It's still fun to have fun while not having fun

Or it has to be or something.

Hello, Sternal Journalists,

When I was in elementary school, I heard “take a mental health day” for the first time when a classmate of mine told me he was taking one. A couple days later, when he was back, I said, “How was your mental illness day?”

He was like, “What the hell?” And I said, “Isn’t that what you…” And he said, “Ohhh, nono mental health day.” In my memory, he then laughed a knowing laugh and said, “Maybe that’s what I should call it though,” which is incredibly mature for a ten-year-old so I think it’s almost impossible that it happened, but who knows!

Anyway, it is kind of funny that we call them “mental health days” even though they really are kind of “mental illness days.” But it’s not like a mental health day is commemorating excellent mental health. That would actually be pretty nice: “I feel great today! I’m gonna fuck offa work and go to the park so I don’t waste this joy!”

And while I’m clearly not taking a mental health day from the Sternal Journal, I am currently experiencing a pretty massively depressive few days, which is okay! It happens! I feel very fortunate to have people in my life I can and do talk to about these things, and and honestly kind of proud to have have cultivated methods and habits by which I’m able to process and endure through tough times.

So this is not a cry for help. It is a yelp of “Egh! This sucks! Whatever!” Anyway, statistically, it’s totally possible that another Sternal Journalist is going through it right now, so I thought I’d share a few things I do while I’m feeling the way I am.

  1. Listen to the first song off an album you’ve been meaning to listen to. I’m normally a “listen-all-the-way-through-an-album-on-the-first-listen” guy, but last week, I listened to just one or two songs per day off of Willie Nelson’s You Were Always On My Mind, and I may have lost a bit of cohesion, but it was offset by a nice feeling of spending a whole week with the album. It’s just a nice low-effort self-treat to be able to wake up and know you have another song waiting.

  2. Talk to someone! One time, though, I told a joke at an open mic about depression, and an acquaintance came up to me and said, “Hey, here’s my number. I get what you’re going through. If you ever need to talk, hit me up.”

    That was such a kind thing for him to do. But when I said, “Hey, I really appreciate that. Definitely same for you,” he shrugged and said, “Eh, I grew up out here. I have a lot of people.”

    While it did not undercut the generosity or earnestness of his gesture, I thought it was very funny for someone to be like “Hey, if you ever need to talk, I’m here. But if I ever need to talk, you’re like 58th in line.” Still, again, it was kind, and it made me feel nice and reminded me that people are generally happy to be there.

  3. Go for a walk or a run. It might help you fart. I did not go for a run or a walk yesterday, and I felt terrible. I know it’s really, really, fucking annoying for someone to be like “mmmurblurbglogug I just don’t feel good until I exercise.” It’s performative, it’s narcissistic, it’s definitely something I do from time to time.

    But beyond like “I can’t feel good unless my muscles feel sore” annoying-ness, I also need to run in order to get all of my farts out. I don’t know the science of it. I think it’s the same as when you slap a bag of flour against the counter to try to shake everything down to the bottom. But if I don’t run for a few days in a row, I just get totally backed up. And the body cannot tell the difference between depression and needing to fart (that’s a joke, but I think there’s truth to it).

    When I do finally run after such a clogger, it’s like “frt-frt-frt-frt-frt” perfectly in rhythm with my running and I have to be on the lookout for any pedestrians or cars with their windows down.

  4. Write a To-Dos Ta-Das for Ta-Ma-Ma. Translated from Sternal Journalese, this means “write a to-do list for tomorrow.” I adopted a massively helpful rule a few years ago that, if I have a list of things to do for that day already, and I think of another non-urgent but important thing I want to do, I never add it to the current day’s list. Start tomorrow’s list today. Then, if enough shit piles up for tomorrow, start adding it to the next day! This is a helpful system for me, but as I write it out, I realize it might also be horrifying to put yourself into to-do-ta-da-ta-debt.

  5. My other rule about to-do lists is they do not ever have to be finished. You can just add it to the next day. I cross it out in a different way. It’s cute and fun, but again, maybe not for everyone. If you want to know more about the To-Do Ta-Da System, I may write more about it in the future.

    Anyway, the whole point of this one is to not feel any pressure to do anything you don’t have to on the day you’re feeling bad, but write down one thing that you might feel good about accomplishing the next day.

  6. Do something fun even if it’s not fun. I just recorded an entire Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ “Turtle Power”-style song for Joe Cabello’s comic book Kickstarter. I love Joe, revere his work ethic, and appreciate that he knew I would love this project. Thankfully, I had written all the lyrics before I started feeling really shitty because writing while depressed is hard! Especially when the lyrics you’re writing include things like:

    Listen. You’re gonna wind up in a gooey hell/
    If you drink the Bath Water made by Videl

    A really not mellow, enterprising young fellow
    Snapped up the serum that’ll turn you to jell-o

    Took it outta storage, put it in a liquor store
    Roger on a forage, shoulda bought Lipitor

    But he went with the DiCaprio pick
    That’s how he got a detachable dick

    It’ll make more sense once you read the comic, but needless to say it’s hard to think of silly things when you feel depressed. However, being silly, like doing seven or eight takes of each couplet in the entire song while your partner’s very nice parents are making dinner for you downstairs, is… well, it’s still hard!

    But it’s doable. It was fun to have fun while I wasn’t having fun. Even if I couldn’t enjoy it in the moment, there was an out-of-body awareness that there was fun happening. And I was dancing while I was recording. You can be unhappy while dancing, but it distracts from the pain a bit.

Those are all of the things for now!


Bottoms Up [Comic Kickstarter] If you like horror and/or comics, check out Joe’s Kickstarter for his new comic! You’ll also get to hear the Bottoms Up Anthem, whose enchanting lyrics you saw above. Maybe I’ll release it on my Patreon also if Joe lets me, which you’re always welcome to join! I just realized I still owe a digital reward to some patrons, so you could be one of them!

This interview with Golden Voice of hip hop group Partners In Kryme, which I read when I thought I was going to make this Sternal all about the TMNT rap [Other things I thought it might be about throughout today: Clubhouse, Queen’s Gambit (congrats.),

Years and Years [tv show, HBOMax]. If you like grounded sci-fi or family dramas, this six-episode British mini-series is pretty great. And if you’re a man in your early 30s who wants to be convinced that middle-aged men with five-heads can still be sexy as hell, this is the show for you.

Always On My Mind [album, Willie Nelson]. Just great top to bottom.

Okay, that’s all! I hope you’re feeling well. And if not, I hope you take some time for a mental health day or mental illness day or whatever feels most right to you.

Much love to all and stay well!


P.S. It’s been a year since Ahmaud Arbery was murdered while running in his neighborhood. There are two more days to join the virtual race or simply donate to the 2:23 Foundation, which raises money for scholarships and social justice advocacy education. It’s $23 for the race or you can donate any amount.