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

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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

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.

Eating Disorders, Anxiety, and Facing Ourselves Honestly

I’m taking a class on Anxiety Disorders right now, and it’s absolutely fascinating. It’s an online class from Universal Class. If you like to learn, I highly recommend checking out that site. Some libraries offer free tuition to cardholders, as I know the LA library system does, and there are hundreds of classes on a variety of topics.

Tip of the day, I guess? 🙂

Anyway, I’ve noticed that “eating disorders” is actually listed as a form of anxiety, which I would have balked at before I started recovery, but it’s amazing how true it is! Whenever I’m in a high-pressure situation for a sustained amount of time, I either want to binge or starve, depending on where my mind is at that time. Thinking of it this way, as anxiety, minimizes the problem to me in a good way.

This might not speak to everyone, but for me, it’s helping.

If I can think of my eating disorder as being in the same category as my OCD or social anxiety, then it just feels like another little annoying thing that I can overcome. It feels like something I can take a few deep breaths through, something that will wane after a few days of yoga and good sleep.  Continue reading

Great Podcast: Finding Comedy in Tragedy and Mental Illness

Marc Maron

I had to take a second to share this amazing podcast I just finished! As someone who has navigated depression (even back when it was called MMD), anxiety, and an eating disorder most of my life, I consider myself pretty well educated on the subject, if only by necessity. One topic I’m just starting to learn more about is Borderline Personality Disorder, also known as BPD.

If you’ve never listened to the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast, it’s worth checking out even if you don’t care about this stuff. He interviews a diverse group of incredibly interesting people, and I always find myself laughing and learning a lot. It’s the kind of podcast where you start to drive home more slowly just to be sure you have time to finish it, stopping at yellow lights, that kind of thing.

Continue reading

Open Letter To My Husband, Who Lives With Both Me and My Depression

 

Dear S,

I should start by making two things clear. One- you are a wonderful, kind, supportive, loving man, and I hope to be married to you forever. I pinch myself when I think about how lucky I am to have found a husband like you. You set the bar very high in our relationship.

Two- I know you can’t possibly understand what it is to live with depression. I know that. You can learn about it, listen to me talk about it, read about it, study all you can. But you’ll never really know. You just can’t. You’ve come a long way when it comes to being sensitive and knowledgeable on the topic. (Remember when you used to say things like, “I understand, I felt depressed when I went through this or that”?) You simply can’t know because unless you experience it, you just won’t.

I could not be more thrilled about this, actually, because I wouldn’t wish these feelings on anyone, let alone the man I love most on this planet. My heart nearly bounces with joy knowing that you’ll never go through an episode like this. Yes, you will have times of pain, of grief, of heartache, of deep sadness. I can’t stop that. I wish I could, but that’s life.

However, I’m happy to know you won’t have to wake up some days and just want to die, even though you were perfectly happy the day before. You won’t sit down on the couch under the weight of a soul crushing sadness that leaks out through your tear ducts and literally not be able to rise up under the weight of it. You won’t lash out for no reason, after spending days feeling terrified of nothing at all, snapping because you can’t take that pain a minute longer.

You won’t lose days of your life without realizing the time has passed. You won’t know what it is to fall to the bottom of an emotional well and not even want to climb out because the light at the top doesn’t seem remotely worth it somehow. You won’t spend hours and days and weeks feeling worthless for no reason and wondering what the point of all of this is, anyway.

You won’t do that. You are as you should be, as I love seeing you. Full of life. Full of joy. You wake up each day ready to take it on. You’re a nonstop ball of energy, a source of light, an Accomplisher of All Things Necessary.  You’re an extrovert, a dad who plays on the floor with the kids, a husband who works sixty hours a week and still finds time to travel and do half the housework.

I’m in awe of you. Continue reading

A Good Cause & A Sad Fact

https://www.gofundme.com/bretts-treatment-fund

So, I don’t know the above people. I clicked on the link because a good Facebook friend shared it, and I usually find myself caring about causes dear to my friends’ hearts.

Normally I simply donate what I can, click to share on Twitter, and move on with my day.

Today, a line from this page hit me so hard, and I had to write about it for a minute.

This campaign is to help a woman struggling with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, who recently had a situation requiring serious hospitalization and needs help. Of course, she has to fight and beg and plead with her insurance to help cover the cost of this treatment, because health insurance has a long way to go in the treatment of mental illnesses. Which is a whole separate blog post in itself. (Sigh.)

But this is the line that stabbed me in the heart:

“Brett’s very nervous for a lot of reasons–not the least of all because depression can make you believe you don’t deserve help.” Continue reading

Can We Please Talk About Depression?

depression-sign

Part of what makes The Crazy Actor- me- so “crazy” is that I’ve been dealing with depression my entire life.

When I was 21, I was officially diagnosed with MDD- Major Depressive Disorder, or simply, depression. It was an incredibly freeing moment for me, to put a label on these dark, terrible periods I had been experiencing since I could remember. I was already fairly certain I had it, as it runs in my family, and I had all the symptoms, but still. There is something about the world acknowledging it isn’t just YOU, it’s an actual disorder, that is quite a relief.

As a teenager, my depressed moods were tied up with fluctuating hormones and an incredibly chaotic home life. I was dealing with issues with my mother, I had 5 younger siblings to worry about, an alcoholic father, and was trying to somehow live a (relatively) normal teenage life. I threw myself into achieving- getting straight As, working multiple jobs, and always involved in a million things at school. I also distracted myself with dramatic relationships- I was totally “boy crazy.”

Since I didn’t stop to take care of myself at ALL, my depressed periods would become very dark. More than once I thought of suicide. I planned it out and wrote long goodbye letters. I felt that my pain would never end, and I really, desperately wanted it to. I felt alone, abandoned, miserable, misunderstood, stuck on the outside of things. I felt like a failure, like a fraud, like a burden. I felt terrified and lost. Completely without hope. Continue reading