I suffered through a small depressive episode last night.
I think I felt over-exposed, after sharing some of my internal creative dialogue here, after this guest post (on depression and suicidal ideation) was published on The Mighty, and after The Videoblogs received a few bumps in attention.
On the surface, these are all good things. They also represent sincere efforts at helping others. Still, it is the curse of those so afflicted that even good things can kick up old fears and insecurities.
Except now I have a base of acceptance, understanding, and compassion that I can fall back on, when I’m having a tough night, or day, or week.
I’m still not feeling the best. It was tough to get out of bed this morning. I similarly didn’t feel like writing this.
But I have a lamp and my dog to help me. Let me explain.
I’m also, more importantly, married to someone who both understands mental illness and knows how to react compassionately when someone is struggling.
It started with some physical symptoms, that appeared on my way home. My body started to ache. I felt tired. I lost the energy to do much of anything. I eventually found myself standing, staring blankly, in the middle of the apartment.
My wife asked if I was okay. I talked to her. This is the first right thing I did — by telling the truth to someone I can trust.
I decided to lay down in bed. Sometimes, you just have to do that. It’s no different than if you have a cold.
Some time later, my wife came in and asked how I was feeling. Not much had changed. She gently suggested that lying alone in the dark might not be helping. I heard her, but didn’t want to move. She left to heat up dinner, and we talked about me joining her to eat and watch some TV.
After a few more minutes, the dog showed up.
It is well-documented how helpful a dog can be when you’re feeling down. I let her up into the bed. She seemed to want to play. It wasn’t long before we were playing a bit, and her joy lightened my mood.
I kept it up. During a lull, I thought about what my wife had said, and turned my bedside lamp on — at its dimmest setting. For the next several minutes, I continued to focus solely on the dog.
Eventually, it was time to eat, and I was able to get up and watch TV. I felt significantly better. Before bed, I journaled for a few minutes, as a means of (non-judgmentally) externalizing my feelings. I slept without too much trouble and had odd, but not entirely dark, dreams.
As I’ve mentioned, today has been less difficult, so far, though I’m still feeling somewhat…flat.
It helped that my wife gently nudged me this morning, when I was snoozing a bit, because she knew I wanted to get up and write. It furthered helped to turn on the living room lamp, to offset the predawn darkness, before I sit down to work. I do that every morning.
Finally, there’s the dog. Without fail, she settles in beside me while I write. She’s here right now.
These are touchstones of light and connection. It helps to turn to them when thoughts go dark and lonely. As for the rest of the day, I plan to take it easy. To stay in touch with people. To take care of myself.
Already, these things are working. Thanks for reading, and have a great day.
This is part twenty of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
I’ve been reflecting a bit, lately, on where I’ve ended up — in my life and creative career. In many ways, things feel good. The Videoblogs is in post. I’m still proud of Multiverse. I have a new script in the works that I’m very happy with even if I’m also, as usual, terrified of finishing it.
Dreams are beginning to materialize into goals. This is good, because goals can be whittled down, aimed and launched.
Multiverse has launched and landed. The Videoblogs is in the air, even if its riding a slowed-down trajectory warped by limits of time, budget, scope, intention. This new project feels especially sharp in certain terms, but it’s shaped differently than anything I’ve ever done before and I don’t honestly know how or if it’s going to fly. Beyond that, it’s been a fun project to develop.
But, sometimes, I still struggle. Freeze up. I lose faith, or clarity, and I’m left feeling like nothing is going to work out. I feel stuck. I get depressed.
I know that this is normal, by now, when you’re pursuing a path through the arts, and so I don’t (usually) obsess over things at such times. Yet these reflections, I think, have also revealed something new, recently, that I hadn’t noticed before.
Even when things get tough, now — I don’t stop working.
In fact, I’ve arguably felt more dedicated, more focused. I feel a presence within myself that is both new and old, gently pushing me to at least get a little done each day. The old part of me approaches the task with innocence, reminds me that creativity feels good. The new part reinforces the idea that any progress is good progress, and kindly reminds me to appreciate my own work.
One recent night, this combined presence made me stop on the way home from work and put an hour in on revisions of the aforementioned new script.
That hour calmed my shit. And I moved the script forward.
