(Men)tal Health Needs To Be Addressed

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“Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, something is out of tune.”

– Carl Jung

 

Please allow me to get this possible controversial bit of opinion out of the way: most men, especially latino men, are a ridiculously stubborn bunch.

 

Goodnight folks, thank you for coming! *walks off stage while being pelted with rotten eggs and vegetables*

 

In all seriousness, as far back as I can remember we have been raised, programmed, and indoctrinated to be alpha males, hunters and gatherers, strong, unbreakable, stoic, etc. Human males are expected to be the protector, the guardian, the provider, yada yada yada yada ad nauseam.

You see it all the time in old school TV shows, sitcoms, and movies, those classic tropes:

Image result for archie bunker

The Portrait of a Real Man – back in the 70’s; *insert sarcastic social commentary here*

 

“Men talking about their feelings? Are you serious?! What’s wrong with you?!”

 

“The only “men” that talk about their feelings are either gay, emo, or both!”

 

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t bombarded with that macho, testosterone-laced rhetoric, day in, day out, constantly.

And bullied, beaten, and criticized for thinking and feeling otherwise.

There’s that word again.

 

Feeling.

 

Seriously guys, you didn’t see that one coming?!

 

I understand that we live in a day and age where our senses are constantly violated through the media, having the “ideal” image of what a man and woman should be casually shoved down our throats, without realizing – or caring – the hurtful impact it has on the general public’s psyche. As a collective, we have become victims of our own fantasies, obsessed with our media darlings, our aspiration to be models, entrepeneurs, tycoons, ninjas, sleek and stylish rogue agents, modern day samurai. We have stunted our emotional growth in order to foster a fairly unattainable lifestyle which leads most people to mental health ruin, among other things.

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t strive to be our best, that we shouldn’t attempt to achieve our goals – it’s commendable to challenge yourself on a daily basis, set goals, brainstorm ideas, and find your calling in life; my point is that you have to set those standards WITHIN REASON.

You don’t plan to run a marathon for the first time with the expectation to finish top tier if you’ve never run in your life, do you?

 

If you do, please seek immediate professional help before you hurt yourself.

 

The sensible thing to do is to begin to train slowly – start running; set daily, weekly, and monthly goals, patiently creating endurance and strength, both physical and mental – all the while keeping realistic expectations in mind, with the possibility that you may or may not achieve the finish line.

And that’s perfectly fine.

That’s what second chances and opportunities are for.

Unfortunately, a lot of men seem to suffer from what I like to call emotional dysphagia – the inability to swallow your pride.

 

There has been a very peculiar trend I have been witnessing lately while scrolling through social media – so many brave women finally finding the courage and will to empower themselves, to make themselves be heard, invoking their well-deserved right to be respected, to be taken seriously, taking their lives back, gaining control over their mental illness and molding themselves into these amazing reborn Phoenixes, ready to take on the world through positivity, education, physical fitness, self-motivation, support groups, etc. The most beautiful part is that they empower each other as well, encouraging each other, cheering others on to take the path of resistance and challenge, to overcome, to persevere, to triumph.

Yet in comparison, there are very few men that have taken active roles in taking those examples and help their fellow male brothers out.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying they are not out there.

Sisyphus and the rock – no, not THAT Rock

 

Huge shoutout to my boy Sisyphus for showing my boys the strength to deal with the eternal struggle – for another great read, check out this article on an inspiring interpretation of the Myth of Sisyphus.

 

View story at Medium.com

What I am saying is that many men keep silent; they suffer in silence, out of fear of being ridiculed, emasculated, because they might be mentally ill and don’t realize it, don’t want to face it, and are unable to acknowledge it and keep themselves in denial, whether it be out of fear, socio-economic reasons, cultural pressure, or physical/emotional abuse.

 

And that, my friends is something that needs to be addressed. Pronto.

 

It took me a very long time to finally accept my mental illness and get the proper treatment. As a male Latino, I was the odd minnow swimming among a school of barracuda, and if I was to be allowed to swim among the predators, I was expected to learn to act like one or else be swallowed whole.

Feelings were for the weak; leave the touchy-feely stuff to the queers and weaklings that can’t fend for themselves – we’ve got beers to chug and bitches to fuck. All of that machismo and bravado dripping from alcohol sweats and insecurity, hiding behind a mask of “strength” through emotional attrition.

 

Related image

Bada-bing-bada-boom, yeah, I’m emotionally progressive and in touch with my feelings – wanna smash?!

 

And yet behind that veneer of illusory confidence, inflated egos, and puffy chests I posit that inside laid many broken hearts, fractured minds, and wayward souls that wanted to cry out for help, but they didn’t know how – eventually leading to their emotional, and in some cases fatal, downfall.

They fell victim to the ideal of what a “real man” should be.

And that needs to stop.

If you are a man who is currently reading this, you probably have a sensible head on your shoulders, for you’re seeking the same community full of support, compassion, and understanding that we know will lead us to a healthier understanding of ourselves and those around us. Sadly, there are many more of us who aren’t that lucky or receptive. Let’s reach out to them, let’s let them know that it’s ok to lend a helping hand, that it’s not taboo to seek professional psychological and psychiatric help.

