Friday, December 28, 2012

Relationship Changes & Reflections

Where did any of us get the idea that relationships... and more importantly, the people in them...are static in nature?

Maybe that notion comes from fairy tales where the prince and princess meet, marry, and blissfully head off to the castle… only to never be seen or heard from ever again. The End. Or maybe we owe our stilted attitudes to cinematic rom-coms, where relationships start out with a few bumps in the road and any changes that occur are always for the better. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan always smoothed out any rough edges by the final reel, after which the audience simply assumes that their lives...and smiles...are forever frozen in time. The End?

Such pat endings are strictly for the movies. The reality is that changes will occur... such as when a spouse becomes more demanding, turns socially insular, or lets life stress get in the way of keeping the relationship’s passion alive. One or both of you might start letting the positive feedback your partner once craved slide. The super-exciting phase of a romance transforms into a dull rut after a few months. Or, something tragic happens and throws a wrench into the couple-y bliss; that’s life. Whether the changes occurring are actually for the better or worse depends much of the time on our individual choices.

Now a taste of reality: most relationships end...Almost half of marriages end in divorce. Going into marriage believing that won’t happen to me perpetuates the idea that we are somehow different and that it’s going to be easy for us to do what’s clearly extremely difficult for most of the human population. There is nothing special about you and your partner. You are no more immune to breaking up than anyone else. We all need to start seeing ourselves as vulnerable, rather than exceptional. Some may say this is pessimistic or unromantic, but going into a long-term partnership believing in the fantasy that we are special and it’s not going to be difficult may be setting us up for defeat. I believe most couples come to points where they consider separating, whether they do or not. If we are expecting this, we will be more able to weather that storm and grow stronger for the better.

I've had the opportunity to reflect  a lot recently over the past few years...not just the passing of 2012. I have made substantial changes in my life and I am certain that there are more to come. A special thank you to those in my life that stuck by me while I faced many challenges these past couple of years. Only a handful of the original dozen or so remain... I guess that is one way to ascertain who your real friends and supportive family are. And in closing, I have realized that my love for my girlfriend is true. My patience has been tried but has not been broken. It will continue to grow along with the feeling of love. It is tried and true and I have realized that I have unconditionally devoted myself to her happiness...even if at my own expense. While I have made mistakes in the past that have been detrimental to my life and hers, I have spent every moment since then making amends for those wrongs and ensuring that she continues to receive my adoration, support, and unconditional love.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lao Tzu


Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength... while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Allow it to flow naturally forward in whatever way it may...

Saturday, December 1, 2012

If only

The Two Loves of my Life
The two loves of my life...

"If only I had an enemy bigger than my apathy,
I could have won.
I never meant you any harm,
But your tears feel warm as they fall on my forearm.
 

I gave you it all.

And you rip it from my hands
And you swear it's all gone
And you rip out all I have.

And my head told my heart,
Let love grow
But my heart told me head,
This time no.

I close my eyes for a while,
And force from the world a patient smile."

 


Monday, November 26, 2012

Thank you, dear friend...

I wise friend once wrote:
When you changed, I was not surprised. I was surprised at how little I had changed in the interim. A hard cog refusing to yield to the fluid nature of blood, and steam, and other like things. And so with time, you rounded out my hard edges; made a path of least resistance to call home. Thank you for making a water mill of my heart, a cracked dam of my stubborn mind, a river rushing to the open arms of your ocean. I am changed, a stone worn through with the persistent drip of your presence.
...and I owe her a debt of gratitude and honor her words today.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A moment

 It's a big, bad world full of twists and turns and people have a way of blinking and missing the moment... the moment that could have changed everything.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Perhaps

It's not always about me. I wish I could save you from all this...take you away from it, if even for a moment. I do not fear death...only failing in that endeavor. I feel I have despite best efforts. I am truly sorry.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Challenges

Choosing not to be brave enough to tackle the challenges in your life may end up hurting you, and will definitely end up hurting you in the long run when we refuse to even attempt to take those risks. Sometimes the best way to learn is from our own past experiences, and if we have no eye opening experiences that we committed in the past, chances are we are going to encounter future instances and challenges in our lives that we will have to learn from one day.

When, if ever, will I ever learn?


Surviving or ignoring?

Somewhat recently I became acquainted with a new term: suicide survivor.  I found the term suicide survivor confusing. But with a little research I realized that the term didn't refer to one who attempted suicide and survived; rather, it refer to the loved ones left behind.

Though it's taken awhile to gather some thoughts on the subject, I finally have some words to share. So to those suicide survivors who have wanted to know how I put my life back together and I learned to live again, this is for you.
Suicide Survivor
  • It's been said that time heals all wounds.
That may be true in matters of love. But the suicide of a loved one is a unique monster. The scars remain long after the person had died. Anger, feelings of betrayal, and malingering questions can last a lifetime.

It's been seven and a half years since she killed herself. The memories of that day are just as vivid as the moment they happened. Memories of that day will never fade. That is probably for the best.

After she died, I labeled myself a loaner.

I was no longer Chris. I wasn't a brother, a son, or a friend. I was a  loaner – a victim of her suicide. And for a long time, I thought I'd never be anything more than someone whose best friend had died when he was 23.

Looking back I see the loaner label hindered my ability to grow emotionally. And I started thinking that everyone else viewed me as a loaner instead of Chris.

When I started dating again, I worried that the women I dated would only be able to see me as a loaner. I never thought that someone out there would be able to see the positive things about me.

But someone did.

As my relationship with Traffic Light Girl become more intense, I realized a choice needed to be made. I could continue to think of myself as a loaner/looser or I could become Chris again.

I chose to become Chris.

And with that choice came emotional growth, a wonderful relationship, and a more positive outlook on life.
  • So what does that have to do with being a suicide survivor?Labeling yourself a suicide survivor is will stunt your spiritual and emotional growth just as much as labeling myself a widower did.

You're not a suicide survivor. You're a friend, a son or daughter, a brother or sister, a husband or wife, a mother or father. Think of yourself as James or Betty – whatever your name is. Think of yourself as anything other than a suicide survivor.

You didn't become a suicide survivor by choice.

So don't let the unfortunate actions of others define who you are. Don't let their bad decisions stop you from living your life. I nearly did.

Before she took her own life, I never knew anyone who had killed themselves. Suicide was one of those things I thought was something reserved for depressed teenagers, the businessmen who had lost everything and couldn't live with the debt they had incurred, or those who were severely mentally ill.

Occasionally I heard stories about a friend of a friend of a friend who had committed suicide. These stories always seemed to be told in hushed tones as if to indicate they were never to be repeated. But in reality, the whispered conversations only emphasized to me suicide wasn't something ever to be discussed.

It wasn't until she died that I really understood why the someone's sucidie, was discussed in quiet way: no one really knows why a person would take his or her own life.

In the weeks or months that followed her death, I saw that very question in the eyes of family and friends: Why had she killed herself? Their sad expressions pleaded for an answer that I didn't have.

Years later and to this day, I still don't know she killed herself.

And I probably never will.

It was difficult to learn to be okay with not knowing answers I desperately sought. When bad things happen, we want some justification for our lives being upended. For months I pondered her family history of mental illness or the incredible stress she was under in the weeks leading up to her death.

I soon learned that thinking about the reasons for her suicide were pointless.

Why?

The truth won't change what happened. Agonizing over the past would not bring her back from the dead.

