Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

mental health

Things that make me feel put together

I’ve mentioned this before but I have been struggling hardcore lately. I know it’s the depression talking and I’m fighting it off the best I can but some days it gets the best of me and I can’t muster the energy to do anything beyond the necessities of life. And sometimes it’s hard to even do that. But I keep trying and plugging away the best I can. 

It’s on those days that I think about the things I can do to make me feel like I have my life together. I don’t believe in fake it till you make it but I guess this all falls under that. I suppose this list can work even when I’m feeling like my best self because who doesn’t want to feel like they have it all together? 

  • Dinner in the crock pot
  • Wearing a matching bra and underwear
  • Bills paid, grocery shopping done, full tank of gas, and no looming laundry mountain
  • All the DVRd shows watched
  • All the podcasts current
  • All the open tabs read and closed
  • Seeing the living room and kitchen completely clean with no stray items anywhere and everything in its place
  • Fresh manicure and pedicure, either DIY or paying someone else to do it. Polish colors don’t need to match
  • Going a day without running an errand because everyone has everything they need
  • The cat spending the whole day in the house without begging to go outside (this is more of a personal victory than feeling put together but it still counts)
  • Crossing off all the items on ye old to-do list
  • Getting everything I need at one store (unless that store is Walmart, which is the bane of my existence. I hate that fucking place. I sometimes purposefully drive to four different stores simply to avoid our local Walmart)
  • Wearing lip gloss even when I know no one else will see me

For the record, these don’t all have to be accomplished on the same day. If even one of them is done, I feel like I’m put together. 

What makes you feel like you have it all together?

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Exposing depression’s lies

This post is written as part of a project coordinated by Melanie from Dear Debt in honor and respect of National Suicide Prevention Week and World Suicide Prevention Day (tomorrow, 9/10). 

My depression has told me a number of lies including but not limited to:

  • You are stupid
  • You are ugly
  • No one likes you 
  • You are talentless
  • You don’t deserve succeess and you will never have it
  • You are an asshole
  • You have no friends
  • You don’t deserve friends
  • You are a terrible mother
  • You are a terrible wife
  • You are a terrible dog and cat mother
  • You do too much
  • You don’t do enough, you lazy fat bitch
  • You are useless
  • You will never be happy
  • You don’t deserve to be happy

When I’m in the right state of mind, I know these are lies. But when I’m in the thick of a depression cycle, these seem as real as the color of my eyes and it is pretty much impossible to convince me otherwise. The words become truth and mantras and rather than the depression talking, it becomes me talking to myself. As in, “I know I’ll never be successful because I am a talentless hack” or “How can anyone even stand to look at me? I should never leave my house”.

And then there were the times I wish I could disappear. 

I’ve talked about this before and you can read the whole post but this specifically bears repeating: 

I just wanted to be invisible. I wanted to exist only within the walls of my house. I didn’t want to go to work or socialize or walk my dogs or even leave my couch. I wanted no contact with the outside world because I didn’t feel like I had much to offer anyone. It put a strain on all my relationships and it made me a pretty shitty mother, too. I had surrendered to the depression and let it control my life.

For a long, long time. 

I was lucky, though. I never reached the level of despair where I thought death was the only way out. It breaks my heart that so many people can’t come to that conclusion. That they don’t see anything as getting better. Ever. That there is nothing left to live for. Not a song, not a picture, not a sunset, not a person, not an anything. They truly believe that everything is better if they simply cease to exist. 

And that is the worst lie depression can ever make you believe. Because it is unequivocally false.

If you are feeling like you literally cannot live anymore, please, PLEASE tell someone. Doesn’t have to be family or a close friend. Tell a random person on the internet. Text a random number. Email me or reach out to me on social media. But just tell someone. Because, despite what lies the depression is telling you right now, your life is important. You are a good person. You have gifts to share. You deserve to be happy. You will find the place where you belong, with people who love you for who you are. I’d even be willing to bet that there are people right now who love you just as you are. You will survive whatever it is you’re going through and you’ll come out even stronger. 

Because.

Depression lies.

You are worth life.

If you’re dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts, please know you’re not alone. And it might not seem like it now but it will get better. Maybe with medication, maybe with therapy, maybe with time, maybe with all three. But it will get better. And please, if you need help, reach out to someone. A professional, preferably. Especially if you’re thinking about suicide. You can find help at 1-800-273-8255 or via the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

 

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Interview with a depressive

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Although I don’t need a special month to talk about my struggles with depression and anxiety, I’d be remiss if I let it go by without doing something. Since it’s easiest for me to explain things in a Q&A format (see my whole interview with a bookworm series), I decided to once again interview myself.

InterviewwithaDepressive

Hi, Jana! Thanks for being here and agreeing to do this! 

Not a problem. Happy to be here. 

Let’s kick this off with a simple question. What’s depression? 

Not exactly a simple question but okay. Clinically, and I’m paraphrasing because I am NOT a doctor, depression is defined as chemical deficiency in the brain, primarily of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, that leads to chronic sadness and loss of interest. In layterms, depression is a lying asshole that makes you give zero fucks about anything and everything. And you give zero fucks not in a good way. It makes you just not care about a damn thing. 

That sounds terrible. 

It really is. 

When did you first realize you had depression?

If I’m being honest, it’s probably something I’ve battled long before I had an official diagnosis. But the first time I sought medical help and got a diagnosis was in 2004. I had just turned 27 and my husband and I were in NYC for my birthday. We went to see Moving Out on Broadway and were having dinner at a restaurant I can’t remember and while I should have been ecstatic, I just didn’t care about any of it. My affect was completely flat. My husband wanted to know what was wrong and I had no answer. I just knew I was sad and had no motivation to care about being sad or anything else. 

I battled that on and off for about 10 years. Then, in 2012, after a series of events and a panic attack at work, I once again got help and a diagnosis that made more sense than the one in 2004. That’s what I’ve been living with since.  

But couldn’t you just say that maybe you were in a rut? 

Maybe. But a rut is short term and it’s usually attributed to feeling stuck or that your life is repetitive and those circumstances bring you down. And you feel like you can do something about it. With depression, it’s chronic and long term and it’s not so much a matter of feeling stuck. It’s a matter of feeling sad or for a lot of us, just not giving a damn. With depression, there’s also the feeling that nothing will ever improve, you deserve all the shit you’re being dealt, you’re an imposter, you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop (to use a cliche). With a rut, you can look at your situation more objectively and make changes. With depression, you’re flooded with all kinds of false beliefs that, while false, feel completely true and trying to make changes is futile.

The worst part of depression is wanting to feel better and not being able to. When you’re in a rut, it’s easy to do something to feel better. With depression, it feels impossible. 

Can’t you just choose to be happy?

NO. And all that pop psychology stuff that tells you you can cure your depression but just making one small change to your thinking or having a positive thought or that if you’re not choosing to be happy then your depression or sadness or whatever is your fault does more damage to a depressive than anything else. You would never tell someone with a medical illness they can’t cure to just choose to feel better. So why would you do it to someone with a mental illness? To be honest, it’s kind of a dick thing to do, telling someone with an illness they can’t control that it’s their fault. 

No one with depression chooses it. Why would we choose something that makes us feel the way depression does? 

So if you can’t fix it by choosing to be happy, how do you manage your depression? 

First, if you need medication to help manage it, then take medication. There’s no shame in it and again, you’d never tell someone with a medical illness not to take the meds they need. Depression is an illness. Take the meds. I did. For quite a while. Same with therapy. If you need to go, then go. I did. I hated my therapist so I didn’t find that it did much for me but don’t let that sway you. There are plenty of qualified, good, helpful therapists around. 

