Mental Health: Drowning

On Sunday some friends so graciously took me and Rick out on their boat. It was the most sun and fresh air I’ve gotten in more four months, since before the pandemic it was still winter time in New York. It seems I forgot how to behave in the sun… and got a pretty big burn to show for it.

(Fortunately I keep an aloe plant in my apartment. But, this post isn’t about burns and aloe (although there’s a mental health analogy in there somewhere…) No. I’m gonna make another corny analogy that came to me, because it was such a good parallel to my mental illness.)

In order to get away from the hoards of people in their individual boats and get some more space for swimming and fishing, we left the channel and went out into the ocean. The front of the boat slammed down with each wave, the significantly more violent movement signaling our entrance into the Atlantic. The channel was mild by comparison, a completely different ballgame. The only waves we seemed to encounter were from the wakes of other boats. The boat was rocking big time now, but we got what we were looking for. Solitude.

Rick jumped off the side and we all gave him a hard time because he asked for a rope to hang onto while in the water. We giggled watching him bump up against the side of the boat that had become at the mercy of the ocean’s movement and, after a very brief swim, he climbed back aboard.

“Okay, that’s good for me,” he said, laughing.

It was my turn to jump in, now. Seeing nothing around me but water kinda creeped me out, but I had gotten queasy on the ocean so I needed a dunk in the water to cut the nausea, anyway. I tugged at my bathing suit and stared down at the hazel water lapping against the boat and accepted my fate. While everyone was distracted, and someone was mid-sentence, I jumped starboard. No countdown, no witness, no pressure. Doing things on my time, just how I like it.

It felt good. Cold. I quickly swept past the boat’s side, enjoying the relief of both the nice temperature and having just gotten the shock of that first immersion over with. The boat bobbed passed me as I treaded water, looking on. Okay, that’s enough, I thought. I swam toward the ladder and looked up to find I was no closer than where I’d started. In fact, the boat was a little further away. I tried again. Nothing. I laughed and looked at everyone on the boat, now watching me.

“I don’t think I can do it!” I said. I tried again.

“You gotta swim, babe,” Rick called. “You’re not swimming.”

Our friend dog paddled the air with a smile on his face. “Do you know how to swim?”

“Guys, of course I know how to swim.” My disembodied head scowled from the water. Normally I was a dry-from-the-neck-up, breaststroke type swimmer, but in this circumstance I needed to swim properly. I gave it a shot. Nothing.

“I seriously don’t think I can do it.”

“Seriously?” Our friend asked, no longer joking. He was our captain and handled his role with care. Also, his friend’s wife like, couldn’t swim.

“For real.” I laughed nervously. I was stuck, nothin’ but water around me and below me, and I was floating further away by the second. The waves picked up.

I knew they wouldn’t leave me, or something, so I didn’t panic, although I easily could’ve being so out of control in the middle of the ocean. I embraced the fact I was out of control and relaxed my body, even turning around to observe the big waves coming my way. Nothin’ but water and lack of control. Nothin’ to do but wait and survive.

I heard the boat rumble to life and turned to see our friend inching toward me in reverse. He closed the gap and cut the engine, and I swam the last couple of feet with great effort against the current to reach the ladder. Rick was waiting at the back of the boat in his royal blue swimsuit with his hand out to help me.

“Are you okay?” He asked, supporting the weight I was putting on him as I stepped back aboard. Gripping the crap out of my husband’s hand. Relief.

case study of me being a solid hand gripper

“Yeah… but I was a goner!” I laughed.

“You were not getting any closer to us,” our friend said, partially stated as fact, partially in disbelief.

“Yeah, I was def a goner. Thanks for coming to get me, because I think that was almost it for me.” I turned to Rick. “I think I need proper swim lessons for real because that was scary.”

“We would’ve saved you! Don’t worry. Remember, I’m a floater, babe.” Rick thinks it’s funny to make toilet jokes about how his body behaves in bodies of water.

“Yeah, I know. It’s so comforting that you’re a floater, the ultimately water survivor.”

“Girl, I got you!” My friend said, sunning on the boat’s edge in a gorgeous designer swimsuit and shades. “I for real could’ve saved you.” I think she used to be a lifeguard. Either way, I believed her. My friends and family got me.

I smiled with incredulous relief and wrapped my arms around Rick’s warm body, so grateful to mash my head against the chest of the #1 floater of my heart.

