Tag Archives: Depression

I ain’t no better than a dirty dime.

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I was reading a story from Rolling Stone about an old favorite of mine, Kris Kristofferson.  While I don’t listen to him often, I’m drawn by his lyrics like a bee to honey.  I sat at my computer and let his music help me write my imaginary song.

I ain’t no better than a dirty dime

I’ve got the writer’s itch,
when words flow from my mouth
like grease droppings on a dirty floor.

Thinking about days gone by
as they skip out the door.
Hey little buddy of mine,
you’re ain’t nothing but my little whore.

All my writing, singing, and therapy stuff,
don’t change you a little bit.
I own you, he whispered that night.
You ain’t no better than a dirty dime.

Hey, Kris Kristofferson,
you old buddy of mine.
I’m turning you off,
‘fore the dark fog moves in.
Best you go away,
before I begin to believe,
I ain’t no better than a dirty dime.

New book, “Supermax Prison:  Controlling the most dangerous criminals,” is about to be released.  Please check it out.

 

That’s why I write.

I was moved to write this blog when a fellow graduate of a MFA Creative Nonfiction program wrote the following:  How much rejection can one take? or rather should take? I’ve been getting rejected from every single query, pitch, essay publication, poetry, translation, fellowship, residency and employment I’ve applied to since October.”  Why would someone spend time and money to prepare themselves for shit-hole rejection, you’re probably thinking?

I decided to google a bit, looking for some answers beyond my own experiences.  I must say, rejection on google is not the same as feeling it in your gut and a tinge of vomit in your mouth.  A more academic definition is the dismissing or refusing of a proposal, etc…  No that doesn’t do much either.  Further exploration revealed a study in Psychology Today.  Physical and emotional pain share the same pathway to the brain.  Studies found that if you take a couple of acetaminophen (Tylenol) immediately following the rejection you will experience a reduction in the emotional pain.  Now I know why writers tend to drink wine, a six pack, or straight from a bottle of hard stuff.  But if you drink too much, your pain is joined by physical and an out-of-your mind experience.  And that’s something that I don’t repeat too often.

In fact, I remember an episode of out-of-mind emotional meltdown when I was in high school.  There was a girl that I wanted to date but she wouldn’t give me the time of day. I’m reluctant to admit that I even prayed to God that she would become my steady girlfriend.  Well, God didn’t come through.  Come to think of it, perhaps he did.  Decades later I saw that same girl.  I realized that it was good that she didn’t become my steady girlfriend.  Back to my story.  Her final rejection was followed by a night on the town with a couple of my friends.  We got stone-dead drunk and my friends dumped me on the steps of my front porch.  Not a pleasant memory.

Every writer, except for famous and lucky people, has experienced different degrees of rejection.  I’ve experienced rejection that comes rolling in like a dark cloud and puts me into a fetal position.  As bad as it sounds, I began writing at a later age and was successfully employed in my chosen profession.  I wasn’t dependent upon writing income to survive.  Having said that, it still hurts like hell to be rejected.

So, what do we do about rejection?  For me, writing is more about the journey than the publishing aspect.  The journey of writing a book trumps most things.  I write a sentence, a phrase, a chapter and go through the multiple drafts.  A few days later I read it again, followed by a final draft.  Sometimes I experience what I call a “writer’s rush,” that’s better than any joint I’ve smoked.  It can be outstanding.  Each piece of writing has made me smarter, a better writer, and broadened my spiritual growth.  That’s why I write.

authorllfranklin.com

Book Blurb for Supermax Prison: Controlling the most dangerous criminals

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I feel fortunate to have received a book blurb for “Supermax Prison:  Controlling the most dangerous criminals,” written by Terry Turchie, author of “Unabomber:  How the FBI Broke Its Own Rules to Capture the Terrorist Ted Kaczynski.  Special Agent Turchie is now retired, pursuing a writing career.

