“Life After Death?”
While the answer, of course, is yes … it’s not the type of yes that I’d ever imagined. What it is not, is fluffy clouds, pearly gates and seeing Grandma again. What it is, is even better.
Before my death, everyone who knew me thought of me as happy. I knew exactly how to perform, how to appear happy. Sometimes I even believed that I could fool myself. I was a joke-telling, happy-coated, sugar covered, middle aged man. The “me” that I knew however, lived in a very gray world. Occasionally recurring feelings of depression would come on stronger than usual, tears would flow and bed was something I was physically unable to get out of. If you haven’t been there, it can be impossible to believe. When truly pressed, I could slap on some happy and present my face to friends, family and coworkers, never letting anyone know of the abyss from which I was unable to escape. That is, until the day my death began.
It started with a meeting at work. I was told that there would be no assistant hired to help me, no pay raise to compensate for the hours I put in, and that I was expected to somehow magically, “make it work.” I got halfway back to my office before my breath left me, my energy evaporated and I no longer had the strength to simply walk through plain air. I called a doctor who had helped me cope with a family tragedy two years before, and stated that I had to leave. Not leave work, I explained, I had to leave life. I advised that I “knew” it was the only solution. The doctor asked if I would quickly meet in their office first. I said yes.
A 5150 and antidepressant prescription later, I landed in the office of Dr. Julie Osborn. She explained Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to me. I believe she might have told me about the work ahead, the path I would take, and the benefits of CBT. I mostly remember thinking, “I am sure, Dr. Osborn, that you believe what you can do will help me, but you will learn that I am beyond help and then we can both go home.” Well …some months later I can tell you, don’t let that smile and calm demeanor fool you, the woman is therapy of steel! She never gave up on me, even though I had.
CBT was work, hard work. It is work, and effort, and worthwhile, and life saving. CBT was the CPR that gave me Life after death. At first I thought the process of deconstructing each depressive, negative, self-depreciating thought was going to kick my butt. However, Dr. Osborn delivered the therapy in measurable, manageable doses. And CBT made sense. Even though my emotions were at best, unreliable at that time … logic didn’t fail me. Dr. Osborn explained both how, and why, CBT worked. And in bits and pieces, slowly, but consistently, it began to work for me. I was amazed and intrigued at my early, tiny successes, the bits and pieces in the day that contained actual happiness. These gave me the strength and hope I lacked before, and enabled me to keep pushing forward.
To emerge from a life time of gray, gray, and more gray and suddenly see color, actually feel happy, really enjoy the company of friends and family … this is Life. This is MY Life. This is my everyday now. It can be impossible to see through someone’s coating of happiness because, from the outside, it looks just like the real thing. We can fool everyone but ourselves with it. If you are wearing that coating right now, reading this story right now, then you understand exactly what I mean. Maybe you can also understand that it’s time for your own Life to begin.