A Depressive’s Introduction

Many people who meet me would never guess that I, a New York City public school English teacher for fifteen years, am an introvert who suffers with depression. This is a fact I only admit to when the occasion calls for it. Lately, I find myself speaking more and more about the ugly little monster that is my depression because it is something I use as the basis of the novel I am currently working on. And I have to admit that reflecting on how I have managed to continually combat this condition has truly inspired me!

For as long as I can remember, a certain type of darkness has always enveloped me. As a child and teenager, I was constantly filled with negativity, an overwhelming bitterness, and intense feelings of loneliness and hatred. I felt like there was no one in the world who understood me because I didn’t even understand myself. I hated myself for the way I was: the need to always be isolated; the dread and fear I had before attending social functions alone; and the anger I felt in unavoidable social situations. I didn’t believe in my worth as a person and suffered with extremely low self-esteem. I was quiet, reserved, angry and lonely. Oftentimes I would break into tears of hopelessness with no provocation from anyone or anything. My twin sister, feeling powerless in her need to try to help me, stopped suggesting that I see a therapist and simply looked one up for me. As a result, I did see a therapist for some time and he prescribed the antidepressant Lexapro, which gave me some relief until my situation changed and I could no longer afford either one.

It wasn’t until 2015, after I followed through with my New Year’s Resolution to exercise on a daily basis that I saw an improvement in my overall mood. But the underlying depression was still there and it prevented me from going out to meet people; it kept me from enjoying my life. Years later, I again sought another therapist when it was clear to me that depression was ruling my life. I continue to see this same therapist on a weekly basis. Unlike the first time I was in therapy, I now use my sessions to truly understand the causes of my depression and work on the tools my therapist gives me to help me overcome it and to deal with situations that may be a trigger for me. Also unlike the first time, my current therapist has never suggested I take antidepressants, nor do I feel the need for them. Instead, with the inspiration of my twin, I started listening to motivational speakers and teachers like Wayne Dyer and Abraham Hicks and Les Brown, inundating myself with words of positivity and empowerment.

It is an understatement to say that I had a powerful mindset change because of everything I was doing to stand against depression. My daily exercise, my weekly talk therapy sessions, and my own avalanche of positive videos on YouTube provided me with the treatment I needed to help me through my depression. Years later, I would include meditation and positive affirmations to my daily routine. As a result, I worked hard to maintain a growth mindset, and I let it spill into the classroom as I taught. It made me feel good to hear how students responded to my signature question: What was the best part of your day?

I found that I started to feel better, I laughed more, and I enjoyed my time at social functions. Now, I may not suffer with depression to the degree that others might, but I am still so proud of myself that, with the support of my sister and others around me, I consistently take action against something I once felt I had no control over. This is to let all of you who may be suffering with depression know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I know how hopeless it may seem but life does not have to be so terrible. Take it one step at a time. Yes, I still suffer with this terrible monster but now I have so many more good days than bad.

Why this Blog?

I want to be able to help people who are in a place of despair with words and ideas that have helped me gain a positive mindset about the different experiences I have encountered. Here, I will be discussing ideas, quotes and popular expressions that have resonated with me, helping me to keep a positive perspective on life despite feeling depressed.

I hope you will find my upcoming posts enlightening and useful. I hope they will help you in a small way to overcome the depression that may have a hold on your life. It’s time to break out of the darkness. Will you step into the light with me? Allow me to help you get there. I am no expert at overcoming depression but I am an expert on what helps me get through my darkest days. With this new blogging platform, I invite you to join me. Let’s battle this monster together.

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Healing through Writing

During my morning walk with Roxie, I listened to one of my favorite podcasters, Sarah Werner, who talked about writing as a form of healing and self-care. She said that “…channeling your story or your pain or your trauma or your joy through a fictional character or in a fictional story can be very healing…” And something very important suddenly occurred to me. Every time I talk about overcoming depression, I talk about how my daily exercise routine was instrumental in helping to keep it under control. Recently, I came to the conclusion that a combination of talk therapy, meditation, positive daily affirmations and exercise all help me battle my constant struggle with depression. However, it never occurred to me that writing has also played a central role.

Back in 2005, I started writing a novel called The Box, a story about a high powered magazine executive who has trouble sustaining relationships due to family trauma and chronic depression. My purpose for writing this novel was to raise awareness that depression is a debilitating illness and not something one can easily overcome. I put it on the back burner for years when I became a teacher and I have recently picked it up again in order to finish it and finally get it published. In an effort to be truly authentic, every time I suffered a significant episode of depression, I would write down exactly how it felt while I was going through it. That way, I could find the appropriate words to explicitly describe the dark emotional state that a depressive person might go through. I needed to accurately capture the experience for my future readers who may have been fortunate enough to never endure such an ordeal on a consistent basis.

