New Site!

Hey, for all of you who only follow me here on wordpress.com, I want to let you know Lights in the Darkness now has its own website, lightsinthedarkness.net! Everything from this site is imported over there, and that is where I will be writing from now on. I also have a “Donate” option up there as well, so you can chip in a little bit and help me keep writing. So everybody head over there now and follow lightsinthedarkness.net!

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Help!

Some time ago, I actually purchased a domain name to move this blog site to donatewordpress.org. To make a long story short, I’m still working on it. In the meantime, I want to add a PayPal donate option to the site at wordpress.com. I have a link up to donate now on my “About” page (Go there and donate! Now!), but the button does not appear.

Could someone with a little WordPress savvy give me a hand here? I’d to not only get the button to show up, but also to be able to add it to all of my other pages. I’ve tried following some tutorials, but I’m not having much luck. Thanks!

Straddling The Line

Being out in the open about depression (or any other mental illness, for that matter) is not always an easy experience. There are all kinds of risks that come with sharing an affliction publicly, from public and private misconceptions to outward bias to destruction of relationships. Writing a blog also produces its share of hazards, most of which are associated with who reads it, what they think about it, and what level of influence they play in the writer’s life.

Put the two together. Then just take a step back and watch all the loads of fun unfold before you.

Aside from a couple of instances, I haven’t had too many run-ins concerning things I’ve written about here. Because of my dysthymic, pessimistic, and generally melancholy state of mind, however, I usually chalk that up to the fact that people who know me are much freer with their compliments than their criticisms, and I figure there are at least a couple of folks out there who really don’t like what I do here at all. One of the people I had an issue with before is effectively out of my life now, so I suppose that’s one less person I have to worry about offending. Woot.

Because I’m sort of obsessive about how many people read my posts every day, I try to keep track of which ones are doing better than others. There are a few sure-fire topics that always bring more readers in. Parenting is one. Anything about children always gets lots of views. Memoriams about people who have passed away always do well, too. Most of the time, though, topics with a pleasant vibe do not do nearly as well as the ones that take on a darker tone.

Even in people who do not suffer from any type of depression or mood disorder, there ss-140404-Kurt-Cobain-tease.blocks_desktop_medium_is a certain allure to the darker side of things. Think of the biggest songs and movies of all time. There is usually some element of death or heartache or longing in them. Many of those who produce art are among the most unhappy people on earth. Who did my generation celebrate as its martyr? Kurt Cobain. ‘Nuff said.

With that in mind, it is a real struggle for me sometimes to not just go fully off the rails and spill every deep, dark thing I’m thinking about onto the page. “I don’t know, dude; you’re not real cheery anyway.” That may be so, but, believe it or not, I hold a lot of stuff back. I don’t throw every depressive thought out there for just anyone to hear and judge. I could very easily, and there are many days that I would like to. I would love to delve into the depths I’ve seen the last two weeks, for instance, but I restrain myself.

Why? I guess there are a couple of different reasons. For one thing, I’m scared of how people will react. There are honestly times I am afraid someone will try to commit me. I don’t think what I’m thinking is that bad, but to someone who has never dealt with depression, what’s in my head may seem like a cause for major concern (and maybe it is.). Mostly, though, I’m just not sure how writing about my darkest hours is going to benefit someone else. Maybe if I can frame it in some way someone can identify with, I’ll go there, but negativity simply for the sake of negativity just seems wrong to me.

A thousand different thoughts are swirling around my head right now, and there are so many things I want to be point-blank honest about. I don’t want to give readers another “Here Are 5 Steps to Overcoming Depression!” article because I don’t know what those five steps are. If I did, I wouldn’t be writing posts like this, I can tell you that. I want to be real, but I don’t want to be so real that this becomes a wallowing party or, even worse, an excuse for someone to do something really bad to themselves.

At the moment, I feel incredibly free and incredibly restrained at the same time. For anyone who has ever bared their soul online, I certainly don’t mean to condemn you. Your pain is real, and you expressed it the only way you knew how. I hope it was therapeutic for you. Maybe I’ll let you deeper into my world with an email or a private message sometime. In the meantime, I’m going to keep straddling that line, hoping to not fall too far in one direction or the other.

