Wednesday, August 13, 2014

At Rope's End

Really I'm not. I've been battling depression and anxiety quite a bit lately and that is one reason I haven't been able to get back into the groove here at my blog. But I haven't thought about offing myself.

Well, the Robin Williams suicide has people talking a lot about depression. He was around for so long and left such an extensive body of work that he deeply influenced most of us. On my job the past two days so many of my coworkers wondered how such a seemingly fun-loving and enormously successful (not to mention filthy rich) person could have problems severe enough to make him want to place a belt around his neck and take an early exit.

There is no way to plumb the depths of another's soul.

Now let me tell you all about this. The Saturday before this last one I called a very old friend because I needed someone to talk to, someone to listen and maybe help think through things perhaps a bit more clearly. I was really, really down, and told her I was deeply distraught.

Now over the years I have always tried to be there for this person, have listened to countless anguished phone calls about her troubled life (very often the same problem over and over and over), have helped financially and bought groceries and did other things to help. I say that not in a boastful way at all, because, well, isn't that what friends are for?

But somehow, when the shoe was on the other foot and it was I in need of comfort (and I wasn't asking for anything other than that) somehow things went crazy and she hung up on me. In fairness, I perhaps did get a bit sharp after being repeatedly interrupted in relating what was troubling me by her tsk-tsk laugh over how I worry too much and, essentially, how I was making a mountain out of a molehill. (I might have taken that a little better had I been first permitted to finish explaining what was troubling me - but I suppose that's life.)
However, I think that was a textbook example of how not to deal with a friend in trouble. And thank Heaven, I wasn't contemplating doing myself in, because that brush-off might have been the stick that broke the camel's back. Even at that it still hurt me. Then, thinking perhaps we might have just lost connection (these damned cell phones!), I called back.
Even left a message asking her to call me back.


Another weekend came and went. 


No, it wasn't a lost connection. I suppose she was making a statement to me about how she doesn't take any shit off anyone, as in she probably didn't like my attempt to call her down and get her to listen. That's fine. Sure seemed emotionally immature to me, though. I hate being hung up on that way. In fact, I have never done that and would never do it without warning the person they were rankling me and that if they persisted I would do it (hang up that is).

Sure is a dumb way to end a twenty-plus year friendship, to my way of thinking. (Okay, do I really need this kind of self-centered "friend"?) It is a timely reminder to me why the really close friends I have can be numbered on the fingers of one hand with a finger or two to spare. Well, now, I guess it is with two or three fingers to spare.

I guess in a way she did inadvertently help me. Remember the old Skin Bracer commercials, where the person gets whacked in the face with a splash of Skin Bracer. "Thanks, I needed that." So, thanks old friend, I need that reminder. Note to self: the man in the mirror is my best friend and truest confidant.

So I did what I have done so many times in my life. I stepped back and thought my way through what was bugging me. I tried to lay out some plan of action that would get me through, and I will add that that situation is being addressed by me in a creative way.

The bigger problem of my lingering dark mood is something I am trying everyday to cope with. Looking back over my life I suspect I've always had a bit of a melancholy spirit. I think I come by it naturally - from both my parents (my father was once institutionalized after a nervous breakdown).

In retrospect, I suppose talking with someone you are close to about deeply troubling matters might not always be the best route to take. We humans do so much damned role playing that if someone close catches you without your "game face" on, it seems to put them out of sorts. (In this vein I remember once when I was very young man crying in the presence of my lover; she gave me the goofiest anguished looked and told me: "you can't fall apart ... you're my rock!" Well, pardon the hell out of me, I thought.)

Thankfully, I'm not the suicidal type - or I probably would have closed the book long ago. I think what really bothers is me that I feel should be happy. As I've written often on my blogs: I've had more than my share of good health and good luck. I may have come from very humble beginnings (read: extreme poverty), and I'm not that far on the other side of the tracks now, but I have learned to appreciate the simple things in life.

Yet through it all there is always just under the surface a feeling of dread and fear. Ah, fear, that feeling that somehow I will be exposed as insufficient to handle some aspect of life. That troubles me greatly, because somehow or other I always have. But it is there: maybe next time out I will stumble big time. I say I should be happy, yet I'm not - at least never for long.

Poor Robin Williams. I can't begin to imagine what was going on inside his head. I wouldn't dream of speculating on why he did what he did instead of turning to a friend or loved one. In his case, and in other's I've known, there seems to fine line between madness and genius. (In my own case I think I'm much closer to the former than the latter.)

But I've had a number of friends commit suicide over the years, and two close friends who tried but were unsuccessful. Each time it moved me deeply and compelled me to fight harder against my own dark demons. But I think I can say I understand how someone could reach the place of: Enough! And I never judge those who do reach it. But it saddens me anyway, with a sadness I can't express with words.


  1. Hi Doug, not much I can say, but just letting you know I'm here.

    I have not suffered from serious depression, just the more normal 'feeling down', but I have known a few who did, including one who suicided, and I imagine depression can get so bad that there isn't actually a reason why the person didn't turn to someone for support, the depression just makes them in capable of doing anything very sensible or planned at that point.

    Anyway, I'm sorry about your difficulties and glad you're doing OK.

  2. Thanks, unkle E, I really appreciate you.

    I am fine and will be fine. Perhaps a bit jaded by life, but I'm okay. I would like to get back to my old self soon, though.

  3. Ouch. Sorry to hear that chap. Losing a friend is bad enough, under those circumstances it must be worse. Depression can be a shocker, but I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that.

    Glad you're okay and long may that continue.

    1. Thanks, limey, for taking the time to drop me a line. I'm sure that down the road, after my friend has cooled off, she will call me again. I will forgive her for treating me badly, but certainly it has changed my opinion of her and our friendship.

  4. Sorry you are going through a tough time and your friend acted as if it were trivial. Keep fighting those demons and know that you have cyber friends that care about you and will always be here for you.

    1. Thanks, Sylvia. I know you know about fighting the demons of despair. As for my friend, it hurts to know our feelings about each other aren't mutual. We will get through it, I suppose. I'm not one to bear grudges. But I can never feel the same about her again. But enough of that ... "To err is human...."

  5. Sorry Doug. I very much understand. I hope sharing here at least helps ease the hurt even if just a bit. (((hugs)))

    1. You know what, Zoe? It does help me to vent. I guess that is mostly what I wanted to do when I called my friend. That went wrong. But it always helps to rant on here. You should see some of the rants over the years I decided against posting. Dark, dark, dark and often angry. Thanks for the hugs, I really needed them.

  6. I'm prone to bouts of melancholy from time to time which usually doesn't last very long but I have been in a deep funk. So deep I wanted to die in that moment.

    Relationships are two-way streets. But unless someone has walked in your shoes, and even then I'm not so sure, they can't possibly know how you feel. I've tried (recently, I must admit) to stop interjecting when someone is talking to me about a problem. People don't really want you to fix them. They just want someone to listen without judgement. It's easier said than done, especially if you've got what you think is a great suggestion. Most especially when it's someone who is close. Those are often the hardest people to talk to because they just want to fix it(or tell you what to do to fix it).

    I did learn something from my deep depression, though. An impartial, unrelated, third-party is much easier to talk to. Even if I had to pay them to listen. Especially if I had to pay them to listen. Because that was their only job.

    1. Ruth, you are such a wise lady. I often forget that sometimes listening is all that is called for. I tend to be a good listener but too often slip up and find myself offering fixes. And I couldn't agree more that an impartial, unrelated third-party is the way to go for deeper issues. Those really close to us are unprepared to see our souls bared and masks off.