Writing

Bird Box Doesn’t Box in Mental Health

I’m at least a week late to have anything relevant to say about some movie, but here I am. It all started when I was scrolling through Facebook (our new once upon a time) and saw people posting, and yes I had to see what all the hype was about. 

Sandra Bullock, birds, some weird blindfold thing, sure I’ve got a few hours to not sleep tonight. Not like I was going to do that anyway. I have to be honest, I didn’t find myself impressed by the film itself. I was reminded of a spiraling M. Night Shyamalan and how much hope I once had in the movies he created. I guess you could say that while Bird Box was Happening, I was seeing dead box office rankings. The highlight of the film for me was Tom’s character. He was strong, sensitive, and intelligently capable of navigating the end times. As my friend Karla said, “when are you gonna find another sensitive brother during the End of Times?” I couldn’t agree more, honestly when can we find them now? I think I was saddest over Sandra’s love life, or soon to be lack-thereof more than anything. How could another man replace Tom?

Don’t get me wrong, Sandra was fit, cold as the rapids she fell in multiple times yet never got frost bite from, and did what she needed to in order to survive. Showing that women bring a formidable strength that can get the job done. But Tom tempered her seemingly cold-hearted nature and brought a softer touch to her emotionally withdrawn side. I can’t imagine going 5 years without having named children, but at the same time there’s a fierceness there she must’ve needed in order to keep herself safe, to protect her already broken heart. I can connect with the need to do what must be done even when others may not understand, too often, I feel we decry that which is unlike ourselves instead of trying to better understand it. But hey, that’s just me. 

After I watched the movie, I thought to myself. Meh. And didn’t plan on going anywhere else with it. But, there again on my feed I started seeing more comments and even opinion articles. So here we go being easily distracted some more. Many of you know that I work in the realm of suicide prevention, and some of the pieces I read had a few thoughts on how terribly suicide and mental illness was portrayed in the movie. Stating things like Bird Box is “stigmatizing for people with mental illness,” and I’m sure you can deduce more on your own. I honestly hadn’t put much thought into those aspects of the movie while watching it. I think I still find movies to play the part of helping me escape from reality. Letting me have the time to detach in a healthy way so that I can go back out into our world and try to do what little I can. 

So here I am, thinking about a movie and the societal repercussions it has on our perceptions of an entire population of people. I know, what gives me the right? Facebook, I guess. So thanks for that, Big Z. 

I must say I don’t agree with the notion that the film portrays the mentally ill as villainous creatures who have been possessed by some demon force. I think it’s easy to see a movie, photo, or any fraction of an idea and turn it over in our heads until it fits our own narrative. Which is really all I am doing now. This is what I saw when I looked more closely from my own perspective. 

In choosing to stay blind to the issues surrounding us, we have fed a world that grew disconnected and dangerous. It isn’t that those who are mentally ill are villainous even as the world is ending. But they have stared these demons in the face for so long in a state of unmatched vulnerability and had nothing but hope for months, years, and sadly, lifetimes. We’ve stayed blind to those who have most needed our help. And when those of us who have grown to excel at ignoring them the most are face to face with these concentrated demons, we cannot handle it. It is too much to bear because we have not accepted them, let alone seen them as real. 

But those who can see, the ones we view as “crazy,” have known what was coming all along. They’ve warned us until we called them condescending stereotypes and eventually disregarded their humanity all together. This archaic practice has taken place for centuries, only few of us realize this truth. So to the ones who’ve had their humanity taken from them, this image of desperation is not a mere vision of beauty; it is validation. It is justification. It is reinforcement that they have had value all along. And that is what they find most beautiful. I find it sad that our ignorance of their existence is also our own downfall. What could have changed, had we only listened to them?

Some of the pieces mentioned how unrealistic the scenes were and I was left wondering what they meant by unrealistic. Unrealistic in the manners of loss, unrealistic in the hopelessness of those who were stricken? I’m unsure. What I am sure of is suicide in the United States is getting worse. This line of thinking brought me back to recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control. Suicide is up 33% and currently at a 50 year peak. Every year, we are losing more and more humans to a desperate and unrelenting pain that we still don’t completely understand. If only, someone could tell us more about it. If only we could listen, without judgement. 

Some of my best life lessons were when I was spoken to as a human by someone who had something valuable to share with me, even if I didn’t see the value at first. Even if I didn’t deserve their grace and compassion at that time. Even if that lesson needed to stay with me for years until I finally understood the meaning behind it. More people are dying by suicide and I wonder what it would take for us to open our eyes and see what is all around us, before it is literally all around us. 

 

Special thank you to PsychKarlogy for her input and time. Stay tuned for our podcast.

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Writing

Depression is Depressing. 

I’m sure it started decades ago when I found myself literally surrounded by darkness while I hid terrified for my life in a closet. That phrase, “terrified for my life in a closet,” it still cuts me deep. My pessimistic past probably wouldn’t much care for my current seemingly outgoing nature. It’s funny how some people change over time.

Back then I was bound. Bound at first by the limitations pushed on me by adults, then by the voices of others who told me different was not okay. Then shackled by my own voice which always discolored the world with a dismal grey. It was the “it won’t work,” “you can’t,” “why bother,” voice that made me never even think of trying. Don’t get me wrong, I dreamed. I dreamed impossible dreams, but I told myself then that those dreams were not for me to know. I made mantras of those things to keep me safe because it was all I felt I deserved. It sounds pitiful, but it simply is.

I can’t recall how it presented itself or even a specific time. It’s more of a blanket feeling of anguish that aches to this day when I look back. Maybe it was just my somber nature. Or it could have been that swelling heat that started in my chest spreading across my face when the anxiety tried to overwhelm. I remember when it became apparent that something in me was more than a little not normal. Perhaps it was the fantasies that this life should not include me, partially because I had felt outside of, for so long. Outside of conversations, outside of activities, outside of what people called normal. That word, again. Then the fantasies began to eat into me at first by filling my chest and pressing outward. Cracking my ribs open while also caving in around my strangling heart. Oddly enough the pain, made me feel something and that was more than the nothing I had been filled with for so long. So I grasped at my shallow agonizing breaths, first out of curiosity, and then because it was all I had to hold onto.

It worsened around anniversaries. Empty days flowed into empty weeks where I would long to fill them but didn’t know how. Then the seasons changed around me and I found myself tired. Not just a physical exhaustion, but something much deeper, in my heart, in my soul. Interactions tore at me, they drained me and I didn’t yet understand how delicate I was around certain days. How around those times of the year I simply couldn’t deal with the world. I didn’t understand that some parts of me went back into that now metaphorical closet to hide until the coast was clear. I didn’t understand that other people sometimes took my absence personally. I never meant anything by it. I wasn’t intentionally neglecting them. I simply hid myself away until I could muster the energy to come back out when I was strong enough. Only, when I finally could come out, I found that many of the people I knew were angry with me because they didn’t understand. How could they when I didn’t? Many of my relationships were tested and most of them broke. I hurt in new ways because of a pain that I couldn’t make sense of or make go away. I was not a good friend to them because I was doing all I could to keep myself in one piece. If only they had known. If only I had understood myself better then.

But in the midst of my confusion and struggle to survive, I was blessed. Somehow I eventually stumbled upon a few who simply accepted me. They accepted me in my bright moments, in my stupid moments (which are most of my moments), and in spite of my need to sometimes be absent. Their acceptance, without explanations, without expectations, without pressure, it brought me something I didn’t realize I so desperately needed, Comfort. They brought me comfort knowing that if I needed them, they would be there. And that when I was ready to re-emerge, they would never act like I hadn’t been there all along. They do accept me flawed, they would accept me flawless, they simply take me as I am. We are some of the funniest, most sarcastic, strongest, driven, sleep deprived, depressive, and utterly exhausted human beings you may ever encounter. The truth is, I wouldn’t have survived without them.

After everything, I finally know, I am not alone. And that is all I ever really needed.

For my number 1 Hot Stuff, all my Bitches (on Earth and in Heaven) and Perrulli the Honorary Bitch.

P.S. Don’t make this weird. You’re welcome

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Writing

Happy Birthday, Dad.

    Dad, today you should turn 64.

Over the years, on this day I have always wondered, what would this day be like with you here? Would it have been just another normal Thursday? Would it be a day we made special according to our own family traditions, or some combination of the two because you couldn’t avoid us celebrating you?

I imagine you waking early, at about 0500 (still set in your military ways) and turning on the coffee. Would you be a tv news or newspaper man? Perhaps you would prefer a quiet start to the day. You would make the bed with perfect sharp edges and then iron and set out your clothes for the day. The coffee would finish and you would drink a cup as you made sure everything was in order around the house. You know so many people, making friends everywhere you go, so your phone would start ringing early. Your countless friends, brothers and sisters from the Army, your family…. all your daughters and grandkids would wish you happy birthday all day and night. It would ring and ring from calls and text messages reminding you how many people love and adore you. You would have countless Facebook messages telling you happy birthday, too. I wonder, would someone need to help you read and reply to them? Or would you be a social media independent? No, you probably wouldn’t even be on Facebook at all. Would you like all the calls and messages, or would you prefer a quiet and simple day?

What jokes should you look out for today? We’re all a family of pranksters, always laughing and playing jokes on each other, and you have no one to blame but yourself for that. So what kind of pranks would we play on each other’s birthdays? We would, of course, tell you how you’re an old man that’s a yearly staple. Would we send you gag gifts for your birthday? Would we try to scare you like you did us when we were growing up? Of course, I would do my best to not let you feel too badly about my beating you every year. You might argue the point, and I might be kind enough to pretend you had won, once.

What would our birthday traditions be? Would we all go out to lunch or dinner? Would you get frustrated at how long it takes to coordinate the whole family? Would the NCO in you come out and have you barking commands at all of us? Or would you be laid back now that you aren’t in the Army? Once we’re all there eating, would you look around at your huge family and smile? Thinking about how we are all so different and amazing in our own ways. Thinking about our similarities. Looking at all your grandkids and great grandkids and how beautiful they all are. Finding a quick second to be grateful to be exactly where you are right this moment. We would be loud (I mean you did create your own army after all), talking over each other, laughing, and catching up, would you laugh to yourself at the scene we make? When you speak, would we all immediately stop and listen, or would it take time for us to hear you?

After dinner, would we eat cake at the restaurant or go back and have your favorite, the kind one of us would make for you? Or do we each take turns making you cake? It is your day, so you would decide. We would sing happy birthday to you and tell you you were 95, because you’re so old we’ve lost track. We would laugh and you would mutter about how we aren’t as funny as we think we are. But we know we are. You would blow out your candles and make a wish and we would all hope your wish would come true.

We would all hope every one of your dreams and wishes would come true, because we all love you.

We still love you.

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