Father's Day, Minor Setbacks and Small Victories

So, apparently I was a little naive about this whole depression "thing."

It's not really a "thing."

I have depression. It's not a phase. I've probably been dealing with it in random ways my whole life, without ever really realizing exactly what I was...or was not...dealing with.

I've been having a bit of a terrible time this week. It was set off by a specific incident that I wanted so desperately to let go of but I can't because anxiety.

Apparently anxiety doesn't like to let go of anything. Anxiety holds on to the one incident and then grabs a few others for company and I've had a hard time trying to focus or be productive or stop crying or just. be. normal.

When I was very little, I loved my family. And then my family betrayed me. My parents inflicted one hurt after another, and deep Southern roots require all relatives to keep up appearances and deny, deny, deny and I kept trying to love them until finally...it just hurt so much less to just walk away.

After that, I would just create families for myself...and to me, the people I surrounded myself with would feel like family, but of course, most people actually have real families so it was always a bit one sided.

And that has never, ever changed. So I feel betrayed when people who were never really more than acquaintances fail to treat me like a long, lost family member. Which is silly, really, but my family history has wired me a little bit differently. A little bit weird.

I expect too much and I don't really know how to stop expecting too much.

And then, when I drop my guard, and I'm all in with someone I think, oh god...you are really just loving them too much and this is going to end SO horribly for you...so then I retreat into myself for a minute, which I'm sure is just awesome for the person on the receiving end.

"I really loved you yesterday, but today I'm scared of you, so please go away. I'll try to love you again tomorrow."

Anyway, with little, stupid (but not really that stupid)  things triggering anxiety attacks and mother's day and then father's day...I just kind of...have not been feeling that great?

My dad died a few years ago...and every year I spend some time just being really sad about my dad. I wrote a lot of this shortly after my dad died, but the thing is...it applies every year. Sometimes on the anniversary of his death, sometimes on father's day, sometimes on a Wednesday just because it's a Wednesday and something reminded me of him.

My dad...

My dad broke my heart on a regular basis. I knew him for a little while when I was a kid, and then he was gone. I knew him again in my early twenties, and then he was gone. Then I knew him again and I really liked my dad. Like - I LOVED him. He was funny and smart and easy to talk to and I thought, "wow. I have a dad. For real... I have a DAD." And then I called him...and called him...and called him...I got worried, because that's what I do...and I called him...6 months later he called me back. He was sorry; he just got distracted and forgot about me.

Right. He forgot about me.

…and then, months later, he was back. To tell me that his wife had died and that he was broken hearted and that he was also dying…of hepatitis C, of Crohn’s Disease, of diabetes and skin cancer and liver cancer and a broken heart…and that he really wanted to see me. I didn’t even know if any of that was true…I still don’t. I cried on the phone with him and didn’t bring up the past and invited him to stay with my husband and I…to MEET my husband and hung up the phone feeling so sad but excited to see my dad again.

And then nothing.

One day, I found out he had made the 8 hour trip from Minnesota to Illinois and was less than a half an hour away from me. I called my dad and we spoke for a couple of minutes and then he got distracted and said he would call me right back.

And nothing.

So I called the next day and we spoke briefly and he got distracted again and said he would call me right back…again.

And nothing.

Rinse and repeat…for 3 days. And then I found out he had left…gone back to Minnesota without so much as a word.

I was most definitely hysterical and cried for hours because my father could make an 8 hour trip to be a half an hour away from me…but the extra half an hour to actually see his daughter was too much. A completed phone call was too much effort.

...at that moment, I felt sure that my father could care less about me, and it broke my heart.

And two years later my father broke my heart for the last time.

Because he died.

After that last trip…where he was going to call me back…and he was going to come and visit…and I guess he just forgot about me again…

We never spoke. Nothing. No letters. No calls. Nothing.

It was hard not to feel small and worthless and really, just like garbage. Even if you can talk yourself out of it after a couple of minutes, and recognize your self-worth…for a couple of minutes….you really feel like garbage.

But I loved my dad. Like so many of us…I loved my fucked up father.

