Category Archives: The Variety Show

New Adventure Begins Here

scenic drive

Today is the first day at my new job. All I’m going to say is that settling into new jobs can be so nerve wracking. So I need to get in a nice calm mental space before I head out. I’m drinking my coffee and will water the garden soon. That will help.

Meanwhile I’ll imagine that I’m standing in front of my beloved childhood home smelling that gorgeous lavender. (My own is over now and not so aromatic, as this clump suredly isn’t by now either as I took this photo over a month ago). I don’t wish to live in Ashland ever again, but this house still has a spell on me. It’s so much prettier now than when we lived in it – but I loved it. I mean, lots of bad shit and unhappiness happened in that house with my family – but I always loved the house itself. Good things happened there too. It had a walk-in pantry! I used to go in there just to smell it. In the summer it smelled like warm wood and spices. My mom filled it with home canned goods. Plum butter, spiced peaches, apple butter, concord grape juice.

My current kitten fosters (Jasper, Haring, and Georgia) are super attracted to my coffee. And my laptop.

Time to get going. I need to eat something and water the front garden. Then I’m off!

Toodle-a-noodle.

(That sounds like a terrible sexual perversion)

Writing Crap to Get to the Good Stuff

morning with Sarah

(Coffee in my friend Sarah’s dining room, taken on our trip to Portland in June 2016)

Our vacation seems like it happened so long ago now. I just went through all my photos from it and processed them.

I’m trying to write and I’ve got two kittens who are continually disrupting me by walking across my keyboard and getting in my lap. This isn’t a complaint, by the way, just something that’s keeping me from finding a flow. It doesn’t help that I’ve been writing so little lately that I feel rusty even writing a post. I mean, it’s easy enough when I’m full of beer and it’s midnight, but those posts usually must be eradicated later anyway. While those posts are extremely emotive, they basically just say the same thing over and over and over again and don’t constitute good writing. Once in a while something good comes of that, but not often.

This is why so many well-known working authors say you have to write every single day. Even if it’s total crap. Just write. Keep the gears oiled and turning. When the inspiration isn’t there you still need to be keeping your writing mind flexed and ready for when inspiration does come. You need to be ready to take it on.

So this is me writing crap. Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap. Writing crap is how you uncover the good stuff.

We have no bread this morning and only three eggs. I think it’s going to be a potato morning.

It sounds like there’s a cicada outside. But I’m pretty sure we don’t have them here. I would love to hear that all day long. I’d feel like I was in the south of France. I’d have the urge to go and find some wild thyme and a game bird to roa- wait – what?! I want to make ratatouille today. Again. I can’t get enough of it. I need to make enough to freeze it. I could eat ratatouille every day for a year.

I think I’ll go do Imwalle Gardens and get the supplies.

I’ve got so much blackberry jam/sauce* that I think it’s safe to move on to some other food preserving projects. I’d love to make some peach jam before it’s too late. Tons of ratatouille to freeze.

I’m feeling so soul satisfied having finally, after years of not doing it, found the good blackberry picking in time and made jam. I think I need to make bread today. I haven’t made bread in a million years. That’s definitely something I miss doing.

Philip was laid off on Thursday. I’m not panicking yet. I start my new part time job at the art store tomorrow. It’s a really nice art store and being a cashier is nothing new for me, but still, I’m nervous about settling into a new place with new coworkers.

This is definitely the start of a whole new chapter. I just hope it’s a really good one.

*Some have set perfectly, but the batches I made on Friday have not. They’re more like a thick sauce. Who cares? I’ll pour that shit on toast and LOVE it.

Save

Church of Perpetual Volunteers

wild mint

Field Mint

If my garden and wild fields are my church, then if I were to name it I think it would be:

CHURCH OF PERPETUAL VOLUNTEERS

This is because I don’t try to control my garden that much. For many people gardening is a constant battle against encroaching weeds and disorder. They employ all kinds of tactics to prevent plants from going wild or proliferating too much. If you listen to the language of most gardeners they’re constantly cautioning other gardeners against plants that “take over” or “spread” or “can’t be controlled”. Most of the plants I love the most are notorious re-seeders such as cosmos, parsley, calendula, borage, mint, comfrey, allysum, and yarrow. Any time I tell another gardener how much I love cosmos they feel the need to say something like “Oh, but if you’re not careful that will take over your whole yard!” to which I find myself saying “What could be more wonderful than a yard completely covered in cosmos? LET IT GO MAD!”

