Lloyd Dobler Was Wrong

Showing my age here, but ya know that scene in the 1989 classic “Say Anything” starring John Cusack where he says to Constance, “Why can’t you be in a good mood? How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood once in a while?”

Turns out, pretty hard when you have a mental illness like depression or anxiety. You can try to stop it, you can try to calm the metaphorical voices in your head. (Literal voices would be schizophrenia, which is a whole different topic.) And it might even be possible to stop the voices. Ah, but with help. Either with meds, or with therapy. Someone smarter than you who went to school and studied these things can help you. Someone who has an arsenal of tools in their toolbox. Jedi mind tricks you can play on yourself. But you can’t do it alone. Not really. Not if you actually have depression, not if you’re actually dealing with anxiety, having a panic attack. You can’t just “decide to be in a good mood” when you have a mental illness.

“Sure you can. Just be happy. Change your attitude. Happiness is a choice.” I get why you would think that. Some of you still believe it is a sign of weakness to be depressed or to have anxiety. And truth be told, I don’t blame you because I get it. The reasons for your disbelief are complex. For some of my guy friends, it’s the culture of “toxic masculinity” that tells you that “real men” don’t cry, let alone have depression. “Yeah right, ‘depression’ sure ok.”

The culture of toxic masculinity is killing our boys and men by the way, but that’s a topic for another day.

For others, you simply will always believe mental illness is nothing more than a character flaw. You will readily believe that something in your brain can go wrong causing you to develop Alzheimer’s. You accept that neurons can misfire and cause dementia or schizophrenia. You break out the science jargon when explaining the “love chemical” oxytocin. And you’ll accept that soldiers can get PTSD from watching women and children die. But depression? Anxiety? PTSD in a non-military person? Suddenly things change. Suddenly anybody that claims to have depression is just “sad” and needs to “get over it.” Depression is just “lack of will power.” “Laziness.” “Not praying enough.” “Everybody gets sad sometimes. Just be happy.” Someone having severe anxiety is “just lying,” or is “weak.” “My dad used to beat me within an inch of my life. And I turned out fine.”

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To that I say great. Fantastic. Your brain isn’t misfiring. Your fight or flight response doesn’t get stuck in the on position. Wonderful. In truth, our brains are more powerful than any super computers. And sometimes our super computers fail. Yet you won’t believe that those very same super computers that invented geometry and theoretical physics can go through a traumatic experience, trigger a predisposition, misfire, and cause depression or anxiety, or that something other than war can cause PTSD. Just like bad habits can trigger heart disease, so too trauma can trigger mental illness. Something turned that switch on for me, and not for you. That’s all.

Mental illness is even more complicated than we know. We are learning more and more every day. It’s real, it’s complicated, and it’s not a matter of simply “being weak.” This theory states that neurogenesis, or the creation of neurons, helps cure depression. It says that the reason SSRI’s work might not be due to raising serotonin levels, but rather in promoting neuron growth! Or this study that shows how stress in your environment can lead to inflammation in your body, which can lead to brain changes and the development of mental illness.

This study shows that anxiety might be inherited from your parents and actually changes your brain right from the start. Finally, this study shows how environment, background, brain function, and stress hormones can all overlap and lead to depression and other mental illness. The point here is that mental illness is real, real complicated, and can’t be simplified down to “being weak.” We just don’t know, and are learning more and more every day.

But it’s not your fault that you don’t believe. Your life experiences and your brain’s wiring have led you to a place where mental illness isn’t real. And that’s alright. I’m just grateful for my ridiculously supportive wife. My family. My friends. My friend Dese’Rae, creator of Live Through This, which focuses on suicide attempt survivors. Jenny and #TheBloggessTribe who just “get it” and I love that I never have to explain anything to them when I panic about something that I did just fine the week before.

Mental illness can feel overwhelming. Debilitating. Terribly lonely. You will feel like you’re the only one going through this. Nobody else gets it. You, and only you, have experienced pain like this. But that’s not true. Millions of people around the country have broken brains. Hundreds of millions around the world.

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#NeverAlone

And the good news is that you can do something about it. And no, I’m not talking about praying it away or smiling it away. Not talking about “….decide to be in a good mood and be in a good mood once in a while?” I mean, it can’t hurt to pray or meditate. But it won’t cure a mental illness. No, what we can do about it is that we can talk about it. On a macro level, we can bring awareness. Awareness and facts. Remove the prejudice and bias, the stigma, that many in society have against mental illness. Show people that we’re not crazy or “just weak.” And on a micro level, we can talk to mental health professionals, and we can take SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor). If we choose not to do that because we’ve heard it fails for some or makes things worse for others, there are other options and ideas. We can realize and accept that this is real, not our fault, and is fixable. It won’t be easy. When depression tells you that all you want to do is stay in bed all day because “why bother?” or when anxiety makes you afraid of everything, it won’t be easy to get the help you need. But you can do it. One step at a time.

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I have faith in you ❤

As for me, all I can do is lean on friends and family when the darkness comes, keep taking the meds, see the shrinks, and hope the clouds stay away until they don’t.

If you are having a mental health crisis and need someone to talk to, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 #depressionlies #fuckdepression #MakeChesterProud #TheBloggessTribe #NeverAlone #mentalillness #PTSDAwareness #anxiety #BeThe1To #ReasonsISpeak #StopSuicide #sicknotweak #EndTheSilence #EndTheStigma #AFSP #NSPW #TalkingAboutIt #NotAshamed #320changesdirection #IAmTheChange #IKeptLiving

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Posted in My Life (or "More About Me Than You Ever Wanted to Know") | 7 Comments

Who cares? Well. I do.

It’s 2018 and I’m still pissed off about Chester. To know that we will never get new music from him again. I will never see Linkin Park in concert again. (Thank god I got to at least once!) His voice was amazing. His showmanship, raw and real.

Those left behind after someone dies by suicide are often times angry, understandably. They’ll want someone or something to blame. They’ll say drugs made their loved ones do it. Or alcohol. Their loved one “wouldn’t soberly kill themselves.” And maybe in some cases they’re right. Maybe their thing wasn’t mental illness per se. Maybe their thing was strictly addiction. The rush of dopamine as the chemicals go from the syringe to your veins and into your brain. Maybe that and that alone is what’s appealing to some. I don’t know.

But I do know some stuff. I do know that people with mental illness tend to self-medicate. Because their “thing” is mental illness. Depression. Sometimes severe. And anxiety. Sometimes severe. And we might cope by drinking. A lot. Or doing any number of drugs. A lot. Cocaine. Heroin. Even harmless (by comparison) marijuana. Anything to numb the feelings in our broken brain.

“In her system, Carrie Fisher was found with …..” who cares?! She was bipolar. She lived a wonderful and difficult life and she did whatever she did to cope with her mental illness and don’t you dare judge her.

And as someone with mental illness, I think it’s so important when loved ones of those that have ended their lives recognize when it isn’t the drugs or alcohol. Even through their grief and their pain, it’s important to recognize that what took their loved one was skewed thinking and a broken brain.

Such is the case with Chester Bennington. He suffered, and I use that word intentionally, suffered with mental illness. Severe depression. No drugs in his system at time of death. Very little alcohol. Half a glass of Corona at his side. He had a mental illness. His widow says it, his band mates say it.

“….the demons who took you away from us were always part of the deal. After all, it was the way you sang about those demons that made everyone fall in love with you in the first place” read a portion of the statement from his band mates after his death.

Dammit if they weren’t right. We’re the same age he and I, give or take a couple of months. And I fell in love with the group over and over, the first time I heard One Step Closer…Crawling…Numb…Breaking the Habit…the list goes on and on. I heard those songs and I thought, “Man. Somebody gets me. I’m not alone. Someone else understands what it’s like to live with these demons.”

#FuckDepression and #MakeChesterProud are two hashtags his wife Talinda and his band mates created to raise awareness about mental illness. And I’m grateful to her and them for saying, “Yeah ya know what? Mental illness. Depression. It’s real.” You can have it all, you can be, well, you can be Chester Bennington, lead singer of one the greatest rock n roll bands of the last 20 years, have the money, have the fame, have a family that loves and adores you, have fans that love and adore you in their own way…. You can have all that, but your broken brain doesn’t care. It doesn’t matter. If you were born with a predisposition, if trauma triggers a change and neurons started firing differently, you’re going to suffer with severe depression. Mental illness won’t discriminate and doesn’t care, even if you’re Chester effin’ Bennington from Linkin effin’ Park.

Whether it’s because of a brain imbalance, not enough serotonin, or whether it’s environmental situations that trigger a predisposition, it really can happen to anyone.

I’m grateful to Talinda. Through what is a pain I can’t even imagine because even tho I myself have mental illness, I have never lost anyone close to me to suicide. I’m so glad Talinda is bringing awareness to mental illness. She recognizes that suicidal people don’t necessarily want to die. Chester didn’t *want* to leave her. Their kids. Friends. He just wanted the pain to end but didn’t know how to make that happen. Suicidal people are not selfish, we’re not merely thinking of ourselves. Indeed we think the world is better off without us.

Doesn’t make rational sense. But that’s the point.

And you can’t fix a broken brain. At least not without meds and/therapy. You can improve your situation, you can change your circumstances, sometimes. And that helps. But you can’t simply will it away, suck it up, make a choice to be happy. Can’t do it. But in this day and age of toxic masculinity, it was likely difficult for Chester to admit he needed help. I don’t know. I don’t know what he did or didn’t do to help his pain.

