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.

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

Read comments below or add one.

  1. My brother committed suicide when he was 30. He was probably bipolar and it led to other issues which ultimately caused him to take his own life. He wasn’t living in my country at the time and it took me a long time to get over the guilt of not being more in touch.

    I learned a lot about my country’s health care system and how important it is to have someone help coordinate your care when you are suffering. It failed to help my brother – and while I can’t do anything to help him anymore, I can help any friends who are struggling to make sure they get the care they need.

    I applaud you for continuing to promote this cause.

  2. I’m so glad every day that you’re you and fighting that bastard, depression. There are so many people I love who struggle with mental health issues every day, and some of them have lost the fight. I can hardly even bear to remember the pain I went through when they left, so I can’t imagine the pain they were going through that made them need to leave. I try to understand that, always, even when I am angry with them.

    My own troubles are so mild that it’s just not worth talking about them. I prefer to learn from others. So I shall.

  3. How has mental illness affected me personally: I have depression and low self-esteem. Depression runs in the family, so it’s no surprise. Sometimes I also self-harm, especially if I’m in an argument, because the physical pain feels better than the emotional pain.

    What did I learn from it that might help others: There are always going to be good days and bad days. If I stay busy and do work that means something to me (I’m an author), then I can usually work through whatever’s bothering me. I keep a private journal about my struggles. Getting them down on paper helps put everything in perspective. For a long time, I was scared to admit my depression to others, but reading your blog has helped me and I learned that there are lots of others who suffer quietly too. I wish there was a magic wand that could cure everyone, but finding a reason to laugh is almost as magical.

  4. How has mental illness affected me personally? I have generalized anxiety disorder with panic attacks. There have been days I can’t leave my house or make a phone call. There are other days when I do and then my brain pulls the “we have just made a terrible mistake”. It’s scary because I never know when the panic attacks will hit, and so I often have to become an actress and just freak out quietly by myself so as to not upset things. I’m in seminary to become a UU minister, and I’ve been very open about my mental illness and have found nothing but love and support in doing that.

    What have I learned? I’ve learned I’m bigger than this. I’ve learned that GAD gives me the added superpower of being the one the most calm in a crisis. Being on constant alert means that when there is a real thing to be anxious about, my brain locks on to that, calms down, and starts working on how to fix it. I’ve learned that I can’t expect people to understand and I need to just take care of myself, even when people are saying, “oh, but that’s nothing to be freaked out about”. I’ve also learned that I have to put my self-care above everything. I’ve learned that being open about who I am, mental illness and all, will help others see it as not so scary since they know people who have mental illness.

    Thank you. Your blog, your book, your twitter posts have often helped me more than you could know. To just have another person out there publicly with a mental illness, and not ashamed or hiding, is huge. Blessings to you and your family. <3

  5. I think my fiance’ suffers from clinical depression and is medicating with alcohol. (Binging in bed for a week with alcohol at least once a month.) I’ve watched him do this off and on for the past 10 years. I can’t do anything to help him because he doesn’t believe me when I tell him I’m pretty sure he needs a doctor and anti-depression medication. So I just have to watch it happen and hope he believe me some day. Hopefully, that happens before he dies.

  6. My brother is depressive and is now suffering from Huntington’s Disease. All of which sucks. He was never the best of brothers, but he’s still my brother. I try to connect when I can, leave him be when I can’t say anything nice and support my mom who does shit-tons more to help than I can, as I already have 2 kids, work and a husband occupying 99% of my time.

    My son has Executive Function Disorder. It’s slight and we’re working on it. The hardest thing for me was asking for help. Even though it wasn’t for me and I will bend over backwards, walk across pointy unicorn horns and talk with people (gasp!) to help my kids it was still hard to ask for help. Such a stigma here. And that sucks. And I want it to change, so I post information about his struggles online and talk about the fact that getting help, HELPS.

    Let us all keep it up. Talk about it. Talk about talking about it. It’s OK to be different and mentally effed-up. Saying you have mental illness does not mean you will grab the nearest gun and go crazy. The more people who seem ‘normal’ (whatever the fuck that means) who talk about their struggles, the better off we’ll be overall. I hope.

  7. Once, at my lowest, I reached out to you and asked for help. You emailed me back almost immediately, offered me some words, and asked me to hang on. I did. I can never repay your kindness. xoxo

  8. I have never dealt personally with mental illness. But I love reading about your experience because I can better understand what that reality is like for you, and then I read the comments and I feel like I can better understand. I suspect I know someone with mental illness and I have been able to approach her with more understanding, and perhaps a little more awareness and care than I would have otherwise.

  9. My best friend for many years suffered from crippling anxiety and fear of panic attacks. What I learned was that the best thing I could do was be there to listen, drive her whenever she couldn’t, and generally just offer my love and unconditional support. You’re so right when you say that depression lies.

  10. How has mental illness affected me personally: Most of my family suffers from depression to one degree or another. Some get help and treat it, others (like myself) just bury it and don’t talk about it and when it gets too bad I crawl into a corner and stay away from alcohol. (I used to crawl into a corner with alcohol, but that does the opposite of help.)
    What did I learn from it that might help others: Nothing. I’m not brave enough or strong enough to go public. The few times I’ve tries talking about it I get shut down. So I just pretend it doesn’t exist, slap a fake smile on my face, and spend a lot of time alone. I’m not trying to save myself, I’m just working to keep others from getting hurt.

  11. I think I had/have pregnancy and postpartum depression. My practitioner didn’t pick up on it and it probably started when I tried a hormonal birth control ten years before that. I have good days and bad days. My husband is super understanding. I’ve never been officially diagnosed. I call my in-laws if I’m having a bad day while my husband is at work. Reading your blog, book, and twitter feed have helped me more than I can even express, so thank you. My bad brain days are happening less, and are sometimes just bad brain hours instead of days.
    My uncle has severe depression with psychosis, so it sort of feels like unless I’m talking to people who aren’t there, I just need to suck it up.

  12. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story. I can’t express how much it means to read articles about mental illness that actually matter (that not only put a face to it, but encourages others that it is okay to talk about with feeling ashamed). Word to you and your cats.

  13. I ended up with PPD (which apparently is no longer an actual diagnosis) after my 2nd daughter was born. Truth be told, it started during my third trimester. I’d always been told that you can’t have PPD with a second if you didn’t have it the first time, can’t have it while breast feeding, you’ll feel sad all the time, etc. Lies. All of those are lies. Or at least the lies that TV tells. I never felt sad. I was angry. So very angry all the time. I just wanted to lash out at everyone. I knew something wasn’t right, because I didn’t feel like myself, but none of the PPD awareness stuff they give you at the hospital says anything about incessant anger! Thankfully, I at last found the necessary wherewithal to visit my OB and say, something’s not right. She sent me to a psych who knew immediately what was wrong. Thank goodness I was one of the lucky ones that responded immediately and easily to Zoloft. I’ve learned so much on this journey. So much that I didn’t know the first thing about. I wish they would give you all of the information about PPD when you have a baby because the info they give out is sorely misleading. I spent almost six months in an angry fog because I was given inaccurate information from the hospital. Six months that didn’t have to happen if someone would have only said that incessant anger is one of the hallmark symptoms of PPD.

  14. I have panic attacks, that feel like heart attacks, and always happen late at night when I am home alone with my child so even though I know it’s a panic attack (because if that wasn’t what they were I would be dead 100 xs over and I’ve checked with my doctor) I am still sure I am going to die and my child will find me dead which makes it worse so I’m afraid to try and go to sleep and not sleeping makes it worse but since I “know” it’s really a panic attack I won’t call anyone that late like it’s an emergency, but shouldn’t I be better safe than sorry? No – I know it’s my brain and body lying to me, but is it? I am lucky they don’t happen constantly, but I still hate how much time and energy I lose to these lies.

  15. Mental illness impacts me in so many ways it’s hard to answer this question. I have anxiety, depression, and OCD. I deal with meds, social stigma, and work accommodations. I try to speak out and help others (see blog). I have family and friends who also struggle, and who are incredibly supportive of those of us who do. For mental health awareness I wish every person would learn about things you shouldn’t say to a mentally ill person, just like you say. The one I would pass on is, if you hear somebody is mentally ill, don’t launch into a story about this one other person you know with some other condition and how they fixed it with x solution, so have you tried that? Not helpful.

  16. I have PTSD, depression, and generalized anxiety. The depression is the worst for me. I’ve been trying for over 2 years now to get it under control enough to where I can function. In September I spent time in a psych hospital. It helped, in that I am still here. I’m on medication after medication after medication and although I am not actively suicidal, I am still in a pretty bad place. Writing helps. I write about mental illness on my blog fairly frequently, but sometimes I feel guilty or like I’m looking for pity, which I AM NOT. I was lucky enough to be included in the anthology Surviving Mental Illness Through Humor, which I think is a very important book that can help many people, especially those who do not suffer with mental illness, to find understanding. My story in the book was humorous, but in the next book I am going to be BRAVE and share the ugly stuff. <3 you.

  17. Love. Love. Love.
    I have generalized anxiety and OCD. No. I don’t wash my hands 100 times a day. It’s not all like that. Thank you for sharing your darkness and your light, Jenny.

  18. OCD sucks. I’ve denied it for years because “I’m not compulsive, it’s just better MY way.” Now that I’ve retired I no longer have an outlet for my OCDness. Soooooo, it’s meds for me. However, I am not embarrassed, I freely share my condition. People have thanked me for being so forth coming about my illness, but I don’t feel it’s much different from having diabetes, it’s what I am. This is me. Love me or not. I’ve got better things to do than worry about what others think of me.

  19. I’ve suffered from depression all my life, although it really came to a head in my 20s. I started on Zoloft and did well. SO well that I thought I could stop taking them in my 30s. Wrong. I did fine for quite some time but had another major depressive episode at the end of 2014/early 2015. My marriage and relationships started suffering as a result. No one seemed to understand how I could be THAT sad when I was a healthy adult with “everything” going for her. My husband grew frustrated at how I could lay in bed on the weekends and “sleep life away” without any regret. I would cry for stupid things, like being stuck in traffic too long. I’ve been back on the Zoloft for just under a month but am already starting to feel like myself again. i wish I didn’t have to take it but for now, I do. It worries me because I know you can’t take it while pregnant and I’d love a child someday. But for now, it’s about ME being ok. The depression took me to places I don’t ever want to see again.

  20. I come from a long line of depressed people, but mostly I blame it on my mother. Don’t we all? My father died when I was 4, electrocuted on the job. My mother insisted on instilling in me the thought that it was My fault, because I was born…he had to get the ‘good’ job and thats what caused his death. Great thing to shove into a young girls mind. I grew up with her anxiety and narcissism and ended up making them my own. She finally killed herself in 2008, and I found her. How could she not know who would find her? That right there will always make me still hate her, even after all the following years of therapy. What can I say that I’ve learned from this? To be strong, to only depend on myself. I’ve travelled a lot, and find that seeing other cultures and witnessing others suffering helps me realize my own isn’t as horrible as I think. Not that im diminishing my pain, but I find I feel better about my own problems while helping someone else deal with their own.

  21. I struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Right now the depressive side of my borderline is taking over much of my life, making me want to ditch all of my friends, become a hermit, and live with just my greyhounds and my cats for the rest of my life. Fortunately (or unfortunately if my brain is feeling particularly obstinate), my cognitive processes have been improved to a point that I know that this is mostly just a bad defense mechanism and won’t actually make my life better in any way. But its still a thought. Now if I could just find motivation to get back to doing many things I love, that would be amazing.

    I’m currently about to cross 5 years since my last suicide attempt, and I’m very proud of that fact. I’ve mentioned it in passing to friends who I didn’t have then, and they’re shocked to even think that I could have ever been in that place. I guess I’m hiding my distaste for myself well these days? Or maybe I am actually over the hump and my depressions now are just minor potholes in the road.

    What saved me was having a couple people in my life who refused to give up on me, even when I gave up on myself. They were the ones who forced me to take my meds and go to therapy when I was first dealing with my brain not working right. They still challenge me on things when I’m spiralling. I’m happy I don’t have to call them every time something causes a ripple, but I’m grateful that they are there when I can’t get myself back in line on my own.

    I still feel very alone, even though I know I’m not alone. A lot of the time I feel like I’m a horrible person who no one really wants to be around- they just pretend really well when they are around. But these are just my brain ( I think…)

    I think the best thing I could tell anyone who is feeling like they’re in that hole and can’t get out, or stuck in that spiral that leads just one direction is that there are ways out and there are ways to change the direction. Therapy does help. Meds do help. Coloring helps A LOT. Get yourself a dollar store coloring book and a pack of crayons, because it allows your brain to figure stuff out on its own for a bit. And sometimes that’s all you need to change your direction and work towards feeling better. Also animals (Cats/dogs.) Its hard to stay in bed all day when there’s a dog licking your face for breakfast, or a cat clawing your body for food.

    It does get better. It doesn’t get perfect, and you will slip and fall sometimes. But the slips and falls get less steep, and eventually you’ll also have more hands to help you back up.

  22. My menu is social anxiety and periodic bouts of plain anxiety that just show up at odd moments and make me want to curl in a ball and hide until the palpitations and careening thoughts settle down and I can breathe again.
    My family, the dogs, good stories and walking outside help those things.
    I try to talk myself out of them but that makes it worse.
    Just typing this makes my hands tremble because it’s not something I share with many people because they don’t get it when I say I have social anxiety because I seem at ease with people. What they don’t see if the effort it takes to make small talk or spend time in gathering with people I don’t know. So I just smile and let it go.

  23. I think one of the best ways to help, especially for me when I start to feel down or I end up being depressed again, is to hear that I matter in someone’s life, or that they are happy I’m around or that they missed talking to me. I took that test that figures out which language of Love do you speak, and I’m the kind of person who likes to hear it being said that they care, or it could be in writing as long as you say it to me at some point.

    I think you also learn lot about yourself. I learned that though you can easily enjoy spending time with yourself everyday, or have solitude that doesn’t mean loneliness can’t effect (affect?) you. That I easily get attached and care very deeply for my friends and family, so its very easy for me to feel very replaceable by others in life, because a lot of my friends are self-reliant, and capable of doing things on their own.

    I feel like everyone should take that 7 love languages test, cause then it would be easier to know the best way to reach “you” specifically.

    Jenny some day can you write a post explaining what Anxiety Personality Disorder is? I would love to learn more about it from you 🙂

  24. My husband’s grandmother committed suicide while we were just dating in high school. He had been very close to her, and it was quite painful. I suffered in silence for many many years with my own depression, and part of what kept me from taking extreme measures.. was thinking of the pain he had been through with his grandmother. The other part, was holding on for my children. It was VERY hard some days. I would never admit it to anyone. A couple years ago, I mentioned how I’d been “pretty down” since the loss of my mom.. and my doctor asked me if I felt like I needed help. I still refused to admit it then. It was only after I lost my job and had to go so long searching, that I finally admitted I needed help. It’s been easier to cope with things since then.. although the past couple of months have been particularly rough again, and I just don’t feel that upping my lexapro is going to help me. I just need another job, which doesn’t seem to be happening anytime soon. =/ Financial stress is the suck hole of my life. And then I start feeling like the failure I’ve always felt I’ve been, because I’m not educated, I have no real skills or abilities, and feel unworthy & pointless. Talking about it like this, only makes me cry. But I love reading your stories, and how you overcome so much. You are a beacon of hope, that I can look to now, along with my family, when I feel my sanity slipping.

  25. I love you. You have changed my life and helped me to realize that I am not okay and THAT is okay. A few years back, I had a full on breakdown. Men in white coats breakdown. Death was a lover I wanted to embrace breakdown. I survived. But I am still recovering, I realize I was always heading for that breakdown and it could very much happen again. It is scary. I have anxiety, to the max. I am still looking for the right help. Thank you for sharing. Thank you a million times over for having the courage so many of us struggle with.

  26. I have suffered from moderate depression for 40 years. It has only occasionally been profoundly affecting, but it has been a constant companion that whole time. Years of therapy (talk and medication) have helped me deal with it, so now I’m able to function just as if I was normal — but it is still there, my old friend that I don’t like very much but can’t part with. I’m not “cured,” I’m simply functional.

    I learned, eventually, that it has profoundly changed who I am. When I was taking antidepressants, it became obvious that I’d never really learned normal impulse control, but that I’d just let depression do it for me. I wasn’t hypomanic, I just didn’t know how to say no without the depression. I’ve found it’s safer to simply embrace the depression as part of who I am and, oddly, part of my functional skills.

    I’ve also been startled over the years when I learned that people I love think differently than I do — not just have different thoughts, but actually do the process differently. One of the many ways depression (and really all mental illness) lies.

    Thank you, Jenny, for promoting this. You are a gift to us all, whether you want to believe it or not!

  27. I think one of the best ways to help, especially for me when I start to feel down or I end up being depressed again, is to hear that I matter in someone’s life, or that they are happy I’m around or that they missed talking to me. I took that test that figures out which language of Love do you speak, and I’m the kind of person who likes to hear it being said that they care, or it could be in writing as long as you say it to me at some point.

    I think you also learn lot about yourself. I learned that though you can easily enjoy spending time with yourself everyday, or have solitude that doesn’t mean loneliness can’t effect (affect?) you. That I easily get attached and care very deeply for my friends and family, so its very easy for me to feel very replaceable by others in life, because a lot of my friends are self-reliant, and capable of doing things on their own.

    I feel like everyone should take that 7 love languages test, cause then it would be easier to know the best way to reach “you” specifically.

    Jenny some day can you write a post explaining what Anxiety Personality Disorder is? I would love to learn more about it from you 🙂

  28. My son, the most social kid ever, had an extremely difficult time adjusting his Freshman year of college. He said he didn’t fit in, became despondent and went to the (major university’s) mental health counseling center. He was paired with a counselor who was condescending, preoccupied and completely unhelpful. I could sense him spiraling downward. I dropped everything, flew to his college, brought him to my hotel, and stayed with him until we found the right counselor who HE felt comfortable could help him. He was diagnosed with OCD (perfectionism) and his lack of understanding of the condition led to depression. Today, after meds and pretty significant CBT, he’s extremely well-adjusted, happy, and wears his OCD like a badge of honor. So what did I learn? I learned the importance of being your own advocate and the importance of tenacity. I could have dismissed his claims that the first counselor wasn’t helping, but I didn’t. I stopped my life to get his on track. It pains me to hear of these students who take their lives because they don’t get the proper help. There is no one-size-fits-all. Don’t stop until you find the right combination of meds, counselors and self-help methods – my son began meditating, doing yoga, and overhauled his diet which he feels made a significant contribution to his healing.

  29. How I’ve been affected:
    I have severe anxiety issues relating to being left behind/abandoned. This has been an incredible strain on my family, and I spend a lot of time exhausted (so do they). This flared up about a year ago, and as a household we’ve been fighting it ever since. I practice cognitive behavioral therapy and my family has a list of instructions as to what can help when the signs manifest.

    What I’ve learned:
    1. It takes time. You might fall backward. The most important thing to know is that YOU have to decide to come out of it. That doesn’t mean you have to do it without help, but you have to decide for yourself that this is not the way you want to be. Then you’ll be ready to accept help.

    Sometimes you have to accept the fact that you aren’t strong, and you need to be babied for a while. Sometimes i just need to sit on the sofa with my family around me and remember that they love me and I’m not alone. It’s OKAY to need help and support.
    The people around you may expect you to suddenly be fine when you start showing signs of progress. Be patient with them. They’re trying to understand, too- keep communicating until they can understand what you need. When they’re patient with you, love them desperately, and give them lots of hugs and ice cream on your good days.
    I’ve learned that the problem may not be what you think it is. Just this last week I’ve started to realize that many times the things that upset me are actually just things we need to discuss- but my skills at communicating what upsets me are horrible. Maybe your problem has a source or something that can be worked on to help you. Look at every aspect of your troubles, and get people you trust to help you do that. At the very least, analyzing the issues clinically is better than being sad.

  30. I suffer from anxiety, which is usually fine and only affects me on little things (as it does) but then sometimes it makes me want to die.
    How has it affected me personally? I feel like I have to keep it a secret, trying not to feel bad at work, trying not to show that I have this thing and always saying it’s something else (the flu, stomach ache, etc). Only a few people in my workplace know about what I have and I know I can trust them with it, even though they don’t know what it entails and I have to explain to them what I’m feeling, why I don’t KNOW why I’m feeling it and how feeling helpless is the worst. But yeah, hiding it.
    Having this (for 10 years now) has taught me that I can’t assume things about people all the time, I’ve learned to be more sensitive towards other people, listening to them first about why they are/act they way they do. I’m usually over sensitive (because of my anxiety) but I can still listen to people and help them if they want me to, without engaging so much.

  31. Like you, I have a myriad of issues and when I see a psychiatrist I get treated like a unicorn (i.e., wow, you have so many disorders and we believe there may be MORE. In fact, I just had this discussion with a medication management RN last month. At least, I can overachieve at something). I am primarily Bipolar Type I. Just recently, I have began developing a good support system among friends but I feel like life in general is often hard to navigate. For example, I work at a university and whether I like it or not, mental illness still comes with a stigma. If I’m feeling really badly what do I say? If I’m honest even though legally I’m, covered it could change the way people view me or my competency. Also, even among people who take medication I often find people play one of two games: Either A.) I take more than you and therefore I’m more of a unicorn or B.) I take less than you so I’m fighting harder than you are. Its quite hurtful when others suggest that my medication is a weakness or a sign I’m not trying hard enough.

    I think what I’ve learned is that each person’s illness (mental or physical) is somewhat unique to them. Its not helpful or kind to constantly diminish someone’s issues by one upping them or something. It can be comforting when you share an experience but I know try harder to listen and let others feel and express their pain. Also, I think its made me kinder. Fuck that shit where people say its all for a greater purpose. Or God did it to make me a better person. If that was the case, then I know a lot of assholes that are still waiting to get theirs! But I am gentler with people and I check myself more often to see if I’m being fair (often I ask my brother) or if I’m being judgmental…or if I’m just upset because I’m HANGRY! 🙂

  32. How hasn’t it?

    Y’know, when I typed that out, it was meant to be a lazy, flippant, pre-coffee response. But when I really think about it… I actually cannot find a single area of my life that hasn’t been affected.

  33. My issue is anxiety, and I had particularly bad social anxiety as a teenager. Worse now is a tornado phobia that once made springtime almost unmanageable for me (and sometimes still does).

    So what helped me with my social anxiety was working. I didn’t know to seek professional help as a teen, and my parents didn’t really know what was going on. I started working at a grocery store, and it’s amazing how much knowing exactly how to greet a customer and doing it over and over helped. Have a script made my anxiety happy, and eventually I just became accustomed to speaking to people again.

    The phobia was harder for me to deal with. Nothing has worked except medication. Now that I feel better, I wonder what took me so long to talk to a doctor. It’s like a weight was lifted.

  34. I searched and searched for a way to reply privately, and realized all my reasons for not wanting to share publicly were bullshit, so here is this:
    The short version is that I have been diagnosed with several disorders, the earliest at age 8 and the most recent (PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder) at age 37. In the spirit of keeping this short and readable, my life was and is, really weird. My childhood was weird. My marriage was weird. My current situation is weird. And in the midst of all of it, I have severe episodes of psychosis and am sometimes probably pretty fucking unbearable. I do try, but we all know how that goes. Sometimes the damn just breaks and you have to let the waterworks happen.
    I have had multiple types of therapy, four hospitalizations, every medication on the market up until 2005 or so, and a whole collection of my own coping mechanisms, healthy, and not so healthy.
    It’s put a strain on every relationship I’ve ever had, romantic or otherwise. I am constantly aware of how annoying I must be, and I am afraid every second that someone I love will realize it, and leave me. When I can’t stand me, I can’t understand how anyone else should be expected to, either. This is constant. Anything can trigger. Movies, stories, smells, songs, situations. There’s a part of me that feels always on guard against these things, regardless of the futility.
    What I’ve learned that may be helpful to others…
    I don’t mean this in a “give up” sort of way, but I think I walked around with this mindset that one day I’d find the right pill or the right doctor and just “get better.” I have come to the belief that maybe there is no getting better, and that my best hope is to learn to successfully cope with these experiences when they do arise, rather than living in fear and fighting them at every step. My strategy has been one of enjoying each second when I can, and allowing those dark moments to come when they do, and coping thru it. Because for me, I think “getting better” means “learning to accept the experience as it is, and being safe in the meantime.”
    I don’t know if that’s healthy, but it feels much easier to navigate now, and my “down” times are much more pleasurable.
    I wonder if that made any sense.

  35. Me and my PTSD have one sure-fire way to drag ourselves out of the darkness: reading Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, and anything by Allie Brosh. Thank you, ladies for saving me, so many times.

  36. I’ve delt with depression, verying degrees of anxiety, especially social anxiety. There are days I just can’t shake the idea that everyone is laughing or talking about me behind my back. My husband also has depression and OCD which always comes out in weird places. (he’s very toucchy about his electronics)
    How do I cope? Comfort foods like chocolate and potatoes help. Funny reading material like “the order of the stick” making art of one kind or another, knitting, cleaning and sometimes forcind myself out of the house when I just plain dont feel like going anywhere. It’s amazing how a simple walk to the library helps. Also learning to forgive myself, that one took work.
    This post is very helpful because right now I’m struggling. I don’t have any kids but I babysit for a very special little girl and I feel close, almost like a second mother to her. Well, since her dad lost equal custody I lost my babysitting job and won’t be seeing her as much or as often. I’m hurting for her father and myself and have to keep telling myself things will get better. They do get better?

  37. My sister Mary is mentally ill, and warehoused in a convalescent home in Louisiana because they have no mental health programs whatsoever. It is heartbreaking for our entire family, and for me especially, the guilt is enormous. What did I end up with so many blessings and Mary has so few? There are no answers.
    When Mary is on, she is wonderful. She’s funny, and caring, and just about the kindest person I know. When she is not functioning, she is withdrawn, bitter, and hateful, and lives in a delusional world. Mary’s pain is enormous. She desperately needs so much, and I simply can’t be there for her all the time–I live 2,400 miles away.

  38. You are amazing, Jenny. Because of you, I’ve learned things about mental illness I never knew before. And I love how you don’t shy away from it at all. I believe I’ve come close to mild depression, but luckily I’ve never sunk further. Keep being you in all your awesomeness! <3

  39. “It’s like having to raise your hand to ask for help in attaching your prosthetic arms.”

    THIS! You explained living with this disorder better than I ever could. And, despite your mental and physical illnesses, you have accomplished so much more than most of us will ever accomplish in our lifetimes. You are such an inspiration to us all. We love you!

  40. I call my sister when my panic attacks have gotten too out of control for any of my own logic to matter anymore. She never asks WHY or tells me I’m overreacting, she just reassures me that I’m loved and never alone.
    Then I get in my car and drive to nowhere in particular listening to angsty music, which I gradually try to make happier until I’m ready to head home again

  41. Trigger warning: When I’m down I write. I haven’t written in ages. I make sure to take meds if I need them. I eat healthy foods even though I want junk food. Junk food just makes me feel worse. I try to exercise. I’ve taken extra measures to ensure I don’t hurt myself. This has included taking my gun and selling it. I keep at least one cat close by. I’m sure dogs work too if you prefer them over cats. I ensure a plethora of hugs from family members. I like to get hugs from my son. He can usuually calm me.

  42. I have combat PTSD and everyday, in my head, I see and feel a bomb explode and watch my shipmates die. I see their body bags being carried across the flight deck and I see their families suffering. I was off meds for a year and a half and just had to go back on them Wednesday after a bad panic attack. I can breath now but I’m disappointed in myself because I want to stay off meds. Thank you for this blog…it’s been a life saver.

  43. HOW HAS MENTAL ILLNESS AFFECTED YOU PERSONALLY?
    I dealt with situational anxiety for about 2-1/2 years. It started when the recession hit and layoffs in my workplace became a common thing. I was an entry-level newspaper journalist supporting a graduate student spouse in Southern California, so we made very little money to start with. The thought of losing the minor income I brought in started me down my anxious path. I didn’t recognize that it was building and didn’t have coping tools. It came to a head when we moved to Boston and I had THE WORST JOB EVERRRR — hostile work environment, constant threat of getting fired for things like listening to music at your desk, no other employment options (see also: recession). I started having physical symptoms, like the side of my arm or my whole foot going numb. At one point, half my face went numb. I had heart palpitations and a racing heart beat. I had full-blown GERD. I had panic attacks regularly, but I didn’t know that’s what they were at the time. I went to the ER twice to get checked because I thought I was having a heart attack. My doc had me get an MRI to rule out MS for the numbness. Once everything was ruled out, he asked me how I was doing mentally. When I broke down crying in his office at that question, he sent me to a counselor. I was assured that I seemed okay other than when I talked about my job, so the counselor said I’d probably be better after I quit working there. Sure enough, the spouse got a good job in a new state, and my anxiety lessened once I gave my two-week notice. The panic attacks still popped up occasionally, but they’d be squashed faster and faster. I still feel anxious every now and then, but I have tools to help me through.

    WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT THAT MIGHT HELP OTHERS?
    I was stubborn and refused Xanax when my doc offered it. This was dumb. I thought I could just take a slow, holistic route to help myself heal. I was able to, but the Xanax would have helped me in my crisis situations. Instead, I threw myself into yoga, learned how to meditate, took Prilosec for the GERD, took lunch walks around Boston while listening to podcasts and happy music, and talked with other friends who have dealt with anxiety and depression. I found a non-judgmental support group with whom I could share my crazy and not worry about it. In hindsight, I wish I would have accepted the meds to help me work through things with a clearer head, but I’m glad I did the other holistic methods to give me long-term tools. But most importantly, I talk(ed) about my problems. I still share with others my story about my darkest time. By being open about it, it helps them open up to me if they haven’t been able to find a support group. And then my community expands!

    Also, your blog and books help a lot. And the comments here. I consider that part of my community, too :).

  44. You seem like a very confident young woman to me. I worked in a mental health facility on and off for over two years. Each day I came saying to myself, “I’m not doing so bad after all.” I suffered from some kind of killer from Hell PMS and as soon as I hit menopause, I got rid of those stupid hormones and became a real person. Bi-polar, my ass! That is what they tried to cram down my throat.

  45. When I was in middle school, I vividly remember sitting on my bed in my bedroom, alone, listening to the soundtrack of Forrest Gump. It was the piece with the feather floating around and I remember feeling so alone and sad and no one knew how I felt. Fast forward to almost 20 years later and I still feel the same way on most days. People know I suffer from depression but I try not to talk about it to my family or friends just because I know no one wants to hear about it. Wouldn’t it be great if they did?

  46. My son was diagnosed with panic disorder and depression when he was 10. It led to 6 months of his missing school because of crippling panic attacks that made it impossible for him to get in the car to go to school- often he couldn’t even leave his room in the morning. He tried to run away, and frequently thought of suicide. He was 10. After 4 months of intense therapy, we were able to get him back in school, and now things are more or less “normal,” however you define that. It completely changed our family, and now our younger son is showing signs of anxiety. To top it all off, my dog was diagnosed with anxiety last fall as well. I cannot make this shit up. I thank God for the mental health professionals that saved our son’s life, and offered us the guidance and support we needed to get through that time in our life, however we don’t know that we’ll ever truly be able to let our guard down. He is now a preteen, and my husband and I are constantly questioning whether his mood swings and fits of crying are to be expected for his age, or if he’s entering another period of depression and anxiety. Thank you, Jenny, for your honesty and for making it ok to talk about mental health. Oh, and for the laughs. Thank you so much for the laughs. You have no idea how much you have impacted my life for the better.

