Some words of encouragement

I want you to know that you’re worth something.

I want you to realize that, whatever problems you may be dealing with, you are never alone.

I want you to understand that people, even those you may not realize or talk to every day, are here for you.

I want you to know that whatever may have happened yesterday, last month, last year, last decade, doesn’t affect how wonderful you can make the future.

I want you to realize that you can overcome anything that comes your way, no matter who or what tells you otherwise, including your own mind.

need you to understand that there are good people in this world, around every corner, who won’t judge you, or abuse you, or put you in a place you have no desire to be in.

need you to understand that you are stronger than any self-deprecating thought that crosses your mind.

I want you to know that I know being strong isn’t easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.

I want you to know that no outside opinion of you matters, only the light you view yourself in.

need you to know that people care. I need you to know that I care. He cares. She cares. They care.

I want you to know that there are people out there who, when they look at you, see the sun.

Stay strong.

– Ryan

“Why are you so sad?”

Spoiler alert: I’m depressed, and probably for no reason.

One seemingly surefire way of determining whether or not someone suffers from depression is to figure out the root of the depressive thoughts. While depression can most certainly be amplified in times of distress, very rarely does it come about solely from outside factors, like events or people. So, if you’re a psychiatrist who has someone walk up to you and say, “My wife of 17 years left me,” or “I didn’t get the position I interviewed for that I really wanted,” they’re probably down in the dumps (understandably). However, if they follow that up with, “I think I have depression,” that’s where the scrutiny comes in.

Again, when bad things happen, we oftentimes feel bad. It’s simply human nature to react accordingly to things that happen to or around us. But clinical depression doesn’t rely on outside events to rear its ugly head – it’s going to make itself known at even good points in your life.

I mentioned in a previous post that I was having a decent week, and that wasn’t a lie. It still isn’t – nothing traumatic or ridiculously bad has happened to me lately. But this past week, my depression has been overwhelming me to no end. I’m mopey, I’m pushy, I’m antisocial and bitter and honestly, straight up pissed sometimes. What am I pissed at? Nothing. Nothing at all. There’s just some seething rage permeating a hundred of my thoughts, but for no reason.

I was raised to never say “I hate [this],” unless I truly meant it. To this day, I still scarcely use the phrase, but I can say with full certainty that I hate this. I hate feeling this way, I hate that other people also feel this way, I hate that depressive thinking is brought on by absolutely nothing at all, with next to no warning signs as to when it’s going to strike.

I understand what it’s like when other people suffer from this, so I try to encourage people in their own battles against depression where and when I can. But even so, there are times when I break, and discouragement clouds my every thought.

I feel like breaking. And I feel like breaking only because my depression says I should, regardless of who’s out there looking out for me.

Try and stay strong.

  • Ryan

P.S. I know this post was a massive downer, and I’m sorry for that, it’s just that….bleeerrrggh. -_-

I hope you never understand, I hope you never forget

I don’t want you to understand what it’s like to be physically crippled by your own mind.

I don’t want you to understand what it’s like to wake up and not be able to get out of bed. Not because you physically can’t – your legs are working just fine. I don’t want you to understand what it’s like to not be able to move, simply because your own mind is preventing you from doing so. Glued to the bed, battling your own mind. Move your foot, take a step. Pick your head off the pillow. Get out of bed.

I don’t want you to understand what it feels like to nearly be overcome with anxiety just getting through your morning routine. I don’t want you to be filled with dread at the simple prospect of what the day might bring. Even if nothing has given any indication that the day ahead may bring bad things. The mere possibility that terrible things may happen can be enough to make you want to run and hide.

I don’t want you to understand the feeling that everyone in the world has it better than you. You obviously have it better than so many people, but it doesn’t matter, at least not to your mind. You can’t even pull yourself out of bed in the morning, remember?

I don’t want you to understand the feeling of a hopeless future leading nowhere.

I don’t want you to understand the feeling that the best place to spill your feelings is on a blog, because those people can’t see your face. They can’t judge a faceless writer, hundreds (or thousands) of miles away.

do want you to understand that it’s okay not to understand.

I do want you to understand that understanding isn’t necessary to support people, and love people, and have faith in people, even if those people don’t have faith in themselves.

