Note: 2/6/14 This is an extremely rough draft of my ramblings. I’m still adding to it and editing it, but I was pretty happy with what came out of it.
This is a tricky subject. Due to the fact that is both general and specific. We have our fears as a society, as a country and as a planet. Then we break it down to fears of a community, a family and a person. You can choose to write about the broad things that scare all of us. Horror films are usually a good allegory for what scares us. Ghosts remind us our past transgressions. Aliens and films set in the future remind us of the unknown, of what lies before us. Both can be equally terrifying in the right context.
While an individual can be terrified of both those things, the past and the future. What really scares us? What induces blood curdling screams and chill us to our bones? That one, I’m afraid (even fear is there!) I can’t answer that. I can talk about what scares me, in both the general and the specific contexts. Generally, I’m afraid of heights, I don’t do well on rollercoasters. I’m afraid of the unknown. Sometimes I’m afraid of the dark. Both literally and figuratively. You watch enough horror films, you end up convincing yourself that there’s an axe wielding maniac ghost hiding in your closet. You know there’s not, but you go into some irrational place where you can convince yourself of anything. That’s another fear of mine. This place in the darkness where you can trick yourself into believing things that aren’t true. But because you believe them, they end up becoming your gospel. Fears and Labels. Especially those you give yourself, those are what sticks. They can be a long standing source of fear.
Fear can be utterly crippling. Anxiety that stems from these fears keeps us stuck. Refusing to move forward and to walk out of these shadows that threaten to overtake us. There are so many different metaphors for depression, sadness and anxiety. There are so many metaphors for Mental Health issues, that because of fear, don’t get brought out into the light so that they can be treated and talked about. That scares me. We all deal with this to some degree. There are people who fall into the rabbit hole and never return because they don’t receive the help they need. There are people who wander through life trying to figure out why no one will talk to them, not understanding that it’s not their fault, that it comes down to an issue that we don’t understand as well as we should. Mental Health care is just as vital to our survival as traditional medicine, but there are still such strong taboos around it. Which is something I do not understand at all. We welcome sad movies and sad songs into our lives, and commend those who write them for being so brave for sharing these things with the world, but when it comes to our own stories, we zip our lips and keep quiet. I’m not saying that everyone should bring every skeleton out of their closet, and air their dirty laundry for public consumption, but how in this day and age can we truly be so ignorant of it all?
We are so quick to pass judgement and just assume that those with depression are not able to handle the pressures of “normal” life. That they just cannot assume responsibilities like “normal” people. That they’re “different” and “weird.” There is a strong feeling of stigma attached to anyone who willingly shares their pain. Like they’re releasing this secret into the atmosphere that should never be seen by anyone. If we don’t see it, it’s not there. Denial is an easy defense against things we don’t understand. We shouldn’t try to understand it, so it’s lets just sweep it under the rug and hope it’s disappears. The problem with that aspect is that it can be fatal. It can eat you a live if you let it. The thing is that it can be treated and prevented if we accepted it as part of the human condition.
For me, it comes with both fear and anger. The ignorance and denial never allowed my family to fully form. The cycles started well before any of us were even born, but they have continued through us. These cycles that are subtle and can morph themselves into different forms for each person. These silent time bombs that just wait for the right time to go off, then BAM! They are fully formed and here to stay. My anger moved from the person affected to the issue it’s self. I was so angry with my parents for so long, for reasons I can’t honestly say I understood, but anger was the easiest feeling. Because then you don’t have to understand, you don’t see how far down it goes. I think I was fearful of seeing that, of seeing them as flawed human beings with issues. I wanted to maintain this look of pride and wonder I had adapted as a kid, that they were superheroes and could do anything. Of course they aren’t, but I do miss that optimism that I had a kid, the look of wonder and hopefulness. Those rose colored glasses through which I viewed the world. Those glasses were ripped off very quickly, and everything I knew about the world came crashing down and I felt like I had been gutted like a fish. I was a dark shell of what I was. Depression came in and filled that shell with a dark comfort that kept me in twisted survival mode. I was half alive and angry. That anger was directed at my parents, because as a 13 year old they are the easiest target, and I had in my head that they were the source of everything wrong with me. That was when we all fell into the dark seemingly bottomless rabbit hole, kept in a state of stasis since that tumble.
