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Archive for the ‘Depression’ Category

I was prepping food earlier and while I was dividing out everything that I needed before I started I got to thinking about garlic.

Garlic is the best, right?

If you don’t like garlic I don’t know if we can be friends, but anyway.

I’m not really here to talk about why garlic is the bomb. But more so, what is the purpose of garlic and how do you go about drawing that essential quality of it out?

Garlic is so potent. The usable part of garlic is surrounded by a thicker skin and then several layers of a husk. The husk seems stable in holding the garlic together while it’s closed around it but once you begin to peel it away you see how frail it is, and the slightest move in the air will find the husk being whisked away effortlessly. The skin, it’s a little more stubborn. You have to work to get it off, one of the best ways to accomplish this is actually by cracking it against the back of a knife so that it splits open and you free it up a bit so you can peel with ease.

As I was peeling my garlic, ridding it of the husk and then with a little more effort peeling the skin away, I started thinking about how I feel a little bit like garlic sometimes. Or at least my journey with mental illness makes me feel that way.

Today is the first day of spring and I am ready to welcome it. I hate the winter.

I am an introvert, yes. But I also love to be outside. SO, that’s a weird combination sometimes. I need fresh air, but I also need space.

The winter always heightens my feelings of depression and anxiety because there is so much time spent indoors and it’s pretty gray often.

This year was a little different than normal, because in NC we’ve had about, ummm, 3 hours of winter. But still, the official change of season has me reflective none the less.

When I choose to speak about the battles I fight with my brain and my surroundings I know that it resonates with some people, it’s made a lasting impression on some of my now friends, who I otherwise wouldn’t be connected to had I not opened up sometime about something. It makes me feel like that usable garlic, that makes a noted difference and adds something to the end result.

But the process of getting to those moments where I connect with someone over this unfortunate bond is similar to the process of getting garlic to that beneficial state. It’s a little bit of work.

Through the ups and downs of my anxiety and depression some situation or conversation will cause that outer later of me to start to open up, and that’s where things are fragile and frail.

I have a friend who observed me in a panic attack a few months ago say afterwards they could see the moment the change took place on my face and they noticed a shift in my stance and voice. That’s the husk, whatever disturbs it can take away what is seems to be effortlessly holding it all together. In that moment where my skin feels hot and the room is spinning and my irrational thoughts are assaulting me at a million miles an hour, that’s the outer layer coming off and I can tell you: I feel completely helpless and it feels like this battle was meant to destroy me. In those moments I don’t feel like my struggle is helpful or usable or something to be shared.

But then, the next phase.

Once that outer layer is gone there’s a more stable protection in place. It’s like the skin on the garlic, you have to use a little effort to strip it away. I feel that skin being peeled away when I open up to people on a personal level about myself and the way I process things.

Do you know how crazy a person with anxiety can sound to someone who doesn’t have anxiety? Just ask someone who doesn’t have anxiety (actually don’t).  I can mouth off about anything to anyone when it comes to a screen. I post ridiculous or funny or controversial or sentimental things on social media and I stand by those things – but I’m not always as willing to be as vocal in person or even on a one on one message thread. Some of my thought processes sound so ridiculous that I don’t even like talking about them out loud usually, but my momentary embarrassment at times seems to continually be rewarded by meaningful friendships or memorable moments when I can reveal some of my anxious tendencies so that someone else will learn that they are not alone, and no – they are not crazy. It’s like the protective skin of the garlic, whenever someone engages in a conversation with me in person about my struggles or their struggles, or in a message, I can feel that protective layer being pricked. It’s in that moment when the conversation shifts from the silly and everyday to the vulnerable and straightforward that I understand the purpose of having to shed all those outer layers. I’m finally down to the form of understanding how my struggles don’t have to box me in and destroy me, but the very thing I fight can also be a thing that enhances my relationships and can be used for good and important things.

