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Response to Your Responses RE: Revisiting the Depressies

So this post has been getting some good feedback.

In addition, I had a late night Twitter rant that served as the genesis of this post. Read that first, if you can stomach the foolish rambling and spelling mistakes.

More than a few of you have reached out to me, expressing feelings of solidarity and understanding. Encouraging words have been spoken. Attempts at understanding have been given.

There’s a two-fold issue here for me:

  1. It’s absolutely encouraging to hear that other people understand and have felt similar things. I’m not alone, and as much as I tell people to know that they are not alone, I easily forget to give myself the same reassurance.
  2. It’s absolutely heart-breaking to hear that other people understand and have felt similar things. They are not alone, yet they feel that they are, no matter how many people like me in their lives attempt to reassure them otherwise.

It’s #2 that reassures me I still know how to feel like a human. That I’m still capable of empathy and sympathy. That I’m actually able—for no matter how fleeting of a moment it might even be—to think outside of myself and consider another person. If that sounds like I’m tooting my own horn, you’re damn right. This is a victory for me, and for any of you who have struggled with depression, you know well how good it is to feel something that isn’t centered on yourself for once.

To be sure, understand that if anything I’ve said here has been encouraging to you, know I’ve only shared it because I’ve had to first scream it at myself in order to believe it. While I wish I could be altruistic and say I write so openly about these struggles solely for the fact that others like me might read them, the truth is there is another component that is just as satisfying. It helps me greatly to write them down. It gives me focus and a moment to center myself. To express what I otherwise have no other means of expressing. Those closest to me who are privy to (read: unfortunately touched by) these moments ask me what I’m feeling, and often I have no words I can share.

Here is where I seem to find those words. Here is where I gain the clarity and ability to look more clearly, even if I still don’t understand it. Here is where I attempt to help you understand while I attempt to understand myself, even if it results in you giving me a Side-eye Chloe.

Find your outlet. Seek your peace. Discover your zen. Do whatever it takes, but don’t let the darkness take over. And while it might be referencing a different circumstance, read some Dylan Thomas and rage.

If any of this sounds like hyperbole to you, then you don’t understand and I encourage you to seek understanding. Seek empathy.

Hell, forget seeking empathy; require it of yourself!

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Revisiting The Depressies

It’s been nearly four years since depression had its strongest grip on me, and almost three since I wrote this.

The multitude of things that have changed for me in that span of time is seemingly incomprehensible, at least from my own perspective. The improvements that have been made, as well as the destruction of personal potential and potential relationships; they’re all right in front of me. There’s an ebb and flow to all of life, and sometimes that results in a net gain and net loss.

I’m happy with where I am—a rare thing for anyone to be able to say, even if I’m sort of faking it (but only sort of). I’ve avoided writing on my personal site for so long now because the majority of my posts were melancholic and getting a bit redundant in their depressive nature and tone. I’ve had to resist the urge to virtually light everything on fire and watch it burn while marshmallows rested at the end of a pointy stick. However, it’s still a release, especially in those moments when a case of the “depressies” can rear its ugly head.

We all have our shit, and all of our shit can seem insurmountable in the faintest of moments, however long or short. I’ve been having my moments more frequently lately, and I can pin them on a number of things. Here is where depression can hurt as much, if not more: shit is hard even when shit is good, or at least when that shit should at least be considered good.

There are moments of doubt, whether about yourself or everything else. There are things you fear that keep a tight grip on you, even if they’re rather inconsequential. There are people you will distrust, no matter how many opportunities they prove worthy of your trust.

Struggling through depression is certainly not unlike being a drug addict. The drug of choice in this instance is more a cocktail of emotional narcotics—sorrow, pain, worry, anguish, insecurity, loneliness, etc. A nice, long hit of any of these brings a physical release like an alcoholic’s sip. We get addicted to them, and like the addict, we typically know just how terrible they are for us. In spite of that we refuse help, or feel that no help is given when wanted. Our loved ones suffer through it, wondering what they could be doing better, or if they even have the power to continue suffering alongside us.

We will always be considered depressed, even if we aren’t relapsing or falling off the wagon. We will carry this weight with us the entirety of our lives, managing it and fighting it until our last breath. And so will our loved ones.

If you’re reading this and you relate, whether personally or by proxy, then understand you aren’t alone. Seek help as often as you can. Pull yourself as far as you can go, and then ask someone to pull you the rest of the way.

You are not alone. 

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Screams

Depression, loved ones, and and how the latter can harm the former.

There are more than 17,000,000 people in America diagnosed with clinical depression, and I am one of them.

Those numbers would greatly rise if we were somehow able to quantify and take into consideration those not diagnosed, yet still affected by depression. It’s a very real and present thing in our society, even if it’s rarely understood or discussed by most individuals.

If you’ve read this space for a period of time, you’ve no doubt seen me discuss my past and current struggles with mental health. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to a point in my life where I’m not so afraid to talk about it openly with others, though that hasn’t always been the case; and sadly, that isn’t the case for a large number of people. There are innumerable and various obstacles and pitfalls for someone struggling with depression, but perhaps the most universal is that of explaining to loved ones just what the hell is actually going on.

I can give you countless examples of someone asking me what’s wrong and why I’m feeling this way. I can give you one answer I’ve given all of them: I don’t know.

That’s not easy to say, and it’s certainly not easy to hear from someone who’s depressed. As a friend and loved one, we want to help and aid the person we care about who is struggling. When we have no way of understanding what the central cause might be, it’s not so easy to digest. It makes the situation far more murky and difficult to wade through, like walking through a forest at night without a flashlight and compass to guide us.

I know this is a feeling most of my loved ones feel when we discuss my depression, and it increases my level of anxiety when I can’t provide an answer. While I’ve coped with and learned how to manage my depression over the last couple of years, I still have my days and weeks in which I am overcome with worry, anxiety, and outright dread. It’s during those periods I tend to pull away from society.

I don’t return calls or texts. I don’t reach out to my friends for company. I’m not as active on Twitter or Facebook (yes, social media is and has been a benchmark for my mental health, as it tends to be for most people who use it).

I don’t know specifically why I reject community and friendship when I certainly need it most, but that’s the common thread of depression: I don’t know why I do what I do and feel what I feel. I just do it and feel it. The best reason I can surmise is that I know how frustrating it is for them to hear me say these things, and I begin to sound like a broken record that never really played anything of value in the first place. I want to avoid having to apologize for what I feel, or at least feeling like that’s what I have to do.

As difficult as it is to hear that as a friend trying to help, it’s exponentially difficult to say it as someone who is depressed. Thankfully, I’ve been surrounded by a good number of people who understand that they really aren’t going to get a detailed answer from me regarding much of this, and they let that be enough. They let their presence and words of encouragement be enough, regardless of specificity. Which is good, because sometimes that’s all I need or want. Sometimes that is enough.

However, not a lot of people who struggle with this disease are as fortunate as I am. Their isolation is exacerbated by fear and worry wrapped in flesh and bone. They experience the personification of much of what hurts them as represented by their loved ones.

Worry begets worry. Anxiety produces anxiety. On and on it goes, and where it’ll stop nobody knows.

If you’re a friend or family member of someone struggling with depression, it’s helpful to keep this in mind. It’s important to remember that your actions can and do have a powerful role to play here, and to be ready and willing to accept that the answers we give aren’t really answers at all. Be mindful. Be considerate. And above all else, be gracious.

You didn’t start the fire, but you might be pouring gasoline instead of water.

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Why I post so many damn photos of my dog…

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I have a dog named Deuce.

Chances are, that if you follow me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, you know this already. And more than likely hate me for it.

Most of my photos on any social network site involve him. People could say it’s because I’m bored and don’t have much going on in my life in terms of excitement, hobbies, and good lovin’; and they’d be correct. But the other side to that coin is that I also really love my dog.

Like really.

When I’m at home with nothing to do, I’m typically paying attention to him. Of course, he demands this of me, even when I have plenty to do, but that’s all right. I like it.

It’s almost like he’s my kid.

OH PLEASE! HAVING AND LOVING A DOG IS NOTHING LIKE HAVING AND LOVING A KID!

Well, hang on just a second there, Overzealous Imaginary Kid-Having Person In My Head Who Has The Caps Lock Glued Down. I’m not saying the two are one and the same, but up to this point in my life, he is the closest thing I know of what it’s like having a kid. And while I know I’m not ready for kids just yet, and don’t plan on having any for a long time (if ever), I love him like he’s my own child. Quite frankly, it excites me that I can love anything like I love him, considering my lack of ability to give any semblance of adequate love to many people at different times in my life. It gives me great hope to know that I can love him in that way, and reminds me that if I’m ever an actual dad, I’ll probably be a damn good one.

But my love for Deuce is more nuanced than that. You see, I got him during a very difficult time in my life. Months prior, I had just attempted suicide, and two weeks after having rescued him, I will have fled Indiana in search of brighter skies and possibilities in Arizona. Needless to say, he’s been one of my main constants during a very dark and life-changing period. During my first few months in Phoenix, I was a wreck.

Directionless. Friendless. And a whole bunch of other “lesses”.

None of that mattered to Deuce. It didn’t matter one bit to him that I was a self-pitying idiot who couldn’t get out of bed before 11:30. He stayed right there with me. It didn’t bother him that I watched way too much TV than a human should, without any desire to go anywhere and see anyone. He was cool with chilling on the couch and watching Deadliest Catch and Mythbusters on repeat.

In the year and a half since I got him, I’ve experienced numerous changes.

Five different jobs. Three different housing situations. And more. Basically, a metric ton of things that dogs hate. They thrive in consistency, and my life has been anything but since he graciously became a part of it. I have been far from the best friend he’s been to me. I’ve raised my hand in anger and extreme frustration. I’ve forgotten to feed him. I’ve neglected entertaining him in favor of entertaining myself.

Basically, I’m kind of a shitty owner, at times.

Yet, he’s still there every morning with anxiousness to play, and every evening with excitement to see me when I come home. He’s intuitive to my emotional fluctuations; giving me the sort of selfless love that I wish I was more consistent at giving to him and to other people. No matter how many times I’ve been terrible towards him, he’s always by my side. Sometimes too much, but I won’t complain about that. Perhaps you think I might be reading too much into his proclivities. After all, he is JUST a dog, right?

No. He’s my dog. And quite frankly, I’ll Instagram the shit out of him and you’ll just have to learn to like it.

Get a dog, folks. Trust me: you learn a lot about yourself. How selfish you are. How incapable of being consistent you can be.

And then, if you’re as lucky as I have been, you’ll learn how capable of fixing all those things you are.

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Screams

Prescription…

We all wish to have peace, and while I do not claim to have any special insight into how to achieve it, I can give you what has helped me in some of my most difficult of times.

I hope that if you are enduring those difficult moments that we tend to find ourselves in, some of this will help.  You are not alone, and you will see redemption at the end of your trials.

Blessings,

Jar

Step 1: turn down the lights

  • Doing this can set a mood, and let’s face it, the Church today is very reliant upon its moods.  I wouldn’t say this is necessarily a bad thing, but just like all things in life, careful moderation and discernment in use is needed.  If your heart is weary/restless/tired/anxious/etc., then create an environment that will enable you to relax.  Lighting enhances the mood.  Be careful though to not let your emotions or feelings set the agenda.  Allow God to do that.

Step 2: sit/lay/kneel in silence

  • Use this moment to take your mind off every distraction.  If you want a supernatural peace, be prepared to leave the natural world.  In order to do that, let nothing of man come between you and your God.  Media in all its forms, such as a computer, cell phone, magazines, books should be set aside.  All great things, but not pertinent for the moment you’re searching for.  Pray.  Speak.  But above all, listen.

Step 3: use music where needed

  • “Wait, didn’t you just say to leave the natural world?  Wouldn’t this include music?”  Yes.  Yes, I did say that.  But sometimes music can do things for us nothing else can.  After all, God devoted an entire book of the Bible to it, so there must be some merit in making an exception.  Whatever it is you choose to have playing, let it be something that points you toward your Savior.  This is in stark contrast with what most of contemporary Christian music involves these days: a frighteningly massive amount of self-centered lyrics that only serve to feed our selfish feelings.   God is not emo, so Dashboard Confessional need not be on your holy playlist.

Step 4: allow yourself to be broken

  • In your search for peace, you will no doubt encounter just the opposite.  When we are quiet in the presence of God, the Enemy becomes everything but.  In these moments, you will experience pain/sadness/discomfort/uncertainty.  This is a good thing.  But be careful who you listen to.  The admonitions of God lead us to seek change, while the accusations of Satan lead us to seek charity.  Seeking change is making sure you are ready and willing to do your part, while seeking charity is playing the pity card and begging for someone else to fix the problem.

Step 5: allow yourself to be healed

  • In our unfortunate state of being, we have constrained ourselves to self-loathing and hatred.  This is not a “love yourself before you can love anyone else” kind of idea.  It is however, an “allow yourself to be loved” kind of idea.  It’s humbling and difficult to accept that in spite of your shortcomings, someone still has love for you.  How much more difficult is it when that Person is our Heavenly Father?  Whatever you have done, whatever you have allowed to fracture your relationship with God, it’s past.  Now it’s time to move forward.  It’s true that changes in your life will need to be made, but if you think there’s anything more you can and have to do in order to gain favor with God, you are terribly mistaken.  Make the needed changes, but more importantly, accept the needed love.
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