Self-Medication; What’s the Point of it all?

I’m getting bored
Being part of mankind
There’s not a lot to do no more
This race is a waste of time

I think I’m Going to Kill Myself, by B. Taupin

1972 Dick James Music Ltd.

I’m feeling pretty sorry for myself these days.  I’m experiencing uncertainty in several areas of my life, plus discord with one person who means a whole lot to me.  It’s eating me up inside.  (Even though I’m right and I’m not going to capitulate.)

But then again, no matter how good I feel, I still ask myself the same question– why am I here?  I don’t really like being alive.  What’s the point, really?  It’s pretty much the same thing day after day.

When people say “it’s better than the alternative” I say– “how do you know?”  If heaven is supposed to be a paradise, why aren’t more people anxious to get there?  I read the obituaries every day thinking, why can’t it be me?

I just don’t get how some people are always so happy to be alive.  Billy is that way.  Because of my depression, I never feel that way.

I believe that if I dropped off the face of the earth, no one would skip a beat.  Oh sure, some people will mourn–for about an hour–and then they will go on with their lives.

Hell, Billy will have women lined up outside the house if they’ve read some of my blog posts about him.  He’s a saint– and a lot of fun.  He won’t stay on the market long.

In whose life have I made a difference?  Besides my kids, of course.  But even then, I’ve been a flawed Mom.  I’m not fishing for compliments here; I really mean this.

What have I ever done to make the world a better place?  Nothing.

Someone please explain this to me.


I came home from a bad day at work

I like my clients
But the boss is a jerk
A guy cut me off at the Gaskins light
I’d flip him the bird but I didn’t want a fight

That’s what I like
It’s a temporary vacation
But I sleep through the night

The dogs got out and the bank just called
My house won’t sell ’cause the market is stalled
My job’s uncertain; the company’s for sale
I need a martini before I can tackle the mail
The doctor said don’t do that girl
It’s Russian roulette
Yeah, but I’ll give it a whirl
Self-medication helps me forget

It can come from a bottle, an herb or a pill
As long as it gives me a thrill
And takes me out of my head
Lets me float around instead
So what if I end up brain dead?


The Cork is Sinking

Like a cork bobbing in the sea

My emotions float with me
I’ve had a burden in my soul
Since I was young
It’s still with me as I grow old
And it doesn’t help to know
I have a long way to go
Before the burden is set free

It lies across my chest

A dense, disturbing mass
The doctor says it’s just stress
And the feeling won’t last
But I don’t know
I’ve had this burden in my soul
Since I was young
And it won’t let go
All around me others are jumping ship
Suicide notes are posted on the net
If they can do it, why can’t I
But I don’t want to say goodbye
Not yet
I want the burden to disappear
While I stay here
Because I know
It’s not my time to go

(c) 2014 Renata Manzo


Dresses for men are optional on all hikes

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead
 I met this guy recently.  Actually, I’ve never met him in person.  We are Facebook friends.  We post on the same hiking-related FB pages.  He’s a burley bear of a man, probably about my age.  No, there’s nothing weird going on between us.  He’s got a great sense of humor and posts some funny stuff.
We met when he posted that he would hike to the top of Mt. Washington (New Hampshire) in a dress if he raised $1,000 in contributions to a charity he helped found in 2011 called Hike for Mental Health.  I donated some money.  Then, when it got closer to the deadline, he posted that he was only about $200 short of his goal.  I really wanted to see this guy hike in a dress, so I donated some more money.  And I got a neat t-shirt.
He met his goal and hiked in a dress; he wasn’t the only one, either.
What does hiking have to do with mental health?  Everything.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1 in 4 adults suffers from depression, schizophrenia, or some other brain or behavior disorder in a given year.  HIKE for Mental Health wants to help.  As they say so eloquently on their website:
Hiking on backcountry trails helps many people re-connect with nature and with places within themselves that get obscured in the daily hustle and bustle. A few days in the solitude of the trail re-grounds them and helps preserve their mental health.
For people battling mental illness, however, the path to mental health is rarely so simple. Mental illness affects 1 out of 4 families in the United States, leaving those who suffer from it and their families searching for answers, cures and treatments that will allow them to experience the simple joy of living.
 HIKE for Mental Health is a registered 501(c)(3) charity.  Its mission is to:
 Increase public awareness of the challenges and suffering faced by those afflicted by mental illness and their families.
 Increase public appreciation for and responsible use of wilderness trails.
 Raise funds, principally by coordinating fundraising wilderness hikes, in order to prevent and alleviate the pain caused by mental illness and maintain and preserve wilderness trails
In distributing its net proceeds, HIKE for Mental Health directs 80% to scientific research to prevent, cure, or treat mental illness and 20% to preserve wilderness trails.   The group is operated entirely by volunteers; there are no paid positions.  All administrative costs are covered by the volunteers.
In 2012, which was only the second year it was in existence, HIKE for Mental Health attracted 26 hikers to seven hikes which, through the support of 110 sponsors and donors, raised a total of $7,734.00. They raised the money entirely through hikes.  80% of this money went to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.  The other 20% went to the New York- New Jersey Trail Conference.

