surrounded yet alone as the world goes on


I’m still here. Don’t be afraid. I promise I’m here and hanging on…barely, but hanging on. And meanwhile, the world does go on as it should…even when it seems to be a big shit storm happening like it has this past week in the news.

I forced myself to go to a small gathering the other day and pretty much as soon as I got there I thought to myself that it was a big mistake. It’s was not because of anything or anyone there. Not at all. It was me. It was the oppressive black cloud that lately has become all the more dark and oppressive in my heart and my mind. Sitting there surrounded by acquaintances, celebrating good things, I forced a smile on my face and the occasional laugh while thinking the whole time of that quote from World’s Greatest Dad that everyone is sharing all over social media because Robin Williams and depression and suicide.

I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.
~Robin Williams as Lance Clayton in World’s Greatest Dad

My life, my world, my reality, my story right now. There’s so much more going on in the world around me that I should be worried about, that I should care about, that I should want to try to understand and to change:

  • The “serious” homeless problem in Manteca especially the scourge in Library Park…yes, the same Library Park where the homeless actually helped Abby and her friend to clean up in and around the gazebo before Hollie and Ben were married there four years ago.
  • The fact that there isn’t a homeless problem in the town of Ripon, just 7 miles south of us if I am to believe a local reporter’s opinion. Never mind there isn’t a problem because those who are homeless know that the police will pretty much chase them out… I learned that the last time my brother, the one who is homeless, visited here. It was amazing how he knew through “networking” where one could go and where one should never go…courtesies or no.. Ripon was on the don’t go there list.
  • Two recent drive-by shootings, one in the middle of the day literally in front of a friend’s home in the “good” part of our city and police won’t comment on whether or not they are gang-related or even related to each other.
  • Michael Brown and Ferguson and the police and race relations and who is affected and who is not and white privilege.

Don’t forget Gaza and the Ukraine and the Ebola outbreak…

Is it any wonder no one else is as depressed and nearly panicked as I am right now?

The homeless problem here in Manteca is indeed a real thing. It’s real pretty much everywhere else…except Ripon. I’m not so sure if it as serious as what I have witnessed in San Francisco or San Jose or Chicago or New York. I do know that there seems to be a lot of assumptions made…drugs, crime, danger to us good citizens who have a roof over our heads and no longer feel comfortable to use the restroom in Library Park or walk along the Tidewater Bikeway or hang out at the Historical Plaza at Spreckels Park. Some of that is real but then I recall the 5 homeless men who offered to my daughter and friend to pick up in and around the gazebo and then remained sitting quietly in the background as witnesses while we celebrated Hollie and Ben’s wedding. I think of my brother and his friends who regarded their lifestyle as adventure traveling from job to job, town to town, state to state. Listening to friends discuss how serious this is here in Manteca and how awful they all are in plain site, I can’t help but think this is a problem that won’t be solved anytime soon especially with this perspective.

The same is probably true with regards to Ferguson. I tried to follow the story this week when I had the energy beyond just getting up. I’ll be honest, I don’t understand. How can I really? I am a white woman raised in a white privileged world…yes even growing up on Food Stamps and Welfare living in a single wide in a trashy trailer park I still enjoyed a certain amount of white privilege. I can try to sympathize with what has been happening in Missouri this week but I won’t understand. It’s not my world. It’s not my reality…just as being homeless is not. That point was driven home in a big way this morning reading what a friend shared on Facebook of his experiences 30 years ago as a young, educated, hard-working BLACK man being pulled over while driving his nice car TWELVE times and handcuffed SIX times with no probable cause. Being the positive, thoughtful man that he is, he continued to share that he would like to think that things have improved over the years but it hasn’t…perhaps it is worse…perhaps it will get even more worse.

I just can not imagine.

Nor can I understand the way that this reality has affected brilliant people like Karen.

It’s all part of this “burden” of white privilege that really isn’t a burden for me or my daughters or my son unless I don’t school myself and my family about it and its reality that is our reality and not the reality of people of color in the ghetto and in the “good” neighborhoods. We must become aware of how racial privilege and our unconscious bias perpetuates a system of injustice. No, I don’t pretend to understand completely now. I can’t imagine that I ever will because I am not a black man or a black woman or a woman who has given birth to a mixed race baby or a mother raising a black child. But I do know that my eyes were opened a little bit more and I listened a little bit harder.

the lost little spark of madness


You’re only given one little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.
~ Robin Williams July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014

Unbelievable!

