3 Types of “To-Do” Lists that Can Help When Depression Sets In

shutterstock_314959406

Let’s get real. Making a “to-do” list on a day you’re struggling with depression can be many things, but “helpful” is not usually one of them. Most days I wake up this way the feeling is so heavy I can’t even find the tiniest bit of will to fight it. Or I stare at my list of goals I made the night before and cry, knowing I’ll never complete anything, any time, anywhere, because that’s what the voice in my head is telling me.

I can’t even get in the shower, but I’m supposed to create a thoughtful DIY gift for my anniversary, plan a party, work on a script I’m writing, and make three phone calls?

Um, not happening.

Honestly, when depression sets in, I usually forget why I wanted to do any of these things in the first place. Nothing seems important. Everything feels impossible. I just want time to stop so I can hide under my covers and cry or sleep.

However, over many years of dealing with depression in the various forms in which it visits me, I’ve learned that at certain times, there are things I can do to cushion the blow. Mostly, I’ve developed tools that prevent it from hitting me so hard or so often- though these don’t always work. Once it comes, it’s generally out of my hands, since I’m not exactly “myself” during those times.

When I am able to get a small ledge to hold onto, one of the things that can help me is, believe it or not, a to-do list.

Generally, depending on where I am mentally, these lists fall into one of three categories. I’m going to share them here in case one or more can ever help anyone else when they are slipping down into that deep hole of sadness or numbness.

And please remember, sometimes the best thing to do is nothing, if that’s what you need. Sometimes we just need to stop and be as gentle as possible with ourselves. There is no shame in having to stop.

Here are the types of lists I use. These aren’t in order of “feeling best to worst” or anything like that. Depression simply hits differently sometimes.

List #1: The “Things I Know Will Make Me Feel Better and Start to Move Me Out of a Depressed State” List

This is one only accessible to me when I’m just starting to get a bit “off” or when I’ve been feeling depressed for a bit and can see the light, however dim, at the end of the tunnel. Continue reading

Advertisements

Actors- Confused About the 2018 Tax Law Changes?

Tax stress

Hey LA actors! I don’t know about you, but I am completely lost as to how the new tax laws affect me. I’m not thrilled about it either, seeing as I spent the last fifteen years as a professional actor learning exactly what was deductible, what wasn’t, and how to make the most of my tax returns.

Now it’s just the wild west.

If you are feeling a little confused or unsure, I have great news! The Actor’s Fund is sponsoring a FREE workshop on Thursday, September 27th at 6:30 pm to explain to performers how the changes will affect them going forward.

Tax time is already stressful- come to this event and learn what you need to know to be as prepared as possible!

It will be held at the SAG-AFTRA building on Wilshire, but my understanding is that you do not need to be union to attend.

Here is the link to RSVP and secure your spot:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2018-tax-law-changes-be-prepared-not-panicked-registration-48940249604?aff=ebdsorderfblightbox

If you aren’t in the LA area, worry not! I will do my best to condense and share useful information here on the blog after the workshop.

Final note- The Actor’s Fund has a huge list of programs and workshops besides this one to help performers, so be sure to check them out at their website, https://actorsfund.org/ when you get a chance. If you need help, reach out to them. If you can give, it’s a worthwhile cause!

 

3 Ways Social Media Makes My Depression Worse

Social Media addict

I am not trendy.

I know, when it comes to social media, a lot of millennials love to hate it. It’s cool to bash Facebook and take “breaks” or swear it off altogether. (Yeah right, Karen. See you back here posting in a week.)

I get into Snapchat and Instagram, too- I’m not completely unhip. But I’m not as cool as my younger friends and family who don’t even need a Facebook page, who may barely ever check my hilarious Snaps of my cat (their loss!), who post one perfect selfie #ootd Insta a week, with an inspirational quote here and there to mix it up.

I still use emojis when I should be using a little person that looks like me and makes the proper expressions, according to my 13 year old step-daughter. (An avatar, maybe? I just imagine myself all blue having weird hair sex…)

Social media suits me. I’ve moved to six different states. I’ve lived the actor’s life of having a “show family” you love with all your heart that you may never, ever see again. I travel for work. I also “network” for work (UGH).

Here is my point- I need to, and enjoy, keeping in touch with great people I meet all over. I LOVE knowing what my family in Indiana is up to and how everyone is without making thirty phone calls a day. I like getting updates on college acceptances, post-op progress, and finally getting to see when your baby goes from “gross alien you love anyway” to “cute!”  Continue reading

You CAN Go Home Again

Home. The City of Angels. SoCal. LA. We made it back.

I once heard someone say that once you live somewhere for ten years, you are really from there. Does Los Angeles count for me? I celebrated my ten year anniversary of moving here at the end of April.

Of course, I took some breaks. I spent a year in Atlanta, chunks of time away to make a movie in Minnesota, to travel Ecuador, to all over North America when I worked jobs for Porsche, a long time to shack up with the husband in Michigan….

Still, I felt like an Angeleno the moment I arrived.

I’ll never forget that flight. My boyfriend at the time and I had decided to move to LA, not New York as we had always planned. I honestly forget why. We were living in Sarasota, Florida, doing a long run of a show. Evita. A ten week run. Maybe we were burnt out on the idea of eight shows a week for a while. I think maybe his dad suggested to us we try LA. I know NYC had always been the end game…we had visited for long periods and loved it.

Maybe it was a fluke. Something about the movies drew us in. I really can’t say a decade later. Continue reading

A Whole New Book

Sometimes in life you get to start a fresh new chapter.

Today, I feel like I’m starting a whole new book.

Yep. I got that first day of school, fresh, clean notebook, crisp pages, shiny ink-filled pens vibe.

I’ve been away from LA for almost a year and a half. Not totally, strictly “away.” I’ve been there for chunks of time. Months, sometimes. But I haven’t had a true home there in something like 18 months.

It’s been an exciting 18 months, for the most part. I did get to start at Groundlings. I spent two weeks in Thailand. A month traveling all over Ecuador. Performed onstage in NYC for the first time.

I worked random jobs- a hosting gig here, a commercial there.

I got to go home- as in my birth home- a lot, spend a lot of time with family, mine and my husband’s.

Today, we are packing up the Cadillac and starting the road trip home. To the west coast. To LA. To the place my dreams live. To the city that makes me feel like I can take a deep breath and be the most me.

Life is full of twists and turns you can never expect. Now it’s time to ride those twists and turns out west, to jump on Route 66 and start my new book with a road trip adventure.

Also, Los Angeles is now offering yoga classes with Lola the Sloth, so it seems my return is just in time. 🙂

 

“Overweight”

Happiness Scales

I am overweight.

That’s what the color-coded table on the wall behind the scale says. That’s what the nurse wrote down on my chart. That must be true.

After all, these are the experts. The doctors, the graphs, the numbers. They know.

I’ve never seen them do it before, maybe I never noticed. I’ve been the same weight for about a year now, give or take. After my body hoarded fat for a while as it tried to rebalance after 15 years of an eating disorder, it’s finally calmed down. It’s landed and settled. It’s a lovely place to be, because I feel happy for my body. Like it finally trusts me again.

Like it knows I’m not going to starve it anymore.

I feel amazing. But I’m overweight. That’s the word. For my height, if I weigh this number, I go into an “orange zone.” It’s not the “normal” zone. It’s over the line. I’ve gone too far. Medically, I set off an alarm.

There is no category for “underweight.” Not on the chart behind the scale. I looked. My old weight, the weight range I was before I got healthy, it isn’t even listed. It’s not worth the effort of assigning a color. I weighed myself obsessively every single day for years, and I know all the numbers. Not one of them was on that scale. Continue reading

Why Sharing Our Mental Health Stories is SO Important

I’m writing this blog from the side of the road. Seriously. I was listening to NPR, a piece about a shortage of psychologists. Turns out the baby boomers need mental health care just like they need regular health care, and the increased population means there aren’t enough psychiatrists and psychologists to go around at the moment.

Side note- if you’re looking into these fields, apparently you will find yourself quite employable!

I was sort of half listening when the guest said something that caught my ear. (Definitely half listening, or I would have some name or title more specific than “the guest” to share with you….) He mentioned how mental health discussions are so often buried under the rug, explaining that if you have a surgery, as an example, people bring flowers and you post updates on social media and everyone is very supportive.

