Mental Health: DO You Control Your Thoughts?

It’s 4:52 a.m. and I cannot sleep, presumably because of my specific cocktail of medications “rebounding” off of each other. I’m uncomfortable with the number of pills I’m on. My doctors are aware. I am following up with them soon, but in between appointments I’ve lost a lot of sleep. I’m typically a great sleeper, so I feel a little robbed, here.

When my sleep gets out of whack, and I slowly seep into sleeping and waking hours that are in opposition to the world around me, it’s fiercely depressing. It adds another wellness ball to my juggling act, and this ball’s glass. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced shattering that glass ball before. Fortunately, I’m now better prepared to deal with it when it happens again. Not if, when. I gotta accept that inevitability about myself; surrendering to my unmoving reality has been an imperative, murky hurdle.

Something I read recently may come off as a bit trite, but it’s an important reminder. While we aren’t in control of all of our circumstances, like how people treat us and our predispositions for mental illness, we are in control of our thoughts.

Photo by runnyrem

…Right?

Monitoring thoughts is hard work. Thoughts in our brains are like school hallways teeming with students, and some walk by without being noticed because you’re focused on something else. Keeping watch on thoughts is not an easy task, but it’s worthwhile. Sometimes, you’re just fatigued and let a bad thought pass knowing it’s bad, but also knowing you don’t have it in you to tweak it and reset it on the right path in that moment. I think that’s okay. Sometimes we’ve got to take a break and let go. It’s our right to stand vigil in the hallways of our minds, and it’s both an act of self-preservation and a responsibility to ourselves and others. Whenever you can come back, come back.

Something We Can Help

Someone might be an asshole, but you’re in control of your thoughts toward them. Everyone’s going through something or other. Maybe they just lost a loved one, or maybe they’re at their wits end with a colicky baby or a teenager who’s constantly making risky decisions. Maybe they’ve just been fired and have crushing debt. We simply don’t know. Genuinely wishing someone well inside of your head (whether it be via prayer, meditation, etc.) not only sends positivity and healing to them, but it also alleviates you of negative feelings toward someone. Empty calories in the mind.

That’s outward.

Something We Can’t Help

The trick is when the nature of your mental illness is based around self-loathing, despair, or worry. That’s inward. You’re thinking negative thoughts about yourself via narrative that was borne in the reaches of your mind and informed by a mental illness you didn’t ask for and can’t rid yourself of. Rewriting your thoughts to say you don’t hate yourself or “what will be will be” is nice in theory but rarely effective in action.

Okay, so what the heck do I do?

The thought tweaking here can be an acknowledgement of your mental issues bundled up in an acceptance that it will take space and time to re-emerge. Take a break from the mental patrol and accept where you are mentally, which is not a good place, until you come out on the other side. Sometimes, it’s okay to stop swimming against the current. Relax your body and thoughts and let them go with the flow for a bit. When you’re ready again, you’ll know. Simply doing your best is always the message.

Warmest,
Bailey

p.s. My New School classmate medina wrote a piece called Covid-19 and My Relationship with High Functioning Depression. They’re a talented, relatable writer, and I highly recommend. Find more of medina’s work here.


More on Bummed Out Bailey:
Mental Health: The Social Toll of Invisible Illness
Mental Health: One Good Thing About Depression (A Listicle)
Mental Health: The Things we Carry


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 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.


Postscript Golden Retriever

Photo by Kayla Koss

Mental Health: The Good Fight Club

Having mental illness is like fight club. The first rule of fight club is: do not talk about fight club. The second rule is: do not talk about fight club… The eighth and final rule is: if it’s your first night… you have to fight.

To some readers, the very point of Chuck Palahniuk having written those rules in his book (called… Fight Club) is that those rules were meant to be broken. And, in the spirit of Project Mayhem, rules that are repeated should definitely be broken.

Break the rule. Talk about mental illness.

Photo by Timothy Eberly

I wanna escape the status quo of societal treatment of mental illness. Right now knowing someone else who experiences mental illness is like a wink- someone who understands you and you, them. But it’s still not openly talked about. I asked my psychiatrist to display my Christmas card a few years ago because I was proud to visit a psychiatrist, proud of my progress, and an advocate for seeking help that’s needed. I want patients to come in his office, see my and Rick’s photo on the bulletin board and say, “hey, that looks like a regular person, just like me.” It’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, seeking help and making strides should be celebrated.

I’ve said for a long time that with my affluent white lady privilege I’m happy to die on the hill of normalizing mental illness. I believe I have a responsibility to do something with these unearned gifts, and this is my cause.

I encourage you all to talk about mental illness like you would Parkinson’s or macular degeneration. Talk about it as you would epilepsy or pancreatic cancer. As you would the use of a cane or hearing aid. The only difference is that all of the aforementioned have, at some point, outward indicators of the issue at hand. Because mental illness typically does not have an outward indicator and is still in the throes of destigmatization, it may as well not exist to people with and without it who don’t have a community telling them otherwise.

Sample script of normalizing the conversation:

“Hey, Bailey, how are you? Congratulations on graduating!”
“Thank you, friend. Exciting times, although a bit anticlimactic during a pandemic.”
“I know, that sucks. I’m sorry! Are you writing your book?”
“You know, I’ve actually been struggling with my depression more than usual lately, which reflects in my creative output. Our new lives in the age of COVID don’t help, either.”
“Oh, man, I’m so sorry to hear that. My anxiety was absolutely out of control in 2017…”
“Oh, so you get it! It’s nice to feel understood. But, I’ve been working with my psychiatrist on how to best move forward. How’re you doing now?”

And so on, and so forth. Sometimes your honesty might receive a wide-eyed stare or an uncomfortable laugh. That’s okay. The more these things are touched on, the more used to it people will become.

Actual documentation of a group of friends who just realized they all have mental illness issues and now they’re running to go get snacks and drinks to celebrate friendship together.
Photo by Jed Villejo

In a conversation between friends:

“You know, I met this girl Bailey last week who writes and talks about her struggles with mental illness. She’s described her body feeling heavy and life feeling hopeless sometimes.”
“Uh, she sounds… delightful.”
“For real she was funny and nice. I would’ve never guessed she had issues like that. I wonder if you might be experiencing something like she does?”
“What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that, maybe you’re depressed. You’re funny and nice, too, and you deserve a well-rounded life. You can have that, you know. Having mental illness seems to be something a lot of people deal with, now that I think about it…”

If I’d never been open with that first person, the following conversation wouldn’t have happened.

The first rule about mental illness is: don’t talk about mental illness. The second rule of mental illness is: don’t talk about mental illness. Wink, wink. We are a community, and a welcoming one at that. Break the “rules,” invite someone in. Don’t be frustrated by people who don’t believe in mental illness. This is all going to take some time. Embracing invisible illness is hard. My parents didn’t even fully grasp it until they saw me have a completely meltdown last summer, and they’ve known me better than just about anyone else for 32 years!

Fight the good fight. Open yourself up to others and be receptive to them, too. Allow space for nuance and a space for grace. #spaceforgrace

See ya next Wednesday.

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: One Good Thing About Depression (A Listicle)
Mental Health: The Danger of Comparative Suffering


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.


Postscript:

Photo by Michael Glass

Mental Health: How to Pull Yourself Out of a Rut in Five Minutes

There’s nothing quite as healing as a belly laugh. This is not an every day laugh. This isn’t even a weekly laugh. I’m talking sore abdomen, no sound coming out, tears, falling on the floor, and peeing a little. It’s such a gift. Not peeing a little, that sucks. But a laugh that intense is awesome. It’s a treasure you should hang onto.

So, Rick and I have this jar tucked away. Anytime something happens where we laugh uncontrollably, we write it down and shove it into the jar. On New Year’s Eve we opened it up and read all of the ridiculous things we’d noted throughout the year and died laughing all over again. We’ve been bad about it this year and last, but 2018 was one for the books, let me tell you. Highly recommend.

This doesn’t have to be a spousal activity at all. My initial idea was for it to be a solo activity to help heal myself when I needed it most, and Rick organically became a part of it because, well, he’s in my house all the time.

So, the types of things to preserve are twofold: stuff that makes you cry laughing, and stuff that people said or did that made you feel good about yourself. For example, my junior year of high school I had an assignment that required us to write positive things about everyone in the class. We gave each other the strips of notebook paper and strung each of our compliment collections together with a piece of yarn. I kept that thing for years. That happened 16 years ago and I still remember it! Somebody liked my hair, and someone else thought I was kind. Someone else thought I was “the most hilarious person in class,” a big deal in a Texas high school where girls are socially bullied to mute their personalities in order to let the boys peacock and shine. But, that’s another post for another day.

Taking a minute or two to put all of these things into one place, whether it be a box, jar, or in the notes or photo section of your phone, is an invaluable use of your time. When you’re in the dumps, you’ll remember the time your family friend told you were exuded a glow both inside and out. You’ll remember the time you forced your husband to go to the ER because you were worried about the pain in their abdomen, and while everything ended up being fine a guy behind the curtain next door was repetitive, demanding, and loud, and when he was told for the millionth time that no, he couldn’t leave the hospital right then, he exclaimed “EVAH?!” in a panicked Long Island accent. Obviously the staff did not mean he couldn’t leave ever. It was just an absurd, bodiless conversation that made us cry laughing. Crying laughing sucks when you’re at the ER for a dull pain in your abdomen, but it was so good it was worth it. It made it into the jar.

When you’re balanced, “okay,” or however you like to describe your mentally average days, it’s great to take steps to help your future self. By presupposing your lows- not a self-fulfilling prophecy, but a familiarity with one’s own body and mind- you can invest in yourself. It’s an emotional reserve of laughter and kindness. Give it a try…

this will be you
Photo by Marcela Rogante

Warmest,
Bailey

P.S. My piece “Mourning the Living” was published in Volume 14 of Meat for Tea: The Valley Review. To support a writers and an indie publication, buy a copy here.


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: The Danger of Comparative Suffering
Mental Health: One Good Thing About Depression (A Listicle)


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.


Here’s a boating golden to look at.

Photo by Brandon Hoogenboom

Uncanny to our Apollo:

Mental Health: One Good Thing About Depression (a Listicle)

1.

Alright, here’s something weird: whenever I’m at the bottom of my depression, past thoughts of self-harm, because even that requires planning and execution, two things I’m unable to manage in that state, I experience…. relief.

Here’s me trying to hold it together
Photo by binh dang nam

Perpetually looking for the silver-lining in the way my mental health has panned out in life, this is a gift. Sometimes I’m like a crashed computer, and turn off mid-function. Since I don’t then care about living or dying, all of my anxieties evaporate into irrelevance. As an involuntary occupant of earth, nothing matters, right? Who cares about social posturing, Roth IRAs, Bottega Veneta loafers, learning how to ski, and whether Bora Bora or the Maldives is better dahhhling? As a matter of fact, who cares about car wrecks, vomit, untimely deaths, getting shot in public spaces, cancer silently multiplying inside of my body, and lethal seizures? Not me, because in that moment, things could not be worse, and I have nothing left to give. (Also, how do snobs not get tired of snobbing?)

There’s nothing to fear when things can’t be worse.

It’s almost a gift, when things cannot be worse. You’re forced to kind of relax into circumstance and have spaghetti limbs. You don’t have it in you to fight, so you let go and stop caring. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s this surrender that ends up being so emancipating. When you stop caring, you just are. When you just are, nothing matters. When nothing matters, you’re free. Perhaps this is the ethos behind suicide, although I think it’d be naive to assume all suicides are products of the same dwindling thought patterns. In the event it’s not readily apparent, I am not a doctor.

It’s not just my mind, though. As a result of all of my deep-seated anxieties going to jump in a lake one by one, my physical body begins to relax. My shoulders descend, my jaw stops clenching, I literally become a sad sack. A relaxed sad sack in a black outfit.

While I never wish that level of apathy for me or anyone else, there is something nice about that giving up of body and mind. I wish I could keep that bodily relaxation as I begin to rise back into the range of mental normalcy, whatever that means, but it’s like a small comfort I have to leave behind in a shitty place for next time I have to be there.

It’s like folks with Bipolar Disorder who enjoy the ride of mania even though they know it’s going to crash at some point. You’re involuntarily on the ride, anyway, you might as well enjoy what you can.

It’s also like the valium for dental fillings and root canals. Just kidding. There is never and will never be even a shadow of positivity or comfort about the dentist.

What’d we learn today, class? That’s right:

This concludes the “Good Things About Depression” listicle.

Sincerely yours in always pursuing the good about the bad,
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: The Danger of Comparative Suffering
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.


Here’s a nice golden good boi to look at.

Photo by Chris Henry

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.