Hello, everybody. Johnny Caps here. It's been a few months since I wrote an article for the 80sxchange, but I'm back. I was originally going to write about Peter Gabriel's song Don't Give Up as part of an article about the 35th anniversary of his album So. I eventually came to realize, though, that my relating to this song would take up much of such a tribute, so I decided instead to make it an article on its' own. As you'll come to see, the message of this song came back into my life time and again throughout the past 25 years.
First, a bit of background. In the early months of 1995, I had asked my dad to buy me a copy of Peter Gabriel's So on cassette as I didn't have a CD player at this time. My dad agreed, and I really came to love the album. My dad was big into classic rock, and that would impact a lot of my early musical tastes. Unfortunately, 1995 took a dark turn on April 3rd of that year. That was the day my dad died of a heart attack on the way to his job in the city. So was one of the last albums my dad would get for me, and Don't Give Up is a song I would end up returning to time and again.
A duet with Kate Bush, Don't Give Up is a song with a very important message. Written in response to the economic uncertainties of Thatcher's England, and by extension, Reagan's America, this is a song that has since come to be applied to all sorts of battles of all sorts of people. Whether they're fighting depression, disease or other hardships, I've read of how so many people have turned to Don't Give Up as a song to get them through dark times. For me, depression and fear ruled my life in the 90s, 00s, and the first two years of the New 10s. I needed reassurance and support, but I didn't really have much of either.
I could relate to Peter Gabriel's vocals, lyrics about a man who felt like he had no place in the world. As for the people who represented Kate Bush's vocals and lyrics, I didn't really have them in the 90s, apart from my elementary school teacher, Mrs. Pinglora, and her aide, Ms. Glickstein. Although my last year being taught by them was a difficult one, I was able to reestablish my bonds with them once I went to middle school. I would regularly visit the elementary school for years afterwards to talk to them. This was back in the days when you could do such a thing if you weren't a student any longer. Those rules changed in the 00s, but thankfully, I have social media as a way to keep in touch with my support system. Although I lost touch with Ms. Glickstein, Mrs. Pinglora remains a trusted friend and supporter who has seen the changes I've made, and is proud of them.
When it comes to the following decade, the supporters who stand out the most, at least for the 00s, are my friends Lisa and Ruthie.
I met Lisa on another 80s website I used to contribute to from 2002 to 2006. The effects of my autism spectrum disorder angered a lot of people on that message board, but Lisa was one of the few people who saw the pain I was feeling. Frequent discussion of the 90s on this 80s website unnerved me as the 90s was a bad decade for me, and I didn't see how anybody could be nostalgiac for it. While there were things Lisa liked about the 90s, she was one of the only people who could see beyond the words into the pain I was carrying. I kept in touch with her after I left that 80s website, and she's been one of my strongest allies for the past decade-and-a-half or so. I call her my big sister because she's both young enough and old enough to be so, and because I could always turn to her for help, even when I couldn't rely on family, or at least thought I couldn't.
As to Ruthie, she served in several management capacities at my retail job from the mid-00s to the mid-New-10s. She was always very supportive of me. She understood the issues I was up against, and even when I behaved in ways that would've justified firing me, she was firmly in my corner and never had a bad word to say about me. I didn't have a lot of friends at the store, but I could always turn to her if I was having a rough time. I had to deal with a lot of people giving me grief for various things, most notably being scared by the 9/11 attacks into going against my true political beliefs and being a one-issue voter against my interests from 2004 to 2012. While Ruthie didn't vote for the people I did, she was more polite and respectful to me than most of my coworkers, and even many of my family members, were. Although she left the store several years back, I keep in touch with her on Facebook, and she remains supportive of me and my writing.
You may be thinking, "Okay, you had teachers and online friends and managers in your corner and telling you don't give up, but what about your family? Was there anybody in your family who told you not to give up?". Well, yes, there were, but my mom was not one of those people. Being widowed by my father at her age of 44 led her to fall in with a new group of single friends, and in turn, she fell off the wagon, relapsing into alcoholism. Her substance abuse issues would gradually be taken out on me as the effects of my autism spectrum disorder, a disorder diagnosed during a stay in a mental hospital almost 25 years ago, made themselves known.
The chief example of this came through my difficulty in having difficulty understanding figurative language and having trouble understanding things like irony, teasing and sarcasm, all of which were part of my mom's sense of relating to the world. I was bullied a lot online in my late teens and throughout my 20s for various things, and my mom had no sympathy for me. For example, when I would be made fun of on the message board I befriended Lisa on for being offended by the usage of the words "cheesy" and "corny" to describe the pop culture of the 1980s, for example, my mom would say, "They're only words. You don't know these people". She didn't know that we revealed much about ourselves in our forum posts and our writings for these websites. To her, I was the bad guy for being offended.
Another example was that, in the last year of her life, a user had come to RetroJunk, my previous writing base, who had two accounts on there. Under one account, this user wrote articles and offered encouraging words to other writers. Under their second account, they didn't write articles, but instead offered withering and venomous critiques of those who did write articles. This user eventually started picking on me for saying positive things about other people's articles. They even said I was lying to other people about the quality of their articles, and that really hurt, especially as most of the writers who had written works I praised either didn't defend me against the accusations of lying when I was only stating my opinion, or at most said we both had valid points.
