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.

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.

Fat and happy, my ass


Me in 2007, four months before Dad died.

When I saw him recently, my doctor asked how I was doing with the off-meds business (as is his wont, since that’s the only reason I see him). I gave him the 40/60% standard answer I’ve got going, and explained that I had no physical symptoms beyond the VERY occasional re-occurrence of The Spins. (Which is fun, I’ve decided, and allows me to pretend that I’m two-glasses-of-wine drunk while at work.) We got to chatting about how I am, ahem-hem, a truly model Cipralex patient (you know, because my BRAIN doesn’t ZAP ME) –

– Damn it all, the parentheses are back, hang on while I wrestle them down –

– and how I didn’t have any significant weight gain while I was on them. This is not a thing I talk about often, but I have actually had a significant weight gain over the past five and a half years. About 40lbs, which on a 5’3″ human, is a lot. Wait a minute – I’m imagining a grocery store cart full of 40lbs of butter – that’s a lot no matter how tall you are. Anyhow, it was something that Therapist warned me about before I started the Cipralex, in her very kind way, saying that she hoped I wouldn’t concern myself with it too much as it was one of the milder potential side effects.

I won’t lie. For a few minutes I was very concerned. I feel like I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life – though in reality up till ’07/’08 I was a healthy weight – and I didn’t want to add ‘Increased Arse’ to my list of reasons to loathe my entire self-hood at two am. What I realized over the three weeks between my appointment with Therapist and my ability to find a GP was this: in the pits of depression, spending time on the couch, never doing any of the active things I loved – Weight gain was in my future no matter what.

I’ve actually lost a bit of weight since going on the drugs and then coming off of them, mostly due to two things. The obvious one is that I am more inclined to be outside, active, and generally in motion; the slightly more complicated reason is that the foods I crave when I’m sad – because for a few moments, they generate something in my brain that simulates ‘happy’ – are not good for me. I believe in being healthy, and my body is remembering that along with my brain, and I’ll land on whatever-the-hell weight I’m supposed to be when I’m once again able to do every activity that pops into my head.

Regarding weight and depression, these are my new truths:

  1. Some antidepressants will make some people gain weight, but so will depression. (Or not, if you go the other way and stop eating. I hear that’s a thing. It sounds awful.)
  2. Food and exercise are the ways in which we tell ourselves that we matter.
  3. Health is not contained in a number, but in a capability to do all of the things that are important to you.


I need a hobby

The benefits of hobbies:

1. You do them just for fun. (Usually) there is no financial profit, thus alleviating any obligations
2. They are relaxing. If not, you may be doing it wrong.
3. They generally force you to remove yourself from a prone position.

My hobbies as they currently stand, according to those three points, are: Driving to work, which is debatable under point #1; reading, debatable under point #3; soapmaking, which I don’t really feel like doing as I end up with rubbermaid bins full of lovely bars of soap and no idea what to do with them all, and finally, crocheting. Which I don’t really do because it’s boring and aggravates my wrists and I only know how to make ever-enlarging squares. Writing…writing is a little bit like a job, in that I commit to it, and in that I do hope to sell the product of it some day.

I need a (new) hobby.

I have so far come up with woodworking and/or refinishing things that already exist. The latter is more appealing because I wouldn’t have to drive to my friend’s house all the time, and I think that would be a barrier to me actually doing anything. I like working on things, making them new. I used to like working on my car, but now I have a newish truck and a)it rarely breaks, b) I don’t want to fix it myself, when it does.

What I want to do, really, is buy a bunch of oil paints and sit in front of an easel and paint with Bob Ross, because his voice is so soothing and I’m quite sure that under his tutelage I could learn to paint happy little trees everywhere. It’s just that I can’t fully commit to the concept of a hobby that doesn’t produce anything useful.

I’m going to try refinishing my kitchen table and see how I like that. I’m spending a lot of time watching TV lately, and while it’s lovely to know ALL OF THE FRINGE ALL OF THE TIME, it’s not making me feel happy. It’s making me feel like someone who goes to work, comes home, watches TV, goes to bed stupid-early, has a shitty sleep, and wakes up feeling rather maudlin about doing the whole dog-and-pony show all over again. All of those things are red flags for me.

It’s been two months today since I went off the meds. I feel like I’m settling in to a dysthemic pattern, and I am hoping to settle at a slightly higher level. I realize that to achieve that, I have to do certain things – eat well, be social, exercise, have hobbies. But I have trouble, in the midst of feeling like there are clouds in my brain, actually doing any of these things.

So I’m going to pick a hobby and start small. It doesn’t feel like a big committment; if I refinish the table and I hate it, I just won’t do things like that anymore. It’s not like having to actually talk to my friends, which is clearly a mountain I don’t wanna climb.


Anyway. In conclusion: Ladies and Gentlemen, Bob Ross!

Day 4: Increase Your Testosterone

Today I’ve been given the task of increasing my testosterone. I decided I didn’t want to change that because a: Women also have, and need, a small portion of testosterone, and b: Most of the things on their list are things I can do.

So. There’s a long list; you’re to choose a minimum of three things. Since most of them are things I could stand to do, I chose:

  1. Get at least 8 hours of sleep tonight.
  2. Do resistance training.
  3. Do no eat anything with soy in it.
  4. Eat a serving of good fat.
  5. Eat a serving of animal protein.
  6. Eat a serving of cruciferous vegetables.

Most of these are food things, so I figure numbers 3 through 6 are all in one. To that end, here’s breakfast:

The avocado on there is good fat and oh so delicious! 8 hours of sleep, well, I’ll report on that in the morning, but thanks to the magic pills I haven’t had much trouble getting to sleep lately. There’s also a wonderful Valerian tea that helps, and once I find the box, I’ll put up a link for anyone who wants to find it.

Okay, so, Eat good fat – Check. Dinner will be chicken and veggies, and I’ll post a photo later.

Soy – I’m not even going to go into how many foods contain soy. It’s insane. Pretty much the only way a lazy label-reader like myself can get around it is to only eat whole, fresh foods. Don’t eat soy – Check. Here’s a partial list from the Canadian Government on foods containing soy – just enough to give you an idea of the scope of it.

For my resistance training, I went to the gym and did an upper body workout. Resistance training – Check.

Animal Protein and cruciferous vegetables. (Am I the only person who immediately associates this with the cruciatus curse from Harry Potter? DIE SCREAMING, vegetables!) So, dinner was steak, potatoes, and broccoli. Eat a serving of Animal Protein – Check, and Eat a serving of cruciferous vegetables – Check.

Barring a short/lousy sleep, I’m going to call this task done. Do I feel more manly? Not really. But I do feel pretty great – it’s almost as if exercise and eating well lead to a happier body, or something.

Day the Fifth: Cultivate Your Gratitude. Looking forward to that one.

Day 3: Find a Mentor

This is our most difficult task so far, as for many of you, it will involve going outside of your comfort zone.”

I can't imagine what photo I would use for this post, so instead I am putting up a photo of pie. Because it's Pi day (3/14). Mmm, Pie.

Outside of my comfort zone? Like you wouldn’t believe, AoMblog. Like you wouldn’t believe. I don’t even know why – I’ve had an easier time asking men out on dates than I did making the phone call that completed today’s assignment.

Getting ahead of myself, though. Today’s task: Find a Mentor. This isn’t something I’ve ever thought of, so like any good girl my age, I Googled it, and then put some thought into what, exactly, I would be looking for.

What it turns out I really need is someone to help me navigate through a recent change I’ve made in my prospective career. There, I feel more like I’m flailing about in the ocean, splashing random people with salt water and then shouting “Agh! SORRY! Do you like what you do for a living?!?” Which is…inefficient.

Once I got to that, I had someone in mind immediately! Then I spent ten hours or so hemming and hawing, drafting an e-mail, re-drafting said e-mail, deleting same, having rehearsed conversations in my head (Seriously) but ended up doing what I’d like to think of as a ‘patented Gwen move’.

I invented this when I went skydiving, because I don’t remember jumping out of the plane. I believe that, in self-protection mode, my brain simply refused to believe that I was about to do something so phenomenally stupid and counter-evolutionary, and shut down. Like this:

Me: “Okay, ten thousand feet. Going to jump out now.”
Brain: “Oh puh-leeze, no you’re not. If you do, I’m never letting you reproduce.”
Me: “This fails to frighten me, blob of grey goo. Opening the door!”
Brain: “Yeah? YEAH?! I’m out.”

Memory cuts back in at about 9,980 feet.

So now, when I need to do something scary or that my blob of grey goo refuses to comprehend, I just doitreallyfast before it understands. I have used this technique to:

  • Jump in the ocean in the winter
  • Submit stories to places that are ‘out of my league’, like Asimov’s
  • Go to dance classes (see previous comment about my dance skills in yesterday’s post)
  • Ask for a promotion
  • Jump off a bridge (What? It was really high.)

Anyway, I just surprised the brainblob by calling my potential mentor while my brain was distracted by the cat, and blurted everything out over the phone. The long and short of it is – she said yes! (I’m not telling you who she is. But she’s AWESOME, and you are jealous.) I have a mentor!

Today is my favourite day of the challenge, so far. And when I go to meet my new mentor for lunch – we even booked a lunch! My mentor is organized, y’all – I will wear my shiny new shoes.

Day Four: Increase your . . . Ah, hah. Increase Your Testosterone.

Bring it on.

Day 2: The Shiniest of Shoes

Day the Second.

That’s just a good sunshiney-day song, that is. I think my favourite bit is where he acts out the line, “Short on money but long on time,” because that’s pretty much how I dance: Acting out lyrics.

Today is a much easier assignment, but involves 100% more going-out-and-buying-things than yesterday. Since I’ve never actually owned shoe polish I had to go out and find some. Apparently there’s a shoe store in my neighbourhood. Who knew? Anyway, I got there just as they opened and was educated by a very knowledgeable woman about different kinds of shoe polish, polish v. weatherproofing, and the difference between shining leather and buffing suede. (Short version: Don’t mix them up.) She was also a fountain of information about local shops, restaurants, and where-to-find-the-best-coffee. (I already knew that last one, but had no idea about the first two.) So, unexpected bonus of the manject.

*Note: I am now calling the 30 Days to a Better Man Project ‘The Manject’.

Since I don’t have army boots, I’ll be working on these two badasses:

All the gear.

On the left of the photo are my very, very favourite pair of heels. Those shoes? Kick all the ass. All of the ass is kicked by them. I can walk, dance, run for a bus, or go for a job interview in those shoes. Pants love them. Skirts vie for places of privilege above them. And yet . . . and yet, they kind of look like shit. And they’re full of cat hair! Why?! Why does cat hair get everywhere?

Maybe you can’t see it in the photo? Okay. They’re scuffed fairly seriously on the heel from a night of dancing on gravel at an outdoor concert in Miami. (It’s a good way to get a scuff, if you’re a shoe. They even dance on gravel! Is this not amazing?) They’re dusty from living in the back of a closet, because really, I generally hit the town in my running shoes. I’m that kind of classy.

The other boots? Oh, these boots. They are warm, gore-tex lined, waterproof leather, vibram soles. I bought them in Victoria at Viberg. Viberg, for the most part, makes workboots and steel-toed boots for linemen, loggers and hunters. I wear these boots every day, almost all year. They weigh like, ten pounds, but when I went to Viable Paradise I brought them with me and was oh-so-glad of it. (Writer Camp is not for wusses.)

Annnnnnnnyway. They also look like shit, but at least they’re not full of cat hair as my heels are. According to the lady in the store this morning, the leather on these boots will crack if I expose them too often to salt water, which I do – again – on an almost daily basis. This little 30-day Manject will probably extend the life of these boots fairly hugely.

(I am required to note here that it HAS been suggested to me in the past, by many people – one of whom I live with – that I treat, condition, and waterproof these boots. But that’s just people! I can ignore people. This is the internet.)

I think I’ve run out of things to say. I will now go and shine the boots/heels.

<<Time passes.>>




And once they were all done: (This is a LOT of photos of shoes.)

See that pile of sand? That was all in the little eyelets of my boots. My boots EAT SAND.

Anyway, due to the removed shoe laces, this is how I’ll be spending the rest of the evening:


Next is Day Three: Find a Mentor. (Yeeps!)


Dear Gwen,

Thank you very much for letting us see “Pop.”  We appreciate your taking the time to send it in for our consideration.  Although it does not suit the needs of the magazine at this time, we wish you luck with placing it elsewhere.

Please excuse this form letter.  The volume of work has unfortunately made it impossible for us to respond to each submission individually, much as we’d like to do so.


**********, Editor
Asimov’s Science Fiction

That’s TEN for 2012! Going to start a write-one-sub-one system on a weekly basis.

A Very Short Follow-Up

I haven’t really talked much about the meat and potatoes of depression, precisely: How did I get here? What is my process for going through it? The thing is, I’m overwhelmed by it.  It’s so long. So I’m throwing it at the internets: What do you want to hear about, if any of this? Do I go into an in-depth analysis of my psyche*? Should I just start at the beginning and work to the end, with the understanding that it will be – sorry – depressing at many points?

The pressure to give my back story is starting to nibble at my heels, is all. So. What do you think?

Thanks, internets. I give you background music, should you care to continue reading:

*There is no amount of money or alcohol that would get me to do that.