You Searched For: 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.
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.
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.
- Follow your doctors orders. For me that means antidepressants and behavioral therapy.
- Exercise 30 minutes a day, 6 days a week.
- Get sunlight, or if you can’t, use light therapy. Do not over use even though you want to.
- Treat yourself like you would your favorite pet. Plenty of fresh water, lots of rest, snuggles as needed, allow yourself naps.
- 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.
- Forgive yourself. For being broken. For being you. For thinking those are thing that you need forgiveness for.
- 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.
- 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.
- Watch Doctor Who.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
I’m sitting here at my computer, crying on my dog who is very confused about what has happened. What has happened is that Chris Cornell has died. It seems crazy to cry about someone you never met but he affected my life with his music and words from the time I was a struggling teenager until this very day.
I was lucky enough to see him in concert half a lifetime ago and it was worth the anxiety of being around so many people because when he started singing I could feel him reach into my heart and everything else fell away. I cried as he sang, as I almost always do when someone sings the words you thought only you felt. I was luckier still when we became internet friends…that weird sort of friendship that mainly exists in following each other on twitter and in “hearting” things each other had written.
When I heard this morning that he died my first thought was that I couldn’t remember if I ever told him how much he’d meant to me, so I looked through my DM’s. And I found this:
And it made me feel a tiny bit better. I’m sure I’m one of millions of people he touched but I was relieved that I had told him.
I will miss him and the music he will never make again. But I’m glad I said thank you before it was too late. And tomorrow I will turn my hand at making sure that I’ve reached out to others that have helped shape me in ways they never know. Because too late comes too soon.
Thank you, Chris, for everything.
PS. Depression lies. Do not go gently. We need you. The crisis chatline has helped me before so I’m leaving it here if you need it: http://chat.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx Or google “suicide prevention” and your local hotline should pop up.
If you’ve read here lately you know that I’m coming out of one of the longer depressions I’ve ever dealt with and although it’s still up and down I’m having more and more days when I’m myself again. Those days are bright and warm, and coming back is like the first brilliant, life-saving breath after spending too much time underwater. I’m writing this now to remind myself how wonderful it is to breathe and live and feel human, both because I need a reminder for next time depression lies to me and tells me it will never go away, and also because maybe you’re in the hole right now and need a reminder that it will get better.
And then maybe it will get bad again. The ups and downs are always there for those of us with forever broken brains. But that’s okay because you come back out. The good is worth battling through the bad. It’s so worth the meds and the therapy and the time and effort and the waiting.
There’s a park in my neighborhood that we go to sometimes. There’s a playground at the edge of the park and the swings look out onto a cemetery, which I always thought was both strange and also a bittersweet type of poetry. Small children laughing and playing as funerals pass. Life beginning and ending and ending and beginning all at once in the same small space.
Yesterday I stopped there and the playground was empty so I decided to swing, and I went so high I felt like I was flying. And I flew, in between death and childhood, up and down and up again…in the place where I felt alive again.
And it was beautiful.
All of it.
It was worth it.
I wrote a new book. Well, drew and wrote a new book. Wanna order it? Yes? COME HERE AND LET ME LICK YOU.
A few places you can order:
It’s #2 on the NYT Bestseller list! WHAT.
Here’s how it came about:
When I was on book tour last year I would sometimes share the drawings I’d make when I was locked up in my hotel each night. I’ve always drawn. It’s my meditation when my anxiety disorder gets out of control. It gives my hands something to do so they don’t destroy me. When I was young I kept a journal filled with patterns I’d perfected…ones I’d learned from others or created myself that kept my mind free…and I’d spend hours filling pages up with doodles and pictures and words and ideas and the patterns I’d found on old walls or garish carpets or bathroom stalls. Whenever things got hard I would go back to these patterns, finding comfort in the intricate but uniform lines that would fill the page – a way of bringing order to the chaos if just for a few minutes.
