Wearing a Mask

What does it feel to live with depression? Mostly, it feels like wearing a mask. I have worn it most of my life and only recently put it down, occasionally. I have learnt to act very well, for the sake of the people I love.

For me, it speaks volume what my mum said when I told her about my problems a year ago. She was surprised, she never suspected anything. Why should she, I made the effort not to let her know. On surface, I was normal girl, I wasn’t super popular, but I had some friends, I was a good student and daughter, there was nothing wrong with me, right? Well, there was, a lot. I don’t remeber how many times I have hid my feelings, how much strenght did it take not to show anything. I learnt to cry silently, not to wake up my sister or anyone, I learnt to take a few deep breaths before entering home, to calm down and look happy. When I didn’t understand what was going on with me, I didn’t know how to express it and when I knew, I didn’t want to hurt anyone, especially my parents.

I felt… guilty. Guilty of being unhappy when I had almost everything. My parents are not rich, but they have always done a lot for me and my sister. They let me go on pretty much every foreign trip with school, they even let me go to London on my own and I was barely eighteen! Yes, my sister studied there, but I spent all they on my own, travelling through the big city, I have been to England about five or six times so far, I have been to Spain and to Netherlands also. Yes, my parents say it’s because they supported my sister in London, so they had felt guilty of not allowing me something similar, but still… I really had nothing to complain about, yet I wasn’t happy. Most of my teen years my sister was in London, so crying in bed was possible, since nobody could hear me. I hurt, badly, I felt lost and ashamed of myself. I couldn’t tell my parents, I was afraid of hurting them and I didn’t want to hurt them, at any cost. At since I paid the cost, it was ok, right? I felt that I deserved it, I was ungrateful person, so I deserved the pain.

I still wear the mask, very often. I don’t want to be a nuisance. I know people have their own lives and they don’t need me to add to their problems. The only problem is that it turns againt me sometimes. Recently, my partner told me he has felt like I don’t let him be close, I don’t let him help me with anything. Sadly, that is true, my quest for not being a burden has taking interesting twist with me rather doing everything than to ask for help. So after being together for almost five years, my boyfriend still feels that I don’t let him close to me and I don’t let us be a team. The things is, I don’t know how to do this. I’m afraid, that if I let him close, he finds me too difficult to live with and leaves me. Pathetic, right?

I honestly don’t know how to get from this circle, sometimes I wish to be literally invisible not to stand in anyone’s way and I would appologize for asking even something important. I don’t speak about worries or wishes, I would do anything to make people happy. Because most of all, I’m afraid to let people see me, because I’m convinced, that they would leave me. So I wear a mask and I’m really good at it.

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Suicide and Homicide, the Role Models for Mentally Ill

One of the inspirations for this entry was an article from another blogger living with schizophrenia. I recommend you to read it: This Has Been Heavily Edited to Suit All Audiences.

 

Role models. Those are people who inspire us in some way, we want to achieve what they did, look like they do or something like that. We try to imitate them, behave like them, dress like them, talk like them, so we can have something they have. It might be a successful person in bussiness, it might be our parents, it might be a fictional character and so on. The “fun” starts, when you have some mental illness. Oh yes, looking for someone to inspire you is…well, bitter to say the least.

I tried to think about some famous people in my country with mental illness. I came up with few, one died of heart attack at pretty early age, one combined alcohol and pills and the combination was lethal, one died in mental hospital, because his illness got worse, the other two comitted suicide… When it comes to famous people abroad, some singer, actor, politician, just someone, I can’t come up with anyone. Well, I can, but Robin Williams also comitted suicide, so…

And that’s the “fun”! Think about representation of mental illnesses in media. How many fictional characters can you come up with that are mentally ill, but have normal happy life? How many of these stories are in news? Honestly, I can’t think of even one… But how many fictional villains are mentally ill? They are depressed, schizofrenic, just twisted personalities… Yeah, maaany… And news representation? Oh yes, stories of a mentally ill murderers are common, just think about the last one, which inspired me to write this blog.

The German pilot crashed a plane in Alps and killed 149 people and himself. That itself is terrible, but at least for a week media was full of him being depressed as the reason for this act. I stopped reading articles about this right after this discovery, it was too much. Unfortunatelly, I wasn’t spared the “depressed people are crazy” sort of comment and it actually came from my partner… He read some article and then said something like “it turns out that the pilot was crazy, he was depressed”. I don’t remember the exact words, but I remember the feeling. He sat with his back to me, so he couldn’t see my face, but I felt like I froze in place. And then I got really angry, thinking if this is what people think about me behind my back, that I’m crazy. Then I got bitter, wondering if I can actually be angry about that, considering what is the media representation of mentally ill people. And then I just got really tired of this situation…

