Personal Growth is So Annoying

I’ve found myself saying “personal growth is so annoying” all week — to my husband, therapist, best friend. It’s been a week of intense introspection where I’ve realized I haven’t been taking care of myself as I should. I’ve fallen off the wagon of self care, careening right into binge eating and negative self talk. All these negative thoughts have been ruminating in my head.

I’m beautiful, and my body is beautiful.
I need to appreciate and nurture it

But the thing bothering me the most is my binge eating. Last year I had weight loss surgery — the gastric sleeve — and I really can’t eat a whole lot. But I find myself pushing my limits, eating until I’m uncomfortably full and can hardly breathe. I’ve gained about 15 pounds since the start of COVID-19, and I’m so ashamed. I should be thinner almost a year after my surgery. I shouldn’t be drinking Diet Coke. I shouldn’t be eating junk all day long — so long that sometimes my jaw hurts from chewing all the crap I put in my mouth.

I feel like a failure, but today I hit a breaking point. I’d been eating all day. It felt like my skin didn’t fit anymore and suddenly I was aware of every inch of my skin. I took a bath and tried to wash away my overeating sins and shame.

Then it hit me. I have to stop doing this. There was a reason I got the weight loss surgery, and it shouldn’t be a quick fix, it should be a tool, and I need to start using it as such. I’m not a lost cause. Sure, I’ve gained 15 pounds, but who hasn’t in the midst of the pandemic? Not that it’s an excuse. But I have to start eating more healthily or I truly believe I’ll put myself in an early grave.

For the first time in a long time I feel hope. I told David what I was thinking, and he was very understanding as always. I know sometimes I put him in a hard spot because I ask him to help me be accountable but then get mad when he tries to help.

He told me he believed in me and had a suggestion: I need to quit Diet Coke. This hit me hard. I’ve struggled for a decade trying to quit Diet Coke. When I got the surgery, I did for a bit, but then started taking sips here and there, which turned into a 12-pack every week, then two 12-packs.

I love Diet Coke. I love that when I come downstairs in the morning with the kids, who are usually arguing and not telling me what they want for breakfast, that the first thing I do is grab a Diet Coke. The first few sips are the best — it burns all the way down and is so crisp. I usually down the first one fast, then maybe one or two more before I take the kids. Then a couple throughout the day. It feels like a treat. Why I feel I need a treat that often, I do not know. It almost feels like a security blanket.

But diet soda just isn’t good for you (especially if you’ve had the sleeve), and although I love it, I must say good-bye. I need to bid farewell to disorderly eating. Logically, I know it’s not good for me, but in the moment I think it will be great. And it might taste amazing, but any pleasure I get is temporary.

Any pleasure I get is temporary. What’s not is the shame I feel. The discomfort and pain, too. That seems so permanent.

After my discussion with David, I threw out all the Diet Coke I had in the house, even the ones that I just bought today. It’s silly, but it made me so sad. I threw out the Butterfinger I had hidden in the fridge, the bag of white cheddar popcorn and a box of Fruit Roll-ups. The food I don’t care about. Eating healthy seems so much easier than forgoing my diet soda habit.

But I have to do what I have to do, because isn’t that all a form of self-harm — bingeing on junk food and chugging Diet Coke? I’m only eating my feelings, trying to bury them down deep and hoping for the best. I think it’s safe to say that this is not a healthy or productive way to deal with life. And someone like me, whose brain doesn’t function properly, can’t live that way. Nobody can, actually.

I have to learn to sit with my feelings. I have to retrain my brain on what constitutes as a “treat.” I have to rein in the negative ruminations. I have to get uncomfortable, be more vulnerable and let go of these actions that once served me but now do not.

Personal growth is so annoying.

But necessary.

Stay in the light.

One False Move

Recently I was speaking to my mentor and dear friend of many years, and he made the comment that I seemed to be doing a lot better than I was a year ago. He then said, “I bet you have to work hard to keep your depression at bay.” As always, he was spot on.

