Friday, October 4, 2019

A lost month

And now I wish you only roses, baby, without the thorns
And I hope your dreams are always within reach

It’s a little bit like drowning.

Or so I imagine.

Like drowning, if you were sinking down, weighted, submerged, silent.

You are motionless, fettered, torpid, overcome by paralysis.

Feeling as though your lungs might burst?

That’s how it is when my anxiety spirals out of steady state.


I won’t lie to you. September was rocky for me.

I don’t like to use the word depression. I don’t embrace the concept as a description of a very complicated mental state.

For one thing, everyone gets the blues. Everyone feels down at times. Everyone thinks they understand what depression is.

Clinical depression is something else.

You’d think, having suffered, I’d be the first to endorse the the construct of depression as a physical illness and not a moral failing, a bad attitude, a weak, lazy state of mind.

But despite the hard and personal evidence of neurotransmitter insufficiency that responds (at least in my case, eventually) to pharmaceutical intervention, I still feel culpable and guilty.

In fact, I feel as though I should be shot.

I said as much to Neil recently. That was right after I admitted that I had been wondering if I was about over living.

Because everything important in my life is absolutely fine. Sure I wish I had more friends, sure I’m lonely, but I’m healthy, my children and grandchild are healthy, everyone is in a stable situation in terms of career and relationship. I myself am married to someone I love, who loves me.

Maybe it’s not despite these things but because of them that I’m fearful. We’re never safe. Tragedy, trauma, sorrow, loss, anything could blindside us at any time. If something has to happen to someone, I want it to be me. I don’t want to outlive any more of my loved ones.

I know I’m in trouble when I’ve lost the plot, when none of the things I usually like to do are appealing. Fortunately, that feeling comes and goes, so in the space of a day I may be fine and not fine.

I know I’m in trouble when there are things I know might help, things like therapy, or medication tweaks, but I’m paralyzed when it comes to taking any steps toward change.

Years ago, my therapist Tobie told me that, treated or untreated, depression cycles. So I think, this too shall pass if I just tie a knot in the end of my rope and hang on.

You might call it procrastination, but I choose to call it setting goals or deadlines. I pick some arbitrary future date and decide if I’m not better by then, I’ll seek help, or at least reevaluate my path forward.

One of the things that may have been skewing my objectivity is now past.

Months ago, I signed up for a lampwork bead gathering in Asheville on the last weekend of September. For months the prospect of going caused me much anxiety.

I couldn’t tell you exactly why though. When I broke it down into component parts - the 100-mile drive, staying in a hotel on my own, the planned events, the interaction with fellow bead artists - none of it particularly daunted me. The hardest single thing would be walking in to the first social event, and I knew even that would be only briefly difficult and quickly over.

But the whole thing hung over me for weeks. I felt tired at just the thought of the necessary effort of packing and getting myself there. I bargained with myself. If I wasn’t having fun, I could leave at any time. No one would force me to stay the whole four days and three nights.

But I kept thinking, I’m grown up. I’m retired. I don’t have to do things that I don’t want to do, things that make me feel apprehensive or anxious.

I had nightmares. I had flashbacks to summer camps when I was a kid, when I would have butterflies in my stomach at the idea of a sleepover. The prospect of the event was ruining my month. Was it worth it? Why not bail and give my spot to someone on the waiting list?

Neil thought I should push through my uncertainties and go. He admitted to feeling a little bit the same way leading up to his softball weekends away. He though there’d be redeeming value in going.

Two things eventually cemented my decision. One, I noticed that when I took a class or went to open stitch time at the knitting store, during the time that I was there, the invisible heaviness enveloping me would lift and I’d feel more human again.

Two, I made a hotel reservation. Yes, it could be canceled without penalty until the night before, but money wasn’t really a factor. I was reconciled to the idea that I might lose my registration fee and the cost of one night at the hotel if at the last minute I bailed.

