What If I Am Crazy? A Conversation with Myself

Shortly after figuring out that I was depressed, I was lying in bed one night, trying desperately to go to sleep, when this conversation happened in my head.

Me: OH MY GOD WHAT IF I AM ACTUALLY CRAZY?

Observer Mind: Well, leaving aside the issue of the ableism in that concern, what would it mean for you if you were crazy?

Me: It means that I can’t trust my brain! I wouldn’t know if what I was experiencing was really an accurate reflection of reality!

Observer Mind: Hmm, I can see why that would be concerning. What would you have to do if you couldn’t trust your brain?

Me: I’d have to assume that my brain was presenting an untrustworthy account in every situation and triangulate reality by gathering additional evidence and investigating things from other perspectives!

Observer Mind: Don’t you give an entire talk on how everyone is blinded by the limitations of our own perspectives and how we have to gather information from many viewpoints different than are own in order to come to robust conclusions?

Me: … oh yeah, I guess I do.

Observer Mind: So, I think you’re saying that if you’re crazy, you’ll have to practice the kind of interrogative thinking that you loudly, publicly insist is the best practice for everyone?

Me: … yeah.

Observer Mind: That doesn’t seem so bad then.

Me: … I guess not.

Observer Mind: So maybe you should stop worrying about being crazy and go to sleep.

Me: … fine. But I’m going to be cranky about how reasonable you sound right now.

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What If I Am Crazy? A Conversation with Myself

In Which Depression is Unexpectedly Sneaky

It wasn’t until the bottom dropped out that I realized what was going on. It crept up on me, so stealthy, that in spite of my extensive experience with depression in friends and family members, I didn’t recognize it until the day that I could. not. stop. crying–and even then I didn’t believe that depression was what I was experiencing.

Because on the one hand, uncontrollable crying seems like a completely reasonable response to current events.

On the other hand, uncontrollable crying makes it really difficult to continue going about your daily business like eating and working.

While sobbing I thought, “Hey, maybe my brain is a little broken right now.”

As my therapist listed the symptoms of depression for me later that day, it occurred to me that my brain had been getting progressively more broken and I hadn’t even noticed, because I was looking for the wrong symptoms. This is my first personal experience with major depression–previously, I had only observed it in other people. My conception of depression was thus based on the symptoms that are easiest to see as an observer. I was looking for anhedonia, for the loss of interest in activities that I had previously loved, for social isolation, for self-harm. I was looking for can’t-get-out-of-bed-stopped-showering-never-smiles depression. Turns out, there are a *lot* of other symptoms of depression, and the whole thing doesn’t necessarily start with anhedonia, and you can remain reasonably functional and still be *really* depressed.

Google helpfully provides this list of symptoms of depression, gleaned from the Mayo Clinic and other reputable sources:

People may experience:

Mood: anxiety, apathy, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, or sadness

Sleep: early awakening, excess sleepiness, insomnia, or restless sleep

Whole body: excessive hunger, fatigue, loss of appetite, or restlessness

Behavioral: agitation, excessive crying, irritability, or social isolation

Cognitive: lack of concentration, slowness in activity, or thoughts of suicide

Weight: weight gain or weight loss

Also common: poor appetite or repeatedly going over thoughts

For me, I don’t know exactly when it started, because who can even say how these things start? But I can say that I started noticing symptoms in November-December of last year.

That was when the nightmares set in.

At the time, I chalked it up to stress: my partner was on a project that was causing him massive anxiety, we’d just elected a fascist as president, and suddenly there were neo-nazis coming out of the goddamn woodwork. It made sense to me that I’d be having night after night of nightmares about fascists coming for the people I love.

I assumed the accompanying insomnia and inability to stay asleep was a side effect of the nightmares.

Around the same time, I started having a lot of reflux–most intensely in the morning right after waking. This, too, I assumed was a side effect of the nightmares. My doctor agreed that it was probably stress related. I completely lost my desire to eat things. A long course of omeprazole cleared up the reflux, but my appetite never returned.

When I was in Manhattan for work in December, most mornings I sat in the hotel room for an embarrassingly long time, trying to cajole myself into eating a bowl of oatmeal. In goddamn Manhattan, I could find nothing that I wanted to eat. Even the thought of food made me feel queasy.

This was a little unusual for me, but my body can be really particular about food periodically, so I waved it away as an annoying combination of anxiety and seasonal change. (The hardest time for me to plan and make food is at the end of a season, before the next season’s produce has hit the market.) I figured it would go away eventually.

Friends, let me tell you that it did not go away.

I started trying to manage my sleeping difficulty with a combination of weed and old-school antihistamines. Smoking weed before bed helped me fall asleep and dialed down the nightmares, but also made it hard to stay asleep for more than six or seven hours. My body is happiest with 8.5 hours, so weed alone left me constantly sleep deprived. The antihistamines helped me stay asleep, but by themselves that was just trapping myself in the nightmares for longer. Probably, if I had mentioned to anyone that I was only sleeping through a combination of weed and antihistamines someone would have said, “HEY MAYBE YOU SHOULD TALK TO A DOCTOR HERE LET ME HELP YOU MAKE THAT APPOINTMENT”

But I didn’t mention it to anyone because I figured it would go away.

Friends, the fact that we are currently having this discussion should lead you to conclude that it did not just go away.

Over the course of the spring, everything started feeling so much harder. A cloud of exhaustion descended. Every action took dramatically more energy and effort. This seemed like a natural side effect of the trouble I was having with sleeping and eating. I considered murdering all my houseplants because watering them felt impossibly difficult.

I attributed all the crying to sleep deprivation, too. Zack started asking pointedly, “Is everything okay?” I kept telling him it was because, fresh horrors of American governance and white supremacy aside, I couldn’t actually figure out what was wrong.

Even on the day that I couldn’t stop crying, when my therapist was like, “Have we talked about depression at all?” I was skeptical. Sure, I couldn’t stop crying, and eating and sleeping were a struggle that left me constantly exhausted, but there were still things I enjoyed! I had not abandoned my beautiful garden! I laughed with my friends! Occasionally I managed to get work done, and I was still regularly showering and leaving the house! So yeah my brain was definitely broken at the moment but surely it’s not depression, right? Sometimes I still experienced happiness!

Then a few days later, I stopped being able to watch television. Six television shows started and rejected within the first fifteen minutes. Several beloved movies started and then abandoned. When I stopped being able to read–four books started and discarded within a week–I began to consider that maybe, just maybe, I was, in fact, depressed. I *love* to read. Losing the ability to focus on and enjoy a book finally, FINALLY ticked the box on the symptom I associated with depression.

In a lot of ways, it’s pretty comforting to realize that I am actually *sick*, and that this isn’t just the way life is going to be from now on. It’s nice to have an explanation for the strange and unexpected things my brain is doing. I like to think that someday, maybe, I will stop fucking crying. (Though to be honest I will absolutely take the crying over the days when my brain just WILL NOT commit to focusing on anything and I am left in horrible, unending, crushing boredom.)

It does, however, suck a lot right now. I’m doing all the things you’re supposed to do to treat depression, but I am getting the impression it is not one of those things that goes away overnight.

In the meantime, I’m eating a lot of bean burritos, which are more nutritious than your average milkshake but almost as easy to eat. (My sister said, “The depression burrito is a real thing.”) It’s a step up from instant oatmeal, anyway. I am trying not to be too frustrated by how utterly uncooperative my brain is being–trying to keep my self-talk more gentle and less exasperated. I am spending a lot of time with my friends, and a lot of time appreciating my garden. In other words, I persist.

I persist.

In Which Depression is Unexpectedly Sneaky

Script for Calling Your Representative about Maxine Waters’ Bill to Investigate Trump’s Ties To Russia

Representative Maxine Waters is introducing legislation to being an independent investigation into Donald Trump’s extensive ties to Russia. Here’s a script to call your representative and ask them to support Representative Waters’ bill.

“Hi, I am (name) from (zipcode). I am calling to ask (representative) to support Maxine Waters’ bill to launch an independent investigation into Donald Trump’s extensive ties to Russia. It is vitally important that Russia, an authoritarian ethnonationalist state, not have undue influence in the White House. A thorough, independent investigation is necessary to ensure that it does not. We can’t afford to have a puppet of Putin running our country. Thanks!”

Script for Calling Your Representative about Maxine Waters’ Bill to Investigate Trump’s Ties To Russia

Script for Calling Your Representatives about the Anti-Union Bill

Every worker protection we have in the United States is a result of the hard work of unions. Unions gave us weekends. Unions gave us a minimum wage. Unions gave us workplace safety regulations. Unions ended child labor. Unions built the middle class. Every victory for labor was won by organized labor unions, often at great personal expense–unionizers and strikers were routinely targeted for violence by both the government and the robber barons of the early industrial period. Many hundreds were killed. Their deaths paid for our worker protections.

The GOP has had it out for unions for decades, passing so called “right-to-work” legislation in states around the country. Slowly, persistently, they have rolled back worker protections and degraded our quality of life. The decades-long attack on unions has resulted in dramatic income inequality in spite of increasing productivity and longer and longer working hours.

Now, the GOP wants to do nationally what it has done at the state level. They must be stopped. Here’s a script for calling your representative.

“Hi, I am (name) from (zipcode). I am calling to ask (representative) to vote no on the anti-union bill being introduced by Reps. Joe Wilson of South Carolina and Steve King of Iowa. Unions are vital for a healthy middle class. The organized labor movement gave us weekends, a minimum wage, the end of child labor, workplace safety regulations, and many many other gains that are necessary to protect workers. Those gains were purchased with the blood of early labor organizers, who were violently attacked by both the US government and the robber barons of the early industrial period. As unions have been eroded at the state level, income inequality has skyrocketed and worker protections have nearly vanished.

If (representative) votes yes on the anti-union bill introduced by Reps Wilson and King, they will be voting to place the short-term profits of companies ahead of the long-term health of the American economy. They will be voting, in essence, to speed the US towards economic collapse and the pitchfork revolution that is likely to follow. Please tell (representative) to vote no on this bill and any others that will weaken labor’s ability to organize in the United States.”

Script for Calling Your Representatives about the Anti-Union Bill

Another Script for Calling Your Electeds About Impeaching Trump

On Friday, which was Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump signed a blatantly unconstitutional executive order that banned refugees, visa holders, and permanent residents from seven predominantly Muslim countries. Late Saturday night, amid massive protests, a nationwide legal stay on the order was granted. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees US Customs and Border Protection, released a statement indicating that they would continue enforcing the executive order in defiance of the federal judge’s ruling. As we speak, US Customs and Border Protection agents are detaining and denying entry to refugees, visa holders, and permanent residents, violating the court order. This is a constitutional crisis: the Executive Branch, having already usurped the powers of the Legislative Branch with this Executive Order, is now openly defying the Judicial Branch. THIS CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO STAND. THIS IS AN ATTACK ON THE VERY FOUNDATION OF OUR DEMOCRACY. WE HAVE TO STOP THIS RIGHT AWAY.

Here are some scripts for making those calls.

For senators:

“Hi, I am (name) from (zipcode). I am calling to ask what (senator) is doing to secure the impeachment of Donald Trump and his removal from office. After signing a disastrous executive order that was then stayed by order of a federal judge, the Department of Homeland Security released a statement saying that they would continue to uphold the executive order in violation of the court order. Either DHS has chosen to defy the judiciary on their own, or Donald Trump has ordered them to do so. If the latter is true, he must be impeached immediately and removed from office, as he is blatantly disregarding the Constitution which he swore to uphold. Remember that the Trail of Tears happened when a President defied the Judicial Branch! And this is yet ANOTHER Constitutional crisis that Trump has brought down on our country, in addition to his blatant violation of the Emoluments clause caused by his refusal to divest from his businesses.

I want (senator) to press for the cancellation of all confirmation hearings and votes until an investigation into whether Trump ordered DHS to violate the court order has been completed. If it is found that Donald Trump ordered DHS to violate the court order, I want (senator) to work for his immediate impeachment and removal from office.”

For representatives:

“Hi, I am (name) from (zipcode). I am calling to ask what (representative) is doing to secure the impeachment of Donald Trump and his removal from office. After signing a disastrous executive order that was then stayed by order of a federal judge, the Department of Homeland Security released a statement saying that they would continue to uphold the executive order in violation of the court order. Either DHS has chosen to defy the judiciary on their own, or Donald Trump has ordered them to do so. If the latter is true, he must be impeached immediately and removed from office, as he is blatantly disregarding the Constitution which he swore to uphold. Remember that the Trail of Tears happened when a President defied the Judicial Branch! And this is yet ANOTHER Constitutional crisis that Trump has brought down on our country, in addition to his blatant violation of the Emoluments clause caused by his refusal to divest from his businesses.

I want (representative) to call for an immediate investigation into whether Trump ordered DHS to violate the court order. If it is found that Donald Trump did do so, I want (representative) to immediately begin working to secure Trump’s impeachment and removal from office.”

Another Script for Calling Your Electeds About Impeaching Trump

Scripts for Calling Your Electeds about the Muslim Ban

Simple script for members of either party in Congress:

“Hello, I am (name) from (zipcode). I am calling because I am deeply alarmed by the Muslim Ban Executive Order that Donald Trump signed on Friday. Not only is it unconstitutional and racist; it is counter to America’s most deeply held ideals. It makes us less safe, in addition to making America appear foolish and cruel on the world stage. I want (senator/representative) to make a public statement strongly denouncing the ban and support legislation to lift the ban immediately.”

Personalizable script for either party in Congress if you have a story about how the ban is personal to you:

“Hello, I am (name) from (zipcode). I am calling because I am deeply alarmed by the Muslim Ban Executive Order that Donald Trump signed on Friday.

(Insert a story about how the ban impacts you, such as: “as a scientist, my professional and personal communities are deeply enriched by Muslim immigrants, who contribute immeasurably to our country” or “As an Iraq war veteran, I depended on Iraqi translators to keep me and my team safe. It is unconscionable that we would abandon them now” or “I am only alive today because the US welcomed my family as refugees/immigrants when they were fleeing violence in their homeland” )

What is (senator/representative) doing to get the ban lifted and prevent the executive branch from taking such drastic, harmful actions in the future?  (Wait for answer)

I am glad to hear (senator/representative) is taking action, but they must do more. I want (senator/representative) to make a public statement strongly denouncing the ban and support legislation to lift the ban immediately.”

Script that doesn’t appeal to the morals of your elected official, in case they don’t have any:

“Hello, I am (name) from (zipcode). I am calling because I am very alarmed by the Muslim Ban Executive Order that Donald Trump signed on Friday. It is incredibly troubling that one man is allowed to take that kind of unilateral action on immigration without even consulting Congress. We live in a democracy, not a monarchy! What is (senator/representative) doing to remove the ban and limit the power of the executive branch to pursue harmful unilateral actions in the future? (Wait for answer)

I want (senator/representative) to make a public statement strongly denouncing the ban and support legislation both to lift the ban immediately and to prevent unilateral executive actions like this in the future.”

Script for Democrats at the national level, which lays out exactly what is happening here:

“Hello, I am (name) from (zipcode). I am calling because I am deeply unhappy about the Muslim Ban Executive Order that Donald Trump signed on Friday. It is morally unconscionable to abandon refugees and immigrants, many of whom need to leave their homelands because of violence resulting from failed US policy. The only thing this policy accomplishes, besides rank cruelty and diminishing US standing in the eyes of our allies, is laying the groundwork for the fascist administration to pursue the internment camps Trump promised and the ethnic cleansing that Counselor to the President Steven Bannon has pushed in his far-right-wing conspiracy theory blog. This is only the first step. The administration is targeting Muslims because they think Americans don’t care about Muslims. We do care, and we need (senator/representative) to fight this with everything they have–not just because targeting Muslims refugees and immigrants is unconstitutional and counter to the most important American ideals, but because this is a test run for fascist violence and they’ll be coming for the rest of us next. What has (senator/representative) done so far to lift this ban and prevent this from happening again? (Wait for answer)

I am very glad to hear (senator/representative) is taking action on this.

(If they haven’t made a public statement) I want (senator/representative) to make a public statement strongly denouncing the ban.

I want (senator/representative) to support legislation to lift the ban immediately. I also want (senator/representative) to be present at the nearest airport port of call to ensure that detainees are receiving proper legal aid.”

Script for Governors if your state has a first Port of Call:

“Hello, I am (name) from (zipcode). I am calling because I am deeply troubled by the Muslim Ban Executive Order that Donald Trump signed on Friday. Our state has a long history of welcoming immigrants and refugees. I’ve heard that Border Control is continuing to enforce the Executive Order even though a nationwide stay has been put in place by a federal judge. What is (governor) doing to protect the refugees and immigrants who are being unlawfully detained and deported in our state? I want (governor) to use whatever forces are available to force Border Control within our state to comply with the federal judge’s ruling.”

Script for Mayors if your city has a first Port of Call:

“Hello, I am (name) from (zipcode). I am calling because I am deeply troubled by the Muslim Ban Executive Order that Donald Trump signed on Friday. Our city has a long history of welcoming immigrants and refugees. I’ve heard that Border Control is continuing to enforce the Executive Order even though a nationwide stay has been put in place by a federal judge. What is (Mayor) doing to protect the refugees and immigrants who are being unlawfully detained and deported in our state?  I want (Mayor) to use whatever forces are available to force Border Control within our state to comply with the federal judge’s ruling.”

Scripts for Calling Your Electeds about the Muslim Ban

Script for Calling Representatives About Impeaching Trump

Trump, as many of us have been saying since he made it out of the primaries, is deeply dangerous to the US and to the world at large. This goes beyond right and left–he is attacking fundamental principles of a free and fair democracy, and putting us in the fast lane to a fascist state run by an authoritarian nightmare. In his first six days in office he has:

  • sent his press secretary to lie to the press
  • banned federal agencies from communicating with the public, the press, or the legislative branch
  • threatened to impose martial law on Chicago
  • promised to investigate voter fraud in the places he did not win, based on the lie he keeps telling that 5 million people voted illegally

People familiar with authoritarian states recognize this. Scholars of authoritarian regimes and refugees from authoritarian regimes have been shouting from the rooftops that we are in danger. Our country is in danger. The world is in danger. We have to stop this. We have to stop this NOW.

Trump is already impeachable because of his refusal to divest from his massive tangle of business interests, which leave him in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. Your representative can file Articles of Impeachement TODAY. So why aren’t they?  Use this script and CALL THEM TODAY.

“Hi, I am (name) from (place). I am calling today to ask why (representative) hasn’t filed Articles of Impeachment against Trump for his refusal to divest from his company and his subsequent violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. The Constitution, if not enforced, is just a piece of paper. Representative (representative name) took an oath to uphold the Constitution: why, then, has (representative) chosen not to enforce it in this vitally important instance?”

If you have a Republican representative, close with this:
“If (representative) is unwilling to enforce the Constitution that they swore to uphold, I will be forced to take my support to a primary challenger who will keep their oath to uphold the Constitution.”

If you have a Democrat representative, close with:
“We are watching our democracy slide into an authoritarian nightmare and we need you to do everything in your power to stop it. This is your responsibility, to your country and its people. If you cannot fulfill this responsibility, I will support a primary challenger who will uphold their oath and enforce the Constitution.”

 

Don’t know how to contact your representative? Find them here: whoismyrepresentative.com. If you’re having trouble getting through, call at another office.

Script for Calling Representatives About Impeaching Trump