Mental illness is a beast that will attack anyone regardless of gender or sexual orientation, it does not discriminate according to the color of your skin, it cares not if you believe in God, Buddha, Allah, Krishna, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, Odin, Joe Smith, Xenu or whatever religious denomination you choose to believe in – mental illness transcends all barriers and belief systems.

 

Forget about the concept of being a “real man”.

 

Instead, let’s learn how to be genuine, compassionate human beings – the first step is to seek help.

 

 

 

 

(Anti)Social Media(crity)

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

Image result for if it's on the internet it must be true

“If it’s on the Internet, it must be true, right?”

That used to be a running joke – now, it’s a terrifying reality because we have become so intertwined and desperately co-dependent on maintaining these subjective realities we wish to convey upon our adoring public audience, that we end up believing our own stories, creating simulations, craving adoration, transforming our lives into public fodder for mass consumption to fill a void of our own creation – this void takes many shapes and forms, ironically enough, since a void by definition is the absence of space, emptiness, nothing.

What is it that we’re missing?

Simple – that same human connection, that warmth, that compassion, that sense of familiarity and togetherness we severed the moment we became dependent on fostering and “enhancing” that connection through technological advancement. We became weary of the influx of sensory overstimulation that cemented what we always feared: that the world is a big, scary place no matter where you go.

Addicts of any kind tend to find comfort in self-destructive behavior, antisocial if you will (not to be confused with schizoid behavior*), because it is an immediate release of tension and frustration, finding solace in the numbing of the senses, desensitizing themselves to the world and the pain and confusion it harbors in our lives.

*On a very important side note, I feel the need to clear up the defining distinction between what people think antisocial means versus what it truly is. When most people think of “antisocial” behavior, they default to what is better known as schizoid behavior – which is “characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships, a tendency towards a solitary or sheltered lifestyle, secretiveness, emotional coldness, detachment, and apathy.”

Antisocial Behavior is defined as “disruptive acts characterized by covert and overt hostility and intentional aggression toward others. Antisocial behaviors exist along a severity continuum and include repeated violations of social rules, defiance of authority and of the rights of others, deceitfulness, theft, and reckless disregard for self and others.”I don’t know about you, but that sounds like 90% of online social media behavior to me.

Why do I bring these things up?

Because, in theory, obsession with social media is an addiction just like any other, with just as much dangerous repercussions. Studies have now shown how detrimental and dangerous social media is to mental health.

Unfortunately, I am a recovering social media junkie.

I used to be OBSESSED with Facebook, typing away until my fingertips would bleed, criticizing every post in sight, ranting the night away until the early hours of the day – I would have surgically implanted a smartphone into my forearm if it meant I could be instantly jacked into Wall Feeds and comments sections, able to stream my consciousness straight into everyone’s glowing face, submit their eyeballs to the will of how I say things should be. Then again, I think that’s everyone’s power fantasy – that their meaningful words, their passion, their devotion to critical analysis, their creative genius, the world should bear witness and submit in awe to such raw talent and power!

Allow me to elaborate with a few examples:

Click-click-click-click-clickity-click-click-click-hashtag-emoji, etc., then she giggles, freezes in a seductive pose full of empty innocence and superficial flair – the world is perfect, frozen in time, a succulent feast for weary eyes, low self-esteems, and validation. All the boys will come to her yard, and that’s just the way she wants it – what SelfieGirl wants, SelfieGirl gets. (Nobody puts SelfieGirl in a corner!)

selfie2.jpg

SelfieGirl in action! Instagram me, babe!

Click-click-click-click-clickity-click-click-click, etc. – furious fingers stabbing the keyboard in righteous anger and judgment, filled with infinite knowledge and impeccable dry wit, wait, wait, wait, delete, delete, delete, *insert threat-filled bravado comment here*, *insert expletive geared towards Oedipal rage and discomfort*; people quiver at the sight of my words slashing through their sensibilities, and I will change the world!

angry-at-computer-300x198.jpg

AngryCommenterDude on every news article; Mansplain it to me, sir!

Click-click-click-click-clickity-click-click-click, an armchair general/political savant/social justice warrior/frustrated lawyer-who-never-passed-the-bar educates the masses on the virtues of social norms, blessing all with their impartial wisdom about injustice in news articles, shooting down differing opinions, engaged in the eternal conflict between right and wrong, in an infinite virtual landscape.

180227-binge-watching-side-effects-03.jpg

SelfRighteousLady who spent more time on hacktivism than actual study *sad face emoji*

What do these three scenarios have in common?

All three take place in social media environments 24/7, a constant barrage of data, rampant emotions, trolling opinions, superficiality, and reality distortion.

In laymen’s terms: people sometimes take social media WAY too seriously.

We create online personas, virtual egos that are untouchable, unbreakable, infallible, because they are intangible and ephemeral, or so we fool ourselves into believing. Lie enough times, and eventually you’ll start seeing them as absolute truth.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is a very scary thought.

