Tag Archives: commentary

We Aren’t “Crazy,” We’re Humans, Too

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Imagine if the following six phrases were spoken to people suffering from physical ailments and injuries:
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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.

How to Agitate an Extrovert

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Though these days I pass as an introvert in certain situations, I am at heart an extrovert, and have always been, even according to early childhood stories from Mom and Dad.

I enjoy being around people about 5,000 times more than I enjoy being alone with no one to contact (unless I’m very sick or very tired, and even then I still hate suffering alone). When something happens to me, I want to talk about it; I want to share my experiences, I want to hear what others have to say. I feel my most alive, my most vibrant, when I am part of a loud, boisterous conversation or group music/dance performance, where the emotional energy pings back and forth between us all at lightning speeds, and the more energy you give to the gloriously chaotic situation, the more you have.

But I realize my way of life is not the way everyone lives–because I love an introvert.

I certainly don’t begrudge introverts their chosen way of living. I just couldn’t survive living as my boyfriend does; I would literally go batpoo crazy being alone all the time, not speaking up as much, not being as active in social gatherings. It’s just not how my brain or emotions work, but I love him and so I try to understand as much as I can. However, there are some things he does that are classic “introvert” behaviors, which I’ve had the hardest time understanding.

This article is written as the “other side of the coin” to “How to piss off an introvert”. We extroverts are people, too, and sometimes introverted behaviors are agitating to us. (I wouldn’t go so far as to say they “piss me off,” but I definitely get worried!) Here are 3 of the most worrying introvert behaviors, PLUS a handy cheat sheet to figuring out the extrovert(s) in your life!

Worrisome Introvert Behavior #1: The Flat “Mugshot” Expression at Parties

It’s really hard to enjoy a party when you spot somebody else sitting off by themselves who looks like they would rather be enduring a root canal. I don’t know if this goes for all extroverts or if it’s just me, but seeing somebody with that expression immediately dampens my enjoyment. I’m a “fixer” and a “nurturer,” so my immediate instinct is to go over and see what’s wrong, because obviously something’s wrong if they’re sitting there unsmiling!

Before you start arguing with me in your head, I know the counter-argument already, because my boyfriend and I have gone back and forth (jokingly) about this many times. You’re “not mad,” and you “don’t hate everything and everyone at the party.” But it sure looks like it! You look like you could be on America’s Most Wanted with that face! How am I not supposed to worry and not assume that something’s wrong? And most of all, how can I leave you alone without worrying that you’re not enjoying yourself (which makes me feel like I’m ignoring your needs and being a really bad person)?

confusedface I think I can speak for all extroverts when I say that we do get confused (and subsequently worry) about this. I’m not sure if it’s because we wear our expressions so much more vividly or because we express so much more of our emotional state outwardly, but it bugs me when somebody (aHEM, boyfriend) keeps reassuring me that they’re fine, only to elect to sit alone and have that weird “not quite frown” on their faces. I end up thinking, “If you were really that happy to be here, wouldn’t you, I don’t know, LOOK LIKE IT?”

Worrisome Introvert Behavior #2: The “Silent Treatment”

Imagine this scenario: you have been riding silently in the car with me for 45 minutes. I have tried every small-talk conversation tactic I know, talking about the most interesting things I can, asking questions, trying to draw you out so that I can communicate with you and enjoy your different perspective on things. But no matter what I do, you stare straight ahead, not replying or adding anything to the conversation, and yet insist, when questioned, that you’re not mad at me.

This happens with more people than just my boyfriend–many of the introverts I’ve met in my life have done this, and I end up confused and agitated because I don’t know what to do or say to reach them. One thing about extroverts: we show love through communication. If we don’t like you, we don’t talk to you. If I’m bothering to try to talk to you, it means I really want to get to know you, and I want to make the best impression possible. It doesn’t mean that I’m trying to talk your ear off or see how annoying I can be in 10 minutes. I just want human contact, and introverts are exotic, because y’all don’t talk a whole lot but you usually have something awesome to say when you do.

nervous So when our best conversation pitches and jokes are met with silence, we literally don’t know what to do next. Is he/she angry? Have I said something offensive? We rack our brains through the stream of recent conversation, trying to find anything that might have been even passably annoying. Does he/she actually hate me and is just tolerating me?

