Sorry I Have Gone Quiet

I have gone into a downswing and am not feeling very communicative.

If it was not spurred, it certainly was exacerbated by coming back to NC from Maine, which is where I really want to be. Honestly, when the plane lifted off from Portland, I cried. I value the opportunities and experiences, the cosmopolitan worldview that living in Los Angeles gave me, but I am ready to come home. The University education and culture have been enjoyed here in NC have been invaluable, but I miss Maine with an ache. Even with driving in the snow. Plans are formulating.

Someone I really liked is in love with someone else. While I can see he is happy and I wish them the best, and it was never going to happen anyway, it’s hard to not be just a teeny bit heartbroken. But it’s all for best, I think. I’ll get over it.

The news has been very bad. Israel and Palestine can’t seem to keep their hands from each others’ throats. Ferguson broke out in more violence (way to lose the moral high ground guys). The Ebola Outbreak in countries least able to handle it. The horrifying, tragic violence in Iraq and the demand to go back in, to spend more trillions of dollars we do not have and thousands of American lives to re-occupy a country and manage a populace that does not want us there for how fucking long? What are we supposed to do, turn it into a fucking colony? Do the chicken hawks think if we stay their for twenty years, thirty, it’s going to be better? They will love us and the government we install more? WTF people? I am sorry for the people dying. It’s is horrific, but we already held their hands for ten years. We can’t make a country for them, the U.S. and U.K. have proven that repeatedly through Iraq’s history. It is their country and their responsibility to get it together. I think they are the only people who can.

The fact that Americans want to restart the Iraq War is simply horrifying to me. This is one of the reasons I hate the conservative right: They learn nothing from their own mistakes, ever.

Then there is this tragic statistic.

The ongoing grief over Robin Williams’ passing reveals how important he was to our society, to the world, to our lives. I don’t think I have ever seen a celebrity that was memorialized for over a week like this, certainly not a comedian’s, while the scandal mongering has been blessedly minimal. Realizing that light has gone out has been a real blow, especially in such dark times. We miss him.

So…I’m not in a good place right now.

Plus work is busy getting ready for the school year and I’m pet-sitting for a friend, which means I am spending my evenings away from my computer.

So yeah. I’m quiet.

Depression and Suicide

It was recently revealed by Robin Williams’ family that he was in the early stage of Parkinson’s Disease when he took his life. Yet despite this, there are still people claiming that he was “selfish” and “cowardly” and that “suicide is never an option.” They think that people who commit suicide have the same frame of mind as a melodramatic teenager. “They’ll appreciate me when I gone!”

Williams battled depression and addiction for most of his life, and one symptom of Parkinson’s is depression. Whether that is a physical part of the disease or an emotional reaction of hearing you have a long-term degenerative illness, I’m not sure. What I do know is that it sure as hell didn’t help. On a personal level (his youngest was only 13, can you imagine how he felt, knowing that his children were going to watch him decline, be forced to help take care of him?) and a professional one (much of Williams’ comedy was physical, and facing down losing that could only have been shattering).

But even without the Parkinson’s in play, most people who commit suicide don’t do it to make a statement. They don’t do it because they are scared. They do it because, to them, there is no other way to cope with what they are dealing with. There is only the hole they are in, and getting out entirely.

I can’t tell you what was going through his head last weekend, but it sure as hell wasn’t the attention-seeking self-pity of a drama queen, it wasn’t the fear of a coward. I can only tell you what I felt the times I considered suicide.

I was worthless. I had irredeemably failed myself and others.

I was not loved, nor had ever been because I was unworthy of love. I had only been pitied and tolerated. I was a burden on others.

Life had no joy, no savor, no goals. There was nothing to look forward to. It was just an endless rut of survival on the lowest tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Robin Williams was not thinking only of himself. He probably did not believe he was hurting his family and friends, but helping them, sparing them. He was not running away from his problems. He probably believed he was dealing with them in the most constructive way possible.

And that is the thing about depression: Those suffering it can’t see life or possibilities any other way. A suicide leaves devastation in its wake, not the least symptom of which is guilt. But to those families and friends who have lost loved ones this way, please understand that no matter what you did or think you could have done, when someone is that deep in depression positive things simply *can’t* sink in. Hope and support roll off them like water off a duck. You tell them you love and support them, that they are a wonderful person and that life will get better some tomorrow, and they smile at you and say “Thanks.” But deep in their heart they can’t accept that. They don’t believe you love them because they feel unworthy of love. They don’t believe life will get better because they simply can’t see any way it could. So they humor you as they think you are humoring them because they don’t want to be hammered and taunted by platitudes of a good life they can’t access. Because they don’t want to hurt you and make you sad.

It wasn’t your fault.  The only thing that could have helped someone who had sunk so deep was medication and professional therapy. And sometimes even that can’t get through.

It wasn’t their fault. They were suffering in what they saw as an endless road of emptiness and misery and they took the only off-ramp they could find. And they probably thought they were sparing you from their pain.

No one is to blame. It’s just one of those things. One of those tragic, heartbreaking things that we should not judge people for.

Only miss them and remember how special they were and what joy they brought to our lives.

 

 

 

Breaking My Pattern

As I have mentioned before, I am Bi-Polar II. Bi-Polar II is Bi-Polar disorder but while we get the wonderful experiences of the random deep depressions, instead of mania, we get hypomania (“under mania”). We get a high. We do not get the euphoric high. We get happy, confident and creative. We also get irritable and irrational (“manic” does always not equal “happy”), but not to the extreme Bi-Polar I people do. We spend too much money on shopping, for example. We do not mortgage our house to go shopping and then throw everything out the window at homeless people on the way to Vegas to create a anti-materialist monastery. We’re difficult, but not out of control.

But the depressions are just as extreme.

I take medication for this; an anti-convulsant which also acts as a mood stabilizer. It doesn’t make me “normal” but it keeps me sinking so low I lose the ability to function or start thinking about boarding the fur kids at the Vet’s office while I take a bunch of pills. (Usually “Who will take care of my furkids?” is enough to keep me from seriously considering it, but when it gets that far I call a shrink.) I used to take an anti-anxiety medication, but even on a half dose I found it sapped too much of my energy and made me muzzy-headed. I was taking it for chronic insomnia, so I replaced it with exercise. That seems to be working pretty well.

I’m currently in a “downswing.” The medication mitigates this so I can function, but the shadow of it is still there. And it’s a dark shadow. Depression stemming from clinical issues is not “feeling sad,” it is a hopelessness and self hatred so profound and pervasive that you simply stop…everything. You can’t feel anything but those two things. There is nothing beyond them. You can’t think. You can’t focus. You have trouble remembering things that happened this morning.  Doing anything at all requires a herculean effort. You feel stupid. You feel boring. You’re worthless. You feel like whatever gifts you have are gone forever, and that you squandered them. You feel like the rest of your life is nothing but a colorless rut and you have no way to get out of it. There is no future. There is just day in and day out. You stop doing the things that make you happy because you are no longer be touched by them. You are no longer touched by anything. Or anyone.

This is not something you can think you way out of. You can’t ignore it. You can pretend for others. And frequently you do until it becomes so exhausting you don’t want deal with them anyone. But can’t pretend for yourself. No, we can’t “fake it ’till we make it.”

And we can’t connect with people who too often just don’t get it. And they get frustrated with us because we won’t “snap out of it.” We won’t even “try.”

When this song hit the radio it was a kick in the chest because I have been the person this song is addressed to.

Knowing that it was our fault these friendships and loves left us. Wishing we could have stopped ourselves. But we couldn’t, so we start to feel maybe it’s best we don’t get close to anyone.

We feel guilty about not being able to snap out of it. We think we are worthless because we don’t try.

And that sends us down further.

But the truth we have such a hard time seeing in the dark, and that most people in the sun don’t get at all, is that our body is the one that won’t “try.” It can’t.

It’s not software. It’s hardware.

Because there is no cause but chemistry, there is no cure but time. Time that could last days, weeks or even months. In rare cases, it can last years.

This is the single most accurate and eloquent descriptions of living in that kind of depression I have ever read:

Hyperbole & a Half: Depression Part Two

Hyperbole & a Half: Adventures in Depression I

(Trust me, it’s better to read the second one first.)

I recommend reading the rest of her blog and buying her book. She is a hilarious storyteller and unflinchingly honest about herself.

And then when we are in the hypomania where our brain is in overdrive. Everything we experience and feel is extreme. We say and do things that would make us give anything in the world for a “reality rewind button” because we have hurt someone. Either a friend, a family member or ourselves. As we get older, we learn better coping mechanisms, we learn to control some of the damage. But sometimes we simply can’t step outside of ourselves in the moment and go too far. So we tend to isolate ourselves from the people who get frustrated with us for something we can’t control and people we hurt in the moments where we are out of control.

And we become isolated from everything.

I stopped writing two years ago. I loved writing. It made me happy, it made me proud. It was fulfilling, one of the rare fulfilling things in my life. It wasn’t Rudyard Kipling, but I felt good about what I could do.

And then I lost faith. I lost hope. There is no creation without hope. The stories became vague ideas I just had no energy or interest to tell. I don’t feel like I have any story to tell anymore. I know consciously I have good story ideas. I have researched, the characters created and the plot mapped out. It just isn’t in my heart anymore. And the thing that terrifies me to my soul is it, or any story, never will be again. This thing that I loved and was good at, is gone forever.

So I look to someone much smarter than me:

It Will Be Sunny One Day

April 10, 2006

Dear Crystal,

I’m so sorry to hear that life is getting you down at the moment. Goodness knows, it can be so tough when nothing seems to fit and little seems to be fulfilling. I’m not sure there’s any specific advice I can give that will help bring life back its savour. Although they mean well, it’s sometimes quite galling to be reminded how much people love you when you don’t love yourself that much.

I’ve found that it’s of some help to think of one’s moods and feelings about the world as being similar to weather:

Here are some obvious things about the weather:

It’s real.
You can’t change it by wishing it away.
If it’s dark and rainy it really is dark and rainy and you can’t alter it.
It might be dark and rainy for two weeks in a row.

BUT

It will be sunny one day.
It isn’t under one’s control as to when the sun comes out, but come out it will.
One day.

It really is the same with one’s moods, I think. The wrong approach is to believe that they are illusions. They are real. Depression, anxiety, listlessness – these are as real as the weather – AND EQUALLY NOT UNDER ONE’S CONTROL. Not one’s fault.

BUT

They will pass: they really will.

In the same way that one has to accept the weather, so one has to accept how one feels about life sometimes. “Today’s a crap day,” is a perfectly realistic approach. It’s all about finding a kind of mental umbrella. “Hey-ho, it’s raining inside: it isn’t my fault and there’s nothing I can do about it, but sit it out. But the sun may well come out tomorrow and when it does, I shall take full advantage.”

I don’t know if any of that is of any use: it may not seem it, and if so, I’m sorry. I just thought I’d drop you a line to wish you well in your search to find a little more pleasure and purpose in life.

Very best wishes

(Signed)

Stephen Fry

 And I cry because I want to believe it so badly, but it’s so hard.
To anyone who wants to get an idea of how hard it is to live with Bi-Polar disorder (and there are many level of severity), this is required watching:
And if you know someone who is going through severe depression, the best way to be a friend is this:
PTSD/depression blanket-nest
And how did I break my pattern?
I’m talking to you all.