Category Archives: depression lies

Is today hard?

Is today hard?  It feels hard.  Maybe it’s just me.

Maybe it’s the weather.  Or the stress of Hailey doing her finals and me being overwhelmed with everything.  Today feels like everything is wrong and dusty and too much and not enough.  Today feels like everyone hates everyone else because they feel like they were hated first, even though probably none of this is even real…it’s all just me and my fucked up brain chemistry feeling like everything is about to fall apart.

I know it’s not.  Logically.  Rationally.  I know that things are going well.

My editor sends me a third round of edits and loves what I’d done with the book.  It’s so close to being done and a year ago I thought I’d never finish it.  The bookstore is overwhelming and terrifying and Elizabeth and Victor are on edge with the impossible amount of what still has to be done but realistically this is normal and expected and the incredible support of the book club membership has saved us during these extra months of paying rent and construction on a building that won’t be ready until February or March.

There is far more good than bad but still I feel underwater today…panicky.

I take Hailey to a local university so she can take her finals for her online high school courses.  It’s pass or fail, these seven tests, and it means a half year of work could go up in smoke during a bout of test-taking anxiety and I try not to let my contagious anxiety rub off on her.  While she sits in the room with the proctors I wander the grounds of the convent that started the university.  I walk through the cemetery of women buried 100 years ago under the names they chose as nuns.  Everyone for what seems like a mile is Sister Mary.  Then a Joan of Arc.  The graves from the last 30 years are smaller as the cemetery starts to run out of room.  The bodies are buried three to a grave, one on top of the other.  I wonder if that will be a problem during the resurrection but I suspect if there is a resurrection you’re probably safer with a bunch of tough-ass zombie nuns around to make sure everyone is out.

I say a little prayer asking forgiveness for laughing about zombie nuns in case there is a God, and then I say another one for wondering if there is and then I realize I’ll be there forever asking for forgiveness if I don’t stop and besides, I’ve known a few nuns and former nuns and most of them had a fairly strong sense of humor so it’s probably fine.

I sit on a bench and read about the women here who battled with bishops and cardinals over control of the places they made their own, and about this convent that focused on education and on helping those less fortunate.  I read about how they insisted on integration in their schools long before desegregation began and about the women laying here who struggled in their own ways…who died far too young in many cases…whose stories I can’t research because they are buried under the names of women who came before them…and who were known for their struggles as well.

Something landed on my foot.  A dead butterfly.

Only it wasn’t.  It was hard and beautiful and fragile and in the exact shape of a butterfly or moth.  Like something hand-crafted from the pages of an old book.

And then there was another one.

They were everywhere, suddenly.  These tiny, rustling, not-quite- butterflies that were picked up in the wind.  I followed them to a garden owned by one of the nuns. There were dozens of birdhouses hanging from trees and little fairy-like-houses and finally a climbing vine reaching toward the sun, thick with green clusters of flowery seed pods.

 

And underneath, dozens of butterflies.  When the seed pods dry up they wither and fall and turn into butterflies, and fly away to begin again….or to land on someone’s foot when they need some sort of distraction….like some sort of sign that everything will be okay in the end.

It will.

For me and for you.  Whether we are fighting a seemingly impossible battle with something real or with the terror in our own heads, it will be okay.  We will fight and we will win and sometimes that victory will simply look like laughing in a graveyard.  The battles last forever.  Longer than we will.  But victories can last just as long.

We are all climbing….looking for the sunshine…blooming wherever we can.  We light up the world if it’s looking. We will not last.  We will wither eventually.  But it’s not the end.  We fly on and leave behind strange and beautiful things that grow anew.  You and me and Hailey and the women beneath my feet and everyone else you know and will ever know.

But right now you are green and beautiful in your own specific way that is unique to you and I’m so glad to know you, even if only through a screen.

And suddenly, somehow, the day feels just a little less hard.

I hope it does for you too.

 

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

A few months ago I finally did the TEDx talk that I’d been a nervous wreck worrying about.  I ended up having an actual anxiety attack in the middle of it.  One so bad that I stopped talking and stood in silence for a terrible minute trying to breathe.  I was told that if I really fucked up I could leave the stage and come back and start all over again but I knew at that point that if I walked off I would never go back so I stayed there.  And people were kind and waited with me.  And when it was done I got a standing ovation, which I didn’t really see because I was too busy running away, but Victor said it was amazing.

