The Little Things Are Where Recovery Begins

“im team ‘cool karen ive got depression and that means i’m going to try this because i’ve got to try something’ i’m team ‘romanticize recovery’ i’m team ‘it isn’t working now but it might in the future and it’s worth staying to find out’.”

inkskinned

For as long as I can remember depression, anxiety, and god knows what other undiagnosed mental illnesses have been a part of my life. Some of it is nature, I believe. Some of it is nurture, I’m sure. But some of it is just being alive, being a person, being scared, and being hurt and disappointed by life.

Healing is a long journey I am still walking, and one I may walk forever, but I am always getting closer. Through trial and error, research and professional help, and, mostly, fumbling around in the dark, I am learning more and more about what works and what doesn’t.

The first time I sought help a therapist told me—after hearing about the bad things that happened to me, the stupid things I cried about, and all the ways I was hurting myself and others—that everything I felt and did was a perfectly normal response, considering what I had been through.

That is, anxiety, self-loathing, self-destruction, unstable relationships, and depression, were not at all indications that I was broken, or flawed, or unworthy of love. Mental illness is a perfectly human way of existing in this world.

The second time was someone I loved very much pointing out that depression and anxiety are not just illness. They are lies told to you by your own mind. The voices telling you that you are stupid, that you are ugly, that you don’t deserve happiness, that you don’t deserve life, that nothing will ever get better for you, it’s all a fucking lie. Every time that lie is spoken to you, you can speak right back. You can call out the lie. Like any liar who has been caught, your illness will double down when you confront it, but you just let it know that no matter how loud it gets, or what evidence it twists, you will never believe it.

It took me a long time to internalize these lessons, and some days I still struggle to stay on the track, but lately, It’s like I’ve hit a roadblock. My progress is slowing, and now, on my bad days, it feels more and more like I’m taking steps backward.

But my instincts tell me that when roadblocks are met, there are more lessons to be learned.

 

“There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’ Sadness is more or less like a head cold- with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.”

― Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees

Earlier this year I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis—a chronic, incurable autoimmune disease that primarily affects the colon. Learning to live with a chronic physical illness, with the impact on my life as well as my emotions and the bunk advice from people who just don’t get it has really opened my eyes.

I’m learning to accept that life isn’t fair, but it’s still good. I’m learning to accept that even when your body fails and betrays you, it’s still a good body. I am learning that even when you are in a bad situation, there is still room for gratitude.

But the biggest lesson of all, the one I really need to internalize right now, is that just because there is no cure, that doesn’t mean treatment is useless, and that treatment is in every little thing that you do.

After my diagnosis, my doctor explained that treatment meant more than just visits to her office and medication. It included taking care of my stress levels, getting in tune with my body, asking for help when I need it, exercising and learning to eat well, drinking water, and making self-care a top priority.

She literally told me to meditate, do yoga, think positive thoughts, and do whatever it takes to get to my “Zen place” because the immune system is directly influenced by stress, anxiety, and emotions.

She added that, of course, none of that will stop my immune system from attacking the lining of my large intestines. There is no cure for ulcerative colitis, but taking care of myself in these little ways will help me achieve remission, and stay in remission, longer. She told me that even when I am too tired, and even when it hurts, even on my worst days, I have to try.

Depression, anxiety, and many other types of mental illness function the same way. You start with the little things, and all these little things are part of your treatment. They keep you healthy enough and strong enough to fight.

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of frustration and anger in the comments and replies of posts and tweets regarding simple self-care reminders and tips as part of treatment. The new thing is to shout about how no one understands depression and nothing can help, that reminding people to shower, eat well, take a walk, drink more water, text their friends, or say something positive to themselves when they can, is bad advice. Those, in my opinion, are the lies I was talking about before and now, with social media taking up so much more of our time and attention, and with our online relationships becoming more and more significant, these lies are finding a new way to spread and take hold.

It’s understandable that after years of being dismissed or misdiagnosed a person might be sensitive to the ways mental illness is discussed by “neurotypicals,” but a lot of what I’ve seen online is too far to the other end of the spectrum. Mental illness may or may not be curable, depending on the cause, but it is under all circumstances treatable. Saying that out loud doesn’t have anything to do with how serious a person’s condition is, and it isn’t dismissive of the struggle and hardships sufferers endure on a day-to-day basis.

