Depression: the Reason vs the Lesson

29 03 2016

You-Are-Not-Powerless

When my kids aren’t with me, I try to stay as connected to them as possible. I find funny videos or stories and text them links. Or try to remember what type of fruit snacks my daughter likes and shoot her a quick message. (It’s Kellogs, by the way – talk about brand loyalty). These things help me, a little, but as I have told only a few people, I fall into a depression during extended periods of not seeing them.

It feels like I remember feeling as an adolescent – the irritable feeling that there is a heightened sensitivity of some chemical that is coursing through my blood stream. It feels like a low grade sunburn – but from the inside. That’s the only way I can describe it.

For a while, I thwarted ideas that this was depression because it seemed so episodic and also, I was sensitive to my tiny, insignificant plight being a potential affront to those who suffer, truly suffer, from this disposition. But after this past week, there could be no denying it. Last week, I spent a good 3 days just telling myself, at every opportunity I could get, to just “be with the feeling” and “just get through it”. As it stands, I am with my kids now and it is the first time that I have felt like writing anything down in a coherent fashion.

I had tried journaling over and over again the past few days. Everything I wrote just sent me into a further state of disgust. I couldn’t articulate anything in a way that I thought could possibly be understood, let alone revered as some desperate, pathetic diatribe that no one would give two craps about. (Yes, that is the American Psychological Association approved metric for level of depression – the amount of craps others may give to your cause.)

I was in NYC for a couple days last week and at one point, went to a bar, alone, to sit down with my laptop, have a pint and try to describe how I was feeling, hoping that somehow I would not feel like crawling out of my skin. My goal was to write some amazing blog post about what depression feel likes, smells like, tastes like, etc. Oh, it was going to be both artsy and profound and garner me with a million likes and even a guest spot on Huff Po. Instead, I couldn’t make it through the first sentence and after getting a text message from a friend about going to an open mic, downed what was left of my Brooklyn Lager and got on the closest subway I could find to downtown.

The thing is that I have this thing where I am always “trying to keep myself honest” – you know, waiting for someone I respect to tell me I belong on the comedy circuit or a peer I respect to tell me I am a good marketer or writer or a psychologist to tell me that I do “have anxiety or depression”, whatever that is. I don’t need any of those. What I really need to do is just listen to myself. I don’t have to keep myself honest if I am honest…with myself. Having someone validate that I am having a tough time is like asking someone at the Hair Cuttery to officially designate my hair as “curly and unruly”. It just is.

I am anxious because I can tell that something has shifted and not necessarily for the better. I can tell that I am about to enter into a period that will not be easy but can be transformative if I am willing to take it day by day, hour by hour and breath by breath. I have a whole different (and growing) skill set to cope now that I did not have before and really, what other choice is there? I have to believe that I am here and at this point in this journey not necessarily for a reason but at least for a lesson. The two can be very different things. I can be passive about reason but with a lesson? Not so much. It’s up to me now.

Until next time,

Marc





Emotional Storage

12 12 2015
Messy_storage_room_with_boxes

Scientists have finally revealed what the inside of my brain looks like.

I have been working slowly – actually, I think I’ve given new definition to the word “slow” – let’s say, “slothily”- through the various rooms and closets in my house in preparation for ultimately moving at some unforeseen time between now and the next sighting of Haley’s Comet, scheduled for sometime in 2062.

Over the years, I have realized that having lots of things and clutter around me does nothing to help with anxiety. Or, actually, it helps anxiety a lot – which is the problem. I need help ridding of anxiety, as the case may be. Always thinking ahead, my prominent thought is “how the hell are my kids going to get rid of all this crap after I die?” No one can accuse me of not planning ahead.

