Coming Clean September 25, 2017

I’ve been very depressed since November 8th of last year. It’s unusual to be able to pinpoint an actual beginning date to depression, but this time the cause was having my worldview, or at least my view of the country I live in, completely pummeled.dep

The explosion of racism and bigotry shocked me. It shouldn’t have. People of color have been getting beaten and murdered by the authorities for years. And there has been no justice. No universal outcry from those who live inside acceptably-toned skin.

But somehow, I didn’t think my friends and neighbors and relatives fell into the vile category of bigots and racists, or supporters of bigots and racists. After the election, I leaned so many do. I’m still not sure how to cope with that knowledge.

Racism and bigotry have been something I’ve had to deal with on a personal level my whole life. I’ve been called the n-word and the s-word, followed around by store detectives in department stores, and profiled in airports, being pulled out of line, wanded, and having my bags searched every time I flew anywhere (up until I hit about 47—guess I’ve gotten too old to be that dangerous?).

My entire life, people have asked, “What are you?”  It’s a question with an agenda.

I’ve suffered bouts of depression throughout my life—some strictly biological, some related to what’s going on in my life, some related to the state of the world. And when the depression hits hard, it’s almost impossible for me to verbalize why I stop feeling able to go on and why even the most minute tasks—like brushing my teeth—require monumental psychic effort.

With the depression, comes marginal functionality, at best, and a complete inability to function creatively. I have been a nonwriting writer for many months. And you know what Kafka had to say about that: A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.

A lot of people who know me, would never know I am depressed. That’s because I hide it well. I don’t want to burden others with my depression. I don’t want to pass on negative energy. Being an introvert, I shun as much social interaction as I can get away with. But with depression, it’s that much harder.

Things came to a head at the end of this summer, as close to the edge of the abyss as I’ve come in a long time. I thought about ways to end it all, but thankfully, did not get beyond the thoughts.

I have inverse SAD, where exposure to sunshine incites my depression. This was my first summer in Oregon and it was unbearably sunny for weeks on end. People think it’s weird all I want to do all summer is hide inside. But I do it for survival. Part of the problem is, I guess, is I didn’t hide quite enough.

Now, major populations around the world and in our own country are being devastatingly impacted by fires, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes. And the truth is, I feel guilty about wanting to feel better. I feel it’s wrong for me to start feeling better when the suffering for others is only getting worse.

But I do want to feel better. And I am finally taking active steps to do so. I appreciate all those in my life who continue to be supportive and empathetic. Thank you for your understanding and patience.

19 thoughts on “Coming Clean September 25, 2017

  1. Hi Lana – we’re friends on Facebook and know Michael Welch in common. I even won one of your poetry books, which I loved!

    I live in Redmond and curiously have the same inverse SAD that you do. I spend the summer waiting for it to be over, all my energy drained, etc. You know the drill.

    I also have had that edge-of-the-abyss depression you speak of. It sounds like you, like me, have that one aspect of your being who cares for you and keeps you from the final leap.

    I completely understand most of what you’ve written about here. I’m not a person of color so the most harassment I’ve experienced is as a woman. But I get the rest!!!

    I was shocked by my own ignorance about this country, revealed by the horror show that began last November. I’ve come to understand human beings in a different way, and, through a current project of re-education about the US, I’ve come to understand that America is not what I thought it was. What has happened politically and culturally to us now has always happened – repeatedly since the very beginning. Nothing has changed. Nothing much is different.

    Humans have learned some things, but we have not evolved the nature of what we are is essentially the same as it’s always been. And those with wealth and power continue to play on human weakness with their spin doctoring in order to maintain their positions of power and comfort. I’ve been outraged to discover this has always been the case. It remains with a few (as it always has) to quietly seek to move humanity toward a better evolution. Human nature makes most people reluctant to expand their awareness. and so it is all over again.

    But don’t lose heart. We can be of those who work for something better. And we can love this planet with ferocity. We can step aside from fear, and let our grief guide us to a greater joy.

    You will be OK. You’re not alone. Some of us hear you and are standing with you through all of it. The depression sucks. There is no shame in wanting to feel better. The rough parts of this journey are what supply us with the medicine to help others down the road. We can’t help if we, too, are hurting.

    Sending hugs.
    Beth Atwood

    1. Beth, I’m so sorry to hear you suffer this terrible disease, as well. Thank you for your thoughtful and caring response. I am trying to be optimistic as well. It was hard to hold onto hope where every call to the powers that be–our elected representatives–seemingly went unheard. Action was as good as no action. But I do want to believe things are shifting in a positive direction. Perhaps, it’s true all of this awfulness is necessary for a conscious leap forward in the evolution of humanity.

  2. Dearest Lana,
    A powerful piece and I know your shock at finding out the bigotry hidden in so-called friends. I’m glad you are taking active steps to feel better.
    Take care of yourself,

  3. Hi Lana,

    I am so sorry. I have felt the most rage I can remember EVER feeling since Nov. 8th. My husband has had to tell me many times to chill. And finally, I was able to bring myself down, a few notches. And really, it was writing as much as I could get down, that helped. That, and NOT reading every damn article or listening to the radio all day, that helped. I put myself on a news diet. I had too, for mental health. And I had to do things that I would actually make me feel ok about being alive, being white, being older etc. But I have also become a lot less apologetic about my political views, especially online, and I’ve tried to be active in resisting bad policies and actually talking to a Republican congressman about healthcare. I guess my impetus to hide is outweighed by my rage and hatred of feeling helpless. But I have felt where that edge of despair can creep in, I’ve known it before in my life and now I know it well enough to resist it. This is really all to say, that you matter. Your voice, your spirit, what you have to give to friends, family and others, MATTERS. I am glad you are here, on planet earth, and I hope you can find the support you need. big, big hug.

    1. From the very beginning of this big mess since November, I sent all the emails, made all the calls, and have been resisting to the best of my ability. But seeing those awful nominations get confirmed, the things happening at airports despite the court overturns, is really crushing. I haven’t been hiding my political views, I don’t think, or been apologetic about them. But all that resistance getting us virtually nowhere takes a toll. I’m glad you continue to speak out and resist. Let’s hope despite the loses along the way, the cumulative effect will come.

  4. Oof, Lana, I’m so sorry you’ve been going through this. (And I’m so sorry we’ve ALL been going through this…!) I feel so many of the same things–including the inverse SAD. So grateful that Fall seems to be (more or less) on its way. I hope you continue to take care and to feel a bit better, a bit more hope. Because really, the worst would be to let HIM and his thugs and their horrible so-called “ideas” win. We need more people like you, not fewer. I know the words “hang in there” are trite, but sometimes we have to just hang on as best we can until we can breathe again.

  5. Lana, just this week I was shelving a couple of new poetry books under the “A’s” and there you were. Two copies of you, in fact (A New Red). I pulled one out and thought, I must get this to someone else who’ll appreciate it as much as I do. And then I wondered what you were up to as you were very quiet this August during postcard poems month. I blogged about the fest a couple of times and mentioned you. I’m so sorry for how you’re feeling. I’ve spent time with the black dog myself, and reading your post and the wonderful comments you’re getting made me realize I may be suffering a bit of depression myself at the moment. I, too, haven’t been writing. I’m horrified (as any decent person would be) by the events in your country, especially all that’s happened since 45 got in, and I’m equally horrified by the way we Canadians deal with our First Nations people. It’s all talk, talk, talk, and nothing ever seems to get done. Sometimes I think we humans are nothing more than a blip on the graph of the big scheme of things in the universe. We can be so goddamn nasty to each other. On a more positive note, I’ve also found, during past dances with the Dog, that facing it, as you have, by admitting it’s there helps more than anything. So good on you for posting this. I’m so sorry for all the b.s. you’ve had to endure. Courage! xo

    1. Thank you, Linda. You are a light. I wish you recovery from your depression as well.

      It’s amazing that we have not yet figured out we’re all the same species, that we are more alike than we are different, that we are capable of better things.

  6. Lana,
    As soon as I read the title of this blog post, I thought, “Yeah, I have to come clean, too.” And I just felt then what you were going to say. I’ve been hiding my depression and also become a non-writing writer. The whole thing hurts really bad. You’ve given me some courage to come clean – so I hope you will claim that as some success for yourself. Thank you for your courage. My depression isn’t solely from the current events, but they have contributed heavily to keeping me static. I intimately know about the “monumental psychic effort” it takes to do very small but necessary things – talking yourself into brushing your teeth. And so many other things – well, everything. I have the inverse SAD thing, too and live in very sunny Denver – I absolutely cringe all summer long, but it extends into the winter, too. I’ve thought of moving to Cleveland where it’s quite overcast most days! Cleveland.
    Please keep taking those tiny steps. They add up. And I give you permission to write the worst stuff you can imagine ever writing! I tried that today and ended up just feeling ridiculously proud of myself. Once I write my blog post and come clean, I will send it to you via messenger. With love, Dana

    1. Thank you so much, Dana for your response. My heart is with you in this. So sorry to hear you have the reverse SAD too. People just don’t get that we can’t enjoy the sun the way others do. It makes me feel such an outcast most of the time.

      It takes a lot of courage to admit depression because it’s still such a social stigma. Somehow we are made to feel responsible and weak for this illness, when we are neither. Thank you for your courage and your honesty, and most of all your strong voice.

      I am so happy to hear you wrote today. Keep on writing. I too give myself permission to write junk with no apologies. <3

  7. Hey Lana. Since November, I have had a cold or flu bug more times than over the last 5-6 years combined. I’m sick right now. I’m certain it is how my body is dealing with the stress and depression of 45 and all the darkness he has brought into the light. This may sound strange, but I have never thought of you as being of color, of being different. To me, you have always been Lana, an amazing poet, and the type of person we need in this world, so when I read you had seriously considered suicide, I was horrified. I went through this once, but realized it would be letting the bastards I rail against be able to continue unfettered. I have lost a good college friend to suicide, a person I thought was upbeat and quirky fun.

    We all have those dark thoughts, those heavy duffels of depression and self-doubt, those garbage bags full of concern the world will never change, and nothing we can do will change it. I know I do. But, if we don’t continue to struggle, continue to scream, continue to write, continue to live, we are just making it easier for the 45’s of the world. You and I are just two small specks of humanity, and sometimes we feel we’re drowning in a sea of inhumanity, but we are still floating, still on the surface, still swimming. I promise to keep doing so, and hope you’ll keep swimming up here beside me. :)

    P.S.- I give myself permission to write junk freely, and it is within that junk, the shiny treasures are found.

    1. James, Thank you for your thoughtful, heartfelt reply. It means so much to me. It’s been a tough time for so many of us who believe in goodness, justice for all, equality, doing the right thing, and taking care of one another. I appreciate the opportunity to swim alongside you in these crazy waters.

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