Tag Archives: mental health

New article posted on Skirt Collective

Hey all!

So, it’s been a few days – lots going on, no time to talk, bit like the white rabbit – but I did just have this article published by SkirtCollective.com, and wanted to share.

Check it out and pass it on to anyone you know who might benefit from some more information on finding help with mental health care.

Mwah!

Nine Things To Know About Getting Mental Health Help 

Malawi Needs Medicine Bottles

Early on in dealing with the back injury that laid me low last year, I realized there were going to be a good number of prescription medication bottles floating around my apartment. I couldn’t stand the idea of throwing them all away. Thinking of the sad state of American medical care, I thought, “There’s got to be some kind of art project in this.”

I thought my chance had come last Halloween, when my friend and I did a joint costume at a science-themed Halloween party. She was “old medicine” (Victorian dress and a bottle of “snake oil,” a.k.a. whisky) and I was “new medicine” (a fluorescent orange t-shirt with a billion empty prescription bottles hot-glued on) and the whole thing was pretty hilarious.

wpid-screenshot_2015-03-11-19-09-19.pngAfter the party, though, I still couldn’t bring myself to throw away all those little orange bottles. So I threw them in a storage container and figured, sooner or later I’d find the reason I was hanging onto them.

That reason turned up in my Facebook feed the other day. A friend posted a plea from a group called The Malawi Project, asking that people clean and donate their old medicine bottles to help provide safe and clean medication storage to the people of Malawi.

wpid-0314151851.jpgEarlier tonight, I started cleaning my old medicine bottles. It took two and a half hours, but  I boiled, scraped and cleaned each bottle  (the remnants of glue were particularly annoying). It wasn’t fast, but after a while I got into a rhythm, and at the end I had a full box of medicine bottles that I’m going to post out to the Malawi project this week.

wpid-0314152131.jpgI know a lot of people who take regular medication, and while it’s a little time consuming, this is such a great way to help others and keep plastic out of landfills. Set up your laptop, start up a show you enjoy, and presto – a few hours later, you’ll have done something to help others in a really concrete way. And if you do, leave a note below – and help spread the word!

The Inevitable New Year’s Post

First thing’s first:

HAPPY NEW YEAR! Thanks for being here, reading, clicking, sharing, generally being lovely, etc.

This is the time of year when I like to look back and see what I’ve been up to. So here goes, a list of my 2014 accomplishments and 2015 hopes, both professional and personal.

Professional Accomplishments, 2014

  • Became an admin for the site, Calming Brits & Irishmen, which my friend started in an effort to cheer me up after my back diagnosis just over a year ago.
  • Wrote ACE IN THE HOLE, a one-act play with an all-female cast, commissioned by Ingenius Theatre. (Available as part of Short Frictions – purchasing link to your right).
  • Wrote a first draft (which I’ve subsequently revised a bit) of a novella as part of a long-term project with @sareliz.
  • Created new cover art for a number of the books I have available on Amazon.
  • Completed a month of blogging every day.
  • Started a new job in a new city, with more creative freedom and more responsibility.
  • Started a writer’s group on Facebook with a group of very talented people who I’m looking forward to growing with over the next year.

Personal Accomplishments, 2014

  • Despite a bad back injury, I kept a (mostly) positive outlook throughout the year during my recovery.
  • Made some major strides forward in dealing with my own mental health.
  • Moved away from New York City (I KNOW!) and adjusted to life in the country (still in progress).
  • I HAVE A NIECE! (Okay, all I did to accomplish this was be born to the same parents as her dad and then wait around for 30 years, but still.)
  • Lost a bit of weight by making healthy life choices (and a bit by being in too much pain to move, during the first part of 2014).
  • Got my finances more or less under control.

Professional Goals, 2015

  • Revise, rewrite, and finish the aforementioned novella, which seems to be growing into more of a novel-shaped thing.
  • Finish my sitcom pilot and outline the subsequent scripts for the first “season”.
  • Write another play. No idea what. Just write another play.
  • Write three short stories…and send them to actual publications.
  • Stretch goal: experiment with YouTube/vlogging. (Ain’t gonna happen, but you have to aim high, right?)
  • See more theater.

