Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I'm Filing Emotional Bankruptcy

To my inbox:
I am sorry. I'm sorry that I haven't called you or called you back in a while.
There are a few dozen emails in my inbox that have never been opened from friends and family. Something like two dozen personal voice mails are saved on my cell phone, I haven't listened to all of all of them. I have a few Christmas cards sitting in my briefcase, I am hoping to get the strength to open them by July. I couldn't call at Christmas, or for New Year's or for birthdays. I've missed births, weddings, birthdays. The list is astounding. I don't really know why this has happened. A few years ago, two or so, I was a vortex of sociability. Not today. Each and every one of the missed calls, letters, emails, etc. feels to me like receiving a bill I can't pay with a giant 'PAST DUE' stamp on the envelope. So,I am declaring emotional bankruptcy. The overall size of my social obligations now so greatly exceeds my capacity to cope that I am throwing up my hands.

Normally, in a bankruptcy, the debtor lists all assets and liabilities and proposed a restructuring plan, or a liquidation. As a banker's son, it seems an appropriately efficient mechanism for me to have what is called a 'judicial confession' of these chronic obligations and detail just why I am not able to live up to them.

Depression is anger turned inwards. I was diagnosed with Major Depression Disorder in 2001. It is a disorder that is managed, but not cured and can only get worse. All this is consistent with a diagnosis of PTSD that I recently came across:
The second way that symptoms are produced is by persistent avoidance. The avoidance refers to the person's efforts to avoid trauma-related thoughts or feelings and activities or situations that may trigger memories of the trauma. This so-called psychogenic (emotionally caused) amnesia (loss of memory) for the event can lead to a variety of reactions. For example, the patient may develop a diminished interest in activities that used to give pleasure, detachment from other people, restricted range of feelings, and a sad affect that leads to the view that the future will be shortened.

So, when I get the call or email every few days from someone who is concerned that I have not called in many months or called back recently, etc. so, it's like a dunning notice from my friends, family, etc. all the time. It is appreciated on one level, but...

What's there to talk about. I just did one of these recently:

Yeah, MY life sucks.
YOUR life is just like it would have been if all the events that ruined mine had never happened. That's really great. Ok, well that said, I guess I gotta go. Glad that was meaningful for you.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, working for a company that has a 24 hour pace and a 90 day billing cycle.

Here is why.
In early August of 2005 I lost my job. A few days later, I was pulled over for a traffic stop and was arrested on a minor traffic charge that was outstanding for several years. My classmate-attorney-friend who handled the case dropped the ball. I spent 20 hours in two jails while two of my best 'friends' took an alcoholic detour to a strip club with my bail money.

Then, I evacuated in anticipation of Katrina, had my community, my home and all my possessions needlessly destroyed by 13 feet of water. Then I went to Virginia and took a job that, while challenging, was the most stressful job I had ever faced.

I had the distinct pleasure of listening to Red State America comment on the news all September about New Orleans – while my home was under water mind you – and say the most un-Christian of things. Bastards.
But, I had a job to do. I spent 2 months delivering what was really 3-4 months worth of work. My reward was to be given six months of work in a 90 day deadline. I missed the deadline. I failed, and one yuppie manager launched into me for not delivering what it took to make him live up to his ego. On March 30 of 2006 I had the first complete breakdown of all of this. It wasn't pretty.

The work was canceled in April. In the meantime, She and I were mostly separated, and her father was having a liver transplant, which – thank God – went well. She had left her job in December and had by now came up to Virginia to be with me. We spent a couple of days together, packing up my meager post- apocalyptic possessions and having them shipped to Florida.
We spent our tenth anniversary together in Naples, FL. We sold our destroyed house. It was untouched by human hands after being open to the elements for seven months.

I spent several months trying to put together a business plan for the consultants I was working for in Virginia to do work in the Eastern Time Zone building new business. That failed.

She took a job working for a national charity foundation. In typical fashion, she worked incredible hours, believing in the mission. I went a volunteered to help her. After all, this was/is one of our favorite charities. It was a frustration. Most of her ideas were thwarted by a moronic bureaucrat who was the self described smartest person in the room.

During the whole campaign she worked on we raised $190,000 in about six weeks for sick kids. By any measure, it was an increase of magnitude from years past. Except that the 'Movie Business' accounting used by the Director made it look like less of a gain than it truly was. Idiots. It's one thing to believe in the mission, it's another to find that you are working for someone who could never even aspire to be as incompetent as Rumsfeld.
In early December, I got offered a contract to work for a company that is building their wireless network here in Florida. I am presently about 70% through with their build in one town and have just been given their project in another. This is a relatively lucrative contract, and I am glad to have the opportunity to do the work. However, like everything in American business, they are a company that puts unreasonable timeframes on the work to satisfy Wall Street. I am thriving in this position, but to do so, I am working 10-15 hours a day, six to seven days a week. I typically commence work between 5 and 6 a.m. And often am getting calls and emails well past 8 pm, when the workday ends on the West Coast. The client has no problem calling me at 10 pm on a Friday, but I don't get to wake them up at 2 am on Monday to reciprocate.

