“We can rebuild her. We have the technology.”

As you may have noticed, I didn’t have a blog entry for last week. And it wasn’t because there wasn’t anything to talk about. I actually had a positive update, having lost nearly three pounds that week AND finally dipping under 290. You would have thought I’d have been shouting from the rooftops.

Instead I was unconscious on pain pills.

See, this is the main issue with my ongoing struggle with back pain. The “cure” often sidelines me every bit as much as the pain. Maybe more so, because it affects my very consciousness.

Those who know me know that I have two jobs: the nine-to-five that pays the bills and the writing career. It kills my soul daily that I have to regulate my dream to ‘hobby hours,’ just to be able to survive. It’s a compromise. It’s not the ideal. And this year, my opportunity to make inroads as a screenwriter has monopolized those few hours I do get to chase my dream, which means I have seriously neglected the part of my career that has made me the most money.

But whatever it takes, right? These are the perimeters in which I’m forced to operate, so I have to navigate these narrow corridors as best I can.

I can’t do that unconscious, which is where western medicine leaves me when my back decides to take a powder. The only thing they can do for me is A.) give me strong medication I’m loath to take and B.) steal all the rest of my precious time away on every new gamble that MAYBE this new thing will work longer than the old thing.

This week I had my first appointment with the physical medicine department. This was supposed to be for an epidural shot for the pain. My thought was, no – I don’t really want a shot in my back but if it gets me upright and stabilized, it’s worth it.

But remember in my last blog, when I said that going to the doctor again for my back meant I knew I was getting back on the merry-go-round with more tests to needle down the “cause” and the “cure”? Well, this appointment was that, even though he actually did a range of motion test and actually listened to me when I talked to him. When I told him what the previous doctor said about weight, he conceded that weight can be an issue but there are just simply folks who are going to suffer from chronic back pain, heavy or thin. He said weight management was something that they often discussed, but really the issue was strengthening the core muscles that surround the back to stabilize it.

His focus was my back, not my weight. It was refreshing. (I can ONLY hope it wasn’t because my husband was there at the appointment with me.)

Honestly I got the impression that the shot was really a small part in the overall cure, and I could pursue it if I wanted but isolating the root cause (which at this point really points to nerve pain since it radiates down through my hip and into my leg) and dealing with it through that strengthening of the core was really the bigger focus of the treatment.

This starts with an MRI to rule out that there isn’t any disc damage now that wasn’t there eleven years ago when I had the last one.

I haven’t scheduled it yet, mostly because I’m a big baby who is extraordinarily claustrophobic. The last time I had one, I nearly flipped out being slid into that silly machine. I will, don’t worry, I just need a little time to wrap my mind around it and gear up to it.

In the meantime he offered yet another pill to help deal this time with the nerve pain. It’s called Nortriptyline and it’s an anti-depressant, which was not good news for me. I hate anti-depressants because I have yet to take one that makes me feel legitimately better. Most either make me go numb or kill my creativity and steal away the parts that make me “me.” I’ve been on Paxil, on Wellbutrin, on Effexor – and none of them have ever made me feel “normal.” Much like the pain pills that steal precious hours away from me by knocking my ass out, they steal so much more from me than they give. Considering my past history with suicide, I want nothing – NOTHING – to do with anything that could exacerbate that risk.

Both Chris Cornell and Robin Williams were being treated for their depression with medication, and still succumbed to the unthinkable. That scares the shit out of me. I’m barely holding on sometimes as it is. I don’t want the very life-saver I’m clutching to turn into pure led and drag me down to the depths as I struggle to keep afloat.

He explained that this wouldn’t work like that because at such a small dose (10mg,) it would work on the nerve pain when taken nightly with the Tramadol I was already taking. I just couldn’t take it during the day because it would make me sleepy (big FUCKING surprise) and he advised NOT to take it with the  muscle relaxer.

So I was like, fine. Whatever. Get me mobile, doc. Then we can worry about the “real” cure – which essentially means I’m going to have to devote my precious time and attention to working on my back. I just need to get past the acute stage of pain first.

The second warning bell went off at the pharmacy, when I experienced a delay getting the prescription filled because the pharmacy needed the doctor himself to clear it, considering there was an issue with taking Tramadol and Nortriptyline together.

But I have to trust the doctor, right? So did the pharmacy, apparently, who filled the order finally. They gave me a box of pills set up with weekly therapy: one pill a night for the first week and if that wasn’t effective, I could increase it to two doses a night for the next week. If that didn’t work, go to three for week three, four to week four or finally five doses on week five – with a maximum dose of 50mg nightly as needed for pain. I was told, however, to take the lowest effective dosage, which was fine with me considering I didn’t really want to take this new pill at all.