This year, they raised over $12,000 for one hike!

If you are interested in learning more about HIKE for Mental Health or would like to donate to this worthy organization, go to their website at:
One of their goals for 2014 is to have hikes in 14 states.  When I looked on the map, I saw, much to my dismay, that there have been no hikes in Virginia!  How can that be?  Virginia has more miles of the Appalachian Trail than any other state.  This must be corrected.  Be on the lookout; I hope to sponsor a hike either later this fall or in the winter. 

Why am I doing this?

I tell you the truth can be painful
 And the mainstream of life can be cruel
 If you believe in your chances today
 you could be a fool, don’t you be a fool, oh no
Up the Revolution, by Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb, David English
© 1986 (unknown)

Right after (by that I mean, the same day)  I revived the blog, a dear friend sent me an e-mail.  After admitting she had not read the blog, she warned me that if I was going to look for employment in the future I should not say anything negative that could be seen, because this stuff gets seen.

Well, that’s kind of the idea of the blog.  I want these things to be seen.  No one is paying attention to what’s going on in corporate America; maybe if enough people like me keep talking about it, someone might finally pay attention.

I’m not worried about my future in corporate America.  That ship has sailed.  I’ll go work in McDonalds if I have to.  

Besides, this is not just about me.   Yes, I’m still angry about how I was treated, but I’m even more angry about how some of the people I worked with—the most dedicated, honest and hardworking people I have ever met—were treated.  I watched people get promoted not because they had the right skill set, but because they were friends with the right people.  Or, as my always graphic husband puts it:  “it’s not who you know, it’s who you blow.” 

I was always the one who spoke out about something that seemed to be bothering the collective.  But most people are afraid to speak out because that might be “a career limiting move”.   I don’t blame them at all.  Self-preservation is very important, especially when you have a family to support.  We all have to do that.  I should keep my mouth shut, swallow hard and mind my own business.

But I can’t, and usually it is to my own detriment.    I got kicked out of my seventh grade science class permanently because I told the teacher, in class, in front of everyone, that he spent too much time lecturing us about failing, when most of us were working hard in class.  By most of us, I meant me, because I had no way of knowing how many kids in the class were in fact failing.  So I became the self-selected spokesman for all of us maligned and bored kids.  I spent the rest of the semester in the library researching evolution.   Funny, I didn’t mind.  I wrote a hell of a report on the subject. 

Yup, the die is cast for me.   These are important issues and they are worth speaking out about.   Even if no one but the choir is listening. 



On that heavy note, let’s lighten things up.   Today I offer you my takeoff  of  “Benny and the Jets.”    My version is “Penny, Place your Bets.”  If you can guess what show I was watching right before I wrote it, please leave me a comment with your answer. 

And please share this blog.  This  week I’ve made 27 cents in ad revenue!

Hey girls, let’s all go to Vegas
Penny left her boyfriend
And she wants to make him jealous
We’ll see a show or two
So come along
She’s gonna spend his hard-earned money
Until it’s all gone.

Say, Amy and Bernie have you seen her yet?
What’s taking her so long?
P-P-P-P Penny place your bets
Oh but her hair’s not perfect yet
Oh girl won’t you please come down
She’s got a sparkly dress
She likes to look her best
We’ll miss the free drinks when they come around
P-P-P-P Penny place your bets

Now we’re ready to get started
Maybe it’s useless
But Penny throws dice farther
We’ll play some craps until our favorite show
Then we’ll listen to the red piano
Until it’s time to go . . .

