Posted in Posts

Stress vs. Humans: Spoiler Alert – We Lose.


We wear stress and exhaustion like merit badges in this country. If you’re not stressed, tired, or busy every second of the day it’s assumed that you’re lazy or not working hard enough. People can actually die from stress (ex: heart attacks). It also does us no favors for quality of life. The top ten “hit list” of illnesses that stress causes are as follows:

  1. Heart disease
  2. Asthma
  3. Obesity
  4. Diabetes
  5. Headaches
  6. Depression and anxiety
  7. Gastrointestinal problems
  8. Alzheimer’s disease
  9. Accelerated aging
  10. Premature death

You know what the sad part is? All of that is easily preventable – if making our personal health was an actual priority and not just something that companies and governments pay lip service to. I know plenty of parents who would have benefitted from actual proper parental leave after the birth of a child. I know firsthand that my mother would have been much better served if she could have taken time off to care for my father when he was dying. This was back before the family leave laws, weak as they are, were even a thing. Her day was something like this:

  • 5:00am – wake up & get dressed (assuming she wasn’t so exhausted that she slept in her clothes)
  • 5:30am – head out to work (still dark no matter what time of year)
  • 6:30am – arrive at work and hit the ground running
  • 12:00pm – arrive at hospital to take care of dad & have lunch
  • 1:30pm – back to work
  • 4:30pm – back to the hospital to take care of dad
  • 9:30pm – on a good day, arrive at home
  • 11:00pm – 12am – on a bad day arrive at home
  • 12am – 5:00am – sleep, maybe

Notice how I didn’t mention me or my brother? That’s because there was no time for us. We had to take care of ourselves when my aunt and cousins, who thankfully lived directly above and below us, respectively, were not on the clock. I never resented her for this even at that young of an age because I knew it had to be done. What I resented was the conditions that our culture created that made this the norm. To a very large extent, even with family leave laws that we have today, it’s still like this for many families who have to take care of a sick or injured family member. Dad was lucky enough to have someone looking out for him. The antics with the hospital and health ‘insurance’( that was cut off anyway because he got cancer) were unreal and even for someone who was well and smart enough to throw down with these vultures it was a terrible battle each time a bill came in. For example: one of the doctors at the hospital sent in a bill for an exam performed on my father. Here’s the catch. It was a gynecologist.

Before I see comments that say things like “that couldn’t have happened” or “that’s not how —- works”, here are a few parameters to keep in mind:

  • This happened in the 90’s when healthcare and insurance were even more of a joke than they are today
  • In the 90’s, insurance companies could drop you for anything they wanted
    • Ex: pregnancy was considered a preexisting condition, even if the woman or girl was never pregnant
    • So were yeast infections, even if you only had one ever
  • I saw all of this unfold first hand
    • Mom is not subtle or quiet
  • There were no laws that would protect or help us with this kind of thing, and still aren’t unless you’re rich
  • Poor people and middle income people still have to deal with this kind of nonsense

She aged 10 years in 8 months trying to keep up.

I don’t need to look back in my history to see how stress affects people when I can just look around my office and see it. Some of my closest work friends will put in for vacation time and end up working during it anyway, or come home early from a trip. It’s not like we’re hurting for back up either. They are conditioned, like most of us that have to work for a living, to feel that if they leave their post someone else will replace them and they will have to look for work all over again. Looking for work is completely demoralizing, especially if you are a woman or a person of color. God help you if you a woman of color. That pay gap is real and it gets worse the farther you go down the privilege ladder. Talk about stressful. Managers don’t seem to care much since the work gets done, but the expense is the people who work for them. They suffer from burn out at a much faster rate or they get fed up because they’re not actually living.

Yes, working fewer hours in a week would do wonders. They put in anywhere from 60 – 70 in reality even if the data entered is 40 – 45. If they actually only worked 40 -45 hours a week they would be more rested, more efficient, and honestly more pleasant to be around, because when you’re stressed and tired, you’re a jerk. You could be the nicest person in the world, but that will turn you into a negative, pessimistic jerk.

In 900 words (or so) I’ve covered work culture and government health ‘care’. Something else that stress is greatly responsible for is weight gain. I realize that our culture likes to place the onus of weigh management on the shoulders of the individual, but honestly we do that out of fear that anyone can ‘get fat’. Guess what? Anyone can get fat; even that skinny blonde who runs every morning and measures out every meal. I’ll show you how stress does it more than food an exercise.

stress wheel

It’s a horrible cycle and each time someone rides the wheel it gets harder to do anything to change their life for the better. No one can get healthy when they are fed a steady stream of stress, hate, exclusion and depravation. They can’t get healthy because the things surrounding them are not healthy – from the bullying to the advice given, welcome or not. The good news is that this cycle can be broken easily. Take this piece for example:

slice

To stop the cycle, these items need to be addressed.

  • Fat Shaming
    • For the average person they have a choice when they see someone they feel is overweight
      1. Be a horrible person and shame them
      2. Say nothing

It doesn’t matter if you know the person or not. It is so easy to say nothing. It’s so easy to mind your own business and turn your attention to your iPhone and finish that level of Angry Birds or Candy Crush that you’ve been stuck on for days because you refuse to give money to a game about farm animals and sugar.

How to fix it: Keep your mouth shut. No one is inviting you to comment on their appearance. Saying nothing includes not posting passive aggressive memes on your Facebook as well.

And doctors? Guess what. If you only see the fat you’re going to screw up your diagnosis of the whole person. One of your ilk almost killed my aunt because of that. You just saw a fat woman but you didn’t bother to question why she only had 1/4th of her blood left in her body. You had a baseline, since she went to you almost every month for a checkup and a blood draw to keep her diabetes in check. You also missed the fact that she has hyperthyroid issues. It wasn’t like this happened in the 90’s or other past decade we look at as the dark ages. This was 2009. But you know best right? You also said dad had the flu when it was really cancer. Go back to school and try it again, genius. You’re not the gods of intellect you think you are.

How to fix it: Look past the body weight and take all of the information you get from a physical work up into account. Also, take some sensitivity training. The way some doctors talk to people is downright insulting. I get your time is valuable. So is mine and since I waited 45 minutes for an appointment I made a month ago the least you can do is be courteous.

  • Media messages
    • Diet commercials sell big promises at big prices and don’t deliver
    • Every TV show has painfully thin women on them, mostly white, most likely with destructive food issues
    • Food commercials of thin women eating enormous amounts of food as if it was their normal eating habits
    • Lastly – my favorite – The thin woman binging on nachos wearing a football jersey and downing a beer

It’s like Photoshop for film. None of this is real! You don’t see the spit takes at the end of the shoot or the hours on the treadmill that the actors strap themselves to in order to burn off all the bites they had to take. I think the worst part of it is the fiction of the “cool girl” who is glamorous, sexy, into all of the things guys are (supposed to be) into, but she’s super low maintenance and will still get you a beer. This is a woman cosplaying. Women will only be able to be this fiction for a finite amount of time before they finally crack and decide that they would rather skip the beauty routine in favor of some alone time or extra sleep. This bullet point is not only stress inducing but sexist as well. Expecting someone to be something they’re not is also a major source of stress and can result in depression, weight issues, and self-harm.

How to fix it: We can’t change TV and marketing fast enough, but we can sign up for streaming services where commercials aren’t a problem. The more industrious of us can also share ad blocker software suggestions or even create a few new ones! On a smaller scale – flip the script. If someone is expecting you to be something you’re not, ask yourself why it’s ok for them to expect you to conform to their ideals without your permission. (Spoiler alert: It isn’t. Ever.)

  • Size cap in clothing stores
    • Forces those above a size 12 to look online for clothing that fits
      • Sales people frequently direct customers looking for items over size 12 to look online
    • Too many smaller sizes and too few larger sizes even though the larger sizes sell out faster
      • H&M rarely if ever has anything above a size 10 in any of the women’s sections
      • Uniqlo and American Apparel don’t make clothing past a size 12
      • Victoria Secret’s does not carry sizes above large, 12, 36D and those are still hard to find in store

All it takes is 15 minutes on my favorite clothing site, Modcloth, and I’m already annoyed. Not from the site itself which has been plus size inclusive to a degree not commonly seen, but more at the number of designers that stop making clothing past a 34 inch waistline. Many times I’ve had money in my hand to give for these wonderful clothes just to find that they won’t fit my 38 inch waist. I’ve also been chased out of a few stores, even at a size 10 (32” waist) and size 12 (34”waist) because, and I quote, “We don’t have your size.” I’m looking at you, Victoria Secret’s and Bloomingdale’s. Wonder why I don’t shop with you anymore? Your staff is not helpful. I don’t live in a rural area. I can literally step outside my office and get anything. In a three block radius there are 5 drug stores, countless restaurants, a comic book shop, fast food joints, jewelry stores, wine shops and if I want a massage at lunch time it’s two blocks from here.  So don’t tell me of the 8 locations of your store, which Google turned up in a search, none of them have the pink lacey bra with the sparkly bits in a 38D. Soma.com, as well as their brick and mortar stores, has always been very good to me – but this is another rant.

How to fix it: Carry more of the sizes that sell out the fastest. Keep a more extensive stock instead of stopping at 10 or 12. It is not ok to expect people of certain sizes to order online, wait for shipping, find out it doesn’t look right, ship it back and try it again. Also, don’t alienate women of larger sizes. They have money they want to spend. That’s just bad business.

Stress doesn’t necessarily need to be a part of our lives. We should be able to save the stress moments for things we can’t control, like an emergency vet trip or a burst water pipe in the apartment. These moments need the fight or flight response because they are acute and in immediate need of attention. Prolonged stress makes us less willing to take care of ourselves, which only adds to the physical effects that stress and depression are putting on the body. We don’t want to go out, too tired for exercise, feeling unattractive and avoiding intimate contact, comforting ourselves with food or retail therapy. All that strain on our bodies leave us open to getting sick more often, but for some reason our culture sees this as a virtue and not something destructive.

