All I Need Is My Lamp and My Dog!

 

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.

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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!

Day 01: Struggles and Wonders and Dying in  Chair

Day 02: Fear, Panic, Identity and Anti-Focus

Day 03: Purple Sky of Towering Clouds Over a Far-off City

Day 04: Circle Up and Laugh

Day 05: On The Future of Labor

Day 06: Appreciating Difficulty, Harnessing its Momentum

Day 07: The Word for World is Earth

Day 08: It’s About The Dreaming, Not The Dream

Day 09: Moments of Presence: CWC Interview (Writer Laura Goode)

Day 10: Simmering Little Wrath of The Annoyed Man

Day 11: Tragedy, Remembrance and Wonder

Day 12: A New Light Borrowed or Discovered

Day 13: Productivity Tips for Anyone Prone to Overwhelm (Like Me)

Day 14: Legitimately Va-goo

Day 15: Sex-Bleating and Cat Vomit

Day 16: The Waiting Place

Day 17: 6 Ways to Bring Balance to the (Artistic) Force

Day 18: How to Decide What to Make Next

Day 19: Take Faith for Yourself, Give Them Skepticism

 

Through The Fear: Novelist Amy Koppelman

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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

AMyKoppelman[1]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.

This episode is also on iTunes.

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Coffee with Creatives: This is Who I Am

To learn more about Dior's work,  check out her site.

This bonus episode of Coffee with Creatives is with Dior Vargas, a mental health activist who I met on Twitter after stumbling upon the Kickstarter campaign for her People of Color and Mental Illness Photo Project.

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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What I Liked This Week: Mental Health Edition

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

The back of the shirt reads:
The back of the shirt reads: “…and so are you.” Because mental illness affects us all.

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

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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.

Related to that, BVEW recently announced a new initiative to combat issues of diversity in film. It’s an important cause, that I very much support, so go check it out especially if you’re a filmmaker.

Down Time, Family Time

My grandfather is a boss at bocce.
My grandfather is a boss at bocce.

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.

Have a good week.

Photo credit: Some nice guy from Spain who took direction via hand signals.
Photo credit: Some nice guy from Spain who took direction via hand signals.