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 written about this before, but lately I’ve been thinking again about balance.
Beyond this, I’ve been thinking about the complexities of negotiating balance, such that we might hopefully arrive at and sustain a general level of contentedness and passion — by which we might thrive in life.
This becomes a tricky subject, when you’re artistically inclined, or similarly believe in or are attracted to some calling. That’s so loud to you that can’t ignore it, despite all evidence that, to many others, it’s either a non-sound, a far-off whisper, or manifests instead as a quiet alarm.
How exactly do we thrive, do we find and maintain balance, when there’s so much else to modern life that runs counter to such a comparatively liberated lifestyle?
By now, I’ve figure out some of the answers, even though I often forget to trust in them (more on this later).
Many have been oft-discussed by artists and people more experienced than me. Still, here are some ideas, in case they help.
If you’re goal is to write — prove it. Write. Early and often. Everything else can be slotted in below. If it’s something else that you want to do. The answer is the same. Put in the time. It doesn’t have to be all day, but it does have to be the most important and focused part of the day, as often as possible.
2. Live Life
There is no ideation, no creation, without the raw materials of experience and observation. And our relationship with both or either can range from small to large.
A spec of dust drifting on the air at dawn. Heartbreak — which only happens when we risk our heart. Both are of the stuff of life. We must tend to such things.
And then, beyond living, there is the stickier point of making a living.
3. Accept The Necessity of Sacrifice
Barring inherited wealth or quick luck, any major artistic or business pursuit that begins with one or a handful of people is going to require sacrifice.
This can be a tricky concept. Sacrifice is a loaded word in our culture.
It’s neither noble, nor appropriate, or even ultimately helpful to us, to sacrifice relationships, or balance (see examples above) in the nominal pursuit of the time or space we “need” to create and thrive.
To mistake such avoidance as sacrifice is to hollow out any eventual victory. It frames the very basic and understandable needs we all have as humans in the world — to be understood, to feel important — in baser terms. To be understood by an eventual, adoring audience or customer base, who will not (cannot) sustain us during the hardest and loneliest part of the process (the making of a thing), to be called essential by them after it’s done and we’re depleted — these things do not replace the basic human need to be loved by the self and one’s family and friends.
So, this is not what I mean when I say that, to negotiate the time and space to pursue passion in the midst of a busy life, we must be willing to make sacrifices.
It is my experience, instead, that there are plenty of opportunities, every day, to let go of as much as possible that is not made of life-stuff, or sustained by passion.
That means genuine fun stays. Distractions go. Procrastination — goes. What this basically means is that you can stop viewing 85% of what’s on TV and/or your other screens.
This is all very difficult, in execution. It can’t be figured out in a day.
In a week, momentum can be built. In a month, progress can be made. And much more can be done in six months than we might think. And across the years? Sometimes it shocks me how different I am, how much I have accomplished, over a year or two.
In the midst of it, we might feel exhausted, afraid, angry and hopeless. But if we stay true, and maintain balance and health, time elides.
Sometimes, now, I forget what day of the week it is, or what point I’m at during the year, in terms of holidays and seasonal social patterns and such. I don’t worry or feel guilt about this. I let my calendar remind me of what’s essential. Otherwise I keep working towards the goal, even if and as it shifts.
5. See to Your Health(s)
This is the most crucial aspect of negotiating balance. Everyone will have their different needs and thresholds here. My struggles in these terms have been well-documented on this site.
You will get tired, if or when you decide to fit something big into the general madness of everyday life. It is crucial to rest.
Similarly, I find it crucial to respect the quiet nastiness of the everyday fight.
We are bombarded daily by the smiles of pushers.
Buy this. Eat this. Drink this. Give us your money. Your time.
What’s left of us if we constantly listen to this steady stream of broadcast manipulation? None of us are immune. I’m not. We must pick our battles, and set our boundaries. Ultimately, the pushers are as beholden to us as we are ensnared by them.
What’s worked for me, foremost — denying the typical American diet. On most days, I stay away from sugar, carbs that break down into sugar, dairy, and alcohol. I’m not formally exercising right now, mostly because I’m still recovering from the damage I’ve done to my body while producing The Videoblogs (and the related spiritual exhaustion), but I go out of my way to walk as much as possible.
I make plans, more often, with friends, so as to blow off steam. One day a week, I open the gates to sugar and dairy and alcohol (pizza and beer and ice cream).
And I pay attention to my mental and spiritual health. I journal. I meditate. I try to take long breaks from my phone and computers.
6. Forgive “Failure”
Also, I fail. I forget. I succumb to fear, or anger, and other emotions Yoda warned us about.
And that’s okay.
It is a very difficult thing, to negotiate balance, in life and art. It’s especially difficult when we’re not wealthy or yet being paid steadily to make the things we love.
But if we love them, and if we love ourselves — even if we have to fake our way in these respects for awhile — we overall find more days of solace and pride, than of hopelessness and depression.
The dark days do come. They’re part of life, and perhaps even essential for the contrast they provide. We are imperfect. We will falter. Part of balance, of negotiation, is make adjustments back towards the center.
This is part seventeen of a thirty day trial, during which I am writing and publishing a post every day. No refunds. Comments welcome and encouraged!
When Rebecca and I were in the early stages of planning The Videoblogs, we met at one point with Gary Chou at Orbital in NYC. We’ve come to treat that meeting as a special one, because Gary listened to our plans (which we’ve mostly followed and are still following) but challenged us to see if we couldn’t take them a step further.
By now, if you’re a reader of this site, you know that we’re making The Videoblogs to contribute to a greater dialogue on mental health in America. And while the hope is that the film itself will become a part of that conversation, Gary’s challenge helped us address a lingering feeling that we weren’t quite taking our plan far enough, in terms of creating a project that not only sparked conversation but encouraged an interactivity that more closer mirrored today’s rising tech-enabled general culture — and its positive potential, more than its dangers.
We’re leveraging and addressing, with The Videoblogs itself, new technologies and new technologically-affected ways of living. And yet the overarching thematic message that we’re seeking to put forth with the story, in these terms, is that we can reach out through the screen to connect, not only virtually, but as a gateway to more of the real-life interaction upon which the human spirit fundamentally subsists — even as technology is making the rest of what goes into subsistence easier and more accessible.
In concrete terms, Gary pushed us to consider how we could take our message and apply it to an active, real-life, two-way solution. The idea greatly appealed to me, as I’ve grown increasingly frustrated by the broadcast-only structure of legacy long-form storytelling. And Rebecca took the challenge head-on. After some back and forth with Gary, we started working to plan The Videoblogs Dialogue in parallel with the production and release of the film.
It took some time to get going (we’re bootstrapping indie filmmakers after all!), but now it’s here. And I’m very excited and very proud and thank Gary and Rebecca for their roles in making it a reality.
Special thanks also to Paul Gilmartin, Grace Parra, Ashely Esqueda and Alice Spivak for lending their time to the contest and the cause. Their early commitments to serve on the jury for The Videoblogs Dialogue helped us gain momentum in the early days of planning, and even though it took some time to get the contest together and now launched, we continue to remain grateful for their help.
And of course thanks also to:
Project UROK, an official partner in the project, and an organization that does amazing work encouraging people to talk more openly and honestly about mental health
Co-sponsor Seed&Spark, a forward-thinking company that helps empower film and media storytellers, and promotes community and interdependence in the independent film industry
And co-sponsor Big Vision Empty Wallet, a film and media incubator that encourages and supports filmmakers working in today’s tech-enabled environment and champions diversity in storytelling
More below. But all the information, including how to enter the contest, can be found on the site for the film. I look forward to seeing what entrants submit. Let’s (safely) talk about this stuff.
The Videoblogs Dialogue is a user-generated video contest, in which participants submit their own videoblogs (3 min or less), pertaining to themes of mental health and/or personal struggle. Participants aged 18-24 are eligible to win a $1,000 Cash Prize and Mentorship package, to be put towards the creation of their own short film on mental health. Anyone age 18 and up can enter for the chance to have their videoblog included in the closing credits of The Videoblogs.
We’re running this contest to contribute to a greater dialogue about mental health in America, and to encourage tomorrow’s artists, filmmakers and performers to bravely engage with what have classically been labeled as difficult subjects (depression, anxiety, trauma) with an ultimate focus on hope.
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Team #VideoblogsFilm is on the lookout for an Assistant Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD) to join marketing and distribution efforts for our independent film about mental health in today’s busy, tech-enabled environment.
Feel strongly about advocating for a greater dialogue on mental health in America?
Have experience and a great interest in independent film, or a comparable art form?
