Dr. Phil vs. The Bad Guest

I have a guilty pleasure.

I love watching Dr. Phil.

Yeah, yeah, I don’t care if the internet is ablaze with articles about what a quack Phillip Calvin McGraw is. There’s just something I like about a guy who will look at someone and not be afraid to say (literally), “What the hell is wrong with you?”. I’m also just fascinated with counseling in general right now, even though some of what Dr. Phil does stretches the definition of the word. He does usually offer his guest some type of assistance by the end of the show, and he does seem to genuinely want to help most of the time, even though many of his programs deal with topics that are clearly chosen because of their ability to get ratings rather than providing any type of useful service to the viewer.

When I was sick near the beginning of this year, I gorged on Dr. Phil for nearly a week. You’d be surprised at how dr philmany weird hours of the day and night you can watch the program. It’s like television crack for me. I just eat it up, from the guests who are totally clueless about how messed up they are to the damaged human beings finding hope again to the way Dr. Phil’s eyes look like they’re going to pop right out of his head sometimes. There’s not much I don’t like about Dr. Phil.

Of course, I said not much, which means, yes, there is something.

I was watching the show yesterday, and suddenly a very distinct pattern struck me. Anytime there are guests with opposing viewpoints of a situation, one of them always winds up being the bad guy (or girl). For instance, yesterday’s program featured an incredibly disturbed teenage girl and her parents. The girl would throw screaming, jumping tantrums at home. She was borderline suicidal. Her brother could not stand to be around her. She looked like an out of control child.

As the program unfolded, however, it was revealed that the girl’s parents were possibly even crazier (Pardon the term, but I couldn’t think of a better word.) than she was. They fought incessantly, sometimes abusing each other physically. They screamed and cursed at her. They had attempted to divorce three different times, but were for some reason, inexplicably almost, still under the same roof with each other. It also turned out that the girl actually functioned quite well everywhere else, except around her own family. Dr. Phil’s deduction was that the girl was an unfortunate victim of her surroundings, that her parents needed to get as far away from each other as possible, and that her only hope was to get as far away from these people as possible.

I can’t say I necessarily thought Dr. Phil was wrong with any of his advice, but he may have blurred some lines with his techniques. He actually hugged the girl (whose face was never shown) at one point, which I would think is sort of a no-no for a psychiatrist or counselor to do during a session. More than that, though, he clearly went after the parents. Now, don’t get me wrong; these people were messed up. It was sort of unsettling, though, to hear the audience applauding every time Dr. Phil pointed out how they were screwing up their daughter. I can’t say I liked them, but I don’t know that they needed to be humiliated like that.

This is where my chief problem with Dr. Phil lies: Most of the programs I’ve seen draw a very distinct line between who is right and who is wrong. The older I get, though, the more I’m beginning to realize it’s very rarely that cut and dried. Even in this case, I’m not sure Dr. Phil should have been hugging a girl who was jumping up and down and screaming at her parents when she didn’t get her way. I’m all for finding the root of a problem, but I do not believe there is always a villain in every story. Sometimes “the antagonists” lose their way, too. Should they be marched out in front of a national television audience to be ridiculed?

Of course, even after saying all this, I’ll probably still be glued to the next episode of Dr. Phil I manage to catch. I will probably still cringe, though, every time the audience applauds and someone shifts uncomfortably in their seat because of it. Yes, sometimes people do bad things. I hope more of them will choose a private counseling setting for those to be brought to light, however, rather than facing the proverbial firing squad for all to see.

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How Can You Tell?

“No, crazy people don’t know they’re going crazy. They think they’re getting saner.” – John Locke, “Lost”

I used to be very reluctant to mention to anyone that I take an antidepressant. Despite the countless number of people who liken taking an antidepressant to any other type of medication, it still seems different to me. I suppose I still have difficulty grasping the concept of depression as an “illness.” If my heart begins to fail, I don’t have much control over that. It seems like I should be able to get a handle on my thoughts, though, and because I tend to imagine people thinking the worst of me anyway, I guess I believe others would frown upon my need for medical help in this area.

