Darkness, My Old Friend

Wednesday I visited the doctor and was given a prescription for an antidepressant. In spite of struggling with depression for over twenty years, this is the first time I’ve been open to the option.

Although I’ve struggled with/against/under/inside depression since the age of 16, it only recently dawned on me that anxiety plays a huge role in that depression. It is why I am often overwhelmed in large groups, or when there are sounds in competition with each other, in logistical meetings, or in crises when I must make a decision,  just sitting around thinking about intense things. Feeling overwhelmed then leads to a powerless/hopeless feeling that is what many consider to be depression. It all started with a sudden fall into despair and hopelessness as a teenager, and has aged with me, and probably shaped me in ways I cannot name.

The question of being medicated has been around since I first reached out for help (about a year after the problem began), but I always put it off, wanting to seek other avenues. Depression is very difficult to conquer, for the reason that it disables the part of a person that knows how to ask for help. Depression sinks itself in with perpetuating behaviors, and enervates the muscles necessary for getting out. Thus, my attempts to seek professional help were few and far between. When I needed it most, I was least capable of asking. When the attempts I made failed, I became further crippled from trying again. One dismissive psychiatrist, and too many hoops (including that unscalable wall of things that cost a lot of money) kept me at home seeking other remedies. This search has led me to discover many healthy outlets/helps. I don’t name anything as a Cure, but there are many worthy management tools…

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You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out

I‘ve decided to act like a grownup for Christmas this year. I should have done this long before age 39, but you must understand that I didn’t realize I’ve been acting like a child until some time in the mid morning of today.

When you’re a kid, your parents make holidays- from scratch out of love, and special parent magic. When you leave the house, you transition through stages: holidays with friend’s families, holidays with just friends, one horrible New Years Eve spent alone, several happily solitary Thanksgivings. And you enjoy the freedom, thinking that one year, not long from now, you will begin your own family; you will start your own traditions. You will tap into the parent magic for yourself and start building holidays as a gift to your own children.  Your heart will be made of chocolate and your spouse will know just where (and how) to hang the stockings.

That is, unless you remain (mostly) single and (mostly) childless. If this happens,  you will one day get an email from your boss asking you to work more in December, you may briefly compare yourself to Lucy Eleanor Moderatz from While You Were Sleeping, and then start sobbing in the middle of some house you are cleaning in Bellevue…

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The Ones That Love You

I used to feel superior to road ragers.  I was like, hey man, calm down, you’re not stuck in traffic, you are traffic. You know, pretty zen about taking as long as it takes, and navigating the insane maze of the freeway.

This was before I became a regular commuter. Now that I drive to and from Seattle four times a week, I am prone to driving angry even when I’m out in the country (I live out in the country). A few weeks ago I was driving down Highway 20 to meet a friend for a mountain loop hike. In between nowheres, I found myself stuck behind three RVs going about 10 miles under the speed limit. I did not remain calm. I wasn’t traffic, they were, and I just wanted to have a day off from slugging along in my car behind people.

When I was younger (I mean, until a few years ago) I thought that as I got older, I would become calmer and wiser, I would work through my issues and be a really kind old lady some day. The older I get, the more I dig inside to clean things out, the more I find that deep down I’m basically a selfish asshole…

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Underneath

There are a lot of movies out there with a desperately single female protagonist. The woman is usually in her late 20’s and gorgeous, with few real issues, but several endearing quirks. That, or she’s got super ridiculous issues, but she’s so gorgeous that some guy would do anything to be with her.

One of my favorite movies dealing with the aging single woman is called Broken English. It’s more realistic than most, about a woman who is painfully single. She has a string of terrible dates and becomes leery of anyone showing interest, such that she finds it difficult even to be hit on because she feels this deep distrust of men who would be interested in her. It’s quite amazing to want someone to want you, but then distrust anyone who actually does. What’s wrong with them that they’re interested in me? And how quickly are they going to decide I’m not worth their effort?

It’s a mess. At some point the idea of being in a relationship starts to sound like the possibility of becoming an astronaut. You already know how much I fear outer space, but somehow I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a whole imaginary life that I can’t crumple up and throw away. It’s tattooed all over me with invisible ink. I know you think those are freckles covering my nearly-middle-aged skin, but they are actually hopes, and disappointed hopes. Sun kisses, or scars, or maybe notches to record imagined scenarios…

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Arbitrary Designations

The pain scale is possibly the worst way to measure anything. First of all, there is genre to consider; quality, duration, impact. If ten is the highest number, then I have to put childbirth there (something I say from experience), but actually, childbirth didn’t cause me to pass out. So maybe leg amputation, or a gun shot is actually worse. But then I would factor in duration, quality and impact. Giving birth felt like water skiing my undercarriage over sharp metal spikes… but not the whole time, just for a few seconds during each contraction. Actually childbirth is a good example of many genres of pain: burning, aching, sharp, sudden, subtle, dull.

