depression

#934: What Now?

RECORD STORE TALES #934:  What Now?

I sound like a broken record at the end of every summer.  It’s tough to keep the spirits up at this time of year.  It’s likely I’ve taken my last swim of 2021.  Next time we get to the lake, the sun will be down by the time we arrive.  And then will come the day it is covered with snow, and empty for the winter slumber.

Music helps – music always, always helps.  So does writing.  But it is an annual challenge.

When I was a kid, the end of August would signal the start of the “sad times”.  The back-to-school ads.   Reminders that I was going to have to spend another year with a bunch of bullies again.  Then the colder weather started to roll in.  Our family would take two weeks of vacation in August but back then, they were two cold, rainy weeks. (Not like today.)  You had to start dressing in long pants and sweat shirts.

Shopping for notebooks and new school clothes.  Realizing that a few weeks of warm freedom were about to be replaced by 10 months of misery.  I hated Labour Day weekend.  Back to the “hell hole” as my sister would say.  These feelings stick with me today.  I can’t flip the calendar from August to September without them.

Even though I’m not in school anymore, the heavy heart returns.  I now know that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder and it’s something I need to fight every fall.

Last year was a success!  I avoided the seasonal depression.  I spent my summer making lots of videos, to take me back there in my mind when I needed it.  I also had the show, the LeBrain Train, to look forward to every weekend.  This year is different.  The videos and photos don’t have the same impact two years in a row, and since May the LeBrain Train has become more of a burden than a joy.  I need something new to keep my spirits up this winter, and I don’t yet know what that is.  It is true that we have a long September ahead, warm but shorter days.  I hope this mitigating factor helps.  I think what I really need is some new creative spark to keep me looking forward.  Last year it was the LeBrain Train but the burnout factor has ensured that I need something fresh that I can look forward to from September to May.

What used to cheer me up at this time of year?

As a kid I used to be excited for a new season of the Pepsi Power Hour which hasn’t existed in 30 years.  I don’t watch a lot of TV these days, but fortunately Marvel has constant content forthcoming on Disney+.  We have a new Iron Maiden album to look forward to, but the idea of new music from my favourite bands doesn’t have the same excitement factor as when I was 15 years old.  Yes I’m happy there is a new Iron Maiden coming, but compared to the sheer expectation of Seventh Son coming out in ’88?  No chills.

It feels like…work?  Like I haven’t finished digesting The Book of Souls and here comes another one.  I can’t remember how half that album goes, and now we have a new one to get to know.  It’s not like in the old days when I felt literally starved of Iron Maiden because I’d played all their albums over and over and over.  Now, there are so many that you don’t necessarily even play them all in a year.

Back then, getting a new Iron Maiden album felt just as amazing as a new Star Wars or Marvel movie today.  Something you have been anticipating for a while.  Music videos were like movie trailers.  We’d watch repeatedly, we’d pause, and we’d slo-mo trying to glimpse details.  Costumes, instruments, stage sets, all of it.

When I was working at the Record Store, I still didn’t know that this seasonal depression thing was real and not just me.  It often came and went in spurts.  I used to call them a “big blue funk”.  2003 was a very “funky” year for me.  I’d been dumped (twice) by my Radio Station Girl, and even with a new Iron Maiden in my back pocket (Dance of Death, and also a new Deep Purple called Bananas) I still felt like I needed to do something to help me get through the winter.  And there was something I used to do to pick myself up back then, especially if I had my heart broke.  Yes, broken hearts are for assholes, but I chose to get new holes.  On September 3, I went to Stigmata in Guelph and got my nose pierced.

It was my third visit to the tattoo studio that year.  After Radio Station Girl dumped me, I got my lip pierced at Stigmata.  A couple months later I got my tragus pierced — that piece of cartilage at the opening of your ear.  A friend of mine named Lois Sarah had just started piercing there and if I remember the details correctly, I was a guinea pig.  It’s fun to go back and read my notes!

Lois asked if I was ready. I said yes, and she asked me to take a deep breath and exhale….

I said, “Wow, I didn’t feel a thing.”

Lois said, “That’s because it’s not through yet.”

I felt the needle go through at least 3 distinct layers of cartilage. Each one hurt more than the last. On the last layer, I said, “FUCK” and both my legs shot out. 

Lois did a great job and it’s the one piercing that I do still have.

But September 3 2003 was just my nose, nothing too painful.  It was Labour Day weekend once more, and I decided to go for it.  Normally I went to get a piercing with a “wingman” but this was my first time going alone.  I distinctly remember wearing my Iron Bitchface T-shirt.  An uber-cool looking guy with a massive afro shot me an approving glance, so I felt good from the get-go.

I was led to the back room, but not before washing up my hands with disinfectant gel. I sat down in the Very Big Chair, as I liked to call it, and Lois prepared the goods. She marked my nostril with a dot and got the position right where I wanted it. Then she applied some iodine to the area, both inside and out. She tested out the position of the receiving tube, and finally asked me to take a deep breath.  As I exhaled, the needle went in no problem. Almost no pain at all. I’ve been pinched harder.  (By your mom.)

The rest of the year still sucked, nose ring or not.  It was the year of working with the Dandy, a manchild that drove me slowly mad as he sucked up to the big-wigs.  Work was miserable and not getting any better.  But at least I was proactive, and did something that I thought would help.  Something that helped in the past.

I’ve been there and done that with piercings, and though I like the look of them, I don’t enjoy the upkeep.  I prefer to spend my money on something more permanent, like a tattoo.  That’s something to consider, but I think I need to look elsewhere for a bright spot this winter.  Maybe I will find my joy in the live show once again, but I can’t count on it.  Truth be told, I haven’t been feeling it as much since May.  I remember telling Deke that I was struggling and he suggested back then that I take a break.  But I didn’t feel like I could take that break until the end of the summer.  And here we are.

So now I search for some new slant on my creative outlet to revitalize me.  Something to look forward to regularly.  I was very lucky during the winter of 2020-2021.  I hope I can pull it off again!

 

#843: Summer Depression

After three days in paradise, returning to the stink of the city and the daily grind is depressing. It is a hard feeling to shake.

What makes it harder this year is the uncertainty. Because of Covid-19 there are no guarantees when we’ll be able to go back.

For three days, Covid was so far from our minds. No masks required when you’re isolated by yourselves in the woods. The only time I remembered Covid, it was too late. A neighbour was having car trouble and needed a lift to where he left his car on the highway. Without hesitation I told him to jump in and I drove him to his vehicle. Only on the way back did I remember Covid, and that we were not wearing masks in the car.

When I’m there in paradise, I’m up at the crack of dawn with a coffee in my hand, listening to the symphony of the forest.

When I’m back home, I can’t get up without hitting the snooze button a few times. The roar of traffic can be heard from the highway.

I hope you all are making the best of this summer as possible.

#819: Early to Rise

GETTING MORE TALE #819: Early to Rise

I’ve been an early riser since my youngest memories.  It probably has to do with an anxiety disorder that was undiagnosed until my 40s.  It happened mostly on weekends.  I’d be so excited for the weekend to begin, that I would be up at 5 or 6 AM.

My earliest memory of waking up early was Boxing Day, the year I received my Lego 371 seaplane.  The set came out in 1977, and that could have been the Christmas I received it.  It was a fantastic set with plenty of slopes, opening doors and two figures.  I got up at 2 AM to take it apart and put it back together again.  I woke up my dad who came down to see what all the noise was.  He wasn’t happy!

My parents didn’t have much choice.  They had to get used to it because I kept waking up early.  Quite often, I suddenly woke up after a cool dream of making something interesting out of Lego.  I would run downstairs and try to make it in real life.  Sometimes I would try to draw pictures of things I dreamed.  Other mornings I was just excited that it was Saturday, or Sunday, with no school.

There was usually not much to do on those early mornings.   In the 70s and 80s, television stations went dark overnight, usually starting the broadcasting day at 6 AM.  Nothing on TV but test patterns or static.  If you waited long enough, eventually the national anthem would begin, to start the broadcast day.  Then came the religious programming.  You had to sit through an hour of TV preachers to get to the cartoons.  I was well familiar with Jimmy Swaggart and many more whose names times has forgotten.

On one occasion, I woke my parents up in glee.

“Mom!  Dad!  Did you know there was a THIRD testament of the Bible?  I wonder when we’re going to learn about that one in school!”

Never, that’s when!  Nobody told me the difference between a Catholic and a Mormon.

Another morning I raced upstairs to tell them more good news I saw on TV.  One of the religious shows was discussing the creation of the solar system, which I sketched out.  But the big part was that Jesus was coming back in the year 2000.  That’s what the show said, and I couldn’t wait to tell my parents.  I was so excited that I actually took notes.

The most irritating of the morning TV preachers was Henry Feyerabend, a Seventh Day Adventist.  He had this condescending smile.  Feyerabend was probably the one who got me all excited about Jesus coming back.  I really grew to hate his face after awhile.  He’d talk about things such creationism, and sing hymns with these other dudes.  I was into science at a young age so the creationism always bugged me.  But there was nothing else on TV.  Not until Bugs Bunny at 7:00.

My early morning TV adventures were not all uplifting ones.  I woke up really early one Saturday, and a channel was in the middle of late horror movie night.  I don’t know the name of the film that I saw, and I’ve never been able to find out.  All I can remember is that there was a mad scientist or doctor of some kind.  He had little voodoo robots that looked like people.  In one scene, one of the little voodoo dolls stabbed and killed a woman with a pair of scissors.

I didn’t even know you could stab a person with scissors.  I wasn’t getting any more sleep that night!  But it would be amazing to find out what the name of the movie was, and see it again.  See how closely it matches my memories.

The last straw for my dad was Christmas Day 1984.  It was the year I got my GI Joe Killer W.H.A.L.E. hovercraft.  One of the best toys in the entire line, incidentally.  I couldn’t sleep.  I went to bed, tossed and turned, and waited.  The adults were all downstairs laughing and drinking.  I waited for that to die down.  Then I could hear the shuffling about as presents were laid around the tree for us.  The parents went to bed, and I decided I had waited long enough.  Sleep was cancelled.  Assembling of the GI Joe hovercraft commenced henceforth.  Once again, my dad trudged down the stairs to see what the noise was.  There I was, ankle deep in GI Joe parts and stickers, so happy to have my hovercraft.

Nobody else was happy, but that hovercraft was the centerpiece of my GI Joe forces for years to come.  It was and is totally badass.


Time went on, I grew up, but early morning rising never really ended.  There were a couple semesters in University when I only had afternoon classes, and my sleep patterns shifted to later in the day, which was really weird for me.  By and large I have remained early to bed, early to rise.

I didn’t think it was much of a problem.  It was “just the way I am”.  When I told a doctor about it in 2012, they didn’t brush it off as I did.  I was having trouble waking up in the mornings on weekdays, but still getting up at 2 AM on Saturdays.  During the week, there was depression.  “I have to go to work.  I’ll just hit the snooze button for 15 more minutes.”  Then I’d hit snooze again until I absolutely had to get up.  On weekends it was the opposite.  The doctors diagnosed me with a bunch of fun things, including obsessive-compulsive disorder.

As shitty as that is, it’s always why I have such a kickass music collection.

I’ve been trying to maintain more regular sleep hours, though I still wake up earlier on the weekends.  I don’t like to wake up before 5 AM on a Saturday anymore.  If I can’t sleep, I’ll get up for a short while, watch some YouTube until I’m tired, and go back to bed.  Sometimes it takes a while to unwind but it’s been working.

