No Labor for Me, Day

1 Sep

Warning: Miscarriage, infertility, infant death triggers

Ecstatic is the closest word to describe it. Finally past the first trimester, I told my parents, I told my boss; I told everybody. I was going to have a baby! I was due on Labor Day, which I found hilarious. After two previous miscarriages fewer weeks along, now that I was past the first trimester, I felt safe letting everyone know the happy news.

I was wrong.

Oh sure, there had been no baby shower yet, I wasn’t showing, I had no clue if it was a boy or a girl, but still….

I was very wrong.

Yet again, there was no happy news.

There would never be any happy news springing forth from my womb.

The worst part was, unlike the previous miscarriages, now that I was into the second trimester and “the fetus was no longer viable,” I needed to have “a procedure.”

This is when my previous hard and fast, black and white, views on when life begins, when is it a fetus versus when is it a baby, forever changed, in ways that are still very much evolutionary, not revolutionary. For, to some, it may have been a 15-week fetus or blob of tissue, but to me and my doctor,  it was definitely my child.

My child. My child was dead. Dead before arrival.

Dead before I could ever hold him or her. Dead before I could ever name him or her. Dead before I could sing, “Jesus loves you” like my Mom sang to me. Dead before every little thing.

Dead but still in me. How cruel. Now I had to have “a procedure” to get him/her out.

I would go to sleep and when I’d wake up, I’d no longer be a bio Mom. Bye-bye, hopes and dreams.

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It’s been 22 years. I know I would not have the life I have now if I had a 22-year old; that’s not the point.

I believe in restoration. I believe there will be a new heaven for all creation. I believe one day I will see my child, hold him/her, and we’ll sing, “Jesus loves you.”

Dear Holy One,

How often we struggle with unrealized dreams. How often we torture ourselves with imagined punishments from unloving beings. Help us remember you are love. Let us feel the peace around us. Wipe the tears we cry. Mend the breaks in our tender hearts. These things we pray. 

Amen.

A Bunny, a Fawn, and Some Geese Walk into a Bar….

19 Aug

rabbit

A big bunny.

A fawn and a doe.

A flock of Canada geese.

Add, “Walk into a bar,” and you might have the start of a good joke.

For about a month, up until about a week ago, nothing in life was funny. Not my usual television guilty pleasures. Not the antics of my niece and nephew. Not the daily ironies of life I typically relish. The entire world’s sorrows, all of life’s tragedies, all of my personal failings – my bucket runneth over with the double whammy of the murder of Michael Brown in MO and Robin Williams’ suicide. I had no more room. Cannot process. It does not compute. No more tears can fall. Cannot feel any more. Full. Danger, Will Robinson.

I have frequently shared on this page my journeys with addictions of various sorts and my battles with the black monster of depression. I occasionally have to slay the dragon known as recurrent major depressive disorder. The good news is, thanks to among many other things, a proper diagnosis, insurance, a wonderful therapist, an awesome spouse, and tremendous self-awareness, the occasions are few and far between. Ninety-nine percent of my life is spectacular. But, oh, that one percent. Scary.

When in the clutches of this monster, it is easy to feel you will never feel free. I tried my usual go-to ideas. Reengage the therapist. See the doctor and increase the meds temporarily. Talk to those close to me about how I’m feeling. Get outside more. Get off all media for a while, including Facebook, television, radio – when I say all, I mean all. Phone a friend. Meditate. Color. Eat ice cream. Read the Psalms.

Nothing. Was. Working.

Last Thursday, I opened the gate to the driveway, and there staring at me was big bunny. Big bunny is what my wife and I call the silly rabbit that shares his home between our yard and our neighbors’. He didn’t move, and I didn’t either. We just looked at each other for about 10 seconds as if we were saying, “Good morning.” He turned and slowly hopped away, and off to work I went.

Last Friday, I left work at my usual time of 6:30 p.m., which meant the last person had probably walked the path to the parking lot about 90 minutes prior. As my eyes looked up from the pavement, I looked right into the eyes of a fawn. I stopped and we looked at each other for a few seconds. I heard some rattling in the woods and I saw the mama. The three of us just stood there looking at each other. I slowly backed up and walked sideways down the pavement because I didn’t want to scare them.

