5 Things I’m Grateful For

Today was rough. Last night was a complete lack of sleep due to pain and heartburn, improved upon by a series of unfortunate events. Instead of writing about the assorted awful that bombarded me, I’m going to focus on the stuff that gets me through even when storm clouds threaten. I’ll rant another day.

  1. I have the absolute best man I could acquire. He’s complicated and goofy and glorious. I never have a moment’s doubt about his love and respect for me. He spoils me rotten. He cooks and cleans (actually, he does MOST of the cleaning, for which I am eternally grateful since that’s a part of adult life I have never quite mastered). He doesn’t just cook, he cooks delicious food. He has never complained about eating ‘unmanly’ foods like tofu and vegetarian dishes. He’s infinitely patient with my shenanigans. He gives amazing hugs. He cracks me up. I can deal with his nonstop presence in my space all day without wanting to tear his head off (that’s a feat, I promise you). He’s seeeexy, despite his attempts to downplay it. I’ve waged a three-year battle in my attempt to replace his worn-to-threads jacket that I’ve only JUST won. He thinks -I- am sexy, even if I’m sick and feel gross. He can keep up with me intellectually and adores my passion for stuff that most people find dull, and he even shares my passion on some of those same subjects. He’s just as much of a nerd as I am and doesn’t care if I descend into a book or a game for days at a time. He gives me space, but also lets me invade his when I need to. No matter what’s happening, I know he’ll be there for me in a heartbeat if I need him. No amount of money or prestige can replace what he is for me. I am incredibly lucky to have found not one man like this in my life, but two.
  2. My kiddos are amazing. I have three rock star daughters who have managed to navigate their way almost to adulthood through some incredibly rough patches. All three have suffered the death of a parent, despite not being raised in the same household. All three have dealt with more than kids should ever have to. Yet despite that, they’ve all managed to figure out who they are and become pretty great pending adults. I am incredibly excited to meet the adult women they develop into once they pass through the final trials and tribulations of the terrible teen years.
  3. I’m stubborn and intelligent. These two traits have kept me whole and happy through more BS than any human should have to deal with. Even in the face of a seemingly impenetrable wall, I find a way through, over, around, above it to achieve the goal I’m after hiding on the other side. My middle daughter told me today that she describes me to her friends as ‘someone who doesn’t take no for an answer, but always finds a way to accomplish what she sets out to do’. That’s the stubbornness, and while it gets me into a lot of trouble, it also gets me back out of it. The intelligence helps me sort out when to apply it and when to back down and find something new to try. When I listen to my own better judgment, that is.
  4. The people around me support me. I’ve made some strange choices in my life. I’ve moved across country on a whim with no money and no job prospects (and made it work). I’m supporting a family on a freelance writing income. I choose to love and make a life with a significantly disabled man. Other aspects of my nature (being poly, being pagan, being the weirdo nerd girl that I am) are not always easy for other folks to grok and accept. Yet those closest to me support me unconditionally (albeit with a baffled look on occasion) and allow me to carve out space in the world that suits me. I know plenty of folks don’t have that acceptance, and I am incredibly grateful for mine.
  5. I had a really strange childhood. My parents were musicians. Their friends were various types of creative/oddball types. I was given a pretty free reign to think and explore and get curious. One of my aunts is a geek who happily encouraged me to read and explore the world of possibility scifi/fantasy brings. (Thanks for all the Pern books <3). I had the chance from an early age to see that life doesn’t have to be what mainstream culture expects us to make of it. You can create a destiny that suits you. There is more to the world than what appears on the nightly news and in your history books. I wouldn’t be nearly as content with myself, I think, without that early lesson in rebellious living.

    Bonus: Music. If all else fails, I have really loud speakers and a world of great music at my fingertips, thanks to the streaming services of Google Play.

What keeps you going on rough days?

 

 

5 Unexpected Consequences of Pregnancy

Warning: This blog post contains frank observations about aspects of pregnancy which are less than delightful. If you are particularly squeamish, you may want to stop here. The word ‘nipple’ is used. Run, hide, protect yourself.

This is my 6th pregnancy. That’s a scary number. Six. Jeesh. I have three beautiful daughters, all teenagers now. In the last three years, I’ve had two miscarriages. I’m in my 5th month of this pregnancy, and despite my constant undercurrent of anxiety, the wee bean seems to be healthy thus far.

