There is a place in a person with chronic depression that I can only call 'nothing'. Every day in depression, I take a step further and further from the world. From my family, my life, everything, everyone. Every day, another step toward the end of the earth. I feel like I’m screaming but I can’t hear the sound of my voice. The only sound I can hear is my heartbeat in my ears, and it’s desperate and fast. My view of my life is grey and interactions with others create silence. I can see them. They’re talking. Or laughing. But I can’t hear anything. It’s like living in a silent movie.
I have a chance at a life as long as one of my life-sustaining sources is intact, even if only by a thread. My heart, mind, spirit, soul… If at least one of these things is still dangling by a string, I have a chance.
But as I step another step out of my life, I get to the place where I step off the edge of the earth. That's not the place where I take my life. It's a place where there is no vision, air, or sound. A step off the edge of the earth is a feeling of relief. Because when I take that step, there is nothing. No sadness, feeling, thought or pain. Just nothingness.
Standing in that place, while everyone else is still on solid ground, there is no meaning or memory of a time when I was a participant in it. It's just me. Free falling.
People say things like, ”You have so much!” Or, “So many people love you!” But I am not connected to people. I’m not connected to myself. I see their lips moving, and all I think is letters that make words that make a sentence… It's numbing. Yellow and purple and the rain and the sun, are all one thing blended together to create grey.
Even if I only say the words, “I am worth fighting for” and even if I don't really believe that, it’s something. Even if I am only hanging by that fragile thread, it's something instead of nothing. I still feel separate, but I can see land from where I am. Treading water in the middle of the ocean. I feel too tired to take that step back in to my life, but I must take that step no matter how heavy my legs feel. No matter how heavy my heart feels.
I pray for all of us, people who are broken. I know it seems impossible, but I have to fight. That's the only way to escape nothingness. I want to want something. I want to step in to the sun. Because until I do, it will rain.
Dreadlocks and Socks It Will Rain
I've waited for a long time to write a book that was only nonstop hilarity. Funny, easy, no trauma. All of our problems would be solved. We would be deliriously happy rolling around on our giant pile of money and nonstop Alcoholics Anonymous slogans. I would be super motivating and I could write a four hundred page book with long lists of things that I know. Eckhart Tolle would be so envious about how brilliant I am.
I waited for this knowledge, but it seemed that every day that passed, I actually became dumber than I was the day before. Now as I edit what I really know for sure, it's only about four things and three of those things are just a wild guess.
I have an office. Someone put an old desk on the street, which means if you want this broken down desk, take it away. So I did. My old faded brown desk sits against a wall next to a window in a back bedroom where I am able to stare out at a weather-beaten storage shed overflowing with garbage. As I stare, the mini-blinds move in rhythm with the air-conditioning. I am surrounded by boxes of junk, old toys, box upon box of things that no one will claim unless of course I suggest they be thrown out. The best part of my day is sitting in my glamorous office, with the door shut and locked. Because on the other side of the door is all the wreckage of my world. So many days, months and years that I want back. But I can't get them back. I feel like a bag of ice sitting in the sun.
I can clearly hear my mom crying in the very next room because her mind has been swallowed by dementia. I'll go and ask her why she's crying, she'll say she's not crying or she doesn't know why she's crying. I pick her up off the floor about twenty times a day. I do everything I can think of to make her happy, to make her stop crying. Most attempts fail and I will give her a klonopin to calm her down. She always tries to refuse the pill because she says she's afraid she will become addicted. I explain that she is seventy seven, and if she did get addicted, it's not like she would have to go to the Betty Ford clinic. I tell her that when you're seventy seven you are allowed to take pills, and then I explain how much I can't wait to be cleared to be addicted to pills.
Mom is miserable and unhappy and sick. It's hard for my heart to watch. Her eyes don't even look like they used to. Many times I can be in a grocery store or a restaurant, and I can clearly hear mom crying even when she's not with me. She can't talk or walk or think. I am sad to say there is not much of my real mom left.
I laid in bed for almost a year in a deep, desperate depression. That gave me plenty of time to think. I have a lot on my mind and my head can get really dark, really fast. I climbed in the hole/ bed and couldn’t get out.
There are many discoveries about depression that I made alone, without the help of Dr. Phil or Oprah. I, like most people, have some pretty horrific memories. But I also have sweet memories of when I was young and still unaffected. Memories that remind me of a time when I was just a young girl, having a great time, laughing, spending time with great friends and family. These stories are weaved in because there was an unbelievable amount of hope in my heart. I know this because I was there. There was no injury, and very little pain. I was whole. And also, who wants to read an entire book about depression? Not me. So I'm hoping that I'm able to sprinkle this book with a little bit of laughter and hope. The things in life that are funny are more important than the things that are sad, in my opinion. Let’s have a laugh.
I have always believed that people with depression were weak minded people. I thought, I've never been able to just clock out of my life and say sorry, I'm just too depressed to deal with this. Then with no explanation, no horrible event, I literally could not get out of bed for almost a year. I look back and I don't know how a year passed without me realizing that what I needed to do to get out of bed, was get out of bed. When you're depressed you hear things like this all the time. “You've got to go do something. You have to make yourself feel better.” All of the suggestions were meant to help and encourage but my brain just couldn't receive it.
At my worst I would think, if I could just put my socks on. It took every ounce of energy I had to put my socks on. Because all I did was lay in bed, I didn't move enough for my blood to circulate so my feet were always frozen. I’d put one sock on, lay down. An hour later, put the other sock on. Every day I thought how long is this going to last? Every morning when I opened my eyes I felt overwhelming sadness and it worsened as the hours passed.
The thing that lifted my head above the water was the hilarious memories from my life. Laughter and the search for what's funny has always been the thing that has saved my life. Without laughter, I know I would not be here. Without laughter, life, as far as I'm concerned, is not worth living. So I would lie in my bed and remember days and moments that never failed to lift me up.
My entire life I have had a solid connection with God then one day I completely went off the rails. I was lying in bed and I started to think about my mom and her life and how every single day of her life has been a struggle. I could see in my head her constant, violent shaking because of the Parkinson's disease and Dementia. The unending hallucinations. Still, my mom prayed. Every day. I couldn’t help but wonder where is God while all this is going on? Why couldn’t he hear her?
I think about my daughters, Jennifer, April and Carly, and all the pain they have experienced. I think about my husband John and his heart condition. I think about my grandson Moses who has Cerebral Palsy and Autism. Where is God?
I decided for the first time in fifteen years that saying a prayer was the equivalent to talking to myself. So I stopped praying. I had lost my faith and lost my way. It wasn’t intentional, it just happened. In my life I was always able to turn to God. It didn't matter what was going on, God was there with me. Most of the time he was shaking his head saying, "Really Dina? Did you just do that?" But God always stuck by me. When you lose your faith in God it’s a loneliness you never, ever want to know. It’s like being, seriously, alone.
The fact is, I'm not good at feeling my feelings. I don't like having feelings. About anything. If I can't fix it, it didn't happen. That method will at some point give you a nervous breakdown. Although, I prefer it to being that person who has feelings about everything. They feel the feelings and want to feel more about how they feel about the feelings. Okay man. I get it. You have some feelings. Damn.
Most of the things we hang on to are completely useless to us. So we walk around the world carrying a big bag of useless shit. People are saying, "What's that awful smell?" I say, "Oh. That's my giant bag of shit. I take it everywhere." You will expect that if someone loves you enough they would actually hold your bag of shit for you.
So what I learned to do was get rid of all the feelings and when you do that the feelings eventually come out, usually in public. You’re going to be standing in Target and someone is going to walk by who looks like, or smells like, or laughs like… and here we go. Show time! An enormous rush of feelings begins snowballing down a hill; you're standing there like a normal person holding a bottle of Windex, sobbing uncontrollably as people stare at you. Most women understand this so they watch you and whisper to one another, “She’s having a feeling. God bless her. I had a feeling at Sizzler last week.” Men usually don’t understand. So they see you crying holding the Windex and think, “She really hates cleaning.” I've traveled a long road without having feelings, so I know it can be done. But if you do that, just know that one of these days you're going to be in Macy's and all hell is going to break loose. To be honest, I don't think a person is truly authentic until they have an emotional breakdown in public.
I’m a horrible mother. That is one of the large pieces of shit that I carry in my bag. But I have to really be careful not to live in the ‘I’m a bad mother’ world too much because the kids feed on that.
“Mom. Will you babysit for me?”
“No, I just don’t feel very well.”
“My childhood was bad.”
“Okay. Bring him over.”
They will allow me to carry their mistakes by saying that they made them because of the horror that was their childhood. ‘I am the way I am because of the way you raised me’. If I had a nickel. Yes, I will hold your bag of shit.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. I stopped showering, brushing my teeth and I never changed out of my pajamas. John, Jennifer, April and Carly, were losing their patience. They had really taken such great care of me, they had been kind and loving, but eventually they were done with it. They would crack their head in my door and say, "You okay?" The older girls would drag their sons in by the collars and say, "Give your grandmother a kiss." There’s Grandma, hadn't done my roots for God knows how long, hadn't showered, my hair was actually starting to form dreadlocks. "Give grandma a kiss God dammit!" The sweet kid gives me a kiss. The grandsons are also tired of it. They want me back in the kitchen making chocolate milk and macaroni and cheese. They were ready for life to return to normal. But I believe by that point, I had already stepped off the edge of the earth. I was immersed in complete silence.
