It Takes Time

Last weekend I got a chance to see some standup comedy. My hubby absolutely loves it and as a birthday gift I got him tickets to a comedy festival in town. On the first night the headliner was a comic named Gary Gulman. I recognized his name but didn’t place him right away. But as he started his set I realized he had been in an episode of my favorite podcast “the Hilarious World of Depression”. Not only AN episode, but my very favorite episode. I remembered that when I listened to that specific episode a year ago or so it had helped me immensely.

You see many of the episodes of that podcast are with people who have been through depression and anxiety but have it mostly under control. They have come out on the other side and found their ways to manage it, “like a bad back” as Andy Richter says. But when they interviewed Gary Gulman he was still struggling. He had made it through the worst of it, the rock bottom; but he was not in the clear. The episode was a little dark, but for me it was just what I needed. I needed to hear someone that had not made it all the way through. Someone that had made it through the worst but was still fighting every day to keep going on, to get out of bed, to do life. It gave me a connection and some much needed hope.

As I watched Gary’s set that night I remember feeling so fucking happy. He talked a lot about his struggles with this terrible illness. About just how bad it had gotten and at times it was a little dark. It was also both hilarious and hopeful. Because here was this guy who had gone through what I had gone through. Who had been to the depths and had made it out. But it was also realistic, and that is where the hope came from. You see he didn’t just climb out and everything was awesome. It took a lot of fucking time to be okay. It was slow, hard slog through the mud but here he was doing what he loved again. Making jokes and sharing and smiling. He was killing it.

All of this made me reflect on some stuff that I thought may help someone who is still climbing out of that hole.

It has been a year and a half since I hit rock bottom. Since I felt crushed by the hopelessness and emptiness of a two and a half year battle with major depression. Since I was ready to just give up and end it all. Recovery has been a VERY long road.

When I first started to come out of my depression there was not a lot of joy or happiness or even hope. There was just less darkness and emptiness and hopelessness. It is hard to explain. I didn’t feel as awful as I had felt for the last two and a half years but by no means was I living my best life, or even half of it to be honest. And this went on for so fucking long. The extremes of badness started to go away and I kept thinking when will I feel like my old self again? When will I be happy? When will I have another best day ever? When will I feel more than just meh? And as time went on (and on and on) I started to think that the answer would be never.

I figured that this was the new me. It wasn’t terrible. I didn’t feel as dark and void of happiness. I was able to feel some positivity but mostly I just felt “not bad”. I didn’t want to end my life anymore but to be honest I had no strong feelings about living. I was fine with living but I would have been fine with not living too. I didn’t love life or even like it really, it was just a thing that I had to go through. Every single day. Here I was still just going through the motions. As I told one friend, I didn’t really feel good or happy,  I sort of topped off at “okayish”. I figured that the battle I had been through had just taken so much out of me that it had changed me forever and this was me now. And this went on for so damn long. In hindsight I didn’t feel worried about it because compared to how I had been feeling for so fucking long this was a picnic.

Then  I woke up one day not too long ago and realized that over the last few weeks I had started feeling more like the old me. The me before I struggled so mightily. Before this illness took my spark. It has been nothing close to the “every day is the best day ever” Beth that I used to be, but I have noticed myself finding more joy, more appreciation, more happiness in the world around me. I find myself being less consumed by the negativity in the world and being able to draw more on the positivity of those around me. I have had glimpses of these feelings over the last year and a half but they are becoming more consistent now. They are starting to feel more normal. They are becoming life.

And it is such a fucking relief.

I don’t think I will ever be the same person I used to be. I know that what I have been through has changed me. The therapy, the meds, the past traumas that I have confronted, the relationships I have ended, the steps I have taken to be healthier; all of these things have changed me. I will never be that “silver lining”/”find the best in every situation”/”every day is sunshine and rainbows” person again. But that is okay.

This different Beth is strong. She is a survivor. She knows the world can be a dark and utterly shitty place. But she knows she can make it. She knows that there is light if you can get through the darkness.

