Peaks And Valleys


A lot of people suffer from anxiety and depression, and every person who suffers from it has a different story to tell. This is my story, and it's one I brought on myself.

I am a person who has been either blessed or cursed--depending on your point of view--of overcompensating for all of the insecurities in my life by fighting way over my weight class.  I took on too much, both professionally and personally.  I tried to control everything.  I micromanaged.  I had a vicious temper.   I believed absolutely that others were at fault for my perceived problems, and that I was just some guy trying to do his best.  In reality, I was an asshole.  In reality, I was not healthy.  I was fighting something every day in me, not anything outside.  It was easier to blame the outside world, because I didn't know what to call the chest pains and the sweats, and the feeling like I was going to explode at any moment.   Those were the days when the kitchen got painted at 2am, because I could, and I couldn't sleep anyway.

Other days, I just didn't want to get out of bed.  I woke up exhausted, and all I wanted to do was sleep.  I resented having to go do anything on those days, and if my attitude was bad on the manic days, they were hell on the slump days.

Then in Sept of 2005, I received a text message from Kim.  She wasnt coming home.  I had treated her so poorly in 11 years of marriage that she had finally had enough.  The only thing she could think to do was to go to a friend's house and wait for me to ask where she was.  It was the longest night of my life.   It was the night that I got a very hard look at myself, and when I saw what I truly was, I couldn't take it.

This was the night of my breakdown.  Sept 14th, 2005.

I'd really like to tell you that I killed that Kris that night, but I'd be lying to you.   What I can tell you is that it didn't get better.  In fact, it got worse.  By May of 2007, I could no longer function as a person.  I was a raging diabetic with uncontrolled sugar, I was at war with myself, trying to be a better person and failing miserably.   I had gone to a therapist, who was more interested in prescribing me pills that had side effects that were WORSE than what I was going through.  If you know me more than about 30 seconds, than you know I despise medication like this.  So, I was spiraling down and nothing I turned to seemed to make anything better. (note: I can never remember whether it's a psychiatrist or psychologist that can prescribe medication, so forgive the general term therapist.  The point is that Adderall and Wellbutrin are a vicious pair to deal with.) 

So, I gave up. I quit my job, I decided that what I needed to do was go home and not be seen anymore.  I did podcasts at that time, but I'm not very proud of them.  I hear a dead voice when I hear those shows.

My day after that consisted of getting the kids to school and the wife to work, and then most days I went back to sleep.  I slept a lot back then.   Then, I stopped going out to do errands while the kids were gone.  Even stepping out of the house gave me problems.   FInally, at my worst, I would get up in the morning, stay in bed, and go to sleep.  I couldn't get out of bed.  I couldn't leave the room unless I absolutely had to.

I was a lifeless lunk, and I felt like I had nothing left to offer anyone.   I had no anger, no fire, no...nothing.  I was numb.   I lived like this for two years, barely able to function.  I didn't want to see anyone, I didn't want anyone to see me.   I never had any thoughts about cashing out, but I decided that it wouldn't be so bad if I just simply disappeared.

Then, in the Spring of 2009, I started feeling better.  To this day, I can't precisely put a pin on it.  I woke up one day, and I just...felt better.  I started doing things again.  I started running errands.  I went out, never too far, lest I had an anxiety attack in the middle of a store, and for large trips where lots of people were around, I always had the wife with me.    It was precarious, but it was a start.

It was an ad for a comedy improv group that was founded by a high school friend that got me out of the house socially for the first time in years.   I owe a lot to The Pushers for giving me a reason to go laugh at something when not a lot in my life was funny.  What ended up happening was that I fell totally in love with something again: Entertaining people.  The Pushers offered a free class in Improv 101, and after  heck of a lot of thought, I decided to take the class.  It ended with me performing on stage.

Some time later, I got to perform standup for the first time in about 20 years at that friend's birthday.  I wished I could tell him everything that was in my heart that night.  Two and a half years later, I had managed to come back  from being a shut in, to being on a stage telling jokes.   I had won myself back that night.

I'm not 'better', in any sense of the word.  No one that suffers from any kind of depression or anxiety ever is.  I'd like to tell you that it's something you can work on, but you really can't.  You CAN be mindful of when it rears it's head, though.  Also, that venom is still in my veins.  I know it's there, but here is the difference:  I can choose not to let it poison me.

The best thing about all of this is that through all of this, the wife who could have very easily left me that night in 2005, recognized that I could be saved.  She stayed, she supported me though this time of being unwell, she encouraged me as best she could on the days I lost the battles, and cheered me on the days I won.  I owe her a lot.  We've been married almost 21 years now, instead of leaving at 11.   I'm very fortunate, and I tell her that as often as possible.

The single biggest thing that could have ever dropped into my life was finding the lectures of Gil Fronsdal at Audio Dharma.   It began my interest in Buddhism, which has now become my practice.   Through it, I have found a better person in me, and it is just a step closer to being the kind of person I would like to be.   Also, re-reading the books of Dan Millman have been a great help.   I recommend them if you're seeking a new way.

At this moment in time, I couldn't be happier with the way things have turned out.  I had to go through it to get here, so it is what it is: A moment in time that resulted in reaching a better me.   What tomorrow brings, I have no clue.  What I do know is that this Kris knows much better how to deal with things--and people--a whole lot better than the other guy did.   I am an active participant in my life now, and I plan to keep it that way.

...and that's why--among other reasons--I think I have something to say about putting your life back together the way you want it.   Mine was pretty broken, and I managed to do it with a lot of trial and error.   I'm still doing it. Right now.   If you're serious about creating the life that you want, it's not a process that stops until you do.

I'm not stopping for a while yet.


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