Christal Ann Rice Cooper on April 13, 2019

Christal Ann Rice Cooper on April 13, 2019
"I worship Jesus - not a celebrity, political person, political party, philosophy, or spiritual leader -Only Jesus Christ." Christal Ann Rice Cooper Speaks!

Friday, February 26, 2016

A Illustrated Short Story By Christal Rice Cooper On February 8, 1974 GOOD TIMES premeired on ABC television . . .

Christal A Cooper                                              

Artwork by Mitzi C Fleming

Short PhotoStory by C.A. Cooper

         My dad hit my mom all the time, but he never hit me.  I was an obedient child and would do whatever my dad told me to, even if it meant going out into the icy cold, barefoot and with no jacket.  Better to be cold than to face my father. 

         At first it was easy for me to escape.  When I was real little, I’d bury myself under the blankets, with a pillow over my face, or I’d hide underneath the bed.  When the noises still came through, I’d hide in my closet.  Then, when that no longer worked, I’d climb out the window to the small steel ladder that rested against the building.  

         I would climb down the ladder and walk a few blocks to the railroad tracks.  There I could be anyone I wanted to be or go anywhere I wanted.  All I had to do was walk up and down the rails and wait for the train to come by.  When I’d hear that glorious music I’d step off the track a few yards from the train, and just look in wonder, as the soft breeze, created by the train, touched my face.  Then I would stand very still; close my eyes, stretch out my arms, and listen to the music, pretending that I was flying far away.   Hearing the train’s horn and its touch against the rails allowed me to be just where I wanted to be and who I wanted to be for that one moment.  The train was so strong and was always going some place – never being left behind or stuck.  Someday, I was going to be like that train, strong enough to never hear those noises again and free enough to not have to go back.  

         I loved the nighttime because it made me feel safe and hidden.  I would balance my feet on the rail and look up into the sky, observe the stars and the moon, and form pictures in my mind out of them.  One time I saw a honest-to-goodness angel winking at me.  The moon was his eye, a wispy cloud his wink, and the three stars were his nose and mouth.  I would smile and talk to Danny about all the people or things I’d see in the sky.  Danny was my very own special friend and was a prince who had magical powers.  Danny and me had lots of conversations.  

         My mom loved to sleep and she cried a lot, too.  Not the noisy cry when my dad was home, but the soft kind of cry that is safe, silent, and sad.  Sometimes she’d cry for 15 minutes, other times 30, but sometimes her cries would last a long time.  I would do everything I could think of to make her feel better.  I’d run back and forth from the bathroom to get toilet paper for her face.  Sometimes I’d sing to her the happy songs I had learned in school.  She never talked much and she always seemed to be drowsy, sad, and old.  I thought old people were the only ones who had hearing problems, forgot things, or didn’t know how to have fun.  My mom was all of these things, some days worse than others.  Sometimes I’d make faces to try to get her to laugh, which she never did -- but she would sometimes smile, and that made me feel special.      

I loved television.  My favorite show was Good Times and I lived to watch the reruns everyday after school.  I wanted a mom like Florida and a dad like James so badly.  Daddy Evans was tall and strong but he was so nice and he always kissed Mom Evans on the cheek and called her baby.  Sometimes, after the show, I’d go to my bedroom and Daddy Evans would hug me real good and give me a nice kiss, or J.J. would have a nice talk with me.          

One afternoon I was watching the show while my mom was lying on the sofa.  I thought the Evans apartment building looked like mine.  It would be so wonderful if they lived here.  I could show up on their doorstep and they would welcome their son and brother back home.   
         “Mom, you think the Evans family live in the same building we do?”
         “Sure, baby, they live in the same building.”

