Why Do American Men Turn To Guns To Solve Their Emotional Problems?

Adam Lanza

Another mass shooting in America — Eight murdered at a Fed Ex facility in Indianapolis — and the news media needs to know: “What’s the motive?” As if the gunman’s particular issue with the world would explain why he reacted exactly as he did. Our news media is good at wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth at these moments. But they’re guilty of giving credence to bullshit arguments. I’m old enough to remember when they’d regularly give climate science deniers equal time because, hey — they have a “point of view” so therefore because they have it, it must be valid. Here, as always, on one side is a majority of Americans who do not own guns and resent the fact that gun owners can’t keep their damned killing machines to themselves. On the other side are gun owners whose hair catches fire immediately because, damn it, as former NRA president Chuck Heston put it, we can try and pry their guns from their cold, dead fingers.

What is this mania to have guns in the first place? Yeah, sure — out in rural America, something or other. That seems to be the argument’s meat: we’re different. We’re threatened by neighbors who live miles away and by strangers we’ve never met. In case those zombie-people come, swarming by the dozens, those guns will be all that stands between us and the zombie apocalypse.

America’s gun problem is borderline intractable in large part because we’ve spent so long giving credence to bullshit arguments about guns. Rather than dismiss fears of marauders out of hand, we indulge this nonsense. We nod along to their white terror: “Oh, yes, of course it could happen — Black or brown people are probably plotting right this second to break into your house and eat your children for lunch. Have all the weaponry you want!” The data says that won’t happen. But — the data again — it could happen that one of those guns ends up killing someone who live in the house — by way of an accident or suicide or a moment of intra-familial rage.

That’s the other lie about guns that our news media happily propagates — that “responsible gun owners” don’t have these problems. There is no such thing as “responsible gun ownership”. Nancy Lanza thought she was a responsible gun owner until her son Adam shot her with her own legally purchased Bushmaster XM15 semi-automatic rifle before taking that weapon — and ten magazines with 30 rounds each to Sandy Hook Elementary School. Adam Lanza used a gun to resolve his emotional problems. Whatever was bothering him, he became convinced that the solution to it would spit from the muzzle of that Bushmaster.

Nobody turns a gun on other people — on strangers or on people they know — because they’re happy with them. You point a death machine — that’s what a gun is by design — at someone in order to threaten them. Do what they say or they’ll kill you with that gun. Gun violence killed 20,000 Americans last year. That’s a lot of anger. Another 24,000 Americans used guns to commit suicide. If the guns that were used to end those 44,000 lives hadn’t been available, how many of those people would still be here today? Most of them, that’s who — if not all of them.

Our gun laws all flow directly from our racism. If white people thought for two seconds that, say, Black people were arming themselves to the teeth the way white people already have? They’d re-write the gun laws just like that. Here’s my “let’s make a deal” to gun world: I’ll be honest if you will. Yes, in a perfect world, I admit it: I would insist that we carry out the Second Amendment to the letter. We’d arrange for a “well regulated militia” to formally take over the job of deciding who among the citizenry will be permitted to “keep” or “bear” the militia’s arms. The arms, you see, would BELONG to the militia; the word “own” doesn’t appear in the Second Amendment. Do you suppose that’s an accident? I don’t. The word “own” was perfectly good back then. Yet, strangely, they didn’t use that word to describe anyone’s relationship with a gun — as its “owner”.

Maybe the Constitution’s framers understood that some people couldn’t be trusted to have a gun in their hands. They might want to be in the militia but the militia wouldn’t want them; they’re nuts.

The whole tone of the gun rights argument smacks of emotional neediness. Virtually none of these people need their guns for “protection”. C’mon — I was honest — I said I’d take most guns. The other side needs to be honest, too: they need to confess why they REALLY feel threatened enough to “keep” a death machine within reach. What do they REALLY feel threatened by?

I write this as a suicide survivor. I tried to step in front of a bus. It seemed, in the moment, a sure thing. It wasn’t. Ah, but if I’d had a gun — I’d have been 2020’s suicide gun death number 24,001.

Never Mind Walking A Mile In Someone Else’s Shoes, Try Seeing The World Through Their Eyes

The reason organizations like the ASPCA use pleading, wide-eyed dogs in their fundraising appeals is because they work. Maybe those people who fear photography captures something of their souls are on to something. Even a photo of a pleading animal’s eyes touches us deeply (as compared to the actual animal itself, pleading directly to it with its eyes). Something of us flows from our orbs. Look deeply enough into them and you’ll even see past any attempts to deceive about who or what we really “are” to “us” — the real, honest-to-goodness US.

An honest-to-goodness “us” really exists inside each of us. It’s that entity behind our eyes that we spy in the bathroom mirror whenever we take a moment to acknowledge that it’s there. That is what we all do when we gaze past our reflection and into our reflection’s eyes — we acknowledge the stone cold fact that there really is a presence inside our heads that knows us even better than we know ourselves. Its voice sounds like ours. Its habits and peccadilloes — ours. In every way imaginable, it’s us! And yet, as we gaze at it — as we converse with it even — we can’t get past the weird sensation that as much as we know that “it’s us”, it’s also a weird sort of “separate us”.

It is bloody hard being a sentient creature, isn’t it? Thinking is exhausting. Even more so when your brain sees everything as a problem to be solved. More so still when the problem to be solved is “why me?”

We know what we know about us. We know where our bodies are buried — somewhere between us and the person staring back at us in the mirror. Not only does that person staring back “know what we know” about us, that person knows what we know about the world beyond the mirror.

Add a layer of complication: we honestly have no idea how it works — how the electrical activity flashing through our grey matter — does its “perception thing” and creates the thoughts we’re having about ourselves (or about anything else). We know we have feelings. We know that chemicals in our brains cause our feelings (or the feeling that we’re having a feeing) to ebb and flow. We don’t know where our feelings “live” when we’re not feeling them. I don’t know why I feel the way I do and I don’t know why you feel the way you do. While I can empathize with how things feel to your body, I can never know how they feel. I can only know how things feel to my body.

Same goes for pain. We all experience it differently. It is pure arrogance on my part to assume how pain effects me is prototypical, as if my tolerance were some sort of standard that should apply to everyone else; it absolutely isn’t.

