Ben's Zoloft Diary

In Which A Morbidly Depressed Sack of Turd Takes High-Powered Drugs Instead of Nine Beers A Day

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Alright, new plan.

I'm off it, starting immediately.

Thank you all for coming. Thus ends the Zoloft Diary. Peace and lovingkindness to you all.

Monday, December 19, 2005
Back to work, but everything's different. Everything is different. The job is the same, the people are the same. Everything's the same, but it's all very different.

I've mentioned a lot of books over the years on this website, and I realize that about a rather startling percentage of them, I've freely proclaimed, "This book changed my life." It was always true, too, so don't think it was hot air.

But friends, this book changed my life. Hugely. Immensely. "Radically", we might say. And I'm only up to Chapter 10. I'm only up to Chapter 10, but already, it all seems so clear to me now, this one simple truth:

To be free of it, first you have to stop fighting it.

This is a concept first brought to me by the ACT books I'd been studying over the past month or so. However, this latest tome just drives it all home, and makes it work.

And because of it, when I got to work today, everything was different, because I had found freedom I hadn't known before, and the future felt filled with possibilities.

Also, I had breakfast at this crepe place down the street, and it was awesome. That crepe changed my life.

Sunday, December 18, 2005 - The Beginning of the End
Yesterday I purchased my last bottle of Zoloft, and began cutting them in half. You know the old saying, "all pharmacological things must come to an end", and we are now at the beginning of that end. I will be cutting back down to 25mgs starting yesterday, and if I don't experience any disconcerting unpleasantries as a result, I'll stay that way until the bottle runs out, or at some point after two weeks, when I feel the time is right.

I think it has done it's job, and now it's time to move on.

The job it's done, as I'm sure I've explained here, but if not, then definitely elsewhere, was to "raise the baseline" of my emotional difficulties, to a point where I could focus on doing what I needed to do to fully eradicate them. I still suspect that it was never even the drugs themselves which did anything (remember, SSRI antidepressants are only 30% more effective than sugar pills), but the simple act of going to the doctor to get them which helped the most.

Since then it's just been a slow, steady ascention from the insidious pit of depression/anxiety/whatever other fun words you want to use to describe a life in constant self-destructive turmoil.

This diary will end when I finish or throw out the rest of this bottle. At that point, these periodic updates will continue in a different form, on a different website (, but the diary will remain forever as either an inspirational story, a case study, or a bunch of self-indulgent crap, depending on your perspective. Use it in good health.

Now back to my life. This is the first weekend I've had in three weeks that I had the freedom to spend at home and do nothing. And that's exactly what I did. I stayed home and did nothing. And it has been magnificent. This culture speaks of "free time" like it's a disease. We sneer disparagingly at people who "have too much free time", and who "need to get a life". As if a moment of existence not piled high with action and striving and driving and chasing and running is wasted.

I'll have more to say about this later, but for now, let me just say, I'll take all the free time I can get. If you don't want yours, FedEx it to me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Here's something funny.

Today I went to get my FAA physical, so I could fly again.

Take note that, except for a brief nice stint in Boulder, all of my previous flying was done while being something reasonably close to clinically depressed. And I always passed the physical with flying colors.

Today, I went to get my FAA physical, the fourth such exam I've endured, and this was the first time they wouldn't give me the ticket. "We'll have to send this down to Oklahoma", the Dr. said.

Why's that?

"Because it says here, you're taking Zoloft."

Seems they don't want depressed people flying, because we might plow the Cessna 172 into an office building.

So let me get this straight.

I was depressed for 34 years. I flew over a hundred hours depressed. I managed to avoid most of your larger office buildings.

But now that I'm taking treatment for my problem, and am feeling much, much better, NOW I'm a danger to society.

I don't know what to say about this other than, I'm not sure which organization I hate worse, the FAA or the FCC.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Everything's fine, I'm just tired of writing on this page right now.

While you wait for my creative energies to get recharged, why not head over to the BBS and make your voice heard! Even though there's virtually nobody there to hear it!

Friday, December 9, 2005
Ordinary day. Went to work. Got my cats fixed. Came home. And I'm working all weekend, too, so prepare for this trend to continue.

To give you some more material, though, here's an email I just wrote to Clash, fellow depressive, which I think came out pretty well, so maybe you'll enjoy reading it:

> > > Well, actually, I was being serious (just wrapping it in a grape leaf
> > > of humor).  But I'm saying, it sounds like it's hard to do.

Alright, I guess I'll reply to this now.

Is it hard to do? I suppose that depends on what "it" is. If you are really suffering from something we could reasonably label "depression", and it's been with you a long time (which is what I sense from our continuing -- albeit highly-humor-motivated -- discussions), and if we then define "it" as "being rid of depression", then the answer is, "it is very hard to do."

However, it's not as bad as all that.

I know it's hard to do, because it took me 34 years to do. I know it's hard to do, because most depressed folks never do it at all.

But be of good cheer. Though it (as well as many other concepts you'll doubtless come into contact with if you choose to undertake such an adventure) sounds trite, the most difficult part is getting started.

Of course, some ways of attacking the problem are harder to start than others.

1. Drinking/illicit drug use is fairly easy, but rarely effective, as you might have already realized.

2. Doing nothing is almost as easy as drinking, but also relatively ineffective.

3. Taking antidepressant drugs is significantly harder than 1 and 2, because the very act of taking antidepressant drugs requires that you a) admit that you can't do it "by yourself", b) commit to spending the money, c) buy into the concept that depression is a physical pathology, rather than just the domain of the lazy and stoically pitiful. This last step is ultimately freeing ("it's not all my fault"), but also difficult for the personalizing depressive (which we are) to embrace at first. The effectiveness of antidepressant drugs is, unfortunately, highly questionable, and will likely be so for the foreseeable future. And in cases where they *are* effective, they are most often only partially so. A partial recovery, much like an alcoholic vowing to drink less, almost always foretells a relapse.

4. Going to a psychotherapist. This is even harder to start than the drugs, because it requires far more time, far more effort (both emotionally and physically), and of course, far more money. The effectiveness varies wildly, based on the type of therapy offered, quality of the practitioner, and things like that. So it's a risk. However, even the greatest psychotherapist, employing the most state-of-the-art therapy known to man can still only be partially effective. Something is missing. Something is missing, in fact, from all of these options, and only until the final project is begun will any real, long-term, fundamental change for the better be realized:

5. Change the way you think.

There, another one of those trite phrases I warned you about.

However, see how even the word "psychotherapy" indicates that that is, in fact, what you are paying them to do. Change your thinking. And that's what we take the drugs for. And what we repress and avoid for. And what we drink for. Etc, etc.

So what "it" really is, in the final analysis, is "changing your thinking".

And that is nearly impossible to get started.

But lucky the soul who can get started, because once you do, it magically not only becomes much, much easier, but it also becomes effortless. Once you start down the path to changing your thinking, it feels so much better, so good, that you cannot wait to continue the work. This is how it was with me, anyway. Once I found the right help, the right words, to give me that first push, it was as good as done.

The trick, then, is... find the right help. Find the right words.

There are many good words available, thankfully, once you embrace the idea of listening to them. I found my words in self-help books. The first couple I read were worthless pablum that had no chance of affecting me. Then I happened on my first cognitive therapy book, and that was the beginning of the end of the bad times. That was the push.

CT may not work for you. It may. But there are other options.

I've recently come into "Acceptance and Commitment Therapy", one of the "third wave" of behavioral therapies, coming out of the core of old-school behavioral analysis, but adding modern concepts mixed with Buddhist-type concepts of "mindfulness" and whatnot. It's a little harder to take for folks like us (or like me, anyway) who tend to think that anything even remotely in contact with the concept of "spirituality" is a bunch of hooey, but it's still founded in real science, which is sugar for the medicine.

There are countless others still.

The best chance you have is to hear descriptions of a bunch of them, and pick one which sounds like you could at least begin to buy into it, begin the dialogue. That part is easy, because all you have to do is listen. You don't have to do anything.

I can give you a brief description of CT and ACT, and an even briefer description of a few other behavioral therapy brands, if you'd like.

Of course, there's always psychoanalysis, but that's a load of horseshit, and everybody knows it. Sell that shit to the tourists.

So, that's all. Hard to get started. Hard to find something you can buy into. After that, though, the train's already gotten to the top of the first hill, and the rest of the ride's a scream.

Sincerely, myself.

(If any of the above came across as condescending or patently obvious, please to forgive. I'm as much laying the groundwork for a future writing project as replying to your specific email -- perhaps moreso. So, it was really written for "the people". And "the people", as you know, are largely dumbasses.)

Thursday, December 8, 2005
Work 8 AM to 9 PM. There ya go.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005
This was definitely a day. Yep, 24 hours. Many of them were spent busting ass at work. A half of one was spent down at the pool. Other than that, just this and that. No big whoop. So. Yep. There's a day. Now let's move onto something else. I call this piece, "How to rid the world of depression immediately, and forever."

The more intelligent you are, the more likely you are to be depressed. I have no specific evidence to back this up, but it seems obvious after even the most cursory observation of the human condition. Check out anyone you know who is depressed. Chances are, they are smarter than you. Am I right? Of course.

Many have suggested reasons for this. A popular reason, particularly among those so afflicted, is that "being more intelligent, [we] have a more realistic, insightful view of the world". Perfectly reasonable. However, also, the most ignorant, misguided, utterly back-asswards concept of all time. In fact, I suspect the truth is much closer to the opposite of that. Relational Frame Theory (see or postulates a much more compelling view of the problem, which is that the very thing which allows humans to do amazing things like building rocket ships and caramelizing onions, is the very thing which eventually ends up causing problems in the minds of those gifted with this intelligence. And that thing is the ability to evaluate, compare, and draw arbitrary relations between a limitless network of symbolic knowledge. In less obnoxious terms, it's the ability to relate one thing to another. Better, worse. The same as. And then apply these relationships to different things. "If we do this, then this happens. So if we do THAT, then THIS should happen. And that will be better." There you have it. Relating, evaluating. That right there is a reasonable definition of the word "intelligence", and that right there is (possibly) what ends up causing problems for smart people. They can relate and evaluate things, but then can also relate and evaluate things in reference to themselves, and in the case of depression, themselves always come up wanting.

So that is (possibly) why smart people are more depressed than dumb people.

But that is not why smart people remain depressed. Smart people remain depressed, because smart people by their very nature, don't like being talked to like they're four years old.

So, given all of the above things, here it is: "How to rid the world of depression immediately, and forever."



I swear, the book that saved my life, which I've mentioned here often, I probably would have read years ago, but for the absolutely cringe-inducing title, "Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy". I'm sorry. Was I instantly teleported to an episode of Blue's Clues? Where's a Thomas Kincaid painting when you need one.

The laymans' intro to ACT? "Get Out of Your Mind, and Into Your Life!" How about "Give Me a Fucking Break and Get to the Point". This is...

Whew. I planned on going on and on about this. Which I guess I sort of have. But now I'm tired of it, and sleepy, so perhaps I'll revisit this later. You get the point though, right? The biggest market for these books will never buy them, because they sound so goddamn stupid. Stop it.

MY book will have a cool name. Yes it will. Now I just have to think of it. (And write the book.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2005
You know, for a couple of evenings where I was tired and so wracked with ennui that I could conceive of nothing else but staring at the wall, I sure have gotten a lot done. Clean, cook a lovely meal, pay bills, do laundry, get some reading done, get some writing done, and a bunch of other stuff I don't remember because I did it while half-asleep. That's as close to "shutting it down" as I get anymore.

Let's talk, though. As time goes on, I would like this website to be less about the minutae of my daily routines, and even less about my experience with the titular drug, and more about working towards a bigger project, which I can see somewhere floating out there in the universe, which is a book. What market there is for a book about recovery from depression, written by not only a non-psychologist, but someone who didn't even finish high school, I'm not sure. I probably would not have bought a self-help book by some random high-school drop out computer geek. However, the purpose is aimed more toward altruism and self-expression than commerce, so perhaps the marketability is not really an issue. Anyway, the point is, I'm here to help, and wish to become moreso.

I'm here to help, because I remember what it was like. Because I'm never more than one single emotional misstep away from being back there. I'm here to help, because I've seen rock bottom, and I can still taste it, and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy (who we've already established who that is.) I'm here to help because this stuff is all I study anymore, all I think about anymore, all I really care about anymore. (Except sailing, of course.) (And my cats.) (And cooking.) (But you get the idea.)

So, just throwing that out there. Whether anything comes from it, I don't know, and don't much care. But call it scene-setting for this update, where I will address the Biggest Mistake on my Goals List.

You can still see the Goals List here. You can still see the items on it, still all very important to me. But one of them does not belong. One of them, in fact, can never be accomplished as long as it's on the list. Can you pick it out?

Can you?

It is a natural, almost inevitable conclusion to arrive at. If you are depressed, you will likely also arrive at it. "If only I could learn to relax, I wouldn't be so depressed." There is truth, albeit backwards, in this. Greater minds than mine have expressed it as such: "A depressed mind cannot live in a relaxed body." That statement is so very true that it tempts one to call anxiety and depression synonymous. They are not, but they walk the land as partners in crime.

Here's the trick, though.

You cannot achieve relaxation. It can only happen to you. You cannot strive for it. It will only show up unannounced.

You can never ask, "Am I relaxed?" Because if you are asking it, the answer is already "no".

But one day, you will be going about your daily business, tending to the neverending chores of life, when it will simply occur to you. You're relaxed. Bam. And by that point, it's only of passing interest.

Putting "relax" on a to-do list is like trying to beat your shadow in a race. And it was the Biggest Mistake on my Goals List.

Well, that, and the color scheme.

Monday, December 5, 2005
Well! Hey there. Welcome back to the show. Got a little update for ya, if you want. Not much to talk about, though. Spent the weekend up on Paso Robles, visiting the cuz, meeting her fiance, a charming guy by any measure, exploring the towns of San Luis Obispo, Cambria, and various other ports of call, eating some good food, shopping some good shopping, and watching some good Family Guy episodes. Then I came home.

And here I am.

Just not feeling it today, is all. I can certainly blame it on the cats, who showed me how much they missed me all weekend by not letting me sleep more than 20 minutes in a row at any one point during the night. But I dunno. Just not feeling it. Feeling blah. Feeling tired and bored. Feeling disinterested in anything but just sort of sitting here and staring at the cool electric flickering mushroom. And that's it.