Then, I felt like I was gonna ralph again. Then, everyone felt like they were gonna ralph. So, we retreated back to the placid channel, a magical place where no one feels like they’re gonna ralph.

I guess my brain couldn’t help but Carrie Bradshaw an analogy, here, because something bobbed into the waves of my thoughts. <- LOL I COULDN’T HELP IT.

When I see a big, dark wave of depression coming on, or get pulled into one unexpectedly, I can fight it, or I can panic. Or, I can just relax my body into it, wait it out, and communicate to those around me what’s happening and what they can do to help, if anything. In a weird way, I’m really proud of myself for turning around and looking out into the ocean that day, looking at the waves head on. Waves keep coming. Like it’s the nature of the ocean, it’s the nature of mental illness, too. If you accept what’s happening and remember all waves that come up must come down, and that depression lies, it will end. You will feel better.

If it’s never better, and you’re just getting slammed with life’s waves with no relief or sustainable way to cope, please, please see a psychologist to have talk therapy. If applicable, they can refer you to and work with a psychiatrist for meds. A lot of times, people just need to spit out what’s happening in their minds, even if, no, especially if it doesn’t even make sense. When you think out loud with the help of a good therapist, a lot of times you organize your thoughts and feelings in the process. Then, you can put a lot of the trauma you’ve been consciously or subconsciously grappling with behind you.* Don’t drown. You don’t have to drown. There are life preservers, friends, family, and your own steely resolve nearby.

Warmest,
Bailey

*Concept from studies referenced by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk in The Body Keeps the Score (2014). Important, highly recommended read.


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: What About People with Depression?

Preface: I acknowledge and respect that many populations feel underrepresented and scared right now, but I’m just speaking to what I know, which is living with mental illness. I am the type of person who values respect and word impeccability, and typically speak and most certainly write with careful intention and inclusion of populations that are not my own. This post is “not like me.” But, after 4+ months of isolating, I’m considering my own health for a brief moment. I wrote “For once, I’m gonna be a self-concerned butthead,” thinking I’d be apologetic for being self-centered, and then deleted it. I hope to receive the same respect and consideration I so readily give to people with other health issues. Just because mine are invisible doesn’t make them any less serious. Or lethal. I owe this to myself and people like me.

We’re on the look out for people with physical ailments and the for the immunosuppressed. We’re on the look out for seniors and other physically at-risk populations.

Is anyone on the look out for people with depression?

Most people don’t like being shut in their home indefinitely, and that even includes me, the queen of needing to be alone in my own space to recharge. I’m not going to pretend I know anything about doing the unpaid full time job of parenting and the stress of chasing babies and children around during a pandemic while also maintaining your own sanity. I’m also not going to pretend I know anything about working a full time job from home without childcare. I’m also not going to pretend I know anything about working a full time job. (Ha ha just kidding. Sort of. I’m the professional world’s #1 bachelorette.) Something I do know about, though, is chronically sad people. Those are my people.

I’m struggling to find work because the job market has largely frozen. Even if just temporary, money has dried up. Rent is still due and the buck is stopping at individuals like me, a typical American with a touch of credit card debt and a looming date, August 19th, when Rick and I lose the health insurance we bought through my grad school. Of course, the plan was for me to get a job after graduating in May and, with the cushion of insurance through the summer, we’d be covered through (or at least mostly through) the standard trial period at a new job before being granted benefits.

I’ve mentioned this a handful of times, but my psychiatrist is $400/visit, which is basically the New York City standard. A friend told me about a hospital with excellent psych care that’s covered by insurance(! a true unicorn), and I was thrilled to look into them and switch over to save on a colossal monthly expense for me and Rick. Then, COVID happened. I’ve done the legwork, and an uncertain time is not the time to play roulette with your mental healthcare provider, so any kind of switch got put on ice. Now, my insurance is up in a month, rendering any kind of insurance-based switch financially meaningless, as it’ll be out of pocket anywhere I go August 20th on if the job market stays on course. If that happens, hopefully I will find a psych who uses a sliding scale.

All of this is to say: quality psychiatry is essential healthcare for me. If my mental illness is not monitored, I can die.

I’m frazzled. Rick says he’s relaxed but he’s been driving weird, which makes me even more frazzled. (Rick turns into a weird driver when he’s stressed out, a public health risk in and of itself.) Nobody tell Rick about this paragraph.