One of the things I find interesting about cannabis is the pure subjectivity of the experience. My experience will differ from yours because our brain chemistries are different. It’s only by comparing notes with each other about that experience that we can adjudge 1) how cannabis works on our minds to begin with and 2) how any particular strain, with its own terpene profile and THC/CBD matrix works on our minds. If my experience with the classic sativa Durban Poison is similar enough to yours (a solid, warm, consistent beam of delicious mental focus), then we can agree that smoking Durban Poison will probably produce that particular effect inside a smoker’s head.

For a decade and a half, I struggled with a deepening depression related to an event in my past that I’d suppressed — I was sexually molested twice when I was 14 by the religious director at the synagogue where my family belonged. For the 45 years that I kept that secret from myself (meaning — I knew this thing had happened to me but I refused to acknowledge that it had happened to me), I looked out at the world with this little detail as part of how I saw the world. Having a terrible secret puts you on an island inhabited by just you and your molester. If no one else knows this terrible secret about you, then obviously, they don’t know YOU. How could they? They only “think” they know who you are.

Having survived a suicidal depression, I know for a fact that I saw the world differently than anyone else around me. I understood (well, on some deep, abstract-thinking level) why silly, seemly insignificant things set me off into a volcanic, self-directed rage. My wife and kids would look at me during those moments as if I was a Martian who did things for no understandable reason. Ah, if only they could have understood me the way I understood me — and saw the world through my eyes.

It wasn’t possible for my wife and kids to see my pain my way in part because even I didn’t see the pain correctly. Once I did, I was able to articulate my pain. That helped. A lot.

Now, I have a certain advantage here because I could articulate my pain once I understood it — and that helped me recover from it. Being able to express my pain, what was behind it — liberated me because I no longer had to bear its burden alone. When anyone gets to express their pain, it’s liberating. Sometimes people have to be coaxed though. That’s when they look out at the world in silent desperation. Maybe they’ve surrendered already and given up hope than anyone else will see their pain. Maybe they feel unworthy. They’re not. Maybe they fear being judged.

I have no idea what it “feels like” to be LGBTQ. No one gets a choice about what kind of brain chemistry they’ll have. We don’t stand there as sperm and egg fuse and our two sets of DNA begin to dance with each other. We don’t get to sort among our dominant or recessive genes or snag a predecessor’s skill set. What comes to us comes to us. It makes us who and what we are before we even “are”. And our genome isn’t “perfect”. It’s malleable and fluid and error prone. And that’s just the parts we’ve figured out. There’s plenty we haven’t yet. I know people who were born with external male characteristics but the overwhelming feeling that they were female. That’s not them being “dramatic” of course; it’s how they actually feel inside their heads — because their biochemistry is at war with itself.

I wonder: do judgy Christians judge a lupus sufferer whose immune system is at war with them the way they judge a person whose sexual identity is at war with their biochemistry? Christians are a particularly judge-y lot. That’s ironic considering as the religion’s founder was all about “judge not lest ye be judged”.

Why does sexual repression slow dance with religious fervor? Why do deities inspire all sorts of sexual peccadilloes? Why can’t people who insist their deity connects them to other people, appreciate the people that deity supposedly connects them to?

Sigh… I guess if I could see the world through their eyes? I’d know…

Why Do I Call This Blog What I Call It? Because Bullsh*t Nearly Killed Me, That’s Why!

Devout atheist that I am, I consider myself “born again’. I have seen with my own eyes the havoc bullshit can cause in both my daily life and over the whole length of it. I bear witness to bullshit’s remarkable power to convince us that it is truth and truth is bullshit. Actually, bullshit’s much more clever than that. Bullshit convinces us that our feelings are more valid than facts. That empirical truth does not exist outside our own heads, making it as fluid as our thoughts. If we think something’s so, it is so, no receipts required. . Bullshit tells us that Life is how it is and people are how they are and there’s nothing we can do to change it — that the cynicism tugging at us is correct. Paired with an angry, confused, judgmental deity, that cynicism can turn deadly. Happiness, we become convinced (by bullshit) is a matter of how we navigate our way around our bullshit and everyone else’s. In bullshit’s defense, bullshit has that half-right. The trick to living life with even a modicum of success or happiness is to focus on your own bullshit FIRST before worrying about anyone else’s. If your experience is anything like mine, dealing with your own bullshit will be a full-time job; you will literally NEVER have time to even think of anyone else’s.

My own personal bullshit had me convinced I could disappear from Life without causing my family excessive harm — that money would eventually assuage the “bad feelings”. Talk about bullshit. But, bullshit won the argument. Three days before Christmas 2016, I came within literal inches of killing myself. A decade-long depression got triggered by Trump’s seizing the presidency (he did not “win” it legitimately) into full-on self-destruction. The thing about depression is, it robs you of perspective. The deeper the depression, the less perspective you have; I had come to believe that the world was the narrow, future-less tunnel I saw it as. It wasn’t, of course. It never was. And, as my personal darkness drove me toward increasingly irrational action, I did it having denied for 45 years that at age fourteen, I was sexually molested twice by the religious director at the synagogue where my family belonged.

I had gotten it into my head that me getting sexually molested was MY FAULT. It wasn’t, of course. That was bullshit!

Long story short, being molested put me on an island because only my molester and I knew that secret about us. Anyone else? Nope! That meant (in the irrational reasoning of my young mind) that if you didn’t know this about me, you didn’t know “me”. Since I wasn’t sharing my secret (and my molester definitely wasn’t), no one was ever going to really know me. No one. And, as you sit there, on that island, you slowly begin to blame yourself for being there. And every terrible thing that happens to you? Well, hell — that’s YOUR fault, stupid! I can only speak for and from my own experience. Once you’ve opened the door to self-loathing, it’s a hard, HARD door to shut. What makes it so hard? It’s bullshit that’s fighting you every time you try to close it.

When I first realized how close I had come to hurting myself because bullshit told me to, I literally laughed out loud. “Ya dumb sonofabitch,” I said to myself, “You came within inches of bullshitting yourself to death!” Could anything possibly be stupider?

