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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.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!

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:

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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.

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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’m having a hard time finding the words.

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…

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Thank you for sharing your stories and lives with me. Thank you for convincing me that mine is equally important.

You are home.

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.

You’ll get through this.

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.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to just have to be aware of mental health one month a year?

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?

I’ll start.

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.

I apply kittens directly to problem areas.
bloggesshuntersthomcat

Your turn.

PS.  This is my playlist that keeps me upright when my head is full of marbles.  Feel free to share your own.

UPDATED: The Church of Bloggessianism. Choose your title, strangelings.

A few weeks ago I was accidentally made the leader of a church which doesn’t actually exist and now we have over 2,000 members.  I’m pretty sure than makes me some sort of Pope so please send me hats.

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More about that here if you missed it.

We decided that it would be nice to have some commandments, but “Commandment” seemed a bit pushy so we’re leaning more toward “Helpful Hints” or “Life Hacks”.  I came up with the first few.  The rest are a few of my favorites you’ve come up with.  Feel free to add your own:

Current Life Hacks for the Church of Bloggessianism:

  • Don’t be an asshole.
  • Extra gravy for everyone.
  • Two holy days of observance each month requiring Bloggessians to take the day off and watch bad tv or read in bed. We also get all the regular holidays off for every other religion because we’re incredibly open-minded and like to support other beliefs as well. This includes Talk-Like-A-Pirate-Day, National Donut Day, Deviled Egg Appreciation Day, etc. (FYI…today is National Sundae Day, even though it’s Tuesday, but it’s nice because you need to leave right now and eat ice cream for religious reasons.)
  • If you see a sloth you are given special dispensation to hug it. Present your official card to any zoo officials.
  • Here is your official I-Can-Hold-A-Sloth-Because-It’s-Against-My-Religion-Not-To card.
  • Mosquitos are now illegal.
  • Wearing slippers and pajamas in public is a sign of your faith and you’re allowed to kick judgey people in the knee if they question you. Togas are also acceptable if you are feeling particularly religious or if you’ve run out of clean clothes altogether.
  • Bacon at every meal. Chocolate dipped bacon for special high holidays.
  • Blessed are the pickles, for they are pickled.
  • Thou shall always ask for help when you need it.
  • Thou shall carry thy metal spork for all sudden stabby needs.
  • Thou shall glitter-bomb assholes.
  • Thou shall get your slow ass out of the fast lane.
  • Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s giant metal chicken.
  • Thou shalt not lick foxen, unless the foxen are into it.
  • Thou shalt not share things on facebook until thou hast verified their truth.
  • Thou shalt not throw co-workers under the bus.
  • Thou shalt not leave your cart in the middle of the grocery aisle and wander off to find tuna fish.
  • Thou shalt not talk to people who are less than 10 pages from the end of the book they are currently reading
  • Thou shalt not make commandments.
  • Thou shalt not shalt others. 
  • Honor the saints of Bloggessianism. St. Wil of Collating.  St. Jeri Ryan of Spatula. Nancy W. Kappes, Patron Saint of Chemical Substances.  James Garfield, Patron Saint of Taxidermy.  Etc.
  • Special dispensation from parallel-parking.
  • Pants are always optional. Always.
  • We brake for taxidermy. Also chocolate. And phantom Sasquatches.
  • Never stand if you can sit.  Never sit if you can lie down.
  • We all get our own pony.
  • Cadbury mini eggs are available year round.
  • And none for Gretchen Weiners.
  • You may decline on the gravy, or give your gravy as a charitable contribution to those less gravied.
  • Christmas is a mandatory onesie day.
  • No one leaves the house until all cookies are eaten.
  • All orphaned pygmy hippos will be adopted, and named George.
  • On the sabbath, excerpts shall be read from “The Phantom Tollbooth.”
  • Take care of each other.
  • Never take advice from someone with bad eyebrows.
  • The go-to phrase for asking anybody to hold something shall invariably be, “Hold my poodle.”
  • Everything comes with a side of pancakes.
  • No observances during the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Whosoever believeth in me shall be confused all the days of their lives.
  • FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, LOIS. THIS IS CAMP. GET TOUGH OR DIE.
  • Depression lies.
  • Red dresses are sacred.
  • Bloggessians may be taxidermied upon death and kept in the family home. Keeping them fashionably dressed is a must or you may be haunted by them.
  • The only weapons we believe in are books and we believe in heavily arming everyone.
  • Mandatory Cupcake Monday
  • Taco Tuesday
  • Saturday is now Caterday.
  • Time is a “wibbly wobbly concept” and therefore deadlines are portals that must be avoided unless we’re okay with being trapped in a rift.
  • Bloggessians can decline social events without guilt for any reasons related to their heads getting in the way.
  • Celebrate the awkwarding.
  • Never let anyone be awkward all alone.
  • Remember that thou art as special and irreplaceable as the people you love most. 
  • Keep the Victor in thy prayers and do not succumb to the wrongness; forever and ever or until the gravy runs out.
  • Wine shall be an acceptable beverage at all hours of the day.
  • Everyone should be owned by at least one animal.
  • Naps shall be mandatory.
  • Members of the church can still be members of any other religion or lack-thereof, but membership into the Double Unicorn Success Club is automatic.
  • Spiders must ask permission before entering a home.
  • All members, male and female alike, shall have their own tiaras.
  • Inappropriate giggling is always appropriate.
  • Share your successes. Share your failures. Share your booze.
  • No icy cold weather allowed. But sometimes snow.
  • Our biggest tenet is David Tenant.
  • One can NEVER have too many towels.
  • Above all things, we strive to be furiously happy. If that doesn’t work, wine slushees usually will.
  • The official religious sacrament offerings are tiny cakes made for squirrels.
  • If a llama is within ten feet of you, then you can try to ride it if the llama is into it.  If you’re feeling extra religious you may wave a flag. (Pirate flag is suggested.)
  • Tithing is expected.  It is also expected that you spend all of your tithing on ridiculous things that you would never buy for yourself except now you have to because it’s a religious requirement.
  • (INSERT YOUR COMMANDMENT HERE.)