Instead thinking about questions that could never be answered in this life, I started thinking about what I could learn from the experience and turn a negative into a positive.
Do the same. Don't dwell on what you don't know. Concentrate on your blessings and lessons learned.

Those who have lost a loved one to suicide always seem to have the same question: Where was my anger? Was I not upset that she killed herself?

The answer is yes, I was angry. Very angry.

The reason my anger doesn't appear in that here or in my daily life is because I couldn't write when I was angry. But that doesn't mean the anger wasn't there.

I never knew what it was like to truly hate someone like I hated her in the months following her death. I was mad that she killed herself and furious that she shortened the time we had together.

The anger was so intense that she was blamed for anything that went wrong in my life.

Bad day at work? I blamed my dead girlfriend.

Car problems? I blamed my dead girlfriend.

The Patriots lost a football game? I blamed my girlfriend.

My anger was so bad that I couldn't even write about it. Every time I tried to write about her suicide, I found myself typing out some drivel that I ended up deleting.

So for nine months I hid the manner of her death from the readers of my blog just so I could write a coherent sentence.

At some point, however, I realized just how unproductive all that anger toward her was.

And once I could put the anger aside, I found my outlook on life improved. I found a richness to living I hadn't noticed before. That new-found richness to living comes and goes on a daily basis, but I am sure others have found it easier to cope with than myself.

I'm not saying anger is a bad thing. I think anger toward someone who has killed themselves is beneficial. It's a natural emotion and part of the healing process.

But prolonged anger will eat at your soul and consume your life.

So be angry at the person who took their own life. Scream your hatred into a mirror. Dance on their grave if it will make you feel better.

Then -  GET - OVER -  IT.

Clear your soul.

Move on.

Let's go back to the beginning. The part where I mentioned it was for the best that memories of her suicide are still a vivid part of my memories. Those memories remind me how short life is and how fortunate I am to be blessed with someone new and a life that I hope to spend with her.

The memories remind me to live every day to the fullest, to take nothing for granted and let those whom I love know how much I love them.

So to those who have lost a loved one to suicide, I'll say this: go and live your life. You live in a beautiful world that offers endless possibilities.

Don't wallow in misery, sorrow and anger. Embrace life and choose to live. That's all you can do.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged


Justice is blind
A Special Note To Those That Have Passed Judgement Without Just Cause
The Gospel according to
St. Matthew


Judging Others
Lk. 6.3738, 4142
1  Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. Mk. 4.24
3  And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5  Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
6  Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.    

Friday, August 31, 2012

Harvard Investigates 125 Students For Cheating


In a Boston Globe article published earlier this morning, it is reported that Harvard University has investigated and still continues to review the reports that over half of the 250 students enrolled in "Government 1310: Introduction to Congress” class during the spring of 2012 cheated on their final exams. Initially, the college did not release the course under investigation nor the students,citing federal privacy laws, but the University's newspaper reported an update naming the class shortly after the Boston Globe released their article.

It is reported that over 125 of the students ignored the college's rules and regulations regarding academy dishonesty and the outlined instructions on the spring take-home final exam. In its official handbook, Harvard instructs students to “assume that collaboration in the completion of assignments is prohibited unless explicitly permitted by the instructor.” It also encourages professors to state their collaboration policies on syllabi, though as stated, collaboration was prohibited on this assignment.
The "Introduction to Congress" exam's instructions prohibited collaboration with fellow students
via Crimson News Staff

It appears that groups of students worked together on answers and responses on the exams on both the short answer section and the essay assignment, according to Jay Harris, Harvard's dean of undergrad education. Obviously students were not stupid enough to plagiarize or copy text directly from other sources (I mean, they did get in to Harvard after all...right?) but they gambled and 'rolled the dice' with Vegas gaming odds (not too far off from their MIT counterparts years before, though a different situation and scenario altogether) and decided that collaborating and sharing unique individual ideas and using them collectively would somehow go unnoticed. If I were one of the students, I probably would have thought the odds were in my favor too. Typically, teaching fellows, teaching assistants, or even graduate students assist professors with paperwork, coursework, teaching, and most importantly - grading exams. Have more than one assistant or fellow, and the students know the exams will be divided amongst different persons for review, evaluation, and grading. This was the case in this course as a teaching fellow was the first to discover the similarities across several exams that were suspicious. After notifying the professor, they reviewed other exams and found the same exact similarities from the 'collective mind' that the group had unwilling created.

Cheating or academic dishonesty is nothing new to colleges and universities across the country today. But this is the 'Ivy League'... aren't these students alleged to be the future leaders of our world? If they are exhibiting signs of cheating and dishonest behavior so early in their matriculation, isn't this a warning sign of what is to come? Or rather, isn't it indicative of what happened to our economic crash in the US caused by unscrupulous persons that were 'Ivy League' educated? Bernie Madoff went to Hofstra, which is prestigious, though not Ivy League, which does not exactly support my point 100%... But take someone like Marc Dreier: He is the epitome of Ivy League education as he graduated from both Yale with a bachelors and Harvard Law with a JD. These upper-echelon colleges are supposed to be preparing students for their professional lives and careers... does this not include ethics and integrity? Apparently not...

Lat year, Harvard University introduced a voluntary freshman pledge that would uphold basic values such as ethics, respect, and integrity. Among faculty and staff, the pledge was ridiculed and many professors had contempt for the practice calling it unscholarly. It is considered unscholarly to be unethical or to disregard basic values and ethics? Harvard was not forcing freshmen to participate or take this pledge, as it was voluntary. Administrators and faculty alike resisted the ethics pledge citing that their students should already know how to conduct themselves without requiring a formal code. This seems to be commonplace amongst 'Ivy League' schools. So, since their students should know how to behave and be ethical students or citizens, why have a formal handbook at these colleges at all? Why have formal policies regarding rules of conduct or regulations in dormitories or for college computers or library use? If students are inherently good, they one should not need these polices in place. But since we have these rules and polices in place for "the greater good"...why are Harvard professors scoffing at the idea of suggesting something similar for ethics, integrity, and respect?

The most these students will face, according to Harvard's Administrative Board, is likely suspension from the college for a year at most. Seem lackadaisical to you? It's been their practice for years. The most famous? Go back to the year 1951... Edward "Ted" Kennedy was suspended from Harvard for two years because he sent a friend, to pose as him, to take his spanish final exam. Maybe that explains his embarrassing singing event at an Obama campaign rally a few years ago..


When I attended high school and college, we were subject to expulsion. Now it is simply commonplace and accepted to abuse academic dishonesty and only worry about a suspension at worst? We are failing to teaching the "future leaders of tomorrow" or whatever that quote is about ethics and integrity. It's no wonder we have had a financial meltdown and economic crisis. I am reminded of the end of the movie "Fun with Dick and Jane" where just prior to the credits, a special thank you message appears naming these executives and the companies they destroyed:

Just a list of 'Ivy League' Institutions and Interesting Statistics:

Institution Location Athletic nickname Undergraduate enrollment Graduate enrollment Motto
Brown University Providence, Rhode Island Bears
6,316[10]
2,333[10] In Deo Speramus
(In God We Hope)
Columbia University New York City, New York Lions
7,160[11]
15,760[11] In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen
(In Thy light shall we see the light)
Cornell University Ithaca, New York Big Red
13,931[12]
6,702[12] I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.
Dartmouth College Hanover, New Hampshire Big Green
4,248[13]
1,893[13] Vox clamantis in deserto
(The voice of one crying in the wilderness)[14]
Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts Crimson
6,655[15]
14,044[15] Veritas
(Truth)
Princeton University Princeton, New Jersey Tigers
5,113[16]
2,479[16] Dei sub numine viget
(Under God's power she flourishes)
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Quakers
10,337[17]
10,306[17] Leges sine moribus vanae
(Laws without morals are useless)[18]
Yale University New Haven, Connecticut Bulldogs
5,275[19]
6,391[19] אורים ותומים
Lux et veritas
(Light and truth)

I never thought...