I’m trying to figure it out, keeping a detailed Excel spreadsheet of jobs applied to, reaching out to mutual friends of people working somewhere I’d like to, perfecting cover letters, combing the ‘net, seeking advice from anyone potentially helpful, keeping a positive attitude, and trying to figure out the color of m’dang parachute. Because things have gotten more desperate by the day, the end game is now money and health insurance. Good old fashioned purpose and fulfillment would be some kind of rainbow icing on top. Community would be good, too, but I know, I know- I’m getting a lil crazy with all these hopes and dreams. I just want to contribute to the world! I want to make things that help people! I have a lot to give! I work very hard and with integrity, something that’s unfortunately rare! But, I also have mental illness that’s challenging to maintain in the throes of a global pandemic! One where there seems to be no sure light at the end of the tunnel! Only a flickering, creepy, lightbulb-in-a-haunted-house light! I like haunted stuff, but not this!

I feel like I need to course correct what’s become a wiggy digression: with illness, isolation, economic downturn, and job uncertainty, a person with typical mental health could struggle, let alone people with diagnosed mental illnesses. The suicide rate in America increased 35% from 1999 to 2018. The second leading cause of death in people ages 10-35 is suicide, and that’s without factoring in a global pandemic.

You may be thinking, well, what about the ER? What about suicide hotlines?

Do you know what happens if you go to the ER (by either self arrival or ambulance)? You’re humiliated by people blabbing about your ideation as if it’s not extremely sensitive (“Dennis, she said she wants to kill herself. Oh, you can’t hear me? I SAID SHE SAID SHE WANTS TO KILL HERSELF! Yeah. Kill herself.”). They monitor you for a bit, sometimes overnight, and then let you go to free up the bed. Last July I tried to get someone on an emergency hotline, and couldn’t get through. Either way, hotlines are staffed by good-hearted volunteers, not psychiatrists. These things are highly fallible last resorts, not solutions, let alone effective care.

An article on PsychologyToday.com muses on suicide during SARS as it may pertain to COVID: “…most [SARS-related] suicides involved elderly or chronically ill people who were afraid of becoming burdens to their families due to becoming infected, a concern that is already common among many COVID-19 patients.” A lot of people don’t consider the fact that “chronically ill people” includes those with lifelong mental illness issues. The guilt of being a burden is real.

Isolating with no end in sight might be “flattening the curve,” keeping hospitals manageable, and protecting some at-risk populations, but what about my at-risk population? Sometimes, people with mental illness need help to continue living, period. Living with any sort of normalcy/quality of life is just a bonus. Trust me, sometimes I’m tempted to say, “Just let the people with mental illness go. Let Darwinism run its course,” like I’m sure other people secretly think about my population. It’s a dark thought and, some days, I don’t disagree.

Then I remember that depression lies.

I have to fight for my bright moments, reminding myself that the offerings I bring to the world are important enough for me to stick around. But, when you feel undervalued, and that feeling is coming from inside my head and from inaction/lack of a solid public game plan for people like me, it’s hard to maintain that grit.

The world we live in is a real humdinger.

I’ll continue to move through the world sanitized, masked, and appropriately quarantined, I just have no idea how sustainable this all is for people like me.

Thanks for reading,
Bailey

Sources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Preventing Suicide” page, last reviewed April 21, 2020
Psychology Today, “Are We Facing a Post-COVID-19 Suicide Epidemic?” Posted June 7, 2020


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 Gold of One’s Spirit
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: Moving. Improving?

Please know before I get on Bummed Out Bailey to write I always prioritize working with my family and psychiatrist to stabilize myself. I wouldn’t be on here if I hadn’t first confirmed my safety.


TW: suicidal ideation

For the first time in two and a half years, Rick and I have our own place. We began moving today, and now officially reside in an ocean of boxes. We had to order a mattress (trying out Nectar cause they have a sweet ass 365 day trial) and it’s not yet arrived, so after bidding dramatic fare thee well to my in-laws, we came back out to their house on Long Island for the night. Ha. The goldens are here, the familiarity of my in-laws are here, and I know where the glasses are. I can’t say any of those things about the new place on the Upper West Side. After so anxiously awaiting this day and losing sleep over the excitement and stress of the move, we delighted in the new space for the day and then dipped out back to the comfort zone (and existence of a bed to sleep in). I feel like I’m gonna fall over, but in a good way. So, now I sip a well earned cocktail and write.

