Fishing Sucks; Family Fun; Should I Be Buried or Cremated?

Fun fact: 75% of the letters needed to describe how fish taste are already included in the word “fish.”

The worst part of going fishing is actually catching a fish. It’s just a pain in the ass. I don’t want to eat the fish. I don’t even want to hurt the fish. I certainly have no interest in touching the fish or otherwise rescuing him from his dumb decision to try to eat my hook in the first place.

I enjoy the aspect of fishing that involves sitting outside and drinking beer. I do that several nights a week, but instead of fishing, I smoke a cigar. Much simpler process. Less travel, less hassle, less cursing.

Having said that, our family had a great time fishing this weekend. Personally, I didn’t touch a pole. Or even drink a beer. But I was the official photographer and playground chaperone while our kids had a blast catching fish with their awesome momma.

We went to Enid this weekend for multiple reasons. One was fishing, which we did twice. We found a couple of ponds next to public playgrounds, and the kids loved catching fish with Missy and her brother Aaron. I snapped the photos and walked the kids over to the adjacent playground when they needed a break from fishing. I’m glad they have a mother and uncle who can do those kinds of things with them. I can see Maddux being an avid fisherman when he grows up; it suits his personality.

We also went to the Great Salt Plains to dig for crystals. This was the second time we’ve done that and it’s something the kids really enjoy. It was hella windy while we were out there, which took away from it somewhat, but the kids still had a great time and found a lot of crystals.

Missy made this out of the crystals we dug up on our first visit to the Great Salt Plains. I’m sure she’ll do something similar with our newest batch.

The other reason we went to Enid this weekend is because it was Memorial Day weekend, and that is where half of my grandparents are buried.

My grandpa was my hero growing up. Even when I was still in high school, I remember thinking that he must be one of the 10 or 15 smartest people in the world. He could solve hard math problems (he was an engineer) and finish the crossword puzzle every day. He drank his whiskey straight and he was good at golf. How could someone be any more awesome?

He was also a colonel in the Army during World War II, serving in France and Germany. In high school he came and spoke to our class about his war experience, and it was the only time in my life I’ve felt like the coolest person in the room.

My grandma, who we called Nanny, died of breast cancer when I was only 6, but I can still remember her yummy meatloaf and her devotion to Wheel of Fortune. She watched it every day.

On Sunday we visited their graves in Enid. We also visited my mom’s childhood home, which still looks great. The three youngest kids were surprised to see the name “Musser” on the grave. They knew “Musser” as my middle name and Maddux’s middle name. Of course we’ve told them where that name came from but I suppose it hadn’t been real until they saw it for themselves.

The house my mom grew up in.

It was really neat to see American flags all over the cemetery, marking the graves of people like my grandpa who bravely served our country. Sometime this week we are planning to drive to Jones, where my dad’s parents are buried.

We are also planning a day trip to Sulphur, where my dad’s ashes were scattered. I’ll bring my guitar and we’ll have a moment of silence and sing a couple of songs. Of course, that’s not the same as having a grave to visit, and Missy and I spent some time discussing the unpleasant subject of what we wanted done with our remains after we pass.

It’s something nobody really wants to think about, but of course it is an important topic that should be addressed before it’s too late.

The benefits of cremation: much cheaper, ashes can be divided among multiple family members and/or scattered in a sentimental location (like Sulphur, where my parents loved to visit).

Benefits of burial: Lasting marker for future generations to remember you by, with simple details like birth/death year or marriage/children info. It kind of sucks that my dad also served in the Army but there isn’t a grave to put an American flag on for Memorial Day.

I was always inclined to go the cremation route, mainly to ease the financial burden on my family and because I never really cared what happened to my body after I’m no longer in it. Plus, how far back do people really go in remembering their ancestors? I can easily go back one more generation, as some of my great-grandparents are buried in the same cemetery as my grandparents. But I have never visited a grave of anyone from the generation before that. A grave next to my grandparents’ was for a woman who died in 1971. It had no flowers on it, which seems kind of sad. But of course eventually that is the fate that awaits us all, grave or no. Within a couple of generations we will be forgotten by this world.

Missy has always leaned the other way, toward burial. I don’t feel strongly enough about it to override her wishes. I’d rather be buried next to her than be cremated and scattered somewhere else without her. But she hasn’t fully made up her mind on the whole thing either.

I’ve always thought that having an expensive casket seemed stupid, and I’ve read about a much cheaper, more eco-friendly chamber/cocoon that sounds like a better option. No reason to spend thousands of dollars on fancy wood that nobody will ever see once it’s in the ground.

So I dunno. I know it’s a weird thing to write about but it might also be helpful to get my thoughts on paper and get input from friends and family members. My opinions on fishing are set in stone, but I’m flexible when it comes to where my earthly remains will reside for all of eternity.

Distance Learning 2020

We had a name for this already. It’s called home schooling. What’s with the “distance learning” thing? Isn’t everyone doing this at home?

