Reflections on a Theme

This post came across my Facebook feed this morning:


Naturally there were streams of support, streams of criticisms but one happened to catch my eye. Someone told Jared that he should not “stoop” and that she was “extremely disappointed” in his behavior, because he was calling out a human being publically. Here’s what he said (and yes, although probably unnecessarily, I did blot out her name):


I immediately gravitated towards the following phrases:

1. “Not welcome and “less than””

2. “Not entitled to share my concerns or unhappiness because I’m a “celebrity””

3. “That’s akin to the people who told me that I should be “happy” because I am “successful” and that I shouldn’t have “depression” or “anxiety” because “famous people” are so “lucky”. And I very much don’t appreciate being victim shamed, even though I’m “famous” and should just “deal with it and keep quiet about it”. At the end of the day, I am a human being that breathes oxygen.”

4. “I’m truly sorry that the existence of my hurt disappointed you, and I wish you peace and happiness.”
Okay, so I know I basically just typed out the entire thing, but the 4 quotes I pulled are important. Why? Becuase they are classic depression quotes. I numbered them so I can analyze them more strategically. And at the end, I will wrap up with some thoughts about my analysis.

1. Doubting self-worth, being sensitive to the actions and negativity of others. It’s a pretty common theme in depression to doubt everything about yourself, to feel that other people just “hate you” because of who you are. And it’s easier to pick up on feeling that way when you’re depressed.

2. Believing that you are required to be a certain person, act a certain way because of arbitrary factors in your life. This one hits pretty hard too, especially among individuals fighting their symptoms. It doesn’t matter if those arbitrary factors are “career”, “education”, “gender roles”, “age”, “geography”, “economy”, “culture” or other-you feel as though you cannot be yourself and have a hard time dealing with that.

3. Feeling like you must defend your feelings to others, based on the fact that you are human too. This one hits home. Because whenever I don’t feel acknowledged or validated in my concerns and emotions, I immediately volley between this one and number 4. It’s a quick jump to feel like you have to justify the way you’re feeling because you feel alienated by the people who should understand-on the basis that they’re people too. You extend them that courtesy, and expect them to extend it back.

4. Apologizing for feeling the way you do, because it causes discomfort to someone else-something you never intended. At some point we’ve all done it. Apologized for going on a rant (and feeling like you’ve taken up the entire conversation), apologized for crying after a hard day, bad news, or other event. Apologized for feeling like an inconvenience simply because you existed. You didn’t want to put your baggage on someone else, it just kind of happened and you’re sorry. (Even if there isn’t a reason to be sorry.)

Conclusion: While not all of these things indicate depression and in fact, are very typical to things like defending your actions, interacting with rude, belittling people and a host of other things, as someone who has spent more time in a depression than not, I think I stand by my analysis that the wording chosen is representative of a spike in depression.

Although I am incredibly disheartened that experiences like this happen (and we all know they do happen), I pulled this story because it is such a great discussion piece about mental health and the stigmas still faced. I can just as easily reanalyze those quotes in the following way:

1. Stigma: Those with mental illnesses aren’t welcome members in society.

2. Stigma: Those with careers in public spotlight should not suffer from mental illnesses.

3. Stigma: Those with mental illnesses shouldn’t express the pain they are in. (AKA: The “It’s All In Your Head” Stigma).

4. Stigma: People with mental illnesses are burdens to society.

And suddenly, it’s the same story remade to explain a broader issue. Think with me, if you will, how many things you could replace “mental illness” with. We’ve become a people who are afraid to stand up for ourselves. Afraid of what might happen if we demand basic human rights. Afraid of what might become of us when we call out an injustice. It has become a cultural trend to victim blame. I read over those statements and looked at the way my brain interpreted them. I jumped to depression because it is a condition I know and understand very well. But I also know sexual assault very well. And if I plop a little interpretation into this conversation it looks a little bit like this:

1. Stigma: Victims of sexual assault are not welcome members in society with equal rights.

2. Stigma: Those who choose to dress in anyway close to “revealing” should not expect to be exempt from sexual assault.

3. Stigma: Victims of sexual assault shouldn’t expect justice. (*Casts side-eye to Stanford and U.Colorado judges*)

4. Stigma: Victims of sexual assault are burdens to society.

What Jared did when he wrote this response was open the dialogue to the ways in which we (as a culture) judge others on arbitrary categories. “Celebrity”, “Mental Illness”, “Victim” all have become code words for a language we barely even know we’re speaking. Suddenly, we attribute roles to these words which themselves had no connotations before, and now have changed to “Perfect”, “Defective”, “Liar” respectively. The way we use the key to our culture, the very foundation of how we describe ourselves and the world around us is changing slightly every day. And it is because of this key that the formation of our very thoughts are coming into question.

Thought to consider for the day:

We are all human beings. We breathe the same air, our hearts pump the same way. Look at the way you judge others, the way you look them over and determine your interpretation of them. Do you see a person struggling to get by in life? Do you see their battles, struggles, victories and failures? Or do you see the person you want to see, covered in the veils of biases?

I end my thoughts today with a fitting quote from the movie Ten Inch Hero (which is one of my favorites).

Your Own Reflection

It’s so easy for people to brush off the emotions of others. Why is that? It’s so easy to brush everything off onto the “bigger” piles of “patriarchy”, “cultural appropriation” and “differences” that we forget that everyone is just as much of a person as we are. Why is it that we are so willing to refuse the courtesy we desire to others who desire it too? I’ll tell you.

We never learned how to take others seriously, let alone take ourselves seriously.

Something you learn as a sufferer of depression is that you can never really know someone. That there is a metaphorical, semi-tangible wall that is built in between each and every person, so that eventually it’s like we’re all trapped in these impermeable bubbles of self. And the only things that can get through these bubbles are negatively charged thoughts and actions: judgment, violence, anger, shame, worthlessness. But soon enough, all those things push out whatever is left in your bubble, until you are filled with negativity yourself. You breathe it in, like the pollution it is and you become trapped. Imagine then, if you will, everyone being like that.

other side

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, I think the glass is reflective. If you look hard enough at someone, you will almost always see pain. And who’s to say that that isn’t an externalized projection into an internalized emotion?

eye mirror

In my Facebook news this week, Jim Carrey gave a $200 tip to a waitress. And a state of emergency was issued by the leadership of the Attawapiskat after 11 members of their tribe committed suicide IN THE SAME DAY. An interracial couple was evicted in Mississippi simply for being an interracial couple. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan persists. And I know, you’re thinking, Michelle, what does Jim Carrey have to do with this type of news? Jim is one of millions who suffers from depression. His girlfriend died from it less than a year ago.

We may never know what goes on in the minds of others, unless we take the time to get to know them, their stories. I’ve been “preaching” for months about love, equality, human rights. We all believe some fundamental lie about ourselves-that there is something to be proud of by doing things alone. That we are inherently “less than” if we ask for help, if we reach out. I’m here to put an end to that line of thought.

unhappyYou are not flawed. You are you, and that is enough. Do you hear me? You are not some horrid, wretched creature pulled up from the depths. You are a fierce warrior, battle hardened and brave. You don’t have to do this alone. You never did. There are others there, just beyond, who understand, who have lived that same thing. And they are fighting to find others like them too. All you have to do is reach out.

dr

 

I wish there were more words, better ones, that allowed me to express these facts. But the thing is, as I have said on my Facebook page, it is quite easy to take Disney lyrics and make them more philosophical when applied to today’s climate. Just look:

 

I’ll take my leave with this one final picture.

rights.png

Thankfulness, Day 16

Today I am thankful. That’s what I set out to do, afterall. I wanted to change my attitude about the way I saw the world, just as I vow to do every year. And whether I’m thankful for abstract concepts or things which are very much concrete, I try to keep those ideals in my head, remembering the reasons why I’m thankful for them in the first place. Today, I could not find a concrete thing, so I went for the abstract. But before I get to what it is exactly, I think I want to share a story.

When I was a child and the all powerful “they” asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was a coroner. I was reprimanded for that answer, and was told that being a doctor was something I should want to focus on instead. I was five.

When I was in elementary school, I told people that I could heal them with leaves and would go around placing frsh picked leaves on any scrapes and injuries there were. I was then informed about germs and germ theory, and how there were things in motion about the way the body healed itself that I didn’t understand. I was 9. 

When I was in middle school, I thought I wanted to play volleyball. Although the season was tough, I lasted through it. I even become a valued player. I was told that quitters will never succeed and that even if I was completely miserable, I was not supposed to give up. I was supposed to suffer through it. (This advice did NOT come from my parents, but rather from the mother of another player.) I was 13.

When I was in high school, I assumed I could change the world and save everyone in it. I lost countless hours of sleep, cried with other people, uplifted spirits who were torn to shreds. It is then that I learned that if you really want to help someone, they have to want to hep themselves. I had been a pawn in the lives of people who soon forgot about my efforts, even though I never forgot about them. I was 15.

When I went to college, I thought it would be just like high school-something I could easily succeed at if I just paid attention. How wrong I again was. College broke through my assumptions an pinned me to the wall, beating me for my metaphorical lunch money. It was then that I learned that sometimes I will just know nothing. I was 18.

When I got married, I thought it would be just like dating, only my private life would become, you know-private. But it was then that I learned the true power of gossip. I was 21.

I’ve never fit into the mold neatly, or even altogether willingly. I’ve been too much of some things and not enough of others. People have used me as a way to see their own ends, just as I have done so to others. I have been to the depths of my soul, broken down by the hurtful words of bullies, who didn’t understand that the number on the scale, or the one which represented my bank account were not the things which defined me as a person. I have heard the hateful words of wellwishers, pushing me down paths that were more acceptable because it wasn’t right for “someone so gifted to be so morbid”. I have heard the lessons, felt the sting and have risen from my past, more alive than before.

Today, I am thankful that I was never quite right. I was always too much, or not enough. My heart came too big, just like my waistline and my bank account was never full enough. That I spent too much time hearing the cries of others and not enough time quelling slander directed at tearing me down. Am I perfect? Hardly! Am I bulletproof? Not a chance! I’m not a robot and words do hurt. But what I am is myself, and in then end, all that happened simply led me to be who I wanted to be-for all the exactly right reasons.