Bite Me, Depression

Oh hello, Depression. Old pal. (Frenemy, more like). It is so you to swoop in from nowhere and casually drop kick me into the nearest gutter, then sadistically watch as I try to wiggle my way onto my feet.

Depression, you are the most slippery semi-ghost ever. The only thing I’m entirely sure of is that the bouncer that is supposed to guard my brain wants to roughly escort you out the back door. Banish you from the club. Only 17 years of therapy has taught me that even the most muscular, broad-shouldered, bad-ass tattooed and persuasive thoughts can’t force you to leave. No. I have to talk about you. Write about you. Cry about you. Talk and talk and talk some more about you. Until you begin to back up and away from me.

I cherish that moment. When I feel you leaving. Yet I also know you will return. Whenever you’ve accrued enough miles or points or whatever.

My oh my, I nearly forgot! I wrote you a farewell letter. In my dreams, I hand this to you as I fake kiss both of your checks– all classy and European-like.

Dear Depression,

It’s been a real blast. I mean, just a hoot! Therefore, I thought it only polite to inform you of my schedule. Not a super big fan of your drop-in visits.

Anyway, Depression, I have plans. They don’t include you. Where I currently don’t have plans, I plan to make plans. And the holidays? I’m simply booked! So sorry. You will have to find another brain to crash.

Fuck you very much,

Your former host

p.s. Enjoy your flight. I ordered you the meat and cheese meal, because word on the street is that you are now vegan. Blast! I got that mixed up, didn’t I? I’m usually so organized! I can’t imagine what went wrong. Wait… you came in and messed with my seratonin and stuff. Oh well, smooches!

I have many unhealthy coping mechanisms but I don’t count self-deprecating humor among them. Laughter adds minutes to your life. True story! More minutes than smoking cigarettes takes away, provided you figure out the proper ratio (I totally made that up).

Sincerely though… If I’m laying on the funny real thick, it is because life feels decidedly unfunny. But it’s more than that. I am a bit depressed.

I’ve “officially” battled, beat down and managed depression since the death of my father. I was 21. I put “officially” in quotes, for that’s when I was diagnosed. I now believe I struggled with the mood disorder for the majority of my formative years.

Part of me says whatevs, no biggie. Depression? I got this!

Ha! That is some weak bullshit, plus, my motives are fucked up. I long for you to see me as healthy and evolved and at peace within. But for real? The elephant’s not only in the room, I am riding him. Denial is impossible. And you know what? That is a blessing. An unexpected gift. I hop off the elephant.

So, what happens next? I do what I know and start where I am. Which is where I left off with a friend. I texted him that I was skidding on a rough patch, traction unattainable. His reply– the words he wrote, along with the questions he posed–first prompted, then compelled me, to blog. Another blessing. A kindness, really. Not because he said what I wanted to hear. That isn’t his style. No, I became moved and motivated to blog as soon as I broke the scary seal that silences depression. The fear depression feasts upon. The isolation that sustains depression.

Sure, now my nerve endings are hanging out of my guts, on display for all to see (which reminds me– Happy (belated) Halloween). Nevertheless, I’d rather withstand the discomfort of raw nerves than continue to kick it with Depression.

Humor is my personal Yellow Brick Road (Also, I heart ruby red shoes so much, it hurts). Trying to make others giggle? Belly laughing my own self? Not everyone celebrates, appreciates or even understands this… In turn, I don’t get those people. When I am in it– it being depression–I’m a combo platter of numb, angry, reactive, avoidant, scared, irritable, lonely and sad. Pick any day and it looks a bit different. One thing that’s consistent, however, is the impact of the funny. It wakes me up. It quites down the negative self talk. It knocks unproductive rumination off its endless loop.

The point is, a coping mechanism need not be “bad.” Drugs, booze, sex, sleeep, work? The coping mechanisms of choice for many. They are also avoidance techniques, and while I’ve not tried them all, I have dabbled enough to know that they take whatever’s got you by the nuts and stuff it down and shut it out. Trouble is, the brain’s going to return those files as soon as possible. Just like you can’t easily delete documents from your hard drive, thoughts don’t stay politely tucked away in the folds of your mind for long.

Humor isn’t avoidance and laughter does all sorts of positive things for the body, mind and spirit. It can provide temporary relief and serve as a minor distraction. It can help you reconnect with other human being. But it doesn’t prevent me from feeling my feelings. I feel them. I try to honor them in the absence of judgment. I work hard to correctly identify my feelings. (That might sound inane but I still confuse “hurt” and “anger.”) Then, ideally, there’s the release of feelings, done in such a way so as to minimize collateral damage. Not a fan of roadkill.

It’s one fucking tall order. I do it perfectly imperfectly. Most days, I have to give myself permission to feel. When I am emotionally labile, I struggle with both pinning down my feelings and expressing them honestly, maturely and appropriately. Letting go? I keep a white-knuckle grip on my negative feelings. I am unclear as to whether that’s a defense mechanism or what. (Another mechanism for a future blog post. Neat!)

I don’t have a clever wrap for this piece. What I keep thinking, however, is that I am extraordinarily fortunate. I live in a time and culture where I don’t have to keep this to myself. There’s stigma and discrimination–no doubt–but there’s also education and advocacy. Like-minded peeps. And their stories too. If there’s even the chance that one iota of a teensy drop of good can come from my experience, then the rest can fall behind.

