Somebody’s hand over my mouth.

It’s #throwbackthursday so here is a not-so-distant throwback from August 2018 in which I explain what I think it is like to live a life within and in between depressive episodes.

Building Atlas

If you’ve seen Panic Room, and if you have depression, you might already know what I’m about to describe. There’s this stock scene in literature and films where a person answers the door on a “wellness check” from a police officer who has been called to the residence due to a neighbor or family concern. The person who answers the door is painfully conflicted because on the one hand, there is somebody behind the door pointing a gun at her temple and if she tells the cop she is in danger, she will be long gone before she has any chance at being safe. On the other hand, this might be the one chance, the closest by far, that she does have of getting out of the situation alive and she could be sealing her own fate by not signalling to the cop because she is afraid of death.

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Prompt 20: Dead of the Night – 501 Prompts

This is a really cool way to inspire writing whether it is as an outlet, hobby, skill, or way of life. I think it hits on the reasons for writing for any type of person. Also, it is manageable in that it is 20 minutes and inspires you to take risks with your writing. I really like it and might try it some time so I thought I would share for others.

“First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

MLK (Martin Luther King Jr.’s scorn for ‘white moderates’ in his Birmingham jail letter)

This is my favorite quote by MLK and one that I think about a lot on MLK day when I see other white people a bit more motivated to demonstrate their support for social progress than they are in their daily actions. I’m pretty sure if you compared the frenzy they have on “Black Friday” to their MLK posts, the former wouldn’t suggest they are concerned for their fellow man.

This is a quote I try to remember and think about, to check myself as a white liberal or moderate. To remember that while society gives me more privilege than a black person, it does not mean I am qualified to comment on social justice progress I can choose to support–that I have to resist falling into the “white savior” trap and listen more than I talk, and think about how passive goodwill is an easy out for me and of little help to oppressed groups.

***The quote in the featured image isn’t quite related to the post but I think another good point MLK made. Although I know the factors and societal forces (racism and that propaganda of an “American Dream”) that motivate poor white people to support their oppressors (rich white people), it’s hard to fathom why they vote against their own interest and don’t see they have far more in common with another oppressed group (especially one controlled economically) than they do to rich white men who pander to them.

Strategies for Socializing After Isolation

Another post I really liked today. It has some tips I didn’t think about that probably should have occurred to me, like thinking beforehand how I want to answer the “how have you been” question.

Uncustomary Housewife

Mental illness can be tough. Becoming socially isolated as a result of mental illness is far too easy. Depression can cause us to push people away. Anxiety can cause us to doubt ourselves and our interactions. Agoraphobia can keep us inside our homes. Skin-picking can make us embarrassed to be seen. Mental illness can isolate us physically and socially. I’m speaking from personal experience, and this isolation isn’t limited to the examples I’ve listed. Isolation impacts many of us for a variety of reasons.

Socializing Again

Beginning to socialize again after isolation can be equally as tough. Stepping back into the world can seem overwhelming. Whether we’ve been isolated for days, weeks, months, or years it’s all difficult. There are many skills we get out of touch with, there are mental muscles we haven’t exercised in a while, plus there is the initial shock of socializing itself. Sometimes we don’t…

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Cabin Fever.

I’m currently in candidacy for a few different jobs. 3-ish although I only think two are actually viable. Fortunately, they are the two I find more interesting.

I think the hardest part of the job search is you are both entirely responsible for your fate and have absolutely no control. Contradictions are dramatic, I know but I’m indecisive. It’s kind of a frustrating, maybe lose-lose. You can control what you do, the work you put into it, your job prep, networking, attention to detail over your application materials. Then you get chucked into a pool full of people (talk about a nightmare scenario for a germaphobe like me) and you’re kind of like that game at the fair (let’s go for mixed metaphors here because it’s f’ing Friday), the one with all the gold fish in little glass bowls. Some have orange bottoms. Some green. Some red.

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Me: We’re going to have to cut back on spending a bit.  My dog:
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This is Finn in his most dapper interview outfit (bow tie and all).

The result is entirely up to the participant, who is interested enough to pay the four dollars but is secretly thinking about those deep fried oreos, who tosses a ping pong ball haphazardly at the center, waiting to see how many bounces it takes. Some of the bowls are slightly more interesting. Some of the gold fish are a slightly different color. Or bigger. Or smaller. But for all intents and purposes, they’re enough of the same that it isn’t a nail-biter. The only ones who actually care are probably the fish who want to get out of those tiny ass bowls and that loud environment hoping they go home with Bonnie instead of Sid (if you don’t get that reference, I’ve lost all hope in the world).

That’s being a job applicant. Of course there is a positive side. I just did yoga so some part of me has to be zen AF. But it’s largely a mixed bag–a scary game of musical chairs where each job you’re applying for is a chair and each time you don’t get a one, you’re closer and closer to being on your ass. Except, you know, in this scenario you’re worried about being able to pay your bills and keep your dog in the lavish lifestyle to which he is accustomed.

 

No Filter Kind of Life

I’m not as open about my experiences on my personal social media accounts, the ones with my name tied to them, because I am sensitive to sharing all of myself even with many of the people who know me best. The real, unfiltered me. Because maybe people I respect will find it unpalatable. The way I find myself unpalatable.

So when I share photos of my trips or experiences, I do it because (the lazy part of me uses it as a safe way to back up my photos–which actually worked the time I dropped my phone in the sink and didn’t have them backed up anywhere but Facebook) I am eager to represent my life. It isn’t to brag or to make others feel badly about their lives–I know how looking through windows feels and it is disparaging. I don’t aim to act as if my life is perfect. It really, really isn’t–and not because I have nothing to be grateful for but because I am just that imperfect in the way I run my life (I’m sure somebody else could do a much better job with it).

But I worry that because I’m not real about the bad and the mediocre, people having a shitty time might do what I do, see the best moments I share and compare. Because I have the audacity to share the good moments (to me it often feels like audacity), it feels like I have the responsibility of sharing the bad because filtered social media stories can create such a toxic, fake utopia that really screws people up.

This photo doesn’t have a filter in it and it’s gorgeous. It’s a sunset in a gorgeous part of the world I never thought I would be lucky enough to see. It was an incredible experience and I will always have that, especially when I feel like I am going nowhere in life because this is proof I have gone somewhere, somewhere incredible. But when I share it on my normal accounts, it’s still filtered because it doesn’t show the shitty parts, the unavoidable parts that make me appreciate it all the more but also don’t sell a fantasy, travel life story that makes other people wonder what they’re doing wrong.

It doesn’t show that I moved across the country for a job and it imploded in a way that will probably scar me professionally for the rest of my life, undercut my confidence, and back-up that impostor syndrome. It doesn’t show that two months prior I walked into my apartment and found my amazing, once-in-a-lifetime, sweetheart of a dog dead and, not having a car and being thousands of miles away from almost all of my friends and family, I had to sit there and hold her, arms sticking out because rigor mortis stops for nobody, trying to figure out how I was going to get her body to the vet and whether it was okay to call an Uber while I was sobbing more desperately and fearfully and with more despair than I ever have in my life. It doesn’t show me walking into an office of women who shunned me so forcefully it felt like walking into a slaughter house every day. It doesn’t show me putting my head on my desk with the door shut and trying to fight the urge to leave the office, trying to root an unwilling body to a chair, something that felt as if I was betraying myself on a certain level, being just another set of hands binding me to fear. It doesn’t show me getting a call that a man I have known my entire life shot himself in the head. And it definitely doesn’t show me sitting there wondering if I deserve any joy in life or whether I deserve to breathe when sometimes I’d really like to just stop.

It doesn’t show a lot of things. And this is by no means a pity me moment. Everybody has their shit. But I’m saying I wish I had the courage to represent all of my life because I think it is important for other people to see that the lives they may compare their own to have plenty of shit in them and they’re doing just fine.

Stranger Things (why writing isn’t always an intimate portrait)

light sydney tourist film

I have always loved reading. It’s strange how delving deeply into another person’s thoughts and a world she has created helps me find myself. It’s almost an act of the soul. And I don’t have many of those.

You’d think for somebody who has studied words as much as I have that I would like to talk–and if you catch me on the right day and the right topic, I do (it just needs to be the third Monday of an odd month and between 9 and 10 pm). My boyfriend–can you still have a boyfriend at 30? partner? whoever he is–likes to ask questions. A lot of questions. About things I wouldn’t even think to think about. And I think a lot. I just don’t think about things I could articulate. I don’t ever arrive at anything definitive. I think of questions and play devil’s advocate with myself until I have turned a thought over so many times in my head that I know every side of it.

I think that’s why the meaning I get from reading is not reflected in my writing the majority of the time. It’s easy when you’re reading to lose yourself in it because it’s just you. You aren’t sharing that space with anybody. Writing is different. Although I don’t expect anybody will read my words, even when posted online, the very act of writing down a thought is to communicate it to an audience–whether that audience is yourself, somebody you know, somebody you’ve created in your mind, or somebody you’ll never meet. I can’t write with the same abandon I have when reading because as soon as I think of saying something, I construct this invisible wall through which I have to type. It rests in front of my chest and my hands run underneath it, typing but, because of the wall, I cannot see everything I am typing and get so distracted by the wall that everything I mean to say is incomplete. It would be like sending somebody a letter sentence by sentence but a quarter of the messages get lost in the mail.

It takes a brave person to be who she is, right there, all of her, in front of an audience without holding onto pieces in case she needs to pull them back. I don’t think I am that way in writing. I don’t think I am that way in relationships. Hell, I don’t think I could be that way in therapy. And that’s why everything I write is manufactured. If I’m writing just for myself, I’m not sure why it matters but there is something sad about the fact that I can’t even be entirely vulnerable and authentic when I’m the only audience.

And that’s why I’m going to go read Nine Perfect Strangers and not think about how much I am a stranger to the people who should actually know me.

 

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Okay is good.

I’ve been okay lately. Still figuring things out and definitely not feeling the whole “New Year, New Me” vibe but I’m trying to be better. Waking up earlier. Going to bed earlier.

It’s amazing what sleep hygiene will do for depression and ptsd–and more baffling knowing that an awareness of that means nothing against the cold iron wall of an episode.  Depression is kind of like rocket science disguised as addition and subtraction. Subtract poor eating habits, any triggers, cognitive distortions. Add quality sleep, quality food, medication, therapy. And after all the figuring, the answer is a fairly simple result.

Or it should be. And when you’re well, or just somebody who doesn’t have it and is looking in from the outside, that’s what it is. Then there is this giant, black hole, which turns all simple reason on its head. And your entire brain is that black hole. Simple principles go in and come out half-eaten alive and jumbled by your feigned, half-hearted but best possible attempts.

Depression and ptsd are forces of nature in so many ways. As somebody who hates it and lives at the mercy of it, I feel like a hypocrite in saying that, like any force of nature, as terrible as it might be, there is some beauty and meaning to be derived from its power. It’s frustrating to people who don’t understand the depth of it and the half-truths that yet, these simple steps do make a difference but, when you take the steps apart and look at them from a depressed mind, they’re Herculean at the moment when you least feel like a hero or even a decently operating human being.

I’m trying to remember that and to have patience with that scalded side of myself that yes, is subdued for the moment and does feel like somebody else. When I am feeling better and confident that this is the true me, and that side of me is an unwanted, parasitic visitor, I have to remember not to be so hard on her and not to view her the way the rest of the world often does. When I’m feeling better, I don’t have as much access to that depth of emotion and pain–which is what makes me more functional–so I can be overly critical and separate myself in a way that doesn’t prepare me for the next time things turn south. Because I am her and she is me. And I am the person writing this right now who is feeling more empowered. They’re two sides of the same person that can’t ever actually interact. They only know each other as intimate acquaintances from sharing the same ground they each periodically invade. When I am too hard on her, I take for granted all she had to do to get me here to a point of feeling better, despite some of the self-sabotage.

Our capitalistic society and its “American Dream” are based on survival of the fittest. As a person with a mental illness, I have a feeling where that would put me.

Read the first part here.

We do with mental illnesses what we do with the impoverished and other groups, we avert our eyes and push them into the corner, stuck on the edges of our reality so we can avoid these really difficult questions. The truth is, our social structures and lifestyles are

bootstraps
If you doubt what I’m saying, watch the 3 Little Pigs again, which is built on the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality but imagine only one of the pigs has access to materials and tools. 

designed for people who do not have disabilities, including mental illnesses. It’s also designed, more specifically, for a certain person of the right race, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic circumstances upon birth, among other things. We call success “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” but then we utilize a system that only gives certain people bootstraps and if you don’t have them you’re SOL.

It reminds me of that scenario where they talk about how in social experiments if a man is laying on the ground seriously injured and just calls out generally for help, nothing will happen and people will walk right by–because they can assume (knowing it won’t happen) that somebody else will take care of it. When he specifically calls out to an individual however, that person is significantly more likely to respond.

It’s easier to call people with mental illnesses lazy and entitled because it’s less daunting than trying to determine an efficient and effective means of helping them to function, in a way that is humane, while also not taking anything away from anybody else. I don’t know what the answer is. As somebody with a mental illness, I have little else to add from my own experience because, as is the problem, I can’t even figure out my own experience.

time lapse photography of people inside white and black train
Photo by Ryan Millier on Pexels.com

It just seems we have made life too complicated and too hard. Too fast and too expensive. Less fulfilling, meaningful, and connected. All of those things make it more likely that people who are differently-abled and whose needs aren’t compatible with the ways our world works will struggle. It also makes it feel like a greater burden on friends, family members, or society in general to help because they feel pulled in more directions.

People are dying. Paradoxically, for me it feels like dying die over and over again and that I’ll die over and over again for as long as I am living. And yet we have made our lives so urgent and serious that there isn’t time to acknowledge how broken this system is for all of us. How adulthood is synonymous with martyrdom and misery. Settlement and resignation. We’re only happy and embracing life on Instagram and our happiness wilts after the last hashtag (or like Scooby Doo in reverse, it takes off its beautiful mask and is just a blob, which is what most Scooby Doo villains are like anyways).

If we honestly look in a mirror and realize that a stifling majority of adults are genuinely unhappy (and children are only happy because we convince them they have a whole world before them and slowly begin closing doors as they age), can we honestly look at people with mental illnesses and say happiness is a choice? If we can’t what do we do about people who are sentenced to relentlessly struggling in society and, maybe, even failing to support themselves?

I think our current answer is you draw your lottery number and hope it isn’t you. If you don’t get a mental illness or other disability, you focus on living your life. If you do get one, you can only really talk about it with people who are drowning about as much as you are and, because it isn’t a book club, none of you have answers and it’s a hard problem to solve in a world where pretty much everybody acts like what’s right in front of their eyes is invisible.