Work today was the same way. I begged for meetings, which would give me an opportunity to just sit there and do nothing. I got in ripe and early, but left before 5. I am gonna cook a little dinner later, after it marinates a bit longer. But I'm not going to the pool. I'm not going to work on any websites.

Just kinda gonna sit here.

But there's something to be learned here. Recovering from depression, I think, is far more about how you react when you feel bad than when you feel good. Anyone can feel good when they feel good. But what do you do when you feel bad? Well, if you're depressed, your bad-feeling makes you think that your life sucks because you feel bad, and then you begin blaming yourself about all the missed opportunities and all the past inadequacies that led to your life sucking, and thus your feeling bad. Then you begin to suspect that you will never feel better. Then you are sure of it. Then you scream in desperation, and drink until you pass out. That's just kind of how it goes.

When you're not depressed, you just feel bad.

I think it's a tremendous victory that I've finally achieved something which has eluded me for the previous 34 years: Just feeling bad.

That makes me feel good.


Thursday, December 1, 2005
Rabbit rabbit!

December, 2005 began much as November, 2005 ended -- with me getting up, going to work and working. Where it differs is when at six PM, I was called into the big boss' office, and instructed very directly by him to GO HOME. At first I feared I was being reprimanded for some unknown trangression I had committed (or he had found this website), but no, it was just his way of saying, thanks for busting ass and giving it my all, and I had earned a night of the three Rs: Restin', Relaxin', and wRitin' on this here website! So, that was nice, and bolsters my suspicion that it's unlikely I will be fired any time within the next couple weeks, which is a nice load off my mind.

After that, I went home, packed up for my trip to Paso Robles this weekend, where I will be visiting my awesome cousin Michelle, and will thus be unable to update the website, had some dinner, am having a lovely beverage, and will be turning in soon!

While I'm here, though, it's been some time since our last BDC. This time, I will do it with you, and in detail. Let's party.

The question is: How much have you experienced the following symptoms during the past week, including today?

Feeling sad or down in the dumps.
0. Now, pissed off at certain dickwads, that's another story. But that's not on the quiz.
Feeling unhappy or blue.
0. Same. Although question 1 and 2 are virtually identical, and were thus phased out of later versions of the quiz.
Crying spells or tearfulness.
0. Big girls don't cry.
Feeling discouraged.
Feeling hopeless.
Low self-esteem.
Ah, my old nemesis. You know what, I'm going to go ahead and give this a zero, for the first time in my life. To elaborate, this is the first week I can remember when I didn't feel like I needed to apologize for myself. And even if I did, I quickly realized I didn't. If you know what I mean.
Feeling worthless or inadequate.
1. I will notch one up here, just because of certain dickwads who seemingly live to make other people feel worthless and inadequate, and being historically hypersensitive to this, I'm one of his best customers.
Guilt or shame.
Zero. I yam what I yam.
Criticizing yourself or blaming yourself.
0. Fuck you.
Difficulty making decisions.
Loss of interest in family, friends or colleagues.
None, but I didn't have that much interest to lose.
0. See above.
Spending less time with family or friends.
0. See above.
Loss of motivation.
Loss of interest in work or other activities.
0. Well, I have experienced a loss of interest in working with dickwads, but that's normal, I think.
Avoiding work or other activities.
Hah! I just got sent home for spending too much time at the office.
Loss of pleasure or satisfaction in life.
Feeling tired.
0. Other than when I feel tired. But tired is a reasonable thing to feel, you know, when you're tired.
Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much.
0. My sleeping difficulties are still entirely the fault of my cats.
Decreased or increased appetite.
Loss of interest in sex.
See yesterday's entry. I would consider it a "loss of interest in sex" when compared with, say, four months ago. But I'm still saying 0 on this, because whatever.
Worrying about your health.
Do you have any suicidal thoughts?
Would you like to end your life?
Do you have a plan for harming yourself?
No, no, no.
Well, sports fans. By my count, that comes to the grand-spanking total of ONE (1).

Pretty goddamn good, if you ask me.

Now, to those of you out there -- and you know who you are -- who apparently think that all of these low numbers mean I'm "fooling myself into being happy" and somehow "living in a land of fluffy bunnies, denying reality", let me say this: This is not a measurement of HAPPINESS. Happiness is not the opposite of depression.

Do you hear this? All of you? Let me say it again:

Happiness is not the opposite of depression.

The opposite of depression is a full range of emotional experiences, experienced fully. It means feeling happiness, sadness, frustration, joy, anger, love, being pissed off at dickwads, and the like, without defense, without judgement or self-reprisal.

The opposite of depression is not feeling happy. The opposite of depression is feeling.

Get it? Got it? Good.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Yeah, well. Another day. Whaddya want. Got up, went to work, worked, got seriously pissed off at the person I mentioned earlier who I erased the paragraph about, then sat around laughing with my coworkers (and more importantly, superiors) who are also seriously pissed off at the person I mentioned earlier who I erased the paragraph about, then came home, got in the pool for the first time in three days GASP, then made some dinner, and now I'm writing this, and now I'll go to bed. Then I'll have a beer, listen to Phil Hendrie, read my new ACT book, play with the cats, and fall asleep. As George Costanza once said, "That's a show. There's a show."

Not to spoil the surprise, but here's my plans for tomorrow: Get up, go to work, work, come home, make some dinner, and go to sleep.

But you know what? I've gotten off the main subject of this diary, which is my experience with Zoloft. Hence the title. So let's review what's been going on, Zoloft-wise speaking, since the earlier days of this report, when it was all a new, exciting, diarrhea-inducing adventure:

Not much. I still have to make bathroom runs more frequently, but I'm less swayed to attribute that to the drugs than to the pounds and pounds of free fruit of questionable quality which I pound down all day at work. My "morning routine" has settled down into a "two or three times a week routine", which may leave some of you aghast, and yet others repulsed, but I vowed -- or at least demonstrated -- from the beginning of this diary that I was going to be brutally honest. I attribute this partly to the drugs, partly to the fact that I work all damn day and am so exhausted by the end of the day that I can barely operate my torse and head area, much less the more delicate extremities, and partly to the fact that I don't work or otherwise spend any time with any hot broads, so there's nothing really there to "fire up the ol' John Deere", so to speak. But I think that's enough about this topic.

Other than that, I don't notice anything. I take the pills every day, and every day I update the website. And things just roll and roll along.

And we thank you for your support.

A Complete Beginner's Guide to Acceptance & Commitment Therapy
Here's a bonus feature, which I'm happy to bring to you, because I wrote it in an email to Clash earlier today, and so all I have to do is cut/paste it here, and you've got a brand spanking new bonus feature to provide a brief respite from the abject boredom of the "Ben gets up, goes to work, comes home, makes dinner, and goes to bed" show.

I present to you, then... A Complete Beginner's Guide to Acceptance & Commitment Therapy!

Okay. First, try not to think of a yellow schoobus. For five minutes. Try as hard as you can not to think about a yellow schoolbus. Let me know how well you did, then we can move on. schoolbus. Let me know how well you did, then we can move on.

"I couldn't think of anything BUT a yellow schoolbus."

The point is this:

Everyone's got pain. It's a fact of life. However, people with chronic emotional problems tend to deal with their negative thoughts and feelings in two very destructive, circularly corrosive ways.

First, they tend to buy into their feelings, embody them, and identify with them. The thought morphs from an inescapable byproduct of a highly evolved brain which just pumps out thoughts all day long, into the person's true vision of themself. This is called "cognitive fusion". The self becomes "fused" with the thoughts that the brain pumps out. There is no mediation between them. The brain says, "I suck!" We interpret that not as "I just had the thought that I suck", but that we actually DO suck.

Second, they tend to fight against them. Many spend their entire lives fighting against them, doing whatever they can to make them go away. You're well aware of many of those methods. The problem is, it never, never, ever works, for the same reason that you cannot NOT think about a yellow schoolbus. Fighting against anxiety ("don't be anxious!") is a surefire way to exacerbate your anxiety. Similarly depression, or myriad other harmful cognitive patterns.

So, the newfangled, dangerously "new-agey" sounding "Acceptance & Commitment Therapy" focuses primarily on two things: Cognitive *defusion*, and dropping the struggle.

To defuse, we identify the thoughts and feelings as what they are (byproduct of an endlessly active mind, which is simply an organ in the body doing what it was trained to do). "I'm anxious" becomes "I am having the feeling of being anxious."

To drop the struggle, we simply stop fighting against it. Not in the sense of resigning to it. Not with the intent of making it go away (because if you are doing it with that intent, it will never work -- it's functionally equivalent to trying to stop thinking about the bus), but simply with the intent of *accepting* it, nonjudgementally, as it is (and not, as the literature reads, "as it says it is".)

For this last point, metaphors are useful. My favorite is that of (again) a bus, which you are the driver of, and all these recurrent, pestering negative thoughts are monsters in the back of the bus. They're free to come along for the ride, but they don't get to determine where the bus goes. But the thought of allowing them onboard is key. They are like family. If you treat them as such (albeit family you'd really rather not have around), you no longer define your life by escaping them.

Which, as we've already seen, you can't.

In my *personal* experience, I have found a mixture of this and regular, classic cognitive therapy to be a wonderful mix. The CT works on ameliorating the flawed, irrational negative thoughts in the first place, and those that get through are welcomed with open arms by the ACT. A whimsical way of expressing this (which I just came up with) is, you don't always have to have your negative thoughts, but once you do, they're your responsibility.

So. Buncha crap?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Today, I got up, went to work, worked late, came home, made dinner, and went to bed.

Monday, November 28, 2005
Today, I got up, went to work, worked, went to a boring sailing class (classroom work only) and then came home, made dinner, and went to bed.

Saturday-Sunday, November 26-27, 2005
As a person who spends at least 8, 9, sometimes 15 hours a day in front of a computer at work, you can imagine how precious each day off is, particularly for someone like me who enjoys so many activities the California sun and surf has to offer. It may therefore slightly surprise you that I have spent the large majority of the past two (weekend) days in front of my computer at home.

A ridiculous waste of time, you say? Well, yes. BUT, as you'll notice, if you look up at the address bar of your browser, you are no longer at! This is because I have created a whole new world of wonder and joy and stories about cats and pictures of food! That's right, I am proud to introduce to you, after 48 hours of nerdy toil in front of a laptop with scratches and pawprints all over the screen:

Molto Benny!

That's right, a whole (very cleverly named, if I do say so myself) world of myself-related content. Take a look, won't you? And enjoy every minute, as I enjoyed every minute bringing it to you, except for the seven goddamn hours it took me to get Apache and Tomcat working together, which... well, I'll have more to say about this shortly.

I tend to get a little self-centered on here, though, which is why I'd like to take this "time-out" to give a few "shout-outs" to some people and/or organizations out there which have really touched my life recently:

First, to iPowerWeb and GoDaddy, my former web hosting services, I say: FUCK YOU! I don't need your weak-ass customer service and suck-ass recurring payments and lame-ass "hosting package option" shit anymore. That's right, because Molto Benny, along with everything associated with it, including this page, is now hosted by me, right here in my apartment, right here on this very same scratched up, pawed up laptop. And I couldn't have done it without the fine folks at "DNS2GO", who provide my dynamic DNS. Which reminds me:

To DNS2GO, and all the fine people over at Deerfield, Inc., I can only say: FUCK YOU! Here's the email I get after they (very quickly and efficiently) take my goddamn money: "Thanks for the cash! We'll send you your registration information in 30 minutes. But if for some reason, it doesn't show up for 24 hours, email us!" 30 minutes came and went without even a mouse fart. But right about at the 22nd, 23rd hour, WOW! What a surprise! They finally provide the service which they said they'd provide, you know, when they TOOK MY MONEY, which is generally when one likes to have a service provided. But the delay gave me plenty of extra time to figure out how to use Apache and Tomcat, which, allow me to state the following:

To the Apache Group, I gotta say: FUCK YOU! You fucking nerds. You pathetic UNIX geeks. Yes, your product is the best, and the most configurable, and most powerful in the world. Great. And we're all really IMPRESSED with all of the obscure, unintelligible configuration options and your scant, haughty, nerdier-than-thou documentation. You KNOW what we want to do. Your goddamn SOFTWARE knows what we want it to do, but you just refuse to make it do it, until we run through enough of your dumbass hoops, because you're so frustrated that you're 50 years old now and still haven't touched a boobie, so this is the only power you get, making decent, hardworking people nuts with your "mod_rewrite" crap and your "ajp13 connectors" and shit. You make me nauseous. Which I know was your point, but I spent half of my stupid weekend pounding my head against this crap. Good job. Now, because I'm much more centered emotionally, this didn't bother me as much as it once was, particularly since I still had memories of my lovely meal at Typhoon the evening before still lingering in my head. Which leads me to my next shout-out:

To Typhoon, my very favorite restaurant in the whole world, let me just say: FUCK YOU! You motherfuckers. Check this out. I wanted the trout. Adam wanted the catfish. I said, "huh, but I think the catfish is served whole, and it's big, so it's like for two people." But we asked the guy. He said, "Catfish comes in large, medium, small". We ask, "is Small good for one person? Or medium, or what?" He says, very hesitantly, "Well, if someone were real hungry, the medium would do it." Adam packs it away, so he ordered the medium catfish, and I ordered the trout. That's when we first started to get concerned, because he looked back at us and asked in a concerned tone, "So... wait, you want both?"

Uh oh.

Suffice it to say, if you've ever seen the Flintstones, and remember the rack of ribs from the opening credits (which never made sense to me, because there wasn't any meat on the ribs, but that's a different conversation) which made their car flip over, this fish would have made that rack of ribs flip over. I had the HEAD -- just the head -- for lunch the next day, and was stuffed afterward. Just in case you don't believe me, here is the head. That's just the head. Imagine the rest of the fish extending back from it. That's what we were served at our table. That was the "medium". Yeah, I guess you COULD eat that if you were REAL hungry. And if you were also FIVE PEOPLE.

Alright! Enough about all you. Back to me.

Friday, November 25, 2005
I got up at six, and wrote this. It's not every day you begin with a life-altering epiphany, but if you're gonna do it, try to do it on a Friday on a holiday weekend, so you can put the epiphany to work right away.

Which is what I did. Cleaned out the car, took it to get a car wash (thus completing my "car" task on the Goals website, which, too bad I'm not doing it anymore). Grocery shopping, got home, then walked along the marina to Fisherman's Village, a little collection of stores and food serving establishments. I stopped by the fast-food Thai window for some pad thai, which was remarkably good.