Thank you for reading, hearing and supporting. Always.

And so, with all of the light and love in my heart to yours…

Peace.

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Don’t Tell Me How (A.k.a. Let Me Get There)

… I am sitting, here, laptop upon, well, lap, and I feel strange. Awkward. Like a teenager whose limbs have grown too long for her body. Only that’s not something I have ever experienced. I am short. Compact. Fun size. Me and my limbs– simpatico. Except for my right leg, which is 1/4 inch shorter than my left. Making me, effectively, crooked. That’s annoying. That will never not be annoying.

Crookedness is not why I am super out of sorts tonight though. I am off because I am feeling too much. My jaw is clenched, which signals anxiety and worry. My brain is dragging, indicating sadness. My hands are restless, which usually happens when I feel pulled in too many directions. All of this is wrapped in a thin sheath of F**k Off! Which makes me a Conundrum Roll. And that really, really makes me want some sushi. But aside from happy hour sushi, it’s not an adult or prudent expense. AHHH!

I am practicing sitting in this mishmash. I am agonizing over these uncomfortable emotions because this is apparently the path to peace. Which is utter crap. Why? Because IT SUCKS. I’ve nothing but fists of rage for those who claim “letting go” is the “easy part.” Nothing about death, loss and grief is easy. Yes, I know (and actually very much love) the teachings of Buddha: suffering is optional. Only–in my estimation–there’s a time where pain and suffering are utterly intertwined. And, sincerely, bless those who can pry them apart and isolate the suffering so as to eradicate it. I wish I possessed such wisdom and grace.

Seriously. Have you ever have that dream? The one where you’re clinging to the side of a cliff? On the edge of a dangerous precipice? About to fall off a building? I remember a kid in middle school telling me that if you had a nightmare in which you’re about to die, and you actually die, you actually really do die. As in don’t wake up. I hit her in the face with a four-square ball. But that was mostly  ’cause she dissed my four-square game and made fun of my sister (NO ONE made fun of my sister… except me). Plus, this girl called me “moley.” I have moles. So what? Jerk.

I think letting go does feel a lot like daring to die. There’s the sensation of maybe something will catch me. But there’s also that unspeakable terror of what if there’s fucking nothing there? What if this is this one time I do release my grip, uncurl my fingers, close my eyes and drop… and there is no net (proverbial or otherwise)? What then? That alone is enough for me to lock my jaw (not all bad–means a visit to my super cute TMD doc and physical therapy involving hot towels and a neck massage), grab onto anyone (enter every man I’ve ever dated) and dig my heels in so hard that they snap. Letting go? Not something I can just “do.” Massive props to those who can. But I beg you– please don’t tell me how to do it. I think that’s like trying to tell someone how to swim without ever actually getting in the water. Academically and theoretically plausible but practically useless.

I just realized I sound angry. I am not. I am just being honest. My shrink and I spend a lot, and I mean A LOT, of time talking about how I find it so damn hard to be truthful (in the context of disagreeing with others) because I equate it with being mean. And if I am “mean,” I am a bad person. And he is correct. I often feel like I am a terrible human being. I devote so much energy to pleasing you. Him. Her. Them. I always have. Thing is, it no longer sits right with me. Or I no longer sit right with it, I should say. I cannot stop squirming.

Mostly, I am trying to figure out how to be okay with lil’ ole, fun-size me. At 39. I’d say that’s pathetic but that’s far too conveniently self deprecating. I know that’s the product of my upbringing, low self esteem and continually putting myself in situations that reinforce the following sentiment: I am a piece of shit.

But let’s talk about earlier tonight. When I was driving west to see my sister. As I passed the exit ramp to his mother’s house, I began to think about my love who passed away almost two years ago. Two years to the day on the 14th. Only I lied. Sorry. I think about him more often than not. I wasn’t just reminded by some geographic location. And that’s a classic example of me. I minimize. Because I don’t want to make you uncomfortable. Or maybe I don’t want to feel uncomfortable at the idea, the possibility, that I may have made you uncomfortable. Man, I am so tired of me.

I used to wish him away. Will him to vacate my mind. Pray to forget. Then I’d be riddled with horrendous guilt. I couldn’t NOT remember. Now… well… I miss him. I am pissed he is dead. It hurts. Tremendously. I am sad. Frequently. But I no longer hate that I can still smell him. Or hear his laugh. Or feel how it was to sit next to him in my car, on a long road trip. But I have also learned that it won’t stay. Just like I am aware it will never, ever leave. It’s woven into my blanket. As it should be. It is both awful and wonderful. And I can’t explain that to someone who’s not experienced an unexpected, tragic loss any better than I can teach a landlubber to swim.

Back to tonight. As I was driving out to see my sister, a certain song came on. And I began to cry. This song always makes me cry. Lately I’ve just skipped past it. Nope, not hearing that. Tonight, though…tonight, I let it play all the way through. And I cried. The sun was shining and I kept crying. Ugly, snot-producing tears. I didn’t steel myself and open the windows and push it off. I cried. And cried and cried. Did it feel good? Not even a little. Was it healing? Not in the moment. Did it feel like “letting go”? No. It was painful. It was exhausting. At the same time, the sun kept shining and the song kept playing, and this… for this first time since he died, really, this…this thought took over. He fucking would not want this for me. No way. And that, maybe that I can trust. That sort of feels real to me.

