30 December 2015

The Aspie's "I don't understand"

This is going to run of those rambling type posts, because right now...well the subject is still an open wound for me. Raw and hurting over some things from this past year.

But I have to post about it. In part, because, well not talking about it is a horrid thing, but also I want to help people stop and think for a moment about some interactions they've had. Even if it's just for a moment, to think about how it might be from the other person's perspective.

I try to talk openly about what its like for me being on the Asperger's spectrum. In part to better understand myself, but also to help others understand what it's like. A big one for me has been, that I don't always interpret/understand/read social cues or social norms well.  I'll say things that, well....other people would know or just read the situation and know not to say. Me...not so much. I had three great friends in college (Michelle, Michelle, & Vanessa) that were really good about poking me and nudging me and helping me learn the basics of relationships/close friendships...everything that I missed out on from not having a lot of people to hang out with growing up. I don't think they knew just how much they helped, but they did. They also helped a lot, by just accepting me for being me.

Since I was diagnosed as being on the spectrum, I try to tell people upfront about these issues and say "Hey, I'm probably going to say something at some point that comes off the wrong way. I really don't mean it that way, so just let me know so I can learn from it and not do it again." And the reactions have been...well mixed. Some people will say "You're putting the onus on other people! You can't do that! It's up to you to know!" To which my response is...How? I mean, there's not a manual for me to read and study called "Living with people" or a movie, or a TV show, or anything like that. And one thing I have learned is, its different for everyone. I can learn the broad guidelines, which I do know, but for individuals? Man...its rough to pick up nuances without someone saying "Hey, I know you can do that with other people, but please don't do it with me." So I do try to ask people "Hey, let me know that this is the line I can't cross with you." I can only learn from experience.

The worst one for me though, is people that say "Oh sure, I love being honest! And I have no problem telling you." But when it comes time...they  don't. They think one thing isn't going to matter, so they let it go. But then a second thing comes along, and a third...and a fourth. And they still say nothing until it explodes out of them! Like a bomb falling. And it ends things. Because while things can be rebuilt after a bomb explodes...its hard. And the foundation is rocky and rough. And I get it, really I do. Its hard for people to say that to someone, because they don't wanna hurt them. But I can tell you from experience that not saying it...its so, so much harder. Because when that end comes, the bomb can be big and the shockwaves can spread.

And that's part of what happened to me this year. A bomb dropped. And it was an atomic size one. Because this person and I shared secrets with each other. They first, and then I second. I said things that I would say to a close friend, because that's what I took us as. They trusted me and I trusted them. I said things that made them uncomfortable. They said things that made me uncomfortable, but I didn't say anything because it wasn't a big deal to me because they were a friend (and still isn't a big deal.) But they didn't tell me when they were uncomfortable by things that I said. And while I could tell something was wrong, when I asked they would say no. Then the bomb dropped. And the shockwaves went far. And are still spreading as best as I can tell.

And I understand its hard. I wish we had both made different choices. I wish they could have been more honest with me before the bomb dropped and after, it might have made the shockwaves smaller. I wish I had gone with my gut and recognized signs that were there and listened to them. But I didn't.

The raw part of the wound though...that's come from after. People for spreading rumors, half truths, and outright lies. For shoving sharp objects into the gaping wounds I have, seemingly for their own enjoyment or cruelty for kicking someone when they're down. For continuing to not be honest about what they needed, wanted, or expected. Mostly though for not listening when I said "I didn't mean it" and "I don't understand."

And those are four hard words to say. I don't understand. Because I don't. I still don't. I understand parts of it, but not all of it. Not what caused the bomb, not what caused the shockwaves to be so huge, and not what caused the outright...hate that's come from it. And I didn't mean it. Whatever it was. I know a lot of people say it when they get caught doing something, but...really...I didn't. A lot of people may say these words when a relationship ends. Its part of normal life, I get it.

But for me? Being on the spectrum? Its 20 times worse. Because I don't know how to not make the same missteps next time. My brain instantly goes to wall up and close off mode. To stop making friends and to stop talking to people altogether. To not say anything. To go into deep depression of struggling just to survive and not ending my life. And that's where I've been.

I'm still here. I'm struggling everyday not to be overcome with emotions and memories. I'm struggling to keep standing. I've had friends, many of whom I only know online, that poke and prod and make sure I'm still there. That say "Hey, I'm worried about you. Please let me know you're ok." They've made having a pity party really fucking hard, because my brain goes "No one likes you" and then they show up saying "Hey, I like you." Best party crashers ever. And I'm learning just how much of myself I can keep putting out there without being destroyed by bombs. Its hard. Because my brain wants to do the all or nothing, there is no in between. But I'm trying.

But please, please, please for the love of the universe. Stop. Listen. Talk. Bombs go off everyday. Keep them small. Let the shockwaves be miniscule. Don't be a rumormonger. And be a good party crasher.

10 September 2015

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and I'm still here

Today is world suicide prevention day.  The Bloggess writes about it far better than I ever will, but the post really resonated with me. Not only because the being a part of a group of people whose brains routinely turn against us is a comfort to keep me going and that I'm not alone, but also that I have things left to do in this world.  And one of them is part of my story.

I wrote last December how I wanted to end my own life, because of how bad things had gotten at my job....and earlier this summer I shared a comic that I was writing for an anthology where there was the possibility of me taking my own life. The first person that I showed it to asked me if I had seriously considered taking my own life, to which the response is yes.  Yes I did. Had that thought a lot of times the last few months.

These last few months have been some of the worst I've ever had.  Being in a small community of artists and creators has been great in many ways. But at the same time, extremely isolating. I've had trouble figuring out where I belong, what my steps were, and who I am. I never quite found my groove with most people.  I had made what I thought was a good friendship that would last a long time. Someone that I felt comfortable sharing things with, things I still haven't told other people.  But that friendship ended horribly through actions of both of us. I didn't handle it as well as I could have, affected by more feelings of isolation, not understanding what happened, and having left a horrid situation behind in Georgia to have this happen so soon again....

And then the summer got worse.  Rumors about me hurting my exfriend, lies and half truths running around, other rumors, being told that no one wanted me around and that people didn't feel comfortable around me, being accused of having a second twitter account to interact with people that didn't want to interact with me, and on and on.  I think some of it started for a sense of protection of the exfriend, concern for them. Which I get.  Some was because not a lot of people know me well. I don't make friends easily and I've confused people and made them uneasy because of things I've done or said, even when no harm was meant. And I get that too.

