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.


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: Excerpt from my Manuscript “Oh, Brother”

Vanilla

I wasn’t the only one suffering in silence in childhood. Duncan was, too, and like me he also didn’t register that something was actually wrong. Being the classic oldest child, he was impossibly hard on himself and spent the first 19 years of his life swimming against the current, assuming that must be how everyone lives. Being so close in age, he and Alex were best friends and shared a room for several years. When it was time for Duncan to set out on his own, my parents turned the dining room into a bedroom by installing doors on both of its open walls. One set of folding doors opened to the foyer, and the other into the back of the kitchen, far from the other three bedrooms and the rest of his family. Like with their looks, if my brothers had been swapped and Alex had been the one housed in the dining room, he’d still be making vitriolic jokes about it to this day: him being the rejected, neglected child. Mom’s fault. In true Duncan form, though, he now thinks his gastrointestinal maroon was hilarious. We still refer to his room as “steerage,” as if it’d been akin to the lowest fare ticket on the Titanic. Tough luck.

When he was in junior high, though, he hadn’t yet developed the sense of humor that would become so critical to his mental survival. He could hear the distant thud of me bonking my head on my pillow down the hall with my door cracked open as I tried to forget everything. Closer still was the dishwasher swishing just outside his door. Duncan would sneak into the kitchen and sit on the linoleum in the dark, knees to his chest. He’d peer through the 1980s built-in lattice work that separated the kitchen and living room to watch whatever our parents had on TV, likely something Plugged In didn’t approve of. Early on Saturday mornings I’d wander into Duncan’s room and crawl up onto his bed to watch cartoons with him. We all thought Duncan’s early mornings were just a part of him taking himself seriously, but he just wasn’t sleeping. He doesn’t remember a life without insomnia.

Duncan was a dweeb, but he didn’t know he was a dweeb. He was really into Dockers, braided belts that matched his penny loafers, honors classes, and his custom engraved bowling ball. He approached each bumper-free lane with a stoicism and precision typically reserved for people disarming bombs with one second to spare. His temper flared at the first sign of trouble, though, an inner rage that burned so brightly that none of us were ever ready for it. He hated himself for getting a B, and slammed down his remote control over and over if he lost a Nintendo game. Like, flee-the-room-out-of-fear remote-slamming. His childhood frame was feeble, though, and his flying fists were as threatening as wet spaghetti noodles. Holes didn’t begin appearing in the walls of our house until he was in his early 20s.

Alex would’ve called Duncan out on his weird mannerisms and dork tendencies if it weren’t for two things. One, he worshipped Duncan. Two, he really, really worshipped Duncan. When Alex decided in his preteens that he was unable to keep pace with Duncan academically or athletically, his cruelty disguised as humor began to form. When I skipped a grade, he was squashed between two siblings who seemed to effortlessly do what he couldn’t.

[continue reading on Patreon]

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: The Gold of One’s Spirit
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: The Best Cure for Anxiety

Coldplay, but make it millennial pink
Photo by Tonik

Hello! How are you? I hope you’ll… tell me about it, stud(?). Just like Sandra Dee, if we change everything we are to impress a person posturing in a letterman jacket who’s likely going nowhere in life, you will 1) fly away in a car, and 2) resolve all self-doubt personally, professionally, romantically, mentally, and spiritually. That’s the extent of my message this week. Thank you, and good night.

Welp, this post has already gone off the rails.

Typically, my Wednesday posts go up at 9am sharp, so the time stamp on this here post should be a strong indicator of how my week’s goin’. I’ve committed to you and myself, though, to post on Wednesdays, and I wanna keep that commitment. Which leads me right into my point this week. I read somewhere, perhaps in So Sad Today by Melissa Broder, that the best cure for anxiety is thinking of others.

It’s an interesting concept, isn’t it, to take focus off yourself to pull yourself out of the mental meltdown taking place or threatening to take place inside of your head. It’s like when I get upset with someone, like a stranger who cuts you off in traffic or is snippy at the sinks in a public bathroom for no discernible reason (can you tell I had a v specific encounter at LaGuardia? LaGuardia is the place where souls go to die), I always try to remind myself that that person is or once was someone’s beloved baby. I also try to think about the fact that hurt people hurt people.*

ANYway, in that same vein of being on the receiving end of something negative and recalibrating my thoughts, it’s an interesting challenge to try to redirect my focus onto someone else: I wonder how my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Johnson is doing, ’cause she was so good to me when my anxiety was undiagnosed. Is my mom (a flight attendant) in the air right now? Is that UPS driver happy, and would they like one of the cold bottles of water Whole Foods keeps sending me that I didn’t ask for and I now suppose their secret plan all along has been to hydrate strangers? What might I get [person I like so much/maybe even person I don’t like so much] for their birthday? What would make them smile? So on and so forth.

While anxiety has very real physical manifestations, it either starts in your brain OR your brain perpetuates and escalates the situation into longer unrest. This is a trick worth trying, wondering about other people and possibly how you might help them or make them smile. Wouldn’t you want someone to help you or make you smile? One time I was sobbing by the East River, as New Yorkers are wont to do because, waiting for results from my neurologist, I’d convinced myself I had a brain tumor and that this was it, my nerves fried, my adrenaline dumped, and nothing left to give. My limbs had gone limp and I was melting into a park bench like a lumpy black-clothes-clad popsicle in the sun. A woman walking her dogs stopped to ask if I was okay, and I still think about her a bunch. How’s she doin’? Is she okay? I like your dogs! Thanks for checking on me! Sorry for lying to you about whether I was okay! Wish I could send you a Starbucks gift card!

Next time you’re wiggin’ and feel anxiety creeping in, try redirecting your thoughts outside of your body. It might be a crash and burn, or it could be lit, as the youths say. Won’t know til ya try it.

Warmest,
Bailey

*Sometimes I think I need a writing wrangler. Like, someone who’s watching the words and sentences build from my fingers on the keyboard in real time and then they’re like * skrrr! * (skidding tire sound when braking) “We’ve got a, uh, 9-oh-6 violation of severe digression, please resume to your point, ma’am.” Now that I think about it, that’s what an editor does.** But, sometimes digression is kinda funny. Or, at least it’s kinda fun…ny… for me.

**I’m a freelance editor and am actually v good at it. So, I guess I exorcise all of my pent up digressions here on ye olde blog.


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 Gold of One’s Spirit
Mental Health: Flip Over Some Emotional Rocks, See What’s Happenin’ Underneath! (Pandemic Activity Idea)


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.