But desperate times called for desperate measures.

I did tell my husband, my bestie and my kids, though – if you see me demonstrate ANY questionable behavior, please say something. DO something. Don’t let this new fucking pill gaily trip along my subconscious, turning off every filter that keeps me in what narrow control I currently have.

That first night I took the first pill with my Tramadol and still had a helluva time letting myself fall asleep. The whole thing at the pharmacy really fucked with my head. IS this safe to take together? I mean, yes, a guy in a white coat assured me it was fine, but the one and only time I had a hallucination was on prescribed medicine, under a doctor’s advice. I was taking Tramadol that time too, and my doc prescribed Ambien to help me sleep. You wouldn’t think I’d need it on such heavy pain medication, but after a while, it doesn’t make you sleep anymore, and I had been on it for a good little bit by that point. I made the mistake of taking the two together and whoa, nelly. It was a wild ride. I gave up on the Ambien a week into taking it, which resulted in one of the worst panic attacks of my life.

I hate, hate, hate pills. Hate em. HATE.

But, to my delight and surprise, the pills actually started to work this time around. I felt better. I slept better. I was moving with very little thought, which meant the pain was actually, finally, inhibited.

For two days anyway.

By Day Three, I started experiencing troubling side effects. I was at work that morning and I was getting dizzier by the minute, which made me nauseated. My heart started to race and I knew that a panic attack was setting in, which makes it hard as hell to work when you’re spending 100% of your energy trying to normalize. I made the HUGE mistake of going online to figure out if these were side effects of the new medication. Why was the pharmacy so reticent to fill this prescription?

As anyone in a post Internet world knows, if you already feel bad and you start to self-diagnose with what you find on the web, you’re going to convince yourself that you’re gonna die. This is never a good idea when you’re on the verge of a panic attack. By the time I got to “serotonin syndrome,” I was freaking the fuck out. This condition can occur thanks to certain medication that causes serotonin to accumulate in your brain, kinda like, oh… Nortriptyline AND Tramadol, and symptoms run the gamut from nausea/vomiting to seizures and DEATH.

Panic attack mode: secured.

Unlike the panicky feeling I would get on certain strains/dosages of cannabis, where I was secure in the knowledge that no one had actually ever DIED from it, I no longer had that assurance. Now I had this potentially fatal cocktail coursing through my body and nothing to do but read the signs and pray it on the more benign side of the side effects scale.

Quite a gamble if you ask me, and an expensive one at that. Hence my biggest issue about Big Pharma and cannabis prohibition.

So that night I didn’t take either pill. Fuck all that noise. I’m not going to get killed by the cure. The very day I went to the new doctor I nearly passed out at work because of this toxic mix of man-made chemicals screwing up my body chemistry – and I was still in pain on top of it all.

The new meds helped with the pain, finally, but I’m not sure that it’s worth wondering if every little twinge I get is something significantly worse than any other normal twinge. I’ve never had a seizure, but they don’t look like a whole lot of fun.

So what’s the answer? Well, the doc gave me the answer. It’s not in a pill, or a shot. I have a bad back and it sucks to be me, but them’s just the cards I was dealt. And wouldn’t you know it, everything I want is on the other side of pain and I have to do – big surprise – whatever it takes to get to the other side of it. So I’m going to have to do the exercises, the stretches, the physical therapy to strengthen the core, even when I have to fight through excruciating pain to do it. There is no shortcut, much as I would like there to be.

I do, however, think there is something to my theory that it might involve something in my reproductive system. When my period hit this past week, it was another hellish one. I was passing 3-inch clots and experiencing such horrendous cramps that, with combined with the back pain, put me at a steady “9” on the pain scale, just one hair away from unbearable. I cruise normally around 2 or 3, but with back pain it can go as high as 7 or 8.

If I’m sobbing in my husband’s arms for ten minutes straight, just because I can’t handle one more moment of pain, I’d say that there’s a major fucking problem. I’ve been dealing with this shit for more than a decade. I barely break.

This is breaking me, which is why I reached out for help in the first fucking place.

And the Internet sources agree. “Talk to your doctor,” they said, if a clot is bigger than a quarter.

Yeah, I tried that. She told me I was too fat and this was normal lady stuff. But, you know. Whatever.

I did file a grievance with this particular doctor and asked to get another provider. Now it looks like I have to pay yet ANOTHER co-pay (along with what I paid the doc in physical medicine and probably the MRI too) to go see an OB/GYN just to get my issues addressed.

Getting nickled and dimed while I’m strung along for weeks, and still nothing is getting fixed?

Sounds like western medicine to me.

Fuck the system. That’s all I’m saying.

