Thursday, March 23, 2017

Things haven't been the same.

Things haven't been the same.  They haven't been the same in a very long time.

March is an eventful month for me.  It is the month in which I was born, it is the month in which my Granny was born, it is the month in which my Uncle was born, and it is the month in which my mother's mother, my grandmother, who I called Nunu, passed away.  March is both the month in which I was born, and the month in which a very real part of me died.  

It isn't popular to talk about your feelings.  People believe this to somehow be an indicator of weakness.  The only thing that is socially acceptable to say when someone asks how you are doing is "I'm good, and yourself?" or a variation on that theme.  This is not going to be one of those blogs that states that I am fine and that it will all be ok, and that is not an acceptable response to something like this.  

I have been toying with writing this for a long time, but kept coming back to "The perception others have of you personally is your reality professionally," which basically means that anyone who sees weakness in a personal life could interpret that as weakness in a professional role and this blog could hurt my career.  This is so much more than that.  I also worry that I may lose a friend or two over this.  There is a lot in here, and I hope that you can accept me for who I really am.   This will stand as record to people who know me that a person can withstand crippling depression and only the ones closest to them might even know.  

 I need to first start by thanking you for making it this far.  This will not be an easy read, but I think it will be worth your time.  I sure hope that it can be worth my time.  My goal is both to bring awareness to the way that depression manifests itself in my life, and to get it all down on paper because that helps me process emotions.  

For at least the last 3 years I have been struggling with it, but it didn't start then.  It started in March of 2010.  7 Years ago I got a phone call from my grandpa, Pop, at 2 am.  He said he needed me to get to his house.  I asked what was going on and he said that the paramedics were working on Nunu.  I put my shoes on and told Brook where I was headed.

Brook and I had just moved in together.  We had a wedding planned for the 17th of April, and it was all thanks to Nunu and Pop.  They had helped me get her ring because I wasn't in a financial state to do so.  Nunu took payments from me monthly, and she had just called me a few days prior to tell me that I no longer had to pay her and that the remaining balance on the ring was to be a gift to me and Brook for our wedding.  I actually cried real tears.  I was so overwhelmed at the amount of love shown to me that I cried for at least 10 minutes.  I called my mom and told her, then I called Brook and told her.  She was ecstatic as well.  We were going to be so happy, Brook, Anna, and I were going to have such a wonderful life with our little family.  

When I pulled up to Pop's house I passed it up at first and parked on side of the road.  I stared at the 2 ambulances...I needed to catch my breath, and get my heart rate down.  Pop needed me to be strong for him, so that's what I was going to do because that's what I always remember being growing up.  I was the rock.  I was the strong one.  I could do this.  I needed to be there for him.  After I psyched myself up I got out of my car and ran half a block to my grandmother's house.  I got inside and and found him seated at his small table.  He was staring into space.  I said hi and asked him what was going on.  He told me that Nunu woke up foaming at the mouth and got his attention.  He started crying and asking "what am I going to do?" over and over.

The wedding shower was strange without her.  Everything felt forced.  Nothing felt right.  I sat there and pretended to care.  I smiled for pictures.  I gave Brook the warm smile she needed when she looked to me.  I loved her so much that I couldn't bear to tell her what was really going on.  I couldn't tell her that a part of me was dead and that I didn't know how to feel.  I couldn't delay the wedding even though I was not in an emotional state to get married.  I couldn't fail her like that.  I had a duty to live up to.  It was my job to be Brook's rock, and emotional support so I couldn't feel anything negative... so I turned my emotions off.  

I could hear the paramedics in the other room working on her.  They shouted "Juanita" over and over again.  I listened as they tried to bring her back.  after about 15 minutes They said that they got a faint pulse and that they needed to get her to the hospital right away.  I asked them what we could do, and they said to get a list of her medications and get it to the hospital.  I hugged Pop, and I watched as they rolled my shirtless dying grandmother off and loaded her in the ambulance.  I called my mother and told her what was going on.  Then we packed up and left for the hospital.  

The Wedding was harder.  I had to pretend to have so much fun.  I put on a smile as family and friends arrived.  I laughed hard at jokes, and I drank Tequila to cover up my sadness.  I danced all night even though I really don't like dancing.  I smiled at Brook the way she needed me to smile.  I laughed with her.  I danced with her.  I had a little bit of fun with her.  I felt guilty about that.  I felt like I wasn't allowed to have fun.  If only I had listened when my Grandmother told me she wanted to talk more before I hung up because I was crying.  Her first heart attack was estimated to be around that day.  Maybe she wanted me to bring her to the hospital.  I might have been able to save her and then she could have been at the wedding.

We met my mom and siblings at the hospital.  She was ok.  I was not.  I still pretended to be the rock everyone needed.  I turned off my emotions.  We talked about Nunu and how we were going to have to see her sick, but we knew she would be ok.  We got optimistic news from the doctor, and I started to feel hope.  We waited.  We waited for what seemed like an eternity.  Then the doctor finally came in and told us that he could not save her.  My grandmother was gone.  I would never hear her voice or feel her hug.   I would never eat her roast, or get to laugh and joke with her.  I would never again be able to see her smile, or for her to speak her words of encouragement that she was always forthcoming with.  She was gone, and everyone needed me to be strong.  So I pushed all of that down... and I said something about a better place. 

