I think I’m a mean person, and it’s incredibly discouraging

Hoo, boy, this one’s gonna be a doozy…

I’ve said many times over that I believe in the inherent good of all people, myself included. Regardless of our individual approaches, we’re all working towards some sort of happiness. It’s a whole ‘nother conversation about what methods are “acceptable” and whatnot, but I digress…

Inherently, I’m good, like I believe everyone on this earth is. As I’ve gone through these past few weeks, though, I’ve gotten to wondering: “is my inherent good making me outwardly good?” I’ve had proof the last few weeks to argue against that point. And I hate it. I’m sorry, but I do. There’s no getting around that fact.

I have clinical depression and anxiety, which means my mind and the conclusions it comes to are a bit different from those people who don’t have either illness. Long ago I accepted the fact that these mental illnesses will not only change the way I view myself, but also change the way I view others and their actions and words towards me. I dwell on things, I take things personally, I analyze every little detail of every little action, and, nine times out of 10, I come to bad conclusions. Whether they’re simply flawed in logic or straight-up insane conclusions to jump to, my mind tells me to, regardless.

So, in response to these terrible things my mind is telling me might happen, or in response to things I take personally and then WAY out of proportion, my wonky mind, despite being the reason I reached these conclusions in the first place, tries to pat me on the back and say “Don’t worry, Ryan, I’ll help you deal with this!”

“No!” my logical mind says. “Absolutely not, your ridiculous overthinking and fear-mongering is what got me to this mental state in the first place! I’ll deal with this logically, calmly, and with a level-head.”

Then my emotionally-overridden mind takes over. It pins me to a wall with nails. “I don’t think so, logic. We’re dealing with this MY way. Over-emotionally, overthinking, fearfully dealing with it.” And so it begins.

I’m mean to people.

I snap at them, I ignore them out of spite, I assume every little action is something in spite against me, I try to make my problems their problems, I scowl at them behind their backs, cut and dry, I’m a straight-up jerk to them, all to cope with my own messed-up way of thinking. So, I suppose that makes me selfish, as well. Great.

I won’t hide behind my depression and anxiety for all of this here – maybe this is just part of my personality, as well. I’d like to think not, because before either one of these illnesses manifested itself in me, I was actually a very pleasant person to be around. Regardless, even if I can attribute all of my “meanness” to my depression and anxiety, that isn’t an excuse.

I’m being 100% honest when I say it feels like these illnesses are pinning me against a wall with nails, telling my to deal with personal problems in unsavory ways. There are things I could do to deal with that, but even if there weren’t, what does it matter? I can certainly talk the talk –  I can tell you to be good to others, love yourself, understand you’re only human. But if I can’t walk the walk, what really matters, what good is it? I’ll say you should to be nice to an individual, and maybe the next day I go and snap at someone else for something that isn’t even their fault. I’ll say you should always be accepting of someone regardless of personal differences, but then later on put down someone’s viewpoint simply because it doesn’t line up with my own.

My point is this – I don’t think I’m a nice person. I can spout nice things left and right, and I can passionately believe them in my head and heart, but if I can’t apply what I “passionately believe” to my actions and attitude towards others, what good is it? It isn’t any good, I’ve found.

Maybe I’m inherently good. But I’m not good. I’m not sure I can convince myself otherwise.

– Ryan

 

13 Reasons Why you should watch 13 Reasons Why (give or take)

So I’ve never done any sort of movie or book review on here (or really in general), but today is going to be the exception. I read a book a while back called 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. It was a pretty popular book at the time it came out, always on the teen-young adult bestsellers shelf at Barnes & Noble. The premise is this: A teenage girl by the name of Hannah Baker commits suicide, and upon the act of doing so organizes for seven cassette tapes to be passed around to 13 individuals, all of whom she deems “responsible for her death.” The tapes are her personal explanation of how each person drove her to kill herself, and many people say that these tapes are sort of her “last word” upon dying. The protagonist of the novel, Clay, is one of the people the tapes are passed to. As he works his way through the tapes, trying to figure out what he did to make Hannah commit suicide, he learns her story of abuse and bullying.

The book is now a 13-episode series on Netflix, and the way they portray bullying, depression and suicide is both informative and utterly heartbreaking. Over the course of 13 one-hour episodes, you see Hannah go from being a happy, upbeat, incredibly friendly girl, to a person who has lost faith in the world, and decides that the best way to deal with it is leaving it completely.

