My dad always tells me “use your tools”. Without fail, every time I tell him I’m feeling depressed or anxious, he says “use your tools”. From there, I’ve looked at my methods of helping myself as tools in a toolbox.
I’ve got a bunch of these tools and I’m always looking for more because not everything will work every time and not the same mixture of things will work. My body seems to reject everything I use in the spring and summer and needs something else in the fall and winter and that’s not just talking about natural supplements, but toothpaste, shampoos, and more. The more tools I have to combat the ebbs and flows of depression and anxiety along with the differences half of the year makes on my body, the better.
A few months ago, I was asking about a mood boosting probiotic and another customer mentioned Ashwagandha to me. She went on and on about how it’s an ancient remedy that helps elevate mood and a number of other things. I didn’t get it right then and there because, well, I had to research it. I didn’t know or trust this person and it was the first time I’d heard about it.
Ashwagandha is an herb that can help with a multitude of things, but I take it for stress and depression. I bought it about a month and a half ago and have only used it a few times, but it has helped so it’s added into my toolbox. It feels like it resets me or helps me to reset myself, if that makes any sense. It’s as if the stress and depression are smoothed out over to the side and I have an easier time moving around it rather than it weighing me down and suffocating me. On top of that, it doesn’t make me feel drowsy, which is huge! It’s now my go-to when things are too heavy.
I’m grateful for that stranger putting in her two cents. Her words stayed in my mind and led me to try another supplement to help me. So now, I’m telling you all about it!
*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and I do not claim to be. Everyone’s body is different and what works for me may not work for you. I am merely speaking about my own experiences with natural supplements. I suggest you do your research and/or talk to your doctor. The site I’ve linked (here and above) is just one of many I have visited, but that one seems to be where you could get the most information.
I came across the video below about artist Shawn Coss who decided to draw one mental health illness each day for the month of October. I contacted Shawn and asked him for permission to post some of his work on my blog and he was kind enough to agree.
This morning, as I was drinking a cup of coffee, a day after my 43rd birthday, I felt a convulsive scattering across the roof of my mouth.
I choked. And spit.
I looked down and saw the bug lying upside down in the light brown liquid, its legs kicking profusely.
I stared at it.
I knew what it was. And I knew where it came from.
The bugs had been with me for as long as I could remember. They are part of my life. I don’t like it, they just are.
At first I was afraid of them. Disgusted. I could feel them crawling over the surface of my hippocampus and through the channels of my amygdala.
I used to scratch my forehead incessantly because I could feel something crawling under my skin, beneath my skull. Like something had burrowed into my nasal passages at night and worked its way into my prefrontal cortex. And laid its eggs. That’s what my brother always told me. We all heard those stories as kids, right?
I didn’t know what it was, or if it was even normal. I was a pre-teen going through a lot of weird changes. A lot of things didn’t make sense at the time.
I remember my first experience with the bugs. I was in middle school at a friend’s birthday party. Introverted, standing away from the crowd. I didn’t know why, and I know it sounds selfish, but I just didn’t feel like being there. The thought of being around groups of people was daunting to me. I forced myself to go, knowing I wasn’t going to have any fun. I just wanted to be at home, locked away in the safety of my bedroom where no one could bother…no, harm me.
So while I was at this party, I felt the itching again. More intense this time. I was worried someone would see me scratching and scrunching my nose, point it out to others, and people would ridicule me. I tried to hide it. I don’t know why I didn’t go to the bathroom before it happened, I just stood there. To my complete disgust, the bug fell from my nose onto my sleeve. I gasped and swatted at it but it just dropped and scurried away into the corner.
I don’t think anyone noticed because no one said anything and people were even coming up to me to talk.
That’s when I knew I was different than a lot of other kids at school.
That was when I knew I had something.
I couldn’t sleep at night. I could feel the bugs scurrying over the macaroni-like canals of my brain as I tossed and turned. I was exhausted during the day but couldn’t sleep for beans at night.
I later learned about something called cortisol, and that it made a part of my brain larger and more active. This is what caused my disturbances – what made it impossible to sleep.
I think the bugs make cortisol in their bodies and then inject it into my brain like venom. It’s what makes me feel and act the way I do.
“It’s just a phase”, my dad said. “Probably from you starting middle school this year.”
“You’ll get better, honey”, my mom comforted.
They just didn’t know.
I didn’t know.
Eventually I came to accept that the bugs were there to stay. I somehow got used to the itching. What choice did I have?
My parents sent me to therapy with my ludicrous and unexplainable rantings of “brain bugs”. The doctor was gentle and understanding while I explained through tears and hanging my head in shame .
“They’re always there”, I sobbed.
“I know”, he whispered. “We’re going to help you.”
I didn’t really understand what the medicine he gave me did, or what it was called. It had letters though-I think an “s” or two, an “r”, and an “i”, or something like that. I was desperate. I couldn’t live like this anymore. Especially when no one believed me.
I took the pills every day like he told me. After a few weeks, the itching began to subside. It was still there, just not as intense. Muted. I learned how to keep the bugs more-or-less contained, though they were always there . At least the medicine helped prevent them from falling out of my ears or nose. I could still feel them moving back and forth inside my skull but I was numb at the same time. I think the medicine made me feel that way – zombie-ish.
I remember that several months after I began therapy, I noticed a girl standing by herself in the cafeteria. She was pretty so I didn’t understand why she was by herself. Probably just waiting on some friends I guessed.
Her eyes darted around the room, almost like she was nervous or didn’t want to be there.
And then I saw her scratch her forehead and wrinkle her nose a few times.
When I walked over to her, she sheepishly looked at me with the one eye that wasn’t hidden behind her beautiful brown hair.
“I’ve got ’em, too”, I told her, casting my gaze down to the ground.
“When you’re different, sometimes you don’t see the millions of people who accept you for what you are. All you notice is the person who doesn’t.”
