When I was in the throes of severe depression, which I didn’t know at the time, I would throw myself into studying the teachings of the Buddha. Which is called the Buddha Dharma. Dharma is a teaching but also means purpose. Karma means action. I was in need then of Dharma Karma or some major purposeful action. Or, I may have not survived.
When I was in a gray state where life was a drag and nothing seemed to go right the only thing that seemed to snap me out of it was a drunken bender. Self-medicating and playing with the old brain chemistry. I never went on for too long just enough to alter my mood and perception. Of course, the Dharma teaches moderation and the middle path. So, I was careful never to wander too far off the path and too deep into the bottle. I had to get work and function in some capacity. Also, subconsciously I knew something was not right.
I volunteered at Temple Psyche ward, high and low functioning, playing the guitar and singing. The most touching moment I ever had performing was when in the low functioning unit I was singing Sitting on The Dock of The Bay by Otis Redding some of the patients got up and started dancing or swaying to the music. It was amazing I felt like I was adding value to someone’s life and making a difference. As soon as I was done playing the song they returned to the previous non-responsive state.
Years later after I was diagnosed but before I lost my benefits, I attended a walk-in social club for people with mental illness. I was irritated that people in the “system” were referred to as “Consumers” as if all they were good for was buying and consuming things. I guess I was a little close given my situation to fairly evaluate the term. There were people with every diagnosis under the sun with various amounts and degrees of this or that designation.
That was a rude awakening. I had trouble and struggled with the idea, the notion, and the reality that I was one of these people. I wondered how people viewed me. Years later when my ex-wife told me that I was not invited to my daughter’s family functions because I made her mother’s friends feel uncomfortable and that I was weird. It stung and deeply hurt my feelings. Recently, I have come to embrace my weirdness. It is what makes me – Me!
I am well now, healed, and cured. I am high functioning a contributing member of society. I came to realize lately that I do not talk about it, or even really share with those close to me. I have friends who tell me that I probably never was, but I must beg and argue to differ because I can remember the hell that I was in. I did what many are counseled to do when you find yourself in hell – keep going.
The stigma is real. I am not a statistic. I know the red flags. I practice body awareness for those telltale signs. Like the taste of a nickel on my tongue before I would fall into depression. I eat well, sleep well, and take care of myself. But more than anything. I am aware of my thinking and feeling and I stay on the middle path and practice moderation.
I AM my own Guru, Savior, and Hero. If not me then Who?