         I took a bath, got all dressed up, and began to look for them.  I knew they wouldn’t live on the first floor because they always had to walk the stairs or take the elevator to get to their apartment.  So I started on the second floor.  The first lady said, “No” and closed the door.  I went to the next door and the man just got real angry and said something that I couldn’t understand.  I went to a few more doors with similar results, until, finally, I came to the next door, and it was right across from the elevator just like on the show.  They must live here!  I made sure my clothes were nice, my hair in place, and knocked on the door.  I didn’t know what to say when an old man opened the door instead of Dad or Mom Evans.  When I asked about my family the old man laughed loudly.  “There’s no such thing as the Evans Family, boy.  They’re just actors livin’ in Hollywood.”  I ran down the stairs to my room and cried.   

         At first, I didn’t go to school that much.  After I missed a lot of days, some lady got in touch with my mom and dad, and then she came to see me and asked me a lot of questions.  I couldn’t understand why she was asking me all these questions.  I never did anything wrong.  My dad gave me a cheap alarm clock, showed me how to use it, and ever since I would go to school every single day, even if I wasn’t feeling too good.           

         Sometimes the alarm would go off while J.J. was playing checkers with me, or Daddy Evans was giving me a big hug.  At first, I hated that the alarm went off, but once I got up, got dressed, ate whatever I could scrounge up, I was glad I had that cheap alarm clock.       

         My teacher was so pretty -- just like a princess I read about in a book.  She had a pretty voice and talked so nice to me.  She smelled real good, too.  She smelled like vanilla ice cream and her breath smelled good, too.  She didn’t have that medicine smell like my dad did.          

         My favorite school day was Friday when my class and me got to go to the library.  I loved to look at all those picture books about people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.  They both looked like good daddies and their wives never had bruises on their faces, and the words were real big so it was easy for me to read.

I loved lunch time and thought of that time as a luxury.  Every day before the class would go to the cafeteria my teacher would say a short prayer.   Whenever she would pray I wondered if Jesus was real.  Mom Evans believed in Jesus.  She even had a picture of the white Jesus on the wall.  I wondered if Jesus was black.  Michael Evans thought so. 

         My favorite lunch day was Wednesday when they had tacos, cinnamon roles, and chocolate milk, which was a real treat for me.  I also liked lunchtime because it made me feel real special.  Most of the kids would have to give dollar bills or change to get their lunch, but all I had to do was show an orange piece of paper.  At least that’s what I told myself.

         The last day of school, before Thanksgiving Day vacation, I came home and I saw my mom on the couch crying.  I walked closer to her and saw bruises on her arm and knew those were new bruises because she didn’t have them yesterday.  I went to go get her moody pills but couldn’t find them.  I figured my dad flushed them down the toilet like he had done lots of times before.  My mom wrote a letter to the Health Department and sent me to pick up moody pills for her.    

          For Thanksgiving dinner I made hot dogs with mustard and ketchup.  My mom was in bed and still not feeling well.  The moody pill must not have worked this time.  My dad was gone for a while, then came back, put on his best shirt, dabbed on lots of cologne and walked out the door.  My mom and me knew he’d be gone all night and we were happy.   

         That same night I had a beautiful dream.  In the dream I held a gun in my hand and shot my dad in the face, blood started gushing, and he fell dead.  My mom then ran to me wearing a white gown and looking so pretty, even prettier than my teacher.  I then held my mom’s hands and we walked away to a magical land.  I hated to wake up because I would become sad and begin to cry.    

         In school they had a Christmas party and my teacher invited a fireman to come and talk to the class about the telephone and 911.  The fireman said it was very important for kids to dial 911 for a big emergency, especially fires.  He said that most fires happened during Christmas time and that the kids should be very careful.  He also said that kids should dial 911 if someone was hurt and needed help.  I immediately thought of my mom and the family’s ugly black telephone on the tray next to the refrigerator.  

         On Wednesday nights at 8 o’clock, I would stand in front of the television.  The Greatest American Hero came on every week and my favorite part was the theme song.  When the song began to play I’d close my eyes, spread out my arms, and fly like a bird.  When I heard the main chorus I felt as if I were flying far and far away.  “Believe it or not I’m walking on air.  I never thought I could be so free.  Flying away on a wing or a prayer.  Who could it be?  Believe it or not, it’s just me.”  