 Does it break my heart? Of course...every moment of every day: into more pieces than my heart was made of. I never thought of myself as quiet, much less silent. I never thought about things at all. Everything changed. The distance that wedged itself between me and my happiness wasn't the world. It wasn't the bombs and burning buildings: it was me. My thinking: the cancer of never letting go. Is ignorance bliss? I thought so...but I don't know anymore. It's so painful to think...and honestly tell me, what did thinking ever do for me? To what great place did thinking ever bring me? I think and think and think. I have thought myself right out of happiness at least a million times, but never once into it. I have thought myself right out of my life into someone...something else. And now that I have fought that long journey to "wakeup" and find my way home, I must patiently wait at the front door and hope that I am invited in...as I lost my key a long time ago.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Apple Wins - Samsung Pays - Blackberry keeps their money for another day!

The nine-person jury came to a unanimous conclusion today regarding the Apple vs. Samsung... It appears that Apple outplayed Samsung in its Patent infringement litigation... I wonder how Apple was able to do this in a more successful manner than their competitor RIM (blackberry) and their many stalled or failed attempts at the same...In the link aforementioned above, RIM did get a California judge to reverse the earlier decision that would have caused them some financial distress as they were accused of patent infringements...

THE ISSUE: Apple Inc. claimed Samsung Electronics Co.'s smartphones and computer tablets "slavishly copied" the iPhones and iPads. Samsung countered with its own claims that Apple used its wireless technology without proper compensation.

THE VERDICT: A nine-person jury unanimously agreed with Apple and ordered Samsung to pay $1 billion. Most of the damages were tied to Samsung's smartphones. It rejected Samsung's counterclaims.

THE FALLOUT: The award represents about 1.5 percent of Samsung's annual revenue. Analysts said the embarrassment of the verdict is a bigger blow for Samsung than the financial setback. Still, the question remains whether Samsung and other Apple competitors will have to redesign their smartphones to avoid infringing Apple's patents. Most analysts agree the verdict sends a threatening message to device makers like Samsung who use Google's Android operating system.

THE IRONY:  Both of the companies are still tied up in the courts of nine other countries. This represented essentially 1/10'th of the ongoing legal issues regarding the patent infringement case... Before the verdict was rendered in California early on Friday, the judge in a South Korean court issued a split-verdict. Basically, the judge ordered both companies to pay the other nominal damages and court costs. No winner there...just a waste of time and money for the judiciary system. Oh wait, the court made money from court fees that both sides had to pay upon rendering the verdict. The plaintiff had to pay for filing paperwork to bring the defendant to court. Both companies had to pay legal fees to act on the filed motions...Maybe the only one that wins is the lawyers, judges, and clerks that are paid to process and the mindless paperwork involved with cases like these. No way, the lawyers simply cannot be the only winners... can they?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Just Like The Movies

Rollins College 1925
Hamilton Holt August 1872 - April 1951
 I have always been so sure about everything in my life. I was so sure about my job and career, sure that I would be married by my late twenties or at least 30, sure I would make a third million by 30, have a Centurion Card, sure I would live in an amazing loft, sure I would always have a BMW or Land Rover, sure I would spend my free or vacation time in a home I owned in Oberoi, and sure I would always have a group of close friends and family. I was so sure... and so naive*. But relationships... I always heard from many and was told by a few close friends and family, that they were easy when they were "right"... That even when things became difficult -- if not impossible, they were still easy. I just don't understand.... how did they know this to be a truth? It has hardly ever been easy for me, in that regard. So does that mean every relationship I had was "wrong" or not the "right" on before? Does that mean my current relationship is wrong simply because it is not easy? I always thought that if something was easy, was it really worthwhile? I believe it was Hamilton Holt who is frequently quoted to that effect...

Relationships, of any kind, unfortunately just do not work they way they do on television and in the movies: Will they, won't they, and then they finally DO and they are happy forever -- give me a break, seriously. Nine out of ten of these folks breakup because they were not right for each other to begin with, and half the ones that do proceed and get married will get divorced (follow the link, interesting statistics), anyway. And I am tell you, right here -- right now: through it all, and I mean everything (the hopelessness, the depression, the anxiety, the loneliness and despair) I have not become a cynic... I haven't.

A paper umbrella will turn any drink into a party beverage
Use your umbrella wisely, in Bali.
Yes, I do happen to believe that love is mainly about pushing chocolate-covered candies, flowers, Hallmark cards, and in some cultures by taking one of those small umbrellas the bartender puts in your tropical island rum beverage into your girlfriend's/boyfriend's tropical island beverage as a sign of affection or love. You may call me a sucker, a sap, or a looser...because I do. I do believe in it it. Bottom line is this: the couples that are truly right for each other wade through the same shit as everybody else does... but the big DIFFERENCE is, they do not let it envelop them like quicksand and suck them down... One of the two people in the relationship will stand up and FIGHT...fight for their partner, themselves, their relationship, and their love EVERY--SINGLE--TIME...if  it's right... and those people are really truly lucky. One of them will say something...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Remembering the past

Why is it that people are so quick to dismiss and forget all the good you have done and only judge you upon mistakes you have made or any negative consequence either directly or indirectly your fault? And then after you are gone, people tend to romanticize the past and forget and dismiss all the negative or bad things and only remember the good you have done... though the moment has passed, you have split ways and taken different paths, or maybe you are no longer walking the earth. I don't understand why people focus on the negativity while in the moment and do the opposite when you are gone. I simply do not understand and I am afraid I never will.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

That line we cross

We occasionally find ourselves in a quandary. We see a line that we want to cross. The problem is, once we do cross that line...we simply cannot go back. There is no "undo" button for that action. Things will never remain the same after.

You think you have forever, but you don't. You never know when the last time you do something will actually be the last time. I need some hope...a reason to continue onwards and move forward. But with the absence of hope, I remain stuck in neutral. The engine is running but the transmission is not in "drive" and since reverse is broken, I'm stuck in neutral. I just hope that it does not shift from neutral to park...or it will forever be this way.

The way back?

I was told recently that I had "lost my way"... It was a hard thing to hear, though it had merit. It was a day or two before it set in... but if it was indeed true, that I had lost my way, how do I find it again? When you have lost everything, where do you begin?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Goodnight, you.

For what it's worth, I am truly sorry. I'm trying my best and have made leaps and bounds, but unfortunately it seems that it is too late. Most people do not understand the truth depths of depression nor what it is capable of. It changed who I was. I became someone else. And it's a constant struggle to fight the urge and resit to simply rollover every morning and simply "give in" and give up for just that one day. The problem is, that one day is never just one day. One becomes two. The next becomes three. Now you are a day or so away from the weekend so you might as well just wait until next week to do what you were supposed to. I would never wish this on my worst enemies...nor would I wish half the medications listed to treat depression on them. The side effects of most are just downright awful and must be considered carefully so that the benefits do not outweigh the risks. It should not be taken lightly... as lightly as I did at first with so many medications because I blindly trusted and followed my physician. Do your homework or pay the ultimate price, like I did. But that's another discussion for another day.

