This year’s already soo much better than last (for me at least)

IMG_1509_2So, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to try to keep the blog posts weekly. Since last post was a 2014 year-end roundup, this week I’ll catch up on how the beginning of 2015 has gone for me. Hang in, I’m hoping these posts will become more thoughtful, creative, socially, culturally, politically relevant as the year unfolds, but I’m still warming up my chops. For now, I’m going to pull a couple of sentences from each of my 2015 journal entries to date.

Thursday, January 1, 2015. 9:42 am. REFLECTIONS ON 2014: I spent a lot of 2014 feeling that I did not want anything. That’s what scared me the most about the whole depressive episode: the loss of desire. Desire is everything, is life—if you don’t want, then why would you eat, drink, sleep, dress, bathe, interact with people, make or do anything?

Friday, January 2, 2015. 8:09 am. Mario Cuomo died last night. He was 82 years old. I wish it wasn’t all about me, but it makes me think, yes, I have about 30 years left, if I’m lucky.

Saturday, January 3, 2015. 11:27 am. I’m oddly miserable. Jason is packing up the garden floor for the renovation that starts Monday. I refuse to help. I have work to do. I’m angry. Still nursing a grudge about not getting the turn-of-the-century brownstone of my dreams, and now having to put so much money and effort into making this the house we want it to be. SPOILER ARERT: A LOT OF THAT ANGER IS MY DEPRESSION TALKING, AND AS THE RENOVATION PROCEEDS, I GET MORE HOPEFUL AND OPTIMISTIC AND EXCITED AGAIN.

Sunday, January 4, 2015. 10:34 am. Jason asks me how I am, how I feel. I say, “You know, OK, I’m hanging in there.” And he says, “I know. I love you. You can’t stop me from loving you.” And I say, “I love you too.”

Monday, January 5, 2015. 8:21 am. I’m not handling the whole renovation episode very well. It’s bringing a lot of my depressive symptoms roaring back.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015. 7:12 am. Four melatonin (12 mg), 3 Benadryl (75 mg), no sleep. I have no stomach for my journal this morning. I just want to drink coffee and get to work. But I also want to get my Lexapro prescription ASAP.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015. 7:54 am. I feel some mix of guilt and shame about all the negative feelings I’ve been feeling. The arrival of the renovation seems to have set me back months in terms of dealing with my depression. Yesterday I got a Lexapro prescription and popped my first pill. Then last night I had a major anxiety attack, felt like dying, bursting out of my skin, whatever, I don’t even have the right language to describe it. It passed after about a half hour, and from that point on I actually slept quite nicely. But I’m not taking that medication ever again.


Klonopin is GOD. Okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement. But I feel NORMAL this morning for the first time in at least 9 months. After the Lexapro debacle, I called my doctor and we tried again, switched out the Lexapro for Klonopin, because really, I’m dealing with the roots of my depression in therapy, and it’s the anxiety that is ruining my life, keeping me awake, interfering with work and social life. Well, took my first dose last night. Over a couple of hours, felt my racing heartbeat calm down, felt my fear melt away, felt calm, felt content, felt…sleepy!!!. Jason and I went to bed. I fell asleep quickly, stayed asleep most of the night, and woke up refreshed and…HAPPY TO BE ALIVE.

Friday, January 9, 2015. 8:51 am. Yesterday was my first full day on Klonopin. It was wonderful. Hard to put into words. It’s not like 2014 didn’t happen. Not like I’m not aware of the angers and resentments and frustrations and disappointments that I felt, that I experienced, that I suffered. But those patterns of thought and feeling are just not there right now. I’m just this guy who does what I do, freelance medical writing, poetry writing, Jason and I saw On the Town last night. And picked up a slice of red velvet cheese cake from Juniors on the way home. And a bag of freshly ground decaf Pike coffee from Starbucks, and when we got home we had decaf and cheese cake and watched two episodes of Californication. Then Klonopin (for me), melatonin (for both of us), we flopped into bed and fell asleep within minutes, and slept all night without interruption, and woke up refreshed.

Saturday, January 10, 2015. 8:41 am. WE CAN SKIP THIS ONE.

Sunday, January 11, 2015. About 1:00 pm. AND THIS ONE.

