I’m a fan of Industrial Music — Rock, Metal, Electronic — with Nine Inch Nails being my typical band of choice whenever I’m jonesing for a deep, dark, dystopic fix.
But whenever I was in need for an adrenaline fix, Wayne Static — his stage name obviously — with his band Static-X would always get me to where I was fixin’ to go.
It’s been a while since I needed a high-tempo rush like that so I hadn’t heard nor thought of Static-X in many o’ moons; however, now that I’m to the point where I’m working out regularly, a Static-X classic popped up on my Apple Music Industrial Rock Workout Playlist that Apple nerds had kindly and conveniently curated for me.
Warning: If you’re not familiar with this genre of music, you may want to check, first, with your doctor to ensure your heart can handle it, and then, second, with your Priest/Spiritual Advisor to ensure your spirit can handle it, as well… Continue reading “Drugs, Death, and Rock & Roll”→
I first reached out to Manizha Sepas to invite her to share more of her writing here right after she submitted her captivating poem A DIME IS WHAT I NEED to the Relating to Humans Poetry feature under the nom de plume of tamednomad. Well, my patience – and persistence – has finally been rewarded as she has shared with us two wonderful pieces: a poem and a travel essay, which, itself, is as poetic as any poem could be. Needless to say, I strongly encourage you to visit Manizha’s site to enjoy more of her work.
The pretty little house upon a hill
In flowers and myriad greens adorn
A symphony of bird songs
While muses dance above
A silent cat stretched out in the shade
Sun rays upon our faces as we laze
Radiating on sunny afternoons.
These are treasured times.
And of more we dream.
Alas! Few will be content
In this age of men of doings.
A sense of purpose of Gods we’ve made,
To be watched over and orders kept.
Of idleness we dream; In idleness condemned,
To slave away the youth.
At the nearness of death time abundant to be found
For nostalgic contemplations:
The rewards of the dogma of the era of the self.
Fear and ambition are our masters
And we the dancing fools –
Dreams left in wastelands of our teens
Forgotten tomorrows and lost days,
“What is it you want to be?”
Cuts the knife of purpose.
Broken reveries; harsh realities.
To be! For existing is mere.
Childish. Primitive. Senseless.
It is the age of categorisation,
The hierarchy of ants,
Times past in wretched standardisation.
A need to be. To do. To better.
Insanely labelling the sane,
A return to what is true
The naked man is caged
For the good of man
Bodies enshrouded in shame and sin
In gowns we tread along the aisle
Piously fearful facing beneath the ground
Helios conquers Hermes
To love not bound but much to give. Like the faithful addict I am besotted. Excitedly impassioned and from withdrawals I suffer; yet no relapse. I am afflicted by this glorious disease. The tempestuous serpentine with smiles and gentle caresses like a breeze passes, communicating a love that is greedily and without prejudice struck. Among Olympians I have come to wander. By the window I sat gazing onto the hills. The nomadic mind for a body tormented by restlessness. A painful existence defined by rage it was; but itchy feet and the vagabond mind is here united. Ataraxis at long last. I sought meaning and found an occupation but I was discontent. It is a failure to be accepted and an acceptance to fail. What are wrongs when solipsistic truths subsist? I turn to look inside and you sit before me, the very embodiment of serenity. I am thirsting. To share in your calm. To feel your soft whispers in my ear and your lips against mine. Sweet intoxicant, I am drunk. A selfish desire you have inspired in me to make mine your every essence but for now, I am a novice. Gems along the road await me and with grateful curiosity I follow.
A brief moment spent in dreams and another reality. Under the cloak of the night we set upon the trail of effervescent chatter. Songs heard and laughter echoed. Drinks pass lips and the herb circulates. The cold is the cherub that draws us together. At the foot of the cross we sit sharing in the joys of your youth. The stage is set and another play ensues. Such are the highs of the opiate seeker. You lead the way to a rocky garden of unquestioned welcome. Upon uneven ground the bodies exchange secrets. Locks of onyx beau, new heights, new desires and the vagrant is once more intoxicated. Stories of troubles told, of loss, suffering and a futile search for happiness where none was to be found. Discourse of fears and pains, and praises made – smiles so readily present and a heart so big. Boundless is this heart and without limit it loves. What is the one when love is abundant and abundantly I love?
