A Copywriter’s Blog
Because I'm not a teen girl, it took me 15 minutes to take a decent picture of my chest in the bathroom.

I'm not a teen girl, so it took me 15 min to take a decent chest selfie in the bathroom.

A friend of a friend started #WeGetDepressed recently. It’s a shirt. Really, an idea. The idea is to wear the shirt, and that will get people talking about depression. Because despite it’s impact and prevalence in society, we really don’t talk about it much.

And I’m as guilty as anyone. Because despite having a blog that covered my life for 4+ years, I never once mentioned that I was depressed.

Not at the time I was writing. Or at least, not usually. My major depressive episodes happened in college. I almost planned to start this post out talking about how I used to be depressed. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that mental illness is a lot like cancer. Once diagnosed, you’re never really free of it. You might be in recovery. In remission. Maybe you’ve been “depression free” for a week. A year. A decade. But the potential for a relapse, and the scars that exist on the inside? Those are always there.

My depression during college came with panic attacks. Heart racing, sweating, on the floor in the fetal position, crying for hours begging for it to please end I can’t do it anymore how do I stop this? It came with mood swings. Food lost taste, but because I logically knew my body needed fuel I would force myself to eat. It was like swallowing sand. I couldn’t get a handle on my emotions. Fear of panic attacks would literally trigger them in a self-fulfilling prophecy that was always worse the night before something was due. I cried constantly. I apologized for crying. I apologized for apologizing. I cried because I knew I was apologizing too much and please I just don’t want to feel like this anymore and I’m sorry. I want to be better but I don’t know how and I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry.

I had some tremendous friends in college. It’s a strange thing to say, but I’m certain that I still can’t appreciate the extent to which my friends and family sacrificed themselves for me before I went to seek help. For most of that period I was simply too sick, too unaware to realize how much time and energy they were putting into me. I was never suicidal, but it’s not hard to imagine my story going far differently if they hadn’t been there for me.

One of my friends was actually planning to go into social work. Like so many others she spent hours with me while I cried, shook, hyperventilated. Talking me back down to some semblance of humanity, if not sanity. One day, when I had gone maybe 36 hours without a panic attack (an incredible accomplishment at that time) I called her. It was a short conversation. I was feeling close to human, so wanted to know if she’d like to do something normal. Y’know, maybe play racquetball instead of “see how many panic attacks I can fit into an evening.” And her response was along the lines of “If you’re feeling ok right now, I’d rather pass. I’ve spent a lot of time with you lately. I’ll always be there for you, but at this point I need to sort of save myself for those times when you need me.”

For whatever reason, that was my wake up call. That was when I decided to get help.

I went to therapy. I got prescriptions. Slowly, things got better. Good days weren’t just days where I didn’t have a panic attack, they were days where I actually felt good. Eventually the medicine got my chemical levels back to where they were supposed to be, and I could stop taking them. Eventually, I understood myself well enough that I was able to stop therapy as well.

If I got depressed, I was able to recognize it much sooner, talk it out with one or two people, and take steps to move past it. Panic attacks became legitimately rare, although I’m pretty sure I can tell you every single one I had after I “got better.” For me at least, the longer I went without them, the easier it was to recognize what was causing them. It’s been 8 years since I had one. I know exactly when (and equally important to me, why) it happened.

And occasionally I run across someone who’s suffering what I did. I turn a corner at work to find someone holding their chest and crying. Or completely drained by life. And I’m able to talk to them about it. Because I’ve been there. And I know what works for me, and maybe that will work for them. And I’m happy to talk about it with them, because I like to think that some benefit came from all the torture I experienced.

But that’s only a few people, in very specific situations. And really, I should be talking about it more.

Because I know I’m not the only one, and #WeGetDepressed.

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2 Year Old Wisdom: Sarcasm Ben Levy 27, July

My daughter lives in my house, where she hears The Wife and I speak. So it’s no surprise that she’s already dabbling with sarcasm.

But here’s the thing. Sarcasm to a two year old is just lying obviously. So my daughter’s approach goes something like this- and please keep in mind she knows her letters:

The Daughter, holding up the letter Y: Look Daddy, A!

Then she smiles. Except that’s a bit of an understatement. The expression on her face is the reason they created the phrase “Shit-eating grin.” It was with just such a smile that the saber-toothed tigers of old surprised our ancestors in the field. If her smile were any wider, the top of her head would fall off.

Me: No honey, that’s a Y.

TD: No, Daddy. Ayyyyy! *Grin*

Me: Uh huh. If try to correct you, you’re going to keep calling it an A. And if I agree with you, then you’ll learn the wrong thing, never get into college, and wind up living at home for the rest of your life.


Me: This round goes to you.

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My father is a cardiac anesthesiologist, which means two things:

1- I grew up hearing about ECHOs, intubation, and heart failure during dinner.
2- I can spell cardiac anesthesiologist right on the first try. SUCK IT, AUTOCORRECT.

I’ve been telling people for years that I’m “conversational in doctor.” Meeting my The Wife only increased my opportunities to nod understandingly about hypertension, febrile seizures, and immunodeficiency. And then there were all the fun phrases I learned from the other three doctors on her side of the family.

So here I am, conversational in doctor. The old lingua physica, if you will. Very proud of it, too. Because it was the only thing that allowed me to keep up with the on-call neonatologist* at 5:30 in the morning, on no sleep, while my four-hour old son lay nearby with tubes coming out of his nose.

I understood the tests she was naming. I understood the procedures they had performed already. I understood that they thought there might be something on his lungs, but in fact there wasn’t, and this was a good thing. And I understood that their next course of action would be to push a particular drug that was often useful in such cases.

And in that moment I also understood something else: the importance of context.

Because while I know what all those words mean, I didn’t know what a single one of them meant.

If the current diagnoses turned out to be wrong, what was the next thing to look for? If the drug she was suggesting didn’t work, what was plan B? Exactly how terrified, on a scale of one to shit-my-pants-where-I-stand, should I be right now?

I got the answer to the two last questions simultaneously, when she began explaining the drug almost always worked, but “…in autopsies you’ll see if it didn’t it’s because of a mutation in the lung we couldn’t have known was there.”

Autopsies? Who said anything about autopsies? I didn’t say anything about autopsies. Why are you talking about autopsies? Stop. Talking. About autopsies. Rightthefucknow. Thank you.

I tried to ask questions, but I couldn’t seem to make my brain work. I felt many things at this moment. Absolute fatigue, for starters. A sort of dull fear that I didn’t have time for right then but would examine at my leisure later. A strong desire for my The Wife, lying in a hospital bed two floors above in the CICU**, where she couldn’t help me to understand any of this.

And above all a sharp, shocking clarity of just how little I knew about a language and world I thought I understood.

“I’m not a doctor, I just talk to them at my spouse’s office parties.”

*I did have to look up how to spell that one. I’m not a wizard.

**Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit. I soloed that one, too.

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3 Times A Lady Author Ben Levy 4, July

Got so excited about the kid, I almost forgot about the book:

Screen Shot 2014-07-04 at 12.44.18 PM

Before I wrote the Owl Book, I did a lot of research. Went to a lot of bookstores. Read a lot of cardboard-backed bestsellers.

But, guys. Nothing, I mean nothing, is going to prepare you for children’s book writing like owning an actual child. I have read, on average, 4-to-4-bazillion baby books a night for the last two years. I can recite “Are You A Cow?” and “Click Clack Moo” and even “The Wonderful Sounds Mr. Brown Can Do” by heart.

So when it came time to write another one, the only preparation involved was figuring out where I was going to get the time to illustrate it.

I’m really proud of this book. I love how it came out. I want to share it with people. So I’m releasing a free pdf copy right here.

Literally. Click right here and get a free pdf of my latest children’s book.

And if you do love it so much you want it in book form,click here.

And to answer an FAQ- Yes, a Coo (or Cou) is a real creature. I discovered them on a family trip to Scotland years ago. I thought the name sounded fun. It still does.

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On June 14th, 2014, my son was born.

