Come On Get Higher

I’ve heard that there is fairly high correlation between creativity and mental illness (source). Specifically, scientists refer to the prevalence of bipolar disorder in creative types, where the highs, by juxtaposition, serve to amplify the lows of daily life. Consider Sylvia Plath, Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, and Kurt Cobain to name a few alums. Some would even include the “bi-winning” Charlie Sheen, but I just think he’s a self-absorbed jerk and drug addict.

As a writer, thoughts swirl around my head constantly, not unlike a snow globe. Sometimes my thoughts dance around gently and are mesmerizing, philosophical and even, epiphantic. At other times, it can feel like a toddler has found my head and is shaking up a blizzard. The thoughts scream by my ears, too fast to decipher and connect, and sometimes the thoughts take on my mother’s voice. Not my sweet, loving mother’s voice, but her scary, screeching, threatening voice. Its hard to quieten these thoughts, much less push them out of my head. After a few sleepless nights tormented by raging thoughts, I have to start to wonder if this is what it’s like to go crazy.

To me, depression feels like living with one of those lead aprons the dentist puts on you while he’s taking x-rays of your teeth. It packs serious weight and renders me immobile. I haven’t felt like this since the birth of my first son, but I recognize that the beast is back and it scares me, so I write, searching for clues as to where it began to unravel.

I was never encouraged to write, not as a profession anyways. My parents pushed me towards medical school, but I rebelled and ended up in business school. In any case, I am well versed in science and logic, and let me tell you this – Depression is completely illogical. It makes no sense that a healthy woman in a nurturing, loving relationship, with healthy kids and healthy parents, living in a beautiful home with organic food in her fridge, and busy with an active social life, should feel unfulfilled. And then I feel terrible that I’m feeling unfulfilled, and worry that God will strike me down for being ungrateful. But I’m not ungrateful and I know that God is a loving God. And yet, I can’t seem to get this lead apron off of me.

I wish I knew what triggers it for me – maybe the past 4 months of gray skies and Vancouver rain, rain, rain and not going somewhere sunny for Spring Break have something to do with it – there is much in the press linking Vitamin D deficiency and depression. My friend did commit suicide a few months ago, so maybe that has been affecting me subconsciously. Maybe I’m stressed out because my youngest starts school full-time in the fall and my raison d’être is no longer. Maybe it’s merely an ebb in my nearly 20 year relationship? Maybe it’s PMS or egads, menopause? Maybe I’m lacking endorphins from hanging out with my kids for 17 days straight instead of being able to sweat it out at the gym while they’re at school?

All logical possibilities, but I wonder if it’s something altogether different. Am I alone in feeling this way or are there other 40 years-ish stay-at-home moms out there that feel there must be something more to life than cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring and PTA meetings?

I think I need something to look forward to and work towards. It’s not Spring Break in Hawaii, and it’s not a smaller dress size. It’s something big, epic even, something all my own. My Kilimanjaro. Now I just have to figure out what/where my Kilimanjaro is.

Thanks as always for reading.
Love Lucie

Is Suicide Painless?

If you’re in your 40’s, I’m pretty sure you grew up watching M*A*S*H, a medical dramedy about a medical surgical unit situated in the middle of the Korean war. It wasn’t a life-altering experience for me, just part of the background noise of my growing up. 28(!) years after the series finale, I can only remember a few things – Hot Lips Houlihan and her boob of a boyfriend, feeling indignant at the non-Korean actors portraying Koreans and embarrassed at their laughable attempts at speaking Korean, among other things. But mostly I recall the show’s opening theme song, a hauntingly beautiful instrumental version of “Suicide is Painless.” I once knew all the grim words to this song (as a moody teenager with strict parents, I’m horrified to admit that I had given some thought to how miserable I could make my parents by killing myself), but the only words that still stick in my mind today are it’s provocative title.

I share this because a friend of mine committed suicide a few weeks ago. A beautiful, generous, caring woman, who had been battling depression for a number of years. I’ve been out of touch with her since our university days, but occasionally our circles would intercept and we would reconnect for an event with mutual friends. We’d hug and talk about how “we must get together!” for coffee or lunch, but neither of us ever took the time to make anything happen.

Back in university, she was smart, beautiful and drove a Volkswagen Cabriolet. Navy with a white top. She had an older boyfriend who took her to fancy dinners while I was struggling with acne and midterm exams. If I’m being honest, I probably envied her more than befriended her, and that makes me hang my head in shame now. So what the fuck happened? Her life now was not all that different from mine – a daughter, a job, family, friends – except she was saddled with a disease that people don’t really talk about much. Since hearing about her lonely death, I’ve been struggling with my emotions – shock, sorrow, guilt and anger among them and that sad melody floated back into my consciousness.

At her funeral, the guilt in the room was palpable. Suicide is not painless, and most definitely not painless for those you leave behind. I don’t profess to know anything about mental illness, except to say that it really frightens me. Mental illness robbed my friend of her capacity to think logically and act accordingly. Despite all external appearances, she felt powerless and alone. Sadly I heard she reached out to several people from her life in the week before she died, quite probably to say goodbye, but no one clued in until it was too late.

Someone once told me, with every interaction you have the opportunity to start/grow or diminish/end a relationship.

May you grow some friendships today and everyday.

Rest in peace sweet friend.

Love Lucie

PS. With every comment on this post, I will make a $20 donation to the Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of BC. Thanks for reading and call an old friend today xo