Category: Depression and Health


Loss

I recently got the news that one of my college mates passed away. It whisked me away to my first year of college. Away from home and finally able to fully express me. Thrilled to be out of my mother’s house and on my own. Meeting the people who would become life long friends or nemesis or merely a name that I once could place with a face but no longer. Growing into an independent being with increasingly independent thoughts and ways. No curfew. No limits. Grown up…finally.

Grown. Up. When we were young, we thought grown up was turning 18 and being able to vote (and in some states drink legally). When we were out of high school, grown up was turning 21 and being truly legal. After college, it was getting that first salaried job or trading in the futon and milk crate and wood slab bookcases for an actual bed and bookcases. And so on…

I went through those spaces like many and thought I was finally grown. But the moment that I really felt grown was when I learned that my best friend of almost a decade had passed away. It was 1995. I was only 27 years old. Still high on the idea that I would live forever, would always be strong and fine, and free. Still unsure of exactly who I was but pretty sure that I was fucking awesome and would be exactly who I thought I was going to be. The moment that I felt truly grown up was when I lost the friend who was supposed to be my yet-to-be-born (and still ain’t) children’s crazy Uncle Karl. They were supposed to learn to ride Indian ponies in the arroyos of northern New Mexico. They were supposed to hear the story of our getting our first, second (and likely many more) tattoos together. How we rocked the FUCK out of Wesleyan’s campus with a band improbably named Trotsky’s Ruin. He was supposed to finish teaching me how to drive a stick shift – this time sober and NOT uphill. He was supposed to be there when I dialed the phone. We were supposed to be able to laugh at each other as our hair turned gray and our faces wrinkled. As we became parents or at least the whacky aunt and uncle to our siblings’ kids. We were supposed to mourn the loss of our other friends together… sitting back drinking Wild Turkey, smoking too damned much and telling those stories about when we were young and fine and the world was ours. We were supposed to grow old and toothless. Be at the doorstep of death STILL arguing about scientific proof over spiritual knowing.

Karl is still with me. There have been moments over the years that I have felt him quite powerfully. Like the birthday dinner at a mostly empty DC restaurant where the jukebox started playing Bad Brains I Against I in its entirety although no one had touched the machine during the hour that we’d been sitting there. I still hear his laugh and his wise ass comments. His sardonic humor and that place in him that was always isolated from those of us who loved him. He was a beautiful and brilliant man. In my mind, he is still young and hale. Playing that bass beside me and smiling that great smile that so quickly erased his usual scowl. I’d prefer to see him bald and toothless but I am so grateful for the time he was here. The one and only person who has been my best friend. The man who I loved most in life.

Vision

Sparkle and Shine

Only one more week before the holiday season is over.  I tried hard to not be a scrooge this year.  Thought I was on easy street since Thanksgiving was such a win (spent with dear sister friends, her man and his adorable pitbull).  Hell, I even managed to muster enough holiday spirit to have a full smile picture taken in front of a Christmas tree (see proof above).  Admittedly, the smiles may have been more about the spiced pear martinis and the loveliness on the other side of the camera but I won’t quibble.  I did a little holiday cheer this year.

And then, Friday hit.

Leave it to these family-focused holidays to kick the legs out from under the sense of peace and acceptance I had cultivated around my predominantly-solitary life.  I have friends.  Wonderful friends who make up my family of affinity and over the past two years have shown me so much caring and generosity that it staggers me at times.  I have a family of origin that I appreciate more and more as I heal from past hurts and dumb shit I just have not been able to let go.  And I get to see the family progeny grow and expand in beautiful and magical ways.  I have a lucky and blessed life.

Recent ruminations have left me appreciative that I can turn my loft bedroom into a lounge, complete with a small but growing collection of absinthes from the US and Europe.  I can crochet for hours at a time with no one to complain that I am ignoring or neglecting them.  (The cat does but she’s easily soothed by cat treats and a cuddle).  I’m making music again with no one to interrupt the creative flow by coming into the room or asking a question.  I come and go as I please.  The level of independence is a wonderful thing.  That is until the holidays and the lack of obligation to others becomes this gaping chasm of alone.

I had a lovely Christmas of Misfit Toys spent with dear friend and her housemates.  Great food and music.  Card games completely with shit talking and a spontaneous group dancing session when the Peanuts theme song came on Pandora.  (That moment is one of the highlight of the season.) But I returned home to this same place of UGH.

I felt much the same way last year.  Stuck in this place of anxiety and discomfort that is hard to get a grasp on.  It’s uneasy feeling like something is desperately wrong somewhere but impossible to place exactly what is amiss or where. It’s  just fuckery and confusion. Last year, things came to a head in a challenging relationship so I had something on which to pin the thorny tail. of the feeling.  This year, however, it’s just me, examining my life and wondering if I am going to go through this again next year (and the year after next).  And there is the truth of that.  In all of these years and similar situations and feelings there is one constant:: Me.

It’s time to stop peeking at this through my peripheral vision.  The mask has been removed.  There is only me.  Do I like what I see?  Do I even know what I am looking at?

Clarity of vision is an awesomely powerful and scary thing.  The only thing that can quell that fear is practice.

So off I go to bend, breathe, weave and sing.

Unmasked

I had to take some time away to find myself again. I know that sounds rather dramatic. It actually was. I had found myself spending the better part of my free time racing to the bottom of fifths of scotch. Not a good look. Especially when part of the race included weeknights and workday hangovers. My liver was starting to hate me and my work ethic was suffering. Not the kinds of things conducive to staving off depression. I knew things had to change.

Admittedly a part of me revelled in the decadence of it all. Even while understanding that hurting myself to mask the hurt was utterly counterproductive and selfdefeating. But at least this was a hurt that I could control. No one held a gun to my head to make me drink…even though that particular form of Russian roulette can be particularly messy. And I was pleased to be drinking a fairly good scotch. But I woke up to the insanity of those actions and thankfully, an angel appeared in the guise of a close friend to point me towards a saner path.

A few weeks ago, I went on a weekend retreat that changed me. My dramatic self wants to claim that Inner Journey (IJ) changed my life. But that would mean ceding power at a time when I can least afford to. IJ helped me figure out what I wanted/needed to change within myself that could manifest in a different life. More than anything, IJ corroborated the thoughts I had been having about what needed to be different in my life in order to be happier and healthier: cutting back on the substances I put in my body – caffeine, alcohol, refined sugar. Being kinder to self- nurturing myself, pampering instead of overindulging, loving myself enough to be more present while still protecting, rather than hiding my more vulnerable and most authentic self. Engaging actively in the work that I have long since been called to do. In short, getting real and being HERE. NO MORE MASKING!

I recently came to understand that I am quite adept at faking intimacy. I can reveal enough detail that seems deeply personal that people around me think I am baring my soul…but really, I am giving up essentially surface info….not the real shit, not the true contradictory, ugly truth of deep self. The intimacy mask is a lie.

Of all of the masks I’ve worn, the intimacy mask concerns me most. When courage mask cracks, I’m merely revealed to be afraid. The crumbling of wisdom masks just shows that I have more to learn. The lie of intimacy mask means that I am ultimately alone. And that is the starkest reality that I could face since what I desire more than anything is connection. Intimacy mask fooled even me…how can I have meaningful and profound connection with another when all of me is not present? And when I am present I am hidden?

So this space of healing focuses on my making sure more of my authentic self is present…every day…in every interaction that I value. This space means that I must stop distracting myself with bullshit and focus on the real.

I’ve been practicing yoga and meditation, journaling, drinking less and have had very little caffeine for the past month. I am more in my body these days than I can ever recall being. I am practicing being present especially in the moments that make me most uncomfortable. I keep thinking of the words of Miss Celie: “I’m poor, black, I may even be ugly but by God, I’m here. I’m here!”

I’m here. Working on being a healthy whole. And present. Feels great!

Masked

Masks.

Avoidance.

I keep starting this blog and then changing directions. I’ve been putting off writing for a week. Something is lurking there right below the surface. Some ghost wants to manifest and some part of me is keeping it back. Escapism. Crochet. Reading. Organizing my yarn stash. Anything to keep me from sitting here and just letting the words and feelings flow. I felt so damned tender last week that I feared I would fall to pieces if pulled that little thread that wanted to express. I honestly do not remember what I did last weekend although one evening was spent with Johnny Walker. Mostly, I just tried to tiptoe around my tender bits.

Monday came and I put on the Brave and Competent Mask to get through the workweek. Interesting thing masks, sometimes they can be used to hide our true selves. And other times, they allow us to channel energies that we might not otherwise be able to muster. For much of the week I actually felt pretty good, buoyed on a few flirtations that helped beat back the part of me that was feeling undesirable.

I did not think it would hurt this much. I keep trying to source the pain so I can figure out what balm it needs. Maybe it just needs the healing of being brought out into the light.

Despite my pledge to be honest in these writings – I am still edging around speaking full truths. A part of me seems to want to hold them. As if they are precious or some source of power. Or, maybe more to the truth, they’ve become alibis for my not being able to be fully present in my healing. Perhaps if I offer them up here, bit-by-bit, I’ll be able to let them go.

I try very hard in relationships to be present and considerate, loving and accommodating – often to the point of squashing my own feelings or needs. When things are tense or off kilter, I stop and check myself first. Always mindful that it could just be my shit that is blurring the lens. This is one of the things I really like about myself but at the same time I detest it. I don’t want to be a person who just goes off on every little thing…or even every big thing. But I do wish that I could stop letting people take up so much fucking space in my heart/head. In the past, I have done serious damage by not being able to control some of my more volatile emotions so I think I overcompensate now by just sublimating the anger. Eating it. Trying to be reasonable. Measured. In my last relationship, in particular, I often shelved my annoyance, anger, disappointment and concerns because my lover had so many big emotions and intensity going on that there just did not seem to be any room for my shit. And granted, much of my shit seemed very small in comparison but it was still my shit and a big deal to me. But I have a hard time admitting need and although I have gotten better at asking for what I need, I often did not. I presented myself as strong and independent when all I really wanted was an unbidden hug or kiss on the forehead and to be told all would be well. More than anything I just wanted to be held. To have the comfort of shared heartbeats and heat. To have the space to fall apart and know that someone would be there with crazy glue and a cold beer when I came back to my senses.

Strong and Independent Mask gets major workouts in my relationships and the rest of my life, honesty. Often Vulnerability Mask gets lost amidst the bravado and show of the superhero. And sometimes, when she does manage to manifest, she is unrecognized or worse, ignored. Or called selfish or lacking in compassion or empathy.

I guess I should meditate on vulnerability. Perhaps crochet her a hat so beautiful and intriguing that when I next wear that mask, it will be impossible to be ignored or mistaken for something else.

Or perhaps I just need to recognize once and for all that I can be my whole self and present in my connections with others. And that those who love me, will continue to do so even if I am sometimes sloppy with my shit.

Maybe I just need to put these damned masks away

and be my whole self.

But dear lord, who the hell is that??!

Message

Today was a hard day.

You know the kind of day when you feel like your entire being is that thin layer of shiny, tender skin that’s left when a scab is ripped off a wound before it’s really healed?

Yeah. I feel like that.

Thank Heaven for music!

Acknowledgment

~What can we scrape together
With just the flesh as evidence
Handfuls of hate and the bittersweet ambivalence
’cause I am pushing cobwebs and I’m folding into myself
Who will find me under this mean sleep ~

Cree Summer

I started 2011 feeling like shit.  Exhausted. Anxious.  Lonely (even though I was in a relationship). But I was determined that I would get healthy.  My doctor first diagnosed me with a Vitamin D deficiency which explained the fatigue but when the regimen of a megadose of Vitamin D failed to have lasting effect we started looking at another big “D” -depression.

Dealing with depression is an interesting process. I was hesitant to look at the fact that I was suffering from depression, even though I had decided in the Fall of 2010 (when the very bad symptoms started manifesting) that I would ask my doctor for an anti-depressive prescription if I wasn’t feeling better by January 2011.  I wanted to believe that the issues I was having were merely physical and could be dealt with by taking vitamins, eating better, sleeping more.  By May, and after several rounds of tests to check for other health issues, it was clear that no vitamin was going to fix what was ailing me.  When I looked back on my symptoms – lack of interest in usual activities, fatigue, insomnia, spending a lot of time alone – I realized that I likely was depressed and had been for YEARS!  A friend asked me if I really thought I was depressed and I told her yes, I had just gotten used to functioning from a place well-below par.  That in and of itself is depressing.

When the doctor asked me if I wanted to try antidepressants, I said YES and suggested we try Wellbutrin since I also wanted to quit smoking.  I started my first dose of Bupropion 150mg Memorial Day weekend.  By July 4th, I was up to 300mg daily and had quit smoking.  I was on the road to health and NOTHING was going to stop me.

As the fog started to lift and my energy and concentration improved, I realized how foggy things had been for too long.  It was wonderful to begin to see color again after being immersed in gray.  Granted there were many different shades of gray… but it was gray nonetheless.  Getting to this place of relative clarity, contending with how long I had lived in the GrayWorld, and taking the steps to get and stay healthy has been wonderful.

This blog is about my journey to full health.  In fact, it is very much a part of the process.  Getting to this point has been like waking from a mean sleep  – all pins and needles like blood rushing back into a limb that has gone to sleep.  It’s a painful process but necessary.

I don’t know if anyone will read this.  I only know that I have to write it.  And I have to be honest.  I’m not sure how this is going to turn out.  But the best adventures are those that are unplanned.

Adelante!

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