Tag Archives: suicide

I Fought Depression & Won. I Was Lucky.

It’s #BellLetsTalk day and while I hate giving free advertising to a company, it’s a day that does inspire a lot of conversation, and for that reason I feel obligated to say my part.

My feeling “obligated” to share my mental illness battles stems from being someone who’s been through both biological and situational depressions and who knows first-hand how hard it is to climb out of that, but that it’s possible (for some).

These days, I still get angry at people who suggest depression is a matter of discipline and keeping your appointments. “Oh, do X, Y, Z, and talk about crap with a professional, and you’ll be tickety-boo.” Right. As if.

Sunset in a cemetery.

Sunset in a cemetery. By Me.

Sometimes There’s A Reason

I know now, from this early-greying side of 40, that many of my mental issues probably stem from the fact that I had four concussions in the decade prior to a traumatic brain injury. I don’t know that I’ll ever walk away from anxiety and mood-swings completely. Maybe that’s a part of me now. It’s been 11 years since my head injury, but I’ve had leg bruises take 6 months to heal, so who knows about the brain, right?

I do know that I’ve overcome the worst of it. It’s like finding your legs at sea –a new normal can be found where one realizes their ups/downs and the triggers thereof.

Sayings like “knowing is half the battle” become truisms for a reason. Knowledge changes everything, particularly in the mental health battle.

It was life-changing the day I learned that some 80% of TBI sufferers go on to experience serious depressions in the decade following their traumatic brain injury. It really was life-changing, on a #BellLetsTalk day, no less. Two years ago.

In Good Will Hunting, here’s a scene where Matt Damon keeps getting told by Robin Williams that “it’s not your fault,” and Damon doesn’t get it until he “gets it,” and then he breaks down in tears.

This wasn’t quite like that, but finding out there was probably a physical cause for how I got so very fucked up, it was so empowering and disarming. It wasn’t my fault. I was “injured.” Until then, I didn’t realize how much I had always blamed myself for my depression.

But it really isn’t my fault. It isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s not our fault that science can’t explain these things better, or that we’re only really now studying the brain and making advances.

What if There’s Always Been a Cause?

I’ve seen news recently too where medical experts are beginning to wonder if there can be a bacterial cause or infectious disease behind the growing spectre of depression. There is evidence that this is potentially true. What if it’s a “bug” you caught as a kid that’s made you depressed all your life? What if it really can be “cured”? This is an amazing idea.

It’s also a dangerous one to latch onto. Depression is such an insidious beast that easy antidotes are a cruel tease. False hope can literally be a killer.

For me, I know now to expect lethargy, anxiety, depression, overeating, overdrinking, and every other negative under the sun when I’m enduring the short days of a Canadian winter. I’m one of the 20% for whom “SAD” could be a very serious affliction. So much so that my heart sings at the idea of being a nomad next winter and taking off to the south of Spain in January. Oh, yes. Positively giddy concept, that.

The Road Back

Reprieve will always excite me, even if it’s just me running away to a Spanish winter.

I’ve been through hell and back on the inside of my brain. It’s just a thing. That’s depression for you. For those of us who’ve come through to the other side, life is a surreal and powerful experience. Sometimes overcoming depression can be as simple as a decision, but those are the lucky and the few who enjoy that choice.

I often have moments when I look around the world and know it’s largely the same when I’m happy as when I’m depressed, and I’m all too aware of just how dramatically differently your brain can process things, and sometimes by fluke of chemistry or just seasonal weather. It’s astonishing once you see both sides.

For most, the road back from depression is an inexplicably personal journey, one that cannot be replicated, faked, or mass produced. For most, there is no easy answer, no one-size-fits-all trick. For most, it is a grueling, tiresome, troubling, exhausting journey where two steps forward come with one step back, but eventually, if lucky, they succeed.

Happiness, it turns out, is a process of elimination in which one of many factors is simply luck.

And if folks don’t succeed on their “road back,” they sometimes end up like Robin Williams, at the wrong end of a rope.

That’s depression for you.

Use Your Words

Whatever it is we don’t understand about the brain and its chemistry, the one thing we do know is that, for some baffling reason, just using your words, opening your mouth, and saying something to someone, anyone, can sometimes be the thing that saves your life.