When they were editing the video they asked if I wanted to leave the anxiety attack in and at first I thought we should because it was a real look at life with mental illness.  And then I remembered how many people, like myself, can fall into a panic attack when they see someone else have a panic attack in that contagious sort of way that broken minds work and so I told them to make their best judgement.  In the end they cut out the awkward minute and I think maybe that’s for the best, although you can tell the changes in my voice from before and after.

Today the video went live so you can see it for yourself.  It is not polished and pretty.  I say “um” a million times.  I almost cry more than once.  But I’m proud of it.  It’s the best I could do with what I was at the moment and sometimes that has to just be enough.

And if you want to watch it, it’s right here:

Thank you for listening.  And for telling your own stories as you see fit.

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.

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, which I guess is might be 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.  🙂

It’s late.

It’s late, but that’s not a surprise.

It’s always late when this happens.  The business and sunlight and work drive away any time you have to feel too strongly, but eventually the sun goes down and everyone is tucked into bed and you are alone and the only sound is your terrible voice in your head.  And you try to drown it out with the world but the world isn’t enough.

Or it’s too much.

I’m not sure, and somehow that makes it worse.

It would be better if there was a reason.  I check the internet.  Mercury is not in retrograde.  I’m on my meds.  My life is good and I am lucky.  I step outside and see that it’s a full moon and I find some small comfort in this.  I know people say the moon doesn’t affect people, but on nights like these when you want to crawl out of your own skin it’s a comfort to cling to the idea that it’s not really you…that it’s the moon.  Maybe it’s both.

Tomorrow I will feel better.  I will wonder who wrote this strange note.  I will find it silly and feel ridiculous.

But tonight my head is the moon – too full.  Tonight I will lay in my bed wondering if the promise of morning is real.  If I’m stuck in this night forever.

I will wonder, does everyone feel this lost?  Am I the only one who becomes invisible in the night?  A desperate ghost in my own house.  In my own skin.

Tonight is hard, but tomorrow will be better.

I’ll keep telling you that if you keep telling me.

Surviving September

There’s something about September that wants to eat you.

I wrote that years ago and it’s still just as true today.  In fact, every September for years and years I’ve written a post about how – for me at least – September brings a sneaking depression with it.  This September has been similar, but in a way it’s a comfort to look back at my blog posts and see that the fear and dread is seasonal…and that it passes.  That I’ve survived every September so far, and that’s a good record to remind myself of.  And if you’re reading this?  So have you.

I was going to write a longer post but I sort of think the best thing I can do today is to read a book and take a walk and do something nice for myself.  And so should you. Make a plan right now to do something lovely to celebrate being alive.  And instead of writing a long post I’m going to post what I wrote last year because it makes me happy, and maybe it’ll make you happy too:

September is an asshole.  I don’t why.  Maybe it’s the lack of sunlight or the end of summer or some sort of ancient curse, but regardless, it’s always a hard month to survive if you have depression.  I’ve pulled out my light therapy magic box but it’s not entirely enough so yesterday we went to the pet store so I could cover myself in medicinal ferrets. Unfortunately this pet store knows me so they were like, “ONE FERRET AT A TIME, LADY” and “WE WILL FRISK YOU WHEN YOU LEAVE” but one was enough to kickstart the happy.  It wasn’t quite strong enough though so we went to one of those zoos that’s not really a zoo because the animals are running around free and you just drive through and throw food at them.  It is one of my favorite things ever and not just because it’s hilarious to see Victor get mad about a traffic jam that consists entirely of ostriches who don’t give a fuck about where you have to go.

zebras

Even better, Victor isn’t entirely trusting of large wild animals so he yells, “OTHER SIDE OF THE CAR, FRANK.  I DON’T SUPPORT YOUR PANHANDLING” (he thinks they will listen better if he uses names) or “GET AWAY WITH YOUR BLACK DEMON EYES, LARRY.  I KNOW YOUR GAMES” as Hailey and I feed them and assure them he really doesn’t mean it.  Then he yells “I MEAN IT, LARRY.  AND I WANT MY SOUL BACK.”  But then eventually he’ll see some sort of animal with a limp or a missing horn and he’ll get all mushy and feed it and yell at the other animals about how awesome this broken animal is so that it will feel better about itself.  It’s basically how he wooed me and it totally worked.

"He's not missing a horn, Larry. HE'S A UNICORN." ~ Victor

“He’s not missing a horn, Larry. HE’S A DAMN UNICORN.” ~ Victor

We went at the end of the day so most of the animals were already full and sleepy but I did have an encounter with a zebra who was terrifying, derpy and noble all at once.

“Hey.”

"Knock knock motherfucker." This zebra has NO chill.

“Knock knock motherfucker.” This zebra has NO chill.

JESUS.

