22 May 2016

Everything is the same. Everything is different.

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Dr. Stephen Shore once said “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

I've been thinking about this quote a lot lately. And it applies to so many different things. Buttons. Cats. People. Gender. Religion. Mental Health. But we as humans have this bad habit of trying to put everyone into groups and saying they'll all act the same, because they have some characteristic in common.

And on the surface it doesn't appear to be a problem right? I mean, hey if people are in a group they must share some things in common right? It's like buttons right? Buttons are all the same after all. They're used to keep things together. I mean, they all come in the same size, shape, color, and number of holes right? So they all function the same way. One button is just as good as another right? Same with people! You've interacted with someone with autism before so you know how they all function. And hey! You've had depression before, so you know how to help your friends with it!  
"I've met people with autism and you don't act like them.""I've had depression before, you just need to get more exercise""I've had depression before, why aren't you over yours yet?"

But...man. When you look at those sentences...don't they sound kinda mean? I mean sure, I'm taking them out of context of the larger conversation, but...they mean the same thing even in context don't they? The problem is the other person. They aren't listening to you. They aren't acting like you. They aren't being you. Not a problem with you at all. Nope, no siree bob. It's a problem with them. They need to be like you.

Oh? It's not? That's not what you meant when you said "I've had depression before, why are you over yours yet?" Well...what exactly did you mean?

I've had people before tell me all of the best ways to cure depression. Walks. More exercise. More sunshineeeee!!! Hang out with people more! Talk less. Eat better. On. And on. And on. Some meant well. Some didn't. I'm sure most of them thought they were trying to help on some level, but...man. Have you ever thought about what it really sounds like when you tell someone:
"I've had depression before, why aren't you over yours yet?"

I mean...have you?

I had someone in a position of power tell me this. Someone that I trusted and came to when I was diagnosed. Someone that shared things they did that worked for them. Some worked for me. Some didn't. After a while they became frustrated and told me "You should be better by now. Why aren't you better yet? I got over mine by this point." And man...that was devastating to hear. I did something wrong. I fucked up. I wasn't doing something right. They spent the remainder of that conversation telling me everything that was wrong with me. I lived in the same apartment. I dressed the same every day. Same haircut. Same, same, same.

It took a while for me to realize...I didn't do something wrong. This person? This person that I trusted. This person that was in a position of power...wasn't trying to help me. I don’t know what they were doing to be honest, but I call them a sociopath now.

I’m still undoing the damage they did on me.

I lost people along the way. Ones that I cared about and trusted. Ones that I think believed whatever this other person said. That the problem was me. And some of it was of course. But a lot of it? A lot of it started with that statement “Why aren’t you better yet?”

It’s affected a lot of things along the way. It led me to where I am now. And I know its led me to some of the problems that I’ve had in the last two years. I don’t trust a lot anymore. And I ask too many time if things are ok. I hold on too tight. I take fewer chances. And have my heart broken more. I see more of what I've lost than I've gained and man have I lost a lot. I’ve gained some too.

And I’m still finding my way back.

Everything is the same. Everything is different.

20 May 2016

Death is not a blessing

I started this as a Facebook post and then thought, nope...I need to make this a blog post for others to see. And it's a rough post, not as well written as some of my others, because...well its not an easy topic to talk about and I'm talking about some things I haven't shared before. And maybe I shouldn't share them here, but...sometimes stories need to be told and this is one that I need to tell. And yeah there are some triggers here.

I apparently missed an article that was titled "My former friend's death was a blessing" because this person suffered from mental illness and ended their own life. There are obviously a lot, and I do mean a LOT, of problems with this article and subsequent interviews with the author. The article has been removed (because no shit it should have never been published), but I read this article where they interviewed the author of the article where she say's something that caught my eye:

“I tried to help her many times, but I also realized when I had discovered this that there was nothing I could do to help her,” said Lauren in response. “I am not as powerful as that illness. I have other stuff going on in my life twenty four hours a day. I really thought about helping her, but I also realized this was not going to be a battle I was going to win.”

Cold hard reality, isn't it? If you're friends or know someone that's been dealing with depression maybe you've thought something like this. Maybe you've said something like this. And I get it. I do. It's a hard thing to help someone...but. Man. It sucks to hear that from people that you trust and care about. And all it does is create an even bigger spiral. I've had people tell me something like this before. That they couldn't be there for me as much as I need it. That I was depending upon them too much. Nothing as harsh and callous as this, but...all the same.

I've half talked about it, but the last couple of years have been rough on my mental health. But last year? Yeah...the spiral I experienced last year included a relationship ending where the person told me something like this. That they couldn't be there for me all the time. That I was depending upon them too much. And I knew it. I worried about it. In the weeks before it ended I knew something was wrong when they wouldn't give me honest answers about things. Little lies of promises of things we were going to do. When I asked if I was depending upon them too much and they told me "no" something didn't feel right. I got that bad feeling in my gut and wondered. 

And I started falling. Falling hard. I was ready to die. To no longer be alive. Whether by my own hand or to just vanish into the night. I didn't care. I was lower than low and I struggled hard and I wasn't sure that I'd make it through each day. I had begun to make plans to end my own life. Like real plans to be done with it. What would happen to my things. What bills would be left. What could be wiped out because I was dead. And when those words finally came? To have them suddenly go "nope we're done" jerked the carpet out from under me. And I feel even harder.

I had people that reached out. Kept me from sinking. Got some help that I needed. And was starting to recover when I was blindsided again by someone else that said they would help me out suddenly and quickly, ended whatever it was we had. And rumors. Oh god, the rumors that came after...and other relationships ended or suffered because of it.

And just to be clear I am NOT, NOT, NOT holding any of these people responsible for what happened. My own brain did that. These things didn't help though. Maybe things would have been different if I had talked about just where I was and things wouldn't have ended so badly. Maybe it wouldn't have made any difference at all. I don't know. I know I wish things had been different. I wish things hadn't ended as they did. I wish a lot of things had happened differently. But they didn't.

I know one thing I wish I had said sooner was that I didn't need them 24/7. I know it seemed that way, but...man. Depression is a hard thing and it makes for tunnel vision on who you can trust and call on. It makes it hard to reach out to other people to lean on, so you aren't leaning on one person. It makes it hard to do much of anything to be honest.

It's been a long fucking year to be able to get back up again. And I'm still not where I want to be, but I'm better than I was.

All of this to say...if you know someone that's dealing with depression and they're leaning on you hard. Maybe too hard.  I can't and won't tell you what to do if you're in this position. You've gotta do what's best for yourself also. But, please, get help for yourself. Talk to a counselor, a professional, someone to get advice from. The person leaning may not realize how hard they're leaning and hurting you. Read an article like this one that talks about how hard it is to be the friend. To be the family member. To be the support. I can speak from experience that the person dealing with depression isn't trying to put you into this spot and blinders can be hard to remove.

And if they walk away. If they end their life, please, please don't blame yourself. Ever. No matter what was said, mental illness is NOT any one person's fault.

08 May 2016

The Silence is the Worst

"The Silence of our Friends." It's a powerful idea and I first came across this quote when I read Nate Powell's book "The Silence of our Friends" and it's stuck with me ever since. It resonates in my head far too often on how that silence, that not knowing, that just quietness that comes from people...that's the worst.

Lately its been in my head more often than not. The last couple of years have been rough on me and taken a high emotional toil on my health and well being. Things in GA that happened. Things that happened here in VT. But the worst part of it is all has not been the conflict between people and myself, but the silence of others.

People not wanting to take sides so they stay out of things. People that don't know what to say, so they say nothing at all. And I get it. I do. They don't want to create more conflict or drama or whatever. So they say nothing. They do nothing. And they remain silent, never realizing that by not saying anything, even if its just a kind word or two or just a simple touch, they make things so much worse.

Some did reach out and helped keep me from sinking too far. But others...Perhaps they did do something and the darkness in my head missed it and so they didn't try again. Perhaps they think they did. Perhaps they wanted me to make the first move. Perhaps they were waiting for me to stop being depressed.

All I know is...the silence is the worst.

02 March 2016

Please remember

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In these days when spring struggles to overcome winter, please remember:

To be kind
That we all struggle
That we are all different
Even if our battles seem the same, 
they are different and can be so very, very different
so please, please, please be kind.
To yourself
To others
To all


Please remember, that your battle does not = someone else's battle. Even if you fight something with the same name, it will not, and does not appear the same from person to person.

Just because you fight something called depression or anxiety or anything else, and you meet someone else that does as well, you can't get mad at them or disappointed in them, when what worked for you doesn't work for them. Its great to share stories and offer advice, but the best thing you can do is stand by them. And let them know that you care. Even in the darkest moments when all seems lost, just sit with them.

Please don't tell them that they are cowards if they talking of giving up. Please don't insult them & hope that it shocks them into getting well. Don't try to point out all of the things they have that other people don't. Don't give up on them. Please, PLEASE, just stand by them. Their journey is dark and cold and lonely. And offering a spark in the dark, no matter how small you think it is, can help. 

And if they leave this world, by their own choice or not, remember that they fought a hard battle, even if you don't see the scars. Remember their fight, remember that they did their best to be brave, even in the darkest of nights.

And for the love of all that is holy, if you ever, and I MEAN EVER, tell someone battling depression that they aren't solving it fast enough for you, or still struggling with it after so many months when it should be over, then I hope you are never put into the same spot. And I hope that if you are, the people you belittled with your comments show you mercy that you never gave them.


postscript: Just to reassure people before they ask I'm fine. I'm in a better place mentally than I was a year ago. And I'm writing this about things I've learned in my battle. Things that didn't help. Things that did. Yes all of these happened, mostly from well meaning people. And yes the last one really did happen by someone that wasn't so well meaning, despite calling themselves a Christian, and was in a position of power. I can only hope that one day she is shown more kindness than she ever gave me or many others.