The Maze

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching lately.

Ok, more than a lot…

I sometimes feel like I am in purgatory. Not heaven, not hell.

I sometimes get to touch heaven. Taste it. Embrace it. Let it envelope me. Let me enjoy it.

Relax.

Avoid the chaos.

But my life rides on a pendulum. I am only there for a brief moment before I begin the long, agonizing ride back.

My past haunts me.

My present mocks me.

My future is a tease.

I am “starting over” in life. I never spent time thinking about what that meant until recently.

Starting over.

Examining your past. Looking at what you bring to the table. Realizing what you damaged.

I have painfully come to the realization that my accomplishments in life have been small.

Insignificant.

If I had to write down a list of my accomplishments I would not get far past “being a father.”

I get by.

I got by.

And now I have entered a maze. There is the light at the exit, but my past has created the walls.

They are thick.

They are tall.

I can’t see over them.

They have no cracks for me to peek through.

The walls are my past. They keep me trapped. They lead me to dead ends. They tease me with different entrances.

But they always take me back.

For a brief period I see my heaven. I feel the love. I feel the caring. I feel the emotions. I can see such a wonderful future. I think I may finally get there.

But it is short lived.

I return to the chaos.

My pendulum descends.

Tired.

Sad.

Anxious.

Depressed.

Lonely.

My heaven is strong. She is patient. She understands. She gives me hope. She surrounds me.

Can I escape my walls?

 

What is Happiness?

I’ve been gone for a while.

Mentally.

Pressure kept building while I did my best to ignore it.

I stopped caring.

Stopped being happy.

Then someone took a tiny crowbar and entered my heart. Suddenly there was light on the horizon instead of the dark clouds that consumed me so intensely. Happiness once again warmed my skin. Love filled my pores. I realized I still had some purpose.

Sitting in the airport yesterday, she challenged me on something I said. She always challenges me.

It’s bittersweet.

Emotional.

I told her that she makes me want to be better. But did I really know what that meant? I said that I want to have the life where I can make someone else happy.

Seems easy enough, right?

She challenged me. “So for you, being better means making the people you love happy?”

At first I thought a simple, “Yes” was the answer. But I was boarding the plane and had a few minutes to think about it.

At what point does making someone “happy” destroy a relationship? Does it involve avoiding an argument just to make someone happy? Is it conceding just to avoid conversation? Is it the irrational belief that just by saying the right things everything will turn around and be ok?

Maybe I thought so. I’m not sure.

I would be challenged on that statement too.

Getting to my seat on the plane, I understood that’s not happiness.

It’s avoidance.

I’m good at avoiding. Diverting.

I’m happy when I can make someone happy, but not because I am looking for the things that make that person happy. I want happiness to be natural.

No, I NEED it to be natural. It gives me purpose. It gives me life. It gives me love.

Maybe I can overcome my struggles.

There is hope.

Hope.

Not just hope that I can “fix” something…hope that I don’t need to try to use happiness to fix the unfixable.

Hope.

Reflecting on the “what ifs” in life

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After a week in Washington DC, and then a week in Dallas, I decided to take back-to-back four day weekends.

It was VERY needed.

Too many after-hours “get togethers”, hot temps, high humidity, and airports.

One thing that I completely enjoy living here in Montana is the ability to go fishing for some massive trout.

Fishing is an interesting activity, especially when doing it by myself. Each day I spent at least four hours out on the water with nothing to do but think…and recharge.

After the mandatory thoughts about if my bait is still on after casting, do I have enough leader, is it the right bait, and if I should put on bug spray, my mind started wandering to more reflective thoughts.

Mostly I spent many hours thinking about “what if”.

Having just recently turned 42 and dealing with depression, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on my life, and how it would have been different with some of the decisions I made through the years.

Probably the most important decision I made early on was to join the Army. I joined the summer of my senior year in high school, mostly because I really didn’t have any plans for when I graduated. I wasn’t the best student, and honestly I never really considered what was going to happen when I was no longer in school. College wasn’t an interest, but neither was working in fast food.

It’s hard for me to imagine my life had I not joined. The Army allowed me to travel the world. It allowed me to see how my life growing up was really sheltered to the struggles people in other nations suffered. This was way before the Internet age, so the only real knowledge I had about poverty and suffering was the commercials about the drought and starvation happening in Ethiopia. That was basically it.

I knew nothing about Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, or any other war-torn country. Terrorism was something that was happening in Ireland. Racism and gangs were newspaper articles.