Personal goals, 2015:

  • Maintain healthy habits
  • Travel more
  • Meet my niece (hoping to knock that off the list in a few weeks)
  • Pay more attention to my personal life.

And there you have it! What did you accomplish in 2014, and what are you hoping to do in the coming year? Whatever your answers…congratulations, and good luck!

Versatile Blogger Awards (Part 1: Blog Recommendations)

IMG_20131017_213750On Saturday, I found out that Christina Zarrella had awarded me a Versatile Blogger Award! Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyways), I’m so flattered that she thought of me when selecting her nominees! Christina’s blog, Turbulence in the Veins, talks about her journey from homeless teen to Yale grad, offering some incredible insight into the struggles she faced and overcame on the way and talking about issues faced by those in similar situations to hers. To be honored by such a blogger was immensely flattering, and I hope you’ll all check out her writing. She has a memoir, of the same title, on the way. Thank you so much, Christina, for your kind words about I Wrote This:

Rachel Lynn Brody’s blog is always informative – whether on tech/blogging/writing topics and tips: http://rlbrody.com

Part one of winning a Versatile Blogger award is nominating another 15 blogs – so here are my nominations (in no particular order)!

  1. Sare Liz Gordy (Inspiration, One Day At A Time) www.sareliz.com – Sare and I have known each other for years; her blog, which she updates with regularity, is always a window into her attempts to view her world with clarity and self-knowledge. Whether she’s posting about migraines, Feng Shui or finding enlightenment, her blogs are always a focused reflection of the world around her.
  2. Tony Noland (Landless) http://www.tonynoland.com/ – A Twitter acquaintance who I’ve known for a while now, Tony’s blog is a combination of his self-publishing exploits, flash fiction and the occasional DIY project. His sense of humor is always evident in his takes on everyday life.
  3. Jamie Broadnax (Black Girl Nerds) http://blackgirlnerds.com/ – Jamie and I have been chatting on Twitter for some time now, and her blog is a phenomenal resource for all things nerdy. She runs a weekly podcast of the same name, and both outlets dig into comics, culture and more. Through Black Girl Nerds, she’s built a phenomenal community that’s well worth checking out.
  4. C.D. Reimer http://www.cdreimer.com/ – This is actually a combination of three blogs, where C.D. posts about writing, Silicon Valley and poetry. His writing blog is incredibly informative and often offers helpful insights into the process of self-publishing.
  5. Johann Thorsson (On Books & Writing) http://jthorsson.com/blog/ – Icelandic author Johann Thorsson writes short stories and novels (mostly in English). His blog is a collection of book reviews, photographs and excerpts from his essays for megasite Book Riot. As an added bonus, those who follow him on Twitter often get to see, via photo, how jealous we should all be that we don’t live in Iceland.
  6. JC Rosen (Girl Meets Words) http://jessrosen.wordpress.com/ – Jess runs a few different book- and writing-related discussions on Twitter. She’s always supportive of writers and willing to chat about their work, and always able to give an encouraging word. Her blog includes flash fiction on diverse topics and write-ups of the different things she’s reading.
  7. Emily Suess (Suess’ Pieces) http://emilysuess.wordpress.com/ – One of my first Twitter acquaintances, Emily also runs a copywriting business – and when I met her, had taken on the beheamouth of online vanity publishing services to try and help new writers avoid unethical treatment. Seuss’ Pieces has been retired and archived to this URL, but still contains plenty of advice for beginning writers.
  8. Melanie Ardentdelirium (Lovely Like Beestings) http://lovelylikebeestings.wordpress.com – Mels is a Twitter acquaintance whose blog tackles issues of both mental health and Roller Derby. Her topics cover everything from broken bones to sick cats, all with a frank edge that gives you a real taste of her personality.
  9. Jo Clifford (Teatro do Mundo) http://www.teatrodomundo.com/  – Jo, my former MFA supervisor, is also a well-regarded, talented and prolific playwright in Scotland. Her blog is both a resource for understanding what it means to be a playwright in today’s world as well as a rich collection of ruminations on personal experience.
  10. Sarah Hartley (StoryGirlSarah.com) http://storygirlsarah.com/ – Sarah is a New York fashionista in the truest sense of the word, with her signature mod/vintage look stamped across her fashion and design work. (Did I mention she’s responsible for the cover of Hot Mess?) Follow her blog and on Instagram to get the full impact of her creative and clear-headed style.
  11. E.M. Thurmond (Count My Stars) http://countmystars.wordpress.com/ – While it hasn’t been updated in some time, E.M. Thurmond’s blog tells the story of an aspiring TV writer in Hollywood. From interviews with women writers to accounts of her own experiences developing her career, it’s a place where readers can find insight in the crazy maze of trying to make it as a screenwriter while staying true to your goals and ideals.
  12. Vossbrink and Kukurovaca (Hairy Beast) http://hairybeast.net/ – These two twitter acquaintances are quick-witted on Twitter, and the depth of analysis on this blog dealing with photography and culture will change the way you look at pictures. Well worth checking it out, but carve out enough time to really immerse yourself in the subject matter. You won’t regret it.
  13. Debbie Vega (Moon in Gemini) http://debravega.wordpress.com/ – Another blogger I found through #MondayBlogs, Debbie covers writing and pop culture. She participates in a lot of themed blog events, like “The Great Villain Blogathon,” and offers anything from advice on how writers can improve their craft to her perspective on popular films.
  14. NYPinTA (Talking to the Moon) http://www.nypinta.com/blog/ – Film, music, theater, travel and television all get their chance in the spotlight on NYPinTA’s blog. Her clear and direct writing style lets you enjoy her experiences as if you’d been there.
  15. Hugh C. Howey http://www.hughhowey.com/ – I read Hugh Howey’s Silo Saga last year, and was blown away by his intriguing dystopian vision. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with him once or twice on Twitter, and the thing I love about his blog is how generous he is with his advice for aspiring indie authors. As someone whose self-published stories went from blog entries to Kindle novels to being picked up by a major publisher, he’s walked the road many indie writers want to follow on, and he offers a lot of insight along the way.

