Hashtag ‘Talk To Someone’

I revealed today that I am in fact depressed. I took to my most frequented social media sites to confess what all I have been feeling. That is, I am depressed and have been this way since for as long as I can remember. I took to Facebook to tell the few high school classmates, college associates, immediate family members and strangers- that like my thought processing- that I suffer with social anxiety and depression. And that I have felt this way since I was 10 years old, maybe younger or slightly older.

This was a late night/early morning confession so the response was of only one private message. One of the strangers told me that she wholly empathize with me, then to suggest medication and therapy. Why, then? I had revealed within the confession that people, generally, are the source of my fears and pessimism. That I find discomfort not only in being around people, but people as individuals. People as in judgmental, uncaring, self-centered individuals that I have not understood and will never come close to understanding in time. These people, generally, are the source of my stress, anxiety, social phobia, dating phobia, etc. As I told her, the stranger, I have been medicated for this condition before. All the while taking the pills, feeling the medicine or rather feeling emotions that have been inactive for so long jitter about inside of me. Not once did it cure my response to how others mistreat and misinterpret me. I thanked her for the advice and the shared empathy anyway. In a minute later my mom ‘liked’ my post. She always accuses me of writing excessively, too much for her to read so she ‘likes’ the post, pictures and comments anyway. I then made a rash decision to delete, then to deactivate my profile.

I was a social media user since the age of 14 years old, around 2008 when I wanted to connect with my peers. As a quiet, introverted teenager never afforded the ability or the will to express myself it proved useful. I used social media to express my immature nature; my dumbed down nature to better relate to those around me in school. As well, I used it as a platform to discuss relevant issues that I normally kept quiet and complacent about. After some time I deleted the 13/14 year old ‘me’ to tackle important issues in politics, or about religion and other social issues. Not that I was popular anyway, not that anyone cared, but I posted and shared my opinions that my conservative Christian ‘friends’ disagreed with. As a result I became largely ignored. I continued to post and debate, alone, and to myself, anyway.

Today I deleted pictures, memories, post, and removed tags. The task was simple. Again by no means was I ever popular and I did not share as much compared to others. Today, as well I found a note from 2011 that I did not delete. The note was about my frustration with the homophobic comments my circle of associates, classmates, etc. often expressed delightfully. I expressed how disheartening it is to hear people speak in ignorance to those like myself. People like me who had yet to come out, my first story that I had shared here. I remember how I was feeling the time I had typed the note-a depressed teen, pessimistic and suffering from social anxiety. As I went further back I noticed more of largely ignored political social interest, and then more about my confessions. This has not been the first time, now as I was beginning to remember. This is not the first time I have deleted memories, confessions and the like. And in every time I deleted, only to retype and to reword again, my quality of life remained the same. I am depressed, as I stated this one last time.

The cause of my frustrations, pessimism and fears have been other people. Recently, all three are related to my recent heart break. I had to come to terms that I was using social media to make her understand how much her apathy, and unloving nature tormented me daily. And that her new found love just confirmed all that I have feared and confessed to her. I had told her that I had gone through bouts of depression since I was a teenager. No, I had not fully recovered though in my mind I thought I had done so, compared to her confusion and fears she too confessed to me. I had confessed that I am broken and expected her to break the cycle, to be different from others and to be understanding. It was then that I had failed to realize that she is like all other individuals. She is like all the others-the source of my frustrations and fears. One message after another for a month, all disconnected and all in repetition wanting her to acknowledge, understand then to apologize. My pessimism called for her to block me, to reveal that she is who I know her to be… Though it is difficult to say when you love that person. I had to block her instead, once I found out she blocked me as well, I had to make my last confession.

Celebrities are coming out to confess their thoughts as well. They make a head liner-‘I’m Depressed’. Or, at least, they vaguely mention how they are feeling so the editor comes to that conclusion to write that viral title. The public responds by saying: how can this be that someone rich and famous who is given all that they may ask for in life, only to be discontent? And as we read of another who has died due to suicide, we have the public reacting by stating even money cannot buy happiness. And now we must talk about depression. It is only during these moments that someone beloved and talented confess and/or dies that we must have this discussion. ‘#talktosomeone’ surfaces on popular sharing sites. The long passionate quotes liked and shared by those that agree are about encouraging people to come out and confess. To find someone, anyone to empathize with your suffering. The reason given is that you are not alone.

The reality of depression is that you are alone. You are alone in your thoughts. You are to deal with it alone despite the helpful advice, therapy sessions, or sympathetic individuals that struggle and fumble with their words of circular positive encouragement. Depression affects the individual and by no means will talking to someone help, or always help concerning the severity and specifics of the illness. The depression may last a short while, given the changes in environment or other self-improvement tactics may help. Then there are others that will suffer through it, or probably not that much longer considering the common end of this illness. Something that I too have contemplated from time to time. It is when the negative thoughts, expected behavior of others, the low self-esteem; the conditions for living on this Earth, in this society, etc. becomes too overwhelming for the person to handle mentally. The ill person then release their emotions and thoughts through silent tears, music, writing, drugs, alcohol, anger, or something else to distract them. In whatever way the person may deal with or to solve their illness the person does so alone.

How do I best deal with my illness? I take a walk. Reconnecting with nature has been something recent and fulfilling. It’s the thought of the pavement or the feel of the grass beneath your shoes do I feel grounded. Most certainly I feel something the moment I walk, to feel the world around me slowed down to a normal, walking pace. To feel nature surround my body, pushing and pulling at my hair, clothes and skin. To feel the heat of the sun…It is then that I feel a sense of release, my mind just as chaotic as ever, but simple. My thoughts become slowed as well, but simple.

I may park my car somewhere, lock it of course, and just walk. I walk away from the noise, the commotion of people. Then to walk away from my life-responsibilities, concerns and anxieties about my future. I take so much pleasure from the brief moment to walk away from the noise and to walk away from my present life. So much so that my thoughts, whenever inclined to self-harm and neglect I think instead of simply walking away. And if it weren’t for the demands of society to have a job, car, and house to survive I would do just that. If it did not mean upsetting my mom as I leave, disappear without a trace, I would do just that.

Since I feel shackled by obligations I only dream to be either taken away or to disappear. I have dreamt of an airplane crash, though I have never flown before, where I became stranded and alone. I could imagine how I would feel based on the brief moments of freedom I have now. To feel nature pushing and pulling me. This is not likely to happen, so instead I like National Geographic pictures of indigenous people whose feet have been shaped by the land. In other dreams I thought to quit, to sell, to remove the excess baggage and just walk away. Where would I go? I would go everywhere, in the heat, under the sun with shoes tapping the pavement. I would just go at random.

If I ever feel stressed by what I am unable to do, I will write it down instead. There was a concept essay in my 10th grade class that my close associate and I wrote separately, then shared. We were to write individually about the greatest invention and to explain why it is great compared to others. My associate and I are similar in thought, still, even though we no longer speak. She wrote that ‘paper’ was the best invention in our world, which allows us to read. She’s still a bookworm. I wrote that the ‘pen’ was the greatest invention as it allow for ideas and thoughts to be more easily shared. In that I discussed written language as the beginning of all other great inventions. I remember now, I asked her about her topic then I shared my own. We playfully argued which of our topic was better in answering the writing prompt. I ended with, if it were not for the ‘pen’ what purpose would the ‘paper’ have been in the course of our human history?

Feel as I may and will forever feel as it seems, I’m fortunate enough to live in a time and place where I am able to share my thoughts. Whether I am to share my thoughts on paper or on the screen there is still a sense of release. This is where I tell myself all is fine as long as you have a mind of your own and the will to express it to yourself first.  You may be depressed, you do indeed suffer with social anxiety but so long as you are a confident thinking being you can forget about the approval of others. Then I leave all other thoughts to rest.

I mean I am talking to someone about it. I’m talking to myself

For the Teacher

The life of being a bright yet shy student from primary school to throughout college had proved quite a challenge for me. I had grew up in a household, and within a culture, where the opinion and thoughts of a child are irrelevant. And if that child dares speak to challenge the parent, or the elders of the family, then they are being a disrespectful child. The inability to express oneself proves to be a detriment to one’s potential success in school. I wish, only that my family understood that about me as I still become flustered whenever they, now, ask for my opinion. That is a minor reason for my shyness in school. The major reason is that I grew up with intense social anxiety that was evident since I was a toddler. My family enjoy joking about me and my ‘hollering’ for no apparent reason. The more they tell and the more I attempt to understand my forgotten behavior, I see now that it was a early sign of stress and anxiety. An early sign that I cried loudly if I was separated from my mom, and even more so if surrounded by strangers. Throughout my childhood I still remember the discomfort, however, then I became self-aware of the unwanted attention I may draw if I speak or address myself in public. I became then one of those shy, withdrawn, aloof child and student in school. What a challenge this has been for me. I was forever reluctant to share my thoughts and opinions, and would shy away from a challenge. Only to retreat back to my safe place that is my mind-to all of the imaginative wonders of a story dream that I was inspired to create to about the age of 18 years old. I have since interpreted it all as an immature coping mechanism for the stresses and anxieties I had had. What was the challenge in school? The struggle to share my thoughts either written or spoken out loud. The trembling fear I had to present my work in front of a class room of different opinions. So I would purposefully sabotage my projects, accurately calculating that I would make a C letter grade for little effort. As for essay writing, I most certainly had the potential to outperform whatever I had presented. Though, still reluctant to share and too embarrassed to reread my own writing, I left many of my final essays as a rough draft.

This behavior to underperform and to be so aware of the differences of opinion reflected in my school work and classroom learning level placement. I have experienced the classroom environment for remedial students; classrooms for the average student; classrooms for the slightly above average students; then the classroom for the truly gifted or privileged. If I were placed in a remedial class, somehow I would ‘snap out’ of my safe place to prove myself otherwise. The classroom materials there were too easy, repetitive and redundant. I’m in need of a challenge. I would then be placed in a classroom for the average, where I would compete with the brightest student. Still, then the lessons were to easy for me. Later on I would be placed with the slightly above average students. I had one experience where it bothered me in a way. In second grade I remember being one of the few black students in an English and literature art class. A classroom full of students regarded as bright, or just simply privileged. There was a time where the teacher would ask a question and, I’ll be honest here, I was too busy daydreaming to pay attention. The teacher would call on one of us, one of the black students to participate because we rarely voiced ourselves. The times she would call on me I would give her an honest answer ‘I don’t know’. I don’t know because I never paid attention to the lesson or instruction, to her, to anyone else other than my mind. Of course this reflected to the letter grade C, which then gave her a thought to set aside time for the students that were struggling. We were the black students. Sitting around a small table we were reading a book, attempting to interpret the subject I suppose. The teacher would, again, ask us questions we could not answer- for very different reasons. What was I doing instead? I was making ‘googly eyes’ at my class friend beside me. The issue that I am addressing here is not that black students felt more insecure compared to their white or privileged peers here. No I was not ever aware of the ‘race’ factor, meaning that my childhood was color-blind. In my mind, and the issue here, is that I was disinterested. I never tried, never attempted, however the assumption being that I needed additional help to understand was a decision made without discussion. I was not in need of help, instead I was need of something interesting. As I needed something interesting, I needed someone to help me with my anxieties, insecurities and the stresses that they caused.

I think now that it was only until I entered high school did teachers silently came together and saw that I was need of a challenge. I assume they had discussed me in some way, since teachers have mentioned to their class that they discuss particular students and their performance. This includes one time I was approached by the principal who had asked me ‘do you find your classes more challenging now?’. I was taking advanced placement courses for the first time by my junior year. Honestly, I was ready and excited to finally be challenged, and to finally be more interested in learning. Of course, I still dealt with insecurities. I was one of the many that raised my hand when the AP English teacher asked ‘do any of you think you’re not smart enough to be here?’ The sun that once glowed had since died once I experienced classroom life with the truly gifted or simply privileged. By my observation they were simply privileged. How so? The AP government teacher thought to set the first day with a bit of ego inflation. He exclaimed that ‘you guys are the cream of the crop, the smartest there is and I believe in you’. Towards the end of the semester he was bitterly disappointed in the AP test scores. He muttered one day ‘I cannot believe it, some of you didn’t even try’. How can you not believe it sir? From what I remember, the majority of the classroom were given grades based on who their parents were exactly, though we all gave the same amount of effort or none at all. The majority of the class have teachers for parents, or parents present on the school  board, or an uncle who is the principal for our high school. And since I had underprivileged parents my letter grades were within the ‘C’ range. Now compare that to the letter ‘B’ grade given to the girl who drew butterflies for answers because she- like everyone else besides three others truly bright and dedicated-didn’t try and did not care. I have no place for dishonesty here, this actually occurred and offended me so. By that point I was dealing with depression-had been diagnosed and medicated. I had stopped trying because I had become more sensitive and emotional about other factors in my life. I didn’t care to try because the environment for which I was to be challenged, was not challenging in the least sense. I was sorely disappointed, so by my senior year I had become one of the ‘above average’ students. At least then I knew that the challenge was fair.

