14 November 2017

Things That You Think Help A Depressed Person But Don't

15 July 2017, 11.43pm.

(In no particular order...)

1. "You're beautiful."

Maybe this works for those with body image issues, but here's a news flash -- not all depressed people have body image issues. I personally am quite happy with my appearance. I have come to terms with my height (or lack thereof), I like my hair, my hands, my strong feet, and I would absolutely not trade my eyes for the world. My self-hatred runs deeper -- I hate my personality. While I understand that you're trying to combat my self-hatred, you're not actually addressing it at all.

2. "Go shopping."

Has it ever occurred to you that maybe one of the biggest triggers for my despondency is the HUGE amount of financial stress I'm under as a college student? Yes, buying fifty vinyl records might make me feel better, but right now there is no way in hell I can afford even one. I am at the point where food -- like actual nourishing food -- is a luxury.

3. "Take some time for yourself."

...not the best advice to give to someone whose depression is triggered/worsened by feelings of rejection and abandonment. The way my life is now, I am alone literally twenty hours a day. And the other four hours consist of me backstage with forty-seven other people who are physically there but not actually talking to me. I'm still very much alone. I have time for myself up the wazoo. I don't need any more.

4. "Just find someone who listens to you."

And you don't fit under this category why, exactly?

5. "You are enough."

This probably gets the award for 'dumb vague statement of the year.' Enough? Enough what? When I hear the word 'enough,' I think of every father who's ever tried to get their kids to stop arguing in the car: "Now that's enough!" It is not necessarily a positive association. Not an overly negative one -- but not a positive one either.

6. "You are loved."

I notice that you yourself are not willing to commit to saying you personally love/care about me. You're deflecting it onto the nameless 'other' and hoping like hell they back you up so you don't have to actually dig into your heart and get emotionally involved.

7. "It's always darkest before the dawn."

That may be true. But right now, it is not dawn, it is very dark, and the wolves in my mind are circling, closing in for the kill. I have no guarantee I'll even survive till dawn. Sure, dawn is coming, great. Fat lot of good that will do me if I don't survive the wolves in the dark.

29 October 2017

Music News - New Kickstarter

I was going to make this a Music Day post, but then my friend ended up in the hospital and I've been kind of a wreck ever since. This is going to be the dullest advert ever, but here goes...

The fantastic Dead Artist Syndrome is currently short of their $10,000 goal to release their 1991 album Prints Of Darkness on vinyl and CD by about 55% (over $5,000). The campaign ends on the 31st (Monday), and if it's not funded, then there's no Prints Of Darkness -- which would be the scariest part of Halloween 2017. Let me also note that this album is currently unavailable anywhere... not even iTunes. If you want this thing (like I do), this Kickstarter is your only chance.

Support the project here.

Again, apologies for not making an actual Music Day post out of this like I normally do. I'm just emotionally elsewhere. Here are a couple cuts from the album to whet your appetite...

Time is running out, so back this ASAP! Whether you are financially able to back it or not, be sure to promote the heck out of this campaign.

27 October 2017

The Survivors of the Survivors

Last week someone very close to me attempted suicide. I was the last one to see her alive before they found her unconscious on the couch three hours later. I have not seen her since.

She survived -- by pure luck. This incident has made me fully realise that I don't really believe in grace anymore. There's luck, or chance, or fluke, or whatever you want to call it, but grace -- grace is unpredictable. It's almost never there when you need it. That changes grace into chance, because honestly, that's what it is. It's a desperate hope, but there are zero guarantees. While she survived this time, the thing is, I get the sense that she is at risk to re-attempt. They keep pushing back her hospital release date. I get that they need to take every precaution, but the fact is, she is still in danger. They won't admit it. But that's why. I'm not stupid. I've done enough research and have enough experience to know that the nonverbal cues and psychobabble codes mean.

Nobody outside of the hospital staff thinks of that. Nobody thinks of the crippling fear that she may re-attempt -- that I may miss it again. I feel bad enough for missing it the first time. I call myself her friend, yet I wasn't there for her when she clearly needed it. I know suicidal thoughts. I know depression. Even if there were no signs, I should have sensed that something was off.

You're expected to just be happy that she survived. You don't question how or why or how to stop this happening again. You're just expected to be happy and carry on.

The thing is: You. Can't.

