Te Cuidas..En Dos (o Mas) Idiomas

I read an article once about a man coping with his wife’s mental breakdowns and how she would switch languages whenever she became depressed. I remember thinking “Wow! I can relate!” and not really understanding that there were people who suffered in only one language. I mean, obviously it’s entirely acceptable and completely normal to use the language you are comfortable with and fluent in to express yourself.

For me, bilinguialism is a tip off that I’m about to become depressed.

Think of it like listening to the radio. When you’re happy, you listen to songs about fun and happy times. When you’re sad, like when you’re getting over a break up, you listen to sad songs, songs you can cry to and scream at. But my “playlists” turn to a whole different language.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to use multiple languages in a general setting. It helps me professionally, it gives me access to other cultures and some really excellent foods. But when my heart is breaking, when the deep clouds of depression are hovering, my own language fails to live up to my needs. English leaves something to be desired.

I notice the change very abruptly. Instead of involving myself casually in another language, I will switch entirely from English into the other one. My music will become entirely Latinx, for example. Or I will only read in Cyrillic. Sometimes it will be a little more gradual and I’ll switch my recipes to all Kenyan, then start writing myself notes in Swahili. And then I will refuse to speak in English, I’ll write my grocery list in something else and I will immerse myself in this entire other state of being. It is then that I realize I need to double-down for some self-care time and take care of myself. When I start pulling out of my depression, I can go back to enjoying those same activities, but without the despair that anti-mania brings. Those extra cultures give me a safe place to go so I can start to heal.

In the realm of mental health and self-care, it’s really common to hear about things to look out for: an increase in impulsive behavior for mania, apathy for depression, paranoia for psychotic episodes and more. Physical symptoms take a really forward presence in your overall health, the life threatening symptoms next and then the ongoing symptoms. Signs you’re about to enter into a “danger zone” come in lists, self-help articles and off-handed comments. But it’s much harder when no one talks about potential tip offs that aren’t as common-but still just as serious.

When I was learning other languages, I was told that they would be keys to a door. I didn’t ask what that door would look like because I thought it was “to other cultures”. It turns out, it was a door to self-expression and the way I know I need to prepare myself for the pending breakdown.

Whatever your tip offs, you shouldn’t doubt yourself. And you should always invest in your own self-care. You know yourself best.

Scheduling a Breakdown

(I submitted this to The Mighty a couple days ago, but I know they’re busy, so I thought I’d share it here. I’ll snag the link if/when it goes live. Until then, you can find my articles here.)

It seems like the minute I have a hundred things to do, my brain decides it’s the perfect time for a breakdown. Even though I have no time for it, it’s not convenient and I really don’t want to think about all the things my depression brain focuses on, I find myself doing all of those things instead of my full calendar. So I’ve put together a list of things that help me put a pin in my symptoms momentarily so I can finish up a few things.

1. Set aside time for yourself.
Trust me, as someone who understands all about
procrastinating, this can seem like both an obvious thing and an impossible
thing to do. But I’m talking about a five minute break here or there. Drink
your cup of coffee, slowly. Smell the steam, watch your creamer swirl in the
cup. Live the experience fully. Go get the mail. Do you hear any crickets? The
sound of ice crunching beneath your feet? This little break reminds you to catch
a little perspective and maybe distract you long enough to work through it.

2. Let yourself be upset.
Telling yourself that you’re not that upset only makes you worse. If you
absolutely can’t be upset-do math. It can be simple, like 1+1, 2+2 and so on.
As it turns out, your brain doesn’t like feeling emotions and doing math at the
same time, so you can usually stall your tears for a moment. But if you have
the ability, just be upset. Again, it can be a little five minute moment in
which you feel like the world is crashing around you and all hope is gone. I
ugly cry, take a tissue and blow my nose then get up and grab some water. I’m
not saying I’m done being upset, but if I let myself be upset in little bits,
then it doesn’t come out in a marathon. It’s your right to be upset. Even if
you don’t think there’s a reason. The way you’re feeling is completely valid.

3. Find something you wanna smile about.
I hate the advice “just turn that frown upside
down”. Sometimes that’s the absolute last thing I want to do-and even then it
just makes me angrier, or cry harder. But what I’m talking about is finding
something that you know you enjoy and experience it. If you think penguin’s
laughing is cute-find a video (I think it’s fantastic). If you know you smile
when you make chicken parmesan, make it. Like bubble baths? Take one. Because
finding something to enjoy usually results in some kind of self-care and let’s
be honest-is that ever a bad thing?