Otherwise, on a “normal” Saturday morning you’ll usually find me at 5:30 or 6:00 AM with a coffee in one hand, music in my ears, and pounding out words on a keyboard.  Sometimes Deke is awake, way up in Thunder Bay, and we’ll chat coffee and music.

Mornings are magical to me, much more so than late nights.   Especially Sunday mornings.  There is nobody up.  I can go for my morning walk down the middle of King Street if I want to.  I love going to get a coffee when the drive-thru is empty at 6 AM.  I prefer getting things done in the morning before people are awake.  I’ll do laundry or I’ll review a box set.  It’s just somehow better before the city wakes.

Early mornings aren’t necessarily the best way, but with moderation it works for me.  I’m most creative in the mornings, and I love the solitude.  And my parents can sleep soundly in their house while I putter around mine!

Editorial: Gene Simmons of KISS makes some incredibly stupid comments

Today on 107.5 Dave FM, near the start of the Craig Fee Show, I heard those opening chords to “Detroit Rock City”.  Then, I heard Craig say, “No, no, no.  I will not play this band today.”  He then cut directly into “A Lil’ Ain’t Enough” by David Lee Roth.

There are Kiss boycotts happening right now on radio stations all over the world.

Gene Simmons is not a stupid man.  Nor, do I believe, is he a bad man.  The work he has done for veterans and other causes has been admirable.  He’s also known for opening his big yap and spouting his personal politics to anyone who will listen.  When Gene said this, I simply could not believe it:

“Drug addicts and alcoholics are always, ‘The world is a harsh place.’ My mother was in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. I don’t want to hear f**k all about ‘the world as a harsh place.’ She gets up every day, smells the roses and loves life. And for a putz, 20-year-old kid to say, ‘I’m depressed, I live in Seattle.’ F**k you, then kill yourself.

“I never understand, because I always call them on their bluff. I’m the guy who says ‘Jump!’ when there’s a guy on top of a building who says, ‘That’s it, I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to jump.’ Are you kidding? Why are you announcing it? Shut the f**k up, have some dignity and jump! You’ve got the crowd.”

Hot on the heels of the suicide of the much-beloved Robin Williams, Simmons’ carelessness was shocking to me. Nikki Sixx called him out on it, and said, “What if somebody heard those words and did kill themselves, Gene?”

Today Gene offered up an apology of sorts.

“To the extent my comments reported by the media speak of depression, I was wrong and in the spur of the moment made remarks that in hindsight were made without regard for those who truly suffer the struggles of depression…I sincerely apologize to those who were offended by my comments. I recognize that depression is very serious and very sad when it happens to anyone, especially loved ones. I deeply support and am empathetic to anyone suffering from any disease, especially depression.”

I have been a member of the Kiss Army since 1985.  I have always loved their music, and always will.  I realized a long time ago, probably since the mid-90’s, that Gene Simmons is an asshole.  He even named his solo album Asshole.  We all know that Gene spouts crap about anything and everything, as is his right.  Just like it’s my right to call him out on it.

Gene, to this day depression comes with a huge stigma.  Some don’t recognize it as an illness.  Some think “just cheer up,” is the solution.  Sadly, some in the medical field don’t even understand depression, the pain it can cause (both emotional and physical) and how it can devastate a life.   I hope that you learned a valuable lesson from this Gene.  I hope you choose to learn more about depression and mental illness.  After all, next it could be your son Nick, or your daughter Sophie, who fall ill with an awful mental illness that people don’t fully understand.  It can happen to anyone regardless of who they are, or how hard they work, or how much success they have.  I hope, Gene, that you will treat everyone who suffers from these terrible illnesses with the same compassion that I expect you would treat Nick and Sophie with.

I still love Kiss.  But Gene, you named that solo album correctly, because you’ve acted like a total asshole.