It’s real, guys. So let’s talk about it.

A year ago this week, I was incredibly depressed and having suicidal thoughts. I had to go to the hospital to see if I needed to be admitted. I had to take a couple of days off school to go home and reset to make it through to the end of the semester. I had to go to counseling a lot, and I took medications for a while. It’s was really hard and long. [For context, the spring semester, when I took freaking COMPS felt like a breeze compared to the end of fall semester. Depression is not for the faint of heart, man.]

And I’m doing so much better now, and it’s a Really Good Thing.
I get that my experience definitely doesn’t make me an expert on depression or suicide or anything, but I wanted to say a couple of things anyways.
1. I wanted to talk about it publicly because I don’t think it should be a shameful, secret thing. Yes, it’s scary and personal, but so is any illness/accident/stressor that’s affecting your life that much, and we’re not as scared to talk about things like cancer or break ups or car accidents or other stuff. So I just wanted to say: depression and suicidal thoughts are real and they happen to lots of people in your life (and/or to you), so let’s not pretend that they’re not or that they don’t.
2. To people who are in that awful spot: I’m sorry. It is the worst. Please tell someone that you aren’t doing okay. You might think you deserve to feel this bad. You don’t. Even if your friend or sibling had done the exact same things you hate yourself for or were facing the exact same things you want to escape from that seem overwhelming, you would never think that they deserved to feel this bad. You would do everything you could to get them help and start not hating themselves again. So, give that a try on yourself. Tell somebody. Tell me. (Seriously. I will listen, and I will care. I promise.) It’s not your fault that this is happening, you don’t deserve to feel this way, and the “pile on the self-hate until you actually fix the things you hate about yourself” method doesn’t work. I have tried it. For a long time. And eventually I’m learning that it doesn’t work and there are other ways to go through life and make changes. So, first, tell someone you’re not doing okay.
3. To people whose friends have come to them in that spot: I know it’s scary, and you should definitely take this stuff seriously, but please don’t panic and freak out and make your friend have to take care of you at this moment. Take a deep breath, and tell your friend you love her. Sit with her until she’s told you everything she wants to; don’t jump to “Solve Everything Mode” before you’ve actually heard everything, and sat there, letting her know that her pain is real and you feel it too and it matters.
Then talk with her about some next steps to get help, not as a way to Fix Whatever She’s Doing Wrong, but because your friend is a person who is loved and the way things are going right now is unbearable, and things can be another way.
It’s your job to be the person who has a tiny bit more perspective, who can see that this isn’t the way it always was for your friend, and it’s not the way it always has to be, because (for me at least) that is the number one thing depression adds to any negative emotion: “Not only do you feel this negative emotion, but you’ve always felt this way, and you will always feel this way. Give up trying the stupid things that might help you feel another way.” You need to be the hopeful one. Not obnoxiously perky in a way that denies the reality of the issues. But someone who sees that there could be another, better way to exist. This is not the way it will always be.
It’s also your job to be the pursuer. If someone is suicidal, I’d rather be obnoxiously present and the person be really annoyed at me, than give the person space to spiral further. And finally, get help from people who know more than you. Call the Suicide Prevention Hotline, if you can’t think of anyone else to give you advice on how to help your friend. (Here’s their number:  1-800-273-8255)
I guess none of those things are new news to anyone. I’m glad that you’ve heard all that before. But now you’ve heard it from me. If you have any questions at all, ask me. Seriously. I am totally open about what lead up to my depression, what it was like, and what it took to help me get through it. Ask me, and we can talk about it.
Edit: Also, a reminder: Depression doesn’t necessarily mean you’re sad all the time. It can mean you’re angry all the time (that’s what it mostly feels like for me). Or that you don’t-can’t-care about anything.  Or other

Summer in Oxford

 


Work


Light

This picture was taken early in December, in Scotland. It was 2.30 in the afternoon.

 

oh my goodness am I glad it no longer gets dark that early anymore. I think it would kill me.

Now the sun doesn’t set until 8.30!!! It is glorious.
And it rises at 5.30 am! So that means, on sunny days, when I get up at 6 am, it actually feels like daytime. I am so glad.

 


Bunski!

My hostel in Tallinn was called “Bunstell” because of Bunski/Sir Nomsalot/whatever he was being called that particular day. The hostel was basically an apartment converted into a 12 bed hostel, and having a pet bunny who lived in a corner only added to the feel that we were all just folks living in an apartment together, rather than a strictly divided Staff/Owner and Guests.

He was great. And adorable.

Sometimes in the evenings he would get super hyper and start dashing around the apartment, skidding around corners like a dog whose nails can’t get a grip on the wooden floor. t was HILARIOUS.

and, because he was always zippin’ around, it was super hard to get a good picture of him.  most of them ended up like this:


My Friends…

…are the BEST. 

 


True Confessions

When I was in Tallinn, I went to about the most kitschy, touristy place I’ve been so far.

It’s a restaurant at the bottom of the old town hall in the main square. It advertises “worthy elk stew, full of flavor experience”, and its servers are women in middle ages costumes. It’s dark and lit by candlelight. The veilings are low and rough-hewn beams jut out. It’s got Estonian folks music playing. The mugs and bowls are rough ceramics. Classic tourist bait.

And I loved it! It totally charmed me.


It was in part because of the warmth, in part because of the prices (each food item only started at 1 euro!), but mostly because of the woman working behind the counter. She was so engaging and joke-y. (“the minimum you have to pay for your order is 6 euro, but 7 or 8 seems better to me… yeah, definitely 8 or 9. Maybe 10?” or “Did you bring your own spoon there in your backpack, or do I have to loan you one of our precious, deluxe spoons? Don’t you try to steal it!”) Maybe she was just putting on a show, but I don’t think so. I think she just loved joking with people, whether it was her coworkers or tourists. And my elk stew and cabbage pastry and foxberry juice were really good!

I just really liked that place a whole lot.

If you are ever in Tallinn (as I’m sure lots of you will be at some point in your life), go there! It’s in the main square “Raejoka Plats” (which I think just means “main square,” since it was called that in Tartu also), at the bottom of the big Town Hall.