You Searched For: depression is a lie

Depression lies

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.

On finding the cure 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.

Finished:

Stabbing a brain thousands of times while getting stabbed in the brain thousands of times. It’s almost too fitting.

Working the program

Dealing with chronic mental illness is hard.  A few months ago I finished TMS to treat my depression and anxiety and it helped but I still struggle.  I have a friend who is in AA who talks about working the program…doing the steps you continually need to do to stay healthy…and I realized how much I relate to that right now.

TMS gave me a reset button but I still have bad days.  I still feel myself dip back into that dark place.  I have more tools now than ever and that helps but sometimes the only thing that I accomplish in a day is just surviving.  It’s both an amazing achievement while also tinged with shame as you see others who seem to whiz past you as you barely tread water.  Maybe they’re treading water too.  You can’t tell.  You’re just trying to breathe.

Today is one of those days for me.  I think it’s the weather.  It’s dreary and rainy and my joints hurt and it makes me not want to get out even though my doctor prescribed walking 30 minutes a day to keep my depression at bay.  It’s part of my program.  Today I took Hailey to school and then I went back to bed and stayed there until noon.  I didn’t enjoy it.  People without depression won’t understand that, but the fatigue of mental illness makes your very body a prison.  The bed smelled sour.  I couldn’t concentrate on reading.  Victor is out of town so I have no one to make me get up.

But I have to work the program.  So I got up.  I walked in the cold for 10 minutes.  Then I did another 10.  Then I hit 30.  I brushed my teeth and took a shower.  I brought my light therapy lamp out of storage.  I wrote this post.

This is a good day.  As far as mental illness is concerned, that is.  I got out of bed.  That in itself is pretty amazing.  It doesn’t always happen.  But today it did and I’m proud of that.  I will continue to work my program.

It’s a program I add to all the time, finding tools that work for me.  I share them with others.  Others share them with me.  We get along.  Together.  And alone.

So today I’m sharing some of my steps.  I’m not sharp enough to think of them all but for now I’m writing them down to remind myself that I’m worth following them.  If you have steps that help you please share them.

  1.  Follow your doctors orders.  For me that means antidepressants and behavioral therapy.
  2. Exercise 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week.
  3. Get sunlight, or if you can’t, use light therapy.  Do not over use even though you want to.
  4. Treat yourself like you would your favorite pet.  Plenty of fresh water, lots of rest, snuggles as needed, allow yourself naps.
  5. Avoid negativity.  That means the news, people, movies.  It will all be there when you’re healthy again.  The world will get on without you seeing it.
  6. Forgive yourself.  For being broken.  For being you.  For thinking those are thing that you need forgiveness for.
  7. Those terrible things you tell yourself?  Can you imagine if the person you love most was telling themselves those things?  You’d think they were crazy.  And wrong.  They think the same about you.  Those negative things you are thinking are not rational.  Remember that depression lies and your brain is not trustworthy.
  8. Give yourself permission to recover.  I’m lucky that I can work odd hours and take mental health days but I still feel shitty for taking them.  Realize that sometimes these slow days are necessary and healthy and utterly responsible.
  9. Watch Doctor Who.
  10. Love on an animal.  Go adopt a rescue or if you can’t go to the shelter and just snuggle a kitten.  Then realize that that same little kitten that you’re cradling isn’t going to accomplish shit but is still wonderful and lovely and so important.  You are that kitten.
  11. Get up.  Go brush your teeth.  Go take a hot shower.  If you do nothing else today just change into a new pair of pajamas.  It helps.
  12. Remember that you are not alone.  There are crisis lines filled with people who want to help.  There are people who love you more than you know.  There are people who can’t wait to meet you because you will teach them how unalone they are.  You are so worthy of happiness and it will come.

One day when I’m in a better place I will come back to this and fix the typos and add all the things I’ve forgotten but today I know that if I don’t publish it I will delete it and hate myself for not finishing it.  So I’m publishing it.  And I suppose that’s another step.  Trust in your words, even when you second-guess them.

Sorry this is so rambly.  It’s the best I can do.

And then everything changed. #Scotland

If you’ve been reading here you know that I’ve been dealing with a rather severe depression for more than a year.  A few months ago I had 36 transcranial magnetic stimulation sessions to try to snap out of the anxiety and depression that were making me a prisoner in my own head.

