At this upbeat and vibrant site, you’ll find videos of celebrities such as Wil Wheaton and Mara Wilson, as well as non-celebrities, describing their mental illness and offering encouragement. The project is aimed toward teens and young adults, but the material is relatable to all.
Before beginning some reports at the library, I decided to have lunch at the Women’s Park close by. It is a small grove of various plants, monogrammed bricks, statues, and a small stream leading to a small lily pond. I noticed a woman next to the lily pond, rocking with folded hands and legs before a bench. I wondered briefly which religion she follows, but began toward the bridge. Just before stepping on the stone bridge with iron rails, she snagged me with, “Do you need a blessing?”
“Sure,” I said, thinking I could always appreciate one, regardless of religion. She began rambling about salvation and God’s love, while handing me a small pamphlet that proclaimed freedom from addiction, depression, etc., and showed a cross, labeled “truth”, breaking a chain. She asked if I needed prayer and what was afflicting me. I shrugged and shook my head twice. So, we just prayed, meaning she did all the talking. Honestly, despite agreeing to a prayer, I tuned out her words.
After the prayer, she finished (and I thought she never would) with words of love, despite not knowing my name. I thanked her for spreading it. She gave God all the credit. I finally reached my lunch spot across the stream, and she called out, “Are you hungry?”
“No, thanks. I have food,” I replied.
It was then that I appreciated her beliefs. She was living the true message of her religion: love. She spoke so many words, many about love, but that one action of offering, ready to feed me if I was hungry and needed food, was real love.
I watched her sporadically while nibbling; she continued her rocking, but while on the bench, and reading what looked like two Bibles. I skimmed the pamphlet for a moment. On one panel, it showed leader of the freedom from addictions group in two pictures. The first showed him will long hair, a scruffy mustache, and a frown. The second showed him with a short, manicured comb-over, in a suit and tie, and smiling. The first caption: “Before Christ”. The second: “In Christ”. So people with long hair can’t be “in Christ”? They have to fit the mold of white, middle-class male?
As I said, it was her single action of offering food, not her numerous words, that brought me a light-ray of love. I realized that I had acted, without thinking, on the Emotions Anonymous “Just for Today” passage, part of which says, “Just for today, I will try to adjust myself to what is and not force everything to adjust to my desires. I will accept my family, my friends, my business, my circumstances as they come.” And so, she came. And so did She, my Higher Power.
I suppose I have yet to learn that best friendships are not always forever. In other words, it was a complete shock that the woman I have considered one of my best friends, a sister, for several years has defrocked me from my maid-of-honor position at her wedding. I am no longer even in the wedding party. However, I am still invited, she says, and claims she wants me there.
Her claimed reasoning is that we have grown apart. She says she can feel tension when we’re spending time together, and in retrospect, I’ve felt a few twinges of awkwardness, but always dismissed it as my own head being insecure and anxious. But until the beginning of this week, I have still considered her one of my closest friends. I had purchased my bridesmaid dress with money I didn’t have, and was prepared to join in to make her bridal shower and wedding as wonderful as possible.
I will take up her offer to pay for the dress, but I am still working through a time of mourning. I have lost what I thought I had. Immediately after ending our phone call, which I ended before I said something regrettable, I called my sponsor. She advised that I write out resentment inventory about my friend and her newer friend (who will likely be my replacement), say the resentment prayer, and then tell Ray. My Higher Power guided me to do just that. As I wrote the inventory, I was physically hot with anger, but after I finished with the prayer, I mellowed, and fell into a peaceful, albeit semi-melancholy, mood. I called Ray upstairs and reviewed the event with him, and he comforted me.
Though peace has come, I still mourn, and that is okay. Thankfully, I had a therapy session the next day already planned, and my therapist help to further iron my thoughts out. Nevertheless, I began to question all my relationships. Who would dishonor me next? How many would drop me? I called another friend, who I wanted to be sure was still one of my closest friends, and he reassured me, adding a suggestion that I take care of myself by staying linked with my Higher Power, first.
Today, I am comforted by and grateful for the relationships I have been given. I cherish them more. I’ve now seen more of this lesson of gratitude. Friends can slip away like sunlight slipping behind the clouds, then the storm comes, but new friends emerge with fresh light. So be present with the ones you presently have, and be grateful even if you have been given one friend. I remember that we must lose, suffer, so that we may gain more from life.