But for The One I've hurt, I am sorry. I called you late in the afternoon but your phone was turned off or battery had died. I had hoped we would meet for coffee earlier but it's okay.You have every right to be upset and angry at me. I don't blame you at all. But just remember, you are not alone. I am the one who has isolated myself from everyone and am truly alone...

And all I want is a taste of her affection
And all I want is a minute of her time
and I want her to feel the same when I'm calling out her name
Like nothings ever changed when I come home


Goodnight, you.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Looking forward


I notice happiness depends
on if we share it with each other.
So when this craziness is through,
I'll spend my happiness with you: hopefully not standing in the shadow of what you were waiting for....

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Give & Take


You seem too good. Too good to be true.
You're holding me stronger; stronger than I'm used to.
A gift that I carried for weeks before giving to someone special
A Promise is never broken
Don't go out with the boys tonight;
I won't sleep a wink wondering what you're doing.
 
Don't go out with the girls tonight;
I will turn to drink wondering who you're screwing.
You seem too good, too good to be true.
I'm loving you longer, longer than I'm used to.
 
I let go. I fell in.
Feel the pull. Call your name.
I'm alone. Once again.
I cannot keep my path, when I cannot stay motivated.
I cannot pay my dues, when it becomes too complicated.
I'm alone. Once again.

You will never know how much strength and courage you brought into my life.

And as the day comes closer to an end, I find no reason to pretend.
At last, I feel I am closer to a beginning.
I'm alone. Once again.



 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thank you, Zofran, Dilaudid, and Insurance Companies!

Zofran (ondansetron) blocks the actions of chemicals in the body that can trigger nausea and vomiting.
Zofran (ondansetron) blocks the actions of chemicals in the body that can trigger nausea and vomiting, typically in patients undergoing chemotherapy. I have had and continue to have the pleasure of taking this medication during my various medical procedures and undertakings. Ironically, one of Zofran's more pronounced side effects is its unique ability to trigger headaches. Since I have been a long term migraine and headache patient, I find this amusing. I have been on a cocktail of various pharmaceuticals for the last ten years or so with my fair share of interesting side effects. But more to the point, I was prescribed Zofran after chemotherapy medications to prevent or as an abortive medication for nausea and vomiting. Alas, it worked! However, the headache that followed was awful. Insert the conundrum:
Mixed within the various pharmaceutical cocktails that I have been taking over the last decade, there have been many powerful opioid painkillers prescribed to offset the chronic pain I was suffering and to offset the pain from various in and outpatient procedures. Now, since I was opioid naive, I did not tolerate these medications well at all. The opioid medications prescribed to relieve the pain I was in were now producing unwelcome and sudden nausea and vomiting. However, they provided much-needed pain relief and quality of life. My physician's solution? Increase the dosage of Zofran to offset the nausea and vomiting caused by the opioid painkillers. Seems fair right? Well, I obliged and increased the dosage and of the medication and as a corollary, the frequency and intensity of my headaches increased. I didn't see the big picture at first, so I simply increased my opioid medication to offset the headaches which then increased the nausea which increased the usage of Zofran. Such a wonderful cycle I had started.

When I finally realized the problem and cyclical nature of my nausea and headaches, I spoke to my physician again. We simply changed the opioid medication  to one I "may" tolerate better. I started my pain medication with Dilaudid on at 8mg dose by mouth. (If any physicians, pharmacists, nurses, pharmaceutical reps, or people with a working knowledge of Dilaudid and dosing instructions, this is the highest dose made in pill form in the United States... you may now pick up your jaw from the floor...) Since I was opioid naive, this was a VERY high dose of a power pain medication...but given the circumstances and general condition and outlook of my health, I suppose it was acceptable as it did relieve my pain and give me quality of life back. I did ask my physician, after not tolerating the 8mg tablets of Dilaudid well, if I could switch to a 2mg or 4mg tablet. He said he would have prescribed that, but since there was a nation-wide Dilaudid shortage, only 8mg tablets were available in our region and he suggested that I "split" or "halve" the tablets using a pill cutter. I didn't like this idea very much.

At the time, I didn't understand what a nation-wide shortage of a prescription drug or controlled substance was yet and it made little sense to me. In short, the pharmaceutical companies that create these drugs that are considered controlled substances by the US DEA, having a production quantity limit or ceiling for each calendar year. In the beginning of the year, the pharmaceutical companies submit their requests or estimates for the total number of a controlled substance that they are going to produce for that calendar year based on a number of factors. In mid to late 2011, for those who take Adderall as adults or purchase it for their children with ADD or ADHD, you may recall the nation-wide shortage and all the outraged parents because they couldn't control their hyperactive kids. It is estimated that the same Adderall shortage will continue and repeat itself again in 2012. Why you ask? Simple. Market demand exceeds that of permitted lawful production in the US by FDA and DEA regulations. In my case, it happened to Dilaudid and the generic form hydromorphone as well. Why you ask? See above. Except doctor's didn't start writing more Dilaudid prescriptions because it was a new miracle painkiller or the doctors had some sexy pharmaceutical rep in their office offering free complimentary incentive sample massages...er..pamphlets for the prescribing physicians. Quite simply, it was that it became a popular drug for patients or drug-seekers to abuse which jeopardized the supply and skyrocketed demand and pharmacies began dispensing the medication by the wheelbarrow. As such, patients like me could only acquire the dwindling supply of the higher dosages that most doc's usually don't dispense. The same thing happened with Adderall and/or the generic forms often called Amphetamine Salts in 2011 and again in 2012.

Al Capone Prosecuted under RICO ACT
Alphonse Gabriel "Al" Capone
I think I went a bit off topic there in terms of background, but after I became tired of the Dilaudid shortage and I tried several other CII opioid pain medications (that later also went into nationwide shortages coincidentally) and found a fair balance between Zofran and the pain medication.... Either that, or I simply became opioid tolerant, which is my personal opinion. Anyway, this is what brings me to my point and my  "salute" (sarcastic one, at best) to pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies for jacking up the prices of drugs and in all likelihood participating in some sort of price fixing that in ANY OTHER INDUSTRY would be prosecuted under the US Federal RICO Act. Yet, the pharmaceutical companies, pharmaceutical sales reps,  insurance, pharmacies, wholesalers, distributors, investors, pharmaceutical patent-holders, are exempt from this. Yes, I understand that research and development costs a lot of money and that pharmaceutical companies have a limited window of opportunity to recoup their monies from R&D before their patent expires and some third party can make a slight seemingly-innocuous change to the chemical makeup of the original drug and then market the "new" version of the original patented drug as a generic without spending anywhere near as much as the original patent holder/pharmaceutical company did when creating the drug. That doesn't seem fair but that's a story for another day. In addition, the original pharmaceutical has to recoup their monies spent on marketing their product. I can only imagine what those budgets are...

