Friday, October 28, 2016

This is What It Feels Like... be depressed. At least for me.

The Sun Dispels the Morning Fog by William Posey Silva

Sorry you can't see the painting better. 

When I saw this painting in Greenville, SC, I connected to it. This is what it feels like when I'm depressed. I don't necessarily feel sad. I feel like all my emotions are muted. I don't feel excited about anything. I just move from moment to moment.

I was trying to think about an analogy. I think this one works. 

Imagine you're driving your car through a thick fog. You can see maybe ten, maybe fifteen, feet in front of you. You know that there is a world outside the fog. There are other cars. Houses. Fields. Trees. The sun. However, you can't see any of that. As you drive along, you start to get tense. It's a lot of work just doing this mundane thing, driving. You have to keep an eye on the lines painted on the road. They're the only thing that keeps you on track. Every now and then great, shadowed shapes loom up in the fog. You can't make out any details, but they are terrifying. Cars, not using their headlights, the bastards, zip by, the noise and motion sudden and terrifying. An interruption to the drive. You get quiet, focused on the task. You know that, due to stress, any response you make to the passengers in your car will be harsh. Almost violent. When driving in the fog, it's easier to stick to routes and streets that you know. Driving down a new road is an extremely stressful experience. You can't see the street signs. You can't see any landmarks. The fogged-over road is your world. Nothing exists outside of it. 

The road rises high  enough that you're above the fog. The sun shines. From above, it doesn't even seem like there's fog on the valley floor. You can see everything. You relax. Turn on the music. Maybe sing. Laugh with your passengers. It feels like you can do anything. Looking back, you realize you didn't know just how awful it was to be in the fog. Now that you're out you don't want to go back. Unfortunately, the road will dip and fog will come again. 

I've been lucky. I've never had anyone ask, "Well, why don't you just snap out of it? Depression is just being sad. Decide to not be depressed!" 

If only it were that simple. 

Sometimes, realizing I'm depressed will help me start to rise up out of the fog. I can try to take roads I know will help me feel more light, guide me toward the high ground. Unfortunately, I'm not always near those roads and finding the right path can be tricky. 

I can't control thick fog surrounding my vehicle. I can't control the chemicals in my brain from numbing my emotions and causing me to feel helpless, that I can't do anything. I do have techniques I can use to help me through those times. But using the wrong one can be worse than doing nothing. Ever used your high beams in a fog? It's doesn't always help. The fog can reflect all that extra light right back into your eyes. 

Listening to songs or watching TV shows you enjoy can help. If the depression is deep enough it can hurt. It scares me when I realize that I don't feel a connection to something I enjoy. 

So what can you do when someone you love is depressed? That's probably a better question for Chelsea. I think invitations to do small things is good. Especially the invitation part. Give me a choice. Let me know that there aren't going to be tons of people there, or that there isn't going to be anything required of me. I think if you choose something I've done before, that makes it easier as well. To be honest, each depression is a little different. And it's different for everybody that goes through depression. Sometimes just asking if there's anything you can do to help is helpful. Don't expect an answer right away. Just leave the offer hanging. 

And that's what depression feels like. To me anyway.

Thursday, September 22, 2016


Earlier today I thought of a funny idea that I wanted to write down before I forgot. I grabbed the first notebook I saw and started turning to a blank page. This is the last piece I had written. I don't remember writing it. I think I must have written it in the hospital the day before Mom passed away, but I just don't remember for sure.


I used to think true fear was Gmork.

Gmork is a talking wolf with glowing green eyes. He appears in The Neverending Story. For most of the movie he's a shadow pursuing Atreyu. When they finally meet, Gmork starts to talk. He serves The Nothing, the force devouring the fantasy world of Fantasia. Every time I watched the movie I couldn't watch that part. I would close my eyes, but hearing his words still chilled my heart. I would stick my fingers in my ears, telling my sister to let me know when Gmork was dead. 

Just two nights ago I watched that scene again, hoping to exorcise the green-eyed demon that had hounded me for a quarter of a century. I thought it had worked, that I was finally over fearing Gmork. 

Night fell. I went to bed. I had to get up to use the bathroom, but I couldn't move. I needed a flashlight to make sure Gmork wasn't there, waiting to open his eyes and leap for my throat.

As it turns out, Gmork isn't fear.

