confessional mental health

Faking It

“Fake it until you make it”.
“If you forget your part, or lose your place, just fake it”.
That first statement is one that most everyone has heard. Not sure who to attribute it to.  The second statement is something that our high school band director would advise us whenever we were participating in school symphonic band competitions.  “What people always remember during a concert is the beginning and the ending.  Have a strong opening and a strong close and in between, if you personally get messed up, just fake it until you can catch up”.  Although, if you happened to be a soloist, that advice didn’t work so well.  Hard to hide mistakes if you were the only one up there making noise.

People who are depressed are actually quite good at faking happiness and general “normalcy”.  For whatever reasons, it feels like an adrenaline push to conceal the truth whenever out in public spaces.  And it is EXHAUSTING.   It’s probably much like how wounded and sick animals will try to hide themselves or behave as if everything is perfectly fine; they’re just, you know, taking it easy right now.  Pet owners know this.  It isn’t until your cat or dog is actually quite ill, or is not eating or drinking anymore, that you end up at the vets office where they inform you that something is urgent.  “What?? But, he’s been acting like his usual self!”  If animals could actually speak our language, maybe it would be different.  But then again, mammals have an instinct to not appear weak or injured because other mammals tend to attack or shun each other when they behave that way.  They tend to eat one another.  And humans, after all, are mammals.

However, humans are different from other mammals in many other ways.  We have a language that is incredibly nuanced, massively creative, endlessly evolving, and our language can do other things besides warn or beckon or comfort or express joy.   Our language can actually affect our own brains, our own feelings, our own behavior and health.  Our language can influence other human’s brains, feelings, behavior, health, attitudes.

When I was depressed, I couldn’t remember a time when I did not disgust myself; when I was not ashamed of myself; when I did not hate myself.  The playlist in my head, which ran constantly included such hits as “I’m A Failure”, “I Can Never Do Anything Right”, “I Will Never Accomplish Anything”, “I Am Stupid”, “I Am Worthless”, “I Am Too Weird”, “I Don’t Belong Here”, “I Don’t Belong Anywhere”, “I Always Mess Up”, “I’m An Idiot”, “I’m A Fool”, “I Will Never Do Anything Right”, “I Hate Myself”, “I Am A Disgusting Mess”, “Everyone Thinks So Too”…..and so many more! OH SO MANY VARIATIONS!

The psychologist who managed to change things for me made me do something on our very first visit.  It was after my last episode of feeling suicidal – and it was one of my worst episodes.  It was during my first visit with her after getting a reference from my psychiatrist (and after starting back up on a new anti-depressant).  After acknowledging with great sympathy just how broken and shitty I was feeling, she made me do something, which she laughingly told me was “going to feel really stupid and really silly and really corny right now and it’s something no one likes to do”.   She made me say out loud, “I am wonderful”.  I shot her a look.  “We aren’t going anywhere or talking at all until you say it”.  Then she made me say it again with a little more conviction.  I started crying.  She handed me a box of tissue with an encouraging nod and an even more sympathetic face.  Then she told me to say, “I love myself!”.   I indicated that I just really couldn’t fathom uttering those words and she said, “It doesn’t matter if you actually feel it right now, just say it out loud.  Say it because it is perfectly fine to say it!…Let me tell you, I love myself! That’s right! And I’m proud of it! It’s okay to love yourself! It doesn’t mean you think that you are perfect.  NO ONE is perfect. We all have our issues and our flaws….and it’s okay to love ourselves anyway!”

So I did.  With a huge eye roll.
So she made me do it again without the huge eye roll.

“Okay. Now we can begin to get you feeling better…. because you deserve to.”

Basically (and she acknowledges this) it was a form of “fake it ’til you make it” therapy.
And I have to begrudgingly admit that it works.

It’s not like I don’t still get mad at myself, or even have some suicide ideation anymore, but I’ve come to recognize exactly when something has managed to hit the high volume button on those old tunes.

Breaking those 24/7 recordings in your head of all the stuff you hate about yourself and replacing them with soundtracks of kindness and love towards yourself is crucial to being able to get better.  You have to think of yourself as a friend or family member that you love dearly and don’t want to lose.  Would you EVER say those nasty things to them? Of course not! Would you EVER believe those things about them? NO.  And you know exactly why you would never say or think those things about that person?  Yes. You do.  It’s because you LOVE THEM.  You love them despite whatever quirks or issues they have.  And EVERYONE in this world has quirks and issues and flaws and mistakes.  You do not have to be flawless to be loved.  You do not have to be flawless to exist.  You can love your own self.

