The Piggyback Guy

There’s a three hundred pound guy I know and, no offense to other three hundred pound guys but, the guy is an asshole. He wants a piggyback ride. He won’t leave me alone about it. He’s been following me around for forty years demanding a piggyback ride. He’s angry and brooding and relentless about it. He just wont quit and likely never will.

Most days, these days, he stands a couple of hundred feet away looking pissed off and grumbling under his breath about not getting his ride. It’s OK, I hardly know he’s there. I can ignore him.

But, some days, he’s 20 feet away yelling at me. He’s like, “Hey! Where’s my ride! Give me my ride!” I have to spend a significant amount of my mental and emotional energy to ignore him and get stuff done. But, then, I get afraid that if I ignore him he’ll get closer and so then I run. I try to get some distance between me and him. Sometimes that works. Most of the time, it doesn’t. I just have to remind myself that I have the power and courage and strength to keep him at bay.

Then I wake up the next morning and he’s sitting on my chest. I can’t get up out of bed. He’s literally on top of me and, well, I’m just not strong enough to push him off. He sticks his face an inch from mine and I, helplessly trapped, have to sit there and listen to all of the abuse he throws at me. How I’m a fucked up and worthless human being. That all he wanted was a piggyback ride and I’m a piece of shit for not letting him have one. That now, now, he’s going to sit on top of me and relax more and more and crush me with his full weight and that he’s never getting off and that my friends can’t save me and my loved ones can’t help and the only way out is to figure out how to get through the day with him on my back because I’m going to have to give him a piggyback ride for the rest of my life and that even if I manage to get him off somehow he’s always going to be there so maybe I should just die.

This. This blessed life I have. Seriously, it’s amazing. Words can’t describe how incredibly humbled by it I feel most days. I have a beautiful wife, smart and incredible kids, I want for nothing… Except to have all of that without the three hundred pound asshole hanging around. And still, even though most days are just fine, I have to live each one with him around out there in the distance and I know the only way he’ll ever leave is after I’m dead.

That is the best way I have found to describe depression to someone who doesn’t live with it — who is not surviving with it. Every. Damn. Day.

So now, perhaps, if you don’t know what that feels like and the reality of it you might, maybe, be able to understand why a Anthony Bourdain, someone who lived with such curiosity and passion for life, might choose death. A guy with a groudbreaking TV show and kids and friends and travel and money and and and… His three hundred pound guy got the best of him.

My wife, upon hearing the news this morning, asked, “Why does it seem so many of our artists, creatives, and brilliant people are committing suicide lately?”

I said, “Lately, the world itself feels like a three hundred pound guy demanding piggyback rides.”

Now, I just want to be clear, especially to those who have a three hundred pound guy like mine, or to whom the whole world feels like one — THERE IS HELP. There are doctors and organizations and medications and much much more. You can push that guy so far away you’ll be OK. You can learn to live with his sour sad sack ass looking all lonely and sad and hopeful out in the distance. And, objects at a distance seem so small in perspective.

As for me, after years of doctors, hospitalization, medication, treatment, and the rest, it was this book and zen practices in general (mindfulness, meditation, presence, etc.) that helped me. It’s how I keep my three hundred pound guy far away most days and have for years.

But, those of us who suffer must find our own path. There is no one way, one cure, one answer to fix it. We know more about the planet Neptune than we do about the human brain. For some it takes a single pill for others a lifetime of minute-by-minute work. But, there are many — SO MANY — places to contact and ask for help.

There’s the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support (1-800-273-8255).

I’m on the board of Mental Health Association of Minnesota which offers something called a Warmline for folks who may not be in immediate crisis but just need someone to talk to who have been there and get it (651-288-0400)

Unsure if you are just a little down or have your own three hundred pound piggyback guy? Take an online assessment and get a good idea.

The point is, you are not alone. You don’t have to put up with that guy. There is a way to get him off your back. Please, do it for us. All of us who love you. All of us who need someone, who’s like us, to give us hope. Today.