We are portrayed as crazy people who cannot control themselves, who are just incapable of living normal life. Which is harmful in so many ways. First of all, think about the people who just realized they might have some mental problems, but are afraid to see a doctor and get treatment, because they are afraid of being labeled as “crazy”. Second, think of the people who are living with some mental problems, what are the messages they get, there are no role models for us, who would give us hope that we can live pretty normal life despite our problems. Yeah, our self-esteem might get really low because of this at times… Third, think about our families and friends, how are they to cope with our problems, when the messages they get are again that we are crazy, unable to control ourselves, our lives are doomed. Fourth, what about the strangers we meet, for example when we apply for a job, should we tell them, will it influence their opinion about us, will they think us uncapable of performing the job? And so on…

As I was looking up some mentally ill famous people, I made a mistake and read some comments under the articles about their deaths. And there is was, some people writing that people just need to work more, that they make this up to feel important or different, that they are just weak, because nobody strong would ever fall for such a nonsense. Oh and one saying that living with such a person (meaning mentally ill person) is something nobody could ever stand for more than few days. It felt really “great”, but it didn’t really surprised me…

It makes me frustrated and tired. I would really love to see someone out there, who I can relate to, who has mental problems and is happy and living normal life. May be even famous and successful. I’m tired of media emphasizing the fact that some murderer was mentally ill in a way to say “you see, normal person would never do that, this is just a crazy person”. Or in the case of the pilot, it is “you don’t have to be afraid of flying, this is just an isolated case of crazy person, nobody normal would ever do such a thing”. Which feels very “supportive”. I’m tired of questions popping up in my head, wondering if I actually have a chance for normal happy life, wondering if this is not exactly the reality that awaits me, ending up as another one commiting suicide, because they can’t take it anymore. I’m just tired of all this. And fed up of dealing with this everyday.

Andrew Solomon: Depression, the secret we share

This is an amazing TED talk by Andrew Solomon and I recommend it to everyone who wants to learn something new about depression and anxiety. I can absolutely relate to his experience and his opinions, I went through all the stages of depression he describes, I went through the thinking of “where do I start and where my medication starts, what’s real and what’s not”. This is really amazingly personal and also informative video about depression and I’m so glad that Mr. Solomon put all those thoughts and information into his talk. I mean, I cannot stress enough how truthful is everything he says, it was so great to listen to someone and feeling like “wow, I’m not the only one feeling this way”!

Just Hide All Sharp Objects

I just wish for this day to be over. I need to go to sleep, I’m tired, exhausted, but just getting to bed seems like to much work. I’m being crushed by the whole world, cold. I know I’m not good enough, never was and never will be. My anxiety is on super high level and so is my depression. As always, my head is split in two parts. One knows what is going on, I’m depressed and I should take my meds, go to sleep and get some rest. The other is clouded, foggy and cold, telling me “you know you’re ill, just take a grip and get over it, you’re just pathetic, weak and I hate being part of you”. For several days I’m figting my need to punish myself, avoind sharp objects especially, although I know it would bring me peace. I despise myself, it’s not hatred, more despising, because I’m weak, terrible, not good enough. I hear this in my head all the time “you’re not enough”. I don’t even know what “enough”, I just know I’m the worst person there is. My mind brings me the need to punish myself, to find release and I’m trying to fight, even though it’s just crushing me. I can’t breathe, hiding in my bubble, pretending emotions, going through my day. It gets exhausting, thinking this is my life, this roller-coaster ride up and down and spinning, hiding, running from myself, fighting, feeling lost and cold. Sometimes I’m not sure I’m able to stand this, I don’t know if I’m strong enough, feeling like I might break any second. Why can’t I just be good enough? For myself, good enough girlfriend, friend, student, person. I try harder and harder, but it’s never enough and I don’t know what to do. I’m exhausted always trying, always fighting, pushing boundaries to just endure more days, make through this day and the next and the next… Even if I think I’m ok, I don’t know, because I just don’t know what is normal, I’ve never been normal. It’s crushing me, I can’t breathe, can’t think, yet I have to, have to study, go to work, put on my normal face, pretending that no, I’m falling apart, I’m not walking on a wall risking painful fall all the time. Will it ever end?

At times, my sanity comes back, telling me I’m ok, it will be ok, it will pass. It feels like suddenly seing clearly, breathing freely, being alive… I wish for it to last.

2011-10-13-a bad day

Soft Grunge: Mental Illness Is Not a Style

This article was originally published on Everyday Feminism and I use it here with their permission.

 

Millennials have long been accused of being self-absorbed.

The rise of social media enables us to share our thoughts and opinions across multiple platforms within seconds. As we enter adolescence and young adulthood, we experience the typical turbulence associated with coming of age, amplified and echoed through smart phones, tweets, and reblogs.

More than ever, our generation has eagerly embraced what I like to call the “sad chic” mentality to reclaim their alienation.

