Monthly Archives: December 2014

December 31: Countdown

This should be going through your head while you read this post:

New Year’s Eve is a total Hallmark holiday. I like to call it prom for adults, because there’s so much hype about having a perfect evening and making it all MEANINGFUL and launching yourself into a fantastic new year, the best year ever.

That’s all bullshit. New Year’s Eve is a day just like any other day, and it’s a night just like any other night. On any given night, someone’s really happy and someone’s really sad. Someone’s vowing to make a new start. Someone’s going on a diet. Someone’s going to learn to knit or code or make bone broth. Someone’s going to break up with the person they’ve been with just because they were afraid to be alone, but don’t really love. Someone’s trying to figure out what it all means.

You are going to wake up tomorrow morning whether you’re with friends tonight or alone, out somewhere “doing something” or at home watching Ryan Seacrest, making it meaningful or just wishing it would go away.

And you are going to be the same person you are tomorrow that you are right now. The same flawed but essentially good person you are right now. There is nothing in you that’s so broken that you can’t get help to fix it. There is nothing attacking you that is so fierce that you can’t get help to fend off the attack. There is nothing that destroys the essential you smashed deep down under those layers of depression and disappointment and shit. You are not ruined.

There is only one thing I know for sure will make your life better in 2015 if you start doing it every day. And that’s drinking more water. However much you’re drinking now, add in another glass or two every day. You might feel “results” or you might not. To me, the important thing about drinking water is that it shows care for your own body. You deserve care. You need care. You are worth it. Today and tomorrow and every day.

December 30: The chase

jess-right-handI feel like I’ve been inundated by “Best of 2014” lists today. Everything ranked and quantified, and sorted out into “best,” “good enough,” “not good enough.”

And it’s really easy to feel that panic about not being good enough.

The stuff you didn’t finish. The resolutions you made a year ago and didn’t complete. The things other people did that you couldn’t force yourself to do. The expectations you had that didn’t come true last year and probably won’t come true this year and maybe won’t come true ever.

It feels like something chasing itself around inside your chest, reminding you that you’re not enough, that you have to work harder, that you wasted an entire year and aren’t prepared for the next one. This is a chase that you can’t ever win. You never read the end. You can’t even catch your own tail.

But the question that you’re most afraid of considering is also the only question that can get you out of the chase:

What if this is as good as it gets?

What if you never transform into a better person? What if you never stop your bad habits? What if you never become your mother’s favorite? What if you never get your shit together?

What if you’re actually ok, exactly as you are right now?

What if you stop, and open your hand, and whatever is in your hand is already enough?

December 29: Baggage

Recently I found myself at a crowded baggage claim in a large airport during the busy pre-holiday travel season. It was late, my family and I had just gotten off a cramped four-hour flight, the baggage from our flight hadn’t been assigned a carousel, and we still had another two-hour drive to reach our final destination. I could feel the tension rapidly growing inside of me, filling Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 4.33.12 PM
every inch of my body like a balloon about to pop.

Then at one point, sometime between the announcement of our carousel number and the actual appearance of a single suitcase, I looked up at all the other baggage claimers. There had to be hundreds of people huddled around the various carousels. And suddenly it occurred to me: Every single one of those people is just as frustrated as I am. Nobody is enjoying this. 

And, with this newfound feeling of solidarity with my fellow holiday travelers, I actually began to relax.

Sometimes there’s nothing more comforting than knowing you’re not alone. And that’s been my own important takeaway from my participation in this advent calendar.

Until I started writing this blog with Magda, it never occurred to me that so many people struggled at the holidays. I thought most people loved the joy and cheer of the most wonderful time of the year. I thought I was a bad person for feeling ambivalent about the holidays.

Truth be told, I think I far underestimate the number of people who are struggling at any time of the year. Sure, we see the tragedies on the news. We know of people facing their own personal tragedies.

But it isn’t until we open up and start talking that we realize that most people are suffering through their own silent trials. So many people struggle with depression, anxiety, grief, loss, disappointment, loneliness, stress, relationship issues, or just some vague feeling that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. 

If you are hurting, you aren’t alone. If you think everybody’s loving life except you, you are wrong. If you think life is hard—even if you have a pretty good life—you aren’t a bad person.

You’re not alone. I’m not alone. We all have baggage to claim.

December 27: I see you

burdenI am thinking today about people who are carrying bigger loads today than “just” depression and the holiday juggernaut. People carrying grief, losing loved ones to Alzheimer’s or cancer, people watching people they love fade away. People facing disappointments they can’t even talk about. And trying to shoulder that while also fighting to stay upright from depression and keep walking forward through the sugary morass of the holidays.

I just want you to know that I see you. I see what you’re going through. And I get how hard it is.

You are doing a really good job.

You can keep going.

December 26: On the second day of Christmas…

It’s the day after Christmas, so in theory we should be all:

Safe for another 364 days, right? Except that a) some of us are still in the middle of a situation that’s only making the depression feel worse and we won’t be out of it for another day or few, and b) we’re heading right on into New Year’s Eve, aka Adult Prom.

NYE is the all-hat-no-cattle of holidays, with high expectations for Fun and Deep Meaning. But in reality is just seems to make everyone (even the normals) feel weird.

So we’re digging in here at the Advent Calendar for Depressed People to get us all through to the official end of Christmas, including the great facade of NYE.

I do not know what will make you feel better right now. But I do know what won’t make you feel worse: drinking a glass of water. Go get some water, and drink it.

And now remember, we’re all good:

December 25: Come and Rest by the Fire

And so it is Christmas. 

