Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Truth about Depression or Please Don't Make Me Come out of the Corner

The Truth about Depression…Or, Please Don't Make Me Come Out of the Corner

Depression.  The word is tossed around frequently, as if it's an illumination on a state of 'feeling down'.  I've been guilty of that in the past as well, except that I didn't know, didn't want to face the reality of the truth, that it did apply to me.  Depression is much more than a word; it's a debilitating condition that is woven into the very fabric of who we are.

Simplified, clinical depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain.  It's actually a quite complicated condition.  If you look at scans of the brain you'll see a marked difference between a normal brain and one of someone who is clinically depressed.  The symptoms of depression may subside from time to time, lessen a bit but the depression itself is always lurking in there, looking for the opportunity to turn your world upside down.  Or, inside out, or any one of a dozen metaphors that people use to describe the murkiness of depression.

What does it feel like, you might ask?  That's a hard question to answer since it's one of those things that without a frame of reference often doesn't make sense to someone who has never experienced it.  What I can say is that I don't know for sure what it feels like not to have it.  I don't really know what healthy feels like since in all likelihood I've been depressed my whole life.  So many issues that I was aware of can be attributed to depression, although I've only come to understand that in the last few years.  Depression can run in families and I think it is rampant in mine.  Looking back, I now see that my mom was depressed, along with at least one of my aunts and a couple of cousins. 

When I was first hospitalized with it I felt such intense shame; like I wasn't strong enough to just shake it.  Many people think that; you should just be able to move past it.  If you can do that, you probably do just have a case of 'the blues' or 'feel out of sorts'.  If that is the case, you know that tomorrow is usually a better day.  If it sticks with you, for days at a time, you aren't just 'blue', you're most likely depressed.  And if you're like me, you've never really felt those 'great' days, so you don't realize how bad the 'blue' days are. 
Yes, there have been times when I felt happy; usually only happy in the moment.  It's an amazing high, but it never lasted and it never occurred to me that it was supposed to.  I just thought feeling the way I did was the norm, that everyone felt like that but that some people were better at disguising it than others.  It's certainly not something that I ever really talked about with anyone.  Why bother?  It was the status quo, my normal state of being.  To talk about it would make me a whiner, a complainer, so I just kept my mouth shut.  And that my friends is, in my opinion, the very thing that makes depression one of the most insidious of all conditions or illnesses: silence, fear of telling someone.

Depression kept me from so many things in my life and one of the most important ones may surprise many people: my inability to connect with people on a deep and loving level.  I love my family, I love many friends, but when it came to real intimacy in a relationship, romantically speaking, it never happened.  I use to laughingly say that I had a fear of commitment, which wasn't really a lie, just an incomplete statement.  I didn't understand that it was depression driven of course, just that it was. 

Yes, I write about love a good deal in my stories.  Whether that is simply an observation of people around me or what my heart really desired, but didn't understand, I will never really know.  I have idealized it, yearned for it, prayed for it and yet it has always eluded me.  A couple of times I thought, yes, maybe this is it, but I now see that wasn't the case.  I had too much healing to do at the time to really let myself experience it.  Sad to say but there was always a wall between me and my desire to open myself to people. 
One of my strongest indicators of depression was my inability to sleep.  You always hear of depression making people sleep almost endlessly, but actually, insomnia is also a big tell.  In fact, any unusual sleep patterns are a cause for concern.  Since I was very young sleep has been elusive for me.  In the past few years as depression took a deeper hold on me I would go literally for days without sleep.  I could feel totally enervated and yet, sleep wouldn't come.  That still happens a lot, insomnia is now my old friend. 

So why am I telling you all this?  Perhaps it's a bit of catharsis, finally baring my issue for all to read.  It's a part of me and will not go away.  It will get better and maybe someday I'll be mostly free of the symptoms of it.  I want that; I want to not feel the need to crawl into a dark corner and stay hidden, to not feel the anxiety of panic that overtakes me at times. Again, that probably puzzles many of you because I can be very outgoing; it's just a face that I can hide behind and I did that often.  