I said this (on a daily basis; for two years) after my cousin died. Everyone kept telling me to get over it because after all, God is sovereign, right, so that means you automatically cannot be sad about it because God figured it was best to kill a nine-year-old for no reason and you just have to accept that with no question. God figured it was best, so you must paste on your happy face and go out and be happy. No tears. No sniffles. No sadness. Welcome to Cloud Cuckoo Land, everybody. And I fought, with heart and soul, this crap idea that it was 'too negative' to be upset over the DEATH OF A NINE-YEAR-OLD CHILD. I have pretty much lost that battle -- still nobody believes that it's a big deal. They certainly don't believe it's a big deal that my mid-twenties friend attempted suicide and survived. She survived, right? So what's the problem? She survived.

Yes -- this time. But we have absolutely zero guarantee she won't pull this stunt again.

I hate music right now. Usually I turn to music for comfort, but lately I play any song ever, no matter what genre or what the subject matter is, and by the time they hit the first chorus I hate it and myself and everything else on the planet. The only thing that turns my brain off long enough to keep me from following in her footsteps is watching Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on YouTube. Literally the only thing keeping me alive is a cheesy '90s sitcom.

Because of who it was and the situation, there very quickly became counsellors and residence directors involved and they're all pushing me to 'talk about it.' I want to... but I don't know how. They all say they want to be there for me. But nobody was there for me when Brittney died. Nobody was willing to listen to me after my cousin died. Nobody insisted I get counselling after my grandpa died (suddenly, when I was out-of-province. I was the only grandchild who did not get to say goodbye). Why are they all of the sudden so concerned about me now? It's too late now -- I've already learned to internalise everything. I've already forgotten how to talk about how I'm grieving. Nobody wanted to listen before, I'm not about to delude myself into thinking people want to listen now. Everyone's so concerned about whether or not I'm okay... listen, I haven't been okay since my uncle was diagnosed with cancer in August 2014. I haven't been okay for three years. I'm not going to suddenly be okay now, less than a week after my good friend attempts suicide with the WORST timing possible for my mental health.

There are resources up the wazoo for people who actually lose someone to suicide. But nobody talks about those very close to someone who attempts and survives. How do you deal with the fury that consumes your every waking thought? How do you quell the desire to scream obscenities at them because no other words are adequate to describe the gut-wrenching heartache they have deliberately caused? How do you deal with the sheer terror that they'll re-attempt? There is relief, yes, but it's so, so fragile. You know they're still in danger, but you don't know for sure how much because you are at the mercy of what they actually tell you. And she told us nothing before her original attempt. Nothing. Because of how we 'freaked out' this time, she'll say even less before the next attempt and she'll probably make her plan more watertight. How do you deal with the guilt that arises from the lack of gratitude in your heart even though you know you should be thankful that she is still breathing?

One of the people trying to help me wants me to come up with a suicide safety plan for myself. Excuse me? Where was the safety plan for my friend? I'd worry about that first. She's more important than me right now. After the crap I've gone through for the past three years, now suddenly you're worried about me? Sorry, it's too late for me to believe you'll honestly be there for me through all the crap. I've had enough people give me the 'I'm here for you always, in everything,' and then when I vent to them they turn around and tell me 'you're too negative; get out of my life.' Are you there for me in everything or not?

Sorry there's no real ending to this. I can't think in a straight line right now. Too many thoughts are running too fast and I can't catch them and hold them long enough to follow them to their logical end -- all I have are fragments.

Plus I can't stand endings.

16 October 2017

Puzzle Pieces of an Epidemic

The suicide epidemic will not stop or slow unless and until people -- we who collectively make up western society -- begin to value human beings again. Right now, we don't.

Examples (and this list is by no means exhaustive):

- Porn. Sexual abuse. Assault. Harassment. (And this doesn't even include how it so often goes ignored.)

- "Go away." "Nobody wants you around." "I don't have time for you." "Later." "Stop complaining." "You're stupid." "You're a baby."

- Expectations of perfectionism in athletics and performing arts and as a child or student (and threats/abuse when those expectations are not met).

- Emotional abuse.

- Being ignored.

- Choosing TV or film over spending time with a friend who's going through a rough time.

- "So what? Get over it."

- "I was only joking."

- "You're not good enough." (Christian church of North America, check yourself on this one.)

- Staring at a screen, scrolling through Facebook  rather than spending time with a precious life.

- Abortion.

- Assisted suicide. 

- Driving like a maniac, endangering the lives of those with and around you.

- Drinking and driving.

- Dealing drugs.

- Tormenting anybody, any age (physically or emotionally).

- "It's all in your head. You're fine."

- Pretending you don't see the tears. Or the scars. (Or even the people.)

- Plopping your kids in front of an iPad/TV or locking them outside because you're 'done' with them.

- Having seven babysitters for your two kids because you 'can't handle them.' Ever. Apparently.

- Ageism.

- Racism.

- Online name-calling.

- Lack of forgiveness.

You should not have to tell us you're a loving caring person. Your love and concern for other people should be borne out by your actions.

30 September 2017

The Perfect Marionette

Originally written 6 November 2010, 5.41pm.

If ever there was a song to describe my life, I think this just might be it. 'I'm A Marionette' by ABBA (yes, the ABBA, of 'Dancing Queen' fame).


Because this is my world. Everybody's pet, just as long as I'm... perfect. Completely, totally, uncompromisingly perfect.

I am descended from a long line of perfectionists. That in itself wouldn't be so bad even if you take into account the fact that I inherited their 'perfectionism' genes. The problem is they're all out on a mission to make everyone else a perfectionist as well. Including those who already are. And most definitely those who are too weak to stand up and say 'enough.'

Unfortunately I fall into both of those categories. So not only must I contend with my own perfectionism (which is more domineering than most), I must contend with my parents', my grandparents', and... pretty much everyone else's.

This results in a tremendous amount of pressure on me. I can barely contend with my own need for absolute perfection, never mind everyone else's. But I'd rather make everyone happy than call them out on their dominating attitudes. So I work to make sure they're happy, smoothing things over, making excuses for others. I know it's all a house of cards that going to blow down eventually, but what's the point in creating wars by not caring?

I've noticed, however, that the closer to perfect I am, the higher the bar gets raised. Isn't perfect an absolute -- when you get there it can't be improved on?

They have subdued me and taken control of me. I can no longer do anything without first thinking, Who will be upset by this? They have made me their puppet, their marionette. If I'm perfect I receive lavish praise and false complimenting -- just enough to keep me going, even though I know perfectly well it's false. If in any point I fail I am left in the dirt to pick myself up -- if I dare.

It's amazing how the human person's guilt complex works. They can expect miracles from a person who they themselves had said is worthless and not feel the slightest amount of anything, much less shame. Yet when I try, fail, and then take the chance of showing my disappointment in myself, they compliment me on everything. Why?

Because they feel guilty.

They know they are the ones who have demanded this of me, but when I show even the slightest hint of emotion they feel ashamed. In order to stuff the feeling, they must 'reverse' the damage -- by complimenting me on things that don't even matter. ("You're so good at seeing colour."* Really? I suppose you see in shades of black then?)

Where is this coming from? Have they tried and failed and are now resting comfortably in their failure, looking for a poor sap to do all the perfect work for them? When I fail and show disappointment, do they panic and throw out random compliments so I don't quit and thus force them to retake the job they're too lazy to do? Or are they trying to get me out of the way -- using my own need for perfection to distract me and keep me out of their proverbial 'hair'? Do they think I'm such a threat to their place in the spotlight?

And how long can they stuff their feelings of shame before they become complete robots, running a program that leads to the 'compliment' command only when emotion is shown? They have turned themselves into cold, hard, uncaring robots and they will eventually make me one of them. They know that the more I have to harden myself to keep going, the less they will feel this guilt and have to fake something so hard to actually feel.

The rules of the game are fuzzy at best. The premise is unclear. The climax is coming but when?
And who will be left alive when the smoke clears?

* Actual 'compliment' I have received, verbatim.

27 September 2017

Punching Ice

I pretty much hit a new low this past week in my performing arts life. I'll try to give you the short story version: last week for one of my performance classes, I had to sing an oratorio. I'd never done one before, and I was pretty intimidated. It wasn't actually that difficult of a piece -- it was well within my abilities. So I learned it and soon had the melody pretty well in hand.

Until it came time to practice with the accompanist. Turns out that even in oratorio, you're still not guaranteed to get your notes in the accompaniment (I knew you didn't in art song, but I sort of assumed older music was a little more helpful). I couldn't find my notes and I floundered through both the accompanist rehearsal and the performance.

After the performance, I went to the school chapel and cried for an hour. I have never given a really good singing performance in my life, but this was undoubtedly the worst I had ever done.  You're in your fourth year. You should be better than this. There are second-year students singing better than you. Why are you even still in this program, taking away valuable time that the professors could be using to help actual talented people? For the first time I began to seriously consider pulling out of the performing arts program.

