Own Your Crazy, Help Your Friends

I commented earlier on a friend’s post: “Rein in your crazy, it’s hurting other people.” and realized that a lot of folks don’t or won’t tell their friends when their crazy slip is showing.

Why? We’ll tell people when they have spinach in their teeth or if their shoelace is untied. We’ll point out dirt on their face, or any other matter of embarrassing, offensive or potentially dangerous situation. But when they are behaving in manner that you know is related to their mental health problem, no one says anything. “Oh, that’s just Joe being Joe.” No…that’s Joe being manic and possibly off his meds and maybe someone that knows Joe really well ought to go talk to him and see what’s up for real.

Yeah, it’s hard. It can be as hard as having an intervention for an addict at times, depending on the mental illness. But do you care about your friend or loved one? If you do… speak up.

Knowing HOW to speak to the person is key. I’ve posted in the past about the very wrong thing to say to someone in the throes of a fragile episode. The post I referenced above is someone being obnoxious and offensive and doesn’t see it — because that’s THEIR brand of crazy. If you’re close to someone with a mental illness, you should know what it is, and how to deal with it. If not — approach with caution and care. Letting the person know that YOU CARE is the most important part. “Hey, I’ve noticed you’re not quite yourself. Is there anything I can do?” Just those few words can do so much more good than you’d know.

If you’re the one with the illness, own it. Don’t be ashamed. “Oh I’m just kidding. I’m just playing.” No, you don’t understand social cues. Or you have borderline personality disorder so you blurt out things without thinking. Or….whatever. Own it. At least then the people in your life know that you’re not just an asshole. You’re crazy — and it’s OK. You’re THEIR Crazy Asshole, and they’ll love you just the same. *mwah*

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Things Better Left Unsaid

There are some things you just do.not.do to a person who suffers from depression and anxiety. Some things you just do.not.say. Believe me, we hear it all the time as it is — from our own minds. Our “sock monkeys”, “jerk brain”, “psychotic roommate”, “demon”, etc. Many of us have a term for those voices in our heads that, if we’re somewhere close to stable, have managed to dial down to faint hum but are always in the background, muttering.

Muttering things like, “you’re not good enough”, “no one wants you around”, “why even try?”, “maybe you should make another attempt, and do it right this time”. A friend of mine had a bad day, and posted about her anxiety sock monkey giving her a hard time. Her friends commented, boosting her up, sharing their experiences with the same kind of thing….doing what friends do. Doing the RIGHT THINGS for someone that was suffering and having a bad day. Another friend posted about having a tough time accepting herself — and the same thing happened. Compassion is a beautiful thing to see, especially in relation to anxiety sock monkeys.

Then I posted about mine. I said I was feeling lonely – and whether it was loneliness caused by my anxiety sock monkeys working overtime or some other reason…I was also treated with compassion and other friends shared that they too also felt the same way at times. It helped to a certain extent, knowing I wasn’t alone — even though the loneliness remained. There’s no magic pill that suddenly makes everything better, especially when you’re already suffering a downturn in depression.

(I’m coming to my main point, but this is an important tangent. Part of all this is that I was told I “share too much”. Really…I wonder how many of my readers — those who are actually on my Facebook and consider themselves my friends — know just how deep into a depression I’ve fallen. Have I shared that? Can you tell? Have I actually said anything, to anyone? I don’t think so. Not until this very moment have I said one thing to anyone…that’s how close I play it. I post a lot but rarely do I “core dump”. This….this is a core dump.”)

Ok, where was I? Oh yes. So I made the post, went on with my life. I didn’t expect anything from it – I was getting something off my chest, letting out a little of the darkness and I felt better. Now, one of the cardinal sins in mental health is giving an actual voice to those sock monkeys — literally say to a person who is suffering: “Maybe you’re lonely because you really are {insert anxiety reason here}”.

*record scratch* *blinkblinkblink*

WAIT. WHAT? SAY THAT AGAIN?