Then I stared longingly at the little 14' boats that you can rent there, wishing I was out there. Wishing I was in one of 'em, practicing my newfound sailing knowledge and letting the wind take me where it may. Wish I was... in the...

Wait. I have money with me! What the hell, right?

So I spent the next two hours out in the harbor, zipping to and fro in my little Capri, and god damn if that wasn't the best time ever.

Right there, that's a perfect day. But I still had half of the day to fill up, so I went swimming, did some work for the previous employer I've mentioned a few times before, took another walk around the town and along the beach, and now I'm sitting here waiting for Adam to show up, cuz we're gonna go to Typhoon, my favorite restaurant ever, and have the best meal ever, and then hopefully get to watch planes for a while.

Ohhh, and I forgot one part. After swimming, I tried, for the very first time, to do meditation. I did this on the advice of the latest book I'm reading. I did this on the floor, in the famous "quarter-lotus" position, or as its also known, the "out of shape whitey" pose. I did this for fifteen minutes. A very interesting experience. I kinda got into it toward the end. But I will say this about meditation: God DAMMIT does it hurt your knees. No wonder it helps distance you from your problem thoughts. You're too focused on the loss of circulation in your legs, and the growing pain and numbness in your extremeties. Yeah. Real deep, this meditation. Next time I'm gonna just try jabbing a knife into my thigh.

Wednesday-Thursday, November 23-24, 2005
Jesus. What can I tell you. Another loooong workday on Wednesday, which as per usual, not much to say about on here. Nothing ever works. I've worked at 15 different companies, and I've never been at one of them where things worked. Wait, that's not true. Everything worked at eToys. Except the part where the #2 internet e-commerce site went out of business six months after I got there. So, beware the company where things work. The management will make sure nothing and nobody ever works again.

Thursday was Thanksgiving, which I was able, through finagling and half-truths, to get all to myself, despite the insistent protestations of friends and family. Look, people. I love you to death, you know that. But the thing I like the most is still just hanging out at #309, in my own little paradigm, my own little shiny, breezy world, with my cats, and my pool, and my beach, and my hot sauce, and my websites and that's it. So give me a day to do that, and give thanks for them. That was today.

Speaking of cats, though, I have a message for mine: Knock it off.

An interesting thing, having reliable cats. Every morning, I wake up, and the boy cat is already on my face. So I yell "C'mere girl", and she lumbers up from wherever she was, hops up on the bed and takes residence on the other side of my face.

This morning, I yell "c'mere girl", and nothing happens. I try again. Louder. Then in a different tone. Then I try whistling. Yet the other side of my face remained cat-less. I knew something was up.

I got out of bed, and saw what I figured would happen one day: They had managed to knock the screen door out of its rails, and it was resting, useless, against the side of the sliding-glass door. And no girl cat to be found.

The first thing you always check is three floors down, to make sure there isn't a grey/red splat of exploded cat on the pavement below. We were clear there. Whew. But looking to the left and right, across my neighbor's balconies, no other gray cats were evident.

Then I lean over my right-hand neighbor's wall, and there she is, just sitting in the corner of the balcony, looking at me and going "Mewww!??" She jumped back right quick and I scolded her endlessly. That's when I figured they'd all learned their lesson, so I could finally start letting them out on the balcony, which is good because it'll save property damage to the screen door and olfactory damage because I could move the pan outdoors.

Everything went well for about 25 seconds, went they both jumped into the other neighbor's balcony and started "playing" (read: hissing and yapping) at that neighbors cats through their screen door.

After 15 minutes of cajoling, bribing, and extremely foul language, I was able to get them back indoors, but that's it. Cats, you are officially on warning: Quit being like cats. I can take only so much.

After that, I spent the rest of the day doing the aforementioned swimming, and also reading psychology websites! I know, right? Party time! Sure, you make your fun, but if you can do better than 34 out of 36 on the Relational Frame Theory Tutorial Quiz at, then be my guest:


Thank you for taking the online tutorial 'An Introduction to Relational 
Frame Theory.' 
This email confirms that you completed the tutorial quiz with a score 
of 34 out of 36. 
Your highest score on the quiz so far is 34. 
Your completion confirmation number is 43198389.

Remember to visit to learn more 
about RFT and its implications for psychology!
Yeah, that's right, baby. That email confirms it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Work till 8:30, drove home listening to the new System of a Down album till 9:15, cooked hot sauce till 10:30, and now I'm going to sleep.

Look, not every Tuesday's gonna be a winner. You're gonna have to understand that if you are ever to find total enlightenment.

Monday, November 21, 2005
Speaking of not taking a day off...

I woke up today at 3:30 AM. I drifted in and out of sleep until 4:00 AM. Then I was up, and up for good.

I arrived in the office at 6:00 AM, two hours before the next earliest contestant would arrive. I got every personal to-do list item done, and every work to-do list item done, over the next 12 hours. My life became a blur of crossed out, checked off items. In essence, I started at 4, and didn't stop until right after I'm done writing this update, which with any luck will be in the next 45 seconds, because that's about when my head's gonna flop over, unconscious, onto the floor. My torso and neck will still be upright, sitting at the computer, but my head will be on the floor. And unconscious.

Why was I unable to sleep past 3:30?

Because I am deep into this book, and I am transfixed and... Christ, what's a good word to go with "transfixed"? Can't words thinking with. Anyway, fantastic book. Let's face it, you are a mess, and this $19.95 tome (along with 50mg a day of Zoloft) is the only thing that can help you. Buy it now, before it's too late, which it probably already is. I mean, let's be honest here. You're hopeless.

Sunday, November 20, 2005
I am seeing a pattern with my life now, which is that I appear to have an inability to take a day off. It's Sunday, right? After the week I had, and the Saturday I had, what more fitting day to just take off, do nothing, and just lie around in my underwear like a lump. But what did I end up doing? Laundry, cleaning, swimming, doing dishes, and many hours of what I like to call "meta-productivity". Allow me to explain.

On 10/2, I sat on the beach and wrote a list of goals in a little notebook. I've carried the notebook around every day since then, jotting down notes, doing little daily lists, doing revisions to the original list, and essentially using it up for all it was worth. But now it's a tattered mess, unbefitting such an important list as my personal goals. So I went through the entire notebook and converted the entire thing to a website, which I'll link here for the first and only time, because, really, what business is it of yours, but I worked so hard on it, and I think it looks so good, maybe it'll inspire one of you losers out there to get your own stupid life in order, through the magic of HTML.

So, that's it. Another lovely weekend in paradise.

And now, time to go back to... work.


Saturday, November 19, 2005
Beautiful! A beautiful Saturday, any way you slice it, and just what the doctor ordered. Started the day as Mr. Productive, taking the newly-registered car ("Ronnie"... it's short for "Veronica") to Jiffy Lube to get the ol' oil changed, which naturally mushroomed into having the s-belt replaced, which was probably a good thing anyway, but still, ouch. Then off to the bookstore to buy a computer book, and a new self-help book, dealing with a brand new, gay-ass sounding acronym, "ACT - Acceptance Commitment Therapy". Yeah, I know, sounds weak, but it's really just another offspring of cognitive therapy, and it's an interesting read, so what the hell. Then back to the homestead for a swim, and a trek down to the beach to set up shop under the gorgeous sun to read! And boy, what a beautiful day. I mean, it's nearly always beautiful here, but this was beyond the pale.

I made my way back to 309, wiped off the sand, and spent the next couple hours at the computer, acting all professional and setting up my home environment so I can do work if I ever need to, but more likely doing what I did, which was to create a webpage that said "fart".

For dinner, I headed out to Typhoon, one of my all-time local favorites, and a place I hadn't been since before I left. I ordered the Trout, which I had never had before, and to my great surprise and joy, it was served MISCHY-STYLE! Oh lordy, was it great. I ate the eyeballs and everything.

Then I went out back. "Out back" at Typhoon, though, is a little walkway right along runway 21 of the Santa Monica Municipal Airport. The place I used to fly out of. I sat there under the light of the moon and the silently rotating green/white flash of the beacon, watched a few planes come in, heard the rrrt of the rubber hitting the pavement, heard the rumble of the engines, and that's when I made a decision:

That's it. I'm flying again.

Wednesday-Friday, November 16-18, 2005

You call this taking a fucking week off? Fucking 14-hour workdays, fucking emissions testing and long, interminable trips to the fucking DMV? This is taking a fucking week off? FUCK THIS SHIT. Now I gotta fucking take ANOTHER week off to recover from THIS fucking week.

What can I tell you? Well, I went to the goddamn office all fucking day, and then I came home and did the goddamn DMV paperwork and then got my goddamn license plates, which are "5RON066", which I don't like, because every fucking douchebag motherfucker piece of shit scumsucking dickbag fuckup cockslobbering shitstorm of an asshole I ever met was named "Ron", and now so is my fucking car.

{ paragraph deleted }


Alright, that's about it for this update. I'm going to be removing the above paragraph after a couple days so there aren't any unfortunate Google-incidences, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Before I go, though, why don't we do a fucking BDC so we can find out how fucking GOOD I FEEL RIGHT NOW, MOTHERFUCKERS.


Monday-Tuesday, November 14-15, 2005
The cause was: Along with my overworked mind, my body had also decided to shut down over the weekend, inside and out.

The effect was: After a vigorous bike ride to work, apparently waking up the sleeping giants within, I spent most of the Monday workday in the office bathroom. Seven times, I went in there, and five of them before noon. Seriously. Make a pit stop, get back to the desk to check email, maybe a quick meeting, then right back to it. Bing bang boom.

The good part is, everything seems to be back on track. A little more energy, a little more... reliable routine with regard to the water closet. Everything's fine.

The bad part is, after my Monday marathon, the office bathroom is still shut down for repairs and for the health department inspection.

I biked home that night in blackness, and in fog so thick that you couldn't see fifteen feet in front of you. Scary, dangerous, yes. But if you ever get a chance to bike through Venice in the dark of night with fog like clam chowder, please try this. It's about as close to a hallunicatory drug experience as I think you can get without taking anything harder than Diet Coke. You can't see anything specific. All you see are shapes... and colors... strange, moving, glowing, amorphous, homeless shapes scatting about. And weird, foreign sounds, echoing throughout the void. Truly an experience not to be missed. Or to be avoided by the plague, depending on how much you value your personal safety. Good times, though.

Then it was Tuesday, and I just went to work and worked all day and got stressed out and left and then came home and went to the pool, and now I'm cooking some chickens in the oven, stuffed with the first harvest from my balcony herb garden. Cilantro, parsley, chives, thyme, all mashed up with olive oil and garlic and slathered all over and inside that shit. This is very exciting. I'm sure there will be pictures.

That's it for now. Last night I wrote to myself, and I wrote, "cooool off". This has been such a straight-ahead, go-go-go stretch for me that I felt I was starting to wear myself out mentally (and physically, it would seem). So I put the to-do lists and the cognitive therapy books and all the rest of it away, and just said, hey. Look at these three months. I've done pretty damn well by myself. Why don't I just take a week off. Not off work, but off... you know... plunging ahead. Everyone needs to rest. So this week, I'll rest.

Right after I clean the bathroom.

Saturday-Sunday, November 12-13, 2005
This page (or rather, this iteration of it) has been up three months now. Three months. To get a sense of the enormity of those three months (relatively speaking), just scroll all the way to the bottom of this page for a second. Bam. That's three months. Hard to believe that's all its been. Seems like a lifetime ago. And I guess, in some ruefully self-important, overly saccharin and poetic sense, it was. But let's move onto this weekend.

This weekend was just fine. I went to the famous LA Farmer's Market, where I found a shop which sells nothing but hot sauces. Then I ate hot sauces. Also I sailed, and went to the beach at least once, and went to the pool at least three times. Also... also I filled up the gas tank and did laundry. And... watered the herbs.

Alright, so, a huge weekend, this was not. But dammit, I'm tired. And in fact, writing this right now at 6 PM on Sunday, I am extremely tired, so much so that I am nearly certain there's something physiologically wrong with me. Cuz, damn. Nobody with such a vibrant zest for life as I have should ever be this tired. This week, I'm going to shake up my routine a little, see if we can't get back on the beam, energy-wise. Because this will not stand. This aggression will not stand.

Alright. So. That's it. Three months. A great adventure. Let's keep it rockin' in the new year, shall we?

So tired. So. Very. Tired.

Friday, November 11, 2005
I got into work today at 9! And I left at 5! What the hell is going on here? This must be some bizarro, Twilight Zone Friday! So how did I seize this rockin' Friday night, and make the most of every moment of the day?

I went to the pool, threw some chicken in the oven, and took a Benadryl. Party time!

So tired. So very tired. I think this weekend, I will cherish as much as the last one, but only because I plan on sleeping the entire time.

So, you know... the next couple of updates might not be that spectacular. But hell, I'm not doing this website for you in the first place. Every time I try to do a website for you, it turns into a huge debacle, lots of angry shouting, lots of hurt feelings, and everyone walks away under a dark cloud. No more! No more, I say!

The chicken should be just about done. It is chicken which has been marinating for 72 hours in Ben's Famous Inedible Jerk Sauce, the most incendiary substance known to man. I will be eating it in a few minutes, and will probably not survive. I'd ask you to come by and feed the cats once in a while, but they'll probably eat whatever chicken is left over, and then they, too, will die.

Nice to wrap everything up in a tidy little package. I hate loose ends.

Thursday, November 10, 2005
Stayed late again at work, but was still able to get home before the pool closed, which was good.

Now, when I got home, my girl cat came right to the door, and she was screaming. "Mew, mew!! MEW!" she yelped.

Long-time readers may remember that the last time I had a girl cat come up to me and start yelling at me when I walked in the door was, shall we say, a somewhat unfortunate situation. So I immediately became scared. Moreso when I couldn't find the boy cat.

I turned the corner to find the bedroom door closed. So what happened was: My palm tree, which I keep in the bedroom so the cats can knock it over every thirty minutes, had fallen over, and closed the door (and also made a sound) while it fell. And thus, the terrible twosome spent the entire (long) day apart, separated by one inch of particle board.

This story sounded better when I was coming up with it earlier. But, screw it. Lame couple of days, lame couple of diary entries.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005
Wednesday blew goat, because instead of going home at the end of the day, I was forced to go to a "company dinner", which is one of my least favorite things in life. To add insult to injury, we went to Buca di Beppo, a restaurant which stands for everything I hate: Huge plates full of slop. Thankfully, I was able to get enough wine passed around the table to me to make it tolerable. And in fact, by the end, I almost had some fun. Still, I'd have much rather been at home, throwing blunt objects at the cats and sitting in the jacuzzi.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005
Alright! This is more like it! Much more energetic today. Biked in, got to work early, had a productive, yet non-stressful day at work, got home at a reasonable hour, and made a batch of Ben's Famous Borderline Inedible Jerk Sauce, put the dishes in the washer, popped a cold one, and now I'm gonna head to the pool, then come back up, have some pizza, kick the kittens in the face a couple times, and go to bed!