It saved mine in August, 2006 when I called a psychiatrist and said I was scared for what I might do to myself that day. Because I was terrified of the “what if” that afternoon.

Since then, I’ve never again felt that kind of hopelessness. Never again. Never, really.

And I think that’s a potential outcome for many people who today might feel there is no future or hope. Maybe they just need to open up and admit they’ve never been lower than now, to tell someone, anyone, and start that journey. Maybe that’s all it will require.

“Hey, it’s a start” has never had as much potential as it does when you put a name to the unthinkable beast that’s been keeping you down.

Trust me. Knowing really is half the battle. Put a name to your beast. Then get your fight on. You can do this. I did.

In Which I Stop and Think About The Week

For days now I’ve been trying to put my new book to bed. It’s now the conversion for Amazon formats posing the problem and I’ll have to deal with more kerfuffling on it until nightfall — except work and real life have to be in the way first.

I find, sometimes, that the most worthwhile ventures are the most difficult ones to finish off. Little conundrums keep coming up, as if to poke you and prod you and ask “How badly do you really want it? Huh? Bad?”

A friend recently filed for divorce and her papers came back from court with an “error” that prevented processing — 6 months after she filed. My thoughts then were that life was giving her the opportunity to say “Yes, this divorce is REALLY what I need,” whereas six months ago she was probably pleased to file but somewhere deep down inside was hesitating.

Fraught with delays, I find myself with the same kind of second thoughts. I’m more confident in my book now, more agitated about it finding an audience, and more ready than ever to take the next step and begin another one anew.

That certainty and determination can escape us for a while, but when teased with interference from external forces, we get truly motivated and confident about it being what we want.

So that much I know, and for that reason I’m trying to take deep breaths and accept that this is all part of what just needs to go down before I can rise up and face something new.

Weirdly, in the end these delays may offer me another advantage. After all, when’s the last big-bad-news week you’ve seen on this scale? It only happens once or twice a year that a week seems to tumble all over itself with bad news. Robin Williams is dead, Ferguson is inflaming, and people seem collectively distracted, hurting, and angry.

It’s a sad, sorrowful week and the focus deserves to be on these matters, not on little me and my book. I’d feel like an asshole marketing myself in the midst of all that’s going on in the world right now, so if this buys me a few days before the big new release, then so be it. I know I’d rather pay my respects to the dead and distraught this week.

***

I’ve been avoiding the topic of Robin Williams because I really don’t want to consciously “go there” much, but I guess that’s the point of the mental health discussions that have ensued.

I think sometimes about being an introvert, and as much as I love honouring that side of myself, I know it often is as unhealthy as it is healthy. That’s the price of it. Every passing year I tell myself I’ll find a truer balance between being alone and being social, but I still default to my party-of-one mode that feels most comfortably.

Then I hear about someone like Robin Williams and I wonder how much healthier his soul would’ve been had he just been able to take more time alone — because how much time alone can a world-famous family man have?

Today we’re learning he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and it all makes a little more sense to me, why he’s gone now. I imagine there are fewer things in the world that make you do battle with yourself more aggressively than Bipolar Disorder and Parkinson’s, and now he was to be dealing with both. I can imagine the desolation and worry that would come from such an ominous double-dose of mental affliction. I can understand why there might be a night or a morning when it would be all too easy to say “I give up.”

The day after his death, I was scrolling through Facebook and someone posted an image that said “Share this if you would stay up all night to talk someone out of suicide.”

And I didn’t share it. Not because I wouldn’t stay up all night for a friend who needed it, but because I understand suicide in a way that is not readily understood by most people. Having been in the position where I thought nothing could ever improve and that I could never care about life again, I get that feeling.

The difference is, I was only 32 and it’s far, far too young an age to just give up. Eight years later, I’ve significantly increased my income, increased my satisfaction with life, moved to a new city, and have a book about to be sold on Amazon. I’ve really turned things around, and would I have known then what would be here today, it would’ve made it easier to believe the page could turn.

But for someone 63, had lived an incredible life, wasn’t just depressed but bipolar and felt constantly out of control, who then got a diagnosis of Parkinson’s… Gosh, all I could say would be “I understand and hope you stick around to fight things for a while… but… I understand.”

Suicide is sometimes not “killing yourself” but instead opting into euthanasia. If you support euthanasia for ALS or something, then you should also understand suicide as a reaction to long-term despondency and depression. They’re both about ending a life consumed with pain.

And they’re both terribly tragic, but they’re both harder on the person left behind. It’s not about “giving up the fight,” it’s about choosing when to end a fight that’s not going to have a winner.

In the end, I’m thankful we had Robin Williams’ genius in the world. He was a voice of a generation, and I feel like this Time article was exactly bang-on.

But when the most unique voice of his age, the best physical comedian alive, and one of the biggest hearts in the world feels like it’s all over… well, it’s his show, his curtains.

I hope his legacy looms large. I hope we have learned more about ourselves. I hope we all share a bit more, laugh a little harder, and love a little longer. Those were lessons he exemplified.

Depression isn’t a CHOICE, People.

This post was in response to something that has now been removed from the web. The author of the original post, Mary Rose, in comments below has asked that this similarly get removed. While I understand why she thinks post is “hateful,” I respectfully disagree — this is an angry post, and anger was an understandable reaction to what was originally written, from my perspective.

I’m also of the belief that we NEED discussion about these things, and Mary Rose isn’t the first person to maybe be a little quick-worded in writing about something daunting like depression, and therefore I will not be removing this post.

This post should be seen as a snapshot of what someone’s mental process is after reacting to something they take the wrong way.

Anger isn’t hate. It’s a justifiable emotion, and, yeah, I was angry when I wrote this. It doesn’t mean I wish Mary Rose harm, or that I disrespect HER. I took issue with her words, and that’s clear here, I felt. The comments are where to disagree with me, of course.

Times like this are when we learn what kind of reach our language choices have — and LOTS of people are guilty of telling people to cheer up when depressed, whether they mean it as flippantly as it sounds, or not, and it’s to ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE this posting is directed. Thanks for reading.

***

So, I started my Saturday wanting to drop-kick someone for a post they wrote in which they asserted depression was a choice and one could just happily choose to move on.

Know how I know someone’s never experienced REAL depression?

When they tell you to move on, to “choose” a better attitude, to buck up and deal. C’mon, everybody! GET HAPPY! Let’s watch the Partridge Family and have a love-in!

Here’s an image for you. Tortured guy goes through life dealing with endless depression, finally decides being unhappy to his very core is literally too painful to endure anymore, and kills himself. Let’s say there is a St. Peter and some Pearly Gates. Suicided Dude shows up there, and St. Pete goes, “What the hell are you doing? You coulda just CHOSEN to stop being depressed. Wow. Waste of life there, selfish dick.”

And Suicided Dude’s jaw drops, and he goes, “WHAT? I coulda JUST STOPPED being depressed? Why the fuck didn’t anyone tell me it was like putting on pants? JUST DON’T DO IT? Who knew? Aw, man. Don’t I feel like a dumbass. The next 40 years mighta ROCKED.”

Right. Sounds pretty fucking dumb, doesn’t it?

That’s never gonna happen. Why?

BECAUSE DEPRESSION ISN’T A CHOICE.

Here’s what Hippy Guru Writer says about “leaving depression behind” in this blog post:

Depression is manifested anger and fear. An extension of the above. Take Usana multivitamins, Univera cell renewal, and exercise for fun. Do it alone if you feel like everyone thinks you’re a loser. Get out of your stale mindset. Enjoy the space inside of yourself and tell the demons inside that they are not welcome there anymore. Tell the part of you that doesn’t believe in you that while you appreciate its special, non verbal brand of tough love, you’re renting all the space inside of you out to new tenants. These new tenants are all the magnificent, hidden, scared, doubtful parts of you that have been beaten down by the giant called depression. Tell it to leave you now. You do not need it to sit on your face anymore.

MULTI-VITAMINS? Really? 30 push-ups? Insta-glee? “Yo, demons! Get outta my space! Hasta la sayonara, BADDY!” What the fuck?

I’d just tell her to fuck off but she’d tell me I’m manifesting my anger and fear. Which, actually, I kind of am.

Namaste. Hakuna matata. Awimbaway!

Image 'Depression' by David Baldinger. Source: http://www.dbaldinger.com/drawings/depression.html. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Generic

Here’s the deal. I’ve been down the depression road and back again. In my descents into darkness, there are a few things I’ve gleaned to be true.

(Reminder: I’m some chick sitting cross-legged on the floor in boxers as I write this, and not a trained professional who bled money for a degree to learn about psychotherapy. Mm-kay?)

Anyhoo. I’ve learned there seems to be both SITUATIONAL and BIOLOGICAL depressions. Now, situational is when it kinda makes sense that you’re down over a long period of time.

Maybe you’ve lost a job, got dumped, shattered your leg when skiing, have creditors chasing you down and no prospects, or maybe you had your mother die. Whatever. Being depressed then not only makes sense, it’s part of being human, and it’s a necessary journey for our growth. It’s not a DEFECT to be ignored and leap-frogged over, it’s a natural situational depression that means our soul’s hurting a little. It may be treated with chemicals, diet, and/or exercise, and that can take the edge off and make fighting one’s way back easier. It still takes a long time to do right.

Biological depressional, however, is a total beast and the reason why it can lead to suicide is because your chemistry overtakes logic, emotion, and everything else. It’s being under a black cloth and not knowing how to find your way out. At its darkest, it is a living hell that isolates you from your dreams, family, friends, and every aspect of your life. Your anger and hopelessness catastrophically cut you off from everything and everyone.

The most insidious part of depression is how it can take over and you’re so incredibly in the dark you don’t even realize it’s an illness. It’s been nearly 6 years since a chemical depression brought me to the brink of suicide, thanks to bad-ass birth control pills I was on that caused an imbalance in me.

The idea of that EVER happening again is terrifying because I had absolutely no control over this darkness that was consuming me for the first 4 months. It was a horrifying descent to the brink of madness for me, and I thank my lucky stars I got past it.

But then assholes like this Hippy Guru Writer come along, who think they’re being helpful for depressed people by going, “Come on, Skippy! You can do it! Just a little hill, and we’ll have climbed right on outta Unhappyville, boys and girls! YAY, HAPPY-CHOICE TIME!”

And do you know what that does to someone who’s actually clinically, biologically depressed? It increases the self-loathing, hopelessness, and frustration, because they remember the 287 times they have gone to bed at night telling themselves it would be better in the morning, promising that they would get up, “do everything right” and have a great day. Then, they get up, a trigger happens, and they’re fighting tears and hyperventilating, just because work beckons in 45 minutes and they need to “pretend” again.

So, on behalf of everyone who’s currently being crushed by depression, I’d like to tell you to fuck right off if you think you’re a part of the solution by telling someone to “get a grip” and move on. They don’t have the objectivity to do it for themselves, thanks to people like you and whatever chemistry’s at fault.

Luckily, I’ve fought depression on both the chemical and situational fronts, and I can tell you it’s as different as summer and winter. In my situational depressions, occasionally things transpire that I find fun and enjoyable, I might even have a whole day or week that’s good, and those are the natural highs/lows of a system that’s functioning properly despite suffering a recent blow the mind needs to heal from.

In my one chemical-based depression based in imbalance, it got darker and darker so that no light entered my life at all. I tried to think my way out of it, do things to cheer myself up, but it often backfired and became worse because it meant I really TRIED, only to FAIL AGAIN, so it perpetuated the feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness that define true depression.

Of course, being unable to “cheer” myself up then had nothing to do with failure at all — that was the nature of the illness. It took two years to undo, but I did it — with the help of medication, exercise, diet, and great friends around me. There was no one cure. There usually isn’t.

The last year and a bit, I’ve been in a mild situational depression because I knew I was unhappy, and I couldn’t figure out what part of my life was the problem. But that’s not actually a situational depression — it’s just being plain old unhappy, indicating change is needed.

I can’t tell you how many times I tried to “think” myself out of my situational grumpiness, either. There are times when thinking one’s self out of a mood works, but when there are actual causes and those causes haven’t been mitigated, choosing “happy” isn’t usually enough. Sometimes, you actually need to change a lot in your life, and that’s not always an option — especially not in this economy, which has given a lot of people reason to be depressed and scared.

You may think you’re giving depressed people a pep talk, but in actuality, you’re likely part of the problem.

Here’s an idea. Be quiet. Listen. Ask them if they need to talk, and just listen. Sometimes, there are no solutions. Sometimes, it just takes a while of hangin’ on, holdin’ out, and hoping. And most of us do those things in different ways, whether you approve or not.

