Depression and Lottery Tickets

I have a hot case of undiagnosed seasonal depression. If I’m self-diagnosing, though, I could probably go as far as to say that I’m depressive most of the year, but during the winter and summer months I get worse. Maybe I should say I have seasonal clinical depression?

              I’m fine and I laugh and I go out most of the year, but whenever the weather changes drastically I get very introverted. Suddenly I have no interesting in being with other people and my self-confidence—what little there was to begin with—plummets like a hawk going in for the kill.

              It’s been like this for as long as I can remember and I’ve learned to push through the seasonal changes. The real problem occurs when I don’t realize it’s happening.

              You see, at times I’ve found myself severely depressed and I have to stop and ask, “When did that happen?” Like someone turning your bedroom light off while you’re deep asleep, and not realizing it until you wake up the next day, my mental health would tip-toe off in the night.

              Thus I found ways of keeping track of my level of depression when I would otherwise be allowed to forget about it until I was in too deep. Ways like noting the number of times I’ve gone out to be with friends in the past month; how late I allow myself to sleep in; and how often I buy lottery tickets.

              Lottery tickets. However absurd the very idea is, they help me realize faster than anything else that I’m slipping away into the isolation of my mind.

              Half a decade ago I was buying them two, three, or more times a week. Then, when I started investing in more realistic financial endeavors, I cut back to once or twice a month. Eventually I was down to twice a year—once around Christmas, once for my birthday (or, one in winter, one in summer).

              However, there would be times when I would catch myself buying them up once or twice a week again. I stopped and looked at myself, only to realize the reason: I was depressed.

              Now, there is a certain direct connection between my depression and money—in that I get depressed when I have none. Whoever came up with that old phrase of “money does not buy happiness” was more than likely in deep denial. But there is also a more subtle connection: The fantasy.

              I never win; not even my dollar back from a few matching numbers. Never. In fact, I find it highly improbable the number of times I’ve not gotten a single number right. Somewhere in the past few years, however, I stopped playing for the money and kept playing for the fantasy

              I could fall asleep at night thinking about what if and the kind of person I could be if only. I didn’t expect to win, but having that slip of paper in my wallet allowed me to live the fantasy—if only for a day or two.

              There’s a phone number on the back of lottery tickets for gambling addiction. But where’s the number for fantasy addiction? I would say that paying sixty dollars for a video game is the equivalent, but playing video games at least gives me better hand-eye coordination! Lottery tickets give me nothing, except a false sense of hope.

              I hear people talk a lot about mental health. Unfortunately it’s usually in regards to real psychopaths—and usually right after a large number of people have died at the hands of one. People hardly ever talk about depression as mental health, and when they do, they treat it like a wart you can will away. They want to say, “If you’re feeling depressed, go get some help” like I can jog down to the corner store for an over-the-counter prescription that’ll make things better.

              But pills don’t make things better. They mask your true emotions so that you can pretend to be happier than you really are. Chemical imbalances exist in some people, but I truly believe the majority of us are just sad. It’s not about medication, it’s about learning to become happy—something that is much easier said than done.

              And this is where the problem comes full tilt: Because as long as we can think of depression as something that’s cured with a pill, we can think of it as a health issue. When you get into therapy and counseling, though, then you’re a hippie-dippie sort and why should my tax dollars go toward your alternative medicine!

              We’re a depressed nation and until we can get together and think about why we’re depressed and how to fix it once and for all, we’re going to remain that way.

              But, hey, at least that’s good for the lotto people.



Hey! A quick note at the end of this depressing piece: My Etsy shop is back up and running with a few items. You can head on over to see what I’ve put up.

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Trivideo Games – Smash Bros.

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The Louisville Purge

It was so unimportant that it became important.

              About a week ago people from all over the nation were talking about the “Louisville Purge,” a supposedly allotted time in which people of the normally friendly city were encouraged to commit any crimes they so chose. The idea comes from a movie and subsequent sequel that just so happened to come out a month before the Louisville Purge.

              The entire thing started much earlier than that, however. It started with a Tweet from a local teenager, which turned into several more Tweets from others. That turned into fliers which were posted around town, which turned into Facebook posts about the fliers. Then the local media got hold of the story. Eventually it was national news.

              Nothing happened that Friday night. Nothing of much importance. Besides keeping the police busy with false reports of gunfire and “strange groups of kids,” it was a relatively quiet night.

              The police scanner, which was being streamed by somewhere between eighty and one hundred thousand people at its peak, was non-stop. We had extra cops working their beats, and our police chief made a statement that day that they would do everything they could to stop criminals.

              But nothing happened! We’re a nice town; we nod to each other at four-way stops, we say hello to each other on the street, we give directions to out-of-towners with a smile. I’ve even been told that our homeless population is more polite than other towns!

              So then why did our city have a national spotlight that night and the days before? This is what makes this wholly unimportant event important. Because we did have national attention from media outlets stationed in much bigger cities. We were important in the eyes of the news.

              However, we shouldn’t have been. This should never have been given the attention that it was given. It shouldn’t have been picked up by the local news. It shouldn’t have gone viral on the internet. It shouldn’t have ever been a Facebook post. It shouldn’t have even been a stupid flier that only a handful of people would have seen without the web. Hell, I shouldn’t be writing about it right now!

              The time given to us by the media would have been better spent on other things—things not only equally as violent, but more violent. Things that were, and are still, important. Things like the events in Ferguson, Missouri.

              The happenings in Ferguson are appalling. Not only that an innocent kid was gunned down, but how it was then handled.

              The Louisville Metro Police Department did their best to keep the people safe during what ended up being a false threat, but one state over, the police force were just starting to show their force. They even went so far as to throw tear gas and shoot rubber bullets at the press.

              We are a nation obsessed with violence, but we’re obsessed with the wrong violence. We treat it like entertainment when it should be something completely different: It should transcend interest and move on to something more akin to duty. It should be our duty to know and understand the violence—the real violence—that takes place not only in our own country, but the world over.

              We should make it our duty because that’s the only way to begin halting violence as a whole.

              While the jokes were good for the picking—I made my own sarcastic comments about jaywalking all night—the Louisville Purge should never have been anything more than that: A joke. That’s all it was, even if it wasn’t a very good joke. It was a sad and pathetic joke which shed light on our nation and our priorities. It was not news.

              Ferguson is news.

              Iraq is news.

              Gaza is news.

              Syria is news.

              Ebola is news.

              Death is news. And, unfortunately, there’s a lot of unwarranted death to cover. So much that it makes one wish there were some sort of twenty-four hour news channel to cover it all. Unfortunately all our twenty-four hour news channels are too busy covering things that aren’t important. They may give a nod to things that are truly important and, more importantly, news; but not enough. Not nearly enough.

              The Louisville Purge was not important. It was not news. But it was covered as such by the media and that’s why it is important—because it shows us that entertainment takes priority over the things we should be paying attention to.

              If we don’t pay attention to those things—those things that are actually important—we can’t solve our actual problems.

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Stuff People Who Can’t Act on YouTube Say (and Do)

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Legos Taught Me How to Write

I have two older sisters and no brothers. Growing up, my options for playing were limited to Barbies and cheerleading moves or playing by myself.

              I played by myself a lot*.

              Now, understand, I love my sisters—they’ve made my life more interesting, to say the least—but who really wants to hang out with their big sisters all the time? Hell, what girls want to hang out with their little brother all the time, for that matter? I was probably some annoying brat that was always honing in on their hang-out time with friends and Girl Scout meetings.

              And so, I learned to play by myself. I learned to play with whatever was available, too. You’ve never seen a ‘90’s kid have more fun with a stick than me. I had trucks to vroom vroom around the house, even some Star Wars toys.

              The problem with trucks, though, is that there is very little story-telling to do with them. Drive along the carpet this way, drive back that way; get into a crash. Star Wars toys—though awesome, obviously—kind of have a story behind them already.

              But then one fateful day, I got my first Lego set.

              Legos are amazing! They come with this sheet that tells you how to construct the thing they’re supposed to construct, but after that there are no instructions. From the moment you’ve completed the miniature castle, you’re left up to your own devices. You have to take your little yellow guy with the Musketeer facial hair and wide-brimmed helmet, and start your own adventure.

              We didn’t have cable growing up. Shows geared toward my age group came on right after school and on Saturday mornings. I got to watch my fair share, but having sisters and only one television often puts a damper on that realm.