You may have noticed I keep using the word “antidepressant.” This is because “antidepressant” feels more reassuring to me than “mind-altering drug.” See, an antidepressant is a calm, reassuring thing that will help me stabilize my mood and live a happier and more productive life. A mind-altering drug actually has the potential to alter my state of being, in potentially positive or negative ways. Finding the right drug for you can be a godsend; picking the wrong one can result in a nightmare.

antidepressantsAfter meeting with my doctor yesterday, we decided to tweak my medication again. Choosing an antidepressant often feels like such a random process to me. If you have the flu, you take Penicillin or an antibiotic; if you’re depressed, well, we’re just going to keep trying stuff until if works. Nevertheless, I often feel a certain twinge of excitement when I receive a new prescription. I suppose this comes from the hope that this one will be The One that makes everything better. Of course, this is accompanied by the apprehension that this one might not be The One after all…

I’ve become very adept at approaching these switches in a level-headed manner. “If I notice any strange side effects or abnormal thinking,” I say to myself, “then I will contact my doctor and make a change.” This is my antidepressant line of thinking coming into play. This is medicine, just like any other medicine. The wild card in all this, though, is the mind-altering drug factor. Here, the question become this: If I’m going crazy, how will I actually know it?

Think about it for a second: Do the majority of people who are insane actually know they are? A small percentage of them might, but part of what makes insanity what it is consists of a person believing a totally irrational line of thought makes perfect sense. Therefore, if a person’s mind becomes altered to the point they begin to abandon rational thought, how would they even know it? And if they don’t even know it, how would they know what to change that might make them better?

At the moment, I believe these worries just constitute paranoia on my part. I think if I really were going crazy, someone would have told me by now. And I’m sure I am oversimplifying the whole “other illnesses are so much easier to medicate” angle. Sometimes people have to run through multiple options of drugs before they find one that works for whatever they’re afflicted with. In the end, this will probably be a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Just in case, though, I’d like you all to make me a promise. If I start acting weird, let me know. Okay? Well, I mean, weirder than normal. I know you already have plenty of ammunition there. 🙂

Tuneful Tuesday: Where Were They Going Anyway?

“But where were they going without ever knowing the way…?”

One-hit wonders are a curious thing to me. What is it about that one particular song that made it a hit, while everything else they tried to do was largely ignored? Maybe it was just a particular moment in time when the stars aligned perfectly and public taste met in a divine encounter with one uniquely written and produced piece of music to create a piece of melodic history that would never be replicated again.

Or maybe it was just dumb luck.

Whatever the case may be, the musical landscape is littered with one-hit wonders who enjoyed their 15 minutes of Deep_Blue_Something_-_Homefame and then vanished from sight. To be honest, a lot of them deserved better. Many of them had songs that were just as good or better than the ones they became known for. For example, when a friend of mine played Deep Blue Something’s Home for me, I thought there were several tracks just as strong as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Of course, Deep Blue Something then went on to have another hit with … um … yeah, that…

The thing many one-hit wonders’, um, one hit (er, hits) is that it is played so many times on the radio and on television and in department stores and anywhere else music can be piped into, we all eventually become sick of it (um, them). The songs just become inescapable, and we all wind up just wanting them to go away. Of course, then we hear them several years later and think to ourselves, “Huh. I wonder what ever happened to those guys…?”.

It was nearly impossible to go anywhere in 1998, for example, with hearing Fastball’s “The Way.” In reality, it’s a very catchy song with very interesting lyrics (More on that later…), but after a while I stopped even caring what it was about. I didn’t care where those people were going or whether they knew how to get there or not. I was greatly relieved when the follow-up single “Fire Escape” was released, but I couldn’t tell you today how that song went at all. I sure do remember “The Way,” though.

Even though “The Way” seemed to be emanating from every possible speaker it could that year, I don’t know if many people knew (or even know now) where the idea for the song came from. Vocalist and bass player Tony Scalzo got the idea for the song after reading several articles about Lela and Raymond Howard of Salado, Texas. Unfortunately, the Howards’ story is not a happy one. Despite Lela suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and Raymond recovering from brain surgery, the elderly couple decided in June 1997 to leave home and set out for the Pioneer Day festival in nearby Temple, Texas.

