#blacklivesmatter

The past week has had me completely torn up inside. My heart feels broken, defeated, shocked…  I’ve been seeing two sides of an argument throughout social media: #blacklivesmatter and #alllivesmatter. I believe all lives matter, I really do. I believe in loving everyone. I believe in giving everyone a chance. I believe in supporting your fellow man, no matter his race, background, religion, or political views. I believe in loving people. But the black lives in our country are being attacked, and it breaks my heart.

I have been reading a lot of articles and watching several videos this week. A lot of angry, inflammatory articles and video clips by people who are so quick to judge, so quick to bring up criminal backgrounds. These guys were shot before they were id’d. These men were shot before anything from their history was known. These men were shot because of their color. There’s a prejudice that I think has been so deeply ingrained in our country, and it’s not going to change overnight. I know it’s not going to change overnight, but something needs to change. Our country needs to transform. There needs to be some sort of effort to say that this is not okay. Senseless killings are not okay. It hurts me so much, and I don’t know what all I can do except for erase the stereotypes in my own life

Change always comes from singular people. It always comes from people being brave enough and disgusted enough by their surrounds to do something about it, to stand up and say what is going on is not okay and that they need to change what they are doing. That change starts a movement, and that movement needs to happen. But it has to start with singular people.

I read a comment on one of the articles. I try not to read comments because they just make my blood boil with the ignorance, but I read one comment in response to one person being so upset that the article said #blacklivesmatter instead of #alllivesmatter, and this person pointed out that the two are not exclusive. What if a person was at a cancer rally wanting to fight to end cancer, and a group showed up and shouted that all diseases matter. Yes, all diseases matter. Healing people matter. But in that scenario, people are there to want to change cancer. The #blacklivesmatter movement is to say that the black citizens of our country are being attacked. There is so much racism that is so prevalent, and we need to point that out. It’s not saying that every other life doesn’t matter, it’s saying that we realize there is an issue in the system, and that system needs to change.

In regards to the Dallas shooting (because my heart is aching for those police officers as well), I want to say again that the entire system needs to change. Our country needs to change their view of the police force because the majority of them are doing their job and doing it well. Jon Stewart said, “You can truly grieve for every officer who’s been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach. Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards.” This is what is so important to me. We need to stop answering to violence with more violence. We need to acknowledge that the actions of a few do not speak for the entire group. I hear one side saying “down with the police, they’re all corrupt” and I hear another side saying “the #blacklivesmatter movement is only inspiring violence”. I believe every single person who causes death and violence should be held at the same level of accountability. This should stop being a war between groups.

There was a video I was tagged in on Instagram that showed a woman speaking in a large college lecture hall. She asked the hundreds of students in the audience if they would be willing to change the color of their skin, if they would be willing to live in the world as a black man or woman. She asked for whoever would be willing to do that to stand up, yet nobody stood. My question to any readers who have made it this far: would you change the color of your skin? Would you be an African American citizen in our country right now? Do you think that your life would change?

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Reflections

“There’s a beautiful melancholy that settles over the river and village as the weather matures from summer. The air holds a bit of chill and even the birds’ singing is subdued.

This is my favorite time of year. I feel it perfectly captures the time in my life that I had the most struggle. I used to love autumn for the colors that blanket the trees everywhere, but now it’s that moment right before the change – the trees still as green as they can possibly be, telling the world that there may be a dead period approaching, but they are still full of life and will be back for another year of green beauty. In a way, the yellows, oranges, and reds are their final goodbye to us for the year. That last love letter that tells of beauty coming in the next year.

I am overwhelmed by places that get to experience all four seasons. The lucky spots on earth that have snow in winter, are covered in blooms in spring, have sunny weather in summer without too much heat, and have the fiery colors in fall to cover the earth. If I found a place like this, I don’t think I’d ever move away. Of course, every season has a time and place, and change is part of our natural process. Loving every season for what it brings to the world is necessary, but the beauty of fall is unattainable elsewhere.”                   -personal journal from September 4, 2014

I’m in the middle of a mental leave of health from work. Being in this period is part unfamiliarity and part undesirable old friend. When I first started truly struggling with depression a few years ago, I was unable to hold down a job. Every little thing overwhelmed me and I would go days without moving off of the couch. I’ve very lucky to have found a job that understands the importance of mental health, but the idea of returning to a place that I’ve been absent from is intimidating.

The good parts that come out of this are time, mentally regrouping, and most importantly, writing. Life had been keeping me so busy that I couldn’t balance work, a personal life, and my projects. It’s probably just a self-organization issue, to be honest, but part of my mental health recovery is learning coping mechanisms and how to better schedule my life. Perhaps this is just an opportunity for growth.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to refocus my writing efforts. I started a project last year that I’ve shared a bit about on here, and making it ready to publish has moved high up on my priority list. So much of the writing comes from a personal place, and I’ve jotted down bits and pieces of this book scattered throughout various journals. I went back a bit too far in my journaling and discovered a few pieces of reflection written while I was still living in Germany (the italicized quote at the beginning being one of those reflections). I was struck by how the cycles in my mental health seem to repeat themselves, but at the same time evolve cycle to cycle. Each time, I learn a bit more about how my brain works and how to overcome the darker moments.

I’ve been repeating “every season has a time and place, and change is part of our natural process” over and over in my mind the past couple of hours. It’s so fitting that I’ve found that bit of writing in a time such as this. It’s a pleasant reminder that this is hard, even paralyzing at times, but a new season will be coming soon. A new season full of hope and growth, of maturation and clarity. This is a shadowy part of life, but it will soon give way to a new part, and I’ll soon be able to make sense of it all again.

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Potter’s Marsh, Anchorage, AK – August 2014

 

It’s Not Worthy of Glory

Writing about depression is a tricky task.

Writing about depression while knowing that you’re in the midst of a downward slump is even trickier.

I have this fear of glorifying depression and mental illness in my writing. I don’t want to make it seem like a romantic thing. It’s a rough, raw, soul-ripping experience. It’s fighting with the one person who knows all of your weakest spots, the most painful pressure points. It’s having fleeting moments of clarity and hope, but knowing that those moments can be snatched away at any time. It’s feeling completely alone and like a burden to anyone you might try to reach out to even though they insist you could never be a burden.

Logically, I know I’m loved, I know I’m not a burden, and I know that I’m not totally alone. But the sick and twisted part of full-blown major depression is that your mind is tricked into believing that all the negative things that pop into your mind are true at some deep level. When you’re no longer in control of all of those thoughts, it’s hard to see the glimmer of hope anywhere in the future.

I’m fighting to find that tiny speck of light again. My serious episodes have taken a turn from the apathetic paralysis I experienced years ago. While the paralysis is still very much part of the demon, I’ve become so familiar with my own mind that the bigger struggle for me is experiencing the loss of control that is fought before the apathy sets in. I’ve been quoting Sylvia Plath a lot lately in my personal writing because her character in The Bell Jar is so relatable to my current state, and I feel like this quote in particular really nails it:

I felt very still and very empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.

I publicly write about my depression because more than anything, I want the general population to start treating depression as something that is a pretty regularly recurring struggle for all sorts of people. Typically, I’m an upbeat hard-working person who tries to make sure everyone else is content and who loves to make the lives of others as easy as possible. But this is something that I constantly struggle with. Most times, it’s something I can handle with a regular schedule and writing through my thoughts and emotions. Sometimes, like the past few weeks, it gets so debilitating that I have no other way to cope than to remove myself from everyday life and do high-intensive therapy and recovery treatments.

The point is that mental illness is not a rarely occurring disability. So I write to bring awareness to that fact. I write because I want other people to know that if I have a mostly healthy life, they can have that as well. I write to remind myself that the really bad moments are fleeting, and I can watch how much my mental state changes when I recover and become healthier again.

I write because one of the biggest lies depression feeds me is that I’m completely alone.

I write this as a reminder to me as well as anyone else: you are never fully alone.

Millenium Park, Chicago, IL- June 2016
Millenium Park, Chicago, IL- June 2016

It’s the Hardest Time of the Year

Many people count down to the holidays every year with baited breath. For most of the world, December is a month of celebrating and happiness. For others, however, it’s a time that reminds them of the bad, the difficult, and the painful. For others, the entire holiday season fills them with dread.

For the past few years, I’ve found myself in the second group. I’ve found myself wanting to avoid everything holiday related as much as possible. I’m not sure if it’s constantly being surrounded by people who insist that it’s the “happiest time of the year”, if it’s the reminder of the holidays formerly being happy memories, or if it’s just that depression seems to be spiked with extra strength steroids at the end of the year. Honestly, it’s probably a combination of all of the above, but no matter the reasoning, I’ve found myself becoming more bitter and less willing to give any holiday celebrating the time of day.

I read an article on the habits of people with concealed depression a couple days ago. I think this is one of the most on-point articles on describing my thoughts and actions in dealing with depression that I’ve ever read. There is nothing more that I hate than feeling like a burden to the people around me…having the thoughts that make you believe that if you fully let someone in to the way you experience the world, there’s no way that they could willingly spend another minute with you. The paralyzing need to just have someone want to be there while you sob, but not being able to trust that someone would be that strong backbone for you. The guilt that floods through you as you sit on the floor, unable to move. The facade, the impenetrable mask of peaceful happiness you’ve created and don’t know how to remove because you’ve feared the abandonment by the people you care for most in this world if they saw that darkness that flows through the truest form of you.

The holiday season is always one when the mask is weakest. When the sense of aloneness becomes stronger than ever and threatens to break down your walls past the point of repair. When the joy around you is almost unbearable because the opposite feeling feels so clear in your life. For me, it always begins on Thanksgiving. That’s the start of the season when I want to go into hibernation, only returning back to the world after the holidays have passed and the harshest part of winter makes the general public want to withdraw into their shells.  So I find ways to avoid celebrating. I work through the holidays. I avoid time with family and friends. I make it a point to stay home.

It’s really a battle between hard and harder. I was sick this Thanksgiving, and while I have been hit with waves of loneliness stronger than I think I’ve ever experienced before, part of me was thankful that I could use that sickness as an excuse to stay home instead of accepting friends’ offers to join their families. There’s a sense that those invitations come from a place of pity that I am alone, even though I know that’s a ridiculous idea to have. There’s the idea that if I were to go and celebrate any holiday with others, that I would be a downer, even though the people that I know are sincere in their friendship wouldn’t actually mind my melancholy. It’s a constant inner battle between my feelings and thoughts and knowing that those feeling and thoughts take over through the power of depression.

I started writing this post as a reflection, as an explanation for some of my actions. However, I think it’s become more of a plea to the people around me, as an attempt to put some of my thoughts into words, and to let the other people I know who struggle through this month know that you aren’t the only one. Even if some of us choose to struggle in silence and solitude, there’s a slight relief knowing others are fighting similar battles.

Austin, Texas - February 2015
Austin, Texas – February 2015

The Month of Change

For me, October has always been a month of change and growth. I’ve experienced my first heartache, the beginning of my marriage, the loss of a child, the reality of my parents’ mortality during my mom’s battle with cancer, the exquisite pain of the end of my marriage, and the adjustment of moving back to the states from Germany all in the month of October over the years.

It’s a transformative time for me, and this year is no different. As I’ve written about before, my move back to Arkansas is coming up very quickly, and my mind is racing to catch up with the plans I’ve made for myself. I’m ready for the change. Despite the nervousness connected to the knowledge that I’ll be completely on my own for the first time in my life, it’s time. It’s time to prove to myself that I can survive, that I can be the independent person I’ve always embraced the idea of.

Almost exactly a year ago, I was leaving Germany. More than any other time in my life, 2014 was the year that I really began to discover who I was and what I was made of. I feel like I’m equal parts older and younger than my age. Older because I’ve already been through so many experiences, but younger because until last year, I had no inkling of how I saw my future. In my marriage, I had given up my identity and lost some of the most important years of self-discovery, so I’ve learned to turn my mid-twenties into those experimental years.

Germany changed me. It was the initial push that caused me to really start enjoying writing for the sake of recording thoughts and allowing my emotions a place to rest. I began to embrace the parts about me that I previously viewed as weak things to be ashamed of. It was a pivotal moment in my life, a realization that sharing my true story, struggles and all, was the only way to truly heal. So I shared. I made friends with people with whom I knew would be loving toward me no matter what mistakes I made, no matter the battles I still had waging within me. I truly believe that last year in Germany saved me.

Coming back, I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock. I wasn’t ready to be surrounded by the world that wants so hard to be vulnerable and open, but hides their real weaknesses in order to look strong and put together. I wasn’t expecting to relapse into the emotional tug-of-war, the sense that people are only willing to help when it satisfies their own needs first. That’s not the way that everyone is here, it’s just a generalization based primarily on experiences I’ve had over and over again in this small town I live in.

Perhaps it’s just a feeling that comes with the knowledge that it’s time for me to move on to the next thing. Perhaps my negative feelings of this place come from situations I’ve only got myself to blame for. Perhaps it’s just knowing that with October comes change. With the autumn comes the end of a chapter. When the leaves start changing and the world is covered in a blanket of reds and oranges, it’s a beautiful symbol of saying goodbye to everything I’ve known from the year, of preparing myself for the birth of something new and exciting.

Kelsterbach, Germany - October 2014
Kelsterbach, Germany – October 2014

listening to: Bear’s Den