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.

WHEN DID UGLY XMAS SWEATERS GET SO RAUNCHY?

 

tis the season

Why yes, it’s that time again–the season of ugly sweaters. Christmas sweaters have always been ugly (that’s part of their charm), but when did they get so, um, sexually explicit?

US 1

Is this Madonna’s Christmas sweater from the 80s made by Jean-Paul Gaultier? It needs to go back to the 80s and stay there, along with neon colors, leg warmers, and shoulder pads.

US 2

I can’t help but think these reindeer got punched in their noses outside the bar while Santa was inside having a few shots, or are experiencing a severe allergic reaction after eating a cheese ball covered in nuts.  I’m the one who needs a bottleful of Benadryl (or Pepto-Bismol) in order to deal with this one.  

US 4

Deck the balls with boughs of–oh, never mind. If I were face to face with this man I’d have to fight the urge to hang my coat from his erect carrot, or a dish towel, but I’m guessing he’s thinking more along the lines of hanging mistletoe from that bad boy. Ick.

US 7

Is that a frozen carrot or are you just happy to see me? Mrs. Snowwoman (who looks strikingly like a man) doesn’t look too happy. And neither would I if I had to wear this monstrosity, although it does bring to mind a joke: Why did Frosty the Snowman pull down his pants? He heard the snow blower coming. Heh.

US 8

Does anyone else just want to tweak that nose…or lance it because it looks like a boil? This is the perfect “sweater” for a stripper in North Dakota. Ho Ho Ho! Merry XXXmas!

US 6

Proof that Santa is lactose intolerant, because after a glass of milk this is what happens to me. Can you imagine poor Santa after 52 billion glasses of milk? For the record, we leave vanilla almond milk for Santa, which is why he visits our home first.

US 5

This gem isn’t necessarily raunchy. Instead, it looks as if someone ate a decorated Christmas tree and then vomited it up onto a piece of wool (or I’m guessing polyester in this case). It hurts my eyes and gives me a searing pain in my head–which is what ugly Christmas sweaters are supposed to do, so I choose this one for the WIN this year.

 

Here’s hoping your holiday season is filled with non-dysfunctional family time and gifts you don’t have to feign joy over receiving.

 

THE HOLIDAYS—MAY THEY REST IN PEACE

Bah humbug

I can’t lie—I’m glad the holidays are over. Yes, I’m one of those people. But when you have no family to spend Christmas with and no significant other to kiss at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, the holidays blow. I survived by drinking more than I should and religiously following the posts on a site called Emerging from Broken. It was on this site I learned I was not alone. There’s many, many more like me who either have no contact or minimal contact with their terribly dysfunctional families.

Every day I’d peruse Facebook even though I was continuously assaulted by happy people getting together with their families. Even worse was seeing photos and postings of my own happy family. It stung. A lot. It wasn’t so much the lack of them I was missing. It was the lack of a family to call my own. Most people who are estranged from their family have chosen to create their own—usually through marriage. In my case, it’s only my son and I.

At some point in December, my son threw out those dreaded words no single mom ever wants to hear: “Why can’t you marry Daddy so he can come live with us?”

“Because Daddy is engaged to be married to another woman,” I told him. The boy is 11. Sorry, but I’m just not sugarcoating it anymore. At least my response succeeded in halting the conversation in its tracks.

We spent Christmas day with my friend’s in-laws who have graciously “adopted” us. There are advantages to celebrating with other people’s families. In between the ham and the pumpkin pie, the conversation turned to religion (a big social no-no) and ended with my friend’s husband banging his fists on the table and accusing his father of refusing to acknowledge his nephew’s homosexuality. “Why can’t you admit your nephew is gay, Dad? Say it!” he screamed.

This drama didn’t faze me in the least because hey—it ain’t my family. So I got up and went into the other room with the kids. It was very freeing. But New Year’s Eve was a completely different story. Who wants to go to a party where everyone is coupled up, or worse, there are 3 token single men all vying for my drunken attention? No thanks. Plus, everyone’s an alcoholic in my neighborhood, or a meth head (or usually both), so if driving is especially dicey under normal circumstances, can you imagine on New Year’s Eve?

But after a meh Christmas and an utterly craptastic New Year’s Eve, the Gods of Fair Play decided to reward me with a book contract for my hot mess that took me over a year to write and edit. It’s called THE MEATBALL MISTRESS and it’s about a sassy Italian girl from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn who flees to the Jersey shore after finding her fiancé in a compromising position. She’s, of course, bitter and cynical about men (I really had to stretch to write about that!) and meets her match in a guy who’s probably the biggest commitment-phobe in Jersey. So how do they wind up falling in love, you ask? Hmmm…

Since I literally thought I was going to end up burying this one in my backyard underneath a mound of compost, I’ll admit I’m pleased. Hopefully this recent euphoria will work to balance out the emotional upheaval I’ll be experiencing next month when I turn 46.

