What is the meaning of life? In Barry Manilow’s opinion it’s To Have Fun! Do you agree?
Bringing intentionality to a situation is a simple way to deepen your experiences in a positive way. Watch.
“Grace means that all of your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame.”
I’m not famous. I haven’t gone to any Ivy League Schools. I never even learned how to play an instument, really, and I can only sing when I’m singing Christmas carols.
But that’s not to say I haven’t done remarkable things.
My story isn’t pretty, though at the same time it’s beautiful. Sadly, I know many with far uglier pasts than mine. some who have achieved far more than I. But I am proud of how far I have gotten, knowing where I started and what challenges I faced.
“It’s a Long Way Up When You’re Coming From Nowhere”
~Barry Manilow and John Annesi, lyrics of a song of the same name.
Before I go on, I want you to understand that though the book that I’ve written is based on my experiences, I make no claim that everything within is the absolute truth. The material events I’ll share with you actually happened. How I perceived them at the time may be a perspective, wholly different than how I recall them now. I believe this is a by-product of training myself to reframe hurtful moments in the most empowering way possible. As a side effects go, I’ll take it.
What I mean to say is that I’ll give you everything as best I can, but I make no guarantees I’ll get the he said she said details right. And how I recall an event may be 180 degrees away from any one of my siblings memories of the same event. In fact, there’s no guarantee that everyone of us even remember the same moments to begin with.
It’s extremely difficult as well to write about intimate real life experiences without writing about the others who were also there. I’ve changed names where appropriate, but there is one name I just can’t change.
There’s no better word to describe her. She was the epitome of the word. Not necessarily light on her feet at nearly 400 lbs, but Grace personified nonetheless.
She was, for me, the living breathing expression of the phrase, “there but for the Grace of God go I.” She was an angel who took me in, championed me, and made me a champion myself as well. In her own way she taught me how to fish for the successes in life.
I had many angels in my life, not all of whoom took me into their homes and hearts like Grace did. Some of them I hardly know, some I’ve never met. But there’s no denying the impact each and every one of them has made.
Not the least of which is Barry Manilow, another player in this story whose name I don’t dare replace. There’s no equivalent fictitious persona I can make up that will instantly give you all the dots to connect as well as just keeping it real. The songs, the lyrics, informed my sensibilities, my values, and my philosophy on life. The music affected the frequecy at which my soul resonates. Not only did his songs soothe and inspire me, they taught me fundamental truths. Without knowing the songs, you won’t be able to appreciate the depth of synchronicity.
The Universe is resolving every problem on a scale grander than we can fathom. Without music, you won’t grok the Miracle of it all.
As a person who has survived Depression for the last 30 years, I’ve been watching the world react to the tragedy that is the passing of Robin Williams.
He was a brilliant man, no one can deny that. His unique brand of being is unparalleled in life as we know it on this planet at this time in history. Even Jimmy Fallon cannot imitate him properly, though he’s come closer than anyone else has ever had the balls to attempt.
Yet in the end he was just as human as any of us, and I think that’s what scares us. Especially those of us who deal with varying degrees of depression daily. If there was a “Home Free!” from Depression, any of us would think Robin Williams was “SAFE!”
It’s nearly impossible to take on an enemy that morphs itself into a smorgasbord of pain personally designed for each individual it attacks like a demon conjured up by Stephen King. Depression is personal. It wants to take *YOU* out, the person, without regard to the fact that success means annihilation for itself as well.
Depression is a cancer of the mind.
Of course, there are ways to survive it. Even more incredible; there are ways to outlast Depression, and even to manage to thrive in spite of it. Robin Williams was a master at this. We need only to look at his charity work to see his attitude of generosity. He made the best use of his up-times he possibly could. Just look at the legacy he left for us in his prolific history in film, video and stand up, as well.
He surfed Depression. That was his brilliance.
He left us a legacy to inspire us. He set the bar astronomically high for the rest of all of humanity to aspire to as human beings. Even more so for the more than 16 million adults who have had a major depressive episode. Most incredibly, he did it with his mind tied behind his back.
In the end, I believe he made a calculated, pragmatic decision. I’ll say more on that in the future, perhaps.
For now, I’m as angry as anyone that he took away the possibility of so many more years of potential joy he could have given us. But that’s the selfish part of me, of us, speaking. As human beings, we mourn the loss of *potential* as much or more as the loss of the person. It’s natural. It’s why it hits us so much harder when children die than great-grandparents; the little ones had their whole lives ahead of them.
We, the collective public as a group, are mourning the loss of what we imagine to be the possible potential Robin Williams was expected to produce over the next 30 years that we could have reasonably expected of him to live. I’m not sure I got the grammar on that last sentence right or not, but you get my drift. Bob Hope lived to be 100. Mickey Rooney passed this year at the age of 94. People who make laughter should live longer, right? Laughter is supposed to be the best medicine, right? Right. Except when they’ve got a mental illness that makes them as awesome as they are.
