Two Cents

I was going to start this post by saying, “look, I’m nobody, but here’s my thoughts on the suicide of Robin Williams”, but then the overwhelming thought of “BULLSHIT” crept into my brain, and I stopped myself.

No one is “nobody”.

Everyone is important to someone, even if that someone is just your dog.  Even someone living alone, without family, is important. When my father-in-law, whom I’d never met due to his estrangement from my husband, died, my husband collapsed into a puddle of tears.  By all accounts my father-in-law was no good…a self-absorbed hustler and thief who spent more time as a “guest of the state” than he spent with his son, but he was the only father my husband had, and when he died in his late fifties due to Parkinson’s Disease, it left a hole in my husband, a hole that he hoped his father would someday at least try to fill in.  That chance is lost now.

But you know what?  The fact that “no one is nobody” doesn’t mean jack crap to someone in the throes of depression.  Not, “I’m sad” depression, but hard core, clinical depression.

The amount of money you have doesn’t matter.

The fact that you’re married to someone who loves you doesn’t matter.

The fact that you have children who adore you doesn’t matter.

The fact that you can make everyone laugh doesn’t matter.

The fact that you have an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Golden Globe award doesn’t matter.

The fact that you are beloved throughout the world doesn’t matter.

Your “spirituality” or religion doesn’t matter.  I am a Jehovah’s Witness.  I firmly believe in a supreme being.  I believe he didn’t intend for us to live this way, and has plans for our future. I believe the meek shall inherit the earth and reside forever upon it. And I believe he sent his son to earth to die for us.  For ALL of us. Except for me, because my depression tells me I’m crap and don’t deserve any good thing. JWs suffer from depression, as do agnostics, atheists, buddhists, you name it.

When you don’t suffer from depression, it’s amazing how easily life can pass you by. You wake up in the morning and go about your day without much thought.  You have things to do and people to see, and even if you’re not laughing non-stop throughout the day, there’s still an element of enjoyment to your life. You enjoy your job, or hanging out with your co-workers, or you’re taking a really interesting class, or you are looking forward to a dinner date, or what your spouse is cooking on the stove, or maybe it’s just your weekend plans that have you excited.

And then there’s clinical depression. Nothing you think of doesn’t cause you pain. You can’t concentrate.  It feels like there’s a concrete blanket on your brain, blocking out any good or even interesting thing. Because your own thoughts cause you so much pain, you don’t want to think anymore. So you sleep.  And sleep.  And sleep.  Or, if you find yourself unable to sleep, you are desperate for something to entertain you. Except, nothing you once found amusing or entertaining holds any appeal to you. If you have to interact with other people, who often find yourself having to pretend to feel okay because most people have no patience for depression.

“What do you have to be depressed about?”

“But you have so much!?”

“Don’t you know there’s so many other people in the world that have it worse than you?”.

Thank you, assholes. Not only am I taking up space, but I can see from your words that apparently I’m selfish and self-absorbed to boot.  Thanks for that.

So, in the hopes of avoiding such UTTERLY UNHELPFUL comments, you try to put on a brave face, which is exhausting. Or, you avoid people all together.  You retract, you hide, you avoid phone calls.

There is no talking yourself out of it. There is no pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.  Your brain is awash in a toxic chemical bath that allows you no relief, save medication, which, like any medicine, takes time to work.  And you can become tolerant of it.  And sometimes you need more than one type, or a higher dosage.

Often people will self-medicate.  “I feel like crap all the time, except when I’m drinking/smoking pot/taking oxycontin/ [insert drug of choice], so I’ll just keep ingesting that”. This, sadly, just makes things worse down the road, but when you’re desperate to feel good….hell, when you’re desperate to just not feel bad…then you’ll go for the quick high/buzz and consequences be damned.

If you’re successful at some part of your life, be it actor, comedian, insurance broker, whatever, you find yourself desperately afraid that people will “find out” that you’re a fraud, because that’s what you think you are. How could you not? You’re crap, remember?  So if any of your efforts meet with success, it’s just a matter of time before people find out you’ve conned them.

After a while, you might start to believe that those you love would be better off without you. You start to daydream about ways to die. Perhaps they aren’t straight up suicidal thoughts at first.  More like, “I wouldn’t mind being dead” thoughts. You fantasize about dying in a car crash, or that cold you have turning into double pneumonia.

And there may come a day, a moment, when you die for real. I’ve written before about my own suicide attempt 19 years ago. For me to reach that moment when I swallowed the bottle of pills, every person I cared about, every thing I ever looked forward to, every thing I ever liked about myself, had to die.  It all went away, in my mind. There was nothing but darkness, nothing but pain, and I couldn’t take it another moment.  Obviously, I can’t ask Josh, or Margie, or Robin Williams if they felt that same darkness, but I assume they had.

And let’s not forget, this is a disease. If you have a tumor on your liver, you listen to what the doctor tells you, weigh the treatment options, and choose to have the tumor removed, or to shrink it with medication.  When the disease is in your brain, it effects HOW you think (poor concentration) and WHAT you think (“I’m crap, I’m crap, I’m crap”).  Depression lies, all day long.  Rational thinking is out the window.

It’s impossible for someone who’s never been there to conceive of just how badly someone has to feel to end their own life.  It’s just not natural.  Whether you believe we evolved from other species or were created by a supreme being, we must concede that all normal, healthy people have a survival instinct.  We have adrenalin that gives us the strength to get out of harms way, we have the reflexes that cause us to jump back when burned, or when we’re walking on the sidewalk and hear car tires screech nearby. But in that final moment of life, in the moment it took Josh to put the shotgun barrel in his mouth and pull the trigger, or for Margie or Robin to slip their head in the noose and take that last step to oblivion, that instinct to survive is gone. All you see is a way to end your pain.  You don’t see the pain you’ll leave behind.  The broken-hearted loved ones who are left asking, “why?”

It took me years to accept the fact that in the final moment of Josh’s life, he didn’t love me.  He didn’t love anyone. Rather than take that as a failure on my part, I’ve come to recognize just how much he hurt, and that is what makes me cry for him, for Margie, and for Robin Williams.

I can’t think of a time in my life when Robin Williams wasn’t someone I knew of.  He made me laugh countless times, and blew me away with his dramatic roles.  His humor, depth, and range touched and impressed me, and I will be forever saddened that he was so broken.

We have to change the way we talk about these things.  Dr. Drew makes a good point in this piece…

Williams had a brain disease. It wasn’t a demon or a devil. In fact, I strongly object to people referring to those with psychiatric illnesses as “struggling with inner demons.” That only promotes a primitive and stigmatizing sense of these conditions. We don’t say someone is struggling with an inner demon when they have a tumor somewhere — although there was a time when we did! And we have not relinquished these backwards notions when we refer to disorders of the brain.

I’m no professional, but I can say this;  Most people don’t commit suicide in the company of others. If you know someone who is struggling, no matter how much they try to push you away, don’t let them. Stick with them. Be a pain in the ass. If you are angry with them for being depressed, use it, not to make them feel guilty, but as a reminder that you really care about them and want your friend/loved one back, so by god you’re going to stick with them until they are through this. Friends and family get mad at each other.  DON’T WALK AWAY.

To quote Stephen Fry, who has famously struggled with depression for years…

“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.

Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”

And, lastly, I’ll let Dr. Drew speak a bit more.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

When you hear someone committed suicide…shut up

….unless you’re going to express sympathy.

Some of my officemates were discussing the suicide of Don Cornelius.  This is not the first time they’ve discussed someone’s suicide, nor is it the first time I wanted to punch them in the face for their remarks.

“That person had so much to live for.”

“Come on, how bad could their life have been?”

“Tomorrow’s another day, people!”

Okay, morons, let me tell you something about suicide.  It’s not something done lightly, and it’s usually born of severe depression.  What’s depression?  My best way of describing depression is a lack of any and all hope that life will get better.  You hear that, twits?  The suicidal person doesn’t see anything to live for.  They can’t see the good in their life.  They can’t see tomorrow being any better.

