Because through it all, I cling to that kicking and biting and baring my teeth. I am bloody well determined to haul myself through the bad days because I very much love the good days. Keeping that in mind, knowing it can't stay miserable forever...
It isn't easy. It is easy to type, to tell someone to try. But it is hard to actually do, when the world is so heavy. It isn't easy but like hell I am going to give up.
So, I hope every day will be better, and I hope so very much my friends will continue to look to me just as much as I look to them. Strength in numbers is not just a saying. That is where I get my hope from- the smiles and hugs and hopes of my friends and those I love.
That, above all else, is what I am trying to create. It isn't a safety net I am after, but an existing knowledge that there are people out there, real people, who suffer through very real depression and anxiety and a multitude of other mental and emotional problems, and within those folks are those of us who desperately want to lend a hand. I am only one voice but I am going to shout as loud as I can that I am here, and I am willing to listen. To talk. To go get a cup of coffee.
But we all have to get used to making that first move. We have to be willing to reach out.
I would never have believed something as initially intangible as a primarily online community could have resulted in such a magnificent clan of friends- but I have gathered them close over the years. I have made the treks to meet them, and have had them come meet me. It is brilliant and scary and wonderful and it has gone a long way into making me who I am now. Everyone has been so supportive of me through the years, through all the little and the big things, and I do what I can when and where I can. But none of this would have happened if I hadn't said that first hello, or responded to that first email/message.
If you are still trying to get over that persistant and persistantly insidious thought that there is something wrong with you for being depressed, don't think of it as looking for help.
It is reaching out for a friend. Plain and simple.
Since I started blogging this week I have had folks peeking out from corners of the internet, folks I have not heard from in a long time, or even people I have only 'met' in passing. Conversations have happened. And it is magnificent and beautiful and I appreciate every one of you. It takes a damn bit of courage to make that first move. I waited until my back was more or less to the wall before trying to make changes in my life. I was going to lose things I loved very much, from my partner to my friends to my job. I watched my sister wait too long, and there is nothing I can do for her. My friends. My willingness to reach out doesn't come from being overly brave.
It comes very much from desperately wanting to make a difference. Something has to give before we all do. Knowing there are folks out there who have your back, even casually, in that cup of coffee every now and then sort of way, helps so damn much.
So. Community. It seemed like such a ridiculously simple idea when I sat down to write this post. But, for someone who considers themself a writer, it sure took a lot of rambling and wandering to get around to the point. You are all my friends and I love you dearly. Drop me a line sometime, yeah?
I lost my sister. It broke me, it broke my family and so many friends. Repairwork takes a long time, but I keep at it.
I lost Jer, an on and off again friend, an on and off again lover. We had magnificent spats, mostly due to the fact my depression was not being taken care of. I hate the fact I was not getting along with him when he needed me the most.
I lost Freya. I don't have the words to describe her, and you can't see my smile. She always had time for a kind word for me, even when I was decidedly overwhelmed by pretty much everyone.
This was all the last year of my life. They clustered up, the suicides. By the time Freya took her life, I was almost numb to the whole thing, and that is a distressing realization to come to. No one should ever become numb to suicide. It should never become so commonplace as to stop being world rending. The wiring is not quite right in my head, from all of this. I know it, I keep an eye on it. I don't want anyone else to have to deal with what I am dealing with. It has become a huge motivating force in my day to day life. Not overwhelming, I never let it be that. Just motivating.
I buried my little sister. I could not stand to bury my friends, so I mourned quietly in my own way- but I still feel guilty about not being there for services and gatherings. But it is fragile up there in my head, and if I have gotten nothing else out of this past year, I have gotten a rather keen awareness of the mechanics of my own brain. I will take care of myself, so I can do everything I can for those I love.
My friend told me the other day that I never "come off as depressed" to her. That there is the horrible secret of it all. It is terribly hard, sometimes, to tell when someone is suffering from depression. We are trained so heavily to hide what is going on, to try and smother out perceived flaw until it is nigh undetectable. I am vocal about the fact I suffer from anxiety and depression, and still I have that drive to project that everything is wonderful and fine as I go about my day. It is reflex.
And there is no possible way to go about life trying to second guess whether or not everyone who looks happy actually is. It is up to those of us who suffer as quietly as possible to stop smothering ourselves. Before we burst.
I have had a few folks reach out to me since I started posting this week. Please, oh please, continue to do so. I am by no means a trained professional, but I am a shoulder, a sounding board, and a voice letting you know that no, you really aren't crazy or a failure and other people are going through what you are. You are not alone.
I wish my sister was still here with me. Her smile was truly magnificent. And these photos I found on the hard drive she left behind, wearing a dress I had given her and fairy wings, will always make me smile.
To Write Love on Her Arms has an absolutely wonderful blog up that touches on much of what I rambled about yesterday, a blog where I pulled the title for this post from, a quote from a TED Talk by Elyn Saks. It is an older blog, not from today, but relevant.
I have sung out about TWLOHA on and off for quite some time now. About a year, actually. My sister was actively involved with them before she committed suicide. That is where I first heard about them. But I did not become involved. I was still working at scoffing at my own problems, convinced they should be pushed under the carpet with all the other unwelcome debris of my life.
When my sister died, they became suddenly and stunningly relevant. One little line in the obituary I wrote before I even had the time to process that she was dead, asking for donations to TWLOHA in lieu of flowers. One little line trying to give something back to an organization that had been such a big part of my sister's life. And suddenly they were relevant.
They provided support like nothing I had ever expected. Emails were exchanged, flowers were sent this year on the anniversary of my sisters death. All of this from a group that didn't know me. Who only wanted to do anything they could to help. It was, and still is, rather humbling.
They have really let me know people CAN make a difference.
They reach out to high schools, to college campuses. They have street teams. There are so many little ways to get involved. So many little ways to grab a hand when you need one. I am still too anxious to see proper counseling, but I get so much from working with TWLOHA in any way I can, and when I get brave enough, they have a list of resources I can utilize.
I am wearing my orange TWLOHA shirt to work today, placing information cards in my libraries, and talking to as many people as I can. I can tell my story and hope it strikes a chord with at least one other person, that they are encouraged to then talk to someone. Letting all the words that are pounding around in our heads out, all the uncertainties and unhappiness, and hearing it is not just us, does ease the pressure. It is not a permament solution, but it is the first guardrail against that desperate leap.
It is World Suicide Prevention Day, and To Write Love On Her Arms has an amazing list of resources for those who want or need them.
Two years ago, this post would have been impossible for me to write. One just does not admit to being depressed. We are expected to cope and carry on. I worked retail management- I could not take days off with any sort of ease, and I had to be the pinnacle of affable every waking moment. Deal with it, everything and everyone around me seemed to be saying. Depression was a flaw, something you did not talk about. It was the quiet shame.
The monster under the bed.
And that monster under the bed, the thing that we were told was never really there and we were silly to be afraid of, had me a person I was not very proud of or happy with. Chronic unhappiness, and seeing no way out and no help, is so hard to deal with. I was anxious all the time. I had a temper. I didn’t sleep. I ate terribly. I worked and did very little else.
I did not think there was anything that could be done for me. That I was a failure because I couldn’t seem to get all the pieces to fit right in order to be happy. We live in a culture where mental disorders are somehow shameful, and that attitude has to change. We need to haul that monster out from under the bed and talk about it.
Only by talking, by normalizing, will we be able to get a lot of the unnecessary stigma to detach from those who suffer from a mental disorder.
I am often unhappy, for no reason. It is hard to explain and near impossible to quantify. I am eternally anxious- I have trouble doing things as simple as driving to a friend’s home if I have not been there before, making phone calls. Every now and then, even with the fact I am able to hold two professional jobs I love, I feel that somehow I am sneaking through the system, and some day I will be revealed for the fake, the failure that I am. That is the thing about mental disorders- they lurk.
Five years ago I was lucky enough to run into a rather splendid and supportive human being who pounded it into my head that mental issues are legitimate medical issues, and that I should see someone. I was lucky enough to have someone willing to go with me to doctor’s appointments, as the idea of going on my own had me frozen in anxious terror.
I had someone to tell me that while it was ok to be depressed and anxious it was 100% not ok to sit back and not to anything about it.
One year ago I lost my sister to suicide. It puts everything into perspective. I am lucky. I have all the support a person could dream of and an awareness that something is wrong, something that needs my attention and tending. My sister was brilliant and funny and rarely gave off a hint, unless you knew what to look for, that anything was ever wrong. I will always feel like I missed some hints, like I should have somehow been there more for her. She was my little sister and she felt the only solution to her situation was to kill herself. It is damn hard not to feel at least somewhat responsible for that.
I can't do anything for her, but I can be as vocal as possible for anyone else who will listen. There is always another solution, there is always a hand to hold, someone to talk to. These are the things I have learned through the last year. I was learning before then, but my sister’s suicide sort of kicked the learning process up a notch. They were things I wish my sister had learned enough to have internalized.
The more we talk, the greater the chance these conversations will make it to the ears of the folks that really need to hear them.
I will be blogging daily that week, and I want to invite everyone and anyone to participate. Talk in the comments. With me, with each other. If you would like to contribute, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get your post up in whatever manner you are most comfortable with (anon or otherwise). Please boost this along.
I have dealt with depression and anxiety most of my life. I have lived through my sister killing herself. And it took that to let me know it was ok to get help. No one should have to be ashamed of being depressed. Of being unhappy. And the best way to normalize something that is so damn normal is to talk about it.
So that is what I am going to do.