Tag Archives: depression

A Different Day: Forty Floors is a Different View

And this is why I’ve been telling myself fitness would be the key to changing mindsets, etc.

Hello, there.

Yesterday’s post is h-e-a-v-y, because “depression” always is. Asshats leaving comments about “crying a river” don’t help others admit they’re depressed.

There’s a big difference between the depression I’ve been in lately and ones that cripple other people so much that suicide seems like a solution. I’m not even close to that.

So I can say, yeah, I’m depressed, but at least I’m able to motivate myself to try to effect change in my life.

Luckily, I sort of agreed with the inconsiderately-worded-but-kinda-well-meaning comments that said stuff like “stop whining”, “shut up,” and “just do it.”

And I have been doing that. When I work out, my attitude is always that I can totally do what I’ve set out to do. I don’t stop early or unperform. I totally commit.

I also know it takes 5 days a week, and now I’m meeting that, too. My attitude has been, “One of these days, this shit’s gonna click.”

But there comes a point when you just get frustrated. I’d been trying to work out a back problem before I got sick, then there’s the long break-in period, so I guess I just hit the “FUCK, CAN WE MOVE ON NOW?” breaking point this week.

Writing that post yesterday kinda felt like my darkest-before-dawn, hit-bottom-so-the-bounce-is-better moments.

Going there can be invaluable, man. And this time, it was.

I published that heavy shit, took a deep breath, got my workout gear on, went to a highrise in the area, and, doing sets of up-down-up-down in its 15 floors, did the 40-floor stairclimbing exercise I’ve been wanting to be strong enough to do for a long time, and I did it faster than I used to do 25 (total: 19 minutes!).

Today? I’m stiff and stuff, but I don’t “hurt.”

Big difference between stiff, tense, inflamed, and actual pain. I LIKE the day-after “ooh, I feel that one!” feeling. I don’t like pain. The day-after normal-stiffness is actually awesome, because I always eat better, since I’m conscious of the work I did to get that feeling, and I need that added consciousness so I can have success. Being an emotional eater, though, if it’s PAIN, I don’t react the same way, diet-wise. It’s weird, but there you go.

So, this is the first time I have that — the combination of pride and no heavy price getting paid the day after.

And maybe it’s a little more sucky tomorrow, since day two often is, but my day-afters have been kinda pretty shitty before now.

This is pretty awesome. It’s not home-free, but it’s better, and those stairs were a THREE-YEAR GOAL. Couldn’t do it with my back injury, not for the longest time, and I always hated doing them but knew they were effective.

So. Yes.

Yay.

I hated writing yesterday’s post, hate having it up there, but I think I’m gonna leave it. Sometimes ‘fessing up about the steaming pile of shit you feel like you’re in is the best way of climbing the hell out of it, too.

40 floors, motherfuckers.

Methinks I might finally be turning the page on the oh-so-painful break-in phase. That’s exciting. I do want to have the ass-kicking experience that comes from intense exercise. Once you get capable of doing it, it’s a real adrenaline surge to get into it. That’s what I’ve been longing for, not this fucking “ugh, this sucks but I know I can do it once I get past this, so let’s do it right” mind-over-matter crap I’ve been having to dial up.

So, to the unpublished commenter: Bite me. Yeah, I “train”. I complain because I *try* to leave it on the floor every time. I don’t phone this shit in. Most of my problems come from overtraining.

Mostly because I’ve done it before and I know I have it in me.

I want this, and I want it badly. This was that moment of “ah, finally”. And I know I’ll feel worse tomorrow — but I’ll be doing everything I can to avoid that today, by being smart.

This was the start I’ve been waiting for. It won’t be all smooth sailing here on out, but it’s still gonna be sailing. Sitting at the dock sucks, man!

Yep. I’ve had this moment before. This feeling I have now came once at the start of a very awesome and empowering journey. Yes, I bitch, but I keep plodding through all the crap, whatever it takes to get it done, and when I do cardio, I give it 100%, and endure the stupid pain that comes after.

Because when you finally have THAT moment, that “oh, I’m gonna be able to do this!” moment, it’s a really great thing.

And I think I’ve had that moment. I’m glad I gave into the dark side, plodded through how I was REALLY feeling about things, and decided to achieve one of my really long-held goals.

The first time I ever did that staircase?

I quit at 10 floors (220 steps). Stopped for breath on floors 3 and 7. I hurt for FOUR DAYS. I couldn’t get out of bed the next day without whimpering. Had to see the Rolling Stones in their last Vancouver gig here, and walking all the stairs at the stadium (nosebleeds!) nearly KILLED me. I was 270 pounds then.

So, you know. Yeah. Today, THIS feels good. This is how exercise should feel.