A nice, calm, eminently tolerable day. What could be better?

Here's an update on a couple other things, while I'm here:

  • You'll notice that nothing has happened yet over at CT Galaxy. I warned you that this could end up being the case. It is still in the plans to get back to it, but as you can see by reading this site, there's been little time and/or energy left over for that sort of thing. I will definitely try to do something with it this week. Or maybe weekend. Or perhaps next week. Or in 2006.
  • A friend asked me how I was feeling. I said, "good", and then I expounded on why. Why should I feel so good now, versus all the other times, when I didn't? Well, the answers are plentiful, of course, but I will tell you that the one overriding feeling, the one primary difference in moment-to-moment living for me is that life... damn, how did I say this before... life no longer feels like waiting around for life to start. It feels like, this is life, and a pretty damn pleasant one at that. There is a peace in not always walking around wanting more, being dissatisfied, being discontent, wondering how it could have been. This is how it is, and I'm in a routine right now that I feel like I could stay in forever, and still be happy. I feel, more or less, like I "arrived", and it feels like a comfy warm blanket that I'm wrapped up in all day long. Of course, there's plenty more to do, but now it feels as if it's all gravy. It's just... peaceful. (You know, most of the time. Within reason. I haven't achieved total enlightenment yet, believe me.)

That's all I can think of for now.

Monday, November 7, 2005
Whew. See, that's the thing about carpeing the weekend, which is that Monday really bites. But besides the normal back-to-work blues (which don't really affect me that much, because I generally like where I work), several things are bothering me today. First of all, I'm tired like a dog. I can attribute this to several things, none of which I'm sure about. One of them is my continual use of Benadryl as a sleeping agent. It may be in my best interests to quit that. One of them is the fact that I still enjoy (in moderation, of course), a cocktail or two in the evening, and its mixture with the Zoloft (and/or Benadryl) might be wiping me out. It may be in my best interests to pare that down a little. One of them is that I have two cats who sleep all day so they can spend all night jumping on my head. It may be in my best interests to throw them over the balcony and into the lagoon.

The other thing is the aches which I feel all over my person. I fell off my bike two weeks ago, and pulled something in my side. For a week, it got better. Now it's getting worse. So, that bites. Besides that, my legs ache, probably from so much biking, and my head hurts from where the cats jump on it.

But other than total fatigue, and countless physical pains, I feel just fine. Thanks.

Saturday-Sunday, November 5-6, 2005
It's a strange new world for me, where I actually cherish the weekend. When you do nothing all week, the weekend just seems like an extension of the week, but with slightly less guilt and shame. But when you bust ass all week, the weekend seems like a mini-vacation, and in my case, a mini-vacation to a tropical resort. I slept in a little late both days, but both days, I didn't really want to, because there were FUN THINGS to do, and a decent SCHEDULE to get back on, and BATHROOMS to clean.

So this weekend, I did two sailing lessons, cleaned the place to a sparkly shine, went to the pool a bunch of times, biked a bunch of times, went to a Clipper game with my friend Beaux, from waaaay back in the early days of SNT, for you old-schoolers out there. We stayed until halftime, then went back to his place and drank beer and conducted a hot sauce tasting. Also on the docket were organizing some paperwork, playing with the kittens, tending to the withering herb garden, having breakfast over football at Mo's on Sunday morning, finishing up some work for my previous employer, aaaand... well, I think that's about it, but I feel refreshed, revived, renewed, and most of all, very tired and achy.

A good pain, though. A good pain.

Thursday-Friday, November 3-4, 2005
I have spent the entirety of the last two days at work. No fooling. So there is nothing to report. And I'm still here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005
Well, this certainly can't suck enough. It's 7:40 PM, and I've been here at the office since 8:20 AM, and have accomplished zero, but still am unable to leave. At this rate, I will never be allowed to leave again. I just had dinner out of the company snack room: An Oodles of Noodles, and a few grapes. This is my life, now.

If anyone wants to use my apartment, I'll FedEx you the keys. Tell the cats I miss them. Tell the hot chick in 308 that I think she's hot.

And for God's sake, clean the bathroom, will you?

Tuesday, November 1, 2005
Huh. Well, here ya go. Tuesday. Certainly one of the less notorious of the five days of the work week. I got back on my early-to-rise, bike-to-work schedule, which I do like a lot. Work was... I dunno. For someone with depressive tendencies, it was certainly a little trying. I feel like the more I know, the more I know I don't know (and thus, the more chance I will be unable to meet my employers' expectations.) It can also be framed as a marvelous opportunity for learning and growth. So I spent most of the day slipping into the former, catching it, and knocking it back into the latter. Still, though, I guess I'm still feeling a little "bumpy". Once things settle down a little, and/or I get better at my CT exercises, I expect this to abate.

Even given said bumpiness, still a gorgeous day, plenty of exercise, clear, warm air, and a tasty lunch. Not bad for Tuesday, I'd think. I give it a solid B.

Monday, October 31, 2005
Sup, my peoples. Sorry it's been a whole week since I caught you up on what's the haps, but it's been pretty busy. For instance, last Tuesday, I came to work to find out that my direct supervisor -- and the only guy I knew there from before, and the guy who got me the job in the first place -- had been given the axe. So you can understand how I then spent the rest of the week working extra late and extra hard, so I would not also get extra fired. And then on Friday, mommers flew into town, so we spent the whole weekend exploring all of the wonders of the Santa Monica Bay, and then sitting very still recovering from the wonders of the Santa Monica Bay, and also cooking this meal, which I link here only because it's the prettiest little dish I ever concocted.

Anyhoo, now we're back at it. I'll catch you up on my BDC score from last week, which was a frightening (well, it is Halloween) 7, a jump of over 130% from the previous weeks. All of the new categories I got "hits" on, however, dealt with things like motivation and being friggin' exhausted all the goddamn time. I chalk this up to not being able to do my bike rides (because of the injury I sustained falling off said bike the previous weekend), the stress and long hours of my work situation, and also being licked on the face by my cats all night instead of sleeping.

I expect this week's score to be better. However, if that is going to come true, then I simply must wrap up this entry, take my Z and my B(enadryl), and wait for the soothing respite of precious sleep to wash over me.

Or the cat to start licking my face again.

Monday, October 24, 2005
Yeah, some days, you just sort of don't want to do anything. Way tired and achy from the weekend, I got up late, got to work late, and just sort of stumbled around all day (including honest-to-goodness falling out of my chair at one point) and then kicked it on out a little earlier than I would have normally.

Now I'm home, and I'm just gonna make dinner, maybe work on ctgalaxy a little (but maybe not), and just kinda sit here until I fall asleep.

Tomorrow, though? ENERGY CITY!

Sunday, October 23, 2005
It's Klutz Sunday here at the ol' "sertraline journal"! Let's see how many ways I can damage myself in one day!

Let's begin by cooking brunch again, and getting oil burns on half of my fucking left hand! However, the end result was this meal, so I think we can all agree it was worth it.

Then we continue to our sailing lesson, where I gracefully attempt to get from the deck of the boat to the dock by trying to lift my leg over the lifelines and then step directly down onto the dock, which is a great idea, except it requires that your leg be approximately seven feet long, which mine is not, and thus was nearly torn from my person. Fortunately, no long-lasting damage, except in the unlikely event that I decided to have children, I think I may have to adopt.

Let's wrap up, then, on our bike ride home, where I take the turn onto Fiji Dr. a little too quick, and do a faceplant right into the street, to the amusement of the onlooking traffic.

Every part of my person aches! Once again, I think I need a weekend to relax from my weekend.

And I loved every minute of it.

(Except for the oil burn, which hurt(s) like hell.)

Saturday, October 22, 2005
A fantastic day! Man, I dig weekends, baby. Check it out: I woke up, then lay in bed for two hours (I was very tired) with two purring kitties, a highly recommended way of starting your day. Then I drove to Home Depot to buy a replacement herb for the marjoram which bit the dust. I settled on basil. Then I went to Best Buy to get an external hard drive (thanks Saeid Z. for the idea), which I planned to use to offload the important pornogr-- err, the important files on my hard (heh) drive, so I could reinstall Windows, because the ol' Lappy was crashing at the rate of once every time I tried to do anything. Then I went to a grocery store and loaded up, baby. Anything I saw which I liked, I bought.

Then I came home and unloaded everything, at which point I planted the new herb (basil), cleaned up the dish which the cats broke while I was doing so, and then cooked this for a terribly delicious, artistic brunch!

After plugging in the new hard drive and making sure it worked, I headed out for Sailing Lesson #2, which was awesome! We finally got to get out on the ocean, and... whew, it sure is different out there than tooling around the harbor. It was like a roller coaster! I thought at one point we were going to tip over, but the instructor just laughed. And today, we got to practice sailing "single-handed", which is good, because the ultimate purpose of this is for me to get a boat and head out on the ocean all day, with nobody else on the boat. Screw all of you. Thank you.

Then I came back home (after scheduling my next lesson for tomorrow), got the process of reinstalling started, and while I waited for that, cooked this for an even more delicious (yet similarly themed) dinner.

And that brings us up to 20 minutes ago, when I sat down to begin writing this entry on my fresh, clean laptop, and then...

BOOM!!! An earthquake hit, essentially right under my apartment building!

If that's not the coolest way to wrap up a wonderful day, I don't know what is.

Friday, October 21, 2005
Friday was boring.

Thursday, October 20, 2005
Well, Thursday appears to be sort of biting the big one, too. Got up late, got to work late, and now it's turning into a repeat of yesterday, and it's looking like I'm gonna be here all night a-goddamn-gain. So, there's really not much to talk about today. But wait! It's Thursday! Let's do a BDC!

This week's score is... Well, I think I'm gonna give it a 3 this week, and here's why: It's the same as the last two weeks, but I'm going to knock out the "1" I was giving myself in the category of self-blame. The other "1"s have to do with low self-esteem, guilt, worthlessness, etc. But why blame myself for any of that, and make it twice as bad? My whole life was set up from the start to cause me low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness, and I've struggled through it the best I could, even with a debilitating mental illness. So, I may be worthless, but it ain't my fault! Whaddya think of that?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005
An odd, relatively (but not absolutely) unpleasant day. First of all, all through the night, I had had really horrible dreams. Dreams about hurting people (emotionally). Dreams about having to apologize to people, and about being a generally bad person. In effect, dreams about being depressed. Can we attribute this to the fact that I was unable to take my daily dose of Z the evening previous? Interesting question. Or perhaps the dreams were spurred by a conscious fear that, by missing a dose, I might return to a more depressive state. Hard to say, but interesting to note and ponder nonetheless. And on top of all that, DP made one of his periodic appearances, which is never a good thing. So that's how the day started.

The rest of the day was spent at work. Like, I got in at 7:15 (after a lovely, early-morning bike ride), and didn't leave until 9:30 PM. And the hours in between were not particularly productive, and were particularly stressful, with the boss standin' over me, poking and prodding. So, much like Tuesday, why don't we go ahead and just write Wednesday off as well.

Also, here's a great test to see if you have depressive tendencies or not. Let's say you start an herb garden with eight different herb plants in it. You've never tried anything like that before, but you're excited to see what happens. Then let's say that one of the plants -- the marjoram, for example -- doesn't "take", and withers away and dies within the first week. The other plants appear to be doing well, but the marj is out of commission. Is your first instinct to say: "Oh! Well, nice to still have 7 of them flourishing! I'll go replace the marj this weekend!" Or do you first think, "God, I suck at gardening. Can't even get marjoram to grow. The others are probably all gonna die now too. I shouldn't have even bothered with this, I knew it was never gonna work anyway"? Did you say the latter? Then guess what! You're depressed! Go over to right now and fix yourself up! (Well, not RIGHT now, because the site's not technically up yet.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Man. Tuesdays, I think, are just not my best friend. You ever have one of those days where it just seems like everything's just a little bit... off? Check out all the off-ness which crammed itself into one day:
  • Got up, couldn't bike because it was raining (and I had left my bike at work, since it was raining yesterday.)
  • Went to the car, and -- click -- nothing. Dead battery. Because I'd left the cabin light on.
  • Got a jump from a coworker and made it into work (after stopping at a gas station and having trouble getting the pump to work... see? Just a little off.)
  • Worked a long day, full of problems, full of bosses getting mad, full of not quite being able to get done what I wanted.
  • No Diet Coke in the office fridge.
  • They finally got some Diet Coke in there, and I spilled half of mine trying to get the bike in the car to take home.
  • Came home to go swimming, and the pool was cold.
  • Running out of food for the cats, which they hate.
  • I give the cats catnip, and they turn away.
  • I go to take my Zoloft, and realize that my stash at home is out, and I left the rest of it at work. So I'm missing a dose tonight. Dun dun DUNNNnnnn.
  • It's still cloudy and gray and drab. In SoCal, for god's sake.
  • I dunno, see what I'm saying? Everything's just a little off.

But, if you insist on putting a positive spin on this (which I do), all of these off things happened, and I still feel great! I'm just so happy to be here, and have this apartment, and have these cats, and have this job, and have this bike, and have this pool, and all the other stuff, that no minor annoyances like the above can knock me off the beam. I am strong. I am resilient.

I am woman.

Monday, October 17, 2005
Welp, back to the ol' grind. I biked to work this morning, not realizing it was scheduled to rain the rest of the day. So now I'm stuck here at my desk at 5, waiting for someone to give me a ride home, which kinda sucks. But really, who figures it's gonna rain in Los Angeles, anyway? Crazy.

Other than that, I really have nothing to say. I came to work, worked, ate some grapes, and now here we are. I look forward to going home, taking a Tylenol PM and a Zoloft, reading my sailing book for a few minutes, and then going to sleep, to begin anew tomorrow.

Sunday, October 16, 2005
Whew! Another barnburner of a day! How do I keep this pace up? Check it. I woke up, fixed this spectacularly delicious breakfast, cleaned up a little, drove to Calabasas to the famed Sperling Nursery, got a brief lesson in what I'd need to buy to grow some herbs, bought said items, along with ten little 4" herb plants. Drove those home. Then biked like a mother over to the marina, and got my first sailing lesson!

