The last A.A. meeting I attended was roughly four years ago. I began blogging on wordpress the beginning of 2013. For the first half of this year I ran out of anything I felt worth saying. I read some fantastic articles by other writers I admire: Maia Szalavaitz who came out with a new book this year I’ve yet to order due to finances but can’t wait to read, Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary Way of Understanding Addiction; Kenneth Anderson and anyone else on the Influence.org., and the prolific Zachary A. Siegel who I met thru The Fix circles.
I’m leaving out many more who’ve been active out there, like the crew from Families for Sensible Drug Policy (you know who you are) and Young People in Recovery (especially Doug Rudolph) who both aim to bring young people and all Americans evidence-based and not just 12-Step based options for those addicted needing help. I have a ton of ideas and this depression made getting from point A to B more like A to Q to W to G to Z…. where is B? Can any of you relate to that disorienting dance of thousands of thoughts competing for your attention?
I decided to take a break from sending out writing because it was hurting my brain. Working from home and increasingly feeling isolated combined with various health problems that needed addressed sometimes I preferred simply talking to a trusted friend. I learned how to cook pot roast and ribs and chicken pot pie.
The writing break wasn’t a total loss if I could successfully make homemade potato skins. Right? I want to coin the term “emotional duct tape.” That’s when instead of really addressing your problems and a bandage won’t cut it you have to go to the heavy duty stuff— industrial grade duct-tape.
Now I am realizing instead of just taking a break I have almost given up. I did not realize how not writing and publishing anything online was literally depressing me. A lifetime of putting up with more frustration than usual has trained me not to complain until I’m at my wits’ end. Despite trying a new SSRI (bad idea, stopped that) and seeing a therapist (good idea she’s great to talk to) none of that fixed the external problem- my fucked up computer. I want to personally thank this friend who helped me. You have no idea how in the past week or so your generosity and kindness has brought back my smile and ambition. All you asked in return was I sketch out a tattoo idea. I will draw that up as soon as can be I’m just still in shock how much you’ve helped me perhaps without even knowing how much you have helped me.
Yesterday, I emailed my son letting him know how amazed I am by him. He made the Cleveland Youth Orchestra! He emails me about some other antivirus software when I share my computer drama with him. I imagine how, if my mom were still alive today, she would hear the story about how I tried to work with a broken computer and the sheer miracle it was someone was willing to stop by and help me. She’d say something like God works in mysterious ways. Isn’t that funny how life works?
For that moment she was a loving fun person, a friend even. Then, she’d for whatever reason go back to some other time and place. Like when she was super-skinny in college, wearing heels walking down the streets of Milwaukee. She went to Marquette. Did you know Chris Farley the actor also went to Marquette? She couldn’t afford food she’d rather starve for fashion. She passed out by a burger joint. The man who worked there gave her a free hamburger. He began to help drive her around. She was so naïve she didn’t realize he was married- Gosh!- and then she’d laugh. Many men were after her attention, she’d tell me, but she’d basically string them along. There was the one who got away from Boston who was an extra one time on the show Three’s Company. There was the guy who’d mail her record albums and tapes, wrapped in paper bags and duct tape with permanent marker smiley faces drawn on them; Mail that would show up periodically throughout my childhood. (Guess Dad didn’t mind it.)
She was so poor and blamed my Dad a lot even though she lost every teaching job she ever had because those in charge black-balled her, ostracized her, and were mysteriously very jealous of her. By my teens I didn’t believe these stories anymore because by then I too had become her enemy one way or another. I never knew which Mom I’d wake up too. Her dad though was an absolute saint, taking her and her kids out to fancy dinners my dad couldn’t afford. (Yes, rub it in how much of a failure my dad is, that’s nice.) Narcissistic Personality Disorder was not her fault, however, it is hard realizing how much she hurt not only me, but my dad, and even my brother even if he doesn’t realize it. It is very hard to discuss what our mom did with my brother when he favored her over me and that’s the truth of it.
My computer-miracle story would be “cute” my mom would say, but nothing compared to how she was almost Snow White at Disney World but she turned it down to be a teacher, meet my dad, and give birth to my brother and me. I better be grateful to be here because I wouldn’t exist if my mom became Snow White. This August my mom will be passed away for three years. In that time, I barely talk to my dad and brother. I did not become magically close and reconnected to my extended family. All of this loss based on high expectations has crushed my soul. I haven’t had depression last months on end since high school. I’m here, I’m still here, and I don’t plan on going away.
No matter how much I know with research, it is still easy for me to stop believing in myself and search for outside validation. Instead of being reassured by a mother’s love no matter what, I am used to repairing my emotions with temporary solutions, the duct-tape solution of a cold beer or the crazy glue of eating my feelings. I gained over 30 pounds since last fall. Now, I’m back on a better diet and walking at least 4 miles at a time. It’s a start. This blog is a new chapter in my advocacy against abuse (which I feel is my main calling) and also for reforming our addiction recovery system (my secondary calling I think.)
While my computer was down I was down- mentally, emotionally, physically. Most days I’d end up on my tablet or phone. I fell back into people pleasing, a topic I admitted to last year in March in my article “Confessions of a People Pleaser.” Too many people message me wanting advice and I’m reluctant to turn anyone away. I really want to fix everyone even if it means neglecting myself. I was alternating between days of peace & productivity and days of sheer panic, dread, self-doubt, not good enough, why bother, drink a 6 pack, cry my eyes out, get on the phone and ask others for help for once— feeling like, do they even care? I had periods of regret publicly putting all my flaws out there on the Internet, where people could prey on me over the computer screen, know if I was having a hard time they could offer me the sun and the moon and if I’m in bad enough shape I might accept the “savior” idea. There are no magical Internet saviors, and I learned my lesson.
I did not start writing online to be cyber-harassed and bullied. Last year one of my best friends died. The one who urged me and convinced me what I had to say was worth writing down. I jumped into the deep end of the pool without thinking but now I am setting boundaries and I know it won’t prevent me getting hurt again but I can minimize the damage. This year I cut a friend I had half my life because she was harassing me and I used to think I deserved it, her opinion of me mattered more than my own. The lightbulb went off this was not a friendship; this was a dictatorship. Still, I mourned the loss of someone I went to concerts with as a teen, who introduced me to parties, who was my first same-sex romantic interest and sexual experience with a female.
Good riddance, though, for every time she’d pretend to be broke and not come and see me she’d actually post pictures on her Facebook of being with other friends the same day she’d cancel on me. I let that shit go, so that’s progress. I do wish her the best, though, because whatever is her problem I know now I could never fix it. This is not a masterpiece I am actually typing on a 48-page file of copy and pasted ideas that I have spent months not getting around to developing into a cohesive blog. Sorry some of this is disjointed, but that’s what depression, anxiety and PTSD does: Concentration is difficult. Ideas are all over the place. Life itself is broken. I, however, am not broken. I might be glued and taped together, but I am solid and I can keep going.
Depression sucks but it doesn’t define me. That’s all I need to know most days. That’s a lifelong process, not a weakness. In the move Pi the main character is so great at math he is heaped with pressure to find all the digits of pi. Not to give too much away, in the end sometimes it’s better to smile and say “I don’t know.”