Carrie Fisher opened up about her demons — and knew she wouldn’t have a Hollywood ending [LA Times article in link]

Mental illness and addiction so often go hand in hand and until society stops villainizing and dehumanizing the people affected by them, we need people like Carrie Fisher who are brave enough to yell it from the rooftops when it still requires bravery to do it: I DEAL WITH SHIT THAT’S REALLY FUCKING HARD, BUT I’M FIGHTING IT AND I’M NOT EMBARRASSED BECAUSE IT’S NOTHING TO BE EMBARRASSED ABOUT. NOW LET’S FIND A SOLUTION.

Scars in the Summertime (or: The Girl Who Lived or: I Have Overall Shorts)

I have three scars on my legs. Well, I have more than that, but three that are intentional, while the others came from general falling over-or-running-into-table-corner-type events. Two of the three came from the night I checked into the hospital, and one came from about a week earlier- or maybe it was the other way around. I would swear the first one is on my right calf, but that one is healing better than the one on my left calf, and the more recent one(s) got fairly immediate professional attention at the hospital and would have healed better, bringing my timeline into question. Why I did it…well, that’s a whole other post, but suffice to say that it was some combination of a test run for something much worse and a way to move the awful feeling from my brain to something physical I could focus on (more the latter than the former, in case anyone’s worried about that).

The thing is, I don’t really remember the events surrounding my getting these scars as any sort of straightforward timeline. I don’t remember coming home, but I do remember sitting on my bed. I remember calling my friend and I remember calling the Kaiser helpline, but I don’t remember in what order. I don’t remember why I even had an X-Acto knife, though I do remember which drawer it was in (that left one in the bathroom where all the junk that doesn’t really fit in anywhere else goes). What I remember very clearly is how I felt that night, and that’s so overwhelming that it doesn’t leave much any room for the play-by-play of the minutes or second of it. Ugh, it all feels so “Lifetime movie”. So “angsty high schooler”. At any rate, it doesn’t really matter all that much, because there they are.

This new decor came about last November, and even in Southern California that usually means long pants weather. It’s only now that spring is nearly over and the June gloom has burned off that people are starting to wear shorts, dresses, skirts. Grown-ass adults are even wearing overall shorts here in LA. I haven’t had to really think about the scars until now, aside from once or twice when I thought about pulling my track pants up to my knees when I started overheating while coaching gymnastics. But it was 100 degrees this weekend and I am one of those- again, fully grown adults- with a pair of overall shorts.

So…so what? They’re just scars. I’m open about having been to the hospital, about taking medication, and about ECT. If it comes up naturally in conversation, I’ll gladly tell someone about how much I love those damn nonskid hospital socks and how I got them. Just the other day, some of my improv classmates (shoutout Sat UCB 201!) went for happy hour after class and started talking about our favorite celebrity encounters. I think it’s clear by now that mine is Carrie Fisher, and that story isn’t complete with context. That’s all to say that I’m not embarrassed by all of this (because, as Carrie Fisher taught me, it’s not something to be embarrassed about). People usually roll with it, and if they’re uncomfortable, they don’t show it.

But there’s something about this physical proof that takes those stories and explanations out of the abstract and brings them abruptly back into the real world. When I’m talking about all of this, I usually seem fine, because I usually am fine, in that moment. It’s almost as if I’m talking about someone else, or like I’m describing the plot of a movie. It’s easy to take the edge off in your head when it’s just a story. But when someone asks how I got the scars (and people do), it’s a different conversation than “I’m depressed and seriously anxious”. It’s the stark reality of “I literally sat on my bed one night, wishing more than anything that I could just get up the nerve to kill myself, and basically practicing, however briefly.” You can tell that blade went deep, and that conversation gets uncomfortable, and quickly. 

And that’s if someone asks. The few times I’ve worn shorts since November, I’ve gotten some stares- not a ton, but I’m on high alert so I see them. Some people look like they want to ask about it, but (and I’m just guessing) don’t want to bring up anything upsetting, because regardless of how they got there, they’re not pretty. It’s not going to stop me from wearing weather-appropriate clothes, but it does make me sort of self-conscious. Which reminds me that even though I have a fucking blog about this, I’m still caught up in the weird social stigma of it all, and still don’t totally know how to feel totally ok with putting it all out there. Hearing other people’s stories helps; it’s like a secret-but-not-secret club (did I use the semicolon right?), but I guess there’s still a ways to go. I’m not really sure how to end this one. Does anyone have suggestions for really good scar removal products?

I am ALSO happy

What I say about being happy is that I am ‘also happy.’ I’m happy among other things. Happy is one of the many feelings or experiences that I will have throughout a day. I think happy has been sort of made into this Hallmark card of a word, and I don’t know what that means. So I will just say that I enjoy my life, I make choices, I do what I want to do. I am a strong person, I’m not afraid of almost anything, and that’s a lot because of [Debbie Reynold’s] example- Carrie Fisher, Oprah 2011

I know the focus of this blog is mental illness and that’s necessarily kind of a bummer subject, so I wanted to take a minute to enjoy a moment to talk about the things that are making me happy right now. Continue reading

Guest Post! Amy Kocur

It’s a big day! Today the first guest post for this blog. This inaugural post was written by Amy Kocur, and the below comes from her website, http://www.newminutiae.com/  all opinions and insights are her own.


Michelle Carter, welcome to your tape.

In the year of 13 Reasons Why, this is an awkward time to be on trial for assisting a suicide.

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  • DID CONRAD ROY TAKE HIS OWN LIFE USING HIS OWN FREE WILL TO DO SO? YES.

  • WOULD CONRAD ROY HAVE TAKEN HIS LIFE THAT DAY IF MICHELLE CARTER HAD NOT BEEN INVOLVED? WE DON’T KNOW. THEREIN LIES THE PROSECUTION.

  • MICHELLE CARTER DID, IN FACT, HAVE A HEAVY HAND IN INFLUENCING ROY’S DECISION – REGARDLESS OF THE ACTS POTENTIAL CRIMINAL IMPLICATIONS.

The facts are all over, but what I need to discuss are the peripheral influences that will likely not get a fair inventory during this case: the factors of mental health and media over-saturation. Today, a doctor defending Carter and the potential medical side effects she may have been enduring, will take the stand. Roy’s own mental health is continuously being evaluated and used as “evidence” in this trial.

HOW MUCH INFORMATION AROUND BEING UNDER PSYCHIATRIC CARE IS FACT AND HOW MUCH IS CONJECTURE? 

If you google-image-search “Conrad Roy graduation” you get a very different picture of a boy that has mostly been depicted by trial coverage photos as sneering and moody. ‘Graduation’ results display a smiling, successful young man who likes boating  and being on the water. Both images are part of his full person. Just as you can see picture-perfect images of Carter along with her “lost puppy, I can’t even believe this bullshit” face, they’re both her.

People are very dimensional. It’s a sad function of adulthood that there is an attempt to streamline all dimension into one highly groomed, outward-facing image. (Raised eyebrow over to all those dirty politician who get caught letting their freak flag fly.)

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AS OF 2013-2014 THERE IS A GRAND TOTAL OF 8,389,034 KIDS ON PSYCHIATRIC DRUGS, AGE 0-17, IN THE UNITED STATES.

Today, a doctor will take the stand in Carter’s defense. However, where is the doctor on Roy’s defense? There are over 8 MILLION medicated juveniles. There is only ONE of this case, which is why many are looking at this trial as setting the precedent.  However, to imply that medication or treatment played a part in this event is not only further stigmatizing the medications and the people who take them but also is manipulating the entire concept of managing one’s mental health – framing it as dangerous, for people who are problematic, making things worse, a symbol of a more challenging person, or purporting that the entire concept is an erratic, unpredictable slippery slope. They are using this as a defense to explain away Carter’s actions, with almost no discussion of how Roy had been benefiting and showing signs of improvement through is treatment, further damning Michelle’s course of action.

Where are the scientific journals of people who have truly succeeded, healthfully, as a person utilizing the mental health industry? Where are the case studies of people who have overcome addictions, moved from delayed adolescence into functional adulthood, who conquer their fears daily and contribute positively and generously to society – not from being over-medicated, hyper-stimulated, or zombie-complacent, but from being effectively treated with moderate medication, therapy, and inner-perseverance? We don’t see those journals because Pharmaceuticals is a billion-dollar industry that only promotes the NEED for medication, not the result of proper use – for fear it might discontinue.

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Therefore, if a doctor is allowed to offer his/her potentially damaging testimony, shouldn’t a specialist in the cultural impact of media on the youth also take the stand?

A very compelling article was published Friday June 9th by Buzzfeed News regarding the undeniable similarities between Carter’s personal narrative throughout the events around Roy’s passing and Lea Michele’s dialogue both in and out of character on Glee! surrounding the time of Cory Monteith’s death.

So many times I’ve had “sayings” or catchphrases that were entirely lifted from pop-culture. I mean – Did anyone in my generation get through school without saying “I thought I was your Snack Pack,” (Billy Madison) or “How YOU doin?” (Friends)? In this day and age, there are myriad fandoms that can have entire conversations in references we don’t understand. However, that’s not what this young woman has done. Carter is reiterating exact language from a fictional character and celebrity to narrate her personal experience.

This doesn’t mean “she did it” it means she was a highly influenced teen who was very intimately attached to a hollywood incident that one year later happened to play out in her own life. 

If the Slenderman murder was legitimate then that exact same influence should be taken into account in this trial. This is not a murder trial, circumstantially, but it’s also not a mental health witch hunt. The witnesses only offer specific statements, where this whole occurrence should be looked at from a wider frame, of how it fits into youth culture, developmental health, maintaining mental health, moderating media intake, etc. It’s not that Michelle Carter needs to be made an example of, but she does need to realize her actions have consequences. – that fiction can’t dictate reality, and lack of awareness of those actions can not be an excuse. At least, that’s what Hannah Baker would want.

 


Erin again! If you would like to write a guest post, please send it to ECT.etc.blog@gmail.com. I’m trying to stay on the theme of mental illness/health, but if you have an idea that you think would work that isn’t quite that, just shoot me an email and we can work it out! Thank you! x

I’m Not Sad (usually), I Have Depression

“What are you depressed…about?”

It’s a fair enough question from someone who’s never experienced it, and it honestly doesn’t bother me. I know they’re trying to understand so they can empathize, and I can only imagine how hard it is to wrap your mind around feeling that everything is terrible when it really objectively is not. I’ve even tried to retrace the steps of my thought process myself when I start feeling that way, and have yet to be able to find a cause. It’s a little bit of everything, sure, but those everythings are completely manageable when I’m not in the fog. It just…is.

I’ve written a lot about how fortunate my life has been, but this month has been a tough one. Cancer seems to be coming at the people I love from all angles and at warp speed, and to find out a loved one has it two days after losing another family member from it, while you’re also keeping in your thoughts a third person currently on hospice care…well, it’s a lot.

And so, right now, I’m sad. Last week, after a long and hard fought battle with a veritable buffet of the disease, my uncle passed away. It wasn’t unexpected, and he fought long and hard for many more years than we were told to expect, but still, I’m sad. And the sadness is different from the depression. Neither one is pleasant, but they feel different. Because they are different.

For one, people can understand sad. I can point to this tragic event and say “here- this is why I’m not responding to your texts. THIS, right here, is why I’m listening to Neko Case and crying in my car.” It’s more difficult to explain that the reason I couldn’t get out of bed yesterday was that I just…couldn’t. The covers were suddenly 100 lbs and the muscles in my limbs had given out. I could sleep- I can almost always sleep- but that was about it. Sadness can sometimes lead to or exacerbate depression, and vice versa. But not always- at least for me. I’m sad, but I’m no more or less depressed than I was before last week. My sadness has a timeline and I can share with my family who are feeling the exact same way. The loneliness of depression isn’t there. Neither is the frustration or shame and secrecy around it.

That’s not to say that sad is better. I mean, for fuck’s sake, I would trade in my next bout of relief from depression to have my uncle back, no question. I would tack on another few months to have never gotten the news about the other two. And sadness can come at you without warning- getting bad news hits you right in the stomach and knocks the wind out of you. Neither is better and neither is worse. There’s some overlap, but they’re not the same thing. The just both suck.

Mood Music

I have two playlists that I always keep at the ready. Sometimes when you’re feeling awful, you just want to wallow. And sometimes you want music that’ll pick you up. Anyway, these are mine, just in case there’s something you might like, too. Nothing too pretentious. Just stuff that feels right: Continue reading

On Being There

 

When I went back to work after taking almost 3 months off for the acute phase of ECT, my dog Elly took it hard. She had gotten used to me being home, even if I wasn’t exactly ~there~. I would roll in from treatment and climb into bed to nap for the rest of the day, which is pretty well in line with her daily routine: sleep during the day, run around briefly in the evening, and then fall into bed with the exhaustion of an animal that has done nothing to warrant it. Yes, she’s spoiled, but she also mysteriously lost her tail at some point in the four months between when she was born and when I adopted her and she’s generally well-behaved, so I’m not too worried about it. The only time she’s ever run away was right after I returned to work. I think she might have gone looking for me. Or that’s what I tell myself.

This is all to say that I am Elly’s world. I know that at any given moment, she is thrilled- thrilled– to be near me. Even better if she’s curled up on my lap, as she is at the exact time of this writing. She’s never more at peace than when she’s physically touching me- sometimes she contorts herself so her chin is resting on my leg, in a position that cannot be comfortable but that seems to make her feel that way.

People are harder. I’ve been staring at my computer for awhile now, trying to figure out how to articulate this. It’s difficult to write about because it feels like a) guilting people into friendship and/or b) trying to excuse my own bad behavior that might legitimately cause someone to keep their distance. But I’ve always held the default understanding that people are actively avoiding interaction with me. And see? That statement covers both categories. It just bleeds with self-doubt and varsity level pathetic.

The thing is, depression often manifests itself as a voice whispering into your ear all reasons why someone hasn’t reached out, or why that other someone’s message was so curt. It’s because of that thing you did that day or, other other thing that other day, or maybe they just finally caught on and learned to see through you. It’s something that I’ve heard time and time again- in articles about the disease, in Unit III group sessions, and in my own brain.

When my depression acts up, I withdraw from the real world. It all just feels like too much. I don’t go to events, I cancel plans, and it’s all I can do to peel myself out of bed to get to work (and my leave balance will show you that I’m not always successful at that). But there’s still that human need for socialization and validation, so I find myself scrolling through social media, posting photos of my dog, or reposting another Parks & Rec screencap. It’s easy to brush it off as a millennial obsession with the internet, but at least for me, it’s a way to stay connected without having to fully punch through the fog. And as ridiculous as it sounds, I can feel like I haven’t been totally lost to the void when we like each other’s posts. It’s like a quick “hello and I haven’t forgotten you.”

All of this does not exactly make me a good friend- I’m not so self involved that I can’t see that communicating via social media likes isn’t nearly enough. So you imagine how grateful I am for the people who not only stick around, but who actively make sure I know they’re here, even when it seems like I’m not. There’s no blueprint on how to do it, and really everyone is different anyway, but anything along these lines is a good place to start.

This of course places the burden of reaching out on the friend, and what a vicious cycle that is if you’re both waiting on the other person to announce that they’re still around. You’re just two dark little clouds standing nearby, but not able to see that the other one is there. I don’t know how to rectify this, and oh, I wish I did. Because I so badly want to be that friend, but not everyone creates an entire blog to help let people know it’s what they need. Seems like an awful lot of trouble, doesn’t it (and so self-absorbed)? But I’m working on it. On taking that first step, and assuming my presence isn’t the burden I think it is, but that just maybe, it’s the quick note someone needs to hear to be reminded that they’re not alone.

So thank you, everyone who is better at this than I am. Everyone who has made it clear that they’re still there, and that they understand (or that they don’t, but there still there anyway). I don’t know how you do it, but you know just what to say when I need it, and you’ve shown that I have so much support, despite often not feeling worthy of it. The little things mean so much, and help me feel a little less lost. I’m out of metaphors and like that dark cloud one the best, so I’ll just stick with that dark, foggy cloud again. You help sneak a little (or a lot) of sunshine into it. And if you find this just as difficult as I do, I understand. And I’m still here, whenever you’re ready.

If you (or anyone else) need the same thing from me, you can bet I’m right there. I might not have the best timing, but I’m nearly always willing and ready, and almost certainly near my phone looking up Leslie Knope quotes…this one is at the ready if anyone needs it 🙂