And, yes, some of the pushback is warranted. Some people do believe that mental illness is a choice, a weakness of character or failure to control one’s thought, or to properly care for the body and that a diet change and a little sunshine will cure you. Yes, those people fail to understand what depression is, but you have to learn to separate their misunderstanding from what it means to properly care for yourself. You have to take a step back look at how you might be perpetuating bad practices and beliefs about mental illness when you dismiss advice that might help someone else.

We have to be careful how we say things, and we have to be open to letting people heal in the way that makes sense for them. We have to be careful about confusing what doesn’t work at all and what doesn’t work for me.

There are some who may be losing a battle right now, they may be looking for help and what you say can sway their resolve either way, especially when they are young, or newly diagnosed, or undiagnosed but in need of help. To tell them there is no getting better is to perpetuate the same lie their illness is telling them. We have to change the narrative. You may not be cured, but you most certainly can get better!

Every treatment option doesn’t work for everyone, and certainly, none of them work for the same person all of the time either, but any doctor will tell you that to fight a disease you have to do all these little things if you want to be strong enough to fight.

Let others start with just being able to get out of bed and eat something so they can take their medication. Let others start by getting outside, taking a walk, and enjoying a damn sunset, so they can get out of their own heads for a minute. Let others have their face masks, bath bombs, and glittery nail polish so they can love themselves for a moment today. Let other people have silly conversations, and laugh a little, so they don’t feel so alone. Let other people try things!

Some days wallowing might be the best you can do, but it is no long-term strategy. Remission is the primary goal. You might not know what “no evidence of disease” will mean for you yet, but you don’t have to. All you have to do is keep working toward the best and healthiest life that you can have.

So I guess that’s what I am trying to do here. I am saying to you and to myself that, yeah, it sucks to wake up every morning feeling the way we do, and I know that people don’t get it and everyone thinks they know what’s best for us but please, don’t give up. Please, don’t shut yourself off from things that might help.

Be honest with yourself about what healthy means and what you know you struggle with. Be honest about what you haven’t even been trying to do, and try to do it. Try eating something today. Try taking a shower. Try drinking more water. Try a face mask. Try getting out into the sun. Try texting a friend. Try looking in the mirror and saying one nice thing. Try breathing. Try helping someone else try.

It might not cure you, but it might make you strong enough to find a cure someday.

***

Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Featured photo by Ben Blennerhassett on Unsplash

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We are Not Okay, and That’s Okay

“I do not believe anyone can be perfectly well, who has a brain and a heart”

― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I’ve struggled my whole life with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and a general sense of guilt for just about every wrong ever committed. I’ve believed I didn’t deserve love, or happiness, or even my life. The weight of who I am and who I was is heavy on my heart while the weight of who I will be and when I will die weighs heavily on my mind.

I think about how time is running out, and I’ve made so many mistakes, and I’m not sure if this life I’ve is better than another life I could have had.

I don’t know whether to step this way or that, quite my job or stay, move to a new state or learn to love the one I am in. I don’t know if people like me or why I should care. I don’t know if this political party is right or the other and I don’t know how to fix myself or the world. So I am frozen, and I have no way to work through it or even know if I am alone.

I am not okay.

I feel so much, every moment of every day that in order to focus and move forward in life I’ve had to learn to shut it off, to zone out, to numb myself. We all do it. When we work, when we are with family and friends, when we are posting selfies, when we are posting witty comments on the timeline, and especially when we are alone. We shut off all that emotion, we do it our whole lives, and we forget how to cope with what it means to be alive.

I am a thinking, feeling, wanting human being, and it hurts. It’s confusing and scary and damn hard. It’s humiliating and terribly unfair, and I’m tired of trying to pretend it isn’t.

I can get through my day with a smile. I have to because to bring all the baggage of the human condition to work, or home to my girlfriend, or dump it on my friends, seems cruel. But if I am shutting off my “humanness”” just to get through my day, my life, then who or what am I? And why am I here at all?

I am not okay, at all, and but I don’t think very many of us are.

Billions and billions of us of us are going to and fro working our little jobs and connecting. We talk, meet for coffee, hold meetings, network, and update our statuses, but none of it seems to get to all that anxiety and fear we carry. We never admit that just inside ourselves below the facade, we show the world is an ocean of panic.