The series as it’s portrayed on Netflix is half-drama, half-PSA. While it still has a few funny moments here and there (so you won’t be frowning the whole time), most of the screen time is dedicated to Hannah and her life before death, which revolves around her relationships (both friendly and romantic) and how they break down catastrophically. We see these memories from the viewpoint of Clay, a socially awkward yet lovable teenager with a thing for Hannah, who’s working his own way through the stages of grief, having lost Hannah, and trying to understand how he could have possibly contributed to her death.

The whole thing is presented hauntingly beautifully – the joys of great relationships and people who are there for you, and the heartbreak of when it all comes crashing down, generally unfairly. At the beginning, the viewer barely knows Hannah. They feel for her, as she committed suicide, but not much more. Over the next 13 hours, though, each episode will break your heart a bit more as you see the injustice done to her during her life.

It also attempts to present depression and the warning signs of suicide in a way many people can understand. Even the happiest of people can be brought so low to feel like there’s no way out, and as scary as it is, it’s something people need to realize, before it’s too late.

So, my recommendation? If you have Netflix, go watch it. Heck, even if you don’t have Netflix, shell out 8 bucks for a month subscription to watch this series alone. I swear to you, as someone who watches next to no television, this series is worth your time. Know the signs of depression and suicide before they strike – the world will be better off for it.

– Ryan

Take care of yourself – first.

Growing up, a majority of us are taught to always put others before ourselves. This isn’t a bad thing – this mindset has the tendency to not only teach us compassion, but see it received firsthand. We’re told to treat others the way we want to be treated, and that our experiences with others will go towards shaping ourselves as individuals. In my opinion this is most certainly true – human beings are infinitely shaped by contact with other human beings (among many other things). The intent of putting others first is a great one, as it promotes compassion, acceptance, and patience. But is there a point where this becomes too much?

As crude as it may be to compare human beings to machines, hear me out for a moment: our bodies and minds are much like them. A machine for, let’s say, manufacturing, exists to manufacture goods. As such, it puts all of its energy into pumping out these products, as long as it receives some sort of energy from another source. Electricity, water, wind, etc. These pieces of metal, which are designed specifically to pour their energy into these tasks, still need that energy from somewhere. So, everything else aside, let’s say humans are “compassion machines.” Put aside your personal beliefs for a moment and pretend that humans are specifically meant to pour out compassion unto others. These “compassion machines” put every ounce of their energy into being kind to others, being selfless, being patient, and every other way of “being good” to others. However, if they don’t receive energy from elsewhere, as an actual machine does, it crashes and burns. It overheats, it smokes, it starts sleeping all day, it might start throwing back a few beers each night to help it forget…not only are humans much more complicated than machines, humans deal with their problems in many different ways than machines.

Being good to others is good. It’s great, it’s fantastic, it’s what we should all strive for each and every day we’re on this earth. But in order to do this effectively, we need to step back and realize that we aren’t some sort of “infinite-power” machine. We need rest and recuperation, we need to hit the power button at the end of the night. Plug in and recharge, however you feel it best to do that (it goes without saying that there are healthy and unhealthy ways of recharging, but that’s a different subject entirely).

Here’s the part that will make me sound selfish: make sure you’re happy before you start making sure others are happy. Again, I can’t stress enough how important I believe it is to be selfless and compassionate – but only where it’s reasonable. As admirable as it is to throw all of your energy into being good to others, if you don’t have any energy left to make sure you’re happy, it’s a lose-lose situation: you’re burnt out because you spend all your time on others’ wants and desires, and the people you’re trying so desperately to make happy often notice your weariness, and this could have the exact opposite effect of what you intended.

I’m not telling you to cut in line, eat the last cookie, or lie to your parents to get out of trouble. I’m not telling you to be selfish. I’m just telling you that you don’t always have to be selfless. We are all equals in this world – no one person deserves to feel more or less happy than another – and that includes you.

Being selfish is rude, hurtful, and discouraging, but always being selfless is simply unhealthy.

Stay strong

– Ryan

A Perverse Jealousy

Jealousy is such a powerful emotion. Whether talking about it in the sense of the Christian faith or not, it isn’t hard to see why it’s considered a sin. Personally, in times where I find myself jealous, it overtakes me in a way very few other emotions do. It clouds my judgement – I find my decision-making revolving around what I can do to achieve that goal that I’m envious of. There’s a fine line between jealousy and determination, and for me that gap is bridged when I find myself having negative feelings towards others who have achieved that goal. If I ever find myself thinking lesser of a person because they have something I do not, that’s my cue to take a step back and look at the situation from a level head.