Still, I have hope, a huge bit of hope that things will change as I go further into my remission from depression.  That I will no longer fear walking in the sunshine or even something so simple as driving around the city.

I have hope.

This is a list of indicators of depression.  Read it over, pay attention, to yourself and those around you.  There is treatment; life doesn't have to be like this.
  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness or unhappiness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities, such as sex
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so that even small tasks take extra effort
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness — for example, excessive worrying, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that are not your responsibility
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
For some people, depression symptoms are so severe that it's obvious something isn't right. Other people feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ahh, Politics

It's starting to heat up again and I'm not talking about the weather!  Yes, the political season is upon us, weighing us down with decisions to make about who to cast our votes for.

The older I get the more political I get.  I think many of us are that way really because we understand the consequences of politics on our lives much more than we did when we were younger because we live those consequences daily.  I guess if I had one piece of advice for young adults it would be to pay attention, little things count in the political world.

Being from Kansas, but having lived in many other locations on this planet I am very aware of the opinions others often have of the heartland.  Once, while I was visiting a small town in Pennsylvania someone asked me where I was from; I told them Kansas.  They said 'Kansas'?  Where's that?

Thank God not everyone has that lack of knowledge!  I would hope that most people have at least a rough idea of where we are.  I mean, I've never been to Rhode Island but I do know where to find it on a map!

But, that said, I'm also very aware of other's opinions of us here in the mid-west.  Hicks from the sticks comes to mind, as well as ignorant farmers.  I'm a city girl but I do know plenty of farmers and I can tell you that anyone who manages to run a successful farm in these strained economical times is NOT ignorant.  Not by any definition, but still the perception still exists.

I am super-conscious of our image, the image that others perceive when a Kansan is in the public spotlight.  That goes especially for political figures.  The last thing we need is someone representing us that people laugh at because of their speech or mannerisms.

We have a candidate running this year that would be an otherwise great representative I think.  He's a business owner, a successful one, who manages large amounts of people and resources.  Personally, I feel like we need people who can do that because the people who are trying to manage our states or countries resources right now are not doing a good job at all.

I'd like to be able to vote for this guy, really I would.  But he's got this one thing that I can't support or vote for, no matter how much I want to.  It's not a huge thing really, but it really bugs me.

His commercials have him saying that he would be the best choice to go to 'Warshington'.  W-A-R-S-H-I-N-G-T-O-N!

Can someone please explain to me where the 'R' comes from in that word?  Last time I looked at a map, or visited there the word was 'Washington', no R.

We don't 'warsh' our cars or clothes do we?  At least I don't.  I do wash them though.

I know, I know, what a silly thing.  But this guy wants to represent us to the whole of the US.  So yeah, let's send someone to do that who can't figure out how to say, Washington without sounding like that hick from the sticks. 

Sorry Mr. Hartman, you can't have my vote!!!

Monday, May 24, 2010


I've been a fan of LOST since its first episode; I even stuck by it through seasons 3 and 4 which were totally impossible to figure out.  But I made it through them and slid into season 5, ready to get down to business and start to understand what in the world was going on!

Season 5 did start to provide some explanations but of course, being LOST it also raised more questions too.  I wouldn't have expected anything less.  Season 6 started to make sense actually and I watched each episode with excitement and a pending sense of doom because this was it folks, it was going to end!

And end it did, last night.  Why you may wonder am I actually writing about a silly TV show?  Well, for some strange reason it moved me beyond comprehension and I find I have to find a way to resolve all the leftover feelings I have about it.

I spent a few minutes perusing the web to kind of see what other people thought about it and it seems a mixed bag really.  Yes, there were far TOO many commercials in it, it drove me crazy.  5 minutes of show, 4 minutes of commercials for one stretch.  Not fair ABC!  But still I was glued to the set.

