17 August 2014

Depression and modern society are lying aholes

This is a post that I've been thinking about for a few days now and it's rough, raw, emotional and if you don't like it that's fine.  I'm not writing it for you.  I've combined two ideas into one, because it works for me.  

I heard about the news of Robin Williams passing somewhere in Virginia.  I'm not exactly sure where, because my dad and I were in the process of moving 90% of my belongings to Vermont so I can start my new journey.  Like many I was stunned, shocked, and didn't want to believe it.  I couldn't.  Williams has been such a huge part of my life that its weird to think that we'll never see the humor and laughter in his eyes again.  Or hear the Genie's voice or any of the thousands of others that Williams could do. This YouTube video captures some of what I feel about Williams passing:

The news reporters being the jackasses that they are, went with "facts" that "speculated" that Williams had died of a drug overdose.  This was of course incorrect as it was revealed that Williams had been suffering from depression and committed suicide.  I had to keep driving to unload the truck and then turn around and drive 18 hours back to Georgia so that I can finish my life here, before moving to Vermont for the next couple of years, if not longer.  But my brain turned and turned, along with other things that have fired my brain into wanting to create and draw, which is a good thing.  It's also made me stop worrying, for the moment at least, on what others may say about what I want to create and write and do, which is also a good thing. And this post is one of those things.

Some of the events: Robin Williams passing; Ferguson, MO; an ARC of Liz Prince's Tomboy, Erika Moen's comic "I want to live," and preparing and moving a large portion of my belongings and life to Vermont.  Dots of connection in life, time, space, and everything in between and led me to think about my life.  The parts and events and everything that led me to where I am and to where I'm going.

I plan on writing a comic about my experiences with depression.  Williams passing has of course influenced it, as well as Moen's comic, posts by TheBloggess, Lee Thompson Young's death last fall, and others.  I won't share everything here that comic will have, but here is some of it: Depression for me is battling a monster.  A 15 foot tall, 20,000 pound beast, with razor sharp claws and intelligence that gives physical scars and whispers into my ear leaving wounds that gape open.  Some scars are small, some are deep, but while they may no longer bleed, they were never really heal.  The scars are cumulative and painful and we wear them and hope and plead that someone else will see them, but they may never. Some do, but they don't understand depression doesn't heal. Ever. It never goes away. We may beat it back, but it is still there waiting to come again.

Another part of the comic will deal with depression and suicide.  That is something that also struck me about Williams death that people have trouble understanding that depression doesn't care who you are, what you make, what you do for a living...it strikes none the less.  And some of the things people said about Williams suicide...well frankly they were and are horrifying.  The Bloggess says it best:  "Depression is a lying bastard" and as much as we may know it, it knows how to dig its claws into the brain and leave gaping wounds.  It says things like "Did you see how they flinched when you came in?  You're upsetting them. You. Not the situation, not the weather. It's you." It forces us to wall ourselves off and hide in hopes of not hurting others and then says things like "See. They don't care. And the ones that do all you do is hurt them.  They would be better off with out you."  That....that is some of what I have heard over the years, that is what has led me to wishing to have a button, like Erika draws in her comic, to remove me from this world.  It isn't that I didn't think about the people around me or those that I would leave behind, it is that I thought they would be better off without me around.  Depression is a lying asshole.  I am not listening to it now and I know it is lying...but it will come back.  And all I can do is believe that I am strong enough and have the support I need to fight the beast.

And this ties into the realization that "modern society" is also a lying ahole.  And there will be a comic about it.  It's inspired, in part, by Liz Prince's Tomboy.  And in part by the fact that "society" wishes to tell us what is and isn't the right way of doing things or being.  It does it with depression. It does it with life.  And I'm tired of society trying to tell me what it is that I'm supposed to be or do.  I tweeted about it last night:

I will make a comic about this.  And society and depression can bite me.  In remembrance of Robin and others that have fought and continue to fight depression I leave you with these videos:  

and this idea:
The lies will not win today and tomorrow will bring a new day and a new battle.  Make of it what you will.  Make of it what you may.  Make it better.  Make it different.  Make it weirder.  Most of all make it you.

21 July 2014

You are not alone

In recent months I've blogged about my depression and anxiety, my diagnosis as being on the Asperger's spectrum, and beginning new journeys.  And as I began packing and the sorting of my physical life, I've done the same with my mental life.  And I realized that I keep giving...this demon, this darkness, this despair, whatever you want to call it more power than it deserves because I haven't talked about it.  Not as much as I could have and not as much as I should have.  So I'm going to change that now.

I don't want to tell the whole story here, in part because some of it is still being written, and in part because this just isn't the right forum for all of it.  One day perhaps...I've lived with depression and anxiety all of my life.  I didn't know that's what it was called nor was I ever formally diagnosed with it until two years ago this August.  While it bothered me a few times a year, I could feel it coming and prepare myself and have it go on after a week or so.  Two years ago though it came and it stayed and it didn't go away.

I began seeing a counselor who has helped me more than they will ever know.  I've taken medication that has helped.  I've sought advice from friends, coworkers, and complete strangers some of which was helpful and some of which was not.  I hurt people that I care about and they hurt me in return.

I've been dealing with a bullying situation for quite some time now, where a person that I trusted threw everything that I had told them back at me.  That I hadn't progressed as much as they wanted with my depression.  That I needed fat clothes.  That I needed to rethink my career because I wasn't cut out to be a librarian anywhere.  That they wouldn't give me a reference.  And more.  Things that were more cutting and hurtful than anything else I've ever been told before.

