And warm jumpers.
On which note…
Picture via Introvert Doodles.
And warm jumpers.
On which note…
Picture via Introvert Doodles.
I don’t know how much sense I’m making. But I’m writing this just because…I don’t really know. I guess I need to.
It feels odd, still. As my housemate said the other day, it still doesn’t feel like anything’s happened. Like he’s just going to walk in the door again one day. He doesn’t feel gone.
And yet there’s a hole in my heart, and an empty seat in the house, and gaps in my day where there should be an email or a text or a smiling face at the train station.
It’s the little things that hit me the most. The ones I expect I can usually deal with – but it’s driving back along the ridge at night, singing loudly, and then feeling the tears start because I just want to be able to turn around and see him there in the back seat, smiling. It’s reading a line I wrote and thinking how much he liked it. It’s stepping out of the front door and hesitating a moment before I lock it, because surely there’s someone else coming to the canal with me?
He still walks beside me. I am so grateful to have known him, despite every moment of heartache it gives me.
Some people walk through life so quietly that most people don’t notice they’re there until they’re gone. And then – they aren’t there, and there’s a hole.
So I guess what I want to say is this:
If you think you’re worthless; if you think you don’t have a place, you don’t make a difference, you don’t matter….
You’re wrong. You do.
I only knew Ryan for a year. He wasn’t someone who made the world shake as he walked; he was quiet, thoughtful. You wouldn’t have noticed him in a crowded room, and you probably wouldn’t have glanced twice at him if you saw him on the street.
He didn’t think he was important. He felt so small, so tiny, so powerless. He didn’t think he was special or funny or different or clever or beautiful. He didn’t feel that he was anyone.
You think you can’t make a difference. That you don’t matter.
To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.
I have suddenly lost someone who meant a lot to me, even though he didn’t think he was important.
I miss the smile. I miss his long fingers, his quiet words, his interested glance. I miss the man who was always up for a walk or exploring, the writer who experimented in so many worlds, the fanboy who was always up for talking about anything that interested him. I miss the small things that made up everything about him.
I miss my friend who didn’t think he was brilliant or funny or clever or intelligent or wise or amazing, and who was every single one of those things.
And yes, I did tell him that he was, regularly.
(He was a derp, too, and an idiot. I told him that on a regular basis as well, although mostly when he drilled through water pipes and stayed up until 3am because the cat fell asleep on him and he didn’t want to move it.)
But you matter.
He didn’t have a choice in life. He got taken away just as he was getting started.
If you’re feeling small or worthless, if you’re feeling unimportant, if you’re just feeling grey and nothing.
Don’t choose to end things.
You will leave a hole in too many hearts that will never entirely heal, no matter how small or insignificant you think you are.
Ok, I’d like to stress straight off: this is my opinion. You probably have a different one. That’s fine. Feel free to wade in with a comment.
I really hate the constant “talk to someone” prompts for anyone who’s struggling with depression.
I know why it’s important. I know why it’s said. Yes, it’s absolutely freakin’ important to get people who think they can’t admit to being sad or weak or tired or simply Not _____ Enough to actually express it. That’s huge.
But I am also really, really tired of people telling me that talking helps. For anyone with long-term, frequent depression, ordinary talking does f*** all.
There is a reason that I keep extremely quiet about my personal life and thoughts during day-to-day interactions, and it’s because very few people are happy to have “well, this morning I analysed three different ways of killing myself and wondered how awful today was going to be” in answer to “Hi, how are you today?”
People do not want an honest answer. People do not understand and frankly don’t have time for an honest answer, and it is really, really scary to have someone give you an honest answer when they’re struggling with depression or mental health issues.
The problem is that the default human reaction seems to be “try to make it better” which. Does. Not. Help. I have tried CBT – it actually made me worse, because the overarching commentary is that this is My Fault, and I should be able to fix my own head just by thinking differently. I go for walks. I take care of myself. I have anti-depressants. Yes, I am doing things. It doesn’t necessarily help. No one can ‘cure’ me. No one can make me better. No one really has any practical or helpful solutions because there aren’t any.
Please don’t offer advice. Just let me be sad. Let me hurt. I’m not well today; I’ll be better tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that.
If you really want to help, and you really want to talk to me? (And please, honestly analyse whether you can do that without offering advice and ‘solutions’). Reassure me that you are asking how I actually am, you are willing to not judge and not offer advice, and just listen.
And that doesn’t necessarily mean listening to them talk. It means asking what’s going to help, or listening to the unspoken words.
The best thing you can do for someone with depression isn’t talk to them. It’s reassure them that you do care, that you do like them, that you do want to hang out with them – even if today and tomorrow and the next day they’re not feeling up to it, maybe the day after that they will feel they can face the world – and do your best to make them realise there is a world out there and it does want them to be part of it.
It’s scary, yes. It’s really hard to hear that someone you like is hurting badly enough to want to remove themselves from this life. It’s hard to understand. It is really, really difficult to know what to say, or what to do, or how to express sympathy. It is really, really hard to be a friend to someone who sees the world in shades of grey instead of colour and can’t cope with the basics of interaction without occasionally bursting into tears. I know that. I am friends with people who suffer from depression, too. I know.
But it’s hard for me, too. I live through this, and believe me, if it’s hard for you to listen to it’s guaranteed to be just as hard for me to cope with! By interacting, by telling me that you’re there for me – in whatever way you do that – and by just reminding me that the world is out there and waiting for me to be human again, you’re reminding me that I am human. That I can be ok, and that I will be ok, even if I’m not right now.