Honorable Mention:

Maybe it’s cheating to bring up a blog I help contribute to, but this list wouldn’t be complete without including Calming Brits & Irishmen. My friend @aboleyn started this Tumblr as a way to cheer me up after my back injury, and since then it’s gained nearly 4,000 followers and turned into a sort of Post Secret for Anglophiles. In addition to the meme-like photographs with calming sayings that we started out posting, we now answer anywhere between 3-15 “asks” a day – many anonymous – from followers dealing with upsetting issues from studying for exams to dealing with breakups, mental health issues and the deaths of family and friends — all through the medium of animated gifs of some of our favorite British and Irish personalities. Apparently the brings a smile to many peoples’ days, and if you’re looking for versatility, the topics it covers run the gamut of human experience.

There’s a second part of the Versatile Blogger Awards – sharing seven things about yourself – but as this blog is already topping 1000+ words, I’ll save that for a second part. Stay tuned tomorrow to learn more about me.

I’m currently seeking beta readers/advance reviewers for my upcoming collection of sci-fi and speculative fiction stories, SHORT FRICTIONS. If you’re interested, please click here to find out more. 

5 Possible Paths to Feeling Better

One peril of a mood disorder – even one that’s more or less under control – is that every so often you wind up feeling so bad about yourself that feeling better seems like a Herculean – or even worse, impossible – task. What’s the point of putting effort into raising your spirits when, like Sisyphus’ boulder, they’re just going to tumble back to the bottom of the mountain?

When this happens, you have two choices:

A. Ride out the feeling of wanting to sink into the floor and disappear, beating yourself up for being such a useless lump of meat the entire way down, or

B. Deny, deny, deny, and avoid, avoid, avoid.

Whenever I can muster up the sheer will to avoid A (and that isn’t always), I do, because over the years I’ve learned that sinking into the ground doesn’t make you disappear, beating yourself up can easily become a habit, and lying in the dark listening to depressing music or stuffing your face with pizza might offer relief for a few minutes, but the song will end and the pizza will disappear, and you’ll be right back where you started — though maybe a few pounds heavier. (And unfortunately, there are some other, more destructive behaviors that can start to become part of your routine with surprising ease – and these should be avoided at all costs.)

Which leaves us with option B. What does denial look like in these circumstances? Well, first, I want to be really clear about something: I’m not talking about denying the underlying issues that might contribute to capital-D-depression. I am assuming that you, like me, are getting help for dealing with your mood disorders. This is only meant as advice for how to get through those valleys of emotion, not advice on how to find a longer-term solution. For that, you’re going to want a therapist, maybe some medication, and most likely some lifestyle changes.

But once you’ve done all that and still woken up with shitty!brain (or “brain weasels,” as one friend calls them)… short of lying in bed for hours of despair and self-loathing, what can you do?

1. Stop listening to yourself.

When you’re in a depressive pit, this is really frickin’ hard. There’s a little voice in your head saying things like, “Everything is worthless, everything is useless, I’m useless, I have no self-control, I have no friends, I’m going to be alone the rest of my life, if I just stopped right now nobody would even notice let alone be sad,” etc., etc. Pretty soon, these abstracts can start turning into concrete criticisms: “I’ve blogged for twenty days straight but I can’t think of anything to say today, so I suck, and my blog sucks, and if I let today go by without finding something worth blogging about that means I’ve failed and I’m worthless.” “I haven’t written a play since February, I’m never going to be successful, why haven’t I finished my next book yet, what am I doing, why would anyone want to work with me,” and so on and so forth. But Depression lies. It tells you you’re stupid and useless and a failure. It isn’t your actual self talking, it’s some nasty little bugger who’s squatting in the corner of your mind, and who has no business telling you you’re anything less than awesome. And yeah – it’s one thing to recognize that that’s the Depression talking and it’s another to internalize that fact to the point where it stops bugging you, but if you can find a way to stop listening to that nasty little voice in your head, it goes a long way towards getting things started. And if you can’t stop listening to that nasty voice in your head, do something it tells you not to do anyways. It says you look dumb in that dress? Wear the fucking dress. It says nobody wants to read your idea for a blog entry? Write it anyways. People can always click “next.”

2. Get a change of scenery.

Thanks to today’s highly-connected world, this is so much easier than it used to be. Even if you can’t leave your bed, you can open up youtube. Put on your headphones. Find something beautiful from somewhere else in the world. Watch it. Here’s an example someone shared with me earlier today:

See? With the click of a button, you’re on the sea floor, scuba-diving in Key Largo with no risk of the bends, no need for a certification, and no chance that giant shark will eat you for breakfast.

3. Give yourself something to look forward to.

Maybe there’s a show you like on TV tonight. Remind yourself that it’s on the horizon. Maybe there’s someone you can rope into last-minute plans. If you need to be around another human, let someone know. While retail therapy can be destructive if taken to extremes, buying yourself a new toy can give you a short boost, and a short boost (no, not the kind of short boost that involves eating a whole pizza and descending into a carb coma) can give you some relief.

4. Talk to friends.

If you’ve been dealing with mood disorders for a long time, there are probably some people in your life who know about it. Reach out to them. Tell them how you’re feeling. If they’ve been around a while, they know that they don’t have to make you feel better – they just have to listen, hear you, and maybe talk for a few minutes. If you don’t have that kind of person in your life, that doesn’t mean you don’t still deserve a sympathetic ear. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of online support communities for people with all kinds of problems, and chances are there’s one out there for you.

5. Try to do something physical. Literally any physical thing.

Deep breaths. Leg lifts. Stretches. Tightening and un-tightening your stomach muscles while you lie in bed. It isn’t much, but it’s something, and something is better than nothing. Maybe you can’t get up and run a mile, but hopefully you can still breathe. (I know – sometimes even that is hard.) And any kind of movement can start to help you feel like walking to the kitchen and making a cup of tea lies within the realm of actual possibility.

While none of these are a surefire solution to waking up with a case of brain weasels, some of them can at least help kick-start the recovery process – and, for me at least, they often fire up a sense of momentum. Once upon a time, on its own, that momentum wouldn’t have been enough to push me out of the abyss, but as a tool propped up by all the other tools in my “fuck you, stupid mood” toolbox, it’s started to become useful. This isn’t to say they’ll work for everyone, and it’s definitely not to say that if you’re feeling this way you should use these tactics as a replacement for working with a trained mental health professional.

If you’re reading this, and you’re occasionally beset by the feeling of being a giant useless lump with a handful of decades of the same to look forward to, I hope these tactics will help alleviate some of that strain. And if you have more ideas, please share below – I’m always looking for new ways to stop feeling crappy.

Raising Spirits – The Balancing Act

This has been a really rough ten days or so, and today it all got to me. A friend observed that I didn’t seem to be doing very well, and the dam broke, and I spilled my guts (and not a few tears) about just how not very well I’m feeling at the moment.

In about two hours, I’ll be going to see the doctor who sent me for scans on Friday, at which point I’ll finally have a better idea of exactly what happened at the base of my spine to cause the agonizing pain and aggravation I’ve been dealing with for the last week and a half. (Well, okay, the pain was agonizing for the first few days, since then it’s been unpleasant but manageable). And after that, at least I’ll have a better idea of what happens next.

Because it’s the not knowing that wears at you, worrying the corners of your mind like a baby gumming on the edges of its soggy, drool-stained blanket. How bad a problem are we talking about here? How long will it take to heal? What preventative measures are going to be necessary? Is this a good time to see if my insurance covers lipo? How much change is going to be demanded of my lifestyle going forward?

But seriously, that last one is tough. I’ve had a couple of major issues over the years – issues that have demanded lifestyle changes that, as long as I’ve put into practicing them, have never come to be completely natural parts of my routine.

The first time I had a major injury was in my mid-teens. Sure, I’d gone through the kiddie stuff – a baseball bat to the forehead as the result of a softball teammate’s carelessness after she struck out and tossed her bat away, more burns than I can count from campfires and roasted marshmallows – but the first long-term injury I sustained in my life as a writer was that pesky hazard of the profession, repetitive stress injury. Related to, but thankfully not, carpal tunnel syndrome. I had tendonitis in my hands and arms for a good four years. This was in the early ‘naughts, I don’t think people had realized yet what a scourge tendonitis was going to prove for kids who’d never learned either proper typing or proper posture.

Since then, I’ve run into my share of aggravations – I can’t wear high heels anymore thanks to tendonitis (AGAIN!) in my feet, and I’m more or less resigned to wearing sneakers and orthopedic inserts for the rest of my life. I have to be very, very careful about the foods I eat and their sodium content, and have been trying to keep my weight down for years by eating less, though my level of success with this typically wavers with such variables as the phase of the moon and whether my roommate asks if I want to order a pizza for dinner..

Having my back get fucked up is somehow beyond all of this, and yet it’s all related. I think about back injuries and slipped discs and I think about visiting my grandfather in the hospital after his back surgery, or my dad after his back surgery, and my stomach does a flip-flop. From what the osteopath I saw last week said, it sounds as if she’s hopeful that physical therapy will help me strengthen my core muscles and bring me back to a place where I don’t have to worry that sitting up in bed is going to cause major injury to my spinal column. Which, you know, is the kind of place I’d like to be.

I don’t know if you pay attention to horoscopes – I’m not a huge believer, though I find them interesting – but I’m a Libra. The scales. In other words, balance. One of my challenges in life has always been finding balance, whether it be in academics, a social setting, my work, the time I put into friendships and interests – that false dichtomy of “all or nothing” is something I fight against believing in with almost every decision and every course of action I make. I want to write a novel? Watch me put everything – everything – else in my life aside while I focus on that one goal and churn out a first draft in a month. I want to save money? I’ll go four days without spending a penny then suddenly lose it and blow $50 on knick-nacks and nail polish at TJ Maxx. I don’t just put all my eggs in one basket – I throw the kitchen sink in there, too. And then I get upset when the eggs get crushed and the kitchen sink gives someone salmonella.

This started out as a blog about feeling miserable and trying to pick myself up, but the longer I type the more I think maybe it’s actually about living with more intention, focusing on what I really want, making those things the center of my actions.

