10 – Warning graphic content

Note: This entry involves my parents and becomes graphic. Friends close to my parents that do not actively promote gun ownership are encouraged to skip this entry.

I have unfollowed a bunch of friends on Facebook over the past few days.

Initially, I just wanted to cull my newsfeed of all the memes and shares and good-God-how-did-I-get-sucked-into-this-pointless-vortex-of-Internet-drivel? *Poof* vanished (but not banished) are those that rarely offer anything remotely newsworthy or original to my newsfeed.

Last night, however, I unfollowed some people who I really would rather not have. People that I do consider friends. People that, in physical presence, I enjoy being with and bring me joy. But, removed from physical presence, in the comfort of their own corner of the Internet, thoughts are shared that don’t take into account what reactions specific friends might have to those shared thoughts.

I have been personally impacted by firearms. I currently own firearms even though I didn’t pay for them, pass a background check, attend any firearm safety course, or any of the other supposed safeguards that are in place to prevent any ole person from getting his or her hands on a gun.

I came to own these guns through inheritance. These were my dad’s guns. One of which, still in the possession of the Panama City Beach police department, he used to kill my mother and himself.

He should never have been allowed to purchase a gun, much less acquire eight or nine of them. Why? He suffered from a severe case of clinical depression around twenty years ago. He drank more than he should have. He took anti-depressants. He went to dark places at certain times.

I’m not zealous about gun control. I’m sure there are plenty of people with similar circumstances that do not commit murder-suicide. But, from the time my father started purchasing guns, I regularly questioned him and voiced my displeasure about his owning them. His perfectly reasonable response for needing guns? “In case the booglies come.” Legitimate.

I’m not in charge of writing laws. Nor are any of the friends on my Facebook friends list able to make a difference for the whole of our society. We’re all just insignificant voices pretending we’re making a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate from our meager soapboxes.

In reality, we’re just exposing our “friends” to rants without concern for what feelings or memories they might invoke to those we normally would enjoy the company of.

I am a person that has opinions and generally leans left. I also expose myself to opinions I don’t inherently agree with in an effort to empathize with others. Everyone is battling their own demons, and no one’s demons are any less gruesome than another’s. I usually absorb counter viewpoints because I believe respect doesn’t need to be earned — it should be given from the get-go. But, respect can be lost.

The first time I culled my friends list was during the hellabaloo of Act 10. Again, not because of disagreement, but because “friends,” through generalized remarks, may not have been aware of the personal impact Act 10 directly had on my life and paycheck. And, if they were, and would say to my face, “You don’t deserve the compensation you have for the job that you do,” I wouldn’t want to be in their company anyway. Really, who would want to be around people who didn’t think you were worthy.

Five years later, Act 10 still impacts teachers. The fact that the State of Wisconsin is trying to shove “the tools” Act 10 provides down the throats of Racine Unified School District is perhaps the biggest reason I quit my job.

But, Act 10 is a different topic (slightly) than the purpose of this post.

I unfollowed a bunch of people because of their fanatical defense for unregulated gun control and their lack of desire to empathize with the other side. I unfollowed a bunch of people because of their paranoia and belief that when the Revolution comes or the Aliens attack, they’re going be the one-person-army saving humanity from the “Booglies.”

It’s not my intention to engage in the generalized analogies and one-size-fits-all points and counter points.

Yet, there is one sentiment, that every time I see it, makes me remember and reflect.

If it was my father’s intention to commit murder-suicide, he could have done so without needing a gun. Yep. True. So there I am imagining my father killing my mother without a gun. How would he do it?

Maybe he would have stabbed her to death with a knife then slit his own throat. Perhaps he would have smothered her with a pillow then hung himself. Maybe he would have bashed her head into a wall until her life left and then jumped from the fourth story balcony where he was staying.

My friends, I do not thank you for causing me to think about that. And, before you think that it’s my choice to think about that regardless of what you post, what the hell… Then… is your intention of posting those thoughts!? Of course you want me to think about it. You want me to side with your position. However, I have a personal experience to link your arguments to. Maybe you do to. I don’t know. But, I also do my best to avoid taunting you with your demons.

Given the e-mails and texts sent by both of my parents in the days leading up to that event, as well as the receipts showing where they went for dinner and shopping on the day it most likely occurred, there is no evidence that my father had intentions of being the harbinger of a murder-suicide.

What there is evidence for, from past experience and the number of empty booze bottles found where they were staying, is that he drank too much, went to some dark place, and it just made sense to him at the time.

Because he had a gun, it was easy to submit to the darkness. It could happen at a distance from across the room. It didn’t have to be close and intimate where he would have had to make an effort, look into my mother’s eyes, and continue that effort to completion like stabbing or smothering or brutalizing. He wouldn’t have had to suffer the consequences of his decision for longer than an instant because he had a gun. And, no, I do not think, given the continued, conscious determination to kill another person and oneself that my parents would be dead right now if he didn’t have a gun. Instead, it would have been another night of too-much-to-drink and a regretful hangover the next day. But, because of the closeness of that gun, the efficiency of that tool to do it’s sole purpose, and a relative momentary lapse of judgement…

I could be completely off-base. Of course it can be argued another way. But, believe me, I have more information and background in this specific case than anyone else. I have years of evidence, and you only have your generalized sound bites to fall back on.

You want your guns — have at them. You want your interpretation of the Second Amendment to be carved in stone — great. I don’t care. You want your right to bear arms — go for it. Get your guns and missiles and nukes and whatever else is required to survive the upcoming apocalypse. I don’t have any desire to infringe on your legal rights.

Nor am I going to preach about what society should or shouldn’t do when it comes to guns. I get my say in the voting booth.

I unfollowed a bunch of people yesterday, not because I disagree with their politics, but because whenever they post a defense through memes, slogans, and tired arguments about the need to have a gun, I think about the night and days sometime between the evening of May 7th, 2014 and the morning of May 9th, 2014 and imagine what happened, what might have happened, what could have happened when my father shot my mother five times and then put a gun to his head.

6:18pm

This is Day 6

At some point I may have to rethink this “Day” number title pattern. Not necessarily because it’s cliché, but because it somehow roots me to a specific point in time. Is it possible to truly move on if I continue counting the number of days since I stopped teaching at Horlick?

I started taking anti-depressants sometime around 2008, about eight years ago. Is talking about it weird? It really isn’t for me, especially in the past five or so years. Society seems to be recognizing the impact each individual’s chemical brain soup has on behavior and disposition. Sure, most of the time compositions that aren’t mixed within one standard deviation of the ideal balance are labeled “mental illnesses,” but that’s okay. Personally I think for the sake of consistency we should also claim people shorter or taller than the typical average range are suffering from a “height illness.”

I wish I would have started taking medication sooner, like when I was 16. No matter. I’m just glad I eventually started. Depression has ended up to be a central adversary in my life’s story. And, as a former educator, the expectations society has for egalitarian intellectual and emotional norms is beyond my understanding. Does anyone really expect that everyone can run a five minute mile? Why, then, do we expect that every 15 year old should be able to ace Algebra? These topics are a significant foundation of my daily reflections.

Today at dinner (Charcoal Grill) Dana and I talked a bit about medication doses in light of my meltdown on Sunday and some other factors. Proper medication makes a world of difference. I started with a dose of 75mg of Sertraline. Okay, I ramped up to that dose in a couple of weeks: 25mg the first week, 50mg the next couple of weeks, then finally settling with 75mg. How was that dose determined? Honestly, I could just feel it. Sometimes I describe it as a dark cloud. Sometimes I liken it to that feeling that someone is staring at you. That makes it sound more like paranoia than depression, but I don’t mean it like someone, as in an actual person, more like a personification of “Anti-Happiness.” Not necessarily Sadness, just someone waiting to point out that a cow had to die for that fancy steak dinner you’re eating on what might be a spectacular first date.

At 50mg, I could feel the storm clouds breaking, but the thickness in the air was still there. At 75mg, the clouds were gone. No, everything didn’t suddenly become sunshine and sparkles and unicorns farting rainbows everywhere. Things just became… normal? I could distinguish between feelings that were triggered by an external factor, even if that resulting feeling was still irrational, or if I was just having an case of the Monday blues. The pervasive gloom was lifted, even if the underlying darkness remained (see my very first blog entry).

A couple of years later, I felt the clouds forming again. My dosage was increased to 100mg. Maybe three years ago now when I sensed them again, my doctor gave me a prescription to figure out if I needed to be at 125mg or 150mg. I ended up going with the 150mg, and have stayed there through a damn challenging couple of years.

