A Thank-You & A Holiday Giveaway

photo by Paul Itkin

It's a snowy day here in Indianapolis, our first of the season. The flakes are colossal, falling hard and falling thick.

It's beautiful.

Ty is here this weekend, down from Chicago (which is set to get several inches of snow). We're having a lazy day: pot roast in the crock pot, NPR podcasts, Christmas movies. There's a good chance we'll put up the tree, too.

I'm also excited for the ornament swap. This year, 115 individuals signed up, making it the most successful swap to date! Thank you, thank you, thank you. To show my gratitude, I am hosting a handmade holiday-themed giveaway!

Here's what you can win: 

a How the Grinch Stole Christmas! magnet 
12 gift tag stickers from Pearl & Marmalade 
a sweet, hand-stitched T-rex ornament from World Finds 
coconut oil popcorn from gourmet popcorn store Just Pop In 
10 peppermint chocolate chip marshmallow puffs from 240sweet
sensual, handmade ginger souffle soap from Get Lathered Soap Company
a variety of handmade cards & stationery (featuring Kate Funk and Green Bird Press

The items in this giveaway were purchased from either Global Gifts, a fair trade store, or Homespun, a shop and workshop devoted to contemporary handmade goods. Along with the items above, I'll throw in a few surprises! Good luck, and have a happy weekend!

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Fourth Annual Ornament Swap

Sweet fancy Moses, it's time for fourth annual ornament swap!

The swap is an international event in which two people trade holiday ornaments through the mail. Anyone can join (my mom even participates)! "Swappers" from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, Japan, Taiwan, Trinidad, Spain, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, and Romania have all participated, and you will be partnered with someone who shares your shipping preferences (domestic vs. international).

As for the ornaments themselves? They can be handmade, store-bought, vintage, crafted, or nontraditional, but they shouldn't cost more than $10-$12. If you are looking for ideas on what to send your partner, check out the 2012, 2013, and 2014 ornament showcases!


1. Email d.marie755@gmail.com with the subject line ORNAMENT SWAP.

2. Include your postal address.

3. Include your shipping preference (international or domestic).

4. The deadline to sign up is Saturday, Nov. 14! 

5. Encourage others to sign up by using the hashtag #ornamentswaparoo! 

On Choosing Anderson Orchard

Appearing on The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is the phrase "nodus tollens." It's described as "the realization that the plot of your life doesn't make sense to you anymore — that although you thought you were following the arc of the story, you keep finding yourself immersed in passages you don’t understand, that don’t even seem to belong in the same genre — which requires you to go back and reread the chapters you had originally skimmed to get to the good parts, only to learn that, all along, you were supposed to choose your own adventure."

Last week, I started flipping through the pages. So many of them were filled with words about darkness and self-doubt, about shortened hours of sunlight and about the time I sat in a gravel parking lot in southern Indiana and screamed about abandonment. About the time my medication made me hallucinate for seven hours. About the time I threatened to jump off a bridge. About the times I sank to the floor in complete sorrow, begging my hollow apartment for company, for someone to love me.

The words were too much.

I quit rereading, slammed shut the cover, and threw the entire story — the words, the pages, the pain — across the living room. It flew, awkward and heavy, a bird with a broken wing. I watched as it crashed to the floor; I was never one to read horror stories.

Turning on my heel, I went into the kitchen, where I opened a prescription bottle and took, with a full glass of water, a tiny, salmon-colored Celexa. Depression is a lying bastard.

Later that morning, I chose Anderson Orchard.

Depression, Part Two

A few hours ago, I called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It was a number I had seen before — on TV, during commercials. On posters wallpapered to the guardrails of bridges. I'd even seen the logo — that green phone masquerading as the letter "C" — on the Red Line, just across the tracks.

I'd seen the number for years.

I didn't know it was one I would eventually end up dialing.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

Five weeks ago, I started a new job. Unfortunately, the only thing I've felt in regards to my new position is an overwhelming paralysis. I've yet to go to bed at night and wake up refreshed, ready to the conquer the day's challenges. Instead, I hit my snooze button again and again and again. I wait until the absolute last minute to emerge; all I want to do is lie, and bury, and nest. Quiet the world.

Today, I rode my bike home, wheeled it into the garage, unlocked my car, and climbed in.

And then I screamed.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

Before calling the national lifeline, I tired to talk to two different crisis centers here in Indianapolis.

My calls went unanswered.

When I dialed the lifeline, I was connected to a counselor, a woman named Angie. We talked for awhile; she listened. It became apparent, however, that she was actually four hundred miles away. I assume this occurred because the lifeline uses phone numbers to automatically route calls. Since I still carry a southwest Iowa phone number, I was routed to Cedar Rapids.

Regardless, I talked to Angie about what was going on, and she asked if I were suicidal.

"No," I said, truthfully. "See, it's not so much that I want to die. I'm terrified of that, and terrified of hurting myself and having to go through the effort. It's more or less that I ... just ... don't want to exist. That I don't want to hurt anymore, I guess. Does that make any sense?"

"Yeah," she said, "It does." And in those few words, I heard a genuinely soothing voice. In the months I had been talking to friends, family, therapists, and doctors, I found in Angie the understanding I needed to hear.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

As Allie Brosh depicted in her post "Depression Part Two", talking to others about mental illness — and especially about suicide — is wrought with emotion. "I was ... extremely ill-prepared for the position of comforting people," she says. "The things that seemed reassuring at the time weren't necessarily comforting for others."

I couldn't agree more. When describing my current state to others, I sometimes end up being the comforter, instead of the comforted. I've also had to answer questions like "Why would you even consider that?" "Don't you think drugs will fix everything?" and "Have you tried being not sad?"

One of the biggest "insults" I ever received, however, was from a dental assistant. Back in May, I went in for a cleaning. They asked the usual questions — "Had any surgeries since we last saw you?" "Any issues with your gums or teeth?" "Any new medications?"

"Yes," I said. I told them about the Zoloft. And the Wellbutrin. And the Klonopin.

"Are you ... depressed?"

"I'm, uh, actually not working right now. I'm on mental health leave."

"Oh. Well, you don't look depressed."

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     * 

At this point, I wish I had an eloquent conclusion to this post. The truth? I don't. Not at all. Mental illness isn't easy, and neither was writing this blog post. But at least you know I'm still here. That I'm still breathing. And that I'm still fighting, damn it.

Depression, Part One

There are six bottles of bills on my kitchen counter. I've herded them between the paper towels and the jar that holds spatulas, ladles, and those God-damn wooden spoons that have to be washed by hand.

I won't wash them, though. I don't even wash myself. Sometimes I go five days before putting a washcloth to my underarms; why the hell would I do dishes? All of the spoons and all of the bowls I got as a wedding present for a wedding that never happened are in my sink, and have been for two weeks.

I consider it a science experiment.

How long will it take before the ants come marching, one by one, and take my kitchen? Take the crumbs? Take my body? Take it, piece by minuscule piece by piece, until the ache succumbs? How long until they carry me to their nest, to their tunnels, to the ground?

I don't think of it as death; I think of it as a different form of existence—one of the earth. I don't want to die. No, not at all. I just don't want to hurt anymore.

On February 27, I cried in front of my supervisor. He, awkwardly, stared out the conference room window while I, awkwardly, stared at the buttons of my shirt and watched as small, wet spots darkened the fabric. I couldn't stop. I couldn't talk. I took off my glasses and pressed the palms of my hands to my eyes, hoping that I could reach through the sockets and into the furrows of my brain that could no longer separate fiction from dreams, dreams from reality.

"I'm only sleeping one or two hours a night," I choked. "I just … I can't do this anymore."

The depression had started in the fall of 2014. I was homesick and nostalgic, as I am every autumn, but, this time, the loneliness was paralyzing. My family lived two states over. And Ty and I were separated by one time zone and one hundred and eighty miles.

I have never slept well—I've been an insomniac since the age of twelve—but, over the next few months, whatever sleeping "pattern" I'd had dissolved. I was taunted by the gray of early morning, by the racket of birds. Showering became a chore; eating became a burden. My hair became limp, thin. Breakable. The shadows under my eyes were as dark as an addict's, and I gasped for existence just as the dying choke for life.

"I can't do this anymore."

On February 27, I applied for short-term disability.

I have not been to work in five weeks.

Admitting that I was depressed was … hard. I can think of a dozen other words that describe what it is like to admit that you're depressed: Difficult. Challenging. Uncomfortable. Embarrassing. Painful. Awkward. Weird. Arduous. Tearful. But, in the end, it's both all of those things and none of those things. It's just … hard.

I didn't want to tell anyone about my condition because, well … because I didn't want them to worry.

I did, however, find some comfort in the words of Allie Brosh, author of Hyperbole and Half. Brosh has struggled with depression herself, and has discussed it on her blog. She even talked to Terri Gross about anxiety and suicide in a 2013 interview on Fresh Air.

In a post titled "Depression Part Two," Brosh writes, "I was … uncomfortable about how bored and detached I felt around other people, and I was still holding out hope that the whole thing would spontaneously work itself out. As long as I could manage to not alienate anyone, everything might be okay! However … when you have to spend every social interaction consciously manipulating your face into shapes that are only approximately the right ones, alienating people is inevitable."

I spent months pretending that I was okay. In reality, I would come home from work and sit on my couch, catatonic, for hours at a time. I wouldn't even bother to remove my winter coat. No, I would just sit there, on my floral-patterned couch, and sit and sit and sit until it was completely dark. And yet, I still wouldn't remove my coat.

I didn't care.

Everything was futile.

And I believed that no one loved me.

In January, I started screaming. I would find myself on the floor of my apartment, damp from tears, snot, and sweat. Obsessive, I'd hug myself, rock myself, and say, "I don't want to be alone anymore."

If only Glinda the Good had appeared via her violently pink bubble and said, "All you have to do is blink your eyes three times and say to yourself, "Home is wherever I'm with you."

January and February were incredibly hard, and some of my more violent episodes were witnessed by Ty. Once, he had to throw his hand behind my head in order to prevent myself from slamming my skull against the headboard. And other times, when he saw me clawing at my own skin, gasping for reality, he pulled me to him and refused to let go.

"Dawn," he'd say. "Dawn."

He'd say it again. "Dawn." And again. "Dawn." And again, until I came back to him.

On February 27, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. It was noted that I also suffer from anxiety and sleep disturbances. I was prescribed some medication, but the first one didn't work, and the second one didn't work, either, and, five weeks into treatment, we're still playing medication roulette.

It's still … hard.

I'm still not sleeping. I still cry. I still feel alone. And I'm still overwhelmed. I still have to force myself to brush my teeth. Or change my clothes. Or call my mom. Or take thirty seconds to answer an "Are you okay?" email someone sent two weeks ago. And I still have to remind myself that depression is a lying bastard.

I'm drawn to the words of Jenny Lawson, yet another blogger who openly talks of depression, anxiety, and illness. In a post titled "The fight goes on," she writes, "When depression sufferers fight, recover, and go into remission, we seldom know, simply because so many suffer in the dark … ashamed to admit something they see as a personal weakness … afraid that people will worry, and more afraid that they won't. We find ourselves unable to do anything but cling to the couch and force ourselves to breathe."

My couch would certainly agree with Jenny. If it could speak, it would tell you of all the nights I cried my soul into its fabric. (Which, by the way, is a sort of dirty beige that I like to believe is the original color, and not a color acquired from the Salvation Army where I purchased the couch in the first place.)

To be honest, I wasn't sure if I would ever discuss my current fight with depression. But, for as hard as it is to write about, it is more difficult to not write about it. Depression is not something we should be embarrassed about. Despite that, admitting to my co-workers that I needed help was distressing, because, for some reason, saying "I'm depressed" has become both a cliche and a taboo. Even my own grandmother, who suffers from persistent depressive disorder, will only admit that she is and has been "not well." But the fact is this: millions and millions of Americans suffer from depression. Some of us smack our heads against the wall. Some of us try to control our emotions through self-harm. Some of us stay up all night, sitting in the dark. Some of us stay up all night, crying into the sheets. Some of us pray. Some of us medicate. Some of us do all of the above. And some of us decide that the fight isn't worth it.

I'm still sick. I'm still depressed. But I'm trying. I'm honest-to-God-trying. Two days ago, I was on the floor, legs pulled to my chest, and wearing only my underclothes. Four weeks ago, I took a prescribed sleeping pill and then proceeded to hallucinate for the next five hours. Yesterday, it was 5:00 before I finally decided to shower, brush my teeth, and put on pants. It may have been toward the end of the day, but, by God, I put on pants.

It is, as my therapist says, "moment to moment." Some days, like yesterday, are good. Some days, like today, are bad. Some days, I meet my "Instagram friends" for Thai food and a photo walk in Fountain Square. Some days, I stay in bed from dawn 'til dusk, save for the forty-five minutes that I spend napping on the couch. 

It's not entirely safe for me to be by myself—not because I self-harm, but because I don't bother to take care of myself and my basic needs if no one is around. I'm not interested. That, too, seems futile. I'll admit that I'm most like myself when I am around others, which is why I plan on being in Iowa, at home, for a little while. Escaping the madness of my apartment sounds like a comforting idea and, come to think of it, "There's no place like home." 


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