Tag Archives: Mental Illness

Own Your Truth to Help Others

It’s normal for me to be extremely honest about what’s happening in my life, that’s how Nightmares and Laughter is designed. But my life is only a framing device for the real point of this page. I started it specifically to try and help others like me. In other words, I am the scene, you are the story. Since I was in a really bad place the last week, I’m hoping it can be useful.

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What’s happening is not going to stop anytime soon, (the building is being sold, vulture lawyers and buyers will try to bully all of us, and may try to kick us all out.) I cannot stand this sort of unknown, the constant fear, I don’t feel safe, will we lose our home, how badly will they treat us, how ugly will this get? I know I will see the other side, but right now, I’m scared, and I don’t like that. It is just the cherry on the top of a number of other sorts of stresses so it just broke me. Chris was on a much-deserved vacation, so getting a letter with several lawyer’s names listed and vaguely threatening wording was too much. I fell apart for like a day and a half. What I’m describing is human, it’s normal, it’s perfectly ok. We all break sometimes, there’s no shame in that. I’m saying this to you, as well as to remind and convince myself.

But we had a tenant meeting a neighbor organized, (the lawyers do not want people talking to each other, they want us scared and unaware of our rights,) and it very much helped.

During the meeting, we all said what our biggest concerns were. Mostly they were similar; Chris and I would most definitely have to leave San Francisco, the city we love, and possibly the Bay Area. This infuriates me as a 3rd generation NorCal native, I can’t even afford my hometown, but I digress.

One of my dear neighbors is having a very hard time. As she was speaking my heart ached both because really, she has it worse by far, and also because I want to help. That’s my mission on this page, and that is what I want to do in real life.

Some of you know that Belle Chapin is a pseudonym. I started it that way because I was nervous about self-revealing, about what that could mean to my future, especially as I look for work, what it could mean in general due to stigma. I leave it that way as sort of a firewall I guess, between trolls and my identity, but I’ve mentioned it several times, and of course, posted photos of myself, so that’s sorted.

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Yes, I love Halloween, but this picture was taken in June. That’s Ermastus.

Now, I’ve done so on this blog. I used my real name on my book. The circle of people in real life who know is getting larger. But I didn’t know quite how comfortable I was with it until yesterday when that lovely woman was speaking, and I told her without thinking that I have bipolar disorder and I understand mental illness so please contact me if you need to.

As soon as that left my mouth, I pulled back inside. My inner monologue went straight to “Oh shit! I said that out loud, in front of humans.” I tried to get a grip on what this meant, what I had done. The toothpaste will never go back in the tube, so whatever someone brings to the table is how they will see me from now on. I don’t know many of these people at all, so unlike telling friends they will not be seeing it from a place of affection, but just strangers who live in my building. I have no control over what they will think of me or take from this. But the words simply left my mouth with zero thought other than explaining common issues that could be helpful. If I had told someone trying to get sober than I’ve been there, it would be the same. And what if I had? Would that feel different?

Actually yes, it would. I would have been more comfortable having announced, so to speak, that I’m an alcoholic, than that I have a mental illness. I think that’s worth looking at for all of us who fear stigma.

I mentioned I’m looking for a job. It’s common now for there to be a spot to enter a website. I’ve thought about linking to this blog. I’m proud of it, I’m happy with what I set out to do, I’m a decent writer, and I hope I have helped some people. But so far I haven’t, not once. Why not? Why shouldn’t I?

Because I’m afraid, is the short answer. Still, after all this time, I can’t bring myself to do it. And yet yesterday, in the middle of a room of people, many of whom are strangers, I reflexively blurted it out. It simply felt like the right thing to do to offer help.

I am the scene, you are the story. I set the plot, and you, my readers, who are largely strangers, take whatever you need, want, or not, and tell your story. That’s what I want, that’s what Nightmares and Laughter is supposed to be. But I can’t help a larger number if I hide away afraid. If I can’t bring this mission into my real life, how can I be of service? What if the person I’m listening to is too afraid to talk about it, and my revealing to them is a comfort, they’re not alone, I’m there for them. That’s the mission of Nightmares and Laughter. How can I fulfill that if I am afraid?

Stating it head high, matter of fact, unflinching, could illustrate that there is no shame in it, it’s nothing to hide, nothing to hold quaking in your heart. If I can’t do that, I am not true to myself and no help to anyone else.

I feel better now having found out our rights, and what exactly is going on with the building’s purchase. I feel better knowing we are not in immediate danger. Getting out of my own head and reaching out to someone else helps. We are not alone. Someone cares. Having the sword above our heads is a dreadful place for me, but I’m back on my feet. But last week I was not. I started an article in the midst of it, but it will wait until I have a clearer head to edit.

