Tag Archives: mental-health

0 Shades of Grey

7 Feb

When I was growing up, my biggest fear was that I would “go crazy” like my aunt, my dad’s sister. I remember hearing that she was schizophrenic which I mistakenly thought meant she had multiple personalities, I knew that she, like my dad, had grown up in an abusive household, my dad had his own demons but he was not abusive. I thought mental illness meant, a lifetime of mental institutions, shock treatments, and existing as little more than a burden to my family.When I reached adulthood without an actual  mental diagnosis, I thought, suck that childhood fears, I’ve got  this in the bag, I’m not crazy. I made it.( In my mind, either I was mentally ill and would live in the darkness or I wasn’t and would live in the light, there was no grey) In mid 2015, I sank to the depths of depression like I never had before, I was contemplating suicide to the point of having a plan. I felt totally overwhelmed by every aspect of my life and I felt like an absolute failure as a mom, as a daughter, as a sister, as a friend and as a human being.  I went to the local psychiatric hospital and told them what I was thinking, during the intake, I thought, this is it, I’ve finally gone crazy, I brought  this on myself, that whole that which you fear the most comes true thing. I deserved this. My life is over, I should just leave and kill myself. Before I had a chance to leave, and while I still had my phone, I sent a couple of texts to people to tell them I would be out of the fray for a few days. They all encouraged me to stay and get help. So I checked myself in and I started inpatient therapy right away. I spoke with several psychiatrists and they started me on Lamictal, a drug used to treat bipolar disorder and within hours, I started to feel shades of grey forming, usually grey is a color associated with dreary or bad things, this time it was a good thing,

I started to feel like, okay, I’m mentally ill, I can learn to live with this, After I was released from the facility, I went to see a therapist and had a group session with several other patients who were in the facility at the same time I was. During the session I told one of the other patients (because I know so much and need to speak instead of the therapist) that he was seeing things very black and white and missing all the shades of grey in the middle. A week later in my individual therapy session, my therapist brought that conversation back up and told me to apply it to a situation I was relaying to her. I was saying that people were either ” all in” or they weren’t  and if they weren’t it was my fault that they weren’t because  I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough and this caused me extreme anxiety, this never being enough thing, but if they were “all in” that wasn’t because of me either, it was because of timing or their own shortcomings, I set myself up in a game I absolutely could not win and I was hurting myself because of it. Once I started to embrace the grey in the middle, that I could be liked because I am wonderful and I am myself,  but they might still not be “all in” and that’s okay.  I abhor when people discuss someone like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and in the middle of talking about all the good things he did, someone chimes in with “but he cheated on his wife”, as if that is first of all our business (unless Coretta Scott King is reading this, it is no business of ours)second of all, like that cancels out all the amazing things he did. I can very clearly see shades of grey when dealing with anybody but myself.  I used big broad strokes to paint myself as a “bad” person. Not as a person who had made some mistakes.

Being comfortable in the grey doesn’t mean being a doormat or being wishy washy, it means seeing the nuances, and listening to and trusting your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, black , white, grey, charcoal, ebony, or eggshell, get out of the situation and don’t feel bad about it

I am mentally ill and to say that doesn’t throw me into an abyss anymore, I have anxiety, I have a lot of coping mechanisms, I will always be a work in progress, I will always need medication and therapy to keep my head above the water and when I visualize myself taking a deep breath in, I still see all the colors of the rainbow but I appreciate the beauty of all the greys.

grey

Fight Like Hell, Baby Girl

13 Aug
Robin Williams

Robin Williams

 

I haven’t written anything on here in ages, and I apologize to my awesome readers for that. I have been writing, just comedy. I have been bitten in the ass by the comedy bug (yeah, sorry about that awful metaphor). When I’m not with my children, I’m either writing comedy, reading books about comedy, or performing comedy. I fell hard, and comedy, she is a cruel mistress (I’m sorry, it appears this post is going to be riddled with awful metaphors).

