Blog Post

A Journey Into Darkness 

I originally posted the following essay as a Facebook post, but I thought I would also put it on my blog, because I hope that perhaps someone might see this and know they are not alone and that they aren’t losing their minds as I did when it happened to me. 

I generally don’t issue content warnings, but I am making an exception in this case as it may be triggering for some. I am going to talk about my first panic attack and descent to depression thereafter. This was inspired by hearing Ari talking about their experiences on the SJW Circle Jerk.  

I should preface with saying that this panic attack I am describing was the the first one that was induced by substance use. I actually had one when I foolishly smoked too much of the that potent Amsterdam weed. I went there to visit when I lived with my Dad when he was stationed in Germany. The feelings were the same but only temporary. 

So on to the first “chemical imbalance” experience. I was sitting there drinking some cheap wine because I was too young yet to buy alcohol on my own. I was only 20. I was living with Stepmother and my then baby sister. Dad had gone to Omaha for a job and they were going to join him and I was planning on staying in school in Montgomery and staying with a friend. So anyway I am just sitting there drinking when all of a sudden this wave of utter terror overcame me. I had no idea what was going on because I was just sitting there and there was no external cause. I had this overwhelming feeling that I was going to die and my throat felt like it was closing up. For some reason I thought gargling salt water would help, which obviously didn’t do shit. I considered calling an ambulance because I really thought I was going to die. Keep in mind that I didn’t know anything about mental illness and the internet wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today so I couldn’t really look it up. So finally somehow I managed to get a couple of hours of sleep. 

Thus feeling of terror only diminished somewhat over they next six months. It was replaced by a background feeling of hopelessness and nearly overwhelming anxiety. Nothing was done enjoyable. I lost a lot of weight. I even cut out caffeine and smoking because I thought that had something to do with it. Luckily I was a on break from college so that was OK. I basically just stopped going to work because I couldn’t muster the energy to move. They basically fired me because I stopped showing up. At one point I went to a doctor on base and they gave me Buspar which did nothing except make me lightheaded. I finally just gave up on the idea if staying in college at AUM and came back to Nashville to live with my mom. It was through her love and assistance that I finally got to help I needed and started taking Zoloft. Eventually I emerged from the darkness a started feeling semi-normal again. So that is a brief synopsis of my introduction to mental illness. A couple of things I wanted to mention that I felt during this time 

  • I felt disassociated. Things didn’t seem real and I felt like I was a ghost 
  • I got this strange fear that I was going to go blind. I think this is a from hearing Terry Gilliam went blind temporarily due to stress when he was directing a movie. This is a feeling I deal with to this day on occasion. 
  • I couldn’t leave town. A friend wanted me to go out of town with him. I got like a half an hour out of the city and I told him to turn back. I was afraid of being away from the hospital in case something happened. 

These are just a few of the things. I am don’t want to keep y’all longer. But this shit is real and anyone who tells you that antidepressants don’t help like Tom mother fucking Cruise should be kneecapped. 

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ReasonCon3 Reflections 

The following text is taken from a Facebook post I wrote about my experience at ReasonCon3. Since I am not releasing an episode this week, I thought I would post this instead. Next week, I will be putting an episode concerning my thoughts on ReasonCon. I hope y’all enjoy.

#ReasonCon3.

Where do I start?

I am going to give just a bit of background as to why this ReasonCon was more personally important to me than the other one I went to.

There are many that know about my infamous activities at the previous ReasonCon. I will not go onto details, but I embarrassed myself and hurt people that didn’t deserve it. I was in a horrible place in my personal life at the time, and while that is no excuse, it does explain some of my behavior. It is something that I was hounded about for months after, and to this day it haunts me.

That’s why thus one was so important to me. I called this ‘ReasonCon : Redemption’, because for me it was an opportunity to redeem myself from what had happened previously.

I can not make the determination if I was indeed ‘redeemed’, because I think that verdict is up to those who I interacted with. However, this time things felt more comfortable and enjoyable. I think much of that had to do with me being in a better mental place, as well as the fact that I knew a lot more people this time around. I can only speak for myself, and this may sound corny, but I felt like a part of a family, and felt love as one does from a family.

Now, I will admit to having some anxiety, but that is mostly an outgrowth of some chemical imbalances that occur when I drink too much, which is obviously my own fault. I need to thank all of you who provided me encouragement when I posted about it on Facebook. That meant the world to me.

Aside from all cool people I met, there are some people and incidents that stick out in my mind. If I don’t mention you, please don’t be angry. I have a notoriously bad memory

– Traveling to and from #ReasonCon3 with Tucker. I have a great time with him. He regaled me with his many tales of his life adventures to make the time go by quicker on the journey, and his Dad jokes kept me constantly groaning.

– Getting to meet those youngins from Scenic City Skeptic again, Brian and Lexi. Our plans we a bit awry for recording, but it didn’t matter. I still had a great time hanging out with you them.

– Getting to meet once again ‘The Hottest Couple in Atheism’, Jenica and Patrick Crail. They are probably about sick of seeing and hearing me now, but for my part, I really enjoyed getting to hang out with them. They are truly a class act, and they a genuinely good and caring people.

– Finally getting to meet Mark Nebo, along of course with his beautiful and awesome wife Shanon Nebo. I had met her a couple of times previously, but I always enjoy seeing her. She was the recipient of an award for he untiring activism in the atheist community. It was presented to her by Jennifer Lovejoy,which was a true surprise to Shanon, because they made her think Jennifer wasn’t going to be there! I also have to give props to Nova, their son, for being a relentless adventurer, to the consternation of their parents.

– Once again I got hang out with Callie and Celes, and I never get tired of it. Callie proposed to Celes, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It was so awesome to see them so happy together.

– Getting to see Trav and Morgan for the first time. I loved them both so much.

– Jessica is someone I had met online but long ago and I was honored to meet her because I love he writing and thought processes. We slept in the same bed Friday, but to my disappointment she didn’t make any moves on me.

– I got to meet William Ferguson for the first time. They have been on my show a couple of times, and they were awesome to hang out with. They were funny and I hope to meet you again soon.

– Having dinner at Mellow Mushroom with Trav, Morgan, and Tucker was definitely one of highlights of my experience. It just felt like friends who knew each other forever just hanging out.

– Getting to meet Jeremiah Bannister. I heard the tribute to his daughter Samantha and the work #teamtinydancer and her doctors put in to try to help her and save her life. Unfortunately, those efforts fell short, and that intelligent, giving, and beautiful young woman succumbed to he disease. My heart goes out to Jeremiah, his wife, and his children for their devastating loss.

– Oh, did I mention The Podunk Polymath Podcast Party Palace? I had planned to try and get some people up there and for a beer tasting and other assorted shenanigans. The beer tasting, but before I knew it, Jeremiah showed up with Ari. And then Marissa showed up with Cards Against Humanity. And then Noah Lugeons, Lucinda Lugeons, and Heath Enwright show up, with Cecil lurking in the hallway. In fact, there were so many people that they were lined up out of the room. I am fucking gobsmacked. This shindig had exceeded my expectations significantly. It is definitely one of the things I will remove most fondly.

– Meeting Katie Quesnel and their awesome mom. I was so glad that they got to dance and have a good time. I know what social anxiety is like, and I am glad they enjoyed themself despite having those fears.

-Getting to meet Michael Cerone for the first time. He drove down from Buffalo to be there, and I will so thrilled to meet him. He did a tribute to his wife who had died twelve years ago, and I was honored to be able to participate in remembering her. He even said that apparently I mentioned something about doing it podcast together, but I was so far gone by the point that I don’t remember.

– Zach Law for bringing SO MUCH BEER! This guy is the king of beer. Hell, he filled his bathtub full of ice and put beer in it! That’s some devotion right there!

– Gene Elliott for putting this thing together. I admire him a great deal for his organization and hard work it takes to pull something like this off.

There is so much more to say, but I would not writing for hours. So, I just wanted to say that I enjoyed meeting all of you, whether we got a selfie or not (I must have taken a 100 of them)! I will even go so far as to say that I consider y’all to be family. See y’all next year!

TPPP Episode 11 : Rebel With A Bible 

On this episode of The Podunk Polymath Podcast, I have a guest co-host for the pre-ramble this week, my good friend Eric Parsons. We talk about the final Presidential debate and how thankful we will be when the damn election is over! 

For the palaver, I have author, student, musician, and tattooed badass Matthew O’Neil. We talk about his writing, his scholarly pursuits, and what it’s like being a humanist chaplain. It’s a very informative and occasionally hilarious interview. I hope y’all enjoy the latest awesome installment of the PoPoPo! 

Download the show here

Matthew O’Neil on Amazon 

Matthew O’Neil’s Facebook Author Page 

Matthew O’Neil on Twitter 

For God’s Sake Facebook Page 

For God’s Sake on Spreaker 

The Podcast Approacheth! 

Just wanted to let y’all know that I posted a promotional video for the impending premiere of The Podunk Polymath Podcast! Of course, this page will be the home of the aforementioned podcast, and I will still occasionally write blog posts. Make sure to go check out the video on YouTube, and while you’re there, subscribe to my YouTube channel! All episodes will automatically post there as they are published. Also, make sure you follow me on Twitter @PodunkPolymath and on Facebook. Stay tuned, and prepare for the #Podunkalypse! 

Pulling back the curtains..

Lucy had to make a difficult decision some years ago, one that has haunted her with guilt. The truth is out now, and the healing can begin. Please read and share this so that people who are in similar situations will know they are not alone. Lucy is one the bravest and strongest people I know. Thank you for sharing your story, Lucy.

lucyferity

This blog will be a bit lengthy, so bear with me..  I have much to tell.

