Monthly Archives: January 2014

Emotional Dishonesty

I’ve had a couple of rough days (two of which I only left my bed because I was bribed out by one of my friends and his millionaire shortbread/cookies), but todays been a bit like that and it’s raining- and I can’t help but think that it is some type of pathetic fallacy- but it reminded me of a quote from Rowan Atkinson, “I love walking in the rain because no one can see me cry”. I have never thought about this quote much, I originally interpreted it as comparable to the tears of a clown motif, where a man can hide his sadness behind comedy, but only now have I thought about it more. I think it’s more about being enabled to feel genuinely and unsuppressed emotion. So much of culture encourages us to be controlled, social etiquette encourages a “stiff upper lip”, your pride tells you crying is weakness, from a young age boys are told not to cry, this idea of emotional suppression is woven throughout many aspects of our lives.

I can’t talk for everyone, nor would I want to, but I can talk about me and why emotional suppression can be damaging. To people who have read my blog, the fact I have depression is no surprise, it’s largely why I started blogging and it’s largely what I talk about, but having depression forced me to be emotionally dishonest a lot of the time. When I say emotionally dishonest, it doesn’t mean I lie to myself, it means I lie to others. A lot of time people will look at me and ask if I’m ok and I will say I’m fine or I’ll play down how bad I really am. This is common of almost everyone, people often ask other people “How was your day” or “How have you been”, and they doing it expecting the other person to simply say “fine” instead of answering honestly. This is what people do, we wear masks and we pretend to be what is expected of us. I (and I imagine a large amount of other people) do all this while wanting simultaneously wanting people to see who we really are and see that we’re struggling. There are a lot of days where I feel like I’m falling apart, and frankly I just want to be held. But for various reasons feel unable to express this and instead fall into the typical “I’m fine” lie, but all I want is for the other person to look at me and say “are you sure?” Just to clarify, this isn’t to say that every time I say I’m fine I’m lying. I am generally quite emotionally open and wear my heart on my sleeve, but ever since getting back to university the pressure to fall back into emotional dishonesty has grown.

All of this reminded me of the film “Girl Interrupted”. I love that film, and think it’s portrayal of mental health is very good. A lot of Winona Ryder’s quotes in the film are ones I strongly relate to, notably “how the hell am I supposed to recover when I don’t even understand my disease?”, and the general sense of confusion and vulnerability created by her character. However the most relevant quote for the point I am trying to make is made by Angelina Jolie’s character; “There’s too many buttons and they’re just – there’s way too many just begging to be pressed, they’re just begging to be pressed, you know? They’re just – they’re just begging to be pressed! And it makes me wonder, it really makes me f*****g wonder, why doesn’t anyone ever press mine? Why am I so neglected? Why doesn’t anyone reach in and rip out the truth and tell me that I’m a fucking whore, or that my parents wish I were dead?” It’s the moment in which it becomes clear that her whole character was built upon emotional dishonesty, all of her actions are done because she wants someone to look at her and say you’re not ok and help her. In real life a lot of the time people run is to see if someone will chase them, people push people away to see if they will come back and they shut down because they want someone to open them up.

This idea of conflict (the want to be safe through shutting yourself away, but be loved for who you really are) is built strongly into my character and personality and I think many other peoples. The purpose of this blog was to try and encourage people to think about the effect their emotional dishonesty may have. I admit a lot of the time saying “I’m fine” or forcing a smile has none, but on rare occasion it does. I feel I can’t truly capture the point I want to make, and this is a bit more like the rambled musings of someone trying to sound smarter than they are, but I hope some of my (few) readers may take something from this.

Stay Brilliant

Steven 🙂

Why Frozen is the best thing ever

 

I was going to originally write a review of the film “Frozen” but when I did, it was just the sentence “Frozen is the best thing ever!!!” and while this captures my feeling perfectly, I thought I should probably write slightly more than one grammatically incorrect sentence. So instead I wanted to write about why I like “Frozen” so much.