There are so many things that have been boxed up and set aside in storage for years and years. I am not sure when exactly I am planning to re-look at all of this stuff. Perhaps it is this fear that one day, if I am lucky enough to become elderly, I will be all alone; just me, a practical cup of tea, my new “iCollar” for the elderly implanted in my wrist and a handkerchief surrounded by nothing but photographs and illegible artwork and a slew of elementary school report cards to remind me of a life long past. How freaking depressing! And don’t get me started on the compendium of marriage related photos, albums, letters, cards, and wedding paraphernalia that were left behind for me. There is a whole section of my attic that looked like a marriage threw up in there.

No thank you!

Always one to look for the meaning in anything, (as is the tendency of “Sags” as I recently learned), it occurred to me that I have been carrying quite a load in my emotional storage locker, as well.

You are probably familiar with the idea of “carrying baggage” around – those experiences and feelings that can become obstacles to us moving forward in life. But what about storage?

Storage, to me, is even worse. With baggage, you can compartmentalize or hopefully, discard all together, but storage? You’re in for the long-term, brothers and sisters! With storage, you are just taking all your crap and placing it somewhere else where it never goes away. Sure, in the short-term, it’s great to be rid of it for a while, but it’s there…looming, waiting, and eventually, reminding you of, wait for it – your baggage.

I write a lot about thoughts and the impact that this has had on me, both in a positive and negative manner. Many of my thoughts are all about storage because I don’t necessarily carry them with me front and center but they are nestled deep in some cerebral storage locker just waiting to be uncovered, unpacked and let loose. The hell with that.

I am committing myself to trashing, donating or selling most of everything I have stored up – physically and mentally. So, if you are interested in some thoughts, perceptions and feelings that aren’t of any use to me anymore, hit me up – I am very reasonable.

What are you storing that it’s time to discard?

Until next time,

Marc





1 12 2015

please read

I have been pretty silent on this blog for the past few weeks.

Despite having plenty to say, I felt like no matter what I tried to write, much like my discourse with friends and family, there was a hue of negativity. I am fighting hard against that, albeit not that successfully.

I am not sure if it has to do with the holidays or the milieu of seemingly never ending uncertainty that surrounds me or a combination of both.

I have been exercising, meditating, writing, playing music, listing all the people and things I have so much to be grateful for, talking to myself – you name it, and, believe me there is so much good, but even when trying to put all that into perspective, I could go to some pretty dark places.

I don’t need anything for the holidays other than the experience of being with people I really care about and for that, I am eternally grateful. If I could escape from my thoughts once in a while and maybe just one morning out of each week, awaken with a sense of calm instead of a sense of anxiety, that would be icing on the cake.

The purpose of this blog is not about me, though. It’s about you.

In our age of Facebook posts, tweets and instantaneous sharing and feedback, it can feel lonelier than ever, at least to me. My plea to anyone reading this is simple: if anything like what I have described resonates with you, reach out to someone – anyone – just to talk. It is amazing what 5 minutes can do. If that person is me, that is fine by me. If you don’t feel like you have anyone to reach out, then try me – marckaye91@gmail.com. (I’m working on being a good listener – or at least that’s what I tell myself.) There is no better way to help oneself than helping others so this is me being selfish.

This is a difficult time of year for a lot of people and when we should be entering a period of deep and profound gratitude and connection, for some, it can feel like the exact opposite.

It doesn’t have to feel that way at all.

I hope for all of you true peace.

Until next time,

Marc





In this corner, Anxiety. In this corner, Fear.

29 08 2015

Man, this fight sucks.

Man, this fight sucks.

I have written about fear enough times in this blog in the past but when something occurs that reminds me of how powerful this really is, I feel compelled to write about it again.

Just to reiterate what I may have alluded to in the past, I am not speaking of fear associated with flight or fight – the fear of walking down a dark alley in the city at 2 am or being diagnosed with something horrible. I am talking about the fears that we wear as a coat ourselves – either real or imagined – that become part of us without even knowing it and ultimately mold us into who we think we need to be rather than who we are.

I have to admit, that even after seeing that scientific pinnacle of the psychological community “Inside Out” with my kids, I wasn’t sure if fear was truly an emotion. According to Wikipedia (which is not scientific but I trust more than, say, Donald Trump), fear “occurs as the result of threats that are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable” and is related to but “should be distinguished from” the emotion of anxiety.

