Year End Review

 

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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.

 

 

My Final Year As a Quinquagenarian

 

In other words, I turned 59 today.

Anyone between the ages of 50 and 60 is a quinquagenarian. It’s a word you use all the time, right?

Are you kidding? People that age get worn out just saying it. Who the blue devil came up with that title, anyways?

Never mind, here I am, standing at the threshold of 60. A threshold I thought would take a lot longer to show up. Truly astonishing, how fast life runs when you’re not looking.

It’s unfair, too; by the time you come to appreciate just how precious your days on this earth actually are, they’re mostly gone.

But enough gloom and sadness. The larger point is, I’m still here! And, as that noted philosopher once said, “Any day above ground is a good day.”

(Even with the guy we currently have as President, but I digress…)

Also, considering that I’ve spent the last several years with depression as my constant companion, occasionally urging me to just cash it all in, it’s a small miracle I’m still around.

And, on the whole, I’m glad I’m here. Despite what I try to tell myself sometimes, life actually is worth living.

Especially when I can get in some naps. Us old folks need those, you know.

So, have a piece of cake for me. Heck, indulge; have two.

Just don’t make me blow out any candles. I’m still a little winded from saying that word.

 

 

 

Treading Water

 

I’m sorry, folks.

The truth is, lately, I just don’t care about anything enough to write about it.

And I don’t know when I will.

But, even if I did, I’d likely tell myself you wouldn’t care, so why bother writing? That’s due mainly to my rather low opinion of myself these days. Depression, and all that.

Besides, trying to write anything lately is like trying to swim in mud. I just bog down at some point.

I’m sorry to disappoint any of you.

I don’t know if I should even post this.

But I just want you to know, I’m still here.

That’s about all I want to say for now. I love you all.

This Is Me

 

I have clinical depression.

I was diagnosed with it in 2003. For all I know, I’ve had it for much longer.

It often leaves me irritated, angry, impatient, indifferent, unmotivated and, definitely, depressed. It leaves me with feelings of guilt and hopelessness.

It steals my concentration, paralyzing me to the point of straining to write every word on the page.

Or do anything else, for that matter. I just mostly don’t care.

I don’t care about taking care of myself. I know I should eat better and exercise, but meh. My therapist has offered me some practical things to apply toward improving my mental health, but who wants to do that?

That’s probably what I experience, more than anything: just a whole bunch of whatever.

I’m not always like this, you know. I have my good days, where everything’s generally cool, and I’m doing okay, and life feels good.

But then, there are those other days. And sometimes, those days get pretty dark.

And, if it gets bad enough, my depression will get me thinking, maybe I just don’t belong here, anymore.

Maybe I should rid everybody of me.

 

Men, does this sound like you?

Okay, well here’s the part that probably doesn’t.

I’m talking to someone about it.

I’m getting help for it.

It took some time for me to get to that, mind you. I thought psychiatric treatment was for crazy people, not me.

Maybe you think so, too. Maybe you think you’re weak if you’re depressed, or if you have anxiety. Maybe you’re embarrassed to tell anyone what’s going on with you. Maybe you think you can snap out of it, or you can overcome it by yourself.

The truth is, guys, you can’t. Ask Michael Phelps. Ask Kevin Love. Ask Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Ask me. You need to talk to someone. You need help. And the sooner you face up to that, the better.

I know that, based on what I’ve said here, it doesn’t seem like I’m any better. Unfortunately, this is something that takes time to treat; there is no quick fix. And I readily admit, I have a ways to go.

But, I also know, just the act of talking about it with someone brings great relief. It’s a good first step.

Fellas, I’m pleading with you; too many of us are killing ourselves because we wait to ask for help until it’s too late.

Please, don’t let that be you.

 

 

For the Fellas

 

Men. Guys. Dudes. Brothers.

Listen to me right now. If I could, I would grab every single one of you by the lapels on your coat, pull you right to my face, and say, “Pay Attention!!”

Here’s why: There are two professional basketball players who have something very important to say to all of us guys.

So, I want all of you to go straight to The Players’ Tribune, a website where professional athletes connect directly with fans, in their own words. Once you’re there, read Everyone is Going Through Something, by the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kevin Love, about the panic attack that woke him up to his mental illness.

Then, read about DeMar DeRozan, of the Toronto Raptors, opening up about his struggles with depression and anxiety.

Go ahead, do it now. I’ll wait here.

 

Done? Good.

Could you identify with some of what you read? I sure could. I think lots of men can.

But nobody ever knows that, because to speak up about it is to admit to a “weakness”, which, of course, no real man can admit, right?

Plus, in our culture, “mental illness” is synonymous with “looney toons”, and it’s time we all get past that way of thinking.

What I hope sticks with you, fellas, from Kevin and DeMar’s stories, is that it’s okay to talk to someone about your mental health. You’re not any less of a man if you have a problem.

You hear me? You’re not any less of a man if you have a problem. And you’re not any less of a man for talking with someone about it. The fact I have to practically shout it to you just shows how much STIGMA is attached to mental illness in America. Especially, with men.

And, the way to make that go away is for more of us to talk openly about it, like Kevin and DeMar, and so many before them, and not just athletes, either. Men from all different walks of life.

Because, the truth is, big boys do cry. We just never see them do it.

Mental illness isn’t something that will just go away with time if you wait it out, and it sure as hell isn’t something you can fix, yourself; I don’t care how badass you think you are.

I’m gonna keep talking about mental illness. My mental illness. My depression. Because it’s something men need to talk about a whole lot more. Not just about sports, or cars, or politics, or women, or our physical health.

Our mental health is as much a part of who we are as the rest of it, guys. So, let’s make it part of the conversation.

I just want to remind you of what Kevin said at the end of his essay:

“So if you’re reading this and you’re having a hard time, no matter how big or small it seems to you, I want to remind you that you’re not weird or different for sharing what you’re going through.

“Just the opposite. It could be the most important thing you do. It was for me.”

It was for me. And, with all my heart, guys, I promise you, it could be for you.

It really is okay.

Keep Them Tools Sharp

 

So, the reason I started seeing a therapist again last year, after a nine-year hiatus, was the hope that said therapist could perhaps provide me some tools to help me cope with my ongoing depression.

And she has. She recommended some sites for me to visit online, that gave me some practical steps to apply, and I thought the information was very valuable.

Yay, I’ve got some tools, now!

But, as any skilled craftsman will tell you, one good way to keep your tools sharp longer…

Is to not use them.

 

Why don’t I put into practice the things I’ve learned? Maybe, for a few reasons.

One, making a habit out of anything new is tough. Especially, anything good, right? We’re settled in to all our bad habits and, even though we know they’re bad, we’re kinda slow to let go of them, aren’t we? How many times have we declared ourselves on one diet or other, only to fall in those familiar traps on the path? How many newly started exercise regimens have we abandoned, not because we really wanted to, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to get up and run today, or whatever?

Maybe it’s just me.

Two, on the subject of exercise, you know how it feels when you do something physical, that works muscles on your body you haven’t used in a long while? (Stop snickering, I know what you’re thinking…) It’s not comfortable, is it? And, the next day, maybe you’re a little sore in those places. ( I said, STOP it!)

Well, I guess the mind and the emotions are like that. Let’s say, for instance, I have a “self-forgiveness” muscle, that’s pretty much atrophied at this point. (Hypothetically, of course.) When I ask it to try and function, chances are, it won’t be comfortable. Might even hurt.

Then, how ready will I be to try it again?

Three, I’m the kind of guy who likes to mark time, to hit the Pause button, get everything set up like I want it, then press Play, and continue on.

There is, of course, no Pause button. You would think a fifty-something-year-old man would have figured that out. We’re stuck in Play, all the way to the end. (Feels more like Fast Forward, though, gotta say.)

I guess I just have to do this thing on the fly, which I’d rather not.

 

Four, and this one may be the hardest to explain:

In a weird way, part of me likes being in this condition, fancying myself the classic Tragic Hero in my own, personal Drama: a somewhat virtuous fellow, nevertheless doomed to suffer. In its own twisted, perverted way, it gets me more attention which, as anyone who knows me can tell you, is a particular lifelong craving of mine.

Now, how screwed up is that, folks? The problem with that is, I’m not the only one who suffers. Which sucks for the other people.

I guess that’s partly due to the artiste in me, grouping myself with the Van Goghs and the Hemingways and the Kurt Cobains of the world. (Not that my work approaches theirs; I’m not claiming that.) Also, my uncle, bless his heart, who was a writer that had depression for years, and ultimately killed himself.

There’s something else, though: the gnawing feeling that the tragic life is the life I deserve. This is what I have coming to me. Nothing good; only bad.

I don’t know why. At least, if I do, I’m not telling me.

 

Mind you, I don’t like admitting any of this. It’s more than a bit embarrassing. But, it’s the unfortunate, ugly truth.

Dr. L, if you’re reading this, (yes, she has permission) just know that I’m holding steady. I know what I need to do; I know what I want to do.

I don’t know. Maybe I need some tools to help me get started using my tools.

That’s sorta funny, but really not.