16 candles

Yesterday, drove the old Volvo down to Brother Dan’s, left it parked outside his place, and gave him the keys.  Hard to believe I have had that car since 2001; I got it for 800 bucks, and I think it a pretty amazing car.  It’s got 170000 miles on it, but you turn the key and it starts.  I suspect, with minimal maintenance, it will go another 50000 at least.  Not that it doesn’t have flaws; it’s an ’86 sedan.  The paint is flaking off; the fabric on the ceiling is almost gone because at one time somebody left the sun roof open during a rain.  The leather seats are split; one of the windows doesn’t go up and down anymore; the radio antenna got broken off, and when you lift up the trunk it won’t stay up, so I put a golf club back there to hold it up.  Also it smells pretty bad.

But I drove it down to Brother Dan to see if maybe Nephew Dylan would be interested in registering it and getting a license and learning how to drive.  It’s hard to know what interests Nephew Dylan these days or as was once said “floats his boat.”  He’s 16.  Carol and I have met a number of people who say the most awful things about their 16 year olds, male and female.  Things like, I can’t stand to be in the same room with him.  Or, she has made my life into a living hell.

I was buying a tomato at the farmer’s marker and the young tomato girl launched into a rant about 16 year olds being the worst because they think they know everything and it’s impossible to talk to them. She looked about 18, so I guess she knows whereof she speaks. And she has a younger sister who is 16.

What happened to sweet 16:

Sixteen candles make a lovely light

But not half as bright

As your eyes tonight

That’s a song I heard when I was about 16.  Let’s see, that would have been 1961 or so, and come to think of it I had a pretty hard year.  I almost got kicked out of English because of the stuff I wrote about the teacher in my book reports.  Also the coach almost kicked me off the basketball team because he said my attitude was lousy, though I didn’t know what he was talking about, and years later Joan said they had thought of sending me to see somebody because I refused to talk the whole year.  Honestly, I don’t remember not talking.

At sixteen, the damn adulthood thing starts looming over your head; the idea that you can stay kid forever seems increasingly remote.  Of course, at 16 you don’t know that this is bumming you out completely….

And getting that first car is one of the symbols of the adult world that awaits…like the jaws of a bear trap.

Positively Brutal

The phone keeps ringing.

Carol gets calls from doctors, nurses, family.  Her mother was in the hospital at the beginning of the week because of difficulty breathing.  She has congestive heart failure and one of the effects of that is a build up of fluids around the lungs.  This happened about a month ago and at that time the doctors inserted a needle and withdrew some of the fluid manually.  This time though they were reluctant to do that.

The doctors call Carol because she is the medical person for her mother’s Trust.  So Carol is faced with hard decisions.  Actually the doctors do most of the decision making, but Carol had to decide something this time, and that was, at the beginning of the week, to send her mother back where she had been but this time in hospice care.

ellwoodstorm 

Hospice is the end of the line.  It means that all parties concerned and lucid enough to be concerned have agree that there is nothing now to be done for a person but to make that person as comfortable and pain free as possible in the final passage.  Hospice doesn’t even use antibiotics.  No breathing tube will be inserted.  Carol’s mom is now on a morphine drip.

 

Carol has asked the doctors and nurses not to use the word “hospice” around her mother.  She is concerned that her mother will become very afraid.

At ten last night Carol is responding to an email from the daughter of the man Carol’s mom married about ten years ago.  The daughter says her father called crying and distraught.  He is 95 years old.  He is getting the picture that his wife of 10 years will soon be dying.

Neither of us slept well.

This is just brutal. 

 ___________________________________________________________________________________

We took a walk to Ellwood yesterday late and the sky was dramatic.  A storm was coming in.

Last Ride on Earth

Last week sometime I got these complicated instructions and sample sheets to assist me apparently in putting together the documentation for the final accounting for the Tingle Family Trust.  I should have known when I saw the word accounting that I was in trouble.  I mean I can add and subtract and I did OK in math in school; usually I would get points for having the right idea (when you had to write your answers out, as they used to say) but I wasn’t very good at the detail part like making sure that one plus one equaled two.

Doing this stuff has given me a slightly better idea about what accountants do and a new found respect for that.  Though I don’t know that I would have much respect for anybody who wanted to be an accountant.  Fiddling with numbers suggested how much a person might fiddle around.  I read somewhere about firms like Enron buying something or other that was projected to produce so and so much income in the coming years, and the accountants would figure what this income was supposed to be (even though they hadn’t gotten it yet) and claim it as part of assets on hand (though they really weren’t on hand at all) and those assets would be figured into the net worth of the company upon which other people based their gambling on the stock market.

