Life is hard.
Addiction is hard.
Learning Python without a guide is hard.
Bloodborne is hard.
Window shopping is hard.
Walking into Bath and Body Works without being stalked and assaulted by staff with blue bags is hard.
This might sound crazy, but I’m thankful every day (I do honestly think about it every day) I’ve never experienced famine to the degree others must. I’m thankful I’ve never had to be a child armed with guns, that I’ve never been a slave in a sweat shop (#Nike, Gap, and all the rest of ’em), that I have no serious physical health problems as of yet, that my parents hasn’t kicked me out of the house yet, that the tradition of my family isn’t to burn my chest flat at the first signs of puberty, that I have the ability to be who I want, how I want, and live life without worrying about being stoned for wearing a T-shirt or refusing a forced marriage.
But one thing that I’ve noticed about many inspirational people who have lived through such things and have developed into a positive influence across the globe, or at least a positive influence to someone or to themselves, is that they often attribute their past to the positive experiences now in their present.
That’s a hard thing to do for a lot of us.
I’m not much into daytime drama shows but sometimes when I’m feeling spectacularly frisky, and perhaps a bit dull in the brain, I skim through some on YouTube and listen to ingrates screech at the top of their lungs and have a crowd of people laugh or boo at them.
It’s a way to fulfill my human urge to be a part of drama without actually going through the heavy social process of getting involved in it.
Some young man was on a show telling about his childhood in which his mother supposedly ignored him, picked her drug addict boyfriend over him, didn’t feed him or take care of him, gave him up to social services, and then when he came back as a young adult, kicked him out of the house after she stole all the money he’d saved up. At the present moment he was homeless living in a tent getting food and money from one of his siblings. Regardless of the validity of his story (which mucked up the majority of the thirty minutes), his mother finally admitted that she did many, many things wrong. He hardly accepted her apology in the moment. He continued to rub in her face that she was the reason he was the way he was and blamed her for his depression.
As I’ve mentioned several times before, I had a turbulent childhood. Lots of addiction, violence, mental/emotional abuse, homelessness, poverty, and for most of my life I’ve been a survivor. I had to grow up when most kids were barely discovering the fun of sleepovers. I remember having social anxiety in kindergarten because I knew I was different from others and I remember developing depression, rage, and mood issues by the time I was 10. At fifteen I became a caregiver by default for an addict and still am. There are a lot of things I remember and many of them I can contribute to the way I am today.
The host of the show, who’d been on the young man’s side until that point, told him his statements were valid and invalid. The things that “made him” indeed happened, but he wasn’t taking personal responsibility for his rage and violence towards his mother, nor his own life.
I’ve seen a lot of people write about the horrors of their past and how they wish it would go away. They blame people and incidents and they say “if this wouldn’t have happened, I wouldn’t be on this” or “doing this” or “with this person”.
But how mature is that attitude? What makes them think blaming a person or a thing will solve their depression or their melancholy? If anything, it serves as an excuse not to do the work needed to get out of the pain and the mental hole they’re in.
I think it’s always good to understand how the past represents the present. In fact, I think it’s pertinent for those of us who have traumatic pasts that contribute to our mental health. But once we develop into our own person, once we can understand that who made us, how they made us, and why they made us doesn’t have as much power over our future as we have over our future, only then have we developed a healthy thought pattern, only then can we make a dent in our depression or our anxiety or any other mental health issue.
The blame game is something children play when they want to steer clear of conflict and ownership. It is a measure of avoidance, a maladaptive behavior and pattern that, in adults, often comes with being consumed by negativity and humanity.
We’ve all blamed someone for something once.
Blame is sly partners with denial, too. Some of us refuse to believe we do it.
We focus strongly on the negative because it’s a genuine constant and therefore a genuine comfort. There will always be negativity and new reasons to consider yourself worthless or useless. Sometimes there seems to be no reason at all. But for the times there are reasons, for the times you do feel your mind wander into a flooded playground of negativity, for the times when you realize “wow, I’m being really negative today” (if you don’t notice that yet, that’s the first step), ask yourself why when a negative thoughts hits or something negative happens, you put all your attention and energy into it, but when a positive thought hits or something positive happens, you don’t give it nearly as much validation. Sometimes you look for the negative in it. Sometimes you even remind yourself “this won’t last long”.
Next time something positive happens, meditate in the moment. Take advantage of it. Let it fill you up and if your train of thought reverts into the negative, let it pass through. Sure, maybe your happiness won’t last long, but nothing in life is absolute or permanent, perhaps not even death. Depression has it’s own form of anxiety: worrying about the next time you’re going to fall into a hole. It’s the same as me worrying about embarrassing myself in front of my supervisors in a job I don’t even have yet.
I choose to be excited about this job opportunity. I’m going to worry, I know that. I’m going to be awkward, I know that. The first few days will be hell, I know that. I know I’m going to need stress management techniques, I know that. If I know all that, what’s the point of worrying?
Strength isn’t just about living through abhorrent situations and coming out physically alive, it’s about extracting the positive from the most bottomless and abysmal darkness.
Mental health issues aren’t just about having a mental disorder and being a patient for a doctor, it’s not about being a statistic for some obscure health statistician or a customer for a pharmaceutical company, it’s about coping and living and realizing you have a future just the same as anyone else no matter the obstacle.
Perhaps half of the people who read this won’t believe it. They might even think “your issues just aren’t severe enough to incapacitate you”.
To those people I say: try me. I’ve been to hell and back and every once in a while I purchase an Amtrak ticket and visit accidentally. These are words coming from someone who understands how hot the flames are in hell and who has come out scorched and scabbed over and still determined.
I’m not trying to act like developing a positive outlook is easy when dealing with mental health issues. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever tried. But i’m a firm believer my long-time coming acceptance of my quirkiness and . . . shall I say, uniqueness, is the reason I can say these words today.
Therefore, take these words how you will. I’ll continue to keep after my goals and make something of myself.