I got into my car and as I pulled up to the first light on my way home, I noticed a huge flock of Canada geese gathered on the sidewalk pooping all over. I burst out laughing for the first time in a month.

How much harder could the Holy have tried to show me that I am not just connected to tragedy but to beauty?

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The theme for our August synchroblog was a one word prompt and the word was: “Connection”

Here is the list of contributors this month. Go read them all and leave a comment!

Jerry Wirtley – Connection
Sara Quezada – Can You Really Know Someone In A Different Language?
Ford – Interindependence
Michael Donahoe – Connection
Minnow – Our Dis-Connect
Justin Steckbauer – Connection in Love, it’s what Life is all about!
Carol Kuniholm – Disengagement and Connection
Wesley Rostoll – Finding Jesus In Different Places
Leah Sophia – Touch of Life
Karen “Charity” Aldrich – Wuv True Wuv
Abbie Watters – Connection – Addicted to the Buzz
Liz Dyer – Human Connection and the Power of Empathy

Reborn on the Fourth of July

4 Jul

This post is dedicated to my friends MW and KK, the first who helped get me to sobriety and the second, who along with many others, helps keep me there.

“It’s medication time! It’s medication time!”

Every day, twice a day, as dependable as the sun rising and setting, the roly-poly male nurse cheerfully bellowed those words, and the apocalyptic zombie waltz commenced from rooms around the ward to the Plexiglas front of the tightly controlled, sweet candy store known as the pharm lab.

Standing in line, in various stages of dress and undress, whether in street clothes or hospital gown, old, young, from the city or the ‘burbs, straight, gay, unsure, we were united purely by our desire to get the magically delicious blend contained in our personally prescribed Dixie cup of relief from the demons within.

In my case, the diagnosis (manic depression) and therefore medications (nardil, lithium), was proven within 18 months to be incorrect. Nonetheless, the diagnosis provided something life saving: you cannot drink alcohol on these meds. I vowed I would not drink after I was released if it meant I would feel better, and I have been sober for 26 years. The initial blood work found my life-long struggle with occasional black clouds that hurricane winds could not remove was due to low thyroid function, and thus began a contest trying to get that dang little gland to balance on a beam like an Olympic gymnast who suddenly sprouted size 14 feet.

I arrived at the psych ward via ambulance early in the morning of Sunday, July 4, 1988. I had gone out Saturday night to a women’s bar in NJ, once again searching for friendly faces and only finding rejection. Alcohol never upped my game. I never had game. (Well, on the softball field, I had great game, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog. Or two.) Within the previous year I had come out of the closet, divorced my husband, watched my mother battle breast cancer, moved from PA to NJ, changed jobs, started intense therapy, had my first relationship with a woman (who turned out to be a drug addict) – I just don’t know why when I left that bar in NJ, all I wanted to do was drive my car off whichever dead Philadelphian bridge I was on.

When I got home, for the first time, the unconditional love of my Sheltie JJ just wasn’t enough. I called information and asked for the closest hospital. I must have reached the best operator ever. She calmly asked me a series of questions and kept me on the phone until the EMTs arrived. I knew my parents would have to drive all the way from western PA to come watch him and then put him in a kennel on Monday, which of course they did, because they are the best parents ever.

Arriving at the hospital, I had the choice whether to check myself in, and I said YES. Just the fact I had thought about driving off that bridge scared me enough to do so. I was in for 10 days. I recall hating about 7 days of it. I hated the art therapy. I hated the music therapy. I particularly hated group therapy. The Rorschach test was stupid. I scoffed that they took my shoelaces but not my toothbrush. Did they not realize I could stab myself in the throat with my toothbrush? The food was crap. Most of the other people scared the hell out of me. The room where people were in strait jackets and there were padded cells – Oh. My. God.

Slowly, my M&M (messy & melancholy) hard candy-ass shell melted and my gooey, feeling self started to ooze out of the twisted tunnels it had been poured into for its own safety. I actually got into art therapy. I began to talk in group. I realized just how much I had in my life that was good. I acknowledged I had a medical condition. Let me write that again. I acknowledged I had a medical condition. Not a character weakness. This was not about me being weak. This was about me being strong enough to ask for help.

The illusion of control is an odd thing. It is intoxicating. It is addictive. It is dangerous. Giving up this illusion is so liberating.

What is controlling you? An addiction of some sort – a substance, a person, a religion, a belief? Is it a fear? A fear of looking foolish? Of failing?

Today, in the US, it is Independence Day. I invite you to join with me and declare your independence from whatever it is that is holding you back. You can start today. This can be your Independence Day also!  

 

Postscript: A few years ago I was able to visit the ward where I was hospitalized. I stopped first at the hospital gift shop to buy flowers. Who should answer at the front desk of the ward but the “Medication Time” male nurse! He and another nurse both worked there while I was hospitalized. They thanked me profusely for the flowers and said, “We never hear about the ones who make it.” That still gives me chills.

For Sue

11 Jun

sadness

“You’re lovely to remember, and looking back then feeling like I’m walking very slowly through a soft and misty rain. And a beautiful sadness comes over me. Though, I’ve never been so lonely, I’m happy in a way, for the love that I still feel when I think of you today. And a beautiful sadness comes over me.” (Beautiful Sadness, Leikin, M.A. / Holdridge, L.E., © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management US, LLC)

Finding myself like the proverbial “duck out of water” in oh, so many ways, as both married to my husband and living in the middle of Amish country in Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to leave the insurance business and move back into my chosen career of technical editing/writing. The company was known around town as “the bomb factory” although this was supposed to be a big secret. The place was a front for the CIA, although when it all fell apart a few years after I joined, of course the government denied this and several people, including the founder, went to jail.

I don’t remember interviewing with my supervisor, Sue. I don’t remember first meeting her. My brain cannot process when it did not have a picture of her in it. Straight line skirts, long-sleeved silk blouses with modest V-neck, just a peek of camisole. She was in her late 40s when we met; I was in my late 20s. She had a hearty laugh. She walked briskly and confidently around the proposal production center, which she managed. I was smitten. It was safe. She was married; I was married. I wasn’t smitten totally in that way, but I was smitten further than I had ever been smitten before. (The last time I had been smitten was for a boy named Mark in 5th grade.)

I had known I was gay for a long time. No, a long, long, long time. Growing up, I knew I was different since at least age 10. I had suspected I was gay since at least my mid-teens. Being brought up Roman Catholic, having the expectations of a Mrs. Degree, the white picket fence, the kiddies; it just was not an option. By the time I arrived in California for my final two years of college, it was a foregone conclusion. I had one acquaintance on the student paper I would confide in about this when I got really drunk (a frequent event), but it was confusing because there wasn’t anyone I was “into” in that way.

Then there was Sue.

Oh, Sue.

That throaty laugh. The way her camisole peeked out on her suntanned chest. Her confident, brisk walk.

I had it bad.

We became fast friends. She already had a great girlfriend at work, which made me insanely jealous. That, however, was her “shopping” girlfriend. We had more. (Oh, the things we tell ourselves sometimes!) Her husband was soon dying of cancer. I was soon drinking and drugging, and realizing I was gay and needed to leave my husband. We glommed onto each other like the two dysfunctional, co-dependent, alcoholic, needy people we were.

I was in heaven.

During frequent breaks in the lactation room off the ladies’ room, I’d bare my soul while she’d smoke. After her husband went into the hospital for good and I left my husband, these breaks became less frequent and instead, I’d head to her house after work while she drank and bared her soul while I listened.

One Saturday night after I left my husband, I decided it was finally time to determine whether I was gay. My therapist told me I was unusual because most gays and lesbians come out “with” someone or “because of” someone, but I did not. I decided I must go to the local lesbian bar, find someone to make out with, and see whether I was really gay. (This has all the makings of a bad movie, does it not?)

I am a painful introvert, and drinking never helped. I didn’t have moves. I didn’t have lines. It was sad. Finally someone started paying attention. She was older, which I liked. I definitely needed someone with experience. A few drinks later, I agreed to go back to her place. One thing led to another and another thing led to…The Crying Game. I sobered up fast and things came to a halt. We actually became good friends, but if I said it wasn’t traumatizing at the time, I’d be lying.

First thing at work Monday, I dragged Sue to the lactation room. “You won’t believe what happened to me Saturday night!” I was in hysterics as I recounted the story. “Yeah, so?” She said, in the totally non-judgmental, chill way only she could do. It was not a dismissive tone; it was an embracing, “It could happen to anyone” tone. This was in the middle of the 1980s, people!

Through my whole coming out, separation, divorce, first girlfriend, getting sober, first time getting 13th stepped at AA – through every single thing – this friend of mine never once judged, never once stopped being my friend, never stopped, dare I say, loving me for me. We lost touch a few year after I left the area and she remarried, but I’ve never forgotten her kindness.

So, last night about midnight, I had this thought about her, and I googled. She confidently and briskly left this earth in 2011 at age 72. I am so glad that when I was in her area in 2010, I looked her up and phoned her. I reminded her of my “night of self-discovery.” She laughed that throaty laugh. I now know she was very ill. I thanked her. She said she was happy I was doing well, and she couldn’t wait to tell her daughter I called. I told her I still want Meryl Streep to play her in the movie adaptation of my book.

“I always thought you were the best, I guess I always will. I always thought that we were blessed, and I feel that way still. Sometimes we took the hard road, but we always saw it through. If I had only one friend left, I’d want it to be you. Someone who understands me and knows me inside out. Helps keep me together, and believes without a doubt. That I could move a mountain, someone to tell it to. If I had only one friend left, I’d want it to be you.” (One Friend, Seals, D., © Alfred Publishing Co.)

 

#YesAllWomen

1 Jun

Warning: Rape triggers.

YesAllWomen-hashtag

It was a late January Saturday night. It was c-o-l-d. Just about everyone in the dorm had gone home for the weekend, including my roommate, the girls on either side of my room, and those across the hall. The dorm was, for all intents, deserted.

I headed for a beer bash just off campus; couldn’t beat the price – all the beer a college gal could drink for FREE. It was a ploy to get the gals there; I was too naïve to realize it was also a ploy, still employed, to get those gals nice and liquored up.

I walked over to the house with a couple of friends, all bundled up against the bitter Pennsylvania cold. The place was already overcrowded. It was loud; I recognized a couple of people I knew and we all began talking, dancing, drinking, singing to Springsteen, drinking more, and singing louder. An upper classman offered to give me a ride back to the dorm, which sounded like a good idea given both my state and the cold outside.

I had spotted him shortly after we arrived – he wore a TKE jacket and unlike almost every other TKE on campus, the name on it looked like it could have actually been his real first or last name. We had spent a good amount of time talking earlier in the evening and I didn’t think twice about accepting his offer. Continue reading

Each Day a New Decision: Choose Life

25 Mar

“Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, Sun, moon and stars in their courses above, Join with all nature in manifold witness, To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love”

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It’s spring in the northern hemisphere, and spring can be a difficult season for many. While we tend to think of winter as a difficult season with people struggling with seasonal affective disorder and a myriad of holidays, many people suffer with spring. The signs of new life it brings – trees budding, birds singing, grass greening – can be troubling to those not experiencing personal signs of new life.

While skeptics may say the only two certainties in life are death and taxes, I say each day gives us the opportunity to choose whether we are just surviving another day or whether we are truly living. Skeptics may say each day we are just another day closer to death. While this may technically be true, why not each day choose to live? Why not choose life?

John 3 talks about being born again from the Spirit. Every day is an opportunity to start afresh. Afresh with a new attitude. Afresh with new friends. Afresh with new or repaired relationships. This is what I refer to when I refer to choosing LIFE. Choose active, not passive, participation in your own life! Continue reading

My Wild Irish Roots

17 Mar

When your full name is Doreen Ann Mary Mannion, you do not need to wear green on Saint Patrick’s Day, or drink green beer for that matter. Being Irish is certainly not a “one day a year” event in my life. My father’s mother, my Nana, Anne Corcoran, was “off the boat” Irish; she arrived in the US alone at age 18 in 1924, straight from the family farm in County Longford. My father’s father, my Pop, Charles Mannion, was second generation American. Until recently, much to my Mom’s dismay, I rather thought of myself as Irish-American, and that’s it; I since have taken great delight in learning more about my other half – my French-Canadian half.

nana cow

My Nana could be very funny. She sent this photo back to Ireland with the note, “With love to Mother. ‘Which is the cow? Don’t you think I look sweet, and how?'”

Thanks to years of difficult research by my Mom long before the Internet, I not only know who my great grandparents were, but also know the names of all 8 of my paternal great, great-grandparents – all born in Ireland – Thomas Mannion & Anne McElroy, Patrick Gaffney & Anne Masterson, Thomas Corcoran & Bridget Duffy, and Patrick Leavy & Ann O’Reilly. (I even know an amazing 11 of 16 full names of my great, great, great-grandparents on my Dad’s side.)

Thomas Mannion was the son of Patrick Mannion & Margaret Grady, who were kicked off their land by the British and forced onto a coffin ship bound for North America in 1849 during an Gorta Mór, which took place between 1845 and 1852, and which you may mistakenly know as “The Potato Famine.” While it is true the potato crop failed, this was no famine. This was mass starvation.

Patrick, Margaret, and Thomas were accompanied on the journey by Thomas’ siblings John, Patrick, Malachy, and Mary; and Margaret’s brothers Thomas and Leonard Peter, and their wives and children. The families were luckier than most. Not only did they survive the starvation efforts at home; they were not sold to the Caribbean as slaves and they all survived the journey across the Atlantic to Quebec.

It is unknown when Patrick Gaffney & Anne Masterson came to the US. They had four daughters, including my great grandmother Annie, and a son, James. James was quite the character. Born in 1868, he found favor as a Tammany Hall politician as a young man and went on to become a prominent businessman and owner of the Boston Braves during the period they won the World Series as the “Miracle Braves” of 1914.

gaffney ws

James E. Gaffney, fourth from the right.

Gaffney was also involved in the impeachment of the governor of New York, William Sulzer, the only time in history the governor has been impeached. When Sulzer refused to do Tammany’s bidding and name Gaffney Superintendent of Public Highways, Tammany threatened to have his job and they carried through on their promise.

I have been fascinated by my great, great uncle James Gaffney since I was a child and first viewed the large portrait of him hanging in my grandparent’s home. Gaffney had built the home and the one next to it on speculation, and when it did not sell, he gave it to his sister, Pop’s mother (I’m sure there were tax writeoffs even in those days, lol). Pop inherited the home from his mother.

It never made much sense to me why the portrait hung there since he was not close to his sister, my great grandmother, or to Pop. I recently determined this portrait is the one referred to in several New York Times articles as being missing as it may have demonstrated that Gaffney had surgery to avoid identification and conviction on a number of serious charges concerning awarding of city contracts! No wonder he buried it at his sister’s house on Long Island!

The Corcoran, Duffy, Leavy, and O’Reilly names are still well-known in their areas of origin. My Dad still has first cousins there and I have been fortunate to visit several times as well as host cousins here in the states. We had a great Corcoran family reunion there in 1999, pictured.

ireland family reunion 1999

Corcoran family reunion, 1999

So, no, I won’t be wearing green today. On a day when everyone is considered Irish, I appreciate the chance to go on a bit about my wee Irish family and my Wild Irish Roots! Thanks to my Mom for being the genealogist in the family and for all her years of research. Prayers for all the family members who have passed since the family reunion. RIP.

What, Me? Worry?

4 Mar

I have a confession to make.