Depression rolls over you like someone dumped water on your head and it rolls all the way down to your feet. Sometimes we get depressed because of what they call situational depression. That's when you have something traumatic happen in your life and as a result you become depressed. Then there is depression where there is no apparent reason, one day you climb into bed and don't get out until you have dreadlocks. I say there is no apparent reason because the fact is there is always a reason. That reason comes in the form of whatever horrible thing you walked away from because it was too painful to even allow in your heart. So when you see someone on the streets and they look completely broken down, it may be because their hearts are trying to forget something. Pretend something didn’t happen. What terrifying secret are they carrying around? It’s something horrible enough that they would rather die than think about it. So we all run, trying to escape the images or words that roll through our head. With brief moments of peace because we drink or drug or shop or eat. During these activities the memory fades and there is a sense of calm. A feeling of safety. But it’s always temporary, the memory comes back and we begin to run again. All the way down the road with our giant bag of shit.
Travel In Poverty It Will Rain
Dominique, nique, nique, S’en allait tous simplement Routier pauvre et chantant. En tous chemins, en tous lieux, Il ne parle que du bon Dieu, Il ne parle que du bon Dieu.
My two older brothers, Mark and David spent much of their time trying to work me up. I only weight about nine pounds, but if I got frustrated enough I would unleash on anyone. My brothers thought this was hilarious, and they gave me the nickname “piranha”. They never bothered with my sister Lisa because if you walked toward her she would drop to the ground and curl up in the fetal position, crying. Not me. I was always on stand down just waiting for mayhem to ensue. They would laugh the entire time while I tried to ignore them. They would put their hand up to their mouth like they were talking in a loudspeaker, announcing some big event, "And here comes piranha! She looks angry! She’s small but she’s a maniac! Show us what you’ve got piranha!" Most of the time it didn't work, but every now and again I would pounce on one of them like a cat. Or like a violent fish.
As part of my Catholic Confirmation which by the way is an actual Catholic event complete with school, bible teachings and a crispy itchy dress. I was asked to assist one of the nuns in the office/bookstore of the church. And when I say bookstore I mean bookshelf. I had never met this nun before and I honestly can't even remember her name so let's call her 'Sister Sledge'.
Sister Sledge didn't know me. She didn't know that I was a rebel. She didn't know that I sinned from the time I woke up to the time I went to sleep. And they weren't even accidental sins. I knew I was sinning all day long and I just continued to do it. Of course on this day I'm trying not to sin because I'm working in very close quarters with a nun. A full-blown, fully dressed out nun. I think I was about twelve. I do remember being so young that when Sister Sledge asked me to do something and said she was going to go to the restroom, I remember being shocked that nuns go to the restroom. It seems like it had to be a sin to in any way expose your nunly goodies even in the privacy of a bathroom.
I remember the exact moment I was tidying up the bookstore/bookshelf and Sister Sledge began to inquire about my future. The truth is I never thought about my future. I knew that I would probably continue with the extreme sinning, but past that I had no plans. This is the moment I knew Sister Sledge had no idea who she was talking to. She said, "Have you ever thought about becoming a nun?" I turned away quickly and stared at the books thinking, oh my God did she just say that.
As I looked at the books Sister Sledge was looking at me waiting for an answer. I mean, even my parents knew that for me to stop sinning even for a few hours a day, that was an unusual day. So what an honor that someone believed I could entirely stop sinning. So without skipping a beat I said, "Of course I’ve thought about becoming a nun. Doesn't every young girl?" We spent the rest of the afternoon with Sister Sledge explaining to me what it took to become a nun. The main thing was that I had to stop sinning.
I was walking home on the ditch bank and thinking that while some people might find this laughable, if I stop sinning now, yes, I could actually be a nun. Aside for the information Sister Sledge gave me that afternoon, the only other thing I knew about nuns I learned while watching the Singing Nun. The Singing Nun was a really pretty, guitar playing nun. She was sort of a hippie nun and she sang the Dominique nuns song.
Dominique, nique, nique Goes along very simply Traveling in poverty and singing. On every road, in every place, He just talks about the Lord, He just talks about the Lord.
As I walked down the ditch bank this song came in my head although I only knew the first line. Dominique, nique, nique. I imagined every step I took was a step away from habitual sinning and a step toward being a full blown nun. By the time I arrived home my family had no idea I was a changed person/child.
The first thing I had to do was get a handle on the sinning. The way I assessed sin when I was twelve is the same way I assess sin now at the age of fifty one. If something is really great and amazing and hilarious? Sin. If something is boring and stupid? Not sin. I said to myself that if I just take one moment at a time I could become pure. If every time I was invited to sin I could sing in my head, "Dominique, nique, nique... Dominique, nique, nique..." Just travel in poverty. Talk about the Lord.
