Mental Health: Ho Ho HELP

It’s no secret that the holidays incite a wealth of emotions. While some people recall happy memories to the tune of Bing Crosby and anticipate this time of year, there are others who’ve lost someone in the last 12 months and this is their first holiday season without them. Some lost a loved one around this time of year, so the season’s warmth and glitter feels irrevocably tarnished every year after. Some have negative relationships with family that have led to stressful, heartbreaking reunions or estrangement. Some families suffer financial stress so crippling that the holidays become a huge stressor opposed to a joyful time. Some have a homeless family member and wonder where they are. Are they alone? Are they warm? Do they know what day it is? Do they care? Are they using?

Of course, I’m thinking of my brother today as my family celebrates Christmas. My brothers and I were fortunate to have magical Christmases growing up. My parents struggled to make ends meet but, somehow, Santa’s sack always mobbed deep. I remember the three of us all sleeping in one room, me on my twin, Alex on my trundle, and Duncan on the floor (poor Duncan), waking up too early, and then running out to rip into the carefully arranged spread. Our tired parents would snap photos and capture us on the camcorder.

that’s Keith in the corner (REM voice)

This was long after we’d grown out of Santa, by the way. (Alex and Duncan blew that for me in first grade.) We just liked hanging out and sleeping in the same room on Christmas Eve. Any other day of the year, no. Hell no. Christmas Eve, yes. After all, no one knows you as well or as long as your siblings do so, when we’re honest with ourselves, they’re who you want to share the special, formative childhood/adolescent moments with.

stuntin’ on these dorks

One by one, we aged out of adolescence, and year by year, things became increasingly difficult around the holidays. A couple days before Christmas in 2007 Alex announced that he and his partner were having a baby, and that they were moving to Florida. That day. That was the first Christmas after he got his leg amputated and Duncan and I had dropped out of college and spent 54 days in the hospital by Alex’s side. That year had been like taking an emotional bat to the knees. They loaded up and drove away and, as we watched them turn out of the cul-de-sac, I supposed it couldn’t get much worse than that.

a brother’s love is a brother’s love

Five years later, we all visited Alex at his rehab in December, two months after he’d shot himself in the head. With his stitched up head, Alex cranked golfballs into the abyss of a big, dry field with Duncan. At the same visit, Alex told my mom in group therapy that he’s never forgiven her for his repeating first grade. (One of his favorite pastimes has always been vilifying our mom.) On his final day, there was a ceremony performed involving a symbolic bridge-crossing as a graduation from the rehab. He left, and soon went back to using. I supposed it couldn’t get much worse than that.

crackin’ himself up w that terrible stache

But then, there’s now.

The last “normal” memory I have of Alex is Christmas 2015, a chaotic span of a few days in which a dear aunt died, my mom and I were going for the others’ jugular, and Rick proposed to me. That Christmas “break” was inflammatory in its juxtapositions. It was also during this time Alex told me and Duncan in a moment of seriousness he’d been assaulted as a child. Usually he just deflected everything. He offered that information one night while riding in the front of Duncan’s Tahoe in his nice jeans, henley, and cologne. The next time I saw him he was living under the bridge.

A tightly wound pragmatist, I’ve long since ceased believing that things couldn’t be worse. I keep getting proved wrong, like emotional whiplash. My dang neck hurts. So, instead, my whole body remains tense as I steel myself for the worst news all day, every day. That also makes my neck hurt. Plus, I get bonus knots in my shoulders and back. I can’t win! Either way, my neck hurts. Somebody pass the Tito’s.

Alex was there when Rick proposed to me on that Christmas Eve four years ago, giving hugs and congratulations, but he never made it to the wedding. There’s a beautiful photo of me and Alex hugging in celebration of the proposal but I can’t find it anywhere. I’m gonna risk bordering on cringe and say it’s poetic that, at least until I can find those photos, that formative moment lives only in my brain and is fading. My brother and my husband, two people who’ve informed and continue to inform so much of who I am, were like ships passing in the night. They’ve spent maybe a few hours together total, but that pivotal day was part of that tiny overlap.

One thing important to note is that years when sad things happen around the holidays conjure a special appreciation for years that are uneventful (in a good way). High highs, low lows. My family’s got ’em. Maybe yours does, too. Or maybe it’s all good. Or all crap. The point is, life isn’t a Lexus ad. And if it is, I think that’s very neat, and would you give me a ride in your Lexus?

