When you’ve been in treatment for mental health, by necessity you spend a lot of time thinking about who you are, why you are that way, and what defines you. You do this because if you can’t at least start to figure out some of the answers to these questions, then treatment will either never quite work, or it will be a much harder road than it has to be. So a certain amount of looking inward is necessary, and sometimes this involves finding out unpleasant things about yourself. This isn’t fun, obviously; nobody likes finding out that they have bad qualities, even though we probably all suspect that we have them. But one of the best things about doing this is that when you find out the negative qualities about yourself, you can work to change them – or you can change your perspective and find out that, much like Obi-Wan told Luke his father was dead, these things are only negative from a certain point of view.
I have depression. Technically, it is major clinical depression, and I’ve had it for about 15 years. A couple of years back I would have said I suffer from it, but I’m pretty well managed on that front most of the time these days. It’s not going to go away, and it will likely always be lurking in the back of my mind; that negative, self-hating, self-destructive voice, or urge, or impulse will always be there in the back of my mind to some degree. And while it has been very painful to deal with – two suicide attempts, three hospitalizations, 6 months of intensive inpatient treatment, and more medications, ECT, and other attempts to treat it than I can really keep track of – it has also brought me to a place in my life where I want to use what I have learned in my own struggles to try and help other people who might be going through the same thing. I have a more negative, cynical outlook on things than a lot of people, but I’ve also learned that even someone like me – who used to be relentlessly negative – can become optimistic and hopeful about life, and find ways to deal with the difficulties I’ve been through that make me a stronger person.
For me, I have known I’ve been a nerd, or a geek, or whatever you want to call it, for a long time. My favorite books are fantasy books. I love Star Wars and Star Trek. I read all sorts of comic books, and I own every Marvel movie (well, the ones since Iron Man); I also have a Captain America costume. I play RPGs, and have for over 20 years now. I love video games. I keep fictional codes of conduct folded up in my wallet. I wear glasses. If I had a pocket protector, it couldn’t be more obvious. And a lot of people find, or have found, this to be a problem. But I’m comfortable in my geekiness. The things I enjoy are the things I have passion for. That’s not to say I only have passion for nerdy things – I am trying to get into social work, after all – but that I don’t feel the need to hide my interests. And being a geek has made my life better in a lot of ways. Because of my interest in video games, I’m relatively tech-savvy – well, for a liberal arts major, anyway. I can’t tell you why a computer works, but I’m pretty handy with one, and I was the one who helped get my parents onto Facebook (which may not have been the greatest idea, but I digress). Fantasy helped to inform my moral framework; I grew up reading about knights and chivalry and honor; my favorite character from my early fantasy reading was Sturm Brightblade, from the Dragonlance Chronicles, who tried to live up to the high standards of the knightly order he believed in. There are a lot of cool things I know, and have done, that I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t a nerd.
I’m an introvert. This doesn’t mean I hide from people but that I tend to try to choose the people I spend my time around carefully. I don’t have a lot of interest in small talk; this can lead to some awkward pauses in conversation as I look for a way to get to a (for me) more interesting, generally more meaningful subject besides polite niceties, but it means that when I ask questions, I’m genuinely interested, and I want to know the answers. While I’m often silent during conversations among multiple people, when I contribute it’s because I feel like I have something important to say, and if I’m listening, it’s probably not because I’m just being polite – it’s because I want to hear what is being said. I want to know more about the people I get to know than just how their day is, or was. I become uncomfortable around larger groups, but this is largely because it makes it very difficult for me to try to connect on a meaningful level with lots of background noise.
