What am I doing here, anyway?
The motivation behind this newsletter + why I'm proud of my husband's eye patch
But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass.
~ Samwise Gamgee
Happy Women’s Day!
Today I’m feeling grateful for running water after a week without. A windstorm took our power out last Monday. While it was off, the pipes froze and broke.
Fortunately, Jason is very handy and we’re both accustomed to living off the grid. Flushing the toilet with a bucket of water isn’t so bad after you’ve spent a couple of winters using an outhouse.
Anyway, we’re back online! I wanted to fill you in on some backstory explaining why I started this newsletter in the first place.
Trigger warning: this post talks about suicidality.
My goal is to share resources that may improve your mental health and generally empower you to make positive changes in your life.
Why? Because I’ve experienced varying degrees of mental health issues for as long as I can remember. I use terms like mental health issues and mental health conditions instead of mental illness because my focus is on health.
Throughout my life, I’ve survived at least two severe depressive episodes that nearly ended me. The most recent one happened in late 2016 when I was 33. But the first started about 20 years earlier when I was 13.
I remember feeling trapped in my own life. I lost all desire to pursue my hobbies. Started feeling like my chest was caught in an invisible vice that squeezed harder with every breath. I decided to kill myself as I was staring at a plate of strawberry crepes my parents bought me at Vermont Pancake House.
I couldn’t eat them. I couldn’t eat crepes at all until a few years ago.
But my suicide attempt was unsuccessful. What ensued was many years of overmedication by a sadistic psychiatrist that turned me into a bloated, drooling mess. I went from being an honor student, first-picked in gym class, and a first-chair saxophone player to a space case that nodded off mid-conversation.
While my peers were discovering their passions and figuring out who they wanted to be, I was half-asleep and watching the world go by from some faraway place.
Have you seen the Britney Spears documentary on Hulu? (so good).
I mention it because it reminded me that, at some point, my mom told me this evil psychiatrist, Lynne Weisberg, who had been managing my mental health from ages 13-18, suggested I be placed under a conservatorship.
I can’t recall the details, (my memory of that entire period is hazy at best) but I imagine it had something to do with the time I refused to take a higher dose of meds while institutionalized and then proceeded to check myself out of the hospital against medical advice.
She didn’t tell me until many years later, but apparently, my mom supported me in this decision because one of the psychiatric nurses in the hospital had pulled her aside and told her she thought I was being overmedicated. The nurse didn’t think my case was being handled properly.
I don’t know where I’d be now if that mystery nurse hadn’t discreetly advocated for me.
I’ve processed a lot of anger about how my mental health was managed during that period, but, ultimately, I’ve learned to find the hidden gems in all of it.
In so many ways, I think that early experience with suicidality prepared me to get through the second episode. I knew that I’d find the light at the end of the tunnel eventually. I believed it was there, even when I couldn’t see it.
At age 33, I also had a few things I lacked as a teen: trail running, psychedelics, and my dog, Bruce. These three things kept me from acting on the impulses racing through my mind.
The whole story is too much to include in this newsletter, but I was basically homeless, living out of a broken camper parked in my ex’s driveway on a sheep farm in FarNorCal. The months and years leading up to it were a whirlwind that left me in such a state of depression, I couldn’t even write.
At some point, my mom (who must’ve used her mom superpowers to sense something was wrong) suggested I come home for a bit.
That’s when I dove into radical self-love, as taught by one of my sheroes, Gala Darling.
Back in the comfort and safety of my parents’ house, I began building a collection of tricks and tools to keep my head above water the next time I felt that dark force trying to pull me down.
Meditation. Affirmations. Journaling. Mirror talk. Energy healing. Emotional freedom technique (EFT) tapping. Tarot. More running. Breathwork. Guided visualization.
Self-help books and podcasts - I devoured them.
I took lots of aromatherapy Epsom salt baths and generally treated myself like a wounded child.
Three months later, I was ready to go off on my own again (with Bruce, of course). That year, I set multiple personal records in ultrarunning. I met my husband. Then, after three years of trying, I got my career to a point where I could support myself by freelance writing without relying on side jobs.
Now, I’m living my dream. Homesteading, writing, and doing life on my own terms. A far cry from the 18-year-old girl who was told she was out-of-control and incapable of managing her own life.
But doing well doesn't mean it’s okay to abandon self-love practices.
I still do them. Every. Damn. Day.
Now that I’m strong enough, I feel obligated to share what I’ve learned in hopes to help others get through their own struggles.
I felt like I had to find an alternate route to mental health because my adolescent experience was so… traumatic. I think the healthcare system wasn’t designed with a patient’s well-being in mind, and I don’t trust it to help me.
With that said, I believe medications help a lot of people cope with the debilitating symptoms of psychiatric disorders. I want to make it clear that I don’t condemn anyone for taking meds if they feel like it truly helps. You know what’s best for yourself.
Currently, I pay my bills working as a medical copywriter. In this career, I spend a lot of time researching innovative approaches to treating depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental health conditions.
So, if medication doesn’t work for you, or if you can’t tolerate the side effects, I have good news. There is still hope.
Ketamine is gaining popularity for its rapid effectiveness in treating acute suicidality, treatment-resistant depression, and various other conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). The effects are immediate after one dose. You don’t need to wait two or more weeks for a therapeutic level to accumulate in your blood.
But ketamine is still a drug. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is a non-pharmacologic treatment that uses magnetic pulses to stimulate specific areas of your brain associated with depression. rTMS is NOT the same as electroconvulsive therapy, (aka electric shock treatments).
I plan to write more in-depth about these treatments in subsequent posts.
Aside from that, I’m pleased to learn about more mental health practices taking on a holistic approach to patient care, working collaboratively to find a treatment plan that’s best for your body, mind, and spirit, rather than masking symptoms.
Anyway, that’s my story and my motivation for writing here. Let’s close this one out with a Lauren Loves:
My husband has taken to wearing an eye patch recently.
Not because he likes dressing like a pirate, but because he’s legitimately missing his right eye. Jason was accidentally shot in the head as a kid and the doctors had to remove his eye to stop the bleeding.
His ocular prosthesis is starting to fade after many years of wear. The nearest ocularist is probably in Boston and who wants to go there?
I think it’s inspiring! I’m proud of Jason for being confident enough in his own body that he doesn’t feel the need to drive hundreds of miles and spend thousands of dollars to make others more comfortable when they look at him.
My husband’s face is unique and that’s one of the things I fell in love with.
Also- he looks super cute in a button-down shirt and eye patch!
I don’t have any photos. He usually takes off the patch when he gets home from work. And he doesn’t know I’m writing this. shh! 😉
Why is there no eye patch emoji!?!? We have prosthetic legs, wheelchairs, and ninjas but no eye patches? Get with it, emoji designers! ALL BODIES ARE BEAUTIFUL!
That’s all for now. I’m disabling comments for this post, but am always happy to hear your thoughts via email!