Fiddling with these numbers was odd.  Going over Joan’s checking account and finding bills for such things as her last month in the home where she was living, or for having her cremated, or having the dates carved on her tombstone back in SC.  Or one for her last ride on earth—in an ambulance.  It seems to me that they should give you some sort of discount for your last ride on earth.  I think that would be a polite and human thing to do.  Like, hey, that was her last ride on earth; we should give a discount.  But no, we live in a capitalistic society.  If the capitalists knew this was your last ride on earth, they would probably say, hey, this is going to be your last ride on earth, and if you want to take it we are going to charge you double.  And you would probably pay it too, like they would have you over a barrel.

Or maybe you would say, screw it.  I am going to die right here.  I already took my last ride on earth.

Cruelty of Depression

Poking around in a book, I find the author of a preface asking if prozac, and effexor, and paxil, and so on and so forth “work,” do we really need a book like this one, called the Cruelty of Depression by, moreover, one of those unnecessarily incomprehensible French  Lacains?  Well, that’s a rhetorical question of course; is any editor going to publish a foreward that says this book is useless.

cruelty 

But it’s a good question though I think some clarification necessary.  What does it mean to say Prozac works?  Works does not in my experience mean cure. It just “works, is all, to mute the symptoms possibly otherwise overwhelming.  Still can a book do even that?  The answer has to be no, unless of course one uses a very heavy book to render someone unconscious.  That is, at least, a temporary, if some drastic cure, for depression.

I continue to poke around:

This mother, by the way, is not distracted. She is absent for her child and for the man who would occupy a position of father for that child. She is present only to herself. How, then, is one to introduce the Other into the treatment?

When Lacan said that human desire is the desire of the other, he let it be understood that the first object of desire is founded upon the desire to be recognized by the Other. Let us assume then that this Other refuses to recognize us, that at the moment, say, when the child turns to its mother to seek out in her gaze what will support the outlines of its mirror image with recognition, she turns away her head or offers the child an empty gaze. What can conic of this but a meeting with the impossible? Desire will now be more or less suspended. At a crucial point—the founding point of recognition, i.e., the point that also permits identification—the place of the Other is mute.

The Other’s muteness and blindness, its indifference to being addressed, cause a shattering in the subject that lands it this side of mourning. We can say of melancholics that something befell them, "fell their way," in the sense that their speech fell on deaf ears, was lost in limbo. Here the letter is no more lost than it is in suffering; it’s questing after a receiver, so that that it finally can be written. One step further arid the very notion of a letter fades: "I must do something, but what?" Then the dreary weight of "I’ve nothing to do, I’m good for nothing," increasingly sets in and invades the psychic landscape. This considerable distress results in that anxiety-less suffering that is the lot of the melancholic.

Well, that’s a mouthful, upon which I will expiate later in more detail. 

If it ain’t one thing……

I was not looking forward to my May appointment with my pulmonary guy.  Any doctor stuff having to do with my lungs puts me in the throes of anticipatory anxiety because of my forty year bad habit. Actually, Dr. Flaster was not originally my pulmonary guy; he was my sleep apnea guy.  I had to go to him to get a test for sleep apnea and later to get my sleep apnea cure stuff.  I guess sleep apnea does involve the lungs.

 

terrorface

 

 

He became interested though in my lungs per se when he heard about my bad habit.  He ordered an extra x-ray.  The problem with lung cancer—as yet no early detection.  And then when I got the pneumonia he insisted on checking me out.  I had an x-ray again and had to take a breathing test that turned me blue in the face and made me almost passed out.  He had told me after the first x-ray that I had the start of asthma and this time he said, over a month after the pneumonia was supposed to be over, that my lungs still showed signs of the pneumonia.

I liked Dr. Flaster pretty well.  I had worked to establish a rapport.  The nurses said he was one of those geniuses and that he had a wicked sense of humor.  He had a PhD in chemistry and was of course also an MD.  I asked him if he still had time for bench work and indicated that I had a PhD myself in literature though.  I figured phrases like “bench work” and PhD might make him more inclined to remember me.  In fact, he took to calling me Dr. Tingle when he remembered my name at all.

My May appointed was for a final pneumonia check: x-ray again followed by a meet and greet. But of course I lost the card with my appointment time on it, so Carol called for me to find out the time, and told me to sit down, because she had just found out that Dr. Flaster had died in his sleep just two nights before.  He lived alone and his dog had died just a few weeks before.

In light of my recent Job like travails, I thought, what the hell is this?  What does it mean when your doctors start dying? I was glad the appointment was canceled on account of death but pissed that I would have to make another.  And on top of that I would have to try to cultivate a relationship with another pulmonary person.

I wasn’t surprised though.  Dr. Flaster was bald, about 5 foot four and had that Babe Ruth figure:  built like a bowling ball with tooth pick legs sticking down.  Also he was positively disheveled.  He had this overlong belt that flapped around in front of his half pulled up fly, and his shirt kept coming out of his pants. Given his weight and my guess that he had never worked out in his life, he looked like a walking time bomb to me.  And he sweated real easily too, like guys I have known who are overweight and also alcoholics.

I liked this guy.  He was Jewish and they buried him right away. 

Here’s looking at you Flaster, a real mench of a guy.

Rationalization

fosterfreeze

So what with the death thing and the “serious” novels I was starting to read around that time, I began to think I was profound or deep maybe or something like that, and other people of course were not.   So while they all went off to the prom, or got drunk and drove around in their cars doing whatever, I was at home in my room alone and thinking deep thoughts, while they were off doing the trivial things high school kids did back in 1962. That was a pretty good rationalization of my social ineptness—that word isn’t strong enough—though not good enough to keep me from feeling pretty damn out of it on occasion.

Not out of exactly, just lost.  I didn’t know enough about what I was missing in the form of a “normal” high school social life to feel out of it.  So I just trucked on with the death thing like a monkey on my back.  Sometimes, I figured, though this was later on, that I was born in the wrong century.  Maybe I should have been born back in the 19th century when half of all kids didn’t make it past ten years old.  Or maybe even earlier than that, back during the Middle Ages, during the plague when people were dying all over the place.  Hell, I could have become a priest and fit right in.  I could have gone around giving sermons on the ever present presence of death and how this life was a veil of tears and soul making and so forth, and really gotten my heart and soul into it.

But in California in 1966, it didn’t look like anybody was dying.  I had at that time only met one dead person and that was my poor cousin that I didn’t like very much.  And since nobody was doing it, nobody was talking about it.  I don’t remember the topic popping up in any sort of casual conversation, as in, oh by the way, but isn’t death sort of terrible.  I couldn’t find a way to introduce my obsession into conversations about cars, sports, girls, and getting drunk.  There just wasn’t a niche anywhere in the social ecological system of high school for a kid who went around thinking about death all the time.  And since nobody was doing it—dying I mean—my bringing up the subject was likely to be taken as a conversational downer.

This is all mixed up with any manner of chicken and egg problems.  Did the death thing—since it really did exist, and I wasn’t faking it—keep me from fitting in?  Or was the death thing a kind of rationalization of my lack of fit.  Or maybe I really just didn’t fit in because I thought too much and was the only kid at my high school to have read Crime and Punishment and the death thing was a way of feeling there was something special or different in me that could justify my persistent sense of isolation.

That’s a picture of non-dead young people back in 1962 hanging out at the burger joint and looking as if they are auditioning for American Graffiti.

crazyface

I wonder who this guy is.  I must be fond of him since I have had his picture somewhere in the files on my computer for more than ten years.  More than once I have gone back rummaging through http://www.nicktingle.com/crazy1a.jpgcrazyface1files trying to relocate him, and I always do because I called him or his picture rather “crazyface.”  That’s easy to remember.  It speaks to me somehow—that crazyface—and recently I looked him up again and reduced him mightily to 16 by 16 pixels and stuck him up there next to my URL as my favicon.  And, as you will note, I have over stuck him in my last three entries on depression.  He seems right stuck there in ruminations on depression.

In fact, I think whenever I write an entry on depression and related mental illnesses I will stick him there in the entry as a sign to the reader: this is about depression and mental illness, read at your own risk.  Perhaps I will construct another little site with a photo gallery of this guy and the ways I have massacred his face, hack it, chopped it and colored it.

I first came across this fellow in Darwin’s “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals,” and, as the reader will note, the picture here is labeled by Darwin as being from a photograph by one Dr. Duchanne.  Darwin uses Dr. Duchanne’s photographs constantly throughout his book and also refers to Dr. Duchanne’s work, “The Mechanism of Human Facial Expressions,” (1862).  The man in the picture was called by Duchanne “The Old Man,” though honestly I don’t think he looks that old.

He was Duchanne’s model and his experimental subject.  I say model because Duchanne photographed him and experimental subject because the various expressions on the “Old Man’s” face were not spontaneous but the result of a galvanic or electric discharge.  Duchanne applied electrodes to muscles as a way to isolate the muscles most responsible for facial expressions in general and for particular facial expressions. 

He would then make a photograph of the Old Man under the influence of electodes, show that picture to regular, ordinary people and ask  them what they thought this particular contraction of configuration of contractions “expressed.”  As indicated, people thought the Old Man’s face, as pictured here, expressed Horror and Agony.

I find something troubling in all this. Or should I say: quite modern.  My crazy face is not expressing as from his psyche, Horror and Agony.  He is not even an actor mimicking Horror and Agony.  He is being electrocuted in a very exacting way.  History records that the “Old Man” was

afflicted with almost total facial anesthesia. This circumstance made him an ideal subject for Duchenne’s investigations, because the stimulating electrodes he used were certainly somewhat uncomfortable, if not actually painful.

If this is true—and I hope it is—my poor “crazy face” could not even feel his face.  I wonder, if this is the case, if he knew when he was smiling or when he was frowning.  Or did he have to carry a mirror around with him.

What isness is…

I feel a bit like Bill Clinton with his, it all depends on what the meaning of is is.  I was glad Bill was crazyface4not a Republican, but I never liked Bill.  But better a man who solved his masculine inadequacies with out of the oval office blow jobs, than the massive overcompensator we now have.

But as I said.

I think there’s a difference between saying:

A:  “I am depressed.”

And B: “I am a depressive.”

A.J. Ayer dismisses all of Sartre’s philosophy as a pun having to do with “is-ness.”  Dickhead!  Talk about a tree getting in the way of the forest.

 This came to me in insomnia soaked moment somewhere towards dawn, another product of Effoxor withdrawal.

But what a difference a noun makes or maybe an adjective makes.

Twenty four little hours—and the difference is you.

But as I said.

 In “A” the emphasis is on “am” and followed, as it is, by an adjective, the “am-ness” here constructed is all temporality.  “A” says, I am, not that I was, or that I will be.  Just that I am, at this transparent moment.

 

In “B” the emphasis is on “depressive,” I think, and the “am-ness” here constructed takes to itself the air of a logical proposition.  Or maybe it’s that little article, “a,” that makes all the difference.

I have known for years that I “am” and “was” depressed, and for years that was different than saying, “I am a depressive.”  I am still reluctant to say the latter perhaps because it means, in its logical finality, that I have given up all hope of things being otherwise.  But lately, I have thought it more applicable; when one hits sixty—I know I generalize—but at least in my case—one has doubts about any important change.

Still I am reluctant because if one says, “I am a depressive,” that means being depressed has become part of one’s self-concept.  Being male is part of my self concept; but if I say I am horney I could be either male or female, horniness not being gender specific.

The problem though—and it is not a small one—is that if one goes around saying I am depressed and not I am a depressive, one is not adequately positioned, I think, to deal with one’s depression qua depression, to accept it as such, and to find accordingly ways of dealing with it or, if not that, living with it. Because it’s hard enough being depressed without being hard on yourself for being depressed.

Brain Shivers

The epistemological question I have raised a little lately as to whether much is happening in the world to piss a body off or whether this body is at present predisposed to be pissed at anything is crazyfaceredthe product, over six months or so, of my effort to stop taking the anti-depressant called Effexor.   Why I might not want to stay tanked up for the rest of my natural or unnatural life on anti-depressants is a question itself.  Isn’t it really six of one, half dozen of another?  One is tanked up on something all the time biochemically speaking—caffeine perhaps, or sugar, sugar, sugar, and so on and so forth.  In any case, not taking anti-depressants is no more natural than taking them. Why in God’s name in any case would I want to know what I “really” feel like at age 60?

But that’s another question, as I said, maybe for another time.  For now, I see those moments lately of a pure and clean anger that come on fiercely like a summer squall and then are gone as symptoms of withdrawal.  I thought six months ago maybe these moments would just dissipate like yesterday’s cold leaving no permanent scar on the psychic tissues.  But I was wrong.  I kept cutting back and cutting back on the drug from an original high of 375 milligrams, and for a bit things would flatten out and then wham! Up aside the head again.