Restless days and long nights spent in waiting. The gem is here found distant from my touch. Your desire I have sensed but questionable is mine as I am in character. Perceptions can be deceptive and here, my dears, you have been deceived. The contemplative eye, for Nietzsche, is “like a smooth and irresponsive lake, which is no longer moved by rapture or sympathy;” for far too long I have been lost in the turbulent, perpetually dark world of the phantoms of my mind and at times these eyes betray a challenge to cope with reality. I lust for the chance to share in all the wanders of your dream-like existence here in the Middle Earth of our age. Had Tolkien experienced such a place himself to have imagined this meridian of magnificence? I digress. It is the thoughts that flutter like excited butterflies, offering only glimpses of its promised pleasures. You have been a recurrent attraction like a source of light. An aching lust. To be ventured dangerously close. It is the eyes that I could not look into. A journey’s beginning so abounding in passion but I am of the road. Love is a disease that is bewitching. I am once more consumed. My ailments are concerns of the self; yet despite knowing this I cannot be helped – I must see you again. It is the lips I did not kiss. I fear that the drumming of my heart might be echoed aloud. I am the excited adolescent.
On the move again and true as the addict idéal, the spark is once more set. Perfervid love in which I am immersed. All that happens, happens for a reason. The reason may be doubted but the passions are engulfing and I am the invariant, variedly loving and ardently loved.
I speak of my addiction to love and to lust – to dive into the glory of this most beautiful of human experiences. I love passionately, tenderly and erotically. Always my love is erotic but not necessarily sexual. All my relationships defined by intimacy but not necessarily of the body. I love honesty. I love the flawed and seek not the perfect. I love the best for the best are honest with themselves and thereby deserving of love. To accept one’s own mortality and stupidity is to be the best. To seek not to prove. The best loves as the self dwindles. She is her own subject and her own critic. The best is drunk on life for in sobriety she understands the joke played upon us.
I could not know. My position was one of perpetual torment. Life played its joke and I was the laughing matter. I could only lust passionately to bring to an end the tragicomedy of my pitiable existence. To close the curtains and to have the final laugh. In suicidal contemplations I passed my days not from a selfish desire but from a deep selflessness to free the world of my disease of the soul. It was on the brink of absolute loss that I made a final grasp at happiness only to be found among the children of the sun. Like Tolstoy, I too had a dream in which I saw our sun but I knew it could not be my sun which had begotten my earth full of terrors. Yet, somehow I recognised that it was the same sun, a “dear power of light,” which revived me and from the outstretched arms of death inspired me. Tolstoy dreamt but here I live.
My review of W. Somerset Maugham’s masterpiece OF HUMAN BONDAGE reminded me of “Petey Peter the Garlic Eater,” a poem I wrote and which was included in POEM MAN, a children’s poetry book my family and I published back at the turn of the century.
Maugham’s classic novel and my less-than-classic poem both discuss, in their one ways, the important matter of addiction and dependency. In Maugham’s story, we find that, because of the protagonist Philip Carey’s love for Mildred, a love so strong she becomes his addiction (his bondage), he nearly destroys his own life. In my poem, we find that both Peter Peter’s excessive love for pumpkins and Petey Peter’s excessive love for garlic, addictions in their own rights, destroy, if not their own lives, then the lives of those around them.
Petey Peter the Garlic Eater
Petey Peter the garlic eater
Sat right behind me in class.
And if he wasn’t busy boisterously burpin’,
He was busy passin’ poisonous gas.
I couldn’t concentrate on my studies
Because of the stink he emitted.
As a result I failed all my classes.
As for graduation, I wasn’t permitted.
Now, if you’re a lover of riddles and rhymes
You might just remember his name.
Cuz his great, great, great, great, great, grandfather
Is famous for a name just the same.
But their names are their only sim’larities,
For they both liked to eat different treats.
Old Peter Peter preferred to eat pumpkins,
While it was garlic young Petey did eat.
Though I can’t imagine eating pumpkins
Unless smashed and baked as sweet pies.
But I do wish young Petey had eaten them,
Cuz his garlic breath always drew flies.
But pumpkins, too, can bring trouble.
It’s cuz of pumpkins old Peter lost a wife.
I guess if you do too much of anything
There’s a chance it could ruin a life.
It’s cuz of Petey’s stinky garlic breath
That every single class I did fail.
And it’s cuz I dropped out of grade school
That I eventually landed in jail.
But as for Petey, he invented a breath mint.
And it earned him a million or two.
And he married the great, great, great, great, great, granddaughter
Of the old lady who lived in the shoe.
So…I may have been talking tongue in cheek for much of my Caffeine Therapy article, but I was serious as a heart attack, and we all know how serious those Widow Makers are, when talking about the positive impact that caffeine has had on my mental state of mind. Before I started drinking coffee I never knew where I was going to be mood-wise. Some days I would wake up Dr. Jekyll, some days Mr. Hyde. It was very stressful. After I started drinking coffee again, or, more specifically, after I added caffeine to my diet again, life was much more normal, predictable, and pleasant for me…and the rest of the family. While I still get stressed out and tense relatively easily, even while caffeinated up, it isn’t nearly has bad as it would get while I was caffeine-free.
Consequently, when I visited the doctor for a checkup from the neck up…and down…this past Thursday, I was looking forward to finding out how adding caffeine to my diet has impacted my liver, since that is where it’s metabolized.
Well, the lab results showed that my liver component counts were pretty high. Here are the numbers (Read: Component, Low Range, High Range, Range Units, My Lab Results):
DIRECT BILIRUBIN, 0.0, 0.4, mg/dl, 0.3
ALKALINE PHOSPHATASE, 30, 120, U/L, 173
ASPARTATE AMINO TRAN, 0, 37, U/L, 100
ALANINE AMINO TRANS, 0, 40, U/L, 263
Now, I have no idea what all of these different components are, but I do know the docs look at them to determine how my liver is doing. I asked my oncologist if he thought I should stop drinking coffee because the counts are so high and he said no. He wasn’t worried about the impact of caffeine on the liver. In fact, he agreed with my assessment that it is probably the caffeine that is positively stimulating me mentally while suppressing the negative psychological impact of all the other drugs and stress from my inflictions.
He was, however, worried that the high counts indicated that Graft Versus Host Disease was flaring up in my liver. After examination, he also assessed that it was flaring up again in my skin and eyes. He wanted to take some “preemptive measures” (his words) by either raising my steroid dosage or by trying another drug called Cyclosporin. But the way things work with my care and treatment, it wasn’t his call. All decisions relating to my care that involve GVHD are made by a different oncologist, one who also is a nationally renowned GVHD specialist and he was not quite as concerned about the elevated numbers as the other oncologists on Team Kurt. In fact, the wife and I had lobbied the GVHD specialist to raise my steroid dosage the last time we saw him over a month ago. I could tell even then by the way that I had been feeling and how my skin had looked that the GVHD was flaring up. But the specialist’s primary concern is with the GVHD in my lungs and not so much with the GVHD anywhere else. According to him, the other areas are relatively minor concerns compared to the lungs and were no cause for alarm or any additional action. A month later he apparently still feels the same.
I’m guessing the GVHD doc wants me to focus on my upcoming week-long visit in April to the National Institute of Health where I will participate in a study to get FDA approval for a new Lung GVHD treatment.
Still, the other oncologist wants me and the wife back next Thursday so we all, to include the GVHD specialist, can get together and further discuss this GVHD flare up in the liver and elsewhere.
Before the cancer I had been a pretty heavy coffee drinker. I drank it not only because I was addicted to the caffeine and the boost it gave me, but also because I really do enjoy the taste of a well-brewed cup o’ joe. A good cup of coffee, just like a good glass of wine, really does [cliche alert!] make life worth living.
I was a late bloomer as a coffee drinker. Though I always loved its smell growing up—I still have vivid, fond memories of the bubbly coffee percolator sounds and the delicious coffee smells that I woke to every morning as a child—I found its taste repulsive and the heated spoiled crap breath that all coffee drinkers blast out even more so. I didn’t want to be complicit in that.
But after high school I joined the navy and, like an idiot, immediately started smoking cigarettes, a habit that previously had disgusted me even more than drinking coffee. If I could force my body to accept and then to crave and then to fervently demand a steady intake of toxic death fumes, then it would stand to reason that hooking myself on coffee couldn’t be too far behind.
Actually, it took another six years.
What finally got me to join the Caffeine Club was the twelve-hour watches that I had to “stand” while stationed aboard my first ship.
I had stood twelve-hours watches all during my time in the navy prior to transferring to the ship, but those watches had always been in large, noisy, bustling communication centers with teams of sailors, which meant that there was always someone around to talk to and to keep me awake during the brutal night shifts. But on the ship, I stood my watches in a quiet, closet of a room by myself and boy could those midnight watches, or mid-watches as the navy jargon goes, get boring.
Thus, in 1989 began my addiction to coffee.
Coffee and Cigarettes. A heavenly match made in hell.
Fortunately, I was able to kick the cigarette habit about a year later.
But I drank coffee like mad until my cancer.
While I initially started drinking coffee as a crutch to get me through the night, I still hated the taste and had to load in piles of cream and sugar to try to cover it up. Over time, however, I eventually acquired a taste for the bean. But my passion for the bean didn’t really come until years later after my father casually remarked that to really enjoy coffee, it needs to be drank black. Unpolluted, so to speak.
So I tried it black. And, like most fathers are, he was right. From then on, I no longer was a man who preferred his coffee “sweet and blond” but one who preferred it “bold and black.”
I drank it that way pretty hard for twenty years.
But when the cancer struck, I had no qualms about quitting. In fact, I didn’t decide to quit, I just did without even realizing it. I guess my subconscious took over after they started pumping me full of chemo and steroids and other crap and spared me of any coffee or wine cravings during my year-long treatment and recovery.
Throughout my years as a coffee drinker prior to cancer, every once in a while I would try to get healthy and ween myself off of caffeine. Not that caffeine is a particularly unhealthy addiction as far as addictions go; but it still is an addiction and deep down, I guess always felt a little uneasy about my dependency on it.
I don’t remember exactly when the last time was I tried to stop consuming caffeine, but I do remember how much it hurt: the eyeball shattering headaches; the total body aches; the nasty moods.
I remember being stuck in traffic for a very long time once during my last attempt at the last weening process and having my legs ache so badly that I thought I was going to have to pull over to the side of the beltway and have the wife come pick me up. I was jonesing bad. I struggled on, but as soon as I got out of traffic I drove directly to the store, bought two cups of coffee, downed one right in the parking lot, and begged forgiveness and mercy from the other one as I lovingly nursed it all the way home.
I probably went through the same kind of withdrawal pain and discomfort when I quit drinking coffee after the cancer diagnosis, but there was already so much other pain and discomfort going on from the blood clots and the treatment that the withdrawal stuff just mixed right in and went unnoticed. Thankfully.
And for over a year during my treatment and recovery process I had no urge whatsoever to start the habit back up. Until recently.
When the urge returned, it returned with a vengeance.
I started drinking it like I never stopped. There was one big difference when I started back up though:
I know, I know. Drinking decaffeinated coffee is like having sex without the climax. What’s the point, right? But, I figured, since I have to take an overload of drugs every day that are already throwing my mental state out of whack, it might be best not to include a stimulant like caffeine into the mix.
So it was decaf for the first couple of weeks.
Until the first time I ran out of it and mistakenly bought a bag of the real stuff.
Why would Starbucks make the bag green if it wasn’t for a decaffeinated coffee?
One good thing about drinking decaf coffee is that I can drink it in the evenings without having to worry about it cranking me up for an all-nighter.
I made the first cup from the mistaken identity bag around 7:00 pm. I think I finally fell asleep around 6:00 am the next day. By 2:00 pm, I was back at the store buying real decaf this time, which was not packaged in a green-themed bag, by the way.
What’s up with Starbucks thinking they can set their own standards?
I have always been very sensitive to drugs and other foreign substances. For instance, it’s hard for me to use morphine or codeine as pain killers because of this sensitivity (remind me later to write an article about my first experience with morphine…ugh).
Even caffeine in the smallest of amounts can overly stimulate me (it’s not often I get to say that out loud) to the point of annoyance to anyone who happens to be around me.
My daily cocktail of drugs are no exception to this sensitivity rule.
The biggest culprit from the cocktail mix for jerking me around is the prednisone. Prednisone is the drug of choice, in fact, it’s just about the only choice, to treat Graft Versus Host-related diseases, of which I am suffering from, and for which I am taking the prednisone.
It addition to GVHD, prednisone is also regularly prescribed for many inflammatory-related illnesses, like asthma or COPD. Because of its potency, it is usually prescribed in low doses, around 5 – 10 mg, for short periods of time, around 7 – 10 days, or so.
Well, I started at 200 mg and now I’m down to 60 mg. I’m going on my fourth month and, even though the treatment doesn’t seem to be slowing the advancement of my lung disease, unless there is a new miracle discovery, I will probably will be taking high doses of prednisone for the rest of my life.
Speaking of miracle discoveries, I will be participating in an NIH study in April 2011 for a new Lung GVHD treatment—fingers crossed.
