Are cigarettes good for you?

Of course not. They’ll do less for your health, in fact, than most hideous car crashes.   But that’s not the point, is it?  We already know that they’re unhealthy.  This has been drilled into our minds for what may as well be eons and yet 19% of the US smokes.

But whatever.  These are boring statistics that really aren’t what you’d call “unpublished”.  What I’m more interested in are the aspects of the “tobacco entity” that allow this habit to continue.  Why?

Because I smoke.  It’s expensive, has turned what used to be swimmer’s lungs into the biological equivalent of a tired old leaf blower, and in my circles smoking is more deadly to your social status than it is to your mortality.  But I do it anyway, because (here’s the good part)…

Hot or not?

Hot or not?

I enjoy it.  Genuine enjoyment and pleasure happens when I spark one up.  Turkish Royals, pink BIC, hell yeah.  I love it while driving, while eating, after sex, while at work, while hiking, or after I leave the gym (yes, you read that right).  Pretty much any activity I do, besides sleeping, is made better with a cigarette.

I’m addicted, hopelessly.  I say this with a tiny dash of shame, or much less salt than Emeril uses.  I’ve been smoking my entire adult life, for 12 years.  I’m 24 (hello?!).  Before you count years on your fingers I’ll go ahead and tell you that I was 12 the first time I took a puff – a beautiful, blue, billowing…never mind.  Anyway, this despite being brought up in a good family, in an excellent school (where I did well), and in an affluent area of town.

My next point, and this is the big one, is that I don’t know what life is like without cigarettes.  I have never actually lived adult life without them and the thought of not having tobacco at arm’s reach is downright scary.  How could it not be?

I don’t do drugs, I exercise, and I’m very conscious of what I eat.  The juxtapose of cigarettes in my life is nearly laughable.  I know I can’t smoke forever, but for now I shall.  So if you’ll excuse me, I have something to take care of…outside.

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I am not bipolar, I have bipolar disorder.

Recently I came across a post by a fellow who discussed his dealings with an illness called bipolar disorder (or manic-depression, if you speak the old tongue).  I too have this illness.  Learning to effectively manage this disease is nothing less than developing a science or crafting an art form.  It’s a massive help to share your story or to hear someone else’s, so to the fellow behind bipolarblogging, I commend you.

I’m 23, and I’ve been dealing with manic depression for the bulk of my adult life (since I was 15).  The journey has been interesting, to say the least.  I’m not crazy, but I’ve done some crazy things.  The one thing that perhaps is most lacking when in the throes of this disease is clarity.  It’s clear understanding that has been my biggest tool in managing my condition.  So for those who may not be familiar with the disorder, I thought I would deliver some, in convenient bullet-point form.

  • I’m not bipolar, I have bipolar disorder. 

What this means, in a nutshell, is that I am not defined by this illness.  It’s simply a part of who I am.  It’s very easy to label someone with a mental illness as “crazy” but this is never the case.  I may have done some crazy things in years prior, but as our presidential candidates have shown us, you don’t need a mental illness to do crazy things.

  • I may take medicine, but I still have feelings.  

Glance at this blog with one eye shut for two-point-five and it becomes apparent that I’m pretty gay.  As you would expect, I’ve been privy to many a gay-rights debate.  It’s a hot topic, on both sides of the field. A big part of this is prejudice and discrimination.  I have no problem with this, but at times I wish we could focus on eliminating prejudice towards other groups while we’re at it.  I have faced a bit of controversy in my own life because I’m gay, but it’s nothing compared to the mountain of prejudgment I’ve received for having bipolar disorder.  It’s even come down to a level that can only be described as name-calling.  Call me a “fairy” and I’ll probably brush it off.  But call me “crazy” and, while I may not show it, I can say based on experience that it will hurt.  Deeply. 

  • Sometimes, I hurt.

Bad things sometimes happen, and the result is negative emotion.  One key to understanding bipolar disorder is seeing that with the illness, emotions don’t always have an apparent cause.  Many years ago on a summer day, a friend picked me up and took me for a drive.  This is one of my most relaxing activities, but halfway through our middle-of-nowhere-adventure, I started to cry.  Josh didn’t understand, and asked me, “What’s wrong?”  With tears running down my face, I spoke only the words,       “I hurt.”  

