Mourning Whispers

This is a strange time for all of us. Its been a long time since humanity faced something together head-on. I am not going to lie. When I initially heard about the coronavirus I was not really worried. I thought it was an isolated thing. But within a few short weeks, I went from not being worried– to very worried—and very anxious.

Echoes of the past are slowly seeping into our daily lives. The past always has a way of repeating itself. It may be a different century, a different pandemic… but it’s all eerily similar.

Wearing masks, being quarantined, staying at home, hospitals overflowing…it goes on and on.

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COVID-19 may not be the same as the Spanish Flu, but its effects on society and the way our lives are now are reminiscent of the time when “Don’t Spit” was a main slogan.

And the deaths.

Not just the deaths of the victims if COVID-19, but the death of what we knew as life. Everything has changed so rapidly. We had to leave our jobs, we had to worried about loved ones. We also worry about the healthcare workers and first responders-dealing every day with a virus that has no vaccine and no signs of stopping.

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If you are feeling depressed or anxious during this time, your feelings are 100% warranted. You have the right to feel sadness and grief. We are living in a time that many never thought we would see in our lifetime. Some of us already deal with depression on a daily basis (chemical depression), but most people have never been exposed to feelings of societal depression. We mourn our lives before COVID-19. We mourn our loss of freedom in the outside world. Confined to our homes, worried about how we are going to make it by; uncertain of if or when this virus will stop. We are standing on the precipice of the unknown. For once, despite everything, we are no longer in control- and that is scary. 

If there is one thing that I learned from studying the 1918 flu pandemic, its that this to shall pass. The Spanish Flu exited the world quietly when there were no more victims for it to wrap its darkness around. Will the same happen with COVID-19?

The one main thing that separates the 1918 pandemic to this one is the fact that we have better science. In 1918 they had no idea what was causing the illness and even after the virus had vanished into history, it took years for scientists to figure out that it was a virus. They had no sophisticated testing, no high strength microscopes. We are fortunate to live during a time where we can get answers, get tested and know what it is – and how to prevent it. Luxury the 50 million victims of the 1918 flu never had.

We as human beings are now connected to one another. And we as human beings will move on from this- and get our lives back. When? Who knows. But when they say we are in it together- we truly are. We may be mourning the death of our society as we knew it before, but, very much like the survivors of the 1918 pandemic– we will pick up the broken pieces and move on. And hopefully, we will be a little bit kinder, a little more grateful.

 

 

The Unattainable

We all have something: a person place or thing that lies just out of our reach. So close that you can touch it with your fingertips and yet it’s so far away. And it not that you couldn’t have it- but just that you can’t. You can’t because after all the wishing, work and desire- it is just not meant to be yours. You relish in your mind, the moment that you have it. Even for a little while. You relish the way it makes you feel. The way you imagine yourself in that place where you always wanted to go. Mending a relationship that was shattered. Holding something/someone in your arms that you can almost feel and smell. Hearing words you wanted to hear. All the magic in the world couldn’t change the fact that what you want you may never get. The proverbial “follow your dreams,” just doesn’t happen. It may to some, but not everyone. We all have an unattainable. And there needs to a moment where you take a breath and accept that the journey has gone as far as it can, and its time to let go.

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Xanax and Caffeine

I am really good at introverting. I think I have surpassed the skills required to be an introvert. Wait? How could I be an introvert? After all, I am a performer. I am a professional dancer. I have performed for audiences between 10 and 500. I am also very outspoken. I say how I feel and fight for what is right. So maybe I am extroverted???

Whether introverted or extroverted, I know one thing for certain: I have an anxiety disorder.

I wake up with it. I go to bed with it. I perform with it. I work with it. It’s always there. Anxiety is a part of me. I am not defined by it. However, I do not believe I would be me if I didn’t have it.

Yes. There are days when my anxiety is so bad, its almost impossible to even walk out the door of my house to go to work. There are days when grocery shopping makes my heart race. There are days when I hate driving because my brain keeps telling me something dangerous is going to happen. Do I BELIEVE that something is actually going to happen? No. But anxiety thinks I should believe it. And that is what helps me live my life with anxiety.

Anxiety makes me want to believe that at any moment, the floor is going to fall out. I experienced this daily. But I do not let it control me. When it tells me something it wants me to believe, I have to mentally challenge myself to realize it’s a lie.

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Do I require benzodiazepines? At one time, I thought I did. I was hooked on Ativan. It was my lifeline. I became dependent on it because my anxiety wanted me to believe that if I didn’t take them- then something was going to happen. It took me years (and therapy) to learn how to control my thoughts and feelings. How to talk myself down from panic attacks. Not that I do not have one here or there. I do. And I do have Ativan to help me. However, I only take it when I really need it. When I can’t control my thoughts. And that’s ok.

There are still days when I have to cancel plans last minute or think it’s just to peoplely out there. I know those days will always come. But I have worked hard to recognize when I am able to talk myself down from a panic attack. I have recognized when my anxiety is trying to make me feel scared- and I have learned how to quiet the noise.

Whether I am introverted or extroverted who knows! What I do know is that learning how to live with anxiety so it doesn’t control my life is what is really important.

What IS Happiness?

I have struggled with this question for most of my adult life. What does it really mean to be happy? Is anyone truly happy? Or are we just content? Is happiness a permanent state of mind or is it something that happens in little spurts?

I am not unhappy but I am also not happy. I know that makes zero sense. I am happy right now with my life; however, I am always looking for that “something more.” Maybe it’s just my personality– but I find that things and places get old for me fast.

 I am always looking for the next big adventure, meeting new people, stardownloadting a new hobby and of course, being a life long learner. And all while I am chasing this idea of happiness- I am also craving stability and normalcy. I am seeking happiness in just being content with myself and my life. 

I often find myself jealous of people who seem content in their lives. Married, with a family in a little home and jobs they love. What is that like? But then I have to question– are they really happy?

What defines happiness?

Money? Love? A home? A job? Marriage? or is happiness something much more? Do we trick ourselves into believing that happiness are all the things we are supposed to have and want in life? Or is happiness just something we occasionally experience? Is true happiness deeper or spiritual? 

And is anyone really happy?

A Road For the Spirit to Pass Over

As most of you know, I consider all people with mental illness part of my Tribe. Suffering from a major depressive disorder and anxiety–I know the pain of the darkness. With love, support, therapy and psychiatric assistance–I have been able to move past those dark days. But some in my Tribe cant. And while its not always the case, most people in our Tribe have suicidal ideations….We think about the “S” word—often–but doesn’t mean we would do it….Some people have no idea what that’s like. During my last bout in the dark, when my meds stopped working, I was thinking about what it would feel like to just not wake up. I am open about my illness. I don’t pretend and I refuse to hide it. I am open to everyone about my battle. I am not ashamed. Now I am new meds and starting that fun roller coaster ride again……..

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Sadly, while the majority *think* about suicide in our veil of darkness–some in our Tribe find it the only way out of the shadows. When a member of our Tribe dies—whether it be by their own hand, natural causes or whatever else–it hurts us all. When a member of our Tribe, whether we knew them personally, whether they were famous or our neighbor, departs this realm, all of us in the Tribe feel it differently than those who don’t suffer. We get it. We really get it. We have been there.

I will say this though, I do not believe suicide is a selfish act.  I believe its an act of desperation. When you cant see beyond the veil. Nothing forward. Nothing back. Just a wall. I never blame the person who commits suicide.

In 2011 a coworker, who seemed so happy, left work early, went home, and shot himself. I remember the grief counselor coming in to talk to us. My coworkers all sat around the conference table and everyone had to talk about how his suicide made them feel. I was the only person who said I was angry. While everyone said how selfish he was, how he did not matter anymore.  I was angry–I said it was because it did not need to happen if people were not so afraid to talk about mental illness to begin with. If my coworker didn’t feel ashamed–if when you asked him, “how are you” — and he gave a real answer–not just one to end the conversation–he may never have made that choice.  My other coworkers didn’t quite get that. When I said that I had tried to kill myself when I was 14, they all gave me that judgmental “she’s a crazy” look.

I am going to state these statements–and they are based purely on my own feelings and thoughts towards suicide and mental illness:

1. Suicide is not selfish: Nor can it be ignored. People who take their own lives do so because they see no other option. Suicide is part of a much larger picture. Suicide isn’t something somebody does because “so and so” needed attention. Actually suicide doesn’t need to even occur. If the stigma about talking about your feelings wasn’t so blatantly destroyed in this society, less people would feel the only way out was taking their own life.

2. Suicidal talk is not just talk: If someone says, “I am thinking about ending my life,” the WRONG response is “well don’t talk about it, just do it.” When I told friends when I was in high school that I wanted to end it all–that was the response I got. Looking back-they were not my friends. The CORRECT response would be, “lets go and talk.”

