Get away from me, you bitch

I spent this weekend in an anxiety spike, which is this weird version of anxiety that is not an attack, quite, but keeps my heart rate between 110 and 120 and makes it hard to breathe. I end up thinking way too fast – you know that friend that everyone has, the one who talks at a mile a minute and you end up out of breath on their behalf? My brain turns into that. It’s not thinking any brilliant thoughts, either, just like


Also instead of being filled with energy, which is what it seems SHOULD happen, I am exhausted. I feel like I have mono (I’ve had it, so can attest) where you’re nearly paralyzed by the lack of energy and are forced on to the couch to cuddle blankets and cats and try to feel calm. Nothing has gone wrong. Nothing has happened. I slept, I ate, I moved, I took my pills. Nothing has happened. There was no reason for this stupid, weekend-sucking event.

I’m better today, but my muscles are weirdly sore. Like I slept in full flight-or-fight mode, which is possible. My jaw aches from clenching my teeth. And again, there was no reason for this horseshittery which seems unfair because I will give you a thousand dollars if no one says “Why?” when I tell them of the horseshit. Or rather, there are a thousand potential reasons, none of which stand out, and if their jobs are to cause anxiety then they are fucking slacking on a regular basis.

Depression and anxiety go hand in hand and are part of me, but I imagine them as separate. I imagine depression like a hideous, slime-dripping gremlin who sneers horrible words at me and laughs when I cry. I imagine anxiety like the alien from Aliens, and thus have been playing the line below over and over in my head. (Yes, in this scenario I am both Ripley AND the fucking alien.)

Do something nice for someone with anxiety today. Hugs and flowers and blankets (FOR PANIC CUDDLES) are appreciated. Also cats, but only if they’re the cuddly kind, not the stabby kind.

Things not to say to people with depression. Part Two.

I knew there’d be a part two. This Thing comes in the shape of a conversation:

Person A: “I take antidepressants.”

Person B: “What?! That’s crazy! Why?”

Person A: “Because of depression.”

Person B: “You don’t seem depressed at all to me.”

Person A: (Long pause. Many responses are considered.) “…Yes. That’s because I’m taking antidepressants. “

Person B, you are, and this is my primary concern, making yourself look like an idiot who doesn’t understand cause and effect. Secondly, you’re arguing with someone about their own health. This is a lot like saying “Why do you bother taking insulin? You seem fine.” To someone suffering from diabetes.

Just stop it. There’s a good B.


Don’t worry. I’m not going to be writing any*. It would be so awful, you guys. So. Awful.

I’m not a huge poetry gal. Even as an angst-ridden teenager, I tended more towards fan fiction and long dramatic walks in the woods – somewhat anticlimactic because there was no one to see how sad and dramatic I was being – bloody terrible teenager logic. Anyhow, I’m trying to learn more about poetry. I read this one and thought: that’s depression.

A Minor Bird
By Robert Frost

I have wished a bird would fly away,
And not sing by my house all day;

Have clapped my hands at him from the door
When it seemed as if I could bear no more.

The fault must partly have been in me.
The bird was not to blame for his key.

And of course there must be something wrong
In wanting to silence any song.


Isn’t that lovely? You can kind of feel it, hear the bird, see the sadness in the man’s eyes as he turns away from the window, ashamed and worried about himself.  Good poetry is impressive.

And now for fun, I will write my version of this poem:

Dear Stupid Bird
By Gwen Hill

Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!
You need a mate.
You’re hungry.
I get it.

Please learn another note
And go to someone else’s house
You stupid bird.


*I lied! Haha.

Things not to say to people with depression. Part One.

Part one, because I keep thinking of these things, and then forgetting, so I assume I’ll want to add to it later. 


1. “But everyone has bad days, right?”
Congratulations! You have displayed a common and fundamental lack of understanding of what depression is. Yes, everyone had bad days. What everyone does NOT have is a series of bad days lasting months and years; a crushing inability to see hope in the future, and a detrimental despair that infects everything they see and hear. (I was going to write ‘see and do’ but let’s face it, people with depression have a hard time with action verbs outside of ‘crying’ and ‘running the self-hate gauntlet’.)

2. “Have you tried St. John’s wort/vitamin D/powdered red mushroom/licking your shoes/what-the-fuck-ever?”
Unless this is preceded by the person in question asking “have you heard about or read about anything you think I could try?” Just. Don’t. For one thing, everyone else is doing the same thing. For another, it’s hard enough to be engaging with the outside world, let alone plastering an expression of polite interest on your face.

3. “What happened to you?”
This is a tough one. Sometimes there is a precipitating event that causes clinical or situational depression and your brain can’t recover, but often there isn’t anything. It’s a stupid, mean, uncompromising disease and being made to feel like there should have been something that caused it – or gods forbid, something that you did – sucks. Don’t do that to people.