For someone who is mentally ill, stability is a luxury that most times we cannot afford; we take things at face value, and we hold on to the idealization of a concept, we clutch it tightly, because we crave and desire a security blanket, a safety net that will save us from our tumbles down the rabbit hole of mental health.

And so we become obsessed with online life, because we can produce perfection with the touch of a button – we can create barriers, filter our thoughts, distill our memories, manipulate, restructure, recreate, redefine, all with our fingertips, some imagination, and the most dangerous ingredient of them all, anonymity.

Anonymity breeds ambiguity – and that my friends, is a ticking time bomb for anyone who has a mental condition that clouds our judgment, that strips us of our clarity, that toys with our impulses, that enables our innermost base instincts to lash out, without foresight, introspection, or regard for common decency.

I have personally seen the dire effects of social media as it pertains to suicidal behavior, interpersonal relationship abuse, social instability, etc. We all have this morbid curiosity in vicariously living through others’ experiences, relishing in the misery of mankind’s folly, where reality is manufactured, recorded, and consumed in a gluttonous catharsis that alleviates any sense of dread because “it happens to others” and we find it hard to relate because on the screen, it’s not real; it’s just another TV episode, another form of entertainment and detachment.

I hate to break it to you:

Reality is what you make of it, but only in so far as it relates and affects others around you; it’s very tangible, very real, and whether you realize it or not, every little action, word, syllable, letter, click-clack and ding-dong you send out there will have a ripple effect. A smartphone screen won’t shield you from the repercussions of some anonymous entity’s thirst for notoriety. What we see, what we hear, day in, day out, is rammed right into our subconscious mind – no app will filter that, no matter how many blue light filters you have going, no matter how many notifications you disable.

When in doubt, disconnect – go into “airplane mode” if you will. Leave the toxic radiation emanating from that mini-nuclear reactor you call a smartphone, a tablet, a “productivity tool”, etc. – put it down, it’s ok, it won’t explode if you don’t use it, you won’t run out of life support if you’re not interconnected.

Take a breather, look out the window – better yet, go outside. Feel the breeze on your skin, feel the drops of sweat rolling down if you’re in a warm environment, revel in the snowy shiveriness of snowflakes and chills if you’re in the cold. Let yourself feel. No static noise, no scrolling chatter, no ads, no pop-ups, no ADD enablers, no fear – just you and your nerve-endings and neurons firing in synchronicity and harmony, your body tingling with sensations, mindfulness, awareness, and peace.

It’s ok to be disconnected in an interconnected world, as long as you know that it is a healthy, conscious choice, not a social obligation to please others – you are entitled to choosing yourself, your health, your sanity, your self-esteem, your self-respect, your dignity above all other things.

You are not your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, *insert exponentially multiplying social media platforms here* – you are a breathing, feeling, simple human being….and that is ok.

Like, share, and subscribe if you agree. *wink wink nudge nudge*

I’ll leave you guys with a clip from one of my favorite comics, masterfully throwing down one of my favorite bits that encapsulates the ridiculous idea of the “Modern Man” perfectly:

George Carlin, I freakin’ miss you terribly; RIP, you mad genius!!

Not All Bruises Are Visible

“There’a a phrase, “the elephant in the living room”, which purports to describe what it’s like to live with a drug addict, an alcoholic, an abuser. People outside such relationships will sometimes ask, “How could you let such a business go on for so many years? Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?” And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth; “I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in. I didn’t know it was an elephant; I thought it was part of the furniture.” There comes an aha-moment for some folks – the lucky ones – when they suddenly recognize the difference.”
― Stephen King

 

#Trigger Warning: The following article contains violent literary imagery and extremely sensitive subject matter pertaining to physical and emotional abusive behavior. Reader discretion is advised. 

 

She sat on the bed, like a crumpled piece of paper ripped from a tear-stained notebook; I stood at the door way, blocking any means of escape, steadfast, white-knuckled.  The sobbing was barely audible through the screams; each broken plead smacked away with callous impunity. I was judge, jury, and executioner; the only victim was my bruised ego – nothing else mattered. Transgressions were to be punished until the perpetrator learned their lesson, until the unquenchable thirst for justice, righteousness, and virtue was satisfied – there was no room for pity, forgiveness, or respite.

 

The lesson must be taught by any means necessary.

 

That image will forever haunt me, will be permanently etched in my psyche, vividly emblazoned into my memory until the day I die – there will not be a day that will go by that I won’t remind myself:

 

I, Jose Sebastian Perez, was a victim of emotional abuse, and I am also an abuser.

 

Just like any drug addict, like any alcoholic, the operative word is not WAS….I AM – not because I choose to be, but because it was the choices I made that will forever label me; I CHOSE to emotionally and physically compromise peoples’ lives through manipulation, lying and cheating, through despicable acts of physical violence and emotional torture.

 

The subject of emotional abuse has been long overdue to be discussed, and due to pertinent and recent events, I am about to open a can of worms unlike any I have dared open before….