I do want you to understand that nobody, mental health issues or not, can fix everything. I do want you to understand that nobody expects you to be able to, either.

I do want you to understand that everyone has their own stories and their own battles, regardless of whether they let other people actually see those things.

I do want you to understand that people shouldn’t expect to be loved by all, or worshiped, or the center of attention at all times. People just want to be accepted for who they are, not forced to change to suit society’s whims and expectations. In fact, I bet you already do understand that.

I don’t want you to understand my mind, just be content with that fact that you never will. I truly don’t want you to feel any of this for yourself. So just talk with me. Support me, if you can. Be there for me when I need you, and hell, even when I don’t need you to. I will do my best to be there for you. Protect me from my own mind, because ironically enough, that’s what I’m most afraid of.

I hope you find happiness to the best of your ability, and I hope that you wish the same for me. I hope you’re able to remember that you aren’t alone, you have people here for you, whether you realize it or not. I hope you understand that there are others who understand. I hope you understand that there are others who feel the same things you do, in good moments and in bad.

I hope you know that people care about you, and what happens to you, and your happiness. I hope you never forget that.

I hope you stay strong, regardless of what your own mind says to you, because you can overcome it.

  • Ryan

You’re good enough.

So my day is kind of crappy so far. My depression has decided to make itself front and center in my mind today, and I’m feeling it.

It’s trying to tell me that I’m not good enough. But I am. As are you.

So I’m taking a super short post to say just that – you’re good enough. Whether it’s another person or your own mind trying to tell you otherwise, the fact still stands that you’re deserving of happiness.

No matter what mistakes you made today, or yesterday, or last year, you’re deserving of contentment. Your life isn’t defined by the ‘whats’ or ‘whos,’ it’s defined by the ‘whys.’ Your intentions.

Even as I write this, my mind is screaming at me that I’m full of crap. But I know better. I’m worth something, and you’re worth a hell of a lot, too.

Stay strong.

  • Ryan

 

A quick thought…

Violence for its own sake is bad. Generally, leaders, be they of countries, federations, armies, etc., take steps to avoid violence against their own.

At what point in history did human society decide that the best way to counter violence is with violence? Fire with fire? If I punch you, your initial reaction may be to punch me back. Which in response causes me to hit you again, and the cycle repeats until there’s an all-out fistfight. If history and human nature has taught us anything, it’s that a violent act will often lead to a retaliation of violence.

Human society has been around for thousands of years. We’ve evolved, gotten smarter and wiser, so why haven’t a vast majority of us realized that violence in response to violence solves nothing? So many leaders are convinced that brute force is the answer to ending what plagues their people, and as such, they become so blinded that they don’t realize the problem lies more so in their own actions than those they are fighting against.

If I punch you, you should put up yours hands to defend yourself, absolutely. But instead of hitting back, figure out why I punched you. What caused it? How can we solve this problem without another punch to the face? With the least amount of collateral damage. Maybe you’re still a little sore (physically and mentally) from my punch, but we’re avoiding a lot of future soreness if we take a less physical approach to things. Right?

I’m not really sure what prompted this thought, honestly. The U.S. is pretty divided right now, between what approach we take to solve our problems. I hope we see that force isn’t always the answer.

  • Ryan

Compassion, not just kindness

“Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.”

Far too often, true compassion is overlooked as just being simple kindness. There’s nothing wrong with being kind, of course. All acts of compassion are kind, however, not all acts of kindness are compassionate. It’s the societal norm to be kind to others. If you walk into a grocery store and be a jerk to the person in front of you in line, people are going to give you dirty looks. Being rude or ignorant is, in most cases, considered socially unacceptable. Nearly everyone is considered to have a certain amount of decency towards others, even if it means going through the motions. This often means empty gestures. Yes, that person won’t get angry with the grocery store patron in front of them that’s taking forever to pay, but mostly because society would look at that with a figurative scowl.

I don’t want to imply that all acts of kindness come from social necessity, that certainly isn’t the case. There are absolutely people who are kind in public not because of any norm forced upon them, but because they genuinely want to be kind. They realize that patience will get them farther than initiating conflict ever will. But I’d be lying if I said that I believe that’s most people.

If there’s any one thing that my experiences with depression have shown me in force, it’s that people often see what I consider to be my “realist” attitude as pessimistic. I’ve said many times before that I believe in the inherent good in all people. I do. But inherent is the key word for me. While everybody has the potential for infinite caring, it seems that so few people, well, act on that. So, if people have the potential for unconditional love, why is it so uncommon? There’s probably a long list of reasons why: for fear of it being seen as weak and vulnerable, because the feeling may not be reciprocated… but my guess is that the most common reason why is because it’s simply easier to be indifferent to it all.
We can still perform these empty acts of kindness without much sacrifice on our part, but true compassion requires looking outside of our own self more often than not. Why sacrifice our own time, putting our emotions aside for the sake to help others with theirs? It seems like such a predatory mindset – kill or be killed. Look after yourself and your own emotions, or supposedly risk your mental well-being to help someone else maybe feel a bit better. From that viewpoint, the answer as to which seems better is obvious. How, then, is compassion worth it?

To understand that, it’s important that we understand what compassion actually is. To have compassion for something, be it a person, group, or cause, is to care about it on a deeper level. It’s easy to be kind to people we see in passing. To have compassion for them is a different thing entirely. While kindness is just that, kindness, compassion is fostering understanding for one’s situation, considering everything affecting it. Compassion is attempting to understand where one is coming from, be it good, bad, or somewhere in between, and caring for them anyway. Compassion is understanding that you will never be able to fully understand anyone else, nor they you, but loving and accepting them for who they are and what they have to offer anyway. Compassion and acceptance go hand-in-hand – if you cannot accept someone, then it’s impossible to understand and sympathize with them.

The word ‘compassion’ has its roots in Latin. The root of the word, compati, literally means to “suffer with.” While I don’t believe that having compassion for something means you must suffer with it, it shows that true compassion is opening yourself up to the plight of others, whether you have a stake in the situation or not. Human society, and even more than that, human understanding, is built on the foundation of togetherness. This means different things to different people, but I believe cooperation and understanding for others is key. Humans can’t live alone. You can stick a person in the middle of nowhere for years and years, alone, and they may find a way to survive. But emotionally, they will be broken. Cut someone off from any possible chance of compassion, and everything they have dealt with and everything they will deal with is theirs and theirs alone. Compassion allows them to share the burden with others, strengthening relationships and fostering understanding. How many fewer wars would be fought it compassion was shown to enemies instead of no mercy? Instead of the “kill or be killed” mindset?

This may seem like an incredibly naïve mindset. I’m not advocating for pacifism, but I do believe that rudeness, mocking, hatred, and violence should never be the first go-to for a lack of understanding. If we put compassion ahead of everything else, how many fewer people would feel the need to end their own life? To turn to drugs or alcohol? To violence?

Letting ourselves be open to others doesn’t mean rejecting ourselves, though. By seeing what others go through, we can become better equipped to deal with our own ups and downs. To reiterate what I said before: “Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.” Humans can survive alone. But to truly live, emotionally, mentally, spiritually…we need someone who has compassion for us. But how can we morally ask for compassion if we aren’t willing to give it ourselves?

So many problems in the world, past and present, are attributed to a lack of understanding. Compassion surpasses understanding – it allows for unconditional caring even when we don’t understand everything. But, understanding or no, it promotes cooperation. Again, I’m not saying we should all be pacifists. As morbid as it may sound, as long as humanity exists, violence will accompany us. But it certainly doesn’t have to be something we so readily turn to when understanding evades us. On a larger scale, like when it comes to entire nations, it’s obviously much, much tougher. But it’s possible. It has to be, if we start individually and build it up. For it to affect things larger than us, it first has to affect us. It needs to become a way of life, living compassionately. It would take years, I know. Years and years. But so do most things worth fighting for.

Understanding surpasses ignorance. Compassion surpasses simple kindness. And all of those things surpass violence due to lack of understanding. Compassion first. Everything else afterwards.

Stay strong.

  • Ryan

My anxiety makes me depressed; my depression makes me anxious

Depression and anxiety are quite often a package deal. Those unlucky enough to have one are arguably more prone to experience the other. As I go through the days, I find that I slip into a routine, one which is the bare bones of many aspects of my daily life. For example, I’ll get out of bed at the latest possible time to ensure I make it to work on time. Sure, I’m where I need to be when I need to be there, but not the best scenario to repeat over and over. Recently I’ve started beating myself up for this, not only because I fear how others will view this, but how I view myself. Individuals who have depression are often viewed by those who don’t understand the illness as being lazy. As one of those individuals with depression, I can assure you that 99 times out of 100 this isn’t the case. Depression can eat away at your mind, causing you to attribute negativity to nearly everything life throws at you. Staying in bed for half of the day is not a sign of laziness, it’s a coping mechanism.

With that in mind, I started thinking about why I fell into this “bare-bones” routine so often, and I’ve found that it’s a vicious cycle. I’ll get up at the last possible minute, and be rushing to make it to work on time, causing my anxiety to peak. If something small isn’t how it’s supposed to be, such as my car not starting or a road detour, my routine doesn’t leave much (or really any) wiggle room. So, I’ll get to work, mind already roiling from the anxiety just leading up to it. Work is generally fine; I enjoy what I do, but it is still a job, which comes with anxieties of its own. I’ll get home later that night (I generally work into the evenings) and that is where my anxiety tends to lessen. I don’t have any more responsibilities for that day – this is my chance to take a load off and relax.

So, I’ll occupy myself for an hour. And another hour. As time passes, my mind will turn to tomorrow, and with it, all the stresses and responsibilities it brings. In response, I’ll ask myself what I can do to combat these anxious thoughts. Predictably, my answer is to occupy my mind enough that I block these thoughts out, so, in short, anything but going to bed. If I were to try lying down, my mind would be so frantic I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep anyway. So, I occupy myself even more, and by the time I do make it to bed, it’s ridiculously late. I’ve figured out that, however illogical it may seem, my answer to the anxieties of tomorrow is to make it so that tomorrow doesn’t come until the last minute. Obviously, I don’t have the power to slow down time, but the longer I stay awake in this situation where I have no responsibilities, the less time I’ll have to worry about the time where I do have responsibilities. Going to bed so late causes me to sleep in later than I probably should, and the cycle begins anew. As days pass with this same routine, I fall prey to my depression, with it telling me that this is happening because I am lazy. I am incompetent. I can look at this from a logical perspective and tell myself this isn’t true, but whenever depression takes control, negativity reigns supreme.

In short, what I’m trying to get across is that depression and anxiety work in tandem with one another. Thoughts of one nature often carve a path for the other. As these habits often fall into a cycle, combatting them seems especially hard. As I’ve just related, I’m currently struggling with these things myself, so I can’t give any surefire methods for dealing with this. I can only give my best suggestion, one that I’m going to start trying, and that’s practicing mindfulness.

For those unaware of the concept, mindfulness is looking at thoughts as just that, thoughts. There are no happy thoughts, sad thoughts, anxious thoughts, etc. There are only thoughts that we should view through an unbiased lens. This is not to say we ignore these thoughts, that would create more problems than it solves. We merely observe them without any emotion attached to them. Mindfulness certainly doesn’t say that emotion is not there (or important, for that matter), but as many with depression know, viewing everything that crosses your mind through an emotional lens only leads to attributing negativity to it all. Observing our thoughts and the actions of others through an unbiased lens allows us to apply logic more readily than if we were worried, or guilty, or whatever emotion we attribute to the thought. By looking at events with more logic than emotion, we take away our tendency to worry about events, past, present, and future.

Mindfulness, much like deep breathing techniques and yoga, is something that improves only with practice. Emotion is such an integral part of our thought processes, so when we have a technique that initially takes that away, it certainly takes some getting used to. Again, this method doesn’t ask you to throw emotion away, it simply requests you put it to the side, only pulling it back if it’s immediately needed to deal with the situation (which many times it isn’t). There are many resources for practicing mindfulness, and it is a growing study among many psychological health professionals.

It’s something that I’ve heard has worked for many people, and for a few months it was something I practiced as well. As happens all too often with me, however, I fell out of practice. With luck, it will help me deal with my bare-bones routine. Looking at the next day logically instead of emotionally in the evenings should allow me to go to sleep earlier, thus allowing me to get up earlier and face the day. Mindfulness was created with the concept of living in the moment, as opposed to worrying about past or future events which we cannot change. We can change our right now, however, and mindfulness tries to help ensure we have the mental and emotional capability to do that.

 

  • Ryan