It’s time for college. At 18 years old it was time to make a decision about my life when I had yet to deal with my emotions, and other insecurities. A time where I did not know what I wanted to do and felt somewhat ‘pushed out the door’ to do something with my life. So sudden of a decision, I chose college. I chose history as my major, yet again unsure of what I wanted to do. A ha!, to write and to write well; to research and to research something in particular that I will figure out once I get there. I find myself regretting to make a decision so suddenly. Instead I should have taken a year off to study myself as I had come to find out that old habits die hard. My habit is to sabotage my work and to underperform whenever I feel insecure. To have a professor tell me ‘perhaps you should visit the writing center, since frankly you cannot write’. I would take offense, certainly, ‘snap out’ to prove otherwise. I had asked my mentor if I could take one of his upper level classes as a freshman. Anxiety had overtaken my emotions, my entire body, as I shook like a leaf every day. Five months had passed, yet I have not so much entered the library or the eating venues out of fear of the many strangers that I would have to encounter. The silent judgement that was only a present fear created in my mind, ‘you do not belong here’. I needed to find proof and my proof was found my freshman year taking an upper level course. I was the young black with the afro sitting far back in the corner, always on the right side. I was always the quiet one, not once voiced myself out of shyness. But I was intrigued, in love with the lecturing style of my mentor and professor, in awe with a truly challenging environment. Although I was quiet, I truly enjoyed my time.  The challenge then was to write a semester long research and analytical essay about the technologies of medieval Europe. I will tell you that I had stressed over and re-written that essay in its entirety six times, all thirteen pages. The reward was most deserving, the highest grade I had ever received on a paper, a 98. I do not know why but as time moved forward I continued to fall into bad habits, become overly shy once again, then to ‘snap out’ once I had found a purpose or my confidence. Especially so, when I had found interest in the subject I would try my best and would succeed.

A terrible habit that has caused some questions by others that didn’t quite believe my words to be my writing. I was the quiet one, the one too afraid to speak in front of others with different opinions. Not only different opinions, but of others who were older and far more experienced and knowledgeable than I am in the subject. Since I had begun tackling the upper level courses early on, I did not travel with those of my age group who would have been more understanding of my nature. I didn’t speak, too fearful to speak. As you would assume, hated doing presentations with so much passion. If I had known that presentation was required for my major in excess I wouldn’t have attempted. Perhaps I would not have attempted college altogether considering the constant attacks to my anxiety and unforgiving financial debt thereafter. My writing is my own. I state this as I anticipate including my research analysis writing here for my blog, less tame in length. I have found a compromise. I do not speak often and I am unable to articulate myself well while speaking. However, I am just as bright and inquisitive as I will appear on paper or on screen. I have ideas to share and a much needed alternative viewpoint on all subjects. And I type even this self reflection as I contemplate about my future career decisions.

I reflect back on this time as a student, since I am to become a teacher for the time being. As of August 2017 I will apply to a college, yet again to find a stable career path way. I am to become a teacher but as a teacher I wish to be fair to students, and to be sensitive to the needs of students like myself. The shy student, or the bright and shy student. The introvert, as I am too, but not to be conflated with shyness. There are special talents and great insights a student may be able to give, however always finding discomfort with either their self or discomfort with the demands of group-oriented and opinion sharing environments. The lessons are to prepare students for college and/or for the working world. I understand that too now, however is it necessary? I do agree as I disagree. For now I will provide an article that fits and fights best: I Argued That Class Participation Was Necessary. Then I Heard From Introverts.

Upon reading a short article titled Stories from the Trenches: Why Don’t Students Participate in Class?, I thought to share my experience first. Why students do not participate in class is dependent of that individual student. Some do so politely because they are taught it is inappropriate to speak or to ‘know more than one’s professor’. Others do so because they are shy, or they are bright yet shy like myself. Then those that cannot get a word in with their peers blurting their opinions with or without relevance or substance. The reason could be a disorder, or selective mutism as I am inclined to believe was my issue. The reasons are all varied and intersecting. There are no sure way to help every student adequately as some issues are outside of the teacher’s domain. Like myself in dealing with social anxiety and depression, I was in need of counseling or some sort of therapy. I could not expect my AP high school teacher to understand that that is why I was among the many that refused to try.  In becoming a teacher, again for the time being, I wish to be sensitive to students as I am to require certain expectations. As well, I require that teachers now to be more sensitive.