Author Archives: shannonmagda

Stuck

I’m stuck.

Sitting, staring blankly at nothing, unable to get anything done. I want to make it all better, and everywhere I turn I find something that makes it worse. I know nothing. I can’t move on. I’m powerless.

I’m referring to my country’s current political situation. But I might as well be referring to depression.

It’s getting harder to separate the two.

I’ve always said that depression is like being trapped under a very heavy tarp. You can’t see one glimmer of light. You flail around and try to dig yourself out, but the tarp just gets more tangled and its grip around you gets tighter.

When you finally stumble on the the right tool, or combination of tools, you rip the tiniest hole in the tarp. You see a small glimmer of light. You’re still trapped in almost total darkness, but that tiny hole gives you the courage to claw at it and rip a little bit bigger hole. Eventually you tear a big enough hole that there is more light than darkness. And even though the tarp is still there, you don’t feel trapped under it all the time.

I’m waiting for my tiny hole. I don’t feel like I have any tools to make one this time.

This is where I’m supposed to end on some sort of positive note where I spew a platitude or give some advice. But, like, if I had a phrase or a strategy that healed everything, wouldn’t I have used it on myself by now?

All I can give you is the most powerful words I have in this situation:

You are not alone. If you feel stuck, know that I feel stuck too. 

We’ll breathe through this together.

With love and solidarity,

Shannon

Ave Maria

Today’s the third Sunday in Advent and also the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico.

The virgin of Guadalupe, Nuestra Virgén, is so important to Mexicans because she appeared to Juan Diego, an indigenous peasant, and gave him the task of honoring her. She came to him and asked him to fight for her against the white Spanish church structure in Mexico, which was her way of fighting for him and for all of her native people by empowering them to fight for themselves. She fought for them to know they were created in the image of God, who loves them.

Mary asks us to fight for ourselves just as she fought for herself and for her son. In the excellent article “No More Lying About Mary,” Nancy Rockwell posits that Mary was not a teenager, was not terrified, and was not unaware of what bearing the Son of God would involve. Rockwell uses evidence from the Bible to sort out what we know and what we’ve spun into myth because it makes us feel better to make Mary weak and in jeopardy. Her conclusion is that Mary was strong and capable, and knew who to surround herself with for help.

Mary took on the mission offered to her by the angel willingly because she knew she could fight for God and for his son, her child. The Magnificat was her battle cry, Joseph her retainer.

Wonder Woman with a baby in a blue striped sleeper strapped to her back fighting with two swords against an enormous muscled male humanoid with a horned helmet.

Cover of Wonder Woman 32 by Cliff Chiang

The cover by Cliff Chiang of the DC Comics comic book Wonder Woman #32 shows Wonder Woman as a mother fighting with her child on her back. The child is a bald-headed toddler in blue-striped footie pajamas (indicating that he’s a boy), strapped to her with yellow cloth. Her hair is streaming wildly and she’s fighting an enormous muscled male figure with a sword in each hand, ready.

This is Mary if we’d been representing her as a warrior princess this entire time instead of as a helpless empty vessel begging for acceptance. Focused on her mission. Strong, sexual, maternal, fierce. Fighting for her child and for her people. Como peleó Nuestra Virgén. Like we are called to fight for our children and for other people’s children and for ourselves. All of us made in the image of God, who loves us.

Courage. God guides and strengthens us for what he calls us to do.

Love,

Magda

 

As the Youngsters Say …

… I just literally can’t even.

I’m getting news everywhere about Russian hacking and the GOP denying it … the transition team came up with a response that sounds like it was written by a third grader … everybody’s bad and corrupt and I don’t know what’s going to happen in the world.

And I’m supposed to just sit here and be all festive and holly-jolly and yay it’s the most wonderful time of the year?

NOPE.

Enter whining

I am so cranky.

It’s 2016 and our entire system is about to be dismantled by a man who looks like a dog scrotum, those PDFs you can allegedly type into still won’t align things correctly, and I couldn’t find my favorite leopard-print pumps to wear to a client meeting today.

I think crankiness and depression go hand-in-hand, maybe in some inverse way, because as I’ve gotten farther and farther into perimenopause and therefore more and more cranky (and weepy, ragey, and anxious), my normal level of depression seems to be decreasing slightly. Or maybe it’s just like asking someone to step on your toe so you can forget the pain in your back.

I have been trying very hard not to let myself get pulled under by the election and predictions about what’s going to happen for the next four to forty years. And I think this crankiness is helping, because at least it’s giving me just enough adrenaline to power through the day without making me inordinately stressed. It’s sort of like a naturally-generated matcha–energy without the crash a few hours later. Except that then I’m cranky, and that’s no fun, either.

I’ve got no fix. No sprightly or spritely words of wisdom. I’m just going to crank my way through the rest of the day and then go home to the loving arms of my Instant Pot and feel grateful that I like everyone who lives with me, because not everyone has that luxury.

I hope that if you are feeling cranky, that it’s tolerable and not making the depression any worse.

Love,

Magda

A Long Winter’s Nap

I’m tired.

This is a tiring time of year. Just the physical conditions that come with winter—cold, cloudiness, limited daylight—sap my energy. Gone are the long days of sitting poolside watching the sun set at 8:00 p.m. Now I feel like going to bed at 4:00.

Then there’s the exhaustion that comes with the flurry of holiday activities. I’ll never understand how we’re supposed to complete our everyday responsibilities, which are exhausting in and of themselves, and then somehow magically come up with the time and energy to decorate, attend parties, bake, look at lights, take kids to some whimsical holiday experience, buy gifts, wrap gifts, manage other people’s giving of gifts to us (the Amazon wishlist and whatnot), attend the holiday concert, be civil to those who stir up negative emotions, and on and on and on and on and on.

And this year, I’m emotionally exhausted from everything going on in the world. I’m sorry, but I am not over the election yet. I get this feeling like I’m supposed to be, but every day some new turn of events gets me incensed and calls for some sort of political action. I’m so overwhelmed by it all.

I wish people hibernated.

As it is, I’ve put myself in partial hibernation mode. I work from home, so the lure of my bed is strong. (I should note that I’m an independent contractor, so it’s not like I’m on the clock or anything like that.) Sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I just lie down and tell myself I’m going to take a quick break to zone out and regroup. Well, you know how that goes: 90 minutes later I’m waking up feeling confused and guilty.

Ironically, I get even more exhausted by my feelings about being tired. I should not be tired. I should be able to get through the day without a nap, because I’m not a toddler. What did I even do to deserve a nap? I bet so-and-so sleeps like 5 hours a night and never naps. She’s better than I am. I’m so lazy. I could have used that time to [insert constructive activity here]. 

GUILT. INADEQUACY. EXHAUSTION. SELF-CRITICISM.

You know, Depression’s entourage.

But I think back to something that helped me during one of the most exhausting times of my life: my son’s infancy. At that time, my mom went to a presentation by a local author named Karen Maezen Miller and got me a signed copy of her book, Momma Zen. Almost ten years later, one piece of advice from the book still sticks with me: If you’re tired, be tired. 

It seems so simple, and yet it’s just a huge revelation.

Do not question your tiredness. Do not compare your level of tiredness with your perceived level of a friend’s tiredness. Don’t tell yourself you should do more.

Just be tired.

Wishing you love and sweet dreams,

Shannon

Love

The candle of love is lit on the second week of Advent.

So let’s talk about love. I don’t want to talk about romanic love. You can read a book or watch a Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan movie about that kind of love. (Or whatever today’s modern Hanks-Ryan equivalents are. I really need to update my references.)

Instead, I want to talk about love as a general force. To again reference the wonderful To Write Love on Her Arms:

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Source here.

It’s important to remember that there is so much more love in the world than hate. It’s important to remember this during the holiday season, or when you’re depressed. It’s important to remember the power of love after a national tragedy, or, say, hypothetically, a crushing national travesty of an election.

There is still more love than hate.

Of course, it’s easy to get fooled into thinking that hate is more prevalent. There are a lot of hateful acts in the news. And sometimes it feels like the haters have so much power (for example, as the president-elect of an entire country).

But since November 9, so many people have stepped up to help charities. Or to express support for those in the community who feel threatened. Groups have come together to take action and use grassroots activism to stop haters from gaining power. I guarantee you, there are more people fighting hate than perpetrating it.

No, I’m not trying to minimize the prevalence of hate. Somehow we elected a hater as president. Somehow he’s appointing other haters to his team. And somehow the slimy, everyday haters crawled out from under their rocks and saw the election results as some sort of permission to act like total assholes.

But the beautiful thing that happens after any tragedy, and I do consider Trump’s election a tragedy, is that an army of love steps up to help. Look at the thousands of people who donated blood after the Pulse nightclub shooting. Look at all the money that gets donated to charities after every single natural disaster. Look at the children who sent snowflakes to decorate Sandy Hook Elementary when the students returned to school.

Look at all the love that surrounds you. Look at your family and friends, and even total strangers who are just being decent human beings. Look around. You’ll see love.

With just a little bit more love,

Shannon

 

 

Krampus Schmampus

Today is Krampus day in Germany and a few Slavic countries. Krampus is a mythological devil figure (not THE Devil but a devil) who’s the counterbalance to the generous and kind Saint Nicholas who brings presents to children on the morning of December 6th. Krampus comes the night of the 5th and finds “bad” children and stuffs them in his sack and carries them off, never to be heard from again.

This year, being stuffed into a sack and carried away forever doesn’t actually sound that bad.

Like, at all. Think about it–no responsibilities, and whatever Krampus did to you couldn’t be that much worse than feeling bad from regular depression.

It’s actually really horrible that a scary demon created to terrify children into compliance is less bad than the normal state of your body and head. I just wanted to acknowledge how much this sucks.

And maybe there’s something in here about how being good by not complaining about how awful depression is  doesn’t get us anywhere, because the only upshot of being good is that we’re still depressed. If Krampus’ sack is better than depression, then there’s absolutely zero reason to be good. Complain away, friends.

Love,

Magda

Resilient af

Do you get tired of people telling you you’re strong?

I do. I get so tired of people telling me I’m strong, as if that makes anything better for me. “You’re so strong. I don’t know how you do it.” Well, that’s because I’m mostly NOT doing it, you know? Just because I haven’t lost the struggle to get up in the morning doesn’t mean I’m succeeding. I think constantly about how much better I could be doing things, and how I don’t know how much more I can do.

I don’t know which is worse, the thought of gripping the bar for another 50 years or the idea of what happens if I slip. Don’t think I haven’t thought about getting the sailor’s HOLD FAST tattoo, but it feels like the saddest thing I can think of.

But “strong” isn’t any more of a compliment than “angry” is an insult. They’re just conditions that we may or may not be in at any given time, depending on circumstances, and fetishizing the labels is a way to justify distance. They say more about the people using them than the people to whom they’re applied.

If I get to choose my own label, I choose resilient. I am weak, so many times and constantly. But I keep coming back. I keep waking up and showing up, ready for what’s next (even when I’m not really ready). I’ve never been good at discretion, so I choose to think that resilience is the better part of valor.

I gave one of my best friends this mug when I knew she was struggling, to remind her of what she knows about herself. That she didn’t have to be strong. And she didn’t have to do things right. She just has to keep coming back.

And that’s all any of us has to do. Just keep coming back.

Love,

Magda

Hope

I have three favorite words in the English language:

  1. antimacassar, because it’s an unnecessarily big and obscure word that you find in historical fiction
  2. empurple, because for me purple is more than just a color, it’s a way of life
  3. hope, which I will spend the next several paragraphs discussing

Hope doesn’t mean that you know things will get better. It doesn’t mean you have any clear-cut vision of exactly how things will get better. It means you acknowledge that there’s a chance that things might get better.

Unfortunately, hope is one of the first victims that depression claims. When you’re at the lowest of the low, you lose sight of that possibility of things ever getting better.

Loss of hope is tragic. Without hope, you have nothing.

And yet, hope is so easy to lose. It doesn’t matter if you’re hurting from a personal tragedy, a world situation, or the irrational chemicals that exist in your head. You can lose hope in an instant.

Sometimes I rely on silly little tricks to help me find hope.

For example, I buy myself bracelets that say “HOPE” on them:

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I even scrawl the word Hope on a piece of paper:

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I look to the wise words of one of my favorite mental health charities, To Write Love on Her Arms:

 

hopeshirt\

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can get the shirt here.

You can have your friends remind you that hope still exists. Maybe nature or your pets inspire hope in you. You can find hope by watching heartwarming holiday movies on the Hallmark Channel where a family gets snowed in at the airport and meets a whimsical old man who turns out to be Santa—but if those movies are your source of hope, you and I are different.

I think you see my point. Hope is important. Hope is essential, even.

But I want to emphasize that hope isn’t only reserved for that moment when everything is better. Hope is not just for perfect sitcom endings. You can be at your lowest and still have hope. You can have hope as you recover and climb out of the pit. You can have hope when you’re sort of okay, but sort of not. Hope can save you in the moments where you’re okay, but you worry that any minute you won’t be.

Wishing you hope this day and always,

Shannon

 

 

Watch out, but don’t cry

When I was little and I’d get upset about something and pout about it, my grandfather (we called him Apappa) always told me that if I kept pouting a bird would come and land on my lower lip. I think he intended it to be tough love of the “quit crying or I’ll give you something to cry about” variety (Hungarian-Americans aren’t really known for their toddler-whispering skills) but I always thought it was a combo of hilarious and thrillingly scary (think about their little sharp toe-claws digging into your lip!) and I’d laugh every time.

That is always what I think about when I come across the word “pout,” so every time I hear “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” I think about Apappa and a bird landing on my lip. That makes me laugh off the rest of the terrifying lyrics to the song about monitoring me 24/7 and knowing both my thoughts and actions and punishing me for them but wanting me to want to “be good.” (My teenager thinks it’s a gut-buster that there’s a peppy little Christmas song about the surveillance state. It was funnier last year.)

This is where I am right now, though: Watch out, stay alert, be ready. I’ve cried enough for this week, and now I’m laughing. What else can I do? Being good (especially for goodness’ sake) is clearly not an option anymore.

This is me, not pouting.

Love,

Magda