Monday, February 29, 2016

PSA: emotional issues and what to do with them

Today,I'm interrupting my usual nonsense to talk about something serious.

For many years,I've been dealing with some emotional issues. I'm no stranger to depression and self-loathing, and up to this day,I have no idea why my friends even like me, so I decided to just roll with it. 
At the age of 15, I got into selfharming behavior, and I experienced many different aspects of it. I have many scars originating from selfinflicted cuts and burns, I've been overeating,I didn't eat at all,I deprived myself of sleep, I drank myself into complete disorientation.

One of the few things I'm honestly proud of is the fact,that none of my issues ever affected my job since I began working with children about six years ago. Sure,I skipped a lot of school days in connection with those issues,but except for once during my apprenticeship when I had to switch the daycare I was getting trained in anyways due to some additional problems there, I never missed a single day of work due to my mental health.

For years,I wasn't able to talk about these problems at all,but over the last two years I started being more open about it and it helped me quite a bit to manage everyday life,  which is exactly why I decided to talk about it now.

In today's society, mental issues and selfharm are often still treated as taboo, because it indicates you're unhealthy or 'not normal', which I think to be wrong.  It's true,some things that seems normal to others are incredibly and sometimes increasingly hard for me. I don't go downtown without a certain dose of valerian in my system,because I can't stand all those people rushing around, Christmas fair's are a nightmare. I don’t really like parties, a great friday night is me sitting at home alone or with a friend and playing videogames. I rather watch a webcomic artist live-streaming his work than going out clubbing.

Last year, I willingly 'celebrated' my birthday for the first time in over a decade,which translates to 'I had English Breakfast with my best friend and her boyfriend while watching Scrubs on Netflix'.

There are many people who would consider me 'not normal' or 'anti-social'  because of all those things and many more. For a long time, I would have agreed with them. But over the last few years I learned that even though I might be considered 'broken' in some ways, that doesn't make me less of a person, it's just part of what makes me different. And even though it's unpleasant , it doesn't make me different in a bad way. It is just another aspect of who I am.

Over the last 12 years, I had a hard time learning to talk about those things,when they came up. Recently,I began bringing them up if I feel comfortable, so the people who make me feel that way know,what they're dealing with.
Interestingly enough,those who like having you around are okay with that.
Sure,every now and then, there are people who try to badmouth me for 'trying to become the center of attention', which is why I'm still careful about who I trust, but those usually are just random peers accidentally overhearing the conversation.  The same goes for those who say 'you just  need a more positive attitude towards life,and everything will be better', apparently not realizing that they also just could have told me to simply change the gravitational constant of the universe. Shall I learn how to cure cancer by just snapping my fingers,while I'm at it? They would probably also tell someone with a broken leg to 'just walk it off'.

Now,don't get me wrong;I'm not blaming them for not being able to relate to my issues -I'm more likely to envy their luck-, but I'm annoyed by them talking about things they simply don't understand.More often than not, I WAS just smiling, even though I felt like hiding under a blanket and crying. It simple isn't possible to just create a positive outlook towards life, if it feels like you're fighting the world and world is winning.

Sure,if I look back at things now, I realize how incredibly lucky I actually was; but back in the days, I simply couldn't see it. I couldn't see the true amount of support I had. Today, I can and so I am able to say that I got lucky. I'm not really a family person, but if I had known how to just talk to my family, there would have been some support, even though my father or the uncle,who mostly raised me are equally incompetent as I am, when it comes to talk emotions. And while this might sound like a negative or judgmental thing to say,it isn't. If I had known how to say something, they might not have been able to react 'accordingly', but they would have listened. They might not have been able to show it, but a recent situation between them made me realize, they would have cared.

Like I said, I'm not great with family,and it's pretty obvious who caused that,but today I'm not here to play the blame-game.
I mentioned that I was lucky, so let's take a look at that instead: I always had some amazing friends,and even though I mentioned before,that I still don't know why these people are friends with me, they had my back long before I understood it.
Back in elementary school -20 years ago-,I met this one guy. We became friends,I spent a lot of time at his place, his mother showered me with love and treated me like one of her own sons -something I never properly thanked her for, so there is an additional thing I'll have to do, when I see her again at his wedding-, but that wasn't his doing. What did he do for me,that I think so highly of him? Well, first of all, he was there. Sure,back then things were easier,kids played with each other and that was all that was needed to consider each other as friends, but looking back he did a lot more for me. If I look back, I can see now that most of my social contacts for next years somehow were connected to him,so he kinda prevented me from ending up as a loner. But he also took care of me in some other ways: he kept me out of trouble,when I couldn't shut my stupid mouth;he pushed me to take care of my school work.Sure,we didn't discuss any serious things -we were kids,after all-, but he took care of me.
It was only when he had to move away,that I started spiraling down. But thanks to hanging out with some people I mostly knew through him,I got lucky again. The first memory I actually can place somewhere in our shared timeline with my other best friend, is her slapping me across the face for pretending not to know what she's talking about, when she pulled me aside and told me to stop. I'm pretty sure this incident happened before I learned her name, and it turned into a very strong bond. It also led once more to parents who were complete strangers basically adopting me.
When this friend relocated to another town a couple of years ago, I spent quite some time visiting her on my  weekends,meeting new people and finally following her example by moving there last year. 