So how were your holidays?

‘TIS THE SEASON TO BE DYSFUNCTIONAL

Ahhh, the holidays. A time for family members to gather together and celebrate their unconditional love and support for one another; a time for reflecting upon the joys of — oh, who the hell am I kidding? It’s a time when family dysfunction rears its ugly head. A time when folks who normally don’t drink do, and those who do, drink too much. Cops are called, holding tanks fill to capacity, and faster than you can say “emotional suicide,” an accusation of “How could you forget the mashed potatoes?” turns into “How could you sleep with my sister?”

What is it about the holidays that brings out the worst in people? Stress? Mounting credit card bills? Food-induced hostility? Can’t we all just get along? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

Here are some suggestions for HOW TO AVOID FAMILY FIGHTS:

1. Become a Stepford listener: When your ignorant Uncle Frank starts spouting off about how the demise of society can be pinpointed to the exact moment women began burning their bras, and how, if we want the divorce rate to go down all we need to do is get the “little woman” out of the boardroom and back into the kitchen, put on your best blank Stepford expression and nod.

Inside you may be thinking, “Ugh, I can never get back these wasted minutes of listening to this dumbass,” but outwardly you appear as cool as gelato. Uncle Frank thinks you’re the embodiment of the perfect female, because “women should be seen and not heard,” and you’ve succeeded in avoiding a family fight.

2. Jackrabbit visits: The longer you are in proximity to toxic relatives, the more likely you will revert back to a twelve-year-old. Keep the visits lightening short. If you’re attached, blame the late arrival or early departure on your SO. “I lost at rock-paper-scissors, so we have to do dinner at her folk’s house.”

If by some stroke of hell, you must spend days with the offending party, for dyslexic Dog’s sake, stay at a hotel. Broke? Sleep in a tent in the backyard and tell them you’re training for a wilderness survival expedition.

3. Channel Tony Robbins: Nobody likes a braggart. You know, the one who can’t seem to say enough great things about herself and her life; where nothing ever seems to go wrong for her and when it does, it’s never her fault. I used to get off on specifically pointing out the braggart’s failures or weaknesses, but now I give as much as I get. I pretend I’ve just taken a hit of speed and I become everything I hate in an optimist: My voice raises two notches and I become effusive. “That is so amazing! Really?! If anyone deserves it, it’s you. Faaabulous! You go, girl!”

Remember, the person who brags the most usually has the lowest self-esteem. Revel in your ability to have your feet firmly planted in stone-cold sober reality, and delight in knowing that others don’t want to slap that smug egotism right outta you.

4. Remember, it’s all grist for the mill: There’s a saying among writers, “Careful or you’ll wind up in my novel.” What this means is writers get their revenge through their words. You screw me over, and I will get you back as the entire world reads about it. Thinly disguised, of course. Take a Gorillas in the Mist approach and simply observe.

My father, for example, would always become enraged over the slightest provocation. Maybe the dog looked at him wrong, or his wife over-salted the gravy, or his daughter gained forty pounds…Anyway, first his nostrils would flare like a bull about to charge. Then, his eyes would begin to bulge from their sockets like a blowfish, and his chest heaved while screaming loud enough for the next town to hear. He was like an egg left too long to cook in a microwave. KAPOW! Bits of exploded egg everywhere. If I ever need to do a character study for Explosive Personality Disorder, I won’t have to look far.

5. Plan a Houdini: When all else fails, and your newfound Zen attitude has taken a nosedive, the Lamaze breathing isn’t working, and you know you’re about to take a trip down Lose It Lane, make a quick escape. You can use the same strategy you would to get out of a horrendous first date. Have a friend call and feign an emergency. Get the hell out of there and go get drunk.

Or, if you can’t come up with a reasonable emergency, just say you have the runs and leave it at that. Get the hell out of there and go get drunk.

Here’s one last tip to attempt to put the fun back in dysfunctional: I read about it in an article written by O columnist, Martha Beck. It’s called “Dysfunctional Family Bingo.” Before the holidays, get together with friends and pass out blank bingo cards. Have each person fill out each bingo square with dysfunctional phrases or actions that are likely to occur at their family get-together.

For example: If your well-meaning mother always makes comments like, “Have you ever considered Weight Watchers,” as you’re in the middle of scarfing down your pecan pie topped with whipped cream, then you’d write “Comment about weight” inside one of the boxes. If your alcoholic brother-in-law always passes out by six, write “Bro-law passes out.”

Each time someone says or does something at the family gathering that has been written in a box, check it off. The first one to get Bingo needs to call everyone and tell them; they should win a free lunch, or a cannoli, or a session to the therapist of their choice. Remember, the only losers are your dysfunctional family members.

Does anyone have any disastrous and/or ridiculous holiday family stories? The more dysfunctional the better…