(c)  2014 Renata Manzo


Turns out, you CAN walk away the blues

And while I’m away
Dust out the demons inside
And it won’t be long before you and me run
To the place in our hearts where we hide
And I guess that’s why they call it the blues
Time on my hands could be time spent with you
Laughing like children, living like lovers
Rolling like thunder under the covers
And I guess that’s why they call it the blues
I Guess that’s why they call it the Blues, lyrics by Bernie Taupin
(c) 1983 Big Pig Music Limited
        I think that “the blues” is not a fair term for depression.  It seems to minimize the illness somehow, as if all you need is a great song or for your lover to come back to get rid of them.
        It’s not so easy in the real world. 
        Even though I feel great right now, I know better than to think I’ve been “cured” of depression.  If it’s like diabetes or high blood pressure, you can only manage the symptoms; but you can’t be freed from it entirely.   Just like cancer, you take the treatment and then hopefully it doesn’t come back.  Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.   
       So that’s why I have to take the meds even when I feel good.  Depression is not a mood that I can change with the right “cognitive” therapy.  Depression is a medical condition with the source being something not quite right in the body.   Something to do with nerve endings not having the right something in between them?  I can’t quite remember, and it doesn’t matter that I don’t understand it because I still have to take my meds.  I’d rather know stuff that makes me feel good. 
        Which gets me to the point of this blog.   The good news is that you can do something that will make you feel much better, and it is not a medicine.  It’s that thing that makes you feel better both physically and emotionally, and sometimes you get to see great scenery too. (That means it’s not sex, unless you like to do it in scenic places or you consider your partner’s body to be great scenery.)
         Yes, I mean hiking, but more generally, walking.  Walking is the best medicine.  It can be as simple as walking around your neighborhood or in a nearby park, or walking on a treadmill inside (although I prefer the former to the latter).  I’ve always like to walk outside, and hiking in the woods is the nirvana of walking. 
      The trees are somehow soothing to me.  The circle of life and all that.  Who am I kidding?  I don’t really care much for that side of it; I just like being in the woods.
   Recently I came across something that affirmed for me that walking is good for you; even better, it says walking provides the inspiration for creativity.    
    If you are a Breaking Bad fan, then you will appreciate this little factoid. “The full significance of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle only struck British physicist Paul Dirac when the latter was out for a long walk.”   I assume this is the same Heisenberg; I could never tell if Walter was saying “Heisenberg” or “Eisenberg.”  
      Seriously, though, go here:  It’s an article from the BBC Magazine that talks about famous walkers and how walking helped their creativity.  For example, Charles Dickens walked 20 miles a day!  That’s a lot of walking.  
           Although the following view point is not supported by scientific study, author Geoff Nicholson explains in layman’s terms how walking improves creativity:

“There is something about the pace of walking and the pace of thinking that goes together. Walking requires a certain amount of attention but it leaves great parts of the time open to thinking. I do believe once you get the blood flowing through the brain it does start working more creatively,” says Geoff Nicholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking. Your senses are sharpened. As a writer, I also use it as a form of problem solving. I’m far more likely to find a solution by going for a walk than sitting at my desk and ‘thinking’.”

       My thoughts exactly.  When I have an issue at work that needs a creative solution, I walk around the office, or to the ladies room.  And now that it has gotten cooler I’ve been walking around the lake behind my office building in Innsbrook.  It has a paved path that follows the lake’s contours, plus adds a few turns and twists that mean a full loop equals 1.25 miles.  Twice around and I have my activity points for the day!
     So go take a walk.  You’ll feel better, I promise.



I’m Back, I’m Still Standing and I’m gainfully employed

And I gotta get a meal ticket
To survive you need a meal ticket
To stay alive you need a meal ticket
Feel no pain, no pain
No regret, no regret
When the line’s been signed
You’re someone else
Do yourself a favor, the meal ticket does the rest
“Meal Ticket,”  Bernie Taupin