I was challenged immediately when I heard a bang on my bedroom door. It was my brother Mark, "We’re taking the bus to the mall. Mom said you can't stay home alone so you have to go with us." I asked him why he, my other brother and their friends were going to the mall when they didn't have any money. He mentioned something about a 'five finger discount'. If you're a sinner you know what this means and although I didn't say it, in my mind I thought, "Watch your fucking mouth. I'm a nun."
Of course I knew the snowball of sinning was going to start rolling down the hill because my brothers were also straight up sinners. Sinning from the time we left the house. Smoking cigarettes on the way to the bus stop. Cursing. Punching each other. Spitting. We got on the bus and I sat in front of my brother and his friend and stared out the window. Dominique, nique, nique. Trying to not even open my mouth because I know if I did a sin would come out. My brother was sitting behind me tapping me on the head, tapping me on the ear, he and his friend laughing and laughing. The thing that I had learned in the first two hours about being a nun is that the world is going to challenge you. Your brothers are going to challenge you. You have to be strong. I heard my brother with his hand in a circle up to his mouth sounding like a speaker, "nobody knew 'piranha' rides the bus! I hope nobody gets bitten!"
You could always talk yourself into saying that what you’re doing is not a sin especially when you're twelve. My job and clearly the only reason they took me with them was to talk to the cashier while the boys shoplifted candy. I wasn't the one shoplifting, my brothers were. That's not to say that I hadn't shoplifted a hundred times before this day, but I was a different person than I was three hours ago. You would think that because I distracted the cashier the thief’s would have shared their candy with me. We would both be wrong. We walked through the mall while the boys had circles of different colors around their mouths from their giant jawbreaker's, red, blue, yellow. "Hey Dina. The red jawbreaker taste like cinnamon. Too bad I'm not going to give you one." Dominique , nique, nique. Travel in poverty.
We walked through a department store because it was a shortcut to get to the bus stop. There was an above ground pool set up in the department store filled with water. The bottom of the pool was lined with pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. The boys clearly had not sinned enough for one day and began to discuss that if one them jumped in the pool and swam around on the bottom they could grab a bunch of change. I was standing several feet away from the boys because I felt there should be distance between good and evil.
Suddenly, I was under the freezing water. It only took me half a second to jump up out of the water and forget I was a nun. "Mother fuckers! I will stab you when you're sleeping!" By the time I surfaced I saw the boys running out of the glass doors of the store. I climbed out of the pool bringing about five gallons of water with me and also ran out the door. There were four or five of us and we were running through the parking lot while a couple of employees from the department store were screaming at us as they stood out on the sidewalk in front of their store. We ran and ran, me, slower than the boys, my clothing was heavy because it was soaking wet and my shoes were filled with water. Then these idiots had the nerve to act like I failed because I didn't take the time to get any change.
I was furious. I didn't even sit next to them on the bus although I could hear their speaker voice a few rows back, "Piranha! Can we get an interview! I see you just came from out of the water!" When the bus dropped us off I was even more aggravated because I'm walking down a dirt road soaking wet so it turned in to mud all the way up to my knees. Both my brothers David and Mark gave me a jawbreaker. I think it was an apology. I always found my brothers to be extremely entertaining even when I was the target. It was sort of an honor to be their constant source of entertainment.
I had tried not to sin for over six hours and I was exhausted. The old sinning me would've jumped into the pool and scooped up and ass load of change.
I thought that maybe when I got older I could be a nun. I just didn't want to stop sinning. Every single thing that I wanted to do would be classified as a sin. I struggled to think of activities that would be fun and hilarious that were not a sin. I still do.
I tried to stop sinning. I would say to myself in the morning, today I will sin half as much as I normally do. Then I would end up sinning three times the amount I normally do by noon. So then I would say, okay, its eleven forty five and I've said the F word twenty six times. I'm not allowed to say the F word again until tomorrow. Ten minutes later, I said it three more times.
I’ve learned from religious people that when someone says, “We are all sinners.” What they’re actually saying is, you’re a sinner, and I’m much less of a sinner.
I don’t agree with most religions ideas. I do know for sure that the foundation for all religion is love. They all start with love. Then they go off in different directions until they forget it’s all about love. They become more about their interpretation of what God wants, when God just wants love. Love me, and I love you. Not that fucking complicated. Am I right? Travel in poverty. Talk about the lord.
"Raw and funny." -- Joel Stein, Time Magazine columnist, Jan. 11, 2011
"Like a maelstrom." -- Gary Klinga, ForeWord Review, Oct. 5, 2010
"So absolutely over the top that it makes readers laugh out loud and thank God it is not them." -- Robin Martin, San Francisco Book Review, March 2011
"Malcolm in the Middle meets Cops." -- Jenny Mounfield, The Compulsive Reader, Sept. 2010