These people who lack empathy are everywhere, and it seems I’ve always known SOMEONE like that.  I remember when I was in high school, there was a rash of teen suicides. Like, 6 in a month or something.  I had ridden the bus in junior high with one of the boys who died.  I remember one of my classmates talking about how stupid the guy was…Chris (the teen who had killed himself) was on the football team, drove a nice pickup truck, was on the honor roll, had a girlfriend….what’d he have to kill himself over?  I remember jumping on my classmate, in front of everyone…”You have no idea what you’re talking about.  Every one of those things is superficial.  You have no idea what was going on in his life, or anyone’s life outside your own. Someone could tell you of the things they’ve experienced and you STILL wouldn’t have any concept of the pain that person felt”.  My classmate was stunned.  He’d never seen me speak up like that.

I’ve written before of Josh’s suicide, so I won’t rehash that, but I can speak of my own suicide attempt a month after he died. I was drunk, of course, and I had (stupidly) called (psycho) Lee because I had heard her mother had died shortly after Josh and I wanted to express my condolences.  She was so hateful to me.  She told me I could die and no one would care.  Between Josh’s death and my intoxication, those words were just enough to send me to the medicine cabinet.  I found a bottle of Unisom, and swallowed half of them.  I remember feeling completely terrified, and trying to throw them back up.  Two came up.  I resigned myself to dying, and swallowed the rest of the bottle.

As the drugs worked their way into my system, I remember seeing “worms” crawling on the ground, and hearing voices, making the experience even more frightening.  At some point, my mother came into the room.  We had a conversation, and I vaguely recall her asking me if I knew where I was.  I told her I was in Dallas (I wasn’t), and I think I mentioned something about having gone to see Kristen, my best friend from junior high whom I hadn’t seen in years.  I remember my mother getting mad at me for not making sense, but I also remember her crying.  She was terrified.  She made me turn off the light and she sat there, in the dark, watching me until I fell asleep.

To my surprise, I woke up the next morning.  I’ve never been so sick in my life as I was that weekend.  I remember hearing my mother having a conversation with my brother outside my door.  She asked him if he had any idea how much I’d had to drink the night before, and told him some of our conversation and how out of it I was.  She apparently convinced herself I had just been drunk, but asked my brother to stay home with me that Monday, just to keep an eye on me.  When I look at my daughter, I’m certainly grateful my attempt wasn’t successful.

A woman I worked with for four years committed suicide a couple of years ago.  She hung herself.  It broke my heart.

Yes, life tends to get better, but the thing people have to understand is, a suicidal person simply doesn’t see that.  And in that final moment, that moment when you pull the trigger or slip your head through the noose or swallow the pills, you don’t care about your loved ones.  That was a tough thing for me to accept…that in the moment that Josh put the barrel of that rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger, he didn’t love me or anyone else.  Your job, the car you drive, or what you’ve accomplished…none of it registers.  All you want is a way to escape the pain.  Imagine how much you have to hurt to want to kill yourself.

As much as those who commit suicide have my sympathy, I also want to smack them.  I’ve said many times, the next time I see Josh, I’m gonna squeeze the stuffing out of him and shower him with kisses.  And then I’m gonna smack him for the pain he caused his brother and his family, and me.  Same with Margie.  A hug and a smack.

And maybe the next time I hear people up in their ivory tower condescending about someone’s suicide, maybe they’ll just get the smack and a lecture about how lucky they are to have not felt that kinda pain.

The birth of a cynic

One of the things I aspire to is to peel away the hard shell I’ve formed. This is the first part in the story of how that shell was formed.

I can vaguely recall a time when I honestly believed people were basically good. That time has long since passed. I also very clearly remember truly believing 99% of what people told me because, after all, I wouldn’t lie to people, so why would they lie to me?

There are three people who changed my view and turned me into the distrustful cynic I am now. Josh’s mother, Lee, my boss at the TV station in Oklahoma, Chuck, and a former co-worker of mine, whom I’ll call Almond Joy…flaky and nuts. I met them in that order.

