Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover


A few thoughts on grieving and depression

Last week, in what I assume was an attempt to comment on the death of Cory Monteith, a woman I know commented on Facebook that the only deaths we should mourn are the unpreventable ones like murder, illness, and the like. That's right. She feels that those who die from a drug overdose, suicide, or anything that she's decided is preventable should not be mourned. Not by their families, friends, co-workers or anyone else. Because it was their choice to die.

It took every ounce of self-control I have not to tell her how I really feel. Because how dare she state that people like my next-door neighbor–a father, former public school teacher, and Afghan war vet who killed himself 2 months ago–do not deserve to be mourned. Or the middle and high school kids who can no longer stand the incessant bullying and can't see it ever getting better so they commit suicide. Or the addicts who are so deep into their addiction that their last high kills them.

They do deserve to be mourned. They deserve to be mourned because they lived. They deserve to be mourned because they were loved. They deserve to be mourned because mental illness and addiction are horrible diseases that, when you're in the throes, have such a stranglehold you begin to feel like a hostage. They deserve to be mourned because often, the problem is so deep and the affected suffers in silence because they just don't feel like anyone will understand. They deserve to be mourned because, as a society, we're so quick to dismiss mental illness. Particularly depression.

Don't believe me? Here's a smattering of what I was told when I was in the thick of mine:

“You need to learn to live with it and get back to work.”

“You can be happy if you really want to.”

“Everyone has depression. You're not any different.”

“You can get up and out of bed every day. It must not be that bad.”

“I known exactly how you feel.”

Some of those were said to me by medical professionals. I'll let you decide which ones. And because medical professionals have this attitude towards depression and other mental illnesses, it's no wonder so many people go untreated (those who are medicated or over-medicated or self-diagnosed or whatever is a totally separate discussion).

It doesn't help that well meaning “experts” and bloggers have permeated our culture with self-help books and blog posts and inspirational quotes telling us that depression really is just something we can cure if we want to. These individuals make us feel like it's a character flaw; that we're deficient in self-esteem or have some other weakness that causes depression. It's somehow our fault that we feel this way.

Bull shit. No one asks to be depressed–and I'm not just talking blue, I'm talking depressed (and to the lady shopping at The Body Shop who professed that she was depressed over the fact that the mall has a Cheesecake Factory and she had eaten elsewhere, I want to say, to paraphrase Fat Amy, not a good enough reason to use “depressed”)–because it. Is. The. Worst. It sucks to cry for no reason. It sucks to have zero motivation for anything. It sucks to feel unloved. It sucks to stop enjoying everything you once did. It sucks to be unable to laugh or feel most emotion except excessive sadness. It sucks to live in your own head, listening to the chorus of voices telling you that you don't matter (I've written before about what my depression looks like. Please read it if you have a chance).

And that? Is not easy to just “get over”. Because if it were, I, and so many others, would do just that. We'd put all the horrifying feelings and misery behind us and move on. We'd magically smile and laugh and start loving life again. It'd be easy to take a shower or walk the dog or go to work or do anything that's not sit on a couch or curl up in our beds, blocking out everything. Please realize this–even if a depressed person is engaging in those activities, it's exhausting for us. It takes every ounce of strength to feign acting normal and, when that's over, we're back in our pajamas, in the same corner on the couch. Because we don't know what else to do.

Depression isn't a choice. Who would choose to live in a perpetual state of numbness and sadness? No, depression is a disease. It's a chemical imbalance. And it's fucking torture. And it breaks my heart that so many people are suffering from this personal hell and the only escape they feel they have is suicide.

So to the Facebook woman, I say this–fuck you. If you don't want to mourn a celebrity who died of an overdose, then don't. But to say that anyone who dies from a reason you deem unacceptable doesn't deserve to be mourned shows what a compassionless asshole you actually are. And I hope you never know what it's like to have or love someone who has a mental illness or addiction. Because I can't imagine what you'd say then.


10 reasons why CandyLand is the best board game ever


Candy-Land-Wallpaper-candy-land-2020333-1024-768Board games are a favorite family activity in my house. In fact, as I type this, my daughter asked if we could play PayDay. Which is fun and it teaches about money so there’s actually a purpose (if you’re into that as a selling point). And that’s how we roll in my house.

Seriously, what’s not to like about board games? That’s right. Nothing. Pretty much everything about them is great. Except Monoploy. Monopoly is evil and should be destroyed. We only play it if we feel like fighting because really, who doesn’t need a good fight over a game involving plastic hotels and free parking?

Clearly we do. Because why not.

