Monday, November 10, 2014

Why Can't You Just Be Happy?

I feel like I'm an open book as far as my depression and anxiety go, but after thinking about it lately I've realized I'm quite the opposite. If someone asks me how I'm doing or has questions about depression I'm always happy to answer them as openly and honestly as I can. That being said, people don't ask. People don't do it out of meanness, they simply don't want to know. They're scared to. How can someone be so down all the time? How hard is it to just be happy?

The answer to that question is that it is, indeed, very hard. Trust me, it's a question I ask myself every single day, and the only thing it accomplishes is making me feel even worse. So, to those who haven't experienced depression and want to know what it's really like, what your loved ones are actually going through, please continue reading.

On a good day you live your life in a fog. Everything seems hazy and blurry and fuzzy. You can touch things, but you don't feel them. You see things, but you don't take them in. Not really. You find yourself walking around in a this numb state, and honestly sometimes it is kind of nice. It's nice not to have to feel the emotions you're having (or should be having). Except that four out of five days you spend staring at the computer screen or out the window waiting for something, anything, to change. Nothing does. Every once in a while the fog will lift and you'll feel like yourself again. Somehow it's both exhilarating and horrifying at the same time. You can see life as it should be, how others see it. But it's difficult to live that way because it's a feeling you don't feel too often, and you spend every waking moment wondering when the fog will return again. It's a feeling you can't even let yourself enjoy for fear of it being snatched away.

On an okay day it's cloudy. Always cloudy. You're so lost in your own emotions (or lack thereof) that you can barely do anything else. Everything is difficult. Getting out of bed is hard. Walking the dog is hard. Checking the mail is hard. Having to pretend to everyone that you're actually really okay is the hardest of them all. Sometimes, for a brief moment, the clouds will part and you can see the sun, but only from a distance. You're never close enough to feel its warmth on your face or to chase the rainbow you can almost see far in the distance. The clouds quickly come back together and you'll swear you imagined it entirely.

On a bad day, it storms. Always. Relentless, torrential rain that doesn't let up, no matter what you do. You may spend a while trying to calm the storm or stop it completely, but eventually you stop trying. It's too exhausting. It's easier to sit and let the downpour engulf you completely. It's easier to let it take over you and become you than it is to waste the energy trying to deal with it. You become wet with rain to your very core and just when you think you can't bear it any longer, you somehow find the strength to go about your daily life as if everything is totally and completely fine. You push the horrid thoughts to the back of your mind  attempt to move on. You pretend, you fake it. But no matter how much you pretend,  that doesn't mean it stopped raining. It never stops raining.

I urge you to be there for each other. Be accepting of your loved ones, because their hardships are your hardships, their pain is your pain. Even if they don't or can't voice their feelings, you can still support them. You can still let them know that they are actually loved and cared for and appreciated. Because, those of us who live in the misty fog tend to forget that.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dumbledore's Army of Austin, TX

I've been looking for a Harry Potter group since I came to Austin seven years ago. There used to be one, but they quit meeting ages ago and have since fallen apart as far as I can tell. I kept waiting and waiting for one to pop up, but none ever did. I assumed there simply wasn't enough Harry Potter fans in the Austin area. Man was I wrong.

This past Saturday was the Geeks Who Drink #GeekyCauldron quiz, a Harry Potter themed quiz. Our team was quickly formed and we competed in the quiz, placing 7th out of 99 (yes 99!!) teams. It was crazy intense and probably the most fun I've had in a long time. It was fantastic to be around people who take Harry Potter as seriously as I do (srsbsns).

Long story short there were easily 300 people at the event, so the thought I had about there not being a big enough Harry Potter community in the Austin area was blown out of the water. Instead of waiting for someone to form a group, I've formed my own.

I created Dumbledore's Army of Austin, TX (or DAA) and somehow already have 15 members! Yes some are my friends obviously, but some are people I don't even know, which is very exciting to me. Hopefully I'll make NEW friends! So if you live in the Austin area and like Harry Potter, feel free to join. (It's a Facebook group so you will have to have a Facebook account.) I will probably organize a meetup of some sort some (maybe around Harry/JK's birthday on the 31st?), we'll have to see what the response to it is.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

There are few books I can reread over and over. For the most part the thing I like most about books and reading is trying to figure things out before the writer actually tells me. I think really that's one of the main reasons I love the Harry Potter series so much, JK Rowling kept me guessing until pretty much the very end of the last book, which is a hard thing to do.

Last week me and a few other gals started the #HPReadAThon where we'll spend the next few weeks rereading the entire Harry Potter series. It's been a few years for me, so it's almost like new again (almost). I think this is one of the first time I've read the series through the eyes of a writer, though. I paid extra attention to the words that were used and the way they were used to try to figure out what makes them so captivating. Honestly? It's not the words so much as the characters, character development, and story line. Yes the words are lovely, but they are for the most part very simple (albeit clever). Kind of helped me to see things I could improve on to make my work a bit better.