I’m Back

I really wasn’t sure I wanted to do this anymore.

Actually, I’m not sure if “wanted to” is exactly the right phrase. Maybe I should say “could” do this anymore.

I wrote a post yesterday for the first time in a long while. I’m still not exactly sure why I did it. I think I just had some things I needed to get off my chest. I can’t say the actual exercise of writing made me feel that much better. If anything, I had a lot of trepidation about how what I wrote would be received.

im-backMuch to my surprise, though, I received a few “likes” and some very nice comments on social media. It seemed that at least some people could identify with how I was feeling. The number of views wasn’t through the roof, but it was solid, especially considering I hadn’t written anything in quite a while. To say all this was a pick-me-up would be a massive understatement.

Basically, certain people have caused me lately to doubt whether I am good for much of anything anymore. They knocked me down to a level I don’t if I’ve ever been at before. I have been anxious and nervous, unable to sit still longer than a couple of minutes at a time. The looming feeling of worthlessness has badgered me, and there are times when I genuinely agree with it. I have been knocked completely off my feet.

So to type up something on the internet and have people – even people I’ve never met before in my life – respond to it in a positive way is huge. It’s enough to make me want to keep writing, which is what I love to do more than anything else anyway. It lets me know there may be some actual worth to what I have to say. And it gives me something to do, which is something I desperately need right now.

I feel, in a way, that certain restrictions have been lifted off of me concerning what I write here. That means what I post from now on may not be pretty. It may not be inspiring all the time. It may offend someone or hurt someone’s feelings. I certainly don’t aim for these things to happen, but they might. I just want to be real, and I deserve the freedom to me.

I’m back. Let’s get started.

No Thanks

It is true that I haven’t written anything here in a while because I have been taking graduate level summer school classes. I have another reason, though, one which I’m a little reticent to talk about in specifics. So, in order to be as evasive as possible, I’ll just say that life has put me through the ringer lately. The last two weeks have been some of the toughest I have ever faced from a mental health standpoint, and the depth of feeling I have reached today is nearly alarming. I feel empty, used up, hopeless…

saltUndoubtedly, someone will read that last line and take me to task on it. It is in these times that I have to remember not everyone has wrestled with depression in their lifetime, and quite possibly they never will. Or perhaps what they perceived to be depression was merely scratching the surface of what it can do to a person. Whatever the case may be, it is in these times that these people will try their best to help, to say the right thing, to “fix” whatever is wrong, and one of them will invariably tip the bucket of salt to pour directly onto the wound that lies open.

There are a great many things people will say in times of struggle, hardship, and emotional suffering. Many of these can be written off as benign sayings which we have all undoubtedly heard countless times before: “This is just a season. It will pass…” “You just need to get over it…” “One day, you’ll look back on this and be thankful for the lessons it taught you…”

Um, no to the third one. I will not.

To clarify, I do believe that one day someone can look back on a situation and express deep, heartfelt thankfulness that they are not in that situation anymore. In fact, I believe a person can even look back at a traumatic event and pick out some reasons they are glad the actual event occurred. But to be thankful for the symptoms? Uh-uh. No. No way. Not happening.

I refuse, then, to be thankful for the dark hole of depression I have suddenly been flung into. The person who experiences post-traumatic stress should not be expected to cozy up to it like it’s some bosom buddy. The thought of someone dealing with suicidal thoughts sitting down one day and chronicling how grateful they are for that season seems absurd to me. These things I just described all suck, yet there seems to be a strange sentiment floating around that they’re somehow blessings. They are not.

Hopefully, I will reach a place of happiness and mental healthiness again, and I will be able to sit down and write about how much better things are. Just don’t expect me to hail the benefits of being depressed, hopeless, and distraught. The only good aspects of these things is the part when they are left behind. If that makes me ungrateful, color me the most ungrateful man on the face of the earth.

What It’s Like

Have you ever noticed no one ever really asks what depression is like? It’s odd, considering people are prone to ask all kind of questions about other seemingly taboo conditions, everything from colonoscopies to prostate exams to hemorrhoids. With depression, though, there seems to be some type of fear of the unknown, as if knowing about it will forever lead a person down as long and dark a road as the person they are talking to.

