All posts in Random

  • Removing the Emotional Filter of Depression

    I thought back. I thought back hard. I was eight years old the last time I can definitively point my finger to a time when I was not depressed for a consistent period of time measurable in…weeks. That’s 1995 for those keeping score. For every interceding year, from 1996 to 2017 (oh god, 21 years), I can actively recall the sense of impending doom that’s always been there. It reared its ugly head sometime during the year I turned nine, and it never went away. Ever. For 21 years.

    Why am I talking about all of this? Because I’m trying to figure out why I’ve been getting so mad lately. Outrageously mad. Over ridiculously stupid shit. To be honest, I’ve been prone to rages in the past. But nothing like this since I left my teenage years behind. And it’s been very confusing, because shouldn’t I have a better handle on things now?

    Depression is like a very heavy wet blanket that gets thrown over your head and then lashed to your body. Everything just seems very far away, including everything that resembles normal human emotions. Normally when we speak about depression, we speak of not being able to feel the better things in life, like joy and happiness. But to a certain degree, it also applies to the worse things too: anger, rage, pain, sadness. I’m speaking of regular old sadness, because that is a very different feeling than the sadness we speak of with depression.

    My blanket got pulled off my head. And all these feelings started flowing through me dialed up to a relative 11. And when it came to managing my emotional landscape, I’d very much utilized my depression to help filter them out. Without that filter, I’ve been reverting to coping mechanisms that worked for me when I was eight, but not so much as a grown-ass adult.

    So now I get to sort through the last 21-years worth of coping mechanisms I’ve developed, and figure out how to tease them out from my depression. Which I can already tell is going to be a lot of work. But this is the righteous path. Like Gavin Rossdale, I don’t want to come back down from this cloud. I will do anything to stay here. Even when it does get weird.

  • Am I really just so ordinary?

    Life as a perpetually depressed person really distorts your view of the world. Also your view of yourself, your self-concept.

    As a not-depressed-person, it can be a lot to navigate. Especially when the story you told yourself about The Person I’ll Be When I’m Not Depressed is nothing like The Person I Am When I’m Not Depressed. It’s a little weird. Let me explain.

    I bought a planner. I purchased it somewhere between not being depressed, and realizing I wasn’t depressed. Shipping took awhile, so it arrived after the realization. And I’ve been using it. Effectively. And it makes me happy: sticking stupid little stickers in my planner, and color-coding all the shit I’m going to do, am doing, have done.

    And it’s kind of a lot like “what the fuck?” The Person I’ll Be When I’m Not Depressed was not the kind of person who used a planner. Not like this. And she certainly wasn’t going to get excited about it, or spend an embarrassing amount of money on stickers to do it. So what gives?

    I once read somewhere that the depressed had a more accurate self-concept and view of the world. The brains of the depressed didn’t sugar coat the world for them in the ways the brains of the non-depressed do. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but I’m starting to think that’s kind of bullshit. Because I’m not depressed anymore, but I am acutely aware of just how ordinary I am.

    And that ordinariness? It’s kind of depressing. Or perhaps more accurately: disappointing.

    Maybe I’m still on the crawl upwards. It took what? 18 years to dig a hole so deep in my psyche that no sunshine ever found me. I have to assume it might take me a little time to get out of that hole than a few weeks. But at least I’m not going down any further. I’m climbing out of this bitch. And maybe I won’t be so ordinary when I get out.

  • There are a lot things they don’t tell you when you stopped being depressed.

    No one ever tells you what happens when you suddenly find yourself in recovery from a decades-long depression. Recovery. That’s not the right word. I want to say remission. Am I allowed to use that word?

    Anyway, no one tells you what’s going to happen. When you’re in the throws of said decades-long depression, you just figure that when it’s over, you’ll either be dead or happy. And happy just sounds so wonderful and easy.

    Don’t get me wrong. It is.

    But there’s also a lot of other weird shit you get to wade through.

    1. Your relationship with food is about to change. I suddenly can’t eat the absurd amounts of sugar I used to. I feel betrayed by all my favorites. I purchased a chocolate milkshake from a local shop last week. Normally I can eat mine and finish off someone else’s. This time? Got halfway through and thought I was going to vomit from sugar overload. The other day, I ate two bites of cake and felt that was plenty. The food that used to soothe me no longer does.

    2. The fear of relapse is real. I find myself at random times assessing myself for signs I’m depressed again. I check on my mood. Check on how my body physically feels. Try to anticipate things that might pitch me over that cliff again. Why? Because I’m terrified. I’m terrified this isn’t real. That I’ll get swallowed by depression again. That maybe this is all a lie. Somehow I’ve convinced myself I’m not depressed, but I actually am, and that reality is going to come crashing in again.

    3. All the things that used to be hard are now easy, but what does that even mean??? I’m used to things being hard, especially initiation. I have a doozy of a ADHD diagnosis to deal with always, anyway. When I was depressed, nothing got started, and if it did somehow get started, it never got finished. Now, when I decide to do something, I, uh, just do it. It’s easy. Too easy. And I’m not sure how that’s supposed to put the last eighteen years of my life into context. How am I supposed to contend with all the things I could have accomplished were it not for the sense of foreboding that kept me paralyzed? What does that say about the things I did accomplish? Is the book I wrote more worthy now? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

    4. There are no scripts in our culture to help anyone navigate this, including you. I beat my depression. And I don’t know how to talk about it with anyone, even though I really want to talk about it with everyone. I did the impossible. I beat the odds. Any time I have brought it up, it gets promptly ignored in 90% of all conversations. People don’t know how to respond. This just isn’t part of something we as society have decided to deal with. And that sucks. It’s also possibly why the symptoms of this disease are easily ignored, and the amount of victim-blaming surrounding it is absurd.

    5. Your brain doesn’t know what to do with all the extra space it used to use contemplating your own demise. Seriously. What is my brain supposed to do now? If it’s not telling me to kill myself, what is it supposed to do?

    6. The anxiety sure is still here! It’s more manageable, sure, but it’s still here. I’m still worried about putting this post out into the world. It feels like a lot of navel-gazing. It is a lot of navel-gazing. And there’s a whole lot of bad shit going on in the world. Someone will call me out. Someone should call me out. But this still feels important. Important to me, and therefore it might be important to someone else.

    Also, on an ending note, finding yourself no longer depressed in the Trump Era sure is a trip. Sometimes it feels like my depression left my body to infect the whole world. There are times the world-at-large feels like how my internal-life once felt. And it’s especially weird to say “And I feel great!” in the middle of all of it.

    Strange times.

  • It Sneaks Up On You Quick

    I last wrote here over two years ago, speaking of my depression. It’s a post I have had stand by frequently in these past two years. Even when my Super-Boss suggested I take it down because, well, what if a parent googled me?! To which I said, well that’s kind of the point. Low and behold, my Super-Boss is now a different woman two times over, and I’m still here.

    Little victories.

    Except I’m here today, right now, because of a larger victory. Or more of a realization.

    I was drifting off to sleep last night when it hit me. It was subtle at first, like dipping your toes into warm water. And then it roared in like a freight train.

    I’m not depressed anymore.

    I don’t know when it happened. It could have been a week ago, or a year ago, I’m not really sure. But I only came to the conscious awareness last night, as I was snuggled warm in my bed with the man who will be my husband, and our fattest of cats. I’m not depressed. I might even, dare I say, be happy.

    I can’t even remember the last time I could definitively say this about myself. I don’t know when the last time I could honestly say “I’m not presently depressed” would be. Probably somewhere in 2007? Or maybe there was a flash of such a time in 2012? It’s hard to say. It’s really hard to say.

    My depression has been a constant companion of mine since, well, always. I was never a happy or content child. Puberty roared it into full effect. It’s always been there, sometimes just the a general feeling of malaise that persisted for years. Sometimes a more active struggle to just stay alive. Also for years.

    And now here I am. I am thirty years old and I am just truly here on my own. Happy.

  • A Cover for Three Days of Night

    No time like the present, I suppose. I’ve been sitting on this for quite awhile now, and I’m not really sure why.

    I think it’s about time I share this with everyone. It’s here! My cover for Three Days of Night is at long last here! And yes, that means the book itself is almost here, too. We’re talking February. And that’s real. The proof is back, the back matter is written, the appropriate paperwork is complete. All I need is to find the courage to kick the book out of the nest and hope it flies.

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  • Ripping the Bandaid Off

    Oh dear. I’ve done it again. I’ve become neglectful of ye olde blog. When that happens, I sometimes have trouble getting back into it because the guilt and fear are just overwhelming. Well, suck it up, Buttercup. Time to get over yourself and rip that bandaid off.

    So here we are. I’ve been doing lots of things to avoid writing here, and sometimes to avoid writing. But, not all the time. Did I mention I have +16,000 new words since I fell off the wagon? I didn’t? Oh, well I do. I’ve instituted a few changes in how I keep track of writing, but I’ll write about that some other time. But they’re working. And I’m happy.

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  • Welcome to the New Blog

    Hooray! We’re finally live! This is the brand new website! I’m pretty excited, though also entirely underwhelmed. It’s a strange feeling. On the one hand, I’m really thrilled that I’ve finally graduated into adulthood by claiming my name-sake domain. On the other hand, I’m a little sad to be leaving my former internet-home.

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  • Pardon the Dust

    We’re working on getting up and running. Settle down.

  • And We're Back

    Wow, a whole new year is upon us. And, as usual, I’m late. Everyone who was on top of things posted about the wonder of a new calendar number last week. Or yesterday. Or whenever. Basically just before I did. Because I don’t run on time with these things.

    2012 was a pretty decent year. We bought a house. We got three cats. Just about all of our coupled friends got engaged. And then we collectively gave them the middle finger when they all looked at us sideways and cleared their throats.

    I vowed to reinvent myself as a writer with some degree of success. I made it clear to everyone that summer 2013 was mine, and mine alone. I began working on my novel again. And I started submitting to literary magazines after a 3 year hiatus. Which also went well, thankyouverymuch.

    Which brings us to the obligatory portion of what’s in store for this year. Like everyone under the sun, the plan is ambitious and I’m probably doomed to accomplish none of it. But it’s the thought that counts, right?

    First off, I’m going to continue developing this blog. I’ve been better about posting more consistently, but there’s always room for improvement. I’ve got a relaunch plan in the works and am hoping everything will be ready by March or April.

    I want to start using twitter like an adult, not like a technologically backward grandma. I don’t know how I, an early adopter, managed to get so out of the, ew, twittersphere.

    I am going to finish the first draft of my novel. This WILL happen, even if I have to sell my soul to get there. Luckily, I just got a mini ipad which seems to have done wonders for my productivity. That’s right…I’m turning into one of those people.

    I am going to travel to Kenya. This is a no brainer and been a long time coming. My sister lives there, and it’s been a place I’ve wanted to go since about the time I turned 18. This one probably counts as my big Bucket List item for the year. That and the novel.

    And lastly, I’m going to knit a sweater that I love and fits really well. The fits part is the important part. It’s embarrassing how much time I’ve spent on knitted items I adore but seem a wee bit too tight. Wren, you gotta start knitting to the 36” directions, girl.

  • The Trouble with Words

    It would be a gross understatement to say that I love the Utne Reader. You never know what you’re going to get each issue, but it’s guaranteed to be interesting, thought provoking, and likely to change your mind at least a little about something. But also confirm a lot of what you expected. At least if you’re me. Also, it’s a magazine that was a feed reader before everyone used Google Reader and BoingBoing to keep them up on everything. I have a soft spot for slightly out-dated literary things. Sue me.

    In their latest issue, they featured a blurb from the Harvard Business Review: The Trouble with Bright Kids. Never mind how hilarious it is that this article comes from the Harvard Business Review.

    Ironically, writes the Review, “gifted children grow up to be more vulnerable, and less confident, even when they should be the most confident people in the room.”

    Read more:

    Yes, I did just quote something quoting something else. Not a ‘best practice’ of, well, anything, but I’d rather encourage people to check out Utne than HBR. Harvard Business Review tends to be stuffy and boring and really involved with itself, whereas Utne is interesting and only a little involved with itself. But I digress!

    I was really happy to find this and not entirely because it confirmed something that I have long known. It’s not really a secret that I have a thing for writing, or that it’s something at which I’m usually pretty good. And yet, there have been plenty of times I have been paralyzed with the inability to actually write. Plebes might call it writer’s block, but it’s not. It’s not that I don’t have any ideas, which is truly what writer’s block is about. It’s this odd fear of doing writing it wrong.

    And I think it stems from years and years and years of being told how good I am at it. Also the years and years and years of personal and educational evidence with little-to-no professional validation. Even though I know there’s nothing wrong with my writing, there is always a small piece of me that is going to think that I must be doing it wrong if there are no fruits to my labor.

    I wish this was the sort of thing we talked more about it education. We’re overly concerned with making the data work, getting our students to be successful, and being good cheerleaders for the good work and effort we see that we completely and totally forget that words matter. I’m guilty of this myself.

    Reflecting on how I talk to the group of the first graders I work with who are struggling with math, I wonder how much damage I have done that counter-acts the good.. They do not struggle with math because they are unintelligent, or are bad at math. They struggle because the way they think about math is not the way it is being taught.

    A lot of what I do is reassuring these 6- and 7-year-olds that they don’t have to do math the way their teacher does. If that method doesn’t work for them, it is okay to do something else that does work for them. The kids that are terrible with numbers? I show them how to see patterns on a modified number grid. (Side Note: whoever decided the first row of a standard number grid should be 1-10 and not 0-9 really doesn’t understand the way some kids think.) I show them different ways to manipulate number sentences to make them make more sense to the kid. I identify misconceptions they have and correct them, because the misconceptions they have were taken for-granted by adults that they were obvious.

    But the thing I do a lot is say things like “you’re really good at math” when something clicks for them. I’m trying to build their confidence as mathematicians, but what if that’s not what I’m really doing? What if I’m setting them up for that sense of fear I feel when it comes to doing math in the classroom? I do know that a teacher has said about a particular student “He does so well with you, but when he’s with me, it falls apart.”

    I’m going to really have to think about the words I say. Perhaps “You are working so hard” is something I should say more often.