To All the People Who Are Not Suicidal

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(If you are suicidal or “just” in crisis, please call 1-800-273-8255, text “START” to 741-741, call the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text the word “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200. International suicide hotlines are listed here. You can also walk into an ER or call 911.)

Now, to everyone sharing the suicide hotline numbers but not actually doing anything to help:

GET OFF YOUR ASSES AND DO SOMETHING TO HELP.

  1. Actually CALL your friends. Ask if they’re okay. If they say “not really” or “I’m getting by” or “kinda depressed,” ask them what’s wrong. If you can help, DO IT.
  2. Do you regularly see someone who seems depressed or worried? Ask if they’re okay. They may not want to talk. They may be elated that someone finally asked. They may be suffering from depression and need some motivation to seek help, like you offering to help them find a therapist. They may need help getting to a therapist, their doctor, or the hospital. And that leads to my next point . . .
  3. Many times, chronic depression is aggravated by things like physical health problems, abuse, and poverty. If you find out that someone is depressed and being abused, you can do the work of finding a way to get them out of that situation. You can take them to the police station. You can (if the situation is safe at the moment) help them move.
  4.  Poverty. Many times, as little as $25 to tide someone over until payday can help someone with depression. I have given money to friends with no expectation of repayment when I really couldn’t afford it but I could live without it and they couldn’t. Other things that you can do to help someone who is broke if you can’t give them a few bucks are: mow their lawn, clean their gutters, make small household repairs, help them paint, or just lift something that’s too heavy for them to lift alone. When your house is crappy, it doesn’t help your depression.
  5. Feed a friend. Make a meal for them. Take them out to eat. Give them a (paper) bag of groceries that will last several days.
  6. Pets. Being poor doesn’t make someone a bad pet owner. People get pets when their lives are going okay (or take in strays when they really can’t afford them.) Regardless, eating peanut butter and Ramen and not being able to afford cat litter or dog food does not help depression. It makes you feel worthless (I swear to God if anyone says “take the animal to the pound” I will block your ass in a nanosecond.) Drop off a bag of cat food and some friggin’ Spam.
  7. People who are disabled and/or elderly and living alone often suffer from depression. That house across the street where the old man with the oxygen tank lives alone? MOW HIS YARD.
  8. And sometimes it’s just loneliness. Social media does not make up for human companionship. Ask someone if they want to go to a movie, or stay in and watch a movie, or come to dinner, or go to the library, or a museum, or yard sales, or thrift stores, or whatever. (You don’t always have to pay. Sometimes people can pay their own way, they just don’t want to go alone. Sometimes people can pay for yard work too, they’re just embarrassed to ask for help.)

And that’s the whole point of the post. Ask, “How are you doing?” and see where it goes. You could save a life.

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Looking For the Best Pagan Books?

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Check out Moon Books. That links to their Twitter. Their bio gives you all the info you need to find their books. They’re in the UK, but you can still order straight from them, or buy their books on Amazon or from Barnes and Noble. They don’t sell “fluffy bunny” witchcraft books or just books of spells. They do have some books of spells, like Candle Magic by Lucya Starza and Every Day Magic, also by Lucya Starza (who is also on Twitter and quite a nice person.) They have a book about depression, Facing the Darkness by Cat Treadwell, a book about Rhiannon (who was she? Fairy queen, goddess, both?) and a book about The Morrigan. And these are just a few. I believe their site lists their full catalogue.

The also having books like Naming the Goddess, Aspecting the Goddess, and Kissing the Hag. I received the last yesterday. These books delve into more than Wicca, witchcraft, and paganism. You’ll find things relevant to your daily life. You’ll find things about life as an older woman, paganism from a queer perspective, who the Dark Goddess really is, and the origins of familiar fairy tales.

There are also books about gods . . . I saw a tweet the other day about a new release, a book about Odin. I believe that they have a book about the Green Man. They have something for everyone. And not all the books are just about Celtic deities and Celtic paganism. I have so many that I haven’t read them all yet. From the back cover of Journey to the Dark Goddess by Jane Meredith: “Weaving stories of Inanna, Persephone, and Psyche with self-enquiry and sacred ritual Journey to the Dark Goddess invites you to venture within.”

Sound intriguing? Just be aware . . . these books are so fascinating that they’re addictive, and you’ll find yourself pre-ordering and buying at least one a month. And, they also have some fiction titles. If you’re serious about paganism and you’ve been looking for pagan books that deal with self-improvement, follow Moon Books on Twitter or visit their site.

Disclaimer: I do not write for Moon Books (unfortunately, I’m not nearly as knowledgeable as their authors.) I’m just a big fan of their books.