In doing so, it is my belief that I had unleashed the dark monster that had me trapped in my own despair. I no longer had to hold on to the thing that caused me to hate myself and my life. I unknowingly released that thing that caused me to suffer in silence for so long. I told my story in the form of fiction through my main character, a woman who inadvertently became a symbol for me—a symbol of freedom and liberation. And even though the ugly monster peeks its head through the pages of my novel every once in a while to try to torment me, I am able to go back to my affirmations and positive self-talk to kick it back down. And this is something that has become the norm for me; however, I have only recently become aware of it.

Without even intending it, my writing became a part of my healing journey. I unleashed the depression into a manuscript and since then, I have used my daily routines to help manage it. There are people who use journals to make sense of their thoughts and experiences. There are those who use poetry as their form of therapy. Some use their creative drawings or paintings or other types of creative work to unleash their own monsters. If you are someone who needs an outlet, take note of what it is that you are good at doing. Consider what makes you go to your happy place—the thing that will help you unleash your depression monster and keep it at bay. Perhaps that can be the start of your healing journey.

Does this resonate with you? Please leave a comment about how you handle your depression monster. I’d love to hear from you!

Motivation, Affirmation, and Meditation

I take Roxie, my miniature schnauzer, out for an early walk every morning. And I love these walks because not only do I feel like I’m doing something great for my body by using the walking as a part of my daily exercise routine, but these walks also afford me time to ruminate about my progress as a writer. I do this by selecting specific podcasts to listen to that discuss the writing process as well as the struggles of being a writer.

During this morning’s walk, I listened to a writing podcast that highlighted the importance of daily affirmations. As I watched Roxie exploring the area around her, I listened to how the podcaster, Sarah Werner, connected the importance of affirmations to the writer’s craft. She pointed out that many writers go through periods where they are unsure of themselves, wondering why people would want to hear their message. That’s what I am currently going through with my own writing—both with my novels and my blog. I have been stalled, quite uncertain about how to proceed with the works I have believed in for so long. I feel unable to move forward, feeling that all I have already accomplished has been wrong and believing that no one out there may even care anyway about my chosen subject matter.

Words that we tell ourselves either move us into action or keep us inactive. This was the sentence that came to my mind as I listened to the podcast. And I realized that I spent the past couple of days telling myself that I have been wrong in the way I approached the writing of my novel and that I would have to do a complete revision or start over. Then I started telling myself that if I was a skilled writer, I wouldn’t have to keep revising my work. I told myself that more people would be reading my blog posts if I had more interesting things to write about (never mind the fact that I don’t do any kind of promotion or marketing that might help). These words have literally kept me inactive.

I chucked one of my last blog posts for my Tighed the Knot blog because I had difficulty revising it based on my sister’s suggestions. I also haven’t been focusing on my novel with the fervor that I once did when I was in the thick of its action. That’s because I started doubting myself and I allowed that doubt to keep me from continuing my craft. I allowed a kind of depression to weigh heavily over me about not being where I thought I’d be as a writer. Deep down I knew I was being ridiculously hard on myself.

If there’s anything I know about skilled writing, it is that it takes time to develop. Any award-winning, best-selling author will admit that the process of writing is not a simple task. It takes revisions and rewriting and new formats and rethinking and reworking. I know this. Yet, for some reason, I keep pressuring myself to create perfection with any first draft. In my college days, I never had to rewrite any of my essays because I literally always received an A on the first draft. Perhaps that had spoiled me into thinking that I could continue to do so, no matter the type of writing.

So there I was, ending my walk with Roxie and really taking in what the podcaster was saying about affirmations. For the last few weeks, before my morning walks with Roxie, I have been meditating specifically to feel more confident as a writer and repeating affirmations to believe in the work I produce. But I had not realized that every afternoon when I sat down to continue my writing, dangerous affirmations like This isn’t as good as I thought or Who’s going to care about this? were creeping into my subconscious as I struggled with the work. The podcaster Sarah Werner made me remember that all things we say to ourselves matter. So instead of getting upset that my novel is not where I want it to be, I need to praise myself for how far I have already come. Instead of feeling disappointed that only ten people read my last blog post, I should be grateful that ten people read my last blog post—a post I had not even promoted in a significant way! I should be even more grateful that one of those ten people actually called me within minutes of reading it to tell me how much it resonated with her. These should be a part of my motivation / affirmation / meditation routine on a consistent basis. I ended my walk with Roxie feeling lighter and feeling motivated; this blog post is the result!

Does this resonate with you? Please leave a comment about your struggles or motivations surrounding your creative work! I’d love to hear from you!

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