I wasn’t just jumping into the stairs, either — I’ve done them a few times lately, but only 20 floors. I figured the gruelling lunges that Nik Yamanaka’s had me doing lately had broken my thighs in and it might be the best time to try it.

Moral of the story is, I think it’s fine to give in to the “fuck, this sucks, it’s so hard” feeling as long as I take the time to remember why it was so important to start the process, and keep trying for success.

I was wrong about why I wanted to get fit.

I forgot why I wanted to get fit. Why did I? Because I was scared of returning to a life of pain, because my back injury had been recurring. I was scared of the depression that came with.

In the end, I guess confronting that fear in my writing yesterday sort of brought me full-circle on my journey, and being the GENIUS THAT I AM and doing the stairclimbing immediately AFTER that journey?

Yeah, I get the Nobel Prize for Awesome on that decision.

“Go there, go to the dark place, but get the fuck out,” that should be every writer’s mantra.

Anyhow.

Couldn’t leave yesterday’s words hanging without opening the door on a new and better chapter.

So: [squeak]

There. Door’s opened. It’s a long hallway, though.

Funny how breaking points are so often turning points. What one does next determines which it is.

Of Fitness and Depression: My World at Present

I should edit this more. It’s over 2,000 words. But it’s about depression, and I’m too depressed to care about editing it down. Chuckle, chuckle. Besides, I’d rather go work out than stay stuck here, thinking about this shit for another hour. Please ignore errors and redundancies. Thanks.

___

Depression can be like a refrigerator’s hum, so quietly ever-present you forget it’s there.

I have been battling it off and on for years. It’ll probably be a lifelong thing. I’m not medicated, and I’m steadfastly wanting to avoid going to Pill-Taking-Land.

This week, I’m slowly accepting that I’ve been back in the throes of depression for quite some time now. Some of it situational, the existential equivalent of “duh, OBVIOUSLY,” but some just… there.

Part of my desperation in this return to fitness and health is that I’m hoping it solves the depression.

Ironically, depression makes you want to do less. It’s an interesting challenge. You know, in case I thought my life needed any more challenges.

Bernd Nies' 1999 eclipse is a fantastic image of what depression's like; there's light but it's controlled by the dark.

I want a “healthy life” to be my solution, but it’s probably a bit of a pipe dream. Still, I don’t want to medicate until I know I’ve done what I needed to do.

I took down yesterday’s posting because I realize it’s more depressed in tone than it is of “I’m achieving!”

Part of the problem comes from feeling forced (through my own actions, naturally) to make the journey public. You know what? Some struggles need to be private.

Some people’s struggles feel harder and take more to get past than the same struggles might for others.

When it comes to getting fit, that’s my reality.

I was under the mistaken impression that, because I’ve achieved so much athletically, and rehabbed so many injuries, that this “return” would be a lot easier.

I’ve been going through weeks of pain. The irony is, I’m trying to undo years of pain through creating more pain. It’s frustrating. And when you’re depressed, frustration isn’t really a great thing to throw into pot.

Some alchemy has results no one wants to be around for.

Fortunately, I’m not morbidly depressed. Just ever-presently so, in a mild and intrusive way, but not anywhere near debilitating.

I’m not that worried about the depression yet… just, well, depressed about being depressed. It makes me feel like a failure. I hate feeling this way, feeling like nothing’s ever really right or fun enough or good enough. I hate snapping at friends or being anti-social. I hate, hate, hate this feeling, and hating it just makes me more depressed.

But those things aren’t Horrible. It’s not like I’ve got a collection of wrist-cutting razors nearby or anything. I’m not even remotely on the likely-to-self-harm scale. No need to fear such things, kiddies.

The worst this depression is doing to me is the eating-too-much thing, and making me way too fond of wine and gives me a penchant for wanting to hear songs like Swag’s “I’ll Get By” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I’ll Survive”.

The trouble with depression, though, is that moods are so easily influenced by other factors around us, and a mild depression can plummet quickly. That’s ScaryTime, baby.

So, I worry about that, the ever impending “what-if” possible-doom scenario. And, naturally, that doesn’t help much.

“Don’t worry,” then, you say.

Well, that’s a pretty skookum idea. Why didn’t I think of that?

Oh, because I did. Depression isn’t a do/don’t scenario. You don’t decide to “do” something and then just have it work. If you could, depression probably wouldn’t be one of the more pervasive problems society faces or the largest medical expense faced by corporate America today.

I’ve been trying to do the standard things to fight depression. Sometimes I get ’em done. Sometimes I don’t. Resolve isn’t really the depressed person’s best friend. Neither are dark Canadian winters. You need a whole lot of faith and confidence to fight serious depressions, and some days those just can’t be mustered.

Fortunately, I’ve been to this dance. I know one just gets up and does their thing and one day it improves or it doesn’t. Then there are pills, if that improvement day doesn’t come.

