Category Archives: Depression

Sometimes the Sun is Bad for Depression

Bad Sun

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I’ve been busy with work, but mostly, I’ve been too depressed to care. I’ve been using my energy on what matters in the end: My wife and kids. Yesterday, we drove around a little more than usual, and I had to fight a losing battle: staying awake while the sun was shining on me.

You see, for most people (often including myself), the sun can help depression significantly. The light, warmth, and natural light add up to be a wonderful boost to mood and energy. Unfortunately, the sun can have another, stronger effect when I’m exposed too long. The heat and light drain my energy. My eyes are sensitive to the harsh Arizona sun, and my body thinks the only answer is the make me close my eyes. The longer my eyes are closed, the sleepier I get. On the other hand, the longer my eyes are open, the harder it is to keep them open. It’s a vicious trap.

When I wake up, I’m groggy and it takes several minutes to regain my status as a human being. My energy is gone, sapped by the light and heat. I’m a pile of noodles, which sucks. Thankfully, this isn’t a problem when I’m driving, because my body is really good at fight/flight/freeze management. But it can make me a terrible passenger, and goober up my mood. Bleh.

Thankfully, I have an understanding family, and the ability to pretend to be a human being, even when I feel like Chewbacca. Thank God for coping skills.

She’s Done Chasing Happiness

Today, I have a treat for you. A darling girl (who I took to prom once, full disclosure) reached out to me, and asked if she could share something on Terminally Intelligent. I hope you enjoy Brittni’s stirring words as much as I did.

I am Still Fighting

I live my life in a fluid discontentment between anxious and depressed. My anxiety stays around a 7-8 on a 10-point scale (with very few spikes and valleys) until my body and my mind can’t handle it anymore. When this happens, everything shuts down, and I get really depressed.

I think when my anxiety is an 8, my depression is a 4. Even when I crash, my anxiety is still a 3, and my depression becomes a 9. The worst part is that I know it’s coming. It always happens this way. This means that in my brief moments of happiness, I still feel the looming of depression about to set in.

I’ve chased happiness for as long as I can remember. I played softball. I thought winning would make me happy. I tried to impress my parents, thinking that would bring me happiness. I was the first in my family to go to (and graduate from) college. That brought some happiness to my parents, but not a lot to me. I found a man I love. At this point, I have to distinguish that while I am happy with him, I am not truly happy. We moved across the country, and while he did this for work, I thought this would be just the transition I needed to finally find ‘it’. Guess what. In New England, the days are short, the winter is long, and this southern girl hates the cold.

I have a hard time making friends. Exercise isn’t something I enjoy. I don’t feel at home here. There is so much that I’m missing out on from so far away. These are the thoughts that come to me every single time I start to enjoy a fleeting moment. I forget that I am loved. I forget that I am brilliant. I forget that I have never set a goal that I did not reach.

An outsider looking in says, “You seem so determined, ambitious, and kind. I really thought that you were such a joy to be around. How could you be so sad?” My burden is so much to have to bear, I would hate to impose it on anyone else. I don’t ever want to bring anyone down. So, I “fake it till you make it.” That’s all I know. I open up to very few.

My first real “bout” of depression began when I was a senior in high school. I heard a preacher say, “You choose to be happy.” I went home and read Ephesians, and decided it was true. To this day, I have no idea how that book brought me so much peace. I’ve re-read it again and again, but the peace is gone.

There are things I’ve done to try to gain some sort of contentment. I lost a hundred pounds, then gained 30 back. I have a list of my “favorite things” (which includes The Sound of Music) that I reflect on when I stop seeing the positive side of things. I try to move, and go outside, even when I don’t feel like it. I make an effort to eat real, whole foods, because being Paleo Primal “will save your life.” I talk to my mom. I talk to my shrink. I write notes to myself to pick me up when I’m down. I am telling you right now, if you could choose to be happy, none of us would ever be sad.

I still have hope, and hopefully it’s enough. I’m trying this new thing out. I’m going to try to teach myself to be happy. Let me break that down into a more doable task. I am going to make an effort to combat every negative thought with a positive one. I may start off reusing the same positive thought over and over. I may need to start out small. Maybe one positive for every two negatives. The important thing is that I’m still trying. I may need to take breaks, and when I do, I know there are people there to help me through. I want to find happiness, but I’m not chasing it anymore. This time, it can meet me here. Right where I’m at.

I’m still fighting.

Summer Sadness, or Autumn Apathy?

Rory Bristol

Rory Bristol

Ah, Fall. Bright colors all over the world. Except here. I live in the desert. No pretty leaves for me. Also, shorter days, colder nights, and the dread ascension of the Christmas season. To say it shortly: Autumn beats me into submission for Winter. I find myself disconnecting slightly. I don’t want to be sad, so I disengage. I’ve been doing this for years. It gets dark before I eat dinner, so I feel like I wasted my day, despite many hours left in the evening. I feel my heart shrink up in its little parka, my emotions gladly packing up their bags to sun themselves in the warm world of denial.

Not this year. Not today, not tomorrow, not next week. Not this year. Continue reading

Storytelling Will Save the World… Yes, Even Yours

This is a guest post written by Joshua Rivedal. Read to the end for details on his projects.
Josh Rivedal

Josh Rivedal

Captain’s log, Stardate January 2011. Where unfortunately many have gone before. I’m twenty-six years old and thinking about dying… actually I’m not being entirely truthful. I’m dangling halfway out the fourth floor window of my bedroom in New York City.

I don’t really want to die. I just want the emotional pain to stop… and I don’t know how to do that. Hell, two guys in my life—my father and grandfather—each didn’t know how to make their own terrible personal pain stop and now both were, well, dead.

My grandfather, Haakon—a Norwegian guy who served in the Royal Air Force (35th Squadron as a tail gunner) in World War II—killed himself in 1966 because of the overwhelming post traumatic stress he suffered because of the war.

My father, Douglas—an American guy who was chronically unhappy and an abusive man—killed himself in 2009, the catalyst being a divorce with my mother along with some long-term depression and other mental health issues.

How did I get to such a dismal place in my life so quickly, just a month shy of my twenty-seventh birthday? Coming out of secondary school and high on optimism, I thought by the time I reached my mid-twenties I’d have it all together. After a couple of years singing on Broadway, I would have scored a few bit parts on Law & Order, and transitioned seamlessly to being cast with Will Smith in the summer’s biggest blockbuster. After which, my getaway home in the Hamptons would be featured in Better Homes & Gardens, and my face would grace the cover of National Enquirer as Bigfoot’s not-so-secret lover. Not to mention, I’d have my perfect wife and perfect family by my side to share in my success.

But instead, “perfect” was unattainable (it always is). I only managed to perform in some of small professional theatre gigs and on one embarrassing reality television show; and over the course of the previous eighteen months my father killed himself, my mother betrayed me and sued me for my father’s inheritance, and my girlfriend of six years broke up with me.

This storm of calamity and crisis had ravaged my life… and I wasn’t talking about it to anyone. My silence led to crisis and poor decisions—to the extent that I was hanging out of a fourth story window.

Both Haakon and Douglas suffered their pain in silence because of the stigma surrounding talking about mental illness and getting help. I too felt that same stigma—like I’d be seen as “crazy” or “less of a man” if I talked about what I was going through. But I didn’t want to die and so I had to take a chance.

I started talking. I pulled myself back inside and first called my mom. She helped me through that initial crisis and we became friends again. She never called me “crazy.” I then started reaching out to the positive friends I had in my life. They hugged me and helped me with open arms. They never told me I was “less than a man.” Soon I got more help by seeing a professional counselor, and by writing down what I was going through in a journal.

But this idea of keeping silent continued to bother me. I did some research while in my recovery and found out that each year, suicide kills over one million people worldwide… and that many of those one million never speak up about their emotional pain because of stigma.

Dagnabbit (I totally just said that). I had to figure out a way to reach people like that. So, like any other actor, writer, or comedian living in New York City whose life dealt them a crappy hand, I created a one-man show… and it toured theatres and universities in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia—and people were getting help.

But I had to keep talking because this isn’t just a Rivedal problem or United States problem… it’s a world problem.

I had to get other people to tell their stories, so I started The i’Mpossible Project. Why? Because storytelling is one of our oldest traditions—yes, even older than the hokey pokey. Stories can make us laugh or cry… or both at the same time. They can teach, inspire and even ignite an entire movement.

The stories of The i’Mpossible Project are about overcoming obstacles, reengaging with life, and creating new possibilities—a son’s homicide, a transgender man finding love, and even coming back from the brink of suicide (you can read a couple of the stories HERE)… because it’s okay to be struggling, it’s okay to need help; people have your back… there’s hope.

