How To Survive Depression When You Don’t Have It; & A Few Thoughts After 15 Years Of Cartooning & Design by Rick London

March 19th, 2012 will mark the 15th year of my “creative venture that couldn’t be done”.  Amazon Kindle just put up my 15th anniversary compilation book, but the 13th anniversary continues to sell better. That’s okay. It was never supposed to happen. In fact I wasn’t suposed to be able to do it.  So many said so. And that’s why I smile as I type this. 


My 15th Anniversary Book Cover (Click To Enlarge)

Walther Bagehot once said, “The greatest pleasure in life is in doing what people say you cannot do”.    

    Walt Disney said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

Edison, Einstein, Thoreau, Emerson, Galileo, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Dali, and many other writers, artists, and, you name it, have similar themes that run through their most famous quotes that is, “There is great pleasure in doing what everyone said couldn’t be done”.

 I’ll preface the rest of this blog with, “I don’t put myself even close to a league of any of the aforementioned giants, please trust me on that..I’m not that grandiose”. I can honestly say, that most of them were “spiritual mentors” and/or were and continue to be influences.

I was born into a family in which I was expected to be “heir to the throne” of a family business; a family real estate business.

I used to joke that when I was born, the nurse put me in my mom’s arms and said, “Congratulations, Ms. London, it’s a Realtor.”

Slow Realtor (Click To Enlarge) by LTCartoons.com

That used to cause a resentment for me, but now that I see the whole picture,  and why God, the Universe or whatever caused it to happen, all I can say is “thank you, thank you, thank you.  I couldn’t have dreamed this life.  Is it perfect? No.  But it is very very good, and I really could not have imagined it.

I was no good at real estate (nor much else) as I had a rare disease that affects the vagus nerve and there was no treatment (had it all my life) in which the vagus nerve, the largest nerve in the body, does  not function, or barely functions.  It is often misdiagnosed for depression, mental illness etc.  It’s neither.

I was told I had garden variety depression for 28 years and treated for it.  I didn’t have it and no treatment was helping me improve.

About 1998, I read an article in New Yorker Magazine on clinical trials for a new implant called theVagus Nerve Stimulator or VNS made by a firm in Houston called Cyberonics.  It had been approved a decade earlier for TRE (Treatment Resistant Epilepsy) but was not yet approved for TRD (Treatment Resistant Depression) which is a misnomer as it is not depression at all, but merely mimics it.  It is estimated that about  20 million people have it who think, as do their doctors, that they have depression or schizophrenia or bipolar or “name your poison” but they don’t Most of them have never heard of VNS and very few of their doctors have either.

I had to wait another seven years to get the treatment and do a lot of pre-planning.  Some of it included contacting Cyberonics and getting a caseworker before FDA approval.  The other was let the doctors know the meds and talk therapy was not working so they would try a variation of many different ones, just to be sure it was not depression, as eventually (if it really is depression), it would improve with at least one of the variations. It never did.

On January 25th, 2005, I woke up from the surgery at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Little Rock.  A week later, all the “depression” was gone; mainly because it had never been depression in the first place.  I am not certain which was more painful while fighting the disease before having the implant, the disease itself, or the punishment from a very superstitious culture who felt people didn’t get such diseases unless they had distanced themselves from God.  I had to live with that pnishment from so many ignorant people on top of fighting the disease which was being incorrectly diagnosed and treated as such.  

I was very lucky. Not many in the U.S. received the treatment when the FDA opened a very short window for it.  The large pharmaceuticals and even the American Psychiatric Association, and insurance giants fought it vigorously, and with that much power, the FDA made it virtually impossible to get, unless someone can shell out $50,000.  So only a few of us got it when it was covered. It is still not impossible to get it (even covered if one needs it), but they must be willing to try nearly every modicum of treatment for depression there is and have a Cyberonics caseworker monitoring his/her progress or lack thereof.

