To Live with High-Functioning Depression

Dysthymia – Dysthymia, also called dysthymic disorder, is a form of depression. It is less severe than major depression, but usually lasts longer. Many people with this type of depression describe having been depressed as long as they can remember, or they feel they are going in and out of depression all the time. (Harvard Health publications)

 

It’s fast-forwarding to the future, to better days, some possible, most of them fantastical, escaping the present, regretting the past, keeping up the façade that you’re a functioning adult who makes the right decisions. Life can be an exhausting performance, but no one tells you that early enough. Oh, they probably tried to in their own imperfect ways, but you didn’t know how to listen or refused to listen, thinking maybe you were unique, maybe life’s claws wouldn’t dig deep into your chest and strip bare your heart and soul. You thought maybe it would only sting you, not incinerate you to ashes.

Once you’re no longer shielded from the walls of college or some full-time graduate school program, you dive into life abruptly, sometimes shockingly, like someone dumping icy, cold water on your head, and you weren’t ready.

I wasn’t ready. I missed the class on how to cope successfully with the ongoing anxieties and despairs of adult life, its constant rejections, and failures. I didn’t learn the tricks of the trade or value the importance of networking and connections, all the necessary information delivered only after you’ve suffered through the beatings of your mistakes.

To choose the life of a creative is to invite great suffering. Every day you ask yourself if it’s worth it. I could’ve chosen something more practical, studied the markets, gone into computer science or any health-related field, and then maybe I wouldn’t be so dead broke. Over-educated with a degree from Tufts and Columbia, I stumbled into one ditch after another, asking why did I chase prestige thinking it mattered when it was useless, in my case anyway. Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes. I’ve made so many mistakes while pursuing the great white whale of publishing success.

I shouldn’t complain. Every day these words flash in my head: don’t complain. I’ve lived in five different cities and towns in my twenties: Boston, New York, Seoul, Korea, Toyokawa, Japan, and now Atlanta with eyes set on a livable city or town in California. I’ve met and interacted with people from all over the world, diverse in thought, philosophies, religion, and race. I’ve had unforgettable experiences living in Korea and Japan. I shouldn’t complain. Don’t complain.

But depression doesn’t care about your desires to stay free from pessimistic outlooks, low self-esteem, fatigue and exhaustion, disinterest in social activities and people in general. It doesn’t care how much you repeatedly tell yourself to stay positive, be thankful, consider those more unfortunate than you, suffering from the lack of basic needs you easily take for granted.

Depression doesn’t care about your well-thought out arguments against feeling deprived of joy, happiness, fulfillment, and self-control. You can argue all day and night. Scribble in journals. Pray and cry out to God. Depression doesn’t care.

It claims you, attaching itself to your mind, like a dark blanket wrapped around your head, superglued to your skin. It latches onto its host and grows in a unique way where some are highly-functioning while others are unable to get out of bed. Whichever way it manifests, depression is depression.

And so, I turn to exercise, running. The pain reminds me of my life. The finish line, my goals. Running is never just running. Each time a foot hits the ground, it becomes a metaphor for enduring, fighting, choosing to be defiant to the internal, screaming calls to stop and give up. Each time I finish a run, it reminds me of each time I wake up in the morning, having survived the last day, despite the clamor in my head to give up and die.

My family and friends stop me from taking my life. I don’t want to inflict any pain on others, especially on those who have sacrificed so much for me already, whose love has saved me countless times before. But that doesn’t stop the suicidal thoughts. As I said before, depression doesn’t care, not even how much you love your family and friends. It devastates everything, even love.

But I don’t have to live this way. It doesn’t have to be part of my character or be some twisted aesthetic accentuating my life as a broke, unpublished writer. Romanticizing depression isn’t cute. Major depression is ugly, blood, burns, cuts, sticky, gross intoxication, a haze of impenetrable smoke, destructive, paralyzing, a leviathan swallowing you whole, a killer.