Finally, I was down to the smallest dosage they have of this nasty stuff.  37.5 milligrams.  I should have known something was up when my psychiatrist suggested I split this up even for a while.  This required pulling apart the capsule—not easy to do with my eyes going—and dumping its contents of tiny white little orbs of something or other into a bowl.  Then with my fingernail, I would scoot one half of the orbs over to one side of the bowl and like a dog tongue out the other half of orbs, and later in the day tongue what remained.  Then I started throwing out some of the little balls and dividing up whatever remained for the course of the day.

But shit! Say I.  I got the feeling I was just prolonging the misery and decided to flat out just stop.  The act of gradually tapering off as I had over the last six months just didn’t have, as far as I was concerned, the intended effect of lessening one iota the final scream of withdrawal like some malignant ghost that just refuses to go over to the other side.  I was caught so by surprise I went online to see what others might have to say about Effexor withdrawal just to confirm to my enfeebled brain that I was not going nuts, because that’s what it felt like.

What I found confirmed what I felt up to and including reports of the mysterious brain shivers.  I had not thought of it that way exactly; the word shiver implies a shiver, I think, as a reaction to coldness.  Whatever it might be that hits my brain at odd moments is not a reaction to coldness but to darkness, a palpable, right there behind the eyes darkness, that is almost, if one could just completely give into it, a restfulness beyond all restfulness, that seems as if it is lightly sucking at you, like a current or undertow pulling you down and back.  But doesn’t.  As if getting just to the relaease of orgasm one can’t get off. ….  Maybe that’s the shiver part.

The State of My Condition

I doubt that people who busy themselves with such things think any longer that the mind is a tabla rasa.  And if a person is not convinced that it’s not, I recommend a good strong case of crazyfacedepression.  I have had at least two major episodes of that; and in between, in a more regular and daily way, I have been diagnosed now by three psychiatrists as having dysthymia, a form of depression described as low-grade and chronic.  Some consider it over a lifetime more debilitating even than major depression.  People suffering from those—the great swings for example of bipolarity–probably have killed themselves, but we low grade types just go on and on as our teeth fall out.

One shouldn’t trust psychiatrists.  They are legalized pill pushers is all.  I had pretty much diagnosed myself before I saw one of them in any case.  If out of some perversity, one wishes to acquire an official case of depression, it’s not at all hard to do.  One has only to mention an inability to sleep or too much of it, fatigue that goes to the bone, a general lowering of affect, an unpleasant loss of libido, did I say “fatigue,” and some suicidal “ideation” of course is de rigueur.  But the capper, the sure fire nail in the coffin, is a family history of the stuff.

This gets most directly to the inadequacy of the tabla rasa notion.  One may not wish to believe in genetics, but sadly they appear operative.  My family tree could be called the family tree of depressed monkeys.  The whole lot on my father’s side seems to have suffered it, and I am positive too that it appears on my mother’s—given how she acted—but I can’t trace her line back very far.  Melancholia mixed with rage—a volatile tonic, I should say. 

Man, what tempers.  But when one moves around every minute of every day feeling one is floating just slightly above a steady undertow of bone jarring fatigue, one can, under life’s very minor irritations, such as a window that won’t open, or a dog that barks too much, or any number of equally idle and pointless things, just snap as if that thing were the proverbial last straw.  But oh, one runs into a great number of last straws.  There are a lot of them.  Those straws come to seem more like matches for the always primed and slightly hissing flame thrower of one’s rage.  Just a flick of your Bic in the wrong spot and Kaboom!

I have my own theory of depression that I will not attempt to defend or justify on anything other than my capacity, as it were, of participant observer of depression’s squirmy stuff.  At root, at the fatal bottom, way back in the brain stem, is the fight/flight or fear/anger response.  If the flight/fight response gets stuck, as it were, in an oscillating and conflicting mode, anxiety, or a heightened state of observational awareness is produced.  Evolutionarily speaking people prone to anxiety might have served a purpose, being that kind of person that the rest of the tribe could count on to stay awake all through the night while on guard.

Who knows, it makes sense to me, but perhaps I am trying to believe that at least at one time depression served a purpose.  But probably I am just trying to find a deeper meaning or mythological depth to what is no more than really screwed up biochemistry.  These biochemical processes, I want to call what Freud called the deepest levels of the unconscious, the primary processes.