I have no resentments from that though.  Had all that not happened, I would not have been able to “do the impossible”; all the things people, including family, said “he’ll never do”.  “He shames us” was the word I often heard from mutual friends of my other blood family.  “He’s lost his way. If he’d just go to the right church and really pray”.  Some of the armchair diagnosis was so ridiculous that they were almost funny, if they’d not been so sad. It made me wonder how they treated their own family who ran into issues in which the doctors did not have answers.  Thank God I had the common sense to move close to one of the top 12 research hospitals in America, University Of Arkansas Little Rock.  St. Vincent’s is on their campus.  Had I not, and not received the VNS implant, I am positive I would have left this planet at least a decade ago.  I am a very blessed man.

 

So what were the consequences of finally getting the right diagnosis and treatment?  I returned to school and learned a great deal about business information management, digital design, and IT marketing.

I took LTCartoons to heights that no other offbeat cartoon has even come close.  Of course in any case where someone starts “looking good” like I did, there were many others behind the scene. I will elaborate later.  In just eight years LTCartoons.com became Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts on the Internet.  Then MS opened Bing and within a week we not only were ranked #1 there too, but own the whole first and most of their second search page.  We have remained #1 on both ever since and it is now 2012; seven years later.

 

My main site LTCartoons.com now has 5500+ mostly color cartoons and my various online stores showcase app. ¼ million licensed gifts and collectibles bearing our imagines.  I say “our” because that was what I was talking about…others making me look good.  Most cartoons we see today in the paper are teams these days.  The lone cartoonist still exists, but the teams are just as prevalent.  I am the concept guy, writer and “blueprint guy..that is the designer of the cartoons, describing details etc and assigning each to the appropriate illustrator) who I know can render it best.  Then I begin digitally designing the products.  I have our main manufacturer 3Drose to thank, Zazzle, Amazon and Printfection to thank for that.  Also who would have thought Amazon and Sears Marketplace would be my primary partners? If you’d told me that even a decade ago, I would have suggested therapy (for you).

I have a very sweet kind wife who loves me as I love her. We have a mutual respect for each other too and many similar interests.  Yes we have issues on which we disagree but the positive far outweighs the negative.  We are in similar businesses (both design) and though she’s a nature photographer and mountain hiker, I am not a photographer, but an avid hiker and nature lover so we enjoy many long mountain hikes together.

My Beautiful Wife Lee

 

We both share a love of God and a similar perception of Him.  We don’t push that philosophy and/or ideals onto others, but that adds more bond to our bonding.  We both care about life, all life, human and animal.  We’re both vegan and eat organic foods most of the time.  We started mid-life (as well as hiking) but hey, better late than never.  And for it was after 2 major heart attacks and for her after surviving cancer.  So we are proof that it is never too late to start anything new.

I have two books out now. Londons  Times Cartoons 13th and 15th anniversary and both Amazon and Barnes & Noble sell them as well as many independent book stores around the world.  Lee has a beautiful photography book out “The Nature Of Love” with similar sellers.

Around 1994, I read a very good book on the psychology of creative entrepreneurialism that I think was called “Blue Thunder” or something like that.  I read something in it that I really didn’t believe at the time. I was forty years old. It said that almost anything you’ve done in your life and career up until age fifty doesn’t even count because the mind of modern man and woman really doesn’t develop enough (for the majority of people) until age fifty, at which time we are all infants in whatever path we  are taking), so take it slow, but take it surely.

I now not only believe that, I know that to be true.  I might add, many of my friends have either retired or semi-retired at age fifty or sixty; or, slowed way down. I look at life in an opposite way.  I believe it is a time to try what you were frightened to try when you were younger. I don’t mean be careless or reckless but try something different.

If you’ve always wanted to go back to school, there’s no excuse not to now.  There are plenty of grants, low interest loans and accredited online colleges now.  Skydive. Plant a garden. Start a business.  Have no money? Start an Internet business. Don’t know how to start an Internet business with little or no money?  Go to Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble sites and type into their search engines “How to start an Internet business with little or no money”.  There are plenty good ones written on the topic.

I started mine 15 years ago this March 19th with about $300, and no home or car.  I now have a home and car and don’t have any idea how much my Internet business are worth, but I imagine a good bit. My wife and I don’t have debt because we’ve paid for everything. We use debit cards rather than credit cards and save all the interest our peers are paying out each month.  We scaled down. We live smaller but we live a lot happier.

 

 

At first these changes were very difficult. All change is difficult, even positive, especially as we get older.  But as time went by, and we started seeing the advantages, there was and is no turning back.  Life is not about keeping up with the Jones’ anymore. What a sad waste of time. Life is about service, fun, learning to love oneself, and trying to live in the most spiritual way one can, and that part I can’t explain as that is personal between oneself and his/her perception of God.  Good luck everyone.  Whatever it is, if you take it a step at a time, and are okay with some obstacles and/or rejection, you are well on your way to whatever you ever wished or dreamed.  Really.

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I am a goofy vegan mountain man who loves life, my work, my wife, and the mountains of Arkansas. I founded Londons Times Cartoons (LTCartoons.com) & Funny Gifts in 1997 and it has been #1 on the Internet since 2005. I love to design. I don’t only design offbeat cartoon merchandise, but serious famous quotes gifts at my RickLondonWisdomShop.com and LoveQuoteGifts.com which contained my licensed images of famous persons with their famous quotes on gifts, tees, mugs etc.  My two cartoon books are available at Amazon.com (on both coffee table and Kindle) and Barnes & Noble.  I like dogs. I like cats. I love wildlife, nature, hiking and anything outdoors. My beautiful talented wife Lee (see above) is a talented nature photographer and has the blog HikeOurPlanet.com  I don’t have depression.  I’m very blessed Thank you G-d.

2012 Retrospect: I Shouldn’t Be Alive, Ya Know by Rick London

It’s 2012. Whoaa. Who’da thought it?  I hate using other’s lines but to quote Eubie Blake (later often used by Mickey Mantle), “If I knew I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself”.

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The quote is obviously facetious but there’s a little bit of truth even in facetiousness.  I really would have.  But back in the days of my youth, I was quite certain there was no cure from which what I ailed. I longed to live fast and figured I’d probably die young. I got the living fast down right; no doubt about it.  I spent most of my youth and later my adulthood in trying to experience every experience that could ever be experienced, do so as quickly as possible, and then move on to the next.  I kept a great diary.

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This paragraph is for the young people who think “this sounds like a great idea”.  It’s not, trust me.  I was blessed and humbled to have intervention by some amazing souls along the way, including my now beloved wife Lee Hiller-London or, if you’re on Twitter, @LeeHillerLondon.  By the time I’d met Lee, however, I’d slowed down quite a bit and was even living in a town smaller than the one in which I was raised, Hot Springs, Ar. which Lee and I call “home”.

To be fair, and I know it sound macho and renegade, but I truly lived through things that perhaps if life were fair,  I shouldn’t have.  A few were, (but not limited to) going through a windshield with no seatbelt…they were not required when I was 17 years old in my 1970 Dodge Superbee which I bought from my favorite auto-dealer “Harry Dole Dodge” in Hattiesburg, Ms that I kept for a total of 3 months before totally totaling it.  Forget my “hippie years” (I know I did, or never remembered them). There were way too many reasons I should not have lived (many of them involved my liver).   Ironically, this many years later, the late Harry Dole’s daughter Sherry is now Lee’s and my favorite animal artist.  She is amazing.