Tonight (after I get my 1K written for the day), I'll start Chamber of Secrets. I read Sorcerer's Stone pretty quickly, but I know as the story line progresses my reading will slow to soak in ALL THE THINGS. If you would like to join me, feel free to comment here, email me, tweet me, or message me on Facebook. We aren't really going at a planned pace, so you can still catch up!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Harry Potter Summer Read-A-Thon

My love for Harry Potter is no secret. Before each film came out I made it a point to reread all seven books. Then when the movies were over (SOOOOOB) I reread them every summer. Due to various circumstances (mostly laziness), it's been a few years since I've been able to do it. This summer I'm hoping to change that! I'd love to get a little reading group together and try to have some sort of structured read-along. Like maybe a book a week or something? Seems reasonable. If you're interested in joining contact me via Twitter, Facebook, Email, or by commenting on this post. I'll set up some sort of group (more than likely a Facebook group because it's the easiest, and it'll be private so as not to clog everyone's feed or whatever) and we'll go from there. Excited to reread the series that made me fall in love with the written word with y'all!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Depression and Creativity

I've made it no secret about my struggle with depression over the past year and a half or so. I have, however, glossed over a bit as to how it's impacted me creatively. I've been thinking about it a lot lately and have decided that it's time for me to be more public about it and ask for advice.

I have been on Zoloft since October of 2012. It took over a full year for me to finally get to a dosage that suited me and actually helped. During this time I was a mess and life seemed more overwhelming and frustrating than ever. Mainly because I was ON medication but it simply wasn't working. Until November of 2013 when the doctor upped my dosage one final time and everything seemed to click into place. At least, I thought it did.

Ever since I started taking the Zoloft I have been blocked creatively. I simply haven't been able to write, read, or do anything that I used to enjoy that involved the written word. I used to write around 1,000 words a day; now I'm lucky if I get 100 words a week. I watch TV a lot now (which I never did before). I think because it's mind-numbing and something I don't really have to think about much. Watching people pick out ridiculously expensive houses in the Bahamas is easier than pounding my head against the laptop in shame.

It's not that I don't want to write. I DO. DESPERATELY. I have always had big dreams and goals. This may sound weird but I've never really failed at anything. Not when it mattered, anyway. And the fact that I'm failing at this makes me sick to my stomach. It then brings up the argument I always have with myself about not being good enough, not being a "real" writer, etc. Which is a slippery slope for me and probably everyone that deals with anxiety/depression. Once one thing goes wrong, everything follows suit and you're soon in a cycle of self-doubt that you cannot see the end of. 

I write all that to ask this: Are you on any medication for depression or anxiety? Do you feel like it hinders you creatively? Did you change medications? Did it help? I'm not against changing medications. However, I'm not looking forward to the side effects of going off one medication to try who knows how many others. It's frustrating to me that I feel like I have to choose between being a sane person and being a writer and it saddens me to see how often the two go hand-in-hand with each other. I'm finally at a good point mentally and I don't want to mess that up, but I refuse to believe that it's simply impossible for me to be mentally stable AND write. I also refuse give up on my dream. Not yet, anyway.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

(Yes, these are words, but I found this on Post Secret and thought it was perfect for a Wordless Wednesday after my previous post this week. Happy New Year, everyone.)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Where I've Been

I've been thinking about this particular blog post quite a bit over the past year or so. I've written it many times in my head, and each time it's a little different. Sometimes I purposefully leave things out because they're too difficult to even fathom sharing with the world. Many times I actually started this very post, only to get a few sentences in and delete it. I think once I maybe even got a whole two paragraphs written. But, again, that may have just been when I was writing it in my head.

At some point last year things changed for me. My personality changed. My likes and dislikes changed. I stopped doing things I loved for no reason whatsoever other than everything seemed to be too much effort. I wasn't lazy by any means, but it seemed like I was in a daily fight with myself to get anything done. I'd stay in the bed until 10:00, sometimes 11:00 or noon. The simple act of reaching up and pulling the covers off my body and dragging myself out of bed seemed too much. The world was too bright and too harsh. Life was better under the covers. Life was easier when lived asleep and alone within myself. I had no one to answer to and no one to think about. Asleep, I had absolutely nothing to worry about.

I stopped reading. In the past two years I can literally count on one hand the number of books I've read. If any of you know me you'll know this isn't me AT ALL. I've been known to read 100+ books a year. In a good week I'd read maybe five books. To go from five books a week to five books a year was... strange. It still is. But once I stopped reading I couldn't get back into it. I felt guilty. I have shelves upon shelves of beautifully sculpted words that someone spent years of their life crafting and perfecting. And I couldn't devote a single hour a day to read them. So I just didn't read a all. Not magazines, not internet articles, nothing. I'd go on Facebook a few times a day, and Twitter even less than that. "This is good for me." I thought. "I'm just trying to get back on track after XYZ [always a different excuse]. I need to find myself again, find my center, and things will be better."