Fear, true fear, is walking into Room 127 to find my mother lying in bed, tubes entering and exiting, violating her appearance. Her head to one side, mouth open in a silent plea for help that I cannot give. Bile flows through a tube from her abdomen, slowly filling a 32 oz plastic mug.

Her eyes struggle to open when I say, "I'm here."

Her mouth works. To say what, I don't know. Her lips are so dry that the skin sticks and stretches as if her mouth had disappeared completely.

Fear is watching her eyes clench in pain, a moaning cry wisping from her throat as she begins to hiccup, the movement tugging at her recently opened abdomen, tearing at stitches that haven't even begun to form scars.

Her left arm begins to lift, her hand flapping uselessly. She wants to lift it to her nose, to pull the tube inserted there, but she doesn't have the strength.

She had a stroke, a big one, in the left hemisphere of her brain. A stroke so big it jumped the divide and spilled into the right half. 

The doctors are worried about swelling. They offer to show me, and my siblings, pictures.

Fear is leaving Room 127 after she has been dosed with Dilotid. Her erratic movements cease and she starts to slip off to sleep.

I tell her I love her. I say I'll come back to visit.

As I turn to exit I feel my heart contract and it has to work harder to beat.

Gmork could wait in the shadows and I wouldn't care. His glowing green eyes and snarling manner of speech no longer matter, for I have learned true fear.

I am terrified that death is waiting to escort my mother away and I'm not ready.

True terror is getting a call at work that says, "You need to come to the hospital. Now."

I know what's going to happen. I also know there's nothing I can do to stop it. All I can do is be there for my mother and my siblings.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A Few Words...

...regarding the death of my father.

Is it weird to be grateful? It has been so many years since Dad had the full use of his faculties. He didn't know who I was, though he sometimes looked like he knew he should. I can't imagine it was a pleasant way to live. He had Alzheimer's. Dementia. Parkinson's. And he finally decided he'd had enough. And that's OK. I had long since mourned the passing of my father. The funeral was just a formality. 

It was a nice funeral. There were some family members I was glad to see again. I got to interact with the Mosdell family (the morticians), which is always nice. They were very friendly and were concerned with my well-being. Not just as family of the deceased, but as a friend. It was cathartic to go through the funeral services. I didn't have any responsibilities, which was great as I was very involved with Mom's funeral. 

I loved my father. I know he loved me. 

(Here's the part where I try to process my thoughts about my relationship with my father. This is from my perspective. There were many people, including many of my nieces and nephews and some people who weren't blood related, who had a better relationship with my father than I did. Please don't try to discredit my feelings. They are mine. They should in no way diminish yours.)

I didn't have a stellar relationship with my father. I feel now as though he just didn't have time for me. I think we just didn't have a whole lot in common apart from our familial relationship. Even though we were both avid readers, our books of choice were vastly different. I remember trying to read some of Dad's collection of Louis L'Amour novels. The only one I liked was Lando, and it wasn't a typical L'Amour book. 

Back in February I started working with a counselor. I started off focusing on my grief following Mom's death. As we worked through those feelings, we started talking about my relationship with Dad. That became the focus of the bulk of our sessions. For one session, my counselor asked that I come prepared by remembering a "disturbing" memory. 

In my memory I believe I'm around 12 years old. I'm jumping on the trampoline. Dad is working on a project with Mom. He calls me over as he needs an additional pair of hands. I walk across the lawn in my socks to help. He needs me to hold his drill while he adjusts the pieces he is screwing together. His drill that is all metal. I take it, get shocked, and drop it. Dad gets a little irritated. He picks it up and hands it back to me. I drop it again. I'm crying now because getting shocked is a bit painful, plus Dad is now upset with me. I can't remember how the situation was resolved. Thinking about it now, I can't believe that Dad didn't realize what was happening when I first dropped the drill. He taught science. I was grounded. It's no big surprise I was shocked when he, wearing shoes, was not. 

I discussed this memory with my counselor until I no longer felt it was disturbing to me. I made some progress resolving my feelings toward my father. I moved to South Carolina, then went back to Utah briefly for Dad's funeral. 

After I came back to South Carolina I spent a while trying to scan family documents. I started scanning a calendar that Dad used as a diary, making brief notations for each day. I stopped to read one when I saw my name written. He was talking about supporting me at a Cub Scout ceremony. Then he wrote the following, "When Adam was born I was jealous of him because he took my wife as a mother. He still does. I, however, have lost my jealousy feelings."

My father resented me.

This was quite the revelation. There were emotions and memories that clicked into place. From what I understand, feelings of jealousy and resentment from fathers toward their children is common. I wonder if Dad really had conquered his jealousy. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. That journal entry helped clear some things up. It helps explain why I didn't feel all that close to Dad. 

Knowing that Dad felt that way makes me feel a little vindicated. That I'm not crazy for feeling that there was a distance between us. Is there still some processing I need to do? Probably, but I feel like, as far as feelings about my dad go, that I'm in a pretty good place now.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Thin and Stretched...

...but not in the "I'm being slowly possessed by an evil power that dwells in this neat bit of jewelry that turns me invisible when I wear it" way.

I was going to say that I'm tired, but "tired" is an inappropriate choice as far as words go. It implies that I don't care anymore, that I'm putting my head in the sand and refusing to participate in the world. 

No, far more accurate would be "weary." I'm weary. To the bone. 

Word of warning: this post will wander a fair bit. I don't even know that I have a point to make, but I need to write about what I'm feeling.

Chelsea and I have moved to Columbia, South Carolina. I'm excited at the opportunity to study at the University of South Carolina. It's a great school. I also managed to get a Graduate Assistantship. This means that I will only have to pay in-state tuition and that I'll receive some financial aid benefit as well. This is a very good thing.

We've been here a month and neither of us has managed to find a job. Chelsea has applied for a huge number of jobs. Over one hundred by now. I haven't applied for that many, mostly because I need a part-time position and one that won't make me hate myself hasn't presented itself yet. It's getting to the point where I don't think I can be all that picky any more. We'll see. My assistantship starts in August. I'm hoping to get an additional one that will function as a part-time job. We'll see.

I haven't been sleeping well. Part of that is due to the heat. We can't afford to run the air-conditioning as much as would be sufficient to help me sleep. So I'm sleepy quite a bit. 

I'm depressed as well. I don't do well with change, even when it's change that is one I've been looking forward to making. Add in the job situation and it has brought me down. I'm trying to do things that will give me moments of pleasure, like hunting Pokemon on an app for my phone when I run errands around town. I've been playing Magic each week as well. I enjoy that a lot. It feels like a silly expense, especially when we don't have jobs, but I feel it's an important thing for me to do. 

And the world seems to be going insane. 

It's almost to the point that I don't want to read the news or my Facebook feed when I go online. I'm deeply saddened by the senseless violence that seems so commonplace now. I hate that it is commonplace. 

And those that aren't directly affected by the violence just seem to clamor about how it's going to affect their individual rights. 

I don't have a solution. I'm not nearly wise enough to know where to begin formulating one. 

To my eyes it seems as though there is a drought of epic proportions when it comes to loving our neighbor. There is almost no sense of community anymore. Everyone is just looking out for themselves and letting everyone else do the same. 

The current presidential election isn't helping anything. I am so sick of elections where it seems like all people do is choose the "lesser of two evils." When I voted for President Obama, it was because he had an aura of hope about him. Unfortunately, he was saddled with a Congress that seemed to take a childish pleasure in saying, "No," to everything he wanted to try and do. There didn't seem to be any attempt at compromise or to work together. And that is sad. 

The two frontrunners in the current election don't give me any sense of hope. Trump is a businessman who has manipulated the system so he could make huge amounts of money every time one of his businesses went bankrupt. I can't help but feel that he is running for president as an attempt to make more money. His campaign is one of hatred and anger, two emotions that are definitely not needed in the current social atmosphere.

I don't know that I like Clinton any better. 

I have a secret hope in my heart of hearts that Bernie will somehow manage to obtain the nomination. He's someone I feel like wouldn't be the "lesser of two evils." I'm not saying he's perfect by any stretch, but his views tend to align more with mine and I feel like he wants to actually effect positive change.

There's a lot more swirling around my head, but I don't know how to articulate it at the moment. Here's to hoping that tomorrow finds me a lot less weary.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Favorite Songs A to Z...

...well, let's be honest. I don't have a favorite song that starts with either "X" or "Z." There just aren't that many songs that start with those letters, and of those I've heard I don't like any.

Anyway, there are people in the world who will judge you based on what music you listen to. I think that's silly, personally. Just because you enjoy a particular music genre, or even a particular artist, doesn't mean you're a bad person. Unless you're a huge Toby Keith fan. Just kidding. I think.

Anyway, I've done lists like this before, and I find it to be a fun exercise. I guess I could try and do a Top 25 or Top 10 song list, but this gives me an opportunity to explore what I like and defining what can go in the list makes me ponder the choice to make sure it's the accurate one. These are songs that either mean a lot to me at the moment or that I find amusing or fun. These are the songs that don't get skipped when they come one. In fact, they'll often get repeated. Three or four times.

Without further exposition, let's get to the list.

A. All About That Bass (No Tenors) by Straight No Chaser. You are probably more familiar with the original, Meghan Trainor version. This is the version I like. If you've ever sung in a choir, or know someone who sings, you might be aware that basses don't like tenors all that much. I'm not sure why. I'm a bass, and I tend to mock tenors. Anyway, Straight No Chaser has written new lyrics that speak to my experience in choirs. So much fun.

B. Better When I'm Dancin' by Meghan Trainor. I didn't expect to have a Meghan Trainor song on this list, much less two. You know, if you count the previous entry. Anyway, this was a song that was featured in the recent Peanuts CGI movie. I enjoyed the movie, partially because I am such a huge Peanuts fan. And I love this song. It's just so positive and uplifting. It brightens my day to listen to it.

C. Criminal from the movie Ra.One. Ra.One is a Bollywood movie. When it was made, it was the most expensive movie ever made in India. They ask a lot of their actors. They have to be able to act, be competent with action, sing, and dance. This song was the opening musical number from the film and it's a lot of fun to listen to. You should look up the video on youtube. It's a hoot to watch.

D. Defying Gravity by Idina Menzel, from Wicked. A song all about overcoming the expectations of those around you and becoming who you truly are. I've cried many times to this song. I find it to be personally inspirational and very important.

E. Ecos de Amor by Jesse & Joy. Jesse & Joy are a brother/sister duo from Mexico. I've loved their music from the first single of theirs that I heard. Each album is much more rich musically and shows the siblings' growth. After listening to this song, which translates as "Echoes of Love," I was left emotionally drained and dumbfounded at the intricacy of the music and the lyrics. The music was unlike anything I had heard from Jesse & Joy previously and the lyrics are packed with imagery and meaning. Each word works to make the whole that much more powerful. I've been working on translating the entire song. It's a tough task, but a labor of love.

F. Fuckin' Perfect by P!nk. This is the song I listen to when I get overly judgemental of myself. I have a tendency to hold myself to an unrealistically high standard and then, when I don't live up to my unrealistic expectations, I beat myself up and think less of myself. Listening to this song makes me remember that I'm a pretty decent fellow and don't deserve my own harsh thoughts. This is another one where, if you get the chance, you should watch the music video. It's incredibly powerful. There's a "clean" version, if that's something that is important to you. 

G. Gravity by Sara Bareilles. Sara has three songs on this list. I love her music. I find this song to be beautiful and moving. It's all about finding the strength to overcome those aspects of your life that hold you back or down. This is another song where the music video is amazing. It's done in one long shot, gradually showing a galaxy created by practical effects. It is really cool.

H. Hold On by the University of Illinois Rip Chords. This is an a cappella rendition of the Wilson Phillips hit. I love this arrangement. I also really like the song itself. The lyrics have made me cry on more than one occasion. 

I. I'm Going to Go Back There Some Day by Gonzo. Yes, the Muppet. For me, this is all about the sense of longing you feel as you try to find your place in the world. I also particularly like the line, "There's not a word yet for old friends you've just met." It doesn't happen very often, but there have been times when I've met someone who instantly becomes a friend I've had all my life. It's a powerful moment, one that's captured really well by this song.

J. Just Give Me a Reason by P!nk and the lead singer of Fun.(yes, the period is part of the band's name for trademark reasons). P!nk is on my list a total of four times. I love her music. This is just a great duet. If you wish to see a video, search for the performance at the Grammys. They do a great job live. Sidebar, P!nk could break the guy in half if she so chose. 

K. Kaleidoscope by A Great Big World. I discovered this duo about a year ago and I've loved their music ever since. They only have a couple songs that I will skip when they come on. To me, this song is all about the colors and new shapes that come into your life with each new friend and loved one that you meet. It's a bouncy, cheerful song that buoys me up.

L. Let it Be from Across the Universe. I love this Beatles song, but I particularly love the rendition from the musical that uses Beatles songs. It's kind of a Gospel rendition of the song, and that adds a lot of soul to it. It tends to pull my heart along on an emotional journey. 

M. El Malo by Jesse & Joy. Joy usually does the bulk of the singing on their songs, but for this one Jesse takes the lead. This helps me as I try to overcome my tendency to feel guilt that I shouldn't. Helps me to feel better about myself. One of the lines I particularly enjoy is "Darkness isn't the enemy of light." I find that a fascinating concept. I think there's a lot of truth to it, that the two are only opposite sides of the same coin. 

N. Not Ready to Make Nice by the Dixie Chicks. I recently watched the documentary "Shut Up and Sing," which is about the years following the controversy over what Natalie Maines said during a concert in England. I won't go into it here, but it was an interesting documentary. I like the way this song presents those moments where you're willing to forgive what's been done to you, but you can't forget it. Whether you're going to use the experience to make yourself stronger or to try and avoid a similar situation in the future, bad experiences can be great teachers. I love this song.

O. Oasis by A Great Big World. I was lucky enough to find a woman who has become my safe place, who helps protect me from the world. She understands me and lets me know that it's OK to be me. I can be my introverted self. I can take some time to be alone and recover. She supports this. She also lets me know when those times arrive that I have to come out of my comfort zone. But when those times happen, she is there to support me and protect me. She makes me be a better me. She is my oasis. This song reminds me of that.

P. Pictures in My Head by Kermit. Yes, the Muppet. This song is about those times when you wonder what you could have done to change the outcome of a particular situation. Sometimes I regret the way things have gone in my life. It's OK to feel sad. What this song helps me remember is that, even with the sad feelings, there are good memories to hold on to. I need to treasure the Pictures in My Head.

Q. Qu├ędate Conmigo by Ha-Ash. It's a love song. In Spanish. I really enjoy listening to it. I like these sisters' voices. It's also fun to hear country-style music in Spanish.

R. Raise Your Glass by P!nk. This song is all about celebrating all that is unique and "weird" about you. Be who you are and don't be afraid of it. I particularly like the line, "If you're too school for cool..."

S. She Used to Be Mine by Sara Bareilles. From "The Waitress" broadway musical. The main character sings this song as sort of a letter to her younger self. Giving her advice, lamenting her bad choices, wishing she had done some things different. I have heaved huge, soul-rending sobs to this song. I have to change the pronouns, but so much of it applies to me. There is a beautiful music video on youtube. Here's one of the lines I relate, pronouns changed to match me: "He's imperfect, but he tries. He is good, but he lies. He is hard on himself. He is broken and won't ask for help." I could quote almost the entire song, because it really hits home, but I'll stop there. It's well worth the listen. Probably the most personally important song on this list.

T. Turn the World Around by Harry Belafonte. I know this song from Harry's appearance on the Muppet Show. It's based on some African creation myths. And it's all about learning who we are, who our neighbors and friends are, and coming together to help turn the world around. Great song.

U. U + UR Hand by P!nk. This song makes me smile. Plus it teaches the important lesson that no one is here to be used or possessed by someone else. We all deserve respect.

V. Vivre A En Crever from the musical Mozart, L'Opera Rock. It's a French musical. I love listening to the songs. This one is particularly powerful. It looks like the title means, "Live Life to the bursting point," more or less. Feel free to correct that translation. One of the early lines translates to, "No tears, no fear," and I like that. It's a male voice duet, sung by some beautiful voices. It's an amazing song. There is also a pretty amazing music video on youtube. 

W. Where Does the Time Go? by A Great Big World. All about living and enjoying life as it happens because time really flies by and if we're not careful, life can pass us by.

X. Yeah, I don't have an "X" song.

Y. You Matter to Me by Sara Bareilles and Jason Mraz. It's a beautiful duet from "The Waitress." Sometimes we all need reassuring that we matter, that someone cares about us. Some of us need it more than others. And it's so nice to find that person who makes us feel we matter.

Z. No "Z" song either, mostly because I refuse to include "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah." I just won't do it.

So there's my list. I hope you enjoyed reading it. Feel free to make your own list, but you certainly don't have to. It's a lot of work.