 

Why would I choose to act in such a cruel, disgusting manner? Why – after witnessing acts of cruelty, lack of empathy, violence – why – after huddling in a corner of my bed fearing for my life, waiting for the stinging pain on my face, desperately swallowing away the taste of blood in my mouth – why – after being covered in shattered ceramic, room temperature milk and cereal for eating slowly – why – after being humiliated, belittled, yelled at, threatened, barked, backhanded, welted with wire hangars, pushed head-first to the ground, kicked in the ribs, covering my 7 year old head – why – after being lied to, coerced into compliance, to strive for perfection, virtue, respect – WHY – would I want to put anyone else through that Miltonian imagery of suffering?!

 

Why? Why?! FUCKING WHY?!

 

Because that is all I knew – because that is what I was taught; perfection through violent training and conditioning is virtue.

 

I was a child whose innocence was stripped away, replaced with a sickening view of the world, amplified through the lens of mental illness – the very same illness which led my family to believe that my hyperactivity, lack of focus, and constant confusion was to be remedied through strict violence.

 

Image result for emotional abuse

 

Throughout the years, I used my mental condition and instability as a crutch, an excuse to condone behavior that is beyond reprehensible and condemnable – I used suicide threats as a tool to manipulate people for pity; I learned to mask behavior and mimic affection, snaking my way into roles of confidence and trust, only to then use that comfort for my own selfish needs and whims. I excelled at reading people, gaining insight into their hopes, dreams, pleasures and pains; I used that information to continue my charade of benevolence, all the while stuffing my maw with delicious gratification at the expense of others’ fragility and shortcomings, gorging on their weaknesses, exploiting them for my own gain.

 

The irony of it all, though, was that half of me was in on the plan; the other half of me was still that scared child, huddling behind the monstrous Hulk who was to be feared and respected – and I witnessed every event, frozen in fear, screaming at the top of my lungs at Hulk to not hurt the ones I loved – yes, I was still capable of feeling love, but it was attachment, necessity, desperation, that hunger for love and safety I was never gifted.

 

Abuse is simply about power and control, to use any means to attain it and maintain it – it is a sick need, a powerful drug, an addiction, that is born out of the desperation of having no control over your circumstances, of feeling powerless to overcome that agony.

 

Let’s take a quick moment to go over a few phrases:

 

“This is all your fault, I wouldn’t be upset if you wouldn’t have *insert arbitrary transgression here*.”

“You don’t care about me; all you care about is yourself!”

“Oh please, you’re ALWAYS the victim – you’re never wrong, I’m always the one at fault!”

“Why do you always make me do these things? You’re always bringing me down and then you wonder why I react the way I do?!”

“Why do I always have to do what all of you want me to do, when I have done everything that you ask of me?!”

“It’s always about what YOU need, about what YOU want; what about MY needs?!”

 

Do any of these phrases sound familiar?

 

Notice how all of them are directed towards someone else, blaming someone for behavior that does not correspond to them? Notice how it makes the recipient “responsible” for any consequence? Notice the accusatory tone, the aggression, the attack on character and emotion?

 

They are straight out of the Abuser’s Handbook To Manipulating Guilt In Their Favor.

Abuse quote - The only people who get upset about you setting boundaries are the onces who were benefiting from you having none.

 

The second you relinquish any sense of self-respect, self-worth, and allow emotionally aggressive behavior to go unrecognized without consequence, congratulations, you have officially allowed yourself to become a victim of abuse.

 

And thus the cycle begins:Image result for emotional abuse

 

  1. Tensions building – This is what I call the transgression phase, or “walking on eggshells”. This is where you notice meek behavior, a fragile state of fear where even the smallest hint of weakness will be perceived as an opportunity to strike, to exert power and control. These are the moments where abusers who feel powerless lash out and do whatever it takes to regain that loss of control, always at the expense of the victim of said abuse.
  2. Incident – This is the “shit has hit the fan phase”. Here within lies the main antagonist, the monster of subjugation, the duel of wills, the power struggle. This is where the majority of verbal barrage and attacking takes place, as well as physical violence – the escalation is intense, a terrifying game of “chicken” if you will, to see who will survive the ordeal. It almost never bodes well for the victim, for the abuser is willing to play dirty, willing to go to lengths of unimaginable mental and emotional depravity to exert his will upon those who have bested him – it is a do-or-die contest, and victims are blindsided so badly, that they relent to the assault.
  3. Reconciliation – Otherwise known as the “I Gone Done Fucked Up And Now I have To Clean Up This Mess” phase. Sometimes I consider this phase to be the worst part of the abuse, but that is definitely up for debate. Here’s where deadly charm and persuasion play a role in smoothing things over – every emotional guilt trip trick in the book is used – the term gaslighting* comes to mind. (To gaslight someone is to manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity)
  4. Calm – And finally, the most famous term of them all, the Honeymoon Phase, known in other circles as “lovebombing” – the victim will be showered in adoration and gifts; promises are made, pacts are built, makeup sex is stupendous, and all is forgiven. “It won’t happen again, I promise. I’m a new person, and I will make amends. Everything will be better from now on. I swear.” Meanwhile, the abuser just hit the reset button on the next incident’s timer. The countdown has begun once again.

