This started out as a Facebook status, but then I kept adding words until I realized it was actually a blog post. So.

A fascinating (to me) thing about depression and anxiety is how insidious they can be, and how completely they can warp your thinking and perceptions and your baseline for feeling okay. I spent so long being miserable and exhausted and apathetic about everything that it became the normal state of things, and if anyone asked me how I was doing, I said I was fine, because I really thought I was. I thought that was just the way I was meant to feel, that maybe I was a little lazy, introverted, not a fan of going out, but mostly fine. And if I wasn’t fine, it was only because I was being silly or dramatic or having an off day/week/month/year/life.

But I was only going outside when I absolutely had to, and I was forcing myself through every day and then sleeping for hours in the middle of the afternoon because it took so much effort to be awake. Even when I was awake, I was mostly still in bed. I was hardly reading, wasn’t writing at all, was doing the bare minimum of connecting with people. I didn’t care about anything enough to commit to it in even the smallest ways, let alone in bigger life decisions ways. If I did commit to something, I quickly became panicked about it and wanted to distance myself from it. Winter was my favorite season because it was so cold that staying inside under blankets was what everyone was doing and I didn’t feel like I needed to make myself go outside. I was on edge all the time and cried at the drop of a hat. I called myself a misanthrope because it was easier to say I hated people than to say I was terrified of and exhausted by them, by their very existences. It’s unfathomable to me now that I existed in that state for so long and maintained even the vaguest semblance of being functional, and it’s unfathomable to me that I actually convinced myself I was more or less okay.

Now, I can’t get enough of being out in the sunshine. I want to go out and do interesting things and find interesting places, and meet new people (even if that’s still a little terrifying), and move my body (even if it’s just for fifteen minutes on the treadmill). I’m no longer ghostly pale and it turns out, all I had to do to get some healthy color was leave my house sometimes. Who knew? I make my bed when I get up every morning and I make a point of not getting back into it until I’m ready to wind down for the night. I still don’t eat as well or as often as I should and I still need excessive amounts of quiet alone time after being around people and I’m still too much in my own head, still carrying Xanax around in my purse just in case, still crying at the dentist and the gynecologist, still panicking about the passage of time and how much of it I’m wasting being crazy. I’m still not as good a friend as I would like to be, still too neglectful of the relationships that mean the most to me because distance complicates communication and sometimes, I’m just so tired. I’m still tired a lot. I still cry too easily. I still feel reflexively guilty for so much that isn’t my fault and so much that doesn’t even warrant guilt and so much I can’t change now anyway, and I still seek validation for everything from other people, even after I’ve already validated it for myself.

I’m not perfect, in other words. But now, I’m learning to be okay with that. To not tear myself apart for the slightest flaw, to not hold it up and magnify it until it eclipses all the good things about me. I’m learning that there’s no reason to be uncomfortable about saying I’m kind and funny and creative and good at the things I love doing, or that I’m strong and resilient and braver than I often feel. I’m learning that those things are a lot more important than all the things I think are so wrong with me, and that it takes good and bad to make a whole person.

And I’m learning to be proud of myself for how far I’ve come. I had to hit rock bottom, emotionally, to get here, but it’s okay. I’m sorry for the things that destructed along the way, or, more accurately, I’m sorry for the way they destructed, but it happened. It’s the past. I made mistakes and I didn’t handle things perfectly, and I’m going to make more mistakes and handle more things imperfectly, and that’s how life goes. But when it happens in the future, I’ll have more solid emotional structures to weather it, and I’ll be able to curb my catastrophizing tendencies and not self-destruct, and that’s not nothing. I’ve worked so hard over the past year or so, both in therapy and out of it. I’ve done so much. Just because the bulk of it has been internal doesn’t make it any less worthwhile.