Rarely does a book come along that truly shows the final point in the life of a violent criminal.  Supermax Prison does just that.  It brings the reader into the lowest depths constructed for human life in the United States:  incarceration for the human being too violent to live with others, even other convicts.  A must read for everyone interested in criminality, law and order and well written books.
-Terry Turchie, Speical Agent FBI (retired) Unit Director Unabomb Task Force

 

Wallow in the writer’s high

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The title of my book has been changed to “Supermax Prison: controlling the most dangerous criminals,” which is due to be released in mid-June. I decided to share some of my thoughts before writing this book.
***
Writing is a journey of twists and turns laced with uncertainty. Gone are the predictable warm summer nights in southern Illinois, or the haunting call of a whip-poor-will.  Perhaps I have a general idea of where the story might lead, but I never know how it will end.  That would not be investigative journalism.  No, that’s back-ass storytelling.

I have logged in countless hours of psycho-therapy and written about troubled minds with difficult pasts.  Things are not as they appear. Perceived reality is a combination of our genetic makeup and life experiences, and opens the door for misguided decisions.  An individual’s perception of right and wrong oftentimes differs from mine.  False judgements and bias are not permitted.  Knowing this, allows me to experience empathy, understanding, and a host of emotions.  Only then, can I find the “sweet part” of the story where creativity is unleashed.

It has been said that artists perform their best work when under the influence of drugs.  One could argue that a gentle high might unleash a degree of creativity, but when you are trashed, the work has a manic flow.  I admit to the occasional glass of wine to prime the pump, but I’ve found a better way.  Look to the free spirit of childhood and envision the swish and sway, the pirouette and tour en l’air of a child dancing to the beat and lyrics of a simple song; the free flow of unrestrictive creativity; an emotional rush that trumps the steady pull from your favorite weed or a glass of wine.

While emotion and creativity are the staples of powerful writing, it must be harnessed with a loose bridle, allowing a degree of freedom. Writing requires the use of the right and left side of the brain at the same time.  If I can harness my creativity, writing skills, a nonjudgemental mind, the strength of a lion sprinkled with a dose of love, I can wallow in the writer’s high.

A get your attention book

The Newest Book from Larry L. Franklin
Mnemosyne: A Love Affair with Memory

Mnemosyne:  A Love Affair with Memory is a beautifully written, powerful book about two men from different centuries who are struggling with memory.  One is struggling with his own memories; the other is working to define and codify what memory is.  These two stories, however, are more about the soul journey of each man.  Larry’s journey is one through the painful memories of childhood sexual abuse — a journey through the darkness of the soul into the light.  Richard’s story is a journey of a man who goes from the height of his career to being shunned for his research into memory and the decisions he made in his life.  The powerful scene at the end of Richard’s story is a image that will stay with you.  Larry’s story, however, is one that inspires and uplifts.  It is a testament that life can be a joyful experience, even if one has endured horrifying abuse as a child  As a therapist, I have worked with many clients who struggle with a painful past.  As such, I honor the courage Larry has shown in creating a work that will be an inspiration to any person who is struggling with life’s painful issues.
Review by Olivia  

***

Mnemosyne:   A Love Affair with Memory, written by Larry L Franklin, is a work of creative nonfiction, and can be purchased as an ebook, paperback or hardback at Amazon and most bookstores.  Please checkout the links to the Introduction and Chapter One.

https://llfranklin12.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/introduction.pdf

https://llfranklin12.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/chapter-1.pdf

 

 

 

 

Ode to Billy Joe and the faceless manikins

Tallahatchie_bridge-Hwy_7_MississippiIt was the other day, June 3, 2015 to be precise, when Paul Morris, a fellow MFA Goucher graduate, reminded me of Bobby Gentry’s “Ode to Billy Joe.”  Forty-eight years ago, on June 3, 1967, Gentry penned her masterpiece.  How could I allow decades to pass before revisiting the rhythmic, haunting lyrics depicting the day when Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the 220px-OdetobillyjoeTallahatchie Bridge?  Gentry and I had a reunion of sorts.  I began listening to a YouTube performance of her “Ode to Billy Joe;” over and over, perhaps twenty to thirty times.  It was as addictive as my Oxycodone pain-poppin’ pills that kept my back from breaking apart in the hills of southern Illinois, some five-hundred miles north of the Tallahatchie Bridge.  Maybe the passage of time has blessed me with a deeper understanding of Gentry’s lyrical gem.  Or perhaps years of therapy has graced my psychic with insights never experienced before.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_T4qsvFAkFM
***

