The depression set in for weird reasons.
Sometimes – most times – I can’t pinpoint what sets it off (I’ve been dealing with it since I was about 15 or 16). But as I’ve aged, and gotten more honest with myself and my own thoughts and feelings, I’ve been able to occasionally figure out the triggers. This one wasn’t hard to trace, once I really asked the tough questions…which is what you will eventually have to do, if you battle clinical depression.
This particular trigger happened by seeing the weather break and hearing a report that people might start going back to work soon. That sent me into what I call “the spiral.” Why would positive things dredge up feelings of dread for me? So, I dove in.
I tried to weed through the thick jungles of emotional vegetation, that keep you from seeing what is actually happening in the clearing. Because with depression, one negative thought leads to another negative thought…that leads to another, and so on and so on. And before you know it, you have decided that your very existence is unnecessary, or worse, a mistake of some kind.
Your abject sense of worthlessness overtakes you until you finally realize that death is actually not the worst option. In fact, it’s in the top five options.
This is the hopelessness that those who battle depression spiral into over and over again.
In my own case, I’ve learned how to cope through exercise, an uber clean diet, eliminating caffeine, sugar, dairy and pretty much anything that might alter my base-line state of being. I’ve also curbed the whiskey too. But we’re all shut-in. And that got me sipping a little…and thinking.
The “being shut-in” thing kept bouncing around my head. What is it about this “new normal” that has been bothering me so?
And then it dawned on me…it’s not bothering me in the least. And that’s when it all became clear …
What triggered my depression wasn’t the fact that I was shut in. What triggered it was the idea that we all might be able to get out again. And that led me to the realization that I still cannot get out, and that I haven’t been able to get out for the last 17 years. And what I was actually mourning was the fact that everyone was about to leave me again, for the real world.
I have actually enjoyed the quarantine. Literally NOTHING about my family’s life has changed, except now we don’t have to come up with excuses as to why we can’t come to your birthday party. This thing has been a wonderful break for us, from having to wrangle our daughter into a car and plan her next four hours of food, water, bathroom issues and social contact protocol, so we can take her to restaurant and eat with other people.
Finally, I don’t have to screech into a gig at the very last minute, because I was bathing her before I left (so my wife wouldn’t have to do it), act like I’m calm and cool, then do a show (where I talk about her and my family’s drama – from stage for 75 minutes), then stand at a merch table and act like everything is fine at home, while I’m secretly looking at my phone every 2 minutes, ticking off in my mind where they are in the night routine, hoping everything is running smoothly and my wife’s back and knees are holding up.
I’m enjoying the fact that my career is sort of coming to me right now. I don’t have to constantly cancel things I can’t actually get to, because right now nobody is allowed to get to anything, either. And for the first time in 17 years, the playing field has been a little bit more level for me. I’m not losing to people who have absolute mobility on their side.
In short, the world isn’t passing me by anymore, because the world has stopped. And I realize that in many ways, my world stopped the day I became the father of someone with a severe disability.
A few weeks ago I performed my American Dreams record on Facebook Live. And I’m not going to lie – it was weird. Doing those songs and talking about that project took me to a weird place. It’s because it was the last stop before my life changed completely and forever. And I don’t know how to be that person, anymore, who thinks about things from that perspective. And to be honest, as I was playing each song, I kinda came to the realization that I don’t even really like that guy, who wrote those songs. There were so many things he didn’t understand. He was missing so much empathy. He was far too self-focussed. And he may have been trying a little too hard.
I wouldn’t trade my daughter and the journey I’ve taken with her, for any amount of money or success or…yes…even any amount of mobility. But this huge societal mirror, that has been placed in front of all of us, has shown me a few things I guess I never thought about before.
My family is extremely isolated, pretty much all the time. We didn’t realize just how isolated we were until we started seeing people freaking out about being in their houses for a few weeks. This is how special needs families feel almost all the time. We are tethered to a situation that is complicated and hard to manage. And nothing anyone can do will really alleviate it.
People are kind. They really are. And we get sent gift cards for grub hub or friends bring us things and leave them on the front porch or people order things for us and those things show up at our door. And all of that is amazing. We never take any of it for granted. And it’s just humbling. People want to help. They do. But there’s only so much they can do. And then, they have to get on with life.
But we’re isolated. And you tend to get forgotten when you’re isolated. That’s the part that hurts.
It is assumed that I do just fine, career wise. But I don’t really. I don’t get booked as often as I’d like, mainly because I’m just not out there. I’m not “available” to my career the way I need to be, to make things happen the way they need to happen. I only started blogging because it’s something I can do from home, in the time between care-giving duties. I really don’t care anything about being a blogger. I don’t even know what a “blog” is. That’s just what they seem to call whatever it is I’m writing right now.
And I know I’m not doing it completely right. Or at least not taking advantage of all the “revenue streams” I’m supposed to be able to tap into. But I don’t have time to “make it happen” or “be an influencer” or “parlay” it into anything. That’s not why I do this.
I write this blog because it’s my little message in a bottle to anyone out there who might spot this island and wave back.
Blogs that whine and moan are a pet peeve of mine, so…enough of the pity party. But the world stopping for a few weeks has been nice for us. It has given us a renewed sense of community. We don’t have to swipe past pictures of toes in the sand or goofy smiles under the Eiffel Tower or even just laughs around a huge restaurant table. We kinda finally feel like we’re actually all in this together, for the first time. Even though we’ve been in it for almost two decades.
Last night, my wife, my daughter and I, watched the series finale of Modern Family. We felt like we were saying goodbye to some old friends. And it may have cut a little deeper because my daughter thinks of these people as her actual peers. Most of her world comes to her on a screen and she’s been laughing at (and with) them for eleven years, now (Phil – Ty Burrell – is her favorite). We hope that a new family shows up on the screen that she can resonate with and laugh at.
And we’ll be sitting right there beside her, laughing and crying along with them. Because most of OUR world comes to us through screens, now too.
After the show, Jimmy Kimmel had the Modern Family cast on his show, and of course they were all calling in on their phones. And I thought to myself, “this is so ironic. They called the show ‘Modern Family’ and nothing is more modern right now than the way they are doing this interview.”
But my little wave of dread washed over me, because I knew it was only going to be a matter of time before everyone would be back in a studio, talking and laughing and promoting the newest thing and brushing up against people again. But not us. And that’s where the depression trigger was …
When this is all said and done, and we all get “back to normal” try to remember there will be people in the world who won’t be back to normal. Maybe, if you get a chance, remember those who don’t (or can’t) get out much. Maybe whisper a prayer for those among us who see the world mainly through a window.
And maybe wave at it if you can. You’ll never know how much it means to those inside.
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