When I’m depressed.

When I’m depressed, I wear more layers. If I have to go out, I’m wearing comfy sweats or pajamas (paired with slippers if it’s cold outside), and a sweater over a thick hoodie. I need layers between my body and the world when I’m depressed. My depression pulls me deep under layers of sadness and darkness; the more layers between myself and the world, the more layers I put on my body to wear. I also burrow under blankets, wrapping them tight around me so I’m constrained. I probably should invest in a weighted blanket, because I light being warm and wrapped tight when I have a bad day.

When I’m depressed I don’t talk. Being around people and being forced into small talk or conversation causes me actual pain. If I can be alone, I don’t speak a word. I move quietly through my apartment accomplishing very small human tasks that don’t require a lot of energy (i.e. Microwaving a meal, doing a load of laundry, taking a shower, etc). I’ll sit for hours binge watching favorite tv shows that I’ve seen a million times because they remind me of comfort and safety (my favorites to rewatch are Gilmore Girls, The West Wing, Parks & Recreation, Friends, and Life in Pieces). I do this all in silence because I don’t have the energy to speak, much less listen to myself speak.

When I’m depressed my head is quiet, as negative thoughts come in whispers and doubts are hissed. So I listen to music loud to drown out the negativity and fill my head with peace. Music is the closest thing humans have to magic. It embraces the spirit and encourages emotion to be felt. The dark place in my head is a lot less lonely when there’s music to keep me company. My favorites to listen to are Taylor Swift, Kesha (listening to her new album Rainbow for the first time was a cathartic journey), Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Debussy, Florence + The Machine, Miles Davis, and Adele.

When I’m depressed I feel guilty about everything. Like I’ve done something horribly wrong and I am a terrible person that deserves to feel bad for it. I can’t explain what exactly it is that I’ve done wrong, I never have been able to describe it. Whenever I’ve been depressed, it’s always felt like this overwhelming feeling of having made a horrible mistake, and days afterwards I feel guilty for no real reason. In those periods I tend to apologize more quickly when I make a mistake, or even before someone has told me I’ve made a mistake. I’m always at the ready to be blamed and apologize. I always feel guilty and like I’ve done something wrong. So I try to be alone when I’m depressed so I don’t feel responsible for all the problems of the planet.

When I’m depressed I always wonder if I’m the only person who feels that way. I question my depression and it’s legitimacy, as though I’m lying to myself about my sadness and suddenly realize I’m happy. It’s shit like this that keeps me in therapy.

What do you do when you’re depressed?

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My Days in Mud

I feel as though most days I'm swimming through mud. This is neither a good or bad thing, it's just my state of being. I've accepted that having mental illnesses (yes, I'm using the plural) means almost everyday is going to be muddy in some way, shape or form.

Some days I just wanna walk through it to get somewhere, not really caring if I get my clothes dirty on the way, I just want to get through it and get it done. These are the days I can't be bothered with crap being around me, I just know I have to trudge through to make it through the day.

Other days I walk carefully, gingerly stepping over muddier spots and doing my best to hold the hems of my pants up and away from the grime. I get anxious and nervous, struggling a lot some days just to leave my house because I'm terrified of the minefield that is society.

Then there are days I get stuck, my feet sink in and I can't budge an inch no matter how I pull or scream for help. It sucks when I get so stuck in my head that neither I nor anyone else can pull me out, frustration at my mental health is something I continue to struggle with.

The worst are days I decide to fuck it and lay in the mud, feeling it seep through my clothing till it hits my skin and covers me whole. That deflation of defeat can be crippling, those days I have to take time alone to figure out where my head and heart are at. I believe these are the days when my head and heart fall out of sync, which dampens my spirit.

Occasionally I'll roll around in the mud, not really giving a damn about the mess but not caring enough to stand up and get out of it. There are weird days where my depression clings to me like a wet blanket, but I really can't find myself to care all that much about it. I'll somehow have the energy to go do random activities to occupy myself from my head, like dancing on my favorite hiking trail or going to a movie all by myself.

Then a day comes and I'll get back up and start fighting my way through it again, knowing I'll likely get dirty along the way but nevertheless persist. Some days I wake up and just know I have to get things done, and that's what I end up doing.

I can never tell you what kind of mud I'll encounter on any given day. Occasionally I'll have a day be going fine and dandy when suddenly I take a step and my feet slip right out from below my and land my ass in a muddy puddle. Other days the ground is dry and sturdy enough for me to skip and dance through, not giving a damn about tripping or falling.

Life is muddy. Most days we'll be lucky and the mud will settle down and the water's surface becomes clear again. Others things get stirred up and thick so it's impossible to move forward without making a bigger mess. Life is about as clear as mud, we just have to figure out what to do with it whenever it's encountered.

Follow on twitter @JoyPearson

Braids 

As a kid, I picked at my scabs. Any cut or scrape I got took forever to heal, because I was always scratching and picking at the scabs. It’s always been an unconscious reflex, I’ve never really aware I’m doing it until I’ve got bloody finger nails and brown blood stains around the wound. This sounds horrifically emo, but it was how I dealt with anxiety. Same goes for bruises, I could never stop touching and pressing on them. The few times I’ve had stitches were dicey, I couldn’t stop poking and prodding bandages. 

I’m not going to be dramatic and say it’s because I like pain. In fact, it has little to do with the pain of these acts, its about the relief I find afterwards. I’d pick at a scab and cover it with a fresh bandage, the wounds always warm with irritation that fades comfortably into a healing stiffness. Poking bruises and the instant relief of covering it gently with hands feels soothing. It’s kind of like pain is the payment for relief. 

I’ve tried a lot of healthy replacements to these behaviors. Fidget cubes are my best friends, as well as play dough to squeeze, yarn to knit, and nail polish to pick. However, while these tools gave me a replacement for my nervous energy, they did not bring me the same physical relief. 

I have long hair. I’ve been growing it out from a pixie cut I got three years ago, and thanks to vitamins and care, it has grown past my bust line. As soon as it was long enough, I began braiding it. Just basic braids, I haven’t mastered the French braid nor the fishtail. Sometimes it would be a simple ponytail braid, or a side braid down my right shoulder. More often than not, I’d constantly keep a tress or two from the base of my skull tightly braided. 

It wasn’t for vanity I began doing this, rarely were the braid ostentatious or noticeable. The braiding had much more to do with how I was handling my stress and anxiety. At 23 I’d been in treatment for depression, PTSD, and anxiety just under a year. After experiencing a mild panic attack on a six hour plane trip home from Boston, I calmed myself by braiding my hair. 

Anyone with long hair will tell you how sore the scalp gets after being pulled tight, be it in braids, ponytails, or buns. In my experience, I find the sensation of taking my hair out of tight braids incredibly soothing. I slowly unwind the twists and then massage my scalp, which always calms me down and relaxes my mind. It’s the least destructive way I can achieve a relatively calm physical state when I’m tense from anxiety. I keep my fingers busy from picking at scabs, and I have the sensation of relief from unbraiding my hair. 

I don’t know anyone else who does this, or anything similar. Part of me feels like I’m insane for even admitting this out loud, but I’m hoping someone else will relate and know they aren’t alone in how they physically cope with anxiety. It’s hard, I used to scratch myself until I made new wounds to scab over and pick at, it was unhealthy and it concerned my family. It was something I couldn’t help doing when I was anxious, thankfully I’ve worked hard in therapy to find healthy substitutes for this behavior. 

Braids are simple but beautiful. They date at least 5000 years, appearing in every culture around the world. The relief I get from massaging my scalp after braiding is far more beneficial to my wellbeing than picking at scabs. I used to be embarrassed by this behavior, but now I’m more outspoken about my mental health struggles, I’m going to proudly own my braids for what they are: symbols of an anxious human trying to cope with the world. 
For more anxiety inanity, follow me on twitter @JoyPearson

What do you see when you read me?