They never arrived. Their lifeless bodies were found two weeks later at the bottom of a ravine in Hot Springs, Arkansas. They were nowhere near Temple, Texas, or the Pioneer Day festival.

Scalzo, however, decided to take the concept of a couple just dropping everything, no matter the circumstances, and taking off and romanticized it a bit. The couple in the song is apparently a bit older, although that’s never addressed specifically. They don’t tell their children where they’re going. In fact, they don’t even know where they’re going themselves, and, as the chorus succinctly puts it, “they really don’t care.” Wherever they wind up, “they’re happier there today.”

Why did “The Way” become so popular for Fastball? I don’t know if anyone will ever really know for sure, but here’s my theory: Everyone, at some point in their lives, has wanted to just to drop everything and take off. No responsibilities, no one to answer to, no worrying about how expensive everything is going to be or who is going to take of care of things at home. As irresponsible and dangerous as the couple in the song’s trip may seem, they are obviously quite happy in what they are doing. That kind of freedom seems elusive to so many of us. We would like to run away, too, but we just can’t.

gumpEven though I’m way too much of a flat-foot to ever find running enjoyable, I always thought it would be kind of cool to pull a Forrest Gump and just take off one day. No destination. Just see how far I can get. Yeah, it probably wouldn’t be the brightest decision I ever made. Sure might be fun, though.

The Dark Side

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

– Martin Niemöller

Even before I worked as a newspaper report several years ago, I had a real dislike of people who did not at least make an attempt to follow the news. The most common excuse I heard for this was “The news is so depressing.” There’s really no arguing with that statement; the news is depressing. Countries are at war with one another, people are shooting each other, companies are scamming their customers, politicians are caught stealing and lying… Yeah, watching the nightly news is not usually a yuckfest.

Just for a moment, though, stop and think about all the “real” things that happen in life every day. Think about the events in your own life that have had a profound impact on you. Maybe someone close to you passed away. Maybe you were involved in an accident of some sort. Maybe you were abused verbally or physically by someone. Maybe someone dealt dishonestly with you.

Sounds like some pretty depressing stuff to me.

There is a great emphasis being placed these days on “positivity” and “encouragement.” There’s nothing particularly yinyangwrong with that. This week, I’m supposed to be keeping a self-esteem journal, recording positive things that happen to me each day. This is in an effort to keep my mind off of the negative aspects of myself and my daily experiences. Avoiding negativity and depressing subject matter is often a wise course of action, most definitely.

The sum experience of “real” life, however, is not always positive or encouraging. People lose their jobs. Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and typhoons lay waste to entire cities. Children are sold into modern-day slavery. Dictators carry out atrocities on their own people. And money… Good Lord, we never seem to have enough money, do we?

Why we should watch the news, though, is not so we can drown ourselves in the miseries of the world. We should watch the news because the news is part of the world we live in, and, occasionally, as with the Nazi Germany Martin Niemöller described in the opening quote of this post, that world comes knocking our front doors. For instance, the local city council may be talking about raising your taxes, but if you don’t know that, you’re not going to show up at their next meeting to oppose it. On a larger scale, if you oppose abortion, for instance, and legislation is proposed to make the procedure easier to have performed, you won’t be able to write or call your elected representatives to voice your opinion on the matter.

I am the world’s worst about listening to depressing music, reading depressing literature, and watching depressing movies and television shows which just feed into my melancholy, but I don’t put watching or reading the news into the same category as those things. Listening to talk radio, yes, but not watching or reading the news. I suppose I subscribe to the philosophy of the yin and the yang when it comes to this; there’s a little darkness in the light and a little light in the darkness. That’s life … and that’s the news.

I Want To Stop, I Want To Go

Being institutionalized for a depressive episode is never a laughing matter. Nevertheless, I have a go-to half-joke I always whip out whenever the topic comes up.

“You know, sometimes I wish I could be institutionalized, just so I could STOP for a while.”

No one ever really laughs.