But if all it took was a decision, they would’ve fucking solved life a while ago. Mm-kay?

Don’t just get off your high horse, shoot it. Please.

Office Life: Thar Be Meanies

In Virginia, there’s an esteemed literary magazine called The Virginia Quarterly Review.

There, an editor has committed suicide, and the Review has been shut down amid a new investigation that the suicide was as a result of workplace bullying and harassment.

I found the story fascinating on a couple levels.

Photographer unknown.

One, there’s a strange perception, I think, that these sort of things don’t happen in intellectual/cultural offices, and I think this sheds light on the reality that people can be mean fuckers whatever their aesthetic tastes.

Two, it continues the realization I’ve had since reading William Styron’s Darkness Visible years ago — that is, to be literary is to be predisposed to depression and potentially suicidal tendencies. The “Overthinky Syndrome” comes on something fierce when one is closely aligned with literary pursuits.

Three, I don’t think we really give enough weight to mental health on the job when it comes to the people around us.

A few years ago, as I was descending into the darkest depression I’ve ever had, I was working at an office where I felt put down and distrusted daily. It was a very difficult environment to work in, but I had no choice, I’d run out of employment insurance and had to take something.

Given my declining emotional state, I didn’t really trust my feelings — maybe I just felt like shit. Maybe I was misreading the things said and done around the office.

One day I was sorting through papers and found legal documents relating to a case involving one of the company’s principals and the province’s labour board. Apparently there were allegations of psychological abuse by the company’s principal, made by former employees.

I suddenly felt a little vindicated. It wasn’t just me, this person actually was kind of mean and cruel.

A year later, I was working for another employer who would mentally beat me down now and then because I wasn’t sacrificing myself for the job like she was. (I don’t own the company, woman, and I was told it was 9-5, not 55 hours a week, and I was getting paid for 40. Liars.)

I know what it’s like to have the opposite kind of bosses, too.

I’ve had a lot of employers who’ve been people who stopped me from doing negative self-talk, who told me how valued I was. I’ve had a lot of luck working for good people.

There’s a world of difference between going to that kind of job, where a bad mood is just part of life’s occasional fluctuations, versus one of the jobs where I’d be lucky to make it through a day without some mocking, blaming, or guilting kind of assault happening, where a bad mood would spiral into dread about returning the next day, and more dread about enduring five full days in a row with no escape.

One of the reasons I want to be self-employed is, the good people I was working for are in a precarious part of the film industry and job security is a thing of the past. I’m pushing 40. I could’ve handled that uncertainty in my 20s, but I can’t anymore.  I can rely on myself, though.

Another is, my last experience looking for work landed me in both of the above jobs, and I do blame both experiences in part for the depression I then spiralled into.

I also credit them with making me ANGRY enough to change my life.

But some people don’t get to reach angry.

Some people get beaten down day after day, told they’re stupid, useless, and lucky to even be employed. Management puts hurdles before them they’ll never overcome, and the economy ensures more hurdles.

The hopelessness of being stuck in jobs like that, in the face of an economic climate like we have now, it makes sense it’d be driving people to suicide.

And our dearly departed editor? Well, there’s not really a growing market for literary review editors, is there? If he felt trapped, if the university was looking the other way on complaints just to avoid controversy, if daily badgering and emotional assaults were happening, if he was your typical overly-analytical literary genius, then… tragically, it does compute.

Workplace bullying is as bad as childhood bullying, if not worse.

At least when you’re a kid there are potential adult figures who might ride in and save you from bullies.

When you’re an adult, there’s a veneer of judgment that comes with admitting you’re being bullied at work. Most reactions are along the lines of “Suck it up” or “It’s just a job” or “Hey, just three days till Friday! Chin up!”

When a job becomes your jail, you try shrugging it off. One can logically think “Oh, it’s just a paycheque”, but there’s a toxicity that comes from being exposed to these people on a day-in, day-out basis.

Like a river can passively wear down even the strongest of rocky terrain, just running over the same ground day after day, so too can a person’s soul and spirit erode.

When I quit the job that had me working daily for six months just 10 feet away from the most toxic, negative, and belittling woman I’ve ever known, it took me more than a year to start finding the positivity and hope in myself again — the things I said were just nothing like the person I used to be. That negativity changed who I was.