Maybe you are surrounded by loved ones and they give you emotional strength. That’s great.

Maybe you are surrounded by loved ones and they’re sapping every ounce of your emotional strength. That’s tough, but it’s okay if you feel that way.

Maybe you’re alone, and that’s difficult for you. You will get through this.

Or maybe you’re alone and you’re glad to be alone. That’s okay.

Maybe you miss somebody right now, and all the festivity of Christmas amplifies your grief. I’m sorry. The world makes no sense.

Maybe you’ve discovered that you love Christmas. Or maybe you truly hate Christmas with a passion that burns deep in your soul. Maybe you like some things about Christmas and hate others. However you feel is okay.

Wherever you are, whoever you’re with, however you feel, I invite you take a moment and rest by the fire.

Put aside your feelings, and your feelings about your feelings, and just sit by the fire. Feel the warmth. Hear the crackling. Stare at the brilliant glow. Be in the present.

Peace to you all this Christmas.

 

December 24: Let it go

It’s ok if you feel bad today. But it’s also ok if good things happen and you don’t feel as bad as you were scared you would.

It’s ok if you don’t want to be with the people you’re supposed to be with.

It’s ok if things make you laugh.

It’s ok if nothing looks like it’s supposed to.

It’s ok if you don’t go to church or if you go to church but don’t pass the peace or if you’ve just had it with the whole thing or if you cry during the singing.

It’s ok if you really don’t want to light any candles.

It’s ok if you’re actually having a good evening doing something you want to do.

You are ok. No matter how you feel today. You are inherently ok. Good, even. Worth it.

December 23: The Airing of the Grievances

 

Festivus_AiringOfGrievances

The Seinfeld-created holiday of Festivus is celebrated on December 23.

(If you’re unfamiliar with Festivus, go read this Wikipedia entry. Then go take a shower, because you’re probably dusty from living under that rock.)

While Festivus has a few requisite traditions—the decorating of the aluminum pole, the Feats of Strength, the Festivus Miracles—I’m going to focus on the Airing of the Grievances.

Festivus_IGottaLotofProblemsNow, unlike Frank Constanza, I’m not going to specifically air any problems I have with you people. But I do have some grievances. Here they are:

  • Depression: I mean, this is the Advent Calendar for Depressed People, so I had to start with Public Enemy #1 in the mental health world. Depression is an awful, pathetic creature that gets stuck in your brain and tries to lie to you and trick you at every angle. You cannot let this dark creature win.
  • Recurring Depression: I mean, geez, isn’t one episode enough?
  • Anxiety: This is Depression’s evil little buddy, and they almost always travel together. I’ve had episodes of anxiety that trigger depression, and I’ve had episodes of depression that trigger anxiety. It’s always one of those two stupid little jerks who starts it, and then his stupid little jerk buddy who tags along.
  • Intrusive ThoughtsIf you have ’em, you know how awful they are.
  • Every Other Stupid Fucking Mental Illness: There are so many of them, and so many people who suffer from them, and so much misunderstanding about them.
  • People Who Think Depression is Instantly Cured: I’m not all better because I took a pill or went to therapy. It takes a long time to get to a level where you can cope. Keep asking me how I’m doing. Keep showing you care.
  • Side Effects: The one where you feel like you’re living in a slightly altered reality is my favorite.
  • People Killing Other People: Cops need to stop killing unarmed black people. People need to stop killing cops who were unrelated to the killing of unarmed black people. People need to stop shooting children. Just, let’s stop murdering.
  • The Following Christmas Songs: “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”; “Santa Baby”; “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” All slightly lecherous.
  • When You See People Once a Year and You’re Fatter Than You Were Last Year: And you’re always eating a cookie when you first see them.
  • Obligatory Gift-Giving: Because you always end up at the gift card kiosk in the grocery store.
  • It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: No, it isn’t.

Feel free to add your own grievances in the comments. 

Festivus_Disappointed

Happy Festivus, everyone!

Day 22: Disappointment

pickaxeEverything was going really well until we had a Minecraft crisis.

I was on top of things, with no tree and no baking and no expectations. We got invited to some parties and went, and I have presents, but everything else I’ve just Grinched my way through (mmmm, garlic) and it’s all been almost pleasant. Until my younger son suddenly decided that he wanted to start playing Minecraft. Today.

(Cue “Working in the Coal Mine“)

Yes, I know every other kid has been playing Minecraft forever. Neither of mine wanted to (they played different video games). I thought it was odd, but it was actually kind of nice not to be tied to a game that everyone else’s kid was obsessed with. But then for reasons unknown, the 9.5-year-old was suddenly seized with the need to start playing asap. And the only devices we have that can run the game are my computer or my phone, neither of which I can give over to him for the time he needs to play.

We’re at an impasse, and none of the solutions are satisfactory (I buy a new device for him to play on, he accepts not playing, I let him play on one of my devices). And everyone’s in a bad mood now.

Sometimes life is just disappointing. Whether you’re 9.5 or 41 5/6. Sometimes there’s no good way to fix things. Sometimes you wish you could just make someone not need as much from you. Or make yourself not need as much from yourself or anyone else. Sometimes you think you’d almost have been there, almost could have been good enough, but then the expectations changed and now you’re nowhere near success. Again.

I would like to tie this up with a bow by giving you something that made it all ok. Something that makes it not disappointing or that makes you good enough again without changed expectations. But I don’t have an answer. All I have is an “I know how you feel.”

Solidarity.

Everyone who’s disappointed. Everyone who’s a disappointment.

Solidarity.