Year End Review

 

B96AE25C-C6AC-43EB-BCE0-E27DB6B115D7

 

As another year draws to a close, I’m still here. Alive.

Now, that may not sound like that big a deal to you, but all my fellow depression sufferers out there can appreciate the significance of that statement, because they know.

They know how much of my time is spent in absolute indifference to everything and everyone, and much of the rest of my time I’m depressed or angry.

They know nobody wants to see any of that, so I try to hide it around other people. Except my poor wife, who gets the whole experience, making her life much tougher than it ought to be.

(I truly hate that.)

They know self-care is not much of a priority, despite focusing most of my attention on me. My doctor tells me exercise helps with depression, but if I don’t care about exercising…

They know that, deep down, I actually hate feeling like this, that I actually want to get better, but I’m my own biggest obstacle to that process. I stopped seeing a therapist; I mean, if I haven’t taken to heart the suggestions she’s offered me already, what’s the use going anymore?

And they know the indifference can occasionally skate out onto the thin ice of desperation, hopelessness and even suicidal thoughts.

So, to still be here – living, breathing, at the end of another year – is, if not an accomplishment, a relief, at least.

Fortunately, I know, worst-case scenario, I have lifelines to hold onto so I don’t fall through the really thin ice.

Which is good to know.

 

I know this is the time of year to be jolly, and I’m sorry if I just dumped a bucket of cold water on that. I just wanted to let you know how I am as we approach a new year. I don’t know what’s in store next year, but somewhere in me is the hope that I can begin to move forward, mentally and physically, toward better health.

Meantime, I promise to have as Merry a Christmas as I can. 😊 Please do the same, all of you. Enjoy family, friends, food, music, decorating, shop…no, not shopping, forget that. But all the rest.

’Tis the season, after all.

 

 

 

What a Day That Was

 

Wow.

Wednesday was, without a doubt, the hardest day emotionally in a long time for me.

Depression placed a huge rock on my shoulders early in the day, and there it stayed all day long. I could feel the weight of it pushing down on me, getting progressively heavier.

It hurt. Physically hurt.

By the time I arrived home that evening, I was crushed under the weight of it.

Almost to death. At least, wishing for it.

 

I can’t really put my finger on any specific thing that triggered it all. It would be nice if I could, so I’d recognize it next time. (next time??)

I don’t know; it was like anxiety, pessimism, insecurity, self-criticism, and just anyone who wanted to join in, were all waiting on the corner to beat the $#!t out of me when I showed up.

And, boy, did they do a good job. It was just about too much to take.

 

And then, I got home, and I asked my wife to hug me and tell me she loves me while I wept on her shoulder.

So she did. And in the process, she pushed that stupid rock off of me. I so don’t know what I’d do without her.

(Oh, and my cats provided some additional therapy. 🐱 It was appreciated.)

Later, my wife reassured me of all the good things in my life, and there are plenty, I know. But, as I explained to her, the insidious thing about depression is, it persuades you that none of that matters; you’re worthless, and your life sucks, end of story.

It’s mean, y’all.

 

I’m gonna share my good days and bad days with you, just in case any of you out there think you’re alone in this fight. Believe me, you’re not.

I know I should have some kind of defense for this. Something to help me stop this before it spirals out of control.

And maybe I do. I just couldn’t think of it Wednesday.

Also, I may need to ask my psychiatrist for a change of medication. This stuff I’ve been taking for years may not be so effective, anymore.

But, thank goodness, at least I had a lifeline, and all I can say is, if you have a problem with depression or any other mental illness, find a lifeline for you.

I don’t care who; it could just be a stranger at the other end of a phone line who, in that moment of utter desperation, can be the best friend you ever had, and push that rock off of you.

I wish you all no days like the one I just had.

I wish that for me, too.

Thanks for your time.

 

Dispatch From Inside the Paper Bag

 

It’s a common criticism of an average or below average boxer to say he “can’t punch his way out of a paper bag.” Sometimes, even “a wet paper bag.” It implies a hapless palooka who is too weak/inept/cowardly to effectively land a punch.

Well, folks, I am that boxer.

My fight is against depression, as many of you know. Unfortunately, two of depression’s harder punches are loss of interest and lack of concentration.

So basically, I don’t even feel like fighting, usually. Hence, the long period of no posts on this blog. I’ll start a few of them, but following through is next to impossible; I can’t concentrate, and I don’t care.

Sucks, right?

I’m still here, though, in case you were concerned. And maybe sometime, I’ll finally land a punch. I do want to win this fight, really.

But I’m afraid we’re gonna go several more rounds.

 

And How Was Your Day?

 

The surprises life occasionally drops in your lap can sometimes be nothing short of incredible.

 

I drive a shuttle bus five days a week for a particular business. I’ve been driving it for two years, now. In that time, I’ve gotten to know several of the folks who ride it on a regular basis. I know many of them by name, and enjoy talking with them when they ride with me.

We’ll talk about just random stuff: music, sports, the job, the mercilessly hot weather (currently), whatever.

And, somewhere in the conversation, I try to get a laugh or two out of them; maybe make them forget a few seconds about the stress of the day. Some people, I can joke with relentlessly, because we know each other that well by now.