Ok, if you're still reading, you are probably wondering why I am giving you a brief education in the pharmaceutical industry and about RICO statues, collusion, price-fixing, and how another company can come along and make a minor change to your patent and re-brand your product as a "generic" and sell it for far less than the original patent-holder because the original pharmaceutical company did all the R&D and marketing...so now the new company comes along, makes a slight compound change, and CHA-CHING! Near instant profit... Especially since in a majority of states (I will use Massachusetts as an example here) require pharmacists to follow Drug Interchangeability & Midstream Interchange... Basically, it means that pharmacists are required to dispense a generic or less expensive medication to the patient unless the doctor specifically writes "DAW" (Dispense As Written) or "No Substitution" and that does not happen often, according to my pharmacist friends...
According to Massachusetts law, pharmacists must dispense a less expensive, reasonably available, interchangeable drug product provided that (a) the drug product is listed in the Massachusetts List of Interchangeable Drugs (MLID) and (b) the prescriber has not indicated "no substitution". A pharmacist shall interchange accordingly when dispensing a new prescription or a prescription refill presented after the effective date of interchangeability.
Former Valium Marketing Material To Doctors To Protect Brand Sales
 Insurance companies have a field day and deny deny deny when doctors write "DAW" or "No Substitution" because there is hardly ever a medical reason to do so. It just seems unfair to me that the original pharmaceutical company spent the money on R&D, marketing, FDA approvals, educating doctors, and trainings and some third party company can "tweak" the original formula and slap their generic label on it and sell it at a fraction of the cost while still making a profit. An example (left) of former marketing material sent to physicians encourages doctors and/or those licensed to prescribe to protect their practice and patients by ensuring that the pharmacy and pharmacist follow the explicit instructions from the prescription and not permit any substitutions: even by any comparable generics that act chemically the same but are produced by different companies. Perhaps if we did not have these ongoing price wars or patent wars, the prices of our prescription drugs would not be so astronomically high.

Anyway, this brings me to my point. My particular health insurance plan (considered one of those "Cadillac" health plans & not to be confused by the car) has a great prescription formulary list and covers a lot of drugs that a majority of companies do not. My co-pays are reasonable and deductibles non-existent. However, the company plan only permits 9 (nine) 8mg Ondansetron tablets per month. The company plan also only permits 4 (four) 8mg Zofran per month. As you probably guessed, Ondansetron is the generic form of Zofran which is patented and made in EU, UK, and USA by GlaxoSmithKline. Does this make sense to anyone?
  • An average chemotherapy patient will likely use more than 9 or 4 tablets of their anti-nausea medication during a month. These are figures I used from my health plan's formulary list 2011/2012 and quantity limit. 
  • My Health Insurance Plan does let me obtain more of the drug but I am required to pay additional co-pays:
    • My generic co-pay amount is $25 and my brand co-pay is $50
    • Thus, since I am prescribed 90 (ninety) 8mg Zofran a month and my pharmacist substitutes Ondansetron to "save" me money, my co-pay for this drug is $250 ($25 per 9 tabs multipled by 10 to account for the 90 tabs dispensed)...
    • If I were to have the Zofran dispensed in lieu of the generic, my co-pay would be $1,125 ($50 per 4 tabs multiplied by 22.5 to account for the 90 tabs dispensed)
  • After doing some research on pharmacy and drug prices in the US online, I found the following as of July 25, 2012:
    •  The average cost per pill for brand name Zofran 8mg was around $19 per pill cash. There were some sites and pharmacies that charged more and some less, but some appeared less reputable than others:
      • This means that the total (not accounting for any "discounts" or "negotiated rates" between the pharmacy and patient's insurance carrier) would be $1,710 for 90 (ninety tabs) of 8mg brand name Zofran and after you deduct my co-pay of $1,125, the insurance company pays the pharmacy $585 (again NOT including any discounts or negotiated rates with the insurance plan)
    • To further my point, the average cost per pill for generic Zofran, Ondansetron, was around $3.90 per pill cash. There were some sites and pharmacies that charged more and some less, but some appeared less reputable than others:
      • This means that the total (not accounting for any "discounts" or "negotiated rates" between the pharmacy and patient insurance carrier) would be about $351 for 90 (ninety tabs) of 8mg generic brand Zofran, Ondansetron, and after you deduct my co-pay of $250, the insurance company pays the pharmacy $101(again NOT including any discounts or negotiated rates with the insurance plan)...
      • And in my case, I saw the following on my receipt/paperwork that I think I was not supposed to get. 
        • Insurance Paid: $0.00
        • Customer Paid: $250.00
      •  So it appears that the pharmacy made money off me and the generic? Does this make sense to anyone? My other prescriptions that I picked up today that had co-pays of $25 said that the Insurance Paid "$87.43" or whatever the amount was in addition to the Customer Paid "$25.00"... 
        • So clearly for the generic Zofran, something is odd here. Do they have an incentive with the PBM or the wholesaler setup where the distributor is giving generous discounts out based on volume pricing or the manufacturer is giving the same discounts so transactions like mine above go STRAIGHT to the bottom-line as profit?
 I know I don't have the whole story here but something seems curious. I know my particular pharmacy is not trying to rip me off per se... The pharmacy I frequent is a non-profit community health center that provides health care and discount prescriptions to those that could not otherwise afford them. Perhaps this generic Zofran transaction helps their bottom line, but according to their financials they have a separate donation line item for these programs.

I also know that there are certain insurance contracts or rules and maybe perhaps regulations that prevent pharmacies from disclosing "cash" rates versus "insurance" rates. For example, I am prescribed a medication that is not on their formulary and it is considered a "medical food" and the whole prior authorization procedure is a giant pain in my ass. I am prescribed a 90 day supply 4 times a year and have to go through tons of paperwork, phone calls, and faxes to get this approved and quite frankly it's just not worth it. To get to the point, when I picked up the prescription the cashier or pharmacy tech did a "double take" at the register when the price came up. He stuttered and said, "Uhm.... that will be $350 Chris... I think?" He told me that was the "insurance rate" that my insurance company paid or reimbursed them but since my prior authorization had expired, had disappeared, or simply sprouted legs and walked off to the local CVS, I had to pay that price because the insurance would not approved it. I asked the cashier how much the "cash" price was. There was a long pause. After a minute or two he said he wasn't supposed to do this but removed my insurance information for this transaction and said the cash price was $200. Can someone in the health care industry explain this to me? It just doesn't make any sense. I'm an accountant... can someone explain this bizarro health care law or even how this makes financial sense to me? I bill my time out at $450 an hour and the last time I did the paperwork, phone calls, faxes, and doctors notes for the prior authorization procedure, I spent over 90 minutes of my own time over several days. You do that math. Not worth it...

All I know is this: From my perspective, my "Cadillac" insurance plan "jacked" up the price of a medicine that requires a prior authorization but if I did not have any insurance I could buy it for $150 less, not including my co-pay. Even if "Cadillac" Insurance Plan had paid for the medication, I'm sure there is no way they would have received $350.... They would be reimbursed a small percentage above cost plus a small fee for the computer processing time, label, and pill container (maybe $1.50 - $3.00) per prescription?

Sigh...

Thursday, July 19, 2012

An anonymous message

I received a rather poignant anonymous message earlier today and thought I would share it with others:
I was looking out of my window today, watching the trees and the grass sway in the wind, and it hit me: it has been a little over a decade since I tried to kill myself.

Even after I tried to kill myself, for several years after that I was still miserable and depressed and thought about ending it all, all the time. But something strange happened, something I didn't think would happen.


