bearthinking

About recovering from depression and suicide.

Choice of judgment.

It was a hard night, last night.  The moon was out, the stars shone bright, the heat of day gave way to a not unpleasant muggy coolness.  But I came up against the “very firmly held belief” of one I had counted as a friend.

Very firmly held beliefs are wonderful things.  They allow you to make up your mind without ever needing to deal with facts.  They allow you stop feeling, stop attempting to understand those around you, allow you to blame them when they give up and walk away.  In a sad way, it is their fault; they now have the very firmly held belief that you do not care, and are they wrong?

But there s something else very firmly held beliefs do.  They allow you to not face yourself.  They allow you to live in denial.  They allow you to ignore the consequences of your own behaviour.

I came up against it last night.  My roller-coaster ride of dealing with depression has actually been going fairly well of late.  There have been a few set-backs here and there, but over-all I have been making progress.

As part of this, I have been reaching out to people that have fallen away from my life.  In a few instances, some have reached out to me.  I have been upfront about having depression.  It is a central fact of my psychology, one that influences my perceptions and reactions.  I have said and done self-destructive things without being aware of it; I figure if my friends know this about me, they can help me before I spiral down too far to reach again.

The major part of how they help is simply by being there; knowing that I can get help when I need it.  This actually makes it easier to NOT call them at 3:47 AM because I don’t think I can make it through the night without putting a bullet through my head.

So when a friend reached out, I reached back.  Then she said her husband would like to hear from me as well.  I took me a few days to email him.   I was nervous, dealing with other issues (aftermath of ‘Sailing’ {cf.} among them), and had already sent a message via her.

Now, I’m glad I waited.  If I had read his reply earlier, it would have been much harder to dig myself out of a down-spiral I had hit.  “I think it is stupid and selfish for a person to choose to wallow in a masochistic funk that feeds on itself when all that is necessary is for that person to CHOOSE to not follow that path.”  Seems OK on the face of it.

But what about those of us who are not aware of depression or the effect it has on our thinking and perception? This is especially bad with teens whose symptoms are usually masked or explained away by changing hormones.  There are those of us who spend years not knowing why things are always bad around us.  Or why it is so hard to get out of bed, to have an interest in anything at all.

Even after we are aware of the situation, it is hard to get help – for so many reasons.  Not all of us can hang tough through it, either; hell, not even Ernest Hemingway managed it.  And for some of us, the help has to be fairly radical even after we have committed ourselves to it.

There are two main forms of Depression proper: Situational Depression, a temporary downturn as a result of things such as job loss or ‘holiday blues’; and Clinical Depression, a permanent but treatable condition.  The basis of Clinical Depression is not choice, but hard neuro-chemical fact.  For a varied combination of reasons, there is a flaw in the neuro-chemical cycles that regulate mood.  Sometimes, things go wrong in our lives and overwhelm us; for most people, that can be dealt with as the neuro-chemical cycles kick in to help keep us positive.  For others, that does not happen.

Our perceptions are that things will not get better, that we have no real positive effect on our circumstances, that there is no point in trying even.  The world sucks, and we get to have the shitty end of the stick.  There is no choice, that’s just the way it is and it can never change.  We have a ‘very firmly held belief’ in that.

Then there are those of us who really are beyond help, who are so firmly held by the grip of a vicious neuro-chemical imbalance that we cannot get out of even with radical help.  Well, they are stupid and selfish for choosing to wallow in that, aren’t they?

Given a choice we can actually see, given an opportunity to stop feeling this way – helpless, isolated, and worthless – we try to abandon our very firmly held beliefs and come out of The Pit.  I will not go back into The Pit because of his very firmly held belief, but it seems to me that he has made a choice, built his place of judgment.  As have I.

June 20, 2010 Posted by | autobio, depression, recovery, suicide | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

remembering to create: day zero

day zero

For years I lied.  Everyday, to everyone, I told a lie.  A deep, pervasive, insidious lie that tainted all my life, my hopes, my plans.  It blighted and consumed every aspect of my life.

I told one lie for seventeen and a half years.  I lived it, in spite of so much evidence that it was false.  I was married for just over 19 years; do you count the time you are separated, if not then it was almost 19 years.

I told myself that in spite of the problems we had, that it was a happy marriage.  People who did not know us well assumed it was too.  Apparently the divorce did not come as much of a surprise to people who knew us.  It seems that what came as a surprise was that I was not the one who initiated it and that we had lasted as long as we did.  This is the power of a lie.

This lie was just one of many I was living.  (I can just hear my ex now… and she is neither wrong nor right, such are people)  Some of the lies, I’m still living.  A list?  Well, here’s a partial of the more socially acceptable ones…
1) I am basically a happy person; 2) I’m a horrible writer; 3) I’m a horrible artist; 4) I have a good opinion of myself; 5) I am solely responsible for the ruin of my marriage; 6) I had a happy childhood.
I know my ex would never believe that I think #5, but it is true.  I do blame myself, completely.  I ‘know’ it to be true, and try to compensate.  I also know it is not true as nothing is ever that simple; we both lied to ourselves and each other.

These lies, these self-delusions are just part of what led to my suiciding.  Several times.  Why?

Why?  Why did, and do, I buy into them?  Part of it is neuro-chemical, part is habit, part is believing what others have told me, and, oh my, how many other factors can I list?  In the end, though, I must bear the ultimate responsibility.

I am fully aware, and have been, of my depression.  I was fully aware, on one level, of the falsity of my marriage after that first year and a half.  I know I am a talented artist and writer.  I know I have low self-esteem (see depression).  I know my childhood was not happy.  But being oblivious is so easy.