4. Take a deep breath.
This isn’t a novel idea, but it’s important.
Your whole body needs oxygen to function. Your brain is absolutely no
different. Think about how hard your brain is working, trying to manage
everything, fix problems (especially the ones you’re worrying about “for
nothing”). You need air. Plus, if you take a moment and focus on your
breathing, sometimes you’ll find that you already knew the answer to the
problems, you were just so focused on everything all at once that you didn’t
notice.
While you’re breathing, try this little
exercise. Take one breath in and list five things you see. Breathe out. Take
another breath and list four things you hear. Breathe out. Take one more breath
and list three things you smell. Breathe out. One more breath and list two
things you can feel. Breathe out. Take another breath and list one thing you
can taste. Breathe out. Take another breath and carry on about your day.

5. Get a validation outfit.
This is one of my favorite things, and it
happened completely on accident. I got a sweatshirt a couple sizes too big and
washed it and decided that I would only wear it when I felt like a terrible
person. I told myself that while I was wearing it, I wasn’t allowed to degrade
myself. The shirt itself has a graphic about always loving yourself, so I
thought I’d wear it when I needed a reminder that I’m not a monster, and that I
matter. It hangs in my closet until I feel depressed, or feel worthless and
then I put it on and read the words. And when the thoughts popped into my head
like “I’m an idiot.” Or “I’m unlovable.” I look at the words on my shirt and
force myself to take ten seconds to say something nice about myself. “I am
fierce. I am valid. I am irreplaceable.” The nice thing about validation
outfits? They can be anything: a business suit, a pair of shoes, earrings, a
bracelet, a pair of socks. The important thing is to remember to love yourself.
Soon enough, it’ll be your favorite piece of clothing.

Life is hectic and hard sometimes. But the important
thing to remember is that you can do it-even when you’re convinced you can’t.

Survivor’s Guilt

I wanted to share a poem I made in honor of Ulla, of all the friends and friends-of-friends we have lost to depression. I know it’s late. I know. But World Suicide Prevention Day has been on my heart all day. (Following image from Google.)

flower

Survivor’s Guilt 

In the stillness of morning
I seek you out
A touch, a smile
But there’s nothing but silence.
Flip on the lights
Awaken from this nightmare
A yawn, a tear
And then I remember.

I didn’t ask for you to leave
But I never told you to stay
And I didn’t ask if you needed me
Until they buried you.

In the bustle of the afternoon
I search for you
A laugh, a wish
But I wait for the emptiness
Pause at our spot
Bent but unbroken
A sigh, a glance
A confession in waiting

I never stopped to think
You never thought to ask
I didn’t know you were hurting
Until they asked for final words.

I expected to see you
In everything I did
You were there, but not
And I couldn’t stand it
I thought of you today
And realized our inside jokes
Couldn’t matter anymore.
Goodbye, my dear.

Until we meet again.

(c) Michelle BB 2016

When Push Comes to Shove


Hi there!

It’s Friday. We’ve made it to the end of the week and for that I am so exceptionally grateful. This week has taught me more than perhaps my entire first year in college altogether. I know that in the grand scheme of things I’m just experiencing the realities of the beginnings of transition (what I have dubbed the caterpillar effect). I know that all things come to those who wait. I know my future is what I make of it. I know that the sun will rise again and so will I.

I know all those things.

Depression has that weird way of making you feel like you can’t reach the things you know. For example, my most relied on quote (the bolded one above) is true, but I don’t know that I believe it. And that’s frustrating. I was up last night with a new friend who was having a panic attack and I was trying to alleviate those concerns. I know what it’s like, I completely get it. And all the while I felt my own walls caving in on me. Did I say so? Of course not. But it was there, nonetheless.

Always keep fighting. Love yourself first. You are not alone.

Those are the “tag lines” for some of the campaigns that I partake in through the Supernatural fandom. And you best believe that I’ve been chanting them over and over again since I woke up this morning. Every theme song for carrying on has been blasting through my headbuds, every inspirational quote has been read, every coping technique I know (that is healthy) has been employed. But my soul is still tired. 

And I think that’s the problem.

Being physically tired is something that often times, a day off and some peace-and-quiet can remedy. Just a break. A nap. But being emotionally, spiritually, mentally tired is something that often comes at a much steeper price. I get enough sleep everyday but my heart and soul just aren’t in “it” anymore. What do I mean by “it”? Well, at this current point-the life I’m living. I mean college and working and “adulting” and well, the total package. Let me be explicitly clear here-I am not headed down the dark and dangerous path of suicidal ideation.  I am just tired in a way that cannot easily be fixed. And I have been for quite some time.

