Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Blues, Bullying, Self-Harm and Standing in the Sunshine

Jimi Hendrix once said, "Blues is easy to play but hard to feel."  Alberta Hunter was quoted saying, "Blues means what milk does to a baby.  Blues is what the spirit is to a minister.  We sing the blues because our hearts have been hurt, our souls have been disturbed."

The blues has been referred to as the schizophrenia of music.  It is chaotic and soulful and intensely all over the place.  But what I want to refer to "the blues" as is depression.  Why in the world is there still a stigma to this word?  Why in the universe are there still stereotypes attached to people who suffer from it, who live with it daily?  Why are they not celebrated for making it through another day?  Depression is something that I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy, yet I wish everyone could experience the intensity of it for an entire 24 hour period so that the empathy and respect for those who live with it daily would develop where it was lacking before.

Depression is like a war.  You either win or you die trying.  Depression causes a level of exhaustion that most people cannot fathom.  This exhaustion stems from fighting a war inside your head every single day.  If that's not exhausting then I don't know what is.  Dorothy Rowe has said it best in these words ... "Depression is a prison where you are both the suffering prisoner and the cruel jailer."  A person who is living with depression does not need judgement or stereotyping or lectures or even questions like, "Why don't you just be happy?"  They do not need you to be anything to them but loving and understanding and respectful of their daily torture.  Believe me ... they are questioning and lecturing themselves enough without your assistance with pushing them off the cliff.

Bullying is something that I do not tolerate well.  Not the action.  Not the thought.  Not the stories.  I believe that children/teenagers are cruel.  I believe that adults are equally cruel.  I also am a firm believer that when children/teenagers are stepping up to the plate of bullying, being relentlessly cruel and hateful and emotionally/physically harmful ... that it is because they are either hurting inside themselves and acting out for any questionable reason that can be very real to them (be it being bullied themselves, abused, depressed, etc) or it is because it is a learned behavior.  Parents.  If you are not stopping your children from being hurtful and harmful to another human being you are failing as a parent.  By failing ... I mean you are allowing your children to become horrible human beings in this world and the lesson of compassion and acceptance and loving as Christ loves is absent in your methods of life lessons and humanity.  Believe me when I say this ... NO JUDGEMENT ... we are all learning how to parent and each day is a new day in that lesson.  But, as parents, we can see our children acting differently, behaving differently, groups of friends changing, those that they used to hang out with they maybe aren't anymore and will not tell you a reason - and if they do it is maybe something hateful and hurtful that comes out of their mouths.  Well, guess what ... You do not know what is going on for that other child.  You do not know the situations that they are experiencing.  You do not know the pain they are surviving and the sadness that consumes them.  But you do know how to teach your children to behave towards others.  Being mean and cruel and abrasive and physical are never okay.  Never.  And if you are clueless and you find out ... do not be ignorant or turn a blind-eye and say "my child would never do that" because trust me yet again, ALL of our children are capable of doing anything.  Even if you cannot fathom their participation or instigation of anything so unbelievable, use it as a lesson and teach them, reiterate to them, humanity is the key to a joyful life.  A smile and a kind word go a long way.  Clothing, makeup, hair styles, music tastes, artwork, sports or not, sexualities ... none of that matter.  NONE of that matter, people.  Be kind.  Always.  If you are hurtful.  Apologize.  Bullying is quoted as saying, "I kill about 13 million kids a year."  Bullying isn't a liar.  Guess what?  It comes in many forms ... people kill us daily and slowly and it can be with words such as "be realistic" or "why are you different now?" or "get over yourself".  It can come in forms of physical abuse, tripping, pinching, bumping into someone every opportunity they get, knocking books out of hands.  It can be in the form of whispering when they all by or sit near them and it is obvious they are whispering about that person.  It can be in the form of not including someone in a group event and then talking about the event to great lengths in front of them so that they hear about what they were not included in.  It can be small backhanded comments such as, "That looks good on you.  I would never wear it but it looks good on you."  It can also come from teachers and bosses changing rules and guidelines among students so that people are not treated equally.  It can come in the form of 'joking comments' such as "I will miss some of you students next year ... but you?  I think I will be fine without you in my class next year. (insert laugh)".  And guess what?  Witnessing bullying and NOT stepping in to help or NOT telling the truth to a teacher or supervisor and pretending you didn't see it out of fear or just not wanting to be involved?  That is bullying as well.  All of these are forms of bullying.  They are triggers for people who are suffering.