I know I will always struggle with ups and downs and darkness, I am not naive enough to think it is all in the rearview mirror. But I have hope that it will never be as dark as it was. And that I will remember that even if it feels like forever I will eventually be in the light again and find some joy. That I will never again lose all of my hope.

If you have hit rock bottom and are making your way out of the fog I hope this helps. Remember that it takes time. Sometimes a little and sometimes so fucking much. But little by little you will make your way back to a new normal. It may not be what it used to be but it will be good. And one day you will wake up and realize that things are finally turning around. And you will be happy that you decided to stick around. I am (FINALLY) getting there and you will too.

Thank you Gary Gulman for helping me when I needed it a year ago. And thank you for helping me last week to realize that things ARE getting better. Thank you for giving me that connection. Thank you for being you. You are a fucking treasure.

Also thank you for coming out after the show to meet your fans and letting me personally thank you for kind of saving my life. And thanks for the hug. Hugs are my favorite.

To everyone out there reading this, if you need help reach out. Make a connection. Remember that it gets better. We need you here.

Love to you all. The unconditional kind.

 

 

 

My Favorite Words

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

This poem helped me through some incredibly hard times. I still tear up a little every single time I read it. Partially from the power of the words and partially from the memory of the pain I was feeling at the time when it helped me most.

We are so lucky to have people in this world who can use their words to bring us comfort and peace. Who can help us feel just a little bit less alone with their words. To remind us of the beauty and wonder that exist in this world even when it feels dark and grey.

Mary Oliver was one of the best and I am so glad that I discovered her words at a time when I needed them. I am so glad that she shared her outlook and her beautiful, powerful words with the world. I am so glad she helped me through one of the darkest times of my life.

Remember that your words have power too. They have the ability to help another human feel connected, or necessary, or beautiful, or loved. They do not have to be beautiful and fancy. They just need to be kind and honest.

Kind words are a thing the world could use more of right now.

I’ll leave you with one more peace of advice from Mary:

Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.

The world lost a wise beautiful soul today. Rest in peace Mary Oliver, you will be missed.

Love to you all. The unconditional kind.

 

 

New Year, Same Me

During the time of year when “New Year, New Me” bullshit is plastered all over social media news feeds and the whole world is shouting at us all of the ways we need to change I have a radical declaration to make… “New Year, Same Me.”

Why this declaration you may ask? Because I am enough.

Humans have an obsession at this time of year with how we need to change. As a person who has spent most of the last year and a half learning to love myself for who I am (no small feat after a lifetime of self-doubt and self-hate) this kind of environment used to set me up for a spiral. I would spend the last week or two of December thinking of all of the ways I was not enough and nit-picking the things I needed to change to be “better”. To fit in. To be more liked and accepted. To make sure nobody knew how broken and hurt I was deep down inside.

But no more. I have decided to love the person that I am, no matter the cracks and broken pieces. Rough edges and all. All of the therapy and self discovery
I have done has led me to see that the things that I thought had broken me have actually made me into the person that I am. I have learned that all of the things I used to look at as liabilities can actually be considered strengths in the right circumstances with the proper amount of work and love. That I am strong and amazing and have so much to offer. That I am a fierce fucking warrior. And that anyone who doesn’t like me for me is not my kind of people and that I need not waste my time or energy on them. Life is too fucking exhausting already without chasing other people’s approval.

I do not need to change who I am. Not for anyone.

Lest you think I have some false sense of self-perfection let me say something else. I am a work in progress. Though I do not want to change who I am at my core I do want to keep working on being the best and healthiest me I can be. While my experiences and my life have shaped who I am I can still work on healthier reactions to situations and better coping mechanisms for the tough times. I can still decide who I do or do not want in my life. I can choose to surround myself with people that enrich my life instead of make it more painful and difficult. I can choose to nourish my body in a healthy way and I can choose to stay healthy both physically and emotionally. Changing habits is not changing who I am.

So as is often the case it is a matter of balance. I will continue to work to find that balance to make the tweaks to be the healthiest me without compromising and changing who I am. It is difficult sometimes but it is absolutely worth it.

