Tuesday, September 30, 2008


A blood red rose
mere token of affection
mocks me
from a silvery vase
encompassing the stem.

Blindly, it stretches towards light
from a bare bulb on a cluttered desk.

Blood flows
in minute drops
on silky soft petals.
Bleeding fingers-
damn hemophiliac.

Will you put on a tourniquet
before my life ebbs out.

(Previously published on Soulful Sepulcher- thanks Stephany for giving me a start with my poetry!)

Photo used with permission from Fabio,

Saturday, September 27, 2008

RIP Paul Newman

Screen Legend Paul Newman Dies at 83 of Cancer

NEW HAVEN, Conn. —

Paul Newman, the Academy-Award winning superstar who personified cool as an activist, race car driver, popcorn impresario and the anti-hero of such films as "Hud," "Cool Hand Luke" and "The Color of Money," has died. He was 83.
Newman died Friday after a long battle with cancer at his farmhouse near Westport, publicist Jeff Sanderson said. He was surrounded by his family and close friends.

In May, Newman he had dropped plans to direct a fall production of "Of Mice and Men," citing unspecified health issues.

In August, he finished chemotherapy and told his family he wanted to die at home. He was given only weeks to live.

He got his start in theater and on television during the 1950s, and went on to become one of the world's most enduring and popular film stars, a legend held in awe by his peers.

He was nominated for Oscars 10 times, winning one regular award for "The Color of Money" and two honorary ones, and had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures, including "Exodus," "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Verdict," "The Sting" and "Absence of Malice."

Newman worked with some of the greatest directors of the past half century, from Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston to Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers. His co-stars included Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and, most famously, Robert Redford, his sidekick in "Butch Cassidy" and "The Sting."

He sometimes teamed with his wife and fellow Oscar winner, Joanne Woodward, with whom he had one of Hollywood's rare long-term marriages.

"I have steak at home, why go out for hamburger?" Newman told Playboy magazine when asked if he was tempted to stray. They wed in 1958, around the same time they both appeared in "The Long Hot Summer," and Newman directed her in several films, including "Rachel, Rachel" and "The Glass Menagerie."

For Gianna

A cat fix. Last video of the kittens, Rocky and Bullwinkle.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Shhh. It's a secret

New Blog coming soon....

Details soon....

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Happy Anniversary-No Words Necessary

September 26, 1996-September 26, 2008

8 Tips To Manage Financial Stress

I am feeling poorly today, so I am posting something the brilliant blogger Therese Bouchard posted last week in her award winning blog "Beyond Blue'. If you have not seen her blog, follow the hyperlink on my blog roll. Thank you Therese for letting me post this!


Like most dinner conversations last night, ours was about Wall Street and our course of action. As Eric and I talked about what best to do at a time of financial crisis, it occurred to me that the same tools that I use for my general anxiety disorder can be applied to Wall Street Anxiety: when you fret about losing your home, car, stocks, junk bonds, retirement savings, college funds, and everything else in the lyrics of a bad country song (truck, sorry forgot the truck).

1. Ignore Amy
The amygdala, the almond shaped group of neurons in the limbic system of the brain, is considered by most neurobiologists our fear system, and it acts like an ape or a how a human would have acted, say, back when we still had lots of hair all over. The adrenaline that you are feeling when you see stock exchange plummet is the amydala getting crazy, hosting a party in your head, whatever. I call my amygdala "Amy." And whenever I panic, I tell her to go take a nap, that I can't tolerate her noise and ruckus right now.

2. Distract Yourself
It's not easy to quiet your amygdala, which is why the best thing you can do for yourself at times is to distract yourself. My mom knew the importance of this point when she knitted 100 blankets the year my dad left. For every occasion for about 10 years, everyone would receive an afghan as a gift. Until she stopped getting invited. (Just kidding.) This activity pulled her through the worst years of her life.

3. Surrender Control
The most uncomfortable part of a Wall Street crash is the lack of control most of us feel. It's contrary to our human psychology. We want to drive the car, or at least be the passenger in the front seat giving directions. But in an economic downturn, we're not even in the car. We have no say on which rest stations we are stopping at. In fact, much of the time if feels like we are riding in the trailer hitched to the back of the car. With the horses. Admitting that we're not in control can be somewhat liberating. Because the stock market is life: you win some, you lose some, and you don't have a whole lot of say in the whole matter.

4. Know Thyself
This is a great point Eric made last night as we talked about a friend of ours who always freaks when the stock market dives. She sells all of her stocks and then invests again when they go back up. And she loses a lot of money in the process. Eric said, "Her problem is that she doesn't know her risk tolerance. If she would realize that she has a low risk tolerance, then she'd see that she'd be better off in bonds and more conservative investments. Instead, she pulls out whenever there's movement on Wall Street." Just like every other kind of anxiety, knowing yourself can lead you to a path of peace.

5. Turn It Off
Just like I said in my post "8 Ways to Manage Anxiety on an Anniversary," one of the worst things you can do for your amygdala, or fear system in the brain, is to keep the TV and radio tuned into the latest news on Wall Street, to keep checking cnn.com to find out what the newest number is. This kind of compulsive behavior is toxic for the obsessive, sensitive folks who are prone to anxiety even without a reporter telling them to run for cover. Treat your amygdala well. Turn the news off. Except for this piece, of course.

6. Get Greedy
This point may seem contrary to the others, but I have studied investment strategies, and think there's logic to what Warren Buffet once said: "When everyone is fearsome, that's the time to be greedy, and when everyone's greedy, that's the time to be fearsome." What does he mean? If after you analyze your risk tolerance and decide you do want to keep some stocks in the market, then this is the time to buy. It's the same sort of logic I describe in my "12 Depression Busters" : when the last thing you want to do is to get dressed and say hello to some folks, that is the time when doing so is more important than ever.

7. Do Nothing
If you realize that your risk tolerance is quite low or if you have absolutely no money to invest, you can relax and do nothing. A story I read the other day profiled a guy who threw away his PIN number so that he couldn't check his stocks any more. Just knowing that downturns are part of the economic process for the reward of high gains--that you have to risk volatility to acquire any profit and that this is all the nature of the beast--can sometimes help you sit tight and hang on during the wild ride.

8. Trust
I often make the point in dealing with severe depression that you absolutely have to trust that you won't always feel so horrible and hopeless, that you WILL get better. Part of successful cognitive behavioral therapy is trusting in that optimistic message. It has the power to pull you forward. So know this: the economy will run its course and the stock market WILL recover.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Arte Y Pico

I am behind on blog awards. I am giving out the Arte Y Pico award today, and will be passing out other ones shortly.

Stephany, from "Soulful Sepulcher" gave this to me last week and I am humbled and honored.

Here is a description of the Arte Y Pico,


I do not know how to do hyperlinks. The blogs I want to mention for this are all on my blog roll.

In no particular order, these blogs are wonderful, and have not yet received this award. They have touched my soul.

G at "A New Beginning"


Merely Me's Multiple Synchronicities (and sclerosis)


Raspberry at Mindfullness, Madness and Me


And a friend of mine who wants to be nameless and cannot post awards on his blog.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Thank you

I want to thank those of you who helped me get through the last week. Gianna and Ana, thank you. Stephany, thank you. Sherry, thank you. To all those who wrote to me, and those friends of Kevin who sent me emails about him, thank you.

I meant to start blogging again yesterday, but I - I .....

can't. I am overwhelmed by the email I am behind.

I am cycling down, cannot sleep or hypersleep. Cannot eat, but I am drinking. Went for a lithium blood draw and they couldn't find a vein, so I have an appt for a pic line if things do not improve.

I - I wish to heaven I was in front of that train instead of Kevin. But I am not suicidal. I just don't understand.

I am safe, Holly is watching me like a hawk. She is the best medicine I know.

I've never felt like this before. Broken. I've never felt broken before. But that is the only word to describe how I feel. Broken.

I hope to be writing again soon, I miss my readers, and get so much from them. But right now....I just have to figure out how to put the pieces back together again and live again.

I love you all.

Susan S.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ketchup Day

Today is being set aside, not to blog, but to play catch up.

I am behind on my personal emails, personal phone calls, and text messages. I have not cleaned or done laundry in a week. l have not ready any of my friend's blogs in a week, or the blogs in my blog roll, and I miss them.

I will be back to posting tomorrow.

In the mean time, thank you all for the letters, emails, phone calls, text messages, and love.

I am blessed to know so many of you, feel blessed as well that there are so many good and wonderful people in the world.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cat fix video

I just came back from my friend Kevin's memorial service. As you can see from two previous entries, he died unexpectedly and suddenly last weekend at the age of 28.

I am still, raw numb, my body aching from unshed tears and wanting to cry and have not been able to since I heard the news. Could not cry when I saw the family pictures, spoke to the widow and the brother, saw the urn with the ashes.

I have a friend with me now who drove up from DC to attend. She will leave in the morning, but right now she and the cat are snuggling in the bedroom, door shut and I am on the computer, trying to wind down from the day and to sleep.

All I can say is even though my ECT was a huge mistake, and it did horrible damage to me, I am alive. I am breathing, I looked at the full moon tonight, now waning, and I am alive. I AM ALIVE.

In the years since I have been diagnosed, and on meds, and even now with my med cocktail, I have never been so glad to be alive as I am right now.

Oh how I wish people like David Foster Wallace, Sylvia Plath, Kurt Cobain- my friend Kevin- were still here too. It's a beautiful thing to be alive. Even if your brain isn't working as well as you want.

I need a cat fix. This was done by a friend and stars Bullwinkle and Rocky the kittens.


Van Gogh is coming to NY!

Once again MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York City will be holding a Van Gogh exhibit. MoMA houses Starry Night in it's collection.

For all Van Gogh lovers, tickets are available online, here.