― Jodi Picoult, Change of Heart
An Algorithm to Love
A young man and woman sat on the couch in the office of Empress Alexa. They were slight in build with androgynous features. Both were physicists, which caught Alexa Ivanovich and her brother Peter’s attention. Continue reading “March of the Cybrids-Ch 1”→
My WP blogs will be pushed out through this page as well as at my Twitter handle – #sts91414. I figured my handle would be easy to remember since it’s the first letter of each of the words in my blog’s title, as well as the date I attempted suicide.
I plan on publishing the story of the night I took my life next month, September, which is Suicide Awareness Month in the U.S. If you haven’t read it may you could stop by and give it a read and leave some thoughts.
Thank you friends, for your support through words, comments, calls, and email subscriptions, and Follows. I appreciate it more than you know.
The whole issue with this depression thing – it has sucked all life out of me like some soul harvester.
This past year has been one of the most relentless struggles I’ve had to endure. It gets worse each day I aimlessly trudge through my daily dosage of hours like a walker. And I don’t see an end in sight.
I feel like I stare at an hourglass in front of me. Glossy-eyed and lost faced, watching each grain of sand tumble through the bottleneck , building up the mountain in the chamber below that represents time passed.
The sand falls in slow motion.
Maybe you can relate?
I don’t see the sunshine.I’ve had this gray film over my life. It is a sunny, bright, 82º outside my Norfolk, VA apartment. I can’t see it. I don’t feel the warmth in my soul. I keep all the blinds shut. It’s not the kind of depression where you can simply open the blinds and the gray is gone. That doesn’t work. Our friends will suggest it…to open the shades and let the sunshine in. But those who don’t live with it can’t ever understand that just doesn’t work. It’s a fog of war. It stays.It permeates the skin and sinks down to the core. It’s a wave that has to be ridden.
I’ve been riding the crashing part of the barrel for months.
I have no drive.It’s really hard to continue when you feel so hopelessly apathetic. I get so sick of looking at the hourglass and longing for sleep. If I feel inspired to do something I change to something else before I finish what I started. So many things left unfinished. I wander back and forth in my apartment sometimes feeling that I’m going crazy. Most people that don’t live with this affliction would quickly suggest to exercise. All the other articles and advice out there scream that, but how can you bring yourself to that if you can’t even walk across the street to the beach on such an ideal day?
I’m numb and I don’t feel happiness.I don’t feel the happiness that other people feel when it’s sunny out. I should. I want to feel it. I want to feel “normal”. I want the chemicals in my body to react like that. I don’t want to be numb anymore. Catatonic. Zombie-ish. I’m trying to blog it out because journaling is supposed to be the best form of therapy for depression. It hardly is for me. It’s not cathartic. I’ve had an impossible time dragging myself to type this post and hardly feel any form of relief or healing from doing so. Getting a buzz from drinking (exactly the opposite of what I need to be doing, I know) used to give me a tinge of happiness. Now, that doesn’t even work. I’ve lost all interest in all things: writing, drinking, walking on the beach, reading, drawing, sex, photography, being a dad, friendships. I’ve thought a lot about dying. Not being suicidal, but just as a quiet way to end the mind numbing hourglass watching.
I fail at relationship. I isolate. I drive people away. I drive myself away from people. I isolate myself from those who love and care about me. It makes me drive those away who love me.
I’ve lost a foothold in my faith.I used to find peace when I read the Word and prayed early in the morning. That has been sucked away too. I don’t have the same happiness that I see on other believers’ faces, like when I used to go to church. I want that simple happiness of just waking up and being happy. I know they have their own problems, and sometimes that smile is just plastered on, but I just want to feel the Spirit move me to happiness.
* * *
How does yourdepression make you feel?
Maybe all this strikes a cord. If it does, please remember: you certainly are not alone.
Limp. Swaying from the rafter that supported his mud and straw-thatched roof.
He could hear the cord stretch and groan from his weight as his eyes became heavy.
Back and forth.
His eyes began to close as the cord tightened and choked off his life wind. Choking his hope. His will to live. His resilience.
He hadn’t the will to raise his arms and save himself. He could have he supposed. But he refused. He felt a calming peace blanketing him as his life energy fell through the soles of his feet, leaving his body forever.
Finally he would be free of this torment.
Finally he would have peace.
Peace from this Wahrlog of the Darkness.
The Darkness. A darkness so consuming, so debilitating, that each day was a struggle. A struggle to rise each morning. A struggle to tend to his fields. A struggle to continue life. A life coated with apathy.
He had hid it well from his fellow villagers. Masked it behind his toiling in the fields. Masked it behind his inward solitude. Disguised it with the will to be alone. To remain undiscovered and unbranded with the Stigma.
He knew others who had been discovered. Who had been branded on their forehead with the seal of their affliction – their illness. He remembered seeing the searing iron hissing as it sunk into their flesh. Leaving a soft cloud of smoke as it pushed deeper into them.
And their screams.
They were forever labeled in society by those they knew. Those they loved. Those they had children with. Their families. Their neighbors.
Some, like himself, afflicted with the darkness – the deep, dark, debilitating depression he knew since he was a child.
Others, afflicted with the fear – remnants of some past traumatic stressing life event that had ripped their soul in half, and forced them to relive their past horrors. Manifest in the forms of flashbacks and tortured by the night harpies of terror. He could hear their screams at night.
In the darkness.
Others, afflicted with the rage – elevated, hyper levels of anxiousness brought on by some outside trigger. Issuing in a brain pandemonium of paranoia and irritability. Lashing out at those whom they held closest as they wandered through their personal fog of war.
Through his closing vision, Catharsis could faintly make out the Specter emerging from the darkness. Moving closer. Stretching his pale white claws from his cloak, his talons scratching the walls of Catharsis’ mud home. Digging into the hardened clay and leaving deep cuts as chunks of adobe were ripped away. In and out of his slumber, Catharsis thought how they resembled his fields that he had just returned from. Their perfect rows whose cast shadows aligned harmoniously in the setting sun.
This was his last thought of peacefulness as Catharsis’ eyes closed.
And Specter’s grip closed around his throat.
* * *
At the instant the beast secured his grip to claim his prize, a magnificent burst of white light flooded the room.
