Awake, Alive, After a Year of Swamps and Shadows.

I’m awake now.

After living the last school year in a state that felt like a long sleep filled with dreams of murky swamp water shadows, me sitting down beneath, looking above like someone sitting at the bottom of a swimming pool in one of those movies or shows, though without wash of summer sunshine, looking up at lily pads floating overhead like alien intelligences whose designs I cannot fathom.

I lived my life, underwater. I did my job, underwater. I spent my weeknights and my weekends, underwater.

Occasionally I’d have phone conversations with family, friends, underwater. I’m surprised they could even understand what I was saying, speaking thickly through swampwatersludge. Sometimes they didn’t. Most of the time, the people I’d talk to knew I was underwater. They were very understanding.

Teaching was the easiest thing to do underwater. I’d been doing it for so long, it was all muscle memory. Things looked clearest when I was teaching. It still had it’s challenges, however.

Paperwork.

Paperwork was hard. So was communicating with my colleagues, my administrators. Paperwork and communicating with my colleagues, that was pretty difficult for me. Sometimes, I hate to admit, I’d snap at people, speak defensively, I thought I was justified. I’d behave in a manner that was not collegial.

I was being a dick, basically.

I got some write-ups. I couldn’t help myself sometimes. They didn’t know. They didn’t understand how difficult it was to work underwater – especially swamp water. They didn’t understand, and it was hard to explain.

Neuroplasticity, my psychiatrist called it.

My ADHD medication was rewiring my brain from randomly spouting flashes and spurts of half-completed ideas to producing clear, organized and orderly rational thoughts, complete with beginning, middle and end. The medication was basically acting like a brace for my brain. And it made me feel stupid. But my struggles at work are another story for another day.

Once in a while, my friends would come and stand at the swamp’s edge.

They yelled out to me, trying to reach out and get my attention. We’re going to be having a get together this weekend, would you like to join? You know we’d love to see you. This band is coming to this bar, we’re all going, would you like to join? I’ll try, I said, lying mostly.

I never went.

Again, I tried explaining to them about the whole it’s-kinda-hard-because-I’m-sitting-down-here-at-the-bottom-of-the-swamp situation and now I’ve gotten pretty used to it. Then there’s the whole swimming back up to the surface. I didn’t have the energy. And honestly, I didn’t want to. That’s the closest I can get to try and describe how it felt this past school year.

I was taking my prescribed medication regularly. I was not, however, exercising or eating right. I’d written some previous blog posts during that time describing how I felt. I stayed home all the time. My lethargy was so utter and complete that I would give my older brother money so he could buy my groceries any time he and his partner went to the store.

I wouldn’t even try to talk to women, because first, it required too much energy, and second, I wouldn’t want to go out. I had no energy to be personable or charming. I couldn’t make it to concerts from bands that I had already paid my ticket for and that I desperately wanted to see, like Snail Mail, and a few others. I didn’t even make it to see the Suicide Girls Blackheart Burlesque show, even though I bought a VIP front section table. I never bothered with refunds.

None of my hobbies or loves or passions or desires would get me up and out into the outside world. I stopped going to the poetry slams. Even practicing with our band wouldn’t happen. I even missed most of the meetings for our Laredo chapter of NAMI.

I had mentioned before that it felt like all the energy I’d expend on teaching my students left me completely and totally drained every night, and come the weekend, I felt totally spent from the work week. My body needed a lot of recovery time.

Then a couple of events occurred in rapid succession:
I went the weekend before Spring Break without any of my medication.
And my brother told me that he and his partner had decided to move back to San Antonio.

Due to some miscalculations on my end and some miscommunications on my pharmacy’s end, I spent all of the first Saturday and Sunday of Spring Break deep in a depression sleep. I told my brother. I told my mother. And I slept. All day Saturday. All day Sunday. I finally picked up my medication on Monday. I went to bed early.

Then the strangest thing happened.

I woke up at nine AM Tuesday morning. Without an alarm. My eyes just popped open.
I had rested, a good, long, deep rest. I felt recharged, so I got up, and for the rest of the week, as I began taking my medication regularly again, I was actually doing chores, running errands – it was such an amazingly strange sensation having energy.

I began feeling restless on weekend nights. I started craving going out again. Being around people – my friends. Our band began practicing regularly again. Even my work relationships improved.

Then my brother told me that he was going to be moving back to San Antonio.
I admit I had a moment of selfishness, but it came and went like a Laredo summer shower. Three years of self-reflection, meditation, and medication had finally given me rationality and balance.

