1. Go to bed early.
  2. Okay, go to bed now. It’s still almost early.
  3. Seriously, you’ve passed early and are heading into late.
  4. What part of “GET TO BED” don’t you understand?
  5. Set alarm for 15 minutes before when you want to get up.
  6. Set another alarm for 5 minutes before when you want to get up.
  7. Set alarm for actual time you want to get up.
  8. Make sure you actually turned the alarms on.
  9. Call your Mom and tell her to call you tomorrow when you’re supposed to be up.
  10. Relax! Can’t fall asleep when you’re that tense. You need to get a good night’s sleep, right?
  11. Finally, grudgingly fall asleep.
  12. Realize 20 minutes later that you have to get up to pee.
  13. Fall back to sleep what feels like 2 minutes before the first alarm is set to go off.
  14. Hear first alarm. Wildly smack alarm clock until it shuts up.
  15. Fall back to sleep immediately. Why couldn’t you fall asleep this fast last night?
  16. Peel yourself off the ceiling after the second alarm goes off.
  17. Assure yourself you’re not having a heart attack.
  18. Negotiate 30 more minutes on the basis of your near-death experience.
  19. Who the hell is calling me at this hour of the morning?!
  20. Oh, hi Mom. Yes, it sure is a beautiful day and of COURSE I’m up.
  21. Oh crap, the dog is up.
  22. Go back to sleep, dog! It’s early!
  23. NO, I DON’T want to get up and go outside!
  24. WAIT! Put that leg back down!!! NOOOOOOOO
  25. Okay, you win, let’s go outside. I might as well run since I’m already up….

Just a reminder — I’m giving away a copy of the New York Times Bestseller Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. All you need to go is hop over to my post from last week (and here’s a link, just to make it easy peasy) and hit up the comments section telling me you want in.

IMG_20151017_140417~2Did I get your attention?

So, apparently old age has not only sneaked up on me, but also clubbed me over the head a few dozen times — when Jenny Lawson’s second book Furiously Happy went on pre-sale, I pre-ordered. Twice. I was THAT excited about it. Of course, that made the day the book was released twice as nice in my household … or something like that.

Jenny Lawson, as many of you know, is The Bloggess on the internets — the irreverent, inappropriate, snort-laughing funny blogger whose site makes all sorts of “best of” lists. If you’ve never visited there, you should plan a vacation — go there and stay awhile, make yourself at home and read up all of her wonderfulness.

Now, the book itself? To say that it’s outstanding would be selling it short. Let’s make a list of all the awesome things about it, shall we?

  1. It’s one of the few books that will make you quite literally LOL (that’s Laugh Out Loud for those who are new to The Internet).
  2. There are lots of taxidermy animals in it doing funny thing.
  3. She talks honestly, openly and hilariously about depression and mental illness.
  4. Her fight to erase the stigma from mental illness is extraordinary. And hilarious. And makes us feel like we’re not alone.
  5. She’s absolutely hilarious. Have I mentioned that?
  6. She can make you laugh, cry, and shake your head in an “oh my god you should get out of my head because that’s exactly what I was thinking” all within one paragraph.

To sum it up:  it’s an important book in the fight to make mental illness a normal out-in-the-open and talked about disease like diabetes or asthma and it’s so humorous that you’ll wake the neighbors with your over-the-top guffawing. If you’re still weirdly not convinced that you need to read it, here’s a great review of the book to make you reconsider your (wrong) opinion.

I suppose y’all out there are reading this and wondering, “I wonder what Laura’s going to do with the second copy of that New York Times bestseller? Do you think she’d just give it away for free?” and to that I would reply, “Hell, NO!” Of course I wouldn’t. Do you think my Mom raised a damn fool?

But what I am prepared to do: for anyone who leaves a comment here on the blog, you’ll get your name put into a drawing for the book. If you share my post on Facebook? I’ll not only love you forever, but also give you a second entry! What a deal!

“But wait – is there a catch?”, you might be thinking and you’d be right. The catch is this — whoever receives the book, after you are done reading it, you should think about passing it on to someone else who needs to hear or learn the message that mental illness isn’t something to be ashamed of and we’re not alone in this world. It can be your friend, your Grandma, the guy at the corner shop, a co-worker, your partner, the bus driver, your kid’s teacher, your preacher or basically anyone, really. I won’t make it hard for you. Just share.

