It Can Be Overcome: How I Cope with Depression


me_in_conn

By Steve Crowley

I’m going to try and keep this piece relatively short but I can’t make any promises. Once I open up and start writing about things like this, I’m not exactly sure what will come out or where it will lead. For starters, I’ve been dealing with depression and slight anxiety for as long as I can remember.

Coupled with that, I also have cerebral palsy. Mine isn’t as bad as a lot of other cases but I do walk with a significant limp and have difficultly performing certain tasks that most would have no trouble with. This might surprise some but if I had the choice of getting rid of the palsy or the depression, I would eliminate the depression, hands down.

The cerebral palsy is obviously visible. People can tell I’m dealing with something. They most likely don’t know what, but they know something isn’t as it should be. But more importantly to me, it’s the same day in and day out. It’s not like I woke up one morning and was like, “Shit, I can’t run a mile today because my leg is fucked up.” That’s always been the case and it always will be the case. I know what I can do with it and I know what I can’t do with it. Many things I do in my own way. Sure, I get some strange looks if I’m a crab walking down the side of a hill during a hike because it’s the easiest and most efficient way for me to get to point B. I couldn’t care in the least. It’s one way I deal with what’s been given to me.

The depression, on the other hand, is a totally different animal altogether. No one can see it, no one knows I’m dealing with it unless I say something (which I never do) and the worst part is that it can show up unexpectedly at any time. And on top of all that, there are varying severities of it as well. Some days I have very little energy (that’s the worst of it) and on others I want to keep to myself and not be around anyone. At the worst of times, I constantly think about taking my own life. But with a lot of conscious effort, those really bad days don’t come around so often any more. And that’s what I want to focus on in this piece: explaining some of the things I do to make my depression not as formidable as it once was.

For years I tried battling it the “traditional” way with counseling and medication with very limited results. Part of the problem was that, for whatever reason, my cerebral palsy leaves me with odd sensitivities to certain foods and most drugs—both the fun ones and the prescribed ones. So while some medications would make it even more difficult for me to walk, another might make it nearly impossible for me to get it up and to me not being able to walk and/or have sex is more depressing than having depression. The best results I had were when a drug would work great for six months and then be absolutely worthless after that. So needless to say I needed to find something other than prescription drugs to help me get through or prevent these low points.

After some time (and trial and error), I came across a combination of things that really help keep me happy, build self-esteem and fight off these funks. I know people aren’t robots or machines so everything that works for me won’t be the exact things that do the trick for someone else, but I still thought it could be beneficial to share them. For the sake of length and simplicity, I’m just going to list the items and give a brief description if I feel it’s necessary.

  • I’m kind to myself. I don’t beat myself up for making mistakes.
  • I’m kind to others. It doesn’t do anyone any good to judge others and put them down.
  • It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s helped me tremendously.
  • I like to help my friends whenever possible with no expectations of anything in return.
  • Continuously volunteering in my community has had an enormous, positive impact on my life
  • Eating healthy.
  • Not spending a lot of time on electronics (phone, TV, etc).
  • Spending time outdoors.
  • Deep conversations.
  • I try my best not to give a shit what others think of me.
  • Consuming very little alcohol and no other recreational drugs.
  • I try to quickly dispel any negative thoughts, and not dwell on them.
  • This one can be tricky but it’s might be the most important. I try to always be doing something that I love. I’m not crazy about my job, it brings me no joy whatsoever so I do projects here and there that do make me happy. I work on my writing, I brew beer and am trying to open a brewpub, I also want to open a place where kids can come and meditate, no matter their experience level.
  • Lastly, I’m always trying to make myself a better person. The key is I don’t put overwhelming pressure on myself to do so. I just give myself little, encouraging, mental nudges when I need them.

That might seem like a lot but it’s not as difficult as you might think. If I slack on a few of them, it’s not the end of the world. It’s when I’m doing almost none of those things that I find myself in trouble. I’ve followed this guideline for nearly two years now and have only had one bout of depression the entire time and that’s because I allowed it to happen.  I was drinking heavily almost every day. I wasn’t meditating, I was eating like garbage, my heart wasn’t in my volunteering, and all I was doing with my free time was watching TV and playing video games. That’s basically a recipe for sadness and self-loathing. But I slowly put the pieces together and got back on track.

The key is that you have to play with it. I didn’t come up with this list overnight; I had to look deep inside myself and really analyze practically every move that I made. The things that brought be down, I slowly cut out of my life and that unfortunately included some people I used to be close with. The things that brought me happiness, joy and raised my vibration, I slowly kept incorporating. I imagine you’ll have to do the same. There are many tools and support systems to help you with your fight against mental illness. As cliche as it may sound, you just have to keep your head up and know that you’re not alone.