I was so discouraged that I steadfastly avoided the next week's song -- no point in trying so hard and putting so much effort into it if it was just going to suck anyway. I knew it was a defeatist attitude, but I was so tired of putting in so much time and effort and seeing exactly zero results. How long could I reasonably expect to see absolutely no improvement when I was practicing six and a half hours a week (not counting lessons)? What more could I possibly do? I was already singing until my voice gave out nearly every day. I couldn't ask any more of it lest I damage it.

I learned the lyrics to the song and memorised them, but didn't even attempt the melody until Monday. Tuesday morning I went for my voice lesson and got a thorough lecture from my teacher on how unprepared I was. She told me the reason I had so completely failed the previous week was because I had been unprepared then too. It had never occurred to me that I had been unprepared -- I had thought I did rather well to learn it that far in advance. But there was no doubt that I was unprepared this week.

"I know you're going through a lot of issues right now, but if you cannot get past the discouragement enough to put in the work, you will never go anywhere in the performing arts," she said.

I trudged back to the house after that lesson nearly in tears. I knew I was in a tailspin and I knew she was right, but I felt powerless to stop it. I was so tired of the mental fight just to do anything that I wanted to collapse and die right there on the street. My heart literally hurt. I wanted to close my eyes and never wake up. I knew I had to practice and actually properly learn the song, but I couldn't see why I should bother. I couldn't think of anything I could tell myself that 1. would make me want to practice, and 2. would be encouraging on any level. Every morning I wake up and I fight this same mental fight to live one more day. Nothing ever changes. Nothing happens. Just the exact same mental fight from the same place every day. It's like those films where the protagonist keeps relieving the exact same day over and over again. Any progress I made during the day is erased and reset at night when I sleep, and I awake every morning to the same herculean fight that I could never win, day after day after day after day. I was getting too physically tired from the battle to bother to keep fighting it in such a void. If nothing was ever going to change, what was the point of trying?

I was writing about all this in my journal over lunch today, and suddenly a mental picture flashed in my head and I wrote, Think of the Doctor, punching the ice, reliving that day. One day, maybe nine thousand years from now, your fist will shatter the last crystals and your bleeding knuckles will punch air.

When I wrote it, I wasn't sure I believed it. It still sounds too cheesy and abstract and 'easy' to me now as I read it back. But that mental picture somehow helped. I was lighter for the rest of the day and actually managed to find the motivation to practice -- again -- until my voice started to give out. I swear I practiced those two measures from A4 down to F up to D and back down to F a thousand times, trying to memorise the feel of that low F so I could find it in a void (because as usual the accompaniment doesn't have my note). My technique is probably crap (it always is), but I will know this melody come hell or high water -- or even a wall of ice twenty feet thick.

Here's the clip for the aforementioned Doctor Who episode. (Yes, it's actually diamond he's punching but I only saw the episode once, when it first aired like two years ago and I didn't remember that detail when I wrote the journal entry.)

20 September 2017

Western Philosophy and the Suicide Epidemic

To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA)'s theme for World Suicide Prevention Day 2017 was 'Stay. Find what you were made for.'

Before I go any further let me make it very clear that I ABSOLUTELY AGREE with that phrase. It's a very good theme and a sentiment I, as a survivor of two attempts, can get behind without hesitation.

But this saying highlights a problem in western philosophy.

Children are taught from the time they start to talk that the world evolved over millions of years, that everything is here by chance. They are taught that there is no God, no being behind everything they see and experience. Things just sort of 'happen.' There's no intelligent design or reason behind anything.

As they continue in school, they learn that morals are a social construct designed to restrict freedom (including that of the most horrific murderers and rapists, for the record) and the ends justify the means. They learn that there is no ultimate meaning to anything -- art, science, education, nature, life -- except what we, humankind, ascribe to it. They learn, through the abortion debate, through war, that human life is disposable -- that it doesn't really mean anything. They learn there is nothing after death, that nothing happens for a reason. That 'The Universe' determines everything by a roll of the dice. That -- when you boil it all down -- nothing really matters.

If we weren't even made/created by anything other than chance, this tagline -- 'find what you were made for' -- makes no sense. If we just sort of 'happened' for no reason, then saying we were made for something is a bald-faced lie.

But if that tagline is right -- that we were made for something... then we as western culture need to take a serious look at the philosophy we're teaching our children.

