An Easy Litmus Test for Depression

Am I depressed? Or do I have Depression?

There’s an easy way to determine if you suffer from Major (aka, Clinical) Depression, or if you’re just depressed, aka feeling blue.

To clarify, when I say depressed, with a lower-case “d,” I’m referring to the emotion. It’s the temporary feeling that comes and goes like every other emotion, and is caused by circumstances. When I say Depression with a capital “D,” I’m referring to the chronic mental illness that’s not always reactionary, but is always beyond your control.

Say you’re feeling down, and it’s a sensation that won’t go away. How do you know if something deeper is going on in the old noggin’, or if you’re just in a slump that’s a little harder to shake off than usual? Is it Depression or depression?

Here’s a really big clue: Your behavior around others can reveal which one you’re experiencing.

When you’re depressed, you don’t care who knows it. You tell people, you tell them why you’re feeling that way, and you want someone to sympathize with you. Emotional depression comes with the implication that it’s a temporary condition. Just like happiness or anger, depression will go away after a while. And — and this is crucial — it’s “normal.”

If you suffer from Major Depression, you go out of your way to fake seeming normal. You hide it with every ounce of energy you have. And I think that’s largely because of the societal stigma that’s still attached to mental illness. You don’t want your friends or loved ones to think there’s something really wrong with you. And that’s not even necessarily a selfish act; you may do it to keep your family from worrying.

Major Depression, the mental illness, is not temporary. It’s chronic. So you hide it, because you don’t want anyone to think that you’re becoming a nutjob who’s going to wind up in a mental hospital on suicide watch.

So here’s your litmus test:

  • If you’re depressed, you show it.
  • If you suffer from Depression, you instinctually hide it.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor and this is not a formal diagnostic tool. But if there’s a dark cloud hanging over you that won’t go away, and you find yourself actively hiding it from those around you… Please call a psychiatrist. Now.


I’m Not Reliable Anymore

Thoughts puppy

I used to be sharp. Focused. Reliable. I was on point, all the time. It was one of my finest skills.

I remember what it was like.

But I’ve come to a painful realization: that quality is gone from me. It has slowly slipped away.

It’s not like dementia. I don’t blink and suddenly have no idea where I am, or who I am. I’m not losing my mind. I’m just in a permanent brainfog. Imagine your mind swimming in soup: your synapses are firing but they take longer to make connections because your brain is trapped in mush.

I forget things I’m supposed to do. I’m late with work assignments. I can’t keep up with my kids. Sometimes I can’t concentrate. It frustrates and astounds me to no end how hard it is to remember names and terms. There are days when Depression strikes and it’s paralyzing. I’ve already forgotten half the stuff I was going to put in this blog post!

This sucks. I don’t like it, and I don’t want it. I rail against it. It’s especially troubling when your family is struggling financially and you can’t find regular income because you have an invisible chronic illness and Depression and brainfog and every day your debt gets bigger while your income gets smaller and smaller

Am I over-explaining? Yeah okay, you get it.

Anyway. I can’t deny it anymore. I’ve been excusing it for a while. Everybody has one-time deals, “off days,” and whatever. If something slips by every once in a while, it’s a fluke. No big deal. But if it happens repeatedly, it’s a pattern.

It’s been a long week, so I’m probably seeing things through tired, overly-dramatic eyes. Freely admit, it’s entirely possible. Wouldn’t be the first time.

But there’s no denying that things have changed. I’m not like I used to be.

Maybe I can get back what I’ve lost with the right doctors and the right treatment. I hope and pray for that.


Special Enhanced Edition for iBooks – $.99!

The Invisible Illness Survival Guide - Special Enhanced iBooks Edition screenshot

Today I’m excited to present the iBooks edition of The Invisible Illness Survival Guide. Far from just another edition of the book, this one is “Made For iBooks,” sporting a brand new, full color design, interactive elements, and extra resources and content. A few screenshots to give you an idea:

The Invisible Illness Survival Guide - Special Enhanced iBooks Edition screenshot

The Invisible Illness Survival Guide - Special Enhanced iBooks Edition screenshot

The Invisible Illness Survival Guide - Special Enhanced iBooks Edition screenshot

The best part: For a limited time, it’s on sale for just $.99! That’s cheaper than any other edition of the book — and you’re getting way more bang for your buck.

