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

(Literally) A ray of sunshine

FInd your comfort in a mad world

So day three of ‘working’ this blog, and I’ve kept loyal to it thus far. Honestly, I’ll be really impressed if I hit a month. I’ve always loved writing, and the fact that it took me so long to take to a blog as a means of releasing emotion is quite shocking, really. Every day I’ve been looking forward to coming back to this medium, not just to write and share my own experiences, but to read yours and hopefully understand the world a bit more.

So, depression. Anxiety. Two small words that have the capability to turn a good day into a bad one, spilled milk into a flood. Clearly there isn’t any one commonly accepted answer to deal with either burden. Therapy, medication, spirituality…everyone with a condition such as depression or anxiety has something different to help ease the pain day-to-day (if they’ve found it).

You know what the beautiful thing is, though? Once you do find that ‘thing,’ that outlet of release or calming influence, there’s nothing quite like it. In a world constantly portrayed as negative, condescending, and dark, to have that something (or in some lucky cases, multiple things) that helps you feel like your life isn’t plagued by an illness so many fail to understand, it’s nearly miraculous. For me, a guy who most certainly is one of those aforementioned people to turn spilled milk into a flood, I wouldn’t trade my source of comfort for anything. What is that source of comfort? For me, it’s nature.

No, I’m not a tree-hugger, as I’ve been so lovingly called before. I don’t live in a hut in the woods made of birch trees and pinecones, and I don’t sustain myself on nuts and whatever berries grown in the ravine I’ve built my hut next to (for protection against bears, obviously). But I can tell you without a doubt in my mind that since my depression and anxiety have manifested, never have I had a more calming moment than when I’ve been standing outside. A lot of it comes back to my spiritual beliefs, but I don’t want to get into that right now (or anytime soon, most likely) – in my experience, the only thing I’ve found more dividing than politics is religion. Don’t get me wrong, in my closest group of friends I’m considered the most ‘religious’ (even though I hate that word). I’m very clear on what I believe. At its best, common spirituality among groups of people creates a sense of unity the likes of which are rarely seen otherwise. At it’s worst, religious differences start wars, and on a more personal level, create divides between individuals. So, while getting into my spirituality would fall into the realm of relevance of this topic, I won’t really touch on it more yet for the aforementioned reasons.

Anyhoo, nature. Dirt. Ocean. Trees, sand, mountains, the less-travelled path, I love it all. I’ve seen a few posts on here about people who get so anxious in public they have to take measures to A.find some sort of mental distraction whilst out and about or B. not go out in public unless absolutely necessary. That’s one of the great things about isolation in nature for me – the squirrels in the woods or the worms in the dirt aren’t going to judge you because your social anxiety prevents you from performing as well in a public situtation as others. The leaves of the trees will still turn their beautiful autumn hues year after year regardless of how much you’re worried about what person #37 that day said to you.

Nature is my constant. People can change, relationships can fluctuate, jobs are often a means to an end, and looking to food as your source of comfort generally won’t get you anywhere good. But the earth will keep spinning no matter how many people may will for it not to. Gray, dreary clouds won’t be in the sky every day, sunshine will break through no matter how furious the storm the night before. I’m so, incredibly comforted by the presence of something so whole, so changing but at the same time so fluctuating, that you know it will be there when you step outside. The sky. The sun. Trees, dirt, flowers, wildlife, fields, rivers, mountains, it’s all still going to be there. If you imagine the wind as breath, then the planet as a whole is just as alive and feeling as all of us are. It won’t let anything but the strongest of presences destroy it – not even the swaying of the body through billions of miles of space can knock a sapling out.

For those of you gagging from the cheesiness of that last paragraph, fair enough. I didn’t make this post with the intention of saying “go outside and make snow angels and you’ll be all better.” This is just my personal example of that comfort. The one thing that draws me into a good place, out of the darker, far too influential corners of my mind that tell me I’m not enough, tell me to worry. So, dear reader, I implore you – if you haven’t already, find that comfort, that constant that lets you know everything isn’t all that bad. It’s okay. You’re okay. Music, writing, swimming…I can’t even begin to list all of the possibilities for what might make you feel good. Only you can figure that out, and you’ll only know by doing. Don’t let thinking “this takes up a lot of my day,” or “nobody will get why I do that,”stop you. Do this for you. Taking care of others is all well and good – great, even – but you matter just as much. You have an obligation to yourself to let yourself be happy. 

Don’t be afraid to let me know if you want to talk – about this or anything. Who knows, your comfort could be confiding in others who know what you’re going through? Stay happy, everyone. 

Half-work-minded cafe ramblings.

So this post will probably be super fragmented, considering I’m sitting at the cafe I work at and I’m currently about three minutes through my ten minute break. I’m going to finish this post up during my longer lunch period (I hope), so if it seems like I change topics suddenly halfway through, that’s why.

So, a bit about me that isn’t “I’m sad.” As I’ve mentioned previously, my name is Ryan. I’m 23 years old, currently working as a barista in Illinois. I’m not from IL originally; I was born and raised in little ol’ Rhode Island. I moved away when I was 14, and most of my family, including my dear mother, are still in the New England area (RI, MA, CT…) I know Rhode Island doesn’t seem like the most exciting of places, and honestly, it probably isn’t. But it’s home to me. It’s been almost a decade since I’ve lived there (I’m just now realizing that as I type it, wow), but I’ve considered it home even if I have lived in a handful of places since. The ocean, the woods, the way one of the trees on my home street hung slightly over another one so that it looked like they were wrestling…it’s the little things that make the big things special.

I’ll explain more about why I moved away in a future post most likely (hint hint, it has to do with….depression! :P) But it’s a different beast entirely to tackle, and I’ll need a hell of a lot more than one blog post to explain everything about it.

So I mentioned in my first (and thus far, only other) post that part of the reason I started this blog was to basically have a healthy writing outlet to spill any emotions or crap like that onto paper (digital….paper?). This is going to be one of those posts. I have about 37 different things rocketing around my mind that threaten to distract me at any point in my day. As a matter of fact, just right now I’m sitting next to someone who threatens to make my anxiety go off the charts. Nothing against her by any means – she’s super sweet, friendly, and social. But past events, without going into too much detail, have caused depressive and anxious thinking whenever she may be around my place of work.

If you just read that and said “what the hell?”, I don’t really blame you. I just read that back over and I barely understood it myself. The selfish part of me says that’s okay, though. I started a blog to get my own feelings into words, to spill my emotion in a healthy format. Right?

Considering the fact that I just joined this site yesterday, I’ve only read a handful of posts on a handful of blogger sites, honestly mostly about depression (I mean, a few about coffee too, but like my moving situation, my coffee fascination is another beast entirely to tackle. It’s an interest that, instead of fading away with the revival of my depression, has actually become stronger and more important to me since. It’s an entire culture, a language much of the world speaks, like music. But like I said – another can of worms for another time.). I’ve commented on a few posts about depression, even if it was just a little snippet of encouragement. But I hope it helped somebody. I feel like crap most days, and, well, it’s crap. But I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, let alone people just like me struggling with real problems with a real mental illness affecting even the tiniest aspects of your life, permeating the most superficial and inane thoughts of your brain. 

To echo every brochure packet for therapists literally everywhere: you aren’t alone. People right next to you are struggling, even if it isn’t immediately obvious. There are always different degrees; some people can hide it under a smile, a social group, makeup, but many, who society often sees as the angsty, broody, quiet loners who “have problems like everyone else but are too lazy to deal with them.”, have more trouble tucking those feelings away. The people who matter know the truth, and the truth is that struggling with depression does not count as lazy. Being so depressed you can barely pull yourself out of bed in the morning is not lazy.

To whoever may be reading this:

You are smart.

You are beautiful.

You are unique.

You are worth something.

You are worth many things.

You are worth so much.

———————-

Hang in there.

My Soul Hurts

Hello, whoever might’ve stumbled across this. My name is Ryan, and as someone who has enjoyed writing for fun since middle school, it’s a bit odd that it took me until age 23 to start my own blog. Ah, well. Better late than never, yeah?

So why start a blog now? Long story short, it’s been a crap couple of weeks. Yeah, boo hoo right? See, I have depression. Clinical, not a “my internet was down, I’m so depressed” type deal. I’m fairly certain I’ve had it most of my life, but it really manifested in college, which now, looking back, I consider the Dark Ages…*shudder*
Anyway, it’s been years since depression has first made a sizeable impact in my life, and like many people with depression, it comes and goes in phases. I’ve seen multiple therapists, tried a bunch of different medications, even tried a month of outpatient counseling. Most of those things “worked,” persay, but there’s nothing that can cure depression. Nothing that can fill in that nagging hole inside your heart that tells you that you aren’t good-looking enough, or smart enough, or social enough. Sure, you can put a piece of duct tape over it for a bit, but it won’t last. And sometimes it feels like, even though you were sure it possibly couldn’t, that hole gets bigger and deeper and you feel it day after day.

I hate feeling like this. And I know that for the millions of people who also suffer from depression, I’m not alone. And that’s (part of) the reason I’m starting this blog. Part of me is doing it as a means of release, so yeah, there will be some fairly personal posts about my mindset, my feelings, my reasoning, etc. But another part of me realizes I’m not the only one who suffers from depression, and if I can do anything to prevent people from feeling the way I have been these past couple of weeks and other darker parts of my life, then I feel almost a moral push to help people by talking to them. Hearing them. Letting them know someone is listening and does care about them, even if it’s over a blog. You might have depression. Chances are, I may never meet you in my life. But that isn’t going to stop me from letting you know I’m here to talk, no matter how inane your problems may seem. I’m a stranger, but maybe I can be a stranger who makes your day a bit brighter.

To say that I’m going to post inspirational quotes and cheesy pictures constantly would be a complete lie. I’m all for cheesy inspiration and all that jazz. But this blog (as I see it playing out in my head at 4AM sitting in bed) will be a mix of personal experiences and some things about me, and posting whatever I think might help tumultuous minds like mine be eased, however little. Whether five people read my posts or five hundred, I’ll be here. 

You aren’t alone. Boy, girl, skinny, overweight, short, tall, black, white, there is someone like you, struggling with their own feelings. No matter what your mind tells you, you are worth something. Please, don’t forget that.