Specter shrieked like a hung pig being bled dry and lurched back from the blazon firestorm that enshrouded the hanging body.
I remember when I’ve been in the throws of my Specter, and consumed with such hopelessness and misery I believed no one else endured. That depression demon who is currently being held at bay in his cage of Lexapro and Abilify, but can attack at random times with a sucker punch to the kidney, leaving me without the breath for life. It’s at those times that one person can change your life. They are there. You just have to find them, reach out to them, and hold onto them. They will be there. You mean the world to them.
If you’re wearing the other pair of shoes and know of someone who needs to be reached out to. Use this post as an excuse to do so. You may save someone’s life.
Before Catharsis passed through his Breaking Point against the Wahrlog of Darkness, there were many days his mind would wander.
One thing he thought about was love.
He wondered…wondered if he was ever capable of it.
He thought he was. Or rather, many paths in his life supported that he was capable of what he thought was an elusive emotion:
Ages ago he had been married. Wasn’t this love?
He had helped bare a daughter into the world. Surely this was an act of love.
He often stopped along the rocky roadside to help strangers whose carts had succumbed to wear. Or those who had been bogged down in the tumultuous weather and storms. This had to be love.
Or when he could, he offered what he had to his neighbors or friends in need. Without doubt, this was love.
It seemed he could go on and on with these proofs and until the settling sun descended over the city wall, and the moon ascended with its blanket of darkness, enshrouding Ǚr and the surrounding countryside. Tucking it in.
He could summon endless proof of love.
But he could find no proof in feeling it. The Darkness muted it.
Often times those three words felt empty. He wanted to feel them. But for some reason he couldn’t feel them.
He could only act them out.
Perhaps that was enough in itself.
Perhaps love was not a feeling.
Perhaps it was a choice.
* * *
Many years after the loss of his marriage to the Darkness, he had experienced intimate Relationship with a woman who suffered with Affliction as he did. It was the first time in a long time he held this communal bond with another.
Someone who understood his life with clarity.
It was upon this last thought on which his mind wandered…
Her struggle was not with the same beast as his – this Wahrlog of Darkness.
No, hers was with other beasts; these Wahrlogs of Affliction who exacted their punishments as Rage and Fear.
Yet she, she seemed so oddly capable of love and tenderness. Regardless of the terrors and harpies she battled every night. So inclined to it with all her humanness and personal torments. Greater than Catharsis himself had ever dealt with. So much greater than he was capable of.
It came so naturally to her.
She tended to him and more importantly, understood him. She validated his misgivings and second thoughts.
When they both were strong, they were both strong. But when they were weak, they were oh so weak. So weak that no force could bring them back after they had been ripped asunder. She always seemed to bring them back though.
It seemed over the years that he had lost love. Lost it to the damned Darkness.
Lost it to apathy.
Lost it to lethargy.
Lost it to reclusiveness.
Lost it to the punishment of the relentless Specter – that Wahrlog of Darkness that scratched the walls of his soul with its sinister talons. Torturing him from the dark recesses of his mind.
When he pushed back to fight for what he wanted, It dug its claws deeper through the flesh of his back. Injecting the venom of lethargy and apathy until it dripped into his soul. Sedating him from the surrounding world. Wrapping its free arm around his neck in a stranglehold. Choking off his breath. Choking off his will to pursue what he had wanted.
And then Catharsis would succumb to the Darkness yet again.
Until he made himself alone.
It made Catharsis do things he didn’t want to do. It made him hurt those that were closest to him. It made him callous. It incited him with irate intolerance. Sometimes causing him to lash out in a sleep-deprived state. Venomous forked tongue. That’s what the Darkness did to his soul.
And so it was that at just the time he believed he was beginning to live a normal life. A life consistent with his fellow citizens in the village. It was about that time that it all fell apart.
I didn’t think that an office of 400+ onsite/offsite employees would support this.
I didn’t think a firm of 10,000+ employees worldwide would support this.
No, endorse this. Embrace this with such open arms.
This month of #mentalhealthawareness.
A good friend of mine (who I’m talking into guest blogging in the near future) organized the activities that make up this month’s Mental Health Awareness Campaign at our firm’s local office.
When she first started out, her goal was to raise $400 by having folks donate money towards the senior leader they wanted to “get pied” for charity. The leader with the most votes/money towards their name will get pied, while the leader with the least “votes” will get to do the “pie-ing”.
She surpassed that goal and employees have donated a little more than $600.00. She had to set a higher goal of $1000.00.
This past Tuesday I had my consultation and while I am a candidate for the treatment (sirrrrrPRISE, SIIIIIIIRprise) my first important piece of information is that the therapy isn’t covered by my insurance. In fact, the regional manager told me, my insurance was the only one that didn’t cover it. He went on to explain that my insurance currently has a lawsuit against them for not covering the program.
Out of pocket the program will cost $7800.00. Ain’t nobody got pockets that deep, yo! But even then, I would totally go on a payment plan, it’s just these other payment plans I’m on are going to prevent that.
The good news is that there is still a chance my insurance may change its mind when the policy is reviewed at the end of this month.
I’ll keep praying.
If you’re brain won’t light up and you are interested in more information. I’ve included some links here. You can also peruse “TMS” on YouTube.
Across the plain of Ǚr, far away from the citadel itself, there stood a shining tower of polished limestone. It was a colossal structure. Towering over the fields below. Dominating the landscape to the horizon, over which the plain’s namesake kingdom lay.
It mirrored the sun’s reflection as a fine gem in the crown of the king. Or a polished plate of glass in the courtyard at midday. It pulsed radiance and even from afar off, emitted a brilliance that was known across the plain.
Its alabaster skin was a testament to its beauty. Each stone finely blended and buffed with the other so that all chinked together like a single dragon’s scale.
It was embedded with many different shades of blue polished gems and minerals that blinked at every angle. Not so much as to overtake the gleaming snowy surface. But merely to accent.
Channels of soft, dark azurite ran starkly down its vertical edges, bordered by thin lines of fixed sapphire.