And it worked.  Not entirely, I mean.  I still deal with depression and anxiety and I’m still on medication but it reset my head enough to let me leave the house.  In fact, the week after my treatment was over we spent a week in Europe, something I never would have imagined was possible for me before.

I probably didn’t do as much as most people do and certainly I missed lots of things that I wanted to do but I got out there and I only had one day of anxiety severe enough to make me hide in my room.  I can’t even tell you how impossible that would have sounded to me only a few months ago.

I’ll tell you more about the trip in my next book (BECAUSE I’M WRITING AGAIN) but so many of you asked me to share some of our itinerary so today I’m doing a photo essay of the trip.  If you follow me on all the social medias you can totally skip this:

Day one:  A new Pope was elected on our first plane.

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Video: This seems like an ominous sign.

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Our second plane ride was a bit better:

WE GOT UPGRADED FROM ECONOMY TO BUSINESS. WHAT.

Landed in Glasgow.  Tried to go to the Necropolis but it was scary as shit driving on the wrong side of the road in heavy traffic and suddenly A PARADE BROKE OUT so we just drove away.  So, we started with fear and failure and less corpses than anticipated but at least the corpses weren’t our so it’s a fair trade.  Plus we had breakfast:

Beans on toast, haggis, blood pudding, lorne sausage, tattie scone. All weirdly delicious.

 

ASK ME HOW I KNOW.

 

We’re staying in the 800 year old super haunted Dalhousie Castle. It’s beautiful but there are 8 live spiders in the bathroom and now Hailey refuses to open it again so we’ll be pooping out the window like the classy people we are.

Is that a goddam owl? Yeah. It is.  YOU’RE A WIZARD, HARRY.

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Made an unexpected friend. #scotland

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That tiny owl? It’s called a “little owl” and it’s adorable but also we had to keep it away from any other little owls because IT EATS OTHER OWLS. Cutest cannibal I’ve ever snuggled in my life.

Pretty much every building in Scotland looks like Hogwarts but this is Rosslyn Chapel. There’s a black & white cat who sort of owns the place and I spent time snuggling him on a pew today. If more stray cat snuggles happened in random churches I might actually go.  Get your shit together, Christians.

Day 2:

Spending a few days at Neil Gaiman’s house in Scotland and thinking that young me would never believe this is real. Sadly, Neil and Amanda aren’t here but when I was in the library after midnight a crow tapped on the window to come in and I’m pretty sure I’m in a short story now.

Day 3:


 

But turns out the everyone not Scottish pops all their tires in Scotland so the mechanic had a ton of spares on hand and was able to fix it.  SUCCESS!

We explored Isle of Skye, which feels haunted but in the best possible way.

We walked The Quiraing, which was breathtaking and watched out for Highlanders.  We didn’t get to the end because it was long and Hailey sprained an ankle and I’m lazy but it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced in my life.  Also, there were sheep.

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The Quiraing. #scotland

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Here’s where I almost fell to my death. #WORTHIT

We went searching for ruins. We found cows. Probably they ate the ruins. I don’t know how Scottish cows work.

Also, all the ground in Scotland is so crazy soft you sink into it when you walk.  It’s like standing on cats.

I stole fruit.

Saw the countryside. Stepped in feces. (Probably not human.)  Spent time with family.

Day 3:

Eilean Donna Castle. Everything looks like a movie here.

Loch Ness. The monster did not show herself. DEEP SIGH. SCOTLAND.

But we stopped at Loch Lochy (which seems a bit too on-the-nose and I assume was named in an internet contest) and totally found something:

Then I found another monster.

Caught a Mr. Mime. I screamed a little. Don’t judge me.

Found a giant castle knitted out of yarn in the mall. You can’t get away from castles in this country, y’all.

Overall, it was amazing.  I actually miss Scotland and usually when I leave a place I feel relief that I’m gone.  I cannot recommend it enough.  But maybe bring a raincoat.  And a spare tire.

Holy shit, this post is getting long.  Let’s do London next, okay?

I have less time to be crazy

Today is my 27th day of getting punched in the noggin with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation which means I have only 9 days of treatment left until I’m completely cured!

Kidding.

