Tag Archives: Mental Health

Emotional Labor

We don’t often give a lot of credit to emotional labor. We sort of shrug it off as this thing that’s really nothing because we don’t have a tangible result from it.

It’s not.

I have to remind myself of that often.

Reason being is I probably do a lot more emotional labor than the average person per day, and it’s an exhausting process, but because I’m without a resulting product, I feel guilty. I feel like I still should be able to write, I should be able to film, I should still have energy to create and clean, and do everything else.

But you don’t.

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Mana Management

Image by WTB Potions

It has come to my attention that I do a lot on an average week. I usually have a lot of things going on at once, many projects in the air, and have been asked a few times how I manage to do it all. I’ve jokingly responded “By systematically sacrificing my social life”, and while that’s true, it’s not entirely the whole story. So I’m going to attempt to talk about that and hope what I’ve learned may be of some use to you.

First, it’s important to realize I don’t get done everything I want to. I’m still learning. For instance, this week my Wordy Wednesday will be late. My Curiosity Cabinet was unable to go up on Sunday like I planned due to a tragedy that struck last week when many of us in the Geek community lost a dear friend unexpectedly. But this happens. Because there are many things we can’t control. And one of those things is time.

Continue reading Mana Management

Are You Sure?

“Are you sure?” is a far from innocent question.

“Are you sure” is a coward’s cocktail of two parts deterrent and one part accusation.

It contributes to our life-long indoctrination intoxication that we cannot trust our own senses and judgement. Our own perceptions denounced, speaking our experience makes us liars, and as we grow our night-lights become gaslights in so much that we get vertigo just by standing up for ourselves.

“Are you sure” enforces the caution that it is paramount we are not speaking before thinking–it assumes your feelings are baseless, it reinforces the mythology that you haven’t given this any thought at all. When in truth it is the only thing that has occupied your thoughts both waking and dreaming. It lingers on you, cropping up at the most innocuous moments, those sleepy and content breaths where you thought you were safe.

We have trouble breathing, choking on the specter of thought that has been haunting us since the inception of realization of our reality.

“Are you sure?”

As if you weren’t so bursting that there were room for doubt within you.

And when you try call them out, they defend “I’m just checking!”

As if that can even pass as some form of repentance. But they never dare to finish the sentence.

“I’m just checking…”

I’m just checking you’re not a liar.

I’m just checking you’re sincere.

I’m just checking you’ve thought this through, because some part of me that I won’t admit to does not believe you.

“Are you sure” is more suggestion than question.

And it speaks volumes about what they never say aloud.

“Are you sure you didn’t provoke him?”

“Are you sure your skirt wasn’t too short?”

“Are you sure this isn’t a phase you’ll grow out of?”

“Are you sure” is both intimidation and invalidation.

It makes you question your sanity and believe, if even for a second, that speaking up isn’t worth the consequence.

Of course, I’m sure.

Please believe me.

Be the Ally Carrie Fisher Knew You Could Be – The Death of 2016

So I’ve been fighting a sinus infection for the past week and late at night, as these things are prone to do, it kept me up to about 3am until the decongestant did its damn job and let me sleep. But prior to this I saw a particular article circulating on my Facebook, and I’ll admit, it did not sit well with me.

That’s a kind way of saying it set off my Irish temper–which, to be honest, is not an easy thing to do.

I’m not going to repost it because I feel it’s toxic to mental health (I’ll explain) and I don’t think the author deserves the clicks, but the basic jist was shaming the multitude of people who have been personifying the year 2016, including “can this year be over?” etc etc. It was extremely condescending, called this practice “really dumb” and was out right douchey–especially as it decided to use Carrie Fisher as the jumping off point for this.

First of all, how dare you?

I haven’t spoken too much at length about what Carrie Fisher meant to me, but a huge part of who she was as a person was an advocate for mental health. She was extremely open, frank, and delightfully crass about her own struggles. So to use her at all in this argument just infuriates me.

Spoiler Alert: No one ACTUALLY believes 2016 is responsible for the terrible things that happened during this year. It’s a year. This is redirected anger/pain/frustration.

Now, this particular mental tactic CAN be harmful–for instance, this particular tactic is often used in propaganda. #NotMyPresident-Elect Trump used this tactic to win by rallying anger towards immigrants and anyone of the muslim faith by blaming them for American hardships. They were taking our jobs, they were living off welfare that we paid for, they were ruining our economy etc. This is harmful because it blamed actual groups of people to distract from the genuine issue being caused by unethical business practices by corporations and institutionalized prejudice in our own government practices.

However, this mental tactic is also used in trauma therapy. And THIS is where blaming 2016 lies.

