DEPRESSION IS DEPRESSING

solitude

 

I don’t write much about depression because it’s, well, depressing, and most of the time, I’m trying to run from it rather than acknowledge it. When I’m depressed I tend to hide from the world and embrace my bed like a long-lost lover come home. I sleep. A lot. Because it’s an escape from the disturbing thoughts that obsessively bombard my mind.

The holidays tend to exacerbate this ugly beast of burden. There’s something about them that bring feelings of loneliness and unhappiness to the forefront. Right now, there are many posts on Facebook giving out the Suicide Hotline phone number, urging people to call if they become desperate. But many won’t. They’ll continue to suffer in silence.

For those who don’t have a problem with this illness, it may be difficult to understand the mind of a depressed person. Just like I don’t understand what it’s like to have cancer, or be paralyzed, or lose a child. I don’t pretend to. I would no more tell them to “buck up,” or “look on the bright side,” or “get over it” any more than a “positive” person should to someone suffering depression.

One word: Empathy. A quality many lack, especially when they don’t understand something. Empathy is “the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.”

I personally believe the more sensitive and creative a person, the more prone they are to depression. They see more, feel more, and ponder more. About everything. But this can often lead to a downward spiraling of mood. Depressives are ruminators. They start with a negative feeling or thought, and they overthink it to death. They beat it until it’s nothing but a bloody pulp. Is it learned behavior, a default switch, in a sense? A chemical imbalance? Hereditary? Who knows, who cares? The important thing is realizing how dangerous and serious depression is.

I’ve been dealing with depression for over 20 years. I was never a depressed teen, but then again, I was partying way too much to feel anything. It wasn’t until I came down with CFIDS that I became depressed. Think about it. A healthy, outgoing 26-year-old actress living in NY, doing what she loved. Now imagine her getting sick with mono. Imagine it NEVER going away. Imagine all her hopes and dreams buried in a dumpster full of rotting food behind Denny’s.

Now I know there are people out there who get their legs blown off in Iraq, come home and start a foundation to help people like them, get married, and have a great life. There are others who are raped and tortured, write a book about it, and go on to counsel other survivors like themselves. I get it. Strong people turning adversity in to a positive. Rah rah for them.

But I’m not one of those people. Wish I were, but I’m not. I can blame it on my dad for yelling at me my whole life, telling me what a worthless piece of crap I am or I can blame it on brain chemistry. Bottom line? It is what it is.

So. Here’s an example of how my depressed mind works: I completed the first draft of my novel on Tuesday. It’s 90,000 words. That in and of itself is something to be proud of, right? And I was proud of myself. For the rest of the evening. The next day, I sat in front of my laptop, a little lost because every author says you should wait like 6 weeks before you edit, and I thought, Okay, WTF am I going to do while I’m waiting? So I start researching who I can shop my novel around to once I have a final draft ready.

Now, mind you, I’ve published 2 romantic comedies already, but decided to write a dark erotic romance. Why? I have no idea. I don’t read that much erotica. Hell, I don’t even like erotica all that much. So why did I write it? Come to discover the market is saturated already, and very few agents want to represent it. As for legit publishers, there is 1 for me to choose from. 1.

 

First thoughts: I just spent a year researching and writing a novel that I won’t be able to sell. Why didn’t I stick with my chosen genre, so I could have a better chance of building a following?

Second thoughts: Most erotic authors self-publish. I don’t want to learn how to self-publish. It’s too much work that I don’t have the energy for. I’m such a fucking idiot.

Third thoughts: Just like everything else in my life, I never think things through. Instead of furthering my career, I’ve stalled it. Something I can’t afford to do because I have a kid to feed.

Now by this point, I have a tension headache, my chest is tight because my breathing is shallow, and I start worrying about how I’m going to pay my rent next month. And afford $100 bucks to enroll my son in soccer. And renew HostGator for my website for $150. And pay property taxes. And buy soccer cleats, and…and…

And the worrying starts to spiral out of control. Depressed people don’t just think of the problem at hand (In my case, writing a ms that won’t sell). They remember every. single.  problem they’ve ever had since birth.

If only I were smarter, or married, or healthier, or skinnier, or richer, or my mother had breastfed me…fill in the blank.