My daughter Abby described the feeling of hearing the news of Robin Williams’ death this afternoon perfectly. It was as if suddenly all laughter and joy was sucked out of the atmosphere.

Unreal!

To hear his death was by suicide and that he had been struggling mightily of late with severe depression made it all the more palpable for me…for so many. Sometimes the most gifted, the most brilliant, the most talented, the people who touch your hearts with the most laughter, joy and love are the ones living in the darkest depths of despair.

If you only knew.

I know.

I know too well. I was raised in that despair. I am living in that now. God what hard work it is to live every day like this!

My heart breaks for this huge void left in the world, for the heartbreaking loss his loved ones must now live with. Still I give thanks…for the laughter, so much laughter…for opening my eyes to a different, delightful world view seeing the humor, the laughter and the joy in the simplest of things every day. I give thanks for his truly amazing body of work and the fact that each one of my children could recall their favorite characters he portrayed…except for Mork…none of them knew about Mork from Ork.

GAH!

Kids!

The first thing I intend to do is go through his vast filmography and binge for the next few days. There’s nothing else on TV worth watching right now so why not? Yes, introduce this circus act of mine to Mork from Ork is on that agenda for sure.

The next thing I intend to do is go to my doctor for help because the depression and anxiety I live with is becoming again too much. The usual self care is just not cutting it lately. When your young son points out that he doesn’t like your overwhelming sadness well, yeah, it’s time to ask for help. I have no shame in that. There should be no shame, no hiding, no fear of being mocked or looked down upon as weak, no brushing depression aside as a “lesser” disease. No one should feel shamed to ask for help. I’m asking for more help.

I’m also sharing thoughts and information from a February 2010 post about suicide, anxiety and depression because people need to know…people need to care.

It’s Never Painless
originally posted February 27, 2010

My heart just breaks for Andrew Koenig‘s family and the family of Michael Blosil,  Marie Osmond’s son. I can’t imagine any parent that would not feel for the pain they must be in right now.

Living with depression is hard. Living with a loved one with depression is hard. I don’t doubt how hard it was for Koenig’s and Osmond’s family. I don’t doubt the pain both young men suffered through and the pain their families are in is more than evident. Still I have a hard time with those who choose ending their life as a way to end the pain. Walter Koenig spoke of how despondent his son was and how low he sunk in his despair but I would suggest that this wasn’t the case. I don’t doubt the depression he shares that his son had suffered from but it takes energy to do something about the depression one suffers from. The same would be for Michael Blosil as well. It takes energy to seek help or accept help and it takes energy to decide to end it all.

I speak from my own experiences. Working on recovering from depression I know how hard it is. This last year has been so hard, so very hard. It is hard-freakin’ work. I also know watching my own mother living with bipolar disorder over the years that it takes energy to take your life or attempt to take your life. In the lowest, most despondent times of her life mom never had the energy to do much of anything. She physically could not. As a child I did not understand why she could not get off of the couch and why she would remain in the same clothes for days just curled up in a limp ball there. I just knew that in worst days this was how it was. This was her life…and it was our life. It was when mom would get up off the couch that I would worry because that is when she would do something and her doing something would be to attempt to take her life. She attempted this a number of times when I was a child. She never was successful. Years later in a more candid, close moment she shared with me the depths of her pain and how she just wanted it to end. She admitted that she really didn’t think of anything else. She just wanted the crushing, crippling pain to end. I told her then and I still believe now that had she been successful in any of her attempt the pain would not be over. No. The pain would remain. It would remain with her children, with her parents, her husband, her siblings. We would carry her pain. We would carry it with us always.

Suicide is not painless. The pain remains.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:

  • difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • fatigue and decreased energy
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • irritability, restlessness
  • loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • overeating or appetite loss
  • persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) — or the deaf hotline at 1-800-4889.