Let me say this about that: Sailing is the greatest thing that there is, by a factor of ten billiondy zillion. It was only the first lesson, and my first two hours on water, but that's it. I'm sold. Most things I do, I can't wait for them to end, so I can say I did it. This, I coulda done alllll day long. And I will. This I vow. Now. Who's coming with me?

Anyhoo, then biked back, and set up the ol' herb garden, which I just sort of fumbled at and made it up as I went along, because 1) I've never done it before, and 2) I had no idea how to do it. So, we'll see. Either I'll wake up tomorrow and my balcony will be a lush green nightmare of herbal infestation, a la "Creepshow", or they'll all be dead. Which is just as well, because as fast as I go through cilantro, I'd need about three hundred and fifty plants just to keep up with the demand.

Then after that, I began cooking dinner (green chile stew, Albuquerque style), and then while that was going, gave myself a haircut, and started the laundry, and then went swimming for a half hour. (Note: leaving the kitchen to go swimming for a half hour is not recommended for novice cooks. Please do not try this at home.) Then I had dinner, which was good, but not great. Perhaps I erred in the recipe, or perhaps it's just not my favorite thing. I think the chiles I got were sub-par, frankly. But that's neither here nor there. It was saved in no small fashion by the grilled tortillas which I now use in every single recipe. Here's what you do, you take your little grill pan, and you throw a flour tortilla on it until it gets little char lines on it. Then turn it 90 degrees to get the crosshatch. Then flip it, and it puffs up right away, which is cool to watch. Then crosshatch that side, and set aside. Takes a plain tortilla and just makes it a chewy, crunchy, delicious treat from heaven, which goes with everything! But enough about tortillas.

Then I cleaned up the kitchen, and sat down here and wrote this. After this I'm going to sleep for about three days.

I think it's safe to say that this was my busiest, most active, most... rip-roarin' weekend ever!

Now, after reading this, go back and read this, and be amazed at how far we've come.

Saturday, October 15, 2005
Today I got up, set up my music equipment, played some guitar, played some keyboard, cleaned up and rearranged the apartment, cooked breakfast, went to Target to buy many many things, went to Bed Bath & Beyond to buy a new cutting board, drove to a Venice surf shop to buy a wetsuit, didn't find parking at the Venice surf shop, drove on to the grocery store, bought staples and ingredients of various sizes and colors, drove back home, unpacked and set up everything I bought, got on the bike, biked back to the Venice surf shop which I had driven past earlier, tried on a wetsuit (my first attempt at trying to put on a wetsuit -- not something you want to watch, believe me), tried on a bigger wetsuit, bought the wetsuit, had a smoothie, biked back past a sailing instruction school, stopped in, signed up for sailing lessons (starting tomorrow), biked the rest of the way home, drove out to Home Depot to scout out gas grills, discovered that I'd need help getting a gas grill back to the apartment, drove back home, went down and sat on the beach for a while, walked back, went swimming, had a glass of wine while the sun set, cooked dinner (carne asada w/frijoles negro), sat down here, and wrote this update. And it ain't even 9 PM.

The interesting part here is...

On October 2, I sat on the beach and made a list of various things I wanted to do. Sailing, surfing, getting a grill being three of them. But after a long, tough week at work, I got up today, saw the list, and just went "ughghh". My enthusiasm had most assuredly waned.

Come on. Don't give in. Just pick one thing and try to make the tiniest bit of progress on it. Surfing. Go buy -- hell, just go look for a wetsuit.

As you saw, even getting to the surf shop took a couple tries. But, I finally made it there, and was so happy that I was able to extricate myself from the suit after 10 minutes of struggling that I just bought the thing.

And then it was on. Normally I would have said, "Okay, I made a little progress on one thing, so now I can go home and relax for the rest of the weekend." But now it was on. Now I wanted to do everything. On a day when I didn't even plan on doing anything, I ended up annoyed that after getting the suit and signing up for sailing lessons and shopping for a grill, I wasn't gonna be able to fire that badboy up to cook my carne asada. Gimme an inch, I'll take a mile.

Whatever. That's a hell of a day. I liked it. See you on the boat tomorrow.

Thursday, October 13, 2005
Things still fine. Biking to work has been a great addition to my life. Rather, while it's happening, it's mildly unpleasant, but the feeling of getting to work (and especially getting home) is so money that it's well worth the mild unpleasantry. The only downside I can think of, is that I'll be dead within a week, because as inattentive and unconscienscious as people tend to be on the roadways, they are several thousand times worse on the bike paths. I attribute most of these problems to people for whom English is not their primary (or any) language, and thus mistake the words "bike path" for "dog-walking path" or "walking four-abreast path" or "standing still in the middle of the path path", or my favorite, "walking out into the middle of the path without bothering to look to see if anyone's trying to commute to work on their bike at 20 miles an hour, causing them to have to slam on their brakes, which makes you look at them like it's THEIR fault... path." That's all I can figure. But anyway, it's fun while it lasts. Which, again, will probably not be more than a few more days, by my estimation.

Now, let's do a BDC! The number is still 4, and I would imagine that we'll be plateaued at that number for quite a while. The scores, again, which make up the number are all in the realm of self-conceptualization (self-esteem, adequacy/inadequacy, guilt/shame, etc.) which sprout from my most deeply entrenched "core beliefs", as we say in the CT business. Mind you, these numbers are way, way better than they were a few months ago, but when you've spent your whole life feeling defective and unacceptable, those can be some hard habits to break. I can still feel it creeping in from time to time. Luckily, I have such meticulously trained powers of cognitive restructuring now, this feeling rarely lasts more than a few seconds. A minute, tops. Which is nice.

Nothing new yet on CT Galaxy, because I've been busting ass at my new job this week, and when I get home, all I wanna do is hit the pool, have a bite, listen to the ballgame, do a few Sudokus, and hit the sheets. Once things lighten up here at the ol' office (which may be never, based on what I've seen so far), then we'll get some traction on this.

Yesterday, I should point out, was one of the greatest eating days of my life. For breakfast, I made my standard "eggs and grilled sausage on tortillas with lots of Cholula sauce on top" concoction, which is pretty good, considering the paucity of ingredients I currently have in the fridge (eggs, sausage, and tortillas). Then for lunch, I hit the Bay Cities Deli, at Lincoln and Broadway, in Santa Monica. This place is hilarious. Most of it is a fancy gourmet-type market with wines and cheeses and $30 balsamic vinegars, but one side is the deli. I was told that it's generally packed. I didn't believe it. I got there, and took a number. 63. The sign said: "Now serving: 32". And damned if there weren't 31 other people standing around, waiting for their Bay Cities sandwich. I spent 20 minutes wandering around the store, waiting for my number to come up. I ordered a small sopressata sandwich on an Italian roll. Was it worth the wait? Yes, yes it was. Possibly the greatest sandwich I've ever had. I'm having another right now as I type this, and it's even better than yesterday. Holy crap. Then for dinner, I had pizza. But not just ANY pizza, HANK'S pizza, which is known for having the best pizza in town, and in my estimation, one of the best I've had anywhere. But not just ANY Hank's pizza. I had it delivered! I was originally told that they didn't deliver -- but they do! But not just ANY Hank's delivered pizza. I got the Mexican pizza, covered with ham, chorizo, cilantro, tomatoes, jalapenos... just spectacular! Then I got a gallon of Tropical Rainbow sherbet out of the freezer and went to town. It was the happiest day my mouth had ever had! And that's how I spent my summer vacation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005
So, what was I talking about? Ah yes, the practical nature of thought process modification. I don't wanna say too, too much about this here, because then I'll have nothing to talk about over at the other site, but it's interesting on a personal level to see how this works.

The first stage involves, as I mentioned yesterday, identifying these thoughts you're having which are screwing you up without you knowing about it. Some people find this process very difficult, and learning how to do it can often take weeks, or months. Some people find it easier. I found it as easy as breathing, once I was taught what to look for. Once I read, "you have concrete thoughts which cause your bad feelings", a little lightbulb went on in my head, and it was like, snap, I got it! I was 50% better, emotionally, fifteen minutes after I was taught what CT is, and how it works, no lie. That's another benefit of the cognitive model of psychotherapy, which is that it generally works much faster than most other currently accepted models. Often, patients require no more than 10 or 12 sessions. Sometimes more, but sometimes even less.

Anyhoo, then you get to work on the process of identifying the misconceptions inherent in the thoughts you have identified. This is a little trickier, because some of your thoughts reflect beliefs which are so concretely embraced (regardless of their correlation with reality) that you just don't wanna give them up. Again, this is tougher for some folks than others. And again, in my case, I found it relatively easy, because the thoughts were so obviously screwed up that it was child's play to reform them into more realistic conceptions, and because I attached no inherent value to them. I was more than happy to give them up, since a greater sense of esteem, contentment, and peace was mine in exchange.

At this point, I'd identified the thoughts, and knew how to reform them. But it still required (as I wrote about a year ago on the same topic) constant vigilance, as the grotesque, distorted thoughts would keep coming at just about the same rate, so I had to continue swatting them away like foul balls, nearly continuously throughout the day. This was tiring, but again, work that I found well worth doing, as the payoff was such a delight. But tiring, still.

Now, it seems, I'm entering the best part of the process, where these reformed thoughts have really started to internalize. Check this out:

Situation: (pretty much anything)

  • Pre-CT Thought Process: I suck.
  • Apres-CT Thought Process: I suck. Wait, no I don't.
  • Mid-Internalization-Step Thought Process (I ARE HERE): Heh. I kinda don't suck, maybe.
  • Apres-Internalization Thought Process: LOL.
This is a wonderful thing! See, the hard work not only pays off, but it gets easier as time goes on, and the rewards actually increase, as the work eases. It's like an emotional trust fund.

That's all I have to say about this right now. Other than that, not much going on. I didn't commute by bike to work today because I was all worn out. Oh yeah, I was fretting a bit earlier this week because I was running out of my prescription and didn't know how I was gonna get it filled, since the drug store I got it from was all the way back in Virginia. Heh, turns out you can just go to any ol' pharmacy and have the prescription transferred over! Who knew? Probably you, but I sure didn't. Anyway, so I'm back, flush with Z, and ready for another 30 days of this rapidly mutating website.

Monday, October 10, 2005
Whew! Long time no chat. Things are still humming along nicely. I mean, look at this... I'm writing this at 8:20 in the morning, and I've already gotten up, cooked a nice breakfast, played with the cats, showered, and then biked 40 minutes to work! I'm a dynamo! And now I want to take a nap! But I can't! Cuz I'm at work! Oh well.

A very productive weekend is now behind me. My furniture showed up Friday, so Saturday was spent unpacking and arranging, and also putting the bike together, and also discovering that the bike was broken, and also taking the bike to the bike shop, and also unpacking more stuff from the car, and also getting the internet hooked up, while still leaving time to swim and write up a budget and go get a pizza. (Hank's Pizza, on Pershing -- excellent!) Then Sunday was busy unpacking more stuff, and also doing laundry, and also picking up the bike from the bike shop, and also cleaning the bathroom, and also having a couple friends over to go swimming, and also taking the bike for a "test-ride" to my place of work to see how long it was going to take to do the commute on two wheels.

So, that leaves us here, on Monday. And all of the above most likely leaves you asking, "Ben, what's your secret? You went from, in your own words, a morbidly depressed sack of turd, to a raging bundle of energy in just a couple short months! I wish *I* knew how to do that. Can you tell me?" Well, first, as the title of this webpage would suggest, go get some antidepressants. Any kind will do. They all have essentially the same chance of working.

But the real key to success lies in changing your thought processes. This would be the simplest thing in the world, except most often, the thoughts which make people upset are ones which they are not aware they are having. So, first, we must identify the thought processes, pinpoint their inaccuracies, and then set them straight. Enter cognitive therapy, my Lord and Savior.

This, then, brings us to my latest new project, which I may or may not work on, and which I may or may not finish even if I do work on it. It's called CT Galaxy, and it's a new website which will be growing (maybe) in the coming weeks. The purpose of the site is twofold:

  1. Educate the interested (or even just the curious) about the theory and process of cognitive therapy.
  2. Provide interactive exercises to facilitate the various techniques which have proven most effective. In other words, instead of doing your homework on paper, you can do it on the website, and it'll track it for you, and make suggestions, and generally help the process along however possible

Right now, of course, it's just a smartass filler page. But I'll update you here as (or if) things start to happen over there.

Welp, that's it for now. I have more to say about the practical nature of thought process modification, but I don't want to overwhelm you here, so I'll save that for another time.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005
So, what's new? How's the family? How's the kids? Feeling good? Good, good, that's wonderful to hear. What? Oh, me? Well, let's see. Since last we spoke, mommers and I continued to pack up the apartment, drink wine, and watch movies. Then the movers were scheduled to arrive on Friday the 23rd. Then the movers called the morning of the 23rd to say that, surprise, the truck was all filled up and they wouldn't be able to do it that day, but they'd send someone out on Monday (the 26ths). That's all very well and good, except 1) I'd already had cable/internet disconnected, and 2) all my stuff was now in boxes. So the next two days were spent hanging around, continuing to watch movies, continuing to drink wine, and continuing to search for the box that said "FORKS" on it, so that mommers and I could dine in style, on leftover delivery Chinese food. Then mommers hit the road on Sunday, and the movers showed up on Monday, and I spent the rest of the week on the road with my two cats, exploring America, which appears to consist completely of gas stations with fast food restaurants inside them, and discount adult book stores.

Which is all fine and dandy, because as I approached my new home, this place, any semblance of worry just drained out of my toes.

Let me explain how great this place is.

You could add all the greatness from all of the other 15+ places I've lived together, and... well, okay, if you did THAT, it'd probably be better than this place, that's not really a fair comparison. But it's great. Ocean view, heated pool, quirky, fun community, salty smell of sea air wafting through the place 24 hours a day, faint rumble of waves crashing on the beach, a mere 200 feet or so away -- god, I'm getting all goosebumpy just typing about it. It's just so wonderful I can't even talk English good no mores. Wow. And I don't even have my furniture back yet. I'm sleeping on the goddamn floor in an empty room, and it's the most comfortable apartment I've ever had. And did I mention the awesome pool? You know how some "heated" pools generally mean "heated up enough so it's not, technically, frozen"? This badboy is heated to the point where if you get in it, straight out of the jacuzzi (I mentioned the jacuzzi, didn't I?) it STILL feels warm.

