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Around this time every year, for the past few years, I get this cough. It feels like I get suddenly somewhat congestion, and just start coughing off and on. Sometimes, especially at night, it gets really bad and I get super wheezy and can’t sleep easily until I take something for it. It’s undiagnosed, but it might be allergies and GERD related, and stomach meds seem to take care of it, most of the time. It’s not fun for me, but it’s survivable.
Around this time of year, for the past twenty years or so, I get down. My energy drains more easily, I don’t enjoy the usual pleasures as much, everyday life gets just that much more difficult, and I continually want a day off—and the days I get off are never enough. Some years, it got really bad—especially those years when I was most isolated—and it created unhealthy habits or over-indulgence when self-medicating, and it took a lot to dig my way out again. But I did, and, thankfully, it’s been manageable for quite a few winters now. Much like the cough, though, I never know when it will strike, or when it will be bad or when it will be mild. I do know that while not fun, it’s survivable.
This post isn’t about me, though. It’s more about this time of year, and about the overall reality of mental health so many deal with every day. I was inspired to put this together after sitting in the audience for a book reading from Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess. If you haven’t read anything by her, you really should—she’s hilarious, weird in great ways, and fully open and honest about her struggles with serious mental health issues. Her reading and Q&A afterwards were super funny, but also honest and open about what she and her audience dealt with. That was the thing that really got me—the reading room was filled to complete capacity, with fans who not only loved her for her humor, but for the fact that there was someone who understood more of who they were than most people.
She spoke of that multiple times during the reading—how fans would write her to say that what she wrote, and what the commenters on her website wrote, told them that they were not alone in their struggles. That they, too, were hiding in the bathroom at a party full of people, or alone in their room, or unable to get off the couch that day. She talked about a particular post she wrote where, instead of posting the normal funny carefree thing she would when she was having a major depressive day, she wrote, as honestly as possible, about how she was debilitated that day by depression. While she didn’t get the usual few hundred comments about how funny she was and so on, she got thousands of comments saying “Me, too!” That’s powerful.
If you haven’t read Christmas Ape’s “This Week In Fuck You: Depression” in a while, take the time to do so, and read the comments, too. That was a phenomenal KSK moment that really cemented to me what made that site special, especially in the last few years. This is what this post is really about—paying a bit of homage to that post and that moment, and keeping that thread alive, to a certain degree.
It comes back, again, to this time of year—that time when the clouds come back in, the weather gets nasty, and the stresses can build for many suffering from mental illness. Between the end of the year stuff at many work places, to the longer dark hours, to the pressures inherent to many holidays and their associated celebrations, and to, quite often, the flare ups of family dynamics that may or may not be all that holly jolly. This is the time of year when loneliness can feel that much stronger, when it becomes more difficult to stay healthy, and when it can feel hardest to reach out and speak up.
So as we head towards all of that, I wanted to make sure it’s said again so that all who come to DFO can read it: You’re not alone, no matter what it is that gets at you. One thing I did learn over all those years is that it doesn’t matter where you find your community that supports you, just that you find it—even if it’s a football dick joke blog. If you’re suffering and having one of those days where it is winning—reach out, speak up, or do whatever you have to do to make it through. We can get through this together, one open thread at a time.