Happy birthday, Hailey.
If you’ve been reading here you know that my next book comes out in a few days. It’s subtitled “A funny book about horrible things” because Furiously Happy is all about looking for the light in spite of the dark parts of life that weigh us down. It’s easy to lose yourself in the fog so when you find your way out it’s important to celebrate that victory with joy so that you can remember it and carry that hope and that memory with you the next time you go back into battle.
I have clinical depression, severe anxiety disorder, chronic pain, and a host of other disorders. My broken, dark times are terrible…but the bright, furiously happy moments are blinding. I wanted to find a way to share that but I couldn’t do it alone, so I reached out on the internet and asked for volunteers brave enough to share with me. And thousands of you responded and the responses broke my heart and then made it stronger again. I wish I had 100 videos because there were so many amazing stories I wanted to share, but I only have one video and I hope (and believe) it’s strong enough to inspire us all a little.
(Click here if you don’t see the video, or want to make it bigger.)
So now what? That’s up to you. You can watch the video and if it speaks to you you can share it. If you are moved to then you can share your own words in the comments. If you want to share your own images of why you are broken but still furiously happy to inspire others that would be amazing. (And if you tag it with #furiouslyhappy others will be able to see it and share.) Or if you simply watch it once and it makes you smile then it’s done its job.
PS. An enormous thank you to everyone who shared their words, to the brave people who sent in video – both to the people you recognize and already love, and to the people you don’t recognize but love now. Thank you to the people who were on board until it was time to film and then realized they just couldn’t do it, because your strength in saying, “No, I’m not quite ready to share this yet” is inspiring and a reminder that self-care comes in many forms. Thank you to my niece Gabi who wrote and played the song on the video, and thank you to the creative team who made this a reality. And thank you for watching. And sharing. And supporting. And for saving me and so many others. Thank you for everything that you are.
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.
I just found out that Furiously Happy was chosen as one of the 10 LibraryReads for September. That means that librarians around the country nominated it as one of the top books they can’t wait to share with readers. That nod is one of the most poignant honors I have ever received and I cried when I heard it, although not everyone would understand why.
When I was little my favorite places were libraries. You weren’t expected to speak, which was heaven for a shy girl with an anxiety disorder. Thousands of small secret stories were hidden in plain sight all around you, just waiting to be held in your hands and discovered. As a small girl in rural Texas, I knew that the best chance I had of seeing worlds that would never be open to me, and meeting fantastic people I’d never be bold enough to speak to was through books. I was able to see places that exist (or that had existed, and or that would never exist) through the words of the storytellers whose worlds had been bound up and shared and protected through generations of docent-guardians who called themselves “librarians”.
I don’t remember my mother ever playing with my sister or me, but she read during any spare second she had. She read to us. She read to herself. She had us read to each other. A few times a month we’d get dressed up to drive into town to visit the nearest library. I still remember the reverent hush as we walked through the doors – the quiet hum of the air conditioner…the feeling of reverence that others may have experienced in churches but which I found in the quiet awe that was the library. I remember breathing in the welcoming smell of the dust of the books. The soft sounds of the drawers of wooden card-catalogs that had slid open and closed so many times that they became a velvety hush. The clean white slips of paper and tiny pencils waiting there (for free!) so that you might look up something wonderful and write down the secret code that would lead you to treasure. I remember the hunt for the book. For adventure. For magic.
And sometimes you’d get lucky and there would be a special librarian there. Of course, all librarians were special when you were little. They were the guards and they were larger than life. They knew the secret codex of books. They were good witches and wizards who kept small keys around their necks, keys to special, sacred artifacts you had to know the secret password to see.
The librarians were all magical in their own way, but some had a special gift, as if they could see behind your eyes. They could look at you, measuring you in their heads, and say:
“Let me see your hands. Ah. Yes. Today is a day for adventure. Would you like to see Mars? Let me introduce you to Ray Bradbury.”
“Today you look like you need magic. I think a dose of Ruth Chew will fix you right up.”
They knew the secret spider-web path from one book to the next. They knew when it was too early for Melville. They knew when to turn a blind eye as you furiously devoured the Stephen King books your mother didn’t think you were old enough for. They knew when to pull out the special key and gloves and let you see their first edition of Alice in Wonderland, or the hidden-from-light, brittle, handwritten histories of the bordello that had done booming business next door to the library until the Texas Rangers shut it down. They knew all the secrets that had ever been whispered and you hoped – in time – they would share them with you.
Librarians are how libraries speak. Theirs are the small faces behind a million stories and facts. Theirs are the simple hands that introduce you to the people who will shape you, and the ghosts that will haunt you, and the ideas that will drive you, and the friends that will never leave you. They know the science of knowledge and beauty and laughter, and – though you can’t quite imagine it – they’ve cried over the same books that have broken and rebuilt your heart. They’ve ridden in the same sleigh with the snow queen. They’ve flown over London and sailed on pirate ships and visited Shangri-La and watched the world be destroyed and created and destroyed again. And what they want more than anything else is to share those impossible journeys with you.
Librarians are magic – In every sense of the word. And that’s why this particular recognition is one of the greatest things I could possibly imagine. Because it feels like – in some small way – I’m giving back. That I’m becoming part of the tapestry of writers who reach out through time with their words to say, “Let me tell you a story. Let me tell you about us. You are not alone.”
One of the greatest gifts I will ever get is to imagine that one day soon, in a faraway town, a librarian may look down at searching eyes and say, “Yes. You look like you need something special today. Let me introduce you to my friend – Jenny Lawson. She’s slightly profane and highly irreverent and I believe she may have exactly what you need. I think you’ll be great friends.”
“Honored” doesn’t quite seem like a strong enough word for what I feel. I need a better word. I suspect a real writer would probably know that word immediately, but I’ll give it time until it comes to me. And if it doesn’t come, I’ll do what I always do. I’ll ask a magician. I’ll ask a librarian.
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.
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.
So yesterday I spent a great deal of the day in a vaguely weepy fetal position trying to distract myself by binge-watching bad horror flicks on Netflix. (Sidenote: I recommend HouseBound because it’s awesome. And Zombeavers because it’s awful.) This isn’t an unusual position for me to be in every so often, but yesterday I had an actual reason (other than just my mind being broken) because yesterday Hailey left for sleep-away camp for 2 weeks and it sent me into a panic which only increased as the news told me about how suddenly babies were drifting off to sea and children were exploding. Then Victor said that the news didn’t say that at all and I was letting my anxiety disorder take over. Then I told Victor that we should maybe call the camp to make sure they haven’t accidentally replaced the horses with bears and he told me to go lay down and then I might have screamed, “WHAT IF SHE GETS LICE AND LOSES ALL HER SHOES? WHAT IF SHE’S BAREFOOT RIGHT NOW AND THE FLOOR IS MADE OF LAVA? TETANUS FLAVORED LAVA” and then I took some medication and had a lot of nightmares about that fact that I haven’t taught Hailey enough about how to prepare for knife fights and to not eat razor blades. Then I consoled myself by remembering that I had at least told her not to go off with strangers but then I reminded myself that basically all the people at the camp we’d just abandoned her at were strangers and so I was sending mixed messages at best. In fact, she’d probably already forgotten the millions of safety warnings I’d tried to instill in her. And Victor agreed but he said that was probably a good thing.
And he’s probably right.
If you’ve been here long enough you already know I have severe anxiety disorder and the feeling of dread (which I hid from Hailey until the second she was out of sight) was the same one I had when I was a child and never made it through a sleepover because I’d panic that I’d never see my mom again and she’d have to drive over at midnight to get a teary me.
I used to worry that I’d pass on this dread and fear to Hailey but she’s honestly almost too unafraid. To the point that if there are accidentally bears in the horse pens Hailey will probably ride them. But it’s a lovely relief to know that she’s strong enough to be her own person and to do all of the amazing things that I’d never (want to) do. So today I’m going to do what my therapist suggests. She told me I need to “channel my inner warrior” and remember that things are going to be fine.
Except that I don’t really have an inner warrior. She says I can just pick one I like and try to embody the strong traits of them. Joan of Arc or Sun Tzu or She-Hulk. Except that I don’t entirely relate to any of them so instead I’m choosing someone a little closer to home.
I’m channeling my inner-Hailey.
Someone send me a bear. And tell me everything will be fine. And remind me that camp is a good thing and an excellent opportunity to grow up and mature. (For me, I mean. I suspect Hailey has already passed me in that area.)
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.
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.
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.
The greatest gift in the world is to grant a kindness to another. The amazing thing though is that the aforementioned gift is one you give yourself. It may be a small thing. Leaving a flower for the tired woman at the coffee shop. Telling a stranger that they have such kind eyes. Listening happily to a story told by an elderly friend or relative who has told you the same story a million times. Nodding in solidarity even when you don’t completely understand. Letting a friend or a stranger yell hurtful things at you because you hope it will help them let go of a small part of that anger…that it will open up room in them for the greater things that they deserve.
This is the way the world goes. Small, mean acts affect the next person who in turn amplify that anger or sadness and take it out on others who suffer as well. Then small, kind acts of grace work their magic and pull the world back into balance. Those acts echo into the world. They reverberate long after we are gone. And sometimes? Sometimes they bounce back to us in unexpected ways.
I’ve been writing for years and it’s only in the last year that I’ve let myself feel bad about what I write. Well, not about what I write exactly. I write about my life. I write funny stories that I hope make people smile. I write books that I hope make others laugh loudly and inappropriately in airplanes. I write honestly about difficult things I’m haunted with, like depression or self-harm. And occasionally I veer off into strange waters where I don’t quite know if I’m the best person to say something, but I know that I’m the best person to say the things that I think. You sometimes get small glimpses of those things but in such light amounts you could be forgiven for missing them. If you look closely you probably know that I’m a feminist. That I’m a big supporter of gay rights. That I don’t believe in church but do believe in God. That I believe racism is institutional and exists far deeper than we see. That I don’t deal well with authority. That I have eternal hope in goodness. That I am quick to anger and quicker to forgive and that I don’t believe in picking sides because the world is flexible and moving and ever changing. The only side I pick is the one with less assholes, but even that is fluid because people change. Sometimes the assholes are later the people who have come so far, and who we revere for their ability to change. Sometimes we find that our heroes were undercover assholes, hiding amongst us until they let down their guard. Sometimes the assholes are us. In fact, if you aren’t prepared to recognize that occasionally you will look back at your life and think, “Wow. That was a real dick move. What the shit, me?” then you are the most dangerous of all the assholes.
This is a long post but in my defense I’ve been very quiet for the last week while I sorted this out. I do have a point and I’m coming to it.
In the time I’ve been writing I’ve had thousands of people send me emails or links or tweets asking if I would weigh in on something, or support their cause, or ask everyone I know to donate to their personal fund or charity. I’ve read other blog posts by friends who tell me if I don’t write about their personal beliefs then it means I don’t care. Then I remind myself that if someone would potentially not know where I stand if I’m not screaming it on my blog then perhaps they aren’t as good a friend as I thought. I’m asked to stand up for people being bullied. I’m asked to stand up for the other people who are being censored and being called bullies. I hear:
“How can you not go to our Gay Pride parade when you yourself are bisexual?”
“Today is International Suicide Awareness day. Why aren’t you promoting it? Don’t you care?”
“You’ve spent time in wheelchairs and hospital beds from your autoimmune disease so why aren’t you promoting our walkathon for chronic pain awareness?”
“If you don’t publicly take a stand against racism on every platform you have then you are a racist.”
“If you don’t write about 9/11 every year the terrorist win”.
“If you don’t write a post explaining that most Muslims are peaceful and lovely then their blood will be on your hands if they are killed.”
“If you don’t write about my personal version Jesus Christ then you’re sentencing your readers to everlasting hell.”
“If you don’t promote my kickstarter about my journey to adopt 56 Chinese orphans then all orange kittens will spontaneously lose all their legs.”
These are all real things said to me in the last year, except for the last one which I suspect is probably just stuck in my spam filter.
Here’s the deal. I just can’t. I can’t use this blog to tell you that testing makeup on animals is bad or that if we don’t reduce our carbon footprint our children will suffer the consequences. I don’t have the stamina or willpower to denounce every shitty thing in the world that I assume everyone else here already agrees with. I don’t have the strength to write about ISIS and kidnappings and poverty and children starving and bombs and other terrible things because I know I will become fixated and depressed and unable to function. I know my limits and I know that without self-care I will fall into those dark holes of depression where I’m no help to anyone.
And I’m okay with that because I don’t have to tell you that Nazis are bad and mass murderers are fuckheads and that racism is bullshit and suicide should be avoided and rape is shitty and water is wet and cats will scratch you if given enough time. This is all common sense. If I have to say this out loud for you to get those things then you are in the wrong place. Mostly because I’m typing and so I can’t say anything out loud, but also because if you know me, you already know these things. We may disagree on the finer points. I may have a looser definition of what it means to be a feminist. I’m in the middle ground when it comes to gun control so if I ever decide I’m educated enough to have a salient point of view worth sharing out loud we may disagree. I suspect I view racism as being more of a problem than the average American (or average white Southerner at least) and occasionally I’ll say something about it and lose followers…both those who are angry that I believe racism is systemic and deep-seated, and those who agree but who are mad that I don’t say even more. And that’s okay. Sometimes they come back, later, with open minds and less fear or anger. Sometimes they are replaced by others who are here to laugh and smile at the ridiculousness that comes out of my head. Sometimes (mostly) it’s read and then forgotten. Just one tiny voice in a world that won’t shut up. In a world so busy speaking that it can’t hear.
I had a point and I’ve strayed from it a bit but this is it: I appreciate the links and suggestions and tweets and probably half the time my posts come from something one of you has sent me because you know me and you know what fuels me. I read what you’ve sent me and laugh or cry or learn. Sometimes I write about it. Sometimes I keep it for myself. Sometimes there isn’t a better way to say it so I’ll just retweet it, or forward it to others who I think might need it or be inspired to write more about it. But I will never tell those people that it is their responsibility to write about what I want to read. And that is the difference.
Please keep sending me links. Tweet things you think I’ll want to see. Email me your thoughts, or posts. Or share them here. But there are two things you should know: One– I almost never share fundraisers because if I do one then a million people will ask why I don’t share their equally valid fundraiser and then I’d suddenly turn from a writer to a very annoying PR person who only tweets fundraisers. No one wants that. And two: I will never write about something because someone else is trying to shame me into it. I have plenty of my own shame and guilt over here myself, thankyouverymuch, so I don’t need you dropping yours on me. Not only is it shitty, but it also makes me question everyone else writing about whatever that current event of the week actually thinks, and that’s not fair to anyone. Are they just writing what they think people want to hear? Are they pandering because it’s fucking easy as hell to say “I’M NOT FOR MURDERING GAY PEOPLE” and “CANCER IS NOT WHAT I LIKE”. Not only that, but if you aren’t saying something thought-worthy then you are adding to the roar that is the world and while it’s a wonderful thing to have the nation rise up as a whole against bullshit, it sometimes has the unintended action of making it that much harder for people who DO have brilliant and amazing things to say to be heard. People have a limited attention span and if they spend their lunch hour picking through posts that say nothing new or personal because they are written solely out of fear of missing out on the topic du jour are going to miss the chance to read the people out there who have something unique and intriguing and personal and brilliant to say. Those posts that make you say, “YES. FUCKING EXACTLY. THIS IS WHAT I WAS TRYING TO SAY BUT I COULDNT FIND THE WORDS FOR IT.” They are the posts that make you say, “Oh. Oh, shit. I get it. I get it now and I didn’t before and now everything has changed.” The posts that are so beautifully written that you immediately link to them on the Facebook disagreement you were having with your great aunt Agnes and she reads it and says, “Hmm. Well I never thought about it that way. I guess I’ll have to think about it.”
Those brilliant posts exist. I hope I’ve written a few. Probably not nearly as many as I’d like but I’m limited in my areas of expertise. I get humor because that’s how I survive. I get family because I’ve been blessed to have a dysfunctionally functional group of people who challenge me and make me laugh. I get mental illness because I survive it. I fight it as a regular demon and I haven’t a choice but to become a savvy warrior because that’s how you live. We don’t always get to choose our causes. Sometimes our causes choose us.
There is another thing I write about on the regular and that is kindness. Because we can’t live without it. Because it keeps us afloat. Because it keeps us worthy of survival as a species. Because it helps me forgive people who demand that I use my voice for their words because if I don’t it means I’m unworthy or low or their enemy. Because it helps me remember that that kind of anger comes from pain or fear or desperation that no one should have to feel. And because that same kindness is what I depend on and hope for from them when they read this.
This is my house. You are welcome here. You are wanted. You are allowed to leave links of posts or articles you think this community would say “Oh, I needed that” to. You are welcome to talk and visit and make friends and to realize that each of us is flawed and human and (in the grand scheme of things) knows nothing. Because I’ve come to know that the only thing I really know is we could all do with a little more kindness. Both in giving and getting.
Be kind to one another. And more importantly, be kind to yourself. You deserve it.
PS. This post scares me a little to post because I know a thousand of you will think “Shit. She’s talking about me” but I can assure you that 127 different people have asked me to share their stuff within just the last 24 hours (not an exaggeration) so I’m really not paying attention to names, and also there is a tremendous difference between suggesting that I write about something and demanding I write about something. Still, I feel a bit bitchy, because in a way I realize I’m sort of saying, “Stop demanding that I join you in your brave and valiant crusade, you well-meaning and good people with absolutely wonderful causes which I wholeheartedly agree with you on” and that’s not what I want to say at all, but it’s the closest thing I can say other than this: I can’t always sing your song with you. I listen. I share. I think. But if I’m always singing everyone else’s song then there’s no room for mine. I have a song to sing. A terrible one about why Jesus is a zombie and the time I found a severed boobie on my lawn. A song about horrible things and about wonderful things and mostly silly things that make the day a bit brighter for those twisted enough to appreciate it, or those offended enough to be able to use it as a terrible example to others. A song that sometimes is out of tune and seldom rhymes and is sung loudly in the dark and in whispers when I’m not quite myself. A song that sometimes overlaps with yours as we find ourselves unexpectedly sharing a chorus we never knew we had in common. A song that sometimes captures minds and hearts and changes the world in good and bad ways…but most importantly, a song that is uniquely mine. One that’s given silence to reflect and write, and information to grow, and that changes as I change. It’s the same song you sing. But different. And all of those songs are beautiful…even the discordant ones of our enemies that inspire us to work harder to prove them wrong in hopes that one day they’ll find themselves accidentally humming a strange tune they’ve picked up along the way…a tune of joy and kindness and love and equality and acceptance. Or at least something by Prince. That man is a bad-ass.
PPS. It occurs to me that I talked about those posts and stories and essays and books that make us yell “YES! THIS EXACTLY” and that those lovely things are the things that it would be nicest to hear over the roar of kleenex advertisements and selfies, so I’m going to share a few of the ones that hit me personally because maybe you need to see them too. And maybe in the comments you can share your own. A book, a song, a post, a quote that makes you strong or anything that makes the world a better place…anything that you keep coming back to as a reminder that you’re not alone or as an anthem to keep you going when it’s hardest. Share your song. Because I want to hear it. And maybe, one day, we’ll find ourselves singing along together and you will know it’s because I am with you wholeheartedly, and not just because it’s the easiest thing to sing.
Okay, here are a few posts that stick with me:
This one is fairly recent but I used it so often recently when in discussions with people who didn’t understand why what Rachel Dolezal did is not okay and why it has nothing to do with Caitlyn Jenner ~ From Awesomely Luvvie: About Rachel Dolezal the Undercover Sista and Performing Blackness
Someone sent me this years ago and it stays with me every day. I even stop people in the middle of my next book to tell them to read this first: From Christine Miserandino: The Spoon Theory
Okay. Your turn. Share. Give me something you think needs to be heard. Something that breeds kindness and makes the world a better place. Sing your song. We’re listening.
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 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.