Whatever you want to call it, we’ve been doing it just like everybody else during Coronavirus 2020.

I have to admit, I wasn’t looking forward to doing this. I’ve already completed fifth grade. And first grade. And kindergarten. And I’m used to working with/entertaining Hawk throughout the day, but now I was going to have to keep him from going crazy while making sure the other three got their work done.

It’s gone much better than I ever thought it would. The workload has been very manageable, and it’s nice to be able to do the work at any time of the day that we want. We’ve let the kids stay up later than usual and started the class day a bit later as well.

Missy is more of a night owl than I am, so I’ve been letting her sleep in while I get up and work with the kids in the mornings. Then she more or less takes over in the afternoons. There’s a good combination of technology-based learning and printed paperwork. Sometimes I’ll have all the kids do their paperwork at the same time while I rove around and check/help as needed. Sometimes I’ll put two kids on tablets to do the computer stuff while I work with the other one-on-one. They have separate math and reading programs on the computer, so it doesn’t get too repetitive.

The art, music, STEAM, library and PE teachers have also provided curriculum. We’ve mixed in some of that but are largely doing those things on our own. Missy’s garden is bigger and better than ever, and the kids have helped her get that going. She’s also a great cook so the kids have helped with that. I try to get all of the boring rote work out of the way in the mornings so Missy can lead the fun stuff like that in the evenings. Addie enjoys leading some art and science projects with the younger kids, so we’ve let her do that and (most of the time) the results have been great. I’m really proud of Addie being a great leader of the other kids during this time.

Of course, the weather has been fantastic overall. That’s made a huge difference. We’re taking Bailey on a walk every day, and the kids are getting plenty of playtime outside. All of the playground equipment and back yard toys Missy finds for super cheap are paying off big-time. I already blogged about our camping trip, which is something we’ll always remember. I’ve been running about four miles per day, which has helped with my mental state. I’d rather be playing basketball but since that’s not an option, running in this weather is a good substitute.

This is the last week of school. Schools are planning to return to normal next fall, but nobody really knows how this COVID-19 deal will work out. Things seem to change every day.

If it ends up being “distance learning” again, I’m OK with that. I’ve really enjoyed bonding with the kids. Also, home-schooling as a future option doesn’t seem nearly as daunting as it did a few months ago.

Before I leave you with some cute pics of my wife and kiddos, I have to brag on the kids for their performance on Mother’s Day. They really went all out, planning for two weeks in advance and working on it every day. They each did four or five pieces of art, adding up to about 20 items for Missy to see on Sunday. They also decorated the house and gathered lots of “presents” from around the house to wrap up and give to her. We ate Missy’s favorite pizza, Hideaway. She deserves a better husband but she sure hit a home run with our four lovely kids.

Mother’s Day pizza feast

April 19, 1995

Anyone who considers themselves an Oklahoman knows this date by heart. They know where they were when they heard the news. They know how they reacted upon hearing that loved ones who worked downtown were — or weren’t — safe.

April 19, 1995 was the day our state (especially its biggest city) changed forever. Somehow, the 25 years since that tragedy have been the best 25 years Oklahoma City has ever experienced.

I’m sure you know the facts about what happened, but if you want a refresher I found this good, short history of it on the FBI website.

When you look at images like this, it seems like the death toll should have been even higher than the 168 who were killed on April 19, 1995.

The bombing touched everyone in their own way. My experience was not extraordinary, but I want to share it. For starters, it shows how different the world was in 1995 than it is in 2020, especially as it relates to technology and information. Also, my hope for this blog is that it’s something my children and grandchildren read in the future, and this is a significant event that needs to be remembered.

I was in 9th grade chemistry class. Occasionally, maybe once per month, our teacher would turn on the radio if we finished our classwork early. April 19, 1995 was one of those rare days. We usually listened to the morning show on KATT, which featured two guys named Rick and Brad doing the stereotypical morning show prank humor.

Ms. Austin turned on the radio sometime between 9:15 and 9:45 a.m. (the bombing happened at 9:02) and a reporter was giving very early reports of an explosion downtown. I remember my first thought was, “This is a morbid prank for Rick and Brad to be doing.” Within a couple of minutes it was apparent that this was no joke, although details were scarce and nobody really knew what had happened. Ms. Austin left the room in a hurry, and when she returned a few minutes later she turned the radio off and said she wasn’t supposed to talk about it.

The principals at Moore West decided not to make an announcement about the bombing and kept us from watching television coverage of it during school. From talking to friends, I know that other schools even within the Moore district took different measures and many allowed news coverage to be shown.

Still, word got around. There were all kinds of rumors, but very few facts. In 1995 virtually nobody had a cell phone and those that did certainly didn’t have internet on it, so without TV or radio there was no way to get real information about what was going on. All I knew was that there was an explosion downtown. My friend Kevin’s dad worked downtown, so I was worried about him, although I had no idea where exactly the bombing had taken place or how deadly it was. I couldn’t think of anyone else I knew who worked downtown.

