Looking at Depression [Quest]

Whenever I become interested in something, I dive in pretty quickly. So when I began to follow some indie game developers online, Depression Quest - a game created by Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey and Isaac Schankler - popped up on my Twitter TL.

“Depression Quest is an interactive fiction game where you play as someone living with depression. You are given a series of everyday

Depression quEST

Depression Quest

life events and have to attempt to manage your illness, relationships, job, and possible treatment. This game aims to show other sufferers of depression that they are not alone in their feelings, and to illustrate to people who may not understand the illness the depths of what it can do to people.”

I struggled with depression for much of my life (if not its entirety). Things worsened rapidly in college where I seemed incapable of making friends, figuring out what I liked – while everyone around me met their BFFs in the second week and knew themselves pretty well. While my depression never kept me in bed, I did sleep a lot (due to boredom and loneliness) and it felt like a dense pressure weighing on my mind. Even as I tried to reach out, I was told that depression was a choice (it’s not), or having my issues completely dismissed by a college counselor (whom I promptly stopped seeing).

While I had never been officially diagnosed, and remained wary of popping any kind of medication - depression was the only word I could find that encapsulated all my thoughts, feelings and general reactions to my environment. Even as a child, I had depressive thoughts and reactions to things, and my mindset gradually worsened with age coupled with awful life experiences.

In no way do I believe that depression is a choice – sometimes it’s a chemical imbalance, other times it’s an accumulation of how you were treated growing up and the messages you received from family, friends, or strangers. Sometimes it’s a combination of all three.

I believe my depression was environmental + genetic : perhaps I was born more susceptible to depression (whether it’s brain chemistry or just how my emotions function) and where I’ve always lived (being treated poorly, not having any real support, etc). Depression, I think, is made harder to bear when you’re surrounded by people who won’t support you because they think you need to snap out of it, or you’re just being pessimistic.

Depression Quest is a really great insight into what it’s like to be living with depression (or at least one kind of it). To me, the narratives seemed to fixate predominantly on thought processes – feeling like you’re a burden to people, feeling like your problem is yours to bear alone, reading into everything and giving yourself a lot of anxiety. When I initially played it, I made sure to click all the options that let me work toward getting my character healthy, happy and whole. In the beginning, I could feel the depression pressing down on my body just from reading the thoughts and feelings, making me desperate to work toward wholeness.

And even with my own history, I still found it intensely insightful while also building my compassion.

Definitely worth checking out.

 

Addiction to Failure

KeyThis post appeared in my inbox, and I just had to share it with you.

It’s (Not) Okay to Fail by Rebecca Thorman of Kontrary 

Part of the reason we are so obsessed with normalizing failure is that we want to feel good about ourselves. And that’s hard right now, no doubt. It’s hard to find a job, to get out of debt, to pursue meaningful work. It’s hard to make time for family, get away from our computers, and engage face-to-face. It’s hard not to compare our bottoms to everyone’s top on Facebook.

I wanted to save this last piece for the end of the week because I loved it the most. It reminded me of what I blogged about earlier this week about expecting good things. The very idea of courting failure, of encouraging others to do it reminds me of pessimism. Expecting bad things to happen.

But being addicted to failing is not just expecting bad things to happen, but to actively take steps to manifest worst case scenarios!

Why would anyone do that? 

Because many aspects of life are hard, and if you’re being honest, you probably don’t have much desire to put in more effort than you’re currently putting in. And many ways, life can feel overwhelming, or like they have no viable solutions. So if things don’t work out, then it’s okay because someone will always be there to pat you on the back and say that you tried.

Failure is boring. Failure usually means you didn’t try something; you didn’t follow through; you didn’t finish. Most people don’t really fail. They succeed at being lazy, and call it failure. But at least they tried. Er, right?

I know in my own life, the situations or choices that didn’t work out, failed because I wasn’t thinking clearly, I wasn’t doing what was necessary to get what I wanted. Basically, I wasn’t showing up for my own life and prepared to take full responsibility for what happened in it.

