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Waves of Ennui and Depression

Living with schizophrenia, I’ve run through the full gamut of symptoms; from delusions to paranoia, to hallucinations to side effects. I’ve written about these extensively, but one thing I don’t often write about is my depression which, at times, is just as prevalent as any of my other symptoms.

Depression can be a killer all by itself but, when combined with anxiety and paranoia, it can throw my whole world off its axis. Sometimes I can feel it coming; the middle of summer, as my birthday approaches, and in the midst of winter, when it’s cold and gray. There’s something about these two times of year that speak to the bleak passing of time that everyone experiences. When it gets cold, when the snow starts to fall in the quiet, my mind starts to wander into thoughts about the futility of life’s daily struggles. The grey skies match the shade of the hole that’s been in my chest for years, and I let myself ruminate on the things that bother me instead of forsaking them for a sunnier, more productive mood.

There are also internal factors that can contribute to my depression.

I’m worried about money.

I got rejected by a girl.

Somebody said something to me — I felt attacked.

Work’s piling up.

I try my best not to let the thoughts and insecurities of these situations get the best of me, which may or may not be to my detriment, but work, money, love, and social connections all require taking chances, and all carry with them the potential to get hurt. That hurt can turn, very easily, into depression.

For me, depression comes on subtly — like an auditory hallucination may start: with a whisper. I start to feel a bit of ennui, a French word meaning, “general malaise.” I’m bored or something didn’t work out and I frustrated. This can go on for a while — a month or two — until the ennui surrounds me and I feel worse with every passing day. I begin comparing my accomplishments to the achievements of others (this is a major reason why I don’t use Facebook or other social media). I feel like I don’t perform socially in “the right way.” The weather changes and, before I know it, the ennui has morphed into full-on depression.

For me, depression feels like getting hit by a truck. I am tired all the time, I struggle to function in public because my insecurities are getting the best of me and I feel worthless. I have the distinct notion that nobody cares about me, that they never will, and that I wouldn’t be missed if I killed myself or just died naturally. I struggle to tell anyone about these feelings because I don’t want people to worry. I also seem to get the feedback that there is an inherent misunderstanding about depression among many people, that when I do sometimes give voice to those feelings, some people respond in a way that equates depression with just having “a blue day.” This is not the case at all. Depression tends to get minimized, which stigmatizes the illness and negates the deep and real suffering of those impacted. I didn’t have much depression before my illness, but I can remember a distinct periods where I struggled with school and social life in high school and middle school. I didn’t have a name for those feelings then so I just lived with them.

Depression feels different for each of the 350 million people worldwide who are caught in its talons. Sometimes I’ll think about what it would be like if I killed myself. Twice in my life, I’ve scared myself with a clear plan to end my life. When that happens, I know it’s serious, and it’s time to seek serious help. Part of taking responsibility for my wellness is noticing that ennui and not letting it go un-checked. Here is what works for me:

I talk to someone about how I’m feeling; a family member, or a friend; someone who knows the program, (i.e., someone who doesn’t buy into the myth that depression = being down), and is non-judgmental. Sometimes talking helps, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s always important to try. Following that, I always go to my therapist or my psychiatrist and, together, we figure out a way to get out of the funk. Sometimes it’s taking a break from work and responsibilities, sometimes it’s antidepressants, and sometimes it’s a prescription for healthier activities like walking or taking a nature hike.

I also try to restructure my responsibilities, as much as I can, so they take less of a toll on my daily mental health. I talk to my bosses about needing some leeway or a break, or I develop an adjusted routine that works with how I’m feeling at that time.

Finally, I treat myself well. I take care of myself with the steps I’ve learned to take it easy like taking showers, getting enough sleep and eating good food, all these things put a little joy back into life and, combined with a program of medication, talking, and prevention, I usually am able to maintain a sort of homeostasis. But there is another, more intangible facet of self-care, and that is how we treat ourselves in our minds and in our hearts. I still struggle with compassion for myself. I am way too hard on myself over things that really shouldn’t matter, and I know that. I try to be kind to myself; I tell myself that I don’t have to be perfect. Accepting yourself as you are is a major stepping stone on the way to finding comfort and peace. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.

Everyone has depressive periods at some point in their lives, and that there are strategies and supports out there that can help you get through those episodes. Therapy is beneficial, meds are helpful, and treating yourself well is essential. I wish everybody knew that self-care measures are perfectly acceptable and that seeking help when you need it doesn’t make you weak or “less than.” We all fall into a funk every now and again and we can all take steps necessary to lift ourselves up. The most important thing to know is: you are not the only one who feels this way. Even if you feel like complete, worthless trash, just know that, at the same moment you’re experiencing that thought; millions of people all over the world understand. We could all do with a reminder that we’re not alone. Depression is brutal, but you don’t have to suffer; and you certainly don’t have to suffer alone.

