Tag Archives: asking good questions

Depression Sucks

That is all.

Just kidding.

I think it’s been too quiet around here. The transition from the busy summer to the busy school year which hasn’t really ramped up yet has left me bereft and with too much time on my hands. Well, maybe not too much time. Too much solitude. Too much time alone without speaking.

So much time to do all the things that need to get done. Time to organize. Declutter. Volunteer. Exercise. Write. All those things!

They say if you need something done you should give it to a busy person. My experience is that is true. I get much less done when I have fewer demands on my time. On the other hand, sometimes when the demands are mostly little nit-picky things, or maintenance tasks which just keep things on an even keel, the demands can be de-energizing.

At this point, I’ve been blogging daily since mid-January, but depression snorts, “to what end?” Every writer feels sometimes like what they write is useless drivel, but depression says they don’t share the useless drivel with everyone else. I like blogging, even when it feels like useless drivel. Maybe I should change the title to Clearing Space for Useless Drivel. Haha. I think the truth is blogging is pretty much a lifesaver for me. Knowing that I am creating something every single day, and that the things I write can be encouraging or can be things that others identify with or can just be interesting to readers — this knowledge reminds me that I matter some little tiny bit in this world that doesn’t care that I emptied the recycling bin again, or even that I recycle in the first place.

Here are two quotes which I find germane to the topic of depression. The first is by Rainer Maria Rilke:

“Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don’t know what work these conditions are doing inside you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where all this is coming from and where it is going? Since you know, after all, that you are in the midst of transitions and you wished for nothing so much as to change. If there is anything unhealthy in your reactions, just bear in mind that sickness is the means by which an organism frees itself from what is alien; so one must simply help it to be sick, to have its whole sickness and to break out with it, since that is the way it gets better.”

The second is from T. H. White’s The Once and Future King:

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

I find it to be true that learning things helps me through the dark times of depression. I find it to be true that embracing the experience can be more positive than trying to fight it off. It’s just that Depression isn’t neutral. At times, Depression weighs 1000 tons and is bigger than the tallest tree. How can I focus on anything else when I’m simply trying not to be smooshed down into the earth? Maybe it’s in the acceptance of the smooshing that I cleverly slip out from under the weight and crawl forward a step or two.

Remembering to be curious about this experience helps, too. What would the Universe have me learn today from these experiences and feelings? What might the Universe be offering me here? These are questions I can ask even as the 1000 tons presses down on me. And I believe the answers come when I ask the questions. I just have to remember to ask them.

Eli Writes

(Note from Susan: I am completely ok with profanity on my blog, but I wanted to just put up a note here to let readers know that today’s post from Eli is from the heart and contains profanity.)

Lately I’ve been feeling depressed and weirdly optimistic in almost equal measure, though not at the same time. My unending slog through my county’s (and the neighboring county’s) justice system inspires a nice big dose of anxiety and despair every now and then, usually a few times per day, and then the fact that I’m not in jail right NOW makes me feel great for a few minutes. These pesky emotions are not only unpredictable but wildly oscillating. It’s as if my drug consumption gave me artificial bipolar disorder for a time. From past experience I know it eventually gets better, but the road there is pretty long and daunting. Especially right now.

I was actually going to write down all the stuff I have to do in this blog post just to keep track of it and it was so fucking overwhelming that I deleted everything and started over. There’s so much going on and I feel like I’m falling down a waterfall without any control over pretty much anything. I have fines and bills to pay – more than I can ever hope to pay in the time allotted – and no job to pay for them. I can most likely get a great job, but then I’ll probably just lose it in less than two weeks at my next court date (if they do indeed decide to ship me off to a locked-down inpatient rehab). I do yard work to raise money for my fees, which are monumental and will remain while I am in inpatient. To get out of inpatient you have to have a full time job and a place to stay – which requires transportation and a good amount of money. But if I get confined to inpatient, I’ll lose my job, my car, and get my credit absolutely fucked for good measure. How is that going to help me? Am I expected to go out into the world (like the people in their late 20s and 30s I go to Outpatient with) without a car, living in a halfway house and taking a bus all over town to go to my shitty minimum-wage fast food job while every spare cent goes toward bills, fines and food? How the fuck is that setting me up for success?

Today I feel trapped. I feel trapped by time, which marches relentlessly forward to my dreaded August 14th court date. I feel trapped by the court, which demands my compliance with every rule without ever extending grace. I feel trapped by my addiction, which continues to tell me literally all goddamn day every goddamn day that since I’m probably getting taken away anyway I might as well take narcotics until I forget my own fucking name.

I won’t pretend I have a better answer to drug addiction, necessarily, than what my local county offers. All I know is that being treated like a defective criminal is one of the most likely things in the world to turn me into a defective criminal. I don’t want to turn into someone who is 26, works at Taco Bell, and alternates between struggling to catch the bus all over our ghetto of a downtown and relapsing on heroin. But that’s what I see in my treatment here. I was locked up with THREE other guys from my intensive outpatient, for christ’s sake, who all got high too. More are getting high and just aren’t caught yet. Relapsing is rampant, and if it’s not the simple fact that we’re all drug addicts, it’s the simple fact that a tone of hopelessness pervades the entire experience.