Yeah — bullshit can kill. It kills. I still think a lot about Anthony Bourdain. The guy was at the top of his game but his darkness got him anyway. Anthony Bourdain’s bullshit won out over Anthony Bourdain. That’s no knock on Anthony Bourdain. That, in essence, is a respectful tribute to the strength of Mr. Bourdain’s bullshit — it convinced him he didn’t need to be here anymore while literally everyone else on the planet saw it differently.

We just lived through four years where bullshit ran amok. Hell, bullshit convinced us that a president who bullshitted us every damned day was “how it was”. Talk about bullshit!

I knew my darkness had me in its thrall but I feared medication. My dad was a surgeon; I grew up in the medical culture; I don’t see doctors demagogically. My dad saw what he did as equal parts science and guess work. He saw the insurance companies as greedy gate keepers with hospitals as their equally greedy collaborators. The Hypocritic Oath doesn’t mention profit incentive anywhere. While I had a GP I liked and trusted, I knew however that they had little to no background in mood stabilizers and how to prescribe them correctly. Probably the only mood stabilizer they even knew about was the one a pharmaceutical rep left behind on her last customer service visit to the office. “Hey,” the Pharmaceutical Rep said as she set the samples down on the counter, “If you have any patients complaining of depression, try these!”

The problem with this class of drug is it takes time to reveal whether or not it’s working. Since everyone’s brain chemistry is different, it’s hard to accurately predict what any one mood stabilizer will do to or for any one person contemplating it. Normally, it takes six to eight weeks to get an inkling of whether it’s working or not. It’s entirely possible that the mood stabilizer could take a bad situation and make it worse. As Screenwriting God William Goldman said of the film business, “No one knows anything”. FFS, we do not even know how we’re all doing this — writing blogs, reading blogs, having conversations — having thoughts themselves. We don’t know where our memories come from — yeah, sure — we know what part of the brain they seem to emanate from. But we don’t know how they convert from lived experience to remembered experience.

And we have to consider THAT in the context of teenage boys who seem to walk around with zero remembered experience. But, I digress…

After seeing quite clearly that in a moment of sheer irrationality I now had it in me to commit to that irrationality completely, I drove straight to my GP’s office and told them what had just happened. I immediately got great service. Just like that, I was sitting with not just my GP but the head honcho doctor too! I told them everything. Told them my fear of medication — and why I felt as I did. But, I also told them of the research I’d been doing on my own. I’d looked into every mood stabilizer there was, looking for the one that might hold my depression at bay while leaving my hypomanic side mostly alone. I’m bipolar, ya see. I worried that if the mood stabilizer I chose dealt with the depression but made writing impossible, I’d be right back in the darkness’ thrall. I’d read anecdotal evidence (the only evidence there is) suggesting lamotrigine could be my answer.

Immediately, my GP and his boss whipped out their smart phones and looked up lamotrigine. Yes, they agreed, that could definitely work for me; they agreed to write the prescription. I took it, picked up the meds from my local pharmacy, went home and told my family what I was going to do. Swallowing that first .25 milligram little white pill, I expected a long period of wondering to begin. Instead, I got lucky. Within thirty-six hours, I leveled. I felt it. I experienced my first evidence not only that the lamotrigine would definitely work for me but HOW it would work.

My anger back then was volcanic. Once triggered, it was usually a matter of seconds before the rage in my gut exploded out my mouth in a profanity-laced screed. Anything could set me off: a stupid political argument I heard on the radio, other drivers, me if I dropped something (and bigger still if it broke). I don’t remember specifically what sparked the rage in my gut, only that it sparked — and, once sparked, it flowed back on itself like a blocked toilet. I felt the rage rising in me like it always did, picking up speed as it blew past my stomach, racing upward toward my mouth. And just as I fully expected that metastasizing anger to metamorphose into a lava spew — “Paf!” — the rage dissipated like a soap bubble popping.

I knew I had just felt the rage — felt its hold on me — and just like that — I knew I had felt the rage in the abstract but I did not feel it in any practical way that I could point at. It really was kind of like the anger “never was”.

Realizing that my darkness could no longer dominate me liberated me. In time — a few months — it even gave me the confidence (that’s the biggest, best benefit of perspective — it builds your confidence) to go at it head on. Now, able to confront my demon without that demon destroying me, I confessed my own truth to myself. Yeah, the night I spent weeping quietly on the bathroom floor (because I didn’t want to wake my wife and have to explain) was long, lonely and hard. But it destroyed the bullshit chains forever.

That’s the night I was “born again” — as a person. That was the day I started living my life unencumbered by the giant piece of bullshit that, unbeknownst to me, had dominated my life.

And it felt AWESOME!

Seeing everything in context also was awesome. “Hey,” I said to myself, suddenly feeling good about things, “bullshit nearly killed you. Are there any other ways bullshit’s making your life harder than it should be?”

I bet you can guess the answer to that question. Bullshit, it turned out, was dominating virtually every aspect of my life. For starters, I hadn’t slept well in years. Financial difficulties and sleep aren’t pals. I had been using (abusing really) OTC products like Simply Sleep. They’re anti-histamines. They don’t so much produce “sleep” as “unconsciousness for a while”. You wake up in the morning — if you sleep — feeling groggy and unprepared for the day. I wanted no part of anything stronger. I was terrified of what my brain would do with Ambien in it. Bullshit had convinced me that this problem was forever. It wasn’t. I live in California. I got myself a medical marijuana prescription and from the first day I started using cannabis as a sleep aid, I’ve slept wonderfully.

With bullshit negating my sleep, I’d start each day by putting on my bullshit colored lenses while breathing deeply from bullshit scented air. Lie in for another ten minutes, I’d bullshit myself, it won’t matter (bullshit — it did!). Never mind missing this deadline — they’ll be cool with it (they weren’t!). Ignore the warning signs that your marriage is struggling; those problems can wait till later (no, they can’t). Everything bad happening to me is my fault. No, it isn’t — but, then, it isn’t everyone else’s fault either. The world is more complicated than that: take off the bullshit-colored lenses and SEE IT.

