Vampire with a Soul

If you ask me, I will tell you that my favorite TV show is not Doctor Who, as you’d suspect, but Angel, the vampire detective show. It was on for five years, and between that and his three years as a major character in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I found the perfect, most personal depiction of my particular brand of bipolar disorder.

Vampires in the Buffy universe are evil because they have no soul. They’re varying degrees of evil, and that appears to be tied into how much personality they had when they were still alive. An intense, tragic poet like William maintains that humanity when he turns into Spike, but someone like Liam, who exists only to sleep and drink around, has no humanity when turns into Angelus. He’s sharp, charming, more powerful, and supremely confident, like me in a manic episode. He destroys everything, and he does it for fun, and he does that until he crashes, i.e. his soul is restored.

Now he’s a creature of pure guilt, and eventually he believes that his redemption is through a girl. This leads to disaster, as it should. Eventually, in his own show, he finds that his redemption for his manic behavior is found in simply doing the right thing. He’s told that he will be rewarded with his greatest wish if he continues to do the right thing. By the end of the show, he doesn’t do the right thing for a reward or redemption, but because it’s the right thing, a true sign of maturing.

When the first season came out, it was about finding oneself in an exciting, scary new city, trying to figure out who you are and how to do it, and it came out the same year I moved to New York in pursuit of a new life. Season 2 was about the perils of thinking you’re smarter than everybody, Season 3 was about found families and a little bit about addiction, Season 4 was a dumpster fire, and Season 5 was about growing up and selling out. Buffy was a show about being a teenager growing up, Angel was about being an adult growing up. Angel wasn’t as good as Buffy, and is overshadowed by its source material, but it was still pretty good.

And speaking of Buffy, where the first three seasons of Buffy made them an OTP and then spent the rest of the series trying to walk that back, Angel acknowledged how unhealthy it was. His first meeting with Buffy after he left that show was contentious—she resented him for leaving, and he really wanted to assert his independence from her. We later find out that Buffy was a rebound girl that he projected all of his guilt and uncertainty onto, that in his mind, his OTP was always someone else, and that this love forever thing they had was all from Buffy’s perspective (which doesn’t make her bad or silly, it just makes her a teenage girl). Basically, his relationship with love is confusing and sometimes ugly, and even when he finds the right person, it doesn’t work out.

Angel is grumpy and awkward. He lives with the constant fear that something is going to go terribly wrong. Love is something that never quite works out, and eventually he decides to eschew it altogether. And there is a side of him, a wicked destructive side, that’s always there, waiting for him to let his guard down. The worst part about this side is that it is the real him, as real as the goofy, brooding him. And that’s me in a nutshell.

All that, and I didn’t even get to Spike, the actual OTP of the show.

Pit Stop

I’ve been writing nonstop for the past two-and-a-half, almost three years, whenever I can, wherever I can. It’s been nothing particularly profound, mostly silly magical adventures, with a few romances and one epic sci-fi/fantasy thrown in, but it’s my art and my reason. I have no doubt whatsoever that if I hadn’t been structuring my new life around writing, I never would have made it through this divorce. Even as I’ve been working these endless strings of fifteen-hour days, I’ve managed to find a cumulative hour a day to put pen to paper.  

And with that in mind, I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself. I just finished a novel that I think is good enough to shop to agents after I give it a once-over and a polish, and for the first time since I started this marathon in 2017, I don’t have an idea for my next piece. I’m not calling it Writers’ Block, because that connotates an outside force keeping me from inspiration, when in fact, I just haven’t let my mind wander as much as I usually have (probably those aforementioned fifteen-hour days). I’m also not sweating it. If I take some time off from writing, I might actually do things like finishing unpacking my room or read a book. I’ve committed to doing some editing next month, which I wouldn’t be able to do if I was scribbling and typing furiously away every time I wasn’t working, sleeping, or doing laundry. 

But I can’t deny, it’s weird not to be stressing out about when I can find some time to sit down with my notebook or wondering where the characters are going to go next. It’s like writing was a job, and I just got laid off. I talked about free moments earlier, but when I’m in full writer mode, I don’t have free moments. I’m constantly occupied by my novel or short story. Well, now I have free moments. Who knows how long that’s going to last until inspiration gooses me, and I get back to work. 

