Remembering

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So that post yesterday, maybe you liked it, which would delight me. Maybe you didn’t, maybe because you suffer from depression and want to smash my face for having the audacity say that shit will even work. You know what? Sixteen years ago, I would have been right there with you.

You see, I suffer from depression and have for my whole life. It has taken me to dark and horrid places, including first wanting to kill myself at the ripe old age of eight. I even started, with this blue and yellow jump rope. I wrapped it around my neck and pulled, tight as I could, until I realized I didn’t have the strength to finish and had no idea how to tie a noose. Thank goodness there was no such thing as an internet tutorial back then.

The depression waxed and waned, and the next time I felt suicidal was in high school, which is difficult enough, but I had a LOT of drama at home. The final straw on my fragile camel’s back happened when a “friend” super-glued all of my folders together in the library. In theory it is funny, and I would like to laugh about it, but, even some twenty-five years later, I am overwhelmed with the same feeling I had when it happened. The body remembers. I flipped out and was wise enough to tell my parents I needed counseling. It helped, and I actually felt good for a while.

Most often, my depression manifests itself as a gloomy heaviness and negativity with mind-blowing head aches. What actually led me to discovering that I suffered from it and not something else was a doozy of a head-splitter in my early twenties that lasted two years. My doctor gave me every medication and shot imaginable, but nothing helped. Which made me worry and feel heavier and my head ache more. It was an awful cycle.

I finally saw a neurologist to eliminate the possibility of a brain tumor. My first MRI, and it was scary! The doctor found no tumor but rather matter-of-factly gave me a prescription for anti-depressants and a referral to a psychiatrist. Zing!

She didn’t do a lot to help me, including putting me on lithium (very bad news for my body), save confirm the fact that I was indeed depressed (ah, the DSM IV), and from my history and that of my family, had likely suffered, on and off, since I was a wee sprout.

In some ways, the diagnosis was freeing. I did not have a brain tumor! I was not dying! My head was feeling better! But it did nothing for the heaviness, the inability to escape the couch, bathe, even blink. I remember my eyes burning from staring intently at the wall and me actually telling myself that it would be okay to do it, that it was better than the pain I was feeling. So sometimes I blinked, and sometimes I didn’t, preferring the pain and feeling like I deserved it, for some unknown sin (damned childhood Catholicism).

I should also mention that much of this happened in the first years of my marriage. How about them apples? More reason to extol the virtues of that hubster of mine because he helped me (and continues to do so) in ways beyond measure and tolerated a shit storm of wicked behavior on my part.

After giving up on my first psychiatrist, my neighbor, Judy, who also suffered from depression, recommended that I get a counselor and a psychiatrist; one for talking, the other for prescribing. “Because psychiatrists are lousy with feelings.”  My counselor’s name was Nancy, plump and pretty, with a sweet voice. I did not like her. She told me things like, “Take a bubble bath!” and “Make a list of what makes you happy!” Maybe like you yesterday, all I wanted to do was smash her face. She had not one fucking clue. So I stopped seeing her, stuck with my new psychiatrist, and coped as best I could.

I finally knew what was happening and had my meds. They had some wretched side effects, like hair loss, seeing stars all the time, and being dizzy while lying down. But, at least I wasn’t suicidal and my head didn’t hurt like it had before, though I still got migraines from time to time.

Then we moved to Oregon, I found a new doctor, and my life began to change. I asked him to renew my meds, and he suggested otherwise. I listened (and have not taken medication since). He had other suggestions, too, like lying to myself. “I don’t feel so bad.” “I can do this.” “It’s okay.” “That animal is not dead but, rather, sleeping.” He suggested exercising more, too, and I did.

That’s when I found yoga. And as much as this will sound like treacle to some, it changed my life. That first class was the first time I didn’t hear all the voices in my head telling me how worthless I was. Oh, gosh, I guess I forgot to mention that, the inner critic. Well, mine, like the amp in Spinal Tap, went to eleven. So imagine that, from eleven to quiet! And it helped with the pain of my endometriosis, too. I found my holy grail! Praise be to everything stretchy and bendy!