I learned several seasons ago that the show was not really about the island.  It seemed like it was though when the show first began.  The strange mysterious island, that was tropical and yet somehow had polar bears on it; the island that had some strange force within it, that could move on it's own and could heal people.  Yes, that was a mystery, but in the end it wasn't really about the island, it was about the people who inhabited it, both willingly and unwillingly.  The island changed people, it did, but in the end we were left wondering how much of the change was because of the island or in spite of it?

At times we watched flash forward, flash backwards and incredibly, the flash sideways that allowed us an amazing perspective and peek at what could have been.  Those flash sideways views tantalized us and made us ache for a perfect ending that we knew would never happen.  And yet, it some ways it did, it was just not how we expected it to be.

In my mind the series ended as it HAD to end.  As we watched the episodes we became so engrossed in the people that there had to be someway to complete their stories, so this ending was the only way to do it.  We had resolution for Seyid and Shannon, who loved so briefly; Seyid who ran from his past and finally learned that in some ways he had to embrace it to be free of it and in the end, Shannon was there for him.

Charlie had vicious demons to fight, but in the end when he died a couple of seasons ago he died in redemption, so wasn't it fitting that he in the end was rewarded by reunion with Claire, who lost her way on the island, as well as her child and her heart?

My heart broke when Sawyer lost his Juliette, it was too cruel.  He had, for the first time in his life found joy and peace, a remarkable life that he had never glimpsed before.  And then she was ripped from his arms, literally and suddenly he was right back where he started.  Sawyer, the anti-hero that we hated and rooted for, the charming bad boy; how could his ending not have had Juliette in it?

Jin and Sun, torn from us a couple of episodes ago, holding onto one another tightly.  What about their child?  They had only found one another again and then they died, it was not fair.  So the end provided them with a renewed beginning, how could anything else have happened?

Locke, once the man of immence faith was then the desperate man driven to evil.  The man in black, who had no faith, only a goal to get off the island.  The representation of evil, as Jacob was the representation of good.  As the smoke monster he fought with rage, with a demonic fervor, but what happened to Locke, the man of faith?  In the end, he found his faith again and that was how it had to be.

So many characters to love, to hate.  Hurley, with his astonishing child-like manner, full of compassion and the ability to keep trying.  His reward?  Libby, who had always seen the real Hurley.  And Ben, dual sides of the same coin, sometimes evil and other times, well, maybe less evil.

Jack.  Some say the story was really about him.  I don't agree with that really, although he was our hero; he united the survivors and also tore them apart.  His strength astonished us at times and his desperation broke our hearts.  Faith did not ever come easily to him, but in the end in his shining moment it came through.  He and Kate will have their happily ever after, in a way. 

So in the end, it wasn't about the island but the people who walked upon it for a short time.  It was about losing, yourself, your love, your life.  Yes, they were all dead in the end, not from the plane crash, but from the events that shaped their lives.  And I was okay with that, it seemed perfect for it to end that way.  Many will disagree with me I know and that's okay.

It moved me, something it has done over the years.  I've felt like throwing things at the TV, I've laughed and last night I cried.  Yes, it is only a TV show, but I do think it will be known as an American Icon, a classic of television's visions.  My hats are off to Lindelof and Cuse - you entertained me, kept me coming back for more.  Thanks for the ride!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Duck Tale

On my commute home each evening I generally have to wait for the light at Kellogg, which is a fairly long wait. I sit in line with the other southbound travelers on Woodlawn, running though my list of things to do when I get home; calls to make, dinner, chores to accomplish. However, every now and again waiting at that light provides an inspiring bit of amusement. But I have to tell about the history of the intersection first.

On the right side of Woodlawn sits a small city within a city, called Eastborough. It is a high income neighborhood that has its own police force, street signs and such. And for many years, the city has boasted a pond that hosts lots of ducks. In the winter when it froze you could go by and see people ice skating and I would always enjoy the many brightly colored Christmas displays around the neighborhood and pond. Now there is a large and high ornamental brick fence around that corner which blocks the view of the pond. It really is a shame, but that’s another story!

