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Tonight, I, the puffball, was walking down the street past two matching Calicos.  One Calico was staring at me next to a wheelbarrow, and the other was revealing only its eyes and ears, hiding behind a big white plastic bin.  These cats were staring me down from their perfectly green house with the very loud Mickey and Minnie Mouse window covering.  Walking further down the street, I thought I passed an unusually fungi that looked a little like amorphous clouds, but at further investigation was only popcorn sprawled on the lawn.

Puffballs are mushrooms by the way.

Everything can be about mushrooms.

Or it can be about depression.

Or it can be about texture or shape.

I call myself the puffball because I left the house wearing two pairs of long underwear, wool socks, a leotard and fleece, and then this puffy jacket that is only warm in places like Los Angeles where there is no weather.

I am living in Portland.

I am currently obsessed with mushrooms.

I am also a survivor of and someone who currently experiences waves of Clinical Depression. This month is devoted to my take on my own depression, mixed with a bit of science, and mixed with a bit of very personal self-help.  I believe always if you are reading this not just because you enjoy my writing but because you also suffer, please make sure you get professional help.

So back, to mushrooms, and their relationship to self-help for depression.  In my life right now, mushrooms are hugely symbolic of so many things.  Firstly, I think it’s interesting to note that one mushroom may be psychedelic to one and poisonous to another or nutritious.  With the exception of the deadly four, most mushrooms are poisonous on a fairly unpredictable scale.  Moreover, so much of the hard work a mushroom does is done underground.  Meaning, the self-help, the really tough work, that move a person from a really tough place to a better one is often invisible to the very visible, quick-moving, impatient world we live in.  I think of this often when someone is doing a handstand press; and quite a few people seem to think she came out of the womb that way.

I know with my writing, for example, I’ve worked my damn mother-f****** ass off to write a couple of decent essays over many years.  The essay I just got published at The Manifest Station, for example, took at least four re-writes with breaks in between that spanned a couple years.

The self-help work one does happens pretty much underground; or to put it a different way, the beautiful flowers and essays and results and marriages and tangible-object-like-things our culture likes to celebrate only come to fruition after there’s been a lot of underground work.

There are some extraordinary things that start to happen when you decide you are going to be a bad-ass and heal yourself.  But in my estimate, I could tell you it takes a lot of fierce decision making, a lot of love, a bucket of forgiveness, and this thing called hope.  (And then there are vitamins, exercise, therapy, and psychiatry.)

So two points come to mind:

  1. Improving mental health takes a lot of work that may be invisible to the naked eye.
  2. Be a bad ass and heal thyself.

Point three is messy and is something like this:

  1. You must know thyself to heal thyself.

Stuff that other people may think is weird that I think is absolutely necessary to my mental health: Screaming (on a regular basis); rolling on the floor only with the intention of rolling on the floor; telling my cat stories about girls; telling girls the truth; dancing big in an open space; meditating; restorative yoga; spending less money; sex; putting time and energy into my creative work; not putting time and energy into organizations that are greedy and people that drain me; writing in a journal really simple sentences like this, “This _________ bothers me because of ____________________.”

I have been told by more than one smart person that when something bothers me, I should write it down.  This is a brilliant idea; but sometimes a jaded depressive with a stick up her ass (aka me) will look at you like you are stupid because it feels like, “Well I already know what’s bothering me so why do I need to write it down?”  The answer is something like “Writing it down activates different circuitry in your brain making your problem clearer.  When your problem is clearer, it is easier to fix.”

Writing stuff down that bothers you is useful for life in general, not only Depression.

As I learn to know myself, I can see more clearly what throws me over the edge.

Am I the only one here that wishes she was fit to go live in a cave and be celibate for the rest of her life?

Two or so years ago when I was pretty raw from sobriety, I met a girl I call the Little Electron.  On the first date, she was weird.  On the second, more weird.  She ordered four orders of salmon sashimi and proceeded to eat it really, really fast.  On the third, I tried to cuddle her; and she basically squirmed away from me like an angry worm.  For the record, I love weird; a weird girl with good posture and a quick mind is my kind of woman.

Things fell apart pretty quickly after I tried to cuddle her; and I later figured out from her blog it made her ‘feel like she was being impaled.’  We got into a couple of arguments during our brief relationship (or was it after?); and then we tried to be friends; and then I friend broke up with her.

Six months later, weaving the brilliant lyrics of Billy Joel’s And So It Goes with my own words, I professed my love again to her by email.  She was quite the wordsmith herself , and she enjoyed time to sit on anything that involved emotion, and so it seemed like the perfect approach.

I found out: she was taken (romantically); she was moving to San Francisco for a new mad scientist job; and wasn’t sure we could be friends.

If I didn’t have a very sensual and a very serious relationship with my own damn body, this may have shut me down.  Many, many, many people thought or told me I was crazy or it was unnecessary or basically looked negatively upon said letter.  My letter was incredibly romantic and incredibly sweet and there was nothing like, “And if you don’t come to the clock at Cal Tech at 2 a.m. with a candle and a plate of Salmon sashimi, the possibility of me continuing to breathe air will be impossible.”  There was nothing like that.

No threats.

No mean lines where I broke her apart.

I didn’t need that damn useless sentence people throw at you, “There’s someone better.”  “She’s a jerk.”  None of that is true.  I needed the Big Sadness to come and to move all the way from my toes to my fingertips.

Sometimes the Big Sadness will come and it’ll be about a relationship and you’ll take it to the dance floor and dance through it.  That night, the Little Electron who opened me up to playing big and seeing the microscopic, accompanied me through my own farewell dance.  I offered up every single dance that night to her, and to our relationship.  I wore red because she wore red.  I danced fast and I danced hard.  And I sure as fuck didn’t give a shit about all the people wanting to contain my sexual energy and my angry energy and my confusion and put it into a little potion and then Define it.  At one point, I thought the floor might collapse leaving me and these dancing peoples in this room, this temple, in Los Angeles, crashing into the floor.

I did yoga for many years because it heals me.

What heals me right now is a lot more rambunctious and a lot more round.

This goes back to the point I made before: You must know thyself to heal thyself.

I bought a guitar in 2001 because of a girl.

It took me almost 13 years to realize that I actually bought the guitar because I kinda really dug music too.

Again, you must know thyself to heal thyself, and be patient if you are confused.  It’ll come.

Also, I love this song; and I think it can be sung a healing mantra, just saying.  So consider it.

Namaste y’all,
Renée