Ode to Billy Joe
by Bobby Gentry

It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton, and my brother was balin’ hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And mama hollered out the back door, “y’all, remember to wipe your feet!”
And then she said, “I got some news this mornin’ from Choctaw Ridge
Today, Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge”

And papa said to mama, as he passed around the blackeyed peas
“Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits, please
There’s five more acres in the lower forty I’ve got to plow”
And mama said it was shame about Billy Joe, anyhow
Seems like nothin’ ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billy Joe MacAllister’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

And brother said he recollected when he, and Tom, and Billie Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show
And wasn’t I talkin’ to him after church last Sunday night?
“I’ll have another piece-a apple pie; you know, it don’t seem right
I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge
And now ya tell me Billie Joe’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge”

And mama said to me, “Child, what’s happened to your appetite?
I’ve been cookin’ all morning, and you haven’t touched a single bite
That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today
Said he’d be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh, by the way
He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge
And she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin’ off the Tallahatchie Bridge”

A year has come and gone since we heard the news ’bout Billy Joe
And brother married Becky Thompson; they bought a store in Tupelo
There was a virus going ’round; papa caught it, and he died last spring
And now mama doesn’t seem to want to do much of anything
And me – I spend a lot of time pickin’ flowers up on Choctaw Ridge
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge

***

How can a song spur my imagination with so many unanswered questions:  What did that girl and Billy Joe MacAllister throw over the Tallahatchie Bridge?  Perhaps a baby?  Were they lovers?  Maybe Billy Joe had sex with a gay man in 1967.  Could that be why Billy Joe took his life?  And then there was Papa who said, “Billy Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits please.”  Was Billy Joe’s reasoning, or lack of it, that simple.  So many questions, and many more.  Ms. Gentry, tell me why Billy Joe jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge, and oh, by the way, pass me the blackeyed peas.

People have asked Bobby Gentry to explain the true meaning of her song.  And to their surprise Gentry said there is no hidden meaning in “Ode to Billy Joe.”  If anything, she once said, it’s about a family of manikins sitting around their dinner table talking about Billy Joe’s suicide.  The narrator obviously knew Billy Joe quite well, so much so that she couldn’t eat a bite.  When Mama told the family about Billy Joe jumping off the Tallashatchie Bridge, they ignored the narrator’s feelings and asked someone to “pass the biscuits please,” followed by Papa telling Mama to “pass the blackeyed peas.”

Foreshadowing is a literary technique of indicating or hinting what might come forth in the next sentence or so; perhaps sooner than later, or maybe not at all. This is how a great storyteller adds mystery and suspense that turns a mundane story into a page burner.  I’ve watched some great movies and questioned the director’s intent.  Oftentimes I was left to fill in the blanks, wanting more.

Of course I love the pulsating rhythms, the poetic prose, and the mystery of Gentry’s song.  But that’s not what moved me so, grabbing my soul and giving it an attention-getting twist.  It’s the faceless manikins sitting around the dinner table that day in Carroll County Mississippi.  Hell yes, those people drive me fucking crazy.  I’m a victim of childhood physical and sexual abuse.  And I’m not alone. Most of my fellow abuse victims share similar feelings: Manikins don’t care if we’re left to wallow in our misery; hey, maybe the rapes were our fault; don’t air our dirty laundry; perhaps they feel uncomfortable talking about such things, and possibly lack the emotional depth.  And worse yet, what if they don’t believe my story?  Now that drives me so fucking crazy that I want to join Billy Joe MacAllister and jump off the Tallashatchie Bridge.

Hey funny man, show me your pain.

broken-heart-sad-wallpapers-pics-for-boys.7Robin Williams, John Beluski, Chris Farley, Freddie Prinze:  all funny men who chose to die.  Robin was my favorite.  His improvisational skills had no boundaries, as he hurled funny lines fast and furious, seemingly from a place where few have ventured.  These comedians, ambassadors of humor, sang lyrics meant to tickle your soul, while suffering an inner dissonance that challenged their ability to get out of bed.  They lacked any resolution to that harmonic pedal point of misery, a can’t-move sadness that creates the illusion that death is more attractive than life. They call it depression.