For me, now that I don’t go to therapy or take meds, I manage it the best I can with exercise and knowing my triggers. I also take Vitamin D, which apparently has a direct link to depression. I found out last year I have a severe Vitamin D deficiency and even if it doesn’t help the depression, it helps other things. Which is nice. 

Do you still have episodes?

You bet your ass I do. I still have down cycles where I can barely bring myself to get dressed or take a shower and it takes all the strength I have to get out of bed in the morning. During those times it’s hard to focus on work or writing or even caring about anything I usually enjoy. And forget taking care of my house. I mean, we never get to the point of living in a garbage pit but it definitely doesn’t look like it should. My self-esteem, which is already pretty low, takes an even bigger hit, and that makes it even more difficult to accomplish anything. Which leads to me thinking I’ll never be successful at anything and then the depression gets worse and it’s a terrible, never ending cycle. 

But I know when I’m spiraling down and while I can’t necessarily stop it from happening, I can tell the people who need to know that it’s coming on and we figure out how to manage it. It’s how I can appear as a “high functioning” depressive. 

How can someone without depression support someone who has it? 

First and foremost, take some time to learn about the disease, both from a medical standpoint and from the depressive’s standpoint. Depression doesn’t look the same for everyone (despite what those medication commercials have you believe. We don’t all sit on the couch for hours on end, looking completely unkempt in oversized clothes, crying uncontrollably or staring into space) and trying to understand what it looks like on the person you care about makes you better able to know when it’s happening. 

Second, don’t get angry at the person. We know this a frustrating disease, in part because we can’t always explain what’s wrong (sometimes it’s not even anything. It’s just unexplained sadness) and in part because we don’t know how to ask or tell you to help us. We wish we could. 

And third, don’t dismiss it. If someone you love thinks they’re depressed, encourage them to get help. Take it seriously. Don’t tell them things like “oh, it’ll pass. You’re just in a bad mood” or something similar. Instead, tell them that you’re there for them when they need you and that you love them and offer to do things like drive them to an appointment.

You can also visit this list for more ideas for helping someone with depression: http://psychcentral.com/lib/10-ways-to-help-someone-whos-depressed/

One last question. Why is important to talk about mental illness like depression?

Well, for me, it’s important to talk about it for a few reasons. One, to let those who are suffering know they’re not alone. No one needs to deal with this in isolation and sometimes just hearing or reading about someone else going through it is enough to keep you going another day. Two, to break the stigma. Mental illness is completely misunderstood and stigmatized. I want people to know that having depression isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s part of who you are; it’s not the entirety of who you are. And three, to disseminate information. By talking about it, I’m educating those who don’t understand it. Fostering an understanding through information is essential in destigmatizing the disease. 

Which is why I don’t mind when celebrities talk about their battles. While it might not look like what I go through, when they share their experiences, they do what I’m trying to do but on a much bigger platform.

Thanks so much for joining me today!

You’re welcome! And if you want more information on Mental Health Awareness Month or some resources, visit their website: https://www.nami.org/mentalhealthmonth

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Stuck and afraid

You guys. I think I’m afraid of success. 

I think it’s why I intentionally or unintentionally sabotage many of my efforts. It’s why I do almost nothing to improve or promote my blog. It’s most likely why I haven’t finished my fiction book or my nonfiction book. It’s probably why I haven’t done much to launch my author coaching business or let people know that I work as an acquisitions editor for a publishing company. It’s why I’m still struggling to lose weight. 

And it’s not so much because I’m afraid of the work that goes into doing all of that. I like work. I’m happier when I’m working and my schedule is full. My time management is better, my depression is at bay, and I’m just a general better person when I’m productive and working. But deep down, in the places I don’t talk about at parties, I’m terrified of what that hard work will produce. 