And I’m a pretty strong chick.

That was six months, just six months of being broken down by intimidation and judgment and belittling.

What about others? How far does that daily treatment go, how much worse does it become over time? How deeply does it seep?

This kind of treatment isn’t business as usual.

It shouldn’t be overlooked.

Employees should have greater rights about how they can expect to be treated, especially if they’re performing good work and delivering results. (Some useless fuckheads who don’t care about their jobs or quality could use a little yelling at, but all within reason.)

If this was just another unhappy Wal-Mart or McDonald’s or city-sanitation type job, the story would’ve been dismissed. “I’d commit suicide if I had that job, too — har-har.”

But all this guy had to do was read and write for a living. These were literary people, they had soul and the ability to communicate well.

And yet, here we are.

Cruelty and harassment knows no boundaries. There is no class distinction. Intelligence isn’t immune to meanness.

We’re supposed to be a kinder, gentler society. Maybe now we can stop with the lip-service and get on with the reality of being better than our predecessors.

Kurt Cobain, Still Dead

16 years ago today, Kurt Cobain put a bullet in his brain and robbed us all of everything that spoke to MY generation at a time when we were so fucking confused about what mattered.

We were tired of the fluff and pop of the ’80s, sickened by the everlasting everywhereness of the Oliver Stone Wall Street mentality and the increasing loss of meaning in the modern world.

Then there they were — Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder… specifically Kurt.

Cutting through the bullshit, discarding the pretty-boy rock images that commandeered ’80s MTV, throwing down their rage and speaking to the discontent that’d been hidden by pop-hooks and plastic performances for too long now, the posterboys of the grunge-rock movement gave the establishment the finger and we roared in approval as we lined up in droves for Lollapalooza and other epic events of festival rock that brought us all together for bodysurfing, moshing, and community.

What made Nirvana’s brand of electric-pop grunge-rock so eponymous for my generation was that it could BE EVERYTHING all at once — it could be funny, hard, soft, loud, bouncy, moody, angry, and exuberant simultaneously. It was OUR existential noise put to a bouncy beat, and it GOT us. It took our insides and folded it out, and made it fun to act out and scream along to.

Few bands can push the cathartic-heart-restart button for me like Nirvana. Maybe the Replacements or the Butthole Surfers… but nobody put a finger on it like Nirvana did, and I still feel robbed today. ROBBED. Robbed, motherfucker.

Fucking hell. I’d like to beat depression and addiction to death with a tire iron for all the people and things it has robbed me of in life, and Kurt Cobain makes that list.

I’d like to say we’ve made lots of advances in the areas of addiction and death since news of Cobain’s death sent everyone in my age group (I was 20) into a depressive funk for days — even non-fans who felt he somehow had a message worth hearing that encapsulated why our generation felt so lost, even if they weren’t into him…

I’d like to say we’ve made advances, but we haven’t. We’re going backwards — losing more soul, losing style, losing voice, losing control.

Just today are reports that more people than ever before are overdosing on prescription drugs. We’re oblivioning ourselves to death. It’s so tragically ironic. Where’s our Kurt Cobain for today? Who’s trying to snap our apathy now?

For me, Nirvana woke me up about how having more than one emotion at one time could be all right, even be a good thing, that life could be felt in different ways at any moment. I could be happy and angry, glad but resentful. I could be overjoyed but despondent. I could just feel it all. I was human and it was how we rolled — Kurt Cobain said so.

And his death? I was 20. He was my Lennon, man. I remember where I was, I remember hoping it was another hoax.

Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.

~Kurt Cobain

My friends and I suddenly dreaded aging — 27 was the age of death now. Him, Morrison, Hendrix — all dead at 27. But Cobain was different from the others.

Cobain gave up. It wasn’t just stupidity, it was a shotgun blast. It was a willful choice that life was too much. This unassuming anti-hero we all put our hopes in, blam. Gone, dead, done. He was our voice and he just fucked off.

We had hopes for Cobain. He was like that fucked-up friend with incredible soul that you know is a beautiful person through to the core, and even in their sadness a soft sunlight pours from their insides.