Time went on, and all of a sudden, I was happy. Not just happy as a momentary feeling, nothing the result of instant gratification. I'm talking about happiness as a state of mind. I wake up most days, and I'm honestly thrilled to be alive. I look in the mirror and I can tell myself that everything is OK. Before when I did told myself that, deep down inside I knew it was a lie, and that perhaps nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing was alright. And as I sit here and type this, and I get all choked up and tears creep into my eyes, I know deep down inside that everything is alright. I am no longer lying to myself, it really happened. I never thought I could live this life. The happy, simple life.


And I just wish I could go out into the world and find all the people like me. The black sheep, the outcasts, the lonely. I wish I could hug each and every one of them, hold them in my arms, tell them that everything is going to be alright. Tell them that all you have to do is survive, just keep going, no matter how much it hurts. One day it will stop hurting. You just have to hold on. But I can't. This is the best I can do.


I know that horrible, black, endless abyss inside. I've been there, I've been so lost there. I used to live there. I remember looking around in the darkness and asking, praying, begging for things to change. It seemed like time would stand still and the pain would last forever. That I would never get out.


But time goes on and will keep going on. And one day things will change, and one day you'll be looking out of a window, amazed at how fast time really does go by. And you will be happy.


Please, don't do it. Please, just hold on.


Hold on.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Thank you, NPR...

Can't remember the show but it was talking about dopamine production which is kind of a 'feel good' element our brain produces so that we will eat, mate, and do other pleasurable things that are conducive to the race continuing...
 

Seems like some monkeys were rigged with strategically placed needles and wires to record bursts of dopamine.

The monkey being studied was locked in a room. The researchers would walk down the hall, open the door, turn on a light, say 'Hello, Monkey', and give it some orange juice.

As soon as the monkey drank some orange juice, the receptors monitoring dopamine release sounded. As the days (weeks?) of the test progressed, dopamine release would be recorded at earlier stages starting with 'Hello, Monkey', all the way back to the footfalls in the hallway.

One conclusion drawn was that the brain will look for patterns which might presage a burst of dopamine release. It wants it. It will try to determine how/when it might be delivered so that it is ready. The researchers did not go so far as to say that the brain might try to set up events favorable to dopamine release but I inferred they thought it might be so.

Which is all just to say, enjoy that anticipation of the next lemon drop martini. We've gotta have a -little- feeling of pleasure in life, don't we?

File Your Taxes!


IRS Tax Man
A federal appeals court held that bankrupt debtors who filed their income tax return 17 months after their income taxes were assessed were not entitled to have those taxes discharged in the bankruptcy proceeding (In re Wogoman, No. CO-11-084 (B.A.P. 10th Cir. 7/3/12)). In doing so, the court considered what effect a 2005 change to the definition of “return” had on bankruptcy law’s treatment of tax returns, but declined to adopt a bright-line rule.

What does this mean for me, you might be asking? It means that it is very important to file your tax returns even when you cannot pay the taxes that are due while you are contemplating bankruptcy! Otherwise, you may be stuck with paying the taxes as the amounts due might be ineligible for discharge via bankruptcy court...

The debtors filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy relief in January 2011, and the next month they filed a complaint to determine the dischargeability of their federal income taxes for various years. The IRS conceded that their taxes were dischargeable (or that they owed no taxes) for all the years in question, except 2001. The IRS said the debtors had not filed a return for 2001, and therefore their taxes were not dischargeable under Bankruptcy Code Section 523(a)(1)(B)(i), which provides that a debtor is not discharged from any tax debt for which no return was filed.

The IRS had assessed a deficiency against the debtors for their 2001 taxes in February 2005. The debtors did not pay the assessed liability, but they did file a 2001 Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, in August 2006. The IRS then abated part of their tax liability and penalties, and in March 2007 the debtors entered into an installment agreement with the IRS.

The IRS argued that the 2001 tax liability should not be discharged in bankruptcy because, at the time the 2001 taxes were assessed, the debtors had not filed a 2001 return. The debtors argued that the express language of Bankruptcy Code Section 523(a)(1)(B)(i) does not require that the return be filed prior to assessment to be effective for dischargeability purposes. 

The lower court held that the tax debt was not dischargeable because “it came into existence prior to the filing of the Form 1040 by the Wogomans in 2006” (In re Wogoman, No. 11-11044 (Bankr. D. Colo.  8/19/11)).  

The Tenth Circuit noted that the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (BAPCPA) added new language to Bankruptcy Code Section 523(a)(19) to define “return” to mean “a return that satisfies the requirements of applicable non-bankruptcy law (including applicable filing requirements).” 

The court also reviewed pre-BAPCPA law, which required that the debtor’s return “must represent an honest and reasonable attempt to satisfy the requirements of the tax law” (In re Hindenlang, 164 F.3d  1029, 1033 (6th Cir. 1999)). The Tenth Circuit held that because the debtors did not file a return until after the IRS commenced an examination, sent them a notice of deficiency, and assessed the taxes, their 2001 return did not represent “an honest and reasonable attempt to satisfy the requirements of the tax law.”

When is a return filed too late?

The court noted that the Fifth Circuit has already interpreted the definition of “return” in Bankruptcy Code Section 523(a)(19) to mean that a late-filed return is not a return for bankruptcy purposes, even if it is filed before the IRS assesses the tax (In re McCoy, 666 F.2d 924 (5th Cir. 2012)). Surprisingly, the IRS argued for a more-lenient standard, and urged the Tenth Circuit to adopt the position that the time of assessment is the proper dividing line for determining that a return is filed too late for purposes of Bankruptcy Code Section 523(a)(19).

The Tenth Circuit was not convinced that the language of Bankruptcy Code Section 523(a)(19) means that no late-filed return can ever qualify a debtor for discharge of tax debts, but it said it did not need to decide that issue in this case. It also declined to adopt the IRS’s proposal that the time of assessment be the dividing line, noting that no court has adopted this position.

Here, the debtors’ return was not merely filed late, but was filed 17 months after the IRS had assessed the taxes, and the debtors provided “no justifiable reason for the delay.” The court held that this situation clearly failed to meet the requirements of Bankruptcy Code Section 523(a)(19), under either interpretation of the section and under the “honest and reasonable attempt” standard. Therefore, the debtors’ 2001 tax liability was not dischargeable.

Questions?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Why does audio on my cell phone suck?



Is there any way to enhance the voice quality on my phone? I have an AT&T Blackberry Torch 9810 and have always had a Blackberry in some shape or form... There is something to be said about the old analog High Definition Voice by Orange in the U.K.technology... Yes, it often had a lot of static if you are in a weak signal area and the battery life was terrible, but the voice and audio clarity sounded very clear and crisp; like a landline and there was no 1-3 second delay/lag as the audio was digitized and then re-digitized across the network... I know that analog was totally unsecured and anyone with a handheld scanner from Radioshack could listen to your calls...but at least you sounded good on the phone. Now everything sounds digitally enhanced. Back then cell towers were farther and farther apart because the phones had a lot more transmitting power (wattage)...especially those mounted in your car. Never had one of those funky bag-phone things which looked like a giant "man purse"... I also have a Verizon Apple iPhone 4 (CDMA - Blackberry is GSM) and the audio sounds the same, if not worse. I thought GSM was supposed to have superior call clarity or voice clarity. I remember before TMobile was in the United States, I had OmniPoint (back in 1998) which was later acquired by Voicestream in 2000. Shortly after that point, as Voicestream grew as it acquired other cellular companies, the voice quality changed dramatically for the worse...sadly. AT&T was analog back in the day too and then phased it out for TDMA...