I leave you with this advice, when you are depressed, or in whatever state you find yourself, watch that internal monolog. Mine gets really ugly and vicious toward myself. Does yours? Someone said to me once, “If a friend came and told you they were feeling those things, what would you say to them? Would you tell them they’re stupid and worthless?” No, of course not. What would you say to them? What would you do? Nurture? Affirm? Would you talk softly to them? You are worth all of that and more.

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Here are two resources for you, if you need them.

National Helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
1-800-273-8255

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Reclaim the Morning, Remember the Night

Chris is away for a couple of weeks, taking a well-deserved break. He’s traveling alone, which we both do now and then. It’s a different experience to travel by yourself, you can do whatever you want, change your mind at a moment’s notice, or you can stay in your hotel for the entire day, eat local junk food, and watch an Austrian show called “Kommissar Rex” dubbed into the language of wherever you are, but not English, yet it remains my favorite show about a German Shepard police dog who catches bad guys by jumping over things and knocking them down.

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I have no idea what this says, but I know I love this show.

It works well that we are both the kind of people who have to be alone sometimes. I get overwhelmed by noise and wearing the mask that one must wear that says “Hey, you know, I don’t own a set of dishes I found at an abandoned camp in the redwoods that was overgrown and forsaken, kitchen cupboards creaking in the wind, rotting bunk beds awaiting tired campers, dishes discarded and strewn about…”

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 I do. I totally do.

So when one of us travels, the other gets to be alone, and that is a nice break.

I made a list of things I’d like to do during this time, because making lists is one of my superpowers, things like organize the drawers, clean all the rooms, put stuff away so it looks less like an abandoned camp for forsaken children and holy crap I just got an idea for a story.

I’ll write a couple of articles, work on the two books I’ve got going. I’m also starting “Parks and Recreation” for the umpteenth time, but that’s just the way it is.

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I can pretty much do it line-for-line now, but I can’t do math in my head.

So this morning I woke up, shuffled out of bed, fed Crazy Legs, grabbed my coffee and I realized something – I remember everything that happened yesterday. I remember what I did last night, I remember when I went to bed, I turned off the “Parks and Recreation” where Leslie thinks the tops of carrots are marijuana plants and has a stakeout with Tommy and they find out that Andy is living in the pit and then…sorry. I love that show.

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His Majesty, The First of His Name, Crazy Legs, gets breakfast before I get coffee.

But I remember that I turned it off, went to bed, and this morning I woke up and I felt great.

Many people are probably wondering what the big deal is, you woke up and had coffee, so what? But anyone with an addiction, or alcoholism in my case, knows exactly what I’m talking about.

I’ll explain. In the bad old days, when I woke up in the morning, step one would be to lie still and figure out exactly how hungover I was. Was my head spinning? If I moved, did I have to bolt to the bathroom? How bad was my headache? Am I, in point of fact, actually in my bed?

After a physical assessment, next came the worst part. What did I do last night? What’s the last thing I remember? Did I blackout again? Did I see anyone, talk to anyone on the phone or email? Many times the memories were like little filmstrips, the kind we used to watch in grade school. Just a flip of a picture here, a face, a loud crash. Did I break something? I don’t remember. So I’ll stay in bed as long as I can and then nothing bad happened. It’s the alcoholic equivalent of the monster can’t get me if I keep my limbs under the covers, except the monster this time is of my own making.

A quick peek around to see how everything looks, and either a sigh of relief or a gutting regret, and a quick run-through of ideas on how to explain whatever it is. And then back to bed, a day will be wasted, projects forgotten, goals washed away. Tearful vows to never do it again, and then doing it again, in my case, for decades.

It has been a long time since I’ve had a drink, and for the most part, it is gone from my present thoughts. But now and then, like this morning, it occurs to me. I got up, stretched, took my meds, fed Crazy Legs, got my coffee, and sat down to write an article. I feel great, the day is ahead of me, I have many things lined up, and I have time to work on them. It has been so long that I frequently forget the bad times. And that’s good, kind of.

I used to ride a motorcycle. (I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.) A long time ago, I got a bike, learned to ride, got pictures to look at when I was “old” say, 50 (I’m 51 now so younger me shut it already.) Anyway, I had some fun, got cut off at a four-way stop and dropped it, so I have the all-important crash story, (not so much a crash as an “I didn’t know how to respond so I popped the clutch and the 650 took me down.”)

I’ve heard that the two most dangerous times for a rider are when they are new and scared, and when they are experienced and confident. There should always be, not fear, but the realization that you are a soft, water-filled body wrapped in leather or Kevlar, sitting exposed and going very fast. Be aware of that, and don’t try anything stupid. For me, I rode for a while, but I never got over the fear, so I sold it.

