Which coffee brewing method is best for your tastes?

Pour over, french press, Chemex, the science-y Syphon?

^ Here we see the coffee geek (c’est moi) in his natural habitat

Alright, all you basics. You PSL’ers and extra-caramel caramel macchiato’ers. I’ll give you fair warning right now: this post will probably bore you. This isn’t about Starbucks secret menu drinks or frappucinos; this is about coffee in the same way Dunkin’ Donuts munchkins are quality pastries.This is the bare bones stuff. This is for the people who want to savor coffee and the experience it offers for more than just the cream and sugar put in it. This is about appreciating the coffee bean at its core. For those who want to get the full taste, warmth, and complexity out of each cup they brew. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against sweetened coffees – a vanilla latte or caramel macchiato can do wonders for me when I’m both sleep-deprived AND craving something sweet. I just wanted to give fair warning to those who don’t look at the coffee they drink much beyond the taste and how many pumps of flavor go into it.

Whether you already consider yourself a coffee afficionado or just want to learn more about your daily dose of caffiene, this post will aim to differentiate between different brew methods and which would best suit you based on your situation (and tastes!). In future posts, I will go into growing regions, roasting processes, etc. But for my first coffee-centric post, I wanted to start with something that nearly all home coffee drinkers can relate to – how to make it taste good. 

I don’t claim years of expertise on this subject – in fact, I’ve only been genuinely interested in coffee culture for about two years. I do claim a passion for it though. I’ve loved coffee since the first sip I’ve had, but only recently have I truly begun to appreciate the work that goes into growing it, the care that goes into tasting it, and the love that goes into preparing quality drinks with it. My work as a barista has allowed me many chances I wouldn’t get otherwise to really delve deep into coffee culture, and I’m grateful for those opportunites. That being said, I know that many people out there love their coffee, but don’t know the heart and soul of preparing it to make it the best it can be. So, without further ado, brew methods!

….but before that! Only you know how much coffee you can handle, so I won’t be listing specific sizes for each of these brew methods. However, a commonly followed rule for coffee brewing is:

                    2 tbsp. coffee per 6 oz. water (ideal water temp. just below boiling, just above 200F)

For each brew method I’ll list the ideal brew time and coffee grind (coarse, fine, or somewhere in between), as well as the differences between each end result, which should hopefully help inform your brewing decisions. Coffee brewing is largely about preference, so feel free to skew that formula a bit as you please. But for newbie brewers, this is a good starting point. So, with that in mind, let’s actually get started.

Pour over (V60)


How it works: The pour over method is as simple as it gets. Also known as drip brewing or gravity brew, this method is completed with a cone shaped funnel being put into either a stand with a vessel below it (as shown above) or straight onto the cup. A paper filter is placed inside, folded along the seams and rinsed with hot water. After rinsing the filter, emtpy the rinse water and add the grounds directly into the filter, pour roughly 1/4-1/5 of the water over the grounds, saturating them enough so that they all get wet, allowing the coffee to “bloom.” After 30 seconds, pour more water over the coffee. Upon 90 seconds, all of your water should be poured over the grinds. Allow it to finish dripping.

Overall brew time: 2:30-3:00 mins for 15g of coffee

Grind size: Medium fine

End result: A clean, medium bodied brew

Chemex


How it works: At first glance, a Chemex appears very similar to a regular pour over method. In many ways, it is – they both brew coffee by letting gravity do the work, drawing water down through the grounds and into a chamber. The big difference between the two comes down to the filter. Both use a paper filter, but the Chemex’s is much thicker. As such, the coffee produced is much cleaner and, depending on the coffee, tangy. The Chemex method is great for entertaining groups, and even the stingiest of people can’t deny it looks pretty. Like the pour over method, add a filter to the top chamber, putting the triple-layered side facing the pour spout (this allows a proper rate of flow from the top chamber.) Rinse the filter through and empty the rinse water, and proceed to follow the same method as a common pour over. Pour just enough water to rinse the grounds completely, allow them to bloom, then add the rest of the water over a 90 second mark.