So I make lists. Too many. Crossing off. Not crossing off. Scheduling. Forgetting. Smiling. Recoiling. I have to remind myself to widen my eyes and focus my gaze when my lids droop in disinterest and my mind wanders off into a blank space. Conversations deplete my energy faster than oil guzzling out of a pipe in a disastrous spill.

Sometimes people want too much from you. And sometimes people want nothing from you. I don’t know which is worse. I live in extremes with balance always remaining elusive, like a mirage that disappears each time I approach it.

But, I keep paddling forward, writing stories I believe many people will enjoy reading. I keep moving along. I keep dancing. I keep singing. I keep trying and learning. I keep going. I keep keepin’ on, and that’s all I can do. Keep keepin’ on, hopefully not forgetting the present, clinging closer to loved ones, and staying woke in increasingly dark oppressive times. To make love my religion, kindness my creed, compassion for all (except Nazis) my motto. This is life. This is to live with high-functioning depression in 2017.

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Stay amazing,

Sammy

 

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Stories

It’s raining.
In our despair,
In our fear of death,
Each of us, all of us,
Individual black holes,
We create stories,
As countless as the stars,
Stories not for entertainment,
Stories to survive,
To march forward to the end.
We craft stories of hope, triumph, of
Good conquering evil,
A beautiful romance,
An inspiring dream.
But today, our stories are failing us.
We have nothing.
And we watch as evil
Devours the most innocent,
As the blood of children
Snake down streets,
Rivers and rivers,
Emptying into ourselves.
We turn to our stories for help,
For a reason, for a purpose,
But we mostly use them
To comfort only ourselves
Amid overwhelming darkness,
Forgetting we are the creators.
We could end all the pain
If only we weren’t so lost
In our stories.

DAY 3: Don’t Let “Positive Thinking” Hurt You

Hello!

This is 60 Seconds with Dasist Winter. 🙂

Positive thinking. Sigh.

Positive thinking has its role in your life but there are days when you try hard to get your mind to think constructive thoughts and you only feel worse.

Why? Because you’re told to put your brain in a box labeled “positive thinking”, but your brain’s more like an ocean, and you can’t put the ocean in a box.

Sometimes you need to take a break from mastering your mind and just do something:

  • Talk to a friend
  • Take a walk
  • Go to your self-healing cocoon 
  • Write in your journal
  • Watch a movie or read a book
  • LIVE!

Instead of hitting the pause button to figure out whether you can convince your mind to think positively, press play and live life in any way you can.

Before you know it, your mind will focus on the actions. And, surprise, you’ve changed your mindset!

So, although it’s good to harbor positive thoughts, life can be super shitty and you may find that thinking positively doesn’t help at all. But I find that actions always do.

And that’s 60 seconds.

Stay amazing. ❤

What’s your alternative to “positive thinking”? Leave a comment below! Would love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

MY BOOKS

1.) PROPHET FROM THE MOON

Description: 

Alyssira “Aly” Beaulieu had a full ride to college, a loving grandmother, and a troubled older sister to take care of. Then the bombs fell.

Three hundred years after the destruction, she awakes in the streets of an unfamiliar Boston in a whole new body. Lost and buffeted by shock, she searches for help but instead ends up in the hands of the city’s most dangerous gang.

A strange boy who goes by the name of Prophet from the Moon rescues Aly and leads her to his home, a compound of soldiers led by an ambitious young captain and her handsome lieutenant.

Aly has only one goal: to survive. She imagines a second chance at life in the refuge, falling in love, training as a soldier, and becoming an older sister to Prophet.

But a cosmic entity threatens her dreams when it reveals she is part of an order of intergalactic guardians called Curators, souls of the dead infused into supernatural bodies. It instructs her to cross a perilous wasteland to Toronto to find a journal capable of stopping elites living in cities on the Moon from selling Earth to an alien race within ten years.