But enough of that. All that is not even close to being the best part. Here is the best part:

BDC Status, October 5
No other way to say it. I feel like there should be some sort of celebration, some balloons falling from the ceiling or something. But, let's just get it out there:


This, if I haven't mentioned it before, is within the range that Burns labels "normal and happy". I've never been normal and happy before in my life. Happy, occasionally. Normal, even less occasionally. But never both at the same time.

The impulse is to attribute this primarily to the new digs, and how pleased I am with them. There may be some validity there, but keep in mind that the questions Burns asks are "are you experiencing low self esteem? self-blame? self-criticism? loss of pleasure? feelings of inadequacy?" Not: "do you like where you're living?" I've proven many times in the past that I have the ability to be miserable anywhere, regardless of how nice it is. The natural corollary is that I also have the ability to be happy anywhere. While my current situation certainly may have facilitated transition into that most blessed of emotional states, I do not believe it is the sole, or even primary cause. The gradual lowering of the number since 8/12 speaks to a positive trend, one which feeds back on itself in productive ways (much like depression, left untreated, must surely get worse, as its devilish cycle of negativity propels itself along.) Let's see the pattern, looking back through this website:

54 -> 30 -> 16 -> 9 -> 7 -> 4.

Seemed only an inevitability. It may just be a happy (in every sense of the word) coincidence that it hit there at the same time that I landed in such a rewarding environment. Or not. Or somewhat.

Who cares. It's all means to an end. Good means. Good end.

(For those seeking more details, the "4" comprises scores of "1"s in response to the following four categories: low self-esteem, worthless/inadequate feelings, guilt/shame, self-blame/self-criticism.)

Tuesday/Wednesday, September 20-21, 2005
Mom's in town to help pack up and get the hell outta here. Mom being in town naturally engenders a, shall we call it, momentary loss of focus. However, a little loss of focus ain't such a bad thing when you're packing boxes all day. The movers promise to show up on Friday, and then off we go. Life 2.0, baby.

Monday, September 19, 2005
In addition to the challenge mentioned yesterday (not getting "pulled under" (heheh) by the "undertow" (heheh) of past experiences in a familiar environment), there is a new task ahead of me. Not only must my current environment be "re-framed" for the next couple of days, but it then behooves me to begin delving through my past, my memories, to turn them around and start getting some satisfaction from them as well. I know good things have happened to me, but when I try to look back, all I see is failure, regret, shame, bleah.

This is a task I will call "retroactive cognitive therapy". I'm pretty on top of fixing my depression in the present. Now I need to go back and fix it in the past. Only then, do I think I'll truly be free of the chains shackling me to the dark years behind me.

Because, as they said in the movie...

We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us.

Sunday, September 18, 2005
There's a theory about sleep disorders/insomnia which goes, sometimes you have to change where it is you're trying to sleep, because you've subconsciously attached your current sleeping arrangement with "not sleeping well", and thus the problem persists.

Walking back into 404 after my flight home today, I could tell that the same theory applies to depression. I feel much better, but now I'm back where I also found bottom. It's hard to separate New Ben from Old Ben in here. Thus, it is a good thing that I am getting out of here Friday. I still maintain that where you are isn't nearly as important as who you are, but I'll bet Buckner doesn't feel all that great walking into Shea Stadium, no matter how together he is.

Saturday, September 17, 2005
An important day! In the morning, I finally (on the last day of my trip here) found an apartment. It's got everything. It's got a view of the ocean. It's about a block from the beach. It's got a view of the marina. A big balcony. A gas stove. A heated pool. A jacuzzi. A fitness center. They allow cats. And it'll be available when I get here. In fact, the only thing really wrong with it is that it costs ten million dollars a month to live there.

But hey, you only live once, right? And you never know if the next day will be your last.

The rest of the day I spent poolside with my man Adam, soakin' up the last of the CA rays that I could before my trip home tomorrow to start packing up. Can't wait to be back, that's all I can tell you. Can't wait to be back.

And if you want a good laugh, try to spy on me while I'm in my hotel room, splayed out on the floor, trying to practice my surfing moves.

Friday, September 16, 2005 -- Bonus Day #1
I call this "bonus day #1" for the obvious reason that any days I get from here on are pretty much gravy. There was definitely a sense of peace running throughout the threads of the day, as I continued to marvel at the fact that I was still around to see them. Also, I was on the verge of falling asleep from about 10:30 AM on. Turns out those near-death experiences take a lot out of you.

About all the energy I had, I spent at lunch, walking down to the Borders and buying two books:

Beginner's guide to sailing. Beginner's guide to surfing.

I'll lick that ocean yet. Now it's personal.

Thursday, September 15, 2005
Today, I almost died.

Not in any metaphorical, figurative way, either. Not in terms of emotional transfigurement or some grand epiphany.

Not in some metaphysical, Peking Butterfly chaos-theory inspired jigsaw puzzle ("If I hadn't stopped for that cup of coffee, I would have missed that light, and not seen the...")

No, I was right there on the cusp of death, when it switches from some vague mythical concept to a definable reality. It was right there. If it were to happen again, I'd give myself about a 20% chance to still be here.

Enjoy, won't you?


I like me an afterwork swim in the ocean. You know that about me. So why would today be any different?

I get down there, switch into my "swimming trunks", and head down along the north end of the Venice pier. Oooh, the sea was angry that day, my friends! I had come to understand, though, that as nasty as the waves look, once you get out there, they're really not all that bad. Plus, the goal is just to get past 'em anyway, so you can splash around and relax in peace, away from the tumultuous crashing of the breakers.

I get about knee-deep, and notice that something definitely is different today. There's a lot more power in the undertow, and once the crashing waves reached me, they had a lot of power, and a lot of WATER with 'em -- I went from knee-deep to chin-deep in a second. Then it drained off again, and we begun the procedure anew. Fun fun fun. But I'd really like to get past all that.

It begins to die down a little, so I paddle quickly out beyond the breakers. So great. SO GREAT, man. I love it so much out there. There's just such a feeling of peace, of Zen one-ness with the world, all that jazz. Nothing better. (And given the previously-discussed side effects of Z, there actually IS nothing better right now.)

I splash around for 15-20 out there, and then start to feel my "core temperature" go down. Happy Hour at the Whaler was winding down at the same time, so it was definitely time to call it a day. I begin paddling back in.

I enjoy that process. Get to do (or at least try) a little bodysurfing, get to ride the rollercoaster in for a while until you feel terra firma and can trudge back in.

Fortunately, the surf had seemed to die down again just as I was coming back. What fabulous timing!

As I'm swimming, and swimming, and swimming, though, it feels like I'm not really get any closer. I can see the beach 50 feet away, but it never seemed to go down any further than that. Looking to my right, using the pier pilings as guides, I can see that I'm pretty much stuck. I'll go forward when the waves hit, then backwards immeditely after. A zero-sum game.

Then I look behind me, and it's starting up big again. And my man CRASHES down about twenty feet behind me, and when it hits, it knocks me for a loop. I mean, the first hit knocks you down, then the rush afterward just pummels you pushes you to the bottom, spins you around. That was a new experience. I struggled to come back up, and did, and caught my breath (and spit out some water), and went, "huh, that sucked. I better really get outta here."

Fortunately, I could finally feel the sand under my feet, so I was saved. Good thing, too, because another one of those monsters was coming in.

But... FUCK. The undertow was so strong that I lost my footing. And here we go again. WHAM... spin... choke... struggle to the surface, gasp, cough.

Now it's REALLY starting to suck. I find a foothold again, but then just as quickly lose it. And now they're just relentless.

The next one that hits is the first time I run out of air and breathe saltwater.

That's when the scales tipped, and I went from thinking, "Jeez, I can see how people could get in real trouble out here! Wait till I tell folks about it!" to "This is how I die."

The cycle repeats -- I get above water for a few seconds, gasp, cough, struggle to get enough air for the next one, and then WHAM.


WHAM. With each one, I'm feeling my likelihood of survival dropping in 10% increments. 70% chance of making it. 60%. 50%. 40%.

The last one, I breathed a lungful of water, got back up top and noticed that now I was hyperventilating. I was becoming lightheaded. The concept of passing out and being done with it was a real, tangible presence. 30%... 20%...

That's when through my panic-stricken, salt-encrusted eyes, I saw the dude in the red trunks start sloughing out to me.

The Z must be working. No shame, no embarrassment. Just effusive, blind gratitude.

He got to me, gave me one end of a life preserver with handles on both sides, and pulled me in. We got up on the beach finally, I'm belching sand and saltwater, in between thanking him and shaking his hand. And he's asking me if I know what day it is. I say "Wednesd-- wait, no, Thursday!"

It appeared he was ready to launch into a whole series of evaluatory questions/procedures, when he noticed that there was someone else, a little ways down the way, who the boats were already tending to. See, I'm not the only dumbass out there.

I trudge, beaten, shaken, and bewildered, back down the beach to where I'd left my stuff. I had been carried about a quarter-mile down the coast, in all that excitement. My headache is massive. I'm spitting and coughing up ocean the whole way. I get back to my car, get my phone, and just start calling people.

(Then, of course, I hit Happy Hour at the Whaler.)

The epilogue is, I go back out on the pier after dinner, and EVERYONE's there, lined up along the north side, watching the surfers go at it. In the year I lived by the beach, I never saw the waves that immense. They shook the pier. I talked with a guy there who was a hardcore surfer, and he said he'd lived in Venice for six years and never seen anything like it. He said he heard the lifeguard trucks driving all day long, back and forth, back and forth, saving the lives of dimwitted Virginia country boys who don't know enough to stay the hell out of the water.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005
A fine, fine day. Early start at work, starting to feel more comfortable with both the project, and the other people here. The new receptionist is one of the hottest people I've ever seen (she moved to LA to be an actress!) Had a nice swim in the ocean after work, some peel 'n' eat shrimp and a couple cold brews afterward. Then went over to The Sisters' house (two young ladies in my extended family) and zonked out on their couch. At no time was any of this particularly stressful or difficult. I seem to have fully rebounded from yesterday's... difficulties.

But don't take my word for it... Let's ask the:

BDC Status, September 14
Once again, excepting any higher scores resulting from Zoloft side effects, looks like we come in this week at... 7! And I'll tell you, most of that can be directly attributed to 9/13, during which I experienced significant distress. However, average that out with six other days of relative bliss, and, you get a 7. Burns (1980) says that this is smack dab in the middle of the range somewhat capriciously labeled "normal, but unhappy". Frankly, I can see that. Though I'm generally very pleased with how things are going, the activities I'm engaged in, the place I've decided to work, and to live, I can still feel a faint undercurrent of anxiety and, not to wax too Freudian, inner conflict, a state reflected by a continuing susceptibility to emotional "undertow" (see 9/13). I can imagine a time, with a score under 5, in which the susceptibility itself is the exception, rather than the rule. That, right there, is as close to a definition of "happiness" as I can come up with.

Well, that, and having enough money to not work and just hang out at the beach all day.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005
See, what it does is, it creeps back in. The day started just as well as the previous day, but as the meetings went on, my confidence in my abilities (both in terms of absolute measurement, and relative to the other developers here) began to wane significantly, to the point where at the end of the day, it was a struggle to maintain my optimism. Added to that, I went through pains to avoid going to the big "company dinner" tonight, citing semi- and non-truthful reasons to excuse myself. A brief swim in the ocean, watching the sunset from beyond the breakers, restored a sense of stability, but this just goes to show that it's never over. It's never, ever, over.

(Until it's over.)

Monday, September 12, 2005
First day in the new office! The day consisted mainly of sitting in a conference room all day with the rest of the crew, being given overviews and stuff. That part was boring, but the project sounds cool, and it looked like stuff I'd be pretty well-equipped to do. So I was overcome by optimism which made the entire day very enjoyable. Except for the part where I still haven't found an apartment.

Sunday, September 11, 2005
An absolutely perfect day from start to finish. A delicious breakfast of huevos rancheros on a dockside patio, swimmin' at the pool, bodysurfing (or rather, pathetic attempts to bodysurf) in the ocean, oysters 'n' shrimp for lunch, more lazing about the pool, tanning and reading, and it's only 7:30 PM here and I'm already ready for bed. And I'll get to do this every weekend when I'm here. And every morning and evening. I first moved here five years ago, but only now do I truly get it.

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome.

Saturday, September 10, 2005
More of the same, pool, beach, look for apartments, beach, pool, apartments, pool, jacuzzi, beach, pool. Except this time with Adam and his girlfriend. Loved the beach/pool. The apartment thing was stressful, as it became obvious that 1) it was going to cost me a fortune to get a place I liked, and 2) a place I liked might not even be available when I get into town. But I maintained. Also, my friends are a fairly demonstrative, lovey-kissy couple, constantly mackin' on each other every five seconds, which has a tendency to throw me off the beam. It nearly did so this time as well, but I hung in there. All in all, another great day in Paradise.

Friday, September 9, 2005
I woke up at 6 AM local time. I got to the airport at 7:15 AM local time. I got on the plane at 8:20 local time. I arrived in LA at 11:15 local time. I had my rental car by 11:30 local time. I had looked at two apartments already by 1:15 local time. I checked into the hotel at 1:45 local time.

Since then, I've been all around town, this side to that... and I haven't worn underwear since five minutes after I got into my room.

What a fool I've been.

I lived in Santa Monica for a year. 100 feet from the beach. I went swimming in a pool zero times. I went swimming in the ocean zero times.

Since I got here this afternoon, I've done both of those things... twice.

This is as good a day as I've ever had in which I did not 1) have sex, or 2) earn my private pilot's license.

After my second jaunt into the ocean, I walked up the street to find an airy beach bar, where I had peel 'n' eat shrimp in a hot, spicy broth, with a cold beer, sand still falling off every part of my person every time I moved, and I just... Well, for a moment, I just wish it could have always been like this. But would that have been the case, I don't think I'd be able to appreciate it as much as I did today.

God, do I love it here.

Thursday, September 8, 2005
Hungover after three drinks over dinner. How pathetic is that. Remember back when I could down four beers and a half liter of rum and bound out of bed in the morning so fast that the cats would get thrown across the room so hard they'd splat onto the walls and then slowly sliiiide down, leaving a trail of cat pus on the wall where they'd been? Now I have a girly coffee drink over dessert, and I'm dead for the next day.

No matter, I had mainly stuff to do around the house to get ready for my trip to LA, so it didn't bother me quite as much that I was only able to keep my eyes open about one second for every five, just enough to keep from running into any of your harder walls.

