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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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Screams

Death visits

I found out this afternoon that a friend perished in a helicopter crash yesterday. Her name was Brynne, and she was 25 years old.

While this post isn’t going to necessarily center on her (I’m not emotionally equipped to do that just yet), it will cover some thoughts and feelings as brought on by this tragic event.

I’ve been in a sort of emotional haze most of the day, going between feelings of intense sadness and self-preserving detachment. For the past two years I’ve crafted a narrative that indicated I was immune to most extreme emotions; that I was calm and strong enough to withstand the onslaught of unfortunate happenings and circumstances that life would inevitably visit upon us all. I’ve lived a relatively charmed life, but I’ve also experienced my fair share of pain; if you could call any experience of pain “fair”. The coping mechanism I’ve developed during my battle with depression is to not even feel pain. To avoid it at all costs, as if I wasn’t easily affected. What was once viewed as a cool aloofness by many of my friends has come to my attention to be a lonely state of denial. Sure, we all want to avoid pain. It’s just that some of us go to greater lengths to keep that pain at bay, locked away so as never to get too close.

I once had a conversation about death with an 89 year old man who was a member of a church I worked at. He stated that while he was grateful to have lived such a long life filled with joy and happiness, his most difficult truth to adjust to was that he was outliving those closest to him. One by one his friends and family passed, and he remained while death loomed like a schoolyard bully awaiting an opportune moment. Death visits us all on occasion, and will eventually take up permanent residence. For such a crucial, almost singular and scientifically proven fact about the human existence, death is still surprising. We know that it will come, but when it arrives we are shocked. The sudden pain numbs and dulls our senses, and we are left in a near catatonic state. Or we explode. Or both.

I have no words of encouragement for those experiencing a similar despair. No universal truth that will assuage the pain and transition it into acceptance, bypassing the stages of grief that we all experience.

Death is terrifying, but it’s not my own eventual death that keeps me up at night; it’s the death of those around me whom I care about. It’s the utter helpless feeling I have that there’s not a thing I can do to change it. That no matter how hard I ignore or wish it away, it will be as persistent as a pit bull with its jaws around a rope. (I have one of those; they don’t let go.)

In my sadness over Brynne’s passing, I wasn’t sure where I could turn to. Who I could talk to. You see, I’ve compartmentalized my entire life into segregated groups of people, rarely allowing for overlap because it’s so much easier to manage things that way. One group of friends can help me forget about a terrible situation with another group because nobody even knows about it, so it’s never brought up. This works great for when I don’t want to confront something terrible, but it works equally as bad for when I need the help and love of those closest to me. When you decentralize your relationships, you lose a stabilizing force that allows you to stumble with the protection of loved ones surrounding you. By allowing myself to get close with many groups of people—but not close enough—I’ve removed the risk of community, with community being something I’m utterly terrible at.

The risk of community is shared pain. A sharedness that allows for the lamenting of pain people other than just you feel and understand. Brynne’s passing has shown me how I’ve avoided such a safety net because while I was close with her, I wasn’t close with many other people that knew her. I don’t have anyone to share a story with that contains a mutual context of the type of person she was. This makes it difficult to grieve, as I’m not even sure how I’m supposed to be grieving in this moment. All I am left with are my own thoughts and emotions, and they are of little consolation.

Some nights I’m afraid to fall asleep because my worst fears play out in my dreams, as if my mind wanted to present a massive middle finger in my direction. This is one of those nights.

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Screams

Bueno Macho…

I don’t do well with pain.

As a man, that’s difficult to admit, because there is this notion that men are to be of a certain ilk.

Simple, strong, and emotionless.

It’s that last one that really gets me.  I can try and try to minimize the things in my life down to the bare-essentials, and I think I’ve been doing a decent job of that.  I’ll never be the kind of guy who can bench press 250 lbs. with ease, and I’m OK with that.

But the idea of “manning up” and ignoring one’s natural instinct to feel is an affront to masculinity.  The truth is, though, I tend to despise myself for the way I feel at certain times.  And yes, I see the apparent hypocrisy.  It’s ever before me.

For years I hid behind a mask that covered my true emotional self.  I denied that I was a crier.  Sure, it wasn’t unusual to see me cry in public, but when my emotional state was leveled, I would pretend to be stronger than I really was.  Or at least what I perceived “stronger” to be.

The past few months have been some of the most difficult of my life, for various reasons.  During these days, I’ve succumbed to anger, joy, despair, etc. at the drop of a hat.  I’ve criss-crossed between good and bad in the blink of an eye, and it has hurt a few of the closest people in my life in the process.  Through out all of this, one of the most constant truths is that I cry when I’m hurting.  I can’t help but be moved to tears when something hurts my heart, whether it is directly related to me, or I’m witnessing it in the life of another human being.  I even cry when I’m happy now.  Happy tears.

The truth is, I’m coming to accept that I actually am a crybaby.  It’s especially easy when you take into consideration that I’m crying right now as I type these words; kind of unavoidable at that point.

While I don’t ever intend to equate the struggle of a man accepting his emotional self with the struggles of those of a different race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, etc. than I am, it still has its place.

Ultimately, I know that the tears will dry up and life will continue as regularly scheduled.  I know that there is a Hope far greater than these present circumstances.

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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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