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.

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: Sad No More

What seems like a lifetime ago, I used to have a blog titled Half-Empty: Confessions of a Pessimist (Who’s Trying To Do Better). I still love that title, but the blog itself was sort of a mess. It didn’t really have any theme, and I just sort of wrote about whatever I happened to be thinking about that day. It didn’t really start to take shape until I started writing about depression, but it would have been weird to keep the title and make the blog about something different, so I kind of retired it.

I say “kind of retired it,” though, because it is actually still up online, and it occasionally still gets a view or two. One of the most popular posts I ever wrote there was titled “The Sad and Wonderful Mumford & Sons.” The whole point of it was that while I enjoyed listening to Mumford & Sons, I felt like a lot of their songs sounded the same. Their success, I contended, was both a sad and wonderful thing; wonderful, because their sound definitely was different from what was being played on the radio at the time, and, sad, because there wasn’t much diversity to what they were doing on their first two albums.

Well, Marcus Mumford and Co., I owe you guys a straight-up apology.

With the release in May of Wilder Mind, Mumford & Sons blasted their way back into the public’s musical consciousness with an album filled not with banjos and acoustic guitars but electronic beats and amplifiers turned up to 11. This album doesn’t sound like their other two at all, prompting me to wonder if maybe they got tired of people like me complaining about their lack of creativity. I’ve only listened to the album a couple of times, so I can’t really give it a thumbs up or thumbs down yet, but there’s no denying it is a bold sonic statement by the band.

Even if this album tanks, I can’t express enough how much admiration I have for Mumford & Sons trying something like this. In essence, it is a huge risk. Their last album, Babel, won a Grammy award and inspired a slew of imitators, from secular (Looking at you, Lumineers.) to Christian (Stand up, Rend Collective.). With the success of the single “I Will Wait,” they proved they could get radio airplay without compromising their sound. They could have stayed the course, but they didn’t.

There are so many instances in life where we can stand back and wonder what might have been if we only did something a little out of character for us. What might that different decision have brought us? What if we had spoken up when we remained quiet? What if we had turned right instead of left? Depression can cause crippling effects when it comes to decision making and taking chances. Those of us who have it tend to want to cling to the island pretty tightly sometimes. We rarely crank our guitars to 11 and rock out.

So far, my favorite track from the new album is “The Wolf,” which features those loud guitars I was talking about. Turn it up, be happy, and celebrate the wonderful Mumford & Sons.

Your Condition

One of the major concerns I had when I first decided to write about my depression was that someone was going to read it and label me as damaged goods. As someone who was something less than capable. As someone who could not be trusted. As someone who “needed help” to make it.

The world is full of stories of people who were told that they couldn’t do something, and how that offensive perception motivated them to prove their naysayers wrong. Unfortunately, none of those stories are mine. I have had a tendency to let criticism force me into a hole and make me doubt everything about myself. I have let many a critic destroy my self-confidence over the years because instead of choosing to prove them wrong, I merely accepted that they were right.

Recently, though, I experienced something for the first time that made me want to rise up. Someone (who shall remain nameless here) made mention of my “condition.” It wasn’t presented in a derogatory way, but the underlying implication was this: You have not been adequate because of your depression. It was also suggested that I “get some help with it,” which I already am, so this just added insult to injury. I did not feel shame at that moment; I felt white-hot, pure rage.

silentThis is the danger and the double-standard people who choose to speak out about their depression face. On the one hand, they are heralded and applauded for their bravery. They receive encouragement and well wishes when they initially disclose this information. They are also branded, though. Their every flaw is suddenly put under a microscope. Things a “normal” person might say – “I’m having a really bad day today.” – become immediate red flags when uttered by a person who has been honest about their depression. It becomes a scarlet letter they wear.

Yes, there are certain aspects of life that are made more difficult by my “condition.” I tend to be hyper-emotional sometimes. I sometimes shun contact with other people. I am abnormally obsessed with thoughts about myself and my own condition. At times, I even have difficulty deciding on what color shirt to wear in the morning. My anxiety levels can spike to ridiculous levels. If living with depression were an easy task, it probably wouldn’t even have a name.

To bring someone’s “condition” up to their face, however, seems to be in incredibly poor taste to me. Unless it is accompanied by some sort of offer of assistance or encouragement, it is nothing more than a reminder to that person that they are what they always thought they were in their darkest and lowest moments – an inadequate creation. Society now preaches that those with depression should not fear coming forward with their struggles, but then it turns right around and makes an issue out of what they had been so afraid to share. There is no grace or dignity in that. No wonder people hide their afflictions for so long.

I want to be better than my “condition,” as I know everyone who struggles with depression does. There are scores of blogs online that delve into much messier and confessional descriptions of depression than this one. I am amazed by how freely some writers share their struggles. I have learned not to look down on them for their honesty, however, even if some of their writing comes dangerously close to online gripe sessions. I believe they can be successful, happy, well-adjusted people. They’re just having a tough time with things because of this demon they wrestle with daily.

When I took time off from writing this blog to study for the GRE test, I strongly considered not taking it up again. If this was going to be the stigma attached to me, I might as well just keep everything to myself. Somewhere along the line, though, I decided there were still some things worth saying. They may be just for me, but, if so, so be it. Even though I choose to speak out on this “condition,” I will not be defined by it. Shame on the person who thinks I am or will be.

Back At It

It’s nearly 11 o’clock at night, and I have to be at work at 6 in the morning. Sometimes, though, you just have to get to a keyboard, ya know?

backIt’s been over two weeks since I’ve written anything here. Most of that two weeks was spent studying for the math portion of the GRE test, which I took this past Friday. Plenty of other things happened as well. I was given some devastating news by some people I really trusted. I’ve been to the bottom emotionally, to the point I even scared myself, and then I had to rebuild everything again. Through all of this, I’ve wanted to write, but I knew I had to take the break.

So, this week, I’m back, and I’m going to be detailing all those things I just mentioned, plus some other things. I’m actually not sure if anyone noticed I was gone, but I know I missed writing.

Good night…

Taking A Break

Fifteen days from today, I will take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) test.

I am scared out of my mind.

I’ve written about my desire to return to school and obtain a master’s degree so I can work in some type of counseling field. I put action to my intention by making an appointment to take the GRE April 24. I have two fairly thorough study guides I’ve been going through, and I downloaded the GRE PowerPrep II software, which contains some practice tests. I feel like I have some good materials to get me prepared.

BloggingBreakAs I expected, I feel relatively confident on the sections involving English, writing, and analytical and reasoning skills. And, also as I expected, the math and geometry/quantitative reasoning sections are kicking my butt. I wasn’t good at geometry when I actually was a student in school, so asking me to tackle it now that I haven’t been in a classroom setting in over a decade is a tall task.

Since writing is what I really enjoy doing, I’ve been attempting to keep this blog up to speed at its regular pace, but I’ve realized that writing in the way I want to every day is keeping me from studying like I should be. So, with much reluctance, I’m going to take a break from writing here until I can get the test out of the way. I am petrified I am going to have spent all this money on taking the GRE and then fail it, so I am going to really buckle down the next two weeks.

As with most decisions I make, I’m sure I will get wishy-washy at some point and write a short post here and there, but I realize this is something I really need to do. So I wish you all nothing but strength, hope, and happiness as you continue to fight the good fight. Hopefully, when I return, I’ll have some good news for you.