You Searched For: depression lies
I’ve had a lot more emails than usual about depression/anxiety, which I think means a full moon is coming or possibly that we’re all on the same psychotic cycle because I’ve fought my share of demons this month myself. In fact, today I had a monster of a panic attack that made me think I’d never come back out. It’s not so fun to write about so I made a video to send to people asking me about it and I thought I’d share it here in case you needed it. It’s long and unedited so feel free to skip it if you don’t have mental issues.
On a related note, you can make a free DEPRESSION LIES bracelet by clicking here (video instructions included). Make one for yourself or a friend.
We’re all in this together, y’all.
If you’ve read here lately you know that I’m coming out of one of the longer depressions I’ve ever dealt with and although it’s still up and down I’m having more and more days when I’m myself again. Those days are bright and warm, and coming back is like the first brilliant, life-saving breath after spending too much time underwater. I’m writing this now to remind myself how wonderful it is to breathe and live and feel human, both because I need a reminder for next time depression lies to me and tells me it will never go away, and also because maybe you’re in the hole right now and need a reminder that it will get better.
And then maybe it will get bad again. The ups and downs are always there for those of us with forever broken brains. But that’s okay because you come back out. The good is worth battling through the bad. It’s so worth the meds and the therapy and the time and effort and the waiting.
There’s a park in my neighborhood that we go to sometimes. There’s a playground at the edge of the park and the swings look out onto a cemetery, which I always thought was both strange and also a bittersweet type of poetry. Small children laughing and playing as funerals pass. Life beginning and ending and ending and beginning all at once in the same small space.
Yesterday I stopped there and the playground was empty so I decided to swing, and I went so high I felt like I was flying. And I flew, in between death and childhood, up and down and up again…in the place where I felt alive again.
And it was beautiful.
All of it.
It was worth it.
I wrote a new book. Well, drew and wrote a new book. Wanna order it? Yes? COME HERE AND LET ME LICK YOU.
A few places you can order:
It’s #2 on the NYT Bestseller list! WHAT.
Here’s how it came about:
When I was on book tour last year I would sometimes share the drawings I’d make when I was locked up in my hotel each night. I’ve always drawn. It’s my meditation when my anxiety disorder gets out of control. It gives my hands something to do so they don’t destroy me. When I was young I kept a journal filled with patterns I’d perfected…ones I’d learned from others or created myself that kept my mind free…and I’d spend hours filling pages up with doodles and pictures and words and ideas and the patterns I’d found on old walls or garish carpets or bathroom stalls. Whenever things got hard I would go back to these patterns, finding comfort in the intricate but uniform lines that would fill the page – a way of bringing order to the chaos if just for a few minutes.
When I lived in Houston a woman moved next door to us. She’d just moved from India and she’d often invite Hailey and I over for tea and paint mehndi designs on our hands or feet while we visited. She had journals like mine – but different, filled with hand-drawn patterns in beautiful styles, and she explained that when she was young it was common for girl friends to share designs with each other. She’d draw a pattern or design that she’d perfected in their book and they’d do the same in hers and in the end she’d have hundreds of ideas to use when making her henna artworks. She tried to teach me a few but I never quite perfected them. I shared some with her out of my books, and we experimented with them and made them more beautiful and elaborate.
In the last few years I’ve found other people who collect patterns. They do mandalas or tangles or textural collages. They trade them with others to inspire and the patterns become more fantastic as each person puts their hand to them. They -like me – take pictures of forgotten patterns on abandoned buildings, and crumbling tombstones, and resurrect them. They see the motifs in nature – the movement of trees or the way that ivy grows and they embellish those designs. You learn to see things in a different perspective…the patterns that make up a life, or the world, or the universe.
Last year I was on book tour. My anxiety keeps me locked in hotel rooms when I’m not doing a reading so I often spent that time drawing, using stolen hotel pens and pilfered sharpies. I used motel room cups and pill bottles as stencils to create overlapping circles and I’d fill the circles with patterns and with words that I needed to hear myself. I shared a few on instagram and was shocked at how many people responded. They’d print them out to color or frame. They’d bring them to signings so I’d autograph them. They’d tattoo them on their bodies. They’d give them to friends who were struggling and needed to be reminded they weren’t alone.
These drawings were far from perfect. They were wrinkled and muddied and I never had the right tools or pens but still people seemed to love them. And suddenly instead of being embarrassed about them I was happy to share them, and I had the encouragement to share the drawings that usually only lived in my head or secret sketchbooks. I saw them shared online, brilliantly tinted by people who used coloring the same way I used sketching…as an escape, a meditation, and a way to quiet a sometimes dangerous brain. I saw people interpret them in lovely ways I hadn’t even meant, or add their own sketches to the drawings, or hang them up in cubicles or in frames. I got a giant unexpected package from a classroom of 4th graders who used one of my images as an inspiration to create dozens of amazing stories they invented themselves.
Several months ago I feel into a pretty heavy depression and it’s one I’m still crawling out of. I’m finally having more good days than bad, but one of the repercussions of this depression was that it made it almost impossible to write. Or, I should say, it made it almost impossible to write long-form chapters. I still wrote…but strange things that gave me strength to move forward in the dark. Some funny, some silly, some irreverent, some dark and painfully honest. But for some reason my head wanted a picture for each one.
I can’t quite explain it. Maybe it’s part of my mental illness. Maybe it was involuntary art therapy. All I know is that I couldn’t work on the book I was supposed to be working on because this…thing got in the way. These drawings. These images and thoughts and patterns and words. And once they were down on paper I could turn the page and feel free of the thought. As if I’d archived the emotion I was stuck in and could now move forward and see the next one waiting to be acknowledged and recognized.
I felt like a failure for falling behind on life and missing deadlines, but I have no doubt that these drawing saved me. They gave me a reason, and a creative outlet, and a way to count out the long seconds of the days with each stroke of the pen. They were all drawn by hand, slowly and meticulously, and as I worked on them I thought of the words in my head. Each drawing had stories written into them. Each contained a sentence or paragraph or a page of strange thoughts that went along with it. As they become more elaborate I shared them with my shrink and my agent and my editor and suddenly a book emerged. It was a book that seems like it wrote itself. Not easily. It struggled its way out of me as if it had control more than I did at times. Which was good, because I had very little control at the time and that can be a problem when you struggle with impulse control issues and self-harm problems. The book found itself. Half of it images. Half of it words. Some funny and irreverent and profane, and some dark and confused, and some to remind me to keep breathing and that depression lies.
So I made a coloring book.
It’s a coloring book if you like to color. It’s a journal if you like to write in books that make you question what’s going on. It’s a set of posters that make you feel less alone. It’s a collection of one-page stories or important sentences or pictures to tape on bathroom mirrors for strangers to see, or to hand to friends. It’s a companion piece to Furiously Happy but it also stands alone. It’s what saved me this year and I owe you for supporting and encouraging me whenever I hesitantly shared my work. It turned into something much bigger than I ever imagined and hope that you like it. I hope you like it so much you buy a dozen copies so you can color it or frame it or give it away. If you don’t, that’s okay. But I had to get it out of my head so I could move on.
You can order the book here and then you can gift it or color it or post it up in your home or burn it in a fire to scare off monsters. It’s up to you.
After all, you helped create it.
And I can’t thank you enough for that.
Na na na na na na, YOU SAY IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY.
Na na na na na na, IT’S MY BIRTHDAY TOO!
Na na na na na na, no, really…it’s my birthday. Is it really your birthday? Happy birthday! Even if it isn’t your birthday you should say it is because everyone has at least one shitty birthday and you should get a do-over, so it’s now your birthday too. EVERYONE WINS. Especially me because I woke up to messages like this one from my sister:
I got a crazy weird miracle birthday present in the form of three used copies of the exact same book but it’s way too long to explain and when I paused to say “ISN’T THAT INSANE?” you’d be like, “Um…I guess? Is that the miracle? ‘Cause it just sounds like you got too many copies of one book, weirdo” but in my head it’s a message from the universe that something good is out there and that’s exactly what I needed.
And I thought maybe it’s a sign that I should give back books so here’s what…the first ten people who leave a comment telling me they really need a copy of Furiously Happy but haven’t been able to afford it yet will get one. Not a signed copy (because I’m lazy) but I’ll send you a gift card for the book through your email. Just leave me a comment if you’re in a bad spot and need to read something to remind you that depression lies and that things will be okay. Because they will be. I promise.
And in lieu of birthday presents what I’d really like is for you to tell me something you’re happy about. Something little. Something big. Videos of goats screaming. Anything.
I love you guys.
Bonus birthday photo of me and Hunter S. Thomcat, who was named the king of photobombs last night. CATOUFLAGE! (That’ll make sense when you read the book. Probably.)
UPDATED: Those first 10 copies went quickly, but I just got an email from someone who wants to anonymously gift another 10 copies. More emails going out tonight. I love y’all more than cake.
