Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Response to a message on a web site

On the evening of May 27, 2014, I received a message from a young woman on a unique networking web site I participate in that relies on making connections through common experiences. The experience that I have in common with the woman who contacted me is a diagnosis of Dysthymia. According to her profile, she had just created her account that day:
I am 19 and i have Dysthymia. I will be 20 soon and i would like to have children in 3-5 yrs. I dont want to be dependent on medication, because if i am, i cannot have them. If i am off of meds i am crazy. I dont take them like i am supposed to. I feel like my old self (my NORMAL self) is trapped in this foreign body, trying to break free.
I was a little surprised by the message and was unsure about how to respond, though I definitely wanted to. I decided to take some time to think about what she said and reply to her the next morning. What follows is my response:
Hello, dear. 
I can appreciate your concerns about having children while medicated. My girlfriend is on anti-depressant medication as well, wants to have children and is also worried about what effects the medication would have on our baby. 
I would suggest talking to a doctor about what your options are—when the time comes. They’re going to be in a much better position to tell you what the risks are.
I’m trying to imagine what it would be like if my girlfriend were to stop taking her medication for a pregnancy. I love her very much and would definitely be there for her, support her and help her any way that I can. I would hope that when the time comes for you, if you were to go off your meds to have children, that you have someone in your life to help, comfort and support you through that time. Of course, we all hope for the ideal, to be part of a loving couple deciding to start a family. 
It’s good to remember also that antidepressants are not addictive. We certainly “depend” on them to regulate our moods and keep us emotionally balanced but, in my experience at least, I’ve never thought of my meds making me happy, just keeping me chemically balanced and allowing me to experience life’s ups and downs in a more typical fashion.
I remember when I first started taking antidepressants in the late ‘90s and they finally started to kick in. I was still in the military and I remember walking from my barracks to the administration building and thinking to myself… “I’m not sad… something’s not right… this isn’t normal… no, wait a minute… this is what normal is supposed to feel like.” 
After a while, I tried to go off of the medication, wondering if I could maintain that balanced without it… but I discovered that that simply wasn’t the case. Dysthymia is a chronic illness. It can’t be cured, just treated. So, I simply had to accept the fact that I would have to be on antidepressant medication for the rest of my life. I have since made my peace with that. I would rather have this daily routine of taking some pills first thing in the morning and living an emotionally healthy life than take my chances without them.
I’ve tried going off of my meds a few times over the years. The results weren’t pretty. I have also been hospitalized a number of times for my depression and being suicidal. Thankfully, I’ve always been able to recognize when I needed help and knew what I needed to do to get it. 
I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around what you said about feeling as though your “old self (…NORMAL self)” is “trapped in this foreign body…”
When I first read your message last night, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I knew that I would have to sleep on it and give it some more thought in the morning before I responded. 
Let me start by saying something that is trite but true: There is no such thing as “Normal.” 
There might be “typical,” “common” and “usual” but there are so many variations in lives, experiences and abilities to cope with them (helped and hindered by any number of factors from our upbringing to our use or misuse of pharmaceuticals both prescribed and/or acquired by other means) that everyone’s experiences are inherently unique.
Please consider what your “old/normal” self was: a person with an untreated illness. Of course, when we’ve lived with the illness for so long, it does become our “normal” and as human beings, we tend to find comfort in what’s familiar—even if what’s familiar isn’t pleasant or healthy—it’s what we know and it feels easier and safer to stick with an unpleasantness that’s familiar than to summon the courage to face a life with considerably less pain but is completely alien to us. 
Please don’t think of yourself as “trapped.” The real prison lies in giving in to the illness. You needn’t try to break free because you are free. This doesn’t mean that your concerns aren’t valid and worthy of being addressed but know that treating your illness is what gives you the lucidity to be aware of things that might otherwise be ignored. Would you even think about having children were you not on medication? If you were, what would your motivations be for having them compared to your present motivations? I can only speculate but it’s not unusual for people to try and “cure” their ills by having children, hoping that they will fill a hole that they feel is in their lives. Ultimately, this turns out to be a very unhealthy environment for the children. Consider that by treating one’s illness first, one’s reasons for having children would be more about bringing into the world a new generation of individuals to live their own lives and not existing for the sole purpose of addressing the “needs” of their parents. 
I’m not suggesting that that is your motivation for having children. I just want you to understand that by treating your illness first—taking care of yourself—you’ll be a better caregiver and mother to your children. 
Thank you for contacting me and sharing your experience and concerns with me. I really appreciate making this connection with you and I hope that I’ve been able to say something here that’s been helpful.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

I've been working

May 21, 2014
Salt Lake City, Utah
Hi Dad,

I got your message when you called. Sorry it’s taken me so long to
get back to you. I’ve been pretty busy.

I worked on that movie I told you about for two weeks as a
Production Assistant. It was really hard work because we were trying to
complete about a month’s worth of work in about 12 days. I remember
saying to someone on set, “I wish my Dad could see how much physical
labor is involved in making movies.” You have to move around a lot of
heavy equipment like large lights and various metal stands, set them up
for the shot, adjust them, take them apart and then move them to the next

We were filming in Brighton near the ski resort so we also had to
contend with the snow which meant shoveling and we were also doing a
lot of work outside so we were hiking through the snow as well, again,
carrying equipment from place to place.