Thick lazulite crystals adorned its horizontal precipices, giving off a faintly cloudy deep green aura, comparable to the ocean’s depths as seen from the gull’s eye overhead. A halo atop the chalk white faces of the tower.
Many knew of its exquisiteness through story or song only, for none in numbers were allowed too close, nevertheless entrance. Only able to cast eyes on it from afar.
Despite all its beauty and grandeur, it became more intimidating in its features, as any outsider drew closer. One would rather call it a citadel than a tower, for it was well fortified and garrisoned many citizens. The same citizens who had built it over the years, enduring the cold winds, stiletto rains, and molten sun.
Though still opulent to the eyes, one could observe battlements and parapets atop the four megalithic walls. Flanking the spire that shot into the sky like a spike into the heavens. Or a compass point by which the rest of the land would calibrate its remaining three directional points.
A selfish, self-centeredness.
An arrogant and haughty feat of engineering designed to show all who gazed upon it the bigotry and seclusion of its citizenry.
A pinnacle of privilege.
The meters-thick walls of the gatehouse itself menaced any who approached its entrance. Appearing as a harbinger and to vex outsiders, warding them away from the inhabitants. Visitors were not taken kindly to.
Several less imposing, yet formidable keeps, buttressed the corners of the tower’s walls. Upon closer observation, the finer subtleties of the tower came into view – murder holes, curtain walls, and arrowslits. Accoutrements of defense and to prevent impregnation.
Of the songs sung and tales told of the tower’s beginnings, many knew. They had been passed down through the ages by bards, minstrels, and poets. Alongside firey pits and dusty roads.
* * *
Long after the world had been destroyed by Deluge.
And Fire had scorched the forests into plains.
Ages after Wormwood sheared the mountains to the earth.
And Plague had destroyed the animals and Famine had decimated humanity.
Many eons after the earth had been purified and reborn.
Just after man had begun to repopulate the earth.
The tower’s beginnings coincided with The Great Departing. A time of schism marked by a splitting of the earliest members of the new humanity. Though not a splitting in the true sense.
Rather a leaving.
A departure of those from their young familial units.
Those who had a misplaced reality, replaced with a self-righteous bigotry. A skewed, inarguable view of observable facts. A non-acceptance of the world around them. Complete with all its imperfections.
They were the tower’s builders.
They built its four walls. Those gleaning partitions that separated them from the rest of humanity.
Self-righteousness facing the north.
Ignorance facing the south.
Bigotry facing the east.
And intolerance facing the west.
They insulated and protected themselves from their loved ones. Their soul mates. Their compatriots. Their mentors. And their confidants.
They betrayed them. And they established their new life secluded from any pollution from the outside world.
NOTE: This image is the original idea of Cass and her site at the above link. Check it out and give it a Like!
So for me, the new significance of May is about raising awareness of mental health. And in my case, severe depression and suicide. It’s about taking a chance, stepping out on a scary ledge, and talking about my mental condition to others.
Lessons Learned: Some Things I’ve Learned from My Depression
I would hope that you would take these things and hold them in your heart. Don’t forget them. Remind yourself of them. And learn from your mental condition.
A list of understandables in my life is:
I have a condition, not an illness. I am not sub-human. I am not sick. I am an extraordinarily strong person because I survive through things other people can’t imagine having to deal with. I live my life a little differently than others because I live with affliction.
I am perfectly imperfect, and that’s perfectly okay. I’ve learned to forgive myself and accept myself. I have a hard time believing the phrase, “I don’t let my mental condition define who I am.” I know what people mean, but I think in the end, depression has set some life parameters that I have to (or choose to) live by. If I don’t abide by those…rules, I start to hear Specter’s rusty cage hinges creak and I feel him scratching on the walls of my soul.
What I feel is valid. I am not crazy. I may be a little broken. You may be a little bruised. But don’t you dare let anyone tell you you’re crazy. Don’t you dare let them make you feel that way. You. Are. Not. Crazy. Real talk.
Only I will take care of myself. I must take my meds. Daily. I must eat healthy. I must exercise. Meh. I’m working on the last two. Have
Strive to be empathetic and kind. You know why. You have struggles other people don’t know about. So do others. I remember a time my Lexapro had run out and I couldn’t afford a refill. I had been off it for about four days and I could feel the dizziness set in from withdrawals. Then the bottom fell out. Specter’s claws were dug so deep into my shoulders I could feel them carving at the bones. Someone put their hand on my shoulder and sat with me. I was in tears. I was choking my words out in a dark chair in a dim corner. He made a call to get me my medicine. That’s why.
Be a servant when you can. Help others when they’re down. People have helped me when I’ve not deserved it. Free of charge. Pay it forward.
Exude grace. Strive to give others the benefit of the doubt.
Have grace on yourself. Learn to accept grace yourself. Be gentle on yourself. We beat ourselves up so much each day. Allow yourself forgiveness. See #2.
People do understand – surround yourself with those people. There may not be too many. But you know what? That’s just about the right number anyways. Find your devout warrior supporters and cling to them. Share yourself with them. Open yourself up to them. It is empowering. It is healing.
My God loves me. Me and God. Ahh, yes. For such a lifetime I’ve bashed myself for not measuring up. Engorging bucket fulls of self criticism, guilt, and shame for never feeling like I measured up. Never earning my dad’s approval, or my Father’s. All. Those. Years. And I got it wrong. His scars are enough to cover my soul. His Grace is the way to my healing. His forgiveness is the magnetic north to my moral compass. SOso many times I fail. Flat on my face. He’s always there to pick me up and hug me with a gentle, warm smile.
Now…Let’s take back our lives and make this our new fight song! This one’s for you Niki.
Time after time as we march side by side
Through the valleys of evil and the torturing souls,
Night after night, for the glory we fight,
In the kingdom of madness and the tales from the old
Death by our hands, for the higher command,
As the darkness surrounds us hear the cries as they fall
Fire burning steel and the tyrants will kneel
Hearts burning stronger with the power of the sword
Set sail for the glory,
Pray for the master of war (pray for the master of war)
Sunlight will fall by the wastelands,
Endless rise for the heroes before
Sword in his hand,
Titans of justice, fearless we stand
Strong in command
Blessed by the union, freedom of man
Reckoning day, for the demons we slay,
With the force of a dragon we will conquer them all!