You may have noticed that, like my life, this post has gone off the rails a bit! So, I’ll wrap it up. Like a Christmas gift. It is 3:34am. Help.

Anyway, I wish you all a merry Christmas, a happy fourth night of Hanukkah, and happy holidays to all, whatever you may celebrate. If you’re going through something during this often chaotic season, I’m sending you warmth and a virtual hug. I wish I could give you a real hug. Take care of you.

I’ll leave you with a bonus photo of me in Christmas skants.

Marlon Brando, Jimmy Dean on the cover of a magazine

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 Baker:
Mental Health: Communicating Mental Unrest
Mental Health: Finding the Glow
Mental Health: Disoriented


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? 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 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, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: The Sad Clown: Part 2

Last week I posted The Sad Clown: Part 1 on my Patreon, a piece of writing that some distillation of will likely be in my book. The content this week is particularly vulnerable with a brief mention of molestation and is also behind the small paywall ($1/month) to access. Every bit helps me continue putting time and effort into running Bummed Out Baker, and reader support is so, so cherished.

This week I continue the series with The Sad Clown: Part 2 with an excerpt here on Bummed Out Baker and the remaining portion on Patreon.


Thanks to meds and confidence that comes with age, by senior year I’d started to balance out what had been four years of a mental illness rollercoaster. On the first day of my volleyball try outs Alex, then 20, had stayed up late the night before in Paint on our computer making a caricature of me running on the track with a water bottle and CD player in hand. He glued a photo of my head on top of the shoulders and scribbled “good luck Belly!” at the top. He taped it to the bathroom mirror for me to find when I got up at 6am, and I kept it for years.

Despite ripping cigarettes constantly, Alex had accompanied me to the high school track to train that summer before try outs. He’d take a long drag and toss the butt to the side, only to smoke me in our mile run. He’d been the star of his select soccer team, but inexplicably quit at 13. He’d been the type to wear Fanatical Soccer shirts with “soccer is life. The rest is just details” emblazoned across his back. My mom thought he was molested by an associated adult, or something… [continue reading]

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: The Sad Clown: Part 1
Mental Health: Painting with Words
Mental Health: Mental Illness and Motherhood


Do you love Bummed Out Baker? Want to help keep it going? Support here. Your contribution means more to me 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, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Mental Health: Painting with Words

Hello, good people of the internet! If this is your first time visiting Bummed Out Baker this post will be weird for you, so I suggest you start here and return to this post another time.

I wrote all day, continuing to draft my thesis on my immediate family, primarily Alex, and how the five of us have dealt with mental illness, addiction, and their devastating effects over the years.

In September I was instructed by a successful author to not post things I intend to publish elsewhere on my blog as it invalidates the content to agents and publishers, which is a shame. It means so much to me to connect with people who are going through similar circumstances and/or are seeking emotional intelligence via empathic reading online. Community, grace, and understanding are imperative. I also appreciate that sometimes it’s nice to read about someone else’s life so you don’t have to think about your own. It’s dark, but it’s true.

I’m buried in work for school and am considering a rebrand to Bummed Out Bailey, as traffic indicates you all like these narrative, topical posts much more than my recipes. ;) However, turning out consistent content is important to me, and I have every intention to continue doing so through the rest of school and, frankly, wherever my and Rick’s lives take us.

With all of that being said, I want to alert you to my Bummed Out Baker Patreon, a place where you can access my more intimate (and apparently most publishable) content behind a small paywall, a contribution as low as $1 a month.

I’ve never addressed this front and center on Bummed Out Baker but I had the idea when thinking about what to post today after I emerged from my deep diving day of writing. It’s an awkward topic but an important one. See, writing is my art and passion. I paint with my words. It’s a joy, and I’m so grateful to be able to pursue my strength and dream. However, the emotional excavation required for high-impact pieces does take a toll.

If you feel Bummed Out Baker (soon to be Bummed Out Bailey?) has brought value into your life, I’d be deeply honored if you’d consider contributing to my Patreon. I feel like I sound like a creepy spam email, but every contribution truly helps me to continue dedicating so much time to the site and turning out content while also ensuring I still have a way to connect with those who’d like to read my more intimate pieces. It’s likely those on Patreon will see the first echoes of what will end up in print in a beautifully bound book. I can already visualize it, both in my hands and displayed on Keith and Staci’s mantle with a spotlight on it for all to see. I’m putting that out into the universe!

When you contribute, you validate my art and the stories I have to tell. I cannot explain how much it means to me, and I send you all the warmest thank you for your consideration, and a huge thank you to my three OG contributors. You’re my heroes.

Bummed Out Baker Patreon

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: 31 Birthdays
Mental Health: Mourning the Living
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. 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: Productivity

When I’m feeling the way I described last week, essentially disheartened because I’m perpetually at the mercy of the whims of my brain, it’s hard to remember good days.

On Sunday, I absolutely smashed it. I went through all my emails and took care of items in both my digital and physical “action required” folders. I paid several bills online, completed and mailed the required jury duty info update, updated insurance on file in various medical offices, filed or shredded things that needed to be, did yoga, followed up on healthcare claims, made plans w both family and a friend for later in the week (big for me), began preparing for a writer’s conference I’m attending in early December, reconciled something fraudulent with the bank, cooked, cleaned, wrote, and read. Then, on Monday, my writing was workshopped at school and a clear image of how my book is going to take shape began in my mind and on the page. For a long time everything I’ve wanted to put in this book has been floating around in my head like space debris, disconnected, disorganized, and banging into each other without making sense.

These two days were huge. Yuuuge.

Some days, when I can’t get out of bed or my head, when depression is lying to me, productive days are hard to remember. I am so Type A that the stagnation inherent to blue days make me feel helpless, even useless. I’m writing this post because the often erratic appearance of productivity is a part of mental illness. I don’t like being wagged around by my brain, but I’ll take a W where I can, and the past two days were, in general, Ws.

I encourage those living w mental illness to scribble down a good day, experience, or interaction in a small notebook or in the notes on your phone so you can reflect on it later. I try to do the same thing when people write kind things to me – keep it all in one place so I can remind myself that I’m not a human trash can even though I feel like one sometimes. Make that investment in your future self, and pack that extra lifejacket when you’re feeling well. If you know your mind, you know you’re gonna need those words down the road. Mental illness or not, it never hurts to remind yourself that you’re not so bad, after all.

Written on Tuesday, November 5, 2019.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: Disoriented
Mental Health: In Motion
Mental Health: Finding the Glow


Do you love Bummed Out Baker as much as I love creating it? Want to help keep it going? Support here. 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: Spiral

Please know that before I get on Bummed Out Baker 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.


I started feeling blue yesterday. I was up most of the night before unable to sleep and, after a full morning and early afternoon, I took a three hour nap. I almost always get into a funk if I sleep for that long mid-day, but it’s either that and hopefully salvage some quality work time in the evening or doing weird, unproductive things all day due to exhaustion. When I’m under-slept I operate like I’m drunk. There’s really not a stellar option available to me in these circumstances.

The blueness carried over to today. I got on the yoga mat – I challenge myself to not let more than two days go by without yoga so I don’t accidentally let the habit slip away from me. Today was day three, so I knew I needed to do it. Of course, exercise is also one of the boxes I try to check off when I’m trying to resolve a bout of depression, but as anyone with major depressive disorder knows, it’s not always so easy.

In the yoga intro Adriene said that that practice was for if you feel “meh” physically or emotionally. At the end, in child’s pose, she said “hopefully you feel a little better,” but I didn’t. In that moment I got more introspective and upset. What’s it like to not be at the mercy of your erratic feelings? What’s it like to be steady, the same person every day, without the hindrance of mental illness? What’s it like to be able to maintain productivity without having dips in your mood, effecting your work output and the quality of interactions with loved ones? I became disheartened. I became nauseous.

I have these days where, inside my head, I lament the idea that I will be like this for the rest of my life. Some days, it’s hard to stay positive. It’s hard to go through the reparative motions over and over, to explain to my spouse and friends that I’m not my best self that day and “maybe next time.” It’s hard to apologize for something I can’t help, and it’s hard to forgive myself for the same.

I sleep a lot because I don’t like being conscious. I like “going away.” When I’m asleep I’m not having or not having a “blue day,” I just am. I’m not disappointing anyone or myself, and I’m not getting lost in a spiral of devastation, knowing I will always be at the mercy of my brain. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll be able to take it for the rest of my life.

Sometimes, I just spiral.

Written Saturday, October 26, 2019.

More on Bummed Out Baker:
Mental Health: No, You Don’t “Have Anxiety”
Mental Health: Weigh Gain and Mental Medications
Mental Health: In Motion

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. 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.