Remember:  Pulling someone down will never help you reach the top.

Self-Harm ... where do I even being on this topic?  It is disheartening.  It is tragic.  It is heart wrenching.  It is emotionally messy.  It hurts more than simply the person who is acting it out upon themselves.  It is scary.  It is real.  This action can be made in so many methods and most of them hidden well.  Maybe they are hidden well because nobody wants to believe it is occurring or maybe the individuals who are harming themselves are masters at disguise.  Just know this one simple rule.  If you know someone who is self-harming.  If you see marks on someone.  Tell.  Always tell.  Because it probably isn't the first time and it will not be the last time.  Self-harm is textbook for someone who is suffering, someone who has been hurt by another person, someone who is severely depressed, someone who is testing the waters of suicidality ... someone who cannot catch a breath for the waves constantly pushing them back underwater.  If someone tells you they are doing it ... tell someone and get them help.  Making a friend/family member mad is better than living with the alternative of them hurting themselves and knowing you did absolutely nothing with the information you had.

Did you know that suicide is like stepping into the ocean?  It is.  Imagine you are at the beach and you go to step into the ocean.  The water is frigid cold.  You get your toes wet and you jump back five feet because it is so cold you just do not think you can go into the water.  So you sit on the sand and you watch the waves hit and then you want to try again so you step out and you clench your teeth and then you make it out deep enough into the water that you feel the cold water up to your knees and you turn and run back to the soft warm sand and you stand there ... watching the waves a bit longer.  After another period of time you try yet again.  You grit your jaw tight and you stiffen your body and you make it out into the ocean until you feel the water, cold and startling, lapping against your naval.  You feel the waves push and pull you, rocking you back and forth but you just cannot get past the cold of the water.  You want to dive in and swim but it is just too cold.  So you back out and stand there again ... on the sand.  Your body is shivering at this point.  You are cold.  You are staring at the abyss in front of you.  Then you make the decision that you are already cold and you have tried three times and you become brave enough to go back into the ocean.  This time quickly, to just get it over with, the shock of the ice coldness that is surrounding your body rapidly and before you know it you are back waist deep and then without thinking you just dive head first into the black nothingness of the depths beneath you and the cold engulfs you and you have succeeded.

If only ... one of those times that going back to the sand underneath your feet, someone had grabbed your hand and told you, "Stand in the sunshine with me.  It is warmer here.  Spend time with me.  I want you here."

Stop placing a stigma onto depression.  Stop placing stereotypes onto people who survive it daily.  Stop judging and stop whispering and stop ignoring.  People who suffer from thoughts of self-harm, people who act out those thoughts, people who struggle with choosing to stand in the sunshine ... it is for a reason.  It isn't your job to know the reason.  It is your job to be a compassionate human being and realize that we are on this planet to not judge and to give unconditional love to others.  Even if we cannot understand.

My daughter is the most beautiful human being I know.  She is beautiful inside and out.  She is more intelligent than I could ever hope to be.  She is creative.  She is talented.  She is funny.  My daughter is not perfect but I love her perfectly.  My daughter is human and a child of God.  My daughter suffers.  My daughter survives daily.  She has been served life experiences that no adult should ever have to deal with and yet she is learning at her young age how to develop coping skills that a teenager should never have to learn.  My daughter is an amazing person.  She is worthy of love and compassion.  My daughter is my first true love.  She is learning to choose one day at a time and I celebrate her making that choice each day.

I am not writing this blog for questions and nosey-bodies.  I am not writing it as an invite for you to sit on my preverbal couch and presume to understand anything about our personal lives.  I write it to raise awareness that depression is not something to be ashamed of.  It is not something to be afraid of.  Depression is not an act for attention and it is not something to make fun of or even something that affects each person the exact same way.

Some people have experienced life good with chunks of bad along the way.  Those bad things can develop inner turmoil that can be triggered by the smallest actions from others.  Be a nice human.  Be respectful.  Be understanding that you may simply not understand at all.  Be mindful.  Pray.

"You know my name.  Not my story.  You see my smile.  Not my pain.  You notice my cuts.  Not my scars.  You can read my lips.  Not my mind." - Unknown

Help comes in different forms.  A variety of locations.
If you know someone who suffers ... help them.  If you do not know how, find someone who does.
Tell them how special they are.  How much they mean to you.

Ask them to stand in the sunshine with you.