The Eastborough human residents share that pond with ducks. There are lots of ducks, of varying kinds, of which I am ignorant of names. Every kind from the ones with the beautiful teal colored heads to plain brown ones, white ducks, big ones, little ones, the collection of them is fascinating. Sometimes, especially in the winter months you see geese there as well.

I could always tell that the ducks thought that pond was actually their own. As a child I would watch as the ducks fussed when people wandered around the pond, unless they were bringing offerings for the feathered inhabitants. Sometimes my mom would take me out there and I would toss handfuls of bread pieces out to the ducks and laugh delightfully as they swarmed it, always squawking for more.

As an adult, those ducks still fascinate me, but for another reason. Every now and then they will cross the street. There could be anywhere from 5 to so many I have lost count, but at least 30 or more. They don’t really seem to have any special order, as far as kinds of ducks, but the leader will always be an adult duck.

They travel mostly single-file, but sometimes 2 or more side-by-side. They will be a few adults followed by some smaller ducks and then more adults; regardless of how many there are it is always the same. They cross slowly, giving the little ones time to stay close to the adults as they make the journey to somewhere away from their pond.

Are they going to feed I wonder, or what? Are they aware of the traffic that stops for them, even when the light turns green and we wait? They are ducks; why aren’t they flying I wonder?

To the immense credit to the human watchers, I have never heard anyone honk their horn in impatience. We all just seem to sit and watch patiently as our feathered parade waddles past, seemingly unaware of our presence. For some reason it often brings tears to my eyes, that little winding procession that is crossing a usually harried intersection in rush hour. Finally, the last duck hops up on the opposite curb and they continue on their journey. I smile and wish them well and decide I can’t wait to see them again.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Friends We Hold Dear

I’m unabashedly amazed at the comings and goings of some people in our lives. People that we met and never thought to see again can sometimes be the most important catalysts in our lives and someone that we think will be there forever just seem to vanish in the wink of an eye.

Two people that have played major parts in my life fit that description. One I met at a social gathering; she was kind of cool, had a new baby and I liked her a lot. But our lives seemed totally different; the paths we each were on seemed miles apart and I thought it was a shame that I wouldn’t get to know her better.

But 15 years later she is still one of the best friends I’ll ever have. You know the saying; friends help you move, but real friends help you move bodies. And she would, as I would for her. We’ve disagreed on lots of things during those years, but I’ve never doubted that we will always be sisters of the soul. I’m an ‘auntie’ to her daughter, a part of the village that has helped to give her guidance over the years. Not the my friend isn’t perfectly able to figure it out herself, but every now and again a helping hand and some thoughtful advice can do wonders for a single moms soul.

Now that my ‘niece’ is in high school, I look back at the years and feel awe at being able to be a part of her life. She is beautiful and talented and if I’ve contributed even the tiniest bit to that then I must have done something right.

And then there is the other situation; the one friend that you can never imagine leaving your orbit, your world. This is the person that has moved bodies for you, so to speak. They have lent their shoulder and soaked up more tears than anyone should have to; they support you emotionally, roll up their sleeves and get dirty when the situation requires. They are your hero.

And yet, somehow they are gone. There were no angry words, only an expression of pain. Words that evidently struck a guilty cord and now because of that keep them from saying those words that move mountains – change everything.

“I’m sorry”

Those are magic words – big ju ju in them. They can heal a wound deeper than any ocean and make the pain go away. But there is a secret to them; you have to actually utter them out loud. To the person who aches to hear them. To the person who doesn’t really understand what has happened.

Do you know someone who needs to hear those words? Don’t wait, don’t think you’ll get around to it tomorrow or next week; that precious person might not be there when you think you are ready. We have so few people in our lives that really mean that much to us. Don’t lose another one, another day with that person.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

What Do You Mean Caucus?