I can’t be unconscious for weeks and I refuse to live in a constant state of panic. I’ve got shit to do. I’ve got a final rewrite to do on this script, which I haven’t even been able to address because I’ve been in too much pain or medicated into a coma. After that, I need to – absolutely and positively NEED to – write another book. My career is flat-lining and my creative soul is gasping its final, dying breath to express itself.

If I don’t get back to “me” – and soon – there may not be anything left.

It’s not going to be easy, and I know it’s going to hurt like a mother, but I have to fix this the old fashioned way. I’ve got to grit my teeth and do whatever it takes to make my incredible body as strong as it can be. Because it can be. I can make it so.

I can do this. Whatever it takes.

Just… don’t judge me if I cry, okay?

 

Suicidal tendencies; dancing with the devil that lives inside your mind.

On May 18, 2017 we lost Chris Cornell, the legendary alt-rock singer whose sudden, shocking death left a wide path of mourning in its wake. I saw the tweet almost immediately and I knew it was going to be a tough one for his fans. Since he died so young, and these days 52 is pretty young to shuffle off one’s mortal coil, we waited for the cause. When it finally came, I knew it would be an even tougher blow for people.

Whenever someone commits suicide, it shades the mourning into something akin to anger at the person who died. Let’s face it. Losing someone is hard. You have a lot of powerful emotions and they can be very hard to manage. Nobody wants to feel despondent. Rage at least gives you some illusion of control over the whole thing. Anger puts you back into a position of power when the choices of someone else pull the emotional rug out from under you. You hear words like “selfish,” or “cowardly,” thrown around, mostly because it’s easier. It’s also more socially acceptable. If someone buries a 500-lb person, you’d never go up to the person’s family and say anything negative about the choices that brought him or her to her end. You show sympathy.

Direct suicide, however, comes with a much more visceral reaction, even though – technically speaking – they sort of come from the same place. One’s just a hell of a lot faster.

I never get angry. I know all too well the seductive lure of suicide. I know what it feels like to be so overwhelmed you just want the pain to *end*, right now, no waiting. I’ve thought about the unthinkable more than once.

I’ve thought about it recently.

Part of it stems from the depression and mental health issues I’ve had all my life, I’m sure. At least I hope so. I hope that it’s not normal to contemplate such a horrible thing, even when things aren’t going well. Even if things never seem to go well.

To me, the presence of suicide is the absence of hope, and that is a bleak, bleak place to be.

Whenever I hear of someone who has died this way, my heart immediately breaks for them. I think about their final moments that they had to spend alone, with this monster in their mind, a lying, seductive devil that convinces them there is only one option left.

I have wrestled more than once with this darkness. It’s terrifying.

And every time I hear about someone losing their battle to that monster, it fills me with my own terror. I’ve been where they were. I fear I will be again. And I worry that one day all hope will run out for me and I’ll do the unthinkable, because it is by the hair of my chinny chin chin that I made it through those scary times at all.

So what brings someone to such a desperate end?

Lots of things. We all have different thresholds of what we’re willing to endure to survive. Pain. Trauma. Financial worry. Sickness. Fear. Exhaustion. The option to punch your own ticket sometimes seems preferable than living on under the weight of such overwhelming conditions. Sometimes we as humans feel painted in a corner and it’s just easier to check out than to keep fighting a losing battle one more day.

And sometimes the thoughts are fleeting. Like, “Jesus, I should just fucking down a bottle of pills and get it over with,” but you keep going, one foot after the other, trying to find your way to some sort of break that will help you recharge your batteries. You know you only think these things in a weak moment, when you’re feeling particularly drained, but you don’t *really* mean it. It just gives you some sort of sense of control to say it, which is important when everything in your life is whirling around out of your control.

Other times, the scarier times, you begin to plan. You start to think about how you will do it, and maybe even arrange your life in such a way that it could accommodate such plans. Maybe you start to give away things that matter to you, or write your goodbye letters. Maybe you talk about it more, and people who know you dismiss is as some “cry for attention,” because they just can’t see someone so strong, someone who has so much to live for, doing such a “selfish”, “cowardly” thing.

It is in this period we need your compassion and your help most of all. It is in these moments that we feel selfish and cowardly, and such dismissal reinforces those negative, bleak feelings. If talk of suicide is someone’s “cry for attention” – GIVE IT TO THEM. They’re still in the planning stages at this point, and in that stage their mind is a war zone trying to list all the reasons to stay and all the reasons to leave.

If people heap onto their shame and their own feelings of low self-worth and failure, it can give a lot of ammo to that monster that resides inside their brains, who tells them things *regularly* – like, “You’re such a burden. The people you love would be so much better off without you.” “You’re such a fuck-up. Just end it already.”