Of all days, I got a call from a potential new client and did a consult for Tidy B Organizing today, too. Phew. Once Rick and I are settled in, I will buckle down on my thesis w my eye on graduation in May.

This post is a little too pie in the sky for me, so let me bring it down a notch!

I’m gonna say something terrible (and triggering to some), and that is that, more times than not, I believe at some point in time I will lose my battle to mental illness. I’m not experiencing ideation, and I don’t have some kind of plan to employ, I just think it’s important to admit to it in case anyone else out there has a ping of “me too” from the dark recesses of their mind. I bring this up because, in therapy Monday night, I told both Rick and the therapist this truth about me. I’ve got dramatic dips and intoxicating highs, times when I actually think to myself I’m so glad I’m still here. I’m so glad I didn’t die in 2008 when I last wanted to most. I have important writings to offer. I have worthwhile things to say and kindness to spread and companionship to give to so many. And then, there’s the counterweight thoughts I’ve talked about many times before. This is my life. This is it, being at the mercy of this up and down, and I can’t take it anymore. I can’t do this forever. Maybe I can make it through this time, but I can’t do this forever. I think about my friend K who died by suicide in September every single day. I imagine her in some kind of business casual get up with ballet flats getting her running start, and I feel a companionship.

It’s so weird to feel a sisterhood in suicide. Joan Didion says that we as people are always looking “for the sermon in suicide” and I just don’t think it’s that deep. It’s an imbalance, a recurring, level ten pain, a self hatred that finally turns to numbness and then to action, because there’s nothing else left. This arc crystallizes in my mind, a piece of realism in the far distance, even when I’m experiencing good times like moving into a perfect tiny apartment w my husband half a block from Central Park. You can have all of the coziness and the comfort of being surrounded by your curated curiosities (golly that alliteration was HORRIFIC and obnoxious, sorry) you delight in, surrounding yourself with and books and books and books and still see the speck in the distance: a truth, a possibility, a place where my mind is able to go, firm and unmoving. Insoluble. The direction my life could take isn’t even scary to me anymore, cause it’s like that thing of touching a bruise to still see if it hurts. It’s still there, but you’re kinda used to it. It’s a blemish that won’t fade. Does it enrich my life somehow? I cant tell. I think Mozart said that the unexamined life is for dweebs. Maybe that was Hawking. Such poignancy should be properly credited.

I am exhausted, like fell asleep in the passenger seat of the car on the way home like a toddler exhausted, so hopefully my words aren’t alarming or weirding anyone out too much today. A little bit of weird is good though. It’s the essence of me.

Ever Yours in Cringe-Worthy Truths,

Bailey

p.s. I know my posts are always a bummer. It is my self-deprecating moniker, after all. But, I hope to start showing some joyful glimpses of the magical life I’m privileged to live on here soon. Rick is a hoot and a half to observe on the web, or so I hear. In the meantime, check out my Rick highlight on my gram, linked at bottom of this page, for more.

Written Tuesday, March 3, 2020.


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: Valentine’s Posts Are a No From Me Dog
Mental Health: The Social Toll of Invisible Illness
Mental Health: Tired of Me


Do you love Bummed Out Bailey? Want to help keep it going? Support me on my Patreon. Your contribution means 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: In Motion

There was a time in my life when I only felt peace in transit. Unless I was drunk or asleep, I was always desperate to leave everywhere. I relished in being alone in my car, driving to community college while ripping cigarettes and blaring The Smiths, as if Morrissey certified my sadness. But, as soon as I pulled into a parking space, I’d choke on the new stagnation. It was as if no longer being in physical motion meant all that was left was for me to sit and be. Intolerable.

Day after day I arrived at school and was unable to go into class. I’d sit outside on a bench and chain smoke. No lessons learned, no feelings felt, just 20 oz tumblers of coffee sipped and Cam’ron CDs from the library checked out. Killa.

I wanted to die.

“Hey, what’s up?” An acquaintance from class asked in passing, walking out at the end of class. He chuckled and shook his head, having seen me outside of class, never in, week after week. I gave him a close-lipped smile before blowing out a cloud of smoke, eyes averting. I was wondering who’d buy me 40s that night. Twenty-one couldn’t come soon enough.

When I wasn’t moving, drunk, or asleep, I’d lose myself in meticulous, meaningless systems. Long before Spotify, I arranged my music library (composed of CDs illegally burned from the school’s music library) from least played songs to most, prioritizing the play of, out of thousands, the songs I hadn’t heard yet. The songs burned longest ago that I still hadn’t heard yet played first. Top priority. I read Vogue, W, and Newsweek cover to cover, even the articles I didn’t want to read. Especially the articles I didn’t want to read. I didn’t care about an obscure bread shop in France opening an outpost in the Mission in San Francisco, but my eyes rolled over the words, anyway. Some kinda masochistic rite, I guess. The magazines made up a neat stack in the order in which they arrived in the mail, newest on top. The magazine on the bottom of the stack was the next batter up to replace its now water-ringed, crumpled predecessor. I’d toss the old one into the recycle bin. It felt good to throw things away.

There was no solace in these rituals, just something to do. Just, something.

Whenever nothing matters, your health doesn’t matter. Education doesn’t matter. Relationships don’t matter. Cigarette burns in my car upholstery didn’t matter. I didn’t matter.

I called my dad crying from school, cut off all my hair, dropped out, worked at a restaurant in a “school girl” outfit, threw up in the morning’s unforgiving light, drove through Taco Bell, wore t-shirts as dresses and house shoes as shoes, updated my MySpace page, double-pierced my ears, carelessly drove drunk next to cops, coveted dudes who didn’t shower, dressed up as Baz Luhrmann’s Juliet for Halloween, took a backpack everywhere I went, looking like someone on the move.

I went through motions, okay so long as I was in motion.

if you be not of the house of Montague, come and crush a cup of [Shiner Bock]

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Finding the Glow
Mental Illness and Motherhood
Mental Health: My Lowest Point in Eleven Years

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.


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support here. I want to give a huge thank you to “L” ;) and René Harding, my new supporters on Patreon. Your contribution means more than you’ll ever know.

To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker by email, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website to find the form. Follow Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild, Facebook for mental health articles and discussion, and Twitter for sassy or informative tweets.

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

Mental Health: The Stockpile of Gratitude

If living with mental illness is a struggle for you today, I have a piece of positivity to offer.

On my good days I find a stockpile of gratitude waiting for me because I know how dark things can get. I was just there, after all. While I wouldn’t wish having those dark thoughts on anyone, the payback of them is rich. When I come out of a dark headspace, it’s like the black and white to technicolor transition in the Wizard of Oz. When things are bad, and then they’re suddenly not, I find myself with a hyper-awareness of good.

While constantly considering my mortality is exhausting, it also manifests in all kinds of ways. I’m grateful for my physical mobility. I find myself with a wealth of mercy for people acting in any undesirable way, because life is short I have no idea what they’re going through. I feel fortunate to have such comforting, sweet-tempered golden retrievers, because dogs are an expensive luxury. I admire all the people who’ve shown me grace, supported me, taught me things, and have loved me when I wasn’t very lovable. I think about how grateful I am for a comfy bed and a safe, quiet place for me to sleep in peace.

When I’m mentally gridlocked, thinking of these things is like pushing on a button that doesn’t work. I’m numb. If that sounds like you, just know that when you emerge from the other side, and you will, you’ll have the stockpile.

It may not seem like much, but us mentally ill folk have got to stick together and take what we can get! And we get the stockpile.


Whenever I get a song stuck in my head I start to list the things I’m grateful for instead and it always does the trick to get the song out. With that being said…

Fun fact! Did you know that “Bug A Boo” by Destiny’s Child, a song in regards to an overbearing romantic interest, can also be applied to mental illness?

You make me wanna throw my pager out the window 
Tell MCI to cut the phone calls 
Break my lease so I can move 
Cause you a bug a boo, a bug a boo 
I wanna put your number on the call block 
Have AOL make my email stop 
Cause you a bug a boo 
You buggin’ what? You buggin’ who? You buggin’ me! 
And don’t you see it ain’t cool

“Bug A Boo” by Destiny’s Child

I would say “you’re welcome”, but the true accolades go to Kandi Burruss for her multi-faceted lyricism.

Related on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: Communicating Mental Unrest
The Uncertainty of Mental Illness
Mental Health: Saying No in the Spirit of Self-Care


To subscribe to Bummed Out Baker and get my mental health musings and recipes emailed to you directly, scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website – Follow on Instagram for behind-the-scenes panic attacks and my begrudging, meat-eating husband captured in the wild – Follow on Facebook for mental health articles and discussion – Follow on Twitter for sassy tweets and a sprinkle of nonsense.

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