In 1994 I was 24 years-old and living in that mecca of entertainment, Enid, Oklahoma. I answered an ad for a video camera operator and editor, and went to work for Lee. We shot commercials for local businesses and created video yearbooks for some of the local schools. She got me involved with the local cable access station. We produced lots of programming for them and spent a great deal of time in their studios. Lee and I hit it off immediately, and I was sympathetic to her story. She spoke of her now-deceased ex-husband, and how he had stolen her three children from her when they were babies, whisked away in the middle of the night. They were raised to hate her, she said, and had been told she was dead. It was only her determination and love as a mother that reunited them upon her ex-husband’s death, but her children were ungrateful and hateful to her now. At least, that’s the story she told.

I can’t remember how long I bought into it, but I do remember when it started to fall apart. I met her kids. They were 20, 19, and 17. I was taken aback at first, for they were nothing like she had described. I thought nothing of it at first. But as I got to know them, I heard their life story from their point of view, and it was different than the yarn spun by Lee. It’s not unusual for people to remember the same events differently, so I started paying closer attention.

I started to notice a pattern. Lee and I would be out somewhere and something of note would happen, then we’d return to the studio to edit, and I’d listen to her retell the story to one of our friends. Only she’d “embellish”. She’d revise the story with facts that didn’t happen, or make herself the center of the story when she had not been, either by making herself more heroic or more sympathetic, depending on the audience. She would relate these fabrications right in front of me, even though I had been a witness to the event, without the slightest bit of shame, or even acknowledgement that she was lying through her teeth. I came to realize, she did that a lot. She was my first pathological liar. He ex-husband had not stolen her kids from her, she had abandoned them when they were in diapers. They had not been told she was dead, she was living in Florida, having gone there after having convinced a small health clinic that she was a doctor. The kids still had the name badges she had made for herself that had her name with “MD” behind them. They still had a copy of the letter she had sent the clinic. She was living her carefree life, sailing off the waters of Florida, when her ex-husband died in a construction accident on the job. Suddenly, the kids needed her. And she needed to be their guardian in order to spend the insurance benefits they received. She took their money and bought a 27 foot sloop, a sailboat she docked in Kaw lake, outside Ponca City, Oklahoma. She moved those three kids and herself onto that boat, and that’s where they lived, I don’t recall for how long. She worked the odd job now and then, but largely the family lived off the insurance.

Years later, part of Josh’s treatment involved drawing pictures of the events in his life that led him down the path he was on. He was to draw his life as it was, and his life as it should have been. He drew a picture of his father’s funeral, and of he and his siblings riding along in his mother’s SUV, the windows rolled up and the car filled with her pot smoke. His drawings of what his life should have been was dramatically different. As I got to know the kids, Josh and I started to fall for each other. By that time, I had realized I needed to withdraw from Lee’s life as much as possible. Nothing she said could be trusted. Even decades later, I’m still discovering her lies. By the time Josh committed suicide, she and I hardly saw each other. She only saw Josh every month or so. That day, we all gathered at her house. She was sitting in the center of the room, crying without tears. She lamented on and on about losing her baby boy, and turned to her daughter, her youngest, and proclaimed, “you will have to take his place in my life”. The more she went on and on, as though she were June Cleaver who now had to bury the Beaver, I lost it. I lunged at her, shouting, “You only saw him once a month!” My mother, who had been visiting that weekend and was there when I got the call, had to hold me back from hitting her. She and Lee’s husband, Ronnie, escorted me to another room to calm down. Ronnie was very sweet and did his best to comfort me, a fact which infuriated Lee all the more. This was her moment to shine, and he and everyone else better damn well pay attention to her. I left her house that day, not to see her again for a year.

I couldn’t bring myself to go to Josh’s funeral, especially after learning that she’d ask the family drug dealer to be a pallbearer. Whether you believe in god or karma, he/it was at work that day, for the drug dealer’s car broke down, and he was unable to carry Josh’s casket. My good friend Christine went in my place, a sweet, thoughtful Jehovah’s Witness I had come to know and love.

I had been laid off work two days before his death, so it was decided I’d go back to San Antonio to recover. When Lee found out, she left a note on my door, proclaiming me a traitor and that I was abandoning her. She referenced herself 16 times in that letter. She referenced Josh twice.

