Depression

131. GOODBYE, DAD

My father died on February 15th of this year. It was a Saturday and I was working when my phone went off. I knew what the call was about before I even looked. He had been slipping away rapidly for the past six months, his mind eventually catching up to his deteriorating body, both of which were now just bits and pieces of who he used to be. Departure at this point was just around the corner. The last time we went to breakfast, about six weeks prior, I caught him in a moment of clarity, “You know Dad, if you want to check out there’s no shame in it. I’ll be fine, really.” Honestly, I am glad he heard me. I hope someone reminds me someday, if I am hanging on, fearful of what lies beyond this existence, of the same truth, that life is only a parenthesis in eternity.

We had a weird relationship, more like brothers than parent/child, anyone that knew both of us would readily agree on this observation. As a teenager and eventually an adult I found myself living with him on and off on several occasions, Once I awoke to find him standing over me in my apartment saying he had left his girlfriend and was moving in. We split the bills (which were always late) and never had anything worth eating in the fridge. Our TV was a piece of crap and matched what little furniture we had. We really did live at the fringe of minimum standards. It was not uncomfortable, just sparse. The only really good advice he gave me I think happened by accident. When I was fifteen I left my mother and finally moved in with him. He then laid down his intentions insofar as his parental duties were concerned, “Okay, here are the rules, I don’t care what you do. Quit school, do drugs, go to jail, does not matter, but know this, if you need me to bail you out, too bad. I have my own life and I’m giving you, yours.” I am not too sure he did this as a favor to me, although it did turn out that way. The time did indeed come on several occasions when this “law” was put to the test. He stood by it, and I quickly learned I was the unwilling owner to all the reactions of my actions. It did not keep me from a self-destructive lifestyle, but it did teach me to never expect a net when I fell.

I never knew until after I sobered up, almost twenty-five years ago now, just how much remorse he carried. I was way too self-centered to realize just he much he hated his own life. In our last year together, he lamented he did nothing he was proud of, and at the risk of sounding arrogant, I pointed out that I would not exist unless he had been… involved. I could empathize with his point of view because I have been buried by mountains of shame myself, and I know the hopelessness and depression it can generate. Even so he never complained about his surroundings, and he decided early on he was going to make the best of his situation. We were fortunate and the nursing home he ended up in was professional, and his caretakers, kind. I was also lucky that it was only a few minutes from home.

As his health waned so did our public social activities. To keep him entertained I would swing by pawn shops and buy movies for him. Truthfully, it got kind of hard finding titles I thought he would like, which eventually had me inadvertently purchasing several in duplicate. Often, I could come up with twenty to twenty-five at a time, but for the most part it was a dozen or so. Movies had always been a common thread of enjoyable discussion so I was thrilled when he called me and told me he loved “The Whole Nine Yards” which I think is well written and hysterical, but isn’t normally the type of film my father would go out of his way for. Unfortunately, his eyesight started deteriorating past the point where he could see the screen, and I really do think this is where he decided to start (purposefully) shutting down.

My father-in-law’s Wednesday visits were a wonderful highlight in his week, and he and my wife’s father eventually became good friends. His demeanor would always perk up when he talked about him, and I feel blessed to have married into such a caring and loving family that extends well beyond my wife. They helped to make my father’s last days a lot brighter.

I’ve been struggling with whether or not I should share something that happened only a few weeks before he passed. If I do not, I now know I will regret it. He left a message on my cell while I was working, and it broke my heart. He was crying, saying he wanted to go home. “I want to go home, I want to go home, please take me home, son.” It was my Dad of course, but it did not sound like him. He sounded like a little kid, lost and scared. I tried to call back, but he was not answering, so I swung by after work.

“I got your message today”

He started crying again, “I want to go home son, I just want to go home. Funny thing is I don’t know even where home is.”

I took his hand, “Yeah, yeah you DO know where home is, go there if you want.”

Well… he went home.

Be at peace Dad, finally… be at peace.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

91. MY DEPRESSION

depression

I’m not in a position to give professional advice to those in the grip of depression. I’m not a doctor nor am I a counselor. That being said, what I can do is share the details of my journey beyond desolation. Perhaps shedding some light on where I was compared to where I am will help, perhaps not. In any case I certainly know what it feels like to be immobilized and lost.

Thoughts of doom and suicide dominated my life for a long time, years in fact. I had love, no spark, no peace, and no purpose. Surviving was my only motivation, and even that began to deteriorate. Chasing pleasure quickly became a substitute for manufacturing happiness. This mental prison I’d built started in the mid eighties and finally began to erode in the mid nineties. Going over a decade without hope, self-respect, or direction sounds like an impossible journey, one destined to end in disaster, yet here I am.

They say the further you fall, the higher you rise. Considering just how high I’ve risen in the past twenty years, my low must have been exceptionally deep, especially since even now I continue progressing with great strides. So, what exactly was the moment I started to ascend? When did my life finally stop spiraling towards oblivion?  There were three major shifts in my life that allowed the floodgates of redemption to swing wide open.

SHIFT NUMBER ONE……

The first began with letting go of a belief I had drilled into my skull since I was a small boy. It’s one many are programmed with, and have wrongly reinforced through our peers and mentors. This belief was that somewhere buried inside me I had the tools and desire to fix who I was all by myself. Most people call this elusive, superhuman skill ……willpower.

What garbage.

In my playbook, if I want to become a better person, then I must step past my ego. This maneuver is called “Letting go”. Letting go involves zero willpower. It DID require me to take an action once previously thought of as demeaning and painful. I had to open my arms and mind to criticism. Keep in mind there are two very specific types of criticism, one is a form of abuse, and the other is pure Love, and there’s a big difference.  Most will criticize with the intent of cloning themselves; that is they want you to be more like them. Those who do it with Love in their hearts will only be interested in you becoming a better person. Trust me; you’ll know the difference with this definition in mind.

Some equate letting go with giving up; nothing could be further from the truth. Here is the equation. Giving up is the equivalent of steering your boat to the most remote point of the ocean, lowering your sails, sabotaging your radio, and dumping all your provisions overboard. Not a good scenario, this is essentially suicide, please don’t do this. Letting go, on the other hand, is akin to admitting you’re lost on the water, pulling into a port you’ve never heard of, and asking someone you’ve never met to pilot you and your ship to somewhere you’ve never heard of. This requires a massive step out of one’s own feeling of self-control.

If I’m to embrace my full potential I must allow those to lead me who are already somewhere I want to be. Keep in mind the boat is still mine, I’m ultimately in charge, but for the moment I’ve decided to allow forces that align with faith to guide me. I’m relaxed and am open to outside direction. If this is the case, then what I was attempting before was fighting against the tides. I was closed to suggestion and focused on using only my own energy to guide me. Here lies the difference between being problem aligned rather than solution oriented. It never feels good going forward, it’s a vulnerable and uncertain maneuver, but this choice always reaps massive rewards. So, this action illustrates the first step I took towards serenity.

SHIFT NUMBER TWO……

This second step is a bit more personal so you may not have any common ground with what I’m going to share. In any case, this exercise defiantly helped me, and to this day it still continues to do so. In a nutshell I was told by a professional in the field of mental health that depression is basically rooted in unexpressed anger.

Unexpressed anger?

Yes, unexpressed anger. This does not, however, mean un-generated anger. It means I’d felt hostility, bitterness, angst, and rage but they were never fully expressed in a mentally healthy manner. My mind had reactions to events I’d kept muted or even completely bottled up. In my experience (and all too often in my observations of others, especially men) ALL emotions we hold back on eventually find their way to the surface both unexpectedly and mutated.  The road to mental health is paved with the stones of proper expression and use of emotion. Depression, in my case, was created from the inability to let out and deal with those events I found undesirable.

One may ask, why anger? Couldn’t other emotions poorly expressed and downright withheld be the cause of depression? Yes, but consider this; if Love is not revealed when it’s deeply and desperately felt, would this not eventually cause anger towards oneself? How about sadness, celebration, shame, or satisfaction? The truth is, at least for me, holding back on any emotion no matter the source, will eventually cause the feeling to go from regret to anger.

It helps me tremendously to ask “what am I mad about?” rather than “what’s depressing me?”  In other entries of this blog I write about the quality of our questions equaling the quality of our answers and thus in doing so improve the quality of life. This question is a terrific example.

SHIFT NUMBER THREE……

Nothing transforms my emotional state like movement, just plain old moving around can initiate massive changes in my outlook and attitudes. The good news, nothing has to be all that focused on what I feel needs “fixing”.  Examples may include doing the laundry, going for a walk, cooking, and especially……cleaning. I have a feeling that last one, cleaning, has psychological benefits that can have other, subconscious healing effects. It should be clarified I’m not going to the point of becoming a germophobe. Simple elimination of junk and clutter in the course of reorganizing my environment has always reverberated to other tasks and neglected responsibilities. If this is true, then surely the opposite is just as obvious.  When I’ve been depressed, and have decided to do nothing but sit, sleep, and remain as motionless as possible, it waters the seeds of my hopelessness. To be very clear here I’m NOT talking about meditation, that’s a completely different (spiritual) dynamic designed to center and focus myself. I guess the more I concentrate on anything outside of me, removing my focus from my perceived “problems,” the further I get away from the fear-based voice of my ego, which seems to be the very root of every problem I’ve ever faced.

Honestly this last suggestion has been extremely easy for me to observe in the lives of others. Those who are depressed usually seem to do very little physically. Likewise I’ve never met a depressed person who was one to get out of bed and exercise first thing in the morning. I’m sure this is a generalization, and like I said at the beginning, I’m no doctor. All I want to do here is share what has worked so far in my life. Take it as you will. I truly hope no one ever visits those places I’ve been, but if you have I’m here to tell you I found a way out.

I would like to acknowledge the help of a Facebook friend who helped me iron out and make a few suggestions that help clarify what I’m attempting to share here in this entry. She is a professional in the field of mental health and my gratitude is eternal, thank you Alma!

May the breadcrumbs of my life nourish those who are lost.

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With Love and Compassion,  Daniel Andrew Lockwood