I also realized that I took for granted that I thought I understood exactly what an emotion was. It is defined as:”an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced.”

This is starting to gel now. If my effective state of consciousness is an anxious one, then the resulting experience is fear. If, on the opposite side of the spectrum, my effective state of consciousness is one of contentment, joy is the resulting experience. Makes sense. (Interesting to me how, out of all the experiences referenced in the definition, 75% of them are not so great – necessary but not necessarily great to feel. Had to be written by a Jew – just saying. It’s how we’re wired.)

For many reasons, I had socialized myself to live in a state of anxiety about comedy or anything creative for that matter. I had always done music and that seemed more acceptable but admitting to stand-up always gave me an uncomfortable sqeamish feeling that was hard to ignore. 

Today, my kids and I met long time friends (past neighbors of ours) for brunch and it was just terrific. They have known my family before my kids were even born and I had lost touch with them as I did with many others during this weird 2 year hiatus when I was just trying to get through without anyone knowing what the hell was going on.

In any event, toward the end of our breakfast, they asked me if I was still doing comedy and after replying that I am basically squeezing it whenever I can as long as it doesn’t disrupt the kids etc. – they said something to the affect of “but you’re not giving it up” – almost like holding me to not quitting. It was subtle. Perhaps I read into it. But it was sort of what I needed.

Here’s why. I lived with real and perceived threats around this comedy thing for so long that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy and I became more anxious leading to more fear. It was a cycle of craziness. I had real threats – it was a threat to my marriage in some ways because I just never was able to articulate why it was important and not some sort of low class “hanging out” proposition. It was a perceived threat because I was too worried about what people would think – friends, family, work colleagues. Hell, even to this day, most of my work colleagues don’t have any idea though I am not deliberately hiding it but I’m not going out of my way to advertise it either.

Fear. It can really be crippling.

The one great thing about divorce is that eventually, you can’t hide from it no matter how much you try. Someone has moved out. Someone doesn’t show up to a family function. Some one leaves a ton of crap on your front lawn. It gets noticeable and quick. It’s a good thing. Once that happens, there’s no more anxiety. No more wondering “what if”. There is only the present, and hopefully, the future.

It’s been a great lesson for me for comedy. Some people say comedy ruins people’s lives. I have to say it has only helped mine. I know other comics probably feel the same way. Anxiety may lead to fear but action can lead to contentment. And the circle is complete. Hakuna matata.

Until next time,

Marc

Thanks for reading – I really appreciate it. To get notifications of future blog posts, please sign up to get more blog posts. Also, follow me on Twitter @MarcKaye1 for a daily quip or two. Thanks, Marc





Celexa, Carol King and Me.

26 08 2015
Carol is sort of like the "tear-whisperer".

Carol is sort of like the “tear-whisperer”.

Over 2 years ago I started taking Celexa – or Citalopram, as the generic is known. 

I like saying Citalopram better – it sounds “practical jokey”. Celexa sounds like a high class luxury vehicle or a blonde socialite I would never have anything do with. “I met Celexa at the club and we parted in my Selexa 99S.” That’s never going to happen – either of those things.

Have I digressed from the real topic of being on an anti-anxiety med? (Pretty sneaky.)

For the uninitiated, this drug of choice is yet another in the class of SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) meant for depression and anxiety. This one was more geared toward anxiety, which apparently I had no shortage of and it was decided that a little inhibiting of my serotonin uptake might be in order.

I decided to do this largely at the urging, or should I say guilting, of my then-wife/soon-to-be-ex-wife/not-sure-what-to-call-her-anymore. I was really against it for various reasons, the least of which was not that I felt that in our over-prescribed society, it was an insult to those who really needed SSRIs to have those of us, like myself, who were mired in more “white people problems”. That being said, given the fact that my wife (at the time) saw this as a problem and I continued to fight against it, I surmised that it was my duty as a good husband to oblige and so I did.

