Category Archives: Mental Health

The Difference Between Me and Eric

Eric: “The woman breeding our future puppy was so nice when I spoke to her on the phone, and she really just breeds for the love of it– in fact, once the dog is ours she wants us to keep her updated on how he’s doing, because she cares that much about each of her pups, she just likes to know what they’re up to. How nice is that?”

Me: “You mean we have to keep talking to her?”

Literally The One Thing

Therapist: “I’m starting to notice this about you– you tend to start things from a place of assumed failure. You approach new things, even new conversations, or small tasks, as something you’re going to screw up. And immediately starting from this assumption puts you in a space of feeling defensive, like you constantly have to prove yourself. And that’s why it’s so hard for you to get started with things. And, quite frankly, why you’re so exhausted.”

Me: <stunned silence>

Therapist: “Big ‘Aha!’ moment for you?”

Me: “It took you 7 years to notice this about me?!”

It’s literally the one thing I was born knowing about myself

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Conditions for Eloquence

I gave a speech at a friend’s rehearsal dinner last weekend and someone came up to me after and said, “You are an extremely eloquent speaker.” And it got me thinking, you know what, yeah, person I don’t know at all but who is now my new best friend, when it comes to verbal communication, I am extremely eloquent!

….as long as I have an entire 16-size-font, double spaced script in front of me (rehearsed for a minimum of three weeks and approved by no less than five trusted individuals), have at least one glass of wine but no more than three in my system, I am not interrupted once, it’s neither too hot nor too cold in the room, there are zero weird noises, no one looks at me funny, I’m not hungry, the lighting is friendly, I am feeling good about my outfit, my acne is under control, I’m not PMSing, and I remembered to take my Prozac.

Otherwise when I talk it’s this:

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Donna Chang 

Me: “With everything going on in our country right now, I’m honestly just so horrified and saddened as a human in general– but as a Jew in particular, as I know you can relate–”

Therapist: “Oh I’m actually not Jewish.”

Me: “You’re NOT?! But your last name–”

Therapist: “I know. A common Jewish last name. People often assume I am Jewish.”

Me: “But I feel like I’ve had all these insider only-jews-would-get-this kind of exchanges with you.”

Therapist: “Hmm. I didn’t interpret them that way.”

Me: (silence)

Therapist: “What are you thinking?”

Me: “Oh, oh nothing. This obviously doesn’t change anything.”

I just have to re-think every piece of advice you’ve ever given me.

donna chang

 

I Will Be Proud

When my future children ask me what I did in this moment of our nation’s history, when our president openly defended white supremacy, and likened the morals and actions of neo-nazis to the morals and actions of those standing up for equality, I will be proud to say I publicly denounced it.

I will be proud to say I donated to the ACLU.

I will be embarrassed to say that I knew that wasn’t enough, but I didn’t know what to do next; that my disgust, outrage, anxiety, and yes– privileged white guilt– momentarily crippled me.

But I will be proud to say I swallowed that paralysis, and that I turned to you, to my peers, to my elders, to my community, and to my soul to ask the question “What else can I do?” and I trusted that together we would find ways to make positive change.

I will be proud to say that when my student asked me if I heard what the president said, instead of replying, “I cannot talk politics with you,” I recognized this was not politics at all, and said, “Yes. And I disagree with it wholeheartedly, and I think that we as wiser, kinder, more humane people have a responsibility to speak out for equality, and against racism, at every turn.”

I will be proud to say that I knew, if nothing else, not to stay silent.

I will be proud to say that I continued to search for answers, even though I felt a deep sense of hopelessness and despair.

I will be proud to say that I did something, even if that something was small.

I will be proud to say that I knew doing nothing was not an option.

What will you be proud to say?

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The Patient/Therapist Relationship

I have been seeing my therapist every week for 7 years. She knows every single detail of my life, every single person who’s ever played a role in it, and every single innermost thought I’ve ever had.

Me: “I obviously want to have kids, and I know we should get on that soon, but I honestly can’t stomach the idea of bringing a human into a Trump-led America. Is that crazy?”

Therapist: “No, that’s not crazy. I felt the same way bringing kids into the world right after 9/11, but it’s important to–”

Me: “YOU HAVE KIDS??!?!?!”

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I Am Miserable In This Photo

I want to apologize.