Overall brew time: 4 mins. for 25g of coffee

Grind size: Medium

End result: A clean, fairly light brew

Coffee (French) Press


How it works: One of the most reliable, hardy brew methods, the French Press (or cafetière, as it’s officially called) has loyal followers all around the globe. Often recommended as a beginner’s brew method, the French Press makes a great cup of coffee simply by taking water, coffee grounds, and time. Take your 55-60g of coffee and insert in into the press. For an 8-cup press (the most common kind), pour 850g of just below boiling water over the grounds, make sure to evenly distribute the water as much as possible. Place the plunger cap on, but do not press down yet. Set a timer for four minutes, and then stir the grounds/water three times with a spoon. Place the plunger cap back on, and push down. The metal mesh filter will push the coffee grinds down to the bottom of the press, while leaving the brewed coffee ready to be poured from the spout. (Note: Cups of coffee brewed on a French Press will very often have a small amount of grinds in the bottom of each cup. This is normal and very rarely affects the taste – it is simply a side effect of the metal mesh filter on the plunger.)

Overall brew time: 4 mins. for 55-60g of coffee

Grind size: Coarse 

End result: Heavy-bodied, fuller tasting coffee and complex, roasty flavors

AeroPress


How it works:  The AeroPress is a newcomer in the game of coffee. Light, portable, and quite cheap, it stands as the preferred brew method for travellers. It comes in two seperate pieces, a bottom chamber, and a plunger-like top chamber used to extract the coffee. They are pictured above together. To start, place a paper filter into the AeroPress cap and secure it to the cap. Place it over your cup directly, with the cap facing down. Run hot water through the AeroPress, which serves both to rinse the vessel and preheat it. Discard the rinse water, then insert your ground coffee into the contraption. Pour in 250g of water, ensuring that all ground are wet. Using a spoon, gently stir the coffee inside for 20-30 seconds. At an angle, insert the plunger, then pull it up slightly to create a vacuum. Let it steep for another 30-60 seconds, then plunge. Be careful – make sure to push down evenly and not to one side, unless you want to end up with coffee all over the counter. Put your back into it! Extracting all of the coffee should take roughly 30 seconds.

Overall brew time: 2 mins.

Grind size: Medium-fine

End result: A medium-bodied cup, with a fairly intricate flavor profile

Syphon


How it works: One of the most unique brewing methods out there, the Syphon (or Siphon, depending on where you’re from) has been around for nearly two centuries, mixing coffee with science and beaker-like containers. Keep in mind that for this method, not only will you need an actual Syphon, but also a heat source to fit under it, such as a burner or a halogen bulb (as pictured above). To begin, add 385g of water to the bottom, bulb-like chamber. Activate your heat source, allowing the water to reach a gentle simmer. Whilst waiting for the water to reach that simmer, take the two metal discs (filter assembly) and add the pre-cut circular paper filter in between them, screwing the discs together to hold it in place. Using the chain hanging from the filter assembly, fit the hook through the tube of the top chamber, hooking it to the bottom rim of said tube. Once your water has reached a simmer, gently put the top chamber into the bottom, making sure the seal is airtight. This will create a vacuum, and between it and the now boiling water, the water will rise to the top chamber. A small amount of water will remain in the bottom chamber – this is normal. This keeps the bottom chamber from overheating while the water is in the top chamber. Once most of the water has risen, add 25g of coffee directly in, stirring gently to ensure all grounds are wet. Reduce the heat to a medium-low, allowing the coffee to brew in the top chamber for 90 seconds, evenly stirring 2-3 times during the process. After 90 seconds, remove the heat and the coffee will flow down to the bottom chamber, with the paper filter keeping the grounds in the top.

Overall brew time: Depends on the strength of the heat source, but the coffee grounds and water should be in contact for about 1:30-2:00 mins.

Grind size: Medium-fine

End result: A unique, very aromatic cup of coffee, clean with a complex flavor range

So there’s my spiel. Again, I’m no expert on all things coffee, but I like a good cup of coffee just as much as the next guy. If you’re out shopping and see one of these brew methods, check to see if it results in a cup of coffee catering to your preference. You could end up finding a new favorite!

– Ryan

You’re worth so much

Despite what society feels fit to tell you

I use the word ‘worth’ a lot in my posts. It’s one of my favorite, but at the same time, least favorite words. It’s one of my favorite words because worth is something everyone has, whether they realize it or not. There are no varying degrees of worth, there is simply worth. You are a god-given human life, you have a soul, a conscious, and no one thing or other person can replace you. Whether you realize it or not, you have inherent value simply because you have a beating heart.

