Monthly Archives: December 2014

reflections off the water

self care struggle


i have a belief that self care, or lack there of, ends up in every recipe for depression. i also believe that if there were a group of depressed people around, a fight might break out surrounding whose struggles with self care contributes most to their depression. here, you will find one of my arguments why my struggles with self care weighs me down.
Mary and i had planned to go to a dinner this saturday. the dinner is a group, come as you are, low pressure affair. the more each of us thought about it, we separately made a decision that going to the dinner didn’t rank high on our priorities.
the separate thoughts came together in a conversation. “i’ll go if you want to go.”‘ echoed back and forth. okay, then our saturday night is free, no obligations.
a day or so went by and I remembered about a certain part of the saturday evening that excited me. a conversation ensued. “you know, i thought about saturday evening and I changed my mind; I really want to go.”‘ i said. Mary replied,”okay, then we will go.”
end of story, right? if it where only that easy.
i had only asked for a change in plans and met absolutely no resistance, but an ashen color washed over my now long face. it felt like i had just fought a long, hard battle.  the fight made me feel exhausted.
Mary noted my change in color and shift in energy. really, at this point, i had barely noticed it myself. she asked me what happened. after a brief moment of thought, i realized that my attempt, an uncontested attempt, at self care, going to the dinner, had resulted in great wounds or more likely the opening of old wounds.
you see, self care didn’t really show up on the curriculum in my household. formal training on self care didn’t exist. I guess we, the children, learned what we learned through osmosis. we were just let to absorb it from else where. many times when we practiced self care at home, the results often ended up getting rebuffed.
i find it funny, in a sad way, that there exists underlying jokes on sex education with kids and the affects it has on adult lives. those jokes for self care don’t appear to exist but the results can be far more damaging.
a seemingly harmless and successful conversation about the saturday dinner caused painful flashbacks to my childhood years. there, untaught attempts at self care, only those learned on the proverbial streets and in the imaginary back alleys, those childhood defeats, more often than not, today, still echo in my mind.
today, those childhood failures at self care, these learned patterns, continue to haunt me and trip me up. seemingly successful exchanges end up in a ball of flame. no wonder self care ends up as an ingredient in my depression recipe; even successful attempts at it, can result in serious setbacks.
bird in the reeds

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

thanks to all my old and new readers, alike.  i reactivated my blog after a 14 month hiatus from, your guessed it, depression! more like despair. that sucked about 10 times worse than depression. depression, for me, feels like I have a fight change, despair, not so much. it feels more like i’ve been beaten.  personal advice, avoid despair at all cost! It has no redeeming values what so ever.

I feel thankful that hope has returned to my vocabulary. hopefully,  2015 will include publishing s new book. more about that later, though.

click on for the full report.

Click here to see the complete report.

another view of the tatoosh range

gotta be true to you

note: this started out as a reply to something my friend depressionless said. it got a little out of control, too many words, and what I said would likely beneficial to many, so I turned it into a post.

i hate when people try to impose their feeling structure on me. if i am sad, let me be sad. don’t make me fake happy, glad, satisfied or jovial. those feelings don’t fit me at the time.
Continue reading