An easy solution for this: if someone tells you they are depressed, just take a breath and in your mind, replace ‘depressed’ with ‘diabetes’ or something similarly shitty and uncontrollable, and then don’t say anything that you wouldn’t in that situation.

If that’s too hard, the following phrases are good and has plenty of uses: “That sucks. I’m sorry.” You can add “what can I do to help?” If you’re so inclined. Those things are nice.


Recognition and Coping

“It is a happy faculty of the mind to slough that which conscience refuses to assimilate.”

 ― William Faulkner, Light in August

A few weeks ago I posted about losing my grandfather and how it feels like a loss piles on top of all the others, every time, so that for a little while it’s overwhelming. The clarity with which I cope directly relates to how long I have to do so – how long I have to be in ‘coping’ mode vs. ‘living’ mode. Being able to take a step back and look at myself and my actions from a detached perspective is the only thing that allows me to be aware of how I’m feeling sometimes. For example: Let’s say I notice that I’m short-tempered at the office one day. That might mean nothing – might be a bad day. But if I step back and notice that, all right, I haven’t been eating well, my sleep is erratic, I’m not getting as much done at night as I usually do, or whatever the signs are, then I can make a concerted effort to take care of myself and be conscientious about how I’m living, rather than just rolling with whatever comes my way. I want that. I want to be as aware and conscious as possible. If I hurt someone’s feelings, it shouldn’t be because I wasn’t paying attention. (It should be because…I’m a dick?)

That’s the core of it, actually: because I don’t give a lot of thought to other people, I assume they’re not giving a lot of thought to me. This is why it throws me off when it turns out that I’m devilishly wrong. When I was in, er, early high school – whatever that is – ? Grade 7-8? I was meandering through school in a state of blissful ignorance, neither having nor missing friends, happy with my books and my school work and my family. And assuming everyone else was kind of doing the same thing. Turns out: Nope! Those years are some kind of social primer, and everyone else was busily forming creepy little pre-teen wolf packs and preying on the weak. Which I didn’t notice, until I did, and I realized that I didn’t have friends because I was the weird kid and everyone hates the weird kid.

That moment, the moment of shift between “I’m just wandering along, nobody’s bothered by me, lalalalaaaaa,” and “I am in a school full of hormonal teen wolves who have decided to pick on me”? That. Moment. Blows.

All of a sudden, you can’t trust yourself. You can’t trust your perceptions. And if you’ve been wrong about so much for so long, what else could you be wrong about? That teacher that seems to like you? She probably makes fun of you every day in the staff lounge. Oh, you have a pen pal? It’s probably someone in prison who makes creepy wallpaper out of your letters.

Well. Anyway. You get the point. Cognitive dissonance, kids: more than just buzzwords.

Obviously, it all worked out. I actually got a couple of lovely Facebook messages from the horrid wolves when I was in my early 20s, apologizing for being horrible crazy children. To which I can only think: But you were children.  That’s the thing. You can’t even be tried as an adult for criminal activities, let alone perfectly normal pre-teen asshattery. It doesn’t mean it didn’t suck. It does mean that I’m largely over it.


Every now and then, I have a moment of dissonance. I believe myself to be a certain way, a certain person, and a conversation or (as inspired this post) a self-assessment will point out that I’m wrong. And it happens again: the weird, falling-into-a-tunnel-a-la-Jerry-O’Connell-in-Sliders feeling, the shift of the world around me from a friendly place to an unsure one, the realization that the way I think and the amount of thought I give to others isn’t necessarily the industry standard. And this is the amazing thing: my body remembers. It remembers every other time this has happened. It can call up all the same feelings, and all the same doubts. If I didn’t have the tools that I have and, frankly, self-esteem that you could bounce rocks off of 98% of the time, I don’t know how I’d cope. I think this is a large part of what depression feeds on: doubt. Everyone probably hates you. You think they don’t, but you’ve been wrong before. You’re always wrong.



Fucking gremlins, is all I have to say to that.

What I’m learning now is that every time an event brings up all of my past grief or moments of dissonance or whatever it may be, that’s kind of a gift. The human brain is designed to make connections; that’s pretty much what it’s good at. A smell reminds you of a day, the day connects to a feeling, the feeling connects to muscles and the muscles make a smile. A moment of dissonance connects to all the others in your past, which gives you options: you can give in to the gremlins – who are ALWAYS wrong, the dicks – or you can take that opportunity to process what you went through, to learn what you can, and to apply it to what’s happening in the here and now.

Everything that sucks in my life gives me a way to be a better person.

How annoying is that?





