Am I Blue?

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I’ve failed a lot tests in my nearly 42 years here on planet Earth. From the tests in the back of trashy magazines to the driver’s test (twice), I’ve never met a test I couldn’t fail. I’m not much of test taker. Drug taker? Yes. Tests? No, thanks. So it comes as no surprise that my recent depression screening was a bust too. Darn this program of honesty. Because of it I was forced to answer the questions truthfully and let my health care provider know that mentally I’ve been sort of blah lately. She then broke the news that really wasn’t news: I’m experiencing the symptoms of depression.

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Wait– since I tested positive for depression, maybe it’s a test I actually passed! There’s something to be happy about. Anyway, as I’ve talked about before, depression is one of the things I juggle and most of the time it’s manageable. I walk alot and that helps. I try to help people and that helps too. Writing, reading, meditation all help too. I’m not on meds of any kind and I’m whatever about meds. I’d prefer not to take them but I am on other meds that work so who the hell am I to say that they wouldn’t work either? People in recovery can get uppity sometimes about pills but honestly I’m solid enough with my program that it doesn’t freak me out. What we decided is that I’d up the exercise regime for 6 weeks and then we’d see if meds needed to be part of the story. The other thing she suggested is journalling. I suppressed a massive eye-roll on this idea. I mean I write but journalling on my feelings at first sounded like some serious bullshit. Like “Dear Depression Diary, today I find myself somewhere between this guy 

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and this guy

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But I got out of bed and didn’t cry so that’s good, right?”

As whacktacular as this diary sounded, I realized I do essentially what she suggested by writing this blog. Great. That’s something I can do that I enjoy. So I’ll be blogging more as well as journalling in a non-public format. After all, not all of my thoughts need to have lights put around them and turned into entertainment. I’ll even try with the exercise idea– ugh. Truly, the mere thought of it makes me exhausted.

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I mean can’t I burn calories and manufacture endorphins by watching cheesy witch tv shows and a eating ice cream? No? Well fine. I’ll walk more and maybe start doing yoga again. The great thing about getting sober is it’s made me incredibly open to suggestions from people who know more than I do. I have no medical degree and I got out of the expert business years ago, honey. Therefore I’ll try it. All of it.

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 In my own backyard and on the national stage, suicide and depression have taken a serious toll lately. It’s truly devastating and yet it’s been an alarm clock for me. These events have forced me to ask myself, “Where am I on my own depression? How am I really doing?” Hence how I ended up in the doctor’s office, passing the depression screening with flying colors. And yet the silver lining here is that there isn’t a silver lining. Meaning that by just allowing myself to feel whatever I’m going through and then asking for help is HUGE for this addict who avoided anything that looked icky or hard or too real. Today, there’s no need to dance around or ignore what’s going on and that alone is enough to bring a smile to my face.  

Our Beyonces, Ourselves

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If you’re wondering where I’ve been (and I know you spend hours worrying about such matters), I’m sad to report that I haven’t been hanging out in very nice places. It shames me to admit that my wit and candor can be largely seen in the comments sections of pop culture blogs these days. I know, I know. The internet’s equivalent of a roach-infested dive bar. Lately, all I can muster up, creatively is a one-liner and comments sections or Twitter are easy places for them to live.  One-liners about James Franco, one-liners about Nicki Minaj, one liners about anything really. One-liners, zingers or terrible puns are how I express myself. I’ve always been “funny”, “sassy”, a “smartass”, what have you. However, the psychological community at large tells me this is a defense mechanism. This need to make jokes about everything is a leftover from old childhood behavior to simultaneously diffuse tension while seeking attention and in general is a way to conceal hurt or anger. I’d  like to tell the psychological community that while I agree, sometimes I just really want to make fun of Beyoncé.

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In my defense, Beyoncé is really easy to make fun of.  I mean…

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Plus, I think people with dead-eyes and no sense of humor are actually hilarious and ripe for satire. From the lyrics of Irreplaceable and her performance in Dreamgirls to that elevator thing and her Pretty Hurts video, I just think she’s comedy gold masquerading as a pop music icon. But then again, I saw Tina Turner in concert at a young age so perhaps Beyoncé’s powers would have never worked on me.

Of course, none of this is actually about Beyoncé. Or Kimye or Nicki Minaj’s ass. It’s about me. Truth? I’ve been kind of depressed lately. Depression is one of the many colors I represent in my mental illness rainbow. Lucky me. For my first five years of sobriety though, the bitch hasn’t really been an issue. Turns out, she was just sitting in the corner sipping her tea, waiting to pounce.

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Thankfully, I am now aware enough to take action when she shows up and wants to knock me out. While I’m not on medication (and don’t have any issues with folks who are) I do take certain physical and spiritual measures when depression becomes a problem.  For me, I know depression is a chemical thing because the honest to God’s truth of my life is that it’s pretty terrific. The evidence is staggering that despite minor glitches and little areas for growth, all things in Seanland are undoubtedly fabulous which makes depression’s appearance all the more baffling. But when things get rough or my thinking is off, getting sober has taught me to ask myself,”So whaddya gonna do about it?” (Because when I ask myself questions I sound like a pawn shop employee from New Jersey.) Part of that answer is “Write more!” My second sponsor, in her infinite wisdom, once told me that, “Self-esteem is built through esteemable acts.” As we’ve discussed, writing makes me feel good so why not write more and write thru whatever I’m feeling and maybe, gee I don’t know, feel better as a result?!?

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But let’s not get overly excited here. I’m stopping being a smartass anytime soon. It’s kinda who I am. I would argue that making jokes about the Kardashians or Chris Brown has at least kept my creative juices flowing. And as readers of this blog, I laugh just as much at myself as I do at Beyoncé. My sarcasm is all-inclusive and equality opportunity.Plus, making people laugh is a tiny way I can be of service. So just for today, I’ll aim to be a more productive, more spiritually fit clown and not a sadsack, comment section clown like this guy.

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Bjork, Nachos & God

When I used to fall into a tricky little hole called depression or the neighboring, less threatening hole named sadness, the tool I used to get out was my old pal liquor. Liquor, I thought, could make a ladder to help pull me out. What it did, though, every single time was fill the hole with more chaos until I was not only stuck in a hole but also drowning. Recently, the ladders I had to use to pull me out were of a different variety to say the least.

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Sometimes pop music transcends pop music and while listening to “All is Full of Love” by Bjork, I finally heard something I have needed to hear for weeks. Like a lot of incredible songs in my life, this one showed up in my headphones and out of nowhere it told me the truth.

You’ll be given love
You’ll be taken care of
You’ll be given love
You have to trust it

Maybe not from the sources
You have poured yours
Maybe not from the directions
You are staring at

Twist your head around
It’s all around you
All is full of love
All around you

I’ve  heard this song a million times but it wasn’t until now that it really shook me to the core. After a difficult month involving a creative breakup, some financial uncertainty and a batch of sad news, I had fallen down a hole. I knew it too. My first instinct was to panic and freak out and try to frantically dig my way out. I’m sober and I always thought feeling sad or being depressed was who I was and not who I am. But the truth is, I am a human and sometimes my life is sucky or hard or fucking sad. And this last month was one of those times. What I did know is that I needed to go through it, no matter how long it took. I have been relying on meetings, bad TV and nachos to pull me out. But mainly, and not to sound like some horrible coffee mug that you’d get at an inspirational bookstore, I’ve needed God as my ladder. (Country song idea #51: God is My Ladder) The fact is that all of this seemed to heavy or too overwhelming and too fucking much.I kept up my prayer and mediation practice even when I didn’t want to get out of bed because I knew that this was going to eventually pass but I needed some supernatural non-human aid of the higher powered variety to help it along.

And just like that it did. After a month of pushing on and feeling my feelings, it happened. I was lifted out of that hole that seemed too deep and too scary and neverending just a few weeks ago.  As this lovely song, now added to my “Play it at the Funeral” playlist, filled me with gratitude. It made me realize that my life, holes and rough patches included, is good. That I am taken care of.  It is full of love and it is all around me. Even when I can’t see it. Especially then, I think.

