Don’t Worry, I Haven’t Gone Anywhere

I’m tired.

I’m not drowning. I’ve been drowning before, been so low below water that I had to struggle to keep my head up, but that’s not me right now. Right now, the water is safely pooled around my calves, the current most certainly pressing against me but not sweeping me away. I’ll be fine. Once I gather my strength a little bit, I’ll be able to walk right on out of here. So, I’m not drowning.

I’m not empty. I don’t feel nothing. I’m smiling and joking around and enjoying things still.

I’m not dead yet, I’m just tired. I just need a small rest. That’s all.

I’m unmotivated. I’m uncharacteristic; the Type A, hyper-ambitious bitch has been reduced to a motionless lump, in such a way that usually accompanies depression, but this time, I’m not depressed. This time, I’m just tired.

And ‘tired’ I can deal with. Tired is okay. Tired will pass. Tired had better pass, or I might have to do something about it.

I’m not done yet. I’m still here, I haven’t given up. I just need a break. I just need a direction. I just need some change.

I’m thinking. I’m planning. I may be a motionless lump, but I won’t be forever. And when it passes, I’ll be a force to be reckoned with, as always.

I’m still the same Type A, hyper-ambitious bitch you know and love. For now, I’m just tired.

 

Advertisements

Day 2: Tolkien

FullSizeRender

His name is Tolkien.

While I call Lewis my “problem child”, Tolkien was one of those instantly perfect creatures that just makes you want to protect him from the harshness of reality. Every once in a while, he makes me wonder at how different his life could have been. He could have been born a lab rat, or a sewer rat. He could have been experimented on and trotted over. Instead, he was born to a breeder and adopted by me.

The first night in my house, he was so frightened that he ran to Lewis for protection. The second night at my house, I opened the cage and he walked right up to me, crawling into my hands and licking my lips, my nose, and my cheeks. From that night forward, Tolkien would do anything it took to cuddle with me, including struggling against the bars of his cage until I open it for him.

There is a quote by the writer for whom Tolkien is named, which begins with him saying: “I am in fact a Hobbit in all but size”. For this, I believe Tolkien is very appropriately named. He is a simple rat. He loves food and playtime and just about everyone he has ever met. He never complains, not even when I wake him up in the middle of the day. He has never bitten me or shown aggression. Although he will steal treats, he will also make sure that his brother gets some as well, even if that means giving Lewis a peanut when he is without. Tolkien is pure, and I adore that purity in him. Through his purity, he offers me a glimpse of the good in this world every day.

Day 1: Lewis

IMG_4060

His name is Lewis.

I adopted him from a breeder, and the very first time I held him, he struggled so much that I had to pin him between against my mouth to keep him from falling. For the longest time, he didn’t want anything to do with me, and truth be told, I felt a little betrayed by that. I called him my “problem child”, and joked about how much he hated me.

Nonetheless, I kept coming around because… well, what else could I do? I had adopted him. I was all he had – the one who fed him, protected him, kept him clean. I would hold him for the short periods of time that he would let me, and I would whisper to him, “it’s okay. I’m your mother. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

Every day, he would stay with me for longer periods of time. He would stare at me from across the room, inside his cage, hiding in back corners and beneath dark shadows, big, black eyes glittering like diamonds. I began to see bits of myself in his personality – in how anxious he was, just like me. In how much he really rejected change, just like me. He liked things to be familiar and safe and warm – but he learned fast. He never bit me, no matter how scared he was. He never challenged me, even when he did run away. He was a gentle soul, who learned his name fast and watched my every move meticulously. He was a mad genius and a nervous wreck, just like me. We stressed each other out all the time, but we understood each other too.

Eventually, he came to accept me as a safe space. In unfamiliar rooms, he would cling to me like a small child. When he was afraid, I would hold him and whisper to him, and he would relax. And when he was calm and safe in his cage, he would get excited to see me. He ran to me and crawled across my shoulders and licked my hands with his tiny, pink tongue in anticipation of treats.

His name is Lewis, my sweet, anxious problem child.

Why It Is Important to Talk When You Aren’t Okay

As human beings, we are not always okay.

We are not consistently positive, every single moment of every day. We are not always right. We are not always kind. We have moments where we feel broken and discouraged and hopeless and cruel.

And I’m going to tell you a secret: you don’t always have to be okay.

This should not be a secret. Because I think we have all generally accepted this idea that people are not perfect. We say, “to err is human”, and we expect that everyone will, at some point in their lives, make a mistake, or get hurt, or be down and depressed and lost. And yet, despite all this, we still make an attempt to hide it. We still think that we will be judged for being flawed – or, alternatively, we are judged for being flawed.

It has been a long time since I tried to hide the fact that I wasn’t okay. I’ve worn my status of ‘not okay’ quite proudly for a while now – speaking up about my experience with depression and anxiety, my struggle with toxic people in my life, as well as the simple daily struggles that I think all of us go through. My experience is not a particularly unique one – I think that many of us deal with these issues, if not all of us, at one point or another. And yet, despite this, I have been described by people – both personally and online – as “really messed up” or “seriously ill”, not because of the things that I have gone through, but because I chose to speak up about them. I never tried to hide the fact that I wasn’t okay at certain times in my life, and for some people, this was unacceptable – a sign of weakness.

What these people didn’t see was just how therapeutic this was for me. Speaking up allowed me the chance to see that I wasn’t alone. That other people experienced the same thoughts and feelings and issues that I was experiencing. Some of these people went public, like I did – expressing these issues loud and proud for all to see, while others simply whispered it to me behind closed doors. And either way, I am grateful for them – because they helped me. They relieved my guilt, my fear, my need to repress. They freed me. Because all of a sudden, I wasn’t only speaking for me – I was speaking for us.

And, on the other hand, I have known many people who tried to fit into a certain image of flawless. I think many of us know these people as well – the hyper-yogis and gurus who never have a negative thing to say. Their social media platforms are full of inspiration and positive thinking and little more. And while inspiration is great – necessary, even, there is such a thing as going too far in this direction.

Because when these flawless people do, inevitably, show a flaw, they cannot accept this. They cannot hear it. They must blame everyone else for their flaw, or deny that it is a flaw, or push it deep down, never to see the light of day, never to be worked on and fixed and improved upon.

And often times, these flawless people are so insecure, so afraid, so depressed, and never allowed to acknowledge the source of this, because they do not allow themselves to talk about it. They are too afraid that they will be judged, or looked down upon. They are so frequently told that they will not be strong, or admirable, or acceptable, if they are suffering. And we are all suffering, at one time or another.

Ultimately, you do more harm to yourself and to those around you when you do not allow yourself to discuss the fact that you might not always be okay.

End of day, life is not about being perfect. Life is about growth. And you achieve this growth by confronting your pain, rather than pushing it down and ignoring it. Now, the way that you confront this pain can take many forms – whether you speak out about it openly, or with a trusted friend, or a therapist, or your personal diary, whatever the case may be. But regardless of the way that you choose to speak, there is nothing wrong with it. There should be no shame in the methods that you choose to better yourself, and there should be no cause for judgement either.

So if anyone makes you feel ‘lesser than’ because you choose to speak out about your problems, please keep in mind that that reveals more about them than it does about you. You are not ‘messed up’ or wrong – you are dealing with the natural problems that many of us deal with, and you are dealing with it in the way that works for you. Meanwhile, they will not allow themselves the same luxury. They are still caught up in this myth of perfection, or flawlessness, that none of us are truly capable of.

And if you are someone who will not allow yourself to speak out, then allow me to say this: I understand that it can be frightening. It might seem weird, and you might think that you will be judged, and maybe you will, but more than that, you will be received with love. You will find kindred spirits, so much more personal to you than they would otherwise be, because they understand what you have been through. They understand the workings of your mind.

And you can start slow, if you want to. Start by simply saying it to yourself. You can move on to speaking out when you feel more comfortable. But end of day, you need to speak out. You need to do it for yourself, and for the kindred spirits who feel silenced, alone, and frightened.

Children Who Might Commit School Shootings Are Not “Potential Sickos”

The issues of gun control and school shootings have been heavily conversed in the United States lately, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that Donald Trump weighed in with a number of tweets. The one that I want to focus on right now, however, reads as follows:

Now, there is a lot in this tweet that is concerning. The very concept of teachers being forced to carry guns is terrifying, and I genuinely hope that that never becomes a reality. But, at the same time, I think that this is the issue that the majority of people who read this tweet will focus on, and it is the issue that will be discussed more prominently. And there is something else in this tweet that I find terrifying, and worth discussion.

