How I Monitor My Depression

p5pnnvj5mvc1oeb9wlem.gifI recently wrote about how I’m managing my depression at the moment, and it made me think of another topic that’s equally as important: monitoring my depression. Depression is a sneaky bastard. You might be chugging along, thinking you’re doing okay and then one day you wake up and realize you’ve not gotten dressed or showered in a couple of days and that you’ve crossed the line from functional to not. It’s surprising how it can creep up on you when you aren’t paying attention. This happened to me in the early fall. I thought I was fine at the end of the summer, but as our Comic Con (which coincides with my birthday) approached at the end of September, I didn’t start to work on a costume or plan anything for my birthday even though those are both things I really enjoy. I bought fabric for the costume I wanted to make, but just… didn’t start it. For me, that was a huge sign that the seasonal depression was kicking in early, as well as maybe a bit of feelings about turning the age I am.

me-partyEveryone’s depression signs are different, so it’s important to know yourself well. I have friends for whom becoming anti-social is a major warning sign. Not so much for me. I didn’t (willingly) speak to a single soul or go out for most of this past weekend, and it wasn’t a sign my depression is getting worse. I just really treasure my alone time – I got a ton of chores done, caught up on some TV shows, ordered some food I love, read, and went to bed early. It was incredibly relaxing and I felt much better for it. If I had stayed in all weekend and still felt miserable, that would probably have been a sign that something bigger was going on.

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Five Good Things for 11/17/2015

Five things I encountered today that were interesting, educational, beautiful, edifying or that I otherwise found to be…well, good. None of these are promotions and I do not receive any benefit from sharing them. I just like them.

giphyI was a bit of a nervous wreck last night, as my husband was driving back from California through central Utah, in the middle of a blizzard, with a broken phone. So I had no way to communicate with him. I became a little anxious, to put it mildly, once he was over two hours late (although watching The Rescuers helped), but he made it back and only spun off the road once (!!). All is well and we still had some evening left to enjoy. Here are your very relieved Good Things for today.

78701) One of my favorite comfort foods is curry puffs from our local Thai restaurant. I may have indulged while I was home alone this weekend, although I’ve always wanted to make them at home. The sweet cucumber dipping sauce goes incredibly well with the rich puff pastry and curried potato filling. So satisfying!

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How I Manage My Depression (at the Moment)

3171464462_0bdb6c51c7_bAt various times in my life I’ve been diagnosed with mild clinical depression, moderate-to-severe clinical depression, situational depression, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I’ve been on and off various medications for it, and while I’ve been lucky that it’s almost never made me completely unable to function, it does seriously impact my life, particularly this time of year when the SAD (most apt acronym ever) compounds whatever else is going on. Right now, I’m managing it without prescription medication and am doing OK, but before I talk about how, I want to stress that you should always consult a doctor before making any big changes to how you manage your depression, especially before going on or off any medications.  I am not a doctor and am not providing medical advice or treatment. Got it? Fantastic.

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Five Good Things for 11/3/2015

Five things I encountered today that were interesting, educational, beautiful, edifying or that I otherwise found to be…well, good. None of these are promotions and I do not receive any benefit from sharing them. I just like them.

3f448330857e4ca7ba40ab5465a3c2cb62cdb98c1) It was announced today that Star Trek will be back on TV starting in 2017 on CBS. Details are scarce other than it appears it will take place in the reboot timeline. I am posting this optimistically in the hope that it will be a Good Thing, really. I know a lot of people are iffy on the reboots. I liked them, but I would like to get back to Roddenberry’s humanistic roots and exploring strange new worlds, and I hope that whatever shape the new series takes there’s more of a focus on understanding and exploration than we’ve thus seen from the movies.

81PpMKt-ZXL._SX522_2) This is around the time my seasonal depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD) starts to kick in hardcore, on top of whatever existing clinical depression I’m dealing with. The time change hits, sunset comes earlier, and I get kicked in the teeth. So far one of the most useful tools I’ve found for managing my SAD is a lightbox. I got this one off Amazon several years ago, and I keep it at work and use it every morning. It really makes a difference for me. Mayo Clinic has a great article about how to use and choose a lightbox if you also suffer from seasonal depression.

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The Babadook – 31 Days of Halloween, Day 10

October is Halloween movie month! Having been completely deprived of any kind of Halloween experience growing up, I now spend 31 days celebrating with film and TV. I like to shoot for a mix of old and new, horror and comedy, from the slightly spooky to the totally terrifying to the just plain weird. Each day of October I’ll reviewing one of these ventures in the realm of the creepy and supernatural. Some will be high quality cinema and some will require large amounts of alcohol to survive. Stock up on seasonal beer and Fireball-apple jello shots and join me! A warning, though – unless the review is of a very recent release, HERE BE SPOILERS.


The Babadook (2014)

Starring: Essie Davis and Noah Wiseman

Synopsis: Amelia (Essie Davis, about as far from her glamorous Miss Fisher as is possible to get) is a struggling single mother raising her young son, Sam. Amelia’s husband died in a car accident while driving her to the hospital to have Sam, and it’s clear she’s never recovered. Sam is a difficult child, clingy and demanding, obsessed with monsters and death. He doesn’t give Amelia a moment’s peace, keeping her up at nights and screaming constantly for attention.  He makes weapons to fight the monsters and gets in trouble for bringing them school, as well as breaking stuff around the house with them and scaring his mother. Amelia clearly loves her son, but she’s worn thin. One night, he picks out a book to read called Mister Babadook that Amelia has never seen before. She begins to read it to him, but the monster described in it frightens her and terrifies Sam. He’s convinced the Babadook is real and acts out when Amelia doesn’t believe him, getting kicked out of school and accidentally injuring his cousin. Amelia tears up and throws away the book, but it shows up on the doorstep with new pages, showing Amelia killing the dog, then Sam, and then herself. She burns it in terror but soon begins seeing and hearing strange things, manifestations of the Babadook. Stuck in the house with Sam, Amelia becomes possessed by the creature and begins acting more and more erratically, saying horrible things to Sam and eventually even killing the dog, just like in the book. When she tries to kill Sam he stabs her leg and then ties her up, but encourages her to fight the creature within her. Finally, through sheer willpower and love for her son she manages to expel the Babadook and defeat it. But as the book says, “You can’t get rid of the Babadook”. It retreats the basement. Later, Sam is shown gathering insects, which Amelia takes down to the basement to feed the creature, facing it everyday and telling it that everything will be okay.
The Babadook

I’m not really a horror fan and I had heard this movie was very scary, though extremely good, so I resisted watching it for a long time. I’m glad I finally went for it, as it is a masterpiece of psychological terror that has some important things to say about motherhood, grief, and trauma. And that’s just for starters. It was quite scary, although not nearly as frightening as I had expected. I probably would have found it more viscerally terrifying had I seen it on a big screen in the dark instead of a small computer screen in the middle of the day. If I were a mother, I probably would have found it blood-curdling.

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Oh, Fall’s Your Favorite Season? How Original.

This has nothing do with those damn                                    lattes.

It’s not fall yet. Fall starts on September 23rd. It’s on the calendar. In fact, it’s still pretty ungodly hot outside (and often inside). The days are still long. I don’t have to go back to school nor do I have kids who go back to school. Nothing of any substance has changed in my life since August.

And yet… something is different. Maybe it’s the first hint of color on the dried out hills. Maybe it’s something in the smell of the air or the way it’s suddenly breezier than it’s been in months. Maybe it’s the bounty at the farm market screaming of harvest season. Whatever it is, I’m starting to feel like fall.

It’s my favorite season and September is my favorite month. I don’t know why. I do love summer, and when I was a child I’d spend the summers with my parents on these epic 6-12 week long rambling vacations where we’d travel all over the country and camp and hike and swim. Those are some of my best memories. But there was something about coming home after being away so long, seeing friends again and having something resembling a routine (until I got bored of it again). Something about starting school again and feeling like there were so many possibilities of what I could learn and who I could be.

The author, preparing for winter.

Whatever the reason, as soon as September comes, something starts stirring inside me. Maybe it’s just a nesting instinct. Like a pika, I know winter is coming and I need to make my home secure and stock it with food and warmth so I can safely ride out the cold months. But it’s also a creative instinct. I often start writing or crafting again. Making things, preserving things, cleaning things. I often have more energy and I start dreaming big dreams about my life and what I want to do.

Last night I made and canned ten jars of salsa and twenty of plum jam, and have been drawing up lists of of even more: pickled cauliflower, tomato sauce, pear-lavender jam, rose hip jelly, elderberry syrup, beer, hard cider, sauerkraut… I’ve started work on one of my long-neglected novels again. I’ve started exercising regularly again. I want to sew something, bake something, clean something, paint something.

An early symptom of fall madness.
An early symptom of fall madness.

The first whiff of autumn is like catnip for my soul, a much needed burst of joy just as summer is winding down. It usually manages to carry me into the holidays, with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas providing their own unique diversions. The problem is when the celebrations are over and we settle into the deep part of winter, when it’s cold and dark and our air quality is poor, so the sky and land both take on a grey quality and vigorous exercise is not recommended.

That is the time of year I should be being creative. Long evenings, plenty of time to write books and knit sweaters and redecorate the kitchen. I always say I’m going to, but then the seasonal depression kicks in and in reality I spend those three to four months curled up on the couch watching TV and eating potatoes. Everything feels difficult. Nothing feels worth the trouble. All my plans evaporate and I spent my days and nights just waiting for spring to get here.

Is this just a fundamental trait that I have that’s never going to change? Should I just accept that fall will always be my most optimistic, productive season and that winter will be a season of… Netflix? Or it something I can change somehow? Will I one day be able to roll the enthusiasm of autumn into building something real on those long winter nights, or am I always doomed to repeat my seasonal pattern?

It’s hard to say. I like to think that there’s something different this year. That this is the year, I’ll make a substantive change in my life and how I do things, something I can build upon for longer than just a few short months while the leaves are turning. It certainly feels different, but then it always does.

I don’t know if this is the year I’ll escape the trap of winter, or if I should even try. For now I’m just going try and take advantage of my current pre-autumnal euphoria and do what I can. There is fruit to dry and a garden to hoe and stories to write. While I still can.

Writing About Not Writing

So, I’m gradually trying to do what I say I want to do which is blog regularly and try to start really writing again (and hopefully, selling some of that writing so I can live the fabulous and carefree lifestyle of someone who has two freelance writers in one household). Because my two favorite things are goals and lists, I’ve set myself two goals for the month of September.

1) To blog something everyday

2) To write a total of at least 500 words per day.

The blogging can count as my 500 words or it can be just a short little something as long as I write something else as well. The main thing is to get myself back to writing and blogging consistently. I’m not too concerned with the content at this point.

I know people like to say you aren’t really meant to be a writer unless you can’t not write all the time, but even ignoring the double negative I think that’s bullshit. There are lots of reasons writers end up not writing for various stretches of time, including depression, medication for that depression, other life circumstances, or simply just writing the stories in their head but discarding them before they can put them paper because their inner critic is a loud-mouthed asshole.

My difficulty in actually writing comes from several sources.

Aside from those mentioned above, the first one is that I have somewhat of an all-or-nothing personality. This problematic because it tends to mean if I am doing something, then I am doing or thinking of that thing all the time. It’s not just one of many things I’m doing, it’s all I’m doing. At least until I reach some kind of end point or hit some kind of difficulty, at which point I stop doing that thing entirely.

I read the complete (so far) Song of Ice and Fire in a week. I stayed up late, barely ate, and, yes, read at work when I could get away with it. When I was done with it I probably didn’t read another book for several months. I’ve spent weeks toiling on a knitting project but when I discovered a mistake I’d have to go back and fix, I put it away and didn’t pick up again for several years.

I’m not saying it’s a good personality trait, it’s just the one I seem to have. The last time I was in the writing groove I produced a totally of nearly 300,000 words of Sherlock fan-fiction (Johnlock forever!) in a startlingly short period of time. And then I went off it and have barely written anything else, of any kind since. Although it was some damn good fan-fiction, it did kind of take over my life for awhile.

Another problem is that my actual job that I get paid for involves pretty much sitting at a computer all day, writing technical documents. I cannot even express how little I want to sit down at my recalcitrant laptop-from-hell and write something incredibly amazing after a long day sitting in front of a slightly larger screen writing something incredibly factual. And it’s probably not great for my career to spend my hours at work writing fiction. Although I can’t say it’s never happened.

Lastly, I have a massive fear of failure. Which is conveniently dealt by not actually attempting things in any serious way. The fantasy of the half-finished novel in the drawer that will change my life one day is the perfect thing to keep hope alive while not having to face change in any meaningful way. Also, little known fact: “Keep Hope Alive While Not Having to Face Change In Any Meaningful Way” was a rejected slogan for the Obama campaign.

But I feel like I’ve reached a breaking point with hanging out in my comfort zone (or I’m just really sick of working in this cubicle), so I’m going to try to brute-force my way out of these habits and into some better ones so I can a) get back to writing creatively, b) not burn out on it or tank my current job in the process, and c) eventually have a little less fluorescent light and a little more sunlight in my life.

Only one real question remains: Is it cheating to use writing about my issues with writing to hit my word count for the day because I can’t think of anything else right now?

Probably. But this sucker is 749 words, so I’m going outside!