I remember turning on the television as soon as I got home from school and watching the coverage. It was a Wednesday so we had church that night. We went to Draper Park Christian Church, but this was no usual Wednesday night class. There were frequent updates on members who worked downtown (like Kevin’s dad Terry, who was fine), efforts to get help to the medical community and those in need, and lots of prayer.

Things moved pretty quickly after that first day. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were swiftly brought to justice. Our next door neighbor was a higher-up in the Oklahoma City Police Department, and he gave me a piece of the Murrah building that weighed about five pounds. It’s an odd thing to have but it’s in our attic somewhere.

Downtown Oklahoma City was a dump in 1995. There was no NBA team, no NBA arena, no Bricktown ballpark, no canal. The Spaghetti Warehouse (RIP) was the only halfway decent restaurant down there and it wasn’t anything special. The whole area looked outdated, run down and unsafe.

The bombing certainly wasn’t singularly responsible for Oklahoma City’s revival, but it was a pivotal moment. We came together as a city and as a state, determined to pick each other up and recover from this tragic event. Soon we dedicated tax dollars and manpower towards making downtown Oklahoma City a cool place to be. Once we got the arena, canal and ballpark, restaurants and bars flooded in. (Now for some reason we have an unnecessary trolley, but that’s another story).

In 2000, the Oklahoma City National Memorial was dedicated. Missy and I visited once. If you haven’t been I would highly recommend it. It’s very chilling but extremely well put together. It makes you realize how fleeting this life can be, and also how resilient a community can be when it bands together.

The Oklahoma City Memorial

The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon has been a cool tradition over the last couple of decades, although this year’s run is postponed until the fall because of COVID-19. Missy ran the half marathon twice, once while she was pregnant!

When our kids are a little older, we’ll all visit the Memorial together. It feels weird to commemorate this major anniversary of such a huge event in the history of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City without being able to gather publicly. But such are the times we are living in. We can survive this, just like we survived a guy who tried to blow up our city and our spirit.

Lists

  1. Yes, I’m bored.
  2. Opinions my own. Your disagreements will be heard, then summarily dismissed.

High School Memories

  1. Making dumb videos with Chad and Kevin
  2. Junior prom
  3. Getting a 15-yard penalty for our football team from the press box
  4. Getting threatened by the band for making fun of them in the newspaper
  5. First kiss (Twas a bit sloppy)

College Memories

  1. Meeting Missy
  2. Dominoes, PlayStation football and the Seinfeld/Conan/Cheaters nightly trilogy at the apartment
  3. All the OU football games (especially the national championship)
  4. Banter and invaluable experience in the OU Daily newsroom
  5. Baseball road trips to Arlington, Houston and St. Louis (plus a graduation celebration trip to KC, STL, Milwaukee and Chicago)

Lawton Memories

  1. The camaraderie with the sports staff at the paper (as well as fun trips to Dallas, Miami, Phoenix, Houston and Kansas City to cover OU football games)
  2. Running pick and roll with Chuck at the Y
  3. Post-poker Whataburger or Junction with Spike
  4. Everyone (especially the youth group) at Carriage Hills Christian Church
  5. Meeting and working with so many great coaches and athletes at the local high school

Cool Sports People I Interviewed at The Lawton Constitution That You Wouldn’t Expect To Give An Interview to The Lawton Constitution

  1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  2. Sugar Ray Leonard
  3. Bryce Harper
  4. Pete Carroll
  5. Your favorite OU football Heisman winner

Vacations with Missy

  1. Costa Rica
  2. Paris
  3. Chicago
  4. Playa Mujeres
  5. Surprise Vegas birthday weekend
  6. India
  7. San Antonio/Houston spring break trip
  8. Miami
  9. Phoenix
  10. Thailand

My Idea of a Good Time

  1. Laughing with family and friends
  2. Pickup Basketball
  3. Playing bridge
  4. Beer at a baseball game
  5. Cigar on the back porch

Pickup Basketball Trash Talk Lines

  1. We need to switch the teams up?
  2. Want me to guard him? (Yes I will trash talk my teammates)
  3. Get a drink of water, Marcus
  4. 7-0 skunk?
  5. Good effort

Things Heard in My House

  1. Loud screaming
  2. Loud crying
  3. “That’s not fair”
  4. “I’m telling”
  5. “Can it wait a minute? I’m trying to poop in here”

Cereals

  1. Peanut Butter Crunch
  2. Cheerios
  3. Captain Crunch
  4. Banana Nut Crunch
  5. Bite size Frosted Mini Wheats

Fast Food Restaurants

  1. Whataburger
  2. Chipotle
  3. Raising Cane’s
  4. Schlotzky’s
  5. Little Caesar’s

OKC-based Restaurants

  1. Charleston’s
  2. Johnnie’s
  3. Swadley’s
  4. Tucker’s
  5. Ted’s

Non-alcoholic Beverages

  1. White Monster
  2. A&W Root Beer
  3. Pure Banana Snow Cone Juice
  4. Peach Tea Monster Rehab
  5. Coke

Alcoholic Beverages

  1. Bourbon/Rye Whiskey
  2. IPA
  3. Other craft beer
  4. Red wine
  5. Everything else sucks

Rock Bands (2000-present)

  1. Chevelle
  2. Breaking Benjamin
  3. 10 Years
  4. Staind
  5. Seether

Rock Bands (1990-1999)

  1. Nirvana
  2. Weezer
  3. Tool
  4. Pearl Jam
  5. Stone Temple Pilots

Obscure 1990s Rock Bands I used to get down to

  1. Starflyer 59
  2. Poor Old Lu
  3. Blenderhead
  4. Roadside Monument
  5. Joe Christmas

Rappers

  1. Eminem
  2. Lupe Fiasco
  3. Tupac
  4. Jay-Z
  5. Ice Cube

Non-rock, non-rap musical artists

  1. Radiohead
  2. John Mayer
  3. Coldplay
  4. Wilco
  5. Travis

Sitcoms

  1. Seinfeld
  2. Curb Your Enthusiasm
  3. How I Met Your Mother
  4. Parks and Rec
  5. Family Guy

Saturday Night Live Cast Members

  1. Will Ferrell
  2. Eddie Murphy
  3. Chris Farley
  4. Jimmy Fallon
  5. Andy Samberg

Dramas

  1. The Wire
  2. 24
  3. Boardwalk Empire
  4. The Practice
  5. Law and Order

(Side note: Season 1 of True Detective is the greatest season of drama ever but as a full series it doesn’t make the list.)

Non-Fiction TV Shows

  1. 30 For 30
  2. Impractical Jokers
  3. HBO Real Sports
  4. Shark Tank
  5. Pawn Stars

Baseball Movies

  1. Field of Dreams
  2. A League of Their Own
  3. The Sandlot
  4. Major League
  5. 42

Non-baseball movies

  1. Rounders
  2. Anchorman
  3. The Departed
  4. Rain Man
  5. The Big Lebowski

Philadelphia Eagles (1985-present)

  1. Randall Cunningham
  2. Brian Dawkins
  3. Reggie White
  4. Brian Westbrook
  5. Jeremiah Trotter

Chicago Cubs (1985-present)

  1. Ryne Sandberg
  2. Greg Maddux
  3. Anthony Rizzo
  4. Sammy Sosa
  5. Ben Zobrist

Baseball Stadiums I’ve Been To

  1. Wrigley Field
  2. Fenway Park
  3. Kauffman Stadium (KC)
  4. PNC Park (Pittsburgh)
  5. Target Field (Minnesota)

Baseball Hats I Own

Sporting Events I’ve Covered

  1. 2000 Orange Bowl
  2. OU vs Nebraska 2000 (#1 vs #2)
  3. OKC-Golden State 2016 NBA Western Conference Finals Game 6 (that one hurt)
  4. 2007 Fiesta Bowl (OU vs Boise State)
  5. 2002 NCAA Final Four

NBA players

  1. Lebron James
  2. Michael Jordan
  3. Don’t @ me

Unplanned Vacation

Last week I went to OnCue to get gas and buy a few staples. The kid working the counter couldn’t have been more than 20 years old, and I guess he wanted to make small talk.

“So, are you still working during this thing?”

“No.”

“Well…are you at least still getting paid?”

“No.”

I wasn’t being curt with him, I just didn’t feel like explaining my life to a stranger. I wanted to get my milk, Monsters and Reese’s and get out of there. (Told you these were vital purchases.) I was smiling as I answered his questions but didn’t provide any other details. Through some combination of him sensing that I wasn’t super stressed about it or him just wanting to make an awkward situation go away, he gave me a wink, head nod and a smirk and said, “You’re gonna be OK.”

Everybody is handling this pandemic in their own way, and I don’t waste my time telling other people they’re doing it wrong. Missy and I settled on our strategy a couple weeks ago and we’re sticking with it until new information changes it. Of course, Missy still has to work her nursing shifts. In fact, she’s working 12 hours tonight. Her teaching gig is up in the air, but it appears she either won’t be doing it at all or will be doing it remotely from her computer.

I’m not working, despite opportunities to continue to play poker. I’d feel terrible if I inadvertently got someone sick, and live poker seems about as risky as anything you could do right now — sitting at a table with 9 different people, touching the same cards and chips. No amount of money I could win would be worth how bad I’d feel if someone I knew got really sick and there was even a chance they got it from me. I could try to play online and eventually might go that route, but I’ve never enjoyed that experience and for now we are not in bad shape financially. So I’m using the extra time to spearhead the kids’ home schooling and do fun things as a family.

