A Letter to the Editor

Dear Maney,

We, your humble readers, have a few thoughts to share with you. We’ve been following your blog for some time. We feel that we know you. We feel that you have adequately expressed to us your sorrows and weaknesses. And we have something to tell you.

When you write about how sad you feel, we suffer with you. You don’t know this, but we’ve had a fair amount of suffering as well. Some of us have also lost loved ones–parents and children. Some have suffered abuse, verbal and physical and sexual. Some of us have been broken by divorce, misplaced trust, war-torn countries. Some of us have been in the army and our PTSD is far more severe than yours. You complain because you feel sick when you see life flight helicopters? Some of us become incapacitated when we see children. For some of us, our life or the lives of our loved ones has been severely limited by disease, poverty, addiction, enslavement, and more and worse. But we’re sorry you cry alone sometimes.

And, Maney, we were shocked to hear about the explicit rap. Thankfully you dusted your shoes at the door with your little comments about how proper your sinning was. It was a relief for all of us hardcore, real-life sinners. Some of us are still struggling to forgive ourselves for past wrongs, but thanks for throwing salt in the wound by flaunting your obviously spotless record. We appreciate the comparison. On days when we wonder if we might actually have atoned for our sins, we think of you and realize just how much longer we have to go.

Dear, dear Maney. Would that we could fix your problems. We would go to any lengths to make you more comfortable, for we love you so. However, because of your pride, we cannot give you this simplest of cures, the very thing that would fix you up and shut you up, so we can worry about our own very real problems–ones that can’t be swallowed away with medicine. So in your anguish, please keep in mind that most of your struggles will end with a little blue pill. And this very cure is what you are angriest about.

Grow. Up.

Love,
Several umpteen readers you keep in your head

(P.S. I started taking happy pills again. I feel sick now but maybe in a few days both my stomach and brain will feel better.)

See Maney Love

Once upon a time, I spent the last month in San Francisco as a nanny. Good, good. First time I lived out of state, ever. I guess this should have made some kind of impression on me, but really I feel like I’m just in shock that I’m home again. I spent the greater part of June/July feeling nervous that this was my last day, and I wouldn’t even die near my home or with my family.

I appreciate that for others, a quick jaunt to the beach for a month wouldn’t be a really big deal. But for me, it was. Maney, you think, you sound like you were sent to fight in a war. But you forget, dear Reader, that for people with anxiety/depression/PTSD, every day is a battle against yourself and the world. It’s exhausting. I reiterate Seneca’s words: “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” (This is something I tell myself on bad days.)

So the lesson I learned in San Francisco wasn’t very grand. Kind of boring really, and definitely oblique. And frankly, I don’t even know if I’m right. But over all those hours and days and weeks of fighting to live and love and just exist, I found that when we go, we only have one thing left on this earth. We only have the good and bad things we did that affect those who live on. The letters we wrote, the hugs we gave, the insults we shouted, the isolated days we folded our arms and hid ourselves. And maybe those stupid, stupid things we said are all that get remembered. One of the brightest quotes in my memory of my best friend is “No one cares if you blow your nose.” How could he have known?

Hate cankers the soul, Readers. If this is your last day, I hope you show someone how much they mean to you. Even if you’re quiet about it, at least recognize the beautiful change within your own heart. Tell yourself that you can love, and just keep choosing to love everyday. Notice your gift.

And share it.

In closing, this is a song about love that I think is just really pretty. (Mat Kearney covers “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen.)

Congratulations

If you see me driving alone in a car, ruining the ozone with my selfishness;

if you see me crying on someone else’s shoulder, letting them hold me;

if you see me buying  wind-chimes, books, chocolate, or paintings;

if you see me making eye contact with the person I’m talking to;

if you see me flirting with boys I haven’t known all my life;

if you hear me laughing with life instead of at it;

if you hear me singing, for any reason,

congratulate me.

This is evidence of a battle won in the war against mental illness.

She’s There, and I Love Her

Today I realized that I silently judge people with stigma against mental health problems. I don’t even know anyone who is wildly discriminating or disrespectful. Yet, I go around stewing in hypocritical judgement of my own misguided brothers and sisters.

Mental illness runs in both sides of my family. Both sides have dealt with pain and challenges because of the negative impacts of a spouse or parent’s disease. As a child, it was easy to think, “This person did a bad thing, so they are a bad person, so I don’t like them.” This kind of thinking is juvenile. It is unacceptable. It is wrong. Good people make bad choices sometimes. This is real life. On an entirely different level, however, sometimes good people make choices that they normally wouldn’t because of an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. As we reach this level of understanding, how do we judge their actions?

The answer is simple: we don’t.

My best friend died two years ago, and last night the community got together to commemorate him. I fought anxiety and PTSD all evening. And for some reason, I don’t know why, I felt a little embarrassed. I was dissapointed with myself. Now, sitting here typing this, it makes me so sad; I was literally surrounded with people who understood my pain, and I still let myself feel inferior. “Maney,” I found myself thinking, “it’s been two years. You’ve mourned. You’re still seeing a counselor so you know you’re in good hands. You’re going to try and get off your meds by summertime. What is wrong with you?”

Today I realized that I, me, Maney, girl of depression/PTSD/anxiety, have stigma against myself. Like, I think that somehow I could magically think my way out of my disease. And I don’t want to be “broken.” And I don’t like this part of myself.

Taking a step back, I want to clarify that I am all for self-improvement. You know, exercise, eat well, laugh, serve, cuddle, pray, learn. All good. But self-improvement should not be a means of running away from yourself. I don’t want to “get over” my mental illnesses if I don’t first learn to completely love myself and others who struggle.

Anxious Maney has her good qualities. She is humble. She is sensitive and kind. She is quiet, thoughtful, observant. She is loyal to her other half, Confident Maney. She is patient, although she craves love and acceptance almost more than she can bear. I’m grateful to have her in my life.

There’s a story I really like in the book of Mark. A man comes to Jesus, asking him to free his son from the possession of a spirit. Jesus tells him, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” Chapter nine, verse twenty-four says, “And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

It’s a great story. But the reason I bring it up is this: I’m not perfect. I will probably never love my anxious self as well as I should. I want to love her, though. And so I say with tears in my eyes, on my knees before my Redeemer, “Lord, I love myself; help thou my remaining dislike.”

And for those who need just a little light to call their own, I recommend this beautiful, peaceful song: “Emphasis” by Sleeping At Last.

Turkeys; Understanding Zero to One

(writes “0-1” on the whiteboard)

I have this friend who’s told me on multiple different occasions that he wishes he could be a turkey. I feel like, of all the animals in the world, why would you choose a creepy and delicious one? You’re doomed to be scorned all your life and eventually served with mashed potatoes. Besides, don’t turkeys do that thing of looking up at the rain and drowning? How pathetic can you get? Well, the truth is, we can all be turkeys.

I’ve spent much of the last year convincing myself every day that my life is still worth living. Mostly this is because of a few traumatic events that occurred in my life last year. In March I was officially diagnosed with clinical depression and some PTSD. This has been good because I finally got medical attention for my emotional problems. I tell you this because I want to introduce myself to you as a failure. I never intended to make the mistakes I did; I never planned on getting my heart broken, losing my self-esteem, being afraid to answer the phone. I never wanted to be the girl crying in the bathroom stall. Can I not call myself a failure in this sense? I had a lot of great expectations for my senior year of high school. It’s hard to believe I spent most of my lunches in the science room, not talking to anyone, shutting out the world.

So now that I’ve established myself as a depressed failure and threatened you with turkeydom, I’ll get to the point. Lots of people, just like me, find themselves in unfortunate, unpleasant, and unexpected situations. Say they lose a loved one, they lose their job, they get an inhibiting disease, etc. They, just like me, might subscribe to the “life sucks and then you die” philosophy. You’d think that no one else has more right to think this than turkeys, right? One minute they’re the butt of the joke, and the next minute people are roasting and eating their butt. However, turkeys are more enlightened than some of us pessimistic people. They understand the concept of “zero to one.”

(points to the whiteboard)

Imagine that God is up in Heaven with all His creations, and He’s giving numbers to everyone to represent their place in the great scheme of things. Using the numbers from zero to infinity, He gives people more numbers if they have more potential for greatness. You watch as God gives Lady Gaga all the numbers between 2,000 and 3,000; that seems fair, you think. There’s no one else quite as interesting as Lady Gaga; her fashion choices are so hot they’re bacon. Then God turns to you and says,

“Well, my child, I’ve decided to give you all the numbers between zero and one.”

Your first thought is, “Why didn’t I think of a meat dress?!”

Really, though, can you imagine? Here you are, staring up at your creator, and even He seems to think you will amount to nothing. Ah, if only you were a turkey. You would realize that there is an infinite amount of numbers between zero and one. God is just being God; confusing you beyond belief while at the same time making His thoughts perfectly clear. He smiles wisely and says,

“My child, I have given you just what you need. Make of it what you will.”

Whether you like it or not, God is saying that you have infinite potential for greatness, although at first glance it may appear otherwise.  You can choose to be satisfied with infinite potential, or you can focus on the fact that you only got the numbers between zero and one. You can choose to be satisfied with your depression and anxiety issues, and allow yourself to be grateful for your opportunity to be alive, to make a difference in people’s lives, to experience love and pain deeply.

I am looking at a classroom full of failures. We have all been given the numbers between zero and one. Our lives won’t turn out the way we expect. We won’t achieve some of our dreams. Bad things will happen to us, some of them beyond our control. How do we measure our life when it hurts to admit we only got from zero to one? We have to forget the breadth of our existence and focus on the depth. Turkeys understand this.

Turkeys are debatably ugly creatures. They have these floppy red things all over their faces, called the snood, wattle, and caruncles. Male turkeys are bred too large to have natural fertilization without hurting the hens, so that part of turkey life is done artificially. They are produced on farms and kept in such close quarters that they can’t even stand up without touching another bird. What a sad life.

And yet, when it rains, turkeys look up.

Whatever the reason, and whether or not turkeys really do drown in the rain, when they feel the raindrops on their feathers, they forget the pathetic reality they exist in for a few precious seconds. They may even forget that their eyes don’t allow them to focus on what’s above them. For those seconds, with the water running down their back, with the steady rhythm of drops hitting the dirt, with the distant thunder rolling over the earth, turkeys partake of their own “zero to one;” their piece of eternity.

This is why we all can be turkeys. We have the ability to pause occasionally in life and look up. Despite our flaws, our faults, our mistakes, our regrets, we still can achieve greatness. We are all connected to that wondrous, flowing, bonding river of numbers, that eternal supply of remarkable human capability, no matter if we have a snood or anything.

I have experienced pain to a degree that I thought wasn’t humanly possible. I never thought I would end up like I am now. And yet, I need not be afraid to live my life. I know that I will fail again and again and again. I can be a turkey; I was given the numbers between zero and one. It’s up to me, and each of us, to decide that our lot of zero to one is equivalent to an infinite potential for good.