Friday, September 14, 2012

On Suicide and Shame

I swear I'm not trying to take the easy way out and just give you guys links to things instead of writing actual content, but I have more links for you. I'm gonna write about 'em, though! So this is like a combination post. Hooray!

First link is this book I'm reading with one of those ridiculously long titles involving a colon that lets you know right up front it's kind of a self-help book: I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Making the Journey from "What Will People Think?" to "I Am Enough". There is no way to refer to that book that isn't cumbersome (god I hate that song), but I'm giving it a chance anyway.

Normally, I have zero interest in self-help books. They're usually doofy and written by someone who is just pulling pyscho-pop babble out of their ass to make money off sad people. I used to work at a bookstore, and would just boggle at the nutty titles of these things when straightening that section. Really? Some old frosted-blonde lady with 3-inch French tip fingernails is going to tell me how to land a man? Because we're all the same, you know, we women. And men, of course, are all the same, too. There's a formula to finding love/happiness/transcendence/Waldo. Just, um, don't look at that book right next to this one, which gives you a totally different formula, because THIS IS THE ONE. BUY ME.

This one is by an author recommended by Jenny Lawson, a.k.a. The Bloggess. I'm a huge Bloggess fan because she's a great writer who is open about her struggles with anxiety and depression, and approaches the topics with the best sense of humor. She makes these problems accessible to people who don't suffer, while bringing a sense of community and hope to those who do. It's damn awesome, and her book made me laugh so hard I couldn't eat while reading it, so I should probably go ahead and recommend that, too. She's hugely popular right now for this Traveling Red Dress thing she's started, and she also likes to emphasize the idea "depression lies." If you've never suffered from depression, then A. are you old enough to be reading this blog? and B. you probably don't get it. But if you have, even temporary post-sad-event depression, you probably realize that it's SO TRUE. Depression's an asshole that gets all up in your brain bits and lies to you about who you are and what you're worth.

Jenny recently wrote about this author, Brene Brown, who studies shame. Weird, right? Except I got the free Kindle sample and found myself nodding so often I had to buy the whole book. Her underlying argument is that shame is at the base of a bunch of other crap, like anxiety and low self-esteem. Which... totally makes sense. I guess at some point the book goes through suggestions and tips for how to manage shame - you can't really get rid of it, she says, but you can learn to work through it so it doesn't fuck you up. Well, okay, she's terribly polite and doesn't say "fuck," which is probably part of the reason it's slow reading for me, but that's the gist.

I have absolutely no attention span when it comes to non-fiction books, no matter how interested I am in the topic. It's annoying as hell. I need some kind of story to get me through. That means I've been reading this book in small chunks (interspersed with Tina Fey's Bossypants) and really can't tell you much yet.


I can tell you that I used the Kindle's "highlight" feature for the first time ever with this book, and so far I've wanted to highlight something on almost every page. Just the other day I told a good friend, "You should never be ashamed of loving someone." After I typed it and hit send (texting, of course; how else do I communicate?), I re-read it and thought, you know.. that's true. I meant that completely. So why is it so hard for me - for almost everyone - to tell someone that? Because rejection, that's why. Rejection sucks ass. But still... I can't help thinking more people should hear that, even if they don't reciprocate. Just don't, you know, remind them every day if they don't reciprocate, because that gets awkward.

Okay, yeah, I just said all that shit, but am I gonna do it? Nope. Not any time soon. I'm totally on board with the ideas, but the application to my own life is the hard part. But I'm pretty excited about getting through this book and maybe finding a way to address this shit in myself. This author's latest book is based on the idea that by letting yourself be vulnerable, you actually then gain strength. What. I am the WORST at being vulnerable, fo shiz, so that part will be mega difficult and awkward for me, but it's something I started thinking about back in the days of ol' Desk, who was regularly complaining about my lack of vulnerability (because that is totally the way to get someone to let down their guard around you: complain about how they are all the time).

Related to all this is this letter from a comedian about suicide that's been bopping around on the Interwebs. If you haven't read it yet, oh god please do. Now. I teared up no less than 3 times reading it. If you're pressed for time, then first of all I'm flattered as hell that you're using that squished amount of time to read this. But also, I will sum up for you: an anonymous person posted a question to this comedian's tumblr, asking if he's ever had suicidal thoughts, because s/he is in a horrible dark place and it's implied that s/he is considering this option.

This comedian, Chris Gethard, stops everything he's doing to reply to this anonymous person. He writes this long-ass letter, a really earnest and open and honest letter, to a total stranger, urging him not to do it. A couple of my favorite parts:

There are other people out there like you - I’m one of them. We feel so much love when we feel it, but the trade off is we feel pain just as big. And love can often sting if it’s not requited, while pain only needs you as a receptor. I get it. I know what it feels like to feel emotions in a way that you know is much bigger than most people feel them.

This. SO MUCH THIS. Once upon a time, about 7 years ago now, a boy I was dating - a boy I loved - was trying his best to understand my latest depression or anxiety or anger or something, but he simply couldn't. He never could. He said to me that day in wonder, "You just seem to feel things so much more than anyone else I know. It must be exhausting being you." I told him that yes, in fact, it often is. But what I didn't tell him was that what he'd just said to me made me feel like shit. I felt like I was feeling wrong, like I was even more broken than I already knew. Not only am I this crazy mess, but now I'm not even feeling things properly? FUCK!

Obviously it's been a long time since then, and over the years I've come to understand that no, I'm not feeling things wrong. I don't express my feelings very often, and maybe I don't even have them when I should sometimes, but when it happens, holy balls you guys, it's like a tidal wave, good or bad. That "rush of emotions" thing that people talk about sometimes? That is how it is ALL the time. So yeah, it's exhausting. And it often results in total despair and hopelessness. But when I'm happy, I'm mega fucking happy, and when I love, I love with every single freckle of my being and maybe a little more. I know that many of my friends - real friends, close friends - are the same way. That guy back then was an idiot who apparently knows a very limited type of person if I was feeling things differently than anyone he knew. And yes, he got the full-freckle-love treatment, and yes, it kind of blew his mind and he couldn't deal with it. Mostly because he didn't return the sentiment, despite being my second-longest relationship ever, but that's another story for another time.

In another part of the letter, Gethard talks about how he considered killing himself with a razor he'd brought to school one day, just to show the teachers who didn't care how serious he was. "But you want to know the funny part? I was 14 and didn’t really get how anything worked in life and the razor I bought was a Bic single use disposable face razor." Why do I like that part? Because I did that in college. COLLEGE. I scraped at my wrists sort of half-heartedly with a plastic Bic disposable razor. That part in Empire Records where Deb confesses she cut herself with "a pink plastic razor with daisies on it and a moisturizing strip" makes me laugh every time, which seems insensitive but it's not. I GET YOU, DEB.

The last part I'll mention from Gethard's letter is where he says that now, he looks back at all those dark parts of his life, and he can laugh at the ridiculous bits, like the plastic razor. "I can look back at the absolute darkest things and the only reaction I have to them is to laugh at the funny specifics that surrounded them. Even those bring joy." And it's true, and it's what I was trying to express with my own suicide story.

I'd never even heard of this comedian before, but now I want to give him a hug and listen to everything he's ever done, because as people go, he's currently one of the raddest I can think of in the world (alongside this football player).

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