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Posts Tagged ‘Depression’

There are times when I truly can’t figure out whether I’m losing my battle with depression or life really does suck, not that it matters, since I can’t do much about either and both piss me off.

The down-and-outness of being down-and-out for so long makes it difficult to rise above the ever-mounting shit and even I am bored with my pathetic attempts to climb. I hate this wimpy, beaten me, but my hands are so shredded from grasping at straws, pulling at bootstraps and clinging to hope that it’s hard to concoct oomph from ack, yikes and not again.

I’m not unfamiliar with the layout of this tunnel, but the repeated encounters where light at the end of it turned out to be nothing but a rapidly approaching train have have set me to cowering along the moldy walls, and with retreat not an option, advancing unlikely and standing still dangerous it doesn’t help much that I know where the exits are since they are locked tight.

Recent flickers of brightness were mere tricks of the eye that proved to be annoyingly less than nothing and only served to emphasize the darkness, but that’s actually okay; I’m not afraid of the dark, just of what lurks in it. You’d think by now I’d have stopped paying attention to to gleams cast by fool’s gold, yet I I still tend to stumble in their direction, knowing all along that I’m bound to fall on my face … again.

I know the old adage that says, “Sometimes the only thing one can change is attitude”, and I can wear that for a while. It’s easy enough to count my blessings, revel in the good fortune that brought me my children, my friends, the creative outlet I have, the beauty around me … and be grateful.

In so many ways I am a very lucky woman. I’m not starving in Sudan or in danger of freezing on the streets of St. Petersburg. I have a house and a view and a car and a fridge, shoes and shirts and shorts, books … even an iPad, FFS. Three out of four of my kids are alive … wonderful, smart and healthy … blessings every one. I have great friends, interesting conversation, and laugh often.

So what’s my problem?

See?

I can see the glass as half full while at the same time knowing how close to empty it is. It just takes effort.

I have problems. I suffer from depression, impetuosity, rotten taste, generosity, hope, pride, a wide range of faults, fear. I live on a small island, am a 60-year-old single-parent with limited prospects and energy, few resources and am running out of ideas. People expect a lot from me, and I rarely let them down. Demands mount daily while nothing presents that might allow me to meet them.

I need help, don’t know where to look for it and would be reluctant to ask if I did.

Consider this post blather. I’ll get over it.

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I have had more on my mind lately than emoticows and would be posting many a blog on each of the various thoughts that catch my attention like jingling keys and the bits of shiny stuff I’d normally follow, BUT the bloody Internet connection here sucks balls this week so I’m stuck struggling even to send emails.

While I have a slight and fleeting chance of getting something up … in the blog sense, of course … I’m going to smoosh a bunch of stuff into one post with the hope it doesn’t end up like a peanut butter, pork chop and prune sandwich and is somewhat digestible.

Ah, yes! The joys of island life …

Aside from the distance, shit Internet, the difficulty of finding a ______(fill in the blank: plumber, electrician, gardener, carpenter, mason … whatever) who will know what they’re doing AND show up, water issues, bad parking, a propensity to blast crap music from fridge-sized speakers and the lack of Mexican restaurants, life here is pretty good.

We have the most beautiful beaches in the world, lovely mountains and forests, tropical weather, a relatively low crime rate, a postal service that works, clean streets, free education and health care, freedom of religion (and freedom not to have one), and some bloody well interesting people.

Almost no one comes to Seychelles casually. It’s too far from anywhere just to drop by and getting here takes no little effort. There were no people living here at all only about 300 years ago, so even the ancestors of early inhabitants would be considered newbies is most places.

Sure, we now get our share of the rich and famous … and royal … popping in for a week or two for holidays in paradise, but it takes an effort and a special sort of person to call Seychelles home for any length of time.

That being the case, I have had the great good fortune of meeting some very special people.

One comes to mind very much now with this week marking the death of Ernest Hemingway, the author of my favorite literary quote, “The road to hell is paved with unbought stuffed dogs” … and a lot of other great stuff … and the man I immediately think of whenever I hear crowds shouting for “Papa”. (How disappointed I’ve been to find it’s the pope they’re yearning for!)

I was a kid when he took his life, an action that put paid to the wonderfully succinct combos of words that grabbed and held and took me to bars I’d end up drinking in in later years, although not to the extent he took the pastime.

So, I never met the man, which is probably an okay thing since he wasn’t known for having a way with children:

… [he] once told his puking ten-year-old son, “I’ll fix you a Bloody Mary — you’ve just got a hangover.”

I have, however, met and count amongst my friends, Hemingway’s pilot. Okay, one of Hemingway’s bush pilots in Africa, but the only one to join Papa in two … count ’em TWO! … crashes, and both within 2 days.