I saw the Van Gogh exhibit the last time it was in the city, and made a pilgrimage to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

This is the only artist i will never tire of. If anyone wants to go with me, let me know!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Final thoughts on the death of my friend Kevin Greim

Monday night. It was past 11 o'clock, I was just watching the news, trying to wind down before I go to sleep. The phone rang. I would never get the phone after ten, but I noticed on caller ID that it was my friend G- and it must have been bad for him to call that late at night.

I picked up the phone. "Susan", he said, his voice choking with tears and sobs. "You better sit down, it's bad. It's really bad".

G's father has been ill for quite some time, so I sat back down on the couch, expecting him to tell me his dad passed. But no.. This was worse. Far worse. "Susan, um, when was the last time you spoke to Kevin?"

" A few months ago" I assured him. G- continued. "Kevin died on Sunday morning".

My mind couldn't grasp this. I was waiting for "April Fool", but G- was too upset. "He suicided on the Princeton Junction train".

I started to cry.

We talked for a half hour, deciding in a few small moments of clarity, who we needed to call. I was told to call N- a friend of ours, S- another friend, and my ex, John. And then our support group. Between calls made over the next 36 hours, I cried buckets, and tried in my own way to deal with this. And tried to understand what Kevin, the most alive person I have ever met in my entire life, could wind up at the train station on a moonlit Sunday morning.

Mercer County, New Jersey is home to the state's capital Trenton. Years ago it was quite upscale, when the Roeblings lived there. It also contains the town of Princeton, where the university is located. It's a beautiful sleepy suburban town, comprising of the university, the Advanced Institute, set up for Albert Einstein, the Theological Institute, Westminster Choir College, and many large companies, including ETS, Squibb, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Princeton Plasma, and many more.

And then there is the hospital. As hospitals go, Princeton is on the small side, it's claim to fame is that the singer Mary Chapin Carpenter was born there, and it served as the back drop on the current TV series "House".

It was at this hospital where I and my ex husband first met Kevin Greim. He came into our support group, wearing a backwards baseball cap, leather jacket and jeans. What I noticed immediately about him, was his smile. It wasn't a perfect smile, but it lit up the room. He had one of those rare personalities, all magnetic; people just gravitated towards him. You couldn't help but like Kevin, he had this amazing aura around him, and a lust for life.

Kevin was like a sponge. He wanted to learn everything, and as time went on, he contributed more and more to our meetings, eventually bringing his wife Jamie to our group. She too, made valuable contributions. What I recall most, is after the meetings, going to the Starbucks or Panera's on Nassau Street after our meetings. Kevin would talk to John, I would sit at a table and talk to Jamie. And just talk girl talk. About our weddings, the dresses we wore and how we felt. Our cats. When Kevin found out I loved cats ,he told me about one of his cats, six toed like one of Hemingway's.

John and Kevin developed a kind of relationship, each seeing each other more as a friend, but also as a mentor. Sort of like Leopold Bloom and Stephen Daedelus. We would meet Kevin at Panera's for lunch and they would talk. Kevin would order a coffee, too proud to say he couldn't afford lunch that day. Of course, we would always treat.

What people don't realize about Kevin is that he had so much love in his heart for other people. When his friend N- had car troubles and needed to purchase a car- he took her too his old car dealership and helped her purchase a beauty. He loved facilitating in our group, and helping other people when he worked at CSP. He was always there for his friend G. He was always there for me when my marriage ended. He gave freely of his time, offering and ear and never asked for anything in return, only to learn, more about human nature.

And maybe that is what ultimately lead him on the last few hours of his short life to the Princeton Junction train station. His heart gave out.

I understand the lure of the train. Back in 2001, at my most suicidal, I too went to the same train station, parked my car in the same parking lot, left my handbag and a note on the windshield, saying simply ":I am sorry". Locked the car, put the keys in my jeans pocket, and walked down the tunnel up to the train tracks. And waited for the train.

About an hour later, I could see the headlight in the distance. I could hear the noise. It would have been so easy to jump down, and sit on the tracks. But then I looked up at the stars and strand of moon and changed my mind. Kevin didn't. I don't know in the last milliseconds if he stared at the headlight and said a silent prayer. i don't know if he looked at the full moon. We never will know. What I do know is so many of us, had we been there with him, would have pushed him out of harm's way quickly- and done the ultimate sacrifice so he might live.

No one will forget how he loved to talk about his family, his wife, his animals. The glee he had one night when he was showing off a new ipod his brother had bought for him. How he would go to Taco Bell, order 10 tacos and eat 7 at one sitting.

Between Sunday, September 14, and Monday September 15, Mercer County. New Jersey had two suicides. One was a 46 year old man who jumped off the overpass by Quaker Bridge Mall on to Route 1, in a perfect swan dive. And the other one was my friend Kevin.

My friend Kevin. Where ever you are now, may you find the peace you were looking for. I am truly blessed that for four years, I knew him. He will be missed by his mother, father, brother and wife Jamie, said the obituary. What it left out is all the other people Kevin touched in his 28 years on this planet.

