Honest, Horrible, Humbling Humanity

I keep asking myself why I started a blog. When I read other blogs or Google blog topics, I find a lot of material similar to what I’d expect from magazine articles. You know, DIY projects, health and beauty advice, endless how-to articles: how to take the most inspiring Instagram pic of your microscopic lunch, how to color your cares away in books conveniently for sale now on Amazon, how to disguise self-promoting sales pitches as altruistic advice, how to write the same boring contrived bullshit everyone else writes so you can finally “matter” to the world.  Just remember that blogs aren’t about sharing your diary-style diatribes, because no one gives a crap. Sorry Anne Frank, you’d need to learn about search engine optimization and selfie skills to be read these days.

Ack! I sound so bitter. I’m sorry I brought Anne Frank into my rant. (I love you.) I’m just sick of hearing that the only way people can be heard and “matter” is by buying into the notion that they have to offer practical advice. I get that we’re in America and people are about self-interest and reading something directly applicable to their own lives, but then why do they (well some of them) read novels? Or watch sitcoms, or dramas, or go the movies? And how did Jenny Lawson become one of the most famous bloggers ever?

More than anything, I think I’m angry with myself for believing this notion that you have to sell a skill to be read or to matter. A big reason I haven’t been writing is because I didn’t believe anyone wanted to read the real, honest, no fun daily struggles of another privileged middle class American white chick. And maybe they don’t. Ok. But does that mean I just tuck my tail between my legs and hide away like I’m not overflowing with thoughts and feelings that I’d really like to just let out already?

I can’t really dump all the responsibility on “society” or “norms” because if I’m being totally honest, I don’t like displaying the tough emotions like anger, sadness, or fear. I’m ok sitting on them in silence or steeping them in sarcasm.  I suppose I’ve bought into the popular notion that those emotions betray a weakness that is all too human. Sometimes admitting to being that human seems too damn difficult. Not to mention that exposing my humanity means exposing my flawed self to fun feedback from anonymous strangers or worse, my friends.

I’ll talk about the crap feelings if it is to dispense advice, information, or reactions to the myriad world events that evoke those emotions. But when it comes to my own intimate, personal daily struggles, I run like hell from acknowledging them or discussing them. I run to diaries I can lock away, to music, movies, books, denial, and fantasy worlds. I developed this withdrawal coping mechanism in early childhood and I’ve used it to keep others at a distance as far back as I can remember. I had good reasons to do so for a long time. I’m sure there will always be reasons for all of us to self-protect. I mean, the world we’re in just isn’t safe. But it won’t be safe regardless, so I may as well suck it up and spill some truth beans now and then.

The reason I started blogging was because I express myself most authentically and clearly in writing and because, despite my formidable defenses, I want to be known and understood and heard. Writing that out in the open is terrifying because for so long I have wanted the very opposite. At least I thought I did, or thought I was supposed to want that. But not being seen, not telling my truths, and hiding behind the concocted and unconvincing images of normalcy has become exhausting and alienating. I’m tired of believing I need to be quiet about my past, my story, and myself. So while I will remain reticent regarding stories that are not mine to tell, I will speak my truth. Because Oprah said I could, dammit.

That being said, I’ll answer honestly now the question some have asked in the past few months. “How are you?”

I’m adapting to and enjoying my new job and I’m relieved to have stopped moving and unpacking and to have settled into a new home. But winter is difficult for me. My anxiety and depression symptoms worsened and recently, my antidepressants have stopped working. So I’m now coping with antidepressant discontinuation syndrome as I’m weaning off my Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SSRI).

Breaking up with my medication has been rough. I feel like I’m drunk but without the positive side effects of giggling at everything or deciding I love EVERYONE and needing to proclaim it for the entire world to hear (I’m talking to you random cab driver). No, it’s not so bad. I just feel tired, and nauseous, and dizzy, oh and then suddenly sad and then pissed off, all within ten minutes of waking up. So really, maybe it’s like I’m drunk and pregnant all at once but without the fun buzz or the adorable baby. But luckily for me, this ordeal should only last a month or two, not a better part of a year.

I also didn’t do myself any favors with my reading material this winter. I read some amazing and highly recommended books, but also dark and disturbing books that could have waited until spring or summer when my mood is more manageable. I’ll get back into my book review writing again soon, but for now, I’ll just say I recommend the following books if and only if you’re ready for some traumatic truth bombs: Kindred by Octavia Butler, 1984 by George Orwell, Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Atonement by Ian McEwan.

That last novel brought up some issues for me because it dealt with a child’s misreading of sexual situations and the strong desire to atone even when the course of events has rendered absolution impossible. For now, I’ll just say it stirred up some forgotten feelings about a friend who I didn’t know I didn’t know. My little eyes were not grown and could not see her as she was before she had to go. But now my eyes are swimming in wide open Oh!s.

See what I mean? Reality blows. I’m going to go stick my nose in a happy fantasy book.

 

Moody Musings: Stuff Your Smiles

One of the first things I read this morning was a well-meaning article on the benefits of smiling. I’m sure there are many benefits and as my therapist tells me, “it is important to focus on the positive.” So why, when I read it, did I have to quell an overwhelming urge to throw my phone through the window? I’ll tell you why.