WTF Jackie Chan

It’s taken me an entire day to process this entire conversation. I’ve slept on it. Talked about it with other friends. Gone over it in my mind, word for word. Made sure I didn’t take it the wrong way. Nope. Armchair psychoanalysis is DANGEROUS, man. Dangerous. And it’s a damn good fucking thing I’m as stable as I am (even though I’m struggling, STRUGGLING, right now). I realize I’m struggling. I know I’m struggling and that I’m hurting and depressed and freaking falling and I know the abyss is over there, in the corner, beckoning. That’s STABLE, because I KNOW IT. I’m so fucking aware of how close to the edge I am. I’m grounding and centering and BREATHING and meditating and doing everything I can to keep myself together.

And I’m suddenly told, “Maybe the reason you’re lonely is because {insert anxiety reason here}”. Jeez, lady. Why don’t you just hand me the fucking gun? Why don’t you just put a pharmacopeia into my hand? ‘Cuz you just freaking pushed a suicide survivor (and you know the recidivism rate on those?) two more feet toward the edge….and “I like to psychoanalyze people so I’m really just trying to help you.”

First off: I have a therapist and psychiatrist, thank you. Second: I have a psychology degree and post-graduate education and training. Only thing you’re qualified to analyze is rocks. Third: Fuck you. Really…fuck you. Seriously? ARE YOU SERIOUS? You actually thought that saying that to me was HELPFUL? How, exactly, was that supposed to be helpful? I’ll wait while you come up with an answer. Especially since I’ve ‘overshared’ and you already know my past and the reasons I suffer from PTSD and all the shit….so, come on. How was that “helpful”?

Whew. OK. I’m done being pissed off and writing about this because people — really — THINK before you speak. Chris Cornell just committed suicide, so all the memes and posts about suicide prevention are going around again. As a survivor, I can tell you that when someone is really, truly ready — they’re not going to call a hotline or a friend unless they have a moment of clarity and those moments are fleeting. And if a person is struggling with the decision, or just struggling in general and are having thoughts — a careless, thoughtless, “helpful” person saying something like what was said to me just might be the ammunition needed to push them over the edge.

This is a warning, so to speak. If you have a friend or acquaintance that is depressed and suffering and you don’t know what to say or do, and you’re afraid they’re possibly going to attempt suicide — GO TO THEM. Don’t wait for them to come to you because they won’t. Don’t berate them, don’t list all their character flaws or all the ways they make you crazy or frustrate you. Don’t criticise them or tear them down. DON’T use their honest Facebook posts against them. DO tell them they matter, that you care, that you love them, that you want them around even if they’re sad or anxious or feeling like a slug.

Words matter. How you use them matter. The people you use them with, and to, matter. Think before you speak.

Adventures in Dog Containment

As I mow my lawn and look at the disconnected electric wire fencing, I wonder why I’m keeping it. I could just take it all up as it would certainly make lawn maintenance easier. I disconnected the transformer after adopting an elderly chihuahua, because if the actual electric shock doesn’t kill her I think the shock of being shocked might. Gypsy, my whippet mix with the high prey drive and massive play motivation for whom I installed it still won’t go near the wire, even though she knows it isn’t working anymore.

It’s funny, really, to watch the interactions between dogs and the wire. Pix the chihuahua goes under it without a care in the world, touching it, doing her thing. Gypsy looks at her, aghast: “OMG, PIX! DON’T GO THERE!!!!!” Joker knows it’s not connected and ignores it. Bella the rottweiler has had her experiences with it live, and respects it but seems to forget it often enough that she has to be reminded so now that it’s disconnected it no longer registers. Only Gypsy remembers; only Gypsy is smart enough to realize that the tumbleweed of wire near the tree is safe while the straight piece of wire by the bushes might not be safe. Gypsy doesn’t take chances, she won’t go within a foot of the hot wire if her ball lands there on the off-chance that it’s live.