I realize this is a severe oversimplification of such a complex and sensitive subject, but the point I am trying to make is that emotional aggression is only a single type of abuse:

Image result for types of abuse

A popular representation of the different types of abuse

 

There are boundaries and limits that should be established in ANY interpersonal relationship, whether it be familial, romantic, or platonic.

 

At this point I realize I have been pontificating, preaching to the choir like a humongous hypocrite.

 

“Sebastian, ” you say, “how dare you criticize and condemn the behavior which you have so shamelessly attributed to yourself?”

 

Because I am both a victim and an abuser. This subject needs to be talked about, exposed, discussed, scrutinized, and handled every single day, at every single moment.

 

Nothing, and I mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING can condone abusive behavior. NOTHING. 

 

If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, run. Run like your life depended on it – in many sad and unfortunate cases, it does, and many men and women have needlessly and tragically lost their lives due to this horrendous behavior.

 

There is hope, however – with professional treatment, therapy, honesty, and brass balls, the cycle of abuse can be broken. This is not always the case, though, and it takes effort, dedication, love, patience, anger management, trust-building, and most of all – time.

Here are some tips that worked miracles for me:

  1. The first, and most crucial step is to recognize and accept that you are an abuser, or that you are in an abusive relationship. Internalize it, accept it, assimilate it, brand it into your DNA, douse yourself in strength and courage, surround yourself with positive influences, and seek a functional, stable, reliable support system.
  2. Be the architect of positive change, not the author of your own regretful obituary; pity parties – one of my favorite terms – are not a gala event people wish to attend.
  3. Hold yourself accountable for every action taken, every decision made, and every word spoken.
  4. Leave the promises to the indebted gamblers and finance brokers; do, don’t say. I know it’s a cliche, but actions speak louder than words – demonstrate that you are aware that there is always work to be done, and there is always room to learn and grow.

 

You know the old adage that a sheet of wrinkled paper can never be smooth once crumpled, no matter how much ironing you put it through?

 

It will never be the same, but that does not mean that the very page that was crumpled can’t be used to write a beautiful poem, to draw a simple, pretty sketch, or be shaped into a soaring paper airplane destined for clear, blue skies.

 

 

They Can’t All Be Winners

“I’ve had the sort of day that would make St. Francis of Assisi kick babies.”
Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

#Trigger Warning: This post contains literary imagery that may be unsuitable for sensitive readers. Reader discretion is advised.

 

Yesterday was a very, very bad day.

 

I woke up groggy, irritable, impatient, intolerable. I wasn’t even able to finish my sacred daily morning coffee ritual before the first phone call with bad news was had. Calm words were spoken at first, then the tension grew until the eventual crescendo of emotions escalated the verbal barrage to surgical strike precision and mean-spiritedness.

More phone calls of the same irritating type kept smacking me in the face, urging me on to proclaim that Thursday, December 27, 2018 was going to be shitty day.

Words, thoughts, and intent are powerful tools; they may be used either for constructive, positive endeavors, or they can be handled as subtly as an angry bull wreaking havoc in a china shop cliche to swathe a path of devastation if someone even looks at you the wrong way. Either way, they prepare and condition the mind for events; that’s why mantras, repetition, affirmations are key to good mental health.

Image result for meditation don't kill anyone

Don’t maim anyone today. Don’t maim anyone today. Don’t maim anyone today.

 

And I should’ve listened to my own damn advice yesterday.

 

I should’ve cleared my mind, used my techniques, closed my eyes, breathe, self-soothe, etc.

Yet I CHOSE to have a bad day, whether I consciously decided to or not.

I hopped unto social media, opened up the research tabs on my browser, to then be bombarded by a relentless assault of negativity and vitriol not unlike the slime you find underneath and around structures and junk after flooding from rainstorms.

I froze.

I allowed myself to be enveloped in the comfy blanket of familiarity and just go into autopilot mode – I spent more than half the day sitting in my terrace, on my favorite chair, just staring out at the outside world.

 

Despising it.

 

Wishing for a nuclear holocaust.

 

Cars and motorcycles zoomed by annoyingly with their loud, penile-compensating roars; individuals went on with their days, walking, carrying grocery bags, living their daily life.

They were living, and I was seething in anger and loathing, stewing in the cesspool of judgment, uncertainty, confusion, feeling my eyes well up with tears, my arms and legs shaking like a bartender’s blender during Happy Hour, my chest thumping with the incessant need to go supernova, to cave in and just bleed out all over; I wanted to fingerpaint the floor with my entrails and draw a huge middle finger to the world.

Anger Is Not a Symptom of Bipolar Disorder, Or Is It?

An example of how I see myself during an anger-fueled manic episode

 

I screamed in agony, but nothing came out of my throat except a slight whimper, a sigh of frustration, as my eyes darted around looking for some measure of salvation that would not come. I kept swinging in my chair, faster, harder, the rhythmic squeaking of rusty joints singing a lullaby, the familiar sound of anxiety and hopelessness. There was no music for me to dance to and bob my head with, there was no YouTube video playing to make me smile, amuse me and comfort me, and I almost made the mistake of breaking one of the cardinal rules: posting on social media while angry and manic.