That’s why I started this blog. I’m learning as I go and sharing my notes. Is living bullshit free for everyone? I have no idea — that’s someone else’s bullshit to worry about. That’s not to say that if another person’s bullshit gets them in trouble that I have zero obligation to them. That’s bullshit too. If I have to put my own bullshit aside to help them because of their bullshit — that’s what I must do. In the aftermath, I can only hope that, with this newfound perspective, that person, too, will have discovered bullshit’s hold on them and, like me, will want to break that hold.

We live in a new cycle where the Biggest Story There Is (after the worldwide Covid pandemic) is “The Big Lie”. To call it what it really is, it’s bullshit. One of our two political parties (and its mob boss leader) is trying to shove bullshit down our collective throats.

I guess if I wanted to be a hundred percent accurate I’d call this blog “Learning How To Live Bullshit Free” since that’s what I’m really doing everyday — and writing about it here. I gotta keep reminding myself: the second I get it into my head that I “know” how to live bullshit free? The bullshit will be winning again.

What Being Deeply Depressed Taught Me About Life — And Being Happy

Three days before Christmas 2016, I came within literal inches of harming myself, perhaps fatally. It was pure impulse — a flash of self-directed anger that I’d been building toward for a decade. Oh, the irony… even as I plotted to off myself, I didn’t know (or admit to myself) WHY I felt this terrible compulsion.

In my case, I’d been keeping a secret from myself: I was sexually molested — twice — when I was 14 by the religious director at the northwest Baltimore synagogue where my family belonged while I was growing up. For 45 years, I kept that bit of personal history boxed up deep in my psyche. I always knew this “thing” was there. I simply refused to acknowledge it.

More irony — it wasn’t until after I tried to kill myself — and sought treatment — that I had the emotional strength to face the fact of what happened to me. The night I came clean with myself — to myself — was the longest, loneliest night of my life. I understood myself in a way I never had before. I understood my inability to bond with other people the way everyone else seemed to bond with each other.

I understood why I felt so much emotional distance from the world. Why I felt like I lived, by myself, on an island from which I could never escape: if you didn’t know this terrible secret about me, you couldn’t possibly “know” me. Only two people knew the secret: me and Yehuda Dickstein, the man who molested me. Perversely, I kept our secret — kinda like Yehuda knew I would. He molested me twice — so, he knew for a fact that I never told anyone about the first time.

That’s the hook on which I hung myself for 45 years — the fact that I never told anyone — and then it happened again.

Like lots of victims, I blamed myself. I couldn’t rationalize the first time. That made absolutely no sense to me. It was too surreal. But the second time — I helped manufacture it by not saying anything — convincing myself even that it couldn’t possibly have happened. Then I walked in the door to the place where Yehuda awaited me — and I instantly knew: yes, it HAD happened and it was about to happen again.

We all have varying degrees of darkness inside of us. Comes with being a sentient being with intrinsic knowledge of our vulnerabilities. When healthy, we see the world with a high degree of perspective. We understand when we’re at fault and when we’re not. But depression allows our darkness to take the wheel. The more control our darkness has, the more perspective we lose until, finally, we see everything though a vary narrow, very dark lens.

Though I had lived a very good, successful life, something inside was holding me back. My inability to bond — like a time bomb — ticked away steadily. Worse, my secret was the silent foundation for feelings of incredibly low self esteem. I believed my work was good — but I had no belief in myself whatsoever. And when things started to turn — because life has its ups and downs — I took those reversals of fortune as my due.

My secret had convinced me that I absolutely deserved everything bad that happened to me. In fact, I deserved worse. My darkness’s naked cynicism became a kind of mantra.

I knew I was in trouble. I was in therapy — and that was working up to a point.

But there was great white shark swimming just below the surface. I was afraid of medication, having read and heard more horror stories than success stories. Having grown up in the medical culture (my dad was a surgeon), I understood that the most my GP probably knew about the mood stabilizers I was asking about was whatever the last pharmaceutical rep told her as he slipped a package of samples from her briefcase.

And even if the mood stabilizer might work for me, it would be six to eight weeks before we’d have an inkling of whether it would or not — and there was the distinct possibility that this mood stabilizer would make my depression worse. Add to the mix — I wanted the medication to deal with the darkness while leaving my hypomania alone (I’m bi-polar, you see). My creativity resides in my hypomania — and the thought of losing my mojo — that sounded like a shortcut right back to suicide.

I had done research and identified a drug — lamotrigine (lamictil) that could work for me. After my near run-in with mortality, I drove straight to my doctor’s office and told them what happened. Great life hack? If you want really quick medical service, tell your health care professionals you just tried to hurt yourself.

I got not only my GP (a terrific doctor) but one of the two HEAD doctors. They got from the look in my eyes that I was deadly serious. They asked me three times if perhaps to consider hospitalization. In said no — I was there to try and help myself; but, first, they needed to write me this prescription. My two GP’s whipped out their smart phones and looked up the drug. They agreed to write the script.

Then I got really lucky — even luckier than I realized in fact.

Whereas one normally has to wait six to eight weeks to see if a mood stabilizer works or not, I leveled within 36 hours. I felt the lamotrigine’s impact: I triggered.

I can’t remember why anymore but something caused the rage that had been living rent free in my gut to ignite. I felt it rising like a lava plume rushing upward toward my head and my mouth — and just as it got there — just as I would normally speed up, lose my cool and become utterly irrational — the rage vanished — poof! — like a soap bubble popping. I knew I had felt all that rage and yet… now I felt nothing. The rage was gone before it could take flight and overwhelm me.

I’ve never taken more than the 25 milligram minimum dose since. And my depression has been kept completely at arm’s length. Here’s where the extra bit of luck kicked in. My research? It wasn’t complete. Yes, there was anecdotal data that lamotrigine wouldn’t impact my hypomania. There’s way more anecdotal data (no one’s ever tested lamotrigine as a mood stabilizer; it’s used mostly as an anti-seizure medication) that says it absolutely would impact my hypomania — at higher doses.

That bit of luck aside, the first lesson my depression taught me was that until you finally stand up to your darkness, it will own you. And it knows it.

