Depression, my experience with deep darkness

In 1988, “Gorillas in the Mist” was a big hit. I went with my boyfriend, now husband-Pete, and our friends, Teri and Jack. The movie is the true story of naturalist Dian Essey, protector of hunted gorillas. Blood is featured prominently throughout as gorillas are hunted for cash, gorgeous animals with huge hearts attacked for no reason, their hands sold as ash trays. Essey lived and died among these rare creatures.  The last scene is especially bloody. Essey’s throat is cut. Viewers see the knife slice and blood dripping from her neck. Her assailant is never identified.

As we stood up to leave the movie, I realized I could not speak. Unbeknownst to me, the movie had touched some hidden well-spring releasing a huge surge of darkness that engulfed my senses. The only two bright spots were: 1. I knew something was terribly wrong and 2. I was surrounded by supportive friends. By morning I was able to talk but dark shadows were still hovering like ghostly cobwebs in the corners of my mind. I would not wish that catatonic blackness on anyone. I understand some people can’t surface on their own towards the glimmering light of reality as I had. Trapped in that blackness for a significant period of time, I would find the experience unnerving, unbearable and ultimately unlivable.

While the initial depressive episode was almost 30 years ago, I was reminded of the experience this week while visiting Wyoming friends in Colorado and Arizona. While I was in Colorado, my friends Teri and Jack drove down from Cheyenne to see me. We laughed about our many shared good times, i.e. Like when their cat, Tiger, stole the pork roast, bigger than he off the table as we were sitting done to eat. We don’t talk about how I couldn’t get to their wedding in Jackson even though Pete was the best man because I was struggling to keep the darkness at bay and wouldn’t travel for an extended period of time. I had lunch in Phoenix with my dear friend, Holly. During my mental health struggles I would camp out on Holly’s couch for the night to make sure I wasn’t alone. Excellent counseling, medication, funds to pay for it, and  a strong support system of friends helped sweep my blackness away though I still watch for triggers, such as no depressing movies. I am always thankful for the light.

I have been planning a spring break trip to California for my daughter and her friends to tour universities the last couple of weeks. She wants to go because her brother and his friend made the trek with my sister and I six years ago. The  circumstances of that trip were very different than the one we are contemplating now. When I planned the trip in 2011, I didn’t know the challenges we would face. The week we were to leave I received a call from the friend’s father. He told me his wife had killed herself the night before while the family was in the house. I told him we would the cancel the trip but he insisted we go.

Right after the mom’s funeral in a Boise Episcopal church filled with Juniors in high school, we started out to California. We wound our way down the California coast, touring Stanford, UCLA, Santa Clara and finishing in San Diego. We turned home driving through Yosemite.  After the park, we drove straight home, a week away in La La land resulted in my son’s friend beginning to come to terms with his mother’s death.  Understandably, he wanted to get home as quickly as possible. I was so pleased this December when my son’s friend, a first generation college graduate crossed the stage at University of Idaho. After such a tragic beginning to his college career, his success gave all of us in our family a spurt of joy.

Over the years, mental health issues have grabbed more of the spotlight. The Affordable Care Act(ACA/ObamaCare) now about to be repealed requires that insurers pay for behavioral health treatment at the same level as other medical services (the technical term is parity and insurance payment for mental health is a recent development). I am an example of the success of having access to resources. Unfortunately, treatment still carries a stigma unlike cancer and too many people can’t access appropriate care either because it isn’t available or they are unwilling to admit they need help. Idaho has one of the worst community mental health systems in the nation. Our suicide rate is too high. We can strive to do better as a state. As individuals, we can all be  supportive friends to those in need. My friends kept me going when I was surrounded by darkness and despair. Thirty years later whenever I’m with them I bask in their light.

 

 

Baby Blue: My first tiny home

When I was 28 years old, I purchased my first home in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The home was tiny, 900 square feet on the main floor, 2 bedrooms, one bath with a one-bedroom, one bathroom, basement apartment complete with outside entrance of about 600 square feet.   The purchase price was $27,000, a princely sum at the time for such a tiny piece of real estate.  The big draw for me was the basement apartment. I had an executive job which required a lot of travel.  I knew I could rent the apartment to airmen at Warren Air force Base.  The house was only a couple blocks from the base.   In fact over the years I owned Baby Blue, I only rented to two different young men.  They obviously liked it and stayed for long periods of time. I never advertised to rent the apartment.  I simply called the base and asked them to post a notice.  The military personnel are great to rent to.  If you have any problems with payment or destruction, you can simply follow-up with the base Commander.  I never had any of these issues.  Instead, I had a steady roommate, I never saw except to say, “Hello!” The agreement was that the renter would help with snow removal and lawn mowing for reduced rent.

I bought Baby Blue without consulting anyone. My boyfriend at the time broke up with me because he felt it didn’t show that I had a long term commitment to our relationship.  My mother spent time explaining to me how difficult housing could be to sell and it could mean I was rooted to Cheyenne and/or singlehood forever.  My boyfriend was probably right about my lack of commitment and mother was dead wrong.  I think my mother’s real problem was that single women didn’t own homes of their own at that time.  I purchased the house because my accountant had suggested it for tax reasons but more importantly I wanted pets. Identifying rentals that allowed pets was extremely difficult. I had a cat.  As soon as I had my own place with a fenced yard, I got my first sheltie, Ginger Rogers.

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House remains blue and white with black shutters 40 years later.

When I bought the house, the outside was yellow and brown. The interior was carpeted in a magenta shag rug.  There was flocked wall paper in the main bedroom that proved extremely difficult to remove with plaster beneath.  Because the house was small, major changes were relatively inexpensive. I could do some of the work myself or beg others to do it for me.  The first thing I did was paint the outside blue with white trim and added black shutters.  The color and shutters remain to this day so that choice was obviously a good one.  I’m sure it has been repainted many times in the 40 years since I first acquired Baby Blue.

 

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My brother-in-law and friend installed the European Wood Burning Stove and brick surround. The hard woods were uncovered within weeks of moving in. These pictures are from a real estate advertisement for the house a couple years ago.  Some things in housing don’t change after 40 years.

I pulled out the shag carpet and reinstalled it in the basement apartment bedroom. I was lucky to discover beautiful hardwood floors throughout the upstairs.  I  talked my brother-in-law and a friend of his into installing a fancy European wood stove which remains to this day.  I stripped all the wall-paper myself and did all the painting.  I remember my mother came over one day only to discover me sitting on my bedroom floor, covered with plaster, glue in my hair, crying because the yellow I had picked out for the room was a horrible mustard shade instead of a bright sunshine yellow.  My mom said, “Julie, it’s only paint.  You can do it again.”   Of course she was right.  I learned a major lesson for all the future paint jobs I would do.  Test small cans of paint first.

 

The kitchen was laid out strangely. One winter day when I was snowed in with a beau, he took a chain saw to the lower cabinets to make room for a rolling dishwasher.  While the remodeling approach was impetuous and terrifying the end result was not too bad.  It did, however, lead to another break-up.  The next boyfriend helped me repaint the wood cabinets yellow and white and put on decorative wood molding and new hardware.  Steadily moving through boyfriends, the final boyfriend helped me lay new flooring in the basement for the basement apartment.  That boyfriend was a keeper.  I’ve been married to him for 27 years.  But then that is another rather long story. My husband and I dated for 10 years from when we met until we married.

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Floor my future husband installed is still there or it looks  the same.

 

I sold the house for about $40,000 (The County Assessor appraises it today at about $130,000). Obviously, I made a good return on my investment.  I moved to another house in Cheyenne by myself. My next house was in a better neighborhood, all brick, larger, with an attached two car garage and a basement apartment. But I never loved it as much as Baby Blue.

I will always have fond memories of Baby Blue. Home ownership allowed me to assert my independence as a professional woman, provided a financial base from which to start investing since owning the home with a rental was cheaper than paying rent, allowed me to have pets who significantly improved my life and in the end allowed me to move up to the next home— following the American dream.

My husband and I talk about downsizing now. Our home is about 3200 square feet and worth a King’s ransom.  If we ever downsize, it won’t be to get money out of the house because smaller houses closer to town in Boise are going for more than our house.  Downsizing would be about the convenience of living small in walkable communities.   Small homes are easier to maintain and not being in the suburbs appeals to my small town upbringing.  For now,  we are staying put until my daughter graduates from high school and my son finds a job (hopefully my son’s job hunt is successful before my daughter graduates next year).

I feel like I have one more adventure in me. I watch International House Hunters and fantasize about living in a tiny apartment with a balcony on the coast of Spain.  Sometimes, I dream of buying an adobe house with land for a tiny horse in Sante Fe. For now Ashtree Way,  folds its arms around all of us whenever we walk in the door.  I have the same sense of being home as I did when I would walk into “Baby Blue.”  Home truly is where your heart is.

Chinese New Year 2017—Kozisek Style

I have an adopted Chinese daughter, Kayla who is now 17. We have been celebrating Chinese New Year sometime during the traditional two week celebration since she was a very small child to honor her heritage. Unlike New Years in the United States the Chinese date moves around from year to year. This year Chinese New Year began on January 27th (the eve of the lunar New Year) and ended with the Lantern Festival Feb. 11, 2017. We chose to celebrate with friends and family on Sunday, February 5th.  We always go to a local Chinese restaurant, owned by a Chinese family to celebrate. This year we were greeted with a red menu with Chinese New Year specials in an almost empty dining room because of the Super Bowl.  But because of our trip to Australia and the great skiing in McCall, we had to double book activities to get in our annual Chinese dinner (we saw the first half of the Super Bowl and recorded the last half. The two halves were like two different games).

Our dinner this year was both smaller and larger than we planned. Smaller because two of Kayla’s friends who usually join us along with my sister were sick. We had invited our neighbors down the street who have a Chinese daughter and have joined us before. Sadly,their family was smaller this year because the husband/dad, a big man with a big personality to match had died two weeks before.  Our party was larger because our neighbors added in a third family with a Chinese daughter who we had not met before.  Our final group included three beautiful Chinese girls, all adopted from orphanages as infants, and their families for a total of nine.

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ShaSha and Jillian (9th graders) with Kayla (High School Junior).  All came from China as infants.

I brought along red envelopes with money for the girls. Red envelopes filled with fresh new bills are the traditional gift during the Chinese New Year celebrations. A red envelope bestows happiness, blessings and wishes for another safe and peaceful year. As we enter February, I have high hopes that we will have happiness and peace this year despite national divisions. I would be remiss not to give a “Shout out” to the 9th Circuit Justices for recognizing how important it is to allow people from far away to travel to this country when appropriately screened and carrying approved documents–a judicial blessing as we begin the New Year.

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Billions of red envelopes filled with crisp new bills are given out during Chinese New Year

 

One-fifth of the world’s populations celebrate Chinese New Year. More than 200 million Mainland Chinese travel long distances for these holidays. Billions of red envelopes are exchanged. While our daughter and the other two Chinese girls celebrating with us that night are a minority in Idaho, Chinese make up the largest ethnic group in the world. Having a Chinese daughter and having visited China, has helped me understand that there are simply not enough Americans, no matter how well armed to take on the majority of the world alone. Globalization requires a commitment to understanding other cultures and learning to value the traditions of countries along with our own.

