depression

Learning to Live with Life.

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Glenn Fleishman sharing the New York Times on Tom Brokaw just popped up on my Twitter feed. 

Now I’ll get the info in sets of three since I follow all three sources.

I like Tom Brokaw. I like him in all of the basic ways – as a professional, as a journalist, as a man, as a human. He’s a good egg.

I’ve followed Mr. Brokaw’s journey through his diagnosis of multiple myeloma at the age of 73.

I like people with issues, especially medical issues and major life crises.

I like watching people confront struggle and triumph over life’s bad badnesses.

I like witnessing the humility of life’s constant reminders that we’re SO not in control when it all comes down to it.

I like when good, reputable, professional, accomplished, successful eggs like Tom Brokaw share their experiences of real life’s ongoing struggles.  It helps me to know that I am not alone in feeling alone.  And it helps to give me words to define my own struggle…and ways to understand my own struggle.

Specifically, I’ve been working lately to come up with my own “take” on my message. For the first time in my life, I’m sharing the stories behind my art, none of which are lovely, upbeat or positive. My art is dark and morbid and depressing.  My art is the art of depression, which is dark, morbid and depressing, at least for me.

So basically it goes like this:

I’ve spent a lifetime living with depression. I’ve created a ton of art inspired by my dark experience. The art is dark. And now I’m sharing.

The thing is that darkness scares people. They assume you’re in the dark place at the very time when they themselves experience the darkness you’re sharing, even though the darkness you’re sharing could have been inspired by experiences from ages (or hours) ago.

So I like the idea of “Learning to Live With“….because it reinforces the reality that when you experience anything difficult, you experience it on a continuum.  You experience the discovery of the difficulty as you define it and identify its scope.  You experience the difficulty as you have it, hate it, fight it, embrace it, and own it. You experience the difficulty as you fix it and then move on to recovering from the fixing phase.

And then you clean up.  You experience the cleaning up of the odds and ends that invariably result from any life disruption.

And then, just when you thought you’ve cleaned everything up and put everything back into its proper place, you experience the fact that your normal is no longer the normal that other people experience.

And, if you have a chronic condition, the cycle repeats.

And repeats. And repeats. And repeats.

I suspect my next essay will be about the stages of living with depression…. or whatever difficulty, struggle, condition or other life reality you’re living with. Because yes, we are all living with something. And yes, we are all somewhere in the journey or process….somewhere in the stages.

And it’s life.

It’s just life.

So go live it.

And help others live it if you’re lucky enough to be in one of the easier stages today.

xoxo, d

The Trivial I.

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The Trivial I.

I chatted tonight with a friend from forever ago.

I can talk about our conversation here because he doesn’t read my blog.  He won’t know I spoke about him publicly… for however public this blog is.

But he wouldn’t mind me talking about him anyway. He’s engaged in self-discovery and committed to the value of transparency.  And our conversations count as that for him – since everything counts as that for him.

This friend is a former love interest, a former partner-in-crime.  But it was so many lives ago that it doesn’t even seem like it was us.  I remember those years like it was something that happened to two other people.

I wonder if that’s how others my age view their past lives.

It’s just that life has happened over and over again since that time and now we are completely different people.  We are the same, of course, in essence, in character, in personality, in spirit.

But we are different.

Different people with a shared past that is so remote.

So he told me about his journey in meditation.

I was happy for him. I’ve been meditating much longer and I know how it can change a life for the much better.

He told me about his work on self-discovery.

I was cautiously happy for him. I realize his self-discovery is occurring within his very narrowly established view of the world.  His discovery, like mine, will be limited to what we already believe to be true.

Then he told me about his morning meditation.  An inspired, hopeful, committed and dedicated affirmation about his life.

And I tripped.

It was an incantation where every sentence began with “I” or “my” – I will be this, I will be that….my life is this, my life is that.

And I realized that I’ve lost my connection to the world of self-discovery.

I used to be all about finding my true self, being a better self, and changing my self from what it was to what it can be.

I even used to motivate others to do the same.

But I’ve changed.

I no longer believe as strongly in the focus on self.

And, to be honest, I’m a little worried.

About myself.

Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Or missing out. Or skipping a step.

If this is too vague, I’m sorry. I’m trying not to rant.

But I did some research into the morning meditations and they overwhelmingly seemed very “I” focused….at least to me.

