Mental Health: The Danger of Comparative Suffering

one time someone at my college did this on the stairs as an art installation
photo by DANNY G

First off, I’ve made it to Texas and have been okay so far. I’ve been diligent about working out, something that’s turned out to be key at keeping my depression at bay, and doing my best to keep “normal” sleeping hours. If I do anything each day, these two things are what I prioritize. I’m proud of myself, as I’ve had to be very intentional about each of my actions in order to care for myself, mental health, and ultimately my relationship with others. Don’t need a 2019 repeat.

This leads to something I’ve been thinking a lot about this summer (which is, weirdly, almost over): comparative suffering. I’m so tired of talking about the pandemic but, like it or not, it continues to inform every aspect our lives. The race rioting turning up to 10 in June has not helped the chaos and general scope of suffering. The media is colossally divisive, unifying language eludes our goober president, and we’ve largely left teachers and parents, the real pandemic MVPs, out to dry.

Progressives, the historical champion of the underdog and the political group in which I closest identify, want to keep everything locked down to maximize health safety. Conservatives want to expedite the re-opening process, possibly at the expense of innumerable lives, at the benefit of hard won business vitality and scholastic normalcy. Meanwhile, we’ve got poor parents stuck in between the two sides of a conundrum while everyone argues. It’s an argument worth having, of course, but how is a single parent with an active service industry job, two children, one old iPad, a shoddy internet connection, and no childcare managing paying bills and keeping their children on track with school? How about teachers, responsible for several classes, with school-age children of their own? We’ve kind of let the buck stop at our generally underserved population, parents, and it seems the new educational ideal only suits those who can afford having a stay-at-home parent. Further compounding the severity is the fact that educational disparity is the root of so many issues our country faces. I’m stressed. Are you stressed? I’m stressed.

Because I am a white lady who does not yet have children, I’ve been repeatedly heavy in praise and awe toward parents and BIPOC and, my god, people who identify as both of those things. I was invited to join a DIY anti-racist think tank made up of a small, primarily white cohort and surrounding Ibram X. Kendi’s renegade book How to be an Antiracist. I was a little late to the party and not completely caught up on reading, but in my first meeting I found like-minded, proactive white friends and one Indian friend committed to working together to undo our lifetimes of buried racist programming. While I was hopeful after meeting with these people and moved by Kendi’s words and calls to action, I fell off my standard cliff of depression I can typically be found teetering on and into a deeper, darker, and therefore more dangerous hole. My sadness crushed me into my recurring lived nightmare of self-hatred and ideas of self-harm. General inaction, with the notable inclusion of steps to undo a life of veiled racism, was a byproduct.

Next up is a white person classic: guilt. Oh, white guilt. Nobody wants to hear about it, and there I was stewing in it, hating myself for not being better. I called my [white] friend, the one who’d so generously invited me into the sacred, safe space, antiracist group to admit my feelings. I didn’t have it in me and needed to drop out. As a person living with mental illness and doing my best to survive (AKA stave off self harm, let alone COVID), I didn’t have any more emotional bandwidth. I felt I was failing my black brothers, sisters, and non-binary siblings, and I was crushed by my own ineptitude. I was bracing myself for my friend, married to an African American person, to take me by the proverbial shoulders and shake me, demanding I get it together, reinforcing what I knew to be true: BIPOC in America don’t have the luxury to woot around with psychiatry, Prozac, Lamictal, and Wellbutrin. In addition to the very equal-opportunity-affliction of mental illness, BIPOC are also living through a pandemic, perhaps also unable to secure a job like me, etc… all in addition to living through the every day trauma of moving through America as BIPOC. In regards to my feelings, in the canonical words of Sweet Brown, “ain’t nobody got time for that.”

Instead, I was surprised to be met with something I so fiercely value, something I do my best to always grant to others, and something that for some reason I fail to give myself. Grace. My friend reminded me to be gentle in my self-criticism and that while weighing our problems against each others’ is important for orientation and perspective, absolutely, me having Major Depressive and Anxiety Disorders was both less and more severe than current experiences of any other person on the street. She spoke on the dangers of comparative suffering, that taking on more than I could handle, something that leads me to an unhealthy, at-risk state, wasn’t actually going to help anyone. It reminded me of my psychiatrist’s standby of needing to put my own oxygen mask on first before being able to help others. The alternative is that, if I don’t, we could all be toast, which of course is also unhelpful and, well, ain’t nobody got time for.

The concept of comparative suffering is not meant to be explain away basic laziness or ignorance. Beware. It’s not a shield to hide behind so you may rest on your laurels in peace or an alleviation of responsibility. Instead it is meant to give grace to the overwhelmed who are doing their very best to be better.

Warmest,
Bailey


Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.