I write this post, because I need to write it.  Not to point fingers or blame, but because I've tweeted and posted about anxiety and depression, I haven't shared why really. I haven't shared what caused it, because I didn't want to act like I was pointing fingers or anything else.  This has been a horrible last few months and I'm not sure people realized that. Or maybe they did. Maybe they were trying to protect themselves. I don't know.

What I do know is things are much the same for me right now as they were a few months ago and I've realized its because I haven't talked. I haven't shared. So this is my story. I'm still here.  Battered, bruised, knife wounds dug deep, arrows in the side, and cuts that will never heal...but I'm still here. Somehow.

12 July 2015

Aspie life, Depression, Suicide, and me

Title of the post grab your attention?  Good.  Take a seat for a bit while I share some things.  This post is raw, a bit unpolished, kinda long, and one of the hardest I've written yet.  I'm writing it because of things I've learned over the last couple of years, about being on the Asperger's spectrum, about depression, and about myself.  Every time I've gotten knocked down the last couple of years, I've pulled out my research skills to learn something new about being on the spectrum and I want to share some of it here.

A caveat before I begin, while I mention things that happened to me, in some cases exact words used and exact situations, I'm not pointing fingers, shaming, or attacking anyone involved in the situations.  I want to share my experiences, my life, so that it helps others.  I'll never mention anyone by name and if you recognize the situation, please understand that while I may not like what happened between us, I do not blame you for the decisions made.  I hope this post will help all of us.

Now to begin.

As of 2012 in the United States alone, adults over the age of 18, 6.9% of the population experienced or dealt with at least one major depressive episode.  Add in people under 18, and the percentage increases to well over 7%.  Information from the CDC puts that number at 1 out of 10 people that you meet every day is dealing with depression.  And those numbers are underreported, because of the stigma of being associated with it.  As the stigma slowly lessens this number grows.  An inforgraphic from healthline.com indicates that the number of diagnoses with depression grows by 20% each year.  So chances are likely that 2 or 3 out of every 10 people you meet is dealing with depression.  While suicide and depression don't have to go hand and hand together, they are often associated with each other.  Many that suffer from depression often look at suicide as an end to the hurt and pain that they can no longer bear to suffer from.  Looking at a suicide fact sheet from the CDC indicates that 3.7% of adults in the US have suicidal thoughts, 1% make plans, and .5% make attempts.

Got that number in your head?  Good.  

Because those numbers are even higher in the Asperger's community.  Depression and anxiety go hand in hand together with Asperger's, no wonder given the challenges we face in interacting with the world.  At present there is not a definitive number to point to, as research is only just now really beginning, even those the two have been correlated together for some time.  However, recent studies indicate that 30% of adults with Asperger's are diagnosed with depression and 60%+ of those under 18 are diagnosed with depression.  Some even give figures of 75% or more on the spectrum (all ages) being diagnosed with depression.  Even more troubling a recent study conducted in the UK and published in the journal Lancet Psychology on Asperger's and suicide.  The team conducted a survey among 374 adults that had been diagnosed as being on the spectrum between 2004 and 2013.  66% reported suicidal thoughts and 35% of those reported plans or attempts at suicide.  Look at that number.  66% vs. 3.7%.  

Now, I'm sure some of you going, but you're looking at the US vs. the UK, smaller sample size, only one study, blah, blah, blah.  It doesn't matter.  Why?  Because only in the last 5 years have there been real efforts to look at and help people on the spectrum and more research is needed.  Even more disturbing, look at the percentages.  66% reported suicidal thoughts.  10 TIMES MORE than the average person!  10!!  (Number quoted from the article cited above)

Why do I go through all of the trouble of talking about this?  Because this is my life.  I battle depression, anxiety, and in the last few years have struggled with thoughts of taking my own life.  And if I'm honest with myself, I've wished to have another life since I was 6 years old, because I knew I didn't fit in and I couldn't understand why.  All I could think was, if I was something or someone else, life would be better.  I'd fit in better to the world around me.  And that's a form of suicide in itself.

I've had a lot of very well meaning people try to offer advice on how to handle depression, anxiety, and my struggle to fit in.  They tell me about the challenges they've faced or things that they've read about it that helped them or others they know.  They share experiences and try to help.  But after awhile they get worn down and leave.  Either because its dragging them down, or that I'm not following their advice to a T, or they're just tired of me talking about it.  And I get it, I do.  They want to help and they think I'm not listening or trying.  Or they think I don't understand that other people don't deal with the same issues  But here's the thing...I am listening and trying and hearing.  I do understand other people deal with depression.  But think about it from my perspective for a moment.

Being on the spectrum means that I have no idea of what is "normal" when dealing with people.  Seriously. I look at groups of people and all I can think is...how do they do that?  How do they interact together? How do they have conversations? How do they know when to stop? How do they know who their friends are? How do they know when to share and what to share? How did they decide to get together today?  How do they make plans for the next time? How long do they wait before making plans for the next time?  How do they communicate that?  How do they tell jokes? How do they know when to laugh?  And on, and on, and on.  That's what I think when it comes to interacting with people.  I have to ask myself those questions every, single time it comes to interactions with new people or a different mix of people or I have to take into account the last time I talked to one person, they seemed pissed at me, but are they really pissed at me or was it something else?  I have to build a script into my head of how I need to approach and interact with things, which is great when its one person! But you and on more and more people...and it becomes overwhelming. And recall in my last post I talked about rules I have to build in my head?  Rules of what's funny when and to whom and in what situation.  Some rules are about 40 lines of code long based upon situations, time, day, etc. And what happens when the script doesn't go the right way? Chaos. My mind swirls and tries to figure out how to recover from it.

Did that make your head hurt reading it?  That's what its like in my head every second, every minute, every hour, of every day that I have to interact with people.  That's what I deal with on a daily basis.  When you're offering me advice, well meaning as it is to say "You know everyone struggles with that, you just have to BS your way through things. It's like improv!" or "Open your window and get some light" or "Be positive! Everyone will like you more."  I have to run all of those situations through my head.  Each time.  What are the variables? What are the computations?  And after a while...I can't.  I can't make it work because it's too complicated.  Or I just know it isn't going to work, because...well I do understand my brain well enough to know I can't suddenly walk into a group and go "Hey! How are y'all? Can I sit with you? How's your day going?"  I have to build the script first. I have to run the computations.  And if the script breaks...I do.

