When my best friend shot himself, I had lost people before, but that one pushed me over the edge. I went into a huge depression.
Wonderful guy, nuclear refueler on submarines. Highest IQ that ever came out of our town, but just couldn’t get rid of his demons.
That one really changed how I felt about death and losing loved ones and all that because I adored this guy.
We were inseparable. It ruined me.
How did you handle it?
I got the kids on the bus in the morning, I got them to school, I went to parent-teacher conferences, and by the time I’d get done with dinner, the dishes and put them all to bed, I’d curl up in a ball and just sit there and shake back and forth, back and forth, all night.
All the grief from the deaths in my life started bubbling up. There was so much of it. It was overwhelming.
What did it feel like for you?
I call it the ‘Why me?s’ Why can all this sh*t be happening to me?
What bothered me was the me, me, me, me, poor me. Poor, pitiful me is what it boiled down to.
My mind just wouldn’t let me be, over and over, ‘how did I let my life get to this point?’
But I didn’t let my life get to this point, it was sh*t that had happened in my life that I didn’t deal with that had just boiled over.
Now that I’m 53 years old I can look back on it and see that it’s because I didn’t let it out.
When we was kids, he always told me, “No matter how bad it gets, you’ll always come out good.” He’d say, “the only one this is bothering is you. Just when you think the worst of the worst is about to happen, next thing you know, something will happen and it will all turn out for the best.”
And to this day, that’s been the truth.
How do you live with grief now?
I’m not trying to skirt around it, but I can’t let it kill me anymore. I think about the people I’ve lost, and then I think about the fun we had and that’s the way I choose to think of it.
I choose to remember the good times.
That’s the way I want to keep it in my mind.
So when someone passes now, I get down to business; I make arrangements, take care of people, that’s the mode I put myself in now.
I try to forget what he looked like when he took his last breath. I put that out of my mind.
I think about three weeks earlier when we were eating lobsters and he had a grin from ear to ear.
What’s the difference between grief and depression for you?
With grief, I can still maintain. I can grieve and keep on working through the day.
I know it’s depression if I can’t think about anything else. I get zoned in on bad thoughts and they overtake me until I physically don’t want to do anything or think anything else.
But you can’t ignore it either, so I back off a bit.
Every once in awhile when reality feels like too goddamned much, what I’ll do is take a day off and do laundry or make a chili or clean the house.
That’s how I manage the depression now.
Instead of that go, go, go, I take a step back and then I get back to it.
I can’t let it kill me anymore, and it did, it killed me my whole life.
Do you believe in life after death?
No, but there have been times I thought I’ve seen him.
I chased a guy down once in the street and spun him around.
Are you kidding me? 20 years later and I’m still holding on to this guy.
He’s always in your heart and he’s always in your head.
Why do you think we are all here?
To learn from what we’ve been through on earth, so to make a difference the second time around.
Everybody’s got to make their mark somehow. Everybody’s got to do something.
I was a dreaming six year old kid, and you know what, every single one of those dreams came true.
Every single one of my dreams came true.
But… I sure wish they were here to enjoy it with me.
What’s the point of our pain?
It makes you strive harder.
I think the same way about being bummed out and jonesin’ and stuff like that, it’s a terrible feeling. Nobody likes it, I don’t like it, but you know what?
You know what’s going to make it better?
I’m going to make it better. I’m going to get up and make it better.
When I was down and out with those babies and those dead buddies, I just had to put my nose to the grindstone.
Nobody else is going to make this better.
Nobody else is going to do this for you.
You’re going to have to do it for yourself.
And that might mean counseling, that might mean medication, but you’re going to have to deal with it yourself because nobody can make it any better but you.
The thing if it is, if you’ve never been to the bottom, you can’t know how great it is to be up at the top.
Without a bottom, there’s no top.
Is that the reason for the bottom?
Yes, that’s the way life is.
Let’s put them down there and see what they’re going to do. Let them create and give them a ton of pain.
Maybe I got fed all this pain so I would know happiness, real happiness.
Maybe I had all these interruptions in my life so I would really understand how good the good stuff was.
What are your plans?
I’m selling my house. I bought a little piece of land on the side of a mountain and I’m going to build a tiny house. None of that trailer bullshit, but a small house that’s solar powered and all that.
And I’m going to travel the United States. I’ve been everywhere else in the world, there’s too much cool shit right here.
We just went to Yosemite, we saw mountain lions, wolves taking down bison, long horned sheep.
That makes life worth living right there.
I’ve got to do this for myself.
It’s your time.
This is your time.