"Knock it the fuck off"
I was told that this weekend and it was some of the best advice I have ever received
It was said at an improv workshop, led by the fantastically talented Dave Razowsky.
He told us that improvisers are actors and we were doing ourselves a disservice by not referring to ourselves as such. I told him I didn’t think I had the right to call myself an actor as I truly didn’t believe I possessed that talent.
His response was honest and meaningful.
It ranged from the aforementioned knock it [the stupid shit we tell ourselves] the fuck off to the beautiful “Let this be the last day we live small.”
Dave shared his wisdom and talent with a group of 12 or so of us
improvisers actors. He shared in the most literal definition of the word. His passion, skill, warmth, we got to experience all of it. It was beautiful
While so many things he said affected me, the one I held on to the most was:
"Celebrate the uncertainty"
On stage, I can do that, In life, I find it much harder.
The part of me that struggles with suicide is afraid of the uncertainty of a life that may have multiple stretches of severe depression. I find myself holding back on fully enjoying life because of the “not knowing” that comes with this chronic illness, and that is just a stupid way to live.
So I should probably knock it the fuck off.
I am married but I have never been on a first date in my life. My husband and I met through a friend, we hung out in groups, started a long distance relationship, I moved to the same city as him, and we eventually got married. And before our relationship, I never had a date either.
My entire knowledge of the somewhat uncomfortable first date process comes from my friends and from watching lots of Friends episodes. So I have learned the odds are low, wine is involved, and when you find the right fit you breath a happy sigh of relief, And also there is a laugh track and recurring appearances by Janice.
And though I have never done the first date thing as a way to begin a romantic relationship I can understand the experience as I have had my own version of first dates known as “finding the right therapist.”
It’s the same drill. You share your story, try not to get your hopes up, and get really frustrated when you invest time in the wrong one. And then you find the right fit and you breath a happy sigh of relief.
I went on my share of crappy first therapy dates, had one nice long term relationship while living in Missouri. Then, eleven years ago, I moved to Cleveland and was back on the dating scene, I had a couple of false starts, and then like soul mates in a 90s films, I had that first date and knew I found my match.
I started seeing her in my 20s, or as I refer to it, the decade of blaming your parents. She helped me get all that out of my system and made me own my life and all that comes with that.
My therapist has laughed with me, and I was going to say cried with me, though I do not remember that ever happening. Oh, I have cried a shit ton, to be sure. I just don’t remember any mutual crying .
My therapist did something much more necessary than that,
She fought for me.
She fought for me to get the right help when the system was taking too long and most of all, she fought to keep me alive.
Nobody heard me utter the phrase “I just want to die.” more than my therapist, and she found 600 ways for me to hold on.
Nobody can stop someone from killing themselves. Nobody is responsible for another person’s suicide.
But I was lucky enough to have a tiny bit left to reach out and there was always something she had to offer; mental health advocacy and resources, meaningful words, a voice that said I won’t let you lose this fight.
I remember during the worst of the worst saying “I just want to die and my son to be okay.”
And she replied “I think you’re forgetting that’s not possible.”
She didn’t say a coddling “Oh my god, you poor thing,” or a frustrated “Stop it. This is ridiculous.”
She just simply said the truth and for that moment it was perfect and it was enough.
In other words, my 90s film-like instincts were totally on. I had found the Jenny to my Forrest - no that’s not quite right.
I had found the wealthy man to my streetwise hooker - no that’s definitely not right.
I had found the therapist to myself
And I am grateful.
Today I am 36 years old.
A year ago I celebrated a birthday I never thought would happen.
Today, I celebrate a birthday that felt a lot more like a sure thing.
Today I also celebrate the one year anniversary of writing stuff here. (no, no gifts please, not necessary.)
I started writing to try and put into words all the thoughts that were circling around my brain after going through a year of severe depression, I mostly wanted my family and those closest to me to understand what I was too sick to explain at the time. Also I wanted to share what I believe most, that even in the darkest of turd-filled experiences, humor can be found.
So I started writing and very slowly sharing, and I was given the most wonderful awesome thing: People relating to what was going on, sending me messages about their own struggles, offering the support I was too much of a wimp to ask for and the praise we all want, but think we look too needy and self-absorbed if we say we want it.
I don’t know if the world would be better or worse if we all got what we are too ashamed to ask for, but I kind of think it might be better. And I know for sure, people feeling ashamed for doing nothing shameful, we need to stop that. Stopping being afraid of being judged, and instead working towards enjoying the fuck out of all our weirdness, silliness, uniqueness, I think for me, that is what this whole life thing is about, So I guess that is my birthday wish or more accurately my birthday promise.
That, and my son and I are gonna get faux-hawks one day this year.
Thirty-six, it’s the year of dramatic promises and kick-ass hair-dos.
In order to love and be loved, I must choose to live.
I found these words I had written on a crayon drawing I made in a random art therapy session at mood disorder camp.
Out of context it seemed like a cheesy inspirational saying, to really experience and feel love you must “live out loud.” “be in the moment,” etc. We are told by motivational speakers and bad romantic comedies that we don’t want to passively live life, we want to be in the thick of it, and they are probably correct.
Yet for some of us, we are just trying to hang the fuck on, so we sit in a room of other people trying to hang the fuck on, or balance the fuck out, or feel like they can get through the day without breaking the fuck down and we write on a piece of paper anything that will help.
So I sat there staring, being told to draw a picture about what makes me happy and peaceful. Ending life came to mind, but I sensed that was not what the art therapist was looking for.
So I wrote a thought that comes natural to most people. If you’re dead you can’t love people or feel their love, and for a few hours, on that day, that was enough to keep sick me alive.
And I am healthy now, but as I looked at the piece of paper last night, I did not think “Duh, of course.” No, for a minute I remembered, with too much ease and intensity, what it felt like to need those words to stay alive and what it felt like when even those words didn’t seem like enough.
And then I thought of this weekend, being surrounded by those I love and those who love me, celebrating another year, and I felt grateful.
And that’s what life is for someone like me, feeling grateful and safe and healthy and loved, and in that same space also sensing the “ending it all” instinct and knowing it will probably always be hanging out in the background, a little too close for comfort. And so I do what I need to do, what I am healthy enough to do, I equip myself with the coping stuff I need and, every so often I look at the camera and yell “Munroe!”*
*A reference to the 80s sitcom Too Close for Comfort, if you didn’t get this, good for you for liking books and being outdoors, more than you do bad tv. If you did get it, we’re soul-mates.
In a humongous display of out of shapeness, I tore my calf muscle earlier this week while improvising. Getting a leg injury while be silly on stage is about as hard to do as losing weight by bowling, but I did it. Yay, for being an over-achiever.
I posted two things on Facebook about this injury, getting some always enjoyed sympathy while not feeling pathetic or like a complainer.
This injury is a minor inconvenience, at most, but I talked about it cause getting good vibes from others is good, and it seemed funny, and I like funny, and most of all, I could share it.
When I went through depression hell, feeling the worst I ever had, I couldn’t talk about it, it felt like something you don’t share. Unless we were really close, you wouldn’t have even known. This wasn’t me putting on a brave face. We don’t “not share” cause we are brave, we “not share” because we are scared.
So here are some posts I never wrote because I couldn’t ( or felt I couldn’t) share them during my year long intense struggle with depression:
- Uh-oh, seems like the depression is coming back. Feels like a recurring STD. I need a brain condom.
- Feeling low today, like a gymnast going under a limbo stick low.
- Trying to get meds adjusted. Just swallowed a bunch of new side effects.
- Last check-in before my phone gets taken away - at Richmond Psychiatric Hospital
- Could use some extra support today #hugsanddrugs #whychoose
- Starting outpatient program today. Feeling scared and anxious. It’s like the worst first day of school ever.
- Things feel way horrible. Time to try shock therapy. If your power goes out around 10am, my apologizes.
- Finally feeling better. So grateful.
When I was ready to kill myself, a last ditch effort was presented, electro-convulsive therapy. With a name like that, who wouldn’t be all in?
Like any in-depth researcher, I immediately went to Google to learn more. While looking, I found a youtube clip from someone getting ECT in the 90s and nothing else helpful.
I didn’t watch the youtube clip cause, honestly, I did not want to know what happened when I was knocked out. I figured that was the benefit to being knocked out. I enjoy not knowing what happens when I am passed out. I get nitrous at the dentist, every time, I will not sit in the chair without seeing it hooked up, and I preferred, if I was going to get ECT, to not know what went on. I am extremely trusting this way, wait till I am under the magic drugs and do your thing. Don’t worry, I realize there are certain situations where you should probably avoid being drugged and trusting.
Anyway, after this cursory internet searching, I decided to not seek out information.
This plan was slightly messed up when the day before the fun was about to happen a woman in my mood disorder intensive program came up and begged me not to get ECT as it took away her husband’s personality and he was never the same. I don’t recommend ever saying this to someone.
But, motivational message aside, I still took the plunge because I figured i should try one more thing before I took a permanent, irreversible, plunge.
Like what learning to cook healthily or finding religion does for some people, ECT saved my life.
Like learning to cook healthily or finding religion, I would not recommend it for everyone,
To me, the most amazing thing about ECT, was when I started to feel better and the doctor asked me how was I doing. I said I was at 70%. I was thrilled with this number. Like my grades in school and Cookie Monster, “C” was good enough for me. But the Dr. said we will do this till you’re at 100%,
And in that moment, I realized I had given up on that number long ago. I thought passing was enough and this man said you deserve to feel not just better, but your best.
I think about this now when things dip for me. Am I still doing so much better than before? Yes. Am I grateful for that? Without a doubt. Am I deserving of 100%? Absolutely.
Ted Talk on the taboo of mentioning surviving a suicide attempt:
"Talk about it. Get Help. It’s a conversation worth having and an idea worth spreading."
And now a tip from my upcoming book,
Parenting Success by Choosing Easiness Over Honesty
Tip #43: How to Get Rid of Complaining About Bedtime
Set a fake bedtime for your child. Make it an hour before you will lose your shit if they are not in bed, let’s say 7:30. Tell your child this “bedtime” you set, repeat it to them a lot, it will seem more official that way.
Then every night at 8:00 tell them “Oh my gosh, it is 8:00, you got to stay up a half hour past your bedtime, we better get you to sleep.”
You will be left with no complaining cause children love to think they won something, like fake “going to bed lateness.” This victory is especially awesome for them because they think not only did they win, but you lost at putting them to bed on time. Children love nothing more then you losing, but the jokes on them, cause there is something you didn’t lose. Your shit.
So they go to bed “a half hour late” wink wink, and you still have 30 minutes of not losing your shit, which I also refer to as my “half hour of eating food I just told my kid was not a healthy choice for them to eat before bedtime” time
For more tips like this, buy my non-existent book.
Do you have a plan?
A question asked of college graduates, presidential candidates, and the suicidal. And for any of these people, if you answer no, you are immediately taken less seriously.
I was raised by a planner, I married a planner.And then there is me. I bristle at the idea of a schedule, a calendar, or even writing a grocery list.I feel a bit of guilt about my resistance. Sometimes you need to defer to what gives others comfort, like your husband knowing where your are for instance. I function with a lack of schedule, but as a family that is tricky.
As much as I try (not much) I will probably never be a planner.
So when I tell a psychiatrist I’m feeling suicidal and they inevitably ask ”Do you have a plan?”
I say “no” and immediately feel I have let them, and myself down.
C’mon Deena, how hard is it to come up with something, I chide myself?
"It doesn’t have to be fully fleshed out" I tell myself, just say something vague, like "Yes, it involves a razor, some stale taco shells, and a VHS copy of Mars Attacks."
But I say no, they seem relieved, and I promise myself to try harder next time.