Truth be told, sometimes my life seems like a succession of stopping and going. I’m bored and don’t have anything to do, so I look for projects to fill up my time. I fill up my time with projects, and I’m suddenly stressed out and looking to drop them because I’m overloaded. I drop them, and then I get bored again. It is a never-ending cycle.

This type of paradoxical behavior has left me very confused as to whether or not I am a lazy person. Am I forced-relaxationunmotivated? Is that why I never seem to get much done? Or am I actually getting quite a bit done? Am I pushing myself too hard sometimes? Do I actually have too many irons in the fire at once? Or am I afraid to get involved with things I think I’ll fail at?

Who am I anyway?

I believe a common misperception about depressed people is that they aren’t particularly productive because they can’t muster up enough energy to do anything. While I have occasionally found this to be true, it is certainly not always the case. Many times, the problem is we are actually trying to do too much. Tell me if you’ve ever had this experience: After a week of general lethargy, you suddenly awaken on a Saturday morning with the resolve to complete every single task you have … that same day. Obviously, the day is not long enough for such tasks, plus you’re so amped up that you can’t decide where to begin. At the end of the day, all you have is a bunch of quarter- to half-completed projects lying around.

This may seem extremely disorganized, but you have to remember that, by definition, depression indicates an unorganized mind. There are so many other factors at play, though. For instance, I have a tendency to believe everyone is more organized than I am. As a result, I try to put up a front that I am very organized as well, even though I am not. Sometimes when I say I want to “stop,” it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with any kind of physical activity or work; it means I want to be able to stop being fake about who I am. I am the not the person I am projecting myself to be, mainly because I think no one will like that person.

Depressed people procrastinate, take on too much, take on too little, overachieve, underachieve. We’re basically all over the map, and that is a real problem for us. We feel bound up by expectations so much, and most of the time they are expectations we’ve placed upon ourselves. Imagine the conflict of waking up with a “go-getter” attitude, while also being thoroughly convinced you’re going to fail. How are you supposed to reconcile all that?

I have difficulty just watching television. I always have to be doing something else, too. It may seem as if I just want the opportunity to sit down and watch the boob tube. In reality, though, what I really want is to be able to feel like I can sit down. Maybe that’s why a little forced relaxation doesn’t sound so bad to me sometimes. At least that way, the choice is already made for me.

Doin’ It

Followers of this blog may have noticed that I didn’t post a “Tuneful Tuesdays” entry yesterday. For those who don’t follow this blog, “Tuneful Tuesdays” is when I pick out a song that has either helped me through a difficult time in my depression or one that accurately describes some of the feelings that come from having it. My musical tastes have always been very eclectic, and it’s fun to be able to be able to sit down and over-analyze the crap out of the music I enjoy listening to so much.

I didn’t have time to write anything yesterday, though, because I went out last night and did something I haven’t done in a very long time: I played my bass and jammed with a couple of other guys.

Well, actually, there wasn’t that much jamming. It was more like noodling and sitting around talking about songs we liked or wanted to learn together. We didn’t really accomplish very much, and I wound up staying up so late that I took a nap this afternoon, which I hardly ever do anymore because afternoon naps have a tendency to make it hard for me to fall asleep at night.

You know what, though? Who cares? I had fun.

Here’s a brief history of my relationship with the bass guitar. Around my senior year of high school, I decided I eddie-van-halenwanted to learn how to play the guitar. I was a huge fan of Eddie Van Halen at the time, so that was the kind of guitar player I wanted to be. I am not being pessimistic or short-changing myself at all when I say, however, it became almost immediately evident that I was not going to be that kind of guitar player. My hands are not that big, and my fingers don’t move that fast. I was getting the hang of chords and chord progressions, but I couldn’t solo worth anything.

So I decided to do what any struggling guitar player would do: I decided to pick up the bass.