On June 22, we were finally able to take him home. I have never been so happy to be peed on in my entire life.

What happened in between was, to put a word to it, stressful. Other words that could be put to it are gut-wrenching, abominable, sanity-stretching, and poopy.

But he’s ours now, and that’s all that matters.


There are stories that could be told about all this. I think I might tell them.

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On fancy furniture Ben Levy 9, December

It happens like this:

You buy a place, and suddenly you’re inundated with all these magazines that you’ve never heard of, or at least haven’t looked at before.

Then you look at them, intending to laugh at the imaginary people who buy that shit when an Ikea table is just fine.

And then you get to one page and go “oooh, that one’s kind of cool, actually.”

And now someone somewhere is laughing at you.

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June To-do List Ben Levy 12, June

Get promoted
Double size of client account at work
Help The Wife get settled in new job
Put Molly in new daycare
Close on condo
Move into condo
Put Molly in a different new daycare
Turn 30
Get back in shape


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It all makes sense now. Ben Levy 10, March

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

Also, this is going to be the reason and excuse for every short story I write between now and my 40s.

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What else does she know? Ben Levy 26, February

I wish I could tell you how this happened. It was so unexpected, I don’t really remember the sequence of events leading up to it. I think it started when The Wife told me our child’s teachers claimed she said “Elmo” today.

I probably said something like “bullshit,” and The Wife agreed with my assessment. Molly’s making more sounds everyday, but even if she stumbles on a word, there’s been no indication she’s using it intentionally.

I’m…not really sure what happened next. I was sitting on the floor with Molly, holding the one Elmo book we actually own, and I guess for some reason I asked her “Where’s Elmo?”

And she slapped her hand down right on top of him.

Ok, very funny. She just happened to hit Elmo. I closed the book, then opened it to the same page, but this time I moved it so that her hand wouldn’t naturally fall on him. “Where’s Elmo, Molly?”

Without hesitation, she slapped her hand down on Elmo again.

I flipped a page, and I suspect there was a slightly bright quality to my voice. “Where’s Elmo?”

That time she pointed, laying one finger on the page. Almost in the fold between the two pages, where a comparatively tiny image of Elmo was waving.

I think there was some horse, dramatic whispering with The Wife, and some confusion over who was getting the camera. Molly found Elmo a few more times, but of course once we started recording she got totally distracted by a TV remote and stopped having anything to do with the book at all. But The Wife witnessed it at least four times in a row, maybe five. So I know I’m not making this up.

My child is ten months old today. And apparently she understands English. Or at least “Elmo.”

I have no idea what is happening.

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Google Glass Ben Levy 20, February

At first glance, Google Glass looks absolutely pointless. It’s like if a race of sentient eyeballs became jealous of all the super-dope bluetooth headsets the ears get to wear, and came up with this in retaliation. But then I realized what the true implications of this technology are. And I have to say, I’m pretty excited:

Screen Shot 2013-02-20 at 9.41.31 PM

It Begins
The second Google Glass hits the market, all the iHipsters will purchase a pair. This is because people with the disposable income to spend on a pair of $1500 glasses that don’t block the sun or improve vision are desperate to find ways to inform the rest of us just how rich they are.

It Continues
Half of them will of course get robbed for their glasses. Particularly enterprising thieves will then make use of Google Maps to find the quickest escape route.

The Dark Ages
This rash of glasses-thievery will spark a recurrence of the trend of “people with glasses getting knocked down, beat up, and their lunch money stolen”. This is how life used to be for the geeks, kids. It wasn’t pretty.

The Empire Strikes Back
In response, the geeks will throw all their combined brainpower into perfecting defensive nanobot technology.

Fwoosh! Zap!
Within two years’ time, we will all be running around wearing Iron Man style armor under our clothes. Fights over bespectacled individuals’ lunch monies may still happen, but now they’ll occur 40 feet in the air, and with lasers.

As you can see, Google’s latest device will usher in an amazing new utopia for all of us. It will undoubtedly forever change the way we interact with one another. And, if there is a just and loving God, not a single one of you mouth-breathers will live-stream it from a pair of stupid glasses.

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