And it only seems to be getting worse. All this technology, bringing us together, they say, but I only ever feel pulled further and further away from who I really am. I mean, if the selves we are bringing together are only shells, pretending to be happy, pretending everything is fine, then we are only going to get lonelier and lonelier, and we will never learn to cope with what it means to be human. In the end, pushing it all down is only going to make the ocean of anxiety below the surface bubble and rise, wholly out of your control.

So, this week, take a few furtive glances inside yourself and ask, are you dealing with your fear, your pain, your uncertainty? Are you letting yourself feel human? Get below the surface, deep down, in the parts of ourselves we never visit, where all the deep questions are asked and never answered.

Get uncomfortable with what is down there and with who you are, and admit you are not okay.

We are not okay, but that’s okay. If you aren’t okay, it means you are alive, and aware, and feeling. It means you are human and functioning just the way you should. Don’t ever be ashamed of that. Don’t ever hide it and don’t ask others to either. Instead, talk to someone about it, and let them talk too. Maybe if we say it out loud, that life is hard, and we have no idea what we are doing, and that we are afraid, we’ll feel a little less not okay, or at least a little less alone.

Life will still hurt. You will still suffer and be afraid, but at least we won’t be pretending.

At least we won’t be afraid of who we are.

***

Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + some of my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Featured image via Unsplash

If We Were Having Coffee // Post-Election Depression

Hello, dear readers. Thank you for stopping by to chat with me. Things have been hard this past week, for obvious reasons, and also I haven’t been sleeping well or reaching very many of my goals. I am depressed, I think. Nothing seems good, interesting, exciting, or possible at the moment.

Some coffee date I am, huh?

***

If we were having coffee, I would do my best to avoid bringing up the election but if you so much as mention either candidate or ask me who I voted for I may just lose it. I am flipping between feelings of anger, disappointment, and fear, plus I feel stupid and weak for feeling the way I do. So many people on social media are telling people like me to stop being such whiny babies and to suck it up and move on. It’s hard not to wonder if they might be right.

It’s not so much that I am worried about President-elect Trump, it’s more like I’m worried about rest of the government plus Trump. The Republican party has a long history of hating people like me—black, female, gay—and I hate to think what may be coming now that the US has written them a blank check and elected very few who will check them. For some Americans, this may be a very long and painful four years.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you my anger has been directed in nearly every direction. I’m doing my best not to let individuals get caught up in the crossfire but instead focus on demographics and the obvious sentiments and secret thoughts of entire swaths of the American public.

Saw a lot of people telling others how they should feel today. People saying we should get over it, move on, and unite! Um, how about hell no! I am angry, and I will be for a very long time. If you aren’t then congrats! You don’t fall into one of the groups that Republicans have been shitting on for as long as you can remember. I’ll get you a cookie. Unfortunately, a lot of people do. Unfortunately, I do. Politicians have been telling me my whole life I am going to hell, that I don’t matter, and that I am in need of “correction.” They told me my love would tear the country apart and that I didn’t deserve a family. Those politicians just took control of every branch of this government. For some of us, this hurts. For some of us, this is scary. So yeah, I’ll be losing friends over this. Yeah, I’m going to be angry. Yeah, I am going to bitch. If you can’t understand that, support that, or give me space to do that, then we were probably never friends anyway.

— One of my recent Facebook posts.

Unfortunately, that isn’t working out so well. There have been a few friends unfriended and blocked on Facebook and some who received a lecture and the silent treatment in real life. It’s hard to accept that so many people put other lives and freedoms in danger merely because they wanted to watch the world burn in the hopes that our government might be born anew. I hope those people understand the gravity of their decision in the coming years, but I doubt it.

Privilege is one hell of a drug.

***

If we were having coffee, I would try my best to move on. No one likes to talk politics for very long, do they? I would probably mention the thrilling and surprisingly funny but also a bit uncomfortably erotic movie The Handmaiden, an “erotic psychological thriller” about a pickpocket and a con man plotting to seduce a wealthy woman out of her inheritance.

It’s based on a book titled Fingersmith—which is also very good—by Sarah Waters but the setting has been moved from  Victorian era Britain to “Korea under Japanese colonial rule.”

I think I’ll write one of my proper reviews of this movie, but it’ll be awhile before I can wrap my head around it. It was a lot, a little too much maybe. I have an issue with movies that over sexualize lesbian and gay relationships, especially when I’m not sure it adds to the story. Then again, who am I to judge someone else’s art, right?