I wanted to announce this last night but I couldn’t find the words. Last night I found out that this strange little book I wrote (one I was sure would scare people away – one that I struggled with for years) made it on the NYT bestseller list its first week out. I screamed and laughed and threw up and brushed my teeth and cried and then screamed again. This was a shock, not just because I thought the subject matter might be too scary for a humor book, but also because we published this book in the fall even though that’s when all the big, important celebrity books come out and so I went in knowing that I’d almost certainly not be able to compete. But last night I found out that Furiously Happy made it to #3 on the NYT list on its debut week! And this in spite of the fact that so many of you weren’t able to buy it because it sold out so quickly some places. In fact, it’s #2 in ebooks and was beaten only by Bill O’Reilly, which figures because that motherfucker ruins everything. But I’m too happy to even let Bill O’Reilly get me down because the fact that so many of you supported this book means that now other stores will take notice and it can make it’s way to smaller towns and libraries and to people who might really need to read those words and to remember that depression lies and that there is joy in life and that there is an amazing tribe of intellectual misfits out here waiting for them. That they aren’t alone.
That I’m not alone.
That none of us are.
I’m so honored and proud and I don’t have the words to say thank you for making this happen but I’ll have to just stick with “thank you”. This book was written by all of us and I consider it an invitation reaching out across the world to people like us…strange, wonderful, broken in beautiful ways, haunted, and so much more important than they suspect.
Thank you. Thank you for listening and helping. Thank you for buying the book or reading here or putting it on your wish list or passing it on to others. Thank you for making me believe that I’m worthy even when my brain tries to convince me I’m not.
I don’t have a good picture to share here because I’m on the road still (next stop, Miami!) but this photo I took during yesterday’s signing feels right…
Thank you for sharing your stories and lives with me. Thank you for convincing me that mine is equally important.
This is my song for you today:
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and it’s truly wonderful to have voices speak out about something so many of us struggle with. It’s not an easy subject or even one that people understand. Even the people most vulnerable to suicide have a hard time understanding it.
There are many things I could say here but there’s one thing that I hope you hear completely if you are one of us…one of the strange people who feels things too strongly…one of the people who battle with a brain that tries to kill you…one of the people who has to remind yourself that depression lies. It does. But I’ve said that before. This, however, is new:
One of the things that always saves me when I feel the deep isolation that comes with depression is the thought that I’m not alone – that so many amazing people are in this same dark place. And they feel alone but they aren’t. I’m with them. Sometimes you’re with us too. You might not be able to feel us here because your brain has robbed you of the ability to feel (or to not feel) but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. You are here. You are needed.
You are home.
I mean that in two ways. You are home with us, the strange ones feeling the same doubt and pain, who understand and who would be the first to tell you that you are needed and necessary and that if we are going to keep fighting you have to as well. That’s just basic fairness. We rely on each other because no one else understands totally this terrible halfway-gone waiting place we have to survive until life comes back to us.
And I mean it in another way. You are home. You are home for the wonderful things that you still have to offer the world. You are home to unique thoughts that will help and inspire others. You are home to people who love you. And you are home to people who will one day meet you and tuck themselves into your heart for shelter.
You are home. You are real. You are needed. You are loved. You. Even if we’ve never met, know that I mean you. The you doubting yourself. The you who doesn’t let on how tough it is. The you who doesn’t know if you’ll make it through. You will. You’re gonna get through this. Even if you don’t feel it yet, trust me, you are already home.
PS. I know a lot of people who don’t touch this subject because it’s complicated, or maybe isn’t something they feel they understand enough to write about and I completely get that. There are all sorts of ways to help, from sharing suicide hotline numbers, or asking someone who seems down if they’re okay, or leaving an encouraging post-it note on a bathroom mirror, or just reaching out to say something kind to a friend. The small act of telling someone how important they are to you can be a limb to cling to when everything else in the world seems to be telling you otherwise. Spread kindness. Pick a few people and tell them the world is better with them in it. You make such a difference. Every single one of you. Thank you for answering the door when we ask for help. Thank you for being home.
It might just be me but it seems like the last few weeks have been more hellish than usual regarding mental imbalances. Friends and family who struggle occasionally are in deeper holes than normal. Friends who almost never seem to struggle are suddenly feeling emotions they don’t understand. I don’t know why this is. Is it just a coincidence, or is it that my small world of people are affected by each other? Is it that the planets are aligning in ways that make us all raw and exhausted? Is it that we’ve seen such hard things in the news lately? Is it that facebooks algorithms decides to send me mainly statuses of people who are angry or in pain or desperate or scared? Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe this circle of joy and angst is always here for all of us and I just notice it more when I’m in a deeper hole than usual.
I don’t know the answer.
But I do know this. A week ago I was at one of the lowest points I’ve been all year. I was at that point where you start to wonder if you’ll ever get better. And you tell yourself that depression lies (because it does) and you remind yourself that it has always gotten better so it’s utterly irrational to believe otherwise and you keep breathing until it passes, but always with that little doubt in the back of your mind. And the doubt becomes larger each day and you get more tired and you have to rely on others to watch over you and keep you going. And yet you breathe. And yet you live. If not for yourself, for the thought that it will get better. And if not for the thought that it will get better, for the people who need you even when you are at your most broken.
And then something happens.
It gets better.
For me, my depression comes with a physical sign…I lose my peripheral vision. It quite literally becomes darker and I feel more alone. And each day I wake up and look around and hope that the shadows surrounding me have passed. Often it’s just for a few days. Occasionally it’s a few weeks or longer. And then – suddenly and without reason – my vision starts to clear. The light comes back. I laugh without having to force myself to. I see such beauty and joy and I wonder how I could have ever doubted that this was worth living for.
A few days ago my darkness started to fade. Slowly, but it’s fading. I never know how long I’ll be in the hole or out of the hole but I know that I feel stronger today than I have in weeks. I wish I could go back to the me of a week ago who was struggling and tell her it’s getting better. Tell her that the drugs kicked in or my chemistry went back to normal or that bastard moon stopped fucking with me or whatever it was that caused this dip to be darker than usual. But I can’t.
But I can tell you that if you are struggling right now you are not alone, and that you will be better. It might take meds or therapy or time or possibly for us to destroy the moon with lasers, but it will happen. I promise. I promise you now and I also promise the me that will read this post again one day when she’s back in that hole.
There is sunlight. There is joy. There is a world of laughter you haven’t used up. There are people you haven’t even met waiting for you to make their life complete. Keep going. Keep breathing. You’ll get through this.
PS. Sharing pain helps, but strangely enough sharing joy helps even more, so if you like, please share something that brings you joy in the comments. Maybe it’s something you’re proud of or something you’ve accomplished or maybe it’s a quote that helps you through or maybe it’s a video of a screaming goats:
The one at 1:08 is pretty much exactly how I fight with Victor when I know he’s right.
Keep breathing, y’all. The light is there.
It’s Mental Health Awareness Month so some people expect me to write about mental health, except that if you read here you’re already perfectly aware that I’m mentally ill so this feels a bit pointless. But what if we change the game a little?
Share with me. In the comments, or on your own platform, or both. Almost everyone will battle mental illness or will be impacted in the struggle to help a loved one with their mental illness, so “awareness” isn’t really the issue for me. Cures, support, feedback, tools that work...those are the things we reach for in the dark. So let’s share…
How has mental illness affected you personally? What did you learn from it that might help others?
How has mental illness affected me personally: I have a host of issues but I’m most affected by Avoidant Personality Disorder which is like anxiety disorder on speed. It’s scary to talk about. When I tell people I have a personality disorder they try to convince me that I don’t. This is not helpful. It’s perfectly well-meaning but it’s like saying “You couldn’t possibly have anything so terrible as that” when in fact, I do. And lots of other people do too but they don’t say it out loud because they’re afraid of how they’ll be perceived. Then it becomes even harder to say it because everyone else is too afraid to say it (with just cause) and I can’t even blame them because being afraid to admit you have a personality disorder whose main symptom is crippling fear is a catch-22 and pretty fucked up. It’s like having to raise your hand to ask for help in attaching your prosthetic arms.
What did I learn from it that might help others: I’ve learned I’m not alone even when I feel completely isolated and like a failure. I’ve learned that depression lies. I’ve learned that when I’m not affected by my fucked-up brain chemistry I can see that my brain is not to be trusted so I write notes to myself when I’m out of the hole to remind myself that I’ll be okay again soon. I get sun. I take meds and therapy. I laugh loudly and often when I’m out of the hole because I know the importance of appreciating the good and the joy when it comes. I let myself be sad when I need to be. I watch ridiculous tv and listen to happy songs. I practice creating an invisible mental barrier around my body when I feel overwhelmed by other people’s energy. I call the suicide hotline if things get bad. I donate to suicide hotlines when I can. I allow myself to say no. I reach out on the internet because I can find friends to talk to or to inspire me who understand when I’m too afraid to even pick up a phone. I find a family member to help me when I think I need extra supervision. I thank people who help save me. I try to save them back. I hide in blanket forts with my cats and a collection of funny books or kick-ass comics. I share what helps. I learn from others.
PS. This is my playlist that keeps me upright when my head is full of marbles. Feel free to share your own.