And now I get to the part where I can count on one hand how many people know what I'm about to say.  Towards the end of April I came as close as I've ever come to breaking completely.  I was so distraught over some things that were going on that I composed an email that I was going to send out to a group of people.  Before I did so I shared it online, in a private place to ask what they thought.  And the people that responded thought it sounded like a suicide note.  It wasn't meant to be that, but...at the same time it was.  I wasn't looking to cause harm to myself or anything like that, but I didn't want to be around anymore.  I wanted to just vanish.  And be gone.  A handful of folks reached out to me and one in particular kept messaging me until I called my counselor, went to see them, and then got back.  And then kept touch with me over the next few weeks to see how I was and to help me out.  I took time off to get my head back in place as much as I could and made plans to how to improve my situation.

And we come to the present.  I'm feeling better, but still struggling.  Not what I was a few weeks ago, but there are still days that are rough and hard.  But there have been people that have continued to stand by me and help me when I need it.  To remind me that I am not alone.  So that in turn I can help remind others that they are not alone.

The world keeps spinning and I know that there are people that will sit with me and say nothing other than they are there.  And that I am not alone.

26 June 2014

The river flows and the journey moves on

via: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33488462@N04/3771091859/
When I think about life, I generally think about a stream and how it moves around the landscape.  Growing up there was a stream that ran behind our house and it had this one spot that was perfect for playing in.  It had gently sloping sides for easy access and the water was so still that you could see the minnows playing tag at the bottom and the water spiders could dance upon the surface.  But it was only this was for about five feet, before it changed, as a stream does.  It flowed down rocks and around trees, creating little eddies that trapped leaves, and it would flow down hills and create mini-falls and through culverts that man attempted to control it by. And sometimes...sometimes the stream would forge its on way to move past obstacles, before getting back into the path later on.  But it moved on.

And like the stream that forged its own path to get past obstacles, I'm doing the same.  After 8 years at Mercer University, I will be leaving my position on August 21, 2014 and begin a new phase of career/life/journey.  This fall I will begin the MFA in Applied Cartooning at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont.  This is the inaugural class for the MFA in applied cartooning and I'm excited to be a part of it.  I've been describing the program as using my skills, talents, abilities, etc. for helping connect comics/graphic novels to the larger community, whether it be schools or health organizations or libraries or other, but I'll be helping the larger community discover the power of the illustrated word.  Over the last few years a passion of mine has been helping my library, and others to a smaller extent, connect with how comics and graphic novels are an integral part of not just reading, but our learning experiences.  So I'm excited to have the chance to work towards expanding this on a much broader level.

So what does that mean for this blog and my connection with libraries?  Honestly?  Well...I won't be presenting at library conferences as much, at least for a while.  Otherwise...not much.  Y'all are stuck with me until the ends of time as the library is in me.  I still have ideas/things I want to write about the larger library world and I will.  As far as comics and graphic novels go, I'm still striving to help libraries with connecting with comics, graphic novels, artists, publishers, common core standards, challenges, etc....just on a bit of a broader level now.  I'll be sharing what's going on with me on in a variety of spots most likely, so look here or to my webpage, ashuping.net, to keep up.

So...if you're interested, stay tuned, and hold on cause the stream is about to curve.

22 May 2014

The problem is not with Google

So someone that I follow somewhere shared a link to this article from the Huffington Post about "What's really wrong with Google"and frankly...it's disappointing as all get out.  The writer identifies themselves as an ex-librarian and starts off with a solid point, that a lot of the time Google does not return the results that people are looking for.  But she then delves into the fallacy that it is Google's fault that this happens, that Google is trying to do away with libraries, and gosh darnit! get that technology out of my library! Or at least that's what it sounds like, given that she states that DIALOG is the pinnacle of searching interfaces.

I really wanted to respond on the post with my thoughts, but...well let's just say that I have issues with their account creation system and leave it at that.  So instead I share my thoughts below:

I'm a librarian and frankly I'm disappointed in your argument that there's something wrong with Google and how people use it.  Yes Google doesn't always return results on topic, but should you blame them? 
You mention DIALOG and I've only used it once..in library school.  DIALOG has faded into the background because it was overly complicated for people to try to use and only librarians could use it. As far as it being able to provide good results, those didn't happen by accident. It happened because someone went through and assigned them the correct terminology. The same could happen today, but it's up to the web programmers to do that 
As far as Google's interface goes, I don't blame them from running away from library interfaces. I mean seriously? I've got a Master's and I still struggle trying to figure out some of the interfaces of the databases that we use today.  Look at DIALOG's "classic" interface! I understand it better now that I've worked with the Linux command line, but no wonder most people couldn't figure it out.
Is Google the be all end all? No...but nor is it Google's fault that result are not what people want. It is because we don't know how to search well and what words to use. We never have to be honest. Even back in card catalog days we had to depend on the librarian to be able to follow the trail. The problem is not Google, but that we have failed to teach people how to search properly. And that is up to us to improve.

And I'm absolutely serious.  We've failed at teaching people how to search.  With card catalogs most of the population couldn't figure out the trail to connect A to Z without a librarian's help. I mean seriously, I remember looking for information on dinosaurs in middle/high school and we had to look at 100 different cards to find 10 sources that I could use.  And it wasn't because they were bad sources, it was because we had to trace through 3 to 5 different cards to find the item sometimes.  So it really should not be a shock to our systems that people leaped at the chance to have a single search box interface that they could actually understand and it would give them some things that were what they wanted?

If we, as librarians, want people to be able to find better results then we need to stop blaming the products like Google and teach our users on how those results are found, and what they can do to get better results.