Talking About Mental Health

I’ve talked about mental health on this blog quite a lot over the years. I haven’t done it as much over the last couple years, but then again, I haven’t talked about *much* on this blog over that time. The reason for that is, ironically, mental health. (Or the lack thereof, honestly.)

Today on Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat it’s #BellLetsTalk day. I’ve mentioned this before because it’s important to me. I chose to move to Canada almost five years ago, and finding there’s a very public day devoted to mental health awareness surprised and pleased me. (Every tweet/RT/post/etc. including “#BellLetsTalk” means another 5 cents donated to mental health initiatives in Canada.)

I will give my usual caveat that EVERY DAY should be a day for talking about mental health. Ending the stigma around mental illness is a job for more than one day, but the more money we can tweet into this effort, the more resources organizations will have to put toward this all year round, so I hope you’ll all get out there and use the hashtag–you don’t even have to be in Canada! (I think there’s a way to participate via text messages and calling too.)

So once again, I’m here to do my little part and tell my own story. I hope hearing me talk about my own struggle will help others know they’re not alone. Because you’re not. I suffer from mental illness, and I am not ashamed. (Or at least I try really hard not to be. It’s still difficult to get past the stigma sometimes, but I think I’ve come a long way.) So on with the show…


A couple years ago I realized I really needed some help. It had been many years since I’d been on medication, but I was struggling mightily—missing work, lacking joy in even the things I love the most (podcasting, of course), so I did what I always tell other people to do—talk to someone. For me, that someone was my doctor. (I am so lucky and pleased to have a doctor I like and trust and who trusts *me* to know my own mind and body and make decisions for myself.) We tried a variety of different medications to help address my depression and anxiety. I think over the course of one year I tried five or six different meds. Some of them didn’t work. Some of them worked but had debilitating side effects. I got discouraged and kinda gave up.

So for a while I stepped away from regular medication, in part to let my body and brain re-set after all that bouncing around from med to med. (Though I still had [and have] some as-needed meds for anxiety.) I managed to get by for about a year this way, but it was really just “getting by”. And then eventually that “getting by” started to slip to not-quite-getting-by.

I went back to my doctor.

Now I’m on some new meds that seem to be working (and without super-awful side effects! yay!). It’s early yet, but I’m hopeful.

[Note: The writing of this blog post was literally just interrupted by my reminder to take my Cipralex. LOL at timing!]

Anyway, my mental health is the number one factor in determining when I have the energy to write outside of my day job. I would love to promise more regular content here, but I don’t know how my mental health will hold up. But as I said, I’m hopeful, and I have a few things I wrote for podcasts that I might be able to re-purpose for blog posts, just to keep things moving while I work up to fulfilling the last of my Patreon reward posts.

So once again, I’ll just say to anyone out there that’s struggling: you are not alone. I hope you’ll reach out and find some help.

And to everyone, whether you’re struggling or not, please take a moment today to use the #BellLetsTalk hashtag. Each time I see it come through my feed, my heart lifts a little bit. I have to imagine it’s doing the same for others. Seems like a pretty easy way to spread joy while raising money for a worthy cause.

Finally, mega-thanks to my spouse Steven and all my friends, family, and internet pals who have stuck with me through all this and provided constant understanding and support. I love you all so very very much.

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Dear Self

This post is for me, but I suspect I have a few friends/readers out there who might find it helpful, so I’m sharing it publically. 

Dear Self,

It’s ok to be sick. It’s ok to be anxious. It’s ok to be sad.

And when you’ve been these things for weeks and weeks on end, it’s ok to stop for a little while. Taking a break or a sick day is not an admission of failure. It does not mean you’re weak. It’s doing what is required in order to get through and move forward.

Even when you feel like you could do just one more thing, or go into work for just a few hours (which, let’s face it, will turn into the whole day), it’s still important to stop and rest. If you push yourself and keep going, you’re just borrowing that energy and that productivity from tomorrow or the next day.

Yeah, it sucks, and yeah it feels like you’re letting everyone down, but guess what? You’re not. That’s your dumb brain lying to you. Anyone who cares about you or relies on you in any way doesn’t want you to help them out right now if it’s ultimately not healthy for you.

You’re important, but you’re not that important.