There was one scene that we were filming were our actors from
Los Angeles had to race in the snow. Well, since the change in elevation
between L.A. and Brighton was around 8,000 feet, it was really hard for
them to run and they got tired very easily. One thing that I noticed as the
crew moved to the new location was that nobody remembered to bring
water with them. So I grabbed some bottles of water, put them in my
coat pockets and made my way to the set. When I got there, the director
was still telling the actors what he wanted them to do so I stood by and
as soon as the director was done giving his instructions, I said to the
actors, “Gentlemen, I’ll be standing by with bottles of water for you as
soon as the director says cut.”

Since this was a relatively small production, I basically took it
upon myself to take care of the actors whenever I could. Checking on
them to see if they needed water, something to eat or something carried.
I also usually have some chap stick with me and I heard one of the actors
behind me say, “I need some chap stick.” I turned around, reached into
my pocket and brought out a new chap stick and said, “I’ve got you
covered.” He was very grateful for that.

It was a rough couple of weeks but I’m really proud of the work
we did and what we accomplished in that time.

My girlfriend, Danica, and I have been going to church together
and trying our best to have a regular monthly temple date. We usually go
to the Bountiful Temple. We also have dinner with her parents from time
to time and try to have Family Home Evening together.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been organizing a lot of
papers, photographs and other items that I’ve collected over the years.
It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I hope that I can
show it to you some time. As I went through boxes of things I’ve held
onto since I was a little kid, I started to sort them out and organize them
according to the different places we lived and how old I was. Most
everything is now organized in binders and pretty much sums up my life
from when I was born to my time in the Navy. I still have to organize the
things I have from the last 15 years.

A lot of this organizing is with an eye toward my future with
Danica. We’ve been talking about getting married—though I haven’t
officially proposed yet—and I’m basically reorganizing my apartment
and my life to make room for her. We already spend so much time
together that there won’t be too many surprises for us in the long run. I’ll
be sure to let you know when I pop the question and what our plans will
be after that.

Take care!



Joseph L. Puente

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Having something to say...

March 26, 2014
Salt Lake City, Utah
Dear Dad,

When we last talked on the phone, you said something that stuck with me. You said that, "We don't have much to say to each other."

I don't think that's true. I think we have a lot to say to each other. We've just never been good at actually saying it.

You've always said that you came into the world from the ground up and I came into it from the sky down. That's why we don't really understand each other. I've come to accept this as a defining characteristic of our relationship but that never meant that I liked it. Whenever I told people about how you described us, I would always add that, "I hope we'll meet somewhere in the middle."

I remember growing up that I didn't much care for working outside. But when I came to live with you in 2001-2002, I actually enjoyed the opportunity to help you with things like mending fences and making that Fathers Day video about you when you were cutting grass for the goats with your scythe.

When I had the opportunity to help my friend Sandy with projects around her house, like building her chicken coop, I told her that I have you to thank for all the things I had learned from you in being able to build it. I'm so glad that you got to see it when you and Gayle came to visit in 2012.

I guess if there's something that I really want to say to you, it's this: I want you to be proud of me.

I want you to know that I work really hard at what I do. That my efforts are noticed and I've built a good reputation in the Utah film community. I want you to understand that making movies, whether I'm acting or working on the set, isn't easy. It's hard work and me and my colleagues put in a lot of time and energy to do what we do.

But, most importantly, I want you to know that it's what makes me happy.

That little movie that I made about you is one that I'm very proud of and I've shown it to a lot of people and they really like it.

I showed it to my girlfriend, Danica. And I'm glad that you got to meet her. I love her very much and she's an important part of my life. And she loves me and is very supportive of the work that I do. She makes me happy. We make each other happy.

I got a phone call yesterday from a movie producer. I'm being hired to work on a film for the next couple of weeks. It will be about 12 days and probably 12+ hour days. I'm getting paid over $100 per day and I'm looking forward to paying off some debts with this money.

I hope things are going well for you. I'm glad that you're keeping busy and enjoying your time at your new place and that they have things for you to do there.

I hope you and Gayle can come down and visit me and Danica in Salt Lake City. I would love for you to meet her family.

I'll be in touch.

I love you.

Your son,


Joseph L. Puente

Friday, March 14, 2014

E-mail to a magazine editor


My name is Joe Puente and I’m friends with [Jeff]. [Jeff] and I had a conversation the other day and he mentioned that [your magazine] may be in need of a film writer.

I’ve been writing for most of my life and have been published in a few Utah publications including the Sanpete Messenger in Sanpete County (where I first met [Jeff]  and Junction Magazine out of Ogden. I have a number of blogs that I maintain (some more regularly than others) and I’ve written a number of screenplays (some of which have also been produced). I recently published an essay titled “Movie Ratings, Mormonism and Morality” which is available through a number of online ebook distributors including Amazon’s Kindle Store and Apple’s iBooks Store.

As a filmmaker, I’m fairly connected to the local film industry and independent filmmaking community and would be able to write... articles profiling local filmmakers and film-related organizations as well as locally produced films. I’d also be interested in writing reviews of films and attending local events and festivals... if tickets and passes could be provided.

I live in downtown Salt Lake City and would like an opportunity to meet with you and discuss this further. Feel free to contact me... anytime, day or night.

Thank you.

-Joseph L. Puente
Writer, Actor, Filmmaker