No one legitimately believes 2016 is responsible for all the celebrity deaths this year. We know the long term effects of drug/alcohol addiction shortens life expectancy, even once someone gets clean and sober. You do not have to write a whole damn article explaining this to us. We aren’t actually stupid. We’re COPING.

In an interview with the Princess Bride’s Mandy Patinkin, he opened up about losing his father to cancer.

“The reason I made the movie was coming to fruition, which was I was gonna get the cancer that killed my father. And in my mind, I feel that when I killed that six-fingered man, I killed the cancer that killed my father. And for a moment he was alive.”

This year has been terrible. Yes, I’ve lost heroes I looked up to, I lost artists I admired. Some to terrible diseases, some to failing hearts, some to pure accidents.

But I also watched my country vote in a tyrant who may literally be the death of some very dear friends of mine who are dependent on certain healthcare benefits, or others who have been terrorized because white supremacy has been bolstered by a man who plans on calling himself our leader.

I watched the aftermath of one of the most terrifying mass shootings on US soil. And the mixed response to this attack on my community showed me that despite we had achieved marriage equality–actual equality was even further than we first thought.

I’ve watched people withstand dog attacks, taser guns, and tear gas trying to protect their home from a corporation.

I’ve seen a foreign country make a foolish and widely xenophobic decision, not fully understanding those consequences until it was too late to stop them.

I’ve seen innocent men and women gunned down just by being Black.

I have seen and wept and fought the best I could against terrible things this year, and yet every day made it feel like there was nothing I could do. I would never be enough.

Of course we know it’s not the year’s fault.

But we’re bleeding. And we’re broken. And we have so many things we need to fix to “make this all better” that it’s overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to drown when I think about it.

And maybe, just maybe, rallying behind the idea of focusing this anger and sadness and hopelessness at this personified 2016 is the coping mechanism some of us need so we can be ready for the fight we have ahead of us.

Maybe we need to watch this year die so we can fool ourselves into having the strength to tackle the multitude of issues that caused so much of this year’s pain. Maybe we need that ONE victory, regardless how superficial it may seem to you.

Don’t police people’s grief, don’t judge someone’s coping mechanism, don’t look down your nose at someone’s mental health care simply because you don’t actually understand it.

Be the mental health ally Carrie Fisher knew you could be. And if one of your friends is cheering on the death of a terrible year–something that harms no one–don’t shame them. Offer to bring the champagne.

Stop Telling Me I’ll Find Someone

Everyone has their own post breakup rules.

Some people remove all trace of the relationship, some people need to be surrounded by friends, others have to binge on chocolate alone while watching terribly written sappy movies to give them hope that this is not the end of…whatever it is they’re scared of it being the end of.

Mine is simple.

Stop telling me I’ll find someone.

I know this sentiment is made with the best of intentions, but I find it an incredibly toxic response. First, you don’t know the exact circumstances in which someone ended their relationship–but most importantly, you’re projecting something onto a scenario that can only cause problems.

“You’ll find someone” tells the recipient of this sentiment that they’ve lost something. That they are now “without”.

I feel like we put too much pressure on the concept of soulmates. Of finding “that one person”.

To even remotely buy into this idea, I would have to accept that “true love” is something only afforded once to a person, and in my experience, love is a delightfully common thing.

Why can we only celebrate or truly value something because it’s rare?

I have been in love at least twice in my life–three times, quite possibly. And those romantic entanglements are vastly overshadowed by the great love I have and receive from my friends and family.

It’s overwhelming and wonderful and far too understated.

Look, it’s possible there will be another romantic what not in my future–it’s also possible there won’t be, and the best part about this question is it truly does not matter either way.

I’m complete on my own. It took me a while to find all the pieces as they weren’t neatly packaged together from birth–but I have them. And I’m fine. I’m awesome. I’ll have days of sadness, I’ll be hurt, I’ll be angry or even maybe a little bitter. I can even toss and turn over things that were or weren’t said or done in that relationship.

But that’s being real. That’s being human. You have those moments regardless what kind of role that someone played in your life.

Another person cannot complete you, and they are not a necessary part of your story. You haven’t failed because you had a break up, and you won’t be failing if you don’t find another person you want to share that kind of relationship with.

I think we perpetuate a dangerous mindset when we sing so many songs about not being able to go on without another person.

I’ve lost people to far more terrible things than break ups. I’ve said goodbye for the last time in this life to so so many loved ones–a pain, frankly, that far outweighs the realization that someone doesn’t love you how you thought.

And yet, I’m here. I’m still breathing. My heart’s still beating. I’m still able to keep going.

want to still keep going.

This line of thinking, I suppose, is also completely separate from the actual context of the break up.

I left an emotionally abusive relationship that had been draining my life bit by bit for nearly three years. Yes, there were happy moments, yes there were times where I had a plan for the future…

But it wasn’t healthy.

