Tag Archives: Depression

Hand Puppets

elly-web

I met this week with mentor extraordinaire and best-selling author Jon Katz to work on editing and cleaning up my first full fledged book, “A is for All Nighter”. The fate of the book is in flux as we are still working to find an agent for it and for me. I’m finding the advice of a good mentor like Jon is invaluable as I weigh the options of immediate gratification through self publishing or delayed gratification by trying to find a publisher.

So “A is for All Nighter” continues on the next step of the journey, and a new friend came to find me last week. Her name is Élly.  That accent over the E means you pronounce her name “Yelly”.
she’s kind of a loud little troll, and we had a lot to talk about last week. You see, like most people, there’s a lot more to Élly than meets the eye.

The revelations from the presidential campaign that inadvertently focused the national conversation on latent misogyny and consent brought up unpleasant memories for many women I know and for me as well.  Some people are able to talk about those memories, but sometimes, candor carries too high a price. 

Secrecy also carries a high price, however.  In secrecy there is depression and retreat from the blessings in your life.  There is a constant mental rerun of the memories that encourage self-loathing, and, in my case I began to look in the mirror and see a horrible, ugly, little troll.

That’s when Élly showed up.  Apparently she’s been lurking in the inner world I began building when I was two. She’s been just waiting for the right time to set me straight with some truth about bad things that happen in life and about trolls, about whom there is also much misinformation (they live under bridges, they have bad tempers).

So, like a kid talking to a hand puppet in a psychiatrist’s office, I told her why I felt like a troll and she told me why that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. She talked to me about her life and about the strength you find walking through the tears and emerging on the other side into a life you love. 

Élly was so helpful getting me back on track, that we decided to work on my next project together.  She even helped me find it by suggesting that we work to set the record straight about her kind.  Élly’s doing most of the writing, and I’ll be doing the illustrations, and we hope that in a few months we’ll have a kid-friendly book called The Truth About Trolls

So far she seems happy with the first portrait.

 

What Goes Up

what goes up

Sometimes it isn’t a crash.

Sometimes everything just recedes.

You go from feeling everything to feeling nothing. To wondering why you’re here.

To wishing you believed in a higher being that had a purpose for your life and being fine with not knowing what it is because knowing it exists is enough.

To realizing every battle can’t be fought and others can’t be fought at all without ammunition.  To picking the fights of getting up for the job and the kids each day and retreating from the others until the arsenal is stocked with little pills that still need a glowing fuse to work.

How I Explain It

Blog-Post---Roller-Coaster

When we heard that Robin Williams had committed suicide, I hoped we would google it and learn it was just a new, creepy urban legend.  But it wasn’t.

We were mostly without internet at the time, so I just caught snippets of reactions from the electronic consciousness.  One snippet seemed to echo frequently.  It was the idea that Williams hadn’t focused on the good in his life or that, unlike the pontificating pundit of the moment who had also been through really hard times, he had simply chosen to wallow in his misery.

I’ve heard variations of that sentiment my entire life because while I can’t say I know what it was like to ride a mile in Williams’ roller coaster car, we are in the same amusement park.  I don’t know how all the rides work, this is how I explain my experience at the fair.
 
I had a fresh ticket in my back pocket a few weeks ago when I bounced into my shrink’s office, plopped down on the couch, and, without taking more than one breath, chattered non-stop for 45 minutes.

I chattered about a book I’m wrapping up, an idea for a play I’m going to write in September, an idea for a novel I’m already fantasizing about writing in October and had spent the previous half hour drafting a 20 page synopsis of.  I chattered about reorganizing the linen closet. I walked to my car, still dictating a dozen to-do’s into my to-do-a-maphone.

You could say I was up.  I was real up.

I have a family I adore, a great job, and a growing creative life, but there was a lot on my mind that week.  I’d learned of a friend’s recent death and a serious illness of another. There was a mountain of work that wasn’t getting smaller, a world panicking about Ebola, Russia and the Middle East, a fresh diagnosis of a degenerative eye disorder (I’m blaming that for any drawings that appear subpar) and more than a few bills marked ‘Freakin’ Urgent – Pay UP Loser’ waiting in the mailbox.  

I, however, was helicoptering over the planet, suspended by a thread-thin seatbelt over a world that looked technicolor perfect and sparkling with possibility (it could have been the algae blooms in Lake Erie).  

I would have been up if you had told me I had a special type of cancer that made my butt look even fatter when viewed from outer space with the naked eye.
I can admit the flying is fun when it’s not scaring the shit out of me, but it does scare me.  I become SuperWoman, taking on too many obligations in a single phone call and exercising the purchasing power of a regional big-box store, leading to a crash whose destructive force would make Michael Bay drool with envy.

I’ve been doing this part of the roller coaster ride since I could talk.

I’ve tried working with my brain’s air traffic controllers, but the littlest things (medications, for example) can inspire strikes and and even walk-outs.  My current shrink has been helping me find new ways of negotiating with the control tower.  We haven’t ruled out new and improved pills to pop, but my brain, like my diet, is a work in progress.

But like my diet, if there were an easy way to be ‘normal’  (or thin – the ultimate fantasy) by just ‘snapping out of it’ or ‘deciding to be well’ without having to medicate and journal and snap rubber bands on my wrist and sit with a shrink once a week for many of the last 30 years, I would jump at it – even if I had to jump for “it”  from a plane without a parachute to grab it out of the sky with a pair of tweezers.

Because I know that in a few months, even if I found out I’d sold a zillion copies of my soon-to-be-imagined bestseller “How to Not Dust a House for 365 Days or More”, Santa was real, both kids had landed scholarships to Harvard and Yale, and peace on earth prevailed, I would still feel like closing my eyes on a deserted highway so that the Big Guy and the kids could call my death an accident and not know that I had intentionally left them forever. 

I know this because I’ve been doing this part of the roller coaster ride in one form or another since before I could talk – long before I was old enough to understand the words, “snap out of it”.

Be

In my inner world, I fight dragons. I take on armies and villains, triumphing over any challenge with wit and courage. Did I mention this was a fantasy?

In the real world, I've wrapped myself in the notion that my dreams are the result of an active imagination. Lately, though, as I look at my life and the things I haven't achieved or the real demons I've been afraid to fight, I've come to an uncomfortable admission. It's not just the inner triumphs that are fictional. Everything in that world is imaginary – especially the courage.

Before thirteen-year-old Thing1 was born, I never thought of myself as especially kind or patient or even steadfast. When he came into our world, however, right away he needed me to learn all of those things and, for him, I did. My kindness or patience still wouldn't win me any awards, but because of him I learned to keep trying when the breast milk wasn't flowing right away. I learned to stick by someone who was screaming in my face and to put someone else's needs before my own.

Right now we're navigating the first year of adolescence with all the pitfalls I'd expect and some I didn't. And even though he's getting stubble on his chin, I still look at him and feel the same powerful push to be better. He needs me to be brave now. So, not just for him but because of him, I will be.

 

Fissures

Crack in the ice

This is the crack in the ice.  It may widen.  It may freeze over again as it did this last year.  But even a hairline fissure pulls in a little life.  I wouldn’t say I’m embracing it today, but last night I was able to breathe it in a little.

The last four months have been a progressive calcification.  Every morning begins with a hammering of the shell – I have a good life.. I have beautiful kids.. I have a home – but every night the shell is harder than the night before.  I don’t have to ask what’s wrong with me.

I’m collapsing, pulling away from everything but the minimum it takes to feed an sustain the people in my life who aren’t yet self-sustaining.  There are no theatrics – no broken dishes or hysterical tears.  There’s nothing.  There’s oblivion sought and only found on occasional dreamless nights as the ice constricts my organs from the core out.  

Today the choice is to write this or not to write.  It is to let part of my soul run for a few minutes and let it breathe in and hope the running makes the crack bigger.