At age 28, I figured, I should up and move to Miami because I’d gone to USM with a friend who had moved there.  We were roomies for 2 months before we both “needed our space” and I rented a room in a strange little old lady’s home who claimed (over and over again) that she was once a flapper at Radio City Music Hall in NYC.   Though it’s cruel, to be fair, she more closely resembled Flipper (but meaner…much meaner).  Oh, and I didn’t have a job, but just knew I would be a great journalist; and, I drove in on the night of the Overtown riots, only to hear (and nearly be hit by gunfire and such).  But I was Superman…or so I thought.  I did manage to land a job at Miami’s Community Newspapers but that’s a whole other story altogether.

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Fast forward a few years and I was in NYC doing standup comedy in nightclubs in Manhattan, NJ, The Bronx, Brooklyn and you name it.  I did a PR internship during the day, or on other days worked in a health food store, and often bartended and/or drove a cab. I think I slept an hour or two a night.  I lived through that.

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Did a stint in Washington, D.C. because I was well aware that “I must be a journalist” by now and though I landed a few cushy jobs, I never did much with them and opened my own bus tour company.  I sold it and went to L.A. to learn screenwriting because that was just part of “living fast” and I felt I’d not lived fast enough. I learned how to write movies and wrote a few but nothing got very far past development; not even “Elvis And Godzilla” (I’m not kidding, a giant Elvis calmed the giant beast with songs like “Return To Sender” and “Heartbreak Hotel”.)  I’m sure I got plenty of laughs by Hollywood directors and producers (but not for the right reasons). Then came the giant Northridge Earthquake which swallowed my entire home. Only because my barking golden retriever pup “Otis” barked loudly five minutes before it hit, did I escape obvious doom. Thank you G-d (and Otis) once again.

Fast forward 5 years and I’ve suffered a major heart attack, then appendicitis, then another major heart attack (which was rougher) and kidney surgery, and here I am.  It took what it took.  I laughingly told Lee who has also experienced some scary times (some of them health related), that I really didn’t know I was going to live this long or I would have planned.  So now I’m planning.

What does that mean?  Again, this is (hopefully for the younger persons out there). Education is important; no its “the key”.  Fast crowds seem glamorous but if you inspect “fastness” with a microscope, you won’t find a happy soul…really. Lots of smiles and laughter, but just surface; lost in a masquerade.

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Eat better.  Lee and I are eating vegan now.  Again if I had known then what I know now, I would have started that a long time ago.  Drugs, alcohol, etc also can seem glamorous as can the crowds involved.  That s the big illusion.  They seem so. I promise, they are not.

We clean and decorate our home.  Our walls are full of Lee’s amazing nature/wildlife photography scattered with a few of my silly cartoons.  We budget for another plant or two every month and we put up about 2 cartoons and two of Lee’s photos per month.  Every time I look up, I enjoy where we live.  We get to see what we do, and we have nature inside living with us when we are not outside playing in it.

I would have immersed myself in more nature (as Lee and I do now) with hikes that we enjoy. We don’t speed through them. We’re often passed by joggers who “just want to get it out of the way”.  I used to own all the best jogging shoes made and ran two marathons. That was all part of “living fast”. Jogging is healthy, I believe, but like anything one can overdo it, and even ignore responsibilities.

I know what you’re thinking.  Rick is trying to “be perfect” or “better than”.  Am sure it seems that way but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s too late for that.

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I am listening to my inner voice.  It tells me what really makes me happy. Not someone else’s fleeting opinion.   Someone else’s agenda of what I should do or be is truly their issue and none of my business.  I  love what I do today and there’s not a lot of “glamour” in it, but a lot of fun.  And life should be fun.  Not always fun.  But if one finds oneself in a situation where it is not fun at least some of the time, as an adult, it is our responsibility to find what “that fun is”. It might be numerous things. It might be one or two things.  As long as it is not harmful to oneself (or others), most likely it is a nice contribution to society, and really, for what more could one ask out of life?