More on Bummed Out Bailey:
Mental Health: The Social Toll of Invisible Illness
Mental Health: Drowning
Mental Health: Disjointed, Distracted, Discombobulated


The best way you can support me is to share my blog with friends! Another way to support is on my Patreon where you’ll find exclusive content. Your word of mouth and contribution mean more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Bailey by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and enter your info into the form. I can also be found on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


I’ve been enjoying my new addition of the nice-dog-photo postscript. This past week we lost our precious family golden retriever, Achilles, so I find it only appropriate to share a photo of our wonderful boy. His mild temperament, humorous antics, and precious face brought immeasurable peace and joy to all.

May you all have an Achilles in your life.

Sustainable Sunday: Plants

peace lily
Photo by Mitchel Lensink on Unsplash

We don’t need a few people doing zero-waste perfectly, we need millions doing it imperfectly.

Lauren Singer*

Plants are one of my favorite gifts to receive and high on the “treatchaself” list. They give you oxygen, are something to care for and watch grow, expedite healing, balance out the invisible chaos of electronics that might be wiggin’ you out, create a calming atmosphere, and look nice.

Swap: Instead of something toxic or environmentally-unfriendly, give or buy a potted plant.

Cut flowers usually wilt and stink within a week or so, so people toss them into the compost or, more likely, the trash. (The issue with the latter is that organic compost creates methane gas, which is bad for our environment.) While flower bouquets are a beautiful art form to look at and make recipients feel special, actively growing plants continue to flower- the gift that keeps on giving. Cut flowers are also 1) typically wrapped in plastic and 2) super expensive. For the same investment you can get a plant that keeps on keepin’ on long after the celebratory event has passed. For Valentine’s Day this year, Rick got me a big, bouncy peace lily, and this week it gave us a fresh white bloom. I say “us,” but I’d bet Rick hasn’t noticed it, so… this week it gave me a fresh white bloom!

peace lily
Photo by Maria Eliz on Unsplash

Plants purify indoor air.

I always wonder about quality of air and the fact that so many humans spend so much time indoors. (Me! I’m one of those people.) I wonder how our lungs are effected by all those dust motes floating around, undetected mold, gas/carbon monoxide, and things like candle smoke (another example of something toxic or environmentally-unfriendly we often give/buy). Plants clean the air in the home, give us fresh oxygen, and flourish with the carbon dioxide we emit. Mutually beneficial, we pair well together.

Plants give you something to nurture and care for.

I have another peace lily, my first, obtained along with a white bird of paradise from a nursery in D.C. when Rick and I lived there. The same day Rick got a tiny cactus he named Spike. He’s very proud of Spike when he remembers he has Spike.

This may sound really sad, and usually when things are really sad they end up being funny to me, and I find this funny, but when I was in D.C. I missed the family golden retrievers (in NYC) so much that taking care of plants was a weak but important consolation. I’d tug the massive bird of paradise outside to get some big sunlight just like you’d take a dog out. I remember one time Rick came home and I grinned and fanned my arm out to present the plant on our little patio. “Look who’s having a nice time outside!” (Somebody get this girl a dog…) HA! Rick appeased me with a “Wow! I can tell it’s having a great time out there.”

I also grew mint, basil, rosemary, and cilantro and what I learned was that there’s never enough cilantro, because I eat it too fast, and that mint does not know how to share and is always inviting itself over to other plants’ houses. If you plant mint with another herb, the mint will put its roommate in a choke hold and commit MURDER. The pot will be a mint-only pot soon. And then, my mint plant had the audacity to grow down to the ground, pretending to be minding its own business, and then pop up on the side of the other herbs’ pot! Anyway, mint needs to be in the plant equivalent of the isolation cabin from The Parent Trap (1998).

bird of paradise
Photo by Luca Deasti on Unsplash

Plants nurture you back.

Being able to eat what you grow is immensely satisfying. When I have a yard of my own, I plan to grow lots of food, or at least attempt to. It feeds me physically but also my soul to care for something and watch it flourish. In the meantime, though, I can only grow things indoors and with limited northern exposure. Sadly, my herbs did not make the move back to NYC. But my original peace lily and bird of paradise and Rick’s cactus he forgets about have lived three places and have continued to grow. Well, I have no idea if Spike is growing or even okay. I think he’s okay. I also got an aloe plant at a street fair for $5 and have used it on inflamed skin and sunburns.

Okay, now for something potentially psychosomatic that I believe in: plants countering the invisible chaos of wifi, cellular waves, and electronics in general. Apparently, plants cancel the positive ions that come from electronics, something that apparently makes people wiggy, charged up, and anxious. I’ve heard of a parent requesting a preschool remove the wifi connection due to it causing their child anxiety, and while I’m not ready to go that far, I believe that level of sensitivity to be true for some. For instance, fluorescent lights give me anxiety. The fact the light always moves drives me crazy and makes me feel like I’m about to have a seizure at any moment. (I’m sooo fun at parties.) When fluorescent lights are reflecting off a linoleum floor it’s even worse. My disturbing high school chemistry lab comes to mind. With cell service and wifi there is so much moving through the air, it kinda makes sense to me that something organic would balance it, even if just in the vein of feng shui. Apparently plants, especially their roots and soil, absorb that chaotic energy.

Plants are inherently healing.

I’ve always had a feeling about physical spaces that inform my inner peace, and plants help calm a room… and me. I found a study on the National Library of Medicine website that finds plants enhance healing:

Findings of this study confirmed the therapeutic value of plants in the hospital environment as a noninvasive, inexpensive, and effective complementary medicine for surgical patients. Health care professionals and hospital administrators need to consider the use of plants and flowers to enhance healing environments for patients.

[Ornamental indoor plants in hospital rooms enhanced health outcomes of patients recovering from surgery]

It’s such a bummer to enter someone’s space with nary a plant in sight. Make a small plant your next housewarming or host gift! Here are some places to start:

Next on my list are a couple of snake plants. My birthday’s on Saturday- maybe Rick’s reading this. Rick, are you there? Anywho.

Photo by Kara Eads on Unsplash

One small consumption change for you, one small improvement for our environment. What kind of nontoxic, environmentally-friendly treats do you like to give or buy?

Warmest,
Bailey

*Lauren Singer is an environmentalist who does not generate any waste(!). You can shop her store, Package Free, online or at the brick and mortar store in Brooklyn post-pandemic. Read more about Lauren here, and watch her Ted Talk here– she’s inspiring.


Once a month I share a sustainability tip or an easy swap in consumption routine to better care for the planet. Environmentally conscious change doesn’t always have to be expensive, laborious, or extremely time-consuming.

If you like a photo used, please click through the link in the caption to support the artist.


More on Bummed Out Bailey:
Sustainable Sunday: Detergent
Sustainable Sunday: Carrots
Sustainable Sunday: Ziplock Bags


The best way you can support me is to share my blog with friends! Another way to support is on my Patreon where you’ll find exclusive content. Your word of mouth and contribution mean more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Bailey by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and enter your info into the form. I can also be found on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


Last, I leave you with this nice picture of a golden retriever I found.

Photo by Laula Co on Unsplash

Mental Health: Disjointed, Distracted, Discombobulated

I didn’t mean to disappear into the ether, I’ve just been wiggy about my precious, dying family golden retriever and trying to plan a trip back to Texas with an urgency fueled by ailing grandparents. The last time I went home to Texas I had a mental breakdown that emanated for months after like an emotional aftershock with an expensive psychiatry bill. It sucked, and I haven’t been on a plane since. I was supposed to go home in February for a dear friend’s wedding, but panicked and fell into a deep depression the day before I was meant to leave. Actively trying to stave off any kind of fresh meltdown, my head’s been elsewhere.

These are the facts.

  • Last time I was in Texas I had a full on meltdown and either needed to check into a facility or take an emergency flight back up to NYC where my psych is. I chose the latter.
  • Rick isn’t coming with me for work reasons, and a lot of times when I’m in my parents’ house thinking about past family trauma I become unmoored, which contributes to a sense of despair and helplessness. Rick’s presence helps me remember things aren’t the way they used to be- I live in New York, I’m married, I have agency, I’m no longer 19.
  • My birthday falls during this trip, and I will not get to spend it with my spouse. I will be spending it with the rest of my family, though, which is a huge W. It’s just a consideration.
  • When I return to NYC I must quarantine in my apartment for 14 days alone, getting food delivered to my door. In order to justify such a long ‘tine, I will be in Texas for 12 days. This means I will not see Rick for 26 days, the longest we’ve ever been apart.
  • No golden retrievers to be comforted by, and a beloved one will have just kicked the bucket here in New York right before I leave.

You may be wondering why the hell I’m doing this to myself aside from not having seen my family in over a year now, except my parents who visited for a few days in January, and never having even met my newest nephew. My grandparents, in their 90s, are having some issues. They’re historically quite healthy and independent, eating well, having daily Scrabble showdowns, and sexy Saturday night dinner dates (goals). I feel I’ve gotten not one but two chances to get it together and get down to Texas to see everyone when, first, my grandfather went to the ER and then my grandmother just days after. Fortunately neither were COVID related and they’re both okay, but I felt it was a not-so-subtle hint from the ol’ universe to get the hell down to Tejas. Hence, the urgency.

Fortunately this time my family is on the look out for any mental decline and I’ve been working out nearly every day to keep sadness at bay. I am not making any plans in Texas to avoid becoming overwhelmed, and will do my best to go to bed when everyone else does. I’ve got priors on staying up long after I should, sometimes with a cocktail, sometimes not, watching TV and sinking into a pit that the lonely sounds of a settling house and cycling AC don’t help. It’s kinda askin’ for a shadowy nightmare and I need to go park it in bed with a book and stay put til light. Oh, and not sleep in Alex’s old room like a creep. And read his old letters and files like an even bigger creep. I already wear all black, I mean, dang! Why do I have to also engage in creepy behavior? #creep

Like many people during the last five months I’ve been waffling between despair and inspiration. I’m mourning the old way of life and all the places and ways we used to connect with loved ones, but am also trying to reframe circumstance as opportunity. COVID has been a prime example of life coming at you fast Ferris Bueller style, and all you can do is recalibrate with new information and move forward the best you can. Something I’ve been thinking a lot about is repurposing newfound time or just general life set-up. I’m searching for the opportunity in the uncertain because I’m not just distancing physically. I’m also distancing creatively, emotionally, etc. What can I take from this? What can I make of this? I’m hoping that, during my 14 day ‘tine back here in NY, I will be able to maintain purpose and kick sadness to the curb. But, anyone with mental illness knows that sometimes we fall victim to our brains no matter how we prepare. The best laid plans…

I’m gonna stay alert and do the best I can. That’s all I can do, and it’s all you can do. Remember that. Beware of words, actions, and feelings and just do your best. Sometimes it looks like you making your bed and brushing your teeth. Sometimes it’s hyper-productivity. You need rest days to have performative days, after all.

Last, if you have a dog or beloved pet, hug and spoil them. So much time passes between pet deaths that you almost forget how horrific the pain is when you’re going through it. Almost. Isn’t that what mothers jokingly say about giving birth? Ha. Life and death, what a doozy.

Warmest,
Bailey

p.s. Check out my travel album.

look at me go
Photo by Gary Lopater on Unsplash
I wish this were me
Photo by Shifaaz shamoon on Unsplash
here’s another shot of me
Photo by Gary Lopater on Unsplash

Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.


More on Bummed Out Bailey:
Mental Health: What About People with Depression?
Mental Health: The Social Toll of Invisible Illness
Mental Health: The Best Cure for Anxiety


The best way you can support me is to share my blog with friends! Another way to support is on my Patreon where you’ll find exclusive content. Your word of mouth and contribution mean more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Bailey by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and enter your info into the form. I can also be found on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter!

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Bailey and Rick Talk at You: Episode 7

This week Rick and I discuss how I know a depressive episode is coming on, how I balance mental illness and big life events, and when mental illness was first introduced in our relationship. There’s also an unnecessarily expensive, carved mallard duck!

If for any reason the embed doesn’t work, you can watch the video here.

In the ep we talk about how you first present yourself and your mental illness or remarkable affliction, if applicable, in a new relationship. Something that has stayed with me for months is the third episode of Modern Love’s first season on Amazon Prime that stars Anne Hathaway. She does an incredibly moving job showing mental illness, and I cannot recommend enough that people watch that brief episode to have a better understanding or feel better understood. Both of those are invaluable.

Remember, if you have any questions you’d like us to address in Bailey and Rick Talk at You, feel free to reach out in the comments, on social media, or anonymously on the contact page.

Warmest,
Bailey

Featured Image Credit: Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST on Unsplash


Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.


More on Bummed Out Bailey:

Mental Health: Bailey and Rick Talk at You: Episode 1
Mental Health: Bailey and Rick Talk at You: Episode 2
Mental Health: Bailey and Rick Talk at You: Episode 3


Do you love Bummed Out Bailey? Want to help keep it going? The best way you can support me is to share my blog with friends! Another way to support is on my Patreon where you’ll find exclusive content. Your word of mouth and contribution mean more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Bailey by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and enter your info into the form. I can also be found on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Bailey and Rick Talk at You: Episode 6

This week Rick and I answer some questions about how the quarantine has affected our mental wellness, new ways to cope, and Rick’s application to the local music conservatory.

If for any reason the embed doesn’t work, you can watch the video here.

Remember, if you have any questions you’d like us to address in Bailey and Rick Talk at You, feel free to reach out in the comments, on social media, or anonymously on the contact page.

Warmest,
Bailey


Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.


More on Bummed Out Bailey:

Mental Health: Bailey and Rick Talk at You: Episode 3
Mental Health: Bailey and Rick Talk at You: Episode 4
Mental Health: Bailey and Rick Talk at You: Episode 5


Do you love Bummed Out Bailey? Want to help keep it going? The best way you can support me is to share my blog with friends! Another way to support is on my Patreon where you’ll find exclusive content. Your word of mouth and contribution mean more to me than you’ll ever know!

To subscribe to Bummed Out Bailey by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website and enter your info into the form. I can also be found on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.