It Is Okay To Talk About Your Depression

Recently, I have noticed a few people on social media passing around a very interesting quote about depression. I’m not going to lie, it caught my attention – and not necessarily in a good way. Upon looking into the source of the quote, I discovered that it originated as a tweet from rapper Post Malone. The full quote reads:

“shoutout to everyone who has made it out of a dark place or hard time in your life. especially those who did it by themselves bc they never showed it or let anyone know they were hurting. to silently battle & win is hard, be proud of yourself & all the progress you’ve made”

I’ve read variations on this quote that end after the words, “especially those who did it by themselves”, but its this part that I want to focus on in particular – this idea that people who suffer in silence deserve a little extra kudos than the rest of us.

Because, yes, shout out to everyone who has made it out of a dark place or hard time in their life. Anyone who has successfully done this, no matter how they did it, is amazing and strong and deserves all the praise and attention for getting themselves back into a healthy and happy lifestyle.

And, yes, to silently battle and win is hard. Very hard. Downright impossible, for many people.

Personally, I am of the opinion that we, as human beings, are pack animals. We need other people in our lives – and not just for simple survival either. Yes, building human communities helps protect us from being eaten by wild animals, but more than that, creating close bonds with other people helps protect our mental health.

Rats, for example, are pack animals. And if you keep a rat alone for too long, it will show symptoms of depression. The same thing will happen to humans.

And I’m not necessarily speaking of extreme, physical isolation either. Simply feeling emotionally isolated from other people will result in intense depression as well. This is actually a rampant issue within our society – particularly for men. Essentially from birth, men are told that “boys don’t cry”. Men are encouraged to bottle up their emotions, to never burden anyone with how they’re feeling, to show “real strength” by going through life without ever letting anyone in or opening up to people. This has contributed to a society where depression in men goes woefully undiagnosed, and because of this, men are 3.57 times more likely to die from suicide than women are.

So, yes, it is hard to silently battle and win. Chances are actually pretty good that if you battle silently, you will end up losing.

People need support. People need to know that they aren’t alone, and people need that validation that what they feel is accepted. That who they are, depression and all, can be loved. And not only that, but people need the other opinions that other people can offer. Sometimes, the greatest gift that a depressed person can receive is a loved one’s assurance that they’re going to be okay, even if they don’t currently feel the same way.

And, personally, I am one of those people why apply to the first part of Post Malone’s tweet, but not the second part. I have made it out of dark places and hard times, but I didn’t always do it alone.

I fought small battles alone. I hid panic attacks in the bathroom, and then wiped away my tears, picked myself back up, and forced myself out the door. But when it came to the much larger war that is fighting depression, I couldn’t do that alone. And that isn’t to say I didn’t try. For quite nearly a whole year, I did my best to hide my depression, not wanting to make people worry about me. And then, when I couldn’t hide it anymore, I just… spoke.

And then I couldn’t stop speaking.

I kept talking, and I kept reaching out, and eventually, my depression just wasn’t anything shameful anymore. It was just a part of me. And that made it easier to fight, because I wasn’t fighting alone.

And, not only that, but speaking out and hearing my own depressive thoughts voiced was actually really helpful in recognizing just how wrong they were. It’s surprisingly easy to think, “if this person doesn’t say that thing, then they obviously hate me”. It’s much more difficult to take such a sentiment seriously when you’re saying it aloud.

When you’re depressed, depressive thoughts are simply the norm. They crowd your brain, and they convince your mind that they’re facts, and there’s just so many of them that it’s hard to fight back. When you speak these thoughts, or write them down, or do whatever you need to to simply get them out of your head, then they become less overwhelming. You begin to see them for what they are. And maybe that doesn’t get rid of the fear or the sadness that these thought create, but at least recognizing them as false is one step forward. And it’s a step forward that’s difficult to take alone.

And yet, despite all of this, we live in a society that loves to romanticize that idea of making it through hard times alone. I think it goes back to that idea of how men are raised – this idea that there is strength in being solitary and not burdening other people with your thoughts and your emotions. And this is what I see in Post Malone’s tweet. He starts out by giving a “shout out” to everyone who has suffered hard times, but he goes on to create a sort of hierarchy. If you have suffered alone, then you are especially deserving of a shout out, and the rest of his tweet focuses on that particular form of suffering. We see people who have suffered alone as being more deserving of praise then people who reached out to others and asked for help.

And when we do that, when we create this hierarchy, what we are actually doing is encouraging people away from seeking help. We make people think that there is something wrong with getting help – that, if they were truly strong, then they would do this alone. And often times, that just isn’t the case. You can (and probably will have to) fight battles alone, but it’s really, really difficult to win the war that way. To win the war, we need a solid army of love and support – whether that army take the form of family, friends, pets, a diary, people that you met on the internet, suicide crisis lines, or therapists.

There is no shame in reaching out. There is no shame in talking about your emotions, or crying, or having a difficult time managing what life has given you. All of this is just a natural part of being human, and we shouldn’t be so afraid of it – when it presents itself in ourselves, or in our loved ones. Instead of encouraging people to suffer in silence, we should be willing to lend an ear to anyone who needs it.

And let’s give a shout out to everyone who asked for help in getting out of a dark place or a hard time, whether they have gotten out of it yet or not. It can be really, really hard talking about your emotions in a society that consistently tries to silence them, but you are doing the right thing. You are doing the best thing that you can for yourself and your mental health, and that is extremely important. May you have all the best going forward, and may you know that you are loved and you are valid and you are strong.

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Why We Need to Talk (More) About Abuse

Let’s talk a little bit about abusive relationships.

Now, as you might have already guessed, this is a very complicated issue, and one that is very dependant on many, many circumstances. For example, the genders of the people involved changes the way that we discuss it. The type of abuse that is going on changes the way that we discuss it. And, more than that, these factors also affect the way that we as a society view it.

For example, we as a society have (more or less) come together and agreed that a man beating his female partner is bad. In the past, it might have been more common to hear a man say that his wife or girlfriend needs to “know who’s boss” or some despicable comment like that, but nowadays, the image of a woman with a black eye, stuttering out some half-coherent explanation about falling into a door is our quintessential image for an unhealthy relationship.

But at the same time, our society does seem to lack a certain fundamental understanding about what abuse is, exactly.

I’ve talked a bit before about our society maintaining this idea of, “well, if he was really that bad, then why didn’t you just leave him?” (for more on that, check out this article here and here). But there’s another factor in all this that I want to discuss right now: namely, this idea that physical abuse is the absolute bottom of the barrel, and all else is automatically good by comparison.

Now, to understand what I’m about to say, understand this: our society has a tendency to separate the world into a binary system. Everything is either good, or it is bad. It is black or white, straight or gay, chunky or smooth. Things that exist in between these binaries, the shades of grey, tend to either get ignored or belittled, because we tend to not like to think about things as so complicated.

So when a relationship isn’t “abusive enough” for our standards, we tend to overlook the issues that exist within it.

I have known women who were in emotionally abusive relationships for years and never realized that they were, or didn’t realize until years later, even if all the signs were there. Even if their partner was controlling, dismissive of their emotions, gaslighting them, or so on and so forth. But at the same time, they were able to dismiss all of this as acceptable. After all, it’s not as though he hit her or anything like that.

Or, fuck, let’s even forget about the abuse aspect for a moment; a relationship doesn’t need to be abusive to be problematic. How many times have we heard overworked women say something along the lines of, “yeah, he doesn’t help around the house, and he does the bare minimum to raise our kids, and even when I’m ill or injured, he won’t make a single meal for himself, but it isn’t like he hits me or anything. He really is the greatest man I could ever hope for!”

Physical abuse has become our standard for what is unacceptable. And by comparison, everything else has become easier to digest.

And I’m not trying to undermine the damage that physical abuse does; that is not my goal here at all. But I am tired of hearing men who have the potential for growth being praised and consequently denied the opportunity to change and better themselves, simply because they do the bare minimum to avoid being labelled a despicable human being.

And this issue, in itself, comes packed with many related issues. By telling ourselves that what we’re experiencing isn’t abuse simply because it isn’t physical abuse, we sometimes justify staying in these relationships or enduring further abuse. And the effects of emotional abuse are incredibly damaging – just as damaging as the effects of physical abuse.

The list of effects is incredibly long, but it includes depression, low self-esteem, an inability to trust, and substance abuse (just to name a few). These are primarily long-term effects too. Short-term effects are more commonly seen in our society’s accepted idea of abuse victims – shame or guilt, questioning one’s own memory, passivity or aggression. This is because physical abusers often make use of emotional abuse as well.

I think we all see why remaining in abusive relationships is not something that we would necessarily want, even if our abusers aren’t hitting us.

This issue also fits into a much larger feminist discussion as well; namely, men benefit from a very gendered form of abuse. That isn’t to say that women can’t abuse men; they can, and they do, both emotionally and physically, but our society’s generally accepted image of an abuse victim is a battered wife. And when this is the case, then women accept that, as long as they aren’t that, then it’s all good. They hold their male partners to a lower standard because, at least they aren’t beating them. Sure, they might not do any chores or cook their own meals, but at least they aren’t beating them. Sure, they might control their every move, but at least they aren’t beating them. Even men who are genuinely good men, men who would never cause their partner any intentional harm, benefit from this to a certain degree, because they are still held to a lower standard than they otherwise might have been.

Similarly, the fact that our society’s generally accepted image of an abuse victim is a battered wife also makes it more difficult for men to come forward when they have been physically or emotionally abused by their female partners. As I said, this is a very complicated issue.

But if I have done anything with this article, I hope that I have made you think about these issues a little bit more in depth. This is a vast and detailed discussion to have, and if we are going to make these issues go away, we are going to need to talk about them. And it does seem to me that, in some cases, these issues are getting better; for example, it is becoming more and more excepted that men in heterosexual relationships help around the house or care for their own children. But this isn’t the case for every heterosexual partnership, and I have still seen this enough in my lifetime to be concerned.

And, end of day, quite simply, if you are in any sort of abusive relationship, regardless of your gender or if the abuse is physical, emotional, or sexual, please get help. I know that each scenario is different, and I might not be qualified to tell you the best way to get out of your particular scenario, but there are plenty of resources out there for you, and you do not deserve to be treated the way that you are. You are an amazing person, and you deserve so much better.

Here’s to Strong Women

When I was thirteen years old, I started to get into comic books. At the time, I was particularly partial to superhero comics. And as a young girl, I heard all the jokes about how, of course I was so absorbed in a genre that followed traditionally handsome, muscular men dressed in skin-tight clothing. It didn’t seem to matter much if I said that that wasn’t what drew me to the genre; everyone was simply convinced that that must be what it was.

I had a hard time convincing people that, when I opened a Batman comic, I didn’t do it for the sad, rich boy with abs; I was there for the tragic cat burglar who wanted love, but never at the expense of her freedom or independence. I wanted to read about the clown girl who fell head-over-heels for the wrong man, and then learned to recognize the abuse, and, with the help of her best friend (another woman who had faced mistreatment from an entitled and careless man) she got herself out of that situation.

I am, of course, talking about Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy, respectively. Three fictional characters who are not only strong, capable, and fiercely independent – they are, quite simply, unapologetically female.

When I was thirteen years old, these were the sorts of fictional characters that I was attracted to, in all forms of media: power fantasies. More specifically, feminine power fantasies. I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because she was allowed to (un-ironically) love shopping and make-up and gossiping, while still being able to kick some demon ass and stand up for herself. I loved Wonder Woman, because she was fierce and strong, but nurturing and loving all at once. I loved Xena, because she could be both warrior and princess without question.

When I was sixteen years old, my attention began to turn a little bit more toward celebrities, because I suppose that’s what you do when you’re a teenager (or, it was what me and my friends did, at least). The celebrities that I sought out were much the same.

I loved rocker chicks, like P!nk and Joan Jett, women who weren’t afraid to challenge what was expected of women. I loved celebrities like Lady Gaga, who insisted on expressing themselves in the way that they saw fit. I loved Emma Watson, and any woman who was willing to brand themselves a feminist or stand up for women’s issues.

I loved female celebrities who will go unnamed here, simply because there is not time and space to mention all of them.

When I was eighteen years old, I became more aware of the women in my own life, in my family (as you tend to do when you’re facing the possibility of moving out and moving on).

I heard stories about my maternal grandmother, and how much of a firecracker she had always been. I heard about this five-foot-tall woman, growing up with nothing to call her own and having to build her own life from scratch. I heard about the time that her own brother made fun of her until she could stand it no longer, and she stabbed him in the hand with a fork.

I remembered growing up with my mother, who was covered almost head-to-toe in tattoos and dyed her hair a new colour every week. I remember her pictures being published in tattoo magazines, her name being made as a small-time tattoo model, even when she had two fully grown daughters. I remember her telling me that the people who thought she shouldn’t be who she was at her age didn’t matter. I remember her telling me how important it was to be true to yourself, and to be proud of who you are, no matter what that means.

I remember growing up with my sister, who has never once considered not speaking her mind. No matter what, even if what she says is considered rude or incorrect, she will say it. If others tell her that she should be humble, then she will climb to the highest rooftop just to scream out how much of a gift she is to the world. If someone tries to hurt or slight her, then she will do precisely what she needs to do to protect herself, because that is precisely the sort of strong, independent woman she is.

Now, I am twenty-two years old, and I am more aware now than ever that strong women are a gift upon this world.

As women, we are too often told to be something very particular; we are told to be soft, humble, passive, sweet, whatever – my point is, whenever a woman does not subscribe to this limited definition of what a woman can be, the effect can be truly inspiring.

Because the fact of the matter is, women don’t have to be one thing. Women shouldn’t be one thing; there are millions and millions of us, and we are all different. We all look different, act different, think different, love different, and we should reflect all that in how we live our lives.

A woman who does not perfectly reflect society’s definition of beauty, and yet still loves herself and owns what she has, is a rare and beautiful thing – specifically because society tells women that they shouldn’t do that.

A woman who unapologetically owns her quote-unquote ‘unfeminine’ traits, like ambition or assertiveness, is, again, a rare and beautiful thing.

A woman who is, quite simply, herself, regardless of what that might mean, is a rare and beautiful thing.

And the reason why am I writing this, more important than simply reminding the world that strong women are a gift, is because we need to remind the strong women in our lives that they are strong, that they are amazing, that they inspire us. We need to support our fellow women, to encourage them to continue being themselves. Because we exist in a society that sometimes seems intent on tearing them down, but if we can remind them that what they do is important, then maybe they can find the strength to continue.

As women, we need to build one another up. We need to be there for one another, to make one another better, instead of constantly trying to prove that we are better than them. On top of telling women what they should be, society has also tried to trap us in a constant cycle of competition with one another: we must be the pretty-est, the most loved, the best mother, but the truth is, we don’t need any to accept any of this. We have the option of supporting our fellow women, of helping them to become stronger. Because we all deserve to be and feel strong.

Why You Should Not Have to Rush Coming Out of the Closet

The first time I came out of the closet, I was sixteen years old and very, very not ready.

Before I was sixteen years old, I had crushes on other girls, of course, but it wasn’t until then that I had my first crush that actually stood a chance of going anywhere. She had been in one of my classes, a girl so unlike anyone who I usually hung out with. She didn’t get along with any of my friends, and we didn’t often see each other outside of class. So what this essentially meant for me was that, for a good hour every day, I was distinctly reminded of my own difference, and then outside of that, I had to go back to pretending that I was something I wasn’t.

And, perhaps to make matters worse, my group of friends at the time had, for some reason, gotten into the habit of religious debates during lunch. Looking back, it probably wasn’t the most peaceful way that we could have been spending our break, but what can I say, we enjoyed argument. One lunchtime, these debates centred around the issue of homosexuality, and whether or not it was a sin. Having just finished my class with the girl I liked, I sat there, listening to my friends trying to decide whether I was going to hell or not, and without really meaning to, I broke in and screamed, “how do you think I feel about all this? I’m bisexual!

And at that point, all I could think was: well. I guess I’m the bisexual girl now.

Suffice it to say, I shouldn’t have come out that way. Not that anyone judged me or anything; I went home and I told my family, and I answered any questions that my friends had, and I tried to work out what all this meant for me, but the problem was, I had done all of this way too early. I found myself concerned that everyone was looking down on me now. Nobody ever called me a ‘dirty slut’ for being bisexual (not to my face anyway), but I figured that everyone was dismissing me as one now (full disclaimer: no woman should be judged or demeaned for the amount of sexual partners they have had, I’m just trying to describe how I felt at the tender age of sixteen). Nobody ever laughed at me or called me names, but I figured that they probably were. I didn’t feel comfortable showing affection toward any of my straight female friends, because I didn’t want them to think that I was flirting with them.

People did tell me that they thought I might be faking it, either for attention or to look edgy or different, and there was a part of me that agreed. Because, truth be told, I didn’t know that I wasn’t yet. I knew that I had had crushes on girls, but what if those were just flukes? What if I had just fooled myself into thinking that they were crushes because I wanted to be different?

The best way that I can think to describe it is to say that it was like I had ripped off a scab before the wound had fully healed.

A few years later, when I was eighteen years old and my dating prospects had long since gone up in smoke, I found myself wondering why I was even bothering to be out of the closet. I distinctly remember thinking that it would be better if I just went back to what I called ‘factory settings’; just call myself straight, pretend it was all a phase, and live without the assumptions that society places on bisexual girls for a while.

It was another year or so before I was comfortable coming back out of the closet, and challenging these assumptions by being my awesome, loving, passionate, open-minded, happy bisexual self.

Now, why am I telling this story, you might now be asking yourself? Well, for one, October 11 is National Coming Out Day, and two, I wanted to illustrate, for straight and queer people alike, that coming out of the closet is not always an easy thing, and not just for typical reasons that we hear about. I mean, sure, there are most certainly plenty of queer people, youths and adults alike, who are stuffed into their closets by judgemental parents or a closed-minded community, sure, but in my personal experience, I didn’t have any of that. For the most part, my family and my community were fairly accepting of me. I am privileged enough to say that I didn’t risk being disowned by my parents or thrown out on the streets, and I know not everyone has that same opportunity, but coming out of the closet was still mental torment for me.

One of the things that we don’t seem to talk about very often is the way that our society forces us to internalize certain ideas. Of course, I knew that I wasn’t flirting with my straight female friends (most of them weren’t even my type anyway), but society has sort of given us this image of the queer woman as predator, the queer woman as a threat to straight women, that I was worried I’d be perceived as that. And there was a part of me that knew I wasn’t making up my bisexuality because I knew that I had experienced it, but at the same time, there was a part of me that wasn’t sure because society had told me, time and time again, that bisexuality doesn’t exist, you’re either straight or you’re gay, end of story.

But sometimes, it really doesn’t matter what you know to be true. If society tells you enough times that something is wrong, then it’s always going to feel wrong.

And that was what I hadn’t come to terms with the first time that I came out of the closet: I knew who I was, but I didn’t understand what that meant.

And I know that there are a lot of queer youth out there who feel guilty over still being in the closet. There are some circles who perpetuate this idea that, if you know you are queer and you have not told your friends or family yet, then you are lying to them. But the thing about coming out of the closet is, that’s sort of something you need to be absolutely ready for. And I’m not just talking about being ready situationally. Because you are going to deal with awkward questions from time to time. And you are going to deal with straight people who seem to have never met a queer person before and have no fucking idea what to do with you, even if they’re alright with you in theory. And, worse than that, you are going to deal with internalized assumption about what being queer makes you. Violence notwithstanding, you can deal with almost anything from other people, but only if you are strong enough in yourself and in your own identity that you know when they are wrong.

So if you’re still in the closet, then please, don’t feel any guilt over it. You are not lying to your family or your friends by not telling them that you’re queer. You are protecting yourself. You are giving yourself time to build up confidence, to understand who you are and that the way that society might view you isn’t always correct. There will always be time to come out of the closet when you’re ready (and trust me, you really should; it’s great out here), but there’s no need to rush out there and risk damaging your self-esteem in the process.

Because there is nothing wrong with you. You are brilliant, and you are full of love, and you deserve every chance in the world to give that love to someone amazing. And it is completely understandable if you don’t see that in yourself quite yet, but you should. Give yourself some time, reconsider every negative stereotype that society has placed on you because of your queerness, and then show the world how amazing you truly are.

This Is Not Your Life Forever

I’m not going to lie: I’m not entirely where I want to be right now. But, to be fair, I’m twenty-two years old; how many people my age are?

Right now, I’m still living with my parents, but I have my eye on a cheap apartment in the town where I actually want to live, the town where all my friends live and where I actually stand a chance of getting the sort of job that I want. However, I cannot currently afford aforementioned cheap apartment after four years dedicated to university, and so I’m working retail jobs until I can. I’m single, I don’t have a lot of friends that I see on a regular basis, and I’m not very good at making new friends. All of this sort of adds up to a general feeling of “meh” about where I am right now.

And I know I’m not alone in this.

There are a lot of people out there who aren’t exactly where they’d like to be. A lot of young adults, still trying to figure out what sort of life they want to live and how they can achieve it, as well as a lot of older adults who really don’t feel “settled” yet. To be honest, it’s sort of a human condition, because very few of us are lucky enough to be born directly into the place where we want to be.

We all have goals we want to achieve.

We all want to find ourselves and become comfortable in our identities.

We all have places we want to go, things we want to see, stuff we want to do.

And sometimes, when we’re stuck in that place where we don’t want to be for long enough, it becomes easy to think that you’re going to be there forever.

It’s easy to lose hope, and to think that the things that you want are never going to come to you – either because you aren’t good enough or strong enough to get it, or because the whole cause feels hopeless.

But here’s the thing: you aren’t at the end of the race yet.

After all, change is the only constant in life. And maybe it won’t always be the change that you expect, but it will be change nonetheless. A year from now, you will be an entirely different person. Ten years from now, you will have an entirely different life, hopefully a life that you’re more satisfied with.

And I know, change takes a long time to come. It can be frustrating sometimes, it can be disheartening, but where you are now is not where you will always be. Time passes slowly, but it passes, and it brings with it many beautiful things. It brings with it your dreams, a new love, new friends, new family. It brings with it an endless array of possibilities, so many that you can’t even imagine them all now.

So don’t get stuck in today. Don’t keep dwelling in this idea that this is your life, this is forever, because it isn’t. People come and go. Dreams come true and evolve into new dreams. And along the way, even in times where you are not satisfied, there are still many things that should not be taken for granted.

I may not be satisfied living in my parent’s house, but at least I have a place to stay. There are too many people out there who cannot say that, and I know that I am incredibly privileged to be able to. I may not currently have the life or job that I want, but I have the means to work toward it. I am grateful for that.

And though I don’t know what your circumstance is, whatever it is, I am sure that you can think of something in it that makes it at least bearable for now.

That’s a problem with being dissatisfied with today; you run the risk of taking things for granted. It’s not the only problem, of course – just a problem.

Enjoy life while you can, but keep working toward the life you want. Stop and smell the roses, and then charge ever forward. But whatever you do, do not give into despair. Do not give up. Your life can be exactly what you want it to be, just so long as you do not give up hope.