Grieving a Stranger

How is it I am grieving a man I did not know?

Yes, you know who I am talking about: Robin Williams ended his life this week after a long struggle with depression.  We have since found out he was in the beginning stages of Parkinson’s disease, as well.

Social media blew up at the news.  Most of my feed was full of shock, sympathy and sadness, but there was ugliness mixed in, too.  Words like “selfish” and “choice.”  Others acknowledged Williams’ death, but complained about people making the tragedy about themselves.

I haven’t said much, but I’m going to be honest here when I say I have held back a lot of my feelings on the subject because I don’t want to be seen as someone feeding off of the energy of such a sad moment.  But then I realized, I shouldn’t give two flying fucks how people view my thoughts on the matter because these thoughts and emotions are my own.  My first impulse is to write them out, because though I’m not a particularly articulate writer, I find it to be a very cathartic exercise when I feel like I’m drowning in my thoughts.

I admired Robin Williams greatly.  I think the truly great souls make everyone feel as if there is a personal connection—which is why so many people are making his death “about themselves.”  I don’t need to list all of the accomplishments that drew me to him, because they have been listed countless times this week.  To know that someone as loved, admired, and brilliant as he was could not find anything to cling to makes my heart so heavy.  The media is full of beautiful moments he spent uplifting others, and yet, could no one see how far into the darkness he was?  Or did people assume he would “get over it”?

I have faced that demon.  Twice. 

The first time I had just given birth to my beautiful son.  I lived with my little family out in the country in a tiny white house with a red door.  I danced with my baby boy daily, sang lullabies, cooed, and gently bathed him every night.  As he snuggled between me and my husband, I remembered thinking I had everything to live for, but why was I so sad?  The sadness grew to be overwhelming.  I was anxious and on edge.  My husband would leave for work and if someone knocked on the door I would not answer for fear it was someone out to harm us.  I was scared to pick up my baby.  What if I accidentally dropped him?  What if I fainted and landed on him?  A hundred possibilities ran through my brain—all tragic and all irrational.  None of it made sense, and I quickly spiraled down a well of darkness and panic.  My heart raced, I was snippy, I was so tired but couldn’t sleep.  I tried to push the irrational thoughts and sadness down but they would come bursting out of me in the form of tears and sobs at very inappropriate moments.  What the hell was wrong with me?

One beautiful day my husband said I should go to the mall and get something special just for me while he watched the baby.  It was a 45 minute drive just to get to town and I looked forward to the drive alone.  As I drove down the winding two lane country highway, the sun was shining brightly and the air whipped through my hair.  I drove by a church and saw bright floral bouquets dotting the gravestones in the cemetery.  That familiar feeling of panic filled my chest.  Was I doomed to live with this crushing sadness and anxiety for the rest of my life?  The thought of the rest of my life being consumed by that awful energy choked me.  And as I looked back to the road, I saw an 18 wheeler in the opposite lane.  I remember thinking, “Just jerk the wheel.  It will be so fast and no one will know it wasn’t an accident.  Just do it.  Do it now.” 

But I didn’t.  And I cannot even tell you why.  What I did do was pull over and sob for about 15 minutes.  That was the day I decided to get help, quickly and very privately (only my husband knew).  I was diagnosed with postpartum anxiety and treated with therapy and medication.  I still remember that day so clearly: brilliant sunshine, vivid green grass, the whooshing sound of the wind rushing through my car…everything was so beautiful, and yet, there is such a cloudiness I will never be able to explain.  I just remember I could not live one more day with that feeling of dread and anxiety.  I should have been a happy new mother, but instead I was afraid of everything.

The second time was very different circumstances, but the same feeling.   I managed to come through it with love, support, expensive therapy and medication.

So, I guess what hits so hard about Robin Williams’ death is wondering how many times he has faced and overcome those moments.  Will there be another time I come face to face with the same demon and lose?  Because it really is a battle.  People talk about choice and technically, yes, that is correct.  But when you are there in that moment, the cards don’t look the same way they do for other people.  It’s perfectly normal to think, “Yes, this will hurt my family, but they will realize quickly that they are better off without me.”   People talk about suicide being selfish when I assure you, loved ones are certainly taken into consideration—albeit with a skewed thought process.

Yes, let’s use the loss of this amazingly talented man to bring awareness to depression and suicide.  But can we lay off a little?  I mean, damn—why do people feel the need to judge everything?  You do not know what was going on in his life, his head, his heart. 

I hope Mr. Williams is finally at peace.

So excited about my second ever #ipsy bag!  I’m most stoked about the #nyxbuttergloss, but also the #jessesgirl liquid eyeliner. I also received hair spray to create beachy waves, a charcoal face scrub/detox, and #laneige bb cream. My beef with the cream sample is it came with three different shades. How hard would it have been to get three samples in the shade I specified on my profile?  Overall, I’m happy!  #ipsyjune2014 #ipsyjunebag

So excited about my second ever #ipsy bag! I’m most stoked about the #nyxbuttergloss, but also the #jessesgirl liquid eyeliner. I also received hair spray to create beachy waves, a charcoal face scrub/detox, and #laneige bb cream. My beef with the cream sample is it came with three different shades. How hard would it have been to get three samples in the shade I specified on my profile? Overall, I’m happy! #ipsyjune2014 #ipsyjunebag

neighborhoodstagemanager
blowhan:

potatobeenz:

You get home from a long day at work and turn on the TV. It’s been a long week, so you think to yourself- maybe i’ll take the family to a movie on Saturday. Maybe we’ll even go on a vacation soon! We could visit museums and go to plays and see all sorts of fun attractions. When you turned the TV on, nothing happened. There are no actors to entertain you. When you went to the movie theater, nothing was showing. There were no advertisements to tell you that anything was showing, so you went to the theater to find out. Nothing playing. There is no one to film and create movies for you. Well at least your vacation will be fun, right? Not like there will be any plays to see and there won’t be anything in the art museums. Well at least you have the shack you are living in that you made out of cardboard and sheets. Not like you could find an architect to build you a house with all the money you’re making as an engineer. 

bless


Right?

blowhan:

potatobeenz:

You get home from a long day at work and turn on the TV. It’s been a long week, so you think to yourself- maybe i’ll take the family to a movie on Saturday. Maybe we’ll even go on a vacation soon! We could visit museums and go to plays and see all sorts of fun attractions. 

When you turned the TV on, nothing happened. There are no actors to entertain you. 
When you went to the movie theater, nothing was showing. There were no advertisements to tell you that anything was showing, so you went to the theater to find out. Nothing playing. There is no one to film and create movies for you. Well at least your vacation will be fun, right? Not like there will be any plays to see and there won’t be anything in the art museums. 
Well at least you have the shack you are living in that you made out of cardboard and sheets.

Not like you could find an architect to build you a house with all the money you’re making as an engineer. 

bless

Right?

PseudoTumor Cerebri and the Fat Girl

Shortly after giving birth to my daughter, I started experiencing headaches so awful the pain would radiate down my neck.  I figured they were tension headaches from sitting funny while feeding the baby.  A few moths later, they started to make my eyes hurt, as well.  I had heard friends talk about their migraines and thought perhaps that was what I was experiencing, too—though I had never had them before,  Perhaps something changed when I gave birth to my second child?  Pregnancy and childbirth does weird things to the body, I thought.  The disconcerting thing was whenever I would change position or exert myself, a sharp pain would shoot through my neck and head.  During that time I was preparing for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and singing high notes made me double over in pain.  Not good. 

When I started getting double vision, I panicked and went to see my ophthalmologist.  He sent my to a neurologist, who immediately sent me to radiology to get an MRI which lead to a spinal tap.  It frightened me, the speed at which everything was happening,  Obviously something was very wrong.  I never heard them say it, but I knew I had the symptoms of a brain tumor and I was terrified.

Fortunately, I did not have a brain tumor.  Unfortunately, after several lumbar punctures, I was diagnosed with a rare condition called Pseudotumor Cerebri.  Basically, my body does not adequately absorb the spinal fluid it creates and this puts pressure on the central nervous system, causing debilitating headaches, dizziness, nausea and neck and shoulder pain.  If left untreated, it can cause blindness.

The doctor also let me know obesity has been associated with PTC, and obese women under 44 are most likely to develop the condition.  So, while weight loss wasn’t a guarantee for remission, it wouldn’t hurt to try.

Great.  Except one of the symptoms of PTC is increased pain with physical exertion.  Like I mentioned before, I could barely get through my Mozart aria without tears—how the hell was I going to exercise?

So, I tried and fell off the wagon.  Tried again.  Fell off again.  And again and again and again.  For the most part I’ve been able to keep my symptoms in check with regular exercise.  I have even improved my vision somehow, which blew away my ophthalmologist.  However, the moment I start slacking, BAM!  I’m on my back with a headache so bad I hate even breathing.

I don’t really talk about my PTC much.  I don’t want people thinking I use it as a crutch or an excuse.  But let me tell you folks, I have been struggling lately.  This week was especially hard because it started with a PTC headache and I had to take the medication that makes me so ill I need two days to recover.  When that happens, I throw the most incredible pity party for myself, which must include wine and french fries.

And so it’s just a vicious circle.

But this week was different.  Yes, I had the headache, and the awful medication, and even the pity party, but I still got my ass to the gym.  I totally phoned it in for a couple of days, but I went.  And it hurt and I felt awful and I wanted to puke, but I reminded myself of all the times I quit and how months later I regretted it and wished I had stuck it through. 

I have embarked on quite the journey.  To be honest, it can really and some days I am knocked flat on the ground wondering how in the hell I managed to get myself here.  I’ll be feeling so great and something will set me back and I have to remind myself that I’m doing everything I can at this moment in time.  Honestly, though, I’m at the point now where I have more good days than bad and I am starting to like this Lisa chick. 

A bad day or even a bad week doesn’t mean I should just throw in the towel.  A champion doesn’t give up after failure—champions keep trying until they get it right.  I’m going to use these tough moments to make myself a better, stronger person.