You can buy all the lavender-scented candles you want but the reality is that culture change starts with the individual that says “I’m not doing this. I have a better way.” and then does it. For my part, I’ve left the body shaming of others and myself behind, I question my doctors because they are just mortals like me, and I don’t give my money to stores or designers that complain that making big clothes is too hard. Don’t whine, it’s unbecoming.

Netflix, you with your streaming cartoons and lack of ads, please don’t ever change. I love you.

Posted in Posts

Friends Don’t Let Friends Do Electrical Work


I had wanted a dimmer switch ever since the 80’s were a thing and when my friends and I got into the collage years of life, I decided that it was time and mom couldn’t stop me anyway. I was 19 damn it. I was an adult! Yet it was when I turned 23 that she finally stopped telling me to go to bed and do my homework – but I digress.

I must have been one of the last, pre-recession people who wanted to stay home when attending college. Free laundry, hot meals, private room and all the chocolate I could eat unless she found it first. Who would turn that down? Derek, one of my brother’s best friends and mine too, was studying to be an engineer. He now works at a high paying job in an undisclosed location near the center of the earth with a large wingback chair and a cat with a screeching meow. (Kudos to you that get the reference) He said he knew how to install a light switch so I took him at his word.

My parents bought 3 family private house, one in a row of 5 or 6, in the late 70’s, when money could get you real things and income equality hadn’t gone completely off the wall just yet. All three apartments are set up almost like a railroad flat with one room after the other. At the rear near the door to the back yard are the living room and one bedroom. Following toward the front of the place, down the long hallway, you pass the kitchen, open dining room, big bathroom directly across from the front door to the hall stairs, the master bedroom used by my brother (Brad) and Derek, and then my room at the end of the line. If you sit in the cushy chair by the glad backyard door, you can see straight into my room in one unbroken line.

Our buddy is the type to tinker with anything. Not much has changed since then either and he never let a little thing like an exploding Tonka truck stop him – but that’s another story. When I asked for the install he was ready to hit home depot like a frat boy on Friday night.

I love my mother, but calm isn’t her thing. Of course she sits in the chair with the view of my room that very night that we decide we’re going to do this thing, because fate and crap. Mom, Brad and I (and possibly another of our friends) were all in the living room while he was working. In our style we would crack jokes and call him Bubba the Plumber because my family is made of assholes and I love them. Everything was going fine for the first twenty minutes and then there was a loud pop and a bright flash of blue light from the bedroom seconds before that end of the house was plunged into darkness. My mother screamed out, “Derek, are you ok?!”

We sat there, each silent second going by seeming to be an eternity, and then he answered in a shaky voice, “Yes?” The lot of us heaved a collective sigh of relief, me and Brad on our feet and down the hall right after. We found him laughing. Typical.

Mom flipped the breakers to turn on the electricity to that end of the house, all the while swearing in Scottish because of the shock. Apparently we were a “shower a’ bastards” and other stuff I can’t spell.

But wait! There’s more! A few more minutes of him fiddling and the project was complete. It worked beautifully! I had more mood lighting than one co-ed, who couldn’t get a date anyway, than I would ever need.

At least we thought so until Brad went to turn on his computer. I heard a string of curses and profanities from my brother’s room. Apparently, when we hooked up the dimmer switch it drained all the power from the other room. I have no idea how that works because I do not science for electrical wires. He carried on as if we kicked his puppy so Derek had to undo everything that was done so Brad could get power back to his room.

Final note: I never did get my dimmer switch.

Posted in Finished, Posts

The Importance of Being Honest with Myself: Motherhood


People lie constantly. It’s true! They lie about how long it takes them to get to work or get something done so they don’t look like slackers. They lie about where they’ve been so mom and/or dad don’t yell at them. They lie to law enforcement. “I swear I only had one beer, ossifer!” And they lie to the clergy. “I go to (church, temple, etc..) every day!”

We lie so much that we have different flavors of lies!

  • bold face
  • white
  • exaggerations
  • fabrications (made up shit)
  • deception
  • slander
  • gossip
  • omission

I feel like this last one is bullshit. If you don’t ask the right question you’re not going to get an answer. That’s for another blog post.

The person we probably lie most often to is the one we really shouldn’t – ourselves. I try not to lie to myself as much as possible and that can really suck, but most times it keeps me safe and prevents me from making choices that would upset the balance I’m trying to achieve in my life. So when people challenge the beliefs and truths that I hold close, I tend to get a little ruffled. It can range from mild annoyance to “I will cut you” depending on how close-held the belief is and how insistent the opposing party gets.

Which brings me to my point and why the title is what it is.

Those of you who are child-free may stop reading, unless you really want to keep yelling, “Preach on, sister!” You’re not my intended audience. You already get me. -internet fist bump-

Those of you who love to promote the joy of motherhood, grab a chair and sit with me for a moment.

I totally get it. Some of you have wanted to be a mom since you got your first doll while some of you came to the notion after you found your significant other and wanted that type of family. And that’s awesome! A lot of dads have the same life journey, and that’s great too. Planned, unplanned, accidental, or convinced, parents come in more than just 31 flavors and you’ll find most of them love or come to love the job.

I’m not part of that group. I never will be, and yet -mostly with the older crowd- I still get a reaction when the subject of whether I have kids comes up. The first follow-up question is usually, “why not?” Fair enough, but when I answer, no matter which of the dozens upon dozens of reasons I call on in the moment, I notice that the opposite party finds counter arguments to an otherwise closed discussion.

For example:

I said, “The timing wasn’t right for me.”

I was told, “It’s never right. You just have to lean in and go for it.”

Reality Check: At the time I heard this I had no job, no prospects, no savings and I was living with my mother. Yes, there is a right and a wrong time to make major life changing decisions and THAT WAS NOT THE TIME.

Another one:

I said, “We don’t have the money.”

I was told, “You’ll find it.”

Reality Check: My husband and I were in debt up to our ears and had little concept of how to work within a budget. Tossing a baby into the mix would have been financial nightmare fuel.

The most dismissive and patronizing example:

I said, “I don’t want kids.”

I was told, “You’ll change your mind.” “You’re still young.” “You don’t know what you want yet.” “Who is going to take care of you when you’re old?” “You’ll be lonely.”

Reality Check: I thought having kids was supposed to be a selfless thing? 15 years later I’m still happy with my choice.

Having and raising children is promoted, aggressively even, in our entertainment. I’m not surprised since the wedding and baby/child industries are multi-billion dollar affairs. There are a ton of comedies about sudden parents, incompetent parents, anxious to the point of silliness parents and so on and so forth; in the drama genre you’ll meet the devoted parents, in-crisis parents, single parents, and dealing with the death of a parent. Romantic comedies start with a wedding and having kids is always implied or discussed right then and there. It’s rare that media will produce romance stories of women or couples who choose to be child-free, which ignores an entire growing demographic of young people who are choosing not to have children.

In How I Met Your Mother, Robin Scherbatsky went through a hell of a time over that, the Ted Mosby obsession not withstanding. Kevin, the character she was engaged to, left her because having kids was that important to him. The writers could have gone a different route with that and explored a couple who was child-free, because even though Robin couldn’t have kids, she still didn’t want to raise any.

Women who are child-free or childless seem to be portrayed in the media as having a problem that needs to be fixed instead of being accepted the way they are. There is nothing wrong with these women. Those who are childless have their own challenges, but because -to my knowledge- I don’t have this life experience I don’t feel qualified talking about that part of womanhood. I’ll stick to what I know.

I get that people are well meaning, and that’s fine! Kindhearted people are always in short supply, but when the response to the “do you have kids” question sounds a lot like “I didn’t want them” the conversion should probably stop. If you are curious as to why someone would make that choice even if nature hadn’t interfered, ask to understand and not to respond. Child-free couples have talked about this far longer than the ten minute conversation you’re having with them. My husband and I had the talk for 10 years, going back and forth on pros, cons, and reality checks. We decided we wanted to be together as a family without children.

Notice I didn’t use the word family until right now. I believe that my husband and my two cats are my family. So are my brother, mother, in-laws, and extended family. I don’t classify a family as two adults and 2.5 children because it takes meaning away from those of us who are committed to building a life together but don’t want or can’t have children. Some states will still block gay couples from adopting children, but that doesn’t make them any less of a family.

I was honest with myself when I got engaged, which let me be honest with my husband about how I wanted my life to be. By doing so it prevented a lot of resentment and regret, because once those kids are on planet Earth it’s your duty to look after them and do whats best by them. They never asked to be here, so if you’re not sure you’re ready, it’s going to be an uphill battle and it’ll be the kids that lose in that game.

I was honest with myself when I weighed my limitations. I didn’t want that responsibility. It was just too much for me to face. I’ve also had many nights, even since being a little girl, where I was angry at not having a choice to be alive because it’s really hard sometimes! As awesome as it can be, life can be vicious, dangerous, and completely unfair. I looked at the world around me, at the people around me, at the challenges that my children would face and I decided against it.

I was honest with myself when I looked at my fears. The physical undertaking that is pregnancy is one of the most horrifying things I have ever seen and that’s not even taking into account the cultural bullshit that pregnant women put up with. Going to the doctor terrifies me beyond normal jitters or discomfort, to the point of fainting in the waiting room, in the exam room, getting blood drawn, and shaking with fear the few days before having to show for an appointment. Even with the most amazing problem free pregnancy, that baby has to get out of your body some way. I saw Alien. Fuck that shit.

Choosing to have children or not is a very personal choice, especially if it’s going to grow inside your body. Trying to talk someone into something like that is extremely invasive and none of anyone’s business except the person or couple. So here’s a chance to be honest with yourself, if you are a promoter of having children.

Why is it so important to you for someone else to have children?

Posted in Charlotte, Posts, Stories

Charlotte’s Cross: Prologue


Prologue

 

The deity of Tersus are both human and immortal. From greater to lesser, all gods live through the human experience and reincarnation cycle, but it wasn’t always so.

Long ago the Goddess of Life and the God of Death argued over who was the stronger essence. Life claimed she was the strongest because of all the beasts, plants, and insects that covered Tersus all thriving and growing side by side. Even the water, air, sun and earth helped them to dominate the planet. It was obvious that she was the dominate power since creation was self propagating. Death, however, pointed out that everything that lives needs to take something from a living thing. Animals ate other animals or plants. Plants feasted on the decay of the fallen and some even devoured bugs. Bugs ravaged both animal and plant in return. Then there was the humans. It seemed that for some nothing would stem their blood lust as they pillaged and murdered across the lands or killed each other one by one from the self defending to the truly depraved. This proved Death the victor since he could not be escaped.

The argument escalated quickly and before reason could catch up with them, the deity were at war. Not satisfied with their own strength or battlegrounds the fight spilled over into the realms of the other gods and goddesses, using these deity as weapons in their war and bathing Tersus in blood and savagery. The God of the Skies lost control of his realm as Death took over the power of storm and rained down fire and lightning felling many creatures. Life boosted the power of creation by stealing vitality from the Earth to sustain her vast armies, using far more of her water and nutrient than could be sustained. The God of Shadows lost his followers as his once comforting night that cradled his people was used to cloak Death’s many assassins, man, creature and plant alike. The Goddess of Love saw her children once joyful in their romances turned into mindless breeding beasts, taking what they wanted when they wanted and abandoning their children if it suited them. Earth, Sky, Shadow, Love and all the lesser deity derived from them were angered by the way they were being used but the first to fight back was Earth. It was on her body that the war was being waged and she could no longer stand to be buried under the weight of her dead children.

Older than the deity of Life and Death were the Fates, but to get to them the Goddess of Earth needed help. Shadow kept her hidden from those that would stop her. Sky guided her feet along the roads. Love gave her the courage to see her task through to the end. Finally Earth reached the Fates and told them of the War of Life and Death that had claimed so many lives in quantity and quality and the deity who were being used as pawns to further their cause. Though the Fates were powerful they could not utterly control the whims of Life and Death, but they could enforce consequences for their thoughtless actions, however the bargain came with a price which all the deity must pay.

The Fates promised the Earth Goddess that Life and Death would be cast into mortal bodies and be reborn again and again through human lives to earn back their god powers. Once regained, their deity form would have a finite amount of time in existence before being reborn in the body of humans to start the cycle over again, thus burdening them empathy for the lives they had such sway over and experiencing the struggle of those the played with as pawns. If they died in human form their essence would be transferred to another human fetus and the cycle would start again. This would hold true for every god and goddess no matter their power or place in the hierarchy. On behalf of all the deity the Goddess of Earth agreed to the terms. Though far from a perfect solution, the bargain brought a rhythm to Tersus that was tolerable to both deity and mortal alike and stemmed the chaos caused by the war. Life and Death, though immensely powerful, were locked into a dance rather than battle and their balancing act holds to this day.

But stalemates do not last forever.

Posted in Posts, Today I Learned

Depression & Suicide: Its not that simple


Robin Williams has been on everyone’s mind for the past couple of days. It’s fresh and raw and the media is running copy about his death and depression. He touched the lives of people all over the world. His performance in Disney’s Aladdin was what inspired me to become an artist, storyteller, and animator, even though the animation part didn’t get off the ground. I performed the first spoken word track off the Good Morning Vietnam soundtrack for talent night when I was a freshman in high school. How I got away with that in a parochial school is beyond me, but the kids, parents, teachers and even the priests were laughing so hard they couldn’t catch their breath. That’s the Jesuits for you.

Along with the outpouring of grief and love and contemplation, I’ve also seen posts and tweets about getting help for suicidal feelings, encouragement to talk it out, and incomprehension about why someone would commit suicide. None of this is surprising, but the incomprehension is wrongheaded at best and harmful at worst, and I’ll explain why. Along with all these social media posts commiserating with victims of depression, sharing their experiences, and collectively mourning, are those that have utterly no concept about depression and suicide and write articles that victim blame the person who died, or say that depression is not a disease, or both. This way of thinking is dangerous.

I like small words. I like short sentences. People have short attention spans these days and brevity is the soul of wit. I’ll take this in phases so that you guys can stay with me.

My experience:

I have direct experience with depression. I’ve dealt with it most of my life and without going into gory details, it’s only been in the last few years that I was able to seek help for it. It’s through this first-hand knowledge that I can speak, at least from my experience, about what it does and what it looks like. Talk therapy has helped me greatly and I’m eternally thankful that I didn’t need medication for it in the long term. There was a stint where I was lightly medicated but that was during my darkest hour. I’ve also had suicidal thoughts and feelings. The closest I came to acting on it was one night sitting by the river. It was all I could do to keep myself on the land side of the fence. I had to call my husband to come and get me or else I wouldn’t be here right now. That was during the time I was getting professional help. Help is not always a guarantee of life preservation.

Others have different experiences, but there are common markers.

Other experiences:

Common factors that I’ve noticed:

  • 1. Depression can’t be cured.

It just hides or goes into remission like cancer or an eating disorder. Like a lot of things, once you break the seal on something it’s never the same. You can find ways to manage it, but a cure is not realistic.

  • 2. Depression is way more than sadness.

Living means you’re going to be sad as well as all the other emotions. Sadness has an expiration date. Depression drags on for weeks, months, or years. Sometimes things that make you sad can make you depressed, that’s where understanding gets tricky. A lot of times people mistake depression for sorrow which makes them frustrated with those people who are depressed. Sometimes depression isn’t sadness, it’s the absence of feelings altogether. When everyone around you is happy, and you should be happy, and you know you should be happy, but you can’t feel it.

  • 3. Depression is stigmatized.

I’ve heard people make insensitive comments to and about depressed people: drama queen, wallowing in it, get over it, don’t take it personally, Debbie downer, whiney, sour puss, wet rag. The list goes on. I remember clearly, it was six months after my father died and I was told to get over it. I was 14. I watched him die for months before the cancer won. Yes, I got depressed. After hearing things like this lobbed my way I was not encouraged to seek help.

  • 4. Depression is ignored by those closest to us and misunderstood by most people.

Some of the people I love and call friend or family added to this depression or caused it to flare up. I look back at my pictures and I clearly see the deadness in my eyes, the well of hopelessness in some of them, even with a smile on my face that really read as a grimace. Yes, I would joke around and laugh or make others laugh, because when I tried to talk through what I was feeling, people usually reacted by trying to fix me as fast as possible, because I scared them. Trust me, no one was more scared then I was. Most people with depression are scared. Maybe not about dying, but they’re scared of something.

  • 5. You’re not going to cure it or control it from following bullet points on WebMD.

Depressed people don’t want to make a fuss because of the way they get dismissed by those who can’t be bothered. They are also ill-equipped to deal with the panic and anxiety from loved ones who can’t be calm. These two groups have one thing in common: they are thinking of themselves and not the depressed person. So what happens? We turn to web sites with a check list on how we can beat depression. Here are the self-help greatest hits from a quick Google search. Guys, if this actually worked do you really think depression would still be an issue? The answer is clearly ‘no’. If any of this lifts your depression in the long term, that means you were not depressed, just really sad – and that’s ok! It’s just not the same.

I’m glad you stuck with me this long. It shows me that you really want to understand, even if you’re a little scared of the topic. You’re supposed to be. Living things, for the most part, crave to keep living – bio 101.

So what would make someone want to commit suicide? Lots of things can give the person a reason to act, but the real reason – the raw, gut clenching fact – is that the person feels like there are no other options. They believe they are facing indefinite, crushing, debilitating pain in a nightmare they can’t escape and no temporary relief will take that away.

Why suicide?

  • 1. Depression lies to the person feeling it.

It says we’re weak, worthless, and meaningless. It says we’re stupid and people hate us. It’s the bully that no one in the physical world can stop because it’s trapped in our minds whether by mental disease such as bi-polar or mean spirited people feeding us lies and our brains repeating it so they don’t have to. Depression tells us that no one will miss us. It says there will be no end to the pain. It lies. It doesn’t sleep. It tells us the only way out is to die and then there will be peace where no one can get us, not the pain, not the bully, not the disease or horrifying memories that chase us.

People who are sad don’t feel this. They feel terrible, but they don’t feel hunted or abandoned. They know they can reach out and someone will be there, so they seek help.

  • 2. Depressed people hide because they think their fears will be founded in rejection, apathy, revulsion, abandonment, ridicule, and shunning.

And they’re not wrong. Two seconds of internet searching, being told “get over it” on various occasions after my father died, and being ignored by friends, family and administration when I was bullied to the point of a mental break by one of my employers gives strong evidence that there is a real apathy and victim blaming patterns of behavior that people show when the depressed try to reach out for help.

  • 3. Traditional support structures often don’t pay attention.

These are the same kinds of people who are shocked when they hear someone kills themselves. They’re the people who blame the victim, or claim they never knew something was wrong. I wonder how much they tried asking. I wonder how much they listened to understand what was going on with the person rather than listening to toss out some piece of advice that made them feel smart. They are self-centered, which brings me to my next point about suicide and what it is.

  • 4. Suicide has nothing to do with anyone except the person who dies.

There’s a difference between mourning the loss of someone you love and blaming them for hurting you by dying. Point #1: Everyone dies – it’s the timing and method that is variable. Point #2: It’s not about you. Killing oneself is only about that person and their pain. The pain blinds them to love of everyone – child, spouse, sibling, parent, friend, pet – none of it matters because they are in an abyss from which they can’t pull up. I don’t expect children to understand because they’re children. It’s our job as adults – the ones that brought them to this planet without asking first – to try to help them through this and explain it. Let them make up their own minds. Besides, getting angry at someone who committed suicide only makes you miserable (they’re dead, they can’t hear you) and it convinces other depressed people not to seek help.

  • 5. Telling suicidal or depressed people to “get help” is NOT helpful.

Maybe they want to talk to you and be reassured that you love them, or care for them, or feel SOMETHING for them. If you meet them with apathy, or anxiety, or a bunch of clichéd quick fixes, why should they believe that a total stranger who charges them $500 an hour gives a wet slap about them? You’re supposed to be part of their support system.