I know I need some of this stuff. I just wish I knew which I needed. I’m trying to make the best of it but it’s like I get cut down at every turn. If nobody else wants to cut me down, I often take the reins and do it myself. I remember when I was in high school and I just didn’t give enough of a shit to bring a pencil to a makeup test in my AP English class. The teacher obviously took the subject seriously, and she sighed wistfully, watching me with a sad look on her face as she asked me, “do you always self-sabotage like this?”

I told her yes. And that was the first time I realized it was true. If it’s not self-harm, it’s drugs. And if it’s not any of that it tends to be apathy. Being in my head, at this point, is tortuous, constantly demanding me to ruminate over all the fucking ridiculous shit in my life that was NEVER supposed to happen, and this thing I’ve awoken inside me that refuses to be vanquished. I used to love being so different. Now I wish I was normal. “But Eli,” you frantically stab your keyboard to drive the point home. “There’s no such thing as normal.” Yeah, I’ve heard that and I raise you a heroin addiction and a complete squandering of intellect while literally EVERYONE else my age goes on to college to actually continue their goddamn lives, keeps their fucking jobs and doesn’t get arrested.

Today I’d rather not be me.

Churchy Thoughts

image from hearditonthestreet.com

The voice of the pastor is echoing through this large atrium. He’s speaking about race relations inside the auditorium connected to the atrium. If there’s one thing this church is, it’s relevant to current events.

I see well over a dozen large coffee urns here, filled with flavored coffees and hot water for tea to which you can then add skim milk, whole milk, or half and half. Cadres of volunteers keep the coffee urns full, the cups stocked, the sugar dispensers topped off. And it’s all free. I can see how some people might find that a really compelling reason to come here. There’s free soda, too. (Free stuff is good!)

On the numerous couches and chairs scattered about, people occasionally glance up at the monitors which are projecting the service I sat through the first half of.

Most people here in the atrium are engaged with their phones or iPads. People are walking around, some with earbuds in their ears. The woman across from me apparently has some throat problem and she bursts forth periodically with a loud, growling, annoying throat clearing noise. (Comfy chairs and sofas are good!)

Behind me is the large play area where kids can play before, during and after the services. This atrium is open during the week and it is a place where homeless people can hang it and be cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The church is on the bus line after all. (Using the building during the week is really good!)

“Only Jesus can solve this problem” the pastor cries, and the auditorium erupts in applause. (Answers are good!)

I’m here today because Kepler enjoys the kids programs they have here and I’m the only one available to take him today. Otherwise, I’d be home.

I remember when I believed in this place and the God they preach. It was exciting and the concert-like music portion was as good as being at a concert. Now, it just seems like a show. (Church as show not so good.)

Before I came out to the atrium, I watched a woman enter the dark auditorium after the service was underway and she walked forward to find a seat. She looked around, but none appeared to her, I guess, so she walked back toward where I was. Across from me, there was an empty aisle seat. She asked if she could sit there, but the person said no. I tapped her and told her there was a seat in our row, which she took. (Saving seats in crowded auditorium not so good.)

How does it work that a person who has an empty seat on either side of her doesn’t welcome this person into her row? I think it’s because the service isn’t about connecting with other people. It’s about the feelings, the experience, the impact. Come to this church, and you are welcome to stay where you are. Sure, fill a box at thanksgiving, volunteer if you’d like, but if you don’t want to, that’s cool, too. (Freedom without responsibility not so good.)

Today, I found myself aggravated before they even began because this place looks exactly like buzzfeed, with consumers filling the seats and nothing being asked of them. I just don’t remember Jesus ever leaving someone where they were when he found them. And it seems to me like a church should be a place where there is a sense of awe, of connection, of awareness of our value. Oh wait, here’s a song about us not deserving anything, not able to do anything good. Whoops, that’s not quite what I meant.

I’m still troubled. I am comfortable with my beliefs, but I do recognize that I came to them after a very long time of following what I thought was the truth. When I look at younger people, even my own children, I wonder; if they decide there is no God, or that the Christian church is a sham, what do they turn to? I was able to realize for myself that I don’t need the promise of heaven or the threat of hell to do what’s right. I can trust myself and allow myself to be perfectly imperfect. But it took me a long time to get here.

Which makes me think that there are a lot of people for whom a belief in God is a necessary part of them becoming whole, except that I no longer see that as something that is accessible through the church today. My experience as a Christian was definitely filled with peril from the get-go, and there were an awful lot of cons, which, even though they didn’t overwhelm the pros, were painful and disturbing, and left huge scars on my heart and mind.

