Good-bye, Robin. I’m Sorry.

I’m sure people will be posting ad nauseam on here about Robin William’s apparent suicide…and that’s okay.  It has occurred to me more than once how Facebook and other social media have come to play a big part in our grieving process, from sharing memories, to revelling in our loved one’s presence for just a bit longer, to sharing our grief with others…

But I just want to say one thing, and it’s about mental illness…depression….anxiety.

It’s amazing how many people do not have a full understanding of what true clinical depression and anxiety are like.  These illnesses are diagnosed now more than ever before, and I’m sure their inevitable over-diagnosis leads some people to believe they are not that serious.  True clinical depression and anxiety are not situational.  “Why are you sad?  Why are you anxious? Did something happen? Are you unhappy?” or by extension “What reason do you have to be depressed?”

As someone who suffers from both anxiety and depression since early childhood, I don’t mind answering honest questions, but I am tired of the stereotypes, and especially tired of the use of the term “mental illness” as a buzz word or scapegoat for every dirtbag that would walk into a school with a gun and blow through a clip before shooting himself, thus putting us out of his misery.

This, what happened to Robin Williams, is the true face of mental illness in this country.  For me personally, having grown up always with this man in the periphery, his voice talents, his acting, always with good cheer and humor, (not to mention the fact that he reminds me of my Dad in some ways,) the idea that someone so warm and (by all accounts) genuine and caring, felt low enough to take his own life is unutterably sad.

Yes, he left behind a wife and grown children who will grieve him, but he didn’t take it to a public place with the intent to harm others or to garner attention or fifteen minutes more in the spot light.  He went quietly, and in the end the person who suffered the most was him.

Not with a bang but a whimper. 

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Saying Goodbye

I just called the University of Maryland hospital to speak to my grandmother for what will likely be the last time.  She was not awake.  I don’t know if she heard me or not, but I had to try.

Approximately two years ago, as I lay in the hospital in labor with my child, she lay in a hospital 12 hours away, after having passed out and fallen in her bathroom the night before and having lain there all night.  Despite our concerns, she largely recovered from that episode.  She even eventually went back to her own home, despite my family’s concerns for her being alone.  Then last week or so,  she fell again and hit her head.  Come to find out she had something wrong with her carotid that when she turned her head a certain way, she would pass out.  While she was in the hospital this time as the family and doctors decided what course of action to take, her health began to decline.  She has gone from lucid, although understandably depressed, to what basically amounts to comatose.  She has a cyst and fluid on her brain.  Now she is having difficulty breathing.  She will likely not live out the weekend.

And I really have no feasible way to get there to see her.  Even if my mother bought me a plane ticket (because my husband and I can certainly not afford one much less two right now,) the last experience I had taking my toddler through airport security without the benefit of my husband’s help was harrowing and stressful enough that I swore I’d never do it again.  The thought of it makes my stomach feel icky.  Nevertheless, my mother really wants me and the baby there for the funeral…needs us there.  She is emotionally incapable of handling the impending  loss of her mother.  Even if my grandmom lived to be 100 and died peacefully in her sleep, I think my mom would be incapable of handling it.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the people I have known and loved, the “old days,” when I was a child.  As a child, I suffered from an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, so I was almost never completely carefree, but those days were probably the closest to carefree I’ll likely ever be.  And when I think about those old days and how they are over for good, it’s something I am not completely at peace with.  Everything changes.  That’s life.  Nothing can stay the same.  It’s just the way of things, and the old adage “youth is wasted on the young” is fairly accurate, in that children generally do not have the emotional or mental maturity to be fully present, “in the moment” so to speak, as they grow and experience life.  I mean, they definitely live life in the moment in many regards, but do they stop while they run, while they play, or even while they sit bored in church, to appreciate the moment and realize how fleeting it is?  I doubt it.  That was something I myself first discovered around the age of twelve, and my anxiety over the passage of time and the retrospect way we experience life in general has been a source of anxiety for me ever since.

Well, I feel I have digressed from the original subject.  But then again, maybe not.  This is all related in one way or another, and as I got off the phone with the nurse who held the phone to my grandmother’s ear, and the tears pricked at the back of my throat, I just felt like I had to write.  And there is so much more I could write.  Like how my grandma will never get to see my daughter, her great-granddaughter, again.  Like how my mom’s health is not good either or how my cat is dying.  About my cousin who died tragically six years ago or my uncle who we lost in ’99, and how it’s still hard to believe he’s gone sometimes.

I’ll just say one more thing.  Right after Christmas, only days after my daughter and I returned, my husband’s grandmother succumbed to a stroke brought on by hip surgery she had right before Christmas.  I am very thankful that I made it a point to take the baby to see her on the night before her surgery.  That was the last time I saw her as well.  My husband and I could not make it back to Maryland in time for her funeral either.

Both his grandmother and mine were (are) wonderful ladies who were, in many ways, the heart of the family.  In the case of my mother’s side of the family, my grandmom is likely one of the only things still keeping a strained family together.

But like I said before, resistance to change is futile and will only end in anxiety and fear.

I don’t know what beliefs I subscribe to at this point in my life.  That’s been another source of confusion and anxiety for me for a long time.  But I do hope that peace will somehow find my grandmother and the rest of my family during this difficult time…and maybe there will be some peace left over for me.

Time in a Bottle

(The story of a young couple trying to cope with the girl’s terminal illness)

I spark the bowl and inhale deeply, careful to leave some fresh green for her to burn. She likes that, and any good pothead knows that this is proper etiquette when sharing a bowl. She’s not in too much pain today, but smoking has become a habit now. Actually sort of a ritual, our ritual. I can’t actually share her physical pain, but I can share everything else with her, including the self-medication. One bowl in the morning when she wakes up, two if she’s in a lot of pain. One mid-morning. One before lunch. A bowl mid-afternoon, one mid-evening, one before bed. And in between whenever else she needs or wants one. Whatever she needs, whenever. Continue reading