So many legitimate external factors have caused a raging storm, and that “someone” hasn’t just been staring at me, It has been stalking me through legal paperwork and costs and transitions and chaos. Nonetheless, I stuck with the same dose of Sertraline. Occasionally I’d augment that with a Alprazolam for a week or two here and there. Longer than that, though, I’d start to get irrationally agitated. Some say meds just don’t work, and yeah, the wrong dosage or wrong drug can do a person worse or not at all. Many, many years ago I tried Zyban to help me quit smoking. Three weeks in I was such a raging asshole. Everything was an irritant. That was my first experience with prescription behavior modifying drugs, and it wasn’t a good one. The importance of self-awareness, external stresses, and “normal” or “ideal” reactions to life events are extremely important when evaluating the effects of medication. I suppose that’s where psychiatrists, faith, or support groups help those more on the extroverted side of the spectrum. Me? I lean more introverted. Self reflection is usually pretty adequate for me to distinguish rational from irrational reactions to external factors.

Now that many of the major external factors have been removed, I’m almost able to rethink my dosage. It has been a few years since increasing my dosage, but I also don’t want to increase my dosage until it’s absolutely necessary. The literature says 200mg of Sertraline is the maximum dose. My tolerance/effectiveness for most drugs (like Ibuprofen, aspirin, cold medicine, sleeping pills, etc.) runs higher than the recommended dosage, so maybe I’ll be able to go higher than 200mg; but, if not, then what? If I up my dosage now, what am I going to do the next time the clouds build in a few more years?

See, therein lies that Someone looking over the shoulder. I recognize it’s an irrational reaction. That’s a sign that upping my dosage would be wise. Still, I can argue that it’s a logically sound concern. If I wasn’t getting tired, I’d construct a syllogism as proof. But, my point is I can acknowledge the irrationality of the feeling, but am still subject to those feelings… no farting unicorns here, but also not paralyzing despair driving me to either sleep or staring into the abyss.

I am going to try something with my current dosage though. I usually take the entire 150mg dose at once right when I wake up. This evening, after experiencing a mild agitation for no particular reason, I am curious what would happen if I took 100mg waking up and 50mg later in the afternoon or early evening. Yes, it is the first time in around eight years I’ve thought about that. Hell, now I’m wondering about taking 50mg every five to six hours. I’ll try the first thought for a couple of weeks first because, like I said, I’m not really at a consistent low point yet, and the external stresses have only just been laid to rest.

As far as today’s accomplishments go, Dana got the kitchen chaos whipped into shape. I disassembled a home gym and took some pictures of it to try to sell. Tomorrow’s goal is to reassemble the home gym transferred from the Racine house. I also set up my laptop from Racine to print in Kenosha, which should have been an easy and forgettable task, but took much longer than I really want to admit. More beading, too, but that’s such a habit, I don’t consider it an accomplishment. We finished up watching the current seasons of iZombie and Legends of Tomorrow. 

Look at that, 1:00am again. The sky is making some booms. I like that.

Day 4,5, maybe 6?

I had a bit of a meltdown the past couple of days, which means I slept quite a bit. Some unpacking/re-organizing got done. Some video games were played. Some beading was accomplished.

The truth is, I may have forgotten to take my anti-depressants Saturday and Sunday morning. The combination of frantic moving and changing my home base, lots of chaos, last week of work, and renting out the house I’ve lived in for thirteen years, probably wasn’t a good time to not be diligent about the medication routine.

Dana handled me well. And, currently, the storm clouds have seemed to pass. Whether or not it’s because of meds or that there is something specific to get done on my agenda today remains to be seen.

That is something rather important to determine. My biggest concern/fear about this early retirement gig is slipping into a state of melancholy due to a lack of external stress. It’s like that scene in The Matrix when Agent Smith explains why the simulation isn’t a perfect world. More than financial security, boredom, or failing to be a positive contribution to society, I worry that having so many options to choose from without a mandatory obligation to do anything in particular, I’ll run into some sort of broken loop of not being able to do everything at once, thereby freezing and doing nothing.

But, today that doesn’t matter. I do have something to accomplish: get the rest of the basement in Racine sorted out and transported.

Tomorrow I don’t have a dedicated task quite yet — gotta see what today brings. Hopefully Dana can get the stuff currently in the kitchen cleared up. That’ll give us a bit of order in a centralized location. If we can get the workout area in the basement set up on Wednesday, that will clear up some of the basement chaos and allow for the opportunity to hop on the treadmill the next time a woeful spell arises.

I haven’t written about my hobby projects in awhile. I have three items in my TV work zone. One that needs to just be clasped. The one that was occupying me in Kenosha. And the one that was occupying me in Racine.  That may very well be fodder for tomorrow’s entry.