If you have a panic attack, however, we don’t share or handle it the same way, and we don’t expect people to react with unbridled support, either.

This kills me, and goes back to a point I’ve reiterated so many times on the blog you may be sick of hearing it, but it is worth repeating:

We HAVE to share our mental health stories in order to slowly chip away at the stigma surrounding these issues.

After all, doesn’t someone suffering a severe bout of depression deserve just as much support as someone who broke their leg? Might it even go further with the person struggling with the point of life in general? Continue reading

When Someone You Love Can’t Accept Your New “Imperfect” Body

Loveyourbody

I’ve been on this journey of recovery from my eating disorder for about three years now. I purposely have taken it slow, going step by step. Once I realized I could stop feeling the way I felt my entire life, I wanted to be sure I did everything in my power to put an end to it for good.

That’s not to say I really ever think I’ll be totally “cured,” for lack of a better word. Everyone’s journey is different, and most people I’ve connected with or read about feel that an eating disorder is something that never quite goes away. My therapist compared my disorder most closely to my anxiety and depression, as an imbalance that manifests itself in a specific way. Indeed, as I’ve let go of my regimented eating and workout habits, I’ve felt OCD coming back in certain ways pretty strongly, so she’s onto something.

However, I’ve always mentally compared it to alcoholism, which is a tactic that’s helped me a lot. Since my dad is an alcoholic and I’ve spent years in Al-Anon, I know a whole lot about it. I’ve watched him go in and out (mostly out) of recovery over and over, and am practically an expert in this category, as one becomes out of necessity. I know for a fact that an alcoholic has to admit they are powerless over alcohol completely, and to succeed in recovery they have to accept they can never have another drink.

For me, this was a natural transfer. At some point early in my recovery, I learned that people with disordered eating are really at risk if they venture into any regimented diet or exercise plan, even the “healthy” ones. (Whether there is any truly “healthy” way to restrict and control what we put into our bodies is a topic for another blog.) Right away I admitted to myself that I was powerless over the need to control my body and that I had to give it up altogether.

This may not work for everyone. It helped me a lot. I backslid a few times- more than a few times- but my goal was to get to a place where I ate and exercised only to feel good. I had to let go of all calorie counting, all instances of forcing myself to work out if I felt it was for the wrong reasons, all restrictions of this food or that, basically let my body eat and do what it wanted for a while to learn about its needs, what made me feel good or bad, etc.

Naturally, I’ve gained weight. I try to stay away from numbers and sizes in this blog because I think comparisons are very dangerous. Every body is different. For me, I’ve gone up several sizes over these three years, and that’s how I know how much I’ve changed. Of course, this is common, and since I’ve stopped starving and purging, it’s naturally going to happen. There is the added element that I denied my body enough food for so long, it’s holding onto fats for dear life. Continue reading

On the Death of a Man Who Didn’t Know He Inspired Me

This morning I woke to the news, shared all over Facebook, that a man named Nathan had been battling depression for years, and now he is gone.

I grew up watching this tall, powerful looking man, then just a boy but never seeming so, performing on various stages around my hometown. I had the bug so bad. I wanted to be amazing like the people in Varsity Singers, our town’s show choir. Whenever I was cast in a local show, the leads were my heroes. I was a total fangirl to those near me with talent. Just by being close to them, I felt more empowered to follow my dreams.

I imagined myself singing duets with the guys, me in a short sequined dress, belting my heart out, while fog rolled in around us. It was the only glamorous thing to hold on to in that little town in Indiana, and I clung to that like my life depended on it.

It did depend on it. My early hormones threw my yet undiagnosed depression into a whirlwind. My home life was rocky, to say the least. I swung between mania and deep pits of despair, often surviving on adrenaline alone.

I wanted to kill myself so many times. I fantasized about it. I wrote suicide notes in my journal. I got so close on more than one occasion, I terrified myself. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. There was no support system that I knew of, no one that I thought would understand. I didn’t know how to put into words pain that was so crushing I just wanted it to end.

I had my dreams, though. I had my younger siblings watching me, too. They needed me. So I needed my dreams. I had to believe there was a shiny, beautiful future waiting for me if only I could survive and make it out.

Nathan was one of those performers that lifted me out of the pit and into a place of hope. When he lifted his voice to sing, you felt it in your very core. His voice was full of beauty and power. You couldn’t help but watch him onstage, somehow magically moving his large frame so gracefully around with the other dancers.

He was older than me by a few years. I was too starstruck to ever speak to him, though we had many friends in common. I thought maybe, years later, we would both be on Broadway, and I would walk up to him and sort of casually say, “Oh, remember me? I used to be such a fan of yours!” But of course now we would both be big stars, so he would laugh and be flattered.

That would be extra amazing because his laugh was so amazing. Authentic and true and loud and lovely. His smile was so shiny and joyful. He seemed so happy to me.

And now he’s gone. He’s gone.

I wanted to share this today because I’ve had mental health issues on my mind in a big way lately. Earlier this week, a young family friend was stabbed while she and my cousin were providing volunteer health services to the homeless. She was rushed to the hospital and made it through, thankfully, but the man who stabbed her explained all. He is schizophrenic, and off his meds, and the voices in his head told him to kill one of the girls.

He could have killed her. Or my cousin. Because of a very real mental health issue. Just like that, all of our lives could change. Just like everyone’s life is changed that knew and loved Nathan. Just like so many, many more.

Recently, a woman shared a video about how “depression is all in your head.” I’m not sharing it here because it’s disgusting and I don’t want to give it more clicks. She shares a lot of controversial videos, but this one was particularly reckless. Her advice for beating depression ranged from somewhat true (“Just work out!”) to completely ridiculous (“Compliment people more!”) She has clearly never battled actual depression, so speaking about it as if she has some type of authority on the matter is beyond irresponsible.

Being sad is not being depressed. Your depression can’t be compared to the depression of others. What works for one person doesn’t work for everyone. I hate meds for myself, but some people truly need them.

If we don’t truly shift and start working together in this country (and all over the world) for real, true, effective mental health support, we are going to experience more heartbreak and more loss, not to mention a huge amount of suffering that could be eased or prevented. We are all human beings, just doing our best on this planet. Let’s love each other. Let’s listen to each other. Let’s be there and fight for each other.

We have to stop dismissing the need for better and better mental health care. Today, I’m recommitting myself to supporting legislation, organizations, and information that can create real change. I’m doubling down on my mission to get rid of mental health stigmas that create shame and make people afraid to ask for help.

Nathan never knew how much he helped me on my darkest days. He had no idea. Probably very few of those people in my hometown did. Still, all these years later, he’s inspiring me to do better and be my best self, to use my voice in a powerful way.

Even if I’ll never have the power in my voice that he had in his.

My Husband & I Live in Separate States- All Your Questions Answered

CA MI.jpg

The heart isn’t in the right place…but our hearts are…. #cheesy

When you’re in a long-distance relationship, people really feel for you. You get a lot of “Oooo that’s so hard.” Loads of sympathy. It’s great!

When you’re in a long-distance marriage, the questions and comments change. They range from much more curious (“How on Earth does that work?”) all the way to completely judgmental (“Do you not like being around each other?”). (Although couples who have been married for a long time often remark that a long-distance marriage is brilliant, which I love!)

So, in the spirit of sharing, and possibly saving myself some future explanations, I thought I would make a little FAQ.

Spoiler alert: YES, we really like being around each other. A whole lot. Maybe too much.

The “My Husband and I Live in Two Different States Official FAQ”!

Q: Wait, you and your husband live in two different states?!

A: Yeah.

Q: Really?

A: Well, it depends on how you look at it. I often say we both live in both places. Technically, his residence is in Michigan, and mine is in California. He spends more time in Detroit, I spend a lot more time in Los Angeles.

Q: But…why?

A: The basic reason is that we have three awesome kids from Steve’s first marriage. They are in Michigan, so we need to be in Michigan as well. His job is also mostly in Detroit, though he does work out of the LA office at times.

My home and my career are in Los Angeles, so that’s where I need to be.

Q: Oh yeah- how does that work with your jobs? Continue reading