Chaos still reigns devastation and flames
For the ultimate glory when the legacy calls
Through the hellfire
Blazing for the darkness beyond (blazing for the darkness beyond)
Nightmare return of the thousands
Giving rise to the heroes once more
Sword in his hand,
Titans of justice, fearless we stand
Strong in command
Blessed by the union, freedom of man
In the eyes of broken dreams,
Outside of the wasted and torn,
A land of tears still remains
Soldiers of destiny calling,
And the fallen will rise up again,
Conquer the forces of evil and fight to the end
Sword in his hand,
Titans of justice, fearless we stand
Strong in command,
Saviour of nations, freedom of man
Sword in his hand,
One final stand
Strong in command,
Blessed by the union, freedom of man
Blessed by the union of man
Many of you know I survive through clinical depression. And though I am 42 (as of this writing) I’ve struggled with this Specter since middle school. Many of you know all too well, the impact it has had on my life and those around me.
I feel pushed by the Lord everyday, to be as open as I can about it – feeling alone is the worst feeling in the world.
I don’t want anyone to feel like that. No one should.
I feel pushed to face the darkness, and encourage those who deal with the same demons. To talk about my experiences with those who have lost loved ones to this affliction, and may be themselves, pressing on through the awful quagmire of hopelessness.
So about this map…Having blogged for almost two years, I am thinking of creating a series of short stories about several heroes and their struggles with mental illness.
I wanted to share the beginning of their world with you.
Emotions should be treated with kindness and a gentle spirit. When an emotions feels like it is too overwhelming you can console that feeling and care for it. Think of your emotions and feelings as children who need to be taken care of and nurtured. If you abandon your feelings they will only grow more. […]
And for about 12 years, playing drums has been a significant part of my life.
I played throughout middle and high school and went on to play drums in the Marine Band for several years. My parents paid so that I could attend private lessons (thank you momma and dad) while in high school.
In lieu of living in apartment, I’ve had to come to settle with playing drums in a video game to whet my percussive appetite.
When I sat down to play “Critical Acclaim” by Avenged Sevenfold the other day, I just sucked. Trying to look for a teachable moment, I came up with these five things that I can relate to my life on a daily basis.
Sometimes my drums are “off” when I play.
Really. They are.
They don’t play when I hit them, or more accurately, they have a lag.
Sometimes my SMART TV or some quirky electronic bug seems to decide on an incorrect default for my drums. This can result in a delay between when I hit the pad and when the sound is heard.
This results in “missed” notes.
This results in my score going down.
Which results in me failing out of a song.
Through a process of troubleshooting, I usually find that I need to recalibrate my drums to my TV. This little factor has a HUGE impact on how well I perform for the stadium of overzealous fans crammed into my beach bungalow’s living room.
In life, I sometimes get off track. My actions don’t align with my beliefs. Sometimes my words can come out all jacked up, potentially ruining someone’s day. My temper flares. My mood swings. My irritability soars. I get overstimulated and need to take a step back.
It’s at times like this that I need to take time to get my recalibration on, baby.
I need to realign my thoughts, actions, and words with my core beliefs.
I need to reorient my moral compass and get my rudder straight.
Sometimes we all get off track.
Better get yo’self back on track.
Better get yo’self some recalibration.
I wish I could play all the songs on Expert and get five stars. The fans deserve it.
Unfortunately, I have a long ways to go.
Fortunately, Rockband has a practice mode.
After I humbled myself the other day to Critical Acclaim, I switched over to Practice Mode and played the song a few times at different speeds. I had to break sections down that were killing me. I had to divide and conquer.
Now I can play the song on Expert.
After playing it about 20 times in the past two days, I finally achieved five stars on “Hard”.
Just to be sure it wasn’t a fluke, I played it again to be positive I could get five stars on the same difficulty level.
Practice paid off.
When I took private lessons, I didn’t like to practice. In fact, a lot of the time I would practice the 30 minutes prior to my lesson, or even in the car on the way to my lesson!
Outside of Rockband, I can at times, suck at communicating with my girlfriend. – I fail “our song”. If you ask her, she knows the hours where I have a metabolic dip that happens to be exacerbated by my sleep apea – times where I’m about as worthless at communicating as a hibernating grizzly.
Being an introvert also puts me at a level where I feel socially inept when it comes to talking to others.
I’m also a “stonewaller” – I reach a point in our arguments where I just withdraw and don’t respond or even talk at all. My exasperation and patience has jumped out the window.
I’ve been holding myself accountable to make these practice areas in our relationship. Meaning, when I’m in a good mood, I’ll try to initiate conversations more. Or when I’m irritable, trying to push myself to say, “listen babe, I want to talk about this, but am just too tired. Can we hit this again in a couple hours or at another time?”
A lot of the time I’m not able to do it and so I have to start all over from the beginning of our song.
We all have things in our life that we have to practice at whether we are already good at what we do, or pushing to be better at something.
There’s things at which we all fail.
Better get yo’self better atcho song.
Better get yo’self some practice time.
3. Overdoing It
When you’re playing Rockband, you have to play what is on screen, NOT what you think the song sounds like.
You need to play what you see, not what you think.
You may have the drum chart to Your Betrayal, or Diary of Jane memorized, but that ain’t what’s on screen if you’re playing on Easy.
A lot of times I’ll throw in a bass drum kick with a cymbal smash because that’s how I learned to play drums and that’s the way the song sounds. But that’s not was the screen is showing.
Sometimes in my relationships, I assume things. I think about something too hard. I incorrectly interpret the tone of a text or read into something that was never intended to mean how I took it.
I need to step back and take things slower. I need to relax a little and take things a little more lightly. I need to be slower in my responses and give them time to cook so I don’t hasten out a response of anger and resentment.
We all have an area in which we overdo it.
Better get yo’self to chill out.
Better get yo’self to slow down and simplify.
4. Baby Steps
Compared to a teenager, it took me an insane amount of time to get to the level in that song that I did. I had to start on Medium then work myself up to Hard. Then I had to work myself up from three starts to five stars.
I didn’t just sit down and play and BAM! I’m at my goal. I had to take things level by level. I had to use baby steps.
We all want things too quickly don’t we?
We all have a sense of video game satisfaction and entitlement where we may want to get to the end sooner rather than later. Where we try to find an easy way around. Where we want to punch in a cheat code instead of unlocking the puzzles in the game.
We all want to skip the trials and journeys.
Better give yo’self some time to git to that goal.
Better get yo’self to take it one step at a time.
5. Time Signature
Probably THE MOST challenging thing for me when playing Rockband is that there is no time signature.
Time signatures to the musician are what signs and lines on the road are for the driver. They tell you how much each thing is worth on the sheet of music. Without it, it’s…well, it’s Rockband.
Rockband has a minimal amount of guidance and sometimes I have to guess at where the notes are to be played. I understand why this is, it just makes things harder for the musician in me.
My life is like that. I have several guides that I need in my life to keep me between the lines on the road of life –
♦ The Bible – this is kind of my oil in the engine and user guide. When I do devotions in the morning and take time to read my Bible, Jesus Calling, and In Touch, I’m filled with peace and hope for the day. Life still happens, but when I have a driver cut in front of me, or given a situation in which I have the opportunity to exercise patience and kindness rather than the opposite, I’m able to come back to what I’ve read earlier that day at my kitchen table. The Bible is my anchor point, magnetic north, and grounding point. It’s also the lines, the speed limit and other signs that keep me grounded and directed in life, helping me stay on the road while I travel.
♦ My friends and family – These are my sounding boards as well as how I receive feedback to my “performance”. If I have ideas that aren’t so great or am about to make a bad decision, these people help me see that. They may give me alternatives or sound advice. They may advise against what I am about to do or support me with reasons why they think I should make a certain decision. They let me know if I’ve earned a 1-star performance or a 5-star performance and what I need to do to move up to the top 5% on the leaderboard.
♦ My conscience/the Holy Spirit – Sometimes I want to respond to my ex-wife’s email and texts with anger and vengeance. Sometimes I get irritable with my girlfriend. I always have a choice on how I respond. When I respond negatively, I get a little pinging in my brain telling me that’s not how I should be doing things – that’s the Holy Spirit. You may call it your conscience but whatever it is, we each get that little morale alarm advising against what we’re about to do, or a little victory bell of confirmation letting us know that we did the right thing.
I screw it up a lot, but I can’t blame it on not having a “time signature”.
We all have a time signature that gives us structure to our lives.
Better find out what drives yo’ life.
Better get yo’self familiar with yo’ time signature.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post, friend. What are your thoughts? I’d love to talk with you in the Comments section.
If you looked me right in the eye Would see the pain deep inside?
Would you take the time to
Tell me what I need to hear
Tell me that I’m not forgotten
Show me there’s a God
Who can be more than all I’ve ever wanted
‘Cause right now I need a little hope
I need to know that I’m not alone
Maybe God is calling you tonight
To tell me something
That might save my life
TRIGGER WARNING:This post is a transparent account of my life with clinical depression and suicide. If this is a trigger for you, please do not read it at this time.
Hi. My name is Chris and I’ve survived with severe depression for about 30 years.
Last year I hanged myself.
I was diagnosed years ago with clinical depression several years ago.
Not the kind that makes you feel sad after your girlfriend breaks up with you, or explains why you feel under the weather when the weather is under.
No, this is much blacker than that.
Those of you who live in my world know exactly what I’m talking about. Those that don’t, please be thankful that you may have a hard time understanding.
This is the kind of depression that silently wraps you in a paralytic blanket on the couch and condemns you to mindlessly become consumed in a Red Box movie marathon. The kind of depression that comes by and kicks you in the nuts and embeds itself on your shoulders, breaking you down to a kitchen floor fetal position, as you cry hysterically for no apparent reason.
The type that digs its claws into your back like a demon, dragging you down into that black abyss and leaving you hopeless with no hope for escape. The kind that sucks away any spirit you had and leaves behind a catatonic shell entombed inside an invisible sarcophagus…and lowers a grey filter over your life.
Breaking Benjamin is spot on when they sing,
There is nothing left inside, but I am wide awake.
The depression that when you look outside on a sunny, bright, clear day, all you see is grey – a Connecticut winter, a London Fog, an arctic wasteland.
And it’s frightening all rolled into one.
That’s my depression. I’ve come to call it the fog of war. That’s our depression.
Thankfully, today I am doing better…surviving through my depression.
Recovering if you will. Maybe recovered. But the condition is always there like a specter, crouched down in the distant corner of my soul, waiting for me to let my guard down.
Lurking just out of the light, in the shadows with its hollow eyes, bearing its fangs and waiting for the chance for me to skip my medicine so it can slash at me…waiting for me to be alone with no protection.
Through counseling, I later discovered my depression was hybrid with an anxiety disorder and adult ADHD. Here are some things I found out about myself the other day from a recent doctor visit:
♦ has anxiety disorder (rule out panic disorder)
♦ has depressive disorder (rule out bipolar disorder)
♦ has adult ADHD
♦ has mood disorder (rule out bipolar disorder)
I was given medicine to cover all the bases but never really felt “at peace”. I’ve been on every anti-depression medicine in the doctor’s locker. Years later (since I left teaching and am working towards divorce) the anxiety has faded into the background and become nonexistent. The ADHD on the other hand is still there but…HEY, SQUIRREL! I believe this positive rebirth is largely the result of the medicine that I’ve been taking.
My Suicide Attempt
On the other hand, the interim was my crucible. Sunday, September 14th of 2014 was my watershed. I remember the day perfectly. It was a warmer, sunny day in Norfolk, VA. Perfect for me to be outside, working on art for my business.
So I rounded up my tools, plugged in my ear buds, and cranked up my tunes. My upstairs neighbor was outside also, grilling dinner for his family on his cooker, which is just out of the left side of the picture below. I talked and laughed with him for a bit then went back to listening to Bullet for My Valentine, Breaking Benjamin, Five Finger Death Punch and the like.
I was perfectly happy despite my playlist. I made the peace sign below that day. I was in the zone. Life was perfect and I was filled with joy and accomplishment.
Hours later as the day started winding down, I began to pack everything up and take it inside. I was tired and worn out but still on top of the world. I tinkered around with my projects inside, painting and drilling until a reasonable time when my neighbors would be going to bed. I try to be as considerate as I can with this.
About 8:30 I called my daughter to tell her good night and that I love her.
Ring. Ring. Ring.
I called her on her second cell phone number.
This is when it started.
This is my trigger.
The beast’s lips peeled back over its incisors as it waited in the corner.
I called her mother’s phone.
No answer. Resentment grew in me. The demon’s chipped, stiletto fingernails reached for me out of the darkness. Resentment quickly gave way to anger. Red. Anger.
The demon slashed.
If it stopped at resentment I would have been “alright”. Not the option a person who is born again should chose. But I went down the road of resentment nonetheless.
I plugged my phone’s playlist into my surround sound and I let the Five Finger Death Punch rip! After a short time, probably 20 minutes after that the anger turned to depression. FFDP’s “Coming Down” was playing and I put it on repeat and cranked it.
“It’s caving in around me, what I thought was solid ground,
I tried to look the other way, but I couldn’t turn around.
It’s ok for you to hate me, for all the things I’ve done,
I’ve made a few mistakes, but I’m not the only one.”
Tonight I didn’t go to the fridge to grab the wine like I usually did.
I went to the 80 proof rum that sat on top. I filled a cup up about 3/4 of the way and then topped the rest off with diet Coke.
I started to drink.
I was walking aimlessly back and forth from my apartment kitchen to my bedroom. Back and forth. Waiting for the elixir to kick in. It did. And the bottom dropped out. I started to cry. I cried vehemently…violently. I don’t know what it’s called at that point, but crying isn’t it.
“Step away from the ledge, I’m coming down.
I could never be, what you want me to.
You pulled me under, to save yourself (save yourself). You will never see, what’s inside of me. I pull you under, just to save myself.”
Forcing myself to focus through my pain, anguish, and tears, I sat down at the corner desk in my bedroom and started to write. About 30 minutes and four pages later I finished my “living will”.
It’s funny they call it that, because it’s at that very moment I decided I didn’t have thewilltolive.
I made sure all my bases were covered for those who would find me and have to deal with the repercussions. I wrote the password to my computer files down for my neighbor and gave ownership of ALL my belongings to her and my mom. The first thing I detailed is that I didn’t want my estranged wife within 50 yards of me at any time from this point forward.
I was very specific.
I gave ownership of everything associated with my art business to the President of our local art association. She’s a dear lady and she would know what to do with all I had. I wanted to make the hassle of the after effects of deciding where my belongings would go, “easier” on them.
I didn’t care about the emotional impact.
I didn’t care about being selfish. You don’t when you’re in it. It didn’t even cross my mind. I was so far gone. Then I texted three friends whom I now call my angels.
“Was there ever any question, on how much I could take? You kept feeding me your bul*****, hoping I would break. Is there anybody out there, is there anyone who cares? Is there anybody listening, who will hear my final prayers?”
The first text was to my upstairs neighbor. She’s my non-blood sister and has grown to be my confidant and trusted friend: “Do you have any sleeping pills?” Her response was “no”.
I texted the lady who is currently my girlfriend and asked the same. “No I don’t. Are you alright?”
The last person I texted was my dear friend who I knew had them. She’s my prayer warrior and a devout, selfless person of faith “Yes, I do. Why?”
My quick response was, “I want to die tonight.”
“Step away from the ledge, I’m coming down.
I could never be, what you want me to.
You pulled me under, to save yourself (save yourself). You will never see, what’s inside of me. I pull you under, just to save myself.”
Between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m. I walked to my closet door and took out a belt. I looped the buckled end then looped the holed end around the door handle. I secured that end with about five zip ties so it could handle the weight of a 205 lb., 41 year old male. I sat down on the floor and cinched it around my neck. Just slack enough so that when I passed out and fell forward it would take my life through suffocation.
When I had finished sizing and positioning the noose, I released myself and got my bottle of sleeping pills.
“It’s caving in around me (caving in), it’s tearing me apart (tearing me). It’s all coming down around me (coming down). Does anyone care at all? I will never be, what you want me to. You pull me under, I pull you under.”
I sat down with my second drink, re-attached myself, and opened the bottle of pills. I wasn’t scared of what I was doing.
I was scared that it wouldn’t work.
[phone ringing and goes to voice mail] I had committed and had no sense of judgment left in me.
[phone ringing again and going to voice mail] I took three pills and threw them back in my throat, forcing them down with my liquid courage. I laughed at myself and thought, “You have to be joking. You’re trying to die, not go to sleep.”
[phone ringing and going to voice mail a third time] I dumped the rest of the pills on the floor and took one handful.
Gulp. I grabbed another handful.
Gulp. This was easy.
I grabbed a third handful. Gulp. I chased them with the last of the rum and Coke.
And waited. I remember things got blurry and my eyes got heavy.
“I could never be, what you want me to You pulled me under, to save yourself (save yourself) You will never see, what’s inside of me I pull you under, just to save myself”
Two days later I came to awareness in a hospital bed. I didn’t have restraints on, they took those off the day before, I learned. I had on eight point leather restraints because I was so violent. Two on each limb.
I spent the next week in the hospital, stabilizing. While in the hospital I couldn’t believe I was surrounded by so much love and support. It’s all still sinking in several months later. I am thankful for all those people in my life. I love them all. And I am indebted to them.
When I left the hospital, I was transported to the Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center of my own recognizance. I remained there for a week.