I don’t know if this post will make sense to anyone other than me. Perhaps it’s not all that important that it does. It’s the first time in ages that I’ve allowed myself to write, uncensored. Plus, a dear friend told me the other day that he checks my website every week to see if I’ve written. Despite the fact that it’s been months and months. Bless you, dude. And thank you. You are at least 78 percent of the reason why I posted this tonight. Rusty pipes, squeaky wheels, whatever.

And so, as always (for maybe some things needn’t change), all the light and love in my heart, to yours.

Peace.

 

 

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Did You Notice We Are the Only Ones Rockin’ Out to “Hard Habit To Break”?

I could begin with the standard I haven’t written in _____ amount of days. I feel _____ about that. Life is really _____ right now. So sorry. Blah blah blah.

But enough with the blanket mea culpas. You know? Every person, every moment, every thing, always in flux. Life gets bananas. Insert whatever you like, wherever you want. That came out sort of wrong. As in dirty. Ha.

Anyway, I could also proceed with the laundry list of shit that’s ensued since I last blogged. How I’ve been wronged. Cheated. Lied to. Only I am bored by the negative. Sincerely. BORED. And I don’t even believe in boredom as anything other than a human-made, self-sustained construct.

Bored and tired. You see, I’ve come to realize that actively maintaining anger and/or sadness is exhausting. And like everyone, particularly as we age a tad, the energy is finite. I am trying to redirect. Which also requires effort. Yet it seems to pay off twentyfold and provide some kind of rebound vivacity.

I suppose it’s also significant, and important to mention, that I am no longer depressed. Or anxious. Certainly there are moments. Hours. Yet in general, my mood has leveled at a place I find pleasing. Not numb. Not high. Please repeat after me: SSRIs and SNRIs are not happy pills. I am steady.

Before I really get into the point of this post, allow me to illustrate the above with a little tale. Let’s call it, “Sometimes I don’t pay attention to the red flags smacking me in the face and then I get all surly and weepy about it… only tonight not so much.” It’s not a good title. It’s not a grammatically correct title. It’s stream of consciousness because that’s all this particular narrative deserves.

There once was a very sad woman, with a sad, sad heart and super sad eyes. She was sad because she had endured a great deal of loss. Heartache. Death. It all seemed so unfair. Alas, after a time, she set her super sad eyes on a new guy. It didn’t go so well. Then it appeared to pick up momentum, only there were these giant yellow triangles positioned like yield signs, stating, in no uncertain terms, “I don’t want a relationship.” The sad woman, with the sad, sad heart and super sad eyes, knew these signs well. Because her entire romantic life had been one constant rotary. Around and around and around she drove. Plenty of opportunities to exit the perpetual, fruitless, stupid roundabout. Many a traffic cop, waiving her over in rabid fervor. Ignorance. Yes. Bliss? No.

Only things started to shift. And with hard work helped by the crawling of time, the sad woman, with the sad, sad heart and super sad eyes, wasn’t so, well, sad. And then, one day, she hit the curb of the rotary in her new car (with sweet alloy wheels). And although not necessarily voluntarily, that momentum forced her toward some semblance of reality. Holy shit, she thought. What have I been doing? Why have I been driving around and around and around? I don’t want to drive around and around and around. I love my car, but I do not want to drive around and around and around. What is the matter with me? And with that, she exited the traffic circle, closed the door, deleted the number.

THE END.

You see, boys and girls, there is such a thing as happily ever after. Even in such fraught times. It just requires a little self awareness… and getting off the fucking rotary before you get maimed.

And then there’s a thing called an Earth, Wind & Fire/Chicago concert. Now I don’t just mean an Earth, Wind & Fire performance immediately followed by that of Chicago. Hells no. I am talking about twenty dudes on stage, some in bellbottoms and sequins, others in dark suits and white shirts with silly popped-up collars, singing, dancing, pounding the drums, and playing the horns. Then over an hour of solo Earth, Wind & Fire. Then over an hour of solo Chicago. Then all together again for six songs. Epic.

The highlights of the night were threefold for me. 1) I realized my sister has me beat on the lyrics to most Chicago songs. 2) When Chicago played “Hard Habit To Break,” my sister and I loudly belted it out, holding nothing back, cheesy arm gestures and all. Identical cheesy arm gestures and all. Unplanned. Unrehearsed. To boot, she then turned to me and asked, Did you notice we are the only ones rockin’ out to “Hard Habit To Break”? Does no one else love it like we do? 3) We were part of a small handful of people in our section who stood up and danced to the Earth, Wind & Fire/Chicago combo versions of “September” and “25 or 6 to 4.” I don’t dance. Ever. EVER. But it didn’t matter. ‘Cause it had to be done.

And so tonight, a massive shout out, and all the love I got, to my sister. My big sister who still knows how to get down and holler out a tune, and who rocks velour pants and shoes like no one else. Also, and equally, epic.

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

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That Was Quick: A.k.a. Irony Is Real

I have a genuinely fresh story for you. Already! In case you missed it, my last post was intended to be, well, my last post. For a while anyway.

But here we are. Hello. It’s me. Ha.

(None of that was ironic, by the by.)

I wish I had a massive a-ha moment to share. Or something wicked exciting. Alas, I didn’t win big. I haven’t fallen deeply in love. My dog isn’t magically home from puppy heaven. But I have that almost unfamiliar yet deeply embedded drive to blog. So I am going with it.

(We still haven’t gotten to irony. Wait for it. Please.)

I think this writing fervor is partially due to a recent and intense binge watching of Jessica Jones. Peppered with sleep deprivation. And the deliberate choice to step back from work and allow myself just a hint of disorganization. I’ve not dismissed the possibility that I never truly wanted to stop writing… I merely had to make a grand declaration of “being stuck” and needing to “unstick” so that I could exhale and let the edges do their natural thing. You know, turn and twist a bit. Like wallpaper before you peel it off. What can I say? I go to extremes. You know who else goes to extremes? Billy Joel. (Yes, I was subjected to too much Billy Joel karaoke over the weekend. It’s cool; I will be okay.)

I suspect the proverbial kick in the pants, however, was hearing someone else call me a “victim” today.

Allow me to clarify before we go any further. Legally, I am probably a victim. You see, after months of dealing with an incompetent and predatory student loan servicer, I learned that I am most likely the victim of identity theft.

Cue up the laugh track… because there’s the beginning of irony. Someone stealing my identity?

But this isn’t a sitcom like That ’70s Show. Which is too bad… I do enjoy me some bell-bottom, corduroy pants. I seriously dig disco, funk, and soul music. A moment for Maurice White. R.I.P., sir. The love is not gone. Let’s groove, indeed. And I was born in September. Earth, Wind & Fire will play on my Bose wireless, loudly, until my neighbors with a small child come a knockin’.

Back to what’s ironic. It’s really threefold. 1) I painted a former coworker, a woman who took extra precautions regarding using the Internet or ever providing one’s Social Security number, a “conspiracy theorist.” Really, her truth is more accurate than my ignorance. 2) I used to seriously joke that I never had to worry about identity theft. Not after an intense period of severe financial distress and consequences. My FICO score is–after almost two years of hard work on my part–on the low end of “fair.” I know this because I spent hours pouring over credit reports last night. Some ass clown used my numbers to accrue even more student loan debt. And open a line of credit. And try to collect unemployment benefits. I did not see this coming. If my dad was still around, I do believe he’d shrug his shoulders and tell me, Well, the egg’s on you. 3) I bawled about this on the phone with a friend about 24 hours ago. He is a candid, truthful fellow. Sometimes entirely insensitive. I know this. Yet I think I really craved his particular brand of honest around this issue. He listened to me for a while, then, as expected, pointed out that while it “fucking sucks,” I am and will be okay. Not touchy feely but correct. You see, after sleeping on it (meaning not sleeping at all), I made calls to verify my suspicions. Then I did some digging around. Finally, I connected with advocates. Persons who could help me determine the best course of action. After that, I was no longer a victim. No. I was empowered. And more than that, I was super grateful. I remain super grateful.

And that, there? That is the greatest irony of all. I am, by definition, a victim in this instance. But I don’t feel like one. For the first time in years, I don’t feel like a victim. I am not lost in self pity. I am not stuck on the perennial, Why? I am not pouring myself into a bottle of wine. I am also not seeking approval. I am not blogging for validation. It’s not important that you “like” my writing. It’s more about sharing what’s going on because I know there are many who can and do relate to this situation. I also recognize how much it can help to hear another voice. Because the sensation of being alone in something–even when you know you are not alone–makes it unbearably lonely as well.

I am no Jessica Jones. (Sigh.) I cannot bend iron bars like Twizzlers. I will never be able to sort-of fly/jump onto a building. Shit, Krysten Ritter’s skinny legs are longer than my entire body. (Sigh, again.) But fuck that. My nickname in high school was–and I offer this to make a point, fully aware that it’s super lame–Scrappy. Like Scrappy-Doo. Scooby-Doo’s nephew or whatever. Anyway, I was Scrappy because I did stuff like hit my opponents’ shins super hard with my field hockey stick. Moment of honesty: clearly I should have played ice hockey. A sport in which you do not get removed from the game for being a tad aggressive. But I can’t skate. Not at all. I fall down. It’s really bad.

I think I gave up scrappiness. Maybe I dropped it. Don’t know. Don’t care. No one said I can’t pick it back up at thirty something. To boot, I now have an arsenal at my disposal. A freaking incredible education. Tons of painful life experience. An ever-stubborn disposition (for which I thank my mother). And a bizarrely enduring sense of humor (a shout-out to my dad for that).

I also have people. Many, many people. Some I know well and love furiously. My family. My friends. Others I’ve never met. Employees of government agencies and non-profit organizations who are going to bat for me, over the wire. And somewhere in between are my colleagues and coworkers. Professionals with far more wisdom and perspective than I expect I will ever possess. They remind me that throwing around the “I am an attorney” card is generally not the way to make friends. Or that telling a debt collector that he is a fucking asshole is unlikely to work in one’s favor. Because that debt collector is just another human being doing his job. A job that requires him to relentlessly phone people who may, in fact, not owe said debt. And that job must blow. Plus–and don’t forget–that call may be recorded for training purposes.

