Fake Deep, Part 1a: Get To Know Me

Posted: November 27, 2017 in Feature Blogs

Entry #1a of the Fake Deep series, which chronicles my own battles with mental illness and how it has shaped my life.

In this entry, I throw on my cape for anyone who might be struggling with mental illness or typical depression. If you are ashamed and/or embarrassed, I want to hear from you!

Introduction

I was fortunate to get involved with social media during its golden age, around 2010-2012. On Twitter, we were just a big family that watched awards shows and ‘To Catch A Predator’ together. At that time, the only real divide between us was whether or not Lebron was a bitch for going to Miami.

Since then, social media has also become sort of a platform for pseudo-intellectuals to unite and broadcast ignorance. It enables narcissism. And we men can no longer confidently end a date if we didn’t exceed the fabled $200 threshold.

It’s crazy to think about how long some of us have “known” each other. I can honestly say that it has been a pleasure to witness the growth and the occasional stagnation of people whom I have grown to care about from social media. As a blogger, I have been very fortunate to amass an engaging and faithful readership. Many writers wind up speaking only to existing friends and family, aka “people obligated to read shit”. My readers largely began as strangers and while I haven’t contributed anything to my blog in years now, I am still humbled by requests to write.

Over the years, I have had people ask me to write about myself personally, rather than the humor/opinion pieces that I would ordinarily do. People have asked me who the kids are that they see in pictures with me, since they aren’t blood relation. I get a lot of questions about my love life. I have gotten questions about how insufferable it is to live in Cincinnati (in short: it sucks). Some people have even wondered if I am a fat, gay virgin who trolls people on the internet from the comfort of mom’s basement.

I recently had the opportunity to spend time with some people I met from social media and the experience was pivotal for me emotionally and creatively. An innocent weekend created a seismic shift of what I believe my “purpose” to be. It inspired me to salvage whatever blogging platform I might still have and dedicate a series of entries to a matter near and dear to me: mental health awareness.

At this current time, I have no clue how many entries there will wind up being to the “Fake Deep” series. I’m calling it “Fake Deep” because there are still so many misconceptions about mental illness and I have no doubt that this project will be met with criticism. While mental health is not quite the binary “crazy/not crazy” designation that it used to be there’s still this idea that depression is just a thing amongst people who can’t comprehend that “everyone else has bad days too” or that happiness can be achieved by simply choosing to “cheer up”.

To many, clinical depression and anxiety are symptoms of spoiled children who have received too many participation trophies or never cut the cord from mommy. The term “Fake Deep” summarizes the perceptions from people who largely do not struggle with mental illness or do and are in denial.

So if you do not struggle with mental illness but you want to effectively communicate with someone who does, you might find value in this. If you do struggle with mental illness but actively deny it or don’t even realize it, you too might find value in this. But if you’re someone who struggles with mental illness and knows that they do, you will DEFINITELY find value in this. Because I am one of you, you are not alone.

I am bipolar. And these are my struggles.

So Why Are You Doing This, BBQ?

I was diagnosed as manic depressive in high school. But they don’t call it that anymore, they call it “bipolar” now. I remember the day vividly when the psychiatrist gave me his diagnosis. I, being the TRUE expert in the room, thought he had no clue what he was talking about. Coaches, teachers, family, peers, the entire world…they were all out to get me, who wouldn’t be a little depressed knowing THAT??

I am not qualified to diagnose anyone with any kind of clinical depression but I’m familiar with its different symptoms and I have seen them exhibited by people that I care about. I’m hoping that my struggles can empower people to seek the help that they might need.

You might not believe you have a mental illness. I hope you’re right, because I said the same thing about myself and I was wrong.

If you’re a Breaking Bad fan, you will remember when Jesse decided to assist with Hank’s attempt to catch Walt. One of my favorite lines from the series is when Jesse asked Hank in disbelief “your plan…is to do HIS plan??”

In my attempt to “defeat” depression, my plan was very much to do depression’s plan. Instead of actually addressing any of my dysfunctions, I foolishly chased what “fulfillment” APPEARED to be. Maybe you have accepted that you’re struggling emotionally but you believe that the solutions lie in some sort of event, achievement or cash infusion. I hope you’re right because salvation wasn’t waiting for me on the other side of anything I’ve ever accomplished. I recently wrapped up almost ten consecutive years of school (86 total classes, no summers off). In that time, I earned an associate’s, bachelor’s and two masters’ degrees with virtually no student loan debt due to a tuition program through my employer.

