Tag Archives: October

And you didn’t even know they were crazy.

5 Oct

This week, October 5-11, we take a break from our *regularly scheduled programming, Depression Awareness Month,* for a tribute to all other brain fuckery with *this brief interruption, Mental Illness Awareness Week.*

If you’ve read the post before this one, “Depression Is,” you know some of my thoughts on the whole “awareness” bid. I have some bitterness, but for those who really have no clue about the fight that over a quarter of the globe is fighting with themselves, I think being bludgeoned about the head with some PSA’s in an attempt to wake them up is a good thing, at least as a start.

Something that I’ve learned from having my own slew of brain troubles and subsequently finally talking about them, with psychologist-type-peoples and random-strangers-on-the-street-types, is that these mental illnesses that we’ve got running around in our minds, they’re more pervasive than I would have thought. They’re insidious creatures, secret diseases. People don’t like talking about them, because we’ve somehow managed to stamp a stigma on this apparently basic and rampant human experience. So mental illnesses, and people with them, they can be everywhere, and you wouldn’t even notice. Strangers. Friends. Even yourself.

Let’s take a look at some surprising literary and pop characters with whom a lot of you are probably very, very familiar – but might not have known are, in fact, crazy.

1. The Cast of the Hundred Acre Wood

2. The Muppets Your Kids Spend Hours A Week Watching And Learning From

3. Charlie Brown and His Gang

Charlie Brown - Avoidant Personality Disorder (image source)

Charlie Brown – Avoidant Personality Disorder (image source)

Linus - Schizotypal Personality Disorder (image source)

Linus – Schizotypal Personality Disorder (image source)

Lucy - Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissism (image source)

Lucy – Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissism (image source)

So. We’ve got the Christopher Robin and his stuffed, furry friends; all the puppet neighbors of Sesame Street; and Charlie Brown and his club of kiddos. All of them mentally ill, in some way or other. Every. single. one.

And hey! Look! Their worlds don’t fall apart! They don’t all kill each other or blow each other up or any of that! Those three story lines, they’re stories of kids and their friends helping each other get by, supporting and teasing and loving and making good choices and fucking up, just every other normal kid narrative. Because while “mental illness” may sometimes pull us into a world of our own, it doesn’t shove us into some non-human dimension, away from all the “normal” people.

I mean, functionally, dealing with some mental illnesses is simpler than dealing with oh, say, arthritis, or diabetes or even a broken finger. We are all people, dealing with people shit. Let’s stop making each other feel like we’re somehow weird just because our brain instead of our arteries and their fat content are involved, or whatever.

Welcome to the world, land of people who dreamt up Christopher Robin and Charlie Brown and Big Bird. Welcome to the world, where Christopher Robin and Charlie Brown and Big Bird are all perceived as normal, valuable, understandable people. (Or normal, valuable, understandable feathered puppets, as the case may be.)

Those of us with mental illnesses, we are not non-player characters, here. We are protagonists. Fucked up heroes and heroines, just like the rest of you. Not villains. Not ghosts.

We’re all around you, and might not even have known we were here.

Now that‘s kind of crazy, isn’t it?

Depression Is

1 Oct

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Today, October 1st, is the start of Depression Awareness Month. Well, for those of the social media sphere who’ve had no contact with depression, it is. The rest of us, the ones with depression, and the ones next to those who do, we’re already pretty damn aware.

You see, depression, when it’s there, is a hard thing not to be aware of. The harder part, really, is not misconstruing what’s being seen. Because depression, you see, has a whole lot of flavors. And no, none of them are pumpkin spice.

I’ve been fighting depression since… well, it’s hard to pinpoint it, really. Because I came from an environment where people weren’t aware of mental health, let alone depression. I didn’t know anything could be wrong, let alone that it was. I just thought that my constant misgiving, the vague and perpetual sensation that something was wrong for years on end, my bent to remember the less-than-stellar in my life than the few moments of real sparkle – well, I just thought that was normal. I was aware of my sensations; I just wasn’t aware of their diagnosis.

Until my senior year of high school, that is. After years of walking the line between “kinda sad but functional” and “ragingly falling into a dark hole inside,” I finally teetered over the edge. Call it hormones. Call it stress. Call it whatever.

I’m calling it depression.

You see, while I was aware of my accelerating and nauseating hurtle into clinical depression, the others around me didn’t see all those sensations inside, or didn’t want to see them even when I tried to throw them in their face. I used isolation. I used words. I used self-harm and the knife I hid under my bed. I used suicide. The increasingly screaming kettle of pressuring self-hate inside me was something too loud for me not to be aware of, as day after day I just felt wrong, and, left to my own devices to deal with it, eventually came to the conclusion that must have been the thing that was wrong. Guilt guilt guilt guilt. Never mind those other circumstances – a broken home, an ailing sister, a fracturing best friend, flat-out broken brain chemistry – no no, clearly it was all my fault. I just wasn’t trying hard enough. If I were just better, trying harder, I would have been able to fix it all. And then I would have been okay. So clearly, I was the problem. Hey, if I were the problem, then the solution seemed pretty damn apparent, right? In this equation, if X is wrong and unfixable, just remove X…

I wasn’t aware that wasn’t actually the equation.

