Tag Archives: depression

Engagements, Oversharing and Butt Facials

This picture has nothing at all to do with this post, but seeing as today is Friday I thought I would throw it in here anyway. Actually, considering the random nature of this post, I guess it actually fits right in. 

Friday

(Also available here.)

Anyway, I’ll have a new post for you next time, but it’s the end of the month so I thought I would let you know that I have FOUR different posts for you to click on and read today instead. 

First over on YourTango we’re talking love, toxic friends and oversharing: 

10 Beautifully Unexpected Ways Husbands Proposed to Their Wives

10 “Toxic” Friends You Need to Remove From Your Life

Dear Internet Oversharers: Get Off Facebook, Get See a Therapist

I’m also resharing this piece I wrote last year because given everything going on right now–and just the fact that winter doesn’t help with depression–it still seems really applicable. Maybe someone else can relate, so there’s that. 

And finally, if you fear someone is going to get close enough to your ass and your crotch to notice some redness or bumps and you have an extra $200 or so laying around, then there’s still time to schedule your “Vajacial” and “Shiny Hiney” services before bathing suit season.

That’s right! Facials for your front and your back doors! I know you’re all intrigued at this point, so head on over to In The Powder Room and read all about it….no, really. I’m not kidding. Butt facials. Go check it out and I’ll see you back here next week. 

Spa Treatments For Your What Now? 

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Letting Go

I hesitate to even write about my unemployment situation again because above everything else, I like to keep things light here. It’s a blog, not a diary.

But it’s also impossible to ignore the stress, the panic attacks and the uncertainty that I deal with every day and that some of you might relate to. Plus, people have asked, so funny next time but an update today.

lettinggo

Imagine being stuck at the bottom of a deep, dark hole with no idea how you’re going to make your way out. There are times you can see the sun up above and feel the rays on your face, but yet you are still down in that hole, surrounded by nothing but darkness on every side.

Friends and family walk by and offer heartfelt advice and encouragement, sometimes throwing a rope down to try and pull you back up. Grateful, you eagerly grab a hold of both the literal and figurative lifeline, only to find that it’s not strong enough and eventually you crash back down.

You try and remember that the next rope that gets thrown your way could be the one that saves you, but not knowing when that might be—or if it will ever show up, for that matter—makes looking up pretty hard.

It’s exhausting.

It’s disheartening.

It’s unemployment.

The thing is, I’m someone who functions best when I’m productive and creative. When I get on a roll—whether it’s just tweets, a blog post or something professionally—I feel great. I feel useful. I feel productive.

One of the biggest frustrations with unemployment—aside from not making money, of course—is that I don’t have anywhere to really focus all of that creative energy. Granted, hours of my day are often spent sending out emails, researching job boards and trying to find something new, but I’m a big fan of instant gratification. Work hard—see results.

Well, it’s been two months and yeah…not so much.

Every time I open my email or see a new posting, my heart lifts before dropping down. There have been several occasions when I was certain that I would be a perfect fit for the job, only to be greeted with a rejection, or even worse, nothing at all. 

This uncertainty is new for me.

I don’t like it.

Even though I know things could be so much worse, I’ll be honest and say there have been some pretty dark days. And as much as I appreciate the support, I find myself uncharacteristically envious of people with jobs or spouses to financially help them out, and I hate that. I find myself wondering if I’m doing something—or everything—wrong, and why just one thing can’t go my way, and I feel selfish.

I feel like I’m fighting a battle on every side. Much like a Saturday afternoon in Walmart, it’s not very attractive. It’s also not very much fun, and a pretty big creativity buzzkill.

And so this is where I add in the “hopeful” part and say there are two ways that all this can go—I can cling to how I want things to be or I can adjust to how things are now. When we cling to things—whatever those things are— we struggle. When we grasp at what we want or think we want, we suffocate it. When we identify with a list of “should,” we always fall short in the end.

So, I’m trying to let go—to some of the doubt, expectations, guilt, attachment to results and the idea that my next path needs to be a straight line.

Some days it’s really hard, but I know the next rope that gets thrown my way could be the one that saves me. Or it could conk me in the head because I was distracted by something shiny down in that hole. But for the most part, I’m more than ready to grab on.

And it starts with letting go.

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A New Definition

About 10 years ago I was in a group therapy session with about eight other women when the doctor had us go around the room and do a seemingly simple exercise: tell the group about ourselves.

Now keep in mind the setting—it was a hospital and not a wine bar—but one by one we went around the room. In the span of 10 minutes I learned among other things that one woman had severe depression, one was bipolar, one was struggling with bulimia and self-harm while another was checked in for a suicide attempt after a brutal sexual assault.

The doctor sat back with this look on her face and was quiet for a minute before she looked around the group and said, “You know what I find interesting? I see something entirely different.

“I know that you are a retired opera singer,” she continued as she shifted her gaze over the group. “That you graduated from dental school with honors, that you are a nationally published writer and that you have three children under the age of five. I don’t see your circumstances. I don’t let them define you.”

That stuck with me, and it seems even more poignant these past few weeks.

It’s been a little bit more than a month now since I lost my job, and I while I’m trying to stay positive and working my butt off to make something happen, I have to admit it’s still a real struggle. I knew I wouldn’t find a new job right away, but I admit I’m not exactly the most patient person in the world and now all I hear is the clock ticking down until my unemployment runs out.

But another thing—along with that panic—is that when I lost my job I also lost a little bit of my identity.

That job was a part of my life for more than seven years. I had a title, I had a routine, I had something that I could attach to myself and use as proof of my professionalism, my hard work, and in some sense even my worth.

While it was far from ideal, at least it was easy to fit in that box.

Now I feel that if f I’m not working in a traditional sense, that makes me lazy. Being as obsessive as I am about things, I feel guilty if I’m not spending all my waking hours scouring the same job boards I’ve been scouring for days or sending out more emails. I dread running into people I know in case they ask what I’ve been up to.

Instead of throwing out the usual, “Just work. Same old, same old,” I have to think about what I can say, fearing they’ll assume my days are filled with hours of lazing around and watching TV. I’m not exactly ashamed, but I am extremely self-conscious.

Because the thing is, I’ve always had a pretty good idea of what would come next. There was a false sense of security that if I did everything I was supposed to be doing that things would continue to go as I planned. Even if it wasn’t that satisfying, at least it was safe and secure.

That would be the universe laughing right now.

unemployment

The lesson has been learned.

It’s natural to identify ourselves using our circumstances, our struggles or how others perceive us. But the problem with latching onto these identities is that in addition to limiting our growth, we start to let them define us.

So on those days when I do wallow, drown my sorrows in hummus and watch four episodes of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” because nothing seems to being going in the right direction—yes, there are those days—I have to remind myself that millions of people are in the same boat. That doesn’t mean the boat is sinking—or that I have to want to be in that damn boat—but I don’t have to let this particular struggle define me.

No matter what happens, I’m still a writer.

It might not be wrapped up in a neat little bow and printed on a high-gloss business card right now, but I write. Maybe someone will hire me to do that in the near future, but maybe something else will come along that completely deviates from any picture I had in my head. I’ve learned I can’t always know what comes next. 

Because more than being a writer, I’m human–a funny, slightly freaked out/panicking but trying to cope human–and as I’m reminded again, a constant work in progress.

Now bring on the hummus, my friends. 

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Stepping On My Seasonal Soapbox

The music, the decorations, the sale ads—the holidays are already here. While I promise to get back to humor next time, today I have to step on my seasonal soapbox.

fall

Like a lot of people, I sometimes find this time of year to be hard. Between the loss of family gatherings due to time and distance, the rampant and unnecessary consumerism, no holiday break, a dash of deep depression and a partridge in a pear tree, I would much rather just skip to January 2.

There won’t be a big family meal, and come Christmas there won’t be many—if any—gifts. Times are tight and money is even tighter, regardless of the date on the calendar.

I’ve never been bitter because we don’t have money for things, but I do get annoyed that others are so obsessed with those things.

However, I get it. It’s easy to feel pressured to buy things, eat foods that don’t make you feel good and stress about spending time with people you might not enjoy all that much except in small doses.

When that’s no longer an option, you learn a valuable lesson—be better, not bitter, and be thankful for all that you have.

So this time of year I really have to distance myself from certain things online and on TV, as I can’t stand seeing people filmed on Black Friday – ravenous for deals on TVs, cameras, phones, etc., people in malls pushing others over, obsessed with getting things.

Then they show Christmas Day.

The mall is quiet. People are home with their families. The holiday is over. Until the next shot when it’s Dec. 26 and people are right back at the mall again, ravenous for after-Christmas sales and replacing the gifts they didn’t want. It’s like somehow Christmas didn’t happen for some people. It didn’t fill the hole. It wasn’t enough.

It’s different when you’re a kid, or at least it was for me, and so I understand that it’s different for parents.

The holidays were a magical time with no worries, only wonder. The fact that parents can take the time to create fun traditions and keep that magic alive is priceless, and something I keep with me now.

Growing up I was lucky enough that every holiday dozens of people in my big Polish family would be crammed around tables full of food and conversation. And while I might remember a few of the special gifts that I got, those “things” aren’t first on my mind.

What I remember much more are the things that we did and said, making the food that we ate and places we went every year.

So this year with every Black Friday ad, every person complaining about “surviving the holidays” like it’s a terminal illness, I’m going to try not roll my eyes.

Instead when they complain about feeling burdened to buy gifts, I might kindly remind them to connect to why the person they’re shopping for is special to them and how they want them to feel when they open the gifts.

Instead of overcommitting to events that just leave them drained, try to take a moment to stop and take in the sights and the smells of the season. Step back and ask, “What do I want to remember?” And if they have kids, “What do I want them to remember?”

Because even though some things are unavoidable—crazy uncles making “breast or leg man” jokes around a dead bird carcass stuffed with stale bread, awkward company parties, people freaking out over red cups at Starbucks—there are some things we can control.

We can be thankful for things that we have and make the memories that we want to keep–and that doesn’t cost a dime.

(Steps off soapbox, trips, has a piece of broccoli fall out of my shirt that fell in there sometime while I was eating dinner.)

Let the season begin.

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The Psychological Purgatory of Depression

I’ve heard depression described as walking towards a sunset. You can see the light ahead of you, but even when you’re basking in the warmth of the light, you’re always aware that the darkness isn’t more than a heartbeat away.

sungirl

That sounds pretty accurate, but what makes depression so hard for those on the outside — and even those on the inside — to understand, is that being depressed and being happy aren’t always mutually exclusive.

People with depression can be happy, sad or funny just like anyone else. And while we’re all aware of the dangerous places depression can go, what no one seems to talk much about is that there’s a kind of psychological purgatory that exists somewhere in between the high points and the end of your rope.

When you’re having a good day, no one can tell you’re depressed because the symptoms aren’t as obvious as we think they should be. You might not be feeling that miserable “I can’t get out of bed” type of way, but your internal dialogue and view of the world is pretty similar.

There’s relief in knowing that you appear normal until one little thing sets you off — a comment, an obstruction to your routine, maybe nothing specific at all — and down that slope you go sliding again.

These are the times I sit at my desk at work, feeling panic and claustrophobic with a need to literally go run away from myself.

These there are the times when I’m at home on the couch, mindlessly flipping through the same websites, the same channels, feeling nothing but a need to not think.

These are the times when I should reach out, but the world I created is so narrow that I retreat back into my head, to distractions, to exercise to numb out the pain. These actions become habit, the habit then becomes an obsession and from there I’m stuck in a vicious cycle again.

But in some ways, as miserable as you — well, that I — can feel, you get used to it.

Depression doesn’t ask much of you other than to suffer, whereas happiness — in as much as you can remember it — simply can’t be trusted. It’s undependable and often fleeting, and while depression saps your energy, happiness is exhausting in a different way.

Even though you know there are people willing to help, you can never tell them everything. Revealing the plot of your story would give away that tiny shred of control — or the illusion of control — that you so desperately feel that you need just to get by.

Plus, seeing happy people makes you feel as if you have some kind of obligation to get well, and you don’t want to have any obligations or distractions that you don’t invite yourself.

So instead you avoid people when you can so you don’t have to make yourself vulnerable to questions, to wondering if everyone knows that you’re really a big jumbled mess, unable to figure out how to get back to “happy,” or at the very least, back to “content.”

That’s why it can be such a dangerous thing.

You can appear absolutely normal and functional to the outside, but be silently screaming on the inside. And when you’re down, you wonder why you can’t just “be happy” again, and when you’re happy you feel guilty for those times you’re stuck in the dark.

Then there’s the middle — that psychological purgatory — neither way up or way down.

These are the times to remember that isolation is a symptom, not a solution, and that flowery language aside, there still are those small shards of light. For me, sometimes it’s sitting outside. Sometimes it’s trying to be funny to people I see. Sometimes it’s getting lost in a book or emailing someone I trust.

Those things can spark the good days.

Of course you have to sift through the muck and the mud, but it helps to just enjoy the good days for what they are and not question why. Life isn’t easy all the time, even to the most well-adjusted individual, and the dark times aren’t a reflection of weakness or selfishness or anything you might tell yourself.

In other words, just because you deal with depression doesn’t mean that you are depression. A bad day/week doesn’t mean a bad life. After all, it’s not sunny every day but we know the clouds won’t last forever.

Enjoy that light when you can.

Originally published on The Huffington Post

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This Isn’t About Robin Williams

“Many who try to bring joy to the world are often the same people who fight a great war within themselves. Every fight lost is a tragedy.”

The death of comic genius Robin Williams spawned thousands and thousands of (well-deserved) tributes and blog posts about not only his career and his life, but also his mental health struggles.

I don’t want to read them.

I don’t want to watch them.

I don’t want to hear about depression and opinions from people who just have no clue.

That’s selfish, but I don’t want to deal with it because I live it every day of my life, a life that I’ve questioned the value of more often than I care to admit. While I would like to think that I would never go to that extreme, I’ve thought about what the world would be like if I were no longer in it, if I could never get “better.”

Because of that, Robin Williams’ death wasn’t surprising to me. Tragic? Yes. Surprising? No. Addiction and depression are equal-opportunity destroyers, regardless of age, sex or class. And the thing about addictions are that they’re all just a slow suicide, no matter your weapon of choice.

So why do some people make it while others lose the fight? I don’t think anyone knows.

What I do know is that for me, it’s not about lack of resources, because if I want to get help there are a million places to get it.

It’s not about people not doing enough to help, because I know you have to want and accept that  support in order to pull yourself out.

It’s also not about attention. My dark thoughts aren’t about death but rather the fantasy of finding some peace—any peace—to quiet the storms in my head.

That probably doesn’t make sense, but I wrote a piece for Huffington Post about my OCD that I never shared on this blog because I didn’t want to be misunderstood. Plus, sometimes I just don’t want to deal with that reality.

But it is reality, and so are suicide and depression and all those things I don’t want to read, hear or talk about a lot of the time—all those things I am forced to think about all the time anyway.

Yet that’s probably part of the problem.

After Williams’ death I posted that quote above on Facebook and linked back to a post I wrote on depression.

The response was huge, both on that older post and to the simple quote. People sent me emails sharing their stories, and someone commented, “Thank you for things that you write. You have a medium where you can reach out to other people and truly help them with your own experiences.”

Whether he liked it or not, Robin Williams had a platform to talk about mental health, and maybe in some tiny miniscule way, so do I–whether through humor or sharing my struggles. If nothing else, I need the support myself on most days.

Of course, there’s no magic cure or easy answers. But what there is is support if you accept it, people who care and a dialogue about mental health that has been reopened up with another loss of life.

This time it wasn’t you.

It wasn’t me.

And if it was, it’s safe to say the whole world wouldn’t be mourning our passing. But somebody would. Somebody cares. And every fight lost is a tragedy.

Keep up the fight.

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You Don’t Have To

There’s a lot of guilt and obligation floating around both online and off. And while you don’t have to believe a word that I say—trust me, I don’t always believe these myself—just for today, try.

youdonthaveto

You don’t have to hide your quirks. They make you unique.

You don’t have to drink coffee, and if you do, it doesn’t have to be designer Arabica beans or a $6 latte from Starbucks.

You don’t have to love a certain food because everyone else seems to love it. You can if you want, but do it for you. Not for any other reasons.

You don’t have to check your phone right this minute. Remember how life was a decade ago? Whatever it is can wait.

You don’t have to be the best parent, spouse or friend, but you do have to be there when those people need you.

You don’t have to love yoga or CrossFit or running. Try to be healthy, but be healthy for you. We all need to find out what works.

You don’t have to like everyone and everyone doesn’t have to like you.

You don’t have to cook complicated meals with a lot of ingredients. Microwaves were made for a reason.

You don’t have to make Pinterest-worthy desserts. Bakeries are there for a reason, as are Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines mixes.

You don’t have to pin a damn thing.

You don’t have to hide your successes, but it’s far more impressive when others discover your charm without you having to tell them.

You don’t have to tweet a damn thing.

You don’t have to be mean to be funny. In fact, you don’t have to be mean at all.

You don’t have to love your job. You don’t have to hate your job. But you should do a good job when your name and your rep are attached.

You don’t have to tell everything you know because you have a spare minute.

You don’t have to undervalue your strengths or overvalue your mistakes.

You don’t have to hide your scars. They show that you have survived.

You don’t have to take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.

You don’t have to write a book. You don’t have to read a book, but if you don’t, you’re missing out.

You do not have to complain each time you’re annoyed, but silent gratitude feels rather wasted.

You don’t have to love being a parent all the time. You don’t have to feel guilty for that.

You don’t have to complain about being a parent all the time. Nobody likes a martyr.

You don’t have to write if you really don’t want to, and when you do, write for yourself.

You don’t have to compare yourself to others. You are you. That is enough.

You don’t have to be inspirational—life isn’t unicorns and glitter—but everyone has their own junk. Try and provide some relief.

You don’t have to click on the link and read through. In fact, you can log off.

You don’t have to make the bed, fold the laundry or clean every day. A house is meant to be lived in.

You don’t have to have it all figured out. Nobody does, and you don’t have to believe them if they tell you they do.

You don’t have to take the road others have taken. Just make sure the path is your own.

And most of all, you don’t have to be the exception.

You are worthy of happiness in your life.

You are worthy of laughter, good food and good friends.

You are worthy of love and support.

You don’t have to do it alone.

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