One of the things that I have said to myself since the hurricane to make decisions, is “What would a Korean, or Cuban, or Nicaraguan (or Iraqi) immigrant do right now?” inevitably, that answer is to work. Net, net even with the sale of the house, and living with Her grandmother, we are probably 3-5 years from financially being where we were in August 2005; which wasn't all that great.

So, I am still driving a $900 car that has no air conditioning in Central Florida.

And, I am still living with Her Grandmother. This is some sort of benevolent arrangement that harkens more to post WWII Europe than the consumerist American Dream we once owned.

And then there is New Orleans... As our President once said with prescient irony, “Heckuva job, Brownie”. I am glad that we live where they can criminalize telling true statements to the New York Times, but can't find a court martial anywhere for the criminally negligent death of 1,300 Americans, at home, on American soil, in peacetime, at the hands of a homicidally incompetent quasi military bureaucracy that has Congressionally pre-empted power on all matters within its jurisdiction including justice, equity and accountability.

In the past year and a half, I have been on and off medication for my depression. Originally on Wellbutrin, which was working o.k., I changed doctors in Florida and spent a few months on Geodon, which worked for a while, but then really made me feel badly. I quit taking it, and have not scheduled any more appointments with that doctor.
I know that my depression is part of the reason that it is hard to communicate with many friends and family. The other part is purely logistical. I have about 50 or so family members, a couple dozen close friends, a few hundred acquaintances and over two thousand contacts in my PDA. If everybody wants to talk about, 'What's up with you?' once, that is hundreds of times I have to tell the same story. Well, it is an important story. And it has a political/legal component, so unlike most of those with opinions, I don't want to engage in hyperbole when discussing the issues.

Well, even if you are an expert, the open ended question is not simple. As one exam I had in high school said, “1066, discuss fully”. Where to begin. And why am I telling this same crappy tale again and again. Don't you people read the New York Times? they have a reporter in New Orleans. Why doesn't the Houston Chronicle give you anything besides race baiting local criminal stories and wire reports from the AP on New Orleans.

If you Auslanders want to know what is going on, read online. The Times-Picayune is doing extraordinary reporting about all aspects of the flood, the failures, the post amargeddon chaos and the thin hope that reason will triumph over chaos. In short, don't expect me to be the filter for your information. I can't. I don't have the time, and many of my local contacts, like myself, are lost in the diaspora.

Why not learn something yourself about Louisiana culture before it vanishes. Don't outsource your appreciation. Live it.

Yes, I am avoiding dealing with the outside world. No, it's not your fault. I just don't want to talk about me. I am trying to get my life together. I am not all that well, there's not much you can do. If you want me to be lively, witty, entertaining, or interesting; sorry, I really don't have that capacity. I am emotionally bankrupt.

Upset? Call your Congressman. After all, Louisiana got exactly the quality of hurricane protection that Iowa truly wanted to pay for. That is to say, none.


rickngentilly said...

a lot of the angst that i have trouble verbalizing to others in my life is in your post.

thanks for having the balls to put it out there.

GentillyGirl said...

Hear, Hear!

You put much of what I feel in this post. Thank you Darlin'.

ashley said...


jessica said...

I guess it's just a phase of life that most of us go through. The busy schedule of life often makes us's not that we don't want to socialise but just that we are hardly left with any option. Anyways, I like the angst that you have put across in this post. Do drop by my blog too for you will surely find ways out of your situation and will find tactful ways to be more social with friends and family.

Marco said...

You work all those hours and still manage to pour out these great posts! I'll raise a glass or two of Rioja to you tonight at dinner.

Johnny Love said...

You have much in common with my old friend Moza. He too no longer communicates with his old friends, but we all still miss him terribly.

Perhaps one day you will return to the warmth and safety of your former pack, and we will have our Moza again.

Time heals.

Anonymous said...



Marco said...

Make that three, we're having pizzzza a la casa.
You're a real New Orleans Saints character all the way.

Mr. Melpomene said...

rioja pouring freely here. Thanks all

michelemchampion said...

I miss my friend. I love you and am here when you are ready.

Leigh C. said...