So take a chill pill (literally if you have to) and lie down and read that book you’ve been wanting to read Just For Fun. Watch another episode of a TV show you are not watching for a podcast. If your head stops hurting, go see that movie you’ve been wanting to see for weeks.

Rest. Recharge. Recuperate. Get better.

You deserve it.

Yes, really.  You do.

Go Oilers!

Hello from Rogers Place!

Hello from Rogers Place!

With all the awfulness going on in the world these days (and boy oh boy is there a lot of it), I’m trying to remind myself that it’s still ok to experience joy. In fact, it’s probably more crucial than ever.

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy lately on following the news of the world and doing my part to be heard and make sure my home country doesn’t continue down the road to fascism. (Though we’ve already hit every item on the list at the US Holocaust museum. Sigh.) This has been exhausting, both physically and mentally.

So I’m trying to reserve time for things I love. Things that just make me happy. Hockey is one of those things. Specifically, my now-home team, the Edmonton Oilers. And that’s what tonight is all about. Steven and I are taking in a game at the swanky new rink.

We even got here early and sat in the lower bowl to watch the warmup.

We even got here early and sat in the lower bowl to watch the warmup.

Sadly, we’re down by 2 going into the first intermission, but there are 40 minutes of hockey left, and that’s an eternity in hockey-time. Anything can happen. And the most important thing is to be out and having fun. Because it’s ok to have fun. It’s ok to recharge. I need it. I deserve it.

The view from our seats.

The view from our seats.

So if you’ve been working hard to defend the republic (or anything else), don’t forget to take some time for yourself. If you don’t care for yourself, you’ll run out of steam to care for others. The world needs you, so treat yourself well.

#LoveTrumpsHate #resist

Permission to Do Nothing

Today is my first day back at work after more than a week off. I had such grand plans for that week — a whole list of tasks which I’d use all that free time to accomplish.

Oh foolish me.

I got one of those tasks done. One. (And that was rearranging my sock drawer. Possibly the most immediately helpful thing on the list, but certainly not the most important!)

This is just the drawer. There are also four boxes of nicely sorted tights and pantyhose in the closet that used to live in this drawer. Such an improvement!

This is just the drawer. There are also four boxes of nicely sorted tights and pantyhose in the closet that used to live in this drawer. Such an improvement!

It’s amazing how your time can fill up with random bits of nothingness and long chunks of relaxation. I can’t believe how fast the time went by. And I spent all of it with a vague sense of unease because I knew I wasn’t doing all the things I should have been doing. I kinda half-decided that I felt more like lounging around or cooking or going out to eat or … whatever, than I felt like Getting Things Done. (And unfortunate mental health issues didn’t help with that at all.) But I didn’t fully give myself permission to treat those days like a proper vacation.

Oh foolish me.

Sometimes a vacation needs to be a vacation. However, for me to get full rejuvenation from such a break, I need to commit to it. I didn’t do that, so I’m not back at work feeling as refreshed as I should. Not only is there a lot of day-job work ahead of me, but I’ve also decided to work on getting back to my “clean living” lifestyle that seems to have degraded over that last few months. (Note: This is not a New Year’s resolution. It’s simply an attempt to return to what I consider my baseline lifestyle.)

Some of the items I’ll be working toward are exercise (on my elliptical trainer while watching Arrow and The Flash), diet (not a weight-loss diet, but a healthy one with no gluten or dairy and FAR less sugar), and general productivity (using the two hours after I get home from work to Get Things Done before I run out of steam — leaving things until later in the evening never seems to work).

But…

I’m not ready to start that today. (See? It’s not a New Year’s resolution!) One mistake I often make is trying to start too many things at once. This always backfires. So today is simply about getting back into the routine of getting up early and walking to and from work. I was much more sedentary during my time off, and holy buttons, did I sleep in late! (11am or noon wasn’t terribly unusual, so 6:30 felt mighty painful this morning.)

Thus, today, I am officially giving myself permission to Do Nothing.

When I get home, I’ll plop down on the couch with my spouse and some reheated leftovers. We will watch the Oilers game. After that, I will do whatever the heck I feel like, even if that is nothing but play Candy Crush while the TV plays in front of me. In addition, the plan for tomorrow won’t be decided until I see how I feel tonight. If I’m totally wrecked, I’ll give myself another couple of days to ease back into the general grind before I add anything to the routine. (It’ll be two days minimum because there’s another early Oilers game on Thursday. #priorities)

This is me, trying to avoid the pitfalls I’ve dived into before. I’m taking it slowly and hoping that being thoughtful and methodical will result in more success than my sudden headlong rushes have in the past. I’d appreciate it if you’d wish me luck.

Fame Is Relative

nowhearthis

No, this is not a treatise on North American culture and our fascination with/addiction to celebrity. The internet is littered with thinkpieces about that. This is simply a personal observation inspired by events of the past weekend. I attended the terrific Now Hear This Podcast Festival in Anaheim, California. It was a fabulous weekend for many reasons, and one is that it really made me think—and brought me to a realization, which boils down to this tl;dr:

It’s all relative.

Early in the weekend I tweeted this:

It was 100% true. We did have a happy listener track us down to hang out with us at the con. And I did have a serious fangirl moment myself mere moments before that. I listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour every week and admire the people who make that show happen. I did not go up and talk to them at that moment because A) they were just checking in to the hotel, which is a shitty time to accost someone, and 2) I am, at heart, a shy introvert. (Despite any perceived evidence to the contrary.)

What I did was attend their show and enjoy every minute of it—perhaps especially when Linda Holmes gave special recognition to Jessica Reedy for producing the show—as someone who does a lot of the unseen work for several podcasts, I’m always thrilled when the hidden engine of a program gets recognition. Afterwards, Steven walked up to Jessica, shook her hand, and thanked her for all her hard work. I was like “Why didn’t I think of that?” (Answer: shy introvert.) But I smiled and thanked her as well. Being at the same con all weekend, I wandered past the PCHH crew more than once, but didn’t get up the courage to say hi (or to thank them for inspiring our “happy things” segment on Verity!) until they were literally on their way out of the hotel. (And thus I missed meeting fellow Wisconsinite Stephen Thompson.)

Anyway, the point is not how nice they are or how cool they were or even the fact that Glen Weldon knew my name:

The point is this: Continue reading

An Apology and a Promise

Doctor Who notecard apology

When you talk on the internet, especially in a free-form conversational podcast like Verity!, sometimes you stick your foot so firmly down your own throat it’s a wonder the mic doesn’t pick up the sound of toenails scraping molars. I am not immune to this phenomenon.

A few months back, I made an insensitive comment about the 9th Doctor giving hugs. Taken out of context (which it literally was, as it was briefly one of the “pull quotes” in the cold open of the podcast), it sounded like I was saying all people who don’t like hugging are somehow emotionally damaged. YIKES. SO WRONG.

In the context of the podcast, the statement bore more resemblance to what I was thinking (that emotional damage can lead one to change their behavior and stop hugging, and the 9th Doctor wanted to prove that hadn’t happened to him in the course of the Time War). So I replaced the line in the cold open because, wow, was that shitty, and I explained and apologised in a series of tweets. (I appreciate all the folks who called me on that. Thank you!) And of course, I’ve tried to do better since.

Trying doesn’t always mean succeeding.

Welp. I’ve done it again. In today’s episode of Verity!, I talked about how I didn’t like the way series 1 of Doctor Who changed the Doctor from (what I’d always seen as) an asexual character to one who is pretty explicitly sexual. (We were talking about “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances”. Dances, you guys. It’s a metaphor!) I equated being a sexual creature with normality and humanity and ohmigod I want to go back in time and slap the mic away from my face.

But I can’t. Time doesn’t work that way (except occasionally in Doctor Who).

There are two parts to this. Continue reading

Let Me Be of Service

2000px-Flag_of_Alberta.svg

Just so I don’t bury the lede, it’s official, I am once again employed! But that’s only partially the point of this post.

I’ve been on the hunt for work for quite some time. If you’re like me, when you’re looking for a job, you do a lot of soul-searching. You spend a lot of time thinking about what you like to do, what you don’t like to do, what you’re good at, and what you struggle with. You spend a lot of brain-energy trying to encapsulate your good qualities in pithy little sound bites.

Eventually, if you’re lucky, you discover (or create or stumble upon) a personal motto — something that sums you up as a person, or at least sums up the way you interact with the world. For me, that motto is the title of this piece: Let me be of service. Continue reading