Monday, January 16, 2012

The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow

THREE MONTHS OLD AND ALREADY LOOKING WORRIED.

Twenty-five years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I've shared some of my struggles here, so I don't know that this is any major revelation. It wasn't that I was suddenly clinically depressed 25 years ago. It was simply that, after a lifetime of depression, I finally just couldn't manage it anymore. There are so many things I can point to as root causes for my depression: Genetics is a possibility. Growing up gay, and ashamed and hating myself for it (I'm over that; it really does get better). Being expected — and expecting myself — to be perfect, although I believed every waking minute that I was seriously flawed. Inconsistent and hurtful messages in my life... It's easy to find reasons for it. What was not easy was accepting that I needed help and that I couldn't just make it better myself.

SMILE? BUT, DAD, DON'T YOU SEE THAT SHADOW LOOMING.

My brother's developmental problems were discovered when he started school. I was 11. I was already feeling kind of damaged myself, but my brother's problems definitely had a major impact on my own emotional growth. I spent a good part of my life convinced that if only I were a better person, he would be OK, that somehow I was responsible for his problems. Every year when my birthday came around and there were candles to be blown out and a wish to be made, my wish would be that my brother would wake up in the morning "better." It never happened.

I'M SURE THE CLOTHES DIDN'T HELP MY EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT.
(SEE THE SHADOW STILL LOOMING EIGHT YEARS LATER?)

Then, when I was 23, my sister was diagnosed with cancer. Until she died 3-1/2 years later, my birthday wish was that my brother AND sister would wake up "better." It never happened. And I continued to figure it was because I just wasn't good enough. On my 27th birthday, three months after my sister died and two months before I met Jerry, I made my own birthday wish. I wished I would know what to wish for — for myself — next year. That didn't happen either (but, in the meantime, I had gotten Jerry anyway).

NO ONE NOTICED THIS?

My moods can be, if not manic, at least changeable. I smile a lot. People think I'm happy when I'm not. I also brood a lot (I used to brood a lot more than I now do). People would think I was angry when I was just ... thoughtful (as in thought-filled).

WAS IT THE HARSH PUNISHMENT? (I DON'T LOOK LIKE I'M SUFFERING.)

I can't live without change in my life. I like to move. I like to shake everything up. Often. And that has its consequences. So, although, I am elated to be living this new life in Sevilla, I also appreciate that making this choice has brought lots more stress along with it and that stress, for me, usually translates into depression. So, I have to work a little harder right now to not allow it to overwhelm me. And sometimes I need outside help.

MAYBE IT WAS JUST THE CHOICE OF FAMILY VACATION DESTINATIONS.

I know how to deal with things now, which doesn't mean I don't still have my moments (as you have witnessed — recently "dropping a sock" among others). It also doesn't mean there's an easy fix. If I just count my blessings every day — or meditate, or exercise, or keep myself busy, or drink herbal tea, or volunteer, or talk to a friend, or go to a chiropractor, or make lemonade, or let a smile be my umbrella — it doesn't get all better. The sadness lurks in corners or sometimes takes up every inch of space. I don't let it control my life anymore, but I have learned to accept that it's a big part of who I am. And despite the title of this post, I will not torture you with a video of Annie singing that the sun'll come out tomorrow. Because it might not. I simply hope the sun'll come out eventually. Clouds every now and again aren't so bad.

58 comments:

  1. Boy do I understand this post. It lurks ever close, just on the line of shadow and light...I like how you describe it, it may never change but how we deal with it can.

    Hang on friend, the sun will come out :)

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  2. Monkey Man:
    Not feeling very profound, but glad (and sorry) you understand so well. And I hope I haven't planted "Annie" in your head. It's stuck in my mine!

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  3. Now I know it was not a cool thing to say about the sock getting lost. But look at it another way...at least I brought a smile to your face.
    Hang in there because it does get better and you are so fortunate to be living in Sevilla...I would give my right tit to be able to do what you have done.
    I have a partner who is rooted here, my mom who is 96 and I couldn't very easily transplant her there and my daughters live in Seattle.
    Moving any time soon? I don't think so.
    saludos y abrazos,
    raulito

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    1. Raulito:
      Your Sock comment was a joy to receive. No need to tiptoe around me. And you definitely did bring a smile to my face.

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  4. Tis easy to be alone in a crowded room and we all only ever communicate in whispered code. Oh, to be a meerkat eh?

