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.

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.