I’ll leave you with the intriguing trailer and the assurance that it is, in fact, an excellent film.

 

***

If we were having coffee, I would briefly mention my NaNoWriMo word counts. They are sad. I’m sitting at 11,685 words, which is so much better than zero words but so much worse than the 21,666 words I should have by now. I could still do this, if I just got my shit together, sat my ass in the seat, and wrote the damn thing!

I have two problems, though.

Number one, I don’t know what happens next. I’ve written a few scenes, and I have given my characters some exciting conflicts to get through. I have explosions and car chases. I have love interests, heart breaks, and deaths. I have a message and a moral, but I am missing something. I am missing a route to the big climax and a clear idea of who the ultimate villain is and what they want. I don’t know how my character saves the world and I am not even sure why she wants to. I am missing the hook.

My second issue is one of motivation. I am one of those people who gives up when I’ve fallen too far behind or when the odds of my success begin to dwindle. I can’t make myself see that I can do this with just a little extra work. Deep down I feel like the battle is already lost, so I can’t get my mind to focus. Sigh.

For now, I am going to work on expanding what I have and adding dialog.

***

If we were having coffee, I would thank you for lending my your ear and letting me know there are people out there who care enough to listen. It means a lot. I have been nearly absent from everywhere on the internet except for Twitter. My Twitter feed is filled with people who understand how I am feeling and I have been drawn there more than uncertain places like WordPress or Facebook. I will be back. I just need to get out of this funk, but I am afraid it may take a while.

In the meantime feel free to drop a note in the comments. I’d like to hear how you are doing—especially if you are also participating in NaNoWriMo—and how you physically and emotionally reacting to hearing President-elect Trump over and over again. Just typing makes my skin crawl and my stomach turn. Ugh.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your weekend and that your work week will be a little better than the last.

Until next time :)

***

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Featured image via Unsplash

Short and Sweet Reviews // Small Ghost by Trista Mateer

because she’s nothing
because she’s nothing
because she’s nothing

but it takes an awful lot of work to be nothing sometimes

Trista Mateer, Small Ghost

I’ve been following Trista Mateer on Tumblr for a while now, and when she announced that her newest chapbook Small Ghost was free on Amazon for a limited time, I dropped everything I was doing to download it. I was not disappointed. This little book is packed with a ton of raw and real emotion. It left me in tears, both the sad and the happy kind.

Small Ghost is a collection of poems that tell the story of a girl, Small Ghost, who is coping with depression and anxiety. Smal Ghost has an apartment she can’t keep clean. She has shopping she can’t get done. She has emotions she can’t process. Small Ghost struggles to feel real. She wants to get better, but she isn’t sure how. She isn’t even sure exactly what is wrong. She is sad, but she is also kind of funny, kind of cute, and deep down, maybe a little hopeful.

she does something close to pacing in the fruit juice aisle
starts crying next to the cranberry concentrate
doesn’t remember why

Trista Mateer, Small Ghost

Throughout the story, you will recognize a lot of Small Ghost’s feelings and predicaments as your own. You’ll remember all the times you felt lost and alone, and you will cheer for Small Ghost. You will want to hug her and tell her it will be okay and by the end, you will realize you want to do that for yourself too. You won’t feel so lost or alone because Mateer will have you feeling hope for yourself too.

for anybody who feels like they’d rather
pull the sheet over their head and play dead
than get out of bed in the morning

Trista Mateer, Small Ghost

***

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My Younger Smile

Teary eyed and searching behind
the school photo smile of my younger self
for the sadness I remember hiding there

***

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Written in many weeks ago in response to Ink in Third’s Three Line Thursday Prompt: Image

Featured image is me

Ask For Help, and Keep on Asking Until You Get It

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and escaping the world.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s imagine that Mondays are the days when we get to start all over again. Let’s imagine all the bad things that happened last week don’t matter anymore and that we’ve been given a second chance to do it all again, and this time, we might even get it right.

From now on Monday’s are for making the changes we want to see in ourselves, and for thinking about the changes we want to see in the world. Monday’s are our new favorite days!