Life after marriage was great.  I pretended to be happy, and Brook was happy.  We built a life on this.  I pretended to be relatively introverted because thats what kind of life Brook wanted, and I didn't want to show her my weakness.  I wanted to make sure that she knew that I could be her rock, so I was.  I pretended to be everything she hoped I was and believed I was because I needed one of us to be happy and I knew that I couldn't be.  We raised our daughter together, and we eventually bought a home.  Even then I lied and said that the home we bought was what I wanted, but it wasn't.  It wasn't even close.  

It wasn't until I saw her lifeless body that I believed it.  Nunu was gone. I hated my life for the first time in 5 years or so, since the last time that I had dealt with depression.  I wanted to die.  I didn't want to process any of it.  I looked at her and smiled.  I became that rock again, and I hated myself for showing a momentary weakness.

I've been a chameleon for so long that I had forgotten who I really was.  I've been some people's biggest cheerleader.  I've been the guy that tried so hard to make others laugh.  I've been that awkward dude that has trouble not sounding like Sheldon Cooper.  I've been a liar, and a dang good one.  I've been hateful, and loving, and angry, and happy. and sad, but understanding.  I have pretended to be all of these since the day that she passed.  I have smiled at strangers and given hitch hikers rides.  I have been balanced and focussed, but it is all a lie.  Inside... Inside I have been broken.  

I noticed it about 9 months ago, maybe earlier, but I remember distinctly saying it out loud to myself for the first time. I can't feel emotions.  I am broken.  I was pretending to feel, but I was so busy being everyone's rock that I forgot how to be human.   I was detached from everyone around me except for my kids.  I have been teaching them to be their own rock.  Not to rely on someone else.  I want them to grow up strong and to not feel a weakness in being alone.  I forgot how to be me.  I forgot who I was.  I tried to remember, but I had been pretending too long.  

I got out of bed every day with the intentions of changing the world, and by the time I was returning to my bed I was sad that I made it through the day.  You see, Death, was a welcome friend.  I would have greeted him as I greet all of my friends.  With a warm smile and a handshake or hug.  I didn't want to continue to pretend.  Pretending to be happy was exhausting.  Making people laugh brought my fleeting joy, but it did not bring me real happiness.  Nothing I tried helped.  I tried being outside more.  I tried to sleep more.  I tried talking to people, but with very rare exceptions it came out censored because I didn't want my friends to worry about me.  It was like I was a shell of a person.  I pretended to be fine.  I worked through it.  I found new reasons to be at work and I worked nonstop.  I thought I had found the worst of it.  I was wrong.

About 4 months ago I went from wishing for death to contemplating inviting him myself.  I would be laying in my bed and think "I wonder what my gun would taste like."  I would be driving down the road and wonder how lucky I would have to be to get hit by a train.  I sometimes thought about the best way to go, but I was too afraid of what my family would go through to actually do it.  I told Brook about it.  I told her for the first time and I made her hide my ammo to my guns.  

I was borderline suicidal for the last few months, and it caused me to open up to a lot of people.  I told many people how I was feeling, and through those conversations started tracing the origin of my depression.  I traced it back to Nunu's death.  I traced it to my poor handling of the emotions I was supposed to process, and I cried in my parked car for almost an hour.  For the first time in forever I felt something.  Overwhelming.  Unreal.  Something intense.

Now I can't stop.  It's usually overwhelming.  The emotions are coming at me full force.  It's like I have never felt them before, and it is terrifying.  I have felt betrayal, and anger, and joy and happiness.  I have also felt something that I hadn't felt in a long time.  Love. It's different than I remember, and it comes in waves. I love so many people around me, and it is o so many different levels.  It is way intense.   I remember who is close to me and I am trying to get to all of you.  I owe you an apology for not telling you that I was hurting sooner.  I would want to know if you were hurting, even if you didn't think that I could help.  It is my duty as a friend to not keep secrets from you.  I also must apologize to the people who I have pushed away... so basically everyone. 

Depression is a funny thing.  It can shut you down completely and make you forget who you are, but for me it only took one catalyst to pull me out.  It was finally being myself, Finally finding the source of my pain and dealing with it, and  finding a reason to smile that doesn't involve making someone else happy.

I made a roast a couple of months ago.  I tried to recreate what Nunu did to hers.  I ate it with potatoes and rice (two starches, I know... Craziness) and carrots.  it was delicious.  Honestly with my culinary abilities it was probably even better than I had when I was growing up.  As I ate the roast, I swear I could feel her telling me something.  

I am sure that it was just my imagination, but if she were here I know that she would have wise words for me.  Since she isn't I can only guess that she would read this and say to me and anyone else reading this "You can't love somebody else until you can learn to love yourself."

I was lucky.  I didn't need medicine to get out of my funk, but a lot of people do.  Depression isn't something that is a purely emotional issue.  It strikes on a chemical level and causes these emotions, or lack of emotions to form.  I was very lucky to heal internally the way that I did.  If you are reading this and you are struggling right now, Don't give up and don't hold it in.  Tell someone.  Get professional help if you can.   If you need someone to talk to that will never judge you message me.  You will get through this.  No Matter your struggle.  You will get through this.

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