Saturday, January 31, 2009

Life - The universe - and a GPS

We left Alberta two days later than we had planned. As we pulled out of the driveway – (and let me assure you – for The Man this is early) – at 7:30am – I said as I always say – “And we’re off like a herd of turtles.”

The drive took us east through Saskatchewan and had us crossing into North Dakota – naturally during another snowstorm. I hate winter driving enough that I usually do not venture out on the roads from November until May. In Alberta – we can have snow every month of the year so it can limit my driving quite a bit. I panicked as I usually do when there is snow on the road and gave The Man enough grief that I’m sure he wished he could have just transported me to New Orleans and met me there.

For those of you who know me - you know that I have a very bad back from all the beatings I sustained before I reached the ripe old age of 30 and from 2 skiing accidents sustained at high speeds. After having stood for both shows – the booths aren’t big enough to warrant a stool even – I was in pain. Enough pain that I couldn’t get comfortable even with the heated car seats. And when a man has his eyes glued to his new GPS toy – you know he’s going to want to do everything in his power to ‘prove the machine wrong’ and get us to our destination sooner than the ETA that the new GPS states.

So I spent the first 2 days in agony – staring out my window – tears streaming down my face as my back screamed in pain. My back – my legs – my brain. Sure I have painkillers. Sure we have some kind of insurance coverage for said painkillers. But – the insurance companies in their absolute wisdom have deemed it most beneficial to themselves not to allow us to have more than 30 days worth of painkillers at one time. Especially if I want them to pay the share they are supposed to cover. This made my drug supply – limited. Normally I would take a painkiller if I needed it – and had done so during the two shows. I didn’t have many options. However – that left me with just enough to cover our trip and have enough for a few extra days in case we were late getting back (which we were – another story). I couldn’t sneak an extra painkiller here or there without the surefire knowledge that I wouldn’t have any for the last few days of our trip. I’d rather go with a little more pain than usual than go without any painkillers at all. Believe me.

After two days I had to have a long talk with The Man and tell him I didn’t care if we were late getting into our RV campground reservation. I didn’t care if that damned GPS was saying we could make it there in so many hours. What I wanted to know was – how much did he care about me? I simply could not sit in the car for 12 hours at a time and be expected to be sane(ish) and be able to walk and talk as well. I needed to stop when I had had enough. That was all there was to it.

Thankfully The Man is everything I’ve always said he is. And thankfully he cares about me more than anything else. When I said stop – we stopped. When I said sure I could go another little bit – he smiled and played with that damn GPS and took us another hundred miles or so.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love the technology in a GPS. I don’t know what I did before they came along. Never having to use a foldout map again? Almost heaven! And for those of you who don’t know what they are – they are a global positioning system that locates you wherever you are in the world and gives directions to get you where you want to go.

I call ours “the bitch in the box”. I can get pretty sick of listening to some woman giving us instructions to drive for another 800 miles before we can reach our destination. Still – it has been a lifesaver more than once – and when you’re towing a trailer behind you it’s great to know what lane you need to be in for an upcoming turn. It’s also great to know there’s a rest area up ahead or a gas station or a restaurant. Sometimes it just boggles my brain. Sometimes I’m ready to throw it/her out the window. But I never want to be without one again.

Needless to say – the ‘bitch in the box’ got us to our first and only programmed destination before reaching New Orleans - - Memphis, Tennessee or shall I be more specific and say Graceland. And for those of you out there who have no idea what that is? Elvis.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

And -

Let’s all take a deep breath and move on. But let’s not forget what a little caring and love can do for everyone.

Back to the New Orleans story.

I continued to knit and fill orders – many of my products wet with my tears. I kept my secret from the other men in my life that I love with all my heart – my brother and also my nephew. Never did I reveal to them that my desire to give up was so close to the surface. No. I kept smiling and soldiering on. Minute by minute.

How were the huge craft shows we were involved in? For me – great. For my brother – terrible. Never in a million years did we think the economy would tank so terribly just as the Christmas season was upon us. Especially in April when we had to fork over the $2000 it cost for the 2 booths. Yes folks. That’s $1,000 each we paid for our booths. Add stock – the cost of the booth – time. Right. Insanity in itself.

Add to that the fact that each show was 4 days long – the first two days of each show were 10 hour days and you have one day to set up on top of that. We had two days in between the shows to – ‘rest’.

I did well. I went in with 62 bears, 50 thrummed slippers, 50 thrummed mittens, and 50 pairs of socks. I came home with a quarter of what I went in with. So for me it could be considered a success. Unfortunately for my brother and every other potter and glass blower as well – nothing. Oh he sold a few things – but by the second show I was putting out only a little of my stock so that his pottery would be front and center. I don’t know if it was too late, but it didn’t help.

A lot of people walked away with his brochure and his card – but pottery isn’t something that everyone needs or wants. It’s also something that is far more expensive – and harder to do – than knitting.

The result? Exhaustion.

When the show was finally over, my brother and I drove the 3 hours to my home through a snowstorm. I kept falling asleep at the wheel as I followed his taillights through the swirling white. He would pull over and hurry back and drag me out of my car and make me walk around. I wanted to lie down and let the snow cover me and they could shovel me out in the spring. Somehow we made it and my brother stayed overnight – unwilling to make the hour long drive to his home in the storm.

Will we do it again? No. I can’t. It’s too much. Perhaps little shows – or one show – but never two back to back again. And in this economy? I’m not forking out another $1000 to line someone else’s pocket while I do all the work. Nope. Nada. It’s not going to happen.

I'll be posting my bears and woollen goods on Etsy and Big Blue Barn Knits again in a little while. And whatever other small little one day shows I might decide to do come the fall are all that I’m going to devote my time and my damaged hands and wrists to.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Let's Talk About Depression and Suicide

Why am I writing this for the whole world to read?

Depression – suicide – anxiety – grief. They are all words that are used daily.

Most of us know someone who is suffering from depression in one form or another. Some of us have been the ones who have been left behind after a loved one killed themselves. That hole that is left – the guilt – the questions – the what ifs - haunt and hound us for the rest of our days.

We shy away or run away from those people who we perceive as having problems and are ‘always sad or down’. We fumble with our feelings – our arms hang limp at our sides because we don’t want to be drawn in or do the wrong thing. Doing the wrong thing is the bigger of those two – because most of us don’t know how to deal with someone who is suffering.

How do we deal with someone who cries freely in front of us? What do we do with someone who stands with shoulders slumped forward and eyes that betray pain and loss and angst? What do we do with someone who isn’t putting on a front or a good show for us? In the end it is just easier to run – to stay away – to not call – to not reach out.

In 1998 I had a complete and total mental breakdown. I didn’t know my own name let alone those of anyone around me. I cried continuously. I wrung my hands until they were raw. My mind was that of a child – afraid of everything. And I was suicidal.

Two people who loved me with all of their hearts took me to the hospital and watched as they put me into a psyche ward. They left crying.

Nine months later, when they let me go home, they knew they had done the right thing. Even though they have felt guilty about it since then – they know they did the right thing. And I have thanked them for it – repeatedly.

They saved my life. Without that intervention I would be dead.

So although we don’t know how to help and would rather someone else did? You might be saving a life if you just reach out – literally – and take that suffering person’s hand and just hold it. Most of the time words aren’t necessary. It’s knowing that someone is trying. To know that you aren’t a leper – that people don’t find you repulsive because you are depressed – that someone wants to help – even just to listen. That is what matters.

You don’t have to try to cheer the person up. It is more than likely that you won’t be able to. And the words “Call me if you need me” – yes – they are nice to hear. But I won’t be calling you. I can’t. So call me. Come see me. Come sit with me. Come bring me a cup of tea. But don’t ask me to call you if I’m really down. When I’m really down and I’m standing in front of the tub with my razorblade in my hand – I’m not picking up the phone to have a chat with you. But if the doorbell rings and rings and rings – I’ll have to put down that razor and come and answer it so I will have peace later to slash my wrists.

Intervention. It’s the new word these days isn’t it? But it works. Just intervening in my suicidal thoughts will distract me long enough for it not to happen at that moment. Forcing yourself into my world and insuring that I know you care? That’s what works.

Because when you’re depressed – you have yourself convinced that no one cares – because you don’t even care about yourself. So why would others? When you’re depressed the hole is deep and dark. Sometimes it’s quiet in there. Sometimes there’s so much noise from all the voices zipping around inside your head that you can barely hear.

Why would I want to kill myself you ask? Why would I kill myself when there are so many people who love me? What about those I’m going to hurt when they find out I couldn’t take it anymore and killed myself?

Let me tell you a secret about that.

A person who kills themselves doesn’t care about those he leaves behind. Well – they do down deep. But it’s not about the other people. It’s about them. Their life has reached the point where nothing can help. They can’t see any other way then to end it. It’s not about how much others will hurt. It’s about how much they hurt. It’s too much. Too much!! They are surrounded by darkness and it is sucking them downwards. They can look out and see the shadowy figures of their loved ones – but they are shadows – fleeting shadows. And the voices that call to them are muffled. But their own voice is clear and concise and inside their head they can hear the words “Just end it. It will be easier. Sure it will hurt for just a little bit – but then it will be gone – forever. Every single thing will be gone forever and you won’t have to struggle any more. You won’t have to hurt any more.”

So you see – your guilt and anguish and sadness over a suicide victim is something that is not important anymore when a person kills themselves. Of course they know it will hurt someone – but that hurt doesn’t even come close to the hurts they are feeling inside. And at that time – it never will.

However – did you notice that I said guilt first over anguish and sadness? We all feel guilt don’t we? And we should. Because I’m telling you that most suicides can be prevented. Simply by someone reaching out – physically – and touching that person who feels that way. Holding their hand and caring. Simple caring. It hardly takes more than that to bring someone back from the edge of escape.

But in this world – we don’t touch – we don’t show a lot of emotion. We like to watch it on tv or on the big screen. But we don’t want people to think we are weak or emotional. So we let those people who are suffering slip away because we don’t want to get involved. We’re too busy. It’s safer to let someone else do it. Send them to a professional. That’s what they are there for isn’t it?

Shame on us. Shame on the world for running away from suffering - because every single one of us suffers in some way. And every single one of us knows that a touch or a word of caring – true caring – can help bring a ray of sunshine back into our sad world.

Depression is a spiralling hole down into the darkness. A little kindness and caring goes a long way in helping those people climb back out of that void. Reach out and hug someone who is hurting. Really hug them. Listen to them if they try to talk to you. Really listen to them. You can hear the words and see the anguish if you pay attention. Let them know that you care. Really care. And don’t worry about saying the ‘right words’ to them. There are no ‘right or wrong words’. It’s the caring that counts.

The show that we usually put on for others? It’s transparent to a person who is suffering. So make it real. It’s not hard people. It’s not rocket science either. You don’t have to be a ‘professional’ to help - in fact some ‘professionals’ make it worse.

Remember that song? “Reach out and touch somebody’s hand – make this world a better place if you can.” It works people. More than you’ll ever know if you don’t ever give it a try.

I hope my honesty can help others. By saying that I’ve been there and back and by letting them know the world can be a better and happier place for those of us who suffer from depression. Then I’ve reached out a hand and given someone hope – even a little bit – and I’ve let them know that they are not alone.

That is why I am willing to write about it and put it out there for the whole world to see. I am willing to open my heart and my arms and my ears and be there for others who need me. I'm willing to read the emails from those in the same boat and try and help. I'm very willing to try because even a little bit goes a long way.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Let Me Tell You The Truth

As always – I am overwhelmed with the outpouring of friendship and caring that comes from the virtual world. Thank you all.

Now – please bear with me as I tell you some things you won’t want to read – but that I need to say – because I know there are others out there who are in the same boat and can’t find the damn paddles. The water is deep and there are creatures in it that you have never dreamed of – even in your darkest moments.

I’m going to backtrack a bit here and tell some things that I refused to put in print and out into the void when I was suffering the most.

Some of you might think I’m totally nuts but at least you’ll know I’m honest. Some of you will never understand because you have children that fill that void in your life and perhaps have never loved an animal. Some of you have never known the love of an animal – the love that is unconditional and unwavering. Your loss.

And most of you have never known the inside of a psyche ward and the confusion and emptiness that takes over your brain when you have a breakdown. Lucky for you. For those of us who have suffered mentally – depression – breakdowns – meltdowns - you know where I’m coming from and you don’t want to go back there either. If hearing of someone else’s spiral into the blackness sets you on that track once more – don’t read further. Just a warning.

Here goes. (taking a deep breath)

Right after my precious Dolly died I was totally suicidal.

I sat on the bottom steps with my head in my hands – sobbing. The Man sat beside me with his arms around me – crying into my hair. I screamed – I sobbed – I tore at my face – I pulled out my hair – I threw anything I could get my hands on. And then I told him I just wanted to die so that I could go and be with my Dolly.

And I meant every single word of it.

He said – “What about me?”

I said – “I know – but I can’t help it. I just want to die. I just want to hold Dolly again and be with her. She was my baby.”

I immediately went and turned off and unplugged all the phones in the house. They stayed that way for 6 weeks. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. If my brother called – he left a message and I would call him back. I didn’t tell him or anyone how I was feeling. Just The Man. And I didn’t tell him about it for a couple of weeks.

In order to help me keep my mind from going right around the bend – The Man kept my mp3 player loaded with audio books so that I could keep my mind occupied instead of crying nonstop. It was that sort of thing (amid some others) that put me in the psyche ward the first time. I listened to those audio books the entire time The Man was not in the house. They helped.

But! During that time I started developing a plan – or to be more honest – two plans. I knew exactly how I was going to do it when I couldn’t take it any longer. I kept these secrets close while I worked on my knitting and dealt with the upcoming shows. I kept them close while I made sure I had all the necessary requirements in order to fulfill those plans.

One night – unable to deal with my anguish – I blurted out my secret to The Man. He stood staring at me – holding me at arms length – staring at my face where the evidence of my anguish was marked by the dark circles under my eyes – before the tears started down his cheeks.

“No Aims. You mustn’t! You mustn’t. What will I do?”

I told him I planned to fill our lovely clawfoot tub with nice hot water – get in – and slit my wrists. I could envision it all – the pain just seeping out into the water – the sinking down into the deep warm depths and giving in. I kept in mind that slashing my wrists would have to be done under the water so he wouldn’t have to clean blood off of the walls. I could listen to music while I did that and that it might hurt a bit but would soon be over. I didn’t want to be naked when they found me either so I kept that in mind as well. Plan 1.

Plan 2 was a little harder but still easily done. We have a big eyehook in the ceiling of our bedroom. It holds body weight quite easily. We have a couch almost directly below it – almost. I planned on tying my housecoat sash around my neck and through the eyehook and jumping off the couch. It would work. Less messy. Job done.

Never once did I think about taking all the pills in the house. That’s harder to do and you can easily have your stomach pumped. Then you have to face it all over again. No.

Never once did I think I should tell all of you. Or my doctor. No way. I would have ended up in the psyche ward for sure. Tied down. No – instead I pretended – in comments – in posts. I did a good job for most of the time. Few of you knew where my mind was really at.

When I told The Man, he left me a note to leave my cell phone on and keep it on me. He called me every hour to ‘just chat’. Just check. He raced home every single night instead of staying late as he always did to put in some extra overtime so we could have lots of time away.

I lived in my own personal little hell of loneliness and despair. Struck down and done in by the loss of my precious precious Dolly.

Please know how hard this is to write - so that is enough for today.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Now - Once More - With Feeling......

Okay – I admit it. I’m back.

I’ve been lurking around a few places – a few – not many – so if you’ve seen me in your sitemeter – thanks for not saying anything.

Having been away now for almost 6 weeks - I’ve been sitting on the seesaw – wondering if I should continue or just throw in the towel. The towel has won so many times and in the three days that I’ve actually been home I’ve thrown it in the wash each day to see if the outcome changes when it comes out of the dryer.

I guess what it comes to is this.

I promised to tell about New Orleans and I promised to finish ‘The Man Tales'.

I always try to keep my promises.

So I will continue.

For a while.

But not today.

Today I’m just saying – I’m back.

I’m still grieving. And perhaps I always will. Today I wrote my best friend in the world and told her I felt like Ms. Bojangles. Another 20 years and perhaps my grieving will be done. But I don’t think or feel that is so.

As with the rest of the world – I feel the weight of depression that is taking over us all.

Now I have battled mental depression before and succeeded. I succeeded so well that I didn’t think I would ever be back here again. But I am the first to admit it and point the finger in my direction. I knew all along, underneath my smiling face – that there would be something that would set me off. You would think it would be something else than what did – but there you go. It’s happened – I admit it. I’m depressed.

However – I know how to work at it. To overcome it. And I have started on that particular journey once again.

But if I seem down and sombre – well – I am.

Overlook it. I’ll try for others – I will. Will I try for me? Honestly? I don’t know.

So for now. I’m back.

I’ll tell you all about New Orleans, then I’ll do a recap on ‘The Man Tales’ so far and then I’ll finish the story.

Oh! One other thing. For quite a while now I’ve been unable to respond to comments left here. I just couldn’t. But hopefully I’ll be able to do so again. I know it means quite a lot to some of you.

Okay – stay tuned.