JESUS.

If you squint, his snout looks like a black panther, which is probably a very good defense if lions attack during the night.

We also met an emu (I think?) who reminded me that birds are our closest relations to dinosaurs and I fed him out of the bag while Victor reminded me that the almost-velociraptor probably wanted my meat sausages (which I thought was a gross because I don’t have a bag of penises, Victor, but then I figured out that he meant my delicious fingers) but I totally would have let this guy chew on my fingers because the smiles he gave me were worth everything.  And I’m sharing it with you because LOOK AT THIS FACE.

"Hello. I'm from the Dark Crystal. I'll just live in your nightmares from now on."

“Hello. I’m from the Dark Crystal. I’ll just live in your nightmares from now on.”

"JUST KIDDING! GIVE ME FOOD IN MY MOUTH HOLE PLEASE!"

“JUST KIDDING! I LOVE YOU GUYS!  PUT FOOD IN MY MOUTH HOLE PLEASE!”

thebloggessbird

And then I felt better.  And I’m sharing it so you will too.  Just remember that as dark as September gets there are ridiculous near-dinosaurs waiting to smile enormously as you hand-feed them.  And that’s worth sticking around for.

PS. You know when a guy is trying to be all suave and he lights two cigarettes for him and his honey?  Not as cool as you think it looks:

cigars

This is a dangerous post to write.

Updated 4-24-17:  Holy crap, y’all.  I love you.  Not only did you listen but you gave me honest advice and reminded me how incredibly difficult but also how worthwhile it is to keep looking for the unique treatment that works for each person.  You also reminded me that I’m not alone in continuing to search for tools that will make my mental illness more manageable, and sometimes it’s enough to know that so many of us are fighting this battle together, even if it seems we’re doing it alone.  Here is my plan as of today:  I saw my doctor and this afternoon I had many vials of blood taken to rule out hormonal issues, deficiencies, etc.  If nothing physical turns up then I’ll try to get my insurance to cover TMS and see if it works.  From what I can see the overall verdict is that it depends on the person and that it’s either incredibly helpful when it works, or it doesn’t work at all, or sometimes it works for a while but not forever, which is sort of the exact same verdict I’ve had with every other medication and therapy I’ve ever tried, so I suppose I should be used to it at this point.  Nevertheless, thank you.  I will always feel broken but you continue to remind me that I am so not alone.  I’ll keep you posted.

Original post:

This is a dangerous post to write, mostly because I’m opening myself up to something that every person who deals with mental illness dreads…well-meaning advice from others.  But this is specific and I’d really like to hear from you.  Not about how I should “just cheer up” or “stop eating anything but air” or similar.  What I want to know is this…have you ever had Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and if so, did it work for you?  My doctor has been recommending that I do it for years but I’ve always been worried about the side-effects.  It’s supposed to be a good option for people like me with major depressive disorder who have tried multiple antidepressants but still have long periods of depression.

I’m lucky because, as a writer, I can often work around the schedule my depression sets for me…sometimes working long days and nights full of inspiration and sometimes just surviving weeks where my mind is a fog and I can’t get out of bed.  I have a support system of family and of strangers-who-are-like-family around the world.  I could probably continue to live like this for the rest of my life, and I’m prepared to.  Although depression can be hell and I know that it lies and I could continue to live through the bad weeks waiting for the good to inevitably come back.

But what if TMS works?  It’s not as invasive as electroconvulsive therapy.  Some people my shrink has treated with it have been able to get completely off their meds, which is something I can’t even imagine. I’ve been on so many different medications, regimens, vitamins, compounds, injections, therapies, etc. and some were helpful and some weren’t and some were until they weren’t.  Some saved my life and others made it miserable.  That’s the thing about treating chronic illness…different things work for different people and the exhausting process of finding a cure for your symptoms usually never completely goes away.  So after this latest bout of depression I’ve been thinking more about trying TMS.  Victor is not a fan but he respects that it’s my decision ultimately.  I still need to research more and to make sure my insurance will cover at least some of it but I thought maybe one of my first steps should be to ask here.  Have you had it?  Did it work?  Was it worth it?

And if you haven’t and you just want to share something that actually did work in treating your mental illness feel free to.  I know that just medication and therapy aren’t enough.  Music, meditation, exercise, sun, vitamins, sleep…they all can make a difference.  If something in particular makes a difference for you, share.  (But if you tell me to stop taking meds and take up jogging I will find you and punch you in the junk with a cactus.  Just saying.)

PS. Turnabout is fair play, so here’s a small tool that I use when I’m feeling anxious.  It’s just a gif.  But whatever works, right?

Thanks.

I’m still alive in here.

The last year has been hard for me.  I have glimmers of myself.  I have hours each day when I can smile.  Some days I come out of the fog and feel the terrific relief from coming out of the underwater of depression or whatever it is that haunts me.

I struggle through the day until sunshine comes back.  Sometimes I get my child off to school and then go back to bed until she comes home.  When my husband travels I feel relief that I can hide without shame, but the shame is still there.  But I know a part of me remains because I miss them when they’re gone, and if I can feel that then I know I’m still alive.

It seems strange.  How sometimes I can be normal and functional and my head and body will let me live like people are supposed to live, and then the next day I’ll plunge back into that halfway space where I’m asleep, either physically or emotionally.  I remind myself that depression lies…that I’ll come back again.  That the hollowness is temporary and could disappear any moment.  I kill the day with sleep.  I struggle to write, feeling such incredible relief on those days when my head works again and can put words together in a way that makes sense to anyone other than me.  I write small notes to myself for the book I’ll finish when the hungry ghost that lives inside me is full, or spent…whatever she needs to do to leave.

And when I can’t write my words on the paper I draw them by hand…symbols and images and strange things from dreams.  I draw and erase and draw and erase, and make and unmake myself.  I hunch over my sketch book and find myself leaving images to prove I was here…even when I’m scared that I’ve gone missing.

I’m still here, even when I’m not me.  I’m still me even when I come out of this spell.  I’m me.  And I am unpredictable even to myself.

I’m still alive in here.

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-3-37-01-pm

You are here. And I am too.

Y’all.  My first round proofs from my next book just came in the mail.

If you read here you already know that I wasn’t able to focus on my next memoir because this illustrated book was blocking everything in my head and screaming to be born so I had no choice but to finish it, but it always seemed silly to say that I was spending 12 hours a day for months and months making what was essentially an irreverent coloring book about surviving life.  But then today I scattered the pages all over the floor and saw how much I had accomplished.  It made me realize that even though it’s felt like I was stalled in my head I was actually accomplishing something real that I’m proud of.  And maybe you’ll love it or maybe you’ll hate it (GOD PLEASE LOVE IT) but no matter what, I did something, and sometimes you don’t realized what you’ve done until you’ve thrown it up on the floor.  That was poor phrasing but you know what I mean.

And I stood there and said to myself, YOU ARE HERE, JENNY LAWSON.  

youarehere
AND I WAS.  So it was fitting.  Also, I was drunk when I wrote this.  This post, I mean.  Not the book.  But I was drunk for some of that too.

Thanks for sticking with me through this strange, but much-needed detour.  I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.

PS.  If you didn’t know I writing an illustrated book and this all seems confusing just click here for the back story.

PPS.  It won’t be out for several more months but you can preorder here.  Also, a giant thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered because that stuff sort of convinces other bookstores to carry it when it comes out and I’d really like it to see the light of day for people who might need it.  But at least it saw the light of my floor after walking me through a depressive period that I was afraid would last longer than I would.  And that’s something to celebrate.  Sometimes the little things are the big things.

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-4-03-24-pm

One of those nights.

I’m having one of those nights where – against all logic – I find myself feeling small.  Not a good small, like “Aren’t you adorable? I want to put you in my pocket” but that insignificant, unimportant sort of small.  The kind that makes you feel like you’re just dust that could spin out into space, or that the night is so dark that you’ll never be found or remembered.  The kind that makes every personal failing magnified to the point it’s physically painful.  I don’t know where these nights come from but I suspect they come to us all…making us doubt that we exist, that we matter, that we will ever get our shit together.

Maybe some people don’t have nights like these.  Maybe I just say to myself that it’s normal because if it’s not then that niggling sense of failure and fear that floods over me is based on reality.  I know it’s not.  Logically, I know it, but logic doesn’t work well on nights like this.  I go through my mind and count the facts and try to discount the fear and panic.  I fail.  I am small.  But I also succeed sometimes too.  I am important.  I am insignificant.  I am a speck of dust.  I am necessary.  They’re all true.

But on nights like these I push back in the dark and tell myself that tomorrow the sun will shine and this night will be past.  I will have beaten the darkness that seeps into my heart when things shift and rifts appear.  I will have beaten it simply by existing long enough to find the sun again.

I am small.  But if that’s true then so, too, are my fears and doubts.    They seem so large, but they live in me so they can’t be bigger than I am.  I will win.  By sheer volume.  And I’ll keep repeating that to myself until I finally believe it, or until the morning comes.  Whichever comes first.