Tag Archives: Depression

Solar Eclipses, Thumb Oranges and My Future Wife

In 1991, I was a depressed guy whose friends had all graduated a semester earlier. I spent the summer working for the Bethany Bible College registrar, Carmine Wilson, sending out transcripts, and filing, and generally getting in trouble for overstepping my bounds. I was lonely, and the summer had been a hot one, for Scotts Valley, anyway. I had roomed that summer on the bottom floor of Burnett Hall with an angry former-Teen Challenge graduate who complained loudly that I wasn’t a good witness for the Lord if I didn’t make my bed every day.

Early that winter, the US had invaded Kuwait. We were mostly sure the war was all about oil, but the war was all over before we had much to get upset about. I spent loads of time in prayer. Maybe it helped. Maybe much prayer stopped the war. Or maybe it was Colin Powell.

The last several months, I had been attending the Felton Presbyterian Church with my friend Carrie Robertson. Since we arrived together (she was the one with a car–a tan Pinto she called Putt Putt that barely ran), and parted together, most of the church assumed we were a couple. We weren’t. She was more like an overly-earnest sister. At some point, I took the role of music director for the Sunday morning services at the church. Due to my background in “charismatic” churches, they were starting a service with a more contemporary feel. They paid me $50 a week.

I read several books that summer, and tried to at least pick up the bestsellers to keep myself occupied. Loves Music, Loves to Dance, by Mary Higgins Clark, and Chutzpah, by Alan Dershowitz. I wanted to make something of myself I guess, because my friends had all moved on, and were doing things.

There was a solar eclipse that summer. We all made little pinhole eclipse-viewing devices. It was sunny. Then the sky went a deep, deep purple, and it almost seemed like night for about an hour. It seemed auspicious somehow, and matched my mood.

Carrie was the last friend to leave, sometime that summer. Her parents sold me Putt Putt. I didn’t call it that. I think I called it Tan Piece of Crap. It had Personalized Plates: “James1:12”.  The verse was from the Bible, “ Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” I kept the plates. Her parents also gave me $25 and a case of oil to take it away. I needed both. Carrie moved to Los Angeles, to be with the rest of my friends.

Then, in August, came New Student Orientation NSO. Every Fall, Bethany hosted a 3-day love fest for new students. I shouldn’t have been so down on it, because it was a wonderful memory for me, when I came to Bethany as a student in 1987, but 5 years later, I was jaded and wanted nothing to do with all the hype. Working for the registrar, I was required to collate new student packets and hand them out to students, so they could select classes and whatnot. We were in the auditorium in the Williams Building, and Carmine hadn’t arrived yet. I was standing there with a couple huge boxes of packets.

A student, entertaining all the others who were patiently waiting, took the stage and began an impromptu bit of standup.  He pointed at me and shouted “Look everyone! It’s Dan Quayle!” Everyone laughed. I fumed. It took me years to forgive him. I was wearing my best suit.

Little did I know, my future wife was in that room. I’d meet her a few hours later.

I was starving. And angry. The cafeteria didn’t charge for meals during NSO so I thought I’d pop in for cheesburgers or whatever. They had recently removed a redwood tree from the corner of the cafeteria. Students were lined up next to the stump, waiting for the doors to swing open at 5 o clock. I was standing on the stump, chatting with Debbie (who was a Resident Assistant and one of the few people in line that I knew) When I met Judi. She was clearly a few years older than the other kids, had close cropped curly hair, and looked, I don’t know, professional. We began chatting there. I knew her brother. When she came to the Campus Days event earlier that year, she had stayed in the room of my best friend Stacey. She was interesting, and smart. I didn’t feel quite so lonely anymore. I chose to sit and eat with her. Or maybe she did, with me. I liked her at once.

An old roommate joined us. It was pleasant at first, but then he got annoying. He was rolling an orange across the table at me. I rolled it back. He rolled it toward me again. I wanted to just be alone with Judi. I rolled the orange back again. Can’t he take a hint? He rolled it toward me again.  I jammed the orange onto the end of my thumb like a giant popsicle. Then I discarded it. I might have discarded my old roommate too. At least Judi din’t leave the table. My old life really didn’t matter. I had to move on. I realized at that point, I wasn’t all that lonely anymore. And I never really would be again.

Fireworks in the Fog

One Fourth of July, our family went to the Siltanen Park in Scotts Valley, California, to watch the fireworks. Scotts Valley in July is favored with just about perfect weather. The skies are blue, the poison oak is a lovely dark green, and kids with soccer cleats are eager to get out onto the fields and kick one another. They had games and food, and a dunk tank with a hated local politician. There was a bounce house for the kids, and face painting. There was a cover band doing 80s music.  Lots of people with flags. A typical small town celebration. And then, a few hours before dark, the inevitable always happened.

fireworks in the fog
Ever watch fireworks in the fog?
The fog rolls in.  Slowly at first, you can see it coming between the hills. Then, when you’re not watching, mist covers the distant redwoods. Before you know it, a layer of marine fog blankets everything and you  have trouble seeing your neighbors five blankets away. And then it’s dark. We are shivering in our spot, and trying to keep the rambunctious kids still. They go on with the fireworks.  You hear explosions. Puffs of pink, or green or red. Some of the colors are brighter than others, but everything is indefinable, washing out the lights. Eventually the show ended, and we corralled our grumpy sunburnt kids to the car. We were all cold and damp, slightly miserable, and stuck in a line of about 2000 other citizens who are also trying to exit the parking lot. It would take about 45 minutes to navigate the 3 miles home.

