I think we can all agree 2020 is a total shit show. It’s tragically comical in its absurdity. Its devastation is heartbreaking. The uncertainty of the next three months is terrifying. We all hope and pray the nightmare ends on December 31, 2020. I’m not sure if time works that way, but I have to believe.
Despite the shit-ton of horribleness that is 2020, amazing things happened, too. A call for social justice; united voices saying the names of those who were lost at the hands and knees of police brutality; a call to the end of systemic racism; people coming together to protest and let the world know that black lives matter; compassionate police officers linking arms with peaceful protesters; action, not just words. Love perseveres.
During the current wildfires in my beautiful Oregon, people are coming together to offer refuge and support to those forced to evacuate and who lost everything. People responded immediately to help in any way they could. People are brave, resilient, and compassionate. We collectively grieve for what Oregon has lost and what continues to be at risk. I imagine this is the same for Washington and California right now. Love perseveres.
Creativity flourished: artwork demanding social justice; protest signs; spoken and written words of love and compassion; new ways to connect to one another; different ways to express creativity. In 2020, I wrote from my heart and shared my life showing all its heartbreak and triumph. The response were words of support. Love perseveres.
For me personally, 2020 gave me more time with my family. Because I now work from home, I have extra moments with my sister that I would not have otherwise. And every day with her is a gift because she is living on borrowed time. 2020, brought my eldest daughter home to live with us and my youngest daughter home for a long, lovely visit. My heart is full. Love perseveres.
2020 marks the 30th year of my incredible love affair with Mike. I will settle for nothing less than another thirty years with my one true love. Yes, love perseveres.
I hope you, too, can see the brightest parts of 2020.
I wear a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep myself and others safe. Sure, I complain about the tropical heatwave under my mask, maskne, and foggy glasses. It’s a minor inconvenience. That’s it. It’s not a political statement. It’s the very least I can do.
I don’t mind wearing a mask during the pandemic. When I wear it, I can be any one—someone more confident, funny, beautiful, worldly, sassy, brutally honest. I think I’m hiding from the world, but I’m always recognized. So much for that plan.
Wearing a mask isn’t new to me. I’ve been doing it my entire life. I was the girl who smiled with her eyes and laughed while I was broken inside, hiding a homelife that was anything but safe, loving, and stable. No matter how much I hurt inside, I smiled. My mask hid my secret. I wore this mask when I met my husband. I broke off little pieces at a time to give him just a glimpse of my real life. It felt wonderful when the mask finally fell away and he wasn’t horrified by what he saw. He sees everything. I’m not sure he wants to sometimes, but he put a ring on it.
I still wear a mask so people don’t see my depression or how hard it is for me to get out of bed sometimes and be amongst the living. I smile and say I’m fine. Or I will really lie and say I’m good when I’m anything but. I will hide behind a sunny disposition and laughter (except with my poor husband and kids). There are times I’m good. I just never know.
Let’s be honest, we all wear masks. Saying exactly what you’re thinking during a work meeting may not end well. I mean who doesn’t want to call someone a complete fucking idiot over Zoom. But instead, you smile and agree with their insane idea. Or when you lie to the cashier at the grocery store and say your day is going wonderfully even though you just got the results of your biopsy and you’re terrified; it took everything you had to get out of bed and you just want to curl up on the floor and cry at the check-out line; your marriage is hanging on by a thread and the next fight just may end it for good; you’re so stressed at work your hair is falling out; you worry how you’re going to buy your groceries next week; you’ve been holed-up with your kids during the pandemic and they are on your very last nerve; or you woke up in a shit mood and the sound of the cashier’s voice makes you want to jam your car keys into your eardrums. The list is endless.
Writing gives me the courage to take off my mask so you can see me—not just the person I want you to see. You see my ugly side. Writing let’s me be brave and honest. You may judge me, but maybe something I write may help you in some small way. It’s helping me.
P.S. Don’t be an asshole. Wear your mask or cloth face covering when you’re out and about, wash your hands, and follow physical-distancing guidelines. We’re all in this together.
That’s what comes to mind when I think about my mental health.
“You got your soul-sucking depression on my heart-pounding anxiety!”
“You got your exhausting anxiety in my endless depression!
Except they aren’t great and even worse together. I care about nothing and everything. My mind is either stuck in the past or a hundred years in the future. My mind races and my body slugs behind. I’m numb and hyper-sensitive. I’m unmotivated and over-achieve. My sassiness borders on cruelty, but maybe that’s all in my head. I’m steady on the inside while a tornado rips me apart from the inside. I’m better than I used to be.
I’ve lived with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, even before I knew their names. Twenty-six years ago, I made the decision to get help. It’s been years of different medications—trial and error, combinations of this and that, periods of success, and times my mood bottoms out and I feel like I’m free-falling. There are times I’m afraid to let people know I’m broken, but I’ve come to realize we are all broken. Hiding it, denying it, or running from it robs us of the chance to heal, connect with others, and celebrate joyful moments.
I wish I could say I meditate, do yoga, chant affirmations, and exercise but I don’t. I would like to say my body is a temple and I only fill it with things that are good for me, but it isn’t. I would like to say I pray every day, but my faith waxes and wanes, or disappears altogether. I really want to say I’ve forgiven all those who have hurt me, but that’s a work in progress. The hardest person to forgive is myself. There are a lot of things I could do to manage my mental health, but I do what works the best for me. My hope is that something I do may work for you, too.
I try. Every. Single. Day. When things don’t go my way, I remind myself I can try again tomorrow.
I accept that depression and anxiety are my life-long roommates. They make a mess of the house but they also help me appreciate every day my house is in order.
I accept that pain and joy are temporary. I know this too shall pass when things are painful and I appreciate the joyful moments when they come around.
I get out of bed every day even when I don’t want to.
I take my medication like a good girl.
I confide in my therapist and take her suggestions to heart.
I write to purge hurtful words from dark places.
I write to remind myself it’s ok to laugh and make others laugh.
I write to make sense of my past so it can’t hurt me anymore.
I write for my future.
No matter how I feel, I care about others and am there to offer supportive words and a hug, even when I need them, too.
I pour my heart and soul into my family and know when I take care of myself, I take better care of my family.
I’m strong when I need to be.
I fall apart when I need to, throw a pity party for one, and then pull it together because I have shit to do.
I believe in love and romance and celebrate my thirty-year love affair with my best friend.
I ask for and accept help, and I help others.
I have hope during hopeless times. It’s helped me get through the most painful times of my life and it makes me excited for the future.
I’m sassy and stubborn and know that I am bigger than depression and anxiety. They can kiss my ass, not kick it.
I read and re-read self-help books.
I do the best I can and accept that my best isn’t always great, but it’s good enough.
I nap when I’m tired, cry when I’m sad, and laugh when I’m so moved.
When my mind spins out of control, I find something to focus on in the moment.
I say “Stop!” when my negative self-talk and demons tell me lies.
I say no to things I don’t want and speak up for things I do want. It took me a long time to give myself permission to do so.
I remind myself I’m a human being, that being perfect is overrated, and being flawed makes me more interesting.
I remind myself it’s not all about me.
I know I’m not alone, ever. All I have to do is reach out.
I appreciate the little things—the first sip of coffee in the morning, a full moon, a setting sun, snugs with my cat, holding my husband’s hand while we watch TV in bed, running errands with my girls, finding the perfect gift for someone I love, texting with my sister.
I remind myself I’m safe when anxiety tells me I’m not.
When anxiety makes up fiction, I ask it for the facts.
I appreciate I’m in good company—16 million people live with depression every day and another 60 million live with anxiety.
I choose life.
If you are struggling, please reach out for help. You’re worth it, and I would never lie to you. When things are really dark and you feel you can’t take it another minute, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.