Speaking of which, here’s a quick breakdown of the differences between the five editions of The Invisible Illness Survival Guide:

  • iBooks Edition: the most definitive version of the book, with special interactive enhancements and additional content, available only on Apple devices
  • Print Edition: for those that want to hold and turn real paper pages; features the same design as the Kindle Edition
  • Kindle Edition: the original version, which has images and icons included
  • Kobo Edition: same as the Kindle Edition
  • Nook Edition: a bare bones version without many of the images and no icons; Nook’s editing software made most of the book’s custom formatting impossible, so this stripped-down ebook costs a little less

If you haven’t picked up your copy of The Invisible Illness Survival Guide, don’t wait. The $.99 special price won’t last long!


Don’t Panic, It’s Just Another Hurdle

I have a stress fracture on the top of my left foot. I believe the exact location is the “third metatarsal.” I have to wear an immobilization boot for two to four weeks.

When I got the news, my reaction was kind of like…

Why? Well…

Stress fractures are small bone cracks caused by overuse, usually stemming from a strenuous, repeated activity. There’s no getting around the fact that it came from my Hapkido classes, the martial arts I began studying back in March. I go three times a week, and it’s by far the most strenuous activity I engage in.

I’m not complaining, because when I signed up for Hapkido, I did it knowing it would come with a physical cost due to the many, many things wrong with my body. Lupus, Fibromyalgia, POTS, and everything else would block my path every step of the way. I was also overweight and out of shape. It was going to take a toll.

And it has. There have been injuries and Lupus flares and one wicked sinus infection and things no one but me even knows about.

But I’d do it all again. Without question, without hesitation, I wouldn’t change a thing.

(Not even all the times I make a complete fool of myself in class. Which is often!)

Don’t let life’s obstacles and setbacks affect your goals. Unfortunate things are going to happen; you can’t stop them. But you do get to choose how you react to them. Will they sideline you? Or push you harder toward your goals?

I’m choosing to press on. This is just another hurdle. I’ll clear it like I have all the others. Besides, when you live with never-ending muscle and joint pain 24/7/365, one more ache doesn’t exactly bury the needle.

I’m still going to Hapkido class. My next belt test is a week away, and I’m not missing it. The injury and this silly boot will be gone in a blink.

Stress fracture? Pfft.


Making Money When You Have a Chronic Illness

It doesn’t pay to be sick.

When you have a chronic illness, generating income can be difficult. For some, it’s impossible. Living with constant pain and constant fatigue is stressful enough; not being able to pay the bills shouldn’t be an added issue — but it usually is. Because in addition to all of your usual stuff — mortgage, insurance, car payments, utilities, etc. — you’re also burdened with ever-increasing medical bills.

What an utter absence of anything resembling a blessing!

How do you live with a chronic invisible illness and make income? How do you provide for your family if your quality of life prevents you from working?

This has been a huge struggle for me since I was diagnosed with Lupus four years ago. Working is made so much harder by pain, fatigue, and brainfog, along with regular stomach problems, frequent colds and sinus infections (Lupus compromises your immune system), and countless other “little things” that add up to a whopping big mountain standing between me and the ability to pay the bills.

For many of us, office work is out of the question. There are several days a month when I’m completely unable to function — and I never know when one of those days is going to strike. How can I be counted on to work regular 9-to-5 hours in that situation? No employer in the world is going to be terribly understanding when you don’t show up to work.

There’s also retail, which typically requires standing on your feet all day and interacting with customers in a pleasant way. The standing part is not possible for me and most other chronic illness patients; and I can’t speak for you, but when I’m having a bad day physically, it’s just not possible to fake warmth and pleasantness. And you don’t even want to be around me when I’m on Prednisone!

So… Short of attempting the nightmare that is the application for disability (a loaded topic for another day), what can you do?

Personally, I’m always looking and praying for that One Big Idea. The thing that will turn our situation around. Something I can do, right now, that will make an immediate and profound impact on my family’s crushed-under-debt finances. And there are options and possibilities. You have to be careful, though. There are tons of opportunities out there, but too many of them will pay you far less than you’re worth.

Here are some of my favorites, all of which can be done exclusively from home. The best part: there’s no entry fee for any of them.


YouTube is not what it used to be. Sure, you can still upload any video you want, but it’s a serious business now. There’s big money to be made on YouTube if you can attract a large enough following. There are tons of vloggers and video creators who make their entire living on YouTube — and many of them are rolling in it.

Pros: Just look at the trending videos to see that anyone can create a video that millions of people will watch.

Cons: Consistent posting of videos is required if you intend to be successful, as is good equipment like a quality camera and powerful editing software.


Whatever you’re good at, someone out there will pay for it. Fiverr lets you charge five bucks a pop for performing simple tasks.

Pros: Fiverr is a brilliant idea, and its system couldn’t be simpler.

Cons: You’ll need a truly unique skill or idea to stand out from the crowd.


Crafty? If you can create handmade goods — decor, clothes, accessories, etc. — Etsy is the best place to sell your stuff.

Pros: A huge customer base comes already built in.

Cons: Like most everything else on this list, the challenge will be attracting customers within a very crowded market.


People are always interested in learning new skills to broaden their horizons or create their own businesses. Skillshare is a for-pay website where anyone can create an educational course about pretty much anything. Courses consist primarily of instructional videos, but often there will be downloadable documents and templates, as well. You get paid based on how many people take your course.

Pros: It’s such a simple, smart business model, it’s hard to believe no one thought of it before. Skillshare’s system and user portal are silky smooth, easy to use, and beautiful to look at.

Cons: As with YouTube, the hard part is making quality video content. You’ll need top of the line recording and editing equipment to make your course worthwhile.

Write an eBook (or Blog)

Everybody knows that blogs are a big deal online. You’re reading one right now. Monetizing them can be challenging, but it is doable. An easier way of creating income for writers is instructional ebooks. You write it, publish it on Amazon, Nook, iBooks, etc., and you’re good to go. As I said before, whatever it is that you’re good at, there are people in the world who will pay to learn from you how to do it.

(Did you know that many great ebooks started out as blog content?)

Pros: If you’re a writer, creating an ebook won’t be much of a challenge. It will probably even be fun! It’s a once-and-done project, too, though you’ll want to put some time and effort into promotion.

Cons: Amazon and Barnes & Noble have online systems for self-publishing, and both of them are criminally clunky and unreliable. It’s as if they were built by people who utterly despise ebooks, writers, and words.

Create T-Shirts

The specialty t-shirt market is booming. There are dozens of websites where you can find unique tees these days, many of them populated with designs created by talented artists. You don’t have to be a gifted artisan to create a successful t-shirt, though. Zazzle, Cafe Press, and others make it easy to create a delightful t-shirt design. Most of these places let you put your words or images on other kinds of products, too.

Pros: Inventory and shipping are not your responsibility. They’re handled entirely by the website.

Cons: The website takes a not-small percentage of your profits.

Sell Your Photos

Right now, somebody somewhere needs a photo you already have. Take your most artsy or beautiful photos and turn them into cash by uploading them to smartphone apps like Snapwire, Agora, Foap, and others. They’ll make your image available to publishers, who pay a royalty fee to use it. Anyone can sell their pics, and they’re treated like any other product: you get paid based on how many people pay to use your photo.

Pros: With just about every app I’ve tried, it couldn’t be easier to upload and post your photos. Look on your own camera or phone and chances are, you’ve already got at least a handful of pictures that are unique, beautiful, and potentially valuable.

Cons: People looking for stock photos, like print magazines or big-name websites, tend to need very specific niche imagery. Matching what you have to what they need can be a serious challenge. Don’t expect to make big bucks at this unless you’re a pro.

Create an App

I know that unless you’re a programmer, the very thought of this seems like an impossible task. But hear me out.

Apple has made a priority of teaching programming to anyone who wants to learn. To that end, they’ve created this amazing iPad app called Swift Playgrounds (“Swift” is Apple’s app language) that subversively teaches you the principles of coding in the form of a fun, clever, user-friendly video game. It’s a free download, and literally anyone can pick up programming skills by using it.

Pros: Finally, learning how to make apps is accessible to anyone. You don’t have to have a degree in computer programming. You just need an idea.

Cons: You have to have an iPad. Swift Playgrounds is not an overnight investment; expect to spend weeks if not more learning the fundamentals of Swift. Fortunately, the game is so cute and fun to play, you won’t mind.

Do Small Tasks

Head over to Amazon Mechanical Turk, an online system where anyone can sign up to perform quick, easy tasks like proofreading a product listing or giving an honest opinion. You’ll get paid for each one you complete, and if you’re efficient, you can easily accomplish dozens in a single day. Also see: Field Agent, Easyshift, Gigbucks, Task Army, and more.

Pros: No prerequisite skills required. If you have a computer with an Internet connection or a smartphone, you can perform any of these tasks.

Cons: The majority of available tasks pay very small amounts of money. Some pay more, some pay as little as a penny. So you’ll need to accomplish hundreds of well-paying tasks to see any significant income.