I’m going to start with a slightly serious point, when I watched Frozen for the first time, I thought the character Elsa was symbolic for depression and I related to her on that bases. Both situations involve the fear of hurting people you love, both involve self-isolation and unfortunately both involve a level of self-imposed and undeserved shame. it was only much later when I read articles written by people with disabilities or people who have struggled with their sexuality who also stated that they relate to her that I realised I have been rather egocentric and had been projecting onto her and in fact she has the potential to represent many people who struggle for different reason. Many people have compared Frozen to the musical “Wicked”, I think this comparison is quite obvious and largely because they both feature Idina Menzel staring as a misunderstood witch. I think a far more fitting musical to compare it to is “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. The reason being because both attract people from various walks of life that for some reason are unconventional. It’s no secret that Rocky Horror thoroughly embraces the unconventional and as a result has developed a cult following, but I believe “Frozen” offers a similar experience is through the character Elsa.

What you need to know about Elsa is that she was born with the power to control ice and told to conceal herself away and keep it a secret, she is told that people will hate her if they find out, and that the only way to li ve is to be “the good girl” everyone expects her to be. On a fundamental level Elsa’s character (and the plot of Frozen) represents the internal conflict many people face at some point in their life between conforming to what is expected of them, or accepting their oddities and embracing who they truly are. This is why so many people relate to the struggles of Elsa. In addition to this, unlike Rocky Horror, Frozen presents this conflict and balances it out by including the character Anna. Anna is, in my opinion, the embodiment of unconditional love. Something that people constantly need to be reminded exist, especially people who are in a situation that forces them to identify with Elsa. This creates a situation where the audience is simultaneously presented hardships they may relate to but also constantly reinforced with the idea that unconditional love exist and consoled.

Giving Anna the majority of screen time strengthens this as the audience is never allowed to dwell on the possibility of Elsa being a villain, nor the possibility of maybe she should hide who she is. The effectiveness of Anna as a main character is that whenever any minor character brings up the possibility of Elsa being wrong she instantly shoots them down. At the end of the day Anna’s opinion is largely forced upon the viewer, usually I don’t like when films do this, but because Anna’s views are morally correct and is simply that people should be honest with who they are, I think it’s for the best. This combined with the films focus on the much more stable and grounded family love opposed to the more idealised and turbulent romantic love is why I think Frozen is so effective, especially for people who may be struggling to accept themselves. It provides people who are struggling a character to relate to and take solace in, and not only provides them with a happy ending to take solace in, but throughout the film consoles them and forcefully reminds them that they will still be loved regardless.

Depression and how it’s changed me

Hey guys! The last blog took a detour away from talking about depression and as a result was much less personally driven, but whether it is for good or bad, this blog has very much returned to it’s roots. I’m not sure how good this blog will be, it stands very much on the border of what I’m comfortable writing about and what I’m not and I’m not sure how that will effect the blog. I’m returning to university tomorrow (after spending the majority of the holidays deciding if I was going to or not) . This fact has set a scary thought in motio that this term at university is not going to be the same as the last one. Not only because of me being unwell still, but also because everyones going to come back to university refreshed and happy, and I’m not, instead I’m returning as a very different person. Basically I’m writing about this because I’m scared and have no control, and when I feel like this I take control by writing.

This is hard to convey and probably the simplest way to do so is to explain that I don’t think of depression as being a part of me, I think of it being an alternative force within me, the Jeckle to my Hyde (or the other way around, I don’t know which one is bad). I believe who I was is still somewhere in me, but having this other force capable of yelling louder or punching harder has dampened it’s existence and very successfully hidden it. Essentially I live in fear that I’ve completely lost myself due to everything thats happened. The main reason I think this is when I think back on the past, I remember stuff that’s happened and really important life events I’ve gone through but when I think of them I don’t feel anything anymore. It feels as if they happened to someone else who recorded those events in writing, and I’m just reading it, the sense of warmth that radiated within me when I was sentimental just isn’t there anymore. I simply don’t identify as the person who lived those events. I feel much more like an actor who’s just finished a long stint with one character and is looking for another.

I remember so clearly getting so excited over little things a few months ago. When I say little things, I mean like curly fries or a surprise hug or someone complimenting my obnoxiously colourful trousers. I rarely speak about myself in a positive way because I’m scared of sounding obnoxious, but looking back at past Steven, he was very good at grabbing the positive things the world presented- though this worked both ways of him also being very good at grabbing the bad. I think the most poignant way to describe this change is that whether good or bad, I have always been very emotionally driven but now access to my emotions has been significantly stifled and limited and as a result changed quite a fundamental part of myself. I’m not saying I no longer enjoy the small things (still love hugs), but my reactions are now much quieter, and much stiller. Less like river and more like an ocean. Everything’s still somewhere, its just much less obvious, and there are always the considerably large periods of time where I don’t feel at all.

The reason I am writing about this now is because I going back to university means seeing my friends again, and I’m super excited to see them, I’m just scared there not going to like the new me, some of my relationships have already been tested by all of this. I have spoken in the past about the self isolating nature of depression and my fear of hurting the people I care about, but this change introduces a new aspect of how my relationships altered. They are altered by the fact I’m different and is perfectly possible people simply won’t like what I’ve become. As I said previously, I have always been emotionally able and expressive, I always thought that was a large part of who I was and it’s just gone now. Also the fact I am going to people to lean on or catch me when it goes wrong will create a strain on friendships. I am still perfectly capable of being there for them when they need help (and I will always be there is needed) but I am going to need them a lot more than I did before, and some people aren’t stable enough to bear the burden of a friend like me. I understand all of this and it is fair, I don’t like what I am, so theres no reason for them to like it.

Thankyou for reading, sorry if it was no good (as I said previously this is somewhat more spuradic as an entry than previous ones)
Big hugs to anyone who read this far down
Steven 🙂

Hey guys!
I don’t know how well this blog is going to go, I always drink a cup of tea while I write and unfortunately throw the majority of said cup of tea over myself before writing began. So I am writing with a now soggy lap, and very little tea. In addition to this, this blog isn’t about my depression, it is in fact about something I believe in quite strongly which is how society should be much more open with people about certain aspects of society. The video that inspired me to write this is the video “Children react to gay marriage”, but I want to take it further than gay marriage.

I have included the link to the video at the bottom of the blog and you may want to watch it first, but it is not essential

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TJxnYgP6D8

The general idea of the video is that children are shown 2 clips, one of a man proposing to a man and one of a women proposing to a women and then questioned about it. The children are generally positive and pro gay marriage. There are two that are especially interesting, one is a young boy who is strongly against gay marriage and one is a young girl who has never heard of the concept of homosexuality before. The young boy is very against the concept and says “Gay is wrong” but when asked why he thinks this, he can’t answer. The young girl is interesting because of how quickly she changes from being surprised by the idea, to completely accepting of it. This captures the main point I want to convey in this blog, that stigma is not a naturally occurring phenomena, it is instead something man made. The reason I say all of this is that I believe children shouldn’t be kept in the dark about homosexuality or other issues. If a child is old enough to be taught about the concept of love (just to clarify I mean pure, child friendly love, not sex) they should not only be taught about love between opposite genders but also love between the same gender. At the end of the day, the emotion felt between a same sex couple, is the same emotion that is felt between a couple of the opposite sex and by making children aware of the love between heterosexuals at a different time than making them aware of the love between homosexuals, we encourage the belief that they are different from each other, which just isn’t true, love is love.

In addition to this I believe making children aware of homosexuality from a younger age may have a knock on effect that makes the process of “coming out” easier for them. The reason I say this is because I believe that if homosexuality is shown to be a viable and accepted concept, then when the time comes for a person to come to terms with their sexuality, it may be easier for them to accept if they have always been told that there is nothing wrong with it. I’m not suggesting that coming out will be made easy by this, it is still a confusing and scary time, but if we try to remove any slight suggestion from the persons mind that homosexuality is wrong, then it should make it slightly less scary, and in my mind the easiest way to do this is to make children aware of the concept. Just think of it this way, if a gay couple attended a party with young children, they and the other guests will usually refer to them as just “friends”, but if an opposite sex couple was at the same party they would be described as “boyfriend” and “girlfriend”. The problem with this is that when those children grow up and realise that the people described as “friends” where in fact a couple, they will naturally wonder why they felt it had be hidden and it is possible that they will reach the conclusion it was hidden because it must be wrong. I believe in this situation it should never have been hidden, if they were open and the young children where told that they were a couple, it would give them the idea that it’s not something that needs be hidden and is something that is/should be accepted.

Finally I just wanted to go on a slight tangent. I wanted to talk about P!nk’s music video for the song “Perfect”. This isn’t about homosexuality, but this video received a lot of controversy because it depicted a girl self harming. I want to clarify now that I am not suggesting children be shown images of self harm at all. What I am suggesting is that it should not be tabboo. Unfortunately self-harm happens, and it is something which very few people actually seek help for. It is hard to say why people don’t, as there can be a multitude of reasons, however one of them is sometimes that people think it is wrong and are ashamed. This thought process is a very damaging way for sufferers to think as it hinders them getting help, and I’m not saying showing images of self harm helps because I am aware it may act as a trigger, what I am saying is that hiding it and saying it is inappropriate definitely suggests that it is wrong and give support to the incorrect view that people should be ashamed of it. At the end of the day, self harm is a coping mechanism. It is a damaging coping mechanism, and something people can rarely get over on their own, which is why it is so important to create the image that it is something that can be discussed without shame. However this must be done without trivialising the issue. In contrast to this Urban Outfitters have released a shirt that says “eat less” on it and one that says “depression”. I need to clarify that this is not a case of bringing issues such as depression and eating disorders into main stream culture and showing it as acceptable, its a case of trivialising the matter and is insensitive to sufferers of either condition as it implies it is not a big issue. I want to draw attention to the hypocrisy, P!nks video showed self harm as an issue, it told the story of a girl struggling and shows her overcoming it, and this was deemed inappropriate by some. However urban outfitters shirts that trivialise mental health issues are deemed acceptable. In my mind the only difference between these two is that one offers a understanding view and hope and the other offers neither, but it’s the latter that is accepted.

Thank you for reading 🙂 I hope this made sense. Steven

Depression and the storm

I’ve frequently mentioned in this blog series the feeling of emptiness that comes with depression, or a better phrase is the absence of feeling. However the absence isn’t fully permanent. Think of it like this, imagine a tunnel that runs between the part of you that receives information and the part of your brain that controls your emotional response. Depression collapses the tunnel and blocks the path. This means most of the time your emotions aren’t active, they’re blocked by the tunnel collapse, but every now and again the build up of emotion is enough to knock down the blockage and get through all at once.
When talking to my friends I make reference to a “break down”, “A moment”, “crumbling” or many words to that effect, but rarely elaborate on what it means, when I use one of those words I am referring to the times where this blockade is broken. I know this is probably strange, I spent the first entry in this blog talking about how painful the feeling of emptiness can be, and it is painful, so why would I then complain for the small amounts of time when I get to feel again. The reason is that I don’t return to a state of emotional wellbeing, I am thrown into a storm. It’s not just feeling again, it’s feeling everything all at once. It’s massively overwhelming and this may be hard to understand if you’ve never experienced it, but when they happen, it is one of the most scared I’ve ever been. In addition to this fear, it’s also one of the most destructive sides of depression, when you mix together all of these feelings, they become something very similar to anger.
It’s so hard to describe these moments, I don’t know if I’m good enough with words to capture something that just feels like pure, organic terror. I’ve done research into this, and it is often described as like drowning. It’s just completely overwhelming, its like being surrounded and screamed at and having every thought or feeling or doubt magnified so each one has grown into something huge, large enough to crush you, individually. When this happens to me, theres no other real way to describe how I feel than just completely raw vulnerability.
I spend almost all of the day standing in the eye of the storm, constantly scared that I’m going to fall into it. The main reason I’m so scared of falling into it is not because of how painful the moments inside it can be, but because who else may be struck by it. When forced into such vulnerability, I react with aggression, and I’m not going to blame that solely on depression- it has always been character flaw on my part, but depression seems to have exaggerated it. I live in fear that I’m going to be knocked into the storm while with friends and then lash out against them. A large part of this fear is because of how easy it is to be knocked into the storm. It’s happened every day since I’ve been diagnosed. The force that pushes me does not need to be large. It can be as simple as someone bumping into me and catching me off guard, it can be me seeing my reflection and not liking it, it can be me getting paranoid someone doesn’t like me, frankly it can be anything. This has created a world in which I am scared of hanging out with people as I don’t want them to see this and I definitely don’t want to lash out at them when they don’t deserve it (and they will never deserve it). The combination of all of this is why I haven’t been able to attend any social event I have been invited to since been diagnosed (really big apologies to Izzy whose party is right now, but I couldn’t make it due to my depression being really bad today, Izzy will be getting a nice present when I next see her).
I hope this entry makes sense, it took much longer to write than usual. 3 cups of tea instead of the normal 1. If there is anything anyone wants me to write about, or any questions people have, please comment boor message me. Finally a massive thank you to everyone for reading and being wonderful 😀