As for me, this Monday is a bit stressful, but I am proud of myself for keeping a cool head. My driver showed up half an hour late, which means not only were we late picking up our kids, and the parent was mad, but everything else I had to do today has been pushed back too. I am doing my best to catch up, but I fear it may be a lost cause. I’ll be late to everything until lunch.

“It’s never overreacting to ask for what you want and need.”

— Amy Poehler

My childhood wasn’t a particularly good one, and I have grown into an adult who struggles with depression and anxiety, and more specifically issues with boundaries, trust, and relationships of all kinds.

I do not like to be close to people, emotionally or physically. I fear there is always an ulterior motive, even with friends and family. I have a perpetually feeling of embarrassment and confusion around social norms and etiquette. I feel ashamed and afraid most of the time, and I am sad nearly all of the time. I suffer from panic attacks and bouts of depression, flashing rage, and uncontrollable crying. In my own mind, I am worthless, weak, ugly, dirty, and pathetic. I am a failure and a waste of space.

Some days I feel like I am swimming upstream and close to drowning. Some days just getting out of bed, and putting one foot in front of the other is the very best I can do.

There have been days where I wondered whether it might be better for everyone if I were to never wake up again.

I’ve had some therapy, but for most of my life I couldn’t afford it, so I’ve taken the unsure and unstable route of “self-help.” I have improved a lot through self-awareness, honesty, and forgiveness. I still think all the things I always have, but now I recognize them for what they are, symptoms of my past.

 

Getting there has been a lot of hard work, but it all started with one very small, but very big, step. Simply telling myself, and everyone around me, exactly what I needed.

I may need to be heard, be hugged, or be left alone. I may need to hear that I am understood, forgiven, and loved. Maybe need to be told what I am feeling is okay and I may need to be given the space to feel it. Maybe I need someone to hold my hand. I might need to gather my thoughts, to get away, to figure out how I feel. I might need to feel needed. I might just need food, medication, or water.

I might need help, and that is okay.

We live in a society that tells us to be strong we must hold our own. We are told that needed help is weakness and asking for help is something to feel shame for. It is so deeply a part of who we are now, especially as Americans, that I still have trouble asking for help and I still have thought that those who asked were weak. It’s a lesson I have to keep learning, and I wish more of us were learning it too.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but one of strength. You have found it in yourself to reach out toward another human being and trust them to hear you and help you. It’s scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Each of us would love to help a friend who needed us and each of us would love to be helped too. To feel needed, understood, and cared for are all feelings we are looking for, no matter what our mental health status. We crave that closeness, and long to be that vulnerable.

Being open about my needs, and asking for help, helped me build relationships and learn to trust. It helped me recognize the ways I was hurting myself by not getting what I needed and allowed others to feel close to me and show their love. It gave me a chance to feel in control of my mental state. It gave me the chance to learn to cope and to heal. Asking for help opened to door for me to be able to do everything else I needed to do to get to where I am: happier, healthier, and functioning. I could never have made it this far with the help of others. None of us can.

This week, tell yourself, and a few people you trust, what you need.

There is a lot more to healing and coping with mental illness, but it all starts with the act of openness and asking. Ask for help, ask for what you need, and keep on asking until you get it, and then ask again whenever the need arises. Offer help when you can and let everyone you know hear that it is okay to do the same.

The world needs so much more of that.

***

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Featured image via Unsplash

 

When I Was Dead

I was dead
and walking
pretending
to be
what I thought
a woman
should be
when she’s with
boys
that think
they are men

I was dead
and walking
and then
you walked by
and I felt
everything
all at once
and
all of a sudden
I was born
a human again
for the first time

When I was dead
they knew
and the boy-men
wanted me
for it

When I was dead
you were too
and we wanted
each other
for it

It took a woman
and her kiss
to bring me
inside
and through
herself
and back out
and around
myself
to see
what was
not lost
only hidden

I was never
who I thought
I was
and you
were never
who you thought
you were
too

They tried
to take that
from me
They tried
to take that
from you too
but

Summer is here
and I am alive

And I die
again
whenever
you kiss me
and bring me
back
to life

***

If you like this post, consider signing up for my newsletter. It’s a bit of experimental writing from me—more emotional, more private—and some interesting reads from a few other people. Made with lots of love, every week ♥

Inspired by the poem Instant Rain by Melissa Broder

Featured image via Pixabay

Let People Know Where You Are, Emotionally

Hello and happy Monday dear readers! Welcome to the beginning of another work week. For most people, including me, Mondays are rough. It’s not easy to get back on track after a couple of days lounging in the sun and staying up late. Yeah, we’ll miss the weekend, but let’s not write off Monday just yet. Let’s try to see it differently.

