handwritten notes in a small journal

Handwritten Notes While Eating Alone

By Jeffrey Pillow on December 13, 2018 — 4 mins read

Back in September, I was in a dark place, and had been for about six to eight months. Outside of my wife, I’m pretty sure everyone else was oblivious to this fact, which is a bit of a scary thought. But that’s how it goes, right? I was severely depressed and experiencing suicidal thoughts, which is not something I’m used to, to say the least. Anxiety has always been the bag I carry, not this other shit.

To pause for a moment on the “suicidal thoughts” bomb I just dropped. I am not exaggerating for dramatic flair. This post, which I wrote on my birthday would also make a lot more sense to people now, too. I began keeping somewhat of a gratitude journal to combat these thoughts. So, when I say “suicidal thoughts,” I mean that a voice kept whispering with a sharp tongue in my head words such as “I ought to kill myself,” which is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I’ve contemplated life and death before, but more from a philosophical slant, never in the way I experienced this past September.

Stress at work was astronomical. Feelings of isolation from friends and family on the personal front. Not my immediate family (wife and kids), but pretty much everyone else. I felt alone, worthless. There are people I was once close to that no longer exist, and there are those that exist on the periphery of my life I wish were less on the periphery and more in the primary or secondary tiers — at least from a communication standpoint, because I feel like some of these people get me, or at least, I can be me, no strings attached, with them. But life is life, and it doesn’t always play out like we want it to. We grow up, we grow older, we grow apart for one reason or another. There are rules. There are restrictions.

In an effort to pull myself up by my bootstraps (moreso, the laces of my Vans), I made a conscious effort to get out in public more and meet new people. “I think it’ll be good for me,” I told my wife. She agreed. I also went out and purchased a handful of tiny notebooks to capture my thoughts as I worked my way through this dark time.

Below are handwritten notes verbatim from one such time when I made the decision to dine alone for lunch at Timberwood Grill. Before we jump in, I will say it was a good experiment to partake in, as I found humor in the act of dining alone.

SEPTEMBER 20, 2018

I am sitting here by myself drinking a craft beer, eating by myself, in an effort to be out in public surrounded by people more. I’m not sure if this is helpful for depression or depressing in and of itself. Results pending.

I have a new book by my side, Fortunate Son by Walter Mosley, after having finished Diablerie earlier today.

“Sweet Emotion” plays on the radio. Artist: Aerosmith.

People are clapping in the private dining area next to me. I assume they are applauding my efforts to crush depression.

Now, “Piano Man” by Billy Joel plays: “The waitress is practicing politics, but it’s better than drinking alone.” Thanks Billy. Very uplifting.

Eating: Cashew Chicken Salad.

If you want to be a writer, you have to look the part and act the part, and sitting here now, by myself, with a tiny notebook, ink pen, and a book, eating alone, I’d say I check all the boxes. Good job, self.

Janis Joplin on now. “(Take Another Little) Piece of My Heart.”

My dad once said there was no one alive, man or woman, that could sing like Janis Joplin. That she put her heart and soul into every word that came from her throat.

My waitress abandoned me long ago — perhaps she’s practicing politics. One person eating alone probably doesn’t make for a substantial tip. It’s a shame she doesn’t know I’m a very good tipper. I could probably walk right out the front door without paying. Of course, I wouldn’t do that; but the thought of consumer rebellion occurs, nonetheless.

“Cocaine,” by Eric Clapton is playing now.

I hope this music isn’t trying to tell me something.

If you enjoyed what you just read, help others find it on the web. I’m no longer on Facebook, but if you still are, consider sharing it there. You can also copy and paste the link in the url above and send it to friends and family by text and email. Also, read “Perhaps You Should See a Counselor,” which I not only wrote for those reading this blog battling mental health issues, but as a reminder for me as well. Returning to my counselor was another such step I took to crush the severe depression I was experiencing at the time. Maybe you should consider it too.

jeffrey pillow photoWritten by Jeffrey Pillow, author of the coming-of-age memoir in progress When the Lights Go Out at 10:16, which you can read on this blog as it’s being written. When the Lights Go Out at 10:16 is a story of growing up in small town America in the 1980’s in a teeny tiny town known as Phenix, in Charlotte County, Virginia. It is a story of life and friendship in the face of terminal cancer. Want to read more blog posts? Visit the blog archive. You can also subscribe to this blog to receive updates of new posts by email.

