Monday, November 28, 2011

...Wherein I Talk About the Day My Pants Caught Fire...

I went to college and finally graduated after floundering around trying to decide on a major.  When I did I settled into Fine Arts with an emphasis on theater.

 This really is the main campus of my alma mater.

All of us theater majors formed a company, calling ourselves The College Players.  Our first (and maybe only) production was Godspell, which was a popular play at the time.  I was not an actor, but a stagehand-type, and we made me stage manager.  I helped construct the set and kept everybody in line during rehearsals and the performances.  

Our set consisted mainly of a gargantuan unadorned cyclorama and an iron fence.  My friend Louie and I were in charge of making the cyclorama, sewn from yards and yards of 36-inch-wide burlap.  We had a little portable Singer Featherweight sewing machine.  I did the actual sewing while Louie supported the weight of the fabric as it moved through the machine.  When we had all the strips of burlap sewn together, we added a 30-foot long strip of webbing across the top of the hanging (because that's how wide the dang thing was).  Into that, we punched holes and hammered in grommets. 

Louie and I had quite an assembly line going with the grommets: I punched the holes and he hammered the grommets.  In fact we had it down to a science and were moving along merrily when all of a sudden the cyclorama would not move.  We tugged a time or two, and then turned around to find our production manager's dog, Bear (big black Lab), happily lying on the burlap, his tongue hanging out of the side of his mouth in sheer joy.  We had to love on him for a minute before we removed him to another spot. 

The cyclorama was hung to the rigging over the stage and stretched across the back of the stage and around the sides.  The iron fence was placed in front of that.

And speaking of that fence, I helped construct it as well.  We used heavy iron pipe cut and welded together to make the fence.  My job was to hold the upright pieces of the pipe while someone who knew something about welding fused them together.  I had on a welder's mask and everything.  

Holding a piece of iron pipe in an upright position was not particularly exciting and my mind began to wander.  I was just blithely daydreaming when I felt my ankle starting to get warm.  I lifted my mask and looked down, and my pant leg was on fire.  MY PANT LEG WAS ON FIRE!!    I was momentarily rendered inarticulate, so I started beating the welder on the shoulder and when he looked up at me, all I could do was point to my pants.  He turned off the torch and slapped at my ankle and put the fire out.  Lucky for me I was not burned.  I had to sit down after that, and boy did I get some ribbing  from EVERYBODY!  The legend probably continues.  I kept the pants and eventually sewed patches from them (they were jeans) into a vest that I made.  

So that's how my pants caught on fire.  I hope you got half as much of a giggle out of that as we all did, back there in Charleston.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!




Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It is not a form of insanity...

I want to tell you something revealing about me.  There was a time in my life when I was clinically depressed.  It was the worst time of my life.  Everything was dark in my mind.  I had feelings only of profound sadness, complete and utter worthlessness, and fear.  I felt I didn't deserve to be alive and that the rest of the world would be better off without me.  I did not, however, formulate any plans for doing away with myself.  I suppose I wasn't completely dead inside.  Somewhere deep down, my inner self was struggling for some light.

There are those who, first of all, just don't understand what depression does to a person.  They think you should just get over it and cheer up.  Like it's easy to do that.  When you're in a deep abyss with no means of egress, there is no "up," cheering or otherwise. 

I wasn't an idiot about it.  I knew that it was a physical problem and that it was fixable.  I just didn't know how long it would take.  I went to my doctor and told her the situation.  I didn't have to be diagnosed by her; I knew for a fact that I was depressed.  She prescribed meds.  I took them.  The side effects were almost as bad as the depression.  So I went back.  She prescribed other meds.  Same deal.  So I went back.  Then she referred me to a psychiatrist.  He and I talked and he gave me an intelligence test.  (Don't know what that was for, but I went along.)  Then he left his office for a minute and came back with samples of some meds (one for depression and one for anxiety, depression's constant companion), handed them to me and said that anyone as intelligent as I could figure out how to take them.  Well, it was written right there on the packaging.

Things got a little better.  It took weeks, though, before I felt better.  After a while I was not as afraid of the world outside our house.  We started doing things.  I went back to my night class.  I drove by myself.  But I could still feel the pressure of depression.  I began to despair that I would never again be able to forget the sadness, worthlessness, and fear.  I realized during all this that depression had been creeping up on me for most of my life before it hit full-force.  I also found out that depression can run in families.

And then Richard found out that we were going to have to move.  I was against it.  I became disengaged from the process of preparing, packing up, and moving.  But I did it anyway, though I felt like a zombie.

The worst of it happened years ago.  After a while (and after we had moved), I thought I was over it and I weaned myself off the meds.  I was okay with that for a while, but then it started to creep back into my life.  I waited a little longer than I should, but I finally took some action.  I got more counseling and more meds.  I'm a little disappointed that I can't get rid of the depression and anxiety without the drugs, but after a while, I started having little nanoseconds of actual happiness.

They were few and far between, but these moments started coming more and more frequently and lasting longer than a nanosecond.  I will be a slave to the meds for the rest of my life, but I remember and once again know happiness.  I feel it.  I'm strong.  I can approach people I don't know at a party or meeting and start a conversation.  I'm happy about my advancing age.  I fought long and hard to get here.  Now I want to live forever -- or at least as long as my long-lived grandparents. 

Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.  The meds provide the balance.  There is always hope.