We’re Only Worth Who We Know

I’d never heard of Amie Harwick before today. I’d only vaguely paid attention to the name Drew Carey. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to identify them, or said what they were known for. A friend posted on Facebook this morning about her death, and it was odd because the headline spoke of her as the latter’s ex-fiancée. It was hard for me to understand why I should care about the ex-fiancée of a second-tier celebrity I barely knew.

I had to do some digging to discover that Amie Harwick is a therapist in Hollywood, primarily focused on sex and relationships. She had helped a great number of people with overcoming abuse and difficult mental health issues, and was apparently killed by a former boyfriend, Gareth Pursehouse, against whom she had had a restraining order.

It seems to have been a senseless, tragic death, but the fact is I only know about it because of a tangential connection to someone the media thinks people care about. If she hadn’t once been engaged to Drew Carey, it would have been a second-tier back page new article, or possibly just an obituary.

Of course, people die every day. People are murdered, commit suicide, die of old age … it’s literally part of the world, and part of life. It isn’t possible to be as upset about the death of a stranger as it is about the death of a loved one. But, when someone with a greater sphere of influence dies, there are naturally a wider range of people who are affected by it. Think of when Robin Williams died, or more recently, Kobe Bryant. Their families were presumably devastated, but so was the world.

It seems that the greatest celebrities in the world – those with the greatest influence over strangers they’ve never met – are entertainers. Perhaps it makes sense that we mourn our entertainers the most; after all, they provide us escape from the pain of the world around us. But when someone who truly did the world good, who made life better for other people through their dedication and work, it seems unfair that they aren’t mourned for their work, but rather for who they were in relation to others who were better known than they were.

What’s particularly upsetting is that most new outlets seem not to have even bothered to reference who she was; only who she knew. Her worth to the media was in her relationship to a comedian – an entertainer. Not even an active relationship – a past one.

It’s enough to make me wonder – who am I? Am I myself, a person of my own with my own virtues and values? Am I just a husband? Am I a father? What is it that defines me?

I can’t pretend to have answers to these questions – they’re going to be different for every individual, of course. But it just seems sad to me to only be known as an attachment to some other person, as if you were owned by them, a part of them, and not a whole person of your own. And this sadness only enhances the tragedy of death, because it devalues who the person was in life.

Amie Harwick was a therapist, a child, and adult, and a whole person of her own. She deserves to be mourned for her own death, and not someone else’s loss.

The Devil’s Details: Tell Me About Your Parents

pictureIt’s still early days in therapy for me, but last week the Lovely J (to borrow a phrase from a good friend) asked me something straight out of a Ben Stiller comedy.

So, tell me about your parents.

I almost cracked up. I understand that it’s a perfectly valid question to ask, and important in the ‘getting to know me’ part of it all, but there was a part of me that wanted to retort, “Tell me about yours!”

What did I do in the end? Naturally, I told her about my parents. About how my mother was a obsessive, controlling compulsive liar who loved me nonetheless (if in all the wrong ways), and my father was an emotionally distant power figure. Could it get more clichéd?

Sigh. It was kind of fun, if not terribly insightful. I wonder what she’ll conclude?

Satis Logo with ©

Thought of the Week: Fix me, Doc. Fix me.

pictureThose of you who’ve been with me for a while will know of my ongoing struggle with depression and other, as-yet unidentified mental difficulties. From crippling myself to the point of catatonia to self-diagnosing as autistic, I have been struggling with these difficulties for pretty much all of my life. Many years ago I was on heavy antidepressants and undergoing extensive therapy, and while it certainly didn’t turn my life around, it did help me through some issues at the time at least.

And then I just sort of let it slide. I stopped the meds, and…nothing seemed to get any worse. I stopped the therapy, and I could still talk to people. My head was still f***ed up, but it seemed like I didn’t need those things.

I met my wife. We had our child. And throughout all of this, on and off, I was on the brink. The interesting thing is that my “condition” has mutated and changed over the years. What was once straight-up major depressive disorder turned into depression with a whole lot of other weird stuff thrown in there, and now there’s kind of just the weird stuff left. Is that a good thing?

Sounds about right.

Sounds about right.

I haven’t genuinely wanted to kill myself for over six years now. In fact the thought doesn’t really pop into my head anymore. However, I was bawling my eyes out because we didn’t go out to lunch the other day (all right, there was a lot more to it than that, but it sort of sums it up). I haven’t self-harmed in over ten years, but I still sit and stare at things for minutes on end. I repeat phrases to myself over and over again when I’m upset, and my speech turns into torrents of vowels and consonants that might mean something in Urdu, but I really couldn’t be sure.

So while I’m not “depressed”, I’m certainly not right in the head. And…sigh…I’ve never quite figured it out. Sometimes I behave like a sociopath. Sometimes I behave like I’m autistic. Sometimes I behave just simply depressed, and sometimes I share characteristics with full-on psychopathic disorders. None of them really quite fit. Not bipolar…nope.

Suddenly I can’t wait; I feel like I need to talk to this person, desperately, as though my very soul depended on it.

So a year ago my doc gave me meds. After ten years, I started medications again, and it hasn’t been…unsuccessful. I started with a mood stabilizer. Did a little, but not a lot. Added an antidepressant; sort of helped. Added a booster for the anti-depressant, but had to reduce the mood stabilizer or I might freak out. Still…I don’t freak out quite so much. Anything else? No real change.

Sort of feel like I've got those things on my arms sometimes.

Sort of feel like I’ve got those things on my arms sometimes.

For years and years my wife has been urging me to seek help. Step one was the medications. Step three is, presumably, mental stability and the ability to not feel like that creep from Iron Man 2 with the frazzling tentacles everywhere.

So what’s step two? Therapy, it turns out. And two days ago – after years of procrastinating – I booked my first appointment.

And you know what? I feel soso relieved. As if all of sudden I’ve been freed from a form-fitting vice that has been slowly crushing me for decades. I haven’t met the psychologist, have no idea whether we’ll get along, but just the knowledge that the answers (if there are any to be had) aren’t solely in my hands anymore is like a great release.

Is this what AA members feel like?

Remember this scene from Blade? Yeah, sort of crushed.

Remember this scene from Blade? Yeah, sort of crushed.

Suddenly I can’t wait; I feel like I need to talk to this person, desperately, as though my very soul depended on it. Who knows…maybe it does. It might all go wrong; she might say there’s nothing wrong with me and that I should stop being such a baby, or she might say I’m beyond help and should be institutionalized. She might just not like me (I might just not like her). But for now, I’m going to leave myself open and hope beyond hope that this will help. Because for the past several years now I’ve felt my mind slowly descend deeper into complete insanity, and I’m pretty sure at some point it’ll be too late.

You don’t think I’m expecting to much from the psychologist, do you?