It’s finished! Kind of. Okay, not quite, but I am getting there.
I started my podcast and the first episode is a wrap. It is being hosted on Podbean and I still haven’t figured out how to share the direct feed. You can listen to it on their server. Tomorrow, I will figure out how to distribute it to other platforms like apple music. It’s free.
For now, after wrestling with the computer all day, waving the white flag a few times, I was able to upload it onto my website. With a player. You can listen to it on the link below.
That will not last long. The size of the file will crash my site after a few. Now, I am figuring out how to have it hosted but have it all on the website. I’m figuring it out.
You can also listen to it by going to the Podbean site here:
I got naked and started talking about depression and many of the things I discussed on the podcast where I was interviewed. It is all based on columns that you already receive if you are a subscriber. I just realized, and had it pounded into my head, that I could reach more people by having audio versions of the columns.
I still have a day of tinkering to do but I am getting there. I’m pretty proud of myself actually. –yes, yes, yes, I am wrenching my shoulder by patting myself on the back. But I’ve been learning a lot of tech stuff that I swore I could never learn. Adobe PDF thingies, Adobe Audio, manipulating pictures, manipulating this site and a bunch of other things. And I did it all without throwing my computer against the wall.
I still need a title. I suck at titles. Any ideas?
Tomorrow evening, or Monday, after it quiets down, I’ll be getting to work on the next podcast. Taking that deep dive I did in my last column.
But I am calling it a day for now.
Lot’s of stuff going on here. I am beginning the next journey. You all are welcome to continue to join me.
Oh, and in case you missed it, here is the link to the podcast where I was interviewed:
Episode 1: Diving In
Welcome to the first official podcast for The Coffee Chronicles. Thank you for joining me.
The Coffee Chronicles is old, older than podcasts. I started writing columns a few decades ago and publishing them on my website. The website has evolved over the years but all the content for this podcast is derived from there.
I have recently switched the focus of my website. It was focused on the book I was working but is now focused on an idea I had a long time ago, Friends of Gina, or Gentler Insanities Anonymous. It is a pretty simple idea.
If I have a $1,000 a day cocaine habit or am a fall down drunk, there are a dozen meetings I can go to each night. But what if I suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD or any of the other mental health issues that can be having a serious impact on my life?
Friends of GInA is a place to go for support, information, and really just someone to say, “I’ve been there, I might be there now, and I understand in a way your closest family and friends may not.”
There are places to get help. It can be difficult though. Depression is hard to explain. It can even be difficult to understand ourselves. I have spent a lifetime trying to figure out what were “bad decisions” and what were decisions that my depression influenced me to make. –I do own all of them though.
The memes and quotes you see on Facebook and instagram are nice enough but I wanted to do something more, do something that goes beyond the superficial and dive deep into my world. You are welcome to join me. I am trying to be open, honest, authentic and articulate. That is why this podcast could just as easily be renamed, “Let’s Get Named and Talk about Depression.”
Friends of Gina was inspired by a story I once heard on the television show, “The West Wing.” Leo, a recovering alcoholic, was talking to Josh, who was in crisis following a traumatic event. The story goes something like this:
A person falls down a deep hole and starts yelling for help.
An engineer comes along, looks down, sizes up the situation, and yells back: “I’ll devise a way out and then I’ll be back.” And he walks away.
A priest walks up, looks down at the man, and yells, “I will pray for you.” Then, he walks away.
A friend walks up, sees the man in the pit, and, without a word, jumps down into the hole.
In the deep, dark place, the man says with bewilderment to his friend that had just jumped down, “What the hell did you do that for? Now we’re both stuck down here.”
The friend replies, “Yes, but I’ve been here before. I know the way out.”
Do I know the way out? At times. But the pit is someplace I know well. My battle with depression has gone on my entire 50 years. Sometimes it is just a skirmish here and there and sometimes it is an all-out war.
So I invite you to come down with me. Or maybe you are already there? Or maybe you know someone who is and can’t reach or understand them? Well, this is me.
But who am I?
First, who I am not: I am not a therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist or any kind of professional with an –ist at the end of their title.
I am just a guy who has been there, am there now at times, and I am willing to get naked and talk about my experiences. I promise to be authentic. I’ll be serious, maybe even funny at times, and will explore other aspects of mental health.
As I have mentioned, I have a lifetime of experience with it. I have been diagnosed with what I call the trifecta: Major Depression, PTSD and Anxiety Disorder. Somehow or another, I managed to sidestep Mom’s Manic Depression–now called Bi-Polar Disorder.
I am also a former journalist. In my travels I have experienced a lot and spoken with many different types of people in various professions. I have spoken with the true mental health care professionals, the people with the –ists at the end of their job titles.
This particular episode, and the motivation to begin my own podcast, came from a recent interview that I did on a professional’s podcast. “Before You Kill Yourself” is hosted by Leo Flowers, a TEDx speaker, stand-up comedian, personal coach and has a Masters in Counseling/Psychology. He had invited me to be on his podcast to promote my upcoming book, “Disconnected: An Odyssey Through Covid America.”
The experience was not what I was expecting. Not that it was a bad experience, but it went very differently than what I had imagined.
Though I was a hundred miles away, this is kind of what it felt like:
I walk in all spiffy, freshly shaved, in a collared shirt, slacks, my expensive–but very comfortable– shoes and holding a copy of my book under my arm. Leo, a large man, greets me, shakes my hand with a firm grip and we start to chat. He knows I have a speech impediment so he is making me comfortable with small talk before we start the interview.
Small talk was over. He seizes me, rips off my clothes and tosses me into the deep of the end of the pool where the secrets behind the book are waiting.
What did I expect? It’s a suicide prevention podcast. It’s called, “Before You Kill Yourself.” And I had revealed to Leo the motivation behind the book, behind my odyssey through Covid America.
He jumped into the pool with me, kept me afloat, and we started talking.
The big reveal came first. I had hinted at it throughout the book, slipped in bits and pieces that some few had figured out, but Leo brought it out front and center.
Yes, I had planned on killing myself. It was a well thought out plan that had evolved over a couple years. It is a much longer story, contained in the book and the book I am working on now, but I was just so damn exhausted I just didn’t see any point in going on any longer. So, I got rid of everything, disconnected from everything and everybody, and went on one final adventure. At the end of the adventure, the plan was to find some nice, quiet place to end my life.
In the back of my head, I also played the lottery. It was sort of like if you are down to your last dollar and you know the collection guy is coming the following day, you use the dollar to buy a lottery ticket. I figured that my odds were about the same. By posting and sharing my journey on social media, I had hoped to find something or somebody to ease the exhaustion.
It was ironic, I told Leo, because family members thought I was manic. I didn’t blame them. As I mentioned: it’s in the genes. I could see exactly how they saw it. But it was actually the opposite. I found that interesting: a violent reaction to a depressive episode that could be perceived as a manic episode.
The exhaustion did ease while I was on the road, the depression eased. I also found tools, teachers, and glimpses of the extraordinary.
When I finally settled down in Texas after the journey, that is when things got really ugly.
Leo and I would go on to talk about depression, suicide, suicidal idealization, being parentified, boundaries (or lack thereof), my inner child, and other things as we did laps in the deep end of the pool. He kept me from slipping under.
It was an exhilarating experience.
Then, Leo got out of the pool.
As he was toweling off, he asked me the final question, the final question he asks every guest: what would you say to someone that is about to kill themself?
That’s when the demon came up, grabbed me by the ankles and pulled me under. Leo had his back turned so didn’t see me sputtering and gasping.
The question triggered me because I am still on that particular doorstep. I really didn’t have an answer. Or at least not one that would do anybody any good. I’m still suicidal. As I had explained to Leo in the interview, suicidal thoughts are nothing new to me. I have had them on and off all my life. They are like a swarm of gnats on a summer evening. I brush them aside and move on. My recent crisis, and a previous one, had turned the gnats into a swarm of hornets. The swarm of hornets had transformed back to gnats on a summer evening, but they fill my mind and choke me at times.
Leo’s question, “What would I say to someone that was about to commit suicide?” had me looking into a mirror and asking, “What would I say to myself? What should I be saying to myself?”
The demon relaxed his grip and I made my way to the shallow end of the pool to find more solid footing. I stumbled through an answer based upon this, a column I wrote in 2014 following the death of Robin Williams.
The doorstep to suicide is the loneliest place in the universe. I’ve been there, so understand. Many people don’t, and that is understandable. How can someone be expected to comprehend such a distortion of reality? I’ve stood in a room full of people who loved and cared about me–and felt completely alone. While friends and family were giving me hugs, all I could feel was a vile self-loathing for being such a burden on these wonderful people.
The doorstep to suicide is a very cold place. I had always thought differently. When thinking about it, it was a passionate event. A climatic ending. But when I was there, it was a very cold and serene place, like an arctic field. Suicide becomes a rational decision, the only option that makes any sense. It can’t/won’t get any better, so what’s the point? You are standing in that arctic field, alone and bitterly cold. There is no place to go, no shelter, no warmth, no hope.
The doorstep to suicide is a timeless place. Imagine if you will an agony so terrible that it becomes your existence. The pain so awful that it fades into a numbness that encompasses your every breath, until your breaths are a burden. There is just a “now,” bereft of a joyful past and a hopeful future. I was 29 years old and my life was over. I could not remember the 28 years of love and joy behind me, and could not imagine the 15 years of happiness that awaited me.
The doorstep to suicide is a selfless place. I would have never of thought that. The opposite really. I had always considered suicide the most selfish thing a person could do. How could they do that to their friends and family? I had been there, been a witness to a person who tried to go through that door and had to clean up afterwards. Selfish, self-centered damnable…but perception distorts as badly as reality on that doorstep. What many consider selfish distorts into selfless. The question, “how can you do that to your family and friends” becomes “how can you NOT do that FOR your family and friends?” How can you continue to exist and allow your existence to drag them down, and do them harm?
I sat on that doorstep for a cold, timeless moment, got up, put my hand on that doorknob…and I am not quite sure what happened. An internal whimper. An upwelling of passion that escaped like a gasp through the ice that made me think: something is not right here. I called Rachel. An old friend. Two thousand miles away. She would understand. But she didn’t. It still made sense to me, to step through that doorway. I hurt so bad. How could she not understand?
“Just one year,” she said. “Give me one year. Put it aside for one year.” If I could make it through 29, then what was one more? Give her one more year. That didn’t make any sense, but, for her, I could do it.
The doorstep to suicide is a place I never went back to, but I still can remember it. I wonder if it was the same for Robin? I wonder if he made a call that went unanswered?
The path to the doorstep is a cluttered place, filled with misconceptions and burdened by the stigma of mental illness.
Depression is a disease.
Depression is real.
Depression can be treated.
You are not alone.
There is hope.
Finally, now, I can give Leo, and you, the clearer answer that I could not give then.
What would I say to someone that was about to commit suicide? I would ask them for more time, as Rachel did for me. I wouldn’t try to argue with them or talk them down. I would just ask for one more month, one more year.
I know. I understand. That distortion of reality will pass if you give it time. There is help, through meds, counseling, and other ways that I will get into in further episodes. But, at the moment, I would ask the person to give me more of their time.
And that is a wrap for this initial episode of the Coffee Chronicles.
If you are in crisis, or think someone you love may be, I implore you to reach out. A new hotline just went live. Dial or text 988.
I want to repeat that. If you are currently in crisis, I implore you to call or text 988. Take that first step to get yourself more time.
I am now mentally and metaphorically putting my clothes back on. I need to get back to work. There is editing and writing to be done. There is a job hunt to continue and there is finally a podcast to prepare to upload on something or another.
Next week, I will be exploring how depression is misunderstood by us and those around us.
Thanks for joining me!