I lived in that warm, comfortable oblivion.  I let myself allow depression to take hold of me.  I did not seek help before, during, or after my suicides.  And, actually, after one suicidal ideation episode, it was my ex who encouraged me to get help.  Well, threatened me more than encouraged me, but I did get help, so that is forgivable, I think.

But (it is always there, isn’t it?), nothing like that can last long.  Reality crashed the party, put cigarette butts in the fish tank, smeared cake on the ceiling, and set fire to the couch.

See, when she told me she was divorcing me, I went into an auto-pilot mode.  I agreed to things that are going to end up damaging my life further, I made poor decisions for my future, forgot to trust my instincts, and went into a numbed emotional state.  I don’t think anybody noticed because of the worst decision I made; I isolated from my family and friends.  No-one I was around for the next year actually knew me.

I could not afford either good insurance coverage, a therapist, nor my meds.  That last did not seem to be a real problem, because long before I ran out they stopped working.  And the only therapists I would have been able to go to, well, it would have been public assistance therapists, and they are way overworked.

The house of cards started falling apart.  First the meds stopped working, then a person I thought was a friend turned out not to be with a vengeance.  I hit a creative wall at a million miles per hour and now had no expressive outlet.  I lost my job and could not get another one.  My plans for Father’s Day a year ago got nuked with no warning, no negotiation.  I stayed alone in my apartment for days on end, money was running out, my lease was ending.  I had nothing to live for anymore.

I had no desire to live of my own and it seemed to me that no-one else had any constructive use for me either.  Everything was gone.  I had nothing, not even emptiness.  Not even oblivion.

and the evening and the morning were before…

June 16, 2010 Posted by | autobio, depression, suicide | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

remembering to create: day four

I was getting tired of waking up. Nothing was right, my brain was not mine. All of this was just too much. Much too much. The walk down the hall, the vitals being taken, breakfast. It all blurred in my head like bad mustard and ketchup, not making any sense but just being dealt with.

I could not stop thinking about what others were talking about. I kept focusing on them so I would not have to deal with the harsh realities of my subjective truths. I talked for them so I would not hear myself. I cracked jokes, made pithy comments, shared my insights, anything to stop hearing the screaming in my own head. The scream of the mother outside of the building where her children are being burned to death. The man in the apartment building across the way who was torturing himself with guilt because he wanted his 23 year old son’s girlfriend. The man who was starving and just wanted anything to eat, so desperate he got his gun out and thought about bread and how no one had to get hurt. The girl with blood running down her thighs, crying, hoping, alone and hurt.

Focus on the moment, they tell me. Be mindful of the present. Hic et nunc. I had no present, I had no place. Home was gone, washed away by the winter winds of a Kansas summer. Brooklyn had come and gone, Ohio, Florida, Connecticut, Indiana, Virginia; all gone, destroyed with one word, never to be seen or heard or felt again. I could not die, but neither could I live. Stuck, like Muhammad’s coffin, but without the Grace of Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate.

The day passed in a random series of events. Nothing meaningful, or not meaningful. I was a pinball in the machine, being flipped and bounced around. Playing pool (boing), outside (flip), another session (ting, ting, ting!), lunch (bounce between three bumpers until suddenly getting flipped back to the springshooter), going outside (ta-ching, bing-boing), just racking up points for some scoreboard until I rocketed between the exit bumpers and found myself sitting with everyone else in two groups of chairs facing each other across a string strung from one side of the room to the other about head height.

After discussing team names, we played balloon volleyball. No butts out of the chairs, if a balloon went under the ‘net’ it was a point unless the team it was travelling towards touched it – then it was still in play. We kept at it, bouncing the balloon, smacking it for ‘spikes’. It seemed to me that the ones who had the most emotional trouble were actually the ones with the best ability. Ophelia made many saves and was very good at getting the balloon to the strongest players on her team.
The team I was on won. But our victory was not a victory against, but for. I did not feel the need to “lord it over” the players on the other team. I think I would have been just as happy… strange, to think of being happy… anyway, just as happy as if they had won.

Then it all came back. The pain, the loneliness, the fear, the loss, despair. Depression reared up within me, claiming my life, my happiness, my achievements. I had to cry, I could not cry. I could not be happy, I had to be depressed. The fog rolled in and covered me in a blanket of nothingness, seeking to cut me off from myself.
Chains enveloped me, strangled my heart, my soul, my toes. Everything shattered into a million, billion, trillion, quadrillion, googleplex shards of whole grain soup and wilted lettuce. People began to run backwards into the futures, seeing what has been, not what will be. The carpet ran up my legs and swallowed air from a thousand days of mad sanity. The voices cried, died, sighed.
Food was on the fork nearing my mouth. Lasagna. It was okay, I was no longer running. I ate, I responded to others’ queries, statements, interjections. I could no longer hold back what I thought. I said things, I do not know what. People smiled though.

Fire and wind, pills and pain. I watched TV with the others and thought of chicken enchiladas. We played chess, my roommate, the non-poseur Christian, the Elvis Costello man, and I.
Why can we not believe in ourselves? We can so easily believe in others, but not ourselves. I won each time, not victories of defeating my opponents, but an exchange of thought, of process, of communicating existence.

And evening and morning were the fourth day…

September 23, 2009 Posted by | autobio, depression, recovery, suicide | , , , , | Leave a comment

Hello world, again…

I have survived, I have been reborn, I have been rescued by my Mother, my sister, and my two best friends.  Ophelia gave me back the seed of my soul.  A Mental Health Hold ward was my womb.  I am learning to walk among humans again, I am remembering what it is to live, laugh, and maybe love without reservation.

August 24, 2009 Posted by | autobio | , , | Leave a comment