All of the empowerment in my bones, gratitude in my spirit, and light and love in my heart, to yours.

Peace.

 

 

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Unsticking: Finding A New, Bigger Story

I texted a friend something I found interesting the other day and received back a one-word response. Golly.

My initial reaction was, Who the fuck says “Golly” anymore? 

But then this morning, all I could think was… Golly. Because I don’t recall the last time I blogged. And because even though I don’t remember the post, I am certain it contained the same threads all of my writing has captured for a long while. Well over a year. And because I don’t know how much I care. And because I am unclear on whether the caring or not caring should bother me. And because I resigned myself, about two weeks ago, to a new idea: I am not blogging anymore.

So… Golly.

I told one of my bestest buddies I was going to stop writing and he looked at me like I ran over his dog, then smiled, put it in reverse, and backed up over his neighbor’s dog. Thankfully this was at his birthday party and he was enjoying his beer and friends and family and was quickly diverted. Phew. We haven’t talked about it since. I’ve sort of hoped it slipped his mind.

None of that really matters as it’s firmly entrenched in mine. And I wrote out this defensive narrative explaining myself that read like a robotic legal brief. Only it’s not. I don’t have to present evidence. There’s no precedent here. Burden of proof? Nope. And that there–the bit I just deleted–is one of the reasons I need to detach from this for a time. My blog has become less about sharing my story and what’s bouncing around my brain, and more about securing a place to seek and find approval. I long for you to like what I write. Not just “like” it. Click the “Like” button, damnit! I desire your blessing. Not so we can connect or relate or share a moment. I need you to tell me I am okay. Because I cannot tell myself. Because I’m not. Okay, that is. And this pathological, deep-rooted obsession with being loved by all is an issue that floods all arenas of my life. Family. Home. Friends. Work. Relationships. Particularly relationships with men who are older and, in my twisted mind, possess some sort of authority over me (Daddy issues).

I was searching recently. I’d come off of a particularly terrible week. Terrible as in riddled with behavioral hangovers. (I am still dropping my head on my desk with shame.) I recognized I couldn’t do dick about what I’d already done… and I did my best to right my wrongs… but the bigger thing was that I knew. Something–some big or little or any thing–had to change. No one could do it for me. I used up those cards. You see, I had been looking to others to manage my feelings and sadness and grief and guilt (not a conscious expectation) and when they couldn’t, I lashed out. And depending on the relationship, those people distanced themselves from me, scolded but forgave me, or expressed serious concern about my actions. All of the above, understandable.

So, I was searching. Online. For help. This shit? That I am feeling? That I am blaming myself for? That I cannot drop and move forward from? Well beyond the pay grade of any of my friends or family or acquaintances. I was searching for help, help. Hired guns. Professionals. And in doing so, two things happened.

First, I found a website. This spiritual guru who writes about grief and sadness and loss. I read his entire website and lots resonated but what I grabbed onto was this: I have a story. I have told that story. Repeatedly. Different variations, maybe. But the same story. If I want to reorient myself to this world, to unstick, to stop feeling so awful, I need to create a new story. A bigger one. A story that encompasses everything–it’s not about forgetting or pretending. But I think it’s about accepting what I can and allowing a new narrative to unfold.

Second, I located a psychologist. One who specializes in complicated grief. I called her. She wasn’t accepting new patients but we spoke on the phone. After about ten minutes, she agreed to see me. And I’ve visited her three times in two weeks. She rings regularly, urging me to come in. Whenever she has a cancellation. If I can, I go. Because I fucking have to. If I want to uncover and discover a place where a new story, a bigger story, can begin.

I wasn’t prepared for intensive grief counseling. It is serious stuff. She’s digging deep and I have never felt so unhinged. I’ve been in therapy for years and years. I’ve seen a shrink nearly every week for two years. But this? This brand of therapy? Entirely foreign and uncomfortable. I hate it. I am all over the fucking place. Crying when I can’t anticipate it. Clenching my jaw constantly. I dislike almost everyone and everything about 22 hours of the day. I am resentful. I am pissed that I have to do this. It’s not touchy feely, oh poor you, so sad, here’s a fresh box of tissues therapy. There’s homework. I have to observe myself and keep a journal of certain behaviors and feelings. Almost like Bridget Jones but decidedly not amusing. My body is heavy but I have no appetite. I can feel the weight of my skin on my face. Smiling is fake. It takes more energy to get myself out of bed than ever before. I lay there, sometimes for three or four hours, willing myself to just jump up from under the covers. But I can’t. Or I won’t. Something for upcoming sessions, I am sure. The accountability and honesty of this process makes my skin crawl.

At the same time, I see it. I signed up for this. Cracking apart complicated, compounded grief? Simply put, it sucks. I have to talk about all of the losses I’ve experienced, beginning with my dad’s death over 16 years ago. Relationships with men that ended very badly. My mother’s decline and then passing. Finding one of my cats, dead, after returning from my mother’s funeral. Feeling as though I lost my best friend, my closest person, when she moved out of the city and got married. More relationships ending. Putting my beloved dog to sleep. Laying on the floor of the vet’s office with her, after she’d gone, feeling grateful that she was no longer in pain but also the deepest fucking sadness I’ve ever endured. Another relationship ending, only this time the loss wasn’t so much the man but the kids I’d fallen in love with. The kind of love I’d never felt before. Followed by financial distress. And more financial distress. Then a bright light. My favorite person. But he died nine months later. Lots of numbness. Pretending. Distracting myself. Until I couldn’t anymore. Big crash. Bringing us current. Only now there’s something else. One of my cats, my buddy who has slept on my hip at night ever since my favorite person died, my pal who’s been with me for almost 16 years, is slowly declining. I watch him closely. I don’t think he’s physically uncomfortable but I fall apart at the idea of him suffering. We have an vet appointment soon and the inevitable is approaching. And that’s all I can write about him because it renders me a fucking puddle.

I recount all of this–what’s happened in my life–not for sympathy or to qualify myself in some way. I write it out because… it’s like a stack of blocks. One atop the other. It held up for a long time. Sort of remarkable what we can withstand. But the stack of blocks fell over and now this grief counselor is making me pull it all apart. Slowly and methodically. It’s unbearable at times.

Funny. I always thought that I was dealing with my pain. With grief. With sadness. I suppose I was… on the surface. I’ve also been really good at finding distractions, however. Usually men. I hang my hat (well, really, my hopes and dreams and pain and the notion they will rescue me and take it all away) on these men and it blows up. Of course. Which serves only to set me back 1,000 steps after I’ve taken 10 forward.

I asked my new counselor what the end game is here. I mean, really… is there a point? Because once she made me recount everything, I thought, no. No. I don’t want to. It’s too much. Fortuitously (maybe?) I have this little piece of my brain dedicated to reminding me how horrendous and lonely and desperate I’ve felt lately. And that I chose this. Something in me chose this. To get better. So while I am terrified and pissed and my flight response is on full alert, I chose this. Which means somewhere there is hope. And what she told me is that it’s not about letting go. It’s not about moving on. It’s about wading through it all again–in a safe environment–so that I can let it be. And once I can let it be, I will be able to unstick. Permit myself to feel hope and joy. Find real light, maybe more love.

For a reason I can’t understand, I believe her. Maybe because what she has me doing is more arduous than studying for the Bar exam. If I didn’t already write this, it blows. Alas, I have an iota of faith in this process. I don’t know why. Doesn’t matter why.

So. Golly gee! That was a lot to throw into one post. But this is me signing off. I will have something authentic and real and selfless to share again… a new, bigger story. Thank you to everyone who has read and continues to read my stuff. Yeah, I want acceptance and likes and love, but for a long time, it was about connection. And that meant a great deal. Hopefully it will again.

Until then, and as always, all the love and light in my heart, to yours. Peace.

 

 

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Long Walk, Short Pier

My dad was fond of the expression “Take a long walk off a short pier.” As a kid, it just seemed funny. Reminded me of pirates and silly songs. Now, I get its spectrum of meaning. Take a hike. Beat it. Scram. Get out of here. You’re full of shit. Whatever. Go away. Go far away.

I came across a new meme this evening. Set atop the most bucolic scene. Blue sky. Mountains in the distance. Green grass. Reflections on a lake. And then the words. “Take a walk, not a pill.”

I have a confession to make. I loathe the website from which this meme originated. Yet I “liked” it on Facebook at one time, so I continue to get its crappy articles. Yes, I’ve thought about “unliking” it. But I am hooked, in a train wreck sort of way. The site frequently lambasts the use of antidepressants, anti-anxiety and ADD/ADHD medications. And this is not scholarly, peer-reviewed material. At least not the articles I’ve read. There’s little in the way of reliable research, unbiased evidence or logical reasoning. There’s a void of compelling narrative, i.e. stories from those who’ve actually lived it.

Per my estimation (which means little, I am aware), these pieces lack value with respect to medicine, science, psychology or philosophy. Beyond highlighting the extent to which our culture continues to shame and stigmatize mental illness and the use of medication. Medication that may be necessary. To treat these real diseases.

Only we don’t treat these real diseases like other real diseases. Instead, we attach scathing moral judgment to them. We make those suffering feel as though they are inherently flawed and then, to add insult to injury, label people even more fucked up for taking pills. We create an environment of fear, reducing the likelihood that persons will seek help. We force those who already feel like garbage to endure the wrath and scorn of an ignorant society. We make them feel less than. For having a disease. Which they might be able to manage and recover from. Perhaps with the assistance of a pill. Or pills. Yet they aren’t supposed to take pills. Because that means they are weak. Supporters of Big Pharma. Losers who lack will power and motivation. And around and around we go. But hell yeah, a walk. Go for a walk. A walk will fix that real disease of the brain.