This year, the two week Chinese News Years celebration welcomed in the year of the Rooster. The Chinese zodiac has 12 animals representing different years. The year in which you were born is your zodiac animal. Kayla is a rabbit.  Rabbits are frank, straightforward, ambitious, hard-working, but slightly reserved. Rabbits tend to be gentle, quiet, elegant, and alert; quick, skillful, kind, and patient; and particularly responsible. Female rabbits are pretty and pure of heart. These words definitely describe my girl.

My husband and son are dogs. Dogs are loyal and honest, amiable and kind, cautious and prudent. Due to having a strong sense of loyalty and sincerity, dogs will do everything for the person who they think is most important. These adjectives describe both my husband and son well.

My husband is a Fire Dog making him particularly intelligent, hardworking, and sincere. Anyone who knows, my husband knows these adjectives describe him to a “t”.  At 70, he still gets up every morning at 6, heads out the door by 7 and returns home around 7 from the hospital where as a palliative care physician he has spent the day treating people who are dying or suffering from severe chronic pain. He doesn’t need to work but his work is his passion and defines who he is.

My son is a Wood Dog, sincere, reliable, considerate, understanding, and patient. My daughter would say these terms are a bunch of hooey when used to describe her brother. But one can always hope as he moves into the world of work he will demonstrate his “ good dog” qualities.

I am a tiger. People who know me would say the animal is a great characterization of me. I am known to be fierce, ambitious (before I retired) and sometimes off-putting with my strong opinions. Tigers are enthusiastic, brave, competitive, unpredictable, and self-confident. They are very charming and well-liked by others (some people who know me might not find me to be sooo charming). But tigers can also be impetuous, irritable, and stubborn. Believe me, my husband would say he has experienced the angry, impetuous tiger more than once in the 27 years we’ve been married.

At our house, we have four dogs, two cats, a rabbit and a tiger, quite an eclectic mix. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The Koziseks found blessings and joy in 2016 and I hope those gifts will extend into 2017. As I age, I realize how fragile life is and how we must celebrate together when we can.

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Kozisek/Robinson Family enjoying Thanksgiving on the Big Island of Hawaii.  We had many blessings in 2016 and look forward to a safe and peaceful 2017.

Trumpisms Lexicon Update

Prior to the election, I wrote an update of new words evolving during that campaign. The original lexicon can be found at https://wordpress.com/post/julierobinsonblog.com/5172 .  Since President Trump was sworn in a short couple weeks ago,  many new words are entering my stratosphere.  Here is a list of the most prominent at this time.

Alternative Facts: Terms used by Counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway in a Meet the Press interview on January 22, 2017 to explain White House Press Secretary’s Sean Spicer’s description of the crowds at President Trump’s inauguration as “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration. Period.”the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in-person and around the globe,” Spicer claimed. These remarks were contrary to the numerous photos taken of the National Mall on Friday that appeared to show a smaller audience than the crowd at former President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.  Mr. Spicer later clarified it was the largest audience if streaming; tv etc was taken into account. Urban dictionary defines explains alternative facts as lies invented to protect an individual when the truth is too unfavorable to the presenter.

Alt-right (Alternative Right): Loosely organized group of individuals who reject mainstream Republican conservatism. The term was originally coined in 2010 by individuals who supported white nationalism and white supremacists to refer to themselves and their ideology, emphasizes preserving and protecting the white race in the United States.  Because of it’s fluid structure alt-right groups have been associated also been associated with anti-Semitism, antifeminism, and homophobia.  The generally support President Trump, emphasize preserving and protecting the white race in the United States, oppose multiculturalism and political correctness. The positions of the alt-right exist in a virtual world of web-pages,  twitter,  and internet memes (a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users).

Bannon, Steven: Former head of Breitbart News (see below), CEO of Trump Presidential Campaign and now Mr. Trump’s Chief Political Strategist in the White House . Mr. Bannon is considered the primary ideological officer of the Trump administration. Mr. Bannon was quoted in an interview after the election that “Darkness is good.  Darth Vader. Satan. That’s Power.”  President Trump has given Mr. Bannon a seat at the National Security Council table, a move considered unusual for a political strategist.

Block Grants: While entitlements programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, require that every person receive the same minimum level of service, a federal block grant consolidates a number of programs into one and provides a capped amount of funding to states. Block grants to states during the Reagan administration allowed for significant federal cuts to social programs  from previous  federal expenditure levels.  The argument for block grants is that states should not need as much funding to operate block grants because they can redesign the program, eliminate federal red tape and provide the same services at significantly less cost.  Block grants in operation and have led to significant reduction in services because states have been unable to identify significant cost savings measures. Republicans suggestions for eliminating the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) have all included the provision that the Medicaid program be changed from an entitlement program where states receive funding for eligible individual to a block grant.

Bowling Green Massacre: Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, told Chris Mathews on MSNBC’s Hardball that President Obama had instituted a six month ban on Iraqi refugees after the Bowling Green Massacre. She complained the media had failed to cover the incident. The media didn’t cover the massacre because there never was one. Bowling Green Kentucky was never home to a terrorist attack. Two men were arrested in in Bowling Green in 2011 on federal terrorism charges after one of the men’s fingerprints had been traced to a roadside bomb detonated in Iraq in 2005. Ms. Conway corrected her error through tweeting “Bowling Green terrorists” rather than “Bowling Green massacre.”

Breitbart News: Website featuring right wing views run by Steve Bannon before Mr. Bannon became President Trump’s campaign manager. Mr. Bannon referred to Breitbart News as the “platform of the alt-right”. Known for taking on establishment Republicans such as House Speaker Paul Ryan.  Critiques say the website is a platform for white nationalist sentiments of hate groups. http://www.breitbart.com/

Dreamers:  President Obama implemented through executive order a program called  Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The program initatited in 2012 offered a two-year, renewable reprieve from deportation to unauthorized immigrants who are under the age of 31; entered the United States before age 16; have lived continuously in the country for at least five years; have not been convicted of a felony, a “significant” misdemeanor, or three other misdemeanors; and are currently in school, graduated from high school, earned a GED, or served in the military.  The 718,000 individuals taking advantage of the program are called Dreamers. There are an estimated  1.8 million potential Dreamers in the United States presently. Seven-tenths of the dreamers are Mexican American and half live in Texas and California though the rest are scattered throughout the United States.  The program is currently accepting applications but the long term status of the program in the Trump administration is in limbo.

Going Nuclear: Nuclear option is a parliamentary procedure allows the U.S. Senate to override a rule or precedent by a simple majority of 51 votes, instead of by a supermajority of 60 votes. The United States Senate has a tradition of requiring a 60 vote threshold for confirmation of Supreme Court nominees.  Going nuclear refers to changing Senate rules so a Supreme Court nominee could be confirmed by a simple majority, which the Republicans hold in the Senate.  the nuclear option would allow Judges to not only be “nominated to the Court by a Republican president, but also be confirmed by only Republican Senators in party-line votes.”

Johnson Amendment: An amendment to the tax code in 1954, introduced by then Senator Lyndon Johnson, providing a legal separation between religion and politics. Under the law, churches and charitable organizations are unable to directly or indirectly participate in political campaigns on behalf or in opposition to a candidate or risk loosing their tax-exempt status. President Trump has vowed to destroyed this amendment to appease conservative religious groups who want to actively engage in politics and maintain their tax-exempt status. Rev. Jerry Falwell Jr. has said it would “create a huge revolution for conservative Christians and for free speech.”  Repeal raises significant questions about the separation of church and state required in the Constitution.

post-truthPost Truth:  Post-truth describes the milieu of the 2016 U.S. presidential election in which appeal to emotions and personal opinions were more impactful than facts.The 2016 Oxford Dictionary word of the year, post-truth, was selected because usage  dramatically rose during the last year becoming a mainstay when describing national politics.

Repeal and Replace (Affordable Care Act or OBAMA Care): The first executive order signed by President Trump was to scale back as many aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)(Obamacare) as possible. The one page order gave broad latitude to federal agencies to change, delay or waive provisions of the law that they deemed overly costly for insurers, drug makers, doctors, patients or states, suggesting that it could have wide-ranging impact, and essentially allowing the dismantling of the law to begin even before Congress could repeal it. Congress voted to repeal the act the following week. The authorization to repeal will only impact budgetary provisions of the act, specifics of this action are still unknown.  The Republican intent is clear to kill the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In 2015, HHS estimated that ACA had provided insurance to 16.8 million Americans who previously did not have insurance and dropped the U.S. uninsured rate by over 5%.  With so many Americans receiving insurance through ACA, the Republicans have vowed to repeal ACA but simultaneously replace it with something better.  The something better is still undefined. There have been suggestions of replacing Medicaid the state/federal entitlement program with block grants to states.  If ACA is eliminated and states are blocked grant  Medicaid, funds will be available for the lowest income, even if less funding is available.  Funding to help higher income individuals and families now receiving incentives to purchase insurance would be gone.  Other popular ACA requirements that would be erased are requirements for insurers to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until they are 26. Republicans have found themselves in lala land as far as how to replace ACA.  It is much easier to vote against something than to find creative, cost-effective replacements.

Shock and Awe: These terms come from  the military  and refer to rapid deployment of military strikes to demonstrate dominance, forcing an opponent into  a rapid reactionary response. President Trump’s rapid issuance of executive actions has been referred to as “shock and awe” approach to executive administration. In an effort to impose Trumpian philosophy on the federal government and force Democrats and the world into a reactive position, President Trump has acted aggressively  through executive order causing significant problems for many vulnerable people in the wake of his pen. Whether America is safer as a result of his actions remains to be seen.

Travel Ban: Trump executive order issued January 27, 2017 banning all immigrants and visa holders from seven majority Muslim countires(Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Syria)  from entering the US for 90 days,  and opening the door to more country-based bans in the future. Also bans all refugee admissions for 120 days—and bans Syrian refuges indefinitely.  The order essentially overhauled US refugee policy—laying the groundwork for a fundamental shift in how the US allows people to enter the country. Signed late Friday afternoon without consultation with Congress or impacted federal agencies, the order caused chaos at airports for individuals traveling from the seven countries listed  and all  refugees in transition who had been granted approval to come to the United States.  By Wednesday, February 1, 2017, the Trump administration said the ban did not include citizens from the 7 countries  who held a valid U.S. green card, a permit allowing a foreign national to work permanently in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security asserted Friday, February 3, 2017, that the order does not apply to dual citizens with passports from countries other than the seven listed. Also on Friday, the Justice Department estimated that the order impacted about 60,000 visa holders.  Tens of thousands of visas for foreigners inside and outside the U.S. have been revoked without notice.  If any of these people are in the U.S. and leave, they have probably lost their ability to return. Judge Brinkema, Federal District Court in Alexandria, described the Trump’s administration lack of planning and notice as causing “chaos.” Judge Brinkema went on to say, “This order touched something in the U.S. I’ve never seen before. People are quite upset.” By Friday evening, a Federal judge in Washington State had temporarily blocked implementation of the order across the nation.  The Department of Justice has appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit located in San Francisco.  On Saturday, the Justice Department said individuals with approved Visas would be allowed to travel.

Women’s March:  Protests for human rights and other civil rights issues  and against President Trump’s positions on these issues held January 21, 2017 in Washington D.C. with sister marches throughout the world.  The largest single day demonstration in U.S. history, drawing at least 500,000 marchers in Washington D.C. and  an estimated 4.8 million world wide.  A theme was “Build Bridges not Walls” in response to President Trump’s inauguration speech the day before the march which focused on “America First”.