The author and her infant daughter near Christmastime in 1998.
Me and my eldest daughter, circa 1998.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my previous pregnancies. I remember reading everything I could get my hands on. At the time, the internet was not nearly as useful as it is today. There weren’t hundreds upon thousands of Mommy blogs and reliable websites with medical information. I had Dr. Spock’s guide to ‘how your mother raised babies’, ‘What to Expect When Your Expecting’, and similar books to dissect.

I wrote my own early version of a blog. I did research for my own benefit and shared what I learned. I did product reviews. I shared links to useful online resources I found. Circa 1998.

Even with all my research, actually -producing- a child was a lot different than I had anticipated. Every single pregnancy has been different. Every single childbirth experience has been different. Every single child-rearing experience has been different. These kids are their own people, with 100% of inherited stubbornness to back that distinct personality up should parents get their own funny ideas on how things should be.

So I’ve been thinking about the things the books never said. About the things the unsolicited advice never included. About the tribulations (and a little joy) that pregnancy brings and nobody warned me about.

  1. You turn inwards. I’ve always been self-aware about what my body is getting up to. I notice subtle shifts in blood pressure, the rhythm of my heart, everything. Pregnancy takes this to a whole new level. I am nearly always focused on what’s happening inside my womb. I have a lot more conversations with myself, maybe with the infant, in my head. I feel an unmistakable connection to the pulse of life centered in my body.
  2. This new awareness isn’t always pleasant. I imagine for women who are not quite prepared to be a mom, whether the pregnancy is planned or unplanned, this could be a nerve-wracking experience. The presence of another body within your body. I’ve had more than one friend describe the sensation as the feeling of carrying an alien invader or a parasite. These weren’t women who hated being pregnant, but I think their assessment was an honest one. We don’t always get the swoony baby feelings until we get to hold the squirmy little midget outside of the womb, and even then sometimes the connection takes awhile.
  3. Stuff hurts. Glow, what glow? My first three pregnancies were pretty blissful. I had limited to no morning sickness. I lacked most of the other nasty symptoms that go along with pregnancy. I had heartburn in the 3rd trimester with all three and my eldest kicked my spine out of alignment before she made her grand exit. This time, it seems that I’m getting every symptom in the book. Morning sickness for the duration of the 1st trimester, a constantly stuffy nose, the weakened immune system is being bombarded by every drifting virus that comes near, all kinds of digestive upsets, heartburn, exhaustion. I’m pretty miserably in my flesh right now. Pregnancy glow? That’s the simmering rage and exhaustion I’m feeling while I struggle to remember what it feels like to not be sick.
  4. Breasts take on a mind of their own. Aside from the swelling (My goodness, is it really possible to go up a cup size in a freaking night? Why yes, yes it is), breasts ache. A lot. The preparation from being mostly in the way partner-sirens to food production factories involves a lot of adjustment. And that adjustment is not even remotely comfortable. My nipples, which have never been particularly sensitive by any stretch of the imagination, can’t deal with the presence of fabric near them, let alone any touch (mine or otherwise). Can you say screaming pain? I can. And before you assume I have little pain tolerance, I had two babies au naturale. I have a pretty wide-ranging pain scale. Speaking of nipple pain – nobody had warned me about the possibility of leaking milk, chapped nipples, BLEEDING nipples, and the excruciating pain that can come from an improper latch before my first daughter. I didn’t use the Lamaze breathing during labor; I used it during breastfeeding. The first time blood appeared alongside breastmilk at the corner of her mouth I nearly fainted. I had a floor nurse supplementing her in the hospital with bottles, which had a significant impact on her learning to properly latch. I very nearly quit two weeks in before the pain began to subside. If someone had warned me in advance, I could have prepared better. Lanolin and breast pads, at least, would have been already purchased. The next two rounds were much successful (lest I scare any would-be mothers away from breastfeeding. It’s wonderful: great for your baby, much easier on you, and a great deal cheaper. You’ll get more sleep at night, too. Doo eeet.)
  5. Permanent PMS. I am not usually afflicted with PMS in the way we usually think of it. I don’t get the mood swings or the cravings, I don’t become a crazy rampaging beast woman. I don’t even really get cramps. I break out and check my tampon supply and that’s about it. All bets are off during pregnancy. My normally logical brain has broken down completely. I have found myself sobbing on a drive home because I couldn’t decide if I wanted to stop for tea. I was self-aware enough to be simultaneously laughing at my own ridiculousness, but there it is. I’m much more snappy, emotional, and reactive than I ever am. This has been the case for all three pregnancies. The books mentioned mood swings, but they didn’t indicate that they’d be ongoing for 9+ months. You are welcome (and partners, prepare yourselves for extra patience and lots of hugging.)

