Finding the Blips in the Flat Line

It’s been a long time since I’ve published anything. I’ve still been writing, it’s just that everything I’ve written is so personal (like more than usual) that I don’t want it on the Internet, at least not right now. And nothing I’ve written is about mental health.

Prior to graduating from university, I felt like I couldn’t write fast enough to keep up with all the ideas I was having. I was constantly being exposed to new things and I was actively involved with the mental health community at our school.

Since then, though, I’ve pretty much plateaued. I have nothing else to say. I haven’t experienced anything new in terms of my own mental health, and I haven’t experienced anything new in my personal life that’s worth publishing.

Sure, I’ve taken up rock climbing and the ukulele, done better and longer speeches, experienced my first full time office job, and met the real love of my life, but none of those things have led to any new revelations about mental health.

I guess I should be grateful that my own mental health has stabilized and that I no longer experience the depressive episodes that plagued me in the past. I have lots of time to pursue my hobbies, like writing this blog, because I’m not sad and tired all the time. But…if I’m no longer on the roller coaster, what am I supposed to write about? I still have no problem giving speeches and presentations, because I can say the same thing to different audiences. But blogging requires new material all the time.

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“Everyone’s Been There”: A Dangerous Myth

Let me preface this post by acknowledging a universal truth of life – everyone has gone through tough shit or will at some point in the future. Everyone has a story.

But when it comes to mental illness, not everyone’s “been there”. People – usually sweet, kind, well-meaning people who are just trying their best – love to say this as a response to someone’s experience with mental illness (often one that is directly correlated with an emotion that everyone really does experience at some point in time, such as depression or anxiety). I believe that when people say this, it is with the best intentions. They want to make the person they’re talking to feel less alone, and they want to believe that they understand.

They don’t realize that statements like this severely invalidate the experiences of a person with a mental illness. It’s not born out of malice; it’s born out of ignorance and the limitations that come with being human.

Whenever I use the word ‘ignorant’ people tend to get all up in arms, but the thing is, when I say that I am not calling out anyone in particular. We are all ignorant because we can only fully understand things which we have experienced. We can try to better ourselves by learning more about the world and other people’s experiences, but we can only do so much, and many people do not go out of their way to do this.

Taking A Tolerant Approach To Education

We talk and we talk and we talk about what needs to change in this world and the various things that we need to call people out on. But rarely do we talk about how exactly to do that.

I’d like to say that it doesn’t matter how you say something, it’s what you say, and in some cases that is true, but in this case, the “what” and the “how” are equally important. The “how” might even be more important.

Here is why – imagine that you’ve written something (it can be anything, even a text message), and someone reading it says to you, “Um, excuse me, but just so you know, semicolons are actually only supposed to be used when bla bla bla bla. I mean I don’t expect most people to know that, I’m just a huge stickler for grammar and I went to school for Creative Writing.”

Did reading that kind of piss you off? Because it pissed me off just to write it. Doesn’t whoever that person is sound like a stuck up douchebag? They sound like they’re lecturing, and not because they actually care about teaching you something, but because they want to show off the ways in which they are better than you.

Big Girls Cry

I make scrapbooks for every year of my life, and though I took a break for a few years, my 2015 was so eventful that I was motivated to pick the hobby up again.

While doing a page of events that occurred around this time last year, I revisited some blog entries I wrote at the same time. One of them features lyrics from the song “Big Girls Cry” by Sia. That song hit me hard at the time because it described exactly what I feared I was becoming – someone who is living a mundane life, bored out of her mind, just surviving and not really living. I’ve been that girl before. But there were extenuating circumstances that made me that way. I don’t want to be that girl again.

And for a while it looked like I was escaping that reality. Sure, there were some days like that, but I had a pretty fun year.

But it’s been more than 3 full months into this year now and I think I can safely say that I have become exactly what I feared. Most of my days have been like that, and even more now that I live alone. “I come home, on my own, check my phone, nothing though, act busy, order in, pay TV, it’s agony.” Replace “order in” with “eat Doritos” and “pay TV” with “Netflix” and that is my life in a nutshell.

Promises To Myself When I’m Alone

All my life I have been scared to live alone. The closest I’ve ever come to it is when I was living in a dorm in first year of university, and I was pretty miserable.

I’ve been scared to be isolated, scared to be the only one responsible for taking care of myself, scared that without someone else helping me along my life will fall into a stagnant rut.

I’m still scared, but what I’ve been doing is no longer working for me, so I decided that I had to change something, kind of like an experiment, and I decided to start with my living situation.

Tomorrow I move out on my own, but tonight I’d like to take a moment to make a few promises to myself in hopes that this experiment will be a success.

Pulling Yourself Out Of The Hole

People, including me, always say that it takes strength and courage to reach out and ask for help.

But I don’t think I ever fully understood that until now.

My habit has always been to wait until I am at the point of crisis before REALLY telling anyone what is going on. I’ll try to reach out well before then, but not in any kind of way that would make anyone understand how much I really need them, due to the fact that people do not yet have psychic abilities. I try to make plans with people and just talk to people more, and usually other people are responsive and this works. Usually this is enough to help me slowly feel better.

But sometimes, it just so happens that all the plans I try to make with people fall through, or no one is responding to my messages. Suddenly everyone is busy. Suddenly everyone is tired. Suddenly I am not a priority to anyone. There are always days like this, which I can handle, but sometimes this will turn into a prolonged period spanning weeks or months. And the longer it goes on, the more frustrated and desperate I become, and I begin to feel like no one cares about me.

A Faded Hospital Bracelet

I’ve only ever been in the hospital three times in my life – when I was born, when I had a spontaneous tear in my lung, and exactly two years for suicidal thoughts.

I credit that day for turning my life around. Although the most difficult moments of my life were still yet to come, I’ve never felt as hopeless as I did that night since.

I will say though that I have come very close. I become depressed when I’m lonely or experiencing other social issues. And for the past month and a half, I have been very socially isolated.

I’m not really sure how it happened. There are a lot of reasons – me facing criticism that I am not used to regarding my morality, other people’s changing minds and flip-flopping attitudes, new situations in other people’s lives, me just generally being annoyed with everyone for no real reason, and the fact that it’s winter and despite the fact that this is Canada, everyone becomes a little bit hermit-like.

Every couple of hours or so a thought will fleet across my mind that I’m just wasting time and my life is meaningless, because if other people don’t want me around then what is even the point of me? What is the point of life?

What To Do When Someone Walks Away

Losing a friend or partner, even temporarily like in the case of a disagreement, can be extremely hard on people living with social anxiety and other mental illnesses like depression and borderline personality disorder.

I am no expert in how to get people to stick around. Clearly, I am terrible at that. But I do consider myself a little bit of an expert in how to deal with the aftermath, because this situation just keeps happening to me over and over again, at least once or twice a year. And every time, I am emotionally destroyed, but every time I somehow get back up again. At first, it seemed to me like this was an accident and I only started to feel better because something good randomly happened to me. But at this point I think it’s safe to say that I am pretty resilient.

I’m sort of going through one of those situations right now, and it occurred to me that although I am basically a ball of constant anxiety and I’m a lot lonelier than I was before, I am actually doing kind of okay. Not great, but okay. I’m doing better at this, and I’m also doing better at actually resolving conflicts. So it prompted me to take a closer look at my habits to figure out what was working and what wasn’t, and I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned with you.

Awareness Does Not = Empathy

I have a membership at a rock climbing gym, and I’m usually there at least a couple of times a week. As a result I’ve become known to most of the staff, although not always for my climbing unfortunately.

I frequently use my large collection of T-shirts from my favourite mental health organization, To Write Love On Her Arms, as climbing attire, and no one’s ever commented on them. But I guess that doesn’t mean that no one noticed them.

I made friends with one of the staff members, and one day after talking about my experiences with mental illness, he confessed to me that one of his coworkers had said something about me that was less than sensitive, long before we had become friends.

“Yo, she’s a cutter eh?” His coworker said one day, gesturing to my outfit. “She’s always wearing those shirts.”