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 Looked all bad-ass, totally was not.

In early recovery, one is very much aware of the danger of relapse. The fear of the shame, the pain, the lost dreams, lost jobs, lost children, etc. is raw and works as an excellent deterrent. The first time I said, “My name is Sue, and I’m an alcoholic.” was profound and earthshaking. It was also not the last time I’d start with a 24-hour chip. Or the second to last time. I got a year chip and later gave it back. Early recovery is a dicey time, especially if you don’t address the reasons you’re drinking or using in the first place.

In the time since my last drink, I’ve started this blog, and I’m proud of it. I’ve published one book, and I’m working on two more. I’ve painted, explored mixed-media, watched “Parks and Recreation” like four times, and lived a life where I wake up and know what I did the night before, and don’t have to run through an inventory of possible horrors before I get out of bed. I’m confident and this, just like riding a motorcycle, can be a dangerous time.

That voice that says, “Aw, it’s alright, you can handle it. You’ve proven you can be sober, just have one drink!” can be quiet for a long time, but it’s always there, waiting to fuck you up.

Two kinds of people don’t get that, those who do not have an issue, and those who do. The second group is threatened by your sobriety, they need you to drink with them, so they don’t have to face their own demons. They want to sabotage you, and they will try very hard.

If you are in early sobriety, be very aware of this, and try to catch it earlier than I did.

Many years ago, two decades anyway, I had a dear friend, my best friend, who took good care of me when I was still drinking. She was nurturing and said exactly what I needed to hear. She was the strong one who took care of me until the very moment I started to find my feet. Once I stood and began to get better, snipes and passive-aggressive comments, subtle digs at my worth, accusations of getting arrogant, would begin until I believed them and fell. And the “mothering” continued, until one night when I was falling into a depression but didn’t want to relapse. So I called her.

By this time, my dear friend, my rock, was using heroin. She sat and listened to me intently. Then she stood, dropped her pants, and showed me the bruises where she had been shooting up because her arms were no longer viable. I stared in utter disbelief and shock. When she covered up and sat back down, she looked me straight in the eyes and said, “It’s ok, we can be addicts together.”

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Apologies to any addicts for whom this may have been difficult. Addiction is ugly, and people need to understand that.

That was it. Even for my fragile mind, that was the end. Chris and I were newly dating, and when I told him what had happened, he was apoplectic. He said it was as if I were drowning and she threw me a cement lifesaver. It was the validation I needed; I had second-guessed myself for so long.

People may do this, to one degree or another. They may try to sabotage your hard work, your important work. They may try to convince you that you are weak.

You are not weak. You are as strong as a person can be, whether you feel that way or not. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

You went one day without a drink or drug? Stand up tall and be proud of yourself. Twenty-four hours without your drug of choice? You are awesome, simply amazing. Let no one tell you otherwise.

However you may feel about A.A. long term, go and say those difficult words, “My name is xxx, and I’m an alcoholic.” They may be hard to say, you may not say them loudly, you may break down, that is all ok. Any of these reactions are appropriate. Those people you’re talking to, they are there because they are also struggling!

And when they offer a chip, a 24-hour chip, raise your hand, walk proudly to the front, and take that chip with you. An entire day without a drink becomes two days, becomes a week, becomes a year…you can do it!

It’s a cliché, I know, but I mean it from the bottom of my heart. If I can do it, after decades of terrible mornings, after losing jobs, living in squalor, after a childhood spent drunk to hide the pain, if I can do it, you can do it.

You can do it. You really can. Please don’t let anyone tell you differently.

You are worth it. You deserve happy mornings.

I believe in you.

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If you need help, please call.

National Helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

 

Self-Care in Painful Times

This page is not partisan, I’ve made that very clear.

I address issues that are not left/right, issues that are simply about human decency and morality.

Ripping children from their parents is not a partisan issue.
Putting children and little babies into cages, physically and emotionally abusing them, scarring them forever, is not a partisan issue.
Gunning down African Americans on our streets is not a partisan.
Looking for answers to stop gun violence and spree killings is not partisan.

I woke up this morning to find that there has been another mass shooting, 13 hours after the last. Nine irreplaceable humans are dead. There have now been more mass shootings in the United States than days in the year.

On the Nightmare and Laughter Facebook page, I offered soft words for Gilroy and encouraged self-care.
Six days later I did the same for El Paso.
And now, 13 hours after El Paso, we have Dayton.

My page is becoming a testament to barbarity, to hopelessness, to death and crippling pain. I don’t want people looking at it and, instead of finding comfort or laughter or interest, finding themselves scrolling through tragedy after tragedy.