This is an issue close to me. Clearly. I have many, many words. And earlier this evening, I typed up a direct response to “Take a walk, not a pill.” I will tell you right now that I didn’t post it. Mainly because I am trying to stay away from the “comments” on Facebook. The “trolls”? Disturbing and frightening. And I can be a little too… quick… to fire off an inflammatory message. (Or, incidentally, a really weird text. Did that the other day and I am pretty sure I will not hear from that guy again. Gulp.) Here it is, nonetheless…

This is a shaming, irresponsible, overly simplistic, and damaging message. It merely contributes to the stigma around mental illness in our culture.

Now, taking a walk is not a bad idea per se. Most of us could use more walking. Less sitting. It is certainly a lovely way to connect with nature, perhaps other human beings as well. Trouble is, how does one take a walk when one cannot get out of bed? When the depression is so overwhelming that all energy is devoted, necessarily, to those obligations and responsibilities that absolutely must be met?

A certain population of depressed persons might recover with a combination of talk therapy, time, exercise and dietary changes. Then there are those who feel markedly improved after acupuncture or reiki. This is all wonderful stuff. Healing stuff. I envy those for whom these measures work. Yank them out of the sack. Keep them on their feet. Deliver them to a place of balance, calm, gratitude, grace, effectiveness (personally, professionally, socially, etc.), and joy. Only I happen to be among the others for whom these paths alone are simply not enough. How do I know this? Because I’ve lived with depression for over twenty years.

I am a huge advocate of individual and group therapy. I’ve been through CBT and DBT. I have learned to discern healthy from harmful coping strategies. I can identify my emotions. I know what to do when crawling out of my skin in distress. I can take it down many notches and sit and breathe. And because life will ever present challenges, and because, no matter how hard I try, I can be nothing more than perfectly imperfect, I continue to see a psychiatrist. Together, we pull me apart and try to piece me back together, into a whole, functioning (dare I even say competent, at times), and capable-of-happy individual. (It’s a work in progress.)

But my doc doesn’t make house calls. Which means I have to heave myself out the safe, warm cocoon that is my bed, squeeze into appropriate attire, and drive to his office. And based upon over two decades of trial and error, I can write–with an assurance I need not offer anyone, yet society and fucked-up memes like this compel me to provide–that SSRIs and SNRIs have made the difference. As in the difference between lying in bed and taking a walk. 

I don’t intend to suggest that antidepressants are magical beans. Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Effexor, Cymbalta, Celexa, Lexapro, and friends are not “happy pills.” I take Wellbutrin. Wellbutrin renders me capable of jumpstarting my own day. Leaving my house. Facing my fears (which I don’t do well, but I try). Wanting to participate in life (which I don’t always do right, but I keep on). Things most people do every day, without hours of deliberation. 

SSRIs, SNRIs, MAOIs–these drugs help treat diseases of the brain. Imbalances. For someone like me. Someone who cannot “pull herself up by her bootstraps” or exercise her way out of feeling empty and worthless and purposeless. I need a pill. So I can get out from under. Not to travel to some land of lollipops and unicorns. I want to function. I want to be where the non-depressed folks live. Not high. Not numb. Just me. But a me who can rise, put on shoes, and sit in traffic so that I can talk about the things that continue to trouble me. Even on Wellbutrin. I still cry. Often. I still laugh. How much depends on the company I keep. And I make better decisions about that when I am not sinking, hiding, and wishing away the sunlight so I can justify going back to sleep.

Through a ton of hard work (therapy), support from loved ones, and Wellbutrin, I not only WANT to go for a walk, I CAN go for walk. Two distinct things, desire and ability. I doubt anyone wants to be paralyzed with depression. Because despite the common misperception, it’s pain. It’s the kind of pain that renders me incapable of getting out of bed. Even though I long to walk around the lake. Kick the autumn leaves. Be with my friends. To not be alone. 

Depression is the loneliest, most desolate space I have ever been. I do not believe I can capture it for someone who’s not visited. And for that, I am grateful. I am genuinely glad most of my loved ones can’t see it. I even extend that gratitude to the asshat who wrote this appalling meme. To have no concept of what depression feels like? What a blessing. 

I’ve been through enough to know that I do not need to “see what happens” if I go off Wellbutrin. I am a-okay with “better living through chemistry.” Only here I am, defending my choices and frittering away hours, deeply bothered by baseless, insensitive, and inane words. 

Fuck. Enough with the pointless shaming, endless judgment and bullshit rhetoric already. Actually, I highly encourage whomever makes the editorial calls for your website to go for a stroll. A long, long walk. Off a short pier. And while he or she is at it, get educated. Learn about empathy. Try on compassion. Maybe love. Those things that are actually useful. That’s how you speak to people. Use the online platform to help change how we view mental illness. Foster environments–online and offline-where suffering individuals feel safe and supported. Not ridiculed or damned. How about that?

As for me, I will continue to take my Wellbutrin AND go for a walk.

P.s. This meme’s either/or proposition is fucking stupid.

…..

Upon a reread, I am glad I did not post that comment. Sheesh. Kind of goes beyond advocacy into something sardonic. I guess I have more than words; I have some nasty claws. It’s about the meme, but it’s not about the meme. If that makes sense to anyone else. What I did write is this: “Really? This is awful. Way to invalidate mental illness and further encourage societal stigma around the use of antidepressants. Dislike.” Watered down, safe from trolls, no f-bombs. Maybe that’s lame. I don’t know.

