Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Longest Year

I don't believe in coincidences.  Ever.  God is purposeful in the most minute of details.  So as I sat at my desk working this afternoon, just like I did one year ago today, and this song came on, I knew it wasn't by chance.  Nor was it an accident.  I recognized the voice as Nick Drake's but I can't say I'd ever really paid attention to it before.  But today, it resonated with me.  So I looked into the lyrics.

A day once dawned from the ground
Then the night she fell
And the air was beautiful
The night she fell all around.
So look see the days
The endless coloured ways
And go play the game that you learnt
From the morning.
And now we rise
And we are everywhere
And now we rise from the ground
And see she flies 
And she is everywhere 
See she flies all around 
So look see the sights 
The endless summer nights 
And go play the game that you learnt 
From the morning.


Here it is if you'd like to take a listen. 

And then I wondered about Nick Drake.  
There are two of his songs with which I have more familiarity.
There's this one, that is on the Garden State soundtrack.
Love that movie.  

And there's this one from the Volkswagen commercial from many years ago.  Truth be told, this is where I first heard Drake's sumptuous voice.  His voice made me want to hear more.  So about the time this ad was out, we bought the album which contains this title track:  Pink Moon.
It takes my breath away.

But today, as I thought about the man attached to such beautiful talent, I remembered a tiny bit of information about him. I knew that he was no longer alive, that he had died during the 70s. I also knew that he didn't have a huge body of work, since he was rather young when his life came to an end. And that was the sum total of what I knew. So I looked into his life on Wikipedia. Where else, right? And I was so moved by what I read. 

Here's an excerpt:

Nicholas Rodney "Nick" Drake (19 June 1948 – 25 November 1974) was an English singer-songwriter and musician, known for his acoustic guitar-based songs. He failed to find a wide audience during his lifetime...
By 1972, he had recorded two more albums...neither sold more than 5,000 copies on initial release.
Drake's reluctance to perform live, or be interviewed, contributed to his lack of commercial success. There is no known footage of the adult Drake; he was only ever captured in still photographs and in home footage from his childhood.
Drake suffered from depression, particularly during the latter part of his young life. This was often reflected in his lyrics. On completion of his third album, 1972's Pink Moon, he withdrew from both live performance and recording, retreating to his parents' home in rural Warwickshire. On 25 November 1974, Drake died from an overdose of amitriptyline, a prescribed antidepressant; he was 26 years old. Whether his death was an accident or suicide has never been resolved.

How tragic. How sad. And here I am, nearly forty years later, mourning a man whose entire life on Earth existed before I was even a glimmer in my mother's eye. And his music, his life's work, is ministering to my soul. 

Since I've made the decision to speak loudly about my struggles with mental illness, and to advocate for the much-needed conversation on this topic, I've been contacted by numerous people, both in person and online:

"Thanks for sharing your story." 

"I've struggled for the last 10 years." 

"I have two family members who struggle and won't get help."

"I'm afraid to tell my family about my struggles."

If anything, these words, and others like them, have strengthened my resolve to keep talking. 

One year ago, today, was the last full day my nephew, Derek, lived on earth. He died in a car accident sometime in the early morning hours of last December 19th. As this first anniversary of his death comes, and goes, I've chosen a Nick Drake song that I found today in Derek's memory.

And I don't believe it was a coincidence that I found it. 

'Cello Song

Strange face, with your eyes
So pale and sincere.
Underneath you know well
You have nothing to fear.
For the dreams that came to you when so young
Told of a life
Where spring is sprung.

You would seem so frail
In the cold of the night
When the armies of emotion
Go out to fight.
But while the earth sinks to its grave
You sail to the sky
On the crest of a wave.

So forget this cruel world
Where I belong
I'll just sit and wait
And sing my song.
And if one day you should see me in the crowd
Lend a hand and lift me
To your place in the cloud.

I'll see you when it's time, Beautiful Boy.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

On Living With Mental Illness

Edited to change some of the time-related details.  Upon thinking, I realized I had gotten some of the details wrong.  The incorrect information is crossed out and correct information follows in purple text. 

Mental and Illness.
Dirty words?
When someone struggles with what goes on in their head--irrational, obsessive, continuous, delusional--they might be called "crazy."  I prefer to avoid that term.  Mental and Illness.  NOT dirty words. Rather, a painful reality for so many.

Looking back, I can see that I've always struggled with irrational thought patterns, (perhaps that ulcer in second grade provides a clue?) an obsessive and continuous cycle of the anxiety-producing element du jour.  For me, the what doesn't really matter, since it has changed over the years--morphed into something apropos for the time.  But the obsessive cycle is there.  As well as the lows.  And the depression.

And now, it is all dulled by paroxetine hydrochloride.

My wonder drug.

It causes "increased appetite and decreased energy," which means a 40 pound weight gain over the last four five and a half years, since I've been taking it.  Again. (Which is another tale for another time.)  But it gives new and beautiful meaning, to the phrase "fat and happy." The dimming of the cycle of lies is a blessing. The quieting of my mind allows me to focus on the here and now, rather than the constant, exhausting cycle of what-ifs.

I've always been open about my struggles, since they came to the surface back in 1997 1996.  
My breaking point. 
That's when, while I was never suicidal, I paraphrased Paul's words as my own mantra: for to me to live is Jesus Christ, but to die would be SO much better. I fortunately didn't get to the point where I was ready to take my own life, but I did wonder how I would live life the way I felt. That I couldn't imagine a life full of what I was feeling and thinking.  That life ending, just being over, would be far better. Yeah, I get it.  It was a rather hopeless outlook. 

But I talked to others, my parents and close friends, and was advised to see a psychiatrist. I will forever be grateful to Dr. Morgan.  He was the one who first put me on Paxil in December of 1997 1996.  And within a month I felt relief. It was amazing.  The loop of lies running through my head?  Constantly?  It was dimmed.  It offered sweet relief that allowed me to enjoy life and those I love once more.

Today isn't just a random day in which I've chosen to share my struggles so publicly. Rather I am sharing them exactly one year after someone I love very much attempted to take his own life.  I know he struggled, for years, with what went on inside of his head.  But, I won't pretend to know what he went through leading up to and in the late night hours of October 31, 2012 and the early morning hours of November 1, 2012.  I do know that, for whatever reason, he changed his mind and sought help.  He didn't succeed in taking his own life, one year ago. And for that, I'll always be grateful.

In the week or so after, I obeyed a gnawing feeling I had to share with him a bit about my own struggles. And in Whom I find comfort. And to let him know how I loved him and was so proud of who he was. I'll always be thankful for heeding the prompting I felt to share with him,  since he only lived on Earth for another six weeks after November 1st.

So, I become vulnerable in his memory.  I choose to shout it from the roof tops, on this day, (or, at least, from my corner of the interwebs) that: 


I refuse to be silent, or even quiet, any longer. If we pay attention to the seeming-epidemic status of "active shooter" situations in our nation, we will see that this is NOT a gun issue. It is a mental health issue. Or if we took some time to build relationships with the homeless community in our areas, we would see that all too often, their reality is not laziness, but rather some variety of mental illness. 

The stigma must be lifted.  We must talk about it.  People must feel free to seek treatment, and must be open to hearing that they need treatment.  If someone has cancer, is there a stigma attached to chemotherapy?  If someone has a strep infection, is there a stigma attached to taking antibiotics?

Mental illness: illness of the mind. Yes, it is different than cancer or strep, but it is an illness, all the same.  It requires work to "cure" it.  Ok, so curing is unlikely.  But I'm proof that life can become better, good even, with work and time.  And, yes, for some, even medication.  Doctors, therapists, and medications.  These are NOT additional dirty words.  These are the tools that can be used to re-fashion the brains of the ill.  And I'm grateful that they exist.  Because even though I still long for the hope of heaven, where there is no more suffering or sickness, I am able to find joy and hope in THIS world.  In HIS creation.  If it weren't for these tools, I'm not sure I could get to such a place.  

May I challenge you to live gently with those in your life?  We never know what battles someone may be fighting inside of themselves.  And if you, or someone you love, struggles with mental illness, TALK about it.  Do your part to add to our society's conversation.  And perhaps, little by little, we can erase the stigma.

Gonna go take my medicine now.  Just like I do every night before I go to bed.  With gratitude.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Two Years and Change

It's hard to believe that it's been more than two years since I've posted anything on this blog.  While I'm sad that this has dropped down on the list of priorities, I'm delighted at the record we have of the years when our three were little bitties.  
Life now is full and good and.....did I already mention full?  Just thought I'd blow the dust off the old blog, for just a few minutes.  And share the earlier years with new friends.  And old ones too.  
Who knows?  Maybe I'll try to post now and again, again.  
Stranger things have happened, I'm sure.