Just like with my hospitalization last month, we’re trying to focus on the positives that come out of a bad situation. While I’d prefer to be able to play basketball and use the weights at the gym, I’ve been able to go for a run in the neighborhood almost every day. We take Bailey on his walks. We’ve been playing a lot of board games. We’ve tried a couple new recipes. And this week we went on a family camping expedition that we wouldn’t have been able to take had school been in session.

We went to Beavers Bend State Park in Broken Bow and stayed two nights. Neither Missy nor I had been down there before, and it was beautiful. When we parked, the kids jumped out of the van and let out some of the energy they’d stored up during the four-hour drive. A man who looked to be about my age was camping alone, and his tent space was only about 20 feet away from the one we had reserved. I gave him a wave and he just stared back at me. He was clearly getting annoyed at the kids, who were just being kids. Collectively the four of them can make a fair bit of noise but they weren’t being particularly crazy. Also, it was the middle of the afternoon and we were in the middle of the freaking woods. After being there less than five minutes, when it was obvious this guy wasn’t happy about our arrival, I leaned over to Missy and whispered, “I feel sorry for this poor sap.” At one point when I wasn’t close enough to hear him, he told the kids to keep it down. I tried to toe the line between letting the kids be kids and being respectful of my neighbor, but in the end I basically said eff that dude. We followed all of the campsite rules, especially the quiet hours from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., so it was really just his problem. But it bothered Missy that he kept giving us dirty looks.

Views from our campsite at Beavers Bend State Park in Broken Bow.

That first night, we got our tents set up and roasted hot dogs and smores for dinner. I slept in the bigger tent with the three smallest kids, while Missy and Addie shared a smaller tent. The kids were all so worn out that they slept pretty good, but me…not so much. Oh well, the weather was beautiful and everyone was excited to do a lot of exploring the next day.

Breakfast and dinner of champions.

Missy made pancakes and bacon on our little propane camp grill, and they turned out great. Our grumpy neighbor packed up and left, prompting Missy to say, “Don’t let the outdoors hit ya where the good Lord split ya.” (We got new neighbors the next night and they were cool.)

The first thing we did after leaving the camp was find a fishing spot, but there weren’t many good ones if you weren’t a fly fisherman and you didn’t have a boat. So that was basically a swing and a miss. We caught a couple branches. Then we went on a little hike, which was fun. Then we found a swimming hole, and the kids really loved that. We spent several hours there. Maddux swam back and forth across the pond about 20 times — I don’t know how he had the energy.

Addie at the swimming hole

There are a couple of craft breweries in Broken Bow, something I was completely unaware of until my buddy Jacob Unruh saw where we were on Snapchat and told me about them. I called into one and ordered some beer to go, then we picked it up on our way back to the campsite. It may have been the weather and scenery more than the actual beer, but either way it was one of the more enjoyable beers I’ve had in my life.

Shout out to Mountain Fork Brewery and to Jacob Unruh for the recommendation

After dinner and more smores, we were completely zonked out. I was supposed to get the three youngest kids to sleep and then sit by our campfire and talk with Missy, but I was so exhausted that I feel asleep with them and actually got a good night’s rest.

These kids wore me out!

We dodged a bullet the next morning when we were packing up. It looked like it was going to rain the whole time. We even felt a few sprinkles and some of those ominous cold wind gusts that usually precede a storm. But it never rained hard and we were able to get the van loaded back up and make the drive home without incident.

It was truly a great time. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not an outdoorsman by any stretch, but between the beautiful scenery, the perfect weather and the sheer joy on my kids’ faces, it was a very rewarding experience.

I can’t pretend to know how long this thing is going to last or what it will look like. We’re just going to keep doing what we feel is best for our family, tightening our bonds and making memories that will last a lifetime.

Six Days at Oakwood Springs

The first thing I need to do in this post is make my intentions clear.

I learned several valuable things during my six-day stay at Oakwood Springs. I don’t question my family’s decision to take me there. I was in a terrible state of mind and needed help. I believe I’m in a good place now mentally and that’s partially a credit to my time at Oakwood Springs.

However, I do believe that we as a society have a long way to go when it comes to treating mental health issues. We’ve come a long way in the past 10 years or so but there is still a lot of ground to be made up. I believe my stay at Oakwood Springs can spotlight several of these issues, and I don’t mind sharing it. I have never been to any other mental health facilities so I can only speak to my experience at Oakwood Springs. Here goes.

As I shared in the last blog, I started showing signs of major depression/panic attack/anxiety at around 4 a.m. When it became obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to fall asleep or breathe normally, my brother took me to Oakwood Springs, arriving at about 2 p.m. Missy stayed back to pick the kids up from school and take Addie to her choir practice and Myra to her piano lesson.

By this time, I’m already on a completely sleepless night which was preceded by a night when I hardly slept. I’ve been crying for the better part of 10 hours and can’t get my breathing under control. I was in the waiting area at Oakwood Springs for two hours, then was taken back to a “consultation room.” The room was small, maybe 10 feet by 10 feet, with three chairs, bright lights, a hard floor, and a TV turned to the 90s pop music channel.