So why is a word that describes something so beautiful also one of my least favorite words? Simply put, the definition of ‘worth’ has been so incredibly skewered by human society that we’ve lost the true meaning of the word. When we talk about society as a whole seeing your worth, what exactly are they searching for? Money, career, social status, living conditions, clothes…the list goes on. Your “usefulness” to society is seen by what you can contribute to it, whether it be through your career, your money, your connections. In far too many people’s eyes, worth is nearly nonexistent if it doesn’t directly affect people other than yourselves. People jump to America as being the prime culprit of this mindset, but in reality most first-world countries subscribe to this way of thinking. Society doesn’t see worth as inherent value present in everyone regardless of their personal situation, but instead sees it as a tool; a ranking system for determing who is the more important individual.

I’m sure that many of you have heard this spiel before, but in my personal experience it’s one of the hardest to actually take to heart. You can tell somebody that they’re worth something a hundred times over, but when a large chunk of (generally fairly prevelant) society tells you your worth is based on matching or beating the status quo, then who is prone to have the larger voice? The multi-billionaire sitting in his high rise with all the luxuries of the modern world, who society sees as more worth their time, or the average person in their 1-2 bedroom apartment, just making enough to pay rent?

It’s not often that I’ll come straight out and say that something so engrained in our society is wrong, but this is absolutely one of those times. Society’s definition of worth sets the bar the same height for nearly everybody, not taking into account familial, monetary, or health situations. What does that mean for somebody who grew up in a slum, whose family is so poor that they can’t even afford community college? Even though that person doesn’t physically have the materials needed to get simple access to the same opportunities as someone else, it makes no difference. You have money, or your don’t. Worth vs. worthlessness. You have a PhD, or you don’t. Worth vs. worthlessness. You have a spacious house, or you don’t. I repeat, worth vs. worthlessness.

That. Is. Bullshit. Worth is inherent to every human being on this earth; a poverty-stricken individual has just as much capacity for good as a person with millions of dollars does. Is that ‘easy’ to see? I don’t know. Maybe not. But it’s there. That worth is there, whether or not they choose to accept it. It’s so damn tragic that so, so many people will go through this life without realizing they had even the slightest bit of worth, simply because a brainwashed society told them they didn’t. I know it isn’t as easy as snapping your fingers and then seeing the light that is your inherent value appear before your eyes. It’s especially easy to forget that value when something bad happens to us or someone we care about – a death, a breakup, being fired from a job – even something as simple as having a nasty thing said to you. But, in the same way society cannot take away your worth just by saying you don’t have any, no one action or failed relationship can take it away either.

In your darkest times, please try and remember that. Unless you stop being a human being, you will never stop having worth. To yourself, to others, and even to society (even if they don’t realize or accept it). 

So…whenever I talk about worth, that’s what I mean. Not your social status, not your bank account or education, but your value as a human life. Oh, and if you don’t buy my spiel? Too bad! You have worth just by being, and even if you deny that, it’s still there. If you can’t point it out to yourself, then let someone else do it with you. Talk to your friends, your family, your significant other, spend time with your pets, do something you’re really good at. I say this in nearly every post, but don’t be afraid to reach out to me, either. Send me an email or write a comment on here and I’ll get back to you. 

Like I mentioned before, I know it isn’t easy. There are times when I mentally break down because I feel like I have no value, to others or the world around me. But I jump back from that mindset, because I do have worth. Despite what happened to me on a crappy work day, or what stupid thing I might’ve said in the heat of the moment, I’m a person. I remember that, and so should you.

Stay strong.

– Ryan

Understanding people with depression and/or anxiety

Interacting with a person with depression and/or anxiety can be a large beast to tackle. A lack of understanding for what some people go through is common in our society. Hopefully this post can help a bit.

For people who have no history or experiences with mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety, understanding how to approach individuals with these ways of thinking can be difficult. For some who grew up in a family where depression and anxiety have been passed down for a few generations, it can be easier. Having people around you, whether they be family or friends, who know and can relate to how your mind works can be a great support. However, not everyone has this luxury.

What about people who have no idea how depression affects the mind? People who don’t understand why people suffering from anxiety worry about seemingly the most miniscule things? Although it may not seem like a big deal, interacting with sufferers of these mental illnesses in a way that doesn’t escalate their feelings of depression or anxiety can make the receiver’s life a whole lot easier.

So how can those of us who have mental health issues help those who don’t? The logical first step would be to simply say that our minds don’t work the same way yours do on a daily basis. With no desire on our part, our minds can turn the tiniest molehill into a mountain, without any “logical” explanation. Whether that be beating ourselves up mentally for something that happened three years ago or worrying about something that, frankly, probably doesn’t need to really be worried about, our minds will make it so we do. I cannot stress enough that this is from no choice of our own. 9/10ths of it is simply brain chemistry. If you’re interested, it’s incredibly easy to find articles and pictures online of the differences between a “normal” brain and a brain with mental illnesses affecting it. So, from the science-y side of things, the chemicals in our brains are all out of whack. Whoops.

On a more personal level, we know we’re this way. We know we shouldn’t worry about Thing A. or beat ourselves up for Thing B. But we do it anyway. I’m certain I speak for nearly all of us suffering from these mental illnesses when I say: if we could snap our fingers and make this affliction evaporate into thin air, we’d do it. But alas, is life ever that simple? (Spoiler alert: no). We’re aware that all logic tells us not to dwell on these inane things, but we do anyway.

I could give you a list of advice for dealing with sufferers of these illnesses, but I won’t do that. There are some fantastic bloggers on here that have created comprehensive, thought-out lists on that subject, and I’ve no wish to usurp them. I’d just like to add my two cents to the conversation.

The best, and I mean best thing anyone can do for someone like me is make an effort to understand where they’re coming from. I know you aren’t going to get all of the anatomy and psyiology behind it – nobody should expect you to. Just remember that sometimes, even when it’s the most inconvienient time, our minds will take everything out of proportion. Whether it’s worrying, panicking, crying, reclusiveness…it’s all fair game.

If you take one thing away from this post, let it be this: understand that you’ll never be able to fully understand us. Hell, sometimes we don’t fully understand us. But we begin to recover when we understand that not everything can be whittled down to logic and brain chemistry, and we only ask that you do the same. If we somehow get on your last nerve with our actions or words, I apologize for all of us. Trying to attribute everything a depression/anxiety-riddled mind does to logic is a lost cause. We’re imperfect, we know that. But so is everyone. Accept us for our odd tendencies, and we’ll accept you for yours.

– Ryan

Romance

A quick thought on relationships

This will be a rather short post, as I’ve only got a few minutes until I have to get back to work. A small blurb of thoughts, if you will…

I constantly find myself jealous of my peers who can, it seems, so easily approach a possible romantic interest and strike up a conversation with them like it’s nothing. Almost like they can make this instant connection, even if not romantic, but enough to build up to the point where they’re comfortable discussing feelings around each other. I’m single right now, and I’m honestly okay with that. I continually tell myself that it’s important to love yourself before you commit yourself to another person romantically. If you ask a partner to accept you for who you are, then it only makes sense that you  accept you for who you are.

So yes, I’m contet with being single, but that still doesn’t stop a pang of lonliness from arising in me when one of my friends gets a new girlfriend or boyfriend, or gets engaged. For someone who struggles with accepting myself on a daily basis, the fact that they have found someone who accepts and connects with them on an emotional level is both beautiful and heartwrenching for me. Truth be told, I’m a bit of a romantic. No getting around that. But that doesn’t include the fact that I’m prone to comparing my ‘worth’ against somebody who, it seems, may have found the love of their life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not seething in the corner while a friend and his significant other are shamelessly flirting. I’m genuinely happy for people who have that person in their lives. But, truth be told, it hurts sometimes. This feeling isn’t so much something I dwell on, but rather keep coming back to as more friends and co-workers get in relationships/engaged. I can barely tell myself I’m a loving person somedays, why do some people get another person to tell them that as well? Again, I don’t want to sound like I’m bitter. I don’t think  I’m bitter. Just melancholy. Reflective, I suppose.

I’ve seen posts on here that state being single is better. I’ve also seen the opposite which states that having romance in your life helps ease the pain of mental illnesses greatly. I dunno which I believe, if either. Obviously there’s no one right answer for everybody, as it is with most things. I don’t know what the right answer is for me, either. That being said, I’m still content with being single. I need to take care of myself and my own life before I bring another person into it. Whether you’re in a relationship or single, remember to take care of yourself. If you can’t show affection for yourself even with your shortcomings and flaws, it’s going to be mighty hard for your partner to. Stay strong, everyone.

-Ryan

What this blog is doing for me

Or maybe what it’s doing TO me…

I mentioned in my first post that the main reason I started this blog was for me. A blog is a great medium to record your experiences and emotions onto a tangible thing, and maybe help a few other troubled souls in the process. However, after only a week of posting on here I feel myself slipping away from what drew me to this way of expressing myself in the first place.

I find myself taking the social media approach to this. Facebook, Instagram, Myspace (hahaha)…it’s all about the likes and reaction. Man, I cringed just writing that, let alone admitting it to myself. I keep coming back to the mindset that the more views and likes a blog post of mine has, the better written it was. Or maybe the more relatable topic. Logically, I tell myself that is ridiculous. Again, this blog was for me, and in the long run, who really gives a crap how many people found it worth their time to hit a star button on their browser? 

Clearly I give a crap. And I hate that aspect of my mind. There are so many more important things to actually be concerned with, shame on me for giving this thought the time of day. I could try to lie to myself and say that I worry about the amount of people viewing my posts because I’m trying to encourage people, and so the less people who read my posts, the less encouraged people will be. My nose grew a foot while I typed that statement. 

Man, that sucks. I write these posts of encouragement and worth, yet here I am subconciously judging my worth based on a few blog posts. I dislike even having to write a post about this in the first place. But I need to. No sugar-coating or fake smiles, this is a flaw in me. But hell, that’s okay. I’m flawed; my depression tells me that every single day. You’re flawed, and unless you have the best self esteem of anybody on this planet, I’m sure you know that. But that’s fine. You’re human. I’m human. The people you’re afraid of judging you for your flaws are human. Whether or not it’s something you can see, whether or not it’s something a person admits outright, having flaws is part of life. It isn’t exclusive to any one mental illness.

I look at myself starting this blog as a means of self-therapy and beat myself up for judging how well my “self-therapy” is going by judging my worth on this blog by views and likes. I have a few photo-savvy friends with hundreds to thousands of Instagram followers, and they see a successful post on Instagram as the one with the most likes. For a photo-centric media, I suppose that makes sense, though their worth is much more than Instagram likes (but that’s a can of worms for another time). I come onto this blog, meant to be a public meeting place for like-minded individuals and groups, and I also judge my “blog success” by viewcount.

No! Bad Ryan! That’s not why you started this! Ahhh, damn my millenial social media mindset. So now that I’ve admitted it outright, I’d like to think I’ve taken my first step to breaking this poisonous view on the purpose of my blog. People make mistakes and are hypocritical. I make mistakes and am hypocritical. But we’re people. People have flaws. I have flaws. I just need to learn remind myself of that without beating myself up for it.

– Ryan

Why you should fight

Even if it seems way too hard.

So I’m sitting here, close to the end of my work day, my mind a whirlwind of negative emotions and thoughts. It’s all I can do to get my job done without outright screaming into the abyss about, well, everything. My breathing is heavy, my hands are involuntarily tensing, and I’m making an active effort to keep my mouth shut except when absolutely necessary.

I’m even looking over my past posts of inspiration, trying to get myself to calm down and remember what really matters – that I truly am blessed. I read these lines I spurt out over the computer which, make no doubt, I truly believe in. I believe everyone is worth something, that everyone is strong, that everyone can stem themselves against the tide. But damn if it isn’t easy to forget everything I believe is important during those moments of turmoil.

Let’s say I make it through all of this. I will, of course, but hypothetically. I “weather the storm” and all that jazz…what happens then? At the other side of life? Does some angel come down from heaven and sprinkle glitter and pop rocks all over me, with a giant CONGRATULATIONS banner in between two cherry blossoms? No. My “reward” is to be able to live another day, possibly more stressful than the last. It gets easier, sure, but it’s never actually easy.

So many people look at suicide as cowardice, a last ditch effort to make people aware of their suffering and get the (theoretical) last word. Emphasis on last. By no means would I ever advocate suicide or self-harm: it’s never, never, never the answer. I can’t stress that enough. But to look at suicide as some “throw in the towel” move for cowardly people is unfair. People who are genuinely considering ending their own life aren’t cowards – they’re desperate. They are so incredibly convinced that nothing can be done to lift them out of their suffering that the answer is to just give the suffering nothing more to eat at. The only, and they truly think, only answer, is to cut themselves off from every emotion entirely – you can’t be depressed as a body in a coffin, or as ashes in an urn on somebody’s fireplace mantle.

Again, this is in no way in defense of suicide, self-harm, or anything of the sort. There are always other answers to ease your pain in life. The reason I bring up this heavy topic, however, is to ask, if it’s so easy to just end it all, why keep going? What’s a moment’s pain or panic for an eternity of unfeeling, unknowing consciousness? Or maybe I’ll go to heaven…you can’t be sad in heaven, right? That’s why it’s heaven. But I digress…

Logically, ending your life should be so easy. So why are there still so many depressive, anxious, guilt-ridden individuals in the world who struggle with nothing less than their own emotions each day? What keeps them going? The answer, my friend, is life.

“Life keeps them going? Oh, yeah, reeeeal original. Pull that out of a Nicholas Sparks novel?” Yeah, okay, hear me out. As human beings, we are capable of feeling so many amazing emotions that simpler lifeforms cannot: happiness, joy, love, compassion. But also negative emotions: sadness, guilt, hurt, anger, rage…the list goes on. Yes, there are some nasty people out there. Maybe a few some would even consider evil. But humanity as a whole is good. Another incredibly well-known quote that is one of my favorites and gets me through each day, was by a teenager by the name of Anne Frank. “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”She wrote that line as Nazis were searching for people like her to eradicate. An entire country, nay, an entire alliance  was dedicated to wiping people out like her. She and everyone she loved was being hunted down like a prize buck, yet she still believed in the inherent goodness of the human soul. That…is simply mind-blowing to me. I know that her story didn’t end well. Stories in that day and age rarely did. But her hope, her compassion, and her faith has been an inspiration for people everywhere for more than half a century now.
There is, logically, a reason to end your life. It ends the suffering (or so many believe). But trust me when I say that there are a million more reasons to live, despite how you may feel on the crappiest of days.Your mother, your father, brother, sister, dog, cat, iguana, favorite song, favorite video game series, your significant other, sunrises, sunsets, coffee, strawberries, pillows….the list goes on and on and on (I could try and finish my list, but I’d need at least 17 more seperate blog posts to get anywhere near the end).

This is coming from a person who just had a super crappy day. Even after writing all that sap, my mind is still a whirlwind of emotions and I still (kind of) feel like screaming at an inanimate object. But I’m still going to go back to work, I’m still going to smile and exchange pleasantries with people and go home. I’m still going to wake up tomorrow and make it through that day too. I trudge on, because there is so much worth living for. Humanity is a beautiful mess. I’m going to be okay. You’re going to be okay. Keep fighting, because you can. Because you’re given that opportunity to. If you need to talk, I’m here. You got this.

– Ryan

Everything is terrible and I’m a failure

Except not really.

And now, please rise for an announcement from the King of Overreacting:

Hoo, what a week. From working constantly to my anxiety levels rising to almost being kicked out of my house, it’s been a rollercoaster, to be sure. Everybody has their initial reactions to things, both good and bad, and oftentimes those reactions can be rather…intense. I think of all of these adjectives that people can use to describe how they felt about something particularly extraordinary: OVERwhelming, OVERjoyed, UNdeserving, UNDERappreciated…and it got me thinking. What defines something as being overwhelming and not…well, whelming? What about feeling joy versus feeling OVERjoyed? What line does an individual have to cross before their feelings on a particular event are considered stronger than the societal norm?

For me, it isn’t just about the intensity of our feelings, but how long we dwell on them. You can be excited about going to see a movie with somebody, and no matter how damn good that movie was, I doubt you’d still be reeling with excitement about it a week later. You can do better than anyone else in your class on a test or exam, but you won’t be in utter bliss for the next month. Many people’s minds consider the “alloted amount” of excitement for something good, and once that alloted time is up, you’re brought back down to earth. “You did great on a test, good for you. Yes, by all means, feel your excitement, your pride, your worth. But once you’ve done that, don’t forget you have more life to deal with!” your mind says.

So very rarely do we dwell on the good things in our life, our blessings and accomplishments. So mind, I entreat you to tell me, why must the things we dwell on be our failures? Our slip-ups, what we should or shouldn’t have said, why we feel like trash? Let us have our moment of glory for our accomplishments, but the minute we make a mistake, thrust every possible negative emotion our way like a tidal wave of despair, suffocating us for weeks, or even months, at a time? How is that fair?

The simple answer, as I’m sure many of you know, is that it isn’t fair. Flashback to our somewhat oblivious family member or mentor, reminding you that “life ain’t fair, deal with it and move on.” Well, that person isn’t wrong. I saw a movie a while back (it’s on Netflix if you’re interested, a little cheesy but still entertaining) called ‘Keith.’ This isn’t an exact quote, but one of the main characters said something along the lines of “shitty things happen to good people.” And yeah, that’s true. Shitty things happen to everyone. It’s just that those of us with depression are much more likely to beat ourselves up for those things than the average Jill or Joe.

So what happens when that tidal wave of despair drags us under its dark waves? It gets in our eyes, our mouth, our ears, and it washes through you, affecting your being as a whole until it washes out of our system. Funny thing is, for those suffering with depression, it works in tandem with that despair. It opens up areas of our brain that the despair might not have even touched if not for depression’s help. “So that person said one thing to you that could be taken as slightly offensive? Well, depression here to tell you that it probably means that that person hates you. Maybe what that person said isn’t even true, but even so, your opinion isn’t worth anything, so it doesn’t matter anyway. Yeah, they hate you, and probably for good reason. Hey, what are you even doing with your life? Maybe if you weren’t sitting on your ass all day moping you’d be somewhere actually worthwhile? Oh, who am I kidding. You aren’t important enough to be worth anything.”

Did it suck to read that? Yeah, it sucked to type it. The amount of times my own mind has told me something very similar to that is too many (and too depressing) to count. Whether the thing you’re worrying about is a mountain or a molehill, your depression will tell you that it’s Everest each time. “You won’t make it to the top, hell, you’ll probably die along the side, forgotten and a failure.”

Well, King of Overreacting here to tell you that your depression isn’t right. It’s sick, it’s twisted, it’s a plague, but you are more than that. You are a human life. You live in a world where miracles happen everyday. For as long as humanity has existed, there have been those who are overwhelmed just by the lies their mental illness tells them. But we’re still here. People are still here. We make it through, and you will make it through.

That tidal wave is mighty hard to stop, I know. Nearly impossible. But to echo one of the most overused inspirational quotes out there: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It may not feel like it at first, I know. You may emerge from that tidal wave, only to come up gasping for air, limbs shaken, mind rattled, coughing up water for hours. But you’ll know better how to shield yourself against it next time. It may take many, many tries, and you may not always know how to resist it, but that’s why other people are here trying to help. Psychiatrists, therapists, family members, friends, significant others…they can help you build a wall to block that wave as best you can. And, in the process, you may very well be helping someone else build their wall without even realizing it.

There are tools out there. In my last post, I mentioned “finding your comfort,” something that, no matter how influential your depression may seem on you, there is something out there that is moreso. To say that it’s possible to stop these waves of despair from coming in completely would be to give people false hope. Unless you find a way to shut off your emotions completely (and I wouldn’t wish that on the worst of my enemies), despair will exist. Sadness and anger and guilt will exist. But you can weather the storm. I swear to you, on everything I hold dear, you can weather the storm. Be a foundation, telling your depression that you won’t let it linger. Life moves on no matter what happens, good or bad. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and make it to the next hurdle. Even if you’re limping, people can support you. Pets are wonders at that as well. (In my opinion, there’s almost nothing better than having a terrible, no good, very bad day, only to come home to a dog who is ecstatic to see you no matter what your mind tries to throw down on you.)
I’m a stranger to many of you, but if I can help you build that foundation to weather the storm, to resist the tidal wave of despair, I entreat you, please, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’m no therapist. I haven’t spent my life studying mental illness and how to treat it. But I live it. Like you, I struggle, every day, wrestling with my illness that tells me it has control over my life. It doesn’t, and if I can help show you that in any way, I’d do so without a moment’s hesitation. 

Stay strong, because whether you realize it or not, you are strong.

– Ryan