I’m scared.

worry1

I’ve been out of work for almost 7 months now (with no unemployment because my previous employer misinformed the unemployment office about my situation and made me ineligible). Our savings are depleted, including a couple of small 401ks I had from previous employers. My parents have offered to help, but who really wants to take funds from their fixed-income parents? I worry about them having enough to live on!

We’ve been blessed. Our household income was doing just fine until a few years ago, when both of our health situations soured and my employment situation went south. The combination of high medical bills and reduced wages has proved difficult for even the best planners among us. Oh, sure, we are still very blessed, and very spoiled. Unlike many Americans, we usually take at least one nice vacation per year. I just got back from Australia. How bad could things be, really?

Bad enough that I just took a job making a bit more than minimum wage, for which I am very grateful. Bad enough that, unbeknownst to Connie, I floated an ad on craigslist to see what kind of response I’d get for renters for our spare bedroom & bathroom upstairs, and, well, YIKES!

If you know me or have read my postings for any length of time, you know I am not into comparative suffering. Telling myself that at least we have a roof over our heads and food does little good when I wonder how many more months we may have these things if I do not find employment, and soon. It does not help to hear that “something will come through” or “God will provide” or “He never gives you more than you can handle” when you have seen so many friends in this exact position go on to lose their homes (four that I can think of without thinking too hard).

As a Christian, isn’t this when I am supposed to have more faith, not less? Isn’t this when I am supposed to remember

Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matt 6:26-34 (NRSV)

We aren’t eating Ramen every night. We haven’t sold the pups. It’s not exactly the Dust Bowl, yet. I guess I just don’t like being this far out of my comfort zone.

Maybe that’s the lesson I need to learn.

Dear God,

You have given us beautiful shelter, clothes, food, frisky puppies, great friends, loving family. You’ve nursed us back to health every time we’ve needed it. We do not doubt you; we doubt our capability for patience. Help us be patient. Shine a bright light on the path you would have us follow. Take away our worries and replace it with trust.

Amen.

Easy to Love

17 Feb

you’d be so easy to love
so easy to idolize all others above
so worth the yearning for
so swell to keep every home fire burning for
and we would be so grand at the game
carefree together that it does seem a shame
that you can’t see your future with me
cause you’d be, oh, so easy to love
1936 – Cole Porter

Image

Let’s be honest. Even those we find the most loveable – our children, our spouse, our close friends – can sometimes do things to hurt us and make us wonder why we love them like we do. Love can hurt. So, what are we to make of the Biblical imperative to love our enemies? Our enemies?

Matthew 5:43-44: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (NRSV)

One of the best ways to be able to love your enemies is to not have any.

Seeing another as a foe gives all the power to that person. Surrendering the hurt, salving the wound, moving onward and upward, is spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthier. It can take time. It should take time.

Few among us have true enemies – a neighbor who is harassing us, an ex who is stalking us, a supervisor bent on preventing us from earning a living. Many of us have perceived enemies. Just because someone does not agree with you politically does not mean that person is necessarily your enemy. Just because you are no longer married to someone does not necessarily mean that person is your enemy.

Another word for enemy may be “other.” It is easy to love those like us. It is easy to love the familiar. It is more difficult to love the other – those not like us. Those who do not think like us. Those who do not live like us. Those who do not vote like us. Those who do not worship like us (or who do not worship at all).

If we are all made in the image of the Holy, how can we do anything but love one another?

We must learn to forgive ourselves and we must spread this forgiveness to others.

Hate, like envy, is counterproductive.

When faced with an adversary, I first try to determine where the person is coming from. Is it from a place of hurt? Of anger? Of ignorance? Next I try to depersonalize the situation. It is probably not about me per se; I just happen to be there. I listen before I speak. When you are listening, you are not thinking about what you are going to say. I try to find places of common ground. I ask questions to find out why the person believes what they believe. Is it due to some personal experience? Is this what they were taught?

If, after all this, we are still miles apart in whatever it is that makes us adversaries, that may be where we stay. That does not mean we need depart in a place of hate, however.

I am not naïve, nor have I been spared from some really nasty people, yet I do not hate anyone. To do so would be to remain a captive of those who have hurt me. I am not captive; I am FREE.

Dear Holy Mother & Father,

We know not everyone will be for us all the time. Help us recognize this and work together with those with whom we hold differences. Let us see the holy in one another. Help us love ourselves and forgive ourselves and help us love and forgive others.

Amen.

This post is part of the February Synchroblog: Loving Our Enemies. Please visit these other posts:

The Loneliness of Addiction

5 Feb

(Warning: addiction and depression triggers)

addiction

The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman brought the usual spectrum of responses in cyberspace, some of which both angered and wounded me deeply. Among the responses I read:

  1. How selfish
  2. We all have the same demons, some people are just weaker than others
  3. Predictable
  4. He needed Jesus
  5. Why do people care what celebrities do?

I didn’t know Mr. Hoffman, but I know a bit about addiction. I am an addict. I’ve been addicted to drugs (alcohol, crank), sex, food, love, religion, drama, bad choices, pain, and many combinations thereof. I am still addicted to some of these things. I often say I am glad I was never a smoker because I believe that’s one of the most difficult addictions to break. I have been clean and sober for 25 years, 7 months, and 2 days as of this writing, one day at a time, and sometimes one moment at a time.

I am doubly blessed–or doubly cursed–depending on one’s perspective, to also have depression. In my case, there is a definite connection between some of my addictions and the depression. In my case, there is a definite biochemical component to both my depression and my addictive personality.

  1. How selfish.

    This is a common refrain when reading that someone has committed suicide or come to a bad end that was seemingly preventable such as in the case of a drug overdose. If you’ve never been suicidal, I can see where you might think committing suicide is selfish. Having been there, I can tell you it is not. It is actually a selfless act. When you are there, you think you are doing the rest of the world a favor in relieving the world of the burden that is you.

  2. We all have the same demons, some people are just weaker than others.

    This is laughable on many levels. The only truths in this statement are that we all have demons and we are all weak. The only reason these are truths is because we are all human. I am not into comparative suffering (i.e., a person who lives in a wooden shack in a third world country is automatically “worse off” than someone who lives in a mansion in Manhattan), and I am not a demonologist per se. Let’s just say we all have our struggles and our battles.

    Being an addict or being depressed are not signs of weakness. They are signs of medical conditions. This is despite what you may be taught at church or at school.

  3. Predictable.

    Some believe Mr. Hoffman was destined to die of an overdose because of some combination of his previous history of use and his celebrity. This does great disservice to those who have maintained sobriety as well as to those celebrities who do not have addiction issues. It is also snarky and pessimistic.

  4. He needed Jesus.

    This is the response I found most offensive, for several reasons. First, I doubt the authors knew Mr. Hoffman and therefore did not know his relationship with Jesus. Second, just because someone is an addict or is suicidal does not mean the person does not know Jesus. In fact, I would say that being an addict or suffering from depression as a Christian may be more difficult than it is for a non-Christian because of the judgment and stigma many Christians attach to it.

    People assume others use drugs or are depressed because something is missing and Jesus is the missing thing. This may be true for some, but is not true for all. You can no more pray away the addiction or the depression than you can pray away the gay.

  5. Why do people care what celebrities do?

    Many people do not. Those who take time to ask this question must on some level, otherwise why are they taking time to comment?

    People who care deeply about people care about all people, whether or not they know them personally. Such people care about the lost potential. Such people care about those left behind, particularly children. Such people typically grieve when natural disasters hit, even though they do not personally know any of those people either.

For me, at the root, my diseases of addiction and depression are diseases of loneliness. In my moments of greatest despair, I believe there is not one person on earth who knows how it feels to be me. There is not one person who hurts as much as I hurt. The world would be better if I were not here to mess it up further. Intellectually, of course I know these things are not true, but my addictions are of my soul, not of my head.

What saves my soul? My family. My friends. That which I consider Holy. Those who have gone before me–my guardian angels–my Grammie, my Nana, my Auntie Mo, my bestie Greggo. Good doctors and therapists. Good medications. Journaling. AA. Gratitude.

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