This issue is filled with fiction and poetry by some of the field’s up-and-coming as well as established authors. It also contains my illustration for renowned author and poet Marge Simon’s “Keeping Time.” So be sure to pick it up at Barnes & Noble, or at SpaceAndTimeMagazine.com .
Also, I must give a special thank you to author and science blogger John R. Platt for locating Space &Time issues #94 and 95, two magazines I lost in which my art appeared in the 1990s.
Here is the completed drawing of my lovely niece and nephew after judicious use of Gelly Roll white gel pen. This drawing is about as healed as possible using conventional, non-digital means. Here is a slightly different version:
This drawing, intended as a gift for my sister and brother-in-law, was going just fine… until I clumsily spilled Crystal Light Fruit Punch on my desk, soaking the righthand portion of the drawing and leaving high velocity fruit punch spatter over parts, though thankfully not all, of my niece Amy. My sister-in-law, Tammy, and I discussed the situation and decided that I would cut away the saturated portions of the drawing, and repair and continue with the rest. So far, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made.
I’ve been especially troubled lately by the “manic” in manic-depression, classified as mania, or hypomania. Mania is the flip side of a coin whose other face is depression. I’ve already discussed MY experience of depression (for we are all different, and feel these things in our own way.) Without a doubt, depression is unpleasant. Mania is far more deceptive. When I feel the approach of a manic episode, colors become more vibrant, smells more intense and generally more pleasant, and my sense of taste can make a chocolate chip cookie seem like a doorway to infinite orgasmic pleasure.
The experience is much more than sensual, however. Things just seem to fall into place perfectly: every sentence I utter is on target and filled with wit or wisdom, my movements are more graceful, my cognition crystalline in essence, and my creativity very nearly limitless. In fact, where creativity is concerned, the good ideas come more frequently as the mania approaches its peak, necessitating hastily jotted notes while I’m working on something unrelated. It feels good, very good.
Mania, for me, usually means sleeplessness, which is absolutely fine, because there is so much I want to get done. One night of insomnia is a small price to pay for such clarity of thought. Lately, however, my manic episodes have been averaging two to three nights. There are catnaps, to be sure, but they become decreasingly refreshing by day two, and sometimes, go away altogether. And all those great ideas morph gradually into rapidly cycling thoughts, paired with uncanny forgetfulness. Then come the thought loops, an obsessive treading and retreading of the same ideas, accompanied by pathological worrying. I become paranoid, convinced that someone’s lack of response signifies that he/she is angry with me. My hands start to shake, the light in the room sears my retinas, and my favorite music is suddenly discordant and anxiety-inducing.
If, beyond this point, I haven’t yet begun to cycle back, I encounter what the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) calls “derealization,” a sense that the world I’m inhabiting does not actually exist. Next come little whispers and stray sentences, most quite convincing, often forcing me to seek out their sources. When I inevitably fail to find the speaker, I return to my worry-loops, and occasionally see movement in my peripheral vision.
At times, these episodes become severe enough that I need to double my intake of my anti-psychotic medication. Then, finally, begins the journey back towards “normal” and from there to depression. It’s the circle of life, at least my life….Continue reading →
In my teens and into my twenties, I was a very angry young man. I’d suffered various kinds of abuse as a middle-schooler, and earlier, as a small child. I felt justified in my rage. I believed the world owed me something, so I carried around grudges as if they were pocket change.
The roads and highways were particularly hazardous to, and also because of, me. Every vehicle that cut in front of me I took to be my personal enemy. If someone tailgated me, I took it as a personal affront. I would scream at other drivers, pound the steering wheel, and even high-beam those who cut me off at night. It didn’t help matters any that I liked to drive fast and could not abide anyone traveling below the speed limit. My lead foot lost me my driver’s license twice in the same year.
As I entered my thirties, however, I began to be afraid. My own anger frightened me more as I grew older, and I imagined nightmare scenarios where I ran down a toddler in the street, or struck out at my own mother in a rage. I also came to realize that the people at whom I seethed rarely knew they were the targets of my anger. Often, then, the only person I was hurting was myself.
Anger is a self-defeating and self-harming emotion. The physiological consequences of anger include: a surge of hormones from the adrenal glands; a rush of blood away from the stomach and into the muscles; an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration; and an increase in body temperature. This is called the fight-or-flight response, and it is an evolutionary trait geared towards surviving a life and death situation. In an actual emergency, these changes can be beneficial as they prepare the body to seek a path to survival, but in our modern, relatively safe society, such extreme and sudden changes are unnecessary. If our lives or our freedom are not at stake, such intense emotional reactions unnecessarily stress the body. Anger triggers these responses, and over time, repeated rage can cause everything from anxiety and depression to heart attacks and strokes.
At some point, I came to the conclusion that much of my needless anger was actually under my control. I could choose, at such moments, to walk away (whether literally or figuratively), take several deep and cleansing breaths, and force myself to look at the situation more objectively. Maybe that driver didn’t mean to cut me off. Maybe he or she has difficulty seeing at night, or perhaps this person is an anxious driver and therefore prone to mistakes while behind the wheel. When looked at in this light, the emotion of anger gradually gives way to understanding and empathy.
Eventually, I found that I could step back and reason with myself, if I only made that choice. Life became much easier and more pleasant once I took that route. Now, as a man in my forties, I’ve become skilled at talking myself down from that precipitous fury, but it requires a sort of emotional vigilance, at least in the midst of unpleasant events. You just need to realize that, after the first two seconds, anger becomes a choice.
This drawing just developed organically. No part of it was planned or sketched out—I just made it up as I went along. That is unusual, at least, for me. As for the woman in the drawing—perhaps she is my muse. My muse carries a dagger. How cool is that?