People will say it’s selfish for someone to consider suicide, and maybe it is – but these are vulnerable people who are under the influence of the worst kind of liar that hides in the shadowy places in their mind, who convinces them a selfish act would actually be a loving one.

And they’re so out of gas at the moment, they’re ripe to believe it.

The first time I contemplated suicide was when I was thirteen years old. I was only 13, but it was the fourth time I had dealt with the fear of sexual abuse. I was raped at four as most know, but I had two near brushes with nefarious types before I turned twelve, which set off my radar that I was in trouble. One was with a preacher, who sat me down in an empty church to talk about my faith. I remember two things: the blue leisure suit he wore (I think this was probably mid-70s) and the gawdy gold ring he wore on his pinky finger.

He laid his arm on the pew behind me, leaning in close, with that seductive tone in his voice, as he spoke about his concern for my soul.

All sorts of alarms went off and I was glad that I got the heck out of there. I don’t even remember how I escaped, but I assume my parents probably came to get me to take me home.

Thank God. Literally.

The next brush was some stranger in a car, who tried to pick me up as I was heading home from school. He drove slow enough to keep up with me while I was walking, not saying anything at first, and then finally rolling down the window to offer me a ride. I shook my head vigorously and all but ran home.

So when my friend decided to take a guy we had both met to court for raping her, I kinda felt at that point that this was my lot in life, to forever run from these kinds of men who only set out to hurt me. Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to feel that hunted, but it’s fucking terrifying. When I heard that this guy kept a gun in his glove box, in a car I had ridden in, the terror became unbearable.

Imagine the feeling of having zero control over your body, up to losing your very own life. The powerlessness that comes with that is crushing.

And keep in mind that this emotional baggage was something I shouldered all alone. There was so much shame heaped onto my young shoulders, thanks in large part to the way our society views women and how my religion viewed sex in general. I had yet to tell ANYONE what I had gone through. There was no other voice to combat the monster in my head, who used my own religious upbringing against me. I was damaged goods. Corrupted. Unlovable.

What. Was. The. Point?

So I sat at my kitchen table with a knife to my wrist and I thought about the long road ahead of me, one I walked alone, confused and afraid. I was going to have to face this guy in court, and likely be the thing that ensured he’d face legal consequences for fucking around with a fourteen-year-old girl. That’s what they told me anyway. It was more than just “he said/she said,” with my testimony. I could prove that he was lying when he said he had never met us or taken us for a ride one afternoon at lunch at school.

I could prove that I saw him drive off with her in the car that day in question.

That’s a lot of weight for a thirteen-year-old girl to carry all by herself. Finding out he had a gun, and I might be the thing that jeopardized his very freedom, put me in a precarious situation. I felt like I was teetering on the edge of the abyss, with life on one side and men in general on the other side, playing this tug of war with me and my sanity hanging in the balance.

When you feel that powerless, you’ll do anything to seize control of something, of anything, even if it’s ensuring no one would ever be able to hurt you again, even if it means you have to hurt yourself first.

And so I was over it. I sat there at that table, tears running down my face, as I tried to end it before life ended me, without my choice, as was the pattern of my entire life up till that point.

At least this time, for once in my fucking life, I’d have control over my pain and of my fear.

Then the phone rang. It was my best friend Jeff, in a rare long-distance phone call that his mother usually never let him make. This was back in 1983 when there were no cell phones, no Internet, no Facetime or Skype. If I wanted to communicate with my bestie, I had to sit, write a letter, mail it out and wait for about four days to get a response. Long distance phone calls were expensive, and neither one of us had a job. We were at the mercy of what our parents could and would afford. When we lived in the same town, we talked every day on the phone. His was the lone voice that helped me through the dark silence that followed my dad’s death. After I moved away, I held on for deal life thanks to weekly letters that came addressed solely to me, that made me feel special, like someone in the world gave a damn about me.

Turn that feeling up to 11 and you have the joy I felt when I could talk to him in “real time” on the phone, even when he was 300 miles away.

I picked up the phone and was greeted by his cheery voice, so happy that we could chat for real instead of just exchange letters back and forth like we had done for the year or so before then.

I burst into tears, unable to hide the pain anymore. When he asked me what was wrong I finally told him. Likewise he burst into tears, to tell me that he couldn’t imagine life without me, and that he needed me. As a gay teen in Texas in the middle of the 1980s, he was going through so much he couldn’t even tell me at the time. So I had no way of knowing what a lifeline I was to him, even though I totally was.

But the lying monster in my brain had never let me consider that, because it was too busy keeping my focus pointed inward towards the abyss. I was stunned when he said these things to me.

It was enough to put down the knife. Just knowing someone gave a damn, and – the really important part – didn’t stop loving me when I told him my greatest shame, literally saved my life.

I credit this to divine intervention. I don’t share my faith a lot, but this one event convinced me that not only is there a God, but he/she/it cares what happens to me.

Thanks to that phone call, I once again had hope where there was none.

I didn’t seriously contemplate suicide again until sixteen years later, when I faced yet another overwhelming crisis, one that involved my kids.

And this was even after I lost my newborn son to a fatal heart malformation when he was nine days old. When the paramedic came into the bedroom where I waited with Tim (who was a day short of five years) and Jer (who was three), he broke the news to me as gently as one could tell a young mother that her beautiful baby was, simply, gone. I felt the will to breathe leave me and started to sink to my knees. This man grabbed me by both shoulders and held me up, forcing me to look him straight in the eye. He reminded me that I still had two other children who needed their mother to be strong.

It wasn’t hope necessarily, but it was purpose, much like being there for my bestie who needed me back in the 80s – and that was just as powerful a motivation.

Those two children became my reason to live. And I struggled with every decision after that to give them what I thought they needed. Dan finally got diagnosed and treated for his bipolar disorder. I worked hard to support the family as the sole breadwinner, while managing the new complications that came with living with the disorder, and all the treatment options we had to work through to get to ANYTHING that might help.

But the damage for my young sons was already done in all those dark years before we understood what demons drove my first husband. Thanks to Dan’s illness, my two remaining children ended up removed from the home, with never-ending hurdles I had to jump in order to get them back. The harder I fought, the more life pushed back. I was powerless and in pain, once again. Only this time I felt I had lost every single thing left to live for. I started the planning stage in January of 1999. I couldn’t bear facing the anniversary of Brandon’s death without my other two children. I decided to steal a bottle of Dan’s powerful pills, go to my youngest son’s grave and just go into eternal sleep like he did.

Even with a success story, even after I soundly beat the devil before, it’s amazing how long suicide lingered in the back of my brain as some sort of escape hatch if life gets to be too much.

A stranger I met through the internet picked up on my defeatist dialogue and spent an entire night on the phone with me to remind me how many things there were still left to fight for, including my two kids who, even though the state of California may not have agreed, still needed me to fight for them.

He barely knew me from Eve and we’d never meet face to face, but this angel didn’t get off the line until he was sure I was okay.

He restored my hope so that I was able to keep fighting. Within a year I had made the hard choices the courts demanded of me, which included dissolving my first marriage. By 2000 I got my kids back.

Someone refilled my tank. It wouldn’t empty again, for real, until 2015.

There were moments of weakness, though. When my chronic back pain threatened yet ANOTHER job because I just couldn’t make it to work regularly, I remember vividly sitting on the edge of my bed, in the nagging awful pain that had become the norm for me, thinking what was the point? I was a burden to those I loved, who virtually had to take care of me.

As fiercely independent as I was, that was a very hard pill for me to swallow.

The Mind Monster whispered constantly how much better off my family would be without me. I had worked tirelessly for years to ensure the survival of my family, and I couldn’t work anymore. That fucked with my identity.

And the pain I was in was relentless, shading everything in black tones as I struggled just to get through any part of the day I was conscious enough to muddle through.

The rest of the time I was out on heavy narcotic medication – missing out on my marriage and my kids… and my life.

But I was able to talk about it, to avoid the planning stages for the most part. I maintained my hope. I found reasons, no matter how small, to keep going.

Suicide still lingered in the back of my mind though, as the ultimate “break glass in case of emergency” option. If things got a little hairy, I still had access to pills that would help me check completely out, painlessly and efficiently.

It helped me maintain that illusion of control I’ve always wrestled with. If things got too bad, I knew what to do.

In 2015, things got “too bad.” I had a mental collapse of sorts, the worst one I had ever had. Depression and anxiety are no joke. They have leveled me in the past, starting after my dad died and I skipped school for ten days, hiding away in my bathroom day after day, in the warm womb of a bathtub as I struggled to find SOME way to comfort myself and heal, when I felt as bereft as an eleven-year-old girl could possibly feel.

Fast-forward thirty-four years and I found myself unable to handle life again, despite being a 45-year-old. My promising writing career had flat-lined. I went from making more money than I had ever made in my life back to struggling for each and every goddamned penny again. And it was completely out of my control. There was nothing I could do. So I relented and considered Plan B, because being homeless again was NOT an option. After being out of work for four years, I couldn’t find a job to help my family. Our economic situation was dire, struggling each and every month to pay the rent and keep our fragile little house of matchsticks from being blown over by the hungry wolf at the door.

I felt once again powerless, out of control and without hope. I lived my whole life for the dream of being a successful writer, and that success felt like it was over in a minute. The Mind Monster had a fucking field day with that. I truly felt that no matter what glimmer of happiness I could wrestle from the greedy hands of fate wasn’t ever going to be enough to justify all the days, months and years of pain, fear and hopelessness I’d endured.