I want to be writing. To do that, I need to be healthy and strong and clear-headed and aggressive with my belief in my work and myself. But I also need to keep reminding myself that I’m only human, and I have my limits, and the pace I kept at 15 is of necessity going to be a much different pace from the one I keep at 32. I have to practice holding on to my successes, and not just working blindly to keep adding to the pile. I have to remember that I’m not going to a few classes then writing at night – I’m working a full-time job and then writing at night. And that the people in my life deserve at least a little bit of my attention, too. 😉

I titled this blog “Raising Spirits” because I’m pretty down in the dumps at the moment, and I needed somewhere to write a bit about why, but also because this particular situation is inviting more than a few ghostly whispers back into my life: decisions from the past, questions about the wisdom of paths I’ve chosen to take, questions about blaming myself and my actions for what winds up happening when I get injured. Talking about it last week, I confessed that I was terrified of sitting up and having something else snap out of place, and moreover that I was mad at myself for being worried about something so irrational.

“But that’s how it happened,” said my listener. “So that isn’t irrational.”

It was comforting. And true.

One of the problems a person faces when anxiety is a part of their everyday life is figuring out what occasions actually warrant a certain level of concern or panic, and which ones don’t. In this case, I had convinced myself that my fear was irrational — wasteful, pointless to use energy being concerned about. To hear that this wasn’t the case was helpful to a point, but still didn’t solve the problem.

All that’s going to solve this problem is time. And physical therapy. And somehow finding a way to drop a few more pounds and improve my posture, both when standing and sitting.

Having a total freak-out is not going to solve the problem. But denying myself a small freak-out, letting off some steam before coming back to the situation with a clear head, isn’t going to help either. Somewhere in between, the right level of freak-out for this situation exists.

It’s just up to me to find the balance.

 

 

If you’ve made it to the end of all that, you deserve a reward. Here’s a scene from  Fight Club, with Tyler Durden digitally removed. Poor Ed Norton’s character. Talk about a guy in search of balance:

Fight Club minus Tyler Durden from Richard Trammell on Vimeo.

Panic Attacks Suck

Obligatory vague, moody photograph.

Obligatory vague, moody photograph.

It wasn’t till I read my therapist’s email that I realized I’d been having a panic attack.

“[X] can help stop racing thoughts,” wrote my counselor, replying to a message where I explained I didn’t know what to do, and something was wrong, because I was at work and I couldn’t stop crying. And I hated myself, and I couldn’t do anything right, and I could think of about two things that might make me feel better, and they were not positive, healthy things. I’d been back and forth to the bathroom multiple times, trying to hide the fact that I was falling apart for no reason from my colleagues.

I didn’t know it was a panic attack.

That sounds strange. Didn’t know? It feels strange, to type – that a thing happened to me, a thing that’s happened before, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. But then, that’s anxiety for you. What my counselor said about racing thoughts made me focus more on the qualities of the thoughts, rather than their content, and that was when I flipped from thinking, “this is a depression issue, it came out of nowhere, and I’m fucking terrified because I thought my medication was working” to “Oh. Anxiety attack. So that’s what it was.”

When I’m in the midst of a panic attack, I don’t think of these thoughts as “racing” anywhere, I suppose. They careen back and forth in my head: the critical self-hatred, hopelessness, rebellious nihilism.

Fuck this. Fuck this. Fuck this fuck this fuck this fuck this fuck this fuck this. It’s a basic mantra, and nonetheless comforting – in the same way wrapping your arms around your knees and rocking back and forth in the corner of a dark room can be comforting. It’s about battening down the hatches, shutting off the inputs. Isolate everything. Deal with one thing at a time.

Only you can’t, because there are shit-flinging monkeys of the mind flinging shit back and forth in your brain.

Fuck this fuck this fuck this. Fuck this fuck this fuck this fuck this fuck this fuck this fuck this. And then, as the mantra fades, the repetition falls into a more familiar pattern. Hopelessness, disgust, dread. Self-loathing.

Panic attacks are good at sneaking up. What they suck at is sticking around once they’ve been identified.

It took multiple trips to the bathroom, a metric shit-ton of Kleenex, kind words from friends and a matter-of-fact email from a mental health professional to do it, but I’m glad to say, once that fucker got named it split in two and turned to stone.

I’ve spent three hours writing this blog (you have no idea how many times I’ve deleted everything and gone back to the start), and I’m still not sure how to bring it to a close.

So yeah. Panic attacks suck. Don’t have them.

But if you must (and sometimes, many of us must)…make sure to have them around someone who’ll tell you to call your doctor.