Just look at popular works like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Skins, Warm Bodies, and Twilight, to name very few.

Everyone worships existentialism as long as it has shiny packaging, with pretty people saying poetic things while a single tear runs down their cheek.

Out of all of the social media sites, Tumblr has capitalized the most on this phenomenon, almost single-handedly spawning the soft grunge trend.

Tumblr can be an excellent resource on many topics – it can change your entire perspective on gender and sexuality in a few weeks! – but I would argue that soft grunge is an unpleasant byproduct.

What is Soft Grunge?

Like the professional I am, I tried to use Urban Dictionary to come up with an exact definition of soft grunge, but all of the explanations were too heavy on sarcasm to make sense.

Coincidentally, they all also referenced Tumblr users, which leads me to believe that Tumblr might actually be the birthplace of soft grunge – or at least its breeding ground.

An example of a soft grunge blog would be a blog that features black and white images of people looking serious or melancholy, usually captioned with masochistic quotes, as well as depictions of pain and harm (like blood and bruises) that are meant to be beautiful in their tragedy.

The quotes that are used, which are often ironically unrelated to the images, promote isolation or negative feelings. Topics of choice include love, being inadequate, or wanting to die.

Soft grunge basically transforms taboo emotions like self-doubt into an aesthetic.

Feelings of worthlessness or disillusionment become synonymous with and indicative of true tortured beauty, as well as intelligence and particularly psychological depth.

Need some examples? Here you go. That’s the #softgrunge tag on Tumblr.

Soft Grunge is Okay, But the Consequences Might Not Be

As a disclaimer, I don’t mean to say that all people who enjoy soft grunge are inherently vapid or willfully scheming to hurt others. I admittedly enjoy the occasional artsy black and white photo!

Whether you’re struggling with a diagnosis or just simply trying to process through a bad day, emotional support and understanding is unfortunately hard to come by, and that camaraderie should be cherished.

Finding community can be a great thing, and I wouldn’t want to tarnish that for anyone. I’m not here to police participation.

Instead, I’m arguing for a consciousness of impact. Someone who is actively involved in any community should be aware of the potentially negative consequences of its ideology.

Certain members of the soft grunge community are propagating the style in extremely problematic ways. It’s that niche that this article is directed towards. My observations are meant to be a wake-up call for some, not a universal condemnation.

Soft Grunge and ‘Performing’ Mental Illness

People mock those who try to imitate the soft grunge lifestyle for their appropriation of music and culture without context, but the appropriation of mental illness is far more troubling.

This is where the commodification and idolization of soft grunge becomes a problem.

It’s okay to feel sad or angry or confused and express those emotions.

It’s not okay to glorify these emotions and perpetuate the idea that constantly feeling negative is somehow glamorous.

Misery doesn’t automatically equate to individuality. Being happy or even ambivalent about life does not make you boring.

You don’t have to be depressed to be beautiful or worthy of someone else’s attention. Hell, you don’t have to be beautiful, period. Beauty should not dictate your social value.

You should never publicize potentially triggering lifestyles simply as a means of self-promotion.

In fairness, you may be one of the bloggers that genuinely has a mental illness. This is directed at the kids who throw around the terms “depression” and “anxiety” every week as shiny new personality add-ons.

If you can selectively channel an emotion at will, it’s not mental illness.

You’re consciously performing a feeling for a deliberately chosen audience to make a desired impression. Genuine mental illness does not work that way.

Think of it like this: You wake up every morning and decide to put clothes on. You choose what you want – hoodie if you want to be cozy, dress and/or tie if you want to be fancy, and whatever shoes are practical or pleasing. At the end of the day, you take them off. That’s a mood, a feeling.

Now imagine that you’re forced to wear an undershirt against your will, as though it’s fused to your skin. On bad days, you despise it, and on good days, you find it annoying at best, but you can never take it off because it’s a part of you.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you want to wear it or what your environment is like or who’s around you.

Regardless of how you or anyone else feels, that fucking undershirt is there to stay, and you have to learn to live with it, even if no one else understands why it’s there. Even if you don’t want to admit that it’s there.

That’s mental illness.

How Soft Grunge Leads to Mental Illness Erasure

This is where the distinction between the soft grunge aesthetic and mental illness community becomes so crucial – because you’re marginalizing the voices and perspectives of people who really do suffer from mental illness.

Worse still, you’re arbitrarily naming yourself their poster child and advertising a candy-coated placebo as their “authentic” experience.

That so-called social anxiety that makes you so dorky and cute and lovable? There’s another person who’s locked themselves in the bathroom because the mere thought of human interaction makes them physically ill.

That picture of a beautiful actress insisting that she has no reason to live? There’s someone debating whether or not it’s worth it to wake up tomorrow.

It also doesn’t help that only impossibly gorgeous people are validated in their sadness.

We need to stop sending the message that you have to be special to be unhappy or unhappy to be special. The belief that chronic emotional instability makes you sexier or more charismatic is ridiculous.

Why would you purposely surround yourself with people who intentionally fixate on cynicism and a culture that thrives on preaching absolute worthlessness?

I’m all for critiquing society and raging against the machine, but not if it involves the asinine adolescent notion that our sense of purpose should go down the toilet if our crush doesn’t like us back.

‘Sad Chic’ Brings Others Down

When you inflame universal insecurities and turn misery into propaganda, it takes on a greater meaning beyond finding a creative outlet for your personal worries.

In effect, you are encouraging unregulated and unhealthy psychological responses because you present emotions as a pendulum and thereby trivialize moderate emotional responses as insignificant.

Soft grunge ideology makes you feel shitty about not feeling shitty enough.

You can’t be sad; you have to be depressed. You can’t be angry; you have to be on the verge of mental collapse. You can’t be bored; you have to be questioning why you exist.

Of course, everything conveniently circles back to fueling more self-doubt and hopelessness.

And you know what? That’s a really fucking terrible mentality.

Sure, growing up sucks. Responsibilities are stressful, the job market is abysmal, and your crush probably isn’t plotting to throw rocks at your window and profess their undying love. The world doesn’t have an answer to our every want and need.

We’re all human.

Things are going to make us upset and piss us off on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean every tiny event has to cause a seismic shift in our outlook.

You feel emotions, and you move on.

I cried last week.

Why?

Because I was saddened by something that won’t matter next year, next month, or even next week. I don’t have to declare myself a lost cause forever to justify gradually processing through a feeling.

Everyone needs to allow themselves a certain flexibility of emotion to properly function in daily life.

Self-doubt and sadness are normal in small doses.

Let go of your fear of being mundane.

You can’t expect each disappointment to serve as a poetic metaphor for your psychological complexity.

Be Critical of Trends

Dealing with your moods in a healthy way might mean admitting to yourself that you’re not the next Marilyn Monroe or Kurt Cobain.

Trust me, I think we all know that those are coping mechanisms no one should strive to emulate.

Sometimes it is possible to separate style from dogma. Dye your hair pink, wear your Nirvana T-shirts and your Doc Martens, whatever. You do you.

But understand one thing: Mental illness is not a style.

Recognize the damage that trends can do to marginalized communities.

People with mental illness have a difficult enough time being heard without you claiming that you’re speaking for them.

Have a little empathy for others that isn’t driven by a personal marketing campaign. Soft grunge needs to get a little softer around the edges.

There Are So Many People Out There

I went to my psychiatrist to get a paper to school, so I can ask for lower tuition fee and I found there a poster for a website about depressions. I decided to check it, because I want to learn some more information about my disorder and to find some professional staff I could post here, beside of the creations of my malfunctioning brain.

It was a good and also bad decision. Good because there really are useful information for me and also for people outside these problems, bad because the web has a section for personal stories… So many people! I mean literally, so many people asking, if their problems are normal, if this is curable, saying they’re exhausted of all this. It almost made me cry, because I wish I could tell all these people, that there is a chance for them! That what they’re going through is hard and painful, but it doesn’t have to be like that, that they are not weird or broken, because they feel this way. How is it possible that so many people still have to suffer the pain and shame and exhaustion, because there is a lack of information about mental health?! I mean, we can travel to space, we can travel pretty much anywhere anytime around the Earth, yet some teenage girl writes there that when she talks about depression with her parents, her mother laughs and her father thinks she just wants to skip school! It makes me so angry! I was that teenage girl, afraid to tell her parents, afraid to tell my friends, putting up a mask of perfect daughter, perfect student, yet inside suffering terribly, desperately wanting someone to tell me that I’m not making this up, that I’m not alone, that I’m not crazy! Well, when I told my friends, just about five of them actually tried to understand, the rest thought I’m really just seeking attention, so I can understand the girl’s fear. How is it possible that we learn so much about physical health, we know what to eat or don’t, what is healthy, what sports are good and so many stuff, but we don’t learn about mental health?! How how HOW?!?!

Next time someone asks me why I need to “advertise” my depressions, I’ll tell them that THIS is WHY! If I can spread the word about mental disorders to just a hundred people there, most of them my friends on facebook, than I DID SOMETHING! If I can change what just a few people out there think about mental problems, show them that it’s nothing weird or unnatural or laughable or weak or despicable or just bad, then I do a good job! If I change the world just a little little bit, then it’s worth opening up and writing about the darkest thoughts and feelings my mind can produce. Nobody deserves this, NOBODY! I just wish I could hug all these people and tell them that it will get better, tell them, that they are not alone… but I can’t, so this is the least I can do.