All of this affects everyone, and I am no exception. I want to be a comfort and a refuge for my readers, that is the mission of this page. But I have to take care of myself before I can do that. And posting what will later be reminders of atrocity after atrocity is already compounding the nightmare for me.

Put simply, I’m getting depressed.

I don’t want anyone coming to my page and finding themselves in the same position. I want you to come to my page and not find only condolences. I want you to come to my page and find hope and comfort. Of course in the heat of it, everyone will know what I’m referring to, but my page will read like an affirmation, rather than an obituary. That is what Nightmares and Laugher is, that is what I set out to do. It will keep the page a safe place for you and honestly, for me as well.

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So please know that should you be affected by a future event, (I wish I could say if there is a future event) that the affirmation is with you in my mind and my heart. Should you be adjacent to this tragedy, the affirmation is with you in my mind and my heart. And if you are a human in the United States or anywhere and this hurts you, the affirmation is with you in my mind and my heart.

Life many of us, my heart breaks and I cry with every bullet spent, every irreplaceable life forever gone. I am now crying as I type these words. It is simply overwhelming.

This is not a partisan issue. This is a national emergency that affects all of us. I will not hear any anti-regulation arguments, I will not hear any defense of what is happening, which is what an anti-regulation argument is. We need solutions, we need think tanks.

I do not have the answers. It is not my job to come up with the answers. We need the people we elected to do their damn job.

It’s easy to feel helpless but there are things we can do.  Here is a list of five things that any of us can do to help, to be proactive.

My beautiful, talented, irreplaceable niece hid from the shooter in Gilroy, while shrapnel flew beside her. I watched my dear friends receive a text from her, with no idea if it would be her last. My friend, her father, who is comfortable with guns, and knows how to use them safely, texted her back to remind her what to do in that situation. This is not acceptable. This is not normal. And this is not something I want anyone else to go through.

But it’s likely they will. So I want to remind you, and myself, to exercise self-care and watch your mental state, especially if you suffer from a mental illness. You can’t take care of others if you are broken. It is not selfish, quite the opposite. The consequences of ignoring and not treating your pain can be dire, and your family would suffer horribly.

I’m including resources that can help. It is not selfish to accept that you can’t do it alone. You are important, you are irreplaceable, and you are in my heart, even if I don’t know you.

 
National Helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

1-800-273-8255

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Creative Spark and Age – Keep your Brain Alive!

So I’m back from my writing escape to Boise, Idaho. While I did return with a lot of work done on outlines, three new ideas, inspiration from a few of the really cool spooky places they have, I did learn something interesting about myself.

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Seriously Boise, well done.

I’m older than 30. I’m significantly older than 30.

I’ve never been coy about my age. Every year and especially every decade that turns for me is an achievement that I didn’t expect to see. I never thought I’d see 30. Then, 40 was unlikely. Now I’m 51, and that’s just shocking really. Wonderful, but perplexing. How did I make it to this age?

I made it here by working hard to address my demons and to come to peace with and even start to embrace my illness. This is wonderful, and it makes me happy when I realize that I am, in fact, 51. That’s just weird.

So here’s what drove it home over the last week. My plan was to hide away in a hotel, no commitments, no interruptions, I asked the lady when I checked in to please tell housekeeping I don’t need them, just blackout curtains, a fridge with enough to keep me alive, and my laptop. I have 15 stories I’m juggling, and I’m anxious to see them bloom. Or bleed. These are spooky stories. I wanted to do what I used to do when I wrote – look at the clock and wonder, is that 4 a.m. or 4 p.m.? I loved that, getting so lost in my art that I had no concept of time at all. Suddenly I’d look up and say, “What is that feeling? Why am I dizzy? Oh, right, food. I need food.” That is what I was hoping to recapture.

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My personal idea of bliss.

Now, getting lost in my work, that’s no problem. I do that even when I write on the couch, as I’m doing right now. Becoming completely absorbed just comes with the creative process. Getting lost in time, though, that’s a different thing. When I was in my 30s, as I painted I could wonder if it was a.m. or p.m. Well, not anymore. My body shuts down around 10. I find myself fading, my brain not up to trying to figure out why my protagonist is near the creepy sidewalk in the first place, (spoiler!) so I just go to bed.

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But for the fire-from-the-sky heat, this would be a fine goth retreat!

At one point, my eyes shot open about 3:30 in the morning because I had an idea. I leapt out of bed and wrote until about 5. I got some good stuff, I felt happy about it, but by about 2p.m. I was useless. I’ll mark this trip as the moment I realized a new limitation on my former habits. But this is not the first time. One by one through the years I’ve watched my body change.