Last weekend I went to a Phish show and posted this photo on Facebook, for all of you to see:

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In it, I am fucking miserable.

Surprised? I’ll bet. Nothing says “My life is so happy and fun, guys!” like an open-mouthed, wahoo yell-smile, indoor sunglasses, bright lights, and background spirit fingers.

(For the record, Eric is exactly as happy as he looks. If he had a tail, it’d be wagging. Which is why he is the absolute necessary img_7492 to my img_1179-5.)

The second after that photo was snapped, my face fell back into its previous anxious contortion. That entire afternoon and night, I just couldn’t calm down. I didn’t feel present. Everyone around me was excited, and I couldn’t get on board, not matter how hard I tried. I felt disassociated, stuck in my bell jar, uncomfortable in my body. I was trying to move to the music but just….couldn’t. Everything about me felt awkward, disconnected, and out of place. And so, the self-defeating but all-too-predicatable marathon of thoughts began swirling through my brain, a loop so familiar that I carry a VIP pass to this particular ferris wheel ride of misery: “Why can’t you just relax, Emily? Why can’t you just have fun like everyone else here? Why do you have to be such a goddamn downer? JUST ENJOY YOURSELF FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN! STOP BEING THE ABSOLUTE FUCKING WORST!”

(It’s weird how this strategy never works.)

Those sunglasses? Not a cute, bright-lights-at-Phish gimmick.

They were necessary to hide my tears.

Now brief side clarification– my misery that night had NOTHING to do with Phish. Phish critics might think, “Of course you were miserable at Phish, it’s a crowded shitshow.” And yeah, it sure is! But truth be told, I actually like Phish. A lot. Ok, not nearly as much as the die-hard, 100-shows-and-counting phanatics I’m usually with, but I do have an appreciation for the music, the people, and the scene. In fact, I had been to a Phish show 8 days before this one and had a genuine blast. My mood was stable that day, and the music and crowd were in sync with my dopamine levels. I got lucky. I should have posted a photo from THAT show. At least it would have been authentic.

So why did I choose to post a “joyful” photo when I felt shattered inside? I’m sure there are a million different answers to that, all of which I will analyze to death with my therapist next week, so she better buy at least 3 hats, 2 helmets, and hold the fuck on. But I’m in touch with myself enough to know that the main reason is this:

That photo represented how I wanted to feel.  And maybe if that was the image I projected to the world, it would, in some way, become the reality.

 

But shame on me. I know better.

I know that when I’m down, a filtered, look-at-me-having-fun photo feels good for one moment and one moment only. Then I’m just part of the problem, a problem that I’ve always been so conscious and critical of.

It’s no secret that social media can be harmful to self-esteem. I’m not making any groundbreaking statements in that regard. The constant comparison to other people’s happiness and success, which is generally the majority of what gets posted, makes us feel badly about our own less-than-perfect lives. We’ve all experienced this. It’s insane how we can scroll through a news feed and, even when we KNOW, intellectually, that what we see is not capturing the true, more nuanced reality of our peers’ lives, we still, on some level, process it as such. Our visual perception, paired with our own insecurities, trumps our rational mind every time.

That is why I am so disappointed in myself for posting a photo that projects fun and joy, when inside I was torn to pieces.

This helps no one.

Especially not myself.

I know better than to communicate an inauthentic truth. I know what it does to my mental health when I try to put forth a version of me that isn’t real, and the possible damage it can do to others who struggle. It’s the main reason I have this no-clear-theme-and-sort-of-all-over-the-place mess of a blog– a mix of stories that highlight my imperfections, struggles, and staggered journey. Yes, some of my expereinces are joyful, and I’m always thrilled when I get to share that. And I will continue to share that, as we all should– when it’s genuine.

But a lot of the journey is hard. And awkward. And sad. Anxiety-and-guilt-ridden, scary, uncomfortable, confusing and head-in-hands frustrating. So I try my best to capture that, too. Not push it down and cover it up with a camera-ready smile. Because if I’m doing that, if I’m masking the struggles, I’m just another “Look how great my life is ALL THE TIME!” social media monster. We have enough Kardashians out there eating us alive, ass-first.

The thing is, my life really IS great, guys.

It’s also a category F5 shitnado.

I promise an online presence that continues to project both these realities.

Forgive me?