Have room in your schedule to commit to performing specific administrative and research tasks, on a weekly basis, beginning ASAP and continuing through May 2016 (possibly beyond)?
Want to gain experience in the marketing and distribution of a truly independent film?
Want to establish a working relationship with hard-working producers who release a film at least once per year?
Live in the NYC area?
If so, please review the job responsibilities below. Apply via the instructions at the bottom of this post if interested in the position.
Maintain and update project calendar, keep core team on track with deadlines
Set meetings, take notes, work with core team to update business plan(s) as appropriate
Under direction of Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD), research and catalog list of potential partner organizations, on national and local (US city) level
Assist PMD with digital release strategy implementation
Other administrative tasks
Compensation and Timeline
$250/wk, from start to May 2016
Flexible hours, mostly remote work
Potential for continued employment with this project
With good performance, strong consideration for larger role in next project produced by same core team
This position is project-based. The weekly amount of hours it will take to perform will depend largely on how long it takes to effectively and efficiently meet deadlines. The Assistant PMD will not be expected to work full-time, but will need to be able to perform tasks on a weekly basis and respond to emails and calls in a timely manner.
Please send a brief cover letter to mdibiasio [at] outlook [dot] com, summarizing relevant experience, your interest in the position, and what your goals would be in performing the role of Assistant PMD.
Attach a resume (in PDF form only).
Also, at the end of your cover letter, please identify the last great book you read, and include a one-sentence reason why you loved it. Alternatively, you may also tell us about the last great meal you ate (and why you loved it).
Applications that do not follow these instructions will be sugar-shamed and then deleted. We look forward to reviewing your applications!
Amy Koppelman started writing before she had any idea that she would one day become a novelist. Three books and one film adaptation later, she now has plenty to share with Coffee with Creatives listeners, especially about:
The cathartic, early-stage creative exploits that often later lead to our larger creative pursuits
Waiting for the tools needed to authentically address what we’re compelled to address
Learning to parse comments and criticism
The importance of learning — and then breaking — the rules
The difficulty of letting go after a thing is done
How and why darkness doesn’t necessarily suggest hopelessness
Humanizing mental illness
The importance of perseverance
It was great to meet Amy, and to talk shop about fiction and the challenges of being a novelist. Her unflinching portrayals of characters struggling with depression, trauma, and other tough subjects — they can serve as a good reminder of how hard things can get for people who we might know and love but not always fully understand. Her discussion of the hopefulness that can often come out of that process, as well, is particularly moving.
Hesitation Wounds comes out in hardcover on November 3rd. For more information on her other books, and/or the film adaptation of her novel I Smile Back, check out her site. You can also follow Amy on Twitter.
As supporters of The Videoblogs already know, mental health is an important topic to me and to Rebecca. We reached out to Dior to offer some help with her project, and at the same time I asked her to come on the show.
The result was an inspiring (but realistic) talk on mental health in America, nationally, but also specifically in regards to communities that continue to be underrepresented in the media in regards to this topic.
Other aspects of the discussion include:
The universality of daily struggle
How to get help, if you’re suffering
Finding some measure of peace, by sourcing out how you can contribute to the world in a way that is also fulfilling to you
The importance of empathy in the fight for progress of all sorts
How people who aren’t suffering from mental illness can still help contribute to de-stigmatization and/or help their loved ones cope and thrive
Please note that we do also talk about suicide during this episode.
Thanks for listening. If you support Dior’s mission, I would encourage you to join Rebecca and me in supporting her campaign. If and when it’s over, you can also follow her on Twitter, or connect with her on Facebook, to keep up on how you might help in the future.
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I’m out on a porch, overlooking the Russian River in Healdsburg, CA, and the sun is shining and the birds are chirping and I have coffee.
It’s been a good, if hectic, week. Life feels charged, lately — in a positive way.
Facing Up To Mental Illness
This first thing I liked this week, that I want to bring to everyone’s attention, is Campaign to Face It, a smart, modest, bold initiative to help combat the stigma with which many contemporary societies still view mental illness, addiction, and other conditions associated with mental health.
On June 5th, I and my wife joined with many others in wearing t-shirts designed to help call out this stigma. I wore a shirt that identified me as someone who has struggled with mental illness, and I shared a photo captioned with that same message to social media channels.
I’ve been saying for a long time that it’s important that we talk about mental health. The campaign felt like a simple but effective way to do so safely, personally — by joining with others who sought to prove by their own admissions that they stand behind this same message.
As I wrote that day, I’m mostly doing better now, after struggling for quite a while with prolonged bouts of depression. It’s been a long road, that won’t ever end. But there’s help out there. If you’re ever struggling with your mental health, reach out to someone. You’re not alone, and most people are kind. Help is out there, and you don’t have to be any more ashamed to ask for it, if you’re suffering mentally, than you would if you had a broken arm.
And, if you’re ashamed anyway — still ask for help. It’s okay. No one is perfect and shame can cause a lot more damage.
Big Vision Empty Wallet Distribution Lab
Rebecca and I brought The Videoblogs to Big Vision Empty Wallet’s 2015 Distribution Lab this week. It was a fun and informative experience. We learned a lot, met some great people, and emerged from the various meetings, scheduled by BVEW founders Alex Cirillo and Dani Faith Leonard, feeling re-energized about finishing the film and getting it ready to go out into the world.
I’m here in wine country for my cousin’s wedding. After the busyness of starting the podcast, writing a new story, attending the labs, rushing to make the flight, and scrambling around San Francisco to fill a short day there with some sightseeing — it feels good to sit here and sip coffee and feel the sun on my face.
Also, I haven’t been able to spend much time with my family over the past few years. It’s been great to see everyone. I had a good time running around San Francisco with my parents and Rebecca. I’m having a good time here, now, with my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.
This is important stuff. I’m going to get back to it.
As promised in last week’s relaunch of this feature, I will be attempting to keep What I Liked This Week relatively short, from here forward. If I end up responding to something in a profoundly major way, I may break that rule again, but for now — here goes!
This wasn’t planned, but this week, the things I liked the most all fell into a single category: Mental Health. I’m glad it shook out this way — especially because May is National Mental Health Awareness month.
Here are three things you might want to check out:
Tim Ferriss Talks About Suicide
I’m a big fan of Tim’s work, which has helped me take control of my life in many ways. Tim’s blog post, “ Some Practical Thoughts About Suicide,” is a good read. I can relate to quite a bit of what he shares. But what I like most about the piece is that it comes from a highly-visible person, with a large following of fans who often listen very seriously to what he has to say. It’s good, on a very basic level, that this is now “out there”.
The Mental Illness Happy Hour
I have been listening to comedian Paul Gilmartin’s podcast for a while now, especially after we reached out to him last year while assembling the jury for The Videoblogs Dialogue. That contest will launch soon (we’re a bit delayed) but I have especially been getting a lot out of the podcast lately and wanted to made sure readers know it’s out there. Paul does a great job managing the process of conversing about difficult subjects in each episode, not only with guests or when speaking personally but also while reading anonymous surveys filled out by listeners “on air”.
I’m not always able to listen to the show — sometimes it gets a little too painful — but lately I’ve been listening more often and I just really appreciate that it’s out there. I also really like how funny it can be. Paul is funny on his own, but laughing at the darkness with him and his guests is frequently a great salve for me, that really helps in between other sources of relief.
We desperately need a better infrastructure for mental health programs (around the country). Regardless of your political leanings (mine have tumbled in recent years into a loose pile of centrist debris), once you acknowledge this fact (it’s a fact) it stands to reason that trying anything at all — is a good thing.
Trying things cost money, and requires patience. I don’t believe the government should be solely responsible for either reform or maintaining/improving our current infrastructure of mental health programs or services. I wouldn’t work so hard personally to produce art that advocates for dealing with mental health issues if I did feel that way.
Like most things on such a scale, addressing this major national issue will take a mix of solutions, probably customized to the individual. First, though, those solutions need to be available (to everyone). I know, personally, that there are non-governmental systems and groups that exist, to help people when they’re suffering. The above-two examples are free resources that don’t necessarily solve anything on their own, but do provide information, comfort and hope.
Still, in an age where politics and government appear frequently callous and ineffective, it’s nice to believe that something like this could arrive soon, to help us combat The Mental Health Crisis as well.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to hit me up with questions/concerns in the comments.
What I Liked This Week is a weekly site feature in which I briefly summarize three things I liked recently, that I would like to call to readers’ attention. They aren’t always recent to this week or even necessarily things. An experience can be a thing. The point is that I like them and you might, too!
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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 🙂