It used to go differently. Historically, I would have tortured myself with excuses, and/or imagined difficulties. I would have lasso’d or found my way into the middle of any drama within radius, so as to have a reason…to run. I would run until a sense of separation from myself (which is what happens when I don’t write in particular) grew too unbearable, whereupon I’d finally capitulate to the intense need to keep creating.
Then there would be a writing binge. Accompanied by other binges.
Things are different now, and I wanted to share these thoughts because I’ve had to remind myself of why and how I’ve felt different, lately.
I have come to treasure a new, simpler relationship with myself, and my craft as it relates to that self. As a result of the last several years of trying and failing and learning, both in career terms and personal terms, I’ve come to feel protective of this new perspective and process. It’s not perfect but it’s less complicated.
I still feel anxious. The dread still comes, in waves. But, increasingly, I don’t panic.
Just a few days ago, someone was panicking (and directing his panic at me) and…I just didn’t want anything to do with it. He was worried about something, which was his choice. He asked if I understood why he was concerned. I said that I did but that I just didn’t feel like panicking about it. The conversation ended when he literally walked away.
I’ve felt that brand of anxiety before — still do, sometimes — and I sympathize with anyone who feels he or she can only proceed that way in order to get things “done” or “fixed”. But I’m learning there are other ways — asking for help, and/or expressing our fears major among them.
Panic used to be the only path I knew to take on my way to work. Now I’ve embraced other paths, like routine and patience.
I don’t miss the panic. I embrace, instead, the steady, daily urgency. But this is not to suggest that it’s always easy.
Say what you will about panic, but it does get people moving. I don’t judge myself for the years of fuse-lit stress. I had a lot of pages to burn through that just needed to be burned. Similarly, I think I needed to live fast for a while…maybe…just to keep on living. The way that it’s gone was probably always the way it was going to go, for me.
And even now, when the panic goes, it can become disorienting. After all, if all we ever know of forward motion comes from being driven by panic, how are we supposed to know how to achieve the same effect, once calm begins to assert itself in our lives? Won’t the whole system come crumbling down? Won’t a steady pace feel unnatural, slow, wrong — when we’re used to speeding, dead-ahead, towards The Goal?
Well, yes. Though, in my experience, the process of destruction and re-creation isn’t always so dramatic as it feels it’s going to be when we theorize about it at times of anxiety. This is mostly because, as I established above — we aren’t actually speeding in a straight line, when we’re panicked, are we? We’re speeding, then screeching to a halt, then pivoting and changing directions, or turning around, or attempting an impossible back-flip, or any combination (or repetition) of all these things.
In this way, panic’s false promise reveals itself. Panic isn’t the tonic it purports to be. It offers unspecific, largely unfocused perpetual motion in the guise of A Way Out. The insidiousness of the compact is that, while panic has you launching and twisting and starting and stopping — there’s no way to tell for sure whether or not you are in fact heading in the wrong direction. It wasn’t until I accepted that I had been “moving” too long without arriving anywhere, until I began learning to subsequently pause and look and listen and inquire — about myself, as I would any other external influence in my life — that I began to realize my “error”.
When the panic goes, we can take advantage of the resulting calm to begin building something more permanent, something that couldn’t have structurally withstood the sharp redirects or the sudden snapping halts that used to characterize our panicked state.
The change isn’t painless. Some days, I feel like I’ve lost a friend.
Panic drove my survival for so long — arguably drove me to write and to create in the first place. Sometimes I even give panic a call on the old land line and we end up hanging out, because few things ends perfectly — and then I wake up with a hangover or a foreboding sense of disappointment and I remember why it’s better for me to make the decisions about what to do and for how long.
The tricky things about panic is that it doesn’t come from a bad place. It comes from an understandably human place — a place of fear. But then, because of fear, panic leads us to a place that at its worst is assuredly bad, and at its best assuredly not good.
And, finally, panic has a charge to it — doesn’t it? There’s a bit of a high that comes with the sense that The Situation is Desperate.
But the reality is that it’s usually not. And the high gives way to a crash, and maybe, yeah, in the end you have a stack of paper or some other Piece of Art — but at what cost? And is it possibly as good as it could be if our truest, most focused self wasn’t completely engaged in its making?