In my late 20s, I wouldn’t even leave the house until 11p.m. because who gets to a club before 11? I’d be out until around 3, and get home around 4. My alarm for work would go off at 6. Getting two hours of sleep is worse than none at all, so I’d just stay up and work through the day, crash when I got home, and I’d recover fine. (This is not while I was drinking. That’s a whole other thing with no fond memories.) Then, when I was around 33 I think, I did this and the next day – even though I was not drinking – I felt hungover and wrung out. It was awful, and I realized well, I can’t do that anymore. It was a major change in my body, an “over-30” wake up call. I would still go to the clubs, but not if I had to work the next day. Huge bummer.

Then, pushing 40, more changes. I could no longer stay out too late on a weeknight or I’d be useless. For someone who’s playtime didn’t begin until 11, now I couldn’t stay out until 11. Huge bummer.

I hadn’t noticed anything new for a while until this trip. Now I know, while I can lose time, I can’t cheat it. My body starts to fade around 10. And my body is the boss. But you know what? This is not a huge bummer. Not at all. These are the changes in a 51-year-old woman who is healthier and happier than I ever could have expected given what I’ve done to myself all these years. Given the number of times I’ve walked to a bridge with no intention of coming back, held a knife tightly and purposefully in my hand, fallen into a manic/depression cycle so severe I spend two days in the hospital. After all of that, I still have my health, my husband, my dear friends and family, Crazy Legs, and…my mind. My functioning, powerful brain that can’t do math like at all, but still.

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                                                                     MATH!

My brain is my joy and my treasure. My looks will fade, my body will change and get more limitations, but my mind, I will keep my mind sharp. If I have that, and my fantastically inappropriate sense of humor, I’ll be just fine.

Another thing I had to accept on this trip, writing fiction is really really hard! I knew that, but I did underestimate how difficult, how much I’m going to have to learn to do it. It’s a whole new world to me, entirely different from anything I’ve ever done.

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So much inspiration!

I got discouraged at one point, so I changed gears and wrote the last article. Yes, I wanted to be sure I didn’t have too long a space between them, but quite honestly, I needed to do something I know. The last article came because I was feeling inadequate. I mean, I respect my readers, no doubt, but I also really needed to convince myself I can actually write.

This new thing I’m doing, this new craft I am years from mastering, is making parts of my brain spark that haven’t in a long time. This blog is my happy place, my comfort zone. “Life Songs” and its poetry, my happy place, my comfort zone. There’s nothing wrong with that. But my new work, it’s causing my synapses to sparkle. It’s also giving me headaches and self-doubt, but that’s part of the process I suppose.

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My sparkling synapse which is the moon, apparently.

So I am 51, I can no longer stay out all night and function the next day. I can no longer stay out late and function the next day. And I can no longer keep my body up creating after about 11pm.

I truly don’t care. I am happy where I am, I am happy with what I can do and accomplish. I am awed that I have lived this long and still have a brain. I have some wonderful memories, I lived a colorful youth. I am not young anymore, but I am not done. Not by a long shot. I have plans and things to create. I have my advocacy and help for the mental health community as best I can, and that alone is a reason to live.

One of the best things about getting older is being able to help with compassion from a place of “Oh, I’ve been there.” I can help in a way I couldn’t when I was 30.

So this past week I wrote and fretted and got inspired by the organ in the Egyptian Theater (seriously, how cool is that place?) and I learned a new piece of information about my body. And that is as cool as a pack of ghost dogs at a race track.

Oops. Spoiler.

Millennials, GenZ, and Stigma

I just saw this on Facebook.

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Leaving aside for a moment that, like everything else, it jumps from Boomers to Millennials and GenZ, skipping over my entire generation like we were the embarrassing child you pop into a backroom when company comes over, where we sit and sulk and listen to dark music and smoke Cloves and talk about how everyone else are conformists and we don’t need their approval, and…ah, sorry.  Got lost in thought.

Anyway, my main point here is the message, not the fact that GenX is just non-existent as if we had no effect on the zeitgeist at all, as if Clerks wasn’t a movie and grunge wasn’t a thing or whatever.

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Oh, come on!

OK, that’s out of my system.

I like the message here, that younger people are more accepting of therapy and mental health issues.  That it’s being spoken about more openly, that’s it’s no longer so taboo.  I decided to look into it because that would be amazing.  And since the Millennials and GenZ now outnumber the Boomers, this is a huge wave.

This is a very hopeful article I found on the National Alliance on Mental Illness – NAMI’s site. Millennials And Mental Health

This paragraph in particular really hit me:

“Mental health conditions run in our family. My mom had depression. My youngest daughter and I have recovered from panic disorder. Mackenzie was aware of our family history, and maybe that made it easier for her to talk about her symptoms. But I think the main reason she was encouraged to get professional help was that she heard her friends and coworkers openly discuss their mental health issues. Mackenzie didn’t feel ashamed or alone.”

I cannot imagine discussing my illness at work.  The idea of anyone “finding out” has caused me crippling fear all my life, caused me to use a pseudonym on this blog, almost took away my name so that I could hide.  It caused me to fear and hate the thing in me.  The idea of coming into work and saying, “Sorry I was out yesterday, I had a serious bipolar episode, and I was in the hospital.  Hey, can I have a donut?” is still just inconceivable to me.

But if the younger generations are getting a handle on it, (Millennials run from 1981-1996, please stop calling them kids) that could be a huge turning point for all of us, even GenX who are totally a thing and I’m sitting right here typing.  We could all benefit. This is not just a question of openness, of comfort, it’s potentially a matter of life and death.  If mental illness is so hidden and stigmatized, if people feel so shameful about it, it may go undiagnosed and untreated.  No one should have to live with that burden, and if it’s starting to become more accepted, this is something to be celebrated.

While writing this, though, I found an alarming statistic.  I found several articles that all came down to the same general conclusion; Millennials and GenZ are reporting mental health concerns at a higher rate than before, but self-harm/suicide ideation/and suicide is higher as well.  I found several articles with possible reasons for this, but I think this one covers them.  Gen Z more likely to report mental health concerns

But there’s a paragraph that brings us back to my original point.

“At the same time, the high percentage of Gen Z reporting fair or poor mental health could be an indicator that they are more aware of and accepting of mental health issues. Their openness to mental health topics represents an opportunity to start discussions about managing their stress, no matter the cause.”

They are more stressed for a variety of reasons, and they are more likely to report it and talk about it openly.  So why are they also hurting themselves more?  Pain does not disappear solely because it is talked about, there are still root causes for it.  The younger generations are getting a handle on openness and throwing out shame, but are we taking this seriously?  Are we giving them the help and support they need?  I can identify my broken arm, but what if no one will fix it?  I didn’t find anything specific to those questions, so I’ll leave them as questions. Hopefully, someone with more knowledge than I have will chime in.

What I take from all of this is that while there are alarming things, there is also room for celebration.  If stigma is truly being chipped away, if every new generation is more open about mental illness and that it is a medical issue like any other, then that is something I didn’t expect to see in my lifetime.

So many of the problems that are so specific to Millennials and GenZ – not enough real interaction, comparing themselves to the happy smiling lives on Facebook or Instagram  – are attributed to social media; I think the changes in stigma can be traced to that too.  The concept of privacy is changing, even on this blog I’ve posted pictures of myself and my private life that sometimes give me night-terrors, so the people who’ve grown up knowing nothing else, wouldn’t their concept of privacy change?  With so many celebrities self-revealing and talking about what it is and is not, wouldn’t that have an effect on the thinking, on the world view?  How can that be anything but good?

I have more questions than answers here because I’m not a doctor and I don’t want to try to simplify such complex issues.  But really, it does make me hopeful.

It took me 47 years to slowly begin to reveal.  I had to work through exhaustion, pain, crippling fear.  I hid my legitimate illness because I was afraid of not getting jobs, being fired from jobs, being mocked, feared, treated with eye-rolling dismissal, even now, as I look for work, I can’t help but feel these familiar pangs.  So I am hopeful that the younger generations can look back at that, at stigma, at fear, and furrow their brows and say “What was the big deal?”

I would also like to point out the obvious here – all of this sprung from a meme I saw on Facebook.  That just amuses me.

I’m including the list of resources for you since this article talked about some painful things.  Please do call one if you need to.  Remember, it’s a legitimate illness and stigma can fuck right off.

 

National Helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

 

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network

Free, confidential, 24/7 support.

https://www.rainn.org/

 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.

1-800-273-8255

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

 

PFLAG Support Hotlines

The hotlines listed below provide services to callers across the country. If you’re looking for a local support network, also contact one of PFLAG’s more than 400 chapters in the United States.

https://pflag.org/hotlines

 

Goats – Nature’s Most Absurd Animal

Recently my friends gathered up their kidlings and we all headed off to the Oakland Zoo.  One of the things the kids wanted to see is the petting zoo, which is perfectly reasonable, but when we arrived we found out that the only animals in the petting zoo these days are…goats.

As in, goats.

I tried to prepare myself, I did.  I tried to remain composed around nature’s most perfectly absurd and hilarious animal.  I failed.

goat 4
He has a beard.  A beard, you guys!

 

There are several times goats have tried to kill me.  Once when driving down the freeway, Chris said, “Hey Sue, look to your right.”  And there it was, a large goat, with a beard and that disproportionately tiny, always disgruntled mouth, standing in the bed of a pickup truck, tethered down with ropes.  I lost it completely.  Then a hand reached up from a man clearly laying on his back beneath this bearded personification of ridiculous and scratched it on its belly.  Just a hand, attached to an arm, attached to a man lying in the bed of a truck.  If the large creature had decided to drop, if it had suddenly laid down, that nice man would have suffocated underneath the belly of a furry, rectangle-pupiled beast, and there is no way in which that is not heart-stoppingly funny.

Another time I was certain it was over, and my friends would have to stifle giggles as they told others how I died, was in Aswan, Egypt.  We were at Abu Simbel taking a break because it is surface-of-the-sun hot there.  So we’re resting on a slab in the shade of other slabs and Chris pointed out a herd of goats.  Chris is a very bad man. We started talking about goat cheese and he begins to wonder what a goat cheese shop would be like.  “They’d be angry because they can’t use the cash register, just banging on it with their goat-hands, *bleating* all mad, then slamming on it again.  When they helped a customer they’d just slam their goat-hands on the display case and *bleat*, then they’d…” I don’t know what he said next.  Between the picture of the cash register scenario, “goat-hands,” and the fact that every time I wrote bleat in those sentences he actually bleated, I scream-laughed and bent double until my face nearly hit my feet.  Several people whipped their heads to see if I was about to die.  I love Egypt very much, it was my life-long dream, but I wasn’t quite ready to be buried in the Temple of Ramses.  Also, Chris is a very bad man.

goat 7
There are worse places to die, actually.

Last example, we were sitting on the couch, surfing the Smithsonian Archives and Project Guttenberg – or Facebook and Reddit, one of those, when Chris says “This is for you.” and holds his laptop where I can see it and plays…this.  From Sunflower Farm Creamery

If you’re in a spot with slow internet let me tell you that what we have here is a video of tiny goats in pajamas leaping up in the air and running sideways, jumping onto hay bales, and generally being adorable and absurd.  I  mean, why do they run sideways?  Why do they leap and wag their heads?  How can someone be so adorable and so preposterous at the same time?

goat 6
Touché

 

So you see, a petting zoo full of goats is pretty much the best and worst thing in the world for me.  I explained to my friends my “goat thing” and off we went.  The kids, the human ones, were so well behaved and gentle and generally quiet.  The grey-haired “adult” though, yeah.

Will you please look at this guy?  Will you just take it all in for a moment?

goat 1

 

It’s our bearded friend, just laying there being bearded.  I’m mocking him!  Does he care?  Does he have any idea how hard I am making fun?  No!  You know why?  Because he’s a goat and they have no concept of such things!  I mean, no animal does, but still, he looks so smug about it!  This is more exclamation points than I’ve ever used in one article I think!

So while I’m walking away, starting to compose myself, this guy peeks around the corner.  “Hey, you know, what’s up?”

goat 2

 

Seriously?  This is what’s happening now?  All I can see is those goat-hands whackin’ at a cash register, the always-annoyed look on his face, and then…he head butts our friend!  Just puts his head down and rams him with his curly horns.  There was no reason!  There was no call for that!  Maybe there was an argument earlier and this brown and white guy was still angry.  Maybe there are unresolved issues from high school.  Maybe the white one deserved it, I don’t know, I don’t know what kind of sordid past these two have.

So that was my day at the petting zoo.  We left, ate at the café, and then went to Aquatic Park.  All the while I am looking at these children with the thought I have frequently…they are more mature than I am, and then I giggle when I see a ship and think of a “dinghy.”

Here is the picture on the front page of this blog.  It is a caption magnet, plus I can hear the “mlep” every time I look at it.  It’s just funny, even if you don’t have my goat thing.

blep goat

Anyway, several of the last articles have been kind of heavy and hard to write, so I figure it’s time for the laughter part of “Nightmares and Laughter.” And damn if goats don’t make me laugh.

***You know, reading this over, it occurs to me that the three examples above were all initiated by Chris.  If I die suddenly, be sure to show the police this article.  I’m pretty sure he’s trying to kill me, slowly, over nearly 20 years.  He’s a very bad man, but patient.

When “You’re beautiful” is not OK.

I have an article for today that is nearly finished, but something just happened that got under my skin, so I want to talk about it instead.  You see me at my best, now here I am pissed off.

Ok.  I am not young, I’m 51, so I have a pretty good handle on how to deal with nonsense of all kinds, how to slap it down hard if necessary, and how to, as my dad would say, “consider the source.”  My days of worrying about unwanted advances are behind me, I thought.