 

In the past, I have relied on others to get me through manic episodes, much to the detriment of many interpersonal relationships, therefore I desperately hesitated for a few seconds.

I thought about getting in touch with certain individuals, but that would be an exercise in futility; in my mind, in my experience, people have better things to do than to listen to someone whine and complain, even if there is merit to the pain they are feeling, even if they are just shouting out to the heavens for some release from a force that will not let them go, a specter of mocking indifference that haunts their every thought, every action, every decision.

Also, I would probably tear them a new asshole just for the hell of it, just because I didn’t want to be the only idiot in pain, according to Hulk.

(We’ll eventually dive deep into the subject of abusive behavior in interpersonal relationships soon in a future post.)

On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes I find comfort in attempting to make my day worthwhile by making others happy.

That is a common trait for someone suffering from mental illness, especially Bipolar II Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder.

It is also a very damaging trait that can lead to some terrible and dangerous decisions – I’ll abound on that subject in the near future as well.

 

That being said, I decided to text my niece, whom I trust implicitly.

 

We had a very nice, short conversation.

 

I will paraphrase what she said in one of her messages:

“Well, drama will ALWAYS exist no matter how positive you are or try to be. Don’t believe everything you see; god knows if it’s relevant or accurate or whatever*. Just worry about your work and creativity. In the end, that’s what we take to the grave. Our legacy, not rude, immature comments. Wow, I went deep there.”

*Referring to social media in general.

(On a small sidenote: this 13 year old girl has more wisdom and insight than most “adults” I have seen skulking around social media; I am most definitely a proud uncle!)

 

Those few seconds were all I needed to snap out of it and put things into perspective.

 

An individual’s self-worth should never be measured by their actions or lack there-of. Expectations are appetizers for thought distortion, leading to a manic episode full course meal; eliminate expectation, live in the moment, and the nemesis of irrational thinking will come over to the table and flip it the hell over: lucidity.

I was far from lucid. I was in a state of mania; there was no coming back. The only way through the episode was to embrace it, accept it, find enough presence of mind to communicate it to my significant other who was present in our home at the time of my freak out, and then isolate myself from all forms of toxicity, all possible triggers that could worsen the situation.

So I avoided social media like the plague.

I turned off my laptop.

I put away my work materials, adjourned to the bedroom, lit some incense, allowed myself to cry, and then proceeded to painfully sob and scream into my pillow until my throat fed me cathartic bliss.

My body went limp. I lifted my head and opened my eyes. Light hammered into my eyes, slamming my brain with clarity. The pillow was soaked in a mélange of sweat, tears, saliva, and snot.

I got up from the bed, weakly limped over to the bathroom, feeling the strain of tension slowly melt off my body like a molting snake. I washed my face, rubbed off what little tension was left in my neck , walked over to my significant other, kissed her on the forehead, told her that I loved her, thanked her for her love and patience, went back to the bedroom, fired up my laptop, and played videogames until nightfall.

Unfortunately, I got absolutely no work done yesterday, no goals were accomplished – I felt worthless.

 

Or so I thought until I realized:

 

I didn’t hurt myself.

 

I didn’t hurt others.

 

I survived another manic episode.

 

And here I am able to retroactively introspect on what happened, now sharing a minor tale of triumph in the book of Life, with many more chapters to come.

 

I guess the day wasn’t so bad or such a waste after all, huh?

 

To quote a grand philosopher:

Image result for today was a good day

Ob-Noxious Behavior, Pt. II

“He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts.” – Samuel Johnson

 

So here we were, holding hands, walking along the middle of the proverbial train tracks, when the drama train was gunning for us full speed ahead, remember?

 

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There were three crucial questions I asked before heading for certain doom:

1) How do we avoid a disastrous collision?

2) If the imminent disaster occurs, how do we manage damage control?

3) How do we minimize collateral damage?

 

To answer those questions, we have to view the situation from two distinct vantage points; one, the always-right-kung-fu-master, and two, the punching bag.*

*Otherwise known as the communicator and the receiver, according to Berlo’s conceptual model of human communication, but let’s stick to the more whimsical, appropriate imagery, shall we?

Image result for kung fu master vs student

Yeah, they’re communicating. Really.

 

Here’s where things get a tad complicated.

You see, I was going to waltz into a diatribe on human behavior as it stems from nature vs nurture, the current standard of living as it pertains to social interaction in this current stage of human evolution, facts, charts, diagrams, puppet shows, YouTube clips, social media memes, etc.

And then I realized how simple it truly is to explain, instead of sounding like a pedantic wannabe.

The truth is, speaking from personal experience, toxicity stems from irrational thoughts and fears when it comes to the mentally ill. A mentally ill individual normally does not want to be toxic; quite the contrary – we wish to be at peace, to co-exist in a harmonious existence of perpetual bliss. That, of course, is a fantasy that we project* unto those around us.

*According to most textbook definitions I have found while doing research, psychological projection is defined as a defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.