Bless you Kevin.

One beautiful thing out of ashes.

My friend and muse, Philip Dawdy just finished his fundraiser. He was able to raise the money he sorely needs to continue his website, Furious Seasons. Though the fund drive is over, you can still contribute via check or Paypal. If you haven't contributed, why not throw a few dollars his way? It's for a good cause.

Philip just posted pictures of his beautiful office cats, KC and Katie. on Furious Seasons. What you all don't know is I have an unpublished photo of Katie, which , as founding member of the KC and Katie fan club, I am pleased to post. In honor of Philip, and his amazing writing. I was given this beautiful photo as a birthday present.

As for the KC and Katie fan club- it's open to all kitties (and their humans). Holly is the president - but all are welcome- even dogs!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another writer on the untimely death of Kevin Greim

I am beyond tired. I have been trying all day to write something beautiful for my friend Kevin and his widow, Jamie. It's probably the hardest piece I have ever done. In the mean time, to show what a beautiful person Kevin was, here is John McManamy's view on Kevin, which appeared on Health Central this afternoon. Like John, I am blessed to know this wonderful person who left us too soon at 28.


A new message was on my answering machine. It was from Susan, my ex-wife. In a quavering voice, she braced me for terrible news: Early Sunday morning, a good friend, Kevin, threw himself in front of a train. He was 28.

Four years ago, I was facilitating a DBSA support group in Princeton, NJ. In walked Kevin, exuding a goofy charm, baseball cap on backward. But there was something about his presence that indicated he was no mere goofball. The others in the room felt it, too.

He carried that exceedingly rare quality of instant likability, but he wore it with a seriousness of purpose that endeared him not only to those in his age group, but to those twice his age, people like me.

He had a lot of serious personal issues to discuss that night, ones with no easy resolution. As facilitator, I did my best to make him feel welcome, to let him know he was in a safe place, amongst friends. But his personal issues? Anything I said was bound to ring hollow.

Then I had an inspiration. I sensed the potential for a rapport with one of the older members of the group. I put out the suggestion that maybe they should be talking to one another during the week. The suggestion took. Now, our group had a new regular.

Over the weeks, I couldn't help be impressed by the way Kevin carried himself. He would walk up to newcomers and introduce himself and start up a conversation. In the group, he was a great listener, dispensing the wisdom of a sage, leavened by a keen sense of humor.

It was amazing to observe him with people much older. At once, he was deferential, compassionate, and exuding great authority. You simply forgot you were talking to someone much younger. You simply wanted to be around him, laugh with him, seek advice from him.

It wasn't long before I asked Kevin to help facilitate the group. He took his new responsibility very seriously. He learned everything he could. We would talk for hours. He facilitated far better than I ever could, and it showed in the way the group responded to him. I had the book knowledge, but he had the real wisdom.

Yet, he still deferred to me. He was wiser than me, but wise enough to know that he could still learn, even from me. This is a rare quality in anyone, but in a kid half my age? Aren't they all supposed to be wise-asses?

Maybe he was grateful that I saw something in him. After all, he did have inferiority issues. He came from a broken home. He did not have a higher education. He was going through personal stuff guaranteed to knock the self-confidence out of the best of us. Plus, his illness, his illness.

He had his setbacks, his dark moments. Yet, over time - in group, over coffee, over sandwiches, hanging out - I watched him blossom. With his extraordinary people skills, the sky was the limit.

In late 2006, my marriage broke up. Kevin was the first to offer me support. He invited me over to his place. With his wife and friends, we played cards. He suggested various places I should check moving into.

Then came an offer from a friend in the San Diego area. Suddenly, I had my life in seven or eight FedEx cartons. I popped into the DBSA group one last time. Kevin was facilitating. He gave me a heartfelt tribute. I felt the goodness in the man. Goodness, true goodness. That was the last time I saw him alive.

He had so much to live for, so much to offer. Yet, on a miserable muggy New Jersey morning, his brain tricked him into believing something else. I can fully understand, even if I don't understand ...

It's been a bad day, I need a cute fix

It's been the among the worst 24 hours of my life A very good friend committed suicide this weekend. He was 28.

I need a cute fix.

It was made by another dear friend , and is dedicated to the memory of Kevin Greim, friend, and cat lover. 1980-2008


12 Essential Moods Rules To Live More Like a Zen Monk

This is from Gianna Kali, the webmistress of Beyond Meds. Thank you Gianna!

This piece is taken from a delightful blog called zenhabits I’ve just discovered through one of my email groups.

The author of zenhabits, Leo Babauta, has the most loving and delightful (un) copyright rules on the planet. And so I happily copy the piece he entitles 12 Essential Rules to Live more Like a Zen Monk below. I found it wonderfully concise and inspiring and hope you do too:

“We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.” - Thich Nhat Hanh

I’m not a Zen monk, nor will I ever become one. However, I find great inspiration in the way they try to live their lives: the simplicity of their lives, the concentration and mindfulness of every activity, the calm and peace they find in their days.

You probably don’t want to become a Zen monk either, but you can live your life in a more Zen-like manner by following a few simple rules.

Why live more like a Zen monk? Because who among us can’t use a little more concentration, tranquility, and mindfulness in our lives? Because Zen monks for hundreds of years have devoted their lives to being present in everything they do, to being dedicated and to serving others. Because it serves as an example for our lives, and whether we ever really reach that ideal is not the point.

One of my favorite Zen monks, Thich Nhat Hanh, simplified the rules in just a few words: “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” It doesn’t get any better than that.

However, for those who would like a little more detail, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve discovered to work very well in my experiments with Zen-like living. I am no Zen master … I am not even a Zen Buddhist. However, I’ve found that there are certain principles that can be applied to any life, no matter what your religious beliefs or what your standard of living.

“Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.” - Shunryu Suzuki

1. Do one thing at a time. This rule (and some of the others that follow) will be familiar to long-time Zen Habits readers. It’s part of my philosophy, and it’s also a part of the life of a Zen monk: single-task, don’t multi-task. When you’re pouring water, just pour water. When you’re eating, just eat. When you’re bathing, just bathe. Don’t try to knock off a few tasks while eating or bathing. Zen proverb: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.”

2. Do it slowly and deliberately. You can do one task at a time, but also rush that task. Instead, take your time, and move slowly. Make your actions deliberate, not rushed and random. It takes practice, but it helps you focus on the task.

3. Do it completely. Put your mind completely on the task. Don’t move on to the next task until you’re finished. If, for some reason, you have no choice but to move on to something else, try to at least put away the unfinished task and clean up after yourself. If you prepare a sandwich, don’t start eating it until you’ve put away the stuff you used to prepare it, wiped down the counter, and washed the dishes used for preparation. Then you’re done with that task, and can focus more completely on the next task.

4. Do less. A Zen monk doesn’t lead a lazy life: he wakes early and has a day filled with work. However, he doesn’t have an unending task list either — there are certain things he’s going to do today, an no more. If you do less, you can do those things more slowly, more completely and with more concentration. If you fill your day with tasks, you will be rushing from one thing to the next without stopping to think about what you do.

5. Put space between things. Related to the “Do less” rule, but it’s a way of managing your schedule so that you always have time to complete each task. Don’t schedule things close together — instead, leave room between things on your schedule. That gives you a more relaxed schedule, and leaves space in case one task takes longer than you planned.

6. Develop rituals. Zen monks have rituals for many things they do, from eating to cleaning to meditation. Ritual gives something a sense of importance — if it’s important enough to have a ritual, it’s important enough to be given your entire attention, and to be done slowly and correctly. You don’t have to learn the Zen monk rituals — you can create your own, for the preparation of food, for eating, for cleaning, for what you do before you start your work, for what you do when you wake up and before you go to bed, for what you do just before exercise. Anything you want, really.

7. Designate time for certain things. There are certain times in the day of a Zen monk designated for certain activities. A time for for bathing, a time for work, a time for cleaning, a time for eating. This ensures that those things get done regularly. You can designate time for your own activities, whether that be work or cleaning or exercise or quiet contemplation. If it’s important enough to do regularly, consider designating a time for it.

8. Devote time to sitting. In the life of a Zen monk, sitting meditation (zazen) is one of the most important parts of his day. Each day, there is time designated just for sitting. This meditation is really practice for learning to be present. You can devote time for sitting meditation, or do what I do: I use running as a way to practice being in the moment. You could use any activity in the same way, as long as you do it regularly and practice being present.

9. Smile and serve others. Zen monks spend part of their day in service to others, whether that be other monks in the monastery or people on the outside world. It teaches them humility, and ensures that their lives are not just selfish, but devoted to others. If you’re a parent, it’s likely you already spend at least some time in service to others in your household, and non-parents may already do this too. Similarly, smiling and being kind to others can be a great way to improve the lives of those around you. Also consider volunteering for charity work.

10. Make cleaning and cooking become meditation. Aside from the zazen mentioned above, cooking and cleaning are to of the most exalted parts of a Zen monk’s day. They are both great ways to practice mindfulness, and can be great rituals performed each day. If cooking and cleaning seem like boring chores to you, try doing them as a form of meditation. Put your entire mind into those tasks, concentrate, and do them slowly and completely. It could change your entire day (as well as leave you with a cleaner house).

11. Think about what is necessary. There is little in a Zen monk’s life that isn’t necessary. He doesn’t have a closet full of shoes, or the latest in trendy clothes. He doesn’t have a refrigerator and cabinets full of junk food. He doesn’t have the latest gadgets, cars, televisions, or iPod. He has basic clothing, basic shelter, basic utensils, basic tools, and the most basic food (they eat simple, vegetarian meals consisting usually of rice, miso soup, vegetables, and pickled vegetables). Now, I’m not saying you should live exactly like a Zen monk — I certainly don’t. But it does serve as a reminder that there is much in our lives that aren’t necessary, and it can be useful to give some thought about what we really need, and whether it is important to have all the stuff we have that’s not necessary.

12. Live simply. The corollary of Rule 11 is that if something isn’t necessary, you can probably live without it. And so to live simply is to rid your life of as many of the unnecessary and unessential things as you can, to make room for the essential. Now, what is essential will be different to each person. For me, my family, my writing, my running and my reading are essential. To others, yoga and spending time with close friends might be essential. For others it will be nursing and volunteering and going to church and collecting comic books. There is no law saying what should be essential for you — but you should consider what is most important to your life, and make room for that by eliminating the other less essential things in your life.

“Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” - Wu Li

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thoughts on the death of David Foster Wallace-How to get Help

September 7-13 was National Suicide Awareness Week. It went in with a bang, and out with a whimper—and a bang a day late.

Most of the literary world is still rocking from the suicide of David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008, this past weekend. Wallace's magnum opus was Infinite Jest in the 90's, which set the mood for American Literature in the 90’s and 00’s. He was awarded a MacArthur Foundation genius grant in 1997, and was endowed in a chair at Pomona College by Roy Disney.

What has come to light in the aftermath—Wallace's father has gone on record to say his son was severely depressed. His med cocktail of 20 years had stopped working; he was having no luck with newer meds. This summer he tried ECT in a last ditch effort to get rid of the black dog.

"It was a brilliant cure but we lost the patient.", said Hemingway right before he used his father's gun on himself. Hemingway had had ECT some six months earlier and could not recover. Apparently the same was true for Wallace.

One of the things about National Suicide Awareness week is to let the media know how many have died by their own hands. Things to know – the rates are going up for males over 45 – and for Veterans coming back from the Middle East.

While there is no magic wand to wave and depression will go away magically, there are things we, as patients and fellow sufferers, can learn to help in recovery. One of them is to have a peer or family support group to utilize should the depression/suicidal ideation get too bad. They should have the name of a doctor to call or take you to the emergency room. You should have a good working relationship with your psychiatrist and your therapist. Keep a med chart. Kay Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind, said the best tool she had in her recovery was the "badger diet". Badger, badger, badger your pdoc, tdoc with questions about every med, every side effect; don't be afraid to call if you feel ill with side effects. Put these numbers on your speed dial.

Try to stay active. Take a walk. Go to the mall, and have something to eat. Exercise and eating are all important. Don't be afraid to reach out for help. Living is hard; living with depression is harder, but the alternative is far worse.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

R.I.P. David Foster Wallace

From the AP Wire-

David Foster Wallace, R.I.P.

David Foster Wallace, the author of "Infinite Jest," was found dead in his home in Claremont on Friday night. The 46-year-old author apparently committed suicide.

In 1996, Wallace talked to the online magazine Stim about the recently published "Infinite Jest."

[My] secret pretension ... I mean, every writer wants his book to change the world, but I guess I would like to know if the book moved people. I assume that the future the book talks about, while it might be amusing, wouldn't be a fun future to live in. I think it would be nice if the book could maybe make people think about some of the choices we are making, about what we pay attention to and give power to, so maybe the future won't be quite that ... glittery. but cold....

Fiction used to be people's magic carpet to other places.... You know, ''Oh, a really boring formulaic story but it takes place in Tibet.'' But now you turn on PBS and watch someone milking a yak.... Which means that one of fiction's fundamental jobs has been supplanted. But it has another one now. TV's illusion of access to other cultures is, in fact, an illusion. TV itself cannot comment on that.

David Foster Wallace was a recipient of a MacArthur "genuis" grant in 1997. He was teaching creative writing at Pomona College. He will be missed.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Crazy Times Calls For Crazy Fun

I would like to thank fellow Blogger and mental health advocate (and friend!) Larry for sending this to me via email.

I confess, I haven't been in Vegas since I was a small child, that was back in the day when Howard Hughes was still alive and living there. My how times have changed.

Have any of you seen the new commercials from the Las Vegas tourism board -- the folks who brought us "What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas"?

They've come up with a new slogan called "Crazy Times Call For Crazy Fun."

That's bad enough. What's worse is the commercial, called "Courtroom," to support the campaign.

A judge coloring in a Rorschach test is seem losing control of his courtroom, which quickly descends into a riot. Someone is seen in a straitjacket; someone else is seen beating their chest like a baboon. The idea is that anyone who can escape this should go to Las Vegas.

I will NEVER be going to Las Vegas until this ad campaign is pulled.

PS -- Couldn't find a YouTube, but I'm sure one will be posted -- or you'll see the (ob)noxious ad -- soon enough.

PPS -- I understand another TV ad for the campaign is set in a post office. As if the stereotypes could get any worse ...

Larry then continues

I sent the following message to pr@lvcva.com and news@lvcva.com and encourage everyone to do the same:

As a person surviving with mental illness, I find the "Crazy Times Call for Crazy Fun" ad campaign disgusting. The courtroom ad, with its Rorschach tests and straitjackets, is particularly stigmatizing.

In this case, whatever happened in Vegas to create this ad campaign should have stayed in Vegas. And I will certainly not be going to Vegas until the campaign is pulled

Thursday, September 11, 2008

something to take your mind off today

Gianna Kali is a brilliant blogger. She mostly writes about her difficult withdrawal from Lamictal. as well as other drugs in her med cocktail, and does it lyrically. I know her story has inspired people, from the comments they leave behind on her site.

But Gianna is also tops in my book because she is also a cat lady. She has two cats and a beautiful dog. And we both want to pet tigers.

Check out her two articles on cats for a real cute fix, and tell her Holly the cat sent you!



And no, this is not a picture of Gianna. Although, I suspect, like me, we wish we were the girl in the photo caressing the tiger.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

You Like Me! You Really Like Me!

John D over at a Storied Mind,
was kind enough to give me this award.....and what can I say? The fact he bestowed it on me on my birthday was even better!

For those who are not familiar with John D- he writes beautifully on Depression, and Recovery. He has the soul of a poet, and it is clear how he can string a sentence together, magically and lyrically.

And he says he is not a writer by training. Bah!

What really humbled me, are the other writers he chose to nominate as well. I now know that someone in the blogosphere really likes me. I am mentioned in the august company of such bloggers as Stephany, Merely Me, and Therese Bouchard!

And as for the others he mentioned, I only know Dano and like her, (we both read TTWS), but I have read their blogs this week and love them, They should be on my blogroll now, and I agree with John, these new writers are awesome.

By accepting this award, I have to nominate seven other bloggers. And this poses a quandry for me, because I would have nominated the same people!

So I am in the process of picking which blogs I like. Keep posted - I will award this shortly in the next day or so.

And thanks again John D!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Moment of Silence

As I write this, it is almost September 11, in the United States. In most of the world it already is September 11.

For my generation, knowing where you were when the first plane hit was to my parents "What were you doing when JFK died?"

I was working in a newsroom and saw it played out in real time. Several hours later- our department found out that one of our own- someone who was meeting a client at Windows of the World for a breakfast meeting was missing along with two other people from out company who were also there for the same breakfast meeting..

By the time the Pentagon and Flight 93 happened, I was comfortably numb, thinking it was just a bad dream and I was going to wake up.

I still recall my manager taking a phone call from his parents asking if anyone has seen him. As I was getting ready to leave news on Building 7 falling was breaking and i worked overtime. Somewhere during the day, I called my sister who works in the city to make sure she was able to get out safely and arrive back to her apartment. She had a view of the Empire State Building from the Jersey side, and could see smoke.

Several days later I was in the city and to this day, if I close my eyes I can see the missing posters in Port Authority, on every streetlamp. And the flags. Times Square was hardly breathing, people were moving slowly and people were stopping to look at the missing signs. People were talking to each other, a rarity in a city which is noted for it's rudeness.

Two weeks before, I was in the city with friends of mine visiting from London on a 24 hour flight lay over. We went to the Empire State Building and A- took a picture of me and his daughter from the observation deck there. In the background were the twin towers glowing in the sunlight. I still have that picture. I never knew it would be the last time I would ever see the World Trade Center.

So on today, September 11, when the world stops for a moment to remember that awful moment where time stood still and we became fixated to the news on Tv, I remember BK and hope that wherever he is now, he is at peace. He and all the others who died on that beautiful cloudless blue morning.

ETA: When I originally posted this on late Tuesday night, i thought Wednesday was the 11th. I made a mistake, Wednesday is the 10, Thursday is the 11. Forgive me for posting this a day early...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Cat Fix for the month

I have been working on a piece for the last couple of hours, but my computer, which is in the process of going south- crashed.

I am in a bummed mood. What cheers me is the cat...

Here is a picture- I hope it cheers everyone out there too.


I feel my childhood just went totally out the window.

Rest In Peace, and Steinbrenner, you are a bastard for tearing this down.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The piece that got me writing again

I found this- and thought I would share it. It was originally published on Furious Seasons last summer. This is the article that made me start writing again. Enjoy!


In the evening, the place I was in took a rhythm of it’s own. People fell asleep on chairs, and games of checkers and chess sat on the table, half played, like a lone sandwich sitting next to them.

It was nighttime. The patients had all been fed, and medicated, and were left in front of the TV while something as insipid as the Home Shopping Channel droned on providing white noise.

I had been in this locked ward for approx 20 days. My insurance, though I did not know it at the time, pooped out at 30.

And I hadn’t gotten better, I had gotten worse.

My doctor, who ran the hospital had unbeknownst to me called in my parents for a meeting, as well as the three doctors under him. All I knew was tonight I didn’t have my supper; instead one of the nurses helped me in the shower and bathed me because I was too catatonic to do so. She helped me get dressed and finally put on those slipper socks that all the inmates wear because our shoes had all been stripped of their laces.

She walked me out of the locked ward, stopping at the Christmas tree by the Nurses station in the main part, and let me touch an ornament. I smiled. We went into the doctor’s office and there was my mom, and dad sitting on a plushy bluish purple sofa, and three doctors I never saw before.