I loved his music from day one, Crawling in 2000, up to “Heavy,” a song he did with Kiiara. LP’s final single is haunting. One More Light. He wrote it, ironically enough, for Chris Cornell after he too died by suicide. Earlier I mentioned that Chester’s lyrics helped me feel less alone. Well now they do something else too. I listen to lyrics like “Let mercy come and wash away what I’ve done” and my first reaction isn’t to think “Someone gets me.” Instead now I think “God. Poor man. The pain he must have been in.”

Suicide will shift your perspective like that I suppose.

But I am grateful. Grateful for his music, grateful for his company through songs, during some lonely days and nights back in the day. And grateful to Talinda and his band mates for helping spread awareness (and compassion and understanding!) of mental illness. To them I say, thank you.

…….Who cares if one more light goes out? Well. I do.
#fuckdepression #MakeChesterProud #320ChangesDirection #IAmTheChange

#depressionlies
#TheBloggessTribe #NeverAlone
#mentalillness
#PTSDAwareness
#anxiety
#BeThe1To #ReasonsISpeak
#StopSuicide #sicknotweak
#EndTheSilence #EndTheStigma #AFSP #NSPW
#TalkingAboutIt #NotAshamed #IKeptLiving

If you are having a mental health crisis and need someone to talk to, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or you can also text HOME to 741741

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Seriously tho, Is It Just Me?? (A look into the mind of mental illness)

Bleeding Ink is back. Been about a year and a half since the last entry. Various reasons for not writing anything. But ultimately, I can’t not do this. A writer writes. I’ve written since I was just lil Bleeding Ink. It’s how I process things. How I remember things. I write to heal my pain. To rage. To laugh. To cry. To stop crying. To breathe. I write because I have to….

Before I go on, I should probably give a heads-up that this blog includes a picture of a brain surgery scar in the healing process. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog, already in progress.

Specifically, the topic that brought me back to the blog was the death of Carrie Fisher. When I read that she had died, I teared up (ok I cried) in a way I hadn’t with other celebrities that passed in 2016.

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But it wasn’t because of Star Wars. She readily admitted that she’ll always be known as Princess Leia, but that wasn’t what brought the tears. Nor was it the fact that she was a bad-ass in those movies, whether you thought of her as Princess Leia or as General Organa. Rather, it was her being a bad-ass in real life. It was that she was so open and honest about the fact that she had bipolar disorder. She was an OG advocate for mental illness, talking about it when it was a lot more taboo than it is today. She helped lessen the prejudice people have. I admired the hell outta Carrie Fisher and her bravery and candor.

Kid Cudi was also an inspiration, admitting himself for suicidal thoughts and depression, and causing men, in particular black men, to come together and create #YouGoodMan which trended on twitter for several days. Those two, as well as some fellow mental health fighters (because we do fight. Every day.) pushed me to be brave and put this out there for the world to read.

See kids the thing is, this blog post has been two years in the making. I began it the very day Robin Williams was found dead. August 2014. Started out as a tribute to him and his comedic genius. But then it evolved into talking about mental illness. The entry then sat here for a couple weeks. Unfinished. Then for a month. Then a couple months. Oh I’d come back to it. Add some stuff. Delete some stuff. Re-add the original stuff and add more. Delete it all and start over. You get the idea. But I would never dare publish it.

Oh and I had links too! So many links! Links to studies, links from peer-reviewed papers, links showing physical changes in the brain of people with chronic depression, I even had links with results of Functional MRI (fMRI) that showed what a brain in the midst of a severe depressive episode looks like vs a “normal” brain.

But the funny thing (funny/ironic, not funny/ha-ha) about having anxiety is that you are usually too anxious to write about it! And definitely too anxious to publish it! So I suppose I wanted to find link after link so y’all wouldn’t just think to yourselves, “Oh he’s crazy.” “Depression? Yeah that’s not a real thing. Just be happy.” “Anxiety? Why would you be anxious around us, we’re your friends.” Or the ever popular “Happiness is a choice.”

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Not if your brain’s broken

Figured if I had science behind it, you would all be convinced that “mental illness” doesn’t just consist of Alzheimer’s or Parkinsons. It isn’t just some guy hearing voices that tell him to kill people at an airport. Mental illness isn’t just someone talking to herself, convinced the aliens are coming. I suppose I hoped you’d read this entry and if I had enough links to back it up, you wouldn’t think, “Dude. That Bleeding Ink, yeah um, he cray. Wow. Who knew he was that messed up, yikes. Let’s just back away from this friendship.”

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But now I realize I don’t need 9 million links. There are a few in this entry, but ultimately, I can’t change anybody’s mind. And that’s ok. It has to be. I can’t vanish the negative bias people have around it. Not by myself. I’m not a scientist working on the latest research into mental illness. I can’t show you that 40 million of us aren’t “crazy” or “just sad.” You either believe it’s a real thing and that I work my ass off every day to function as a stable human being, or you don’t.

It’s depression so bad that some days you can’t even find the energy to go outside. It’s when you develop such awful anxiety after having 2 back-to-back emergency shunt surgeries that you lose 28 lbs in a couple months because you stop eating, because your stomach hurts all the time. Meanwhile, you do that thing people do on social media where you may not flat-out lie in a post, but certainly you are giving just the “highlight reel” of your life. You only post the good stuff. So friends had no idea what you’re dealing with, and so they compliment you on your weight loss. Yo, you look fantastic, how are you staying so slim??”

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I’m “staying so slim” because even tho I had 18 surgeries before this happened, having this particular (unexpected) surgery done twice in 6 weeks raised my anxiety level through the roof!

Anxiety so bad that you have thoughts that you know, you KNOW, are not logical. But you have them anyway. You have thoughts that you can’t explain to anybody because as soon as you try, it doesn’t make any sense even to you coming out of your own mouth.

“Oh um, you’re wondering whyyyyyyyyy I drove around and around your house, too anxious to stop and knock on the door even tho you’re my metaphorical sisters that I’ve known for years? Oh. Well. See. The thing is….”

And it doesn’t matter what the thing is. Because the “thing” is that unless you’ve experienced this yourself, you’ll never know. And you may have compassion for it, and you may believe this type of mental illness is real. You may know that science says it’s complicated; that environment and your experiences both play roles. A myriad of reasons, not yet fully understood, keep you in that dark place. But you won’t know what it actually feels like. Because your brain’s not broken. So you can empathize, but never really know.

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Flip-side of empathy means you’ll never know because you don’t believe it. Your emotions get the better of you and you can’t imagine how your friend, your “brother”, could suddenly create all these scenarios in his head that paralyze him from calling you, or make him drive around and around your house and not pull over and go say hi. And I can understand how it doesn’t help convince you that mental illness is real, whenever you get on social media and see a post or a picture where the person with anxiety somehow has the courage to attend a show with the spouse, or an award ceremony for a relative, but can’t go visit you in the hospital after you had your first child. You see that and hey, what else are you supposed to think?? You get angry. And I don’t blame you. It’s hard to understand what happens in a mind filled with anxiety.

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Even Twitter God knows it’s legit

For many people, including this writer, anxiety and depression can be a lifelong companion. Triggered by abuse of some kind, or sudden disability, by the loss of a child, too many trips to the ER due to chronic condition, or by nothing at all. And it more than likely comes and goes. Ebbing and flowing, sometimes kept at bay, completely asymptomatic. Sometimes overwhelming.

And it can be a lonely existence. People won’t understand you. People will think that you’re simply unmotivated or a homebody, when you’re really in the throes of another depressive episode. Or they might see you as irresponsible when actually you’re having a panic attack.

Rather than in class where you’re supposed to be, you might be hiding in some corner of a building someplace, maybe in a bathroom on campus, unable to breathe, freaking out about something that in all likelihood is not happening and won’t happen.

It sucks.

And whereas anxiety will tell you everyone is pointing and laughing at you, secretly talking about you behind your back, depression will tell you there’s no point in doing anything about it. #DepressionLies and tells you no one wants to hear you. It convinces you that even your best friend will get tired of you if you complain too much. Mental illness convinces you not to go outside and get some fresh air, not to reach out to people, don’t make that phone call. The very things you need to do to help yourself are the very things mental illness says you shouldn’t do. *That’s* irony! (And not the Alanis kind.)

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Anxiety tells you that if you do make that phone call, you’ll say something completely ridiculous and look like a huge idiot. It whispers no, it screams! in your ear, “Say something. Don’t just sit there silent. Oh my god so awkward, you’re such a loser, just hang up.” Your humble writer was so thankful when texting became a thing. Still, I learned at 12 years old it’s difficult to keep friends when you don’t actually call them every once in a while.

So to those that have stayed, thank you. My loving wife, who knows it’s real, who has literally helped me breathe on the really bad days, thank you. My family. The friends that check in when they notice that I’m isolating again. Thank you. Thank you for staying.

And to the ones that have left, I don’t blame you. Really.

And thank you, General, for being the bad-ass you always were and will always be.

If you are having a mental health crisis and need someone to talk to, please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741

#CarrieFisher

#depressionlies
#fuckdepression
#MakeChesterProud
#TheBloggessTribe #NeverAlone
#mentalillness
#PTSDAwareness
#anxiety
#BeThe1To #ReasonsISpeak
#StopSuicide #sicknotweak
#EndTheSilence #EndTheStigma #AFSP #NSPW
#TalkingAboutIt #NotAshamed #320changesdirection #IAmTheChange #IKeptLiving

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