And after the last time I swore that that was it. I was never going to let him hurt me again and he could go to hell and I had enough love in my life without his stupid ass screwing me up every 6 months….

But...I miss my dad. I’ve missed my dad for a really long time, even before he died. He was smart and funny and handsome and good at a lot of things and not so good at being a father…but I loved him. I missed him for a while and I pretended like I didn’t because it’s painful to miss someone that you’re not sure even cares about you…but I missed him all of the time. I wish things would have been different.

My father's funeral was...traumatic. My mother was horrible. She said and did lots of terrible things but probably the very worst was saying that it "doesn't matter if we split your father's ashes - they just throw all of the bodies in the crematorium at the same time anyway - you don't even know whose ashes you're going to get."

She's awesome. She says really awesome things like that all of the time.
After my dad's funeral and when I came home, I spent lots of time walking past my dad's picture, and debating on whether he looks happy now, or if he still looks sad. Wondering if his eyes were following me, and being reminded of creepy Jesus pictures from church, whose eyes always followed you, watching every single thing you did...

...thinking, and by the way Jesus, where are you? God always seems to comfort people in books and in movies...in real life, I felt empty...and lost....no comforting hand of God on my shoulder, no farewell glimpse of my dad in a dream.

I spent a lot of time wondering why I even bothered asking God for anything, ever...

I sat at my dining room table with a large plastic bag full of my father's ashes. I stared at them and lifted the bag in my hands, feeling the weight of the dust that was once my father. I decided that I didn't care what anyone else thinks and that this was my grief and I would deal with it in whatever morbid way I wanted to...and I took a handful of my dad's ashes and let them sift slowly through my fingers. I took a small piece of bone from the ash, held it between my fingers and stared intently at it, willing myself to feel a connection to the dead. It didn't work. I didn't feel feel anything but sad...and a strange fascination with what was once the bones of my father.

...I did not feel the ghost of my dad nearby. Which made me cry...huge, mascara colored tears running down my face, as the ashes of my father sifted slowly through my fingers.

I whispered to myself "there is no one here"...I felt sorry for myself...I asked God to pleasepleasepleaseohplease just let me say that I'm sorry and that I didn't know and that I would have done something if I could have I swear I would have I just didn't know and I'm so so sorry and can I please just have him back for a little bit so I can say goodbye because ...I was so very, very sad. I was so very, very sorry.

I didn't know. I didn't know that depression made my dad crawl inside himself and stay away from me. I took it personally. I was hurt. I was angry. I didn't know.

I didn't know he was so sad. I didn't know that sometimes loving people is scary and difficult and weird and sometimes you push them away even when you don't want to.
I know now. I know exactly what that feels like.
Sometimes, I find myself thinking that he will come back. It will be a while, because he always disappears for a while...and then he comes back. I think that he will come back, and it kind of shocks me when I remember that he won't.

It hurts. It hurts every single time.

And so...father's day is sometimes a struggle all on its own, even without everything else going on in my head. And this week was just kind of ...existing and breathing and putting one foot in front of the other was just really hard.

BUT...because I know...for the most part anyway...what I'm dealing with, I'm still being proactive. I made myself a promise that no matter what each day brought during this time, I would try to do one thing each day that would make the next day easier, and other than that, I wouldn't put any pressure on myself to do anything. So that's what I'm doing. Making the bed. Grocery shopping. Organizing my office. A lunch with friends. Small victories. Small steps forward.

Also, as I was getting pictures for this blog I found the eulogy I read at my dad's funeral, which included a story about a Christmas that we spent together...

Eating sushi and drinking apple martinis on Christmas night in Los Angeles, on the Sunset Strip. Mickey Rourke walked in, which thrilled my dad to no end. My dad and Mickey Rourke actually hung out all night, arguing who was going to buy who a drink...and my dad kept patting Mickey Rourke on the back and exclaiming "You're Mickey Rourke!" At one point I tugged on my dad's arm, "Dad, stop it, he KNOWS he's Mickey Rourke!"
Shortly after, I heard my dad saying again, "You're Mickey Rourke!" I made fun of my dad a lot for that, but truthfully, I did the exact same thing when I met the guy who played Greg Brady. Just completely awestruck and over and over again telling him "You're Greg Brady!" 

