GLIMMERS

It’s been a while. I had signed off on my blog recently. Total silence. I just haven’t been motivated or maybe I’ve just been too depressed. Not clinically depressed…maybe. Just depressed over forest fires, hurricanes, bump stocks, kneeling and a president numbered forty-five. I might should have capitalized that last bit but I just can’t. I decided that if I didn’t have anything positive to say I should brood silently since my social media feed explodes with vitriol with any postings other than pictures of pink flamingoes.
I was also brooding over health issues. My rebelling sixty something year old body. Sciatica, shingles and Afib have reared their ugly heads, all in the last six months despite my best efforts at staying ahead of the grim reaper. Add a dash of early onset arthritis…if it is a sixty-something body can it really be early onset? The grim reaper in my rear view seems to have crept just a bit closer.
Maybe there is a glimmer of hope, with my health, not the other stuff. I ran. Two minutes out of five for a total of twelve minutes. By my reckoning, a little over a mile. Last week it was one minute out of every five, every other day. I’ve improved. I know the real runners are reading this and laughing their asses off. Laugh, I don’t care. I used to run half marathons. I wasn’t fast. I sometimes finished high in my age group but it really didn’t matter. I was running against myself, not anyone else…and then myself got in the way. A knee injury due to a misstep, then sciatica, several times, then clinical depression resurfaced. It became easier to just not run. My goal became just to walk and ride my bicycle…maybe.
I hated running in the Seventies when the jogging craze first took hold. If you looked at my body and played “What’s his Exercise,” running might be the last choice you would be inclined to pick. I did it despite my hatred and body type…for all the wrong reasons. I’ll be honest, I ran because of a tall, long-legged, brunette who looked great in the running shorts of the Seventies. I tried to stay just behind her. She became the carrot on a string for the jackass that I was. I wonder what happened to her? I probably shouldn’t wonder.
I got out of the habit of exercise in the Eighties, then back into it in the Nineties, then out of it in the early Two Thousands…until a couple of months after a heart attack in 2006. Running became my shield against my mortality and my clinical depression. The more I ran the less depressed I was about my health I guess…it did seem to lighten the effects of the depression. I grew to love it…well, tolerate it and felt as if I had missed something if I didn’t do it.
It would be other body parts that would get in my way. I always wanted to run a marathon and kept trying to train for one. Every time my weekly mileage crept into the thirty-mile range, I managed to injure myself. Still this little bit of running today may be the glimmer that I needed. Slow and easy…well may be a 5K in a couple of months…yeah, hope springs eternal. Wish me luck.
Don Miller has written six books, five nonfictional and one fictional novella. Please visit his author’s page at http://amazon.com/author/cigarman501

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THE EASY WAY OUT? “DOWNER ALERT”

I wrote this last year…this is National Suicide Prevention Month.  Take a minute to drop by…it might save a life.

“A brave man once requested me,
to answer questions that are key,
‘Is it to be or not to be,’
and I replied, ‘oh why ask me?’”

“’Cause suicide is painless,
it brings on many changes,
and I can take or leave it if I please…
and you can do the same thing if you please.”
Theme from MASH, “Suicide is Painless” by Johnny Mandel

I don’t believe there is anything easy about committing suicide nor do I think is it totally painless. That would be two of the major reasons I don’t attempt it. Some say, “It’s taking the easy way out.” When you are sick like me, one may find it may not be the easiest of ways out. I don’t mean sick as in “I have a terminal illness and it is going to eat me up from the inside out” kind of sickness but the “I’m crazy as a bed bug” kind of sickness. I have suffered from clinical depression for over forty years now so I believe I have the right to say, “I’m crazy as a bed bug.” Also, like a world class alcoholic, I have become very adept at hiding it. You see, almost daily, I still have thoughts of suicide or when I do something I consider “wrong,” there are the thoughts that I deserve to be hurt in some way even if I do it to myself. YES, I JUST CUT OFF MY FINGER ON PURPOSE!!!! I’ve done neither so suicide may not be the easy way out after all.