The transformer is a new one and it HURTS. I’ve tried to teach Pix about the wire, but since it was disconnected when she got here she doesn’t see it as a threat. “Why?” when I tell her it’s dangerous. There’s a regular fence behind it; she can SEE that so why should she respect some not-scary wire that does nothing? She’d have to experience the zap that all the other dogs have experienced to understand why it’s to be respected. But — there’s the danger that it’ll kill her. So I guess I should just be grateful that Gypsy is mostly still suspicious of it.

And also be grateful that Gypsy hasn’t jumped the fence. I’m pretty sure she knows she is able to do so. She knows she CAN, but she also knows she’s SHOULD NOT. The fact that she mostly doesn’t CARE that she SHOULD NOT is a REALLY BIG DEAL in Gypsy-world. Because she hasn’t.

REALLY. BIG. DEAL.

Disabled, and Differently-Abled

I have a chronic illness, a hidden disability that sometimes causes me to be utterly incapacitated to the point where I can barely walk or even move. I’m in pain 24/7 to varying degrees and each day greets me where I have to force myself to push past it to just get out of bed and feed the dogs. But I do it. I do a lot, considering it’s a constant battle against the entropy and the “You Can’t Do It” demon in my head and it’s minions out in the “real world”.

Those of you that also have disabilities know that demon. The one in your head that questions whether you can actually do a thing that you’re actually in the middle of doing. If you have difficulty walking, and are enjoying a day at an outdoor event with a lot of ground to cover, that demon is saying things like, “Are you SURE you should even be here? You’re holding up your friends. They’re moving slower, waiting for you and your cane/walker/chair. People are looking at you.” That guy…Gods, I hate that guy.

But his minions out in the world are worse. You can ignore the demon in your head, but his minions inhabit humans and what do you say to them? How do you tell a person that thinks they’re showing concern for your well-being that they’re actually undermining you? That they’re being ableist by saying things like, “Are you sure you should be doing that?” or “Maybe this job isn’t for you.”  What are you supposed to say — unless it doesn’t matter whether you ream them out, because believe you me, I can tear someone to shreds when I want to. But I’m at a loss with this one especially since I’m pretty sure it’s unintentional.

I’m already on SS disability because I CAN’T work a full time job due to my disabilities. But I do some part time work, have a small (very small) business making dog collars, and volunteer where I can. I do what I can when I can because I NEED to be a productive member of society and have a lot of skills from when I was in the workforce. I have a college degree. I don’t want to be a drain on resources, or someone that’s pitied or looked at with scorn. So when I say in conversation that my body doesn’t always function the way I need it to and that it’s frustrating, I’m not looking for pity or sympathy — and I’m definitely not looking for any type of response like, “Isn’t there someone else that can do __________ for you?” The answer is, no, there’s not. It’s just me, but that’s besides the point — that question shouldn’t even be asked.

Do not presume what I can or cannot do, I’ll be the one to determine that. Sometimes, I’m not even sure. It changes from day to day. Today I might be able to run a mile (hahahahaha). Tomorrow, I might not even be able to walk to the bathroom. We are all differently-abled, even those without any kind of disability. All it takes is ONE injury or illness to knock you out, and you can find yourself in the same boat as I and many others — begging for a chance to prove oneself worthy of consideration and equality.

Do to Live

I got out today.

I forced myself past the pain. Past the desire to stay in bed and wallow. I pushed against it.

The abyss beckoned, said, “Stay here. It’s more comfortable”. (Such a lie. It’s not easier to stay in the dark with you. That is the lie you tell me to make me a slave to your whims. )

I got up, shut out the agony, closed it off as best I could. No, you will not get me today. I’m going. I am going to live today.

Out I went. Out into the world, into society. Which tells me I’m not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not thin enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m NOT ENOUGH. Or maybe it’s me telling myself that. Either way, the abyss is always there telling me not to go out there, it’s scary and horrible and safer to stay home in the darkness.

No, I went into the world. Just for a brief moment, I went into the light.

I’m holding onto that small pinprick of light. For the next time the abyss beckons and lies to me, “Stay here with me in the darkness, it’s easier than going out there. Nobody wants you out there, but I want you here.” No. I have this… I went into the light and kept some of it. I have that. I DID that.

And I’ll do it again. You just wait.


	

On Finding Compassion

Compassion. The dictionary definition is: sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

Such a simple concept isn’t it? Another is suffering, and I wish to heal them of their suffering. It differs from empathy in that empathy is when you feel others’ distress but don’t necessarily work to alleviate it.  To feel compassion necessarily includes feeling empathy, but empathy doesn’t always include compassion (although the western world often conflates the two.)

Compassion has been spoken about a lot lately by my yoga teacher, by other yoga and Buddhist friends and teachers, and has come up a lot in discussions with other friends of spiritual dispositions – from ALL different paths. We’re all in agreement – the world and the state it’s in is a direct result of the lack of compassion between human beings. So why is it so hard? Why is LOVE so hard? Because that’s what compassion is — loving others through their pain and suffering, through your own, and wanting them to be healed. Even if those other are the cause of your pain and suffering, showing compassion for them will be healing to YOU, if not them.

There’s a video making the rounds of Facebook, saying that racism is a form of mental illness, a type of PTSD. Racism, homophobia, xenophobia — any of the forms of hatred — stem from a lack of empathy (and ignorance) and compassion for others. Buddhist thought would say that this is indeed a form of illness, of suffering and through compassion and understanding, we can help those suffering from this and heal them thereby healing society and ourselves. We can even take it outside of Buddhism into the Judeo-Christian realm — Jesus preached love and compassion even for the least of us. As my dear friend (a southern Baptist. Yep. The Witch has a close, CLOSE friend that’s a southern Baptist) said, “But as a Christian how can one justify hate? Which directly conflicts with the edict in the BIble they swear by to care for widows and orphans? Because as far as I’m concerned you can’t claim to “follow” Jesus and hate you can’t do so and deny any responsibility for your fellow man. JESUS would probably tell them that one never wins anyone over with hate and force and if they wanted to “win” believers they are doing a piss poor job by showing a picture of Christians that looks a whole lot more like Pharisees than followers of a man who lived his life preaching love and tolerance and forgiveness.”

Compassion. Something so lacking in our world lately. (Or maybe all the time, it’s just a lot more noticeable what with the Leader of the “Free World” tweeting threats and banning entire segments of the population and threatening war with anyone that disagrees with him.) Compassion seems to be the one thing that is truly separating the “liberals” from the “conservatives” these days — and I don’t even want to use those terms anymore because they almost don’t apply as the political lines are blurring past the point of recognition.

Those that have compassion are protesting the mistreatment of others, not because they want illegal immigration to continue unchecked (I agree that there needs to be some kind of immigration reform but a blanket ban or a WALL? No, that’s not going to work but that’s a whole different post altogether) but because they think human beings should be treated with respect. ESPECIALLY those that are already vetted and have green cards and have been in this country for years, LEGALLY. We marched on D.C. the day after 45’s inauguration because we know his policies and cabinet and SCOTUS picks will do harm to the minorities of this country. White suburban women, tardy to the party, finally found their compassion and stepped up and said, “No more”. Even those lucky people who will likely not be affected too badly by the coming tide of fascist authoritarian changes (the few white cisgender heterosexual christian males of moderate and stable financial means, long may he remain with us) maintain compassion and try to stave off the tide of hatred.

But….why are we doing this? How can we continue when “the other side” is so hellbent on destroying us? Logically, rationally, it makes no sense to look upon the face of an “enemy” and feel compassion for them when you know they feel nothing but enmity for you. Because if we don’t, we become just like who we’re fighting against. We must maintain our compassionate stance, even when it’s hard. ESPECIALLY when it’s hard. Change may never happen, there may never come a point where we reach an understanding  but remaining a compassionate person amongst the hate and turmoil is  good for *us*. It’s self-care against the tides of hate and chaos. You might not end their suffering but it’ll change you and potentially help you find an end to yours.

So don’t give up. Breathe it all in and love it all out. And remember that there is nothing more fierce  than unconditional love, more courageous than compassion. This is our strength.

Peace.