Who am I to be given grace to the point I am overwhelmed? I share a home with my future husband, who is most compassionate, understanding, and patient with me and my struggle with depression. We have all the food we need, and are able to buy plants that I have been using to create an outdoor sanctuary on our property in the city. I have books and a coffee maker, an iPhone and a MacBook. I now have my own car, which I bought without a co-signer. My college debt is substantial, but not unmanageable.
All this, and I don’t have a steady job. I’ve been doing small, odd jobs such as mowing my dad’s church’s lawn and subbing in for Ray’s note-taker. But all is provided for me, and all works out. Yet, in days like today, I cry from guilt, while feeling upset that I don’t have a job and/or a sense of purpose, and go back to sleep until after noon. I fear I don’t give Ray enough, that I’m taking too much from him. I don’t know what to do with myself or how to give back. I don’t think it’s possible to give back “enough”. But…that’s grace.
Grace torments me. It’s such a beautiful, tremendous thing, but it currently torments me. I know Love has given me gifts to help the world, spread the good juju. After 24 years of searching, I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I still don’t know what to do with myself, or how who I am and what I can do can help others.
And even as I’ve been composing this entry in my former caffeine and sugar infused place of employment, my Higher Power brought in my first boss, now mending from cancer and diabetes. Her coffee shop is now closed, having bottomed out after five years of business. Regardless, she just told me how good God is to her. Both of our Higher Powers are providing us with what we need. She looks frail now, with teeth missing, bony, skin-grafted legs, and a cane, but her perspective is brighter than mine. I see it in her face and feel her gratitude.
Perhaps my inhibition is not not knowing how I can help others, but actually the inhibition of doing the how and not making enough money to live on. Well. What a silly human I am. I have what I need to live right now, for today. Where is my trust in the Universe that I will be given all I need? Perhaps I am guilty of not using my gifts because I am guilty of fear. I am guilty of fearing grace.
Today Ray’s calico cat, Sissy, will rejoin the earth. After years of frequent, on-and-off digestive and anxiety issues, which I have seen only in the past year, she will be laid to rest. Ray dropped me off at Starbucks, despite me wanting to be present for the vet appointment. His ex-wife will be there, since she knew Sissy for years, and my presence would be more anxiety-provoking than comforting, he said, especially since I haven’t met her yet. It was difficult for me to accept this at first, cultivating hateful thoughts toward the ex-wife, including fantasies of our own “cat fight”, and me taking her down like a badass Cat Woman figure. But I am now tranquilly sitting with Sulawesi blend in hand.
I made my amends to Sissy, and that is enough. It has not been easy for me to love her; her anxious darting around and away, her runny bowels squirting on the hardwood floors and carpet, and the scent of her urine when walking into a room made me irritable inside. I would try to let go of cruel thoughts, trying to approach the situation with compassion, and even when I had thought I had moved on from the resentment, it returned frequently.
This morning, she came to us in bed, and we pet her together. She rarely stays to let us pet her; she knew what was coming today. The inspiration to amend came last night, and in light of that, I said to her, “We love you, Sissy.” Quietly, Ray and I cleaned the attic dust from the pet carrier, and I waited while he lovingly retrieved her. She made noises I’d never heard before, even one he had never heard. As I was dropped off, I said to her, “Peaceful travels. Tell God I say ‘Hi’,” and again, “I love you.” The tears receded before I went in to sit here and write.
I will miss her.
But I have a current theory that the “dark energy” in the universe, which is so enigmatic to scientists, is actually the stuff of spirit–animals, plants, humans, other beings. I’m wondering if our spirits, before and after death, are what’s spinning the galaxies and expanding the universe. I hope to join the celestial beings when my body is returned to Earth. May Sissy rejoin them today. We are the “stuff of stars” after all.
With the season of spring arriving, marked by hyacinth, tulip, and daffodil blooms, warmer days, and the passing of Easter, the birds have been singing. Of course, spring is breeding primetime for many animals in North America, and singing during these days is a bird’s call to mates. They sing from early morning to evening, adding to the springtime atmosphere.
I live in a worn, polluted city, and I am wondering on this windy, but warm, sunny day, why the birds, even multiple different species, choose to nest in this area. Couldn’t they fly a few miles out to country, where it’s quieter, cleaner, and fresher than the stale air of this city? It’s what I would do, if living in a tree were so simple for me.
Why do they stay? Do they innately know or hope that cleaner streets and more green properties are coming? Are they here to encourage me? Did my Higher Power send them to nudge me out of bed with beautiful tunes that bring me a little peace? Do they stay because they were here first, and although humans crowded them, they want to stay anyway? Are they determined to stay?
Perhaps they are here because this is where they need to be. Maybe they don’t suffer feelings of restlessness as I do. They continue to sing, even through industrial noise and dirty air, and nest and breed in the few trees that remain, being what they are. No career with pay to pursue, no ladder of success to climb, no need for a car or four walls, no need for a bank account or credit card, no worry about getting and keeping a job.
All while I sit on the roof porch on a yoga mat, listening, trying and asking to connect to my Higher Power, so I might be at peace with no job and no car, and I wonder who or what I am. And why I stay.
It hurts, but I have to write. I’m being driven by some force to write so I will not die.
It started with an anxiety attack in the car with my parents and two friends. I asked to be taken home early because I wasn’t feeling well. Actually, it felt like a small boa was slowly constricting around my larynx. When asked what was wrong, I confessed–and I would not have confessed to so many in past years–what I was suffering and my diagnosis. On Thursday, I returned from a beautiful week in Florida with Ray to the dreary north. While I was basking in 80-degree weather, my parents sold their car I had been using for work. I dread returning to work; my day client is so ill-behaved that my hours are irregular and canceled frequently throughout the week, and though I am patient with her, while striving to keep my emotions separate from the job, my sanity is tested. So I have no transportation for work and I dread my work, but I need to work to pay my bills and keep good credit to buy a car.
Last night I had the bad-crazy thought of admitting myself to the hospital for suicidal thoughts, though they weren’t visiting, just so I could evade work. The thoughts flowed tonight after being dropped off at home, suddenly alone. Thankfully, I am writing this entry and not scrambling for a knife to position at my diaphragm, the ideation I had the first time I went to the hospital. Ray is not home, and I love him too much to allow him to come home to me bleeding and gasping on the scraped wood floor.
What if he were ever to leave me by choice or by death? I admit, tonight, he is the only thing keeping me here. Him, and my writing to you, reader. I admit to you that, tonight, I struggle. Tonight, I know love is all around me, and I am in this life to learn love, and I should be grateful, right? I want to be, but I’m not feeling it tonight. Ray surprised me with fresh-cut, magenta tulips yesterday, and they made me so happy then. I told him that he and they are so beautiful. The flowers are still on the table downstairs, but while their beauty glows warmly in the light, my beauty is bound in a shadowy cave I hate to dwell in and fear to leave.
This is where people bail, I thought as my sponsor and I read through the section about resentment inventory in the chapter “How It Works” of the Big Book of AA. I’ve heard of numerous others reaching this step and running for the door.
I may not have elaborated in previous posts, but I’ve been working through the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, not for alcoholism or drug addiction, but for depression. My sponsor was well chosen. We have found many things we relate to in each other’s lives, including depression. She’s a new bright spot in my life.
That said, I’ve been working on the Fourth Step of the 12 with her, and I’ve mainly been depressed while working through it. When we read about resentment inventory, like I said, I discovered that this is the abandon-ship-moment for many. I’m someone who tries to be as honest, open, and brave as I can, and if I was scared when we talked about it, before even making resentment inventory, then I know so many have been scared away.
For those who have never worked the Steps, the Fourth Step involves writing out a resentment inventory. In the first column, you write the person, thing, idea, or institution you resent. In the second column, you write why you resent. And in the third, you write what it affects; i.e., personal relationships, security (financial, living, etc.), sex relations, and so on. My first entry was Dad, then Mom, then my financial situation, then myself. By the time I reached resentments of myself, I was feeling crummy. Thankfully, the idea of writing affirmations such as, “I am a beautiful spirit” came to my thoughts, and the feelings stopped falling.
I’ve opened the journal to write more inventory, but I haven’t written anything. I want to continue, but I fear emotions will darken again. I told my sponsor that I may not be doing it correctly, and she responded that we’ll work through it the next time we meet. I trust her. I think I need to trust the process. I think I’ll pray the Serenity Prayer several more times before again picking up the pen.
I woke up for the rest of the day. Nope, not happy about it. Nor was I happy to get up initially, then wake up again. And again. And again. I finally rose from the La-Z-Boy to care for some laundry.
While folding socks, I asked myself, “Why am I even here?”
The answer came to me, as sure as it came before: Love.
I am here to love. To learn it, live it, and even feel it, its pain and joy.
It’s why I’m still here. It’s the grace, the compassion, the peace of Love that kept me here, and keeps me here still. I’m here to learn, and Love knows that.