But the captain plans to attack the compound’s enemies and needs Aly’s help, too. Now loyal to her new family, Aly must decide whether to fight for her compound’s future or abandon her loved ones to fulfill her purpose as Curator of Earth.

READ CHAPTER ONE HERE!

The Chrysalis Garden

“You getting out?” the taxi driver asked.

Tessa glared at the man through the rearview mirror, her gloved hands gripping a black leather handbag, a gift from her late grandmother. “Where I come from, a driver opens a door for a young lady and helps with her suitcase,” she said.

He snorted, wiggling his blonde moustache. “I see no young lady here,” he said in a thick Southern drawl. “Now, you gonna pay me or do I have to call the cops?”

Tessa raised her brows, shrugging her shoulders. Fine. Be an uncultured pig. She removed twenty dollars from her purse and dropped the bills onto his sweaty, outstretched palm.

“I want all my change back.”

The taxi driver grunted and returned three crumpled dollars.

Tessa swung open the door to step outside and slammed it shut. She stomped on gravel to grab her suitcase from the trunk, slamming it, too. The car sped ahead, tires squealing, leaving behind a plume of exhaust. She coughed and swiped away the fumes stinging her nose and lungs.

Eyes closed, she heaved out a breath and clomped on the path to one of Louisiana’s oldest mansions, the Buras Estate. The house was unremarkable; others might admire the French colonial design, but she expected mental health patients to come running out of the enormous cage at any second.

oakalley-at

On the front porch, facing mahogany double doors, Tessa patted down her floral dress and tucked the stray curly hairs into her green suede hat. She rang the doorbell and waited, turning her neck to inspect the property. Her eyes widened at a giant oak tree; its thick branches stretched like the crooked fingers of giants clawing the clear blue skies.

the-oak-tree

The birds stopped chirping, and the autumn leaves no longer caressed the air with their gentle rustling. Startled by the silence, she dropped her purse and suitcase, gaze pulled upward. Heavy and threatening rain, dark clouds gathered across the once blue sky. A gust of wind knocked off her hat, and it tumbled down the wooded white stairs over to the tree. Tessa chased after it and stopped to pick up the hat resting at the base of the great oak.

Black shadows, the shape of long spaghetti strings, raced from the bottom of the tree, falling on top of each other, to the tips of the branches. The center of the tree rippled like a disturbed pool, and a hand of black smoke emerged from inside the hypnotizing swirls. The spidery fingers rotated, palm up, mimicking the gesture of a beggar.

Tessa held her breath and stumbled back to the porch, kicking up dirt and grass with her loafers. She rammed her back against a white pillar, gaping at the shadowy hand.

The front door opened. A petite young woman gazed at Tessa with half-closed eyes blacker than charcoal, frizzy red hair in a ballerina’s bun. Her pale skin possessed a grayish tint, reminding Tessa of a corpse resting in a coffin.

Mouth opened, Tessa blinked at the young woman and turned to the oak tree. No shadows blanketed its giant frame, the creepy hand at its center gone. The clouds parted, sun rays piercing through them. The birds resumed their singing, and the leaves crinkled from the wind sifting through the trees.

“Good afternoon, I’m Amelia, the head maid. Are you Tristesse Bien-Aimé?” the redhead asked, her face bored and deadpan.

Tessa took deep breaths to calm her racing heart. In her six years of hunting demons, loup garou, and other sorts of monsters with Grand-mère, Tessa had yet to encounter a cursed tree, or rather, a portal. She had spoken about gates to other worlds, but her grandmother had said they were rare.

“Good afternoon, I’m Amelia, the head maid. Are you Tristesse Bien-Aimé?” the young woman repeated.

Tessa coughed into a fist and wished she could ask the redhead to call her a cab, but she had no destination. Although Grand-mère left her the New Orleans apartment after her death, Tessa couldn’t fight the landlord who sold the building and forced her and the other residents into the streets with only fifty dollars for their trouble. This new job provided both shelter and money, along with a salary higher than every other post she had researched.