And I know, I know some of you are thinking "Well quit being stupid! Make it simpler! You can change!"  And to that I say BULLSHIT!  Seriously, some things I can change and learn from.  But basic functions of my brain?  I'd have better luck convincing my body to grow a third eye.  Think about it this way, you wouldn't walk up to someone with PTSD or Severe Social Anxiety Disorder and say "Hey! It's all in your head get over it and yourself!  You can do anything!" would you?  (and if you answered yes, please kindly let someone smack some sense into you.)  It isn't easy.  And some thing...some things I just can't change.

With that in mind, I want to share a small primer about myself.  In the last couple of years I've had people ask me about what it means to be Asperger's and everytime I answer...it changes.  Not because the previous answer was invalid, but because I've learned more about the condition everytime something happens.  So here's a primer on me and the spectrum at the moment:

I view myself as a kind, caring, compassionate person and a good listener and a good friend.  I'll go to the ends of the known universe and beyond for probably almost anyone.  I'll stand by your side when you need me, I'll give you my trust, and I'll help as much as I can in anyway possible.  And I'll take the rear guard to watch your back and jump forward to protect your front if you need it.  In a lot of ways, I'm a like a giant 5 year old kid.  That age where we can become best friends because we watch the same cartoons, like the same flavor of lollipop, and agree that we'll fight the monsters til the end of the day.  I have a good first sense of who people are, who to trust, and who not to.  I'll be polite to you as I can be even if you fall into the category of people I don't trust.  I'll give you a chance to earn my trust and once earned, it takes a good bit to break.

But I don't like bullies.  Physical, verbal, emotional, whatever.  I'll stand up to you, I'll tell you off, and I'll fight for those that I care about.  I'll push and prod and nudge if I need to so that you can speak your side of the story, but I won't tolerate someone hurting people that I care about.  And I have a long memory.

When it comes to relationships, I'm like a 5 year old kid.  That age where we can become best friends because we watch the same TV show and like the same flavor of lollipop.   That age where you trust easily, recognize the bullies quickly, and try to get along with everyone.  While other people grew out of it...I didn't.  When people have told me lately that I'm trying to be friends too quickly, I literally don't understand that, because it isn't how my brain works.  I trust easily and take people at their word unless they give me reason to think otherwise.  If I think we connect and I like hanging out with you, then I'll call you a friend.  If I like you, like you (like in a crush), I wear my heart on my sleeve openly and freely.  99% of the time, I know that nothing will ever happen and I don't say anything about it.  If I trust you enough, if I consider us good enough friends, then I'll openly tell you that I have/had a crush on you but I don't expect it to go anywhere.  Apparently this isn't common or normal...but it's what I am.

If you ask me my opinion, I'll give it to you.  And based upon the rules I've learned over the years, if you say "Don't you like my new boots?  They really make my legs look nice don't they?", I'm going to say "Wow, your legs really do look nice" because I figure that's what I'm supposed to do.  And I'll probably say it another couple of times because...well I think its still what i'm supposed to do.  I don't mean to make people uncomfortable, its just what I think I'm supposed to do.

I'm honest to a fault.  I'll give you my opinion with no bullshit, because its how my mind works.  It may sound like I'm being rude or negative or just trying to be mean, but honestly....those thoughts don't enter into my head 99% of the time.  I'm just telling you what I think or how I feel.

I've been told that I glare or don't look approachable or look hurt or thousands of other things when people are approaching me or giving me feedback and....honestly 95% of the time...that's not how I mean to look.  As part of being on the spectrum, I don't always display the right expression to match my emotion.  Why?  Because I don't understand a lot of facial expressions.  I've gotten better over the years, don't get me wrong, but...when it comes to displaying them myself?  Well...I never learned how.  Do you know how hard it is to teach yourself something that comes naturally to other people?  It's like trying to learn to work with your non-dominant hand and become ambidextrous.  I can do it...but it takes practice and help and...well to be honest I didn't know that's what I was doing until a couple of years ago.  Nor did I have any clue how bad it was.  

Its hard for me to talk about myself.  I mean, I know this post and others make it seem like its easy, but, everytime I set down to write I start thinking "Well...if I talk about this I may piss off this person.  Even though we aren't talking anymore I don't wanna do that.  Maybe I'll skip that. Well no...I can't.  I'll just...I'll just say at the top this isn't about any one person maybe that will work."  Seriously.  For everything I've shared I've had to stop and think.  At one point I even considered emailing one person and saying "Hey I'm writing this please dear god don't think section is about you because it isn't, its about other people."  And the other issue is as I've mentioned before...I have no concept of normal.  I mean, how do other people feel? Is it normal to feel down? I never identified with depression before because people told me "Oh everyone feels down from time to time"...it was only when I researched and told the doctor that my down times last for a week they went "Yeah...yeah that's not normal.  Let's get you some help."  

Matthew Rozsa wrote this great post about his experience on the spectrum and this paragraph really hits home for me:
If you have Asperger's, however, the nonverbal aspects of communication do not come naturally to you. Although people with Asperger's are no more likely to have linguistic or cognitive difficulties than anyone else, we do not automatically process the thousands of ways people communicate nonverbally. As a result, we have enormous difficulty functioning in social situations, from abiding by the unspoken rules of etiquette (and there are so, so many) and gauging how to avoid dominating conversations to coming across as inappropriate or rude without intending to. If life in a society is a game (and make no mistake about it, it is), having Asperger's forces you to play while learning two-thirds of the rules as you go along, even as everyone else knows them instinctively ... and assumes you do too.
I apologize too much.  Which, honestly, I didn't realize was a thing.  But this article gives a pretty good idea of what goes through my head when I make a mistake and I'm owning up to it.

Penelope Trunk summarizes it well:
You know when you’re on the highway and everybody moves along like a ballet – merging, exiting, changing lanes. There’s moving over for a truck. There’s moving away if you’re blocking someone who wants to go faster than you. There are all kinds of unwritten rules we adhere to in order to not run each other over. 
The Asperger car is the one on cruise control at exactly the speed limit. Technically, that’s what everyone is supposed to do, but there are a million scenarios where if you refuse to slow down or speed up, you actually make everyone else’s life hell. 
But there’s no way to tell that annoying car, “Hey, you’re breaking the law,” (because they’re not) and you can’t tell them, “Hey, you’re being inconsiderate,” (because they’ll say, “Well, that merging car could have slowed down until I got by.”) You can’t tell that car, “Hey, there are some unwritten rules you’re not paying attention to.” (They’ll say like what? And then they will argue. 
So there’s no way to tell the annoying car they’re annoying because they actually don’t understand the concept of annoying. They only understand the concept of right and wrong. People with Asperger’s have an intense need to do the right thing the right way. But often they fail to see what that is: Am I doing the speed limit? I’m right.
Some other things are mentioned in these posts.  Broad, generic, or specific to one person...sure.  But they apply to me as well.  This one really hits how I talk and speak.