Being suicidal and repeatedly not pulling the trigger, not slitting a wrist or taking a short step out of a very high window is hard. I spend some of my “very best” depressed “self-speak” contemplating, quite morbidly, the pain of a bullet entering my head as opposed to the pain that the same bullet would have on the people I leave behind. The people I love and, despite my depressive hate speech, those I know love me, at least I think…maybe. My wife, my daughter, and son-in-law, my grandchildren, who I don’t yet know as well as I want, my brother and my friends. So far, my belief is that the pain of my action on those I leave behind would be greater…therefore, I don’t do it. There is also the fear of the unknown. Am I going to find myself inside of a vat of boiling “hellfire and brimstone” for instance or am I just going to “wink” out of existence? Both options are scary, as are others, and I find I am not a very brave person or is “sticking out” the mental anguish, in itself, brave?

Clinical depression is one of the odd ducks of mental illness. “Oh you are just a little blue…” and the Grand Canyon is a little hole. Logically you ask yourself, repeatedly I might add, “What have you got to be depressed about?” Right now it is a non-functional tractor and lawn mower, but they should not be “live altering” should they? Or, friends and loved ones ask, “Why are you depressed?” Those questions are quite tiring because there is no answer. My depression is due to a tiny, little, itty bitty chemical imbalance in my brain. AND IT IS TREATABLE, once you figure out it is nothing more than a disease. No different than diabetes, or arthritis, or toenail fungus except that for some reason it seems to be much more embarrassing to say, “I am clinically depressed and suicidal” rather than “I have toenail fungus and it is yucky.” It shouldn’t be.

These thoughts and my own depression were triggered by a phone call. A friend told me of a suicide. I didn’t know the man; I know the family he left behind and can only imagine the pain they are going through. The unanswered questions, “Why?”, “Why didn’t I see it coming?”, “What did I do wrong?” Suicide was not an easy way out for them. Suicide was not due to an incurable and painful illness like cancer. It was due to an incurable and painful illness like clinical depression.

His suicide has me, selfishly, thinking about ME. I worry that someday suicide will appear to be the easy way out…that I won’t have enough clarity in thinking to keep me from pulling that trigger. No there is nothing easy about suicide including the contemplation of it. Before you react, NO! I do not need to be put on suicide watch…at least yet. I’ll try to let you know and you should be paying attention. This blog post is for the people who have not had their clinical depression diagnosed or those who have and still battle it every day. You are not alone. There are many of us out there, a depressing estimate of one hundred and twenty-nine million worldwide, one out of every ten Americans and even more depressing, eighty percent never receive treatment. I was lucky. There ARE people you can talk to. If there is no one in your life, try these:
National Suicide Hotline (800) 273-8255
Teen Health and Wellness Suicide Hotline: 800-784-2433
Crisis Call Center: 800-273-8255 or
text ANSWER to 839863
For more statistics copy and paste http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic

If you are interested in reading more “Ravings of a Mad Southerner” or other writings by Don Miller, please use the following link:  https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Natty Old Tees

How many tee shirts are too many? I dare say I have collected enough to wear a different tee daily for a year without repeating once. Since I have retired, tee shirts and jeans seem to be the attire of choice, unless it’s summer and then it’s tees and shorts…except on Sunday. I do wear dress shirts to church…with dress jeans of course. My father is rolling in his grave.

While I no longer exercise in cotton tees, the new technical fabrics are lighter and wick perspiration better, I do love the feel of freshly laundered cotton against my skin. It reminds me of freshly laundered and blued linens, line dried in the fresh air and sunshine…memories having nothing to do with tee shirts.

I’m attempting to sort through my collection of tee shirts and make some decisions. Good ones to wear out on the town in one pile, not so good ones, frayed or forever soiled with chicken grease or pizza sauce, banished to the work tee shirt pile. Worn out tees exiled or repurposed to be used as cleaning rags or to tie up tomatoes on their stakes. I hesitate to throw them away because of the memories surrounding some of them.

Forty years ago, Champion made the best athletic tees, heavy and meant to last. I know this to be a fact. I still have a now yellowed one with the orange lettering, “I Believe.” Worn to death, it is much too fragile to wear now, it turned forty this past fall. A friend and mentor, now gone almost as long as the tee shirt is old, presented it to me and some fifty other coaches and players before the first game of a memorable season. No, I need to put it back right where I found it, tucked away with all its memories from one sparkling season.

Another specimen is a plain, royal blue with more holes than fabric and needs to be thrown away but I can’t. I wore it during a state championship campaign after giving up my number twenty-three jersey to a younger player so he could dress with the team. I keep hoping the tee has a little bit of good luck left in it. After losing a fight with my chainsaw three decades ago, I wear it whenever I am using rotating equipment in hopes it will keep me from losing a body part. So far it has.