 

OCD Symptoms and What Makes Them Worse

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I’m going to concentrate on two facets of my OCD in this post: counting and fear of losing things.

Looking back, I realize that I was displaying OCD symptoms by at least age nine. My parents were fighting all the time. Despite the fact that my father had abused me, I was consumed with fear of “something bad” happening to our family. I would set myself a deadline to finish a task. If I finished the task in time, things would be okay. They weren’t, of course. My father left and took his girlfriend and disappeared in Florida. I never saw him again. Now, I realize that was the best thing that could have happened to me despite the financial hardship we endured because he never paid one cent of child support.

I already had the counting and magical thinking symptoms of OCD. As I grew up, I had many things stolen from me by relatives. I had my move to New York to live with my fiancé planned, but an emergency disrupted my plans. I had to move suddenly, taking only my clothes and a few special personal belongs, just what would fit in the car. My plan was to take the train back to North Carolina, rent a U-Haul, and move the rest of my belongings to New York. When my fiancé and I came back to North Carolina to move my things, I found that the same relatives who had stolen from me in the past had plundered my bedroom. They stole diaries, clothes, knickknacks, jewelry, even my rare Stevie Nicks photos.

I moved my furniture–the cedar chest and rocking chair that my mother gave me, the bookcase that my grandfather gave me, the antique vanity that my aunt gave me, the wardrobe and chest of drawers that I bought with my tax refund–and the personal belongings I had left to New York.

My marriage was falling apart at my wedding. When I decided it was time to leave him, I wired money to rent a box truck to a friend in North Carolina. She drove to New York alone and helped me pack all my things into the box truck. The kitchen and one bathroom were downstairs. The living room and bedrooms were upstairs, and there was a loft accessible only by a ladder. The only way to get into the attic, where some of my things were stored, including Christmas decorations belonging to my deceased grandmother, was via the loft. I have vertigo. I couldn’t climb the ladder. My friend couldn’t climb it due to health reasons. I could hardly ask my estranged husband to get them for me. And, all of my furniture was upstairs. The only things that my friend and I could get out of the house were the bookcase and rocking chair.

That incident caused me to develop vivid nightmares, and intensified my fear of losing things 1000 percent. I mean, the cedar chest that my mother gave me and the Christmas angel that was on the nightstand when my grandmother died are still sitting in my old house in New York. So I’ve developed a terror of losing anything.

I walk the house at night looking for books, photographs, costume jewelry, and tonight, my set of fine-point drawing pens. Pillowcases that match a set of bedding. Where’s my camera? I just got up and checked. It’s in the bedroom. Where I left it. Where’s the crochet hook that my grandmother gave me when she taught me to crochet? It’s right here in the box in my desk where it always is.

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I will be almost sleep, and something will pop into my head. Where is the collar that my shelter cat Mika was wearing when I adopted her? I get out of the bed. It’s in the box where it always is, where it has been since she died.

Then I get back in the bed, but I don’t sleep because my mind is racing. I can’t stop thinking about the things that people have cruelly and casually stolen from me over the last 30+ years.

OCD manifests in many ways. They all take time out of the lives of OCD sufferers, and often, their families. I’m lucky. My mother understands what’s “wrong with” me and tries to help. I think that most other people like me probably aren’t so lucky.

If you know someone like me, try to help them. If you are someone like me, you’re not alone.

 

Your Friend With Depression

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Chronic long-term depression is isolating even if your friend is receiving appropriate treatment. Appropriate treatment usually includes medication, and often some form of therapy. Too often, people with depression are under-treated or not treated due to financial reasons/shame. Families can be cruel to people with chronic depression.

It’s excruciatingly difficult for people with chronic depression to open up to new people. Please do not befriend someone with chronic depression if you can’t hang in for the long haul. If emotional ups and downs, talk of hopelessness, and inability to take steps that might aid in lessening the depression frustrate you, just walk away. Befriending someone with depression, lecturing them, telling them about people who have it worse, not talking to them for days because you’re annoyed with their illness is worse than not getting close. We have plenty of peripheral friends. We’re used to peripheral friends. Feeling that we finally have a close friend and losing them because we cannot snap out of depression only sets us back.

Tough love? Do you think that we haven’t been inundated with tough love by people who came before you? Do you think, that if tough love worked, we’d still be depressed?

Also, we are not using depression to get attention. Trust me. We would much rather have no “attention” and be healthy than be depressed.

Paralyzed by depression . . . yes, in many cases. Although, your encouragement can get through to us, if you’re willing to stick it out. Many of us have been struggling in the bog of depression for so long that just lifting a foot briefly is a victory.

But don’t come into our lives and get impatient after two months (two whole months, versus decades of depression) write us off as “toxic people,” and drop us. I’ve read and heard too much happy horseshit about “only surround yourself with people who give off light because” blah blah blah something trite and stupid.

We’re not regular people. We’re not projects. We’re people with an illness, an illness that’s difficult to treat and may last the rest of our lives. We have our good days and bad days, just like anyone else with a chronic illness. We can be your dearest and most loyal friends if you make an effort to understand our illness instead of dismissing it as malingering.

 

Let Down

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Why is depression killing some of the boldest, most influential voices of my generation?

We lost Chester Bennington yesterday. It’s been just barely over two months since we lost Chris Cornell.

They were rock stars. They moved in the same circles. They performed together. They had “rock star issues.”

But the “rock star issues” seem to be pounding the life out of my generation, most visibly in the musical community.

What fucked us all up so bad? We seem to opt out in our forties and early fifties. Could it have anything to do with looking at the future and not seeing one as our parents did?

I don’t fucking know.

And the tears fall like rain
Down my face again
Oh the words you wouldn’t say
And the games you played
With my unfoolish heart
Oh I should have known this from the start

Oh the winter and spring
Going in hand in hand
Just like my love and pain
How the thought of you cuts deep within the vein
Oh this brand new skin stretched across scared terrain

I don’t want to be let down
I don’t want to live my life again
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road
So I don’t want to be let down
I don’t want to live my lies again
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road

All those years down the drain
Love was not enough when you want everything
What I gave to you and now the end must start
Oh I should have listened to my heart

‘Cause I don’t want to be let down
I don’t want to live my life again
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road
So I don’t want to be let down
I don’t want to live my lies again
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road

Oh

I don’t want to be let down
I don’t want to live my life again
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road
(I don’t want too be let down)
So I don’t want to be let down
I don’t want to live my lies again
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road
(I don’t want to be let down)
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road
(I don’t want to be let down)
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road
(I don’t want to be let down)
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road
(I don’t want to be let down)
Don’t want to be lead down the same old road
(I don’t want too be let down)
Be lead down the same old road

Dead By Sunrise – Let Down

I listened to this song over and over after I gave my ex-husband the second chance and he blew it. It is so hard to accept that this person who expressed my emotions better than I could myself suffered from the same mental illness that still tries to pull me down every single day.

The future is bleak.

Vampires in Your Life

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We all have them. Sometimes they are psychic vampires. An example would be an abusive boss, who thrives on your fear of losing your job, or an abusive partner, who controls you through threats of losing your domestic stability.

An emotional vampire is someone you care about, and who cares about you, but continually does things that are harmful to your well-being without intent to harm you. These are the hoarders. The people suffering from addiction who don’t realize that their “little” habit harms you. The people who are perpetually broke when they should not be. The people who should know how to live as adults but can’t unless you help them.

How to deal with a psychic vampire: get away as quick as you can, then use the legal system against them if possible.

How to deal with emotional vampires: you can’t. I’m sorry. You can talk to them day after day, night after night, and the behavior that’s harmful to them and to you will never stop. That’s because you (probably) aren’t a medical professional. You have to find a way to live around these people. You have to mentally separate yourself from them. They will drive you mad in a different way than a psychic vampire. You care for or love the emotional vampire. You see the problem(s) they’re having. You suggest ways to change. You have earnest conversations with them about their problems. You make stronger suggestions. They pull away. You explain to them about the ways that their problems affect other people, including you. “I know,” “I don’t know where to start,” “It’s overwhelming.”

And it goes on and on and on.

An emotional vampire cannot envision another way of living. You can talk sternly, threaten to leave, leave, cut off contact, and it won’t make a difference.

The emotional and physical crap they’ve built up is beyond you. They need professional help. You’ll drive yourself to the cliff edge of insanity trying to get through to them. They hear it, they know it, but “it” is their routine. They honestly can’t see how it’s harmful to anyone.

You have to live your own life as much as possible. If you’re a caregiver for an emotional vampire, you should seek out family help so that you’re not carrying the load alone. If you are alone, contact your local senior center or Social Services. They may be able to give you information about respite care.

If you feel that you’re losing yourself to an emotional vampire, seek professional help, or at least reach out to friends.

And that thing you’ve been wanting to do . . . hang the picture. Go to the movie. Cut your hair. Grow out your hair. Get the tattoo. Buy the book. Write the book. You can do it. You have to enforce little pockets of time for yourself, and you’ll have to hear some bullshit about it afterward, but it’s all words. Do the thing you have to do for yourself, and above all, do not lose yourself.

Motivation failure

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I responded to a woman I follow on Twitter after she posted a motivational quote. I probably shouldn’t have. I do not for one second believe that she ever thought the quote could be in any way offensive or upsetting, but it is to me every time I see it because it is so totally unrealistic and really has a victim-blaming tone about it.