For those of you who’ve produced offspring, what surprising things did you discover while you participated in the human factory experience?

Old Excuses, New Baby, & New Focus

I’ve been a terrible blogger. In my defense, I’ve been off getting sick, getting pregnant, writing a book in a month (helloooo, Nano), getting sick again, and generally being occupied by the tragedies and triumphs of a life lived.

I have things to say, though, and I’m pretty sure my Facebook circle grows tired of my epic rants. So, here I am again.

I’m not much of a NYE resolution sorta girl. I figure we should always be self-analyzing our place in the world and if it matches our goals in life and adjust accordingly. It just happens that NYE brings with it all kinds of inspirational suggestions and one happened to strike.

I need to write. To write well, I need to practice. To build my business, I need to be visible. To feel whole and happy, I need to get my thoughts out on a page, digital or otherwise. To achieve all of the above, I need to establish good writing habits. Here’s how I’m going to tackle establishing those habits:

  • 5-Year Journal. I picked up a slow but gradually improving habit of journaling from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. (Which, btw, I highly recommend for anyone involved in anything vaguely creative. Which is all of you. Go forth and read it. It’s sort of a workbook on how to recapture your inner muse. It’s got a spiritual bent, but generic enough to be non-offensive to us non-Christian sorts).  However, I find her 3 pages of stream-of-consciousness writing to be a tad tedious for me. I would like to consistently write a page or two a day. To accomplish this, I’m mixing a bit of my own wandering musings with a daily journaling prompt.

    "Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row." -- Ray Bradbury, Freedom With Writing
    Bradbury has spoken.
  • Daily Blogging. I have enough to say that I can pull something out, even if it’s just a quick rant on a current event, every single dang day. So I’m going to. I have an uncharacteristic fear of sharing anything I write for myself that isn’t a social media response or copy/research writing. I need to get over that. The best way to do so is to force myself to put my words out there where the world can poke at them. Which means I am also going to boost my daily posts on social media. Meep.
  • Nanowrimo. I ‘won’ Nano for the first time in 2015. I learned a lot from the experience. Not only am I capable of writing over 50,000 words in less than a month (I beat it before turkey day!), I found the daily writing discipline far easier than I imagined it would be, and discovered new ways to inspire myself. I am ready to tackle Camp Nano and Nanowrimo 2016 and I fully plan on winning both.
  • Bidding. I’m a freelancer. I have no ‘real’ day job. My partner and I support our family of 5 (about to be 6) solely on the income we make writing copy, blogs, and whatever else someone wants to pay me to compose. I need to get better about hunting down new, private clients so I can grow my income. In order to do that, I have to stick my foot in doors and ask for jobs. That’s harder for me than it should be. So, to fix it, I’m going to bid for one 1-3 new clients a week. That number is subject to change based on my work availability, current income, and ability to coherently smash words together.

 

So, here’s to consistency and furthering my wordsmithing skills. What commitments have you made for your upcoming year? What helps you stick to the goals you set for yourself?

5 Things I Learned Playing Text Games

A brief introduction for the proletariat. A MUD, or multi-user dungeon, is a text-based multiplayer game that’s been around since the dawn of the internet era. Way before AOL started littering the world with free connection discs. Back when your OS was DOS, and you connected through telnet. The artform of MUD gaming has evolved along with the rest of the technological world, but it still involves connecting to a completely text-based world and interacting with what you find there through text. It’s delightfully immersive. I first discovered MUD games at the tender age of roughly 7 or 8 when I was exploring local BBSs (online bulletin boards/chat rooms, again, pre-AOL). I was hooked, and I’ve played them off and on again ever since.

1) I learned how to be social on my terms. I know that sounds odd. Learning to be social while sitting alone on a computer in a dark room. Especially for the child born of the Queen of Social Butterflies. Everyone in the entire Puget Sound region knows my mom, and through her bombastic stage presence, quite a lot about me as well (my first menstrual cycle was announced on stage before a large collection of bikers. Strangers were coming up to me in public and congratulating me on becoming a woman). I grew up having intense philosophical, political, and other intellectually stimulating conversations with adults.