Look — standing up to your darkness is hard. There are no easy answers here. Terrible things put you where you are emotionally. The thing about standing up to your darkness though is it requires help. To beat your darkness you must reach outside yourself. Seeking therapy is essential of course. But it’s important that you actively engage with your therapy — that you see therapy (the act of seeking help) as you being pro-active. It’s not just a good thing, it’s a great thing. But the real work of getting healthy remains ahead of you.

There’s no certainty in this. We’re not talking about concrete, we’re talking about the human mind — and we don’t really understand how we even “have” thoughts. And everyone’s darkness is a little bit different — because we are all a little bit different.

The goal always is happiness. The absence of suffering and emotional pain. The goal is to be the master of your darkness and not the other way around.

I’m a “devout atheist” to my core but I know exactly what born again Christians are talking about. Being able to see my darkness in its proper perspective — understanding WHY there was that darkness to begin with and WHY it had held so much power over me — liberated me. It can’t make the memory of that event go away. It can’t undo the broken relationships and poor choices. It can’t bring back all the time I lost to being depressed and having zero faith in myself.

But I can see that period of my life for what it was. And I can see my present for what it is and, more importantly, my future for what it could be — if only I pursue it. That’s the nature of hope — of believing in a future where happiness can blossom in its fullness.

That’s the biggest lesson my depression taught me. Happiness is absolutely possible.

The Trump Presidency Is A Clinic On WHY We ALL Should Want To Live Bullshit Free

Donald Trump and his presidency have unleashed a golden age of bullshit upon the land.

We know for a fact that if Donald Trump — or anyone supporting him — opens their mouth, what follows will almost certainly be a total lie. After 3+ years of living inside this nonstop maelstrom of nonsense and fuckery, you can feel our collective weariness just by walking outside your front door.

We felt it the night Trump “won”. We knew we’d crossed over from the reality we’d all lived in — and taken for granted — to a whole new space where not being able to discern bullshit from reality was the point of the exercise. Look at how long it’s taken the MSM — who spend their lives to digging for the truth (in theory) — to even realize that maybe the reason Trump is so chummy with Vladimir Putin is because Putin owns Trump.

Our MSM still hasn’t gone all the way to that realization — but they can see it from their houses. That’s a huge improvement.

We all endure and even tolerate staggering amounts of bullshit in our lives. Never mind other peoples’ bullshit — if we all looked squarely at our own and nothing but, we’d have plenty of work ahead of us — if we wanted to live bullshit free.

The 4 Levels Of Bullshit

Level 1: Incidental Bullshit

  • Your 5 year old asks if there’s Santa Claus; you say yes.
  • It’s 6 am.  You have to get up.  You don’t want to.  “Five more minutes,” you tell yourself – you won’t be late.  Bullshit – you know damned well you’ll be late.  You do it anyway.
  • “One more spoonful of ice cream won’t matter to my diet/diabetes.”
  • “Why did you look at me funny when I took one more spoonful of ice cream?”
  •  “Have a nice day” (no matter who says it, no matter why).

Incidental Bullshit is water off a duck’s back.  Life’s just too short to get too hung up on this kind of low grade truthiness.  It’s petty mostly.  Meaningless and forgettable.  However:  This is the ‘shit’ that ‘happens’.  It just does.  What are any of us going to do about it?  Nothing.  Moving on…

Level 2: Tolerable Bullshit

  • Your 10 year old – who’s starting to figure things out – asks if there’s a Santa Claus; you say yes.
  • Your bff always brings a bottle of red wine when she comes over – except you drink white wine.  What kind of guest is that?  You could say something, but you don’t; you’ll keep the peace instead.
  • You both know damned well whose turn it is to clean the bathroom – but you do it better anyway, so…
  •  “I love you” said under duress.

Tolerable Bullshit will challenge you occasionally – is it actually tolerable?  Small doses – no problem.  More than that?   It could easily start to feel just like bullshit.

Level 3: Red Flag Warning Bullshit

  • Your 20 year old asks – for real – if there’s a Santa Claus.
  • “I don’t have a drinking problem.”
  • “My phone’s battery died.  No, really – I swear it!”

You know it in your gut – it ain’t right.  It doesn’t add up or it just plain smells.  This is the bullshit that leaves a mark – or worse.  Deal with it now – you’ll probably be okay.  Ignore the warning and this bullshit will likely morph into –

Level 4: Utter Bullshit

  • “I alone can fix it.”
  • “No collusion.”
  •  “I don’t deserve to be here”

This is the stuff that kills.  It changes lives forever.  And it’s bullshit.

My worst example of utter bullshit was believing it was my fault that I was sexually molested when I was 14. I kept that secret for 45 years — denying it even as it ate at my insides every day. That secret — and even keeping it was bullshit — came within literal inches of killing me.

My bullshit became so convincing that I honestly thought no one would care if I died — that the insurance money would eventually assuage my family’s deep psychic would. Talk about utter bullshit.

We live in an atmosphere that’s equally toxic. We have grown adults refusing to acknowledge what more and more Americans understand is horrifyingly true — that Russia has taken over this country. Evidence of treason and obstruction of justice and election fraud and treason ffs mounts every day. It is bullshit on steroids to deny what mountains of evidence make damningly clear.

Who the hell wants to live like this?

Except a Trumpian, I mean…

Each & Every One Of Us Is Making It Up As We Go Along — Every Day; Why Not Own It?

I’ve told this story here before. Three days before Christmas 2016, I came within inches of bullshitting myself to death.

That’s how I thought of it not long afterward — after driving straight to my doctor’s office and pretty much demanding that he write me a prescription for the mood stabilizer I had researched and thought would be my shot at salvation. See, darkness and depression rob you of perspective. I’d lost so much perspective that I believed insurance money would eventually assuage the deep psychic pain I’d cause my family.

That there, friends, is some serious-assed bullshit. That’s why this blog is called what it’s called. I got very lucky with my mood stabilizer. I leveled at the lowest dose within 36 hours and stopped wanting to hurt myself. With the darkness now held at bay — and aware of how close bullshit came to killing me, I began to realize how my bullshit (and most of it was mine but some was the culture’s) had built up in my life like plaque in a vein.

Even though killing myself was off the table, bullshit still outweighed every other component of my waking life. Most of my bullshit was either incidental bullshit or tolerable bullshit — the stuff we do to get through a day. But some was capable of metastasizing. That’s the stuff I turned my focus on.

As I said, depression (very much like bullshit) robs you of perspective. Perspective by the same token is like kryptonite to bullshit — and depression. Regaining perspective put a whole new set of lenses in my hands. Being able now to pull the camera back as far as I could, that was liberating! The first thing I saw with absolute clarity — dealing with my own bullshit was going to be a full time gig. Like it or not, I was going to have to let everyone else’s bullshit go.

The second thing I saw — again, with absolute clarity — the only way to fully negate bullshit’s impact was brutal honesty (to myself about myself within myself). Think of it as confession except you’re the church, the confession booth and the priest. You know where all your bodies are buried — FFS, YOU’RE THE ONE WHO BURIED THEM.

The third thing I saw — clearest of all: I had the power, within me, to overcome virtually every last bit of bullshit’s hold on me. All I had to do was want it. And be willing to work at it every single day.

We live in dark times. Dark forces are actively working to create a permanent state of darkness. That’s not hyperbole unfortunately.

Human beings thinking innovatively is a very recent phenomenon. For thousands of years, human armies fought pretty much the exact same way with very little improvement in technology. Even gunpowder didn’t really change the close-at-hand, colliding walls of humans battlefield strategy that persisted through World War I.

In his excellent book Sapiens, Juval Harrari points out how it really wasn’t until the industrial age that humans even imagined that tomorrow could be better than today. Up until technology became an instrument of commerce, it was generally understood that human beings were living in the fading afterglow of a long ago golden age. No one aspired to be anything other than what they were born as. What was the point?

And then humans realized — slowly — that that way of thinking was wrong. It wasn’t based on anything other than false perception and groupthink. Groupthink that went on for thousands of years.

Think of a subject like marijuana — and how our whole way of thinking of it was colored not by the truth, but by one man’s racist intent. We made up laws to punish people for reasons the people crafting the laws knew wasn’t true. That’s all very deliberate — and every last bit of it is bullshit.

In places like California and Oregon and Colorado, we consciously decided to stop thinking one way and start thinking a different way.

The Rule Of Law isn’t just under assault in America, it needs an armed guard to piss in the middle of the night. The Republican Party — especially Mitch McConnell — stopped playing by any such “rules” years ago in pursuit of a project determined to install permanent minority rule. Meanwhile the Democrats have made themselves prisoners of the Rule Of Law.

That’s the fatal flaw at the Rule Of Law’s heart — those who follow it will always be prisoners of those bent on perverting it. Yes, we can prosecute rule-breakers, but when the people charged with creating and enforcing the rules are the ones most intent on breaking them — not much good can come of it.

In my daily life — wanting to get healthy — I cut bullshit from my diet as much as I can. I feel better for it — for real. I walk around most of the time in a perpetual state of bliss. It ain’t the limotrigine, the therapy or the THC doing that — it’s the minimalization of bullshit in my daily diet.

The same way we can set ourselves up for failure, we can set ourselves up for success. It’s all a matter of how you look at it. But you do have to look at it.

Why Are We All So Addicted To Our Own Bullshit? Easy — We’re Addicted To It BECAUSE It’s “Ours”…

I almost learned the hard way how addicted I was to bullshit. My bullshit nearly killed me. For real.

Long story short, I kept a secret from myself for 45 years — that I was molested (twice) when I was 14. If I think of my hypomanic mind as a black box theater filled with projections (my thoughts), this memory sat in a file drawer in a closet in an office far at the back of the theater, up a long metal staircase. The memory glowed inside its drawer.

I always knew it was there.

That I denied this thing happened to me — that was bullshit. But it’s something that victims of sexual assault do as a survival strategy. We blame ourselves. It seems logical. And since it was our fault, we convince ourselves that we deserve every terrible thing that ever flows from it. I became so convinced this bullshit was true that I came within literal inches of killing myself.

I count myself extremely lucky. Between a magnificent therapist, a mood stabilizer (at a minimal dose) that keeps my depression caged and loads of THC to help get my hypomania focused (I highly recommend Durban Poison during the day — it delivers a smooth, even feeling of clear-headed mental energy), I get through my days with a high degree of happiness now. As I started to get healthy, I saw (to my horror) that not only had my own bullshit tried to kill me, my bullshit was undermining every other facet of my life, too.

From the moment I woke up in the morning, I was seeing the world through the bullshit color lenses I kept by my bedside and put on the instant I woke up. I breathed deeply the bullshit scented fumes rising from the piles of bullshit that I had left by my bed the night before. I thought things based on bullshit, did things based on bullshit, said things based on bullshit.

And I was shocked, shocked, I tell ya, when I got bullshit back in response.

Now, let’s be real. No one’s ever going to live 100% bullshit free. Bullshit is hardwired into our genome. Take bullshit away from us and there’d be no religion (not the worst thing that could happen to us). Take bullshit away from us and a lot of relationships would instantly metastasize and die. Take bullshit away from us and Donald Trump would be serving multiple life terms in a federal penitentiary already — alongside pretty much every single Republican.

Bullshit comes in 4 “flavors” or levels…

Level 1: Incidental Bullshit

  • Your 5 year old asks if there’s Santa Claus; you say yes.
  • It’s 6 am.  You have to get up.  You don’t want to.  “Five more minutes,” you tell yourself – you won’t be late.  Bullshit – you know damned well you’ll be late.  You do it anyway.
  • “One more spoonful of ice cream won’t matter to my diet/diabetes.”
  • “Why did you look at me funny when I took one more spoonful of ice cream?”
  •  “Have a nice day” (no matter who says it, no matter why).

Incidental Bullshit is water off a duck’s back.  Life’s just too short to get too hung up on this kind of low grade truthiness.  It’s petty mostly.  Meaningless and forgettable.  However:  This is the ‘shit’ that ‘happens’.  It just does.  What are any of us going to do about it?  Nothing.  Moving on…

Level 2: Tolerable Bullshit

  • Your 10 year old – who’s starting to figure things out – asks if there’s a Santa Claus; you say yes.
  • Your bff always brings a bottle of red wine when she comes over – except you drink white wine.  What kind of guest is that?  You could say something, but you don’t; you’ll keep the peace instead.
  • You both know damned well whose turn it is to clean the bathroom – but you do it better anyway, so…
  •  “I love you” said under duress.

Tolerable Bullshit will challenge you occasionally – is it actually tolerable?  Small doses – no problem.  More than that?   It could easily start to feel just like bullshit.

Level 3: Red Flag Warning Bullshit

  • Your 20 year old asks – for real – if there’s a Santa Claus.
  • “I don’t have a drinking problem.”
  • “My phone’s battery died.  No, really – I swear it!”

You know it in your gut – it ain’t right.  It doesn’t add up or it just plain smells.  This is the bullshit that leaves a mark – or worse.  Deal with it now – you’ll probably be okay.  Ignore the warning and this bullshit will likely morph into –

Level 4: Utter Bullshit

  • “I alone can fix it.”
  • “No collusion.”
  •  “I don’t deserve to be here”

This is the stuff that kills.  It changes lives forever.  And it’s bullshit.

Getting rid of our own bullshit is hard. You have to own it in order to get rid of it. Think of it as confession — except there’s no church. YOU are the church. YOU know where all your bodies are buried because YOU’RE the one who buried them.

Does living (or trying to live) bullshit free work? Yeah — it does. I’m so busy dealing with my own bullshit that I never have time to worry (let alone think about) anyone else’s bullshit. That means I don’t judge their bullshit anymore — they’re all as consumed & dominated by their bullshit as I am.

What do you have to lose — trying to live bullshit free — except your bullshit?

We Live In A “Golden Age Of Bullshit” – And Its Patron Saint — Donald Trump — Is Killing Us

If ever one word captured the age we live in — it’s “bullshit”. And could a man embody & epitomize bullshit any better than Donald Trump?

Shameless plug first — I just finished (and I’m agent-shopping) a book: How To Live Bullshit Free (And Other Showbiz Tales). It’s a painfully funny, brutally honest, name-dropping Hollywood memoir. I’ve had an unusual career (you can IMDb me here) that’s given me the chance to work with some of the most talented people in The Business. It’s also a “why you shouldn’t kill yourself” book (I came within inches of committing suicide three days before Christmas 2016 — or, as I like to think of it, I came within literal inches of bullshitting myself to death.

As I began to healthy in the aftermath (thanks to a great therapist, a mood stabilizer to cage the depression — it all flowed from a sexual assault at 14 I had buried — and loads of THC to mitigate my hypomania), I saw the myriad ways bullshit was still kicking my ass on a daily basis.

The first thing you have to do — to get bullshit out of your life — is to acknowledge all your own bullshit first (you have to deal with yours before you can even think of dealing with anyone else’s). And the first thing you’ll find, when you begin to deal with your bullshit, is how completely bullshit has destroyed your perspective. Bullshit, like depression, reduces your view of the world to an extreme telephoto lens — dialed in on one thing (how much you hate yourself, say) to the exclusion of everything else. Both destroy perspective until all you can see is your bullshit — and your bullshit is lying to you.

So — what can one do to become the alpha dog in one’s relationship with one’s ownb bullshit? Understand — calling out the bullshit in your life is not a one-n-done project.  Bullshit is like herpes.  It never really goes away.  You manage it at best.  But you have to manage it.  Every day – or it’ll metastasize from herpes into something a hell of a lot worse. 

HOW TO LIVE BULLSHIT FREE: THE DAILY 7 STEP ‘TO DO’ LIST

1 Get Perspective

2 Be Clear on What Is and What Isn’t

3 Keep Perspective

4 Refuse to Engage With Bullshit (It’s Pointless)

5 Own Your Own Bullshit First (Own It All Every Day)

6 Maintain Perspective

7 Wake Up Tomorrow and Repeat

If you look at how the list is structured, one thing kind of leads to another.  Nothing on it is intrinsically difficult – unless you try it in isolation.  The daily hunting and pecking at bullshit is a grind.  You see a lot of familiar faces: your bad habits for instance – they’re bullshit.  Bad habits you know you can break (and should) are bullshit on steroids.  Those are the ones that trip easily into Red Flag Warning territory.  There’s a reason they’re habits despite the fact that they’re bad. 

The getting, keeping and maintaining of perspective are all a matter of pulling ‘the camera’ back as far as you possibly can.  Are you seeing the biggest picture?  Sure you can’t pull it back just a little bit more?  Remember – bullshit eats perspective. 

If you can master that – seeing your circumstances in their fullest context – it may not make you happier, but you’ll know exactly what stands between you and happiness.  You will always know where the bullshit is in your life – and which bullshit you can live with and which you can’t.

The Urge To “Off Yourself” Explained

Three days before Christmas 2016, I was close enough to killing myself that my two GPs wanted to hospitalize me.  But I refused.

I had gone there to take one last ‘stab’ at saving myself.  I was at such a nakedly emotional, impulsive place that I was capable at any moment of acting out in the most self-destructive ways possible.

The idea of stepping backward into traffic beckoned to me like a friend…

And I thought it was a friend.

Depression is a process of your inner darkness consuming you.  Some emotional trauma or event — or a series of related events — have caused you not only to question your self-worth but to become increasingly positive that you HAVE NO self-worth…

You’ve never had the chance to correctly deal with the cause of your emotional wound.  It is no different from sustaining a hairline fracture in your arm that you never treat, never deal with — but then causes you pain forever.  And it’s just a matter of time before you put enough pressure on the fracture to finish the job.

In your arm it feels like a knife blade.  In your psyche it feels like self-loathing.

And the self-loathing all goes back to the original fracture that never got dealt with.  One of the problems with how we treat depression at present is we treat the symptoms and rarely the CAUSE.  It’s depressing how poorly we treat and even think of  HAVING DEPRESSION.

The trauma, whatever it was, starts a whisper in your ear.  In my case, it was being sexually molested when I was 14.  The man who did that to me put me on an island — I had a secret, a terrible secret, about myself that I could never tell anyone.  No one therefore could ever really KNOW me.  I would be, forever, alone on an island.  Just me and my secret.