I’m loyal, to an absurd degree. To paraphrase West Side Story (one of the few lines I know, since I’ve never seen it), when I’m your friend, I’m your friend all the way. If I consider someone my friend, there is very little I won’t do for them. I tend to have a pretty strong moral center, but for the right people, I am willing to toss that right out the window if I need to, in order to help a friend. With this loyalty tends to come a kind of awkward phase where I’m not sure if I’m going to let you in, and that can be weird; also, some people can find that degree of loyalty strange or discomforting. I’m working on trying to maintain some more casual relationships, because I can be pretty heavily impacted by things that go on with my close friends – witness my current situation – but if you’re on the short list, then if I can do something to help you, or if you want to know something about me, all you have to do is ask.
I’m struggling with my faith. I was an atheist – though most people weren’t really aware of it – for over a decade, and I really only started coming back to faith about a year ago. I don’t belong to a faith-based community, and I don’t attend a church; it’s not that I’m opposed to doing so, I just haven’t felt the urge or the need. But being new to faith again, I have a lot of niggling questions on my mind, and…well, I’m a nerd. I’ve also spent a lot of time in grad school, with critical thinking being drilled into me, and I don’t always know where the line is that others are comfortable with discussing faith. This means sometimes I can ask uncomfortable questions or make statements that are unintentionally insulting. Generally, when I talk about faith, I am talking about mine and mine alone; I don’t see a reason why my views on religion, faith, or spirituality should impact anyone else’s, but sometimes I wander into territory where my statements, thoughts, or questions are unwelcome or hurtful. I’m almost certainly not trying to do so – when I want to be insulting, there won’t be any doubt about it – but struggling with my own faith means I have to cover some pretty weird ground.
I am not the luckiest guy with relationships. I’m 35, as of writing this. I’m straight (just to make sure we’re on the same page here), I’ve never had a girlfriend, I’ve been on a grand total of one date, and yet somehow I have had my heart broken twice. I’m a little gun-shy, understandably. I can’t read signs from women very well, if at all, and while I have female friends, if someone is trying to send me subtle signals conveying interest, I am likely totally oblivious. This hasn’t had the greatest effect on my self-confidence, as you might imagine, but it’s also given me the time to look at what’s gone wrong and try to figure out what I really want in a relationship. Mostly, I think this just means that if (hopefully when) I ever do find myself in a relationship, it’s going to be kind of a weird start, because I’m very hesitant to ask someone out and get rejected – which, in a culture that tends to rely on the male asking the female out, is problematic. But once I find the right person, that won’t matter.
And – I think this will be the last one, but I might think of more to add later – I’m pretty liberal, and relatively solidly entrenched in that position. This doesn’t mean I think conservatives are idiots, by any means, though I am certainly not fond of the on-screen personalities of Fox News. It just means that I lean pretty heavily liberal on basically any political issue. And yes, this can lead to a lot of ‘us vs. them’ tribalism, because while the Democrats in the US, as a political party, might not be super liberal (I’d use the governments of Scandinavian countries as a benchmark here), they’re the closest we have. I’m not always thrilled with the people they put forward, but they’re still likely to get my vote. I’m aware that I hold some pretty strong opinions on these things – the constant attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (‘Obamacare’) bother me a lot, because with out it, I wouldn’t have medical insurance, for example, and while I’m not opposed to some other plan, the people who keep trying to repeal the one I have now don’t seem to have thought that far ahead yet. So at times I can get pretty stuck in my thoughts. But I am open to informed, well-reasoned discussion, and sometimes it can even change my mind, as long as everyone involved is willing to at least consider the positions of others. It’s a work in progress, and I will likely never get over my dislike of certain public, political personalities, but I know that we can’t expect any kind of reasoned compromise from our officials if we can’t manage it ourselves.
That’s not to say these things are all of my personality – just the stuff that has come to me over the last couple days that seemed worth putting out there. They can be negative, positive, or not even necessarily either, depending on how you look at it. To some of you these are no surprise, and I’m sure many of you have lists like this that would probably have at least some surprises – to me or to other people who are close to you. I hope this makes sense, and that maybe people will take a look inwards to try to find out more about themselves. But if not, and if you think that I am just rambling on nonsensically here (which is entirely possible, this one’s for you: