August 3, 2010 at 8:32 pm (Mental Health, Relationship)
Tags: bi-polar, coping with mental illness, inspiration, manic-depression, mental illness
My sister, Angela, would have turned 49 this past weekend.
I want to write something to honor her (like this post I wrote last year), but it gets all mixed up inside, tangled up with the memories of her mental illness.
I want to talk about what a wonderful sister she was and how much I loved her. But I never got to make that connection.
I want to tell you how we talked for hours about her struggles and I was able to ease her emotional pain. But we didn’t … and I didn’t.
I simply didn’t know how to reach beyond my fear of her illness to find a person there.
In fairness to me, I was just a kid. I was only in 7th grade that night I watched her break. A 7th grader sitting still-stunned the next day in Mr. McAllister’s science class. A 7th grader who still got a 100% on that quiz because I didn’t know what else to do.
But I’m not a kid anymore. And I now I know what I’d do. I would talk. I would talk to my family. I would talk to my friends. I would talk to my teachers. I would talk to my journal.
But mostly I would talk with Angela.
I would ask her how it felt to be a genius in an average world.
I would ask her if she got any joy from learning new languages as though they were always part of her.
I would ask her if she felt the music when she brilliantly but mechanically played the piano.
I would ask her how I could help, how I could understand.
And I would listen. Listen through the fear. Listen through the discomfort. Listen as long as I needed to in order to hear my sister instead of her illness.
Mental illness is unfair. It’s also unpredictable, often indescribable, and at times even unbearable.
So let’s fight back! Let’s talk. Let’s listen. Let’s Love.
March 9, 2010 at 10:02 pm (Mental Health, The Gardening Life)
Tags: depression, gardening, landscaping, Mental Health, mental illness, planting, Signature Gardenscapes, storm, storm damage
“Our plants have a lot of storm damage — can they be salvaged?”
photo by Sue Clapper
We’re starting to hear that question several times a day now as calls to our landscaping business are flooding in. The heavy damaging snow here in Northern VA has finally (mostly) melted, and many underlying plants are showing broken limbs, crushed stems, and split trunks.
The most lucrative “solution”? Declare these plants damaged beyond repair, requiring removal and replacement. Plant removal labor $$$! New plant purchases $$$! New plant installation $$$! $$$! $$$!
But that’s not what we’re about. We’re about trying to heal, repair, and salvage. Understandable, I think, as I realize anew this year my kinship to these storm-damaged plants.
This is an incredibly tough time of year for many people who suffer from depression, in any of its many forms. (See my recent post, “We Need to Talk“).
We’ve just about made it through the long storm of winter and are facing the daunting task of assessing our emotional damage:
- What’s broken?
- What’s strained or bruised?
- What’s ready to be removed? Replaced?
- Then how do we heal? And how long will it take?
This storm damage period has become for me less about answers and more about questions. Less about the damage and more about the healing. Less about the storm itself… and more about allowing the calm after the storm.
My tears water the earth
something bigger is taking root
all i want is to feel you in my arms
all i want is to feel the calm after the storm
give me the calm after the storm
give me the calm after the storm
[lyrics by Rachel Moore-Beitler, "Calm After the Storm"]
For myself and for each and every one of you, I wish the calm after the storm.
February 25, 2010 at 11:40 am (Mental Health)
Tags: andrew solomon, depression, mental illness, words
Depression doesn’t want you to talk about it.
It wants to spread its insidious power through stealth operations, sneaking around under the radar until it’s infiltrated all your positive thoughts and emotions.
So today we’re going to talk about it. Today I refuse to hide or cower or be ashamed of this reality in my life.
See here’s what really sucks about depression… “Depression is a condition almost unimaginable to anyone who has not known it.” (Andrew Solomon). Yet what is most needed in those depressive times is a connection with other people… understanding… a knowing empathy.
“When it [depression] comes, it degrades one’s self and ultimately eclipses the capacity to give or receive affection. It is the aloneness within us made manifest, and it destroys not only connection to others but also the ability to be peacefully alone with oneself… in depression, the meaninglessness of every enterprise and every emotion, the meaningnessless of life itself, become self-evident. The only feeling left in this loveless state is insignificance.” [Andrew Solomon, "The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression"].
Because of that, all of that, going on for way too long, I finally gave in to medication to help bridge the “rift between body and soul.” 10 years later I still rely on medication to preserve my ability to give and receive love, and I hate it.
I hate that I have to take a mocking-pink pill every single morning likely for the rest of my life.
I hate that no matter what self-care techniques I use, and no matter how much I emotionally and spiritually protect myself, I still get to mid-February and find myself in the ring with depression.
So today I’m talking about it.
Because in talking about it, we replace fear with connection. We take the power from depression (or ANY predominant issue) and give it back to ourselves.
And in talking about it, we might stumble upon the silver lining. As Solomon so perfectly states,
“I hated being depressed, but it was also in depression that I learned my own acreage, the full extent of my soul.” And “my grasp tightens and becomes acute in moments of loss: I can see the beauty of glass objects fully at the moment when they slip from my hand toward the floor.”
How many of us ever get the chance to learn the full extent of our souls and the incredible beauty, strength and possibility held within us?
So today, maybe we can all find the courage to start talking about “it” … whatever our “it” is. I, for one, am listening.
text and photos by Starla J. King
July 31, 2009 at 2:20 pm (Mental Health, Uncategorized)
Tags: bi-polar, in memory of, inspiration, manic-depression, mental illness, rumi, writing
This blog post is in memory of my sister Angela Joy King, who died at age 39 after years of living voraciously with bipolar disorder/ manic-depression (and I think some schizophrenia mixed in there?). She would have been 48 years old today — her birthday.
How fitting that just now even though half the sky is still light, the wind just started howling and we’re getting the first real rain storm in over a month — huge downpour. Hi Angela! In fact, the sky just got brighter…and the rain harder…
When I wrote this poem several years ago, it was more about fear than about inspiration. For years I had watched Angela step in and out of her mind and it terrified me. But it also awed me with how courageously she lived, daily on the brink of (in)sanity:
speaks my soul I just know it
though understanding is a stretch
It’s more a sense a knowing
the intensity of intermingled passions
tumbling fumbling over each other
sometimes beautiful other times bordering on
too intense for sane but
I don’t care how it sounds or reads
just how it feels
The rare gift curse of unfiltered emotion
sometimes too bright too muddy
but to whom
to humans maybe but not Godde
this is the me I want to share but fear
me in my tracks whispering Angela
how close am I to that so far but
really how do I know
Always afraid the underside of intense is
on the bridge between silence and words tumbling
I falter and decide to just
Today, however, I gratefully realize that I no longer “just…wait” — somehow this year it’s more about the inspiration than the fear. More about the need to talk openly about the REAL topics, the ones we tend to whisper about in small groups in the dark.
Like what it means to be gay. Or marginalized in any of a variety of ways.
Or what it means to be spiritual but not religious.
Or today, for Angela, what it means to be depressed, or manic-depressive or any form of mentally ill.
And for the families and friends who try to figure out how to handle that part of their loved one amidst their own sometimes paralyzing fears.
Angela had no choice but to live to the highest highs and the lowest lows, and that she survived those those whiplash extremes as long as she did still baffles me.
So today, Angela, I thank you and love you for everything you were and are. And I celebrate you! A whole huge family size bag of Hershey’s kisses for you… but don’t eat them all at once, remember???!??
(and the rain just stopped and the sun is shining. I kid you not!)
*poem originally published in DreamSeeker Magazine, Winter 2005 issue