Sunday, May 24, 2009

Get up and join the land of the living

There were a couple of letters in the New York Sunday Times Magazine about Daphne Merkin's piece on depression last week. I'd written about this in an earlier post. Several of the responses agreed with my point of view. If she wasn't a rich girl, and couldn't afford the luxury of a break down, if she had started exercising, taking yoga, got acupuncture, changed her diet, whatever AND if the rent HAD to paid, maybe, maybe, maybe--- it wouldn't have gotten so bad for her.

My last suicide attempt was in October 2006. I came home from class, had three vodka tonics, passed out on the couch, and when I woke up, I took a razor blade to my wrist. But at the same time, a part of my brain saying, this is not acceptable behavior, so I called a hotline (1-800-LIFENET). One guy was an asshole and I hung up on him, but I called again and found someone I could talk to. After a while, I hung up the phone, disinfected the cuts and wrapped gauze around them and went to bed.

The next morning I had to face the awful truth about myself, and do something immediately. Because I had to go back to work. I had to go back to my classes at NYU. This was much worse than a hang-over. I knew I had to go to the emergency room--- maybe I needed stitches, and I absolutely needed to see a shrink. It was a surreal experience; I knew I was going to be there a long time, so I brought a book with me. There I sat on the hospital gurney, my right wrist bandaged up, reading Critical Terms for Literary Study, while a man with a gun stood watch over me.

The next week I joined a gym and started meditating again. Quit drinking. I couldn't afford the luxury of descending further into that abyss. I was pro-active; worked on mind and body. Starting seeing a shrink in my neighborhood--- who by the way I really disliked, but that's not the point. My mother--- when she saw me sunk down in despair and depression, said, get up and join the land of the living. I hear that voice till this day. Its a hard line. But every person I know who ended up catatonic with depression, couldn't get out of bed, wanted to die, couldn't wash their hair, and so on and so forth--- had money.

I'm on my own baby. I got to be my own mother, father, wife, husband and friend. I have to be all those things rolled up in one--- and I've learned coping skills. It's what 27 years of therapy has taught me. It doesn't take away the pain, it only teaches you how to live with it when things get bad. That's all therapy can do, but most of the time, its enough. Things get bad, then they get good again. How do you weather that storm when you're going down?


  1. You state in one blog that you quit drinking in '06 but yet you write about the Willowtown Street Fair in which you had a vodka???

  2. Glad someone is keeping tabs on me!

  3. Interesting that the anon poster reads this piece and just picks up on your drinking something.
    I have battled depression at various times in my life, maybe not to the extent that you have. I find it interesting that you point out "every person who went catatonic ..... had money". They had the "luxury" of being able to focus entirely on themselves and what was the result?
    I don't want to paint with two wide of a brush, but a lot of times this kind of depression comes about when we are totally focused on ourselves and the tragedies in our lives - both real and imagined. But when you check out other people - everyone has some kind of shit storm in their lives. Not to try and make light of your pain, but the human experience is the human experience, eh? There are people who are worse off than I am - if I can take my eyes off of me and look around. Your mom nailed it.

  4. I believe that eventually you do have to get up and get pro-active, either go to a shrink, clean your house, go to the gym, get medication, change something, do something.