When I lived in Houston a woman moved next door to us. She’d just moved from India and she’d often invite Hailey and I over for tea and paint mehndi designs on our hands or feet while we visited. She had journals like mine – but different, filled with hand-drawn patterns in beautiful styles, and she explained that when she was young it was common for girl friends to share designs with each other. She’d draw a pattern or design that she’d perfected in their book and they’d do the same in hers and in the end she’d have hundreds of ideas to use when making her henna artworks. She tried to teach me a few but I never quite perfected them. I shared some with her out of my books, and we experimented with them and made them more beautiful and elaborate.
In the last few years I’ve found other people who collect patterns. They do mandalas or tangles or textural collages. They trade them with others to inspire and the patterns become more fantastic as each person puts their hand to them. They -like me – take pictures of forgotten patterns on abandoned buildings, and crumbling tombstones, and resurrect them. They see the motifs in nature – the movement of trees or the way that ivy grows and they embellish those designs. You learn to see things in a different perspective…the patterns that make up a life, or the world, or the universe.
Last year I was on book tour. My anxiety keeps me locked in hotel rooms when I’m not doing a reading so I often spent that time drawing, using stolen hotel pens and pilfered sharpies. I used motel room cups and pill bottles as stencils to create overlapping circles and I’d fill the circles with patterns and with words that I needed to hear myself. I shared a few on instagram and was shocked at how many people responded. They’d print them out to color or frame. They’d bring them to signings so I’d autograph them. They’d tattoo them on their bodies. They’d give them to friends who were struggling and needed to be reminded they weren’t alone.
These drawings were far from perfect. They were wrinkled and muddied and I never had the right tools or pens but still people seemed to love them. And suddenly instead of being embarrassed about them I was happy to share them, and I had the encouragement to share the drawings that usually only lived in my head or secret sketchbooks. I saw them shared online, brilliantly tinted by people who used coloring the same way I used sketching…as an escape, a meditation, and a way to quiet a sometimes dangerous brain. I saw people interpret them in lovely ways I hadn’t even meant, or add their own sketches to the drawings, or hang them up in cubicles or in frames. I got a giant unexpected package from a classroom of 4th graders who used one of my images as an inspiration to create dozens of amazing stories they invented themselves.
Several months ago I feel into a pretty heavy depression and it’s one I’m still crawling out of. I’m finally having more good days than bad, but one of the repercussions of this depression was that it made it almost impossible to write. Or, I should say, it made it almost impossible to write long-form chapters. I still wrote…but strange things that gave me strength to move forward in the dark. Some funny, some silly, some irreverent, some dark and painfully honest. But for some reason my head wanted a picture for each one.
I can’t quite explain it. Maybe it’s part of my mental illness. Maybe it was involuntary art therapy. All I know is that I couldn’t work on the book I was supposed to be working on because this…thing got in the way. These drawings. These images and thoughts and patterns and words. And once they were down on paper I could turn the page and feel free of the thought. As if I’d archived the emotion I was stuck in and could now move forward and see the next one waiting to be acknowledged and recognized.
I felt like a failure for falling behind on life and missing deadlines, but I have no doubt that these drawing saved me. They gave me a reason, and a creative outlet, and a way to count out the long seconds of the days with each stroke of the pen. They were all drawn by hand, slowly and meticulously, and as I worked on them I thought of the words in my head. Each drawing had stories written into them. Each contained a sentence or paragraph or a page of strange thoughts that went along with it. As they become more elaborate I shared them with my shrink and my agent and my editor and suddenly a book emerged. It was a book that seems like it wrote itself. Not easily. It struggled its way out of me as if it had control more than I did at times. Which was good, because I had very little control at the time and that can be a problem when you struggle with impulse control issues and self-harm problems. The book found itself. Half of it images. Half of it words. Some funny and irreverent and profane, and some dark and confused, and some to remind me to keep breathing and that depression lies.
So I made a coloring book.
It’s a coloring book if you like to color. It’s a journal if you like to write in books that make you question what’s going on. It’s a set of posters that make you feel less alone. It’s a collection of one-page stories or important sentences or pictures to tape on bathroom mirrors for strangers to see, or to hand to friends. It’s a companion piece to Furiously Happy but it also stands alone. It’s what saved me this year and I owe you for supporting and encouraging me whenever I hesitantly shared my work. It turned into something much bigger than I ever imagined and hope that you like it. I hope you like it so much you buy a dozen copies so you can color it or frame it or give it away. If you don’t, that’s okay. But I had to get it out of my head so I could move on.
You can order the book here and then you can gift it or color it or post it up in your home or burn it in a fire to scare off monsters. It’s up to you.
After all, you helped create it.
And I can’t thank you enough for that.
Na na na na na na, YOU SAY IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY.
Na na na na na na, IT’S MY BIRTHDAY TOO!
Na na na na na na, no, really…it’s my birthday. Is it really your birthday? Happy birthday! Even if it isn’t your birthday you should say it is because everyone has at least one shitty birthday and you should get a do-over, so it’s now your birthday too. EVERYONE WINS. Especially me because I woke up to messages like this one from my sister:
I got a crazy weird miracle birthday present in the form of three used copies of the exact same book but it’s way too long to explain and when I paused to say “ISN’T THAT INSANE?” you’d be like, “Um…I guess? Is that the miracle? ‘Cause it just sounds like you got too many copies of one book, weirdo” but in my head it’s a message from the universe that something good is out there and that’s exactly what I needed.
And I thought maybe it’s a sign that I should give back books so here’s what…the first ten people who leave a comment telling me they really need a copy of Furiously Happy but haven’t been able to afford it yet will get one. Not a signed copy (because I’m lazy) but I’ll send you a gift card for the book through your email. Just leave me a comment if you’re in a bad spot and need to read something to remind you that depression lies and that things will be okay. Because they will be. I promise.
And in lieu of birthday presents what I’d really like is for you to tell me something you’re happy about. Something little. Something big. Videos of goats screaming. Anything.
I love you guys.
Bonus birthday photo of me and Hunter S. Thomcat, who was named the king of photobombs last night. CATOUFLAGE! (That’ll make sense when you read the book. Probably.)
UPDATED: Those first 10 copies went quickly, but I just got an email from someone who wants to anonymously gift another 10 copies. More emails going out tonight. I love y’all more than cake.
I wanted to announce this last night but I couldn’t find the words. Last night I found out that this strange little book I wrote (one I was sure would scare people away – one that I struggled with for years) made it on the NYT bestseller list its first week out. I screamed and laughed and threw up and brushed my teeth and cried and then screamed again. This was a shock, not just because I thought the subject matter might be too scary for a humor book, but also because we published this book in the fall even though that’s when all the big, important celebrity books come out and so I went in knowing that I’d almost certainly not be able to compete. But last night I found out that Furiously Happy made it to #3 on the NYT list on its debut week! And this in spite of the fact that so many of you weren’t able to buy it because it sold out so quickly some places. In fact, it’s #2 in ebooks and was beaten only by Bill O’Reilly, which figures because that motherfucker ruins everything. But I’m too happy to even let Bill O’Reilly get me down because the fact that so many of you supported this book means that now other stores will take notice and it can make it’s way to smaller towns and libraries and to people who might really need to read those words and to remember that depression lies and that there is joy in life and that there is an amazing tribe of intellectual misfits out here waiting for them. That they aren’t alone.
That I’m not alone.
That none of us are.
I’m so honored and proud and I don’t have the words to say thank you for making this happen but I’ll have to just stick with “thank you”. This book was written by all of us and I consider it an invitation reaching out across the world to people like us…strange, wonderful, broken in beautiful ways, haunted, and so much more important than they suspect.
Thank you. Thank you for listening and helping. Thank you for buying the book or reading here or putting it on your wish list or passing it on to others. Thank you for making me believe that I’m worthy even when my brain tries to convince me I’m not.
I don’t have a good picture to share here because I’m on the road still (next stop, Miami!) but this photo I took during yesterday’s signing feels right…
Thank you for sharing your stories and lives with me. Thank you for convincing me that mine is equally important.