And

I shouldn’t have married my abusive bf from high school, gotten into the car with that frat boy, done that line of meth, driven while drunk, picked up that hooker who turned out to be a guy, gotten that awful nose job…fill in the blank.

And

I should have gone to grad school, never quit that high-paying job even though it made me miserable, stayed on the Pill, kicked my husband out 5 years before, gotten my breasts done a long time ago, checked her license to see whether she was of legal age…fill in the blank.

And

My father, mother, old boyfriend, best friend was right. I’m a train wreck, a fuck up, stupid, ugly, fat, a douche canoe…fill in the blank.

And

I’m going to be 80 years old, poor, single, unhappy, fat, my cats will eat my dead body, no one will come to my funeral…fill in the blank.

 

This is how the depressed mind works. Or at least how mine does. Cognitive therapy helps if you’re willing to do the work. Meds only do so much for a while. Many lose the battle, because once that desperate hopelessness sets in, magnifying the feeling that nothing will ever change, that you’re going to feel this miserable torturous mindfuck forever, suicide seems like the only relief in sight. People usually don’t commit suicide because they want to end their lives; they commit suicide because they don’t want to feel the pain anymore. That’s an important distinction, and it truly breaks my heart. Because we’re not bad people. We’re not weak. We’re usually nicer and more successful than we think. And although I’ve had close friends accuse me of being negative (I’ve even lost best friends over it), I believe it’s more about their own self-centeredness in not wanting to be brought down. Again, they’re lacking that empathy factor.

I, on the other hand, because I’ve gone through so much hardship in my life would never berate or shun a person for being down, or negative, or suicidal. I’ve had strangers talk to me for hours, telling me all their problems or admit they’re wanting to commit suicide. Why? Because I genuinely listen, so they feel safe. I don’t judge them or tell them to turn that frown upside down. How many people can genuinely listen to the pain of another without judgment or telling them what to do to make themselves better? I’ve only met one or two.

If you need someone to listen and you have no one to talk to with a sympathetic ear, please, please, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255–24/7. Or message me here. You are not alone.

Happy holidays

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FOR ALL THE HOLIDAY MISFITS

krampus

For the past 5 years I have fallen into a holiday funk. Being single, coupled with not having any family to spend the holidays with during a season where ads for love and family and togetherness and diamond rings to “show her you care” are pounded into one’s psyche ad nauseam are enough to make anyone want to go off the deep end.

Then there’s my beloved Facebook, my social media of choice and social life all rolled up in one. Only this time of year, my preferred memes containing cats or offensive snarkiness fall along the wayside to ho hum pics of newly engaged couples in front of their tree and family gatherings with everyone dressed in their holiday finest—including my own, mind you, without me.

Here’s how it’s gone down for the last 5 years. Every Christmas eve, my entire family goes to an annual Xmas play. I drop my son off in front of my father’s house (because he and I are still not speaking to one another), wish my brother and sister a Merry Christmas, and off I go on my solitary way to feel sorry for myself at home while I view their happy group photos on Facebook that I’ve been tagged in so I can, you know, feel included as part of the family.

This year, I burst into tears as I was driving away, but only because my brother had just returned from Thailand and it would have been nice to be able to spend some time drinking with him that day and getting him to admit he solicited a she-male hooker by mistake. It would have been lovely to hang with my sister, who had finally fallen into a serious relationship with her best friend, even though he had fought their love for a year. I would have loved to tell her “I told you so,” because I did. Exactly a year ago.

They’re the family I miss. Not my asshat of a father who we all have to walk on eggshells around so as not to upset him. The asshat of a father who drinks too much and picks a fight with someone, anyone just to hear himself yell. No, I don’t miss that dysfunction at all.

With the world stressing how important family is, where does that leave you when you don’t have any to spend the holidays with? It sucks, but I vowed this year I wouldn’t fall into a deep, dark depression, and so far I haven’t. Maybe it was due to the power of intention. Perhaps my hormones are balanced this week. Or maybe for the first time, another single mother was at my friend’s Xmas dinner and for once, I didn’t feel so fucking alone in the sea of coupledom.

This woman’s husband committed suicide 2 years ago. Blew his brains out on a wilderness trail, leaving behind a wife and 11-year-old son. She’s very open about the whole ordeal, which is why I have enormous respect for her. Her family is spread out all over the world, and her mother is exactly like my father, so she’s essentially alone like I am. She has no interest in going out and trying to land another husband because she can’t hack being alone, and for that, along with her honesty and bluntness, she and I get along great.

We made plans to get together next week. She’s going to teach me how to make Spanish rice, authentic beans, and chicken Verde. Any other year I’d have shied away from making plans and doing anything that required me to smile, but this year is different. This year I consciously acknowledge there are other women out there who have just as craptastic a life as me. I simply have to find them. This woman whose husband blindsided her with death. Another woman I met on Thanksgiving has 2 kids, and is separated from her cross-dressing husband (although she’s OCD and a bit of a hoarder, so who the hell knows what the story is there). She’s asked me to get together with her as well.

These are the women I need to seek out in the years to come. Not the ones with their picture-perfect Norman Rockwell lives. I don’t have anything in common with them. I’ll seek out the misfits and the wounded and the shunned. The divorced and the widowed and the transgendered. Really anyone who doesn’t live a cookie-cutter life.

For all those who are going through a tough time this holiday season, take heart. It’s almost over. Try to seek out others in the same sinking boat. You may find they help keep you afloat.

WATER IS THICKER THAN BLOOD

father and daughter

It’s been five years since I’ve seen or spoken to my father. Five years since he flew into a rage because I looked at him wrong and he threw me out of his home. Five years since I decided I’d had enough of being his verbal punching bag.

Occasionally, I’ll get news of him through my stepmother—how he’s ailing, and not handling ageing well. I often wonder how I’ll feel when he dies. Will I regret not letting bygones be bygones? Glorify the good and forget the bad? Long for closure? He was my father, after all. The only thing that comes to mind if I were asked to describe him in one sentence is: He was the nastiest man I’ve ever known.

That’s it in a nutshell. My male role model, first male figure in my life upon which I model all men and relationships (which probably explains why I’m single). The experts say that a girl who doesn’t grow up with unconditional love and support from her father suffers from poor self-esteem and an inability to form healthy relationships with men. Go into any strip club and ask a stripper how her relationship was with her dad growing up and nine times out of ten I’ll bet you they’ll say, “He was distant, or emotionally unavailable, or abusive, or had unrealistic expectations, or…”

Some women can channel the burning desire to win Daddy’s elusive love and make him proud by turning into an overachiever, a workaholic, an anorexic even (if he’s overbearing and critical, and it’s the only thing they can control about themselves). Or they can go the other route like I did—assume the victim role and become depressed. I internalized all his anger and verbal abuse.

If my parent, who’s supposed to love me like no other, claims I’m no good, then it must be so. If my parent thinks I’m a failure, I’ll never succeed at anything. If my parent doesn’t love me, it must mean I’m unlovable.

Well-meaning people think you can just shrug this stuff off. “You’re an adult. Get over it.” But you can’t. Not without years of intensive therapy anyway. Your formative years mold your entire state of being. They influence your psyche in a more pervasive way than even genetics do. So if you’ve been screamed at your whole life and made to feel worthless, it’s going to impact you negatively no matter how many positive affirmations you recite. And when you’ve been forced to deal with a parent who’s unstable and explosive, you learn you can’t trust anyone, because you’re expecting to be ripped to shreds at a moment’s notice.

I remember one time being in the car with my dad and half-brother, who was around two years old. We were stopped in front of my father’s office and my brother was climbing all over me. “You’re such a little monkey,” I told him, laughing. And my father stopped what he was doing, and began screaming at me. “Don’t you ever call my son a monkey again. Howard Cosell was fired for calling a player a monkey. Did you know that? How would you like it if I called you a cow?”

Wait, wha-?

Instead of telling him what an asshole he was like I should have, I always took the passive approach just to try to make the screaming stop. I held back the tears and clammed up. My entire childhood and young adulthood was spent holding back the tears and clamming up whenever I was around him. So when I look back and try to remember something, anything nice, like him telling me he loved me (never) or giving me a compliment (only one in my lifetime and it was about my nails looking nice), or being proud of me (He once told me a monkey (that word again) could do my retail job), I can’t seem to find a thing.

So will I have any regrets when he dies? Yes. I’ll always regret he wasn’t a better father.

DEPRESSION IS

nighthawks-edward-hopper
“Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper

WARNING: The following post is NOT warm and fuzzy. Proceed at your own discretion.

Depression is a fickle bitch.

It’s PMS, road rage, PTSD after returning from Iraq, or staring down at your beautiful newborn and feeling…nothing. It’s partial paralysis after a stroke, a blown-out knee, an unwritten novel, failed dreams. Constant pain from a herniated disc, dialysis, gluttony, the inability to leave the womb-like safety of your home.

Depression is the faded ink stain on your favorite shirt, the dormant stage of a daffodil bulb. Or a zombie apocalypse.

Depression is the dress you buy for when you’re 5 pounds thinner, only to find it years later crumpled on the floor in the back of your closet.

Depression is failure for not being able to “snap out of it.” It’s unfulfilled potential, too many hours of sleep, and medical bills for undiagnosed ailments. Relationships gone sour, regurgitated food, clogged arteries, and one too many glasses of wine.

Depression says No before getting smacked across the face by a parent. Depression says No to the babysitter who molested you, the assailant who raped you. Depression says No to the men you try to please to fill the hole. No to extra work hours in place of family. No to your child about…well, anything.

Depression says You’re Not Worthy. How could you be with Hep B-tainted blood, tract marks on your arms, semen deep inside you from someone who shares your DNA? Or simply that your sexual preference is different from mine.

Depression says It’ll Never Get Better. Because you’ve tried everything. Because the meds can only do so much. Because cognitive therapy doesn’t work when your words and thoughts are diseased. And in response to all those success stories about others who have overcome this beast, you scream, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Depression says I Don’t Love You. I never wanted you. I wish I had aborted you. I beat you for your own good. It’s how I was raised. It’s the only way I know. It runs in the family.

Depression says You Could Have Done Better. Because a B+ is not an A, 2nd Place is no Winner, and if only you had worked harder…If only… If only you were thinner, smarter, taller…

Depression seduces, giving you that tingly feeling in your groin. It brings you to that moment when morals, doubts, marital statuses are forgotten. Depression gets you completely naked, ready, and willing…and then whispers, “I don’t want you,” before slinking away.

Depression leaves scars in the form of cutting, tattoos, or grooves in the brain like well-trodden areas of carpet. It can be obvious and deafening like angry feedback during a concert. Silent and seething like a small gas leak. Or brains splattered all over the wallpaper you never wanted in the first place.

It’s selfish and maddening and sensitive and organic. It’s suffocating, lacking in compassion, intuitive and creative. It’s paralyzing and hopeless and cerebral and methodical. It’s both powerless and powerful. Bright light when you remember how you once were; darkness over how you are now. It’s prison, then parole. Purgatory. An apathetic Heaven or Hell.

It’s the underachieving, New Age pessimist and the overachieving, Mensa tyrant. The insanely talented Oxycontin-addicted Narcissist. The gold-medal winning, anal-retentive introvert who wonders, What now?

Depression is Jim Carrey, Eric Clapton, Agatha Cristie, Edgar Degas, and Princess Di. It’s Reddit co-founder, Aaron Swartz, J.K. Rowling, Marilyn Monroe, John Hinkley, Jr. It’s “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” Nietzsche, (but if it does end up killing us, it’s only because we’re desperate for the pain to go away). Depression is Mike Tyson, Mike Wallace, Terry Bradshaw, and Oscar-winning director, Malik Bendjelloul.

Depression is the doctor, the artist, the addict, the mother, the Vet, the student, the Walmart cashier.

Depression is the unemployed and the employed, the psychiatrist who treats you for symptoms, the terminally ill, the convict, the mortician who will dress your dead body. Depression is your parent, your child, your spouse, your grandfather.

Depression is a petulant child throwing a tantrum in the middle of the supermarket on a dog day afternoon. “See me,” it cries, before retreating once again into invisibility.