEED IT. It’s a security blanket, a wall, a shell. It means nothing, and you will inevitably be triggered by something. PTSD means facing down your demons, and never ‘on your own terms’. Learn from your triggers. Adapt. Overcome. Evolve. Use the tears when you have a Flashback, use that pain in your chest from the panic attack. Each time, vow to yourself ‘Never Again’.
Seek counseling. See a trauma specialist. Get a real diagnosis and not just say, ‘Gee, that sounds like me. It must be me’ because it might not be. Go to group survivor meetings. Educate yourself on the Disorder. Be open. Tell your friends you have it. Have episodes and learn your bodies ‘tells’ so you can read them and know when to bail out. Write down your Triggers, see which actually set you off and which are just things that bug you. Never lash out, you will only regret it later. Write shitty poetry. Write good poetry. Sing. Paint. Sculpt. Do something, anything, productive to purge the pain. NEVER HARM OR BLAME YOURSELF.
Don’t try to change people or the world to stop it.

Change yourself.

Because, at the end of the day, you are stronger.

For those in the Los Angeles area, I strongly recommend Dr. Robert Scott. He was my trauma specialist and is an amazing doctor.

And no, he doesn’t hate you.

If you’re one of my friends, odds are at some point you’ve said, “I haven’t heard from you in X weeks or Y months.”

I always get asked, “Are you mad at me?”
“Did I do something wrong?”
“Am I not good enough?”

No, I’m not mad at you. No, you didn’t do anything.
I’m just a fucking hermit.

For as much of a social butterfly as I am, I hate being outside my bubble. I loathe it.
I also just flat out don’t think to call people unless there is a specific reason for it, I’ve never been a ‘Call To Shoot The Shit’ kind of guy. I’m just not.
Unless there’s a purpose for it, I avoid long phone calls and I’m fairly certain the number of my friends who’ve had me on a phone for more than 15 minutes can be counted on both my hands, the number of those for purely ‘bullshit’ reasons on one hand. It’s just not who I am, or what I do.

I don’t believe a friendship requires ‘maintenance’.
The idea is alien to me.
You’re my friend. You obviously like me enough to enjoy my company frequently, our views and mutual interests coincide more often than now and odds are you can tolerate my semi-awkward social skills when I’m not around my wife (I’m kinda lost without that woman).
Odds are, I probably think the same of you.
Congratz!
I’ve literally gone years without talking to several of my close friends over the phone or even seeing them, but one day one of us runs into the other somehow and we just pick up where we left off. We have a coffee or a beer, catch up, and I don’t consider them any less of a friend than when I last saw or talked to them.

Because they’re my friend, and therefor they are awesome.

Let me say this again.

I can go without talking to you for years, and I do not consider my friendship with you to be diminished or lessened in any way.

Does that make me weird? Probably, but everyone knows I’m an odd duck. Exactly why is a topic of a whole other, much longer, blog that I’m not in the mood to write at the moment. If you’re my friend, you probably know why I’m odd.

I don’t look at friendship as an engine, where I have to bring it in for maintenance every 5,000 miles for an oil change.
I see it as a Jackson Pollock piece. Messy, complicated and entirely subjective.

Odds are that this is how I see our relationship. In fact, this is how I see most things.

The one thing I’ve always heard though, the one thing that if you talk to all the people I know, is that I’m always here.
Anyone, on any given day, at almost any given time, can call me for anything and odds are in your favor that I will answer.
Stuck waiting for your car that’s in the mechanic? Sure, I’ll come pick you up.
Pissed off at this other friend because they acted like a douche? Let me grab my E-Cig, but start talking, I’m listening.
Stuck in a moral or philosophical conundrum and need advice? SING ME THE SONG OF YOUR PEOPLE!
It doesn’t matter if we haven’t talked in six days, six months or six years. You’re still my friend, and I will treat you as such.

One of my best friends was my Best Man at my wedding, two others were my groomsmen.
I haven’t talked to my Best Man in…2 months.
Do I consider him any less of a true and cherished friend to me? Fuck no.
Would I hesitate to be there if he asked me to be? Fuck no.
Do I wish we hung out more? Fuck yes, but I am a hermit and he knows that.
They all know that.

Bottom line: Yes, odds are you will need to contact me more than I contact you. I’m sorry, but it’s just the way I am. However, whenever you need me I’m there.

Yup. It’s like that.