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  • Glad you’re on the mend, and while I don’t know you personally, your honesty is empowering to many of us that visit your blog from wherever we are visiting. Best to you.

    • Thanks dm. Definitely on the mend. There are a lot of changes I’ve made in my life since September and the months before when those intense feelings first began coming to mind. I’m planning to write about them in a future post.

      I appreciate your kind words as well. That’s why I decided to write what I did. Depression is a very lonely experience, and I feel as if, in some way by having this blog that’s read by as many as it is, it’s my responsibility to be open and honest about what I’m going through — not necessarily for me (though that helps too), but so others don’t feel quite as alone either.

  • Oh Jeff, you’re right. We had no idea. Glad you’re taking steps to combat your feelings of depression. We are looking forward to getting out and being with y’all very soon!
    Love you!

  • Mental health is a tricky thing. Thanks for being open about your experiences. I’m also trying to start some sort of practice of gratitude to help change automatic negative thoughts that come with anxiety and depression.

    • Indeed it is. I think in some ways, and this is just a theory I’ve been having lately, is that certain mental health experiences are a way toward empathy for others. Depression is a lonely experience, while, at the same time, a parallel experience often with another human being — only, we don’t know it.

      Best to you in keeping a gratitude practice, and in managing your anxiety and depression. For me, I find it helpful to take place at night before bed. Thinking about the people and activities that bring us joy in life is certainly a better last thought before bed than thinking about what’s happening tomorrow at work at least 🙂

  • Many hugs from over the mountain. Depression is a lot like cancer- it has no prejudice when it comes to who has it or when you will have it, but as long as we know that there is always, ALWAYS help, we can defeat the thoughts that rear their ugly heads.

    Loneliness comes in many forms- even when we are surrounded by more than enough of “our people.”

    Thank you for being so honest and open- on so many levels and topics. Awareness and open conversation is what we need more of…on so many topics.

    Merry Christmas, Pillow Family!

    • Depression and loneliness is very indifferent as to who it touches for sure. I know I wouldn’t have acted on the thoughts, but damn, they were scary to have, and I know, sadly, there are others, unlike me, that would act on them. I’ve lost friends that way and I know you have, too.

      I’ve made a lot of positive changes in my life since this occurred; and, can say, this experience has created another level of empathy in me for others who experience these feelings which, unlike mine, are continuous and routine parts of their daily lives.

      Merry Christmas to the Huffmans (and Masons).

  • I waited on my response to this blog. I hold strong to my faith in God Almighty 1st, but you probably already know that, but son, know how much I love you! We all have times that we go through depression, but may not admit it. I am thankful that you acknowledged that time on that day and got yourself UP and took yourself out to lunch. I pray for you often and I know that through your writings, you will help someone else.

    • It was an eye opening experience, and one I’d like not to re-live. At the same time, I feel as if it created an empathetic response in me knowing that others go through similar situations, except, unlike me, it does not recede like a wave in an ocean’s tide, but stays with them continuously on shore.

  • I’m sorry to hear you have such sad thoughts. I live in Detroit, Michigan and this past Wednesday night, a meteorologist from one of the local TV stations took her life. Her co-workers were on the air the next morning, teary-eyed and also wrote on their Twitter accounts that they had no idea at all. I looked at the photos of this 35-year-old woman with her co-workers, her husband and two young children – who could possible know what thoughts were inside her pretty head. Some suspect it is because she had Lasik SMILE surgery and was suffering complications – it seems that 11 other people have taken their life over similar complications. It is a mystery indeed what thoughts were in the head of Jessica Starr (Fox 2 Detroit) on that fateful night. The entire news media in Detroit were rocked by this suicide and immediate crisis hotlines where you could call or text were circulated. Good luck to you.

  • I’m sorry you’ve been having such a tough time lately, Jeff. I’ve been there myself and it’s really scary. I hope things are going better for you and that your actions to get out and about more have helped in some way.

    • Thanks Emily. Indeed, it is scary, and I am sorry you also have been there. Not a good place to be. That’s for sure. Fortunately, I feel like my old self now. I took a lot of pro-active steps in dealing with how I was feeling. I know others aren’t so lucky that things can 180 like that. How’s life with the kiddo?