Monday, July 24, 2017

Invisible Demons

I’ve had a rough few days. Stress overload at the day job, no peace and quiet to be found anywhere, this crazy world we’re living in getting crazier by the day, Chester, then some of the responses to Chester … So many little things I couldn’t possibly describe all coming together at the same time, added to the fact that sometimes I just have bad days. It’s been a trial.

On Friday evening, I snapped and left a rant on my personal Facebook page that probably bugged a few people. It was longer than I typically post there, almost more appropriate for here, but I was angry, and I try to keep most of that away from here. I’ll tell you about being angry, but that’s not the same thing as being angry or doing angry. I was definitely doing angry.

The responses were mostly positive, and they did bring home the fact that I don’t generally talk about, or even really acknowledge my illness in public. I talk about it here, but this is a special place set aside for that purpose, so not really the same thing as “in public”. I’m not entirely certain what to make of that realization - I suppose we’ll find out along the road - but it also caused me to want to spend a little more time going into some detail here, where I do discuss such things but have been doing quite a bit of skirting around the issues lately.

I mentioned in my rant that if you don’t have Depression or suicidal ideations - or live in extreme closeness with someone who does - you can’t really understand the situation. I said this as an argument that we should not judge what we cannot understand, but it also highlights a gulf between those who struggle and those who don’t, and that gulf is part of the struggle. That gulf is part of what makes it so difficult for people with this illness to get appropriate help.

Too many people who don’t know make assumptions followed by judgments, and this leads to stigma. Stigma says you’re weak if you succumb to depression. Stigma says you’re a coward if you reach your breaking point. Stigma says you can just snap out of it if you try hard enough or want it badly enough or remember your responsibilities. Stigma lies, and stigma is the root cause of so much pain and death that it’s about time we start charging it as an accessory. It’s time for a paradigm shift; time for the people who don’t understand to stop thinking they should be the ones to set the rules. Their rules aren’t working, never have worked, and never can work. We need to look in new directions where we can possibly prevent more tragedies rather than adding guilt on top of tragedies that have already occurred.

If you don’t face the struggle you can’t understand, but that doesn’t mean you can’t empathize and demonstrate caring compassion. You don’t have to have cancer to be properly helpful toward one who does. It’s no different. Just because you can’t see the illness doesn’t mean that you can’t respond to it in the same manner that you would use for physical ailments. If you can’t personally treat the condition or the symptoms, you can still support the person who is struggling. You can build them up, help them stand, and help them keep their head up. Or you can tear them down, make them feel worse, and encourage further destruction. Which seems more likely to lead to positive results?

On Friday morning, I considered not going to work. That, in itself, is a pretty big statement on how I was doing. For those who don’t know me personally, I have reached a point in my own self care where I almost never have to take unscheduled time off to “get my head together”. That I would even consider doing so says the invisible demons were latched on tightly and doing their hobnailed dance at uncharacteristic levels. I considered taking the day off, but I didn’t. I possibly should have, but I’m still not certain that would have made anything better. I didn’t because of the workload I knew I had waiting for me, and it was there in spades. It would have still been there on Monday, had I taken the day off, and it would have been combined with Monday’s workload. Not really the best solution. Things are tight right now, and there just are not many alternatives. It’s a temporary situation, so we manage. I’ve always been pretty good at managing whatever I have to manage if I know it’s temporary, but it’s definitely tiring.

I went to work and did my best to hold things together while I felt like everything was trying to spin apart. Again, this is a trick I have … not perfected, but certainly developed to a high degree of efficiency over the years, and it is not a trick I necessarily expect or even encourage anyone else to have. It’s a bandage on a broken bone; not terribly helpful but it might get you through to a real solution. Heavy emphasis on “might”.

I got up and paced around often, because it’s difficult to sit still when I’m spinning that way. I sat down and put my head down on the desk, because it’s difficult to summon the motivation to actually do anything when the demons are dancing that way. The old self-destructive urges are calling, saying they can wake me up from the lethargy if I will just let them out. The lethargy promises to keep me safe from the urges if I’ll just sink deeper and let it all go. I spent the day walking the razor's edge between mania and depression, knowing that a victory for either would mean utter destruction, but also knowing that holding them both off for too long could result in just another form of destruction. I was holding on so tightly to prevent falling in either direction that I was stretched taught, everything that was me pushed to the limit and brittle as fresh-blown glass. A misstep from that edge could mean falling off into the abyss on either side, but even a wrong step that doesn’t fall could still result in shattering into a billion starlight pieces, and that is a jigsaw puzzle that’s going to take more than a rainy afternoon to put back together.

I came home and I jittered, feeling like bacon grease skittering across a hot pan surface. I put on music and I cried. I put on music and I raged. I turned off music and I cried while raging. I didn’t talk much because words were hiding or twisting, or just doing their own thing. It was probably one of the worst days I have gone through in recent memory. Thankfully Heather saw what was happening and was there as I needed, a light touch at the right moment, a small word, a smile. Nothing big, nothing revolutionary. Sometimes the worst moments can be helped by the smallest things.

I made a few Facebook posts, I got angrier, I typed my rant. It got some responses, mostly positive. That was somewhat reassuring. The invisible demons insist that you can’t do anything positive, but they’re wrong. One of the comments mentioned that, “sometimes it's damn near impossible to spot who is being shadowed by the Black Dog.” More than a few people were surprised by my admission. Another valuable lesson. They are invisible demons. You don’t know just by looking who is being hounded. That’s something to keep in mind before passing judgment. We don’t know how much someone can carry, and we don’t know how much they are already carrying. We all have different breaking points, and we would all do better if more people were helping to spread the load rather than insisting you should be able to carry whatever someone else has decreed. Help each other out; don’t tear each other down.

I have Depression. I have fought this war for as long as I can remember. Most days, these days, I do pretty well, but I have bad days. Still, to this day, I hit the wall far more often than I care to admit. I still have days when I wake up believing that, not only would the world be better off without me, but the world wouldn’t even notice I was gone. It’s a contradiction lived daily by some people with mental illness, and it cannot be explained. Don’t make things worse for people you do not, cannot understand. Give a hand, not a boot. Help people up, don’t push them down.

On the other side of the message, I had one of my worst days in recent memory on Friday, and here I am, still pushing, still typing, still being a voice. I don’t expect you to live my life, I don’t know your limits, but I would like to offer you hope. The clouds break, the sun rises, and new days come. You are not alone, and sometimes we each know tricks that can help each other. I’m still here, and I’m still offering you a hand. I can do it, you can do it, we can do it. We can make the world a little more peaceful for those fighting this ongoing war, and we can make the world a little more peaceful for those living with the ramifications of this ongoing war. There are casualties and collateral damage. Let’s do what we can to make things better.

I’ve had a rough few days, but I’m still having days. I call that a win. Now we just keep moving forward.

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