Maybe they have a chemical, physical, or mental disease and depression is a symptom. Many schizophrenic and bi-polar people don’t think they need help. Mental afflictions lie to people, telling them it’s fine, everything is fine, you’re fiiiiiine, you don’t need help! So they won’t look for it.

Maybe they don’t want it. They could have been running for a damn long time and they’re just tired of fighting. Even with all of Mr. Williams’s support and popularity and money (that I’m assuming he had) he got tired of running. If what people say is true and kids, family, friends are all amazing reasons to keep on living, can you imagine how much darkness and pain he would have to be in to give that up?

  • 6. Not everyone who commits suicide, or wants to, is “crazy”.

I’ve heard this line a lot. Suicidal people are not in their right mind. I don’t think that’s always the case and in my experience it wasn’t. I was clear minded when I thought about it. I knew it would stop the pain. I also knew it was permanent and I have commitment issues. I also had someone very close to me pull me back and show me that there are things worth fighting for and I wasn’t alone and they would help me. They wouldn’t let me miss all the time that I could have. They did it for me, not because they would miss me or mourn me. They did it because they wanted me to be happy. You know who you are, and I will always be grateful.

  • 7. Health care in America doesn’t take mental health seriously enough.

I believe this is self-explanatory. Health care is stupidly expensive. Mental health care is even more so, but because you’re not bleeding from the eyeballs or having a chest popper from Alien making a nightly appearance, mental wellness is often passed over. And since people can’t see the injury they don’t think there’s a problem. BTW cancer can have that same hiding manner – until it’s too late.

So what do you do? You don’t have depression, but maybe you’re not so sure about your loved one. You came this far because there is something off in their behavior and you want to check in with them. Maybe you do have depression and you’ve read all this way with me to find something, some truth, because you’re not ready to go yet. All I can offer is what I know and lived through.

Now what?

  • 1. In the right hands, you can beat the episode, but probably not alone.

As I said, talk therapy and changing my environment saved my life – literally. Sometimes you have to put a little trust in a stranger and open your wallet. It sucks. It does. It can also be a tremendous help. Yes, there will be ignorant and insensitive assholes that will comment and jeer, but that is their problem and says way more about them than it does about you. There will also be people who learn how brave you are and how strong you are for reaching out especially at a point where everything is painful and you can’t see the forest for the trees.

  • 2. If you know, or think you know someone with depression YOU have to help them.

They might not be able to get help on their own. If you love them and you want them to stay on the earth, it’s your responsibility to help them. Remember, they may have already made a permanent choice based on bad intel – lying brain, feeling abandoned, hopelessness. They’re good with their game plan to die. You have to help them get the professional help they need in order to see that there is potential for more good life instead of the long road of pain they think it inevitably is.

  • 3. Don’t head shrink – leave it to the professionals.

You can do a lot of damage trying to psychoanalyze someone, even if it’s well intentioned. There’s a span of belief that each person has. Telling a depressed person that they’re good enough, strong enough, and gosh darn people like them, falls way outside their span of belief. Try convincing an atheist that there is a god and Jesus loves him. That makes for a fun show down at the microbrewery, even the gluten free ones. Professional psychiatrists, psychologists, and other people in the mental health field are really the only ones that should be doing this anyway. They have the skills and years of training to handle it. Reading Depression for Dummies, or having seen that one episode of Dr. Phil are not where you should start.

  • 4. Never, ever, ever threaten them with the hospital or psych ward.

This is a death warrant for some people. “I’ll lock you up.” “I’ll have them shove medicine in you.” “The ambulance is on the way.” These are the possible outcomes:

  • They stop talking
  • They commit to the death plan
  • They cut you out of their lives
  • They sink deeper into depression
  • Their depression is compounded with terror at the threat of being locked up

You don’t ever do this. Ever.

  • 5. Be there, but be calm!

If you ever saw a stray cat you’ll know that they bolt at the first sight of a human, dog, or loud sound. The same concept applies here. If you’re going to talk with/support your loved one you have to chill out. I get it. This is scary shit! It’s literally a matter of life and death which makes being calm way more important. If they see you get upset, freaked, nervous, agitated, whatever, they are going to stop talking. THIS IS BAD!! You never want a depressed or suicidal person (passive or active) to stop talking.

  • 6. Shut the hell up and LISTEN with your BRAIN (and your ears).

Most people listen to respond. Don’t do that. Listen to understand. Even if what they say is a gibbering mess that ends in tears, *shut up and listen to them*. You don’t have to fix it. You don’t even have to speak! A lot of the time they just need to get it out, like vomit or poison. They need to expel the demon chasing them so they can start to heal. A short while ago, when I was seriously on the edge, being heard derailed a potential mess. Just knowing that I was heard and loved and safe stopped it in its tracks. I can’t stress enough how important it is for the person to feel like they were heard. When this happens it shows them that they matter. Writers say “show, don’t tell.” This is what that looks like in real time.

  • 7. Let them go.

