Jana Says

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Tag Archive: mental health

18 months after

This post is part of Alyssa’s back to blogging nonchallenge challenge.

18-months-after

Saturday is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Up until last year, it was one of those days that went noticed but unnoticed in my life. Then my miscarriage happened and now, it’s a day that has more meaning than I’d like (you can read here for my thoughts from last year). 

Since I’ve told people about it, I’ve learned that it’s way more common than I thought. Approximately 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage. One in four. That’s a lot of us. And yet we still suffer in silent pain because it’s too uncomfortable to talk about. But we need to talk about it because the only way to foster understanding is to have those frank, unpleasant discussions. Doing so minimizes stigma and opening public discourse means that those suffering can find resources and assistance and comfort to get them through the trauma. 

And miscarriage is traumatic. 

I didn’t quite comprehend that a year ago. 

I do now.

It’s a difficult trauma to work through. More difficult than anything else I’ve had to do. 

But I’m doing it. And in the year and half since my miscarriage, I’ve not only learned to work through it but I’ve learned some other things. In fact, if I could tell the me a year ago some of what I know now, here’s what I’d say:

  • There will be days you don’t think about the baby. And when you do remember, you’ll have pangs of guilt that you forgot but really, it’s okay. 
  • Also okay? To honor the baby (or babies) you lost in whatever way makes you comfortable. 
  • Something of that magnitude will break you. But it will also build you up and find strengths you didn’t know you had. 
  • Your support systems is greater and bigger than you think.
  • It’ll be difficult, painfully, extremely difficult, to hear about pregnancies and to see pictures of healthy babies, especially ones who were born around your due date. Own your feelings about how hard it is on you and if you have to stay away from them in person or on social media, then do it. You have to protect your mental health.
  • But also, be excited for and supportive of friends who are pregnant. Maybe they’ve gone through what you’re going through. 
  • You’ll find yourself more appreciative of what you do have, and you’ll find ways to live a fulfilled life.
  • You are still that baby’s mother. You will always be that baby’s mother.
  • It’s perfectly fine to talk about it if that’s what you need to do. The people who care will listen and the people who don’t can fuck off. 

But most of all, I’d tell the me a year ago that today is better than yesterday. And every day gets better and easier.

If you guys remember, please light a candle on Saturday, October 15th at 7PM in your time zone in honor of all the babies gone too soon.

 

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No regrets

 

Let’s talk regret. I’m not talking the “I should not have watched that 10th consecutive episode of Sons of Anarchy last night” or “potato chips and Diet Coke for lunch was a bad idea” or “I regret wearing this dress on a boat because this shit is inappropriate” types of regret. (For the record, I’ve done all of these). I’m talking the serious type of regret. 

The life altering types of regret. 

The not taking the job type of regret. 

The staying home rather than go on that once in a lifetime trip type of regret. 

The staying in a relationship that doesn’t make you happy for longer than you should type of regret.

The not taking a chance on something, anything, because you were scared type of regret.

It also works in reverse. You know those “I can’t believe I did that” type stuff. 

Regret is a real, powerful emotion. It makes you think and do weird stuff. It can ruin your day, your week, your year. 

I gave up on regret at some point in my 20s. I’d love to tell you that there was this big eye opening moment but there wasn’t. It was simply some self-reflection that made me realize regret, for me, was a fucking waste of time. I can’t change the decision I made, and I made the decision I did because clearly at the time, it was right for me. Would others have done the same? Probably not. But they’re not me. They don’t have to live with my choices. 

I do. 

And I think that’s the crux of my no regrets philosophy. If I’m comfortable with the choice I made, I’m not bothered or saddened or guilty or shamed by it. I don’t feel the need to erase anything or wish I’d done this or that different. I don’t regret relationships or jobs or making that purchase or taking that 3 hour nap because every single choice has led me to where I am now. Everything has taught me a lesson. What I like, who I like, what I want. Regretting any of those parts of my life means denying something’s impact.

Have I done stupid things that maybe I shouldn’t have? Yes. Absolutely, 100% YES. But do I regret them? No. Absolutely not. And believe me, I’m grateful nothing terrible happened as a result of those god-awful choices. Because some of them could have gone incredibly awry.

Also, in dealing with depression and anxiety, having regret is simply stoking the fire. It opens up avenues to dwell and beat myself up and that’s a gateway to an episode. I don’t need anything else making it worse. Especially not something I can control. 

Let’s be clear: regret is multifaceted. The regret I’m talking here is based on choices or perceived loss of opportunity, not on time (think time spent with grandparents or kids). And you should never, ever do anything you’re not comfortable with because you think you might regret if you don’t. That’s just ridiculous. And pop psychology will lead you to believe that you should do those things simply because you don’t want a lifetime of regrets. That’s a steaming pile of shit. 

You’re an adult. You do what you want. 

And live without regret for doing so.

live-without-regret

 

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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.