I want a morning meditation that starts with “The world around me” or ‘we’ or ‘us’ or something like that. I don’t want to focus on what I am or what I will be today.  I want to focus on what the world needs today.

I’m not able to give the world too much of what it needs today.

And I certainly won’t be selfless today.

I will be selfish today, dogmatic, stuck in my schedule and married to my routine.

But I’d like to think, at least, that I’m thinking about the world.

Find me a meditation that reminds me I am small and that my thoughts are small.

Find me a meditation that says my gratitude is not the goal…just a tool in my efforts to meet my goals head on.

Find me a meditation that says today is all I have… to do things different and perhaps make a difference, however trivial.

What is your meditation?

And if it’s focused on I, it’s okay.  I won’t yell at you or judge you.

I’ll learn from you.

Because seriously.  It’s me, not you.

Happy-ish Monday-ish.

xoxo, d

Life is good. Fuck you.

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Another day, another article surfaced on my feed about a parent trying to help others be aware of mental illness.

I’m so over it.

But that’s just how I feel today.

I’m sure tomorrow I’ll feel differently.

And I’m sure I’ll feel a million different ways over the course of the next year.

Today, though, I can afford to feel so over it because I’m feeling good.  Today my brain is cooperating and I’m ‘even’ – in terms of my ability to handle life’s combination of little and big disruptions.

Today I can focus and finish my deadlines.

Today I can think of ideas and write them down and follow through.

Today I can help other people. I have enough time and energy to do things for others.

Today I’m good.

But there will be another tomorrow in my life soon when I won’t be so good.

Unless my life is about to take a sudden turn away from its normal routine, there will soon be a day when my brain tells me that today is the day I need to end it.

Because that’s what my brain does.

My brain tells me to kill myself.

My brain tells me that killing myself is what I’m supposed to, what I’m fated to, and that everything is a sign that it’s time.

It’s what I got in this life.

Some people got diabetes. Some got heart disease. Some got cancer.

I got a bad brain.

I know, I know….you know of something I should try. I know.

Well, I’ve probably tried it.

I’ve been around the block and I’ve been dealing with this since I was a kid.

Add to that the fact that I’m a ‘fixer’ by nature.  I do something about problems. I take steps. I take action. I take initiative. 

Believe me….if it’s medical, I’ve tried it.

And I don’t just mean I’ve dabbled.

I mean I have devoted years to trying everything out there and doing everything in my power to help things work.

I have given everything I’ve tried a good and meaningful try.

If it’s western I’ve tried it. If it’s eastern, I’ve tried it.

Expensive? Tried it. Cheap? Tried it. Free? Tried it.

If it’s holistic, I’ve tried it.

If it’s spiritual, I’ve tried it.

If it’s hokey or trendy or popular or weird, I’ve tried it.

So, what’s my point today?

My point is shut the hell up if you have no personal experience with suicidal thinking.

I made the mistake of reading some comments to the devastated father who wrote so honestly, lovingly and bravely about his daughter who lost her battle with suicide.

And seriously, people need to shut the fuck up.

If you haven’t lived it, your opinion is shit.

I don’t care how enlightened you are, how educated you are or how inspired you are.

Just shut up.

And fuck you.

I know this post is negative.

I’m really sorry about that.

I’m not a negative person.

I’m positive. And hopeful. And productive. 

I’m funny and energetic and upbeat about some things.

I work full time.  And I have two syndicated properties, a cartoon and a comic strip.

I paint beautiful paintings. And I make lots of really great contributions that help others.

And, in addition to all of the great things I am, I live with a condition –  just like most people live with a condition of some sort.

Unfortunately, my condition is the opposite of “life is good” – 

But I’m dealing with it.

I’m managing it.

But it needs to be said that someday I might follow through on what my brain tells me to do.  

My brain is powerful and inflexible at times and more convincing than the people around me.

And if I do what my brain tells me to do, it won’t be for any other reason than what I was able to do to manage my condition was not enough.

So to the reader who shared a particularly unhelpful comment, fuck you.

Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you.

You’re not helpful. And you’re not smart.

You wrote something hurtful to a father in pain. And what you wrote sounded like a dare to people who don’t need to be dared. 

Look, sir….I’m not asking you to change who you are.

I’m just asking you to DO NO HARM.

You can do that by keeping your mouth shut and keeping your typing to yourself. 

And to the father who wrote the essay, thank you and I am so very, very, very sorry.

Now back to work for me….because although I live with suicidal thinking, that is just part of my day. And it’s not the part that pays the bills. 

xoxo, d

 

 

 

Painting for Leo DiCaprio

 

I’m painting for Leo DiCaprio.

I can call him Leo. I read an interview (or ten thousand) with him. He says Leo is okay.

Perhaps you think it’s a metaphor.

Like I’m “painting for Leo DiCaprio“….. wink wink.

But no, I’m actually painting for Leo D.

I’m painting Leo a beautiful girl. One of my favorite girls.

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And I know someone who knows someone who can find someone who knows how to deliver the painting to Leo D.

When I began painting seriously (i.e., obsessively but sans talent or training) a few years ago, something told me to send a painting to Leo D.  Something told me he would like my paintings.

Because he loves art.

And because he loves beautiful women.

I like Leo DiCaprio.

You might be thinking I’m obsessed with him, but I’m not.

I think he’s gorgeous. And I think he’s ridiculously talented. And I like that he appears to be pretty cool in real life and not too into himself.

But I’m not obsessed with Leo D. or in love with him.

Well, maybe I am just a little.

But I swear I just really think he would like my paintings. Something in me says he would like them as much as I do.

And here’s the thing….I need to move to the next level with painting if I’m going to be able to paint more.  I need to start showing paintings or selling paintings or both.

And I really, really, really want to move to the next level.

There. I said it out loud.

I really want to do more with painting and less with my day job.

Leo DiCaprio was in one of my all time favorite movies, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

WEGG came out in the spring of 1994, which means I would have seen it in the spring of 1994.

In the 1990’s and the two previous decades, I waited for movies like people wait for mail.  I paced and anticipated and counted the minutes and then obsessed for hours and days about what had been delivered.

I was a bit of a movie snob back then, limiting my movies to foreign or at least mildly confusing or deep American films.

So Gilbert Grape was right up my alley.

Gilbert Grape was deep and dark and real and raw.

Even better, Gilbert Grape dealt with disability and mental illness.

I LOVED disability and mental illness back then.

I still love disability and mental illness. I just do a better job of balancing those passions more better with my other passions.

In 1994, I had just started my law practice.  I was focused on all things related to the Americans with Disabilities Act and I was intent on forcing the world to think about disability issues.

I was angry and frustrated and inspired and hopeful and I knew what I was doing was important.

Now I just want to paint.

And write.

And make funny cartoons.

And, if I can, I’d like to help someone avoid some of the pain I lived.

Because it took me way too long to learn how to live with pain.

So I fantasize about giving a painting to Leo DiCaprio.

And Leo gets the painting and loves it.

And he buys another painting or two from me.

And then he says, “Did you always want to be a painter?”

And I say, “No, Leo. Actually, I really just wanted to die. Because I have a messed up brain that feeds me bad messages. But I kept working and focusing and I stayed independent and now I’m ready to trade all of that for painting. First work kept me from making plans to die and now painting keeps me from making plans to die.  See how helpful the arts are to those living with challenges? Everyone needs to support the arts….for those art saves.

And Leo says, “You know, I’ve played a host of characters living with challenges.”

And I smile and say, “I know, Leo. Playing characters living with challenges helps those living with the actual challenges. You have no idea how much, but I do.  It’s really important to show the world those charactersand to help the world understand that living with challenges is just another way of living.”

And then I add, “You should know that What’s Eating Gilbert Grape really helped me. It came out at a time when I needed something to help me get by.  It helped me get by.”

And Leo blushes because he’s pretty humble.

And he says “You know, I just played that character. I’m not really challenged.”

And I say “Yes, but you cared enough about the part to live in that character and learn to understand that character. And then you shared that character with lots of people who hopefully saw a bit of themselves or their son or their neighbor in your portrayal.  Hopefully they connected with the character and realized how human the character was. Hopefully they saw that the character was living with a challenge…not just beating a challenge. You can’t beat every challenge.

And Leo says “You can do that with your paintings. You can share your characters with others who need to connect.”

And then I let Leo it was his idea.

*****

Speaking of sharing stories, I’ve been watching I Am Jazz with my nieces.

It’s a must watch. For everyone.

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It’s well done.

And it’s important in many, many ways.

And it’s heartwarming. And heart hurting. And sweet. And personal. And relatable.

It’s everything, just like life.

Okay, back to work everyone.

Happy Monday. Or something like that.

xoxo, d