The Depression Report: small victories

Last week was… a good one.

No big breakdowns, no terrible stretches of uncontrollable crying, not too much time spent lingering on my mistakes and failures.

I took a major step last Friday towards getting my life back on track. Went to the DMV (which had a surprisingly short wait) and got my driving permit.

I’ll admit that while I was taking the permit test, my heart was racing and I had doubts that I would be able to do it. But once I passed (with only three missed questions) I felt such a relief and such a burden lifted from my shoulders.

Of course that was only to be replaced by the fear of, you know, actually driving a car.

But out of the pan and into the fire I went and immediately went around driving for a bit. I don’t think I was ever more nervous or tense getting into a car, but after the half hour of practice, I felt so good about myself for overcoming one of my fears.

This beat up, annotated manual is one I have had for years. Before it represented all the times that I have tried and failed to overcome my fears, only to succumb to the hardest parts. Now it stands as a symbol for my strength and resilience, as a reminder that yes, I can grit my teeth and overcome my fears and do the hard thing.

I’m hoping to remember that and remember the feeling of accomplishment I had on Friday afternoon to push myself further every day to do better and work harder.

This is my third Depression Report. And things are looking good.

~ Kayla

Related: HOW NOT KNOWING HOW TO DRIVE MAKES ME DEPRESSED

Related: MENTAL ILLNESS AND DRIVING: WHAT’S THE CONNECTION? 

Everyone on Facebook is getting married and having babies… and I’m just… here

I can’t seem to scroll through Facebook or Instagram without getting smacked in the face with *boom* an engagement photo or *bam* a wedding photo or *smack* a pregnancy announcement.

I seemed to have hit that time in my life where all my friends are getting to those big moments: graduations, jobs, engagements, weddings, babies.

And yet… here I am. Barely holding myself together, all of those things still seemingly out of reach. Some of them way, way, way out of reach. The closest I am to a wedding is my pinterest board… oh and the three weddings I’ll be going to this year for friends and family.

It makes me feel so behind in life, which seems silly because, well, life isn’t really a race, is it?

But still, everyone’s steps forward intensify my feels of being stuck, of sliding backwards, of making no progress towards that vague but enticing “American dream” of a perfect life.

Social media has done this dangerous thing of being a place where people mostly post all of their best moments. Sure there are some people who post about their struggles too, but most of us aren’t brave enough to put all our problems out in the world for others to see. We want people to see our happiness, our success, our wealth and so that is what we display.

It’s easy to forget about the struggles people must go through when you’re only seeing their happiness scroll before your eyes on the internet.

So I’ve started to try and limit my time on social media, though I know that isn’t the true root of the problem. The problem is that I care. I care about comparing myself to others, using them as a measure for my success, or lack thereof. I care that my friends and family my age, or god-forbid younger than me, are celebrating huge life milestones while I’m not.

And I shouldn’t care. I mean I should – I should feel happy for them – but that happiness shouldn’t be tinged with jealousy or self-pity. I shouldn’t give a damn that my younger cousin is already married and has three kids while I’m still single.

Just because other people are succeeding does not mean you’re failing. I’m trying hard to remember that.

~ Kayla

Link Round-Up [1.27.17]

 

Breathing may be more beautiful than you think

How mindful breathing will make you more successful and less anxious – Benjamin Foley, Medium

Foley writes in a way that describes breathing with such beauty and grace and importance. It led me to reconsider my thoughts on breathing and the power it has.

If you’re stressed or anxious or lost, take the six minutes out of your day to read his article and recenter yourself through breathing.

“Breathe, and be present, for this moment is all you will ever have. The future will never come. The past is just a memory. The present is all there is. Remind yourself of this and experience this moment, for it is fleeting and there are few left to waste.”

“Have a salad, stupid.”

Helpful Tips For Beating The Winter Blues – Sarah Hutto, The New Yorker

This satirical piece won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I chuckled at it’s dark and dry humorous take on all too common advice for feeling happier.

“If this frigid season is getting you down, have a salad and increase your antidepressants, stupid.”

Hygee – the Danish secret to self-care

I Practiced Hygge And It’s Kind Of The Best Thing Ever – Anne Roderique-Jones, Self

Tons of candles. Comfy socks. Fluffy blanket. Tea and hot chocolate. Doesn’t that sound like the perfect, relaxing evening?

It’s all part of – pronounced HOO-guh – a Danish approach to slowing down, unwinding and finding happiness. The word roughly translates to “coziness” and it’s all about giving yourself time for self-care.

“I asked Wiking [author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets To Happy Living] to lay out the perfect day of hygge for me. He said I should make sure that I have enough time, not be in a hurry, and focus on the simple pleasures.”

Hopefully you’ll get a blog post within the coming weeks about my own experience with hygee.

Mental illness and driving: what’s the connection?

Does driving impact mental health?

Yes, it seems likely that there is a connection.

A 2016 study by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health examined how not having the ability to drive affected U.S. adults aged 55 and older.

The study found that losing the ability to drive “nearly doubled the risk of depressive symptoms.”

“For many older adults, driving is more than a privilege; it is instrumental to their daily living and is a strong indicator of self-control, personal freedom, and independence,” Dr. Guohua Li, Mailman School professor of Epidemiology and senior author said in a statement on the university’s website.

This study presents a connection between what the loss of driving and what it represents (independence and personal freedom) to experiencing depression.

Should mental health be considered when handing out licenses?

I stumbled across an article from the Houston Chronicle published in 2014 about mental health questions being on driver’s license tests. And this brought up an interesting subject: should restrictions be placed on people who have certain mental illnesses when it comes to driving?

It’s a pretty common sense idea that you shouldn’t drive if you’re in an emotionally vulnerable state. In fact, my driver license manual states:

“You cannot drive well if you are angry, excited, worried or depressed.”

Allowing your emotions to cloud your judgement can lead to making mistakes while driving.

But does having a mental illness present enough of a danger to deny someone their license?

In 2015, that same Texas law initially denied a teen her license after she disclosed that she had been diagnosed with depression and was taking medication.

Questions about mental health are on the application for licenses in several states and have been for years. But many view them as antiquated and ineffective, as well as adding to the stigma associated with mental illness.

According to the Arizona Center for Disability Law (the state that I’m from), even a person with a serious mental illness has a right to have a driver’s license (unless you are under guardianship).

Ultimately, it’s up to the individual to recognize when they are not in the best mental state and are not safe to drive.

RELATED: How not knowing how to drive makes me depressed

How not knowing how to drive makes me depressed

I am 23-years-old (almost 24 *ahhh*) and I do not know how to drive.

I can’t exactly explain why I still don’t have my license – I’ve had my permit a handful of times. But each time, the months go by and I just haven’t had a teacher stick with me long enough to get comfortable behind the wheel.

My mom attempted to teach me but she made me feel absolutely worthless for asking questions about things I didn’t know that I couldn’t go back to her teaching.

I’ve had some friends and boyfriends try to teach me, but they all never went further than one lesson in the car because they were impatient with my timidness.

Of course I’m to blame as well – I’m scared. I’m not sure of what, but I am scared.

And so here I am, an adult that doesn’t have reliable transportation.

I can’t tell you the amount of negative effects this has on my life – on my friendships, relationships, job opportunities and mental health.

When I was living in Phoenix, a large metropolitan city with a decent public transportation system, I managed pretty well on my own getting around. But now that I’m back in Tucson, a small city that is somehow so spread apart, my mobility is extremely limited and so is my independence.

Not being able to drive keeps me isolated and limits what I’m able to do. Everyone who knows judges me and I am a burden to them. Hanging out with friends becomes a source of anxiety instead of joy because I worry about inconveniencing them.

It’s become so crippling to me, one of my main sources of anxiety. And yet here I sit, week after week swearing that this is the week I am going to take the permit test… and yet I don’t.

So here is my motivation, a public post stating my intensions of ending this basically self-inflicted torture.

A few years ago I wasn’t so alone, I had a handful of friends who also didn’t know how to drive. Hell, I’ve even noted a couple of famous people who can’t (or at least until recently couldn’t) drive as a sort of validation for my own lack of knowledge; British vlogger Alfie Deyes, musician Lady Gaga and Rooster Teeth employee Gavin Free. But one by one they’ve all made the leap until now I can only think of two other people I know in my same position.

It’s time for me to get over my fears and make a change. This is something that I know will go towards making me a happier and healthier person. So it’s time to stop the excuses and do it.

~ Kayla

Related: Mental Illness and Driving: What’s The Connection?

Link Round-Up [1.20.17]

Out with the old, in with the new

Fear, Anxiety, and Depression in the Age of Trump – Michelle Goldberg, Slate

President that is. Today is Donald Trump’s inauguration and for many in America, his stepping into the role of Commander in Chief means a new slew of anxiety and fear of the future.

Yes, there are more than cat videos on YouTube

Everyone Struggles: A Conversation about Mental Health – VidCon 2016

This week’s link round up only features two links because this video is an hour long.

But it’s worth it I promise.

Youtubers Kati Morton, Hannah Hart, TomSka, Beckie Jane Brown and Meghan Rienks discus their experiences with mental health struggles.

It’s open and honest and a great snippet of conversations we should be having about mental health.

“Even when you’re broken you still matter.” ~ Beckie Jane Brown

 

Are creative people more likely to be depressed?

Or are depressed people more creative?

That seems to be the question – a cause vs. effect, correlation vs. causation, which came first the chicken or the egg type conundrum.

A 2014 CNN article by William Lee Adams begins by citing examples of famous artists and their struggle to balance their genius with madness – Edvard Munch and his fear of life, Vincent van Gogh and his ear self mutilation and Paul Gauguin’s suicide.

And it’s not just painters. Numerous classic authors are mentioned who suffer from mood disorders.

In fact, the article cites a Swedish study which found that people with creative professions “were 8 percent more likely to live with bipolar disorder.”

Writers were 121 percent more likely to have it.

And being a writer, it doesn’t look like I’ve got good odds.

But while that study may present a link between creativity and depression, and there sure seems to be plenty of anecdotal evidence to support such a theory, it doesn’t offer any sort of causal explanation for why.

The link between creativity and mental illness has been explored and pondered for more than a hundred years.

In Nancy C. Andreasen’s article in The Atlantic, she mentions early examinations of the link between genius and insanity dating back to the 1800s. She goes on to trace the progress of the scientific studies on the subject up to her own work currently.

Andreasen doesn’t present a definite answer to by creative people experience mental illness at a higher rate. But she does suggest that perhaps those early studies which hypothesized a hereditary link may be correct. Perhaps their personality styles are a contributing factor or the environment in which they were raised.

But perhaps for those creative types suffering with depression, the important issue isn’t “is there a connection” or “which causes which.” Perhaps the focus should be instead on how to use creativity not as a cause or a symptom of depression, but as a path towards recovery.

Derek Haines wrote about depression and creativity on Medium and this quote stuck out to me:

“If you have severe depression, you have to get pretty damn creative to survive it.”

And at least in my own experience with depression, he’s 100 percent right. He sums up the idea perfectly:

“It was not the choice of creative pursuit that was important. It was the fact that creativity helped fill the void of not being productive while being unable to function or work normally.”

So while the link between creativity and depression still fascinate me and while I will keep an eye out for further research on the matter, I think I’ll be trying to focus on viewing creativity as a part of recovery.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

(*Apologies for the delay in posting, I can blame a lotta things but it was mainly the dreary weather that made me curl up and binge The Crown these last two days.*)

The Depression Report: Shower thoughts

I sat in the shower for an hour today, just to cry.

I didn’t have music playing in the shower tonight, which I usually do, and that left me alone with my thoughts in a deafening sort of silence where the only sound was the water raining down.

It wasn’t loud enough to drown out my inner monologue.

I found myself being bombarded by thoughts of “you’re a failure, you’re not good enough, you’re unwanted.”

I like to cry in the shower because the water disguises my tears and I can almost fool myself into thinking that everything is okay – that the tears aren’t real.

But they are.