I am totally my father's daughter - depression, anxiety, ugly feet, and the complete inability to remain even slightly composed in the presence of celebrity.

And underneath the eulogy, a letter from my dad, from so long ago, that I'm so lucky to have today...

Small victories. Little things that count, that make the hardest things a bit easier.

I miss you, dad, and I just wanted to let you know that your daughter loves you.

Lilly Pulitzer and How We Shame Ourselves

So, the internet is freaking out today about Lilly Pulitzer because of this image in a New York Magazine article:

Yeah...those cartoons are pretty terrible. There's just no way around that.

Shortly after the shit hit the fan, Lilly Pulitzer sent an e-mail to the Huffington Post, saying: “These illustrations were the work of one individual and were posted in her personal work area. While we are an employer that does encourage people to decorate their own space, we are a female-dominated company and these images do not reflect our values. We apologize for any harm this may have caused."

Maybe that's true. Or maybe they're just trying to cover their ass. I don't know, I wasn't there. (someone somewhere said these images were on a refrigerator in a common space, which I find hard to believe. The stick pins in the image show that it's a corkboard, which implies workspace) But when I saw those images and related them to someone's personal workspace, it seemed really familiar to me. Because while women will definitely (and horribly) shame each other, that's also how women talk to ourselves. 

That's how I talk to myself.

I absolutely spent 20 minutes this week inspecting the various parts of my body that have gotten bigger and flabbier over the last 4 months (depression and eating your feelings does that). I put on a pair of pants that last year were one size too big. This year they're two sizes too small. I absolutely berated myself for being lazy. I absolutely went out and bought larger shirts because I didn't want to wear anything that clung too closely to a body that I'm kind of ashamed of right now. I absolutely was horribly and cruelly critical to myself as I tried clothes on in the dressing room.

I mean - sometimes I'm on the right track. I remind myself that I'm making healthier choices, getting more exercise, laying off the girl scout cookies and margaritas, and that actually, there's nothing wrong with my body, it's just changed a little bit. But there are definitely days where I will look into the mirror and my first thought is,"you are really gross."

Because we do that to ourselves. We do it all of the time. There's actually a market for different ways that we can shame ourselves...

refrigerator magnet...of a pig. Because if we eat too much, we're just like pigs.

cute. it oinks when you open the refrigerator. because we're pigs.

awesome. another magnet that will shame me if I try to eat anything.

and we've been doing this for decades...

Do a google search for "weight loss" and this is the first page of images. Notice that it's all women. 

So I'm not freaking out about Lilly Pulitzer. Rather, I feel sorry for anyone that would talk to themselves that way, in an effort to be motivated. I feel even more sorry for someone whose personal demons were put on display like that, for the entire internet to freak out about. Because I get it. I get what we're up against as far as what the world expects us to look like, and how easy it is to become part of the mob that's telling us that we're horrible, gross, ugly and not good enough.

And to the girl who drew those pictures...if indeed those pictures were meant to be some sort of motivation (which really is what it looks like to me), I hope that she learns to be nicer to herself . The world is hard enough without us beating up on ourselves. 

Sometimes we need to be reminded of that. 

image available for purchase via this awesome artist.

Sometimes the Dove Dies.

I found my anger the other day. After months of sadness and nothing and hardcore social anxiety, I found my anger.

My therapist had encouraged this moment, telling me that not only was anger ok, but that it was valid and that she wanted me to feel it. I had a right to be angry. And she hoped it would come soon.

And so it did.

I could go into the details, but it's long and messy and boring and ...over.

A former therapist said that when the anger comes, to buy cheap plates at thrift stores and find a place to smash them. And I do. And it feels really good.

I spent the past year fighting battles that I never wanted to be a part of, standing up for what I believed to be true and right, and being honest and transparent every step of the way. I absolutely had moments where I was a not the best version of myself - moments that I was not proud of.  But for the most part, if this was indeed a fight, then I believe I fought with integrity.At the end of the day, I suffered a lot of damage because of it, but I have no doubts about the person that I am, and that the person that I am is good.

Sooooo...when the anger came, it was intense. I was furious. Furious at the way that I had been treated, furious about the lies that had been spread about me and others, furious about my own shortcomings, furious about a false narrative that was being presented as truth, furious about a community that had been completely marginalized...so much fury.

And then strangely...joy. Because I came back to who I am. And along the way, as I cut the toxins out of my life, these amazing people who I have always kind of known, began to shine so much brighter, and I had the opportunity to become a part of their lives. We have had some amazing moments - I have been blessed with these moments, with these amazing people.

As ugly as the past year has been, I don't think I would have changed much about what I did.

The only thing that I am pretty sure that I would do differently is to understand that if I am going to be comfortable with this outspoken, passionate, honest and flawed person that I am, then I need to be ok with the fact that I am going to have enemies. And I am going to have enemies who are going to be less than kind. And I need to learn when to walk away.


Last week, I was walking to church and I saw a lump in the street. As I got closer, I saw that it was an injured mourning dove. I carefully picked it up and moved it into some bushes. I waved my arms in the air so that its mate would see where it was, and then kept walking. When I got to church, I felt like the sermon and the dove all tied in together and it was like this beautiful symbol of hope...the universe was speaking to me - it sent me this dove as a message of hope! I cried a little, because I have all of these crazy emotions and that's what I do now, and doves! and hope! and universe!

When I walked home, I again saw a lump in the street. It was the same dove. And it was dead.


Because if the universe sent me a message of hope, then it also smashed my hope right in the middle of a neighborhood that I had wrapped my whole life around for years.

But...I still took meaning from it. And I think the meaning I took was even better than the message that I thought I was getting.

Sometimes, you are going to put all of your energy into fighting for something, saving it, loving it, making sure it's ok.

And sometimes, after all of that effort, the dove is going to end up smashed in the street anyway.

I'm still glad I tried to save that dove, because it was the right thing to do. And I would do it again, a thousand times over.

Thank you so much for being here. A friend told me tonight that her favorite people are the people who are messed up. I agree and I don't - I don't think that it's being messed up that makes a great person. I think we're all messed up. But it takes courage to say it, and to try and navigate through it to come out a better person. So here's to all of the people who are not afraid to own their own disasters - I am so incredibly grateful to be able to share this journey with you, and that so many people have been sharing their own journeys with me. It's been, and continues to be, inspiring.

Everything is just fine

I read this story yesterday and was struck by the sentence: "It's OK to not be OK. It's OK to show people you're not OK."

Because ...of course...it's not ok to be not ok...because everything must be just fine. People are uncomfortable when things aren't fine, and if you're not fine, you must be weak, and weakness is definitely not ok.

So everything is fine.

Over the last few months, as I've been trying to process through all of my own emotional turmoil, one thing has really stuck out...

The older we get, the less "not fine" we're supposed to be.

As adults, we're supposed to have it figured out. We're supposed to not let it bother us. We wear these "everything is just fine" costumes and if we take off that costume for even just one moment, we feel like we're somehow failing at being grown ups. We look to other adults for guidance, and all we see are a bunch of other adults dressed up in their "everything is just fine" costumes. And then we see young people who know that such a costume exists, but are just a bit braver about not wearing the same thing as everyone else.

I don't want to dress like this anymore.

Everything is NOT just fine. Some things are good. Some things are not very good. But without a doubt, everything is not fine.

My husband and I had a horrible fight this week. I held onto myself so tightly for support that I woke up today with my arm covered in tiny, self inflicted, fingerprint sized bruises. I woke up ashamed of the mean things I said. I woke up hurt by the mean things he said. We both woke up and tried the same conversation, with a little more honesty, a little more kindness and a little more patience with each other. We're ok.

We're better than ok.

Last night I danced by myself. Great, leaping, jumping, absolutely horrible dancing. It felt really good. It felt fine. It felt like joy.

I miss my joy...it's nice to see her coming back around.

The other night was scary slow at the bar. My anxiety kicked into overdrive and I wondered if people were not coming out because they knew I was working, and maybe they preferred someone else to serve them their drinks? I mentally made next week's grocery list, which was made up of mostly ramen noodles. That's not just fine. That sucks.