This wasn’t just intended as a rave about how great I am. I also want to say that if you’re anything like I was, if your position is even vaguely similar, you don’t have to live like that. And you don’t deserve to. Perpetual exhaustion/sadness/apathy, extreme reluctance to leave your house/apartment/whatever, fear of everyone and everything, those things aren’t normal. They don’t have to be your normal. This isn’t to imply that there’s something inherently wrong with you or that you’re failing by not fixing yourself/your circumstances. Ultimately you have to do what seems right and best for you, and that’s not always therapy or medication or exercise or any of the other things people always recommend. “Recovery” is a loaded concept that isn’t right for everyone. It’s just to say that if you aren’t happy with the way things are, if you don’t want them to stay that way forever, they can change. You can change them. Depression lies. It tells us that this is how things will be until we die, and, furthermore, that it’s how we deserve for things to be because we’re fundamentally terrible, unlovable human beings. But we’re not. You’re not.

I’m saying this because it’s what I needed to hear. I knew that therapy and medication were good things for other people, and that other people’s mental illnesses were real and serious and deserving of treatment. I knew that the things I was feeling and thinking were bad. But somehow, I couldn’t connect those two concepts into anything that involved asking for help. If I couldn’t be well and happy on my own, it just wasn’t meant for me. That’s nonsense. And it was also nonsense when just months after starting to meet with my first therapist, she decided that I was well enough to be done with therapy and go it alone again. She wasn’t a very good therapist. I didn’t try again for a while, because a professional had told me I was okay. But I wasn’t. My second therapist is so, so much better. I’ve been seeing her for just over a year now, and I think, maybe, at the end of the summer I’ll be ready to decrease the frequency of my sessions. Not stop them, probably, just decrease them. I have a concrete plan for what I want to do with my life, one that actually feels achievable and sustainable and enjoyable, unlike most of the others I’ve considered. If I could get to this point, you definitely can. I’m such an unmotivated, anxious, defeatist person, and, still, here I am.

Therapy and medication might not be your things. They’re the thingsI recommend most strongly because they’re the things that have been the most transformative for me, but you’re not me. All I’m trying to say here is that you don’t deserve to feel the way I felt, and you don’t have to just accept that as the baseline for feeling okay. The story I told myself when I was in the middle of feeling that way was a cruel, destructive, completely untrue story, and I’m sad for that self and how long she believed it. If you’re telling yourself a similar story, of being unworthy of help, of being not mentally ill enough, of being lazy and selfish and horrible, I just want you to hear that it’s not the truth, and that you deserve to write yourself a different, truer one.

Disclaimer: These books all contain pretty terrible and offensive portrayals of mental illness, blindness, romantic relationships, female friendship, fatness, being poor, etc etc. R.L. Stine appears to hate consent and everyone who isn’t rich, beautiful, and neurotypical. My fave is problematic, I already know. I would advise against reading any of this series, not just the ones discussed here, if you think any of these things might upset or trigger you.

In lieu of a happy wagon post, here’s one about Fear Street. It’s pretty much the same thing, anyway.

As I’ve previously mentioned, Fear Street has become one of the great joys of my life. I’ve read an embarrassing number of them over the past eight months or so, and, despite having loved almost all of them, a few favorites have emerged ahead of the rest. So now I’m going to tell you about those, and try to entice you to read them, too, so I’ll have company in being a grown adult reading these absurd teen horror stories.


Nicole always thought her friend Lucy’s life was so much better than hers. She had cooler parents, a cuter boyfriend . . . next to her, Nicole felt like a loser. So when Lucy asked if she wanted to switch bodies, Nicole thought it sounded like a fun idea. Good for a laugh. She didn’t realize the switch would actually work. Or that Lucy’s life might not be so sweet after all. Turns out, Lucy’s got a few issues. And she’s about to get her revenge — using Nicole’s body!

This was one of the first ones I read and it’s amazing. I figured out the twist about halfway through, but even so, I was legitimately hooked and anxious about how it would all turn out. Don’t judge me. It’s really depressing if you think about it too hard, so don’t do that either. Just read, try not to hate Nicole too much even though she’s incredibly annoying, and laugh
along with me at the terrible twist! ending. And look forward to creepy well drowning scenes, heads being torn off with sounds like the scrape of Velcro, and the most inept police officers (or are they?) ever, in typical Shadyside fashion.

“The Face”

They say something horrible happened that day. But Martha can’t remember any of it–not the smallest detail. They say it will come back to her in time. But someone wants her to remember now. She draws his face, over and over–the face of a dead boy. She can’t control her hand. And she can’t remember how he died. But she’s going to find the answer.

This one is sooo good. If you don’t read any of the others (and you probably won’t), you should at least read this. There are kisses that taste like salty nacho chips, kisses that taste like candy bars, implausible hypnosis, the most unbelievably convenient plot contrivances in the history of terrible writing, and a fantastic decapitation scene in which someone’s head “bounced onto the snow. And emptied out. Emptied out. Emptied out.” It also has one of the flimsiest reasons for murder that I’ve ever read, even for Fear Street. And the most word repetition of any book ever. Basically, everything about this book is the best thing about it and you’re really missing out if you don’t read it.

“College Weekend”

Nothing can ruin Tina River’s big weekend at Patterson College with her boyfriend, Josh Martin. She’s so excited, she doesn’t even mind that her cousin, Holly, will be tagging along.

But when Tina and Holly arrive, Josh is gone. His roommate, Christopher Roberts, says Josh is stuck in the mountains, delayed by car trouble. That’s weird—Josh never mentioned he was going away.

It gets even weirder when Holly suddenly disappears. But Christopher isn’t worried— about Holly or Josh. Christopher seems to have the answer to everything. Tina is confused. But one thing is clear— she’s about to learn more about love and murder than she ever wanted to know.

This book has a disgusting description of a person’s face being burned away by photo developing chemicals. I’m not even sure if the chemicals in question could actually do that, but if reading about it happening isn’t something you’re eager to do, I don’t know what you’re doing here. It’s great. And before that, the villain forces the heroine to dress up in his dead girlfriend’s clothes and take pictures, and then in his great-grandmother’s clothes, and, I mean, come on. R.L. Stine has some serious problems and we’re blessed with these books where he tries to work them out, the least we can do is read them. This is also one of the most blatant depictions of his favorite “he forces himself on you because he loves you” trope, which, well … maybe you’re not eager to read about that, and fair enough, but it’s impossible for me to take seriously in these books. Maybe that makes me a garbage human being. So be it.

“Fear Hall: The Beginning” / “Fear Hall: The Conclusion”

Come with me to Fear Hall. That’s the creepy college dorm built many years ago by the cursed Fear family. Hope and her roomates live in Fear Hall. Hope’s boyfriend lives there, too. They’re all good students and best friends. Everything is going great…until one of them becomes a murderer! Now Hope is about to find out that life at Fear Hall can be a real scream! I hope you’ll join me for Fear Hall. This story has so many scares, it took me two books to tell it all!

I read a recap of this duology before I read the books themselves, so the whole thing was spoiled for me. Don’t do that. Just read the books. They’re off the rails from start to finish, and so full of plot holes that it’s amazing there’s even a consistent narrative at all. I don’t know what I can tell you about them without ruining the experience of reading them, so you should just trust me. There are many gruesome murders, a violent, unstable boyfriend, terrible friends making the worst decisions possible, inept police, psychological contortions that will make your brain hurt both because they make no sense and because they’re awesome … everything you want from Fear Street, and they don’t even take place in Shadyside. Warning: there’s a lot of disturbing-ish fat-shaming, so, you know … if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing, maybe give this a miss. It isn’t portrayed as an okay thing, but I also don’t think the effects it has on the girl in question are portrayed particularly sensitively. It also has a girl getting her skin burned and peeled off by six gallons of chlorine poured in a jacuzzi, though, and another one being steam pressed to death, so it’s got that going for it.

“Into the Dark

Paulette Fox refuses to let her blindness stop her from living a full life. But one thing she’s never done is fall in love–until now. Paulette knows Brad Jones is the only guy for her. Even when her friends see Brad commit a horrible crime, Paulette is sure that he’s innocent. Her friends tell her he’s out of control. That she will be his next victim. But Paulette knows he would never hurt her. Is Paulette right about Brad? Or has her love put her in terrible danger?

I haven’t laughed so much at a book since reading this, and before that, I hadn’t laughed so much since “Fifty Shades Freed”. If you’re one of my blind friends and inaccurate portrayals of blindness make you angry, you should probably skip it, but really, it’s fantastic. Paulette can tell exactly how fast her friend is driving by the way the wind feels on her face, identify people by smell, and travel all around town–even to an abandoned house–on her own, but she needs guide rails to find her way around her own backyard. She doesn’t want her parents and friends to be so overprotective of her, but she makes such ridiculously stupid decisions that she’d probably be dead if they weren’t. She refuses to call the police when her bedroom is vandalized, lies to her parents after the villain tries to pull her out her bedroom window, and refuses to call the police again when the villain creeps and heavy breathes around her backyard and takes away her guide rails, all because she doesn’t want people to think she can’t take care of herself. Spoiler alert: she really can’t. She also feels people’s faces to get an idea of what they look like, which, like. Writers. Stop this. It’s not a thing. We don’t do it. Ditto counting steps. But actually if you’re my guy R.L., don’t stop it, do it as much as you want. This book is flawless, even though the twist was obvious from the beginning, and I’ll probably read it many more times.

Honorable mentions:

“The Boy Next Door”

Lynne and Crystal think Scott has it all. He’s handsome. He’s the new star of Shadyside High’s football team. And he’s moved in right next door! Both girls will do anything. Say anything. Try anything to get the chance to go out with him. That’s all either of them want.

But that’s all Scott’s last girlfriend wanted, too – and now she’s dead.

This is R.L. Stine’s attempt at a “Psycho” ripoff, except the villain doesn’t become his mother when he kills, he just mutters phrases she’s drilled into his head. Warning: a dog gets killed with a pair of hedge clippers. Pets are another thing R.L. Stine hates. There are elements of this book that I actually find a little unsettling, especially for a Fear Street story, and a lot of it takes place from the killer’s point of view. But there are hilariously dramatic internal monologues to balance it out, and it contains the line, “Okay. So we’re both hot for his bod!” I love the idea of someone actually saying that and also the idea of R.L. Stine writing it. And I love such charitable sisterly thoughts as, “She hated it when Melinda put herself down that way. Sure, Melinda was plain, and shy, and kind of drab. But she could have a shot at any guy if she made the effort.”

“The Prom Queen”

A spring night…soft moonlight…five beautiful Prom Queen candidates…dancing couples at the Shadyside High prom—these should be the ingredients for romance.

But stir in one brutal murder—then another, and another—and the recipe quickly turns to horror.

Lizzie McVay realizes that someone is murdering the five Prom Queen candidates one by one—and that she may be next on the list! Can she stop the murderer before the dance is over—for good?

Lizzie McVay is the best Fear Street heroine I’ve read so far, maybe the only good one there is. Pushy Shadyside boys don’t get her all hot and bothered, and she actually kicks one of them out of her house and another out of her car when they get creepy, and calls one of them out for cheating on his girlfriend and assuming she must be interested in him because every girl is. She has a long-distance boyfriend she only communicates with through letters because I guess this is set in the 1800s, and she never cheats on him even though he’s not in the book at all until the end. That’s a low bar to set, but sadly, it’s saying something for Fear Street girls. She also breaks the villain’s foot at the end and manages to save herself, rather than being last-minute saved by the police or the guy she likes. And she’s mostly nice to people and not a terrible friend, except for the catty mean girl thoughts she has, like, “Rachel wasn’t the most popular girl in the class or anything, but that was mainly because she was so shy. Well, I guess it was also because she had a bitter streak in her, about being poor and all.” And, “Simone was playing Maria Von Trapp, of course. She always was the star. Even though she didn’t make a very convincing nun.” That’s so perfectly high school and I love it.

Please read any or all of these books. Do it. And then talk to me about them.