Saturday, August 16, 2014

Feeling Desperate?

Desperation is certainly an emotion that is felt by humans more than once throughout our lives.  It isn't solely a depressed emotion, or a poor emotion, or a lonely emotion.  Desperation thwacks us all--ALL. Perhaps desperation feels worse when things, the big things, are what's causing it.  Perhaps someone has lost a family member or a whole family.  Perhaps a single mom can't pay the bills or feed her children.  Perhaps a beloved job has been lost.  Perhaps a family home has burned to the ground, or someone has received news of a terminal illness.  These big things; family, money, jobs, homes and health are usually what give us comfort and keep us going.  However, if these things are all of a sudden taken from us somehow, I am sure--I know--it would feel like we've been set upon a surf board on a 80 ft. wave with a massive rip current underneath.  Nothing on which to lean. So what would help us keep our balance?  

This is a question I have been pondering over the last week.  There are so many who don't have the safety and love and security of family, work and home and health.  What keeps them going when the big things are gone?  What would keep me going if those big things suddenly disappeared?  More importantly, besides the big things, what are the little things I would miss if I suddenly disappeared?  

So for the last 48 hours, I have been paying attention to my days, my hours, my minutes, my split seconds.  I took stock of my life's little joys, and what I've found is that when putting my mind to it, there are so many wonderful seemingly insignificant things in this world that bring a sense of satisfaction and even happiness that I have never really even considered.  

Take yesterday for instance, I made homemade spaghetti sauce with meatballs.  As I was preparing the food, I imagined never being able to do that particular task again.  What I found was that there were so many things that I'd miss: the smell of garlic on my fingers after dicing, the tangy taste of sauce on my tongue while sampling, the pure feeling of satisfaction when a recipe comes together, the super smells that waft through the house when using a crock pot.  All of these I'd miss if I were suddenly gone.  

Last night, after a taxing day with my daughter, my husband gave me a foot rub and while that is one of life's BIG pleasures, I tried to break the act down into the small things that just make life spectacular.  I learned that even without a sweet husband, there were amazing things about my feet (yes I said my feet) and that rub that I'd miss if I suddenly disappeared.  Don't you just love the feeling of relief you get when you finally sit down after a long day and kick off your shoes?  What about rolling your ankles in circles as they rest on an ottoman or flexing and pointing your toes?  I found I loved to sit with the left side of my left foot resting between my big and second toe on my right foot. The cotton-candy smell of the lotion that my husband uses I realized is quite decadent and certainly makes me feel happy.  Even its consistency is one that I never really stopped to think about.  It isn't that runny lotion that one buys in the drug store, but the kind that feels like frosting in your hand and stands at attention before getting applied to your skin.  Lotion and feet--life's little pleasures.  Whodathunkit? 

This morning, when feeding the dog, once again I imagined what it'd be like if I couldn't do that anymore.  I instantly knew that I'd yearn for the clicking of the dog's nails on the ceramic floor produced by Charley's joyful reindeer-type leap.  Even the sound of the kibbles hitting his bowl makes a sort of music.  And even now, sitting here writing away, I am thinking about the miracle of my brain and how it sends light speed messages so that my fingers move easily along the keyboard and that I love the way it feels when my nails click away on each key's smooth surface.  Currently there's a bird in my front yard cawing with a chorus of crickets behind it and a little breeze is billowing my sheer curtain through the open windows.  All of this is usually background noise and distraction but today I hear it differently.  I see it differently.  These are earth's tiny miracles that I have taken for granted for so long. I am sure without a shadow of a doubt that I'd miss all of this if somehow it or I were to disappear tomorrow. The small things can sustain us a bit if we let them.

I know, I do know that life is hard, the news is bleak,and the world seems to be crumbling.  But perhaps...perhaps, if we can zoom in on what once we thought was the mundane like cooking dinner, feeding the pet, sitting on a couch in our living room, lotion, and yes, even feet, we may realize that there is so much to life that we can lean on when standing on that shaky surfboard.  There are many things we'd miss if we disappeared into the ethers.  So when desperation knocks on our door some bleak day, when life's BIG things trouble or leave us cold, you and I can try and lean on the little things, the everyday things that I now know are not just noise, and details and things that I completely ignored, but instead are small miracles and necessary joys without which life just wouldn't be the same.  

After doing some thinking, I'd love to have you add what small things you'd miss if you could no longer experience them.  Let's help each other appreciate life's small miracles!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams' Suicide: What only those that are depressed know.

Robin Williams is dead.  The funny man, everyone's uncle, thespian extraordinaire...killed himself perhaps as a result of an all too prevalent disease; depression.  As expected, the world came out wearing black, mourning, lauding, crying for this brilliant brilliant light of man.  I, like most people, read tweets, posts, watched CNN, unhealthily wading through text and mass media alike to try and make some sense of something so senseless. As I read, one line kept showing up...over and over in one form or another; "If you are in pain, please seek help."  "If you are thinking about killing yourself, find someone to talk to." "Here is the suicide hotline's number."  I have to tell you that the cavernous pit in my stomach grew a bit larger because although these words were written or spoken with good intentions, they show how deeply depression is misunderstood.

As a fellow clinically depressed human, let me assure you that many of us are talking and talking and talking to therapists on speed dial, to our pastors, to our best friends, to our doctors, to God.  As Daphne Merkin so eloquently stated in her 2009 NY Times Magazine article, "I have sat in shrinks' offices going on four decades and talked about my wish to die the way the way other people may talk about their wish to find a lover."  We talk.  I promise you we talk.  We also take medicine and exercise.  We stop eating foods with unnatural chemicals.  We sit ad nauseum in front of UV lights in the darkness of winter.  We take vitamin supplements. Hell some have even subjected their delicate minds to electric shock "therapy" to rid themselves of the malignant drowning-in-a-deep-thick-black-bleak-mucky-mud-feeling that is a favorite companion of this horrific disease.  

But here's something that many don't know...especially people who aren't depressed, who haven't had a run in with this dire foe.  Sometimes all the talking, the meds, the running and eating well, spending time with loved ones, even time in a psychiatric facility--it isn't enough.  We sometimes have bouts where nothing works--NOTHING, and it is those times that are the most daunting and haunted for those of us who try to function in a society that sometimes stigmatizes or rejects the searing physical and emotional pain that one feels when in the midst of that crushing remoteness. 

When depression pitches a tent, when it decides to stay despite all measures, it is suffocating in its presence.  For me, every inch--from the hair follicles on my head to the numerous bones in my feet-- prickles with excruciating merciless pain and burn with the distinct feeling of one million matches being pressed against the totality of my skin. My limbs and head feel like they weigh thousands of pounds.  It is a monumental task to lift myself out of bed each day and move through what used to be simple air, oxygen and hydrogen that instead feels like a massive sucking sludge.  When I lay down at the end of the day the exhaustion is inexplicable and a concrete slab of anxiety presses down on my chest making it impossible to breathe.  When depression fights to stay, it follows me into my sleep permeating my dreams making them real and vivid and murderous.  It raids my subconscious and brings to the surface every fear that's buried there.  I wake in the midst of a panic so fierce that I am sure my beleaguered heart will explode into tiny bits, and then...and then I wake up. I do it all over again; a twisted Ground Hog Day movie that refuses to end.  Is it any wonder that some choose to end the cycle themselves?  

So in honor of Robin, for his laughter and his legacy, instead of sending someone to the nearest hotline or hoping that the clinically depressed reach out to someone, please...reach out to them, stay with them, ensure them that you'll never leave, that you'll be there for as long as they need you.  I am lucky. I have that--ten fold.  Don't get me wrong, so many have left--"friends" telling me that my life just drags them down--depression is not for the weak. It takes great strength for both the depressed and those that love them to not waiver in their resolve. Remember, those that are depressed don't want to be that way.  We are working, working every hour, every minute, every millisecond to navigate a life with this disease. So, for Robin's sake, to end the stigma of this disease, and to understand it just a little bit more, if you know someone whose depressed, reach out with an ear, a hand, an unwavering friendship. Be a light in that unending blackness.