What I saw, and honestly still see most of the time, is how our mental health issues have affected us. My mom fell into a parallel with me. Sometimes I wonder if we are the same person. We have many comparable issues and a lot of common ground. I ended up being her caretaker, which is a role that I still carry out to this day. I put my stuff on the backburner to make sure she would survive. I was already on auto pilot, so I figured what was a little extra weight? I was afraid that if I didn’t do things the right way, and make sure she was ok, she wouldn’t survive. She punished herself in ways that I never indulged, and because of that inability to understand it on my part, I became fearful. I feared for her. I’m still afraid that if I walk away, she will succumb to her issues. I know it’s not true, she’s so much stronger than her issues, but that’s the caretaker mind set. I have to do it, because if I don’t then it will all fall apart. Fear is a powerful motivator to stay stuck. It keeps you paralyzed. I don’t know how to get moving again. I’ve been this way for most of my life. How do you kick yourself out of survival mode to thriving mode?
(I don’t like this sentence) The main aspect of all of the mental health in my family came barreling towards me when I began to see the parallels between my dad and myself. I spent years hating him. I blamed him for my empty shell, for gutting me by leaving. I know where my abandonment issues stem from. I used to think he left because of me, and in that irrational portion of my brain I still do. That 13 year old inside my head that hates everything, and just wants to be left alone to be consumed by the darkness. My dad and I both shut down, becoming completely and utterly closed off from the world. We retreat into our heads and try to rationalize, but then the parallels I have with my mom keep those emotions close. I have them both fighting in my head, the rationalizations and the emotions fight for dominance. The shutting down wins most of the time. I bottle and repress as much as I can. Keeping it inside is how I keep going. That’s my survival. Keep it locked inside behind those walls and keep the one thing that keeps me human, my heart, under lock and key. I think that’s what my dad does too. He keeps it all locked away because it’s easier to survive. I don’t know if he hit a point where he couldn’t handle it, or if he was wired for it, but he numbed himself away from reality, from those emotions. He survived by drinking. Alcohol kept him functional, in a kind of half life for years. Until it doesn’t. I can’t understand why he is that way. I just know that mental health, and the denial kept him from being the person he was supposed to be. It kept me from having a dad. It happened well before he met my mom or even had us kids. That’s a big part of my anger with the stigma around mental health. I wonder if they had been able to help him after he came back from Vietnam, and if he had kept his alcoholism under a tighter rein, if I could have an active dad. I wonder if my mom had been able to be who she was supposed to be earlier, if she would have been able to fight back against those demons that were nipping at her heels for years. I think about a lot of what-if’s but those are the painful ones. Because those are the one that offer a completely different life. Maybe then I could have been a functional person, I could have learned how to love, I could have known that being open is a good thing, and that it’s worth it to try. Instead of being stuck in my mud, my heart locked away in a cage, and feeling empty. Maybe then I could have told myself I was good enough and that I do deserve good things in life. I now know that the love was there, but it’s not accessible. It’s like we all speak different languages, we can find a few common phrases, but we are all essentially alone. Alone with our fear.
I feel alone with my fear. I don’t know how to communicate it with people. I don’t know how to fight it, and how to overcome it. Fear keeps me from going after what I want in life. I think mostly because I don’t really truly understand it. I get the theory of it, and can guess at the rest, but if it were to fall in my lap. I wouldn’t know what to do with it. The main thing I’ve realized I want is to break my cycle. I want to get out of this trap that was set. I want to have my go with a family that doesn’t keep love locked away, that doesn’t fear each other. I want security and comfort. I want to feel like I deserve it, and I want to burn that cage around my heart. I want that shit gone. It was last year when I decided that I want kids. But only under the circumstance that it be different than what I had. I know I was loved, but I spent so long questioning it. I don’t want them to ever question it, and have to worry that they were wanted, even for a second. I don’t want any of that denied to anyone in my life. My brain tells me that I’m not good enough for it, and that I don’t deserve to be loved. Never good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, deserving enough. You don’t deserve to lick the dirt off of someone’s boots, let alone be a partner and parent. Through that my brain tells me that I will never get what I want. So why bother?
Fear takes over.
So here’s a new thing I want to try, “FUCK YOU, FEAR!!”
I hope that can replace the lies I tell myself, and replace those labels I burned into my heart. Those lies I trick myself into believing. I do deserve love, and good things in my life along side those not so good things. Kick fear aside and begin to thrive. That’s my new goal.