“Yes, I’m Tristesse,” she finally said, grabbing her purse and suitcase from the floor.

Amelia nodded. “Good. We were expecting a Tristesse Bien-Aimé.”

“Please, call me Tessa.” She gazed at the tree, curiosity picking at her brain. “Have you ever noticed anything strange about the oak tree over there?”

The head maid side-eyed the great oak. “No.”

Tessa furrowed her brows.

Amelia stepped aside and raised her arm. “This way, please.”

Tessa followed the head maid into a vast foyer, walking on a beige Persian rug set over hardwood floors. Hunting paintings, five-foot canvases of hunters shooting stags and geese, adorned walls covered in red and yellow wallpaper. Tessa cringed at one painting of seven dogs overtaking a stag, their jaws sinking into the deer’s body, its tongue slipping out of a gaping mouth.

She and Amelia entered a circular reading room. Heavy drapes dressed towering windows, and a golden chandelier hung from the high ceiling. Books filled wooden shelves lining the walls. Tessa’s fingers itched to grab one and devour its words. Distracted by the library, she almost missed the tall woman in a black turtleneck dress standing in front of her.

Amelia lifted a limp hand toward the woman. “This is Lady Eunice, the stewardess of the Buras Estate.”

lady-eunice

The woman’s face was long and ageless, her graying hair wrapped in a tight chignon tugging the skin on her forehead. Her eyes were black. Not dark brown, but pure black, the blackest Tessa had ever seen.

Tessa shivered and tightened her grip on her suitcase’s handle.

“Tristesse Bien-Aimé?” Lady Eunice asked. Her straight lips could shame a ruler.

Tessa nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Your résumé impressed me. A high school education. A strong reference letter. Excellent for a nineteen-year-old. Do you plan to attend college?” Lady Eunice’s voice possessed an eerie softness as she enunciated every word.

“Yes, as soon as I’ve saved enough money for my education.”

The stewardess dropped her eyes on Tessa’s suitcase. “It’s bold to presume the position is already yours.”

“That may be, but I’m intelligent, motivated, and a hard worker. Honest, too. My intentions are good. You’d be pleased if you hired me,” Tessa said.

“You sound convincing enough, but can you keep a house clean?”

“I did most of the cleaning in my grandmother’s apartment.”

Lines creased on Lady Eunice’s forehead. “An apartment and a mansion are two very different things.”

“Yes, but with all due respect, ma’am, dust is the same everywhere, and I can get rid of it.” Tessa trembled inside from the stewardess’ penetrating gaze but she forced her body to stay upright.

“Very well. I will give you one month’s probation at three-fourths the normal wage. If I find your work satisfactory, you can stay and expect a full salary. Do you agree to these terms?”

“I do,” Tessa said, alarmed and excited she fought to make this strange mansion her new home.

“Then I welcome you to the Buras Estate.”

“Thank you, ma’am.”

Lady Eunice turned to the head maid. “Amelia, show Tristesse her quarters and help her get settled. See she finds a uniform her size.”

Amelia bowed and gestured toward the door. “This way,” she told Tessa.

“Do not disappoint me, Tristesse,” Lady Eunice said, raising her brows. “I expect much from you.”

Tessa shuffled one foot back. “I don’t plan to…ma’am.

The stewardess nodded. “You may leave.”

Tessa took one last glance at the stewardess and followed Amelia out of the room toward the main staircase. It split in the middle, curling at the end like two arms ready for an embrace. An imposing grandfather clock’s face drilled down on her, but the glittering crystals from the grand chandelier above astounded her with their elegance and shimmer.

Amelia said nothing as they walked. Servants padded out of rooms with dirty linen, some vacuuming rugs and animal pelts. Others dusted and wiped furniture, ceramic vases, and African statues. Not one woman or man threw a curious peek at Tessa. No one talked or whispered. Sound escaped only from the hustle and bustle of their work. The silence contrasted the cacophony of New Orleans, and Tessa almost drowned in a wave of homesickness.