It kind of freaks me out whenever I visit with a new doctor and their eyes widen and mouths drop when they hear that I’m taking 60 mg of prednisone every day.
The reason they react the way they do is because prednisone has a slew of annoying side effects and is one of those drugs where the cure could turn out to worse than the disease. It causes bone density loss, diabetes, sodium retention, water retention, insomnia, moon face (for some reason it makes the body fat accumulate around the face—my head is friggin’ ginormous!), and worst of all, anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
Because of my sensitivity to drugs, I seem to be really affected by the anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
You might be thinking, like I would be if it wasn’t me who was the one saying it: Brindley, get over it. It’s all just in your head.
And my response would be: You’re exactly right! That’s what makes it even worse. I do know that it is all just in my head. But I’ll be damned if I can get it out.
The more I can keep my mind actively engaged, the better off I am.
This blog is great therapy.
So are naps.
But sometimes my mind gets stuck in a deep rutted ravine filled with all of my fears and doubts and I can’t get out no matter how hard I try. It really is crazy because even as I am trapped in this dark place, I know that a big reason why I’m there is because of a drug that is supposed to be saving my life.
And once I get stuck there I usually can’t get out until the drug wears off, which is about twelve hours after taking it.
So, the next time I ran out decaf and decided to go to the real stuff, I had to take all of this into consideration. I knew there could be consequences from the caffeine so, to try to make good out of my stupidity for willingly hooking myself back onto something I had not needed for over a year, I had decided to treat it all like an experiment. When drinking caffeinated coffee while taking the prednisone and other drugs, which would be anytime I drink caffeinated coffee, I would pay close attention to how they interact and affect me.
Good idea, right? ;)
What I found is interesting and somewhat promising.
Caffeine, like the true stimulant that it is, seems to balance out the negative effects of the prednisone. By drinking caffeinated coffee in the mornings when the drugs are at their nastiest, I do not seem to be feeling as depressed and grouchy.
It seems to be easier to breathe when I take my walks. After some research, I found that caffeine is a xanthine derivate. Xanthine is used to help treat asthma. Maybe this explains why it seems that I’m breathing easier on my walks.
Caffeine is a diuretic. Diuretics make you pee. This is useful for me since I tend to retain water because of the GVHD.
Because of the prednisone, I also retain sodium. I don’t understand all this diuretic stuff enough but it could be a good thing if caffeine is of the type that flushes out sodium. I’ll have to follow up with the doc on this.
In addition to the depression, prednisone also makes me anxious and edgy, and increases my heart rate. Adding caffeine into the equation only amplifies that feeling.
Because of my GVHD, I have dry, itchy skin and my mouth gets dry easily. The steroids help, but since caffeine is a diuretic and I’m peeing all the time I get dehydrated quickly, which only exacerbates the dry skin and dry mouth. I have to drink more water to compensate, which means even more peeing. Its a tedious balancing act.
Again, I don’t understand much about diuretics, but I read that certain types flush out a body’s potassium. This isn’t good because prednisone already tends to decrease potassium levels. Need more info.
Because of all the meds I’m taking, my liver is really taking a beating. Since caffeine is metabolized in the liver, I really need to be careful here.
So, to make a long story short… What? Oh…yeah, I see. Too late for that. I guess I got to rambling a bit. Thanks for bearing with me.
In conclusion… better? …my long, rocky love affair with coffee has resumed once again and I find that my passion for the drink is as strong and true as its seductive flavor is bold and addictive.
And now, not only do I drink the brew to fulfill my own selfish desires and dependency, I drink it also to fulfill a broader need, one with an utilitarian, more nobler purpose—I drink it in the name of medical research.
Just think, what started out as an aide to help me better defend my country during my navy years (that sounds much better than calling it a crutch to help me stay awake during boring mid-watches), may turn out to be the impetus behind a cure for a very serious mental health condition.
Now, whenever I drink coffee while strung out on prednisone, I may be one cup closer to understanding the longterm synergistic and psychological effects on the brain from simultaneously consuming large quantities of both stimulative and depressive agents over long periods of time.
My research is going to have an extremely significant and beneficial impact on the entire mental health community. Better lives will be lived because of it.
Yeah, that’s all a bunch of BS, I know (see Disclaimer). But hey, if it helps me to rationalize my pathetic, self-induced dependency on something that I probably shouldn’t be messing with in the first place, why not, right?
Have I mentioned how long it’s been since I’ve had a glass of wine?