But much of my time reflecting on the “what if” goes back to the day I decided not to reenlist. Where would I be in life had I decided to stay in? As much as I struggled in High School, once I was out I became a sponge for knowledge. I re-took my ASVAB and scored very high. In fact, when it was time to reenlist the recruiter told me that I could have nearly any job I wanted in the Army and could choose whatever base I wanted.

I was seriously considering becoming a combat photographer. But I was too young and dumb and figured I could just get out and become successful wherever I landed.

It was a major wake-up when I landed here in Montana with no skills, no job, and no money.

That was 20 years ago.

A lifetime ago.

Where would I be had I stayed in?

We have been in war forever. People I served with have died in battle. Would that have been me too?

Would I be married? Would I have children?

I know that I wouldn’t have the son I have now. Wyatt is the most important thing in my life. Yes, he even rates above my wife. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. I think she would say the same about me.

That’s one thing that I always thought about in the movie “The Family Man” with Nick Cage. He ends up with the woman he should have, but the children are not there. Yes, they will probably have them, but would they be the same?

I always think back to that time in life when I made that big decision. Many times I think my life may have been better, but a major piece would be missing.

I think I made the right choice.

#Depression is a Bitch

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This is going to be a tough discussion.

Not easy to type either. Or talk in person, or even think about.

But depression is a bitch. And I have it.

I don’t know when. I don’t know where. I don’t know why. But I have it.

On the outside, you would never know it. Hell, people in my “inner circle” wouldn’t even know. I’m an excellent actor. After all, I am an introvert that does a ton of public speaking.

I’m not in the medical field. I have no real research, so this blog is only going to be about my experience. Don’t take it as medical advice.

Seriously, please don’t.

But I have to talk about it. If anything maybe it will be beneficial for me. I don’t know if we introverts have a higher rate of depression or not. It would seem to make sense to me since many of us cherish our alone time. But with alone time comes that dreaded thinking time.

A little history about me.

I grew up in a middle class family. A happy family for the most part. After graduation from High School I joined the Army and spent four years being a soldier. A successful soldier.

When it was time to get out, I did. A buddy and I drove around the country in a U-Haul truck until we ran out of money in a small town in Montana. If you have been to Montana, most towns are small.

About a year later I moved to the capitol city, and even though I struggled to get back in “civilian mode”, I was fortunate to land a decent job that allowed me to pursue my degree while working.

College came much easier to me than High School did, and I graduated with a 3.5 gpa.

I met my wife (The Hippy), we got married and enjoyed travel vacations as my career became more and more successful. We were able to buy a house, and though it took a long time, were blessed with an awesome son. We’ve also been blessed enough that The Hippy has been able to be a Stay-at-Home mother for that awesome son.

So why do I battle that bitch depression?

I don’t know.

I do know that I would go through what I called my “blue” periods at times before my diagnosis.

They didn’t register much to me though. It was in my mind it was just my time that I needed to be alone to recharge. Perhaps it was.

Perhaps I just didn’t recognize the truth.

Finally a little over a year ago I told my doctor that I thought I might have a little depression.

But when I got my prescription, it was an eye opener. My bottle had the lovely diagnosis on it of treatment for “major depression.”

MAJOR.

To be honest, it was kind of a relief. I didn’t have to wonder. I didn’t have to WebMD myself. It was in black and white.

MAJOR.

But treatable.

So it’s been over a year now. My meds have been increased slightly once, but for the most part it helps. People still don’t know. People would be shocked. When someone asks how I’m doing as part of opening a conversation, I don’t really answer. My answer is, “How are YOU doing?”

I still have times when I am sitting alone “recharging” when I wonder if I am really recharging or being depressed.

When I was down in Denver last week I had the opportunity to have dinner with a high school buddy of mine. I haven’t seen him since we graduated nearly 25 years ago. I haven’t seen anyone from high school since then since I don’t live in Colorado anymore.

I actually was hoping during the day of our bro-date that he would cancel. This was a good friend of mine. Someone I still consider a friend through Facebook. But I just wanted to sit in my hotel room, order room service, and do nothing.

He didn’t cancel.

I’m glad he didn’t.

I enjoyed reconnecting with him. It was by far the best part of the entire week. He’s also kind of a hippy dude, like my wife.

The moral, if there is one…if you “think” you may be battling depression, talk to your doctor about it.

I didn’t want to. I don’t know how long I have been suffering, but I didn’t want to admit any weakness. But I am better for it.

Yeah, I have to take some meds each morning. If I miss them I have some pretty jacked up dreams at night. But ultimately I think it makes me a better person.

You deserve to be better too.

Trust me.