These commandments might seem contradictory, but that’s fitting because being contradictory is also part of our (dis)organized religion.

Everyone in the Church of Bloggessianism is given an official title when they feel they are ready for that level of responsibility.  “Strangeling” is the perfect beginner title for all neophytes who don’t yet know what unique title they want to settle on. Once you’ve decided that being weird is a good thing you are officially a Strangeling. Then, once you’ve eaten a good slice of pie, or watched a zombie move, or accomplished something a grown-up should have to do, you become qualified to choose any title that best fits your personality.  Right now I’m Jenny Lawson, Notorious Lion Whisperer.  I’ve already picked out my business cards.  Here’s a helpful chart if you need suggestions picking a title (or page down to have one randomly assigned).

choose your own title

Or if there are just too many options you can use this clever thing my brilliant friend made us:

The Random Title Generator for the Church of the Bloggessianism

(My randomly assigned title today was Dreadful Overlord of Ermine Canon.  I approve.)

If you’d like to commemorate your title (or bestow a title to a special someone) you can customize this card with your title.  The official I-Can-Hold-A-Sloth-Card is printed inside.  Any profits raised by the church will go to buying taxidermy and helping homeless children, but a basic tenet of the church should be “No helping homeless children if you don’t want to” so you have full permission to just print this out for free yourself.  (PS. The coupon code TISTHESEASON gets you 60% off that card this week.)

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sloth

Now go out and be awesome.

May peace and gravy follow you the rest of your days.

I’m not talking ’bout the weather.

Conversation I had with Victor when he heard me singing along to Dan Seal’s  “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight“:

Victor: Seriously?  If there was a competition for fucking up lyrics we’d have to build another house to store all your trophies.

me:  I’m pretty sure that’s how the song goes.  “I’m not talking ’bout the weather. And I don’t want to change your mind.  But there’s a warm wind blowing the stars around.  And I’d really love to see you tonight.”

Victor:  No.  It’s “I’m not talking ’bout moving in.  And I don’t want to change your life.”  He’s talking about having a one-night-stand, not about the weather.

me:  He’s obviously talking about the weather.  He just predicted extreme winds capable of blowing stars around.  That’s head-for-your-cellar kind of weather.

Victor:  No.  He’s implying that the stars of fate are being realigned for just that night.

me:  So he’s just a dirty liar.

Victor:  I guess.

me:  Huh.  Well, I wouldn’t trust that guy to tell me about the weather.

Victor: HE’S NOT TALKING ABOUT THE WEATHER.

me:  I KNOW, VICTOR.  THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I WAS JUST SINGING.

Victor: I give up.

**************

And now, time for the weekly wrap-up:

shit i did


Shit I made in my shop (Named “EIGHT POUNDS OF UNCUT COCAINE” so that your credit card bill will be more interesting.):

Shit that I’m vaguely involved with on the internets:

This week’s wrap-up is brought to you by Good Egg Candles, which are incredibly gorgeous.  From the artist: “I make candles out of eggshells. I paint, carve, and fill the eggshells. I color and scent the wax. I do all the work by hand, and all the painting is done freehand.” Refill kits let you re-use the candles forever so they can become treasured heirlooms.   These are my favorites.  You should check them out here.

There’s a moment.

Several weeks ago I had surgery to stitch up a hernia in my stomach.  It was supposed to be very simple but the recovery for me was horrific.  Worse than labor, or gallbladder surgery, or stepping on a floor made of loose LEGOs.  I had complications and developed a seroma, which is a “tumor-like collection of serum from damaged blood and lymphatic vessels after significant tissue disruption or trauma.”  It sounds worse than it is but it hurts like a bastard and I’d end each day exhausted and teary and unable to take complete breaths without flinching.  I might need more work done to fix it but they often go away on their own so my doctor decided to wait.  So we’ve been waiting.  And this weekend I was able to walk around and leave the house.  And Monday I could sit up from laying down without wanting to scream.  And Tuesday I felt almost normal for several minutes at a time.  And today, if I’m not moving, I feel good.  Really good.

The point is…today I feel okay for the first time in what feels like ages, because time – when coupled with pain – drags by so slowly.  I still hurt, but more like someone punched me, or like other people probably feel when they do too many sit-ups.  I can finally sleep without waking myself up thinking I’m being stabbed, and I can completely forget the pain for several minutes at a time.  That sounds small, but if you’ve ever pushed through pain that doesn’t stop for weeks at a time then you know the blinding relief that comes with a few minutes of peace that doesn’t accompany the nauseous dizziness of narcotics.  There’s a moment when you feel aware of the absence of pain, and that simple moment is such a wonder that it’s practically euphoric.  And you remember what it’s like to not hurt.  What it’s like to live.  And it is so beautiful there aren’t words for it.  It’s so incredibly easy to forget what it’s like to breathe when you’ve been holding your breath for so long.

It’s the same thing that happens when I come out of a rheumatoid arthritis flair-up that puts me in the hospital.  It’s the same relief I feel when I pull myself out of a depression that lasts longer than a week.  After a while you forget exactly what it’s like to feel good again, but then when you come out the other side, it’s dazzling.

I’m writing this to remind myself of the light.  Of the dazzle.  Of the fact that it’s worth trudging through the muck because the way out is so much better than you can remember.  It’s like the first shower after a week in the woods, or the sun on your skin after a month of night.  I’m writing this because I know I’ll be in dark places again and I’ll forget how wonderful it is to emerge.  I’m writing to remind you that if you’re struggling now, it will be good again.  It will be so much better than your lying, forgetful brain remembers.  And I’m writing to tell you that if – right this moment – you are healthy and well then you should stand up and do something wonderful to celebrate it.  Go walk barefoot on the grass.  Treat yourself to a good book.  Call or visit someone you love.  Make plans for a trip.  Eat a chocolate ice cream bar.  Enjoy the sun.

And if you don’t see the sun right now, keep trudging.  It’s there.  It’s blindingly magnificent.  And we’re waiting for you.  Promise.

Just remind me of this the next time pain or depression lies to me.

Deal?

Strange and beautiful.

I don’t know if it’s the planets or the meds or the darkness of winter, but this week I’ve been a bit down in the hole and I suspect I’m not the only one.  Then I heard this song that I’ve loved and forgotten and it saved me a little bit.  Little things save me from myself all the time.  Sometimes it’s music, and sometimes it’s words from writers who’ve been dead for years, and sometimes it’s you.

If you’re sad or lonely or feeling like you’re one of the misfit toys, know that you are part of us.  And remember that those misfit toys were always far more interesting than the normal ones.

Tell someone that you love them, or that they’re important.  And tell yourself.  Because it’s true.

PS. I wrote this last night but I was too mentally exhausted to publish it, and this morning I looked out and saw a mostly full moon and realized that’s probably partially to blame.  It sounds insane and vaguely werewolfy to blame the moon, but I know that weeks with full moons are worse for me.  My shrink says that full moons and increased mental illness has never been entirely proven yet, but that studies have shown an increased correlation between full moons and human sleep quality.  In particular, delta activity (deep sleep) decreased by 30%.  I already have sleep problems and when I did I sleep study last year they found that I had severe alpha-intrusion, which means that my mind is awake while my body is paralyzed and asleep, and that I get almost no delta sleep.  There’s no real cure, but my doctor told me that it’s commonly found with people who have intractable pain and depression.  No idea if one causes the other or vice-versa, but it was nice to have someone who knew nothing about me look at the scientific printouts and say “You probably have depression don’t you?  You’re in pain.  I bet you’re exhausted.”  Somehow it made it feel better to have someone nod and knowingly say, “It’s not all just in your head.”  Except that it is just in my head.  But it’s real.  And it’s something I fight against, and something I continue to win against every day I’m alive.  And if you’re reading this then you’re winning too, even if you don’t feel like it.  Am I rambling?  My guess is probably and I blame the moon and the fact that lack of sleep puts my ADD into overdrive and makes me question every single thing I do and say and write.  So today I up my drugs until things feel better, and I wait until it lifts and then suddenly I remember what it’s like to feel again.  Because I know it will come.  I know depression lies.  I know that mental illness is a small part of me that makes me who I am.  I tell myself that when this lifts I will feel again and that it will be amazing.  I don’t “know” it because my mental illness also causes illogical doubt, but I know that I’ve been in this hole hundreds of times before and that every time I come out with a few more tricks on how to deal, so mathematically the odds are in my favor.  And they’re in your favor too.  You just have to trust me on this one.

PPS. When I’m in the hole I find it difficult to help others because I’m so focused on fighting my own battle and that sucks.  I’m sorry.  But I’ll give you a few tricks I’ve learned and maybe you can share some of yours.  Or maybe you can include your twitter ID here in the comments if you want to offer support or need to find a buddy who deals with the same thing you’re dealing with so you can talk to them.  It’s amazing how much this can help.  Here are a few tricks I’ve learned that help (off and on):

