Every time I open my mouth, out comes my mother

On Saturday, I made a comment on the big, blue social media site about how I knew that I would pay, in one way or another, for The Male Sibling Unit’s generosity in staying home that day to help me with housework. Normally, he has an abbreviated day at his community center, Steps. He offered to give it up to assist me because he knew I might let him run the hardwood floor steamer, which he finds fascinating. I did, and he was thrilled.

I was correct, as per usual, about paying for it, inasmuch as he had an ulterior motive. He was wonderfully helpful, a fact he has seen fit to remind me of on an hourly basis ever since. Toward the end of the day, I simply acknowledged his sacrifice and thanked him. By the end of the evening, I was contemplating buying a bag of generic, gold medals to hand out to him for every “sacrifice” he makes because that truly is a motivator.

Yesterday, it was beginning to get a little old. I mentioned – again on that big, blue social media site – that I heard my mother every time I answered him, which was really, fucking irritating, and resulted in me falling into a pretty dark hole, before sleep last night. I missed her pretty intensely. The six year anniversary of that last sunset with her is drawing near and I had assumed the sadness was pretty much gone. It isn’t. I fell asleep with the memory of holding her hand as she took her last breaths and was jarred awake momentarily in a panic because I couldn’t remember if I kissed her. After reassuring myself that, of course, I must have, I fell into a deep sleep. I awoke in a funk.

A recent sunset my daughter captured that reminds me of the night my mother died.

Funks are nothing new; I exist, sharing an uneasy residency with depression in this body, and we go to Funkytown frequently. Depression is such a generous roommate, you see; it spreads the misery 365 days out of the year. Despite the pills and the “be gentle with yourself” messages and the optimistic phrases I repeat to myself, willing them to become mantras, they never really stick. The coexistence is uneasy at best. I might have known, though, because with the worries I have on my plate right now, my roommate has been seeing an “in” and raiding the refrigerator to eat my shit (that was MY FUCKING LEFTOVER PIZZA, BITCH!) and wearing my clothes without asking. You’d think I would have figured out these dirty tricks by now, but I’ll be fucked if I can find a truly foolproof alarm to signal the breech. And so it goes.

This new trip to low-down Funkytown has made me wonder what The Male Sibling Unit actually feels; does he also “hear” our mom when he goads me into flipping out? Does he do it to elicit just such a response? Maybe the reaction he receives, which causes my blood pressure to rise and my voice to take on an ominous, rapier edge, is actually as comforting to him as it is irritating to me. I used to hate how she would fly off the handle at every, single, thing he said, and I pride myself on the fact that I have always had a much higher reservoir of patience with his compulsory chatter. When he pushes me up to and over that edge, it feels like failure to me instead of a comfort. Until today, when I had that thought, I always thought he probably hated it, too. Maybe he pokes me because this is how he gets “his” mom – the one who bellowed, shrieked, and told him to get the hell out of her face while simultaneously buying him all his comfort food and washing his blanket and planning outings for him and chuckling as she called him pet names “Horse’s Ass” and “You shitass” – back for a brief, shrill moment.

Anyway, today we are back to normal, and it is a Steps day, which means he stayed up too late, got up too early, got all his morning chores done, and was chomping at the bit for noon to arrive so he could call the center to ask, “What’s for dinner?” (he already knows it’s leftovers from their Thursday picnic but he compulsively has to ask) and advise them he’ll be there – a fact they recorded Friday, the last time he was there. We’ve already gone through the day’s bullet points:

* Should he eat leftovers for lunch today?

* Should he take another shower tonight because it’s hot and humid?

And

* What am I going to do while he is gone?

The latter resulted in Mom emerging yet again, and I think that’s exactly how he wanted his Monday to go.

Glad I could oblige.

One of the last photos my mother took of The Male Sibling Unit on her phone.
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Day Three of my ranting….

