Mental Health Break

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Like so many people (especially the ones in creative fields), I struggle with anxiety and depression. Usually it’s manageable (I’ve actually found that some mild anxiety helps me write). Every so often, though, for reasons that aren’t always clear, the scale tips from manageable to overwhelming. If you’ve ever had severe anxiety or depression you know the feeling of deep despair that leaves you searching for a reason to get out of bed. If you haven’t experienced that kind of bleakness, then consider yourself lucky (not blessed, or motivated, or magically able to control your emotions–just lucky).

This past week has been difficult for me, both on a personal level and because of events in the wider world. One of the events that made the week so bad (for countless people besides myself) was the tragic suicide of Anthony Bourdain. I didn’t know him, but he’s been part of my life for a couple of decades now. He was an inspiration, something of a kindred spirit (other than that time on No Reservations when he decided hipsters were okay), and a truly decent human being. I’m not exaggerating when I say we’re all worse off without him.

I wish I knew how to break the cycle of depression and anxiety. I do my best to deal by working on it as best I can and trying to work around it the rest of the time (with varying levels of success). If you’re suffering from any kind of mental illness or distress, the first thing you should do is see a doctor and get a proper diagnosis. Don’t be afraid and don’t be ashamed–there is help, from support groups to therapeutic techniques to medications, and more.

If you’re in crisis, you can get help right now (always keep your local hotline number nearby). In Canada, the National Suicide Prevention hotline is: 1-833-456-4566, or text 45645. You can also chat here:

There’s also good info here:
If you’re not in crisis but are struggling, here are some things that work for me. It’s a good idea to experiment to find what works best for you.
Shower and Get Dressed: It might not seem like much but it can make a noticeable difference to your mood. And if nothing else, you can say you got up and faced the day. On bad days, that’s a major accomplishment.
Leave the House: Many people (myself included) withdraw when they’re depressed. If you feel like you can’t deal with other humans, then go for a walk on your own. Somewhere green and peaceful is ideal.
Get Something Done: Pick a task to complete no matter how small, and do it. It can be anything that makes you feel like you’ve achieved something. To avoid being overwhelmed, keep a short and easy to-do list handy for times like these.
Indulge Yourself: Do something you enjoy (as long as it’s nothing harmful). If you have a tendency to feel guilty about “doing nothing,” then try interspersing the fun with simple, but productive, tasks (see above).
Spend Time with Pets: You’ll both feel better. If you don’t have a pet, try hugging a plushie. Don’t underestimate the therapeutic value of a soft doll or pillow.
Avoid Things (and People) that Make You Feel Worse: This won’t work long term, but for a day when you’re already feeling crappy, it’s a necessity.
Write a Letter: Sit down with pen and paper and write a letter to someone you like but haven’t spoken to in a while. Think of some positive things you can share (they can be as simple as a great movie you saw or your thriving houseplant).
Plan a Trip: It doesn’t matter if you can’t go because it turns out planning trips makes people happier than actually going. So have fun planning your dream vacation (or  research anything else you’re interested in).
Have you tried any of these? What works for you when you’re feeling depressed or anxious? Share in the comments.

7 Replies to “Mental Health Break”

  1. What a timely post for all of us, including me. I am so sorry to hear you are struggling. My heart breaks for you and for all of us. Bourdain was a great loss, but to intensify that there is all that is happening in the world. Being in the US magnifies it all. Disappointment abounds. I have not been able to write, blog or do much of anything except tread water.

    One of the things I particularly appreciated in your post was the suggestion to hug a pet or plushie. We, as adults, are discouraged from even owning the latter. Being an on and off collector and seller of toys, I feel no shame in it. In fact, I’d like to start a campaign to give every adult a good quality teddy bear to hug when times get bad. I’d call it … a Care Bear … No, wait… that’s taken… Well, I’ll think of something. It could be a viral crowdfunder. I tell you, I’m a genius. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not getting much work done lately, either. I should have added something in my post about not feeling bad about not writing if it gets to be too much. It’s okay to pause when you need to. What kind of toys do you collect/ have you collected and sold? I think giving everyone a teddy bear is a great idea–genius indeed 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The overwhelming bad feeling for not writing causes guilt. Although I can write in sadness — in fact some of my best — guilt smothers inspiration.

        The toy business, which I began ten years ago, is vintage and antique toys. Sadly, due to economic factors the business is no longer profitable. I do still sell a few pieces here and there, but there isn’t much money in it anymore. There are a few pockets of passionate collectors, LEGO aficionados for example. However, to find a box is rare.

        What do I collect? Well, right now I’ve lost nearly all of it. There are some pieces squirreled away with daughter #2 and a few we are carrying with us, but, by and large, the bulk of it is gone. I collect puppets, bears, pop culture/SF/fantasy and, of course, my vampire collection which features quite a few toys — many of which we found destroyed before the last move from Nevada. What about you? Do you collect anything?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. For me guilt leads to anxiety and that gets me working. Brains are weird.

        That’s unfortunate about your toy business, but so much worse about your collections 😦 How did so many of your vampire toys end up destroyed?

        I collect so many things, although probably not really seriously. Into LEGO myself right now. Also very much regretting not getting the original Puppet Angel when it was reasonably priced (I have vamped out Puppet Angel, battle damaged Puppet Angel, and Puppet Spike, so really feeling the gap in the group). Still picking up Nightmare Before Christmas stuff when I find something interesting. And I really want Funko Pop Castiel and Spike, but not holding out much hope. Unfortunately my magpie tendencies are at war with my desire for a clean, elegant house (guess which one is winning).

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Brains are weird, I agree. I work best … well, frankly, I work best pissed off. Get me mad and I can take over the world. Now, being ticked off about being depressed can work occasionally, but depression is not always escapable. I have had panic attacks, but not really anxiety per se. I can feel anxious, but I wouldn’t classify myself as one with anxiety.

        In fact, I have the original Puppet Angel. I wish to high heaven that I had the Spike. My love of Spike runs deep. I need the Funko Pop of him desperately. Just picked up the straight jacket Alice Cooper Funko Pop at Hot Topic last month. I know I shouldn’t have, it was a ridiculous expense, but once the special store figures are gone, it’s hell to get them. I wanted the Barnes and Noble Mr. Rogers, but can’t find it. I went out when it just came out and they didn’t have it. Can’t order it online either. Damnit.

        Clean, elegant houses (my preference too) can be well decorated with collectible toys. Ikea has marvelous cabinets for floor and walls. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Anger can be highly motivating. What do Jedi know?

        I’m so jealous of your Puppet Angel, although the other ones are quite nifty. You and I need to do some Spike bonding sometime. You’re so right about how fast figures go–I’ve been disappointed many a time because I hesitated. The problem with Ikea (or other) cabinets and bookshelves is that most of my walls are already taken up with them and I’d kind of like some room for artwork lol Oh well, I’ll never be a minimalist–might as well have fun with it 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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