What to do, what to do … 

All by Myself

In my life, aside from my Facebook friends, I have three people I call my good friends. Two of them I see about once every other month, and the other is my roommate, who I see, if I’m lucky, once a week. I have two jobs where I interact with people regularly, and I have warmer relationships with some and simply professional relationships with others. During my time off, what little of it I get these days, I spend it writing, going for walks in the city, watching movies, and because he absolutely insists, cuddling with my cat. Someone recently expressed concern that I was lonely. 

I’m not. This is how I want my life to be. Maybe not working sixty-plus hours a week, but otherwise, like this. Writing is my passion. It means more to me than anything, and it’s a solitary pursuit. Also, I want to watch whatever dumb movie I want to watch without having to negotiate with anyone else. Walking in the city is something that can be done with others, and when she’s available, Nicole does it with me, and we have a great time. I like talking to people and hanging out, but I don’t need to, and after a run of long days at two jobs, I don’t particularly want to. 

I think maybe people overestimate the time Kate and I spent together. Toward the end of our marriage, I saw her for, at the most, an hour a day, and she used that time to check Facebook and play Charmed in the background. I was lonely for a long time with her—I didn’t have any friends at all when we were together—and I eventually grew to enjoy my own company. I’d been pretty solitary before that, even during my most social (2002-2003), and by this point with Kate, I had become a hermit. Not all of that has gone away. I don’t want it to.  

And so, if you want to hang out, that’s great. I love hanging out with you. If you don’t have the time, that’s too bad, but don’t worry, I’ll be fine. I now have some extra time to work on what I think is the best novel I’ve written so far.  

In short, I may be alone most of the time, but I’m not lonely. Not even a little bit. 

Paranoid

I’ve come down with a bad case of paranoia.  

Something I’ve learned from nine months of job searching is that, if it looks too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. And so much about this job looks too good to be true. I won’t go into all the details because I’ll make myself crazy, but the crux is this: I was recruited to apply for a job I’m only marginally qualified for, and less than fifteen minutes after an interview I was positive I’d bombed, they offered me the job. That kind of thing doesn’t happen to me. It happens to exceptional people, and I’m not exceptional. (Some of you may want to argue with me on this point because you’re really sweet, but really, I’m not, and that’s okay.) 

It doesn’t look like a scam. The recruiting agency is real, and the recruiter herself has a page on LinkedIn (where she found me) that doesn’t look like it was put up on the fly. The company I interviewed is real, and there was nothing artificial about the office. (But still, Jeremiah, the job offer came from the recruiter, not the employer. Yes, Jeremiah, that’s how staffing agencies work—you’ve done work for four of them in the past six months, and it’s always like this. But she got the offer when I was on the phone with her, Jeremiah—that doesn’t happen. Good point, Jeremiah.)  

I’m losing my mind. So I ask you, how can I just relax until my (alleged) start date next Thursday? How can I trust that this one thing is actually working out for me? Help! 

Total Recall

I have ADD, and it’s really bad. If I wasn’t taking a steady dose of time-release methylphenidate, I’d be like the guy from Memento. It’s bad enough that I got disability from the government for a while. And even with the drugs, and with the endless rituals and reminders I need to function, whole conversations, events, and important details simply don’t implant themselves in my brain.  

People don’t have a lot of patience for this, especially people I’ve been married to (who were more than happy to cash the checks when they came, but never to answer my questions). Nobody likes to repeat themselves, I get it, but I’m not asking you twice because I’m a flake or because I smoked too much pot or because I’m lazy, or even for fun. I can’t fake a functioning memory like I can fake a smile when I’m depressed. This is a serious medical condition.  

Do you have any idea how frustrating it is knowing you should know something, but it not being there? It’s like having a word on the tip of your tongue but you can’t quite remember what it is, but on a grander scale. When you add in the dread of someone I care for biting my head off because I had to ask something twice, this is really awful.  

All I can do is do my rituals and reminders and take my meds and try to not be annoying when I ask for clarification. I don’t really have a choice if I want to function in society. 

I’m just tired. 