Normally, I put my own words here – my thoughts, my opinions, my literary pukeage of brain farts. Nothing is sacred once it’s in my brain and permitted to fly around in the rafters of my skull. Most of the things I think eventually make their way out of that unfortunate drapdoor in the front; I try to contain the really out there fits of authentically offensive ponderings that beat against the walls like bats in a proverbial belfry. I admit; my filter is broken and there are no immediate plans for replacement/repair.

The President of the United States, however, has no such security measures curtailing his obviously batshit rantings and hateful sewage that deserves to be flushed – not shared amongst millions of other unprotected humans. Someone needs to put a body condom on this tweeting, vocally-combustible, demented blowhard. I mean it; I fear for his safety and well-being. See what I did, there? I showed EMPATHY for another human being who I have nothing in common with and with whom I do not share the same skin color. I learned my own lesson from yesterday!

So yeah, back to the whole “my own words” thought process I was having here until I went off on some wild tangent. See? Bats in the belfry.

These need no introduction. I am quite happy to give credit where credit is due. These are the actual words of the President of the United States, when discussing refugees seeking asylum in the US. Go ahead; read his words:

“Mexico has the absolute power not to let these large ‘Caravans’ of people enter their country. They must stop them at their Northern Border, which they can do because their border laws work, not allow them to pass through into our country, which has no effective border laws.

“Congress must immediately pass Border Legislation, use Nuclear Option if necessary, to stop the massive inflow of Drugs and People. Border Patrol Agents (and ICE) are GREAT, but the weak Dem laws don’t allow them to do their job. Act now Congress, our country is being stolen!” – Donald Trump, in a series of tweets on April 2, 2018.

“We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we’re stopping a lot of them. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.” Donald Trump, May 18, 2018, in a meeting with his Cabinet

Democrats are the problem. They don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13. They can’t win on their terrible policies, so they view them as potential voters! – Donald Trump, using the word “infest” to describe human beings, in a tweet on June 19, 2018

And if those words aren’t enough to make you sick, ashamed, outraged, or, well….anything with negative connotations….then here’s an interesting little article that was published back in 2016. Chronological vomitus! It’s true! Tweets never, ever go away.

Crappy reading, y’all!

E-M-P-A-T-H-Y….it’s a feeling you should try

When my son told me he had enlisted in the Army after he graduated, I reacted like any typical mom would. It was, in fact, textbook predictable. “But what if you get deployed? You have a family.” We were in the midst of the Iraq war and we were balls-deep in the Afghanistan conflict. I was afraid for my child, like any mother would be. His reply was grave, but cavalier: “If I go, I go. I’ll fight, and I’ll be okay. It’s a part of the job.”

I had two more, very similar conversations after that; one with my youngest son when he enlisted in the Navy, and one with my daughter, when her husband signed on the dotted line with the Army. The responses I received were almost the same as my oldest son’s; the bottom line for all three was their desire to answer a higher calling and to make a better life for themselves and their young families. If that meant having to deploy to another country to help uphold freedom, so be it; they signed up willingly for that.

We were fortunate; my oldest survived two deployments, one to Iraq and the other to Afghanistan; my Navy son ended up serving onboard a nuclear submarine, which is a different kind of fear for a mom to feel, before changing direction and serving in Japan; and my son-in-law was stationed in South Korea and Germany during volatile times. My daughter and grandchildren were with him at both duty stations, so there was that kind of quadrupled worry for me.

I wrote, yesterday, about how I couldn’t imagine being separated from my children. I didn’t include these instances because, in my opinion, they don’t count. No, I didn’t choose the career paths my kids decided upon; I didn’t “sign up” to be the mother of sons who might just end up in harm’s way, on the receiving end of a bullet or an IED or a suicide vest’s contents. That’s not the point I want to make. The point is: they did. Three intelligent, young men watched the news, read the stories, and were well-informed before they volunteered to fight for their country. They were educated about the realities; they in turn educated their wives. It took teamwork between husbands and wives to make the best of it; military wives will tell you that it’s all a package deal. My daughter and daughters-in-law certainly related this to me during the 10 years, combined, that “we” were in this thing.