Upon entering that room, I had to surrender everything on my person, which was my wallet and my cell phone. By this time I’m actually so exhausted that I could have slept. I tried laying down on the floor but it was too hard to get any sleep. So I basically oscillated between trying but failing to fall asleep and crying/panic attacking until I was so tired I thought I might be able to fall asleep.

After a couple of hours, a woman came in and took an assessment. I told her what I was going through and she wrote it down, asked a few questions. Then she left. Another hour or so goes by. By now I am completely exhausted and very confident that I could be asleep in a matter of minutes if I could get an actual bed and some kind of anxiety drug to settle my breathing.

A different woman comes in, says she wants me to go inpatient. I ask if there’s any way I can just get a prescription and go home and sleep. She says no. She repeats that she wants me to go inpatient. She’s saying it in a way that makes me feel like I have some say in the matter, so I repeat my preference to just go home. She says, “If you don’t agree to go inpatient, we’ll have no choice but to get an emergency order of detention which essentially guarantees you’ll stay here at least seven days. If you voluntarily come in, the average stay is three days.”

I was pretty shocked. Like I said, I’ve never been to any place like this but I arrived thinking I might stay one night and then once I got some sleep I’d be able to tackle this thing properly. Every person is different but any time I’ve had depression episodes in the past they’ve become manageable once I got some sleep. This one was worse than any others I’d had, but I still felt like sleep was the main thing I needed. Now I was being given a choice between staying three days and seven days? And this is after coming in completely exhausted and having to wait in a lobby for two hours and then in a small, hard, bright room with no phone for three more hours? I said I would go in voluntarily and she said I’d have to wait in the consultation room awhile longer while my room was prepared.

Now I am way more tired than anything else. I’m also sick of the same 90s pop songs being played on a loop. These weren’t even the good 90s songs. It’s been more than an hour since I talked to the last lady. The only thing I’ve eaten all day is a granola bar. I just found out I’ll be in this place for at least three days. I only thought I was losing my mind when I walked in.

They walked me back to the Meadows unit, which has about 24 beds and is for people like me who are struggling with depression or some other kind of mental issue. However, my actual room/bed still wasn’t ready so I had to wait on a couch in a common area. I was able to grab a ham sandwich from the fridge. Other than that I just stared straight ahead like a zombie until my bed was ready, which was around 10 p.m.

I had a roommate for about 10 seconds. When I walked in and said hi, he said, “Keep to yourself and you’ll be fine.” Ummm, OK. Then he said, “I’m switching rooms. There’s a chick I like a few doors down so I’m gonna go be closer to her.” And then he was gone for good. He spent one night in his other room and then got transferred to a different unit the next day.

As I walked to my room I saw a guy nod in my direction and say, “Looks like he’s coming down off of some really good shit.” I looked in the mirror. My eyes were completely bloodshot. They gave me two pretty potent pills to help me sleep and I was out like a light despite the bed being uncomfortable, having just one small pillow (they didn’t have any more), and being looked in on every 15 minutes. (You aren’t allowed to close the door to your room.)

At 5 a.m., they woke me up to check my vitals. I went back to sleep. At 7:15 they woke me up to see if I wanted breakfast. I said no and went back to sleep. At 8 they woke me up to take my bloodwork. I went back to sleep. At 9:30 they woke me up to see the psychiatrist who would decide what drugs I’d take and when I’d get to go home. She gave me Prozac and I went back to sleep. At 10:30 they woke me up to meet with the business office.

This lady showed me a piece of paper which estimated that my stay would cost about $5000. I have insurance but it would all go towards my deductible. She said they have payment plans if I need them or they could give me a discount if I could pay it all at the time of my discharge. The cynic in me wondered if I’d get to go home earlier if I said I couldn’t afford any of it.

Really, though, this is kind of messed up, right? I’ve been in the facility for 20 hours. Two was spent in the waiting room, 5 was spent in the sleep deprivation station with crappy 90s music, and 11 was spent in a drug-induced coma. Ten minutes was spent with a doctor. I was still pretty groggy and definitely under the influence of the sleeping drugs. I’m here because I wasn’t considered to have the mental wherewithal to take care of myself. And now you’re showing me a $5k bill and asking me how I’m going to pay for it.

I was in a haze the rest of the day but I managed to eat lunch and dinner and attend the group meetings. They drugged me up again Wednesday night and I was asleep by 10 p.m. I was awoken at 2 a.m. not by a sound but by a smell. And then by the sounds. Someone was pooping in my bathroom. At first I was completely freaked out and didn’t know what to do but it turns out I got a new roommate in the middle of the night. We shared the room the rest of my stay and he was cool. But that was a weird way to get woken up.

Thursday was a typical day at Oakwood Springs. Here’s a rough outline of my schedule:

6 a.m. — Wake up and take vitals

7:30 — Breakfast

8 — Get meds

9 — Group therapy (fill out paper saying how you feel)

9: 30 — Group session (topic might be positive thinking, anger, etc.)

10:30 — Activity (art, music, game, etc.)

11:30 — Meet with psychiatrist for 10 mins

Noon — Lunch

1 p.m. — Group session

2 — Activity

3 — Free time

5 — Dinner (Overall, the food was fine. Neither bad nor good).

6 — Gym

7 — Visitation

8 — Vitals/meds

9 — Group session (fill out paper about how day went)

10 — Bed

As you can see, there are a lot of group times and virtually no 1-on-1 times. The group times were certainly valuable, but all of us were going through different things. Many of the women were in abusive relationships, so we talked a lot about that. I have the most supportive family a person could ask for.

Seeing the family was difficult. Kids aren’t allowed at the nightly one-hour visitations. There is a one-hour family visitation time on Saturdays, and the psychiatrist allowed an extra 30-minute kid visit one other day. Keep in mind that we live 30 minutes away from Oakwood so Missy drove the kids an hour so they could see me for 30 minutes.

I understand that some people’s situations might not call for family visits, but in my case I certainly could have used more time with my kids. Feelings of guilt and shame were what overwhelmed me in the first place, and now I was separated from my family for six days, facing a $5000 bill. I am extremely grateful that my mother-in-law was able to drive down from Kansas and help Missy take care of the kids while I was there. Even still, I felt worse about myself because I was racking up a huge expense for our family while not being able to contribute anything.

Another thing in short supply at Oakwood Springs was fresh air. There was a small fenced-in area where they let you go for smoke breaks three times a day. I took all of the smoke breaks even though I don’t smoke just to go outside, because that was usually the only opportunity to do so. On two of the days with nicer weather, we had an activity session in that little yard. Otherwise secondhand smoke was the closest thing to fresh air I got. I’ve never heard of fresh air being bad for anyone so I don’t see why there isn’t more access to it.

On Thursday I begged the psychiatrist to let me go home Friday, but she said I’d have to stay until Monday. Her reasoning was that I’d only been on the Prozac for two days so they wanted to see if I had any negative side effects from it. She said I could have gone home Saturday or Sunday but they don’t release anyone on the weekends so it would have to be Monday. Sure enough, nobody on our unit left on the weekend.

I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with this if it weren’t so expensive to stay there and if my wife had had any say whatsoever in this whole process. Over the course of six days I met with the psychiatrist four times for a total of 30 minutes. I met with an actual therapist once for 10 minutes. On Saturday and Sunday I met with a nurse practitioner for a total of 10 minutes. On Friday a doctor I didn’t recognize and had never met pulled me aside and asked the same five questions I was asked about 50 times per day by everybody who works there.

  1. Are you thinking of hurting yourself?
  2. Are you thinking of hurting others?
  3. How would you rate your anxiety on a scale of 1-10?
  4. How would you rate your depression?
  5. How is your medication working so far?

No big deal, except I later found out that the doctor will be billing me separately for his services, which provided no value whatsoever. That’s the only time I ever saw him, and I never even sat down. The whole encounter lasted 45 seconds. I’ll also be being billed separately from the psychiatrist and I believe the therapist. Not sure about her or the nurse practitioner but you get the point. They run around seeing all 24 people in the unit for five minutes apiece over the course of two hours and then send us a big bill after we’re done paying the big hospital bill.

Not once was Missy ever contacted by any of the doctors, and she had no way to communicate with them. Again, I understand that some people’s home situations aren’t right for a spouse to have a say on when someone goes home, but that’s not the case with me. I get no say in the matter, theoretically because I’m too unstable to make such a decision, and my wife also gets no say. They can keep you two extra days because they don’t want to release anyone on the weekend and I’m forced to just live with that and pay an extra $2000.

Just calling Missy was quite an ordeal. Of course I had no access to my cell phone. There were three land lines in the unit, for the 24 of us to share. One of them was broken about half the time. A couple of the patients were on the phone virtually every waking moment, making it hard for anyone else to make a call. I was able to sneak in short calls to Missy and my mom most every day.

Sleeping was also not ideal. The TVs were turned off at 10 but there were usually people talking or playing cards well into the night. Since you couldn’t close your door the light and the sound came right in, and the PCAs come in to check on you every 15 minutes throughout the night. Then at 5:30 a.m. they wake you up to take your vitals and people start getting up and around.

Sleep, fresh air, exercise, and communication with loved ones seem like good things for everyone, especially those dealing with mental health issues. Communication between a spouse and doctors to formulate the best plan for the patient seems like a good idea. I feel like these are simple yet significant steps that Oakwood Springs (and probably the whole mental health care system) needs to take.