Cobain was kinda like that, the tragically-beautiful big-hearted broken-souled rebel we all understood in a small way, who spoke of beauty while ripping at his existential scabs, who mostly fucked up but sometimes didn’t and THAT was awesome? Kurt was THAT guy.

Lennon was stolen by a madman.

Cobain was taken by madness.

In nearly 30 years, we’ve done nothing to change the isolation and hopelessness felt by those with mental illness. The lonely are alone by design, even now. Increasingly, now.

Medication is doled out by the fistfuls because it’s easier to mask the symptoms than it is to solve them. To solve them would be to admit that everything about our modern life — the pace, the technology, the goals, the ambition — is a sham. We can’t have that. Not now. We’re so awesomely tech-dependent that we can’t possibly admit it might not be helpful to us on some deeply emotional/spiritual level.

Technology didn’t solve your life, so, here, this pill can help you — and if that pill doesn’t work, take this pill, but don’t worry about turning in those other not-working pills, and never mind about all those processed foods you’re eating or the lack of life you live, or the fact that you think your Wii exercises you. Don’t worry about solving what really ails you — turn on Glee and take this pretty pink pill and enjoy that tasty beverage, because nothing really matters anyhow. Hey, is that a text message? Hold that thought.

We ARE the soulless society Kurt Cobain railed against… times ten. We’re so empty and vapid as we all walk distractedly through our days that Cobain’s existence seems almost a cutesy little ironic footnote in my generation’s life.

WE rebelled against it all and now we’re the expense-account smart-phone motherfuckers micromanaging our lives in a desperate attempt at the illusion of power over a very real powerlessness. We want to pretend we control our lives. It’s all a sham, but it’s one that’s just so PRETTY, and LOOK it’s so SHINY.

I’m 36. I’m not a rebel these days, per se, but I sure as shit didn’t drink the social Kool-aid yet, either. I’m not the anti-establishment type some still are, but I’m enough of one that I’m a little more broken-hearted on this anniversary.

Even today, I don’t fit squarely on the right or left, but I speak truth to power and I don’t hide behind or excuse-away my ideas.

I own how I feel, I put it out there and I don’t apologize for it. I say it like it is so SOMEONE hears what oughta be said, or at least I know I tried to speak the truth to power.

I’d like to think much of who I am ideologically comes from those early heroes I had — especially the rock’n’roll types, ones who made me realize being multi-faceted wasn’t a contradiction in terms — it was a lesson in humanity.

Cobain taught me, along with a few other antiheroes of mine, that my emotions and my anger were an important part of who I am, that they drove the art I wanted to create, that they made me a more complete person than I was when I lived under the veneer of good’n’happy little citizen. They taught me that my word choices were my weapons, and I could be more at one time than I thought I could be.

Yeah. I still feel robbed. And I’m angry Cobain’s death feels in vain. I’m angry I have so little of him to draw on after all the years that have passed — that I’ve grown in my world-view and never got to see Kurt do that in his.

Some small part of who I am today, though, was in large a part of what Nirvana tried to do. And I thank them for that contribution.

Fuck you, depression and addiction.  Fuck you hard.

RIP, David Foster Wallace:Some Thoughts on Suicide & Depression

David Foster Wallace committed suicide this weekend. 46. Hung himself.

The guy had made a career out of being brilliantly insightful and funny. Yet he somehow ended up on the dark side from which suicide seems the only out.

I’ve tried to write about depression over the last couple of years, because I know a fair bit about what it feels like to be on the wrong side of it. I’ve lived with others who’ve been suicidal. I understand depression in a whole slew of ways.

I’m on the other side of it these days, and think I’ll stay on the other side a while yet. I still struggle with being all happy-sunshiney, because, let’s face it, that works for demure screen sirens of old, but for the rest of us on Planet Earth in the here-and-now, happiness not some ubiquitous state we tap into with the flick of a finger or a “Hey, I know!” notion in the morning, as much as Dale Carnegie wants you to believe happiness is always a choice.

Even now, the quasi-adversities that pepper my life temper my glee-factor something fierce, but that’s humanity for you. I’m in touch with my moody glory. I can often think my way into better moods, though, as much as I like to mock the notion.

I mock it because depression is when the ability for levity and “opting out” of moods takes its leave.

