I understand. People are scared. People are suffering from loss of income. More people are on unemployment and are accessing food banks than have in living memory. We are struggling to survive. I get it. I’ve lived it. But that’s the thing. Even this economic nightmare that is raining down upon us right now is better than the alternative, which is death.
I’d be willing to lose everything, sleep in the woods, forage for berries, as long as me and mine are alive. This is a life or death situation that we are in right now. This is real. Nothing else matters.
So, when I see people gathering in groups to protest this lockdown, encouraged by Trump, I’m absolutely horrified. Did you hear me? They’re gathering in groups. That’s the last thing on earth anyone should be doing right now.
If you want to be a fool and risk getting this virus, that’s your prerogative. The world could use fewer fools. But unfortunately, after you go to these protests, you are then coming home to your innocent grandparents and children and spouses, and they in turn will spread it to others, and so on. That’s the whole point. That’s how a virus works.
So your stupidity impacts us all, and will, in fact, increase the length of time that we all have to be locked down. Your protest will have the exact opposite result than you want it to have. Brilliant.
Of course Trump wants you back to work again. He wants you to be a cog in the corporate wheel, always. He wants you to think the world is a shining, happy place before the elections roll around. To hell with you if you die in the process. He could care less about that. How is that not blatantly obvious? He will tweet you into oblivion.
Are you so busy trying to “liberate” Michigan and Virginia, are you so hellbent on contracting and spreading this virus and making this situation so much worse, that you can’t see that you’re expendable to Trump? Don’t you know that this virus cares nothing about your moral imperative? You’re being used as a human, political shield.
For God’s sake, at least wash your freakin’ hands.
Sometimes in life I feel like giving up. Sometimes the thing I want most in the world (at that moment) does not come to pass, and in fact my worst nightmare is visited upon me. Sometimes I feel as though there is simply no more fight left in me and I can’t even summon the energy to explain, let alone to blog.
There are days when all I want to do is lie in bed like a beached starfish and cry and sleep and stare at the ceiling without a thought in my head. Every effort seems to take 1,000 times more energy than normal, and it feels like the very air that surrounds me is as thick as chocolate pudding.
The dishes pile up, the dirty laundry doesn’t quite make it to the basket, and it’s all I can do to flush the toilet. And then there’s the guilt I feel for letting down everyone around me. And the sadness and isolation I feel for being so profoundly misunderstood.
If none of these things resonate with you, congratulations. You have never experienced depression. You have no idea how lucky you are.
But I’m writing this for the rest of you, the ones who get it. I want to implore you to be gentle with yourself, as if you’re recovering from major surgery. It’s okay to sleep more or do less, for a time. Screw the effing dishes.
I do, however, urge you to seek help if this is not just a passing phase. Because sometimes the passage of time is on our side, but not always. Yes, the sun comes out tomorrow, and/or you get some rest and/or remember to eat something, and things look brighter. Or your situation improves. Other times, time feels like the enemy, and can seem like an endless wall of pain and isolation that stretches before you and is insurmountable, inevitable, and monochrome. That’s a time to reach out for help.
I get it. I really do. You are not alone.
Be gentle with yourself. Get help. Don’t make any major decisions that you can’t come back from, because then you’ll truly be out of options.
For today, just breathe, okay? Breathe, rest, and let the rest of the world take care of itself. You have my permission. (Not that you need it.)
Sending you love and light from a place not far from where you are, my fellow depressives. By the time you read this, I’ve probably come out the other side, back to the land of functioning adults, just as I always do, and have learned as I age that I always will. Until the next wave of depression hits. And so on.
I’ve made it this far. So can you. I’m promising you, there’s a crest to the wave, and what you can see from up there is beautiful and miraculous and oh, so worth it. You just have to hold on. And to do that you may sometimes need help. And that’s okay.
Last year, I went with a friend to the Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition here in Seattle, and I blogged about it. I had a wonderful time. But beneath the surface, I was feeling this great, yawning, howling, aching chasm of loneliness.
While I spent most of the holidays bravely stuffing that down and trying not to let it overwhelm me, it was a very near thing. Sometimes I could feel it surging upward, and I knew that if I let it take over, I’d probably lose my battle with depression and start howling or something.
Even so, Figgy Pudding is a wonderful event, and I decided to make it part of my Christmas tradition. I went again this year with my husband. As we stood there, listening to the carolers beneath the glow of the huge Christmas tree, what I felt was joy. No physically painful ache in the pit of my stomach. No feeling of being on the verge of hysteria. Just contentment. What a gift this man is in my life. He’s all I need for Christmas.
And then I looked around at the crowd, and I realized that no one who looked at me this year or last would have known my state of mind. I’m sure there was a lot of joy in the crowd, but also a lot of longing for companionship. A lot of pervasive emotional pain. The fact that it often looks one and the same is a bit troubling.
I’m not saying that everyone in the whole world must walk about two by two in order to be happy. Some people are perfectly satisfied being alone. I know I felt that way for quite some time. Some people who are in relationships are even more lonely than their single friends, and that’s got to be even more emotionally excruciating.
I just find it kind of enlightening to realize that there’s really no way to know what’s going on beneath the surface unless you talk to someone. We need to communicate more. We need to put down our devices and actually connect.
And to those of you who are swirling in that deep dark pit of loneliness that I used to know all too well, I just want to say that it may feel like that’s your forever, but keep reaching out. You never know when someone will take your outstretched hand, and that changes everything. I’m living proof of that.
I could never live in one of those housing developments where all the houses look exactly the same. They are devoid of personality. It would feel like living in a storage facility to me. A place where people are warehoused. Communities like that have no soul.
Have you ever noticed that some neighborhoods seem more lonely than others? In some places, you see no one out on the sidewalks. Even the cars disappear into their own little garages, and don’t emerge again until it’s time to take someone to work or school. It’s positively dreary.
I prefer more vibrant neighborhoods, where everyone gets to be unique and has a reason to get out and mingle. I finally figured out what makes these places different. It’s completely a matter of zoning.
If you have small businesses mixed in with the housing, people are more apt to know their neighbors. They also get to know the people running the businesses. You eat at the local café. You walk to the library and the corner store. There are playgrounds for the children. People know each other’s dogs by name.
I think that neighborhoods that are all business or all residential are a blight on the landscape. They do not speak to the most basic human need to interact. We already have too much temptation to hide in our houses and stare at our televisions. We need incentive to get out there and engage with one another. Without that, we have even more reason to be polarized.
If a study hasn’t been done already, I think someone should look into the rate of depression as it correlates to the type of neighborhood in which one lives. I think the results would be quite interesting. In the meantime, I think more city zoning commissions should take actual human beings into account when planning livable spaces.
I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Leo Kottke in concert the other day at a lovely little venue in Seattle called Demetriou’s Jazz Alley. I’ve written about Kottke before. He’s a supreme talent. I highly recommend that you see him if given the opportunity.
He intersperses his amazing music with stories that are often every bit as good. On this night, though, he said something that kind of made me sad. I’m paraphrasing here, but he mentioned that he tours alone and he lives alone, so talking to us is really his only social life.
He was half joking. But the man is 73 years old. The thought of that level of loneliness is kind of heartbreaking.
That got me thinking. There’s really nothing that corelates with loneliness. You certainly can’t tell by looking at a person. Kottke is talented, active, still touring. He’s led a successful life. None of that staves off loneliness.
You can be rich or poor, young or old, famous or unknown, smart or stupid, kind or cruel… and yet none of that prevents or encourages loneliness. It’s like there’s no real way to thwart it. There’s no loneliness vaccine.
You can do your best to spend time with other people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll befriend you. You can be active in your community, but that doesn’t mean anyone will want to spend time with you. You can dedicate your life to caring for others, but still, there’s no guarantee that anyone will care for you.
A lot of people are lonely in a crowd. So loneliness doesn’t even corelate with isolation. Loneliness stands alone. That’s scary as hell, if you ask me.
What’s the special sauce that prevents loneliness? I haven’t a clue. I’d love to hear your thoughts. The only thing I know is that we need to reach out to one another. We really do.
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Sooner or later, every train engineer will have someone step in front of his or her train as a way to permanently solve a temporary problem. That must be a heartbreaking experience. You want to stop, but you know you can’t. I suspect that all you can really do is close your eyes, swallow really hard, and get ready to fill out a boatload of paperwork.
No doubt this sometimes happens to bus drivers as well. And I’m sure ferry captains have their fair share of jumpers, just as we bridgetenders do. I can’t even imagine what first responders deal with on a daily basis. It’s a part of these jobs that no one wants to talk about. Helpless Stress.
It’s that feeling of being completely out of control. It’s that desire to save someone, and not being able to do so. It messes with your head. It’s the kind of vicarious trauma that people don’t quite understand until they’ve experienced it themselves.
The most frustrating thing about it is you know you’ve been through something big, but you’re not physically hurt. Nothing shows. Your wounds are on the inside, where no one can see them. So your friends and loved ones often expect you to “snap out of it.”
If you have experienced helpless stress, I urge you to take it seriously. Talk to a professional; someone with experience in crisis or grief counseling. Don’t try to simply power through. What happened is not your fault, but if you choose to not cope with it, that can compound the problem.
You’re not alone. Help is out there. Please seek it out.
When you make plans for the future, you’re demonstrating a delightful amount of optimism. Because life is fragile. It can pop like a soap bubble at any time. I’ve seen that happen more than once.
John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”
Sorry, John. You know I love you. But I disagree. I think life is making plans. The alternative, making no plans at all, or sitting back and letting the world kind of wash over you, is a form of death.
We are not meant to live like moss on a tree. The fact that we feel the need for religion shows that we struggle with accepting fate. I don’t think we are meant to be so accepting. We are meant to be the architects of our own lives.
Plans give you purpose. Purpose is what makes life worth living. I find the best antidote for depression is having something to look forward to.
Even more evidence of optimism is making plans with someone. It says, “We’re in this for the long haul.” “I have great expectations for us.” “You are the person I want to spend time with.” “I have faith in our relationship.”
The only thing I can think of that’s better than anticipating your future is anticipating your future while holding someone’s hand.