All of a sudden my wings fell off and I fell to the ground.  My head turned sharply toward the noisy bedroom door.  I turned up the volume on the TV to drown out the noises but that didn’t help, so I covered my ears with my hands, but I could still hear the noises.  I ran to my bedroom, opened my window and placed my leg over the sill.  It was so cold outside but it felt good to me and I could finally breathe.  Before I could place my other leg over the sill I heard my mom make a noise that I had never heard her make before.  My dad must have had a bad day.  

I remembered my beautiful dream, picked up the baseball bat, and took one step toward my bedroom door, then began to sob, throwing the baseball bat on the floor.  The screams continued and my cries began to increase.  My whole head hurt and my face was wrinkled and wet from the tears.          

I had an idea!  I took a deep breath.  My dad didn’t have his beer yet.  That’s why he was having a bad day.  I went to the refrigerator, got a beer, and took tiny steps to the noisy bedroom door.  I knocked softly on the door.
“Dad!  Dad!  I got your beer.  You haven’t had your beer yet.”
“Shut up!”

 I couldn’t breathe and heard myself make sounds I never heard before.  I held the beer in my hand and gazed at the phone, and, suddenly, the phone didn’t look so ugly.  I walked across the room to the phone and then froze just like Frosty.  My dad would be so angry.  What would he do to me?  What would Frosty do?  Frosty loved that little girl so much that he just about melted away so she wouldn’t freeze to death.  

 I set the beer next to the telephone on the tray, picked up the receiver, and with trembling fingers dialed 911.  A lady started talking to me and asking me questions.  At first I couldn’t talk because everything got stuck in my throat, sort of like medicine does when it tastes real bad.    

When I finally answered, I was no longer a little boy, but a machine with tears clogging it all up.  I couldn’t remember what the questions were but I answered them, holding the phone tightly, my panicky eyes constantly moving over the bedroom door.   

         After a few seconds I dropped the phone and opened the apartment door, hoping to see the policemen climbing up the stairs or getting out of the elevator, but they weren’t there.  I heard a scream and became more afraid when I realized the scream didn’t come from my mom, but from me.    

         I ran into the bathroom, locked the door, sat on the toilet, and turned the water on full blast, my hands covering my ears.  I sobbed heavily, rocking my body back and forth like a rocking chair.  

         A long while later I heard a loud knock on the bathroom door, and gasped, my head turning so sharply that my neck began to hurt.  
         “Jamal!”  It was a stranger’s voice.  “Jamal, it’s the police, son.”
         I removed my hands from my ears and when I didn’t hear the noises, I thought, at first, that I was dreaming.  I lifted my head, stood up, and slowly unlocked the door, opening it a little at a time.  The policeman was kneeling,  “Son, everything is going to be okay.” 

         I opened it a little bit more and saw my dad in handcuffs, in between two policemen, walking out the door.  I looked at the policeman.     
         The policeman extended his hand to mine.  “Your safe.  Your mom’s safe.  Everything’s going to be okay.  It’s okay.”
         “But the Evans Family don’t live here.  They’re just people living in Hollywood.  That’s what the man said.” I could feel the tears roll down my cheeks.  

         The policeman opened his mouth as if to say something, then closed it, and placed his hand back to his side.
         I saw my mom sitting between two other policemen.  I ran to her, wiping my face with my hands, and then held her hand. 

Monday, February 22, 2016


Christal Cooper

Article 3,466 words 
Styrofoam head artwork by Christal Rice Cooper

And Mitzi C Fleming

All excerpts given copyright privilege by individual authors and Seal Press.

Guest Blog Post By Christal Rice Cooper
My Experience of Shades of Blue

When I first read about Shades of Blue:  Writers on Depression, Suicide, and Feeling Blue (Seal Press, 2015) via Facebook I knew that I had to read the book – not to do a review or write a feature story but for myself and my well being. 

I have bi-polar depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and a mild form of post-traumatic stress disorder and have been battling this almost all of my life.  I have been on medication for these issues for over 22 years and I am still on meds.  

My husband is in the military and we have lived in Georgia, Kansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Florida, and now Alabama. 