I have been fortunate in that I have surrounded myself with some amazing comedy mentors. I call the people (sometimes I refer to them as “kids” but not in a derogatory way, more in a I COULD BE THEIR MOM way, but we’ll stick with people) that I have gotten to know through workshops, open mics, actual gigs,  and Facebook posts, my comedy family, and they really are.  I have seen very little of the fabled cattiness that comedians can sometimes exhibit. I have found people who encourage me, nurture me, and have not ONCE made me feel like the oldest person in the room…and I am almost ALWAYS the oldest person in the room.

When Robin Williams took his own life, there was a collective gasp of disbelief across the internet. I, like many other people I imagine, first heard of his death on Facebook. I was actually practicing a set and was using my phone to record it. When I finished listening to myself, I clicked over to Facebook and was absolutely shocked at post after post proclaiming Robin Williams had died, apparent suicide. Immediately I got it.  I understood. I have always had a firm grasp on what drives my need to make others laugh. Classic case of chubby girl making the obvious joke before anybody else did. I have since embraced my body, but the need to make people laugh before they discover that I’m actually really boring, or stupid, or any number of other things that creep into my psyche on my darkest nights, lives on.

I’ve known days that were so dark it was almost impossible to see any light whatsoever. I felt like nothing would change. That this apathy was now my life. I would never feel any kind of joy, or even pain, nothing, ever again. Luckily, those days have numbered in the tens and I have an incredible support system in family and friends. I also sought therapy and was taking medication.

I don’t know if my depression was a case of nature or nurture, but I assume it was a mixture of both. I know my father, one of the funniest human beings ever to exist, fought his demons with all his might, and he battled them often.  I know if I could have chosen to NOT feel the way I was feeling, I would have chosen that. I also know if I had continued feeling the way I was for any length of time,  I would have felt like taking my own life was the lesser of two evils. I would have felt like my children deserved so much better and that I was like an anchor wrapped around them, dragging them down with me.

Now, two days after Robin Williams’ death, mental health professional (not really) and apparent mind reader (nope) and all-around asshole (absolutely) Rush Limbaugh, has said this about Williams’ state of mind when he ended his life –

“What is the left’s world view in general? If you had to attach, not a philosophy, but an attitude to a leftist world view. It’s one of pessimism, and darkness, sadness. They’re never happy, are they?

”Robin Williams felt guilty that he was still alive while his three friends had died young, and much earlier than he had. He could never get over the guilt that they died and he didn’t.”

Fox news Sheperd Smith, another person with apparent inside information,  said this –

“It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? You could love three little things so much, (referencing Williams’ children)  watch them grow, and they’re in their mid-20s and they’re inspiring you and exciting you and they fill you up with a kind of joy you can never have known. Yet something inside you is so horrible, or you’re such a coward, or whatever the reason that you decide have you to end it. Robin Williams, at 63, did that today.”

 

How dare these two windbags.  The level of hatred I had for Rush Limbaugh was already off the chart before these comments.  I consider him a sub-human at this point.  I would rather listen to this over and over again then to ever read or hear anything Rush has said.  He should not be a celeburty (little nod to the awful song linked above). He is pond scum.  Sheperd is a fox news personality. I feel like that says enough. He AT LEAST has issued an apology/explanation (which I’m sure was HEAVILY encouraged by his superiors), though at least it SOUNDS sincere and fuck it, I’ll take that.

Besides these two dumb-asses, I have been hearing that people are debating the validity of depression as an actual clinical issue. I wish I was more eloquent, but I’m going to go with what I know. This is bullshit.  It is counter-productive to what we should be doing, talking about the exact opposite. Depression and mental health issues ARE real clinical issues that should be brought from the shadows into the light and discussed. The stigma attached to depression and/or mental health issues is a real thing, just as real as depression and mental health issues themselves.

NOBODY knows how hard Robin Williams fought, nor what he was thinking when he chose to end his life. Not one of us, and it is irresponsible to pretend that we did. I would imagine that he felt there was absolutely no other option, and I GET IT. It’s a real thing, and I SINCERELY HOPE anybody who sees it as something that can just be fixed by waking up on the right side of the bed, or by just humming a merry tune, do not ever find themselves, or their loved ones, suffering from depression.  They are in for a world of hurt if they think it can just be shrugged off or prayed away or that it will just pass.