It’s been four years since my crisis and life is definitely looking up. The acting and writing thing is going well, I have a great girlfriend; but most important I’m able to give and receive help and love, and with hard work I’m able to stay mentally well—all because I took a risk and told my story.

No matter what society says, it’s COOL (as in “okay”) to talk about your feelings. Don’t ever forget that you are important, and your story needs to be heard so we, the human race, can learn how to live and love better. #iampossible #mentalhealth

* * *

Josh Rivedal (founder, executive director of The i’Mpossible Project) is an author, actor, playwright, and international public speaker on suicide prevention, mental health, and diversity. He curated the 50-story inspirational anthology The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life Creating a New You. He wrote and developed the one-man play, Kicking My Blue Genes in The Butt (KMBB), which has toured extensively throughout the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. He writes for the Huffington Post. His memoir The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah, based on KMBB and published by Skookum Hill in 2013, is on The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s recommended reading list.

What Do I Even Say?

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

I was a bit of a mess after reading Wil Wheaton’s latest post Tears in Rain. It made me cry, then it made me sad, and then it made me happy. And then I cried some more, because reasons. After I regained my composure, I went back to my emails, because in those vast caverns of private conversation, I have some really great stuff from you guys who are too shy to share publicly.

Continue reading

Getting Back to Real Life

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

Getting back to “real life” while depressed can be fucking difficult! Yesterday, my dad was released for the physical therapy/rehab center, and he got to go home. First, though, he came over to have chipped beef on toast, because delicious food is delicious food. While we hung out, I organized my Magic: the Gathering cards. It was nice.

Sometimes, the best way to deal with grief is to commune with the person who passed. I do not mean sitting with a Ouija board and candles. I mean spending time doing something you love as if that person were there. George had a large chunk of my card collection, which came home last week. They were all out of order, and some were sleeved at random, and stuff. It was a task to organize it all, but I got to think about George the whole time.

No crying. No sadness. I did something I enjoy doing, and I got a little more closure. Part of closure is accepting that someone is gone. Putting my cards back in their proper boxes felt like coming home. My collection was reunited, and my (rare) annoyance at my collection being split up was finally put to bed. It was good.

After I thought about it, I realized that I had some old D&D character sheets that George and I had made together. I got to go through them, and remember how odd his choices could be. He wanted to play something fun. Not overpowered, not too weird, just fun. Of course, that man could out-strategy Gen. Patton in any game, so he didn’t need crazy tricks to win games.

It was good to get some of that into/out of my system early in the day. After lunch, dad and I looked at a house nearby that he’s considering renting (with much bullying and encouragement from our house). After that, I was happy to see him off on his adventures with his new bionic knee.

Then something neat happened: Normal life just took over. I didn’t have to convince myself to finish my assignments. I didn’t have to agonize over what to submit to my editors. I just did it. It was like a weight had been taken off of my brain for the day. It was kinda great.

Of course, I ended up working well into the evening, because I spent most of my morning with my dad, and my ever growing collection of all things fantastic. But I didn’t feel guilty about crap work. I felt like I was doing my work well. I accomplished enough to spend some time with the kids before bedtime. I also managed to give myself a blister, and tear it off before noticing it, while playing Rock Band. I’m still bad at the drums…

Yesterday felt oddly normal, and I’m thanking God for it. I am also hitting up our DM for some more D&D action. I want to blow some stuff up. That’s normal, right?

Resting Bitch Face

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

There’s this thing I do. I do it all the time. Whether I mean it or not, whether or not I want to. I smile. I smile all the time. It’s an old habit. When I was very young, my mother coached me to smile. It probably started with the normal mom-impulse. She wanted to see her kid happy. Later, it changed. If I looked unhappy, maybe I would be taken by the police because my life was bad. Did I want to be split up from my family? Shit like that.

So I started smiling. I smile by default 99% of the time. Mostly, I think of myself as also being happy all the time. For the most part that is true. But recent events have reminded me that when I am 100% out of fucks, I look like I’m pissed off. It’s actually just a matter of not forcing myself to smile.

People keep thinking I’m mad, or grumpy, or something. The truth is, I just don’t feel much right now, and that’s okay. Just remember that I’m not angry, or mad at you, or thinking bad things. I’m not upset, or suicidal, or anything. I’m not feeling much, and that’s why my face looks like this. I have a resting bitch face. I don’t mean it, it’s just how I look when I don’t try to look any other way.