That does not mean help them along. That’s a whole other topic, one that I am nowhere near qualified to comment on. When I say let them go I mean you have to trust them to make the decisions they want to make for themselves. Yes, it will devastate you to lose someone you love, but maybe it’s devastating for them to be in constant torment. There has to be quality of life, not just quantity. You also have to respect that they are an adult and can make their own decisions – taking into account reason, severity and type of mental disorder. If you’ve done all you can for them, let go. This is out of your span of control. What you’re really trying to control is the disease and threat to life that it causes, and no one can do that. If someone really wants to go, they will. They just won’t talk about it which is why making sure they keep talking is so vital.

Everything has an expiration date: milk, vacations, our lives, even reality TV shows. What we should be doing with the time we’re given is help each other, offer unbiased support, love and a safe harbor. Life is hard! We all know it but many of us bring more children into the world because we know that it can be amazing too. We fall down on taking care of each other and in a world so fraught with harm and sadness we should be kind to people or at least civil. It’s easy enough to get a check list of what can cause depression, but to fully understand it will take more than bullet points. All that text above is just the tip of the iceberg for trying to understand it and it’s from one person’s experience. The best way you can help is to listen with an open mind, love with an open heart, and give support with no strings because you want the best for your loved one and not what is only right for you.

Good luck.

Posted in Charlotte, Posts

Charlotte’s Cross mini scene


A scene I sketched out with all of the protagonists. Not sure if it will make final cut but it was a piece that was wandering my mind for a few days.

 

Renzi picked up Markus’ water skein and coaxed out the liquid within. It hovered just above his hands, soft and pliable, with a glow of warmth to it. He passed it to Charlotte seated on right. She scooped a small mound of dirt from the earth and melded it with Renzi’s water. Delicately she fashioned feathers, a beak and beady eyes from the clay. A sparrow. It rested in her hands, a close likeness to the real thing. Charlotte, pleased with her work, passed the clay bird to Valenara.

Markus watched in wonder as the marked ones worked. They said nothing and yet seemed to know what each person’s role was to be. Not even a look of spite passed from Valenara to Charlotte, as was typical of the two when they interacted.

Valenara stroked the clay bird’s chest and throat. A faint sound of bird song broke the midnight silence around the campfire even though the bird made no movement. She passed it to Dran who cradled it lovingly in the palms of her small hands. Golden light issues from where the bird rested in the little girl’s hands and it shook its head and chirped loud and strong.

Markus gasped and leaned forward as the feathery new bird was passed to Sky. He swallowed hard and hoped that the reckless lad would know how to be gentle with such a fragile being. To Markus’ surprise, Sky was very careful when he was offered the sparrow. He allowed it to perch in his index finger with its tiny sharp clawed feet. As it peep peeped at him, Sky blew softly at the bird ruffling its feathers and causing it to unfurl its little wings. With a shimmy and a fluff the bird took flight, hovering near Sky for a moment before flying off into the trees, lost to the twilight.

Charlotte said, “the circle is incomplete.”

Renzini sighed, “Yes. Without Trucido, this circle, and others, will never close.”

“Old stories will never end.” Valenara said

“And new ones can’t begin without the past to guide them,” said Dran

Sky stared at the ground, clenching his teeth. “I hate him. But I hate that we need him more.”

Nicodemus closed his eyes slowly. “He makes the straight line into a circle. By ending life he sustains the infinite dance of life”

None of them knew quiet how to respond. They say in solemn silence until the stars winked into view one by one and Luna made her climb into the sky, forcing a smile from Renzi’s lips.

Posted in Posts

Repairing My Compass


I don’t know what’s been going on with me but for the past six months or so, trying to find motivation in anything has been really hard and I noticed that with each passing day it’s getting harder. At first it was a slowdown in my writing because work got so cumbersome, but then it started to escalate. I don’t work on my cosplay costumes as much. I haven’t been reading anything, or watching movies and TV with the same interest level. In fact, if I miss a few episodes, even of a show I love, I don’t really care. Remembering things that happened in the past episodes or in the movies I watch have been getting harder too, unless I’ve seen them over and over again. I’m talking about things I adore, like Fullmetal Alchemist. Someone will make a reference and it will go right over my head.

Most of what I’ve been doing is just zoning out on crappy facebook games or flipping through the internet looking at photos of things I want to make, populating my pintrest with pins I’ll never look at even thought I collect them with the best intentions. Even getting out of bed in the morning is a struggle. It’s taking everything I have to write this and I doubt very much that I‘ll bother to proof read it. My brain is sluggish and my body constantly feels weak, no matter how well I eat or what kinds of exercise I do. My fit bit says I’m doing great – averaging 12k – 15k steps a day. That’s almost as much as 6 miles. I’m not running these miles. I’m walking them at a standard pace.

The chores are piling up. My weight is piling up. The goals I wanted to accomplish are piling up and I have no energy or motivation to do any of it. Getting advice on how to just ‘get ‘er done’ and ‘make time’ don’t help. I just feel lazier and a bit more depressed. I’m really hoping my doc can give me some answers because right now all I have is that I’m being lazy or not working hard enough. I’m tired all the time, mentally, physically, and sometimes emotionally. Seeing friends was one of the joys in my life, but if I’m not dreading spending time and energy to be with them then something in me is scared that they’ll see how unplugged and disconnected I am.

I better put on some coffee so I can get my laundry done.