It’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which makes me breathless with excitement because I LOVE to write about crazy.
For starters, let me tell you that my own mental health is Stable. I have given my depression every single reason it needs to climb out of the corner of my brain where it lives and slither through my body like black mold. Seriously. We are living in a tiny rental condo, renovating a tiny house, and moving to a dilapidated beach house in two days. I’ve twice run out of Cymbalta, my eating has been way off, and it’s been so cold that crawling into bed for a month seems totes reasonable.
But I’m not depressed! Not too much. I’m still unpleasant from 4:30-7:30 pm most days, especially when it’s bath day for the Pterodactyl. Many of you are thinking, “What? Isn’t every day bath day?” But that is a suburban myth. As BFF says, when life gets crazy, hygiene is the first to go. Anyway, as long as I don’t stick my nose into his armpit, I can hardly even tell he’s dirty, especially since it’s been cold out. Hell, I don’t shower every day, either. And I don’t smell at all. Not too much.
So it’s coolio that I haven’t been really truly depressed in a while. I’m stressed and frantic about our ever-evolving living situation, but I’ve been working hard to focus on the positives, and make the process into an adventure. Buddy the Wonder Dog helps; he still comes with me everywhere, which is like having a big brown pooping bundle of enthusiasm at my side. It’s hard to be sad and lonely when Buddy stares at me like I’m porn. I LOVE HIM. Okay, I said it aloud. I am in love with my son’s service dog. But he really truly helps me, so there’s nothing disingenuous about me telling people, when they press me, that he’s my psychiatric service dog. And I only do that fake little eye twitch if the person seems super-judgmental.
I’ve been celebrating Mental Health Awareness Week in two ways. First, I quit drinking. Until Friday, at least. Or maybe tonight. But I haven’t had a drink for four days, and it’s only been difficult for an hour or so each night. I feel very clearheaded for most of the day, and am sleeping like the dead, which has reminded me of how much I like to sleep. I’m exhausted a lot. In fact, based on a conglomeration of the many definitions of “exhaustion” I discovered via Google, I’m pretty sure I suffer from “exhaustion” of one sort or another, and would benefit from some time spent at a mental health facility – especially one featuring clean sheets and private bathrooms. I’d like the place to loosely resemble Highland Hospital, the setting for Guests on Earth, Lee Smith’s latest novel. Reading it is the second way I commemorated this week.
Guests of Earth tells the story of Evalina Toussaint, an orphaned child sent to live at Highland in 1936 after a traumatic event renders her speechless. Under the care of Dr. Robert S. Carroll, she undergoes treatments for her condition – those treatments, considered innovative at the time, include a healthy diet, exercise, gardening, art, and music.
Evalina comes to consider the hospital home – she practically is raised there, and befriends many of the longtime residents, one of whom is the illustrious Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of literary icon F. Scott Fitzgerald. Zelda weaves in and out of Guests on Earth similar to the way she wove in and out of sanity when she was alive. Historically noted as a brilliant artist and writer, Zelda never received the adulation bestowed on her more famous husband, in part because of her mental illness.
I loved Evalina’s story, and how it mirrored that of Zelda – and I adored the idea that mental illness can be partially treated – prevented, even – through healthy lifestyles free of modern day stress and distractions. I believe it! It’s one of the reasons Husband and I have embarked on this new plan of simplification. But I also appreciated Smith’s clear reminder that mental illness is indeed an illness, like diabetes or asthma – a physical imbalance that requires medical attention. Sometime, of course, it also requires a dog. A psychiatric service dog.
DOG + CYMBALTA = BOOM SAUCE CITY. But that’s just my opinion. And I’m a little bit crazy, you know.