  47. I have depression and OCD. Mental illness is prominent in the maternal side of my family, it is so bad that my mother has isolated herself from everyone in the family, she hasn’t spoken to anyone in 10 years. I haven’t had her in my life since I was 16. This has been devastating to my own recovery and ability to cope with my own depression. Having a mom is like knowing you have a “home” in someone’s heart because they are part of you and you are part of them. And sometimes that’s all you need to go take on the world. Without that mother’s love and affection, it’s difficult to not feel lost. I feel lost a lot. I remedy that by trying to control EVERYTHING around me, and I obsessively clean. Everything has to be perfect in my life, of course it’s impossible for everything to be perfect so every day is a like a battle I am destined to lose. Throughout my life my OCD has manifested in perfectionism, over-working, and anorexia. Like many of you, I cocoon myself when things are bad. The day I read your blog and saw the words “Depression lies” it literally changed my life. I wrote to you that day, you wrote me back a beautiful letter. That simple sentence “Depression Lies” saved me. It is the echo I hear in my head when I feel lost. I know who I can trust and who I can go to so that I don’t tumble down the rabbit hole. My children largely are the reason I have not committed suicide. I called the suicide hotline once in 2006, and the gentleman told me to go to the hospital, didn’t talk to me at all, he didn’t get how I was lying in a fetal position in my closet in the dark. I couldn’t get to the hospital. I’ve never called the suicide hotline again. I have my own hotline now and that’s the people I love, and who love me no matter how bizarre or irrational I sound in the moment. Their love heals my heart.

  48. Jenny, watching you fight has given me new tools in my own fight with depression. The phrase “depression lies” has been so helpful to me. It’s helped me visualize my depression as someone who isn’t me, an interloper in my brain, whispering negative thoughts and lies. Thinking of my depression as an external entity has been extremely helpful. Now, whenever the thought “I hate myself” comes into my head, I reply, “No, actually, I don’t. And don’t say that crap to me.”

  49. I’m bipolar and OCD and sometimes just being alive is rough. I have a super supportive husband, family, and group of friends that may not always understand me but they are there for me when things get really bad.

    I’ve learned that the only way out of the dark times is through them – you can’t go over it, can’t go under it, can’t get around it. Ignoring my symptoms doesn’t work. Avoiding situations because they are emotional triggers doesn’t work (and it keeps me from experiencing some of the beautiful things the world has to offer). I’m not selfish. I’m not weird (okay, I am, but of my own volition and NOT because of my illness). I’m not a bad person. I am a good person who got dealt a crappy hand to play, but I’m still going to play anyway.

    I want give everyone here a huge hug and tell you YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Don’t be afraid.

  50. I just got done reading a post from a long ago friend who had a son that committed suicide. She is a giver. She has given so much that today she decided to take a little. back. We can’t forget that everyone needs a little, sometimes more than others.

  51. I had no idea that there was a specific name for my brand of ADHD (Executive Function Disorder). My son has it too, he’s 11 and working his way through it via medication and support from me and his dad and his teachers. The hardest part is starting and maintaining a coping mechanism. I’m grateful his school supports him so strongly and works with him and us to make things better for him.

  52. My brother died by suicide in 2010. He suffered from depression, definitely, but was almost certainly bipolar or had borderline personality disorder. I’ll never know now. He was completely undone when his wife left him (he was 28) and struggled to bounce back but couldn’t. I wish that was the whole story, but he murdered his estranged wife’s new boyfriend before the suicide. It’s been so funny (not ha ha funny) to be jealous of people in my death by suicide support group who have a nice clean suicide to mourn, versus the moral maelstrom of my baby brother being a murderer when I know to my toenails that underneath the mental illness he was the best and most loving of men. He’ll always be a murderer now, and never the person he could have been. It breaks my heart every day.

  53. My mother has depression and I have depression and anxiety. It was made more prominent after a breakup from an emotionally abusive relationship that led me to suicidal thoughts and left me in a really, really dark place for a long time. Through therapy, medication and self care in the form of beagle snuggles, trash tv binging, hammocks in the sunshine, working out, and listening to podcasts on long drives – I’m in a really good place now, 2 years later.

    I learned that so many people are afraid to talk about it while I’m an oversharer. It’s okay to talk about it, it’s okay to say you need help. So many people will be out there to help you. It’s going to be okay.

  54. oof my experience with mental illness it’s a veritable buffet, I have depression and anxiety, my little sister does also, my mom has depression, my best friend recently developed anxiety and depression and I also have a cousin who has bipolar disorder. In general it’s hard to talk about what’s bothering me because my brain tells me I’m terrible for thinking my problems are worse than anyone else’s and people try to logic me, I know it doesn’t make sense that I am worried about this junk or that I’m sad but I can’t make myself not be.
    What I find helpful is talking to people whilst giving them the option to opt out if it gets to heavy (because I personally worry about being an emotional burden for people) Cuddles are good, and so are meds and therapy. Happy music, crying if you need to, and if possible (as I personally am almost completely unable to) screaming when you are that combination of angry and sad. Also read The Blogess and the comment sections or Epbot, they offer support and resources.

  55. Depression has had me since I was about 13, and after turning 30, anxiety now tags along with it. I’ve learned that people who don’t have it don’t understand it, and I try to be more patient. I’ve learned that a lot of people need to be educated, and a lot of people need to know they’re not alone. I’ve learned to keep pushing through in the “down” times because like I’ve learned from you, Depression Lies. And I wish it’s pal Anxiety would take a hike, too. But we keep fighting, we keep pushing through, and I can only hope and wish that my daughter never has to feel it herself.

    I am counting down the days for your book tour stop in Seattle! You probably don’t get much free time, but it would be so amazing to sit down with you for a few minutes, have some lunch, or at least give you a hug 🙂

  56. You have been a help to me, without even knowing it. Especially in times, as my daughter puts it, “when depression goes ‘blah’…. All over your face.” That makes me smile, hopefully it will you too.

  57. I’ve learned that I’m damn lucky. I have depression and anxiety (including unprovoked panic attacks, fun times!), but it responds wonderfully to medication. And, it’s a cheap med. I don’t have the crippling days any more. I hardly even think about it. But, because I went thru the valley on this, I shout it from the rooftops. I am as loud about my issues as I can be. Why? Because people need to know that it’s okay to have a mental illness. That it’s just like diabetes or high blood pressure. ANYONE can have it, and it’s not your fault if you do. Because I’ve been so open about it on Facebook, I’ve had several people seek treatment. Some of them didn’t even realize they had an illness until they read about mine and said, “you mean that’s not something normal? I don’t have to live like that?” So, to me, the best thing you can do with a mental illness is to be honest with yourself and others. Be kind to yourself and others. You have no idea who you might help simply by talking about it. Oh, and when I had really bad panic attacks, I found out that starting with A and naming every single animal I could think of that started with an A and then moving on to B and so forth would distract me enough to get thru the worst of it. I finally had to switch to vegetables and countries, because I got a little too good at it before we figured out that Celexa works really well for me. Here, I’ll help you start: Aardvark. And, for the hard letters: quail, urchin, x-ray fish, and vole.

  58. My sister suffers from depression and anxiety. She calls me when she is going off the rails. Somehow talking to me calms and settles her. I wish I could do more, but she tells me this is what she needs.

  59. I have suffered with anxiety as long as I can remember. The fear I create in my head is crippling sometimes. I think about how big and scary the world is, and how small I am, and it makes me feel insignificant and afraid to leave home. I am a master at imagining worst case scenarios.
    Fortunately for me my mother studied psychology in college. Sometimes her approach is rather tough love, but she has a way of understanding rationality that I don’t which helps when I need to be talked down off the edge of hysteria.
    I was on medication for a while, but it made me so sick I decided to work through things on my own. I’m not a particularly spiritual person, but I have found insight and comfort in buddhism. I do believe that you can rewire your brain, it’s not easy, but it can happen. I am proud to say I am now able to walk into a bank or call an insurance company without lapsing into a panic attack and hyperventilating. That may seem like a silly thing to some people but it is a big step for me.
    I wish success to anyone who suffers from an illness like this, and I thank you sincerely for speaking up so that others may as well.

  60. I have bipolar disorder, type 2, but mostly the depression and anxiety part. For years it was misdiagnosed as depression. I’m reasonably sure I had it since childhood. A few years ago it got so bad that I couldn’t work, or do chores, or do anything at all, really, even though I was medicated. I narrowly avoided getting electroshock. I learned that what doesn’t kill me doesn’t kill me (forget that shit about making me stronger). That I need a therapist and a psychiatrist and meds. That the therapist has to be the right one, so shop around. That it helps to blog about it (bipolarjan.wordpress.com) and about other things (janetcobur.wordpress.com). That I wouldn’t get through this without a loving, supportive husband and a few good friends. And I apply kittens as needed.

  61. My wife has borderline personality disorder, PTSD, and cyclical depression. I have mild depression and anxiety. Even if I were at 100% mental capacity, it would be difficult to deal with her occasional outbursts. I love her to the moon and back, but I sometimes become frightened that she’ll drag me into the abyss with her.

    The only words of wisdom I can share with loving someone with BPD is to hold on because it’ll be one hell of a roller coaster ride. Always remember that the person who is saying those hateful words or acting out is not the person you love – it’s the disorder. It’ll be very hard on your own psyche. Take care of yourself.

  62. I’ve lived with depression, low self-esteem and fear for most of my life. Mostly, I function OK, but I’ve lost a lot as a result of being too frozen and spirit-tired to do even simple things that had to be done. My bigger fear is for my daughter who is even more frozen than I have been, and her in-house support system (my ex, her dad) doesn’t put much stock in mental health care. Or at least he doesn’t devote much time to being her health care advocate. She is in Dallas, so please send her some TX love, Jenny. I live my life in fear for her, especially because she has a very young daughter who is gloriously happy and will continue to thrive if her mama does. …

    I’ve learned that mental illness begins with chemistry. Medication to correct it is nothing to fear. (I take a thyroid pill for a thryroid condition; why wouldn’t I take an appropriate pill for a different helath care issue?) Also, I’ve learned that talk is also a critical part of treatment. We learn responses, coping mechanisms, behaviors when we’re in our dark spots; we need to learn new, more productive, behaviors and responses when we’re in the light.

  63. My own struggles with depression and anxiety have been on & off for my entire life. They aren’t severe, thankfully, and any time they’ve headed that way, medication or CBT has helped me push through the other side quickly.
    My 17 year old daughter, however, has GAD and self-harms. This has affected every aspect of my life… It feels like we’re on a tightrope all of the time. She can be great for weeks, even months, and then an argument with her boyfriend or stress at school or nothing at all topples her over to the other side.
    Both of my parents struggle with depression and my brother has something undiagnosed, he goes to a doctor every 5 years or so when he’s feeling rational, gets prescribed an antidepressant and antipsychotic medications and doesn’t take either and never goes back.
    Somehow, even with anxiety and depression myself, I am the most stable person in my immediate family and think what is important as the “caretaker” is remembering that we need to take care of ourselves too. This sounds completely selfish but I’m no good to anyone else if I don’t make some effort toward keeping myself okay while I help others work through their worst times.

  64. I was a self-harmer for years from high school to my early 20’s, and was able to overcome that.
    I have been diagnosed and treated for Adult ADHD and Bipolar II. I’ve been able to be medication free (but never fully symptom free) for a while now, because I am fortunate that I can somewhat handle my illness without the need. My husband understands what I go through in the way that he doesn’t try to diminish it, but sometimes other people try to make it sound less worse, or say “That is everybody, that really isn’t a disorder but human nature”…and while I understand that it is more common because we now have means of finding out these disorders…it doesn’t make you feel any less crappy.
    What I’ve learned is that there really is a disconnect between understanding the depth of mental health and its illnesses, and the people who don’t have them. I have had people I consider friends in their own way discredit my depression, because I was able to get out of bed and function in the world while being depressed. There is no real understanding that different people do things differently. For me, I was depressed enough to not want to get out of bed…but it isn’t practical to do so. We still have lives and sometimes we need to keep on living them or it will get the better of us.

  65. Thank you for continuing to support and keep this topic relevant. With things like social media it’s easy to think we are “different” and “damaged”, especially when all we see are people with these seemingly happy/perfect lives. I too suffer from depression and anxiety, which I have self-medicated with alcohol. I’ve been using a program to help me with this. I think you just need to keep trying, keep getting up when you can get up. Reach out, when you can reach out.
    One of my favorite quotes “Fall down 7 times, get up 8” You are an amazing and incredibly brave person and I admire your openness and honesty. That is a way we can all help each other.

  66. I am so inspired by your openness about your “flaws” and your highly developed sense of humor. I repeat the mantra “Depression lies” whenever I get into a prolonged dark space. I will try the kitty application method but probably substitute puppies. And your song list is awesome!

  67. After I had my second kiddo, I went through a pretty awful round of postpartum depression. I went to my physician, and she put me on Paxil (and later Welbutrin) in an effort to level the depression, but all it did was make me so numb I didn’t have ANY emotion. Yes, I wasn’t depressed, but I also had no joy, no anger, nothing. Worse, my boss at the time didn’t believe there was anything wrong with me and gave me a hard time when I tried to get counseling appointments. She told me I just needed “to get over it,” and “take more pills.” She gave me horrible job evaluations that implied incompetence and a neglect of my duties—my duties as a secretary and receptionist. When I got a performance evaluation that was going to affect my ability to get a cost-of-living raise, I confronted her about it, and she pretty much admitted that it was because she thought I was lazy and not depressed, and while there was no dip in my productivity, she just didn’t like how I was acting.

    Over the next three months, I ended up slowly taking myself off the pills, quitting that job, and going back to school. We had a hard time meeting our bills while I was working as a GRA, but I felt healthier and whole. When it was all done, I got a better paying position and never looked back. I keep an eye on my emotional health, and when I start to feel I’m getting out of control, my husband and I sit down and discuss what’s going on. It turns out the majority of my problems stem from a need to suppress my feelings–particularly anger or sadness. Boxing also seems to help with that.

    People who think you can just “get over” depression suck… especially if they are self-centered control freaks who like to micro-manage due to their own insecurities (see? I’m working through my issues).

  68. My battle with mental health includes Borderline Personality Disorder, which i’m pretty sure is the American Psychology Association’s way of saying “we got nothing”, and Major Depressive Disorder. I’ve tried, and so nearly succeeded, to kill myself. That’s when I started therapy. But after 3 years, my therapist moved out of state and we didn’t “terminate” properly. Then I started with another therapist, but she changed what type of therapy she wanted to do and I had to change again. So now I’m in therapy with the only therapist who I haven’t managed to scare away, probably because his ego is so big he sees this as an opportunity to show off his skills, just to deal with the loss of my previous therapists. Ironically, I needed therapy to start with to deal with losing someone.

    What helped me was joining my local roller derby team. It’s a community known for it’s love and acceptance of everyone. For the first time in my life I had a real family, who supported me, accepted me, needed me, and loved me unconditionally. Unfortunately, I’ve also since lost that because it was the only thing I could give up when my plate just got too full of obligations, as tends to happen when you fail at life. So now I’m just at a loss, hating my life, feeling like a failure, and still suicidal, but trying to remind myself that suicide fucking hurts! Even pills. Pills hurt. Recovering from pills hurts. Life after recovering still hurts.

  69. I want to thank you for being so open about your struggle, it helps. I have depression, PTSD and social anxiety. On 7/22 last year, I tried to kill myself. Obviously, I failed. I realized how little resources there were for people who survive suicide attempts. There is a great website called “I woke up alive”
    I call it the hole, when I am in the hole, hope doesn’t exist. When I am lucid, I remind myself that Depressions Lies. So, thank you Bloggess for that.
    I cope by reading. I talk to other people that understand the fight. Most people mean well, but if they don’t have it, they can’t understand and they usually say the wrong thing. I see a counselor, I take meds, I focus on the future, I try to keep myself productive. Exercise helps, but getting enough motivation to do it is really hard. Meditation helps or a least find that place inside yourself where you are at peace. Challenge your thoughts, realize you are enough. It’s hard to do that in the hole. I have just started to crawl out of the Hole again. I am still fighting.

  70. How has mental illness affected you personally?
    Last year I was diagnosed with depression right after I was diagnosed with PCOS and infertility. So it all went hand in hand. I thought my value as a person was tied to my reproductive system and since I couldn’t function as a “normal” woman, then my life had no meaning and I might as well save everyone the trouble of dealing with me. The thought of ending it all was the wake-up call I needed to finally get help.

    What did you learn from it that might help others?
    I’m not alone. There is always someone there you can ask for help. Anti-depressants are not the devil I was raised to believe they were, but rather a wonderful tool that has enabled me to function as a human again. Psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists are all there to help.

  71. I don’t have any actually diagnosed problems, but I work in a field where a vast majority of those practicing have high burn out rates, emotional fatigue, and suicide.

    When I was going through a low patch, suffering from fatigue and feeling as if life was just a giant joke played on me and that I was trapped in a never ending cycle of anger, despair, and the sucking hole that is sometimes my job, I found a counselor to talk to.

    Just talking to someone outside of the problem of my life helped. I learned a few tricks to help me through the rough times.

    “I can’t help everyone. So I’ll help those I can.”
    “Not my circus, not my monkeys.” — this one actually came from my sister-in-law.
    My phone is full of videos of my son (who turns 3 next month!), and when I feel low, I flip on a video and rediscover joy and happiness.
    I found a hobby that helps me unwind at night (cross-stitch) and coincidentally also then makes cool hand made gifts for friends and family. (2 Christmas stockings, and counting!)
    I joined a gym and try to exercise regularly.
    I have dance parties with my son. Lights out. Glow sticks on. Music bouncing!

  72. I don’t know that mental health issues ever come in a package of just one. It seems like there is always depression AND or anxiety disorder AND…

    I suffer from depression, anxiety and self-harm issues. But my biggest issue is multiple personality, which the psychiatric community has been kind enough to now label Dissociative Identity Disorder because of the stigma attached to the words “multiple personality.” If you tell someone you have multiple personality disorder they laugh and wait for the punchline. No, this is real people. I truly have another “part” that can take over (and apparently has felt e the need to do so for much of my life) when things become too bad or overwhelming. I have no memory of these times. I have found things in my house that I didn’t think I owned. Most recently I found a book – signed by the author and dedicated to me, dated over a year ago – and I have never even seen this book before.

    Since I was diagnosed it has been a huge struggle for me. If you think depression is unacceptable in our culture, try having DID. It took me months to even work up the courage to talk to my mom and husband about it. They are the only ones I have told. And sadly enough, it made sense to them. They both said something along the lines of “sometimes you just don’t seem like yourself and I have to just wait until you get back.”

    I feel like I have to hide this from the world but find acceptance within myself, so I get the catch-22. I attend therapy weekly and do the medication thing but DID isn’t something that will just pass or that I can medicate away. I have this for life. It doesn’t get better.

  73. I have fought depression for the last 25+ years. When I’m in the hole, things are BAD. I’m currently clawing my way out of the hole with the latest manifestation (I think ditching the full-time job helped). This time, the diagnosis was “severe depression with psychosis”. With PSYCHOSIS. Yeah, I’m psychotic these days. Actually, the psychosis is a severe anxiety disorder, which is new to my brand of mental illness. In addition to my depression meds and pills to help me sleep, I received anxiety pills too. In the last six months, I have had my first ever full blown anxiety (panic) attack, and literally hid in the restroom at Panera. There have been others, although they were not quite as horrible as that first one.

    I have learned that, as Jenny says, depression LIES. I’ve learned to try and not listen to its lies. I’ve learned to adapt my lifestyle to prevent triggering myself. Anxiety triggers include crowds of strangers, being in public where people can get behind me (yeah, I’m so not kidding), other too-many-people issues. There are restaurants in town that know me and know to seat me IN A CORNER. I can see all directions and the door (I’m also claustrophobic). Let me get my back against a wall and I’ll be fine. If I’m made to sit at a table in the middle of a room, I almost can’t stand it. I haven’t gone to see a movie since… 2011? 2012? Of course, that really doesn’t bother me. There hasn’t been anything I was really interested in paying too much money for. snort Yay for Netflix and Amazon Prime. It helps me a lot to just be alone, to not deal with people or problems or just life. I indulge myself (yarn is CRACK!), indulge my cats, just try to live in peace. Oh, and therapy. And meds. Knowing I am not alone, even if sometimes I want to just BE alone, has always helped me drag myself into the light again. This time, I fully expect to spend the rest of my life on pills for this. But that’s okay. I’m not afraid of the meds and they help. I let them help. That will, hopefully, keep me from doing anything stupid… okay, anything dangerously stupid. Everyone does stupid things. I read. I write. I knit. I’m going to have to try applying kitties to problem areas. That sounds like a good plan. 🙂

  74. I have Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly (misnamed) “Multiple Personality Disorder.” What it IS: a disorder caused by severe childhood traumas and a mental trick that some children learn, to dissociate from their immediate environment and “go away” while abuse, violence, severe medical trauma, war, etc. is occurring.

    The “Identity” part means that SOME of the children who learn to dissociate, also learn to adapt their actions, behaviors and thoughts, to survive in different environments: School, church, with friends, at home when it’s safe, at home when it’s not safe or when in the presence of abuse or abusers, etc. This adaptive scheme helps the child’s brain compartmentalize life into different sections, and helps the child to “forget” the trauma and abuse they are subjected to, so they can function “normally” when in public – and so they don’t go stark raving mad from the constant stress under which they live.

    When we get older, DID’ers may continue to create new ‘aspects’ of self, or new ‘selves,’ to deal with new environments/roles: College, work, marriage, parenthood, neighbor, renter or home buyer, consumer… There may even be splits within those roles, depending on whether there is continued abuse in the domestic arena (spousal abuse, cheating spouses, drug or alcohol addiction…) and/or the public arena (psycho bosses, co-workers who stab us in the back, college professors who remind us of a childhood abuser, etc).

    The scales “tip” when we finally go so berserk that we go for treatment. We may have even been in treatment in the past, unsuccessfully, because the part of us that sought treatment was seeking to eradicate the “dysfunctional” parts of us. That would usually bring on a general rebellion against therapy, and a failed attempt at getting help. DID is extremely difficult for non-DID’ers to recognize and diagnose, though we DID’ers can often detect it in others who behave the way we do.

    When we finally identify our problem, we can either: Wallow in self-pity and dysfunctionality for as long as we feel like doing, or: seek out others who can help us understand what our triggers might be, talk us through our freak-outs, help us learn constructive behaviors rather than the destructive ones we’ve always relied upon, and teach us not to be afraid of our “other” selves. When we make our life safe enough, and open our own minds to our “others,” they may begin to come forward and share some of their memories with us. Our job as the “adult” or “resident grown-up” would be to ACCEPT these memories and promise our inside “littles” that the bad times are over and we will protect them from that, and ask if the “littles” would like to “give” us that memory to “hold” so that they can go back to being “little” and not have to worry about grown-up problems. Then, we take the “littles” to go PLAY. Have you ever seen a 46-year-old swinging on her 6-year-old’s favorite swing at her old elementary school? That’s what I’m talking about.

    It takes TIME. Years and years, perhaps decades. In my case, healing is an ongoing process I will likely not outlive. However, it is worth doing it. The flashbacks, the reclaimed memories, the reparations to smaller/younger versions of “me’s” are slowly healing me and bringing me back to myself. Will I ever be “one” single person? That “integration” myth that the movies talk about, where the other parts “go away” or are absorbed into one comprehensive person? I do not believe that is possible, frankly. I have talked with people who said they had been integrated but stressors were making them fall back into parts. I think that the divided personality, will always be more or less divided, and I don’t use the word “integration” to describe a state in which the “in charge” part (which may actually be a cocktail of various stronger parts) can function in a more or less seamless way in society and remember almost everything that happens. I call that “cooperation.” The minute I STOP working on myself and forget, or try to deny, or question, my mental “illness”, I start breaking down into different parts.

    I write this nearly 10 years after I was finally diagnosed with DID. I still “lose” time – sometimes days, sometimes hours – but I can usually recall more or less what happened during that time, if I ask inside, what happened. There are times when someone else needs to do some healing and they come to the front. There are times when I need protecting and a protector comes to the front. And there are times when I can function the way I’m supposed to.

    The important thing to remember about DID/MPD is this: It exists along a spectrum, like Autism or ADD/ADHD. PTSD is the beginning of the spectrum, and I have met, along my way, people who were divided into parts who were also divided into parts; multiples within multiples. DID/MPD normally develops in children by the time they are 5, yet it can develop in older children as well. DID/MPD sufferers tend to be highly intelligent and creative individuals. Many of us are artists, writers, performers… Adults can be “programmed” with a type of DID – usually called “brainwashing” – but this is very rare and usually the stuff of Hollywood fantasy.

    The most annoying thing people do when they hear of my Dx? They say, “Oh I do that sometimes” when I try to describe to them what it feels like to dissociate. Ok, everyone dissociates to an extent. But have you ever gone to the cabinet to get some ketchup and there are three huge bottles of it because you kept going to the store and buying the same list of items over and over, when you were so stressed you couldn’t remember what you had done the day before? They say, “Oh I misplaced my keys just the other day…” Yeah ok but do you actually HIDE things from yourself like scissors, knives, and yes, keys – because part of you knows that if you can find them you might kill yourself with them?

    Thankfully I am out of the woods on the suicidal ideation… usually – and I have a regular support group that keeps me from storing up crap in my brain. And a very loving husband who is aware of my issues and helps me remember things I “shelve” because part of me doesn’t give a rip snort about them, and the part who cares is in hibernation. It’s nice to be “out of the closet”, if only with family and some friends, because I don’t have to lie or fake things anymore. If I don’t remember, I can just say “I don’t remember” and it’s ok.

    That said, there are millions of DID/MPD sufferers in this world: It is estimated that 1% of the population suffers from DID/MPD; more like 3% of the population in jails, mental institutions and 12-step groups. And the problem is, the eternal wars that we fight overseas, the increase in child sexual abuse and pornography facilitated by “dark” networks in the Web, added to the violence we’re seeing from gangs, in foster care, and in families all over the nation, keeps making more kids who have developed, or will develop, this “adaptive strategy” to cope with life.

    We must end violence towards children, period, and treat them with the respect that they deserve as human beings. We must learn to love one another.

  75. I have panic attacks due to my physical disabilities, especially at night. Once I’m in bed, I cannot move, rollover, get up, talk or breathe without a machine. I can move my fingers a little to press a button I hold all night. Without meds, I freak the hell out, but can’t even scream. The TV helps distract me until I fall asleep. If my boyfriend wasn’t next to me I’d never sleep again. My boyfriend has severe depression, often questioning the point of being alive. Meds have never helped him for more than a month. Sometimes meditation helps along with serious exercise. We have a heavy bag out back for punching the crap out of the voices that tell him he is no good. I try to remain positive when he tries to put me on the outside with the bad thoughts, and just sit by him so he knows I’m not leaving, like everyone else has.

  76. I’m overwhelmed in yet another major depressive episode. They’ve followed me through my life. I wish so much that I could somehow gather my scattered thoughts to share the lessons I’ve learned through these battles, but at this moment in time, my brain is just not up to the task. I just wanted to thank you and your followers. I’m sure you hear this often and yet I needed my voice to be heard. Thank you for sharing…well, just about everything. I think that my time is at an end. We’ve run out of all treatment options. What can I share? Please keep trying anything that might help. Don’t stop trying no matter the side-effects, the opinion of those whose opinion doesn’t matter, despite setback after setback. Find something, anything to hold onto. A person, a vision, hope…find that lifeline and never let go. Peace to you all.

  77. I think I’m learning to finally accept that I might need help with depression and mental illiness. Avoidant personality disorder sounds very much like what I have experienced for so many years of my life, and why I’m alone in my life with no close relationships as I find it very hard to trust anyone, even family. I stop myself from wondering if friends/family think about me because I start to feel selfish, and they probably don’t care enough to think about me anyways with all of the more important things they have in their life. I think I’m learning that its not okay to have fleeting thoughts (just about every day) about what it would feel like if I drove my car off the side of a mountain and how far would the fall have to be to make sure I didn’t survive.

  78. When my daughter was 15 I woke up one morning and found her barely breathing on the floor of her bedroom. She had taken in excess of 200 pills because she just felt that she couldn’t handle this world one moment longer. She and I were extremely fortunate that she made a full recovery. The doctors have no explanation as to why. She spent many months in the hospital, at first to handle the physical trauma and then to help her with her mental illness. She has severe depression and social anxiety along with attention deficit disorder. One of the things that was most terrifying for her was high school. We got her into an online high school program and she did so well. Slowly over the years through medication and therapy she has learned how to take care of herself and manage the symptoms. We talk honestly about it because there is nothing to be ashamed of. If she had a different, more socially acceptable illness, she wouldn’t feel ashamed and this is no different. I’m happy to say that she is now a magnificent 21 year old woman living on her own with a great job that she’s worked at since she was 18. She struggles sometimes but she takes good care of herself and makes it through. I have so much respect for her because it’s very difficult for her to do certain things and when the depression rears its head, she has to fight very hard to overcome it. For anyone suffering with an invisible illness, i feel deeply for you but I hope you never feel ashamed. You are a wonderful and amazing human being and you deserve to be treated that way.

  79. I have depression, OCD, and anxiety. Oh, and PMDD which is apparently PMS on steroids, so for one week out of the month I feel like jumping out of my skin and then waving it around like a flag as I go on a rampage. Sorry, that was graphic…

    I had to drop out of college, which is fine because it turns out I want to work for myself anyway. I spent years in a co-dependent relationship that left me drained, and then immediately fell into two more. Just this week I saw a girl who basically stalked me for the first time in months and thought my heart would explode. But now I have a real support network and I know that real friends feel the same as family. They just love you. And sometimes they feed you, which is awesome.

    I spend a lot of time feeling like I’m not good enough even though I’m good at a lot of things. But I understand that I basically trade mental stability for creativity and intuition and unparalleled problem solving skills that won’t go away when I finally find myself on level with how “normal” humans feel.

    ALSO the next person that asks me when I’m going to quit my meds is getting a mongoose thrown in their face. And then I will take the mongoose away, because obviously those people are not compassionate enough for animal companionship.

  80. I spent years believing I was a massive failure at being a grown up. Tasks that other people complete as part of living seemed monumental and I fully gave up and just existed for long periods of time, along the way dealing with bouts of major depression. I crafted these amazing and creative coping systems to deal with life in general and just assumed I was different. I knew something had been off all my life. I then married my husband who has PTSD, depression, and anxiety as a result of combat. I love him with everything I have and have dealt with family with PTSD when growing up so I was fully aware of what I was getting into. Combining our lives has been somewhat chaotic to say the least and all my carefully crafted coping systems fell apart under the strain. Last year I was diagnosed with ADD, and it has changed my life. With medication and therapy I am putting my life back in order but it’s a struggle. My husband and I do our best to hang on to each other when depression lies to us both. I get through by embracing the small absurdities in life, they are myriad and hilarious. I seek sunshine, avoid drama and attempt to find either the beauty or absurdity in everything. Life is amazing. Sometimes not in a good way, but out of sheer curiosity for what may happen next I keep putting one foot in front of the other, however slowly. Thank you Jenny for so hilariously illustrating life’s absurd and beautiful moments.

