I’ll admit that I was rather surprised by some of the responses I got to yesterday’s post. I got a couple of messages from friends who were concerned about me (thanks again for caring enough to talk, it really does mean a lot to me, whatever I might say in response) and then, because I didn’t think what I’d posted had been dark enough to warrant that level of concern, I asked my closest friend for her perspective.
She told me that it was, in fact, darker than I’d thought and, furthermore, most of my interactions with her had become rather focused around my depression. She wasn’t complaining of course, mostly just reinforcing the realization I was coming to.
One of humanity’s trademark abilities is adaptability. Every sci-fi and fantasy depiction of humans–as compared to other races or beings–has made the point that humans can survive anywhere and get used to any circumstance. It’s pretty well exemplified in the real world as well. As soon as a city is destroyed by an earthquake, a flood, or a tornado, we immediately begin to rebuild right where we were. Maybe we upgrade some stuff to make us more likely to survive next time, but we just adapt to our environment rather than find someplace less hazardous.
I’ve been the same way my entire life. Every time something bad has happened, I’ve just figured out how to cope and then carried on. I adjusted. Sure, that meant sometimes shoving things so far out of my mind that it took 7 years of my life and 4 years of therapy to be able to feel something about it again, but I managed to survive the encounter and continue living my life. I adapted to my new life and even thrived.
So when it comes to talking about my depression and how bad things have gotten for me, I’m going off a baseline created from three years of being over worked, under appreciated, and held to impossible standards at a job I couldn’t afford to leave. All that on top of all the crazy, unfortunate stuff that happened to me in the 21 years before getting that job. I got used to being pretty much low-key depressed all the time. I stopped expecting to have any kind of happiness from day-to-day and settled my hopes on just not being miserable.
I adapted to my situation by removing expectations and hopes that would accentuate the bad situation I was. In doing so, I lost my frame of reference for what was acceptable and how bad some of my issues were. I also made a point to remind myself, when empathizing with other people, that everyone has their own scale for what they’re capable of dealing with and what they’d consider to be “the worst.” Throw both things together and I wound up not only with no frame of reference or ability to concretely measure my own suffering, but also with a poor ability to realize what my own suffering sounds like to other people.
So now I make blog posts like yesterday that make me sound really miserable because I honestly am and fail to really notice the true extent of what I’m saying because I’ve been more miserable in the past. It takes people reaching out to me to notice. Which means I’d ignore problems that are slowly becoming worse like the proverbial frog placed in a pot of water that is then set to a boil.
I think what I need to do to remedy this is not only be more mindful of where I am in my life and what’s going on with me, but I also need to broaden my blog topics a bit and focus a little more on constructive conversation around depression rather than just letting off steam. Maybe advocate to remove the stigma a little more emphatically than just leading by example. I mean, it’s always been my intention to do that to some degree or another and I’ve already figured out exactly what I’d do with my money if I became a super rich author (throw money at that problem as well as words), but I think I can do more, even now. There’s really no better time to start something than “now”.
I’m a tall, middle-class white dude with a degree in English Literature, which means I’m not super qualified to do much on most current topics other than support and align myself with the downtrodden and put-upon. The only exclusion is mental health. After my personal experiences and all my years of therapy, I think I’m pretty qualified to join the conversation, at the very least, even if I’m not an expert.
Hi, my name is Chris, I’m a dude with emotions that are hard for me to talk about because I’ve been taught that I’m not supposed to share them and I tend to lose sight of my ability to properly care for myself because I was taught that everyone else was more important than me (though I guess that dovetails into toxic masculinity pretty well). I want to help people be better than they are and I love to tell stories. I struggle with depression almost every day, along with a fairly constant battle with anxiety, OCD, and insomnia brought on by all my other issues. I have a hard time emotionally connecting with people because a lot of the people I’ve connected to have not only hurt me, but specifically used the vulnerability I’ve shown them to hurt me. I don’t deal well with conflict and I really hate talking on the phone. I have more issues that I’m not sharing because I’m not ready to face them in a public forum.
So now that all that’s on the table, all nice and explicitly, let’s start a conversation. I’m perfectly willing to just stand here and talk if you aren’t ready to start yet. I’ve certainly got enough issues to talk for months, if not years. I can provide resources and suggestions on self-care since I’m constantly working on that myself. I’ll help you figure out how to cope and you can help me keep my perspective in line with reality. It’ll be great.