Category Archives: depression lies

I don’t even know how to spell the thing that I’m going to do to myself but I still feel good about it so don’t freak me out, okay?

So if you read here you already know that I deal with a host of mental issues and you can probably tell that it’s gotten a bit worse lately and that sucks.  I go to sleep not knowing if I’ll wake up depressed or “normal” and when I do feel normal I’m so damn jealous of the rest of the world…people who can be around others without feeling exhausted or who can concentrate enough to finish basic projects or don’t spend thousands of dollars a year on medication that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.  People who don’t deal with intrusive thoughts and anxiety and who don’t struggle in vain to stop their minds at night and restart them again in the morning.

In the last year I’ve done all the things.  I did extensive blood work and took 32 pills a day to fix all the vitamin deficiencies and anemias and treatable disorders.  I ate low carb and cut out gluten.  I went 9 months without alcohol.  I lost 50 pounds and started walking and swimming and I tried to write goals and make myself do normal things and honestly I do feel healthier than I felt a year ago.  But I still feel fairly worthless at least 25% of the time.  And if this is as good as it gets I’ll still consider myself lucky and I’ll just wait for the darkness and dread to pass on those bad weeks, but it’s really…not comfortable.  That’s an extreme understatement but you get what I mean.

A few years ago my shrink told me that I’d be a good candidate for TMS and it sounded really scary so I ignored it like any sane person would because transcranial magnetic stimulation seems like diet electro-shock therapy.  But turns out that I was totally wrong.  I’m going to try to explain it and I’m super going to fuck it up so maybe look it up yourself but here’s the way I understand it:

So part of your brain sort of stops working properly when you’re depressed.  And a different part of your brain goes nuts and works crazy overtime when you have anxiety.  And your anxiety part of your brain can hijack the rest of your brain that already isn’t working and that’s how you get…me.

TMS sends electromagnetic impulses through your skull into small parts of your brain and it stimulates the part that isn’t working, like physical therapy for your brain tissue.  There’s also a way to use it on the over-active part that can slow it down to normal.  Supposedly it feels like a woodpecker tapping at your brain for 30-40 minutes a day for 6-8 weeks which sounds not fun but more than half of people with treatment-resistant depression (like me) see improvement, and around 30% go into full remission.  I can’t even imagine what full remission would feel like but I suppose if I’m willing to have an invisible bird drill into my brain for months it’s a pretty good indication that I need help.  I’ve spent the last month researching it and doing consults and last week after a million pages of paperwork and an interview a local psychiatric unit accepted me as a patient.  I start treatment this month.

I’ve talked to others who’ve done it and some said it was a miracle and some said it didn’t work at all so I don’t know if this will be an enormous waste of time and money but I’m willing to do what it takes to try.  And I feel lucky to live in a world where we are slowly – too, too slowly – figuring out how to treat these terrible things.  I had a great grandmother I never met who had such terrible rheumatoid arthritis she was in a wheelchair at my age.  Currently (knock on wood) my injections have me in remission from what was debilitating RA.  I’m lucky.

This is my other great grandmother.

Lillie

It seems like her terrible secret is that she has a horse head for an arm but that’s just a trick of the light.  Her real secret was mental illness, and she spent the last part of her life in a mental institution where she died from a “heart attack related to psychosis and chronic brain syndrome” which is probably 50’s shorthand for “electroshock therapy” because that was one of the only treatments available for her.  Again, I am lucky.

I keep Lillie’s picture on my desk top.  It reminds me that it’s not my fault that my brain is sometimes broken.  It reminds me that you can be broken and still love.  It reminds me that some of us get better and some of us don’t…but we all leave a trace behind.  Maybe it’s light and kindness and gentle touches.  Maybe it’s dark and bitter and angry.  For most of us, it’s both.  But I’m fighting for more of the former…any crazy way I can.

I’ll keep you posted.

PS.  Several people I know have had good results on electroconvulsive therapy now so no judgement if that worked for you.  It’s a very different animal than it was in the 50’s.  Anything that works is magic.  🙂

It’s late.

It’s late, but that’s not a surprise.

It’s always late when this happens.  The business and sunlight and work drive away any time you have to feel too strongly, but eventually the sun goes down and everyone is tucked into bed and you are alone and the only sound is your terrible voice in your head.  And you try to drown it out with the world but the world isn’t enough.

Or it’s too much.

I’m not sure, and somehow that makes it worse.

It would be better if there was a reason.  I check the internet.  Mercury is not in retrograde.  I’m on my meds.  My life is good and I am lucky.  I step outside and see that it’s a full moon and I find some small comfort in this.  I know people say the moon doesn’t affect people, but on nights like these when you want to crawl out of your own skin it’s a comfort to cling to the idea that it’s not really you…that it’s the moon.  Maybe it’s both.

Tomorrow I will feel better.  I will wonder who wrote this strange note.  I will find it silly and feel ridiculous.

But tonight my head is the moon – too full.  Tonight I will lay in my bed wondering if the promise of morning is real.  If I’m stuck in this night forever.

I will wonder, does everyone feel this lost?  Am I the only one who becomes invisible in the night?  A desperate ghost in my own house.  In my own skin.

Tonight is hard, but tomorrow will be better.

I’ll keep telling you that if you keep telling me.

Surviving September

There’s something about September that wants to eat you.

I wrote that years ago and it’s still just as true today.  In fact, every September for years and years I’ve written a post about how – for me at least – September brings a sneaking depression with it.  This September has been similar, but in a way it’s a comfort to look back at my blog posts and see that the fear and dread is seasonal…and that it passes.  That I’ve survived every September so far, and that’s a good record to remind myself of.  And if you’re reading this?  So have you.

I was going to write a longer post but I sort of think the best thing I can do today is to read a book and take a walk and do something nice for myself.  And so should you. Make a plan right now to do something lovely to celebrate being alive.  And instead of writing a long post I’m going to post what I wrote last year because it makes me happy, and maybe it’ll make you happy too:

September is an asshole.  I don’t why.  Maybe it’s the lack of sunlight or the end of summer or some sort of ancient curse, but regardless, it’s always a hard month to survive if you have depression.  I’ve pulled out my light therapy magic box but it’s not entirely enough so yesterday we went to the pet store so I could cover myself in medicinal ferrets. Unfortunately this pet store knows me so they were like, “ONE FERRET AT A TIME, LADY” and “WE WILL FRISK YOU WHEN YOU LEAVE” but one was enough to kickstart the happy.  It wasn’t quite strong enough though so we went to one of those zoos that’s not really a zoo because the animals are running around free and you just drive through and throw food at them.  It is one of my favorite things ever and not just because it’s hilarious to see Victor get mad about a traffic jam that consists entirely of ostriches who don’t give a fuck about where you have to go.

zebras

Even better, Victor isn’t entirely trusting of large wild animals so he yells, “OTHER SIDE OF THE CAR, FRANK.  I DON’T SUPPORT YOUR PANHANDLING” (he thinks they will listen better if he uses names) or “GET AWAY WITH YOUR BLACK DEMON EYES, LARRY.  I KNOW YOUR GAMES” as Hailey and I feed them and assure them he really doesn’t mean it.  Then he yells “I MEAN IT, LARRY.  AND I WANT MY SOUL BACK.”  But then eventually he’ll see some sort of animal with a limp or a missing horn and he’ll get all mushy and feed it and yell at the other animals about how awesome this broken animal is so that it will feel better about itself.  It’s basically how he wooed me and it totally worked.

"He's not missing a horn, Larry. HE'S A UNICORN." ~ Victor

“He’s not missing a horn, Larry. HE’S A DAMN UNICORN.” ~ Victor

We went at the end of the day so most of the animals were already full and sleepy but I did have an encounter with a zebra who was terrifying, derpy and noble all at once.

“Hey.”

"Knock knock motherfucker." This zebra has NO chill.

“Knock knock motherfucker.” This zebra has NO chill.

JESUS.

JESUS.

If you squint, his snout looks like a black panther, which is probably a very good defense if lions attack during the night.

We also met an emu (I think?) who reminded me that birds are our closest relations to dinosaurs and I fed him out of the bag while Victor reminded me that the almost-velociraptor probably wanted my meat sausages (which I thought was a gross because I don’t have a bag of penises, Victor, but then I figured out that he meant my delicious fingers) but I totally would have let this guy chew on my fingers because the smiles he gave me were worth everything.  And I’m sharing it with you because LOOK AT THIS FACE.

"Hello. I'm from the Dark Crystal. I'll just live in your nightmares from now on."

“Hello. I’m from the Dark Crystal. I’ll just live in your nightmares from now on.”

"JUST KIDDING! GIVE ME FOOD IN MY MOUTH HOLE PLEASE!"

“JUST KIDDING! I LOVE YOU GUYS!  PUT FOOD IN MY MOUTH HOLE PLEASE!”

thebloggessbird

And then I felt better.  And I’m sharing it so you will too.  Just remember that as dark as September gets there are ridiculous near-dinosaurs waiting to smile enormously as you hand-feed them.  And that’s worth sticking around for.

PS. You know when a guy is trying to be all suave and he lights two cigarettes for him and his honey?  Not as cool as you think it looks:

cigars

This is a dangerous post to write.

Updated 4-24-17:  Holy crap, y’all.  I love you.  Not only did you listen but you gave me honest advice and reminded me how incredibly difficult but also how worthwhile it is to keep looking for the unique treatment that works for each person.  You also reminded me that I’m not alone in continuing to search for tools that will make my mental illness more manageable, and sometimes it’s enough to know that so many of us are fighting this battle together, even if it seems we’re doing it alone.  Here is my plan as of today:  I saw my doctor and this afternoon I had many vials of blood taken to rule out hormonal issues, deficiencies, etc.  If nothing physical turns up then I’ll try to get my insurance to cover TMS and see if it works.  From what I can see the overall verdict is that it depends on the person and that it’s either incredibly helpful when it works, or it doesn’t work at all, or sometimes it works for a while but not forever, which is sort of the exact same verdict I’ve had with every other medication and therapy I’ve ever tried, so I suppose I should be used to it at this point.  Nevertheless, thank you.  I will always feel broken but you continue to remind me that I am so not alone.  I’ll keep you posted.

Original post:

This is a dangerous post to write, mostly because I’m opening myself up to something that every person who deals with mental illness dreads…well-meaning advice from others.  But this is specific and I’d really like to hear from you.  Not about how I should “just cheer up” or “stop eating anything but air” or similar.  What I want to know is this…have you ever had Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and if so, did it work for you?  My doctor has been recommending that I do it for years but I’ve always been worried about the side-effects.  It’s supposed to be a good option for people like me with major depressive disorder who have tried multiple antidepressants but still have long periods of depression.

I’m lucky because, as a writer, I can often work around the schedule my depression sets for me…sometimes working long days and nights full of inspiration and sometimes just surviving weeks where my mind is a fog and I can’t get out of bed.  I have a support system of family and of strangers-who-are-like-family around the world.  I could probably continue to live like this for the rest of my life, and I’m prepared to.  Although depression can be hell and I know that it lies and I could continue to live through the bad weeks waiting for the good to inevitably come back.

But what if TMS works?  It’s not as invasive as electroconvulsive therapy.  Some people my shrink has treated with it have been able to get completely off their meds, which is something I can’t even imagine. I’ve been on so many different medications, regimens, vitamins, compounds, injections, therapies, etc. and some were helpful and some weren’t and some were until they weren’t.  Some saved my life and others made it miserable.  That’s the thing about treating chronic illness…different things work for different people and the exhausting process of finding a cure for your symptoms usually never completely goes away.  So after this latest bout of depression I’ve been thinking more about trying TMS.  Victor is not a fan but he respects that it’s my decision ultimately.  I still need to research more and to make sure my insurance will cover at least some of it but I thought maybe one of my first steps should be to ask here.  Have you had it?  Did it work?  Was it worth it?

And if you haven’t and you just want to share something that actually did work in treating your mental illness feel free to.  I know that just medication and therapy aren’t enough.  Music, meditation, exercise, sun, vitamins, sleep…they all can make a difference.  If something in particular makes a difference for you, share.  (But if you tell me to stop taking meds and take up jogging I will find you and punch you in the junk with a cactus.  Just saying.)

PS. Turnabout is fair play, so here’s a small tool that I use when I’m feeling anxious.  It’s just a gif.  But whatever works, right?

Thanks.

I’m still alive in here.

The last year has been hard for me.  I have glimmers of myself.  I have hours each day when I can smile.  Some days I come out of the fog and feel the terrific relief from coming out of the underwater of depression or whatever it is that haunts me.

I struggle through the day until sunshine comes back.  Sometimes I get my child off to school and then go back to bed until she comes home.  When my husband travels I feel relief that I can hide without shame, but the shame is still there.  But I know a part of me remains because I miss them when they’re gone, and if I can feel that then I know I’m still alive.

It seems strange.  How sometimes I can be normal and functional and my head and body will let me live like people are supposed to live, and then the next day I’ll plunge back into that halfway space where I’m asleep, either physically or emotionally.  I remind myself that depression lies…that I’ll come back again.  That the hollowness is temporary and could disappear any moment.  I kill the day with sleep.  I struggle to write, feeling such incredible relief on those days when my head works again and can put words together in a way that makes sense to anyone other than me.  I write small notes to myself for the book I’ll finish when the hungry ghost that lives inside me is full, or spent…whatever she needs to do to leave.

And when I can’t write my words on the paper I draw them by hand…symbols and images and strange things from dreams.  I draw and erase and draw and erase, and make and unmake myself.  I hunch over my sketch book and find myself leaving images to prove I was here…even when I’m scared that I’ve gone missing.

I’m still here, even when I’m not me.  I’m still me even when I come out of this spell.  I’m me.  And I am unpredictable even to myself.

I’m still alive in here.

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-3-37-01-pm

You are here. And I am too.

Y’all.  My first round proofs from my next book just came in the mail.

If you read here you already know that I wasn’t able to focus on my next memoir because this illustrated book was blocking everything in my head and screaming to be born so I had no choice but to finish it, but it always seemed silly to say that I was spending 12 hours a day for months and months making what was essentially an irreverent coloring book about surviving life.  But then today I scattered the pages all over the floor and saw how much I had accomplished.  It made me realize that even though it’s felt like I was stalled in my head I was actually accomplishing something real that I’m proud of.  And maybe you’ll love it or maybe you’ll hate it (GOD PLEASE LOVE IT) but no matter what, I did something, and sometimes you don’t realized what you’ve done until you’ve thrown it up on the floor.  That was poor phrasing but you know what I mean.

And I stood there and said to myself, YOU ARE HERE, JENNY LAWSON.  

youarehere
AND I WAS.  So it was fitting.  Also, I was drunk when I wrote this.  This post, I mean.  Not the book.  But I was drunk for some of that too.

Thanks for sticking with me through this strange, but much-needed detour.  I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.

PS.  If you didn’t know I writing an illustrated book and this all seems confusing just click here for the back story.

PPS.  It won’t be out for several more months but you can preorder here.  Also, a giant thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered because that stuff sort of convinces other bookstores to carry it when it comes out and I’d really like it to see the light of day for people who might need it.  But at least it saw the light of my floor after walking me through a depressive period that I was afraid would last longer than I would.  And that’s something to celebrate.  Sometimes the little things are the big things.

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-4-03-24-pm

One of those nights.

I’m having one of those nights where – against all logic – I find myself feeling small.  Not a good small, like “Aren’t you adorable? I want to put you in my pocket” but that insignificant, unimportant sort of small.  The kind that makes you feel like you’re just dust that could spin out into space, or that the night is so dark that you’ll never be found or remembered.  The kind that makes every personal failing magnified to the point it’s physically painful.  I don’t know where these nights come from but I suspect they come to us all…making us doubt that we exist, that we matter, that we will ever get our shit together.

Maybe some people don’t have nights like these.  Maybe I just say to myself that it’s normal because if it’s not then that niggling sense of failure and fear that floods over me is based on reality.  I know it’s not.  Logically, I know it, but logic doesn’t work well on nights like this.  I go through my mind and count the facts and try to discount the fear and panic.  I fail.  I am small.  But I also succeed sometimes too.  I am important.  I am insignificant.  I am a speck of dust.  I am necessary.  They’re all true.

But on nights like these I push back in the dark and tell myself that tomorrow the sun will shine and this night will be past.  I will have beaten the darkness that seeps into my heart when things shift and rifts appear.  I will have beaten it simply by existing long enough to find the sun again.

I am small.  But if that’s true then so, too, are my fears and doubts.    They seem so large, but they live in me so they can’t be bigger than I am.  I will win.  By sheer volume.  And I’ll keep repeating that to myself until I finally believe it, or until the morning comes.  Whichever comes first.

Sometimes the darkness can be beautiful. But sometimes it’s a real bitch. Depends, I guess.

Hi.

I’ve been a little missing lately.  Not just here.  I’ve been missing a bit inside my head, which in some ways is good because my head is not always fun to live in.

I don’t know if the depression I’ve been dealing with off and on for the last few months has just worn me down, or if it’s one of my auto-immune diseases flaring up, or if I’ve just been lucky enough to get mono AGAIN, but whatever it is feels ungood.  And I know that “ungood” isn’t a real word, but my head is where I keep all my good words and it’s not working well right now.  The rest of my body is following suit and so now I’m doing all the things I’m supposed to do to feel better.  I’m taking my meds and getting light therapy and eating well better and taking vitamins and trying to be active and all the other bullshit that you have to do when you’re sick but you aren’t sure where or what the sickness is, so you have to do all the due diligence because otherwise the doctor is going to just wave me away because someone as broken as I am is sometimes expected to be miserable.  But here’s the thing.  I don’t want to be miserable.  I would like to be happy.  And sometimes I am.  Today I feel better and I can concentrate enough to write this.  This sounds small but it’s not.  It’s big.  And I’m taking it.

And I’m not alone.  I’ve seen so many people lately reaching out for help and I’m not sure if I just think more people are struggling because I am too and I’m more sensitive to it, or if there’s something in the air or in the stars that has made this year more difficult in general.  I’ve seen people I love doubt their own light and feel broken.  And maybe they are, but broken doesn’t mean worthless.  Broken hurts sometimes but it is also what makes us different.

Last night as I was going to bed I noticed that I’d let most of the lights burn out in the chandelier and I couldn’t replace them.  Not just because I was too tired but also because I don’t own a ladder that tall.  So the few remaining lights that still flickered on cast a strange shadow on the wall and in a way it was really beautiful.  Like an unconscious mural that painted my house with invisible hands.  And it was striking.  And strange.  And dark.  And haunting in a way that is (literally) a little hard to see and also a little hard to ignore.  And it seemed like a perfect analogy for how I was feeling.  If my head was working better I would be able to wrap this up more succinctly, but if I wait until my head is less broken I might wait forever.  And then you’d never see the strange, dark loveliness that comes out when things are little bit broken.

dark bloggess

Broken can be beautiful.  I’ll remind you of that if you remind me back.

I’m not quite myself right now.

I haven’t been quite myself for the last few weeks.  I’ve told myself that it’s hormones or my arthritis acting up or allergies or an infection and it’s probably all of those a little, but the truth is that it’s a low level depression that I’ve been fighting off.  And that’s harder to admit because even though I know I’ll always deal with depression it’s so much easier to pass it off as something that everyone can relate to and that doesn’t make others feel uncomfortable or nervous.  I say that it’s low-level because I’m still able to leave the house and laugh and be functional, but the level of exhaustion (both mental and physical) is so utterly wearing on me.  I have so many half-finished posts or stories I want to tell you but I don’t have the energy to finish them or the self-confidence to think that they’re as good as I know they can be when I get my head back.  Instead I take my frustrated artistic energy and draw ridiculous things and make notes to myself of things will be fun to write about when I get that part of my head back again.

Depression is a lot of things, but sometimes for me it’s like having people in.  In my head.  The same way it is when you have people in your house to paint walls or replace a ceiling or rip out the plumbing.  You can still go about your life but you always have your guard up.  You know that there are parts of your home that you relied on that are now torn up and filled with strangers.  You know that in the end it will be worth it and that having people in, or having parts of your home raised isn’t the end of the world but it stops you, over and over.  You switch on a light and remember that the power doesn’t work in that part of the house for now.  You know it’ll come back, even though you don’t have an exact date when.  You move in the darkness, a bit more slowly than ever.  You avoid the mess when you can.  You switch on the light (again) and remember (again) that there’s no power in that room.  You do it again and again and again because even when you feel helpless you know that one day the light will come back.  And to not try is to give up.  And I can never do that.

So I’ll be here, trying the lights, and hiding in the rooms that are still safe and reminding myself that even when I think you’ll give up on me, you probably won’t.  And I won’t give up on you either.  I’m still here, even if you can’t always see me.

I’m just looking for the light.

bloggessdoodles

Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not real.

When I’m on tour I often stop in the airport bookstores during layovers to do rogue signings.  I do them when I can and sometimes strangers stop to ask about the book.  Sometimes they buy a copy or two.  Mostly they don’t.  But last week one older woman in particular looked at Furiously Happy and told me that she would never buy it.  And I smiled and nodded as I assured her that was fine. “It’s not for everyone,” I said, because it’s not.  I thought she’d walk away but instead she said, “I guess you can pander this to all those college kids who have been convinced that depression exists by some pharmacy company that just wants you addicted to drugs.”  And then I explained that depression exists for a number of reasons, including chemical imbalances which are very, very real and that if not properly treated it can be fatal, and then she told me that mental illness was just “made up” and then I kicked her right in the lady junk.  Or, at least that’s what I did in my mind.  In real life I said that I hoped she would never have to learn how wrong she was and then I stared at her until she got uncomfortable enough to leave.

It’s not just ridiculous strangers in airports who feel comfortable publicly doubting an illness they’ve never fought, or sometimes couldn’t acknowledge they were currently fighting.  It’s sometimes family members or friends, and sometimes even we manage to convince ourselves that it’s not a real problem – and that mental illness is just a weakness rather than a medical disorder that needs treatment just as much as heart disease or diabetes or those disorders which are more easily measurable or unquestionably visible on the surface.

That night I locked myself in my hotel room and drew this to remind myself of the truth:

"Just because

“Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

Because sometimes I need a reminder.  Pain is real, whether it’s from depression or anxiety or arthritis or one of the many invisible illnesses that don’t easily show themselves but still exist and have to be treated, and – more importantly – have to be believed in order to be treated.  You need to know that your struggle is a real one.  You need to know that your fight is real and your survival is something to be proud of.  Remember that you are needed.  Remember that the things you say can affect those of us who fight.  Remember that not all things are visible and provable.  Love, faith, pain, anxiety, depression, compassion…these aren’t always quantifiable.  They aren’t always measurable.  They are often invisible.  But they are real.

And so are you.

Stay real.  Stay alive.  Stay vigilant against assholes who make you question yourself.  We already get enough of that from the doubting voices in our heads and the lies depression tells us.  Listen to my voice, now.  You are real.  You are worthwhile.  You are so important both in ways you will discover, and in ways you’ll never see.  You send out needed ripples of greatness and kindness in unexpected and accidental ways.

You won’t always see wonderful ways in which you shift the world.  They may be invisible to you.  But I promise you they are real.