About being cured, I mean.  There’s no permanent cure for mental illness yet but I have hopes because this shit seems like it’s sort of working.  I still have dark days and fatigue and brain fog and all that jazz but I also have bright days…lots of them.  More than I’ve had in longer than I can remember.  And I have enough energy to go to treatment every single day and at this point that is sort of amazing.

Session 25: It looks like my glasses are on crooked but it’s just that the magnets are causing my face to spasm and eyes to water.

My last visit with my shrinks went well (I’m seeing one at the psych unit and my old one as well) and one of them told me that when you finally get into remission from depression you are 350% more likely to stay in remission if you exercise 30 minutes a day for 6 times a week.  Spellcheck tried to correct “exercise” to “excessive” and I agree, spellcheck, but I’m trying it anyway.  I’m also sleeping better (which is the first response from TMS for most patients) and that helps with feeling better and that means I have more energy to exercise and suddenly I’m almost a healthy person if you don’t look at all the bacon and vodka I’m consuming.

Overall it’s good and I’m relieved and scared that it will stop working but there’s another issue I hadn’t counted on, and that’s guilt.  A little is guilt for not doing it sooner (although if I had done it when it was first recommended they wouldn’t have treated both sides of my brain so it worked out well that I waited) but mainly it’s guilt over using my time for such self-indulgent things.  Rationally I know I shouldn’t feel this way but it doesn’t change the fact that I feel like I’m being selfish.  It adds up…the hour I spent driving to TMS, the hour I spend in the chair having magnets punch me, the half hour I walk or swim, the hours I sleep instead of work or worry.  It feels like cheating.  That’s wrong.  I know it’s wrong.  But knowing and feeling are different things.  I know that time given to yourself to make yourself healthier is good for you and for everyone around you.  I know that it takes time and effort for some of us to stay sane.  I know that I’m worth the work and that I should feel grateful that I can take care of myself without feeling guilty.  So the next step is moving from knowing to feeling.

I don’t think I’m alone in this.  I think so many of us struggle with the thought that it’s okay to take care of ourselves, and it’s strange that it’s a struggle to treat ourselves as kindly as we treat the dog.  The dog needs walks, and healthy choices and water and play and sleep and naps and bacon and more naps.  And love.

I need that too.  And so do you.

It’s not just a gift we give to ourselves…it’s a duty.

I’ll remind you if you remind me.

Is this how it’s supposed to be?

 

Happiness.  Every day I have it drilled in my head…figuratively.  And now sort of literally.

My 15th session of transcranial magnetic stimulation was yesterday.  My 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th this week.  Another 20 lay ahead.  They still hurt a little, the magnets drilling and tapping so loudly I have to wear earplugs.  My blinking tic beats out an involuntary pattern with the rhythm and my eyes water.  Afterward my skull feels misshapen, my face stiff as I make strange faces on the long drive home.  But each day I feel stronger and instead of feeling like my mental illness is being beaten into submission each session, it feels different.  I feel the pulses shooting goodness into my head.  It’s worth the pain, I think.  The slow tapping on the right side of my brain where my anxiety lives.  It whispers with each pulse:  YOU.  WILL.  BE.  STRONGER.

The furiously fast drilling on the left side of my brain where my depression lives:  YouWillBeOkayYouWillBeOkayYouWillBeOkay  *breathe*  *remember to breathe*  

I feel different.

On Sunday I think I looked almost like a normal person. I was still scared.  With each step I knew I could fall back, that the exhaustion and fatigue and anxiety could hit me at any second.  My daughter knew too…and she was amazed at each step I took.  Yes, we can go get lunch.  Yes, I’ll take you to get new shorts.  Yes, we can go to the mall, the candy shop, the book store.  Yes, we can swim and listen to show tunes and sing.  Yes, we can play a game.  Yes, I’ll read to you.  

Yes…I’m enjoying this too.

It was the most I’ve done in a single day in…longer than I can remember.  And instead of ending the day feeling rung-out and empty and raw I felt…normal?  Is this what normal looks like?  Because if it is I want this.