For the first time in many years Kansas has held a caucus. The democratic caucus was February 5, Super Tuesday in fact and the republican will follow on Saturday. Not quite sure why they weren’t the same day, but then I didn’t understand a lot about the whole caucus format truthfully.

But I have learned.

As a dedicated voter I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Co-workers and friends were split on whether or not they would participate. Many of them felt that it wouldn’t be worth the time and effort to participate.

Myself, I have always thought that my vote is worth it all.

When I decided to participate in the Kansas Caucus, I realized that I knew very little about the whole process. What was the difference between a caucus and a primary? Are there differences even? So, to find answers I turned to my good friend, Wikipedia.

I like how Wikipedia is laid out; for me it is easy to read and understand and always provides me with valuable info and it was pretty helpful in this instance.

Caucus: A meeting of members of a political party or subgroup to nominate candidates for various offices.

Primary: Primary elections are one means by which a political party nominates candidates for the following general election.

Well, that cleared everything up! The only difference I could see was that a caucus was specifically done by political party and a primary isn’t. General election, primary election? This all sounded like some kind of political double-talk to me.

Both are designed to determine where our delegate votes will go at the conventions next summer. Okay, I understood that. So what else was different?

A primary is basically an election – you go in and cast your vote in a normal election process. The caucus it turns out functions a bit differently. Here’s how it worked here.

There were places set up for each of the candidates and you went to the place of the candidate of your choice. Your time to get in there and register was limited so when 7:00 came, the doors were closed and no one else could enter. When the doors closed the votes at each table were counted and then everything was tallied up and combined with all the other votes from your state.

Or that was how it was supposed to work, in theory. And of course we all know how that line of thinking works!

So, it was a bit different…

There was a place for each candidate, an over-flowing place; they had woefully underestimated how many folks would turn out for this democratic process. Each candidate had a room then, and it still wasn’t enough. But there was only so much space so they did the best they could.
So, there was a room for Clinton and a room for Obama, and then there was never-never land or in other words, the land of the undecided. It was up to the Clinton and Obama camps to educate the undecided on their candidate’s issues and views thereby coaxing the undecided to their side.
Again, in theory it sounds good and in reality it fell flat. Too many of the undecided’s knew perfectly well whom they were going to vote for. Halfway through the caucus I decided to call the undecided’s the argumentative instigators. The moniker fit perfectly. Most seemed to thrive on the arguments. I don’t know, maybe they were just lonely, or bored, or even inspired, who knows. But two hours into a process that was estimated at an hour I had pretty much had enough. And the two hours didn’t take into account the half an hour spent looking for a parking place before finally parking 2 blocks away in icy sleet that I would later have to scrape off of my car, nor did it count the half an hour waiting to get in or the time spent trying to find a place to hang out during the process.

Sounds like I’m one of those ‘whiner’ types doesn’t it? I’m not really. But I had built up expectations about the glorious process of caucus; how I would be thrilled and inspired by it and become even more motivated. Instead it became tedious and irritating – all I wanted was to get the hell out of Dodge!

Oh well, right?

I don’t know if caucus works that way in every state, but it’s how it worked here. It was an interesting process. Not particularly high-tech, nor even private as an election vote is. But it’s part of our processes of choosing our next leader and therefore to me, an important process to take part in. The main thing is that I did it. I went and became a part of the political machine we call democracy, a right guaranteed by our constitution.

My mom always told me when I was growing up to never complain about our political leaders if I didn’t participate in who got elected. I believe that is true and heaven’s knows I want my say!

