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. 

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Date Hard

I have the sneaking suspicion I have used a riff on Die Hard for a previous blog post, but Die Hard is just that cool. So, this past Saturday, I went on my first date. Not just with Calla – my first date, period. Yeah, took me about 34.5 years to get around to it.Now, being in my mid-30s, I don’t exactly have the same inclinations as your average teenager, but at the same time, this is all very new territory to me, so I really don’t have any idea what to do. That makes this whole dating thing both amazingly exciting and utterly terrifying.

I don’t really have any idea what I’m doing in the dating game, and my only quasi-personal experience is watching romance movies (I like Say Anything) and TV shows, and their dates tend to be either tremendously romantic, hilarious failures, or sometimes both. So I am kind of floundering in the dark. I don’t really care, though, because any time I get to spend with Calla has been great, and I believe will continue to be so. So if any readers have any helpful advice to someone new to the dating game, feel free to share.

What was particularly scary when doing some research (hey, I’m a nerd, I like to do internet research) is the kind of really hurtful, unpleasant stuff around on people with mental illness in relationships. I was looking around for advice on being in a relationship with someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, and I came up with this fun little article. It makes it sound like someone with BPD is just manipulative and nearing sociopathic, and that’s just not my experience. This made me a little scared to look up similar articles on dating someone with depression, but I looked anyway – and while articles on that topic were a bit, well, depressing, they were also closer to what I have experienced. Well, some of them; there was this gem, basically saying that depressed people shouldn’t try to find love.

It was just kind of shocking to see this kind of thing. There were better articles for depression, but I imagine that’s just because it has a wider knowledge base, and people at least understand the basic concept – even if they might not get that clinical depression, unlike situational depression or just regular feeling sad, isn’t something people can just snap out of. The lack of decent knowledge about mental illness is often scary, especially since I spend so much time in my little bubble of people who have, or at least understand, mental illness.

I guess it’ll just be some undiscovered country (yes, that was a reference to Star Trek VI, I am that much of a geek) for Calla and I.

Never Alone

It’s hard being alone. A lot of us struggle with it throughout life. Maybe we weren’t the popular kids in high school, or even before that. Maybe we were the nerds who got picked on, or the outcasts who were shunned. The way we dressed, or thought, or acted meant that other people didn’t spend a lot of time with us. Since this is my blog, I’ll use my own examples – from the time I was 7 until 13, my family moved every year or two. Not just small moves, either – first we moved from Ohio to England, then England to Spain, Spain to Germany, and Germany to Michigan; finally we moved from Michigan to Nebraska.

I didn’t make a lot of friends in those years. I made some friends, sure, but most of us never kept in touch, since we either had to write using snail mail or short calls with murderously expensive long-distance fees (no e-mail or cellular long distance plans, sadly). I was really introverted, and pretty smart, which made me a nerd, and being a nerd and the new kid was a bad combo. In 8th grade, I was bullied a lot, enough so that I moved from public school to a Jesuit high school

High school was actually good to me, oddly. It was all guys, so there was no trying to impress the girls, and so as a nerd I was actually valued for my brains. The thing that screwed with me in high school was my thyroid; I fell asleep in classes in the middle of the day because my metabolism just ran out of steam, and I got detention (quite a bit). Combine that with my preference for dressing in black – including combat boots and a black leather trenchcoat – and I was the rebel in my family. I pushed a lot of people away, and that didn’t get better in college.

I was so insular in college that my only friend for my first tow years was my roommate. I got to know some great people my junior and senior years, but I was also spiraling into depression, so I drove some older friends away while that was going on. And as depression got worse, I drove my school friends away, too. After college, I moved back in with my parents, who had moved to St. Louis, and I got worse; I didn’t know anyone in the area, and I rarely got to see people from college or from Omaha.

That feeling of isolation was part of what eventually drove me to my first suicide attempt. Even though, in some part of my brain, I knew I had friends and family who cared about me, I felt alone in my misery. I didn’t know anyone else who felt the way I did; my therapist at the time, while nice, was also not helping me to feel connected. I didn’t feel like there was anyone around me who understood what I was going through, and as things got worse, I didn’t have the energy to go out and look for help or company myself. Eventually I decided that I was so unworthy of any kind of company that the world would be better off without me.

But the thing I realized, after I survived, was that I was not alone, and had never been alone. When I got out of the hospital, my friends traveled from across the country to come visit me. It was something that some of them could barely afford, but they did it because I was their friend. And I knew that even though they weren’t near me physically, I wasn’t alone. It took a couple years and another suicide attempt to really hammer that home, though, and finding a community of people at Menninger and the step-down who had gone through similar experiences.

I guess the point of this is that, in this age of social media, text messaging, and VOIP, it is hard to actually be alone. I know that some people feel that way, and believe me, I understand. but there are people you can talk with. There’s Twitter, Facebook, text messaging, suicide hotlines, Skype calls from people around the world. They may not be right next door, but there are always people available to talk. Hey, I’m one of them. I’m not a licensed counselor of any kind, but I am always willing to talk; my Twitter and Facebook links are right below my bio. 

You may be lonely, but I promise you that you are not alone.

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Day of (No) Rest

So, today is Sunday. And so, much like last week, I made the assumption that my work schedule would be the same this Sunday as it was last Sunday.

This, as it turns out, was a foolish assumption.

I got a call at 10:15 this morning, from work wondering where I was. I, who had assumed I was working at 1:30, told them so, to which I was told ‘nuh-uh’. It seems my schedule changes on a weekly basis. Odd, and quite embarrassing. In good news, I did manage to make it to work in record time, and with pants on, no less. After some fervent apologies, it turns out my manager, benevolent being that she is, said it wasn’t a problem, I could work from 11-7:30 instead of 10-6:30.

So, I spent most of the day working at the registers, which was long periods of customer chaos with moments of tranquility thrown in. It was actually kind of nice, because as busy as it was, it also mean that the time passed relatively quickly, and so my first days of screwing up at work ended several hours before I thought it would.

I mention this because last year, had something like this happened, I would have been mortified, felt awful, then assumed that nothing I did was good enough, nothing could be good enough, the manager was just acting when she said it was OK, and that I was just a screw-up too damaged to even work a minimum-wage job. But now, though I felt lousy when I was late (even though it was only partially my fault), I got right through it, I worked my shift, and I felt fine by the time I was done with work.

It’s not exactly man walking on the moon or anything, but it is a good sign for me. Oh, and now I have peppermint cheesecake, and it is awesome.

Friday Discovery

So, it’s late, and it was a long day at work – I worked from noon to 8:30, anf today was a big day for the store, being essentially the warm-up for Black Friday. It went relatively well, though I need to remember to start bringing Advil or Excedrin, because I had a massive headache for the last half of my shift. But that’s nothing really deep or psychological, so let’s move on.

I got an invitation for Thanksgiving with Calla and her family this morning (well, yesterday morning, but who’s counting), assuming she can get a pass to go out for some time with her family. Like I sad last time, I’ve never really spent the holidays with anyone besides my family, let alone the family of someone who, frankly, I’m still very interested in. I want to go, mostly because, in lieu of my family, I think some family, even if it isn’t mine, would be nice, and because I want to spend time with Calla. At the same time, though, it’s a little intimidating. Not a situation I’ve been in before, I have to say.

I keep thinking about Calla, and how she might be headed somewhere else, possibly far away, for six months or so. I want her to get treatment that will help her, but I know I’ll miss her a lot when she’s gone. But she’s such an amazing person, even though she doesn’t see it, and I think seeing her when she’s better, or at least better able to manage her issues, would be worth waiting all the time it takes. I know I seem to write about her a lot, and I don’t want other people in my life to feel like they mean less to me, but she is currently the one with the most pressing issues.

My own issues, really, seem pretty small these days. I have my friends, my place, my job, and a life for myself. Granted, none of it is perfect, and I certainly have my moments of depression and doubt. But I have people to talk to, therapy to help me unburden myself, medication to help me manage what I’m feeling, and things to keep my mind off the times when life doesn’t look so great. If you had told me I would be here a year ago, I would have – well, not laughed in your face, because I wouldn’t have really felt like laughing, but been skeptical and sarcastic enough to cause physical damage.

I’m not really sure where to go with this blog, really. I don’t have groups anymore to talk about them, and while I am familiar with many of the issues of people I know, I don’t want to talk about them without permission. My depression, while not – and never – cured, has at least become pretty manageable, to the point where at least one or two people who knew me before Menninger say I’m not the same person. I don’t want to just make a diary of what I do, because honestly, I don’t do anything all that thrilling – and if I talk too much about working for Barnes & Noble, I might get in trouble, because they can apparently be touchy about that sort of thing.

So, any suggestions? I know this isn’t the most widely-read blog of all time, but I’d guess that some of you, even those who don’t know me personally, have been reading this blog for long enough to have some suggestions. I’m sure there are things I could talk about that just haven’t occurred to me yet, or areas that would be interesting to open up some kind of a dialogue on. Honestly, I’m nudging towards 200 blog posts in around six months, so some relief ideas from a fresh set of eyes or minds would be more than welcome.And yes, I just mixed up a baseball metaphor, deal with it.

 

Mr. Fix-It

Man, it is hard to fight against the way we are at times. I’ve talked a lot about Calla here, and about how much she means to me, and so it is hard to watch when she’s going through tough times. So, being me, I want to try and help, to fix things, to make her feel better. But I also find myself wondering if that is really the way to go.

I’m a guy, and I imagine most guys will admit that seeing a woman crying, basically any woman, is hard to see – we, at least in my experience, want to help, to try and fix things to make the crying stop. (I dunno if the same is true of women seeing men cry; I’ve always found watching guys cry just very awkward.) But I wonder if that impulse here is the right one. I wonder if, in my well-intentioned trying to fix things, if I’m not actually making things worse.

One of the biggest positives to my time at Menninger was in getting to know my fellow patients (or peers, as we’re told to call them while we’re there). Some people I only knew for very short periods of time, and that often wasn’t enough to really get to know them. But others, even after just a couple weeks (which is an absurdly short period of time for me), are people who I still talk to, seriously, on a regular basis. My contacts list on my phone has tripled since arriving at Menninger. The relationships I formed there have helped to get me where I am today.

I wonder if I am doing Calla any favors by remaining close by, always ready to visit if she wants me to. Maybe the safety of that relationship keeps her from forming others among her peers. While I can’t deny that there is some appeal in being such an important figure in her life, I don’t think it helps anyone if our relationship keeps her from forming new ones. I want to be there for her, but I also don’t want to impede her treatment.

It’s hard to watch her go through such a tough time. After watching her descend from a relatively good mood earlier today into what seemed to be relatively deep depression, after leaving I was just a mess of fear, anger, and sadness; it took me a couple of hours, some loud music, and hitting things repeatedly to get me back in a pretty normal state of mind. I’m not really sure what to do, whether I am helping her or hurting her, and that not knowing is really messing with my head. So, how do I fix this situation I got into by wanting to fix things? Is that too recursive?

On a more mundane note, my forays into cooking over the last few days have been stuponfucious (that is too a word, Penny Arcade says so and they’re never wrong about words they created). I made mashed cauliflower and broccoli and Stilton soup, and they were both awesome (though the soup was less soup than puree, but still super tasty).

Gratitude: Eight is Enough

Well, today is, of course, Saturday. And it’s a day I’ve been waiting for for awhile, so I was very glad to finally get to it. I’ve got some questions that I’d like to ask readers, but I’ll save them for the end. Until then,. I shall work on the challenge.

First, I was grateful to finally get a chance to go see Calla today. It’s been a while, so it was good to get a chance to see her in person. She looked pretty good, and she seemed to be doing OK today. I hope she can continue to do well.Second, I am grateful for the Facebook game, Candy Crush Saga; it’s crazy, but kind of addictive, and it’s a nice way to spend a little time. Finally, I am grateful for candy corn, because I love the stuff but it only seems to come out right around Halloween. Crazy, right?

Earlier today, I got a chance to go visit Calla, and go back to Menninger, where I haven’t really been in six months. I saw some staff members I remembered, but Calla was the real reason I was there. She was quiet, and seemed tired, but she seemed in relatively good spirits. It was good to get to talk to her in person, and she still looks just as good as I remembered. I brought her some candy and stuff for snack foods, because she didn’t have any, and otherwise it was a pretty good trip, if a little low-key. I always enjoy seeing her, and I hope I’ll do it again soon.

As for exercise today, today was pretty much a low-key kind of day, because for whatever reason I hurt all over, so I just did as easy a workout as I could find on the Kinect. Meditation, though, was very easy, because it involved relaxing and not moving, both of which I was more than happy to do.

Finally, I’m working on a message of gratitude for someone at the moment, and I should have it done shortly. I think I may start repeating messages with people I sent them to last time, but that shouldn’t be a problem, right?

As for questions, I have some for anyone who might be reading and have any helpful answers. I’m looking for some helpful reading material on helping and being supportive of friends and/or loved ones who have difficulties with either depression or trauma. I have a book on helping with depression, but it spends entirely too much time focusing on figuring out if your loved one has depression. Are there any good, simple, helpful guides to things like this? Are there other resources you’d recommend for trying to support someone you care about who has to deal with depression or trauma? Obviously, I have my own experience with depression, but working through it myself and trying to support a friend who is working through it are two different things, and while I know some of what my depressed friend is going through, I just don’t want to go down a completely wrong path. Any help on those topics would be appreciated.