Not that that’s always easy. In fact, it rarely is – it takes such dedication to this way of thinking that a whole form of therapy has risen up around it (mindfulness). It’s made especially hard on the occasions where the person you’re jealous of brings up their achievement or property like it’s nothing. “You bring this up so nonchalantly, but do you realize what I would do to have what you have? Achieve what you’ve achieved? Do you even realize how much of a standard I hold myself to based on what you have?”

Like so many other facets of life, for some reasons our brains often tell us that it’s easier to get bitter over these things, than it is to simply be grateful for another’s accomplishments. Scowl over smile, bitterness over contentment. It’s hard to pinpoint why this is, but there are a thousand different answers from a thousand different cultures, religions, and psychologists. Perhaps it stems from the competitive mindset of first-world countries, or maybe when Adam and Eve bit into the apple of knowledge, human sin came pre-packaged with jealousy.

I could go into the whole “this isn’t the right way to think,” and “comparison with others only leads to bad things” tangent, but I already have in some of my past posts. Make no mistake, I still very much believe in what I’ve said on that topic: comparison does only lead to destructive habits. To be the best us we can be, we needn’t hold ourselves to the standards of others. But I can talk and talk about why this isn’t the healthiest way of thinking, spouting factoids and studies supporting this hypothesis, but the fact of the matter is this: factoids and studies very rarely help us actually deal with these things. Comparison. Jealousy. Bitterness. Whilst it’s certainly important to understand why these feelings come about, in my opinion (and it’s just that), the world would be a better place if we actually focused on how to deal with these problems as opposed to just explaining their origins.

I’ve found myself getting overly jealous and bitter the past couple of weeks. I find myself around this entirely pleasant, enjoyable person, who has nothing but kind things to say to me. nine times out of 10, I find myself being pleasant back, but recently my depression has begun to take over and, instead of exchanging pleasantries both ways, the kindness seems to become one-sided. This individual will be kind to me, and I’m indifferent towards them. I’m passive-aggressively resentful, bitter, and simply angry. All of those negative emotions, simply because my mind tells me it’s somehow easier to resent this perfectly nice person for what they have, rather than be happy for them and realize everybody has different things at different times, as is life.

As I mentioned before, this jealousy overtakes me. I find my mind so occupied with this incredibly useless emotion that it’s difficult for me to think about much else. I’ve heard of some individuals using jealousy as a type of drive – motivation to get to a better place in their lives where they’re more content. As I feel jealousy coursing its way through me, however, I find it incredibly hard to think that some people could use this to motivate them, because for me it causes nothing but destructive thinking habits. Where one person may say, “I want what that person has, so I’m going to use this jealousy of them to push myself harder,” I generally say, “I want what that person has, but I’m not skilled or charming or innovative enough, otherwise I would have it by now.” You don’t need to tell me there are about 17 logical inconsistencies with this way of thinking – believe me, I know. But depression often overrides logic.

So, for those like me, where jealousy doesn’t motivate you, but instead breaks you, what do you do? What is the best way to deal with this poisonous mindset? Simply put, I don’t know. I practice mindfulness, and that helps to an extent, but I’m by no means a master at the craft – it takes months upon months of practice and dedication (it makes sense, though, you’re literally training your brain to subscribe to an entirely new way of thinking). For what good it does, there is one thing in particular I’ve been trying to tell myself in moments of jealousy:

Each and every person is unique. No two people accomplish the same things at the same time in the same way under the same circumstances. We all have different walks through life, regardless of how similar our circumstances may seem at first glance. In fact, I’m willing to bet someone in your own life is looking at you and saying “I wish I had that,” just as you may be with others. Do not take pride in this, but instead use it as a reminder that nobody is ever perfectly content with life – we all fall prey to wishing we have more than we already do. You aren’t alone in this.

How do you deal with jealousy? Do you have certain coping methods that help pull you through? I’d love to hear what you have to say, so comment or shoot me an email and I’d love to converse with you! All the best to you in whatever struggles you may face.

Stay strong.

  • Ryan

Help – I think I’m selfish

There’s something that’s been on my mind for the past few months, something that has made me constantly second guess my own intentions. I’ve said many times over that I believe in the inherent good of all people, myself included. Regardless of our upbringing, our monetary income, etc., we all have the capacity to do good works. Whether we actually act on those good impulses are our own choosing, but the point is that potential is there.

So…good is directed outward, correct? To be what most consider “good,” we have to work for the benefit of others, not just ourselves. There is self-care and rest for our own bodies and minds, sure, but if someone does a “good deed” it’s meant for somebody or something other than themselves.

This is what has been discouraging me lately – I’m not entirely sure that I do what is “good.” I believe I’m a nice person, who treats everyone fairly and goes out of his way to help others quite a bit. I’d like to think that my blog posts are helping at least a few people get by, and writing words of encouragement on others’ blogs is helping them as well. I’m fairly certain I’m kind to others, whether it be at home, work, or elsewhere. But am I doing these “good” things for others, or for myself?

I feel satisfaction when I’m good to others – but not the kind of satisfaction I want to feel. It’s a perverse kind, like a mental pat on the back, saying to myself, “I’m good because I did this thing.” Almost as if…this “good” I’m doing isn’t for the benefit of others, but instead for self-validation; something to make me feel better about myself – the happiness others receive from me being good isn’t necessary, but a side-benefit to my own satisfaction. I don’t like this feeling. At all.

As a Christian, I live my life for God, and Him alone. Everything I do is in His name, I tell myself. The book of words I try my best to live my life by directly says be good to others before being good to yourself. But when I have this lurking feeling that everything I do may be for my own happiness, it’s more unnerving than you may think. Even for non-Christians, I don’t think an instinct that everything you do may be for yourself can’t feel that great, either.

I’m not saying I’m bad – I’m not bad. I know that. I’m just not sure I’m “good.” Or, if I am good, is it a “side-effect” of fulfilling my own need for self-validation? I can do all of these good things and say all of these good words, but if, in the end, it’s for my own contentment, does it really count?

Do you struggle with this, or is it just me? Or does everybody, and do I just need to suck it up and accept it for what it is? Is this some weird side-effect of my depression? I don’t know. Advice would be appreciated.

Stay strong.

  • Ryan

Being single works just fine

To all of the couples and the single people, happy Valentine’s Day! Whether you’re getting some expensive piece of jewelry from the one you love, or you’re sitting at home alone having a hot date with Netflix, I hope your day is fantastic.

So naturally, with it being Valentine’s Day, I was genuinely considering putting some snarky post on here, something entitled along the lines of “Singles Awareness Day” (super original, I know), but I thought better of it. I have single friends who hate today for the same reason so many people love it – it promotes romantic connections, those of which they do not have. I’m single as well, but I’m in no way bitter or resentful towards the holiday. From my point of view, Valentine’s Day doesn’t berate people who don’t have a significant other, rather, it is meant for celebrating the joy of those who do. 

Now, I understand the bitterness towards seeing others happy with their significant other, and wishing you had that for yourself. There isn’t anything wrong with feeling sad about that – I fall prey to that mindset myself. But thinking that you can’t be as happy without some “other half” that you haven’t found yet isn’t true. We can receive love from other places – friends, family, pets. I know this isn’t “romantic” love, but it’s love all the same, isn’t it?

Having someone in your life who loves you romantically is wonderful, I don’t deny that. But life isn’t all about romantic love, though today does a pretty good job of making many forget that small fact. Love makes the world go ’round, yes, that includes romance, but all the other types of love still apply. I’m absolutely convinced that, before anyone enters into a relationship, they have to make sure they love themselves first. Self-love. I’ve had opportunities to enter into relationships, but I didn’t take those opportunities, because the way I see it, asking someone to love and accept me for who I am, when I have trouble doing that on a daily basis, isn’t right. Romantic relationships can do wonders for those with depression, but believe me when I say they are in no way a substitute for loving yourself.

So, if it comes around to February 14th next year and you’re single, that’s okay. Same with the next year. And the next. Love is so important, but it comes in many different forms. Familial, friendship, compassion, and yes, romantic. That being said, if you are in a relationship, don’t take it for granted. Just having someone there for you romantically is something so many people wish they could have every single day.

You’re amazing. You’re fantastic. You’re worth so much, you have so much potential, and you are worthy of romantic love, whether you’re in a relationship right now or not. Life is about so much more than boyfriends or girlfriends, husbands or wives – happiness can come from so many places, including within. Don’t forget that.

Stay strong.

  • Ryan

 

P.S. You know you like that Han Solo pun in the cover image. Admit it.