Just try and shut me up!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Gimme Shelter

Oh, a storm is threat'ning My very life today
If I don't get some shelter Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away
War, children, it's just a shot away It's just a shot away

War, children, it's just a shot away It's just a shot away

Ooh, see the fire is sweepin' Our very street today
Burns like a red coal carpet Mad bull lost its way
War, children, it's just a shot away It's just a shot away

War, children, it's just a shot away It's just a shot away

Rape, murder! It's just a shot away It's just a shot away
Rape, murder! It's just a shot away It's just a shot away
Rape, murder! It's just a shot away It's just a shot away

The floods is threat'ning My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter Or I'm gonna fade away
War, children, it's just a shot away

It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

I tell you love, sister, it's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away Kiss away, kiss away
--Words and Music by M. Jagger and K. Richards

A few months ago for about 2 weeks I had the Rolling Stones song Gimme Shelter roaring through my head. I say roaring because it practically never ceased its assault on my attention. It was with me during the day and even if I happened to wake up in the night. When I opened my eyes in the morning the serenade began anew each day.

Don’t get me wrong – I like the song. It’s my favorite Stone’s tune. I vaguely remember it as a child around 1970 or so. It was a song that sort of characterized the Vietnam War. The song seemed to be about war in fact, about that age, that time. So why was it on cruise control in my head?

War, children, it’s just a shot away!

It was about war, wasn’t it? Isn’t that what Mick meant when he sang, Oh a storm is threatening my very life today. If I don’t get some shelter I’m gonna fade away?

It certainly epitomized the thoughts and emotions of a generation of people who saw the fruitlessness of that war. Oh wait, police action. At 12, I watched the news in the evening, saw the destruction of villages and people, of jungle and life. Sure seemed like war to me. People died in war and that was what was happening every day in Viet Nam. Did ‘police action’ make it less violent, less deadly? It didn’t seem that way to me.

And yet not seeming to learn from our mistakes we as a nation are embroiled in yet another war, and the same sad consequences are spread across the news every day. So maybe that was why the song was running rampantly through my head. Again, loyal American’s are going off to war, to fight in a country that isn’t even sure it wants us there. There are points for and against that war and it’s not for me to say what’s right or wrong. I don’t support the war – but I whole-heartedly support our troops. I can’t even imagine the courage it takes to go to a place to fight for the rights of people who want to kill you for your protection and yet troops do it every single day.

So was the song repeating through my mind as a reminder that we are at war again? That precious life on all sides of this combat are being recklessly lost? I had to print out the words to look at them, to see what they said to me before some possibilities started to occur to me.

The words seemed so hopeless – almost as if the darkness and despair were coming regardless of what we do. Rape and murder? Certainly common enough in war, but not exclusive attributes of warring activities. So was it a societal epidemic it was referring to? Man, where was Mick when I really need some answers!

So I started taking a broader look at the world around me. Not hard to do since every news broadcast, newspaper and internet blog is full of the miseries of this world; of everything that is wrong with people, the world. Yes, all of it is true – our children are dying in the streets in Iraq and America. Children are starving as well and we’re tolerating it as a society because we simply don’t know what to do to reclaim our streets and towns, our world. Our hearts weep with the wasted potential of our youth, our future. Famililes shed tears over flags that cover the coffins of our dead and wash the blood off the sidewalks and streets and pray that the violence doesn’t claim anymore lives. How do we keep hoping; hoping that it will change?

And then one line in the song suddenly jumped out at me.

I tell you love, sister, it's just a kiss away

Isn’t our love our strongest shield? No, it cannot stop the bullets as they blast through bodies, tearing asunder not only the body but the lives of so many. But can love help us to find a way to shield the kids who carry the guns because they see them as the only protection from a hostile world? If we love enough, not only our family, but our communities, our cities and towns and neighbors, if we love enough can we do it? Will love make us strong enough to stand up and say ‘No MORE!’? No more fruitless death, that your gangs are not family, they are not love. They are only a temporal path to destruction derived from people who don’t have a clue as to what real love is? Who don’t know the shield of protection the loving arms of mothers and fathers and grandparents and family and friends of all types provide.

No, love cannot stop a bullet but it can stop the tide of violence by building children and society strong enough to take a stand against it; one person at a time.

This sister will choose love, with all my heart.