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I’m fine. And that’s good enough for now.

6 April 2020

The last few weeks have been hard. I’m not alone in saying that. When I couldn’t sleep I dug into an old toolbox and pulled out a notebook and just started writing. I didn’t intend to share this, never really thought it would see the light of day, but I’ve had a couple conversations and seen a couple posts this week that make me feel like I need to share. Maybe it’s to help others, maybe it’s to help myself. It’s hard to say. I transcribed it with minimal editing. Some of the harder parts to write were a little less legible, so some of this is my best guess. So with that, here’s this:

Mental illness is a weird thing to write about. It’s a weird thing to think about. It’s not like some other illness. It’s not “I have a bit of a cold” or “I have a really bad cold” and someone else has some degree of understanding of what you’re going through. 

It’s different for everyone. Everyone has had a cold, but with depression there’s always someone who hasn’t experienced anything like it and can’t even find a way to empathise. “It’s all in your head. You’ll get through it. Just…” “No SHIT it’s all in my head. It’s called MENTAL illness.” But on the flip side, there’s always someone who has it 100x worse. When you admit to a mental illness, there will be people who suddenly lump you in with the guy standing on a bucket downtown holding a sign and screaming about aliens. But you’re not that guy, so who are you to complain?

But if you have it, you have it. And wherever it is on the scale, it’s valid. Mild depression is still depression. Just because your experience is less visibly extreme doesn’t mean it’s not as bad. I fought it for a long time. I went to dark places. It manifested in a lot of different ways. I’ve done a lot of shit because of it that I’m not stoked about when I look back on it. 

I’ve never physically hurt someone else because of it. I’ve never physically hurt myself because of it. But there’s a reason I’ve been a vocal proponent of the yellow ribbon project and the semicolon tattoo. I never hurt myself, but I can’t begin to guess what stopped me. Dumb luck maybe.

Times are really damn hard right now. Even those who are most in denial/ignorance of their situation are having to face some reality. I’ve had to lean hard on my network, on those closest to me. I knew this was going to be hard. I reached out in advance and asked people to check in on me. Only a couple people, and only those I trusted the deepest, but to do that was a pretty huge step for me. I’m an extrovert. I need people around. I’ve learned in the last two weeks that’s even more true than I could have imagined. 

So I’ve leaned hard on my friends. I’ve leaned on friends that I know were ready to break and fall over themselves. I’ve reached out in a way that my ego has never let me do in the past. And they’ve been strong for me.

I’m Minnesotan and Norwegian. Asking for help is NOT something that we do. We’re strong. We’re stoic. We commit suicide in the winter before we burden someone else with our problems. And then sometimes the biggest issue is that we haven’t seen the sun in a couple months. This is something totally different. 

But I set all that aside – all my ego, all of my “I’m fine,” and I asked IN ADVANCE for help from a couple trusted friends. I found levels of trust that I didn’t know I was capable of to make that ask. And now, here we are, two weeks [remember I wrote this last week] into.. who knows, two more weeks?  LOL, nope. Two more months? Maybe. A year? Hard to say. In just two weeks I’ve already reached really dark places. Places I truly thought I’d never see again. I’ve fought through. I’ve continued to ask for help. I’ve come to terms with the fact that “alright” and “fine” are perfectly acceptable answers to “How are you?” When “alright” and “fine” are the best I can possibly be, why shouldn’t I be stoked about being the best I can possibly be? I don’t know if I’ve seen the worst, but I know I’ll fight like hell and I’ll get through. Because I know what I didn’t know 20 years ago. Getting through is WORTH IT. When I was at my lowest, I couldn’t have imagined the love and happiness and fulfillment that I’ve experienced in my life since getting through… let’s say 1997-2001. And I carry that faith that I can’t imagine the love and happiness and fulfillment I’ll experience after getting through this. 

But here’s the thing about mental illness. It fights DIRTY. It knows the things I think about, how I can fight it, and how I can find my way through it. Today it learned a neat new trick. The world is so full of this nasty depression and mental illness that it’s growing new powers and finding new strength. Today it realised that it can play on my feelings of guilt, of debt, of all that willingness to ask for help from other people who were fighting their own battles, who had nothing left to give for themselves, but found a way to give something more for me. In just two weeks, I’ve gotten so much help, felt so much love. But now I feel guilt. My brain is trying to tell me again that my problems aren’t valid, because they’re not as bad as someone else’s. 

And the weird, selfish thing I need right now is to repay some of the debt that I’ve accumulated in the last two weeks. If you need something, call me. If you lose your job and you’re not sure how to make rent, if your home learning kid is driving you crazy, or if you knocked over a glass of water and that was just the last fucking straw. Call me. If you don’t have my number, ask for it. I won’t have any answers for you, but I’ll listen. I’ll be on the other end of the line, just so you know you’re not alone. Even when I’m silent, you’ll know I’m there, just there, experiencing the moment with you. It’s easy to underestimate the power of that. 

If we get enough of us leaning against each other, none of us will fall down. So ask for help, lean onto the pile. You owe it to the rest of us. 

One Comment
  1. beavoicefororphans permalink

    Way to be open and honest! Good of you to be there for others…

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