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Tag: Depression

How I Explain It

Blog-Post---Roller-Coaster

When we heard that Robin Williams had committed suicide, I hoped we would google it and learn it was just a new, creepy urban legend.  But it wasn’t.

We were mostly without internet at the time, so I just caught snippets of reactions from the electronic consciousness.  One snippet seemed to echo frequently.  It was the idea that Williams hadn’t focused on the good in his life or that, unlike the pontificating pundit of the moment who had also been through really hard times, he had simply chosen to wallow in his misery.

I’ve heard variations of that sentiment my entire life because while I can’t say I know what it was like to ride a mile in Williams’ roller coaster car, we are in the same amusement park.  I don’t know how all the rides work, this is how I explain my experience at the fair.
 
I had a fresh ticket in my back pocket a few weeks ago when I bounced into my shrink’s office, plopped down on the couch, and, without taking more than one breath, chattered non-stop for 45 minutes.

I chattered about a book I’m wrapping up, an idea for a play I’m going to write in September, an idea for a novel I’m already fantasizing about writing in October and had spent the previous half hour drafting a 20 page synopsis of.  I chattered about reorganizing the linen closet. I walked to my car, still dictating a dozen to-do’s into my to-do-a-maphone.

You could say I was up.  I was real up.

I have a family I adore, a great job, and a growing creative life, but there was a lot on my mind that week.  I’d learned of a friend’s recent death and a serious illness of another. There was a mountain of work that wasn’t getting smaller, a world panicking about Ebola, Russia and the Middle East, a fresh diagnosis of a degenerative eye disorder (I’m blaming that for any drawings that appear subpar) and more than a few bills marked ‘Freakin’ Urgent – Pay UP Loser’ waiting in the mailbox.  

I, however, was helicoptering over the planet, suspended by a thread-thin seatbelt over a world that looked technicolor perfect and sparkling with possibility (it could have been the algae blooms in Lake Erie).  

I would have been up if you had told me I had a special type of cancer that made my butt look even fatter when viewed from outer space with the naked eye.
I can admit the flying is fun when it’s not scaring the shit out of me, but it does scare me.  I become SuperWoman, taking on too many obligations in a single phone call and exercising the purchasing power of a regional big-box store, leading to a crash whose destructive force would make Michael Bay drool with envy.

I’ve been doing this part of the roller coaster ride since I could talk.

I’ve tried working with my brain’s air traffic controllers, but the littlest things (medications, for example) can inspire strikes and and even walk-outs.  My current shrink has been helping me find new ways of negotiating with the control tower.  We haven’t ruled out new and improved pills to pop, but my brain, like my diet, is a work in progress.

But like my diet, if there were an easy way to be ‘normal’  (or thin – the ultimate fantasy) by just ‘snapping out of it’ or ‘deciding to be well’ without having to medicate and journal and snap rubber bands on my wrist and sit with a shrink once a week for many of the last 30 years, I would jump at it – even if I had to jump for “it”  from a plane without a parachute to grab it out of the sky with a pair of tweezers.

Because I know that in a few months, even if I found out I’d sold a zillion copies of my soon-to-be-imagined bestseller “How to Not Dust a House for 365 Days or More”, Santa was real, both kids had landed scholarships to Harvard and Yale, and peace on earth prevailed, I would still feel like closing my eyes on a deserted highway so that the Big Guy and the kids could call my death an accident and not know that I had intentionally left them forever. 

I know this because I’ve been doing this part of the roller coaster ride in one form or another since before I could talk – long before I was old enough to understand the words, “snap out of it”.

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How to Improve Your Garden in One Day

garden butterfly net

I’m thinking of starting a workshop for gardeners who are feeling less than confident about their growing skills, and here is a sneak peak at some of the steps toward quickly improving your garden that I am planning to cover:

1)  Drive to Minister Hill
2)  Use supplied hedge clippers to chop latest canes from the raspberry bush from hell that has volunteered to guard the garden gate, allowing only bears and chipmunks to pass unscathed.
3)  Stay on the garden paths to avoid being attacked by tomato plants that refuse to cooperate with this year’s homage to vertical gardening.  Take note of heavy reliance on completely recycled and fruitless efforts, including stakes and leaves to tie things together ‘naturally’.
4) This is a hands-on workshop, and participants will be asked to choose a sixpack of dried-up, neglected veggie starts to plant at the end of the hour, if there’s time.
5) If you notice a weed that seems like it would look better in the rusting wheelbarrow, by all means, pull it.  Do not fight the urge to pull just one more – there are enough for every participant.
6) The workshop garden is a work in progress which means all participants will have the chance to spend $25 on more veggie starts to neglect while they plan their next move.
7) Dig up established perennial vegetables and place in bucket for replanting after new garden design is confirmed.
8) At the forty-five minute mark there will be a thirty minute TV break.
9) Depending on the month, take another walk out to the garden to pick the sole cherry tomato or head of lettuce as a souvenir to take home.
10) Drive Home and take a fresh look at your own garden and note how much more organized it suddenly seems.  

If currently in therapy for any sort of depression or feelings of inadequacy, send money you would have spent on this week’s session to your Picking My Battles Gardening instructor or to her power of attorney, should her family succeed in having her committed to the nearest psychiatric center for the treatment of scatterbrained gardeners.

 

 

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The Bright Sides

peripheral-vision-web

I knew it wasn’t going to be good news when I went to the eye specialist. There would either be surgery that would leave me with the current crappy vision in my right eye but not let it get any crappier. Or it would be the news that it could actually get worse.  So I was sort of prepared when I found out that the left eye might be joining the party.

Believe it or not, I was actually kind of relieved.  I hate surgery, but when I first learned that my retina was developing a split personality, I was more than a little worried about being able to work at a computer long term and, especially, if I would be able to draw.  The art world will be relieved (or maybe appalled) to know, that both eyes can get a lot ickier and still let me doodle.  It may be a sign of misplaced priorities, but I was only slightly bothered by the idea that the continued loss of peripheral vision might keep me from driving.

I’ve lived without a car before, and I’ve lived without drawing.  Living without driving was inconvenient (less so in places with decent public transportation, but nothing compares to the experience of transporting a sheet of plywood home on the subway).  Living without art was downright depressing. It’s not really life.

I’m not religious or prone to looking for cosmic reasons for events in my life, but I do try to find a bright side to get through things (instead of wondering where the zombie apocalypse fits in the grand scheme of the universe, for example, I might see it as a good chance to practice my screams in the key of high C) or, at the very least, a good contingency plan (planning for a career in the zombie opera because, let’s face it, I wouldn’t be outrunning them).

Last week, my bright side was that this discovery was a warning to create as much as possible before the lights got fuzzy.  This week, my bright side is that maybe the increasing inability to see and be distracted by everything on the periphery will be a gift – one that reminds me to focus only on the people and dreams that matter.

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Be

In my inner world, I fight dragons. I take on armies and villains, triumphing over any challenge with wit and courage. Did I mention this was a fantasy?

In the real world, I've wrapped myself in the notion that my dreams are the result of an active imagination. Lately, though, as I look at my life and the things I haven't achieved or the real demons I've been afraid to fight, I've come to an uncomfortable admission. It's not just the inner triumphs that are fictional. Everything in that world is imaginary – especially the courage.

Before thirteen-year-old Thing1 was born, I never thought of myself as especially kind or patient or even steadfast. When he came into our world, however, right away he needed me to learn all of those things and, for him, I did. My kindness or patience still wouldn't win me any awards, but because of him I learned to keep trying when the breast milk wasn't flowing right away. I learned to stick by someone who was screaming in my face and to put someone else's needs before my own.

Right now we're navigating the first year of adolescence with all the pitfalls I'd expect and some I didn't. And even though he's getting stubble on his chin, I still look at him and feel the same powerful push to be better. He needs me to be brave now. So, not just for him but because of him, I will be.

 

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White Noise

 

Snow angel

Tuesday, we were looking forward to another  snowy night and day.  Like most northern regions, it takes a lot more than 6-12″ to get Vermonters flustered, but, to be perfectly honest, it’s not the snow that rattles my nerves, it’s the snow day.

I work from home.  Most of the time it’s a good racket – especially when Thing1 and Thing2 get the unexpected day off.  It’s not all sunshine and lollipops, however, especially when Thing1 and Thing2 get the unexpected day off.   They’re good kids, but, try as I might, I have not found the trick to getting them to sit quietly with their hand folded over their laps while mommy deals with customers online (if you’ve found it online somewhere, send me the link).   But, as I found out over Christmas break (almost two weeks of expected days off), silence isn’t always golden.

Seven-year-old Thing2 – already plastered to the ceiling in anticipation of Santa’s visit – had spent the morning migrating from lego projects to torturing his brother.  At one point, he managed to combine activities, causing a crescendo of ‘MOM!’ from thirteen-year-old Thing1’s room.  Thing1 had ‘accidentally’ knocked Thing2’s lego sculpture out of his hand.  The ruins of his engineering masterpiece were strewn about the floor.  One of the witnesses to the ‘accident’ was red faced, the other was in tears. I was chatting online with several customers at once and decided there wasn’t time to call in CSI to determine if the destruction was accidental or premeditated, and I ordered Thing2 to the living room for a cool-down on the iPad.  

Lips pursed, arms folded over his chest, Thing2 marched to a corner of the couch after retrieving a blanket from his bunk. He stood on the couch, arranging the blanket just so and, when he had created his cave, grabbed the iPad from the table and retreated under the patchwork tent.

Thing2 has loved the iPad since it emerged from its sleek white box.  Like most kids, he knows more about it than a seasoned software engineer, and I’m ashamed to admit that it plays babysitter too often on days like this.  

The next day, each Thing retreated automatically to his own corner.  One was in his room working on a computer project with a friend in Maine.  Two was under his tent with headphones borrowed from daddy.  For most of the morning, the only sound came from my keyboard.

That night, I finished work on time and, with a small break in the depression that had been amplifying for months, I thought an after dinner post was in order.  But as the Big Guy took up residence on the couch for his winter’s nap and I began loading the wood stove to cook dinner, I noticed that it was still very quiet.  The dishes clanking were the only noise. 

Thing2 was still under the blanket and headphones, his legos and sketchbooks gathering dust.  There was no new dance routine to watch and animate.  There was no impromptu party waiting in his room.  And suddenly I was scrambling for something to write.  

Like a nagging housewife driving her husband to the arms of a lover, my quest for quiet had silenced my inspiration with electronic lithium. 

Cousins arrived the next day, and neither child was interested in anything electronic as we celebrated Christmas.  

The Monday after the family left, the silence was deafening, but the iPad was nowhere to be found.  Thing2 emerged late in the morning, dragging his tent.  He looked for his digital drug, but, not finding it, deposited his blanket on the couch and padded over to the Christmas tree where his latest Lego project was still sitting, the remaining 500 pieces sorted into empty ice cream buckets.

For the rest of the morning, he delivered a muted monologue of the building of his new starship.  Occasionally, frustrated tears punctuated the chatter and interrupted my work.  I broke up a few fights, but, when dinner time rolled around my inspirer-in-chief joined me in the kitchen to show me his latest dance moves.  And, oddly enough, the noise made the work day better.  

I didn’t write that night, but Tuesday morning, that probable snow day got me just rattled enough to get out of bed early and start tapping.   

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