First off, I want all those not already familiar with various psychological harms religion can bring to understand the terms from a psychological standpoint..  Understand these are basic, as this is not my field of study.

  1. Authoritarianism:  Authoritarian personality is a state of mind or attitude characterized by belief in absolute obedience or submission to one’s own authority, as well as the administration of that belief through the oppression of one’s subordinates. It usually applies to individuals who are known or viewed as having an authoritative, strict, or oppressive personality towards subordinates.
  1. Separatism:  The advocacy of a state of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group.
  1. Fear:  vital response to physical and emotional danger.
  1. Subjugation:  to defeat and gain control of (someone…

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The Root of the Problem 

The events of the last week are jarring to White people, but sadly an all too familiar reality to our Black citizens. They have been experiencing this sort of violence for years. With the advent of phones with cameras, many people are just now seeing what Black people have known for generations : they are subject to abuses and deaths at the hands of those who are supposed to ‘serve and protect’.

What is perhaps more disturbing, though, is the way this sort of bias is etched into the American experience. In fact, it is as ‘American as apple pie’, as the saying goes. This is the reality that needs to be recognized and dealt with.

There is a fascinating article that I read recently that deals with White people’s fascination of Trump. It is rather long, but I encourage you to read it. One of the things the author mentions is that poor Whites and Black slaves were natural allies, and, indeed, often intermarried and Whites helped some slaves escape. From the beginning, businessmen who relied on slave labor saw this and made sure to get laws passed that punished Blacks more than Whites for similar offenses. Poor Whites were also given jobs as overseers and were made to see slaves as subhuman. At the same time, the trope of the male over sexed Black beast intent on raping White women was spread, along with all sorts of hateful propaganda towards Blacks in general. Thus did the wealthy Plantation owners and others of their ilk plant the seeds of racial hatred that grew into the full bloom of virulent race hatred towards Black people from the White population.

This hatred has deep and strong roots, and the harvest has been destructive to the psyche of this entire country since its inception. The crops are frequently watered by new indignities. The Black Codes, Jim Crow laws, poll taxes and literacy tests, population concentration in blighted areas, voter ID laws, vastly disproportionate representation in prisons; these are all examples of the fruits that have grown from this poisonous outgrowth. And police brutality is only the latest outrage to come to light, at least to the White majority. Anyone who has been paying attention and knows their history already knew of this state of affairs.

So what can be done? Certainly there have been remedies suggested, such as better police training; more community policing; body cameras; and more stringent punishment when the police do break the law.

Ultimately, however, these measures would only be treating the symptoms and not the underlying disease. Until we as a nation confront the historical racism that has been a part of our collective experience as Americans, the violence and division will continue. There needs to be a sincere and honest national effort to look at this problem in the eye, solidly and without fear, and tear out its roots. A truth and reconciliation commission of the sort used in South Africa might be a good start. Reparations, that great fearsome bogeyman of the White masses, should be paid. These funds should be used to invest in schools, support businesses, build housing, and to invest in a solid infrastructure that will support a thriving economy.

Most importantly, though, the justice system needs to be completely overhauled and made truly fair to all people, regardless of color or creed. Imprisonment must be made the exception and not the rule, and the focus should be rehabilitation and not revenge.

These goals are difficult, but not impossible, to achieve. We just need leaders who are willing to take a chance, and even though those are few and far between in the present environment, one never knows when a transformative personality may emerge. We may take some comfort in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. 

Orlando

What can one say that hasn’t already been said about the Orlando Shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse in the early morning hours of June 12th, 2016? Nothing, really, and thus I am making this a short post. As a cishet White guy, I think it’s important for the voices of the LGBT Community to be heard more loudly and more clearly than any other voices. All I will say is that it’s a horrible tragedy that was fueled by religious teachings, specifically those of Islam; a toxic atmosphere of Anti-LGBT rhetoric that is rampant in our nation, due in no small part to the hate spewed by Far-right Christian Evangelical bigots; a culture that makes deadly weapons absurdly easy to obtain; and the self-hatred of a man whose religion tells him that being homosexual is a mortal sin punishable by death.

As I said, however, it is important that I shut up and let the LGBT community speak, as was so eloquently said in this article. Therefore, I am posting links to articles blogs of those in the LGBT Community. Also, I am posting links of two gofundme’s. One is for the families of the victims of the shooting, and the other is for secular services for those victims who were non-religious.

Erasing LGBTQ Muslims & Islamic Homophobia

Gofundme – Support Victims of Pulse Shooting

Polite Conversations – Orlando – caught between denialists and bigots

Link Round-Up: The Orlando Shooting

Am I Queer Enough to Grieve?

Gofundme – Orlando Humanist Memorials

Observations on the Orlando Shooting