Then, a few months later, I had a ball drop – my wife filed for divorce and I spent the next year unsuccessfully trying to hold onto something that could not be held onto and let’s just say, that didn’t seem like the most opportune time to get off a drug, hell, any drug. Anything that would help me continue to raise my kids, work hard and appear to have it under wraps was just fine with me.

A little over two weeks ago, I traveled to New Hampshire for a week with my kids. It was an excellent week, spending the majority outdoors and really enjoying caves, mountains, swimming and a general devolution from technology. I noticed I was having dizzy spells continually and having trouble sleeping, only to realize that I had neglected to pack the said Citalopram.

Upon realizing this on day three, I made a conscious decision that this was not a coincidence. No, it was “meant to be”. My thinking went something like this: “I am hopefully winding down 2015 with a smaller house, a new “relationship” status on Facebook and if I can squeeze it out, a more clear objective and dare I say, positive outlook on life”. And so the die had been cast.

Except the past two plus weeks have been an amalgamation of exhaustion, dizziness and feeling. Yes, feeling. I didn’t realize how many of my feelings were being moderated by this drug. Don’t get me wrong – I think it was not a bad thing. Being off of an SSRI, for me, is like tasting the cupcake AND the frosting but it is also like feeling the winter cold AND the frostbite. 

It is scary for me, to be honest but also revealing that I have to accept that I am a dude who just feels things deeply, for better and for worse. In writing this blog, I am accepting myself. I am trying to be honest and not hide from some exterior version of what people need to see to feel comfortable or worse, what I thought I needed to portray to be exhibited. The shame is not that I was embarrassed to admit that I had taken an anti-anxiety med but rather in that I was too embarrassed to reveal that I am an emotional dude at times and that my struggle is also my strength. That is what I am ashamed of…not taking the drug.

On Sunday, I saw “Beautiful” – the musical based on Carol King’s songs and her life. I don’t remember crying that much since watching “Precious” on a plane back from London while sitting near an Orthodox Jewish guy that got up every 15 minutes to pray. (Man, that flight attendant had no clue what was going on in 15 D and E). But more about that later.

The music was exceptional and the words hard-hitting. I joked that they should have called it “Divorce- The Musical” (which I want to write – as a parody, by the way). I cried for Carol. I cried for the soul she poured into her art, not because she had to but because she had no other choice. I cried for myself and my kids and lost time and new found meanings. I held it in pretty well until the song came I knew was bound to be played -“Too Late”. 

I had that same feeling I had while sitting Shiva (mourning) for my grandfather 21 years ago knowing that in a few days, my sister, me, and my parents would all be standing in my grandparents’ driveway heading our separate ways knowing that nothing was ever going to be the same next time we saw each other. Just standing there looking at each other trying to hold it together, knowing for days before that that moment was inevitable.

And it’s too late, baby now, it’s too late,

Though we really did try to make it.

Somethin’ inside has died, and I can’t hide,

And I just can’t fake it, oh, no, no.

The tears came down and I let them just sit there and dry on my cheek, thankful for feeling, for feeling sad – for feeling period. 

It’s funny – last night I posted to Facebook for the first time in a while. I said “I’m so tired of feeling like everything has to be ok. Anybody else? Just me?” and I realized that it was taken in a depressing sort of way when really what I was trying to say was “It’s ok to feel and if you really feel, not everything has to be ok because it’s part of life. It’s acceptable. It’s weird if everything is ok, isn’t it?”

So, here I blog to you for the first time in a while, absent of infused substance, other than a glass of red wine by my side, hoping that regardless of your medical regimen, you feel something…anything because living without feeling is safe but it sure ain’t rich. And it’s definitely not too late.

Until next time,

Marc





Breathe

30 04 2015

image


I had to travel to Milwaukee last night. I had to drop my kids off with a good friend for the night since I would be away and made sure I packed everything needed from an air mattress through Fruit Loops and my daughter’s retainer.