On January 21, 1954, Ernest and Mary took off from Nairobi, with veteran pilot Roy Marsh at the controls. Taking off from Costermansville – today’s Bukavu – the tour was to continue to Entebbe via Murchison Falls.

“But then it happened,” recalls Emmanuel Eyenga, who has brought some guests in his boat to a point near the waterfall. A post with a sign on top it is jutting out of the water. Written on it is “P.B.M. 9026”.

“That was the registration number of the Cessna. It came down right here,” Eyenga says.

While approaching the falls, Marsh had overlooked a telegraph line at the lodge. The pilot managed to make an emergency landing, but the civilised world was far away.

Headlines like “Ernest Hemingway lost in deepest Africa” were splashed across newspapers and obituaries on Hemingway were already appearing in the US even as the search for him continued.

Then, as a passenger plane on a flight from Entebbe to Sudan changed course, the pilot looked down and saw the Cessna.

The trio were picked up by the SS Murchison which took them to Butiaba on Lake Albert. There, they ran into a pilot named Reginald Cartwright, who convinced Ernest, Mary and Roy to fly with him to Entebbe where the world’s press were waiting.

But Cartwright crashed the plane while taking off. Hemingway managed to escape the wreckage only by smashing a door open – with his skull.

Roy Marsh lives here in Seychelles. Now in his 90s, he’s still dashing, charming, witty and wonderful … and smells like the most delicious combination of beer and cookies, for some reason. (Well, the reason for the beer aura is pretty obvious.)

When I first met Roy some years ago he was still playing a few sets of squash every week and could be found in town most any day he was in the country, speeding around and socializing.

Slight and quiet, the man has stories that continue to amaze even on the third or fourth telling and writing about him has been a goal for me for a long time … any excuse to spend hours in the company of such a perfect manifestation of a sort of man that just doesn’t exist in today’s world in any number that can’t be counted on one hand.

It’s Roy who makes me wish the work talked about in this article had come along sooner, although I doubt he’d be lining up for it:

If Aubrey de Grey’s predictions are right, the first person who will live to see their 150th birthday has already been born. And the first person to live for 1,000 years could be less than 20 years younger.

For sure, Hemingway wouldn’t have been interested, an idea made clear by the fact that he took himself out of the game.

There are many theories put forward on why it was Papa topped himself 50 years ago … including injuries resulting from the second of those plane crashes he shared with my friend Roy … and a new one makes sense.

One old friend of his puts no little blame on the FBI and J Edgar Hoover’s propensity for making life a misery when he could.

Some have blamed growing depression over the realisation that the best days of his writing career had come to an end. Others said he was suffering from a personality disorder.

Now, however, Hemingway’s friend and collaborator over the last 13 years of his life has suggested another contributing factor, previously dismissed as a paranoid delusion of the Nobel prize-winning writer. It is that Hemingway was aware of his long surveillance by J Edgar Hoover’s FBI, who were suspicious of his links with Cuba, and that this may have helped push him to the brink.

Writing in the New York Times on the 50th anniversary of Hemingway’s death, AE Hotchner, author of Papa Hemingway and Hemingway and His World, said he believed that the FBI’s surveillance “substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide”, adding that he had “regretfully misjudged” his friend’s fear of the organization.

That Papa had a good imagination is not a question, and what that can do when mixed with fear based on fact is not easy to live with.

No doubt Hemingway suffered from depression. Many writers do. This article in the Times explores the links tying depression, writers and suicide, including Papa, of course.

It is not surprising that these mood disorders seem most at home in the artistic mind. “The cognitive style of manic-depression overlaps with the creative temperament,” Ms. Jamison said. Researchers have found that in a mildly manic state, subjects think more quickly, fluidly and originally. In a depressed state, subjects are self-critical and obsessive, an ideal frame of mind for revision and editing. “When we think of creative writers,” Ms. Jamison said, “we think of boldness, sensitivity, restlessness, discontent; this is the manic-depressive temperament.”

William Styron, author of that cheerful little ditty,”Sophie’s Choice”, wrote about his battle with depression … a fight he never won, but that did not kill him … in Darkness Visible, one of the most helpful bits of writing I have ever been commanded to read.

This is not to say that one must be depressed to write, nor that all depressives can. Sunny dispositions can lead down primrose paths to libraries, but life’s hard edges and awareness of them … even hyper-awareness … does add grist to the mill and grit to the pulp.

Some might say the days of living large are over. My friend Roy might agree. Marty Beckerman seems to:

But we’ve become so afraid of death that we refuse to actually live. We’re scared of the sun because it might give us cancer; we’re scared of a well-marbled steak because it might raise our cholesterol; we’re scared of bullfighting—the only real sport—so we demean ourselves with yoga and Pilates and other such unholy abominations. The closest we come to genuine thrills, genuine danger, is watching IMAX 3-D superhero movies.

Hemingway, however, knew that death isn’t the worst thing in the world. “[C]owardice is worse, treachery is worse, and simple selfishness is worse,” he said. (Also: staying married to the same woman for more than five minutes.)

Perhaps our safety-padded commercial existence is why young people are increasingly drawn to his life and works. Our entire lives are planned out for us before infancy; deviating from the standard path—SAT > college > 24/7 job—is nearly impossible. (Hemingway didn’t bother with college, instead going straight into the trenches of WWI as a medic, proof that an English degree is truly worthless.)

Independence used to mean defining your own existence; now it means paying your own credit-card bill. Freedom used to mean an open road and uncharted waters; now it means choosing between BlackBerry or Droid data plans. Living on our own terms is a foreign concept, but Hemingway bent the world to his liking through sheer gusto, which is very different than the illusion of choice on sale at the Apple Store. Why speak the truth, consequences be damned, when a single impulsive tweet can cost you a career?

Would love to carry on with this for a while, but my Internet connection just might … right now … allow me to post, and I have to go out and unclog a pipe full of shit since the plumber didn’t show up.

Depressing? Well … not exactly a party, but it does give me something to write about.

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Sounds almost pleasant, doesn’t it? It’s not. Oxymoronic in its essence, free-floating anxiety sees the anxious bit hijacking anything that might be considered free and the sucker floats like a anvil.

Anxiety that lacks a definite focus or content.

And that, folks, comes before the first cup of tea.

I have always lived with demons … depression being the biggest bugger with the fiercest bite … but anxiety is rather new to me. Sure, I’m a worrier. What woman isn’t, especially living alone and having kids to raise? But it’s not often my worries cause me to lose sleep.

In fact, I usually sleep fairly well; I drop off without effort, and if disturbed have little to no trouble drifting back into slumber. Yes, my sleep is dream-plagued/blessed and often not as restful as I’d like, but I do sleep and for the allotted hours.

No, it’s not the sleeping that’s my issue, my demon … whatever … but the waking.

Before my eyes open I now realize I’ve shifted from sleep to awake by the sudden onset of that free-floating anxiety thing. It takes a bit of time to recognize and even more to run it through the filters: I’m late; I’m early; I’m breathing; kids are okay; nothing horrible happened in the night; scan the list of what’s on for the day; yes, I’m here alone. Check. Check. Check.

So, why am I shaking and where is this panic over a new day coming from? Am I sixth-sensing portents of doom? Has a shit asteroid been plummeting toward me in the night? Why is every drop of sadness in my body rushing in to welcome another twenty-four hours of the same old crap? Is the day now tainted? Have I contaminated the glass of opportunity by dropping in a dollop of shite with my quaking hands? Will these backed-up tears cloud my vision? Or drown me?

Tea. I need tea.

And thus begins my day.

It’s not every day that starts this way. Thankfully, I do go through periods where I wake up like a normal person, slowy and with a lovely touch of fog misting my corners. On those mornings my eyes open, the view presents itself in all its glory and potential rolls out in front of me. Those occasions take a second cup of tea to bring recognition of and appreciation for the ease of sliding into what had been tomorrow.

More often than not, however, it’s choking sad and shaking panic that form my salute to the sun.

I can trace the roots of this relatively new … what? … affliction? … waking nightmare? … free-floating anxiety … yeah, that’s it.

Close to eighteen months ago my waking moments changed drastically with the 6-am-ish phone call that told me my son was dead. And although this will not only sound trite, but obvious, I’ve not been the same since.

It’s a fact of life that the older we get, the longer our loss list grows. Over the past few years I’ve lost a lot … a son, a husband, a great love, all semblance of security, the last vestiges of youth, a load of nerve, hopes, dreams, wishes … even, from time to time, the will to live. (Yes, I have a list of gains, too, but I’ve just passed a week being thankful and that’s not what this is about this morning.)

I can deal with each and every loss … one-by-one, please … but first thing in the morning and before I’m fully awake? Not so well. Not at all, actually, since dealing isn’t what happens when I’m trembling and feeling the sting of tears before my eyes even open.

The result, of course, of this free-floating shit is an effort to flail a lasso about and pull it close enough to examine just what the fuck it might be. That sure pulls out the list, and as my mind leaps like a frog across sinking lily pads I am forced to recollect most every crappy thing that has happened, may happen or will happen. And I haven’t even peed yet …

At least I get words out of it, heh? Here are a few from this morning:

Good Morning, Sword

Within my realm I awaken each day
to a view of the sea and bird song
It is in my power to make what I may
But the first works I utter are:
What’s wrong?

I don’t see the sword hanging over my head
but I know that it’s there and suspended
by something no stronger than one single hair
if should break means the world is
upended …

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