              But I did watch TV, and movies. And I learned from them. I learned how to make my own movies—sans the lights and cameras. I learned about story and plot and characters. I learned how to arc that story and how to make those characters likeable.

              When I was in elementary school I wanted to be one of two things: Either an architect or a writer; both professions linking back to my time with Legos. I liked clicking those bricks together and creating buildings, space ships, and even landscapes. But after it was done, I had a set to play out stories for my own entertainment.

              Some of those stories lasted hours—far longer than most movies. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was laying the ground work for my love of writing. Short stories and novels; movie scripts and non-fiction; novellas and flash-fiction—I honed a skill for creating worlds and building adventures.

              And it all started with a set of interlocking plastic bricks.

              Occasionally (very occasionally) I’m asked by young writers—or, more often than not, mothers of young writers—for advice on writing. I have a handful that I give out, but here is a complete guide for getting started, compiled from years of getting it wrong before getting it right:

  1. Read, sure, yeah, okay—but also watch movies. Lots of movies. Other writers will probably hate me for saying this, but watching movies will teach you better than anything else about how to develop a story. They’re two hour seminars on the art of story-arcs.
  2. Write how you talk. Or, more accurately, write how other people talk. Whatever kind of person your character is, find someone in the real world who is like that and listen to them. Write their inflections and colloquialisms. Understand how they would say a particular word or phrase.
  3. Do jigsaw puzzles. This is something I learned later in life, but doing a one thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle forces you to look at things in different ways. You have to turn pieces around in your fingers, see it from all angles, think about what it could be and where it goes. However cheesy this might come off, it helps you in your writing to look at things like your characters would look at them.
  4. Don’t aim to be an author, strive to be a writer. The chances of you making a living off writing are not good. Not good at all. As in, learn to love pasta—because it’s cheap. Never think that you’re the next J.K. Rowling, but always try to make yourself the next J.K. Rowling. Tell the story, and if it’s good enough, someone will want to read it.
  5. Master nostalgia. If you can master nostalgia, you can master all other emotions in your reader. It doesn’t have to be their nostalgia, either. If you can make them feel it for your character, that’s just as good. Better, even.
  6. Repetition. Use repetition. But not too much Unless you’re writing comedy, then lots of repetition. This was actually a bit of advice I received myself many years ago, and it’s hung to me close. I often end stories with the same (or similar) line that I started it with. I’ll repeat a phrase or idea throughout a book. It makes your readers feel like they’re in the know—they’ve been here before, they feel nostalgia.

              And finally: Play with Legos§. Or Lincoln Logs, or blocks, or Minecraft, or whatever it is that’s still around. Play by yourself. Play with things that don’t give you a mission or storyline. Swordfight invisible people; swing from room to room like Spider-Man; make a fort and then defend it; escape the dungeon; steal the treasureǁ.

              Basically, make up stories off of paper so that your stories on paper are glorious—and badass.

*Not that I didn’t also play Barbies and do cheerleading moves with my sisters. I mean, I was a social butterfly, or whatever other nonsense I tell myself to keep from crying at night.
†True story.
‡This may be coming off as a product placement for Legos, but trust me when I say I’m not getting paid for my endorsement.
§Heh? See what I did there? REPETITION. Bringin’ it back around.
ǁNot that I do any of those things as an adult and even if I do you’ll never prove that I do so why even try and bother?
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This Guy Figured Out the Formula to Clickbait Titles! Amazing! Unbelievable!

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Belize, Part 3*

In the valley.

In the valley.

In the dead center of that Central American country, in a little valley surrounded by thick jungle, sat the farm I lived on for sixteen days. Sometimes, when I tell people this, they respond with, “You mean visited for sixteen days?”

              No; lived for sixteen days.

              I say lived instead of visited because, dammit, I lived there. For those two weeks, that little organic tropical fruit farm was home. Not truly home—home is where the heart is and blah blah blah—but I had my own spot, I worked hard, and I roamed around like I was home. It wasn’t a vacation, not really.

              Then comes the next question: “Why only sixteen days, then?” I explain that I had intended to stay for much longer, but returned early. “Why did you come back so early?”

              At first my answer was simple, something along the lines of, “Didn’t like it.” Which is not true—not true at all. I loved it there. It was a sort of beauty that seems impossible to find until you find it. The jungle throbbed with life and potential. I got to dig my hands into the earth and work closely with nature—something I had gotten away from in the past few years prior to going to Belize. The people who owned the farm were extremely nice and inviting, and they taught me a lot.

              They taught me a lot about small-plot farming and renewable energy. They taught me about living in a foreign country. They taught me about freshwater mechanics and other engineering devices. But—and this is key—they taught me about myself.

              These two mostly-strangers taught me about myself. In the end, that’s the reason I came home.

              I was running away from my problems in America when I went down to Belize. I didn’t realize until I got there that my problems were all with myself.

              When I was back home and everyone wanted to know the reason I returned so early, I managed to come up with excuses that were true enough to not be lying. But by omitting the full truth, I was lying.

              People would ask me this question and immediately (or after my answer) they would imply the reasons they assumed: Homesickness; lack of funds; that the people who owned the farm were cult leaders. The latter two weren’t true in any way. The former, maybe a little.

              The excuse that I perfected went like this: The farm was in a valley with mountains to the east and to the west. I went down in the middle of winter. These two factors meant that the sun didn’t rise until about eleven o’clock and set around five. That’s not a lot of daylight.

              On top of this, most of our power came from solar energy. On a good day it was bright and sunny for six hours. On an average day it was too cloudy for the panels to get any light. Little energy meant little electronics use. Little electronics use meant boredom. All of this combined into a very lonely place.

              There wasn’t much to do at night but read by a single swinging lightbulb in the kitchen, and sleep. The couple that owned the farm were—after all—a couple, and spent a lot of their time together. Which meant I was by myself for a good part of the twenty-four hour day.

              This is what I told people when they asked about my return. And it’s true—in part.

              You see, the full truth is this: When you’re trying to run away from yourself, being alone doesn’t bode well for your mental state.

              On January 25th, while hacking away at weeds with a machete with the owners of the farm, we got into a conversation. It was a deep conversation about finding ourselves. They said a lot of things that I was a bit upset at hearing, but would later come to be grateful for.

              In fact, they gave me one of the best life philosophies I’ve ever heard: Upon asking me certain questions, I would answer with the very easy and far-too-basic line of, “I don’t know.” After I replied in this way four or five times, the woman stopped working on the weeds, turned to me and said, “Of course you know. You’re talking about yourself. What you mean to say is, ‘I don’t want to admit.’”

              That struck me hard. I don’t want to admit. It was so simple, yet so true. How could I not know these things about myself? It was impossible. Not only was I not wanting to admit the true answers to the people I was talking to, but also to myself. I couldn’t even admit it to myself.

              And, thus, I did admit them to myself. I took several hours to really think about it all. To think about why I was there, what I was running from, and what I expected to achieve.

              I’d left all my friends behind. I’m not exactly a social person, but I’m the kind of human that needs to be around other humans. And there, in the Belizean jungle, I was stuck with the one person I wanted least to be around—myself.

              Back in the states, hanging out with my friends again, I caught myself using that easy, ol’ phrase when they asked me about my time abroad. Why had I come back early? Oh, I don’t know.

              But I did. I explained to them the lack of daylight on the farm; about how lonely it was. I may have even thrown in a lie or two about the work not being what I was expecting. In reality, however, any answer I could have given was just as on par as I don’t know.

              I did know. And though it may have had to do with the lack of sun and lack of people, the truth was that it had more to do with an abundance of me.

              I didn’t need an adventure or a vacation. I needed to be able to like myself. Something I’d never quite learned how to do. Over the past four and a half years, however, I’ve managed to become that person, thankfully.

              I still explain to people that being in a valley in the middle of winter with only a couple for company made for a lonely existence in that place, but I try to assure them that there was more to it. This is the first time I’ve really tried to explain that more to it, and I know I’m only able to because I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t need to be anything else other than who I want to be.

              Why did I leave so early? Because I hated myself, and there in the unexplored regions of central Belize, my best friend was myself.

              Talk about having a shitty roommate.

Hey! This was all about my lies on why I came home. Why not read about my lies on why I left in the first place?

*Yeah, I’m doing these all out of order! Star Wars-style!
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