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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.

Hi.

If you are reading this it’s because I am a mess and can’t be trusted to respond appropriately. I get a lot of email and it gets overwhelming so I have family help me when things get hard but I feel bad about not responding so instead I wrote you this. It is a poor excuse for a hand-written letter but I hope you will understand that setting limits is important to keep me upright.

So first, hello.

If you are here it means that 1) you sent me a lovely letter sharing how something I shared may have helped. If this is you then I cannot thank you enough. These emails get printed out and when I’m feeling more stable I read them and I can’t thank you enough for sharing. For real, thank you.

Or it means that 2) you sent me an email because you are struggling and need help. If this is you then I hope you know how unalone you are. Depression lies in impossibly strong ways and I know that. First off, I’m proud of you for reaching out. I wish I was strong enough to answer every single email but I can’t without falling into that hole myself so instead I’m going to tell you here something very important…you are needed. Even if you doubt it, I swear it is true. If you are struggling, reach out to a friend or family member. Reach out to a doctor. If you get a shitty doctor, fuck them and find another one. Keep fighting. I know you’re tired. I know the world seem impossible. I promise you will get through this if you keep fighting. Reach out to the crisis hotline in your area. They have saved me so many times. I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I love you even if we’ve never met.

Never doubt how incredibly important you are.

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.

Up and down and up again.

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.

It will.

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.

Screen Shot 2016-08-04 at 2.48.01 PM

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.

jenny lawson

And it was beautiful.

All of it.

It was worth it.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!

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:

bloggessbirthday

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.

meandhunter

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.