What I have found, however, is that people who suffer from depression seem to not have much of a problem talking about themselves. Or at least they don’t have a problem talking about it with counselors or other depressives. With the rest of the “normal” population? Eh, not so much. I know in my case it is because I feel an immense weight to keep up the facade that I am a good person who has been blessed greatly and always does what is right.

I can assure you here, I am not that person.

Take today, for instance. The blade on my riding lawnmower has stopped working for the umpteenth time now. In itself, this would be a regular snag of life, something to be repaired in the natural stream of occurrences. Not for a depressive who is having an off-day, however. I was already quite overwhelmed by school and work from the rest of the week coming into today, and I had not been able to get to the yard all week because of intermittent rain nearly every day. Even the sections I finished were difficult, as wet grass kept clumping up beneath the blade deck, actually killing the engine a few times. About 15 minutes in, I just wanted to be done with the whole thing, but I still had a at least another acre to go.

This feeling of wanting to quit eventually began to spread into other parts of my brain, and suddenly nothing seemed particularly worth doing anymore. I tried to pray that the lawn would become easier to mow and that the feeling would pass, but that was almost exactly when the blade stopped engaging. I was then able to completely bypass everything else and focus all my anger and frustration directly on God, who, instead of making things easier, saw fit to make them infinitely more difficult. Yes, I believe God can control lawnmower blades.

Following a (very) halfhearted and unsuccessful attempt at using a push mower to complete my task, I decided depressionperhaps a bicycle ride would do me good. After all, exercise is highly recommended for those who suffer from depression. It is supposed to work as a natural mood enhancer, and sometimes it does. Today, however, I was struck nearly immediately by the same feeling I had on the lawnmower: I want to quit. Being nearly four miles from home, however, I didn’t really have much option as to whether to continue on. I did make it home eventually, but I really wasn’t feeling any better about things.

And now I am here at this keyboard, realizing I haven’t written much of anything at all here all week, even though blogging is probably one of my most enjoyable activities. Today, though, nothing is really feeling like much of an enjoyable activity. No future scenario looks all that good to me. No present assignments seem all that important to complete. And at the same time, I feel an overpowering fear within me of being bored and finding myself un-useful to everyone. I want to be alone, but I am afraid of being thrown away. I know exactly what I want, but I have no way of getting it at the moment. Or at least that is what I have convinced myself.

So this is what it can be like. Is every day like this for me? Thankfully, no. But a lot of them are. And a lot of them are for other people as well. We just don’t tell you because we know you’ll either judge us, run away from us, or start trying to help us by throwing out advice we’ve heard about a billion times before over the course of our lives. We put up strong, friendly, smiling fronts, and all the while we can feel tears welling up behind our eyes and lumps buried in our throats. We don’t want you to see that, though. More accurately, we don’t feel like we can let you see that.

Sometimes we just need to know we can break down. We need to know we can unleash our secret thoughts and not be judged for them. We want someone to just say hello for the heck of it. We want to think something is worth fighting for, without everyone dictating to us what that something is. We need honesty and transparency. And more often than not, we get none of those things.

This is what it is like.

 

I’m Still Here!

I have not posted anything here since last Tuesday, but I have a very good reason why: I am a college student again! My first night of classes began last Wednesday, and I also have one class online. These are summer classes, so everything is going to be pretty compact and intense. I spent all day today reading, typing up a paper, and making copies of pages from a workbook. Welcome back, my friend.

SUMMMER-SCHOOLThat last line may be a joke, but I had honestly forgotten about the intensity of college courses in general, and I had definitely forgotten how compressed a summer class can be. As a result, I have been more than a little overwhelmed just trying to set up some sort of routine to deal with everything. I believe the newness and initial shock will wear off, however, and I will find my groove eventually. In the meantime, my posts here may be sporadic, which is sort of a shame because I’m getting some great material to write about from these classes.

