On making things suck less

For years, one of my Core Beliefs as a Human™ has been the importance of holding fast to whimsy, even in the shitty times. Especially in the shitty times, even.

This is a shitty time.

When I think about it, I feel confusingly lucky that my mental illness isn’t to blame right now. My anxiety and depression—or at least the versions of them that are caused more by my brain than by external factors—are solidly reined in at the moment. (Shout-out to self-care, therapy, an SSRI, and my thrice-daily clonazepam!) (Yep, I am taking that as prescribed!)

So I can’t deny that the shitty time would be shittier if my brain were being a nincompoop. (Wait, should I just say “dickhead”? Is this ~that kind of blog~? I guess I’m establishing what ~kind of blog~ this is, and I mean, it’s me and my brain, so—DICKHEAD.)

Anyway, for once, my brain’s not being a dickhead—it’s just  r e a l i t y ! Beto lost! Trump fired Sessions! RBG’s in the hospital! The White House released a doctored video of a press conference to make a reporter—who is already, according to Trump, the enemy of the people—look bad! There was another mass shooting last night! Bernie Sanders can’t seem to own up to racism being a thing!

It’s truly bizarre to go from wondering if your long-term goals are pointless because Can’t you just drop dead at any given moment? to possessing the clarity of mind to detach a little and behold the shitpiles and seem to be falling from the sky like shitsnow and blowing around in shitdrifts. I love my dog and my boyfriend and am getting a handle on JavaScript just in time for our country to be ripping apart at the seams.

IMG_1431

All that to say: I am not in denial. I am, somehow, not curled up in a ball under my desk at work under whatever this season’s version of a fashionable blanket is called. But I do need a reprieve, if a brief one. A balm. A metaphorical peppermint mocha to at least bring me some modicum of warm fuzzies.

So without further ado, I present to you—

My Current Warm Fuzzies Sources

Literal peppermint mochas with a side of constant Christmas music

This one was brought to me via my brother, who shares both my feelings about and my history with the Christmas season: specifically, that the holiday itself is rife with emotional bullshit if it’s made more complex than food and decorations—BUT the formulaic, socially constructed sounds, sights, and flavors of the season are utterly effective at suffusing joy into us.

I kicked the Christmas music season off with Pentatonix; Mike, I think, went with Nat King Cole. Go ahead, reserve some energy to judge us for treating our ears to manic pep and the soothing sounds of the man who’s essentially everyone’s figurative Christmas grandpa. We’ll be over here basking in joy in rebellion.

Oh, and Christmastime tastes like peppermint and chocolate. Period. Yes, I am susceptible to marketing and probably addicted to sugar. No, I don’t care right now.

Noticing the pretty on purpose

Because the universe is occasionally petty in its cruelty, I had to wake up before 5am to make it up to Wisconsin for a corporate training thing yesterday. I got off the train in Milwaukee, and the city struck me as grey and dismal and short. I knew my grumpiness wasn’t a result of my surroundings, really—I love cold, cloudy weather, and I’ve long considered Chicago a little too big for me—so I decided to find stuff I actually enjoyed beholding with my eyeballs. I sought out beauty and took a bunch of pictures of it, and it turned out there was a river, a mural, and a massive, inexplicable painting of cows on my path.

IMG_1419

Of course, I would’ve seen all these things, but I wouldn’t have really taken them in if I hadn’t consciously decided to.

And no, I don’t want to know the reasoning behind the enormous cow painting. Sometimes there’s just too much beauty in the mystery.

Indulging in some light-hearted fiction

When young adult lit hit peak dystopia, I was genuinely confused why people were so annoyed by it. As a clichés go (and can entire genre be discarded as cliché, or is that some agist, classist bullshit?), dystopian lit is pretty great—especially dystopian YA. Give me a heap of political bullshit that people fight and fight and fight and eventually start to topple. How could a person not want that?!

And anyway, we need to accept that Millennials and our even younger counterparts—as well as PoC!—are going to be the ones to save us all. Embrace it, even. I am a white woman, and I know we’ve been fucking up, voting-wise. You know who hasn’t? Young people. And Black women! KAMALA HARRIS 2020, PLEASE.

All of that said, I can’t handle fictional dystopia right now—or anything dark, for that matter. I couldn’t even get through all of Mr. Robot. So I’ve been literarily jamming to some fantasy and romance. At the moment, I’m in the middle of The Paper Magician, and I fully and unabashedly plan to add some holiday-themed romance novels in the mix soon. I reveled in the spooky shit last month, media-consumption-wise, and I refuse to wait until the ~proper time~ to flip the switch to the holiday season.

And yes, that includes holidays other than Christmas, as well as purely generic holiday fluff. If you’re limiting your holiday book and movie choices to stories that tie back to Our Lord Jesus Christ, you’re seriously missing out.

Being nice to people on the train and hugging my dog

These two are pretty obvious.

Firstly, the train sucks. Don’t make it worse. If someone bumps into you and apologizes, smile and say it’s fine! Don’t hug a pole! If no one else is taking a seat, take it for the sake of saving space! Pay attention in case someone needs a seat more than you! Don’t manspread!

Yes, some people call it selfish to embrace the joy that comes from your own kindness. My only counter to that is this: Who cares? Be nice (or at least not a dick). Feel good about it.

Second, pet something fluffy if it’s available. Hug a stuffed animal if it’s not.

———

In sum, seek out joy. Don’t be a dick or a buzzkill. Let people like what they like.

The world sucks in a lot of ways right now, but there’s solace to be found.

We just have to find it on purpose.

On Abnormal Days

It’s World Mental Health Day, and my message isn’t what I had been expecting—or at least not entirely.

Yes, I wish dearly for everyone in the world to know that their problems are valid and that they deserve help. Your problems are valid. You deserve help.

Yes, I am dedicated to helping destroy the stigma surrounding mental illness and its treatment. We are not less than. Our fight is often invisible, even when our illnesses are at their most debilitating. But we fight. We have worth. We contribute. You’re a fighter. You have worth. You do contribute.

I could pontificate on that for ages—and I was planning to.

But. But. But.

This week has been weird.

First, on Saturday, I started a GoFundMe for a wonderful, deeply deserving person that took off more than either of us imagined (and was, somehow, tweeted by Gillian Anderson today). A tiny act of kindness snowballed to have a massive positive impact on the life of a friend, and all I can feel in its wake is joyful and humble.

Then, yesterday, I posted an article on Medium detailing a negative experience I had at a previous employer, motivated in large part by some of that company’s recent decisions. Thanks to that article’s timing and message, it’s becoming the most-read thing I’ve ever written.

(And on a tinier note, my partner and I might be getting a dog very soon. YES, A DOG. YES, I WILL POST PICTURES, SO GO FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM FOR SOME PUP CONTENT.)

All those actions have had their own challenges and consequences, but they’ve all taught me the same thing: I’m more than my mental illness.

When I set up the GoFundMe, I had the emotional detachment and mental energy that my friend in need lacked.

Did I get overwhelmed and have to take a break from people by the end of the day? Yes. But I set it up, and I helped ease a friend’s burdens.

When I wrote the Medium article, my hands were shaking and my entire body grew cold; my heart raced, and my palms left smears of sweat across my laptop.

Was it easy to write, even though the words flowed freely once I started? No. But I got an important-to-me message out there, and it’s spreading.

(As for the puppy—I’m actually just incredibly excited about the puppy. There’s no deep takeaway there, other than they puppies are fantastic, we don’t deserve dogs, and once that dog is mine I will be prepared to do ANYTHING FOR HIM.)

The lesson from this week, then, is a simple one.

I can do so much in spite of my mental illness, and I am proud of what I can accomplish while the gears of anxiety and depression turn ceaselessly in my brain.

I have worth. I have impact. I’m more than my mental illness.

And so are you.

So get help if you want or need it. Reach out to me if you need information on resources.

Because the impact you have on the world? The strength you show every day in the face of your struggles? The love you give and receive, no matter how small the effort might seem?

They’re so, so much brighter than the darkness in your brain.

You deserve help. You deserve to learn how to build a life you love. And you aren’t alone in either quest.

All the love,
Katie

On normal days

I woke up this morning with my brain full of dread.

I’ve typed that sentence a couple times now, and each time, my hands give me “dream” for that last word. That my hands seem built for magical realism is a small kindness, a sort of reliable antidote to the repetitive panicky memoir preferred by the anxiety-ridden part of my brain.

Dread, however, is preferable to panic, which was my companion upon waking for years. Before I started to build a life that strives toward silliness and calm, I was up to a few panic attacks a week, with more limited-symptom attacks piled on. Dread is easy. Dread doesn’t make my brain scream at me to run and hide. Dread speaks in a whisper, spewing premonitions that the day ahead will be the worst kind of slog, in no small part because that’s all I deserve.

Luckily, it’s easier to argue with a whisper than a scream.

This morning, aided by years of therapy and effort, as well as the right combination of meds, I whispered back. The words were simple—I’m worthy of calmness, I’m worthy of building joy, I am loved, I have power. I have no idea whether I actually believed those at the time, but still, I argued.

I argued.

I lived through a childhood of trauma, and my brain is hardwired for anxiety and depression. I cannot do a thing to change either of those facts.

But I can fight against it. I can fight to create and witness joy. I can fight to create and witness whimsy.

And I can chronicle it, for my benefit and maybe yours, clandestine reader.

Welcome to a fight fought with music and morning whispers, with Koosh balls and kindness, with snail mail and thoughtful words and coloring books.

Welcome, welcome, welcome.

xx
whimsikate