Now, with the current crisis of humanity and conscience going on at our country’s Southern border, I am seeing a lot of different points-of-view, and not all of it is just Republicans vs. Democrats rhetoric. With the pervasive divisiveness we are experiencing in this country, that’s certainly a given. Racism, bigotry, and prejudice has always been present in America, an irony I still can’t get over given our country’s reputation for inclusiveness, and the words

With silent lips. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

that welcome immigrants at The Statue of Liberty.

Everyone has an opinion about this, be it on the side of our better angels or on the side of demons intent on destroying the family unit.

But then there’s this:

And this:

and I find myself breathless with dumbfounded wonder at the absolute shamelessness of some people. How do you equate what military families live with what refugees have endured in their countries? Refugees don’t ask for the violence they live with on a daily basis. They were born into it. They live in poverty, their basic needs a daily struggle, their power usurped by corrupt governments (there’s a term we need to revisit) and thugs with guns. They hear about a sibling, or a cousin, who successfully made it to America and who now has a safe place to sleep, food, and a job. That’s what they hear, and they look at their children and despair. Do they stay or do they go? Stay in the desolate familiarity where one must comply with the cartels or die, or brave the dangerous terrain and ask a country for asylum that is not guaranteed to be granted? Certainly, both choices are fraught with worry and, in fact, tremendous courage. Here, in America, when drug dealers move into our neighborhoods, we fight back and drive them out, however we can. We don’t stand for it. But imagine, for a moment, if those drug dealers had the protection of an army of thugs and in most cases, their own government. Imagine how we would feel if we knew that we were as unsafe with the police as we were in the den of the drug dealer?

That’s what families seeking asylum live with in their own countries. That’s why they come to us, asking us to help, choosing to trust in us. They don’t have good choices. There are no good alternatives. And so they come, and now, we are betraying the very foundations on which this country was built. No, maybe military families don’t like their lot in life, but with the stroke of a pen and a signature recorded, someone did make that choice willingly. They weren’t “born into it” and haven’t “lived it” their whole lives. When a young man or woman makes the choice to serve their country, they sign their families up for it. Maybe, in retrospect, that isn’t fair, but life isn’t always about fairness. No, the children they chose to bring into the world didn’t get to weigh in on whether or not Daddy/Mommy has to go to war, but do any of us get to choose who raises us? Those immigrant children didn’t get to choose, either. Here’s where it gets ironic, though:

The parents chose to bring them into the world.

This is what military families and refugees have in common. Neither wants their children to know a moment of sadness or despair.

Can we simply stop trying to one-up each other? Can we simply acknowledge that this is a terrible, terrible thing without feeling the need to equate two very different circumstances with each other? You’re afraid because your parent/sibling/spouse/child is serving in a dangerous country, putting their life on the line for a grateful nation. I get it; I’ve experienced it. It’s STILL not the same. It just isn’t. You aren’t being detained in a cage or a tent, with mylar blankets. Your kids aren’t miles (even states) away from you, being housed in similar circumstances. You can tuck them in at night, knowing they are safe, and clothed, and fed, and warm. You can hold them when they cry for you. Now, your military member in harm’s way can’t, but again, I will remind you, in the words of the President of the United States: he/she knew what he signed up for.

It’s not the same. Quit trying to make it be.

America, I am ashamed of you.

I have never been involuntarily separated from my children. No one has ever put me in one place and them in another. I cannot imagine the torment, the terror, and the sleepless nights.

I cannot imagine living in a world where the reality, every, single day, is violence. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be threatened, to lose family members, and to fear for my children because of gang and drug violence. I cannot imagine being born into such a volatile, terrifying world. I cannot imagine coming to the decision to either run with my child or worse, to send my child with someone else, across dangerous terrain, and to ask a country that used to be known for its compassion to shelter us.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to discover that the compassionate country where dreams have come true for so many and which has been a beacon of light in an otherwise dark, dismal life is actually a place of racism, prejudice, and bigotry, run by a feckless thug; a cretin who gives not one, single thought about anyone but himself. It is a place where angry white people dominate and where any one with brown skin is somehow “less”.