And this, my friends, is what depression is like.

You start out with a perfectly fine day. Toward evening, you lose the ability to see the edge of things. The colors of daily life become distorted. You become irritable over the parts of life that you used to adore, and you aren’t even sure why. Finally, you simply want to go home and build a pillow fort big enough for one person.

I spoke with a couple friends about depression yesterday. It’s funny sometimes how themes keep popping up.

Now, I first noticed my depression my final year of employment at Bethany; maybe even before then. Dragging myself out of bed was difficult. Cultivating a mood decent enough to be around people became a daily trial. At the end of the year (2006) began taking antidepressants. Until last September took them faithfully. In other words, I had Prozac and Wellbutrin to level me out, for 1/5 of my life.

They did their job. They kept my moods leveled so I wouldn’t intentionally snap at work. I could ease into many social situations I couldn’t before. I wouldn’t go home in such a sorry state I couldn’t even say hello to my family before crawling under the covers.

They had their drawbacks of course. The first one allowed me to sustain Mister Willy for about ten whole seconds before my stamina got bored and wandered off in search of a sandwich. My appetite and weight gain both increased as well. It’s like substituting one vice for another. I’m glad I never took up smoking. Coming off them gave me about two months of flu-like symptoms. I would get that zappy feeling, like when you have a fever and you move too quickly.

On the whole, though, antidepressants were a good addition to my daily routine. They buffered my weak points. They made me want to be a social creature. But I guess the important thing I learned is I had a fallback. If there is, at any point, a time when I can’t cope, now I know what the signs of depression feel like. I don’t need to just suffer silently and watch my life slip by, like fireworks in the fog.

2013, and Stuff

Yes it's a recent selfie. Taken about a month ago.
Yes, it’s a selfie. Taken about a month ago, for people who would rather not forget what I look like.

I’ve been staring at the blank screen for a couple minutes now, trying in vain to start typing. April 30th was my last post which, in dog time, is about 5 years. I’m saying goodbye to 2013, which wasn’t all bad, but which I didn’t particularly want to communicate about. It was pretty monotonous. Wake up, drink a cup of coffee, go to work, make 1000 more cups of coffee, leave work, go to bed and dream about making 1000 more cups of coffee, usually incorrectly, usually with plenty of enthusiastic customer rage to accompany my dream-mistakes. Then I do it all over when I wake up.

Continue reading 2013, and Stuff

Lactic Intolerance

First he said “I’d like three shots of espresso on top of half a grande cup of water.”

I said, “Would you like me to steam some milk for the extra room?” After all, a half cup of coffee *usually* means the person wants to fill the empty space with something else.

Continue reading Lactic Intolerance

A Big Deal

I love Small Things.

A box turtle! I was told by the resident herpetologist (which has nothing to do with herpes, mind you) on staff at USGS that this colorful pal o' mine is a male.

I was mentioning it to my sons last night, as I recalled a blog I wrote several years ago (now lost. “Thanks so much, Yahoo 360°,” he said, rolling his eyes…) about a squirrel. The  critter, in a battle with a couple blue jays high up in an oak tree, managed to drop a nut on my head. How unpredictable the universe is. Of all the random moments, in all the world, that something could drop from the sky; in all the desperate extra-species battles ever conducted in a tree, it’s amazing–a blessing of uniqueness, even, that at that every moment, I would be collateral damage in a nut bombing. The universe is capricious. Even fun. My children’s original question was if a squirrel had ever shit on my head. My answer was no. I think that, to my boys, it was a bit disappointin’ that I would miss the annointin’. I guess I should thank heaven that squirrels and jays don’t fight with grand pianos and Acme safes. Continue reading A Big Deal

The Wet, Toothy Beast

Not much to say. Fiddle dee dee.  Amazing what can pass through one’s brain, and leave so little to think about, or say before something actually occurs.  I’m feeling boss-assaulted at work. A stealth assault, where she jumps out of her office, runs to my workplace, says “boogaboogabooga” (or something like it) and words akin to “I need this by yesterday.” Then off she sprints. I know she’ll be back, adding 2 or 3 things to the list of stuff she needs by yesterday. Every time my boss speaks to her higher-ups, she goes into the stratosphere of nervous worktics. The library staff pays. For example, if the Big boss said he liked ice cream, it would come to us, within an hour of this statement, that “Big boss ordered an online ice cream distribution system.” and that we should drop everything to look into it. I despise certain aspects of my job. Continue reading The Wet, Toothy Beast

Bethany Bill’s

It’s time to strap on my big boy pants and do this blog. I’ve been avoiding the topic nearly four years. Bethany University was a horrible, wonderful, dreadful, exciting, scary, and beautiful place to work. I started there as a student in 1987, fresh from a year in France.  A very-pregnant Judi and I moved with Daniel to Visalia, California from 1997 to 2001, and we made our triumphant return about a month before 9/11. Continue reading Bethany Bill’s