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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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Is there a draft in here?

I like to write. In fact, I even get paid to write, which is a good gig, if you can get it. I don’t necessarily think I’m always that good at it, but I still attempt it, nonetheless.

However, one of the biggest obstacles to any writer is their own self. We could call it fear, insecurity, self-criticism, or anything else. The fact is, there’s a lot we tend to leave on the table.

I just saw I have 65 drafts on my blog. Kind of bummed at how many ideas I apparently have but never flesh out or finish. I just get so easily distra

That above quote comes from my friend, Jared Byas (good name, that chap), and it caused me to check out my own drafts folder.

127.

I have 127 ideas, thoughts, and posts that have gone unfinished since I created this space over five years ago. That’s not even accounting for the ones I decided to not even bother putting in the drafts section. Who knows how high that number truly is?

I’d like to think that I’m a fairly secure person who knows himself well enough to accept his limitations and embrace his strengths. But I’m kind of a pansy when it comes to writing. Most of my readers and friends laud me for speaking bravely about a few topics—typically my experience with depression and suicide—but truthfully, I’m so scared to even put half of my thoughts and ideas out there in the ether.

The fact of the matter is that unless the words are pouring forth from my fingertips to the keyboard like raindrops on a leaf, providing nourishment and life, I don’t even want to try. (It was excruciating for me to even come up with such a descriptive metaphor like that, because I felt hacky doing it.)

I don’t fancy myself to be a world-changer when it comes to my writing (though I aspire to be), but I have high expectations for whatever work I put out there; as should every person, no matter the field. But so often I’m like that one kid at the public pool who keeps running to the end of the diving board, only to suddenly stop and backpedal, before doing the whole ritual all over again. I’ll get the itch to create something, and then cop out when the time comes to press the “publish” button.

If the craft of writing is like exercising a muscle, then I’m stuck using just the bench press bar with zero plates. (If my weightlifting metaphors don’t make sense, it’s because HAVE YOU EVEN SEEN MY SKINNY-ASS BODY?)

There isn’t really any specific point to this post, other than for me to actually hit “publish”.

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The Struggle of Writing…

As someone who wants to be a writer, it’s astonishingly difficult for me to actually write. I all too easily succumb to that monster known as “writer’s block”, and rarely seem to find an easy way out from underneath its iron-fisted rule.

I know many writers who all tell me, “Write! It doesn’t matter what it is or how you’re feeling about it; just write.” I struggle with that, and I think I just figured out why.

My expectations for everything I write are way too high.

If it doesn’t have the potential to move mountains, I won’t bother. If I don’t feel like the reader would be moved to near tears or jubilation (or both), it isn’t worth it. These high expectations are cancerous to creativity. In their proper place and perspective, they can be a driving force, I know; but since when has anything about humanity been properly placed and perceived?

Perhaps it’s arrogance. I expect and hope too much that my words will be earth-shattering, when I should probably be happy that anyone would be taking the time to read them at all. Maybe this is a lesson that comes more easily with age. When I first entered college, all I could think about was how much I was going to change the world. I still have that desire today, but I’m realizing more and more that it isn’t hingent upon my skills and abilities alone, but the collective of all those around me.

I believe this is where the passion of youth can get in the way of the progress they so desire. There’s an unbridled enthusiasm and excitement that is, while absolutely wonderful, easy to get lost within. The thing is, as I have gotten older, cynicism has become a more everyday way of looking at the world for me. Now, that’s not an entirely terrible outlook to have, as it has helped me to be a little more cynical regarding myself. The trick though, is to remember that like all things, I can easily lose myself within it if I’m not careful.

 

 

 

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On Worry and Insecurity

The giving of oneself over to another person, though an incredibly difficult and sometimes painful experience, is a daily occurrence for each of us.

We all long for those connections which affirm us as human beings, and lift us up as sons, daughters, and lovers. Each of us has a need for security in our relationships that will take on differing forms. The young girl may resort to the giving of herself physically in order to appease the pressure of her boyfriend, while the older man might seek to control the actions of those around him through bullying, coercion, or manipulation. No matter the format, when our goal is to extract affirmation from another person by any means other than their freely giving of it, we tread dangerously upon a line of sin.

In the case of the aforementioned examples, sin against ourselves (the young girl) and sin against others (the older man).

At the root of this matter is security, but it could more easily be stated as worry. In and of itself, worry is not a bad thing, notwithstanding that many reference Matthew 6:25-34 as a proper rebuttal against it, though it is often misunderstood or taken to a certain extreme.

The worry of a mother concerning her son who has recently been shipped off to war VS the worry of a husband who is certain his wife has been cheating, despite all evidence to the contrary.

One is grounded in good reason while the other is borne out of a deep-rooted insecurity that has not been properly addressed. Though we should never wish worry upon anyone for any reason, it is only natural to become preoccupied with certain thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and all things natural we must accept, though we are not to give ourselves over to.

The trouble comes when we allow our worry to dictate our interactions with others. Since community is essential to our human “being-ness”, anything that serves as a detriment to the forging of a communal experience is, I believe, in direct violation to what our spirit and nature craves.

And therein lies the rub; for in community and relationships, there is no room for insecurity/worry, yet we must create that space for the other person to express their insecurities in order to build truly authentic community. This is a complex mechanism, to be sure!

As with nearly all things in the life of the Christian, there is a deeply profound paradox to be navigated. Freely address your insecurities while allowing others to freely express theirs, yet try your damnedest to dispel all notions of fear, for this is what perfect love does.

And as always, there is hope.

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Recessions and credit and debt? Oh my!

Since Heather has been in South Africa, our conversations have been filled with discussion of the vast cultural differences of our respective countries of residence.  (Her  = South Africa; me = USA)

Though I wouldn’t say I’ve taken off the rose colored glasses, through these conversations I feel as if I’ve been given a new pair of eyes to view my surroundings with.

In South Africa, many people close down for the day around eight o’clock at night.  In America, I’m just now thinking about what I want for dinner at eight o’clock at night.

In South Africa, people take the time for tea breaks and rest during the day.  In America, you’re given a fifteen minute smoke break, then it’s back to work.

In South Africa, it’s not uncommon for the majority of people living there to only receive one meal per day.  In America, I more than likely eat double the food a South African eats in one day just for my lunch.

My point isn’t to make us feel bad if we’re Americans (of the Northern variety).  It’s more to help us see and understand the deep chasm that separates our way of life with that of the majority of the world.

While we’re in the middle of a recession, there is much panic and confusion about what’s going to happen next.  Will we have enough money to make payments on our leased BMW X5?  Will I still be able to afford Starbucks three times a day?  When will I be able to purchase that new 50 inch plasma T.V.?

We have been spoiled for so long, having been the recipients of the fastest growing technological advancements in the history of mankind, and now that we may have to scale back a little, it’s all just too overwhelming.

This isn’t to say that many people and their families don’t have a reason to worry a little.  I don’t have a family of my own at the moment, so I can’t possibly presume to understand the intense pressure and stress that times like this can create.  But being someone who has a slightly outside view into this moment in time, I think it a good thing to encourage a little perspective.

Be smart about your life.  That also means how you view it.

God knows I have some work to do in this area myself.

Jar

*steps down from soapbox*

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