Depression can be caused by many things — genetic makeup, physical and sexual abuse, conflict, death or loss, physical or emotional pain, reaction to medication, to name a few — causing a chemical imbalance in the brain.  The misfiring of a handful of neurons can bring you to your knees.  When information is transferred from one neuron to another, the gap between the terminals and nearby neurons is filled by chemical substances called neurotransmitters, which fire across the space, sending signals to other neurons.  At times, brain activity might resemble a well-lit midway at a county fair, with hundreds of rides and booths operating simultaneously.

Medication and psycho-therapy are the preferred treatments for depression. Medication controls the level of neurotransmitters that flow from one neuron to another.  This is done by “tricking” the neurons into changing their actions based on the assumption that they have received an increased or decreased level of neurotransmitters.  Certain medications force the release of the neurotransmitter, causing an exaggerated effect, while some medications increase neurotransmitters known to slow down or reduce the production of other neurotransmitters.  Some medications block the the release of neurotransmitters completely.  Medications can be a godsend, but the side effects can be intolerable for certain individuals. Maybe the newfound drug will work, and then, without warning, cause the individual to curl into a fetal position and wait for the pain to pass, or choose to die.  The next drug will bring them peace, it certainly will.  Perhaps….

Psycho-therapy is the art of understanding and creating strategies to deal with the tormented soul.  Reliving the physical and sexual abuse was my journey.  In the process, I became desensitized to the emotional trauma, leaving me with a soft melodic hum that I hear each day, warning me if depression is on its way.  Some people check the weather each day, I check the forecast for depression.  Is it going to be a cloudy or sunny day?

Hey funny man, where does the humor come from?  How can you suffer through such sadness, spout jokes and act crazy all at the same time?  For me and my fellow comedians, it’s quite clear.  Psychologists call it coping mechanisms.  Coping is a method of dealing with the misery.  Maybe you learn techniques from your therapist, perhaps the medication, or some self-imposed means — drugs, alcohol, meditation, compartmentalization of memories, dissociation.  And yes, we can’t forget “humor.”

I remember a certain day when I was barely fifteen.  It was a time when Johnny Carson was the funny man of late-night television.  Sitting in the isolation of my home, the idea entered my mind that I could become the next Johnny Carson.  I seemed to have a talent for saying “witty” things, acting crazy, and making my friends laugh.  Then, I added alcohol and hours of practice on my trumpet.  I had formed my identity.  If I had not become funny Larry, the boozer, the trumpet player, perhaps I would have died.

If my misery ever became too much for  me to handle, I had my ace in the hole.  Death was a way out, an escape hatch of sorts.  During childhood, throughout my teenage years, and well into adulthood, my imaginary conversations with God were direct  “Keep sending the misery,” I challenged.  “I’ll deal with what I can, but if it ever becomes too much I’ll end my life.”  Surprisingly, this gave me the element of control that I needed.  I had a way out, and I was in control.  Hey, funny man, that’s pretty cool.

Decades later, I retired from playing the trumpet, became a moderate drinker, but I’m still considered a funny, crazy man.  I asked my therapist if my humor was annoying, and whether I should refrain from being “funny.”  She asked me to imagine myself without the humor, and whether I liked that person.  I quickly came to the conclusion that the imaged person was boring and without feelings.  She smiled, followed by a few quite seconds.  “Hey funny man,” she said.  “I like who you are.”

I know why some comedians appear to be so funny.  For many, it’s how they cover up their misery.  I’m not surprised that so many have committed suicide.  Perhaps their misery was greater than mine.  Maybe I was just one of the lucky ones.  Or perhaps my therapist saved my life.

http://www.cracked.com/quick-fixes/robin-williams-why-funny-people-kill-themselves/

Come dance with me.

7301_100437136820483_587807534_nIt’s always there to some degree, mocking my every move.  A jig, a waltz, maybe Chubby Checker’s famous twist, or a seductive embrace as we move across the floor — my dancing partner, my pain.  Maybe it’s sharp, a get your attention pain; a boxer’s jab; possibly an unrelenting tooth acne; or a sustained, never-ending pain.  

Pain can be physical, psychological, or both, and when latched onto an individual, becomes unique.  Physical pain can be tested and more easily diagnosed than the illusive psychological pain that sometimes plays hide-and-seek with the mental health specialist.  Treatments for back pain are many — injections, physical therapy, spinal adjustments, medication, meditation, acupuncture, and when all fail, the surgeon sharpens his scalpel.

Two weeks ago I had a bone fusion performed in my lower back.  A herniated disk and the movement of two vertebra called for a bone fusion to eliminate the pain.  A back brace for support and oxycodone for pain are being used during the healing process.  I have become friends with oxycodone and refer to her affectionately as “oxy.”  When in my medicated buzz, I sometimes call her “foxy.”

As a survivor of childhood physical and sexual abuse, I have experienced psychological pain as well.  Memories of the abuse left me wrapped around a porcelain stool while I vomited poison into the mucus-colored water.  It was an emotional pain like I had never felt before.  Scared, lost, and without direction I turned to a therapist and have been treated with medication and talk therapy.  Life is good.  I have moved beyond surface emotions, and now experience the depth of feelings that life has to offer.

Whether physical or psychological pain, we must always be aware of the monster in the closet, better known as depression.  Pain breeds depression.  While my depression pales in comparison to someone with a severe mental illness, it can be debilitating.  Depression is waking up in the middle of the night covered with leeches that suck the spirit from my soul.  But now, after years of therapy, I can spot them from a distance as they slither over a hilltop and crawl my way.  I refuse to allow a single leech to take residence in my soul.

While a “bring-you-to-your knees” pain has many negative side effects, it can be a blessing, and serve as a reminder of how good life can be.  Imagine a musical phrase of dissonance and intensity that drives towards the final cadence and then, with true beauty, resolves into a morning spring.  Tension followed by release brings joy to one’s life.  I will dance a jig without pain as my partner.

 

 

On Thursday I met with my surgeon — yada, yada, yada

7301_100437136820483_587807534_nYou might recall that I’ve written about my back problems before:  two herniated disks in my lower back, successful surgery, months later I have pain in another location of my back, yada, yada, yada.  (In case you don’t know, yada is code for “more bullshit”) After having an MRI on my back, I met with my surgeon to discuss the findings.  It was a 7:40 a.m. appointment.  He must be working me in, I thought.  The man loves my back — a guaranteed annuity for a surgeon.  My spine looks a bit like a shiska-bob, chunks of meat and bone ready to place on a hot grill.  Ten minutes on each side, a heavy coat of bar-b-q sauce, and you have some mighty fine eating.  I know, you prefer ribs and I’m getting a little weird, yada, yada, yada.

Okay, back to the meeting with my surgeon.  For privacy purposes, we’ll call him Dr. Belly Button.  Dressed in his hospital blue scrubs and uncombed hair, Belly Button greets me and my wife as I shake his hand.  He is a reasonably handsome young man with a bounce in his step and a smile on his face; all traits that I once held but have come and gone.  You see, I’m a 71 year old man with uncombed gray hair, and shuffle my feet because the pain in my back hurts like hell.  It feels like, oh you know, yada, yada, yada.  Belly Button had a smile on his face, much like the last time he diagnosed my back problems when he recommended surgery.  There’s that smile again.  “I know what the problem is,” he said.  “And I can fix it.  You have another herniated disk in your lower back,” he said with a slight chuckle.  “We don’t know how it happened, but it’s there.”

I was relieved that all of the pain was not in my imagination, and that he located the problem.  But OMG, I have to go through more surgery?  Belly Button fires up the computer and the three of us hover around the computer screen.  He begins pointing out all of the bones and disks in my spin.  Oh look at this disk.  It looks pretty good, but now look at this one, all flattened out with goo seeping out.  Looked like a stepped-on jelly donut to me.  You have bone on bone.  And look where the nerve is located.  Just looking at it made my back hurt.