It can be overcome.

Advertisements

Fight to the Death…But Not Too Much: Picking and Choosing Battles


“Choose your battles wisely. After all, life isn’t measured by how many times you stood up to fight. It’s not winning battles that makes you happy, but it’s how many times you turned away and chose to look into a better direction. Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most, most, most important ones, let the rest go.”

—C. JoyBell C., Writer and Blogger

Ladies and gentlecats,

I’m the first to say that I’m a Ride or Die when it comes to debating.

When I smell any type of nonsensical boondoggle and I know it causes harm to me or someone else, I advocate and will do so loudly if need be.  Yes, the debating can involve certain types of politics, but it usually involves me protecting myself and someone else from harm if I deem it necessary.

However, I found that I have difficultly turning off the Debating Society that dwells within me.  Even when someone is trying to talk sense into me, in the back of my mind the Committee is writing down counterarguments that rebuts the opponent’s valid or invalid points.  The Committee brainstorms with one another like this:

Image

The Committee writes my material when I let them and, no matter how irrational my thinking seems to get at times, I am in the right–especially when I see and sense bullshit.  To me, that is being honest and just…

Right?

Well, I’m starting to realize that being right and just doesn’t work everywhere.  I am beginning to find that I cannot just say what my Committee sees and writes.  I find that, depending on where I am, I can’t call everyone out on their boondoggle because it can cost me my standing in the community, my standing in school and my standing in my places of employment.  Which means I can’t insult my bosses when I see that they are about generating income through their employees or straight up and flat out inform my professors that I am angry because I don’t understand what they are teaching (I actually said this to one of my research professors and she wasn’t exactly down with that to say the very least).  I even found myself fighting people who are trying to help me by regurgitating whatever my Committee writes down.

I even fight entire systems and their rules/regulations.  I don’t understand why I have to be civil to cops when they pull me over and give me a ticket.  I don’t see why I shouldn’t tell a professor how much I hate research and that I want nothing to do with it.  I do not understand why creative people like me are not given the chance to be creative in the school setting.  Why are these people talking to me again?  But most of all, I fight other people–especially if I KNOW their actions are harming others.  I am nowhere near perfect and I know I can never be.  But I hate watching people getting manipulated before my very eyes.  And not only do I fume over it, I say something about to the point of being harshly direct.  Sometimes I will see what I consider injustice and want to slap the taste out of someone’s month like this:

Image

When I get to that point, my SAA sponsor calls it “The Meeka Fight.”  The Meeka Fight is one that involves me fighting everything and everyone to the point of getting tired and frustrated.  It involves intense ruminating, either replaying past scenarios or playing future conflicts in my mind.  Either way, it is all in my head and I am thinking the worst.  My Fight has positive attributes because I am advocating for myself in ways that I was never granted me as a child.  There is also the downside because I have been accused of finger pointing and harboring irrational thinking.  No matter where the pendulum swings, I end up tired and resentful towards the people I have issues with and, while they are sleeping peacefully, I harbor distrust towards them.

I am writing this because almost everyone I know who are recovering addicts of some sort tend to struggle with not choosing battles wisely.  When we were out there, we only cared about ourselves and about winning some sort of intellectual pissing contest.  The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous (1952) emphasizes that “We [alcoholics] have not once sought to be one in a family, to a be a friend among friends, to be a worker among workers, to be a useful member of society.  Always we tried to struggle to the top of the heap, or to hide underneath it.  This self-centered behavior blocked a partnership relation with any one of those about us.  Of true brotherhood we had small comprehension” (p. 53).

In other words, by letting our Committees do all the writing and not using common sense, people who argue excessively push people away in the name of conflict.  And it makes no sense to do that.  So what I am learning is that I have to choose and pick my battles wisely.  After yet another incident that happened between me and someone else, I learned these important tips:

  1. NEVER argue with people whom you know are irrational.  If this person or group of people are known for being out of their minds, why mess yourself up?
  2. NEVER argue when you’re hungry, angry, lonely and/or tired.  I got into it with a former classmate recently when I was in this state.  That day was a shitty one and I let this person bait me into an argument over something that happened a couple of weeks ago.  In retrospect, I was not in the frame of mind to talk to anyone and now I know better.
  3. Ask yourself if it’s the issue at hand is worth debating.  Sometimes, people say and do shit that makes no sense and will stand by their decision.  What is worse is some of these people are authority figures or have a position of power.  Therefore, it is best to hold your peace and either walk away from these people or let them “win” the debate.
  4. Pray for guidance.  There were times when I prayed to Spirit to guide my words.  I have a big mouth and I will say ANY type of crazy phrase that comes to mind!  But when I have enough sense to give my troubles to Spirit, every word seems to be less threatening and more sound to the other person.
  5. Don’t argue via Facebook, Twitter, text or email.  This is the MOST important tip I can give anyone.  Due to the absence of body language and voice influx, people misinterpret what is being said, especially when “talking” about hot issues such as politics and religion.  What initially begins as a fruitful discussion will manifest into a no-win, ad hominem internet brawl between people who most likely don’t even KNOW each other, which is stupid (for lack of better terms).  So don’t do it!
  6. WALK AWAY!!!  I have done this many times because I realized that I cannot stoop to the other person’s level.  There are people in this world who are so out of touch with reality that you really have no way or reason to even speak to them when they get crazy.  When this is the case, it’s just best to keep it moving.

Being right all the time is not possible, so why argue with everyone?  I’m not saying, Reader, that you have to let shit slide.  By all means, speak up when you witness injustice (CopWatch, anyone?).  But when you sense that shit is about to get real and you have way too much at stake physically, emotionally and psychologically, then it’s your Higher Spirit telling you to let it go.

References

Author unknown (1952).  Twelve Steps and Twelves Traditions.  New York, NY:  Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc.

C. JoyBell C. (2012).  “About This Author.”  Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4114218.C_JoyBell_C_

Yes Means Yes! No Means No!: Fighting Against the Redefinition of Rape


“However we dress, 

Wherever we go,

Yes means yes,

No means no!!”

–Take Back The Night chant

When I was a Senior at the College at Brockport, I participated in and volunteered for an event called Take Back The Night.  For those who aren’t familiar with Take Back The Night, this historical event took place in Philadelphia in 1975 after a woman was fatally stabbed while walking home from class.  Decades later, Take Back The Night has called for the safety of all women–especially those who were sexually assaulted.

I bring this up because not only is it a cause I care deeply about, but because sexual abuse of any sort leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  So when I read stories about the Republican party attempting to redefine rape as a “method of conception”, the rage that boils within me eats me alive and I fear that I’ll just blackout and end someone’s life.  Take Paul Ryan for instance.  He recently conducted an interview about Representative William Todd Akin, a Missouri Republican Congressman who states that when a woman is raped, her body “shuts down” thus making itself unable to become pregnant.  Oh, here he is:

Image
Douchebag Number 1

I know.  I also said “What the motherfuck??” when I heard about this. But then he initially receives support from Paul Ryan, the human wad of wet tissue paper running as Vice President alongside Mitt Romney.  In case you don’t know who the hell he is, here’s a picture:

Image
Douchebag Number 2 AND he doesn’t blink.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I could care less about the two-party system and the drama that comes with it.  Furthermore, I am NOT the type of Radical Leftist who hate every Conservative that crosses the frequency of my radio when I listen to NPR (though I’m very much a Radical Leftist).  But what infuriates me is that what Ryan and Akin are saying and doing is nothing new or shocking.  Rape is one of the most heinous crimes ever committed against any person–no matter the age or gender.  In regions such as the Congo and Afghanistan, rape is used as a weapon of war or ethnic cleansing method against women and young children.  In the Middle East, young boys are raped by men old enough to be their fathers, but it’s not not called rape but bacha bazi–meaning “pretty boy” in the native language.

Yet rape–and the concept of it–is not even taken seriously.  In every part of the world, the victim is always at fault, no matter the circumstances.  In fact, it is more difficult for a sexual assault victim to receive support from law enforcement, the judicial system, society and, in some cases, their own families than one who has been through any other sort of trauma.  And the governments make it no better when the majority of the Representatives and their supporters rally against laws that would bring justice down on perpetrators.  For instance, the Child Victims Act has been rejected by the New York State government since 2005.  If passed, this law will allow adult survivors of sexual abuse to press charges against their perpetrator five years after the state’s statute of limitations.  This is an important law because it would give survivors the opportunity to seek justice as well as give them a voice.  However, organizations connected to the Jewish and Catholic community successfully rally against this law, stating that those now coming forward should not be allowed to press charges years after the crime.

I have other examples, but you get the point, Readers.  I just want to point out something and then I’ll let you go. This Republican war to redefine rape is not just about the violation of someone’s body.  Rape is about breaking the spirit of the person it’s happening to.  It’s about controlling that person’s entire way of living and how they view themselves as a human being.  In terms of rape being deemed “another method of conception,” that’s basically saying that the child should come into the world at any cost–even if it means that the mother may not want the burden of explaining to that child how he or she came to be.  Or worse, placing that child in the position of being abused because he or she is the constant reminder of what happened.  It’s not fair to either mother or child.

I am writing all of this because this bullshit has to end.  This redefining trauma for the sake of not wanting to deal with it has to end because it won’t help matters.  If anything, it perpetuates the cycle of violence and the only way to break that cycle is to educate ourselves and others.

And to fight.  Always fight.

Living Life on Life’s Terms: Relying on the Serenity Prayer


“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

—The Serenity Prayer

Ladies and Gentlecats,

This has been too much of a rough couple of weeks for me.

First and foremost, I lost my driver’s license because–unbeknownst to me–I was driving around on a suspended license.  Not only was my car towed, but I couldn’t drive anywhere for two weeks.  During that period, I was training to be a Volunteer Rape Crisis Counselor.  However, because I missed too many hours (on Friday, I had to go an Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting that didn’t even happen and on Saturday I got the times of the training mixed up), I was told I couldn’t complete the training at that time.  This was AFTER I waited two years for an opportunity like this to appear before me.  As far as my car goes, I had to go to court and was told by the town judge that I have to come back in September.  Turns out that driving on a suspended license is a misdemeanor and the possibility of being in jail for about six months looms over my head. Therefore, a lawyer has to get involved or I’m locked up like this female here.

Image

You would think that that would be the end of the story, but it is most certainly not.  Today, the muffler fell off my car while I was driving home from church and yesterday I found out via a former professor’s email that I failed Research for the third time.  This is extremely crucial because, unless I appeal her decision, I will be removed from the Social Work Program and I won’t get the Master’s degree I’m working hard towards.

Now, don’t get me wrong:  some of these troubles are self-inflicted.  Me losing my license for a couple of weeks stem from me not paying a traffic ticket some months back AND forgetting about it.  The only reason why I am not a Rape Crisis Counselor is because I 1) did not prioritize and 2) I didn’t pay close attention to the damn time. Though I will get to be a Crisis Counselor in the future, I was still hard on myself for a few days because the mistake was preventable.  But then there are some issues worth fighting like the fact that my Research group mates used the group evaluations to throw me under the bus and my freedom to walk outside instead of being in jail like Madea.

All in all, that was a hard couple of fucking weeks and there’s a part of me waiting for the sky to fall.  I’m now on edge, thinking some storm is going to brew and strike me at some random moment.  And the cloud is growing and stirring and I don’t know if I can handle another setback as massive as this:

Image

I cried at church today because not only am I tired of fighting, I am tired of having major setbacks bitch slap me in the face.  The Research course was the straw that broke the camel; I began to ask myself whether I was even meant to be a Social Worker or a licensed therapist.  If so, I told myself, I would not be going through these problems in the program.  Is this not my calling after all?  Is this pay back for all my past misdeeds? (Oh yes, I took it there). When I got home, I announced on Facebook that I failed the Research course.  I received the support I needed and then some.  However, one friend shared these words with me:

“In Zen practice and Buddhism at large, all experiences may serve to awaken and deepen our awareness and compassion. If you can, consider it an opportunity to practice compassion for self and others. Also, remember the program. You have plenty of tools from that too. I find the Serenity Prayer quite helpful in sorting things out when I am in situations like your current one. You will get the degree eventually.”

The important words here are these:  Serenity Prayer. For those who know the Serenity Prayer, it goes like this:

Image

 There is a much longer version of this prayer, but the first part of it is very well known among everyone in the 12 Step circuit.  I cannot tell you how many times that pray kept me from either drinking or acting out sexually.  Even during these two weeks with all that shit going on, I wanted to act out very badly.  Even today, I recited the Serenity Prayer in my head repeatedly as I cried because, if not, my best thinking would have me think the most negative.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because those who have suffered from trauma in the past need something positive and healthy to help with coping.  Many of us were out there “rippin’ and runnin'” in order to deal with everyday life.  We couldn’t (or wouldn’t) live on life’s terms, so we became self-destructive and/or let our Dark Passengers play with us as if we were puppets.  At least that’s what I did.

But after being sober for a while, I realized for myself that there are certain issues in my life that are beyond my control and some not so much.  Either way, I have to place everything in Spirit’s hands and not try to run everything by self-will.  Furthermore, Spirit is not punishing me for the past nor does Spirit want me to fail at life.  Life happens and there are lessons to be learned here.  No matter what happens, I have to believe that I am going to be fine and whatever my desires are, they are going to be fulfilled in Spirit’s time, not mine.  The Serenity Prayer reminds me of this fact and when I work my Programs and reach out to others, I can think clearly enough to make my next move.