I feel like (and this could be exaggerated because I am depressed) everything I attempt, everything I put myself out there for is getting negative feedback-denial, rejection, being ignored altogether. And that stings a little bit.  It starts to feel like just when I thought I was finding my way through this big journey called life, the universe (fate? Destiny? God(s)?) has stopped believing in me. And I’m starting to cave.

Now, I’m not trying to elicit sympathies or whatnot, as I’ve said before, this is my “journal”-one that I make public to be accountable, to share with the world so that other people may not feel so alone. 

Anyway, I people watch. I see so many people walking down the sidewalks with life in their eyes but I see every so many more who are, just like me, dead inside. And I don’t mean to be melodramatic here. You have seen it too, I’m sure. The people who catch your eye and just look completely used up and empty. Like the world has taken more than they had to give and there’s nothing left but a shell. It’s those people that I understand.

I’ve said before that I don’t feel like praying (in the traditional sense of making yourself look inferior and pleading for help) is something I can get behind. I ask things of the universe as someone who needs things-not as someone unworthy of receiving them. But this past week has seen me asking in every way possible. I’ve even starting asking Angels and Ancestors. I’m starting to feel…desperate.

And I think that’s something a lot of people can relate to. Life isn’t something you can control. You just minimize damage and plan for the best case scenario.

If you take nothing else from this rant, take this:

You may be feeling these things too. You may have left depression in the past, or be waiting for it in your future. But you most definitely aren’t the only person like that. It can’t rain (metaphorically) forever.

After All This Time.

Greetings all! It’s been a while, and for that I am sorry. Today isn’t going to be a news day, it is going to be a catch-up day. By that, I most definitely mean a checklist of things for me to think about.

First, thank you new followers, old followers, people who occasionally comment and like, and people who read my stuff and think “huh, not bad”. I appreciate it. Quite a lot, in fact.

My senior year has started! Today is day three and it has most definitely been busy-busy. I feel incredibly “active” always and it’s only just started.

My senior year in college oddly mirrors that of my high school one. And that kinda concerns me. I mean, not because I’m naive about life and have no idea what’s in store, but because of this weird funk that I’ve been in these past few weeks. As a senior in high school, I’d have been one of the first people to laugh out the word “senioritis”. I’d have meant it, believed in it, used it as a saving power if ever I needed a day to myself. The college version? Depression. Crap. That’s no good.

I was watching a YouTube video by HeyoDamo about how he lost his job to depression. And he said the words (I’m mostly paraphrasing): I thought that my depression was because I was unemployed. I got a job doing what I love and I had those same feelings come back and get worse and worse…There were times when I just “checked out”.

I can completely understand. Education is wrapped into my ego, into how I define myself. At the age of three (according to my parents) I told them I needed to go to school. I cried the first time I got an A- because I thought I’d failed. (That was second grade.) And I knew I was going to college because that’s what smart people do. The thing is, about the time August started, I got sucked into this pit of depression and I’m clawing my way out (I think).

I haven’t written in so long because I felt I had nothing to say. I mean, I wrote a post about being depressed, but it’s carried over. And I want to define the parameters of it today. *Monster by Imagine Dragons*

Okay then. We need some background, I think. I’ll list it instead of paragraphs because the factors are numerous. 

-A lot of balls in the air: my proposal still hasn’t had a decision made, my financial aid is still being finalized, my LSAT score is low for my GPA, applications are very expensive, my husband and I might not be going to the same grad school (or even state).

-The feeling of inadequacy: I posted about my “Van Gogh feelings”, but include in here my weight, my stress management and my inability to control the “balls in the air”.

-Underlying factors: low self-esteem, senior year jitters, mental health conditions and just “stress”

I’m taking a full semester of classes. Four of my six classes are required, two are electives.  And I like about half of those classes (electives included). So here’s the problem. I call it my “crisis of conscience”.

I know I will save lives beyond my mental capacity following my law school path. I will leave the world feeling like I made the difference I always wanted to. And I do. I want to fix so many problems.I absolutely can too. I know it.

But.

There is some small piece of me, that however selfishly, still needs to run away. And I don’t mean in a literal sense, but in a “I want to do what makes me happy” kind of way. 

Instead of getting into the specifics (because I haven’t necessarily found a conclusion to that dilemma) I’m just going to say this:

Senior year is supposed to be the year of memories, of mistakes, of changes which will affect my whole life. But for right now at least, it just feels like I’m repeating lines I said years ago, making decisions I’ve made before and returning to a life I’m pretty sure I spent the last 5 years trying to escape from.

