Tag Archives: support

For the Loved Ones

This one goes out to the supportive loved ones of people who struggle with mental illness– friends, family, significant others– ALL of you who stick with us through the ups and downs.

We know we’re not always easy. But you love us anyway, listen when it must be unbearably hard to listen, and check in even when you know the response will not be positive.

And most important, you keep us laughing.

Thank you.

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Everything is Subjective

Eric, bless his soul, offered to escort me on today’s walk/jog, as he could see, thanks to a current low-level bout with depression, I was struggling to get started. 

Three minutes in…  

Me <internally>: This fucking sucks. I hate that I can’t run. I hate that all I can get my body to do is this pathetic, sluggish, barely-trot. 

Eric (bouncing along next to me, 100% genuine and full of enthusiasm): “Wait– isn’t this running?”

 

No.  

Excuse Me While I Meet My Idol Jenny Lawson and Ask Her To Sign My Prozac-filled Pill Case

On Thursday, at a Barnes and Noble book-signing event, I had the honor of meeting my idol and hero, Jenny Lawson. For those of you who don’t know her, she is a hilarious blogger (known as “The Bloggess“), a NYT bestselling author, and an inspiring mental illness sufferer and advocate.

Basically, she’s me.

But way funnier and hugely successful and totally established.

So, ok. Rewrite.

Basically, she’s who I WANT to be.

Up until about 8 months ago, I actually had no idea who Jenny Lawson was. In an ironic twist (and a twist that has surely prevented my blog from being more successful), I am a blogger who doesn’t really read blogs.

You know those tv actors who are asked what their favorite TV show is, and they say, “Oh, I don’t actually watch tv, I don’t really have time.” I’m one of those assholes. Except I do have time, I just spend it doing other things, like napping and eating and drinking Bloody Marys.

Basically I’m the worst.

Anyway, all of this is to say that I discovered Jenny out of sheer luck– one day, someone commented on my Facebook page that my writing reminded him of Jenny’s writing, and that I should check out her blog and her book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. I skipped the blog part (because again, I’m the worst) and went straight for the book.

Holy shit, y’all! (as Jenny would say. God I wish I had the right to say “y’all,” but I don’t think Potomac, Maryland counts as the deep South.) This woman is fucking HILARIOUS and she DOES kind of sound like me! (again– WAY better. I don’t for a second want anyone to think I think I’m as good as her. I’m clinically mentally unstable but I’m not delusional. When it comes to this, at least.)

Jenny is gleefully blunt, self-deprecating, has a beautifully foul mouth (she cursed about 17 times at the Barnes and Noble event, and my love for her grew a little more with each “fuck/fucking/bullshit” that came out of her mouth), is totally honest in her writing (and sidebars with long, hilarious, often barely relevant, ADD rants), bares all her flaws, and speaks candidly about her mental health issues in order to fight stigma, help others, and, most importantly, help and heal herself.

Like I said– she’s me. But awesomer. (Fuck you, spell check. Awesomer is a word).

So what did I do when I met her? Yes, like a normal person, I asked her to sign my copy of her new book about living with mental illness, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things (read it immediately. It’s fantastic. If you suffer from mental illness or are trying to understand someone who does. Or if you’re a human who likes to laugh and know things.) Then, like a NOT AT ALL normal person, I asked her to sign my pill case.

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Because Jenny has a saying– “Depression lies.” And it’s so true. And when you’re not in it, you know this for a fact. But when you are in it, you forget. You’re utterly convinced that the voices telling you that you are worthless, shameful, and a burden are real. You’re certain you are nothing.

But Depression is a big, fat, fucking liar, and sometimes you just need to be reminded of that. Over, and over, and over, until it eventually fades and you’ve made it through.

