I don’t deserve it

I’ve lately been rewatching LittleKuriboh’s “We’re Still Here” series about his journey and recovery and struggles with depression. (Watch it here. I really recommend it). He reminded me of one of the greatest struggles that I’m still working to overcome: the feeling that I don’t deserve it (it being happiness, friends, anything good).

First of all, that’s a really common feeling when you’re in the throes of depression. “I’m worthless,” “Why should I have good things?” “”I’m such a burden,” “This is normal. Being sad is normal. Happy is abnormal,” et cetera. It’s that last idea that I want to focus on today.

When you struggle with depression, the depression becomes you. Your entire life is filtered through the depression and that becomes the new normal. You can’t imagine being happy, because it is such a foreign concept. And then there’s the part of you that says, “You don’t deserve it. Why should you be happy?” And because your mental illness is your whole being, or that’s what it feels like, you believe that part of you.

One thing to know is that you’re wrong. Just straight up wrong. You do deserve it, and constant sadness and pain shouldn’t be what is normal.

But even when you’re recovering this thought comes up pretty often. “I’m feeling better, but why should I be?” “This isn’t what I should be,” “This happiness will go away and then I’ll be sad again.” There are times over the process of my recovery where I have bad days. Everyone has bad days, but people with mental illness tend to have worse bad days than others (overall, not absolutely). But on those bad days my first two thoughts are “Thank god. This is normal. This is comfortable” and “This is what I deserve.” But I didn’t deserve it. It wasn’t normal to be sad, even if it was more comfortable because that’s what I was used to. But it’s not what I deserved. I deserve to be happy, and so do you.

I remember a time where I was crying to my ex-boyfriend, saying “I just want to be happy” and he told me happiness was a myth, and that no one was really happy. I didn’t believe him, and it turns out, part of why he thought that was he was struggling with undiagnosed depression. Happiness is achievable. You won’t be happy all the time or every day – life comes with ups and downs. But being able to achieve happiness and work through those ups and downs, that’s what we work for.

Modern Job Hunting: Shouting into the Void

I am in the process of looking for jobs. It’s a hard market, though perhaps not as hard as a few years ago, but sometimes it feels impossible to find a job. It’s like shouting into the void and waiting for the void to shout back.

You send your resume and cover letter into an email box full of resumes and cover letters, with no guarantee that yours will even be read. I know that it was like that in the past as well, even when you had to submit paper applications there was no guarantee that your resume would be read, but there’s one major difference as far as I can tell. In this day and age there is almost no way to follow up. Most places have online applications, or you apply through an online job board. You get a confirmation email that says “resume received” but it’s not from a real person, it’s from a do-not-reply mailbot. There’s no phone number and no email to send them a follow up – and that’s the way the organizations want it. They don’t want people to follow up. That’s my theory anyway. Sometimes you send your resume and cover letter directly to a person via email – and that’s the best. You can actually send that same person another email later to check in. If you’re lucky, they’ll reply to you and their signature will have a phone number in it so you can call. But most of the time it doesn’t work that way.

Furthermore, since it is much easier to apply to jobs online, there are more candidates for more jobs all over the country, and that makes it less likely you will be called in for an interview or hired. It can feel pretty hopeless applying for a job nowadays, especially an entry level job where you can make enough money to support yourself. And that’s not to mention all the competition for minimum-wage retail, food, and other service jobs – because “higher level” jobs are so difficult to get. You end up with people, with degrees or not, working jobs they’re overqualified for and not getting the experience they need to move on in their field. Then there’s the people working two or three minimum wage jobs just to survive. It’s ridiculous.

I am, fortunately or unfortunately, only looking for short term contract work, because I am going back to school in the fall. That allows me to easily use temp agencies and get interviews for exactly what I’m looking for. Temp agencies are a great resource for people looking for jobs, as they can get you into places you might not be able to get into yourself, for a short period of time, or perhaps even temporary to permanent positions. It’s something I recommend to people who are struggling right now.