I hate irrational concerns and I hate ramen noodles.

Today I hammered words into metal, sewed a thing, used a drill and yelled proudly "Look what I made!"

That was very fine.

I am fine and I am not fine. But I am finding inspiration in the brave people all around me. I am finding a place for myself alongside people who were always there, but I could not see...not with this "everything is just fine" costume obscuring my view.

I am connecting more with people now when I am not fine than I ever did when everything was just fine.

Everything is not fine...and that's ok.

I'm inspired by and finding hope through these people, stories, songs, links etc. this week:

Beautiful, empowering poetry by Rupi Kaur

The community at the church I've been attending and this song by Lifehouse.

“You tried to change, didn’t you? Closed your mouth more, tried to be softer, prettier, less volatile, less awake…You can’t make homes out of human beings. Someone should have already told you that.” ~ Warsan Shire

16 quotes by Warsan Shire, shared with me by the amazing Angie from No More Ramen.

I used to go to Thirty-Thirty Coffee Company every week. And then everything fell apart and I was scared to go anywhere. I've been challenging myself to go back again, and each time I do, the familiar feeling of wanting to burst into tears and crawl inside my own skin and hide comes roaring back...but literally EVERYONE who works at Thirty-Thirty is kind, compassionate, caring and just...really nice. And the coffee is amazing.

Silly putty. I try to carry it with me where ever I go and instead of clutching myself for dear life, to the point of injury, I just destroy this little ball of putty.

Mary Lambert and all of her "secrets."

The family and friends of  Madison Holleran for using Madison's story and their loss to bring awareness to the issues surrounding depression. The facebook site set up in her memory is dedicated to suicide prevention and ending the stigma attached to mental illness. 

Kierkegaard's Parable of the Geese

My therapist shared this story with me the other day - she thought it dealt really well with one of the frustrations that I've had in the past as a community activist, and...

...yes. It totally does. And it's worth passing on:

A certain flock of geese lived together in a barnyard with high walls around it. Because the corn was good and the barnyard was secure, these geese would never take a risk. One day a philosopher goose came among them. He was a very good philosopher and every week they listened quietly and attentively to his learned discourses. 'My fellow travelers on the way of life,' he would say, 'can you seriously imagine that this barnyard, with great high walls around it, is all there is to existence?

'I tell you, there is another and a greater world outside, a world of which we are only dimly aware. Our forefathers knew of this outside world. For did they not stretch their wings and fly across the trackless wastes of desert and ocean, of green valley and wooded hill? But alas, here we remain in this barnyard, our wings folded and tucked into our sides, as we are content to puddle in the mud, never lifting our eyes to the heavens which should be our home.
The geese thought this was very fine lecturing. 'How poetical,' they thought. 'How profoundly existential. What a flawless summary of the mystery of existence.' Often the philosopher spoke of the advantages of flight, calling on the geese to be what they were. After all, they had wings, he pointed out. What were wings for, but to fly with? Often he reflected on the beauty and the wonder of life outside the barnyard, and the freedom of the skies.
And every week the geese were uplifted, inspired, moved by the philosopher's message. They hung on his every word. They devoted hours, weeks, months to a thoroughgoing analysis and critical evaluation of his doctrines. They produced learned treatises on the ethical and spiritual implications of flight. All this they did. But one thing they never did. They did not fly! For the corn was good, and the barnyard was secure!

I feel like the town I live in is full of people who want to talk about doing things, and have meetings about the great things that could and should be done, and then have meetings about meetings, and then pat each other on the back because they had such a successful meeting.

And then there is another group of these really excited, energetic, enthusiastic people over here who are like, "ok, so we had the meeting, we know what to do, we can see how great it is to fly - let's fly!"

But the older geese don't want to fly, because how it's always been done, is that we don't fly. But we should talk about flying. And we should schedule a meeting about it.

And while they whither away in yet another meeting, complimenting each other on the size of their wings, the other geese will eventually decide to fly away ...to a new lake...a new barnyard...the sky above...to a place where the other geese aren't afraid to take the risk....so that they can all fly.