World Mental Health Day

I’ve got a few prepared blogs ready to go, and I should definitely be using one today as I spent yesterday at Mercy hospital puking my guts out.  However, I also had a special topic to post about today, as it is World Mental Health Day, and while my physical health is kicking my butt I will try to expound on the other side of wellness.

I started my journey with mental illness at a young age, but wasn’t diagnosed with anything until I was nineteen.  Then they decided that I was Bipolar and loaded me up with medications.  Never mind that I was NOT Bipolar, and did NOT need those meds.  I became a zombie.  Everything somehow got worse instead of better, and I lost whole chunks of time from being so heavily medicated.  Eventually, my mother got me to a clinic where a doctor told me I did not have Bipolar Disorder, and gave me one pill.  One little miracle pill that lasted me very well for a very long time, until my insurance pulled it out from under me.  I went on its sister drug, Celexa, and yes, I do have a couple of backup singers now, but it is nowhere near the fourteen pill a day diet I used to be on.

My diagnoses have changed many times as well.  Now I am diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Severe Anxiety, Trichotillomania, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  These feel the most accurate, I must say, and are much better than calling it all Bipolar and moving along.  It took the time and energy of many medical professionals to figure out what was really going on with me, and I am forever grateful to them.

I tell you these things in the same way I talk about diabetes or gastroparesis, because to me they are no different.  Yes, my pancreas is sick and therefore I have diabetes.  Well, my brain is also sick and therefore I have depression.  I do not believe in the stigma of mental health, so I treat its discussion no differently than that of my physical health.  Sometimes this really surprises people.  There have been many moments when I have received messages from both friends and strangers telling me that they are proud of what I have done, just talking about mental health.  I don’t know that it’s something to feel proud about, because it’s just a piece of myself that I express to the world, just like the other pieces.  I’ve had people write me with “me too.”  This is when they realize that they have the same condition, but couldn’t put a name to it.  Or when they’ve been diagnosed as well, but afraid to tell anyone.  These little messages make me feel special, because my words on mental health are breaking a stigma for them.

It’s the stigma that is the worst bit, in my opinion.  It’s the fear that we have, that someone else might think we’re wrong in some way.  We’re scared of the reactions of other people, and that forces mental illness into hiding.  It shouldn’t be hiding.  It should be worn loud and proud.  If you have a mental illness, you battle with that monster daily, and no one sees it.  You fight wars against your demons constantly, even when you’re wearing a smile on your face.  You know pain in a sense where physical pain would almost be a relief.  And still, we hide this debilitating bastard behind so many veils of self-doubt that we become another person, almost.  There’s the person you present to the world, and the person you are on the inside.  I say no.  I refuse to be two people, living half my life in shadow.  I would rather throw it in your face and if you don’t like it, the problem lies with your own fears and neuroses.  Mental illness is not contagious.  In my experience, it really only scares those that already have it, and are doing nothing to help themselves.  So, shout it out!  Scare those people into getting help.  Scare the people who think mental illness isn’t real-be their proof!  Stop letting stigma hold you back.  Other people do not dictate the course of your healing, you do.  Talk about it.  Laugh about it.  Just don’t let others tell you your experience.  As my father would say, “Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.”

So, on World Mental Health Day, I will be taking care of my physical health, by lying on the sofa and watching Parks and Rec and drinking a smoothie.  It’s not what I had planned, but it’s what needs to be done, so that my mental health can realign as well.  The two are very connected for me.  When I’m in the hospital I become instantly depressed, and it takes time for that feeling to fade away.  So today, I will do all I can to make myself feel better, inside and out.  I will also, as always, continue my fight against the stigma of mental illness and tell you, my reader, that if you ever need an ally in this battle, you have one right here.

Stay safe, stay sane, and have a good Thursday.

World Suicide Prevention Day

I know I just updated yesterday, but today is World Suicide Prevention Day, so here we are.

In case you’re new and don’t know me, I am almost constantly trying to raise funds for suicide prevention through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  Right now, I am on a 4-month hiatus, but be sure that come January sign-up I will be back, begging for your pocket change.  In the meantime, let’s talk about suicide, shall we?

Some people are scared of that word, due to the stigma that surrounds mental illness in pretty much all forms.  Suicide is scary, especially when you consider the fact that literally everyone has a chance of dying from it.  It has no requirements and can affect anyone at any time.  There are many reasons people commit suicide, but I’m not going to delve into speculation about the lives of other people.  I can only speak to myself. 

For me, suicide is the final and most tragic symptom of depression.  People who aren’t depressed simply do not kill themselves.  You may argue “what if said person has a terminal illness and decides to go out on their own terms?”  That person is depressed, fool.  You don’t get a terminal illness without a healthy dose of depression.  “What if said person was a drug addict and overdosed and didn’t MEAN to kill themselves?”  Drug addiction is a sign of depression.  Happy people don’t do drugs. 

Moral of the story?  Depression kills.

Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year.  That’s a body every 40 seconds.  Every 40 seconds, someone on the planet decided they have had enough, and ends it.  It’s a sad statistic, but one I remember.

Recently, I spoke to a friend who has had some suicidal moments in her life.  We both have Major Depressive Disorder and often talk frankly and openly about such things.  I asked her about fears, for my previous blog, and she couldn’t come up with anything that fit the scope of the article, but she did mention large bodies of water.  She fears them because she doesn’t trust herself.  I can understand that-I fear the bottle of Xanax I keep on the top shelf in the bathroom.  It’s the reason I don’t have guns in the house, for chrissake-fear that we will snap, and end it, is real and with us every day.

Many years ago, I went to the beach.  There was a pier that everyone was jumping off, maybe a 25-foot drop.  I’m a fairly strong swimmer and I don’t fear heights so I literally leapt at the chance to jump off this pier.  The problem is, as soon as I hit the water, the tide went out.  I started swimming back to shore, but felt my arms and legs get heavier.  I noticed that I wasn’t making much headway, and was drifting further out.  I tried to grab hold of the pier but only bashed my side against it as the waves picked up.  Finally, I was underwater, sinking, thinking “Gee, this is peaceful.  This would be a good way to go.  If I die right now, this isn’t so bad.”

But I didn’t die.  Someone grabbed my arm and pulled me up, and I saw my friend Mike, red-faced and huffing, dragging me up and out of the water. Eventually he got me back to shore, where I threw up a bunch of lake water and sputtered for air.  I remember thinking “Thank God he was here!” and, also, “So close.  So close to quiet.”  I wasn’t necessarily suicidal, but I was looking for a relief that seemed illuminated by possible death.  That’s not to say suicidal thoughts haven’t entered my mind.  In high school I was pretty much at my worst, and considering the easy way out, but a friend stopped me, showing me how much I had to live for.  In college, I spent twenty minutes standing on a bridge trying to decide if jumping was a good plan, until my mother showed up and the idea floated away.  So yes, these thoughts come to me, but they also leave, and I am happy to see them go.  The sad part is when they come for others. 

Not that there isn’t help, because there is.  There are suicide hotlines, counseling, medication, and all sorts of emotional tools to keep you from getting to that point.  Most people find the situation hopeless, and don’t look for help.  Well, it’s here, guys.  It exists.  And it’s worth it.

Do I know you?  Are you feeling depressed or suicidal?  Do you need to talk?  Get in touch.  Are you a stranger who needs help, but doesn’t know where to turn?  I don’t care.  Get in touch.  There are no judgments on my end, I assure you.  I can raise all the money in the world and write a million blog posts about it, but the only thing that really is going to stop suicide is people coming together and standing up to it, and being a support for those facing such unfathomable decisions.  It is my hope that all the depressed people in the world choose one more day, every day, because things do change.  Things do get better. Maybe not easier, but better.  I promise.

The Ghosts in the Machine

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about poetry.  As previously mentioned, I just completed a chapbook of poems about chronic illness, and I am now awaiting feedback from my trusted sources.  In the meantime, I am looking into different publishing options and considering leaving my house to go to a poetry reading.  That might not seem like anything, but trust me when I tell you it would be a big leap for me.

I have also been reading and rereading my chapbook, and I found that I have a common theme in many of my poems, and that is ghosts.  I’d like to expand on that.

There are many kinds of ghosts in my life, ranging from those I create to those that are real.  As far as real ghosts go, I have always believed in them, likely because of my imaginary community that was a little too specific for even a child’s make-believe games.  Then there was the time K saw the faceless man in my attic, and I later learned that a guy shot himself up there.  So yes, I believe in ghosts.  You may think that’s ridiculous…whatever.

But I’m not here to write about real ghosts.  Instead I am thinking of the ghosts from my poems, the ones that nip at my heels and haunt my mind.  These ghosts are much scarier than the real thing, in my opinion.  A real ghost can’t hurt you.  The ghosts in your brain can do damage.

I have bad feelings related to certain times in my life.  Once, when my grandmother died, and I found her in her last moments, and watched as my mother desperately tried to save her.  This broke my small self, and according to my psychiatrist caused my first instance of PTSD.  Later, came high school.  I loved high school as much as I hated it.  It reminds me of smoking cigarettes.  I love smoking, but I hate my addiction to it.  While high school was by no means an addiction, it is where I was at my worst, emotionally.  I was undiagnosed and unmedicated, and I was a train wreck human being.

In my twenties, I suffered another setback.  Through a series of events, I lost faith in many things I had once believed in.  My response was to act out in small ways-drinking too much, smoking weed, staying out all night.  I wanted to forget that I was in pain.  I felt like I didn’t deserve to feel my feelings.  That I couldn’t be angry, because who was I?  In the grand scheme of things, in Gods great universe that I believed in at the time, who the hell was I?

So, there’s the ghosts.  There’s the Gram ghost, the high school ghost, and the faith ghost.  Now, the Gram thing doesn’t affect me on a day to day basis anymore, which is an absolute delight.  From her death stems my anxities, however.  For instance, if I care about you, you can guarantee I’m worried about you.  So, I suppose in that way it has affected my life, but I feel like that’s a benefit more than a burden, really.  Yes, I worry about you, but that’s how I express my love.

The high school thing likes to sneak up on me.  I’ll be minding my own business, acting like a normal 36-year-old, and then something will happen or come up in conversation and I will be hurdled back twenty years.  I particularly identify this time with my budding Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  I slid into my obsessions easily and frequently-sometimes it would be so bad I would actually wish I had the hand-washing kind of OCD, just so I could focus on something outside of my fantasy world.  It took a lot of time for me to come to terms with my high school experience.  I like to focus on the good things, though, when this particular ghost comes calling.  Specifically, my friends.  They were really the only good part.  Well, and the building was nice, I suppose.

Finally, there’s the ghost of mid-20s past.  This is the tricky one.  This is the one that my therapist likes to bring up every so often to blindside me with: “So Brigid, let’s talk about the year you spent questioning everything you believed in…”  This one is still a battle.  This is the ghost that features most prominently in my chapbook, though all of them reside there.

Poetry is personal, in my opinion.  You are sharing your observations and feelings, through the lens of your own perception.  When I read poetry, I do the same thing; I look at it though my own frame of context.  Sometimes, it will touch my soul, and she will scream out “Me, too!” and I will feel like I just made a new friend between the pages of a book.

I carry these ghosts around in my head, and I know I will never let them go, but that’s okay. They make up little parts of me, the parts that feel the deepest.  They are the wellsprings from which I draw my words.  My chapbook would not exist without them.  My writing would not exist.  So, I live with this haunted mind in hopes that one day someone will read my words and say, hey…me too.

Doldrums

Today is a gloomy day. There have been a great many gloomy days lately, as mother nature rained down on us all spring long, bringing life to plants but also death to plans.  Now it is finally summer, and one would think those gloomy days are past, yet here we are.  As I type I hear the pitter patter of rain against the steel door and am reminded that I am depressed.

Only vaguely, the way I get when the weather is poor or during the winter when I haven’t seen the sun in days.  I can’t stand those times, the grayness seeping into my skin and making me shiver.  I write but I don’t want to, as is often the case on these gray days, when all I really want to do is curl up in bed with a book or lie on the sofa and watch television.  Today I am pushing myself to be happy, as M is here for a few days and I am determined to keep a smile on my face for him.  I am so proud of him right now, for personal reasons, but let it be known that he is an amazing and wonderful young man and I can’t wait to see the future that lies ahead of him.  But I don’t want to be sad around him.  So, this morning when I felt the world getting on top of me, I offered him a PlayStation remote and went out for a walk to clear my head. 

I passed a lot of gardens, as my street has several front lawns blooming with all sorts of plants.  I considered taking pictures, but the owners of these gardens likely would have objected to me traipsing around and photographing their hard work.  I heard a lot of birds, and lawnmowers.  I saw people on their way to work and school.  I saw garbage men filling up their truck.  I saw two ducks just hanging out on McKinley Pkwy.  I got some spell energy from a greenhouse on Wizards Unite.  I felt better.

I personally cannot wait until mid-July, when we head out on our first ever family camping trip.  Spending time outside always makes me feel better, and to spend three days with nothing but nature is something I am really looking forward to.  There’s still a ton of planning to be done and I am going to have to piece together supplies from various people, but I can’t wait to spend time with my parents, Mark and the kiddos out in nature.  Something about it takes away the doldrums, even if it were to rain on our little trip.  At least we would be together and could keep one another entertained. 

The drizzle is letting up, and the sun keeps daring to make an appearance, but no matter the weather I will try to keep a smile on my face, and look for the little gifts that the world has given me to get me by in the meantime.  Like gardens, and ducks, and the smell of air after the rain.   That’s enough to keep me going, today.

I don’t wanna be here, and I don’t wanna do this…

…is pretty much the theme of my past month or so.  Every Monday I sit at my computer and think about what I want to write about.  I look through the notes I made that week.  I scour the internet for articles that really get my goat.  When desperate, I look for writing prompts.  Then some days I just go on and on about depression and slowly find myself getting more…depressed.

Shocking.

Today I am mostly paralyzed, emotionally.  I am trying very hard to keep my chin up, so to speak, but am finding it difficult.  I am doing everything I am supposed to be doing, and so it really doesn’t look like I’m depressed right now, but I am.  It’s called High Functioning Depression, sometimes Dysthymia, and it is the first diagnosis I ever received.  Eventually that changed to Major Depressive Disorder, as I started suffering from days when I couldn’t get out of bed, which is not what HFD is.  It means you can go about your daily activities, but are still gripped by anxiety, unwelcome thoughts, and feelings of hopelessness and sadness.  Some say that people with HFD are just better at hiding their illness.  That’s crap in my opinion, as I have experienced both kinds of depression.  Today I would say is a high-functioning day.  A couple of weeks ago, when I skipped writing altogether, it was not.  It was definitely a clinical depression day.

Now, since I am trying to get myself into a better mood, I am going to step away from the internet and go outside into the world.  I’m not thrilled about it, but I have to do it.  I’ll spend time with a friend, then go to my doctor’s appointment, then pick my husband and father up from work.  I will do these things and I will be glad to accomplish them, because some days the little achievements are all you can hold onto.

My Oldest Foe

I didn’t update yesterday, but I also wasn’t in the hospital. I actually felt like crap after hardly sleeping the night before. I don’t know what was going on in the apartment below us, but it was chaos at 2:30 in the morning. This combined with my unmedicated insomnia and vulnerable stomach left me puking at 4 AM. It was not ideal.

I awoke again at six to go to my first PNP (psychiatric nurse practitioner) appointment. I wrote last week about what it was like to make the call and start therapy, and this is a step in the process. It took about an hour, but it was a great hour, because for the first time in a long time I was heard. I was listened to and believed and understood. It was akin to the first medical professional that said to me “Oh I know what trichotillomania is!” It was a great feeling.

She started me on the path to a therapy I have been advocating for. She listened to why I needed the meds I am on. She did everything right and for the first time I had a prescriber I wasn’t a little disgusted by.

Afterwards I got a free coffee at Tim Hortons, because it’s Roll Up the Rim season, and then I headed home. I had every intention of updating my blog. And then I got sleepy. Did I sleep? No, I sat on the couch and watched Arrested Development and ate cold pizza. I felt some depression creep in as I thought about all the costs of my medical treatment. I considered writing about that, as I also did before I sat down just now, but it’s such a shitshow I can’t even focus on it. I couldn’t really focus on anything.

My mind flashed back to the little questionnaires they give you at therapy to determine if you are depressed. I realized I was checking boxes all over the place. One change my PNP made was an increase in my depression med. I noticed that it had been on the rise since Christmas, and I am 100% positive it has to do with my health insurance. Again, I should be writing about THAT. As pro-ACA as I have been, this thing is killing me financially. Why can’t we just get what Canada’s got? But I digress…

Depression has been a difficult adversary, far worse than anxiety or OCD have managed to plauge me. Depression is my oldest foe, always there to throw a wrench into my plans, and I suppose that’s what happened yesterday. I was feeling high and happy after my appointment, but it faded away to another bout of sadness and stress, as it is wont to do.

As I lay in bed last night I thought about my cup of coffee. It was a nice little treat, and I tried to hold onto that feeling of both winning and receiving my free coffee as a way to appreciate the little things. I have always found adages like that to be vaguely corny, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t useful. Sometimes focusing on something else helps you get your mind off what’s really bothering you, and I would rather fall asleep thinking about a free cup of coffee than a pile of medical bills.

This morning I didn’t want to blog, either. This is forced. This is me making myself type because I will not let my depression take a second day, which is silly when you think about it. My depression is obviously waning today or I would not be sitting here, because when it’s really bad I can’t “make” myself do anything. Today though, I make myself type. I make myself vacuum. I make myself shower. I make myself go on, because I can. It’s all I can do some days, and it’s enough.

Status Report

Apparently, they fixed my stomach, which everyone is hopeful about, except me.  I have almost no hope this will work, as I have had no hope for quite some time regarding different treatments.  I try to muster something optimistic and I suppose that miracles are possible but I feel that it would take as much for me to feel confident that everything was going to work out.  It is quite rare that things do.

I went to my first appointment at my new therapist today, which was less stressful than my panicked brain made it out to be last night.  I scored high for depression, anxiety, and trauma, the three subjects whose tests I always pass.  My counselor is an intern, which alarmed me at first as I am used to the hardened professional.  She seemed nice enough, and she knew what Trichotillomania was, which is my psych industry litmus test.  I figured that if she wanted to take me on as a patient in her last year of school, that I would oblige.  These days I am only finding therapy necessary for a quick checkup of sorts.  It’s more about the daily stressors and handling my anxiety and depression than it is about past traumas, Trich, and OCD triggers.

Mark has considered starting therapy, as he is sure he has PTSD.  I have more or less armchair diagnosed him after reading a crazy number of articles on healing trauma.  He is the sort that puts off going to the doctor though, and his first foray into it was not great.  He attended the initial intake session, and then felt overwhelmed.  It can be overwhelming.

First, you have intake.  This can be 2-3 appointments where you meet your counselor and they take down a bunch of information.  They’re a question and answer sessions more than anything else.  Today she asked me about my family, friends, living situation, working situation, meds, illnesses, and whether I use caffeine.  They give you little tests to take that tell what your mental state is within a period of time.  You fill out some forms.  For my husband, each appt will cost 40$.

This is why he doesn’t go, you know.  And that’s a whole other blog post.

After intake you meet with a doctor, which takes about an hour.  My appointment for this is tomorrow, as I was super lucky to avoid another month at the MAPP clinic.  After that, appointments with the doctor (or more accurately, prescriber,) only take about 15 minutes tops.  You set up appointments with your counselor.  They meet with you for about 45 minutes as often as you feel necessary.  Currently I go every three to four weeks.  And that’s it.  You just keep going, you take your meds, you tell the prescriber and counselor how you feel, and you get better.

I mean, you shouldn’t have to pay 40$ a pop for it.  But again…another time.

I only write this because you never know who might be considering getting help.  You might be a kid who is scared of how he feels.  Or a mom whose stress level is through the roof.  You could be anyone facing any number of problems, and you could be scared to make the phone call because you don’t know what comes next.  That’s how I felt when I first started therapy, and it’s what my husband still feels today.  But you should make the call, if you’re thinking about it.  It might be hard to open yourself up a little, but I guarantee it’s not as hard as the struggle you’re already living.

Hell’s Waiting Room

I’m a little all over the place today.

I started my day at the Erie County Medical Center, a horrible place full of sick people and chaos. I have been here once before and it was a harrowing experience. Fortunately, they have since moved their Behavioral Health clinic to the building next door, and it was a much more pleasant experience, despite the fact that I’ve been waiting two hours for a five-minute appointment.
I recently left Horizons Health Services, my mental health provider for the past ten years. It was a long time coming, our breakup. For about a year or so I was being ignored when I tried to give input on my treatment plan. I was used to Horizons and I loved my counselors, but I could not stay there as they refused to listen to my concerns. I went from being an individual to being a statistic, and they made that very clear. So screw ‘em
This resulted in me making an appointment at ECMC’s MAPP clinic, a facet of their behavioral health program. They bridge the gap when you run out of meds, which I did a few days back. I have been surprisingly good, though, not even suffering from the usual off-your-pills side effects. Typically, these include fatigue, angry outbursts, and brain zaps, a truly weird feeling in the head, as though your brain is shaking. Not fun. Alas, I have had none of these.
I was anxious about going to the MAPP clinic after the last time I was there.  I remember watching folks crying and shaking in the waiting room, and being shoved in the hallways by the throngs of people. This time was a lot easier, even though one needs to arrive an hour before their appointment. I sat and sipped my coffee and waited in peace, not like last time when I was two weeks without meds. I remember clutching my bag in fear in the corner of a crowded waiting room. I remember watching people that even I, a mental health survivor who knows better than to use such language, would still classify as “batshit crazy.” I remember being scared, nervous, and out of place. Fortunately, things have changed, and now the MAPP clinic resembles any other waiting room full of unmedicated people who have been waiting for 2 hours.
Ok, so it’s still a little chaotic.
I wonder how many of these people are in-between therapists, like me. I wonder how many come here monthly to get their pills. I wonder how many are clutching their bags in fear right now, a nervousness you can’t notice until you look closely. I wonder how many of us are really struggling today.
I have seen folks demand to be seen. I have seen people throw fits because they didn’t make the list (only 8 appointments a day, after that it’s walk-ins.)  I saw a man ask five times when he would be seen. I saw one lady flip out because she thought this was Spectrum Health Services and was mad that she was in the wrong place. No one in this waiting room is completely chill. Everyone is waiting on something they need to function.

I hate sitting here, working on hour number three of waiting, typing my blog via phone and worrying that I’ll be here all afternoon. Still, here I sit, not throwing a hissy-fit like some people in this room, because my illness is not an excuse for me to behave badly. If I behaved how some of these people do, I would fully expect to get kicked out on my butt. Instead, I see folks demanding that which they are privileged to receive. We are the lucky ones! We have meds! We have services! How many people out there need what we have, and still people act like it’s not a gift that you have health insurance, that you can afford your copays, that you’ve found the meds that work for you?

I guess in the end sitting in this waiting room had just given me a perspective that I can’t ignore. Mental illness is a serious problem in our society, one that is never discussed enough, or even properly when it is. Example: I was expressly told not to say that I was looking to harm myself or others. I’m not, but if I were, I would be immediately committed. We are constantly told to talk about suicidal thoughts, but the reality is that when you talk about it with a professional, they commit you. I can’t even speak abstractly about suicide without this fear. I would never tell a medical professional if I was suicidal even if I was, because of this result.  I have had to choose my words carefully when speaking to a professional about suicide, and one should not have to choose words carefully with one’s therapist. In the end, they are silencing those that need help the most by not letting them talk about it. Mental health, all mental health, not just suicidal ideation, needs to be discussed.

Like I said, I’m a little all over the place.  There are many thoughts and opinions that I have about mental health, and most of them are complaints, if I’m honest. Sometimes the day-to-day of living with mental illness is exhausting. Sometimes it’s annoying, like right now. Some beautiful blessed days it’s even bearable. But overall, I would say that it is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. Everyday can get a little better. Every moment could be a little easier.

In every waiting room, someone eventually calls your name.

Stuck.

Monday came and went, and not once did I think to update my blog.  This is because of my old foe, Major Depressive Disorder (MDD.)  It decided to make an appearance yesterday, which left me mostly useless and pretty much frozen in place.  I spent the greater part of the day lying on the couch under a blanket and watching television.  At one point, Hubs came and played my character on Red Dead 2 for me.  I didn’t even have the desire to do it myself, despite it being the best video game I have ever played.  Today wasn’t much better, as I had a fitful sleep and ended up napping for much of the afternoon.  I hate the way depression drains you of everything-joy, energy, feelings of most varieties…it would be depressing if it weren’t already.

I have had MDD since I was a child, so I am pretty good at dealing with it on a daily basis.  Most days I would say my depression is “passable,” in that I can put a smile on my face and carry on with my day like nothing is amiss.  Other times it becomes all-encompassing, and that’s when it is most difficult to live with.  Something circumstantial, say, needing to pay a bill on time, can be nothing to me one day and everything to me the next.  It is this switch from one state to another that often throws me for a loop.  I find it difficult to deal with the problem when I am depressed, which often leads to a whole host of other problems.  I can deal fine on a daily basis, but sometimes, the darkness gets in and there is no light bright enough to banish it.

My depression has been a part of me for so long that I truly do not know what life would be like without it.  I am a natural pessimist because of it, and have never seen the glass as half full.  It speaks in sarcasm and dry wit.  It lurks in my bones, waiting to pounce on my chest and knock the wind out of me.  It is something I have dealt with forever, and no matter how many strides I make, it remains.

Somedays it just gives me a little anxiety.  Some days it shuts me down completely.  Most days I persevere.

I like most days.  Most days I try to find the “happy” in things.  Most days I do what needs to be done despite nagging thoughts in my brain.  Most days I am ok.  Some days I am not.  Some days I cry for no reason, or rage for no reason, or do any number of things “for no reason,” but the reason is always going to be messed-up chemicals in my brain.  Most days my meds do their job and I am a delight.  Other days, not so much.

I don’t know if it’s that I just didn’t realize it was Monday, or that I deeply did not want to sit at the computer, but whatever it was that made me forget yesterday only made me sadder today.  I felt disappointment in myself for blowing my deadline, especially after writing about how I hoped to update more often just last week.  That may be why it’s hard to get out of a depressive episode.  You do things when you’re depressed that make you feel bad later on, and so the cycle continues.

Right now, I’m going to go make a cup of tea and relax a little.  I still don’t feel great, but I’m better than yesterday, and tomorrow is still in front of me.  Every day is a different battle, and I remain a fighter, no matter what.

Social Media Anxiety

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I have been using it as a way to fight my anxiety.  You may also know that I have been working on expanding and promoting it.  This, my friend, is where the anxiety part really comes into play.

I have read a bunch of articles regarding promotion, monetization, and creating one’s “brand” and all I have to say is that I hate it.  It takes so much away from the writing, which is why I have this blog in the first place, and it puts a microscope on myself.  Example: there is not yet anywhere on my blog that features my full name.  This is for one reason and one reason only: I still need to work.  If a client puts my name in a search engine, I do not want them to judge my childcare abilities by my writings.  I might drop some f-bombs in my blog but I won’t be swearing around your kid, you know what I mean?  I might have a political or religious view that bears no weight on how well I change a diaper but may affect whether someone wants to hire me.  Now, I’ve got some poems that are coming out soon, or are out already (see Potatoes, up at the top,) so I know that my search engine results will soon change, and I will indeed be judged by my words.  One of these poems is about smoking pot.  I’m not exactly thrilled that a possible employer may stumble upon it and not hire me, but also, I’m not thrilled by the idea of censoring my true passion of writing for my day job, either.  I try to tell myself that this is just my anxiety, but I know it’s also a rational concern, so I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place.

It is this microscope on the writer that causes anxiety for me.  I am not good at bragging about myself, for one.  I’m a fairly humble individual.  Back when filling out profiles on dating sites, I was always unsure how to describe myself.  I was never good at listing my qualities.  When asked in interviews what assets I can bring to a job, I freeze up.  I need someone to tell me I’m good at something to make it real, and even then, I don’t always believe them.  This is juxtaposed by a crazy high self-esteem wherein I believe I can do anything.  It’s a dilemma.

Let’s take Facebook and Twitter, for example.  On Twitter, I never shy from anything.  I always write exactly what I think.  On Facebook, however, I am more reserved.  Why?  Well, I have significantly less Twitter followers than Facebook friends, and I think that has something to do with it. Maybe it’s the fact my grandmother is on Facebook?  And my parents?  Maybe it’s because there’s strangers who follow me on Twitter, and I know all my FB friends?  I have more questions than answers, but I know I behave differently on different sites.  For instance, I always post my blog on Twitter, but rarely on FB.  For some reason (and yes, I am aware this is the crazy anxiety-ridden side of my brain) I think that people don’t care.  Mind you, these are people I know, personally, and who seem to enjoy me as an individual, enough so as to send me a friend request.  These people are the most likely to care, and I can’t convince myself of that.

That’s what it really comes down to.  I look at all the followers I have acquired on my blog in the past year.  Like 150 people, complete strangers to me, who decided to follow my blog because they saw something they liked.  Yet, I think that if I share my blog with friends and family, those people will not see anything they enjoy.  I know I’m wrong.  I know I have people who read it, who follow me on social media, who could easily unfollow my ass if I got too boring, but no one does.  Still, my anxious brain senses that I am simply wasting peoples time.  Rational brain knows that’s a lie, because I like your posts and pictures as much as you like mine.  Still, it holds me back from expressing myself, which is what I truly hate.

Right now, I am debating whether or not to share this post on Facebook.  I am thinking of what kind of tweet I can write about my it.  I am considering starting an Instagram challenge to promote my blog.  I am streamlining my accounts to fit my “brand,” a word I still can’t say without the implied quotation marks.  I am doubting all of it, and I wonder if I always will.  Still, I take those little times when someone did say “Hey, I liked that thing you wrote,” and I keep them very close to my heart.  I remember them in my darker moments.  These little instances are what keep me writing, and make me feel like I have something worthwhile to say.  Everything else is just roadblocks.