The quote was about change your thoughts, change your situation. Something to that effect. I used to believe in that. I believed it every day and believed so hard and it did not work.

It did not help me view my living situation in any kind of positive light.

It did not help me manage my anxiety and OCD. Nothing but medication and therapy has ever helped with that.

It did not help me deal with the unkind people in my life because no matter what *I* did, they kept on doing things to hurt me. In fact, my attempts to be more understanding led to them taking even more advantage of me.

It did not help me deal with my physical health problems. It did not help me deal with anything, let alone give me the tools to change my situation.

And so I get so sick of seeing it repeated and earnestly passed around that I finally told this woman that I found the quote offensive and even harmful to people with OCD because we can’t change our thoughts without intensive medical intervention. Quotes and prayers are not going to help us. We pray for release from tormenting thoughts every day of our lives. At best, we turn to life examples of other people who have made it through horrific situations and try to look at them as role models and remind ourselves that that person got through X thing. I can get through this. And that doesn’t always work.

Distracting myself just leads to another intrusive thought. There is not one thing in my life I can think about that doesn’t come with some accompanying anxiety or bad memory. Just now I looked at one of my favorite dolls and immediately remembered this past February when a man and a woman cyberstalked me for weeks after I complained on Target’s Facebook page about poor service after I ordered a doll. Now I’m going to think about that all night and probably have a nightmare.

I got an early Christmas gift yesterday, a deck of oracle cards. I love it, but it’s always going to remind me of a friend who collects Tarot cards who told me that she wasn’t my therapist when I was having a very bad day and sent her a message about it.

When my 10-year-old cat gets in the bed with me at night, I start wondering how much longer he’ll live. He’s not even sick.

This is the life of someone with OCD and anxiety. Sleep is no respite because of the nightmares. Meditation is impossible for me. Reading helps a little. Gardening helps a little. Writing is another compulsion with its own humongous set of associated worries. Is this book really awful? I should rewrite this whole book. Oh dear God, did I save that paragraph I cut? I’ll never get a book deal so I’ll have to self-publish but I can’t afford a professional editor so I can’t self-publish because I’ll never catch all the mistakes. I’m doing all this work for nothing. I should give up. But if I give up, all the people who laughed at me and said I’d never be successful will win.

But that motivational quote being a huge trigger for me did not give me the right to jump down a stranger’s throat, and I’m lucky that she ignored me and didn’t tell me where to get off.

I just wish that everyone could understand that we can’t all be that person who lived through a nightmare and kept a positive attitude. It’s an impossible standard. I guess that quote helps some people. But I’ve been fighting to control my thoughts for thirty years and I know a lot of other people with OCD and other mental illnesses have too and some of us are so, so tired of the motivational quotes. The motivational quotes lead “normal” people to think that we’re just malingering, that we really can just “get over it,” “move on,” “stop dwelling on it.” We’re “drama queens.” The truth is that our illnesses are inconvenient for other people and they don’t want to be bothered by them, by us. They want us to shut up and act normal. They don’t care if we’re only acting. As long as we aren’t annoying them with our petty problems, that’s all that matters.

That early Christmas gift, that deck of oracle cards. It’s a stunning deck with 55 vintage images of women. A couple of the cards feature gorgeous vintage photos of Japanese women in kimonos. I cringed in my mind when I saw them because my ex-husband was obsessed with Japanese culture and the stereotype of submissive Asian women. I think that I’ll always associate such images with my ex-husband. How can you control a thought that stems from an abusive situation you were in for seven years? And then I feel guilty for having the thought because does it make me racist? No, it makes HIM racist for stereotyping Asian women and telling me over and over that he should have gotten a “mail-order bride” instead of marrying me, but I can’t suppress that thought.

So this, OCD, anxiety, PTSD after abusive relationships, this needs to be discussed. If someone with one or more of the disorders can talk about it, I think they should so that people will have to see us as actual sick people, not malingerers. But no one should feel pressured to talk about their illness. I talk about it. I get a lot of positive feedback from other people who suffer from the same illnesses.

It still doesn’t have anything to do with the woman who posted the motivational quote, so I apologized to her. I don’t expect to hear anything back from her. I wish I could tell her why the quote set me off. I guess that’s why I wrote this post. I hope it helps with the dialogue that’s so desperately needed between people with OCD and people who don’t understand it. I hope it makes someone think twice before telling someone with a mental illness that they can think their way to recovery. I hope it helps someone with a mental illness talk to someone who doesn’t get it.

I hope the woman who posted the quote forgives me even if she never speaks to me.