Yet somehow, having made the hotel reservation, my mind set changed from, "am I going?" to "I guess I’m going." While I still counted down the days with trepidation, the bad dreams stopped and the anticipation stopped ruining my days. I did still put off actually packing anything until the day before I left, but then I did it all, two trays of trade beads, two trays of glass, supplies, and tools. I did my laundry and packed clothes, toiletries, jewelry, shoes, a book, a knitting project, chargers for phone and iPad.

On Thursday afternoon, I loaded my car and got on the road. I stopped at a yarn store on the way. I checked in to my hotel in Asheville.

If I had to change one thing about the trip, I’d have stayed in a nicer place. I chose the hotel based on it being in the Wyndham chain, which had absorbed all my La Quinta points, and the low price. And it could have been worse. My room was dated, shabby, gloomy, and not as clean as my germphobic self would have preferred. But I liked my location, on the first floor, on the end, near the front. The vending and ice machines were just around the corner, breakfast was conveniently close by, and it was quiet. I never felt unsafe.

I also never knit a stitch nor opened my book, although I did watch a little Netflix before bedtime each night. I really didn’t spend much time at the hotel either, but I didn’t know that would be the case until it was.

I might recap the retreat for you and for posterity later, but here are my initial reactions.

I'm not sorry I went. But if I hadn't gone, I wouldn't have missed the time of my life (although I may have thought I had).

Mostly it was fun, comfortable, and easy. Even the first event was eased by meeting Jean Baruch, the leader of Beads of Courage, who I've interacted with online for more than 10 years. She acted just as thrilled to meet me as I was to meet her, so that was an ego boost.

Me and Jean B
By sheer dumb luck, I had a great seat at one of the two tables, with the people I knew best from social media, and the liveliest crowd. But I may have enjoyed the other table just as much, you just don't know what you don't know.

Sometimes it was a bit tedious. We had demos in the mornings and the rest of the day to either try out the techniques we'd observed or do our own thing.

Related observation: lampwork teachers in general spend too much time on unnecessary perfection, such as getting the shape of the base bead exactly right. It's a demo, we went to see the technique, not how you labor to make a perfect bicone.

We had roughly 9 to 10 hours free to torch on both Friday and Saturday. I'd make a bead, rest, walk around to see what other people were doing, go back and make another bead. The time dragged a bit. Part of that could have been that for me this wasn't a reunion with friends, as it was for the majority of the attendees. If I went again, it might be for me too.

On the last morning, we had a chance to swap beads. I put out my two trays and got a lot of positive reactions, which as you'd suspect was balm to this validation junkie. I even sold a few beads, which was gravy.

The decision about whether I'd go again has been delayed because there won't be a spring retreat next year. A retreat next fall is probable but not definite, and it's uncertain if attendees of this retreat will get first dibs, as they would have in the past.

Having been home for almost a week (and having actually made beads once since, which is more than I did in all of September), upon reflection, I would do it again.


Working standing up
Working working working
That's me top right, working.

Well I know it ain't been roses lately, baby, it's just been thorns
And no matter what we do, nothing seems to change
Love has always been my shelter, for you it's been a storm
But for a while I thought we'd almost beat the rain

Now there's a hole here in my pocket where all my dreams have gone
Fallen out like so many nickels and dimes
And last of all you, you'd always been my good luck charm
I should've known that luck's a waste of time

'Cause it don't bring you love if you don't love
And it don't bring you time if you ain't got time
And it don't bring you strength, baby, if you ain't strong
And it don't bring you kindness if you ain't kind

Now there's a whole lot of life to be unsure of
But there's one thing I can safely say I know
That of all the things that finally desert us
Pride is always the last thing to go

But it won't bring you love if you don't love
And it won't bring you time if you ain't got time
And it won't bring you strength, baby, if you ain't strong
And it won't bring you kindness if you ain't kind

And now I wish you only roses, baby, without the thorns
And I hope your dreams are always within reach
And I wish you shelter, baby, from all your storms
They scared you, but they never seemed to teach

That I can't bring you love if you don't love
And I can't bring you time if you ain't got time
And I can't bring you strength, baby, if you ain't strong
And I can't bring you kindness if you ain't kind

(Mary Carpenter © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz