O The Places My Mind Goes – Part 1

I need to write this in two parts. The night before and the following day. I can’t do both at once. Too difficult.

Two nights ago I awake from a nightmare sometime after 3 am. No idea what it was about, but it doesn’t matter. I’d been anxious all day about my blog. I hadn’t blogged in more than a week. Slew of ideas, but couldn’t write anything. At the top of my list was writing about how I conquered anxiety for a day by taking Sienna out to the Long Island Children’s Museum, but I too anxious to write it. Ironic.

Anyway, it’s 3-something am. First thought is about the blog. Check FB just because I was awake. Scroll through my feed and find links posted in Dad Bloggers. Chest begins hurting. I’m not good enough. These guys are so much better than me. They keep pumping out words, heartfelt, poetic words. I’ll never be a real writer.

I see pics of decorated houses. I’ll never own a home. Sienna will never have a backyard in which to play, to build snowmen like in the pics I’m looking at. I’ll never own a barbecue. I’m a failure. I was supposed to be something! I was supposed to have a prestigious job and money! I was supposed to be a success! Friends from grade school have houses! Friends from grade school are rich! You’re going to be 40 in a couple of months and you’ve done NOTHING job-wise!


Note: Rationality is out the window because my chest feels like cement.

Sudden thought shoots out of the darkness and scares the hell out of me: I can’t kill myself because of Elaine and Sienna. I can’t do that to them.

Note: It’s literally been seconds since I went from blog anxiety to suicide.

I’m shaking. Wake Elaine up. Wake her up and tell her what’s going on. Ask her to hold you, calm you. I can’t. She needs to sleep so she can work tomorrow.

Note: She’s gonna smack me when she reads this

Instead I post this on FB: “Fighting to prevent a full-blown panic attack. Feeling severely depressed. Chest feels like it’s being crushed. Don’t understand it…fell asleep feeling a little better and then woke up at 3-something only to fall apart.”

Note: Facebook has a give and take relationship with me. I’ve found a lot of support on Facebook, especially during my first months with Sienna, many times from people I hadn’t seen in decades. At the same time the pictures and posts can make me feel weak, depressed, envious and stupid. Sometimes I consider quitting FB, but I keep trying to be rational about it. It doesn’t always work.

Why hasn’t anyone responded to my post? It’s been seconds and no one’s written! Where the hell did the suicide thought come from?

Note: I’ve been suicidal a number of times throughout my life, but I’ve never had a plan (outside of downing a bottle of sleeping pills) or written a note. I never had the courage to go through with it (and yes, though it’s a selfish act, it does take bravery to actually do it, imo). At best I’d imagine I was like Huck Finn, watching his own funeral. At worst I imagined holding the bottle of pills. I hadn’t thought about offing myself since long before Elaine got pregnant. Probably three years. The shocking thought of suicide terrified me and plunged me deep into the darkness.

I drop my phone. I’m shaking, I cling to Elaine hoping she’ll wake up, but I still can’t allow myself to actually awaken her. She needs her sleep. I’m hyperventilating. Breathe! Breathe! Breathe!

I get out of bed and dizzily walk down the hall. Go into Sienna’s room and watch her. No. I’ll wake her up. Can’t do that. Find Minky. I need Minky.

“Minky,” I whisper, voice hitching. “Minky.”

I find the puffball in the closet. I grab and hold him so tightly he squeaks. Take him back to the bedroom. Concentrate on his purring. I take Minky to the bedroom. I carefully place him on the bed and get under the covers. He climbs onto my aching chest. His purr is like a chainsaw. He noses my face. Licks my hand. I gently stroke him, feeling the softness of his fur. I scratch him behind his ears. Over and over I pet him.

FAILURE! How can you think of suicide?? How could you do that to your family? SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!!!

I’m depressed. I’m shivering. I pet Minky for more than an hour and use all my power to concentrate on what’s right in front of me. It’s past 5 am. I want to see if anyone’s responded to my status update. I don’t check. Just pet Minky. Elaine’s still asleep. Finally I join her.

Blog Anxiety 2 – “Dad Bloggers”

Today is the first birthday of Dad Bloggers, a terrific Facebook group currently 523 strong that I joined right before writing my blog “Tumbling From the Moon and Getting Back Up” about my sadness in feeling so puny in the blog world and my need for “Raising Sienna” to TAKE OFF NOW!! And while my blog hasn’t shot into outer space, I have gained some new readership (I think, I don’t know my numbers) and some new friends. Dad Bloggers is a terrific community and I congratulate Oren Miller, founder of the page and author of “A Blogger and a Father,” but it’s also overwhelming for someone like myself. I’ve posted three more blogs since joining the group (my mind’s screaming, “NOT ENOUGH!”). At times I feel like I can’t keep up with the site, that I’m drowning, that I’m in competition with 523 (and growing bloggers), some of whom have been doing this for years, many of whom I feel are so much talented than me. In addition, dads post links to current dad-related media like advertising or articles which tend to make feel like I’m late to the party (especially having a masters in media studies), that I should have blogged about these things before anyone even noticed them. That’s irrational, of course, but it’s another example of living inside this head of mine. So rather than continue to lament these feelings I wanted to talk about what I’ve done to work through my blog anxiety:

  • Joining the group was a huge step in itself. It’s something that I’d never have done in the past. I would have stared at the page for awhile, clicked on some other site and chastised myself for being a coward. So I have to acknowledge that I grew just by joining
  • Seeing all of these dads and their respective blogs made me realize I’m not ready to go to the Dads 2.0 Summit at the end of January. If I’m overwhelmed by this page, there’s no way I’ll be able to handle a conference dedicated to dad bloggers, media and sponsorship. And you know what? That’s not such a bad thing. It doesn’t mean I won’t be ready in 2014. It just means I’m not ready now.
  • While really stressing about how often many of the group members post, I wrote to an author friend of mine, Caren Lissner, whose excellent first novel, Carrie Pilby, is soon to be a movie. Caren’s been a big supporter of my mine and she told me exactly what I needed to hear: “I think a lot of bloggers have that problem – once they start, they feel bad if they don’t post regularly. A week is not very long to wait. I think a week is good! You can even do a post saying that there may be a week or two between posts at times. A blog shouldn’t be a nightmare; it’s YOUR blog, not a job.” This current blog would not have been written without Caren’s advice about blogging about how I get freaked out because I feel I’m not blogging enough. Thank you, Caren!
  • I had the guts to write, via FB, to a couple of Dad Bloggers’ major contributors to ask for advice. This is something I never would have done before. I asked John Kinnear, author of “Ask Your Dad,” if he was intimidated when he first joined and he responded thusly (sorry, I’m still not great working with WordPress so not sure how to indent): “Nope, but mainly because I didn’t know how many heavy hitters there are in this group. Once I found out who the big guns were, I was already friends with them and didn’t really feel the need to impress. Neither should you man. We all have blogs of various sizes and honestly, traffic shouldn’t be your first goal. Write what you love, what makes your feel, what makes you laugh, and what makes you a better dad. Make sure you share it so people can find you. Respond to comments. Comment on other blogs. Make friends. Your audience will find you over time.” Those words made feel much better because I was obsessing over traffic. I further asked him how often he posts and he said he tries to post once a week. That gels completely with what Caren had told me and made me feel a lot better. Thanks again, John!
  • I even had the courage to write to Oren Miller himself, founder of the Dad Bloggers group, and he told me: “There are a lot of people there, but I think most of them, including the more successful ones, know that there’s a lot of great writing from smaller blogs, and it’s often the smaller blogs that really speak the truth (it’s easy to lose your way once you start dealing with promotions and reviews).” Again, that helped settle me down. Thanks again, Oren!
  • Taking all of this advice into consideration, I’ve been “liking” and commenting on as many blogs that touch me as I can, and have been making some friends. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the amount of content pouring in, I click away and count to ten. It doesn’t always work, but I do it as much as possible.
  • Caren, John and Oren also reiterated something my therapist has been trying to drill into my head for years: not everything I write has to be timely. If I still want to write about “Breaking Bad,” for instance, I can. So I thank all three and my therapist for that advice.

I still obsess over about what to blog; I have an idea for one, for instance, with which I’ve been really struggling. It’s kept me up late the last few evenings. Tonight I’ll take a melatonin in hopes it’ll quiet my brain. And I’ll say this now, something else I probably never would have said before: I’ll get to it eventually.

Joining Dad Bloggers has been tough, but rewarding, and I wish Oren and his group a very happy birthday, continued success and many, many new members. It’s definitely made a difference in my life just by the fact that I’ve been able to write this here blog. I like knowing that there are people I can turn to should my brain start getting the best of me, maybe even some who suffer anxiety and depression like myself. As I said about the characters in Silver Linings Playbook, sometimes the best help you can get comes from people who truly understand you. It’s clear I’ve found a few.