Yes, I admit it – I was one of those geeks in the sixth grade who adored diagramming sentences. (I actually remember someone telling me how much he hated it, and I was amazed.)
I started writing big time when I was between 17 and 18, because I realized that writing was the only way I’d ever be able to squeeze out a whole sentence without getting interrupted.
After that, a whole lot of years passed before I started writing again. At age 39, I started writing a self-published free newsletter dealing with the causes of abuse and trying to draw parallels between different kinds of abuse. In my mind, all abuse stemmed from a common cause, but I couldn’t really articulate what it was. In fact, the newsletter was part of my quest to actually find the common cause. I knew somehow that property abuse, drug abuse, spousal abuse, etc, had a common thread. I just didn’t know what it was. By that time, I’d already been self-abusing, but for some reason I didn’t even think of that. I had just read some research that physical abuse in families escalated at Christmas time, and I wanted to shed some light on that, so a newsletter contributor and I actually made a speech at the Fresno Center for Nonviolence. At that time, I had four jobs, one of which was writing the free newsletter, which obviously paid nothing!
Many, many more years went by. I had gotten some work that actually paid enough that I only needed one job, but continued to work in a second one out of habit, I guess. But the tacky little BS that goes on at work was ticking me off too much. One time, I actually got castigated at work by some supervisors because I was doing the work of three people and apparently they were alarmed because I’d be hard to replace if I ever left. I was thinking, “Why would I ever leave?”
But, instead of praising me for being so efficient, they just blew me away. Within a few weeks, as the BS continued, I stomped out of there in a huff. I didn’t mean to, but I actually left rubber on the driveway after cussing out one of the bosses. (Well, the cussing was on purpose.)
So I went back to college and there I had to write again. I was still good at it, but the college professor pointed out some things that I could improve. At least he acknowledged that I was good, so that made it okay — helpful, in fact.
In college, I began to focus on writing as an act of communication. What became essential to me was to make sure that someone reading a paper would easily be able to follow every point I made. In college, you’re always supposed to argue for a point of view. To me, the point was not to convince anyone of anything; I just wanted to be so clear that readers would actually understand me.
Now, I do a lot of work as a ghostwriter. This is fun at times — it’s even exhilarating when I’m working with the right person and we mesh. Other times, I feel like I’m wasting my time writing copy for someone else’s business. But that’s where my trick knee kicks in — I find it really hard to write when the likely result will be to improve my own life. It’s very easy for me to create for someone else, and to see the value in someone else.
I guess I’m learning in my old age, because life has become too painful not to. Being broke and trying to squash myself into a pigeonhole someone else designed is not serving me. As the years roll by, being in bad shape financially, mentally, and every other way is not helping me reach the people I would really want to help. And it doesn’t keep the dogs fed.
I’m not always in a happy, ecstatic frame of mind, and I rarely have a suicidal moment anymore. When I do, I realize that it’s a wave. Trying to fight a wave and beat it back with a stick will never work. I just let it come. There are times I’ve been known to just lie on the couch and let myself feel bad for whatever time it takes. I think that resisting the onset of the wave makes it come more often. Eventually, life is going to bring you some reason to get up again. You either fall asleep and wake up, the doorbell rings, you have to eat, or something like that.
The wave recedes by itself. And if it hasn’t receded yet, you can always go back to the couch.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I’ll think of some weird, very funny, unrelated thing that happened while in the throes of depression. Or I’ll hear something on the radio. Sometimes I’ll bust out laughing. I wasn’t always able to do that. I think I’m free to do it now because I know that the pain is transitory. I know that when good things bubble up in my consciousness, it’s okay not to resist them. I give myself permission to laugh.
When you fight back at a wave of depression, you just magnify it, because that’s what you’re thinking of.
When you give yourself permission to feel good, you allow Mother Nature to bring you back into balance.
Obviously, I would never let my dogs starve while I’m suffering on the couch. That’s why it’s helpful to have someone that you’re taking care of — someone who won’t give you a lot of crap by telling you why you shouldn’t be depressed!
The people who try to help you are often the ones who make it worse. The dogs never say anything like, “You should be happy!” as if there’s something wrong with you for being the authentic person you are. They never say, “Get up, you lazy bum!” either.
We really believe in fighting in this society. We really believe that the best way to solve a problem is to put on boxing gloves and come out swinging. We really believe that the best way to get someone to do something is to just keep nagging or just try knocking them down.
I’m not suggesting that you “owe something” to someone simply because they’re depressed. I’m just saying that kicking them around won’t make them happy. It might make them ACT like they’re happy so you’ll stop kicking them, but that’s about it.
I think that life just puts choices in front of you.
I think it’s okay to choose to be unproductive or down on yourself when you’re truly being obliterated by a wave. I think that you’ll decide when and if to get up and try again, and the impulse will come from within. It will feel right. It won’t take will power. It won’t hurt. And it won’t be to please someone else.
Trust your inner voice.
The secret is that even people with Major Depressive Disorder laugh once in a while. Even suicidal people like to pet their animals, watch a favorite TV show, or taste something good. In each and every day, there is something that you smile at or about … and it isn’t forced.
So why am I writing this now, instead of writing for someone else who’ll pay me to do it?
It’s because Life called me. Life put questions in front of me, and made me want to figure things out. That impulse to diagram a sentence and figure out what makes it work is the same impulse that makes me want to figure out what’s going on with myself, with people, with animals, and with the earth. Not in a blaming way, and not in a way that puts me down or puts someone else down — just out of curiosity. And the older I get, the more curious I get. So I’m still trying. Still trying to figure it all out.
And sometimes I just feel like writing what I want to say, whether or not it brings in the coin. 🙂