Alabama has been a dark place and a dark experience for me, which has intensified all my different levels of mental illness.  It wasn’t until I moved here that I have experienced the stigma of mental illness.  The stigma is not due to understanding – no one can understand mental illness unless they’ve walked in the shoes of mental illness.  The stigma comes from deliberate ignorance and refusal to accept mental illness as a valid disease, and instead choose to judge.   “That wife is crazy.  We need to stay away from her.”

It was in this dark place physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually when I encountered Shades of Blue.  This encounter made me find comfort in this dark place but at the same time this comfort never diminished the horror and excruciating torment that mental illness thrives.  The comfort comes from the fact that I realized I wasn’t weird, flawed, undervalued, marginalized or that something was wrong with me.   As a result, I experienced a sense of empowerment that could not be explained, especially when I am still in this darkness. 

Halfway through the Shades of Blue, I decided that this needed to be a story and queried the editor Amy Ferris if she would consider an interview.  Her response was yes and I was ecstatic.  

       Shades of Blue is an anthology of 34 writers who have experienced two things – severe depression and suicidal tendencies. 

The contributors are Barbara Abercrombie, Sherry Amatenstein, Regina Anavy, Chloe Caldwell, Jimmy Camp, Zoe FitzGerald Carter, Debra LoGuerico DeAngelo, Marika Rosenthal Delan, Hollye Dexter, Beverly Donofrio, Beth Bornstein Dunnington, Matt Ebert, Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, Pam L. Houston, Mark S. King, David Lacy, Caroline Leavitt, Patti Linsky, Karen Lynch, Lira Maywood, C.O. Moed, Mark Morgan, Linda Joy Myers, Christine Kehl O’Hagan, Jennifer Pastiloff, Angela M Giles Patel, Ruth Pennebaker, Alexa Rosalsky, Elizabeth Rosner, Kathryn Rountree, Kitty Sheehan, Jenna Stone, Judy White, and Samantha White. 

        I hadn’t heard from Amy Ferris and due to time constraints it looked like the interview would not go through as planned.  I set Shades of Blue to the side and said I would wait to write this feature until Amy’s schedule would allow her to respond to my interview questions.

Then on Tuesday January 19, 2016 all of that changed when I met my dear friend and artist Mitz at our weekly meetings at the local restaurant.  We meet every Tuesday to discuss my mental state, the arts, her amazing artistic and compassionate gifs, and our faith. 
        She left and I stayed behind to sketch some faces when I met Hadley and her daughter, who were having a late breakfast at the table next to me.  

       Hadley told me her other daughter committed suicide by shooting herself in the heart in May of 2015.  

We talked about all the things people who refuse to accept mental illness as a valid illness tend to say about those who commit suicide:  They are cowards.”  “They are selfish.”  “They are not in their right mind!’

       I told her that most people who commit suicide are not selfish – quite the contrary – they feel that without them on this earth life would be better for those they love.  

Most people who commit suicide are not cowards – it takes courage – bad courage though it may be – to actually go through a suicide – and this courage once again stems from the person feeling that he or she is not worthy of life or simply wanting to end the torment.  The individual never wants to die they just want the torment to die and then be able to find peace.

       I told Hadley about my pastor Reverend Terry Taylor who developed manic depression and after three years of struggling to find some kind of relief and to no avail he went to his downstairs basement and hung himself in April of 1996.  

I told her for an individual to go through the mental torment that mental illness sufferers go through and not want to even think of suicide – that is when he or she is not in his or her right mind.  Maybe instead of saying he or she was not in her right mind we need to say “he or she was emotionally damaged.”  

She told me her daughter, the mother of twin boys (now age 5), was very emotionally damaged and had conquered numerous things.  

I don’t know the full story – but I do know that mental illness is a process packed full of stimuli telling the person he or she is in darkness regardless if the sun is outside shining or not.  And even when that person goes out into the sunshine, she still is in the darkness because the depression is within the person and not without.  The depression is there regardless of our circumstances or situations. Though sometimes our circumstances and situations can be welcoming distractions, the depression is still there. 