I made some additional friends of different levels of closeness, too, but these two always have been my center and simply by spending time with me, they provided me with families outside my own,something that to this day still means a lot to me. Not because I dislike my own family -despite all my complaining and my inability to show some affection towards them, I don't -, but because this combination of distance due to being strangers and taking me in as one of their own, I never came to wonder if they just accepted me because we're related. Those people had no reason at all to care for me -after all,I was just a friend of their oldest/youngest child-, but they simply did.
They taught me a value of family I didn't understand in the lessons of my own relatives and took an important role in forging me into a proper human being.

Over the years, my best friends' hard work started to pay off and I slowly but steadily learned to talk about things troubling me. Some other friends who could relate in way or another to my problems helped with that,too, and about two years ago, I tried for the first time to open up to someone who didn't already knew about everything. I started with a small group of Internet-friends who lived on the other side of the world, so if things went badly,it would be easy to cut ties and hide (which I never had to do). A couple of months later, I actually managed to talk openly about some fresh wounds to some of the newly aquainted people in what would be my new hometown about half a year later.

It was a very strange experience. We didn't really know each other that well,I was in a differrnt town,and we were in a gathering of people that had me coming there once per month for a while now, and I suddenly felt like opening up about a part of myself, that I usually worked hard on hiding from most people. I'm not gonna lie, I was terrified and ready to run away and never come back. But despite my fear, they didn't judge me, they didn't make any smart-ass remarks like "I'd never do that to myself", they barely commented on it at all. They just listened and let me talk,while showing silent compassion. The next few days,I was still on the edge,almost certain I never could return, but still,there was nothing. It was never mentioned again,until I recently brought it up myself towards someone of those new friends. And I still didn't get judged;instead I received encouragement for resisting the urges for almost a year at that point.
Since that night, I carefully experimented and sometimes told new people about my story -if I felt comfortable around them-, and once more, I got lucky. I somehow managed to encounter mostly compassion and moral support,only a coworker in my temporary job at the movies played the smartass (after that, I managed to mostly avoid sharing shifts).

Now, why am I telling all this?
A while  ago, I had a fall out with a close friend over a retrospectively little thing,but we recently reconnected. Since we share a similar backstory,it was good for both of us to pick up where we left off. Now said friend is thinking about being more open about it themself, but isn't really sure how to do it yet.

Now, if said friend is reading this, all I can say is this: I can encourage it. If you meet someone who makes you feel comfortable with their company, try to give it a shot. I'm not gonna lie to you: It's not easy. It's scary as as hell. The mere thought made me wanna jump of my chair and run like hell. But somehow I managed not to. And it was one of the smartest decisions I ever made.
It doesn't exactly soften often up the bad things and makes them easy, but it helps enduring them.
It helps, if you can just cancel something because you're having a bad day without getting questioned or having to make something up.
It helps, if you have someone to talk to without feeling guilty for always 'bothering' the same person.
It helps, if you just can be yourself around others,even if they are few and carefully chosen.
So, if someone makes you feel comfortable and willing to be open about yourself, give it a try. And if it's getting too hard,stop. The only one conducting pressure on you,is yourself. Show your subconscious that YOU are the boss. You do what you want,tell what you want, to whoever you want. Nobody but your self has a say in that.
Find an acceptable compromise with yourself. Don't push yourself for more than you can do, but also don't settle for less than you want.
If you wanna go open, find your own rhythm to do so, and if someone gives you negative backlash for it, try not to let that affect your courage (I know,easier said than done),  but take that as sign to reconsider their value for yourself. You don't need people,who won't accept you,who are trying to keep you small, who drag you down.
Going open is a hard task, but it's also a sign of great courage. Just keep in mind that nobody but ourselves can make that decision for us.
Also keep in mind that despite how we feel, we're not weak; we're not broken. We're survivors.

The saying goes that you should walk a mile in someone's shoes before you judge them. In our case,it would mean living a day in our head, and I honestly doubt that those who try to judge would be able to handle that.
We are the ones dealing with that crap.
We are the ones who manage to find ways to cope.
Always keep in mind that there's nothing wrong with you,just because your health isn't perfect. Everyone has his baggage, ours might just be a little different, and that's totally okay. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.

I decided to tell this today,because this day marks an important milestone for me: due to my ongoing learning process about myself and the increasing ability to be open about my issues, today marks the first anniversary of me resisting the urges to deliberately inflict harm to myself. I have a lot of people to thank for their support,I doubt that I'd made it this far without all of you. You picked me up,when I was down,you carried me,when wasn't able to crawl. You put up with me,when I couldn't even stand myself and you slowed me down, when I tried too push myself too far. You looked out for me without any obligation to do so. You listened to me japping and whining time and time again without  complaining even once about it, and you never even expected a 'thank you'.

I mentioned a few important people who carried me for years in the upper paragraphs, but even those of you,who I didn't mention explicitly ,I'm also thankful for having you. Those who sat through the drunk complaints of someone who was basically a stranger back then;those who I never met in person,yet you spend your precious free time listening to my complaints on Skype or wherever we met online; those who put up with my crap and still decided 'yup,I want to be friends with this person'. Each and everyone of you, thank you!

Bottom line: if your mind isn't your friend,it doesn't mean there's something wrong with you, it just means you're even more incredible for still being around.
If you know someone,who has to deal with such a problem and you are patient with them -even though if it might not be easy sometimes,since they tend to fight themselves and you can't actively help-, you deserve a medal,too
You rock, all of you!

~Kirby out

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