So yeah, if we put childbirth as a ten (winning out over leg amputation based on duration and diversity, sorry to those of you that have experienced both and maybe think differently), then how am I supposed to tell a doctor about my neck pain? Compared to childbirth, in it’s feel at the moment, it is a .02, or something. But then if we add qualifications, it goes up. It’s like the feeling you get between your shoulder blades when you spend too much time reading; like that, but spread out from the top of my spine, to the lower middle of my back. And it’s also like giving someone, who is a little too heavy, a piggy back ride, or like a very small, and constant volt of electricity.

I went bra shopping the other day and did not factor in how exhausting it would be to take my shirt on and off so many times. The store clerk who was helping me didn’t understand my dilemma, and so she started by bringing me one size at a time in these large wooden drawers. After allowing this “customer service” to go on for a while, I finally got fed up with having to take everything on and off, and I just went out into the store and grabbed 7 or 8 different styles and sizes: the thing I should have done from the start.

And don’t get me started on physical therapy…

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Detours

I feel a bit sad and overwhelmed today.

Looking for the healthiest actions to take, I thought I could start with that confession and and then maybe some other things that should be said.

I was in a car accident Wednesday morning, on my way to Stanwood to meet with one of my pastors. We were going to talk about my current spiritual crisis and I 

was going to ask for his advice about various other pieces of dissonance within and around me.
But then I crashed. Specifically, while heading south, trying to avoid something going on in the northbound lane, I got my wheel hooked on the side of the road and this got my car swinging wildly out of my control, which sent me flying at a spin into that northbound lane full of cars.

Picturing this now to describe it gives me this achy tightness in my chest…

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Can I Get Back to You?

If you’ve known me for more than a few years, you may have noticed (you imaginary readers, you) that I didn’t write anything on my daughter’s birth/deathday this year.

Here’s what I was doing instead of writing: hanging out with friends, going to church.

For several months now, I have been in this angry-at-religion mode. Not angry at my Christian friends, not angry with God, but angry at all of the trappings, all of the methods and all the ways people use to talk about those methods. It had become reactionary to the extreme. If I thought through the things that set me off, I could identify that they were either really not a big deal, or I could see how I disagreed with them (also not such a big deal). In some cases, identifying something that set me off would cause me to realize I actually agree with that thing. Nevertheless, I was struggling furiously with all of it…

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The Outsider Inside

I may be in the minority here, but I see confusion as a useful tool.

Every group has its own slang. They have stories they retell, behavior they agree is The Thing. I was with some friends recently who are part of what I would call The Party Scene. I haven’t been a part of that scene for over 20 years, so there were several things they all did that were new to me. I found myself curious about the history behind things like everyone tapping their shot glass on the table/bar simultaneously before drinking those shots in unison.

Why do they do that?

It’s not that I need to fit in, but also I don’t want to offend people out of my ignorance. I’m both curious about the “why” behind all of the things people “just do,” and interested in who people are behind their behavior.

These “norms” can be found all over the world. When I’ve had extended visits to Germany, for example, I discovered that instead of drinking 7-UP when someone is sick (as people did when I was growing up in the USA), they drink Coca Cola. Also when sick, Germans don scarves. Now that I understand the reasons behind these rituals, they make sense to me and although I’ve never been one to drink soda, I do find myself sporting a scarf now when I feel under the weather.

If you’re a Christian you hopefully recognize these cultural idiosyncrasies also apply to you and your family or church….

[Click here for the rest of this post.]

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What God Says (revisited)

I am inexorably attracted to people who know how much they are loved by God and they allow this knowledge to change them.

This Spring I will have been a Christian for twenty years. In that time I have met all kinds of believers; the bitter but tenacious, the happy naive, the fearfully upright, and the broken beggars who walk around amazed to be so beloved by the creator of the Universe….

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The Joy of Grief

It has become somewhat of a tradition to write a blog post on or near my daughter’s “day.” Grief is such a richly varied experience and I have found it to be a kind of beautiful gift. For this reason, there is always something to say beyond the obvious reality that it sucks to have your kid die.

I couldn’t say that I’m glad I lost her, but today and many many other days in the last 7 years I can say that while I lost more than I ever wanted to, I gained many things I didn’t even know I could.

The biggest gain is that I’ve seen God come through for me in a way that I only ever vaguely believed he would before. A week or so after Sarah died, when I realized that I could not grieve in a healthy way, I asked God to take all of it and give back only what is good. While I could recount many occasions in the last 2,555 days that I felt unpleasant emotions; screamed, cried, numbed up, felt sorry for myself, choked on the emptiness, laid in the cold mud of life without her, thought of who she would be now, felt anger at a passing pregnant woman… I have felt all of those emotions and more, but every one of them came at just the time I needed to feel it. Each one helped me heal a little more. Since asking him, God has been utterly faithful to carry all but what I was supposed to walk with in the current moment.

When people find out about Sarah they almost always say, “I don’t know how…” or, “I never could handle…” But of course they’re right and neither could I. Although it might seem weird that feeling pain has been a gift, it’s the way that I have been set free to grieve without guilt or shame, without wallowing or getting stuck too long. I haven’t made this happen, I have only accepted whatever piece came my way….

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