You might feel sad and disappointed, but that’s no way to live. Instead, let’s try something new. Let’s think of Mondays, not as the first of five miserable days but the first of five days we get to make all the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world around us. Mondays are a new chance to get it right.

My Monday is off to a rocky start, as my Mondays usually are. I’m not too mad about it, though. I’m on an easy schedule this week just before I go on an even easier schedule next week.

This past weekend I was happy to see the hashtag #MyDepressionLooksLike trending on Twitter. Social media isn’t always for sharing pictures of your lunch and trolling. Sometimes you can find a community who understands what you are feeling or can offer advice to get you through your tough times.

I have struggled with depression on and off my whole life. I sometimes think it never really goes away, there are just times when I feel better and times when I don’t. No matter how I am feeling the demands of life never change. I am still expected to get to work, take care of my responsibilities, and conduct myself in a professional and friendly manner. I have always felt like I couldn’t let people know I was struggling because then they would know I was weak.

What if we did tell people how we were feeling? What if we let our coworkers, friends, and family know when we weren’t doing so good? You don’t have to give them your whole life story, just let them know that this week you aren’t in a good place. Let people know when your anxiety was a little worse. Let them know that you’re getting used to new medication. Let them know that the stress is getting to you and you may need a little space.

They may be able to take a little of the load off of you. They may be able to help. If nothing else you could at least stop pretending, even if you couldn’t get a break from life’s demands.

I’ve done this with my coworkers and they’ve offered to help out, let me go home, or to just keep the volume down in the office for me. Of course, I never take them up on any of it, but they do understand why some days I just need put my headphones in and enjoy some personal time while I work.

Never once have they made me feel like I am any less a part of the team. Never once have they made me feel weak or whiny. I think if I hadn’t told them what was going on they might think I was lazy or mean, or both. Or maybe not, that might just be my depression overthinking everything.

Either way, it’s nice to know that the people around me understand that I will have bad days where I can’t make decisions or complete tasks as well as I normally do. They know I may not be as social and I may be easily frustrated or irritated. They know the problem isn’t them and they know it isn’t personal.

They know the Lisa who gets shit done and makes the workplace fun to be will be back.

She just needed a little break.

P.S. Hey guys I’m still looking for a few people to check out my Spring Writing Contest entry, It’s Never Too Late, on the Writing Cooperative. Please read it, hit like if you feel I’ve earned it, and leave a note letting me know what you think. Thanks a bunch!

Featured image via Harsha K R

 

Monday Motivation // Don’t Give Up, Okay?

Hello and happy Monday to you all. It is the first Monday after Christmas and the last one of the year, a very important Monday. It’s important because it is the last chance to start things off right in 2015, and your first chance to set the tone for 2016. I urge you to take it seriously if you can.

I say if you can because for some the end of the year is not only stressful but depressing as well. Not everyone enjoys this time of year. Not everyone has a nice family to spend it with. Not everyone can buy gifts and decorate or take time off of work. Not everyone is in a mentally stable state to deal with all the stress and expectations that come this time of year.

 

Add to that any disappointment you might be feeling about the last year, and a big dose of anxiety about the coming year, and you can see why this is the time of year that can be the hardest time for some.

 

If you are feeling down, or lost, or hopeless during this time I want you to know you are not alone and that things can get better. I know what it’s like to feel like nothing matters and things are going to go on being crappy forever. I also want to share with you some things that help me when I lose hope, get tired and want to give fighting.

1. You are not crazy.

It can be hard to see everyone running around all cheerful while you are just doing your best to put one foot in front of the other. You might start thinking that something is very wrong with you or that you deserve to be miserable, but that just isn’t true.

A long time ago when things got bad for me I got up the courage to go to therapy. It didn’t last long but one thing I did get out of it was the realization that I was not crazy. I was doing the best I could under the circumstances I was put into.

Depression  and anxiety happen for a reason, whether it be outside situations or chemical imbalances, or a combination of the two. It is not weakness and it is not because you are a bad person. It is a natural occurrence and prevalent all over the world, in every race, gender, and class. You are not crazy, you are human, and you can learn to cope with this.

2.  This is temporary.

Depression can permanent but most types of depression are actually temporary and resolve on their own with time. While you are depressed that may be hard to believe but it is true. Even when things get really bad, remember that all types of depression are treatable too. You do not have to feel like this forever.

I always try to remember that life has its up’s and down’s, for everyone. It can be frustrating to feel like this and to be unable to do everything you want but the best thing to do is to cope during this time and remember that you will get better. Struggling against it, or beating yourself up about it, or worse, giving into it, will not help.

Recognizing what is happening, taking care of yourself the best you can, and remembering that it will pass, will help you through this tough time.

3. It’s okay to take care of yourself right now.

With it being the holidays and all it can feel really selfish to worry about yourself right now, but I think that the holidays are a perfect time to practice some self-care.

You don’t have to go out and do anything big, you can care for yourself right at home, just start small. A good meal, a hot shower, or even just taking a nap can be enough to help you through the really bad parts. Try to accomplish a small thing if you feel up to it, a load of laundry, a bit of writing, or just getting dressed can be enough to remind you that you can do things!

Here is an excellent interactive self-care guide to get you started. I’ve used it before and while it can’t solve all your problems it can get you into a better state of mind so that you can.

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For better or for worse, 2015 is coming to an end, and 2016 will be here before we know it. If you can, do your best to start planning your goals and resolutions now. It will feel good to hit the ground running on New Years Day. If you can’t, that’s okay. Just focus on taking care of yourself and working toward a place of healing, and remember that you are not alone, I’m here for you.

Don’t give up, okay?

Image via cwote, a Tumblr about positivity and self-care.

Be Tough.

Lately I have been thinking about what it means to be tough.

I have never feel very tough. I stand about 5 feet even, I’m shorter than just about everyone I know. I don’t have a lot of muscle. I can’t lift much and my joints hurt sometimes.  I’m sensitive too. I’m easily frustrated and upset. My stomach is usually in knots and I have terrible anxiety about everyday things. I get depressed and putting one foot in front of the other can feel like swimming upstream. I feel get tired easily and I often want to give up and just stay in bed forever, where it’s safe.

I feel afraid a lot. I am afraid to fail and to look stupid. I am  afraid people will hate me or that I will do something wrong. I am afraid to be hurt and I’m afraid to hurt others. I’m afraid life means something and that it means nothing. I am afraid to live and more than anything I am afraid to die. Around every corner I see new dangers, new chances for bad luck to find me or my loved ones. New chances for The Worst to happen.

I know I feel more afraid, more sensitive, than other people do, but I also know I am probably wrong about that. Maybe everyone feels small and scared all the time, they just hid it better than me.

People say I am tough and I don’t understand why. They say I am tough because I don’t hide my fear and feelings but what they don’t know is that I couldn’t even if I wanted to. I was born without a tough shell, so maybe I am tough because I navigate life without it. It’s not so much bravery as it is necessity. They say that is what bravery is though, doing what you must even when you are afraid, because you have to.

I don’t know yet what true bravery is. I haven’t been faced with The Worst that I always fear but I have had a taste. Whenever I drive (which isn’t as often as I should), when I write, when I meet new people, when I wake up in the morning. Sometimes the fear isn’t so bad, just a dull anxiety in the background. Sometimes the fear makes my palms sweat and my mouth go dry. Sometime my heart beats to hard and my stomach get shaky until I am sure I am going to throw up.

I try to be tough though, and I try to remember that nothing is ever as bad as you think it will be. Being tough means to stop thinking so much and just take action. Being tough means doing what is hard to do and what might even hurt. Being tough means knowing who you are and what you are about and never compromising that because you are afraid. Being tough means never doing less than your best. Being tough means being honest with those around you and yourself.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you are being tough or weak. Sometimes being tough makes you tired and you lose focus of the point. Sometimes you won’t even want to be tough because its too hard and it hurts too much. When that happens you just have to be tougher. But remember sometimes being tough looks a lot like giving up, the difference is you are only retreating so you may fight again another day.

If you feel afraid, if you doubt you are as tough as nails, just think about all you have been through and all you are capable of making it through still. Remember that nothing thus far has held you back. Now puff out your chest, hold you head high, and walk like you know that you are one badass individual. You are brave and you can do anything.