A Twitter Monster Story

So the other day, Fritz the werewolf was chilling on his couch and laughing over events of the day when he tweeted this out…

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Well, within minutes, The Count went on a mini tweet storm (which may look kinda familiar in its style…)

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Their friend Franklin was in his laboratory adjusting some stubborn hardware when he checked twitter, read his TL, and had a few words to toss into the interwebs…

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Melvin had been DMing with a particularly hawt 6000 year old, when he saw Fritz’s tweet…

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and, hoping not to have to leave his engaging DM convo to run a certain critical errand, he sent his buds this…

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Well, Franklin still wasn’t quite finished and had more to say (to the interwebs and not any monster in particular of course…)

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At home, Fritz sighs, clicks off twitter, hear’s the doorbell ring. Answers it…

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Meanwhile, after a long, hard day trying to find purple people to eat, Theodore stops at the Starbucks visited earlier by his monster bros, orders a Pumpkin Spice latte, drops his butt into a chair, reads his TL, posts one tweet…

and can’t close twitter fast enough.

He drinks his Pumpkin Spice Latte, which tastes nothing like purple people, but at least it isn’t sentient candy corn. That shit’s the WORST.

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THE END.

Hope you enjoyed my weird Monster twitter story. Happy Halloween everyone!

And I hope you’re enjoying all the weird monsters in your life!

 

Much love,

 

me

 

The clip art I used for the monsters avis can be found here:

http://cliparts.co/halloween-cartoon-picture

http://www.clipartkid.com/funny-monster-cliparts/

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Flowers That Do Not Look Like Our Current Dumpster Fire Of Abysmal Terribleness

I’ve been trying to write a post for a week now but every time I sat down at the computer, current world events and life stuff churned in my head in unfun ways. Every post turned into VISIT MY BLOG OF UTTER DESPAIR or THE 2500 WAYS EVERYTHING SUCKS.

So I tried for something more hopeful and ended up with: all the world feels like a raging trash fire of doom right now but, hey, hopefully one day soon it won’t feel so trash-fire-y and might maybe feel more utter-scorched-earthy but with the possible chance of pretty things able to bloom from the massive ruined landscape of ashes.

Then I decided that post wasn’t much better – and that I didn’t want to write about any of the metric shit-ton of awful stuff that comes at us on social media and the news every day anyway. I do what I can with my money and my vote and my volunteer time to take action to help others and lessen pain wherever I can. But for this particular blog post, I decided I just wanted to provide some small space where others could visit to forget the dumpster fires and doom for a brief moment.

One of the ways I manage the daily yucky-life-stuff-overload is to step back from the onslaught for short periods, go online, and do searches of thoroughly random stuff. I like to pick word combinations  from the weird recesses of my brain and see where the search takes me. I might Google “marmot waffle” or “donut mugger” or “things that don’t suck”.

Today I ended up on “flower ape” and that led to related searches – and that led to a fascinating realm of anthropomorphic flora – and that led me to have to make up stories in my head for all the weird shit I saw – and THAT led me to this write this post.

So apologies in advance but here’s my NON-the-apocalypse-is-upon-us-and-it-is-a-solid-crapfest-of-icky-orange-ruination post.

Here is my brain on flowers…

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Google “flowers that look like things” to find these and many more incredible and weird flowers. And I hope your day is not at all trash-fire-y but is a glorious wildflower field of awesomeness.

And speaking of flora, here’s Odette the Cactus who doesn’t always feel like her outside shows how pretty she is inside but today she feels like her inner prettiness is showing through and that makes her very happy.

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As always, live weird and prosper, my friends.

 

Much love,

 

me

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Social Media-ing While Depressed

I’ve been struggling with a bit of a problem lately. Here’s the thing: I’m a writer and I need to be on social media. It’s part of my job description. Yet, I’ve been battling severe clinical depression for quite a while now. Anyone who has experienced clinical depression knows that it often manifests as intense sadness, despair, hopelessness, and numbness. It can cause your normally sharp mind to dull to a witless lump of gray matter, unable to focus, unable to see positives, unable at times to form coherent sentences. Even small decisions become excuciatingly difficult. Creativity disappears. Energy disappears. Humor disappears.

When I’m not depressed, I love being on Twitter (not so much on Facebook except for the cat and baby goat videos). I love people and I love my writing community with their unbounded wit and cleverness and enthusiasm. I love joking around and learning cool stuff and cat gif wars. With Depressed Brain though, social media becomes a looming, scary thing that I am ill-equipped to face.

I knew I needed to be on social media, but every time I opened Twitter or Facebook, I froze. I’d sit there thinking, “Hey loser wimp self  (because that’s often how Depressed Brain talks), despite depression, you need to do your job. You need to be online and posting and talking. Do it. Do it now.”