Many people think that because I went to a psychiatric facility for six weeks, I’m “cured” or “fixed.” But for me, and so many others, major depression is a life-long struggle. I have to be diligent in following my treatment plan and there’s just not much room for error. One false move can cause me to slip into a depressive episode, and there I am — Alice, fallen down the rabbit hole. But it’s no dream, it’s a living nightmare.

Accidentally skipping my pills, going to bed later than normal, skipping therapy, not exercising — that all costs me. Even if it seems so inconsequential, like not brushing my teeth before bed, it’s not. It takes only one thread to pull a tapestry apart.

I try to follow a strict schedule, where I wake up and go to bed at the same time everyday. I adhere to a self-care checklist, which holds me accountable to all the small chores I must do to maintain my mental health (brushing teeth, taking a shower, exercising). It doesn’t sound so bad, and I’m not seeking pity, but sometimes I’d like to stay up late every once in awhile or sleep in (with the kids, I guess this is moot). I crave flexibility and spontaneity. It doesn’t help that I’ve developed a very rebellious side that tells me, “You can’t tell me what to do!” And sometimes I’ll indulge her, which is never a good idea, but one I can’t seem to avoid.

Looking deeper, what I really want is to not have to look over my shoulder so much, in fear of a depressive episode. I don’t want to worry what that would mean for my family. I want security — safety from depression —and the thought of never having that is so overwhelming, it’s hard to breathe. The thought of having an ECT treatment every four to six weeks for the rest of my life, makes me want to sob. The idea that I will be suicidal again, is heartbreaking and scary as hell. It all feels so damn heavy, especially when I think about how my depression is present in my daily life, even when I’m not going through a depressive episode. It’s always there, lurking, making every little thing I do harder.

I would love not to have to question every emotion and investigate every bad mood. Sometimes I feel like I can’t even admit to a bad day without someone questioning if I “fell off the wagon” of good mental hygiene. I wish I could have some normalcy and not be at the mercy of my disease. I’m sure everyone is sick of hearing about it, I sure as hell am. But again, one false move could crush my fragile psyche.

Odds are that I will enter into another depressive episode. I’m just being realistic. I’m grateful that I’m better equipped now if that happens, but it’s still scary. I’d like to think I’ll never get as lost as I was before going to The Menninger Clinic, but if I do, I know my family and friends are there to support me. And that’s more than a lot of people have.

I’ve always been careful to thank God for all my blessings, and I’m so blessed. I know not everybody can go inpatient at a top psychiatric hospital. Not everybody has such supportive family and friends. And as messed up as it sounds, I’m grateful for my depression because it has taught me empathy, strength, resilience and patience. I wouldn’t be the person I am without it (and I’m pretty proud of who I’ve become).

Still, it’s scary knowing that I could return to that lonely, dark place.

Here’s to staying in the light.

Negative Self Talk

It starts with something seemingly simple, like telling yourself you’re stupid for making a mistake. Or maybe you begin comparing yourself to others because they have a better body, car, job, etc.

These kind of thoughts, called negative self talk, are extremely dangerous when it comes to your self-esteem and self-worth.

I have no problem admitting this is one of my weaknesses. I catch myself saying things like:
“You’re ugly.
You’re fat.
Everyone thinks you’re a loser.
You’re a terrible mom.”

Just to name a few.

I do my very best to correct these insults as soon as I think them, so I won’t feel worse about myself, but it’s very difficult some days.

That’s the problem with negative self talk — once it enters your brain, it’s very hard to get them out. And once they’re there, they can burrow in deep, making you not just dissatisfied with yourself but dissatisfied with your life in general. It can take a toll on your confidence, increase shame and limit personal growth, according to Psychology Today.

Your thoughts — negative or positive — turn into actions and that’s why you have to be diligent in stopping negative thoughts in their tracks and fostering healthy, happy thoughts, especially if you have depression.

I know that if I let unhealthy thoughts play out, I’ll enter into a depressive episode and practice unhealthy behaviors.

The best way (for me) to think about it is that I have to do some things on a daily basis to maintain my mood and keep depression at bay. For example, exercising. Interrupting my inner critic is no different — just an exercise my mind must do to be healthy, too.

And for me, it’s not enough that I stop the thoughts in their tracks. I find it more helpful to correct my unruly thinking by saying something positive about myself. Like, “I’m a good writer. My kids love me. I’m a kind, generous person,” etc.

It also helps to name your inner critic — this helps separate the negative voice from your own. And at first, I thought I needed to get rid of my inner critic but my therapist has taught me that the inner critic is a part of me and that I need to love her. I initially named my inner critic Ursula, because I thought of a fat, ugly sea witch, but I know now that inner voice needs nurturing, protecting and loving. It may sound weird and I’m not proposing you embrace the mean things your critic tells you but that voice is there for a reason. Maybe it started off trying to keep you safe before it turned negative, I don’t know. But I renamed my inner critic Ann, my grandmother’s name.

I believe I must come to terms with Ann in order to love myself fully. I’m not an expert, but I do challenge you to do the same.

Another thing that helps me with negative self talk is to phrase things to myself the way I speak to my kids (a best friend works, too) when they need comforting. I would never tell them they’re stupid or say something else ugly — never — so why is it OK for me to talk to myself that way?

If you catch yourself thinking mean and hateful things (and can’t change the negative to positive), I highly recommend trying cognitive behavioral therapy. I love therapy and it has helped me grow so much.

For more ways to stop negative thinking, read this Psychology Today article.

Stay in the light.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

This past week was a good week, even though it started off with an ECT. For some reason, that treatment was rougher than usual. I had a lot of confusion and memory loss but maybe that’s a good sign? I don’t know. I’m going to start tracking how long the seizures are and compare it to my subsequent behavior to see if there’s a pattern.

This past week, I was told that the mental health series I wrote for the local paper would be published on Monday (tomorrow) and I’ve very excited about that. I have six pieces, so they’ll run every Monday for six weeks.

I also was asked to be the main speaker at a suicide prevention symposium, which is being held by my state representative. I’m nervous but very excited about that.

Yesterday, David and I went to the new house we’re building, and they are almost done — thank God! It’s been two years, so I’m very anxious to move in. I started ordering the kids bedroom furniture, and that just got me more excited. I really can’t wait. But now, I have to start to pack, lol.

That’s pretty much it. I hope you guys have a great week. Thanks for reading.

Stay in the light, friends.

10 Ways to Help Someone with Depression

It can be challenging and frustrating having a loved one with major depression. You want to help them but are unsure how. Or maybe they tell you they don’t need help.

I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety for two decades, and it’s still hard communicating my needs and what’s going on in my head. Sometimes the pain is so bad and my thoughts are so dark, I don’t want to share or I can’t find the words to accurately describe what I’m feeling. Not being able to do is a source of frustration for my husband, but he’s patient and never makes me feel bad about going through a depressive episode.

Patience is key. You should never try to shame your depressed loved one about what they’re going through or make them feel bad in any way — believe me, if they’re anything like me, they’re feeling enough guilt and like they’re a burden.

Those feelings can actually intensify their depression.

It’s hard navigating such a complex disease, so I’ve listed 10 ways to help someone with depression below:

  1. Read and learn — Educate yourself by visiting the National Alliance on Mental Illness website and the National Institute of Mental Health website
  2. Reject harmful stereotypes — Stereotypes fuel the stigma surrounding mental illness. Thoughts like “She’s lazy, she’s weak, she needs to just ‘Snap out of it,’ and that depression is ‘just sadness'” need to be eliminated. It’s hurtful and just makes people who suffer with depression feel worse.
  3. Check in with them often — When I get depressed, I tend to hide out in my house, but that’s not always good, especially now with coronavirus. I’m already isolated and going without contact from my friends makes me feel more alone and depressed.
  4. Encourage self care — In my opinion, practicing self care is the best thing one can do when they are depressed (aside from talking medications and going to therapy). I like to exercise, get massages, write and read books to feel better.
  5. Encourage therapy on a consistent schedule — Therapy can help people sort through their feelings and make healthier life choices. Talking about what’s going on just makes me feel better. I go weekly to see my therapist. My therapist isn’t cheap, but there are free or affordable resources available in my community (like at the college). Please check out what resources are available to you.
  6. Remind your loved one it get’s better and that they won’t always feel that way — It’s hard to realize that you won’t always feel so badly and life is so hard. I think it’s OK for someone to remind their loved one that all feelings are temporary.
  7. Listen — Sometimes we just need to vent (without any judgement).
  8. Be patient — Dealing with depression is frustrating for all, but one of the best things you can do is just be patient.
  9. Know that you can’t “fix” them — Depression is a completely treatable disease, but it is not curable. Unfortunately, most people with major depression will fight it for the rest of their lives.
  10. Know the signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation — If you think a friend is struggling with suicidal thoughts, you need to be direct and ask them things like, “Are you suicidal? Do you have a plan? Is there a gun in your home?” We can’t tiptoe around this subject; it may be uncomfortable to talk about, but it could save lives, too. Read about warning signs of suicide here. If your loved one is suicidal, do NOT leave them alone. Take them to the nearest emergency room. The doctors/nurses will assess the situation and your loved one will likely be transferred to an acute behavioral facility that can help. That’s my experience, anyway.

Helpful Things to Say:

  1. You’re not alone
  2. It gets better
  3. How can I help?
  4. You’re important to me
  5. I’m glad you’re in my life
  6. How can I support you right now?
  7. It’s OK to feel that way
  8. Your feelings are valid

Things to Avoid Saying:

  1. “Get over it, buck up or snap out of it” — People with depression can’t just “snap out of it.” Depression affects them both physically and mentally. Even the smallest of tasks are daunting, and sometimes, not possible. Aside from fatigue, people can have physical symptoms like joint pain, stomachaches, back pain and pure exhaustion. It takes a lot of work to manage depression, so expecting someone to come out of a depressive episode at the snap of your fingers doesn’t help anyone.
  2. “It’s all in your head” — Again, depression is a real disease, as real as any other. People experience mental and physical symptoms and telling someone it’s not real makes them feel bad and can sink them further into the hole of depression.
  3. “What do you have to be depressed about” — I hate this one. I live a great life; I’m very fortunate. I’ve always had everything I needed, but I also have this awful disease I have to contend with. It doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for what I have and my life in general. I can’t control feeling depressed any more than someone can control having a heart attack.

I hope this helps. It has certainly helped my loved ones help me.

Stay in the light, friends.

I’m Not for Everyone

In the not-so-distant past I’ve had trouble with is that I want everybody to love me, and because of this, I don’t think I’ve been my most authentic self around people. I was a people pleaser. I sought the approval of people who really shouldn’t shape my behavior (family, friends, acquaintances I met at the kids’ school). Usually people pleasers have low self-esteem and self-worth. It’s just not realistic for everyone to like me.

The only person I should care about liking me is me. And maybe my husband.

I’m tired of thinking, “Oh, is this person mad at me? Did I do something wrong? Do I need to apologize?”

I would actually go through my texts or social media posts to see if I posted something offensive or controversial. That’s nuts, and it’s no way to live. I don’t want the responsibility for how others feel anymore. Rejection, if that’s what it is, is OK.

I’m a good person — a nice person. I’m kind, generous and I love hard. If someone doesn’t like me, fine. I think I’m great. It just took me a really long time to get here.

I look back and think of some of my therapy appointments. It was really hard admitting that I’m a good person, and it was unbelievably hard saying something nice about myself or even discussing the good things happening in my life.

I’m tired of that, though. I’m tired of overanalyzing my behaviors and social media posts. I’m also tired of freaking out when I think someone is mad. Just because they’re mad doesn’t mean I did anything wrong. It makes me avoid conflict, and that’s not healthy either.

I’m not for everybody. And that’s OK. I just want to be me — an advocate for mental health, lover of the F word, a “bleeding heart” liberal, an anxious (and sometimes very depressed) person, a kind hearted person who sings no matter where she goes, someone who will admit when she’s wrong, someone I cherish for all these reasons and more.

It’s a long road to love yourself, and I’m no means close to the finish line on that, but I feel it starts with letting go of the idea that you have to please everybody.

I’m an amazing person for so many reasons, but one think I’m not that I need to remind myself of is — I’m not for everyone. I’m for me.

My tips on how to stop people pleasing:

  1. Be OK with saying “No”
  2. Accept who you are, with no exceptions
  3. Know that it’s OK if not everybody likes you
  4. Practice self-care
  5. Don’t place more importance others’ opinions than yours
  6. Set priorities and only do things that will advance those priorities
  7. Ditch toxic personalities

Download my Self-Care Checklist below:

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

The past couple days have been hard. I’ve been extremely fatigued, irritable and I’ve fallen back on some unhealthy coping skills, such as binge eating. I don’t know why, but I’m just exhausted. It hurts to move.

Tomorrow I get another ECT, so maybe it’ll reset my brain and I’ll get back on track. Things were going well up until a couple days ago. I have a lot to look forward to.

We leave for San Antonio in just an hour. We’re staying the night in a hotel so we can get to the hospital bright and early. I know they help, but I really don’t like ECTs. Not a fun time for me.

Please think good thoughts and send light my way.

Here’s to next week. Hoping y’all have a good one, too.

6 Myths About Suicide

Suicide is widely misunderstood, which makes sense because it’s considered a taboo subject in most every culture and just isn’t talked about enough. I get why some people don’t want to talk about it, but suicide rates are increasing in the U.S. I believe they will increase even more now that we’re dealing with a pandemic.

There will be lasting effects of coronavirus, and it’s undoubtedly going to wreak havoc on mental health in this country, not to mention, the rest of the world.

If we could normalize talk of suicide, I truly believe we could save lives, even – and especially – during times of crisis.   

It’s important to note that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., so this isn’t an uncommon problem.

Below you’ll find some of the most common myths relating to suicide.

  1. You shouldn’t bring it up – Don’t be afraid to broach the subject with someone who may have suicidal thoughts. Experts agree that by bringing it up, you’re not making it worse or giving anyone ideas. When you start the conversation, you are allowing someone to vent, and maybe by talking openly with you, your loved one might feel less overwhelmed by their feelings. And as I mentioned earlier, the more we talk about suicide, the more we reduce its stigma.
  2. Someone who’s suicidal truly wants to die – I speak from personal experience when I say this: when I have been suicidal, and there have been many instances, and experiencing suicidal thoughts, I’m doing so because I am overwhelmed with pain and just want it to stop. I don’t necessarily want to die, but when you’re in that much pain, all you can think about is it stopping. It’s understandable to me why people do die by suicide because of that.
  3. Someone who doesn’t have depression won’t die by suicide – While depression does increase the likelihood of dying by suicide, it does not need to be present in a loved one for them to be suicidal. Financial and work stress can contribute to someone feeling suicidal. Drug and alcohol substance and/or abuse also can contribute.
  4. Someone who is suicidal or who has attempted suicide is seeking attention or being dramatic – This is a dangerous assumption. Please treat every threat of suicide as a dire crisis, because it is. Even if you think they’re “being dramatic,” it’s easier to take a friend to the emergency room than a morgue. Anyone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts should be considered as in crisis mode and you should act appropriately. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or use text the Crisis Text line by texting HOME to 741741.
  5. Giving someone a crisis hotline phone number is enough – While I have found the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to be extremely helpful in my times of crisis, sometimes it’s better to talk face-to-face with a friend or take your loved one to the hospital to ensure they are safe. Help your loved one come up with a Safety Plan, a simple guide of who to call and coping skills to use if in crisis. View an example of a safety plan here.
  6. People who die by suicide are selfish or taking the “easy way out” – I hate when I hear this. There’s nothing easy about being mentally ill or having suicidal thoughts. You don’t choose to have them, and all you want is to stop them. That’s not easy or selfish. Be compassionate and realize that if someone is seriously thinking about ending their life, it must be for good reason. Be a friend and leave judgement at the door.  

The best thing you can do as a friend is research ways to help your loved one, refrain from using judgement, sit with them if they are suicidal and take them to the hospital if they are in immediate danger of hurting themselves. DO NOT leave them alone, even if they ask you to leave. Stay with them to keep them safe.

Don’t be afraid to be direct and ask things, such as “Are you suicidal? Do you have a plan? Have you attempted before? Do you have a gun in your house?” and more. It might be uncomfortable, but it’s the best way to help.

Again, I just want to mention that there’s a 24-hour hotline, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that you can call at 1-800-273-8255. And the Crisis Text Line, just text HOME to 741741.

10 Common Depression Symptoms

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you have depression. With me, it was fairly obvious by my anxiety, foul mood and persistent crying. But symptoms of depression can mimic other illnesses, too. You should always consult your doctor if you have questions or think you are experiencing any mental illness symptoms. It’s always a good idea to get a full work up, so you can rule out other illness, but like I said, sometimes it’s obvious.

Here are 10 common depression symptoms (from the National Institute of Mental Health):

  1. Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
  2. Feelings of hopelessness – This was a big one for me. No matter if something good happened to me, I’d always feel like it wasn’t good enough. That I would feel that way forever. I’m happy to say that it does get better, but to be honest, sometimes it can be a awhile for your doctor to figure out what works for you. Just don’t give up
  3. Feelings of extreme guilt and worthlessness – This also is a big one. I feel incredibly guilty about everything, even to this day. I would start worrying that the lunch I packed for the kids wasn’t good enough and that meant I was a bad mom. Or I’d feel guilty if I took a nap, even if it was restorative. I hate feeling guilt all the time but it has gotten better
  4. Loss of interest/pleasure in hobbies or activities that were once enjoyable – I noticed this right off the bat. I stopped reading, and I LOVE to read. I also notice that when I’m going through a depressive episode* I don’t sing as much. I love to sing. It makes me happy, so my family knows to worry when I’m not singing all hours of the day. A lot of people who suffer from depression experience decreased interest in sex
  5. Decreased energy/fatigue – This one’s hard to deal with. There are times that I feel it physically impossible to get out of bed or that my limbs weigh 100 pounds each. Even when my to-do list wasn’t lengthy, I couldn’t do most of it
  6. Restlessness/irritability – I don’t feel like I’m restless when I’m going through an episode, but I am extremely irritable. Little things set me off and get me flustered. I have a short fuse with the kids and even sounds — like loud or repetitive noises — drive me up a wall
  7. Sleep disturbances – People with depression either sleep too much or not enough. For me, I would sleep too much — about 8 to 10 hours a night and maybe a nap during the day. A lot of the time I’d go to bed early only because I couldn’t stand being awake to feel any more than I was feeling
  8. Appetite changes – This is very common. Some people notice a decreased appetite, however; I would always gain a bit of weight (mostly because I have Binge Eating Disorder, too)
  9. Suicidal Ideation or attempts – I can’t stress this enough — if you are having suicidal thoughts and have a plan to kill yourself, please seek help immediately. Reach out to a trusted friend or family member. Contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or use the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741)
  10. Difficulty concentrating, having trouble remembering or making decisions – It can be very hard for some to remember things and it might take you a long time to make a decision. I don’t have too much experience with these (except memory problems caused by ECT)