A light blue tee with “North-South All-stars” screen printed on the front is displayed in a fading picture made during the after-game celebration. Tim Bright, Anthony Fairchild and Chris Bates are smiling with me and reminding me of better days, “Brighter” days. The actual tee has been worn little since the picture was made and will be stored away with its bitter-sweet memories.

Off-white by design rather than age, I have a heavy-weight tee with a New Zealand logo. I found it on my desk at the close of school one year, a parting gift from New Zealander and exchange student, “Hobby” Hobson. I never got the chance to thank him and wonder often what he might be up to in one of those “lands down under.” How, in the name of all things holy, did it get a hole in the back? No matter, it will stay in the “memorable” pile and be worn with pride, hole and all.

Soiled and stained there is the technical tee from the first 5K run after my heart attack, another from my first half marathon, and an unused one from the last half I didn’t get to run due to an injury. I couldn’t really repurpose those, could I? Maybe the one I didn’t get to run.

There are so many others. A blue Jocassee Bait Shop tee, a gift from a favorite player. The much too small white one covered in pink flamingoes. A gift from a teaching friend who shares my love for the odd looking, yet beautiful birds. My prized Buffett concert tee featuring colorful parrots drinking from margarita glasses along with mermaids swimming about. What to do, what to do? Nothing I guess…simply wear them and remember their meanings for as long as I can see and feel them.

Visit Don’s author’s page at https://goo.gl/pL9bp or pick up a copy or download his new book, Musings of a Mad Southerner, at https://goo.gl/zxZHWO.

LITTLE GIRL LOST

She sat to my right…toward the back of the small room we occupied that first year. Usually I don’t remember with that much clarity but they were different. She was different. We were all beginning a new chapter in our lives, me as their new teacher, her new teacher, and they as new charter school students. Some had come from home schools, others from church schools. A few even came from traditional public schools. They were all special, this first group…she was special. A light shone in her much larger than her size.

She was a small girl, all blond and bubbly…not. Tiny and blond but quiet and slow to smile, something she should have done more often but seemed to guard in my presence. Mostly she blushed in my presence until later, after she got to understand me better. I would catch her smiling, out in our small hallway as we changed classes, talking to her friends. Smiling in the makeshift lunchroom. Her smile was controlled…until it wasn’t and then it enveloped her whole face. I thought she was a happy child.

During class, she was mostly ALL business. Completing her assignments ahead of time and then mentoring her classmates. Speaking with the authority of preparedness when completing the projects from hell we assigned…rising to the occasion…like the island she created for one of those projects. Mostly all business, there were moments when we all laughed, usually at our own ineptness.

She played basketball as a tiny little ball handler, a point guard. She had more desire than she had ability. They all had more desire than ability the first year of basketball…the year we moved from the church to the portables. Still she had the world at her feet…or so I thought.

I lost contact with her after the second year until I saw her not long ago. A hostess at a restaurant, she was still small but all grown up. I tried to catch up but she seemed to want to bolt. She seemed uncomfortable with us…like a worm on hot pavement uncomfortable. I thought she was busy. Now I wonder.

I don’t have to wonder what she was thinking in those last seconds this past weekend. I have been there…looking down the barrel of a small twenty-two. A decision between pain and the unknown. I chose my own pain over the pain I might have inflicted on others. She chose the unknown but I don’t begrudge her the pain she is causing. It’s the sickness not the person…there is no answer to the question “Why?”

The sickness is depression and it won out this past weekend. It wins often…too often. Often it wins because many, like me, fear telling anyone, having anyone think we might be crazy. It wins because family and friends don’t seem to understand…even if they do. They don’t understand “Why?” even if they do. It wins out because we are all alone…even when we are not.

I don’t know why depression won this weekend I just know it did…and it will win next weekend and every day in between and beyond…until we can all understand.

Before you make your choice call 1-800-273-8255. National Suicide Hotline

Don Miller writes at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B018IT38GM

MUSINGS OF A MAD SOUTHERNER

With the GENTLE insistence of a former student, now a writer, now a mentor, and forever a friend, Lynn Cooper, I decided to test the blogging waters in 2015. Lynn had insisted I was a natural blogger and I decided to take her word for it. I am sure there are people who might disagree with Lynn after my nearly two years of blogging history but it has allowed me to empty my head of all the content which “bothers me so.”