Depression is crap. But the sun will rise again, and so must I.

Reflections on a Theme

This post came across my Facebook feed this morning:


Naturally there were streams of support, streams of criticisms but one happened to catch my eye. Someone told Jared that he should not “stoop” and that she was “extremely disappointed” in his behavior, because he was calling out a human being publically. Here’s what he said (and yes, although probably unnecessarily, I did blot out her name):


I immediately gravitated towards the following phrases:

1. “Not welcome and “less than””

2. “Not entitled to share my concerns or unhappiness because I’m a “celebrity””

3. “That’s akin to the people who told me that I should be “happy” because I am “successful” and that I shouldn’t have “depression” or “anxiety” because “famous people” are so “lucky”. And I very much don’t appreciate being victim shamed, even though I’m “famous” and should just “deal with it and keep quiet about it”. At the end of the day, I am a human being that breathes oxygen.”

4. “I’m truly sorry that the existence of my hurt disappointed you, and I wish you peace and happiness.”
Okay, so I know I basically just typed out the entire thing, but the 4 quotes I pulled are important. Why? Becuase they are classic depression quotes. I numbered them so I can analyze them more strategically. And at the end, I will wrap up with some thoughts about my analysis.

1. Doubting self-worth, being sensitive to the actions and negativity of others. It’s a pretty common theme in depression to doubt everything about yourself, to feel that other people just “hate you” because of who you are. And it’s easier to pick up on feeling that way when you’re depressed.

2. Believing that you are required to be a certain person, act a certain way because of arbitrary factors in your life. This one hits pretty hard too, especially among individuals fighting their symptoms. It doesn’t matter if those arbitrary factors are “career”, “education”, “gender roles”, “age”, “geography”, “economy”, “culture” or other-you feel as though you cannot be yourself and have a hard time dealing with that.

3. Feeling like you must defend your feelings to others, based on the fact that you are human too. This one hits home. Because whenever I don’t feel acknowledged or validated in my concerns and emotions, I immediately volley between this one and number 4. It’s a quick jump to feel like you have to justify the way you’re feeling because you feel alienated by the people who should understand-on the basis that they’re people too. You extend them that courtesy, and expect them to extend it back.

4. Apologizing for feeling the way you do, because it causes discomfort to someone else-something you never intended. At some point we’ve all done it. Apologized for going on a rant (and feeling like you’ve taken up the entire conversation), apologized for crying after a hard day, bad news, or other event. Apologized for feeling like an inconvenience simply because you existed. You didn’t want to put your baggage on someone else, it just kind of happened and you’re sorry. (Even if there isn’t a reason to be sorry.)

Conclusion: While not all of these things indicate depression and in fact, are very typical to things like defending your actions, interacting with rude, belittling people and a host of other things, as someone who has spent more time in a depression than not, I think I stand by my analysis that the wording chosen is representative of a spike in depression.

Although I am incredibly disheartened that experiences like this happen (and we all know they do happen), I pulled this story because it is such a great discussion piece about mental health and the stigmas still faced. I can just as easily reanalyze those quotes in the following way:

1. Stigma: Those with mental illnesses aren’t welcome members in society.

2. Stigma: Those with careers in public spotlight should not suffer from mental illnesses.

3. Stigma: Those with mental illnesses shouldn’t express the pain they are in. (AKA: The “It’s All In Your Head” Stigma).

4. Stigma: People with mental illnesses are burdens to society.

And suddenly, it’s the same story remade to explain a broader issue. Think with me, if you will, how many things you could replace “mental illness” with. We’ve become a people who are afraid to stand up for ourselves. Afraid of what might happen if we demand basic human rights. Afraid of what might become of us when we call out an injustice. It has become a cultural trend to victim blame. I read over those statements and looked at the way my brain interpreted them. I jumped to depression because it is a condition I know and understand very well. But I also know sexual assault very well. And if I plop a little interpretation into this conversation it looks a little bit like this:

1. Stigma: Victims of sexual assault are not welcome members in society with equal rights.

2. Stigma: Those who choose to dress in anyway close to “revealing” should not expect to be exempt from sexual assault.

3. Stigma: Victims of sexual assault shouldn’t expect justice. (*Casts side-eye to Stanford and U.Colorado judges*)

4. Stigma: Victims of sexual assault are burdens to society.

What Jared did when he wrote this response was open the dialogue to the ways in which we (as a culture) judge others on arbitrary categories. “Celebrity”, “Mental Illness”, “Victim” all have become code words for a language we barely even know we’re speaking. Suddenly, we attribute roles to these words which themselves had no connotations before, and now have changed to “Perfect”, “Defective”, “Liar” respectively. The way we use the key to our culture, the very foundation of how we describe ourselves and the world around us is changing slightly every day. And it is because of this key that the formation of our very thoughts are coming into question.

Thought to consider for the day:

We are all human beings. We breathe the same air, our hearts pump the same way. Look at the way you judge others, the way you look them over and determine your interpretation of them. Do you see a person struggling to get by in life? Do you see their battles, struggles, victories and failures? Or do you see the person you want to see, covered in the veils of biases?

I end my thoughts today with a fitting quote from the movie Ten Inch Hero (which is one of my favorites).

From Dust (Part One)

This little picture popped into my social media feed a couple days ago:


I read over it, had a little chuckle and then a complete meltdown. Just like that. Well, almost. I’ve got some stress in my life, sure, but nothing I hadn’t been handling. And all it took was one little capture of a tumblr post and suddenly I began to notice some insecurities.

I’ve been having a really hard time sleeping lately. I stay up til dawn, get up a little before noon and repeat. It isn’t that I’m not tired, it’s that I’m too tired. And the same thoughts eat away at my insides, day after day. I eat less and less each day, I drink more-mostly water and caffeinated beverages, as I try to stay away from alcohol. I’m trying to get into a new schedule to prepare for school. But it’s summer, and I’m dealing. That’s what I do, after all.

And how ashamed am I, that my walls could cave because of a picture I took a little too personally!

I was making a chess set yesterday, couldn’t get it to look professional and scrapped the entire thing. Deleted every story I had started, because I didn’t believe they were going to get me anywhere. Threw out several drawings I’d made because I couldn’t look at them anymore. Spent an entire day shuffling through music because I couldn’t find the joy in my songs.

And that was the tip off that I wasn’t in a good place.

I used to get in trouble as a kid quite often because I couldn’t deal with silence so I would hum. It’s gotten me warned during tests, it’s gotten me picked on and laughed at. But ever since I can remember, music has been my fortress. If I could sing, if I could hum, the darkness would not get to me. No matter if I was manic or depressed, music saved me. And yet, I was silent.

So while I laid in bed waiting for the moment I’d fall asleep, I fell into a depression instead. 

Every single thing I’d ever made, crafted, involved myself in or otherwise attempted artistically came into question. And I found myself completely and utterly ashamed. I thought I’d listen to an almost-out album by some of the members of Supernatural’s cast (Jason Manns-Covers With Friends) and immediately started crying. I was listening to beautiful music created by ultra talented individuals who had careers doing what they loved and were successful at. 

And I didn’t feel like I had any worth at all.

I’ve gotten rejected from everything artistic I’ve tried.

I auditioned for the school of music when I started college. Rejected.

I wrote a novel! And sent it to agents. Rejected.

I wrote another novel and sent that one in to agents. Rejected.

I wrote a children’s book. Sent it in to agents. Rejected.

I tried my hand at slam poetry for a scholarship. Rejected.

Tried to sell homemade soaps, lotions, and even offered to make theme songs for a buck. Rejected.

I tried to tell myself that it didn’t sting. That there was something bigger and better waiting for me ahead. That the doors that were closing were only doing so so that I’d keep my “eyes on the prize”.

I don’t believe my own bullshit anymore.

I’m trying not to get my hopes up for the President’s Prize. Because the odds are against me. I’m trying not to get my hopes up for law school. Because the odds are against me. But I don’t know where that exactly leaves me and I guess that maybe that’s part of the problem.

The way my life worked out in my head is that I would go to law school, become a lawyer. I’d write books on the side so I could make my student loan payments and afford the things I can’t right now. When all my debts were settled, I thought I’d use my skills to work my way up the system and make a real difference in the world. 

But what skills do I even have? I’m absolutely ordinary. And that hurts more than it should. I say the words “I know I’m just one person” more often than I probably need to but I don’t think I’ve ever really believed it. I’ve always believed I could change the world.

But can I? Is that something which is simply unattainable for me? Is it reserved for the beautiful people, the people with connections and money? The people who don’t have to worry about how to cover bills, what’s useable from the discount carts? The people who are whole? Without an illness?

I came face to face with my own reality and I can’t accept it. I can’t accept that I feel so deeply, care so much and see so much beauty and pain all for nothing. And yet, that’s my reality. That’s my life. 

And it hurts so fucking much.

(Part Two coming tomorrow. See how the story resolves then.)