“Mr. and Mrs. S” went my doctor – “We’ve tried everything on your daughter but she is extremely depressed and still suicidal. We’ve tried several different drug therapies and nothing is working, and we are left with two things. She has ten days left on her insurance and if she is still like the way she is now, we will be forced to put her in a state hospital. Or we can try ECT”.

ECT was then explained to my parents, and they saw a video. And with the State’s leading expert on ECT who told them he would be personally administering it, papers were signed, I was convinced by mom and dad “ do this to make your mother happy”, and the next day woken up at 5 am to be driven to the local teaching hospital for my first round.

This isn’t the time or place to get into the fine details. Suffice it to say I was strapped down to a gurney and got poked prodded, IV’ed and what not. I saw monitors and a little contraption by my bedside that looked like R2D2. When the good doctor got to me, I had my treatment, later waking up and changing back to my street clothes and out of those hospital garbs that show your ass to the universe.

What was unusual was when they asked me who the President was; I thought it was Bill Clinton. But I got the other questions correct and maybe it’s a good thing to forget a few years of history.

But as the treatments went on, I noticed several things. I had a photographic memory prior. I could not recall huge events in my life. I would look at family pictures and know something happened but couldn’t recall it. Huge chunks of my adolescence and childhood went Poof! I also had the ability to recall in graphic detail every book I had ever read from “Green Eggs and Ham” to the last book I had been reading in the hospital which was of all weird things “ A Noonday Demon’. I had been a contestant on Jeopardy. Now I couldn’t even name the hosts name.

I couldn’t read anymore. I couldn’t even read a newspaper. I couldn’t watch TV. I forgot how to get to places I was driving to, even though I had been driving the same routes for years.

Now this may seem trivial. To some people, thinking the last president was Clinton could be a good thing. To some people forgetting horrible adolescence is a good thing.

But when you are a writer, someone who makes their LIVING out of writing, and cannot anymore its death.

Imagine you are an Olympic athlete or a pro ball player. You are injured to such an extent that you are living, but your career is gone. All you have, as a reminder that you were once one of the best in your field are medals, trophies, articles. But it’s all gone. This is your identity. Your whole life has been building up to this career, and it’s all gone, what do you do?

Coach. What do you do if your brain able to recall things well enough to teach/coach? You are a baseball player and you can’t explain to someone the difference between a ball and a bunt?

In other words, your body is living, breathing thing. Everything is working fine, your heart, your legs, and your eyes. But what about the brain? It’s like going into a house that has just been sold and is lying vacant while the new owners wait to get in. Functional but no one home.

ECT is one of those things, which seems to have its pros and cons, each group vocal. I mentioned to a friend today I was writing something about ECT and she acted like I was writing about clubbing baby seals.

I can tell you that the man who was next to me in all my treatments did fine. His memory loss was minimal. It helped him.

But I will also tell you that those of us who have had the bad experiences are afraid to or don’t know how to write or talk about their experience.

I tell people to please make sure about ECT- it’s a procedure. Know the pros and cons and don’t let a doctor coerce you into ANY procedure. Get a second opinion. Be informed. Ask to see the facility if possible, and talk to the nurses who will be assisting.

For me, it was a mistake. Most of my memory did come back 5 years later. I no longer act like a stroke victim where I cannot string two sentences together when I talk, and point to the TV when I mean the Fridge. I can read, and I can look now at my library and recall the majority of the books I have read, albeit not in such graphic detail, hut I will settle for that.

What I cannot settle for is it destroyed my writing career. My rasion d’etre. Everything I write now seems Sophomoric, and I struggle to do that. It’s like “Flowers For Algernon”, I have been a genius, and now I am sub standard. It pains me. It’s also humbled me.

I wrote earlier had I had a gun after my treatment ended, I would have eaten it. I still feel that way now. What holds me back is the hope that if it took 5 years for my memory to right itself. Maybe my writing will come back. But to go from writing at a degree of a Hemingway- to now where most days all I can write is “Pat the Bunny” has destroyed my heart and my soul.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

today was a good day until now

Today is my birthday. It was nice and I am happy to report it is the first birthday in 15 years I have not thought about SI or had suicidal ideation.

That was the best present I could possibly have.

Until a few minutes ago when I started to crash. I've been feeling kind of poorly all day- my throat felt strange, but I had tea and honey and a vitamin pill and it felt better.

About an hour ago it got worse. Right now I cannot swallow. I get a strep throat once a year, and it looks like I am due.

On top of that, the crash, from the happiness. it is only ten pm (do you know where your children are?) and it's the dark night of the soul, Churchill's black dog has me in it's incisors and his holding me down fast.

I had a post to put up for today. It needs a final proof for content and spelling
I don't have the energy to do it. I just want to go to bed and sleep like Sleeping Beauty.

Oh well. In the immortal words of Scarlet O'Hara, "Tomorrow is another day"
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