Personally, once I got over the sleep deprivation, I knew I needed to find the right medicine and find a therapist to work through the issues I’ve been letting slide for far too long. Again, I certainly learned valuable things during the group sessions that will help me in the long term. But I didn’t need to be in there for six days. I honestly just didn’t. I recognized what I needed to do, which was the same things the psychiatrist said I needed to do, and I was ready to go home and start doing them. The extra time just cost me and my family money and frustration.

Again, I want to thank the PCAs at Oakwood Springs for being incredible and awesome. They all need a pay raise. I also want to thank my friends and family, who supported me at a level far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. It’s truly humbling.

So far the Prozac is working fine I suppose. Wouldn’t say I’ve noticed much benefit but I’ve only been on it for a couple of weeks and there haven’t been any side effects outside of some fatigue. I’ve also started therapy.

I’m ready to move on and write about more fun things now. Thanks for indulging me on this somber subject, maybe it will make a difference. Love y’all.

Depression II (Sequels Always Suck)

To be honest, I’d rather be writing about something else, and I look forward to doing that soon. At the same time, I know a lot of you have sent texts, prayers, encouragement and support my way. For that I am extremely humbled and grateful, and I feel like it might be helpful for you and therapeutic for me to explain what happened.

About a year ago I wrote about my occasional bouts with depression. I’m not going to repeat all of that here, but you can click on the link if you’re interested.

In that post I noted several of the triggers that always or frequently accompany my episodes. Last Monday night/Tuesday morning I checked off pretty much all of those plus a couple more, leading to the darkest time in my life so far.

No matter how illogical I knew my thinking was, I just could not overcome my feelings of guilt, self-hatred, and despair. I had no plan to kill myself, but I did wish that I could cease to exist. I felt that I was destined to die the same way my father did, whether it was that day or sometime in the future, and therefore nothing mattered. I was a terrible husband, a terrible father, a terrible human.

I couldn’t breathe, much less sleep. And sleep is what I needed more than anything. I needed someone to shoot me with horse tranquilizers and wake me up two days later. I knew this was worse than any of my other episodes, and it felt like there was no way it could end.

After keeping myself and Missy up all night, I called my brother Andrew. I didn’t want him to drive up from Norman but he was concerned so he came over. Talking to Andrew made me feel better, so when I got off the phone with him I called Chad in Missouri. That also helped but as soon as I was alone with my thoughts they went right back to that very dark place.

I knew I was extremely tired and that my thoughts weren’t logical, but after hours of hyperventilating, sleep seemed as impossible as happiness. It was just a never-ending cycle of negative thoughts about myself and my future. This basically went on uninterrupted from about 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. — 18 hours of bad thinking and crappy breathing, plus I was starting to get dehydrated from crying too much.

In the middle of that, around 1 p.m., my family decided I needed to get checked in somewhere so that I would be safe and get some sleep. They chose Oakwood Springs on the north side of Oklahoma City, so off we went.

For now I’m going to skip over what that week was like and get straight to the moral of the story. If you’re interested in what being locked up in a psych ward is like, that will be the topic of my next blog.

I learned a lot of things. Being without a cell phone and a TV for a week was a good way to reset and appreciate what really matters in life. Hearing about all the love and support my friends and family have for me was very heartwarming. It made me feel unworthy yet again but also gave me a purpose and motivation to fight through this.

It helped to be with people who had similar struggles to my own. There were about 24 beds in my unit, and basically everyone was dealing with depression on some level or another. Despite people constantly coming and going there was definitely a sense of community, and it helped to know I wasn’t the only person in the world going through this.

The staff at Oakwood Springs is amazing. I’m not talking about the doctors or therapists but the PCAs who hold the place together. They showed an amazing level of kindness, patience and love no matter what crisis was going on in the unit that day (and trust me, there’s some kind of crisis in the unit every day).

Some of the group sessions and time spent by myself thinking about those sessions taught me very valuable lessons. For one, I was able to write down all of my triggers and think logically about how those can cause me to tip over the edge. Before, I knew what my triggers were but kind of just did my best to get by until one day I didn’t. I could afford a couple of crappy, crying nights every year, but I knew I couldn’t afford another night like the one last week where I desired death for the first time. I don’t ever want to feel like that again.

I learned some small things I can do to help check those trigger levels and push them back a little. Journaling, breathing exercises, things to think/meditate on, situations to avoid, etc.

I started on a low dose of an anti-depressant. I’d never taken them before because I didn’t feel like my episodes were frequent or severe enough to warrant it, plus I’ve always been scared of the side effects. I’d still like to be completely med-free, but for now I recognize the importance of getting past this stage. So far I haven’t had any side effects to speak of.

I also started getting some therapy. In hindsight, I realize that never getting counseling after my dad died was stupid. Never getting counseling when I started having sleepless nights filled with guilt was stupid. Waiting for it to get this bad was stupid. But I’m in it now, and I’m hopeful it will help.

Again, I’m so thankful for my family and friends. I feel incredibly loved.