I didn't get back on track. I didn't find my center. Things didn't get better. They got worse.

I stopped writing. It wasn't a gradual thing, either. I woke up one morning and told myself I was done. Done with the entire writing industry. Done with the publishing process. "It's too much, it's too hard. You can't possibly do this, Stephanie." That tiny seed of self doubt I planted soon sprouted into a forest, thick with fear, anxiety, depression, and worry. I couldn't see the sun. I couldn't see anything except for the gnarled roots and branches I'd constructed around myself.

I gave up. At 26 years old I felt like what little chance at a successful writing career was over. Which basically meant my life was over.

I went from not getting out of bed until noon to not getting out of bed at all. Sometimes, on a good day, I'd make it to the couch. This wasn't very often. I watched a lot of TV. Well, the TV watched me, anyway. I'm not sure how much of the shows I was watching actually infiltrated my brain. My husband would come home from work to see me on the couch, curtains still drawn, hair matted and unwashed. He would ask me daily what was wrong, but here's the thing: THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG. I was, simply, sad. For no reason whatsoever. I'd often wish for horrible things to happen to my family or friends just so my brain would actually have something to be sad about. (Thankfully that didn't happen.) I promised him things were getting better, that I was going through a hard time with XYZ (whatever the excuse of the day was). I'd say just about anything for him to stop asking me questions. For him to leave me alone.


I lived like this for nearly a year. On October 27, 2012, I had a gigantic meltdown. I don't even remember what it was over, but I remember the exact date because it just happened to be our fifth wedding anniversary. And, of course, I had ruined everything. Because anything bad that ever happened around me was obviously my fault. I can remember crying so hard I couldn't catch my breath. My husband asked me over and over if I needed to go to the emergency room. "NO." I'd say sternly each time. No no no. I refused to go the hospital for "being sad." By the end of the night, however, I did agree to make an appointment to talk with my doctor.

Long story short, I went to the doctor that week and was diagnosed with chronic depression and anxiety. "We can treat the symptoms with medicine," the doctor said, "but I'd really love for you to see a therapist as well to treat the cause." I hit an all time low. In my mind, therapy was for wives who had lost husbands. Parents who had lost children. I had lost no one except myself. He assured me that wasn't the case, and I promised to call. I went back each month for a check up. "Did you see that therapist yet?" The answer was always the same. At first I was ashamed of not doing it, but within a few visits I really didn't care. I felt slightly better with each med dose increase, but not much. Not what I thought I should feel like. He warned me that some people who take this particular medicine feel like it stifles their creative side. And it did. Not that I noticed too much at first because I wasn't writing anyway, but eventually I did notice. There was a day that I thought, "You know I should write today." I sat down, opened my laptop, and did nothing. Repeat this process every day for the next eight months or so.

Finally I told him this and he urged me, again, to reach out to a therapist. I finally did. I spent days researching various therapists in the area, trying to figure out which ones our insurance would cover. I found one I liked and called on a lovely spring day in April. "Her first available appointment is June 17th." I was a little upset that she was so booked, but I took the appointment anyway. It was far enough in the future I didn't have to think about it and I could finally tell my doctor that, yes, I did call. June quickly rolled around and the day of my appointment drew near. I found it odd that I never received a reminder call or a card in the mail or anything. I had the appointment date and time written down in three places, though, so it wasn't a big deal. I nearly called an canceled the appointment multiple times, but I didn't. I drove myself to her office only to find her door locked, and the lights out. I was about twenty minutes early so I thought maybe I was her first appointment of the day or something. I'd knock the door from time to time, or jiggle the handle. Nothing. Eventually I pounded on the door in tears. Still nothing. I called and left a garbled message on the answering machine, and left. Sadly, I never heard back from her. I'm not sure what happened, and I don't really care to know.

And no, I haven't called another therapist yet, though I know I probably should. 

I went back to my regular doctor in August and he upped my dose once more. Within two weeks I felt like a different human being. So THIS is what I'm supposed to feel like! I had forgotten, completely, what it felt like to be a person. I had forgotten what it felt like to be ME.

Am I better? Yes. Am I well? I'm not sure I'll ever be 100% well again. This is, apparently, something I will continue to battle for years to come. I have good days and bad days, but for the most part the good outnumber the bad. When I do have a bad day it doesn't feel like the world is caving in. I don't cry when the dryer shuts off and I realize I have to actually fold the towels. I can usually catch myself before I go down a train of self doubt. Usually.

I'm working on finding myself again. I'm working on the written word again, though slowly. I'm starting with magazines, which may seem stupid, but I can't dive straight in and write 1,000 words a day like I was before. Though I hope to be back there soon. Writing this blog post is a gigantic deal for me, and I won't lie and say it was easy. It's taken me hours and I'm mentally drained.

 I lost a year of my life to this and I'll be damned if I lose any more. I'm smiling more often, laughing more often, and attempting to repair the broken relationships that this illness has caused. I'm learning to breathe again, but most importantly, I'm learning to love myself again.