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Watching the tribute by Billy Crystal for Robin Williams on The Emmy’s Monday night brought back all my sadness over his loss. For me the sadness goes so much deeper than just the loss of an amazingly gifted actor but that depression took away his realization of just how special he was.

As many of you already know, from being part of my e-mailings back in 2010, I have been living with Diagnosed Major Depression for many years. Too many people keep their depression a secret as I did for a very long time and in doing so they loose the understanding & support of friends and family who can’t understand your behavior. That support is so important in order to remind you over and over again how much life is worth living and that there are people in your life whom you are important to.

I myself was at one of my lowest points in a while on that Sunday right before he died, but hearing on the news the next day about his suicide was a wake-up call reminding me that nothing in life is worth ending it like that. There are always people who love you and depend on you even when you have a hard time recognizing them.

I hope his life and his death will bring this realization to a lot of people suffering as he did. More than that, I hope it will make the world more aware and understanding of people’s struggles. Depression is a disease, it has symptoms and causes debilitation the same way other diseases do, so reach out the same way you would to anyone who has a serious disease. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference you can make in their life.

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My father broke his hip almost 18 months ago and within the first month he handed over his car keys to my husband Craig saying “You’re going to need another car soon (my daughter had her driver’s permit) and I’d like it to stay in the family. I know you will take good care of it.” It was a relief to us and to my mom that he had realized on his own that he was now unable to drive and needed to give up his car without any of us having to discuss it with him. We all knew he should no longer be driving.

For all this time we had left the car in their car port waiting for my daughter Hayley to get her license which she was in no hurry to get. During that time Craig went over to start the car on a weekly basis. He washed and totally detailed it so she could feel like she was getting a new car. Finally last week she went for her road test and passed; she is now a licensed driver. The very next day we went to the DMV to have the title transferred and the car re-registered. Craig put the new plates on the car, cleaned up the old ones and we brought them to my father. We handed the plates over to him and gave him a last glimpse of the car before we drove it to its new home. He took a look at it from his doorway and said “It’s still a beautiful car.” He was sad to see it go, but happy that it was staying in the family.

Today we went to visit him so that Hayley could take him for his first ride as a passenger in that car and he didn’t remember that he had given it to us. It was heart breaking to see the sadness and confusion on his face. It was meant to be a happy occasion, a passing down from one generation to the next and a celebration of a granddaughter being able to share something so important with her grandfather as her first car being his last, instead it made me sad to think that he was losing his car all over again and feeling like we were taking it away from him instead of him giving it to us as was his original intention. He and my mom went for the ride with her but the joy was no longer there.

Life is cruel sometimes and for all of us watching my Dad as his memories come and go it is heartbreaking.

Gratitude

The wind blew, hard and fast, with very little rain. Everyone was huddled at home hoping the storm wouldn’t be as bad as all the weathermen had predicted. “Be prepared” they had been saying for the past week. Everyone had done their shopping, stocking up for a big storm. They made sure they had food for the long haul, bottled water in case the water supply became contaminated, candles and batteries for flashlights in case the power went out.
We sat and watched the news listening to the awful predictions, the mayor of New York telling people how to prepare, the governor of New Jersey evacuating areas that were expected to get the worst of the storm.
There was a hurricane a little over a year ago and homes all along the shore were flooded, some areas without electricity for a few days, even areas near lakes and Rivers flooded because they didn’t realize the water levels would get so high that a whole town could be flooded almost as deep as the lake usually is.
This hurricane was going to be different. Towns dredged their lakes to ensure they wouldn’t rise up so high again from all the rain. But this hurricane brought winds with very little rain. The winds brought massive wave surges all along the shore, bigger than any waves any one had ever seen in their lifetime. The hurricane struck while the Moon was full making the tides even higher than ever before.
The shore was wiped out; towns no longer there. But we didn’t know this because by then the power had gone out and we were plunged into darkness with no TV or radio for news. Luckily our cell phones were still working. Everyone in our family was safe just without power. My parents, both in their eighties were safely tucked away at my sister’s house; even my nephew, home with his wife and newborn daughter just two weeks old. We worried about them being in the cold at night with a newborn but they were lucky and their electricity came back within a few hours. We were really happy for them and knew that if they got their power back we should have power by morning; after all we live in the same community.
We had dinner before the lights went out; we had candles and flashlights so everything was all right. The food in our refrigerator and deep freeze could survive until morning. We read and played cards by candlelight sure we had made it through the storm.
The next morning came and the power was still out. Our neighbor was nice enough to share his generator so our refrigerator was plugged in and our freezer hopefully would survive another day.
Three days went by, feeling like forever. We brought our daughter back from college into our home without power but still better then sleeping on the floor in the student center, eating pizza from one of the restaurants lucky enough to have the power her college was without. We had homemade soup which had defrosted in the freezer so it wouldn’t go to waste and we were lucky enough to be able to use our stove top. She went to my nephew’s house to take a shower since our water was no longer even warm. My husband and I planned on taking our showers there the next day.
The next morning my husband went out for more supplies. He bought candles, water and fresh milk. He sat on line for 2 hours to refill the gas tank in his car and to get 5 gallons of gasoline for the generator. Meanwhile, at home, I was busy cooking dinner so that I wouldn’t have to cook in the dark that night. When he came home we got ready to go to my nephew’s house to take showers. Just as we were about to leave the lights came on and the power was back. Since our water wouldn’t be hot enough for showers until later we decided to still go.
While my husband was taking his shower I sat on the couch and watched the news with everyone else. I was stunned to see the devastation that had taken place on Long Island and at the jersey shore. Places that we had just visited that summer were destroyed. I couldn’t have imagined that the storm could have done that much damage.
While my husband took my mother back to her home to empty her refrigerator and freezer of the food that had spoiled and to pick up some more clothing, I took my shower and returned to watching the news with everyone else. We saw both governors from New York and New Jersey citing how many people were without electricity in both states. We saw people in Staten Island who couldn’t even find their homes.
When I saw a woman searching the area for any scrap of memories and crying when she was lucky enough to find her mother’s wedding picture it nearly broke my heart. Up until that time I was grateful that everyone in my family and most of my friends had their electricity back and were all safe, but seeing all that devastation made me grateful for so much more. I was lucky enough to have my family surrounding me, a home to go back to, and all my photos and memories intact.

My heart and prayers go out to all those who weren’t so lucky and hope that your lives will soon get back to normal and that your hearts will heal.

Life Update

So many things have been floating around in my mind lately that I just had to sit down to write. I’ve been so busy with family things, both good (college searching, prom, graduation) and bad (my father breaking his hip, slow recovery, doctor visits for both my parents). I’ve learned a lot this year about who and what is important in life and although financially this has been one of the hardest years we’ve had in our almost 26 years of marriage, it has also been one of the happiest.
Honestly, I have never been one to care about money and my idea of comfortable is much simpler than most people’s, but we have sacrificed much in our lives to get by. Craig used to work between 60-70 hours a week and spend close to 4 hours a day commuting. He missed so much time with his family which we can never get back. We spent many years being angry at each other because I thought he didn’t spend enough time with me and the kids and Craig felt I wasn’t doing enough at home. For those of you who followed my “Countdown to 50” e-mails you know already about my years of depression, but for those of you who didn’t let me just say I wasted too many years not dealing with my depression. Now I realize that time is worth so much more than money.
Craig has been home now for a long time because Citibank moved his position down to Tampa and it’s been hard to find a new job at this stage of his life, but I’ve realized I never want to go back to that life we had before. The first thing I want to say to all of you is that no matter what stage of life you are at remember that marriage begins and ends with only two people. Last week Craig and I were able to get a taste of life without either of our kids, while they both took a few days away with friends. We enjoyed doing things together, spending time together and remembering that we started out as friends. During the many years of raising kids most couples forget what brought them together in the first place.
With that being said, I’d now like to talk about the importance of friends. I have hinted for months about the fact that I don’t have time in my life for “friends” who really aren’t. I have unfortunately had a number of times in my life when I have been able to clearly see who those are (when I broke my leg back in 2003 and was laid up for 4 months, during my years of hidden depression and when my father broke his hip, to name just a few). The things I’ve learned during those times is that sometimes the people you always counted as friends really aren’t and those people you never were that close with really care about you and what’s going on in your life.
Now that Craig and I will again have a lot of time as a couple, I am hoping to be able to branch out and make time for those I truly count as friends.

New Year 5772

New Year 5772

Every September comes around and kids go back to school, it makes me want to start something new. Then, the high holidays come around and give me a reason to start anew. It gives me a week to stop and think about the past year and what I want to change about this New Year. I think the problem is every year I want to start over, make changes to myself and my life instead of just trying to be a better me. I’m so busy worrying about not reaching my goals and disappointing other people in my life instead of saying “I’ll just take each day and make it the best one possible.”

On Yom Kippur, during the Rabbi’s sermon, he spoke about the need to be perfect and how it harms you because no one is perfect and trying to be perfect means that you are living up to other people’s opinions of you instead of just being who you are. This has always been my problem; never feeling “good enough” and always trying to be perfect because only perfect is good enough. I felt like he was talking directly to me. I cried because it was like someone understood me. Craig took my hand and I realized there was someone else who understood me.

 The Rabbi spoke about forgiving your parents and forgiving your children because they are also less than perfect; what that meant to me is that hopefully someday my children will be able to forgive me for being less than perfect. My need for perfection and never feeling good enough fed my depression and just kept me buried in it. I hope that someday my husband and my kids will forgive me for the life my depression and need for perfection made us live, but this year, I think I’ll learn to forgive myself.

Facebook started out as a wonderful thing which reconnected me with friends I hadn’t seen, and in some cases hadn’t even thought about in years. It gave me a real happiness boost as I searched for old friends and caught up on what they had been up to during all the years we had been apart. It was fun having mini reunions and seeing people again. It brought me memories of all the happy times in my youth and a reminder of who I was then. The support I received from all my “friends” while I was “counting down to fifty”, disclosing all the problems my depression had caused me, where I wish I was in my life and what all my dreams were (and in most cases still are), was invaluable. I thank you all wholeheartedly for your friendship and support.
Unfortunately, Facebook no longer brings me the joy it once did. It brings me news of all the people who no longer have any time for me, of people who have busy and complete lives, of people who have close family relationships, many friends, much activity and happiness in their lives. It is a constant reminder to me of how far my depression threw me off the track I was on in my life, how much harm it did to not only me, but to my family, and how much is missing from my life.
I am wondering how many other people are not as happy with Facebook as they once were.

 

“Walking with your friend in the dark  is better than walking alone in the light.”

                                               – Helen Keller

Dear Friends,

I am finally feeling well enough to give you an update on how I’ve been doing since my second surgery. Monday will be 8 weeks since the first surgery and 4 weeks since the second.  As you already know, I have been doing oxygen treatments since just after my first surgery.  I was scheduled to do 30 treatments, but I had planned on ending after my 28th which fell on September 30th and was the last day of our cobra insurance. I planned on coming home after my last treatment and doing all the things I haven’t been able to do because of the oxygen treatments like wearing make-up and jewelry, polishing my nails and my toe nails which had been growing so nicely from all the oxygen, putting cream on my hands and body, using powder and perfume, but that’s not what happened.  I missed my last treatment because I woke up overnight on Thursday September 30th with a virus. I was really hoping by morning I would feel well enough to go but I just felt worse. I wasn’t feeling fully like myself again until Monday. 

I have spent the last week really getting back into the swing of things and while I’m still not allowed to carry anything too heavy or strain myself too much, I’m pretty much back to normal.  Now it’s just a matter of waiting for the scars to fade.

Thank you to all my friends who kept in contact with me during this ordeal, your kind thoughts and prayers were so much appreciated and just knowing you cared helped speed my recovery along.

Karen