Category Archives: depression lies

The small things are the big things.

I had a post for today but I couldn’t finish it because my head isn’t working properly right now.  Some of this is because my head is always broken.  Some is from how bleak the news has been lately and I tend to fixate on that stuff.  Some is because we’re supposed to be at a family reunion right now but we’re not because we’re all sick with what I assume is the plague.  I was going to post something simple and just go back to bed but I know that the only way I’m coming out of this is to do it the hard way, and that means refocusing on the good.

I don’t know why it’s so hard to do that sometimes.  When good things happen we tend to weigh them in a smaller way or compare them to others or to feel guilt for having good things happen because others in the world are suffering.  But the good things are what make the world go around.  The good things are what give us strength to go on.  The good things are what we wish for everyone we love, and for strangers, and for strangers who will one day be people we’ll love. The good things and good people are what make you realize that things are so much better than we think, and that life is both dark and disturbing but also brilliant and amazing.  The tiny things add up.  We carry the tiny bad things with us because they stick to our skin in painful ways but often we forget the tiny good things.  And the giant good things.  So today I’m refocusing from the negative and celebrating the things that bring me joy.  You do it too.  Tell me what you’re proud of today.  Tell me what brought you joy recently.  Tell me of someone who inspires you.  I need that.  I think we all do.

I’ll go first:

Hailey snuggled up to me last night while we were watching tv and said that she sort of liked it when we were all sick at the same time because it’s nice to have a reason to watch cartoons together.

Yesterday I got a text from a friend saying “Check your porch” and she’d dropped off chicken soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.  I cried a little.

FURIOUSLY HAPPY is being translated into Italian.  I am taking over the world.

This is real, y’all.  It’s called a sea bunny and it’s really more of a sea slug but I love it so much.  There are tiny bunnies hiding in the sea, you guys.

And if there are sea bunnies out there then God knows what else is around the corner.  Kittens that never grow up?  Puppies that don’t have buttholes?  A brownie that makes the plague go away?

The world is full of possibilities. 

Your turn.  Tell me sometime good.

PS. This is Angel.  She’s 18 and is a foster mother to baby kittens.  She’s not the person grooming the monkey.  She is the monkey.

PPS.  Is it weird that I’m a little jealous of this monkey?  Someone come brush my hair and bring me kittens too.

1000 ferris wheels

I once read that about people who make and fold 1000 origami paper cranes.  Some do it for luck or longevity or luck or wishes or hope.  Some do it for love.  Some do it for peace.  I assume some do it for the same reason I make ferris wheels.

I make them over and over again, from tiny kits that arrive in small envelopes whenever things get difficult.

bloggesswheel

I turn the small metal tabs in.  I fit the speck-like tabs into the delicate, almost invisible slots.  I place 100 tiny metal pieces -like forgotten shavings- together to make each car, each strut.  It’s comforting to me when I need comfort most.  When life gets too large.  When the world is too loud.  When my skin is to raw and sensitive to be touched.  It’s then that I go into this tiny world I have perfect control over.

The work is both challenging and mindless.  I close a tiny door.  I add a hanging car.  I straighten a spindle.  I imagine myself in this little world, an invisible guest on this fragile and exquisitely imperfect wheel.  It does not spin exactly but the cars gently sway.  One car breaks loose and plummets to the floor.  I find it, a minute later, hidden in the seam of the tile and I rescue it and return it to it’s place, giving the metal tab an extra twist with my tweezers and holding my mouth just so as if I am casting a spell.

Stay put, I command in my head.  You are where you belong.  To everything there is a place.

And I line the pieces up into their places.  I make them right.  I make them fit.  I put things the way they are meant to be, even if only in a tiny world that rests in the palm of my hand.

In the morning I show my daughter the shiny metal ferris wheel.  She oohs and ahs and rocks the small cars, probably imagining real ferris wheels she will ride one day when she is grown.

I lay the tiny wheel down, my invisible anxieties and worries sitting calmly on each seat.  I say a prayer to keep each worry in its place.  To glue it there.  One for “fear of going under water.”  One for “one day she’ll leave me”.  One for “I’ve forgotten something important that I can’t remember”.  One for “paralyzed with doubts”.  One for “broken”.  And those small passengers all sit in silence, quieted at last, as I place the wheel with all the others.  And there it will stay while I take up life again.  Until, that is, the next week when I can’t think for all the worries and anxieties and angry voices screaming in my head.  And then I will place last week’s empty ferris wheel on a sidewalk  or tree branch for a small child to find, and I will open the thin envelope in my desk drawer and slip out the new metal sheets waiting to be cut and folded and pinned and pressed into life.  Into fear.  Into both.

And the wheel comes around again.

ferris bloggess

Note: I know many of you have noticed I’m not quite myself this month.  I’m fine…just crawling out of a depression that has taken more out of me than usual.  I’m coming back, but slowly.  Thank you for being patient.  Thank you for being you.

 

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.

To missing friends. The ones lost. The ones in hiding.

Tonight I miss people.  I miss friends who I’ve lost.  I miss friends who still exist, but are too terrified of life to say hello.  I understand it.  I miss me too when I go missing.  But I’m still here – deep down- under the shell that protects me when life gets too rough.  I’m still here when my head tries to tell me I’m nothing.  I’m still here under it all.  And you’re here too.

You’re here even if you think no one would know if you were gone.  You’re here in the hearts of people you would never suspect you had impacted.  You’re here in memory and in reality and in the echo of every person you ever touched and taught.  You are magnified in ways you never knew.

Many years ago Victor took me to a tropical island.  It was a dark time for me and a reminder that you don’t get to pick the times when parts of you go missing.  It rained more than it didn’t.  My anxiety and depression magnified.  I got sick and I ended up in the hospital in another country.   When I think back to those days I have dark memories with a few bright spots.  I remember standing in the pouring rain, looking out into the horizon.  I took a picture because I knew I wasn’t me enough to appreciate it at the time.

I found that picture again tonight.

throughtherain

It’s beautiful.  And dark.  And if you look through the rain you’ll see that it’s amazing.  You just have to have the right eyes.

You have to learn to see what’s hidden beneath.

You have to remember that we are so much more than our broken minds sometimes recognize.

I see you.  I remember you.  You echo in me.  I miss you.  But you are not missing.  You are here.

If you need help…

If you are considering suicide or know someone who is, please call a suicide hotline.  They can help.  They’re free.  They’ve saved and helped so many of us, including me.  Click here for a link to suicide crisis organizations around the world.  They listen.

I find it very triggering to talk about a humorist who has lost his battle with mental illness so I’m not going to write about this.   I’m practicing self-care by making an appointment with my therapist and avoiding triggers and watching bad tv.  I was, however, asked by a lot of people if I would share the post I once wrote about how the full moon makes me feel unbalanced and more willing to believe the lies that depression tells, and considering we’re dealing with a super-moon right now then maybe reading it will help if you’re feeling vulnerable yourself.  So it’s here if you want.

Tonight we recognize the battle so many of us fight within our own minds.  Tonight we remember those who’ve lost that battle, and we celebrate and salute those who continue fight and win.  (And if you are reading this, you are winning even if it doesn’t always feel like it.)   And tomorrow we will go back to face life with laughter and joy and ridiculousness because that’s what he would want.  And because that’s what we need.  And because I said so.

I’m closing comments because tonight I need to not check my phone or computer because I’ll get too tangled up in this, but comments are open on the older post if you need to share or talk.

“You’re only given a little spark of madness.  You mustn’t lose it. ~ Robin Williams

Hold on to your spark, sweet friends.  Don’t let it go.  It lights the way, and those glimmers in the distance remind us that we’re not alone.

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.