05 December 2014

Death, living, and art

CC by me, Andy Shuping
If you've made it past the post title yay! Good for you.  Throwing the word Death in a title is never an easy thing, but this has been rolling around in my head for a while now and I'm getting it out with words.  Comic to come at some point on it.

Back in college I remember going to an overnight church retreat with friends that I probably only saw about three times a year, so we always had interesting conversations on everything and anything.  One of my friends at the time was premed, strong willed, opinionated, and didn't take shit.  I don't even remember what we were talking about, but when another dude found out she was premed he started an earnest conversation about wanting to know what the next big diseases were going to be so that he could prepare for them.  What was the next plague, the next cancer, and so on and so forth.  He didn't want to die and he wanted to know what he could do to keep living.  I don't recall if either of us actually said this to him, or if it was just something we were both thinking, but I think we said to him something along the lines of "Why spend your time worrying about what might come or might happen?  Live! You could die from something random, why worry about something that might never happen?  Live!" I don't think he ever got why we thought it was weird to worry about what might come.

Given everything that's happened in the last few months in the world, I've been thinking about that conversation again.  And in the context of my own life.  In part because the last couple of years I let other things get in way of me living life.  I listened to well meaning people that tried to shove me down a path they thought was best for me, thought it wasn't the right one for me. Of not standing up to people in my life and calling them what they are and speaking up for myself.  Of letting a former boss tell me that I needed to think about what I said, how I wrote, how I did things, etc. in life and how it reflected on her and my library.  Because that's what matters right?  Screw having an opinion of your own, toe the line and think my way.  Good times right?  I got caught in my own trap of worrying about things that were beyond my control and of not living.  And forgetting how to create.

And when things seemed at their worst, things that I'm still not prepared to talk about publicly yet, a new path presented itself.  And I left that world.  I cut ties with some things rather forcefully, the former boss for example.  Others, for better or for worse, friends and people that I miss, decided to cut ties on their own, believing what they choose without asking questions.  And while it hurt and while there were pains the last few months of being in an environment of creating, of making, of not having to justify why I do something for other than artistic/creative reasons, and not having to worry about how my art will reflect back on someone else, has been frightening, scary as hell, awesome, and amazing all at the same time.  Its freeing to be able to pursue my dreams and my passions again.  And to begin to feel like myself again.  

And in this season of remembrance, thanks, and wishes, I am grateful for those that have stood with me across worlds, of those that have entered my world and who challenge me, of those that never left, of those that have but may come back, and those that are yet to come.  

And so this is my wish to all this holiday season.  Life is too damn short.  Use those things saved for "special" occasions.  Tell people that you care.  Don't be silent.  Keep fighting.  Keep making.  Keep being yourself.

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.