I found this quote today:

“When I loved myself enough, I began leaving whatever wasn’t healthy. This meant people, jobs, my own beliefs and habits – anything that kept me small. My judgement called it disloyal. Now I see it as self-loving” Kim McMillen

So my advice to you and myself this year is don’t make any resolutions to change. Make a resolution to love yourself for who you are. If you do that then all the good stuff will follow. You don’t need to change a damn thing because you are pretty fucking great just the way you are. You just don’t realize it.

You are enough. You are so fucking enough.

And don’t you forget it.

Love to you all. The unconditional kind.

 

 

 

It’s All Relative

I had a med check last week to make sure my anti-depressants are still being effective. During the appointment the doc asked me all the normal generic mental health questions that they ask to assess your level of depression and risk. Not the super intense ones a therapist would ask but just the easy ones… Are you sleeping too little, too much? Eating too little, too much? Feeling like a failure? Feeling no energy? Feeling out of control fidgety? Feeling like hurting yourself? Along with a couple others. I thought I was doing okay as I answered the questions but when the doctor compared my score to last May he was a little concerned. My score had gone up quite a bit. Not a dangerous level of up but enough to make a difference.

I explained to him that it is the holidays and this is to be expected. I don’t have happy holidays I just try to survive them. I deal with a lot of grief at the holidays and in the last year there have been massive changes to my life with my family and friends. It is also the birthday of my sister this month which is an especially difficult day of grief even after all the years that have passed since I lost her. I grieve for the things I never had with both her and my childhood. It is all made more difficult with the constant family-centric questions that make me feel uncomfortable because nobody wants to hear the real answers and it just makes me long for things I do not have or have never had and brings up trauma to re-live once again. Sometimes the holidays seem like a mental war-zone

I assured my doc that compared to the last 3 years or so this holiday season has seemed like a picnic so far. That I am usually on the verge of suicidal or catatonic depending on the year and that right now I don’t feel nearly that bad despite my slightly concerning score. We talked about being on top of things and I told him I would keep up my self care strategies and make an appointment with my therapist if I needed to. I have these tools to call on now. He renewed my prescription and I went on my way.

Thinking about it the next couple of days I realized how relative our mental health can be. Depending on life circumstance and time of year one person’s moderate depression can seem like a fucking day at the park. Don’t get me wrong. I do not feel like dancing in the streets right now. I feel an undercurrent of self doubt and anxiety and the last couple of days the feeling of being perched on the edge of a cliff leading to the inevitable holiday spiral has been palpable. But I’m holding on for now. Holding my broken pieces together if slightly precariously. I’m keeping my head up and trying to find joy in the things I am doing in the present with my children who love this season. I am breathing and trying to stay out of the past as much as possible. And so far I am okay.

So if the holidays are tough for you consider this a reminder to practice self-care. To take it easy if you need to. To survive. Reach out to someone if you need to. Do what you need to do to make it through. Because sometimes the holidays just aren’t happy. And that is okay.

Be gentle with yourself out there. And remember it is okay to not be okay. Just keep doing your best.

Love to all of you. The unconditional kind.

 

 

 

 

Using My Mental Toolbox

This time of year is hard and it is very easy for me to find myself backpedaling with my mental health. Part of it is that there is just so much change. Change in seasons and weather. Change in the amount of sunshine vs darkness. Change in my children’s lives with back to school and trying new activities and getting used to new schedules and routines. I am notoriously bad with change. Add to that the negativity of news and elections and money stress and it is easy for me to start sliding.

It all starts with little things. I start eating like shit. I stop sleeping because my mind won’t turn off. I lose interest in doing things that make me happy because I am just so fucking exhausted from the lack of sleep. So I stop going to my yoga classes and I quit running. I spend more time on the couch. I disconnect more from life.

My brain takes this opportunity to start to lie to to me. It starts with little niggling insecurities and moves on to bigger and bigger sweeping generalizations. Eventually I am a terrible mom. I am a terrible wife. I am a terrible friend. I am a terrible human. I am useless. I start rapidly descending down the rabbit hole of self doubt.