It was later I found out the events of Josh’s last night. He arrived with his mother at his brother’s house, wreaking of marijuana. Because, you know, pot is the best medicine for a teenage schizophrenic checking out of a mental health/substance abuse facility. Mother knows best. His mother proclaimed him a burden, and left him there. He left no note, so I can only assume he saw no hope. I realize now that he was doomed, no matter what. All he’d ever known in his life was loss, drugs, and dysfunction. Though he lived with his brother and paternal grandmother (the “normal” ones), the rest of his life was filled with alcoholics and drug addicts, and people that didn’t truly care for him. I, myself, was on the edge, exhausted and heartbroken from months of dealing with his addiction and mental health issues.

In Texas, I found some relief, up until the night I got drunk and swallowed a bottle of sleeping pills. Amazingly, I survived, though I was very sick all weekend. That Monday, the mailman brought with him a letter from Lee. My mother, who at that point thought I had simply gotten very, very drunk, had asked my brother to stay with me that day, to keep an eye on me. He was the one who opened the letter. He didn’t let me read it, though he did show me the bottom of the last page, where Lee and her family had signed the letter, their affirmation of their hatred for me. Note to narcissistic pathological liars: when forging your families’ names on a letter, be sure to spell their names correctly. Months later I read the letter myself, and it was full of the easily verifiable lies I had become accustomed to from her. Christine hated me. “Stacey” hated me. The most insulting one was that the sole reason Josh killed himself was because he wanted to break up with me and I wouldn’t let him. Far more insulting to Josh than to me.

When I moved back to Oklahoma, I worked with Josh’s brother to make a PSA about Josh and drugs. It ran on the tv station I worked for. Lee called me up at work to scream at me, again proclaiming that everyone in her family now hated me, and how dare I make that PSA. Her lies were deflated a bit when I explained that I had the full blessing of other members of her family, including the ones who had given me the pictures used in the PSA. She started driving past my house at all hours, as noted by the sheriff’s deputies I lived next door to. By that time, the curtain was in complete tatters. I no longer believed in the Wizard, and came to realize that Lee had a reputation in this town of 45,000. That she had aliases, and had been telling whoppers since childhood, even managing to fool a local reporter once into thinking she was training for the Olympics as a runner. Years later, when she heard from her daughter-in-law (my good friend, yet one of the people Lee tried to convince me hated me) that I was moving to California, she, quite shockingly, stated, “Good. She’ll be successful there, she deserves happiness”. Stacy and I both knew all Lee had done to me, and were blown away by this new standard of self-deception. Lee actually believed we were still friends.

I’m still friends with Josh’s brother. We chat on Facebook now and again. He’s tried calling me a few times. I love him and want nothing but the best for him, but I feel it necessary to keep him at arms length. I fear letting him too far into my life will invite the crazy back. I pray he’s got a healthy relationship with his mother now (read: a non-existent one).

Lee was my first lesson in betrayal. The first person to teach me the lesson that not all people are honest. Or even sane, for that matter. You would think that lesson would have been enough. It wasn’t.

8,000+ characters about addiction

The day before Hurricane Katrina hit, I turned to my husband and confessed that I had been slowing killing myself with alcohol, and that I finally knew I’d never have anything I wanted in life as long as I kept drinking.  He asked me if I was ready to quit, and I was.  Three weeks later, he confessed that he wasn’t all that convinced I actually was an alcoholic.  That’s when I realized…he hadn’t noticed all the nights I got up in the middle of the night to vomit, and he hadn’t realized the number of times I’d started blacking out each week.  I was up to three.  I’d wake up on the couch, knowing I had gotten mad at him for something, but not for the life of me remembering what.

My paternal grandfather was an alcoholic.  He died alone in a squalid apartment set over a liquor store in Oklahoma a short while before my older brother was born.  My step-father, who’s been married to my mother since I was four, is an alcoholic.  Still very much practicing.  Oddly enough, I hadn’t noticed his drinking until I was about 14.  That’s the year my brother ran away from home, one of his complaints being that my step-father drank too much.  In the counseling session I was forced to go to with my parents, the counselor asked me what I thought of my brother’s accusation.  I stated I thought it was bogus….that I hadn’t hardly noticed his drinking.  In a rare moment of honesty, my step-father stated quietly, “you haven’t been paying attention”.