A lot of depression has to do with chemistry.  I happen to know that well.  A lot of it also has to do with language; namely, the language you use with yourself.  If you can beat yourself down into a pulp with negative language in your head, it stands to reason that you can help to heal yourself with language too.  If you can fake happy language outwardly to other people, why the hell not fake it to yourself?  The only difference is that instead of deceiving other people to make them feel okay, you can change the way you think of yourself in order to actually crawl out of the hold that depression has on you.  And that is worth doing.

It’s hard work because it involves breaking lifelong habits.  But it isn’t impossible.



It’s In My Head

At 3 a.m. Sunday morning, I sprang awake with one fully formed thought in my mind:  Maybe I actually am crazy!

Other words quickly followed: delusional, flaky, insane…

A massive pressurized feeling of having been up until this very moment completely divorced from Reality, lost in a temporal world of my own making, floating along in another plane of existence, burst through my chest.  My family and friends have observed this ditziness in me, especially of late, and they have been tolerating me out of love and concern! That’s what’s really going on!

I managed to shove it all away, placate myself that I was just having a moment of self-doubt; that Depression was struggling to gain a foothold again by pulling me down into its’ endless burrow of negativity and self-hatred.  I closed my eyes and burrowed into my pillow instead.

When I awoke again, I went about my day attending to the usual mundane things that somehow exalt themselves with meaning. Things that I had imbued with grand importance:  Cleaning and organizing and planning and “nesting” and creating a schedule and cleaning some more; a training program,  if you will,  for getting my shit together once and for all; to get things prepared for my Master Plan of becoming a Creative Entrepreneur (to use a fancy-pants term for “artist who can help support her family”).

I couldn’t help thinking to myself in the following days that I was, truth be told, feeling a bit manic lately.  I wrote some of it away to being off one of my meds. But my mind has been all over the place with hopes and dreams and plans and schemes and determination and “keeping positive” and a stubborn willfulness that things are going to work out the way I want them to.  I’ve been feeling restless, impatient, hopeful.  I’ve been doing things with a hyper-focus and a strange stream of energy; all while putting other things on the back burner (where they smolder with a threat to break out into a fire).  I’ve been thinking and planning and doing for “all the things!”

But today, that feeling I had Sunday night at 3 a.m. is prying open my mental space again, siphoning out my optimism, gassing panic into it’s place….

I’ve become suspicious of myself.

<a href=””>Suspicious</a&gt;

My Intentions Are Always Good

My follow-through is bad.

I’ve never been quite able to figure out why.  I’m suspecting it’s because I’m an ambivert. I just discovered that term this year in an article about introverts and extroverts and new research about them. I was most definitely an introvert when I was younger – or at least I was when I began school. I morphed somewhat into an extrovert later after getting some life experiences under my belt.

Perhaps this is where I should insert a link to my favorite Courtney Barnett song, “Nobody Really Cares if You Don’t Go to the Party”,  but instead I’ll just skip to the resonant chorus for me:

“I wanna go out, but I wanna stay home”

And how apropos that song is, indeed, for today.

You see, right about now my daughter and I should be heading out to a wedding across town. Way across town. Normally it would take us about one to one and a half hours to get there (Texas and its’ major cities are big and sprawling, y’all). However, our city happens to have, or rather always seems to have, freeways under construction.  I’d forgotten about that. Until I called my sister-in-law a little bit ago and she said that they were just about to leave because of all the road closures. A little trill of panic fluttered in my chest.

We were going to carpool with them, because my husband, who is the one related to the person getting married, refused to go.  It followed that if my husband was going to stay home, then my son, who has ADHD, was going to stay home as well. Neither of them are particularly social; it’s downright tortuous for them. My husband wasn’t always this bad about it, but he’s still trying to crawl out of the Depression Pit.

I’d already RSVPd for all four of us to attend.  In light of the heel-digging, however, I figured that we’d just say my husband and son were under the weather and my daughter and I would do our best to enjoy ourselves there. The truth is that I did not particularly want to go either.

No. Wait. That’s not entirely true. When we got the invite in the mail, I remember thinking, “Oh! N. is getting married! How nice! Of course we will attend. We haven’t seen them for a long time now”.   I operated with that intention for a couple of months.

No, wait. I’m going to back up again.

I did indeed intend for us to go when we got the “save the date” notice in the mail. Then came the invite to a wedding shower for the bride. About 3 days before the actual event. With no email to respond to. And the wrong phone number.

The bride is on my husband’s side of a very large family. She is the daughter of my husband’s cousin (I can never remember if that makes her his second cousin or his 1st cousin once removed. I forget how that works). She is someone I think of fondly because I remember how cute she was at our wedding and she always sought me out at the infrequent family get-togethers in the past. But since my mother-in-law passed away, those get-togethers where her family’s children and grandchildren are invited are much fewer and farther between.

My husband and his brother have always maintained that they’re never quite sure who is who at these gatherings, aside from the cousins, aunts and uncles that they grew up with. Like I said, it’s a pretty big family and it takes awhile at these reunions to figure out which kid belongs to which person and how they are all related. In other words, we aren’t all that close.  But I give them an A for trying, because they are a lot closer than my dad’s family of seven siblings and all their children who never really even bothered to get together at holidays. My dad says it’s because none of them could last very long in one room without getting into an argument. So, we mostly see them at funerals.

My mother, one of two children, finds this terribly tragic and just plain wrong. She was raised with strict focus on etiquette and the importance of milestones such as birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc. It doesn’t matter what your relationship is with your family members, no matter how you really feel about them, you GO. So, at least my husband’s family makes an attempt.

But when I reached the automated message informing me that the phone number of the family member throwing the shower, the only contact I had for her, was disconnected or no-longer-in-use, I found myself a bit indignant. WHO the hell puts only a phone number on an invite, and a wrong one at that?!?  Since we don’t keep in close contact, it wasn’t like I had any of their information.

Ahhhhhh. But there is Facebook, I have to remind myself. And Facebook is also the reason that I initially suspected that the wrong information was deliberate.

Because, here is the other wrinkle: I am actually “friends” with many of his family members on FB and that is the only way we seem to keep in contact, through “likes” and smiley faces and general posts; much like I do with my dad’s side of the family.  Facebook is actually how our families got to know each other better.  I’m sure that since most people are by this time familiar with, and users of, social media, you can sense how that has gone.  Yeah. Not too pretty!

I never realized how many closeted racists I was related to and how deeply that racism ran. I never realized how fanatical some of my relations were. I didn’t know that they were practically ALL zealous, right-wing, conservatives.  For their part, they never realized I am a liberal die-hard Democrat, a feminist, and embracer of all races.  And they didn’t know how “yappity” I am about it.
I’ve been blocked by, and have blocked, many family members.  On both sides.  You might as well disown someone if you do that because it is basically the internet equivalent.

But back to the wedding issue…

I got over my indignation about the invite because it didn’t really make much sense.  We were set again to attend. I bought the gift and it will be delivered soon. My daughter and I chose what we were going to wear. I was going to run out this morning and get a nice card to leave at the reception. We were going to carpool, as I mentioned.  I had good intentions.  Firm intentions.

Until I woke up quite groggily at eleven a.m. this morning and my daughter woke up even later. You’d think I would have planned better, set my alarm for earlier, right? I did, though. Snooze buttons are a useless invention. My daughter is even worse. She sets her alarm and then sleeps on, oblivious to it for up to hours.  She doesn’t even manage to wake up to hit it!  We are terrible night-owls. I exit sleep at a turtle’s pace. My children are following in my footsteps. (God only knows how we are going to handle it when school starts back soon!!)  I’ve been wondering if I need to get my Adderall refilled.

However,  I still, unrealistically, thought we had time to get ready. And then I called my sister-in-law. And I hadn’t yet had my second, most necessary, cup of coffee; and my teen-age daughter was still in her pajamas; and so was I; and we both needed to take showers; and we both needed to get dressed; and we both needed to put on make-up; and I still hadn’t run out to get that card; and there were so many things that still needed doing while we were gone which I knew my husband wouldn’t do because he was still in bed. I didn’t want to embarrass ourselves by walking into the ceremony half-way. I didn’t want us to show up just to the reception because that seemed too awkward and a little rude somehow.  “Hi!! We only showed up for the chow!!”.  Uh, no.

My husband mumbled from his pillow, “Don’t go. It doesn’t matter. You won’t make it in time anyway. They really won’t notice. You sent a gift and that’s all what it’s about anyway.”  Did I mention yet that my husband is a pretty cynical guy?

My mother will most likely call me tomorrow and ask how the wedding was. I might have to lie to her, because she is the original fount of my sense of guilt and shame. I’m pretty sure that’s why I’m feeling like a horrible, no good, terrible, no-class and very bad person right now.

I said we would go, and we didn’t. My intention was good, but it failed.

I wanted to go, but I ended up staying home.

Am I awful? Am I rude? Am I lame? Am I overthinking this?

Am I the only one who does this? Please tell me no.

It’s really hard being an ambivert.