A lonely road, indeed.

The reality was that my neurotransmitters, the chemicals in my brain that affect my mood, were not balanced that day.  As a result I was depressed.  Nothing bad had happened, but I was so deeply in pain.  Recognizing this is one of the most effective tools in my mental toolbox.  So, just as important when dealing with this disorder, as medicine, therapy, or activity, is education.

On living in a hospital…

First, a bit of background:  I moved to a new apartment recently with two friends.  It’s in a beautiful brick building with massive windows and a huge courtyard.  The apartments are all open to the outside, so there are no hallways or common spaces to smell of cat urine and marijuana.  It was gutted and remodeled in 2005, and our place has skylights and 12 foot ceilings.  So freakin sold, right?!

Built in 1903, the building certainly has the aura of an earlier time.  It feels of that “beauty because we can” built-to-last quality of the Victorian Era that I so absolutely adore.  Between the large courtyard and a couple outlying buildings I guessed that it was a factory of some sort.  I guessed wrong.

Totally not a factory.

It was a hospital.  As I search through old newspaper articles from the beginning of the 20th century, it becomes apparent that it had quite a history too.  A woman who was renowned for her dedicated work in the juvenile correctional facility nearby became very ill from “exhaustion” and died here in 1907.

The kicker, though, came in 1913.  A new building (my building!) was added directly to the west of the original building.  It was home to a special ward dedicated to the treatment of patients who had fallen victim to, of all things, tuberculosis.  Upon reading this, I was thrilled.  

Just kidding.  Considering how deadly the “white plague” was, there’s a good chance that someone met an ill fate in the exact spot where I sleep.  Crap.  Although I considered this a bit further and decided I didn’t mind so much, for two reasons:  1) I don’t believe in that ghost crap, and 2) Even if that stuff exists, who says that “ghosts and spirits” are always pissed and mean?  If there is one here, I plan on making friends with it.  Perhaps I’ll ask it to do dishes.

Either way, I’ll keep an eye out for anything unusual or interesting.  Needless to say, if I see anything, you all will hear about it.

But now it’s time for me to call my landlord and have him replace my thermostat.  The switch marked “heat” refuses to stay on, and at times it gets quite cold.

Four Teeth Less the Wiser

I am happy to report that I have survived one of the most perilous surgical procedures a human being can go through – wisdom teeth removal.

From what I heard, the procedure is no problem at all (especially for the patient, who is usually unconscious). However, the recovery, I was told, is a bitch.  People reported experiences ranging from ” It was no big deal…” to “I attempted suicide multiple times.”

Based on my research, I knew they would knock me out with IV Valium, do the procedure, and then I would go home and munch on Percocet for a week.  Everything would be fine, albeit uncomfortable, as long as I followed the rules.  They were:

  • No eating solid foods for 3 days
  • No drinking from a straw
  • No sneezing with a closed mouth (“Everyone duck!”)
  • No spitting
  • Gargle with salt water 5 times a day
  • No carbonated liquids for 2 days

and last, but certainly not least…

  • No smoking (ahhh, shit!) for many, many, many days (4 days)

My 3-day recovery diet: apple juice, apple sauce, soup, pudding, and gelato. I'm that much closer to my goal weight!

Needless to say, I was not looking forward to the experience that lay before me.  Having said that, it really was not so bad.  When I got into the operating room the first thing they did was strap a mask to me that pumped some sort of gas into my nostrils which made me happy about pretty much everything.  (In case you were wondering, despite my best efforts, I was not able to purchase a to-go canister.)

Then came the Valium, which was amazing.  Good Lord, if that stuff had been more readily available the Cold War wouldn’t have happened.  I was about to have a person whom I had not met more than an hour before render me unconscious and slice my gums open and I was joking and giggling as if that chair was some sort of carnival ride.  I believe my last words to my surgeon before he administered the coup de’ grace injection of Valium was, “Have I told you that you’re super cute?”

Besides my attempt to light a cigarette just after waking from surgery, everything afterwards went fairly smoothly.  I followed the rules as best I could…I even almost made it the full four days without smoking!  I was very proud of myself (don’t judge me).