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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 usĀ 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,Ā  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 notĀ  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,Ā  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)

…So, I’ve been depressed again.

 

It wasn’t just the IEP meeting – that was kind of the whipped cream, chocolate sauce and cherry on the sundae that was already built.

 

I don’t know…it seems to me that I’m dealing less and less well with the Bay Area.

I’m really grateful for the water supply there, but my heart is just not in it, overall. It feels like such an effort to connect with people, you have to do things I’m not good at like set up schedules, times and be on time and drive around and find parking and buckle and unbuckle small people into seats that secure them. I completely suck at this stuff.

 

And I know I’m probably making everything better than it was, but I long for places like where I lived when I was young. Levuka (in Fiji), where “town” was a tiny strip of archaic building 2 miles away, where our neighbors were our best friends and we knew when “Uncle” Adrian on the tiny hill behind us was baking bread because we’d smell it. We could lay out the butter and jam too because he almost always made an extra loaf for us.

I want that again.

I want the small, the intimate.

I want to know people and I want to be known.

I want goodness and wholesome life; crunchy without pretense.

Where we can dance in the backyard to Donna Summer and Christopher Cross and the kids can be naked and loud and free and I won’t haveĀ  that nagging worry in the back of my mind about the neighbors.

****

I want what I want and try and make peace with what I have and be grateful for what is.

And in the meantime, I’m fortunate enough to have my mom (– sainted!) who will drive me and the kids up to hang out with my brother, his kids and my grandma who lives with my brother.

my niece, Yu Rou

It’s a good place, a crunchy place where people might talk about going to their backyard garden to get some kale for their morning smoothie

 

photo 3

But it’s also a place people drive those monstrous trucks and do redneck-y things.

Yeah, Humboldt.

Where rednecks, the counter culture, Native American tribes and crunchy folk can – and do – coexist.

****

photo 5The streets are broad.

I used to hate that. I felt so exposed, walking around.

Now, though, I love it.

photo 1I feel like there is more freedom for the kids, that it’s safer somehow.

I am not sure why.

Cars can veer out just as easily in those big wide streets as they do in the Bay Area, but I can’t shake my feeling of safety.

photo 1

I love the love

 

photo 3photo 2

My brother’s kids loving my own.

 

photo 3

Love, too the unexpected bends and twists in the road that lead to green places

 

photo 4

Walking with my baby in the morning, knowing my other two are happy with my Mom, asleep.

 

photo 2

I miss my One True Darling Man, Mikey terribly but sometimes I just have to do what is going to take me out of that space, you know?

I’m just incredibly lucky that I have the wherewithal and the help – not to mention the place – to go to.

photo 1

Being in a spot with beauty, space and wonder embedded within it’s very heart is a balm.

photo 4“The eye altering, alters all”

****

I’m letting mine be altered.

 

The original title of this post was “If You Don’t Get Depressed, Don’t Read This Post” because I was depressed when I first wrote it and felt like it should be from me – who suffers from depression – to you, who know what it’s about (because you know, you wouldn’t be reading it if you didn’t get depressed!)

But I’ve changed it because it’s really more about music and a song that makes me happy.

****

When I was a kid, I was taught that music is a ladder for the soul.

That through music, we can become close to the Source of all Love (want to say “God”? that’s fine too – whatever. The name isn’t important; it’s the Presence that is).

That music can connect me with the Divine, well, that’s been easy for me to believe.

For some songs, I can almost see the notes in my mind’s eye and feel that I can lose myself at a cellular level within the sounds therein. The notes can take me places available only in spirit, make that phrase of the “unbearable lightness of being” ring true.

Music can shine a sure light through the depressive caverns I find myself in from time to time, can lead me out.

There are so many songs thatĀ  make it brighter. One song in particular though feels like it was made for me.

It’s called “Just Look Up”. I heard it when the gods of the i-pod chose it at random shortly after I had received the results of my amnio and knew we’d be expecting Moxie with a Little Extra.

To say at that time I was “depressed” is such an understatement it’s not even funny.

I was “depressed” like an ant is “small” compared to an elephant.

Anyway. There I was one day, driving to work, chokingĀ  in my grief and this song came on. I had to pull over. I think I shook because I was crying so hard, you know, the howling kind that’s extra fluidic.

I just wanted to share it here because maybe you haven’t heard it, maybe it might help you. Maybe if you have a song that helps, you can share it in the comments? I love new adds for my “soul juice” playlist.

So here it is.
(just click on the link below – it’ll open a quicktime player and play)
12 – Just Look Up

…and here are the lyrics:

Every life must have its sorrows and its pain
Yes it will
Where there’s sunlight there are shadows and sometimes rain
When you’re down and can’t get up
Lay both hands on a lovin’ cup
Make each teardrop like a diamond
Just look up

Just look up when storm clouds block the sun
(Just look up)
Just look up when there’s nowhere left to run
(Nowhere to run)
Remember how the trees must bend
And the mighty rivers went
There’s a rainbow waiting for you
Just look up

For each promise of forever
There’ll be times, yes there will
When you crawl ’til you swear you’ve had your fill
Keep your heart right on your sleeve
Stand your ground when you want to leave
There’s a love that’ll last forever
Just look up

Just look up when storm clouds block the sun
(Just look up)
Just look up when there’s nowhere left to run
(Got nowhere to run)
Remember how the trees must bend
And the mighty rivers went
There’s a rainbow waiting for you
Just look up
(Just look up)

When you ‘ve lost that light that guides you from despair
(From despair)
And the memories of dear ones fade with earthly cares
Know the spirits burnin’ bright
Throughout all you’re darkest nights
Make your life a testimony
Just Look Up

Just look up when storm clouds block the sun
(Just look up)
Just look up when there’s nowhere left to run
(Nowhere to run)
Remember how the trees must bend
And the mighty rivers went
There’s a rainbow waiting for you
Just look up
(Just look up)

******

It’s on this album:

PS

“there’s a rainbow waiting for you” – is why we called Moxie “rainbow” in utero. And one of her middle names is “Enfys” which is Welsh for “rainbow” (- I”m part Welsh)

IMG_9148

 

Cloverdale. The small town north of the San Francisco Bay Area which I suppose it's true to say that I am from. Cloverdale, which back in my day lacked the charm of neighboring Healdsburg, the quaint hipness of Geyserville. It was simply a pit stop of a town that boasted the Owl Cafe and an annual Citrus Fair. Cloverdale, with Highway 101 passing through it, slashing it like so much a dull blade in an aqua-tinted Safeway sugar coated birthday cake.

When we lived in town, we lived in one of those houses that's completely comfortable and never a head-turner. I remember it well. It was the house next to an empty corner lot. My brother and I knew all the kids in a 5, 6 block radius and we played with most everyone, in the way that kids will – best friends in one moment and sworn enemies the next. Our allegiances would turn on a dime, maybe even for a dime – we loved cash to buy candy.

I remember playing hide-and-go seek, waiting behind something in the breathless anticipation that the game induces. I remember Sourgrass, chomping on it as I'd wait to be found.

I have no idea what the actual name of Sourgrass is. But this "grass" – fleshy, light green stalks of startling tartness – rises up out of beds of light clover in a northern Californian Fall. I'd grab it by the fist fulls and eat it. Other kids would tell me that it was sour because dogs would piss on it – but I didn't believe them. Not from any kind of careful deduction or logic; I simply didn't believe them because I didn't want to –  I didn't want to have to stop eating it.

Sourgrass in it's surpassing tang.  The sense that I was having fun imbibing something that was a little bit wrong.

****

Yesterday I picked up my first prescription for an anti-depressant. I felt a little thrill go through me as I did, wondering if I was enjoying this because it was something that was wrong – or was it? The whole 'Just Say No!" campaign had had its way with me, all right. I have never been much for drugs, always scared of my brains curdling up and frying in the pan like the sizzling eggs in the commercial. All drugs. Not just the standard ones, all of them, including medicinal. I avoid everything except Tylenol and ibuprofen.

But there is a point in which even I can step back and take a look at my sitting in one place all day, crying, and know that it's a straight path to a place called No Good. In which even I can admit that I need help, and if help right now comes in the form of a pill, then maybe that's what I need. Maybe I can take a deep breath and give it a shot.

As I walked home, I saw that Sourgrass is once more in season, lining the fences, nooks and crannies wherever and however it might.

Like the tartness of depression, it springs as often as it's allowed.

Like depression, I feel the urge to pick it, crunch down on it, feel the sour bite course through my mouth.

This, too, is going to pass.

 

*******

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