This tagline highlights why so many of us are of the mindset that our lives mean nothing, that nothing matters anyway, that the world would carry on the same whether we lived or died. Because that is what society has told us since before we could walk on our own.

From experience: A suicidal person is likely suicidal because they feel they have nothing to offer. (Those, in fact, were the exact words I used when I first told someone I was suicidal -- 'I feel like I have nothing to offer. I don't mean anything to anybody. No-one would miss me if I was gone.') This kind of thinking is rarely developed overnight. Rather, this kind of thinking becomes habit over years and years -- a lifetime -- of being told our lives were happenstance and we have nothing to offer. Example: the first time I remember thinking no-one needs me around, I was nine years old.


And that thought percolated, unseen, gathering strength, until I finally realised at age twenty-three that something was wrong. For those of you keeping score at home, that's fourteen years of this thought pattern sinking into my psyche. While my suicide attempt might have seemed to come out of nowhere, the fact was the thought process behind it had been brewing for over half my life.

If I was just a product of chance, the world could afford to miss me. It was as simple as that. That gave me the excuse I needed not only to kill myself and think nobody would notice, it actually gave me a very good reason to believe that I was killing myself as a favour to those around me. I thought -- I literally used these words -- 'the world would be better off without me in it.' After all, if I was only a product of chance, then surely I wasn't necessary... I could very easily not have ever existed at all, and apparently things would have been much the same.

Were we created for a purpose or did we come about by chance? Do we have meaning as humans or not? Clearly the belief that we have no meaning is at least contributing to the high suicide rate. If it wasn't, we wouldn't be trying to counteract it by saying the opposite ('you were made for a purpose').

What if -- what if -- we told children this right from the start? What if we told them from the time they began to talk that they were made with a purpose, made for something important, that they are not inconsequential and not a product of chance? Consider the old saying: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. What if the idea that people are created with meaning was so pervasive it never even occurred to our children that their lives might not have meaning?

12 September 2017

The Things You Told Me

6 July 2017, 10.00pm.

You told me to 'follow my heart/dreams.' So I became an artist.
And you told me I was stupid.

You told me to 'find a job.' So I went into construction.
Then you said that 'wasn't legitimate' because it's a family company.

You told me you would always be there for me if I ever needed to talk. So I emailed you.
And you never replied.

You told me you wanted to hear about how my life was going.
Then you told me I'm 'too negative.'

You told me people care about me.
Then you turned your back and walked away, leaving me to find these mythical people myself.

What the actual heck do you want from me?

08 September 2017

A Day in the Life...

9.30am - Wake up.

10.15am - Meet with voice teacher about rep.

10.30am - Practice voice.

11am - Work.

2.30pm - Practice voice.

2.45pm - Check callback list.

2.46pm - Bitter disappointment.

3pm - Get hair done.

4.30pm - Do makeup.

5.30pm - Supper with dance friend.

6.20pm - Arrive at theatre.

8pm - Perform full show.

10.45pm - Return to house. Eat cereal.

12am - Start memorising new voice rep.

And I didn't even get dance practice or writing in today...

20 August 2017

Dance and Trust

Remember a couple weeks ago when I was finishing my NaNoWriMo 2016 project and I came up against my inability to trust God with my life and it hampered my ability to finish the story because I'm spiritually not there yet?

Yeah, so, it happened again. For years I've been trying to choreograph this ballet piece -- since even before I lost my faith in God. I've worked on this thing in fits and starts. I've made a Pinterest board with pictures of costumes, poses, and corps formations. I've journaled eleven pages and counting of looseleaf. I've scrapped at least three versions.

This week I've been nibbling at it again and this is the farthest I've gotten on it. I tripled the amount of dancers and finally a storyline began to take shape. The individual steps aren't there yet, but the mood progression is there now, and that's half the battle sometimes.

That storyline follows a suicide survivor alone with her grief. Guilt, shame, frustration, and anger (personified by the other dancers) dog her every move, until finally she decides to trust God with the situation though she doesn't understand it.

Clearly this last phase is the part I'm sticking at. The part I have never gotten to -- the part where the protagonist trusts. And it's for the same reason I got stuck in the novel -- the character must trust God, but I have not. How can I believably take a character where even I emotionally fear to tread? My imagination can take me a lot of places I will never be in real life, but it balks when asked to picture what trusting God would be like. My experience with trusting God is equal to the experience of betrayal. You pray for a child's life to be spared. The child dies. How do you respond to that? How do you look at the God who let this happen and say, 'yes, I will still trust Your plan?'