It has been a while, hasn’t it?  My last entry was in March, right before I started my job search.  Because I can split my focus in only so many slices, I decided I needed to concentrate on finding a new job.  By March I was feeling much better (but you should see me now!) and started my job search in earnest.  I sent out over 25 resumes, and only got three interviews.  But one is all it takes, right?
I almost didn’t send my resume to my new employer.  It was for another tobacco company, and I wasn’t sure that is what I wanted to do.  Plus, I could tell by the job description that it would be a step backwards in terms of my career (what career, I thought?)  And, the pay was a steep drop from what I was used to. But I figured, what the heck?
I received a call from an HR manager almost immediately.   After buying a new suit, having not worn one for years, and dyeing my beloved gray hair brown again, I embarked on a series of interviews, first with the GC and the one other lawyer in the company, then with the GC of the parent company in Denmark, and then finally with the presidents of the three U.S. subsidiaries for which I would provide legal services.
I was not sure how to take the GC when I first met him.   He was missing something. What was it?  Oh, yeah, I finally realized what he was missing– that giant rod up his butt that the lawyers at my old job all had secured firmly up their derrieres.   Instead, he was personable and very forthcoming about everything– the good, the bad and the ugly. This man holds nothing back.
He was looking for someone with tobacco experience, and I fit the bill.
Long story short, I took the job.
Almost immediately, the other lawyer resigned.
Crap, what have I gotten myself into?
The other lawyer wanted to make more money, so he left.  Too bad.  In the short time I got to know him, I liked him a lot.  But I could tell he was ready to move on the greener pastures.
Fortunately, the departing attorney knew of a lawyer from D.C. who wanted to move back to Richmond, and who also had FDA experience, which the company needed because of the impending federal regulations.  More on that later.
Although I asked a lot of questions about the corporate culture, having been through the meat grinder before, I still had some trepidation about the new job.   I think that’s normal.  But during the first few weeks, I had trouble adapting to the lack of stress.   I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.
On the Friday of my first week, I thought it had.  I received an e-mail from the GC with no subject line.  Uh, oh, I thought.  Here it comes.
To understand why I was concerned, you have to understand what I was used to.  At my previous job, I saw the GC maybe four times a year.  And her communication skills made a mime seem talkative.  We rarely received a communication directly from her.  Mostly they came through her management team, and it was hit or miss as to whether the message made its way down to the minion level where I toiled.
When we did receive an e-mail directly from her, you could almost hear the intake of breath from the other lawyers as it popped onto their screens.  News directly from her was rarely good.  Often, it involved new assignments for some of the lawyers.  She liked to re-arrange the deck chairs about once a year, just to keep everyone on their toes.  And the e-mail would be the first time anyone learned about the new assignments, including, I imagine, the lawyers who were being reassigned.  (Maybe not, but I’ll never know because, as I’ve mentioned, communication in the law department there was tantamount to non-existent.  Corps in a morgue have better communication skills.
So, on this Friday in May, when I saw this e-mail from the GC, my thoughts were racing around my head.  Had I screwed up already?  Had I stepped onto a landmine?  Walked into a buzz saw? Had I pissed off a VP so soon?  I hadn’t even talked to one yet.  Boy, that was fast.  I held my breath as I opened the message.
The e-mail contained only one thing– a link to a website.  I clicked on the link.
It took me to the Krispy Kreme website.  They were giving away free donuts on Saturday.
I just about fell out of my chair.  The GC, the person who has the ear of the President of the Company, the guy (in this case) who deals with all of the most serious legal issues facing the company, took the time to send out a link to the Krispy Kreme website.
I felt like I had gone from the Twilight Zone to Romper Room.  But not in a bad way, I promise you.  I don’t mean to suggest that this place was like a kindergarten. Quite the opposite, in fact.  I was finally being treated like a professional again, something I had not enjoyed since my days at H&W.
No, what I mean is this, and this was the toughest thing for me to get used to–
My new boss has a sense of humor.

Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

Being famous and gorgeous does not make a person immune to depression.  Just ask Jon Hamm or Ashley Judd.  They have both endured depression.

Mad Men star Jon Hamm guest-starred on a couple of episodes of 30 Rock.  The premise of these episodes was that good-looking people get special perks from society and can get away with more crap than the average person.   Yet in real life, being DDG (drop dead gorgeous) did not prevent Hamm from getting sick. According to Health magazine, when Hamm was 20, he experienced chronic depression after his father died.  He relied on the structured environment offered by college plus medication and therapy to pull him up out of the black hole.  Now, of course, he spends most of his time drinking bourbon for breakfast and chasing women on Mad Men.  Talk about eye candy.

Then there’s Ashley Judd.  I remember her as a teenager on the show Sisters.  She played Sela Ward’s daughter.  I thought she was so beautiful.  Later she played the young Vivi Abbott Walker in The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood.   Remember that awful scene when she lines up her children outside in the rain?  Chilling.

Apparently her childhood was no picnic.  While her mother and sister (Naomi and Wynona Judd) were out touring, she was mostly left alone to fend for herself.  She wrote a memoir in 2011 called All that is Bitter & Sweet in which she revealed that in 2006 she spent 42 days in a rehab center for depression.  Did you know that she recently earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Harvard?  Not only is she gorgeous, but she’s smart too.  And she likes to hike.