That takes root in your mind.  And when you BLAME YOUR YOUNG SELF for being the cause of your molestation — your feeling isolated in the face of emotional hardship becomes your fitting punishment.  It is not rational.  But it is.

Some people call this ‘Their Darkness’.  I call it ‘My Bullshit’.  I had other bullshit at the time but this became the ‘organizing  principle’ around which all other bullshit in my life would from that point forward be designed:  I had it coming to me.

You question anyone who sees value in you.  What the hell do THEY know?  YOU know better — because YOU know the TRUTH about who YOU really are.

And every bad or terrible thing that happens to you happens BECAUSE of you.

The trick is in realizing — in time — that the voice now screaming at you is the Voice of Bullshit.  It’s NOT your voice.

It’s not easy convincing someone whose BULLSHIT has convinced them that they have no value that they do.  Loving them even harder won’t work — because the love feels so terribly unwarranted.  You’re throwing it away…

The fix lies in KNOWING that there’s a deep, dirty WHY — and in letting your depressed loved one know that it’s okay to ‘HAVE’ that deep, dirty WHY — that the WHY wasn’t their fault.  That they CAN let go of their WHY — and not only survive — but thrive.

Some people already know what their ‘Core Why’ is.  It’s the mountain in whose dark shadow they’ve lived their whole Life.  Some people only ‘suspect’ what their ‘Why’ is.  It’s an ‘Undiscovered Country’ that scares the hell out of them.  Who knows, they worry, if once they cross that border whether they’ll be able to get back to safety.

But naming your Core Why – Your Bullshit – is the essential first step to helping yourself. Refusing to allow yourself your own bullshit’s warm embrace — that’s the real trick.

Suicide Is Just ‘Bullshit’ Claiming Another Victim

Tough week if you’re in the Suicide Prevention Business.

Kate Spade… Anthony Bourdain — and those are just the famous suicides.  I bet there are ‘a few more’ suicides out there — you’ve just never heard the names before.

After Donald Trump was ‘elected’ (he was not elected — you don’t get to literally STEAL an election and call yourself ‘elected’ but — another conversation), the Therapy Business boomed.  So did the Suicide Prevention Business.

My own Therapist told me that.

Three days before Christmas 2016, I knew sat in a exam room at my doctor’s office facing TWO doctors — mine and the office’s ‘Head Doctor’.  The Boss Doctor.

They had already asked me TWICE if I thought I should be hospitalized because I so desperately wanted to harm myself.

By the third time, I think they really meant it.  I guess that’s why they asked a THIRD TIME…

I swore to my increasingly alarmed GPs that I wasn’t going to hurt myself three days before Christmas (my plan was to harm ME, not Christmas for my family forever).

I was there, I said, because I wanted to take a ‘stab’ at medication (I did make that very bad joke on the day; I may have been miserable but I could still make a bad joke).  The depression that was consuming me was ten years in the making (longer actually, much longer – built on events and episodes from the past that I thought were unrelated to my present and future.  Like Rick going to Casablanca for the waters – ‘I was misinformed’.

Medication was my ‘Niagara Falls’ (if you know that old Three Stooges sketch).  It was The Thing I feared almost as much as the depression itself (now that I knew enough to fear it).  As much as I wanted to lift the darkness that was consuming me, I was even more worried what would happen if whatever medication I took impacted my manic side – my creativity.

My therapist and a County Psychiatrist had diagnosed me as Manic Depressive – Bi-Polar with strong episodes of hyper-mania; as depressed as I was, I still sat down to work, every day, regardless of whether I actually had work to do.

Deep, dark mental health issues were not me.  That was what I absolutely believed about myself.

Sure, I was unhappy about things.  We were losing our house.  I hadn’t really worked in 8 years (of course I WORKED – I just didn’t get paid for most of my work or wasn’t paid what had been promised and agreed to) – the result of a variety of factors, some in my control (and therefore my fault), some not.  Financial problems – with interludes of thinking we were ‘saved’ because the ‘bank’ had let us refinance the house yet again… Saved?  Doomed even more completely than before was more like it.

And doomed was exactly how I had been feeling.  And it made me angry – at the world but much, much more at myself.  Financial ruin sucked.  But it wasn’t the lack of money, really, that was causing me to rage.

It wasn’t ‘lack of money’ that made me explode because I dropped something or missed a freeway exit.  Or throw my tennis racket like a petulant 10-year-old.  My immediate circumstances weren’t the real cause of my self-loathing – rather, my self-loathing had taken me to a place where I was completely at the mercy of my immediate circumstances.

I had stopped acting on things and had spent nearly a decade reacting instead.

Worst of all – I had come to believe that I had run out of stories to tell.   My own story was uninteresting and my capacity to tell other peoples’ stories seemed (to me) to have run its course.

My family, I had convinced myself, would really be better off without me.  There was insurance money.  A lot.  In time, I told myself, money would smooth over everything.  In time, I told myself, they might even forgive me enough to actually enjoy the money…

I began thinking of how I might do it.  I needed to be sensitive to my family (imagine!)  I didn’t want to leave a bloody mess in the house.  I didn’t want to be found anywhere really.  I wanted to disappear.  Get in my car maybe and drive into the desert until I ran out of gas.  Then walk until I couldn’t walk any more… then sit… then wait for what was coming to me… what I deserved…

And, I told myself, I could do this – vanish from the lives of my wife, kids, family, community – and do it with a bare minimum of disruption.  Why, it’d be a ‘piffle’.  A wrinkle easily ironed.  A cinch.

It was bullshit of course.  Absolute bullshit.  Not an iota of Truth to it.

To kill yourself is to LITERALLY ‘Bullshit Yourself To Death’.

Not pretty.  But True.

We have a collective disease.  We have allowed BULLSHIT to become like oxygen to us. Like Food & Drink.

And Bullshit CAN be fatal.

But YOU cannot cure someone else of THEIR bullshit.  You can only cure yourself.  And that’s where it has to start.  We all are responsible for recognizing and dealing with our own Bullshit first (before dealing with other peoples’ bullshit).

It’s a hard addiction to break.  The evilest monkey you’ll ever get off your back.  But doing it is essential — and NOT just for those whose bullshit has them on the brink of self destruction.