“Real” depression is a whole ‘nother beast than the “normal” depression. I can shake my depressions these days because they’re just that: normal. I know it might all be better again tomorrow. I know bad days are just part of the mix, just like finding surprise bad produce in the midst of your seemingly selectively-chosen product when you get home from the veggie store. Shit happens.

But not to severely depressed people. Even trying to “think” your way out of it doesn’t work. I wrote this posting on August 15th, 2006. What you don’t see is, that even though I talked a good game on the night of the 15th, the 16th became the first and only time in my life that suicide seemed like a good choice. There was a point in the day when I came apart. I came wholly apart. I worked alone in my office that day and had a complete breakdown to the point that I had an “emergency” call placed to me by my old therapist I hadn’t spoken to in years. A 45-minute conversation talked me down from that fever-pitch of suicidal thoughts, and things were a little better in the morning.

I remember that blackness now, and even thinking about how I got to be from the person I loved earlier that year to the woman I was that day just sends shivers up me still. Because I know, as much as I loathe the easy way out that suicide is, as much as I pride myself on taking on any challenge and usually winning… I know I was ready to give it all up. And I have no idea how I got to that point.

That’s the terrifying thing about depression. When you’re no longer yourself, how can you possibly act in ways that are right for you? When you have no logic, how do you make the logical choice?

Depression isn’t something that occurs to the weak. I’m here to fucking tell you I know more about “surviving” than most people of my age, and I almost didn’t survive my depression, despite having survived so much else in my life.

(As I’ve said in the past: My suicidal depression was as a result of trying to suppress my period through birth control pills. I’m not sure I will ever take birth control again. I still recommend it for the average woman, but believe me I do so with massive caveat emptor attached. However, my life went off the rails at the same time, for what was pretty much the existential “perfect storm”, and perhaps the hormones were just the straw on the existential camel’s back.)

Weak is not a word people ever, ever, ever describe me as in real life. Not in any definition of the word.

Yet somehow the stigma of depression = weakness endures. It’s why I’m so hell-bent on writing about it, because *I* have no stigma about the depressions I’ve had. Why should I?

And someone like David Foster Wallace just inexplicably disappears from the planet one day because he’s committed suicide. Was he depressed? Probably. Maybe we’ll find out. Either way, William Styron’s incredible Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness is something I think any moody creative type should read. The look that brilliant novelist takes at his own suicidal depression and the links he explores, believing his suicidal tendencies perhaps had to do with his creative nature, is something that has stayed with me over the years.

I’m obviously a highly introspective writer. I do it well, it’s my schtick. That said, there are dark and dingy places in the recesses of my mind that require stoicism and fearlessness, but particularly tempering, before I go trekking through them, and I find it healthy to remember just how much toying with the shadows of our psyche can unsettle us at times.

Styron quoted the book of Job from the Bible in the opening of Darkness Visible, and it’s something that anyone who has truly, truly endured depression can understand.

“For the thing I greatly fear is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me. I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.”

~The Book of Job

In depression, the trouble always comes.

Because, when you’re depressed, being around life itself reminds you of everything you once had and feel has now become lost to you. It’s the inability to connect your reality with what your perception is, no matter how much you may be aware that it’s your perspective that’s the problem. It’s like looking at life through a cracked, distorted mirror. No matter how you try to defragment the view, it’s your perception and not the image that is broken.

Depression makes no sense. Suicide can never be understood. Unless, for the briefest of moments, it once seemed to make sense to you.

And even though I had that moment of clarity when “out” seemed better than “in”, I still don’t understand the choice of suicide. I don’t understand how life can make death seem appealing. I don’t understand having the courageous mix of fear and foolishness required to take that easy, all-too-permanent out, since all I had was the notion and not yet the motivation to make it so.

All I really understand about depression is that it’s not about weakness. It’s about something that we as a race still don’t understand, and we still can’t control. But we can at least try to talk about it. We can help remove the stigma that comes with a diagnosis of depression or mood disorders. We can make it easier for people, however brilliant and famous they are, to admit they’re powerless over this thing that’s come from the shadows only to choke all the light.

All I really understand is that it’s a crime, in this age of information and knowledge, that such rampant ignorance and judgment still exists regarding depression.

Because it’s why people like David Foster Wallace often think a rope over a rafter or a bullet in the head is easier than trying to end that chokehold of darkness over their light.