I will admit that there are a few plants famous for going rampant that that I don’t want going rampant in my yard. Mostly it’s because I don’t like them, because they do nothing for me personally or are pure evil (such as privet and arum italicum).

My style of gardening is to put up some structured beds and then encourage everything I love to seed freely. I love volunteers. When something pops up that I don’t recognize I always let it get big enough to ID before deciding if it stays or goes. Watching something mysterious pop up in my yard is a joy. I have a volunteer purple aster that started off as a tiny 1″ seedling and is now this:

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From nothing, I got this beautiful aster that has stuck around for 3 years so far. It’s also growing in the crappiest soil that we’re working on amending. I didn’t buy this plant. Someone probably grew this years ago in this garden or a garden near-by and the seed waited until conditions were perfect and it popped up. Or a bird pooped on my yard and left this gem. If I’d been madly pulling up everything I didn’t plant myself that could potentially be a weed, I’d never have this plant in my life.

Another plant that pops up absolutely all over our garden is sweet alyssum, seen here (the little white ones) with another loved volunteer always welcome in my garden – nasturtiums.

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What I love about volunteers is how I can let them pop up where they will and then pull the ones that popped up where I don’t want them. My garden is never barren because of these. Should I be laid up for a long time, unable to do anything with my plants, I’ll still have calendula, valerian, alyssum, asters, and California poppies gathering colorful light right outside my house.

I don’t want or need hygienic order in my life. I mean, I could use more cleaning and order inside my house, because I still suck at laundry. I would still rather write than mop my floors. I’d rather watch Miss Marple and daydream than dust the woodwork.

I just realized that my garden is the only place I like to be surprised. Haha!

I’ve planted a cultivated variety of purslane and it’s very happy in the bed we put it in. I just harvest a huge bowl of it. Most of it is trying to flower right now. I cut most of the flowers off yesterday because I didn’t want it to stop producing leaves, but I’m going to let it flower eventually and see if we get a ton of volunteers of it. It’s a pretty rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrto3 <—- that’s what Jasper the ex-feral kitten has to say about purslane.

I’m turning to my garden a lot more lately and thinking about it (and now talking about it) because it’s helping me combat this horrible dark global malaise of human invention. It’s helping my mind focus on good things and hope rather than the dark pit it so often and so easily gets mired in. I’m so tired of everything I write about being from the pit. I’m going to have to focus on the dark enough as it is to write Suicide for Beginners. Rampant purslane and calendula is definitely the antidote.

I know I hit a low point recently when I made a pun and wasn’t even sure it counted as a pun. My only anti-pun ally (and future award winning illustrator/science fiction author) Sonya Craig had to yell at me to shake me free of the encroaching darkness.

Purslane and New Achievement Unlocked

herb purslane rice salad

Herb and purslane rice salad: tons of purslane and parsley, just a bit of mint, cucumber, tomatoes, a tiny bit of everlasting spinach and red orache, rice (obviously), dressed in a simple lemon and olive oil dressing.

Purslane harvest

The people you spend the most amount of time with are bound to affect your morale, whether for good or ill. The quality of people you spend time with has a distinct influence on the quality of life you’re living. I have just emancipated myself from two master self-delusionists* and already my shoulders feel lighter. Today I will not be lied to or disrespected boldly by people I have no real power of rebuttal with. Walking out on them was the only power I truly had.

Today my psychic house is clean and fresh. A new chapter begins. My coffee tastes better, my outlook is more hopeful, and I have the space to evaluate what lessons I have learned from this past experience spending time with people not practicing at being Good Humans. I can either be shaped negatively by it all or be shaped positively by learning something and working at improving myself through it.