So. A "bleah" day all around, except for the reverberations of the good feelings left over from the previous evening. Female human, where have thou gone??

BDC Status, September 7
Oh dear! I almost forgot. Where is my head these days? It's time for the weekly BDC check! I did the check this morning over 2 eggs, ham, home fries, and a glass of orange juice, so forgive the various yellow and orange stains all over the results. This week's number is "9 (14)". Allow me to explain. 14 is the number once you factor in the questions about "tiredness" and "loss of interest in sex". I put them in parentheses, however, because those are known side effects of Zoloft, and so I'm more likely to attribute those problems to the drug itself, rather than the illness it's intended to overcome. Excepting those numbers from the total, we end up with 9, which is just under the level considered "depressed". So. I'm cured!

Well, not really. 9 is still higher than you'd generally want it, so there's work to be done, and as I proved last year, you can't get cocky. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Rather, it's a game of Civilization III, not a game of Minesweeper. Rather, it's a seven-course prix fixe dinner, not a drive-thru burger 'n' fries. Rather, it's-- ah, fuck this.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005
This was a decent day all around, getting a little more involved with my new job, settling a few nagging issues around the homestead, learning that my apartment wants me to pay them the laughable total of $3500 when I move out (which is never, ever, ever going to happen, you scumbags.) But a faint, lingering tension hovered over the proceedings, as I knew that this evening, I would be having dinner...

...with female human.

Mitigating my anxiety was the fact that the dinner was going to be at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, which if you know me at all, you realize that I wish to be buried underneath the broiler at one of their worldwide locations. So either way, I knew this was gonna be a good dinner. Hell, I could screw up, yammer on about nonsense, spout gibberish, sit there like a stone, and generally make a fool of myself in front of female human one way or the other, and the likelihood was that it was still going to be a good dinner.

Thing is, though -- oh, wait. First, I need to say that tonight, I let myself "slip" a little, and tried seeing what it was like going to a Ruth's Chris and really getting the full experience, as a "normal" person might have. Like, get a (single) cocktail to start. Then a (single) glass of wine during the meal. Then a (single) after-dinner aperatif. I'm home now, and I have no compulsion to drink anymore, which is a lovely thing. However, those three drinks totally did me in. In fact, the first two did me in. What a friggin' lightweight I've become! And I'm happy about that.

So, the thing is, though -- with a few drinks in me, and feeling good besides, I did seem to yammer on about nonsense. From time to time, I did spout a little gibberish. I might have even started to make a fool out of myself. But not once was I ashamed of doing it. I meant everything I said, and it felt good to just express myself to someone, without fear of reprisal, without fear of judgement, and it was just great. Female human listened, and empathized, and told me her own stories, and we nodded and laughed, and it just seemed so very nice to feel that comfortable laying bare to some fairly raw nerves there, right over our spinach au gratin and garlic-infused mashed potatoes.

And so, for the first time in my history of going to Ruth's Chris, over many years, over many miles, and in too many locations to count, this was the very first time that the meal wasn't the best part.

Female human, if you're out there, I'm gonna miss you most.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005
First day at the new job. It was good. I learned some stuff and got some stuff done. I also paid some bills and called the movers and whatever. But nobody cares about that. What you care about is, HOW IS THE ZOLOFT DOING? And let me just tell you this: I dunno. Good? I felt good today. Can't wait to take my BDC test tomorrow! Aren't you excited about that? Cuz I'm pretty excited about that.

Well, this is a pretty weak update. So instead of content, let's take a census! If you are reading this diary, click here and send me an email! Won't that be fun? I think it'll be fun. I'm excited about it. Let's do it.

Monday, September 5, 2005
Today was awesome, and I didn't even have anyone to do it with. I was originally considering "taking it easy", as I said yesterday, but when I walked outside, it was just so damn nice that I figured I had to do something outside. So I went to Burke Lake. Burke Lake is this lake, see, and I was there a few months ago, and noticed that they rented rowboats. I wanted to rent a rowboat then, but I was too afraid. I'll look silly asking for one for myself. I won't know how to do it right. They'll all laugh at me. But today, I just walked right up in that shit and got me a goddamn rowboat, and zipped around the lake for a couple hours -- with my shirt off, no less, marking the first time my pasty-white torso has gotten that much direct exposure to sunlight since I was about twelve.

Then I got right back and headed to the pool -- which is closing for the season today, so it's a good thing I started doing this when I did. Fortunately, I'm moving in a couple weeks to a place where it's always pool season. Oh, and get this, after I was done in the pool, I just laid in the sun (shirt still off, is the point of this) on one of the poolside chairs for another half hour.

This day may not sound that riveting in the retelling ("big deal, you rowboated and went to the pool"), but I ask you to keep in mind that this would have been virtually impossible a month ago. It simply would never, ever have happened. And now it did.

And I love rowboats.

Sunday, September 4, 2005
Even more fun stuff today, including going over to Chris place to go swimming with the gang. Back in the day, this would have been a highly stressful event! But due to my many efforts at self-improvement, and of course our little friend Z, it was only medium-highly stressful! Uhhh. Yeah. Once again, though, I managed to make it out alive, so I could go on enjoying the rest of the day over there, as Nic made us dinner and we all sat around talking about random stuff.

Now, I don't know exactly what to attribute this to, but during the swim, and several times afterward, I began to feel dizzy and detached. Additionally, for most of the evening, I felt dead tired and completely "out of it". Couldn't think, could barely talk, and was just struggling to stay awake. It felt like the original side effect of the Z, except intensified threefold. I think with all of the physical activity of the past three days, and the nearly constant exposure to formerly (and let's face it, currently) stressful situations, the ol' body just said "yeah, you know what? Forget this. I'm outta here."

So labor day, I'm takin' it reaaal easy.

Saturday, September 3, 2005
Did some more fun stuff, a little golf, a little dinner with Doug, a little playing video games at Dave & Busters (who have perfected the art of stealing your money to such an extent that there is literally no way to tell how much any particular game costs to play. Getting a "power card" for $5 gives you some random looking number of credits, which you spend on games with prices listed in tenths. Silent Scope cost 3.9 to play. Ghost Squad? 5.2. And you pay it (whatever "it" actually is) because... well, what else are you gonna do?)

Still feeling aftereffects from yesterday, as negative thoughts kept trying to weasel their dastardly ways into my vulnerable, storm-tossed, hurricane-flooded, Superdome-damaged, dead-bodies-lying-in-the-street head. I did okay. But I do think it's now safe to confirm what 1) every psychiatrist says, 2) every former antidepressant user has said, 3) the Zoloft website itself says: It's not a cure-all, or a magic bullet. It's just mother's little helper.

Friday, September 2, 2005
No rest for the stress-weary! Spent all day with female human at King's Dominion, a nearby theme park. If I was gonna crack, this was gonna be the day to do it. But did I crack? Well. A little. In reality, it was a great day, lots of rides, lots of fun and laughs, about the best theme park adventure one could possibly hope for! In my screwed up little mind, though, I still couldn't help fearing judgement at every turn. I was in my old "try to be funny" mode I've used to varying success for the past 34 years, thinking that if I wasn't interesting or entertaining, everyone will hate me. Followed naturally by "am I being weird?", "am I pissing her off?", "why can't I be more relaxed?", etc. And after we said our goodbyes, I confirmed to my self that I still had it. Still had the ability to, through a simple mental trick, turn a wonderful day into a failure of disastrous proportions. Thankfully, with a hundred and eighteen cognitive therapy books at my side, I had the tools and the wherewithal to stop that, but it still likes to creep in from time to time.

So, an interesting day. If nothing else, it served as a warning not to get cocky. We're still just at the beginning of this.

Thursday, September 1, 2005
Whew! A whole day full of potentially anxiety-provoking stuff. Check it out!

Stuff #1: The movers came over to give me an estimate on moving my stuff. It came to over TWICE what it cost to bring here, and way more than I'd guessed. So that, along with the lease break fee from two days ago, and I was right on the edge of turning into Worrywart Central.

Stuff #2: My "goodbye lunch" with coworkers. Let's call them, coworkers #1, #2, and #3. This was potentially stressful because of reasons which will become clearer below.

Stuff #3: This was my last day at the office, so there was a lot of (always potentially stressful) social interaction, as people came by to say goodbye, and as I turned in badges and computers and stuff like that. Plus, as you're walking out the door, that's when it sinks in that there's no going back, and this move really is gonna happen.

Stuff #4: I've been pretty much gaga over coworker #3 (see above) ever since I met her, a feeling that I've struggled mightily to conceal over the past four months. But since I'm heading out, I got a little selfish and finally wrote her an email just saying how great I thought she was. Thinking about writing it was stressful. Writing it was stressful. Hitting "send" was stressful. Wondering what (if any) reply might be coming my way was (and is) stressful. Still, it felt good to finally get off my chest.

Stuff #5: Called the female human I spoke of a few updates down to set up a day at Kings Dominion (local theme park) tomorrow.

Stuff #6: Pool visit #3! Just call me SwimFan!

So, that's a lot of stuff! But, I'm proud to announce that I came through it all relatively unscathed. Thank you, Zoloft! (Or not, if it actually is having no physiological effect, and I'm just doing this myself. In that case, SCREW YOU, Zoloft!)

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. At lunch, I ordered a Bud draft. Just for fun. Just to see what happened. You know what happened? I drank half of it, throughout the course of our hour-long lunch, and left the rest on the table. This is the first time in my life that I've ever had half a beer. The other patrons, the waitstaff, Tommy the bartender... they all looked on in shocked bemusement. You could have heard a pin drop.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005
A real tester of a day. I was feeling mostly good (remembering my successes from the day before), but began fretting about meeting with the apartment leasing office to give my notice and have them tell me what it was going to cost me to break my lease. And the news was even worse than I'd imagined. They came up with a figure of like $4000 to break the lease. That pissed me off and got me in primo anxiety mode, where I'm just on edge about everything, and then every other little thing I have to worry about with this move starts seeming like a big huge deal, and then agghhhh. I went to the pool to try to relax again, but when I got there, there were a lot of people in there, so I freaked out, bailed, and sulked back home. I took a half hour or so there to compose myself, and then went back for another lovely swim, and then everything was all better. Once I managed to get in there this time, it was a lot less scary and anxiety-ridden than the day before, which was nice to see. Apparently this "facing your phobias" thing actually works. Who knew?

But without further ado, let's move onto the important stuff:

BDC Status, August 31
Hmm. Says here, 16. That sounds like, a lot better than last week. And in fact, I do feel a lot better than last week. Of course, a lot has happened in that week, which can account for some degree of distraction, but even in the quiet times, I feel significantly better. It may be no coincidence that things really started taking off once I doubled the dosage. Or, maybe it is. Who knows? And, really... who cares?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Today, I felt pretty good all day. I got home about five PM, though, and started to get frustrated about the boring evening which I was convinced lay ahead of me.

That is when I did something truly astonishing.

I went to the pool.

A little background here, for those of you who may not have fully realized the depth and intensity of my abnormalities: I never go to the pool. The last time I was in a pool was in late 2000, when I had first moved to California. The time before that was, I can't even remember. Years ago. Not because I don't like to swim -- I love to swim! But because of all the phobias I've garnered over these tortured years, the one which is far and away the most intense, and the most bewildering, has been going to the pool.


Well, as $10,000 of plastic surgery last year might have indicated, I am simply afraid of taking my shirt off. Not afraid of water, not afraid of chlorine, not afraid of getting an inner tube to the face. Just cannot take my shirt off in front of other people.

Last year around this time, I purchased swimming trunks, in a determined effort to face this particular fear once and for all. I never used them once. Nice try.

About a month ago, I bought another pair, and it too languished about, pricetag still dangling from the waistband, taunting me, haunting me. But call it boredom, call it desperation, or call it Zoloft, there I was, beach towel in hand, padding across the parking lot, toward the most feared of all hellish lairs known to mankind: The community pool.

My breath came short and quick, walking there. I was terrified. Anxiety doubled and redoubled seemingly with every foot closer I got.

Then I realized I had no idea how to get in, so I ended up walking around the clubhouse building, bewildered, looking for the entrance, which I eventually did find, to unquestionably mixed feelings.

Today, thankfully, the vengeful gods smiled upon me just a bit, as there were only three other people in the pool area. Crawl before you can walk. If there were happy couples and large families all splashing around having fun, I'm afraid that might have just been too much. But today, there was just the lifeguard, and two kids playin' at one end of the pool.

And friends, as I am my witness, I got in that pool and swam and splashed around for 20 minutes, and got back out, and walked back home. The adrenaline rush after I walked back into my apartment was so intense that it took nearly a half an hour to stop shaking. Don't you know, if I had had any alcohol up in that apartment, it would not have been there anymore. But eventually I calmed down of my own accord, and just basked in the afterglow of my magnificent accomplishment. That's right. I went swimming.

One would have to surmise that perhaps the Zoloft is actually starting to do some good.

Monday, August 29, 2005 -- TWO YEARS... of So Now Then!
Well, how about that, huh? Two years of this off-again, on-again website. And what a trip it's been! I was gonna write some long, emotional, insightful summation of what's happened, what we've learned from all this, and what we can expect from the future.

However, if you'll notice, I did that for last year's anniversary post, and everything I wrote there applies just as much, if not moreso, today.

(I better go back and read it over again, though, just to make sure that this is true.) Huh. Yeah! It's pretty much still dead-on.

So today, I woke up, and I smiled... Again! Damn. August 29ths have been pretty good to me the last few years. That's what this life needs. More August 29thses.

Sunday, August 28, 2005
The headaches and lack of horribleness continue. And in fact, this was a fairly significant day, as I did something which ordinary I would go to any lengths to avoid due to sheer terror, and once engaged, would consistently and persistently look for any excuse to excuse myself, to escape, and to run away as fast as possible: I hung out with a female human for several hours and just talked.

This was a fair representation of everything I'm afraid of being compressed into a single event and shoved all in my face at the same time. And while I won't go so far as to say I didn't have my moments of "what do I say?" and "man I'm an idiot" and "that didn't even make any sense", it was a fair sight less traumatic and more enjoyable, both during and afterward, than it would have been three weeks prior. So, that was good.

Plus, she gave me a home-grown tomato at the end! And it was delicious!

So. What's not to like about Sunday?

Saturday, August 27, 2005
My mornings and afternoons are feeling better. Social interaction comes easier. Self-loathing seems muted. However, the price I'm paying for this appears to be a brand new side-effect, that being headaches. Somewhat poetic, don't you think, trading emotional discomfort for physical? Trust me, I much prefer the physical.