I dropped them off, chatted for a few minute and then headed to the airport, squeezing in every mile on I95 just fast enough to keep up with the fastest traffic to get there on time. Things seemed to be working in my favor, even avoiding traffic to the point where I could grab a quick drink to relax me before the flight.

That is, until, I realized that I packed all the kids’ stuff and neglected to pack my suitcase. That’s right – me on the last flight out with no toiletries, underwear, socks, clothes etc and a 6:40 pick up time at my hotel for an all day meeting.

Normally, this is where I would break into a cold sweat. (Make sure I tell you about being stuck in Mumbai on a Friday night in Mumbai or losing my license at the airport in Cleveland). When I arrived at the airport, parked and quickly realized I was SOL, I stook in the lot still and time stood still for a minute. I responded instead of reacted and quickly realized that I had no choice but to get on that plane.

I even went to a far away terminal to try and buy clothes but with Brooks Brothers being the only option, there was no way I was going to pay $125 for a pair of pants – just couldn’t do it.

I breathed and thought about the options. I realized that Walmart is everywhere and despite my antibodies to that store, a couple of calls identified one in WI that was open 24 hours.

Basically, I think that months of leaning into the anxiety instead of fighting it (thanks to meditation), provided me with a pre-set to manage through this little (and it was little in the grand scheme of thing) ordeal. It gave me a pretty good story to work into a possible future comedy set, too – not too bad.

So, all in all everything worked out except for the fact that I feel a little guilty about making fun of Walmart in my comedy routine – but not that bad.

Remember next time you have that “oh crap” moment – a deep breath goes a long way.

Until next time,
Marc





Wake me when it’s over.

18 02 2015

large

I may be aging myself here but what the hell.

I remember decades ago watching “30 Something”. One of the main characters, Nancy, was going through treatments for cancer. In once scene, I forget – she may have been speaking with a therapist – she was describing those first few hazy moments when she is transitioning from sleep to a waking state. She described those first few minutes when she is not aware of her present situation (basically forgets about having cancer) and then describes the feeling that comes forth when she comes to full consciousness and realizes that everything is not ok.

Don’t ask me why I remember this scene at all. I have no idea. I think I was still a teenager at that point. I just recall how poignant that was because it is something that I have definitely experienced and suspect most of us have, particularly when dealing with a long-term, stressful situation.

Going through something unpleasant can tear you down for good or it can build you back up stronger than before. It is cliche but it is true – read any great comeback story or novel. For me, I am working extra hard to build a stronger foundation than I had before – whether it is for my relationships, work, comedy or most importantly, the way in which I process thoughts.

Mornings are tough for me. I don’t know why but I have this weird and annoying thing where I run through all the things in my mind that have to get done and then hit the ground running, as if it is some sort of race, to get it all done before lunch time. When I am first waking up, it feels pretty good and for the most part, I can look forward to the day until reality sets in that with respect to that one stressful black cloud looming over me, the day can take a turn and twist in a direction that I have no control over. I know that it will end – some day and it will get better – some day, but the anxiety of not knowing when that day is is something that is difficult for me.

Even when I was going to graduate school part-time, while working, raising kids, finding money to pay for it, etc., at least I had an idea of how many years it would take so I had a goal to work toward. In contrast to that, however, with this “black cloud”, there is no end date and it just gets worse before it gets better (though I know it will).

That’s where meditation has really helped. As I mentioned before in previous blog posts, I am not even sure if I am truly meditating, but I have been doing a 6 phase mediation from an app called “Omvana” and I really do feel much better in the morning to take on the day. It also really helps me focus the anxiety away from the unknown future to the aspirational future that I can work toward.

There is a lot of talk about being happier. It’s strange. I just got my latest edition of “Outdoor” magazine today and what is the cover article about? You guessed it – how to be happier. I am finding out the hard way, that happiness really does start within and it’s all a state of mind. I really do hope I have a half of a life yet to live because something tells me it’s going to take me at least that long to get where I’m trying to go.

Until next time,

Marc








%d bloggers like this: