It Can Be Overcome: How I Cope with Depression


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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.

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Going on Hiatus: What I’m Learning Through Celibacy


“I tend to agree that celibacy for a time is worth considering, for sex is dirty if all it means is winning a man, conquering a woman, beating someone out of something, abusing each other’s dignity in order to prove that I am a man, I am a woman.”

Toni Cade Bambara, author

 

Today I’m scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook when something one of my friend’s posted catches my attention.

It’s a clip from My Mad Fat Diary, a British television series about a young girl named Rae who is released from a psychiatric ward.  I haven’t watched it recently, but I do consider it one of the best teen shows I’ve ever been introduced to.  It touches upon everything from Rae’s going through: self-harming, body issues, fitting into a society and a time period that doesn’t discuss certain issues openly (the show is set in the 90s—the year of Brownstreet and Oasis).

And then there’s her relationship with her boyfriend, Finn Nelson.

Well, speaking of him, he’s lying on Rae’s bed in the clip.  While Rae herself is mentally agonizing over whether Finn is even able to pleasure her sexually, he seems to do by massaging her clitoris with this thumb.  Not only is Rae’s surprised by the fact that he could pleasure her, but she describes the moment with a comedic, yet genuine innocence as dubs Finn a Sex Wizard.

After watching the clip, I think about it the majority of the day.  If anything, I think about Rae’s reaction to her boyfriend’s touch, her words, the look on her face as she imagines the universe as she enjoys as describes their experience with the act.  Correction:  her experience.  I witness her genuine connection with Finn—one that is proves to be important to her regardless of the nature of their interactions.

It’s also something that I wish I’ve been granted when I was her age.

At the age of five, my aunt Joyce introduces me to porn she somehow steals from my uncle Tony.  As she closes the door, I’d plop down on her bed and follow her every move when she slides the tape into the VCR.  Soon we would both watch these adults, these complete strangers do things to one another my young mind cannot comprehend.  I remember feeling the thrill of doing something secretive, forbidden despite the fear of being caught.  But we never are; by age eight, I begin watching Joyce and my cousin Chuckie having sex after I ask if I could.  By the age of ten, she would have sex with me because I too wish to do what those strangers in the videos have done.

I don’t know what I’m doing, to be honest.  I just know that it feels good and it’s the first time I am not beaten, ridiculed or yelled at for little to no reason.  It’s shameful, but it’s quiet.  And I feel something else: beautiful.  I’ve been called and perceived as ugly throughout my entire childhood and into my adult years.  So whenever I have sex, I feel that I can finally consider myself physically attractive enough to catch someone’s attention.

I chase that feeling for many years, engaging in unhealthy sexual relationships—sometimes using little to no protection.  I would meet complete strangers online or bring them back to my apartment to have sex. I’d travel long distances just to be with partners who would emotionally harm me in the long run.  I’d use sex in order to maintain “intimate” relationships with people I wish to actually be with and would become next to suicidal when things fall apart.  I’m not completely innocent in any of this.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve harassed, cursed out and even verbally assaulted someone I’ve been with—especially if they moved on to someone else.

The worst of my behavior has occurred in my early 20s.

Fast forward to 2016. I decide to become celibate after growing tired of the emotional and mental stress that comes with being sexual for all the wrong reasons.  I’ve tried it before in my 20s, but my fear of never having sex again prevents me from going longer than a month.  But after not seeing my sexual partner for about a month and constantly feeling as if I’m trying to mold him into the monogamist he could never be, I tell him that I don’t want to be with him—or anyone else—until further notice.

Since becoming celibate two months ago, I notice a trend:  the mere thought of having sex with another person causes me anxiety and depression. Even cuddling with someone is very much out of the question and the most I can do these days is a hug.  When I had been sexually active, I would use sex as a means to connect, feel disconnected from my body.  In my mind, it has never belonged to me, but to the person (or people) I am “with.”  But because I’m becoming more protective of my body, I find that I don’t trust my intentions or that of the other person when it comes to touching. When people hug me for long periods, I wonder if they are doing so to sexualize me or take possession of my body…of me.

At the same time, I feel and recognize the power of having a choice.  And my choice is to find out who I am without this need to connect through sexual contact.  It is only when I watch the clip featuring Rae and Finn that I’m further reminded that all I wish to do is experience love making with someone I love and on my own terms once I’ve healed from the sexual trauma.

I’m sharing all the gory details, Readers, not only for therapeutic reasons but because you too deserve and have the right to experience sex your way and at your own volition.  You have every right to not give someone access to your body, mind and your very core unless you feel comfortable—regardless of your gender and that of those who wish to have your time.

 

 

 

 

A Reason, Season and a Lifetime: Lessons From a Wedding Picture


My Mama always said you’ve got to put the past behind you before you can move on.
– Forrest Gump

 

I accidentally found out that one of my exes is married.

I wrote about him a few times on here, but every once in a while, I happen to stumble upon either mentally and emotionally.  But this time?  It was through Facebook.

I needed to re-add someone to the “Leonard H. McCoy” fan page I admin and, after realizing I blocked her from my personal account, I went to the searched for, found and scrolled down to the “Privacy Settings” before clicking on the link.  Sure enough, I found and unblocked the person I was looking for.  However, my eyes also fell upon “Indiana’s” and name and that of  his…now wife?

Say what??

For some reason, I thought to myself “No…really?”  Out of curiosity, I unblocked him and went to his profile.  It had been a couple of years since I even laid eyes on anything pertaining to him.

But  as I looked at those pictures–TRULY examined them–I saw that he was happy, his eyes illuminating with contentment, holding the hand of the woman he is most likely going to spend the rest of his life with.

I noticed that I wasn’t bitter or felt a smoldering heat rise within my body.  What I felt was heart ache and a sadness that was soul deep.  And it had nothing to do with him.

Let me explain.  I was not in love with him and time helped realized that we were not meant to be–we were totally two different people.  But I have to admit that I used him as a human shield to protect me from myself–from my feelings of inadequacy and self-proclaimed worthlessness.  I assured myself with a shadow of confidence that, because he slept with me more than once and told me he loved me, that I didn’t need to fix myself or face my Dark Passenger.  Since Indiana was here, I didn’t need or want anything else to protect me.

So when he left, it was one of the most anxiety-ridden periods in my life and one of the most devastating.  He not only left (though I knew he was going to.  He hated New York State), but he left me…with me.  And the Dark Passenger, who wants me spiritually and physically dead.

Hence, when I found out about his new relationship, I made sure that we were engaged in many a fallout.  I was angry at his then new girlfriend for “taking my shield.”  That was what pissed me off the most, not the fact that he moved on and he wasn’t there to protect me anymore.  No one was there. At 29, I was left with me, my Dark Passenger and my own fears of constantly fighting my emotional demons.

Fast forward to four years.  I am at my internship looking at this happy married couple on the computer screen during my break, quickly wiping away tears, wondering why this keeps happening: either getting involved with someone, only to have the relationship end and months later see them be happy with someone else or me wanting to get involved with them, but they end being with someone else.  I found myself wondering whether or not I was even relationship or marriage material, so flawed and broken that potential partners sense my character defects and therefore wanted no part of me.

At the same time, the responsibility ultimately falls on my shoulders.  When I was with Indiana, I was also very active in my sex addiction.  Though we cared about each other at the time, I attempted to hold our relationship together with sex.  This seemed to be the case for all my relationships because I simply didn’t know any better.  Now I do and, at 32 years of age, I now acknowledge and feel in my heart that it’s my responsibility and a gift to myself to finally move on, doing the work needed to be at peace with myself.  Which means I accept who I am–good, bad, indifferent–and know in my heart that there’s more to me than heartache.  It means that I view myself as flawed but not broken and that my past is something I can’t do anything about but to learn from.  It means that, in order to be with myself or anyone else, I have to live life–embrace it with a heart devoid of hopelessness, self-proclaimed unworthiness and self-doubt.  I am not branded, insane or sick.  I never was.   A few friends told me that people stay in our lives for a reason, a season and a lifetime and Indiana was a seasonal person.  In fact, all my relationships were with seasonals and, until I make the necessary changes in my life, I will never meet a lifetime partner.   I accept this fact now and the seasonals only taught me that I deserve better than what they were capable of giving me.

There is nothing wrong with me.

I’m glad I saw those pictures.  It gives me the opportunity to realize that I too can move on now.  I don’t have to hold onto him or deem myself broken.  If he can start over with a completely clean slate, I don’t see why I cannot.  But I also understand that it’s ok to grieve. I talked about my relationship with Indiana, I never fully grieved.  I would cry, harass and berate, but I never grieved.  Now I feel I can do that without self-judgement, but not let it cripple me, either.  Lastly, I have the support of close friends, family, Spirit and my spirit guides.  They were always there, but they were all waiting for me wake up and embrace my True Personal and Spiritual Power.

In other words, it’s ok to love and be loved.  To begin embracing all that I am. To live long

To prosper.

Blessing in Disguise: What I Learned While Living in Survival Mode


“When you are as a human being in survival mode, order disappears”
― Harry Kim, actor and director

Ladies and gentlecats,

I am glad the semester is over.

Extremely glad.

Of all the semesters I experienced thus far, this Fall semester was the most difficult. It is not because of the workload (in fact, the material was not mind-shattering hard).  However, it was the content of the material in each class and what that that content was doing to me.

Let me explain.

All three of my classes focused on trauma and trauma-informed care, which stems from the mindset that everyone suffers from some form of trauma.  This also means that we focused on the extreme forms of trauma such as various forms of abuse and maltreatment. Even in my human rights course, the material focused more on trauma and what it does to a person’s psyche.

Now folks, you know my history, but I have to admit that I have only recently sought treatment to combat and overcome my past.  So with stories of sexual abuse (or any type of abuse) slapping me in the face, I found myself not even enjoying the learning process.  If anything, I just tried to do everything to hide my discomfort–all to no avail.

Over the course of the semester, I found myself becoming more hypersensitive to my surroundings by watching almost everyone who walked into a room.  If there were too many people, I left because I am no longer able to observe everyone.  I would become overwhelmed, start crying but then would wipe my tears and tell myself to “pull it together.” If I didn’t become easily agitated about something that happened at school or otherwise, I would shut down and not say anything at all.  Because of the research course debacle over the summer, I no longer trust the administration at the college to have my best interest in mind. That distrust only increased when one of my professors allowed a student to come into her office while she and I were having a private conversation.

Even my personal life began to fall apart.  I don’t have any income at the moment, so I am not able to pay bills and rent (though I will be working in January).  So I feel very overwhelmed with that and I noticed that my sex addiction is kicking up and have sometimes acted out on my impulses.  I felt like a complete failure at life, thinking that I never can be much of anything, let alone an effective social worker.  I, once again, compared myself to the “rock stars” of the social work program and found myself lacking.

I even didn’t want to be around people or tell anyone what was going on inside of me. I told myself that no one wanted to hear my sob story and I had to suck it up and function.  No time for tears.  It’s time to do that paper…about sexually abused African American children.

It’s no wonder I wrote that paper at the last minute.

The straw broke it when my friend committed suicide, only to find out about it a month after it happened.  I’m talking about my friend’s death in therapy, with tears coming down from my eyes and wiping them away quickly.  That was when she brought up the fact that I’m not allowing myself to grieve.  And she’s right.  Because I’m in survival mode and it’s catching up with me.  Even before the semester ended, I locked myself into my room and did not come out unless I had to use the bathroom or eat.  If I did leave, it was to hide my discomfort around the fact that I isolated to that extent.

And so is my emotional and mental state.  When I was talking to my friend Colleen on the phone one day about what was going on with me, she said something I couldn’t deny anymore:

“You may have PTSD.”

I have often suspected that something was going on with me, but did not know what it was.  I studied PTSD and Complex PTSD in my psychopathology course, but thought nothing of it. But as time has gone by, I wonder if I have Complex PTSD.  For those who do not know the difference between PTSD and Complex PTSD is that the former is triggered by one traumatic event whereas Complex PTSD is triggered by prolonged exposure to trauma in general.  The symptoms include (but not limited to) identity disturbances, avoidance, blaming and fear of abandonment.  There is also emotional irregulation and the tendency to isolate from others.  I am not the one to diagnose myself, but this information and my behaviors throughout the years prompted me to schedule a PTSD screening.  I set up an appointment with my therapist, who told me I was getting a screening soon.

I am telling you all of this, Reader, because if you suspect that you have PTSD, Complex PTSD, Borderline Personality Disorder or any other type of anxiety disorder, speak up.  Talk to a healthcare professional and have him or her to refer you to a specialist in your area.  Don’t hide what is going on out of fear of being labeled “weak.”  Hiding pain and emotional/mental distress not a sign of strength, but a meltdown waiting to happen.  I’m telling now, I was this a couple of weeks ago:

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And this:

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But I now know I don’t have to live in isolation any longer.  I’m beginning to realize I have friends and I can lean on them when I am about to have an episode.  I have Spirit with me always and I feel that best part of this semester is seeing that I can reach out and get help.  I don’t have to keep it together anymore and it’s not my job to do so.  I don’t have to live in survival mode and you don’t have to live that way either.

Ever.

References

Think Exist (2012).  “Harry Kim Quotes.”  Retrieved from http://thinkexist.com/quotation/when-you-are-as-a-human-being-in-a-survival-mode/648487.html