Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

mental health

Make it stop

This blog post is part of the Suicide Prevention Awareness Month blog tour in partnership with Debt Drop. 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/ or text HOME to 741741

Whether we realize it or not, all of our lives have been touched, at some point, by suicide. It might be personal, it might be professional, it might just be from hearing about Chester Bennington or Robin Williams in the news. But we all know someone who’s taken their life. And, more than anything, it’s hard to understand how or why someone would do that.

There is no simple answer. Depression is a complicated, shape shifting monster that fucks with your brain in any way it can and has no regard for race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, or anything else (we can talk about statistics if you’d like but really, depression does not discriminate). It strips you of everything you love and feel one minute, makes you feel everything on steroids the next, and in between it gives you moments of respite. Like a dog, it’s always there, following you around, waiting to see what you do next. But unlike a dog, it never brings you joy or comfort. It mostly just pees in your bed and shits on your shoes.

Depression loves to kick you when you’re down, too. Just when you think you can’t feel worse, it ramps up. It tells you you’re worthless and no one cares about you and all the things we think people feel about us (and sometimes we feel about ourselves) in a loud voice that screams above all the others. Not only that, it says it constantly and on a loop. You cannot escape it and it eventually becomes fact. It’s irrational and irritating and shrill and bossy and sometimes so loud the only way to make it stop is to just stop being. When you get that low, the only way to stop the hurt is to not be here anymore.

Suicide isn’t a rational decision because depression isn’t rational. I wouldn’t even classify suicide as a decision or choice. It’s an action that’s forced upon you by a lying murderer because you can’t spend one more day feeling like you don’t matter and that no one cares. And when someone take their own life it’s not because they want to cause more hurt. Revenge or spite suicide isn’t a thing. Someone dies by suicide because dying is less painful than living.

If you’ve never experienced true clinical depression–and if you haven’t, I would never, ever wish it on you–it’s hard to wrap your brain around how someone can feel like that. After all, aren’t we just supposed to choose happy? Just wake up and put a smile on your face and take on the day? Fuck that. If you have a sick brain, you can’t choose it. Because trust when I say anyone with depression would choose happy over this shit any day.

It’s a horrible thing to think that someone feels so worthless that they truly believe the world is better without them in it. Which is why it’s up to us to make a concerted effort to understand depression. If you have a friend suffering, call or text them. Let them know that they’re safe around you to be whatever they need to be that day. Let them know that you’re there for them when they’re ready. Be patient. Tell them they’re loved. Tell them something you like about them or recount a funny story. Reach out and keep reaching out even if they don’t respond. But more than anything, don’t give up on them. They need you.

For those of us fighting depression, we have a responsibility to educate. To help end the stigma and make it okay for people to talk about their mental illness. To stop hiding in shame. To tell our stories and provide comfort and hope to those who are suffering. To give them a comfortable place to talk without judgement.

And to anyone who is suffering, let me say this again:

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 will find the place where you belong, with people who love you for who you are. You are more than your debt, your bankruptcy, your job loss, or whatever horrible situation you are in. I’d even be willing to bet that there are people right now who love you just as you are and don’t give a shit about the rest. You will survive whatever it is you’re going through.

Because.

Depression lies.

You are worth life.

Just keep talking, just keep talking

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month. Although mental health awareness shouldn’t be limited to one month per year, please take some time this month to learn, understand, or talk with someone who suffers from a mental illness. Understanding, education, and empathy are the only ways to break the stigma. 

My depression manifests itself in a number of ways but, in a bizarre twist of events, the hallmark is my silence. I stop texting, emailing, commenting, blogging or writing, and mostly just talking in general. I’m not an overly chatty person (most of the time) but when the depression is bad, I go my version of radio silent (is that expression still a thing? It should still be a thing).

I do it because the depression quiets my voice.

It tells me I have nothing of value to say.

It tells me I have nothing add to a conversation.

It tells me I’m boring.

It tells me what I have to say doesn’t matter.

It tells me I’m stupid and uninformed. 

It tells me I’m an impostor. 

It tells me to shut up.

It tells me no one cares. 

In case I haven’t said it before, depression is a lying asshole. 

On my good days, I know this is all bullshit (for the most part. I’m admittedly pretty boring sometimes) but in the thick of it, it’s as true as the fact that I’m short. And on those days, all I want is for someone to let me know that:

I’m not boring. 

I’m not stupid.

I’m not an impostor. 

People do care. 

And that’s what I’m saying to you, even if you don’t have depression. Because maybe you’ll have a bad day and you’ll need it. 

You matter.

Keep using your voice. Even if it feels uncomfortable and like you’re talking into the void, I assure you, someone is listening. 

You never know who you’re impacting with even the most mundane comment.

Just keep talking. 

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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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