Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Few Real Confessions

It's true, I confess...
* I am going through two major things in my life that would be considered traumatic by anybody's definition. These are both huge things, interrelated and complex. There are some elements of these things that require life-changing decisions on my part, and elements of these things that are absolutely out of my control. Not a good combination.

It's true, I confess...
* I've made some very unpopular decisions that go against the grain of everything I've been taught, and yet I feel those decisions are the right things for me right now. I can't tell you how grateful I am for the friends and family that support me, even while disagreeing or wondering if I'm totally losing it.

It's true, I confess...
* I realized months ago that, while I have no problem being an advocate for mental health awareness on this blog, I have one major failing: I can't talk about it while I'm in the middle of it. Depression and anxiety were absolutely consuming me at the end of last year, to the point where my physical health was suffering severely. I felt like I was having a heart attack at least once a day and thinking (quite literally) that I was going to die. I went to my doctor finally to get some anti-anxiety medication and he told me I had scored quite high on the depression questionnaire as well. I laughed it off, but then started thinking about it.

I was tired all the time, unmotivated, and had no interest in anything but sitting around and feeling tired. I was getting plenty of sleep and yet still needing a nap every afternoon. These are classic symptoms of depression, and I know this, so how could I have missed it? I guess I assumed that just because I felt happy, I couldn't be depressed. I was wrong. Depression is a medical illness that can have emotional side-effects--it is not a measure of emotionally resiliency.

After a few weeks on my medication, I started to look around at the world and think it was a beautiful place. I wanted to get out and do things! To feel alive! I wanted to set goals, plan my life, be a better person! I realized that I had been in a very, very dark place for a long time before that. I write about this because I want other people to recognize depression in themselves in their friends, so people don't have to suffer. A psychologist said to me, "As a therapist, the one thing I'm actually terrified of is depression. I've seen how devastating it can be." Amen, amen, and amen. If there is anybody out there that needs a friendly person to talk about it with, contact me.

It's true, I confess...
* After all my study of how to be proactive and mentally healthy in life, I still find myself feeling overwhelmed by how much of life is out of my control. (This is the anxiety talking.) Earlier this week, I was ready to send my kids off to foster care and ship myself to a year-long meditation retreat in India or something. I felt like an absolutely incompetent human being. I recognized this feeling of "my-life-is-totally-out-of-control-and-I'm-a-victim-of-it-all" and had to nip it in the bud. I'm not a victim--I'm a survivor, and more importantly: I'm a fighter. I think anybody who knows me well understands this: I am strong and feisty and pretty awesome, actually.

So I made a personal manifesto to remind myself of what I really need in my life. (This is really only a partial list, but these are the bare basics that I felt needed attention.) Here it is:
I must care for myself if I want to care for others, especially my children. I must care for myself if I want to be happy and satisfied with my life. I must follow my conscience and find peace in my life. There are specific, mundane things I must do every day to feel good:
(1) Get enough sleep
(2) Exercise

(3) Eat the right kinds of foods, in the right amounts

(4) Keep my environment clean and orderly
In addition to these things, I really need to enrich my life:
(1) Sing
(2) Write

(3) Connect with my friends
If I do these things, I will be stronger. I will be better able to take care of my children. I will be healthier and happier with my own life and in my own skin.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Oh yeah...

It's been almost a week and I forgot to post the other thing that I promised. Too late for that now, so I'll just say:

Go buy the digital anthology that has my first published story. It's awesome, and all the proceeds go to charity, which is also awesome. (Even more essence of awesome: this project was my brainchild and I'm listed as assistant editor.)

I've been going through a major midlife crisis lately, so I just wrote a personal manifesto that I plan to post later. Maybe in about a week or so. In the meantime, I'd love some positive thoughts in the comments to boost my morale during a really difficult time.

More later.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Talk :: Return to Exile

Oh, lookie here, I have this blog thing. Huh. It's been pretty neglected lately, but I decided to reawaken True Confessions for a good cause (or two) today.

First up, I've never joined a book blog tour before. Perhaps it's just not my thing. Perhaps I'm too lazy. Perhaps I'm just holding out for the New York Times to offer me big money to review books for them.

Illustrations by John Rocco
Or perhaps I've just never had the right incentive, but today I do, because I get to blog about one of my favorite new authors, E.J. Patten.

I first met Eric Patten at a local writing convention in February. He was consistently one of my favorite speakers--he's smart, interesting, and wildly funny. I cornered him after one of his sessions and discovered he's also a really nice guy. I invited him to join my critique group, Critiki, for an author lunch sometime since he lives nearby. Foolishly, he agreed.

At our Critiki lunch, my respect for Eric just grew and grew. We learned so much from him and couldn't stop laughing the entire time. He also came to a charity event I planned and was one of our presenters. He's just an all-around awesome guy so I wanted to spread the word about his book, Return to Exile.

There are some books that you learn to like as the story progresses. This book is not like that--I didn't need any time to warm up to it. I was literally laughing out loud in the first paragraphs:
Phineas T. Pimiscule was not what you'd call an "attractive" man. He wasn't "desirable" or "appealing." He didn't like "things" or do "stuff" or "wash" himself. He was not the kind of guy to "put" "quotation" "marks" around "words" or to say things in an unassuming or assuming way. 
He was the kind of guy who wore a monocle. 
He had also been known to fraternize with unsavory characters--a necessity of the job, and possibly a result of monocle-wearing. He traveled the world, seeing the worst of it--places with grotesque names like The-Twelve-Levels-of-Hidden-Terror, Devil's Hill, and Wyoming.
With a beginning like that, I knew this book wouldn't disappoint. Eric's writing is complex and imaginative, brimming with a great world to explore. I definitely recommend you pick up a copy for yourself or your kids. But only if you like laughing. Or if you like to read about monster hunters who make weapons out of garbage.

For more information about Eric or his book, here are some links:

Facebook page
Eric's website
Return to Exile on Amazon

Get ready for a double dose of awesome, because I have another important thing to blog about later today! Stay tuned!