So...this is me in a nutshell.  So what do I hope happens from this post?  Maybe some conversation.  Maybe people that I've hurt in the last couple of years will better understand where I'm coming from.  Maybe people in the future will better understand me.  Do I expect this to be the magical solution to fix relationships I've lost?  No.  But it at least lets me put things out there as a start.

NOTE:  I've used my best research skills to pull together the information in this post from reliable and up to date sources, but I am not a doctor and did not take part in any of these studies.

07 July 2015

Something about me

I'm not sharing any pictures with this post, because none would seem right.  Instead I want you to read something, about someone else, but how their story relates to me.  And then...go from there.

This morning I was catching up on my RSS feeds and was reading a post on Mashable, when I saw a picture on the side of the page about a teen on the Asperger's spectrum and a recent encounter he had with some bullies.  Being on the spectrum myself, I had to read it.  And I followed the link to his Mom's facebook page, and what she shared there.  Please stop for a moment and go and read it...I'll wait.

Not read it yet?  Seriously go back and read it now.

Smart kid no?  But I have a lot of thoughts swirling in my head about what the kid is going through, but I wanted to share this to point out a couple of things that I experience...still.  On a daily basis. With adults. With teens. With people in between.  While I've not had the physical bullying (at least not in a very long time), but what's said about him, being "weird", rude, uninterested, detached, etc...those are all things I've had said about me.  The experience of trying to understand rules and then not understanding how to break them or when its ok to break them or that everyone seems to have different variations of what they consider the "right" rule...that's what I go through on a daily basis.

Do you know how hard that is?  To just make it through normal life is bad enough sometimes, but to have to add in the fact that you don't understand social interactions when everyone else seems to get it, sucks. A lot.  And I know, I know some of you are sitting there saying "Oh we all experience that from time to time."  No...no you don't.  You don't have the anxiety of watching people to figure out what they do, what they say, how you're supposed to approach that person that you're interested in, how you're supposed to talk to someone that you want to be friends with, how to just ask someone how to hang out with you over the weekend, how to hold down a job, how to talk to a boss, and thousands upon thousands of other things on a daily basis.

The only way I know I survive is by building rules into my head.  If x + y then do z. And it gets more complicated as I get older and find that people do things differently based upon where they grew up, how they were raised, who they were raised by, what year they were born, what their life experiences are, and so on.  And there's no manual to read!  And if you don't instinctively understand it, then a lot of the time its "Fuck you! You're weird leave me alone!"  Or "Fuck you! You seem like a nice guy, but you aren't. You're mean!"

That's what life is like for me.  Every. Single. Waking. Day. I have to learn rules and then have to keep up with how they change for each individual person or each group or anything else.  And its hard.  It increases my depression and anxiety.  It makes it hard to function on a daily basis.  And people...god people don't make it easier.  Some are just bullies to begin with.  Others think they understand, but they get frustrated after a while of not acting exactly like them or in the way they think I should.  And no...not everyone is like that.  But a lot.

And I know some people are thinking, "why didn't you ever tell me it was like this?  Why didn't you share? I would have tried to help!"  And the answer is...for a long time, I thought this was normal. And then when I found out it wasn't?  How do I put it into words of what I go through everyday?  And sometimes...sometimes when I did share it and put it into words, people got scared and ran away.  What do I do with that?  Do I risk losing what I have, because of the possibility that everyone will react that way? How do I know?

And that's why.

I don't write this for sympathy or to badger people into changing, but instead for understanding.  Understand that we're all different.  Maybe the guy next to you really is an asshole.  Or maybe he acts that way because he's on the spectrum and been hurt so many times he gave up on trying.

And one last note.  Remember just because you don't physically hurt someone, doesn't mean that you aren't a bully anymore.  Words can hurt just as much, if not more.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

29 June 2015

Normal isn't real

Lately I've been thinking a lot.  About who I am, what I am, what is real, what isn't real, dreams, reality, dinosaurs, etc. etc..and I keep coming back to a few things.

1)  That we live in a very weird and disturbing world where we try to tell people that they aren't people, because they don't conform to our idea of "normal" or reality.  Apparently being different means that you aren't really human, you're something else, like an otter.  I pick otters, because at least otters are cute and playful.

2)  That we have trouble accepting what someone is trying to change and grow, even though it doesn't match our version of "normal" or how we do things.  This is something that I experience a lot being on the Asperger's spectrum.  For example, how I take criticism.  I honestly thought I took it well, because I want to learn and improve from it.  I found out recently from several people I trust and that care about me, that nope...I'm kinda of a defensive asshole about it.  It isn't how I mean to appear and I've gotta figure out how to work around that, but I'm willing to change.  Some people though...just don't understand that.  They think I'm just an uncaring asshole, even though I'm trying to learn.  And part of the problem is that no one has ever told me this before.  Or not in a way that stuck with me.  I mean, I don't know about y'all but I can't change what I don't know.  And if you tell me "Well you know some people have trouble accepting criticism" I'm going to go "Yep, they sure do" and not realize that you're talking about me, because...well I'm oblivious unless you sit down and go "OK Andy, this is hard to say and hard to hear, but when someone is giving your critical feedback you're reacting this way."  And I can say "Wow...well that's not what I meant to have happen.  What I'm trying to do is ask questions and figure out what the heck is going on and how I can improve.  I'm not trying to be an asshole."  And we can come to some type of shared reality and go forward.

3)  That as a collective humanity tends to have their heads stuck in hole in the ground, insisting that they're getting enough sunlight coming in through the gaps in the ground and that if we try to take them out of it, that there's just way too much sun, and screw seeing colors and shit we've never seen, we like our hole and we'll stay in it!

