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depression

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I love Elvis, I really do. I think his voice was simply magic, like the male version of Karen Carpenter, it’s liquid velvet on a rainbow.

Anyway, I was watching “Elvis on Tour” the other night with the kids and I was watching how everyone reacted to him. Sure, he was wearing a cape (!!!), he was fat, sweating out of his ears, clearly and utterly higher than a kite. But he was singing and something in his song and the way his voice lifted reached people in their soul and lifted them and they loved him for that. He had that power, he had that gift, that… whatever it is. He had it. And people responded so completely to him – even now, decades after his death, watching him sing “American Trilogy”, I couldn’t help but cry.

Elvis had it.

And yet he was buried under depression and smothered by who he thought himself to be. The talent, light, power, magic that everyone responded to meant so little to him in the end.

And now Robin Williams is gone.

Robin Williams walked the same line of genius as Elvis – as an actor, not a singer. He had that power, that light, the magic that touched people, that could really reach out to the soul.

And yet… he was buried under depression and smothered by who he thought himself to be.

I understand this.

I’m not Elvis or Robin but I understand how it feels to be buried under depression and feeling smothered by thoughts, I understand how when you are in that Dark Place, you can pull yourself even further down, you start to rationalize your Dark Thoughts, removing yourself from this world makes sense to you because you think you will actually be doing people a favour. Even for your children – the Dark Place will let you truly and honestly believe that if you are gone, your children will be happier, things will be easier for everyone all around.

The Dark Place is like an insidious cancer of the spirit – can we just call Depression that? Cancer of the Spirit? – because it wraps itself around you slowly at first, then if you don’t catch it or work on it, if you don’t apply your chemotherapy in the form of appropriate medication, therapy in some form that genuinely helps (and what genuinely helps looks different for everyone, it’s not one-size-fits-all), if you don’t treat it, it will spread. And spread. And spread. And if you let go of your treatment, it will renew itself and your remission will end and before you know it, it has wrapped itself around your spirit once more, tight.

And everything you ever thought you knew about yourself is just… gone.

Your light, your power, your value to humanity, to your family… you just can’t see it. It’s like it does not exist, it’s like the only thing you can hear in your head are the whispers that come from the Dark Place, the reverberations of hurt, pain and sorrow. The Cancer of the Spirit has come back, you are dying inside and it makes So. Much. Sense. to just remove yourself.

I understand.

I do.

And I am not alone in understanding this – millions of us understand this all too well, millions of us know this Cancer and millions of us struggle to keep the remission at bay.

It is difficult for some to understand the ‘why’, it’s impossible to connect the dots between a person with so much light and talent, a person so well loved. If you have not been touched by that particular type of Cancer, it is very well impossible to understand how it can suffocate and kill your spirit.

What I hope is that we can learn to be more open about it – that the person who says, “I am suffering from clinical depression” will receive help and support in the same way that others who suffer from other forms of cancer do. That we’ll have awareness walks for Depression – the Cancer of the Spirit, that we’ll raise funds to help people who need the therapy and medication. That we will be able to help each other through that Dark Place and back into a joy-filled space, as we were meant to be.

A giant has fallen.

morkThose of us who believe in life after death know how happy the angels are now, oh my God! The finally got ROBIN WILLIAMS! They are having a ball, and you know it.

For those of us still on this earth, in this life? Let’s honour the spirit of this guy who had us wanting to wear rainbow suspenders when we were kids.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Well, here we go. Another World-Something-Or-Other Day and yet another post that I really wanted to put together for the occasion isn’t written or ready. But I don’t want this day of all days, to slip by me without saying something.

You see, I’m sitting here on the floor of my brother’s kitchen right now, it’s 5 in the morning. My coffee is next to me and I’m savoring this moment before dawn, before the house awakes. I’m facing the door to the back room. The back room is where I slept with MacQuinn when I was going crazy with depression both late last year and earlier this year.

I don’t know if you remember that but I would get to the point in the Bay Area in which I was just not. functional. I was being swallowed whole and alive by that toothful whale of a monster, Depression.

And there is other stuff too.

I’ve mentioned that I have been diagnosed with PTSD. That’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and my symptoms range from sleeplessness to panic/anxiety attacks. I also have TBI – Traumatic Brain Injury. So basically, my brain was traumatized by going through a windshield when I was 4 years old, then my brain was traumatized by events of great emotional magnitude.

What I haven’t told you here on this blog – but which I will today in honor of World Mental Health Day – is that I have also been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. I haven’t wanted to talk about that because well, being bi-polar makes me crazy, right? Like, certifiable! Why would I want that out? Wouldn’t that bring my fitness as a mother, as a person, in light and to question?

I talk on this blog all.the.time about being deaf – and I do that perhaps to let out the steam that mental health keeps bottled. It’s easy talking about being deaf – and you know what? Being deaf is easy compared to sorting through and living with the cocktail of mental mumbo-jumbo going on up there. It’s easy to tell someone you can’t hear; it’s hard to say that you don’t know what to do because all you can think of is suicide and WHILE YOU WOULD NEVER DO IT because you have little kids and a husband who need you, it’s ALL YOU CAN THINK OF.

I was scared – so absolutely petrified – when I finally admitted that to my psychiatrist. He gave me lithium – and those thoughts went away. Lithium has been gold for me. It just works. Takes away the monsters in my mind.

So.

There you have it. My mental confession.

***

I want to say things here that a good post would. Things like, ‘take care of yourself’, ‘it’s normal to have issues’; things about supporting each other and ourselves. About the importance of mental health. About taking time for yourself.

And it just feels like a big fucking joke to me sometimes. “Take time for yourself” – yeah, right – when?! For the average mother here in the United States, WHEN?! Before work? After? Put the kids on to the side and take some time at their expense? For a stay at home mom, WHEN?! Like I do, at the crack of dawn, and even then, it’s a choice between writing, cleaning and exercising. Should I get a job so that I can afford childcare so that I can “take time to myself”? And then, how to manage my deep fear of leaving my children to another’s care?

“It’s normal to have issues” – yeah, right, so if it’s so normal why do we stigmatize the crap out of anyone that says they are struggling? Why do people step back and their smiles become tight and fake when I tell them lithium has really helped me?

“Take care of yourself” – HOW? When all you can think of is cutting or killing yourself, HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF? It’s hard enough to breathe, hard enough to stay on track, hard enough to get up and and try to be bright for your babies. All of that – just one foot in front of the other – takes every.single.ounce of your strength. What more do you have to give? How else can you “take care of yourself”?

I loathe those trite and shallow self-care articles. I hate those things that make a walk out of your head something so easy as breathing – and breathing is never easy for someone who is struggling.

I have no answers, friend.

I’m just putting one foot in front of the other.

I’m just trying to breathe.

And I’m putting this out there because we need to not be alone. I need to not be alone.

 

So, I was on the playground the other day and a mother was talking about meltdowns with me. “We’re going from meltdown to meltdown,” she sighed unhappily, “if it’s not the kids, it’s me!”

“That was us, too!” I chirped, “until I started medicating myself!”

Her face fell.

I beamed.

*****

Now, I know better than to expect some ra-ra team cheerleading me when I tell people that by my current pill popping, I am an even-keeled, “normal” and happy Mama. The thing about mental health is there is just oceans of stigma around it still. No matter where I’ve ever lived, calling someone crazy is never a good thing. But I have seriously had it – with the stigma, with us not talking about it, with the feelings of going crazy myself.

This post partum stuff hit me harder than I’ve ever been hit. And I have every symptom in the book of PTSD. So go figure. It’s been a really rough few months.

But now I’m on this pretty strict diet of prayer, running, yoga, prayer, music, gardening, running,  prayer, music, support group, counselor+psychiatrist and PILLS. It’s definitely a winning recipe because I feel more myself than I have in a long time.

And even though it’s no fun to talk about depression – less fun to read about it, good grief, talk about a dive into the shallow water – I feel an obligation to, simply because we do it so rarely in our culture.

We know we should tuck our shirt in, brush our hair, put on a bright smile and pinch ourselves to keep the tears from coming when we push that cart in Target and something or other triggers this torrent of sadness and we can’t help but wonder what in the hell is WRONG with us anyway? Why can’t we keep it together, why are we so lonely, how can we feel this way when we have these beautiful children and loving partnership with a handsome, productive and intelligent individual?

Everyone else seems to happy, so pulled together.

And then, over time especially we come to understand that a lot of other people are faking it too. “Fake it till you make it” and all. It’s not  a bad idea, like smiling when you don’t feel like it and then it will grow to become genuine. It’s just not okay when it goes on for too long. Not okay when we feel so alone and don’t see anyone else struggling in the same way we are; we can’t talk about it and our health insurance is a frickin’ joke.

That’s why I’m talking about it here.

*****

So what do we do?

SomePrayer, running, yoga, prayer, music, gardening, running,  prayer, music, support group, counselor+psychiatrist and PILLS. That’s what’s working for me right now.

What’s your magic recipe?

(and that’s a photo with some lyrics from one of favorite pull-me-out-of-the-abyss songs, Just Look Up)

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