Not one woman or man threw a curious peek at Tessa. No one talked or whispered. Sound escaped only from the hustle and bustle of their work. The silence contrasted the cacophony of New Orleans, and Tessa almost drowned in a wave of homesickness.

A young maid with big hazel eyes and her hair in two pleats smiled at her. Chest swelling with the hope of a new friend, Tessa smiled back and stopped to ask for her name, but Amelia stepped in between them and shook her head.

“Do not disturb the others,” she said.

Tessa searched behind Amelia for the young woman, but the pretty maid had disappeared, perhaps entering one of the many rooms. She sighed, hoping to see her again.

Upstairs, the head maid took out an iron key from her apron’s pocket and opened a white wooden door. The room contained six beds, three lined up on opposite sides of the walls. A chest of drawers and a wooden desk and a chair flanked each bed, and two corners of the room had a sink and mirror. There was only one window.

Amelia pointed a finger. “Take the last bed to the right. Meet me downstairs in ten minutes, outside the reading room. We will find you a uniform that fits.”

“When will I get a key? Will the door lock on its own when I shut it?” Tessa asked.

“Yes, it will. Your key comes after we get your clothes. Do you have any more questions?”

“No, that’s all.” Tessa walked over to the window and dropped her suitcase at the foot of her new bed. She peeked outside. The large oak tree stared back at her. It stood larger and more foreboding than the first time she had laid eyes on it. The hairs on her skin stood upright at the thought of shadows swarming the tree again.

Amelia closed the door, and the sound snapped Tessa’s attention away from the great oak. Relief spread over her at the pleasure of being alone again. She unbuckled her suitcase and opened it, staring at the folded clothes and shoes, too exhausted to unpack. She sat on the bed and removed her hat, smoothing down her French braid. Tessa kicked off her loafers to stretch out her toes and reached for her pen and pocket calendar from inside her suitcase.

She circled the date: September 17, 1954, her first day at the Buras Mansion. A year ago today, she sat in her apartment’s kitchen with Grand-mère, prepping for a late night hunt. Tessa had only supported her grandmother with the equipment, cleaning the crossbows and their silver arrows, sharpening daggers, and mixing the ingredients for stun bombs.

Grand-mère had sensed her death and buried her monster hunting gear, along with the poison vials and bags of herbs, behind a mausoleum at the St. Louis Cemetery. It pained Tessa to leave her grandmother’s treasures behind, but she couldn’t pack all of it. She brought only Grand-mère’s favorite dagger.

Tessa’s hands dug for a bundle of black cloths in her suitcase and took them from between her trousers and blouses. She unfolded the bundle, revealing a dagger with a leather braided hilt. Tessa slipped off the black sheath and admired the curved blade made of pure silver.

Despite hours of training with her grandmother, she had never killed a monster. But before Grand-mère passed away in her bedroom, Tessa had promised her grandmother to take her place as monster hunter, to preserve her family’s legacy as destroyers of evil. But Tessa hadn’t expected her first test to happen so soon.

Light crawled out of the room. She looked up from her calendar, gripping the edge of her bed. Tessa took tiny steps to the window, and her finger reached for the sill, eyes closed. She counted down from ten and looked.

Swirling shadows wrapped around the oak tree, and five robed spirits stepped out from within it, one after the other. They wore long, pointy hoods with no holes for the eyes, nose, or mouth. They shuffled across the grass, dragging the long hems of their flowing smoky robes.

Tessa ducked beneath the window with her arms outstretched against the wall. Her breaths rapid, she raised her head to catch another peek of the robed shadows. One of them trailed the others. It stopped and turned to Tessa, raising its hand, ready to receive. Her body surrendered to multiple tremors. What does it want?

Someone else stood outside. It was the pretty maid who had smiled at her earlier. Standing still, she held a large woven basket in her hands and stared at the hooded spirits.

Tessa abandoned the window and slipped her loafers back on. She rushed out of the door, closing it, and raced down the stairs to the main floor, past the reading room.

“Where are you going? We must get your uniform,” Amelia called out.

But Tessa ignored her and burst through the front door. The wind hit her heated face, sun rays beating on her perspiring brows. Flustered, she stepped left and then right, scanning her surroundings.

Everything had returned to normal once again; the shadowy robed spirits had disappeared. She gathered her courage and approached the oak tree. Her hands groped the rough bark, unsure of what she wanted to find.

“You saw them too, didn’t you? Those dark creatures that look like giant black Klansmen, right?”

Tessa turned to the pretty maid behind her. “What are they?” she asked.

The young woman shrugged. “I don’t know. At first, I thought they were demons, but they’re something else. Still evil though. Anyway, it’s nice knowing someone else can see them, too. I’m Denise Johnson.” She adjusted the basket onto her right hip and held out a hand.

Tessa shook it. “Tristesse Bien-Aimé, but call me Tessa.”

“What a lovely name. Beloved Sadness. Sounds poetic. Are you Haitian?”

“My grandmother was, but I was born in New Orleans. And thank you.” She switched back to the dark creatures. “Do those shadowy creatures always leave this tree?”

Denise dropped her hazel eyes to the ground, shoulders shaking. “Yes. That and more.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll find out tonight. You should go back inside. See you around, Tessa.” Denise walked away, leaving her alone.

 What would happen tonight?

Tessa let her eyes linger on the oak tree, curious to know its secrets.

***

Enjoyed this snippet? You can read the rest here

And if you have any comments about this sample of my work, please let me know! Would love to hear your thoughts and feedback. 

 

Day 2: Your Self-Healing Cocoon

Hello!

This is 60 Seconds with Dasist Winter. 🙂

Everyone needs a self-healing cocoon. What’s a self-healing cocoon, you may ask? It’s that special space away from everyone where you heal yourself from life’s problems.

My self-healing cocoon consists of pillows on the floor, a huge blanket to wrap myself around with—like a cocoon—and meditating music.

Right now, I’m struggling with unemployment, a defeating job search, staying healthy, paying my bills, and so on.

Sometimes everything becomes too overwhelming, and I want to break or stop existing. When these dark feelings rise, I go to my self-healing cocoon…

  • to heal my soul, mind, and body.
  • to give myself some rest and self-comfort.
  • to tell myself that I’m a smart individual who will figure out the solutions to her problems.
  • to remind myself that I’m not my situation.

Sometimes, I don’t even think of anything. I let my mind go blank. Even positive-thinking.

It’s only me and the void. And strangely, it helps.

And that’s 60 seconds.

Stay amazing. ❤

What’s your self-healing cocoon? Leave a comment below! Would love to hear your thoughts. 🙂

Featured image from beautifulufitnessuniversity.com 

Day 1: Your Feelings Matter

Hello!

This is 60 Seconds with Dasist Winter.  🙂

One thing that has been on my mind lately is accepting your feelings. Sometimes you have a range of dark emotions like anger, sadness, and frustration, and the people around you may want you to suppress those feelings.

They send unspoken signals that your sadness or frustration is directly or indirectly affecting them and that you need to get that shit under control.

Sometimes you avoid being around people because of this very reason. Or worse, you take their advice and stop feeling.

This is wrong. Give yourself the time to get your frustrations, anger, sadness or whatever dark vibes out, in a responsible way, of course. In other words, don’t be afraid to feel because your feelings are valid.

Again, Your. Feelings. Are. Valid. Cry, yell, scream: express them in a way you need to for the time you need to, even if you must do it alone, without feeling embarrassed or ashamed.

Just get them out and you can move on to recovery.

And that’s 60 seconds.

 

Stay amazing. ❤

For Those Who Refuse to Quit