3. Don’t blame the person: Blame the society we live in. Back in the 1800’s, people in my tribe were locked up in asylums and never spoken about. Why? Simple. Self preservation. How horrible would it be if Mrs. Smith divulged that her daughter was locked away in a “looney bin”? What a shame it would bring about on the family! So in the act of self preservation, our Tribe has to be made to feel like outcasts. Keep our feelings in less be judged. If a person decides to take their own life—its because they felt there was no one or no place to turn to. Imagine what that loneliness feels like.

4. No one dies in vain: I truly and honestly believe that death–any death–happens for a reason. Whether a still born baby–an elderly person from natural causes–a murder victim–and a suicide victim. The Universe does not take away without giving back--even if that giving back is hard lesson. And with suicide, most times, the lesson is about the stigma surrounding mental illness.

5. Don’t scurry around the issue: Nothing pisses me off more than when I hear: “X was going through a divorce so X was feeling really depressed,” “X had a severe drinking problem and went to rehab because X was depressed,” “X’s friend is in therapy so X just wants attention,” “X just moved to a new school so X didn’t feel like they fit in.” Lets not skip around the issue. All of those “things” X was going through—-the key word is X was DEPRESSED. It has nothing to do with mommy and daddy issues, the wife bailing and taking the dog, the asshole boss. Depression, believe it or not, typically has NOTHING to do with what is outside the person. Being put in a new situation, life stress, drinking, divorce–those can exacerbate the depression–but major depression, just like most mental illnesses are biological. People in my tribe cant help what they feel. Its like your happy as hell–your life is amazing–but your brain is telling you the opposite. Imagine a constant tug of war between your brain and your heart. Rationalism and non-rationalism. All the time. Non-stop. We cant rationalize what our brain is telling us otherwise because somewhere–our brain chemistry is on overdrive.

6. (I am going to take heat for this) There is no cure for mental illness: We can have studies up the wall. We can make members of our tribe human lab rats. But the truth is, Big Pharma knows it racking in the dollars–hell I am participating in their gas guzzling pill creating industry every time I pick up my Celexa, Valium, Ativan and Wellbutrin. Just like AIDS and cancer–if there is a cure—we will never know. Big Pharma likes the money they can make from our tribe. Whether we want to admit it or not. And Big Pharma’s know, that every drug they make–if it works–at some point people will be desperate enough to drop thousands of dollars on a medicine their insurance will not cover because its “experimental” ~ so what is the CURE. TALK. OPENNESS. When someone asks “how are you feeling”—REALLY give them an answer. Not just “I am fine.” No. Say, “I am depressed and I need to talk.” And if they really care, and if they really want to help break the stigma…….then they will listen.

No one needs to be the next Freud or Jung. All they need to do is LISTEN. Break the stigma by learning how to ACTIVELY LISTEN to how someone is feeling–don’t jump in and tell them “get over it, its ok,” or “your life is perfect.” No. 

Just Listen.

I am writing this post obviously, because of the passing of Robin Williams…a member of my Tribe. May he open the roads for the spirits to pass over……

Time for change is NOW.

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Stop the Stigma: We EXIST!

Have to say, I am really numb/hurt/angry/pissed at hearing about the death of Robin Williams. It hits close to home. I have depression.  He was a member of my TRIBE. In my darkest moments I cant say that suicide never crossed my mind. I had a co-worker commit suicide a few years ago–he had depression. He never talked about. I am angry. Not because he killed himself-that was not his fault. I never blame people who kill themselves. Its an act of hopelessness. No. I am angry because people are to ashamed to talk about being mentally ill for fear of judgment. Because jokes like “stop acting bipolar” or “you’re such a schizo” or calling someone a “psycho”—-or comments like “get over it”- “you have a good life,” ~ “take that little pill to calm you down” ~ are the reason why people who suffer from depression wont talk.

If someone has cancer-no one makes jokes. No one tells them to cheer up. But if someone has depression–well, damn–“just take your meds,” “you are such much better on your new meds,” ~ who would say that to someone with cancer???? No one. So why say it to someone who is mentally ill? Here is thought for the day…Just because you cant physically see an illness, doesn’t mean someone isn’t suffering from one.

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Maybe people need to stop acting like mental illness doesn’t exist because they cant see it. Or because talking about it is “shameful” to family and friends. Because you know what–we feel it. We feel it in the pain, the sadness, the darkness…and we keep it hidden. We keep it hidden because people are to afraid to talk about. Well……..lets talk…….Lets start talking so more talented amazing people in this world don’t have to resort to taking their life because its to shameful to talk about. Its not the 1800’s anymore where “crazy” folk get locked away and forgotten.

No. We are are real. We are here. So stop acting like we don’t exist. Acknowledge that your friend, sister, brother, mother, daughter, father etc. has a mental illness. Lets start the conversation. Now.