My brother had stepped in when I needed him the most. He uprooted his life with his partner in San Antonio, after years of living on their own, to come down and help me out, moving into his bedroom, with his mother. I knew what that felt like. I knew how hard it was. And it was hard, but we tried to make the best of it. And as hard as it was, it was hardest on his partner, who for those three long years would apply for countless jobs and never be hired. He had his own mental health issues and it was taking a toll on him.

So I understood. They were living a half-life. I wouldn’t have survived the first year after my father’s death without him. My oldest brother stepped in and shouldered the burden, along with his partner, of feeding my mom, balancing her checkbook, fixing up the house.

My brother and I had made an agreement, when my father was ill: I cared for our father and did my best to see him through to his passing, and I would do the same for our mother, when the time came, while during that time, he would see to the day to day running of the household. He allowed me time to recover and to rest.

And I did.

He gave me that gift.

I’ve said before that meditating – along with the medication – had allowed me to get in touch with my body. I’ve said that I learned to listen to my body, learned to surf on the crest of it’s ebb and flow. I knew my days of resting had a limited shelf life.

Then, weeks later, my brother and his partner went to San Antonio for a few days to scope things out. When they came back, they both returned with secured jobs. Now if that isn’t a sign from the Divine, then I don’t know what is. It was meant to be.
Our lives were about to change drastically once again. Gone would be the days of me lazing about.

My mind knew it.

My body knew it.

Then the wheel turned, as it always does, and summer came.

And on the first Saturday of the first weekend of summer, I began doing my laundry, which had piled up in layers of strata months old. I cleaned my room. I cut the back and front yard grass. I grabbed a saw and I began to trim the branches of my Three Sisters out in the backyard. I began working out again. I went back to drinking my protein shakes.

I was asked to be in a play and I said yes – the first play where I portray a character that has the most lines I’ve ever had. I went to a cast party.

I hosted a birthday party for myself. I actually grilled fajita and chicken, after not cooking anything for almost a whole year. I helped my brothers organize and pack for their big move.

That last week before they left was a hard one – for all us.

The boxes gathering like the accumulating gray cloud gloom of a coming downpour.

I broke down twice.

But we talked. I told him how much I’d miss him, and I thanked him. But my room was clean, my brother saw me getting up early, saw me work out a daily routine.

Before he left I told him not to worry about me, or mom, that I would be able to take of everything now, that I could manage it, and he knew it, because he got to see it before he left.

Am I cured of my mental illness? Of course not. There is no cure, only management. But over the course of these three past years, I learned to manage my depression in positive, healthy ways. I know I will have bad days, but I know that I’ll survive them.

Today marks the third official day of me and my mom being on our own, and we’re doing fine.

We slip into routines easier now. I spend time watching TV with her. She colors. I write. We talk. I’m out and about now. My mom will be around for a long time, so I definitely need to stay in shape in order to keep up with her – but it benefits me as well.

The murk is gone now.
My mind and body purged it – as soon as my brother had told me, everything cleared up almost instantly. My body knew, and it was ready, and snapped to. I’m ready to shoulder responsibilities again – mine and my mother’s.

I am her companion, her guardian, her protector – and honestly, I know that this is how it’s supposed to be. I know that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

I’m happy.

I’m at peace.

I’m not worried about any problems in the future.

I know it’ll be okay.

I know I can handle it.

My energy is back.

My eyes are open.

My head is clear.

I’m awake now.

Where’veI’veBeen???

“I shut and locked the front door

No way in or out

I turned and walked the hallways

And pulled the curtains down

yeah I knelt and emptied the mouths of every plug around …

I’m in hiding …”

-Pearl Jam, In Hiding.

I am a man adrift on a raft on a sea of my Major Depression management.

It’s funny – I totally believe in medication – prescribed and administered properly.

God knows it’s helped me. But it’s never a cure-all. There’s a mental health saying that goes, “recovery never happens in a straight line.” And it’s true.

I know I’ve gotten better.

I feel it.

My psychiatrist told me he wasn’t worried about me anymore – and that was months ago I’m done grieving – both for my father’s passing away and my breakup.

So I’m feeling a strange kind of numbness.My emotional state goes from numb to even to content.

However, setbacks – predominately at work – really do set me back. I still feel the gravitational lethargic pull to my bed, to fall in, stay, and disappear.

One day I took off from work, I stayed in bed for most of the day. The following day as well. I recover back to neutral.

I go on.

I’ve isolated myself.

People and their problems were too much for me.

I had kind of lost myself in trying to be available to help others – as a way of avoiding my own problems, but also as a way of doing penance for the wrongs I’ve caused others. But people are people, and they’ll do whatever they’re driven to do anyway.

I did.

So I cut off everybody and cocooned myself.

I’d sit outside, smoke my pipe, and think. Sometimes listen to music. Often without, instead listening to the sigh and sway of The Three Sisters.

It’s calming.

Now the school year’s ending.Summer’s coming.

Summer’s coming.

I can feel it.

I’m getting restless.

My energy is coming back, now that it is not 100% focused on my students.

Another change comes with it.

And who I will be after that, who can say?

I just ride the ocean tides.

Dispatches From the World of Depression: I am a Foolish Man Blessed with Wonderful Women in my Life – The Healing Virtues of Mothers, Daughters, and Magical Blankets. 

And I’m up and alive and blessed by the sun.


It’s funny the things you get when you ask.

I’ve personally never had a problem with asking.

I was the baby of the family, so asking for things becomes par for the course. In a family of four siblings, it’s a way to ensure that you get your proper share of whatever choice goodies are proffered. As part of the process of asking, you learn to develop and utilize your charm. 

I’m the type of person who will go into any shop or store and ask for freebies or samples – more so when I was off my meds. I’m the type of person who will go to the movies, and if I don’t like what I’m watching, will walk out of the theater and go ask for a rain check – and I’ll get it. And I always find it surprising that many people find my behavior outrageous, that they would never ever ask for anything like that.

I think it’s outrageous to not try to get what you want, or to sit there in a darkened theater and suffer through two hours of your life that you will never get back,  watching a movie that’s horribly made.

That’s the type of person I am. Those are the things that I do. In a heartbeat.

But when it comes to me being sick, I’ve found that I have a very hard time asking for help. My mouth transmutes from flesh, muscle, cartilage, and bone to lead.

So, Friday night, when I was in the middle of my depressive episode, I knew I needed help, I knew I needed something. 

I was lying on the couch we have in our music room/study feeling leaden-limbed, and I called out to my mother, who was in the den watching TV and coloring the color books she uses for relaxation. And I felt bad, because she was by herself. She came over. I apologized. I explained to her how I felt. She said she understood.

You see, when I’m in that depressive state where I can’t move, I feel such oppressive guilt. I don’t want my mom to think that I’m ignoring her. I feel like I’m failing as a son, a forty-two year old man, a human being – despite everything I do, and I need to hear that it’s okay, to allay some of that guilt. 

My mom did that. She told me what I think anybody who’s struggled with depression wants to hear from a loved one: that it’s alright, get your rest, take as much time as you need. 

So I asked if she could bring me a banana and some walnuts because I hadn’t eaten anything that day. She did.

I ate a little, then lay there a while. 

Then my mom comes back in. In her hands she’s holding a charcoal gray blanket. I have never seen this blanket before in my life. She covers me with it. And I’m amazed because this has to be the most comfortable-feeling blanket I’ve ever felt. My mom didn’t make a fuss. She left quickly. I was near tears. I thanked her.

I laid there, wrapping myself up in the soft comfort of the blanket, and somehow, I found myself texting my ex-girlfriend’s eldest daughter, who I helped raise since she was twelve. She had texted me earlier, and it occurred to me that I never responded. 

But in the middle of texting her I had a thought, and something compelled me, so I asked. I asked the eighteen year old girl who I helped raise if she could stop by my house and give me a hug. Her mother struggles with depression as well, so she understands. 

I fully prepared myself for her to say no. She’s a teenager. I’m no longer with her mother. I waited, not very hopeful.

She texted back yes.

My leaden heart jumped slightly. Then I slipped back into a stupor. 

The doorbell rang. There was a knock at the door. 

She came. 

My mom, surprised and happy to see her, let her in. I heard her talking. I heard hellos being said, but there seemed to be more voices. Then to my surprise, she brought her younger sister with her.

Four and a half years I did my best to raise these girls. I gave them my heart unconditionally. They still have it. I have no other children. These are my daughters.

And when I needed, my daughters came. They sat beside me a while, they gave me hugs, and they let me hug them back. Then they stayed a while. They were themselves, being dorks and children and sisters – the eldest threw the youngest the finger behind my back, but I knew so I called her out, and we all just laughed. They sat a while longer, then they left.

I felt loved. I felt alive. I felt the lead in my limbs lightened.

They came, because I needed help.

And they enveloped me in their love.

For a moment we were a family again.

For a moment I had my daughters again – most probably the only children I’ll ever have.

And their love, and their energy, and their youth lifted me up a bit.

And for me, that bit was enough. 

Always …

The Last Homely House. 

The magic and comfort of The Last Homely House.

Always a light on.
Always a song to sing.
Always a tale to tell.
Always good food to eat.
Always good drink to drink. Always a chair to sit.            

Always a place of peace, love, and good cheer.

And a fine place for a think, which is what I need right now.