I’ve also been thinking about an old friend. A woman I knew for a brief but intense month of my life, who took her own last week. It’s impossibly sad and awful. She was really funny. She reminded me a lot of my mom. Maybe that’s why we connected, even if just briefly. She touched many. She was adored. And so tonight, I send out all the light and love in my heart to her, and to her family and friends.

Peace.

Posted in Antidepressants, Depression, Gratitude, Happiness, Help, Mental Illness, Negativity, Self-Care, shame, Suffering, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

So Odd, The Timing

I have been doing the typing/deleting/retyping dance for hours now. Everything is coming up bitter. Super sarcastic. And not the fun or funny variety of sarcasm. Nah, it’s the nasty, mean-spirited, biting kind that makes me grimace and shudder. Usually this is my cue to stop struggling and shut this shit down. Go to sleep. Maybe try again tomorrow. Only tonight, as I was about to power off, I thought of an old post. 

I wrote the following on November 19, 2014. So odd, the timing. There’s the obvious current events connection. (If you keep reading, you will see it is centered around my experience of tutoring a young boy whose family had to flee Myanmar.) It’s way more than that though. This was put together just two months after the death of my favorite person. A sad, sad, sad, angry, but also numb, fall. Yet my words contain positive sentiments. I express a connectedness to the world… forward-looking emotions. Community. Hope. Genuine gratitude. Things I seem to lack at present. Probably because I got outside my own head. Even if for just a couple hours a week. And yes, I know. Therein lies a solution, resolution, answer. To my self-involved, self-imposed, self-inflicted woes. Alas, here I am. Still sarcastic, still unfunny, still best to shut this shit down. Musings for future posts. Until then, just under a year ago…

The other time I can put my volatile, rageful feelings to rest is when I work with my fourth-grade student from Myanmar (formerly Burma). I tutor him in reading and writing two hours each week. The moment I enter his home, he, his mother and his older sister come out to greet me. He and his sister speak English fairly well (they learned much of what they know during their years in refugee camps). Their mother seems to know a little more each time we meet. They are the warmest, most loving family I’ve ever encountered. They have nothing in terms of material possessions; they live in poverty. But they are hopeful and kind. They laugh. A lot. And each time I visit, they insist upon feeding me, giving me bottled water and walking me to my car (while carrying my things). The mother always stands outside, even in this ridiculous cold, and waits until I wave and drive away before going back indoors. I feel she is the human embodiment of a characteristic I’ve never personally known– grace.

Not ironically, one of the vocabulary words we reviewed tonight was “grace.” I’ve learned that asking students to use terms in a sentence is often an easier (and more effective) path to comprehension than memorizing and spitting out flash-card-provided definitions. So, as always, I prompted him to use “grace” in a sentence. He was stumped. He surprised me by asking, Teacher, can you use it in a sentence? Then he grinned from ear to ear (a face-wide, toothy grin that oddly reminds me of my favorite person). I laughed. He kept grinning away. I marveled for a moment about how after just ten hours together, he had grown bolder. He exuded a new confidence in his speech and posture. He was comfortable enough with me to make a joke. That’s the stuff that makes hauling ass to way eastern St. Paul on an icy, cold night, after working all day, majorly worthwhile. So much gratitude.

I feel compelled to continue with “grace” for a bit. In part because this evening, I had some trouble coming up with a sentence that captured the meaning of “grace” for my young tutee. I tried out “graceful,” using the example of a deer running through the woods. He looked away, as he does when he’s thinking. Clearly that wasn’t working for him. So then I offered the explanation of “grace” as a custom of prayer before meals. You know, giving thanks for our food and family. He accepted that and we moved on in our lesson.

But I’ve been stuck on “grace” since leaving their apartment. I feel frustrated that I couldn’t provide this boy with a better articulation of  “grace.” Hell, I’ve since looked it up, checked out all the synonyms and antonyms, and I am still struggling with a satisfying definition. Here’s what I’ve decided: I may not be able to tell you in words what “grace” means to me but I know it when I see it. You know, like the Supreme Court and obscenity? (I cannot pass up the chance to throw in some legal humor, perhaps because so little exists.)

Jesting aside, I do see grace. I recognize it in the mother of this family from Myanmar. Not only does she move with an ease in her own body–not unlike a fawn–she never makes her presence known in a room. At the same time, she exudes this unassuming, humble strength that is also measured and controlled. And I wonder if grace is an innate quality. Can we develop grace over a lifetime? Is it teachable? I don’t have answers but I feel as though this mother was born in grace. With grace. For despite their journey (one that they share with me incrementally), and even though they have had to overcome unfathomable obstacles to arrive somewhere they can call home, she emulates this modest and impeccably beautiful way of orienting oneself to the world. And if you look closely, you see those qualities in her children as well.

I have boundless gratitude for them. They remind me that even when there is pain, there is good. That despite loss and tragedy, there is life. That while unspeakably terrible events occur, humanity persists. That I can feel the rage, the emotional lability, but I can also laugh and have fun. That it’s okay to long for what was and be thankful for what I still have all around me. Which is a whole fucking lot.

Much love and light from my heart to yours.

Peace.

Posted in Family, Fun, Gratitude, Happiness, My Story, Negativity, Relationships, Service, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment