Pressure is spreading like wildfire during this lockdown. There’s pressure to be more active, productive, and innovative, and to finish what we perhaps started long ago. If you’ve spouted a similar message, please shut your pie hole NOW. Stop the pressure!
Coronavirus terror and massive economic crisis is happening — so, telling us that we lack discipline if we’re not learning a new skill or getting shit done, is totally fucked up.
For most of us, our minds haven’t even come to terms with the fact that the world has already changed. Yet, we’re all feeling our own versions of grief, stress, loss, panic, numbness, boredom, rage, no energy, you name it…
Nobody was prepared to navigate this traumatic time. Let’s leave the guilt tripping to religion. If you ARE being more productive, cool, just be proud of your own damn self and try not to be a passive-aggressive-piece-of-shit bully.
To my friends struggling with mental health, I’m here with you. All we need to do is breathe and move from moment to moment. We don’t need to learn a new skill, rather we can learn how to better appreciate ourselves and the world by simply just being. Here’s to NOT getting shit done on the outside, and to going within, where we all deserve our own compassion.
Staying sober amid social distancing and uncertainty
The world is CLOSED. We live in the age of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic now. It’s a shocking, scary, annoying, sketchy, and fucked up roller coaster, to say the least. The open-ended-ness of it is what’s getting to me most right now. If you’re struggling, know that you’re not alone. This situation won’t last forever and may be hell to climb out of, but for the time being, it’s important to find healthy ways to cope with all this stress, uncertainty, and the ever-growing temptation to “check out.”
What gives me the audacity to offer advice? Free speech, I suppose. I don’t know shit but writing about how I want to stay healthy and not relapse helps. It’s giving me something to do, anyway. At the very least, reading this blog entry will fill the next 5 minutes of your quarantine. You’re welcome.
Before I go any further, my heart and good vibes go out to all the business owners, people in the service industry, people in situations and hardships I’m not even aware of, and so on. The challenges many of you face are scary, ever evolving, and totally fucked. To the nurses, first responders, hospital workers, and Costco (+ grocery/pharmacy) crew, you’re working your asses off and it’s amazing, thank you. No matter who you are or what you do, times are tough. All I know is that I want to feel “normal” and that’s where alcohol used to come into play. Now, more than ever, is the time to stay sober.
1. Limit news and social media
The news breeds anxiety. It always has. There are countless dickheads out there with misinformation, intending to feed the fear and chaos. Most of it is just noise – they need to have a headline. It’s hard to decipher everyone’s opinion and determine what’s the best source of truth. Perhaps limit checking the news to once a day. Don’t read or watch things that aren’t making you feel better. I rely on my husband to let me know the most important stuff.
I’ve un-followed most of my Facebook friends and rarely look at my feed these days. Why? Because it’s too much meaningless information. Chronically negative and stupid people make my head hurt. Facebook, etc. offers a distorted version of reality and superficial nonsense and distracts us from the moment. You can also mute or unfollow anything that triggers you – like posts about animal abuse and disturbing shit like that. I just can’t handle it, can’t process it, and frankly I don’t want to know. Knowledge isn’t always power for me.
If I’m a being a totally naive Sensitive Sally or whatever, I don’t give a shit. I’ve made some boundaries to protect my heart and mind, so I can get out of bed in the morning. Only you know what you can and can’t handle and no one else is going to do it for you.
2. Get social support
Maintaining social support amid social distancing is a matter of survival for people like us. Finding peeps in situations like ours is super easy online, where you have access to the millions of people who are engaged in or seeking recovery. I’m talking online meetings, addiction/recovery discussion forums, sobriety apps, YouTube channels, podcasts, and so much more. Go here for more recovery resources.
I went to my first online meeting this week at In The Rooms. I quickly discovered that I’m not at all alone! There were 250 people in the “room,” who all wanted the same thing: to feel connected. It was powerful and I’m grateful this option exists at any hour of the day! If you’re like me and not an AA fan, you’ll have to wade through some of the bullshit, but what’s new? Take what you want from it, there’s always something.
For those peeps who’ve been considering going dry, could this be your time??? Who knows?! Try an online meeting. You can be totally anonymous and have absolutely nothing to lose. And hey, it’s something you can control!
3. Keep moving and eat well
It’s so easy to slip into couch potato mode. But, eating salty, sugary, fatty processed foods and only getting up to take a piss is a recipe for a mental health disaster. Don’t eat like shit. You’ll feel like shit.
Keep moving or you’ll feel like an even bigger shit. Everyone knows that exercising can boost your mood, reduce anxiety, lower stress levels, improve your immune system, and so much more. This is a time like no other – an opportunity to invest in yourself with very little effort. You don’t need to enter a fitness contest or take before and after photos, just use your body, nourish it, and carry on.
4. Don’t do it all
Should you really be optimizing this “new” time to get hundreds of things done on your never-ending list? I’m down for a shift in perspective or reevaluation or priorities, but I’m talking about the mindset of our classic American hustle culture, where every second of our lives must be aimed toward profit and self-improvement. More work and needless productivity isn’t the answer. This is a time to find a little ease and peace where we can in this chaotic world. Our culture doesn’t really see self-care as productive, but we should. The world is slowing down to a halt and it’s ok to not be productive and to leave the guilt behind.
No need to write a book, reorganize your closet, paint the bathroom, or bury yourself in mindless busy work. Just chill. Even the most stressed out mother fuckers can find 10 minutes in their day to do something nice for themselves, like just sit and breathe. It could make the difference in your world. Just breathe.
Having said that, if you’re inspired to get some small projects done or get rid of some stuff, go for it. The health benefits from decluttering have become increasingly recognized. Clutter steals your joy and the best things in life aren’t things after all. Except for paper towels and toilet paper, apparently. I’ve been sluggishly working my way through a drawer here and there and I feel a little lighter.
5. Practice gratitude
If you have a hard time feeling grateful and recognizing the positive shit, it’s all about practice. Funny how it doesn’t seem to come naturally, at first (Why is gratitude so hard for some people?). Write in a journal. It sunk in for me a few years ago with lots of practice and focus and has significantly changed my instinctive outlook. I’m grateful to have lots of room for improvement, though. See what I did there? 😉
6. Make yourself laugh
The benefits of laughter go way beyond entertainment. Laughing boosts endorphins, decreases pain, boosts your immune system, lowers blood pressure, fights disease, clears your head, helps with depression and memory loss, reduces inflammation and anxiety, and more. It sounds so trite, but laughter really is the best medicine. So, let’s get to it!
Check out Laughter Yoga on YouTube, if you haven’t. It’s hella silly, but a total gas! I’ve only just discovered it and can’t wait to do it with my kids.
You can find countless funny videos on YouTube. My favorites are of people slipping on ice, people falling, old people falling (yes, I LOL every time), funny animals and pets, laughing babies, and TV news bloopers, but the sky’s the limit. Ask your friends and family what makes them laugh and get on it!
So, what are your plans tonight? I’ll be hitting the living room couch around 8pm or so. If you’re doing the same, check out some of my favorite mindless funny movies, which can also supply you with endless one-liners:
We’re the Millers
What Women Want
The Wedding Singer
Meet the Fockers
And my 5 minutes are up! Back to social distancing and quarantine-style life. Sending love, hugs, and non-drinking vibes your way! Stay strong, you’re worth it!
One of the most terrifying aspects of living with depression is that it’s nearly impossible to share your darkness with the people most affected by it. It’s hard to accept our own thoughts and feelings sometimes, let alone burden people we love with a glimpse into our world of doom. I’ve had friends reach out to me recently, sharing their struggles with depression and asking for advice. So, I’m about to share what I go through and then hopefully you won’t feel so fucked up and alone. Why don’t I write something uplifting you say? Because this is real shit and it needs to be talked about.
We’ve all heard about the standard symptoms: fatigue, irritability, aching muscles, digestive problems, loss of interest, feeling hopeless, blah. But what does that look like in real-life? We need real life examples. Ready for it? Let’s go there…
In a nutshell
My day began like this: hit snooze on my alarm and thought, “fuck me.” Laid there in bed feeling paralyzed, desperate to keep my head on that pillow. Like so desperate, I could have bawled. I didn’t even mind that I was laying in a pool of sweat, a fun little side effect of my medication (I’ll talk a little about that later). Somehow I got my heavy, rundown ass out of bed and made it to the shower where I stood for an eternity, wondering how the hell I was going to make it through the day. Had to make myself get out by turning the water cold.
Got an eggnog Americano on the way to work, my morning hug in a cup. That was nice. Let some chick pull into my lane and she didn’t wave to thank me, so I raged, calling her a stupid bitch. Don’t worry, she’s fine, she had no idea. Made it to work, only to avoid eye contact in the halls, so I didn’t have to fake a smile over and over. Shut my door and blinds in my office and sat there wondering if today was the day they’d figure out that I don’t know shit (for the first time I actually feel like I belong and I do know shit, so this is particularly frustrating). Then the daydreams began – visions of going home where I could sit on the couch with a soft blanket, take a deep breath, and then have anxiety about all the shit that needs to get done and what a loser I am. Yep, the big black cloud is back.
A deeper look
Depression is much more than feeling sad. And feeling sad is not depression. It’s a body and mind thing.
My carcass is drained, heavy, and lethargic. Like I’m a thousand-pound sloth.
Weird aches and pains give me paranoia. My back hurts for seemingly no reason. I haven’t taken a satisfying shit in over a week. I’m always hungry, but then I binge on food and wallow in guilt afterward. Sometimes I pick the hell out of my face to the point that I cannot leave the house for hours. Someone might as well be sitting on my chest, it feels so tight and heavy. Often, I discover my jaw has been clenched for so long, I’ve given myself a headache.
Escaping the negativity is like trying to get out of quicksand. I feel like a failure because I can’t will myself into being more positive. There’s all this pressure to get positive – websites, apps, social media pages – all devoted to it. Positive affirmations make me feel like shit, putting the focus on how I really feel. When did it become a thing to try to avoid shit anyway? It doesn’t do any good to deny your shitty mood. I’m in a shitty mood. So be it.
My thoughts get stuck on stupid, icky, sometimes terrifying shit. So disturbing at times, that they conflict with my personality and values and make me feel like an imposter. Swirling around in my head like vultures. That’s when I’m really afraid of the dark. I’ve tried to think of an example that won’t have a psychiatrist or the cops land on my doorstep…I’ll just leave it at that.
Some basic life tasks go undone and I judge myself hard. My house isn’t clean, the laundry isn’t folded, and my hair will continue to look like shit for months to come, as I spritz it with dry shampoo and twist it up into a bun. I’ll continue to wear jeans and a sweatshirt every day because it’s what’s comfortable and I don’t have the energy to do more. My car desperately needs a wash, but it’ll just get rained on again, so why bother?
I’m irritable as a mofo. Something as simple as my husband tossing a handful of cashews into his mouth. That sound the nuts make when they hit his teeth ignites an internal rage and I instantly loathe him. And when I get over it I feel like an evil hag who doesn’t deserve love.
And the real kicker – I can’t remember shit. I’ve taken a dementia test at my doctor’s office because I’ve fucked so much shit up due to my shitty memory.
Making it better
It’s important to mention that throughout all this bullshit, on the outside I probably look just fine. It’s also important to mention that I do have a happy life. Even the happiest of people can have depression. My depression says nothing about how grateful I am.
Meds can be your friend. The raging antidepressant debate continues and some people are real assholes about it. I’ve felt the pressure to get off them before and it has not gone well. Yes, they have side effects, some more than others. Patience is key. Meds are subtle. For me, they take away the scariest part of depression, where I tend to wonder what the hell the point is. I used to have this sudden onset of panic that would pull on my heart with an eerie hollowness that wanted to eat me alive. Meds took that away. For that I’m grateful.
Depression is one of the most common conditions in the world, yet it’s the least understood and most stigmatized. Please don’t be ashamed. Shame eats your soul. Too many people suffer alone because they’re ashamed to speak up or don’t want to burden anyone. Don’t be one of them.
I didn’t just share some of my deep dark bullshit for the hell of it – you must realize you’re not alone, you’re worthy, and you can do this. The more we deny that we have a dark side, the more power it has over us. There’s light all around and within you. “You can’t shine your light without darkness, my dear. You can’t be brave without the knowledge of fear.” Be as kind to yourself as you can. You’re doing just fine.
I’m desperate for some sunny warm days. They lift my spirits, give me energy, and make me feel more like getting out and doing things. Today is miraculously sunny albeit fricking freezing, but these rainy, dark days in Seattle are depressing the hell out of me – if only I could sleep for a solid week. It’s so hard to get out of bed in the morning, to shower, or to even make a phone call sometimes. It doesn’t help that I was laid off from my job and am stuck at home with my 4-year-old who is on a brief hiatus from school. Don’t get me wrong, hanging out with my kid is priceless, but I love going to work, being productive, and having adult conversations. The uncertainty and stress of my situation is only deepening my seasonal depression.
This pattern of mood changes has a dramatic effect on my life and it’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Best acronym ever. Depression associated with SAD has physical symptoms too, including fatigue, increased sleeping, increased appetite, and social withdrawal. These symptoms tend to occur through the months of November until March. Let’s not forget about that fabulous routine 10-15 pound weight gain, too.
I’ve started a healthy diet, don’t oversleep, and manage my stress to the best of my ability. But you can throw all the drugs, lights, and herbal tea you want at me and I am still barely keeping my head above water. I am so tired of feeling like five months a year are lost to fatigue and depression. It totally blows and makes me wonder if I’m living in the right place. I feel like a terrible Washingtonian bad-mouthing the only place I’ve ever called home, but hot damn. I used to tell myself the amazing summers here were worth the wait, but living through almost half the year like this feels like such a waste sometimes.
I’m looking forward to taking a cruise to the Caribbean in January. That is helping me carry on. You can bet your sweet ass I’ll be posting tropical paradise pics on Facebook like all the other lucky assholes.
I went to an AA meeting the other night – brought a newbie with me. I couldn’t help but imagine how she was feeling throughout the meeting and it brought me back to the beginning of my sober days. Man, am I glad I’ve worked through my anger – anger and depression don’t mix well. Being there also reminded me that I’m not the only one who is having a hard time. It’s good to have those reminders. It helps by making me feel not so alone and scared.
If you have SAD, misery sure does love company – I’d love to hear from you. It’s disgusting how debilitating and isolating it feels. Knowing that I’m not alone in this makes me feel connected and hopeful. I’ll be going to more meetings for sure. And Spring will be here soon, but I’m finding those small moments of joy in these dark days and holding onto them with all my might. My cute little family reminds me of how good life really is. I am hell-bent on becoming more present during these shitty months because they deserve the best of me. Letting it fly also helps, so thank you for reading my blog. May it find you healthy and hopeful this season.
If you’re feeling hopeless, believe me I have been there, too. Please reach out to someone, anyone, even me. We are all in this together and together we can help lift each other up. You are worth it.
In the wise words of Samuel L. Jackson, “Enough is enough!” I don’t know about you, but it’s the first day of Spring and I could squirt some tears of joy now! The winter doldrums have long overstayed their welcome and I’m done. Although it’s the first day of Spring and gloriously beautiful outside, this is Seattle, so the gray days aren’t just going to peace out right away. I figured I could use a little pep talk, so here are 7 reasons to get excited about Spring and 7 ways to endure the transition.
7 reasons to get excited about Spring
More daylight – emerging from the dungeon of winter is pure bliss! Going to work and coming home, both in the daylight, is magical.
Warmer weather – the warm embrace of a Spring breeze is just so darn pleasant.
Color – whether in your wardrobe, blooming nearby, or on your toenails, color is back!
Birds singing – as long as they stay the hell away from me, I love their beautiful songs!
Grilling – simply an American favorite that’s morphed into a fine art! Bring on the beef, chicken skewers, pizza, corn on the cob, peaches – you name it, we grill it!
New motivation – the new season puts a little spring in our step and rebirth to our goals, prompting us to de-clutter our homes, hit the gym, and start planning vacations.
We’re one step closer to summer!!!
Enduring the transition…
Make sure you are meeting your basic needs. Sleep, eat healthy, exercise, and drink lots of water, which is imperative for our brain health and functioning, and can help us tolerate the effects of stress and those lingering winter blues.
Use a “happy” light. I don’t know if they work, but I think mine helps me, therefore it does, ya know?
Stay connected. We tend to hibernate throughout the winter months and this isolation contributes to feelings of depression and anxiety. Reach out to the people in your life whom you feel your best around. Stay away from the assholes.
Be patient with yourself. When you beat yourself up for feeling out of sorts, it adds a whole new level of distress. Easier said than done, but take some deep breaths and visualize the things you want.
Talk about it. If you give yourself permission to talk about the effect seasonal change is having on you, you will most likely find that others understand and validate how you feel.
Be aware. Now that we are out of the cold-weather drinking season, we arrive upon the most challenging and tempting period for me – with beer gardens and wine tastings at every turn. Being aware of your weaknesses and surroundings is critical to your sobriety. Always be ready.
Buy some Kleenex, eye drops, and Claritin! Get ready for the scratchy-eyed sneeze fest…it’ll totally be worth it!