You can make me tea. You can tell me about your holiday. You can ask what I’m reading at the moment. You can talk to me about Star Wars. You can ask how I’m feeling; honestly, and non-judgementally. You can recommend a really good walk you took the other day. I’m always happy to listen to people, even if I struggle to talk; I’m always happy to be given a cup of tea and a cat, or a stuffed toy, and to hear about something that makes you happy.
It means I have someone on my side. It means I have someone standing next to me, who maybe doesn’t entirely understand what I’m going through, but is willing to help.
Depression is lonely, and talking is only the first step. The best thing you can do is listen.
I’ve been doing some little things for friends in the past week that are aimed at making them feel a little better; just providing a tiny lift when it’s needed.
The first is Sam’s Bag Of Things For Bad, Grumpy Or Miserable Days. My housemate is an unashamed lover of stationery and I have some wrapping paper left over, along with some spare Christmas money. It’s also the sales. Soooo…I wrapped up a heap of things of various sizes and types, and put them in the bag. When he’s having a bad day, or a grumpy day, or a depressed day…there’s a present just waiting to be unwrapped in the bag!
The second is a present for my friend Squirrel. Most humans have a habit of remembering the negatives and forgetting the positives, but depression does make this worse – and sometimes it’s really hard to just remember anything good. So this tiny notebook is for Squirrel to write in, and it’s intended to stop him forgetting the little moments, the smiles and the small successes. It’s for “things that you’re proud of, that make you smile or laugh – the moments that you want to keep, share and remember. Write the tiny steps and the huge leaps.” It’s something to be able to look back on when the cloud’s right overhead, and remember that there was sunshine.
And the third thing was something that I was given. My Grandma gave me a “Letters To Open When…” book, and it’s amazing! The pages are folded sheets of lined paper, folded up into an envelope, and there’s things like “Open when you need motivation” and “Open when you need courage”. She hasn’t actually written any of them; instead, she’s added notecards and bits of things, and sealed them all with a paperclip. I’m really looking forward to finding out what they all are and then writing them for myself, so I can get two uses of out of it. It’s such a thoughtful present.
I would also just like to share my favourite Christmas present, from the wonderful Kat Knits Stuff…
I’d like to start by saying that this is my opinion. If you’ve got a different one, that’s great – weigh in in the comments!
I write fantasy. I don’t think I have actually ever put a dragon in a story (not yet, anyway) but I write things that don’t exist; magic, strange worlds, flying machines….and I write people. Ordinary, normal people just trying to cope with the life they lead. No magical heirs or people with destiny-based coping mechanisms. I might write fantastical worlds, but the people within them – and their view of the world – is based on our one here.
So I write diversity. I wrote a story for the anthology Steampunk Universe recently, featuring a disabled character named Kita. I’ve got a short story coming out soon that features a transgender character, and No Man’s Land is full of Ghost being kick-ass and transgender. But I stopped in the middle of writing a recent story about Ghost to sit and worry.
I got told off a few weeks back for using the wrong word, saying the wrong thing, in a recent explanation I did. I had worried over the entire thing anyway and done my best, but I got it wrong; I offended someone by being thoughtless about the meaning of my words. And now I’m worried about even writing Ghost – I’ll get it wrong. I’ll say the wrong thing. I’ll mis-represent something, I’ll offend someone, I’ll screw up and give a really bad or biased or unfair portrayal that makes everything worse…
I’m currently feeling paranoid, scared and angry.
And I think it’s time I grew a thicker skin.
It hurts and it’s hard for me to do, but there’s always someone who’s going to be offended, and there’s always someone who is going to have a different worldview to mine. I will never be completely right. I need to deal with that.
So, basically…screw it. Yes, I’m going to get things wrong – but then I also got the height of a floating island wrong, and the time it takes to travel a distance in a plane. I frequently mess up the laws of space and time, story continuity and hair colour. I have people in two places at once and someone whose injured hand changed sides three times in the course of the story. I had someone whose entire backstory changed because I’d misunderstood what powered their anger. And if these things are pointed out to me, I amend them (if the story hasn’t been published) or do better the next time (if I now can’t change what I wrote).
Why should this be any different?
I want to be someone who does give visibility and agency to LGBTQA* people. I want to write people whose sexuality and identity and gender identity aren’t the same as mine – in the same way that I want to write people with backgrounds that are different, jobs that are different, outlooks that are different. I want to write mental health and physical health in good and bad states. I want to write anger and sadness and love. I want to be able to understand how different people react to different circumstances, and how they view the world. I want to learn, and I want other people to learn right along with me. I refuse to write what I know because that wouldn’t be the point of fantasy. Why take a journey in your imagination if you’re just going to stay in the same place?
This needs to happen. I might get it wrong, but the more positive visibility that smaller communities have, the better. The more the idea of different identities and different outlooks and different ways of dealing with the world are out there, the more tolerant and broad-minded the world will be. If I want to read stories about people different to me, and I want to learn, and I want a more tolerant society that accepts not everyone is the same as them…I need to start showing that not all society is like me. And that means writing it into the worlds I create.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
So if you read a story of mine and you think I’ve got something wrong, tell me. Be polite. Point it out and tell me what it’s been like for you, or your friend, or someone you know. Explain how I could do better; explain the meaning behind a word, how you view it, how it would be different if I’d said something else. Tell me your opinion, and I’ll listen.
I am human. I am trying to understand things that I have not experienced, and I will get it wrong. Instead of fighting me, help me.
And that goes for the physics of airplane wings as well as everything else.