Heroes

So, I saw Captain America: Winter Soldier last night with Calla. As some of you who have been reading for a while might know, Captain America is my favorite superhero, for a lot of reasons. I’ll be mentioning spoilers from the movie, so if you haven’t sen it, you’d best come back later until you have.

Captain America, when you get down to it, is a soldier. He was trained to fight in a war, albeit one that ended a long time ago. He was chosen for the super-soldier program – in the movie universe, anyway – because he didn’t want to let others make sacrifices for him, and because he had an unshakable moral center. He believed in right and wrong, and doing the right thing, regardless of the personal cost. And despite being a soldier, he isn’t fond of taking life. He does it, certainly, when he has to; it happens in both Captain America movies, as well as the Avengers movie. But there is a reason that his primary ‘weapon’ is a defensive item – a shield. He is a protector above all else; he didn’t want to go to war to punish other people, but the protect those he could. Because he knew what it was like to be the little guy, the weak guy, the one who was always picked on. 

Yet, in The Winter Soldier, he is stuck in the modern world, where the only war is one fought largely by spies and covert forces. It’s a war he isn’t familiar with, because the fighters don’t usually wear uniforms, and they don’t just attack other soldiers – they target civilians. It’s a world where truth is a luxury, and lies are the rule. For a forthright kind of guy, who is used to being able to trust the people he fights alongside, this really bothers Captain America. The way he does things is, like him, generally pretty straightforward, and his nature engenders trust – the man who becomes Falcon defers to Cap almost by instinct, and near the end, when Cap gives a speech about how HYDRA has co-opted SHIELD, and asks for those who haven’t been turned to side with him, they do – even after he has been chased by their agents for days. His integrity and trustworthiness is such that people who haven’t even met him are willing to take his word over that of their superiors.

Captain America is basically a great, virtuous, trustworthy guy, who is willing to make sacrifices so that others won’t have to. The ends don’t justify the means for him; right is right, and wrong is wrong. He’s not an alien, and didn’t start out as a genius. He wasn’t born with special powers – just a strong moral compass. He was given improvements to his natural physical abilities, but only because of that very moral compass. There’s a reason why almost every iteration of the Avengers – movie or comic versions – either have Captain America as a leader or defer to him in the field, and it’s because he is just that good. They can trust that he won’t lead them astray. It’s why you have heroes like Hercules (in Captain America #444) saying “On Olympus, we measure Wisdom against Athena, Speed against Hermes, Power against Zeus. But we measure Courage … against Captain America.” And it’s why Captain America himself says things like “Captain America is not here to lead the country. I’m here to serve it. If I’m a captain, then I’m a soldier. Not of any military branch, but of the American people. Years ago, in simpler times, this suit and this shield were created as a symbol to help make America the land it’s supposed to be… to help it realize its destiny. Ricocheting from super-villain duel to super-villain duel doesn’t always serve that purpose. There’s a difference between fighting against evil and fighting for the common good. I’m not always able to choose my battles… but effective immediately, I’m going to make an effort to choose the battles that matter. Battles against injustice, against cynicism, against intolerance. I will still serve with the Avengers. I will continue to defend this nation from any and all threats it may face. But as of today, I am not a “super hero.” Now and forevermore, I am a man of the people. Together, you and I will identify and confront America’s problems. Together, we will figure out what we are and what we can be. Together, we will define the American Dream and make it an American reality.” (Captain America, Vol. 4, #7)

So is it any wonder that I like Captain America? He’s an impossibly high standard to shoot for, and I know that, even discounting the super-soldier program, there’s no way I’ll be that kind of person. But It’s still something to aim for. I know he’s not real, but he’s an idea, much like the American Dream he fights for. I want to be that honest, that trustworthy, that good of a person. And so Cap is my hero. It is immensely nerdy, but then, so am I.

 

Helpless

So there are times when we all feel helpless. Whether it is because of something happening in our lives, something happening to us, or happening to someone we know, there are always things in our lives we don’t know what do do about. We don’t know if there is anything we can do to fix them. We might not even understand them. And that feeling of helplessness is frustrating, because we feel like there is something we should be doing, someone we should be talking to, some way we should be trying to make things better – even if there really isn’t anything we can do.

Today is one of those times.

I have a friend who has been going through some rough times recently. I’m not really going to go into details, except to say that she has been suicidal, and it scares me. She has told me that she doesn’t feel like she is worth anything, that her life is nothing but misery and suffering, and that her parents and her pet are the only reasons she is currently willing to endure the horrors of life. It’s hard to hear these things from her, especially considering all that we’ve gone through.

I know she’s gone through most of the same treatment I have – more, even. But it seems like it just hasn’t had the same effect on her that it had on me. I don’t know why, and I wish it had, but when I hear this from her I just don’t know what can be done to help. I’ve mentioned before that it seems like acceptance of one’s issues is a pretty key part of treatment working, and I don’t know if that is part of the problem here. To be honest, I don’t know what is. All I know is that I feel helpless.

I wish I could help, but it seems like this is one of those times where she has to work out how to deal with her issues – probably with the help of a therapist, medical staff, or other mental health professionals – without me. I think that I have done about as much as I can in this scenario, and while she is still a dear friend, I don’t know that I have anything more than my support to offer.

If you’re reading this, I hope things get better for you, and you figure out how to deal with your problems. 

Life is Interesting

So, big things are happening. I’m not sure how they’ll work out, but they are certainly happening. For one, Calla is finally home. I’m not sure what is going to happen as a result, but I’m glad that she’s back from treatment. She’s been through a lot, and whatever she is thinking or feeling, I’m willing to be there for her. Even if it means she has no interest in a romantic relationship, I still want to be her friend, because the more I get to know her, the cooler she becomes. This seems to happen with all my friends, really, but with her especially.

Also, I put in my application to get training to become a Certified Peer Specialist. It sounds like a good job for the type of things I’m interested in; after talking it over with the doctor who runs the stepdown I was in, she told me that apparently, what a CPS does is this: when someone goes into a hospital for mental reasons, a CPS goes in to meet with them – essentially, helping them to deal with things, especially if they start freaking out over what it means to be in a psych hospital. I’d be helping people to deal with their time in the hospital, letting them know that they aren’t alone, and that there is help for them – both in and out of the hospital. I’d also be helping them once they get out, to find support groups, to build a support system, and find treatment that works for them. It sounds like something that would be really helpful – I wonder if someone like that would have been helpful for me the first time I went into the psych hospital.

Now, both of those things are pretty wide open; I don’t really know what will happen. I have yet to get a chance to really talk to Calla about what our relationship status will be since she got out, and so I don’t really know what’s going to happen with us. Along the same lines, my application for the Certified Peer Specialist training just went in, and I don’t even know if I’ll be accepted to training, let alone like it enough to go after a job in the field. So the next few days, or weeks, will be interesting. And that doesn’t even count the fact that my mother is asking me for help on a grant proposal to help add some elements of gaming (like the stuff Jane McGonigal talks about in TED Talks and her book Reality is Broken) to her classroom. So it’s going to be an interesting time.

Hopefully, though, not interesting in the sense of the Chinese curse.

PS: This is getting posted late (or early, I guess) because I thought I hit the publish button earlier, but I woke up early/late, wandered over to my computer, and found it still up. I’m now going back to sleep.

Course Correction

It has been a few days since my last post, and a number of things have happened that have really done some messing with my world. Because of their nature and the privacy of the people involved, I can’t really talk about them here, but it’s involved a lot of thinking on my part, which can be both good and bad.

I have a tendency to get stuck in my head over certain issues, and, being depressed, I tend to think along the lines of whatever is the worst-case scenario for whatever is involved. Now, you can probably imagine how well that works – constantly expecting the worst to happen all the time doesn’t make for a very positive outlook, or a positive way of treating the people around you.This used to happen a lot, but lately it has happened a lot less – and for the most part, I have been able to identify when it is happening and try to change course.

Probably the most helpful way, for me, of doing this is to try and talk things through with friends or my therapist. While my friends have their own issues, they don’t all think the same way I do, and so they see what I am thinking about through different lenses. Consequently, they tend to come out with different ideas of what is going on or what I could possibly do to correct things. The conversation that occurs with this tends to help me correct my course, mentally speaking, because I’m getting help from people whose brains aren’t working against them on these particular topics.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that the last few days have been difficult for me, but I’ve been able to talk over a lot of things with my friends, and they have helped me to see things in a different light. While things still aren’t that great, I’m hopeful that they will get better, as opposed to assuming they will naturally get worse. It’s things like this that make a support network such an important part of managing my depression, because otherwise I would still be stuck in my head. thinking the worst, and expecting only awful things.

On a side note, Calla will be coming home in a few days, and I’m pretty excited about that. It’ll be good to see her again, and I hope we get a chance to spend some quality time together soon.

The Language of DBT, Part 2

So last night I had this really long, cool post about distress tolerance skills all written up, with cool anecdotes and everything, and it took me over an hour to write. Today I find out that it didn’t get posted, and didn’t even get saved. And today has kind of sucked for me, though it is something that I won’t be going into right now. So instead, I’ll just link to a site that covers them: Crisis Survival and Acceptance Skills.

 

Past Present

As promised, here’s my blog post for the day. It actually covers something that happened just a few days ago, on Wednesday evening. I was wandering the internet, and decided to head over to Buzzfeed Animals, home of some of the cutest and funniest pictures, videos, and stories about animals that I have found. I started going through a few articles, mostly puppies, because I’m a dog person. Then I ran into one that involved Newfoundlands, and so, on a tangent, I started searching for more on Newfoundlands. Buzzfeed didn’t have much, so I looked on YouTube.

On YouTube, there are quite a few videos of Newfoundlands, and I found myself watching a series of videos about a Newfoundland named Gizmo. He seemed like a great dog, and so I kept watching another video of him, and another, and another…and then I hit the wrong one, and my day went plummeting downward. It seems Gizmo died this past December, and the video I clicked on was a slideshow of pictures of his life, set to exceptionally sad music (I won’t be linking to it, because it’s just that sad). It only took 30 seconds or so to make me fall apart.

See, my last dog was a Newfoundland named Merlin. My family got him in 2002, largely to keep me company because I was lonely, having just graduated college and moved to St. Louis, a place where I knew nobody. Merlin and I were close; for many years, he was my closest friend in St. Louis. So in 2010, when he had troubles walking and we took him to the vet, we got some truly bad news. It turned out that his walking issues were one of two things – one was a nerve issue they could correct with surgery, but the other was uncurable. To find out which it was, they would have to put him under anesthesia and operate.

The problem there was that a heart defect of Merlin’s made putting him under anesthesia tricky – I think the vet said that there was a 25% chance he would never wake up. And even if they put him under anesthesia, it was only exploratory – if it turned out to be the surgically viable option, then they wouldn’t be able to do it then – so he would have to go under again at a later time, with the same odds. And even with the surgery, there would be a long recovery time, where Merlin wouldn’t really be able to walk. As the vet told my mother and I this, I called my father to see what he thought; he was in favor of the surgery, but after going through the odds in my head, I didn’t think it was viable – it would be a lot of suffering for a very small chance. I had to convince him that I was right, which was hard because all I wanted to do was cry. And so the vet let us say goodbye, and then started the process to put him to sleep.

I feel guilty about that, because Merlin was my friend, and I had raised him from a puppy. He had such trust in me, and I made the choice to put him to sleep – even if it was to save him a lot of suffering. And so watching those videos, I was reminded of what, and who, I had lost. So I fell apart for a few hours; it felt like the day Merlin died. There was a lot of crying involved, and it was not pretty.

But eventually, it passed. I stopped crying, and sat with those feelings. I may not have been totally sure I made the right choice, but I think it was the best I could have made with the information I had available. I’ve never had a dream where my dog came to me and forgave me and said he was alright, but then I don’t tend to remember my dreams, so I may have and not remembered. I knew that though I was feeling terrible, that it wasn’t forever, and it was just a memory of things past; it had no real power over me except what I gave it. So I dried my eyes, I got up, and I started to try to make myself feel better. Of course, the first step of this was to order pizza. Then I started playing a video game I hadn’t played in a while, but had enjoyed, and that took my mind off things. At the end of the evening, I was full of pizza, I was satisfied with my video game, and I was glad that even though I had fallen apart for a while, I had put myself back together.

So, that was my Wednesday night. My last Family Connections class in tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to that, as well as Calla’s return to Houston – 9 days left, now. I’ll try to put together my second post on DBT language, but I thought this was a better look at what was going on in my head.

Update

It’s been a few days since my last post, so I thought I’d give a short update. My last few days have been pretty busy and emotionally charged, but right now I am exhausted from work, so while I have a blog post planned, it’ll have to wait until tomorrow. But otherwise, things are going fairly well; I still have a job, my apartment, my health, and my friends, so I can’t complain. Look for a more substantive post tomorrow, and until then, be well!