After that, yesterday’s list started to take shape. I read books and searched my soul. I saw another counselor. Flash forward to today. I now practice yoga at least five times a week. I walk. I dance. I lie to myself. I do everything on that list and more. So, sorry Nancy, maybe you did have a clue.

And, yet. I still get depressed and even suicidal, for though my nature is happy, my chemistry is not. I recently discovered that I have a genetic mutation that predisposes me to this, but I will tell you about that later. The fact is, I choose happiness (people hate that one, too), every single day, and work my ass off to keep the claws of depression from digging too deeply, from swallowing me whole.

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Ninety

My Grandma Frances, sometime in the forties, I am guessing, my very favorite photo of her. She would have been ninety years old today, always proud to be a New Year’s baby. I woke up early and sang her a song in the bath. She would have liked it, would have laughed and kissed me on the forehead with her coral lips.

She’s been with me a lot lately. The scent of her in passing, the chewing of her favorite (now mine) Wrigley’s Spearmint gum, and her car, which I have spied in a myriad of places around town. Best was when she visited me in a dream, rattling around in her house, wearing her navy blue dress with sheer sleeves and pleated skirt, the one she kept for best. She wants her story told. I am working on it.

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Colorado is my youth. It is parched skin and hair electric with static. It is running wild and barefoot, riotous with laughter. It is the white light of snow fall and lightning. It is the bounce of hail and the soul-clattering of thunder. It its picnics along crystal clear rivers. It is spicy green chile and a full cookie jar. It is flaxen foothills and slithering snakes. It is music and made with love birthday cakes. It is hiking on Ptarmigan. It is starlit drives and the Sex Lights. It is the exhilarating scream of the Wildcat and the Twister. It is mountains dotted with columbine and indian paintbrush. It is swimming lessons, summer skin, and air heady with the scent of chlorine. It is the sweet boy who committed suicide in seventh grade. It is brick houses and mountain towns. It is thin air. It is blue sky and slowly spooling sunsets. It is my first crush, my first love, and the hubster, again and again, everywhere. It is the past, effervescent and alive in me, always.

Happy Birthday, Maren!

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Hello from Colorado! I’ve been there and back again, a full dance card with not nearly enough slots for everyone and everything dear to me. So I pick and choose and hope not to offend.

I took this photo and the one above at 44th and Tennyson, a gem of a neighborhood with many a fine place to eat (I had really good pizza and spumoni gelato at Parisi’s), sweet and curious shops, and that bit of old that always sends my heart singing.

At Washington Park now, and this Red Winged Blackbird sang its heart out for me.

The hubster grew up across the street from the park, so it is always fun to return and see it from his childhood eyes. He darts about with enthusiasm, gesticulating and speaking rapidly, showing me his his favorite trees and hiding places and soccer fields. It’s like he’s just returned from play and more than twenty years has not elapsed.

Though much has changed, the essence of the park remains the same, with soft stone faces and the snow capped peaks looking down on boisterous children, runners, and scores of of people making new memories.

This is the gate to his best childhood friend’s yard. We stood reverently while he reminisced of epic Star Wars battles, mischief, and fun. It’s much smaller than he remembered but no less special.

The hubster and I met in Fort Collins and spent much of the first two years of our time in and around the city. This is College Avenue.

It has its own fine patina and scores of new places, too.

Old Chigago is the site of our first date. I wore a denim skirt and a cream colored blouse with Indian Head Nickel button covers. He wore rolled up jeans, a rugby shirt, and the most dazzling smile.

Stopping for coffee at the new-to-us Bean Cycle and Wolverine Farm. We sipped fine beverages and bought a lovely book.

I made a friend there, too. Peek-a-boo…

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You were born together, and together you shall be forever more.

You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.

You shall be together even in the silent memory of the universe.

But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love;

rather let it be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Sing and dance together and be joyous,

but let each one of you respect the other’s individuality.

Kahlil Gibran

 

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