Tag Archives: community

Look for the Helpers, They’re Overworked and Bleary-eyed

Me wearing a Cub Scout leader uniform

“Good God, what have I done?”

What do the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Baymax from Big Hero 6, and a panda have in common? They’re all overstuffed with cuteness! Want to know what’s not overstuffed with cuteness? My calendar. It is a bloated beast of an overachieving obsessive compulsive need to be needed.

Need me to watch your kids for a couple of hours? Sure! Need me to volunteer for your slot at church? Not a problem! Need me to organize, lead, and recruit for the Cub Scout pack? Why not? I’m already not sleeping much because I’m up at 4 am stressing out about all the crap I have to do.

Before I had kids, I would read “O Magazine” and marvel at article after article encouraging women to just say no to the endless requests to volunteer and host some event or another. What could be so hard about saying no?

Now my Google calendar is packed with the typical swim lessons, martial arts classes, Cub Scout meetings, Girl Scout meetings, and volunteering at school. In addition, the unwritten calendar in my head is swimming with “help kids do their homework,” “practice Zach’s speech therapy,” “get Kaylee to practice sight words and phonics,” feed the dogs, walk the dogs, do laundry, buy groceries, etc. and etc. So naturally, when I read there was an upcoming Girl Scouts ice-skating event, I jumped at the chance to squeeze in one more activity!

Thank God the troop leader told me the event was already full. We do so much for Zach because he’s older and started many of his activities before Kaylee could walk that I feel like I owe it to her to do stuff that’s just for her. She’s oblivious of course. She just wants me to play with her and do pretty much whatever she tells me to.

I realize there’s a certain egotism to constantly volunteering and offering to help other people. Look at me, I’m Mrs. Dependable and selfless as a saint! I still have the email where my friend called me a “rock star” on Facebook for watching one of her kids in the morning then the other kid in the afternoon. It does feel really good sometimes to be helpful. Or to accomplish a ridiculous number of errands in a short span of time. It’s also exhausting and depleting.

Sometimes I overcompensate by playing a word search video game (yes, I’m a word nerd) for an hour or two past my bedtime. It’s like a big (Mike Myers’ Scottish-accented) “Fuck yer!” to the universe. “Ha ha, I am accomplishing absolutely nothing right now! What I’m doing is totally useless and self-sabotaging!” Go, me!

The thing is, other people really do need help. Schools, churches, Scouts, family, and friends often need warm bodies, photocopies, food, or a shoulder to cry on. I’ve volunteered at events before and felt what I imagine is like “being in the trenches,” where you know you’re accomplishing with a handful of people what really ought to take dozens more to do. You know if you leave early it falls on the shoulders of even fewer people to do the rest.

So, what should you do to not overstuff your calendar the way I do? “Fifik.” That’s my friend’s acronym for “fuck if I know.” Just kidding. No, not really. So far, procrastinating helps. Letting email fall farther and farther down the queue to where you forget you ever received it works. Being consistently and reliably incompetent probably works too, but I’m so afraid of failure I can’t bring myself to try it. My friend did give me a good phrase to use whenever someone asks for volunteers, “Sorry, I’m already overcommitted.”

I’ve structured my life so that I’m needed by a lot of people and a few animals. I guess what I have to remember is that I need me too. I need me to go to bed on time. I need me to go to the gym and work out for an hour three times per week. I need me to use my sociopathic charm to recruit more helpers and delegate some of the workload. I need to remember that just because I can provide so many enrichment opportunities for my kids doesn’t mean I have to provide every single one. Sure, they’ll miss out on a fun event here and there, but they already have rich, full lives. Because I’m their mom, and I am overstuffed with awesomeness. Hmm, maybe that’s why these pants feel kinda tight.

How do you keep yourself from scheduling too many things?

An Alternative to Vaccines: Voluntary Intentional Exposure

A kid sick in bed

Illustration by Cécile Graat

There seems to be this dichotomy where there are only two choices to protect our communities from preventable diseases: vaccinate or don’t vaccinate. I propose we offer a third option: doctor and CDC-monitored voluntary intentional exposure.

There are currently over 50 confirmed cases of measles in the U.S. right now. I suggest we offer families who choose not to vaccinate for philosophical beliefs (rather than medical or religious reasons) the option to have their unvaccinated child spend time with a known infected person to intentionally try to catch the disease. Some families have already tried these “pox parties” to try to get their children to develop natural immunity to chicken pox, but having doctors and the CDC monitor the exposure, quarantine, and treatment during the illness would likely make this safer and more effective.

One of the biggest problems with diseases like measles and pertussis is that it’s not immediately apparent that a person is infected and contagious. This would eliminate that uncertainty. You would know exactly when the child was exposed and be able to quarantine them while they’re contagious, have them monitored by their doctor and quickly provide treatments for any complications such as pneumonia or ear infection.

Once the child is no longer contagious, the quarantine can end, and the child can go back into the community with lifelong immunity. One more child contributing to herd immunity, without the need for a vaccine.

Parents who don’t vaccinate their children now are already taking the risk that their child will contract diseases naturally. I imagine if offered this option, many families would choose it. This must of course be voluntary and offered only as an opportunity. Coercing or compelling people is not effective.

Telling concerned parents who choose not to vaccinate their children to “Just Do It” is about as effective as the “Just Say No” to drugs campaign. If we want to increase the percentage of people who are immune to diseases like measles and pertussis, we need to offer other viable options.

Can We Have Meaningful Dialogue about Vaccinating?

Needle and vial

Photo by Brian Hoskins

I’ve been shocked by how quickly my Facebook feed went from showing Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes like, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” to showing videos and sarcastic articles condemning parents who choose not to vaccinate their children. I get so frustrated seeing stuff like that because mocking and ostracizing people you disagree with might seem entertaining and validating, but it’s really just counterproductive.

Dr. Bob Sears wrote, “The answer won’t be to make everyone vaccinate; neither should the answer be to allow diseases to run rampant and kill people left and right. The answer needs to be somewhere in the middle, and it needs to include love, understanding, and calm-headed people who will actually stop and listen to each other.”

I understand why some parents are afraid to get their kids vaccinated. I slow vaccinated my son. He only got one vaccine per month so that if he were to have an adverse reaction, I would know exactly which vaccine it was, and he wouldn’t have to get any subsequent doses. Unfortunately, the only way to find out if someone has an adverse reaction is to get the vaccine. Some parents aren’t comfortable taking that risk.

Fortunately, neither of my kids had any adverse reactions to the vaccines. They occasionally had fevers, and my son vomited once or twice, but nothing more serious than that.

Reading side effect warnings can be pretty terrifying these days though. The prescription information provided by the pharmacist always seems to include dry mouth, seizures, and hallucinations for medication, even if it’s just to stop diarrhea. There have been reports of “long-term seizures, coma, and permanent brain damage“ after the DTaP vaccine. The information sheet states, “These are so rare it is hard to tell if they are caused by the vaccine,” but I can understand why that would give some parents pause.

There’s also the mentality that if my kid catches a disease naturally, they’ll have lifelong immunity. This is why people born before 1957 don’t need to get the measles or mumps vaccines. They’re so likely to have caught the diseases and are still immune.

Of course, catching chickenpox exposes people to developing shingles later in life. My mother-in-law got shingles, was in so much pain she lost the ability to walk, developed pneumonia, and then passed away, all over a period of a few months.

Still, vaccines are not infallible or perfect either. For one thing, they don’t always prevent infection. Six of the people who recently caught the measles at Disneyland were in fact vaccinated but for some reason not fully protected. People can still catch the flu even after getting the vaccine, although it can be milder than if the person were not vaccinated at all. Immunity can also wane over time, requiring booster shots.

Asking parents to vaccinate their children is asking them to take a calculated risk, except you don’t know what the actual calculation is. 1 in a trillion is meaningless if it turns our your kid is that one. Low probability is not necessarily persuasive to everyone.

Still, I’m grateful that my kids are less likely to pass on a preventable disease to our adult friends who have cancer, any friends we have who are allergic to eggs or yeast and aren’t able to get some vaccines, or to children who are too young to be vaccinated.

Reducing the spread of disease requires between 75-95% of people to be immunized, depending on the disease. How can we work together to get to those numbers? Not by ridiculing or condemning the people we want to persuade. There is no Us vs. Them in this. There is only Us, and we all need to work together to figure out how to protect our friends and families.

Don’t Give Up Yet, Just Wait

Just Wait - It Can Get Better

I have thought about committing suicide many, many times over the last 20 years. As a child, before I even knew what suicide was, I had wanted to disappear. I had wanted the fear, the pain, the loneliness, and the anger to go away, forever.

I’ve been extremely lucky to create a network of supportive, loving friends, and family. I didn’t always have that though.

When I was 22, and I first really started to think about committing suicide, I had almost no friends and I was estranged from most of my family. I had an unfulfilling, low-paying job. Luckily I did have a bike and a car. I numbed myself by riding my bike 42 miles every Saturday. When I felt the suicidal thoughts bouncing off the walls of my apartment, I drove up and down PCH (the Pacific Coast Highway). I sought out whatever beauty I could find: in the ocean, the trees, the sunlight.

I basically procrastinated, and doing so saved my life. Even after doing over a year of DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), taking an antidepressant, and creating a life worth living, I still feel the pull of my depression. I still sometimes think:

  • I am worthless
  • I don’t deserve my husband or my kids
  • I’ll never amount to anything
  • I’m tired of fighting myself all the time
  • I can’t do this anymore
  • I just want the pain to go away forever

I honestly feel like I’m living on borrowed time. My father committed suicide two years ago, his brother committed suicide twenty years before that. Who knows when I won’t be able to fight anymore?

Then I remember that we’re all living on borrowed time. Every minute we have is a gift. Every moment, we have the choice to say, “Not yet. Not today. Just wait.”

There are nights when I lay in bed beside my daughter, and I’m just exhausted by my guilt at not being a good enough mother, wife, friend, writer, human being. I think about how much I wish I could definitively end all of the pain with one fell swoop. It’s not enough to think about what it would do to my friends and family. It doesn’t help to think about how damaged my children would be.

Sometimes all I have the strength left for is to say, “Just wait.” Blues Traveler wrote a song called “Just Wait”:

In time you just might take to feeling better
Time’s the beauty of the road bein’ long

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. That’s the thing, I have to wait and see. I need to be here to find out what more I’m capable of, what more I can contribute, how much more love I can experience and share. I do think about needing to be here to guide my children through their depression some day, should they experience it.

I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to fight, but I know that I’m not alone. I will fight alongside Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess), Wil Wheaton, Stephen Fry, Andrew Solomon, and my many friends and family who struggle with depression.

As the Barenakedladies wrote:

Nothing worth having comes without a fight
Gotta kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight

I am deeply saddened by Robin Williams’ death. The love, joy, and inspiration he shared will live on through his work, his loved ones, and his fans.

If you or someone you know is deeply depressed, please get help. Call a suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You cannot be replaced. You matter. You are needed.

Even if you can’t imagine a moment beyond the pain, just wait. It can get better. Wait, reach out, wait some more. It can, and it will get better.

The Catch-22 of Offering Help

I see you.  You matter.  You are not alone.

I was elated that dropping my daughter off at her first day of Pre-K went smoothly. She’d been “acting out” so much for the past few weeks. I guess I was distracted by my relief.

I went to a Starbucks to write, and when the woman in front of my held up her phone to the cashier and asked, “How do I get the bar code to show up?” I blurted out, “You can just shake it.” She didn’t look at me, but she said, “I don’t LIKE to shake it. That’s why I’m asking!” I stood in stunned silence then mumbled, “sorry.” She said, “it’s okay,” but still didn’t look at me.

Twenty minutes later I still feel stunned, but most of all I feel ashamed. I imagine other people can brush off these things, but immediately I feel my self-hatred flare up and start shouting in my head, “Who the hell do you think you are, you obtrusive fuck? No one asked you! No one gives a damn what you think!”

The thing is, it seems like most people want it both ways. I see on Facebook all the time people complaining they don’t get enough support and simultaneously how dare people stick their noses in their business!

I do worry about butting in where I’m not wanted, but I’m more afraid of being apathetic. I, not surprisingly, have serious baggage about feeling abandoned by my parents and also guilty for not being able to stop my father from engaging in illegal activities or to cure his depression and anxiety, which ultimately resulted in his suicide. The next time you’re irritated when someone offers to help, consider that they might share my “rescuing complex” or “compulsive need to help.” It doesn’t excuse it, but it might shed some light.

Blurting out an answer to a question directed to someone else, I can see I came off as meddling, and maybe the woman thought I was judging her for not knowing how to get the bar code to come up. Maybe she was already having a crappy morning, and I just made it a little worse.

I’m tempted to stop offering to help altogether. It would save me the pain of these confrontations. If people needed help, they’d just ask for it, right? Who DO I think I am anyway?

I am a mother, a friend, and a neighbor. I couldn’t survive without all of the people in my life who help me get through parenthood, and honestly, who help me just make it to the end of the day. Isn’t it still a good idea to “pay it forward” once in awhile?

I realize that a lot of it has to do with timing and approach. Things go better when I pause to assess whether this is an appropriate situation to offer help. I’m a Sagittarius though, so thinking before speaking is not my strong suit.

When I see someone juggling a bunch of stuff and usually a couple of kids, I ask, “Can I give you a hand?” or “Would you like some help?” Sometimes they say, “yes, please!” with gratitude mixed with relief. Sometimes they say, “That’s okay, I got it.” Either way, I’m grateful to be in community with that person for just a brief moment.

I have this Margaret Mead quote on my About page, and I really do believe it: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

So even if I get a metaphorical door slammed in my face once in a while, I’m still going to offer a helping hand now and then, even if it’s just looking a person in the eyes, smiling, and expressing, “I see you. You matter. You are not alone.”

How do you balance offering help without butting in?

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Voices from BlogHer ’14

When people ask me how BlogHer ’14 was last week, I get speechless. There were so many great speakers and panels, and I met such friendly, welcoming people, it all rushes over me like a wave when I try to talk about it.

Business cards from BlogHer '14

Some of the business cards I collected

Here are a few important messages I took away.

We are all BlogHer
I used to think of BlogHer as just the media company: its co-founders, its editors, its administrative staff. BlogHer ’14 showed me that all of us who read, write, and share blog posts are part of something so much bigger.

I was struck by how egalitarian it felt. A few of the speakers were high-profile people like Arianna Huffington and Kerry Washington, but most of them were bloggers just like me. The Voices of the Year writers, the 10×10 speakers, even Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess, were once quiet, still-in-the-shadows attendees like me.

It made me realize that I have just as much chance as anyone else of being on that stage one day, and I have so much more to contribute.

We are capable of more than we think
Alexandra Rosas of Good Day, Regular People spoke about how much she has achieved over the last decade, first by getting published for syndication on BlogHer, then by proposing and sitting on a panel at a BlogHer conference, to speaking at BlogHer ’14 as part of the 10×10 series. She was really inspiring. She encouraged us to “surprise yourself with what you can do,” and remember that “just because you can’t do something now doesn’t mean you can’t learn.”

The blogger behind Busy Dad Blog described the influence we can have. Whereas celebrities can create exposure or raise awareness, “Bloggers have the ability better than anyone to change the conversation.”

Kerry Washington expressed her gratitude to Shonda Rimes for making her the star of the hit TV show “Scandal,” and she encouraged us, “Fulfill your dream, or you’ll be robbing someone else.”

A closing keynote speaker urged, “People are waiting for you to make a difference.”

We need to take care of ourselves first in order to thrive
At the same time we support our families and our communities and be the force for change, we also need to care of ourselves first. A few speakers used the analogy from airplanes of “put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.”

Arianna Huffington talked about her book “Thrive,” which calls on us to “redefine success and create a life of well-being, wisdom, and wonder.” She recommends making more time for sleeping, detoxing from digital devices, and learning from other people’s “wake-up calls.” She pointed out that we pay more attention to the state of our digital devices than of our bodies.

Kerry Washington juggles multiple projects, including being a new mother, starring on “Scandal,” and working with the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. She explains that she budgets 80% of her time on where she can make the most impact and 20% doing whatever brings her joy.

We’re all in this together
Even though there are a multitude of topics bloggers write about, whether it’s food, parenting, politics, elder care, or dog training, there are issues that affect us all.

Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress said, “You don’t need to be an expert to change someone’s life, you just need to give a crap.”

Feminista Jones said, “You don’t have to be black, gay, or poor to know when something is wrong.”

A person asked how to help when you don’t belong to a group that’s being treated badly. Kristen Howerton of Rage Against the Minivan said, “The first step is listen. The second step is listen. The third step is listen.” She said after that you need to “amplify” the group’s message, by sharing and retweeting their messages.

We are unique
Many speakers talked about focusing on what we love, the thing inside us that “glows or sparkles” and makes us shine. Elisa Bauer of Simply Recipes said, “Blog about what you love because life is too short to blog about anything else.”

Regardless of whether other people blog about the same topic, each of us has our unique point of view. We need to be who we are without apology. Courageously being ourselves, we can work together and achieve great things.

Please share your BlogHer ’14 stories in the comments below.

Solo Parenting as a Mom with Depression

Mom reading to her daughter

My husband just finished a three-day backpacking trip. Before our son Zach was born seven years ago, my husband would go every year, for up to five days per trip. Since we’ve had kids, it just hasn’t seemed possible or advisable for him to go away for that long.

Some of my friends’ husbands travel frequently for work. I’m not sure whether they share these concerns, but this is what I’m afraid of when my husband is gone for a few days:

  • The kids will wake me up often, and I won’t get enough sleep (my husband usually does nighttime duty)
  • I will be short-tempered and yell more at my kids
  • I will lose my temper and get physically rough with the kids
  • I will feel guilty about my crappy parenting and start thinking about committing suicide
  • All my coping skills will fail, and I will attempt to commit suicide

I am happy to say that only the first of these fears actually happened. Here’s what I did to prevent the others.

Get enough sleep
It can be tempting to stay up late reading a good book or watching a movie, but remember that a good night’s sleep is the foundation you need to be able to use any other coping skills.

Maintain routines
I knew my kids would miss their dad, so I decided to make sure they got to do all the same fun stuff they’d usually do when he is around. We ate dinner and went to the nearby bookstore like we usually do on Friday nights, and camped out in the backyard. I took them to their Saturday swim lesson. I did let them watch a little more TV than usual, which they enjoyed.

Use a calendar to explain when the other parent will be home
My kids are four and seven years old so they don’t really understand time that well. We have a calendar posted on the refrigerator, and I used it to explain what was happening each day and when they’d get to see daddy again. Even though they still didn’t completely understand, somehow it was easier being able to point to each day. On my husband’s last business trip, we even crossed the days off to show how quickly the time was passing.

Schedule lots of play dates
Nothing can distract my children as well as playing with their friends. The night my husband left, we went to dinner at a nearby restaurant that has a bounce house. My son cried for awhile, but then he was too busy having fun jumping with his friends.

One of my friends even took my son Zach for an entire day and had him spend the night. Zach was so excited, it was as if he had won a jackpot.

My four-year-old daughter Kaylee was super excited to have Mama all to herself. She joked that her brother wasn’t home because he “wouldn’t play princess” with her earlier, like she’d personally evicted him.

I felt really proud when my husband came back from his backpacking trip. I not only kept the children alive, I bonded more with them and made the time really fun for all of us.

There was one little bump in the whole solo parenting experience. My husband decided to finish his trip a day early and asked us to pick him up at the trailhead. I misunderstood his directions and drove on a fire road for four miles, almost getting the kids and me stranded with no phone service (even dialing 911 didn’t work) and with actual thunder claps overhead. The road was so bad, driving over big boulders ripped off one of the running boards on my minivan.

If there were a time for me to completely lose my shit, this totally would have been it, but I had done so well the few days before, I breathed slowly and deeply and just had faith that if I stayed calm I’d get us out safely, even if it meant walking four miles in the rain with two kids.

For future reference, when there’s a sign that reads “OHV,” do NOT drive on it unless you have a 4×4 even when your GPS shows it as a regular road. “OHV,” I have learned, means “Off-highway vehicle.”

What do you do to survive solo parenting?

Feeling Irritated? Get Curious!

My cat woke me up in the middle of the night meowing loudly. My first instinct whenever something happens that I don’t like is to get angry and resist that it’s happening. Even though I was half-asleep, I managed to breathe and remember that he doesn’t do this every night. He was probably meowing for a reason, not just to annoy me.

An irritated woman

I got up and saw that during yesterday’s play date someone had moved a foot stool in front of the cat door, so he couldn’t go outside. I moved the stool aside and went back to bed. He continued to meow for awhile, trying to get me to open the door for him, but I focused on my breathing and listened until he finally went out the cat door on his own.

My dialectical behavior therapist used to encourage me to try to widen my perspective. When I’m depressed and angry, everything seems black-and-white to me, and there’s only one explanation for anything. When I was feeling strong negative emotions, she would always tell me, “Get curious!”

It’s a skill to look beyond first impressions and knee-jerk reactions. This morning at Starbucks, it was really crowded, and I was irritated that two women were taking up two small tables when they were obviously together and didn’t seem to need both tables. I considered asking them if they would give up one of the tables, but decided to wait it out and see if other people joined them or if they were leaving soon anyway. Sure enough, after I ordered my drink, I saw that two other people had joined them, and they really did need both tables.

I’ve written before about meeting hate with kindness. I think getting curious about what motivates people is the first step in being able to show them kindness and give them the benefit of the doubt.

One of the DBT skills I learned was “Check the Facts.” Here are the steps:

  1. Describe: what happened? Be specific.
  2. Consider: what is my interpretation of what happened? What story am I telling about it?
  3. Determine: what is the threat? What am I worried will happen because of this event?
  4. Evaluate: what is the catastrophe I’m worried will happen because of this event?
  5. Predict: how likely is the catastrophe likely to occur? Assign a percentage.
  6. If the percentage is less than 50%, practice radical acceptance

It can help write this stuff down, especially when you’re feeling really strong emotions, but after some practice, it’s pretty easy to do just in your head. By the time I get to step three, I’m usually already calming down and feeling more compassionate and understanding.

I really like the use of the word “catastrophe.” I can be so extreme, reacting to every little thing as though it’s a really big deal when it usually isn’t. Real catastrophes are natural disasters, poverty, hunger, child abuse, etc. My projection that someone is being rude is just another example of my perfectionism. We all get distracted, stressed out, and tired, and we each deserve a break.

How do you practice giving people the benefit of the doubt?

Happy Birthday to My Blog!

“Pretend You’re Good At It” is a year old today! Thank you for being here, whether this is your first visit or whether you’ve been here since the beginning.

Zach, Kaylee, and me

I’ve enjoyed sharing my adventures with my son Zach and my daughter Kaylee. Even though I don’t make any money at this, I still tell my kids this is my job. Some day if I play my cards right, I could get paid whole tens of dollars for writing.

The blog has grown slowly but surely, and I’ve been surprised at some of the responses I’ve gotten from readers. One person said this is the only blog she reads. Another said she was so inspired by my “This Is What My Depression Looks Like” post that she made an appointment to get treatment for her chronic pain and depression.

There was that time Anne Wheaton retweeted a link to “My Miracle Child,” and I got 1,200 page hits in a single day. BlogHer has featured nine of my blog posts.

I successfully completed the Ultimate Blog Challenge, publishing 31 posts in 31 days, including some from guest bloggers Sassy Single Mom, Mara Migraineur, and my husband.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to last this long. I have wanted to quit multiple times. Then I remember the comments I’ve received about how I’ve helped someone feel better about not being perfect, about struggling with mental illness or cutting, or about messing up as a parent now and then.

I don’t expect to ever be as popular as Scary Mommy or The Bloggess, but I don’t need to be. I care about creating and nurturing community, however small it is. Thank you so much for being a part of it.

What would you like to read more about in the next year?

Hi, I’m Frankie, and I Suffer from Depression

The front of my business card

The front of my business card

Every time I give my business card to someone, I think, “Oh my God, what have I done?” On this blog, I admit that I’ve been hospitalized for depression, still deal with thoughts of suicide, and have been a bit rough with my children.

The people I’ve been giving my business card to are usually parents that I know from my son’s school. Some of them have been neighbors. One couple I especially like and would like to get to know better. I was so out of it, I gave each of them my card.

I worry that they’ll be afraid of me, especially of having me around their kids. I fear they’ll misunderstand depression and think it’s contagious or something. Worse, I’m afraid they’ll think I’m weak, for taking medication and for not being able to control my thoughts.

Then I remember. I remember that I’m still the same person they know and (seem to) like. I remember that I write to give a voice to those with depression and anxiety. I present at least one face and experience that is a reminder that it’s okay to suffer from mental illness. I am not alone, neither are the other people who read my blog who deal with mental illness.

The back of my business card

The back of my business card

Part of my “paying it forward” from the many people who have supported me is to make a stand for those who are suffering and haven’t gotten help yet. I can’t do that if I’m pretending in my real life that I’m someone I’m not.

Depression does not define me, I am not my depression, but I don’t ever want to hide it from anyone. The treatment I find most effective is connection, in being with other people who understand and accept me as I am.

I’ve been telling people in my life about my depression for four years now, and so far not a single person has rejected or ridiculed me for it.

My hope is that being authentic and out-spoken about my depression may encourage others to be open about their experience or at least realize that they’re part of a larger community.

Depression lies, but I and others speak the truth that it’s treatable, and it can get better.

Do you feel comfortable sharing your struggles with people who aren’t close friends or family?