hang in there…a little tree hangs on to a rock

a time to prune

some times plants grow so rapidly, they become a detriment to their very selves. this growth potentially can lead to situations where the plant could die. the gardener prunes for that very reason. they cut out the deadwood, the crossing branches which don’t aid the tree’s health, or prune back branches that may be rubbing. this process helps to insure a healthy plant that will continue to grow for many years to come.
i played gardener this week, cutting out a branch that had started to rub, contributing almost more to my unwell being as compared to my well being. it leaves me still with three lively support groups that feed me and strangely enough, support me.
the branch had to go because the group failed on its primary directive, support. there has been a few times the group worked against my support, where i felt worse leaving the group than when i arrived. that’s not good.
at times recently, i would read one of my posts, or derivatives of it, and i would get the obligatory, “that’s nice.” no one would approach me after the meeting and want to discuss it further or even offer up a further compliment. that positive feedback happens regularly at the other meetings.
i can recall three times i felt lower leaving the meeting as compared to arriving. one time i went to the meeting feeling so low, i wondered if i could go lower. i found my answer, yep! the interactions i had drove me even deeper into the abyss.
this feeling worse at an end of a meeting happened again this week and became the proverbial straw that broke the camels back.
someone stated as fact that growth always comes from within. i knew of at least four times in my recent life where i saw or experienced where something from outside of me had become a catalyst to my further growth. i offered up the analogy of a seed becoming the giant tree. i got denied with the statement that the seed seeks out the nutrients to grow. “what about water. without water the tree can’t grow.” i said. “true, but the tree seeks out the water it needs”, i heard. “well without water, a drought, the tree withers.”, i replied. “well if you want to go there!”, they replied with a huff.
then came the topper. i told my story of my friend mark who had been saying, “stephen, i am so glad to see you.”, for months now. only now could i recognize how helpful those reoccurring words were for me where i am now. those words surely did not come from inside; they came as a gift from another person. the silence sounded deafening.
the whole interaction bugged me, like really bugged me. i pondered the question why did this bother me so much?
i bounced it around a few minutes and an answer became clear. i realized i repeatedly tried to tell a personal truth, that sometimes growth requires a catalyst. additionally, sometimes that spark will come from a source outside of myself. each time i said my truth, i heard, “that can’t be true. you’re wrong.” just so you know, one of the quickest ways to piss me off is to tell me that one of my personal truths is wrong. that makes my mathematical mind (did i tell you i have a degree in mathematics?) explode since something cannot be right and wrong at the same time. that’s what is called a fallacy.
so, i decided the branch rubs a little too much. with that rubbing comes chaffing. and if that chaffing were to continue, the overall health of the plant, me, would suffer.
when i told Mary, i believe she initially felt concern; she had seen mostly the good the group had done for me. i reassured her that i still had three other groups. i also reminded her of one of the other benefits.
before my recent decision, half of afternoons or evenings, went to support group. that meant half the time i definitely could not spend time with Mary. the other half of the time, with life being life, became a hit and miss affair. that means that we had one night where we where both free to be with each other.
i told her monday night would be our game night. no tv, just her and i playing games. i think it will be good for us. it has been years since we set aside a night for each other. i actually look,forward to the opportunity with a certain amount of excitement.
so, as the good pruner knows, as the old branch falls, an opportunity of new growth arises. i plan to make the most of this opportunity and sprout some new growth that will make me even stronger.
blue boat getting away?