We all watched, we all knew there was something different about him. He was someone who completely embodied the term “No Limits”. If his brain had a transmission, its gears were stripped long ago. Robin was freestylin’ from the early days. Anything that burns that hot consumes fuel.
Sometimes that fuel comes from drugs. Robin had his battles with that but crossed the finish line clean as his wife has said publicly.
It also comes from applause.
I think it’s safe to say that Robin Williams lived to please the world. He knew the secret: Everyone is in pain. Make the world safe for another, you make it safe for yourself. Tell the truth as you see it, because no one else sees it like you, and if you get the chance make someone laugh. Because laughter truly is the best medicine. It’s the foremost treatment for keeping depression in remission. Unfortunately, it’s not 100% effective.
Let us not miss out on the lessons this man’s life has to teach us. We owe him that.
Every morning, the world has a new opportunity to talk about what Depression is and what can be done to keep people who have it from ending their lives.
So little is truly known about Depression. It’s a difficult, sometimes embarrassing conversation at best. Depression manifests itself in myriad ways to each individual. You may have symptoms that are different from mine, and some that are the same. Tips and tricks that are successful for me against its unending offense may not do it for you. I can’t pretend to be an expert on Depression, but after 30 years of surviving it I think I have something to say that might help someone else.
Of course, my standard disclaimer applies here: Take what fits and let the rest fly.
I affirm that you are strong and intelligent enough to be trusted to know yourself best.
My first suicide attempt happened when I was 15. I’ve arm-wrestled with that little demon in my head many other times through the years, but you never forget your first time. I got lucky when the valium I stole from my mother’s medicine chest was expired. I don’t think they even made me groggy. I think I cried myself to sleep.
After surviving the initial shock that her baby was up against more than she thought she could handle, my mother found a psychologist who worked on a sliding fee scale. I hated him. I refused to talk for the first few sessions. Eventually, I let my barriers down and consider myself blessed that I did. He gave me the one tool I have used consistently since then to keep the demon in my head in line. This one tool I can always count on to work when I use it:
Writing Letters to Burn
Here’s how it works. You just write a letter. Write it to the person you’re upset with. Write it to God. Write it to anyone. Say whatever you need to say, just get the thoughts down on paper and out of your head. Say anything. Say everything. Then take the letter somewhere safe and burn it. Once you burn it, it can’t hurt anyone any more.
This technique works especially well for depression based on anger turned inward.
I came across the second technique a few years later. When I notice I’m more bitter or grouchy than I want to be, I use this to feel better. It consistently provides good results and it’s highly adaptable. There are a number of ways to use this one, get creative.
2. Make a Gratitude List
It’s as simple as it says. Just start writing down the things you have to be grateful for. Sometimes getting the list started is a stretch in itself, but if you can push yourself over the hump you really start to pick up steam around item 10. Make the list as long or as short as you like, and feel free to get silly. Go on a mission to hunt down the silver lining in any cloudy situation. It’ll help you feel better, I promise.
This next one is probably the hardest one for me to put into action, but I guarantee you it does work.
No, I’m not talking about selling your house, packing your stuff and hitting the road. I mean, get your body in motion! Notice I didn’t say exercise. Why? Because I’m not trying to hook your issues about what you “should” and “shouldn’t” do, and it’s not about “exercise” per say. It’s about moving around. Give your eyes something else to look at, get your heart pumping, give those endorphins a tour of your circulatory system! There are tons of ways to get in motion. Go for a walk, ride a bike to the corner store, or my own personal favorite: lock the bedroom door, blast your favorite live album and perform for the bathroom mirror. Don’t worry, the cat won’t tell.
I should do this next one far more often than I do, simply because it’s a lot of fun. But to be honest, when in the grips of a depressive episode, things that are fun to do don’t often occur to me.
4. Do something nice for someone else!
I used to bake a lot and joked with the other mom’s that baking kept me sane. I was the only one who knew it wasn’t a joke. I baked because it made me feel secure and content, and when I shared whatever I baked with others, it made me feel good.*
*This also applies to gardening and sharing tomatoes and zucchini.
There are millions of ways beyond baking and gardening to make this one work in your world. You could combine 1, 2, and 3 to do 4 if you want. In other words, Write a letter (1) to someone expressing how grateful (2) you are for their presence in your life, then walk it over to them (3) and brighten their day (4)! Simple!
My final suggestion to you is my secret weapon. I’ve been using tapping on and off for over 10 years, and I can tell you from experience it has been a blessing for so many areas of my life.
5. Emotional Freedom Technique
EFT is a form of energy psychology that unhooks the negative emotions from our memories, freeing us from emotionally reliving trauma from the past. You can find everything you need to learn EFT for yourself with a simple Google search, but save yourself the trouble and download my video on EFT Basics here. Emotional Freedom Technique works miracles when it comes to putting the demon to sleep. I highly recommend it.