Despite all that, I never learned how to -connect- on a real level with another human. I can chat up anyone, on any subject, in any environment. I couldn’t make friends. I moved so much that I never learned the trick of it. I’m still pretty bad at it. Without MUDS and their ability to connect me to other people with at least one common interest in a relatively safe environment, I would be a very lonely person.

The friendships I forged in text-realms have emerged into the real world. When my partner died, friends I made in text games pulled together and sent me money to get my kids through a terribly broke Yule/Christmas season. I’ve had text-game roommates and gone across the nation on adventures to meet people I’ve known for a decade only in digital form.

All of this has helped me learn how to connect emotionally with people I meet first in the real world. I’ve learned things like how to stay in touch and how to shut up when someone just wants to vent (I’m not good at that, still, but at least I try).

An artist's rendition of one of my characters
An artist’s rendition of one of my characters.

2) I found incredible love and companionship. My current sweetie I met in a text game. We had a text flirtation, dated in text, even had several marriages across different characters in text games. I am incredibly content with our relationship. We don’t fight. He is deeply affectionate and supportive of me. He even washes dishes and cooks delicious meals! Plus he’s wicked smart, totally adorable, and funny. He keeps me on my toes, and I can spend most of my time in the same room with him without wanting to string him up by his toes in the closet.

He’s not the first.

My deceased partner also emerged from a text game. I don’t know that we would have ever had a romance if not for how we met. He was permanently disabled with a degenerative disease (Muscular Dystrophy). I probably would never have looked at him as a potential mate because he -looked- frail, like touching him would break him in two (he wasn’t). Without a text game, I would have missed out on seven of the best years of my life. I would have lost all the lessons he taught me patience and compassion, in endurance with grace, in what genuine love looks like. My kids wouldn’t have gained an -amazing- father.

My most successful dating has emerged from a text-based world.

3) I gained the confidence to pursue my passion. Text games are in large part responsible for my

Another artist's rendition!
Another chibi-alternative me!

current profession – freelance writing. A great deal of my time in MUDs is spent writing in-game books, histories, describing items to wear or to eat, or crafting storylines between my characters and other players’ characters.

After a decade of that, I branched out into building. That means I created the room descriptions, items, quests, mobiles (non-player characters), and actions in each area I took on within a game. I learned a lot from that process and discovered that I have a knack for putting words together. The encouragement of my partners and friends pushed me the rest of the way, and now I pay my bills and feed my kids with words.

4) I learned the value of community. MUD communities can make or break the enjoyment of a game. I’ve been privileged to be a part of really vibrant, close-knit gaming communities that support each other and help make the game world a living, breathing place full of wonder and excitement. I’ve also watched decent communities shatter because the administration of the game allowed negative elements to fester unchecked.

Fostering a positive, safe place is vital not just to gaming environments, but to -any- environment where you want more than two people to interact for an extended period. Especially if any element of that community has competition (and, hey, all human gatherings do).

5) I remained insulated against the vitriol often shot towards female gamers in a multiplayer environment. For whatever reason, girls playing MUD games don’t get the same stupidity as girls playing other multiplayer games. I think it’s because our communities are much smaller and tend to have a considerably longer lifespan. One of the primary games I play is over ten years old, and most of the core playerbase has stuck it out for the duration. You don’t want that kind of negativity coming back to haunt you for ten years.

Since MUDs took up most of my game time, the remaining play time was spent mostly exploring solo computer and console games. I find MMOs to be incredibly dull in comparison to the rich immersion I can get out of a text game. It astonishes me how nasty the larger gaming community has become to chicks. We’ve always been here. One of my favorite early game programmers -was- a woman. Roberta Williams. She made the King’s Quest games and the Laura Bow series, among many others. I am glad that I remained largely in a community free of gender shaming.

Have I piqued your interest?

I hope so. MUD games are tons of fun. If you have an interest, send me a message and I’ll help you get started in the game I’m currently playing: Imperian. I can also reccomend a number of other games that might be more suited to your interests.

Have you played before? Tell me about your experiences! What’s your favorite text-based game?

The Slippery Slope: Polyamorous Marriages

Unlike ‘all girls’, I spent my childhood envisioning a future in which I explored space in my personal cruiser, delved into the deepest depths of the Mariana Trench hunting for yet undiscovered species of fish, and produced fantastic murder mystery computer games in my down time. Marriage was not on my radar.

Somewhere in my preteen years, I was given a copy of Stranger in a Strange Land. There were many layers of that book that I didn’t clue in on till I was much older, but the relationship model presented towards the end made a profound amount of sense to me. I ‘grokked’ it perfectly. If it took a village to raise a child, and if we can love more than one person in a non-romantic way, why would we foolishly limit ourselves to the love of just one other human, presumably unending for the remainder of our adult lives? That seemed like a needless restriction. Like painting in a single hue. It could be done, and probably done well in skilled hands with the right subject, but I’d prefer the full palette, thank-you-very-much.

The world didn’t work that way, though. So while I believed then, as I believe now, that the science fiction book had keyed in on something vibrant and beautiful, I settled into a life of monogamy.

Trust and honesty are vital to me. If I enter into a romantic entanglement, I’m going to abide by the expected boundaries. If I can’t, I’m going to renegotiate before I do something stupid or leave. Thus began a series of unfortunate relationships.I have been engaged four times. I had a beautiful vintage diamond in a handcrafted platinum setting worth more than my last three cars combined the last time around. My fiance had a wonderful family. I still miss his mom. No matter how idyllic or classically perfect my betrothed was, I fled before I could say ‘I do.’ The closer I got towards wedded bliss, the less content I was with my relationship.

I was doing everything right, but nothing was working.

The problem was that I was trying to fit myself into the mold of societal expectations. That single color palette. It turns out, I can’t love in monochrome. I feel strangled by the idea that I am forbidden from pursuing an incredible human, should they wander into my path, simply because I already love another.

I became anti-marriage as a result. When asked, I had a ready answer: It’s not for me. It’s an outdated concept. It’s restrictive. Society views it based on a patriarchal model that sees women as commodities, not as equals. All these arguments are fair, but none of them quite fit my feelings.

I lack marriage equality.

I’ve known this for awhile, and for awhile, I accepted the common arguments against allowing multi-partner marriages to exist.

“It’s too complicated.”

“Won’t someone think of the CHILDREN (‘s custody disputes)!?”

“How in the world would taxes work?”

“Insurance providers would never go for it.”

“Next up on Oprah: How My Goat Won Over My Heart – or the muddy hill those cooky poly’s left us.”

That all settled me out for a time. Until I watched my partner seize up while we were laying in our bed, talking into the early am. Until I stood feeling completely out of my depths while the paramedics took his seizing body out of my house. Until I ran around in a panic not sure if I should rush to the hospital, call a friend to watch our kids, or collapse in a puddle. Until I sat, numb and aching with a pain overwhelming enough to drown Manhattan, listening to the doctor tell me that I, as his legal caretaker and 7-year live-in partner, had no authority over what happened to his comatose body. Until they informed me that I lacked the legal right to tell the doctors his final wishes. Until I discovered that right, instead, reverted to parents who’d had little to do with him since we both fled the California desert half a decade earlier. Those parents who knew nothing about the life he’d built for himself, the man he’d become, the children he’d helped mold, the future he envisioned. Those parents who’d never seen him vital and living, only patiently waiting for the death his chronic medical conditioned promised him.

I can’t explain the agony of waiting in the lobby of the ICU, receiving 15-minute updates from the physician about whether or not the love of my life was still medically living. Whether his heart had given up the ghost and let his body seek its final rest.

I can’t explain the call I received from his grandmother, yelling at me. I have no idea what she said anymore, only that I was too hollow to respond with anger or bitterness. I could only tell her in a preternaturally calm voice what was. What would be.

I can’t explain the constant buzz of panic and anguish during the few days I waited to find out if I’d be able to receive his ashes. The wait to discover if they’d cremate him as he’d wished.

All of it was a brutal reminder that marriage matters. Marriage is a blanket of protection built around a life shared. Marriage provides a social seal of approval. It grants essential rights.  The protection of parentage, the right to be at the bedside of a sick loved one, the power to make decisions about how their final moments go, and the ability to handle the last memories you will make with them.

I was lucky. His parents respected their son enough to abide by what I passed along. They wouldn’t try to keep his lifeless corpse alive with machinery. They would grant his body peace. They wouldn’t try to bury the body he wanted cremated, and they would allow me and my family, his family, to keep the ashes. The team at the hospital was gracious enough to keep me informed. In some states, I’d have been kept out entirely since we had not created any documentation beforehand to cover such an event. It could have been far worse, far harder, on my girls and I.