It just never felt like it was going to stop. The liar that lives in my brain whispered in my ear that I had failed at everything and had a purpose for nothing. I disappeared into my room for about three days solid, even throughout Mother’s Day. I didn’t get out of bed. I cried a lot, almost anytime anyone would talk to me. As a result I didn’t talk to anyone, which was the scariest moment for me. I didn’t talk to my family. I didn’t open up to my husband, who had no clue how to handle my breakdown. I probably could have sent Hal a message and he would have been kind enough to talk me down from the ledge, but that wasn’t what I wanted. Not only had I run out of hope, I wasn’t interested in anyone renewing it. I knew the drill by this point. Yeah, it got better. And then it got bad again. And then it got worse, the price my Mind Monster always told me that I had to pay for any little morsel of happiness.

I wasn’t worth a good life. Clearly. Every good thing that happened would last a minute, and then I got thrown back into the wood chipper to tear up any idea that I was special.

That was why I lost my dad, remember.

It was a tough, tough period. Once again Jeff called me, worried because I hadn’t been online to talk to him every day like I have always done since 1995. It was no longer the 1980s. We could communicate in real time all the time, even with phone calls that became a lot less random the older, and more financially independent, we both got.

But this time I couldn’t bring myself to answer the phone. How could I face him 34 years after he had saved my life and tell him it had all been for nothing?

(And yes, I know after all those years, raising my kids, loving my husbands, creating my career out of thin air, that it wasn’t “nothing.” But that’s the lie. And it’s running fucking non-stop in those dark bleak moments.)

I got myself out of it that time, but it was a freaking miracle. I was as close to dancing with the devil as I had ever been. I’m reminded with every death by suicide that getting that close and still beating that sonofabitch is not a given.

So I feel nothing but sympathy for the person who falls to their Mind Monster, the one that convinces them of all the lies, that they have nothing to live for, to just end it – even if it is just to make the pain of the moment stop because it’s just too fucking much to bear.

I hate that they went through that alone.

I hate that they succumbed to the lie.

And I hate, most of all, how fucking seductive that lie can be.

That Chris’s death came at the expense of drugs that were supposed to heal him makes the loss even more acute. He was doing all the right things, and yet…

So I don’t know what the answer is. I just know we have to keep talking. And those who love us have to keep listening, *especially* when there’s a cry for help.

And we can’t give up. Because it is in that bleak, black moment of hopelessness where our control will slip and we can do unthinkable damage not only to ourselves, but to the people who love us most – even when we can’t seem to love ourselves.

If you’re thinking about suicide, it is my hope that you reach out and talk to someone. It does get better. Sometimes it even gets great.

And it’ll probably suck again too. Such is life for everyone. No matter what your Mind Monster says, it is not because you are a bad person. It is not because you are worthless. It isn’t because the world would somehow be better off without you. It is because we are all fighting our own type of battle, to varying degrees of success.

But you still matter.

To someone out there, you may be their lifeline helping THEM to hold onto hope. To someone else, you may be the very moon and stars, even if you don’t know it.

Even if your Mind Monster won’t let you see that.

But you still matter.

You really are here for a purpose and a reason. Life is about finding out what both of those mean to you and the people around you.

So if you’re hurting, if you’re feeling powerless and hopeless and vulnerable, if you’re feeling like the only person in the world who can touch the depths of those things, reach out to someone. It’ll be the hardest, bravest, most important decision you will ever make.

And one day, maybe you’ll help someone else who is feeling powerless and alone. You’ll give them strength. You’ll renew their hope.

And what greater purpose is there than that?

****

I wrote the above blog post several weeks ago, but I stopped myself from publishing it. I thought maybe it was too late to say these words. It no longer felt like posting a virtual life jacket that might have stopped just one person from drowning. Instead talking so frankly about the lure of this devil felt like an homage to suicide itself.

“You’re weak,” the devil whispered. “And now everyone will know.”

So I backed away from it. I justified it that the Mind Monster needs no foothold and I wasn’t about to give him one.

It was yet another lie.

This week I was faced with being on the OTHER side of the glass, with someone who was going through their own personal crisis, a single mom whose life was imploding around her with a failed relationship and a crushing economic downturn. “I just want to die,” she sobbed. And I totally fucking believed her. I stopped everything that I was doing to  share my story, weak or not, and to take her into a hug and hold her up when she wanted to fall – just like that paramedic did for me all those years ago.

I knew in that moment THAT was my purpose. It made the pain I’d been through matter, and there’s nothing more empowering than that.

But then, by Thursday, when I heard about another artist losing his battle with the Mind Monster, and I realized that maybe I’m strong and okay now – but remaining that way is not a given.