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I’ve been described as “A goofy vegan mountain man who means no harm”.  I’ve actually been called worse, but will leave it at that.  I founded Londons Times Offbeat Cartoons in 1997 which have been Google #1 ranked since 2005 and Bing #1 ranked since 2008.  I like to design things as well and have several lines “Rick London Designs” and “Rick London Funny Gifts” which can be found at Zazzle & Printfection &  Google Shopping and available @Amazon and @Sears. My best friend and wife is Lee HillerLondon.  Please follow us on Twitter.  She’s @LeeHillerLondon & I’m @RickLondon.  We both enjoy social media.

Twas The Hike Before Christmas by Rick London

Hot Springs Mountain (Click To Enlarge)

Twas our hike before Chrismas, I was out with my spouse


All the creatures had burrowed, except one lazy mouse,
In hibernation were our miniature bears,
You could’ve opened a jar of honey, they wouldn’t have cared.

Rick London c2011

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On the trails our hiking boots left their tread marks in the dirt of the path,
The squirrels high in their oak trees, which they called their beds,
Where Goat Rock Trail ended there was a deep gap,
If you fall just pray your bunjee chord doesn’t snap.

When out on the trail there was one bloody splatter
Lee turned around to see what was the matter.
Onto the trail there was such a crash,
It was me on the ground, my knee had been smashed.

My left knee looked like the ear of Vincent Van Gogh,
I looked at the cliff several thousand feet below.
It was close to the last place we’d seen some beautiful deer,
Maybe my mojo was gone, I’d quite drinking ginger beer.

Wounded Knee (Click To Enlarge)

Rick London c2011

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I told Lee it was nothing than just a small nick,

But my knee was torn up by a sharp white quartz brick.
Hiking vertically home was my previous aim,

Now if I could only stand up was the name of the game.

Lee had just snapped a thrasher or wren,
My commune with nature had ended its Zen,
From perfect utopia to the pain of the fall,

It was like Forrest Gump hitting “the wall”.

I looked toward the Universe and asked “Why, why, why?”
I had to get home to make my vegan stir fry.
To pull the skin on my knee back together I’d need Super Glue
But Lee assured me Hydrogen Peroxide “would work for you, fool”.

Rick London c2011

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I pulled up my pants to my knees, Lee snapped a shot of this goof,
I told her I was fine. I can be so aloof.
I spoke of natural healing, I can be so profound,
Told her “I’d be fine” while she was thinking “MAN DOWN”.

Now that my tendons and ligaments have all gone kaput,
It started with my ankle and traveled to my foot.
All I could think was “Where’s my ice pack?”
But I wouldn’t find it until I got back.

I weigh a bit much for Lee to have carried,

We both have GPS cell phones…could have called St. Joe’s,

But that’s a big hospital and continues to grow.

Rick London c2011

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I was far from deceased & my living will states who’s bequeathed.
But like I said earlier it was just torn skin on my knee.
I looked down the mountain and felt kind of silly.
The terrain was quite steep, more than just hilly.

I looked up at Lee and thought to myself,
I could fall again, I’m taller than an elf,
With 1/2 a spirulina bar I had to be fed,

I’d be so embarrassed found on North Mountain of a Wounded Knee dead,
Have tumbled so often I feel like a jerk,

I’m now 58,  no longer a young turk.

As I complete these words I attempt to compose
I hope that when finished interpreted as prose.

I looked in the sky not a bird or it’s whistle,
Just a few jet chemtrails resembling a missile.
A few miles later I saw such a sight,

Soon home and bathroom, hydrogen peroxide wins the fight.

Rick London c2011

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I’m a goofy (uncoordinated) vegan mountain man who enjoys nature and hiking with my wife,nature photographer Lee Hiller=London.  I love animals, kids, nature and such. I founded Londons TimesOffbeat Cartoons and Funny Gifts in 1997 which has been Google’s #1 on the Internet and now Bing as well.  I like to design shoes, gifts and clothing in such stores as my Rick London Designs (and I have a few others) and I also founded the 1st (and still only) offbeat cartoon shop that is dedicated to all 100% organic cotton tees (using soy non-toxic dyes) called Rick London Organics.