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Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday on the Downhill Slide.

It's January, 2013. I am officially four years older than my dad. I made it.

I'm not sure what that means, or if it means anything at all. 

When I first began therapy my expectations were broad and shallow. I wanted to get my professional life back under control. I was tired of feeling sad all the time. There were moments when I was so angry it frightened me. I was exhausted from swinging like a pendulum between these two poles. 

Doctor, I'm broken. My dad was a shrink so I'm familiar with the schpiel: "the therapist only points in the right direction. It's up to the patient to walk the path." Yeah, fine, whatever. Fix me already.


I wanted to keep looking out to the horizon, same as always, Mr. Intellectual, suspended at a critical distance from himself. My therapist made me look down and see all the ankle-snapping potholes that perforated the tarmac underfoot. Awareness of potholes in the road--stage one, check. Stage two: avoid potholes, check. One, two, one, two, one, two.

Nothing worthwhile is easy. 

I don't want to revisit my dad's death every January, any more than I want to accept that I'll be a flat-butted hairy Viking for the rest of my days, but walking backwards through life will eventually get you decapitated, right? That's the key to the trouble. Turn the problem around until it makes sense. Get the perspective nailed down, lest every step lead to a tumble. 

This isn't about dad anymore. It hasn't been about him for decades. It's about me. All of it, from the darkest moments when I think about chasing after him to the brightest, when it seems like everything is possible and within my reach, this revolving storm that hits the same point of land every twelve months is what I have become, sui paternis. I am more than my father's son. I am four years off the map and still going.

Maybe that means as much as I want it to mean.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Quit Apologizing.


I know you fucked up. I know that you know that, too. You blunder your way though life, through people. When you're blind--and you're blind most of the time, be honest, your regrets prove you have hindsight--you leave unintentional destruction in your wake. You leave behind an emergency room full of victims. Awareness amplifies the agony. You watch as you deliver the blow and you wonder if the day will ever come when you can be something other than a spectator to your own behavior. You'd put a vise clamp on your mouth if you could. You'd stay awake 23-7 if it meant you could do all the things that would make everyone happy. You'd do anything to make it all better.

Some broken things won't ever come back together.

Accept that you won't receive absolution for the wounds you've left behind. Be thankful when someone surprises you with forgiveness. Don't wear it too thin. Do more than promise to change. Make the effort to effect the change that's needed. You can be more than play at being an audience of one to your own stupid behavior.

Forgiveness runs through a thin cord. It's not infinitely strong. It can be worn out.

Forgiveness relieves. Actions heal.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Listen to Yourself.

Last night, while speaking with a friend, I learned that a former neighbor of hers had committed suicide. He left behind a trio of teenage kids and a wife.

37 years ago, as of next Tuesday, my own father did the same thing.

This fellow tried self-medicating, with alcohol.

So did my dad.

Today's keyword is hopelessness.

I don't know what prevented this fellow from getting some help. I can imagine myself in his shoes. Dad's blood runs in me. Combine that line with the thread of mental illness in my Mom's line and I get a sympathetic vibration for everyone in this tragedy.

The stigma that enshrouds mental illness gives resistance where almost any other medical condition would invite acceptance, the debate over health care costs notwithstanding. I wouldn't think twice about letting EMTs patch me up after a car accident. I *did* resist treatment for my own depression. I hung back out of shame. I made excuses, procrastinated, and continued to trip over my own feet for decades. What made the pain preferable to treatment? I didn't see it that way. I saw treatment as a prize far above my head and out of reach. Money, time, opportunity, what did it matter? I saw myself as hopelessly broken. There was no point in seeking therapy.

I wasn't entirely wrong in thinking depression would always be with me, either. It will. Depression's my cancer. I'm treating it with drugs and it's in remission. Past that point the analogy breaks down. It's an iffy thing at best to try and wish away a carcinoma but choice plays a big role with the healing process where mental illness is concerned. Therapy's taught me how to moderate the effects of depression. I've learned how to treat myself. I'm learning how to live with depression.

I've learned that hope never leaves. I couldn't see it because I'd pushed it out of sight.

And who am I? Ordinary. One red-haired, gawkish, muddling single adult white male. It has often felt like it's taken superhuman effort to keep myself going, but that's only me swimming through my own life. I am not special in the wider world of my kind.

You can do what I've done.

Try.  Please, try.

I can't ask it of my dad; it's too late.

It's not too late for you.