Now I know that those excuses are a dike built of sand.

If insurance providers can cover the children of Quiverfull families without tossing them off their rolls, then I should be able to have an extra spouse or two without destroying the world.

If we can manage the complex tax code of multi-national, multi-billion dollar corporate entities, then we can manage a tax code covering considerably less complex poly families.

If we can manage custody disputes involving non-traditional families where a child is being raised in part by grandparents, aunties, uncles, step-parents, and all manner of complex, modern configurations, then we can sort our poly custody disputes.

Polyamory is about love, honesty, commitment, and respect. It’s not swinging, not that there’s anything wrong with swinging. Poly folks acknowledge that love is bountiful and we need not restrict ourselves from enjoying the full kaleidoscope of loving entanglements. It’s not about being afraid of commitment. Poly families tend to have strong feelings of commitment to one another. Poly requires a higher level of emotional discourse, of raw honesty, than is necessary to keep afloat a traditional monogamous relationship. This is in no way the equivalent of a man seducing the neighbor’s horse for a moonlit affair.

It’s real, and it’s a pattern of behavior that has been relatively normal throughout human history. Legalizing polyamorous marriages doesn’t destroy monogamous ones, or somehow negate the value of monogamous marriages. Some folks prefer to stick it out with one person. Kudos to them.

The author, author's child, and a friend holding marriage equality signs at a rally.
Best friend to the left, daughter in the middle, me on the right marching to our courthouse to celebrate marriage equality.

I marched with my daughter and her best buddy to my local courthouse with a collection of folks who’d gathered at the local GBLTQ community center to celebrate the final victory that made marriage equality the law of the land – so long as you stick to two. I am thrilled that we finally have sensible, fair protections for gays and lesbians.

Polyamory needs to be next.

Coloring Therapy & Depression

I have been dodging my personal writing projects in the pursuit of professional advancement. The real result of this is that I’m rapidly becoming burnt out on the paid-for words. So, I’m renewing my commitment to come here and let off some steam.

I am a fat chick. I also workout. I do so because I like being strong and flexible. I love being able to go on challenging hikes or take my kid out for a kayaking day trip. Since I’ve begun putting a focus on my fitness habits, I’ve gained weight, not lost it (Hello, you sexy muscles you).

Part of my method of holding myself accountable to my fitness goals is daily blogging through Sparkpeople.com. They offer free trackers for food and fitness, useful calculators, free workout programs and videos, and other useful tidbits. They are also a social networking platform that offers status updates, friendships, forums, and blogs. For whatever reason, I can manage a quick blog there daily but I can’t force myself to sit down HERE and write.

Overly long introduction made not one bit shorter; I’m using the fitness blog post of today to inspire my blogging here. And maybe shaming myself a bit for being a lamer and dodging this while being consistent at that. (Bloggers there barely read what I write, they usually just comment with YOU CAN DO IT! Stickers. It’s hard to be scared of soccer moms doing Pilates in the basement while the kids are in school.)

Here goes:

Yesterday was tough. I have been low for a week or so. Yesterday I took a nose-dive towards the black abyss that is clinical depression. I’ve suffered from persistent depression for most of my life. These days, after much pain and struggle, I usually have pretty good control and rarely collapse into depression. Yesterday was a rarity, but no less challenging for being so.

For absolutely no discernible reason, I was depressed. It took me most of the day to recognize my state and start to take action for it. I hate when that happens. It wastes the day and all the while everything I SHOULD be doing is building up in the background of my mind. It feels like the constant buzz of the too-loud fridge at 3 am when you should be sleeping. I don’t quite know what’s bothering me, but SOMETHING is, and I can’t ignore the feeling.

By the time I realize I have things I should be doing, I’m in a rush and feeling overwhelmed. I become the worst human on the earth. Too lazy and mindless to be a writer. Too mentally cluttered to run a business. Too crazy to be an adult.

I have a pretty good internal voice. By nature, I am far more rational than emotional. When depression kicks in, emotions take over and my usually upbeat, thoughtful self devolves into a mass of jumbled and frayed wires, sparking pointlessly and melting fuses.

It’s hard to climb out of that mess. It’s hard to even find the starting point in the chaotic spider web of tangled lines and painful electrical surges.

I feel the need to pause here and break something down for the uninitiated.

Depression is not being sad.

Let me repeat that.

Depression is not being sad.

People can ‘feel depressed’ as a result of a traumatic life event. You can feel depressed over the ending of a relationship, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job. That’s a normal human response to Life Happening. It’s cool. Grieve, process, grow.

Clinical depression can result from that sort of depression. Clinical depression also may not. I did not descend into a clinically depressed state following the wake of my life partner dying unexpectedly in our bed. I grieved – I’m still grieving, in fact, but I did not become depressed. Clinical depression can strike at literally any time for absolutely no concrete reason. You don’t need Life Happening to trigger depression. Sometimes, your brain just decides to kick out the wrong combination of chemicals and knock you on your ass, #sorrynotsorry style.

Here’s what it feels like to me:

  • Super fatigue. Have you ever been so exhausted that the mere idea of moving itself expends the remnants of your energy? I have.
  • Brain fog. My thoughts must move through molasses, the already dusty and poorly managed banks of memory become impossible to access, and 2+2= ?!?.  This is frustrating. My sense of self is deeply connected to my intelligence. Feeling stupid, slow, and mindless heightens my feelings of worthlessness like nothing else. Take away my brain and what am I left with?
  • Debbie Downer Syndrome. All the bad things I’ve said and done, every nasty word aimed my direction, every awkward social interaction I’ve had – it all comes back. I relive my worst moments in my head like a video reel on repeat. It cements the depression reality that I’m a terrible human being, and everyone is just too polite to tell me so.
  • Ennui. I cannot get excited about anything. The fun leeches out of me, and I can’t motivate myself to focus on even the laziest of activities. I can’t enjoy watching a TV show, or read a book, or play a game. I just don’t care. So even while I’m incapable of working effectively, I become incapable of leisure as well. All I can manage is to lay around and wait for it to pass, or sleep.

Depression for me is far more physical and mental than it is emotional. It blows. I’m a glass-half-full kinda gal. I am confident. I love who I am. No matter how much life throws at me, I gravitate towards joy and thankfulness. Depression is a deeply painful experience because it transforms me into something other than myself. I despise it.

After years and years of trying and failing to find a pathway out, I buckled down and went to a doctor. I was on oral meds and went to therapy for roughly a year. I went off the meds about three months in. Once I had my body in balance, it was just a matter (for me) of learning to recognize those days and weeks when I’m spiraling downwards and take steps to keep myself afloat till my positive self beats back the depression demon.

After being miserable all day yesterday without understanding what was up, I finally paused and gave a legitimate answer to the question my mister asked me a dozen or more times, “What’s wrong?”

“I’m depressed. It’s okay, I’ll emerge,” I answer.

Once I spoke the words aloud, I recognized the truth and saw my pathway back out of the hole I had been digging.

Do something nice for myself.

Do something useful.

Ask for help.

A coloring page of an owl, completed in colored pencil.
My rad retro-colored therapy owl.

Cool. Got it. I forced myself off the bed and into the shower. I read a little more of Stephen King’s On Writing. I went to the store and bought veggies to snack on (to make up for my crap eating of the day before) and picked up a very nice coloring book and a set of colored pencils. I made myself complete my daily (40 minutes) or exercise before I could color my first page. Then, I colored my first therapy owl.

He’s hanging above my monitors now, watching me with his wide yellow eyes. I think he’s a decent reminder to take care of myself. I’m going to imagine he has the voice of the owl from the Hundred Acre Woods.

I’m not all the way better today, but I’m getting there. It just took a moment of honesty, a partner who loves me, and a little bit of self-care.

Note:
If someone you know suffers from depression, do not expect them to simply snap out of it. Don’t expect their experiences to be like mine. Don’t make demands on them. Be there, if only for quiet companionship. Remind them of why you value them. Help them take small steps towards what they need to accomplish. Recognize that simple tasks can be overwhelming to someone in that state. Know that if they could, they’d very likely give up a useful limb to feel better.

If you are depressed, don’t expect to will yourself out of it. Go talk to a doctor, to a therapist, to a friend. Depression is a two-part problem. It’s not in your head; it’s in your biology. Sometimes, even the strongest person needs a medical push to navigate out of the maze. Don’t be ashamed to ask for that gentle nudge.