It’s a tough job market, and it’s tough being a real person with a job, especially when you’re a young adult. But don’t give up. You may get 100 “no”s before you get one “yes” but you’ll still get that “yes” eventually. But it’s a long, hard, and discouraging path. I’m on it too. So let’s go forward together.

Being an Adult: I don’t wanna be told to grow up

Growing up happens whether you want it to or not, but it’s hard being an adult, especially an adult with a mental illness. I graduated from college, tried to function in the so-called real world for about a year as my depression and anxiety got exponentially worse, and then for a year and a half I was in and out of hospitals and trying to adjust medications and therapies and basically just put myself together in a way that I could function.

I developed a lot of bad habits in that year and a half. I became very sedentary (not that I was particularly gung-ho about exercising before, but it got worse) because even getting out of bed in the morning was a struggle. I stopped eating three meals a day, and was lucky if I ate one. I wouldn’t shower every day, and I would sleep all the time. Doing just one thing a day tired me out. I could bring myself to go to my therapy appointment, but I couldn’t do anything other than that during the day.

That brings me to now, where I am unemployed, full of bad habits that I’m trying to break, and generally still not functioning particularly well as an adult, even though I am functioning as a person much better. It’s easy enough for me now to get out of bed, but showering every day, eating all the time, exercising? That’s still hard. But I have all this energy now that I didn’t before and I have nothing to put it into. I don’t have a job, and all my friends are working, so I don’t have anybody to hang out with during the day. Now that it’s getting to be spring I can go outside, but I haven’t been able to do that the past few months. Winter makes it easier to be sedentary. I’ve been looking for jobs so I, too, can have something to do during the day and begin my life as a self-sustaining adult, but I don’t have one yet.

But right now I feel like I’m living a sad, lonely life. I’m bored all the time, and I feel like everyone is moving forward without me. I’m stuck. I feel functional now, but I am in a place where I am still acting like I’m dysfunctional. Adulting is hard for every young adult. It’s a transitional period. But I see my friends who have jobs getting up and going to work like adults, then being too tired or just plain not wanting to hang out in the evenings. It makes me feel lonely and left behind. They seem like they’re coping fine. And as much as I know I’ve had struggles that have hindered me, and I shouldn’t judge myself based on others, it’s hard not to compare.

Furthermore, there’s the fear of actually being an adult itself. I dread having to wake up every day and go to a job, nine to five, spending most of my life in an office, and slowly watching as the years go by. I fear being stuck at a job. I’m afraid of the spirals it might send me into. I don’t have the mental capacity to face that. I’m still afraid of how many years I have left in my life. It’s too many. Too many years to suffer from depression and to spend working and to live. That just scares me.

I don’t know how to be an adult. And I am afraid.

Selfies for Self-Esteem Challenge

This blog post is focusing on appearance based self-esteem, which is only one of many different areas where people feel bad about themselves and have low self-esteem.

I have met very few  girls and nonbinary folks who have never had any issues with the way they look. (I specify girls and nonbinary people here, because most of the boys that I talk to do not talk to me about their self esteem issues, even when we’re having personal conversations. I’m 100% certain there are boys with appearance based self-esteem issues, but none have told me). One of the reasons this is the case is because of society’s standards of beauty. Women in particular are expected to look beautiful all the time, to meet a certain standard of femininity, or to “rebel” from that standard in a very particular way. Models don’t even look like themselves – they are photoshopped and airbrushed to all hell, but that “perfected” look is what the public sees. Thin, thigh gap, flat stomach, tan, luxurious, straight hair – this is mostly a fallacy. Not only do models, actors, and celebrities have professional hair and makeup teams and tailored, designer clothes meant to compliment them flawlessly, we don’t even see that! We see the photoshopped after-image. Being inundated with that kind of imagery is going to ultimately effect anyone on a subconscious level, even if consciously you know that it is just a performance.

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Even Spiderman wants to look sexy sometimes (Photo Credit: Caty Fairclough Jan.2015)

Even if you don’t specifically think that you want to look like a model, your issues have nothing to do with that, and know intellectually that models you see in ads and on tv don’t look like themselves, let alone the average person, it’s sometimes hard to stop yourself from looking in the mirror, and saying to yourself “I hate this.”

Right now I am personally having severe appearance based self-esteem issues. For me, it has nothing to do with being inundated with a certain beauty standard from every angle. Or rather, not directly. It has to do with how I used to look versus how I currently look. I gained about 50 pounds over the course of the last year, because of my depression and the medication to treat it. I hate the way I look. I look gross and feel gross and no matter what anyone tells me to the contrary, I feel unhappy, fat, and ugly. And it’s miserable. It’s the one thing that is happening in my life right now that still sends me into depression cycles of “I feel gross -> I look gross -> people are lying to me -> they don’t really like me -> no one will ever love me” et cetera. Even before all the weight gain I still felt unhappy about the way I looked, and certainly thought that I was not pretty. I poke my belly and watch it jiggle. I try to rub away my stretch marks. I poke and prod at every blemish on my face and body. It sucks. Nothing ruins my day more quickly nowadays than seeing myself in the mirror.

In late 2014 I started a project that has since fallen by the wayside. I called it “Selfies for Self-Esteem” and I would take pictures whenever I felt good about the way I looked, or particularly happy, or silly (like in the Spiderman photo above). It lasted from December 2014 to July 2015. Below are some of the pictures from that project. (Photo Credit for all: Myself, Dec. 2014-July 2015).

This was all before I gained weight. Since I’ve noticed that, I haven’t taken any pictures of myself for the project. But that’s going to change today. I’m going to start “Selfies For Self-Esteem: The Daily Challenge.” Starting today, 3/6/2016, I will take a picture of myself regardless of what I am wearing, and I will post it to Facebook so my friends and family can see. For now, here are today’s pictures:

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They aren’t the greatest pictures. The one on the left is blurry and the one on the right my eyes are too wide and I have a very forced, creepy smile. I’m wearing one of the loosest shirts I own that comes down straight instead of fitted, so you can’t see my gut. Overall though, I don’t dislike these photos, and when I look back at them I might just think I look okay. This is day one of the challenge, and I will stick to it.

I challenge all of you to the Selfies for Self-Esteem Daily Challenge. Put a link in the comments to your albums, tell me about your stories, or just do it privately for yourself. You look great, and you have the selfies to prove it.

Burnt Out – Spoon Theory and Election 2016

When you have anxiety and depression it’s really easy to run out of energy to do things or to deal with things. (This can happen to anybody, really, but in my experience, my anxiety and depression cause me to be unable to deal with various things). I personally like to use Spoon Theory which you can read about in the link, but to summarize means that means that everyone starts the day with a certain number of spoons, but each task costs a spoon to

Photo Credit: @DuhNoy_Blaze on twitter

do. People with chronic illnesses, be they physical, mental, invisible or visible start the day with fewer spoons than generally healthy people do. Therefore, it is easy to run out of spoons and then you don’t have the energy to deal with things.I don’t have castroparesis, like the diagram is discussing, but it is a useful cheat sheet for spoon theory in general, and it applies to depression and anxiety in the same way.

For me, right now, the thing I don’t have the energy to deal with is politics – particularly the 2016 Election. I’m inundated with it, from my friends, from Facebook and Tumblr, the news, entertainment shows – everyone and everything is talking about the election of 2016. With good reason, I’m not denying that. It’s a very important election, and a very scary one. But I’m completely burnt out. This past week, Super Tuesday nearly killed me, almost literally. It was the first time in several months that I had serious invasive thoughts about suicide – all because of a fight I had with a friend related to Super Tuesday and voting.

This is about to get a bit political.

Continue reading “Burnt Out – Spoon Theory and Election 2016”