Purposefully failing, praising people for failing, is like saying it’s okay you didn’t show up for yourself. Not pushing people to want more out of themselves, out of others and life is disempowering. Expecting more and better for people is okay! It’s not a punishment to encourage people to want more, to do more, to push themselves in ways that’ll make them better, happier, and overall closer to their goals.

Persistence is important, because you learn not to give up when things get difficult. Encouraging yourself to think positively about your own success doesn’t mean that you’ll never run into roadblocks or issues. But, don’t expect yourself to fail. Don’t set yourself up to fail because you might be afraid of good things happening to you.

So expect good things, think about what you want and less about what you don’t want and be persistent in your goals. 

Realists Are Just Pessimists

Good Things

I found this really delicious, and admittedly mind-blowing, blog post via my Facebook earlier this week:

When things go terribly right by David at Raptitude

Good Things “There are no realists. Everyone thinks they’re being realistic. Nobody has an objective view of their thinking. Pessimistic thoughts feel realistic to a pessimist. Optimistic thoughts feel realistic to an optimist. If you think you’re a realist you’re probably a pessimist, because obviously you’ve found a reason to tone down expectations.

Expect things to go well. You don’t need a reason first.”

At first I thought I’d have this great examination of how this quote – specifically – meant to me. I’ve never called myself an optimist or a pessimist because I felt it was too binary, too either/or. Now, it’s so much more than that. It’s about how our thoughts influence our relationship to the world, ourselves and the people in our lives. It’s about how we don’t even realize we’re thinking about – even if it’s all the time – until someone points it out.

It feels rational to expect bad things to happen. Don’t go out at night. Don’t travel alone. The world is a dangerous world.  It feels almost normal to be so paranoid, fearful, unsure, living in hiding. Because that’s not just how lots of other people live, it’s how others expect you to live. So everyone is copying each other, not stopping to think that their thoughts aren’t really serving them, or helping them live more fulfilling lives. Because no one is objective about their thinking, and our thoughts change when we meet someone with a different mindset that I like better.

That’s what this quote makes me think of: the way it can be hard to pinpoint what’s wrong but then someone says it so succinctly, and you spot it instantly.

So am I afraid to expect the best?

And if so, why?

The biggest barrier I can think of is fear. Afraid that you’ll expect something that won’t arrive, or if it does, it’ll be awful. Afraid to want better things for yourself because you’re so used to how things are or used to be. I can understand that.

I know for me, I spent a lot of time fantasizing about worst case scenarios – almost daily. Oddly, it felt comforting since it had become so familiar. It’s what I knew. 

“I can’t believe how prominent imaginary bad outcomes were in my life. Most of my life was spent picturing every kind of disaster, from embarrassment to maiming, virtually of it habitual, draining and useless.”

And at the core of my Lent exercise this year is to switch up my thinking so that I can be open to serendipity, so that I’m not scared all the time and can start to view the [my] world with more positivity, with more openness.

That sums up the best advice I could give anyone: think a lot about what you want, and think only sparingly about what you don’t want.

Because, honestly, what do you have to lose?

 

Complain. Do it Loud and Do it Often.

complaint box

complaint boxOne of the perks of the internet are the plethora of ideas – many of which are fascinating – so I wanted to share with you what really helped in shifting my perspective and sparked an internal dialogue:

1. i want you to complain more. here’s why by Kylie at Effervescence

“There’s a lot of complaining going on when people feel they shouldn’t be complaining. There’s a lot of complaining happening that goes unheard by its audience. There are a lot of stifled complaints, and halfhearted complaints to test what’s acceptable in a given venue.

There’s too much pushing away of the negativity. Not enough letting it be there, letting it breathe.”

When I started my 40 day ‘Get Back to Spirit’ project for Lent last month, I kept thinking of what I’d like to add to my self-made, and steadily growing project. On Twitter, one of my followers had announced that she would “not complain” for 40 days, choosing to focus only on the positive, and joyful side of things. Initially I hopped onto this bandwagon, thinking that this was a good spiritual move for me. But it didn’t resonate, and I rejected the notion completely after seeing another woman suggest that people not complain to avoid focusing on negativity.