The Get Smart Shoe Phone
The Get Smart Shoe Phone
Ever listen to an radio call-in show and you can hardly hear the caller or make out what they are saying? Never the case when the phones were analog before they switched to CDMA/TDMA and then GSM... Wish we had that enhanced voice quality back. Any chance that could be the case with LTE now? I don't know enough about the technology and bandwidth or available channels, but I know that Sirius Satellite does something very unique: For "talk" channels it decrease the quality of the stream because it's talk radio... and for music channels, it increases the quality of the audio and uses the extra bandwidth from the talk channels that are using less so the music sounds better. Since LTE has more bandwidth, is this something AT&T would consider doing? LTE is at least 10x faster than 3G and since unlimited data has been phased-out and the "data hogs" are getting kicked to the curb or at least paying for their crazy usage, wouldn't you think an effort would be made to improve voice clarity? Especially since true 4G LTE is supposed to me 100 megabits a second, though no national carrier is anywhere near this capacity.

I know my desk phone (VoIP Polycom phone) has something called "HD Voice" and the sound is SoundPoint_IP_550_VoiceIPSolutions.com_.pngamazing... and I heard a rumor that TMobile North America may be rolling this out and that it may be available with Sprint on their new HTC EVO when they roll out LTE in select markets (on a side note, they started selling LTE phones LONG before they had implemented the new LTE technology while phasing out their "4G WiMax" service...I wonder if Sprint customers knew they were buying a 4G LTE phone that they couldn't use for months or a year...maybe more as it was JUST in the news that they activated LTE today or yesterday in a handful [less than a dozen] markets? I would be a super upset customer if I knew that...'unlimited data' or not!)... It idea of HD Voice or higher quality audio has been out for awhile and called "Widband Audio" since the 1930's, I believe. I know HD Voice is available in Europe and other nations in the East via TMobile and by Orange but am wondering what about all of us "across the pond" in North America? :smileyindifferent: Why are we stuck using using the frequency/audio spectrum from the 1930's in the year 2012? "Good grief!", as Charlie Brown would say...

I would love to have that old voice quality back or for people to actually be heard clearly when they call in to talk shows. I am a regular contributor to a couple of radio shows that call me for comment on various topics and I ALWAYS have to use my office phone or some other landline because they will not put me on via cell - even with 5 bars and perfect reception. Go figure...

Not the right forum or company but I am reminded of the annoying, "Can you hear me now?!? Good." Verizon Wireless guy... Yeah, I can hear you VZW guy... but can barely understand you because your voice is choppy and skips in and out because it's been digitized and re-digitized a million times into an incoherent mess.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

What I learned on my birthday this year

Chris Britt & Farnsworth on Lake Willoughby, VT July 2012
Chris Britt & Farnsworth on Lake Willoughby, VT July 2012
A lot has happened to me in the past five or six years. I acquired notoriety, success, confidence, and more money than a twenty-something year-old should have at such a young age. I was always mature for my age, or so I was told. But as quickly as those things I acquired appeared, they all disappeared; some with dire consequences.

I realized a few days ago, my birthday is in the first week of July for those that are wondering, that I had become hardened, bitter, and most of all very very angry. I had an anger brewing inside of me for years that occasionally erupted like a volcano. I was raised in a family where we did not show our emotions. From a young age I always pushed my emotions deep down inside and forgot about them. This proved tragic in my mid-twenties. The girls I dated treated me poorly. I had an affinity for finding girls or women that were manipulative. They would cheat on me and somehow make me feel it was my fault. They would lie to me and take advantage of my loyalty and good nature. I never cheated. I never strayed. Love was everything to me. I was loyal to the end...usually until they left me.

That process repeated itself time and time again. All of that anger surrounded my heart and hardened my soul. I met someone knew five years ago. We were acquaintances at first and then friends. Timing was never right as we were both seeing other people. Then one day, out of nowhere, we both pulled up to the same red light in Boston. I was in my oblivious "Boston" driving mode where you do not ever make eye contact with any other driver as that is a sign of weakness. I heard a horn honking repeatedly and a "Hey!!" yelling from the car besides me. I figured I must have cut someone off in traffic or some other moronic Bostonian driving thing. The honking continued until I looked over and much to my surprise, it was her. I smiled, waived, and said "Hello!"... The light turned green and we both smiled and parted our separate ways.

I texted her later that night or the next. At this time I was fairly depressed. I had just broken up with my current girlfriend and my heart was broken. Let me rephrase, she broke up with me...like the others. I took some time off of work and stayed home for two weeks on my couch watching old movies on television and keeping myself in a euphoric Vicodin coma. I quickly discovered that if I chose not to eat, the euphoria and effects from the Vicodin lasted longer. For almost a month I did not emerge from my condo. I found it hard to sleep in my bed...the bed that my former girlfriend and I shared. It still smelled like her. Instead, I stayed on the couch. I cried a lot. My day consisted of waking up, taking some Vicodin and then showering. I showered a lot. It relieved anxiety and since my bathroom was soundproof, none of my neighbors could hear my cry no matter how loud I was. I drank lots of water during this time and stopped drinking soda, coffee, and tea. I lost a lot of weight. I was about 20 pounds overweight anyway so I had the weight to loose.

Somewhere in to the third or fourth week I resumed texting with the girl from the traffic light. She must have known I wasn't in a good place, though we never discussed it. I had fasted for two weeks at a time before so it was not unusual for me. She insisted on taking me out to dinner for sushi because as she put it, sushi is a "clean" food. I agreed after some hesitation and she picked me up from my condo. I'll never forget her smile. She made me feel better. We talked and she introduced me to sushi. Time stood still and we practically closed the placed. It was not the first time we had been out together, but it was the first time we were out together and both single and enjoyed our time together. She drove me home and as we pulled in front of my condo building we talked for a few moments. It's that awkward "first date" conversation...or was it even a first date? I'm the chivalrous type and am never forward with women. As we said our goodbyes and I decided to exit the car, I leaned over to give her a hug and instead she extended her right hand. She thanked me for the time (though she had paid for dinner, which was a first for me and allow me to pay) and shook my hand as if we had concluded a business meeting. I smiled, shook her hand, and closed the door. I chuckled to myself and scratched my head as she drove away down the street. I didn't know what had just happened but I knew I was smiling for the first time in a month and felt good. That was one of the few times where I truly believe she had saved me.

I feel I am a bit off track here but the history was necessarily I think. Time passed and we began dating exclusively. A year went by. It was clear that she had fallen for me...quickly and hard. That always happens to me. Girls I date fall for me quickly and hard...usually within months. The same happened with her. It took me a year to reciprocate and say "I love you" even though she had said it a month before. I didn't realize how much it hurt her. I regret that. Because of all the anger and hurt that I had bottled up deep inside me from all the other women in my life before her, I guarded my heart and soul. No one was getting in. It cursed me. She wrote me a letter and an excerpt from some country song lyrics. It made me cry. I realized I had hurt her...and that I did indeed having feelings for her. Strong feelings. Love.