       But after reading Shades of Blue something else is within me:  the messages Shades of Blue is singing in my spirit’s ears:  You are not crazy!  You are not stupid!  You are not ignorant!  You are not dumb!  You are in your right mind!  What you have is a valid disease! You matter!

       I’ve also come to the point in my life where I tell myself, “Hey, it’s okay if people don’t like me; if they don’t want to spend time with me; if they don’t want to be my friend; and if they think I’m weird.”

But at the same time I hear another voice that says, “You have done nothing wrong.  You have done nothing to deserve this kind of isolation.”

People have a right to like me or not like me and they should never be condemned for whatever they decide to do.  But at the same time I should never be condemned for who I am, especially if it is based on the diseases I have.  

How can two things that contradict each other be true?  Thus the mystery of mental illness.  Shades of Blue helped me realize that these two different worlds in my one big real world can exist and co-exist -  without feeling condemnation for my fellow-women and without feeling condemnation for myself.

 Amy Ferris

       And the truth is, the balls-out truth is this:  those of us who suffer from bouts of depression, who don’t believe we’re good enough, who can barely make it out of bed some days, who struggle with self-esteem and the whole concept of self-love . . .when we use our own pain and suffering so that we can understand another person’s heart . . .it doesn’t eliminate our pain, or make it vanish, or go pouffff – but it does make it bigger than ourselves; it makes it worth the struggle.  I look at folks I know –some very personally, some on the periphery – who have gone through hell and back a million times, and they use their life every day to inspire, encourage, and awaken the good and greatness in others because they know what it was like to be flat-out broken, broken into little pieces.

Page 2-3 

Mark King
       This is the story that haunts my waking hours.  It is a story with many ghosts.

       It started when AIDS began its murderous march through my community, when gay men learned the intimacies of death, when so many perished we couldn’t properly grieve for them all.  And when our hearts were crushed from the weight of mortal questions that such very young men were never meant to answers.

       Those answers, all these decades later, still elude me.  This is what remains.

Page 11

Angela M Giles Patel
       So nothing pisses me off more than to see someone talk about how they used to take medication for depression or anxiety, but now they don’t have to anymore because they discovered yoga or running or god.  The idea that somehow they have managed a victory that is important enough to broadcast, that what they have accomplished can be outlined and followed, is misleading at best.  And although they won't say it explicitly, the implied judgment is clear:  if you are not enlightened enough to be able to survive without medication, something is wrong with you.

       No shit.

       Something is wrong with me.

       What is wrong with me is not a bump in the road, or a case of the blues, and it is not something that can be addressed by the right herbal tea.  It is not a pothole, it is a fucking canyon – one I can only navigate with help.  This is why I have to take two burgundy-colored capsules every morning.  If I don’t, my mind turns against me.  It’s not that I failed to become enlightened, it’s simply who I am.  The kicker is that I am enlightened enough to know that who I am is someone whose mind can fail to be her friend.

       I hate taking the medication.  The idea that I cannot fully function without it breaks my heart on a regular basis, but I can’t stop taking it.  I’ve tried.  It isn’t pretty.  I hate my dis-order and my dis-ease enough that I occasionally allow myself to become tricked by depression.  I am not sure who said it first, but they are right – depression lies.  One of the biggest lies it tells is the one that starts with the idea that medication is unnecessary.  Maybe it is optional for someone who just needed a little boost to get through a rocky period, but for those of us who are clinically diagnosed with depression, proper medication is critical.  To suggest otherwise is a failure to understand the true nature of the problem. 

Pages 26-27

Debra LoGuerico DeAngelo
       By my twenties, I’d weathered several bad relationships and a disastrous marriage.  I went for counseling to talk about my emotionally abusive husband.  I ended up talking about my mother.  In one session, I spread out photos of me from birth until present.  The therapist studied my photographic timeline and made an observation:  “You’ve always been sad.”


       What does that even mean?  This is how I’ve always felt.  I can’t comprehend any other way to feel.  If you’re colorblind, you don’t imagine colors you can’t see.  It’s impossible.  You just accept that this is how the world looks, and that’s that.  What the hell are “red,” “green,” or “happy”?  My therapist labeled my lifelong sadness “infantile depression.”  At least it gave my chronic low-grade longing a contest.  Every “mother” I ever had, including my actual parent, abandoned me.  No wonder I was so wary of getting attached to anyone.  I was still protecting myself.

Pages 72-73

Elizabeth Rosner

       Within a year of her (my mother’s) death, my first novel was published to a few days of great fanfare.  A week later, on what was to be the first day of my multi-city book tour, terrorists flew two jetliners into the World Trade Center.  More falling, much more falling down.  It was only in a delayed reaction many months later that I realized I had felt forced to disregard my own tremendous sadness in order to defer to the larger, much larger, tragedy of 9-11.  As a daughter of two Holocaust survivors, this kind of deference to other tragedies was second nature to me.

Pages 80-81

Hollye Dexter

       I stand up straight, pretending to be in control, “I see you’re wanting to have a tantrum,” I say, my voice shaking, “but you may not scream at me.  You can have your feelings by yourself, and talk to me when you’re calm.”  I walk out and shut his bedroom door behind me, my heart thrumming through my chest.  And then my four-year-old child, who still wears pull-ups at night, screams this behind his closed door, “I hate myself!  I hate myself!  I want to die!”

       My knees crumble beneath me as I clutch the doorjamb for support.  I can’t breathe.  He is too young to know what these words mean.  No, these aren’t his words.  My son is screaming what has been inside my head every day for months.  He screams out everything I have been suppressing.  I can no longer hide what is happening inside myself, inside the walls of this “Happy House,”  inside the confines of my marriage.  The jig is up.

       I hesitate at his door, compose myself then push it open.  He sits on the floor, his face red and sweaty, his eyes wild and confused.  I pick him up and rock him.

       “We never say ugly things like that about anyone, especially not ourselves.  Okay?”

       He nods.

       “Your Mommy and Daddy love you so much.  We prayed for you to come to our lives.  You are an answered prayer – our precious gift,”  I say, “and the fact that we are all even here on this Earth is a miracle. Our lives are a gift.”  I hold him close against me, wiping his tears and my own with the sleeve of my shirt, unable to say any more.  With every word, I am learning a hard lesson.  Am I going to live my life as a hypocrite, expecting my children to believe in the value of their lives, when inside I believe mine is worthless?  No.  I cannot live this way any longer.  I am no longer to let another generation of children grow up as damaged as I am.  Doing my best is no longer good enough.  I have to do better than my best.  I have to find a way to heal myself, for only in doing that can I heal my family.
Pages 91-92 

Karen Lynch

       When I was seven, my mother taught me how to kill myself.  She said you must hold the gun firmly to your temple and squeeze the trigger without hesitation.  Don’t be a wimp about it.  The bullet will pierce the soft flesh of your temple, travel through the occipital lobe, and take out the executive suite of your brain.  Maybe she didn’t say “executive suite,” but her words made me picture a Wall Street financier doing the deed in his private office bathroom.  Mom said those who failed to follow these simple instructions risked leaving themselves alive and hideously deformed.  “Hideously,” she emphasized.

Page 116.

Chloe Caldwell

       On the plane from Albany, New York, to Portland, Oregon, I deleted my heroin dealer’s phone number.  It wasn’t the first time I’d done that – more like the fifteenth – and each time I’d felt a strange resistance.  I knew that I would miss my heroin dealer, who’d been only too happy to help me ruin myself.  I loved people that enabled my irresponsibility.  In hindsight, he was my doctor.  And I was a happy patient.

Page 124.

Ruth Pennebaker

       Mother continues to be depressed off and on for the rest of her life.  Her relationship with me is painfully bad – or just painful, period, for both of us.

       All I know, in every inch of my being, is that I will never, ever be anything like her.  I won’t be a housewife, a mother who tells her children she’s given up everything for them.  I won’t live in windswept, small towns that obviously turn women into depressives, bank robbers, and rabbit-hutch abusers.  And I will do anything, I tell myself, not to be depressed like her.