What am I terrified of, exactly? Here’s a sample:

  • Higher expectations placed on me by both myself and others
  • Haters. It’s not that I care what people think of me, per se, it’s more that I don’t have a thick enough skin or am Teflon enough not to take terrible comments personally. I’m already my own bully. I don’t need strangers doing it, too.
  • Fame. Not so much in the Beyonce sense but any sort of notoriety scares the shit out of me (you can see this post for why I don’t want to be famous)
  • Money. The thought of having excess money makes me nervous. Not 100% sure why.
  • The idea of success and having to define what success actually looks like. 
  • Thinking about myself differently because I’ve achieved some arbitrary goal. Who am I if not someone who fails? Having to redefine my whole identity freaks me the fuck out. 

I realize that my self-esteem and self-confidence issues factor into this fucked up way of thinking in big, big ways. But if I don’t accept it and continue to deny both the fact that I have those issues and that they’re impeding my ability to succeed at whatever goals I have then I’ll never make any progress. 

At the same time, I can’t keep using them as a crutch or fall back to justify or support why I’m not succeeding at things. 

It’s a big fucking mess. And the hardest part is wanting to fix it but not knowing how. 

So I’m asking you guys for help. 

If you’ve had similar thought patterns to me, how have you overcome them? If you feel like I do, what gets you through on the really bad days? How do you put your shit aside and just get it done? How did you stop being afraid? 

Because right now I’m stuck. And being stuck is even worse than my fear of success.

 

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P.S. Last Friday was the one year anniversary of my miscarriage. I wrote a post for Ever Upward and if you guys would be so kind to check it out, I’d appreciate it. 

On depression and infertility

So, you guys are probably expecting a recap of my Boston/Massachusetts trip because that’s what all good bloggers do when they get back from vacation. They share pictures of family and sights and food and give all kinds of tips for travelling to wherever just returned from. Unfortunately (fortunately?), I’m a shitty blogger and I have no recap for you. Instead, I want to address two topics close to my heart that of course popped up while I was away. Warning: this a long post, filled with two very emotional topics. I won’t be mad if you don’t read the whole thing. 

The first is Wentworth Miller’s post about the meme mocking him for his post-Prison Break weight gain. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you can read Buzzfeed’s summary here (I realize it’s Buzzfeed but it’ll do to help me make my point). Make sure you watch the video. I’ve watched it about 6 times since 2013 and each time it gets more powerful. 

Now, it’s no secret around these parts how I feel about Wentworth Miller (I love him. LOVE. HIM. Seriously, if you go to the search bar and type in his name, about a dozen posts will come up. I think I’ve mentioned him more than Matt Damon). When he came out a few years ago and he talked about how he attempted suicide because of wrestling with who he is, it gutted me. To hear that someone so intelligent, talented, successful and let’s face it, hot, tried to kill himself because of a mental illness that he couldn’t control, circumstances he couldn’t control, and choices he felt he had to make to protect himself and his career, destroys me. And I’m glad his attempts failed because if he’d succeeded, the world would be worse off. (And so we’re clear, anytime I hear someone, not just a famous person, attempts or commits suicide, it guts me. But that’s a post for another time, and a topic that I once addressed).http---janasays.com

Because what he’s doing now, speaking out with his stories, sharing his tales of lows and survivals, is inspiring. Not just to people like me, who are suffering from depression, but to people who need to understand depression. To get a glimpse into what goes through the mind of someone living with it. To see it can happen to anyone regardless of looks, money, or fame. To realize depression isn’t just sadness but something so much bigger. To understand that surviving depression isn’t as easy as just “choosing happy” and that for many of us, surviving means assigning meaning to it by speaking out and sharing our stories and letting others enduring it know that they truly aren’t alone. 

But beyond that, what I love the most about what he said (and can we pause to say what a beautiful writer he is?) is that he was able to take what should have been a low point in his life and make it positive. That he sees beyond what the paparazzi wanted us to see. That he sees and feels absolute no shame in an unflattering picture because what it represents to him is so much more than what the rest of us see. That he’s using it as a source of strength and recovery and fortitude rather than a reason to hide. 

It’s something I know I need to work on. When I find a picture of myself smiling, really smiling, no matter how bad I look in the picture, rather than looking at how fat or ugly I look in the picture, I need to look at from a different lens. I need to see someone who’s survived a whole lot of shit over the last 5 years and the fact that I can still put a genuine smile on my face and enjoy life means more than the fact that I have weight to lose. I need to see those pictures as something to treasure rather than delete. It doesn’t mean forgetting everything; it just means accepting it as part of my story and moving on from it. 

 

Which is a semi-decent segway into the next topic. 

April 15 marks the one year anniversary of my miscarriage (you can read about that here if you’d like). I still can’t fully write about it without crying but I’m going to try because my friend Justine, an infertility blogger and amazing person, has launched a campaign, We are More Than 1 in 8, that I want to share with you guys (1 in 8 is the statistic for people suffering from infertility). The campaign is dedicated to sharing what life looks like as a result of infertility. To show that not every infertility story has a happy ending (the happy ending being the baby) but that you can redefine your happy ending. The campaign has a mission to bring faces to infertility and to bring together a community of people who, like those suffering from depression, need to feel less alone. 

Infertility is a very isolating thing. When you’re dealing with it, you feel like there’s something wrong with you, like you’re being punished for something you did or didn’t do and the punishment is no baby for you. You don’t want to bring it up because you feel like no one can relate and you don’t want to be the one to make someone feel awkward or uncomfortable, even though you know that talking about it is exactly what you need to do. 

And then there’s this. No one wants to talk about it because how do you talk about it? How do you explain to someone who has one or 5 or 10 kids that you just can’t have them? That when someone says to you “why didn’t you have more” or “why don’t you have any”, it’s hard not to punch them in the face or snap back with something expletive laden. How do you make someone who’s never had a miscarriage or experienced infertility just how much it hurts and that when you can’t be around a baby, they need to not take it personally? 

As for me, my story has a different turn. I had my daughter and then the infertility happened. It’s called secondary infertility and it hurts just as much. Having one child does not eliminate the pain of a miscarriage or seven years of trying for that second child or the failed infertility treatments. Secondary infertility means that my family will never feel complete and that something will always be missing. Adoption isn’t an option for my family for reasons we don’t need to talk about and also, the solution to infertility isn’t always adoption (like suicide, this another post for another time). 

This past year has been one of the worst of my life. Do I have a greater appreciation for what I’ve been given in the child department? Yes. Has it helped ease the unbearable pain of losing a pregnancy? No. Has it been the fight of my life to not sink into a paralyzing depression? You bet your ass it has. 

I still mark each day by where I would be if I’d had the baby. I still can’t walk down the baby aisles in stores, can’t hold babies, and still struggle with looking at pictures of healthy babies and pregnancies. I still can’t refer to the baby by the name he would have had (although we never got to find out the sex, we’re all confident it was a boy). I wrestle with the months my period is late because I still have hope yet I never want to experience the pain of a miscarriage ever again. 

But it’s easier today than it was yesterday. And each day it gets easier. It’s a heartbreak that will never go away but now it’s manageable. I’m learning to live my life with this as part of it, just like my depression. 

Depression will most likely be my most constant companion, like a long distance friend who I don’t hear from for awhile and then shows up on my doorstep. I don’t know when she’ll come calling again but I know I can’t run from her or hide from her. I won’t want to let her in but I know she’ll sneak in through a window or something because she’s an asshole like that. And I’ll deal with her in the best way I can or know how, whatever that looks like. And maybe she’ll win one battle and I’ll win the next, and I know it’ll always be a fight, but in the end, she won’t defeat me. 

Some days I wonder why I have to deal with so much fucking shit. It seems cruel and unfair. I’m sure there’s a purpose or reason for it and right now, I’m struggling to figure out what that is. But along with that struggle, I’m learning to appreciate all that is good because I’ve survived. I’m still here. 

I will continue to survive. 

That needs to mean something. 

 

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