George Clooney observed that everyone has a year where they age ten years. 2009 has been one of those years for me. I lost a good friend and I hate a mild heart attack, and both left me in a deep funk that has been hard to climb out of. I figure that the best way to beat this depression is to write about it, and once it's out in the open I can put it away. In the last ten days there has been a slow turn around, so I ask you to bear with me as I spew what is most likely emotional gobbledygook.
Last December I came to work and was told that my friend/coworker, Tim, had died in Chicago a day before. This was doubly sad because Tim had just finished four months of Chemotherapy for esophageal cancer, and was 100% cancer free. He had beat it. The problem was that it takes almost a year after chemo for the body to fully recover, and Tim had decided to take a road trip with his wife. He died in their hotel room a day after Christmas.
Tim was a great guy, he was in his mid-fifties, and had been around the block a few times. He loved to try new things (he had many tattoos and piercings), and he loved to fuck with people whenever he could. Since Tim was 6'5" he was an imposing presence, and he could tell someone off with the kind of authority I could only dream of. Tim never sugar-coated anything, and I learned a lot from that. Tim was also a great cheerleader for his many diverse friends, and was always reaching out to help someone. He often lent his cell phone to strangers to make emergency calls, and he gave more than a few surprised guests a ride in his Jeep to Santa Cruz or San Jose just for the hell of it. Tim's many friends included ex-cons, Air Force pilots (he was in the USAF), homeless guys, porn stars, bus drivers, and everything in between. He was a master of figuring people out, and could tell me what made them tick. Every day was a party, and he was always telling me that I deserved to treat myself better especially since the world never seems to want to.
When Tim died I was mad at him. That's the only way to put it. He had beat cancer, and then went on a road trip that killed him. What an asshole (this is what Tim would say if the situation were reversed). That anger masked something deeper; not only had a lost a friend but I had lost a mentor. I'm heading into the last half of my life and Tim seemed to be getting the most out of his. I could have learned so much more. I realize that this is selfish, but as Tim would tell you...why the hell not be selfish about it? He would tell you that some people don't feel anything and that I should be glad that I have any kind of emotions whatsoever. As the year has progressed I find myself missing Tim more and more. All the stupid things that we laughed about, all the crazy things that he loved are still going on without him. I've tried to enjoy them without him, but it all seems so hollow. Everyone has to deal with grief in their own way, and I have dealt with Tim's death the way I thought that Tim would want me to. That has made it a little easier, but it doesn't work as well now. So I'll just be honest and say that it hurts me that Tim is dead, I lost a special friend, and while I was lucky to have him in my life I am sad and angry that he is gone now.
Then there is the small matter of my heart attack...
I almost joined Tim in March. I was on the back end of a cold, and it had got into my lungs. Since I am asthmatic this is bad. I woke up around 9:00am and had taken a shower when my chest just locked up. I went to the ventilator and popped in some medication hoping to free up my breathing. After the ten minutes required I was still no better, so I went into my room to get my rescue inhaler. I took a lung full and then dropped to my knees, and I stayed there for almost forty-five minutes curled up in a ball. Everything was wrong. Sparks were flying through my eyes, and my breathing was exotically labored. There was a strange fire in my chest that hurt like a mother. There is no way I can describe this to you. I hit my cheap backup inhaler a couple more times and my chest eased up. I got up off the floor and sat on my bed, I was thinking about going to the hospital. I can't afford the hospital, and I was feeling better. So I got dressed, and I got in my truck and went to work. In late April I was at the gym, and I ran into my doctor friend. I'm telling him about my near death from asthma, and after I give him all the details he tells me that I'm lucky, and that it wasn't an asthma attack but a HEART ATTACK. Well fuck me six ways from Sunday, a heart attack. While I'm glad to be alive and all, it added to my depression.
Heart attacks are supposed to be for old people, I was 45. I guess that's old. So I found myself withdrawing from the world. I haven't hiked nearly as much as I did the year before, and I don't seem to enjoy a lot of things that I normally enjoy. I think almost dying makes you afraid to live a normal life. The thing I kept thinking as I was curled up on my bedroom floor trying to breathe was "I don't want to die now, not this way", and I felt so helpless about it all. Looking back on it now I see that some of my depression is based on that fear. Fear I can deal with much easier than grief. So already the weight on my brain has begun to lift.
As the semester draws to an end it will free up some time. I can use the extra time to start exercising again, something I loved to do all the time , but I have abandoned in the last year. I only have one class for next semester so I can really step things up. Tim was all about seeking out joy and bringing it into your life, and that is a gift that he has given me that I plan to use to the fullest. As 2010 approaches I am optimistic for the first time in a long while.