Warning signs of suicide with depression include:

  • a sudden switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
  • always talking or thinking about death
  • clinical depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating) that gets worse
  • having a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, like driving through red lights
  • losing interest in things one used to care about
  • making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
  • saying things like “It would be better if I wasn’t here” or “I want out”
  • talking about suicide (killing one’s self)
  • visiting or calling people one cares about

Remember, if you or someone you know is demonstrating any of the above warning signs of suicide with depression, either call your local suicide hot line, contact a mental health professional right away, or go to the emergency room for immediate treatment.

Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to reach out to help, to hug, to talk, to be there.

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas change the world. ~ Robin Williams

 

it’s still raw


A year later….a year after a friend and colleague, and her husband were so suddenly, cruelly, violently taken in such a shocking manner, it is still raw. I didn’t think that it would be. Like everyone else who knew her, I’ve hitched up my big girl panties. Yes, cried sometimes. Laughed sometimes too imagining what she might have said or done. Cried a little when it seemed that she said hello at work that one time. I still catch my breath and gulp back a tear or more when I see her garden outside of Room 3 when I get to work…when I get to work.

A year later we remembered because I can’t imagine that we will ever forget someone so remarkable. We all remembered and honored her and her husband in our own ways. We all were not together but we all remembered still. Some of us gathered with her daughter tonight and remembered.

God that was hard!

Her little girl’s physical, emotional, spiritual, psychic pain was so real, so raw. I just can not imagine. I don’t think any one of us could ever understand, ever know unless we too lost someone we have known and loved our entire lives taken so violently away from us. The mommy in me wishes I could take that pain away from their daughter. The mommy in me prays none of my children ever know that pain I witnessed today.

Those of us who gathered with their daughter stood together in Jacob Myers Park in Riverbank before the tree planted in their memory with a plaque placed before it. Dwarfed right now by 14 trees in what is known as Bicentennial Grove, it will soon enough someday catch up to their towering grandeur as it guards the entrance to that beautiful grove here in the Central Valley.

It’s a place to pause, to sit and reflect. A place for us to remember. A place for anyone else to just take in the cool of the shade these trees provide, the green-ness all around, the sounds of nature and families at play and the occasional startling rumbling overhead from the trains passing on the bridge nearby. It’s a place where I am reminded that we “hitch up our big girl panties“, as Janet would often say in some of the most stressful times in the NICU and we do that which we must do…we don’t forget, we don’t let go and we don’t stop.“…as her husband’s business partner reminded us tonight.

It’s still raw. It’s still so real. We don’t forget. We won’t let go. But we also don’t stop living as, I would imagine, our friend and colleague would expect of us all.

therapy


Sometimes, some days the weight of all that presses down on my heart, my head, my soul is just too much.

Like today. For so many reasons, today was one of those days. The sadness overwhelmed, pressed down and enveloped my very core.

And so I forced myself to run. I didn’t want to; but run I knew that I must do today…especially today. Today I ran because I knew that for at least the 30 minutes and 3.2 miles that I was running all that is right now always weighing down my heart, mind and soul was behind me. It wasn’t gone. Today I feel like none of it will ever be gone in my lifetime. But at least it was behind me for a blessed half hour.

And then reality.

What a bitch reality is.

It wasn’t all bad. No. One problem that in the last month went from bad to worse to clusterfuckedupness when Bill’s car met it’s demise in the Santa Cruz Mountains last month and then when he broke his motorcycle this weekend was solved…with monthly car payments to now worry about. Then again a family with a Bay Area commute to one job and a commute to Stockton with another job and a commute to Modesto for another job and school starting next week there was no way that we could survive with just one reliable vehicle that remains.

I should be thankful. I am. But today was a horrible, rotten, no-good, very bad mental health day and so I let the can-we-really-afford-this-car-payment-when-I-get-cut-from-work-pretty-much-every-scheduled-shift overwhelm me because, I got called off from work. Of course!

Bill handed me the keys telling me to take it for a drive. So I did.

I drove and drove and drove all over the place, past orchards and vineyards and parched fields and into the sunset with the windows rolled down and Iggy Azalea loudly promising that in spite of her 99 problems you won’t be one on the radio.

Therapy, much needed therapy for a pretty emotionally fucked up day.

Tomorrow’s another day. It might be a better day. It might not be. But it will be tomorrow.

One day, one hour, one minute at a time.

It’s therapy.