And telling me not to worry because one day “I’ll find someone” when I’m “ready” completely negates the really remarkable point of all of this.

did find someone.

I found me.

Returning to Stardust

Today I felt myself again. Today I wandered through unfamiliar streets with no real purpose or direction. Today I held my head up and smiled at strangers.

Today I noticed the little things. An unexplained purple-paint hand print on an otherwise bare concrete wall, the way my shoes sounded a little bit like horse hooves when I click them on the pavement just right, and that particular smell of fresh cut wood and burning metal indicative of construction sites.

Today I didn’t feel drained or scared. Today I felt curious and hopeful.

Today I felt like stardust.

I talk a lot about mental health. Depression is something that has plagued people I love for as long as I can remember. My father, my sister, and my brother, who we lost to suicide in 2013. It has been a hard and painful road, watching them struggle with their own versions of a unrelenting disease. On some level, I was grateful for this intimate insight, because it meant I would be a strong ally to my friends who dealt with similar struggles.

What I did not expect is that understanding and experience could be used against me.

There is a fine line between aiding and enabling. And it’s never easy to see when you’ve crossed it. Usually when you do realize, you find yourself miles away from it.

A few days ago I realized I had spent nearly two years nurturing an unhealthy relationship because I was still trying to save my brother. There were so many red flags. At more than one point this person had threatened me with self-harm, and I had ignored it. There was a continued pattern of disrespect, and I ignored it. I had become a financial and emotional crutch with no effort to ever relieve me of this burden, even after over a year. I ignored this.

And my reasoning behind this was maybe, just maybe, if I tried hard enough, if I sacrificed just a little bit more of myself… I could save someone. I could save someone where I had failed to save my brother, and at the time it didn’t matter if that meant killing myself in the process.

The mental health we don’t often talk about is you can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved, and if you try, it will destroy you piece by piece. Because that person wants to control you. Because that person has been controlling you.

So I finally left. It hurt, and my mind screamed against me that I was cruel and making a mistake. I felt guilty for days. I felt like I had gone back on everything I’d promised in being an ally for mental health.

My friends were kind and supportive. They let me talk and talked me through what happened. I admitted to things I’d been too ashamed to talk about in regards to this toxic relationship. And then I no longer felt guilty, I felt incredibly foolish.

Then a dear friend offered to take me with her to Chicago on a work trip. And I spent time alone, and in doing so, I found someone I hadn’t seen in a very long time.

Me.

Today, I truly let go.

Today, I forgave myself for loving me.

How Can I Help?

You might belong in Hufflepuff where they are just and loyal, those patient Hufflepuffs are true and unafraid of toil!

1446_10200949055554440_1769802617_nIf you didn’t know by now, I’m a Hufflepuff. To the very bone. I bleed black and gold, so to speak. I’ve never liked exclusivity, or cliques, and I’ve pushed my fair share of bullies. It’s not hard to be my friend, so long as your intentions are good, and once you’re in, it’s hard to lose that friendship. Since I began my presence online I’ve done what I can to be open and honest, share what I could about my own experiences and not try to be anything I’m not.

So It’s probably only natural that some of you felt safe to reach out to me through email for help. And that trust in me has meant all the world. And it got me thinking. Perhaps I could open that door up a bit more, and let you know, before you even have to reach out blindly, that it’s okay to ask.

I’ve set up an email specifically for these kinds of questions and inquiries:

Ask@KiriCallaghan.com

While my answers will be in public video form, I promise your questions/concerns will remain completely anonymous. I’d like to make video responses in the style of My Dear Stephanie videos because I feel like being able to hear someone’s voice in times of struggle is incredibly helpful in itself. Sometimes I just need to hear, “It’s going to be okay,” from someone I trust, and I figure, at the very least, that’s what I can offer to you.

I have tried to make it a standard practice to always answer a friend’s troubles with one simple question, “How can I help?”

So even if you think your question is small, or you simply just want to write me an email. I’m here, and I’ll listen.

XOXO,

Kiri

I Catalog The Happy Moments

I have been a close observer of depression and its effects on the people I love since before I could remember. Despite that I’m not personally struggling with it, it’s been a prevalent antagonist in my life. It has terrorized my father, my sister, my partner, and some of my dearest friends. It took my brother’s life. It’s the monster I have never found a strong enough epithet to properly describe.

The most accurate comparison I have found is that depression is a lot like the Dementors from Harry Potter. Depression doesn’t just make you feel unhappy; you feel like you’ll never be happy ever again, and despite that it might have been just yesterday, you can’t remember the last time you were happy.

Depression lies to you. And it’s the best liar you will ever encounter. It will tell you that you were just faking it yesterday until you are convinced you weren’t actually happy. And what they really don’t tell you, is that the people who fight that battle at your side will start to feel it too.

