Friends

When I was little, I didn’t have very many friends. I usually had the one requisite best friend and that is who I would hang out with. For some reason though, eventually this best friend would move and I would spend time in limbo before finding a new friend. This happened many times from 1st grade all the way through high school.

I was always on the fringe of any groups. Now that I’m older, I feel like I spent my childhood chasing after the other kids on the playground. I would invite girls to my birthday parties and they would attend but I wasn’t always include in outside events. As we got older, it became even more apparent to me that I didn’t belong.

My middle school years, 5th and 6th grade, I felt like even more of an outsider. In 5th grade, I became the teacher’s pet just so I could go back to my classroom instead of going out to recess. The few times I remember going to recess, I recall sitting in front of an old tree stump that was disintegrating and picking at it, watching all of the other kids. I tried joining in a couple of times but I honestly felt like I wasn’t wanted.

By high school the differences were even more pronounced. I wasn’t into fashion and I wasn’t ‘boy-crazy’. I was a musical nerd who enjoyed her classes and joined every extracurricular choral group possible. After I turned 16, I got a job but I still didn’t feel like I fit in. Looking back at pictures of myself from high school, I feel like I’m on the edges; on the outside looking in.

I’ve felt this way my entire life. I’ve often been told it’s because I’m more mature than others my age or that I ‘had an old soul’. But while that is great advice, as a kid, I just wanted to fit in. I just wanted to be part of the group; to feel wanted and involved.

Today, I don’t have many friends, but I cherish the ones I do. They are important to me because I know how much it sucks to not be  invited or to be forgotten or ignored. I want my friends to know that I appreciate that they are willing to be there for me, especially on days when my depression attempts to get the best of me. My friends are my support and for that, I thank them.

My Dream

“I have a dream….”1 Ever since Martin Luther King Jr. uttered those words on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, they have had a unique meaning. But in all honesty, I do have a dream. I have a dream that mental health will be regarded without stigma and prejudice. I have a dream that one day, people will realize that mental health is important and a mental illness is a disease much like cancer. However, unlike cancer, mental illness does not generally show major physical symptoms. There is no hair loss, no chemo or radiation treatments and a mentally ill person does not look physically sick. But this does not mean that they are not suffering just as much.

I truly believe that depression and mental illness is a disease. It’s like getting a tumor; it’s not your fault. Are you going to turn around and tell a person with a tumor or cancerous growth that it’s their fault for getting that? Would you tell a person with a broken leg to ‘just get over it’? Why would you do the same to a mentally ill person who also is struggling with the question; ‘Why me?’.

My dream is to start a nonprofit foundation to not only help those with mental illness, but to also fight the stigmas and cliches that have permeated the idea of mental illness. Those with depression and anxiety are sick, not lazy, crazy or faking it.

The name for this nonprofit would be ADAPT. Advocates for Depression Awareness, Progress & Tolerance, all of which is needed in the field of mental health. If I can educate or bring awareness to those who don’t understand depression, progress and tolerance will follow.

Martin Luther King Jr’s most famous words were uttered that day. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”.1 Today, people are still judged by their looks and actions rather than their character. So let me ask you, how do you want to be judged? Or do you even want to be judged at all?

I have a mental illness; this makes me sick and I can’t just ‘get over it’ and I’m not ‘being lazy’. There are days that I struggle to make through. There are habits and behaviors that I have to change, but this is not a disease that I have to fight alone. Just as people support friends and family with cancer, people also need to support and help those with mental illness.

So my dream, to start a nonprofit; ADAPT, could change the world. I want it to change the world and I want it to change your mind about mental health.

  1. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Speech “I Have A Dream”

Me Against the World

I often feel like it is me against the world. Mental health is still stigmatized, at least one hundred years after it was first considered a legitimate clinical diagnosis. I feel like people, including my family, look at me and see that I look normal and therefore think that there is no possible way that I could be sick.

I often wish that mental illness was like cancer, where you end up in the hospital or at least you look sick. I consider depression to actually be a cancer, but because you don’t look sick everyone says “you’re fine” and should just “get over it.”

There are times when I feel like crying for absolutely no reason. Or my mood will change at the drop of a hat. One little thing could trigger me, like it did today, and there goes my good or at least, baseline mood and I have to fight to get it back.

Today I walked into work and we have a log book so that each shift can know what major things happened in previous shifts. Unfortunately, this log-book is mostly used to list complaints and to nitpick people’s job performances. I worked my butt off last night, with the hotel being at almost full capacity and I feel like I did the best that I could possibly do. I walk into work today and there is a list of complaints of things that didn’t get done or weren’t done satisfactorily. My mood immediately went south. I was frustrated, I was angry and I felt like I wasn’t good enough. It took me 4 hours to bring me back to baseline. Four hours to come to terms with the fact that they were nitpicking because they wanted to find something wrong. Almost like they had to find something wrong. And now I’m starting to feel sorry for them and I wonder what misery in their lives is causing them to take it out on us at work.

I realize that I make snap judgements about things and emotions. I decide within seconds how I want to feel about something and it takes hours of turning it over in my mind, to change how I feel. I need to learn and I’m trying to learn to take my time to ride the wave of my emotions and not just settle on feeling only one, especially a negative one.

So while I often feel like it’s me against the world, in reality it’s not. I have many people rooting for me to succeed and many people believe in me and believe that I can get better; that I can become a healthier person.

Even in treatment, I feel like i’m struggling to tread water while I’m surrounded by boats of people, all shouting vague suggestions to me, including swim harder. All of these people are shouting suggestions at me rather than trying to help me into the boat. It’s like they’re afraid that helping me might tip their own boat over. But that’s not true. They just don’t understand.

So to that end, I’m writing these posts to promote understanding. Because I want the people in my life to at least partly understand what I’m going through. But I don’t think people understand how stressful it is to explain what’s going on in your head when you don’t even understand it yourself. But I’m going to keep on trying and struggling to promote awareness, progress and tolerance. There needs to be a change. We need to ADAPT!!!

Someone to Care

I often times find myself uncaring.  I don’t care about anything, but more like I have lost my ability to care. I just want everything to go away. I wish I could care but I can’t find and don’t have the energy to and I can’t find the motivation to care about anything. When you’re at this point, no one understands that you’re just trying to care about yourself, even a little bit and you can’t.

It’s like you go numb and you can’t feel anything. You can’t feel pleasure but you also can’t feel pain. The only thing you can do at this point is exist; you can only survive. You hope for the days when you feel better; when you don’t feel as numb. And you hate the days of continuing numbness because they feel like they will never end.

Sometimes I just need someone to care for me when I can’t. Sometimes I need someone to show my that I am important. I need to be shown that I am loved and cared for. It’s scary when you can’t feel anything; when you can’t even care about yourself. Sometimes I need someone to tell me that I am important and that I have a purpose.

Lately, I’ve been feeling less uncaring. Lately, I have found my passion and my purpose. Right now, I am letting this drive me because I know that if I didn’t, I would end up back in that circle of uncaring. So find your passion and let it drive you. Use it as your strength and know that someone does care for you. I might not know you, but I care for you and I empathize with your journey because it is not an easy one. But you will get through it and you will get better; just stick with it and remember, I care.

The Itty Bitty Shitty Committee

I mentioned learning about The Itty Bitty Shitty Committee or IBSC in my last post. Here is a poem I wrote describing the IBSC.

The Itty Bitty Shitty Committee by Talia Malon

There is a little committee in my mind
Which always, always likes to find
The pieces inside of me to hate
The broken pieces that seem to late
to fix, to mend, they’re broken too soon
these pieces of me will have to do.

This Itty Bitty Shitty Committee
Likes to tell me what to think
It likes to watch me fall and sink
Into the darkness, into the gloom
this committee likes to tell me what to do
It lies and lies and lies again
I can’t ever seem to find the end

The struggle inside of my mind
goes on and on until I cry
I cry for it all to end
I cry because I have no friends
This committee pushes people away
they always go, they never stay

I hate the way I think and feel
This committee, I know is not real
I fight to make it go away
I fight to live another day
I will win this war, or fall instead
I will win this war, it’s all I have

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is Mental Health Awareness month. So I am trying my best to make that awareness known. I am excited to be speaking to three church congregations about my journey and how they can help those with mental illness. I’m also extremely nervous to start public speaking but I’m hoping that these first three speeches will lead to bigger and better things. As Lao Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I guess speaking could be considered a second step, with this blog being the first.

Mental health is a serious matter, whether you suffer from an illness or not. It is always good to care for your mental state and your emotions. Being aware of your feelings and emotions makes you more in tune with yourself.

So in honor of mental health month, I’m going to ask you to wear a green ribbon whether it’s your mental health or in honor of a friend or family member. And when asked about it, explain why you wear that ribbon. There is no shame in mental health. Spread the word!!

May Mental Health Month Slideshow Final_0

Another’s Perspective

I must preface this post by saying it is written by my best friend. He’s the one who has been there for me through everything. So here is his perspective on my (Talia’s) mental illness.

I have never been diagnosed with depression.  I don’t believe I am a true depressive.  In fact I consider myself a relatively happy person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my bad days.  We all have our bad days.  I may not be a depressive, but I am the friend that Talia has described as her supporter.  While I do not claim to have an understanding of what it is like to suffer from depression, I do feel like Talia has taught me a lot on her journey.  Recently, I’ve had a string of bad days and I felt like getting my thoughts onto paper may just help.

I don’t know exactly what it’s like to wake up every day and struggle to find the motivation to get out of bed.  I don’t know what it’s like to look at a situation and have an uncontrollable part of my brain make me think the absolute worst thing about it.  I don’t often question to myself what the point of trying is.  I don’t have this mental illness that consumes the logical part of my brain and spreads like a cancer, telling me I’m worthless and things will never get better.  I know the “string of bad days” that I have aren’t anywhere near what true depression is and that scares the HELL out of me.  I feel terrible as I write this and can’t even imagine what I would feel like if I did have depression.  I respect and love anyone who has to deal with these feelings everyday of their lives and that’s why I’ve remained loyal to and supportive of Talia.  No matter how many scientific articles you read, or how many stories you hear, a non-depressive will never be able to fully understand exactly what it’s like.  But they can get a decent knowledge and that could just lead you to be the supporter of a depressive.

For me, it’s a weird journey.  I have a lot of “normal” days.  I wake up, shower, get dressed and go to work.  I do the humanly thing and say “I don’t want to go to work today,” but that seems like nothing other than social expectations anymore.  Despite the fact that I do have a lot to be thankful for, such as breath in my lungs, a roof over my head or food on the table, it’s easy to find myself in a string of “bad days.”  The last two weeks have been a string for the ages.  I took a two day trip to St. Louis and had a ball, but when I returned to work the figurative snow started to fall.  I manage a store and am responsible for making sure it operates as it should to conduct business.  My first day back, I had a clerk call off due to a sick child.  We are a small store and she was the only one scheduled that day so I was forced to work by myself from 4 AM until 3 PM.  It wasn’t all that bad, but it was enough to get a little stressed.  That was when the figurative snowball was first packed.  I worked a 14 hour shift the next day.  That was when the figurative snowball was gently pushed over the edge of the hill.  Another clerk called off the following day and I was forced to work by myself again.  That figurative snowball was gaining momentum and it just kept going.  By Friday, five days after returning from St. Louis, the original clerk had her other child get sick.  So it was another day working by myself.  The weekend didn’t bring any improvements.  Three of my five staff were off due to requests that had been approved before we had lost a person.  To reward their work, I felt the need to fulfill their requests not knowing that the week was going to be hell.  Things at work just kept piling up and before I knew it, I had worked at least 12 hours for 10 straight days.

I was mentally drained.  That figurative snowball I mentioned previously had grown.  All it took was that one call-off to set things in motion.  At a point, my niece asked why the CD I was trying to play in the car kept getting spit back out.  As I told her that the CD player was just worn out and starting to lose function, the thought of having to replace my car soon entered my head.  I got this car my senior year of high school, twelve years ago.  It’s beginning its last leg.  I currently live with my sister, unable to afford my own place at 29 years old due to a crippling amount of student loan debt for a degree I may never use.  I’ve been working hard at paying down my other bills and saving money to free up funds to afford other life necessities, such as my own place.  Soon, I’ll have to make the decision of getting a new car or moving out on my own.  Of course it’s not really a choice at all; the car would win out and I’d be left living with my sister and her family.  I sit here writing this after day thirteen in a row at work, missing four days off over the course of the last two weeks and the thoughts just keep piling up.  I’m not content with where I’m at in life and I don’t feel as though the opportunities to correct it are there.  I can’t find a job worth leaving my current one, I can’t seem to find anyone to date and I don’t get to enjoy time off.

The point I wanted to make with that story is that we all have our “tough times”.  Have you ever missed a promotion at work?  Ever gotten called in on your day off? You feel helpless and let yourself get down.  Multiply that feeling by ten and you’d know how I feel right now, knowing why I feel terrible about myself.  Now take that feeling and multiply it by a million and you might just see what a depressive feels like EVERY day of their lives without having a clue as to why.  So take a moment before you make a comment to somebody suffering from depression.  It’s not quite as easy as “brushing it off.”  I’m having trouble picking myself up and I know why I’m down.  A depressive can’t fathom what it will take to bring them back and have no clue where to start.

I support Talia fully, no matter what.  Even though I have feelings similar to that of hers, I still have trouble remembering that her thoughts of worst case scenario are not by choice.  I get frustrated talking with her.  I get angry sometimes and just want to explode.  But I take a moment to remember how I’ve felt and how she must feel; a million times worse.  I take solace in knowing that I can be there for her.  No matter what.

If you know someone with depression, take the time to educate yourself.  Listen to them, no matter how frustrating it can be, and give them a shoulder to cry on.  Don’t bother asking them what’s wrong because they probably don’t know.  Just let them talk.  Be their supporter.  You could be the only motivation they have to do anything.