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New Year, Same Stuff

I like New Year’s. A blank slate, a new start—those ideas appeal to me. Yes, I know New Year’s Day is just an arbitrary date on a calendar, but you have to draw the line somewhere. And I love drawing lines. I like putting things into neat little categories. Here and there. Then and now.

Last year and this year.

It’s a pretty well-held sentiment that last year was terrible. It’s nice to think we’re on the right side of the line between last year and this year.

Except, you know that whole “arbitrary date on the calendar” thing? That means last year was yesterday and this year is today, and most of the terrible stuff from 2016 didn’t just disappear at midnight. And, sure, it’s true every year that the whole world doesn’t change just because the calendar changed. It’s just, maybe most years we’re so caught up in our resolutions and our this will be my year declarations, that we’re blind to ongoing problems.

But the arrival of 2017 feels different.

I wanted everything to be okay as soon as the calendar changed to the new year. I wanted everything be okay because that’s how human beings are—we want to fix and heal and make it all better.

And it’s not all better. All the same problems are still here.

Now, lest you think I’m writing the biggest Unhappy New Year post ever, I’d like to say this: there is some solace to be found in accepting that things are the way they are. Not everything gets better. There isn’t always a silver lining. Sometimes your greatest goal isn’t improvement, but acceptance.

You’d think having a chronic condition like depression would have taught me a long time ago that some situations are ongoing and unsolvable. Yet somehow that was a lesson I never learned. I can’t explain why.

But seeing the whole world ripped apart in 2016, and understanding that we weren’t all fixed up just because it became 2017, that drove the message home: Some problems have no easy fix. Some things just suck.

And so, I think the wisdom to accept the deep flaws of the world is 2016’s gift. It’s not all better.

It just is what it is.

Wishing you a 2017 of acceptance,

Shannon

 

The last day of 2016

I don’t know how long you’ve been depressed. I’ve had depression since I was in high school. Sometimes it’s been worse, sometimes it’s been nearly unbearable, sometimes it’s been just a light dull gray, and sometimes it’s been in remission. But it’s been 27 or 28 years now. And at the end of every year I wonder how many more years I’m going to close out knowing I’ll still be depressed in the new year.

I just want you to know that if you’re like me and the end of the year reminds you that depression is always with you, that’s ok. You’re good, exactly the way you are. You have depression, but there isn’t anything wrong with you. And this isn’t everything that you are.

An Embarrassing Story About Something That Actually Happened to Me

A few days ago, I was staying at my in-laws’ house. We had a very garlicky dinner.

Later that evening, I went down to our little basement guest area and swallowed my nightly medication. I then proceeded to brush my teeth with my new Sonicare toothbrush, which shuts off automatically after two minutes of brushing.

Eager to achieve this important tooth-brushing time goal, and also eager to eliminate some of the garlicky-ness of the dinner, I took some time to thoroughly brush my tongue.

Except I wasn’t used to the pointy head of the new toothbrush, and I hit my gag reflex. And then I puked in the sink. I noticed a somewhat soggy, regurgitated version of my antidepressant pill in the drain.

Also in the drain: a dead daddy long-legs. My in-laws live in a somewhat rural area. There are a lot of critters.

Now, being on a trip, I didn’t have any extra medication on me, so I couldn’t just pop another pill. I weighed my options: take the pill and ingest some dead daddy long-legs germs, or be an emotional wreck.

I chose daddy long-legs germs.

I think some of you can relate.

Still alive despite recent contamination,

Shannon

Peace Be With You

When parting with people for some period of time, we often express some sentiment that references the time until we are reunited. On a Friday, you might tell co-workers to have a nice weekend. You may wish your friend a happy holidays if you’re seeing her for the last time before Christmas. Yearbook inscriptions often read, “Have a good summer!”

Nice. Happy. Good. 

These sentiments are, of course, socially accepted platitudes we’ve all come to agree on as normal parts of communication.

But nice, happy, and good are not depression words. Nice, happy, and good are words that mock your depression, knock it on the ground, kick it, and spit on it for good measure.

Which is why I always appreciated the parting shot my former therapist used every week:

Have a peaceful week. 

She knew that many people were dealing with situations in which good weeks just weren’t possible. The nicest wish she could bestow on them was a hope that they might find some peace.

So, that is my wish to you, on this sometimes-troubling day that falls at the end of a troubling year in a troubling world.

Have a peaceful day. 

It might not be peaceful at Aunt So-and-So’s house. There might be so many sugar-high children running around that the line is crossed between “seeing Christmas through the magic of children’s eyes” and “complete chaos.” Rarely-seen relatives may be inquiring too much about what you’re doing with the next phase of your life, or why you haven’t gotten to some socially-expected point in the current phase of your life. And if all else fails, there’s probably an argument about politics going on.

Sometimes it’s just hard to find peace when you’re just not feeling very merry and you’re dealing with the pressure to put on a happy face.

But my hope is you’ll find peace somewhere. Maybe it will be on the drive home from the relatives’ house, when it’s finally quiet. Or maybe it will be in those moments when you’re finally alone, say, like, while taking a shower. Maybe you’ll have to make your own peace by taking deep breaths.

And no, there is not Peace on Earth, despite the greeting card inscription wishing it so. There may not even be peace on your little corner of the earth. But you can still find a moment of peace inside yourself.

Wishing you peace, with a little help from my friends The Eagles, one of whom was a victim of the cruelty of 2016,

Shannon

 

 

 

What’s a normal day anymore?

I was busy all day today, doing life and work stuff. It was really weird.

It feels like the New Normal since November 9 has been panic and anxiety on top of my normal depression and anxiety, so it’s been a long time since I was busy enough to not be freaked out for more than five minutes.

Today I sent emails and read up on some procedures and spread some information for the resistance, and then I did work and life stuff and got so busy I actually forgot that things are horrible for almost an hour at a time.

It was kind of amazing. To only be depressed and my normal self.

I hate to say this, but this horrific election has made me a better person already. And part of that is sorting out a hierarchy of anger and terror. I think it’s shifted my whole happy face pain scale. It’s weird, after an entire lifetime of feeling bad, to realize that feeling bad might not be quite as bad anymore.

Weird. (And if you have any energy to spare, I could use good wishes or prayers for two big projects to work out.)

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