One time, long ago, I lost my daughter. Well, “lost” is too strong a word, but that’s what it felt like. We had just bought a home next door to my mother and, in our excitement, we left her in an upstairs bedroom. She was nearly 3; I thought her dad or an adult friend who was with us had her; he thought the same. We walked next door to Mom’s, and I turned around to take my daughter’s hand. She was not there. The absolute terror that I felt was not measurable by any instrument I know of. I didn’t know where she was and I lost it, running outside. I looked up to the front bedroom windows on the second floor of the house and there she stood, crying hysterically, her hands planted against the glass. Our friend took off at a dead run up the stairs and into the house, reaching her before I ever could have, and returned with my sobbing baby. I cried as I held her, promising that I would never lose sight of her again. And I never did.

So no, I cannot imagine what it is like for the parents who are being detained at the border and separated from their children. I cannot imagine what kind of fear those children are feeling or the anxiety they and their parents must be experiencing.

But I saw my little girl’s face, 26 years ago, in that window. I saw her baby hands plastered against the window, and the terror in her eyes. I remember, to this day, how I felt before I saw her there. I will never forget it. So while I say that I cannot imagine the myriad of emotions going on at the border, it’s only because I felt that fear, long ago, for a couple of minutes, and I don’t know how anyone can condone inflicting that kind of pain – for weeks and even months – on another human being.

Shame. That’s what I feel today.

Oh, woe is me, or Father’s Day

If you know me, even a little bit, and you’ve dropped by to read this because it has “Father’s Day” in the title and you’re a little curious about what I might have to say, then I’ll just apologize right now.

A gratuitous stock image from a Father’s Day card for YOUR dad.

I don’t have any new information or words of enlightenment about my (lack of) paternal guidance in my life. About the only thing new I can impart is that the fucker is still alive and kicking, which makes him old AF; he’s as uncommunicative as he was when I was 10; and my older half-brother still waxes poetic about how “great” our dad is. News flash, big bro……he ain’t great. Oh, he’s great at ignoring his responsibilities, great at pretending he’s without human flaws, great at not reaching out to a child who never asked to be born and never contacted him for anything and whose mother never did, either. He’s great at his imitation of an ostrich; come to think of it, comparing him to an ostrich is an affront to ostriches everywhere.

Does this come off as bitter? I’m truly not. Understand this. I’m so not bitter, I’m your grandma’s homemade fudge.

I don’t know why my older half-brother sought out a friendship with me. We never speak of our relationship. We have two things in common: the asshat who stuck his dick into our mothers and the fact that neither of us is unkind. That seems to be it, though. He’s a Christian, conservative, well-to-do, proud bearer of the family name. I am none of those things.

That being said, sought me out, he did, and accepted his request, I did, so the joke’s on me, I suppose. Every time he posts about dear ol’ Dad, I feel uncomfortable, vaguely numb, and confused. My sperm donor – his dad -seems to be pretty fantastic. He has stories to tell, history to impart, and wisdom for days. Big bro describes a happy childhood and has nothing but elevating, kind, even worshipful words about this person who stole, like a theif in the night, into our home up until he got my mother pregnant with The Male Sibling Unit. He disappeared after that and then became persona non-grata after he renounced his attachment to a son who was developmentally-delayed. My mother “must have cheated on him” ( oh, there’s the irony!) because “no (insert last name I was not permitted to have) could father a retard.” That’s right, folks. That great guy used that word. I was a quiet, stealthy child with a penchant for eavesdropping because that was the only way I ever found out anything in my family; those people were vacuum-sealed when it came to feelings and truth. I also read voraciously, and nothing was more absorbing than the journals my mother kept during this time. This was the age of snail mail, too, and, to this day, I give not a single fuck that I read her mail, both incoming and outgoing. I certainly wasn’t getting any answers to the questions I ventured to ask; when the responses went from “Nevermind” to banshee shrieks of outrage that I would even dare to ask, I gave up. The journals and letters spoke her truth. And so, I understood, even at a young age, that this was no great guy.

I wonder, sometimes, whether or not our Facebook friendship is my seemingly-nice, older half-brother’s passive-aggressive way of reminding me that I’m not one of “them”. I’m not a part of the big family network with the old patriarch holding forth at family gatherings and such. I can’t post cute anecdotes about “that thing my dad said the other day” or wax poetic about him via loving childhood memories, because the well is fucking dry. There has never been water in that well; rain evaporates into nothing because there is no atmosphere. It is a black hole of lacking. There aren’t even tears, and I promise you, on the life of my children, there never have been. I never cried for the lack of what I never had. I never wished for a relationship, or a father figure, or for that great man to have a change of heart and seek out an audience with me; what crumbs he did offer were digested and shat out long ago. I don’t need my life force infected with the obvious intolerance of anyone who throws around the word “retard”. I don’t care that he said it 40 years ago and I give not a single fuck to the consideration that maybe he hasn’t said it since.

“Maybe he doesn’t know you’re his half-sister”; some of you might be thinking this. He knows. He fucking knows. That’s one thing about this town we inhabit together; people make it their business to know other peoples’ business. Just as I was an observant eavesdropper, there’s something in the water or the air here that makes everyone feel entitled to “know shit”. In the 60s and 70s, when I was a kid, the first thing anyone asked you was “Who’s your dad?” Sometimes it was, “Hmmmm, (says last name)…..what was your mother’s maiden name?” Answers like “I dunno” and “Her maiden name was what mine is now” elicited a certain reaction I learned to recognize and to abhor; it was the “Oooo, I’ll have to ask so-and-so about this!” face. It wasn’t a very accepting place with which to grow up when you were a bastard. I wear that word proudly now; back then, it wasn’t a badge I pinned to my chest.

So yeah, he knows. Does he know he makes me vaguely uncomfortable with his Pro-Daddy posts? I dunno; if he reads this, he will. Do I fear that he will misconstrue this as a sign of weakness in me? Nope. I’m not afraid of anything; I can honestly say that. I’m certainly not afraid of the opinion of a man who might just read this, discover that his great dad used the word “retard” about a son who looks exactly like his two other sons, and still chooses to regard that man as great. Nope. My battered and bruised heart still beats strong within my chest. I can’t wait to see another great post tomorrow, on the day all the kids thank their great dads for everything.

Bring it.

Of loss, and anger, and giving it the finger when your hands are tied behind your back.

So, the celebrity “creative” world got gut-punched last week.

Two artists, who were seemingly “on top of the world” took their own lives in very similar ways. I call Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain artists because, hello? They were: she, the creator of art one could carry and wear, that shaped how people saw accessories in fashion; he, the creator of flawless food, essays, books, and thought-provoking social commentary on his television shows. If this planet manages to survive the terrible things being done to it, and if the human race can overcome the crisis of stupidity and ignorance that is spreading, like the black plague, throughout the hearts and minds of so many; future generations will read about these two and pronounce them icons – indeed, visionaries – of their time.

Right now, that’s a big “if”.

I wrote from the heart when news of Tony’s death was announced. Kate’s had affected me, but in more of a “Wow, another victim of depression” sort of way; I am not a purse/accessories person. Her death saddened me in a way that I can only characterize as vague.

Tony’s was much more visceral, and that feeling hasn’t really dissipated. His suicide was of a Robin Williams-caliber for me, and I was quietly alarmed by my immediate grief. The husband, family members, and friends were, too, because Robin Williams’ death was the event that sent me closer to the edge of my own, personal cliff. Without reliving the details, my life broke down in numerous ways because I was only just at the beginning of understanding that I was damaged but not broken; I was actually sick, and there were treatments. Three and a half decades of resistance to admitting that I wasn’t the Wonder Woman of my own psyche – and that I needed to allow more capable hands to help me – had taken their toll. That wasn’t so long ago, and I have worked pretty hard to recover and slowly back away from that cliff. There’s actually a barrier between me and the cliff in the form of medications, daily mantras, and people who have made it their business to watch me carefully and either taser my ass or physically hold me back if need be.

Just because there’s a barrier doesn’t mean the urge to climb isn’t there; especially given my brain’s propensity toward taking every little obstacle, every unkind word, and every dramatic event, and adding it, like another rubberband around one of those homemade, rubberband balls people like to make and keep in their desks. The ball has been getting bigger just lately, and I regard it, alternately proud/horrified/fascinated by my creation.

Tony’s death was one of those wide rubberbands that comes around a thick bundle of mail. Not a pretty color, and now that ball looks uneven, so I have been searching for smaller, more colorful scraps to wrap around it. It needs balance. Thanks, OCD! Not only do you try to control the silly idiosyncrasies in my life, but you insist on making my mental illness balanced and pretty, too! Bastard.

That’s a problem.

What I should do, really, is throw the fucking rubberband ball over the barrier and off the cliff. It doesn’t serve me at all to keep it; I don’t show it off proudly, saying, “Look what I made!” It isn’t something to show off. It is something to be ashamed of, because if I don’t get to work, peeling off layers of rubber bands, it’s going to become too big to throw. It will be found on the other side of that barrier, sitting on the ground, and I will be up and over, trying to escape it before it rolls right over me.

It’s difficult, however, to rid oneself of every, single scrap of rubber accumulated even in one, single day. Invariably, at least one gets added to the ball because it’s a good color, or it can’t be stretched around my fingers and shot off over the cliff. I think that I am strong, and that “just one teensy, tiny more” won’t make a difference, but that’s exactly what got me to the cliff the last time, my toes past the edge, my balance at war with gravity’s pull. My balance has never been great, and it’s definitely not something I would bet even a penny on now.

It’s so hard, though. It’s hard to admit to my watchmen that I have been adding rubber bands and that the ball is getting dangerously close to no longer fitting in the desk drawer. I’m like an addict who’s been hiding her gear; I desperately want to shield people from knowing it’s become a problem; seeing me as weak, or unfit, or “less”.

“Less” is awful. And I am prideful. But pride goeth before a fall.

Tony, I know I said I recognized you; the real you behind those dark, inaccessible eyes. I know I said that, while this was a shock, it was not a surprise as much as it was that sucker punch that we would expect to receive when two thugs – apathy and sadness – are holding our arms and that big Mob Boss – Depression – is cracking his knuckles in front of us and shaking his head. I am sure it was much, much more painful for those who knew and loved you.

But fucking hell, man. It fucking hurt. And now I’m looking at my desk drawer, wondering how the fuck I’m gonna get rid of my rubberband ball.

Dude. I am so mad at you right now.

No Reservations. And no vacancies.

Last night, I put CNN’s Parts Unknown on and watched for three hours. It’s one of my favorites, a go-to because I love Anthony Bourdain and have loved him for a decade now, ever since discovering No Reservations and falling under the spell of his self-deprecating, sarcastic brilliance. I recognized him. He was “my people”. I read every book he published voraciously. I watched his many television shows and even enjoyed Ratatouille, a cartoon he had a hand in writing. At least two of my children – one a chef, the other an artist – joined me on the quest for all things Bourdain. I felt that I knew him, from the moment I saw his craggy, handsome face and heard the world-weary tone in his voice. I also heard the wonder.

You see, we recognize our own. We see it, deep inside them. Maybe it’s the shadow that passes over their face in a quiet moment, or the smile they put on that doesn’t quite reach their eyes. It is their love of solitude, and the ease with which they put on their brave face and greet the day when there are so many responsibilities, so many people in cue, wanting their time and attention. Those who suffer with depression are brilliant actors. Never doubt that.

We love, fiercely, that which we seek to understand; we revel at times in the joy of our lives, just as we wallow in the sadness that teems just underneath the surface, waiting for its moment to bubble up and gulp in great lungfuls of oxygen. It always does, you see. Like fire, it needs that oxygen to spread and live – and live, it does. When it does; when it spreads, like thick molasses, and traps us down with it, we simply lay there, captured, like a fly in sticky tape. We let it lie to us for a while, and then we fight it, because we either have people who are strong enough to love us through it, or chemicals we take to summon the strength to fight. Always, always in the back of our minds is the gnawing thought: is this going to be the time that the dark, sticky, enveloping quagmire of desolation finally overcomes me and I succumb to it? We fear it almost as much as we fear the days when we are forced to appear happy to the world when we are sunken into the empty well of darkness that we fall into.

You, who don’t understand this, don’t catch the hints. We, who live with it, see it immediately. It’s not a question of addressing it with our weary, fellow travelers who accompany us on this seemingly endless road of survival; I never once had the opportunity to meet this man. I would have loved to have a drink and a plate of whatever he wished with him and to pick his brain; he was so attractive to me with his rangy, sinewy body and salt and pepper hair. When he was happy – and believe me when I tell you that I recognized those moments even from a remote, impersonal image on a television screen – he was irresistible. And when he was not happy; a state of mind I could recognize in an instant and that haunted his face much more frequently than the happiness visited him, I wished only to be able to grip his hand and say, softly, that it was okay. The husband recognized my fascination and admiration of this man as lust; I did lust because he is in my wheelhouse of men I find attractive; but I really lusted after the ability to look him in the eyes and say, “I know.”

I never got that chance, and was awakened this morning by a missed phone call and a text from the husband, asking me to find a calm place before getting on the internet. If he had discovered this news before leaving for work, he would have called off. Yes, this is that big of a deal. It is not a close friend or family member in the literal sense, but actually, it is. We, who recognize each other in this life; we, who battle demons of the same legion and who try to simply grip each other’s shoulders and to urge each other to FIGHT: we belong to the same tribe.

And when one of us falls, we need a minute. We need a moment to catch our breath, need the time to digest it, to send for reinforcements, and to plan for an attack. When one of our biggest, and brightest, and most secretive succumbs, we know that it is only a matter of time before we will be beseiged with an attack from the same, evil empire. It’s inevitable. It lies in wait, ready to jump us while we’re feeling vulnerable. I can’t help but feel angry at Tony right now, despite my my eternal love and admiration for his genius, and for his companionship. He didn’t know that, of course, but he was a member of my tribe. And now he has fallen in this endless battle we are engaged in. In succumbing, he has opened me to an attack. I’m wearily donning my armor and waiting.

Depression, when treated, is like a cavity in a tooth. We know it is there, and we numb it with medications, or booze, or other things that don’t exactly help it, but make it bearable. Because we hate…hate…and fear the dentist. Having to go means having to listen to admonishments about how shitty we are at taking care of our teeth. We regard our mental health like our dental health. There is still shame. We probe it from time to time with the tip of our tongue and the pain returns, fresh, until we go to the dentist and either fill it or remove it. Fillings help us to forget about it, but removal leaves an empty space for our tongues to return to, to remind us that it’s gone, and that the living tissue succumbed because we didn’t attend to it with the same fervency that we would if, say, our child complained about a toothache. We are great at caring for others. Others provide great camoflauge; necessary diversions for us. But we suck at caring for ourselves.

We must try to do better. We must let those around us, who recognize our struggles, help us to fight. Those of you lucky humans who belong to that other faction that doesn’t experience the darkness, who aren’t educated in how to recognize us: you need to educate yourselves because our tribe is under attack; it is experiencing a plague. We can’t do it alone. Please, if you are reading this and you are alone in this battle; if you belong to my tribe: just reach out to me. I know you’re there. I think about you. I can help you fight. And you, in turn, can help me.

Tony, you were my people. I ache for your family, for your daughter. I ache for myself, because you were beautiful, and you were sad, and now you’re free, and that is dangerously attractive. I don’t want to follow you. Right now, I need to mourn your loss and to be angry at you for a little while, because losing you is like losing one of our best warriors in this battle, and you have made our line vulnerable. But we are not weak. You were not weak. You just believed the lies. And sometimes, the lies overwhelm and engulf and all we want is peace. I hope, for you, there is peace.

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. Please, call it if you are in my tribe and you feel alone. Or message me. I promise you, I am here.