Lastly though I'm realizing that...normal isn't real.  I wrote a post a while back about normal being bullshit, but I've realized normal isn't real either.  It doesn't exist at all.  It's this ideal that some people have about wanting us to be stuck in a group together so that we can determine how other people should behave or should act or should think and so on.  And while it sounds great in theory...it isn't.  Because we as a culture take it to the extreme.  We look at the most popular or biggest group and say "OK those people are normal that's how we should all act.  They get 8 hours of sleep, work 40+ hours a week, have 2.5 kids, a dog, a house, a white picket fence, eat meat & drink and read about business and the news" and so on and so forth.  And while it's great they don't do things that are decidedly wrong...how is that something to strive for?  How is that something that we should all do?

And we extend it to behaviors as well.  "Its not normal to ask so many questions!"  "Its not normal to act like an asshole while accepting criticism!"  "Its not normal to not know what type of face that your making!" and on and on and on.  There are other ones that I've gotten, but I'm not at a point where I can write them out yet.  Or feel comfortable writing them out yet.  But, I've been told enough times in the last few years that I'm not normal, that I hate the word.  Some people were trying to help, some were trying to bullies, some were somewhere in between...either way.  Normal is a horrid word.

We are a wide and diverse group of people, with a variety of ideas and talents and concepts, why should anyone have to fall into "normal"?  Why can't we accept people for how they are and encourage them to leave "normal" behind?  And to explore the limits they can reach?  I know this encourages good and bad, but...we soar to far greater heights when we tell people to reach for the stars than to be "normal."  How far can you reach?

10 June 2015

Thinking Type Things

Let me start this post off with a bit of a caveat.  This is going to be a post that makes people uncomfortable.  If you want to turn away now, that's ok.  If you want to stay, that's ok too.  And for some they'll likely be wondering if the things I'm writing are directed at them.  And the answer is yes.  And no.  Its not written with anyone specific in mind, but with everyone I've ever encountered in my life.  If you read something and think I'm making comments about you, pointing fingers at you, or whatever, please don't take it personally.  I'm not.  I'm just trying to get thoughts out of my head to help people better understand me.
I've had a lot of things on my mind lately.  Good things. Bad things. In between things. Things that make me cringe in horror.  Things that make we want to go screaming into the night never to return.

And that last is where I am at the moment.  I've spent the last few months working my way back from one of the worst bouts of depression I've had in a long, long time.  It was bad enough that I was planning out what would happen after I died.  Not when or how, but that I knew I was ready to end it all and I was figuring out how to take care of the things that needed to be taken care of.  I wasn't just on the edge of the cliff, I was hanging on by two fingers and actively letting myself slip off.  I'm not sure I've ever been there before.  Lots of things led to it, but I was there.

These days I'm working myself slowly back.  Right now most days I just want to run into the woods and not return.  Be the crazy dude that lives in some cave and jabbers at the squirrels and birds in my own language.  And some days I just can't deal. I have to remind myself that there are some people that would track me down in the afterlife, kick my ass, and tell me to come hang out with them for a bit and get me to feeling a bit better.  Zombie life or not.

So I'm a couple feet back from the cliff now. And trying to figure out the next move.  And so I've been thinking a lot.  Who I am.  Who I want to be.  How I communicate.  Who I want to communicate with.  All of it.  Everything.  And it's led me to a few things I want to share about me.

I've talked before about discovering what life is like on the Asperger's Spectrum before and everything that comes from it.  And its a lot to handle.  I mean seriously.  Not just for me, but for people that I interact with online, in person, in passing...wherever.  Its been enlightening and frightening to discover the things that I do that aren't part of the "social norm."  Most of the time its scary as hell, because things I've done all of my life, I had no idea they weren't part of "normal" behaviors.  My brain just never caught onto it.  And I want to change you know?  I don't want to do things or say things that make other people uncomfortable.  And I'm making changes slowly.  Seriously, I'm trying to change what I can.  But its hard you know?

People don't like confrontation and they don't want to be hurtful....so they don't tell me things.  They let things build up to the boiling point and walk away.  Its happened so often I feel like I need to wear a flack jacket all the time to protect myself.  But...I hurt because I don't want that to happen.  I don't like hurting people.  I don't like losing friendships or acquaintances or whatever the heck we are.

But its more than that.  I'm not aware of how I'm coming across when I'm reacting to things.  Am I showing distress?  Am I glaring? Am I acting like I don't care?  I mean seriously what am I doing???  I don't know what it looks like when I'm getting feedback...because that's another aspect of being on the spectrum.  I often think I'm project calm or neutral and its apparently not those things, but I don't know what it is!

And then there's this post.  This is all stuff that I want all of you to know.  Seriously.  I'm not trying to be socially unacceptable or cruel or whatever else it is.  I'm just trying to fit in and I don't know how. Trying to do the things I've seen other people do, trying to do what I think is right, but sometimes it comes off wrong. Or out of place. But I am trying, as best as I can.

So I'm trying.  Trying to learn. Trying to move on. Trying to understand.  Trying to be understood.

21 April 2015

Last Call for Donations


Hey all, one last call for the donation drive to help me with school for the next year.  Things are a bit better than when I launched the campaign, but any help would be greatly appreciated.  

If you've been following my blog for a while, you know that I'm currently pursuing my dream of completing an MFA at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Applied Cartooning, with the goal of working with libraries and the community to help them connect to comics.  To help me towards this goal, I launched a a call for donations in December to help me pay for the upcoming school year.  Since I launched it I've gotten support (thank you!).

So here's the deal. The Center for Cartoon Studies is a fantastic and great school and is accredited by the state of Vermont, but not nationally. This isn't an issue at all, but for one thing...it limits where I can get loans from to pay for school to one place. This one place offers great rates, but does require a cosigner on the loan. I put a burden on my parents to have them cosign for me this year, which I greatly appreciate, but I can't ask them to do it again. 

Now, as of right now I do have two PT jobs that will cover most of my living expenses.  But there are things on the horizon that will complicate things a little bit.  Plus the fact that I would really like to put some money down for the school.

So what do I need?
  • If you can contribute that would be great.  Any money raised will go towards paying for tuition for next year.
  • Want to help your library, school, place of business better understand comics and how you can use them?  Hire me.  
  • I'm going to be teaching classes on comics, sign up to take them.  Here's the first one at Library Juice.  Others will be posted on this blog as they're posted.
  • Looking for an artist for reports, portraits, or just for an idea for comic and books?  Take a look at some of my work and let me know if we can work together.
The deal still remains that I will create a unique piece of original art for every person that helps. It may take some time, but I promise it will happen. 

