You are not alone

Yesterday, I wrote a pretty heavy blog post because life is heavy right now. I received some amazing responses, some serious, some silly, but all reminding me that I do not suffer alone. A sampling of texts …

“So we have this life. Mother Earth gives us everything we need to survive but does not give a fuck if we do or not. I think that’s beautiful. We must learn to fight. Learn to adapt. Learn to love. Then we learn that everything ends. That’s beautiful, too. So in this brief time we are given, we can do our best to live our best lives and make a difference in whatever small way we can. Or we can sit around and feel bad for ourselves and be miserable. We’re gonna die eventually regardless of our choices. Might as well make good choices.”

“I feel you. Life sucks balls. Just pretend to Life. You can. Do it.”

“I actually sobbed my way through your post this afternoon because I can relate to it so much right now. Reaching out to you from my own dark hole.”

“I just wanna float. Is that possible?”

“That kind of depression sucks. It’s the ‘I’d rather not get out of bed’ variety. Exercise is basically the only thing keeping me sane right now.”

“I once asked a professor I really respected how she ‘did it all,’ expecting some super wise advice. She said, ‘Just get up and do things. Then, things happen.’ I was disappointed at the time, but the older I get, the more I think that’s about right. Just keep on going on.”

Several of these messages were interspersed with GIFs of Timothee Chalamet and Cillian Murphy, so that didn’t hurt, but the words were helpful, too.

Just remember: you’re not alone in your depression. Other people are super sad, too. Other people can’t get out of bed, either. We are never alone, and we can’t give up.

Depression never really goes away

I’m trying not to be angry with myself for my current state of depression. It doesn’t help to get angry with myself. I know, scientifically and from experience: depression doesn’t go away. It merely hides.

Literally, I say in my own mental health speech:

“I think the scariest thing about depression is that it waits. It has the patience of God. It’s that dark shadow in the scary movie, the monster under your bed. It waits and it waits and then it shows up with its knives for fingers, bloodshot eyes, fangs. It shows up and says, ‘Remember me? You didn’t really think I’d gone, did you?’”

Maybe I’m angry because, for a hot minute, I was doing so well. I was in the midst of successful therapy and had finally found an antidepressant that worked. There was joy in my life again. There were actual emotions other than sad and sadder. I looked forward to things and woke in the morning not dreading every minute of the coming day.

Then, some bad things happened last week. I was on a bender all weekend. There are hazy alcohol moments I don’t quite remember. I felt out of control. I wanted to give up on everything.

I told myself Sunday night, Okay, that’s it; tomorrow is a new week. You got this.

Well, I don’t “got this.”

I’m beyond sad. I’m numb, which might be worse, and I’m beating myself up because YOU WERE DOING SO WELL, SARA. Things looked good again. I felt good again. Now, it’s all gone.

Depression isn’t like the flu. You can’t get an anti-depression vaccine. It’s the invisible killer. There is no cure, only treatments, and many of us seek treatments so we can live semi-normal lives. But just like cold weather makes arthritis flare up, life circumstances affect our mental health—no matter the yoga or funny movies or SSRIs.

Depression is the relative you don’t like but shows up for surprise visits anyway.

Depression is the thief who comes in the night and makes you less in the morning.

Depression is the thing that will never let me go because it’s not only in my blood but also in my sensitive, artistic psychological makeup.

This is me, riding the proverbial rollercoaster. Up, down, up, down.

Today, I can’t remember how to be happy. I don’t even remember what “happy” feels like, but I tasted it for several weeks this year, so I know I can get back there. I can find “happy” again. For now, I nurse an open wound that doesn’t bleed because depression is invisible.

It’s not like getting your arm chopped off. If you get your arm chopped off, people are going to point and say, “You should probably get that checked out.” No one can look at depression, see the pain is so much worse, and give me a bandage to fix it.

The waiting

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I’m in the midst of an in-between time where important things float above my head with as yet no resolution. In other words … I’m waiting.

I’m not good at waiting. I hate security lines at airports, traffic, and crowded bars. (If I can’t get a beer in five minutes, I’m outta there.) Those are trivial things. This waiting is much bigger, and it’s starting to drive me insane.

I’m sure you’ve been there, waiting for that specific email or phone call that could possibly change your life or at least send you down a different path. The waiting eats at my brain. This thing I’m waiting for is always in the back of my mind, no matter what I’m doing. It’s with me in the morning, in the evening, and annoyingly, even in yoga–which is supposed to be my happy Zen place, damn it.

So far, nothing has helped with this waiting. I work. I work a lot honestly, but it’s like I’m not “all in” because I don’t know if what I’m doing is worthwhile as I wait.

For instance, I should be starting to write a new novel. I have the Word document open. I’m ready to do full character bios and establish setting. Yet, I can’t bring myself to work on this new project until I get some clarity.

I should be booking my mental health speech at writers’ conferences. I should be looking into yoga teacher certification. I should, I should, but I can’t because I can’t get my mind off the waiting.

Am I being purposely vague? No. I just can’t tell you exactly what the waiting is all about. I can just tell you I’m waiting.

