You Searched For: depression lies

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

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month so some people expect me to write about mental health, except that if you read here you’re already perfectly aware that I’m mentally ill so this feels a bit pointless.  But what if we change the game a little?

Share with me.  In the comments, or on your own platform, or both.  Almost everyone will battle mental illness or will be impacted in the struggle to help a loved one with their mental illness, so “awareness” isn’t really the issue for me.  Cures, support, feedback, tools that work...those are the things we reach for in the dark.  So let’s share…

How has mental illness affected you personally?  What did you learn from it that might help others?

I’ll start.

How has mental illness affected me personally:  I have a host of issues but I’m most affected by Avoidant Personality Disorder which is like anxiety disorder on speed.  It’s scary to talk about.  When I tell people I have a personality disorder they try to convince me that I don’t.  This is not helpful.  It’s perfectly well-meaning but it’s like saying “You couldn’t possibly have anything so terrible as that” when in fact, I do.  And lots of other people do too but they don’t say it out loud because they’re afraid of how they’ll be perceived.  Then it becomes even harder to say it because everyone else is too afraid to say it (with just cause) and I can’t even blame them because being afraid to admit you have a personality disorder whose main symptom is crippling fear is a catch-22 and pretty fucked up.  It’s like having to raise your hand to ask for help in attaching your prosthetic arms.

What did I learn from it that might help others:  I’ve learned I’m not alone even when I feel completely isolated and like a failure.  I’ve learned that depression lies.  I’ve learned that when I’m not affected by my fucked-up brain chemistry I can see that my brain is not to be trusted so I write notes to myself when I’m out of the hole to remind myself that I’ll be okay again soon.  I get sun.  I take meds and therapy.  I laugh loudly and often when I’m out of the hole because I know the importance of appreciating the good and the joy when it comes.  I let myself be sad when I need to be.  I watch ridiculous tv and listen to happy songs.  I practice creating an invisible mental barrier around my body when I feel overwhelmed by other people’s energy.  I call the suicide hotline if things get bad.  I donate to suicide hotlines when I can.  I allow myself to say no.  I reach out on the internet because I can find friends to talk to or to inspire me who understand when I’m too afraid to even pick up a phone.  I find a family member to help me when I think I need extra supervision.  I thank people who help save me.  I try to save them back.  I hide in blanket forts with my cats and a collection of funny books or kick-ass comics.  I share what helps.  I learn from others.

I apply kittens directly to problem areas.
bloggesshuntersthomcat

Your turn.

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

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

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

roundbloggessianism

More about that here if you missed it.

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

Current Life Hacks for the Church of Bloggessianism:

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

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

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

choose your own title

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

The Random Title Generator for the Church of the Bloggessianism

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

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

bloggesschurch

sloth

Now go out and be awesome.

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

I’m not talking ’bout the weather.

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

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

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

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

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

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

me:  So he’s just a dirty liar.

Victor:  I guess.

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

Victor: HE’S NOT TALKING ABOUT THE WEATHER.

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

Victor: I give up.

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

And now, time for the weekly wrap-up:

shit i did


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

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

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

There’s a moment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deal?

Strange and beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(photo of me by Maile Wilson)

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

Two years ago

Two years ago they hadn’t found a way to treat my rheumatoid arthritis.  Two years ago I was a usual visitor to the emergency room when my pain would get so bad that only narcotic injections would stop it.  Two years ago my vacations always ended in wheelchairs, I took drugs that made my face unrecognizable and made clumps of my hair fall out.  Two years ago I was obese, because my meds made me swell up and because just walking across the room made me want to scream.  Two years ago I thought that I was a burden on my family because I spent more time in bed than I did out of bed.

A year and a half ago my doctor got approval to start monthly injections.  They worked.  They don’t work for everyone.  I pray that they continue to work.  I was able to walk.  I was able to move.  I was able to live.  I lost 46 pounds.  I got rid of the steroids.  My hair started to grow back.  The pain that used to be a 9 is now a 2.

Yesterday my doctor looked at my x-rays and said that some of the deformation we thought would be permanent had healed.  And she said a lovely word.

“Remission.”

It’s a lovely word for two reasons.  One, because I remember the pain…and in the place where that pain was is a space left for gratitude.  And two, because it gives me hope.

10 years ago my mental illness got so bad that I finally got help.  At first it was worse, then it was better, then worse again.  Now I fluctuate, waiting out the darkness, reminding myself that depression lies and that it’s a medical condition that I never asked for, quietly battling with tiny demons in my head…until it suddenly passes and the drugs kick in or the seratonin settles or the demons get bored and then HALLELUJAH I’m alive again and things are good and I remind myself that this, this, THIS is real and this is worth waiting for each time.

One day I know that they’ll will find a cure for whatever it is in my head that randomly and unexpectedly clouds things up and makes life turn into a pale, cardboard imitation.  One day they’ll find a cure.  A drug that works.  A shot that makes the demons go away.

A remission.

And I cling to that.  Because that, my friends, is a beautiful word.

PS. I wrote a week ago about how I’d been diagnosed with a severe b12 deficiency that might be causing some of this depression.  I’m on pills and shots and massive amounts of other pills to help the b12 work and I feel okay today after a week of slight craziness.  14 pills a day isn’t ideal, but I’m worth trying every option.  You are too.  Keep breathing.

Hush now

PPS.  Back to silly, cat-focused ridiculousness tomorrow.  I just needed to write this.  Thank you for listening.

Something about September…

So, yeah.  This is a purposely disjointed post because it’s too heavy and triggering to stand alone so I’m going to add something light and (somewhat) lovely at the end.  For once, my disorganized posting is actually non-accidental.  This is cause for celebration, although the comment section might be incredibly confusing.

So here’s the first subject, and it’s not fun but it’s fucking important, so listen.

This week is Suicide Prevention Week.  I always appreciate that it comes in September because there’s something about September that wants to eat you.  I don’t know why.  I just know that depression lies and it lies the loudest and most convincingly in September.  That’s why today I’m reminding you that suicide hotlines are amazing and have saved me from self-harm on numerous occasions.  If you need someone to talk to, or if you’re someone who knows a person who needs help and you need advice on what to say or do, call.  That’s what they’re there for.

Also, because so many of us are online, this page about safety teams on social media sites can be crazy helpful.  (Not sure if there’s a non-American version of this.)

Here are some good numbers to have:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline (US)

Canadian Mental Health Association (Canada)

Befrienders Worldwide (International)

Also, To Write Love on Her Arms is doing a fabulous thing where they’re asking you to share why you can’t be replaced.  It’s a perfect reminder of why you’re important and it’s a bad-ass way to flip it around and tell other people why you think they can’t be replaced.  If you can’t think of anything to write on yours then ask your friends or family to fill it out for you.  You cannot be replaced.  Trust me on this one.

Here’s mine.

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Okay.  That was a little dark, but sometimes you have to visit the dark to appreciate the light.  And now for the light…

This month Hailey turns 9 and I wanted to bring cupcakes to her class but there are some severely allergic kids in there and I don’t want to accidentally kill them.  Instead I was considering just bringing all the kids a book.  Around age 9 was when I realized that books were slightly better than cupcakes, so I think it might go over vaguely well but now I can’t pick a book.  I wanted to do Magic Trixie or Coraline, but I’m afraid there are some uber-religious kids in the class who might not be allowed to read anything magical (and that made my heart hurt just writing it) and so now I’m not sure what to get since almost all of the books that Hailey and I read are a bit dark or objectionable-in-the-best-possible-way.  What was your favorite book when you were 9?  Any recommendations? (Ideally under $10 and good for any gender.)  I’m leaning toward Hank the Cowdog but is that one of those books that everyone already owns by age 9?  Help.

Updated (9-16): Holy crap, you people have some amazing suggestions and I’ve started a whole reading list for Hailey just based on these comments.  In the end I took your suggestions to talk to the teacher about ordering from Scholastic and she was crazy helpful and I was able to get about 100 fantastic books to give out to the kids and to be used as an impromptu lending library.  They had Bunnicula for a dollar so I bought dozens of those and I plan on buying more and handing them out on Halloween for All Hallow’s Read.  Also, I’ve never read A Wrinkle in Time, but so many of you suggested it that I bought it on Saturday and Hailey and I are already halfway through it.  It is spectacular.  Thank you.

Don’t judge me. I come by it naturally.

Several weeks ago I bought a fascinator/hat from one of my favorite rogue taxidermists, Emily “Sending-me-road-kill-in-the-mail-is-a-good-thing” Binard, because it reminded me of Hamlet Von Schitzel from my book cover.

Sadly, I do not have a face for fascinators and so I assumed it would be destined to sit on a shelf forever, until I remembered my collection of old, thrift store finds on my wall.

Yorick now has a new home:

And for those of you wondering if James Garfield made the move…here’s the view from my desk:

This is what I do instead of knitting.  Don’t judge me.

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And in entirely unrelated news, it’s time for the weekly wrap up:

What you missed in my shop (tentatively called “Eight pounds of uncut cocaine” so that your credit card bill will be more interesting.):

This week on shit-I-didn’t-come-up-with-but-wish-I-did-because-it’s-kind-of-awesome:

This week’s wrap-up is sponsored by the fantabulous folks at www.karmalot.com (Passcode: SENDKARMATODAY) where you can send and receive gift cards with your Facebook friends. Then you tally up all those giving and receiving activities as Karma points to see if you are more giving person or receiving person.   The app is available as both web and iOS app.  You should probably check it out.

I’m coming out of this. Eventually.

Me: I’m having a nervous breakdown.

Friend: I’ll bring the wine.

I’m not sure which wine pairs best with a nervous breakdown, but at this point I don’t really care, because wine.  That seems like a sentence fragment but it’s not.  “Because wine” is a full sentence and is also an answer to just about anything you could ever ask.  “Why should I leave my house?”  “Why am I crying at an insurance commercial?”  “Why do my cats all have mustaches drawn on them?”  BECAUSE WINE.

In fact…why does this post exist?  Because wine.

And also because I’ve been fighting through a bitch of a wave of depression for the last several weeks and I’ve been slogging through the days and going through the motions and waiting for this shit to finally break.  I’ve been forcing myself to leave the house as much as I can and congratulating myself for showering and moving and breathing, but it’s still hard as hell.  I’m not alone.  In the last few weeks I’ve gotten tons of comments and emails and tweets from people all feeling equally helpless.  And that sucks.  It sucks for them, and it sucks for me and it sucks for every person out there who can’t just fix us.   There is, however, one bright point about getting those messages from others sailing their own rough waters…I can – without doubt– tell them that depression is lying to them and that things will get better.  And then I have to admit that the same thing applies to me…even though at the time I’m fairly sure my emotions are dead forever.

And then, just as quickly as it came, it starts to lift.  Yesterday I felt human again for almost two hours.  It’s amazing how much you’re missing in a depressive state until you start to come out on the other side.  It’s like breathing again after being underwater for far too long.  The depression is back again now but I had an hour this morning when I was me again.  And a few minutes ago I called a friend to come over to visit.  That sounds like a stupid, small thing, but it’s not.  It’s big.  It’s huge.

When I’m in a depression I want to write about it, but I usually can’t.  I’m too overwhelmed and paralyzed and exhausted.  I end up writing 100 angsty drafts that never see daylight and I convince myself that no one cares.  It’s not true.  People care.  They care about me and they care about you.  If you’re feeling alone, you aren’t.  Millions of people struggle with suicide and depression and mental illness.  We keep taking pills.  We keep talking to shrinks.  We keep each other alive.  We remind ourselves that depression lies.  We keep breathing.  And eventually the clouds metaphorically part and – as if by magic – we get a blast of normalcy and remember how amazingly wonderful it can be to feel life instead of suffer from it.

Yesterday I started feeling life again, and it felt wonderful.  And I’m writing this to remind myself that it does pass, and that the miasma surrounding you now won’t always cling to you.  It will pass for me and it will pass for you.

Keep breathing.  Keep living.  You are worth it.

PS. This seems unrelated and maybe it is but I’m including it anyway because wine.  A few years ago my blog posts were peppered with humorous stories about my severe rheumatoid arthritis.  I’d be bedridden for weeks at a time.  I was in and out of hospitals.  I spent most vacations in a wheelchair.  It took many years and lots of different meds and doctors before they finally found the particular drug that cured my symptoms.  It isn’t perfect and it’s crazy expensive and involves a lot of injections and constant work, but (knock on wood) I haven’t been in a wheelchair in over a year.  I had started to think that my whole life would just be random weeks of pain and that I’d end up hobbled and miserable, but then we found that one drug that worked for me.  And if there’s a drug out there that could save me physically then I have to believe that one day there will be one that could save me mentally.

I’m holding out for that miracle.  Stay here and keep me company.

PPS. If you’ve found something that works for you, feel free to share it.  For me, it’s music. This song has been on replay for me all week and it helps.  Maybe it’ll help you too.

Today and forever

*mild trigger warning*  

Last week our nation was hit by a terrible tragedy, leaving so many of us reeling and wondering “why?” and “how”?  This weekend my family was hit by a tragedy that hit much closer to home.

I don’t write much about Hailey (both to protect her, and because she’s not really old enough to make a valid decision if she wants her whole life recorded in my strange little diatribes) but those of you who know me well enough know that Hailey was very blessed to go to an after-school and summer program she went to every day for years.  She loved Ms. Ally (her teacher) and Mr. Dan (Ally’s husband) and they loved her right back.  Ally and Dan were very special.  Loving, supportive, always helping.  Ally taught the kids and Mr. Dan (her soulmate of many, many years) was there for anything anyone needed.  He loved those damn kids.  He loved his own kids.  He loved his wife and the community, and he was the first person to show up at my door if I needed any sort of help.

This weekend Dan lost a battle with depression and ended his wonderful life.  He will be remembered as a strong and amazing man with a contagious smile and laugh, a father, husband and mentor, and the not for the demons that ultimately took him from us.

We – the men, women and children who loved him – can ask ourselves “why” and wonder if there was something we could have seen or done, but in the end sometimes terrible things happen in an instance.  And sometimes beautiful things happen too.  Like the way that our tiny community is coming together to try to help Ally and her family.  But there is so much more to be done.  Ally cannot (and could not be expected to) return to that home.  Her children can’t handle this alone and should never have to.  There are so many things that need to be done and we’re doing everything we can.  We’re standing by the family.  We’re rallying.  And we need help.

If you pray, pray for this family.  In the coming weeks I may direct you toward a fund to help with the expenses (once we know better what they are).  If you can’t do either of these I understand, but you can do something else.  You can tell your family that you love them.  You can tell them that you expect them to ask for help as soon as they need it.  You can forgive yourself for any guilt you have for living when others aren’t so lucky, because that’s what they would want.  You can post information for the suicide hotline on your twitter and Facebook or blogs.  You can save someone else in the same way Dan saved so many people in his life.

A lot of you have asked if this had to do with the Connecticut shooting and in some ways it may have contributed.  Dan worked Search & Rescue in the Coast Guard for many years and never fully recovered from the trauma of retrieving young bodies from the sea.  PTSD is an misunderstood thing and can lead to inconceivable actions.  I’ve never really written about it but when we were newly married Victor was lost at sea during a terrible storm and was finally rescued by the Coast Guard, so there’s a special place in my heart for those heroes.

One of the hardest things to accept about this tragedy is that Dan did ask for help.  When things got bad he went to the VA but was told that he couldn’t get the specific help that he needed because he didn’t serve during wartime.  I don’t know if he tried again for help, but personally I know how incredibly difficult it is to fight for your own mental health when depression lies about how you aren’t worthy of that help, and I know how hard it is to find good mental health in America when you barely have the strength to get out of bed.

The last time I was in true jeopardy I couldn’t find anyone willing to take me as a patient and had to call a suicide hotline to get their help in finding someone.  Even when I did find a doctor who specialized in what I needed she didn’t take my insurance so I happily pay thousands of dollars a year out of my own pocket to keep myself sane.  It shouldn’t be this hard to get mental health help.

There are no ultimate  solutions.  There are no answers to the questions of “why?”  There is only us.  And that’s one hell of a thing to be proud and happy for.  The Dan that I knew would not want us to grieve for him, and would be the first person here making an irreverent joke to make everyone feel better, and I think that helps…knowing that he’d want us all to be happy and to remember his best times instead of his lowest.

There are other things that you can do so that we can make sure the Dan’s life wasn’t in vain.  We can remember the joy he brought.  We can remember the love.  We can help others who are currently in Dan’s place, who are hurting more than they ever let on.  We can push for better mental health resources and make sure that our friends and family know exactly where the current resources are.  We can tell them to not believe the lies of depression and remind them how much they’re worth to us.  When this happened I tweeted about it and a brave soul came forward to say “The bravest thing I’ve ever done is to seek help and check into a hospital. I’m proud of myself for once.”  I retweeted it.  That day two people contacted me to tell me that was the impetus for them and they were going to ask for help themselves.  We help each other in ways we can’t possibly imagine, and the good outweighs the bad, even if it’s sometimes hard to see.

We can come together.  We can make this world brighter for all of us one tiny candle at a time.

Tomorrow will be better.  Tomorrow we’ll be better.

Dan would hate for me to end his story on a sad note, so instead I’m ending it like this: A few weeks ago I asked your help in raising the money to donate Nighty-Night Packages (a new blanket, stuffed animal and book in a canvas bag) to 1,000 homeless children. Last night these tweets came out from Project Night Night:

Thank you. Because out of the darkness shined a light that I needed to see, and I’m so grateful to be part of a community that can laugh together, cry together, and help together. I love you all very much.

*Worldwide suicide hotlines*