I told myself this and then I clicked on my notifications. Notifications waited for me, people who had engaged with me days before when I’d had a moment of energy and some small semblance of ‘Humor-That-Usually-Comes-Easy-For-Me-But-Evaporates-Into-A-Dark-Ether-When-I’m-Depressed’ to share. Only problem: that energy and humor had long since gone AWOL. I stared at their replies and felt…

guilt – I should be replying and I feel rude not replying but I have NOTHING, nothing to say (other than “Hey wow I’m really depressed and I know I didn’t seem so at the time of this convo but honestly I was then too and now, at this uberly depressed moment, I have no words. By the way, I am an awful person.”).

more guilt and some confusion– I wish I could interact with my fellow humans, but right now my brain is all darkness and doom and gloom and despair. I don’t want to spread my negativity in the world so I will not engage. But this makes me a lousy member of the community doesn’t it? Or does it?

something close to panic – if I reply with something upbeat-sounding, I’ll need to maintain that facade and I. Cannot. Do. That. Right. Now. It would be like trying to smile and joke when your rib cage has been crushed by a wrecking ball and your innards pulverized into gooey pulp and you’re splatted on your back on the floor. But if I reply with a truthful, “Sorry, depressed here. Aaaand that’s pretty much all I got. Hope your day is going well though. Please don’t reply to this reply because then I will have to talk some more and that’s kinda the absolute last thing I feel like I can do right now.”, then I feel like I’ve exposed myself (NOOOO!) AND done a thoroughly inadequate job of Being A Communicating Human and geez I royally suck. This sounds really lame as I write this but I’m not exaggerating. In the midst of depression, the simple act of talking intelligibly can be torturous.

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And if I’m truthful and post that I’ve been absent because I’ve been depressed then a lot of beautiful people will be quick to tell me “HUGS” or “I understand and it’s okay.” or a million other kind words. But then I feel like I need to reply to everyone and OMG can I do this I don’t think I can do this it’s physically and psychically excruciating I need to crawl back into my silent dark corner again I seriously neeeeeeed it. And then the guilt explodes and Depressed Brain yells “REPLY TO THESE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE, YOU WIMP,” and so I do but then quickly log off because my God I am exhausted now and feel lousy about myself for Being Depressed Around People and yes I know this is counterproductive thinking and I’ll try to work on my cognitive distortions when I’m feeling a bit stronger but lawd help me I need to isolate and recuperate for about two months after that Extreme Socializing Thing.

So I tell myself, “Tomorrow. Tomorrow you’ll feel better and then you’ll get back on social media. But then tomorrow comes and I do not feel better.  I’m trying to do all the things the Depression Experts tell you to do when your depressed: get some sunshine and exercise. Maintain a regular sleep schedule, don’t isolate, do something productive, take your meds etc, but I’m still in a very bad head space. I’m managing to handle all my chores and errands and book revisions, but interacting with other humans feels impossible. Day two turns into day three and then day four. “Get on social media!” you demand of yourself. Although now you’re brain is so confused and dark that you have zero idea how to even do that. Maybe just retweet some stuff and then disappear again? But it’s called social media, self, and that isn’t really being “social” now is it?

Confusion, depression, guilt.

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Kinda desperate now, I Google “posting on social media when you’re depressed” but the only articles that come up are: How Social Media Use Is Linked To Depression, Golly Did You Know That Twitter and Facebook Make You Depressed?, How I Got Off Social Media And Now Everything Is Rainbows And Happy Jumpy Unicorns. (And then you decide to write this post because the topic of “posting on social media when you’re depressed” isn’t covered anywhere that you can find.)

So this is my official “posting on social media when you’re depressed” post. Except I’m not really an advice giver so if you are in this situation (depressed yet trying to maintain your socia media stuff), I’m not going to sling advice at you. I can tell you what I’ve tried and what has kinda, sorta worked for me though.

  1. Check my cognitive distortions. See my post on cognitive distortions for some of the common ones: https://sonyacraig.com/2016/08/11/cognitive-distortions/. Does my social media presence have to be either FUNNY AWESOME STUFF OF SUPREME EXCELLENCE or SUCKMEISTER DEPRESSO EXTRAORDINARILY YUCKY DOG PUKE? Will the world really stop spinning on its canted axis if I tweet kinda meh stuff because that’s the best I can do right now?
  2. Get on social media in brief bursts when I feel able and then, when I need to retreat, inform everyone that I am leaving for a bit. (I’ve done a lousy job at the informing people part and I’ll try to do better.)
  3. Avoid depressing hashtags, news, and rants. Depressed Brain can’t handle more depression.
  4. Social media seems to have moods. Some days it’s Wee Hee Escaped Llamas Giddy Happiness. If that’s the case, then I may be able to hang around a bit. When, however, the general mood is ALL IS SUCKY IN THE UNIVERSE AND EVERY OUNCE OF HOPE NEEDS TO BE DROP-KICKED INTO THIS BURNING TRASH FIRE OF A WORLD, then I click off and try to go find some happy unicorns somewhere. (not this one)rbunicorncardmeh
  5. Keep it light. Any heavy topics can wait for another day.
  6. If my creativity isn’t there, I’ve stopped trying to force it. It isn’t a national emergency if my Current Personal Level Of Interesting rivals old dried sludge.