Less Common Symptoms of Depression

  1. Physical pain that can’t be explained – This can include back aches, stomachaches and headaches
  2. You drink more alcohol than usual – I don’t drink but this makes sense. Sometimes you don’t want to feel anything, so you turn to alcohol or drugs to make you feel better. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t make you feel better. If it does, it’s only temporary
  3. Moving of talking more slowly – Depression has quite an effect on the brain. It literally slows your brain and body down, so other people may notice you speaking or moving more slowly than usual
  4. Digestive problems without clear physical cause – This goes along with physical pain mentioned above. Studies show that depression can cause an inflamed digestive system. I know that when I’m having a lot of anxiety, my stomach starts hurting and the more I worry, the worse it gets. Read more about how depression affects your stomach here
  5. Angry outbursts – This seems like it would be a common symptom, maybe because I experience it so much, but as I mentioned earlier, I have such a short fuse at times and I snap at my husband and kids. I think my parents would agree that I’ve been experiencing this symptom since I was a teenager

*A depressive episode is when you experience symptoms of depression lasting at least two weeks. Read more about that here.

Again, always consult your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression. To learn more about depression, visit the National Institute of Mental Health.

If you are struggling with suicidal ideation, please reach out to a friend or contact the helplines listed above.

Stay in the light.

Self Destruct Mode: OFF

I’ve been feeling pretty great lately, which is a bit unusual, but hey, I’ll certainly take it. When I feel this good I tend to treat myself better, I’m more productive and generally in a good mood.

But I’ve noticed, even with these good moods, there’s still a part, albeit a small part, of me that looks for ways to be unhealthy. For example, I’ll get the urge to overeat, even when I’m not hungry. I’ll think, “What pills can I take to feel good?” even though I have no such pills. Images of cutting myself will appear, even though I surely don’t want to do that.

I’m aware that it’s happening and I know it’s 100-percent my lying ass brain spreading more lies. It’s just a malfunction. It’s not really real, but emotions are energy in motion, and I can’t let these awful thoughts fester in my head.

If I do, unhealthy behaviors take control and with them come intrusive, unhealthy thoughts. My control over these thoughts and behaviors loosens, and just like that, I’m in a dark, ugly place that I can’t find my way out of. It’s like being in a deep hole and my depression is just too heavy, weighing me down and preventing me from climbing out.

It’s a slippery slope, a dangerous one for me, given that I can become suicidal very quickly.

I have to take inventory of my emotions constantly to prevent this. I have to be fully aware of how I feel and avoid switching to autopilot where I might miss something. I have to be so diligent so I can avoid that hole. And honestly, it’s exhausting and feels like sometimes it’s too much or not worth doing. Before I’d try to figure out why I was having these thoughts and ask what it meant, but like I said, it’s just a malfunction. I need to stop wasting time wondering why and just dismiss the thoughts. They’re not worth thinking.

I must release the energy that fuels these damaging thoughts and refocus if in a productive way, channeling it into exercise and writing, etc.

A self care check list is helpful to have so I can stay on top of the things I need to do to prevent self destruction. Just thinking about all the work I have to do to stay healthy is daunting and tiring. But I have to do it if I want to be happy. This past week has made me realize how much I’ve missed being happy — singing at the top of my lungs in the car and shower, truly enjoying spending time with my kids, reading for pleasure, writing my ass off and exercising. Medicine, ECT and therapy just aren’t enough to maintain my good mood and healthy behaviors. I have to put in the work at it, just like anything else. Sometimes it bothers me that other people don’t have to work as hard at life.

But I don’t do happy-go-lucky — I physically can’t. Happiness, for me, is hard work. It’s sticking to a strict schedule, taking an assortment of pills daily, going to therapy, keeping a close eye on my emotions and lots of prayerThere’s nothing lucky about it. 

I do have to work hard, but the payout is so, so good and that’s what I need to remember. What is the point in having an amazing life if you can’t enjoy it? Why do I spend so much time self-sabotaging? Again, with the “why?”

I’m going to work at my life like it’s my damn job and like it pays, because it is and it does.

It pays so much.

This is the Self Care Checklist that I created. It’s super simple; feel free to download: