Tag Archives: depression

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

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.

Dark Night of the Soul – Almost

8 Feb
In the happy night, 
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught, 
Without light or guide,
save that which burned in my heart.

–3rd stanza, Dark Night of the Soul, Saint John of the Cross

A couple of days ago I fell into the abyss. I’d say in the measurement of my depressive episodes, it was in the top 5.

I have been affected by depression since I was a child, although I was not properly diagnosed until I was in my early 30s. Until almost that age, I just thought how I felt was how life was. In my pre- and early teen years, before acts like cutting became widely known, I used to do things like stick myself with safety pins and jump off things to try and break something. I think much of my depression at this age was due to the fact I was physically and verbally abused in junior high school. It got so bad with one group of girls that they actually had a high school sister (biological, not a sistah) come and join the beating after she found out I split her sister’s lip open. (My tormentors had convinced our PE substitute that we were in a unit on boxing and it was time for the bout between us. Really.)

It took me over 30 years to completely heal from that abuse. Thirty years. It was not until I attended a high school graduation reunion for that school district (not the one I graduated from) after reconnecting with some junior high friends and asked them why they didn’t help me that I finally healed. I was terrified that any of those “girls” would be at the reunion because I fantasized how I would deal with them, and frankly, those fantasies scared me. I was so relieved none of them attended. Since my healing, I seldom think about it and if I see them at a future reunion, it won’t bother me one bit. (My friends said they had no idea what I was going through. This inability to tell anyone is typical of this type of bullying because if you tell anyone, you know it will only get worse.)

My worst depressive episode came in 1988. I had left my husband the year before after finally accepting the fact I was gay. (I had known all my life I was different but didn’t start getting a clue what it was until in college.) I was in grad school and working full-time, living in a new area where I did not know anyone. I had started drinking when I was 12 (see above), stopped when I was almost 14, and started again at 17 when I went to college.

On this particular night in 1988 (July 2 into July 3), I was driving very drunk back to Philly from a lesbian bar in NJ after yet another night of hardly talking to anyone, not being asked to dance, etc. As I approached one of the Dead Philadelphian Bridges, all I could think about was driving off the bridge into the cold water below. While still married, I had tried to OD on pills, but my dog woke me up and saved me.

When I got home, the fact I had wanted to do this scared me, and I called information asking for the location of the nearest hospital. I was fortunate to get an astute operator who called 911 and sent an ambulance to my apartment to take me to the nearest mental health ward. I agreed to a minimum 10-day stay. I called my parents to come get my dog and put him in a kennel. In retrospect, I still cannot imagine how difficult this call was for them.

I was misdiagnosed in the hospital as manic-depressive, but there are no accidents. The meds for this required I stop drinking. I was willing to do this to get better. In the first few days, I balked at “stupid” activities like art and music therapy. By the time I left, I felt so very much better. My employer was very understanding and sessions with my therapist became much more helpful.

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I was properly diagnosed in 1990 with major depressive disorder and put on more appropriate meds. I am still on a maintenance dose of those type of meds, and still see a therapist on occasion. I have not had a drink since that July night in 1988. Two days ago I thought that might change but knew the pain would still be there when I sobered up.

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Before I considered myself a Christian but believed in the Holy Spirit and a Higher Power that I called God, I received a call to ministry. During a sermon on using your gifts, in a flash, I realized the reason I was sick of my profession was because all I was doing was helping middle-aged white men buy bigger boats, and I knew there must be a more valuable contribution I could make to the world. I went to seminary; it took 7.5 years to get my degree because I continued working full-time. A couple of years ago I quit a job because of that “you should be doing something more beneficial” call, but then changed my mind. The job and my morals collided not soon after, and I finally did leave.

Tuesday I received approval for a loan to buy a retirement home in Delaware because my spouse can retire in a few years and I believe the area is ripe for a church plant. That night I went into the abyss. “You are not doing what you are called to do!” “But I have to have SOME kind of income.” “Have faith.” “I am afraid.” All I could do is weep, weep, weep.

Wednesday things at work came to the point of no return – 2 weeks ago I received a bad review (meaning no raise) from the worst boss I’ve ever had. I refused to falsify corporate records. I was told I must. I called my spouse in a panic. I told her if I didn’t quit my job I might seriously put a gun to my head. (This was metaphorical; I don’t own a gun and I was not actively suicidal.) She said quit. So, I did. I immediately felt the lightness return. My boss called and said “good thing you did because I was going to put you on a performance improvement plan.” (What a jerk; it reminds me of junior high – “You can’t break up with me because I’m breaking up with you.”)

I have no idea what is intended for me, but the secular world is NOT it. As you can tell, I was a VERY slow learner on this.

I would say I took a leap of faith, but I was pushed.

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