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Category Archives: on a personal note


First, I apologize for the length of time between my blog posts.  I have had a lot of things to work through over the past several months, and have not dedicated the amount of time to this that I should.  Until I received notes from concerned readers, it had not even occurred to me that some might worry about the extended absences.  I should have thought of that, especially since so many of my entries lately have addressed the less happy side of life, so please forgive my time away– I will try to do better!  Now, for today’s topic..

Several weeks ago, an acquaintance– make that former acquaintance– on Facebook became enraged at someone else for not being a mind-reading psychic, and then proceeded to launch an unwarranted, profanity-laden attack via Facebook, targeting several people who were not even involved in any way, including me.  It is something we all see regularly on the social networks.  If you are thinking it’s incredibly immature, you are absolutely right!  But, that is not what this is about, because using my blog as a forum to return the attack would be equally ridiculous.

Instead, I am turning this into a teaching and learning moment.  What do you do when someone is directing unjustified hostility toward you?

First, it is totally understandable to be angry yourself, after such an attack.  But, as difficult as it might be, stay calm.  No matter how much the other person might seem to deserve it, resist the urge to send a solid thump on the nose, and be above trading profanities.  If you return the other person’s hostility, you are, in the mind of the attacker, justifying his hostility. As a bonus, the calmer you are, the crazier the other person looks.

Remember, their anger is not your anger, and just because they are saying and doing things they might live to regret, it does not mean you have to say or do things you might later regret.

Be patient.  You do not know what someone else is experiencing.  Perhaps they have a mental illness, or are having some other traumatic life experience which is fueling the anger.  Perhaps they themselves have been victimized in some way, and are unwittingly paying it forward.

While it is my belief that we all have a duty to help each other when we can, there are only so many hours in a day and we’re not all psychotherapists.  Weigh the options and make a decision.  Is the person a high priority in your life, and can he be helped by you?

If it is someone you rarely see, or if your presence only seems to make the person angrier, it may be best to walk away and let someone else help him work through the issue.

If you value the person who is lashing out at you, if it is a close friend or family member (or if you work in customer service or health care!), calmly and gently probe for answers.  Try to find out why the person is so angry, in order to defuse the situation.  Often, once you have him engaged in a conversation and seeking solutions, the person will begin to calm down.  However, this does not always work, so above all…

Protect yourself.  You do not have to allow yourself to be the target of anyone’s irrational, misdirected anger.  You absolutely have the right to choose to walk away from a potentially abusive situation, and there is no reason to tolerate abuse from anyone.  However much you might wish to “fix” the person, realize that it is still his anger, not yours, and only he can fix it.  You are not obligated to carry that burden.  Sometimes, the best way to handle it is to walk away, letting the person rant and tire himself out.

Then, after he falls asleep, resist the urge to stick his hand in a bucket of warm water.  Seriously.  It will only make him madder.

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It will probably not be a surprise that, as an abuse survivor, I have often struggled with anger. After so many years, I consider myself practically an expert on both what not to do and on finding ways to put anger in its place.

I am often bothered by the bad rap anger has received in recent years. We are regularly told it is unhealthy, it is negative, and clichés, like “anger only destroys its container”. But, let’s be clear. There are different kinds of anger, and how a person copes with it is largely what determines whether or not it is unhealthy.  Anger might destroy its container, but perhaps that is because anger isn’t meant to be contained.

Anger is a natural response to some situations. It is one of the things that tells us something is wrong. Of course, it can also be (or result in) an overreaction, masking the true issue that lies beneath.

When experiencing anger, it is important to pause and ask one’s self if the anger is justified. Is the level of anger the reasonable response to this current situation? Is it due to the current situation, or is it due to an accumulation of past events? Is it a response to the actual circumstances, or is it based on misunderstanding or misinterpretation of circumstances?

What is the real reason for the anger?

It may take some time and careful consideration, but once the real reason for the anger has been determined, it then becomes a matter of directing it appropriately, in the most constructive way possible.

For example, the Civil Rights Movement would probably not have happened if there had not been a large group of people who were angry about the injustices of the status quo. However, if the movement had not been mostly calculated and methodical, and had instead been allowed to deteriorate entirely into violence and profanity-laden rants, it might not have resulted in so many of the desired changes.

Generalized, misguided, misdirected rage is unhealthy, and often results in undesired consequences. It is destructive, and while you might feel better for a moment, it will eventually come back to bite you. Sure, you might be taken seriously if you are shouting and cursing at everyone in your general vicinity, but only to the extent that people will be wondering if they should call someone with tranquilizer darts. Your meltdown will be what they remember, not so much what caused it– unless it was caused by something ridiculously petty; then they will remember you for being an ass– and they will probably wonder about your mental stability.  Moreover, very few of the right people will be interested in helping you with whatever the situation is, if you are constantly lashing out at innocent bystanders.

So, once you figure out the root cause of the anger, it is important to properly address the issue. If you are angry because your boss treats you unfairly, calmly discuss it with your boss and explain your side, or get a new job. If you are angry because a law is unfair, work to have the law changed. If you are angry because someone did something awful to you 30 years ago, work to help others in that situation or work to prevent it from happening to someone else.

If you find that you are carrying around generalized anger from things you cannot change, accept that you cannot change those things, and find a constructive outlet for the pent up frustration. Put your anger into something productive, like exercise or art.

There is no need to stifle anger, or to pretend it doesn’t exist, or to attempt to drown it in disingenuous platitudes. There is a need to identify it, recognize it and its causes, and direct it to make a positive change.


When a friend asked how I thought revealing my personal struggles might impact my freelance work, I had already somewhat considered the risk.  Of course, some people will judge.  But, smart buyers will remember that the struggles of van Gogh did not negatively impact the end value of his work.  And, as an artist, I think it is a little dishonest to present a work of art without also addressing at least some of what created and influences its creator.  Plus, as I have seen from responses to previous posts about this subject, there are many who struggle with depression.  If my experiences can help one person, then it is worth the risk.  I plan to someday leave this world a little better off than when I arrived, just in case the Hindus and Buddhists are right and we all have to come back.

And, I’m an artist.  What is the risk, really?  As an artist, there is more risk in being closed.  I don’t have skeletons in my closet; I paint them and put them on display.  Part of an artist’s duty is to feel, experience, and express.  There are so many parts of the human experience which have been demonized, many people are denied the basic, simple privilege of talking about it.  We have free speech, but if you are an air traffic controller who was just put on psychoactive drugs for something like depression, and you go into work and talk about the freaky side effects around the water cooler, you will probably soon end up with a lot of free time on your hands.  And, perhaps in extreme situations with lives at stake, that’s for the best.  Most of us are not in that position, though.  So, why do so many of us hide it (or at the very least, refuse to talk about it)?

One of the unpleasant side effects of giving one’s depression too much direct attention is that it can feed the depression.  One of the unpleasant side effects of ignoring it is that it goes unchecked, like that giant dust bunny in the corner you’ve been ignoring for months but it’s about to carjack you.  It can be a tricky balance, and perhaps many people hide their depression, due to fear of unintentionally feeding it.  But, there is probably more to it.

When I first started to open up about my depression here, I remembered a conversation several years ago with a friend, in which he was warning someone else against revealing their own struggles.  “People will turn on you and abuse that information. In. A. Heartbeat.”, he said.  Some might, especially in certain professions.  Politics comes to mind.  In my own experience, responses have been supportive, and there have been a lot of “Me, too!” responses– though mostly sent as private messages.  At least.. the responses have been supportive recently.  When I was younger, I was misunderstood more often and the responses were less supportive.  I ended up being stressed out from hiding the depression, stressed out from feeling like I couldn’t just be *me*, and stressed out from all the ugly things some people do when they don’t understand you.

And that was after surviving childhood trauma.  By the time I was a teen, I had learned to mostly dislike humans (though I am now partially cured of that).  Have I really been coping with depression and PTSD for this long?

When I was 6-ish, I was enrolled in the “gifted” school.  I studied viola, art, ornithology, and so on.  How many 6 year olds can tell you what “dendrology” is?  By the time I graduated high school, my grades and attendance were such that the principal, as he was handing me my diploma, told me he did not ever think I would graduate.  One has to ask one’s self… What the hell happened?  Yet, if anyone ever asked, they did not find the answer or a solution.  I asked for help every way I knew how, then I gave up, shut everyone out, and went into survival mode, which later nearly became self-destruct mode.  If I had not eventually somehow landed in college, I suspect the outcome would have been tragic.

I suppose it is a small miracle that there wasn’t enough money to medicate me when I was a minor, otherwise I might have been a “zombie kid”.  As an adult, every time I have sought help for my depression, the first “solution” was always to medicate.  I’m going to tell you all a secret… those magic pills don’t work for most people.  Even according to the makers’ own studies.

Oh, yeah.  Then there are the side effects.

Last time I was put on medication, I kept telling them.. “It’s damaging my memory and I don’t feel comfortable driving while taking this.”  The solution?  Increase the dosage, add another pill, and see what happens!  I finally ended up stopping the medication myself, “cold turkey”.  The warning labels said not to, but by that time, my stable but depressed life had been pretty much turned upside down anyway.  If the worst thing that could happen was sudden death, I was ready for it.  I still sometimes have “zaps” from that, though it’s been a while since the last one.  (One of the lesser known side effects of stopping some medications is “zaps”.. it feels a lot like brushing against an electric fence, and you never know when it might hit.  *ZAP!*  Out of the blue.  Just like that.  Good times.)

Speaking of zaps and depression, a friend in the medical profession recently told me there are studies showing that ECT, aka “shock therapy”, has been shown to help fight depression, possibly even curing it for some.  I suspect those patients are only saying they feel better so the doctors will stop shocking them, but my friend reassures me the patients are anesthetized for the procedure.  I have no intention of finding out.

But, with all this talk of openness about depression, I haven’t been entirely honest with my readers.  Although I have focused largely on the depression aspect, the diagnosis was leaning toward bipolar disorder, and PTSD.  The PTSD might have its own series of posts someday, but not today.

With bipolar disorder, there are also manic states.  And those are kinda fun.  Especially after coming out of a depression.

With more severe cases, the manic half of bipolar disorder can be as destructive as the depression, but I don’t have the “leaping off tall buildings and pretending to be Supergirl” kind of mania.  It’s more like the “she’s having so much fun, I wonder what she’s taking” kind of mania.  And, actually, that’s not always a good thing either, since people really have at times mistakenly thought it was because of drugs.  Seriously, folks, stop jumping to those kinds of conclusions.

A lot of people do turn to drugs to cope with depression, bipolar, and any number of other things.  But, like so many “quick fixes”, the relief only lasts a short time, and most drugs bring their own set of complications.  However, recent research suggests marijuana might be effective for some, in dealing with the symptoms of a number of disorders, including depression, bipolar, and PTSD.  The reports are sometimes conflicting, but that is almost always the case.  Hopefully, there will be more research to clarify, but it could certainly help many who suffer from sleep disturbances and lack of appetite, and has already been approved for such uses in some states.

Meanwhile, here are a few of the things that have helped get me through it:

Remember, not every thought that pops into your head is true or accurate.  They’re just thoughts.  Challenge them.

Remember, no matter how dire things might seem today, change is the only constant.  It may not seem to come fast enough sometimes, but it always comes.  Be patient with the circumstances and with yourself.

No matter how severe your depression is today, do something productive, even if it’s as simple as skewering that giant dust bunny before it grabs the car keys.  Or, give it a name, glue some big googly eyes on it, and teach it to do tricks.

And, the older I get, the fewer things are funny, but always, always keep a sense of humor.  Even if you’re the only one who “gets it”.

