My Compassion sponsor trip to Veracruz, Mexico in January* opened my eyes to something that I hadn’t ever given much thought to. You don’t need a Princess cruise, or an iPhone or iPad to be happy. You actually don’t even need a coffeemaker. Naturally, you do need coffee to know true happiness, but you can cook coffee in a pot over an open fire. I learned that people can have chickens meandering through their small house made of cardboard and plywood and they will treat you with the warmest smiles and most affable hospitality you’ve ever known. The coffee served won’t taste like the fresh brew you’re familiar with, but that’s okay. It’s prepared for you with more love and attention than any Starbucks barista could ever hope to offer.
- I’ve learned a few things since my book Five Minutes For France debuted in April. First off, you become the target of scammers. They call. And leave messages. They don’t tell you right off they have a scam. Instead, they mention your book and sound as if they’re quite fascinated by it. They tell you they’ll make you millions if you sign up for their marketing expertise. The world needs to know about your book. The callers, er scammers, don’t speak English very well and represent companies with names like Book Whirl, Literary Twirl or Bamboozle Marketing Hurl. That’s the negative side of becoming an author.
- On the positive, I’ve learned a lot about my friends, family members, and acquaintances. That is, the ones who have read my book. They share with me their own fear, phobia, difficult challenge, or damaged relationship. They tell me of struggles I never knew before my book came out. Another positive: I’ve had numerous wonderful e-mails as well as cards and a SpongeBob MailPants postcard congratulating me. I treasure their encouraging words of support. You can better believe every congratulatory e-mail, card, or SpongeBob postcard either graces my bulletin board or rests in a special file.
- A really fun thing about becoming an author is that you hear from people you never thought you would ever hear from.
- I recently had an e-mail from a passenger whom I met on our 2008 Mediterranean cruise. The engaging gentleman sat next to Jerry and me at a restaurant in Seville. He and his wife, along with many other members of our tour group, shared a table. He and I chatted just before the Flamenco dancers stomped and clacked on a nearby stage. I told him about the book I planned to write. That’s when he gave me his name. Recently, he read my book and sent me a wonderful e-mail of his observations of what I’d written. He called me an accomplished journalist. Getting that e-mail from him would have never happened had I not taken the cruise. That alone made the Princess voyage worth every cent.
- I discovered something else about becoming an author. Librarians congratulate you once they learn you’ve written a book. They don’t just say congratulations in a calm tone, but they say, “Congratulations!” with a pleased smile, then look at you for a long time realizing you are one of the people who make their job possible. They seem extra happy for you. You expect confetti to fall from the library’s ceiling. It doesn’t. But you expect it. The other day, our local library manager invited me into his office. How often does that happen? I mean I’ve never been invited into a library manager’s office. He pulled up a chair beside me rather than remain behind his desk. I told him about my book and he seemed enraptured by the sight of me. Okay, I exaggerate a little on the enraptured part. He did shake my hand, though. And he pulled a chair beside me. I recall his pleasing smile and thoughtful inquiries regarding my book.
- Perhaps the best thing about writing my book is this. I’m no longer silent about my own battle with anxiety and depression. And why did I stay silent for so long? I didn’t want people to think I’m nuts. Here’s the truth. Here’s what I know now. I’ve learned this from writing my book. …We’re all nuts!
- That’s right. All of us. I haven’t had one person confide to me they’re normal. Just about everyone tells me of something in their life that might seem a little odd to others, like a fear or phobia or an obsessive-compulsiveness. They don’t broadcast their behavioral glitches to the world. But they tell me because they know I understand. And I do. For some, like me, the sadness, fears, phobias or obsessive compulsions got out of control. That’s when your life deflates smaller and smaller until you’re hardly living at all.
- According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States, age 18 and older. As for depression, one out of ten people in the U.S. report having it. That’s only the people who admit it or seek help. Think of all the others who are undiagnosed, and continue to traverse the streets in bleak hopelessness.
- Depression and anxiety are Bffs and stick together. The ADAA reports nearly one half diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. First depression gets you, then anxiety. Or it might be the other way around with anxiety asking for the dance first before allowing depression to cut in. And depression and anxiety don’t care if you’re rich, famous, wear chic Prada fashion, live in a mansion with thirty-five bathrooms or have a PhD in nuclear physics.
- (This bullet point is for a paused moment of thoughtful contemplation.)
- Just a few days ago I read an online article about the palatial estate Robin Williams lived in. A 20,000-square foot mansion with five bedroom suites, an oak-paneled library, a state-of-the-art movie theater, a climate-controlled wine cellar, a gigantic infinity swimming pool, and acres and acres of gardens and vineyards. It’s hard to think in our human minds that he lived amid fame and fortune, yet none of it kept him from succumbing to depression.
- I know from my own experience that depression or anxiety are something you have no control over. People might say to someone suffering depression, “Go do something you enjoy,” in the hope of helping the person snap out of it. But that kind of statement presumes the sufferer has control. No. It’s not that you won’t go do something you enjoy, it’s that you can’t.
What helps? Asking for help. I’ve learned it’s a sign of strength when you’re willing to admit you need assistance and you’re willing to feel vulnerable. Admitting you have a problem and need help begins the healing process.
Which brings me back to my book and the things I’ve learned from writing it. I’ve learned that whatever our challenges are in life, if we learn from them, we can then help others facing the same challenge. And hopefully make their life journey a little easier.