The title of this post came from something my mom told me when I was a child about an article she read about how girls who don’t fight during an attempted rape end up not being hurt, and those who fight are usually hurt. As she was reading the article she said, “you fight, baby girl. You fight like hell. You’re going to be hurt either way. Go down fighting.”  In the case of depression, sometimes finding the strength to fight is a Herculean task, and I want to believe that fighting makes a difference. I know many people who have found themselves on the cusp of the blackest chasm of depression, and they have, through whatever means necessary, beat it.  I am so grateful they did, but I also do not fault anybody who has not. I get it.

My mom was right then, as she has been so many other times. It’s going to hurt either way, go down fighting.

If you feel like you just need someone to talk to, there are several ways to reach someone.  Hell, you can talk to me if you want.

 Hotline and Helpline Information

 This is a Cracked article that I have shared many times that very powerfully and eloquently puts into words why funny people kill themselves.

 

suicide

Strength and Letting Go

7 May

The human spirit is a tenacious little beast, isn’t it? It enabled Amanda Berry, who was kidnapped ten years ago,  to never forget that she had a home and did not belong where she was.  It gave Aron Ralston the strength to cut off his own arm to free himself when he was stuck between two boulders (fun fact – I googled “guy stuck in rocks” to find his name because I could not remember it).

I think this strength of the human spirit comes in many forms besides amazing acts of self-preservation.  I am reminded of people like firefighters who run towards danger to help others, and all those at the Boston Marathon who, after hearing the blasts and seeing the injured people, continued to run to the hospital to give blood.

We, as people, have an amazing propensity to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to help ourselves and others.

I have said before that my mother is strong, and she is. I watched her take care of my dad after his leg was amputated because of complications from diabetes. My dad pretty much gave up after the amputation, and decided to take himself off of dialysis, and chose to die. At the time I thought his choice was a surprising one because he was SO stubborn. I wanted him to fight to live.  It is difficult to explain why my dad chose to let go, other than saying that to him, his life was over, so that is what he chose to do, and it was his right to do that.

To say my dad was a difficult man to deal with sometimes would be like saying Gary Bussey is sometimes a little erratic. My dad was hilarious and brilliant and very much a pain in the ass for a large part of the latter part of his life. I love the old codger and I miss him every day, but he was not an easy man to care for and I saw my mom do it daily from going to the store 20 times a day because dad was in the mood for a Vidalia onion,then he wanted some Klondike bars, then a grapefruit would hit the spot, to bathing him, to assisting him in the bathroom.

My mom cared for him while working full-time and cleaning up the wreckage of failed business deals that my dad left.  Amazingly, after he died, she took off and joined the Peace Corps and headed to Jamaica. It was something she had always wanted to do and she did it.

My sister and brother-in-law show an incredible amount of strength and spirit acting as caregivers for my brother in law’s father, Dennis,  as he literally wastes away before their eyes from ALS. I told my sister that it is like she is living inside the feel bad movie of the year, and she added that there is no happy ending for this awful movie.   He will be dead within the next few months. That is not me being harsh, that is me being realistic. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis , or ALS, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” is a progressive disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. This is from the ALS Association –

As motor neurons degenerate, they can no longer send impulses to the muscle fibers that normally result in muscle movement. Early symptoms of ALS often include increasing muscle weakness, especially involving the arms and legs, speech, swallowing or breathing. When muscles no longer receive the messages from the motor neurons that they require to function, the muscles begin to atrophy (become smaller). Limbs begin to look “thinner” as muscle tissue atrophies.

Dennis is fighting death with every ounce of strength he has to live because he is afraid of what lies beyond this realm.  I used to think that my dad was weak because he chose to end his life rather than learn to adapt.

Call it perspective or wisdom with age but I see things differently now then I did when my dad died 12 years ago.  I see strength in letting go. I see a beauty in moving from one stage to the next, even when the next is unknown and scary. I hope that Dennis will find that strength and as flaky as it might sound, I hope my dad can help him move to the other side, whatever that means.  I hope he can do it for himself, and I hope he can do it for my sister and brother-in-law.

There is strength in letting go, and strength in holding on. Figuring out what needs to be done at what time is the tricky part it seems.

FLYING-FREE

*The picture was on a site that said “no picture credit available”

J. A. Allen

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