It’s Monday. Morning. It’s raining. And just, NO.

If you’re a woman on Earth, I’m sure you’ve been told at some point to “smile,” or that “you’d look prettier if you smiled,” or some similarly obnoxious statement. Not necessarily just by men either. It seems some people just don’t like to see you frown and they’re seriously concerned…about how your face looks and how it affects them. Isn’t that sweet?

daria happy.PNG

I could be clinically depressed, have just lost a loved one, or read the news. Maybe all three. You don’t know what’s going on in someone else’s head.

You have no idea why someone else is frowning or just not inclined to smile at the moment. They could have a mood or behavioral disorder. In which case, walking up to them and telling them to “smile!” is about as productive as walking up to a person in a wheelchair and saying, “just stand up and walk, it’s so easy and good for you.”

People have said things like that to me during depressive episodes and I felt so much worse afterwards. I felt like my inability to feel happy was inconvenient for others. I wanted to smile. I wanted to be in a good mood. I wanted to have the energy to make an effort. But sometimes, I just didn’t.

I already felt bad about this. I already wondered what was wrong with me, why I couldn’t be “normal” or “happy” like other people. I mean really, why wasn’t it easy to do basic things like laugh at a joke or just enjoy something, anything at all? Because of neurotransmitters, chemicals, and hormones I don’t control. Having someone tell me to stop being a “Debbie-downer” or to “smile more,” not only invalidated my feelings, it invalidated a very real, widespread, and legitimate illness.

But even if I didn’t have a mental illness, I’m still a human being with my own individual thoughts and feelings apart from yours. Living in this world is not always easy or happy. Sometimes we get sick, we die, our loved ones yell and hurt our feelings, we get laid off, and on and on. There are so many reasons to feel emotions besides happiness. We all have a right to those feelings and to their expression. So just as you can tell me to “smile,” I can tell you to buzz off.” And just because you can do something, doesn’t make it a good idea. It’s too bad if my feelings are difficult for you or affect your mood. But that is your issue. Don’t make it mine.

larry david smile better.PNG

It may seem something small and simple. But my body is my business. You don’t dictate what I get to do with it. Any of it. 

This is a basic boundary issue. If I’m not hurting anyone, then it’s nobody’s business what I do with my face or my body. It’s also none of my business what you think of my face or my mouth or anything at all. Your blunt command for me to “smile” crosses the line.

You get your body and your mind to do and think as you please. So do I. I don’t care if I’ll “look prettier” if I smile. I am so much more than a face or a pleasing expression to be admired by doting passersby like I’m a piece of furniture.

big lebowski meme.PNGTelling a stranger to do anything with their body is weird and creepy. It places that human being on level with a dog that you believe you have the right to command. “Sit!” “Stay.” “Smile!” “Good girl!!!” No. Just don’t. You are not my master and I will not obey. We’re not pets to command or dolls to arrange at your pleasure. 

Now that I’ve covered the basics of why it is disrespectful to tell someone to “smile.” I’d like to point out that the results you’re looking for, that pretty, shiny, happy face doesn’t appear on command. When you force someone to express a feeling they don’t actually feel, the expression will be just as fake. A genuine smile doesn’t just appear on command. This does: forced-smile-hilary

An expression of thinly veiled annoyance with a barely detectable upturn of the mouth. If we do smile at your command, we’re labeled “stiff” and “unnatural.” If we don’t, we have “resting bitch face.” So tell me again, why we should smile?

Part 1: Pedaling, Pokemon, and Predators

Matt and I just returned from a 6.64-mile bike ride around town. I spent a large portion of the 1.5 hours whining at Matt to hurry and catch his #Pokemon thingies and/or walking my bike up the big, stupid hills as I watched in envy as cars zoomed by. I could feel the judgment boring into my helmet as I pushed my bike along and of course, hear it from my smart ass boyfriend tossing jeers behind him as he eased up the hills. 😋 ❤️ But whatevs, I’m not the one burning fossil fuels on a gorgeous summer day and I’m not giving up when it gets hard so I’m calling it a win.

We got a peek at Bothell’s Main Street and the damage from the #BothellFire. So many businesses were just decimated, only their brick frames and foundations remaining. I’m glad no one was physically hurt, but I know those business owners will be recovering for a while. 😕

Anyway, my reason for posting is because I thought it’d be fun to start a “Sweat Out the Sad” series in which I share short snippets of my exercising exploits and how such agonizing aerobics help anxiety and depression. I’m hoping my struggles will inspire and amuse readers while simultaneously motivating myself to keep moving, even though I’d rather be reading, or watching Buffy, or even socializing.

I’ll end each story with a fact about how exercise treats anxiety and/or depression:

“Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress. In one study, researchers found that those who got regular vigorous exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years.”

(https://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/managing-anxiety/exercise-stress-and-anxiety)

So, even though my brain really doesn’t like the idea of huffing and puffing my way up hills in the summer sun, my brain has no clue what is really beneficial. It’s sabotage, I say! Or maybe my prehistoric brain is freaking out with fight-or-flight symptoms because it knows the body attached hasn’t run it’s butt off escaping mammoths or saber tooth tigers? Maybe my brain will calm down when I trick it into believing I just outfoxed a predator? It’s worth a shot!