MY INSTAGRAMMy 11th kit from Arjun Spinhoven and I’m just now figuring out how to paint realistic wood.Making tiny dollhouse furniture. (Kit from Arjun Spinhoven). Dorothy Barker is unimpressed.Ninja signed a copy of Furiously Happy and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened at @halfpricebooks in Huebner Oaks. Go!
You Searched For: depression
So. If you read here you already know that I’ve been getting stabbed in the brain by magnets every day for an hour for the last few months. (Click here to read the whole TMS story if you’re new here.) And yesterday? Was my last session.
Overall, it was uncomfortable, weird, a reminder that insurance companies are satan, expensive and time-consuming.
It was also totally worth it.
I am not one of the lucky third of people who went into full remission with transcranial magnetic stimulation. I’m also not one of the unlucky third who the treatment didn’t work for. I’m in that middle ground…better, but not perfect.
But better is so good. I’ve tracked my moods every day these last few months and (other than a short dip halfway through treatment) I’ve steadily gotten better. I even had 5 seemingly random days over the last month where I felt what I imagine most people think of as normal. I haven’t had days like that in so long I’d literally forgotten I could feel that way.
I know some of you are looking at the process yourself and every single person is different but here’s how it helped (or didn’t help) me:
Depression: When I started treatment I was in a deep and very long-lasting depression that I’ve been battling for well over a year. I didn’t even realize how bad it was until I started coming out of it. I think I was operating at 10-25% when I started treatment. I’d say I’m between 60-75% now. I’m still have depression. I’m still medicated. But this treatment was like a soft reset…like turning your phone off and on again when it gets laggy and broken.
Concentration: This is still a struggle for me but I have seen a little improvement. Not much, but a little.
Sleep: My sleep patterns changed the very first week. I still struggle to fall asleep and stay asleep but most nights I’m asleep around midnight rather than angrily tweeting about insomnia at 4am. I’m less likely to feel like I’ve been drugged and hit by a truck in the morning.
Anxiety: TMS treats depression on the left side of your brain but I also did treatment on the right side of my brain for anxiety. This isn’t always standard so ask your doctor about it if you’re having TMS. This is where I felt the most improvement. When I started TMS I was having severe anxiety and massive problems with agoraphobia. I had a hard time leaving the house and I didn’t answer my phone. I struggled with even emailing people. Right now I feel almost normal. Tomorrow I’m leaving to see Europe for the first time in my life and I would never have imagined I’d agree to on this trip if you’d asked me a few months ago. And I’m scared about traveling but I’m excited, and that’s something that I haven’t felt in a long time. My family actually noticed these changes in me before I did.
OCD and ICD: Unfortunately TMS didn’t really improve this a ton. I still feel irrational OCD and ICD thoughts but slightly less.
I don’t know if this will keep working but if I fall into the deep depression again I qualify to get follow-up treatments in the future and it’s nice to have hope. In fact, hope is the best thing that came from this treatment. This treatment is still new and strange and we don’t know exactly why it works for some or why it doesn’t for others but the fact that it does work for some people means that there’s hope for all of us…that things are getting better and slowly we’re figuring out how these wonderful and terrible engines that run us work. I have hope that I will get better. Because I did. And that’s a good reminder to keep close when things get bad again and my depression starts telling me lies.
I will get better. So will you. Each day more and more people understand the struggle and more treatments become available. One day there will be a cure. We’re getting closer every day. And I’ll be here for it.
PS. I did embroidery every day as I got treatment and a friend (Laura Bundesen) sent me a pattern that I could concentrate on while in the chair.
Yesterday I shared the bizarre news that Furiously Happy is a bestseller in China and then I asked if anyone could translate the billboards and posters advertising Furiously Happy and it was glorious.
PS. It feels only fair that the English part of the Chinese poster has a typo. Now I want this poster. It makes me Furiously Flappy.
Love always, the World’s Brightest Leopard
I’ve had a lot more emails than usual about depression/anxiety, which I think means a full moon is coming or possibly that we’re all on the same psychotic cycle because I’ve fought my share of demons this month myself. In fact, today I had a monster of a panic attack that made me think I’d never come back out. It’s not so fun to write about so I made a video to send to people asking me about it and I thought I’d share it here in case you needed it. It’s long and unedited so feel free to skip it if you don’t have mental issues.
On a related note, you can make a free DEPRESSION LIES bracelet by clicking here (video instructions included). Make one for yourself or a friend.
We’re all in this together, y’all.
So this week has been particularly hard for me mentally and I think there must be something in the air because it feels like lots of people are struggling right now. My doctor was concerned enough though to move the TMS coil to another area of my brain and hopefully that will help. The depressing part about treating depression is that so much of it is a bit of a science experiment. Is the TMS working and would I have been much worse without treatment? Is it not working as much as last time? Is this my brain lying to me? Is it working for my motivation and anxiety but my depression is so strong that I can’t appreciate the improvement? I don’t know. But I’ll keep moving forward if you will. Nothing is perfect…treatment, life, me…but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.
Today during treatment I pulled out an embroidery project to distract me from the woodpecker-like pounding in my head and congratulated myself for being able to concentrate enough to work on a project.
…Until I realized that I had somehow sewn myself to the fabric and literally had to cut myself out of my own mess.
This feels very metaphorical but I’m too unfocused to pull it all together so instead I’ll just say that if you’re struggling this week you are not alone and I love you and you will get through this. I promise.
For those of you following along at home I just finished my 17th TMS treatment this week and I’m feeling some improvement especially in anxiety and motivation but I’m still dealing with some depression so today they moved the magnetic coil around to a different location to see if that will help.
I actually would have said that I wasn’t feeling much of a difference in motivation but then I realized that this week three things happened that were a big deal.
1.I finished a new chapter in my book and it actually made me laugh out loud when I wrote it.
2. I easily drove downtown to look at a bookstore location and I have NEVER driven downtown on my own because driving in busy places terrifies me. And when I got back home I was still okay and not a giant puddle of exhaustion and I didn’t need to recuperate for a day. That seems ridiculous to normal people but trust me, it’s rather shocking for me.
3. When I went to TMS I had my phone in my pocket and somehow my leg unpaused the podcast I was listening to in the car and it blasted a sexy improvised musical theater number across the crowded waiting room of the psychiatric center and everyone was staring at me as I frantically searched for my phone which was screaming, “BECAUSE THE ARROW IS A DICK AND THE TARGET IS A VAGIIIIINNNNNAAAAAA” (thanks, Off Book). Then in my actual session I was wearing headphones because the TMS machine is crazy loud but I heard this weird noise and then I realized it was farting and I thought maybe it was the counselor who has to watch me and make sure I don’t have a seizure but it was going on way to long to be healthy and I was actually starting to be a little impressed/concerned and then I realized that the farting was coming from me.
Not from my butt though. When I’m nervous I rub my feet together and apparently the fake leather of my shoes rubbing against the chair was making these incredible farts. I have no idea how long I’ve been loudly farting-but-not-farting during my hour-long sessions but I suspect the answer is “Forever, you idiot” because the counselor was just taking phone calls like everything was normal even though probably the people on the other line were like, “Is she farting?” And the me of last month would have been like, “Well, clearly I can never come back here and also maybe I should burn the building down” but me of now was like, “Honestly, if you’re going to be horribly awkward and do mortifying things it should be in a psych unit because it’s probably encouraging for everyone else around who is feeling like shit and needs a good laugh.”
And that’s how my week has been going. You?
So this past week I’ve been dealing with mental illness bullshit and I don’t think I’m alone based on what I’m seeing on the internet so if you’re struggling please know that you are not alone and that it will get better.
Today was my 5th TMS treatment and honestly I was getting sort of depressed about being depressed because it sucks to feel like shit and also have to drag yourself to the doctor to get punched in the head for an hour a day but then a few hours ago I suddenly got a burst of energy and my vision cleared and HOLY SHIT I ALMOST FEEL NOT DEPRESSED. It possibly will only last for another hour or so but I’ll take it and I’m writing this down to remind myself that not-depressed-me says the dread and self-hatred that depressed-me is feeling is totally a lie.
I took this picture today during treatment because Victor and Hailey keep saying that they can see my depression in my face lately and I wanted to see if it was any better and I still looked depressed but all of a sudden a rainbow showed up and I’m pretty sure it’s just a light artifact but I’m choosing to believe it’s some sort of leprechaun magic and I am here for it. You should be too.
Also, there’s been a weed growing out of my gutter for the last few weeks but I’m too tired to clean the gutters so it just keeps growing and I feel like shit when I see it because it seems very analogous to how my life is feeling right now but today when I saw it I noticed that the weed has flowered and it made me smile because technically I think this is the longest I’ve ever kept a plant alive.
It’s all in how you look at it, I guess.
So last year I did rTMS to try to whack my brain out of chronic treatment resistant depression and it was pretty helpful. Not perfect, but it pulled me out of a deep hole I was stuck in. I also treated the other side of my brain for anxiety and that was really helpful. I’ve taken one xanax in the last 6 months and anyone with severe anxiety disorder knows how big of a deal that is.
Unfortunately I’ve been in a bit of a hole lately and my doctor said another round of TMS treatments might really help to stop me before I’m too far gone so I started again this week.
I’m doing the same treatments as before but in slightly different spots (the science on TMS changes so quickly and doctors are always using the latest studies to try to perfect the treatment) and I’m also doing deep treatment on my right ocular something-or-another and I don’t entirely understand it but they think it may help break up the intrusive negative thoughts that get stuck in my head.
It is as painful as I remembered but less painful than living with mental illness so I’m down with it. They play nature videos with relaxing melodies so you can distract yourself but that’s not really my thing so instead they’re letting me watch Shrill on their TV and it’s lovely except that my headphones ran out of juice so the counselor who monitors me just turned up the volume in the room right as a particularly awkward sex scene came on, which was made even more awkward by the fact that I was forcing other people to watch it.
Embarrassing, but honestly, very on brand.
PS. Last treatment they had to find my hand through my brain (making my thumb move by punching me in the head with magnets) but this time they had to go deeper, which meant that I had to take off my shoes and get magnet punched until I involuntarily kicked myself. I was still wearing tattered remnants of months-old nail polish and I apologized for the state of my feet but no one seemed to care and honestly I suspect that if your feet look like shit it’s maybe just another sign that you need to be medicinally magnet thumped for a few months.
Last week I got hit with a major bout of depression. I did all the things I’m supposed to do. Nothing helped. Usually when this happens I wait it out. I’m stronger than my mental illness even though it feels like an inescapable monster when it’s here. Then Sunday I took a darker turn. And Monday I was worse. There are a few things that come when my depression gets really bad. Exhaustion, almost flu-like. My peripheral vision goes away. My body goes numb and my face feels heavy and weighted down. When it’s really bad I stare out at a fixed point and can’t move my eyes from that spot, like I’m paralyzed for several seconds at a time. In some ways it’s a relief to have physical signs of what’s happening…to remind myself that it’s real and not just in my mind…but it’s also terrifying to have your brain take over your body when your brain is the most dangerous place to be.
I called my doctor. I got an appointment for next week to see the doctor who did my Transcranial Magnetic Therapy so we can see if booster sessions might help shake me out of this.
And then…almost as suddenly as it appeared…it vanished.
This happens sometimes. Usually it’s a slow process of several days recovery but this time it just went away. I was left feeling exactly how you feel after you stop throwing up from food poisoning…shaky, vulnerable, empty, exhausted, terrified that it’s not over, but so incredibly grateful that my body belonged to me again.
I want to cancel my appointment with my doctor. I want to pretend this week didn’t happen. But it did and it may be a fluke or it may be a sign that I need more help. I will continue to work the program. I will continue to fight battles in my head.
I always feel bad writing about mental health stuff because I know I’m tired of feeling it so I’m sure you are tired of hearing about it but it’s a relief to be able to lay it all out here and to read back and see how far I’ve come…to see that I may struggle with these seemingly invisible enemies but that I have a perfect record (so far) of beating them. And you do too if you are reading this. I’m proud of you. I hope you are proud of yourself.
Turns out it’s really hard to write about emotional things and even harder when they involve someone you love whose privacy you want to protect.
If you read my last blog post you know that the last few weeks have been really awful for our family. You also know that I can’t share details because it’s hard when things live forever on the internet and unfortunately there are still stigmas that linger today.
One day I will write about it though because it’s important. And because I have been flooded with emails and DM’s from people who could read between the lines and have been through the exact same thing. And they think they’re alone because they don’t share the details because they also want to respect privacy. And that’s wonderful.
It’s wonderful to respect the people we love and protect them from the world. It’s terrible that so many people are struggling. It’s wonderful to know that we are not alone…that it’s something SO, SO many families deal with. It’s terrible to know that so many of us battle this in the terrifying quiet of our houses.
One day, perhaps a few years from now, I’ll write about this. Maybe with the help of the person I love. I suspect this will be a very long story one day, and one that may help others. I hope by the time I write it I will have more answers than questions and less fear and doubt in myself. I hope that last week is the worst week of my life…that it gets better from here. I hope…no…I know that every day is a step forward and a new opportunity.
Here’s what I’ve learned that I can share with you:
- Depression in me doesn’t always look the same as depression in you. Seemingly happy, outgoing, successful people can have it. And it can be really confusing and painful to them because it presents in such strange ways that they don’t realize that they’re dealing with it until they are in a dangerous state of mind. Depression in kids can look different than depression in adults. Depression in extroverts can look different than depression in introverts.
- Everything you’re dealing with that you think is the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone? It’s happened to people you know and love. It’s happening now. You are not alone.
- There are amazing tools available that can make an incredible difference. Medication, therapy, etc. There are brilliant people who will rescue you who want to help. You may not know them yet. You will meet them. They will save you. And you will save someone else.
- People are fighting much harder battles than we know. Be kinder than you have to be.
- There are bad resources. There are bad hospitals or doctors or therapist or tools. There are good resources that are bad for your particular needs. You will go through these as you look for help. It’s okay to say, “This isn’t right. I deserve better.” You do.
- Communication is important. Love is necessary. Compassion and laughter are key. Cheesecake is great. Hindsight is 20/20. Doctor Who reruns are medicinal.
- It is a gift to take care of someone you love. It is exhausting and terrifying and guilt-inducing and it is the greatest gift I’ve ever been given. Reach out to the people who love you when you need help. I promise you they want to help. And if they don’t understand, call the suicide hotline. They can help. They’ve helped me.
- It’s okay if you make a mistake. We’re born to make mistakes. Keep trying. It’s going to be okay.
- You’ll get through this.
- You are not alone.
Today is the first day in a long time that feels normal. I think (I hope, I hope) that we’re on a good path. My family is safe and this morning we ate breakfast together and laughed. We have each other and I’m so grateful for it. I’m grateful for you too. For listening…for understanding…for being there.
I’m crossing my fingers that the next blog posts will be back to the silly and irreverent ridiculousness. I’m ready to get back to normal…or as close to normal as I’ve ever been. I think we’re on the right path.
Thank you. I love you.
I don’t have a good graphic to add here so here’s a video of Hunter S. Thomcat doing a hurtfully accurate impression of me:
First off, a quick update on the 2019 Bloggess Calendar: you guys have raised over $1,400 that will be donated to Project Night Night to help them provide comfort packages (a tote bag, blanket, a stuffed animal and a book) to children experiencing homelessness, and I am so incredibly grateful!
If you still need one you can click here to order one:
The cover art was done by my friend, Joe Badon, who has actually done the Bloggess Calendar cover for a number of years:
And next week? We’re going to do the Ninth Annual James Garfield Miracle.
Every year I think it’ll be the last but then it rolls around again and someone who was helped in the past asks if they can help give back this year and it inspires me to do it one more time. I was actually going to do it last week but I had a touch of depression and I didn’t think I’d have enough energy to get it done but I’m feeling better so if you’re struggling this year and need help getting a present for your kid this holiday or you want to help someone who is very much in need check back soon.
And on an entirely different subject, it’s time for the Sunday wrap-up!
I’m going to BookPeople in a few days to sign books and if you want one for Christmas you can click here to order them and I’ll personalize it however you like. And yes, I will happily write “KNOCK KNOCK MOTHERFUCKER” or “Thanks for burying that body for me” or draw a cat face in it if you want. They ship all over the world. To order a signed personalized copy just add the book to your cart and in the comments field during checkout write the name of the person you want me to inscribe it to or anything personal you want.
Shit I made in my shop (Named “EIGHT POUNDS OF UNCUT COCAINE” so that your credit card bill will be more interesting.):
This week’s wrap-up is brought to you by Storyworth, who I love. This holiday season, give your loved ones a StoryWorth Book to preserve their stories. Each week, we’ll email them a question about their life – asking them to recount their favorite memory of their grandparents, or whether they’ve ever pulled any great pranks. All they have to do is reply with a story, which is forwarded to you and any other family members you invite. At the end of the year, their stories are bound in a beautiful keepsake book your family will cherish! Click here to check them out.