So there you have it. Just my quick little check-in to say I’m still here, I haven’t stopped blogging, and I will have some really good stuff coming up in the future. Of course, the future maybe two years from now, but… 🙂

Tuneful Tuesday: Everything Has Changed

In May, for my job, I attended a concert featuring contemporary Christian bands The Afters and Hawk Nelson. It was a pretty decent show, even though neither of those bands are exactly on my list of favorites. The Afters probably had the more polished sound, but Hawk Nelson brought more energy to their stage show. Plus, I would up downloading a Hawk Nelson song after the concert, so I guess they won the night.

Except they didn’t, really. The opening act of the concert was advertised as Dan Bremnes, but when we arrived we noticed banners up for Justin McRoberts. I was familiar with one of Bremnes’s songs, but I had never heard of McRoberts. Turns out, he’s been around for quite a while, but has stuck mostly to the independent circuit. After a few notes of his first song, though, I was hooked. This dude could sing, and he was a fiery and passionate singer and storyteller as well. He performed with only an acoustic guitar, but for me he stole the show.

Justin McRobertsSince that night (and a few additional downloads of his music), I keep an eye out for mentions of McRoberts. I caught one this weekend on the NoiseTrade.com website. For anyone who is not familiar with it, NoiseTrade offers music for free downloads, with the option of leaving a “tip” for the artist. McRoberts had a song titled “Everything Has Changed” on a sampler from the syndicated radio program Under the Radar titled Escape to the Lake. Under the Radar features music from Christian artists who do not receive the type of radio airplay of, say, The Afters or Hawk Nelson.

I am not having the greatest of weeks so far (Read yesterday’s post for further explanation.). Right now, as I’m typing this, I don’t feel as if there is anything in the world I can actually do right. I feel as if all the progress I thought I had made recently was merely an apparition and that I am going to forever cycle in and out of feeling like there is no hope in even trying. I don’t want to just change small parts of me; I want to change everything.

This song by McRoberts is a mighty realization and coming to terms with who someone is and the changes they have made to become, in their eyes at least, a better person. It’s about freedom, or, more specifically, getting free from yourself. It really is a song about everything changing. I have listened to it five times now just in the course of typing this blog. It is where I want to be. It is who I want to be.

Everything will change. That’s what I need to hold onto right now. Everything will change.

(Unfortunately, I could not find a video for this song, so I am including the link to the NoiseTrade page with the sampler. It is well worth the download.)

http://noisetrade.com/escapetothelake/escape-to-the-lake-2015-22-artist

Who Are You Working For?

“Who exactly do you feel like you’re letting down?”

I had never really dwelt on the question before. I just knew I felt as if I wasn’t getting the job done. All my efforts felt scattershot, pecking away a little bit here and there. I could always look back at something I did and blame that for my not finishing something important. This was particularly true in instances where I had done something of no lasting consequence, such as playing a video game or lying down for a nap. I knew I was failing … but who, exactly, was I failing?

Quotation-Stephen-Hawking-blame-guilt-human-people-Meetville-Quotes-1595I’ve written here before about dichotomous thinking. This is when a person sees nearly everything in terms of black and white. There is no gray. Something is either right or it is wrong. How does this manifest in my life? Well, one area is work. Now, “work” for me can mean a great many things, which is actually part of the problem here. Going to my job every day is work, but I also somehow manage to turn writing this recreational blog into work as well. Therefore, I am very much driven by what I am supposed to be doing.

Here’s an example: I consider myself – correctly or incorrectly – a writer. What is the pinnacle for a writer’s work? Well, writing a book, of course. I have some ideas. Heck, I probably have enough material from this blog to get a pretty good jump on a book of essays. I just can’t seem to get anywhere on it. I have several theories for this – poor time management, lack of strong material, intimidated by the process of putting everything together, etc., etc. – but the bottom line is always this: I don’t get it done, and I squander the writing ability I have in the process, thereby making me a failure.

This brings the issue full circle, though. Who exactly am I letting down by not getting this done? I mean, is it potential readers? Is it my family? Is it myself? The only answer I could come with will sound a bit lofty: God. I have these abilities that were placed in me, and I do nothing with them. At least, I don’t use them to their full capabilities, and that absolutely fills me with guilt.

Another component of my guilt is a profound feeling of selfishness, and even though several people have tried to impress upon me the fact that I really don’t do many things strictly with myself in mind, I generally view myself as an extremely selfish person. In fact, I sort of view myself as a product of the society we live in today. Everyone is trying to get theirs, and even the people giving only seem to be doing it so they can be seen by others. Our hobbies are expensive, and our universes seem to be focused almost entirely on our own orbits.

What if, though, we’re all just trying to escape our own guilt? What if we’re all chasing these ridiculous dreams and kim-kardashian-kanye-westnotions around in the hopes that one of them will eventually allow us to look in the mirror and say, “Okay, that is the one that hit the mark!”? Could there be some kind of guilt hidden in the Kardashians of the world? Could the Kanye Wests be trying to meet some mark the rest of us don’t know about? Okay, I’m stretching now, but maybe you get the point. Is it possible that we’re all just trying to please someone?

So let me finish the way I started: Who exactly do you feel like you’re letting down?

Tempering All Things

dairy queen dq jurassic peanut butter cookie dough smash blizzardI tried out the new Jurassic Smash Blizzard at Dairy Queen tonight. It was actually quite good, and it even came in this little commemorative Jurassic World cup. I suppose by some strange manner of commerce I just fed into the movie’s vast money-making scheme. As if it needed my help at this point.

As much as I enjoyed the Blizzard, though, I still won’t be going to see the movie.

I never quite understood the allure of the Jurassic Park movies. I felt the only one of the first three that really had anything intriguing about it was the first one, and about half of that one was spent watching people get chased around by a species of dinosaur I had never heard of before. The next two movies were basically spent cleaning up the mess from the first movie in one way or another.

That brings us, of course, to the fourth installment, Jurassic World. I find the concept behind this one sort of baffling. The first three movies all showed how creating a park full of prehistoric creatures was probably not the best idea someone could have. So what should we do for the next movie? Why, create a new park full of prehistoric creatures! What could possibly go wrong?

In an odd way, though, this sets up Jurassic World as a movie I might be pleasantly surprised by, mainly because I jurassic-world-chris-pratt1have virtually no expectations for it. I like Chris Pratt, but that’s about it. Conversely, I have experienced some of my biggest disappointments with movies that I have gone into with very high hopes for. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace darn near destroyed me. I had it so built up in my mind, and it was so, so bad. Another Pratt movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, blew me away, though, partially because I went into it thinking it was going to be Marvel’s first big cinematic misstep. Boy, was I wrong.

I’m learning more and more as I go through life that tempering expectations is a very valuable part of the thought process. When I become too optimistic, I am likely to crash. When I become too pessimistic, I often don’t even try to find anything good in the situation in front of me. I’m attempting to find the middle ground between these two right now in two different situations.

As I wrote about here a little while ago, I’ve been playing music with a couple of guys recently. I have no idea where the whole thing is going yet, but I would love it if it turned into a band of some sort, since being in a band is something I’ve always wanted to do. Already, though, I’m finding myself wanting to jump ahead, picturing all these scenarios where everything works out. It’s not that I hope it doesn’t work out, but you may have noticed I’m 41 and still have never really been in a band. That track record doesn’t exactly bode well for the future.

The other situation has to do with my going back to college. So far, everything is working out perfectly for this to happen. In fact, I’m worried it’s sailing along a little too perfectly, so I find myself ratcheting down my expectations so I won’t be crushed if it doesn’t happen. What kind of attitude is that, though? It’s almost like walking down the street on a beautiful, sunny day and waiting for an anvil to drop on your head.

So the trick is to not fly too high or too low. If I were to imagine Jurassic World as the best dinosaurs-chasing-screaming-people-around movie ever made, it’s probably going to let me down because I’ve placed too much expectation on it. If I go in thinking it will totally suck, though, I’m going to sit there and nitpick it until I mess up what could have been a nice viewing experience. Why not just approach it with an open mind then? See what happens, enjoy the ride. Be a student. Play music.

star-wars-episode-7-light-saberStar Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens will hit theaters later this year, and I am staying as completely ignorant about it as possible. When the original Star Wars movie debuted, I was such a little kid, I didn’t know anything about anything. I want to go back to that feeling for this one, just let the wonder of it sweep me away. Whether it’s a dinosaur or a spaceship or a school book or a guitar, it seems the less I know sometimes, the better.