Every message I get or conversation I have with someone who feels the weight of my words because they carry similar struggles inside is freeing to me because it reminds me of the goodness of relationships which I sometimes avoid. Even for people who don’t understand, there are people I talk to who love someone like me and maybe the person they love can’t articulate the things I say here in this blog or on some of my Facebook posts, and opening up that bit of insight for them reorients my thinking on mental illness and it feels less like a burden and more like a privilege. I guess that might sound a little silly, but I do truly consider it a privilege to be able to say what some of you feel that you aren’t able to say, and in turn help the people that love you learn to love you better. This is when I’m usable garlic: when I go through all those layers of living a panic attack, the shift in my behavior being noticed, having a conversation about it, and then coming here to document it all, which as I’ve always said: this blog is for me. It’s free therapy to catalog how I feel when I feel it and reflect on how much I’ve grown. But, I’m pretty thankful you’re here too.

Anyway, that’s how I feel like garlic.

Maybe you have something you live through day in and day out and you can’t see the purpose in it, you’re not sure how it’s useful or you hate it or you feel alone or misunderstood but maybe, just maybe, you are like garlic, too.

Unless you hate garlic, and then we can’t be friends.

ūüėČ

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The struggle is real.

It’s a four word phrase tossed around about things that aren’t struggles. Ya know, like the first day back to classes for the high schoolers and they are all tweeting “gotta be in pre-alg at 7:40am #thestruggleisreal” or when we girls have a bad hair day and we’re all “humidity -amirite????? the struggle is real” or when Trader Joe’s is out of those¬†candy-cane joe joe’s before it’s even cold outside (that struggle is pretty real, actually).

Anyway, you get what I’m saying.

Some struggles though? They are pretty real.

Most physical struggles people merit realness to without much argument. Seeing someone who has lost their hair in chemo- a struggle we see as real. A wheelchair bound person navigating through unforgiving spaces in a supermarket or mall- a struggle we see as real.

Mental struggles though? Sometimes, most of the time, those are easily dismissed and stigmatized in a way that makes it feel like the person who struggles from these things is simply at fault for just not having a handle on their own life.

I don’t know many people that would approach someone battling cancer and remind them that someone has it worse than they do, to stop feeling sorry for themselves, it’s all in their head, or their cousin tried a home remedy and cured them within 12 seconds so if you would just try it you could probably overcome as well.

I’ve never had cancer, so I can’t claim those things – but I’ve heard people speak to people with evident physical struggles and heard people speak to (and experienced the unsolicited advice in regards to) someone struggling with a mental issue. We approach these differently.¬†I continue to believe (as I’ve said in previous posts) that we just don’t talk about mental illness enough.

So here I am, to continue to talk about mine.

The last time I wrote on depression was a year ago. You can click that link or be satisfied to just read this as a free-standing post.

One thing I wrote in that post is “I am not depressed today so it is easier for me to think about it objectively, but living in the moment of depression ‚Äď it seems at times like you can‚Äôt take ownership over anything…”

Lately though? I’ve been feeling that depression creep back in and I’m not sure I’ve ever written about depression publicly while I was dealing with hints of it here and there and I think that could be beneficial. So here we go.

Maybe you are one of those people that gives glossed over statements to people who struggle with depression or anxiety or name-your-mental-illness. Maybe you learn something by reading this, maybe you need more time to realize there is something to learn. Wherever you are in your understanding of mental illness, I hope you take time to try to understand it better, there is always more to learn. This is depression focused because that’s what I’m dealing with currently, but much of what I’m saying¬†can be applied to other mental illnesses.

I’m nowhere near the most depressed I’ve ever been, but I’ve felt it breathing in my direction lately and so I feel like this is as good a time as any to keep the conversation on mental illness alive. So how about we tackle what some people typically say vs what may be better to say….here we go:

1. Well, try to remember someone always has it worse than you do.  

This approach minimizes depression in a few ways. First, it warrants that perspective is going to win over a condition you can’t control. Second, it’s telling someone¬†that they¬†aren’t allowed to feel what they feel because someone else is feeling something worse.

The perspective shift problem is that depression is not something I choose – just like someone else doesn’t choose cancer. Sure, there are things you can do to decrease the risk of suffering from one or the other – but those are not a sure fix.¬†So, yeah, even when I’m taking care of myself, eating well, sleeping when I can, not indulging in negativity, exercising, etc…I can still suffer from depression. So asking me to remember how much better I have it than someone else, doesn’t validate another person’s real/worse-off struggle so that I can feel blessed, but instead makes me feel invalidated and worse than I was before.

Also, it’s as if saying to someone who is hungry that someone else is starving so they aren’t allowed to be hungry. Both need nourishment, to different degrees, but nourishment is needed none-the-less. So, if you want someone to feel worse about themselves, then sure- stick with this line, if you want to breathe life and hope into someone, I’d encourage you to try:¬†I am sorry you are dealing with this, what you are feeling is important because you are important.

2. Stop feeling sorry for yourself

The thing about¬†depression is it isn’t just a feeling, as much as it is a state of mind. Depression isn’t self-pity. Actually, I would argue most people who are depressed really feel so incredibly awkward when you focus on them, and they are not trying to draw attention to themselves. Self-pity is a ‘woe is me’ type of feeling that says: look at how awful my life is because the world is against me, please feel sorry for me because I’m better than my situation and I am blameless in all of this.¬†Depression is a type of mindset that says: look how awful you are, your surroundings/circumstances are a product of your inadequacy, you are to blame for how you feel.

When you tell a depressed person to¬†stop feeling sorry for¬†themselves, you’re helping to perpetuate the lie that they have ownership of controlling the feeling and thus they are to blame. I cannot control what I feel, I can control how I respond to what I feel. Instead you may want to say:¬†I’m sorry you feel that way, here are some truths about you that I love: _____________” ¬†Honestly you can go all Aibeleen Clark on them: You is kind, you is smart, you is important.

Meaningful encouragement to a depressed person is like laying in front of the lit fire place after coming in from a snowfall. It warms what is feeling frozen. My best friend often tells me that she is “less without me”, the volume of¬†those three words are¬†unexplainable at times but if there is someone in your life that adds to the richness of your life in any way, let them know that.

3. It’s all in your head.

Well, duh.

This is sort of the beginning of the definition of depression – it is literally all in my head. Chemical imbalances that skew my outlook.

Thanks.

So full of help.

ūüôā

Really though, while it factually is in my head – this does nothing practical for me and it’s another way to minimize the way my mind is working, which is again something I am not in control of. You’re telling a person because something isn’t on the outside it isn’t merited as real. So, if we’re going to dismiss mental issues, let’s dismiss love too – because that’s all in your heart. Or let’s dismiss logic because that’s all in your brain. Ok.

If you’re tempted to say this to someone, I would try just¬†saying:¬†If you want to talk, I’m here for you.

Sometimes because it is “all in our head”, it feels silly or embarrassing to vocalize things that we often know are ridiculous or untruthful thoughts. So, if you’re actually good at listening, offer to, even if they turn you down – it means a lot to know a door is open that they’ve probably been staring at hoping it would open.

4. This worked for such and such, so how about you try it and it will work for you?

Nope.

Unless it’s essential oils, then just nope. (I’m kidding about oils, kind of).

Here’s a reminder about medication, exercise, diet changes, naturopathic approaches: every individual body reacts differently to everything.

I think it is well-intentioned to let someone know you know of something that has helped them or someone they know, but the key to this is not making one solution fit all people.

It’s added pressure for someone to feel like they can fix you with their one step solution. Because if it doesn’t work, then what? You just feel more broken.

(let me interject that this is how a lot of pregnant women feel when you tell them a sure fire way to ‘cure’ morning sickness, this is such a sick joke – stop doing it! ūüėČ not that I would know, I digress…)

If you know someone who has had a positive result from some kind of treatment, lifestyle change, specific voodoo system with seven thousand steps, first ask: Would you like to hear how I approached this/what worked for me/what worked for this person I know? If the answer is yes, proceed, if the answer is no Рdeal with it.

And never tack on those last annoying words that it will definitely work. Even if it worked for 10 out of 10 people you know. Don’t be that person.

I think that’s a good start for today. I can think of another half a dozen or so typical responses from someone when they find out you’re depressed, so maybe look for a subsequent post in the future.

Until then, remember: the struggle is real, don’t be a jerk. ‚̧

 

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