**A note: I think true cognitive dissonance causes a fractured psyche, is a major event, and can land people in serious facilities where they spend many years trying to reconcile real life with their internal lives. I don’t mean that. I mean the pop-psych version of the term, which I am not proud of myself for using in this way, but I don’t know what else to call it. And so I’m doing it anyway. (Being a dick on purpose! Ten points!)


On the familiarity of grief

My grandfather died yesterday.

I’m dealing with this lovely wide variety of emotions and, because of the last three years of therapy, trying to process them carefully and feel them all in their entirety so that they don’t come back and bite me in the ass in the future. A largely introverted nature means that I do most of this alone and quietly, which works for me, but is likely a bit hard on others. I don’t know what to do about that. Nothing, I think.

I feel the ache of loss that is a tight fist in my chest, that occasionally tightens and squeezes and lets go again. I am already aware that this loss is less brutal than the loss of my father, will pass faster, will be easier to process, and then I feel a twinge of guilt that I am not as sad as I ought to be. Then I remember that there is no ‘ought to be’ and I try to let it go. This is the process, as it were, of processing.

I am aware of the depths of loss again, as each loss brings back the ghosts of others. Pain is pain and my body and mind want to say, this is familiar, and this is like that time when, and even though my grandfather’s death is nothing like the loss of, say, my first love, I remember them all in fits now because of the familiarity of grief.

I woke up this morning thinking about my grandfather, and his life, and his kindness and strength and all of the things that made him wonderful. Then I thought about the plans I have for today, the board meeting I have to prep for, the writing and work I have to do, and I didn’t want to do any of it. Still have to get shit done, said a little corner of my mind. And of course, that’s not true. I could cancel everything. I could sit in my house and find this little core of grief and cut it open and let it bleed, find all the things that grow there and dig them out until the core is sparkling clean. I could do that, couldn’t I?

I’m not going to, though. I think because just having the option is enough, and at some point I am still a member of western culture and society. And it’s nice that it’s a choice now. That’s maybe the most valuable tool I have these days: recognizing choice. So I’ll get on with things as we do, and take my time to grieve in my own way when I need it, and find moments of peace and reflection. And I’ll process.

In all of that clever, thoughtful processing, it is still very clear to me that this is just very hard, and I wish it didn’t hurt so much. And my goodness, I am so grateful for this blog, that gives me a quiet place to still think ‘out loud’ and is waiting for me even at 3:30 in the morning, when otherwise I would have to talk to the damn cats.

The word that allows yes, the word that makes no possible.
The word that puts the free in freedom and takes the obligation out of love.
The word that throws a window open after the final door is closed.
The word upon which all adventure, all exhilaration, all meaning, all honor depends.
The word that fires evolution’s motor of mud.
The word that the cocoon whispers to the caterpillar.
The word that molecules recite before bonding.
The word that separates that which is dead from that which is living.
The word no mirror can turn around.
In the beginning was the word and that word was


-Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker

Wise Words from Jim C. Hines

Over at SFSignal, Jim C. Hines has written a great little post about his upcoming book, Unbound, in which his main character (Isaac) struggles with depression. The post addresses the issue of writing with depression, and applies nicely to doing anything with depression. In particular, these bits stood out to me:

Looking back, I’ve been dealing with depression off and on for much of my life. I just never really labeled it as such until 2012. I still made it to school and to work. I still met my writing deadlines. I was functional.

We tend to associate being clinically depressed with non-functionality. That’s never been true for me–at my very worst, I have always managed to do my job. Something about our society elevates that to the status of ‘functional’, like that’s all there is, like that’s how you pay back the world for all that oxygen you’re using up. But since I’m going to be using up all that oxygen anyway, I figure I might as well aim for something higher than ‘functional’. Like ‘happy’.

For people who believe mental illness helps your creativity, or that medication will ruin you as an artist, I’ll note that the past two years have been the best of my career. 

Yes. This. I worried about this, and I know a lot of other writers and creative folks who believe that you need your demons scratching at the inside of your skull in order to foster creativity. And who knows, maybe I was wildly creative when massively depressed, but the point is that no one would ever have known because I Could. Not. Write. (It wasn’t my job.) Since the slaughter of my own skull-demons, I’ve been writing regularly, I’ve published a few things, and I’ve learned a hell of a lot about the craft of writing and finding ways to call on creativity when it’s being a pissy little kid who won’t come out of their pillow-fort to work. There may be medications out there that kill creativity, but they don’t comprise the whole shelf of options. Cipralex certainly isn’t one of ’em.

Isaac’s depression is truer to my struggle. I worry that he’ll be too unlikeable…because that’s how I felt at the time. I worry people will say he’s too weak, that this character should just man up and get over it, because that’s how I felt. That’s what I expected to hear if I talked about it. I worry about readers who don’t understand that depression isn’t something you just snap out of.

Honestly, sometimes I still feel like I need to man up and get over it. But that’s just … that’s other people’s voices, in my head. That’s grandparents who didn’t understand, generations of people who thought depression was just a weakness of spirit (or something that could be fixed with leeches). And because I know those things to be untrue, I can turn them away, and remember that I’m dealing with a real issue, and I’m doing it well. And I hope that others can do the same. In that way, we slowly change things for the generations to follow.



The problem with going on meds–this time, because I wasn’t in the life-has-stalled-completely mode–is that there are too many variables for me to feel that I can properly assess the effect the drugs are having. I’m happier, more energetic, it’s easier to focus. I’m working out more, I’m more inclined to be outside, I want to go for walks. I am eating healthier food, I don’t have weird/stupid cravings. I don’t keep wishing that I were asleep.


It’s sunny outside these days in the Pacific Northwest, and the days are longer. Am I working out and going outside more because I’m on meds, or because it’s sunny out and I can? And if so, is that catalyzing the rest of it – the healthier food, the energy, the focus?

The answer, of course, is ‘probably not’ and likely it’s a combination of the two. It’s just that I’m never going to be SURE, which bugs me. Still, it’s nice to be happy. It’s REALLY nice to be able to focus.

The closest I can come to describing what it’s like to go on antidepressants is that it’s like getting over a long, bad cold. You know that first morning when you wake up and you’re not sick? And you’re suddenly full of a ridiculous amount of energy, which is likely your normal amount of energy, except that you’ve been drained of it for a long time? It’s like that. Except that instead of new-found energy, you’re suffused with what previously seemed to be an impossible amount of clarity, happiness, and hope. It’s … well, it’s damned good, is what it is.


Hello, Old Friends

I picked up a new prescription for Cipralex a few days ago. I’ve been keeping track of myself for a few months now, watching for red flags – foggy brain, lousy memory for details, irritability, fatigue, random appetite changes, dizzy spells, insomnia, and of course the hopeless/worthless/useless slew of thought patterns. I have ten main red flags; I decided that if I got up to 8 on a consistent basis (more than two months consecutively) I would talk to my doctor about going back on the magic pills.

I did, and so here I am. Sitting with a little bottle of meds beside my computer, looking all innocent and helpful (the pills, not me).

I filled the prescription today. I think I’ve been waiting for some feeling of failure, or guilt, or something to kick in, but all I can think when I look at this bottle of pills is oh thank god. There is no prize for living on the hard setting, far as I can tell.

That’s all, I guess. The funny thing about depression is, it’s hard to talk about it when you’re in it, so I feel doomed to always write this blog in the past tense. Ah, well. C’est la vie.


Generally and Vaguely Annoyed

I read an article on ‘15 things that emotionally strong people do‘ this morning, which I am linking to for reference but don’t actually think you should read. It contains such points as ‘They Don’t Lie in Bed Dreading the Day Ahead of Them’ and ‘They Don’t Forget That Happiness is a Decision’ which, I dunno, maybe is valid for people which shiny happy brain chemistry, but made me feel really angry. And simultaneously shitty. Oh, happiness is a decision! Jesus H., why didn’t anyone tell me? Here I’ve been going around deciding to feel like ass. I wish I’d known.

I’m also going through an annoying downswing, mood-wise, which I have only recently been able to identify as a brain chemistry fritz. This is because of the fun dizzy spells that have accompanied the past three days.

Anyway. I’m feeling exhausted and dark of thought. And I was going to write this whole point-by-point thing in response to the post about the Things Strong People Do or whatever the shit it’s called–I’m not re-reading it–but I can’t be arsed. So I’m going to reiterate: Understand that being strong means letting people see that you are vulnerable, because that’s the hard thing to do. It’s easier to splash cold water on your face, drop visine in your eyes and pretend, but it’s not strength. (I just realized that crying and smoking pot have the same effect on the face. Huh.)

And now I’m going to steal words from other people, because I’m tired and I need my brain for spaceships and aliens writing serious things.

This is what I want to say about depression to everyone:  Hyperbole and a Half on Depression

And likewise, about anxiety: Boggle the Owl on Anxiety

Sometimes I think everyone’s seen those, and then I am reminded that MAYBE NOT because people still seem to think that depression/anxiety=bad days, and everyone has bad days, so what’s the big deal? Anyhow. Reposting can’t hurt.

Just noticed this little set of comments when I linked to the article. This may be the only time that reading the comments has ever made anything better…


I don’t even know which of those two responses is my favourite.

Anyway, I’m going to go play with words now. Everybody try to play nice.