I sat in the shower today and thought of my life as a sandcastle. And the waves keep coming in a destroying it and I’m trying to hold it all together, to rebuild it, with my bare hands. But I can’t quite seem to work quick enough and my hands aren’t big enough to hold it all together.

And so I cry. And I add to the water chipping away at my life with my tears.

I wish I had a moral for the story, a big lesson that I learned from my shower breakdown. But in all honesty, it was just another shower cry that will get added onto the long list of shower cries I’ve had in the past. There was nothing different or extraordinary about this one.

My eyes are tired are raw from the tears.

~ Kayla

P.S. Your regularly scheduled newsy post will be up tomorrow! *fingers crossed*

Getting reinspired

I like to think of myself as a creative person. I enjoy theater, singing, poetry, photography, filming and of course writing. These outlets are ways for me to express myself, have fun and feel productive all at the same time.

During times where I’m feeling very depressed, I have a hard time channeling my creative juices, which only worsens my mood further.

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And forcing myself to try and do these things without any inspiration has often lead to work so mediocre that I found myself feeling even more discouraged. (And as a yearly participate of National Novel Writing Month, I know all about forcing yourself to write without inspiration, it isn’t pretty.)

The Depression Report was a result of a frustrated free writing exercise. I felt the need to get creative but found myself floundering on ideas so I wrote about what I was feeling – my depression.

Soon I found myself with a handful of blogs about my struggles with mental illness and suddenly I was reading articles, watching documentaries and even searching on twitter for things related to mental illness.

In college I had taken an entrepreneurial journalism class where we spent the semester learning how to run our own blogs regarding a niche news topic. (Mine had been a news blog about Youtube).

Suddenly it clicked, that I should take that personal exercise and try to do more with it creatively and professionally.

With the ever elusive inspiration back in my grasp, things began to change. Instead of spending late nights thinking about my failures, I spent them navigating the confusing world of wordpress and tinkering with photo editing tools. I was blogging about my feelings and researching statistics on mental illness. I had found a way to become excited creatively and professionally.

It took a lot of time to find the right thing to spark that creativity again, but it happened. Finally.

And it’s not always consistent. After spending a couple of weeks pouring myself into this project, there was a solid couple of months where my depression and personal life took a turn and I could no longer motivate myself to work.

But I didn’t let that frustrate me and soon found my fingers itching to get back to my keyboard.

Last week, I had a terrible Monday. It set the tone for the next couple of days. But on Saturday I went on a hike and took some pictures with my new camera and that blip of creativity was enough to lift my spirits so high.

Inspiration may be fickle, but it is never hopeless.

I’d love to hear about what ways you like to channel your creativity when you’re not feeling 100 percent.

~ Kayla

The Depression Report: is home a refuge or a hell?

I had to move back home last year after spending a few years out on my own. And the sudden intrusion on my independence has been taking a toll on me. But perhaps what’s been most damaging has been the complete lack of support from my parents.

Admittedly I’ve been dragging my feet with the job hunt. A couple of things are holding me back; most simply is the fact that I don’t have a car (which is code for I don’t know how to drive) which severely limits my options.

Honestly, I’ve been slow to getting my permit because the not driving thing is a much more acceptable answer for being stuck at home than what the truth is. The truth is I’m scared. I’m scared because if I move away to a big city for a job, I’m not all that sure I’m in a mentally stable enough place to survive on my own.

After having roommates for years, I spent some months alone in my own studio and that isolation was a huge contributor to my depression.

I’m afraid if I go back to a situation like that… well I’m afraid I’ll fall even deeper into this hole of depression and that I won’t ever be able to get out.

So I’m trying, trying to put myself back together first but it’s been so difficult. When not everyone knows that you’re breaking, it’s so easy, so easy for them to knock a piece of you down. At the beginning of the week a piece of me was knocked down. And I am trying desperately to save it.

I just hope I can put enough of myself back together before too much of me has been destroyed and I lose the strength to try.

This is my second Depression Report. The beginning of this week was not a good one. Hoping to find some rays of sunshine through the clouds.

~ Kayla

P.S. Went on a 4 hour hike today and spotted some sunshine through the clouds.

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