Yes, your emotions matter

Whether we like it or not, emotions are very clearly an integral part of our lives as human beings. I say it like that because I’m certain there are some individuals out there who are convinced our existence would be easier if we were all emotionless, unfeeling blobs. I suppose, on my crappiest of crap days, I can sort of see where these people are coming from. But emotion is a two-sided coin. If there’s sadness, there is also happiness. If there’s anger, there’s also serenity. The darkest shadows wouldn’t exist if light didn’t shine. I sound like I’m reciting the Jedi Code from Star Wars, but I digress…

My vote is in favor of emotions, and I’m willing to bet most people feel the same, most of the time. How we feel is directly linked, obviously, to what happens to us, around us, and from us. Very rarely can we control what happens to us, but with discipline we can control how we react to it. It’s called mindfulness. I’ve mentioned it briefly in a prior post, as it seems to be a growing practice among many who suffer from depression and/or anxiety. In short, mindfulness is putting our emotions aside during our initial reaction to a situation, and viewing that situation from a purely logical standpoint. Mindfulness does not ask us to become those aforementioned unfeeling drones, but instead to only take our emotions into initial consideration of a situation when absolutely necessary (which it rarely is). By avoiding passionate emotions such as anger, jealousy, and rage when reacting to a situation, we save ourselves the trouble of jumping to conclusions or doing things we later regret. After we’ve given ourselves time to view that situation from an unclouded mind, only then do we let our emotions run through us. It takes constant practice and dedication, but a mindful view of the world has done wonders for people.

Mindfulness teaches us to acknowledge our emotions, just not when initially reacting to a situation. The emotions are still there, though. They’re real. They mean something. With that in mind, I think about a little reverse psychology trick depression loves to play on people – telling us that our emotions don’t mean something.

The word itself, depression, recalls all sorts of terrible emotions: sadness, hurt, guilt…the list goes on. Depression is an expert at bringing these feelings into the forefront of our minds and letting them rule out any positive emotion that tries to come in. Here’s the irony – sometimes that same illness will try to tell us that those emotions we’re feeling, the ones it invited to the party in the first place, are wrong. Invalid. Undeserving of our attention.

Cunning depression tells us there are those out there who have it much, much worse than you.

 

“I barely have enough money to make rent this month…”

“So? There are parents with families who can’t even afford meals each night.”

 

“I feel like absolute crap, but my boss says I have to come into work today anyway…”

“So? There are people with illnesses so terminal they have only months to live.”

 

“I want to hang out with my friends, but I have more important obligations…”

“Ha! Don’t even get me started!”

 

It’s like…your boss at work telling you to do something. You do what they ask to the letter, but then they get mad at you for it afterwards. “I did everything you wanted, depression! I let these negative emotions lord themselves over me, and now you say ‘shame on you for feeling those things.’” What even…?

It may seem that through this, depression is convincing us to be thankful for our blessings instead of our inconveniences. Indirectly, maybe. But what it’s really trying to accomplish is make your head go in circles; telling you that your emotions aren’t valid, so you feel even crappier that you felt that way in the first place, and the cycle starts anew. It’s the job of a depression-addled mind to make you feel hopeless. It rubs salt in the wound – not only do you not deserve to feel happy, but you aren’t even worth it to feel sad, or angry, or livid.

Like most of the things depression tells us, this isn’t true. Through mindfulness, we can put our emotions aside, but there is not one person on this planet who can “turn off” their emotions permanently. Again, whether we want them to exist or not, emotions are there. To deny their existence or validity only does harm to us. Your emotions matter.

I watched a YouTube video yesterday of someone talking about mental illnesses and the stigma surrounding them. So many people who are uninformed about what someone with a mental illness goes through say that we shouldn’t pay attention to our emotions. “If your depression makes you sad, just push the sadness away! You aren’t actually sad, it’s just your depression telling you that!” No. No. NO. You ARE sad. You’re upset, you’re ecstatic, you’re giddy, you’re guilt-ridden. Any emotion you feel is real, no matter if it’s brought on by a mental illness. In that YouTube video, the girl used the word “valid” a lot, and I think that’s a fantastic way to put it. Even mindfulness, the very technique that teaches us to put aside our emotions, doesn’t deny that they’re real. You have every right to feel the way you feel, at any given moment.

I feel like this post is quite scattered, so I apologize for that. The video I watched yesterday made me think about it all last night and early today, so I figured I’d put my thoughts to (digital) paper and make sense of this myself. Regardless, I stand firm on what I said. Even in the moments where we may not want them to be, emotions are real.

Stay strong.

  • Ryan