I erupted on twitter, quickly jotting down my initial thoughts on why women in particular were so drawn to purposefully silencing themselves. To complain is to be heard, it’s about taking up space, being seen. When you complain, you’re letting people know how upset you are, and it’s about acting on those feelings because you know they’re legitimate.

I’m a fairly big complainer. Once me and a friend went to see the horrific Halloween remake by Rob Zombie. Not only was the movie a total waste of my existence, but a guy in front of me was on his cell for the entire film. Afterward, I went to customer service desk and complained about both the quality of the film, and the talkative patron. While my friend seemed sightly embarrassed, I got us free movie passes because of his disturbance.

While complaining can be healthy, you have to know when to do it and with whom. Many people are compulsive advice givers, so if you complain to one of these people, you’ll inevitably have someone offering you steps on what you should to do to correct your situation. Personally, I find this insufferable, and I’ve gotten to a place where I know exactly who I complain to (if I complain to anyone at all). Some compulsive advice givers are really vocal about this, telling people to stay away unless they want their two cents.

There are people, of course, who are addicted to complaining – the sympathetic ear, having people bounce back at you your own sense of righteousness (deserved or otherwise), feeling validated, understood and that your complaint is rational.  The type of people who, every time you talk to them, they’re complaining about something new, the same old or a combination of both. The types of people who get more fulfillment from complaining than actually doing anything about it.

So there’s a balance – you should definitely complain if you feel that your boundaries were crossed, if you felt as if you weren’t being respected, if you felt cheated in some way. Never, ever keep those sentiments to yourself because they’ll fester, and you’ll be pissed for not standing up to yourself. But you also need to know when your complaining is hypocritical (ie: fuming when your room mates don’t wash the dishes while you don’t wash yours) or when they infringe on someone else’s ability to live their life (ie: when your friends are always complaining about your clothes and expect you wear something they like).

Complaining is about acknowledging your own unhappiness or discomfort with an idea, a person or attitude. Never alone someone to silence you because they’re uncomfortable with our complaining. So complain. Do it loud and do it often. 

Crafting an Identity

How do you start a post about your identity?

Credit to : Calamity Kim

Do I talk about my racial background? When I did copy-editing for an indie magazine focusing on black women’s narratives, pretty much everyone focused on being black, on being part of the African diaspora. I didn’t relate to that.

Should I talk about my sexuality? How I’ve been rolling it around in my head, trying to figure out where I belong, how I fit in – even though ultimately it doesn’t matter?That it’s more about love, compatibility, connectedness than it is about sex or gender expression?

Do I bemoan my educational background and the amount of loans its burdened me with? How I dread SallieMae and wish they would get swallowed up by the Earth and free me from my debt! That would, however, be really awesome. 

What about my own internal processes? How my faith seems sated only when I get what I want, how I go into a tailspin when things don’t go according to plan, the way I try to motivate myself with little success, the goals I wish I was achieving but am not? How lazy I am! 

Should I mention my external happenings? Living at home in a cramped situation, working a minimum wage job with no real potential for growth, wandering through a city I don’t like. Too bad my world won’t change over night!

Identity is a complex arrangement of all these nuances and more, and is liable to change. I’ve gotten a new job, in a new city that I’ve never been to. I’ve started looking more seriously into what my next steps would be, wanting to continue my education, wanting to be more of service to the world. Attempting to look at my life with more clarity and trying not to be afraid of being more responsible.

I hope that my identity, how I relate to and see myself is ever evolving in a way that makes me happiest. There are many people who fear change, because they’re afraid to leave behind worn labels, worn ways of seeing themselves.

Hopefully, as I move forward, I’ll become more proactive in shaping my identity, and becoming the type of person I want to be.

 

 

 

 

Boys, Breasts and Self-Esteem

The lovely Mara @ Medicinal Marzipan is hosting Teen Week: Words that Heal, which “is an annual blog series that occurs the last week of March, where bloggers use their sites speak out about their experiences with body image, sexuality, and self-esteem during their teen years.” Please check it out to read all of the other lovely posts.

How does one talk about their teen years? With a fun anecdote? Or something apt while being deeply informative and moving?

Let’s talk about how I looked forward to being a teenage because it meant boys and breasts – something I didn’t exactly have in grade school. Most ten year old girls aren’t thinking about dating, and even fewer seem to care about their cup size. But I did; and it consumed me. I remember thinking how I’d finally date, and all those boys who were jerks to me would be sorry. With my big, bouncing breasts, I’d finally be beautiful and my childhood would just be an unpleasant dream.

But when my teen years arrived, the only thing puberty graced me with was a face full of acne and period cramps that should’ve led me to the nearest hospital. By high school, I’d pretty much come to the conclusion that boys hated me and I wasn’t dating anyone any time soon – if ever. My body remained stubborn, as I sneaked into my cousin’s room to admire my make-shift bust in her full-length mirror. “Do high school girls still stuff?” I wondered, as I layered on two sets of bras, stuffed them with socks and put on my stretchiest shirt to admire my false, new bosom. I’d look great as a C cup…

But the Universe enjoyed rubbing salt into my wounds as my younger cousin seemed to be developing at a much faster rate. She went from a string-bean to a busty teen in under a year, regaling me with stories of the boys she was dating, or kissing (or whatever). My self-confidence settled in the red when she confessed that her and her friends were making fun of how small my breasts were.

Everything came crashing down; I hated my life. Why couldn’t I be beautiful and curvy? Why did I have to be so skinny and unattractive? I thought back to my friend, someone considered very attractive by her friends, who was curvy and bubbly. I seemed to only sink deeper into my depression, wondering who (or what) I had pissed off in a past life to end up with the one I’ve got now.

The conflict with my body – and what I wanted my body to look like – marred my young adult years as everyone seemed to be blossoming and I felt stunted. How can I be sixteen and some lady is telling me that I look nine!? How can these fifteen year olds not believe that I’m only a year older than them?

Rinse, wash and repeat – and you’ve got my life.

And that’s it.

Am I in a better place now that I’m older? No, not really. Many of the patterns I’ve created or experienced in high school are still repeating themselves today; cycles I don’t know how to break. I have a lot of problems, and I need a lot of therapy. But, my understanding and emotional relationship to some of these problems are evolving, changing or at least being challenged. I have an awareness of myself that didn’t exist back then, and I’m super grateful for that.

Who Provides Customer Service ?

Who provides customer service?

Flickr Credit to: verticalpharmacy

My definition of customer service: if you’re interacting with other humans in any significant way, you’re providing customer service. If the way you treat your customers or guests influences their decision to come back or not, you’re providing customer service.
Even though I have experience in retail, I’m not one to say that the customer is always right, or without fault. BUT I’m well aware of the fact that many employees can be (and are) very rude, disrespectful or disinterested in your problems – no matter how sincere you may be. Recently I’ve had at least two experiences where the employees felt that because it wasn’t in their job description, providing compassionate and patient customer service wasn’t necessary. A woman told me it wasn’t in her job description to do a [simple] task, and another man criticized me over the phone while his manager co-signed his statements, saying that because they’re not customer service, the standards are different.

Perhaps they long to be mere flies on the wall, who just answer the phone or are only polite to people who don’t give them a hard time. Or more specifically, if your job security isn’t depended on how nice you are to someone, you’re more likely to take liberties with patrons. Additionally, if the management is more lax about your behavior toward guests, then you’re more likely to have an attitude problem. Or finally, you have people who really don’t care and feel justified in how they treat you. Or a combination of all three.

Part of the reason this really grinds my gears is because at its core, customer service is essentially an act of service; providing for another in a way that they can’t provide for themselves. In this way, we’re of service to one another via blogging, books, films, Twitter/Facebook, in the streets, working in businesses both big and small. The list goes on.

Did you hold the door open for someone today? Did you pay a friend a compliment or give them a hug? Were you polite and patient to the hurried barista as the line led out the door? Did you think twice before snapping at someone who irritated you today?

To be of service is to acknowledge another person.  For example: I often take the bus to get where I need to go, and will often say, “Thank you” to the bus driver on the way out. This created a chain of events in which everyone said “thank you”. He got us to where we needed to be safely and efficiently. To empower someone is to acknowledge them. To acknowledge someone is to empower them. 

When you criticize someone unnecessarily, or feel the need to put them down, or be cruel to another person – you’re dis-empowering them.

Customer service, at its core, is about giving another person the tools they need to go about the world. Sometimes that means being nice to someone, sometimes it means listening. At its core, it’s about helping people realize that there’s good in the world, that people care, and that they’re not alone.

This is why good customer service is so important!

 

 

 

“Think Positive” is Not Good Advice

“We can as easily become a prisoner of so-called positive thinking as of negative thinking. It too can be confining, fragmented, inaccurate, illusory, self-serving, and wrong. Another element altogether is required to induce transformation in our lives and take us beyond the limits of thought.”

- Whereever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Flickr Credit to: hellojenuine

I have a love/get the hell away from me relationship with advice. On any given day, I’ll call up my phone tree, asking various friends for their specific insight. Sometimes the advice is helpful, other times… not so much. Poor advice is normally dished out because:

  • The person has no experience with what you’re going through but feels compelled to say something
  • Someone thinks they understand what you’re going through and tries to relate
  • People tell you what they’d want to hear if they were in your situation

Honestly, I very rarely receive good advice. This is because good advice is partly about tactical information (what practical steps can you take to fix your situation), and partly about giving advice that broadens recipient’s perspective and understanding of what’s going on. Advice is another type of insight, but not everyone’s “insight” is particularly helpful or enlightening. This is basically why I hate “positive thinking” advice.

“Positive thinking” advice is fluffy and doesn’t provide the recipient with any methods on how to make their situation better. Additionally, many people who dish out this type of advice come off as being poor listeners and unsympathetic to what their friend is going through:

  • “To never focus on what’s bothering you, look forward to the outcome.”
  • “It could be worse, just stay positive.”
  • “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
  • “Life is what you make it.”

I understand the rationale behind “positive thinking” advice. The person thinks they’re behaving in an open-minded, compassionate and sensitive manner. More often than not, this isn’t the case. The problem is that it falls into all three categories of bad advice giving:

  • The advice given is very general with assumption that it can be applied to all situations for all persons.
  • People rarely know what to say sometimes, so “positive thinking” advice fills that void. It’s self-serving, because the advice giver can feel a bit better about themselves having offered their “support”.
  • Despite what the recipient is going through, the advice giver feels that their advice is something that all people need to hear because THEY tell it to themselves frequently.

Giving bad advice, particularly in the vein of constant “positive thinking” advice, can definitely leave a sour taste in one’s mouth. It can make someone reluctant to speak with you, or ask for your opinion, because it constantly comes across as you never listening. It’s also impressively disempowering when you’re pouring your problems out to a friend, and they dish you a piece of advice that makes it seem like you’re irrational for being upset or your frustrations are unfounded or unwarranted.

If you can’t give good advice, don’t give any advice at all. Trust me, the world won’t end if you admit to not knowing what to say.

 

 

What’s In A Scar?

Inspired by Lindsay’s post at The Boomerang Kid!

I, perhaps like most people, have a lot of scars. And a lot of regrets:

  • Moving out of Seattle to be jobless in Florida for over five months with no change in sight.

    Flickr Credit to: Finalfeliz

  • Regretting not transferring out of my second college even though I had become beyond miserable by the end of my first semester there.
  • Not being more proactive in my job and room mate hunt so that I could still have money in my pocket, my own roof over my head and living with someone I liked.

Compulsively, I run these scenarios over and over in my mind. What would my life be like now had I stayed in Seattle and moved in with that girl? Would I still be working at my old job? Would I have gotten the chance to write comics in Seattle?

In her post, Lindsay called them “invisible scars” but there’s nothing invisible about my pain. I wear it for everyone to see as I tweet incessantly about my ugliness and the rejection I’ve faced because of the way that I look. The scars from my college years haven’t even begun to scab over as I replay my suffering over and over. I mourn the loss  of having my own place, paying my own bills. I look out into the world and wonder, “What the fuck did I get wrong? Why wasn’t I informed of this fuckery!?”

My scars didn’t make me a better or more enlightened person.  I haven’t experienced any kind of life altering catharsis because of them, nor do I expect to. I have found other people’s suffering to be significantly more thought provoking than my own. As I look back on my life, I see one regret after another; like I’m incapable of getting it right, or not repeating the same mistakes.

This is why regret is so terrifying, and yet so enticing, because it appeals to a lack of self-trust. I regretted not transferring, because I didn’t trust myself enough to be okay with going to a new school, and not trusting my feelings enough to say that I wasn’t happy and should do something about it. I regretted moving out of Seattle because it was so plainly a fear-based response: my room mate wanted me to move out, the girl who I thought about living with was pressuring me about giving her a deposit, my job wasn’t living up to my expectations. I caved.

Even if some people don’t admit to regrets, carrying around “invisible scars” can be as clear as day. You see it in how reactive people can be, in how quick they are to dismiss you or reject you. The fear, the guilt, the regret is soul-consuming and it has infected every aspect of our socialization. The scars we bear can breed hate, prejudice, willful ignorance, rejection of reality and a rejection of the Self.

I have a lot of scars. Perhaps too many. At times I think they make me unbearable. Other times I simply try to drown them out with copious amounts of Norman Reedus. I don’t want my scars to define me, and in many ways they most certainly have. And in others, I still have a choice.

The Bene Gesserit Littainy against Fear: 

Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
- “Dune” by Frank Herbert (pg. 19)

 

 

 

Vulnerability and Social Media

How do you define “friend”?

I think about this a lot, especially as a person who easily (and quickly) becomes attached to people I like. It can be heart-breaking to think of someone as a friend, and, later, for them to completely disregard your relationship. As if it never mattered in the first place. This situation seems to happen rather frequently in “real life”, but what in the online world – where the boundary between friend, stranger and acquaintance never seems to be clear, or it’s constantly being re-draw, recreated and redefined.

I’ve been faced with rejection in both my real and online life. It can be disheartening for a minor misunderstanding, or a difference in opinion to make a relationship explode. But I suppose that brings to mind: what is a friend and how do you know when you have one? This is almost exclusively related to social media. In our waking life, it’s easier to see who our friends are; the people who call us or write us. The people who we feel we can talk to about anything. The people who we resonate with the most. But online? Does spending months chatting constitute friendship? Does taking the time to e-mail each other mean you’re BFFs? Do private DMs mean anything at all, or is it just meaningless chatter? At what point do we know when we’ve reached a solid friendship? But also, when have we realized that our friendship is worth fighting for?

You never really know what a friendship can or is able to tolerate until there’s a tremor. Casual relationships, understandably, tend to explode the quickest since there’s no foundation or support to keep the friendship alive. There’s a strong undercurrent of; “I don’t know you, therefore I’m not morally obligated to you or our relationship.” People are more inclined to walk away from something they haven’t invested themselves in, including other people. But the concept of rejection is also very much about power.

It’s similar to the idea presented in “Two Can Play That Game” where Vivica A. Fox says that whomever breaks up with the other person first, wins. I do believe that there’s a strong sense of satisfaction and self-importance at having ended a friendship – regardless of its quality – versus being the person dealing with the rejection. A lot of the time, I think, the people who were rejected long for a sense of closure because everything happened so abruptly. The quickness of it is jarring because a person is cutting you off for no other reason than because they just don’t know you. 

For instance, a girl I knew in college unfriended me on Facebook. It drove me nuts; it still bothers me because she’s friends with people I know. But underneath all my insanity, I get it. I can’t compete with girls she saw every day in her dorms, the fact that I never called her or spoke with her, or the close relationship she had with a girl who become the Godmother to her kids. (Yeah, can’t compete with THAT) So technically, we were never friends, and it made sense for her to unfriend me. Yet at the same time…

This isn’t to suggest that every online relationship is destined to fail – I’ve made some amazing friends online who I hope to meet up with in real life very soon! But an online relationship can, and does, have the same emotional responses as one that’s initiated in real life.

What about you? What are some relationship explosions or mishaps you’ve had since being online?