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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.

Happy Booksgiving!

Hello, and welcome to the FIFTH YEAR OF BOOKSGIVING!

What is Booksgiving?  It’s pretty much the only holiday I actually enjoy celebrating (other than Halloween).  It’s a day when I give out free copies of my books to people who may need them.  It usually takes place earlier in February but I was in a bit of a depression so I decided to wait until I could breathe again and turns out today is also Random Acts of Kindness Day so it’s almost like my mental illness planned this.

The strange thing about Booksgiving is that very often other people get involved and are like, “I want to buy a book for someone too!” so even if you’re the 26th person asking for a book it is entirely possible some wonderful stranger will gift it to you.

All you have to do is start a brand new wishlist on Amazon with ONE book on it.  (Just one book, okay?  Otherwise it’s not really fair.  The only exception to the one-book-maximum is if you are also picking one book for your child, which is totally fine.)

Click here for directions on how to create a wishlist and PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU FOLLOW STEP 3 about adding your address to this specific brand-new wishlist because otherwise the person buying it won’t be able to send it.

And if you want to surprise a stranger with a book just click on their link, buy their book, choose their address at checkout (it’ll just give you their town for privacy reasons) and send!  (If it doesn’t give you their address it means they skipped step 3 and didn’t enter their address so just delete that book from your cart and try the next person.)

And if you want to get involved but don’t want to buy or give books then just share in the comments what your favorite book is that everyone should read.  What’s the underrated book that no one knows?  What’s the book you wish you could wipe out of your mind just so you could read it again for the first time?  What’s the book you read as a kid that saved you?  (And if you wrote a book feel free to pimp it out below.)  Discovering new books = fried gold.

(Also, I do realize that it’s a bit ironic I’m doing this on Amazon when I’m about to open my own independent bookstore but I haven’t been able to figure out a good way to do this through Nowhere yet.  Maybe next year.)

SO!  Do you need a copy of Furiously Happy, or Let’s Pretend This Never Happened or You Are Here?  Make a wishlist with the one book you want on it and post it in the comments and I’ll send a copy to the first 25 people who respond with a working wishlist.  And if I can find some extra cash I’ll send some more later.

Happy reading y’all!

PS.  If you aren’t in America leave that in your comment because shipping can be crazy expensive if you aren’t matched up with someone in your country.  🙂

PPS.  PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ADDED YOUR ADDRESS TO THIS SPECIFIC WISHLIST.  That always trips people up.

The little things

It’s weird that you can kind of tell my mental well-being from my social media…or lack thereof.  When I get low I tend to disappear.  I don’t talk on the phone.  I don’t post.  I can’t concentrate enough to write and what I do write I end up hating as my depression colors every aspect of my judgement.  If I had a normal job with set hours I’d probably be on disability because my broken brain is too unpredictable.  I’m so lucky to have a life that lets me hide when I need to and gives me the support that I need.  Not everyone gets that.  Most people don’t, in fact.  And I remind myself to feel grateful.

I am grateful.

As much as my depression lets me be when it attacks, that is.

My psychiatrist once told me that some people with depression find that keeping a gratitude journal can be helpful.  I guess it makes sense.  It helps you really appreciate what you have and when depression starts to lie to you you can go back and look at the pages and see how worthwhile life is.  And I think it’s a great idea except that whenever I practice gratitude, instead of feeling grateful I feel guilty….guilty that I sometimes feel miserable (even temporarily) when I am given so much. And then I feel worse for not appreciating everything fully and then I’m convinced that it will all disappear because obviously I don’t deserve good things in my life if those things can’t automatically give me the happiness that I need to throw off the damp, heavy blanket of depression.  I know this is all wrong – logically – but reality doesn’t count for much when dealing with the warped perceptions that sometimes settle into my bones.

So a gratitude journal isn’t going to work for me.  But a few days ago I was listening to a This American Life podcast about delight and it really stuck with me.  I can do delight.  Even when I’m low there are still things that give me comfort, and when I’m coming out of the fog more and more pop up.

(After 20 minutes the room gets too hot so I turn on the air conditioner and I’m pretty sure that’s how tornadoes happen.)

Last Christmas Victor bought me one of those electric fireplaces you plug into the wall and I use it every night.  Even when it’s too hot to reasonably use an electric fireplace I stand in front of it reading a book and eating a giant glass of ice so that I’ll feel cold enough to enjoy the warmth.  It is ridiculous.  But it delights me.

So today do something for me…do something that brings you delight.  Find those things that delight you and cultivate them.  And I will too.  We all deserve a little more delight in the darkness.

PS.  Tell me something that delights you.  Maybe it’s crunchy grapes in chicken salad or finding the perfect word or the joyous way your dog greets you or the smell of fresh-cut lumber or the swing you just put in the backyard.  I want to hear it.  Because sometimes delight can be contagious.

 

Happy New Year!

Last year was hard.  Lots of personal struggles and mental illness bullshit and seven family deaths in the last six weeks.  I had some wonderful moments but I also often felt like I was slogging through life and that I would never finish anything.  But in the last few weeks the depression that slows me down so much lifted and I was able to work again like an almost normal human being and last night, just hours before the new year rolled in, I finally finished edits on my next book.

MAY I REQUEST THE LOUDEST OF WHOOPS?

Of course, it’s possible that I will need more edits and even if the edits are accepted I still have to do copy-editing and legal review and a million other things but it is such a relief to know that right this moment my next book is close to being done.  And hopefully this year it will find you in the world.

I’m writing this to remind myself that it can be done.  That even when life and the world and your broken brain seem to collude against you things will brighten again.  I’m writing this to remind myself that even when I feel like a failure these small steps forward eventually add up to something.  And I’m writing to remind you of that too.  It’s okay to struggle, to feel worthless, to fail and to question…but you will get through this.  I will too.

My amazing friend Adele Morse agreed to read some of my book as I was struggling to finish it and it inspired her to create an amazing faux-taxidermy mascot for the book:

Her name is Shirley and she’s misplaced her glasses, her wine glass is empty and she has a giant bowl of comfort macaroni and cheese that is not sharing with anyone and I have never felt more seen in my life.

So here is to full glasses and more macaroni and finishing books and to remembering that it all works out in the end.

Probably.

Happy 2020, y’all.  Shirley and I are toasting you right now.

Going Nowhere…slowly.

I told my shrink today that I think I have to go back on Xanax.  It feels like admitting failure, even though I know it isn’t.  It’s a medication, and one that I need when I’m ill.  And although I know logically that it’s strong to admit you need help and that I believe this without question, it still feels like weakness.

I’m in and out of the haze of mental illness now…in that bleary spot where you can’t trust your own head to judge life.  It’s different for everyone but for me when I’m in a bad place I feel like I haven’t slept since the last time I was mentally well.  I have slept, but the days feel chained together and I feel off, like when you’ve been awake so long things start to feel surreal.

Part of the reason why I think I’m feeling this depression is because of my anxiety.  It’s been a bit out of control lately and the panic that never ends leads to exhaustion and exhaustion to depression in that slippery downhill slopes of my own mind.

I’ll be fine.

I will.

And things are good.  My editor started reading my manuscript and loves what she’s read so far which makes me a puddle of relief.  The bookstore stuff is harder than I thought but hopefully next week the website will be up and I’ll have more news.  The ABA wrote this amazing story about it.  Tonight I have a rehearsal for my TEDx talk and although I’m literally sick with anxiety I feel like it’s important and I have hope that I can do it without crying.

So I will try to quiet the voices in my head that scream so loud that I am alone and that I will fail and that everyone hates me and will realize I am the loser my mind says I am.  And if you are hearing those terrible voices in your own head, know that they are lies.

It’s going to be okay.

You’ll get through this.

So will I.

Awkward in another language

We are back from Italy and I’m feeling a bit better.  Whoop!

It was quite lovely though in spite of the depression and you can go to instagram to see all the pictures.  I’d put them all here but I’m still sort of in that level of recovery mode where everything is exhausting and you just want to stop breathing for a bit to conserve energy.

But one thing I didn’t put on Instagram is that to celebrate Hailey’s birthday we went to the opera in Venice, which is the fanciest fucking thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.

And we sat in our little opera box and looked over the balcony as the singers did their thing and at one point I was like, “OMG BUGS BUNNY DID THIS SONG!” and then Victor and Hailey sort of stared at me so I went back to listening but I guess Italians don’t believe in air conditioning and it was really warm and I was tired and I sort of fell asleep sitting up and I started to fall over and I woke up with such a start that I literally yelped and launched myself out of my seat and Hailey grabbed me because she thought I was going to leap over the edge of the balcony.  Long story short, we left immediately but in my defense we’d already been there for an hour and a half and it was barely even intermission.  And Hailey said that she felt dumb that we’d wasted our money and time on something that didn’t really do it for any of us but she and Victor spent the rest of our vacation endlessly mocking me for mortifying myself in the fanciest way ever so technically I think it was a very worthwhile experience.

Sometimes the most messed up moments make for the best memories.

PS.  Also, we had a driver take us to see the body of St. Zita in Lucca and when he asked where we were going I was like, “St. Zita” and he was like, “Pardon?”  And I said, “St. Zita” again and he was like, “Are you telling me to shut up?  Because that’s how you say ‘shut up’ in Italian”.   And then I felt really bad but a few minutes later he asked Victor, “Do you like the bitch?” and I was like, “First off, he loves this bitch and secondly that seems a little unnecessary” but turns out he was just asking if we wanted to see the beach and this is why I really need to learn how to speak the language more before I visit places.

ALL THE HIGH FIVES!

YOU GUYS.

Do you know what this is?  This is the finished final draft of my next book, which I have finally turned into my wonderful and incredibly patient editor.  WHOOP!

Not the actual title, obviously

Every time I write a book I think it’s the last one… that I’ll never be funny again, that I don’t have the focus or energy to finish.  That I’ve run out of life and of stories.  And I did for a bit, which is why I’m turning this in far behind the deadline that was set.  I work slow…slower than most writers, I think.  I work around depression and anxiety and assorted bullshit and I delete two pages for every three I write BUT in the end, I am left with stories.  They are stories I’m proud of, even though so many of them involve the most ridiculous moments of my life.

So today I breathe a quick sigh of relief and celebrate this small (but enormous for me) victory.  And tomorrow I leave for Italy, where we have not planned properly at all and will spend 6 days getting lost as we celebrate Hailey’s and Victor’s birthdays.  And then I’ll come back and get notes from my editor and begin the process again.

And that’s a very good thing.

Thank you for seeing me through.

It’s all in the way you look at it.


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.

 

In and out and back again.

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.