Life proves to be a ‘spiral’ for local poet

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 20, 2000

Features Editor

Aug. 19, 2000 10 PM

Tracy Livingston is not that much different from everyone else. Yet, he’s not that much like them either.

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If the world were a puzzle, Livingston’s life would be a piece that, at a glance, seems to fit but just never snaps firmly into place.

But Livingston is finding that his life does have a place in the whole scheme of things. Although it may not be a perfect fit, his life is part of the puzzle.

Livingston is one of millions of Americans who suffer from depression. His

is more severe than most. Livingston is manic depressive. But out of those deep dark times and those peaks of exhilaration, came meaning for a man caught in a place that almost always seemed to be spiraling out of his control.

Livingston labels himself a manic depressive poet and "that’s not a bad thing."

He prefers his own label to the ones given to him by his high school classmates who called him "headache" and "waterhead" or those teachers who labeled him an underachiever or lazy or a society that calls him "crazy."

"Some people have even called me ‘bright,’" Livingston said with a smile.

And for good reason. After dropping in and out of several colleges, Livingston received a degree in geomatics and computer science and graduated with at 3.4 overall grade point average.

Even though he has fought a battle with depression since he was in the seventh grade and suffered other health problems, Livingston has managed to make it through life "with the faith of a grain of mustard seed."

He has held jobs and owed his own business and he is the father of two children. And, now after spending so much of his life in the valleys and so little on the peaks, he is beginning to find the middle ground and he is trying desperately to plant his feet firmly on it.

"Life is a series of circles and cycles, yet it is a spiral," Livingston wrote. Those lines were powerful enough to earn his poem a place in an anthology of poems that will be published in the fall.

Livingston’s spiral to nowhere, in all probability, began at age five when his mother died.

"Losing your mother is a devastating blow any time but, when you’re five …" he said. "My dad never got over her death either. It has affected us both in so many ways."

The loss of his mother, the scorn of society and the "chemical imbalance in the brain" made life almost unbearable for Livingston. He needed help but not the kind to which he turned.

He treated his depression himself, with chemicals – cocaine, acid, alcohol, and marijuana – and spent almost every minute of his life for three years wanting to kill himself

"The drugs gave me a sense that I was in control of my life when, in fact, they were controlling me," Livingston said. "Life was hell when I was well and, when I was sick – I was almost dead. When I got a good day – hey!"

However, the "hey" days were rare and most of Livingston’s time was spent in isolation from world. In those dark times, he would seek ways to make his puzzle piece fit somewhere.

On one of the darkest days, on one of the days when he prayed for his life to end, Livingston came to a realization.

"I am who I am," he thought. "This has happened to me to make me into who I am."

At that point, Livingston realized if he could get help, "real help," he could not only survive but live again.

A caring therapist and a relationship with a higher power have brought him to where he is today – into a world of sunshine, song and words that flow through his mind with meaning and purpose and beauty.

"I owe God for every good thing that has happened to me," he said. "He led me to a therapist who understood me and helped me find my way. He has helped the people around me to understand that I am who I am. Tracy Livingston. I may not be like everybody else but I do have a place in His world. I am so thankful for that. So I’m not sad that this has happened to me."