open letter

Today was a bad day. It was fine.

Today was a bad day. It was fine.

It didn’t start that way. I felt okay this morning, or well, maybe not totally okay. Maybe a little under-the-weather mood wise, like the threat of a fever before a fever: small enough to be brushed off. I’m fine. A little cranky, a little sleepy, but fine.

Dysthymia–the name they call my “baby depression”–is a little like if depression were a flu: when you least expect it (when you have no real reason to expect it, actually), it just…shows up. That fact used to bother me so much, to the point that I spent days picking myself apart in frustration: why couldn’t I just be happy? Why couldn’t I just do the work? Why couldn’t I function the way I was supposed to? 

Nowadays, these sudden bouts of sadness just annoy me, this reminder that I am feeble and human. But while I am young and still idiotic the way young people are (let’s be honest; at this age we’re stupid, but only because we have to be. Because this is the season for learning and honestly we learn best when we make our best mistakes.), I’m old enough to know that being feeble and human won’t change. This is yet another in-between, a sort of emotional second puberty, where I transition from boldly proclaiming invincibility towards acceptance of my inadequacies.

It’s not wrong to not always be enough.

Today was a bad day. But it wasn’t a dark one. I don’t like the weight of that word, darkness, as if clouds don’t lift. Like a cold, this heaviness comes and goes, staying for hours or days or weeks or months but eventually–even if only briefly–leaving. There are times you wake up with the flu. There are times I wake up in the morning and find am wary and defensive, consumed by a need to protect myself from some unnameable thing that will inevitably go wrong.

This is not a “place.” These are simply symptoms. I do not need fixing. I am not broken. My brain is simply telling me it has a flu.

There is no cure for the common cold: it just passes. I drink water. I listen to music. I message a friend–one I know won’t romanticize this, won’t let comfort turn maudlin–and we sigh, accept that sometimes people wake up with bad stomachs and worse colds.

I tell him I don’t want to be kind to myself–I would rather nuke this sadness into submission and why haven’t they made a Berrocca for depressive episodes yet!? He tells me, matter of fact, that I’ll need to accept that I have to be kind to myself, someday. Even if that day is not today.

These things do not necessarily make me feel better, but they make it easier to accept that I do not feel better. That this is what today will look like, for now, and that’s fine.

Sometimes I need the bad days, the way they bring out the worst in me, because I’ve gotten so used to pretending I don’t have issues that I risk letting it get to my head. When I’m having a bad day, the pride and prickliness come to fore, and I am reminded that there are still things wrong with me. That people do have to be patient with me. Eating humble pie doesn’t feel good, but then again I already feel bad, so it’s not like things have changed. Maybe this is what it means, accepting your human frailty: admitting that you’ll still have things to work on, and maybe you’ll never be done working on them.

I can’t work. Today wasn’t as productive as I wanted it to be. The heaviness I feel has me dreading tomorrow, dreading the week after, dreading the endless procession of days the way you do when you face the prospect of having to get up and go even if you don’t feel like it. But that’s life, really: not feeling like going and doing the thing but going and doing the thing anyway because you know you have to. Because it matters. Because knowing it matters means, in a sense, that you want to, and isn’t it nice to know that, in some small way, you aren’t completely a slave to how you feel?

Eventually, I will learn to be really kind to myself. Today is not that day. Today was a bad day.

But it was a start.


DISCLAIMER: This blog reflects my personal experience and is in no way an authoritative account on dealing with mental illness, depression, dysthymia, etc. 


Dear Muslims

I remember when I was a very young, net-surfing Christian who encountered atheist hate for the first time. I remember the shock and shame of seeing my God mocked and derided. And I remember that it was a Muslim commenter who defended the right for Christians to believe in the Christian God.

I remember being a college student struggling to explain my purity ring, my desire to save my first kiss despite the struggle of my longing flesh (because yes, I have hormones and a libido and desires). I remember the people who said I wouldn’t last. And I remember the Muslim friends who treated my commitment with more faith and respect than those people who supposedly believed in the same things as me.

Dear Muslims, I remember your kindness. I remember how you were–are–no different from me: we ate the same things (not a big fan of pork either), went to the same places, talked about the same TV shows and books. We laughed together at our mutual “heretic” status (As a Protestant taking Catholic theology as a required subject, I discovered this uncomfortable–yet amusing–title. Our poor professors, who were so nice, did their best to soften the blow.), and drilled each other in reciting the required bits of Catholic Catechism for final exams. 

I remember the pale white fear in your faces when our school had a bomb threat for the first time. And I remember the anger that would flash in your eyes each time there was news of yet another bombing, kidnapping, act of terror. I remember how you grieved, not just with us, but as ONE of us when these acts took lives.

I remember seeing, in the news, videos of your preachers in your mosques, denouncing first Al-Quada then ISIS, screaming-crying-praying that people would understand that terrorism does not equal Islam.

I remember. And so I think it needs to be said: This is not your fault. You do not need to take responsibility, to say “mea culpa” for a deed you did not commit. Shout as loud as you can that you disown these monsters, but do not for one second apologize for them. You are victims, same as us, and even more so, for your homes are bombed in retaliation for crimes you did not commit.

ISIS wants us to hate you, to blame you, to play the game of us versus them by stirring up rage on one side and fear on the other. But we won’t let them win. We won’t let them tear humanity apart. 

Dear Muslims, the attacks in Paris, Beirut, Syria…they are not your fault. You are under attack, same as us, and as we stand with Paris, we stand with you. In the words of the Twelfth Doctor, we hold this pain tight, till it burns our hand, and together we say: “No one else will ever have to live like this! No one else will have to feel this pain! Not on my watch!”

I forget to pray a lot, but I’m going to do my best to remember to pray for you. For all of us. For this to end and for all of us to get through it together. Because we will end it. This won’t be the status quo.

Not on our watch.