Sunday, May 9, 2010

Letting Go

Happy Mother's Day!

I've been focusing on some heavy stuff during the last five months: depression, anger, fear, misdiagnosis, illness, a near-death experience, and loss.

You know what I learned from sharing my deep dark fears and my private journey in a public space where anyone in the world can read it? Letting go has made me free.

I let go of my fear that you will judge me.

I let go of my sadness, my anger and my shame.

I let go of my need to help karma find Dr. H.C.

I let go of my fear that I will get sick again.

I may very well get sick again; I may even lose myself. But I know what to do, I've rallied support and I know that it's possible to come out on the other side standing tall and pretty much back together again.

Thank you for reading my story and for sharing your stories and advice. It has helped me let go.

I love blogging so much I don't want to let that go, so in the next week or so I will transition to an entirely new blog.

After examining my illness and depression, I want to keep it light for a while. (Though, if you know me, you'll know there will be an element of seriousness in everything I do.)

Consumerism has always been fascinating to me. I've thought about it a lot.

Take today for example, a holiday I think is one of the least commercial. Moms want to take a day off and be appreciated. Kids make a special breakfast or clean the house or write a poem in a card.

It's not about diamond rings or dozens of blood red roses.

Or is it different for you?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Space Between

Part of the reason I‘ve been writing this blog is to answer the question I posed in Up For Debate: what is personality? Is it more like neurons (the mechanism that releases the chemical) or the synapses (the space between, where one chemical is deposited to meet another chemical)?

The girl who sang in the shower disappeared for a few years. I’m not exactly sure where she went. Where ever I was, I must have existed. Or I wouldn't have been able to come back. So what happened in between?

Did I get sucked into an undiscovered black hole that exists, under the right conditions, in every person’s body? Was my personality so well hidden that it was indistinguishable from my surroundings, like a light brown mouse in a sand storm?

Even more interesting: I came back.

Without any focused thought or energy. No prayers or devil worship or telethons. I just reappeared one day in the hospital. It didn’t happen right after the medicine had fixed my heart. And it’s not like my ejection fraction increased dramatically right before I started singing again.

I am convinced that we’re a product of our circumstances. Yes, we have free will to be whoever we want to be, but we usually choose who we want to be based on our circumstances. I remember feeling scared as a little kid when we had a suicidal foster girl living in our home. She locked me in the bathroom with her and talked about cutting her wrists. At some point during the foster family experience (there were several living with us over a period of a few years), I wrote the Kids Helpline number on a piece of paper and hid it under a loose tile.

There was a really great girl who lived with us for a long time, someone I grew to love. But that good experience didn’t cancel out the really bad one. That fear as a child was so big that I still remember it, and I will never bring foster children – especially not teenagers – into our home. I would do other stuff to help, but never that.

Free choice is a tricky concept; maybe even an illusion. I didn’t want to disappear. I wanted to be the girl who sings in the shower, the girl who is trying to be an author. I didn’t have a choice.

I think, like most things in this world, reality is somewhere in between; not completely free will and not entirely random circumstance.

One illness, one misdiagnosis, one disappearing act and one blog later, I think personality is more like the synapses than the neurons. We don’t simply think our way into the person we become. It’s not something that just happens to us (most of the time). DNA, circumstance and free will meet together in that infinite space between to form personality.

I know I can’t control my circumstance, so I know that I may wake up tomorrow as the girl who doesn’t sing in the shower. But I can hope that I am never lost again.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Survival Mode

I didn’t realise it at the time, but when I was depressed and sick, I was struggling to survive.

Not in the same way K’naan sings about in his song Waving’ Flag (So we struggling; fighting to eat/And we wondering when we’ll be free).

Because my basic needs were met, my struggle was existential. I wasn’t sure if I could live with the pain or be a good mom. I was faced with redefining myself when I lost my ability to write. Oddly, I turned to material things to ease my emotional turmoil.

I bought a lot of stuff we didn’t need. We ate in restaurants at least three times a week. When we ate at home, it was steaks on the barbeque and mini potatoes with the perfect pre-packaged spices. I stopped drinking beer and starting drinking Yellow Tail. I used expensive face scrubs and wore Vans.

My new attitude toward the finer things came gradually. I didn’t throw out my plain black running shoes thinking I would replace them with something more expensive, just shoes that worked. But when I got to the store, after a long, hard week of working while exhausted, I had an epiphany.

Why not get the Vans? I deserve a little something for all I do.

Did I go for the stuff because it was there, because I thought it would make me feel better, or because I was too fucking tired to deal with my emotions?

Day after day, work was hard and I deserved to get something for the money I was earning. Something more than my roof and Kraft Dinner in a pot. Each day I made a choice. Before long, I was making the same choice every day, and having wieners for dinner just seemed less than I deserved.

I didn’t go without. I didn’t think I should.

Now, I wasn’t going too crazy – I kept it within my means. I wasn’t buying boats or million dollar houses or cars I couldn’t afford. But we went to the movies when we wanted to and I bought every hardcover I wanted to read.

Consumption consumed me; it became my life without writing, without hope, without joy. Stuff was my happiness, because I didn’t think I could be happy with a progressive illness that attacked my mind and body.

I think we all do it on one scale or another. I think it becomes a problem before we realise it.

The worst thing about consuming my way to happiness was that it didn’t work. A wine and steak dinner never made me feel taken care of or safe. The temporary comfort that stuff brought me was just enough to keep me wanting more. It was easy, mindless and always in my face.

Even shells of people are able to buy shoes.