Remember, I told you I had thought about breaking the glass even recently, during my own devastating economic downturn. What others consider an unthinkable option still sits there in the back of my brain like the ultimate escape hatch.

So I’m posting this. With any hope at all, this will replace the seductive lure of suicide as my “break glass in case of emergency” option. Not just for someone else out there, but for me as well.

Because that’s what we need most to win our own private wars. We need any hope at all.

When you feel hope is just beyond your grasp… keep reaching until someone reaches back. Because they will if you just give them a chance. It is the hardest, most terrifying , most powerful thing you can do to defeat that Mind Monster, even if it is one hairy, scary battle at a time.

That’s how wars are won.

Let’s win this one.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline1-800-273-8255 – available 24 hours a day

Summertime and the livin’ is FUCK ALL. (An Essay.)

True confession time: I hate the heat. Like, a lot.

I’d much rather be too cold than too hot, any day of the week. First of all, I’m hot-blooded by nature. I never get truly cold unless I’m sick or it’s really freaking cold. I can go sleeveless, barefoot and in capris all the way up to winter, especially living here in California. (But I did it in Texas too.) My future daughter-in-law, on the other hand, takes a leather jacket everywhere she goes, even if it’s 90 degrees out. If we go to a mall or to a theater or a restaurant, they blast the shit out of the A/C, and she freezes like a Popsicle.

Meanwhile I’m trying to find ways to move in so I don’t have to go back outside EVER… because, you know, heat.

meltingperson

It makes me swelter just to look at her huddled up in her jacket, but I get it. Cold is every bit as uncomfortable as the heat, it’s just easier to manage. If you’re too cold, you can layer up to find some relief. If you’re too hot, layering down can get damned near indecent, and illegal… especially if you’re like me and shun long sleeves and layering of ANY sort to start with. I don’t wear cardigans or jackets. I hate long sleeves. I don’t wear hats or scarves. I barely want to wear any shoes that require socks.

When I start to layer down, I ain’t kiddin’ around.

And when you’re a fat person, fuggetaboutit. There are those who recoil to see your flabby flesh in stuff like tank tops and shorts, and they’ll try to guilt and shame into covering it up so it’s easier for other people to pretend you’re invisible. You know, like they’d like you to be.

To them I’d like to say: My physical comfort is every bit as important as your need for perfect visual aesthetics, so I’m gonna wear sleeveless stuff that shows off some skin, mmkay? I guarantee you that you’ll live through the experience with minimal damage, more minimal than me smacking you upside the head with the trench coat you’d rather I wear, but I ain’t gunna.

#SorryNotSorry

Because I am so hot-blooded, I freaking sweat like a whore in church whenever I get at all overheated, which makes me feel hotter and grosser than normal, adding emotional discomfort to the physical discomfort. Whether it’s grocery shopping, when I’m stuck in a crowd, on the beach, walking in the park, or even my ten-minute walks around the industrial complex where I work, I sweat. And I don’t just mean cute little sparkling droplets of dainty feminine perspiration. I mean big honky drops of sweat pouring off of my scalp and down my face to the point people stop me and ask me if I’m okay.

I pass girls on the walking path at the park and they’re wearing full makeup AND perfume, jogging past me in a sweetly scented breeze. Meanwhile I look like I’ve just walked through a car wash.

I melt in the heat. I always have. It’s one of the main reason I’m not that much of a cuddler. We can have sexy fun time, but at the end you need to be on your side of the bed and I’ll be on mine, or else I’ll freaking evaporate.

Needless to say, summer is not a fave exactly for this reason. I grew up in Texas, y’all, where it not only got hot but sticky, humid hot for days, weeks and months at a time. In the recent past I lived during a ridiculous heat wave in Texas where it reached over 100 degrees every single day for more than a month. Forty-six days, to be exact.

It was the kind of heat wave that made you want to drop an air-conditioning unit on top of people who want to deny climate change every time we experience a cold snap in the winter. And God, how I hated every miserable day of it. I moved from Texas that same year.

This was no coincidence.

When I did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, it was in the middle of August IN Texas. Also not a coincidence.

The only benefit to suffering this kind of heat when I was a kid was that I didn’t have to go to school in summer, because let’s face it. It’s hard as hell to people when you’re hot. Oppressive heat makes one cranky, hence why we define it as “oppressive.” It’s that relentless discomfort where nothing helps it get better, except maybe air conditioning, and if you don’t have that you’re soundly screwed, as is everyone around you. You’ll take your misery out on anyone who crosses your path, and it will likely be met with some crankiness on their end as well, because they’re every bit as miserable as you are.

Why do you think violent crime spikes in the heat?

If you’ve ever lived without air conditioning, and I have – many, many times – you know what it’s like to power through a humid, dark night, soaked in your own sweat, miserable and cranky, restless, angry and at the mercy of something much bigger than you, that’ll let you go when it damn well feels like it. Whether this takes hours, days or months – it’s completely out of your control for the most part.

If you know what it’s like to be completely naked and under a fan, and still feel like a hot, heavy blanket covers you, then you know what I’m talking about. If you have to function? Just the thought of adding clothes and walking outside your door becomes this Herculian effort, where you’d rather avoid doing even the things you love to do, because it feels like some obscene obstacle course. And everything you want is on the other side of it, so there’s nothing you can do about it but endure.

Thanks to a humid, heat wave across Southern California, where A/C in houses and apartments isn’t necessarily the norm thanks to a more temperate normal climate, it dawned on me a few days ago – or, more to the point, a sweaty, sleepless night or so ago –  that this is very much like depression.

I should hope by now most people understand that depression isn’t a choice any more than enduring a hot day is a choice. Instead of something depending on the climate of where you happen to live, this instead depends on the climate of your brain, who you happen to be and how you’re wired on the inside. Most days are okay, but some just cook the life right out of you. These are not ideal circumstances, and you do your best to cope, but it is very much like trudging through mud, wearing a fifty-pound backpack, trying to get to the other side of… , well anything.

I’m sure most of us have had that kind of sucky day where we’ve put some of our more challenging or difficult tasks off till another, more comfortable time, simply because the conditions weren’t ideal. We know ourselves well at this point, and we know that if we have to do Project X while we’re steeped in murky, humid depression, we’ll just melt entirely – no matter how happy and positive you try to be about the situation.

And these difficult tasks wouldn’t normally be so difficult, but conditions outside our control render them just a tad beyond our endurance on some days.

Think of depression like mental humidity with zero air conditioning. You literally feel heavier. You are uncomfortable and out of sorts. The things that normally don’t bother you are suddenly unbearable when added onto the pile of bullshit you’re suddenly carrying around. Each and every feather feels like a ten pound rock when added to the backpack. And, much like a fat person wearing minimal clothing on a hot day, just to find a little relief, the world around you will judge you for how you cope. It’s your choice how to handle things, and believe me – no matter what you choose – you’ve chosen wrong.

And the Liar that lives inside your head will make damned sure you hear each and every criticism, so no matter what you choose to do to get over the hump, you feel weaker and stupider for having chosen it.

“Yeah. Why CAN’T I just move to a cooler climate? Oh right, I don’t have the money to uproot my life or the lives of my family. Because I’m such a loser. Where’s my ten-pound feather??”

catfallingover

Because your mood is already soured, all the negative stuff rises to the top of your attention span. Every ache will be amplified. Every criticism will boom like a megaphone in your ears. You can either trudge on in sadistic slow motion OR you can check out for a day or two, alone, doing all the little cheats and tricks you’ve learned to endure. Just like running for ice cream on a hot day, not all of those cheats and tricks are the healthiest choice… but they get you through. And that is quite often enough.

Either way, it comes down to the same thing… you have to endure it. You have to get to the other side. Spring is behind you but fall is ahead of you. You know you’ll be better… eventually.

You just have to keep moving forward, no matter how slowly.

Meanwhile you pray that a friend will bring you a fan and some ice cream. One who will set as naked with you as you dare to sit with them, and they’ll love you anyway, and you won’t feel so alone as you try to get through another hot and humid night. You can toss off the sheets that feel like lava on your skin, just to get one cool breeze, and no one will criticize you for sleeping bare-assed naked under an open window, because they can empathize how far you’ll go to get a little comfort.

And maybe, just maybe, it will rain, and you’ll learn how to once again dance under the refreshing drops, feeling renewed for another hot day ahead. Because you know that even if this heat wave ends, summer comes every single year without fail. All you can do is waiting patiently for fall and “sweater weather” and chilly nights in front of a roaring fire to make the rest worth it.

You know, the good times.

Until then, you endure… because that’s what hot days are for.

Though I’ve spent the last many months fighting off depression, I see relief ahead. Unfortunately my emotional summer lasted throughout winter and spring, my favorite times of the year, and it sucked. HARD.

Now that I’m enduring another atypical heat wave, living in a place with no air conditioning, at nearly 90 degrees out and almost 50% humidity consistently for days, it just seemed like the ideal time to talk about the glaring similarities. You know, so I could distract myself while I melted.

hottiedottie

And if it’s hot where you are, then maybe you’ll understand it a little better if you currently didn’t. Having discomfort outside your control sucks. Hard.

We’ll make it through but… hot damn. Literally. Is it fall yet?? #bringicecreamSTAT