The details:  just leave a comment here — it can be just “Hey! I want to win the book!” — it doesn’t need to be anything more profound than that. If you share on Facebook, leave a comment here telling me so and I’ll put your name in twice. I’ll do the drawing on October 31st at the witching hour (not that I have any idea when the witching hour is… it just sounded like a cool Halloween thing to say). The book might even be signed by Jenny Lawson herself if I can get my butt to her book signing next weekend (no promises!). Once the winner is announced and I’m able to make contact, I’ll drop it in the mail.

Paying it forward, y’all. That’s what this is all about. The Bloggess has helped me overcome some of my fear about sharing the details of my depression — last week’s post was a show of her influence on me — and with all the support everyone showed me, I want to make sure the message keeps getting pushed along. Every voice matters.

Dear Laura,

Oh, honey — I can feel the disappointment and anger you feel at yourself, weighing you down like an anchor. The silent accusation of “you let yourself go!” and “how can you go from marathoner to someone who can barely run a mile without walking?” And you know what? Those regrets, those recriminations — they don’t serve you. They serve no purpose other than to drag yourself down.

In October of 2011 you ran a 4:09 marathon. And that was awesome, right? It took a lot of work and you were rightfully proud of your accomplishment. But remember the life you had outside of running? You hid from people, you curled up and cried, sad for no apparent reason. You knew you had friends, but your heart wouldn’t believe. You took your heart’s word as gospel, sure that no one cared, except perhaps the dogs who relied on you for food and walks.

What you didn’t understand yet, was that depression was covering you like a cloak. And you know what else you didn’t understand? That depression is a liar. A damned, bastard liar.

You allowed yourself to spiral downward, becoming even more reclusive and unhappy. Food became your best friend; the cookies didn’t care that you were an awful person and they always helped make you feel fulfilled — or at least filled — in a way that you could find through no other avenue.

You spent a year like this — a deeper, darker version of the personality that you’ve always carried around inside — but then in the fall of 2012 you finally reached for a lifeline and started seeing a therapist. And then, just a bit later, your therapist (who wasn’t really a good fit, but was a nice person) started insisting that you think about trying antidepressants. “How can it be worse?” she said. And you had no good answer, only excuses.

It felt like giving up; like admitting that you were utterly broken instead of just someone who needed some sort of attitude adjustment. You resisted for awhile, but then — finally — you couldn’t escape the truth of this simple saying: do what you’ve always done, get what you’ve always got. And what you had always gotten was depression of some sort — therapy revealed that depression had been a shadow following you throughout most of your life, sometimes disappearing for awhile, other times covering you so completely that you could barely see.

So, with more than a belly full of anxiety, you started on antidepressants. And it felt like they weren’t doing much, really. It wasn’t like you took them and immediately became happy and healed. But over time, your subconscious started nudging you a little bit … “hey … you didn’t cry at all this past week” … or “look at that … you initiated plans with friends” …. “what do you know, it seems that maybe things are getting ever-so-slightly better.”

 

And that was the beginning of more than two years of doing the tough work of sorting out your emotions. It certainly wasn’t easy — as closed off as you were to other people, your soul was just as closed off to yourself, but once the meds kicked in the debilitating fog of depression was no longer there, whispering in your ear, and that made the difference. No, life wasn’t immediately awesome, but at least you were dealing with facts and truths and doing what had to be done to challenge the insidious habits and opinions that depression caused you to form about yourself.

Whether you meant to do it or everything else was all that you could handle, those two years had very little exercise and a lot of emotional eating. And, ironically, in its own way, this was probably for the best. Before you had buried your feelings in sweat and muscle aches and working hard enough to blot out any sort of thoughts, but now — now, you had to face all this shit head on. You always thought exercise was the cure, but in fact, it was just another method you used to cover up the disaster that your head and heart were in.

So – yes – you’ve gained forty pounds. Yes, you can no longer run like you used to. Yes, you have an honest-to-goodness belly. But you know what? Those things don’t matter. Even if you were a hundred pounds heavier, you’d still be a great person, one worthy of love and affection. And what did you get in exchange for those forty pounds? Self-awareness by the bushel and a never-ending supply of mindfulness — two things that are worth more than their weight in cookies.

Not only that, but you have a much better idea of what makes you tick and why you are the way you are. One big step — you acknowledged your depression. Accepted that there’s just something about your brain chemistry that doesn’t run quite right. And that it’s okay and taking medication to control it doesn’t make you less than or not enough. It just means that you’re smart enough to recognize when you need help — no one gets through this life without some sort of assistance.

Laura, you should be damn proud of yourself. Look at all the work you’ve done! Look at all the progress you’ve made! Gaining pounds is nothing when weighed against your successes. You’ve put yourself in a position to go after both physical and mental happiness, which isn’t somewhere you’ve ever been before. You know how much you like to sweat — you’re now in a place where exercise can be used for growth instead of repressing feelings — so, find your passion, whether it be running or mountain biking or something entirely different. You’re not back at square one — you’re simply at the start of a new and different game.

Now go out there and let go and LIVE. Enjoy life and wring every drop of joy out of it. Whether that includes getting back into shape or settling down into a life of reading and writing, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is a happy and healthy body and soul, and an appreciation for every blessing in your life. Because you’ve got a lot of them and remember — you deserve them.

Love, me.

PS – Next week I’ll be back to my snarky, normal self AND I’ll be giving away stuff! Yes – FREE STUFF!!

But, aren’t we all?

A few months ago, when my California friend was in town, we spent some time reminiscing about where we met — an adventure trip in Colorado in 2012 where we got to know each other while hiking and biking (okay, okay… truth time: she biked really REALLY slowly so that I could keep up while going uphill…). What neither of us realized going into the week-long trip was that this was a very touchy-feely “let’s be vulnerable and talk about everything” kind of trip.

I never really wrote much about that weekend. I’m not sure why, whether it was because I wasn’t really writing back then, or found it too close and personal to share, but now, a few years removed from the experience, I want to talk about how that week was the prelude to me finally making some decisions and changes. And how I leaked more tears in the span of week than I ever thought were possible to produce in the first place.

The week was billed as an adventure week… at least that’s how I remember what I read on the website. It was all hiking and biking and happy, smiling faces. Sure, there were mentions of yoga and other spiritual practices, but I conveniently ignored those parts — they didn’t fit into my vision of a rough and tumble week.

After being there no longer than half a day, I realized with growing panic that there must have been about 10 pages of fine print that I neglected to put under the microscope. I was in the midst of about 20 women who were all sharing their feelings and being vulnerable, and not only that, but also subtly peer-pressuring me into doing the same. Of course, they would likely say instead that they were simply giving me a safe space and girl power encouragement to explore my feelings and that I jumped in willingly. You know, like I would jump willingly off a cliff. Or jump willingly into the chilly 53 degree Lake Michigan. Or jump willingly off a cliff into Lake Michigan into the waiting jaws of an incredibly lost shark, complete with Jaws theme music.

The entire week followed this routine: sweat and gasp for air, cry, gasp for air, cry, eat dinner, meditate, share, be vulnerable, cry. Go to bed, get up, do yoga, laugh at myself doing yoga, be vulnerable, cry, eat breakfast, almost pass out from overexertion and lack of oxygen going uphill, cry, whoop going downhill, cry, celebrate and then cry. You get the idea — a lot of water being shed, either in the form of sweat or tears.

On the last day, Colleen — the incredible woman behind the magic of the Women’s Quest trips — told us to go out to the river and find a place to be by ourselves. She told us to sit quietly, take in the beauty and reflect on the week and what we had learned.

After nestling into a tree nook, I noticed a flower not far from my foot. It was little ragged and hidden in the shade, but it was a gorgeous shade of purple, just begging to be noticed. And I thought: that flower is just like the rest of us. None of us are perfect — we’ve all got scars and torn edges, but we’re all growing and beautiful and we’re enough just as we are and deserve all the love and attention we receive.

IMAG0513

My special, ragged, falling apart, beautiful flower.

It was during the walk back to the lodge that I started thinking about what changes I needed to make to be happy, indeed even just figuring out why I had spent the entire week bawling my eyes out. I knew that what I wanted out of life was right in front of me, that I just needed to reach out, but I needed help — I hadn’t yet been able to do it on my own. The week demonstrated how much of life needs only some space to grow and a community of friends to grab our hand while we shed some tears. I would start therapy shortly after returning home, finally understanding that that my own journey would require a support team of my own.

And the lessons learned for the week?

  1. Every person has a beauty about them. Myself included, even though it might be easier to see in other people.
  2. After the snot was kleenexed away and breathing returned to normal, I realized that all the tears were cathartic. It was the first time in a very long while where I felt that my insides were on the outside for people to see. And that vulnerability was good for me, no matter how difficult.
  3. I don’t know how people do anything active above 8,000 feet because there truly is no oxygen up there in them parts. Really.