Let's just look at some dogs

I'm easily distracted by shiny things and political stuff has always been (to me) a REALLY shiny thing.  So my anxiety is super high right now. I'm trying to focus on work but I just realized that the sound of machinery and metal grinding (which is how I work) is setting me on edge in a pretty intense way.

Then I thought, well I'll write, because that's working! And I just stared at the page...

And then I thought, I'll paint, because that is also working! And I remembered that I'm on crutches and not allowed to take the basement stairs (where all of the paint stuff is).

So, listen...I'm just going to post some pictures of dogs. And I'm going to do it every week, because the world is heavy and I know we're fighting and doing the best that we can and sometimes pushing ourselves even further than what we thought was the best we had and...damnit.

You can take a ten minute break and look at some cute dogs. These are my 10 favorite instagram dogs from today. Some of them are old, some of them are young, all different breeds, and every one of them absolutely perfect and the best medicine right now:

A photo posted by Brinks (@smilingbrinks) on

A photo posted by Amber (@amburgaler) on

A photo posted by euro&family (@eurosaurus) on

A photo posted by Jennifer (@j_lynn863) on

Self Care Quicksand

If you are an activist, people who are not activists will always pick apart your activism. These are the "cheap seats people". I think Brene Brown covered it when she talked about people who weren't willing to get out on the field and get their asses kicked, but rather, just hurl criticisms from the safe zones. The cheap seats. And how, if they weren't willing to get their asses kicked, then she wasn't entertaining their criticisms. Which is smart.

BUT - people who ARE activists are also going to pick apart your activism. Because our activism is borne from personal experience, and as the "fragile little snowflake" activists tend to be, we are incredibly unique in our experiences. I remember a fundraiser that our bar did, and I wanted to donate the proceeds to the Human Rights Campaign. I received an equal amount of praise and disdain for that choice. Which seems to be a common theme for fundraisers.  Every organization is either an angel or a devil to every activist and fundraiser out there.

Snowflakes. So fragile. Made from participation trophies and liberal tears. Etc. etc. (image via Flickr)

What do you do?

You go to city council meetings and you speak up about injustice and offer solutions and you are an outsider and you basically get ignored.

You go to court to fight for homeless people and judges laugh at you. And the system is...impossible to navigate. Broken.

You fight for a neighborhood and its community and you get smeared and trampled by people with deeper pockets and bigger agendas and "better" connections.

Election season comes and I researched my choice thoroughly and received both praise and disdain for my choice (it was Hillary Clinton).

The election ended and I chose a very specific way to deal with it - by reaching out to Trump supporters and asking them about their politics while resisting the urge to talk about mine. Just to try and understand what I really did not understand. Again, both praise and disdain.

If you talk about what you're doing, you're waving your own flag. But if you don't talk about what you're doing, you can't get the help that you need. So you talk about what you're doing so you can get help with what you're doing and praise and disdain and praise and disdain and...

And finally...I just got sick of it. All of it. I used to be just ...all in. I worked myself weary to support the causes I cared about, most times at my own expense. For years. Until finally, the toll it took on every aspect of my life led me to pull back drastically. I said fuck it.

And I rested for a while, preferring to be active, but a little quieter. A little less obvious. With a little more care for myself. But damn...I still felt stuck in the middle of that praise and that disdain. I don't want to be praised for doing what feels right - it feels ...gross. But I could really do without all of the harsh judgement, too. Why can't we just talk? Why can't we just do the work? Why can't we just ask for help?

So I quit people. I was so tired of feeling pulled in every direction, trying to navigate feelings and politics and my heart and keep my paycheck...ugh. I just quit. I've barely talked to anyone outside of my immediate family in almost 2 months. I had a major surgery and if you don't follow my Hey Lola social media accounts, chances are you don't know. Because I barely leave my house. And I stay off of facebook. And away from comment sections.

I think I just needed some time to figure out what I was truly passionate about, without feeling pulled in the direction of what anyone and everyone else in the world was passionate about. I needed some time to quiet the noise. (Which is hard, because having an anxiety disorder makes it nearly impossible to quiet the noise. The praise and disdain rules the minds of those with anxiety)

But you know - I recognize that that is a privilege. To just bow out. I'm a bi-sexual woman who is a former sex working, homeless, high school drop-out, so I've had my fair share of struggles. But I'm also a white woman in a monogamous marriage with a white guy, we both have jobs and I managed to get to college. We have a house. We have health insurance. I can check out but I can check back in anytime I want to and generally speaking, life will be kind to me. If people truly do judge books by their covers (and they do), then my cover affords me an enormous amount of privilege.

On December 3rd, I gave myself a 90 day "cleanse." I'm on crutches now, and hopefully by March 3rd I'll be able to walk normally again. And I'll be ready to fight.  Because truthfully, it's been really nice not to fight. Not to cry all of the time and be so fucking frustrated with this system and the way it's just set up to benefit the same people, over and over and over again. It's been nice. I've settled into it very nicely and I could easily stay here forever. In all of this privilege. But that's not really ok.

The Women's March was today and it was the most inspiring thing I've seen in as long as I can remember.

And I lamented that I couldn't be there and remembered that a girl on crutches with a broken foot should NOT be in a crushing throng of people and I mentally patted myself on the back for taking care of myself and then I saw...

And oh shit. Because it is SO nice here in all of this self care and let other people take care of shit for a while and I'm done fighting the city and the old white guy politician brigade and apathetic and critical armchair activists who have your back until you need them to have your back and I really, REALLY like it here and that shit sucked. IT FUCKING SUCKED. I like this silence. I like not leaving my house. I like this safety.

But how can I roll around in all of this safety when others are not safe? How comfortable can that remain?

It can't.

So what I need to do is find my happy medium. I have until March 3rd. Figure out what I'm truly passionate about, figure out where my strengths truly lie, and figure out how to balance my needs with the needs of others. And definitely figure out how to hold strong to my own truths and my own fight and not get distracted by every single battle or by disdain OR praise. Take care of myself, take care of others, navigate the noise...goals.

Please share your favorite organizations with me. Tell me what they do and why and how you support them. Share how you balance your life. Tell me how you handle the noise. How you empower those without a voice? And please keep me accountable, you guys?  Don't let me get sucked into self care quicksand. Call me out. I've done the work before. I can do it again. I just need a better approach.

What Depression Looks Like When You're Not Depressed

When life is good and you're showering regularly and smiling and wearing bright red lipstick and being productive and people find out that you have depression...they are shocked.  Because your current state is not what they understand depression to be. I've had people flat out tell me that I don't have it...because I laughed at something. Because they saw me dancing.  Because I wore yellow. Because I post pictures like this:

Apparently there is some rule that people who have depression must ALWAYS be depressed. Forever and ever, amen. And they cannot laugh or make funny pictures or have a sense of humor, because they are supposed to be depressed. Which, that's not really how that works.

Allie, from Hyperbole and a Half, is pretty much hilarious. And has depression. She wrote about it - if you've never read it, it's hilarious and sad and a pretty good illustration of the depression journey.

Depression is here...until it's not. Except when it's not here, you always know it's probably going to come back. So there's a little bit of anxiety about that. Which, if you already have anxiety, is now more anxiety. I don't know many people with depression who don't have the double whammy of depression and anxiety. They seem to like to hang out with each other. They're friends. They're the mean girls in your brain.

When you pick out an outfit and your brain is like, "yeah!" and then you put it on and your brain is like,"oh no." Except then your brain also calls you ugly. And over / under dressed. And unpopular. And finally convinces you to stay in sweatpants and not leave the house.

So what depression is (for me), when you're not in the throes of depression, is constantly looking over your shoulder for it. And feeling anxious. On top of your anxiety. And maintaining. Making super healthy choices, just to try and keep it at bay.

My doctors originally put me on fluoxetine, which was not the right answer for me. My experience with fluoxetine was bad enough that I elected to try to manage without medication.

This is not the right answer for everyone. What works or does not work for me is specific to my circumstances. I'm not a doctor. I would never make recommendations regarding management of mental illness with or without medication. That's between you and your doctor. I'm just sharing my journey.

I elected not to medicate. I experimented with supplements. HTP-5 for a while, and then I switched to Sam -E. Neither of them really made a huge difference, and the difference I thought I felt could very well be attributed to the placebo effect. I thought it should work, so my brain was all, "Yes! This is working!" Until my brain was like, "I'm actually not sure this is working."

So I quit taking supplements. I read a lot about depression. I read that sugar is a drug and takes your brain on a roller coaster of a journey that can contribute to depression. So I cut down on sugar. ( I really love cake, so I really cut down on daily sugar consumption, so I can still have cake when I want cake. Because cake is life.) 

I read that processed foods can contribute to depression, so we eat fresh food as much as possible now.

A friend commented that my caffeine intake was high and that caffeine could contribute to anxiety, so I cut back on coffee.

When the cloud over my head gets too dark, I make sure that I'm seeing my therapist. I paint. I write. I try to work through it. I try to get out of bed.

My therapist suggested I get my thyroid and my vitamin D levels tested, so I did that. My thyroid was fine, my vitamin D was super low. I take Vitamin D religiously, now.

I'm triggered by social situations, so I'm very careful about which ones I attend, and truthfully, I rarely attend anything.  I don't force myself to attend events I feel really anxious about. I know my brain. It's not going to just be magically ok when we get there. When I do attend anything, I try to have a buddy system - going by myself generally turns out badly. 

I exercise because exercise creates endorphins and endorphins make your brain happy.

Facebook became a trigger for me. I had read that social media could contribute to depression and I felt like that was becoming a factor for me, so I've taken myself away from that for a bit.

My point is, even when I look like this:

...I'm still fighting depression. I make choices every day that are designed to keep my brain as healthy as possible. I'm vigilant about it. And my husband knows all of the details, so that if I start to slip, he can talk to me about what I need to stay on task. On the days that I can't fight the dark cloud, he can hold my hand through it, and check in with the steps I'm taking to stay safe.

Depression doesn't look like something. It's a funny little beast that hides in our brains, and if you don't live in our brains, you can't see it. So you don't know what it looks like. And you don't know what it doesn't look like. Today, I am sunshine and rainbows and big smiles and life is good...but I'm still fighting. I'm always fighting. And it's important that people know that, because I have all of these coping mechanisms in place (reduced sugar, lower caffeine, limited social engagement, physical activity, etc.) that I need people to respect. And when the beast shows up, sometimes out of the blue, I need people to know what's going on, because I need a support system. I'll need help.

And I bet you know someone like me. Or you are somebody like me.

So here's to the fighters, who may or may not look like they have depression. I see your beast, even when she hides. Let's be vigilant. Let's keep fighting. Let's ask for help when we need it, and hold the hands of others when we're able. We're all in this together. We'll just keep going. Together.