I know that last statement might seem counterintuitive to what I said in the paragraph before. I mean, playing bass is sort of like soloing all the time, and your hands have to be fairly strong to be good at. For some reason, though, me and the bass guitar just clicked. I had a feel for it I couldn’t explain, and I progressed fairly rapidly on it. Probably more than anything, though, people actually told me I was good at it, so even though the guitar still remains my instrument of choice for writing and leading songs with, the bass is the instrument that truly feels like home to me.

vic&manThe only problem with being a bass player, though, is that unless you are a truly unique talent like a Michael Manring or a Victor Wooten, playing it by yourself is really not that much fun. It’s good for practice, but there’s no live drummer to lock in with rhythmically and no guitar player to provide support for. Maybe that’s why I like the bass so much: You can attract attention, but you don’t have to be the center of what’s going on. I’ve always felt more comfortable in a support role anyway.

So I sat in a chair in a friend’s garage last night and noodled away for probably a couple of hours, surprising myself at how well I was able to play for a guy who had only picked up the instrument sporadically the past few years. I felt all that love for making music and being the backbone of what was going on return, even though I don’t think we ever finished a song the entire night. It was a feeling I hadn’t experienced in a long time, and I liked it.

We have plans to start getting together regularly, but you know how life goes. It may be another couple of years before I find myself in that situation again. For one night, though, I wasn’t sitting at a computer writing about music; I was doing it.

God And Suicide

“The man who kills a man kills a man
The man who kills himself kills all men.
As far as he is concerned, he wipes out the world.” – G. K. Chesterton

I am not Catholic, but I formed a very firm belief growing up: If a Christian (or anyone else, for that matter) commits suicide, they will go to Hell. That was just the rule; God didn’t like suicide, so if you took your own life, you were going to spend your eternity in endless torment. Period. End of story.

Today, I’m not so sure anymore.

———-

I’m not sure if this is due to my depression or personality or selfishness or just outright sinful nature, but my relationship with God always seems to be in a state of perpetual flux. I grew up largely afraid of Him, knowing that if I didn’t “get saved,” I would be doomed to eternal damnation. Despite singing “Jesus Loves Me” a billion times or attending every vacation Bible school in the county every year or seeing those painted pictures of the meek and mild Jesus, I was convinced God was not someone I wanted to cross. I suppose I was right, in a way. The fear of the Lord, after all, is the beginning of wisdom.

From there I moved on to firmly believing God was real and that Jesus was His one and only son. Once I realized what Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross of Calvary meant for me, I developed a sincere appreciation for what he had done. That appreciation gradually morphed into a genuine affection, which was then assaulted by years of well-meaning Christians manipulating, bullying, and using me. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. I came to believe God didn’t really like me very much and merely tolerated my existence because He had to. It was a miserable place to be.

In recent years, I’ve come to understand grace better. I don’t constantly worry about my every sin sending me to hell anymore. I don’t think God hates me anymore. I’m even developing something of a compassion for those struggling with sin, which my early version of faith simply had no tolerance for. At the same time, though, Christianity sometimes feels more like a set of rules I am destined to never keep fully, even though that is the point of grace in the first place: We will never be good enough on our own. That is why Christ’s sacrifice was required. Still, the notion of constantly failing sometimes weighs on me. I mean, can’t I get it right just once…?

———-

Still, despite some of my struggles and misgivings about my faith, the notion of a graceful Father and Son has taken hold of me as of late. I’m beginning to believe His grace extends far beyond where I initially thought it did. Sometimes I think I might be becoming a little too comfortable with the concept of grace. I mean, this is still a God who does not let everyone into Heaven, no matter how good they’ve been. He demands allegiance, but He asks for it in love. It is a strange combination, and it is not one I claim to understand fully.

Circling back to the topic of suicide, one of the more common arguments I hear for those who commit it going to Hell is that it breaks the sixth of the Ten Commandments – Thou shalt not murder. The logic here is that if someone kills themself, they have in effect committed murder against their own person. Therefore, instead of saying “He killed himself,” you could say “He murdered himself.”

This argument doesn’t really hold water, though. If breaking the sixth commandment will cast you into Hell, what about the ones about lying or stealing? People covet stuff all the time. Is that an automatic ticket to Hades? Apparently not, as many people who covet things are still recognized as being Christians. In fact, murderers were put to great uses in the Bible, most notably in the case of Saul/Paul.

I suppose, then, that perhaps it is the person killing themselves’ relationship with Christ that is the key part of this equation. Unfortunately, this is nearly impossible to know. Attempting to figure out if someone is “truly” a believer is like trying to figure out what a dog is thinking at any particular moment of the day. You may have an idea, but you really don’t know. Only that person and God know. Someone might say the evidence here is in the fruit, where a person chose to check out rather than have faith in things getting better. Suicide is the ultimate lack of faith, they might say.

I think they’re wrong.

———

Here is where my problem with the “Everyone who commits suicide goes to Hell” theory lies: I’m not so sure a loving God, who is compassionate and kind and just, would look upon a person who has been abused or molested or is chemically imbalanced or has never been able to grasp happiness of any kind in this world and condemn them to the pits of Hell forever if they reached a moment where they just couldn’t take it anymore and decided to end their own life.

Don’t get me wrong. I certainly don’t think God smiles upon the practice of suicide. In fact, in every instance in the Bible I can think of where one of his representatives in this world wanted their life to end, He very directly provides them a reason to keep on living. I believe He does have a purpose beyond the pain, and I believe He desperately wants everyone to embrace life and not throw in the towel. To ever call God an advocate of taking one’s own life would be madness.

As we all know, though, God’s intentions and our actions do not always coincide with each other. Even though He wants His children to succeed, they fail. In fact, they fail spectacularly sometimes. This must grieve Him, as it would any father. If one of my children were ever to commit suicide, though, would I stop loving them? Would I hope for their punishment because of what they did?

What kind of father would I be?

———-

In the end, even after all of my rambling, there is no definitive answer to the question I have posed here. None of us can be completely sure of where the soul of someone who commits suicide finds its final resting place. Whereas the Quran very specifically forbids suicide, the Bible is strangely vague about the subject. In fact, the Bible is vague on a great many things, as if God wanted us to figure things out on our own rather than be mindless robots in His service.

Perhaps vagueness is the point on an issue such as this, though. Perhaps the hint of doubt, uncertainty, and fear of what might happen if we went through with the act was purposefully left there by God to keep us from going all the way. I mean, what is scarier than Hell? We have to know that whatever torment we are facing here would be magnified a hundredfold in Hell. The lake of fire becomes a safety valve in this instance. What’s going on now may be bad, but it couldn’t be as bad as that.

For the moment, I am choosing to believe that the person who succumbs to the temptation of suicide does not automatically go to Hell. The more I come to know people who have wrestled with the concept of it and have been touched by it themselves, the more I realize life is harder for some than for others. Some constitutions are sterner, some shoulders broader, some wills more unbreakable. God bless the strong people. The weak people need you. I need you.

———-

The great Christian apologist C. S. Lewis has inspired me more times than I can count over the course of my life. This man observed intense grief and wrote about it eloquently in his book “A Grief Observed.” I’d like to conclude with a quote from that work:

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”

 

The “S” (And “P”) Word(s)

Why do so many men commit suicide?

This is a question that, at this particular time of my life, I do not know if I am adequately equipped to tackle. I can attest to the issues that have made me despair of life at various times, but how could I possibly know what would be the one thing that would push someone else over the edge? In reality, it’s never just one thing anyway. It comes from a progression, a road of problems and stresses and failures and disappointments and chemical imbalances and poor upbringings and virtually ever other form of strife and devil under the sun. To dwell on the question too much, in my opinion, could drive someone mad.

Fortunately, there are those researchers and psychologists in the world who do care enough to wade into this subject
01_Hero1 Male Suicide_(C) Damien Tran with both feet. Writer Will Storr talked to some of these very people in an article for the website mosiacscience.com, titled “The Male Suicides: How Social Perfection Kills.” The article focuses on research from the UK, but the theories it puts forth are universal to men everywhere.

As the title of the article suggests, a term called “social perfectionism” is believed by some to be a driving force in why many men choose to take their own lives. In a nutshell, social perfectionism is basing the majority of your self-worth and value on meeting the expectations of others. To phrase it a different way, it has not so much to do with what you expect of yourself, but rather what you feel others expect from you. When you perceive that you’ve failed, it doesn’t bother you so much that failed yourself as much as it bothers you that you didn’t meet an ideal you based off other’s perceptions.

Reading this article was revelatory for me, mainly for two reasons. One is that I had never heard the term “social perfectionism” used before. The second reason is that this particular feeling/affliction/disorder/whatever it is has been a constant companion of mine for as long as I can remember. To summarize, I have spent most of my life trying to live up to what I felt like were the standards for being a “good” man. Nothing wrong with this on the surface, but if life teaches you one thing, it is this: You will fail, and you will fall short. This is where the “perfectionism” portion of the phrase works at its cruelest. There is little margin for error, error that is sure to occur.

Do I have expectations for myself? Certainly, but most of them have been developed through my setting up an ideal based on another person or of a commonly held perception of how things should be. Sadly, this is where many men reside. We never figured out who we were, so we built personalities and goals around archetypes. When those personas we have constructed begin to crack and fade, we feel obliterated. With no standard left, many men decide that there is nothing left to them, so they treat themselves in like fashion – as nothing.

I am not a psychologist or a researcher, but I do know this: Social perfectionism is a real thing. And it is a killer. It may not always claim a physical life, but it leaves a trail of personal devastation in its wake. Honestly, I do not know if this is something psychologists are dealing with now or not, as an entity unto itself, but it is certainly a legitimate concern. This is usually where I would attempt to end a post with some witty phrase or words of wisdom. In this case, I have none. I can only say that I know men are dying. And I understand why.

A Preview Of Tomorrow

It’s 10:11 p.m., and I am sitting here in front of the computer debating whether or not to begin writing a lengthy post about something I read in an article today. This article contained a phrase and a concept I had never heard before, and I’ve been formulating what I wanted to write on the subject all day long.

But it’s 10:22 p.m. now. And I’m sleepy.preview

Everything I keep reading on the subject of depression stresses the importance of sleep, so I think for once I’m going to heed the advice of the experts.

Good night, all. I’ll be back tomorrow…

Tuneful Tuesday: Paint It … Eels!

I was going there today. I was going to talk about the Mother of All Depression Songs. The one that everyone recognizes from just the first few notes. The one that makes you want to paint the world a certain color…

I was going to write about the Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black.”

“No colors anymore/I want them to turn black.” This is perfect! I did read today that Mick Jagger said the song’s lyrics are about a girl’s funeral, but who cares? A post about this song practically writes itself. I just gotta plug it in and hit cruise control…

And then the Eels had to show up.

This morning, through a process I don’t quite remember, I wound up on a blog titled “Diary of a Social Phobic.” I learned from the “About” section that it is written by a Scottish woman named Gemma. Gemma is in her early 20s and suffers from social anxiety disorder and depression (You can visit her blog here.) I’ve never actually corresponded with Gemma, but she seems like a nice enough person. She had written one post dedicated entirely to songs about social anxiety (or, at least, songs she related to the experience of having social anxiety).

I had not heard of several of the songs on Gemma’s list, but I decided I would look them up on the internet. One title that particularly caught my eye was a song by the Eels (or “eels” or “EELS,” depending on where you see their name). I don’t believe I had ever heard an Eels’ song before today, but I decided to look up the one Gemma had listed – “Things the Grandchildren Should Know.”

And it knocked me flat.

Now, I’m not going to claim this is the best song you’ll ever hear. The music is pretty repetitious, and the singing leaves a little bit to be desired. Sometimes the words don’t exactly flow very well together either. What the song is saying, though, is incredible. Here are just a few lines…

I don’t leave the house much
I don’t like being around people
Makes me nervous and weird

I’m turning out just like my father
Though I swore I never would
Now I can say that I have a love for him
I never really understood

I do some stupid things
But my heart’s in the right place
And this I know

This song could very well be about me. I identified with so much of it. And it even ends on an optimistic note: So in the end I’d like to say/I’m a very thankful man. I may not be able to say that in full confidence right now, but I would definitely like to one day.

So check it out. And, thanks, Gemma.