Friends are being helpful, telling me to put my concern in the hands of the universe/God/et cetera. And I do pray about this waiting situation every night. I just want some answers, ya know? I’m beginning to feel like a patient waiting for a doctor’s bad news.

This is an in-between time filled with worry that is sucking the energy and, dare I say, joy from my day-to-day. I don’t wanna wait anymore. Give me some answers.

Your inner saboteur

Happy Sara versus Evil Sara?

Last night, I was watching an old episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. I love this show. It makes me laugh, smile, and gag over the costuming. Last night’s episode, though, got a little dark.

RuPaul asked her girls to create two looks for the main stage: their happiest, prettiest drag and then … their inner saboteur. Basically, these girls had to dig up the worst parts of themselves and show them to the world.

It got me thinking about my own inner saboteur. What does my negative self talk sound like? Who is the bitch who lives inside me?

Let’s call her Sara Downer Bauer (huh, that rhymes). Wanna hear some of the things she says to me? I sure don’t, but here goes:

You’ll never be good enough.

Writer? You’re not a writer. You’re a hack. Everyone is better than you. EVERYONE. You write meaningless little ditties that touch no one, reach no one. You should give up.

Oh, and you’re selfish. You think of yourself before other people. Don’t deny it; you know it’s true.

You’re weak, too. You think you’re so strong? Nope, you’re a sniveling baby who’s scared half the time.

YOU’LL NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH.

You can’t even keep a clean house or balance a checkbook. What the hell right do you have to be married to a great guy like Jake? Poor bastard didn’t know what he was getting into.

Did I mention? YOU’LL NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH!!!!

So, yeah, there’s a taste. Get the idea? These thoughts float through my mind at least once a day, but I try to fight them. I try to tell these thoughts to shut up. But they’ve been a part of me for so long; it’s tough sometimes to make the inner saboteur just go to hell.

However, as RuPaul stated in last night’s episode, “Look [at your inner saboteur], but don’t stare.” As some of the girls pointed out, those negative voices have occasionally pushed them to greatness … when not dragging them to the bottom of the sea. So it’s okay to glance at Mean You; just don’t hang out with her.

We all have our inner champion—the voice that tells us we’re doing fine, doing great even. This inner champion battles the inner saboteur. I’m not saying we’re all split personalities, but we do carry this psychological duality. You’re a champion, but you suck. These voices can and do coexist, but you gotta choose which voice you’re listening to.

I love this quote from art critic Jerry Saltz about his voices: “They tell you that you’re faking it, that other people see through you, that you’re lazy, that you don’t know what you’re doing, and that you’re just doing this to get attention or money. I have one solution to turn away these demons: After beating yourself up for half an hour or so, stop and say out loud, ‘Yeah, but I’m a fucking genius.”

Also, I find this reading by Benedict Cumberbatch is ALWAYS a perfect way to make the negative voices go away:

Now, what does your inner saboteur sound like? It’s important to recognize this voice so you know how to make it stop. Make it stop. It’s difficult, but do it … and if you have any suggestions on HOW to make it stop, let me know.

Do I know you?

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Ten years ago, I woke up Easter Sunday in Charleston, South Carolina, in my boyfriend’s bed following a night of wine, cigarettes, and brilliant conversation. I woke early because I needed to get to church.

Outside, on that humid morning, a congregation across the street was just about to begin its worship. Women in flowing spring dresses and huge, Southern hats milled about with handsome, suited husbands on their arms.

I attended church that Easter with a friend of mine because my boyfriend was agnostic at best but probably more of an atheist who thought it was super weird I went to church. (I did not marry this boyfriend; I actually met my husband five months later.)

I remember feeling nothing that Sunday morning. Easter, the cornerstone of my religious beliefs, felt like just another day. I think I might have even been bored during the service. The holiday came and went with zero fanfare.

That girl I was ten years ago? She feels like someone else. That entire life feels like a life that belonged to someone else. Scrolling through those memories is akin to watching an old movie—an old movie you didn’t even like.

Ten years ago, I was really unhappy in Charleston, South Carolina, despite the beautiful architecture, charming city, and rolling beaches nearby. Despite a boyfriend who thought I was beautiful and brilliant. I know I was unhappy then, and yet, I can look back now and not feel a damn thing.

Frankly, that girl from ten years ago isn’t me. I look at her now and ask, “Do I know you?” I know we met before, but I don’t recognize her. She is another life.

We live so many lives. I’m not talking about reincarnation. Over the span of how ever many years we get on this earth, we are so many different people. For me, there is college Sara. Bartender Sara. Sara in that relationship. Sara in Charleston. Sara in Phoenix. Sara after signing her first publishing deal.

Sara today, six weeks after starting Wellbutrin.

From October 2018 to March 2019, my depression was unmanageable. I was “barely there Sara.” Sara the ghost. Sara without laughter or joy. I tried the right things. I took care of myself physically. I sought therapy. I read self-help books and prayed. Nothing worked until my therapist suggested medication—something I once promised myself I would never do again. But I took her advice and started antidepressants.

In therapy this past Thursday, my therapist and I did more socializing than delving into issues … possibly because it felt like so many of my issues had disappeared. We both agreed: although there are some circumstantial things messing with my head, I have a chemical imbalance, and the Wellbutrin has given me back my smile, my energy, and a whole lot of peace.

That girl I was in March? She seems as far away now as that miserable woman from Easter ten years ago, and I feel okay letting both of these past lives go. The symbolism might be heavy, but like Jesus, I feel reborn. Like Frankenstein’s Creature, IT’S ALIVE! I know there will still be dark days because depression is an ambitious beast that continually creeps, but even the dark days might be a bit lighter.

Sometimes, a lifestyle change is necessary, but it looks like (for me), sometimes meds are necessary, too, as is letting go of things past. Let’s see what this new version of Sara gets up to.

Hanging on to vacation brain

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I’ve spent the last ten days on vacation, mostly on a beach in Florida doing nothing but watching waves, drinking Corona, and smoking the occasional cigar. Oh, and eating seafood obviously.

I do this pilgrimage every April, so I know what to expect: utter relaxation and escape from “real life.”

When I’m on my beach in Florida, I don’t worry about anxiety or depression. I don’t think about all the work I should be doing. I don’t stress over my upcoming schedule or money/death/Indians baseball. No, I simply exist without social media or email for over a week. It’s incredible.

I arrived home yesterday, and I’m trying to move slowly. Last night, for instance, instead of hurrying to the grocery store and cooking dinner, I went to my favorite Cleveland bar for cheap wings. Instead of working through my lunch today, I did yoga. I took my dogs to the park. I’ve been working, yes–catching up on email and organizing the coming month–but I’m trying to be slow about it. I fear rushing back into the stressors of day-to-day could erase the vacation brain I’ve spent ten days cultivating.

Now, I realize beach life is a different life. I love beach life. I enjoy the slow pace, the walks on the beach, and need to be … nowhere. The air smells different down there; the breeze feels freer. I’m different in Florida. I laugh more, relax more, and just don’t worry about anything.

I can’t exist in that space forever.

Well, I could.

I spent time with several official “beach bums” in Florida who seemingly do nothing but drink beer and talk about boats. I could, in theory, give up on real life … but I won’t. The question I ponder today is: How do I tap back into vacation brain? Is there a hidden pocket in my mind where I can tuck it away and metaphorically visit the beach whenever I want? I’m working on it.

Doing nothing is an art form. I did a whole lot of nothing recently in Florida. I need to do more nothing here in Ohio. I just need to travel to that special place in my brain where the Corona flows freely and no one mentions work, money, or (best of all) feeling sad.

Writing the next chapter?

writer

Since I’m a writer, my therapist thought it would be good for me to write about my life in order to see where I am and where I need to go, considering I’ve been completely lost for a couple months now.

Fair enough. So far, I’ve written eight pages of pretty much stream-of-consciousness. Have some snippets …

(And yes, for some reason, I wrote in third person, which my brother thinks is a cop out. He thinks I’m distancing myself from myself. But I’m a writer and couldn’t help the third person POV. I swear, this even reads like a children’s book on occasion, if you discount the content.)


She gets anxiety in grocery stores. She hates grocery stores—the people and the bright lights.

She reads a lot to escape. She prefers the lives of fictional characters. She knows her friends (especially the ones with kids) think she lives a golden life. They know she has “mental health issues,” but they don’t know the reality of her mysterious misery. What does she really have to be miserable about anyway?

She relates to Tom Petty:
Every now and then I get down to the end of the day
I’ll just stop… ask myself: why I’ve done it?
It just seems so useless to have to work so hard
And nothin’ ever really seem to come from it

Sara has too many thoughts about too many things and too many opportunities that swirl around her head until she’s overwhelmed and can’t do anything.

The problem is she looks outside herself for validation, for joy, when it’s not fair to put that much pressure on the world. The world isn’t always a very nice place, so why should it be nice to her?


So, as you can see, I’ve pretty much pegged where I am RIGHT NOW. However, my therapist’s challenge was to write “The Next Chapter.” What does Sara do next? I’ve been thinking about focusing more on public speaking. Maybe returning to journalism … although I never was much of a fan of that. Finding a way to travel more. Even teaching yoga.

Yet, nothing is clear, possibly because I’m not psychic, but possibly because in the thralls of mental illness, it can be impossible to picture what it looks like on the other side of the road. I mean, how do you remember light when you’ve been in the darkness so long? How do you regain purpose, remember how to dream, imagine doing something NEW and BIG when you can barely wash the dishes without wanting to nap?

I see what my therapist is getting at. “Write your next chapter.” She’s trying to get me out of the present depression and into a future where I’m happy and healthy. Or perhaps just content. It’s okay to be content, I think. We don’t have to be smiling all the time, but we can be just … good.

I could totally type “She lived contently ever after!!!” New chapter finished! But that’s a cheat. How do I reach that contentment? It’s something I’m seriously trying to think about and actively take steps toward.

What about you? What does your next chapter look like? Step outside whatever crap you’re going through right now and try to picture what would make you happy–and how to get there.