Sheila Hageman

@sheila-hageman | contributor
Sheila Hageman is a multi-tasking wife and mother of three who blogs for The Huffington Post. Her memoir, Stripping Down, is a meditation on womanhood and body image. Her Decision-Making Guide and Self-Discovery Journal, The Pole Position: Is Stripping for You? (And How to Stay Healthy Doing It), Every Day Create, December 2011, helps women to further value their own identities through their quest to understand their motivations for stripping. She has work in many anthologies and magazines like Salon, Mamalode, Your Tango, Mom Babble, Say It With A Bang, She Knows, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Role Reboot, The Fertile Source, Prime Mincer, and Foliate Oak Literary Journal. She has a novel,Beautiful Something Else, forthcoming from 48Fourteen. To learn more, please visit http://www.SheilaHageman.com or http://www.StrippingDown.com. Twitter @SheilaMHageman, https://www.facebook.com/AuthorSheilaHageman.
Sheila Hageman

A Letter to Myself When I'm Feeling Depressed

There are a few words of wisdom I want you to remember when you feel depressed, overwhelmed and unable to function. You need to trust me on this. This is your not-so-depressed-sister-self talking. Yes, you actually have a twin who sometimes feels moments of happiness. In fact, that is where I am writing from today. I’m feeling excited about the possibilities in my life. I’m not replaying the old scratchy record that tells me everything is hopeless and helpless. And the record that tells me I am not valuable or my life isn’t worth living? I just smashed that old staple into the garbage can. Yes, yes — I know it’s likely you went out and bought another copy of that album, or perhaps the other popular hit “20 Reasons Why You Suck.” And you are probably even playing it right now as I speak. This brings us to my first pearl of wisdom: Don’t listen to what you are saying. That doesn’t mean not to listen to me because I am categorically not the same person you are. What I mean to say is…stop believing what those ancient songs keep purporting to know about you. They are wrong. You will have to trust me on this. I know right now you are probably rolling your eyes and telling me to shut up. But who knows you better than…me? If a thought you entertain in your head sounds negative (and I know those awful mantras do sound bad because even though I just said I’m not you, I actually kind of am, too), tell them to get the hell out of your head. Dispel ugly mantras like evil beings. Command them away. Denounce them. Come on…do you really think that anyone is valueless? You can rationalize with yourself if you have to because I know even when you are depressed, you still think other people are valuable. Does it make any sense that everyone in the world is valuable except for you?! That’s kind of ludicrous, right? OK, now that I have your attention and you’re doubting the validity of your thoughts (even just a little bit is fine), let’s say the same thing for your feelings. Feelings are overrated. Am I right or am I right? Don’t be so attached to those fleeting moods you experience. You know they are just as unreal as your thoughts. Just let those thoughts and feelings go. Just watch them waft away on a breeze like a passing cloud. Now, while all those crappy little jerks are floating off into space, bring something good in to fill the gaps. How? You feel bubbly and inspired when you hear certain songs, so turn on some of your favorite tunes and dance, even though right now I know you don’t think it will help. I’m asking a lot here and I know it. There’s nothing you feel like doing less when depressed than moving, but you also know that it is a game changer. If you’ve read this far, I have to believe you actually want to feel better and have a slight belief in my truth-telling. So…trust me on this. Movement works. If you are grumbling and pissed off at the thought of shaking your booty, at least practice a few simple yoga stretches. You always feel more motivated and positive when you get your asana on, so if you haven’t already, roll out your mat and do five minutes of sun salutations. OK, have you done all the things I prescribed? If yes, continue reading. If not, keep reading anyway. You feel valuable when you write, so grab a pen and start scribbling words down on paper. Not for you today? You feel loved when you are surrounded by friends, so reach out to someone just to say hi. Can’t muster up the strength to speak? Try texting or Facebook messaging, Instagramming or whatever the latest and greatest social media platform is. You feel grateful when you help others, so shift the focus from you to someone else around you who could use some assistance. Do me, and you, a favor: Try one of these things, just one. And know that I am here, in the past and future, rooting you on and believing in you. With great love, affection and understanding, Your Slightly Happier Other Self

Sheila Hageman

Rescuing Yourself From Drowning in Depression

My depression played a trick on me this week. It updated its operating system to keep things fresh. I’m having quite a time trying to think of the right metaphor to describe my depression’s new iteration. Though this comparison is overused, it feels like I’m drowning. To be more precise, it usually feels like I’ve just gone under water and it’s the moment before you drown when you’re panicking, gasping for breath, waving your arms and hoping somebody will see you and realize you’re in distress. You are flailing your arms, but there is no one to see you. You have a feeling there is no one to rescue you, but you’re hoping against all hope someone will pass by and throw you a life preserver. But, depression changed things up this week, so it wasn’t quite like that. This depression was more like a slow gas leak, like you don’t even know it’s happening until it’s spread so far you smell it strong and then it’s everywhere and you question yourself, What is that smell? What is that feeling? You know you should run, but it’s like you’re locked in a room and you don’t know where to go. You’re looking all around you and you’re trapped and you know you’re going to die slowly. You will fall asleep and it’s a quiet death and you don’t want that. That’s how I felt today. In the background, a quiet evasive darkness. Or maybe it is like drowning, but a different phase of the drowning—the end. When you’ve gone under and you’re no longer flailing your arms, but instead you realize what’s happening. You feel like you’re dying. You realize it. You know it. You’re dying. That’s what it feels like. So, I wonder if this is where I am, floating along helplessly, underwater, blinking my eyes, watching the fish float by, knowing these might be my last breaths. But I realize I’m sitting here at my desk. I’m typing words into a laptop. I’m watching my experience now, so there has to be somebody to be the witness of this. So, if I’m the witness it means there is somebody left to save me. And it’s me. I am witnessing this. I am watching myself taking my last breath. What does that feel like, Sheila? It makes me want to save myself. I want to dive into the water and bring myself up to the surface and bring my face to air. Bring my mouth to breath and freedom. And if I do, I will breathe again and I will be thankful for the breath. I will be thankful for the life saved. I can feel a little bit of peace, a little bit of light. I can sense I can draw myself to the surface and I do it through my writing. I do it through my witnessing and seeing and understanding. And then the final metaphor comes in—it’s a mirror. That’s it. A big mirror. I’m floating in the water now, but buoyed up by myself and I see myself reflected in the water. It’s me. I’m the one in the mirror. I’m the one who saves me. When you’re underwater this long, this deep, the only one who can save you is you. That’s my metaphor. What’s yours? Finding a way to describe your depression just might help you to understand it in a new way when you really need it. There is a savior at the end of your metaphor. Search for it. Don’t allow the negative story in your mind to be the final one. Remember you are witnessing your metaphor. You are witnessing it happening and you can make a difference. Find your metaphor and then ask yourself—how can I save myself from this story? And then get busy rewriting your ending. If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via Transfuchsian.

Sheila Hageman

A Letter to Moms With Depression

I know it’s not easy to read essays about mothers savoring every moment they have with their precious children. It’s not easy to witness the Mommy Wars over whether stay-at-home moms or working moms have it harder. It’s not easy to navigate where you fit into any of these modern American cultural mother modes. You’re too busy struggling to rise in the morning, too overwhelmed from wondering what’s wrong with you, why you can’t feel “normal,” why you have to be one of the one in eight women who will suffer from depression in her life. You want to wake up excited to the possibilities of the day: making a healthy breakfast, packing adorable mini-sandwiches (or some other cute lunch idea you saw dart by on Pinterest) or planning which park you will take your youngest to today to explore. You want to do all those mommy activities you see your friends doing on Facebook. You want to have albums full of photos of your kids smiling at their themed birthday parties, laughing at the worms slithering on your gravel driveway or jumping into the Vermont lake you vacation at every summer. You want to have the luxury of struggling to decide whether your family can afford for you to be a stay-at-home mom. You want to have the luxury of not needing to decide whether antidepressants cost too much — in a financial and side effects sense. You want to be a “normal” mom. All outer indicators make others believe that you are normal and should be happy: a loving partner, a healthy family, a job. You have the nagging feeling that your friends do not quite understand why you don’t do more activities with your kids, why you don’t have framed family photograph collages hanging in your hallways or why you don’t get giddy about days your kids have off from school. You may not be able to savor once-in-a-lifetime moments with your kids even though you would like nothing more than to drench yourself in hugs and kisses. But there is something that prevents you from experiencing life to its fullest: a pain that sometimes tells you that you are not good enough, that life is not worth living. Of course, you are in therapy, or attending religious services, or exercising, or doing some other therapeutic activity to try to heal yourself for your family, for you. Please stop, breathe and know you are not alone. Your family and friends love you, even if they cannot exactly understand your pain. But I do: I understand the agony of wanting to be happy when it looks like so much fun, when others around you are enjoying life, when your kids are getting older day-by-day. Your family and friends need you, even as you are, even when you are in a depression. Even when you lose your temper, or yell, or cannot get out of bed. They are there for you. And that you is in there. Even though she may be hidden at times, even though you may not feel it, or believe it. Rest on my belief. Close your eyes and feel me reaching out to you with all my love and understanding. Although your experience may not be what you see as “normal,” it is still the experience of a mother. You are a mother, and you are going to be OK. Rest in the breath and in the love you can feel even in your darkest moments when you close your eyes, take a deep inhalation, release a slow exhalation, and pause. Rest here, my sweet darling. Rest here. If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This post originally appeared on Mamalode.