by Orb Weaver--an old friend who wishes to remain anonymous--
about the effect of daily knives in the heart
about the effect of daily knives in the heart
Do not go gentle into that good night…
This has been a wretched week, not just for me, but certainly for all of humanity. Wars rage on throughout the Middle East, and thousands of Yazidi refugees perch on a mountain in Iraq, their only crime their choice of religion; the streets in Ferguson, Missouri are blazing in retaliation for yet another shooting of an unarmed young black man by a white police officer; half of the continent is flooded, the other half is in drought and/or on fire; and Robin Williams finally lost his long battle against depression and addiction. To me, that was the worst of the lot, the rug pulled out from under one of the brightest stars in the universe in a cosmic vaudeville-like stichk, but without the laughter to break the fall.
No one saw it coming. Really? I was shocked beyond speech, yet not surprised. I have watched his manic antics for over thirty years, laughing until I could not breathe, and yet … and yet … there was something else there, something sad, something scary, that he struggled to conceal, to fight, to push under the surface. His genius was undeniable, like others before him. Richard Pryor. Freddie Prinz. Andy Kaufman. Lenny Bruce. John Belushi. All of them absolutely bat-shit crazy, and Robin was their King. Without exception, they all suffered from depression and addictions, and in the end, they all lost their battles.
Let me tell you what I know. I know about depression. I know about addiction. And I know that I could never explain it completely to anyone who has not experienced it firsthand. Knowing someone who suffers from either or both doesn’t count; not even if they are a blood relative, not your brother, your sister, your mother, your father, your child. Because all you know or see or experience is the fallout from the illness. And that won’t explain it for you, because you’re probably tired of dealing with the family drunk or the neighbor nutbag, or your teenager who just seems to be in a rage all the time, for no good reason. Your only question seems to be “Why?” It’s like riding a Harley; if I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand anyway.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression in my late ‘teens, although I know I suffered from it way before that, as far back as elementary school. Happiness didn’t exist for me but people didn’t understand that. I was smart, I was talented, I was a loser. I had hints of personality disorders. It was the ‘60s. Enough said.
I’ve been on medication for years. A couple of times I’ve attempted to wean myself off the antidepressants and the sleep meds, to no avail. The affliction is truly worse than the cure; and at my age, all I want is to get through the day, and sleep through the night. If I don’t take the meds, I crash, very quickly. My brain chemistry goes into freefall. I spend days in bed, in the dark. I withdraw completely, from friends and family alike, with no explanation. How do I explain what I don’t understand? I cry. Or I laugh inappropriately. Everything in the world seems lost, without redemption, and it seems pointless to keep struggling. I have had one very close call with suicidal ideation; I spent several hours late one night, by the water, with my .38 pressed so tightly against my forehead that the barrel left a red, circular indentation that lasted for days. Even though it’s long gone, I can still see it when I look into the mirror. It’s a constant reminder to me of just how bad it can get. I believe that was a Waterloo moment for me that for some reason I was able to overcome. I do not think about the next time. I am a total work in progress; an hour at a time.
I have learned, through the years, that most folks consider depression a self-induced pity party, and tend to offer suggestions in the line of “Shape up,” or “Things will get better,” or, my favorite, “Count your blessings.” I have also learned to ignore these directives, because while I believe them to be for the most part well-intentioned, they are also worthless. If Robin Williams could not save himself, what chance have I?
And so, I compensate. I use the good days to be creative, to try and be functional. I read, I sew, I quilt, I listen to music. I sit on my porch and listen to the owls and the peepers and all the things that go bump in the night. I go sit by the ocean and pray for dolphins. And I get by. I wish that someone, somehow, had been able to save Robin, not by reaching out, but by reaching in.
Forget about trees for a while; hug someone crazy instead.