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Not to be confused with astral projection; that’s a whole other can of worms.

So you see, when our expectations do not conform to the vision we have of what something should be, we immediately see it as a threat and act accordingly. We expect other parties to fully understand that THEY are at fault of situations that arise, not us; WE did nothing wrong, WE acted according to our perfect little vision of how things should be, so WE prepare for battle – battle flags are hoisted, fortifications are secured, and onward to battle we go.

The aforementioned party then gets blindsided in a stupendous WHAT-THE-FUCK moment that becomes a struggle to survive an unnecessary onslaught of emotions. Many of these moments cannot be avoided; they are just immediate triggers, and it is up to the individual who suffers from a mental disorder to apply techniques learned through experience, treatment, and introspection. After all is said and done, if steps were taken and a crisis still occurs, then all parties involved must be understanding, patient, and most of all EMPATHIC towards each others’ plight.

 

Simply said, it takes two to tango.

 

So that brings me to the extremist meme that I posted last time as an example:

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Nobody, I mean NOBODY is indebted to ANYONE; let me make that abundantly clear.

 

If a friend, loved one, or family member decides to stand by your side out of love and commitment through your disease, then that is a blessing that should be cherished and nurtured.

On the flip side, if a friend, loved one, or family member decides they have had enough….

 

IT IS FUCKING OK.

 

They are human beings, with limits just like any other person; they are allowed to feel frustration, anger, all the emotions that are associated with someone struggling with a painful situation that, in their own heart and mind, they cannot handle or are not prepared for.

 

IT IS OK FOR SOMEONE TO WALK AWAY; THAT IS NOT ABANDONMENT – IT IS SELF-LOVE, DIGNITY, AND SELF-RESPECT.

 

Just because you work in a hospital does not mean that you won’t get sick and need a few days off; does that make you a shitty caretaker?

Of course not.

In order to take care of others, you need to first take care of yourself, to be healthy and to be prepared.

So that brings me to the previous three questions that were asked. The solution is quite simple – really – when you think about:

 

Don’t be a prick.

 

Seems kinda anti-climactic, minimizing, simple and childish, right?

 

Just look at the facts:

  1. If you are a prick, prepare to be treated like one. Deal with it. It sounds harsh, and there is more to it than that because like I’ve said before, life is never simple. That being said, you get what you give; it’s simply the law of reciprocity.
  2. If you deal with being a prick and show you don’t want to be a prick, then allow others to help you not be a prick.
  3. If you decide to continue being a prick regardless, don’t be surprised when people tell you to go fuck off.

What it all boils down to is the fact that you cannot treat people like shit and expect them to just stand there and take it on the chin just because they love you; that, ladies and gentlemen, is called ABUSE.*

*I will be addressing the issue of abuse another day, because it is an extremely important component that affects all aspects of mental illness, both from a victim’s standpoint and the abuser’s standpoint. It is an important, fascinating subject that needs to be discussed with the utmost attention to detail and delicateness.

 

Nobody likes to be abused.

 

Toxic behavior can be modified, and in many wonderful cases, can be eradicated, but it takes a lot of hard work, discipline, mindfulness, and empathy.

In 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan melted down, creating a nuclear disaster of unforeseeable magnitude. After 7 years of effort and cleanup, Fukushima has slowly been rebuilt, opened back to the public, repopulated, and is being proverbially healed. The Japanese government estimates the cleanup effort will take around three to four more decades and billions of dollars to complete. They could’ve gone the Chernobyl route and just dump cement over the problem and call it a day; but they want their nation to thrive and grow beyond the wreckage of misfortune.

 

It will take time.

 

It will take insurmountable effort.

 

But they have the commitment and the drive to make it happen.

 

Be a Fukushima, not a Chernobyl.

 

 

Timing (And Clarity) Is Everything

“Logic: The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.” – Ambrose Bierce

#WARNING: This post contains language and imagery some may find offensive; if that is the case, then tough titty said the kitty.

Human communication is a funny thing.

We speak, we inform, therefore creating bonds, relating, sharing; words intertwine with meaning, emotion, and intent.

From the beginning of time, we have grunted our wishes, yelled out our aggression, announced our intentions, moaned out our pleasure and pain, through sound, symbols, gestures, and the occasional middle finger or two.*

*How ironic that just like creatures in the animal kingdom, humans do not necessarily need opposable thumbs to wreak havoc; one middle finger is enough to instigate gang warfare, so yeah, take THAT pesky lemurs, bears, and raccoons!

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The universal communicator needs no translation, ladies and gentlemen.

So why is it that now, in an age of technological advancement, of electronic miracles gifted to us by the gods of invention and innovation, have we become so….damn….regrettably….STUPID.

Ok, so maybe the word stupid is a tad harsh.

Snowflakey, perhaps? (Snowflakey is an actual word; go look it up. I swear it’s real! )

#Sucker

No. That’s not it.

The word I’m looking for is desensitized.

Taking out cultural differences, language barriers, and all sorts of myriad variables and complications out of the equation, there is one all-encompassing, crucial component to effective communication, in my humble opinion:

Clarity.

