Monthly Archives: November 2017

Back to Our Roots

by Shannon

It’s hard to believe this is our fourth year writing the Advent Calendar for Depressed People.

Allow me to reflect for a moment.

It all started back in 2014 when I was talking to Magda—and by “talking” I mean “chatting on Google Hangouts,” because I don’t actually use phones for talking
—about how to help a friend battling depression. It occurred to me that although I had a lot of experience being depressed, I didn’t have the faintest idea what to do when somebody else was depressed. Somewhere in the course of that conversation, Magda came up with the idea for the Advent Calendar for Depressed People.

A few minutes later she sent me a message. “The domain is available!” she wrote.

“Hard to believe,” I replied.

I loved the idea of helping depressed people feel less alone, especially at the holidays. I wanted people to know that just because “everyone’s telling you be of good cheer,” it doesn’t mean you have to listen to them.

And that’s how it started, as a safe place to land when, as Magda’s tagline says, the sparkle is too bright.

Through the years we’ve tried to keep up that message, but I’ve started to feel like my posts have strayed from our roots.

And why? Because in the last year, my life felt uprooted by the presidential election and subsequent administration.

Last December I had no hope. I may be a shoe-in to be elected as the President of the Cynic’s Association (well, maybe Vice-President), and I may require the finest generic antidepressants a $4 co-pay can buy, but I always believe in the power of hope.

The only times I’ve ever lost that hope were a particularly bad depressive episode and after the 2016 election.

Last year it felt like the majority of the country was depressed. And it was all I could write about on this blog, post after post after post.

Obviously we aren’t out of the woods yet. (You wanna make my eye twitch? Just say the words “second term.”) But this year I feel hopeful again, because the resistance is working. And, somehow, I find myself believing that good will overcome evil, that the truth will prevail.

I feel like a survivor this year. And now I need to be there with all of you other survivors, reminding you that we can do it.

So, I’m hoping to get back to the roots of this blog. Our message is very simple: it’s okay to be depressed at Christmas. The cheerful, Christmas-loving people are literally the loudest and brightest, but that doesn’t mean they represent everyone. The holidays are hard, for many reasons, and you aren’t the only one who feels that way.

I often say (mostly to myself) that you don’t have to be happy all the time. You have to put one foot in front of the other and keep fighting the good fight—and if you can do that, you are awesome. If you can do that in December (or November or October or whenever the holiday season starts now), you are a freaking superstar.

One foot in front of the other …

How low can standards go

I was a real jerk yesterday. I was sweet to my kids in the morning (it’s hard going back to school after break) but the rest of the day I ranged between meh and vicious to everyone else I interacted with. And then I fell asleep at 5 pm and didn’t wake up until 9. If you guessed that I was getting sick, you’re right. I woke up this morning with a fever and feeling like my entire body had been made into cube steak. Turns out I’ve got some bug that’s going around and I’ll probably feel better in another 24-36 hours.

I feel such relief that this is temporary, even though I feel horrible. For the last couple of years my body has been collapsing in big and small ways, mostly as a result of the hormonal changes of perimenopause. When I wake up feeling bad I can be pretty sure that that feeling is just my new normal, unless months of trying lifestyle changes and supplements and whatever else I can throw at it will reduce the pain a little. It’s been demoralizing and scary, and what makes me feel even worse is knowing that it’s happening to millions of other women at the same time and all of us are feeling this same decline in health.

So while I feel lucky that this thing yesterday and today is just a sickness and not some new condition, I’m also mad that I have to feel lucky. Why aren’t we all feeling healthy all the time? Shouldn’t the expectation be that our bodies are going to change so let’s get waaaaay out in front of it to prevent and solve the pain? This crappy bug that’s making me be a big jerk to everyone should be a problem, not a relief.

If you are feeling extra crappy today I hope that it’s a short-term illness and not just the way things are now.

We’re back for 2017!

Yes, actual Advent doesn’t start until next Sunday, December 3, but depression doesn’t follow the liturgical calendar.

So here we are. Standing on the brink of a reeeeeeally long wait until Christmas. This is the second-longest stretch possible between American Thanksgiving and Christmas (next year is going to be the longest) which means those spirit fingers are going to get cramped earlier than usual.

This is the first of a whole bunch of reminders that a) you’re not the only depressed one, so don’t feel guilty or ashamed of it, or like you can’t say anything, b) the outsized expectations for this season say more about our culture than they do about you, and c) you don’t have to if you don’t want to. For real.

You can do it.