The big wind of ’14

i sit here in the dark tapping out this post my ole reliable ipad. thank god for battery powered devices. you see, tonight is, said with the proper booming voice, the  big wind of ’14.  before losing power the local tv station broke in giving a update of the storm every commercial break. then a flicker and another, then we plunged into total darkness.
i’m going to take this opportunity to tell some wind stories of mine. I don’t think they are too scary, but you might want to cuddle up with your teddy bear, just in case. it never bad to cuddle with teddy, anyway.
i first encountered wind as a young child, less than 10 years old. when ever we had a big wind, i would shiver violently in fear. the noises scared me and I had fear that some nearby tree would come crashing downing my bed. of course, the nearest tall tree stood probably 60 yards away. those trees couldn’t even do any damage because the prevailing winds wouldn’t even blow the tree towards our house. tell that to an eight year old. so, I lived in fear of big winds.
i normally slep up stairs. on windy nights I sought the comfort and solace of one of the down stair bedrooms until I could finally shiver myself to sleep.
until one windy night. it was a dark and stormy night. I had had it with fearing this wind. That night, I made a pact with myself to show strength and stay up stairs, all night. i shivered violently just like any of the windstorms before, but this time, I stayed up stairs! wind never had power over me in my childhood years, ever again.
step forward some twenty years as we moved into our new and current house. there are two trees that concern me. they are both to the south of us and big storms around here kick up winds from the sound.  one would wreck havoc, landing on the foot side of the master bedroom and the other would do damage, landing on our garage and cars. The first tree has enough heftTo do major structural damage and scare the bjezes out of us at the same time, especially if we were peacefully resting. the second tree doesn’t have near the heft of the first tree so I believe its damage would be rather minimal. the fact that we live in a well wooded suburban neighborhood ends up offering us protection. there are enough trees to the south of us to rob just enough of the wind’s energy to keep our trees standing, hopefully for as long as we live here.
which brings us to tonight. the power is out and the only light in the house comes from my ipad or flashlights as we move around the house. I find amazing the amount of light that all of our electronic devices and appliances give off. The  blacks are a little more blacker this evening because of the lack of power.
the winds continue to howl outside, sometimes as loud as a double fortissimo. for you who don’t know music terms, that means very loud, where triple fortissimo generally gets recognized as playing the loudest the instrument will play. when it the loudest, it reminded of the sound at the end of the runway as a plane comes in for a it’s noisy landing. the sound kicks up my fear, not like my childhood uncontrollable shiver fear but more like a putting a sizable knot in my stomach. thankfully, the wind, and with it, the sound, has died down, more like a mezzo forte, medium loud, to forte, loud.
which brings me to my final realization, which i recognized last year, that I will share about before signing off for the evening. take a small branch and whip it through the air. it will create a relatively high pitched sound. now take another larger bow and wave it through the air; it will create a lower pitched sound. as you wave even larger bows the sound will get lower and lower. now, imagine a wind blowing through the trees. everything from flutes, the small branches, to bases, the largest bows, play their song. the wind in the trees creates a full blown orchestra! The higher the wind speed, the louder and more intense the orchestral movement becomes. sometimes I try to use the orchestra to calm and sooth my nerves trying to loosen the intricate knots that resides in my now tired mid section.
postscript: our power came back on about 2:30 am. as mary drove out of the neighborhood heading to work this morning, she called me with an update. just over two blocks from our house, the neighborhood still remains without the electrical juice that our society has so come to rely on. What a difference two blocks can make.
clouds and sunlight

a special gift deferred

five months into my last depressive cycle, Mary offered me a gift, a cruise to alaska. this had always been a life’s desire of mine. Mary’s gift made the statement, “you are special.” being in a screwed state of mind, i put my hands over my ears and yelled la la la la just as loud as i could. depression likes to steal and it took just about every ounce of self value that i possess.  i did not feel worthy of this gift.
i came up with what ever excuses i could; we couldn’t afford it, who would take care of the boyz, our dogs, what if this or that? Mary had an answer for every question. she didn’t use these words, but the message remained true, “you are special and we are going.”
we went.
on the cruise, i did what i could to put on a happy front. i enjoyed much of what we did and had a fun time with Mary. no matter how i tried, the alaska grey skies had an extra cloud and it always seemed to be parked directly over my head. depression kept tapping me on the shoulder, “don’t forget about me.”
upon our return to the mainland, i tried to hold on to the experience, to the joy i felt, to the fun i had. unfortunately depression had soon dragged me back into its living hell. the nasty fire burnt within for another 15 months.
i can now look back and recognize the horrid events of the last 20, 20?, ugh, months. i can see how depression tricked me and took so much from me. just like any modern day robbery, i may or may not get back all the goods i have lost.
but, i can now look back on our cruise with clear vision. i can finally recognize Mary’s message that the worthiness resides within me and i deserved that special gift. i can close my eyes and try to reimagine the trip without our third bunkmate.
my message to the people suffering with depression, take in the special gifts no matter how large or small, from a dinner on any given wednesday to an alaskan cruise, and take it into your heart. you may not believe it, but accept the gift as a sign that you are special and worth it.
my message to the supporters of depression, keep at it. keep offering up the gifts. your friend or love one needs them. they may seem like the gifts are being rejected. perhaps the gift has snuck passed the mighty fortifications set up by depression and have found a place in your friend’s heart.  after the many  battles, after the months of black and blue, the gift can be looked back on with the fondness, gratitude and respect the special gift deserves. this process may take days, months or even years,  but your friend or loved one will finally feel appreciation. it can become like my alaskan cruise, a special gift deferred.