My first few minutes home I spent in my garden. Hahaha. That’s a lie. I was really upset so the first few minutes home I spent on my couch staving off a panic attack and also easing my anger back down my throat. THEN I went out in the garden and picked some purslane. I picked a lot of purslane. Turns out purslane is thriving in the bed we put it in and doesn’t mind the heat or dryness. I picked some tomatoes too, then I staked up my rudbeckia as I’ve been meaning to do for at least a week. I did a crap-ton of dishes and then I looked for purslane recipes.

My wonderful Canadian Twin who writes the blog Soup and Sustenance, and is half of the design team Winter-Hebert, suggested I make tabbouleh with it. I have traditionally not liked tabbouleh particularly because I don’t love bulgar wheat. So I thought I’d make a rice salad inspired by tabbouleh. In the end it was almost just like tabbouleh, texture and all, but I LOVED it. I even put some mint from the garden in it. I don’t generally like mint in my food. I like it in tea. Maybe it’s just what I needed. I don’t know, it was so good. I did not put feta on it. NO CHEESE. And still it was fabulous.

I’m going to end this post reminding you all that in any endeavor, you build a good reputation by practicing being a Good Human and you keep it by continuing the practice of being a Good Human to all the people you work with/deal with in life. If you find you need to do a lot of damage control by limiting what the people around you are able to SAY about you, that says A WHOLE LOT OF SHIT ABOUT YOU. And it aint good shit. A person who is always behaving well to other humans doesn’t have need of damage control.

And here’s a truth even the self-delusional must realize at some point: you can’t gag every person you encounter, work with, know, or deal with. The truth about your quality of behavior WILL get out. Plug a leak in one place, it will come out through another crack in your carefully constructed facade.

So don’t be lying douche-nozzles who treat other people like crap.

 *Obviously, I could be talking about ANYONE.

Gardening is Like Religion

Echinacea Purpurea

I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God(s) or Deities that are imagined in the likeness of human beings. I don’t believe in higher powers with lists of rules and regulations that must be followed to avoid spiritual stagnation, or worse, damnation. The idea of a higher power with a thirst for blood, vengeance, and world domination seems like a shabby reflection of humankind rather than an elevated and evolved energy/being/power. Most depictions of Gods and Devils bear a striking resemblance to the emotional maturity of a human toddler.

Every time I talk about my garden, about gardening in general, about how I feel when I’m in the thick of my plants, I’m talking about my version of religious practice. In my garden there is no plant that is lord of all the plants, there is no law that is the law of all beings, and the idea of virtue is egalitarian. I give dandelions pride of place just as I give roses pride of place.

My garden is a small ecosystem, a universe constantly expanding and contracting with the seasons, with new information, new ideas, established roots, thick bark and thin. Within the small ecosystem of my garden there are micro ecosystems and all of them reflect the greater universe all around it.

When I finally got myself a diagnosis for my mental illness it was clear that I needed the support of medication to keep myself safe and healthy, but my psychologist asked me what I do in my life that is calming, that makes me feel good, centered, and happy. I told him that deadheading my roses always pushed my anxieties aside, that it brought a quietness to my brain that I rarely experience otherwise. I told him that one of my keenest pleasures was to cut roses to place around my house. He suggested I make my roses part of my daily self-care, part of my mental health-care routine.

This morning I watered my front and side gardens and then deadheaded my roses. I brought my cup of coffee out there with me. I was still in my pyjamas. When I’m out there with my plants I’m not an infirm obese middle aged woman, I’m just another spirit among kin. The plants speak to me in color, in shade, in density, in volume. They speak to me in shattered petals, old scabs, and new sap. When I’m in my garden I make sense, I belong, I am never shunned nor judged. I am not lord of my garden, I’m part of it.

My garden full of wild sproutlings, sudden inexplicable deaths, and regal insectary towers reminds me at all times simultaneously of my insignificance and my influence on the outcome of universal truth. I matter here, I just don’t matter more than anything else does. I am equal with the plum tree and dandelions alike. When I’m weeding I know what’s truly bothering me the most because nothing amplifies my worries more than total silence and the bitter tears of false dandelion smeared across my hands. I can’t make my brain stop playing the endless tapes that cause it so much distress, but when I let them play while I’m buried waist high in my wildflowers, their power over me is diminished as everything is leveled among the plants and the locusts chewing on them.

I’m struggling pretty hard right now to be okay with humans, with BEING human. I’m struggling pretty hard right now against my own brain that doesn’t exist peacefully in the world in which it must function. Even with medication I can’t shut out all the noise of all the pain others are going through, all the spirits being crushed  by systems that oppress love and celebrate hate.

My garden is my religion. My religion is the smell of hot blackberries hanging heavily sweet on the summer air. My religion is camouflaging myself among the Lacy Phacelia as though I grew from a winter seed up into a six foot tall flower that looks like a synchronized Busby Berkeley number performed exclusively by purple caterpillars.  My religion is trial and error, accidentally thick pasta, opera playing full blast over a bowl of rising bread dough, my accordion playing Amazing Grace into the golden hour. My scripture is knowing to deadhead roses to a 5 leaf set.

It isn’t my place to give benediction, it isn’t my place to request favors of a God I don’t believe in. What I CAN do is let my plants breathe with me and you and the stars above.

My garden is my religion. It’s a place of healing, belonging, and perspective.

Pro-Tips for Hilary Supporters Trying to “Unite” the Party

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I have some pro-tips for Clinton supporters who want Bernie supporters to vote for Hilary:

Stop talking to/about Bernie supporters like they’re big babies having a temper tantrum because they didn’t get their way. It’s condescending, it’s alienating, and it makes you sound like big babies having a tempter tantrum because the other kids don’t like your rules and aren’t playing your game.

Listen to the way you tell Bernie supporters to “tow the line” and “do the right thing” and “unite the party” and my personal favorite “do your duty”. Talking to intelligent conscientious adults like their duty is to stop thinking or having a conscious because the party line is more important than trying to make lasting change is really drawing a thick line under the reasons Bernie supporters loved Bernie in the first place and reminds them how fucked the two party status-quo IS. Also, it makes you sound like mean stupid schoolmarms with rulers suspended over everyone’s knuckles who disagrees with you.

Ditch the fear-mongering as a means to getting Bernie supporters and other outliers (such as alienated Republicans) to vote for Clinton. One of the reasons you claim to hate the Republican party in general and the Trumpster Dumpster in particular is because of the rampant fear-mongering they engage in. You do not make a good case for Hilary by saying “She isn’t Trump”. First of all, we KNOW she isn’t Trump. Saying it like no more discussion is necessary, that not being Trump is all the virtue that’s necessary to vote for someone. Ted Cruz wasn’t Trump either and no way in hell would I ever have cast my vote for that wet pancake. One thing Bernie supporters hate is fear mongering and the status quo. So if you want them to vote for Clinton, act like you actually think they’re intelligent human beings who desperately want to change the way things are done in this country and tell them how you think Hilary will get us closer to that kind of change. When you use fear tactics, you are piling more shit on the shit-pile of fear that got Trump the popularity he’s riding on right now that has you all foaming at the mouth. I mean, keep using them if you like, but at least understand how ineffective it is as a means for meaningful and positive change in this country and in the minds of Bernie supporters.

Stop treating Bernie supporters like the illegitimate children of our “democratic” system. What Bernie supporters want isn’t a rainbow farting unicorn. If that’s what you think, then you’re part of the conservative establishment we want to abolish that doesn’t even understand that Democratic Socialism isn’t an instrument of the devil and definitely isn’t a hindrance to personal freedoms such as Americans imagine they can only have with the constitution stashed in their butt-pockets. We aren’t the bastard children of the democratic party that need to be brought back into the family. Many of us ditched the democratic party a long time ago, in spirit if not in actuality. Many of us  never belonged to it in the first place. We aren’t yours to own or command. If you want us, yeah, you need to talk to us like you aren’t a fear-mongering automaton of the Democratic party upholding the two party system like it’s a princess in need of protecting rather than a broke-down trashy trailer barely road-worthy.

We wanted big change and Hilary’s campaign is not the ticket.

The whole time Bernie was running I assumed I’d vote Hilary if/when he lost the nomination. Then I heard Hilary supporters acting like bullies and screeching condescending assholes and I backed the fuck up and withheld my decision. Which I’m still withholding until closer to November.

I don’t actually want to be romanced by Hilary supporters. I don’t expect them to try and get me into their camp. I expect everyone to vote their conscience. But I offer up these pro-tips for those Hilary supporters who ARE trying to get Bernie supporters to join them. You really want to do that? Start with respect (most Hilary supporters haven’t got any for Bernie supporters, that much is clear, so maybe do a better job pretending). Talk to us like YOU’RE intelligent adults. And for god’s sake, stop being major assholes.

Job Shake-Up and New Chapters

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Lordy lou! It’s been pretty dark around here for a long time. I was starting to fantasize about starting a new blog with a new name thus representing a new chapter. But that’s what I always do. I like to close doors and open new ones. But perhaps the real lesson lies in sticking with the same doors I walk in and out of every day and simply repainting them? Or repainting myself? How about changing how I walk through them? Perhaps I could hop through them instead of slink or trudge? I could skip or pretend to swim through them. I could slide through them like a smooth operator!

I have quit my day job for reasons not pleasant*. I am looking for a new job because I’m not yet a world-renowned novelist and non-fiction champion for people like me (with depression). Bills gotta be paid.

All this job shake-up is actually really great in the long run. I’ve been way too tired to put much time or effort into Sugar and Pith and writing has been sparse (well, part of that was because I used up all my writing time to log the survey results for the last few months and that’s been really emotionally draining). I need to become more disciplined and I need a little more time than I’ve previously had to plot out my plan and steps to reaching my true professional goals.

And I need to do all of this before I die so I don’t have to hang around earth with great dissatisfaction and haunt certain peoples who truly deserve some ghost mischief to be visited upon them.

So instead of shutting down yet another blog, I’m going to stick with this one. I’m going to paint the doors and throw the windows open. But only at night when it’s not so damn hot.

*For certain persons who may or may not be checking my blog to see what I may or may not be writing about my current employment situation – I signed an agreement not to reveal any confidential business crap, but you can’t legally control what I say about my employment from a personal experience perspective (provided I do not reveal any business or proprietary information). Just thought I would put this here because I’m not stupid and I imagine that persons may be checking in to see if I say anything legally actionable. The last time I discussed my work situation (which threw a bunch of people into a tizzy) is the primary reason people now have to sign a confidentiality statement (in spite of the fact that sensitive proprietary information was removed from the premises long prior to this incident of the Blog Post and by an individual who was also caught padding her time card and stealing other items – but that didn’t provoke a confidentiality clause because – ???) Anyway, if anyone hoped I’d be saying stuff about my job to get righteously angry about, behold your disappointment!

Jaded Drunk at a Dry Wedding

when no one's coming

I’ve been a bruised piece of shit for the last few days. Vulnerable like a snail chained to a trail of salt. Part of me sits back and watches the Angelina show like a jaded drunk at a dry wedding, while part of me brings my own salt shaker to the party.

There is deep shame in this whole experience. I spend all my up time shouting to outsiders to fuck off with their shaming tactics, to fuck off with all their bullshit put-downs and their sly references to our lifetime ticket to the short bus, and I spend all my low time proving that I’ll never quite get up off the floor of my shredded naugahyde seat on the post-apocalyptic bus to hell.

I keep trying to write what it’s like to be mentally ill for people who aren’t and I’m a broken record that never reaches the chorus, that never manages to wheeze out the punchline. It’s impossible, this thing I carry in my head, in my body, in my spirit. It’s got the cumbersome painful body of John Merrick and the beautiful poetry of shut-in Emily Dickinson.

Whatever I am, the truth of it is always convoluted and polluted by how much I try to hide, by how much I reveal at my most vulnerable moments. I’m all contrasts. Truth delivered in brutal late-night beer-brave bullet-points only to be rescinded 12 hours later by the harsh remembrance of my place in the hierarchy of humans and their inability to digest the deeply bitter spiritual revelations that constitute the air I breathe.

The Dark Side of the Survey Results

kitten in a cup

One of the hardest things about logging the Suicide for Beginners survey results are the mean things some respondents have said to ME. I know the survey was hard for a lot of people to take. I know it asked a lot of deeply personal questions about the darkest part of people’s lives. I felt it was necessary. If we are ever going to get other people to understand what it’s like to live with mental illness, if we are ever going to get people to stop stigmatizing us – I believe we have got to talk about the toughest and darkest parts of it. Some people really hated that I did this. They painted me as the enemy. And it hurt. There were a number of respondents who lashed out at me but this one that I read last night was one of the most horrible things to have someone from my own community say to me:

I find it interesting that in the first part of this survey you’ve asked IF the respondents have suicidal thoughts or ideation, and now you’re assuming that we do, and that it’s a serious desire. PS, the title of this survey is actually pretty shitty. It’s like you’re encouraging depressed people to think about or plan a suicide attempt. You kind of suck, and when I say kind of, I don’t mean that. I mean you seriously suck and if even one person harms themselves because of this, you’ll be at least partly responsible.

First of all, there was no assumption involved.  I never asked IF respondents have ever struggled with suicidal ideation. I asked HOW OFTEN with the possible answer of never. It is a fact the majority of people who have suffered from serious chronic depression do, at one point or another, struggle with suicidal ideation or passive suicidal ideation. So the entire survey is skewed more to people who’ve experienced it than not. But if you’ve never experienced suicidal ideation then the question WHO KNOWS YOU THINK ABOUT KILLING YOURSELF? is not applicable and instead of excoriating me in the comments box one could easily say “not applicable” (as a number of respondents did).

Out of 529 respondents (so far logged) only 29 of them have never experienced suicidal ideation of any kind. You let those numbers sit with you for a few minutes.

Second of all, if you thought the title of my survey and of my book is pretty shitty, you could easily have chosen not to take it as this survey (like most surveys are) was 100% voluntary. This particular respondent, ironically, gave incredibly long responses to most of the open ended questions. For thinking I suck so bad, they clearly wanted to be heard and counted (which was the point of this survey)

So FUCK YOU for being such a mean-ass unsupportive member of our community.

I was seriously tempted to discard this respondent’s survey altogether. But this survey isn’t just about ME. It isn’t just about YOU either. It’s about hearing from as large a swath of our community as I could and attempting to represent many voices and many experiences when I write my book about depression because one of the huge things people don’t understand about depression is that those of us who have it experience it in many individual and different ways. We aren’t all the same, we don’t all agree with each other about how to eradicate the stigma, or what the most effective treatments are. To help people truly understand what depression IS they need to do two things simultaneously: understand that no two people’s experience of it is exactly the same while understanding what the most universal problems are that we experience as a community so that those things can be addressed.

So I logged this person’s answers with everyone else’s in my spread-sheets while actually kind of wanting to hurt myself after reading her comments. So this brings me to the part where she suggests that the title of my book and my survey are so triggering that if anyone hurts themselves because of this title I’ll be partly responsible.

I do not take responsibility for anyone else’s actions, EVER. That’s the kind of thing people say when they want to shame or guilt someone about something, and it works on a lot of humans. Especially emotionally and mentally vulnerable human beings. The title of my project may make someone curious and think “What the fuck is this?”, but anyone who takes a few minutes to find out what this project is all about will know IMMEDIATELY that it isn’t a guidebook for killing yourself.

The only way I’d feel at all responsible for someone harming themselves is if I told them what shitty person they were, because telling people they’re shitty human beings is mean. If you don’t like something someone has said or done, you can tell them without being a huge sphincter about it.

So, to this person who told me how much I seriously suck: do you take responsibility for making me want to hurt myself? Did you stop and think for even one tiny second that the person you made those comments to still struggles with the urge to self harm every time someone is an asshole to them? So yeah, for a half an hour after reading your comments I wanted to hurt myself because I’m trying my damnedest to help bring light and understanding to our community and you just shit all over me like I’m a fucking toilet.

But I don’t actually hold you responsible for making me want to self harm. The truth is, a lot of things make me want to hurt myself, not just assholes. Whether I do it or not is a fight between me and my mental illness. If my mental illness wins, then it still isn’t your fault. I mean, you’re still a jerk, but you don’t control my actions. Sometimes I don’t have control them either – because depression is a bigger asshole than you. Something I think we can both agree on.

This person is definitely NOT the only person who hurled mean comments at me personally, as the person asking them questions they didn’t like. The “gifts of mental illness” question elicited quite a few negative responses. At least 10 respondents said variations of this theme:

THERE ARE NO GIFTS OF BEING MENTALLY ILL, GO FUCK YOURSELF.

I understand. I seriously do. I almost didn’t include that question on the survey because it’s a tough one to swallow for many people – even just to contemplate it. I’m very thankful I listened to my gut on this one and left it in the survey. The biggest surprise was how many respondents were able to list at least one gift of being mentally ill. Many named multiple gifts and some of them were incredible, funny, and cool. You have to be at a certain point with your own journey with mental illness to see past the hateful pain of it to the extraordinary benefits. You have to be really secure in the idea that to admit to benefits doesn’t erase the horrible aspects of it. They co-exist.

The problem with being a person with mental illness giving a survey on mental illness to other mentally ill people and asking them to be honest and share raw and very private things is that they lash out at me and I have a very hard time not taking it into my heart as a personal assault. I have so little defense against people telling me to fuck myself when I’m putting myself out there all the time to reach out to others in our community. It hurts. I know that ultimately it’s NOT really about me, rationally I know this. It’s not my first lap around this lake of hell fire, but it still hurts.

So this is the other reason why logging the survey results has taken so long and I’ve had to take so many breaks from it. It physically hurts me to read all this pain, to take it in, to attempt to quantify it, to be the moderator and researcher while also being the subject of the research. It’s deeply personal and I’m a sufferer so I can’t ever step outside of the answers and pain.

So why do it? Why stick with it?

I’m so glad you asked me this.

Because I’m tired of doctors and scientists who don’t actually have mental illness themselves telling my community who we are and what kind of pain we should or shouldn’t experience. I’m tired of outsiders explaining us to everyone else. The only people who can properly explain what it’s like to have any kind of mental illness are those who experience it. I want doctors and scientists to keep working at coming up with medical information – but they need to listen to us too. The patients. They need to believe us and not treat us like crusty little growths sitting in their offices who don’t know anything about our own experiences.

We need to be heard. Not just one or two of us. Our whole community needs to be heard – both our individuality and our universal struggles.

Depression is a serious killer and people keep telling us who we are instead of letting us tell them who we are. They need to shut the fuck up and listen. That’s why I need to do this even though it’s really hard and even though people in my own community are telling me I’m a piece of shit.

The good thing is, and the thing that keeps me coming back to the spreadsheets, is that a definite majority of the people who took the survey understand what I’m trying to do and appreciate the chance to be part of it. It reaffirms that I’m on the right track.

Something else that’s really bothered me a lot are the respondents who, in the section where I ask them what they would say to someone struggling hard not to kill themselves, have laid on a thick blanket of bullshit about how you shouldn’t kill yourself because of all the pain and devastation you’ll cause other people, that at your worst moment you should be living for the sake of other people’s comfort.

I have a huge problem with anyone suggesting that your pain is nothing compared to the pain of others. But I don’t have time to go into this now. I have to go eat some breakfast, clean up some kitten poop, and then log some more surveys in.

Suicide for Beginners Survey Update

calling yesterdayIt’s July 1st and I’m still not finished logging the Suicide for Beginners survey responses. Why is it taking so long? I had originally planned to be done with this part of the project by the end of April. So what the fuck happened?

I have Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety and mild OCD.

How the fuck is that an answer or excuse? Ahhhh – most of the people who took my survey KNOW why that’s a profoundly important answer.