I don’t buy the “necessary suffering” line of thought. Especially not anymore. I get that a hard life, that hard times — they often bring dynamism to the lives of people who subsequently (if they’re lucky) end up feeling compelled to expunge what they’ve experienced, absorbed and processed via some form of art. Having been through this myself, I get that panic is often going to be the first car to pick you up on the road.
Still, as I get further from a place of panic, I am coming to appreciate other, purer, more natural ways of proceeding through life, as I follow what compels me.
I try to write every morning, now, six days a week. Sometimes, it’s still hard, and I end a day without having gotten much done. But every page that gets written, every minute spent on a film, is one more than nothing, which is more than I was able to get done on a daily basis during previous years of my life that were ruled mostly by panic.
When the panic goes, I remain. That can be scary. But it’s real.
I like that it’s real. It makes me happy, much of the time. Even when it doesn’t — there’s at least no regret. And a bonus to all this is that panic finds it increasingly difficult to find new footholds the further I get from the belief that I need it.
I’ve been worried, over the course of these last few weeks, about not feeling panicked. I questioned my dedication, the righteousness of my projects, my points of view. I returned to constantly-revisited patterns of wondering who or what I was, in the broadest terms, because, despite all of the above, the distorted lens of panic has warped my vision after all these years. I struggled to understand how I could say that I cared — if I wan’t panicked.
And then, slowly, one routine at a time, I began rededicating myself to pause. I’m still struggling with it a bit. I probably always will. The whole process has and will continue to take patience.
At the moment, I understand this. I’ll probably forget it next week.
But that’s okay, too. I’m going to continue to worry, I’m going to continue to get anxious. Dread may come and go.
But I don’t have to panic.
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On the one hand, I want to respect the boundary between the exposure the majority of us appear to be feeling, following the loss of a beloved artist who at one point or another touched all our lives. It doesn’t seem like an appropriate time to be promoting something.
On the other hand, I’m not “promoting” anything. If your impression has been different in recent weeks, I’m sorry. What my team and I have really been trying to do is ask for your support. We feel compelled to make a piece of art and want to share it with you. The only way I felt it could happen was this way: by going directly to you first for validation that this is a worthy idea.
And that’s why, despite even my own sadness and confusion and fear, we’re going to resume our efforts today (after last night’s brief hiatus) to get The Videoblogs made.
It may seem inappropriate to be asking for money, in order to make a movie about mental health, in the days following the death of an icon that appears to have been a result of either depression or the disease of addiction (or both). It seems less appropriate, though, to me, with so little time left, to scuttle the last several weeks of these heartfelt efforts because of this tragedy.
Allow me to be very honest with you about something, not as a means of proving anything but to make it clear why we’re doing this.
I have felt inconsolably alone in the world. I have felt hopeless beyond repair. I have had thoughts, in the past, about ending it all. That’s about as much as I can really say about it, right now.
By some grace, I got help. I started to learn that loneliness, as contradictory as this sounds, can be (is) shared.
Just as we together bear the grief of loss, we can together take on the responsibility to change. We can decide, while or after the grieving process works its course, to contemplate how to move forward.
For me, I need to continue to strive for more openness and bravery in these areas. So I am going to continue efforts to fund and produce The Videoblogs over these final days of our funding push.
Pushing to get the film made doesn’t feel any less like the right thing to do, this morning, as compared to yesterday morning. To be honest, it hardly feels more urgent after what’s happened.
I’m mourning the loss of Robin Williams today. More than that, though, I feel for his family, and all the families around the country and world whose struggles with the sometimes overbearing responsibility of just being human…sometimes result in the tragic loss of life, livelihood, health or happiness.
Depression, addiction, mental illness, these are not just the problems of the afflicted or their nearest and dearest. They are sicknesses in the world that are not made any better through ignorance or neglect.
Since last night, I have seen people reminding others that help is out there, that they can reach out — and I join that chorus. The message we received from NAMI-NYC, in regards to The Videoblogs Dialogue, is repeated below for anyone who might need a number to call.
I’ve also heard others say that reaching out “is not that easy.” Having been there, I don’t disagree.
What I would like to say to that last group, however, and anyone listening to them, is this: just know that there is hope. I promise you that. I am proof.
NAMI-NYC provides support groups and is available to direct people towards any care they may need in dealing with any difficult subjects. Please call their resource helpline at 212-684-3264 or visit their website at: http://naminycmetro.org. Outside the NYC Metro area, call The National Information Helpline: 1 (800) 950-NAMI (6264).
It’s is a day-long movement in which we ask you to do two (perhaps three) things:
Watch Multiverse, our short film about reclusive young woman braves a night out in NYC and is confronted by an increasingly isolating series of strange events.
Ask your friends to watch Multiverse and to consider contributing to #VideoblogsFilm, our first feature film, on Seed and Spark. Both films are about mental health. The Videoblogs is also about advocating for personal expression through technology.
Contribute to #VideoblogsFilm if you’re able and haven’t already. Every dollar helps.
Below is both a copy of Multiverse and a sample Tweet/Facebook message that you can copy and paste and post. If you’ve already seen Multiverse, feel free to skip to Step 2. And/or Step 3 🙂
Today is #MultiverseDay. Watch #Multiverse + then help @MichaelDiBiasio + @RebeccaDeO make their 1st feature! Pls RT! http://bit.ly/1pX8XUF
Share on Facebook
Today is #MultiverseDay. Watch #Multiverse, from Michael DiBiasio and Rebecca De Ornelas, and then help them make their first feature, The Videoblogs, which is about mental health and reaching out through The Screen. http://bit.ly/1pX8XUF
We have 10 days left to raise $13,000 to make #VideoblogsFilm. It’s an uphill battle but we started fighting years ago by making Multiverse.
Here is Part 2 of our Videoblogs Monologues project. As a refresher, this side-project is being being produced in order to illustrate what we’re aiming to do not only with The Videoblogs but also “Phase 2” of our project. Basically, we’re trying to contribute to a greater dialogue on mental health, while also advocating for the positive use of technology for personal expression.
At the same time, we’re looking to collaborate with other writers and performers to just make stuff 🙂
I’m excited to announce that Multiverse will be screening at the Encore Indiefilm Showcaseon this Thursday, 7/24 in Portland, OR, at 7PM. We’ll be playing with Amy Seimetz’s Sun Don’t Shine.
A reclusive young woman braves a night out in NYC and is confronted by an increasingly isolating series of strange events.
This is our first public screening (with a few more hopefully to follow). We’re looking forward to sharing the film with the Portland community and thank Jason W. de Parrie-Turner and Jeanne de Parrie-Turner at Encore for inviting us to participate.
For anyone who is new to this site, Multiverse is the latest (completed) film produced by myself and Rebecca De Ornelas. We’re currently crowdunding our first feature, The Videoblogs, on Seed&Spark.
The Videoblogs is thematically similar to Multiverse, and is about a struggling struggling young woman whose life takes a surprise turn when a troubled teenager finds her private video journal.
Rebecca and I are proud to announce that we have been in preproduction on our first feature film, The Videoblogs, since June.
We’re currently crowfunding for the minimum amount of funds we need to pay for things like food, insurance, hard drives, etc. Everything else is being done in accordance with a bootstrapped experimental production model that I will write about in more detail soon.
Finally, we could sure use your help spreading the word. Friend me and Rebecca on Facebook, if we aren’t friends already. Follow us on Twitter (me here, her here).
If you can help financially, that would be wonderful, too. Every little bit makes a big difference. And there are plenty of cool perks to donating, like advanced copies of the film — or a personal videoblog from our cat or dog.
But, honestly, if you like our pitch — it would provide a huge boost if you could share the project with your nearest and dearest. Since you seem to like us (at least a little bit) our hope is that maybe a few of them will like us, too.
Here are sample messages you can copy and paste in seconds:
Share on Facebook!
Check out #VideoblogsFilm, an #indie feature about a struggling young woman whose life takes a surprise turn when a troubled teen finds her private video journal. Now funding on Seed&Spark! Incentives for contributing include advanced access to the film and vlogs from animals! http://bit.ly/1pvk1ct
Oh. And, also, since you’re so cool, feel free to watch our recently completed short film, Multiverse, for free. Right. Now. Hope you like it.
Share Multiverse on Facebook!
Check out #Multiverse, a creepy #scifi #drama about a reclusive young woman braves a night out in NYC and is confronted by an increasingly isolating series of strange events. The team behind it is crowdfunding their first feature on Seed&Spark! http://bit.ly/1nu5v7W
Thank you, sincerely, for your time and any help in spreading the word!