Monday, January 12, 2015. About 1:26 pm. AND THIS ONE.

et-house-movieTuesday, January 13, 2015. 8:23 am. Back in our home this morning after a week at a local Air b&b while the major demolition of our garden level took place. In addition to renovating the kitchen, we are putting in a new HVAC system. It looks like the scenes from ET where the astronauts come and drape the house in hazmat plastic drapes. Sixth night of good sleep last night, but with a caveat: despite my Klonopin and melatonin, I woke up in a panic at about 2:00 in the morning. I knew it was going to happen. There are so many negative associations with sleeping in my own bed, the anxiety, the insomnia, the sinus and breathing issues. So I popped a Benadryl. I was fast asleep within 15 minutes, slept well, had pleasant dreams, and woke up feeling refreshed about 7:30. I think it will get better as the nights go by and my body convinces my mind (or is it the other way around?) that it is safe to sleep in my own bed. ET phone home.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015. 8:17 am. SEVENTH NIGHT OF GOOD SLEEP last night. Decided to keep Benadryl on board just in case. Soporific effects of Benadryl and Klonopin can be additive (that’s ADDITIVE, NOT ADDICTIVE), but I don’t think it can hurt based on the low doses I am taking. Fell asleep quickly and easily, slept well without getting up during the night, and woke up to an alarm at 7am feeling refreshed and ready to jump out of bed and start my day. I only wish we had a kitchen so I could make breakfast for Jason, as is my wont. But alas, it is gone for now. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015. 8:04 am. CONTINUING ADVENTURES IN PSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY. This is the first morning that I feel like cranky grumpy depressed Michael since I started taking Klonopin on January 7. But it’s not Klonopin’s fault. Here’s what happened: when my PCP prescribed the Klonopin, he also referred me to a psychopharmacologist. With whom I had my first appointment yesterday. He wants me to phase out the Klonopin and phase in Celexa, which is sort of Lexepro’s older brother. As I understand it, Celexa has a more gentle onset than Lexapro, doesn’t cause as much of that maddening anxiety in the early weeks. And he prescribed a very gradual ramp up in terms of dosage. So it began. Last night I took my first baby dose of Celexa along with my Klonopin, my melatonin, and yes, I kept my good buddy Benadryl on board, as my ace in the hole. But I did not fall asleep easily, sleep well, or wake up feeling refreshed. Instead, I feel tired, cranky, and like I want everyone to go fcuk themselves (well, that last part is a rhetorical exaggeration). But I’m going to stick it out. Dr. Stephens says you don’t want to be on Klonopin long term, and what it does is tamp down your rising tide of anxiety, while with Celexa, you will be on a nice even anxiolytic keel on an ongoing basis. He also said Klonopin has been associated with long-term cognitive issues, confusion, poor memory, lack of focus, even dementia. And as Lisa Kudrow says in the first episode of The Comback, “I don’t need to SEE that!”

2015-01-16 07.44.50Friday, January 16, 2015. 7:52 am. Had a great night’s sleep. My PCP suggested taking my baby dose of Celexa (5 mg) in the morning, not at night, so if it does give me a bit of anxiety or fast heartbeat, it won’t interfere with my sleep. So, here goes…mmm, yum, yum. So last night I took my 1 mg Klonopin and 9 mg melatonin and 25 mg Benadryl and slept like a baby, except for the really hot sex dreams (or do babies have those, too?). My shrinkopharmacologist urged me to cut the Klonopin to 1/2 a tablet (.5 mg), but I didn’t like that idea, at least not until the Celexa is up to full dose and kicks. And my PCP agreed with that, so we’re all good there. So that’s it for the sleep saga for today. If you’re enjoying this…I can add that yesterday I had my annual physical, which includes my 6-month lab work. HIV undetectable. CD4 lower than in the past, which of course was a bit disappointing, but my doctor pointed out that my CD4/CD8 ratio was BETTER than in the past, so in fact, my immune system is healthier this time around than 6 months ago, when my absolute CD4 was higher. And if that was complete gobbledygook to you, don’t feel bad, you are not alone. But this is my life—and that of many others. Anyway…blood pressure fine, thyroid fine, cholesterol fine, liver and spleen fine…prostate fine! Testosterone a little low, despite my Androgen, but we’re thinking maybe I had just not taken it for a few days before my bloodwork, so we’re not upping the dose just yet. We’ll revisit in six months. BTW, the pic shows the actual “ET” effect in our gutted living room. All that plastic-coated pipe is the new HVAC system, and you can see the HVAC vent for this room in the upper left corner. And the rest is mostly joists, beams, and insulation.

2015-01-16 23.36.35Saturday, January 17, 2015. 7:15 am. Went to synagogue last night and came home to…high hats! Something I’ve wanted for years. As you can see, this is a truly gut renovation of our garden level. But back to the reason I started posting here daily, which is anxiety (none to speak of) and sleep (quite good). Second day of taking my half a Celexa (5 mg) in the morning so it doesn’t freak me out at night and keep me from sleeping well. Worked perfectly. Last night took my usual cocktail of 10 mg Klonopin, 9 mg melatonin, and 25 mg Benadryl. Fell asleep easily, slept well, pleasant dreams, woke up refreshed. Presumably this becomes routine now. The next big adventure is what happens next Wednesday when I up my Celexa to a full 10 mg and reduce my Klonopin to 5 mg.

 Sunday, January 18, 2015. 7:57 am. Slept well…let’s call that 11 nights, despite a little bump in the road three days ago. Getting to the point where sleep is not what I want to talk about anymore. Instead, I want to talk about how I’m enjoying listening to civil rights hero and US congressman John Lewis on On Being with Krista Tippett right now (a rebroadcast of a 2013 interview). How I enjoyed listening to a drash by Stosh Cotler, Chief Executive Officer of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah on Friday night. How I enjoyed writing new poems at Local 61 on Friday afternoon with my writing partner. How attending a funeral mass yesterday morning was mournful, but I was happy to be there for my friend in the loss of her father. How I enjoyed attending the first meeting of the Red Ribbon Committee at CBST, a new group formed to address issues of HIV in the congregation, and the first time I’m getting involved with committee work at the synagogue in the 10-ish years that Jason and I have been members. How I’m enjoying being busy as s**t with my freelance medical writing work. How life is feeling good, which it did not for a long time.

Monday, January 19, 2015. 12:41 pm. Twelve nights, like Christmas, of twelfth night, like Shakespeare, that I’ve been sleeping more-or-less well. Tried no Benadryl last night, and slept a bit more lightly, so will probably bring her back into the mix tonight. Not much else to say about that this morning, which is probably a good thing.

Back to blogging: 2014 year-end roundup

Broder_coverFlandrin,_Hippolyte_(1805-1864)_-_Jeune_homme_nu_assis.._1855_-_LouvreIt’s 2015 and I want to start blogging again. I have a compulsion to completeness, and it freaks me out that I let 10 days of 2015 go by without a blog entry. So I’m going to paste in some material from my journal, the year-end roundup that I wrote on Wednesday, December 31. That’s an old tradition from when I journaled regularly some 20 years ago. I would do a monthly roundup of accomplishments at the end of each month, and a yearly roundup of accomplishments at the end of each year.

2014 Yearly Roundup 

Professional/money gathering: I won’t share financial details, but I invoiced considerably more for medical writing projects than in any previous year. Also made some bucks on our first successful outing as investors in a fix-and-flip business out in Suffolk County, where we are not dealing with the insanity of the Brooklyn housing market. That was not the plan earlier in the year. When we refinanced in the spring, the idea was to get cash for our garden level renovation, and while we were at it, pull out enough cash from the equity in our home to buy another brownstone in one of the new frontiers, particularly Bushwick. But as it turned out, 2014 was the year all the housing prices in brownstone Brooklyn equalized. There were for all intents and purposes no more frontiers, no revitalizing neighborhoods where you could find a relatively affordable house. So instead, we invested the proceeds in some other ways. The fix-and-flip business is working out well. The aggressive brokerage account, not so much. Win some, lose your shirt some. The important thing is to learn from your mistakes.

Creative: Of course, the book came out. That’s great, but I suffered some post partum. I wished I’d crammed another 30 poems into it. It didn’t get as much attention (reviews, etc.) as I would have liked. I didn’t do many readings. It’s all really nobody’s fault but my own. And that series of disappointments, manufactured in my own silly little head in response to something that should have been an unmitigated good, started my slide into the depression I experienced starting around April. It didn’t come out of nowhere. When I look back at my 2014 journal, on January 1, I wrote that I was concerned with getting old and feeling like a failure. And those feelings only got broader and deeper as spring wore into summer. It got really bad, then it started to get better, now it’s a work in progress.

But back to creative accomplishments. Out of the depths of my depression, I took my ass in hand (is that a real thing?) and starting pushing really hard on new submissions of usually old work (since there really was no new work, since I hadn’t written much poetry at all since I resumed work on my long-deferred PhD in 2005). The result was that I placed a goodly number of poems for publication (acceptance dates in parentheses). Jeffery Berg, bless his popular-culture-and-poetry-loving-heart, took “Nursing Home: Courtyard” for the National Poetry Month feature on his blog (03/13/14). APR took “Law & Order,” “Postmodernism,” and “Songs for Young Lovers” (07/30/14). Court Green took “Delivering the News” (08/08/14). Alex Dimitrov took “Last night,” for the Poem-A-Day feature on (07/21/14). Columbia Poetry Review took “A Poem about Dead Lovers” (09/25/14). Stephen Mills took “Killer Algae” for Animal (10/01/14). In October, Joseph Harker took eight poems for Assaracus: “At the Phlebotomist’s,” “Casual, Anonymous,” “First Flight,” “How to Fuck,” “I Married a Slob,” “Love Poem,” “Moods And Tenses,” “The Beach at East Orleans.”

Perhaps most important, I pursued poetry friendships with with two wonderful poets who had been hiding in plain sight under the eaves of my life for many years. Finding mentorship and building community has always been a problem for me, and I think it’s a major reason why I have not achieved some of the things I had wanted to achieve earlier in life, like more publications and an academic career. So again, out the depths of that spring and summer depression, I pushed myself to receive what the universe was offering, and when these two beautiful people reached out to me, I grabbed hold, and we have continued meeting to offer emotional and moral and creative support to each other for months, and these relationships are continuing and growing in 2015.

And in fact, it was a slow process, but I did finally start writing more, producing more new work. I think this will continue and increase in 2015.

Health/wellness: Well, as I have already noted, this was a sore spot in 2014. The major problems were depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Lots of things in my life that this can be traced to, but at some level, it’s also just about brain chemistry, isn’t it? It got really bad, and now it’s getting better. I’ve been writing about my adventures with psychotropic drugs on Facebook. And then there’s therapy. Which I need to make better use of in 2015.

Something that I feel is part of health and wellness, but which I hesitate to write about in any public forum, is my sex life. Because it involves another person, namely, my husband. So I have to think about the extent to which I want to discuss sex in this blog, or anywhere else for that matter. Issues of love, partnership, relationship, marriage, monogamy, sexual openness, and embracing certain aspects of my own sexual identity. And related to all of this, issues of HIV, my own HIV infection and treatment, and the advent of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) which is providing me with a whole new generation of HIV-negative boys who have joined my pool of potential sex partners. Indeed, maybe SEX should be it’s own category in these musings and recountings.

2014 was a rough year. Memory may not be reliable, but I think of it as the worst year of my life to date, despite some of the good things that happened this year, like the publication of my first book. I count it as worse than the year my father died, worse than the year my mother died, worse than the year I tested positive for HIV, worse than any year of any breakup with any boyfriend. Because in all of those years, from somewhere in the depths of my grief and pain and anger and disappointment, I retained those most powerful motive force of humanity: hope and desire. I believed in a future, and I wanted things. For much of 2014, I was completely hopeless and totally devoid of desire. I wanted nothing. I had no goals, no objectives. I often felt that I was simply waiting out the next 30 years or so until I die. That’s pretty bad. That’s depression, some kind of depression, whether it’s major depressive disorder or adjustment disorder or whatever diagnosis and corresponding insurance claim code you might want to assign to it. But things are getting better. Quite a bit better. Much better. And that leads me to use a word I’ve been very hard pressed to use for many months:


Brooklyn Book Festival

SEPTEMBER 21, 2014

I’ll be signing books at 3pm at the Brooklyn Book Festival. 

A Midsummer Night’s Press is sharing a booth with Sibling Rivalry Press and Sinister Wisdom at this year’s Brooklyn Book Festival Official Site on September 21st. There will be author signings all day long, including AMNP authors Michael H. Broder, Cheryl Clarke, and Julie R. Enszer. You can also meet our eminent publisher, Lawrence Schimel

Also signing are Sibling Rivalry poets Bryan Borland, Stephen Mills, Michael Klein, Matthew Hittinger, Robert Siek, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor and more.)

If you’re in the NY area, come visit us at Booth 916!

Julie R. Enszer on Citizen-Poet-Queer

Very much enjoyed reading this Huffington Post entry my dear friend Julie R. Enszer.
Thirteen Reflections on Citizen Poet Queer