We could do the same procedure as last time when I cleaned the area, removed some bone fragments.  You know the routine, yada, yada, yada.  But this time the situation demands another technique,  I would insert some metal hardware.  You know — plates, rods, and screws.  That’s the most secure way of fixing your problem.  The recovery time will double but you can be back to normal — my mind began to drift, pain free, rough housing with my dog, messing around with my wife, yada, yada, yada.  We can use either procedure, Belly Button said, the simple but uncertain one with a shorter recovery, or the more complicated one with a longer recovery which provides for a better outcome.  We can schedule the operation in a few weeks.  Let me know which technique you would like to use.

Belly Button told me that he understood how debilitating nerve pain can be.  “It can cause depression,”  he said.  Oh really, I thought.  That’s quite an understatement. Your fucking A it causes depression.  It’s a “can’t move” depression.  Lets open my back up right now, I thought.  Here, hand me the knife and I’ll do the slicing myself.  Look, there’s that stepped-on jelly roll.  Hand me a stapler and a couple of rubber bands.  There, it feels better already.  Ooops, I’m losing a ton of blood.  Looks like I’m a quart low.  Give me a can of 10-40.  That takes care of anything.  Pains gone.  Time to go home.  Thank you God for my imagination.  It always makes me feel better.

 

 

Facebook World — Heroin in a Mousetrap

The Newest Book from Larry L. Franklin
Mnemosyne: A Love Affair with Memory

It was another session with Olivia, the therapist who brought me back from the dark side of childhood sexual abuse.  Although I am in a relatively good place, a little tuneup is needed now and then.

“I noticed a significant decrease in the number of blogs that you have written,” Olivia said.  “How do you feel about that?”  Olivia knows that without writing I tend to lose my way, allowing depression to slide under my door.

My eyes stared at the floor.  “I don’t feel good about it.  With my back pain and a bit of depression, I am not motivated to write.  But I need to write.  I can’t imagine my life without it.”

“So what have you been doing?” Olivia asked.
“I’ve been spending some time on facebook,” I answered.  “But that’s not without its problems.”
“Tell me about it,” Olivia said.
“Sometimes I get sucked into a pointless political discussion.  Reading some far, right wing post pushes my hot button and I feel compelled to respond.  Its always a pointless discussion with no resolution.  A total waste of my time.  Stupid stuff.  A real downer.”

My remarks were followed by silence.  There’s always the quite moments when Olivia leaves me to think about what I just said.  (Its like she is saying, hey buddy, you need to figure out some of this shit yourself.)

“Okay, ” I said.  “Let me use a metaphor to explain what is gong on.”  I feel like I’m a mouse stranded in a large maze with multiple hallways and individual rooms.  Each room houses a friend who shares emotional contact with me, but no physical interaction.  It’s an attractive way to spend idle time away from the stresses of life and, oh yes, my nagging back pain.  But there is a down side to the pleasantries — the mouse trap, a dark seductive device.  I take a stroll down the hallway to visit a friend, and “lo” without warning is a mousetrap topped with a chunk of blue cheese emitting a fragrance that I cannot resist.  I know, as certain as I know my name, Mickey, this is a trap that will kill me, slow or fast, my certain death.  So far I have pulled away at the last moment, but I don’t know how long I can resist?  If I put heroin in the mousetrap I have my story.

“Well, this is certainly about facebook,” Olivia said.  “Sounds like you are bored. Although you find the political discussions pointless, your curiosity is challenged.  Maybe it is trying to take the place of your writing.”

“Wow,” I said.  “You cut to the point, hard and fast, like a box cutter slicing through a cardboard box.  You’re right.  I’d better be careful or I will become a political pundit instead of a writer.”  The two of us laughed followed by silence.
“So, what can you write about?”  Olivia asked.
Silence again.  “I know what I’ll write,” I said.  “I’ll write about facebook and how I feel like I’m being stalked by a mousetrap.”

Hence,  Facebook World — Heroin in the Mousetrap