Category Archives: depression

No One Here Gets Out Alive

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

Hello, friends. Yes, it’s been a while. Between health issues, the collapse of my marriage, and Internet problems, I haven’t been up to writing.

But I’ve had a lot of time to think. And a lot of that thinking had a lot to do with life, death, and what really matters to me. February marked the first year since my father died, and it struck me, now that both of my parents are dead, that no one here gets out alive.

I first heard that phrase on a Doors album. The album was Waiting for the Sun, and the song was “Five to One.” Little did I understand at the time just how profound that statement is. No one here gets out alive. Or, as Paul Simon put it,

We’re working our jobs, collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway
When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away.

Maybe it’s the times we’re living in, or maybe it’s just my age, but I don’t think we’re focusing on the things that matter. We have our computers, and they’re connected to the Internet. We have instant access to more information than can be found in all of the libraries in the world, and what do we do with it? We post pictures of kittens on Facebook, or take pictures of our breakfast and beam them all around the world.

futuremen

Really? We have the ability to end world hunger, end all wars, eliminate poverty, and all we seem to be interested in is fluff. Bread and circuses, man. That’s what the Roman Empire offered its citizens to distract them from the fact that the Empire was crumbling from within.

And that’s what’s happening to the America Empire. It’s crumbling from within. Well, when you elect a clown, you’ve got to expect a circus.

Leonard Cohen sang, “Democracy is coming to the USA.” He was fortunate to die before the reality set in: Fascism is coming to the USA.

Another Sleepless Night

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

Well, to be honest, it wasn’t a sleepless night. It was a sleepless morning. No matter how I try, I can’t seem to sleep beyond 6 a.m. And that includes even if I go to bed at 3 a.m.

depression is

And THAT, dear friends, is what it’s like. Invisible. Insidious. I’ve moved beyond the suicide stage; tried that, didn’t work. Now I’ve arrived at the point where I wish I had never been born.

— To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.
— Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 19-28)

Futility rules my moods.

My own depression is compounded by the fact that I’m transgender.

not all its cracked up to be

It’s another reason I isolate and tend to stay indoors.

That’s it for now. Talk to you later.

Keep Calm, or, Happiness vs. Contentment

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

Keep Calm and Take Your Meds graphic

Today I’m wearing an earring that says just that. The aspect ratio in the picture is wrong, since the earring is made from a Scrabble® tile, but you get the idea.

Like so many others, I am on psychoactive medications. The depression they help me cope with is a legacy from my mother, who inherited it from her father, and so on back for untold generations. I say “untold” because we don’t know how far back it goes. We do know, however, that it is cross-gender from generation to generation; that is, sons inherit it from their mothers, and daughters from their fathers. My two brothers also have their own battles with it.

A psychiatrist who was treating me told me that today is the best time in history to have depression. What he meant was we have a better understanding of it today than ever before. Consider: in the 1970s, when my mother was first diagnosed, there were no antidepressants. The solution (offered by a male doctor)? Right. She had a complete hysterectomy. “Woman troubles,” you know.

Today we have almost the opposite problem: too many medications, with no real understanding of how they work. In fact, any number of studies attribute their effectiveness to the placebo effect; that is, they work because the patient believes they work. Well, if that’s true, how can you explain the fact that for me, certain types of antidepressants work, while others don’t? And why do none of the newer, more “modern” drugs have no effect on my brother’s problems, yet MAOIs (some of the oldest meds available) work for him?

Happiness vs. Contentment

Anyway, as Arlo Guthrie used to say, “That’s not what I come here to talk to ya about.” I come to talk about happiness and contentment.

I recently saw contentment called the underachiever version of happiness. If that’s true, I guess I’m an underachiever. For me, happiness takes to much energy to maintain over time. I don’t do happy on a regular basis. Sure, I have bursts of happiness, even of joy sometimes. But happiness as a long-term emotional state? Sorry, I just can’t spare the energy to keep it up. As Brooke McAlary says on her blog at Slow Your Home,

“I don’t aim for happiness. Instead I aim for quiet, constant contentment. Things don’t
need to be great, but if things are good most of the time, I’m content.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with happiness! Far from it! When Stacey gives me a birthday card, I’m happy. But there’s a bill in the mail, so that puts a damper on the happiness. However, that doesn’t detract from my contentment. That’s still there, and it’s a constant.

Sometimes my depression gets the better of me, and I find myself crying for no reason. Obviously, I’m sad. But experience has taught me that eventually, I’ll stop crying, and the sadness will lift. That’s a painful lesson I’ve learned, but it gives me hope during the darkness. And so I am content to know that I will survive.

Back in 1971, Baba Ram Dass wrote his seminal work, Be Here Now. But more than just the title of a book, be here now is a way of living. And given the latest psychotherapeutic approaches, I think it’s safe to say that Baba anticipated mindfulness and mindful thinking by a few decades, even if all he did was repeat what Christ said a couple thousand years ago:

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these….Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Luke 12:25-34, Holy Bible, King James Version)

Or to put it to music: Three Little Birds.

And that’s really all I have for today, except to wish you endless days and nights of contentment, punctuated now and then with joy, happiness, and yes, even sadness.

Dying By Inches

Published / by Robyn Jane / Leave a Comment

To me, one of the worst things about chronic depression is how it robs me of my desire to do anything in general, and writing in particular. And nothing demonstrates this better than the fact that my last post was on March 11.

And here it’s March 30 already.

No, the depression hasn’t lifted; it’s just that I’m forcing myself to write, in much the same way that some people have to force themselves to get out of the house, or eat, or bathe, or get dressed, or even get out of bed.

The fact that I can do all of those things makes me feel better about myself. When I think of how much worse off I could be, I hear my father’s voice in my head saying, “I used to feel sorry for myself because I had to shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet.”

Depression. We all have our pet names for it. Winston Churchill referred to his Black Dog. For others, it’s the Wolf at the Door. For me, Charles Baudelaire said it best:

“When low skies weightier than a coffin-lid
cast on the moaning soul their weary blight,
and from the whole horizon’s murky grid
its grey light drips more dismal than the night;

When earth’s a dungeon damp whose chill appals,
in which — a fluttering bat — my Hope, alone
buffets with timid wing the mouldering walls
and beats her head against the dome of stone;

When close as prison-bars, from overhead,
the clouds let fall the curtain of the rains,
and voiceless hordes of spiders come, to spread
their infamous cobwebs through our darkened brains,

Explosively the bells begin to ring,
hurling their frightful clangour toward the sky,
as homeless spirits lost and wandering
might raise their indefatigable cry;
and ancient hearses through my soul advance
muffled and slow; my Hope, now pitiful,
weeps her defeat, and conquering Anguish plants
His great black banner on my cowering skull.

Charles Baudelaire, “Spleen”

Oh, I’ve heard all the advice. “Snap out of it!” “You need to cheer up.” Two things you need to know: Telling someone with depression to “snap out of it” is exactly like telling someone with cancer “Stop having cancer!” And telling me to cheer up makes as much sense as telling an insomniac to try to get some sleep. IT JUST DOESN’T WORK, AND IT ONLY DEMONSTRATES YOUR IGNORANCE.

I would love to “cheer up.” I would love to “snap out of it.” But you see, there’s this little issue of fucked-up brain chemistry (that’s the latest theory, even though there’s really no scientific evidence for it) that keeps me down. Yes, I take my medications regularly. Yes, I’m exercising and eating right. I’m doing all (well, okay: most) of the things I’m supposed to be doing, but sometimes the only thing that works is time.

And the older I get, the longer it takes to recover from a down cycle. This time it’s been almost three weeks. Next time will be longer. And the down cycles come more frequently. Fortunately, they still only plant their “great black banners” a couple of times a year, and I manage to get through them okay.

Hell, this time I didn’t even need to call the ambulance like I did the last time.