That’s a serious question I think about, not just a title for this post.

I wonder what you all thing when you read what I have to say. What do you assume about me? What do you imagine my day looks like? Are you judging me for whining? Am I being dismissed as another sad white girl? Am I overthinking? Am I under thinking? Do I need to stop thinking all together?

I don’t really want to know the answers to these questions. I think the answers would hurt way worse than the constant plague of anxiety induced questions that fill my head. But it doesn’t stop me from wondering, it’s basic human nature to wonder what others think of us. How we handle that curiousity is another monster all together…

(follow me on twitter @JoyPearson for live updates of anxiety and stupidity).

Cloudy Joy

I had a realization last night. I wish I could go into detail and lead you all up to this beautiful moment, because it really changed my life, but the lead up was personal and intimate and I’m not ready to share that with the world. Here is what I figured out:

My life is a cloud.

Everyday, I am different; I experience difference in any/all aspects of my life. I rarely plan nor do things that I expect actually happen all that often.

There are days where I’m scattered about and stretched out long and wide across the sky; my mind and body go to many places seemingly all at once.

The next day I can be overcast; I’m mellow and chill with no problems relaxing inside with a good book under my reading lamp.

Dark and Stormy days happen; lets be real, who doesn’t have these? They’re frustrating, suffocating, anxiety-ridden periods that make us human.

Some days the clouds slowly glide across the sky; moving along at their own happy pace, happy to let things happen as they are meant to.

Others they change shape; one moment it’s an elephant, then it shifts into a hippo with a jumprope (true story).

Then there are blue skies with thin cotton clouds in the distance; who doesn’t love blue skies? No matter the temperature, a blue sky makes me smile and breathe easy.

Not everyones life is a cloud though. Some peoples lives are maps, they’ve planned all aspects up until their burial plot. Some are prisons, born into unfortunate circumstances they never asked for but are forced to make do with. Some are rainbows, they’re magically picture perfect and you can’t help but wonder what their murder weapon of choice is (my best guess is an icicle, if they’re thorough there will be no traceable evidence [even I am concerned by the fact that I have thought that through, you’re not the only ones]).

My life is a cloud. It’s always gonna be a bit hazy in one way or another, but I couldn’t be happier for the uniqueness of each and every day I get to experience in my life (I’m not lying or pretending to be profound, I started a bullet journal 4 months ago and every single day is different!). I can’t wait for more cloudy days.

For more odd profound/stupid/stoner thoughts follow me on twitter @JoyPearson

 

#ThxBirthControl

I graduated high school at 18, full of scholarships and excitement for the next part of my life. I went to the University of Puget Sound and graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in theater. I took several psychology courses post-grad, leading me to my current job working for a school district co-running the extended day program at an Elementary school. I have many hobbies that include any form of art, playing my ukulele, writing about mental health on my blog, walking through the Juanita Wetlands while counting bird calls, collecting comics, and watching/rewatching movies. I have a wonderful apartment that has my touch on every square foot, I keep beautiful plants named Herman and Leonard on my window sill next to my stack of books I plan to read. All this to say, #ThxBirthControl for allowing me to decide when and where I am prepared to start a family. Please donate to Planned Parenthood, who deserve a huge shoutout for providing birth control to women for decades.

#NotAllGirls

Women are ‘supposed’ to be ‘small’ and ‘quiet’. I’m 5 foot 9 inches with an affinity for heels, I got some wedges that add 7 inches to my natural Amazonian height. I also fluctuate anywhere between a size 10 to a size 14 depending on how much I care enough that month to make the effort to go to the gym. ‘Quiet’ is not in my vocabulary, I have a diaphragm and I know how to utilize it to my best advantage. Once when asked to describe me, a former friend only wrote “LOUD”, at the time I took that with great insult, but now I find it is one of my greatest strengths. To generalize women down to one size and sound standard is a joke, being ‘big’ and ‘loud’ is way more fun anyways.