Old writing with an evergreen theme

What follows is an edited-down version of something I wrote in 2014, the last time I was in a deep depression. (Hey! It’s been seven years! That’s a big win!) It’s been sitting here in my drafts folder for years with a note to either edit or delete. Unsure as to whether I should share. But the whole point of the post is to share, so I decided to trim it a bit, to share, and to voice-over. Original post in italics, current commentary regular.

It’s interesting…

I am walking a funky fine line.

I don’t want to “fakebook” and act like everything is happy, because it’s very much not.

But I don’t want to over-disclose. And I don’t want always be negative either, because that would also not be authentic.

Trying to determine what to post (and when) and what to keep to myself…sometimes I do well and sometimes not. So it goes. In all seriousness, fear of inappropriately crossing that line is part of what kept me very much to myself as a child.

I’ve been told that you can’t use Facebook to replace live connection, and in some ways, that is definitely true. While connecting with real, live people is definitely more satisfying, most of the people here reading this are not geographically positioned for me to connect with in person. (And frankly, how many local FB friends do I have who don’t actually *want* to hang out? Quite a few. That’s fine.) A few I talk to on the phone, but I have a fair amount of phone phobia that does make it difficult to call.

In the years since I originally wrote this, I’ve gotten much better at calling friends. I’ve called people I’m in touch with regularly and people I haven’t seen in years. Sometimes we connect. Sometimes I leave a message and they call back. Sometimes I leave a message and they don’t call back. Sometimes, I talk to some random guy in Texas who has that number now. No matter the outcome, the result has never been someone angry that I called. Not even the random guy in Texas.

I do have live connections with people and am certainly not looking to replace those with Facebook.

What the naysayers don’t know is that I have found a lot of common ground with people through some of my more painful posts. Posts that I have been verbally (well, in print) reprimanded for making. Posts that I’m sure made a few others shake their heads.

I have gotten messages and texts and emails from people who share my experience, in whatever my pain is at that time. I share pieces of the same path with people and didn’t know it. I have deepened friendships as a result of conversations that were born in some of these things I have posted.

This remains true. Every time I post something about a taboo topic, I get a message from at least one person saying “thank you” or “me too” and “I can’t share that.” It’s not always the same person. It’s often not a person I talk to regularly. But these little connection points help me to keep sharing hard things that we need to be talking about and aren’t, both on social media and on the blog. We need to open dialogue. It’s so hard.

These connection points also give me people to be aware of in my space. If someone has confided that they struggle with depression, too, and they don’t feel they can share that, and I notice that they fell off the grid or posted something vaguely not OK, I check in with them.

So I’m not going to go into detail about shit that’s going on in status updates because that’s over the line. But sometimes being sad in public is OK.

There is so much shame and isolation in sadness and depression. Those feelings can be isolating enough on their own. But if we can’t talk about them publicly, then how can we ever know that we’re not alone in them? There are so many ways that we silently suffer, and I think our suffering would be reduced (not eliminated, for sure) if we could talk without fear.

So so so true. Still. Fear of judgement. Fear of rejection. Being dismissed when I am already in a pit of despair makes it harder to function and harder to reach out to someone else who might be open to me. And people who have broken trust in those moments are not people I ever fully trust again and are definitely not people I turn to in crisis. (I’m not saying my reaction is or isn’t an appropriate, just that it’s true.)

I kind of equate my depression now with my bald head when I was in chemo. It existed. It was part of me. There was more to the experience than you could see, but it was tangible. (My head was more tangible to others than my depression is, but still. Work with me.) I refuse to cover it up to make myself look like something I’m not, and I refuse to cover it up to avoid making other people uncomfortable. (This doesn’t mean I’m always moping around—just giving myself permission to be what I am in the moment, as the moment permits.)

This paragraph isn’t particularly well-written, but I think I was saying that my bald head was the tangible-to-others piece of cancer and that my lack of enthusiasm for life was the tangible-to-others piece of depression and I wasn’t interested in covering up either of them just to make other people comfortable.

It’s not on me to hide my struggle to make you comfortable. (Again: within boundaries. For example, I’m not going to go to work and lament my life to my students because that’s inappropriate.)

And if it makes you uncomfortable and you decide you don’t want to stick around, you won’t be the first and you won’t be the last. And I will mourn the loss of another friend, and I will pick myself up and keep moving because that’s all I can do.

This part is true and painful and I get it and I hate it and I have deep appreciation for people who were good at setting boundaries instead of lashing out or leaving or both.

Ultimately, I know that I am a pretty neat person. I have an interesting story/history/path. I am fun to be around (depending on what you like to do for fun, I suppose). I am kind and thoughtful. Not always as much as I’d like, but I’m getting better. I love to talk and I love to listen.

But it’s not my job to convince you of any of that. You can see it or not; you can value it or not. That’s just how relationships are.

Hey! Still true! I’d like to think I’m a little kinder and more thoughtful than I was at that time, because it’s something I’ve been working on. But it’s also hard to measure.

And sometimes, because I am human, I am not at all fun to be around. That’s just how life goes. And when I’m in those places, instead of retreating into myself as some people do, I reach out. Sometimes with good results, sometimes not. But it is me, and it is completely authentic. WYSIWYG.

I have always been pretty good at being myself, for better or for worse. Even with that, I’m somehow growing into myself even more, getting more confident and comfortable in my own skin. I’ve developed better boundaries, both incoming and outgoing.

WYSIWYG = what you see is what you get

What’s the point?

One—it’s OK to share. Sometimes, it’s more than OK to share. There are lines and boundaries of course, but keeping everything packed away and hiding your struggle doesn’t help the struggle. The whole “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality is toxic garbage. If you need to, write that on a sticky note and put it where you can see it regularly. We need community. You are not weak or a bad person or any of that crap for not being able to manage everything on your own, regardless what “everything” is.

Two—your friend who seems like they’re drowning and you think it’s stupid because “why don’t they just”? Find a little compassion and offer some help. Childcare and food and company tend to be winners.

Three—you’re too much for some people. It hurts, but it’s OK. No one is everyone’s cup of tea. (Some people are too much for you, too.)

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