What I’ve Learned
1. Journal (or blog). I’ve learned to blog about my experiences. Whether you do this in a paper journal offline, or a virtual journal on the web, this will normalize things for you. You will not only be telling about your personal experiences and processing things for yourself, but you will also read stories of others going through the exact same thing. And you will know that you are not alone. This will be the start of a wonderful support network for you. Blogging will help you put your situation in perspective. It will help you crystallize the things that matter…the truths. It will allow you to see the progress you’re making. It will allow you to see your lapses as well as write about what you will do differently next time. I’ve found that writing about mental “illnesses” is a really big issue in the blogging world. Why not express yourself in a public forum and receive support from others that are going through the same issues?
2. Have a support network.On the night of my incident, the last friend I texted knew EXACTLY what I was doing. She lives a solid 50 minutes away from me. As soon as she got my text she rushed to her car and sped to my home. It was her three calls that I heard on my phone that night as she called on the way to my home. She got there in 20 minutes! She rallied several others to save me that night. They are my angels. I would be dead if she were not in my life. I love you, Chelise. If you need a place to start looking to start a support network, join the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). Find a local group to join as your support system. I am working on doing this for 2015.http://www.nami.org/
3. Have a plan.I did not have a plan for when the beast reached out in September. I should have had an intervention and had it posted on my wall. I should have had a contract that I signed with my support network. I didn’t have a support network either. The first step would be to call [a specific name here] should I feel like I’m becoming depressed. The people that were closest to me that night all keep our phones on and the volume on high when we go to sleep. We answer when the others call, no questions asked. No apologies. No judgments. It’s our oath.
4. Take your medications religiously.I have been on medications for years. You will need to contact an MD who can prescribe your medicine but also set up a schedule with a psychologist. A professional who can be an outlet for you. Someone who teaches you how to move forward and gives you strategies or resources for help. It MAY take time to find the right combination of medicines. For me it was years. Don’t give up here. DON’T. GIVE. UP. Keep going until you find the combination that works. It makes ALL the difference in the world. In hindsight, the only combination that worked for me was the one I got in the psychiatric center. You will suffer less the sooner you and your doctor decipher this. Be transparent with your doctor and tell him/her what works, what doesn’t work, how you feel, when you feel what you do (dates, days, and times), and for how long. Keep a journal of the medicine you take along with the date and the amount. I used to get weary of carrying a paper journal around so I have a file in my (free)Evernoteapp labeled, Prescriptions. Keep track of them here and also bring the actual bottles in to your doctor when you meet with them.
5. Don’t drink.Yes, give up ALL alcohol. Drinking negates the effects of the medicine. I was drinking a lot of wine at one point and could definitely feel a difference. You have to try YOUR BEST to not drink any alcohol. We have a “disease” we live with…a cancer of the soul. This is the biggest way to combat the emotional effects of the specter that haunts us.
6. Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone of seclusion.I’m an introvert. I like my alone time. Alone time can be dangerous. If it’s not time that you’re recharging your socially depleted batteries, it’s probably tipping into the red zone. Force yourself to seek help and comfort from your friends. Reach out to them. You may have to be a friend to get a friend. It doesn’t have to be all of them. Just one. Find your angel.
7. Exercise.The second biggest way to combat the beast lurking in the corner, is exercise. After alcohol, this is the biggest factor for a healthy mind. If you don’t like weights, try the treadmill. If you don’t like the treadmill, try walking on the beach. If you don’t like walking on the beach, sign up for a Yoga class. Get outside. Get up. Notice the greatness of God’s nature around you. Get your heart pumping. Get those endorphins surging through your veins. Push yourself to up your heart rate for 20″ straight. Aim for once a week and move up to two times a week. Strive for 3-5 times a week over time. Forgive yourself if you miss a workout. It won’t be the end of the world. This is not short term or a five day fad diet to get in shape for Spring Break. This is long term baby! If you think about it in these terms, you’ll be more forgiving of yourself when you don’t get up to get the heart rate up.
8. Give thanks.Be thankful for the small things in life. Say it out loud. “I’m thankful for the bright sun.” “I’m thankful that my car works.” “I’m thankful to have a job.” In exercise of my faith, I spend days walking along the beach picking up sea glass and shells. Each time I find a piece of glass or shell and bend down to pick it up I say, “Thank You for this, Lord” The more you can program your brain to be thankful, the brighter your days will become. Little by little. Baby steps.
9. Don’t beat yourself up.My new mantra is, “I realize I’m perfectly imperfect, and that’s perfectly okay”. It came to me as clear as day while I was in the psychiatric unit. You have to learn to not punish yourself. You are human. You give grace to others. Now just give it to yourself.
10. You. Are. Not. Crazy.Don’t EVER let someone tell you are crazy. And don’t you DARE believe the lie. What you are going through is VERY, VERY real. Don’t EVER let someone downplay what you may have to deal with on a daily basis. Don’t let them downplay it if you go through it once a year. It is real. It lives with us. It may lurk in the corner or it may not. We realize this. You are human just like everyone else around you. This is not anillness, this is a lifestyle.
I sit here in the midst of an amount of wash not known to mankind. I look, I think. I ask what more could I have done.
It was before the death of my husband that it was noticed that my oldest needed help. Something was “wrong”. She was then only in the 3rd grade. 3 years later when her Father died, she never really came back to her pre 3rd grade personality. What happened to her is still a mystery, only known to the monster that is eating at her life.
At the age of 21 now, no where near being able to move out and move “on”, no where near being able to reach to ask what it living inside her head making her the self destructive person she is by not caring about her personal belongings, not finding value in anything at all, what do you do?
What do you do when YOU have survived only to live in the eyes of the trauma you child can’t break through, perhaps never break through. How do you deal with the pain today, that was far worse than the pain of yesterday.
You pray….you hope…you cry and then you cry again.
Time is very much synchronated, but not the clock of survival. There we all wear own very own personalized watch.
For your child, it is being there. Promising them that you will never give up on them even if they give up on themselves….and holding that promise sacred. Their time will come. It must.