However, there’s one game that I maintain is better than all the rest. And that game is CandyLand. I mean, you just can’t argue with this logic:

  1. No reading involved. Not even for directions.
  2. Easily converted into a drinking game.
  3. Gingerbread men game pieces.
  4. Super cheap to buy. And you can buy it anywhere, pretty much. I’m fairly certain I saw it at a 7-11 or gas station.
  5. Even if you’re losing the whole time, you can win with the pull of one card.
  6. It’s such a tedious paced game, time slows down. And who doesn’t want to feel in control of time? That’s a kick ass superpower.
  7. So. Many. Pretty. Colors.
  8. The satisfaction of seeing an opponent get stuck in molasses while you hop over them with a double square.
  9. Designed by a woman. Recovering from polio. In 1945.
  10. It’s also in the toy hall of fame (so is the stick. Like an actual stick. From a tree. So you know the standards for induction are crazy high).

So. CandyLand. You can’t beat it.


9 things I didn’t know until I watched Pitch Perfect

I like to think I know things. Lots of things. But every now and then, something comes along and informs me that, in fact, I do not know as many things as I think. That recently happened with the movie Pitch Perfect which maybe I can’t stop watching because I’m a little sad and bored and also it’s a great movie.

So I’ve assembled what I’ve learned in a list because I like lists and also because I always wanted one of those “All I Needed to Know I Learned From My Cat” posters when I was younger but never had because I wasn’t allowed to hang things on the walls of my room (except for one year and maybe I went a little crazy hanging posters of the long haired beauties of late 80s hair bands and then my parents made me cull the herd). Anyway.

Here’s my list of “9 Things I Didn’t Know Until I Watched Pitch Perfect“:

  1. It’s acceptable to barge in on someone in the shower and compel them to sing while completely naked. And have them do it. The next time I’m in the vicinity of Matt Damon while he’s in the shower, I’m totally copying this technique.
  2. Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins need to do color commentary for everything. EVERYTHING. The State of the Union would be so much more exciting–and watched–if you brought them in. Think about it.
  3. Random, empty swimming pools make not only excellent locations for parties but the acoustics are outstanding and make great rehearsal spots. Now I know how to make extra cash off my pool.
  4. Horizontal running and mermaid dancing are activities that really need to catch on as exercise trends. Immediately. I mean, they’re certainly better than this.
  5. The Breakfast Club is, in fact, the greatest movie in the history of time (which I already knew but Pitch Perfect reinforced). It has social commentary, humor and heals fractured relationships. That’s a quality film, y’all.
  6. Stress induced projectile vomiting is both disturbing and hilarious. And kind of impressive.
  7. The world needs more Fat Amys.
  8. It doesn’t matter what other people say or do to you. If you’re doing what you love, keep doing it. Don’t give up. Success will come to you. Although maybe, if you’re randomly conjuring birds and hamsters, dial that back a bit.
  9. Moderately attractive guys who can sing and are funny will almost always trump spectacular looking guys with no sense or humor or discernible talent. Because this:

someecards.com - If you're funny, you're automatically 79% more attractive. Beauty fades but sarcasm is forever.

So there you have it. Things I didn’t know but do now. And now you know them, too.

You’re welcome.

How not to suck as a party host

I love hosting parties at my house. In fact, as we look for our new house, one of my criteria was that it had to be conducive to parties. Particularly the backyard. Because there really is nothing better than having your friends and family over for a summer barbecue. Except maybe Thanksgiving.

Anyway, as someone who enjoys hosting parties, I pay careful attention to what others do. And, for whatever reason, I have been attending supremely horrible parties lately. Like truly, truly awful. The kind of party that makes you wish you were home doing laundry or dusting. And I've been thinking about the steps that the party throwers could have taken to make their fetes infinitely better. And I've decided to assemble them in one place so if you want to throw a party, you know exactly how not to suck as a host:

  1. Clean your house. It doesn't need to be immaculate. But sweeping the floors, emptying the trash cans, and putting away dirty dishes make a huge difference. Also, if your furniture is covered in dog hair, run a vacuum over it. Your guests don't need to look like a hamster is grasping at their legs when they stand up. This also goes for pools. If you are having a pool party, clean your pool. Seriously. No one wants to swim in your swamp water.
  2. Decorate. Like cleaning, it doesn't have to be perfect. But a few things like a table centerpiece, coordinated plates and silverware, and a few balloons go a long, long way. Particularly for a birthday party. The small touches are inexpensive and give the party a festive atmosphere. And also, that open pantry you have? Cover that shit up with streamers or a banner or something. Anything. I implore you.
  3. Open the windows for light. Unless the theme is “cave dwellers” or the party is at night, open the windows. Let the sunshine in. Or, at the very least, turn on some lamps or overhead lighting. Guests like to see where they're going and also each other. If it's an evening party, just turn on the lights. I don't know the layout of your house and bumping into walls kind of kills my party buzz.
  4. Climate control. If it's the summertime, turn on the air conditioner. If you don't want to do that because of people going in and out, have fans available. You want your guests to be comfortable and not sweating profusely. Because smelly guests are not happy guests. And if your party happens to occur in cooler weather, have a central location for coats and make appropriate adjustments for the warmth in your home. Attendees don't want to freeze or go on an epic scavenger hunt for their jackets.
  5. Talk to your guests. It pains me that I actually have to add this to the list. When you invite people to your home for a party, nothing says “I'd rather all you fuckers leave” than ignoring the invitees. The conversations don't have to be long, in-depth discussion of religion and politics but a little “hey, how about the weather” type small talk won't kill you and it'll also make your friends and family feel welcomed rather than like an inconvenience.
  6. Be aware of dietary restrictions. With the abundance of food allergies and dietary restrictions going on these days, you have make accommodations for everyone (and you should know this because you have a kid with food allergies, lady whose house I went to for a party the other day). If you're not sure, ask. People are more than happy to share dietary preferences with whomever will listen. And if you can't or won't cook for them, let them know ahead of time. It's a pain in the ass to be invited to a dinner party only to find out you can't eat anything.
  7. Make arrangements for your pets. As a dog owner, I feel that if people are coming to visit my house, they need to accept that my dogs live there. If they can't, then don't visit. However. In the event of a party, you're not only dealing with pet dander allergies, children who are afraid of dogs, and the general inconvenience of having your pets under foot. It's just for a few hours; crate them, send them to doggy daycare, put them in a room. Have cats, not dogs? Then do whatever it is that people do with cats. I've done it and it's not a big deal.
  8. Have a plan B. Like talking to your guests, I can't believe I have to write this. If you are planning an outdoor summer party, check them weather forecasts obsessively for the week leading up to the event. Make alternative arrangements, whether it's indoor activities, a rain date, or something else, so that your guests are a) not inconvenienced and b) bored. Even if you don't need it, have it on hand. Because Mother Nature can be a crazy bitch.

Please be advised: following these steps will not ensure that your party is great. That's a whole different topic. No, these can only help you be a good party host.

Or, at the very least, prevent your friends from writing a blog post about you.


July’s challenge: Cross That Sh&t Off

How’d the use that sh&t up challenge work out for you? I did great! I didn’t buy any new lip gloss, lip balm or any of their relatives. I need to, particularly in the lip gloss category, and I’ve decided that instead of just bringing the new stuff in to add to the collection, I’m going purge the older stuff, too (did you know that Body Shop lip balm has an expiration date? Neither did I).  Not only will it make me seem like less of a lip product hoarder but they’ll be some justification as to why I buy something new.

Except this time, given how infrequently I go places that would implore me to wear lip gloss, I’ll only buy one color. Maybe 2. Definitely not more than 3.

I don’t know about you but I kind of liked having a challenge to work on during the month. It forced me to think about what I was doing in one area and then, by extension, made me more conscious of other areas of my life. I need that.

To keep the momentum going I’m instituting a monthly challenge here on DMS. On the first Monday of every month, I’ll issue a new challenge not only for myself but encourage you to join along. You can discuss your challenge in the comments, on your blog, on the DMS Facebook page5, or keep it to yourself and work on it privately (I totally respect if you choose this method). You can also ignore it, too, and just be a voyeur towards my progress. That’s cool.

someecards.com - Let's see... What else should I put on my to-do-but-probably-wont list.

Punctuation error is not mine. Also on my to-do list: correct everyone’s grammar.

By now you might be wondering just what is July’s challenge? This month, I, along with you, will complete items on our to-do lists that we’ve been avoiding for whatever reason. The big item I’m working on this month is a book proposal, of which I have written approximately zero words. I know exactly why I haven’t and I need to get over it (I have a fear of success. We’ll talk about that on Wednesday). That’s what I plan on doing this month.

If you don’t have a neglected to-do list item, you can do any of the following:

  • Automate your savings or balance your checkbook or any other tedious financial task.
  • Do something that makes you uncomfortable. Take a group exercise class or join On Target Coach’s Winners Wake Up Early challenge. I know waking up at 5 AM makes me incredibly uncomfortable.
  • Try something you wouldn’t try under different circumstances. My friend Martin (of Studenomics) also writes a fitness site, Kettlebell Rebels, and he has a number of great ideas.
  • Contact a blogger whose site you like and would love to guest post on. Ask if you can. (I need to do this along with the book proposal).
  • Clean out a room or closet in your house that scares you and you know that and you’ve been not cleaning it out on purpose but it looks like Monica’s closet and you have to so you don’t die the next time you open it.
  • Get rid of a friend who treats your poorly or just isn’t a good friend but you’ve been hanging on the friendship even though it drags you down because it’s easier (Item #3 on my list this month).
  • Anything else you can think of that you need to do but haven’t.

This challenge is definitely harder than last month’s and it’s that way on purpose. I feel like if I can tackle these items, it’ll get my momentum going for bigger—and smaller—challenges.

So, are you in? What are you going to cross of your list this month?