    Say sod it, what the hell - and keep on doing what you do.

    If all else fails, eat cake. Seriously.

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    1. The Owl Wood:
      I used to NOT eat when depressed -- well except chocolate enough for 10 people some days. And sod it, what the hell is sometimes the best thing to say.

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  5. Hello Mitch:
    How very brave of you to write this. What seems to us very positive is your recognising the signs of your illness and that you seek help when things really do overwhelm you.

    How fortunate that you now have a loving partner to share the highs and lows of life. That must be a tremendous comfort to you.

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    1. Jerry is a keeper. He made sure I got the help I needed the first time around and we have stuck by each other through all things. It doesn't always make things better, but it certainly sometimes makes things possible... and worthwhile! Thanks always for the kind words and support!

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  6. I am not unacquainted with the black dog. It never goes away completely, you're right. But there ARE ways of keeping the beast at bay (and I like Owl Wood's prescription!)

    And thank you for not posting that damn song from Annie - but I still have it in my head now, thanks for nothing!

    XX Lots of good wishes and hugs, Mitch. Hang in there.

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    1. Judith:
      So sorry about the song. I was singing it for about two hours myself. Finally got it out of my head (it helped that we heard/saw a singer while out tonight), but now it's back! I owe you!

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  7. Mitch, My mother suffered from clinical depression, it's an awful thing for all concerned. You already know I am useless with words (Owl got the word gene in our family) so I am sending you good wishes, love, and hugs. Like Ian said, eat cake - if it helps. Whatever works for you.x

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    1. Elaine:
      I don't know why you say you're useless with words. I love your writing!

      So sorry for what your mother (and, therefore, you all) went through. I didn't want my imprint on the people I touched to be the memory of that. Thanks so much for the love and hugs!

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  8. Mitchell, I grew up with 'depression'/mania all around me. My mother was bi-polar, type 1, I believe they called it. She did not learn how to manage it, let alone acknowledge that there even was a problem.
    You have.What a courageous man you are and I admire that! You also know what 'has to be done', and you have been doing that. I really do understand the 'moving around' thing. My family moved a lot and so did my mother's family. I believe she felt it would make things 'new' and better and she would blame the present home for all her anxieties. But remember she never took that first step in admitting there was a problem....one that could be addressed effectively and functionally! Like YOU have.
    You must be a very strong person when you need to be with lots of resolve to get the most out of your life.
    Thanks so much for sharing this. I know it must be difficult to put yourself 'out there' and possibly be judged.

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    1. Hey, I'm replying to MY reply! Go figure! I like this 'new' system you have.
      I forgot to mention how much of a cutie you were as a kid!! OK, you still are, but you know what I mean!

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    2. So sorry for what you had to witness and experience in childhood. I didn't share my childhood experiences similar to what you mention, but I definitely understand. I hesitated for two days publishing this post, but decided I've been sharing my life here for more than a year and I may as well tell a bit more about what makes me who I am. I hope it makes a difference to someone else. It definitely helps me. As for the "new system," I had nothing to do with it. I had no idea Google had added this option until I saw it on recent post. So, I haven't been consistent with how I comment on comments. I need to remember to hit "Reply"!

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  9. Mitchell, thanks for sharing. The reaction on the 'sock incident' should have been a warning for me.

    I ate when I was depressed, adding all those extra kilos I'm now trying to lose. Most of the time I don't feel that way anymore, maybe four, five days a year... it doesn't mean I don't have problems, we all have them, but I can handle them better now.

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  10. Peter:
    The "sock incident" was what prompted me to write this one. I thought I needed to explain.

    I had the reverse problem when I was depressed. I STOPPED eating. I might gorge on chocolate, but I would skip most if not all meals and I drank quite a bit. Not a healthy way to live. (Although I didn't get any sympathy for the fact that I never put on any weight.)

    I cut out the drinking the first time I was treated for depression and I now drink again but very little. As for skipping meals, Jerry knows how I am and doesn't let that happen.

    I'm glad you're able to deal with your problems in a more healthy way now (and accept the fact that they don't just go away). Hugs to you!

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  11. I think you're incredibly brave for sharing your stories, both the good and the bad.
    When we live in shadows the shadows win, but you've learned that you can find the light, even if the shadows seem their darkest.
    I think you telling your story will help anybody else who feels the same.

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    1. Bob:
      I don't know how brave I am but it would be nice if this actually helped someone else. Thanks!

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  12. Cheer-up buckaroo! At least you have your looks!
    I'm hoping some humor will make you happy.
    Your Friend, m.

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    1. LOL. But then why did The Dowager Duchess always say I had a face only a mother could love?

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  13. No words, just reaching across the pond with a huge hug.

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    1. Thanks for the huge hug! Sending one back to you... across the pond and most of a continent!

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  14. Mitchell, Your words really touched me, because I feel/felt a lot of what you were saying. I had to be perfect. It was my fault that I was being hurt at home. Some days I couldn't/wouldn't move out of the house. Clinical depression, anxiety, and PTSD were my diagnoses. I kept trying to get help throughout my life, but it wasn't until I found a really good psychiatrist and some good meds that I can lead a "normal" life. This was last year.

    I'm glad you have Jerry. And I am also glad that you are getting some help. All my best wishes are with you.

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    1. So sorry to learn what you've been through, Jo, and so recently! But, it's never too late. I felt like I met a very different person (myself) when I first got help. What an amazing discovery.

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  15. For 20 years I have tried to help people deal with depression. I am always honored when someone allows me to let me go on their Journey.
    Sir Winston Churchill - no stranger to the black dog - advised despite everything to keep going, and eventually you get out of hell.

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    1. Jerry and I actually used that Churchill quote as our moving announcement when we left UC Berkeley!

      Thanks to you and people like you for helping others on their journeys. As for allowing you to go on mine, I hope it's not because misery loves company!

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    2. You are bright: I like bright people.

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  16. I have often thought that as gay people, we have all had to constantly try not to slip, so we kept these things secret, and self medicated/healed in some way (or thought we were.)
    I know we are all individuals with different experiences, but perhaps it was more difficult in the closet.
    I think you are brave to share these moments with your readers and I thank you for everything you write.
    You can have my all socks, I don't use em anymore. :) Be well!
    love tim

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    1. Thank YOU, Tim!

      You can keep the socks. I underestimated my count. I probably have 4 dozen pairs. Being down one isn't really any big deal. Anyway, you're in France. It's winter. What will you wear to keep your feet warm?!?

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  17. What is it about the "change" thing? I feel that too, and have acted on it all my life. I wonder if it's about escape, hoping that the change will alter and remove what makes us sad or uneasy or whatever we're feeling that we don't like. I used to get very bored with jobs and needed to change them. Often. I finally quit working altogether nine years ago. Now I'm much calmer, less anxious, and have been in this house nine years, longer than I've been in any one place in all my life. Now I'm thinking I was just allergic to work...

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    1. I'm sure you're right that a lot of it has been about escape. I know that's why my sister lived the way she did and why I've led the life I have. Working for a living was usually not an emotionally healthy thing for me. Now I just have to adjust to NOT working for a living. But, like you, I was also allergic to it! I can't imagine living in one house for 9 years. Amazing.

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  18. To my shame, I used to belong to the "Depression? Snap out of it!" brigade. That is, until I started doing voluntary work with people with 'mental health problems' (even though I had my own different mental issues). It was a belated enlightenment to hear others struggling to find the words to describe the experience of when depression catches hold - and am at least now able to see that no words can adequately convey it. I now have much more tolerance of the many so suffering individuals which was so lacking before.

    In your final paragraph above you write very philosophically about your situation and your dealing and acceptance of it. It's very moving. It makes me also count my blessings - including, fortunately, my own not being subject to the condition. (I think I have a 'cushion' of melancholic introversion which protects me from sinking down further into the darkness underneath which people like you experience. Trouble is, my being a quietly reflective person, even in company, is often misinterpreted as being my being miserable, when, in fact I'm quite an optimist. But that's maybe a matter for my own blog.)

    Yes, Mitch, one can read those photos as portentous, though you do have a lovely smile - well, at least in three of them. But from what you say about liking to move and needing to "shake everything up", sounds like maybe you were 'born under a wand'rin star'? You're not already planning where to live next, are you?

    Deep blog, Mitch - and the Billy Joel is fab - a man with a towering talent and someone who knows about getting old gracefully (at least that's how it looks!) Best wishes, my friend,

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    1. Raybeard: Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. "Snap out of it" (unless said jokingly) is one of the hardest things for me to hear. I am grateful to people like you and obviously my other blogging friends who can empathize and appreciate that it's not as easy as all that.

      I was definitely born under a wand'rin star! I am very happy to continue to discover Sevilla and am anxious to begin to travel locally. Who knows where we'll end up next but, at least for the time being, I am enjoying getting settled and making Sevilla home.

      I love the stories Billy Joel tells. And "Vienna" has always been one of my favorites. (I used to strongly identify with "Angry Young Man.")

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  19. May you be well! All I really know is that things change all the time. It helps me to remember that. I don't think I have clinical depression, but I know people who do and getting the help you need is critical. Thank goodness for Jerry!

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    1. Krisit:
      Yes, thank goodness for Jerry. The best medicine.

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  20. Why is it that the world we grow up in seems to only reinforce our faults instead of celebrating our uniqueness?

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    1. Stew:
      Ha! Not a good question to ask me in THIS mood. I'm going to be positive and remember the families and teachers I've known that have embraced their kids, differences and all.

      Delete
  21. my friend, annie is always in my head ;)

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    1. Monkey Man:
      I SHOULD have posted "It's the Hard-Knock Life"!

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  22. These pictures are amazing. Have you ever wondered what happened to your boyhood rings? I do about mine.

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    1. HARRYGOAZ:
      It's funny. I was trying to figure out those "rings" because I didn't wear any at that time. I think those are actually the bear's claws curling around my fingers.

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  23. i love the authenticity of the pics.

    making a delicious visit ll the way from philippines. :)

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  24. spiky:
    We had our old family slides (inherited from our fathers) digitized before making the move to Spain. These are a small sampling. Thanks for visiting all the way from the Philippines!

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  25. Wow! This is a really powerful post and very touching indeed. I get a lot of what you say (I have been with my therapist now for about 2 years) and think that there are so many people out in this world who have been through and are still going through what you talk about. Your honesty is beautiful and I thank you for your openness. In spite of the darkness, you still shine brightly. :-)
    (and the pics made me smile!)

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  26. Jeff:
    It is amazing, and sad, how many people deal with these issues. i'm not feeling very shiny right now, but thanks! And I'm glad you enjoyed the pics; they make me smile, too.

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  27. I have always had my "black dogs"...That is what Winston Churchill called his depressions and I felt that felt just right. I tried medication for a while, but it made me feel as if I couldn't feel my life properly, like I was watching it instead of participating in it. I finally just decided to accept the fact that I have black dogs. And that has helped, although I have not completely ruled out meds.

    Ok...the photo of the the black bear on your back? The first time I looked at it, I thought you had a fur wrap around your shoulders and a big strange hat on your head. It actually took me a few seconds to realize that it was not some crazy get up....

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    1. Maria:
      I am a strong believer in meds (for myself), but I definitely wouldn't take those that made me feel disconnected or less than myself. Unfortunately, I've learned that without meds my dark days get progressively darker and I then REALLY don't feel my life properly. That's when I start watching instead of participating. I tried to brighten the black bear photo a bit, but it's still really hard to see and does look very strange. We could pretend it's one of those "black dogs."

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  28. Just been thinking about you Mitch, so popping in again to send you a big hug from the other side of the world --- XXX

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    1. Judith:
      Thanks so much for that hug. They are always welcome, always appreciated, and always helpful!

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  29. Hi Mitch this post contains so much of you and opening up about your
    depression. I take anti depressants daily which helps toward off the
    very black thoughts and cope with the day. It is not easy to talk about and I do so hope that writing about it has helped a bit. XX and hugs.

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  30. the cuby poet:
    Writing about it definitely helps. Isn't it amazing how many people live with this?

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  31. Where in the world has Mitchell Block disappeared to!!? Hey, spring is coming with all its vitamin D!!! It will give us all a needed 'lift'!
    What am I doing commenting twice on one post!? Have never done this before!

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    1. Jim:
      I've been out soaking up some Vitamin D; couldn't wait until spring. I'll be back shortly! (I'm honored to be your first double-comment.)

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  32. Hi Mitch, Glad I found you. Drop over sometime. yvonne

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    1. Hi Yvonne:
      I'm glad you found me, too. I just made a quick visit (before lunch) to your blog and look forward to catching up. I love the fact that your most recent post is about my mother (well sort of) The Dowager Duchess!

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  33. If anyone knows what you have been through in life (other then Jerry) I think our GENES have so much to do with how we are....I can relate to my relative!

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