  81. I hail from generations of “crazy”. All I can say is..and I wish I could scream it, out it on a billboard, etc is these two things: 1)I cannot just “get over it” and “cheer up” and 2) I do not need a “reason” as to “why” I feel depressed. I could be the queen, a billionaire, etc etc and still be depressed for no frickin reason other than I am depressed.

  82. I also have Avoidant Personality Disorder. The internet helps a lot with that – I can email instead of calling! Yay! I’ve met so many wonderful people over the years; people I was lucky enough to later meet in person and who’ve become great “real life” friends, who are there to support me, and there for me to help support them when /they/ need it. However, I was a victim of cyber-bullying about 10 years ago (back before that type of harassment had a name), and it’s made me more scared of the internet than I once was. I start to write comments, then never send them — out of fear of being mocked, attacked, harassed, etc. Good ol’ AvPD in action. 😉 (And it doesn’t help that cyber attacks have a lot more power & vitriol than they used to.) But I still reach out for my friends, and try to find the good pockets of the internet – like here.

    Add on to AvPD a huge heaping dose of depression, and plenty of other medical issues that contribute to the depression in their own way (fibro, arthritis, migraines, CFS, etc), and it makes every day a battle. I came very close to attempting suicide twice in my teens. Every now and then the thought still strikes… but it’s “easy” to push away. I say “easy” only because I know that if I did, it would be letting the people who abused me (verbally/sexually/cyber/etc) over the years win — and I refuse to let them win. So I fight. And I look for my happy where I can… in my best friend. In my kitties. In places like this blog.

  83. How mental illness has affected me: I was diagnosed with depression in college. I go through episodes of severe depression from time to time, but even my “normal” seems to be more subdued than other people’s. I’ve had to learn to accept that I will struggle with this for the rest of my life, which I try not to think about too much because that feels overwhelming and even more depressing. I’ve been hospitalized twice during suicidal crisis episodes, and I’ve been in regular therapy for six and a half years+.

    What I’ve learned that can help others: You have to put yourself first. I don’t have kids or a significant other, so I haven’t had to worry about balancing those relationships, but I’m the type of person who feels guilty saying no to things just because I don’t want to or feel like I can. I was always taught to put others first, so I had to learn self-care. I don’t have a roommate or S.O. who checks in with me, so I have to sometimes think of myself as a caretaker of someone who has depression. I’m caring for myself, and that can be as tiring as caring for someone else. I’ve learned to give myself space in my schedule to rest. I’ve also been reminded recently how valuable family can be. My dad passed away in March, and I don’t have a strong support network where I live. I visited my mom and siblings a few weeks ago, and it was so healing to spend time with people who love me unconditionally and who don’t expect me to feel any particular way.

  84. I have what they’re now calling C-PTSD, because I couldn’t just stop at plain old stress. Mine has to be complex. My brain has screen burn-in that won’t go away no matter what else plays out on its screen. No matter where, or what I do, or enjoy, at some point the distraction ends, I look at the screen, and the images of my shittastic past are right there, but clearer, and with feel-o-vision. There’s no fix for it other than distraction. I have an awesome husband, and two amazing kids so I have what I need to pull through, and a twisted sense of humor to laugh n the face of many things. You can’t underestimate a good sense of humor in surviving just about anything!

    Now, I’m the POA of my mom who has Alzheimer’s after having been secretly a hoarder, who wasn’t ever really fond of her weirdo, cartoonist kid. She didn’t really directly abuse me, but she left me as a latch key kid from age 7 on, and told me never to come to her with troubles because she already had her own. So when shit did happen, a lot, I had no one to turn to, and was basically the perfect kid to victimize. I am sort of an only child so it is now left up to me to clean out the home I have horrific flashbacks in.

    I’m a school volunteer, mom, and caregiver who had to quit her engineering work to take on her mom, and kids, and just struggles to play normal badly day to day, but I love the direction life is headed. I wish the average person had more compassion, and less snark for people with emotional struggles. Just because there’s not a huge, glaring scar doesn’t mean the pain isn’t real, or we can just get over it. That’s why folks self-harm. To have a physical manifestation of the emotional pain. A tangible outlet for what lots of people try to make them think is make-believe. It’s taken me till 41 to realize I’m pretty fucking awesome. I’m a freaking super hero, and dealing with the flashbacks, and making myself walk out the door when I want to hide in my room is my super power. 🙂

  85. How has mental illness affected me personally:
    I have a really low self-esteem and can sometimes suffer from mild paranoia (people are only nice to me to trick me while they laugh at me behind my back). I think I suffer from bipolar disorder sometimes, depression a lot and social anxiety in buckets. I don’t have an official diagnosis because I’m so afraid of my vulnerability and so eager to please that I can’t do therapy (I usually end up more broken to make the therapist feel validated).

    What did I learn from it that might help others:
    Sleep. Get plenty of sleep. If that means I need to stay in bed for a few days or weeks, that’s what I need. I need to spend time on my own. I get so afraid of becoming isolated that I end up always doing stuff, under the guise of doing it for other people and just end up feeling used, unsatisfied and completely alone. It’s scary being by yourself when the darkness hits, but sometimes I just need to.

  86. What you and everybody making comments here are so important. Helping so many people that you probably are not even aware of…thanks and hang in there.

  87. I get anxiety. Mostly it’s OK, but sometimes certain triggers (relating to past traumatic experiences) will spin me out of control. I get anxiety attacks and after an episode I feel very exhausted the next day. Like bone weary. This can cause me to live my life in cycles. Extroverted and fine for a long streak, then hibernating and unable to cope for another streak. It can make me feel very out of kilter with the world. Makes me seem a bit flaky or unavailable. Which feeds the anxiety, because I have deep ‘fear of rejection’ issues (probably stemming back to being adopted out as a baby). I’ve learnt how to communicate a bit better so I can be supported through it. I have learnt to say it out loud “I have anxiety”. To not be ashamed. I have learnt that I am not alone and that helps. I have learnt to switch off my computer when the faceless people on it make me feel anxious. I have learnt to say no when I need to without feeling ashamed or scared. I have learnt that anxiety is like depression in that it lies. It tells me I’m in danger and the world is caving in and no-one likes me, when it in fact is not the case at all. I write a journal – just throw all the anxiety into it – because bottling it up is dangerous.
    I’m so lucky I don’t suffer from anything worse and my heart goes out to everyone who does. I just want people to begin to understand how better to support those who are suffering. So much stigma and weird myths about mental illness. So many people who think it’s acceptable to say “snap out of it” or “you’re a psycho”. We need more education.

  88. It has affected me. My brother and only sibling lost the battle with the illness 10 years ago. Unfortutely, we had no clue that anything was wrong as he lived (and died) in another province, so we knew nothing of what was going on until it was too late. My father has now been battling depression for the last couple of years. It’s being controlled somewhat right now with medication but I now have the fear that he will end up doing the same as my brother did.

  89. Mental health was never something discussed at home or at school when I was growing up. I had regular episodes of mild depression for years as a teen, young adult and new mother but didn’t know enough about it to recognize the signs and understand what was going on, and certainly didn’t feel like it was something that should be talked about with other people. So I buried it and hid it. I am so grateful to you, Jenny, Wil Wheaton and others who are open about your mental illnesses. By making the conversation public, you’re helping to educate and de-stigmatize. I’ve become much more self-aware, which makes it possible to take better care of myself. I have started open conversations with my own kids – one now a teen – about my issues and their own mental health. mental health has also been added to the school curriculum in our region – so grateful to see increasing awareness and openness.

  90. My son has had intermittent panic attacks for about 6 years (he’s 19 now). When the first one hit him, none of us knew what was wrong and we certainly didn’t know what to do. But our family all learned and loved and lived through several more together and now have a much better plan for handling things when he can’t go out and has to hide in his room. He told me just last week that he’s now more angry when he has an attack (now down to just about one every two months) than scared by it, because he knows it’s just a brain storm and it’s inconveniencing his awesome lifestyle. He’s not proud of the attacks, but he’s certainly not ashamed of them, either. And he’s not shy at all about telling people he hangs out with that he has this issue, because they may be the ones who have to shelter him when one hits. I’m very proud of him.

  91. My dad died a couple weeks ago, and I’m so deeply mired in depression and anxiety, that I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know it’s there, and I’ll keep slogging away, but by the end of the day, I’m not even sure how long I can do that for. It’s times like these where “just keep swimming” from Finding Nemo (of all the stupid things) plays on repeat in my head.

  92. I grew up with a mother who never received help or a diagnosis, but clearly had mental illness. I resented her for a long time, but came to understand and forgive her for my childhood. Now I’m faced with a daughter who at 12 is depressed, has anxiety and OCD. Watching my daughter struggle with this is devastating. All I want to do is make it better, but accomplishing that is so damn hard. The night she confessed sobbing to me that sometimes she feels like it would be better to just not be here anymore was the most terrifying moment of my life. Now trying to find her help is a full time task. My insurance company is willing to pay, but no one around me will take the insurance or if they do, they won’t see her because they don’t treat children. I found a social worker willing to see her and despite the 40 minute drive I was so grateful to have found someone, but it turns out it isn’t a great fit and my daughter tells me it is adding to her stress which is the last thing I want to do. Paying out of pocket for a psychiatrist or psychologist that is willing to see her means cutting back somewhere else, say food, or gas or mortgage. We need to make mental health care more acceptable and easily achieved. I think the first step is removing that stigma. Talking about it like you do here. I broke down crying reading your post today because it means so much to me. Every time I read your words it fills me with hope. Which maybe is odd, but I share so much of your wisdom with my daughter. I tell her depression lies. She is in a better state these days from that dark place she was in, just having a professional validate that she wasn’t making it up, her feelings are real did so much for her, but this road she is on is life long. I just want to give her to best tools to navigate the road as easily as possible but it is like everyone is denying there is even a road let alone a map to tell you which way to go. Thank you for pointing out the road and letting both myself and my daughter know we aren’t walking it alone.

  93. Depression and anxiety over here, for most of my life. I started to spiral a bit after trying to live up to all the other adults’ expectations of what sort of adult I ought to be. Determined not to be like my mother and let mental illness rule, I finally sought therapy after I started tallying the important people in my life and deciding on their behalf that I’m meaningless to them. It’s been a year. I have a clearer perspective on who I am, who I want to be, and what I need from the people around me. I’m going to school in the fall to become a mental health counselor so I can help. My journey will never be over but I have come a long way.

    I’ve learned that you absolutely must ask for help. Sometimes the people you ask won’t be able to help for reasons that have nothing to do with you. Ask someone else. Ask someone else else. Keep asking. Your pain and suffering are not a burden to shoulder alone, but not everyone is strong enough to help you carry it. The people who are strong enough are the ones to keep around. You will only find them by asking.

  94. Depression presents differently for everyone – especially teens. The timing of your post is scary – my 16 year old son just told me a couple of days ago that he has been suffering from depression for about 3 years – 3 years and I had no idea. I know what I thought depression looked like – in an adult – but had no idea that it presents differently in adolescents. I did not see the signs – we’re very close, I know him and he seemed happy but he was hiding it from me (from our family). If anyone else had told me he was depressed, I swear I wouldn’t have believed them. Now our focus has been on getting him the help he needs – there are many resources out there but wading through them can be daunting and shouldn’t be attempted alone.
    For a moment I felt partially to blame – depression is in our family – but it’s stupid to feel this way – I wouldn’t feel this way if he was diagnosed with a medical issue as opposed to a mental issue.

    My son said he’s relieved he finally told us (thanks to some very encouraging and supportive friends who pushed him to talk with us before it got worse) and sees that things will get better – he’s got a whole team of people ready and willing to help now.

    I was not prepared for how this would effect me – my focus was on helping him immediately – but I’m just beginning to understand that it affects the whole family.

    Life takes us on rides we never intended or asked to be on – it’s our job to find ways to get through and perhaps even enjoy the ride (even when we’re note sure where it will take us).

    I’d love to see more public info about teenagers and depression – thank you for being so open about your struggles – you are helping people. You really are!

  95. I have had three major bouts of depression, the last one horrifying to me because I have never felt so empty and emotionless. I don’t know if my family understands how deeply it affects me. I’ve been on Prozac and Lexapro and get taken off when I am ‘better.” I’ve seen one therapist who was awesome and am now trying to do Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
    What helps: talk to someone – talk to your doctor, your family, journal. Know that the darkness will pass, even though it seems unending and hopeless. Reach out – there’s a whole clan here, on this site, and even if you don’t connect one on one you will see others who have the same challenges and learn from their wisdom. Depression lies and seduces you – tell it to fuck off because you know it won’t last.

  96. I’m so glad you have a well thought out attack, particularly love the fort and kitten ideas. I love this post and want to add.. the playlist is genius – I all ready loved 90% of it and have picked up some new songs – so thank you. Love to you Jenny.

  97. I am bipolar. I am also a professional successful woman surrounded by loving family and close friends. I have been having bipolar mood swings since my early 20’s (in my 50’s now) and had no idea why I had times of unbearable sadness, hopelessness and self-hate. I would become obsessed with suicide and thinking it really was the only way to get away from the pain. I often believe that even though my death will cause my family agonizing pain (knowing this has ultimately saved me more than once). For 25 years I just thought I was a bad person when I had these “spells” because I couldn’t seem to just snap out of it. I must be a weak, lazy, ungrateful loser. My depressions initially were sometimes a year or two apart and didn’t last terribly long. Each time I just thought “well that little episode was weird and I’m sure was just a freak thing and won’t possibly happen again because I will try harder”. Of course that is not how it works. The depressions have gotten worse and closer together as I have aged. I have been hospitalized 3 times (a difficult thing to say out loud). Now, even when I am healthy and happy, I have a deep seated fear knowing that “it” will happen again.
    What have I learned? I have finally accepted that perhaps I am not a bad person. I am a good person with a sucky illness. I have committed to doing everything possible to set myself up for a strong defense system against the darkness. I have finally had frank, honest discussion with my inner circle. Family, a few trusted friends and even my adult son (I kept most of the tough stuff hidden from him as he wasn’t living at home. Telling him about the hospitalizations was so hard and yet so liberating. He was magnificent in his response.)
    I try to exercise, meditate, listen to music and keep communication open to my “support team”. I am trying not to spend my happy times in fear of my own mind. As so many others have said, DEPRESSiON IS A BIG FAT LIAR! When I read your blog, I am encouraged. I see you as this ridiculously smart, funny, brave and flawed human being and I have hope that my mental illness does not have to be my defining quality. Thank you for your generosity in letting it all out. You are a beautiful, wonderfully weird soul.

  98. I have a question for you and your readers. My adult daughter suffers from depression and is just now beginning to come out of an episode. This was her first diagnosed episode and she is on lexapro. This is all new to me. She is moving back home and I feel like I’m walking on eggshells all the time. She goes therapy and takes her meds, but I never know what will set her off and she gets mad and frustrated so fast and so easily. I don’t have anyone to talk to in order to get advice. My dh does not get this at all, he doesn’t even get depression as an illness. Any advice out there? IT might be easier if I understood what she’s feeling and knew how to help her better. Btw, she loves our dog to bits. She is always with the dog and I’ve noticed in the comments above that animals seem to play a role in helping? Tia for any words of advice

  99. How has mental illness affected me personally?
    I’ve lived with treatment-resistant major depression since I was a young teen, and anxiety problems my entire adult life. In the past, I have largely withdrawn from the world, costing me friendships, relationships, and a job.

    I have also found this community, and in part because of it, I’ve found the strength get my shit together and keep on living, keep on trying.

    What did I learn from it that might help others?
    We are stronger than we think
    When we aren’t strong enough on our own, there is a community out there, we are not alone.
    We are not alone.

  100. I have chronic persistent PTSD, depression, and anxiety disorder. I too apply kittens directly to the affected area. I love your playlist. I’ve decided to add the songs to mine. Joe Cocker was already on my list, but the subtitles bring it to a whole new level of therapeutic value. This blog has lifted me out of the depths so many times. I believe Beyonce the chicken has saved me from destruction more than I can say. I recently started working for the National Alliance on Mental Illness and I can tell you everyone I work with is a fan of this blog.

    For those out there in need of support, http://www.nami.org will help you find local education and support groups. No one is alone in this struggle.

  101. Nine years ago I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. I had to take 2 years off work when my friend was murdered and my Dad died suddenly shortly after that. And although that time was terrible and included an attempted suicide, nothing prepared me for the Major Anxiety disorder I developed two years ago. The anxiety from stress caused me to vomit three, four, five times a day. I lived on apple sauce for three months and rarely left the house. I lost 40lbs in 3 months. But in the end I sought help from an amazing place called CBI, which is a rehabilitation centre. I saw 4 therapists for 4 months including a psychologist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist and kinesiology. With the help of these 4 amazing women, I was able to finally return to work and doing amazing. They taught me that the way I talk to myself inside my head was poison. That the inability to settle my mind was my biggest advisory. I learned compassion for myself. I learned that sadness over my losses was completely normal. I learned that when sadness fell upon me I didn’t need to take it to a dark place, but instead sit with the sad feelings until they were done. I learned sunshine and happy things like flowers and reading were so helpful to my sanity. I read your book and followed your blog and read the comments to feel not so alone. And I learned to lean on my friends. And to not only talk to the, but to listen and offer my support to my friends that needed it as well. I have had a rough 9yrs. But I get stronger every day that is easier. I’ve learned to appreciate the little things. And I am a survivor.

  102. While I’ve not personally experienced it myself, I am more aware by reading your story and the stories of other brave folks. Sharing your experiences is not only brave but amazingly helpful to others. Thanks for your bravery, Jenny.

  103. I have all sorts of issues. Nothing diagnosed, but they are real nonetheless: anxiety, “shyness”, lack of confidence, difficulty meeting new people, heck I even hate talking on the phone. But I have someone close to me who is more messed up than I am. I find that by helping them as best I can I am also helping myself. I find the advice I manufacture when trying to help someone I love is far more lucid than what I tell to myself so I try to listen more closely to what I’m telling this person. Funny how that works.

    I also try to write about it. Hopefully in a funny manner. Much like yourself though not nearly as brilliantly. http://www.acrockofschmidt.com/2014/04/14/ahhhhh-depression/

  104. I’ve battled depression for most of my life. I find myself slightly envious of people with bipolar disorder because they get the “ups” with the “downs” and I just have the downs. I take effexor which makes me an actual functioning human being. I hide from my daughter when I’m down so she doesn’t see me crying. It’s taken my husband 10 years to accept that this is who I am and there is no overnight cure. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed and I will openly talk about my depression and anxiety issues to anyone willing to listen.

  105. I’ve struggled with depression for 20 years and at one point had electroshock therapy. Which helped a great deal, but also zapped – pun intended – some fond memories from my brain. I’ve battled PTSD as well. I’m on medicines and while I much prefer not to be, they do help and every time I’ve tried to wean off, it’s been ugly.

    What I’ve learned is that, unfortunately, the only people that truly know what I’m going through are those with similar mental health issues. Even my family, who I adore and am very close to, don’t get it and thus I don’t talk with them about it. On a positive note, I’ve learned that I really, truly am one strong badass girl. We all are! Look at the hell we go through every day and yet we make it. There’s a quote floating around that I adore and it goes something like this, “When you find yourself doubting how much father you can go, remember how far you have come. Remember everything you’ve faced and all the battles you’ve won.” Amen, mental health sisters. Amen.

  106. I had my first suffocating panic attack this year, and now feel like I am just waiting for another one to occur. A trip to the ER and a follow up with my doctor left me with a clean bill of health physically, but no one even brought up that what happened was all mental. I had to figure that one out on my own, because apparently since I was physically fine, there was nothing more to discuss.

    What has helped: I have since met with a therapist to verify that what happened was a panic attack, and discussed coping techniques and that makes me feel like I might have a little more control when another one happens. Also, by telling a couple of close friends what happened, I discovered that they also had suffered through panic attacks and anxiety, I had no idea. Lesson learned: Don’t be afraid to tell your story, you need to find your tribe, and that tribe might be a lot closer than you think.

  107. Last week I overdosed. I’m still here. I admit the day after I was upset that I was still here.
    But I am.
    When my head cleared I realized the lies my mind told me weren’t true. It’s a daily struggle most time to stay here.
    But I am.
    In my family if you ignore the problem and don’t talk about it, it goes away. I find that makes admitting that I have issues and talking about it that much harder.
    But I am.
    So I turn to other outlets. Music. Therapy. Medication. Reading. Writing. Mental health needs to be talked about.
    I have Social Anxiety. OCD. Substance abuse issues. Self harm issues. Depression. Panic disorder. Insomnia. Eating disorder.
    Some days I’m surprised I’m here.
    But I am.
    Some days I don’t want to be here.
    But I am.
    Some days I’m happy to here.
    Jenny, you are my hero. I admire how open you are. How you interact with us. Tell us at random times we are needed, loved, and not alone. Our world needs that. You give me strength. You give me hope. I have sat in my closet reading and clinging to your book to get through a bad day. I thank you.

  108. I have panic attacks. Like OHMYGOD I am having a heart attack, I need the hospital and an ambulance kind of panic attacks. I’ve been seen in the ER so many times. I’m on medication now, daily and for emergencies, and it’s better. Biofeedback helps a little, but typically talking to someone (my husband, mom, or best friend) is usually what keeps me from the ER now. I’ve learned sleep and a healthy diet are very important, and some type of physical activity. And I’ve learned that this runs in my husband’s family as well, so I talk openly with my kids about it.

  109. The highlight reel. I was the scapegoat of the family, which the main perpetrator deflects while admitting she could have “done better”, she “did the best she could” and is filled with remorse while speaking to other family members. She also refused to apologize to me, or discuss it without an audience and she continued to be an ass when no one else was around (this is usually where a tourette style FUCKER FUCKER FUCKER FUCKER loop kicks in) . She’s kicked out of “my” family (and she’s totally happy because now she can be a full-time victim). I would “slide” into coping mechanisms without knowing why (like having no memory of a speech I gave to about 500 people, or laughing at a dickhead who jumped out at me with a knife and telling him to run… and after looking me in the eye, he did. Years later I figured out that people threatening me with knifes should be scarier than bureaucrats… and maybe this was an issue) Then after my 4th bout with pneumonia in as many years lead to massive quantities of prednizone which triggered some epic panic attacks…. I wound up unemployed and fell headlong into the welfare state. O.M.G.

    So the coping strategies: when I was a child it was reading. I was never without a book if I had anything to say about it. After I started getting panic attacks: lots of therapy, making things, watching foreign tv shows (since it’s a different culture than the one I grew up in, and I don’t understand the language, I have to really focus on what is going on). Dancing around the house, especially to foreign hiphop, because American hiphop is usually so fucking misogynistic the rage overtakes the love of the beat. The foreign hiphop could be equally offensive, but I don’t understand it so I can just dance. Reading your first book, because it really does make me furiously happy, gives me perspective and makes me feel that I am not alone. Remembering that depression lies. Insisting that I get tested for sleep apnea, and getting a CPAP machine that took away 96% of the night terrors because sleep apnea can really fuck a person up.

    So thank you for speaking up, sharing your stories (“This chicken will cut you” is one of my favorite things ever), and saving ducklings and their family : D.

  110. I suffer from depression (with some hypomania) and generalized anxiety disorder and have been struggling with it for about 8 years now. I’m on medication and it helps keep me mostly functional in daily life, but I know there’s always that darkness lurking in the back of my mind waiting for the opportune moment to strike. There are days I still feel like I can’t drag myself out of bed to do anything, and there are days I can’t make myself sit still because my brain feels like it’s spiralling out of control.

    Luckily I have a great support network of family and friends who are always there to help me remember that what I’m feeling will in fact pass and that the fog will clear.

    I am currently participating in the CAMH Darkness to Light fundraiser to spread awareness of mental illness and raise money to provide treatment and resources to those who need it most.

    It would mean a lot if you could donate to the cause; our team’s website is give.camh.ca/goto/teamlocke

    If you want to know more about the Darkness to Light event, they have an info page here: http://give.camh.ca/site/PageServer?pagename=dtl15_whatIsDTL

  111. I suffer from depression (with some hypomania) and generalized anxiety disorder and have been struggling with it for about 8 years now. I’m on medication and it helps keep me mostly functional in daily life, but I know there’s always that darkness lurking in the back of my mind waiting for the opportune moment to strike. There are days I still feel like I can’t drag myself out of bed to do anything, and there are days I can’t make myself sit still because my brain feels like it’s spiralling out of control.

    Luckily I have a great support network of family and friends who are always there to help me remember that what I’m feeling will in fact pass and that the fog will clear.

    I am currently participating in the CAMH Darkness to Light fundraiser to spread awareness of mental illness and raise money to provide treatment and resources to those who need it most.

    It would mean a lot if you could donate to the cause; our team’s website is http://give.camh.ca/goto/teamlocke

    If you want to know more about the Darkness to Light event, they have an info page here: http://give.camh.ca/site/PageServer?pagename=dtl15_whatIsDTL

  112. I have anxiety and depression. I have panic attacks–sometimes nocturnal panic attacks where I wake up feeling like my heart pounding out of my chest. I also have close family with anxiety and mood disorders, including bipolar.

    What helps? My faith. A small dose of lorazepam nightly which has eliminated the the nocturnal panic attacks–that’s huge. A big dose of Prozac daily which keeps the depression in check for the most part. Therapy, right now, about once a month–more if I or my loved one(s) are having a tough time. Exercise!!! Amazing friends, nights out or short getaways, “quality time” with my sweetheart, prayer, deep breathing, Facebook or other online support, LAUGHTER! (read your first book in the middle of a really rough season and laughed out loud!), helping others which takes the focus off myself, and trying to extend the same grace to myself as I do with others.

  113. Jenny, my story actually blows up even more just within the past week.

    I was diagnosed as Bipolar 15 years ago after an overdose. Since then much of my personality has changed due to meds. I have fought to remain stable, communicate, even to fight back letting my emotions in order to stave off mood swings. It isn’t easy. It is a fight but not every day anymore. Sometimes a week, sometimes a month, sometimes several months pass but I always lose my shit at some point only for me to then recognize it and reign it in.

    This month I started Medicaid. I rushed to see a PCP because I had moved and needed refills and had the worst experience in years: the doctor refuses to write my scripts. All of the sudden, I was finding that I was going to be forced off my meds after 15 years of being medicated. I am not afraid of going off my meds but I don’t like the idea of doing it without doctor supervision. I made hours of phone calls trying to find a solution which ended up being my PCP 200 miles away giving me the time to find a doctor.

    I began to taper before the solution was found and I know that I am having withdrawal, though I am working my way back to my prescribed dosage. This is hard for my partner because I had remained primarily stable in the 2 years we have been dating, and he was lost on what to do… he still is but I think he is starting to learn more; the strain over this has hurt both of us and the relationship and I cannot fight for it right now because of my need to get my shit back to stable.

    Through your humor, you have brought a lot of us to tears, both of laughter and sympathy.
    This month, May 2015, I may finally have made the person who needs to be aware of mental health and how it affects him and I. I will never be grateful for the refusal of my prescriptions by the PCP but I refuse to let it be the end to my stability. And maybe he will learn something from this process. And maybe I will learn that I am stronger than I thought.

  114. Jenni said this: “Also, even among people who take medication I often find people play one of two games: Either A.) I take more than you and therefore I’m more of a unicorn or B.) I take less than you so I’m fighting harder than you are. Its quite hurtful when others suggest that my medication is a weakness or a sign I’m not trying hard enough. I think what I’ve learned is that each person’s illness (mental or physical) is somewhat unique to them. Its not helpful or kind to constantly diminish someone’s issues by one upping them or something.”

    YES. This so very much.

    I have OCD. And I’m the first to admit it – I’m a horrible housekeeper. Clutter, mess, piles of crap all over the house don’t bother me. So obviously, I must not have OCD, right? Because so-and-so has OCD and you can tell because her house is spotless.

    Believe me, I would much prefer to have the kind of OCD that results in a spotless, orderly home. Instead, I have the kind that results in crippling phobias about stupid shit. So instead of cleaning, I stay awake for hours at night trying to calculate the risk factors of doors slamming shut on my fingers. I make frantic lists of the widths and colors of ribbon in my craft room. I count and recount my dishes and glassware, and if one breaks and the number is off, I have to go buy all different ones. And I’m on medication, regularly re-assessed, so right now I’m in MUCH better shape than I ever was before… imagine me pre-meds.

    I HATE having to justify my diagnosis. Why do I have to “prove” to other people that my brain is sufficiently fucked-up to deserve help?

  115. I have had Type 1 diabetes for more than 30 years, which is mostly under control due to my cyborg insulin pump and relatively rigid dietary plan. Sometimes, though, my control takes a fucking walkabout. I get high and low blood sugars randomly, which can literally kill me, but so far I’ve managed to treat them and just deal with the messed-up brain chemical trail that being out of control caused. I hate it. I hate my body for not working properly, I hate teaching my kid to dial 911, I hate that I have to plan physical activities around food, I hate that medical personnel blame me when I need their help with random chaos I can’t control.
    How do I stay mentally ok? I remind myself that yes, my feet tingle but I can still walk. I can still see my beautiful,smart daughter grow and learn and be amazing. I have crappy days, but I have great ones too.

  116. My mother is bipolar. And she has never been treated for it. Growing up, I knew she was “different” but never dwelled on it. After I married and had children she really got bad and my father wouldn’t make her get help so I had to walk away. It was driving me to depression. My father passed away 4 years ago and as far as I know she has no one close to her, she has driven everyone away from her. I’m sort of waiting to get “that phone call” but I don’t know what I’ll do when it comes. I know admitting there is a problem is hard but it is easier than trying to hide it all your life. Keep strong.

  117. How has mental illness affected me personally: I attempted suicide in February. When I told my family, they basically said, “You should pray harder.” My faith isn’t my problem. Depression goblins are. And they are evil wee fuckers who long ago burrowed into my brain and set up shop and have been whiling away like mini mind Nazis.

    I didn’t think I was depressed. I just had this sense of dread that sat there like that proverbial cool bitch from high school, telling me that I’m, like, totally lame. Depression told me the following: everybody is somehow more than me, they look more perfect, they live more fully. Anxiety told me that if I do something, it’s automatically inadequate, while, when others do it, they’re nothing short of more gloriously glorious than I could ever imagine. I thought people looked at me and saw lost potential. They knew I could be prettier, be thinner, be more responsible with my money, write better, do more in school, be a more thoughtful sister/daughter/wife/cat owner.

    What did I learn from it that might help others: Stop listening to haters. Listen to yourself. And listen to your therapist/psychiatrist/socialworker/etc. My psychiatrist is an adorable aging man who wears sweater vests and looks exactly like Toad from Frog and Toad. He tells me about science, about facts, about the hippocampus and serotonin. And he tells me that people who think I should just pray harder are religious fundamentalists akin to ISIS terrorists (best session ever, btw.)

    What you should know: There is hope. There is relief. There is a future. There is happiness. There is reprieve. There is hard work, but there is also the moments that are totally worth every ounce of effort to expend to be a better version of you.

    Mwah!

  118. I think everyone has depression, anxiety, some form of mental illness. I thought I was the only one who Cut as a teenager in the 90’s. I got married and was ecstatic until my pretty baby was born. Holy Crap. The wave of anger and anxiety just floored me. Now shes driving age. I lost weight after my 2nd baby was born through diet and exercise, but memories bubbled to the surface of being alone w/ a creepy uncle. I gained all the weight back over a year. Breaking away from a controlling, Evangelical upbringing was helpful to feel my value. I’m 41 and now sudden anxiety and running to the bathroom from it are weekly occurrences. Mindfulness and addressing worry help. Not dwelling on the negative or past shit I can’t change are important. I’m not on meds bc I don’t want to be in a fog or guinea-pig my way through a list of pills. These help: sun, shower, having a day to rest in bed w/ movies & books, travel, laughing, playing board games w/ our kids, connecting w/ my husband on a date, and sometimes 3-4 glasses of ice cold wine! I really enjoy your blog. It’s nice to know you’re out there. We can do this.

  119. I have long struggled with depression and social anxiety, to be brief. I started paying more attention to my physical health last July and since then I have dropped 50 lbs and slimmed down to a healthy weight. Not only do I FEEL better out and about because my confidence has increased with the weight loss, but my depressive bouts are few and far in between, and mild compared to what I used to struggle with. Even if you don’t need to lose weight- get movin’! Exercise really, TRULY does help fight depression. Just do as much as you’re up to, even if it’s just a stroll around the block. Start where you can start, both physically and mentally, and in short time you may feel better and look forward to doing more. It sounds so cheesy, but I’m not kidding when I say that regular exercise has helped me do a mental health 180 (okay, maybe more like a 150 or 155, but I’ll take it)!

  120. I have struggled with depression since my early teens. Attempted suicide 3 times. Had ECT therapy. Two brothers committed suicide. I have am awesome dr and therapist.But I’m in the midst of a really bad depression episode and b I am.paralyzed by the pain. It is costing me work and family. I want to DIE SO BADLY! I can’t tolerate this pain much longer and no one in my life understands. I’m ready to give up. I’m tired of worrying about the people I will leave behind. What about me? What about my pain?

  121. You could say that my mental disorder is having Slavic-Catholic ancestry, but the official diagnosis is depression. It’s very hard to distinguish the two. Being a slave to mental health treatment for the past 23 years has helped me get a grip on the Lying Liar who Lies. Being a complete and utter smartass aides the cause too. Knowing I am not a Kardashian is a consolation is a big help.

  122. My mom has a double diagnosis of bipolar and depression. My step-sister has borderline personality disorder. My step-father struggled with alcoholism for many years (he’s sober now and doing terrific.) Many of my cousins have depression and anxiety. I have depression and (occasionally crippling) anxiety; sometimes with a little self harm thrown in, just to mix it up I guess. Today is a particularly low day for me. And then I come here, and I see this, and I am so grateful for this community you have created. Because, even though I’m crying uncontrollably as I read this, it really helps to know I’m not alone. Even though I KNOW that, it doesn’t always get through. What helps? This blog, these people, this community, YOU, Jenny. You help tremendously just by being fearless with your own mental illness. Also, puppies. Reading a good book. Tea. Meditation. Just remembering to BREATHE. Annnnnd sometimes crying uncontrollably. =)

  123. I have depression, anxiety, PTSD, DID. All that exciting stuff to live with. I’ve lost my job because of it. Had to postpone school until it gets under control. I’ve been hospitalized more times than I can count. Been on every medication imaginable. And most often I can’t even tell people what’s wrong because they don’t believe me.

    But I have found some that do believe me. And I’m finally starting to learn that talking about it is ok. And that there is help out there, sometimes it just takes a long time to find it. But my kitty still helps the most some days.

  124. I have suffered from suicidal depression off and on for years, along with anxiety. What I have learned is that if someone you love commits suicide, it is not at ALL your fault and there is a 99.99% chance there is nothing you could have done to stop it. Telling a suicidal person to think of their family and how devastated the people who love them would be is not helpful because when someone is on the brink of suicide, they are convinced all of those people would be better off without them. Sure, they might be sad, but their lives would be better in the long run. This is all lies, of course, because depression lies, but it can be impossible for someone who is outside the depression to break through that.

    What HAS helped me, and kept me here/alive: Therapy. Really good therapy that helped me re-frame things so that I realize so much of what I was taking responsibility for in my life really WASN’T my responsibility. Figuring out what IS my responsibility, what does require my attention/action and what doesn’t, has been huge for me. Like seriously freaking huge. Meditation has helped as well. I know, everyone thinks they can’t meditate. There is no such thing as being “good” or “bad” at meditation and there’s not certain way you have to sit or breathe or whatever. And trying counts 100%. If you so much as TRY, no matter how you’re sitting/breathing, you are ACING it. That’s super important to understand. Changing my diet has been a HUGE help — avoiding sugar and alcohol and eating lots of natural fats from humanely raised animals and things like nuts, coconut, avocados, etc. — natural foods. That has been such a tremendous help that I’m actually getting certified right now as a health coach to help other people make changes like this.

    My 19yo son suffers from Asperger Syndrome, misophonia, crippling anxiety and suicidal depression as well. Medication literally saved his life but we’re also working on his diet and he gets regular therapy. My 17yo daughter has OCD and anxiety and it’s been hard to find something that helps her. She rejects therapy, refuses to try meditation and won’t change her diet so we are probably going to go the medication route with her because we definitely need to do something.

    What we really need to do is never stop talking about this and to refuse to let mental illness be stigmatized for one more second. My grandmother was mentally ill and was extremely emotionally abusive to my mom, but it was like we weren’t even supposed to mention it. Like WE were the assholes if we said what Grandma was doing/saying was not okay. My mom’s life would have been completely different if Grandma had gotten some damn help, and Grandma’s would have been as well, but in the 50s no one would even talk about mental illness. It was like you either pretended it wasn’t happening or you sent someone to an asylum (where in most cases they didn’t really get helped/treated) and there was nothing in-between. I am sad for both of them — my mom for being at the mercy of her mother, and my grandmother for being at the mercy of her untreated illness. We can’t let that kind of shit happen anymore.

    Here’s a confession I haven’t even written in my journal: Last week I finally threw out the last of my stash of hoarded pills (I had forgotten I even had that particular stash until I re-discovered it), so … my Plan is shot to hell, which is scary and amazing/wonderful all at once. I guess I’m planning to stick around.

  125. I have three relatives (that I know of) that have committed suicide – my grandfather (mother’s side) and an uncle and cousin (father’s side – they were father and son). My oldest sister and brother both attempted suicide and were treated on an in-patient basis for a while. So genetically I am pretty much screwed. Been dealing with horrible depression episodes recently, don’t feel like I have been getting a break at all. Coming here and reading that you and others struggle and overcome does help so much, And the fact that when I reached out to you and you responded immediately really helped so much – you have no idea.
    Now time to get out and obtain some kittens. I need them! Could you write me a kitten prescription please?

  126. To Juli @ post 120. I also have non-housekeeping OCD. My closet is perfectly organized however, so I call myself a closet perfectionist lol.

  127. I had post partum after my babies were born- not serious but it scared me. After my daughter was born I began seeing a therapist and she prescribed anti-depresents for me and it has helped so very much. I have had anxiety issues off and on since I was 23- I am now 48. I am able to manage it with meditation and a bit of Xanax. I also had an unnatural fear of flying but with Xanax I am able to travel all over. When I get off of a plane, I always secretly hope there is a parade celebrating my achievement! I feel that when I do something that normally would have left me crippled with fear is a huge fuck you to my anxiety and depression. Its been a hard struggle but every day is a blessing. Hang in there everyone and know that you are not alone.

  128. You are always such an inspiration. The stories here are also inspiring.

    How has mental illness affected me personally? I’m on my way out of the darkest of the BIG BAD DARK I’ve experienced in quite a while. I am bipolar with generalized anxiety. I went into a bipolar depressive break. Self-harm and suicidal thoughts were a constant presence. It would be so easy to just choose out. College would be paid for. I wouldn’t be in so much pain anymore. Etc… all those lies depression tells us. Or actually, those weren’t lies, just exaggerations of fact and not the entire picture. I took my first leave of absence since having my children and feel shamed by that. I also feel much better. Go figure. I’ll be quitting my job on Monday when I return. I’ve been having anxiety/panic attacks that feel like heart attacks with all the HA symptoms and see a cardiologist in a few weeks as everything seems broken and abnormal, so better safe than sorry. My son has Asperger’s and is doing remarkably well. My younger son models my panic and anxiety which makes me sad. I’ve suffered depression most of my life. The mania was not diagnosed until 2006? It’s all a blur and I have no memory of about 4 years of my life, of my children’s lives. I remember things shown to me in pictures, but no actual memories.

    What has helped? Therapy. Medications (staying on them no matter what!). A tremendous care team with a counselor and psychiatrist who work together with my husband and myself. Exercise. Writing. Sleeping on schedule. Sunlight. Talking about it with the few people who understand. Keeping sharp instruments away from me. Binge watching tv with my husband so I’m not alone in those dark times. Reading, even if it is the crap romance novel I’ve read a hundred times, there is something comforting in that.

    Read this interesting article this morning about finding your ‘soul’s peace’ to define your bipolar normal. I loved that definition of normal… when my soul is at peace, not crying out in pain, not numb, not spazzing out. Just soft and at peace.
    Peace be with you and everyone in this community.

  129. I’m not following directions. If you knew me you would not be surprised by this (and you really should know me, I think. We would get along like… the Silence and the Doctor… which admittedly does involve the occasional attempted murder but ends up with a centuries long stand against common enemies that nearly leads to the complete annihilation of the universe, so I think it seems pretty apt) I just wanted to tell you that I am married to a really lovely man. I have 4 fantastic children (my second daughter has JRA). My life is really far more than I deserve. I also have GAD, panic disorder, ADHD, and occasionally depression. One bad night, I was pretty sure I was all alone in the world and it would probably be better if I just wasn’t in it anymore. The thing that brought me back was just knowing you were out there, fighting this too and that if you could stay alive, then so could I. Thank you so much for being you out loud and in front of us. You have saved so many of us.I sort of imagine you as an adorable 3 legged sloth (I don’t know why your spirit animal is missing a limb in my head) dragging us all slowly out of the darkness. This is the weirdest comment ever. I’m sorry. If you knew me you wouldn’t be surprised by this either.

  130. Ack: Spelling errors in the last sentence! “There is hard work, but there ARE also the moments that are totally worth every ounce of effort YOU EXPENDED to be a better version of you.” I will now go hide in shame behind my couch. If I can fit back there after I stuffed all my mother-in-law’s gifts to me there, so they’d be in reach for impromptu visits. (Sit here, Mother, dear. Why, what’s this? Oh, that Barbie sweater you knit me! I just love it so much! I’m going to put it on right now! I just keep it here because I need it near me all the time!)

  131. What I love so much about you, is that humor is the thread that seems to run through your life, good or bad. And by sharing that you make me feel less crazy, because I feel that this same thread of finding humor in the darkest of times (even if it’s totally not PC) is what help keep me in a certtain level of sanity. I am sure a Doc would diagnose me with PTSD after what I went through as a child (people that I tell about my childhood always say, wow, after all that you’re pretty normal, ha) I went undiagnosed for postpartum depression, which didn’t feel entirely like depression, but included the constant fight or flight feeling, insomnia, and anger. After that I started experiencing full on anxiety attacks, like heart-attacks. I have been on meds since I quit nursing, so about fifteen years. What I’ve learned that may help others is don’t make apologies for how you are. Stop trying to fit in a round hole when you’re a star or a diamond. If you can drag your ass out of the house, take a walk. It’s cliche I know but exercise really has helped me tremendously. Don’t be ashamed to take meds if you need to, and find someone safe to whom you can just verbally vomit all the shit that runs through your head.

  132. It’s been more than a decade since I was first diagnosed with depression manifesting as anxiety (and THAT was a fun few months of trying to treat it with the wrong kind of meds!). It’s generally managed OK with meds, self-care, and coping strategies, though I need to consider a medication change soon and I’m absolutely terrified. The last time I switched meds I had an awful reaction, so I’m determined to do it properly this time – with specialist supervision and short-term meds to cushion any panic attacks while my body adjusts. It’s been nearly a year since I decided but I haven’t been able to make myself do it yet. Hopefully putting this in writing will help me build up a bit more brave.

    You inspired me to be more open about my condition because people need to see that it’s OK – there are people just like them who are getting by – sometimes hanging on by our toenails, but getting by – and who know how they feel. I have one facebook friend who recently decided to get help, and another who is having medical issues which are skewing her psych issues. I feel that I’ve been able to help them by sharing my own experiences, and there is nothing more satisfying than to see someone else comment on a facebook thread “Listen to what Wendy says” – because knowing that I helped someone else get through the day is an enormously great feeling.

    I’m also likely somewhat autistic – not formally diagnosed, but so much of what I’m reading makes SENSE all of a sudden – and oddly enough I think it helps me interact with people dealing with mental issues. If someone says “People always say this and it’s never helpful”, I’m often the only one who asks “OK – so if we want to express this sentiment, what would be most helpful to say?” I already have to ask for detail in many social situations, so it’s a natural extension for me, and I think helps me “speak the language”. I follow an author who has (among other things) OCD, and reading some of the things she has written about what it’s like to be that way has helped me empathize even more with people who don’t think or react like I do.

  133. I fight with the fact that “depression lies.” I’ve struggled with undiagnosed depression and generalized anxiety disorder most of my life. I finally went to the doctor and got a diagnosis last year so now I have a name for it, but medications made me too spacey to function and I can’t afford to keep going back to try new ones, so I just continue on as I always have.

    I’m pretty sure I had PPD after my son was born a few years ago. I was a wreck. Completely broken and useless. My partner left me because I was so pathetic and miserable to be around. He just didn’t love me anymore because of the way I became after our son was born. I’m still angry about it and mad at myself. I’ve climbed a good way out of that hole but it is still rough some days. I don’t blame him for leaving– I couldn’t stand me, either.

    And here’s the thing: yes, depression lies, but sometimes it doesn’t have to. My family broke up because I was so annoying and pathetic. I have a crap job with no future and I’m reaching middle age with a young child and no money to go back to school again (I already have a PhD), and very few prospects. So honestly, depression doesn’t even have to lie to me, it just needs to tell me the truth. I am pretty much the worthless piece of crap my brain tells me I am. I wonder sometimes what it must be like to have a good job, money, and to be enough of a worthwhile person to have a supportive partner, but that is not the life I get. So I try to find happiness in what I do have: my fantastic kid (even with the guilt of not giving him the awesome life he deserves), my cats, my garden, and sometimes my friends.

    Now, I fight through the damn anxiety every day, trying to talk my self out of panic. I work two jobs that involve public speaking and a lot of focus and that can be a real bitch when all I want to do is hide in a dark room and not have anyone look at or listen to me. I compartmentalize. I worry all the time about my son but I try to be happy and upbeat when I’m with him because this isn’t his fight and he needs a happy and supportive parent.

    If I can ever get a steady, well-paying job I’ll go back to the doctor and try to find something else– therapy that doesn’t make me worse, pills that don’t make me dumb, but I’m not sure if that will ever happen. I figure I’ve done this for most of my life so I might as well keep doing it, but I do wonder sometimes what I could have done if I’d had more support.

  134. How has mental illness affected me personally: Almost everyone on my mom’s side of the family has struggled/continues to struggle with mental illness in some form (depression, addiction, bipolar disorder, anxiety). I have struggled with anxiety for almost as long as I can remember, even as a small child. And I have struggled with depression for at least the past 7 years. Recently, over the past year or so, my depression has resulted in intense physical pain at times (I had no idea until recently that depression could result in physical pain). My relationships have suffered, to the point of losing friends.

    What have I learned: For me the two biggest things that help are antidepressants and therapy. Originally I was put on antidepressants by my regular doctor, but I have since started seeing a psychiatrist who follows up with me far more frequently, and I feel this helps tremendously. Therapy has helped me start to identify my negative thoughts and stay in the present. If I can recognize certain thought patterns, then I can choose to stop them or redirect them. This is definitely a work in progress. I have also found sunlight and exercise help quite a bit, though I struggle with consistently exercising. It’s important to find people that will “get” what you’re going through, even if they aren’t “in person” people but rather on the internet (including The Bloggess!). In my experience, the vast majority of people just will not understand what you are going through unless they have gone through it themselves or have seen it with a loved one. I’ve been told these mental illnesses don’t exist. I have been told that I have no reason to feel this way because my life is so great–a sort of “what do YOU have to be depressed about?” attitude. “Why can’t you just be happy?”, “Get over your own ego”, and so on. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t take medications and have been given all sorts of unsolicited advice. “Have you looked at your diet to see what might be causing this?” I am still working on learning how to create boundaries so these comments will not hurt me. 🙂

  135. I struggle with depression. Overall I manage well but there are days when it descends upon me. I have learned to let those in my support system know when I am struggling. I ask for prayer. I try to get outside–there is great healing in nature. I read David Sedaris. I snuggle with my cat.

  136. How has mental illness affected you personally?

    I’m diagnosed OCD and I may have a depressive disorder or anxiety disorder tied in. All I know is that my OCD began when I was at young age in the form of a binge-eating disorder, and then I had to work really hard to beat childhood obesity. I’m one of the estimated 15% who did. I’m in CBT but not yet on medication. Currently considering SSRIs because certain seasons are more difficult- the summer, in particular. Many disorders that are genetic are in my family, and many people are not diagnosed or taking their medication. Even when they are diagnosed and taking medication, it’s a struggle. I love my immediate family and I only keep in touch with a couple extended members for a variety of reasons (atheist and queer, complicates the narrative in a mostly too-religious lineage), but I had to engage independence early-on and when I moved out at 18, I was /out/. It’s hard to be working class and other fun labels while earning two college degrees while also trying to limit mental breakdowns to three a year while also giving back (financially or otherwise) when I can while also fending off the badies. What distresses me most is how politicized mental illness is and how people in positions of power react to it. I’ve heard stories from friends of color and authors online about their experiences, but I recently encountered tone policing which led to a high-up academic a) disparaging against me, saying my emails were disturbing over and over again (they were not; and I showed them to multiple people- perfectly civil), because they ‘unduly challenged authority’ b) telling me I should take my disturbing emails to a counseling center where a counselor could tell me how disturbing they are. The last research study I read found that only 56% of people in the US are diagnosed. The stigma goes beyond people just making nasty faces when you say you’re in therapy (though I’ve gotten that too). It becomes part of a larger power-play. You, as an individual with opinions, are mentally “unstable” if you say something someone in a position “above” you does not desire to hear. You, as an individual having problems, are considered a threat and your autonomy is often reduced/taken away and you are mocked or made a sort of lesser commodity in society at large. People who do not have disorders are told they have disorders because alleging that someone is “unstable” here is the fast-track to shutting them up/having them attacked/so be it. That honestly terrifies me. It should terrify everyone. It is a privilege in this country to be represented with compassion, and that compassion seems to be reserved for young white cis male serial gunmen who had “troubled lives” or some potential cognitive issue. How many of these /truly/ violent individuals, however, actually have a disorder? How many of those “insanity” pleas are just strategic? As a woman I’ve noted as well that assertiveness is not valued. Especially not if you’re “sick.” At least I’m not locked up with a doctor claiming I have “hysteria” every month.

    What did you learn from it that might help others?
    Find your kin. Bond with your kin. Discuss symptoms and gain their knowledge. Absorb as much as possible. Coping is not something we can do alone. Something I’ve learned from my disorder is that I hate when people say “don’t let it define you” – fuck you, it defines me. It defines me in ways they won’t understand. But a lot of my mood swings and negative thought recursions have inspired emotional poetry and a deeper level of reflection in my writing, and that can only be a good thing. A favorite instructor of mine said that in all her years of teaching, she can count on her hands the number who have such natural talent. After reading through my project last year, she said, “You sound 35.” Maybe it’s because I’m tired. Maybe it’s because of my background and what I’ve witnessed. Maybe it’s because of my disorder(s?). Either way, combined, they’ve helped to create a perspective that allows me some catharsis and professional release. And maybe when I’m published (well, technically I am, but only news and reviews thus far), the platform I build will be useful in advocating for our rights and fighting against treatment we don’t deserve. Also, cats are wonderfully snuggly, and as some other people have attested- staying busy greatly alleviates the stress (a good amount of the time). Which is probably why summer is hardest for me. Even working full time, my social circle is limited and not very active, and I am still boycotting internet at home which is probably some kind of stupid. Tl;dr put the feels in the art and shake em all around and don’t let people toss you like a salad (when you can).

  137. I have PTSD, OCD, Severe depression and GAD. I feel like I should throw in a few more initials just for fun lol. I ask for help now. Cannot stress enough how helpful that has been. It was very hard in the beginning but has gotten easier in time. I opened up to my husband and try to explain how I feel and WHAT I NEED FROM HIM. That is so important otherwise he will try to ‘fix me’ in ways that don’t help. Like ‘just don’t worry about it’, ‘let it go’, ‘not your problem’, ‘aliens probably won’t come’. You know- not helpful stuff like that. Now I explain I just need him to listen and hug me when I’ve calmed down enough to be touched. I now have a support system of friends, family and doctors. Please reach out for help any of you who need it. It may take a bit of time but don’t give up!

    Okay- here is the next thing I do. I pass out your book like candy to those who need it. Seriously. I can’t tell you how many fucking times I have bought your book. I give out my own personal copy all the time and have to keep replacing it. And people over and over again have told me how much it has helped to read about it with humour and to see that others suffer from it too. Depression is a fucking liar and remember you are not alone!

    I’m going to stop typing now- apparently I think I am a blogger today too

    okay one more thing- you have helped me overcome my fear of taxidermied animals

  138. I struggled with depression a lot when I was younger, from the time I was 16 until I was about 30, my parents didn’t understand what was happening and being from a small town a lot of the “help” was religious which didn’t work for me. I remember being told just to “cheer up” a lot, like it was something I could control and it was just me being selfishly unhappy. Eventually after trying many anti-depressants and no luck with them I gave up taking them. I think as I got older I got more mature and more able to deal with things going on in my life. I don’t have a great relationship with my parents but as I’ve gotten older that’s gotten better also. Recently my father passed away and I find myself sliding back into depression so I’m struggling with it again, but at least now I’m aware of what it is and have some tools to help deal with it. I’ve learned that there isn’t one way to deal with mental illness, what works for one person doesn’t always work for the next. Also, being willing to talk about it helps too, growing up it was a thing of shame, but now being older and looking back, a lot of my family had mental illnesses. Mostly now, I try to be me and not worry too much about the expectations of others. Strangely through everything it’s helped me learn who I really am and who my real friends are (sadly there aren’t many).

  139. Your own particular way of looking at and dealing with the world is why so many of us strangers love you! Keep hanging in there and don’t be afraid to reach out on the blog during the dark times. There is an army of people out there ready to listen and bolster you, no matter what! And try to remember how much joy and comfort you bring others, especially the millions of us who also struggle or have lived ones who do. Xoxo

  140. I have anxiety attacks that usually occur within a day or two after contact with my mother who has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder. They manifest as a depressive spiral until the point I become suicidal. I used to hide my anxiety, no one but my housemate even knew I had issues with it, let alone how bad it was. I’ve since cut off all contact with my parents and haven’t had any panic episodes since.

    You’re one of the reasons I’m still here. Thank you.

  141. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder which causes clinical depression if I let it get too bad. I also had heaps of perinatal anxiety and mood disorder (formerly called “post-partum depression” which isn’t helpful when it occurs DURING pregnancy).

    Having GAD requires me to be very aware of my thoughts – much more so than average – because if I don’t keep them in check they can get ahold of me and squeeze. I have to be very careful of the media I consume because if I watch the news or shows like CSI I get too afraid of the outside world, and I can’t function effectively as a mother and a person. I haven’t watched regular news since 2001, although I do read the news (it’s less scary when I read it to myself or listening to NPR than watching images over and over on TV. It doesn’t get into my head as much). Since I also have chronic migraines, I sometimes have to shut down and avoid the world completely for a day or two in order to protect myself or get better, but doing so causes heavy-duty guilt which can throw me into depression if I don’t stay on top of it. I have to be careful how much I commit to, and I’ve had to learn to say “no,” which is hard for me because I’m a people pleaser and I want to say yes to everything.

    Being mentally ill has made me a much more compassionate person. I recognize that everyone is suffering with something, so when I’m strong I seek to help people as much as I can. Helping other people helps me feel better when I’m depressed, too. I’ve learned how to ask for help, even though it’s terrifying and humbling to do so. I’ve learned that loving someone means loving them as a whole – not just the parts that are lovable – and that the people in my life really love ME as a whole, even though they hate to see me suffer. I’ve learned that it’s my responsiblity to be “out” about my mental illness, for those who also suffer but can’t talk about it publicly for one reason or another (usually work). I’ve made many wonderful connections with people because of my willingness to discuss what’s “wrong” with me – just like you have, Jenny, but on a smaller scale.

    And you’re right – it would be AMAZING to only be aware of mental illness one month a year.

    Big hugs, you are doing great work here.

  142. Actually it was, among other, your blog to help me realise I have depression so thank you so much for that <3
    I had no idea I have depression and anxiety disorder, I didn’t realize I had eating disorder. IT all started small and then spiraled out of control to the point I was going to work I hated, sleeping and.. not much else. I only ate lunch because it allowed me to get out of the office for a while. Then it started dawning on me something is wrong, really wrong when I caught myself thinking that if I walked under a car going back from lunch I wouldn’t have to go back to the office. Somehow the only thing that stopped me was the fact that I draw and I thought I could irreparably hurt my drawing hand… And my dear friend and roommate noticed I barely eat. I was in a terrible state physically and it came from a combination of under-eating, undersleeping and stress/anxiety.
    I have since quit the job and gradually gotten out of the deep deep hole… I have learned that I have wonderful friends who stuck with me though times I was unavailable and useless. I have learned to take care of myself. I know now that sleep and eating well and rest and a bit of exercise can keep me away from the dark and I can recognize the moments the dark gets close. I learned to, when I can, avoid the things that trigger anxiety and depression. I have a wonderful friend who knows I get sometimes panic attacks grocery shopping and will go with me if I ask. I know that when I’m under-slept I need to eat well and let myself relax, not letting the anxiety-insomnia circle to trigger.
    I still haven’t solved the problem of having anxiety over going to doctors, eg. dentists until the problem gets really bad…

    What I learned is that sometimes a small thing becomes a ray of light when you’re in a dark place. A hug, a box of chocolates, someone taking you out for a good meal you like when you don’t have the willpower to buy yourself food. I learned that while being frugal is fine and all sometimes you need to allow yourself something if it makes you feel better/safer. When someone is in a bad place offering something – a help, a gift – is great, but also understanding that people might not accept it for reasons and letting them know it’s perfectly OK to do so.

    I also learned to say I have OCD in situations when it surfaces out in the same way that I say I am allergic to something. Not only it forces people to accept it but also in that way I met many people who have their own OCD issues and we sometimes bonded over exchanging our personal quirks.

  143. Wow – so many replies, so many stories. I can relate to all of them. Officially, it’s PTSD, Depression, and generalized anxiety. Go ahead and throw a little Asberger’s-type spectrum disorder (other) and it’s a pretty volatile mix. Six suicide attempts that I can actively remember. And then, when the anger became so constant I was afraid to leave the house, I underwent 10 electroshock treatments. Because to top it all off, I have paradoxical drug reactions to almost everything, so no drugs ever really worked.
    The biggest help has been simply having the ability to talk about it. To my long suffering husband, to my daughter who has unfortunately inherited a little of the crazy. To anyone who will listen. And when that doesn’t help, I get online and read your posts! You are the most amazing person to be able to do what you do. I look forward to every column!

  144. Thank you so much for writing this post! Mental illness has certainly affected me — I have complex PTSD and bipolar II, and my family also has a long history of PTSD and mood disorders. I had no idea June is Mental Health Awareness Month, and now that I do, I’m going to write about it in my own blog. Even though it’s a cat blog, my cats have saved my life more than once.

    What have I learned? I’ve learned that supporting others and just listening non-judgmentally when they have to talk can be a huge help. I actually had my first psychiatric hospitalization a couple of weeks ago, and it was a great help for me because the place I was, was really focused on healing and connecting me with resources to continue my recovery.

    I’m going to write a post in my own blog about Mental Health Awareness Month. By the way, you’re awesome and I always love reading your posts. 🙂

  145. I have periodic depression issues. I suffered for years before a major break down hospitalized me. What was most memorable was the realization that ” this is not the way everyone else feels. It’s not a case of me not being as tough as everyone else. It’s ok to get help and treatment. This is not a weakness. ”
    Once I realized this I could stop hiding and own this illness.
    Depression lies.

  146. The most profound thing I ever learned about the depression that has held me in its grip for as long as I can remember is from a wonderful woman named Jenny; she taught me that depression lies. That is my mantra when the darkness comes. I have learned that while the darkness beckons constantly it is not where I am meant to live. I have also learned that God is always with me, even when I cannot find Him.

  147. I have chronic depression and anxiety. Unfortunately I’m going through an extremely stressful time with a terminally ill parent and potentially getting laid off among other things. My coping skills lean towards telling myself that today is just one day, that I can make it through this to better days. It’s like climbing up hill, one foot in front of the other. Some hills are so fucking big, and they take more time and energy, but if you keep going you’ll get there. Also I try to get more sleep and attempt to do something to take my mind off the constant barrage of input–at least a couple times a day–like reading at bedtime so my brain will turn off and let me sleep.

  148. I manage a support group on farcebook and we have named Depression, The Liar. ‘The Liar lies’ is our mantra to each other. We commiserate, we talk about meds, we post basset hounds running for those that need it. (Really, image search ‘Basset Hounds Running’. It helps. That and Penguins Falling Down.)

    This is timely for me because just yesterday I had a frank discussion on my farcebook page about Depression and how it affects those that love you around you. I said “Loving someone with depression is like watching them fight a monster through one way glass. You can’t really help them. All you can do is wait for them to come out and remind them you love them and the fight is worth it.” I made sure those who do not struggle with mental illness but love those that do know we love them back and appreciate their love and support more then we can express sometimes.

    But the whole discussion showed how frustrating trying to support and understand someone with mental illness is for those without it. There is progress but we’ve got a long way to go yet…baby?

  149. How has mental illness affected me personally: I developed PTSD in 2004.

    What did I learn from it that might help others: I learned that you don’t have to be in a war zone or even experience violence to develop PTSD. It can happen just from seeing someone you love die. I learned that time lessens the intensity and duration of the effects, but that – even years later – specific triggers will still set it off. I’ve learned to admit that I have PTSD, because it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

    I’ve also learned how messed up the current medical establishment is. Prior to 2004, while I was suffering anemia symptoms from an undiagnosed B12 deficiency, doctors told me all my symptoms were in my head and they offered me antidepressants (which I turned down). Later, when I was diagnosed with PTSD, I was not offered any medications at all, but was offered ‘talk therapy’ instead. Sometimes it seems like doctors are the crazy ones.

  150. I am having an unusually light day today. I woke up excited to be alive instead of feeling weighed down or lost in my crazy. Some days are bearable and some days I just want to hide, but not today! Today I am light and excited. I had to share it. Like NEEDED to share this nearly foreign to me emotion called happy. Is this what “normal” feels like? Who knows. Point is today is so good I had to share, so I sent this to a friend
    “I have such an air of excitement today! No real reason to be in such a good mood, I just am. And I kinda want to share it with you. If you have any fear, doubt, anxiety or melancholy; drop them for a moment and smile with me! Truly embrace pure joy and light and share that with me. Woman you are beautiful, you are strong, you are fierce, and right now in this moment as you read this…YOU ARE LOVED!”
    And her response was amazing! I will screenshot this and save it for when the shadows fall again. Like a shield against the next time I attack myself. I don’t know that it will work but it sure feels good right now. For those who are reading this right now, those who are mired in whatever demons that weigh you down, to you I say “You are beautiful, you are strong, you are fierce, and right now in this moment as you read this… YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU ARE LOVED!”

  151. I’ve been in the military just over 19 years. Being a chick in the military can be hard. But being treated for PTSD was one of the hardest things I have done in my career. Mostly because I didn’t want to admit something was really wrong. But, you know, there were signs. Lots of signs. I was fortunate to have someone in my command that recognized them and stepped in to help me help myself. I’m more grateful for him than he could ever know.

    I’ve used what I learned (and keep learning) to help those around me. I’m not alone. There are a lot of us in here and out there who need help, but are afraid to ask. We don’t want to be labeled. We don’t want to risk being sent away. So, I reach out. I tell them my story and hope I can do for them what he did for me.

    I’m glad there is a month. But I’m more glad that there are people out there (like you, Jenny) who aren’t afraid to stand up every day and say, “This is what it is like inside my head.” Thank you.

  152. I have suffered from depression and anxiety for most of my life, and now I’m struggling with ED as well. I’m very vocal about it now that I’m in my mid-thirties, because I know so many people who do not think they are allowed to be vocal about their own struggles. This probably leads to me seeming a bit insane to my friends, but if one person reads what I have to say about my own struggles and feels less alone, that’s all that matters.
    You do that for people. You do that for me. I read your posts about your mental illness and I feel less alone, and I speak out. Stay strong. You are loved. If there’s one thing mental illness has taught me, its that: you are loved, even if you don’t think you are.

  153. I have a friend who struggles with depression and anxiety and it is very difficult for her. She often says to me she doesn’t know how she can go on and it is hard for me as her friend because I dont always know the right thing to say. I went to mental health first aid and that taught me some helpful ideas, but it is still challenging to be her friend. I applaud people who fight these battles every day as I realize for them getting out of bed can be a challenge. On the flip side, some days I wish I could be the one to stay in bed all day not that I am saying I wish I had a mental illness, but somedays are just hard for me too. Life is just HARD. Love this blog and Jenny!

  154. How has mental illness affected me personally:
    I’ve got PTSD, and depression. I have a mask that I wear for the world, and then the real me. Because I’m generally pretty happy, most people think that my depression is just a bad day. Depression is cruel. It’s like being the crappiest house on the block, but having a thief come back and rob only you, just when you start to replace the stuff that was stolen last time. And everyone around me is just like, “You’ll get more stuff. Don’t worry.” Which is true! But totally unhelpful when you’re still reeling and frightened and angry from the last theft. I am working to allow myself to feel however I feel. I try to talk about it, even when I can’t feel anything. I’m happy for the good days, and try to focus on the current moment.
    No one really gets PTSD. I barely get it. I’m easily startled, and have crazy quirks that protect me from anxiety attacks. Sadly,though, people think my fear is funny. They laugh when I jump. They’ll tease me when I say I won’t watch scary movies or go to haunted houses. They don’t get that I lived with very real fear for a very long time, and being afraid isn’t fun or exciting for me. It’s triggering and I’ll never really be “normal”.

    What did I learn from it that might help others:
    I’m good at hiding the crippling emotional pain I’m in. Because so many people make light of it, I don’t talk a whole lot about it. That can be isolating. So it’s a bit of a double edged sword. I’ve learned, though, how to recognize it in others. We’re all broken, a little. And when I find the broken energy of a kindred spirit, I make sure to tell them that they aren’t alone. I’ve talked with strangers who pins dark stuff on Pinterest and let them know that I understand, and to keep fighting. It’s amazing how we immediately connect, and our broken spirits breathe a little sigh of relief when we see that someone else gets it. I’ve learned to say no. Sometimes saying no to someone else’s energy is the only way to protect myself when I’m already drowning. I’ve learned to be okay with not being okay. I’ve learned to soak in as much good as possible when I’m not in the fire. I’ve learned that sometimes, you just have to say, “What the fuck” and stand up, again. I’ve learned that it’s okay to stay down, though, to recoup. I’ve learned that my illness doesn’t define me. I’m am not “depression” or “PTSD”. I live with depression and PTSD, and there is a distinct difference.

    I’ve learned that we’re all fighting our own battles. And to be kind, because the world needs more kindness. And to start with myself. Always with myself.

  155. (Sorry if this is a repeat of a comment I posted earlier; it doesn’t look like that comment showed up so I’m trying again.)

    Thank you so much for writing this post! Mental illness has certainly affected me — I have complex PTSD and bipolar II, and my family also has a long history of PTSD and mood disorders. I had no idea June is Mental Health Awareness Month, and now that I do, I’m going to write about it in my own blog. Even though it’s a cat blog, my cats have saved my life more than once.

    What have I learned? I’ve learned that supporting others and just listening non-judgmentally when they have to talk can be a huge help. I actually had my first psychiatric hospitalization a couple of weeks ago, and it was a great help for me because the place I was, was really focused on healing and connecting me with resources to continue my recovery.

    I’m going to write a post in my own blog about Mental Health Awareness Month. By the way, you’re awesome and I always love reading your posts. 🙂

  156. How has mental illness affected me personally:

    I have struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life. I can remember being four or five and running down the street after my dad left for work, and was frantic because I didn’t get to give him a hug and kiss goodbye and tell him that I loved him and was terrified that he would die and I would not have gotten to tell him goodbye and let him know I loved him, and would have to live with that guilt the rest of my life. That is pretty heavy stuff for a four year old to fear every day! My parents thought I was insane and didn’t understand, but I still deal with this today, and my hubby doesn’t understand either but is slowly learning to come and say good night to be before he goes to bed. If he goes to bed without doing this, then my brain lies and tells me he is mad at me and doesn’t love me, and just goes off the deep end. And it’s weird because the other part of my brain is aware that the other part is irrational. It’s quite the mind battle at times. But I see some of it in my kids and so I am willing to take the time to say goodbye to them and also give them hugs and kisses when I get back, even if I’m only gone for less than five minutes for a quick errand. Because really…. one day it might really be the last time they get to say goodbye.

    I was diagnosed with ADHD, Anxiety and Depression two months ago. For the first time, I’m open to meds, and I’m amazed at the difference it makes! It has been humbling, but it is worth it for my health. I’ve tried all the natural remedies that I could, but it wasn’t enough.

    There is a huge history of mental illness in the family. There is a long list of family members that have been diagnosed with bipolar or depression or other illnesses. There have been five family members that have committed suicide in the past 15 years, and my brother committed suicide two years ago. I have learned that the grief from suicide is SO different than grief from other deaths, and it has given me a great empathy and sympathy for other families that go through the same thing, and face death of any kind. I have learned that my grief probably will never fully heal, but it will change and take different forms. But I’ve been shocked how something will remind me of my brother and it will just hit me out of the blue. I am learning to be more open about my grief with others and share what really happened with our kids so that there isn’t a mystery or a stigma and they see that it is ok to get help. But I will say that there is a new anger towards the medical community and insurance companies, as my brother ran out of benefits for counseling and mental health. It wasn’t the main trigger, but it contributed towards it. My husband’s brother also had bipolar and committed suicide. My MIL was desperate to get him help. She had brought him to a mental health place and asked for him to be committed for a watch, as she saw the warning signs. But it happened to be a good day and he knew what to say to get released and my MIL begged them to keep him in there, because at that particular moment he was fine, but the mood swings were so drastic and she saw how down he was that morning. But they refused. And he was gone 24 hours later. It took three days to find him, since he had driven off deep into the woods. The school didn’t immediately call when he didn’t show up for classes, and my MIL had personally talked to his teachers and the nurse and the principal and school counselors. But they still didn’t call. So she didn’t realize he was missing until nine hours later, after he didn’t come home from school. I just see time after time where the doctors and teachers and other health professionals don’t take the parents or family members seriously and then it’s suddenly too late.

    I have a new fear now for my kids, since odds are high that one of them will also have a mental illness. We already see some behavior issues and have been recommended to get two of our kids evaluated for ADHD or other behavior issues. And there is a part of me that feels like I am bracing myself for a long battle, and fears the day that I receive another dreaded phone call. I see how my mom is so broken now, and I fear that will be me one day.

    What did I learn from it that might help others:

    On the flip side, I have been learning about metabolic panel issues and things like MTHFR and Pyroluria and just got myself tested, as I would not be surprised to find out I have severe nutritional deficiencies or something genetic going on. I have been finding providers for myself and my kids that don’t just treat symptoms but look at the whole body and see how nutrition also plays a part and affects the brain and other organs, and lead to metal toxicity and a whole swath of issues that affect neurotransmitters and cause fatigue and affect the thyroid and adrenals and more. I have hope for the first time that I can get supplements in the form that my body needs to actually get absorbed and finally sleep better and have energy and feel better for the first time in years! My long term goal is to not need to take meds, but I know that probably is not realistic for me. But seeing my family history and learning how metabolic panel conditions are genetic and can be passed down, and it would make so much sense. I wish doctors were taught more about nutrition and supplements and take it seriously, and not just treat symptoms, but look for the cure. I was a medical assistant and worked at an internist office for many years, and I saw how the doctors would prescribe a medication for one symptom, and then that drug caused complications and new symptoms, and the patient would be prescribed more medications and it was a cascading affect. I don’t want the same thing for my body. So I am glad I have found someone that prescribes and uses conventional treatments, but also does blood work to check for metabolic conditions and vitamin/mineral deficiencies and also recommends nutrition changes and natural remedies too. Foods are so different than they were even 50 years ago and more and more people are discovering that they are sensitive to foods, which causes inflammation and other issues, and it can explain some of their symptoms.

    Not everyone with mental illness has a metabolic panel condition or a vitamin/nutrition deficiency or may not have issues absorbing certain nutrients directly from food or conventional supplements or have food sensitivities. But there are studies that are showing that more and more patients do have those type of genetic conditions. So I think it would be worthwhile for people to keep that in mind and get it checked out.

  157. I have bipolar disorder (previously misdiagnosed as depression). It comes and goes. Unfortunately, during a bad bought a friend asked how I was going to get back on track. Things to not say to someone during a depressive episode. She decided that we could no longer be friends when I told her that was not helpful. Luckily, I have so many other friends that get it (unfortunately, some of them get it because they also suffer from mental illness). Thank you for your blog. I also try and keep my struggles out in the open so that the stigma will be lessened. Thank you for making me laugh!

  158. Thank you Jenny for posting this and every other post you share.
    And thank you to everyone who responds. Truly, from the bottom of my moody, conflicted, lonely, sad, frustrated, angry, jealous, melancholy heart – thank you.
    I have been in a personal “funk” these past few weeks (not a new experience!), but this time feels pretty craptasitc and reading everyone’s stories is so, so incredibly helpful. Because while I rationally know I have so much to be thankful for and I should be super happy….that’s not how I feel and that’s ok. Beating myself up for feeling this way won’t help. Feeling guilty for feeling this way won’t help. But what does help? Knowing that there are people who love me. Knowing that there are others out there who have/are going through this right now – and I can come here to read their stories. Knowing that this feeling won’t last forever. Knowing that, yesterday, for the first time in weeks, I started to feel a little better.

  159. Well this is pretty scary, but it can’t hurt. My son is 9, and he’s been bi polar nearly his entire life. Nearly nobody believes me, not providers, not the school, and not my family. “He needs a good spank”. “That child is out of control.” “Don’t you think you should do XYZ for parenting?”, and the countless whispers behind my back about what kind of parent I must be. What kind of home he must come from. The pity. The stares. The night after night of explosive, uncontrollable meltdown rages that define what “mania” looks like in children. (If you don’t know, pediatric mania is different than adult mania). The destorying of my house. I had to lock myself in my bedroom last night for us both to be safe.

    And then, what no one sees, except me, is the crash. The total devastation that falls upon him as he rips out his hair, scratches his face, begs me to love him and fix him. Begs me to make a doctor fix him. Cries that he hurt me, brings me band aids.

    What people don’t understand is that this primarily happens in the home for bi polar children. He is NOT ADHDH. The school likes to insist that he is and he’s punished and consequenced over and over for things he has very little control over (yelling inappropriately, being shamed, having no friends, acting out because he can’t read , he can’t belike the other kids).

    What I’ve learned is that we have the wrong team. I had to fight for an IEP, and I’ll probably fight for outplacement somewhere he CAN thrive at some point. I’ve learned that he does NOT have adhd, no matter how many “professionals” tell me he does, and that I’ve read enough literature about bi polar that i KNOW. I know because i’m his mother. I know because i’ve lived with it for 9.5 years. I know because he fits all the criteria and there is a massive amounts of ignorance on pediatric bipolar.

    My story of hope is that on Tuesday, we have an appointment with the leading expert in pediatric bipolar in the COUNTRY. I’ve taken it that far, yes I have. I won’t give up on him.

  160. I, too, am plagued by Avoidant Personality Disorder. Main symptom; the inability to foresee a positive outcome. Seasoned with paranoia lite and pervasive depression, it has been a life-breaker. I am now on reasonably correct medication, but the symptoms are mostly hiding. They display their presence in irrational behavior, lack of motivation, and wanting to run from groups of “hostile” people even at family gatherings and the like. I do not, however, feel like I have raw nerve ends sticking out like quills all over me. That’s a major relief. I guess little victories are still victories. I spent my life asking “Where are my opportunities?” whilst leaping up and down on them until they were dead. The medication would have been a miracle if available in 1970. Now… well… I’m able to lose myself in empathy. My psychologist once asked me why I’d never attempted suicide. I replied, “Probably because I couldn’t foresee a positive outcome…” I’m okay. Blessings to you and all.

  161. I work for a nonprofit that helps people in my metro area with a wide array of mental illnesses manage their symptoms, find and keep employment and housing (and stay out of the hospital), stay on their medications, and even has a community center where those who are isolated can come on a daily basis for a sense of community. I come from a family of alcoholics with mental illness and suffer myself from depression and anxiety, and rollercoaster mood swings. I am so grateful to work where I do, with people who genuinely care for our clients. I have good days and bad days, and at my worst I feel incredibly isolated, even though I am surrounded by friends who care about me. People look to me to be the smiling face of encouragement, and are surprised to hear that sometimes I can’t find any reason, any purpose to this existence and that the only thing saving me is having wonderful children who need me and who bring me a lot of joy. So I tend to keep it to myself and cry when I’m alone. It’s easier!

  162. HOW HAS MENTAL ILLNESS AFFECTED YOU PERSONALLY?
    Myself -I personally have a diagnosis of depression and PTSD. I have to be on medications on a regular basis to control depressive and anxiety symptoms. I have my bad periods and when it gets bad it is bad. Fortunately through my own therapy and focus on health life has been better. It took me a while to get to this place for sure.
    I have several relatives that have struggled with depression, bipolar disorder and eating disorders. My sister had anorexia at a very young age.
    WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT THAT MIGHT HELP OTHERS?
    I took my experiences and became a licensed clinical social worker. I have done therapy, worked in mental health hospitals, provided crisis care and worked with individuals and families who have experience abuse. I did this for 15 years. I know work on a larger scale and help to ensure that the agencies that provide mental health, substance abuse and intellectual disabilities services do so in the best way possible.Also, working on reducing stigma so that other seek help.
    I also think that sharing my experience has been helpful as well. The more people put a face to it the more real it becomes to others. Show people that most of the mentally ill population is not violent. Often in the news there is a focus on the small percentage of folks who have mental illness and act out violently. Leads to stigma and fear, reduces the likelihood that others will get help or support individuals with mental illness.

  163. I’m in a good place now and have been for some time, but I wanted to share this song with you. It’s helped me a lot over the years.

  164. I have complex PTSD, manifesting as clinical depression (possibly bipolar), compulsive suicidal ideation, trust issues, anxiety, eating disorders, and a dissociative disorder. (I’m sure I am forgetting something – oh, like feeling like a dead, empty shell all of the time. I’m not sure what they call that.) It has affected me by helping me destroy most of what I felt were the accomplishments I had in my life, every goal I strove to achieve, and one of my most important relationships. It has left me feeling like a complete failure at everything and worthless.

    What I’ve learned – there is no medal for “who has it worse.” Telling someone with psych disorders, “Oh, you know so-and-so? Yeah, you think you have it bad…you should hear what she has to deal with” is really not as helpful as one might think. Neither is “and you thought your childhood was rough!” Everyone comes by their disorders honestly. Brain chemistry, rotten luck, horrible experiences, tremendously empathic personalities, none of us deserve to have psych disorders, but each one of us has the “best,” “worst,” and “most difficult” time in the world. It is not a competition, and we are all completely justified in our feelings – no matter how “stupid” we tell ourselves we are being.

    Not all “cures” or reparatives help all people. If therapy is your thing, go with it. If medication keeps you out from under the bed, great! If being under the bed keeps you content, wonderful! I can’t do therapy – the aforementioned “trust issue.” (That and one of my therapists when I did try was institutionalized. I am not completely convinced it wasn’t my fault.) My things are yoga, randomly helping people and making their lives a bit easier, willfully forgiving myself for anything I consider a failure, and reminding myself that who I am today is not necessarily who I will be tomorrow. The other thing that helps are people like Jenny Lawson, Allie Brosch, and Wil Wheaton. Highly visible individuals who openly discuss their own challenges has led me to the understanding that not only am I not alone…I am, in my own unique way, just as normal as everyone else wandering around.

  165. Generalized depression & social anxiety, low self-esteem, many previous bouts of self-harm. I’ve been fighting these battles since I was 13. Now, at 38, I feel slightly better equipped to handle things, what with the help of my meds and therapy, but it’s still incredibly difficult for me to separate the lies of depression from the actual reality of my situation.

    The hardest part is being in a relationship with a person who doesn’t understand, nor care to. And I am so stuck in my rut that I’m not capable of changing that. I need a hug and I get sarcasm….circle back around to beating my own thighs black because that feels better than dealing with the emotions. Then I eat to satisfy my hunger for affection. I’ve gained over 100 lbs since I’ve been married.

    Therapy helps, so do meds, when I remember to take them.

  166. I suffer from severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and have had it since the age of four. I am now 35. It is a struggle daily but I have been blessed to find really supportive and caring friends and family. What really helps me is good music, crafts, gardening, and blogging about mental illness. It allows me to have a voice and be heard. Something I felt I was not able to have before I started blogging because I was so very afraid of what other people thought about me. It not only helps me get out my obsessions or lets me rant about my fears and anxiety, it also helps inform people of the many different symptoms of OCD. hopefully shows them that OCD is not a cleaning disorder, or a way to organize things. It is an anxiety disorder with very scary and disturbing intrusive thoughts and also a huge amount of guilt and shame. I also write about the stigma, bias, misinformation, and ignorance all of us that suffer from mental illness run into and deal with. What is most important to me is to let people know that they are not alone.

    What I have learned about my disorder is that it is not my fault. I am a good person in spite of it. I am not broken, or ugly, or worthless because I have mental illness and neither is anyone else. I have learned through talking about it, that many people are willing to talk about it if you bring it up. There is stigma and ignorance but most people I have come across have been pretty open to discussing it. Some are intrigued to hear how mental illness actually works and many have thanked me because they too have mental illness and were afraid to speak about it. I have learned that I can live with this even on my worst days, even when I feel like I am unable to function, even when I unable to get out of bed in the morning. Because there is always tomorrow and I can always try again. And to not be so hard on myself for the things I think I should be able to do on the days that I can’t do those things. I have also learned to not be so afraid of other people’s opinions of me because I suffer.

    Thank you so much for this post. I have followed for a while now, and I find you and your readers to be very inspiring. 🙂

  167. Just remember you asked for this.
    When I was a senior in high school, I tried to kill myself. I took several boxes of sleeping pills followed by a glass of milk. I ended up throwing up milk curdles and watching the pattern on my mom’s sofa move the rest of the evening. I had no note and had told no one what my intentions were. In fact this is the first time I have shared it.
    I have suffered with depression on and off most of my life. In hindsight my mother was depressed but never got treatment. She began hoarding and it spiraled bad when my dad left.
    I grow up, get married, and have my first child. I had bad postpartum depression and it has been all downhill from there. My husband’s family is not supportive even though they are in the medical field. Once I finally went on anti-depressants, my mother criticized me for it. I haven’t been able to find of med that helps so I am unmedicated depressed as hell. My husband’s advice of “I’ve been depressed before and I one day just decided to get over it so why can’t you?” isn’t exactly supportive or loving. So I feel incredibly alone and without any support system. I have began my mother’s hoarding behavior but not to her extent. I am not buying things or anything like that I just have no energy to clean my house. I don’t leave my house except to buy groceries or run errands. I just stay in my lonely, misery bubble and hide my depression from everyone other than family.

  168. I have significant ADD. I’m 6 months pregnant and unable to take the med that helped me cope with my symptoms for the last 12 years.
    After having the most productive and in control years of my life because I finally got on meds, not having them has led me into a pretty good funk. The depression and anxiety I’ve felt in the past is creeping in more and more and that’s been hard.

    I’m super thankful that I know this is a temporary state and I have good people that help me cover what needs to get done.

  169. Like so many people, I struggle with depression. There are “good” days and bad days, but I’m never totally happy. I may look happy, I may be able to to laugh, smile and have fun, but there is always a constant emptiness inside, gnawing at me and telling me that my life is unimportant, that no one really cares about me, that if I disappeared off the face of the earth, no one would notice. There have been times when I have contemplated suicide, but luckily, I’m a person who tends to over think things and I’ve always known deep down that depression lies.

    What has always helped me through the worst parts of life is realizing that even though the good parts are a bit dulled down for me, they are still worth struggling through the bad parts for. It’s always better being alive, even if you feel that life is falling down around you. There’s still so much beauty to experience in this world once the bad parts have passed. And they WILL always pass, eventually.

  170. How has mental illness affected me personally?
    I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety to varying degrees since I was about 12 (I’m nearly 45). For most of my life, I thought the anxiety was normal, until the weight of it caused depression so bad it made me suicidal enough to start planning it. I got help, saw a counselor, took meds that made me feel worse and stopped taking them. Rinse, repeat. It hurt my marriage, we had counseling; rinse, repeat. At this point, I’m actually beginning to wonder if I’m an undiagnosed Aspie, because it would explain a lot, but solve nothing.

    What did I learn from it that might help others?
    My husband told me once that I was a really good actor. It wasn’t necessarily a compliment, he was explaining to the counselor that he had no idea how sick and unhappy I was because I hid it so well. Our daughter is autistic, and I’ve put her first for 17 years. But you CAN’T, you CAN NOT put yourself to the side, and you can’t bury everything that’s wrong, because it will just erupt somewhere else, when it’s even less convenient (trust me). I hate confrontation and conflict, and would still rather bury it than discuss a problem, but tough shit — that’s not healthy, so I don’t, or at least not for long.

    I’ve also learned better to respect my own limits. I don’t make myself attend an event I know will make me miserable with stress and anxiety, and I don’t let family guilt me about it later. I pay closer attention to my inner dialog and try to bug out of situations before they get bad. When things can’t be avoided, I’ve gotten better at finding ways to take breaks from the stress.

  171. Mental health issues have been in my life from childhood. Over the years I have chosen to enter therapy when I knew I needed it because I could go on, couldn’t move forward without it. Then my son was born with early on-set bipolar and autism. I love him dearly but it has been a struggle to deal with my own issues and try to be the best mom for him. There are times when I’ve been broken by the weight of all this. I was very lucky that I found a team of mental health professionals that helped my son and my family through his early years. Since we moved 2 years ago it has been a struggle to try to put together a new mental health team for him. Finding the right people to work with is crucial. The best Dvice I can give anyone who is struggling is that if the first therapist doesn’t work out, keep looking. There will be one out there who can help you.

  172. How it’s affected me personally:
    I have a lot of mental problems. The ones that affect me most are PTSD which came about from rape. Subsequently, I also have a dissociative disorder which can launch me into the traumatized and fearful 5 year old version of myself. I also have General Anxiety Disorder and social anxiety. There are weeks at a time where I find it a struggle to get out of bed or leave the house.

    What I’ve learned:

    It’s not my fault. And despite what my friends and husband say I can’t change it just by thinking positively. It’s who I am and I can’t help that. I try to embrace all the good days that I have and I make sure that I have a legitimate reason to leave home almost every day because otherwise I get much too comfortable in my hermitage. I love my husband and my friends and my family when I’m able to feel love because sometimes I’m so numb that I can’t even feel that. Sunlight helps, so I’ve started tanning if the dark weather is getting to me. I’ve learned that laughter is healing and I’ve learned that the community here understands, and that is why I read this blog and your books because we’re all mad here. The best people are.

  173. I have suicidal ideations. I think about suicide every day, several times a day. It’s a stress reliever for me — the thought of leaving. It’s become an almost happy thought. I’m not clinically depressed. I simply feel like my life was really never meant to be, at least not in this time or place. I have never “succeeded” at anything despite huge, hopeful efforts and whole years of talking myself into trying harder and doing more. Most people don’t know that I have these thoughts. For obvious reasons, I don’t broadcast them. And I don’t consider myself mentally ill, but I understand why nearly everyone else would disagree.

    The least helpful thing is this idea that having someone to “talk to” would make all the difference. Talk does not help. Talk doesn’t change certain facts or my perception of them or my experiences with them.

    The most helpful things are always practical and connective. I’ve kept suicidal thoughts at bay with even the slimmest hope that something really might change tomorrow….that something I’m doing will pan out….that I will be able to pay the rent….that something I’ve done makes a difference to someone, somewhere….that I’ll gather the resources to fix one of my many disfiguring defects.

  174. My mother has borderline personality disorder and, having grown up in a home dominated by that mental illness, I took on/adapted a LOT of her habits. SO, while I’m not technically borderline myself, I have a whole hell of a lot of the same patterns of interactions like explosive anger, manipulation, passive aggression, depression, low self-esteem, overwhelming emotional reactions, and trouble coping with crisis situations (which arise often due to the overwhelming emotions). I also have a dear, dear friend with depression and generalized anxiety and another dear friend who developed post partum depression pretty badly. So, its safe to say I deal with a lot of mental illness in my own live and in the lives of those I love.

    I have learned that no matter how alone/abandoned my mental illness makes me feel, I am never alone. I’ve learned to ask for what I need; hell I’ve learned to even understand what I need, which is usually someone to listen or to distract myself or permission to feel what I’m feeling without judgment. I’ve learned how to not judge myself and not judge others because there’s a whole lot of fucked up shit that people deal with silently (like I did), so who am I to know what’s going on in their heads? I’m learning to not automatically resolve to the negative emotions, even though they feel more REAL to me most of the time. So I’m learning to embrace positive emotions and even look for them. I cuddle my cats, write my novels, run my business, and try to take pride in every little step I take in the right direction and not get so angry with myself when I don’t cope effectively. I watch cop shows and murder mysteries; I read sci fi and fantasy novels; I read your books and find comfort, hope, and friendship even in those pages. I laugh loudly and talk loudly (I’m just that way naturally); I call my two best friends (mentioned above) when I need them; I ask them to give me space when I need it; I love them wholeheartedly and help them in turn. Most of all, I’m learning to be okay talking about my mental illness so that I can create a safe space for others to do so.

  175. And I go to therapy. Lots of therapy. I have a therapist and group therapy for dialectical behavioral therapy, which has been the best thing for me. Love it. I think everyone should do it, even people without mental health issues, but especially people who do, like me.

  176. I volunteer at a food pantry. So many of our visitors have mental illness! I have my own issues (depression, anxiety), so some days it’s like meeting myself over and over. The gifts? We laugh, we cry, we show up the next day and the next. I have family, friends and animals to help keep me afloat. And I am part of a large group of people who, though wounded, are strong and brave and whole in their hearts, where it counts!

  177. I have general anxiety disorder and depression after a childhood that wasn’t exactly ideal because no one talked about my mother’s schizophrenia (I wasn’t even aware she had schizophrenia until I was 18). An awful lot of my being able to be an adult now is down to my husband, who has put up with a lot, and helped me tremendously. When all else fails, cat snuggles help too.

  178. My panic attacks are absolutely crippling. Loss of vision, unable to breathe, violent shaking, & I’m convinced it will kill me every single time…. Then I take a xanax and say Fuck that Noise (immediately by me passing out and drooling on myself). All I can say is thank God for meds, a supportive group of friends & my badass husband; otherwise I would have taken myself out of this world a long time ago. Cheers to all of you peeps up in here. We are awesome in our cat’s eyes at least. High Five!

  179. I remember being depressed even as a child. My mom had severe depression and anxiety. It runs in our family. For me, I finally sought help when my dad died. I was 40. Perhaps his death gave me a reason to ask for help. I have been medicated since then. I am an RN. I have seen terrible things in the 35 years I have worked in ICU. The world is full of so much pain and cruelty, to each other, to animals. Sometimes it feels as though I can’t bear the horror any longer. I am disillusioned with the changes in my profession. I am an excellent nurse. Many are not. I struggle with this. I have low self esteem. When things are too bad I sleep. All day. All night. As,long as I can. With cats. I laugh a lot. Jenny helps. When I can’t laugh I just spin in my head about how people can do the things they do. I often feel hopeless that I will ever feel better. I often feel hopeless that the evil bits of the world will never stop. My son has anxiety now and I made certain that he got help in his teen years. I still worry every day that he will some day give up. My liner life is filled with feelings of horror (about humans) and guilt (about me).
    What has it taught me? That there are still people out there, including therapists, who ask why are you depressed? They don’t understand that there is no “why”. I learned to keep getting help and to help young people get help when they need it so they don’t wait until they are 40.
    Jenny, I love you, I really do. I wish we could be real friends.

  180. How has it affected me personally?

    Diagnosed with Bipolar 2 and some sort of anxiety disorder (I should ask my psychiatrist) in my early forties.

    When I was a teenager, I was a touch OCD, a ‘locks and appliances checker’, and a bit dishonest (nothing illegal or even meaningful), two classic and freaky bipolar red flags. I started cycling depression in my early twenties, and the cycles became more frequent over time. My mania was never ‘buy crazy shit’ (not Beyoncé cool, sadly), but it manifested in excessive self-confidence and rapid speech, both of which I thought were symptoms of growing up in New York (kind of like saying pop instead of soda). The cycling worked for me in some peculiar ways – I was making six-figures by 40. And I was burning out, so much so that I had to quit my job. At some point, I think I bottomed out into a form of psychomotor retardation for about two months, like post-electroconvulsive Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. But I did not get that official diagnosis, and who would want that additional insurance red flag on her permanent record anyway?

    The biggest ‘affected’ is the toll it takes on my family, my husband, kids, parents, and siblings. They have never failed to be patient, but I sometimes don’t realize that I need to slow down my racing ideas and fixations and speech. One of my kids has symptoms of depression, and the other is checking. I am very careful to remind them that my brain is not the same as theirs so they don’t worry so much.

    What I learned that might help others?

    I learned something 3 weeks ago, the most important thing ever: be sure that you have a team around you that understands your meds history and your symptoms…and your NOT symptoms. Make sure they have the most current list of these things at all times, your family, your various doctors, a neighbor, a very trusted co-worker…. This REALLY matters, and here’s how I found out (I apologize for the length).

    A few months ago I was diagnosed with cancer, and I’m cancer-free and things have gone remarkably well, and no worries. I, like most people with mental illness, take a cocktail of meds to control the illness (a cocktail that has changed over the years), and one of my two prescription pills was not compatible with the cancer med I will take for the next 5 years. I had to quit it, and I did it cold turkey, which I didn’t know was extremely dangerous to do. I should have reduced it over time. My symptoms over the five weeks after I quit escalated until I was having seizures, and I didn’t know the quitting was the cause. In the emergency room, in the same hospital where I was concurrently receiving cancer care, the doctors saw my meds and jumped straight to my bipolar as the cause, wanting to admit me to the behavioral health (bh) ward. Instead of asking me what was happening, they talked to my husband, and he barely knew how to answer their questions — he didn’t even know I quit a med, didn’t understand what they meant by ‘manic’. I refused to be admitted as bh, but absolutely wanted to stay in the hospital under doctors’ care. They wouldn’t admit me and sent me home after intravenous seizure meds (which really helped).

    The next day the symptoms flared up big time, and my doctor sent me back to the ER with specific directions to put me in the hospital but not in bh. The ER locked me in a ‘safe room’ (look it up), and took away all my belongings, my medicines, mouthguard, prescription toothpaste… No toilet, no sink, no blanket, no ‘call nurse’ button. I couldn’t call anyone for help because they took my phone! The doctor didn’t treat me at all, not even seizure medication, so I demanded to leave at 4am. The next day? Same symptoms, plus vision problems, and I just stayed home and shook all night.

    I saw my doctor at her office on the fourth morning. Well, actually, I had a grand mal seizure on the floor of her office before the ambulance took me to a new hospital where I got the care I needed.

    What happened? I was polite, had a sense of humor, was clean and well dressed, had no drugs or alcohol in my system – why was my care at the ER the first two nights so shocking to my husband and me, what had I done wrong? I WAS manic because the meds were leaving my system, and I started obsessively looking for research about the things they did, then searching regular media. And I found that what happened to me has a name: DIAGNOSTIC OVERSHADOWING. A surprisingly large number of medical professionals have a subconscious bias against patients with mental illness for a number of reasons, very often because they don’t understand med conflicts or the illnesses themselves. When a patient is ‘comorbid’, having two illnesses at once, especially when one is mental, he or she very often gets subpar care.

    These doctors didn’t know me, didn’t understand that my symptoms those nights had never happened to me before, were NOT my personal bipolar or anxiety symptoms. Had I informed my husband, he could have been my advocate.

    This New York Times piece does a terrific job of explaining Diagnostic Overshadowing, and it may help people better understand the difference between crappy care and a true high risk care error.
    http://mobile.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/opinion/sunday/when-doctors-discriminate.html?_r=1&referrer=

  181. My husband is agoraphobic (fear of open spaces) with general anxiety disorder. When we got married 11 years ago, he could go to other towns locally, but would not go on the highway or into places with high ceilings. He was taking Effexor and it allowed him to do this much. When we got married, some of the less desirable side effects of the medication began to affect our relationship, so he stopped taking it. He began to slowly descend into himself.
    By a year into our marriage, we had gotten a computer and the internet and I lost my husband for a while. He was sucked into cyberspace and stopped going outside. He spent nearly 2 years in our bedroom only leaving it for nature’s call or to get food and almost never stepped outside of the house. It got so bad, that for a while either myself or my father-in-law had to be at home with him.
    It reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I wasn’t going to be a slave to his fear anymore. I told him he had to get help or I was leaving. He got back on some different meds, but they didn’t help much. Then I got pregnant…
    There is a program in our area for first time parents called the Nurse-Family Partnership, which basically is a baby manual that comes to your home through pregnancy and the first 2 years of the child’s life (Fantastic program!!). Our nurse was so moved by our situation that she was determined to get us some help. My husband couldn’t GO anywhere to get help. We needed someone to come to us. Our nurse went to our local mental health agency and pleaded for them to help us. She kept going back, again and again, until they finally agreed to send someone out. I thank God everyday for this woman! She saved our marriage, our family, and our sanity. They FINALLY sent help.
    My husband now has a case worker who visits twice a month or so to check. Every six months he speaks to a psychiatrist using Skype. He is on meds and doing well. He still doesn’t leave our mountain, but he gets outside everyday, he will go off of our property to visit neighbors and he doesn’t need to be drunk to do it.
    We have two children now, 7 year old girl and 3 month old boy. I wonder if my husband will ever get well enough to go with me to school functions, the kids activities. Will he be able to go to see them graduate. Will he be able to walk his baby girl down the isle. I can deal with never going on dates, having to do all the shopping and errands myself, never having him with us on vacations, going to parent/teacher meetings alone, but it pains me to think of how the kids will feel not having Daddy there for them. Our daughter has been pretty understanding so far, but asked this year if Daddy would go on her field trip with her. It was simple for him to get out of because there were limited chaperones allowed, but he won’t always have an easy excuse.
    He is doing SO much better than he was, but he seems content to “stay” where he’s at. He doesn’t seem interested in getting well enough to go to town, to be a part of the kids lives. (I mean he spends time with them at home and is a great Dad, he just can’t go anywhere with them.) I get depressed often. Thinking about all this, dealing with being the one left to get and do all the things, putting up with his bouts of anger. Sometimes I cry. Late at night when everyone else is asleep and I am still up getting everything done, I realize what a sad life I have. I sit in our front yard where no one can see me and I cry. I try to weep quietly in the shower and let the water wash away my tears. I love my husband to the depths of my soul, but I miss so much of what life used to be. I miss camping and I miss dancing and I miss having friends. I miss having him by my side through it all. I dread the day our daughter cries because Daddy won’t come along. And I cry.
    What I have learned… That other people have MUCH harder lives than I do and focusing on that helps. That not yelling back at my husband helps him calm down faster even if it is the hardest thing I have ever done to keep my mouth shut. That I love him no matter how hard it gets. That sometimes we have to stop helping someone in order to help them. That “Ripple” is the greatest song ever. That hiding your sadness usually only makes it worse. That telling my story to complete strangers helps me feel better. That I am stronger than I ever believed possible.

  182. How has mental illness affected me personally: I am bipolar with generalized anxiety. The worst are the rapid mixed cycles where you actually have the energy to do the things that the depression wants you to do. It makes me question my abilities as a writer/editor/manager, how I parent a teenage son, how I interact with co-workers. I feel like it’s something that has to be hidden. When I do tell people, they say they would never know because I’m so “together.” Impostor syndrome? I’ve got it.

    What did I learn from it that might help others: I tell people it’s like diabetes: I manage it with medication, proper nutrition and exercise, and I have a fabulous team of doctors who have helped me for the past 10 years. Let yourself be cared for by others, but care for yourself. If it’s long baths and cheezy teen dystopian fiction, go for it. Don’t judge yourself! Hiding under the covers where it’s dark, warm and quiet with a dose of risperdal is not a bad thing. There are so many tools–trust me, you can find one that works, even though it may seems like it takes forever to find one.

  183. Jenny, I applaud you for speaking out about these issues and encouraging others to do the same. I’ve had issues with depression on and off for much of my life, but generally manage to cope pretty well. Therapy has helped a lot during the most difficult times.

    My biggest mental health struggles have always related to my son, and finding the right help for him. He was diagnosed as a child with Asperger’s, and as a part of that, he also has lots of issues with anxiety and OCD. We’ve spent a large fortune and 18 years getting him to be aware of these issues and learning coping skills and up until the last few months (his first at college) he seemed to be doing pretty well. Now his anxiety seems to be getting out of hand. He could use more help but he’s at a difficult age – the age in which he thinks parents, therapists, doctors, etc. are all idiots who don’t know nearly as much as he does. We’re hoping to convince him to start seeing a new therapist soon. It gets tiring being his parent, but it’s taught me a lot about not blaming those with mental health issues – and not blaming their parents either.

    For Kelly, who just posted a comment right before me – your comments made me cry, because I remember being brushed off so many times by public school counselors and teachers! I also remember being told he needed spanking or more discipline – and on the same day and sometimes by the same person, I would also be told I was too hard on him and that I needed to be LESS strict. So frankly, just ignore them. Public school honestly nearly killed my kid. He was 8 and sitting in the tub crying and saying he wanted to “go up to Heaven and be with Grandpop because life is too hard,” and the school counselor was telling me he was fine. In the end, we found private schools that specialized in dealing with kids with developmental issues and learning disabilities and that helped immensely. I would look for a school like that in your area. Even if you can’t afford the school, contact them anyway. They often have a resource center the public can use and they will probably also have a list of support groups in your area, where you can meet other people in the same boat and not be judged.

    Good luck with your meeting with the expert on bipolar disorder. You’ve got a tough road ahead of you, but you sound like a fighter, so you should be a great advocate for your son. Just remember to take care of yourself too, because trust me, that’s the first thing you’re going to forget about in dealing with all of your child’s chaos.

  184. How has mental illness affected me personally? Less than two weeks after I was diagnosed as severely depressed, my beautiful 17 year-old daughter was diagnosed as severely depressed and actively suicidal; she had a plan and two backup plans. I’ve also had a niece and a nephew attempt suicide. Mental illness has jeopardized my job. I’m currently fighting taking their HORRIBLE suicide prevention training. The first slide on the online version of their training says, “Suicide is 100% preventable” What BS! Guess that means that if my daughter had actually committed suicide it would be all my fault since I didn’t prevent it. DISGUSTING!

    What did I learn from it? I learned that too many people in our country are so scared by mental illness that they run from it. I learned that you have to pick your docs carefully. I learned that we have to watch out for each other. I learned that Jenny Lawson is a good friend when I need one. I learned that depression lies.

    I’ve shared this site with friends and family struggling with mental illness because it’s one of the only places that I’ve found where you don’t have to hide your struggles. Where people share their highs and lows, and there are no trolls. And you make us laugh, that’s an incredible gift.

  185. My mother had a psychotic break when I was 13. She screamed and cried a lot and didn’t make any sense. I have no siblings. My dad is a physician and kept her home for a week on Valium and trying hard to help her himself. A week later, two men came in a small sedan and carried her off by the arms and legs kicking and screaming (truly) to a private facility for six weeks where she – after a week – threw the thorazine at them and refused to take it any more because she “couldn’t think.”

    I was never allowed to talk about it with anyone. I had one teacher – the gym teacher we were all creeped out by because we never understood her own backstory and pain – who came to me and gently told me she was sorry and to let her know if she could do anything. I was terrified at the time that somehow everyone knew even though I was forbidden to tell anyone – but I also look at the moment of connection as one of the greatest kindnesses shown to me in my young life. So remember that with teenagers – what they say and how they appear can be the exact opposite of what they are feeling.

    I lived in terror for years of losing my mind – whenever I had a panic attack I pictured my mom in her psychotic state. My mom never received long term treatment – when the psychiatrist came to our home and I asked him would she ever be the same again – he said she would be different but ok. It was the 2nd time I saw my dad cry 1st being his own dad’s death. She never was the same. Her filter is permanently broken. To this day she blames it on extreme fatigue – but I suspect that fatigue was brought on by “mania” in the weeks preceding the break. I suppose she has undiagnosed untreated bipolar disorder but she is mainly irritable, depressed, and critical of everything. She is very smart and can be very funny in an irreverent sort of way – taught me to give the finger at age 12, e.g. She was an amazing nurse and I wish she had kept working when I was a kid – it would have made a difference in her life. She lost her dad and her brother and 5 pregnancies so WTF all without any support or therapy. Of course she was hurting.

    Wow this is long. Thank you Bloggess for opening this space. My own mental health issue is GAD with an obsessive component but well controlled. I struggle with tempering my alcohol consumption and know that I am walking a fine line but not ready to do anything about it. I am fortunate to have a wonderful and supportive family and friends. And I do repeat “depression lies” when I have those days.

    So the lessons: always reach out to a person – especially a pre-teen or teenager – you know is struggling because it’s not like bringing it up will make him or her remember it – it’s always on his/her mind. Don’t make your kids keep secrets. Help your kids name their feelings and understand them – that some are scary sometimes and that is ok. Embrace the meds if you need them and don’t hide your diagnosis and its struggles and successful treatment from your kids.

    Rock on!

  186. I know I failed as a mother lots of times but the hardest one to feel was when I watched my youngest daughter do what I call the “silent cry”, where there is no sound coming out but tears stream down your face. I knew then I had passed on the horrible depression to my sweet baby. She and I have struggled through the years with this monster and now we know to stay in touch, we know how to help each other. We send letters back and forth because sometimes it’s easier to write than to talk. We laugh every chance we can so we can store it up for the bad times. And we keep going because that’s the best way to fight our way out.

  187. When I’m sure there is no point, I have a rule for myself that I have to wait a full week before I can agree with myself that nothing can fix this. Things are always different in a week, even if they are still sucky they’re always at least sucky in a slightly different way, so I can tell my brain, see, things do so change, shut up. I have had times when saying, ok, you have to wait a week, is the absolute most I could do, I couldn’t manage to even play a song list. Posting in case this faint safety rail might help somebody else.

  188. I have Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, which basically means that 1-2 weeks out of each month I am incredibly fatigued, foggy-brained, anxious, and depressed. I also experience memory loss, impulsiveness, and sudden weight gain (I have different sizes of clothes in my closet for that time). Sometimes the depression slams me – I’ll go from perfectly fine to suicidal thoughts in a matter of a couple of hours. What’s scary is somehow the way I look on the outside leads some people to think I am doing great. I’m autistic, which causes my outward expression to be very hard for people to read. After I came out of a 2+ year depression in my early twenties, my sister told me she liked me better when I was in the thick of it. She said I was sweeter, and more agreeable. The most frustrating thing about this disorder is that there really isn’t an established cause, medically speaking, and no one in the medical research field is really concerned with finding or treating it. Antidepressants don’t work well on it, and I can’t take any version of the pill, which is all that I have been offered. When I was 27, I asked my doctor why this disorder had manifested (I have not always been this way!). He told me I was “getting old and wearing out.”
    What has helped (NOT that doctor, lol!):
    Most of the time, my depression lifts noticeably within the first couple of days of my period, and just knowing this is amazing.
    My husband is kind.
    I reach out when in my darkest moments. While religion grates on some people, and I truly understand, I can’t skip saying that my Jesus has always proved faithful. He doesn’t do things the way I want Him to, but He has never left me.
    I eat very well, and care for my body with lots of exercise and sunshine as often as possible, especially during the weeks I’m not so nutty.
    I keep friends that care and understand and take me the way that I am. I don’t bother with people who can’t be gracious about this. I’m blessed with a core group of family that I also can consider friends.
    Dance/yoga is therapeutic. I don’t take ballet right now, but am noticing the effects in comparison to back when I was dancing professionally. Having an artistic, but also physical activity like that was really good.
    Snark. Snark helps. And hugs from my youngest, who is my cuddler.

  189. How mental illness has affected me personally: I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since I hit puberty, basically, and at the age of 30 am now finishing a leave of absence from work to deal with the fallout of a severe suicidal episode that was triggered by my job. After more than three months out of the office, I’ve made the decision to leave my job and take more time off to pursue personal interests (writing, travel) and enjoy time with family and friends. I don’t know where I’m headed next, and I’m scared as shit, but I know that I am making the right decision.

    What have I learned from it that can help others? You are NOT WEAK because you have a mental illness, diagnosed or otherwise. You are NOT A BAD PERSON because you need to take medication to function normally. And you are A WORTHWHILE PERSON no matter your circumstances in life. We all have a right to be here, to take up space, to have emotions, to express them. It is our birthright. I’ve learned this from over 2 years of therapy and countless conversations with family, friends, and acquaintances who are learning the same lessons and going on similar journeys.

    I’ve also learned that not everyone is as educated and understanding about mental illness as they could be, and that I can be a force for good to help people learn about how to better support people in their lives who are struggling. This gives me power, and purpose, and joy. Thank you, Jenny, for being part of that realization for me.

    Hugs and love to all of you!

  190. The worst I have is a bit of social anxiety and get that “Run Away, Run Away” feeling when the crowd is too big or I suddenly become visible. ( This stupid Lord Of The Rings) ring I bought on Amazon doesn’t work for crap)
    Thankfully I can fake it really well and people can’t tell that I’m sure I’m doing or saying something stupid when I’m in public. (Since I hide behind a persona I can say stupid stuff on the Internet but I still panic and want to quit when someone blocks me on Twitter)

    So that’s it, kind of a pathetic issue when compared to real problems. 😁

  191. I have depression which is treated by medication. Before meds, it was awful. You know how that is. Now I feel fantastic, so good that I worked with my psychiatrist to decrease my meds. I was able to get off one that both of us felt were not the proper medicine, and such a low dose it would be a place to start. When I was ready to get off another one, we went to one of the meds I am on and again went with the lowest dose. After 4 weeks, I noticed that I was fairly testy at work. I would begin to get angry at stupid little things. I went back to the medicine I had just removed and returned it to my daily meds. All is well now. But I feel even better because I made a try at change and proved I needed these. I am not afraid of people knowing I take anti-depressants. So do others in my family. Thank you for sharing your story.

  192. I have lived with depression with a side order of anxiety since I was about 12 or 13. In my teen years I also showed signs of Borderline Personality Disorder but somehow worked my way out of that, with a TON of therapy and support. I’m now 44, so that’s about 34 years of this. My last “big crash” with depression/anxiety was 13 years ago, and I’ve been doing a lot better since adding a medication to my regimen. A big crash, in my lexicon, is something that requires hospitalization. 13 years ago I was hospitalized 4 times in a year, until we finally figured out that Gabapentin somehow augmented my Zoloft in a quite magical and helpful way.

    Recently I discovered the “joy” of prenatal depression, which surprised me when it whapped me up-side the head around 16 weeks pregnant. I got help immediately when I saw I was in trouble (could not stop hysterically crying for more than a day), and I was lucky to already have a psychiatrist and health insurance. I’m doing better now, with a slight med increase, 2 weeks of intensive outpatient treatment, weekly Cognitive Behavior Therapy, and a therapist. As a former midwife, and current mental health professional, I knew NOTHING about prenatal depression. It doesn’t get a lot of press. It wasn’t in any of my old midwifery books either. I didn’t quite get the point of feeling suicidal, but I was really close. Now I am making some contingency plans in case postpartum gets really bad. I have a lot of support, thank goodness.

    What have I learned? Get help. Ask for help. Tell people you trust that you are in trouble. Don’t do this alone. Just don’t give up. My theme song for those few bad weeks during pregnancy was “Don’t Give Up” by Peter Gabriel. If you have come to the point where you are wanting to die, or worse yet are planning how to do it, CALL SOMEONE RIGHT NOW. Even if it is 911. People will help you. Over the years I have become more open with my coworkers about my own struggles with mental illness, and generally the response is, “oh me too.” Mental illness touches everyone, either directly or through loved ones. I have lost friends as well as former patients to suicide, and each one breaks my heart. Don’t give up.

  193. I’ve read everyone else’s posts. Every single one. There’s all sorts of capitalized initials, standing for issues I have heard of, and things I have not. My son has some of those initials. He has been seeing various child psychologists and other helpers since he was18mos old (home therapists in speech, and two other categories that I am completely blanking on; I suck.) We were told he’s on the autism spectrum. He’s ADHD, anxiety and depression, and was recently (age 11 now) put on bipolar meds. He has uncontrollable screaming/crying outbreaks, says he wishes he’d never been born and that he wants to die. He’s very physically strong, and can get combative, needing to be restrained. And then “poof”, the clouds part and his amazing smile is beaming at me, and it’s all hugs and rainbows. My own little Jekyll and Hyde. I want to wave a magic wand and make it so he doesn’t have to deal with any of this. But I don’t have a magic wand. All I can do is make sure he takes all his meds and try to talk him down off the mental ledge when those meds aren’t working. HE’S ELEVEN FRICKING YEARS OLD. I would gladly take all his issues onto myself if I could. I want him to be a happy carefree kid, not a scared kid asking me why his brain doesn’t work right. But I can’t. I feel like it’s all my fault. He’s my second child, and I didn’t take care of myself like I did with my first pregnancy. I was dealing with his toddler brother, not working outside the home anymore, and then his delivery was very difficult, and I kept refusing the emergency c-section (he was coming out sideways and got stuck). When he finally arrived, I couldn’t even see him or hold him for hours. The guilt from his rough beginning has been my constant companion his entire life. I feel like my refusal of a quick slice to my belly resulted in his brain getting messed up. My husband voiced that same opinion once, many years ago, and so there it is.
    My own problems and issues pale in importance to what my child is going through. No matter what I feel towards myself, (and I probably could have a few of those capitalized initials attached to me, but I’ll probably never know), I will never remove myself from this earth and leave him, or my other two children. They are my tethers.

  194. I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety ever since my abusive childhood. The first counselor that I finally told, as a teenager, sexually abused me. Just the once, but it was enough to break whatever trust I had in the mental health system. I was on a slow downward spiral from then until a suicide attempt in my late 30s when I finally got help. I wish I could be more proactive but I don’t have the money– we’re in that grey area where we make too much to get a healthcare subsidy but have still live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford insurance. I strongly suspect I’m bipolar II or cyclothymic but can’t afford to see a doctor to find out and don’t qualify for help. So mostly, I go it alone and try not to let my illness poison everyone around me.

    Recently, I began working as a writer/editor for a nondenominational Christian counseling center, helping them organize their materials and process into a handbook. My boss actually pulled me aside yesterday and said, “Hey, I can see that this material is triggering you. It’s okay. You don’t have to hide it. If you need to, grab one of us to talk through whatever’s going on.” I may take him up on that.

  195. I’m the gal who bought a safe for my meds. I’m still here, so is the safe. I haven’t seen my daughter in 10 days. We’ve had two painful phone calls and a few bland emails about nothing much, she says she’s willing to talk, but then WON’T. She’ll talk to MY therapist though, who broke my confidentiality and then frosted that sucker by lying when my daughter called her and asked how I was doing because she’s “SO WORRIED”. (If she’d called, she’d know how I’m doing, how WE’RE doing, since she’s totally turned the whole house on it’s head. But it’s easier to call my therapist, who told her i’m “okay”. And when I confronted the therapist and asked her to please call my daughter back and either admit to having spoken out of turn, apologize for not telling the truth or somehow correct the GROSS misrepresentation that I am in any way “okay”, the THERAPIST refused to own her behavior and do anything about it, so I fired her.) So, seven months of therapy wasn’t helping, but this thing with my daughter is dragging on and the extra clonazepam during the day isn’t cutting it as an actual mood leveler, so I’m off to meet a NEW therapist on June 15th. There may be new meds in store for me, which freaks me out, I’ve had some baaaad juju with meds.

    Finding stuff to do that involves my brain with something more interesting than staring at the walls and less dramatic than reviewing and previewing all convos with my daughter helps. So far I’ve sewn a dress, two pairs of leggings, a lightweight summer cardi, three tee-shirts and I’ve modified and or remade or upcycled a bunch of other stuff. And when my brain needs a rest but I can’t settle down, coloring helps, and some of those coloring projecs are going to wind up on tee shirts.

    Kitty snuggles help. That’s all I got.

  196. Oh, and another thing. Mental illness does not have to hold you back. In my life, I have been crippled at times by my depression and anxiety, unable to leave the house, barely able to eat sometimes,a complete disaster. And yet, through help from doctors, therapists, friends, and a lot of medications (and being willing to utilize all of these), I’m now a semi-responsible adult! I got a bachelor’s degree, changed tracks with my life and became a nurse, then got my master’s degree. I now have a very responsible job supervising about 50 nurses, a husband, am 28 weeks pregnant with a little boy (who seems to be tap dancing in my uterus right now), and own a house. I could have given up so many times, but I didn’t. And I won’t. You have no idea what you might achieve if you just make yourself keep going. And life can be amazing. Mine is, now.

  197. I used to think “The Bloggess, she is a fabulous writer and I love to read what she has to say.” Now I realize the amazing comments you invoke from your readers are equally as great. Masterful good stuff. I salute you.

  198. I’ve had panic attacks, chronic anxiety, and depression most of my adult life (I’m 52). Lots of talk therapy and happy pills and beta-blockers/valium for trigger situations. It was all manage-symptoms oriented versus addressing the root cause; management, not cure.

    Five years ago I gave up drinking; I had scored in the moderate dependence range on the AUDIT. Scared the heck out of me. (I forged doggedly ahead all these years to become a drunk? Um, no. Just no.)

    To help quit drinking, I scoured the internet for tools and found a meditation mp3 by some old dead guy named Duncan McColl on stress relief. I thought of it as Dumbo’s feather, but let me tell you, that was the beginning of real change. I slept without drugs. I stopped biting my nails without even realizing it; I just looked down, and there they were, on the tips of my fingers, for the first time since I was five.

    My fascination with this result led to more research on stress and brain function, and I eventually found a different style of therapy called EMDR. I learned that growing up in dangerous, unpredictable, or poorly attached environments actually changes the structure of the brain; the amygdala reacts (“Danger, Will Robinson!”) way before the front cortex can talk us out of it (“Um, that’s not actually a flesh-eating alien; it’s a folded blanket”). The idea is to change the road the brain takes out of habit in response to perceived threats vs actual ones. Understanding and practicing this has changed my actions, reactions, health, and ability to experience joy in life.

    If you’re interested in learning more, there’s a good book called “The Body Keeps the Score,” by Bessel Van der Kolk.

    Head to the wind, and in it to win it, Jenny Lawson! : ) xx

  199. My husband was recently diagnosed as manic depressive, but we’ve been together on this rollercoaster for almost 20 years. His meds help when he actually takes them. He’s only just found a therapist he doesn’t consider to be a “quack”, so every session there’s a little more progress. He’s old-school. its harder for someone who was raised to believe he should be the strong provider to have to ask for help. I am proud of him. It is important to remember that it is never too late for anyone to get help. Even if there’s nothing you can say to help someone feel better, patience and love are still powerful.

  200. I’ve struggled with Major Depressive Disorder since I was 16 (I’m almost 40 now). I’ve tried various meds – some work for a while, most work in the sense where I’m not crying all the time, but give me the personality of a wet cardboard box. CBT did not work -AT ALL- and talk therapy feels like privileged whining.
    Right now, tho, I’m mostly angry. I’m angry that I have to be strong all. the. time. because I don’t have a support system. I’m angry that I don’t have a support system because I am “too much too handle” or “too needy” or “too sensitive to be honest with”. I’m angry that some of the commenters have love in their life – who do they think they are? I’m angry they let someone in, and that person didn’t reject them, like what happened to me. I’m angry because I’m hurting and I don’t know how to make it stop.

  201. Wow. Look at all the comments. LOOK at them! Even just a handful of years ago, people wouldn’t have been nearly so open. Or there would be hateful useless comments like, “Just get over it” or the one we’ve all heard: “It’s all in your head.” (Well, duh, everything we experience is! LOL)
    Full-fledged KUDOS to everyone who has shared their story. You are helping our cause. Thank you.

  202. Mental illness has affected me personally in so many ways. 1) My own depression, GAD, panic attacks, postpartum depression including portpartum OCD (it’s a thing!) and years of going to the wrong therapists and doctors and meds before I found the right combination. My mother has anxiety, my sister has depression and ADHD, my grandfather was bipolar, I’ve got an aunt and a dear cousin who are self-medicating with alchohol and drugs, and two cousins who committed suicide. Yet, on the surface, I’m a “normal, high functioning member of society.”

    And THAT is what I’ve learned. Just about EVERYONE is affected by mental illness, either personally or through someone they know. Just because I have mental illness doesn’t mean that I go around wailing and raving and waving weapons. I have good and bad days, just like everyone else. Nobody is alone with this, because this is part of the human condition. If you don’t want to call it “normal,” call it “common.”

    I’ve also learned that I cannot thrive in my toxic office. I’m actively setting up my own freelance writing business and I’m going to work from home. Or a cabana. Or a hammock. Or anywhere that feels good to me. And one day, when I’ve got the writing business stuff all figured out, I’m going to write about mental illness. I’m going to mentor other women starting their own businesses. I’m going to pay it forward. Helping others is one of the best ways of helping yourself.

  203. I was diagnosed with mild depression a few years ago. Funny, I thought it was my thyroid. (Major FAIL Dr. Google!) This was an… adjustment. I mean for f*ck sake, I was the “normal” one in the family, the caretaker, the one who kept all the Klingon-esque spinning tops from toppling, proving to the world that my immediate family was indeed “touched”. MotherDearest was the one with Borderline Personality Disorder, a Lernaean Hydra of mental illness. Older brother has it too, combined with a mega dose of Narcissism, which he’s chosen to ignore but self-treat with weed for 40+ years. He attempted suicide, not because he wanted to die, but because he thought it would get him who he wanted. (It didn’t work) I was the one who took him to the hospital, had him put under supervision, tried to do the right thing….and am a “dumb f’ing c**t” for doing so. Sigh. We don’t speak. MotherDearest passed away a few years ago with dementia not knowing who I was any more. Dad (no John Walton but pretty darn sane) had already succumbed to lung cancer. My sister blames me for being..well, apparently me. We don’t speak either. My younger brother however is my partner in crime. We cling to the bouncing buoy in the sneaky sea, dark humor our secret language of survival. Flowery words that just mean we get together, crack sick jokes, drink beer and are grateful we survived.

    So, mild depression Doc? Really?

    I don’t do anything pharmaceutical about it. Yet. I use exercise and all the other well-intentioned healthy habits. I’ve started to talk about it. The reactions are priceless in both positive and negative ways in which I am sure y’all are acquainted. I did unfortunately scare the crap out my husband (type: Unicorn, Specially Loving and Wonderful division) a few weeks ago after a really bad depressive incident, by announcing “I think I get why people think killing themselves seems a good idea.” It wasn’t meant as a Personal Mission Statement or a new to-do list item; I simply had – until then – always thought suicide was a selfish move. (note: “older brother” above) For the first time I understood it could cross dress itself as a reasonable solution, a way out, a potential clean slate, a chance to just freakin’ rest from the battle. (Feel free to insert your own description here).

    And so it goes. I’m not alone, even on those days when “my bad roommate” says so.
    Watch this…its priceless:

    And thank you Jenny. Just….thank you for being you.
    Best to all.

  204. How mental illness has affected me personally:
    I’ve been struggling with depression since childhood. The severity goes up and down, but when it’s bad, it’s really bad. This is not something I hide, but I don’t usually trumpet it from a mountain top either. There are too many people who have no understanding or patience with the problems that come with depression. The best analogy I can come up with is this. Imagine someone gave you a 1 pound weight and told you to hold it out in front of you. If you drop it, you’re in danger of losing your job, your home, your friends and more. For a while, you can hold it with no problem. But, the longer you hold it, the harder it gets. It hurts to hold it there. At some point it becomes unbearable, and you have to let it drop. At some point you start to be angry with all the people who expect you to hold it there. After all, they have no problem with it. You just want to go hide from all these super strong people, and anyone who tries to drag you out is ignored, or worse alienated.
    What I have learned from it that might help others:
    I’ve learned who can handle (and maybe even enjoy) being friends with me. I have learned how to warn my friends that things are getting bad so they can help and keep an eye on me. I’ve learned that depression lies. I’ve learned to ask for help when I need it and to be specific about what will help. I’ve learned to forgive others and myself for mistakes. I’ve learned how to pick myself up and try again… and again. I’ve learned the importance of meds, and counseling. I’ve learned that I still have value as a person.
    If you are struggling with a mental illness, please know that you are not alone. Learn your limits, and don’t expect more than that from yourself. You wouldn’t ask someone with a broken leg to run a race. You also wouldn’t think less of that person when they refuse to try. Ask for help, and do your best to find the words to tell your friends and family what is going on and what will help. Needing medication to get by is no worse than a person with a broken leg needing a crutch. There is no shame or weakness in that. It’s just what you need to walk. Learn to love yourself. It will get better. It will probably get bad again after that, but that’s okay. The good times can outweigh the bad if you let them, and the good times will always come back.

  205. Like, what Jenny wrote — my anxiety will lie. Frankly, it’s a b*tch. It will say that no one cares and I shouldn’t bother anyone. That I’m being annoying. I’ve learned it’s ok to retreat, yet, to check in and asking myself : is this working(retreating).

    It is a good place to start to help myself, emerge from the cave. I’ve learned that I’m always going to have my anxiety. I said to a friend, “I’m a spaz but I have a heart of gold and always good for a good laugh.”

  206. Another Borderline Personality Disorder here (with a mixture of General Anxiety Disorder) and while you’re never fully cured, I do like to say I’m in remission. My 20s have been hell though. I went through a lot of really painful growth in the past 10 years. After a lot of therapy and different meds, I’m on the happy side of content. Do I have bad days? Hell yeah, but I’ve learned that it means I need to do more things for myself that make me happy.

    What I’ve learned: You’ve got to have patience. I hate it, but it’s true. Be good to your self and don’t take it out on yourself or anyone else if you fail. It will happen, but the good thing is that tomorrow is another day to try again. Also, learn to love being by yourself. Most of us with these disorders feel incredibly lonely, but if you can turn that around and look at it as “I’m with my best friend, myself, and doing what I love” it helps immensely. And meds work. You have to suck it up and go through a lot of them to find the perfect one, though. So, yes, those months of trying them out will be the worst thing ever, but when you find the med that lets you get up in the morning and not want to cry or not be in pain? Oh man, is it awesome.

  207. We are all alike…and yet so damn different.

    My entire life, I’ve been the strong one. I’ve been the calm, decisive, “able to take the blows” person in my family’s and friends’ worlds. It’s the biggest lie I live. I know I suffer from bouts of depression that is most likely caused by a hormonal imbalance (seems to happen at the same time during my monthly cycle), but I can’t get over my self-imposed stigma of being “strong”. I’ve always told people I’m shy to cover my crippling fear of social situations. Getting married and having 3 children gives me something else to focus on besides my shortcomings, but I still feel like such a liar. How do I teach my children to embrace their strengths and weaknesses when I can’t own up to mine? My mental issues seem like such a weakness to me, but other people’s mental issues I can totally understand and they seem so strong being so open about them!

    What I’ve learned: Getting over your self-image is so hard and impossible. I still haven’t figured out how, but one of these days, Jenny, I’m hoping your words will get through the steel doors.

    I want to be “normal”, but I’m so used to being messed up!

  208. I recently was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder via therapy. It is possible that I’ve been living with GAD since third grade, at which time all three of the girls I was friends with, and had been friends with since pre-school moved away. Left without friend, I developed a sort of trichotillomania (the irresistible urge to pull one’s hair out–a impulse control disorder). I plucked myself bald at the back of my head by the end of grade three. My classmates, the pack of hyenas that children tend to be, made my life a living hell as a result. Needless to say, middle school was not fun nor was the response that I needed to “buck up and deal” and “learn to fight back.” Neither tactic proved successful so I learned not to talk to people about my problems. Enter puberty (which physically occurred for me around age 12–boobs, glasses, braces, AND my period all at once… oh the joys *insert sarcasm and enter self/body loathing): I suddenly understood, to an irrational level, the importance that people put on looks. I spent the next 23 years trying to be any body but me. I made bad decisions of all sorts (booze, men, etc.). I considered but never acted on self harm. Perhaps worse, I never voiced my wants (sexual, emotional, physical) or needs but rather diverted all my energy into whatever man I was with while simultaneously pushing them away. Beginning of this year, at age 35, I experienced a breakdown of epic proportion (to me it seemed this way) when I discovered my partner of six years was involved with a woman 11 years my junior (and not the first woman, I discovered, but just one that he happened to fall in love with) and wanted to leave me. I just couldn’t take it anymore–I broke in a scary way (the lowest point was when I left the house with no phone, no ID, no keys, and just started walking; I remember thinking that were I to step into traffic, I’d just disappear. No one would be able to identify me. It scared the pants off me that I was okay with that).

    So I sought therapy. I’m working through my issues. I’m considering the merits of medication (but trying really hard to figure out if I can learn coping mechanisms without it). I started working out, crafting more, writing more–all things calm my mind. I’ve started identifying triggers. My therapist has helped me come up with a series of questions to ask myself when I hear the irrational thoughts screaming in my head. I haven’t told a lot of people about my mental health “issues” or that I’m in therapy as I’m still attempting to overcome my own stigmatization of the words “mental illness.” I’ve started, as weird as this sounds, to be more selfish. I say no (a huge problem for me) when I know I don’t want to do something. I try to make decisions–even little ones like what time to see a movie–even though making these types of decisions is sometimes overwhelmingly difficult. I’m looking for a different job that will free up more of my time to do the things I want/like (I’m a college adjunct professor–I may be a PT worker, but I work 80 hours a week for little pay–stress over money is a major trigger for me that can send me into a tail spin for days). I don’t make excuses to NOT do the things I want to do anymore. I am working on communicating my wants, needs, desires, and emotions better (some days are better than others). Mostly I’m working on accepting myself. I’m 36–my birthday was yesterday (May 28th)–and I’m starting over.

  209. I have Fibromyalgia. These are the things that go with that: Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, Low Thyroid Function, IBS, TMJ, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, dry eyes, nose, and mouth, almost constant headaches, and other things I can’t even remember.

    My depression and anxiety are so wrapped up in everything else that I am constantly overwhelmed to the point that I can’t focus on anything. My entire life is chaos, with periods of not being able to get out of bed, let alone take care of myself or my daughter, my house or the everyday things other people do. I can’t tolerate anti-depressants, they make me sleep 15 hours a day and turn me into a zombie. Every pain killer either does nothing or makes me throw up. I take Ativan for the anxiety, and it works, Thank God, because I have to take that in order to open my mail and pay my bills. I haven’t been able to answer the phone in years without checking the caller ID, and then only if it’s a family member or my doctor. I have no friends anymore at all. I don’t blame them, I quit sending out Christmas cards, I don’t even try to keep in contact with them. I rarely leave the house, and sometimes I just drive to the store and give my daughter a list and a credit card, and she does all the shopping. If it was just the pain, I wouldn’t feel so guilty about it, but a lot of the time it’s because I haven’t bathed for days, don’t have any clean clothes, and just can’t stand the idea of running into someone I know and having them see what my life has become.

    Having said all that, there are two things that keep me going. The first is my daughter. She was five when I started getting sick, and she’s fifteen now. She knows when there is something she needs, no matter how bad the pain or the other problems are, I will drag myself out of bed, get cleaned up and do my best not to let her down. She also knows she will be my lackey for a few days after. She sits with me when the pain is so bad all I can think about is how much I don’t want to go on and holds my hand. She reads to me when my vision is too blurry to see. She read the whole Harry Potter series out loud last summer. The second thing is, somehow, I have not lost my sense of humor, and that is a wonderful thing.

  210. After giving birth to my second child I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder with panic attacks. I am so grateful for the knowledge that YOU KNOW YOURELF BEST. So many comments above talking about knowing something was off, and for me, that is everything. So often after pregnancy doctors are tuned in for the “baby blues” and postpartum depression. I am my own definition, not able to let anyone else hold my baby without completely coming unglued with anxiety. Talking to someone didn’t help me, never found the “right” medications, but I can’t go without my acupuncture and waxing! Yes, needles and pretty lady bits can help us all!

  211. I grew up with a mother who has major depression (occasionally rapid-cycling) with schizoid features; this set me up to be a caretaker and to set aside my own needs for others’. In college I did battle with panic disorder and bouts of depression. Later I chose a partner who also battled depression (but hid it) and self-medicated with alcohol (and hid it until he couldn’t hide it anymore). I tried to help in all the ways I knew how, until I realized that my efforts to help were, in fact, NOT helping and were slowly killing me and I ended up terminating that relationship.

    What I’ve learned is that I AM NOT ALONE. There is a STAGGERINGLY LARGE number of people who have been through what I’ve been through, have felt the same feelings, have endured the same trials, and have come through the other side of it. I found Al-Anon, and that program has been immensely helpful and I am filled with gratitude for it. I have come to accept that I can’t do everything myself, and that it’s perfectly okay. I have learned that solutions will come in their own time. I have learned that I’m a valuable person who deserves good things. All of these things I’ve learned, but yet I find I need constant reminders, and that’s just my brain recovering from the effects of another’s alcoholism. So I accept that, and get reminded, and find serenity.

  212. I try to upfront about my mental illness, when it is relevant, just as I am with my physical problems. I had no idea that I was supposed to keep quiet about it. I hope it has helped others.

  213. I have a form of agoraphobia as well as severe anxiety. My issues have prevented me from travelling, and from being there for the people I love. I’ve been doing behavioural therapy, so every weekend my husband takes me travelling as far as I can make it, and it’s getting better. I’ve actually made it to a city 2 hours away! I’ve given up trying to explain myself, it’s just me. I have bad news given to my husband first, then he can give it to me in a way that lessens the panic. Every little thing I succeed at gives me hope for the future. Also, marijuana.

  214. How has mental illness affected me personally:
    My mother has bipolar disorder with schizophrenic tendencies. She was diagnosed when I was 3. It took many years for them to correctly diagnose her and even longer to get her on a combo of meds that is the most effective with the least negative effects. Growing up I witnessed my mother’s mood swings, the manic states, the depressive episodes. The aftermath of manic shopping sprees and unfinished cleaning binges. The crippling depression that could last for days or weeks, many, many times ending with a failed suicide attempt, or at the least, a woman who has completely unravelled crying and telling you (her child) how she just wants to die. That she loves you so much, but she just doesn’t want to live at all any more. I have been locked out of her home because “I’m going to bring THEM in here to take her away!”, I have ridden in the back of ambulances when she swallowed every pill, I have coordinated rides to pick up her car from countless doctors offices when she has been transferred from her counseling appointment to the psyc ward of 1 of 3 possible hospitals because she was an immediate threat to herself and needed to be instantly admitted. I have spent birthdays and holidays in the visiting rooms of hospital psyc wards. As a child I have bathed my own mother because she was too depressed to do it herself. … I have also grown up with a father who had no idea how to deal with his wife’s mental illness, so he mentally checked out with a 6-12 pack of budweiser every work night, and more on the weekends (he is still an alcoholic). Until I was 18 and they finally divorced, I spent a lot of time hiding from my father and caring for my mother. I am 31 and have spent my entire life coming to terms with and learning to better understand mental illness. I will probably spend the rest of my life trying to understand it too.

    What did I learn from it that might help others:
    I’ve learned that how someone else is feeling is not your fault. I’ve learned that you cannot fix someone, and likewise you cannot break someone. If someone you love wants to die, it does not mean they don’t care about you. I’ve learned that there is a balance between being all consumed by someone you love’s problems, and eviscerating them from your life. I’ve learned that many, many times, when you want to the most, there is nothing you can do to help someone. I’ve learned that when there is an opportunity to help someone, or do something good, seize that moment. I’ve learned to put myself first. (still working on that one a lot). I’ve learned that talking to people about mental illness is so complicated, and still very hard. But I will keep trying. I have learned that my issues that developed with me and my personality are nothing to be ashamed of, and also do not define me. More than anything, mental illness has taught me true compassion.

  215. I have depression and mild panic disorder. I have never made an actual suicide attempt, but first seriously considered and planned for suicide when I was 11 years old. I cut myself for a while in college, thankfully a short phase. I didn’t find anything to really help until my 30s. I’m in my 40s now, and still finding new ways to fall down, and new ways to pick myself back up again. I have learned:

    What I eat matters a whole hell of a lot to how I feel, and how I interact with the world.
    Getting exercise helps more than most things.
    Medication does NOT work for me to treat my depression.
    Medication DOES work for me to treat my panic disorder.
    Sleep is really, really important.
    If I am stuck in a self-hating narrative in which I assume that everyone around me shares this hate of me, I have learned to ask myself for proof. Are other people doing anything to support this thesis? No? Then perhaps I made it up, and the world is not against me.
    I can ask for help. There are a lot of people out there who can help, and are happy to. I just have to reach out and ask.
    Yeah, that’s easier said than done. But it’s still an available option and resource.

  216. I have depression and some kind of anxiety disorder (exactly which one depends on which doctor you ask.) I came out to my boss and was subsequently bullied by him and others until I had to leave my career of 15 years. Many of my friends were coworkers and I was too embarrassed to talk to them about it so I also lost most of those friends (before you feel too sorry for me, my BEST friends stayed with me.)
    What I learned: Keep moving–even if I can only do a little bit at a time; idleness is my enemy. It’s okay to take a day off now and then if I need to ‘self-care’ by baking cupcakes. It’s okay to cry, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Oh and I made a list I call my ‘Articles of Faith’ to remind me of what the world is like when I’m not grayed out–so I know what to believe in when my brain tells me there’s nothing to believe in.

  217. I talked with a friend from elementary school yesterday, and she apologized for her part in the bullying I endured growing up. While she was far from the worst, it still felt relieving to hear her words when I confessed I sometimes wonder if I remember it too sensitively, if they were really that bad: “No. They were monsters.”
    Combined with a strict mother and natural perfectionism (likely OCD + anxiety), it wasn’t surprising that I was depressed in grade 7. Off an on, throughout the years since. It showed me how deep my sense of creativity was – some of the poetry I composed still impresses me to this day. It showed me how important it is to find friends who love me for who I am, and not a shell of a ‘popular’ girl. I still struggle making new friends, because I’m either too quirky for them or they’ve already got their “BFF” (UGH can we please do away with that term, it brings me back to elementary school where people has BFF matching necklaces to show they had social status!) or set of friends. Or I just find them so dull I can’t imagine wanting to share the extreme depths of my thoughts with them. I don’t know. But I CRAVE that connection in a friend.
    I am engaged, and very happy about that. He balances me out, but even he doesn’t meet me at the same level of thought – which is probably for the best as we might wear each other out emotionally if that were the case. But if I could find a true best friend out there, I would probably be the happiest person in the world.

    Oh, and if my sister’s mental health issues would get resolved that would be nice too. I hate how all of our relationships with her depend on her mood, and even when she’s in a good mood her bitterness disallows her to be grateful to anyone for their support (and don’t think it’s something we ask for – but she makes it clear she thinks no one loves her, no one supports her, she is SO distrustful of any doctor’s advice, she argues with everyone because she knows best, and every reaction is either super-enthused LOVE or super-enthused HATE, RIGHT/WRONG, extremes). I dunno, I know it sounds super judgemental, but not everyone with a mental illness is fundamentally nice. So it’s even harder to figure out how to deal with supporting them when you know they’re going to just continue being obnoxious and rude and miserable to you. Seriously my last experience with her was her sarcastically reprimanding our mother for offering to help me when she had been asking to get something (while our mother was on the phone) for sooooo longggggggg. She could have gotten up and gotten it herself, she’s not incapable by any means. She saw me look at her, reflexively, with a “really?” look, and she snapped at me: “Don’t give me ATTITUDE, GIRL” …………… Look, I’m sorry to ramble. But I’m 31 years old, and my mother (who has done SO much for her) and I don’t deserve to be treated that way because SHE is miserable. Dealing with mental health issues on top of her obnoxious kind of righteous self-centredness is so hard. And finding someone who won’t judge me for sometimes wanting to just let her deal with it herself is next to impossible. But our parents are older, and they still will drive out to get her when she gets a cold and needs to come home. I worry they will catch her cold which she so inconsiderately puts them at risk for. I mean, where does the line between “supportive” and “enabling mistreatment towards others/yourself” get drawn? They always say to get rid of toxic relationships, but what happens when those relationships are family?

    As you can see, I’m still struggling to piece it all together.

  218. My brother is dead. He killed himself on my mother’s birthday. My family won’t acknowledge his suicide, so I have grieved for him all alone. And now I am trying to have his body disinterred so that his DNA can be matched against mine. Before he killed himself, he disappeared. No one ever heard from him again. For twenty-five years, I searched for him, and finally found him on a John Doe/Missing Persons website. But I cannot bring him any peace, or myself any peace, until his body is formally identified. I feel so alone. I have tried to raise money for the disinterment fees, but everywhere I try, the state, the city, the mayor, senators and congressmen, missing persons groups, suicide prevention groups, no one will help me. So Jenny, it’s just not true that no one is alone. I am, and my brother is, lying in his cold grave, unnamed, in Alaska. It’s just another blow to deal with: first his disappearnce and the agonizing wondering, then knowing he killed himself and the horrible circumstances of his death, then my family shunning him, and now it seems no one else cares either. http://www.gofundme.com/bringGordonhome

  219. Can you tell me how old you were when you started having feelings that were maybe more real or more intense than your peers. My daughter seems to feel so many more things than her friends, and it’s hard for me to know if I should start getting her help or monitoring more closely.

  220. I am twenty years old and I have been living with severe generalized anxiety disorder for my entire life. When I was a child, my mother considered me to have a “nervous stomach”, but as I grew older, it worsened, and after a string of hospitalizations, I was diagnosed with GAD and CVS (cyclic vomiting syndrome: a condition that is associated with anxiety and migraines. It causes uncontrollable vomiting and nausea, and in severe cases, hospitalization.). At first, I was so, so ashamed, and I refused to accept it. I had been in theater and cheerleading and debate, and because of this, I didn’t feel like I was allowed to have an anxiety disorder. As time passed, I grew to understand that no two disorders are the same, and no two people that are affected are affected in the same way. I have been able to look back and see how so many issues have been explained by this diagnosis. I experienced a battle with self-harm, extremely low self-esteem, and abusive relationships.
    Since being diagnosed, I have slowly started accepting myself for who I am, and welcoming the love and support from the people that have been here for me since day one. Not every day is a piece of cake. I still get sick from CVS: There are days that I throw up blood three times before breakfast, and there are days that I go to the hospital because I can’t tolerate the pain of the migraine. There are plenty of days my husband comes home to find me curled up on the couch with my “magic sand”, unable to say or do anything else. And there are plenty of days I can not seem to make sense of how to deal with all of this without wanting to run down the street, ripping my hair out.
    I read The Bloggess as often as I can, because I find so much comfort in knowing that I am so not alone in all of this. I have so much gratitude to Jenny for that. Reading every one of your posts is like reading something out of my own twisted mind, and it makes me feel like even though I don’t actually know you, I have a best friend in you. Thank you, Jenny. I have been reading for years, and everyday, I feel better about my future and everything I can do, not in spite of having this disorder, but becuase of it. You have been inspiring me since I was sixteen, and will continue to do so for years and years. Much love, from another weird chick from the Hill Country.

  221. I am bipolar, my 16 year old son has it worse. I grow weary of well meaning loved ones telling me its just him being a spoiled teenager. And it is so very difficult to be his champion when I just want to stay in bed and convince myself those are just damned lies in my head. You help me remember I am not alone. You please don’t go away.

  222. I love that you love cats. Me too! My cat has been a lifesaver. I find myself thinking more about him than poor lonely me and he makes me laugh. It’s wonderful how many people have responded to your blog. You are my new favorite writer, Jenny.

  223. My mental illness has taught me that I have few friends I can talk to that will really listen. It has taught me that my depression will lie to me daily and that PTSD will make me think there is someone around a corner or behind a door; waiting to get me. Anxiety is a killer that so very many people don’t understand. Instead they tell me to take a chill pill. It doesn’t work like that. I have BPD and I can’t keep up with the ups and downs of it. I have yet to learn that I can live through this, because right now it’s doing it’s best to kill me.

  224. I have severe depression, and probably a host of other problems but I can never be sure. As I’m unemployed, I am getting laughable insurance through the Affordable Care Act. I cannot find even ONE therapist near me who will accept it. The only ones who do are 30+ miles away, I don’t drive, and I have no one who can take me.
    So I sit here and suffer, surrounded by people who don’t give a damn.

  225. How its’ affected me: In high school I was told I had depression and a panic/anxiety disorder. They tried to put me on pills but I felt off and wouldn’t take them. About two years ago now, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 (even though it’s technically not called that anymore, or something) because I tried to get back on zoloft for anxiety/depression, only to have it make me more anxious, talking way too fast and irritable, constantly rubbing my hands on my clothes. People around me saw that I was far from myself on it. Talking to the doctor she said she could see it was making me hypomanic, and sent me to a psychiatrist, who after talking to me said it sounded like I had episodes of hypomania pretty regularly, mixed with episodes of depression. Being hypomanic makes me feel so restless, and either irritable, or euphoric and invincible feeling. Very strange things feel VERY IMPORTANT, like learning to write in Tengwar or Circular Gallifrean. I get very focused on all these new ideas of things I’m so sure I’m going to do “I’m going to write a novel or collection of short stories, I’m gonna work out every day, I’m gonna learn a new language asap” but realistically you can’t keep up with the schedules hypomania sets up for you, which becomes exceedingly frustrating and makes you so anxious because you feel like you’re failing.

    What I’ve learned: I learned to trust my instincts about things. I knew something didn’t feel right and I was having anxiety and felt off, so I asked for help. I knew when that did not feel like the right kind of help, so I asked again. It was almost a relief to be diagnosed, because I KNEW that those feelings of intense restlessness and wanting to throw things or run screeching and act invincible weren’t always just “oh I’ve been inside too long” and that periods of almost no sleep weren’t healthy. If you feel like something is off with yourself, if you feel like something is strange, please address it. You may end up being wrong, but better to ask and know for sure.

  226. I have anxiety and panic attacks, and would never wish them on my worst enemy. Depression showed up a few years back, and my partner told me I needed to get help. I’ve seen her cry four times in our 10+ year relationship, and one was she said she couldn’t help me any more, but she could help me get help. Which is what we did. I’ve learned that exercise really, really helps. So, I try to take care of myself, pretty much all in the hopes my panic attacks will be fewer and further between. Talking about what’s going on helps a lot – I found out that both of my SIL’s have anxiety issues, too.

  227. I suffer from PTSD, General Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (dermatillomania), and Seasonal Affective Disorder. It has taken 3 intensive years of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to be okay with myself. I have lots of triggers, 3 trigger months and there are days I feel like I am fighting an uphill battle. Up until last year I had night terrors 3-4 times a week starting from age 16 (I’m 34 now). I have only just begun opening up about my mental illness to others besides my husband and closest friends. I thank God for my husband a lot because he has the strength to endure me at my worst. Your book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, was the best thing to happen to me concerning my mental illness. It helped me be okay with it on a deeper level and I felt more at peace because you helped me realize I am not alone.

    I have learned that it’s okay to have good days and bad days. I am learning to communicate better to my children (ages 7 and 4) when I am having a bad day as they don’t quite understand my mental illness just yet. I have learned I am a survivor who has the strength to endure my mental illness without medication, but if I truly need it, it is within my grasp. I have learned to pick myself up and not be afraid of my abuser (my mother) because she too suffers mental illness as well as addictions to drugs and alcohol. I have learned that it’s okay to surround myself in a cocoon of my 3 closest friends when I truly need someone who just gets me because they chose to see beyond my mental illness.

  228. The most important thing I’ve learned is to remember that not everyone’s mind works the way mine does. That’s the best place to start.

  229. How have I been affected by mental illness…the better question, for me, anyway…is how have I NOT been affected by mental illness….my mother was probably bipolar, with OCD and social anxiety. I, myself, am bipolar type 2, with some anxiety, and some faint remnants of OCD still clinging on…I think Carrie Fisher said it best when she said that she is “Quite sane about all her craziness..” I’m hypervigilant over my moods…I watch the world and myself thru a bipolar lens. I am constantly second guessing myself–am I too happy? Too irritable? Would a “normal” person be angry about this? It’s a hell of a way to live–under a mood microscope. Still….having survived my childhood, and having this mood disorder…has allowed me a certain clarity..intuition..and empathy that I don’t believe I would otherwise have. I also have a play list of songs I go to…and dance wildly in my kitchen to. We all have shit…some of us are just luckier than others to have more. It’s all good-it makes for better writing and comedy.

  230. I’ve lived with depression and low self-esteem for most of my life. I found the hardest part (besides people not believing I have depression or low self-esteem) is finding the right help. It took a lot of searching and working with a lot of frogs before I found a good fit (and someone who actually acknowledged me, the illness and the reasons behind it). While I continue to work on myself and at times I still have the urge to self-sabotage, it helps to talk about it, recognize it and to breathe and know it’s just one moment in time and it does not define who I am. I’ve realized that the person I am – flaws and all – is okay by me and I don’t have to change and be someone else. It’s a hard lesson to unlearn after years and years of being told I was just not up to the standard. My advice to others: don’t give up. You are worth it. I know it. You know it. The world would be a much darker, less interesting place without all of us in it.

  231. Hey, preordered
    your new book..loved the other one and truly enjoy your work. I have many of these songs on my running playlists. Running helps my sanity.

  232. The first line of the journal that my sister is writing for her daughter is, “I was born into a world of horror and abuse.” This was true for both of us. Because of this we both suffer from depression, PTSD, anxiety,.. and the list goes on. I should have been an architect instead of a nurse because I have built some magnificent boxes, walls, and … well, whole buildings at times to hide things away that were rotting my soul. Sometimes they are still able to pound their way out of their prisons and wreak havoc on my world… usually in the form of PTSD… if someone even mildly offends me I either attack or run as fast as I can. I hate it because it has affected every single relationship I have ever had. Every single one. And often it has been the cause of the ruination of relationships of great importance in my life leaving me alone at the times when I have obviously needed someone the most. But I try… and so does my sister. We still wake up every day. We still desperately love our children and each other. We still try and find pleasure in small things. Joy is elusive and to tell the truth I have only felt it with the birth of my children. I try and give to others because it is how humans should live. Helping others in need and being there for them at their time of need seems to be what gives me purpose. I don’t believe in religion, but I do believe in God which makes life even harder because then I have to wonder what kind of God allows the kind of horrors that creates people like me… people afraid to live but afraid to die… people hurt so badly that they are broken… people who are so broken that sometimes it hurts just to breathe…

  233. I loved your first book and your blog (and can’t wait to read your second book) and love how you make mental illness all so NORMAL. Because it is. I had postpartum depression with my first child and perinatal and postpartum depression with my twins and my husband was diagnosed with clinical depression when our kids were little. You would think my experience with PPD would help me understand my husband – sorry to say it did not but thankfully we are working things through together. My saviour was the sun. Forcing myself and my kiddies to get outside was worth every second of screaming, crying and struggles (all four of us). Just walking in the sun made me feel so much better. So much so that I lied to everyone including myself about my first bout of PPD. What do I do and what have I learned? I used to speak about PPD to a “Congratulations you’re having Twins!! Pre Natal group” which was great for me and hopefully for them. Although they all seemed to look at me like I was crazy I hoped that I helped at least one person realize that it was okay to ask your doctor or someone for help. Or for a partner/spouse to realize new Mommy needs help. I teach my kids that its okay to be sad for absolutely no reason and they can ask for help or just a cuddle. Therapy is fantastic if you can afford it – so much better than the psychiatrists I saw for my PPD that either tried to convince me it was no big deal or I should leave my husband. (This from the wonderful hospital that thinks it is good to have a painting of the grim reaper’s scythe in their waiting room – I kid you not). I guess my biggest lessons are getting lots of sun and trying to exercise a bit. Avoid birth control pills. Get lots of hugs. Try to get enough sleep. Read happy books. Or even better funny ones. Best are funny ones about mental illness 🙂

  234. I have severe depression with suicidal ideation, social phobia, anxiety, and issues with body dysmorphia, among others. I first tried to commit suicide when I was 11 years old. I was 44 on my last birthday. I have spent 3/4 of my life wishing I were dead.

    I have a history of self-harm and addiction, and a LONG family history of mental illness. My father, mother, brother, maternal grandmother, and untold aunts, uncles, and cousins…

    It is very difficult for me to leave the house. Often, it is difficult for me to leave the bedroom. I’ve destroyed all my mirrors, so I generally don’t know what I look like on any given day. I have no friends where I live – they have all given up on dealing with how my mental illnesses manifest in my life, and I don’t blame them. I do everything alone. I’m not sure that I know any other way to be now.

    I don’t know what I have learned, to be honest. When I have the rare “up” day, I have learned to recognize it, and to get as much done as I can (cleaning, shopping, etc.) to make up for the days where I am so depressed I can’t put on clothes or eat. Past that, I think of the future and the idea of living this way for the rest of my life horrifies me beyond measure. I would not wish this on anyone. I am tired. I am tired every single day.

    I am thankful beyond measure for my online friends, and for people like you and Wil Wheaton and other celebrities that are honest and open about mental illness. I think that maybe it is too late for me, but I hope that other people will be helped and saved by this openness and honesty.

    Take care of yourselves, all of you.

  235. I’m disabled by PTSD. I’m doing better with CBT and meds, but it will never go away. Some of my friends think that because I look normal, I must be normal. Judging a book by its cover. I’ve had people ask if I’m violent and think I will start shooting up the place, just because soldiers are the most prominent sufferers. I’m an optimist and generally happy unless I have a PTSD episode. I know it by the nightmares and the night sweats, but can usually figure out the trigger. Once I have control of the trigger, I can start to heal. Sometimes it’s awful inside my head.

  236. Very long story slightly shortened…In 2010 I took ALL of my very many medications for depression, anxiety and sleep and wound up in a coma for 10 days. The first day I had seizures every 30 seconds for 17 hours. Needless to say, my brain is a little scrambled. I lost most of my memory and have a terrible time with short term memory. I still have depression and anxiety but I have a huge reminder of what can happen if I don’t stay on top of it. Unfortunately I have Kaiser insurance and my psychiatrist does not believe in medication for anxiety. She gives me .5 Ativan – 20 per month. I really have to do a lot of self soothing and sometimes that means rocking on the bed which freaks my husband out as it’s something I did prior to the coma. I have learned so much from coming to your site, much more than I ever would learn from my own doctor. I thank you so much for that. And keeping me laughing the rest of the time. Laughter really does help. I still have bad days but I am much better at identifying them and if it means I stay in my pajamas in bed all day, that’s what happens. I will not apologize or be embarrassed about having mental health problems. It’s who I am. It isn’t everything I am, but it’s so much a part of me just as my own skin is. I have to add that since the coma, I have lost EVERY SINGLE friend I had. Not one person that was a friend has ever asked me me how I am. It’s been FIVE YEARS.. I can’t thank you enough for this website. You have done way more than my psychiatrist ever has as far as helping me. She only wants to do my meds, she only wants to know how I am in very vague terms, I am not allowed to talk to her. I can see a counselor for that and then it’s only a few visits. Yay Kaiser.

  237. My ex-husband struggled with depression for years. What his struggle with depression has taught me is that EVERYONE needs help in those situations, even those that aren’t victims of mental illness. My experiences with him has taught me that I don’t need to keep it all together, all the time. If you are supporting someone with depression, or other mental illnesses, that doesn’t mean that they are the only priority. You have to remember to take care of yourself, take care of your well-being, physical and mental.

    Unfortunately, that’s not a message that people hear very often, and as a fairly young woman (22), married to a man with severe depression, it certainly wasn’t something I heard from anyone. The stress of not knowing how to deal with it, and the vague belief that my ex had a reason to see a therapist, but I had no such reason (combined with a deep seated dislike of sharing my personal life with strangers, haha, let’s be honest), led me to not take care of who I was, and who I needed to be.

    I’m not particularly proud to say that the situation broke me into pieces. I started having physical health problems (including, but not limited to, four bouts of tonsillitis in a year, recurring yeast infections, migraines, and stress-related arrhythmia), as well as being detrimental to my mental health (severe anxiety over both leaving the house AND coming home, staggering amounts of guilt, a massive decrease in self-esteem, etc, etc). By the time my ex came out of the worst episode of depression he’d ever had (that lasted 8 months straight), I wasn’t who I used to be.

    We got divorced shortly after that, because of my utter inability to handle his depression and what it was doing to him, to me, and to us as a couple. I truly believe that the culture we are developing of encouraging people to seek help for their mental illnesses is a wonderful thing. But I also think that we should try to include encouragement for those that are supporting people with mental illnesses. It’s okay that it’s hard. It’s okay that you’re not sure what to do. It’s okay to talk to people about it, and it’s not just complaining. It’s okay to accept that you can’t fix it, and it’s okay if sometimes you feel like you can’t do it. It doesn’t make you a bad person, and it doesn’t mean that you love the person you’re supporting any less. I couldn’t manage by myself. I didn’t have to try to manage by myself! But I truly thought I did. I truly thought that I needed to be the strong, stable one that would just take care of him, and do anything I could to make him happy. It turns out that it sucks the life out of you, while you’re not watching.

    Sorry for the novella, haha. Long story short, seeking support is okay to do as ANYONE, even if you don’t personally suffer from a mental illness. Do it. Find that support before you start to suffer from the very thing you’re trying so hard to make better.

    <3

  238. oh Jenny. Jenny, Jenny, Jenny. I could go on and on about life with depression and anxiety. What it’s done to me, what I’ve learned from it, the good and bad.
    But I won’t. I’ll save it for my own blog entry on mental illness. I started writing it a couple of days after Robin Williams killed himself. Then a couple days later. Then a month later. Then, well, you get the idea. I couldn’t finish it.
    ….Some stuff just hits a little too close to home, ya know? But I’ll finish it someday.
    Meantime, my latest entry “Soundtrack of My Life” does have some songs in my “suicide soundtrack” strewn through it. You know, suicide soundtrack. Songs you listen to (but probably shouldn’t) that just sort of leave you in that pit of despair. Because that pit is…..familiar. Comfortable. Predictable. Oh, it’s not a happy pit. But it’s familiar. Sadly. So I listen to some of these songs, sneakily hidden in my latest blog entry, and just sorta stay in my pit.
    I was born with Spina Bifida and other accompanying things. Don’t know how much that contributed to my mental illness and how much is genetic or environment, but it is a fact that people with chronic illnesses have a much higher rate of mental illness and of suicide attempts. I don’t actually remember a time when I didn’t have some form of anxiety and depression, and I’m pushing 40. I didn’t actually know they were called anxiety attacks or that that was even a thing, until my early 20s. That’s when a doctor explained to me that no, I am not having a heart attack, I’m not gonna die. Both depression and anxiety have been my lifelong companions, along with ptsd diagnosis in summer 2011. Went through a major depressive/anxiety episode (because aren’t they basically siblings, both visiting you at once) in 2002, then again in 2013. That last time, I lose 35 lbs from not eating. Not a diet plan I recommend.
    It has affected every aspect of what I do, and more importantly every aspect of what I don’t do; too afraid or depressed to live sometimes. It certainly affected my first marriage. We had a lot of problems, obviously some of which I caused and that had nothing to do with mental illness. But I will never forget one thing my ex said that haunts me to this day. She said she didn’t want to spend her life “tip toeing around” my “issues.” Yeah. She said that. But you know what? Doesn’t make me angry. Not anymore. I realize it takes a certain type of person to stick by a person who is mentally ill. She couldn’t. And that’s ok. I’m happily remarried to the most loving, patient, kind soul I’ve ever known. <3
    As for what it’s taught me. I dunno. The first thing that comes to mind is compassion. It’s taught me to be compassionate. Kind. Understanding of anyone’s struggle. It’s taught me to listen to people, really listen.
    Still, I can’t sit here and say I wouldn’t get rid of it if I could. Not gonna say “it’s made me who I am, so I wouldn’t trade it.” Yeah. I would. It sucks.
    So that’s what I got. Thank you for listening. And for being you. I feel less alone when I come to your blog. <3

  239. How has mental illness affected me: I spent nearly two weeks in a psychiatric hospital for depression and anxiety. I call it my stint at Depression Camp. It was more enlightening than traumatic. My fellow campers were a diverse bunch: drug addicts, teenage suicide attempts, moms who couldn’t get out of bed, men and women whose spouses had left them; and a few “old timers” who checked in every once in awhile to get their lives together. During “camp,” I had my meds stabilized and began intense counseling.
    What did I learn: Some people suck. I was gone from my job for weeks and nobody checked up on me or my family to see where I was. And when I got back, nobody asked me where I had been. I’m sure they all knew. My breakdown was obvious and I had done some outpatient treatments before being sent to “camp.” Nobody wanted to talk about it. But you know what? I found a wonderful therapist, got treatment and made a plan to improve. And then I quit my job!

  240. Thank you. I took up your challenge–I was planning on writing on chronic illness as this week’s installment anyway, so I expanded a bit. <3 You inspire me.

  241. We need to stop putting people with mental illness in a box labeled “mentally ill”. It isn’t the illness that defines them; it’s the things they do and love, and all the wonderful quirks that make them unique. They just happen to have a mental illness, just like some people have physical illnesses. When people have heart disease, we don’t stigmatize them as diseased and say they can’t truly love because they have a bad heart.

  242. My mother (and her brother) suffered severely from depression and paranoia. When mother finally agreed to see a doctor, he told me “your mother is a little paranoid”. I said “you need to check again, she is a LOT paranoid”. Even as a medical professional, he felt he had to soft-shoe his approach with me because so many people overreact, deny, blame, instead of “so what do we do next”. Years later, I see the signs in my brother, and I’m not sure if it is an inherited thing or part of the PTSD he also suffers with post-Army. I have two very good friends who battle depression. All of these people are/were wonderful, warm, funny, loving people. Who struggle more visibly with their inner demons than some of us. I hope that having them in my life has made me more patient and empathetic, more willing to look beyond their sometimes over the top behaviors or words. And not just for my family member or friends, but the stranger on the street. None of us truly knows what is going on inside another.

    And if we had more prescriptions for “apply kittens directly to affected area”, we would have a lot more happiness in the world.

  243. How I have been affected: I’ve lived with depression and anxiety all my life. Sometimes depression took the upper hand, convincing me that I am worthless and the world would be better off without me. Sometimes anxiety took over, slowly narrowing my world to the point that I started to wonder if I’d end up trapped in one room, unable to leave. There have been good years and bad years and much worse years. I have gone through phases of self-harm, where only physical pain could take away the pain in my heart, head, and soul.

    What I have learned: Ask for help. Keep asking. Do not stop. I have seen more therapists and read more self-help books than I can count. I have taken a bunch of different meds. Nothing worked. I started to believe I really was hopeless, which led to some serious suicidal thoughts, which in turn scared me enough to keep trying to get help. It was then that I found a psychiatrist who “gets me,” sees through my BS facade, put me on meds that work, and has started to convince me that I am valuable and worthy of love and happiness. I still have days when I struggle, but now I know I am not alone and if I need help, it’s OK to ask.

  244. I struggle with this daily. I am so very scared of it all. Being alone, being in groups, the manic highs and lows are enough to make me want to just end it all. I have never had the courage to try, and probably never will. But, I’m a 40 year old with no kids, no husband and wishing daily I could find someone to love me. I’ve done many drastic things to try and make others happy in the hopes that they would like me or want to be with me. You do give me strength, but truly, I’m so very scared with no one to talk to about these issues.

  245. I’ve never heard of AvPD but now I’m sitting here stunned because…that sounds a lot like me… I can’t even answer the questions you asked because my head is spinning. Thank you for posting that, I have a lot to think about.

  246. I had a bout of depression shortly after I got married. Thanks to you and people like you–people who remind us that it’s brain chemistry, not something that makes me a bad person–I am open about that period of my life. Thanks to that openness, some people close to me have asked me about my experiences and gone on to get help themselves. One is on meds and one is in therapy because you and people like you exemplify openness and encourage others to be open.

  247. thank you, as always, for keeping the conversation rolling about mental health & how it’s okay to talk about it, how you need to talk about it, especially when you’re NOT okay. any friendly hand in the storm is a helping hand. thanks, Jenny.

  248. I have depression and I’m extremely reliant on my meds. When I skip a day, it’s a bad thing. Although I am a grown adult, I turn to all things Disney to combat the darkness. Growing up in difficult circumstances, Disney was my one magical place where bad things didn’t happen. I’m very fortunate to live less than two hours from Disney World and my husband insists that I have an annual pass so I can go when I need to. My son has helped me tremendously too. When I get really dark, even when my mind tells me he will be better off without me, there is still a part that is thankfully so damn curious as to how he will turn out. I just can’t chose to leave before seeing his whole story.

  249. I’m having kind of a bad day. This post and the comments and all the funny videos my friends have put on Facebook today have helped tremendously. I suffered from depression in college and finally got into group therapy because I suddenly realized that crying everyday wasn’t normal. I learned that even though I had a living happy childhood, I could still be depressed. Even though many people have it a million times worse than me, it doesn’t mean my problems aren’t important.
    I’m basically a very happy positive person, but I get extreme anxiety sometimes. I’m glad you mentioned the sun. The Texas rains can mess with us when we’re used to almost constant Sunshine. My autocorrect keeps capitalizing Sunshine. Ha!
    Eating! Drinking water! Getting enough sleep! Not forgetting your meds! So crucial.
    Stay alone when you need to, be around peoe when you need to.
    Wake up to happy music. I happen to love The Raiders Of the Lost Ark theme song on a day when it’s hard to get up. Seriously. Try it! The Mission Imposdible theme, too. Oh! And the Austin Powers Soundtrack.
    And Comedy!
    I listen to comedians on CD in the car. I watch funny movies. I feel no need for depressing shows. Life can be depressing enough. You can check out free comedy CDs at the public library. Free! Get online and find them.
    Unfortunately, my Cosby CDs…well you know. Those days are over. Sigh. More room in my stacks for David Sedaris!
    Your book in the car is a cure for road rage, by the way. It should be required for defensive driving courses.
    Laughing doesn’t mean you’re ignoring your problems. It’s excellent medicine. Readers Digest knew what they were talking about.

  250. This actually prompted me to sit and write out an emergency checklist for the bad times, something I’ve never done before. Having a procedure laid out for what to do (eat something, go outside, hug the dog, call someone) when that time hits already feels like a hundred pounds off my head. Thank you so much, Jenny.

  251. Thank you for opening up today’s discussion about this weighty topic. It really stresses the importance of community for those who may feel alone, but are not.

    How I have been affected: I suffered at the hands of depression during my formative years into my 30s. As a teen, I would self harm because I was a terrible student and would reward myself stupidity with smacking myself or smashing my head into a wall. My late teens, after graduating high school, I left a substance abused home. I dealt with a lot of guilt, depression and low self esteem. My late 20s were a mess of depression. Mostly hiding in dark rooms and crying over seemingly nothing. By 28 I was in therapy and continued for a number of years. I was offered medication at my lowest point and I made the personal decision to refuse. Truly, I was scared of the effects it may have had on me and coming from an addictive home, I was even more terrified what it could lead to. I was in a black hole and felt like there was no way out. After therapy and purging a lot of bad stuff from my past, the veil slowly began to lift. I still get bouts of depression with a sprinkling of anxiety, but not nearly the level of where I was at. I can function and feel sort of good about myself most days.

    What I have learned: Seeking help was the biggest obstacle for me. People seek a doctor when they break an arm, but we often ignore our feelings and our mind. Something I will never do again. The support of loved ones was key for me. There was no judgment from those I trusted who knew I was in therapy. Believe me, I was cautious who I told. I have a judgmental family. 😉

    I’m happy to be in the present.

    Looking forward to meeting when you come out west.

  252. I don’t have any mental health problems but I absolutely adore both what you share and what people write in the comments. It really helps me understand a small part of a complex disorder and i thank each and every one of you for sharing because it has helped me numerous times to be there for my friends when they didn’t have the words to tell me xo

  253. My 16 year old son has Aspergers and Anxiety Disorder. I count myself very lucky because he is a kind, intelligent and hilariously funny boy who is, in general, very happy. I have learned so much from the journey of being his mom. One of the most important is the understanding that not all mental illness is visible to the casual observer. When he was younger and struggled with, sometimes violent, outbursts people saw only a badly behaved child. They couldn’t understand the underlying sensory and anxiety issues that caused the behavior. The certainly couldn’t understand why his mom was comforting him while in the midst of the meltdown instead of disciplining him. What they all didn’t realize was that my son would begin to panic when things started to spiral out of control and the more he perceived himself to be “in trouble” the more he would panic because his anxiety had him unable to see beyond that moment. His fear that we would not forgive him or that the consequences of his behavior would be more than he could handle would send him into a deeper fight mode. The only way to stop the meltdown and bring him back to a quiet place was to show him unconditional acceptance and forgiveness. After he was in a quiet place he could discuss the problem and take responsibility for his actions but during those moments of panic, discipline would only make it worse. Now that he is older he has learned a lot in coping with his anxiety but he still has moments when I get frustrated or angry with him and I see that panic set in while others only see the angry teen lashing out at his mother.

  254. Thank you for sharing this. And thanks especially for the playlist. I need it today and will use it while I build up my own get-out-of-the-hole playlist.

  255. I have anxiety and panic disorders. I am also autistic. For the first 54 years of my life, I felt like I didn’t belong on this planet because I was so different from everybody else and couldn’t function in normal society. Since getting my diagnosis 12 years ago, I know I don’t belong on this planet and that I don’t function like everybody else. Believe it or not, knowing makes it better: I can just be who I am, function like I do and let everybody else go on with their neurotypical lives.

    How does this help others? It keeps me from making all kinds of embarrassing social blunders trying to be someone I’m not, so people just think I’m strange, not threatening. It allows me to talk to other people who worry about being different and let them know that at least in my view different is beautiful. I’m OK, you’re neurotypical.

  256. I learned that depression makes me bitchy. When I’m not contemplating driving my car into a bridge abutment, I am a complete and utter bitch. I catch myself on bad days, and I cry and ask my husband why he puts up with me when I can’t. He says that he loves me and that it will pass. It does. Yes, I take my meds religiously, but sometimes they just don’t help enough.
    I’m patient, he’s patient. And he let’s me cry. I feel so lucky to have him.

  257. My youngest daughter (who is nearly 16 – AUUUGGHHH, where did my teeny peep go?) was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder at a very early age early in elementary school. If she could have been diagnosed as a toddler, she would have been. She takes a med for that plus ADHD. Because she’s a good student, we don’t pressure her to do anything but what she wants to do – no forced clubs, sports, scouts etc. She is perfectly happy being a homebody when not at school. She also has auditory sensitivity so wears noise cancelling headphones at school (with a prescription from an occupational therapist).

    I am stunned by the number of teachers in middle school who told me that she should be more outgoing and that she should stop wearing her headphones. LIke it was something that would be easy peasy lemon squeezy for her to do. They’d no idea what her disorder meant, even though I always fill out an info card for each class at the beginning iof the year. As for the headphones, when I explain them to kids, and to some adults as well, they all wish they could wear them, too.

    I’m so appreciative as more and more people come forward to reveal that they have problems. It makes it not so abnormal as others see that aside from a quirk here and a quirk there, everyone is really not so different.

  258. I have OCD. I’ve learned to live with it, and being a scientist, it might actually be considered a good thing, my attention to detail, note-taking of every experiment, it looks all good… until I had to stand up for myself to get my PhD. My supervisors fought their fight over my back and I still don’t have my PhD, even though I did the work for 1.5 students.
    But my biggest barrier is having kids. I have always wanted kids, still do, more than anything. But I hate how I need to defend why I won’t stop taking my meds. This has not been an uninformed decision. I have thought long and hard on this. I have discussed it with my husband, a psychologist and a psychiatrist. I spent hours in therapy to go to a dose as low as possible. I have switched meds to have the one that gives the least problems during pregnancy for the baby. I have done everything to find the most optimal situation. I’ve started this years before we actually wanted kids, to make sure I could be stable on my meds by the time I would want to have kids. But I can’t do without those meds. I am fully aware of the effects of antidepressants on a baby if you take it during pregnancy. I am a scientist, I have read all kinds of literature, information not available to the general public and I know what the consequences could be. I know I will feel guilty for the rest of my life if we have a baby that suffers from the consequences of me taking my meds. But I also know what I am like without my meds. I am strong, I have been able to manage for a very long time without meds. But I was very unhappy, very stressed, very unsuited to be a mother. And what people don’t seem to realise is that even with my meds, I still struggle. I still need to fight every day for my future childern to have a mommy at all. I know what antidepressants can do to an unborn child. But I also know what stress, OCD or depression can do to a baby (and it’s mommy). I’ve based my choice on all of the information that was available to me and I think it is the best choice I can make given the circumstances. I wish I didn’t have to see judgement on my decision from others, even from those who I expected to understand. It’s hard enough without judgement from others, I have plenty of that myself. What I need from others is support, not judgement. I hope I will learn someday to live my life without worrying too much about others, or the future. Maybe just without the worrying in general. And maybe, maybe someday I won’t need those meds. But today is not that day. Yet.

  259. Depression and anxiety. I learned that you are t supposed to be happy all the time. The downs are as meaningful and life affirming as the ups. The really deep downs are when you find out who you can count on and who you matter to. I’ve learned that self care is super important. I’ve also learned that people I think are freaking awesome struggle with low self esteem and when I feel bad about myself I remember that and it helps.

  260. How I have been affected: Depression is a pain in the ass. I’m so tired of having to explain to people that no, you can’t just will it away. It’s not a lack of conviction or a character flaw, it’s a legit problem. That attitude is actually what kept me from seeking help for so long. I didn’t know any better, and I thought that it was just my fault for not being stronger. Usually, when it struck, I would focus on getting better, and slowly but surely I would. But then one day I fell into a hole I couldn’t get out of. None of my usual coping mechanisms worked. No matter what I did, I kept sliding deeper and deeper and getting angrier and more desperate. That was the last straw. I finally reached out to a doctor. It’s a long road, but I’m more stable now than I’ve been for years.

    What I have learned: Don’t let anyone look down on your for being medicated. Do things that force you to interact outside of your hole. I got a puppy who needed me, and he needed me to take him places, and to do training, and to go to the park, and to take care of him. Any time the depression threatened to overwhelm me, I thought “But if I’m gone, who will take care of my dog?” and then I would push through for just a little bit longer. I learned that procrastination can sometimes work in my favor. I found people who were also struggling, so that we could support each other. I found blogs like this one that talked openly about the struggle. I discovered that knowing someone else is fighting (and winning!) is an inspiration to keep fighting myself. I learned that being comfortable talking about my problems helped other people acknowledge theirs. It’s so much easier to know that no matter how bad it seems, you’re not alone. I also learned to acknowledge when I’m in over my head, and that doing too much is just as bad as not doing enough.

  261. I’m so glad you’re having this conversation because today has been a really bad mental illness day for me.

    I have depression (with suicidal ideation and self harm tendencies) with a side dish of anxiety. My anxiety is particularly bad today; I’m currently curled up in my closet with my laptop and I’m watching happy videos on YouTube because it’s all I can do right now. I should be getting treatment right now but there’s a long complicated story involving why I’m not (short story: finances). I basically can’t leave my bedroom, let alone my apartment. Reaching out is difficult for me because I have a lot of internalized stigma, and I have a tendency to pull away from people and isolate myself when I’m going through a difficult time. At this point I’ve kind gone so deep inside myself that I can’t see a way out. But sometimes talking to people on the internet helps; in my experience internet friends understand me and my illness in a way my in-person friends don’t. So this post and the comments are really helpful. Thanks so much Jenny.

  262. I had post-partum depression and anxiety after both of my children were born. It was horrifying to see my personality change so much and honestly believe that it would never get better. I came out of it each time, through help with medical professionals and family support.

    I KNOW I helped my mom understand mental illness better, as our family hadn’t had anything like this before and she initially didn’t know how to respond. I may have taught my dad to be more understanding, but I don’t know how much. I’ve tried to be very open and honest about this with my friends, so they can understand that being “crazy” isn’t bad. And every time I have a pregnant friend, I ask her about it. I tell her my story. So if it happens to her, she will know she isn’t alone.

    I was featured on one of the Mommyshorts “Monday Morning” sessions where I talked about my PPD/PPA, and it got out to a MUCH larger audience than my circle of friends. There was positive response to it, and I hope that helped others as well.

    http://mommyshorts.com/2014/10/monday-morning-with-kristen-b.html

  263. 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. THIS

  264. My anxiety and depression come on in waves, and thankfully have mostly left me alone for the last few years (yay, effective meds!). I learned that when those periods are over, it takes time for my husband to recalibrate. I have to be understanding and communicative so he knows where I am at.

  265. While I do not suffer from mental health problems, my husband, mother in law, and sister do. I love them all. I do my best to support them all. I listen, I share, I rejoice in the victories and comfort in the defeats. Some days I am proud to be supportive and strong. Other days I want to scream ‘can’t we just have one day??? One day without without this? Can’t I have a break? Does it have to be today???’ Then I remind myself no one is at fault. No one is too blame. These people hold my heart and I hold theirs. I will continue to do what I do to support and love them the best I can. Bless you J and all others who wage war every day against the darkness.

  266. I have Depression and generalized anxiety, combined with a nerve disorder that causes chronic pain similar to fibro. Usually this means if I’m not medicated or in a bad spot, I hide in bed. Medication gives me the boot that gets me halfway there, so most of the time I just want to hide, but can manage to convince myself to get up. The things I’ve found that help me are that if I can just get myself into the shower, I feel a ton better. I’m clean and ready for the world. even if I do just go back to bed after, my mood is always better. Getting my vitamin D is critical too. being low can send me into a downward spiral. Having good friends that will poke you and steal your blankets if you have been in bed three days can be helpful for me, though would backfire on a lot of people with anxiety issues.

  267. Looking back, the first time I remember being depressed, I was at the most ten years old. Ive felt awkward & out of place & unloveable all of my life. I struggle with social anxiety. Im scatter-brained (probably ADD). And depression is my constant companion. Im 52 yrs old.

    I monitor my level of depression on a scale of 1-10. I dont lie to myself about the severity of it, tho I may lie to the people in my life. I dont remember the last time I was lower than a 3. My norm is usually somewhere around a 5. On bad days, its a 7-8. Over the last two months, its run a pretty steady 8, sometimes creeping into the 9+ range. Today, Im about a 4-5, which is feeling pretty fucking good.

    The last two months have been…challenging. My son is high functioing autistic & 20yrs old. He doesnt qualify for services because of his IQ, but cant remember to feed himself or maintain his hygiene despite years of training. He will never live alone, hold a job, or be able to drive. He has no friends & struggles with depression, too. Im his fulltime caregiver/companion.

    As if thats not enough, my father is dying from lung cancer. And Ive somehow ended up being driver/caregiver to my 90 yr inlaws because their own children cant be bothered. My father in law is currently in a nursing home after falling ill & Ive had to do everything for them. This means leaving my son alone for hours at a time every day, which makes his depression worse. On top of that, Im househunting & trying to clear 20 yrs of junk from my home so we can sell it. (That is not going well at all.)

    I was on antidepressants for a few years and for a while it helped. Until it didnt. Ive been debating giving them another try.

    Things that help me? Laughter. I have a dark, wicked sense of humor which I think saves me. Keeping my brain occupied. Reading, writing, crafting, gaming – whatever I can find so Im not dwelling on how shitty the world is for me and my son. That, by the way, was a tip from my son’s psychologist. Occupy your brain. No down time.

    Its important to do things you love even when depression robs you of that love. I go for drives in my car with the sunroof open & listen to music loud enough for it to vibrate my teeth. I tweet. I paint my toenails. I play with Legos. On really bad days, I sing-talk, which sounds ridiculous until you do it. (Okay, it is ridiculous – only it helps.)

    I remind myself that depression is a lying asshole. And I follow you, dear Jenny, because your site & your tweets remind me that Im not alone.

    Hang in there. And thank you for being brave enough to speak up & reach out.
    Karen

  268. I have had depression for so long I cannot remember when I didn’t have it.
    My way to combat it is to do something—ANYTHING for someone else. Buy a meal anonymously, leave a 50-100% tip (for one person it isn’t that much mostly), take a box of Girl Scout cookies to the fire house. Hug my grandkids.
    Why do these things? To get my mind off of myself. To stop digging that hole that I find myself in.
    As for therapy, seek, seek seek!!! So many of the therapists I have seen were worse off than I was/am.
    My other ‘therapy’ is photography. Nothing to publish but I get off of the couch and out of the house. I found some shots recently of a child’s 1st birthday. To see her seek her parent’s ok to dig into a piece of cake is beyond anything that words can express.

    To those who suffer please take one step up. It may be a millimeter or it may be several rungs up that ladder but everyone is suffering from SOMETHING. A rotten job, no job, a rotten spouse, no one to come home to, I lost a marriage because I could not read her mind. No one can but if you open that door a bit, just possibly, the light from someone who has it together this day, may be on the other side.

  269. Mental illness has affected us…our daughter is mentally ill. She was only diagnosed last July, then she was hospitalized in August. She was hospitalized again in Sept after running away in the middle of the night. While in the hospital she turned 18, and we haven’t seen her since. We started our blog to cope with the upheaval in our family. The knowledge and support we have gotten from the blogging community has been outstanding, and has kept us moving forward.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  270. Well, um, where to start. I’ve struggled with depression & low self-esteem all my life, but by now (I’m 71) the terrain is familiar. What broke me was trying to help my daughter. It is obvious to me that she has some sort of mental illness that caused her to self-medicate with drugs; she became an addict. She’s been in jail. Right now so far as I know, she’s clean physically, but the behaviors are still those of an addict…lying, grandiose thinking, on and on. We’re estranged right now, which is a blessing, because I can’t be sucked into the situation. I have done everything I could to help her, all her life. She has actually been in the care of a psychiatrist for years and years….and he enabled her with generous prescriptions for painkillers. And no helpful diagnosis. He lost his license, at last. But that doesn’t help her.
    She has a child, who is being raised by family friends, who love the girl. She’s suing in court to get guardianship of her daughter returned to her. Her daughter is already damaged and I’m living in terror that my daughter will get her back.
    Plus, ha ha. I’m on oxygen because of failing lungs, and I’m a highly trained musician who is going deaf. Those are small potatoes compared to losing my daughter. The person she’s become I simply don’t recognize.
    I don’t mean to whine. I’m actually numb, unless I think about it too much.

  271. I have bipolar disorder type II. (I didn’t know that there was more than one before that–I think there are four.) I have to give myself permission to be imperfect, to catch up on 10 years lost to this illness, count my blessings (Thank God for pills!), and learn to control what I can and let go of what I can’t. The Serenity Prayer has become a mantra to me since this path was revealed. And you are funny and inspiring. I often play Amanda Palmer’s “In My Mind”.

  272. I have always had a melancholy disposition, inclined to depression. Had a short, relatively mild bout of post-partum depression at 35 after first kidlet’s birth and a severe one after second. I have been on a variety of antidepressants since then — said 2nd kidlet is not 26 — and it has made all the difference. Life is a gazillion time better thanks to modern pharmacology.

    I try not to miss an opportunity to tell my story because I feel like it is my chance to help lessen the mental health stigma.

    Back in my 20s and early 30s, the Rolling Stones’ album Let It Bleed was the only one I could listen to when I was in a depressive time.

  273. My husband has anxiety and OCD. THANK YOU for teaching me patience and giving me understanding. You have made such a difference in so many lives. I’m 70 and you have taught me to be more accepting and less judgmental in all things. “Be kind. That is all.”

  274. My husband has anxiety and OCD. You have taught me so much patience and understanding. THANK YOU for this. I am 70 years old and try daily to be non-judgmental and open to all. “Be kind. That is all.” or “Be kind. That is ALL.”

  275. I have been depressed all my life. I cannot remember a time, even when I was young, when I was truly happy. Yes, I’ve had happy moments, but feeling happy on a consistent basis? Doesn’t happen for me. My baseline is extremely low. I also have OCD. Not the jokey “oh, you alphabetize your books” thing, but real behaviors that are compulsive and real things that my brain fastens on to and doesn’t let go,

    I’ve used a number of things over the years to self-medicate, and of course none of them really worked. then I accidentally found therapy through a program a family member was in. I quit doing all the things to “treat” myself and started getting to know myself instead. It was ugly and hard and required a lot of crying. Still does. But sometimes, it requires breakthroughs and smiling.

    Then I got a job which provided me insurance, and I started seeing a doctor on a regular basis. She was the first to suggest anti-depressants, and though we bobbled a prescription or two, we finally found something that helps me feel more “normal.” Prozac. What a wonder. I could do things. I could function. I could make myself get out of the house.

    And then things happened and I lost that job and that insurance and stayed unemployed for a long time. I could feel my depression digging into my head deeper and deeper and even though I knew it wasn’t useful, I sometimes thought about suicide. I never followed through on it, but I thought about it. I was that unhappy.

    I ended up in the hospital in December, and one of the things I got in aftercare was a doctor who was quick to listen to my mental health woes and immediately get me back on Prozac. It’s not perfect, because the dosage isn’t high enough, but it’s helping a little.

    I’ve also learned that babies of all kinds are happy things, and they help me feel better. Cuddling and petting and playing are perfectly reasonable ways of getting touch needs met, and that helps me combat my depression, too. And if I can’t do that, I can find kittens and puppies on the internet. It’s not perfect, but it keeps me out of the muck at the bottom of my brain.

    I’m fifty now, and I don’t think I’ll ever be “normal,” and frankly, I don’t think I’d want to be. But I can pay attention to myself and ask for help when I need it. Sometimes. I still tend to isolate.

    I also know now that I’m not alone. I’m never alone. Someone out there knows how I’m feeling and would gladly hold my hand while I cried if they could. And I’m always ready to do that for someone else, because selfishly, it makes me feel better to help someone else feel better. Warm fuzzies for the win, right?

  276. I teach high school students: a time full of hormones, life changes and the sense that life is exponentially huge and exponent