Phantom Vapors

I have been smelling a phantom, hallucinatory scent for about two years. It smells like someone mixed gas and barbecue sauce together and set it on fire. It’s pretty rare, maybe once or twice a month for an hour, so I didn’t think much of it, but I told my psychiatrist about it a few months ago. He did a ton of research and crossed the medications I’m taking off of the possible causes, and he has referred me to a neurologist, who I will be seeing next month.  

I’m not worried about having a tumor or anything. Like I said, it’s so infrequent that I barely even think it’s a thing. What I am worried about is cost. If I’m prescribed an MRI, how the hell am I supposed to afford that? I don’t have a steady job (but I still make too much for Medicaid), and my insurance is garbage.  

I allegedly live in the greatest country in the world with a health care system that I have been assured by those in power is also the best in the world, yet a procedure that would be a minor inconvenience to a Canadian or anyone from Europe is cost-prohibitive. If I do have a tumor, I’m screwed.  

My appointment is September 16. What happens after that is up in the air. God bless the USA. 

Assembly Line of Inspiration

In February of 2017, I ended my two-year writer’s block by cranking out a story for publication (rejected). I then signed up for a writing contest, and that kept me busy for a while until I got voted out. And then, that spring, I made the conscious decision to write a novel (I add that distinction because I wrote my first novel by accident). When that was done, I wrote another one. And another. I never knew what I was going to write, just that I should sit down and do it. And so, I proceeded to work on short stories and novels constantly through the next two and a third years, rarely missing a day, until the wall I just hit. 

I can’t overstate how many times I’ve finished a chapter and informed a friend, “I have no ideas for the next one,” only to start work on it the next day. This is different. But this is an unfamiliar feeling, thinking about my novel and coming up with absolutely nothing. 

I’m not worried, I will write again. But I am a little unsettled. 

Enter Sandman

Want to hear something that’s going to make some people absolutely hate me? I have full control over my sleep. I can stay up as late as I want (within reason), wake up as early as I want (though it might take one or two snooze buttons for me to roll out of bed), and—and this is the one that’s going to annoy people—go to sleep within ten minutes of closing my eyes in bed. The other night I went to bed an hour early because I wanted to wake up an hour earlier, and I was out like a light, even though I’d had two glasses of iced tea with dinner. Also, I can sleep through anything, which helps because my roommate comes home late from school and has dinner, and there’s only a curtain separating the kitchen from my pillows. 

This didn’t used to be this way. I used to toss and turn for hours and rise from bed like a rotting zombie, but I changed somehow, I don’t know how, and I do not, for one minute, take this skill for granted. 

Funny You Should Mention

For a little over a year, I’ve been lamenting the loss of my humor. One of the side effects of finding the calm and emotional stability that I needed to function in the everyday world seemed to be that I ceased to be funny. I used to make people laugh, it was one of my sources of pride. I was sorry to see it go, but I had come to accept that this was who I was now. It was one of these Doctor Who-style regenerations I’m always going off about during my birthday. People would hear tales of me telling a joke, and the person they’d be hearing about would be as foreign to them as the hard-drinking Jeremiah is to anybody who met me after 2007. 

And then an interesting thing started happening. People started laughing again. It started as I was living in my parents’ place, when I’d made jokes and they went over well with Mom and Dad, but also with the long-distance friendships I was rekindling, and later, with the new roommate/long-lost friend I’d found. It really hit home when I made a comment about the menu in the pizza place that got my roommate’s friend guffawing so loudly I thought we were going to get kicked out, that maybe my humor hadn’t died, it was just resting.  

Over the past two months and a week I’ve been learning to live a brand new life, but maybe it’s also giving me a chance to welcome an old one back too. 

Year in Review

My one-year review at work was earlier this month, and it could have gone worse. Basically my biggest area that needs improvement is “Teamwork,” and it needs it bad. I was told that to improve myself here I need to socialize more. I said I’d try, and I’ve made several attempts, but I am so lost. How am I supposed to talk to these people? What am I supposed to say? Do I have anything in common with them? How would I even know?  

This didn’t used to be so hard. I mean, I’ve always been shy, but I’ve always been able to fake it. Now I don’t even know how to hold a conversation.  

My first assignment from my supervisor was to learn three things about a coworker and report back to him. I learned four things. It’s a start.