I’m unemployed so I’m signed up with the usual suspects, Indeed, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn.  These are professional job boards. There’s a social aspect to them as well,  but people are there to get connections and find work, get better opportunities, that sort of thing.  So when I get a connection request on LinkedIn, I always take it, you never know what might lead to a job.

So shortly after I accepted one, I got a message.

“Hi.” Oddly uninformative but ok.

I replied, “Hello, how are you?”

“Are you at work?” Odd.

“I’m not working right now, I’m home writing.”  I answered reflexively, even though I was feeling uneasy, because I thought it would be rude not to. Clearly, I have more work to do.

“What do you write?”

Now I did listen to that inner voice.  He did not introduce himself, “are you at work” was abrupt, I just had an uneasy feeling.  In context his next comment was a logical question, “what do you write,” but it made me give my laptop the side-eye.  Put together, this all seemed off.

“Can I ask how I know you?”

“You don’t, I asked to connect.  I’m xxxx. I’m just looking to socialize plus you are beautiful.”

Pardon my French but, oh fuck no.

I replied that this is putting up alarms for me, LinkedIn is not a dating site, I am not interested, and removed the connection. That’s all well and good; I was firm, had my boundary and enforced it.  But the very next thing I did is turn to Chris and say, “Maybe I should change my profile picture.  Is it sending the wrong message?  I wanted to look friendly for employers to see that side…”

“There is not a damn thing wrong with that picture.  Are you going to change it to something less attractive because of one man?”

I cannot believe it even crossed my mind.  I’m so disgusted I was about to give him power over me.  Which is what it would have been, power over how I choose to present myself.  I love my profile picture, it was taken in the garden of a beautiful Victorian in the Haight.  I look happy, my unpredictable hair was cooperating, I think it looks nice.

No means no 3
 I’m upset, so here is a picture of flowers I took at a friend’s house.

But this one man made me second guess it, made me wonder if I brought this on myself for smiling in a picture.  Do you know what I would say to a woman who told me that?  “Are you kidding me?  Don’t give him that power!  You have total agency over your body, you don’t owe anyone anything!” But I did not say that to myself. I worried for a few minutes, I considered changing my photo to something stiffer, in a blazer, an uber-professional no-teeth smile.  You know, a picture that doesn’t look like me at all.

So many flashbacks. “Hey baby, gimme a smile.  Fine then don’t bitch.”  “I’m just trying to be nice, you don’t have to be so uptight.” “If you didn’t want the attention why’d you dress like that?”

No means no 1
Here’s another happy picture in case you’re getting upset too.

I did not expect to still have to deal with this idiocy at my age.  I did not expect to have to deal with this idiocy on a professional job board.  And I did not expect this idiocy to still knock me for a loop.  I’m not as self-possessed as I thought.  That’s a bad realization.

Shortly after this, I got another connect request, another man trying to flirt. Now I will not accept any connections without mutual friends and a note from their mother.  This is sad, because who knows, that one random person may have found my profile and said, “Say, let’s hire her and give her legal currency.”

Ladies, I want to be clear.  I am not talking about all men.  Please recall that the one who pointed out that there was nothing wrong with my photo and that I should not take it down was my husband.  I have no men like these in my life, not one.

Gentlemen, if you don’t pull this kind of crap, I’m not talking about you.  If you respect women and the concept of boundaries, then I am not talking about you.

If you are reading this saying “I don’t get it.  What’s the problem?”  then I am, most definitely, talking about you.

This is really more of a rant I suppose, but it just happened, it’s fresh in my mind, and I think it is worth visiting.  We have to put up with this bullshit all of our lives, we have to learn to wear armor and how to respond or not, how to walk down the street and not look like a victim. We have to learn how to respect our bodies, and not respond the way women are trained to.  We have to learn that it is not our fault, that we are not responsible for the thoughts and actions of another, and that we have every right to firmly say no, and if that is not accepted, to be more forceful and absolutely clear, no means no.

No means no 4
Time to laugh.  I need to laugh.

It never occurred to me I would have to deal with this on a job board.  It simply never entered my mind.  I thought that adults would behave like adults, but I was incorrect, and now this is just one more place where I have to keep my guard up.

chicken nike feet
I don’t know about you, but I need a chicken in Nikes right about now.

One last thing, ladies, if a man is making you uncomfortable, if you are in person and he says something that hits you wrong, trust your voice and get away.  You do not owe him anything.

Trust your voice, use your voice, get up, get out.

You are worth everything, and you have the right to say…oh fuck no.

Note:   I used the cisgender words “Ladies” and “Gentlemen” for the sake of a narrative, I mean no offense to my LGBT or non-binary readers.  It’s the next day, my head is clearer, and I realized that could also hit a button.  I see you.