But that’s why this return-to-fitness thing has been so hard for me.

And why it’s so important to me that I overcome it. I hate pills. Pills brought me close to suicide, so as much as they can solve problems, they can be destruction in capsule form, too.

This getting-fit desire been crushing me because I want so much from it. I’ve so much hope pinned to it. And when I’m willing to put in the work but the only payment I receive is more pain, well, how does one really just swallow that and put on a happy face?

They don’t.

I don’t. I can’t. I hurt. I’m not “sore.” I’m not “stiff.” I hurt.

I hurt on the outside, and I hurt inside, and sometimes it’s really hard when you just can’t find a happy place in between all that.

So, yesterday, when I posted a long “what it’s been like” thing about my start in this return-to-fitness quest, and it mostly focused on how hard it’s been, a lot of that turned out to be me writing for myself — explaining, “Well, yeah, it SHOULD hurt, look what you’ve been through.”

Then someone left a comment that essentially said “Shut up and stop whining,” and that was a pretty intense breaking point for me yesterday morning, and left me really emotionally fucked-up for the rest of the day, while I tried to process two very different truths:

1) The reason I blog AT ALL is so that I can talk about what I’m enduring and what my life experience is — not so I can write what other people want to hear, solve their life, shed universal truths, or do the whole rah-rah self-actualization type posts. Enough people do that kinda blogging. If I wanted to appease others and write for everyone’s happy-point, I’d be being more commercial and would mack this shit up with affiliate ads and everything else that has money attached.

2) They’re right: Shutting up and doing it works, and often. But when you’re depressed and the return to fitness is your attempt to right what’s wrong in your life, and you’re daily going through pains that really make it seem pointless, but you know you need to battle through it — writing about how hard it is, but why you keep fighting that hardship because you know you NEED the results, well… that’s pretty much my only tether to sanity during a time that I’m finding really fucking hard.

I don’t WANT to share my depression with anyone. I don’t want this blog to be an active record of this thing I feel or these times I’m enduring. I want it to be snapshots at best.

Why I write about how fucking HARD the experience is, is because I think others go through this, but they quit — just like I stopped halfway through my journey.

I don’t want others to go off their roads and have the same struggles I’m having while I’m trying to return to mine.

And I don’t think I should apologise for not being Miss Sunshine about it, either.

I need to get fit. I don’t need to be happy about it. I don’t need to appease anyone. I just need to survive this, then thrive, and then not look back. Getting fit will probably improve my body chemistry, it will likely help me better deal with these moods.

I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing. If I’m not textbook about it, and don’t have the “Go, Team” attitude about it, then I think it’s even more fuckin’ awesome that I’m still trying to make it happen.

The commenter, which I haven’t “approved” since I took the posting down, also chastised me for dwelling in the past of late.

But, I’m not.

My past is DEFINING my present to the extent that the daily pains I feel are kind of this confrontation between what I’m trying to make my present into but its parameters are still being controlled by aspects from the past. Like, back issues, etc.

The injury happened in the past. It took me a YEAR to get past. REMEBERING THAT YEAR makes these six weeks a lot easier to swallow.

That’s MY mental process. That HELPS me.

If YOU think it’s whining or “dwelling,” then that’s your worldview. Not my problem.

So, my anger about how I feel when workouts come with backlash is more easily mitigated when I remind myself of how long and hard the back injury was, that this residual stuff makes sense, that all these pains and injuries I’ve been through have LARGELY been rehabilitated, and this is the last of what I need to endure — the legacy of those times, if you will.

While I’m doing this fitness-battle thing, I often pretend like I’m in hand-to-hand combat with my past. Sure, it’s still making my life a struggle on a daily basis right now by way of “injury legacy,” but ignoring that never helped me any.

Yes, I need to do the work. Yes, “shutting up” is useful.

Right now, I just can’t be positive, sell the Kool-aid, or get anyone else on board. I just can’t.

I thought I could. But I can’t.

Again, that feeling of failure just exacerbates the accepting of such limitations. That’s depression for you.

I do need to just get through this. And I’m not so depressed that I don’t think I can get through it, either — thank god. I expect I will succeed. I don’t have a lot of faith it’ll be soon, and that’s probably where I’m going wrong. It’ll likely be sooner than I think.

Either way, it needs dedication.

All I can do right now, the only battle I feel equipped to fight, is that of ending these legacy pains and creating the fitness I desire.

But don’t kid yourself if you think I can stop writing about it, and don’t delude yourself into thinking I can be Miss Sunshine-and-Rainbows when I do.

I write about my experience, my worldview. I leave a lot out that I don’t want to give to you. I don’t want to put my innermost fears, angers, losses, etc, into your hands. I don’t want those words here.

That’s not for you.

So, I try to write about it in a skating-the-surface kind of way. Allusions and hints, a biographical writer’s best friends.

When I do that, sometimes it sounds erudite and poetic in its subtle references to things I’m experiencing or perceptions I have, and sometimes it sounds bleak as fuck because you don’t see the subtleties that I’ve convinced myself are there, tempering the content.

Ideas are always whole in my head yet filled with holes on the page.

Shit happens. What can I tell you?

My writing isn’t always good. It doesn’t always capture my thoughts.

And, fact? I usually write with the assumption that people who’re reading me might be here for the first time, andI’ll rehash details because I’m too lazy to find a blog link that explains that same crap, so it seems like I’m “dwelling” in my past, but, actually, I’m just lazy.

I don’t know what to really say to wrap this up. I’ve been slowly coming to terms with the reality that I’m depressed. At least now I know that I am.

And all I need to try to feel today?

Proud.

Because, despite how badly I’m left feeling most days, how hard I find this journey, I find moments of victory, snippets of accomplishments, and even when it gets bad enough that I take a day off, I get back to it the next day.

For the most part, I keep improving. Some things are holding me back, but, like an elastic band, if I keep pulling away, I think those bonds will eventually snap.

I’ll get past this.

But I won’t pretend I’m enjoying the experience. That’s the least of where my energies need to be.

I know today, now, here, this THING I’m experiencing — everything from trying to find a new career, solving my depression, dealing with financial struggles, watching my family’s strife, trying to lose 50 pounds, the added stress of Christmas — is probably going to be the period I look back on in 30 years, when I say “That Defined Who I Became For The REST of My Life.”

And that is why I get the fuck up and I do my thing.

If I whine a little?

My fuckin’ prerogative. Especially when, every week, I’m accomplishing more than I did the week before.

I’l write about whatever I want. And slowly I’ll get what I need to get done, done. Sometimes I’ll tell you about it, sometimes I won’t.

MFP, baby. My fuckin’ prerogative.

If that’s what the depressed lady can take to the bank, then so be it. Cash that fucker.

Lost My Funny: Reward If Found

Moods often come and go.

Sometimes, though, they stay around for a while.

Overcoming your mental state generally means you have to change what’s going on around you, and some of us are excellent at doing that. I’ve proven my skills at overcoming adversity — to myself.

I think they're looking for the Funny. From picturephoto113.blogspot.com

But sometimes life can’t be changed, and it’s that immobility of circumstance that forces the mood to not just stick around but fester.

These days, I’m sort of keeping a lid on things, but I’m not myself.

I’ve been pretty much trapped at home for a month, due to sickness and the resulting finances that come with. I’m doing the watching-TV crap, I’m freaking out internally about certain things I don’t want to share with you, and there’s a lot going through my mind — but I’m too tired to get them done, and pushing could render me stuck in illness for a longer period.

It’s the original Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t scenario.

In the long-term, I think this illness will have brought great and lasting change by way of goals and lifestyle choices I’ve adopted after great isolation and reflection for several weeks. In the short term, however, it’s a really fucking hard place to be.

I’m tired. I’m tired ALL the time. And now I’m getting angry about being so tired. What, knocking me on my ass for a month hasn’t been enough? Aren’t we DONE yet?

See, unlike most people who get angry about getting sick, I’m that rare person who really DID succeed in making major life changes, lost 70 pounds, was on track for losing weight again, etc. I did all that so I could STOP being sick.

Instead, I’m not just sick, but I’ve got this stupid fucking pneumonia, something that knocks the stuffing out of people for weeks and months. I’m sicker than I’ve been in nearly a decade — a decade that was filled with chronic injury — and it’s PISSING ME OFF.

And I’m scared.

I hate being scared.

But I’m scared. I thank god I’m at least in Canada when things go sideways like this.

And while life goes sideways, there’s still the digital world around us. Facebook, Twitter, blah, blah, blah. There are friends and there are followers, but few of them will be there when shit lands and lands hard.

The rest? I’m a dancing puppet, at best, is how it feels sometimes.

There are those who get all depressed when they lose friends during adversity. Me, I woke up to that reality a long time ago. I’ve been left and I’ve left others. It’s what we do.

We CAN’T be there for everyone. We pick those we can give of ourselves to, those we feel compassion and kindness toward. We have to pick our battles — and who we’ll go to battle on behalf of. It can’t be everyone. That’s just simple truth.

When it comes to Twitter, etc, I’ll unfollow people because they’re too depressive or needy or I’m-a-victim. I can’t read that every day. They might take it personally, but, you know what? We gotta do what WE got to do to get through life. I understand that.

So, if you’re some follower from Twitter who’s all disappointed because my Funny decided to take leave of me weeks ago, then fine. Be disappointed.

But don’t fucking tell ME you’re disappointed. Don’t think YOU’RE entitled to Happy-Happy Joy-Joy from me when I can’t even dig it up for myself. Who the hell are you that you think it’s about you?

Hey, I miss my Funny. I’d like to offer a reward if it’s found and returned to me, okay? It doesn’t WORK like that. I can’t go, “Here, Funny-Funny-Funny, c’mon, Funny-Funny!” and expect it to pounce out of the shadows like a dog being beckoned by its owner with a bone in-hand.

But tomorrow I won’t be jumping off a cliff or sticking my head in an oven. I’m not that far gone. I’m barely far gone at all. Instead, I’m methodical and just holding on as I hope to come back to myself, and I figure out where I’m at and how to get past it. I’m not concerned about entertaining YOU or making anyone laugh. You’re the least of my concerns.

I never unfollow the folks on my list who are going through tough times like chemo or other things that really beat you down over the long, long, long term. I admire them for at least keeping an even keel. They may talk of their disease and how tough it gets, but I can relate, and it’s a constant reminder of just how hard life can be sometimes.

I’ve been there in the past — month after month after month of illness or injury, where life just kicks the shit out of you and merely being able to drag your ass through it is an accomplishment.

I know I’m not there now. I’m just in an arduous place and it’ll pass soon.

On the upside, I’ve improved my diet, lost 10 pounds, met a weight goal, made my minimum bill payments, and have enough food in the fridge for a week.

If that’s all I can manage right now, fucking awesome. GO, ME. SERIOUSLY: Go, me! YEAH. Soon, I’ll feel like myself again. For now, getting by is good enough.

And if you want your fuckin’ Funny, turn on a sitcom.

I’m more than just a joke, so don’t treat me like one.

Office Life: Thar Be Meanies

In Virginia, there’s an esteemed literary magazine called The Virginia Quarterly Review.

There, an editor has committed suicide, and the Review has been shut down amid a new investigation that the suicide was as a result of workplace bullying and harassment.

I found the story fascinating on a couple levels.

Photographer unknown.

One, there’s a strange perception, I think, that these sort of things don’t happen in intellectual/cultural offices, and I think this sheds light on the reality that people can be mean fuckers whatever their aesthetic tastes.

Two, it continues the realization I’ve had since reading William Styron’s Darkness Visible years ago — that is, to be literary is to be predisposed to depression and potentially suicidal tendencies. The “Overthinky Syndrome” comes on something fierce when one is closely aligned with literary pursuits.

Three, I don’t think we really give enough weight to mental health on the job when it comes to the people around us.

A few years ago, as I was descending into the darkest depression I’ve ever had, I was working at an office where I felt put down and distrusted daily. It was a very difficult environment to work in, but I had no choice, I’d run out of employment insurance and had to take something.

Given my declining emotional state, I didn’t really trust my feelings — maybe I just felt like shit. Maybe I was misreading the things said and done around the office.

One day I was sorting through papers and found legal documents relating to a case involving one of the company’s principals and the province’s labour board. Apparently there were allegations of psychological abuse by the company’s principal, made by former employees.

I suddenly felt a little vindicated. It wasn’t just me, this person actually was kind of mean and cruel.

A year later, I was working for another employer who would mentally beat me down now and then because I wasn’t sacrificing myself for the job like she was. (I don’t own the company, woman, and I was told it was 9-5, not 55 hours a week, and I was getting paid for 40. Liars.)

I know what it’s like to have the opposite kind of bosses, too.

I’ve had a lot of employers who’ve been people who stopped me from doing negative self-talk, who told me how valued I was. I’ve had a lot of luck working for good people.

There’s a world of difference between going to that kind of job, where a bad mood is just part of life’s occasional fluctuations, versus one of the jobs where I’d be lucky to make it through a day without some mocking, blaming, or guilting kind of assault happening, where a bad mood would spiral into dread about returning the next day, and more dread about enduring five full days in a row with no escape.

One of the reasons I want to be self-employed is, the good people I was working for are in a precarious part of the film industry and job security is a thing of the past. I’m pushing 40. I could’ve handled that uncertainty in my 20s, but I can’t anymore.  I can rely on myself, though.

Another is, my last experience looking for work landed me in both of the above jobs, and I do blame both experiences in part for the depression I then spiralled into.

I also credit them with making me ANGRY enough to change my life.

But some people don’t get to reach angry.

Some people get beaten down day after day, told they’re stupid, useless, and lucky to even be employed. Management puts hurdles before them they’ll never overcome, and the economy ensures more hurdles.

The hopelessness of being stuck in jobs like that, in the face of an economic climate like we have now, it makes sense it’d be driving people to suicide.

And our dearly departed editor? Well, there’s not really a growing market for literary review editors, is there? If he felt trapped, if the university was looking the other way on complaints just to avoid controversy, if daily badgering and emotional assaults were happening, if he was your typical overly-analytical literary genius, then… tragically, it does compute.

Workplace bullying is as bad as childhood bullying, if not worse.

At least when you’re a kid there are potential adult figures who might ride in and save you from bullies.

When you’re an adult, there’s a veneer of judgment that comes with admitting you’re being bullied at work. Most reactions are along the lines of “Suck it up” or “It’s just a job” or “Hey, just three days till Friday! Chin up!”

When a job becomes your jail, you try shrugging it off. One can logically think “Oh, it’s just a paycheque”, but there’s a toxicity that comes from being exposed to these people on a day-in, day-out basis.

Like a river can passively wear down even the strongest of rocky terrain, just running over the same ground day after day, so too can a person’s soul and spirit erode.

When I quit the job that had me working daily for six months just 10 feet away from the most toxic, negative, and belittling woman I’ve ever known, it took me more than a year to start finding the positivity and hope in myself again — the things I said were just nothing like the person I used to be. That negativity changed who I was.

And I’m a pretty strong chick.

That was six months, just six months of being broken down by intimidation and judgment and belittling.

What about others? How far does that daily treatment go, how much worse does it become over time? How deeply does it seep?

This kind of treatment isn’t business as usual.

It shouldn’t be overlooked.

Employees should have greater rights about how they can expect to be treated, especially if they’re performing good work and delivering results. (Some useless fuckheads who don’t care about their jobs or quality could use a little yelling at, but all within reason.)

If this was just another unhappy Wal-Mart or McDonald’s or city-sanitation type job, the story would’ve been dismissed. “I’d commit suicide if I had that job, too — har-har.”

But all this guy had to do was read and write for a living. These were literary people, they had soul and the ability to communicate well.

And yet, here we are.

Cruelty and harassment knows no boundaries. There is no class distinction. Intelligence isn’t immune to meanness.

We’re supposed to be a kinder, gentler society. Maybe now we can stop with the lip-service and get on with the reality of being better than our predecessors.

Mental Health: In Which Steff Calls a Spade a Spade

A couple months ago, I proposed to talk about writing for therapy, how to kinda “go there”, via blogging.

The conference was yesterday. It was an “unconference” put on by end-patients and people who work on the peripheries of mental care.

Why did I want to get involved?

For a million reasons. I’ll get to most of them shortly.

But, first: I proposed my talk without knowing the conference’s “reputation” or anything like that. I just wanted a forum to talk about depression.

Unbeknownst to me, I stepped into the thick of a controversial “unconference.” It wasn’t until Friday that I really realized just how controversial it was. Whether it’s because ballsy speakers like Steven Schwartz speak in dismissive vernacular, saying edgy-yet-funny adjectives a lot of boring people object to, or because of who was organizing it, or even the press some of us speakers were getting, the reactions were ridiculously sharp and pointed.

Late Friday night, I saw comments some anonymous dumb fuck left on the Mental Health Camp’s website, and I got pretty riled up. Since then, all the comments were deleted, which I take serious issue with.

Me, I never would have deleted the comments. We convened the camp to fight stigma against the “idea” of mental illness, so why would you delete, and not fight, that stigma when it stands up and attacks you? Deleting and silencing the attack does nothing to neutralize it. But that’s where I stand and it’s not my blog. So, yeah. Moving on.

The asshat’s comments varied, but the most offensive of them all were that a number of those involved in the Mental Health Camp were doing so only to propel their image and get their allotted moments of Warholian fame. Media whores, basically, all faking their interest to get noticed.

Heh. Yeah, okay. Fucking shrewd, that.

A line in the comment made me wonder if I was one of the people they alluded to, just because I had the audacity to do an interview with CBC about the conference.

Here’s the deal, all right?

I’ll be the first to admit there were organizational issues with the conference. That’s what happens with not-for-profit amateur/volunteer organizers, people who have organized a conference just to have discussion and don’t have experience organizing them.

Oh, well. That’s life. It happens. But it’s not about the organizing.

It’s about the messages explored — mental health, stigma, and the fact the lives are destroyed by mental illness every moment of every day, and the fact that EVERYONE in their lifetime will experience mental illness at some point, and YET we don’t talk about it.

Well, I do, and I have for years.

I’ve been writing about depression, weight issues, self-esteem, lack of confidence, and everything else I’ve battled in life since 2005, and blogging since 2004. I’ve been getting real fuckin’ raw and honest since 2006.

There are a whole lot of things I’m willing to do to have success as a writer. Do you know what the least smart of them would be?

Letting myself in any way be any kind of poster girl for any mental illness.

Let’s see, when was the last time a Hollywood publicist suggested their celebrity client embrace their mental illness for the public as a means of netting better starpower in the press? Um, never.

Know why?

No one wants to be thought of as “nuts”.

Why?

Because people who are strong, intelligent, articulate, engaging, and well-liked don’t come out and admit their mental illnesses. They don’t talk about them. So stigma exists because all we see are the nutty fucks you try to avoid in hallways, or the whackjobs they put on television shows.

But those are extremes.

When assholes like that anonymous commenter attack a conference whose only purpose is to bring the overly-shamed and constantly-silenced issue of mental health to the forefront only because they dislike the people behind it, and they use that opportunity to suggest it’s basically Starfucking by those involved, it’s an insult to the seriousness of the issue.

It also suggests they have no fucking idea what it’s like to have been, in my case, an otherwise strong and intelligent person who took the wrong medication and considered suicide before spending the next year-plus trying to claw my way out of the depths.

It suggests they have no idea what it’s like to live under the clutches of your mind, body, and chemistry’s whimsy on a day-in, day-out, year-by-year basis, never being able to rise above a sick world of fear, chaos, and hopelessness that can’t manifest outwardly, that you hear inside your head every time you wake or lie down to sleep.

It suggests they don’t fathom that mental illness is the most costly and insidious of sicknesses in society — it destroys the fabric of life, of all the lives around the sufferer, not just the body of the afflicted. It ends relationships, destroys marriages, causes debt, and is the largest reason for employee leaves of absence in the modern workforce.

I don’t WANT to talk about depression.

But I need to.

Because what happened to me can happen to anyone.

Because it happened to my mother, and, as a 17-year-old girl, I walked in on her attempting suicide with the very pills that caused her chemically-induced depression — one like I myself would experience 17 years later.

Because doctors will tell you birth control pills don’t cause depression.

Because I know my birth control made me want to kill myself and feel like life could never have hope again.

I need to talk about depression because I’m tired of bi-polars, schizophrenics, and other more acute or rare mental health concerns having the limelight in “mental illness,” when it’s depression that’s most likely to touch, and destroy, the average life.

I feel like their more “stereotyped” afflictions make it less likely for seemingly average Jolenes like myself to come out and say, “I’m not that afflicted, but it still really fucked me up, too, and no one saw any big signs…”

I am a good writer. I’m a really, really good writer. I’m a passionate speaker who will not mince her ideas. I don’t back down from a fight. I’m engaging, funny, and even self-deprecating. I’m a great communicator with friends, family, everyone.

And yet depression almost took me out of the game of life.

But I survived.

I made it to the other side. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m happy most of the time.

Still, I’m surrounded by people I see who are skating through life with the cool indifference of someone struggling with depression. I see it everywhere. And we’re NOT TALKING ABOUT IT.

You want to attack my IDEAS? Go for it.

But don’t fucking attack ME or any of those people who’ve had the STRENGTH to write about all the things YOU make fun of, that YOU won’t trust, or YOU can’t admit about yourself.

We’re out there only for the reason that we can’t be silent anymore. Society can’t AFFORD our silence anymore. We need to hear our thoughts expressed on the page, we believe our experiences are real and representative of the whole, yet largely ignored by the mainstream.

And we’re not going to be quiet about it.

Not anymore.

Until you’ve lost your job — like I once did — for writing in the public eye about your darker self, until you’ve had the courage to write without tempering your weaker thoughts and fears, until you’ve been able to admit you have an affliction the majority of society can’t understand and doesn’t know how to act around, you have no right to criticize us for the moments of acknowledgement we might finally receive after years of having the courage to tell our stories no matter what the prices have been.

Now it’s easier for me. But where the fuck were you in 2006 when I wanted to commit suicide only 9 days after writing the most harrowing things I’ve ever published? Where were you when my traffic dropped to nothing as I used my blogs to work through my depression? Where were you when I lost a job and nearly my home for having a voice on less acceptable topics? Where were you when I struggled to maintain faith in speaking out? Where were you when I constantly had to lower my voice when I said what I wrote about?

Sure, now you know about me, but I’ve been doing this for a long fucking time and I’ve paid a LOT of steep prices for my honesty.

But I’ve paid ’em and now you can’t shut me up. Just try it, honey. You’ll only wind me up more.

If I finally have an audience and a wider means of getting my message out, you’d have to be a fucking moron to think I’d walk away from that opportunity.

Oh, and being single and getting press for having gone nuts, been suicidal, and longterm depressed? Yeah, that’ll be a fucking brilliant way for me to get laid. I hear men are wild about that shit.

Marketing GENIUS, clearly.

Whoever you were, you anonymous spineless motherfucking commenter: Grow up. You’re a fucking idiot. Open your eyes. See that some battles need to be waged with faces on them.

At least I have the guts to show mine.

In Which Steff Talks About Mental Health

Come Saturday I’ll be giving a talk at Vancouver’s “Mental Health Camp,” where the goal is to get people thinking about stigmas attached to a wide range of mental conditions — from ADHD and depression through to eating disorders and compulsions all the way to harder-core afflictions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Me, I’ll be talking specifically on two things — one, I’ll give a 45-minute session on blogging for therapy in my solo “Ripping the Scab Off through Blogging” talk, and two, I’ll be on a panel discussing how each of us 4 panelists have used social media to share our psychological struggles and what it’s meant for us.

This posting is sort of to just touch on both of those, in support of the event, and to let you know what’s going down.

_____

I’ll be honest: Yeah, I’m not particularly wild about talking at something called “Mental Health Camp.” There is stigma, yeah. Damn right there is.

I also know that if there’s anyone who can overcome such stigma, I’m probably at the front of the line.

I’ve spent much of the last five years already writing about myself in very open ways as I take the journey of going from She Who Was Very Unhappy to this much more interesting and fun-to-be-with version of self I’m excavating from under years of neglect.

Writing about myself has been a huge part in how I’ve been able to accept where I was, where I needed to be, and what it would take to get there.

By learning how to write in an open way while still hanging on to details that weren’t really necessary to share, I’ve managed to be open yet keep some of my struggles inside, too. Snapshots, that’s what y’all get.

In homage to one of the great Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, I call the writing technique “surfacing” and it’s pretty simple to do, it’s just a matter of perspective. Shifting that perspective ever so slightly creates a whole new reward from the writing.

I’ll be talking about it in  detail on Saturday, and don’t want to blow my hand by writing all about it here and now.

The talk will include a lot more than that, though.

I’ll look at the differences between journal-writing and blogging, and point out all the pros and cons of turning to the web for an audience. I’ll tell you who should be blogging more openly (almost everyone) and who shouldn’t (and there are some).

I’ll tell you the top 10 reasons I think anyone willing to blog should be willing to be more personal, and why blogging for therapy just makes sense from a societal point of view — both from solidarity and healing perspectives.

I’ll also share the prices I’ve paid while attempting to cash in* on living the revealed life. It’s not something one should enter with the foolish notion that “I’ll write it and they’ll read it.” There’s a lot that can go wrong. There’s a lot that can play out well. There’s much to consider.

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Later, I’ll be on a panel with three friends — all of whom have had far, far harder mental health journeys than I have — discussing how we’ve been “out” about our lives and the prices/rewards it’s cost/yielded us.

In both situations, I’ll briefly outline the facts: I lived with mild depression for most of my life. I’ve learned that, when it comes to natural depression FOR ME, it’s controlled with diet and exercise. I have indeed been medicated on a few occasions, both for “situational depression” as well as ADHD.

I’m on no meds now. It’s not a prize I’ve won for being a Good Mental Health Patient. It’s just that I’ve found a way to mostly regulate my chemistry.  When I was ON meds and began eating well and exercising, what WAS a good level of meds went sideways fast as I started building my own seratonin and dopamine.

Do NOT fuck with meds just because I’ve been able to get off mine. It’s NOT about the meds, it’s about what’s safe for you. Talk to doctors!

But all this is to say I’ve been to my mental health hell with a chemical depression that took two years of medication to regulate back to normal. I’ve been on the verge of suicidal with a desperate cry for professional help in the past, all while being an intelligent person who felt trapped in this chemical mood I couldn’t shake for months and months.

Before that, I had to overcome a head injury. Since the chemical depression, I’ve had to learn to adjust to an adult-ADHD diagnosis and how it makes me see the world.

So, I’ve had some experiences, and they’re probably more common to the general populace than my colleagues’ are, so I’m happy I can provide a “mental health light” perspective to balance it out.

Being on the other side now, I remember how hard it was to be in the chokehold the disease of depression had on me. I never thought I would escape. Suicide seemed like a smart plan.

Here, now, and looking back, it does shock me how putting my head down and keeping on keeping on, fighting the fight, eventually paid off and has brought me to a better sense of self than I’ve ever known before. Yeah, I’m proud of the stuff I accomplished.

The journey was long and strange, and I feel I’m still on it and I’ll always have to be aware that depression can find me again, but having this kind of self-awareness and openness, as much as it’s been problematic at times, is something I feel that will probably help me navigate whatever stormy waters might one day roll my way again.

The truth shall set you free?

Yeah. Maybe. Let’s talk.

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People in Vancouver can see these talks, among many other good ones, for a lowly $10 at the door. There are plenty of tickets, and, yes, it’ll be air conditioned in the heatwave. Wahoo. There’s a chance it’ll be streaming live, and if so, I’ll be posting that URL for my followers on Twitter, and you should check there Saturday morning, in case I forget to post it here.

*Figuratively, not literally.