This one fellow, who shall remain nameless, and I are like that, but one day, we got a little deeper in our dialogue. I don’t recall how we got to this subject, but I shared my depression struggles with him, which led to him opening up about his depression, and sometimes thoughts of suicide.

He told me he’s thought about it “logically”, i.e., exactly how he would go about it.

I told him about how I wrestle with those same thoughts, and recommended that he get help, as I did. Because, like I’ve said before on this blog, that’s way too big a dragon to try and slay on your own.

He thanked me for the talk, and we haven’t brought it up since. Which is probably bad; I should have followed up on it with him. But, I don’t see him as much, now; since relocating to the main office, he doesn’t need to go to the other facility too often. Not that that’s any excuse.

So today, when I walked into the office, the lady at the security desk, who I also know, had a card for me from him. Now, we both expected it to be something funny, because he and I sometimes leave snarky little notes for each other with her. She kinda gets a kick out of being the go-between, I think.

Not this time. Instead, it was a thank-you card. Inside was a generous gift, and a note which read:

I really struggled on a daily basis with depression during my old job. Part of the reason I was always on the bus was you. Thank you for making me laugh and smile.

 

I just stood there for a minute, looking at that note, totally dumbfounded. I genuinely didn’t know what to think. I’m still trying to get a grasp of the significance of it.

At the very least, though, it’s immensely gratifying. I have no idea if I’ve helped anyone with what I’ve written on this blog; I can only hope. But, I can take some satisfaction in knowing I helped him.

With just a few jokes. Who would have thought?

I don’t know what this story will mean to you, if anything. Like I said, I’m still processing what it means to me.

But, have you ever been at a point in your life where you never envisioned yourself being, wondering why you were there?

I don’t know for sure, but maybe, this guy was the reason I’m right here, right now.

Which blows my mind just a little.

Love one another, y’all.

 

 

How You Doin’?

 

 

From the Associated Press, 06/08/2018:

“Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef and citizen of the world who inspired millions to share his delight in food and the bonds it created, was found dead in his hotel room Friday in France while working on his CNN series on culinary traditions. He was 61.

“CNN confirmed the death, saying that Bourdain was found unresponsive Friday morning by friend and chef Eric Ripert in the French city of Haut-Rhin. It called his death a suicide.”

 

From the Associated Press, 06/06/2018

“NEW YORK (AP) — The husband and business partner of designer Kate Spade, who died in an apparent suicide, said she suffered from depression and anxiety for many years.”

 

From the Washington Post, 06/08/2018:

“Suicide rates rose in all but one state between 1999 and 2016, with increases seen across age, gender, race and ethnicity, according to a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In more than half of all deaths in 27 states, the individuals had no known mental health condition when they took their own life.”

 

Is there anyone out there who still doesn’t see how serious a problem this is?

We’re dying, folks. By our own hand.

In ever growing numbers.

I find that both terrifying and heartbreaking.

Not to mention, completely unnecessary. This doesn’t need to be happening!

My brothers and sisters, we need to look out for one another. Where are we failing?

Well, I have one possible explanation:

The CDC report pointed out an apparently high number of suicides among people without a known mental health condition, saying: “In the 27 states that use the National Violent Death Reporting System, 54 percent of suicides were by individuals without a known mental illness.”

But Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, added an important asterisk to that statistic, saying that, “When you do a psychological autopsy and go and look carefully at medical records and talk to family members of the victims, 90 percent will have evidence of a mental health condition.” So, many of the suicides were completed by people who were never even diagnosed, and consequently, never got any treatment for their condition.

According to the report, a likely reason for that is, most people aren’t asking for help. Especially, men. 

 

And, listen, I understand the reluctance. Mental illness still has a huge stigma attached to it. Nobody wants to admit there’s a problem, because it comes with a great big Scarlet Letter.

So, rather than be negatively labeled, people will just keep killing themselves.

THAT’S why the stigma has to be eliminated. That’s why we need to discuss mental illness as easily as we do cancer, or heart disease, or any other physical malady. It’s an illness, and it can and should be treated. People with mental illness aren’t crazy; they’re sick, and they need help.

And here’s the important part: If you know them, they need you to ask them if they need help.

I know that’s tough but, many times, they’re simply waiting for someone to ask them; they just won’t come out and say it.

Look, I’m no doctor. I’m no psychiatrist. I do have an illness. It’s called clinical depression, and I sure enough need help for it. And I’m getting it. Because I deal with those thoughts that visit me sometimes, and tell me just go ahead and check out, because you’re hopeless, you sorry, no good SOB.

But then, I realize: after posting information on this blog about what some of the warning signs are in someone who may be suicidal (08/31/2017), where to go to get help (08/31/2017), and how to help someone who is suicidal (09/13/2017), and after offering personal encouragement (09/23/2017 and several other dates), it would all ring pretty hollow if I just went and killed myself, wouldn’t it? I’d be the world’s biggest fraud. (Well, second biggest; you longtime readers know who I think has a lock on first place.)

But, back to my point: We all need to learn to be more observant of the behavior of those around us and, if we notice something that’s off with somebody, ask if he or she is okay. That’s not nosy, that’s caring.

And, you never know. It could be the difference between someone getting help, or ending it all. The stakes are that high.

Please, folks, let’s get out of ourselves and our cellphones a little more, and check in on our family, our friends, our colleagues. They may be waiting for us to ask.

But for how much longer?

By the way, how are you?