A blessing that many mentally ill individuals sadly do not possess the way most healthy members of society do (and unfortunately take for granted).

I have struggled most of my life with social communication. I was a very awkward child growing up due to my senses being all out of whack; I was a quiet kid with an itchy trigger finger when it came to emotional response, especially in stressful situations. Being bilingual didn’t help matters much since I would think in two languages; a lot of things would get lost in translation. I would stutter, hesitate, become confused very easily, which would lead to anger, frustration, desperation, and finally, backlash. I would constantly get into fights and confrontations in school, in my personal life, and especially in my family life – every day was a constant struggle to keep control, keep myself in check, or get smacked around like a Mexican piñata.

Edgar Sanchez, 10, of Cedar Rapids, winds up to smack a piñata at the Festival Latino de Cedar Rapids on May’s Island in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, July 12, 2015. (KC McGinnis / The Gazette)

Yep, just another normal day at school for me.

That struggle followed me throughout my teen years, where it was amplified by puberty and rebellion, hormonal imbalance, and the constant desire to fuck almost everything in sight.

And then I graduated high school.

Oh boy, did the fun begin there!

You see, I entered college, and then -BOOM- the freedom to do whatever the hell I wanted, however I wanted, was granted to me, except I didn’t count on one simple detail: actions have consequences, and the only sense of consequence I had ever experienced growing up was violence.

You could get away with a lot when you’re 13 – the age I was officially diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder – but not so much when you are legally bound to take it up the ass from Chucho El Horrible* after you’ve broken quite a few laws while disturbing the peace getting into drunken bar fights because your mouth wrote checks your body could not possibly cash.**

*I have withheld Chucho’s picture out of respect and fear; needless to say, imagine if Sasquatch and a rhino had a baby, that baby would be eaten alive by Chucho.

**What can I say, I had the need; the need for speed. See what I did there? Twice? Whatever.

I was lucky, though; I never served a single day in jail (though I have been institutionalized many a time), nor have I ever been convicted of a crime, and I am still here, living and breathing because the All-Mighty Lords of the Universe decided I misbehaved, yet learned my lesson so I could tell my story.

You know, communicate.

Properly.

Other people, unfortunately, are not so lucky.

That is why it is so important to be mindful of everything you say, every gesture you make, every syllable you utter – it is exhausting to scrutinize every last detail, but it is a burden that is worth carrying if it means better living and better relationships with those around you.

For someone who suffers from mental illness, even the slightest twitch equals an alien invasion, so if a situation arises, here’s what you do (mind you, it’s worked miracles for me, but please feel free to try your own variations):

1) Speak clearly and intently: No, this does not mean “Heeeeellloooooo Biiiiilllyyyyy, I am heeeeeere toooooo heeeeeeeelp youuuuuuuu” – that’s just being a condescending jackass. Just be clear with your intention if the person seems to be confused or taken aback; when in doubt, explain once again.

2) Be assertive: Translation – this is not the part where you insult someone to the point of chemical meltdown; just get your point across, firmly, affirmatively, with respect and consideration to the other person’s feelings. You cannot control how someone else reacts, but you can sure as hell control how you say things. The second you include a curse word or a combative phrase, it’s game over.

3) Avoid aggressive gestures: Yeah, gesturing is a fine way to emote your displeasure with dramatic flair, but this ain’t the movies nor Broadway, so if you want to avoid getting popped in the kisser, or avoid a confrontation that you will surely regret later, keep your hands at your sides and to yourself; do not fist up, or, better yet, you may try hugging yourself by clutching your elbows or clasping your hands. It’s a self-comforting technique I’ve been advised of many a time, and it has worked wonders when I feel I am losing control of my temper.

4) When in doubt, shut it down: When all else fails, and the communication breakdown is imminent and irreparable, it’s time to pack it up and go home. The situation will only escalate to the point of verbal aggression, or worse. I highly advise to use the first three steps mentioned above when closing an argument; clearly state why you are ending the conversation, do it in a concise, respectful manner, avoid making angry gestures, throwing insults, etc. and most of all explain that the reason you are walking away is PRECISELY because you don’t want to engage in hurtful behavior. Hopefully, the responding party will react in a mature manner and leave it be; if not, fuck ’em – just walk away anyway, but you can be proud of yourself for attempting to diffuse a sour situation and not being an immature jackass.

I have lost many people, and burnt many a bridge, in my life due to miscommunication. It makes me sad when I realize that usually they were just silly things that could have been avoided if I had just kept an open mind, identified and assessed the situation, and addressed it accordingly.

That being said, the beauty of it all is not to look back on past failures with regret; I look back with melancholy, yes, but I also use it as a learning tool, another experience, another opportunity to become wiser, to take one more step towards serenity and peace with myself and with others.

Playful banter, witty sarcasm, cynical jokes, and a satirical outlook on life can be a healthy choice, but like all good things, they must be kept in moderation; not everyone will see things my way (though they should, dammit), nor yours, and that is perfectly fine.

In summation, as two wise men once said:

Be excellent to each other.