Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I did this art thing this one time

I have this friend. And he's one of the reasons I'm seeing a therapist - haha, no, it's because he IS a therapist and recommended one to help me deal, but you can blame him, sure. He's also directing a play, and I volunteered to help him with artwork last year when I saw him in Pirates of Penzance. (spelled correctly, of course)

So here I am, a year later, and have needed much encouragement with art because that's the one thing I gave up on completely when the depression kicked in. Thank you Lee, for having me help you, for accepting my bad days, and understanding when I shut down.

Simply: Fear sucks.
More Simply: Working through it is awesome.

Here is the basic design for his "The Mikado." I think it looks like a flannel board, which is appropriate for a play, right? :)

I keep trying to redesign this:

into a facebook cover pic for his wall:

And see? They look FINE here. They look completely pixellated and awful on FB.

So... if you see them on facebook, apparently I've forgotten how to use photoshop, because I can't for the life of me make things look right.

This would be why I'm not in web design, yes?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Coping and a Rant

Everyone who has Depression deals with it differently.  Me, I take meds and supplement with other things.

Those other things being:

1: World of Warcraft. I log in and I can zone out of my head. It effectively shuts off the negative tape that is on constant loop in my brain. If my kids interrupt my gaming, it's no big deal; I get up and help them, and it works for me because I'm not convinced I'm a horrible waste of space while I'm playing. I tend to feel better after being immersed in pixels for a while. Besides, I love collecting all the super cute pets; they make me grin. I generally play the most on my worst days. Is it addictive? Yep. Is it helpful? Yep. Do I feel guilty for wasting my time and money on the game? Hell no.

2: Music. On really bad days, happy music doesn't do anything, even if I make myself sing along. But on mediocre days, it's awesome. The last few days have been especially bad, even with meds. My husband, bless him, brought home Just Dance 2014 for me, so I could have a game to play doing stuff I love to music I love. Music generally gets me up, moving, and if I can feel it inside my skin, it clears my thoughts. Even on bad days, getting up and moving and doing things with the kids is a good thing, even if I'm not feeling it.

3: Essential Oils and Vitamins. I have no scientific data to prove to you that they work but they do help. And when I'm in the midst of low lows, any little bit that helps is a good thing.

4: Friends. I text friends, call friends, talk to people. Or sometimes they just call me at the right time when I'm spiraling down. And the friends I have who also struggle with depression don't tell me I'm imagining things or using excuses. They understand that it's crippling, that the negative voices that make me cry over stupid things are real. And yeah, I might be crazy, but they love me anyway. This is huge. And it helps me smile. Anything that helps me smile is worth the time and energy.

5: Books. Specifically fluffy happy books that make me laugh and have happy endings. So generally romance novels. I don't care if they're paranormal, thriller, contemporary, historical, sci-fi, or whatever. I'm after the happy feels.

This is also where I get ranty, though. I have probably read two or three hundred romance novels in the past six months, and let me tell you, those freebies on Amazon? ugh. I follow several publishers and editors on twitter, so I jump on the freebies when they announce them. But not all of the freebies on Amazon are from publishers, nor are they worth my time. I'm a big girl, so I can skip a page if a story gets too coarse or detailed. I generally don't care, unless the language offends my delicate sensibilities and then I just skim, but whatever. My point being I'm not terribly picky about romance novels.

Except for this one teensy tiny little thing:

HEY YOU ROMANCE AUTHORS ALL PROUD OF YOURSELF FOR FINISHING A BOOK AND HITTING THE PUBLISH BUTTON:  I know who you are, and I have a list with your book title and your name so I know never, ever, ever to download one of your books again, ever.

No, I'm not a published author, but I know what I like to read. I will happily read a freebie and then buy more from an author if:

  • Dialogue is believable and fun. Not stilted, boring, stupid, or repetitive. You know who does awesome dialogue? Shannon Stacey and Molly Harper.  You know why I think this? Because when I read it, I can hear it as if my brothers or friends were saying it. Now, however, I have a long list of books where people sit at a table and have the most mundane boring conversations EVER. "Oh, you like this? I like this too." "Oh how cool, I've liked that since I was a kid." "Oh neat, I liked it when I was twelve, what else do we have in common?"   It's a sad thing, really, but apparently I like making lists.

  • Characters feel real.  I don't care how silly or off the wall or neurotic a character is as long as they're believable. They can be in space, middle-earth, fairy land, or a zombie, but I need to believe their actions are more than because you the author said so. I want to feel like I know them, that they are different from each other. And seriously, while I'm ranting about characters, if I find one more male hero named Rafe, I am going to insist all of the Romance Writers of America meetings have a character naming class that all y'all must attend before you get to publish another book. Or maybe just have Word and InDesign -- and whatever other diy magical publishing thingies are out there-- delete your manuscript if that name is found anywhere in the text.
  • Story is fun. You know what, I KNOW there's going to be a happy ending, that's why I read these books. I know they're gonna hate each other at the beginning, or not understand their attraction, or fall in love and then some misunderstanding is going to happen. Ok, I'm good with that. I want to feel the attraction, the tension, the worry, the joy. However, I'm not good with you telling me over and over and over and over why they have a hangup. Or putting guy and girl together in implausible circumstances. I need logic, people. I might be craving the happies, but you're for real going to try to convince me that Girl A  falls madly in love with Guy B who is always mad and grouchy at her?  uh... no. What the heck is fun about that?? WHERE IS YOUR LOGIC???  Or maybe you need someone to EDIT YOUR BOOK????  AAARGH
  • Magic/Strange/Weird stuff. I don't mind a good billionaire sweeps girl next door off her feet. But I love magic and other stuff even more. Time travel, wizards, fairies, you name it, that stuff is even more fun than just a guy/gal get together. Although to be honest, I'm about done with the vampire thing. I will always, always, always love vampires, but I think I'm done reading about them for a while. Patricia Briggs and Carrie Vaughn are pretty awesome at writing the werewolves, but I kinda hope a new fad comes along soon.
  • Proofed. Ok, I will admit I'm not nearly the grammar nazi that some of my friends are. I'm willing to overlook a great many typos, because hey, typos happen. What irritates me is the blatant publishing of something that has poor grammar, period. The sentences make no sense, the people speak like uneducated teenagers when they're supposed to be professional businesspeople, etc. Oh, and then the emails from amazon stating that hey, such n such book has been updated with edits and proofs. You know what those emails do? They make me LOSE respect for the author, because if they'd had any business sense at all, they'd have had someone, or a bunch of someones, read their book first,  made the edits, had it read through again by a different set of people, edited and revised some more, and THEN published the thing so that I don't have to be subjected to their first draft.

    Amazon isn't a writing group, people. It's a place where I go to find new authors that I might like.  As a consumer, if you're trying to feed me a rough draft, I'm gonna get pissy and never, ever, ever buy your books again.

    I guess that means that maybe I rant about things as part of my self-medication, too. That's what blogs are for? Ah well.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Depression, Bluntly

The other day a relative who I love and adore and respect gave me a big long lecture about how I could cure my depression by eating every three hours instead of taking those evil, awful, anti-depressants.

The sad thing is that she's not the only person out there who feels this way. They think if you're on medication, you're somehow weak, or less-than you could be, and if you just tried this one thing, it would fix all of it, right now.

Yes, the side-effects of meds are wonky and screw things up. And yeah, getting the dosage right is a bit of a trial and error thing. But I'll tell you what: NOT having the meds is waaaay worse.

Some background:

* My mother and grandmother believe anything and everything can be fixed with a positive attitude and the right diet. If something is wrong with you, there's an herb, a food, a vitamin, or something that you can take that will fix it.  I was raised with this, so I believe this, too.

* I am certified in Foot Zoning, I've read everything about essential oils, and only take my kids to the doctor if they specifically request it or I feel it's necessary. I took nutrition and anatomy classes in college alongside my illustration and graphic design classes so I wouldn't have to rely on others for the health and well-being of my family.

* I'm religious, too. I do believe God can fix anything, but I also believe sometimes we have to go through what we go through for a reason. One day I plan on confronting Him about some things and asking for an explanation or two. I'm sure he'll grin at me and show me, but for now, I try not to feel too put out. (What that translates to is that I feel I have a good relationship with God, even though I don't always understand things.)

So here's the thing: I struggle with Depression.

Some days it wins and I can't get out of bed. Some days I win, and I can get up and be productive. It doesn't ever go away, but some days it's less intrusive than others.

This means that in spite of all the essential oils, foods, vitamins, and any other hoo-doo I can think of, my brain is broken. There is a chemical imbalance that I cannot fix, and some days it wins. I have a doctor and a therapist and a circle of friends and family that are working to help me through this.

A lot of the women in my family struggle with depression and the answer for each of us has been very different. We don't even react to the same drugs the same way. I am still trying to find my answers.

Bluntly: This means that yes, there are times I feel that ending things would be an immense relief and that everyone would be better off without me.

Bluntly: Depression lies. But it lies so well, it's hard to see the truth.

I have kids and I love them, and I refuse to abandon them to this scary, scary world. So I'm not giving up, but that doesn't mean the thought doesn't cross my mind. It just means I have to find ways of not thinking about it.

Depression doesn't LOOK like an illness, and people who have never had it have zero clue how it feels. I know, I was one of them for many years. 

  • Depression looks like a messy house because cleaning it feels overwhelming and you don't even have the energy to care that it's messy.
  • Depression looks like a clean house because you can't stand being judged, or because you can't stand the mess one more day.
  • Depression looks like a happy face, excited and enjoying the moment.
  • Depression looks like a tired body incapable of getting out of bed because just breathing is hard.
  • Depression looks like a fun-loving, caring neighbor who helps do laundry and clean houses.
  • Depression looks like someone incapable of basic hygiene.
  • Depression doesn't feel anything, because feeling something is beyond its capabilities
  • Depression feels everything
  • Depression loves deeply
  • Depression points out every single inadequacy and says 'why bother trying'
  • Depression hides
  • Depression walks amongst you, camoflaged as a normal person being brave enough to venture out of the house.
Telling me to pray more is not going to fix it.
Telling me to read my scriptures more is not going to fix it.
Telling me to change my attitude and think positive is not going to fix it.
Telling me to stop and smell the roses and just appreciate what I have is good advice, but it's not going to FIX the CHEMICAL IMBALANCE in my brain.
Those things right there? That is more ammunition on the 'guilt' pile of all the 'shoulds' that tend to make the bad days worse.

Yes, writing down things I'm grateful for IS therapeutic and good for me. I'm well aware that a positive attitude can conquer many obstacles. Yes, it helps me remember the truth, and see the little blessings that are in my life, so I can remember that Depression LIES. But it doesn't FIX the depression.

Yes, praying and reading scriptures ARE good (for me). And yes, they are exercises in feeling the spirit, and yes, that extra hug and knowledge that I'm not fighting this alone is good for me, too. But, again, so far God hasn't seen fit to fix me. So telling me I'm not doing ENOUGH of that isn't helpful, it's harmful.

Depression compounds everything that goes wrong and makes me think it's all my fault and if I were only a better mother, my kids would be angels and perfect and never fight.

So, here it is, bluntly:

I am fighting to be happy. I am fighting to stay sane and not drown in the sorrows and overwhelming 'shoulds' of the the world and its expectations. I try so very hard to find the happy, the silver linings, the positive. And for the most part, people I know are awesome cheerleaders.

I am fighting to remember how to create. How to write. How to string words together into sentences that make sense. How to draw, how to paint, how to be creative and fun. I struggle with just being able to breathe in and out some days, as that in itself is the act of creation as my cells multiply, divide, and reproduce to keep this body living.

To quote a metaphor I used on facebook:  Those of us battling depression are in the WWI trenches of No Man's Land. Behind us: the land we're defending is home, life, happy, that stuff we're trying to get back to. In front of us, attacking, is the storm trying to beat us down and take over. Some days we spend all day battling the storm. Other days we get a break and can retreat to the happy. Doesn't mean the storm is gone, the battle is still going on, but we get to go on leave once in a while. So some days I don't feel like I'm down in the trenches and covered with mud. But I can feel the battle there, it's not going away.

Depression is not fun. It's not an excuse. It's real. It's a never-ending battle.

One person's answer, one person's med, oil, vitamin, sunshine regimen, or whatever is not going to work for everyone. I'm willing to try things to see if they help, but please remember, folks: this life is not One Size Fits All.

I'm very lucky to have good friends who have been there to catch me on days when I'm falling. I have an awesome safety net of people who remind me of the fun, the silly, and laugh-worthy, and the greatness that is life.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Play Lists

Having leftover happy from yesterday's manic episode means I got my dishes done! Including the pots! (super fantastically awesomeness right there) And my floors vacuumed and mopped. And I've even started sorting laundry (gasp!!)

Figured I'd share my playlist, because my kids and I have to stop and dance to the music a lot during this. In fact, I'm still dancing. And its not often that I can drag myself out of the depressive fog to not only want to clean, but enjoy it.

This may not be up your alley music-wise, but it is my happy list today :)

The 1975 - Chocolate
The Fray - Love Don't Die
Pitbull & Ke$sha - Timber  - because get up and MOVE, yo!Gavin Degraw - Sweeter
Parachute - Can't Help
Lawson - Juliet
Daughtry - Waiting for Superman
Lifehouse - Halfway Gone
Parachute - Drive You Home
Sensefield - I Refuse
Fall Out Boy - Alone Together
Innerparty System - Not Getting Any Better
Neon Trees - Lessons In Love
Florence + The Machine - No Light No Light
Olly Murs - Army of Two
Olly Murs - Troublemaker  - because my son LOVES this song -
U2 - Elevation
Matchbox 20 - Disease