OK, OK, maybe not all of us extroverts are as paranoid about losing friends as I am, but you get the point. You sitting there in silence makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong, and I start getting desperate for ways to fix whatever I’ve done. (Which usually leads to more blathering as I hunt for something, ANYTHING to say to reconnect with them, and I end up bothering the heck out of them without meaning to.) This is extrovert torture supreme!

Worrisome Introvert Behavior #3: Spending Lots of Time Alone

Being alone, to an extrovert, is punishment, plain and simple. A solitary extrovert is like a device that ought to be able to connect to the Internet but can’t. How much can you do on an iPhone that can’t make calls and can’t get on the Internet, for instance? NOT MUCH! Same with extroverts; we literally don’t know what to do with ourselves without others around. We might be able to get a few things done around the house or attempt to read a book/watch a movie, but it’s just not as interesting without someone else there to talk to. (Internet or text communications only partly alleviate this; face-to-face communication time is the best.)

So, when an introvert (like my awesome boyfriend) says they want some time alone, it’s an instinctive shock. You mean you actually WANT to be alone? You mean I can’t spend time with you at ALL? Am I that draining that you have to get away from me?

You think I’m exaggerating, but for the first couple of years of our relationship, I battled against these feelings every time my “wub” said he needed alone time. I actually worked myself into a full-blown anxiety attack once, lying there alone in my bedroom, nauseated and dizzy, scared to death he was going to call any minute and break up with me because he wanted even MORE “alone time.” I didn’t yet understand that the request for alone time had nothing to do with me; it terrified me because I thought it held a lot more significance than it did.

Maybe not every extrovert is terrified of losing relationships, but we still worry. When we like people, we want to spend time with them. And introverts are usually amazing people who have vastly different perspectives on life. Y’all are fascinating and interesting–and then suddenly, you deprive us of your wonderful selves because you say you need “alone time.” Know what that translates to in extrovert-ese? “REJECTION.” Like I said, if extroverts don’t like you, we’ll avoid you. When you choose not to be around us, we may just interpret that as “you don’t like us.” The resulting emotional state we end up in resembles the dog pound scene from Lady and the Tramp:

How to Put Our Minds at Ease

The two ways of life I’ve described here, however, do not have to be diametrically opposed or hostile to each other. Here are the best ways to put our extrovert brains at ease:

  • Take a little time to explain in words what you need from us as a friend or significant other. I recognize that introverts have different emotional needs, but extroverts won’t magically understand those needs without some communication. If something we’re doing is bugging you, we need to know.
  • Suggest things we can do together that aren’t so mentally draining for you. If you hate going out to parties because they exhaust you, for instance, would there perhaps be a happy middle ground of “being social without being in public”, like hanging out and watching movies at home?

Summary/TL:DR

  • Extroverts aren’t less mature than introverts; we simply relate to others differently.
  • Extroverts are usually other-focused and thus concerned about others’ emotional welfare, especially in social situations. If you don’t look happy, we feel like bad friends/significant others for not ensuring that you’re having a good time.
  • Extroverts use conversation as the primary way to show love and/or friendship. If you’re silent, our main means of showing you we care about you is shut down.
  • Extroverts choose to spend time with those they love and appreciate. If you want alone time, it literally requires a mindset-shift for us to not read that as rejection.
  • Extroverts just want to be friendly, and sometimes that gets misread as “annoying.” Just a little explanation, however, can stop us from blathering around trying to find out what’s wrong!

Fat-Shaming is Pointless

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The two images above explain exactly why fat-shaming is pointless. When people judge someone harshly based on their weight, insinuating that they’re lazy, disgusting, mentally slow/disturbed, etc., they are making all sorts of assumptions about them which have no basis in fact. The only thing fat-shamers are REALLY saying is “I don’t like how your body looks.”

I dealt with this a LOT during middle and high school, and I still get people occasionally who think that because of my size, I am something to pity or someone who needs “advice” on how to “live properly***.” I used to take people’s opinions of my body very seriously, because I thought they were telling me the truth about what I was–that I was disgusting and horrible and didn’t deserve to live.

But no more. Now my response to fat-shaming is: “WHO CARES?” Certainly not this big girl. If they don’t like my body, fine–it isn’t theirs to worry about.

***Note: Medical obesity IS a definable problem which keeps a person from being able to live normally because of body size. Recovery from obesity should be treated as seriously as any disease is treated, with the proper emotional support instead of just shaming the people who “ended up this way.” Why? Because there are usually multiple medical causes of obesity (thyroid problems, stress, hormonal imbalance, medicine reactions, lower body injury/instability, etc.). (And no, we don’t all sit on our couches going through boxes of Twinkies! If you think overeating is the sole cause of medical obesity, then please educate yourself.)

Medical obesity is not what I’m speaking of in this post; “fat-shaming” occurs mostly because a person’s body does not conform to current size standards of beauty, which are highly Photoshopped and thus unrealistic anyway.

Winning’s Nice, but Don’t Forget Fun

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When was the last time you played a game and had fun with it?

Seems like a dumb question, but I’m quite serious. When did you last let go of trying to “achieve” stuff in a game, trying to “beat” the game, and just played?

Much of our gaming culture these days, whether we’re playing on tabletops, consoles, or even our smartphones, is about “beat this level, win this digital prize, beat the next level, finish the game,” and so on. It’s incredibly goal-driven, and that’s perfectly fine. But is that our only definition of “fun”–to work hard at defeating mental challenges? I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find the work of gaming to be just that–work. When you’re grinding out levels on an MMO, or desperately seeking cheat codes or walkthroughs to get through that one pesky level, sometimes it feels more like an obligation.

In those times, I seek out games that are less goal-driven, more exploratory (and some might say “boring”). But for me, gaming is not simply about showing that I can conquer challenges; it’s about giving my brain a little rest in a virtual world. And I think this is just as valid a game experience as the highly-goal-driven stuff we’re exposed to more and more. I’ve met players who seem so immersed in the culture of “winning” that their chosen game has become like a job to them, a huge yet non-fun part of their identity–it’s hard to play against them or alongside them, because of that, but I realize that I, too, can end up taking games way too seriously as well.

Don’t get me wrong, gaming goals are great, and sometimes fun can accompany the accomplishment of those goals…but don’t let the pursuit of those goals keep you from having fun. After all, it IS just a game. 😀

Too Tired to Think Straight: The “Tired Derp”

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As a person who usually fights sleep for hours before finally closing her eyes, I’m one of the world’s worst at actually understanding when I actually need to sleep. Thus, sometimes I end up saying and doing some pretty silly things in my super-tired state, which I like to refer to as “Tired Derps.” Here’s a few gems from my experiences:

  • Walking all the way to a building on my college campus, only to find out when I got there that not only was I at the wrong building, I was trying to go to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday class on a Tuesday. (Remember, kids, staying up all night to finish a paper can sometimes make you a little crazy!)
  • Taking off my glasses for the night, but putting them in my purse instead of on my bedside table as usual. (You can imagine the frantic flurry of searching the next morning!)
  • Experiencing temporary dyslexia by reversing a couple of letters in a street name I was supposed to find. (Needless to say, I figured out my mistake pretty quickly.)
  • Trying over and over again to type the word “infinite,” but constantly spelling it “inflinite”, “infinatie”, etc. (Did that while assembling yesterday’s post! LOL)
  • Forgetting that a restaurant was only in Shelby, NC, and driving all the way to Forest City, NC (30 minutes in the other direction) before realizing my mistake. (SUPER herp derp!)
  • Waking up from a 3-hour night’s sleep and not remembering who I was or why I had to get up at such an ungodly hour. (I did remember after about 3 or 4 minutes of concentration, LOL)
  • Driving home, only to miss the turn-in to my driveway by almost exactly a mile. (…How?! ROFL)
  • Hurrying out the door to Sunday school, only to realize that I forgot my keys…ran in, got my keys, left my purse; ran back in, got my purse, left my Sunday school book. (Scatterbrained much? Haha)

Have You Ever Had a “Tired Derp?”

Do you have a funny “Tired Derp” experience? Share it in the comments!