And I’m as empty as when I first started.

I have pretty much everything I have ever set my sights on except for the ability to enjoy any of it.

Oh, and you might even be someone who has accepted that you struggle with mental illness but you never talk about it out of fear of sounding ungrateful because you have so much or because you know people who have it so much worse. This is a potentially dangerous mindset amongst us that must stop, one that I have been guilty of practicing for most of my life.

If this applies to you too: know that I am willing to listen to you without judgment.

What’s My Problem?!

My niece had a competitive cheerleading competition this past weekend. Before her squad performed, an older gentleman wearing some sort of karate outfit and his daughter took center mat and delivered one of the most bizarre, random demonstrations of self-defense that I had ever witnessed.

As strange as that might have been for you to read right now, it illustrates my belief that “art is risk”. Whether you’re an aspiring musician, a writer, a comedian, or even an older martial artist receiving simulated groin kicks in the middle of a cheerleading competition…the risk of judgment exists for anyone who puts themselves out there.

The risk for me in creating this blog series, what terrifies me actually, is being perceived as ungrateful.

“Someone always has it worse” is a cage that I have lived in since my diagnosis. My gratitude for everyone and everything in my life, earned or given, is almost crippling, due to abandonment issues that will no doubt be covered extensively in the next entry. What misfortune I have experienced, I’ve conditioned myself to be grateful that it wasn’t worse. It sounds noble enough. But it neglects to address why the emotion(s) were there to begin with. To this day I have trouble determining if I have justifiable reasons to be upset or if I’m just complaining. There are a lot of sweet memes that glorify the ability to be unmoved by emotion, or “suppression”. But for me, the ability to internalize everything came with it the inability to ever react to anything, even the good stuff.

Genuine. Emotional. Numbness.

If I’ve lost someone, I immediately launch into “well, at least I had them at all” or “______ lost someone more tragically or at a worse time, so I have no right to complain”. If I’ve accomplished something, I don’t celebrate because others might not have had my opportunities or someone somewhere probably did it even better.

I’ve been on emotional auto-pilot for so long that I don’t even know if I mean any of the things I tell myself.

My biggest “problem” is probably that I don’t appear to have any problems. I have all of my limbs. I have above average height. I’ve never been molested. I’ve never experienced anything that would register on the “abuse” continuum. I’ve never fought cancer. I lost someone who was like a mother to me at one point! But she wasn’t my “real mom”, so I had little right to boohoo over that, right? In fact, my biological mother is still alive and we are in contact. My father wasn’t in my life for the first 14 years of it but he has been a fixture ever since. My mother, not banking on him coming back around, went and found me the world’s greatest stepfather at the tender age of 5, whom I still call “dad” to this day. So my formative years were filled with oodles of masculinity and daddiness, who could complain??

To ask me what are my problems is little more than a cue to regurgitate that script.

But I believe this to be one of the main reasons why the friends and families of suicidal people “didn’t see it coming”. The isolation that is bred from having a good life without the ability to enjoy it is something that we don’t envision anyone wants to hear about. On the rare occasion someone does speak up, this is what they get:

PageKennedy

This is what “help” looks like, even in 2017. “You don’t have any REAL problems.” After all, actor/musician Page Kennedy only makes his living in the most fickle and unpredictable industry in the world, works 6-12 months at a time and never knows where the next check will come from…what could he possibly have to worry about?

The sage advice of Mr. @Barry_Jamesx3 is representative of the few hundred replies that Page received and is exactly why I and many others internalize our struggles.

When a person like Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, one of my songwriting heroes, decides to end his life, do people REALLY believe that he was unaware of his significance to literally millions of people? Do people REALLY believe that he was unaware of the privilege and opportunity his fortune provides? Do people REALLY believe that he didn’t think of the children he would be leaving behind before he hung himself? Do people really believe that a sober, recovering addict in his 40’s was too much of a COWARD to continue fighting his demons?

Sadly, yes, they do. And until those perceptions change we are going to continue to lose people to such preventable tragedies.

Click here to go to Fake Deep, Part 1b

Twitter: @bbqx_

Instagram: @bbqx

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Comments
  1. […] Click here if you have not read Fake Deep, Part 1a […]

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