  • Sunlight.  Take vitamin D.  Sit near a window.  Buy a sunlight.  When things are very bad I go to a tanning salon for five minutes.  It’s not super healthy, but it helps me.
  • Exercise to increase endorphins.  This is only good when you’re not at that uber-fatigued level of depression.
  • Rest.  Watch funny shows and uplifting drivel.  Something you don’t have to think about or keep up with.  I recommend something like Little Britain or The Mitchell and Webb Show.
  • Give yourself permission to be sick.  Mental illness is just as dangerous and real as any other disease.  If you need to take a day off to take care of yourself, do it without guilt.
  • Read things that make you realize you’re not alone.  Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and Half is good for this.  Here’s her website if you can’t afford the book.  Boggle, the owl, is also quite nice.
  • If you have self-harm issues, snap a rubber band across wherever you usually hurt yourself.  It’s just as painful and releases the same chemicals but less likely to give you an infection or scars.  Also clench ice in your fists until they hurt like hell and you want to cry.  You get the same pain-rush but without any long-term damage.  If you pull out your hair or scratch yourself, smear coconut oil all over your hair or wherever you normally hurt yourself.  It makes you more cognizant of when you’re doing it since many of us do it without thinking.
  • Have someone you can tell so they can watch over you.  There’s something very freeing about sharing your struggle and having someone else be available to call when things are at their worse.  It feels bad to have to share the load with someone you love, but I guarantee you that they want to know so they can help.
  • See a shrink.  Adjust your meds as needed.  Sometimes I need antipsychotics and sometimes I don’t.  My chemistry changes and I have to keep up with those changes.  Drugs sometimes work and then stop working and you have to manage them, which sucks when you have depression because you’re often too tired to fight for yourself, but you need those drugs just as much as someone with diabetes needs insulin.  There’s nothing to be ashamed about.  Ask a family member for help in making appointments and remembering to pick up refills if you can’t do it alone.  Remember that it’s hard as hell to get the help you need when you’re mentally ill but that’s not a sign that you’re not worth it or that you should give up.  I’ve had to switch doctors before and I’ve had to demand to be seen on numerous occasions.  Not every shrink works for every person.  It can take time to find the one who fits with you.  It’s not your fault if you don’t mesh well with your shrink.  Keep looking until you find someone you trust.  The right one is out there for you.
  • Call the suicide hotline if you need to.  They’re there to help and they have fabulous tips and resources.  It’s free, you can’t call them too many times, and no one there will laugh at you.  You can stay anonymous and they’re happy to just listen to even the craziest things you have to say.  Many of them are volunteers because they too have called and been saved by someone on the other end of the phone.  I’ve called myself (even though I’m not suicidal) and some of these tips came from the amazing people on the other line.  They can also often help you find a good doctor for your specific needs.  Just google “suicide hotline” and your local one will pop up.  There are also sites like “To Write Love On Her Arms” and Mind Your Mind, which can help.
  • Remember that 25-50% of all people will experience mental illness at some point, so you are not alone.  I’m a successful writer with a wonderful family, but I also have numerous personality disorders, some that even my closest friends don’t understand.  You can be mentally ill and still be a good person.  I have to remind myself of that sometimes, but it’s true.
  • Do what feels right for you.  Dance in your room.  Meditate.  Read silly quotes.  Be unreasonably angry at strangers on the internet and scream at the computer screen from the safety of your home.  Make balloon animals, or knit, or project a paint-by-numbers picture on the wall and paint a giant mural, or adopt a bunch of cats and dress them up like little people.
  • Laugh.  This one seems insane, but sometimes in the middle of one of my lowest points I’ll find something ridiculous and it’ll make me laugh and I’ll suddenly remember what that feels like to smile and it’s like a lifeline to remind me that I’m going to feel good things again soon.  Laughing isn’t proof that mental illness isn’t real.  It’s a sign that you’re stronger than your mental illness even when it has hold of you.  For instance, while I was writing this, I googled “how many people will experience mental illness” and google decided to “help” and instead suggested I look up these two things:
really google

Who is googling this? Also, the second one is just awesome because when I first looked at it I thought it meant that people had turkey butlers who cooked food for them and I felt a little jealous.  Then I felt stupid.  Then I laughed.  Then I wrote “Get a turkey-butler” on my to-do list.

  • And lastly, know that this struggle makes you special.  It might not be a struggle you’d have chosen for yourself, but it’s one that can make you stronger in the end, and more sensitive and compassionate and empathetic to others.  It’s one that will help you help others.  And there’s something unique about the people who see the world from the bottom of the hole.  We have different eyes when we come up and different ways to seize those moments of joy that we know are so important and rare.  And that’s a gift.  A terrible and wonderful one.  You aren’t alone.  You are wanted.  You are good.  And you will get through this.  I promise.  And when you doubt your worth, imagine your younger sister or your best friend or your child having these same doubts and realize that that same sense of angry disbelief that the world would ever be better without them is the exact same disbelief that your friends and family would feel if they lost you.  You are as special and irreplaceable as the people you love most.  Your differentness makes you unique.  I makes you who you are. It makes you part of our tribe.  It makes you flat on your back one day, and it makes you dress like a circus performer the next.  It makes you grab hold of life when it comes back around.  It makes you crazy.  But that’s not always bad.
(photo by Maile Wilson)

(photo of me by Maile Wilson)

If you have tips, tricks, or want to share your twitter handle or email to offer an ear, or to ask for one, feel free to do it in the comments.  Or just listen and know that you’re  going to be okay.  There is an incredible community here built from people just like you.  We’re all in this together.