When I began to blog I was mad, as in angry. Dylan Roof had turned our state on its head, murdering nine church worshippers who didn’t look like him in the name of white supremacy. Our governor and legislative assembly promptly lit a firestorm over the needed removal of the Confederate Flag from our state house grounds. I was angry because of what I believed to be misplaced divisiveness over our Southern heritage as opposed to our racial hate. Neither side of the argument seemed willing to concede the other might have a point. Consequently, I decided on “Ravings of a Mad Southerner” as the title for my blog.

No matter. The flag is now gone, if not forgotten, and not a moment too soon to my way of thinking. Dylan Roof has been sentenced to die and I’m no longer angry about the divisiveness over the flag because divisiveness has been replaced by a nationwide derisiveness over our new president.

As you are aware, mad can be defined as anger but also as mental illness or craziness or having enthusiasm for someone or something as in “I am mad about my wife Linda Gail or a big ole plate of shrimp and grits.” My madness and enthusiasm has taken over my anger and I have written about my wife, childhood memories and family now gone, Southern paradoxes and perceptions, food, friends, perceived enemies, battles with my depression and again, “things that bother me so,” such as my colonoscopy. I have blogged in anger over politics, bigotry and racism but will attempt to keep them to a minimum. I decided to include many of my posts in a collection of short non-fictional stories entitled “Musings of a Mad Southerner.” Unlike my blog, I will attempt to group them with rhyme and reason but can’t really guarantee I will be successful. Sometimes random rules my day and my madness. Yeah…random it is.

New Release from Don Miller. Purchase or download today on Amazon at https://goo.gl/Cedc7B

A SPRING DAY IN JANUARY

Glorious is the only way to describe it. Days ago, I was wishing, nay, pleading for just a bit of sun to burn away the depression I experience in the winter. My Lord granted my wish. Two beautiful days with bright sunshine and temperatures in the high sixties or low seventies. Great days for yardwork, digging in the ground and playing in the garden while basking my body in the sun, an extra walk in the afternoon as the shadows begin to lengthen. Sitting in my backyard Adirondack, I am happy I have accomplished something outside. With my brown liquor and cigar in hand, I watch the sun disappear behind the mountains to my west. Glorious it is…was. Sunlight in the backyard and no mosquitos.

The coming days won’t be as warm but at least the sun will be shining, a true blessing…the sun. Later I’ll worry about whether the temperature has gotten cold enough to kill any of the mosquitos or whether we are getting enough rainfall to refill the local lakes and our water table. Honestly…it never gets cold enough to kill the mosquitos here in the foothills of the South Carolina Blue Ridge. For the next few days it’s all about soaking up enough sunlight to get me through the rest of our winter with my sanity intact.

I don’t know what people do in northern climes where it is “for real” cold and the sun is even lower in the sky…at least I don’t know how people with clinical depression survive, even if it seems to be in remission. Should I say, if they can see the sun for the copious amounts of snow fall? I religiously watched the television series “Northern Exposure” in the early or mid-Nineties. The series took place in the mythical city of Cicely, Alaska, a village I would love to live in or near if it was below the Mason-Dixon line. Do they have moose below the Mason-Dixon line? I vividly remember an episode titled “Spring Break.” The inhabitants of Cicely go through temporary and humorous madness as they await spring and the river ice to break. When the sun rose high enough in the sky…does it EVER rise high enough in Alaska? When the sun and the temperature rose high enough to cause the ice to break and flow in the river, the male inhabitants participated in what was called “the running of the bulls,” a run, sans clothing, past a gantlet of applauding women lining the Cicely equivalent of main street. If it will get spring here any sooner, I’ll run naked down Highway 11 and give you time to draw a crowd.

Fortunately for the residents of Tigerville, SC, I know spring won’t be here for another six weeks or so…regardless of what a ground hog located in Pennsylvania and my premature blooming Scot’s Broom say. Running naked won’t get it here any sooner. Until spring hits for real and the sun causes the ice to break, I will be satisfied with a day of spring here and there. I give thanks for these past two spring days…especially as I watch the weather news and its forecast of an impending cold snap. “Breaking ice” can’t get here soon enough. I wonder if my wife will applaud if I run naked around my back yard?

For more of Don Miller’s unique views of life, humor and Southern stories of a bygone time go to his author’s page at http://goo.gl/lomuQf. While there you might like to hit like.

A SLIP OR A SLIDE

When does the slip become a slide? A slide an uncontrolled skid? Or when does a skid become a full-fledged plunge over a cliff, my arms and legs flailing against air, hoping against hope to gain purchase, pinwheeling into the abyss. Everyone laughs when the comedic actor slips on a banana peel. I don’t. It reminds me of my metaphorical banana peel, depression. I don’t even laugh when Wile E. Coyote goes over the edge. I know he will survive the sudden stop at the end of his fall. I sometimes wonder if I want to survive mine…just go ahead, take that step. Falls have never killed anyone…but what about the crash at the end?

My depression hasn’t hit full force in decades. It doesn’t have to. My mini-depressions have hit like Wile E.’s anvil, just not in full force. Depression is a constant companion, offering me a taste, a bit of the poison, waiting for its chance to kick me over the edge. Every time my “blues” hit, I wonder, is this it? Is this going to be the one that lasts for a lifetime instead of two or three days? All I need is the memory, or is the remembrance a self-fulfilling prophecy? Does remembering make it more probable? Do all the questions with no answers depress me even more?

I napped heavily yesterday, a harbinger of depression? Was it the gloomy weather, lousy football games or my depression returning to sap not only my strength but my will to stay awake? Early the next morning I awoke in the darkness made heavier by the continued gloom and argued with two of the dozen or so voices normally residing in my head.

The feminine voice, one as smooth as aged whiskey implores, “Stay, pull the covers over your head. You have nothing to do…just stay, stay here with me.”

The other, a deep voice on steroids orders, “You lazy sumbitch, get your ass up, you’re burning daylight!”

They argued on and on until the drill sergeant’s voice wins and kicks me out of bed. Will there be a time when I ignore his deep baritone and succumb to the siren’s call of smooth whiskey, pulling the covers over my head and giving up? Is this the slip that starts it all?

Normally my exercise unscrambles and silences the voices. This morning the voices become shadows, flying behind my eyes in shapes and patterns resembling those found in a broken kaleidoscope. The colors and forms are there but I can make no sense of them. Is this the slide? The skid sending me over the edge?

Tomorrow is a new day. I pray for sunlight…bright and glorious sunlight to burn away the depression…if it will. In the winter of the year, my depression’s whisper become deafening, the slide more out of control. The nights are too long and the sun is still low in the sky. I pray for the sun and short nights. I dream of long days and a sun high in the sky even if it brings the heat, humidity and mosquitos of summer.

Until then I will have to try and battle my voices, wrap up against the cold when I go for a run, hoping the voices are silenced or at least softened and my slide ends up against a wall instead of over the edge and the abyss below.

For more of Don Miller’s unique views of life, humor and Southern stories of a bygone time, try http://goo.gl/lomuQf

VOICES

If I go missing interrogate the squirrels, they are gathering nuts for the winter

Allow me the illusion that I am not crazy…rephrase…allow me the illusion I am not insane. I am crazy but not to the point of tearing wings off of flies, wearing tin foil hats or using those last words “Hey y’all watch this.” I’m more like Jimmy Buffett’s “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, if we weren’t all crazy we’d all go insane” crazy. However, I do hear voices and am crazy enough to believe they are attempting to tell me something…possibly something important. It has grown quite crowded in my head lately as a chorus of voices attempt to lead me down a path that is on the straight and narrow…or not.

The voices I hear are usually having some type of debate…or an argument may be a better description. I am reminded of the angel and devil from Animal House or maybe the food fight. Yes, more like dozens of angels and devils throwing food at each other while they debate the eternal damnation of my soul. A chorus of former acquaintances metaphorically yelling “F@#$ her, F@#$ her brains out,” followed by the chorus of former dead church members, led by the angelic voice of my mother, countering with “Fore shame Donald, I am surprised at you!” All the while, creamed potatoes are flying through the air. Maybe I should rethink that statement about insanity.
For the last few days my voices have sounded like shrill blue jays having such a particularly raucous squabble, my ear buds and running can’t seem to drown them out. Usually running will drown out everything except the pain of my running.

These are depressing voices…trying to pull me down by taking advantage of my predisposition toward depression. Voices heralding the end of the world, protest, death… disrespect. For some reason Stephen Stills voice reverberates with the words from “For What It’s Worth,” …” Paranoia strikes deep, Into your life it will creep, It starts when you’re always afraid, You step out of line, the man come and take you away.” A voice I can’t recognize points out, “Maybe the world hasn’t changed that much, maybe we are still protesting the same things. Maybe this is a never ending film loop. Maybe….” Other voices try and shout him down point out how fine things were until President Obama opened up a Pandora’s Box full of racism and somehow created ISIS.

I wonder about the order of issues bellowed out by my voices; end of the world, protest, death…disrespect. Another voice is now asking if a lack of respect for ourselves is the underlying culprit. Yet another is shouting “No it is the devaluation of life…if there is a lack of respect it is for the sanctity of life…my life and the lives of those I love.” More cacophony of dissonance…or is it? My angel and devil have now some taken on the persona of our presidential candidates…except I don’t know which is which, angel or devil.

It is a beautiful Sunday morning for a walk and run but I worry my voices will ruin it for me. Despite my trepidation I push on. My exertions seem to have quieted the voices. They became quieter and quieter as I ran along. While not in unison, as the quiet themselves they all began to ask the same question, a simple one-word question…” Why?” Their silence now worries me more than their question. Could it be their silence is an admission that there is no answer to the question?

For more unique life stories by Don Miller visit his author’s page at http://goo.gl/lomuQf

MEN, WORK, penises AND DEPRESSION

My neighbor, distant neighbor, was doing some repair work for me. He is out of work and depressed and I try to employ him as much as my limited resources are able. I began to think about my own depression and how having external issues might affect one’s depression. I have always been unable to answer one question from when I was first diagnosed and my depression was at its worse, “Am I depressed because I am getting a divorce or am I getting a divorce because I am depressed?” Don’t know, just glad I got the divorce.
My neighbor has been clinically depressed a long time, just as I have been, and somewhat recently has been laid off. As he helped me work on a tractor, or rather he worked while I handed him implements, I felt the need to discuss his depression, his job loss and the loss of self-esteem associated with them, something I am familiar with.

I have lost a job, actually two. Lost a job is not correct because no matter how I searched I wasn’t going to suddenly find my job and make it mine again. It’s not like a lost golf ball. Like that really beautiful, green eyed redhead in the late Sixties, I’m not going to suddenly find her again and Linda Gail might have something to say about it anyway. Just so you know I’m not looking.

Technically I was fired twice even though one of my associates allowed me to resign and the other…let’s just say I was fired and leave it there. If you coach for a living there are only two kinds of coaches according to the late coach Bum Phillips, “them that’s fired and them that’s gonna be fired.” I was both. More on point, I believe once laid off you try to replace your job with one just like it and you are probably setting yourself up for more failure and lost esteem…or at least I did and so is my neighbor it would seem.

For a man, and more recently with more women in the work force, a woman, it is hard to detach your “worth from your work.” I don’t believe it is chauvinist to say it is different for men. We see our work somewhat like our penises. If our penises are working fine, we are fine. Work is fine, we are fine. We have self-worth because we tend to identify with what we do…and to a certain extent, our penises. Until somewhat recently, women identified with their families for their self-worth…the old maternal instinct. This has changed, not a bad thing, except women executives are now having near as many stress related heart attacks as men, but I don’t see women ever identifying their work with their vaginas unless they are working in the world’s “oldest profession.”

Back on point, getting fired, laid off or having a failure to launch is depressing. Come on guys we’ve all had a failure to perform at least once. There is no shame and there is a reason for those little blue pills. Actually getting fired can have an effect on performance but more importantly it can have an even greater effect if you are clinically depressed. That was the reason for my conversation with my neighbor. I was worried about how he was handling his job hunting and his depression.

I don’t believe men are as willing to admit they are depressed as women because of the way we are raised. “Buck up Jocko!” “Dry those tears and get back at it!” We still have problems admitting to our emotions, committing to a long term relationship or with the inability to launch. Clinical depression is not about emotions. It is a sickness that can be treated even if you are looking for a job.

I don’t know if I helped my neighbor, I know he got my tractor running again. I wish there was some sort of sensory feedback when you assist people with their depressions but as hard as I looked and listened I received none. There was no engine roar or smell of diesel exhaust. At least he knows he is not alone.

Don Miller has also written four books, including “Winning Was Never the Only Thing…” and the recently released “Through the Front Gate.” They may be purchased or downloaded at http://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

THE EASY WAY OUT? “DOWNER ALERT”

“A brave man once requested me,
to answer questions that are key,
‘Is it to be or not to be,’
and I replied, ‘oh why ask me?’”

“’Cause suicide is painless,
it brings on many changes,
and I can take or leave it if I please…
and you can do the same thing if you please.”
Theme from MASH, “Suicide is Painless” by Johnny Mandel

I don’t believe there is anything easy about committing suicide nor do I think is it totally painless. That would be two of the major reasons I don’t attempt it. Some say, “It’s taking the easy way out.” When you are sick like me, one may find it may not be the easiest of ways out. I don’t mean sick as in “I have a terminal illness and it is going to eat me up from the inside out” kind of sickness but the “I’m crazy as a bed bug” kind of sickness. I have suffered from clinical depression for over forty years now so I believe I have the right to say, “I’m crazy as a bed bug.” Also, like a world class alcoholic, I have become very adept at hiding it. You see, almost daily, I still have thoughts of suicide or when I do something I consider “wrong,” there are the thoughts that I deserve to be hurt in some way even if I do it to myself. YES, I JUST CUT OFF MY FINGER ON PURPOSE!!!! I’ve done neither so suicide may not be the easy way out after all.

Being suicidal and repeatedly not pulling the trigger, not slitting a wrist or taking a short step out of a very high window is hard. I spend some of my “very best” depressed “self-speak” contemplating, quite morbidly, the pain of a bullet entering my head as opposed to the pain that same bullet would have on the people I leave behind. The people I love and, despite my depressive hate speech, those I know love me, at least I think…maybe. My wife, my daughter and son-in-law, my grandchildren, who I don’t yet know as well as I want, my brother and my friends. So far, my belief is that the pain of my action on those I leave behind would be greater…therefore, I don’t do it. There is also the fear of the unknown. Am I going to find myself inside of a vat of boiling “hellfire and brimstone” for instance or am I just going to “wink” out of existence. Both options are scary, as are others, and I find I am not a very brave person or is “sticking out” the mental anguish, in itself, brave?

Clinical depression is one of the odd ducks of mental illness. “Oh you are just a little blue…” and the Grand Canyon is a little hole. Logically you ask yourself, repeatedly I might add, “What have you got to be depressed about?” Right now it is a non-functional tractor and lawn mower, but they should not be “live altering” should they? Or, friends and loved ones ask, “Why are you depressed?” Those questions are quite tiring because there is no answer. My depression is due of a tiny, little, itty bitty chemical imbalance in my brain. AND IT IS TREATABLE, once you figure out it is nothing more than a disease. No different than diabetes, or arthritis, or toenail fungus except that for some reason it seems to be much more embarrassing to say, “I am clinically depressed and suicidal” rather than “I have toenail fungus and it is yucky.” It shouldn’t be.

These thoughts and my own depression were triggered by a phone call. A friend telling me of a suicide. I didn’t know the man; I know the family he left behind and can only imagine the pain they are going through. The unanswered questions, “Why?”, “Why didn’t I see it coming?”, “What did I do wrong?” Suicide was not an easy way out for them. Suicide was not due to an incurable and painful illness like cancer. It was due to an incurable and painful illness like clinical depression.

His suicide has me, selfishly, thinking about ME. I worry that someday suicide will appear to be the easy way out…that I won’t have enough clarity in thinking to keep me from pulling that trigger. No there is nothing easy about suicide including the contemplation of it. Before you react, NO! I do not need to be put on suicide watch…at least yet. I’ll try to let you know and you should be paying attention. This blog post is for the people who have not had their clinical depression diagnosed or those who have and still battle it every day. You are not alone. There are many of us out there, a depressing estimate of one hundred and twenty-nine million world-wide, one out of every ten Americans and even more depressing, eighty percent never receive treatment. I was lucky. There ARE people you can talk to. If there is no one in your life, try these:
National Suicide Hotline (800) 273-8255
Teen Health and Wellness Suicide Hotline: 800-784-2433
Crisis Call Center: 800-273-8255 or
text ANSWER to 839863
For more statistics copy and paste http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/statistics-infographic