I still believe that the fruit of the spirit, as it is called in the Bible, is awesome. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. I buy into those things completely. But my thoughts again go to the young people. Are they seeing these character qualities ANYWHERE? Looks to me like the predominant characteristics we are seeing in most contemporary movies, books, websites, magazines, and the lives of the rich and famous who occupy so much of the airwaves include anger, rage, selfishness, disrespect, harshness, crudeness, unfaithfulness, and unbridled do what feels good.

So is this a double standard? No. I think people can, in a sense, evolve into individuals who want unity more than they want to be right. People who understand that every person is the best judge of their own choices and lives. But there are stages that everyone must go through to get to that point. Just like there are stages of child development, there are also stages of person development. Religious belief is one of those stages. For some, that is the most comfortable stage to stay in permanently. For others, they find that belief in themselves and a type of radical acceptance takes the place of believing in God.

I do not believe any longer that humans were good until Adam and Eve sinned. I believe that we are still magnificent and capable of much love and goodness, but until we understand that and see a purpose in it, we remain stuck in something less than. My less than was believing that I was fundamentally flawed, incapable of anything good. My less than was a propensity for binary thinking, needing to designate everything either good or bad.

I’m not disappointed in God. I didn’t have some heartfelt prayer that didn’t get answered. As I said, the cons of my religious experience did not somehow outweigh the pros and render me sad and disappointed. On the contrary. They helped me understand that religious faith is an aspect of life and that the Universe seems to be so vast and mysterious that any particular religion can only encompass part of the truth. Like each religion is the blind man describing the elephant — the description is accurate, but only partly.

I love having experiences like being at church yesterday because I was there for the sake of my son. Plus, I learn so much by noticing what I am experiencing. And even more when I write down my thoughts. Thanks for reading.

Belated Thoughts about Belatedness

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”  Dr. Seuss

If you are in my IRL circle of people whose birthdays I recognize, you may have noticed that I am nearly always late with the sentiments. If you have not yet joined that group, let me tell you, I am almost always late.

My son turned 21 the other day. I’ve known now since April 28, 1994 that he was going to be turning 21 on April 28, 2015, and even with 21 years advance notice, I still couldn’t manage to get anything in the mail. What to heck, as the kids say these days.

One reason I am late is I am always looking for the perfect gift. Well, looking might be too strong a word. I am always waiting for the perfect gift to magically fly into my house, wrapped, packaged with postage applied, in time to get there for the birthday. As I seem to do in a few areas, then, I procrastinate about it because the perfect gift doesn’t exist.

Another reason I am late is that I find gift-giving to be completely nerve-wracking. Maybe this is just an extension of the perfection excuse, but I don’t know anyone who needs another thing in their lives, including my own children. We are surely in the top few percent of wealth in the world, and we have everything we need, even though we can always find more things that we want.

I have serious baggage about gift-giving. And receiving. There are a few gifts that I have given or received that have been spectacular, and some of them have even been free. My graduating-from-college-THIS-WEEKEND daughter (hashtag ass PANTHER) created “Desperaux’s Recommendations for Their Mother on the Occasion of her Birthday,” which I will always treasure. That’s just one example. When I give someone something, I want it to be memorable, special, unique, and especially for them.

I believe where I get most hung up is in projecting onto the receiver what I imagine their response will be to my gift. I often imagine them being disappointed. And again I say, WHAT TO HECK.

Then there’s the aspect of who to give to, and which “insert category here appreciation day” requests to respond to. And then there’s Christmas for all the people, and end of the year for all the people, and that’s on top of birthdays and family Christmas and baby births and weddings.

Years ago, I made quite a few of the gifts I gave. To me, a handmade gift is pretty dang special. But, you put procrastination together with fear of disappointing someone with my and their champagne and caviar tastes and it’s a wonder I ever get anything given to anyone at all.

Let us then consider implementing some of the most excellent things I have learned to see if we might transform this little nuisance/annoyance/monkey on my back.

Habits and beliefs that contribute to me being late:

  1. Thinking that the day before or the day of is soon enough to start looking.
  2. Believing that no gift I give will be good enough.
  3. Acting as though the perfect gift exists if only I think about it hard enough.
  4. Being double-minded about wanting to vs having to.

Questions to consider:

What if I declared today the day I am no longer compelled to give gifts just because everyone else is? No, that won’t work.

What if I decided that I want to give gifts? No, that’s not really the case right now.

What if I took time to really think about the recipient, and consider what I might do for them that would communicate how I feel about them? No gift I could ever buy would be able to equal how much my people mean to me, but I can still give something that says thank you, or i love you, or happy birthday, or bon voyage. What if I were to come up with some standard things, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel every single occasion?

Ok, so I’ll get some gift cards and keep them on hand as the perfectly imperfect gifts that I can give if the perfect gift doesn’t magic carpet its way into the house in time. Because, really, being late every single time just doesn’t serve anyone, and I can have fun with this. Enough with the dread, and procrastination, and perfection!