In the past this kind of downward spiral would lead to suicidal thoughts and ideations. I would think that I am so awful I don’t deserve to live and really everyone else is better off without me anyways. I’d be doing the world a favor if I wasn’t here anymore. Down, down, down.

But I do not find myself there this fall. At least not at the bottom of the hole.

I am struggling, true. I thought I was getting pretty bad, yes. I started fearing the worst was coming again, absolutely. But then I remembered something. I remembered my toolbox. All of the tricks and tips I have gained from therapy. Sort of my mental first aid kit.

I remembered to stop and breathe and take an inventory of sorts. I am still going to yoga albeit not as frequently. I am running occasionally, when I feel like I really want to, but not constantly like a compulsion. I have a weekly date with my bestie and I am still leaving the house to do things with my hubby. I baked cookies the other day. I have not walled myself off emotionally or physically from the outside world. I am still taking pictures of nature and recognizing beauty. I am still seeing color; not everything is grey.

Fuck you brain. You fucking liar.

From there I can pep talk myself into making some small changes. I will start eating better. Less sugar, more veggies. I will make it a point to get to yoga 2 times a week. I will not pressure myself to run if I don’t feel like it. I will do those fucking dishes in the sink. I will volunteer at the kiddos’ school. Baby steps. Little things.

I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do ALL of the things. Doing some of the things is totally acceptable and really probably normal. Also everything doesn’t have to be awesome all the time. Sometimes it is okay to be just okay. And sometimes it is okay to not be okay. Neither of those things is a failure. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. This is the thing I will struggle with all the way to my grave. But I am learning. Slowly.

So today I will go to the pharmacy and pick up my refill of my meds and remember that I am taking steps to be okay. Lots and lots of little steps. I am in a much better place than I was a year ago. I am okay. And that is okay.

It feels okay to be okay.

If you are struggling I encourage you to dip into your mental first aid kit and take an inventory. Be gentle with yourself. Remind yourself that it is okay to just be okay. And if you feel like you are absolutely not okay and you find that inventory to be empty then please reach out and get some help. Contact a friend or better yet a therapist. Get the help you need so that next time you start down the rabbit hole you don’t go quite so deep.

Love to you all. The unconditional kind ❤

It’s All Okay

Today is World Mental Health Day. I am glad we have a day devoted to the work of stopping the stigma but honestly I try to make every day Mental Health Day.

One year ago yesterday I sat in my therapist’s office in so much emotional pain that I am pretty sure I almost made her cry with my mere presence. The pain seemed to emanate from me in waves. I was sure that I was never going to be okay. I had lost all hope. I had hit rock bottom. Despite all the work we had done we decided that we had tried enough other things and it was time to try some meds. To me it was a last ditch effort. I was already considering suicide and if the meds didn’t work it would be the last straw.

This year I am in a very different place.

The last couple of weeks have been incredibly difficult for me. I have been reliving some pretty traumatic shit from my past, trying to figure some stuff out, and been stressed out about money and mom stuff. I have been focused on my lack of faith in humanity and I am feeling the pain of those around me in a way that has been crushing my soul. Add to that the fact that it has been raining for about 9 days and I haven’t seen the sun and I can hardly believe I am functioning. Yet here I am.

It is not easy. My life never will be with the constant presence of depression and anxiety in the back of my mind. There are many days where I wish I wasn’t here but I no longer think that maybe I should just step in front of a truck when I am out for a run and end it all.

The biggest difference has been that I got help. Somebody told me that it was okay to not be okay and that there were ways to make it better and I tried it. I went to therapy and learned about self care. I learned that the shit that happened to me when I was younger may have shaped the way that I am now but that it does not define me. That with a lot of work I can rewire some of those parts of my brain and do better. I learned that I really haven’t done so bad with the totally shitty hand I was dealt.

I also learned that chemicals play a huge part in how I feel. My brain doesn’t work the way a “normal” brain does. It needs a little help. And that help is readily available at any drugstore with a prescription from my doctor. And that does not make me a failure. It is just a chronic illness that should be treated as such.

All of this is why it is so fucking important to talk about this stuff. If nobody had told me that I was not alone I would not still be here. If I hadn’t gone to therapy and learned that my childhood circumstances caused so much of the fucked up brokenness in my life and that it was possible to make it feel better I would not still be here. If countless people had not shared that they too were medicated and that it was not a failure but a way to treat an illness I would not still be here.

We have to stop the stigma of talking about our mental health so people no longer think  they are alone. So they will know there is help available. That life can be better. We have to keep making it ok.

So take care of yourself today and everyday. Whatever that looks like for you. Go to therapy, take your meds, practice your self care. And talk to others about it. Reach out to someone who is struggling and share your story with them. Hell, reach out to strangers and share your story. Make this so normal that nobody ever has the thought that they are some fucked up freak show that doesn’t deserve to live. Because we all deserve to live. And we all deserve to want to live.

It is okay to not be okay. We do not always have to feel happy and that is fine. Being depressed is okay. Having anxiety is okay. Dealing with any other slew of mental illnesses is okay. There are so many others like us. We are not alone.

Join in me in not just stopping the stigma but smashing it to pieces. Because sometimes it feels really good to break shit.

And don’t forget that you are important and necessary in this world. I am glad you are here. And so are a bunch of other people. Just keep swimming. And reach out if you need help.

Love to you all, the unconditional kind.

 

Be Gentle Out There

This morning I sat at my dining room table and wept as I scrolled through facebook and had to explain the effects of trauma on the brain to another asshole who has never experienced anything remotely resembling trauma in their life but still managed to think he was an expert on the subject. I am tired in my soul of this. There is a wealth of science based information on trauma and the brain. We live in a world where the internet is literally at your fingertips and you can choose to educate yourself on any topic in a matter of minutes but people still sit behind their keyboards and spew hatred and ignorance at others who are experiencing deep pain and suffering. And right now with current events in this country there is an abundance of pain and suffering. An abundance of people having to relive their trauma each and every day. My heart aches for each and every one of them.

I have a lot of experience with trauma in my life. Trust me when I say I have experienced more than my fair share. And each event has left its mark on me. Each one has shaped the way that I experience and react to events in my life. Mostly for the worse. These traumas have been a source of so much frustration and pain and suffering for me. They are really the gift that keeps on giving in that way. Not only do you get to live through the traumatic event but the effects fuck with you for a lifetime. Making it impossibly hard to react like a normal human being to a totally normal conflict or situation. Making you seem like a complete fucking lunatic when even the smallest thing goes wrong. Making you feel like your entire life is spiraling into a giant flaming pile of garbage because of one small hiccup.

I could write multiple posts about my own personal traumas and the way that I have dealt with them but that is not the point of this post. My point for this post is that trauma is complicated and each person experiences it and processes it differently. Each brain deals with it in a different way but I think the main goal of our brain is to try to protect us from it as best as it can. That looks different for each person and varies depending on a number of factors like their resiliency and ability to process. It depends on the severity of the trauma and the age it was experienced. It even depends on the type of trauma. Everyone’s experience is different.

Every single person is different.

Some of us may have similarities but there is no cookie cutter response to trauma. We are all doing the best we can. We are all trying to make it through one more fucked up day without throwing our arms in the air and giving up because it is just too fucking hard to keep doing this over and over. We are all just trying like hell to learn from another failed interaction, response, friendship, or relationship. We are all trying not to make the same mistake again and again and again. We are trying not to believe the voice in our head telling us that no matter how good things seem right now there is no way they can stay this way because life is chaos and happiness cannot last. We are all just trying to do better. To pick up the pieces over and over. And it is indescribably hard with this monster riding shotgun in our brain. Sometimes impossibly hard. But we keep going.

And do you know what helps most? I will give you a hint… It is not criticism and judgement, both of which I have seen in abundance over the last few weeks. It is your compassion. It is your love. It is your understanding. It is your offers of help and your willingness to learn about us. It is your gentleness. Your kindness.

I want to share that with all of the traumas I have experienced in my life the memories that I carry with me vary from each event. Almost none of them do I remember in vivid detail. Most are missing huge pieces, especially locations and time. I couldn’t pinpoint the age I was or the even the year that they happened for most. The one thing that I remember about each and every trauma my brain has allowed me to remember are the feelings associated with them. The fear, the terror, the hopelessness, the anger. These are seared into my brain and they are what flood my senses when a song or a smell or a word or a voice or a memory triggers them and makes me re-live them.

So I ask you this… Do not dismiss somebody’s experience, their pain, their truth because you cannot understand. Because their memories of an event do not check off the neat little boxes of what you think they should remember. Because their reaction to the event is not how you think you would have handled it. I guarantee you they have done the very best they could do in an impossibly unfair and shitty situation. The kind of situation that I pray you never have to go through. That nobody should ever go through. Their brain has dealt with this situation the best way that it could to try to protect them. And your judgement is not necessary or helpful.

I encourage all of you to be gentle with each other. You have no idea what each person you are interacting with is dealing with. What they have carried with them for a lifetime. What they may be hiding or masking. What kind of pain may be present under the surface at all times. The enormous amount of work they have put in to make it to this point. The setbacks that they may be encountering. The constant fear that they may be living with. Think about your words, your actions, your judgements.

And if you are a survivor of trauma in this current shitstorm please be gentle with yourself. Give yourself grace and love. Practice your self care. Think about setting up an extra therapy appointment. And for fucks sake stay out of the comment sections. That shit is not doing anybody any good right now.

Most of all remember that you are important in this world and we need you.

Love to you all, the unconditional kind.

 

 

 

 

#thisiswhatdepressionlookslike

 

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Today my Facebook memories popped up with pictures from a year ago. It was a hike in the woods with my hubby. It was a beautiful fall day with my favorite person on my favorite piece of trail in Minnesota. I was happy in that moment. Enjoying the company and the beauty of nature. Enjoying a respite from the feelings of low-grade (and sometimes high-grade) depression I had been feeling for years. For a couple of hours I dared to think that maybe this was the beginning of better times. The beginning of an upswing of happiness. Little did I know that after this hike I wouldn’t be happy again for a very long time.

Today was the day a year ago that started the spiral that almost ended my life. While I was in the woods enjoying my day something terrible had happened. Something that would trigger me in a way I had no idea was even possible. Something that would cause me to spiral so out of control that I thought my only option to end the pain I was feeling was to die. I am choosing not to share the event that triggered me because it involves others that may not want their story shared and honestly the details don’t matter. The point of this post is to share that you never really know how much a person is struggling.

For two weeks after this day I became more and more lost in myself. In my dark thoughts. In my feelings of being not enough, of being a burden, of being too broken to fix. In my thoughts that this world was broken beyond repair. In my empathic feelings of everyone else’s pain around me that I could not seem to escape. It happened so quickly yet to me it felt like forever. I think that some people around me noticed something was off but nobody, not even my closest friends or husband knew exactly how bad it was. And most people continued thinking everything was just fine.

I remember an interaction with someone at work from those dark weeks. It was a hello in the hallway with my trademark winning fake-smile. My co-worker said something about how my smile just always lit up the whole place, that I seemed like one of then happiest people he knew. I was literally thinking of killing myself. I’m pretty sure I went straight to the bathroom to cry. This was not an uncommon interaction in those two weeks and I couldn’t figure out why nobody could see the pain I was in.

I won’t say my presence on social media, and in real life for that matter, was fake but I always tried to keep things positive so I didn’t always share hard truths. I didn’t want to bring people down. I think a lot of people do this, not realizing how helpful it is to be raw and honest. Not realizing how much our experiences can help someone else to realize they are not alone. That others are in fact struggling with the same things. Knowing you are not alone is not a happy thought, but it does help. It helps to know you are not some freak. Some broken piece of trash. Most importantly it can help us to see that it does get better.

There was a movement on social media a while back where people used the hashtag #thisiswhatdepressionlookslike. The point was to illustrate that no matter how a person looks on social media or in their day to day life it does not necessarily reflect how they are feeling inside. Most people who are struggling are wearing a mask of happiness to cover up their dark feelings and I was no different. Sometimes our masks are very convincing.

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This is a picture of me the morning of the beginning of what was almost the end. Less than 2 weeks after this picture was taken (and the one at the beginning of this post) I was considering and very near attempting suicide.

This is what depression looks like. It is not always crying 24 hours a day. It is not always binging on the couch. It is not always voluntary solitary confinement. Though those things do happen, most people do not see them. They see the fake smiles. The compassion, the caring for others, the kindness. They see the smiles and fake happiness that we put out in the world because we don’t want everyone to know how broken we are. Because we don’t want anyone to worry about us. Because we don’t feel worthy of it.

When I dug out of the hole I was in I decided to share my story and my experiences with depression, anxiety, trauma and mental illness. I decided that putting on a fake smile and hiding the real me was not doing anyone any good. It has been difficult but also amazing. There are days where I wonder if people think I am crazy or whiny or just plain negative but there are also days where I have had people tell me that my sharing has helped them to hold on and keep trying. Sometimes it feels odd in a regular conversation to talk about therapy or meds or any other regular part of my life and sometimes I get odd looks when I speak of these things so naturally and nonchalantly. But this is how we stop the stigma. This is how we make it ok. And if I get a few weird looks or some people who don’t want to talk to me anymore I think that it is 100% worth it.

Let’s continue to talk about these things like they are normal. Because they are. When someone asks you how you are doing try telling the truth. It feels weird at first but eventually it becomes normal. And that is a magical feeling.

Most of all check on your friends. Especially the ones that seem okay. Especially the strong ones. Because those are the ones that are usually struggling. Let it be know that you are there and you care and that when you ask how they are you want the truth. Make sure they know you are prepared for truth and that you love them no matter what. Sometimes that can be the one thing that makes a world of difference in the middle of the darkness.

Remember it gets better. I am living proof of that. It is not always easy but it is worth it. I am so glad that each and every one of you are here. We need you.

Love to all of you. The unconditional kind.

 

There’s Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself… and depression, and anxiety, and butterflies, and…

I haven’t had a panic attack since May. I haven’t had many symptoms of depression since then either, but over the last week or two I have had little warning bells ringing. Tiny things that may not mean much to most people and that could maybe be written off as a million other things but to me they make my brain scream “Maybe this is the beginning of your next spiral!!!!!!!!” Feeling overly tired, not having motivation, feeling a general sense of being overwhelmed for no particular reason, little tiny doubts that get in my brain and burrow down in there for awhile, small intrusive thoughts.

It could be the change in seasons. It could be a lingering physical illness. It could be anything really, but to my brain it is definitely the beginning of the end.

You see the thing about people who suffer from depression and anxiety is that even though we may feel really good for a really long time there is always that feeling in the back of our brain, a tiny niggling fear, that at any moment it could all end and we could be plunged back into the seemingly never-ending darkness. It is a thing that I live with. I guess that is one of the many awesome things about having the combo of depression AND anxiety. I get anxiety about possibly getting another massive bout of depression and it all feeds into a shit storm of awfulness.

Most of the time when I am feeling good it is easy to forget that fear and believe that maybe, just maybe, I won’t ever feel like that again. But when I start to feel even just a little bit “off” sometimes it is enough to let the fear take over. All I can think about is how I can’t do this again. It’s too soon. I’m not ready. I’m not strong enough to deal with this bullshit again.

Treatment is a magical thing though. Therapy has helped me identify my symptoms and notice red flags. It has also taught me some good things to do to alleviate the bad feelings and head off a depressive episode a little. I have a greater awareness of what is happening in my brain and I can monitor those changes and keep an eye on them. And meds help to keep things a little more even so the ups and downs aren’t quite so sudden and violent. They are easier to recognize and manage.

So for right now I am aware of these little things. I am trying not to freak out. I am monitoring it but trying to stay chill. I am practicing my self care and I am taking my meds. I am practicing a new deep breathing thing when I start to feel overwhelmed. I am trying to get out in nature and to exercise. But I am also practicing balance and giving myself grace for those times when I just want to curl up on the couch with the dogs and do nothing at all. Because that is important too… in moderation.

If you are struggling here is your reminder to take care of yourself. Seek some kind of treatment if you need it, because that is NEVER a sign of weakness. Take your meds, set up an appointment with your therapist, or maybe just go for a walk in the woods because it is so fucking beautiful this time of year.

It may not be the beginning of the end. It may just be a cold. Or autumn. Or some crazy chakra thingy. Who really knows. Humans are crazy yo.

Just don’t forget that we need you, and you are worth it. Always. And if you need help reach out.

Just keep swimming.

Love to you all, the unconditional kind

P.S. If you are wondering about the butterfly reference in the title it has nothing to do with anything. I am just really scared of butterflies. As evidenced by this picture of me in a butterfly garden thingy on a recent vacation with my husband where he tried to convince me I needed to confront my fears. He can be a real asshole sometimes;)

Butterfly Hell

P.S.S. This is actual 100% fear, no exaggeration or acting on my part. And yes my husband is 100% laughing at me.

P.S.S.S. I hope this gave you a little laugh for the day 🙂

Be Unapologetically You! (A Post by by Teenage Daughter)

My daughter had to write an essay for school last week and when I read it I have to say I have never been prouder. Of both the writing and the content. And also the human that she is. Being a teenager is hella hard.  Being a teenage girl seems borderline impossible most of the time. Yet she navigates it with the perfect mix of grace, beauty, and awkwardness.

Reading it was one of those rare moments where I felt like maybe, just maybe, I might be doing something right as a mom. Also the content sort of fits with the type of stuff I publish here so I wanted to present it to you. So take a couple of minutes to be steeped in the wisdom of my 16 year old daughter. I often say I want to be like her when I grow up. She is sort of the best. Here you go:

Be Unapologetically You!

By Melissa Schroeder

The thing about middle school and high school is that everyone feels this crushing pressure to fit in all the time. You are constantly surrounded by groups upon groups of people who all dress, talk, and act exactly the same in a desperate attempt to just “fit in” with the many norms and stereotypes of school life. I have some experience with this from switching schools, plus going through more friend groups than I can count on two hands. The thing that I finally learned over the last year was that you will never truly find your people you belong with unless you can find yourself and just be you no matter what. In theory, this sounds so easy and parents, teachers, and guidance counselors are constantly shouting from the tops of mountains that “you just need to be you!” and waving their motivational cat posters in your face. The reality of it is when you are constantly swimming in what seems to be an ocean of neverending negativity, judgment, and stress it seems close to impossible.
This summer I realized that I had twisted and tried so hard to fit in with everyone at school that when I looked in the mirror I didn’t recognize myself anymore. Right when I noticed this I started helping out at the Playhouse and as soon as I stepped into the brightly lit theater I made a total 180. The whole atmosphere was so completely different from what I had just spent an entire school year stuck in. Rather than feeling the need to be a photocopy version of everyone around me, I actually felt like I could just be myself without worrying about what other people would think about me. There was a constant environment of love, acceptance, positivity, and family that I had been desperately searching on hands and knees with my big bright flashlight of fake positivity for all year. Everyone was being their whole unique self 24/7 and loving each other for it. I had truly and finally found my people. We may not all go to the same school, we may not even see each other every day but they are always going to be there for me no matter what happens.
Truthfully I think the world would be a much better place if everywhere had the same atmosphere as the Duluth Playhouse but that is a little unrealistic for the world. In order to find a happy medium, I think it is so important to try in little ways to be yourself. Whether that be wearing the overalls I bought for back to school shopping, or wearing my hair in pigtails, or saying “yikes” whenever I’m awkward. I believe that in order to truly find my people I had to unapologetically be myself all the times. If you can’t find yourself you won’t be able to find your people who will love you, for you no matter what.