Then followed a series of traumatic and horrible events in my life that caused me and her much pain and embarrassment. Most of it was out of my control. The things I was alleged to have done and were charged with were untrue. In fact, the allegations were well before she and I had known each other and began dating. It stemmed from a series of poor business decisions and working with unscrupulous clients who lied to cover up their own fraud. She helped me realize that there were more important things in life than money, a huge waterfront office downtown, a 2005 Aston Martin Vanquish, Range Rover, BMW 7 Series, Dolce & Gabana suits, Prada shoes, a 12,500 square foot estate for a home, and fractional ownership of a G550 (bonus kudos to you if you figure out what I am referring to and what one of those costs)... She taught me love and happiness...things I had trouble grasping and understanding; let alone feeling. I struggled with that and loosing those things and with loosing the respect of my friends, family, employees, clients, and the local community that I served.

Titans and giants, including Ephialtes on the left, in Gustave Doré's illustrations to Dante's Divine Comedy.
Titans & Giants - Dante's Divine Comedy.
She loved me for me, not like the others that may have loved me for my things I had or what I could provide. It was true love for once, plain and simple. I should be a better man for it, but instead I am damaged goods. I suffered a major identity crisis and was very angry.  I blamed others. I became blinded by anger. I yelled at everyone. Took shots at people that didn't deserve it. I became impatient, upset, anxious, depressed, and quick to anger. I would explode at a moments notice. My mood swings were horrible. She felt she had to walk on eggshells and watched her words very careful to avoid upsetting me or setting me off. She was scared to speak sometimes. I would never touch her in anger but I would be angry or upset and yell. She would panic, bringing up painful childhood memories. She would cry. I would apologize when I calmed down... but it felt like the waves of anxiety and depression kept coming and I could not stop them. It felt like I was being attacked on all sides from people that were supposed to be friends, from people that were supposed to be loyal clients, and from people that I thought were family. My world was turning upside down and I was falling apart. I was drowning and gasping for air...being sucked down a vortex that I couldn't fight. Everyone turned on me, except her. She endured quite a bit, though it wasn't her fault. I often blamed her for her unhappiness. I blamed others for my unhappiness. I was blind to see that maybe I was the problem. I didn't yet realize that my actions years before had consequences that were just beginning to surface and that the road ahead was a slow descent into the ninth circle of hell.

This all hit me like a ton of bricks this July. I was the reason I was unhappy. I allowed outside influences to hurt and change me. I had to find a way to release this anger and hatred that was buried deep within me from years of hurt, depression, and anger. I was afraid and scared that I had done too much damage to myself, to her, and to our relationship. I had been depressed, majorly, for the past two years because of the aforementioned fallout and events. I tried every medication under the sun for depression. Nothing worked. I tried psychiatry and therapy. It helped, but only scratched the surface. But around 1PM on a sunny afternoon on July in a remote cabin in Vermont by the lake, it all made sense. I was the problem. I was to blame. I needed to take responsibility. She was not the one making me unhappy. I was. I wasn't making her happy because of my depression. I blamed others for my life falling apart. I realized that I needed to take responsibility for my actions or inaction. It is no one's fault but my own. Yes, there were some instances that were out of my control but I could have handled them better. I could have changed the outcome. I could have stopped wallowing in this self-pity where I had given up on myself, my work, and others. I was in control of my life, my destiny, and my future. No one else was to blame.

 I shared this and my thoughts/realizations above when she came back with our dog from a walk. She listened intently, almost as if in disbelief. She didn't say much but said she was glad I realized these things and the hurriedly said she had to take the dog for a walk... I was confused because they had just come from a walk but I let it go and prepared lunch. She was there to support and love me...and I ignored that. I took it for granted. I took a lot of things for granted. I realized it was easy for me to blame others for my problems but in reality, I just had to look in the mirror. I can't rely on others or her to fix it and make it better. I had to help myself or I knew I would never recover from this. She returned thirty or sixty minutes later in a good mood and apologized. When I inquired why she was apologizing, she said that she needed to take a walk because she was in shock. She was in disbelief. She said it was a good thing, but never expected I would realize that I needed to take responsibility for my life and my actions and was truly happy for me because she said she was not sure how much longer she could endure the way things were going and my negativity. She hugged me and thanked me and said we would get through this.

 The prior month I spent two weeks in bed, depressed. What did that do? Nothing. It was time for me to do something and change the direction I was going and grab hold of my life. She told me I wasn't the same person the last two years and she begged me to wake up. She wanted her best friend back. She said I was saying and doing things that weren't me and things that I would have never done years before. Depression and these medications had changed me. I allowed that to happen. I am to blame for hurting her and hurting our relationship and my life. I allowed myself to stop caring. I didn't care about anything anymore, let alone myself. I loved her and cared for her, but I often wonder if I did care for her as I did things to seriously jeopardize our relationship and hurt her that I normally would not have ever done. I'm not blaming depression wholly for that, but believe it was part of why I stopped caring about things that I was once passionate about. I realized I needed to fix this and regain control of my life. She said the Chris she knew and loved was still in there...and she was right. I had been sticking my head in the sand and ignoring everything going on around me for the past two years and expecting things to change without doing anything. I was an idiot clouded by depression. I was mean to her, my family, and others. My spirit broke and I fear I broke her spirit, warmth, and happiness. I simply could not handle the idea that I broke her spirit or happiness. She was a beacon of light and the happiest person I have ever met...and being responsible for breaking her or ruining that crushed me. I isolated myself from her, everything, and everyone that cared for me. My friends (both new and old) no longer speak to me. My family did not even call on my birthday. I had succeeded. I successfully isolated myself from everyone. I was alone and was pushing her farther and farther away from me. I was mean, angry, and having horrible mood swings.  I can't believe I was being so selfish. My self-fulfilling prophecy was coming true...I am so foolish.  I am deeply sorry for that. That ends here and now. I realized the error of my ways and how to take charge and fix it going forward. Dr. Keith Ablow, my former psychiatrist said something very powerful a few months prior but it didn't sink in until that morning: 
Chris, you are a very smart and brilliant guy. There is nothing you cannot do. We need to find something to motivate you in the right direction. Some awful things have happened to you, but you have survived and are hopefully wiser for it. But you have to understand people's perception of you now. You used to be able to operate in the 'gray' successfully with no ramifications. Now, you simply can't do that or bend the rules as you may find yourself subject to the same troubles time and time again. You will always be under scrutiny now: Black or white...your choice; no gray my friend. That's just how it is...
I may still continue to struggle along the way but I am waking up and changing and fixing my life while picking up the pieces. I am human after all, right? I owe that to her and I owe that to myself. I know without her, my life would be a lot less meaningful. I'll write more about that and her later. She may never know how I truly feel for her, even though I have tried time and time again to tell her...but I fumble with the words and emotions. I am "misunderstood" by her family, at least that's what her father said. I hope they see how truly and deeply I care for her some day. I would give anything for her and would pay the ultimate price and lay down my life for her if the opportunity arose. There is nothing I would not do for her to keep her safe, happy, and loved. That is what I also realized on that day in July. I may still struggle with relationships, given what I have been through in the past, but I know that she always stuck by me through the darkest hours of my life. I made two promises to her mother: one was to do the same and do my best to always do right by her. The other I won't share now. Those that know me know that I never break a promise nor make a promise that I know I cannot keep. I am a work in progress and change will not be overnight. I am trying to be realistic but I have made progress thus far that she would be proud of and that my family would be proud of...but I feel I have pushed her away. More to follow....