When I was a kid, I thought that if I was perfect, nothing bad would happen to me.  And the converse was true also — because I was bad, bad things happened to me. (You’ll never guess who helped to fuel that perception).   Then when I was 30 and went through my first big depression,  I read The Road Less Traveled  by M. Scott Peck.  The opening lines of the book were mind-blowing to me:

 “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Could this really be true?  It wasn’t me?  It wasn’t because I was not as obedient as I should have been?
It was an epiphany.  And just as Peck predicted, once I learned that simple fact of life, my life was no longer difficult for me inside my head.  I was finally able to stop those awful tapes that ran inside my head, tapes planted by a parent who wanted to control me no matter how old or independent I got.

And this truth also meant that it didn’t matter how good looking or accomplished a person was.  Life is difficult for all of us, even people as beautiful as Jon Hamm and Ashley Judd.

Until you’ve seen this trash can dream come true
You stand at the edge while people run you through
And I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you
I thank the Lord there’s people out there like you
 While Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
Sons of bankers, sons of lawyers
Turn around and say good morning to the night
For unless they see the sky
But they can’t and that is why
They know not if it’s dark outside or light
Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, lyrics by Bernie Taupin

Why Laughter is almost as good as an Orgasm

I have to keep this blog PG rated, so I’ll try to describe this as delicately as I can.  You know how an orgasm feels like a release of energy that courses through your body?   And how it releases stress?  Don’t you always feel better afterwards?  I know I do.  This has been the silver lining for Billy, if you know what I mean.

The same goes for a good belly laugh.  I always feel better afterwards.  An article in today’s Wall Street Journal claims that humor increases intelligence, creativity and stress tolerance.  “It’s Funny How Humor Actually Works.”   Ok, I’ll buy that but I don’t need to dissect humor like that.  I just need to laugh. 

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a smiler and I love to laugh.  I love all kinds of humor– from sophisticated to sophomoric. I love droll British humor and slapstick.  Any movie with Steve Buscemi in a comedy role will have me hooked. The Wedding Singer?  Hysterical.  Some of my favorite comedies include Local Hero, Napolean Dynamite and Airheads.   Oh, and What’s Up Doc.  It was Madeline Kahn’s movie debut.  She was brilliant. 

When I’m feeling blue I don’t look for raindrops or roses.  I look for a movie with lots of laughs.  No apocalyptic dramas for me.  Hunger Games?  No thanks.  I’d rather watch even a lame comedy like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, although if you watch the unrated and uncut version its much funnier.  But really, a little Russell Brand goes a long way.  

Sheldon Cooper and his merry band of nerds, on the other hand, never gets tiresome to me.  Perhaps its because I see much of myself in Amy Farrah Fowler. 

My sense of humor may not be the same as yours, but it doesn’t need to be.  Whatever makes you laugh makes you laugh.  It doesn’t matter.  Just find it and watch it. You’ll feel better, I promise.

Hi. I’m Art Buchwald and I just died.

I used to love to read Art Buchwald when I was a kid.  He was a political humorist for the Washington Post.  He was like Will Rogers before him and Dave Barry afterwards.  His column was funny and fun to read.  He won two Pulitzer Prizes for Outstanding Commentary.  He also wrote an astounding number of books–44 according to Wikipedia.

He was also famous for being in hospice care for over a year!  Hospice care is supposed to be end of life care; typically people last a few days or weeks.  But Buchwald went in and out of hospice for over a year.   Every time he went into hospice he would get better.  Talk about having the last laugh.

What makes this all the more amazing is the Buchwald suffered from depression.  You would think that someone with depression would want to die. But this was not the case with Buchwald.

He wrote about it in an article in 1999.  Celebrity Meltdowns   As usual, he wrote about it with humor:  “One of my major fears during my depression [in 1963]  was that I would lose my sense of humor and wind up in advertising.”  (This was before Mad Men, obviously, because advertising looked like a lot of fun in the 1960’s as long as you were a white male.)

Buchwald’s message was this:  “You do get over depression.  More important, you are a better person for having had one . . . You become more sensitive and kind.  In my case it was so.”

The article goes on to discuss other famous people who suffered from depression, including Sigmund Freud, Marilyn Monroe, Ted Turner, Greg Louganis, Alanis Morissette, and Abraham Lincoln. 

Wow– such brilliant (in most cases) company.  These people were (and are) creative and successful.  However, the article also claims that “history shows that brilliance often goes hand in hand with mental illness.”  Lucky me.  I guess I can’t have one without the other.

Ok, I’ll take brilliance and creativity with a side of Welbutrin, please.  I can live with this.  And I mean just that– I can live with this.

Thank you everyone for all the positive comments on this blog and on my FB page. They help me more than you know.