April 14th is my mother’s birthday. Today, she would have celebrated her 62nd year on this earth. I would have called her by now and probably would have made plans to drive up to visit this weekend. For the past eight birthdays that have come and gone since her passing, today was usually a hard day. Today is the ninth birthday I have commemorated without her, but I am no longer filled with sadness or anger. For the last few years of her life, she suffered greatly: she was in pain, both physically and emotionally, the only time I ever saw her truly happy were those brief moments she was able to meet her (step) grandson. Christine and I occasionally talk about how those moments were what kept her alive, and once she saw me truly happy, she no longer fought. The one thing she wanted more than anything on this earth was grandchildren, it did not matter if they were blood or not. Well, she got one, and she loved the hell out of him for the few moments she was able to be around him.
I carry cartloads of anger around with me every day, and it can get to be burdensome. When my mother passed away, it changed me. Literally. I have become more serious now than I ever was before, and pessimistic to boot. I no longer tend to look for the good in people but instead, I prepare to be disappointed. In a way, that has helped me. Afterall, stoic philosophy teaches this aspect of life. Prepare to be disappointed, and when you are not, what a wonderful surprise! It is not to be confused with pessimism, although it is very easy to do so; I admit there is a fine line.
There is one other thing that stoicism has taught me, and it is the most important gift of all. Nothing and no one ever belong to you. Everything and everyone truly belong to the earth. We are here for a brief moment and then we are not. It is as simple as that. Therefore, we never “lose” anything or anyone, they are simply returned (yes, this even applies to possessions, but that’s another story for another day.) Why grieve over the death of my mother when her time on earth was not pleasant for her? Why grieve over the death of my father when his time on earth was not pleasant for him? Even if they had each led amazing, pain-free lives, I think I would rather celebrate the time I was able to spend with them then mourn over the time that was taken away from me. Time does not belong to anyone.
Water will eventually find its way around the stone.
Many people feel that Nick Drake was severely depressed when he wrote and recorded his final album, Pink Moon. Listening to it, it’s not hard to understand why. Sparse and haunting, the album is devastating to listen to sometimes (for me, all the time.) While Nick certainly suffered from mental illness, his sister says that he was not depressed during the recording of the album because when he was truly depressed he wasn’t able to write or play. Why? Because he was depressed. Sadly for Nick and his family, his depression led him to commit suicide at the age of 27, and we are left with three beautiful but somber albums to reflect and speculate upon. Nick Drake is just one of the many examples of the casualties of depression.
Whenever someone is suffering from a bout of depression, even simple things like making a pot of coffee can feel like you are rolling a boulder uphill. What’s the point? Won’t it just roll back down to the bottom again? Just leave it where it is and take another nap.
I had big plans for this blog. I had big plans for many things. If there is one lesson I can take away from my illness it’s that I am never going to make big plans again. When you inevitably break them, the squeeze on your psyche is excruciating, which then spirals you further down the self-loathing staircase.
This is not an entry about giving up. Life may scare the hell out of me at times, but death is far more scarier to me. There are no craft beers on the other side, so why would I choose that path? No, it is an entry about trying to understand the nature of the beast within, and refraining from feeding it more fuel than it deserves. I will write when I write, and that’s that. Never make a promise you do not intend to keep.
More importantly, never give up, because eventually the sun really does rise again.
2014 is behind me, thankfully. While every year has its ups and downs, last year perhaps had a few more downs in it than I would prefer to have. The downs were mostly health related issues, and in reality some of them are within my sphere of influence, so if I buckle down I can surely alleviate some of my problems going forward.
2015 will indeed be a year of change for me. I have enrolled in the local community college and as of next week will begin to pursue a degree in Social Sciences. Whether I stop at two years, or transfer to a four-year college I cannot say at this moment, but it feels good to just take that first step, which I have been terrified of doing for twenty years now. I am looking forward with anticipation on starting these classes, but of course the fear of failure is weighing on me like an ape on my back.
It’s good to keep moving forward; once you stop, you might never start up again. I am lucky to have someone in my life who acts as a catalyst for me, constantly challenging me to improve my life. I realize that a lot of people don’t have that, and I’d be committing a moral crime by not listening to her and accepting the challenge, finally.
When I was a teenager I had dreams of becoming a journalist. I am hoping that at the very least my writing will improve this year, and give me the confidence to possibly pursue a career outside of my circumscribed comfort zone.
I’ve had it with depression. I am declaring a war. I am done letting it control every aspect of my life. I am not going to let it consume me anymore. I have a plan, and it is time to act. Wish me luck!
I have just completed a 5-day period of cleaner eating. I have drastically reduced my sugar intake (from 2-20 grams a day) as well as reducing my carbohydrates to within a 56 gram range (I routinely averaged over 150 a day before this.) Here is just one of the many sources on the internet linking sugar with depression:
Some of you may also remember that I suffer from colitis, which is another reason to decrease sugar as well as carbohydrates. Although the research is more murky when it comes to colitis, we do know that sugar is an inflammatory, so it only makes sense to cut it out of my diet. Unfortunately, there are a lot more items you need to cut out besides sugar:
It’s only been about 5 days, but I can confess to feeling less sore (I also have arthritic knees, chronic back pain, as well as constant pain in my legs and feet due to one leg being shorter than the other from a car accident when I was a child. I now wear special shoes but according to my specialists, the damage had already been done to really help stop the pain.) Any day where the pain can register below a 6-8 on the pain scale is a good day for me.
The only thing I haven’t felt any relief from at the moment is my depression and anxiety. I am going to give it another week or so, but if I can’t break through this cloud I will have no choice but to seek professional help. I have also incorporated walks into my daily routine, which is challenging sometimes with my ailments, but the more I sit around the more I feel a very early death. Life may suck at the moment, but I don’t want to give up.
The combination of my mental health and sub-par job market is making for quite an interesting home life at the moment. In a way, I have become the homemaker, except the non-cooking type. I have volunteered to take over that duty but my wife seems reluctant to give up control of that aspect at the moment. For instance, today, I have done all the wash that needed to be done for the family. My step-son now knows that I am the one to talk to if he needs clothes. For the most part, I am the adult in charge of the dishes. We need eggs and dairy products tomorrow, and I volunteered to go to the Farmers Market to procure them. My wife seemed mildly shocked at that. Obviously, it’s not ideal for me to walk around a market alone, but how can I justify making the woman who works her ass off for this family make an extra trip on her journey home while I sit here dicking around on Twitter?
The truth is, I enjoy doing these chores. It makes me feel like a part of the family. It’s true that I can’t provide for my family at the moment, but at least I can keep the house up. Laundry, dishes, vacuuming, errands, cleaning, etc; I know my wife appreciates it and it makes her happy that she doesn’t have to do it herself. That’s enough of a reason for me to do it. My mental illness has taken a lot of things away from me, but it’s not going to take my family away from me, too. I am not in the best of health right now; there are other things besides depression at play here, but being able to accomplish these small tasks are huge victories for me.
In no particular order:
1. Take all these ideas in my head for songs and actually create one.
2. Sing in front of people. I can barely sing in front of my wife.
3. Write an actual good short story.
4. Manage my depression better.
5. Manage my social anxiety so that I can leave the house without thinking that everyone is watching me.
6. Be the husband my wife deserves.
7. Be the stepfather my stepson deserves.
8. Become fluent in the vocabulary of the guitar.
9. Learn the basics of bass guitar.
10. Become a better keyboard player.
11. Find a drummer.
12. Write an album’s worth of material by myself.
13. Show the world finally what I have always thought myself capable of.