The Happy Hostage

Sing Hallelujah, come on get happy!  And smiles, everyone, smiles! And happy, happy joy joy. And don’t worry be happy! And happy days are here again! Except for one tiny detail. I was never actually happy.

I certainly played the part of Mr. Happy. I smiled all the time and told people I was “Fine! Fabulous! Couldn’t be better!’ I could even convince myself for long periods  that I was happy. However, it never really occurred to me that genuinely happy folks didn’t have to drink themselves blind seven days a week just to deal with their lives.  I thought if I simply acted like I was happy, I would become happy. Like those girls who hang up pictures of the perfect supermodel bodies on their inspiration boards but never actually go to the gym. Whats more is that I couldn’t stand people who were unhappy and who had the unmitigated gall to say how miserable they were. Those poor suckers who bemoaned about having a bad day or cried about how hard their lives were, I usually brushed off as “negative.” I mean how dare they have real emotions? I didn’t want to be bothered with facing the reality that some times life is shitty. People going through rough times or experiencing long bouts of sadness didn’t really have a place in my world. When you’re living in a delusion it’s best to keep out individuals and situations that are ‘real’. I mean you wouldn’t let suicidal sadsacks run Disneyland now would you? The unfortunate thing was that reality would always find it’s way in regardless of how much I drank or what drugs I took or who I had sex with. When reality did reappear it was usually ten times worse than I remembered. The bills I never paid were out of control, the people I never called back were now really pissed and reality itself was angrier and more chaotic. There was no hiding from reality.  After all, even Eeyore hangs out at Disneyland.

Once I got sober, happiness didn’t come skipping back into my life. The opposite. I cried daily for the first five months. I felt horribly alone. Once I whined to my sponsor, “I think everybody’s having more fun than I am” to which he replied, “That’s because they are.” Upon my clinic’s suggestion, I went to a psychiatrist at 9 months sober. I was going to meetings and seeing a doctor since I was newly diagnosed as HIV positive. Things were pretty rough but I was hanging in there, still going to school and not getting loaded. This tiny little man with itty bitty glasses, kid hands and a basement office in a clinic in Venice brought new meaning to the term “shrink’. He had me answer questions about my past, about my drug use, about how I was feeling about my diagnosis, about my recovery program, etc. He sat there for a few minutes and then said, “Well despite your best efforts, you’re still pretty miserable.” Miserable? Nobody had ever called me miserable! I was the smiley guy who everybody loved, right? The word knocked the wind out of me. Sure, he might of had a point but I was newly divorced, newly sober and just found out that I was HIV positive.Was I supposed to come tap dancing into his office singing “Who Could Ask For Anything More?” I thought it was impressive that I hadn’t thrown myself in front of a speeding train and then this little guy calls me miserable? He wanted me on Wellbutrin which I didn’t take and wanted me to come back which I did once but it was really out of spite to show him how great I was doing and that I wasn’t miserable. He,in turn, gave me the card of a therapist who dealt with depression and addiction. Sigh.

Today, real happiness isn’t a thing or an event. I usually feel it when I’m walking down the street and I realize how good my life is. Generally, when I’m sad I let myself feel that too. I also realize that the happiness and unhappiness of others isn’t my business. I can let my husband, friends and family feel their lives too and everything will be okay without me manufacturing happiness for them. When Michael Jackson died, the media mentioned over and over how “Smile” by Charlie Chaplin was his favorite song. Such an addict. I mean those lyrics- “You smile through your pain and sorrow. Smile and maybe tomorrow, You’ll see the sun come shining through.” Smiling through his pain and self-medicating didn’t really go so well for MJ.  And one of Judy Garland’s signature songs was “Come on Get Happy!” and we all know how great things turned out for her too. The point is, I don’t need slogans or upbeat jingles to convince the world I’m happy. I do consider myself a happy person but it ain’t always sunshine and lollipops. A lot of times, it’s a total disaster. But the truth today is all of it is just fine the way it is.