Namely, I want to talk about Trump’s repeated reference to shooters as ‘sickos’.

Now, before I get into this, I want to clarify something: anyone who commits a shooting has committed a terrible, sick act. They have taken innocent lives out of this world, and a very strong argument can be made that that is unforgivable. I am not trying to defend their choice to murder people, because that choice is indefensible.

What I am trying to say is that, especially lately, we have been talking more and more often about what causes people to commit shootings. And the general consensus seems to be that mental health tends to be to blame. Heck, even Donald Trump seems to be aware that mental health is involved in a person’s choice to take up a gun and murder others.

Now, the degree to which mental health is involved in gun violence is debatable. Only 14.8 percent of mass shooters in the United States are diagnosed as psychotic. People with mental illness contribute to roughly three to five percent of all violent crimes (most of which do not even involve guns), and when people with mental illness do use guns in a violent fashion, that violence is typically turned on themselves (in 2013, nearly two-thirds of gun-related deaths were suicides). So when we say that “gun violence is a mental health problem”, we need to remember that mentally ill people are not one gun away from murdering a whole bunch of people.

But there is a video that has been circulating around social media in the wake of this discussion that I would love to draw to your attention now.

This video is an open letter from Aaron Stark, and it bears the very intriguing title, “I was almost a school shooter”. In it, Stark talks about his experience in school, and how he had a “very chaotic and violent childhood”. He describes being bullied, and he describes how, as a result, “I got angry, and I started hiding weapons everywhere”. He states that, the only reason why he did not commit a shooting at his school was because he did not have access to a gun.

“People say mental health is the issue, and that’s true. My mental health was in sad shape. I was severely depressed and suicidal. I felt like I had nothing at all in life to look forward to, and so I literally had nothing to lose. When someone has nothing to lose, they can do anything, and that thought should be terrifying. So, yes, mental health was an issue. A bigger issue was love. I had a severe lack of love,” Stark says.

Mental health is not the only reason why gun violence happens. However, anyone who would be willing to take a human life is not a healthy person. These are people who are deeply pained, deeply rejected by their society, and, as Stark says, severely lacking in love.

These are the people who Trump is referring to as ‘sickos’.

And I’m not necessarily concerned for the men who have already committed shootings; that is an issue far too complicated for me to comment on. What I am concerned about is the young boy who is in pain, who is angry, who is in need of support and love so that he can avoid doing the terrible thing that he has been considering, and yet he is further alienated by his own president, who dismisses him as a potential sicko.

The language that we use when referring to people matters. And ‘sicko’ is a very dismissive word. ‘Sicko’ does not create room for discussion, and yet discussion is absolutely necessary for any young person who is considering this. ‘Sicko’ does not create room for love, and yet love is vital in avoiding this exact problem. ‘Sicko’ is the sort of word that discourages a young man from coming forward and talking about his feelings, because he doesn’t want to be dismissed as a ‘sicko’. So he doesn’t come forward. He just sits with it, and lets it fester. He allows it to progress, until the absolute unthinkable happens.

The truth is, it does not take a monster to do this sort of thing. All it takes is one lost, hurting, loveless child.

It bothers me to see the leader of a country use this sort of terminology, because it gives the rest of us an excuse to follow his lead. And we cannot do this. We cannot think in dismissive terms when it comes to other human beings. We cannot allow our horror of what might be to further doom other children who have not done it yet. These are children who need love and compassion and understanding, and if the president of the United States isn’t going to give it to them, then we need to make sure to give it to them. We need to be there to listen to people who need it. We need to be open-minded and non-judgemental when it comes to what they’re saying. We need to watch our language, and make sure that we are not alienating them further. Because that is so easy to do, when we are so used to doing it.

I am firmly of the opinion that creating stricter gun laws will help to fix this issue. This is something that we need to do; but at the same time, it will not make children stop feeling this way. It will only make them stop killing each other in such great numbers. This anger and this pain and this loneliness is not alright, and it leads to so many other problems – more than just school shootings. So we need to do something to fix it.