As a person who has Major Depressive Disorder, I have very low energy at the best of times. Not everyone who has this disorder is always low energy. Some people with it are only low energy during a depressive down-cycle. Some don’t experience low energy as a symptom at all (I didn’t for the first half of my life of living with depression). But the majority of us find having depression emotionally exhausting and physically draining. I have a day job, a kid, a mom who depends on me to run her errands as she is physically unable to do so herself, I have pets, and all of this would reasonably make anyone a bit tired at the end of the day. But put depression on the heap and I’m done for.

I have tried getting some surveys logged in the mornings before work when I have the most energy. But most mornings I have enough trouble getting myself into the proper mind-frame to face a day of customer service.

There’s a whole other factor at play here as well. I’ve got no filter for other people’s emotional baggage. I’m also excessively empathetic. Reading long surveys in which I ask people to talk to me about the darkest and most vulnerable part of their lives is truly hard. For one thing, people with mental illness disproportionately experience abuse over people who aren’t mentally ill, particularly in childhood. So these surveys are filled not only with the pain of having mental illness, but the pain of abuse, disregard, bullying, disrespect, and marginalization.

These people are my community. They are my tribe. They matter to me almost more than any other people on earth. So it’s really fucking hard to sit down and hear all their pain and just fly through survey after survey – boom! Boom! Done. I FEEL their pain in no small part because I have experienced all of it for myself. It’s overwhelming.

So I’ve had to take it slow and take long breaks because it’s fucking heartbreaking to actually hear so many people’s stories about living with depression. Lordy, and this survey doesn’t even cover any of the co-morbid diagnosis’ most of us live with.

There’s another factor that’s made it hard too – those survey respondents who spewed mean shit at ME. But I’m saving that for the next installment of:

WHY IT’S JULY AND ANGELINA ISN’T DONE WRITING SUICIDE FOR BEGINNERS YET.

I’m just about to read survey #530 out of #584 total “completed”*.

*Survey Monkey’s idea of what constitutes a “completed” survey is pretty remarkable. There are some surveys they counted as “completed” in which the respondent answered exactly 5 out of 25 questions. Translate that into orgasm talk and you’ll have a riot on your fucking hands.

My original plan was to be finishing my first draft of the book by now. Shit.

But this is the very THING I’m trying to shed light on, isn’t it? That living with depression means adjusting your expectations and your goals because if you don’t do that you will hate yourself more than your brain already tells you to and you’ll struggle even harder. One of the most important things you can do for yourself as a person suffering life-long chronic depression is to accept that it will limit you a lot of ways, some of them obvious, many of them not.

I have 54 more survey responses to log. It doesn’t sound like much, but I logged in about 15 of them last night and felt so drained from it that I’m still feeling it this morning.

Once I’m done logging the responses I will be sorting my spreadsheets to reflect the numerical order of the answers which also means I have to clean up the notes and crap I scattered all over them that will get in the way of ranking them. Once I get everything ranked and cleaned up I will take each individual spreadsheet and evaluate my findings and take notes on what I think they mean. Then I can begin to actually WRITE THE DAMN BOOK.

I had originally planned to be done with my second draft by the end of the summer so I could start sharing with beta readers and writing query letters to agents. With non-ficiton you don’t actually have to wait to finish your book before querying agents (whereas they will not even consider your novel if you query them before it’s finished) you just need chapter outlines and a synopsis, but I know I have to write this book no matter what and I need to have written it to properly query it. It must take shape first before I present it because I’m not 100% sure how I’m going to arrange the book and prioritize the chapters until I’m writing it.

Will it even be done by 2018? I don’t know. I do feel a sense of urgency as mental illness is being offered up more and more as an explanation and the core issue behind mass murders, homophobia, racism, and pretty much all crime. Which is excessively wrong – people don’t understand mental illness who don’t have it and they also don’t understand how a human can kill another human so obviously mental illness is linked to violence in their minds. This must stop! Obviously, my book may not help stop people from being ignorant and keeping all of us mentally ill people chained up in humanity’s claustrophobic closet of horrors, but I can’t give up just because my project might not achieve what I hope it will help achieve.

First I have to write the post about the people in my community who are making things worse for the rest of us, but especially ME as they tell me to fuck off. Then I’ll get as many more survey responses logged as I can today.