Full Disclosure: I was not an active follower of either Kate Spade or Anthony Bourdain. In this day and age of social media and celebrity, I certainly knew who both were and what each brought to the table, pun intended. I never purchased the eponymous bag that made Miss Spade a household name. I should have been quite a fan of Mr. Bourdain, but truth be told, watching his programs discouraged me in recent years. I was reminded of all I have lost since the first of three major surgeries left me even more mobility impaired than I had been for the first 42+ years of my life. Additional truth be told, I’m a fashionista wanna-be born in the wrong body and a frustrated hostess with the mostess not to mention a grounded adventurer.
The two recent high profile suicides early this summer raised the serious topic of depression once again. It takes the hard to believe self-inflicted deaths of the famous for this to be covered in the news with the exception of occasional reporting on teen suicide as well as the high suicide rate among veterans. The death of beloved Robin Williams highlighted the topic that still today seems taboo. The vast majority of his fans, knowing him only from the small or big screens making us laugh, found it unbelievable that he could be desperately unhappy, depressed. Do we really WANT to know that friends, family or celebrities can be feeling hopeless?
Many who have read my blogs or followed my Just Call Me Geri Facebook page probably know that my Mother (the one who chose me from a newspaper picture), from my earliest consciousness, taught me the importance of not feeling sorry for myself. The message included the tacit warning that no one would like me if I showed self-pity. It was only decades later that I would learn that there is a significant difference between whining and legitimately feeling down due to my circumstances.
By no means have I had the worst life, far from it, but I started life with strikes against me, first being born in a deformed shell with a condition called Diastrophic Dysplasia (some still call it dwarfism) that would embody my soul and personality. Being abandoned in the hospital by biological parents who left instructions behind that “no pictures to be taken of this baby” added 2nd and 3rd strikes, yet I was never out.
I won’t list the entire litany of hardships faced through 50 years but some include:
- Being asked why I would want to have a baby and do to them what happened to me;
- Being humiliated at a summer camp by someone supposedly to have been family;
- Hearing sighs, groans and whispers when people had to help me in/out of cars or up stairs (who’s going to help Geri?”) and to stay away during emergencies;
- Being “gently” told I could never provide a home for a man I had feelings for and not to expect to ever get married;
- Being “harassed” by a married man who knew I would have little to no other intimate opportunities;
- Being belittled and disrespected in hospital facilities when known I was alone;
- Having inappropriate medical treatments or not having appropriate medical interventions due to Government restrictions;
- Being at mercy of caregivers, who can be rude, rough and larcenous;
- Being told I’m too depressing to talk to …
When at 40 I had finally obtained a Master’s Degree to begin a long in trying to figure out career, I was soon stymied, having that career cut short by three surgeries that left me in worse shape than before. The last two surgeries I never would have consented to if I had been warned my mobility would be all but lost completely. I would have opted for shorter life span over non quality of life. When over 10–30 years ago I’d fall into pits of despair, I struggled mightily, conjured up plans, fingering bottles of medication, really my only option. Remembering the haunting conclusion of Edith Wharton’s “Ethan Frome” always prevented me from trying anything self destructive with my car, the only other possible tool at my disposal. Yet, I always dug deep, as far inside as I could to keep the wavering flame from going out. Once such night in the wee hours, I remember sitting on the floor by my bed sobbing with heaving muted screams. What brought me back was thinking of “my kids” and their parents …how would they explain to them that I gave up?
This disclosure can possibly hurt my alternate career in the making …aiming to be a successful inspirational speaker but this is my truth. I cannot be phony. I’m not asking for people to feel sorry for me, but to understand that there are no easy answers.
More additional truth be told, I’d much rather laugh than cry. I actually enjoy having others laugh at my sometimes corny, other times bawdy, humor. I really should find an amateur Stand Up/Sit Down Comedy venue. Ridiculous irony from the universe, I’m rather an extrovert. God couldn’t have made me an agoraphobic?
I have my “highs” when I have several speaking engagements booked but then the “lows” (oxymoronic?) come rising up. (oxymoronic?) when I can’t seem to break through, catch that one break. My life is not one that made headlines because of a national crisis such as the Boston Marathon Bombing. I didn’t lose limbs while fighting for my Country. I didn’t grow up in
the age of social media where Promposals to kids with Special Needs go viral. I do not begrudge today’s kids who benefit from widespread inclusion.
I do not begrudge these later generations of kids who have benefited from widespread inclusion. In fact, I’d like to think I helped pave the way. Perhaps I have been “of use” to quote John Irving’s Dr. Larch.
Depression can take deep hold of anyone. For those suffering, suicide can seem like the only way out. Others may see it as selfish. Feeling like a burden is not easy but once a person has that initial thought, it becomes nearly impossible to erase it from one’s mindset. Please have compassion for those who have left via their own actions. And if you “can handle the truth,” reach out to those who may be struggling. When I encourage students to look after each other, I ask, “wouldn’t you want someone to look after you?” For those who are struggling, please try to let someone know you’re hurting, reach deep down inside and find the courage to reach out for assistance without shame. Keep your flame lit!