After that day, I started paying attention, and noticed the pattern.  Come home from work, drink.  Have a party, drink.  Go out with friends, drink. Wake up, drink. That’s just how my family wound down.

I, myself, started as a teenager.  I vaguely recall coming home at 13 and taking swigs of Glenlivet in an effort to get buzzed.  It didn’t work.  I hated the taste.  When I was 17, my step-father would pick up wine coolers for me, hand me one in the car and “race me” to see if I’d finish the first one before he had driven us home.  It was a game.  When I went away to college, he suggested I develop a taste for Everclear, since with it’s potency, I could consume less, save money, and still get buzzed.

For the record, I received absolutely no advice about sex (I was still a virgin), money, my studies….but how to get a cheap drunk…I was covered.

I didn’t start drinking heavily until I moved in with my college sweetheart/would-be ex-husband, Jeff.  It was mostly beer, a 12 pack of which I could knock out in a day in a half, if not less.  I didn’t really hit the hard stuff until I graduated from college and moved to Oklahoma, alone, Jeff having moved back in with his parents, signalling the beginning of the end of our relationship.  Jim Beam, the preferred bourbon of my mother and step-father, would become my roommate, along with an amazing amount of diet Coke.  My drinking wasn’t yet affecting my job or relationships, but I was well on my way.

After Jeff and I parted, I met Josh.  We fell very much in love, and it was unlike anything I’d had before.  Very sweet but passionate.  And we had that thing where we just “got” each other.  But it wasn’t too long into the relationship, when HIS demons reared their ugly heads.  His family’s drug of choice was, well, just about anything other than booze.  Ecstasy, LSD, marijuana…all were commonplace amongst he and his friends, even his mother.  I met him through his mother when I went to work for her making videos for the local schools.  I was extremely naïve about just about everything at the time, though I did think it was odd that when her kids would come over after having a bad day, their mother’s solution was, “have a bong hit, honey”.  The alarm bells should have gone off then, but I was smitten.  By the time Josh tried to enter rehab, the drugs had fried his brain to the point of schizophrenia.  After a month in a mental hospital in Norman,Oklahoma, he *should* have gone into rehab, but our co-dependency took over, and he moved back in with me. Al-anon meetings helped a little.  His moving out helped more.

He struggled with his anti-psychotic medication.  The first time he met my parents, he spoke of seeing a live chicken running around under my coffee table.  Great first impression.  Of the people in his life, only his brother, sister-in-law and paternal grandmother were sober people.  His mother got him high, so he’d jump on the furniture.  His step-father gave him drugs, then he’d be screeching about aliens trying to program him through the television.  The bravest I’d been in my life up to that point was the day I stared down the family drug dealer, Josh’s step-father’s best friend, and chastised him for selling Josh a bag of weed.  I knew that Josh was ultimately responsible for whether or not he got high, but to have so many people close to him NOT supporting him in his sobriety was just killing me.

Josh, in his saner moments, would sometimes comment on my drinking.  I didn’t see the connection.  I still don’t, actually, not because I’m not an addict, but because at that time it hadn’t become a preoccupation.

After Josh put a cigarette out on his forehead, I convinced him to give the anti-psychotic meds another chance.  He went to see the doctor, who wanted him hospitalized immediately.  “Check yourself in or I’ll do it”.  I wish the doctor had committed him.

Later that night, he called me and asked me to pick him up.  I told him he needed to stay there to get the help he needed.  He called his mother.  She picked him up and got him high on the way to his brother’s house.  That night, in front of his brother and family, Josh’s mother made him promise to stop being a burden to everyone.  The next morning he awoke, had a bowl of cereal, smoked a cigarette, then found his brother’s car keys, opened his brother’s car trunk, pulled out a shotgun his brother had attempted to hide there, sat under a tree, wrapped his lips around the barrel, and made good on his promise.

I had begun studying the bible a few months prior to Josh’s suicide.  A few months after, while recovering from Josh’s death at my mother’s house in Texas, I came to a fork in the road.  I walked away from my bible studies, and chose the path lined with empty Jim Beam bottles.

I stayed on that path for the next 10 years.  I gained 75 pounds.  I lost it.  I moved back to Oklahoma, then back to Texas, then to California. Then I hurt my back.  I gained all the weight back.  I started drinking tequila and waking up on the floor of my living room, bottle in hand.  I didn’t go on a single date.

Finally I met the man that would become my husband.  Shortly after we got married, the San Antonio Spurs won the 2005 NBA championship.  I had gotten so drunk that night, I barely remembered it.  The next day I was so hung over I went into work late.  All my co-workers, who had teased me for years about being the lone Spurs fan in a sea of Laker “fans” (read: when they win), had expected me to be so hyped and happy.  My head hurt too much.

Parenthetically, I had not been able to bask in the 2003 championship either, not because of a hangover, but because my beloved cat had died in my arms a few hours after the win.  By the time they won in 2007, I was pregnant with my daughter, and a basketball contest seemed far less important to me.

We got married in May 2004.  We had not realized that my husband had ADHD.  Like you wouldn’t believe ADHD.  His mother had been told as much when he was a child, but had not done anything about it.  He just thought he was incredibly forgetful and stupid, but I knew something was wrong with him.  He was much too smart to be that dumb.  He went in for testing, and started getting treatment for it.  I joke that if marriage is a path you walk together, that first year he kept forgetting where the path was and I was too drunk to find it.

Katrina hit in late August of 2005.  I called up my family and announced I was an alcoholic that weekend.

After deciding to quit, I sought out help.  I knew I didn’t want to do AA.  I know they’ve helped many, many people, but it didn’t seem like it was for me.  But I worked with someone who I knew was in AA and had been sober for a long time, so I’d go down to his office and we’d chat.  He was incredibly sweet and helpful.  I also reached out to my step-mother, who’d been sober for over 20 years.    I’ve been sober 6 ½ years now, and am really coming to appreciate something both my co-worker and step-mother told me.  It doesn’t necessarily get easier the longer you’ve been sober.  Yes, the physical cravings have subsided, but not the psychological ones.

I hate parties, but used to get through them by drinking.  I realized this a month after quitting when I had a full-blown panic attack in the middle of an office party of 300 people.  If you believe the folks on Madison Avenue, it is not physically possible to have a good time with friends unless you have a libation in your hand.  Hot day?  Have a cold beer.  Not me.  Tense at work?  The office manager is hosting a happy hour at the bar across the street, wanna come?  I wish.

I miss the high soooo much.  But that’s the rub.  It’s been long enough since I’ve had a drink that I miss the high, but don’t vividly remember the vomit, the blacking out, the crying, drunken fits I’d have when I’d destroy something in my home because, inevitably, in my intoxicated state I’d be unable to operate it (at least two cd players gone, thank you). I have to remind myself of the time I got so drunk I drove my car off the road onto a railroad track and had to have my front passenger tire replaced the next day.  Or when I was so drunk and lonely, I decided I’d knock on my neighbor’s door, someone I didn’t even know, to see if he’d have sex with me.  Thankfully, he wasn’t home.

I’ve noticed some people I follow on Twitter commenting about their sobriety lately.  This got me thinking about reaching out.  While I haven’t been truly, truly tempted, I did mention to my husband, semi-jokingly, that I’d like to start drinking again, only he can monitor me.  Yeah, because addicts aren’t liars and I wouldn’t EVER be deceptive about how much I had to drink.

By the time I quit drinking, I had gotten up to almost a fifth of bourbon A NIGHT.  I know I don’t want to go back there.  When I first quit, I’d often have dreams about having fallen off the wagon and wake up feeling terrible.  I’m starting to have them again.

Though I never did AA, I do appreciate the notion of taking things one day at a time.  To think of not having a drink for the next 30 years is murder.

I just need to not drink tonight.

Ew, weird

Went to webmd today to launch the symptom checking, and noticed a picture of Kurt Cobain on the front page.  Having just included him in a list of suicides, the picture caught my eye.  Next to it was a link to Myths and Facts About Depression .

Included in the slideshow:

Myth: Depression Is Just Self-Pity

Our culture admires will power and mental toughness and is quick to label anyone who falls back as a whiner. But people who have clinical depression are not lazy or simply feeling sorry for themselves. Nor can they “will” depression to go away. Depression is a medical illness — a health problem related to changes in the brain. Like other illnesses, it usually improves with appropriate treatment.

Thank you!

My view of depression

From allpsych.com (found by searching for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)), the symptoms for dysthmic depression are described as:

“Depressed mood for most of the day, for more days than not, and ongoing for at least two years. During this time, there must be two or more of the following symptoms: under– or over eating, sleep difficulties, fatigue, low self-esteem, difficulty with concentration or decision making, and feelings of hopelessness. There can also not be a diagnosis of Major Depression for the first two years of the disorder, and has never been a manic or hypo-manic episode.”

Okay, so that’s been me for about 20 years.  I’ve gone through patches of “clarity”, which is usually when I’d go off my meds, thinking, “I’m fine, don’t need ’em”.  Then, boom goes the dynamite, I’m back in the hole.  Every once in a while, my brain has changed things up by offering up Major Depression, evidenced by:

  • depressed mood (such as feelings of sadness or emptiness)
  • reduced interest in activities that used to be enjoyed, sleep disturbances (either not being able to sleep well or sleeping to much)
  • loss of energy or a significant reduction in energy level
  • difficulty concentrating, holding a conversation, paying attention, or making decisions that used to be made fairly easily
  • suicidal thoughts or intentions.

Just to be clear, that SUCKS.  And it’s not something one can “snap out of”.  I’ve come to describe depression as this, to those who’ve never been cursed with it.  It’s like being stuck at the bottom of a 20 foot hole.  It’s pitch black, and I can’t climb out.  I may very well have a loved one, maybe more than one, standing on the edge of the hole, looking down at me (usually literally and figuratively), telling me, “What do you have to be depressed about?  It’s a beautiful day!  You have all this wonderful food and sweet music to listen to, and people who love you!”  Um, down a mine shaft, here.  Can’t see the sun, hear the music, or taste the food.  “Well, you know, there’s lot’s of people suffering like you.  You’re not alone”.  Yeah, I’M DOWN AN EFFING HOLE.  I CAN’T SEE THOSE PEOPLE OR HELP THEM IN ANY WAY.

But I haven’t become bitter.  No, not at all.  Actually, in recent days, perhaps better described as recent hours, I’ve had a realization.  See, this last weekend, I had the deepest, darkest depression I’ve had since my boyfriend blew his brains out 16 years ago. I was so close to the edge, the wind coulda knocked me over it.  What was probably most frightening to me is that I’ve been taking my meds for years now, with no real gaps.  They just stopped working.  In my effort to connect to something, anything, I found the memoirs of William Styron.  It’s called “Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness”.  So I bought it on my Kindle and read it.  I found myself highlighting many passages, and sharing them with my husband.  And after reading it, I realized, that I had been guilty of the same denial and condescension I’ve become accustomed to from friends and family.  I’ve been feeling guilty for years, feeling like such a burden on family and friends because I was “moody”.  Well, to hell with that.  I have a disease.  A disease with the capacity to be just as deadly as cancer.  Yes, those who die from depression die by their own hand, but they’re still dead, right?  I quote William Stryon:

…the pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne.  The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain.  Through the healing process of time – and through medical intervention or hospitalization in many cases, most people survive depression, which may be its only blessing; but to the tragic legion who are compelled to destroy themselves there should be no more reproof attached than to the victims of terminal cancer.

So, who are some of these “moody” people, these sufferers of depression who succumbed?  A brief, brief list:

  • Vincent van Gogh
  • Virginia Woolf
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Jack London
  • Ernest Hemmingway
  • Abbie Hoffman
  • Kurt Cobain
  • Spalding Gray
  • Michael Hutchence
  • Richard Jeni
  • Alexander McQueen
  • Freddie Prinze
  • Hunter S. Thompson

Wimps, right?  Hardly.  And having spent more than a few moments in that blackest of moments, the moment when absolutely nothing matters to you, not your job, your money, your house, even your husband or your child, I can tell you, I’m grateful I survived them.  Here’s hoping I continue to survive, and maybe someday, live.  Here’s hoping I stay out of the hole.