If you missed the first 4 parts of “depression from the inside”, check the past blog entries for those. ❤


Privately, forgiveness is often something with which I struggle, and I’ve noticed others struggling with it, too.  Most of us have little trouble letting go of the small things, but some things… well, some things just seem unforgivable.  These tend to be the things with long-term– even lifelong– consequences, and the natural tendency is to loathe those responsible.   Those people are the enemy, after all.  They must be.  They did this terrible thing, whatever this terrible thing is.

Now… I am not trying to convert anyone.  But I grew up in the Mennonite tradition, and forgiveness is a huge theme in Christianity.  I am sure many remember the shooting at the Amish school a few years ago, immediately after which the Amish community made an unprecedented televised statement to offer forgiveness for the perpetrator and compassion for his family.  I cried not just for the tragedy itself, but also from the amazing example of forgiveness being offered for the rest of us.  I wondered how many of us could do the same thing in that position.  I almost certainly could not.

“Love your neighbor” is an easier order to fill, depending on who you have for neighbors.  If your neighbors happen to also be enemies, then I suppose it gets a little trickier.

First, it might help to define “enemy”.  The most common definitions imply hostility, but other definitions suggest damage without any such hostility.  The enemy can be a deranged gunman, or a liberal/conservative, or a pro-life/choice advocate, or… anyone with whom we have conflicts and disagreements.  It might even just be the neighbor who planted shrubs you hate.  Either way, “love” is the prescribed antidote.  But, how to muster love for obviously horrid people, like the individual who abused me when I was a child, and set into motion a whole series of ugly things which still negatively impact me decades later?  It’s a tall order.  And, there are not a lot of great examples of that kind of forgiveness.

In fact, if you peruse the internet and television programs, there’s an awful lot of hate and contempt out there, for all sorts of things– much smaller infractions than those I am struggling to simply forgive. nevermind love.

In Christianity, we are taught to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to love our enemies too.  Maybe that is part of the issue.  Maybe we are all loving our neighbors and enemies as we love ourselves, but some of us actually hate ourselves, so that self-loathing is expressed through the way some of us treat others.  Or, maybe being civil is just too much to ask from some.  Maybe it is simply the path of least resistance.

C. S. Lewis said, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”  I would add that this also applies to enemies, and that if, in the end you still do not love them, at least there’s no harm done– unless, of course, they try to stab you in mid-hug because they still hate you for that thing you did way back when….  And then we’re right back where we started.  Is the risk worth it, to bring an end to the status quo?


Remember when I said I have some good news to share?

After years of refusing to create anything, in spite of my nudges to get back to drawing and painting, my mother would not return to making art.  Until now.

For many years, my mother was a professional artist, and was very good at it.  However, after she became ill, she stopped creating.  It’s rarely a good sign when an artist stops creating.  I nudged, I pestered, I gently requested, I nagged.  She refused to create.

But, she recently picked up a camera and started making photos.  When I saw them, I suggested letting me post some of them online, and she’s agreed to it.  Yay!  The plan is to add some of them this week, along with the photos of the new framed 4 leaf clovers.

When I asked how she wanted to be credited, she said “Just use my name… *Mom*”, and grinned.  So, that is how they will be credited when I post them.

Then she said something that nearly brought tears to my eyes.

“I want to put the money toward your student loans.”

The student loans I accumulated in college weigh heavy on me, even though my current payment arrangement seems pretty fair.  The interest is piling on faster than I can pay the bill, and the debt just keeps growing.  It’s my only large debt, and it keeps getting larger, even though I have been out of school for several years now.  It’s one of the things that keeps me awake some nights, and it’s one of the reasons I have been doing fewer charity auctions.

It’s interesting that we are judged no matter what we do.  If we do not go to college and end up struggling, people will say “you should have gone to college”.  If we go to college and end up struggling, people will say “you should have just gotten a ‘real’ job”.  This really has nothing to do with the rest of the story, though.  Just a passing observation of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” in action.

Of course, now, in spite of the realization that it is so great that my mother is creating again, and it is so touching that she wants to use that to help with one of my biggest stressors, it upsets me that my stress has washed into her thoughts.  My student loans are not something she should be worrying about.  But, if that’s what makes her start creating art again, I suppose I’ll take that.

But the whole situation got me thinking about how many others are in the same boat.  We’re not allowed to file bankruptcy on student loans.  There is an income-based repayment plan, but it does not leave the debtor anything for savings.  They can defer the loans, but only for a couple of years during the entire life of the loan.  And, the debts count as assets for the lenders, similar to the way the housing loans counted as assets a few years ago.  It all seems like a dangerous mix on a large scale.

So, I started this petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/483/761/623/

Someone asked, “Do you think it’ll do anything?”

I have no idea.  It was born of frustration, and I do not even know how many people will see it.  Currently, at 23 signatures, the petition has already exceeded my expectations, and with so many who are struggling with student loans, I’m sure there will be more signatures.

I’m not sure what happens when we tug at this thread.  I know I would much rather pay off my student loans than file bankruptcy.  But it isn’t fair to trap so many people in excessive debt either, especially when education is for the betterment of everyone– or at least, it is supposed to be.  So, sign the petition and share it.

 


My blog entries have been a little heavy lately, I know.  I do have some very good news to share next time, I promise.  I have most of it already written in my head.  But, I want to post this one first, while the thoughts are still fresh in my mind.

If you missed the first 3 parts, they are here:  part 1, part 2, part 3

This time, I decided to discuss social withdrawal since it is so common with depression, and so often misunderstood.  If you’re dealing with someone who is depressed and they are seeming more and more distant, yes, you should probably be concerned, but no, they probably don’t hate you.  In fact, it is possible that they like you so much that they don’t want to subject you to whatever they are going through.

While I cannot and do not speak for every person who has ever suffered from depression, I can say from my own personal experiences and observations that, yes, social withdrawal is a defense mechanism.  The world can be a harsh, unforgiving place, and it might be necessary to avoid it as much as possible when one is feeling especially vulnerable.  But it isn’t just about protecting one’s self.  It’s also about preserving the sanity of others.  I know moods can be contagious, good or bad, and I don’t want anyone catching mine when it is a rotten one.  Countless times, friends have expressed frustration at being unable to lift my spirits when I am depressed.  And, believe me, I know it is frustrating.  Sometimes I even frustrate myself.  So, when I am depressed, I hide.  Is it a healthy, beneficial response?  Maybe not, but it is “normal” with depression.

It has often been argued that, since moods are contagious, if one surrounds one’s self with happy people, it will help relieve depression.  Sometimes it does help, briefly.  Other times, it is only frustrating and depressing.  And, for someone who also has PTSD, socializing can be very stressful.

So, on the bleakest days with the lowest moods, when neither social withdrawal nor socializing will do, what does help?  Is there some way to be alone without really being alone?  I suspect this is part of the reason chat forums have been so popular for so many years.  Sure, there is the stereotype of the “creepy internet chatter”, but very few chatters actually fit that stereotype.

Studies have also shown that having a pet helps relieve depression.  For myself, having a dog helped quite a bit.  I always knew it helped, but never realized how much it helped until he died at nearly 13 years old.  I don’t care what anyone says about it being just a dog.  I lost a best pal that day, and that bit of it still depresses me.  I know some people prefer cats or birds or any number of other kinds of critters.  Pick a favorite; mine doesn’t have to be yours.   As long as it takes your mind off whatever is bothering you and puts you in the moment when none of that other stuff matters, it could even be a pet rock.  I hear those are very easy to care for, and you can teach them tricks, like “sit”, “stay”, “lie down”, and “play dead”.

Hobbies help, too.  Whether it’s art, or metalwork, or whittling, or basket weaving, or stacking dominoes, by focusing on some task, symptoms of depression are sometimes alleviated– at least for a while.

And, always, always challenge the self-sabotaging negative thoughts.  Many will not stand up to solid logic.

 


When this story made headlines just a few days ago, there were almost immediately several petitions which popped up, calling for the removal of Judge Jan Jurden for being too lenient.

While I still think she should step down, the more I look at her career and the responses of others in Delaware’s legal system, the more I wonder if she was somehow pressured or coerced into making this decision.

Someone mentioned in an online forum that it seemed strange to have a female judge pass down this light sentence, which was set up by a female prosecutor, and wondered if that was arranged in order to soften the appearance of a backroom deal that was made long before Jurden even saw the case.  This seems more and more plausible, as others in Delaware’s legal system weigh in to defend her decision.

According to an article written by Richard D. Kirk, Chair of Delaware’s State Bar, the plea agreement was made by the prosecutors, and although she could have gone against the recommendation and given a heavier sentence, it would have been unusual.

But does it mean there is some grand conspiracy to protect someone wealthy?

I would like to think it would be even more unusual that someone who violated a small child would not serve time in prison.  But, it is not as uncommon as I would like to believe.  The person who abused me as a child never served time in prison for it either, and he’s not even wealthy.  And, how many other times have we heard of sex offenders getting away with it?  Let’s face it.  Our system is utterly and undeniably broken, especially when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us.  For the crime of fourth-degree rape, the crime of which Richards was convicted, the recommended sentence in Delaware is just zero to 30 months in prison.

I understand the outrage so many people are feeling over this case.  I am outraged with you, and for you.  There are so many of us for whom this hits painfully close to home.

However, I think it is a mistake to solely put the blame of this case on Jurden.  The individuals who constructed this deal also share the blame.  And, let’s not forget the animal who started all this, Robert H. Richards IV, who perhaps deserves the larger share of our outrage.  Hopefully, his ex-wife will get every cent he has in the civil suit she recently filed.  I would be willing to bet that he fears being penniless and unemployable even more than he fears prison or death– especially now that his face is plastered all over the world.

But let’s also not forget, we must not become the monsters we are fighting.   Sure, my initial gut reaction was hostile.  I still have a hard time keeping my cool about some subjects, and this happens to be one of them.  But, the recent threats some have made against Jurden, the expressions of violence against her and Richards, the angry profanity-filled rants.. none of these will help our cause, even though the feelings might be justifiable.

None of us is served by creating more pain in this world, no matter how deserving of it we might feel someone is.

To fix our system, we must do it the same way it was broken– systematically, methodically, thoughtfully.


Though the original case was heard back in 2009, it is now in the headlines because of a civil suit filed by the victims’ mother, and the details have a lot of people understandably and rightfully outraged.

Robert H. Richards IV, a DuPont heir, was convicted in a plea agreement for the rape of his 3-year-old daughter, and he received only probation with a suspended prison term.  No jail time unless he violates his probation.

The sentence was given by Judge Jan Jurden, and was recently said to be based on recommendations by the prosecuting attorney.  In a recent article, Richard D. Kirk, the Chair of the Delaware State Bar said, “Looking at this matter solely from the 2009 perspective, before the private damages lawsuit was filed, virtually everyone would have considered this an appropriate sentence. It was not an unusual sentence under the circumstances presented and would have been available to comparably situated defendants sentenced by this judge and other judges of the Superior Court. Mischaracterizing the 2009 court record as the article did to portray the sentence as somehow inappropriate was unfair to Judge Jurden and the Superior Court.”  (Emphasis is mine.)

I do not know what kind of court system they are running in Delaware, but nobody I have ever known would consider this an appropriate sentence.  And, if we take a look at the tens of thousands of signatures from all over the world on just one of the several petitions to remove Judge Jurden from the bench, I feel confident in saying to Mr. Kirk… “NO, MOST OF US WOULD NOT CONSIDER THE SENTENCE APPROPRIATE!!  And furthermore… What the hell is wrong with you??”

I find it disturbing that this decision is being defended at such high levels.  It makes me (and many others) wonder how deep the corruption/dysfunction goes in Delaware’s legal system.

As a survivor of similar abuse, I know firsthand how devastating and long term the impact can be, not just to the survivors, but to the people around them too.  These children will carry the scars for a lifetime, and my heart breaks for them and for their mother, because they have all been forced to carry this unfair burden, imposed on them by someone unfit to be called “father”, who might never see the inside of a prison cell for his actions.  Their father did not protect them, and neither did the legal system.  Who will these children be able to trust when they are older?

However, there are thousands upon thousands of us who have been standing up for those kids.  Someday, these children will be old enough to find all this information online.  I hope what they see is that there are so many of us, even from so far away, who know they deserve better.  I also hope they ignore the comments people make about how this has “ruined their lives” or “killed their souls”.  While the scars and baggage of this will create very different lives than they might have otherwise had, and while the burden might seem exceeding heavy at times, their souls are still alive and are still theirs.  Though it is true they will never be the same, they will survive, like so many of us do, with no thanks to the monsters in our lives who would try to destroy us.  I hope those kids see that, in spite of all the wrong lessons they learned at such an early age, the world isn’t all bad and there are a lot of kind, caring people.  And, I hope they quickly unlearn all those wrong lessons their “father” taught them.

While Richards may have escaped prison, he can now bear the stigma of the “pedophile” label for the rest of his life.  But it isn’t enough.  I hope his ex-wife wins big in the civil suit.  While the money will not return what was taken from those children, it will at least be some acknowledgement that they were terribly wronged by this animal.  Ideally, they will get everything he owns and he will have to get off his ass and work for a living– and good luck finding a job, now that he’s on the sex offenders’ registry.

As for the judge, if it is true that she was only going on the recommendation of the prosecuting attorney, then they should both be fired.  They obviously have no concept of the lifelong struggle of surviving early childhood abuse, and do not take the protection of the most helpless in society seriously enough.  And, the individual who called this sentence “appropriate” should probably be ousted, too.

When our public servants are no longer protecting us as they should, it is time to get new public servants.

 

 

 


As someone who has struggled with depression for most of my life, I decided to write some articles in the hope of building understanding and dispelling a few misconceptions about depression.  If you missed the first 2 parts, you can find them here and here.

This time, I’ve decided to address some of those “positive thinking” clichés which might help some people, but since most depressed people will overthink them and they will probably not stand up to scrutiny, they’re not so helpful to us, and make a lot of us wonder if a lot of people are boneheads.

Positive thinking has it’s place, and it feels better than doom and gloom, but perhaps what would benefit more people is realistic thinking.  The glass isn’t half full or half empty.  It’s 4 ounces of whatever was put in there.

One of the clichés making the internet rounds recently is “If you think positive, positive things will happen”. Sure they will.  Also, negative things will happen.  And, if you think negative, negative things will happen.  Also, positive things will happen.  Because, to counter one cliché with another, “the rain falls on the good and wicked alike”.

One of the reasons these things bother me is that many of the clichés are a bit condescending and imply that people are depressed or have unpleasant things happening because they are doing something wrong.  Some of these clichés incorrectly imply that we have total control of our situations, whatever they may be.

Most people do have some control over their circumstances.  Some have more control than others, for a variety of reasons.  If someone was born and raised in poverty in an inner city ghetto, and subsequently became mired in all the problems that go with it, and you tell them “If you don’t like where you are, move! You’re not a tree”, without offering any real, viable solutions or giving them any of the resources they need to move.. you might only piss them off, because what you have just unwittingly told them is “I don’t really fully understand your circumstances, and am blaming you for sticking around, so am not really going to help you. So, I’ll just stand here looking smug and wagging my finger at you.”

When my mother was ill, some of the so-called positive thinkers I knew actually suggested abandoning her, in order to protect my own interests.  Naturally, I did not.  I dropped out of college, which also meant giving up my position as a student employee at the university.  I gave up a lot of other things, too.  It was depressing, to say the least.  And, I would do it again in a heartbeat.  What happened to all those positive thinkers?  They mostly moved on to “happier” things, because my very real circumstances didn’t make them feel good enough. Thanks, positive thinkers.

It’s another issue with all these positive thinking clichés.  In our culture of instant gratification, some of these clichés encourage even more magical thinking and the idea that if we are unhappy, we should immediately abandon ship.  It causes people to fail each other, and that’s pretty darned depressing.

Here is one more: “Grateful people are happy people.”  While I cannot speak for all depressed people everywhere, I can tell you that my issue is not a lack of gratitude, and it’s not the issue of any depressed person I have encountered.  In fact, the depressed people I have encountered have often been some of the most grateful, because we have to be.

If we didn’t count our blessings regularly, we’d lose our fricking minds.  In fact, I think I will go count mine again right now.

 


Since someone pointed out in a private note that I neglected to mention at least one other misconception about depression, and since I also neglected to mention a few other things that help, I’ve decided to do a “part 2”, and maybe even a “part 3” later.

“They’re just lazy, and they don’t care.”  While there probably is such a thing as laziness, it’s not the same thing as depression.   Due to the physical symptoms of depression, such as the sleep disruptions, pain, and fatigue, it’s not uncommon to find a depressed person napping at odd hours.  Sometimes they might even seem to enjoy it, because.. well.. what else should they do?  If I have lemons and make lemonade, don’t judge me for it;  all I’ve done is make the best of something sour.  Some people might say “I have those problems too, get over it!”.  If it’s true, good for them!  I commend them for setting a good example, but I also wonder how they have managed to measure the other person’s suffering in order to compare it with their own.  If it is some technique they can patent, emergency rooms all over the world will pay them big bucks for that time saver.

Most of the tools and techniques on which I have focused are centered on how a depressed person can help themselves.  This is because that is where the change has to be.  I realized some time ago that my own depression is not caused entirely by external things.  *This does not mean that it is never caused or triggered by external things.*  But what I noticed was that even when things were relatively good, I would be depressed and sometimes without even being sure why.  Nobody’s life is perfect, but in spite of even the worst of my traumas, I am probably one of the luckiest people in the world.  And, it is frustrating to have so much distress without being able to pinpoint a cause or cure for so many years.

The biggest difference between grief and depression is that grief typically has a specific cause, then subsides.  Depression lingers.  Among things regularly listed as causes of depression are loss, trauma, and even head injuries.  Mine could have started in early childhood with any of those things, and was probably compounded by various other things over the years.  Luckily, I have known some strong, stubborn people who refuse to give up, and they set some pretty good examples.

Depression tends to make one into a fatalist, wondering “why bother?” and thinking “none of it matters, anyway”.  Frankly, a lot of it actually doesn’t really matter– which celebrity is sleeping with whom to further which career, for example.  Seriously.  Who cares?  Frankly, it is a little depressing that so many people give so much attention to shallow, superficial things when we could all be devoting that time and energy to more constructive things.  Of course, for me, the realization of how numerous and widespread are the world’s problems can often make everything seem more daunting.  The thinking can become “no matter what I do for me or even for others, there will always be so many more who are suffering”.  Of course, the reverse of that is also true, though you might never hear a depressed person utter the sentence, “No matter how I suffer, it will never prevent the suffering of everyone else.”

But no matter how hopeless or daunting things might seem, most people are not entirely helpless.  No matter how hopeless one’s own situation might seem, everyone can do something to help someone else.  And, believe it or not, doing something for others can help fight one’s own depression.  It is one of the reasons I use a portion of sales to help local nonprofit groups, even though a certain friend keeps trying to point out that I can’t really afford it.  So far, I have not starved, although I do without a lot of things.  Life has seen fit to put me in a position where my own resources are currently very limited, but it does not mean I can not do anything for anyone else.  Nor does it mean you can not do anything for anyone else, even if your own resources are limited.

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