I use my pill case every single day (and so does Jenny, by the way– “Oh! I have this very same pill case!” she exclaimed as she took it from me with what I think was compassion and understanding, but might have been fear). I wake up and diligently swallow my Prozac, doing my part to fight the demons (note: the Prozac is just one small part. I see a psychiatrist weekly, run my heart out, fundraise for mental health org Active Minds, write/blog my thoughts as honestly as possible, and surround myself with the most supportive, awesome family and friends– all forms of depression-fighting therapy).

Some days, though, none of this helps. Some days I wake up feeling like I am absolutely nothing. Some days I need that constant reminder that DEPRESSION LIES.

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And now, thanks to Jenny Lawson, I have that. I’ll see those words every single morning– and when she says it, I believe it. I know it’s true. Because I know she’s been through it. Many, many, many times. She’s had it worse than I have– rather than just wishing she was dead, she’s actually had thoughts of wanting to kill herself. She’s hurt herself in an attempt to feel. She’s stayed in bed for months at a time because she could find no reason to get out.

But she makes it through and she keeps going, and she is fucking FANTASTIC at what she does.

So when she tells me Depression lies, I believe her. Because I look at her and see how Depression lies to HER. If someone like her can believe she is worthless, then clearly Depression is a fraudulent, deceptive douchecanoe. (Also a word, spellcheck. BACK OFF.)

So thank you for being you, Jenny! And keep doing what you’re doing– you are an inspiration!

XOXO,

Emily (the girl who whipped out her Prozac-filled pill case at your book signing. You remember.)

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#bestfriends #youjustdontknowityet

Humanity

I saw true compassion, humanity, and downright awesomeness last night when I confided in someone I don’t know very well that I have Depression, and he responded first by asking me to tell my story, next by listening intently to everything I said, and then by purchasing tickets for himself and his friends to attend the Active Minds Casino Night event I am co-hosting with friends and family for mental health awareness and suicide prevention.

Good people are everywhere. I learn that every time I share my story, but it still never ceases to amaze me.

The conversation is truly changing. This is a battle we can win.

Come be a part of the movement!

Get tickets here

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That Time When Nothing Was Funny

Rewind to seven years ago– something I do often, just to keep myself in check.  I’m sitting at the kitchen counter in my childhood home, 26 years old, in the midst of an acute, debilitating depressive episode, watching my parents have a conversation. It’s about nothing– a simple, benign exchange about their day. But I am entranced.

“Yo,” my brother Jeremy says, tapping my arm. He sees I am lost in what has been a months-long, perpetual state of bewilderment, anxiety, and terror. “You alright?”

“How do they know?” I asked.

“How do they know what?”

“Mom and Dad– having a conversation. How do they know whose turn it is to speak? How do they know who is supposed to talk next, and when, and for how long? How does anyone know this stuff?”

He stares at me long and hard. “Dude,” he whispers, in the most loving, gentle way possible. “You’ve gone batshit.”

It isn’t the most eloquent way to describe what’s happening, but it’s probably the most apt.

When I was depressed, here is what people didn’t get. Yes, I was sad– bone-crushingly, soul-achingly sad– but I wasn’t just sad. The experience was so much more than sadness. I was constantly subsumed by unrelenting confusion, anxiety, and panic. I was in an altered state of being. I was trapped in my body while a stranger took over my thoughts and actions, and did an incredible job of convincing me that I knew nothing about the world, and never had.

The simplest things made no sense. The act of breathing became a perplexing phenomenon that begged the question, “How did I ever do this automatically– how did I know when the time was right to take the air in, then let it out again?” Words on a page became curious squiggles and dots that contained no meaning. Conversations became puzzles I couldn’t quite solve. Sitcoms were aired in a foreign language I had never learned. One of the scariest days of my depression was when I discovered that I could no longer follow an episode of “Friends.” It was just too confusing.

Society, and how to actively participate in it, became a concept that I was no longer able to wrap my head around.  I wondered, constantly, how I had ever done it so easily. How I had interacted, how I had known what to feel and when to feel it.  Forget joy being sucked out of life– everything was sucked out of life. The ability to care, the ability to connect. The ability to believe that it would ever change. Every thought, every action, every second was labored.  Time was meaningless, except in the sense that it dragged on endlessly, torturing me at every turn with its emptiness.

I want to make it clear that I was never what the professionals would deem “suicidal,” in the sense that I never made a plan and never truly considered ending my life as a viable option. But my god did I wish I was dead. I can say, bluntly and without shame, that I wholeheartedly understand why people kill themselves. I have seen the world through a depressed lens, and I can tell you that when I was in that place, the only thing standing between wishing I was dead and making myself dead was the unending, dogged, relentless system of support and understanding that surrounded me.

Support and understanding– you absolutely need both. The support part I never lacked. Not for a second. I have an incredible family who did everything they possibly could to get me well. They listened to my choking sobs, self-defeating rumination and irrational fears, even though I knew it tore them apart to do so. My friends were in touch every day, reminding me of my place in the world, and how much they were relying on me to stay in it. I had the resources. I was fortunate in that my family could afford to get me the best help possible, no matter what the cost, no matter how much time it took. The support was immeasurable and I will never take for granted how lucky I was to have had it, and how blessed I am to continue to have it today.

But support alone, tragically, is sometimes not enough. Because in my case, even the most impassioned support was, at times, no match for the demon I was facing.  What I needed most– what I desperately craved– was understanding. True, genuine, I’ve-been-there-and-you’re-not-alone understanding. Everyone around me sympathized; very few could relate. But I will never forget, and will always appreciate, how unbelievably hard my friends and family tried. They wanted so desperately to understand what I was feeling, to make it go away, to absorb some of it into themselves so that I could feel it less. But through no fault of their own, they couldn’t. And the more I felt as though no one understood, the more isolated and hopeless I became.

By the grace of god, in the midst of my depression, I discovered mental health organization Active Minds. And that’s when things began to change. Active Minds provided for me that community of understanding that my friends and family, try as they might, simply couldn’t. Had I not connected with Active Minds, and through it, gained access to a world that embraced and understood mental illness, I’m not sure how my story would have ended.

Active Minds gave me a place to go when I felt as though I belonged nowhere.  I was vulnerable, terrified, and scared as hell. But I reached out to them and they embraced me. They gave me a purpose. In a time when I was struggling to find meaning in anything, they gave me a reason to believe in myself and believe that I could, and would, get better. That I had value in this world. Because many of them had been there themselves, they absolutely understood what I was going through, and they knew I’d come out of it. And when you’re depressed, believe me– that kind of understanding is everything.

With the support of Active Minds, my incredible family and friends, and good medical care, I came out of that debilitating depressive episode, fragile at first but then stronger than before. Am I cured? No. Depression, for most, is a lifelong battle, and to claim otherwise would be to delegitimize it. But I learned how to fight. I learned (and continue to learn), through therapy, openness, and connection with others who’ve been there, how to take care of myself— how to recognize my own thoughts versus the depression, how to utilize my resources, how to be true to myself and accept who I am, flaws, illness and all.

Four years after that debilitating depressive episode, I was living and thriving in New York City when Ari Johnson, a dear friend of mine, took his own life. On the day I learned of his death, I had had no idea that he was struggling. I still don’t know the extent of it. It haunts me, knowing I could have reached out and provided him with that understanding, had I only known.  It pains me that Active Minds, and its message of hope, compassion, and stigma-fighting, did not have the chance to touch his life, to possibly save him in the way it saved me. So now, I can only hope his death will save the lives of others– that our telling of these stories, of my story, and of Active Minds’ story, will inspire those who suffer to reach out. Otherwise, what was it all for?

Active Minds is, every day, changing the conversation about mental health, and in doing so, changing lives. It is creating a world where we can feel just as comfortable seeking help for mental illness as we would seeking help for a broken limb. A world where there is no shame, no stigma, no reason to feel so desperately alone. No reason to lose hope.

We’re not there yet. But we can get there.

And I promise– things can be funny again.