So that's the deal.  If you can help out that's great. If you can offer support that's great to.  I'm making the dream happen and I'm glad that y'all are along for the ride

12 March 2015

What types of comics classes do YOU want to see?


A few weeks ago I posted that I was teaching a class on comics for Library Juice on "Comics, Literacy, and Standards" and I have a couple of more in the works. But honestly...I don't think there are enough classes on comics in the world and I want to create more of them!

Now, while I have plenty of ideas on what types of classes I'd like to offer, I'd love to hear what you're interested in learning about!  So if you can take a few minutes to fill out my survey that would be most helpful.  And stay tuned to find out what classes are coming next!

10 March 2015

Update on Fund Raising Goal

If you've been following my blog for a while, you know that I'm currently pursuing my dream of completing an MFA at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Applied Cartooning, with the goal of working with libraries and the community to help them connect to comics.  To help me towards this goal, I launched a fundraiser in December to help me out with the upcoming school year.  Since I launched it I've gotten support (thank you!) and some criticism....but I wanted to provide an update on what's going on and a bit more information on why I'm fundraising.

So here's the deal. The Center for Cartoon Studies is a fantastic and great school and is accredited by the state of Vermont, but not nationally. This isn't an issue at all, but for one thing...it limits where I can get loans from to pay for school to one place. This one place offers great rates, but does require a cosigner on the loan. I put a burden on my parents to have them cosign for me this year, which I greatly appreciate, but I can't ask them to do it again. 

Now, could I leave the school, find a FT job, and save money to come back and finish later?  I'm sure I could. But...I can't. For a lot of reasons, including health reasons, I need to keep on this path on finishing the degree on time.  Thus why I started the fundraiser for this upcoming year.  

Now, as of right now I do have two PT jobs that will cover most of my living expenses and I've arranged to do a payment plan with the school, so I'm starting to get things covered a little bit.  But there are things on the horizon that will complicate things a little bit.  Plus the fact that I would really like to put some money down for the school.

So what do I need?
  • If you can contribute to my fundraiser that would be great.  Any money raised will go towards paying for tuition for next year.
  • Want to help your library, school, place of business better understand comics and how you can use them?  Hire me.  
  • I'm going to be teaching classes on comics, sign up to take them.  Here's the first one at Library Juice.  Others will be posted on this blog as they're posted.
  • Looking for an artist for reports, portraits, or just for an idea for comic and books?  Take a look at some of my work and let me know if we can work together.
The deal still remains that I will create a unique piece of original art for every person that helps. It may take some time, but I promise it will happen. 

So that's the deal.  If you can help out that's great. If you can offer support that's great to.  I'm making the dream happen and I'm glad that y'all are along for the ride.

18 February 2015

Time to bury the word Normal

"You should cut your hair. You should wear nicer clothes. Those are toys for girls, you should play with toys for boys.  Don't you want to fit in? Don't you want to have friends?"
"Don't you want to be NORMAL?"


It's a word that we all use.  One single word.  Just one.  But what a horrible and deadly word it is.

We use it to describe our day. To describe someone else...or to describe how we want to be.  Society encourages this.  All while telling us to be embrace our uniqueness and differences, it tells us that we should strive to be NORMAL.  To fit in.  In school, in work, in church...wherever we go.  Society tells us that we should all strive to be NORMAL.  That it's better to be NORMAL.  NORMAL is an ideal.  And that ideal is absolute and total bullshit.

I heard the word NORMAL a lot growing up.  Hell, I heard it a lot even after I was done growing up.  People tossed the phrase at me like it was candy.  "You need to look like them.  You need to act like they do.  Be more like them.  FIT IN!  Be NORMAL!"  I heard that from people that meant well and wanted me to be happy and successful.  I heard it from people that didn't give a shit about me at all and were disgusted that I couldn't be shoved into a box.  Whatever they meant, it had the same effect.  I started not to stand out.  To not embrace what made me, me.  I started fading into the background.  To slowly have my spirit die.  To slowly kill me.

I'm sure some of you are thinking that maybe I'm going a bit over the top with this.  That "fitting in" and "normal" aren't the same thing.  But stop and think about it for a moment.  How many times has someone told you that you should fit into the norm? How many times have you wished you could be NORMAL like a friend of yours?  They may sound different, but we often use the word "NORMAL" to mean to fit in.  And how horrible is that?  Why should we hide what makes us, us?

And I get it, there are some things that are norms that are good, like not being a sociopath or a bully.  But as to the rest?  Normal is bullshit.  It causes the death of identity. Death of a spirit. Death of a soul. It bullies us until nothing is left but despair and darkness.

So what do we do?  Do we continue to tell people to be normal?  Or do we let people soar? To discover who and what they are.  To discover what they might be. It is time for the word normal to die a quick and painless death.  It is time to give it a funeral and to move on. To encourage people to be themselves.

17 February 2015

I'm teaching a class on comics, sign up!

I'm excited to announce that this August I will be teaching a class for Library Juice Academy called "Comics, Literacy, and Standards."  It's a 4 week class and here's what we'll be covering:

Comics have made their mark upon the world of entertainment, from movies, TV, to even music. Now they're beginning to show up in discussions on promoting education and literacy for students of all ages. How is this possible? And how do you make the argument to administration and teachers that comics have value beyond just entertainment? This course will give you the basics of terminology, standards that comics meet, and ways to sell these important works to the administration and faculty that you work with.
By the end of the course you will be able to:
  • Define basic comics terms, such as gutter, panel, border, caption and more.
  • Outline a basic argument of how comics:
  • Support literacy and critical thinking skills
  • Support and meet the common core standards in multiple areas
  • Promote both verbal and visual literacy for readers
  • Match standards to comics
  • Match comics to programs and readers, based upon content, images, style and purpose.
If this is an area of the comics world that you'd like to learn more about then sign up and we'll get started in August.  Hope to see you all in August!

16 February 2015

Why The Guardian's piece on comics is worrying

If you follow comic folks, creators or just about anyone with a passion for comics and graphic novels you might have seen them...vent (and that's putting it lightly)...about this piece from The Guardian by Jonathan Jones.  Basically Jones says that R. Crumb is the only true standard for comics, all current comics are bland, and all of the artists need to learn how to create art again.  

Excuse me for a second. I'm going to go curse, you go read the piece and then come back.

*clears throat* OK that feels a bit better.  Where was I?  Right why Jones and The Guardian's piece cause harm.  

Let's go ahead and get the obvious out of the way, Jones is writing an opinion piece.  He's entitled to his opinion that R. Crumb is only true artist and the gold standard for one. And if Jones were to go out and tweet that or post it on his personal blog, more power to him. He's standing on his own two feet saying it.  

The problem is here he isn't...he's standing on the coattails of The Guardian and using his position to say something as if it's fact.  And Jones does have a position that is listened to.  He writes The Guardians art section, he does reviews of books and shows, and he's served on national prize committees which doesn't just happen unless you have a voice that is listened to.  And Jones does.  He's done a cursory glance through the local bookstore, sized up what's on the shelf and said that this what's been doing everywhere in comics.  Let's ignore the fact that the local bookstore has probably done some selective buying, Jones hasn't bothered to actually look at the world around him and see what's really out there. To see the diversity and the range that exist, not just in published graphic novels at bookstores, but ones at comic shops, at conventions, on the web, hell even those just being handed out on the street corner.

I'm sure some of you are saying "Oh it's just one paper, what harm does one piece do?" The problem is in this day of social media and newspaper closings, that one piece suddenly becomes much bigger as its shared numerous times.  People will ignore the fact that its opinion and see something from an established paper and a known name and take it as fact.  Papers, news organizations, will run with it and claim that comics are banal and boring and not worth the time and energy.  Soon it will get tossed in with some of the other arguments against comics that we so often see as well. And that one piece will spread much further than it should.

While this may not be "that piece" the question remains what should we do about it?  While some prefer to ignore it and let it die, I feel the better solution is to talk about it.  Keeping silent only gives something power.  Speaking about it, presenting other opinions and sides, lets other voices be heard.  In this case Jones and The Guardian, since they published this piece they have to take responsibility for it as well, need to actually examine what comics are out there.  That comics are as diverse and numerous as the stars in the heavens, and that each person that creates them has their own style and way of telling a story.  Some of them are just beginning, some are at the hight of their powers, and some are nearing the end of their stories.  But all of them, no matter if they even look similar to another one, are different.  All of them have their own way of creating.  And while Jones and The Guardian may not like some of them, there are others out there they may.  And if they don't, if they want to continue to insist that R. Crumb is the only true standard, that's fine.  They are allowed that opinion.  But...and this is important, but they need to acknowledge that while they don't like something, while they think artists are bland and boring, others won't.  And it isn't a problem, it isn't something to moan about it, it's something to cherish that everyone can find something they enjoy.  

There's is a much wider world out there than what's found on the shelf of your local bookstore.  Comics are only bland if you move in the dark.  This is your flashlight.  Go forth and explore what's out there.  And share what you find. 

04 February 2015

Library awards and graphic novels


Although it may seem strange to some folks the Superbowl was not the only big event in the world this week. No, in libraryland and in the publishing world ALA Midwinter occurred. And why is this a big event that people should care about? Because it's where the winners and honors of some of the major book awards, such as the Caldecott, Newbery, Printz, and many others are announced. And this year...this year some fantastic graphic novels won some of these awards. And yes...yes this is important and I'll explain why in a minute.

Some of the winners include:

  • This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki and published by First Second which won the Caldecott honor, which is awarded "to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children." It is the first graphic novel to ever win such an award (although The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick did win the award in 2008, it does not typically get classified as a true graphic novel, since it mixes written chapters with illustrated chapters.) Not only that, but the book also won a Printz honor, which is given for excellence in writing in young adult literature. It is only the second ever graphic novel to be given this award, the first being Gene Yang's American Born Chinese. This One Summer is a beautifully written and illustrated work by the Tamaki cousins and you can find my review of it here.
  • An award that I don't hear much about, but is important none the less, is the Batchelder award, which is given to the best book published in another language and then translated into English. And one of this year's honor winners was Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loïc Dauvillier, Marc Lizano (Illustrations), Greg Salsedo (Ink), Alexis Siegel (Translator) and published by First Second. As far as I can find (and I maybe wrong on this) this is the first time that a graphic novel has ever been honored with this award. This is a moving and powerful book on what it's like to experience the Holocaust from the a child's perspective, something that I don't see much of.  You can find my review of it here.
  • The last major award is the Newbery award, which is given to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.  Think about that for a second...distinguished contribution to American literature for children.  And for the first time ever a graphic novel won a Newbery Honor.  El Deafo by Cece Bell, which is written and illustrated based upon her experiences growing up with hearing problems and getting a hearing aid for the very first time and discovering it is like a superpower!  One that can be used for good, or for evil.
OK so graphic novels won awards, yay! Happens all the time right?  True, they do....but not generally from the library awards committees!  And why is that important?  Here are some of the previous winners of the Newbery awards:  The Giver by Louis Lowry, Holes by Louis Sachar, The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman, and Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan among countless others.   Caldecot winners? The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney, The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg, and Ox-Cart Man, illustrated by Barbara Cooney; text: Donald Hall, among many others.  How many of these titles do you recognize?  How many have you read or your kids read?  Probably close to all of them.  And why is that?  Oversimplifying a bit, but its because libraries typically buy and promote award winning books.  They know they've been vetted, have name recognition, and an award that a lot of folks will recognize.  And now graphic novels have cracked into the Newbery and Caldecott award winners.  This not only gives them instant recognition and status among libraries, but also allows them to start finding their way onto more shelves into more libraries.

These awards are like Hollywood status among books.  Rock stars, movie stars, famous athletes, etc. It gives them an instant cache among many people and a front of the line pass of "Oh you won that award! Well sure we can let you have a table now."  Should it take graphic novels winning awards to make their way onto library shelves? No...they shouldn't.  But it's a start to make inroads.  It's a start to get people to realize that graphic novels and comics aren't just superheroes or Archie comics.  That they are so much, much more.  And that even superheroes and Archie comics have changed drastically in the last 10 years! But that's a post for a different day.  

One day it will be common place for graphic novels to win awards like the Newbery, Caldecott, and Nobel Prizes.  But today is not that day.  Today we celebrate the books that are not only great works of literature, but have started breaking the barriers of awards.  That are proving that illustrated works are just as important as straight prose books.  That are finally allowing many authors, illustrators, educators, librarians, publishers to shout "Booyah! See we told you graphic novels were fantastic!" and then get back to work to continue the fight.

Congrats to the winners and may we see many, many more graphic novels in the years to come.  

19 January 2015

Going tiny(er)

At least a few times a year I look at the books and media and everything else that I own and have and think "Why do I have this?  Do I use it? Do I watch it?" and go about sorting and selling or giving it away.  In the process of moving from GA to VT I went from a two bedroom apartment to a one bedroom and sold and gave a lot away. But lately I've begun feeling like maybe I still have too much stuff.

A couple of weeks ago I read a book called "The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir."  In it the author, Dee Williams, talks about how a near death experience helped her reexamine her life and look at what was really important to her, focusing on friends, family, and enjoying life.  She downsized to an 84sq ft home she designed herself.  And Dee isn't alone.  There are countless others who have made the move to go smaller and simpler.  And I'm thinking maybe this is what I'll do some day.  And then I thought...why wait til some day?  Why can't I simplify my life a bit more?

While I can't yet build a tiny house of my own, after reading "The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir" I began to take a look at what I owned again and began asking myself why I have some of the things that I do.  Some things I have because I really do enjoy them (you can have my art supplies when you pry them from my cold fingers.)  Others, I have because "I'm supposed to have them as an adult"...like various things in the kitchen or things that look nice.  And I've begun sorting through things to sell or give away.  DVD's of TV shows that I like...but not enough to keep them.  Items that I have because I bought and swore that I liked, but have never actually used them.  And books.  God knows I love books, but do I need all of them?  Do I need them all in print?

And so I've started reducing and paring away.  Books that I do want, but I don't need them in print have made there way to an Amazon wishlist to acquire electronically to reduce the footprint of my bookshelves.  Things are being sold, some things will be given away, some things thrown away.  Some mental spring cleaning and parring as well.  

While I may never live in an 84sq foot house, I will not be carrying things around with me that I don't need.  Things that take up space or things that I don't treasure or just things that are not me.  I will be going tiny(er) where I can, while still being me.

06 January 2015

Help me continue my dream

If you've known me for longer than two minutes, you know that one of my passions is graphic novels and comics.  I love showing them off, talking about them, and helping introduce them to new readers.  Last year when I was thinking about life and everything during my leave from work, I realized that I wanted to make comics and graphic novels part of my everyday job and life. My goal, and my dream, is to be able to help schools, libraries, businesses, hospitals, the community connect with comics and graphic novels and to help connect comics and graphic novel community to the world.

To that end I'm starting my own business, but more importantly I'm working on a MFA in Applied Cartooning at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, VT.  I've completed the first semester of the program and can say that I'm a lot happier, I've learned a lot, and I know that this is the right place and path for me.  The completion of this MFA program is part of the process for me, as I learn about making my own comics, building connections, and laying the ground work for what I want to do.

And now here's where I ask for help, as hard as it is for me to do so.  The school is a great one and widely recognized and accredited by the state of Vermont to grant MFA's.  Because the program is more focused in an area that others still...view as less than a real career, it isn't accredited at the federal level, meaning that I can't get federal financial aid, and can only get private loans.
I have funds to carry me through the end of May (hopefully), but I'm really wanting to avoid taking out a loan for the second year of the program, which would cover tuition and living expenses.  

And that's where I need your help.  I've started an Indiegogo campaign to help me raise funds to cover living expenses/tuition.  I'm in the process of launching my own business and finding PT employment, and if those pan out then all I need to cover is tuition.

So what do you get out of the deal?  Everyone that donates will get a hand drawn item.  Postcard, picture, something.  It may take me a while to get them out, but I'll get them there.  More importantly though you help me help the larger community experience the joy of comics and graphic novels, how important they are to mental health, to education, to literacy, and more.  So please consider helping me out, I'd greatly appreciate it.

04 January 2015

I keep going

2014 was a banner year: dealing with a bullying situation at work, continued battles with depression and anxiety, discovering that I was on the Asperger's spectrum and discovering what that means to me, enrolling and completing a certificate of advanced Data Studies from the iSchool at Syracuse, leaving a job that I had for eight years, moving to Vermont, and starting an MFA program in comics.  Lots of things yeah?  One thing that I haven't discussed publicly, or talked about a lot, is that I took emergency leave from my job back in May.

I haven't really talked about it, and I've mostly avoided talking about it here, because I didn't want other people to think I was dragging them into something or whatever.  I still don't.  But I've come to realize people are going to think what they want, regardless of what reality is, and some are going to do their best to keep their head in the sand.  But I shouldn't be afraid to talk about why I took leave.

A few people think that I took leave because of particular person at work.  They're partially right.  But also wrong.  And some of them didn't really seem to want to hear the real reason, but here it is:  I took emergency leave because it was the closest I've ever come to ending my own life.

The depression, anxiety, and situations at work made my life so miserable, that I didn't want to keep on anymore.  Some of what was going on was my own making. Of not trusting in myself, of not believing in myself, of not being me.  Some of it was the fault of others.  Some of it was just things.  Either way, I couldn't be at work.  In conjunction with my awesome counselor and other medical folks, I took leave to figure out what I was going to do next and to put my head back on straight.  It was during that time that I decided that one way or other I was going to leave my job by the end of the summer, even if that meant moving to some random part of the country and working at a bookstore or some other random job.  Or joining the Rangers led by Isildur's heir.  I looked into graduate programs to apply to, jobs, etc.  I came back from my leave, still somewhat shaky, but with a plan in place and made it happen.  I got out.  I left a place that was going to literarily kill me.

I'm sure I made mistakes as I left and shoved back against what made me so miserable for so long.  But I also know that it was the right decision when I was criticized for how I took my leave and not following the "normal protocol" and "normal rules"...even though nothing about the situation was normal.  I lost people that I cared about as I left.  Splits, strains, cracks, and fractures appeared and I know I took a hammer to some of those to separate, because I wanted to put out how I really felt, in the hopes that they'd understand me a bit better.  I did what I thought was right at the time.  Not sure I'd do it any differently now.

The point of all of the rambling?  To say that if you are in a similar spot, or if your job makes you feel so miserable that you don't want to go on, you aren't alone.  Ever.  And regardless of what other people tell you, of what they try to shove down your throats about "that's just part of life" or "all jobs are miserable" please tell them to kindly fuck off and make a plan to find something new.  Set a deadline. Set goals. Get help.  Life is too short to be miserable where you spend the bulk of your days.

I'm in a better place as 2015 starts and I'm enjoying the new path that I'm making for myself.  There are scary and exciting things ahead.  And I can't wait to see what happens next.