Day 256 – Thankful for it all

pogo and dolly

Pogo and Dolly are great anti-depressants!

I made it through my first Thanksgiving in recent memory without drinking. To be honest, it was really tough. I felt myself slipping into a depression early in the day and really wanted to a) hide under the covers and not come out; b) gorge on chocolate c) drink a big old glass of wine; and d) snuggle up with my dogs (and no one else). I did none of these but instead worked a little bit before dragging myself up to make a dish to take to a friend’s house for dinner. I also took half a Xanax before we left.

Over the course of the evening I did taste a tiny sip of Dave’s beer (terrible), a mini sip of his Manhattan (better, but still not good) and a couple of micro sips of the wine that was automatically poured for me at dinner (red, but way too dry for my taste). Later Dave had a glass of something I really did like, but I knew that I really couldn’t – or shouldn’t – have any more of it than the little taste I got.

Sigh.

Its days like this when I have the little internal argument with myself that begins “Why can’t you just have half a glass? You can handle it!” before remembering that drinking even just a glass or too of wine was putting me in extreme pain in terms of my kidneys. It just isn’t worth it.

However, not drinking puts a mental strain on me at times – especially on a holiday and at a social gathering that I’m not really in the mood to attend today. It just seems unfair and is a large part of what my depression was about today.

panic attackJust the other day while perusing the juice aisle at Trader Joes, I had a little bit of a panic attack while considering the idea of whipping out a bottle of sparkling (though non-alcoholic) Chardonnay for tonight’s dinner or at another party we planned to attend later. I immediately had heart palpitations, felt dizzy and got the beginnings of a migraine. I got myself out of the store as fast as I could but still got a bottle of the fizzy fake stuff just to prove to myself I wasn’t a complete looney.

The truth is, sometimes it’s really hard to see and know that I just don’t fit in like I used to. And though I know I am doing the right thing for myself, I am a little worried about what the rest of the season is going to be like.

Despite the lack of drinking, I am also finding that I’m having at least what I perceive to be kidney pain more and more often. Sometimes I wake up with it but other days, I feel it after I eat something really salty – like a handful of salted almonds – or sweet, like a milkshake. Are these things I’m going to have to give up too? Am I going to lose all of my vices one by one until I am the most boring, restricted, regimented person on the planet?

I know I am being dramatic, but that is how I feel sometimes – that all the fun things are being taken away from me one by one and that soon I will be someone who just goes to work, comes home, eats the same food over and over again before going to bed and trying to get my 8.5 hours of sleep before starting all over again. True. I love what I do and am grateful for my life.

chocolate sauceBut at the moment, I am feeling more and more stifled by my body and want to run screaming down the halls; to dive into a vat of chocolate sauce and eat my way out; to recklessly go lay on the beach in the full sun, topless, while sipping top-shelf margaritas courtesy of a really cute cabana boy and…and….whatever else struck my fancy in the moment. Ohhh…to be 25 and completely clueless again – yet with the wisdom to know exactly how to enjoy that cluelessness!

Then again, after talking about “the old days” with my good friend tonight, and looking at tons of pictures from parties I know I went to, but can’t remember much of anything about, I wonder if I really do want to go back to that life and time? Perhaps instead all this angst is just about me having a deeper calling, and I’m actually feeling restless because the weight of the various issues I’m trying to drop out of my life isn’t coming off as fast as I think it should. Maybe I am simply wishing to be free to move on to whatever is supposed to happen next instead of still being tied to the past life where I can no longer live.

I’m not sure what else to do other than to pray for guidance – and to be thankful for all that I do have in my life, even if part of that is frustration, angst and depression. It is all serving a greater purpose and someday I will know what that is.

Namaste – and good night.

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Day 165 – What Dreams May Come

It’s been a hell of a week. Since I last wrote some big stuff has happened in my world and in the world at large. One of the biggest…on August 11th, Robin Williams committed suicide after years of struggling with depression and various addictions. Then several days ago, an announcement came out that he had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease..

For some, this new information made Robin’s death by suicide more palatable perhaps – probably because he wasn’t “just” depressed. Others seem to feel like he should have put up a bigger fight against this disease (I mean, look at Michael J. Fox, right?), as if life-long depression and addiction isn’t a big enough fight itself.

Thankfully too, there have been a lot of articles trying to either focus on the great accomplishments of Robin’s life as well as who he was as a person and artist. Also, his death has brought a lot of much needed attention to the fact that many people – even successful, attractive, talented and funny people – suffer with serious and long-term depression.

Despite being a writer, it’s taken me a week to really be able to commit any of my own thoughts about Robin’s death to paper. I was just a little too numb with shock. My thoughts too raw. The images in my head too clear and too personal.

I didn’t know Robin Williams, nor had I even seen him in person. The closest I came to that was about fourteen years ago, when I met his brother, Todd, very briefly. He was the owner of Toad Hollow Winery and hosted a wine dinner I attended. In looking up the name of the vineyard online, I found out Todd passed away about seven years ago and that perhaps (according to an incredibly reputable gossip website) Robin – who was very close to his brother – was still grieving over the loss. Well, duh.

But even though I didn’t have a direct connection to one of America’s biggest and best-loved comedic and dramatic legends, I feel incredibly “close” to Robin now that he’s gone and his struggles are being shared out in the open. Why and how? Because I know oh too well what depression is like and how hard it can be for others to believe that an extroverted, outgoing entertainer/successful career driven person could have any reason to be depressed. I’ve suffered with grief and loss continuously since I was ten years old when I lost my dad to lung cancer (and divorce before that.) By the time I was sixteen, my grandfather and grandmother that raised me had also died. And when I was twenty, I lost my mother to suicide.

Since then, I’ve also struggled with my own depression and occasional thoughts of ending it all, but never to the point of seriously trying to take my life. (I don’t really count that night when I was fourteen and planned to do myself in by taking two aspirin an hour until the end finally came.)

But I do know what it is like to ache so badly that I wished I could die and that I had the courage – or the weakness – to do it. Though it has been many years since I’ve felt that way, I remember what it’s like to look at a gun on the coffee table and entertain the thought of shooting myself. I remember fantasizing about crashing my car into a cement bridge support as I sped down the highway. I’m not proud to say it but it’s true.

Luckily for me, each time these kinds of thoughts came around I had the presence of mind to get help, to talk to a friend, to move away from the gun or simply to call my doctor and tell them about what I thought were bad side effects from medication I was taking.

I’ve also prayed, cried, meditated, drank, worked out, sang, written poetry, called friends, slept, gone shopping, eaten ice cream and done countless other things to try and take the edge off the pain. I’ve built businesses, taken on too many projects, ignored my friends, become a work-a-holic and gotten burned out as a result. Sometimes despite all my efforts, I’ve still felt depressed, defeated, inferior, not good enough and unworthy.

Yet time and time again, I’ve reached deep down inside myself to find a kernel of hope and optimism; looked around me for new and unique ways to re-inspire or reinvent myself; and have kept going. Along the way, I’ve tried to help, support and inspire others who were feeling the same kinds of pain I’ve had. (Why do you think I’m writing this?) It’s funny in a way that many of those same people can’t imagine I’ve ever had problems like theirs or don’t think I could know what they’re going through because all they see is the strong, confident, successful, and sometimes funny person that is trying to brighten their day. 

Losing Robin – someone who was personally unknown to me but yet still an incredibly familiar person and ongoing presence in my life – to suicide, once again stirred up all the old pain of loss and of grappling with the whys and “what ifs” that come when someone takes their own life. It also brought me back face to face with my own struggles and the challenge to yet again “keep going” in spite of them. I know I’m not alone in this and I hope that – if anything – his death will teach all of us to acknowledge the personal challenges, like depression, we all face as serious and real. I hope it will also bring out a stronger effort of compassion and care from and for all so none of us ever feel that alone.

Thank you, Robin, for all you brought to our lives in your work, life and even your death.

Namaste y’all.