Let’s fast-forward about six years. So you know, about nowish. I’ve still got depression. But I’m older, wiser, yada yada.

Yeah, it doesn’t suck any less.

If anything, dealing with depression, even though it’s not the blinding, numbing, mind-haze of my high school years, has become harder. Why?

Well, I am more aware.

Let’s fast-track through the past six years. I found words for what I was experiencing. Slowly learned that it’s not my fault. Went to therapy, through treatment, started meds. I’ve seen psychiatrists, psychologists, MFW’s, LCSW’s, PsyD’s, MD’s, RD’s, and fuck knows however many lettered people. After four years of concentrated obliteration, I’ve finally essentially quashed my comorbidity, the ugly Eating Disorder.

But.

There is always a “but,” isn’t there?

I’m not sure I consider myself “better.”

I have learned a great deal, yes. Become more aware of what’s going on with me. I’ve learned how to recognize patterns, spot symptoms, reroute maladaptive coping mechanisms, derail negative thought patterns, notice when my current round of meds are starting to fail again.

Yes, in the mindwork of my depression, self-awareness has helped a shit ton. At least I know what’s going on now.

Yeah, knowing what’s going on doesn’t mean I feel any better.

It’s like… so, imagine if you were shot in the leg with a bullet. Painful, right? You’re bleeding all over the place, leg is throbbing, bullet’s probably still lodged somewhere around your tibia and fibula. If only you could pull the bullet out and adequately wrap up the wound, over time, it would heal, and you would feel better.

Yeah, bullet’s still in your leg and your bleeding out, sweetheart. This mental analysis, even knowing how physiologically your leg needs to heal, that all doesn’t actually make you feel any better when you’ve still just been FUCKING SHOT IN THE LEG.

My depression, now, is kind of like I’m walking around having just been shot in the leg all the time. Yeah, I know what happened to cause me to be in pain. I know what’s going on. I know that hey, maybe one week my psychiatrist and I will finally find a way to pull that goddamn bullet out of my leg and the writhing muscles and nerves and blood vessels will finally stop having to make due with a shitty, bloody situation and heal up once and for all and start working properly again.

Yeah, all that “maybe” kind of hope doesn’t mean I’m not walking around with a fucking bite of a limp.

“But you’re working on figuring out how to get the bullet out!” People will say, as if this is supposed to mean it’s not still painful while it’s in there.

“Aw, come on, you were shot like five weeks ago, can’t you just let it go now?” NO, THE BULLET’S STILL FUCKING THERE AND I’M BLEEDING OUT AND IT’S FUCKING PAINFUL, THANK YOU.

And then, should I manage to find a position to stand where the weight’s not on my leg, and it doesn’t hurt so much, and someone makes a funny joke and I manage to pull up a half-sort of smile – “Oh look! A smile! That bullet in your leg can’t hurt that badly then, can it?”

Excuse me, clinic doctor that I visit a couple weeks ago for a sinus infection, while I punch you in the face.

So, I walk around, bullet-in-leg, never knowing if it’ll ever come out, leaving the situation to fester and fall into feeling hopelessness. I wonder if maybe, instead of walking around in life with this limp that I can remember what it was like to run and skip and dance without, instead of always being reminded that if I’m not cautious my heel will slip and my leg will jolt with pain, which it wouldn’t have had I still had that life unencumbered with a bullet in my calf – well, I start wonder if maybe, it would be better if I just cut the leg off. If I can’t pull the bullet out and let the leg heal, then I just need to get rid of the leg altogether.

Problem is, the issue’s not in my leg. It’s in my brain.

Suicidality is no longer an impassioned, pained sort of self-destructive urge. The thought becomes not “I am a problem” but just “I am not working out.” It’s a weary sort of defeat. The wish is not to be dead, but to no longer live in pain. Death, this time, is just a side-effect.

That is the kind of awareness depression has for me.

I am still here, writing this blog, obviously. I have friends that pull me back, friends whose selfish wish to keep me here for themselves is something I am grateful I can keep my life tethered to. They, thankfully, are aware of what it’s like for me to carry that bullet in my leg, and they help carry me, so that the bullet doesn’t finally make its way to my brain.

They see me, and I am grateful for it.

What do you need to be aware of, around you? In you?

As despondent as I may get about my own prospects, I wish hope eternal for everyone else with those goddamn depression bullets. It’s not fair, guys. It’s just not. And I’m sorry about that. I hope that one day, we have better, more effective options than chasing after “maybe’s” or translocating where that bullet is.

It’s a fight, guys. I know we’re all way too painfully aware of that. But hey, if we’re still here and trying, at least we’ve given the world something to notice, too.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org