So that’s how I handle social media when I’m in the throes of clinical depression. I hope you never have depression, but if, like many writers, you do experience it, then I hope maybe this post helps a tiny bit. And if you have any tips for Social Media-ing While Under The Influence Of Sucky Depression, I’d love to hear from you.

As always, stay weird and prosper my friends.

 

me

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Meditation Newbie

I’ve never meditated. Except for all those times I’ve counted down with the timer on the microwave while waiting impatiently for my popcorn to be ready. That’s officially meditation by the way. At least it is NOW. You’re welcome for that.

Those who know me know I’ve been dealing with a lot of stressful stuff in my life and have done so for a long time. The particulars of that stuff do not matter for this post. This post is The Account of a Meditation Newbie and Her First Attempts at Meditation to Ease STRESS THAT IS SO STRESSFUL ITS NEEDLE IS BURIED IN THE RED ZONE AND THE ENGINE IS SCREAMING AND SPITTING A LIGHTNING STORM OF SPARKS AND READY TO BLOW AND SPLATTER THE WORLD WITH ITS STRESSFUL STRESSFULNESS.

My new therapist, whom I saw after much procrastination (for reasons I’ll save for another post about how sometimes moms take care of everyone else but themselves), taught me this meditation technique. It’s called Loving-Kindness Meditation. In my cynical state of mind, the name immediately put me off, sounding so froo froo I pictured Snow White, head tilted, and tiny hands clutched under her chin, singing “I’m wishing for lovey-dovey kindness” in her ear-grating voice to twee forest animals. Need a reminder of the song and THAT. VOICE? Dare to click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlUbWNpg1os

At home, I read the instructions (paraphrased here) on the handout she’d given me:

  1. Sit comfortably and no, it doesn’t have to be in the legs crisscrossed, palms up and resting on your knees position, but it can be if that’s what you’d like.
  2. Think of what you wish for in life, not material things per se, but stuff like hope, peace, healing, health, to be heard, to be seen, to be loved, to have featherless dinosaurs etc. Narrow your choices to three or four per meditation session.
  3. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a  metta* for yourself. *metta – (n) lovingkindness, the Buddhist virtue of kindness; also called maitri.  Example:
    1. May I have peace
    2. May I have hope
    3. May I have healing
  4. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for someone you are thankful for.
    1. May (insert person) have peace
    2. May (insert person) have hope
    3. May (insert person) have healing
  5. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for someone you feel neutral about – neither positive nor negative.
  6. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for someone you dislike.
  7. Breathe in for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and then say a metta for everyone universally: e.g. May all beings everywhere have healing.

Being the squirmy, not-patient-when-bored person I am, my first session went like this:

Session One:

I sat down. I breathed in 5 seconds, exhaled 5 seconds and said a metta to myself. So far, so good.

Time for the next metta: I breathed in 2 seconds… and wondered if there’s a Captain Antarticta because Antarctica isn’t actually a country like America so, although there’s a Captain America, that doesn’t mean there’d be a Captain Antarctica because it would be more like Captain The Forty-One Countries That Acceded To The Antarctic Treaty Including The Twenty-Nine Consultative Countries And The Twenty-Four Non-Consultative Countries. I shook my head and tried to focus. Exhale 3 seconds… and wondered why I love my Fang the Kitten of Destruction so much when he wakes me up every morning by biting me on the shoulder and slapping me in the face – and if this means I’m in a dysfunctional relationship with my cat, but then again hahaha isn’t everyone in a dysfunctional relationship with their cat?

And then I felt squirmy-hungry so I got up, opened the fridge, stared into it for about two minutes, and then decided that was pretty much the same as meditating.

First meditation session – I’m calling it a success. More or less.

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Session Two:

Made it through the metta to me. So far so good. Yay, me. I’m being all meditatey and stuff.

Next up: Need to metta for someone I feel neutral about. Uhhhhhhhhh. Who the hell do I feel neutral about? Do humans ever even feel neutral about anyone? Or do we either ZOMG LOOOOOVE people, like them pretty much as long as they’re not, you know, talking to me, tolerate them even though they are annoying beyond all reason, or UGH THIS PERSON JUST NO THIS PERSON IS HORRIBLE AWFUL ABOMINABLE AND ALL THE OTHER YUCKY ADJECTIVES. This question seemed rather philosophical and now I needed to go jot down some notes on this topic to potentially analyze in another post or incorporate into a book or who-knows-what. The notes led to other notes and more deep philosophical thinking and I forgot about finishing the rest of the meditation session.

Second meditation session – I’m calling it a success. Because why not?

Third session:

I made it through the metta for me.

Next: I chose that old guy that walks our neighborhood with huge headphones on and stares only at the pavement as my neutral subject and said mettas for him.

Next up: Say a metta for someone I dislike. Hmmm. Got one. “May that yucky person – who is very yucky, so yucky in fact that I do not wish to visualize this person, but crap, I have a very visual brain and now, EW, the yucky person’s image is in my head – have peace…”

Finally: Say a metta for all beings. “May all beings everywhere – big, small, animal, human, plant, mineral, slimy or fuzzy, or extraterrestrials so alien that I cannot comprehend, all colors, shapes, and sizes, and whether they like awesome dinosaurs with no feathers or lame-ass dinosaurs with feathers – have peace…”

I started to climb out of the chair but Fang the Kitten of Destruction made an exceedingly rare visit to sit in my lap (He’s like Liz lemon – not a lap sitter) so I sat in the chair a while longer until Fang decided he’d had enough, slapped me cutely, and left.

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Third session: TOTAL success!

Okay. But did the meditation sessions help my STRESS THAT IS SO STRESSFUL ITS NEEDLE IS BURIED IN THE RED ZONE AND THE ENGINE IS SCREAMING AND SPITTING A LIGHTNING STORM OF SPARKS AND READY TO BLOW AND SPLATTER THE WORLD WITH ITS STRESSFUL STRESSFULNESS?

Yes. Yes, they actually did. And this is saying a lot for someone as stressed out AND impatient with anything boring as I am. I felt less stressed immediately after meditating and was able to tap into this less-stressed state at times throughout the day.

Will Loving-Kindness Meditation help you? I dunno.

Do you even want to do Loving Kindness Meditation? I dunno.

If we all did Loving-Kindness Meditation could we make feathered dinosaurs lose their lame feathers and become bad-ass, rad dinosaurs once again? I DUNNO DAMMIT BUT WE SHOULD TRY.

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Because one of these is a dinosaur and the other one IS NOT.

I don’t know if Loving-Kindness meditation will help you but there’s research to say that it IS beneficial in a number of ways:

Open hearts build lives: positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Nov;95(5):1045-62. doi: 10.1037/a0013262.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18954193

How positive emotions build physical health: perceived positive social connections account for the upward spiral between positive emotions and vagal tone. Psychol Sci. 2013 Jul 1;24(7):1123-32. doi: 10.1177/0956797612470827. Epub 2013 May 6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23649562

Loving-kindness meditation for posttraumatic stress disorder: a pilot study. J Trauma Stress. 2013 Aug;26(4):426-34. doi: 10.1002/jts.21832. Epub 2013 Jul 25 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23893519

A wait-list randomized controlled trial of loving-kindness meditation programme for self-criticism. Clin Psychol Psychother. 2015 Jul-Aug;22(4):346-56. doi: 10.1002/cpp.1893. Epub 2014 Mar 16.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24633992

Now go be awesomely you and take care of your awesome selves, fellow humans, and if part of that self-care process is Loving-Kindness meditation – coolyoolio.

Much love,

 

me

 

 

 

 

Depression and the Writer

TWIGGER WARNING: depression

If the topic of depression is triggering, please do not read further.

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Over lunch recently, a friend asked me, “What does depression feel like anyway? It’s like sadness right?”

I stopped with fork halfway to my mouth and kinda sat there with my jaw hanging slack. First of all, since I’ve lived with this disorder/condition/illness/piss-stanky-unfun-sludgefest-wet-blanket-of-yuckiness my entire adult life, I’m always boggled whenever someone tells me they’ve never experienced depression. It’s as incomprehensible a concept to me as if they had never experienced breathing. “What’s that breathing thing like anyway? It’s just like playing an oxygen accordion or something right?” Second, I was at a loss of how to succinctly, casual-Friday-lunch-appropriately describe An Entire Lifetime Battle with Depression.

Clinical depression seems rampant among creatives. All my writer friends struggle with depression. Which gives new meaning to the lyrics I got friends in low places. I am no exception. Depression and I are long-time buds (without all the fun and chummy feelings that word implies). I’m so familiar with it that I actually had a tough time explaining despression to my lunch pal. Like explaining the color black. “It’s, ya know, dark and blackish, and well… it’s BLACK okay?”

I realized I needed to up my Depression Description Game. My friend had the mistaken impression that depression equated to sadness. Sadness is definitely part of depression, but it’s far from the whole story. And depression, while containing some universal elements, is also unique to each individual. No one experiences depression the same way.

So for anyone wanting to understand depression better, I’m posting this Brief, Illustrated Guide to One Creative’s Depression. That creative being me, myself, and I.

And for the purpose of hopefully being informative to anyone who lives with someone who battles depression and wonders “What the heck can I, or should I, do for my depressed friend/family member/loved one/feathered, lippy dinosaur (who BTW has reason to be depressed because he is a dinosaur who has lame-ass feathers and stupid lips), I’m also going to describe what I need during different phases of my depression. I don’t know what your loved one may need when they’re depressed. If you’re unsure what your loved one needs, it’s okay to ask them. And if they are unable to tell you what they need, it’s okay to wait until they’re feeling stronger and ask them then.

Okay – I cannot speak to anyone else’s experience with depression, but mine looks like this:

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What I feel: Sadness. Yes, the overwhelming component of my depression IS sadness. A crushing sadness that WILL. NOT. LET. THE. HELL. UP. An engulfing, relentless anguish that grips me from the moment I wake up, clamps down hard for every excruciating nanosecond of the day, and only releases its choke hold when sleep kindly powers off my conscious mind. Woo hoo sucky sucky sadness.

What I need: When I feel this way, I need to be alone. I have a weird, glitchy, feelings-processor that needs solitude when sadness strikes. I do not seek out hugs when I’m hit with sadness. Quite the opposite. I cannot cry or Be Freely Sad around others, so if I’m hurting and someone is hanging around trying to comfort me, I feel cornered and under attack to be honest. I need to be able to manage my sadness and I cannot do that with someone hovering near me. Any attempt to comfort/console/soothe me at this time makes the depression worse. Counterintuitive? Yep I guess so. But nobody said depression was logical huh?

DrawingDepressedBunnyTall2

What I feel: Hopeless. All is lost. Never again will anything in my life be okay.

Oh yippee yay hopelessness.

What I need: When I’m feeling hopeless, IF I ask “Is x, y, z hopeless? Is the world really a spinning vortex of utter despair disguised as a blue and green planet with cute animals and flowers and stuff?”, someone could theoretically try to tell me x, y, z was, in fact, not hopeless, that no, the world is not an inverted cyclone of endless misery, but indeed a pretty little marble loaded with fuzzy koalas and kittens and magnolia blossoms. Depressed Brain is likely to disbelieve any such answer of course, but it’s okay IF I ask to try to fling some hopefulness at Depressed Brain. Hey, maybe that slippery hope stuff will actually stick.

If I do not ask, it means I need space and silence. If I do not ask, it means I’m in too dark a place to be able to communicate. If someone tries to discuss x, y, z when I need silence, Depressed Brain will flare with pain and all manner of other unpleasant emotions that will only deepen the depression.

Again, I know Depressed Brain can seem illogical. Black holes seem illogical too, but that doesn’t make them any less real and yes, confusing and problematic.

DrawingDepressedTurtlenew3

What I feel: Agitated misery. At times, my depression flares with a kind of agitated misery. Hurray agitated misery.

What I need: Possibly distraction. Not always, but sometimes distraction helps when my depression is the agitated type. A silly movie may help. I can’t guarantee that I’ll even crack a smile if I watch it, but if I’m watching it, it means it’s distracting me and therefore helping.

DrawingDepressedDinoTall1

What I feel: Weakness. Another aspect of my depression is an intense weakness that takes over my body and mind. I remember well the first time I truly comprehended how potent and real this component is. I was in my twenties and a kick-ass fitness buff. At the time, I could bench press 135 lbs at a bodyweight of 110. I could practically deadlift a dump truck. I was taking mixed martial arts out of a dude’s garage who loved to train us until we literally puked in his lilac bushes. And although I hated it, I also ran 5 days/ week.

That is, until a severe depression hit.

Telling myself to suck it up, I went to the gym, piled my usual amount of weight on the leg press stack, climbed in, planted my feet, and pushed.

And nothing happened.

I stripped off some weight and tried again. Nothing. Stripped off more weight. Again, nothing. I ended up taking off eighty percent of my usual poundage and even then I could barely eek out a few reps. I was weak – not just in the soul, but in the body. In my sad, wretched state, tears threatened and, quick before any of the steroidified gym rat dudes could see me, I left the gym. I felt like a wimp. I felt defeated. But I could not deny that the loss in my strength was real. I hoped it would come back (it did), but its loss added to my feelings of inadequacy. It made tangible the lies my brain had been shouting at me: “You’re weak, you’re worthless, you’re nothing.”

Depression can make me feel like I’m walking around with 200 lb weights strapped to my back and wrists and ankles. Every movement requires a Herculean effort. Huzzah weakness.

What I need: Maybe some help with chores or errands. Being me, I will never ask for said help, but the help would be appreciated, I can guarantee you. No it isn’t cool that I won’t speak up if I need help. I’ll try to get better at that. But if you see chores and errands that I normally handle slipping by the wayside, it’s a good bet that although I’m trying to work, that I’m trying to manage, I’m also feeling like every tiny task is a gargantuan, impossible feat.

DrawingDepressedTurkeySmall

What I feel: Muddy anger. At rare times during a depression, I’ll have a spark of inner strength that has enough energy to feel something more than sad, hopeless, empty, and hollow. I’ll feel anger. It isn’t the kind of anger that would allow me to climb a mountain to bellow my warrior cry at the capricious gods of the universe like Prometheus. It isn’t the kind of anger that has the energy to Hulk smash anything. It’s a heaviness with enough weight, enough mass, and therefore enough momentum to look at the bad crud in life and say, “Eff you. Eff you so hard, you bad crud you.” Yass muddy anger (unlike all the others, this hurray isn’t sarcastic).

What I need: Now is a great time to share some dark humor with me. In fact, I probably kick butt at dark humor during this time. Let’s have a Dark Humor freakin party.

DrawingDepressedCatTall1

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What I feel: Empty or numb. Walking through the world numb is a feeling I know well during various phases of my depression. I feel separate from the world around me, alien, empty, hollow. My movements are slow and sluggish. My mind is slow and sluggish. Wee hee emptiness.

What I need: Ideally – silence and stillness. During numb periods, I am unable to process others’ conversations well. I am unable to keep pace with the world as it spins in mad circles around me. I am a cold anesthesized lump of nothingness trying to operate like a functioning human being. Like an anesthesized person, I need time and quiet and stillness until the anesthesia wears off.

DrawingDepressedDracula2

What I feel: Bombarded with negative thoughts. Part of my depression is a constant bombardment of negativity. I have to scratch and dig through endless layers of dark hardpan to find any nugget of positivity.

I hate the torrent of negative-thought-sludge that pours from my synapses during this time and yet I can’t, no matter how hard I try, shut it off. Rah rah rah for raging pessimism.

What I need: Distraction will probably be helpful here, something to hopefully yank me off the Dark Thoughts Carousel and away from the spinning, braying horses screaming pessimism and fatalism at me.

So anyhoo. Okay. That’s it. That’s a quick overview of my depression. Sadness, hopelessness, agitation, weakness, numbness, emptiness, spinning non-Merry-Go-Rounds of pooping fatalistic horses. Yippee and yay. Woo hoo!

 

I need to add this: Regardless of the phase of depression I’m battling, there is always one thing I do need and I need it desperately: I need for those around me to go about their lives. I need to see that I am not bringing them down. I need to know that they are okay. I am relieved when they are happy and going about their business. I’ll get through my depression, but while I’m working to get there, I need to know that my loved ones will be alright even if I’m temporarily down. That doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed to have their own sadness or emotions – it means if I see that my illness is hurting them, I feel enormous guilt and self-loathing and that guilt and self-loathing only exacerbate the depression. (Which also means that even if I’m ragingly depressed, I’m pretty good at imitating a fairly high-functioning person for just this reason – to minimize any impact on others.)

So, that’s what my depression looks like. Yours (if you experience depression) will look different than mine. You will need different things than I do when you are depressed.

If you’re the loved one of someone who battles depression, your loved one’s depression will look different than mine. They may need completely different responses from you than I do from those in my world. But hopefully this post gave those wondering what depression “feels like” some insight and maybe answered some questions.

Also, please please please remember…

DrawingDepressedCat

Also remember – there can be light and fun stuff again. Remember – you are still awesome even though depression is telling you otherwise. You are awesomely awesome and you are loved (and not just by this weird little dude).

DrawingCuteAlienLuv

I’d love to compare notes with fellow creatives. Do you experience depression? If so, how does yours manifest? What helps? What doesn’t help? Anything else to mention (because I probably left out all manner of important stuff here)? Hit me up.

And as always…much love to you, my fellow humans,

 

me

If you need support, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) is a great resource: http://www.nami.org/Find-Support

Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions – a term used in Psychology to describe irrational, exaggerated thoughts and/or beliefs that distort a person’s judgement of reality, typically in a negative way.

Cognitive Distortions and Why We Should Ditch them:

Good stuff happens. Good stuff happens in the world around us and good stuff happens in our personal lives. Bad stuff also happens. Bad stuff happens in the world around us and bad stuff happens in our personal lives.

The way we think about those bad things (or even the good things), the way we frame them or process them, can build us up or beat the living hell out of us. At the extreme, cognitive distortions can lead us to our own demise. And that is a sad sad thing that I don’t want to happen to anyone.

My daughter has been through a lot of therapy in her young life. Some of that therapy has included retraining unhealthy thought patterns – or what psychologists call “cognitive distortions”. I have included a few of the common ones here. I see some of these thinking processes often in my fellow humans and in myself. Do any of these beasties plague your beautiful psyche? You may recognize one or two of them…

1. Black-and-White Thinking

Seeing things in terms of good or bad, right or wrong, all or nothing. Dinosaurs are either reptilian kick-ass mofos or they’re lame, feathered, kissy-lipped, overgrown chicken McNuggetdweebs.

Black-and-white thinking fails to see that shades of gray exist – gray areas that probably closer reflect reality. Reality that we can work with. Reality that isn’t necessarily a goddawful suckfest but something we can manage.

DrawingCognitiveBlackWhiteMoths

2. Should, Ought, Must

“Should, ought, and must” thoughts such as “I should’ve reworded that email even though it was late and I was exhausted and I had rewritten it four times already.” Or “I must lose weight or I won’t look pretty.”

These kinds of thoughts can lead to feelings of guilt or shame. Who the hell needs unnecessary guilt?

When “should, ought, must” thoughts are unrealistic and are directed toward others, they can cause us to feel angry, frustrated, and resentful. “That person should be this way or that way or they should have done x, y, or z.” Or “Dinosaurs should NOT have feathers OR lips!!!” Who needs those yucky feelings?

DrawingCognitivePopTart

3. Personalization

Taking it personally. Someone in my world is angry/hurting/upset – must be my fault. Someone in my world is being an ass – must be my fault. The sky opened up and hailed feathered, lippy dinosaurs on my neighbor’s kale garden – must be my fault.

Personalization creates self blame that could be misplaced. Ask yourself: Do I REALLY deserved to be blamed for the fact that feathered, lippy dinosaurs exist and flattened Mr. Barfwallow’s hairy kale extravaganza?

DrawingCognitiveSharpei

4. Mindreading

Assuming you know what another person is thinking (and tend toward assuming the worst). “OMG that person thinks I look like a lame, little chickenshit feathery dinosaur with crappy lipstick on my crappy dinosaur lips!” Maybe that person was actually thinking that I looked rather rad in my vintage Thor shirt. I can’t know. And that’s the point. Maybe I’m causing myself a lot of undue stress by jumping to conclusions.

DrawingCognitiveBlogLizard2

5. Catastrophizing

Magnifying an event to the worst possible outcome and getting stuck on “what if?” thoughts. What if this happens, what if that happens…OMG feathered, lippy dinosaurs raining from the sky! Quick, run terrified screaming in circles, self!

Catastrophizing causes a hella lotta stress. Ask yourself: ARE feathered, lippy dinosaurs likely to rain down on me? Or could it be that the answer is – quite probably not.

DrawingCognitiveBlogWeirdo

6. Discounting the Positive

 Ignoring compliments, discounting compliments, ignoring our billions of good qualities to find that one tiny flaw.

Her: “You are so talented.”

Me: “Yes but a stupid, lame-ass, feathered, lippy dinosaur could probably kick my ass at PokemonGo. Just saying.”

We miss out on a lot of great stuff about ourselves when we focus on the negative and discount all those compliments showered on us and all those exceptional qualities that radiate from our awesome selves. DrawingCognitiveDragonDone

Thinking Patterns and Cognitive Distortions Can Be Changed

According to therapists, thought patterns can be changed. I’m not a therapist so I don’t have the HOW TO CHANGE YOUR COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS answers or lessons. Probably recognizing these thought patterns in oneself is the first step. Then one probably has to learn to shut down or adjust the unhealthy thinking patterns and learn to replace them with healthier patterns of thinking. Note: I am not a therapist. If you are troubled by Cognitive Distortion Beasties, consider seeking out a therapist in your area.

You don’t need to beat up on you so if cognitive distortions are peeing all over your YOU ARE INDEED AWESOME party then possibly think about giving a Cognitive Distortion Buster a call (a.k.a a therapist).

 

References:

1.Beck, Aaron T. (1976). Cognitive therapies and emotional disorders. New York: New American Library.

2.Beck, Aaron T. (1972). Depression; Causes and Treatment. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

3.Tagg, John (1996). Cognitive Distortions. Retrieved from http://daphne.palomar.edu/jtagg/cds.htm#cogdis

 

Much love to you, my fellow humans.

 

Go forth and be awesomely you.

 

Love,

 

me

 

Potholders and Mindfulness

TWIGGER WARNING: Suicide, mental illness, depression, grief, psychiatric hospital, eating disorders, anxiety, body dysmorphic disorder, self-harm, substance abuse

Do not read further if these topics are triggering.

As many of you know by now, about a week ago (I’ve lost track of the time honestly), I took my suicidal daughter to the emergency room. After twelve hours in the emergency room, she was transferred to a nearby psychiatric hospital. That first night in the psychiatric ward, she became medically unstable. In imminent danger, she was rushed to the intensive care unit at the regular hospital. The psychiatric ward informed me of this development and I hurried to the hospital, panicking so hard my hands shook on the steering wheel. Her time in ICU was the thing of nightmares. Hallucinations, ripping out her catheter, sheer confused terror. I arrived to find my baby with tubes in her body, blood on her sheets, and mittens on her hands so she wouldn’t harm herself. Her eyes darted to me. “WHY? Why, Mama? Why me? Why can’t I just be normal?” she said over and over.

After she stabilized, she was sent back to the psychiatric hospital. The HORRIFYING psychiatric hospital.

As I write this, she is still in the psychiatric ward, a horrifying, REPEAT – indescribably HORRIFYING place.

On Monday she will be flown to a co-occurring treatment center and need to be interviewed before our insurance will allow her to be admitted. If our insurance turns her down, I don’t know what we’ll do – try to find another place for her I guess. There are very few co-occurring treatment centers in the country though. This waiting and hoping for insurance to MAYBE allow my daughter to receive the treatment she so desperately needs is agonizing. But that’s a topic for another post.

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What do you do when you’re in the ER with your suicidal child for 12 hours? You try to help her be happy by drawing silly pictures.

What do you do when you’re in the ER with your suicidal child and you so want to make her happy? You draw her silly pictures.

What do you do when you’re in the ER with your suicidal child and you so want to make her happy? You draw her silly pictures.

My older daughter is tortured daily by invisible sadists. Her demons have been attacking her for almost a decade now. Her diagnoses are numerous: anorexia, bulimia, anxiety, depression, possible borderline personality disorder, substance abuse, addiction, self harm, and body dysmorphic disorder. And I have sought out every possible avenue of help for her. She’s had a consistent team of professionals since she was thirteen: a psychiatrist, psychologist, a registered dietician, and numerous support groups. She’s been in eight different mental health treatment centers/psychiatric wards in eight years. She’s been treated by the best facilities in the country.

And yet, eight years later, she is suffering as much as ever before.

SHE HAS BEEN SUFFERING FOR EIGHT YEARS.

MY BABY HAS BEEN SUFFERING FOR EIGHT YEARS.

AND NOTHING HAS HELPED HER.

Excuse me while I take a loooooonnnnng moment to go scream my anger and pain at the universe.

Okay. I’m going to switch gears now because I want this post to lead to something positive. This next bit of my post will give you a view into the mind of a parent of a suicidal child. I’m not writing this for sympathy. Honestly, I kinda don’t wish to talk about this pain anymore. Sometimes talking about it actually magnifies the pain. So I do not need words of sympathy. I write this because parents of children with mental illness need ways to cope with the overwhelming emotions this bastard of a disease causes. This disease that abducts our children and tortures them day in and day out. This disease that strips them of their happiness and their dreams and their life.

I am not a psychologist and I do not have a “10 Ways To Cope With The Pain Of Having A Child With Mental Illness” list. As a parent of child who is suffering, as a parent who has been pushed to the brink by this sadistic bastard of a disease, I do have one lame little story to tell you. One that I hope may help even if it’s just a tiny bit.

As any parent would be after nearly losing their child to suicide and placing them in a psychiatric ward, I’ve been massively stressed: worried beyond all description for her, feeling her every pain as if it were my own, terrified for her future, mourning all the losses, feeling powerless to help, and struggling to maintain hope.

Stressed and grieving to the point of shaking, sobbing, and rocking on the cold tile floor in the middle of the night.

Stressed to the point of almost shutting down.

Unable to focus on anything outside of chaotic thoughts and emotions, I’ve barely been able to perform the daily tasks of living. Unsurprisingly, I’ve haven’t had enough focus to be able to write, revise, draw, blog, or almost anything else. I’ve been showing all the signs of grief: insomnia, nightmares, zero appetite, unplanned weight loss, alternating numbness or intense emotional anguish. The smallest tasks have seemed gargantuan. I’ve felt physically weak and ill, beaten down, severely depressed, and overwhelmed.

Yesterday, I neared the breaking point. I needed something, ANYTHING to escape the worries and sadness, if only for one small moment. I didn’t know what that “something” was though.

As I walked around the house like a zombie picking up Fang the Kitten of Destruction’s collection of mangled and shredded cat toys, I bumped into this cheap, crappy storage furniture thing I own in the front entrance knocking off the bottom cabinet door. Inside the cabinet sat a plastic loom and a pile of colorful fabric loops, items I’d forgotten were there. Items from when the girls were little and we used to do crafts together. I pulled out the loom and stared at it dumbly for a long moment. Then, I took it and a few handfuls of bright loops to the kitchen, dropped into a chair, and started, with clumsy-numb fingers, to make a potholder.

And something happened. My fears and grief sort of eased into the background as I rotely worked. One potholder turned into two, turned into four. The afternoon passed. I won’t say the pain evaporated. It didn’t. But it didn’t crush me in its grip as it had been doing for a week solid. I think Buddhists would mention the word “mindfulness” here. As I focused on the repetitive task, the constant violent thrashing of fear/sadness/guilt/regret/loss/anger/mourning against my vulnerable psyche eased. My mind emptied a bit, a welcome draining of the tsunami of emotions that threatened to drown me.  

The pain is not gone forever. I know this. It will return. The wounds are not healed. I know this.

But for that brief respite from unbearable pain, a big thank you to potholders. And to mindfulness. And wow, this sounds completely lame as I finish this post: POTHOLDERS TO EASE YOUR AGONY. But then again, if a freakin potholder can take away even five minutes of another person’s pain because of this post then it was worth it.

If you need support, please reach out. NAMI (National Alliance On Mental Illness) is an excellent resource: http://www.nami.org/Find-Support

Reach out to a friend, to a family member, to a therapist. You do not need to bear this pain alone. Others want to help you. You are so very important and you are loved.

potholdercorrectallignmentP.S. The one on the lower right is supposed to be a sunrise. My younger daughter fell in love with it and asked if she could have it. I said, “I love you and of course you can have it, gooby.” So now she’ll be taking it to college with her and I hope this little sunrise potholder helps her through any tough times and reminds her of the value of mindfulness. As soon as I know my older daughter is safe within the walls of the treatment center, I’ll start sending her something to hopefully help her through the tough times. The treatment center has very specific rules about items allowed so my options are limited. I think I’ll send cards. I’ll probably start with my HUGS 4 YOU.

DrawingHugRobot2CopyrightI hope everyone in your world is in a happy place. But if they are not, I’m sending a big HUG 4 YOU to them and to you too and wishing you comfort and healing and strength and hope.


*IMPORTANT*

If you or someone you love is thinking of hurting themself, please call  1-800-273-TALK (8255)

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/


You take care of you.

Much love to you and yours,

 

me