Normally I struggle with simple things.  I make strange choices.  The strength is takes to shower or the energy it takes to eat?  You don’t get both so choose wisely.  Every action takes such work…as if living with mental illness is like waking to a new different disability each day.  Someone else could quickly do the simple tasks of the day but I am hobbled.  It can take hours for me to do what could be done in a good day in minutes.  But not today.  Today I feel strong.  I feel guilty for being able to leave the house without xanax to dull the world…for being able to accomplish the things that normal people do every day.  And I feel angry that this comes so easily.  I shouldn’t.  I should feel lucky and blessed but then I remind myself that it’s not just happiness coming back….it’s all of the emotions.   It feels like cheating, like I’m on some illegal drug or cheating somewhow…stealing these emotions I forgot were so strong.    And maybe that’s for the best because it means that I appreciate how much mental illness takes from me when it is present and how much it’s worth fighting for relief.  Even with it hiding I know it is a terrible monster I will always fear.

When this monster shows its face I fear the world, I fear myself.  I loathe the terrible things that I see and I am too paralyzed to even discuss the news items that stick in my head.  My dr tells me it’s not safe for me to dwell on these things and it’s true…my intrusive, compulsive thoughts makes me obsess about terrible things that happen in the world.  She reminds me that it will suck away my life if I allow myself to be paralyzed with fear and dread.  I am not built for rebellion.  Not yet.   She reminds me to look for the good in the world because it is real even if it doesn’t get the same press and this is a very good idea for people with broken brains, but mine keeps repeating “It’s not enough.  We’re all going to die.  The world is awful and I am a part of it.”

But now, today, it’s saying something different.  It says that the world is a terrible place…sometimes.  And filled with terrible people…who can change.  But suddenly I’m reminded that there are more people who I know who care, who are empathetic, who fight for others in quiet and loud ways.  I see that I am not alone.  I see how terrible it would be to feel the terror of the world by myself…and how heartening it is that I can see so many people doing small and beautiful things to make the world better.  I’m reminded (for the first time it feels like) of how alone I would feel if I was the only one who felt disconsolate or frustrated.  I’m reminded of how lucky I am to be surrounded by people around the world who care about others.  Who are here for each other.  I think I knew all this before.  But mental illness changes “knowing” and “believing” into two very different things and I can breathe for a moment and know that it will be okay.

It’s an epiphany that brings me such relief.  It’s going to be okay.  Not perfect, never perfect…but we will be okay even when we’re not okay.  Even when we’re wanting to be better than we are.  It’s okay to take a breath.  To love and celebrate and smile and mourn and dance and cry and start all over again.

After a Sunday of driving and shopping and dealing with real live people in the loud world I come home and I am so surprised to find that I am not exhausted.  My daughter tells my husband how much we did.  “Mom did so great!” she says.  As if I am the child.  And it makes my heart swell and break at the same time.  But I will take this.  I don’t want to lose it.  It feels so shaky.  Like holding on to magic you know can’t be real.

My husband mentions traveling this summer…the beginning of the same argument we have had for years.  I can’t travel.  It’s too taxing.  I would get sick.  I would end up in the same wheelchair I’ve ended too many trips in.  I would slow them down.  They go off together on adventures and I am sad but relieved.  I’ve missed many trips.  I missed the first time my daughter saw Japan.  I watched them on FaceTime from my self-imposed jail as they explore the world.

But I will not miss the first time she sees Europe.  Because it will be the first time I see Europe too.

I think it surprised Victor, how quickly I said “Okay.  You know what?  I’ll go.”  He and Hailey held their breath as if I’d take it back.  I hold my breath too.  I wait for my body to say, “No, this was a trick.  It’s not real.  You don’t deserve this.”  But it’s not saying that.  Not yet at least.  It’s saying, “I want to go.  I want to live.  I’ve been waiting so long.”  It says “Let’s see Scotland and London and Paris.  Let’s walk on distant islands and walk through mountains and see the things that I can’t quite imagine really exist because I never thought it would have been possible to see them.  But maybe, a little voice inside my head whispers, maybe it’s possible.

Maybe.

Maybe this is real.  Maybe it’s not forever but it’s for today and if it’s real today then there’s a chance that any day in the future could be like this one…full of promise and energy and an ease I feel like I’ve stolen…one that I feel jealous of even as I experience it.

Next month I will have completed 35 days of TMS treatment for anxiety and depression.  And to celebrate (knock on wood) I will see things I never thought possible.  Some of them in distant lands, yes, but many of them the lovely, simple things that the rest of the world takes for granted.  I will take my daughter.  I will say to her, “Look.  Here is the world.  It’s been waiting for you.”

I will say it to myself too.

Please God let me still believe it.

And on the seventh day, she was cautiously optimistic but also totally expecting some sort of emotional avalanche to hit at any moment.

So.  Today is my seventh day of rTMS and I feel…crazy?  Which makes sense because they don’t magnet punch mentally sound people in the head for 6 weeks but what I mean is that I feel crazy for feeling like maybe this could be working.  Because (knocking on so much wood) I went from a full depression at the beginning of last week to a quick (for me) bounce back into “okay” and this weekend I actually felt good.  Like, I wanted to leave the house voluntarily.  I almost went to a museum.  That sounds like a small thing but I assure you that it is not.

Yesterday – for the first time in months – I felt like listening to music.  I don’t like music when I’m depressed.  It makes me feel too much when I’m raw and it makes me realize how numb I am when I’m unable to feel anything.  Instead I fill every quiet second with podcasts…anything to drown out the thoughts in my head and fill in the minutes until my head is right again.  Wanting to listen to music is a sign I didn’t even know I was looking for and it’s also a sign showing how long it’s been since I’ve been “normal” as all of my music was still undownloaded from the last time I got a new phone.

I’m not 100%.  I still feel exhausted.  I still feel brain fog and anxiety and the flashes of light in the dark are still flashes rather than steady streams.  It might be all in my head but that’s where I keep my crazy so that makes sense.  It might be a placebo effect but since I’ve failed at so many treatments it seems unlikely.  It might be coincidence that this bit of sweet relief started not long after treatment started and maybe would have happened normally.  I won’t know for awhile and even if it works it might not work forever, but I am so clinging to this feeling and to the reminder that things can be good again.  The reminder of how sweet it is to breathe again without having to remind yourself that this will pass.

I’ve had something really awesome to share with you for months  but I’ve been so down that I didn’t want to share it because announcing something great and then listening to people be excited about something I can’t feel anything about can bring about such cognitive dissonance that it’s not worth even sharing but today I feel good so today I’m going to tell you that I’m currently working on two new books.  TWO!  I’ve been working on them for awhile but they are now actual books with real live editors and publishers and probably won’t be finished for a year or two because I am slow even when I am good but still.

One is a collection of humorous essays/memoir like Furiously Happy and Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and the other is a YA southern gothic novel that I’ve been working on when I was too dark to be funny.  I’ll share a real announcement about them when I don’t have to rush off to the psych unit.  Today is treatment plus analysis and it eats my whole day and all of my energy, but it so worth it if it works.

Also, several of you asked me to make t-shirts for you to wear to show your support for me and for the people you know who are struggling.  Their specific suggestion was “You know…something that matches this community.  Something weird but supportive.”

Done:

Edited to add: If that shirt shows as “sold out” you can pick another one with the same design like this one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is my other great grandmother.

Lillie

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

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

I’ll keep you posted.

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

Even crazier than normal.

I’ve been a bit off-center (more so than usual) for the past few days and I’m not sure if it’s because of the moon or the world or my brain chemicals but I do know that even people I know who don’t deal with mental illness are feeling weird right now and people I know with mental illness seem to be (like me) manic or depressed or filled with dread and anxiety and want to rip their skin off.

That is very depressing but it’s also comforting because seeing that so many of us are in this low place is a good reminder that the wave will rise again and we will rise with it.  It’s a reminder that not all of the emotions we may be feeling right now are real even if they feel real.  It’s a warning to those of us who may do stupid things when we feel desperate.  It’s a comfort to those who have to deal with us who can assure themselves that we’ll be back to normal soon and that they are saints for dealing with our crazy.  It’s a chance to practice ignoring the lies that your brain tells.

And it’s an opportunity to celebrate the lovely things that help you cope during times like these.  In the comments tell me the things that pull you out of the dark…whether they’re tools or quotes or books or routines.  Just share one.  And then find one in the comments and go do that thing.

Here’s my pulls-me-out-of-the-darkness thing for today:

Podcasts.

There are a million of them so you can find the ones that speak to you but personally I like the ones that tell me a story.  Especially if it’s a true story that takes me out of my head.  When my brain is so broken I can’t concentrate on even reading it’s like someone is reading to me.  And if I can do nothing else I can listen to one with Hailey or be distracted by it until I’m myself again.

Here’s a list of a few of my favorites:

Radiolab
Reply All
The Habitat
Unhappy Hour with Matt Bellassai
My Favorite Murder
Ear Hustle
Dear Hank and John
Every Little Thing
Family Ghosts
Haunted
Star Talk
Heaven’s Gate
Spooked
Criminal
Someone Knows Something
Finding Cleo
The Grift
The Hilarious World of Depression
This American Life
This is actually happening (This one is fascinating but I can’t listen to when I’m in a dark place, so trigger warning)
Done Disappeared (If you listen to true crime podcasts it’s fantastic)
Inside Psycho
Inside The Exorcist
Secrets (from Radiotopia)
Invisiblia
LORE
Love + Radio
Mission to Zyxx
Welcome to NightVale
My Dad Wrote a Porno

If my head was working properly I’d link to all of these but if you look them up you’ll find them.

Your turn.

PS. I don’t have a graphic for this so instead please accept this video of a bat that is SHOCKINGLY adorable.

You like me. Even when I don’t like myself.

This weekend I was at the 10th annual Mom 2.0 Summit and (as usual) it was wonderful and filled with fantastic people and also terrifying anxiety attacks.  I spent a lot of time hiding in my room but I did speak with these wonderful women about Imposter Syndrome.

Laura Mayes, Katherine Center, Karen Walrond and me. I’ve loved them for more than 10 years and we have never stabbed each other. Squad goals.

And I had a panic attack before the panel and small anxiety attacks during it and I babbled and I brought a sack of hair to wear because I get sweaty when I’m scared and my hair is too thin so I needed more hair to soak up the sweat so I wore a fake hair head band but then defeated the whole purpose of having fake hair by pulling it off numerous times in the panel to show how it works and I doubted everything I said and I felt like a fraud even being up there but that really just proves how well-suited I was to the topic.

Then I hated myself for a bit in my room until it was time to go to the Iris Awards but I didn’t have anyone there who could zip me up so I had to wander the halls holding my dress up in front of me until a friend took pity on me.  But then I won an award for most entertaining content!  And I was utterly unprepared as I’d spent the day feeling terrible about myself so when I got onstage I cried a little and I couldn’t think of what to say so I used the moment to apologize to the women whose boob I’d accidentally grabbed a few minutes earlier when I was pointing behind me and her boob walked into my hand and I yelled “This one’s for you, lady!” as I thrust my trophy into the air.  And then I stole a bottle of champagne and went back to my room to stop shaking but there wasn’t anyone there to unzip me so I tried to pull the dress off over my head and it got stuck on my boobs and I couldn’t breathe and I thought it would be totally like me to die with my dress over my head, suffocated by my own front-meat and then I panicked and hulked out and ripped the zipper entirely.  So, if I have a brand I definitely stuck to it fully.

(Picture by the always wonderful Wendi Aarons.)

And the next morning in the airport I thought that maybe this award is a sign that I need to stop feeling so terrible about myself and maybe have a little more confidence and stop listening to my self-loathing brain, and then they called for my group number and I stood up quickly but my purse strap was caught on the chair handle and so it slammed me back into my seat so violently I involuntarily farted and everyone stared at me because it looked like I’d been tackled by a ghost. And after my breath came back I just loudly said, “Wrong group number” so they’d look away.  And as I sat there and pretended that I was in the next group I thought that maybe being body-checked by my own purse was probably a sign too because honestly you can’t fix Imposter Syndrome by just winning an award and it was as if the universe was like, “Take a seat, lady.  Literally.  Because you’re still totally fucking broken.”

And I am, but also I’m okay.  I’m both.  And that’s what makes me me.

PS.  Thank you for believing in me when I don’t believe in myself.  You don’t know how may times you’ve saved me…from me.

*******

And on an entirely different subject, it’s time for the Sunday wrap-up!

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

Shit-you-may-or-may-not-want-to-see:

This week’s wrap-up is brought to you by StoryWorth.  “This year, give Mom a StoryWorth Book to preserve her stories. Each week, we’ll email her a question about her life – asking her to recount her favorite memory of her grandparents, the best advice she ever got, etc. All she has 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, her stories are bound in a beautiful keepsake book your family will cherish!”  I did this for my dad last year and it’s been fantastic to read all of his stories that might have been lost otherwise.  I highly recommend it and its super on sale now.