Friday, August 26, 2005
Not much happened today, except I accepted a new job in Santa Monica, and committed myself to having my entire life packed up and moved out there within 30 days.

So, you know, that anxiety book came along at just about the right time.

Otherwise, I felt okay most of the day, but then was struck again by a 3 AM bout of staring at the ceiling, fretting, worrying, tossing, turning. The nighttime really is the worst, because all your defenses are down. I blame my kittens, though, because without them digging their claws into me for fun, I wouldn't be awake at 3 AM in the first goddamn place.

Now, do you find it funny that today, a mere 3 days before the two year anniversary of this website's beginning, I have decided to return to the exact place where it began?

I find that sort of funny.

Fun, Bonus Content!
Marc, my ex-boss, and a fantastic guy in his own right, wrote me an email asking about when my depression started. I replied thoughtfully, and then looked back on what I wrote, and in a narcissistic flash, decided to post my reply here, for all you fine folks! Enjoy!
> That's wild! I suspect they'll have actual work for you there, Ben.

Actual... work.  Huh.  It *sounds* familiar, but I can't quite
remember what it feels like.

> When in this great adventure did you start experiencing the severe
> depression? Did the develop since you left LA, after KL folded, or even
> before that?

In my various studies and self-examinations lately, I've been trying
to pinpoint this.  And every time I think I've nailed it, I can look
further into the past to find evidence of it there.  The only
conclusion I can come to as a result is that, while it has certainly
been worse since I got here to Virginia than it had at most times in
the past, it has pretty much *always* been there in one form or

To wit...  I remember writing desperate missives (several of which
ended up online, as in for

To wit...  I have effectively self-medicated through alcohol for
virtually every single night since I was 18.  Most of my adult life
seems a blur, because 1/3 of it was asleep, and close to another 1/3
of it was liquored up.  And it *was* self medication.  Though damaging
and fleeting, it definitely lifted the veil of shame, guilt,
inadequacy, self-loathing, self-doubt, and all of those other
hallmarks of the dysthymic depressive's wonderful experience.

To wit...  I remember times long before even then, when I disappointed
a parent, or was shunned by classmates, which I took as
earthshattering, definitive proof of my core defectiveness, all
through childhood.  I was a reclusive perfectionist at six.  I feared
death at four.  And I was a quiet, shy baby.

So I gotta think I've ha the biological leanings forever, and I also
gotta think that they were reinforced and encouraged (unintentionally
and unwittingly) by my upbringing, and then continually reinforced and
encouraged (as a matter of the course of the disease) as life went on.
 You think you're worthless, so you avoid life, which proves your
worthlessness, so you continue to avoid life, which continues to
prove, etc, etc.

Or, maybe it was when KL folded, who knows?  ;)

Thursday, August 25, 2005
Today, we (that is, I, adhering to my doctor's prescription) doubled the dosage. My fears were that doubling the dose would cause side-effect symptoms similar to those I experienced at the beginning of this journal. Those fears were unfounded, though, as the side-effects I experienced were in fact not similar, but exactly the same as those at the beginning. And I mean, everything. Like, I felt in a thorough daze for the better part of the entire day. At least, those times when I was not rushing with the fervency of a star running back to the bathroom. Jesus.

The day was okay, though, until I got home. Then the waves began -- first as a delicate little lapping at my feet. Then gradually getting more forceful, attempting to knock me over. Then the tsunami hit, and 235,000 of me were killed in its wake, as I lie there at 3 in the morning, staring up at the ceiling, every painful, horrible moment of my life stopping by to say "hi", like old nemeses challenging you to slay them. But of course, who has the energy for that at 3 in the morning?

Oh well. They say it takes two to four weeks to kick in. So, you know, we're just in the git-go stages.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005
God, what a suck-ass morning. Anxiety and doom coursed through my veins from the moment I got up to the moment I finally hung up on the guy interviewing me. Objectively, I would give the interview about a C, C plus, but I'm told to "expect an offer", so I guess that was good enough. Immediately after finishing the phone call, though, I tore ass over to Barnes & Noble and picked up this book, cuz Jesus H. Christ, as bad as depression feels, at least it's a low, throbbing thing, and not the sharp, vibrant terror of anxiety. Fuck, man.

Anyhoo, I came back to my desk, popped a Z, and spent the rest of the afternoon trying to calm down, and also decide what to do in case I do get a good offer. Oh, and taking my weekly BDC test! Speaking of which:

BDC Status, August 24
Today's score is 30, which is an improvement, but still not very good. Essentially, I gave the same answers as last time, except to a lesser degree. Instead of having extremely low self-esteem all the time, I just had moderate low self-esteem some of the time. Also, the hopelessness disappeared, which, at this point, is I think all that matters.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005
This day was remarkably similar to last Monday, when everything was fine, and then two occurrences threw me off the rails. The two occurrences were even the same. One was an impending phone interview with a company in LA. The other I'd just as soon not bring up here, but long-time readers can probably deduce something close to the answer. Regardless, they just served to rekindle all the self-loathing, anxiety, and existential dread that apparently continues to linger just under the surface. It's tiresome and inappropriately flippant to keep saying "the Z ain't kicked in yet", but the truth is that this hole took me many many years, and lots and lots of hard work and effort to dig for myself and climb into. Climbing out will take no less effort. There is no quick fix. There are just horrible experiences, and then fewer horrible experiences, and then fewer still. So, we press on.

The book "Flow" discriminates clearly between "pleasure" and "enjoyment". "Pleasure" are positive experiences brought on by some physiological need. When you're hungry, eating is pleasure. As with horniness and sex. Bitter cold and warmth. Enjoyment by contrast occurs during an activity in which the whole of the self, mind, body, etc, is fully occupied and engaged. Surfing to the surfer. Painting to the painter. Cooking to the chef.

It bears noting that, right now, I continue to be fully reliant on pleasures to provide any positive life experiences.

That "enjoyment" thing, that's something to work on.

Monday, August 22, 2005
See previous entry. I'm SO GODDAMN TIRED. So tired. But my buddy Chris keeps saying I seem happier. I feel a little happier, too. But mainly I'm just too zonked to be depressed. Being depressed takes a LOT of energy and hard work. And I'm afraid I'm just not up to it today.

Moms has gone home now, and so, we say a bittersweet farewell to the demon CH3CH20H, at least until the next time she comes up to visit.

Sunday, August 21, 2005
The Grand Experiment. Mommers was in town today, so I took this as an opportunity to forward the cause of all science and medicine by conducting an experiment. The experiment in question was to behave like The Old Days (defined as, any day before this diary started), and sit around drinking all day. So I did. Here are the results:

Eh. I got just as drunk as before, but it wasn't nearly as fun. I got really tired, and then wired, and then tired again, and now it's the day after, and I'm just so sleepy I can't even barely keep my head from flopping over onto the keybbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbb((9(((((((((((((((

Saturday, August 20, 2005
Well, I had quite the productive morning today! I bought this CD, this DVD, this book, this book, got my library card, purchased several cat toys and a dustpan for cleaning up litter, and enjoyed a delicious lunch of pho. And I couldn't have done it all without the support of you fine people, and of course getting up with nothing to do all goddamn day except spend money. As far as drugs are concerned, the fatigue might be waning just a bit. Maybe. Of course, next week once I double the dosage, I expect to be back to square one, side-effect wise, but them's the breaks. I'm tired of breaking the pills in half anyway. Such a chore. Why does life have to be so hard?

Friday, August 19, 2005
Well, the restroom-related difficulties have resumed, but I know not whether to chalk that up to the drugs, or to the copious amounts -- and I mean like, gallons here -- of grape juice that I've begun consuming. Either way, based on reader feedback, the less said about this, the better. Today I'm once again tired and out of it, and also jittery and tense! Or I was earlier, when I knew I'd have to have a phone interview with a potential job back in LA. I think it's normal to feel a little nervous before an interview. I'm pretty sure it's not normal to feel an all-consuming sense of dread, failure, and self-loathing as the clock ticks ahead toward the fateful moment of doom, when you actually have to place the call and talk to someone. And get judged. And show ignorance and weakness. And be thought a worthless, stupid piece of garbage. It's no wonder it's so difficult, when you foresee all these fabulous outcomes. Based on this, I would assume that the Z has not taken its full effect yet. Anyway, the phone call went fine, but now a followup looms. Tension, anxiety, self-doubt. Here we go 'round the mulberry bush.

Other than that, I feel okay. Like I've said, hard to know whether it's the drugs, or the lack of drinking, or the reading, or the sleepiness. It's probably a little of each of the last three, and none of the first. But what am I, a doctor?

Thursday, August 18, 2005
Yaaaaawwwwwwn. Jesus Christ. See, I think the problem is that although they score the little 50 mg pills right in the middle, to make it easier to break into yummy little 25 mg portions, they never break quite in half? One half's always bigger than the other, like when you order a sandwich from the deli counter at Safeway and they say "do you want it cut in half?" and you say "no thanks", and then they do it anyway? So yesterday I took the biggest half. I dunno if that's the reason for this, but I got into bed at 8:30 PM last night, and didn't get back out until 8:45 AM this morning. So sleepy. So very sleepy. I certainly hope this is like how mushrooms work, where you get really tired and sort of "shut down" while the various scary chemicals go through your body rearranging everything, and then at the end, you are magically reborn, a tripped-out, hallucinating butterfly, breaking free from your chrysalis of dry mouth and lying in bed all goddamn morning.

One thing I did yesterday was buy a new book, and then spend most of the evening reading the first 190 pages of it. I like it, in that it gives nods to the Burns book and cognitive therapy, but also touches on a lot of other subjects, all of which have some merit or other in some case or other. Particularly I liked the characterization of depression as an inability to feel. This seems accurate. I am so shameful and withdrawn from my emotions that I barely remember them anymore. I don't cry at movies. I don't get angry when people screw me over. Everything is a drab, gray pall. So, that was good. And of course, just the act of reading about the illness is helpful in that it allows the suffering reader (me!) to actively distance himself from the ordinary shame and blame which he feels for his condition, and encapsulate it as a real, measurable disease, an affliction brought on by forces largely beyond his control.

Which it is.

BDC Status, August 17
The "Burns Depression Checklist", a 25-question quiz in the book linked to above, is a standardized method of measuring your depression. Each question has five possible answers, worth between 0 and 4 points. A total of 100 means you're the most depressed person on the planet, and have likely killed yourself while reading this sentence. 0 means you are one of those really annoying, totally happy people who everyone hates. "Normal, happy" people score between 0 and 5. "Normal, kinda shaky" people score between 5 and 10. Everyone else is depressed. I'll take this quiz about once a week to see what's going on. I will tell you that I tried it last night, based on how I had been feeling last week, to give us a baseline. I got a score of 54. 54 is on the low side of severe depression, and was the highest (worst) score I'd ever gotten on it. So, we're doing this at the right time, it would seem. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005
The side-effect report is as follows: the restroom-related difficulties have subsided. I can still run through my Ordinary Morning Routine (TM), but feel less compelled to do so. Dry-mouth is subsiding slowly, but is still somewhat apparent. The only effect which remains in full... effect, is the continuing state of fatigue and vague out-of-it-ness which follows me around all day long. Like I'm not quite all there. I've read reports of other people experiencing this, and complaining about it. I call it a bonus. I feel like I just drank a shot of vodka 24 hours a day.

Emotionally, I am feeling something vaguely resembling good today. This concerns me greatly, because I don't know what is causing it. There is always the chance that the drugs themselves are causing it, but this seems highly unlikely, as SSRI antidepressants are famous for taking at least two weeks to start doing anything (if in fact they do anything at all). It could be the aforementioned spaced-out feeling is just doing the job right there. Who wouldn't like to walk around with a mild high all day long? My third hypothesis is that I'm feeding off residual energy created by doing something about my problem, by both taking the drugs, and taking this book, my bible, off the shelf and flipping through it last night for the first time in ages. I do love it so.

This time, I read the sections on drugs, particularly serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Zoloft. I wanted to know how and why it (and its ilk) is so effective in curing depression! And you know what the answer is? Nobody knows! This is somewhat disillusioning, as I pictured a bunch of expert scientists back in a pristine white lab, confidently staring at test tubes and nodding knowingly, fiddling with reactions in the brain as easily as drawing a happy face on a Lite-Brite. But they have no friggin' idea why it works. Peep this: SSRI's block the thing which destroys serotonin neurotransmitters, so a lot more of them end up flooding your nerve receptors. Oh! So the more serotonin you have, the happier you are! Well, but wait... after flooding those receptors with excess serotonin, the number of receptors available decreases, as some are shut down in compensation, resulting in less serotonin activity. So... less makes you happier? But wait again. Some drugs disregard serotonin altogether and hit other neurotransmitters like dopamine and norephinephrine. How do those work? Nobody knows that either. And they all work about the same amount and reliability. So it's a goddamn crapshoot. So who knows. I need a drink.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005
I think one of the other, possibly most-dreaded side effects is now starting to kick in, as I did not... how do I say this... did not follow my ordinary morning routine? Do you see what I'm getting at?

Monday, August 15, 2005
Still feel "out of it" all day long, and a few personal failures throughout the day sent me into my normal emotional tailspin that evening, so I'm fairly sure it hasn't really "kicked in" yet, except for the side effects.

Sunday, August 14, 2005
Cannot shake the tired, semi-conscious feeling, but once again soldier on and pop another 25 at lunch, right before 18 holes of golf with my buddy Don. At the fifth hole, the aforementioned side-effect rears (heh) its ugly head again, and I rush across the teebox to a VERY opportunely placed Port-o-Potty, and befoul it in the most unspeakable manner possible. I enjoy a beer or two after the round, which again sends me into la-la land for the rest of the day. Drinking is no fun on this stuff.

Saturday, August 13, 2005
Still feeling that vague loopy feeling from Friday, along with other standard side effects like dry mouth, I load up again over lunch. The loopiness intensifies, just in time for a cocktail party that evening. This is when a new side effect comes to call, as I rush into the host's apartment, ask to use their restroom, and then blast diarrhea all over the place. Fortunately, I was able to locate an air-freshener deep within the bowels (if you will) of the cabinet underneath the sink. I enjoy a glass of wine at the party, which nearly knocks me flat on the floor, so I leave.

Friday, August 12, 2005
The beginning. I take my first 25 mgs at approximately 5 PM. I sit very still for a few minutes, waiting to be magically cured. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen. By 8 PM, I was experiencing my first side-effect, that being: fatigue and general feelings of disassociation.

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