EDITOR IN CHIEF / EDITOR: Gabriel Nathan | DESIGN: Leah Alexandra Goldstein | PUBLISHER: Bud Clayman

Episode 2 – Art and Mental Health: Can They Co-Exist, or Must They Compete?

In this episode, Bud and Laura have a lively, wide-ranging discussion with Philadelphia artists, Abby Squire and Rosie Carlson about how art and mental health affect one another. Abby and Rosie discuss their process in making art and how this intersects with their mental health.

EPISODE 2 – Art & Mental Health: Can They Co-Exist, or Must They Compete?

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Rosie is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. Her passions include graphic design, painting, and a love of studying women’s historical roles within fermented beverages in early modern Europe. She says, “It’s only recently that I’ve admitted to myself that I need art; that I need to be making it. Valuing my art has allowed me to tackle anxiety and depression like never before because I’ve come to value myself.” Rosie’s website is rosemarycarlsondesign.com.

Abby has been living in the city for the past three years and is continually inspired by all of the creative people who call Philadelphia home. As a teaching artist with The Claymobile, a mobile arts initiative serving low-income students, she has had the opportunity to work within diverse communities throughout the region and share artmaking with students who don’t have access to art programs in the public schools. When not at work, she devotes her time to her own creative pursuits; reading her favorite authors, and exploring every corner of the city on her bicycle. Abby currently resides in her West Philadelphia home with her Golden/Pit Bull, Eloise.

Laura and Bud pose challenging questions to their guests, such as, what is more important, mental health or art, and are the two mutually exclusive? The guests and hosts explore these and other questions while investigating how to incorporate self-care into making art. Struggle is an inherent component of any creative endeavor, just as struggle with issues like anxiety and depression is part-and-parcel of living with mental illness. The hosts and guests offer candid and revealing insights into the intense, rewarding, and challenging life lead by artists, as well as individuals coping with mental health challenges.

 

RELATED: Mental Health > Art an essay by Laura Farrell

 

Episode 1: Trauma, EMDR Therapy, and Asperger’s Syndrome

In this first ever podcast episode of OC87 Recovery Diaries on the Radio, join Laura Farrell and Bud Clayman as they interview each other about their own mental health journeys.

EPISODE 1 – Podcast Hosts, Laura Farrell and Bud Clayman discuss trauma, EMDR therapy, and Asperger’s syndrome on first episode of OC87 Recovery Diaries on the Radio

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A LETTER FROM BUD AND LAURA:

We invite you to listen in as we discuss our own bouts with trauma and how we have used EMDR (Eye Movement, Desensitization, and Reprocessing Therapy) to cope.

We also read from our own first person essays, which appear on the OC87 Recovery Diaries website. Laura speaks candidly and thoughtfully about her battle with PTSD and sexual assault, while Bud reveals his journey of learning to trust again after a bitter emotional trauma that occurred in his own life.

Recording this episode was a significant emotional experience and catharsis for both of us.

Laura says:

Recording the first episode of the podcast and sharing my personal mental health journey was both an exciting and nerve-racking experience. The message and mission of the podcast is so important, but disclosing personal information about my mental health and experiences with trauma is something that produces anxiety within me. This is elevated by the fact that the podcast is a personal project—something we want to feel proud of sharing.

 

I think it is crucial to have conversations about these things and I feel fortunate to have a platform to do so, nonetheless it is an experience that can create fear—will what I say be clear and relatable? I cannot let my fear prohibit me from doing this work. I am fortunate to have a co-host & co-producer who helps create a safe space to begin these discussions. I am excited to continue working and starting a dialogue around mental health that I feel is urgent to have.

Bud feels similarly about the project:

Doing this podcast brings me back to my routes in radio. When I was seventeen, I recorded the 3:00pm Sunday news for a Jewish magazine format radio show. I started out wanting to be an announcer before I got into filmmaking and writing. When Laura came to me and said that she wanted to do a podcast, I was leaning towards other projects at the time. But her enthusiasm and drive won me over and I was completely on board to help co-host and co-produce a show dealing with mental illness.

 

I particularly like this first episode because Laura and I have both been through traumatic experiences and, as a result, have to deal with similar issues of trust and interdependency. I think we both understand how the world can come crashing down on you and how devastating it can be to have to pick yourself up again and go on with life. What I most admire about Laura is her kindness. And she remains kind despite going through a horrendous event in her life. In EMDR therapy, her trauma would be considered high level, whereas mine would be a smaller level trauma. Paradoxically, I think she is more open and accessible than me, even though what she went through was more severe. I guess we all experience things differently and I hope Laura continues to remain positive.

We hope you will relate to our discussions and our guests in the weeks and months ahead.

Thanks for tuning in to OC87 Recovery Diaries on the Radio.

Sincerely,
Laura Farrell
Bud Clayman