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

I’ve been blogging steadily for almost 15 years now. I blogged when people didn’t know what blogging was. I blogged when it was popular. I blogged when blogging was declared dead and was sneered at. I blog now when it’s being rediscovered by a new generation. And in that time I’ve learned a lot about myself and the world and I’ve been able to see patterns that I maybe wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

One of those patterns is the quiet and terrible danger of September.

If you look back you will see year after year of me saying that September is one of my worst months for depression. I’m not alone here. Some of it is the stress and the change of school starting back up, of realizing all the things you were going to accomplish that summer didn’t get done…but what I’ve learned is that one factor is simply a seasonal change of less sunlight that can really fuck with your head. It sounds ridiculous that even a small lack of sunlight can mess with you but about a week into September I start feeling wobbly and remember it’s September. I always feel like an idiot for pulling my light box out of storage to put on my desk (because how can a box of light for 20 minutes a day make a difference?) but then I go back and look at all my previous September posts and realize that every little thing counts, and that I am worthy of the work it takes to stay slightly less crazy.

I look though 15 years of posts and it makes me think about how far we’ve come. What we’ve accomplished. What we continue to fuck up. The amazing things we’ve seen. The horror we survived. The joy and laughter and everything in between. I can see patterns of joy and lessons that I’ve learned and have forgotten and learned again.

Last week I was cleaning out my computer photos and found the original photo that I’ve always used as my icon since I first started this blog.

Here is how old it is…if you look at the bottom you can see the top of the camera flash because this was before I even had a cell phone.

I remember exactly where I was…blow-drying my hair for the billionth time to go to my HR job that I knew was not my calling. The house was dark and quiet because it was 4am. I would leave the house before 5 so that I could avoid the horrific Houston traffic and so I could leave work early enough to pick up Hailey from daycare. Victor worked a late shift so he could avoid traffic and take Hailey to daycare, so we barely saw each other. I was exhausted and the idea of having to blow dry my hair and get ready every morning just to do it again tomorrow seemed like a pointless and Sisyphean task and so I decided to take a picture and make that my icon for two reasons. One, because then it would somehow have meaning…even if I was the only one giving it that. And two, because I wanted to make myself remember where I was…so that I could remember how hard life was in the dark, quiet hours, and how strong I was for making it through them and that one day I would look back on this moment and be glad it was over. And I am. But I also look at it with love and longing. I can practically smell that house and hear Hailey’s baby laughter and I remember staying up until midnight to binge watch Battlestar Gallactica and the time(s) I almost set the house on fire.

The good thing about blogging is being able to see these things again at a distance. To realize that even if I’m now exhausted or sad or struggling, that there are also amazing things in my life that I will one day miss. It makes me look through new eyes to appreciate where I am. It makes me remember the lessons I’ve learned and reminds me to stop making the same bad decisions when I’ve already learned them. (Or at least to make new and exciting bad decisions instead of the normal, boring ones.)

As I’m clearing out old photos I come across this one my talented friend Robin Jerstad took this year.

15 years have passed. I quit the job I was never right for. I became a full-time writer. I opened a bookstore. Victor and I both work from home and listen to Hailey’s laughter as they play Dungeons & Dragons and write their own musical. I almost never blow dry my hair. The blow dryer sits (broken) in a bathroom drawer. I can’t quite make myself throw it away. I still spend a lot of the time in the dark. I still struggle. I know you do too. We move forward and backward and sideways but the important this is that we keep moving.

If you are reading this then you survived the first week of September. And so have I. And for some of us that is a very big achievement. So stop and smile in the knowledge that September has not eaten you.

Get out your light box. Go for a walk. Refill your meds. Allow time for therapy and self-care. Reach out if you are struggling. (To friends, family, doctors or the suicide hotline if things get rough. I’ve relied on all four myself.) Carve out time for joy. Look at how far you’ve come. I’m proud of you.

PS. I think sometimes it’s hard to see what we’ve accomplished unless we really look. So in the comments, feel free to share something you’re proud of. It can be something giant or something small. It can be a book you finished reading, or a hobby you’re perfecting, or a lesson you’ve learned. But whatever it is, stop and acknowledge the fact that in spite of it all, you are still here, my friend. September has not won. And that? Is something to be celebrated.

I don’t know how to make the emoji of a brain exploding but if I did I’d make it here.

Hello!

If you are a member of the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club you should check your email because you just got a special invitation to come hang out online with me and July’s book pick author, Virginia Feito as I ask her a million questions about Mrs. March, including “WHAT TIME IS THIS SET IN?” and “OMG WTF VIRGINIA BUT IN A GOOD WAY?”

I’m opening up discussion for Mrs. March on the Fantastic Strangelings Facebook page but you can feel free to leave thoughts here if you’re not a Facebook person. (I’ll leave my thoughts in the comments and I have A LOT.) And as always, there are no rules to Book Club so no worries if you haven’t read it yet or if you are a quiet lurker. Honestly 70% of the club love this place because it is a true introvert’s delight and you never have to talk to anyone but still get to be part of an amazing community.

Yesterday we thought we’d sent out the email I wrote you about this month’s book pick (plus a small rant about videos games and hallucinations because I am easily distracted and my emails are ridiculous – sorry) but turns out we accidentally sent that email to the members of our new romance bookclub, whose logo makes me giggle like a 12 year old every time I see it…

…and it was probably very confusing to them, but there’s a lot of overlap of people in both clubs (FUCKING BLESS YOU, YOU GLORIOUS OVERACHIEVERS) so I guess it wasn’t confusing to those people but probably will be when they get a second email from me and wonder if I’ve been drinking more than usual and am stalking them.

So if you’re an honorary member or you haven’t opened your email yet, do you want to see this month’s pick?

I think you do because it is gorgeous in every way and you are invited into a very special story:

It’s The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova.

It’s a lush mystery filled with magical realism and Ecuadorian roots.  Here’s a little summary:

“The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.

Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.”

I loved it and it reminded me a bit of Ray Bradbury’s From the Dust Returned mixed with The Umbrella Academy.

Oh, and I always give you an optional bonus book or two for those of us who need several to get us through the month.  This month’s book choice was actually really hard for me because there was another book that I LOVED but I was worried it might be too dark for everyone so let me just say that if you love horror, Native American #ownvoices, strong female leads and amazing storytelling you 100% need to order My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones right now.  It’s a love letter to slasher films on the surface but it is such a deep, and well-written book on race, gentrification, class, family and more.

Some other September books I loved that you may want to check out this month?  Archer by Shruti Swamy (coming-of-age novel set in 1960s and 1970s Bombay), Shelf Life: Chronicles of a Cairo Bookseller by Nadia Wassef (a memoir about the women who founded the first modern bookstore in Cairo), Ballad for Sophie by Felipe Melo (a graphic novel exploring the cost or success and rivalry and flying pianos), The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward (a psychological thriller with so many twists you cannot put it down), How to Wrestle a Girl by Venita Blackburn (short stories exploring race, queerness, community with the most beautiful prose), Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo (“The Fast and the furious but make it gay and Southern Gothic”). So many good ones.

Happy reading!

PS. You are always welcome to join (or rejoin) the Fantastic Strangelings and all new members will get this month’s book and some lovely gifts. Come read with us.

Who knew that a summer cold could stop the world?

Just a quick post to let you know what it’s like in Texas right now.

So if you live in Texas you already know that covid has been spreading through schools like wildfire and most schools are unable to require masks so of course when Hailey started feeling sick last week I immediately panicked slightly because that’s what I do. We’d never had to do a covid test before but I know tons of people who have, so I assumed I could find a test easily but all of the normal places that were walk in were now booked for days. Urgent care and walk-in clinics were full. I couldn’t even get a call back from my regular doctor. The clinic near my house gave an estimated waiting room time of ELEVEN HOURS.

I was pretty sure it was a cold but I wouldn’t send Hailey back to school until I knew for sure so they had to go on the quarantine list until they could get a test. The school is full of covid cases so the school district has started doing rapid tests at the nurses office but there are so many they are having to open an overflow building just for testing sick kids and employees, and they won’t even test your kid until they’ve been sick for at least 5 days. So that means no school for every kid with covid, suspicious allergies, summer colds, and the schools are not funded to do virtual school this year so your kid just misses their learning while being exiled to their room and parents stay home to watch them (from a distance) as they miss work. Unsurprisingly, lots of people just send their sick kids to school because they can’t afford to have them stay home for days so that means sickness rips through the school even faster, which is probably how Hailey ended up with their cough.

I was able to get them an appointment for a drive through test at the pharmacy after a few days but the school doesn’t accept the rapid tests (and it wouldn’t matter because the store was out of them) and the nurse was like, “Normally we get the response within 24 hours but the labs are so overwhelmed right now that it’s taking up to 4 business days for a result so you might not be able to return to school until next week even if you’re negative.”

Luckily our regular doctor finally called back after days of being too busy to even answer phones and they were able to fit us in for a test that they could do in their office much quicker, but everyone in Texas is so full of covid that the office was basically closed for safety and the doctors were in full zombie-apocalypse-wear doing back-to-back exams in the parking lot, which was weird as hell and honestly something I’ll probably remember forever.

And, thank the lord, the summer cold we suspected Hailey had was…a summer cold. So today Hailey can go back and only missed a few days of school and we will cross our fingers that they don’t get the other upper respiratory thing being passed around, or the stomach flu, or actual covid, because all of them mean at the very least missed school and worry and mental havoc.

We are VERY lucky that we are vaccinated and have the ability to have healthcare and stay home but tons of people don’t have that and it means that this can be devastating to them even if it’s not covid so that’s why I’m writing this. I’ve lost family and friends to covid. I promise you it’s real. If you haven’t yet gotten your vaccination yet, please consider it. Wear a mask when you can. Please. For you. For me. For the healthcare workers. For your family and friends who may be affected in so many ways you can’t even imagine…even ones as small as people sick with non-covid things who aren’t able to get medical care, or education, or work because this pandemic is making even the easiest things hard.

And if you’re immunocompromised talk to your doctor about getting a booster now. I just had my third shot and it was basically the same as the second. Tired and a bit achey but 100% worth it.

Be safe out there, y’all.

PS. I won’t argue with you in the comments about vaccines and masks. You do what you think is right. I’m just asking you to think about it one more time. Sending love.

It’s Friday. Step into my office.

If we worked together in real life this is when I’d be like, “Psst. Come in my office and shut my door because I have instagrams to show you.” But this is the internet and the internet is real life in the time of covid so STEP INTO MY OFFICE AND SHUT MY DOOR BECAUSE I HAVE INSTAGRAMS TO SHOW YOU.

Never going swimming again. Like, I might not even take a bath:

Relatable:

Happy Friday, sweetness.

Adventures in ketamine (part 2)

It’s been a bit of time since I wrote part 1 of this so if you missed the first part of me talking about taking psychedelic ketamine treatments to treat my depression you can click here.

So. The first treatment was weird as hell and I basically melted into another dimension. The second treatment they upped my ketamine dosage to 100 mg and I fell into a mini k-hole. This is an actual thing that is not terribly uncommon for ketamine users and some people actually try to have them on purpose but for me it was really uncomfortable. Basically it’s when you disconnect enough that you lose track of yourself and sort of have an out of body experience. I felt like I’d slipped into another dimension and that I’d died in the last. Some people say it’s the equivalent to a near death experience or is the brains way of going offline and a lot of clinics actually say this is a really good thing but I sort of panicked and that’s really the opposite of what you want to be doing when you’re having a psychedelic trip. I ended up discovering that dread is the intersection of depression and anxiety, and dread is my least favorite sweater. After I came back to myself I should have told the nurse and she could helped but I didn’t because I am a people pleaser and didn’t want to be a bother.

WHAT THE FUCK, ME.

Of course afterward I worried like mad that it would happen again and so when I got back for my next session I mentioned that it wasn’t a big deal but I had been stuck in the sunken place last time and the nurse was like, “WE CAN FIX THAT, DUMMY.” Except she said it in a much nicer way and sighed in a way that made think that probably about half of her patients were too polite or depressed to really give proper feedback and this is where I will stare at you and say, “YOU ARE YOUR OWN BEST AGENT, MY FRIEND. You are not a bother. You are a human. And you deserve to talk about things that make you uncomfortable and to ask for help.” Remind me of that next time too though, okay, because I continually make this mistake.

So the nurse told me that I probably wasn’t on a high enough dose to have fallen into a true k-hole and probably had a mini one brought on by a panic attack during the session. Which has an easy fix of getting a small shot of versed (a mild sedative) right before the sessions. After we added that I never fell in another k-hole.

Over three weeks I had a total of 6 sessions. Everyone describes the place ketamine takes you differently but the one thing that seems common is that it’s not really describable. In the same was that being awake and being in a dream are two very different states, being on ketamine is the closest thing to a third state of consciousness. It’s good analogy, I think. You fall asleep. You wake up. Why is one about falling down and one about going up? I don’t know exactly, but ketamine is going sideways, like exploring the threshold between waking and sleep. For me it is like a small death each time, as I dissolve away. I break apart and then come back together, in the same way that a doctor re-breaks old bones and resets them. It is always scary. It is always relaxing. There is always a point where I hope it lasts forever. There is always a point where I’m afraid it won’t end. But each time I go back in, because I’m worth giving my brain the chance to work again. Each time we upped the dosage until it was 130 mg. Each time I’d fall into myself and go numb (in good and bad ways) and feel right on the edge of discovering something profound I could never quite capture as I dance with the universe.

Yesterday I had my first booster session and although I’m still dealing with depression I can tell the difference between where I was when I had my first session. I was too depressed to talk when I had my first one…barely able to even function. Now I laugh with the nurse. She tries to turn on the sound machine and right after the robotic voice says “bluetooth activated” it starts playing Cards B’s Wet Ass P*ssy and she panics and tries to fix it as I explain that I’m 99% sure it’s actually picking up my husbands playlist from the waiting room next to us. I laid my phone next to me because I often want to record what I’m thinking in case it’s brilliant but most of the messages to myself are these:

“I feel my brain recalibrating. I am both more connected to the universe and less so. I wonder if Medusa’s pubic hairs are also snakes?”

“I wish I could explain this but maybe you can’t explain mystic experiences. That’s why they’re mysterious. Why don’t we call water cloud juice? We totally should. Juice is always better than water. I should make a cloud juice store. And I can even water it down and no one would ever know. Oh my god, how does this not already exist?”

“I bet this disconnection is like what happened before our birth. And after our death. I think maybe I’m not afraid of dying anymore and I don’t know if that’s good or bad.”

“Each of these sessions is unique and the same. Beautiful and terrifying. Like childbirth. Or jumping out of a plane holding your own hand. Oh shit, I think I’ve gone invisible.

Also, several of these recording were texted live to my friends because I wanted them to see what I was seeing, in spite of the fact that they were not on drugs at all. I apologize for that but they all assured me they were very happy to listen to my profound sound bites. Ones like this:

Sigh

Anyway, long story short, ketamine helped pull me out of a deep depression but not out of my normal depression, which is still sticking around. I’ll keep doing booster sessions once every one to three months depending on how I’m feeling. And I’ll try not to get depressed about the fact that I’m still a little bit depressed. It will pass.

I’m worth fighting for. So are you.

Lost in translation?

Just saw that there’s now a Vietnamese edition of Furiously Happy, which is amazing and surreal. I always do a google translation on the covers, but this translation is probably one of my favorites:

Cover translation?

Of course, that’s just what my computer auto-translated it to and it’s probably wrong so I decided to use the google translate camera app. Google translate wasn’t entirely sure what was going on and changed it’s mind every second but here’s what it was pretty sure my book was probably about:

HAPPY PHUC. KEEP IT AWAY!
HAPPY P GORE. CHET BIRD ONLY.
HANS PHUC. CHEAT BITS OK!

And my personal favorite:

HAPPY PHUC. CHECK OUT ONLY!

I’m still not entirely sure what the true translation is but it made me laugh either way and now I’m starting to like it. Check out HAPPINESS CAN DIE! KEEP IT AWAY! in bookstores now.

Yep. That sings.

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