Not Here

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I’m not better. (Yet?) I’m breaking all my Depression Club rules right now. I don’t want you to worry, though, but I think I need to take the summer off. I’ll see you in autumn, hopefully healed, hopefully with good news, or at least something different. I feel like I’m disappointing so many of you that are struggling with the same thing, but I’m always thinking of you.

Thumbprints Cookie Giveaway [closed]

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Did you hear that Maggie’s baking company now has a monthly cookie club? The cookies are AMAZING. I am not just saying that because I want Maggie to like me, because then I would just put in a standing daily order for cookies. (Maybe I HAVE done that.) (I don’t know why I’m gaining weight!)

So, I thought I’d offer two three-month subscriptions to the Thumbprints Cookie Club (U.S. residents only, sorry). Just leave your name and an email address where I can reach you. I’ll close comments tomorrow morning at 9AM Pacific, and then email the winners.

(And just so we’re clear, Maggie doesn’t even know I’m doing this. I am paying for this out of my own pocket, and giving it to you because  love and appreciation and kindness make the world a better place, and you all have been so amazing to me this last month as I struggle through the worst things, and I wanted to do something for you.)

Winners are Mo and Becky, according to random.org. Hooray!

The Rules of Depression Club

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No lying in bed during the day. Or even the early evening. Or the late morning.

Go to bed at the same time. Wake up at the same time. Take your pills at the same time. All the time.

Eat so many vegetables your intestines will turn green. (Maybe they’re already green? Greener. Greener intestines for everyone.)

No social media that will bring me down. This is mostly restricted to not reading twitter. And not looking at Instagram on Father’s Day, I suppose.

Bake. Bake a lot.

No lying on the sofa reading. This is just lying on the bed, without the bed.

No talking to people who will make me sad.

Therapy. Duh.

So much exercise, six days a week.

Meditate every single day. (For those of you who don’t meditate, it’s basically just prayer. It does wonders for anxiety.)

Don’t be stingy with your Xanax. Take it when you need it.

Bug your doctor whenever you need to, changing your meds as you need to. Don’t feel guilty for bugging her. That’s her job. She gets paid to change your meds. It’s okay. She doesn’t hate you, and if she does, change doctors. (But she doesn’t.)

Take care of yourself first. Or at least try to.

No to-do lists. You make impossibly long to-do lists and then feel like a failure when you don’t get things done, as if this is proof of your worthlessness.

No looking for proof of your worthlessness. Not allowed.

No baths. Baths are just beds with hot water.

Relax. Enjoy the moment. Stop fretting about what you’re doing wrong in life.

Surround yourself with lovely people who can relax and enjoy the moment. Let down your shoulders. Take lots of deep breaths, or tiny breaths if you can’t manage the deep ones.

Add to this list whenever you need to.

 

The Particular Happiness of Lemon Cake

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There is a lemon cake baking in my oven for the first time ever, even though lemon desserts are my favorite kind. I was going to write, “I don’t know why it took me so long to bake a lemon cake,” but actually, I know exactly why. I’m the only one in the house who likes lemon cake, and so it didn’t matter. I don’t even count, right?

Even I rolled my eyes at that. Oh, woe is me. I don’t matter! Blah blah blah.

I was having a shitty, crabby (get it? get it?) day until I said to myself, “Self, you want a lemon cake? Then make yourself a fucking lemon cake, bitch!” I swear a lot more in my own head than in real life.

I was having a shitty day because it’s Father’s Day, and I made the mistake of going on social media where everyone was waxing poetic about their fathers, and I just wanted to shrivel up into a little ball and die.

Instead, I laid (lie? I never know) on my bed like a pathetic sobbing mess until Gregg made me get up (first rule of Depression Club: you are not allowed to lay in bed during the day) and I trudged around the house in a sad haze. I cried and cried and cried for the first time about all this. I cannot believe I’ve never cried about it, but I like to give my husband a particularly shitty Father’s Day, so I let it all out today.

And then, a strange thing happened. I felt better. I felt better? I felt something. I cried, and I felt pathetic and sad, and then I got up, felt better, and made myself a lemon cake like I was in a damned cosmetics commercial saying, “Because I’m worth it.”

But I said it with calories and raw cake batter on my fingertips instead.

*One day I will feel better. I think. I hope. Stay with me until then, okay?

 

Homer Simpson Is Pretty Smart

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I am today donating $1600 to FHI 360. Thank you all for your $2014 worth of donations (how cool is it that that’s the amount? Cool, that’s how cool). You all are amazing and now little kids who get malaria will have actual drugs to treat it instead of whatever  was being sold before to innocent sick people. I always imagine a big pill jar full of Smarties and candy cigarettes, probably because I get all of my medical training from old Popeye cartoons.

Update: DONE!

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***

Yesterday, I read this post. It was about how if you live in the present moment, everything is always fine, because you don’t have anything to compare it to.

Living in the now means that you are either filled with enthusiasm with what you’re doing, or you’re at least enjoying it, or you simply accept it. There are no other choices, because even though you could daydream about other things, it’s not going to magic you away to those other places, and you’ll always be comparing yourself to the mystical Other, the one who gets to lay in bed all day and rub David Beckham’s abs with your face and who wears bikinis and never has to do exercise. That Other is a total bitch. Thanks a lot, Posh Spice.

Living in the now means that you don’t daydream about other ways to be.

Now, I don’t know about that. See, I’m doing everything I can to get better, and yesterday I went to the lowest depths yet. I…I…I made a smoothie with spinach in it. I’m trying to eat more vegetables, and I swear, that was the only way because I’d tried everything else. So while my kids were enjoying McDonald’s on their last day of school, I drank a peach, strawberry, almond milk, yogurt and spinach smoothie yesterday. And I daydreamed that I was someone else. I may have just barfed remembering that.

But if you ever question my dedication to feeling better, just say the words spinach smoothie and know that I am as serious as it gets.

(It really wasn’t that bad. Shhh. Don’t tell Past Shalini.) (I had a melted Swiss cheese and grilled onion sandwich with french fries for dinner, to compensate.)

In my attempts to get better, though, I tried to live in the now. The problem with the now is that the now is usually stuck doing things like grocery shopping with two kids, or folding laundry, or cleaning out the leftovers from the fridge, or sitting in traffic. That is what I did yesterday when I decided to live in the now. I was in traffic on 520, which, for you non-Seattleites, is basically just a big long chain of cars, constantly. And I had my two kids in the car with me. How could I not fantasize about something better, like a life without spinach smoothies? But no, I decided to live in the now. (Is it annoying you how many italics I’m using? It’s annoying me a little bit. But I’m living in the now!)

So, in traffic, instead of being miserable and thinking of all the things I could be doing instead of waiting behind ten million Subarus and Priuses (that’s all Seattleites are legally allowed to drive), I decided to go all Homer Simpson* on myself.

*Have you ever met anyone who lives in the now more than Homer Simpson? He doesn’t think about the consequences at all. EVER. Doughnuts? YES PLEASE. Beer? YES PLEASE. Going on an adventure to find out what the “J.” in “Homer J. Simpson” stands for, despite his responsibilities to family and work? YES PLEASE. (It stands for “Jay,” in case you missed that episode.)

So there I am, rubbing my metaphorical (fine, real) belly, trying to enjoy traffic, or at least accept it, and so I turn around and ask the boys to play rock-paper-scissors with me while I sit there. And then we open our windows, and they tell me about school, and I turn on the radio and sing very badly to a song, just to make them cringe.

“I WANT TO GET BETTER!” I yell at the top of my lungs, and the boys are laughing uncontrollably at my terrible voice and, wait a second, am I a little tiny bit better already?

Well, I’m drinking another spinach smoothie today, so…maybe.

 

 

How It Works

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Here is how it works:

If something bad happens, it’s my fault.

One week after Gregg and I got married, his dad was diagnosed with leukemia. Three weeks after that, he died.

Obviously, he would have been fine if we hadn’t been married, if I wasn’t completely ruining his son’s life by being a part of it.*

Obviously, this was my fault.

When we visit our in-laws in May, we find out that Gregg’s sister is having troubles on her organic farm. It turns out that the farmer before them didn’t disclose all the pesticides he used on his GMO corn, and now nothing will grow in the soil.

Obviously, this was my fault.

Keshav has trouble reading in school. My fault.

Sachin trips and falls. My fault.

Gregg has a bad day at work. My fault my fault my fault.

The way I described it to my therapist was like this: I have a limited amount of good things, and every time I try to get something more, I’m greedy, and my greed is punished. I have to have tight control. I can’t be too happy. I can’t possibly have it all, so to speak, because that surely means that Sachin will end up dead in the street or Gregg will have a torrid affair with a woman much prettier than me or Keshav will have a nervous breakdown. (These are all scenarios I think of at night, when I am NotSleeping.)

There is safety in misery. There’s safety in not reaching for too much. There’s safety in a small, controlled life. Every single time I feel a bubbling of happiness (like, say, when I married Gregg), it gets knocked down.

When I was little, if I did something good, it was almost always completely ignored. “Oh, you won an art competition? Who cares. You made the honor roll for the seventh semester in a row? Big deal. Do better next time. High honor roll or bust. Your English teacher pulled you aside and told you you weren’t trying hard enough, and that you were amazing? It’s not your chemistry teacher saying that, is it?”

But if I did something bad? Late for curfew by three minutes? Screams. Left my shoes out in the living room? Slaps. Have a fever and someone has to stay home with me? Selfish cow.

It’s now just coming to light how this is Not Normal. How of course I have crippling anxiety. How of course I think doing something bad leads to a punishment, and something good doesn’t matter at all. Of course. This is how it works, for me anyway. I’m the keeper of bad things. If your kid is sick, it’s definitely my fault. If you lose your job, it’s probably because I had a good day. Or worse, because I had a really, really bad day, and didn’t manage to school my features into feeling absolutely nothing. Because that of course is the key. Feeling nothing.

This is how it works: when you’re trained to feel nothing, sometimes the feelings will come out of your throat and try to kill you. Sometimes you will think, “You selfish cow. You’re ruining the world with your feelings.” This is how it works.

And sometimes, your husband will tell you, when you finally admit that you killed his father, “*But it was a good thing. He got to see us married. You got to be with me. I had you to rely on.”

Sometimes, you need to let go of how you think everything works, and start over completely.

This is how it works: now, breathing, looking at things, figuring my life out all over again.

Okay

Yesterday, my dog died.

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He was fourteen, and he was old, and he was sick, and it was time to let him go. We miss him lots.

And I am okay. All day people were calling and checking on me, and I am just so completely okay that I don’t know where to put that okay-ness. But there it is, out there in the world, with all the other weirdly misplaced items like floral rompers and acid wash jeans and high-waisted cut-off shorts with the pockets hanging out in the junior section of every department store.

One of the things I am learning about life is that when something sad happens, it is alright to be sad. Isn’t that amazing? I grew up in an environment where if someone was sad, they were shunned, or hurt, or blamed, or neglected. And so I think I had about 35 years worth of sadness to catch up on.

It’s been a bit like using one of those Biore nose strips for the first time, where you go, “EWWWWWWW BARF I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT WAS IN ME WHERE DID IT COME FROM?” Except with tears instead of clogged face pores. (I am the queen of the metaphor, no?) I cry and cry and I don’t know WHY, but then I feel so much better.

Yesterday, when my sweet, sweet Malcolm dog died, I was sad. Gregg was sad. The boys were sad. My kids are teaching me how to be sad when a sad thing happens, and then to let go and live. Kids are amazingly smart like that. They’ve got it all down, and it’s our job as adults to pay as close attention as we can, to figure out how to get back to that place where we knew how to just be.

So, there it is. I am doing a lot to keep my head above water, including more drugs, more therapy (today my therapist clapped and said “yaaay!” after I described how I left the house without cleaning all the dishes and the world did not end!) (it seems that keeping a tightly controlled environment and life was one way I coped with being abused for so long), and so much running that my legs feel like they are going to fall off. 

I’m also trying to not look 50 steps into the future. I don’t make plans farther than the weekend, but mostly not into the hour. I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life. I don’t know if I want to continue this blog or my book or writing, or become a chicken trainer with the circus, or sell fruit on the side of the road, or become a puppeteer. I have absolutely no clue anymore. And for the first time, instead of feeling scary, it feels good. Or at least okay.

I hope you’re okay, too, and hey, thank you. Thank you so much for your thoughts and your prayers and your concern. I can feel it. It helps. Everything helps. Thank you. You are an enormous blessing in my life.

Declaring Email Bankruptcy; Our Malaria-Free Goal; Mental Health Update

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That’s a long title, but it seems better to compress everything into one post than three small ones, yeah?

1. I had this GREAT GREAT IDEA. I was going to reply to EVERYONE who left a comment or emailed or tweeted or left me a facebook comment, because OBVIOUSLY I was going to be feeling amazingly better this week, and would be able to do everything I used to do, easily.

It turns out that while I desperately WANT to say THANK YOU, very individually and personally to everyone, I can’t. Not yet. But I am thinking grateful wonderful thoughts about each and every one of you, and until then, I declare email bankruptcy.

2. Did you donate to FHI 360? THANK YOU. If you donated and forwarded your receipt to readingandchickens@gmail.com, then I have your total and am going to match it! If you donated and put my name/the blog name on the “in memory of” spot (or whatever it’s called), I…did not. Would you mind so very much forwarding me the amount you sent? So I can match it and tell everyone else how much awesome we collectively have? (Spoiler: a lot.)

So far, it’s looking like we’ve raised something like $2000. TWO. THOUSAND. DOLLARS.

You all are amazing. (But I will still match until June 12! If you want to donate, do it!)

3. I am better, but not as better as I want to be. I wish I could give you a better update. I made dinner for the first time in weeks yesterday (it was pancakes, but STILL). I took Sachin to t-ball. I haven’t laid in bed sobbing in DAYS. Days, I tell you! I’ve been to all of the doctors. So, so many doctors. I wish I could tell you that everything is fine and back to normal, but I’m not there yet. Thank you for your kindness and your understanding and your prayers. I can feel them all, and they make me cry. A lot. Good tears.

I promise to tell you when I don’t feel quite so fragile about absolutely everything. I hope I can say it will be tomorrow, or Monday, or next week, but I just don’t know yet. I am not there, but I am finally at a place where I don’t care quite so much that I’m not, that I’m okay with trying and figuring it out, and slowly, slowly, finding out that everything here is just as good as everything there. 

This Is Real

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There is absolutely, positively nothing I can say about my depression that hasn’t been written by someone else before. And yet, even though I know I’m boring you, the fact remains: writing here helps.

It helps to tell you that I sometimes spontaneously cry, and then ten minutes later have a great idea for a tumblr. (Do you want to know? No? I’m going to tell you anyway.

It would be called, “Is this gluten-free?” And then I’d post a picture of a banana, or an orange, or grass, or a dog, or a fork. Or bread. Genius, right? Someone do this now. I’d do it, but I’m too tired.)

 

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Is this wheat bread gluten-free?

That’s the other thing. I’m tired. I’m so so so so so so tired. Of course, this means the very logical thing that I cannot sleep. I can fall asleep, but then I wake up, because I have a bad dream, or because I hear my alarm clock, or because the dog stretches out. Or because air falls on my face. I wake up and then I can’t go back to sleep, and I’m totally and completely alone in the dark, staring at my ceiling.

And then there is the (trigger warning: are you triggered by completely disgusting bodily details? WARNING, HERE IT COMES)…the…the diarrhea. I am losing weight and feeling dehydrated and pooping it all in the toilet. Whenever I have a depressive episode, my insides cannot keep my food in me. I’ve basically had a terrible case of the runs for twenty years.

There are other physical side effects of depression: muscle aches, headaches, loss of appetite.

I wanted to make a video of me taste testing potato chips. (They would all be good.) But eh.

But the worst is where I regret telling Gregg that I was feeling suicidal. I regret that now he’s watching me, and taking care of me. I regret that I don’t have the energy to make dinner, or fold the laundry, or fill out job applications. (I also have been going on every single job interview ever and being rejected. I don’t know why. CAN’T THEY SEE MY SUNNY DISPOSITION?) (I might have some bad timing.)

I am going to get through this. That’s what I keep telling myself. I am not sugar-coating anything anymore. I am upset and I am sad, but the upside is: there is absolutely positively nothing scary right now. I can make phone calls without anxiety, because fuck, that’s nothing compared to suicide. I can have awful diarrhea in a major league ballpark bathroom because WHO CARES. I can tell the Internet that I was sexually abused and physically hurt and neglected because WHAT CAN ANYONE DO TO ME?

So, I hope being squashed to the absolute bottom of the barrel means that I can get up. I’m a tiny bit better than I was yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. But I’m not there yet. I hope that being so honest about how awful this disease is, how it grips people and won’t shake them loose, how it is relentless, will let you know: this is real.

This is real. So if you know anyone who has been in my position, you give them all the love in the world. They need it.

Depressed People Do It Better

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And by “it,” I of course mean nothing. 

Need that car cleaned? I’m not your woman!

Need those dishes washed? Don’t look at me.

Those taxes need to be filed? What the hell are extensions for, except depressed people?

Need to harass meat-eaters and hand out PETA pamphlets? My can of red paint is empty.

The baby needs to be nursed? Formula for all! (Sorry, La Leche League. Not everyone can be motivated to lactate, okay?)

Someone on the Internet needs to cause a kerfuffle because every single tragedy can be transformed into a self-absorbed rant? Darn! I’m all out of fucks to give!

The container of sour cream needs to be eaten? Well, why didn’t you say so? I just so happen to have a spoon under my pillow right here. Wait a second and I’ll just lick off the ice cream residue from last night. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. I was doing something dirty in bed with ice cream. Oh yeah. Eating a whole container in my dirty t-shirt and wiping my tears and snot on the bed sheets. Oooh baby.)

I told you we do it better.

But seriously.

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This is my serious face. It is also my proof that I know I was separated at birth from someone famous.

It’s kind of like discovering I’m Oprah’s long-lost half sister.

But seriously. Thank you for your emails and comments and your messages and well, everything. I’m going to respond to every single one of you (one day, when I’m not eating sour cream in bed), not because I have to, but because I want to, to let you know how much it means to me that you reached out.

Thank you. It really, really helps. It helps to feel less alone, and to know that I’m allowed to be sad for all the shitty things that happened to me, and that the sadness will not consume me completely anymore and I don’t have to feel stuck or trapped or like a victim. I can soar now. I can let it go and let it fly off like a bird or on eagle’s wings or 99 luftballoons.

And I hope that if you’re feeling as terrible as I’ve been feeling, you can reach out to someone, maybe even me, and tell about it. I’ll even share my container of sour cream with you.