Friday, December 27, 2013

You, Me, and Depression Make Three.

On a Saturday in December a 19 year old kid hanged himself in his a garage.  By all accounts, he was a happy teenager, with a sparkling personality, loving parents and siblings, and tons of friends.  I didn't know him, but I do know his struggle...

Recently, on social media, I have come across some rather disheartening opinions and comments about depression and suicide.

And it's made me want to reach out in any way that I can-- so here is this blog.  It won't reach many people, but it may reach some.

There's a video circulating--a TED talk that's pretty insightful, and I'd definitely suggest you watch it if you have a minute.  (Find it here).  It's got some great insight about the way in which depression is taboo in our society-- many people don't understand it, are scared of it, or are embarrassed by it.

The embarrassment, I think, comes from a lack of knowledge or understanding about depression-- those who don't have it don't understand it (why can't this person just cheer up and make him or herself feel better like I do when I'm sad?), and those who do have it don't understand it (why can't I just feel better?), and the lack of understanding and sympathy/compassion just goes from there.

WebMD lists several causes of depression-- 
  • Abuse. Past physical, sexual, or emotional abuse can cause depression later in life.
  • Certain medications. For example, some drugs used to treat high blood pressure, such as beta-blockers or reserpine, can increase your risk of depression.
  • Conflict. Depression may result from personal conflicts or disputes with family members or friends.
  • Death or a loss. Sadness or grief from the death or loss of a loved one, though natural, can also increase the risk of depression.
  • Genetics. A family history of depression may increase the risk. It's thought that depression is passed genetically from one generation to the next. The exact way this happens, though, is not known.
  • Major events. Even good events such as starting a new job, graduating, or getting married can lead to depression. So can moving, losing a job or income, getting divorced, or retiring.
  • Other personal problems. Problems such as social isolation due to other mental illnesses or being cast out of a family or social group can lead to depression.
  • Serious illnesses. Sometimes depression co-exists with a major illness or is a reaction to the illness.
  • Substance abuse. Nearly 30% of people with substance abuse problems also have major or clinical depression.

For the most part, I think most of us can understand many of these types of depression.  It doesn't seem abnormal for someone who is ill or who has experienced a major life event or conflict to be depressed.  It's certainly not unusual for someone who has lost a loved one to become depressed.

But, the cause I'd like to focus on is Genetics-- how depression can be passed from generation to generation, though no one really knows how or why.  This is the type of depression I want to talk about-- why?  Well, because it's the type of depression from which I suffer.

In his TED talk, Kevin Breel talks about the kind of depression that isn't "normal" to those who have never lived with depression.  To society, it's normal to be depressed when someone dies, or if we don't get a promotion at work, or when we perform poorly on an exam in school. But, there's another type of depression that is completely stigmatized in society: the "I'm depressed for no reason," depression.  This is the type of depression where everything in your life is fine-- or good, or fantastic--and you're still depressed.

So many times people will ask 'Why?  Why are you depressed?'  And a lot of times?  There is no 'reason.'  I just am.

This is the type of depression I have struggled with my entire life. Or, at least, for a very, very long time.  Even when there has been nothing wrong in my life, I have gone through times where it has been really hard for me to even get out of bed.

In face-to-face conversation, on Facebook, on Twitter, on blogs, I have seen so many people belittle depression-- they say it's for the weak, for people who just don't know how to move on, that they could get over it if they really wanted.  

People have expressed to me on numerous occasions that they don't really get depression.  

And, now, it's time for me to tell you that you're talking about me when you say these things-- and you always have been.

I'm not weak, I know how to move on, and let me tell you that there is nothing I'd rather do than "just get over it" when I'm depressive. And, yeah, I don't really get depression, either.  

Or, there's the question: how did his/her family and friends not know that this person was depressed enough to take his/her own life?

We always think we know what depression looks like.  It's the sad person, standing off from the crowd.  It's the person who never smiles, who never quite looks you in the eye.  Yes, sometimes, this is what depression looks like.  But, also, and often, depression also looks like the person who is always cracking jokes, who seems to be fairly comfortable in his or her own skin, the one smiling genuinely and looking you straight in the eye.  So, there's the question: how did you not know?

And the answer goes something like this:  When you're a depressed person, you often become very adept at hiding it.  A lot of this probably has to do with the way depression is treated in this society--as something only for the weak, as weakness in general.

And when I hear this--when I hear that people question how no one saw that someone who committed suicide was depressed--I think of myself.  I think of myself in high school (particularly around my senior year), and of myself in college (end of my junior year), and how no one really knew just how depressed I was.  

In college, my poetry teacher gave me a nickname-- "Happy."  And sometimes, I thought about killing myself.

Depression isn't weakness.  It's another way of being-- and until we stop perpetuating these stereotypes, people are going to be too scared and too embarrassed to seek the help that they actually need, or just talk about it in general.

So many times in my life I've been told what a bright personality I have, or how funny I am, or that I bring a sense of light to a situation-- and so many of those times I've been depressive, thinking about suicide, or not really caring whether I lived or died. And no one knew.  

And, as long as you go around perpetuating the stereotype that there is something wrong with being depressed, or with depressed people, I hate to break it to you, but you're part of the problem.

Yes, I am lucky, I am bound to amazing people in my life (my parents) who have always [sometimes unbeknownst even to them] pulled me back from those dark thoughts--and how thankful I am for them.

So, instead of attacking the depressed, or people who commit suicide, and their families for "not knowing," why don't we actively try to create a discourse?  To find ways of talking about depression in language that isn't hurtful or minimizing?  Don't judge-- instead, do your part to create a safe space, and a safe society so that people who suffer from depression (and believe me, we do suffer) can maybe take steps to get better without feeling embarrassed.

Friday, December 13, 2013

My Blog is Better Than Yours

What is with this [seemingly] new trend on social media with everyone claiming that they have the BEST of something?

It can be anything--  
"I have the BEST iPad case!"  
"I have the BEST coffee mug!"
"I have the BEST job!"
"I have the BEST fruit stand by my work!"

But, it's often people--
"I have the BEST friend!"
"I have the BEST dog/cat/rat/turtle!"
"I have the BEST husband!"
"I have the BEST mom!"
"I have the BEST dad!"

And so on, and on, and on, and on.  I've been seeing this a LOT lately... and the former stuff (worldly possessions, etc.) just makes me roll my eyes.  Although, honestly, I'm pretty sure that you do not have the BEST job because I saw this guy, and he creates ice cream flavors for Ben & Jerry's.  Like, that's his job-- so I'm pretty sure HIS is the best, but whatever.  You're happy, and you love your job, that's so great!

It's the second category that really, really irks me.  Chances are, if your parents were around, weren't abusive, and were generally good to you, and you have a good relationship with them, you think that they're the best parents ever.  Same with husbands, wives, friends, pets, etc.  We probably all think this (or, at least, we should).  I do, too.  

But, there's a difference between thinking it, or even telling the people you love that they are the BEST x, y, or z, and using it as a form of leverage or bragging to your friends.  From the time I was little, I've told my mom she was the best mommy in the entire world.  There was a point in my life where I said it to her every single night before I went to bed. But, I didn't go to school and tell all my friends, "Guys, I have the BEST mom in the whole world!" which is what people are doing on social media these days.

And there's a reason I never did that-- why I haven't done that, not in those words, and it is this:  By saying you have best mom in the entire world, you're saying that your mom is better than everyone else's-- better than mine, better than your boyfriend's, better than EVERYONE'S MOTHER.  By saying you have the best husband in the world, you're saying he is better than EVERY OTHER HUSBAND in the entire world-- including your own father (who I know, I know, is better than mine, you posted about it last week).

Which brings me to the actual heart of this blog.  I suppose the whole 'best' thing can be overlooked-- people are excited about each other, that's fabulous.  The following, however, cannot be overlooked.  It's the "my ____ is better/hotter/cuter/sweeter/more amazing than yours!"  To which I reply a resounding "REALLY?!??!?"

Sometimes, there's a reason the poster needs to tell me that whatever he/she has is better than what I have.
"My mom is better than yours because _______"
"My mom is cooler than yours because _______"

Sometimes, they're just stating it as a fact.
"My dad is better than yours."
"My best friend is better than yours."
"My mom is better than yours."

Yeah, well, my manners are better than yours.

No, but really, WHAT IS THIS?  Seriously? This trend really gets to me.  Why do we need the people in our lives to be BETTER than the people in everyone else's?  Why can't we just be thankful that we have a wonderful brother, sister, mother, father, husband, wife, friend, niece, nephew?  Why are we comparing ourselves (in a way that is unkind, by the way) to everyone else like this, and making sure that they know 'Hey, mine is better!'?  (Worldly possessions I could take, but people? That's just crossing the proverbial line).

Maybe I'm just overly sensitive-- okay, I know I am, but it upsets me when people do this, and I have some pretty wonderful people in my life.  So, I can't even begin to imagine how people who do not have these things might feel when they read this.  It basically just rubs everyone else's face in it (particularly those who do not have a wonderful mother, father, etc. present in their lives).  

Is this just an American thing?  Is it related to the ways in which society tells us time and time again that we must compete with each other for the best job, car, house, spouse, kid, boat, etc.?  I'm not sure, because pretty much all of my friends on Facebook are American, and people on Twitter (at least those with whom I associate) don't use Twitter for these sorts of things, so I have no idea if this phenomenon is strictly American, or if other nationalities engage in the age-old "My X is better than yours." And, it doesn't really matter (I know what you're thinking: My country is better than yours!... yeah, yeah, move along...)

Whatever it is, this really upsets me, and on more than one occasion I've had to restrain myself from saying something rude to the poster.  It's this inherent sense of defensiveness I feel for those I love-- especially my parents.  Now, I've started saying something like "I'm glad you got the best dad for you!"  And I am, I'm really glad you have this amazing paternal presence in your life-- that's amazing for you!  But, you don't need to go around telling everyone that your paternal presence is better than theirs-- he may be, but that's not really the point.  The point is: you're being a jerk.  And you should stop.

So, what to say, instead?  I've started saying things like "I couldn't ask for a better mom," or "If I could choose, I'd choose her." [when speaking about my amazing mother].  This way, the sentiment gets across: I love my mom, and she's absolutely fabulous, but I also respect that you probably feel the same about your mother.

And if this is a problem, I am glad it is this problem-- I am glad that people are rejoicing about the wonderful things and people they have in their lives.  I just wish they would rejoice differently.  More respectfully.  Because things that are said off-the-cuff can cause pain, or anger, or hurt, or jealousy--and why would you want to use your joys for that?

And, you may be right, person on Facebook who said "My life is better than yours" to all of your 800 friends-- you may be right!  Your life may be 1,000 times better than mine, or 10,000 times better than mine!  Or, maybe mine is better than yours by that much, or only 5 times-- the point is: we don't know.  We cannot sit here and measure this stuff.  It's the only stuff in life, it seems, we CAN'T measure.  It is literally unquantifiable--so, why try?  We can measure salaries, and the equity in a house or a car or a boat, but we can't measure whose life, family, and friendships are better... it's impossible.  And, rather than trying, don't you think we should just all be grateful?

I'm grateful for my amazing family, dog, boyfriend, friends--even YOU, o boastful one--and I'm grateful that you're thankful for things in your life, too.  But stop trying to rub it in my face, it takes some of the value and beauty away.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Holiday Gift Buying Guide

If the stores are any indication, the Holiday Season is definitely upon us! Although, if the stores are the rulers by which we measure, the Holidays have been upon us since the beginning of October, which is when I began seeing that Christmas pig Target has for sale this season.  (I want it!)

If you're like me, you made your shopping list in October, and have been steadily picking up gifts throughout the season to avoid stress on your mind and on your wallet.  If you're like me in past seasons, you haven't even started shopping yet, and only have a vague idea of what you'd like to get your loved ones this holiday season.

I really do love shopping for other people--if I had more money, I would buy really elaborate/fancy gifts.  Unfortunately for all my family and close friends, I do not.  For me, gifts are a way I can show someone I care about that I understand or know them--that I think about them, and value that person as an individual in my life.  Sure, I do pick up gift cards for Christmas presents, too, but that also says something--more along the lines of "I wanted to get you something you really like."

I know many people are very anti-gift card, but truthfully, when it comes right down to it, I'd rather get you a gift card that you can use to buy or eat something you actually like or enjoy, as opposed to stabbing in the dark and getting you something you end up tossing or re-gifting this or next holiday season.

And many others say 'it's the thought that counts,' which is true.  I'm always touched when I receive a gift form someone, even if it's not something I actually like or will use.  It's nice that they thought of me and went through the trouble of getting me a present.

But, truth be told, I absolutely LOVE finding gifts that people will actually use or enjoy, or gifts that people need.  That is much more preferable to me than someone getting a gift that he or she doesn't really like.

With that in mind, I've comprised a list of cool, unique gifts that you or your loved ones might be interested in this holiday season!  They're all from the same online website, so look now, and take into account the shipping delay!

I've included inexpensive gifts, as well as moderately priced and expensive gifts, in the hopes that I will have included a little something for everyone (after all, what you get your mom isn't likely going to be comparable price-wise to what you get your coworker). Most of the things I've found were for women, but some can definitely be used for the right male in your life as well!

Each selection has a description, price, and link to where to buy it in the caption underneath the photograph!

Happy Holidays, and Happy Shopping!

Table Topics Dinner Party
Get it here!

The Tea Towel
Get it here!

Family Glassware
Get them here!
DJ Cat Scratching Pad
Get one here!
Wooden Six Pack Drink Tote
Get it here!
Stitch the Stars Calendar
Get one here!
Write On Watch
$18/set of 3
Get them here!

What Dogs Love Throw
Get it here!

Recycled Glass Tree Globes
$45 each
Get them here!
Shark Socks
Get a pair here!
Personalized Love Birch Cuff
Personalize one here!
Cat and Dog Bottle Toppers
Get one here!
New Dog Kit
Get it here!
Winnie the Pooh Quote Pillows
Choose one here!
Unzipped Glass Zipper Bag
Get it here!
Fortune Keeper Key Chains
Choose one here!
Bad Dog Tumblers
$35 for set of 4
Get them here!
Latitude Longitude Pendant
Get it here!
She Believed She Could Ring
Get it here!
Ninja Umbrella
Get it here!
Story of the Earth (set of 7)
$32 for set
Get them here!
Live Well Earrings
Get a pair here!
Toast Costers
$10 (set of 8)
Get them here!

Caterpillar Bud Vase
Get one here!
Reclaimed T-Shirt Scarf
Get one here!
Upcycled Mail Sack Pouches
Get it here!
Traveler's Soap
Get it here!
DIY Lip Balm Set
Get it here!
DIY Bath Salt Kit
Get one here!
Upcycled Cotton Sari Robe
Get it here!