Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Reason for My Absence.

It has been nine months since I have written here. Part of the reason for this is the extremely unfortunate situation with my partner's health. To protect her privacy, I will not go into detail except to say it is not life threatening, but it takes up a lot of time in doctor's offices and hospitals.

Another reason I am not writing as much is the increased workload I have found myself dealing with. A few months ago, I was feeling very frustrated about the lack of gigs I had done in 2012, and the future was not looking very bright, so I started letting people know I was available for freelance work or, providing there were no scheduling conflicts, I could even become part of another band. Then the responses came... A friend from many years ago was performing in a duo with his wife and they decided to add a drummer (me) and lead guitarist and go as a full band. Well, that has led to what is now known as Savanna Heat. We play mostly Classic Rock, R & B, Motown, etc, and for me, it is an opportunity to play some songs that have been on my bucket list for many years. (Guess I'm going to need a new bucket...)

Additionally, I got a call from a Country band called Tempted. These guys have been around for a long time; probably close to fifteen years, and although some of the original members have moved on to other things, the members both past and present, are all skilled and well-respected musicians. The Bass player and I played together in the late '90s and early 2000 and became close friends during that time. The original drummer, while still involved, is working out west as are so many from our area. His schedule is two weeks out, two weeks home. When he's away, the Lonster will play!

Bad Habits is still a factor, but on a reduced level. Three of the members of that band have formed a trio which allows them to play in smaller venues that simply cannot afford or accommodate the full five piece act plus production. They go by the name of Triad and are well worth seeing.

Even with all of that going on, I still find myself at home many of the nights I would prefer to be performing.

Finally, one of the reasons (and probably the most significant one) that I have not been writing is my battle with depression. I have been dealing with it for years, and when it strikes, it removes not only the joy from life, but the motivation to do simple things such as write, paint, or even ride my bike or go for a walk. I have referred to it as “the monster under my bed” or more simply and most frequently, “the darkness...”

When I first became aware of my foe, I had not yet named it for it was at that time unidentified. All I could tell anyone (if I chose to speak at all) was that I had no desire to participate in life; no interest in even the things I love dearly. I would sit, numbly, and stare out the window, not focusing, not registering that there was life around me. I felt nothing; had given up feeling, because when I did feel, it was so painful.... This was not physical pain such as aching bones or sore muscles, but an unbearable pressure in my soul coupled with an emptiness that can only be described as a living death.

This is not to say it cannot manifest in physical form; it can and it does!

Clinical depression is not just a sadness or unhappiness. It's not simply dwelling on the less pleasant things in life. It's not something one can “just snap out of” or “get over.” It is a disease, and as much as those of us who suffer with it hate to admit, a form of mental illness. As far as I can tell, it is a chemical imbalance in the brain, which, like all chemical actions and reactions, can be triggered or eased by other chemicals in the brain. These other chemicals can come in the form of pharmaceuticals, or be generated naturally, by diet, exercise, or becoming immersed in activities that lead to pleasant feelings.

This is not to say that depression is “cured” as easily as taking an art class or a walk in the country. On the contrary, these activities are often very difficult to get involved in for a sufferer of depression. The effort needed is often too much. This can be a veiled blessing, because the effort needed to take one's own life is also too great, and many of us would do just that to avoid the suffering.

In my own experience, my illness can present itself in the form of a deep, despairing loneliness, far greater than anything anyone can imagine. Most unsettling, is that this loneliness is not the result of being alone. In fact, it can occur when in large groups of people. I have experienced it in a crowded shopping mall while Christmas shopping. I have been onstage performing for a full house of cheering people, and as I drive home, the despair is so deep, I feel as if the show had never happened. This often leads to feelings of isolation.

This isolation is not entirely a one way street. There have been times I have avoided people, including dear friends, because I did not want to expose them to my mood. I remember once seeing a friend in the parking lot of a supermarket and avoided her. I actually thought, “Oh no, I don't want to talk to *****, she's too cheerful!” Yet, when I have alienated my friends, I become bitter that they no longer contact me. Yes, I can tell you all about irony as well.

Depression is fortunately becoming more recognized. I have recently heard it referred to as “the common cold of the 21st Century,” but I think that is understating it too much. If you have lived through an episode of depression, you'll know it's far worse than any cold. Still, the recognition of its existence and its results means an increase in understanding among the general populace, and perhaps a new attitude toward it.

I have several friends who suffer depression, and while I am not a doctor of any sort, I believe its prevalence among artists is greater than among the rest of the population. I also have noticed that artists tend to release it through their art; indeed use it to create their art, and the rest of society, having no such outlet, tend to use pharmaceuticals more and become caught in the endless cycle of dependence and addiction.

Recent research has indicated that adult victims of depression are likely to have been victims of ADD or ADHD in their early years. For people my age, it is often a retroactive discovery due to the fact that in the 1960s and '70s, many schools were unprepared to understand or diagnose these symptoms. Looking back on it, I was a classic case of ADHD, but no one had even heard of it where and when I went to school. I see this as a good thing in retrospect since I was not medicated into being “normal.” Too many of today's youth are subjected to chemical drugs which, while keeping them sedated and easier for the teachers to deal with, also stifle their creativity, thus perpetuating the continuity of banal subservience that has kept our race from advancing past a worker/soldier mentality. If we are to learn true Compassion and escape the cycle of wars and oppression that has engulfed us for millennia. we NEED creative thinkers to break that mould.

You may have noticed I mention pharmaceuticals only in passing, without anecdotal follow-up. That is because my doctor and I really prefer the natural approach. I find Meditation (meditate, don't medicate) to be particularly helpful. I won't prescribe preferences because what works for me may not work for you. I can certainly share my experiences if asked, but I will not guarantee results. There are many good books, CDs and DVDs available for those who are interested, and some places have Meditation Teachers, often available through Yoga Studios. Even YouTube has many excellent videos to watch, but be careful in what you choose to accept, because there is a lot of misinformation out there.

Whatever you choose to aid in your recovery, I wish you well. And, if you are attempting to understand those of us who suffer from this dreadful existence, please understand that kindness is often the best solution...

~Still Wandering...

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