       So I deliberately try to become everything she isn’t and travel where she’s never gone.  I marry a smart, ambitious man.  I go to law school and graduate high in my class.  I ditch law and become a writer.  I have two children but continue to work full time.  I live on the East Coast, spend time in Europe, come back to big cities in Texas, all the pushing and striving, writing books and newspaper columns and magazine pieces. Standing still would be like death to me.

       But you know, I am more like my mother than I want to believe.  And depression is a patient stalker, waiting for its time.

Page 132.

David Lacy

       After my ex-wife moved out, I felw to my hometown to visit family and friends nearly every toher weekend.

       This was difficult because I was terrified of flying.  As soon as we reached cruising altitutdes, I’d order two miniature bottles of tart airline chardonnay for the one-hour flight between Southern and Northern California.  The wine, of course, chased the pre-flight Xanax, dusty pills that slid out of a bottle with a warning label that read, DO NOT MIX WITH ALCOHOL.

Page 136.

Sherry Amatenstein

       I am a therapist.  When a patient expresses suicidal ideation, I invariably preach, “there is always another choice.”

       And I believe that to the bottom of my UGGs.

       Still . . .

       In my heart of hearts, soul of souls, I don’t dismiss that one day I might down a bottle of pills.  I have no imminent plans and don’t foresee it happening, bu I will never say never because never is a scarily long time.

       Many times patients have cried in desperation:  “How can you help me?  You don’t understand what depression feels like!”

       I tell them:  “I don’t know exactly what your depression feels like.   But I do know what it is to lose all hope.”

Page 153

Kitty Sheehan

       I no longer wish someone had told me about depression sooner in my life.  I cherish the wisdom gained from learning how hard it is to pin it down.  It’s stealthy.  It can spend years patiently sneaking up on you.  Then it may hide itself in a bottle.  It doesn’t care how long it has to hang around; it waits.  If you ignore it, it busies itself by spreading its web into more corners of your life, blotting out light as it goes.

       But you can get a broom and knock it down.  If no one has helped you name this feeling, say it to yourself.  It’s okay.  There is help available, so much help.  Tell someone, and boom, just like that, you aren’t alone, which can be a miracle.

Page 182.

Samantha White

       My mother’s hobbies were running away from home, cutting her wrists, and overdosing on pills and booze.

       The first time I called an ambulance for her, I was seven years old.

       By the time I decided to take myself out, I’d had lots of time to study her and her failed techniques.

       I was pretty sure I knew how to do it right.

Page 183.

Matt Ebert            Have you ever tried to commit suicide and failed?  I have.  The last time it was so laughable, I told it in joke form when I laid it out to my friends.  Truthfully, suicide is a deep-inside-bone-crushing thing.  That rain-slicked Seattle bridge, the poison sumac and the blackberry bushes, a can of gasoline and a lit cigarette, all the dope in my system, the fact that if I hadn’t already been half-crocked on booze and pills, I would never have bounced and tumbled and lived.
Page 202

Regina Anavy 
       Picture a spiral.  You are on top, going along in your usual pattern.  A thought intrudes, a moment of doubt, guilt, or self-reproach. Your spirits drop.  You move lower, to the next rung of the spiral.  As your mind turns inward and your thoughts become more constricted, your options seems to narrow.  You suddenly flash in vivid detail on every error committed in your past:  spiteful words uttered on impulse that you cannot take back; imp0uslive acts you cannot erase.  You begin to obsess about relationships that have drifted away – all your fault, of course.  And you weren’t always the perfect child, the perfect sibling, the perfect worker, lover, or friend.  Oh, the mistakes you have made.  Your life is one big mistake, from the minute you were born.  You spiral down and down into the blame and shame of your life.

       This negative-feedback loop of depression had been a familiar part of my psyche for as long as I could remember.  Usually, I would find my way back up and come out on top of the spiral.  However, in 1971, my luck ran out and I had a full-blown breakdown.

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