Category Archives: Tuesday on the Soapbox

Anything from politics and current events to strange and beautiful life philosophies.

The Perils of Living on a Dirt Road

dirtroadproblems

Yes, in this day and age, dirt roads still exist in much of the world. Specifically, I speak of my part of the world, the rural Southeastern United States. And it’s not just driveways, either–in some places, unpaved roads are all the road you’ve got to travel on. (For instance, there is an actual public road near my house that was not paved until the late 1980s. People who lived on that road had to turn off the pavement and then drive on out a few quarters of a mile to their own driveways.)

I understand that most people who live in cities or more built-up suburbs may not even grasp what I’m talking about when I say dirt roads. (Another way to phrase that: “Y’awl city folk don’t know squat ’bout dirt roads.”) So, straight from the annals of my own experiences, here are the (funny and crazy) perils of dirt road living:

#1: Washing your car is an exercise in futility.

When you have a dirt road, especially here in the South, you’re just going to have to get used to seeing AT LEAST the bottom third of your car coated in dirt all the time. Your tires especially will be coated in soil. For instance, North Carolina has a ton of red clay soil that looks like this when muddy:
redclaysoil
Image source

And unless you have perfect driveway conditions–meaning that the driveway isn’t too muddy OR too dusty–then as soon as you get home from the car wash pit, most of your hard work is undone. (Why don’t I wash my car at home, you might ask? Well, washing one’s car on a completely dirt driveway leads to more mud than you could ever imagine, so it’s even MORE futile to try to wash your car at home if you have a dirt driveway. Unless you want to create a mud-racing track, which some folks do…in which case, you’re all set! LOL)

#2: Every rain changes the topography of your driveway.

lake_allison
Here’s “Lake Allison” (which is our affectionate nickname for the GIANT pothole in our driveway which pretty much stayed filled with water during the years of 2006-2007).

Yearly driveway “scrapings” (resurfacing with a tractor attachment) are just about necessary with dirt roads, since every time it rains, the water can wash out big holes and “dips” in the dirt. (Especially if you’ve got a big hill as part of your driveway, like we do.) These giant holes can tear up tires, suspensions, and shocks, leaving you with big-time car bills if you don’t get them fixed–but getting driveways resurfaced can be just as much of a monetary pain. (Here in the South, dirt driveways are often longer than a few dozen feet, so getting a driveway paved is cost-prohibitive, too–to the tune of $3,000 or more!)

Heavy rains plus big potholes and dips in your dirt road can also mean that your car can get mired up before you’ve even left the house. Having to be towed out of your own driveway really happens sometimes when you have a dirt road!

#3: You just CAN’T shovel a dirt driveway free of snow and ice.

driveway_frontporch
This is my driveway, seen from the front porch right after a fresh snowfall. (This is approximately the first third of our driveway–the length and steep slope of the driveway alone is prohibitive to shoveling.)

driveway_going
This is the bottom of my driveway hill after 3 days of snow melt and refreeze; here, you can see some of the dark orange mud showing through. If you TRY to shovel the snow/ice, it will move, but you will also get your shovel absolutely STUCK in the mud underneath…not to mention the danger of slipping and falling in the mud/slush mix.

driveway_middle
This is taken from about halfway up my driveway hill (where my little car got stuck and couldn’t go any further). The giant ruts you see are the third reason you can’t shovel a dirt driveway–often, because of bad sun angle/deep shade, overnight refreeze, and the depth of the ruts, there is much more ice caked in there than it looks like, and it’s often frozen a lot harder than it looks. We have literally broken shovels and shovel handles (and twisted ankles) trying to clear the driveway hill before.

This is why we and many other dirt-road folks often elect to stay home at least 5 days after a snowstorm. (Most of my city folk friends didn’t understand this and would razz me about me being lazy or exaggerating about how snow keeps me homebound–I showed them these pics and haven’t heard a peep since. LOL, pwned!)

#4: DUST CLOUDS…that is all.

dustcloud
Image source
If you’ve got a dirt driveway and dry conditions, you might think you’ve got it made…and you mostly do. But watch out for those dust clouds! They will obscure the road behind you and settle on your car when you stop, making your windows look frosted with dirt. You literally have to bring a bottle of Windex and paper towels with you everywhere you go while it’s dry out, because every time you drive over your dry dirt road, your windows will get caked up again and it will actually be dangerous to drive your car because you can’t see out. (I wish I was kidding. Fail! LOL)

What Do You Think?

All my fellow dirt-road people, have I hit the nail on the head? (And “y’awl city folk,” have I blown your minds with these strange and true tales? LOL)

We Aren’t “Crazy,” We’re Humans, Too

wearentcrazy

Imagine if the following six phrases were spoken to people suffering from physical ailments and injuries:
physicalillness
image source and one discussion of this image

This webcomic is funny because we think of it as ridiculous–who would ever invalidate someone else’s suffering like this? Who would ever deny that a person throwing up in the toilet needs treatment? Who would ever question that a person in the hospital needs to lie down and rest?

And yet we do invalidate others’ suffering, when it comes to mental illnesses.

What People Have Actually Said To Me About Mental Illness

Here’s just a sampling of what I’ve heard over the years, as a sufferer of depression and anxiety:

  • “Ugh, God, you’re talking about that mumbo-jumbo again” (meaning my recent Facebook status about depression)
  • “Let me just play psychologist here for a minute–don’t you think that your depression comes from feeling entitled because you were never encouraged to work for anything?”
  • “Well, I just think all that stuff [mental illness] is a scam to get drugs to sell on the street. They ain’t dying, so why else would they try to get medications?”
  • “Anxiety, huh? Well, when I was a kid, we had things to worry about like when food was gonna get put on the table next. What do you even worry about?”

How Is This Kind of Talk Reasonable at All? It’s Not

Would we talk to cancer patients this way? Would we talk to people with physical, measurable illnesses this way? No, and why not? Because we believe them–we can easily see the symptoms for ourselves. Mental illnesses rarely have this same level of validation–there isn’t a visible rash, nor injuries (except in self-harm cases), and our suffering is described in feelings. Thus, many people pass off mental illness as laziness, whining, or attention-getting, as this Huffington Post article describes.

Here’s the bottom line: Mental illnesses exist, as these 10 artists and writers have proven, and they DO cause suffering and pain which requires treatment. Frankly, at this point in my life, I am quite done with people who act as if those of us with mental illnesses are faking or exaggerating. People who choose to believe that mental illnesses are exaggerated, brought on by lifestyle choices, or are otherwise “our fault,” have obviously never had a mental illness and therefore don’t have the knowledge to argue about whether it exists or causes real suffering. If getting rid of depression and anxiety was as simple as “thinking positive” and “sucking it up,” I would have been clear of it years ago. As it is, I’ve battled both since I was at least 8 years old (I’m 29 now).

How to Properly Support People with Mental Illnesses

There are plenty of opponents of proper mental illness treatment out there, but there are just as many people who would like to help but just don’t know how. Either they are fellow sufferers, or they feel powerless in the face of this looming darkness and struggle that their loved one is caught in.

Wanting to help someone with a mental illness is a noble cause, but we are not born knowing how to support someone like this. From my personal experience, here are helpful and non-helpful things to say and do for your loved one/fellow sufferer:

Helpful Words

  • “I am here to listen. I/we love you.”
  • “Do you want me to help you find treatment?”
  • “I have no idea what’s ahead, but I/we will be with you.”
  • “Did you see anything/do anything today that made you happy?”

Non-Helpful Words

  • “I’m not going to talk to you/be around you if you’re just gonna mope around.”
  • “Go talk to a therapist if it’s this bad.”
  • “Things will be better tomorrow! Bye!”
  • “Ugh, can we talk about something happy for once?”

Helpful Actions

  • Check in every day via phone or personal visit. You could take this on yourself, or you could organize a group of friends for this.
  • Offer to help with household chores to take some burden off.
  • Pick up medicines/groceries and run errands.
  • Know the signs of worsening illness, so you know when it is likely necessary to contact professional help.

Non-Helpful Actions

  • Leave the person alone until they contact you (they might never).
  • Shame/judge the person for things left undone.
  • Refuse to help because it might “enable” them to be lazier.
  • Spew random advice at them because you don’t want to have to pay for treatment.

Closing Thoughts

I don’t know if we’ll ever find “cures” for mental illness, nor do I know if we’ll find the causes of it in my lifetime. But I do know that continuing to devalue the suffering of people with mental illnesses will only further the stigma and keep people from seeking treatment. Mental illness happens; we are not “crazy” or permanently broken, we are fellow human beings, and it’s time we were treated as such. Proper support now may mean your or your loved one’s survival later.