And so I overshare on social media. I take selfies, or pictures of my food, or where I am, or something that made us laugh. I vlog, I make ridiculous videos, I write tweets of conversations we had, or things we heard. It’s why I spend so much time making sure to record those moments.

I do this so the next time someone I love can’t remember the last time they felt like themselves, I have something to remind them depression is a liar. Some kind of dated proof that, “No, you will be happy again, you were really happy and feeling like yourself just the other day. We will get through this moment together and soon those days where you don’t feel like yourself will lessen. Soon you won’t have to be reminded quite so much.”

And maybe when we get there, I won’t feel the need to capture every moment on film. Maybe I’ll be able to just “live in the moment”, though the idea that recording that moment means I’m somehow ruining it seems rather ridiculous to me. 

But until then, I’m going to keep filming or taking pictures, or even bragging about how blessed I am to have those people in my life.

It’s how I keep both of us grounded in reality, even when the Nightmares feel like they’re creeping in.

Depression, Outside Looking In

I don’t have clinical depression, but I grew up around it. My brother, my sister, my father all have–had–varying degrees and diagnosis.

I am certainly not an expert. I’m a compassionate outsider looking in.

But I hope as someone who has witnessed its aftermath, I can help bring some more understanding around it, especially to those with no experience.

First, I’d want to direct you to someone who not only has experienced it first hand, but who can say it far more eloquently than I can, Mr. Stephen Fry.

Secondly, I really need you to understand this seemingly simple concept: Depression is a disease.

depression_s1_mayo

I’m going to pull a page from the article I referenced earlier and I want you to imagine that we’re talking about cancer. And think about all the amazing strides we’ve made in medical science to curing it. Think of all that work and how regrettably in some cases all of that work is still not enough to save a person.

Now imagine that we didn’t take cancer seriously. Imagine for a moment that it didn’t resonate that small little ache with almost anyone who hears it. Imagine that people judged you rather than embraced you when you told them you had cancer. Imagine feeling embarrassed for just visiting your doctor or taking your medication. That people told you that you just needed to “snap out of it”, that you weren’t trying hard enough and that’s why your tumors were growing.

Gut-wrenchingly horrible, isn’t it?

This is how our society treats depression. This is also, perhaps, why the suicide rate is nearly double that of homicide.

Yesterday I talked about my brother and how important it was to take care of yourself.

I was approached by an acquaintance who, despite their good intentions, said perhaps one of the most ignorant response I’ve ever heard in reaction to suicide. “I don’t agree with his decision but I respect that it was his decision.”

First, never tell anyone that you respect their loved one’s choice to end their own life–you don’t know the situation. You also do not know THAT person’s mental state and were I far less stable in my mourning process, his words could have caused a whole new set of problems.

Please, understand that suicide is not a ‘do-not-resuscitate’ request.

Second, it was not his decision. And that is the most important thing of all to remember. My brother struggled with mental illness. When we were younger it manifested in violent fits of rage, as we grew, he turned more inward and while those fits were less common, they were more often turned on himself.

He was sick. And because he was ashamed of that, he didn’t get help–he didn’t want help. And eventually that disease ate enough of him that he became convinced he did not deserve help.

Joel was right when he said there was nothing any of us could have done to stop him. However, it would be a lie to say that means what happened could not have been prevented. And that’s why this cause is so important to me.

He wasn’t taking his medication and he refused to talk to anyone about it–friends or professionals.  He had long let the disease rule him.

People deserve to have control over their lives, to be able to think clearly.

Depression doesn’t allow that. You can try to down-talk its impact on people’s lives all you want but it will not change the fact that it is a mental illness. It is a disease, a sickness, a literal imbalance of chemicals in your body. It needs to be treated with respect and above all it needs to be treated.

A person is not weak for needing medication to get through day-to-day. To feel normal.

People take medication every day for their heart, for diabetes, to keep things like HIV and cancer at bay. Why have we got it in our brains that depression is any different?

Maybe it’s that word. The fact that we use it interchangeably for simply feeling sad–for being upset by external causes.

But as someone who has watched it tear at my family for as long as I can remember, please believe me, it’s a very real disease. And it’s one I intend to fight with all my strength.

If you think you may have clinical depression, please see someone. Do not be ashamed of something you have absolutely no control of. There is no just “snapping out” of a chemical imbalance, just like you can’t snap out of having a blood disease or a brain tumor.

It’s a hard process, and it will take time to find what’s right for you. But it can and will get better. And you deserve to feel comfortable in your own skin. That voice that says you aren’t worth it? It’s a damn liar. And it could not be more wrong about you.

You, my wonderful friends, are independently awesome.

Love,

Kiri