Nobody outright defended me, and so I did give up on commenting on other people's writings. I gave up because I felt I had nobody in my corner, and even writers I made friends with on there seemed more likely to cast their lot with the critic than with me. My mom, though, didn't have any sympathy for me at all. She would storm into the computer room when cyber-bullying upset me on this website and say, "OFF THE INTERNET, OFF THE INTERNET, ALL GOD'S CHILDREN ARE OFF THE INTERNET!". She would say, "It's a beautiful day" in several different tones of voice as a way of saying you can't tell what a person means just by their words, but I wasn't being told, “It’s a beautiful day”. I was being called a liar and, by other users, “a proper mongoloid” and “gay” (years before I identified as aromantic) and “an ignorant Aspie F-bomb” (the four-letter word one as we're not allowed to curse on this website).
Between trouble at work, trouble online, and a troubled personal life, I was feeling very depressed. I felt like I had no one to rely on, and my mom didn’t help matters. Sometimes she would mock my depression and self-loathing in a voice reminiscent of the school bullies who made my life hell from 1989 to 2001. Other times I would call her on her BS, and she would make a grand, dramatic, sarcastic and fake apology, getting on her knees, pounding her chest and shrieking in Latin. One time near the end of her life, when I talked about how depressed I felt, my mom wanted me to give it up, and she did so by pulling a knife out of the kitchen drawer, pointing it at me, and screaming for me to kill myself.
My brother has defended that action on multiple occasions, but although I love my brother, I don’t love him defending that. As depressed as I was, I wasn’t suicidal. I wasn’t going to give up. My life may have sucked at the time, but I knew that suicide was a permanent solution to temporary problems. Still, my mom pulling a knife on me and screaming for me to kill myself, compounded by other forms of abuse over the last decade of her life, from pounding on my head with her fists to grabbing me by my shirt collar while she was driving to prove a point in a political argument to chucking a remote control at me and telling me not to tell anyone she did that, made me feel like I didn’t have any allies in my immediate family.
I did have the pop culture of the 80s, though, and time and again I would return to Don't Give Up. The song always managed to cheer me up and inspire me. If I caught heat from a family member, I would listen to the song. If I was treated poorly at work, I would pull it up on YouTube. If I was being cyber-bullied, Don't Give Up was always there to shine a message of hope.
While I did give up on leaving comments on articles on RetroJunk, I never stopped writing. Although I stopped writing for RetroJunk in 2013, I continued writing by making the jump to Pop Geeks in January of 2014. The interviews I started on RetroJunk and continue to do for Pop Geeks connected me to many amazing celebrities, and many of those stars have become dear friends and allies.
One of them is Kimmy Robertson, who played Lucy Moran on Twin Peaks and was active in the 80s in projects as diverse as The Last American Virgin and The Little Mermaid. I first interviewed Kimmy in 2016, and we developed a bond that's led us to call each other every week to talk to each other. Kimmy has given me a lot of great advice and support, and she's one of the biggest boosters of my writing. Whenever I have a tough weekend at work, I can always call Kimmy and she'll offer me some supportive words to make me feel better.
Another talent who has become a dear friend and trusted advisor is Kim Hopkins. She appeared in classic 80s comedies like The Hollywood Knights and Cheech and Chong's Next Movie, and after publishing an interview with her for Pop Geeks in 2020, we became fast friends. As the early months of our friendship coincided with the early months of coronavirus, Kim, an expert in health and wellness, has been my point woman on how to deal with the current pandemic. If I ever have any questions about how to approach the ever-changing conditions of our current chaos, Kim always has great advice for me.
Those are just two of the many stars who began as talents I've interviewed and have ended up as dear friends who always have a kind word for me. Closer to home, though, in 2019 I reestablished a relationship with my uncle Eddie, aunt Gail, and their daughters, my cousins Erica and Ashley. The impetus for this reconciliation after some years of distance was the fact that my Uncle Eddie, the younger brother of my mom, was abused by her as well. We had a one-on-one lunch in 2019, and we related to each other the hardships we dealt with at my mom's/his sister's hands. This led me to ask if I could spend Christmas at his house. In the Christmas season of 2019, I did. Shortly after that, I would make exceptions for my rule of no family as friends on Facebook by adding all four of them to my friends list. They've become great friends again ever since, and they always have kind and supportive words for me.
Finally, I have to give credit to my psychologist Randi and the psychiatrists of Garnet Health for putting me on the path to the happy and hopeful person I am today. I started seeing Randi in 2011 when my brother and several other people felt I needed help in the wake of my mom's passing in 2010. Previous psychologists I'd seen had no clue about the ins and outs of my autism spectrum disorder. Randi did, though, and although the first few months were very rough, I gradually started listening to Randi, and she started listening to me. Over the course of the next few years, I started to change my outlook on life and on the world. The decision I made on my 30th birthday in 2012 to approach life in a new way was helped greatly by Randi's advice. Now in 2021, I have no intentions of giving up on life. I'm going to ride it out until it rides me out the natural way.
As to the psychiatrists of Garnet Health, they may not have always had the best bedside manner, but they did finally get me on the right mix of medications to deal with my autism spectrum disorder and my depression. A decade ago, although I wasn't suicidal, I did feel hopeless. I had the feeling that things were only going to get worse. Thanks to getting on the right mix of medications, though, I'm feeling a lot better about myself and about others. The idea of giving up the hope of being happy seemed to be my destiny a decade ago, but now I have so much to live for, and I'm excited for the possibility of what can happen next.
I still listen to Don't Give Up, but now after over a quarter-of-a-century of rollercoaster highs and lows, I've fully absorbed the message of the song:
"Don't give up, you still have us...
Don't give up, you still have friends...
Don't give up, you're not beaten yet...
Don't give up, we're proud of who you are".
I am so lucky and blessed to have the gift of writing and the gift of a support system that expands all over. From my family to friends I've made online to Hollywood stars of all kinds, I've developed an amazing network of people, all of whom tell me, with their words and actions, don't give up. There's no way I will.