Damn, man. Hang in there, as best you can. Your emotional Chapter 11 (or is it Chapter 7) is gonna take some time to get over. Take that time sometime soon...

Amy said...

Hi Dear, I'm fighting the same struggle right now, and I wanted to share something with you that helped my family- I & my 13 y.o are also ptsd depressed in post-k nola-how's that for a special interest group? My 8th grade son is failing and has to take LEAP and everything is really rough. I came across an article about depression that mentioned folic acid. I had been thinking about how terrible our diets have become and if you are working continuous hours you could also be becoming B-vitamin depleted. It definately won't hurt to try- take 800 mcg? Folic acid a day + aslo B12. I started last week for both of us and we are doing noticably better. it's like things are less serious.

Another thing is, you sound like you could use a really good sleep. There is an important difference between a depressive sleep where you can't get out of bed and a deep restful sleep that may take a few days to restore you. My former boss is a trauma surgeon who had a terrible legal battle and suffered physically from the stress. After the case ended he went somewhere tropical and just slept for a week. he said that he would get up, eat, walk alittle, sometimes just roll over and go back to sleep. He said sometimes when your body undergoes great stress the best thing you can do is allow it to recouperate. You and she should do this asap and don't forget your folic acid!

It's going to be ok- we've already been through the worst of it. Now we decide what the future looks like.

Anonymous said...

Dear writer,
I would like to thank you for your article. Here is a bit of my story.
I moved to New Orleans in 1998 at the age of 22. I instantly fell in love with Louisiana and all her culture and people. Sure everything was not sparkeling, but there was quite a different feeling that lacked in many of the other states that I had lived in. I went to mortuary school, got a respectable job, had a great relationship, bought a new home, and a wonderful social life.
Fast forward to 2005. End of August to be exact.
My partener and I had evacuated to Morgan City and then on to Thibideaux once the hurricane had passed and waited with cousins of my partener, in a home without electricity, for about a week until we could return home to whatever would be left.
This is where the problem starts.
I remember turning onto Lafayette Street in Gretna and seeing the levy ahead and just wanting to cry. You see there was a big tanker stuck on the top of the levy. My house lay just two blocks from this levy on 2nd street. We turned the corner onto 2nd Street to see just a lot of wind damage, but no flooding. I remember thinking the the Lord looked out for us, and hence all the people in my neighborhood. But I also had a real feeling of guilt that my house was sparred the great floodwaters that seemed to be everywhere. I immediately called the company that I worked for, because being in the funeral business and with all the deaths that were reported I would need to be strong and "get to work". I went to work until December of '05 "processing" (for a lack of better words) bodies from the flood. Meanwhile I opened my home for people to stay with us while they went to get their salvagable belongings. One of my guests (a friend of a friend that I welcomed into my home) made the comment to me that she was angry that I had not "lost" my house like all the others had. I understood her frustration and feelings. I know that she did not wish for me the same fate as her, but nonetheless it struck a chord of guilt that I had already felt. Come December after seven days a week of picking up and burying bodies on an average of four to five bodies a day from D-Mort (the federal disaster morgue) I could not do it anymore and recieved an oppurtunity to move. I thought this would be great: a fresh start, better paying job, and to get away from the destruction that had New Orleans by the throat.
When we moved people would say "why didn't people leave" so matter-of-factly. These people stayed because they couldn't leave ($), or they stayed just as they had so many times before. I could have been one of those people. My partener wanted to stay. He had been through many hurricanes and the threat of disaster that became New Orleans just wasn't thought about. Sheriff Harry Lee came on the news and said that the second surge was estimated higher than the levees. So THANK YOU Sheriff Lee for that. I digress. But the people had no real feeling of what really happened. They seen it on the news and were sympathetic, which was appreciated God Bless all of you, but could never really know the pain of the people affected and effected. Recently, after a break-down I realized that after I moved I dove into work and have now for the past two years. Both the income type of work and the personal project work. Am I doing this to try to forget. I really don't have that social support that I extremely treasured in New Orleans. In fact, I try to avoid the friends that I do have. Speaking of friends; does anyone know what it is like to just move without telling people. By this I mean not getting to see your friends before you move. Over half of my friends ended up staying away from New Orleans. So there was never any closure of leaving. I too, get letters from family and don't even open them. I just push them away and think 'oh, I'll do that later'. A close friend that I had died in April. He was just 41. But you are supposed to just keep going. I have, but it don't feel good anymore. I could go on for days. Just think this is just the way that I feel, and I did not even loose everything. So yes in a few days it will have been two years since Hurricane Katrina, but remember we fight the fight everyday. God Bless the Gulf Coast and all its diverse people!