Campfire Thoughts

Campfire with my boys

I’m sitting in front of a campfire with my two dogs next to me, I’m looking up at the night sky and I see the stars, I hear the crickets, I see the fireflies… and nothing could ever beat this feeling.

I haven’t felt this happy and content, stress free, no depression, no anxiety, since 2016 when I sat on the beach literally by myself in Okinawa, Japan. It’s a feeling I didn’t think I’d ever feel again. It’s a feeling I thought was just a once in a lifetime type of thing.

I say all of this because I’ve been depressed lately. It started right around my birthday, which is right on time, because I always start getting those holiday blues around my birthday, which is in early October. I didn’t think I’d get out of it. I kept up with my homework, but that’s about it. I was able to have enough energy to hike just once since it’s cooled off. I’m behind on my chores, like cleaning the house. I’ve just been depressed.

I sat at my desk last night and stared at the sand from the beach in Japan I went to (I collect sand from all the beaches I visit), and I thought to myself, “What if I never feel that feeling again? What if I’m stuck forever in this endless cycle of depression?” I can have great days, but it never fails that the bad days happen a day or two after. I have felt stuck in that endless cycle for a long time now. But that day at the beach in Japan proved to me that I can feel like I’m floating and feel like I have no stress or worries, even if only for an hour. But I always thought I’d never feel it again.

Tonight, while I sit around this campfire, I am feeling it again. There’s no better feeling in the world. Tomorrow, maybe it goes back to normal. Or maybe I can live my life like I’m on that beach or I’m sitting in front of a campfire.

It’s time to start living, man. I have to or I’ll feel stuck in this endless cycle forever. It’s time to start traveling, hiking more, camping more, writing more! I’m feeling so inspired to just… write. Everything. No matter how real or honest it gets. I just want to write. I want to live. I want to breathe and not feel trapped. Things are changing, my friends. Keep up with me or get left behind, because I’m not slowing down.

November 2019 Contributor: Lenzi Moak

Every month I will feature a guest blogger/contributor. If you would like to contribute, contact me at writtenbyalivee@gmail.com and we’ll talk!

“Of Depression and Christianity”

Most Sundays, I go to church in the morning and listen to the morning’s sermon. The title of this one was “No Longer…Sick and Tired,” and it talked about how we all say we’re “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” (And here I am thinking, “I’m so sick and tired of the phrase “sick and tired.” But that’s beside the point.)

The main story spoken about was about the woman who bled for twelve years nonstop, and how she thought was, “If I could just touch Jesus’s robe, I’ll be healed!” The pastor explained that while it was a big deal for her to bleed for 144 months, if you look at that time period, they were still living under Leviticus law. The Leviticus law stated that if a woman is bleeding for an extended period of time, she was considered unclean. So not only was she miserable, but she had to profess to others that she was unclean. If anyone touched her, they had to ceremoniously wash their bodies to purify themselves.

The pastor said, “Imagine how humiliating it was to have to do that! Imagine if you had to stand in front of everyone and announce your affliction to them, and if they touched you they thought they were going to get what you have!”

And all that went through my head were two words: mental illness.

(Funny enough, the example he used was “cooties.”)

We live in a world where the second someone learns you have a mental illness, they want absolutely nothing to do with you. They become scared and believe that if they make the wrong move, you’re going to attack them (even if your depression is more destructive towards yourself than others). They want to lock you in a cage. You could lose your job. You could be disowned by your family and friends, ending up worse off than when you started. And that’s just barely scratching the surface of the repercussions of what might happen!

You know who else face a backlash? Christians who suffer from mental illness.

Oh yes. I’m going there.

There are so many Christians in the world who feel like they have to keep their mental illness a secret because they know beyond a reasonable doubt the reaction they’ll get: “You’re not praying enough. You’re not seeking God enough. If you would just seek Him and pray more often, you wouldn’t have these suicidal ideations. You wouldn’t have anxiety. You wouldn’t have psychotic episodes.”

As a Christian living with depression on a daily basis, I’m sick and tired of hearing this. Yes, there are some instances when praying and reading the Bible and living for God are able to help. But when you already do these things and you still feel that heavy weight over you, it becomes discouraging. “Maybe if you just did more, you’d be healed. Maybe if you cried out to God more, He’ll take this away from you.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat on my couch or my bed or even laid on my floor and just cried out for God to take my depression or even my own life away from me. Just go ahead and get it over with! I’ve felt worthless and had trouble remembering what the point to my own existence is. For twenty years, I had considered myself God’s only mistake, a culmination of every spare part He had, and He pieced me together and said, “Well, I guess this is a thing.” My whole life felt like a penance I had to pay! The scene in Guardians of the Galaxy where Rocket just snapped and said, “I never asked for this”… I replayed that scene at least three times and absorbed every word because I could feel his pain. I didn’t ask to exist, and here I was, suffering.

I believe in God. He’s my whole world. If someone pointed a gun at me and asked if Jesus was my savior, I’d say yes in a heartbeat. I pray constantly. I read a devotional almost daily. And yet… my depression is because I’m not seeking Him enough?

Earlier this year, my best friend suggested I write down at least one positive thing about myself a day. I took it a step further and wrote three. Before doing that part of the routine, though, I’d look through my YouVersion Bible app and write down four verses about God’s love and about His deliverance. Four verses about what God said about me. One day, I was hit with John 9:2-3 (AMP):

“His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man or his parents sinned, but it was so that the works of God might be displayed and illustrated through him.'”

After reflecting on it, I replaced the blindness in my mind with mental illness. The same principle applies. Yes, circumstances can affect our mental stability. But sometimes it’s not what we did that causes these issues. Sometimes they just…are. Wonky brain chemistry, an inability to see or hear, an inability to walk. Those aren’t always caused by something we did.

Dare I say it, but I honestly believe living as a Christian with depression has actually enhanced my walk with Him. During those moments when I want to do is give up, I’ve cried out to Him and begged for Him to kill me, knowing He won’t do it. But what He does do is gently tell me, “You’re okay.” I don’t believe it at first. How could I? I’m freakin’ miserable over here!

But eventually (could be minutes or hours), I slow my crying, take a deep breath, and bask in the calmness that overtakes me. He doesn’t ever turn his back on me. It creates a trust, a bond that can’t be shaken. I know for a fact that the next time I fall into that pit of despair, I can call on Jesus’s name like He’s my only lifeline – because He truly is. And I know that the second He saves me, I’m going to turn around and tell others that He so mercifully saved me instead of just leaving me there to waste away.

So…as confirmation to the Christian with mental illness: Lack of prayer and/or lack of belief is not always the cause.

As people are fond of saying nowadays, it’s okay to have Jesus and a therapist. It’s okay to be on antidepressants or antipsychotics. You can use this to glorify God and lift Him up when the episodes end. You can use this to reach out to others and say, “I know exactly what you’re going through! We can face this together! You’re not alone!”

Remember: You are loved, always and forever. Keep holding on, and take care of yourself the best you can.

Lenzi Moak

Just Because I Don’t Work Doesn’t Mean I’m Lazy

Just because I don’t work doesn’t mean I’m lazy.

It’s difficult for me to talk about this, but I feel transparency with my readers and honesty with myself requires me to talk about it.

I haven’t worked in almost 5 1/2 years. If you’ve been reading my blog for the past 5 years, you know I battle with MDD (major depressive disorder), social anxiety, and a few other things. When I was diagnosed in 2014, it was at a mental hospital where I stayed for 7 days. I had a mental breakdown. I tried to die by suicide. I was ready to either die or to leave and never look back.

I wasn’t able to go back to work. I was in therapy 5 days a week for 5 hours a day. Even if I wanted to go back to work, I couldn’t. I decided applying for Social Security Disability benefits would be my best bet. People told me it would take months, maybe even a year or two before I would be approved. They told me it would take more than one try. I was discouraged by that, but I applied anyway. I got approved the first time.

From that time until even today, I feel guilty because I don’t work. There are days when I’m exhausted and don’t do anything except watch a movie on Netflix or walk the dogs, and it makes me feel extremely guilty. It makes me feel lazy. It makes me feel ashamed. I’m 29 years old and I still live with parents because I can’t afford to live on my own, and even if I could, I would be terrified to live by myself.

As I type this, I realize I am basically explaining myself, but deep down I know I don’t have to. If I could work, I would. Those that don’t know my story might view me as lazy, but that’s just it…

They don’t know my story. I do not have to explain myself. What people think about me does not determine my worth.

I constantly have to remind myself of those things. From my point of view, I have a reason I don’t have a job. A legit reason. But my anxiety tells me that people judge me and think I’m lazy just because I happen to be a millennial, and millennials are apparently notoriously lazy.

Believe it or not, depression is the second most common medical condition listed on Social Security disability applications.

I know what you’re saying… “Those people just need to suck it up and go to work.” It’s not that simple. I wouldn’t even know where to begin to be able to tell you how not simple it really is. Mental health awareness has truly come a long way in recent years. People are starting to realize that depression is not just this made up thing that people make up to have an excuse for not being able to handle something, for crying unexpectedly, not being able to get out of bed, etc.

Truly people would not choose to have depression if they had a choice. I definitely would not. I want to be normal. I want to feel normal. I want to be a stereotypical hardworking American. But I can’t. I’ve tried. And that’s okay. I don’t have to feel guilty for not being able to work. I have a steady monthly income, I help my parents around the house, I do odd jobs (like dog sitting for friends) to have a small extra income, I go to therapy every week… ah, here I am explaining myself again.

If you struggle with a mental illness and you come to terms with the fact that maybe you’re one of those people that just can’t seem to find a job and hold on to it because of depression and/or anxiety, don’t feel bad. You’re not the only one. And it’s not your fault. Just do me a favor and stay in therapy (most of the time its required to be approved for disability benefits for a mental illness)… it’s such an amazing service and tool for you to have. Take advantage of it.

Just because I don’t work doesn’t mean I’m lazy. 

 

October 2019 Contributor: Faithe Henry

Today in the United States, we face a serious problem with mental health. See, the problem doesn’t solely lie with under knowledge of all types of mental health. The biggest problems in my opinion are over- and under-diagnosis.

A lot of children are over-diagnosed with mental health issues, such as ADD and ADHD. Additionally, most adults aren’t properly diagnosed with possible depression, anxiety, and other such issues.

With that being said, let’s also think about the way we label such “issues.” These diagnoses should never be considered problematic in the way people today look at them.

Allow me to clarify.

I myself, as an adult, have been diagnosed with anxiety, extreme recurring depression, and to top it all off, bottled emotions. Now, to me, depending on a lot of things, these diagnoses can be problematic. Yet they shouldn’t be problematic to a stranger to the point that I am being judged solely on said diagnosis. I am not crazy, I am not going to go crazy, and I work hard every day to fight through these personal problems I deal with.

There are so many other adults that don’t get the diagnosis they need to tell them they aren’t crazy, and that they aren’t a burden to anyone. But mostly you can feel better and be yourself without feeling totally unloved or forgotten.

Then we face the fact that not everyone’s depression or anxiety is the same. I personally believe that’s why so many people are not diagnosed. To those people out there, there are so many people that are and have gone through this, so don’t believe you’re alone in this!

As for our children, I personally find too many children are being diagnosed with things that are just the way children are suppose to be. Our children are not toys to sit on a shelf or go to a class room to just listen, learn, and repeat. They are children and need to be allowed to be such. They should be able to run around, have bad days, not listen and just throw a hissy fit on occasion. They are still just kids and are always human.

Take a minute with your children and find the problem, and then find the solution. Then fix it in the way it should be done. Just because your child doesn’t just sit down and be quiet doesn’t mean they have ADHD. We as parents need to do more for and with our children. Heck, they may have some good points to teach us! Maybe if we actually let our feelings out more often a few people wouldn’t have some of the mental health issues they have.

Let’s say you have a bad day at work; don’t bottle it up, don’t take it out on your loved ones. When you get home, go somewhere and throw a hissy fit for a minute. Find a safe way to take out your frustrations without hurting yourself or others.

There are so many other mental health issues out there, and I am no where near a professional. I am still researching my diagnosis and finding what works for me. The same thing doesn’t work for everyone. Just remember if you are out there and feel alone, unloved, and that you aren’t yourself, there are people out there in the same shoes as you.

I know I don’t mind talking about my problems and will happily help anyone I can with theirs. Please remember someone cares and loves you.

 

Faithe Henry

Answering Your Questions, part II

I am answering ten more questions that I have gotten from readers and a couple that I looked up that seemed like they would be interesting to answer! Thanks again for all the responses!

  • What is on your current playlist and what does your playlist say about you?

My current playlist is all over the place. I’ve got a lot of different genres, upbeat, with a wide variety of lyrical topics, but mostly inspiring. I think my playlist says that I’m open to anything musically, but also trying to remain upbeat in my life currently. I have to say I am listening to a lot of Lizzo lately!

  • How do you show yourself love?

I take care of myself by remaining mindful of things that need to get done, but also being mindful of the food I eat, the amount of exercise I get (or don’t get) for the day, being mindful of the music I listen to based on my current mood… if I’m depressed, I do my best to listen to upbeat and inspiring songs. Mindfulness is key when showing yourself love! I always make sure to sit down for a few minutes, or shoot, even hours sometimes, and watching my favorite show or movie, listening to my favorite song, whatever it takes.

  • How do you stay productive?

Sometimes I have to make myself be productive, honestly. But other days when I know I have to get stuff done, like my homework, then I just do it. I think I’ve conditioned myself enough when it comes to homework to do it on certain days. Otherwise, sometimes I just have to make myself be productive, and I know that that is okay. I have to constantly remind myself that if I don’t have much of a productive day that tomorrow is a new day!

  • What were some red flags you saw that made you consider burning bridges?

Red flags are sometimes right in front of our faces, but we don’t recognize them simply because we don’t want to. I started burning bridges when I started realizing that my well-being and my mental health are worth way more than constantly being taken advantage of, lied to, cheated on, manipulated, talked about, etc. When someone truly cannot be happy for you when you succeed at something, there is a red flag. That means that they need that upper hand, that feeling of being the best, and you’re not allowed to have it. Or… they simply don’t care that you succeeded at something. That’s when you know that person doesn’t belong in your life. When you feel like you have to fight for their attention, and when you do get it, it’s a constant competition or a constant struggle to keep their attention, let it go. It’s not worth it anymore. When you’re never included in their plans but they get mad when they’re not in your plans, there’s another red flag. You don’t need that kind of toxic negativity in your life. Nobody does. But when those toxic people refuse to see their toxicity and try to fix it, let them go.

  • Where do you want to go, and what do you want to accomplish with your writing?

My writing started off as something fun, random, off the wall… I knew I was okay at it, but I never had any intention of doing anything with it. Now that I’m older and I’ve been writing for more than 20 years, I feel like it’s turned into something so much more for me. It’s therapeutic. It allows me to be vulnerable and advocate for something that means the world to me. I don’t have the talent of public speaking; that terrifies me to no end. But when I write, I feel like I can conquer anything. My main goal for my writing is to inspire people. When I realized that advocacy and helping people might be my purpose in this world, I turned my random, off the wall writing into something that might mean something to someone one day. If I inspire only one person to feel like they’re worth so much more than what their thoughts are telling them, I feel like I’ve fulfilled my purpose in the world. As for where I want to go, I love writing, I love research, I love analyzing data, so I’d love to use those things to my advantage. But I know I can also put those hobbies to use professionally and personally by hopefully helping those dealing with mental illness.

  • If you could invite three people to dinner, who would you invite? What would you talk about?

I’m going to assume this question means only real people and not fictional characters, and both alive and deceased.

If I could invite three people to dinner, I’d invite my best friend Katy that passed away last year, Kelly Clarkson, and my mother. I know it’s quite a difference there, but I’ve strategically picked these people because all three of them have had such an undeniable impact on my life and on my own mental health. I picked Katy because I feel like I’d have so many less regrets if I could just talk to her one last time about anything and everything. I picked Kelly because she’s my favorite singer, yes, but she seems like she’s such an amazing person to be around. I feel like maybe I could convince her to talk about mental health on her new show or something, I don’t know. As for my mother, I talk to her every single day and we still always have something to talk about. I just love being around her and talking about everything.

  • Where is your writing place?

Believe it or not, my writing place is always in my room at my desk. I rarely ever get inspired anywhere else. My little corner is my inspiration station!

  • Describe your writing process.

My writing process is somewhat all over the place, but I have a notebook with my notes in it. I look through the notes, start writing what’s on my mind and just let my fingers keep moving. I’ll go through and edit here and there, but I’m a perfectionist so I usually fix the errors right away. It doesn’t take much for me to just keep writing. I usually always have music playing, but I focus a lot better when I have my headphones rather the music just playing through my blue tooth speaker. My writing process is boring and not fancy at all, but it works for me.

  • If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?

Easy. I would get rid of the social anxiety. I know this is against the “rules,” but another thing: I’d go back in time and stand up for myself against the people that bullied me.

  • Who are five bloggers/writers that inspire you?

Ooh, five? This one is difficult.

  1. Matt Haig. He’s my favorite author and a fellow mental health advocate. I love his writing style and how transparent and vulnerable he is in his writing about his own struggles with depression and anxiety.
  2. Jarrid Wilson. He was a pastor and writer that was also a fellow mental health advocate. He recently died by suicide, which was so incredibly rough to hear about since he was such an incredible advocate for people struggling with depression.
  3. Jamie Tworkowski. He founded one of my favorite mental health organizations, To Write Love On Her Arms. He’s such an incredible writer. He’s open, honest, and compassionate in his writing.
  4. Lindsey Hall. She’s a writer of a blog called I Haven’t Shaved In 6 Days. I just recently discovered her and I love her writing style, but also how honest she is.
  5. Kati Morton. She is a writer and licensed therapist. Her book Are U Ok? was so helpful for me, even when I had known about a good bit about the stuff she was writing at the time I read the book (It’s hard to be in therapy and a psychology major and not learn a crap ton of stuff). She’s also a YouTuber who is one of two YouTubers I still actively watch.

That’s all the questions! Thank you for submitting questions and/or reading!

Ali Vee

 

Just another cheesy post…

I was sitting at my desk today and was just thinking to myself while I mindlessly changed tabs… I have had a productive day today despite waking up in a terrible mood, pretty sure I was close to a mental breakdown, and really just wanting to throw myself a pity party. Last week, I had a horrific day; depressed, even harmful thoughts… I pulled myself out of it. Today, I pulled myself out of it.

I’ve been working my tail off in therapy, trying hard to make steps forward instead of steps backward. I’m working through my thoughts, through my depression, anxiety, OCD… but I still have my bad days. The difference between now and even just five years ago is that I am able to focus on getting out of that funk, that depression. I have a way to go with the anxiety, but I can tell I’m making progress and so can my therapist.

If you had asked me five years ago if I could pull myself out of a depressive episode and continue to fight and not give in to the harmful thoughts, I would have looked at you funny and probably laughed. I’ve also learned in therapy that it’s perfectly okay to be proud of myself and that it’s not selfish to be proud of myself like I always thought it was. Honestly, it feels weird…

My point is this: keep fighting. Yeah, I know I say that a lot. But if I had given in to those harmful thoughts last week, I would be back to square one. And guess what? I didn’t and I’m not back at square one. I had a horrific day, but I’m here. I’m alive. I’m not in any extra amount of pain.

I think you can do it too. I know you can do it too. Fighting this battle with depression is difficult, but I finally realize that it’s worth it.

I know it’s way more easy to say it than do it, but once you realize you can do it, and honestly you’ve done it before, then you can do anything you put your mind to.

I realize all of this sounds super cheesy, but I don’t care. I believe in myself now, especially after last week, and I believe in you!

Ali Vee

black and white laptop
Photo by Prateek Katyal on Pexels.com

Answering Your Questions!

On Facebook and Twitter, I decided to ask my readers to ask me some questions and I got a great response. With those questions and a few I found floating around on the internet, I am going to start answering them! This will be a multiple part post because I’m still getting questions from readers. I’ll do 10 questions each post.

  • What would you love to learn how to do?

There’s a lot of things I would love to learn how to do. I can’t limit it to a certain number of things, because I love learning. One major thing, however, would be to learn how to better socialize with people.

  • What are your favorite books?

My favorite book would definitely have to be Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. The other four favorites would be Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty, From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty (I love her writing style, and she’s really made me respect the different cultures when it comes to dealing with their deceased loved ones), and Supermarket by Bobby Hall (aka Logic, the rapper).

  • What is your motto for life?

I have quite a few actually, but the main one is Stay Strong. I have it tattooed on my wrists for a reason! On a more silly side, I love the quote from my all time favorite television show, Parks and Recreation: “I stand by my decision to avoid salads and other disgusting things.” Ah that Leslie Knope is a wise one.

  • What is the next vacation you’d love to take?

You don’t know how many vacations I have planned in my head, ha! I have a couple planned to visit friends in south Louisiana and Texas and I plan to do some hiking while I’m there. The big vacation I’m saving up for is a trip to Los Angeles! My dad grew up in LA, so I have family there that I want to visit, and I’m an LA Kings, Angels, and Clippers fan so I’d love to see them. Hollywood sign, all that cool stuff.

  • What is the best gift you’ve ever received?

Oh, this one is easy. My dog, Finn, is easily the best gift I’ve ever received. I got him for Christmas in 2016, and we’ve been inseparable ever since. He’s my therapy dog, too. He was supposed to be my service dog, but he’s too friendly and wants to greet everyone and say hello and service dogs can’t do that; they have to stay focused. Haha. He’s my best boy and I joke with my parents all the time that they’ll never top that gift in the coming years!

  • What is your favorite memory?

While I talk about bad memories of being bullied, I have good memories too! Hanging out with my best friends, making comedy videos, travelling across the country… it was all so much fun. Travelling to Japan with my mom was pretty amazing as well. I got to visit my sister, brother in law, and nieces while we were there and hanging out with them while sightseeing was really an unforgettable experience!

  • What are the top things you’ve learned over the past year?

I’ve learned a lot in the past year. The top things would have to be to listen to my gut and don’t disregard the red flags about someone. I’ve known that since I was a child, but the past year I got slapped in the face with it. I have trust issues, so I need to continue to listen to my gut rather than wanting to give people multiple chances only to be let down time and time again.

  • What is your dream job?

I’d love to work in the criminology field. I love the psychology behind crimes and criminals, so after 27 years I found that it is what I need to work for in college!

  • What is on your bucket list?

So. Many. Things. I am almost 29 years old and I feel like I haven’t done even 10% of the things on my bucket list, so I’m working on it. Travelling the world, trying new foods, health related things, etc. My main item is to truly inspire someone, so I’m hoping I can do that for someone.

  • What are your go-to phone apps?

I admit I am on my phone too much! My go to apps are Facebook, Twitter, Spotify, and the camera app!

 

Thank you for the questions! I’ll answer ten more in another post soon!

Ali Vee