Thursday, November 19, 2015

For when you're actually NOT okay - let me fix it for you




OK. I'm the LAST person who would object to someone trying to help when someone else is "actually not okay"

As someone who has BEEN "actually not okay" more times than I care to admit (but I'll admit it right now), I can tell you that many, many times I wish someone had been there to at least acknowledge my not-okayness, let alone offer me a little bit of comfort.

And maybe I'm the only person in the universe who feels this way: but - BLUGGHHH! This is the stupidest, most self-righteous, trite, patronizing thing I've ever seen!

This is called A Self-Care Printable, an apparently new phenomenon in self-help It contains a questionnaire for people who are Actually Not Okay. Whether this means they FEEL "not okay" or actually aren't OK (whatever that means) is never spelled out. "Not okay" is, after all, a pretty loaded term. 

I know it's not written by a professional, any more than those sappy, comforting memes with sparkly kittens on them are. It's written by somebody who wants to Go Viral. And the hell of it is - it works.

This has to be the most trivializing - but I digress. It's "someone out there", we don't even know who they are, but They Care - that much is obvious. No, wait a minute - they don't "care", they want to fix you so that you no longer feel you're "actually not okay", and won't burden anyone else by talking about it.

"Self-care printables" never did turn my crank, mainly because before this moment, when I found this earnestly posted on Facebook (under the title I'm Going to Help Someone Right Now Because I Know A Lot Better Than They Do), I didn't know what a self-care printable WAS. Nobody prints things any more anyway, do they? Unless they don't have the moral strength to stagger to the computer and turn it on.

But now comes this.





I've known people who were seriously suicidal. Hell, I've BEEN seriously suicidal before, and I've survived it, mainly by the teeth-gritting/stubbornness method, because it's been my experience that no one else can stand to step inside the abyss of loneliness and despair that is suicidal depression. You're in it alone.

You've got to walk that lonesome valley. You've got to walk it by yourself. That is the nature of the disease. That is what it IS. And it applies every bit as much to those celebrated professionals: even more so, since the average person with serious mental illness is misdiagnosed an average of sixteen times (with a good many of those diagnoses being dismissals. My absolute, all-time favorite was "go home and behave yourself!").

But in any case, real human help, mano a mano, professional or ludicrously UN-professional like this thing, could never come in the form of asking a suicidal person if they're "hydrated". Sorry, no one overcame their existential despair by popping a water bottle.

But that's what passes for "help" in 2015, on social media, on Facebook or Twitter or wherever, and it explains much about alienation and "expert-ism" as a way of life, and as a way of insulating yourself from someone else's pain.




For, you see, if you're the expert, if you have the answer as to what that person should be doing to fix their state of "actually not okay-ness", it puts you in the position of power, of strength, of expertise. Just try this! Better now?

That means you don't really need to get involved in it at all. You don't need to listen. You don't need to feel empathy or compassion or step into their messy lives. You just need to Fix It. But at the same time, you can pretend to identify on a surface level - I had a bad day once, too! - and feel really good about yourself for offering so much generous, helpful help.

I am convinced that 90% of people's efforts to "help" others are fix-it oriented and a means to stay insulated from another person's pain.

And if they don't get better? They're just not doing it right. Look, I tried, but if that's your attitude - if you really don't want anyone to help you -

Anyway. Since this blog is largely satire, I will hereby insert my highly-satiric-but-deeply-heartfelt answers to the blue-lettered questionnaire with its head-patting, run-along-and-get-some-yogurt-and-you'll-feel-better tone.




For When You’re Actually NOT Okay: A Self-Care Printable

“Everything is awful and I’m not okay: questions to ask before giving up.”






(Let us assume, as a given, that "giving up" means killing yourself. To be honest, I don't know what else it could mean.)

Are you hydrated? If not, have a glass of water.


I can't find the freaking water because of all the blood on the kitchen floor. I keep slipping and falling down before I get to the fridge.

Have you eaten in the past three hours? If not, get some food — something with protein, not just simple carbs. Perhaps some nuts or hummus?


I did that, but I kept throwing up the hummus. Maybe it was all those pills I mixed in. 







Have you showered in the past day? If not, take a shower right now.

I love the assumptions they make about my personal hygiene! Not that they stereotype depressed people - oh, no. Never mind that the huge majority of depressed people make themselves function, and disguise it so well that nobody even suspects it. Let's just assume I don't shower. I like smelling just as disgusting and awful as you are implying I do. I am just as big a slob as that question indicates. Not only that - I need to be reminded of it because I either don't know, or I don't care enough to make myself socially acceptable.

 
If daytime: are you dressed? If not, put on clean clothes that aren’t pajamas. Give yourself permission to wear something special, whether it’s a funny t-shirt or a pretty dress.


I used my funny tshirt for a noose, but it didn't hold for some reason. Poor Hello Kitty. And by the way, does this "pretty dress" business apply to men? Doesn't this person know that putting on a dress may be part of the problem? Transvestites and transsexuals often have a hard time of it in our culture. Or maybe the assumption is this: only a girl/woman could get herself into such a deplorable state. Guys are basically all right, or else they know how to ACT all right and not fall into a stinking, unkempt mess, refusing to get dressed or bathe out of self-pity and ceasing to make an effort.






If nighttime: are you sleepy and fatigued but resisting going to sleep? Put on pajamas, make yourself cozy in bed with a teddy bear and the sound of falling rain, and close your eyes for fifteen minutes — no electronic screens allowed. If you’re still awake after that, you can get up again; no pressure.
 

Oh! No pressure? You mean it can take as long as I want to kill myself? Can I do it nice and slow then, with my fuzzy-wuzzy teddy bear squeezed tightly in my arms? Will the sound of falling rain drown out the screaming worthlessness in my soul? Or the sirens? Sorry, they're not here yet, but they will be soon.




 

Have you stretched your legs in the past day? If not, do so right now. If you don’t have the spoons for a run or trip to the gym, just walk around the block, then keep walking as long as you please. If the weather’s crap, drive to a big box store (e.g. Target) and go on a brisk walk through the aisles you normally skip.
 

My legs are being stretched on a rack. I just heard the bones shatter.
 

Have you said something nice to someone in the past day? Do so, whether online or in person. Make it genuine; wait until you see something really wonderful about someone, and tell them about it.
 

Seriously. Saying something "nice" to someone is supposed to keep me from committing suicide. But it has to be genuine! What language is this person speaking? Since when does an "actually NOT okay" person "on the verge of giving up" have the strength or the inclination to "say something nice" to anyone at all? If your mouth opens, pain comes out, not My Little Pony. It's trite advice like this that stops people from doing that immediate cure-all, "reaching out for help". If THIS is the quality of the help, I'd rather not reach out for it at all.






Have you moved your body to music in the past day? If not, do so — jog for the length of an EDM song at your favorite BPM, or just dance around the room for the length of an upbeat song.
 

Have you ever been depressed, whoever you are? Do you know what the word "inertia" means? Have you ever heard the phrase, "if I could get out of bed, I would"? Have you ever felt insulted by someone's implication that you could "beat the blues" and not feel suicidal any more just by doing a few simple, fluffy things that (of course, because you're too self-pitying) you never thought of doing before?

Also, I guess this advice is only for people who know what EDM and BPM mean. I don't. It's that whispering on the playground thing again, the secret language which winnows out the old. The old aren't worth saving or even comforting: they're on the obsolete pile anyway and don't deserve sparkly teddy bears, rain on the roof and the reviving magic of hydration.

 
Have you cuddled a living being in the past two days? If not, do so. Don’t be afraid to ask for hugs from friends or friends’ pets. Most of them will enjoy the cuddles too; you’re not imposing on them.
 

My landlord didn't like it. Neither did my boss or the postman. After that, I ran out of living beings. No one else can deal with me, you see. It's uncomfortable if someone isn't cheerful and saying nice things all the time.



 
Do you feel ineffective? Pause right now and get something small completed, whether it’s responding to an e-mail, loading up the dishwasher, or packing your gym bag for your next trip. Good job!


When I read crap like this, I feel ineffective, but PLEASE don't take it personally.  Oh and by the way, thank you so much for saying "good job!" like you'd do to a preschooler! I've also seen it in dog obedience school, and it's very effective. Just. . . don't try it on me. Didn't I just tell you I'm an adult, or at least old?

 
Do you feel unattractive? Take a selfie. Your friends will remind you how great you look, and you’ll fight society’s restrictions on what beauty can look like.


This is just - this is jaw-dropping, sorry, I have nothing to say about this! I didn't write it, by the way, this is not a satire, it's a real thing that people post and re-post and write thousands of comments about. It fills me with a mixture of panic and despair.  Again, there is a gigantic assumption that anyone with any degree of depression "feels unattractive". It is a very short step from this to "looks like a mess" or "no longer cares". The "fighting society's restrictions on what beauty can look like" is a La Brea tar pit of assumption: in other words, even if you look like shit, you can CHALLENGE that assumption that you look like shit and forge a whole new standard of "beauty"! And of course, everyone must be Beautiful. It goes without saying.


"Do you feel unattractive? Take a selfie" might just win the Ignobel prize for terrible-but-typical psychological counsel in 2015. Take a selfie is just as potent in this day and age as "take a Valium" was 40 years ago.
 
Do you feel paralyzed by indecision? Give yourself ten minutes to sit back and figure out a game plan for the day. If a particular decision or problem is still being a roadblock, simply set it aside for now, and pick something else that seems doable. Right now, the important part is to break through that stasis, even if it means doing something trivial.


Who ARE you, and why is everyone so slavishly listening to everything you say? Do you realize that in the dark pit of your soul, you know nothing, and no one is interested in anything you have to say? Furthermore, do you realize that if you had to live inside a truly depressed person's head for even one day, or perhaps one hour, you would run screaming?





 
Have you seen a therapist in the past few days? If not, hang on until your next therapy visit and talk through things then.


I love the automatic assumption that anyone who ever feels "actually not okay" needs a therapist/sees one. They're just that kind of person, you know? They're "troubled people", they "see therapists", they'll never really be part of the rest of us. But that's OK, that's good, it means we have the opportunity to hand out tons of gratuitous advice! It's good to be target-oriented, isn't it? Targets are always a good thing.
 
Have you been over-exerting yourself lately — physically, emotionally, socially, or intellectually? That can take a toll that lingers for days. Give yourself a break in that area, whether it’s physical rest, taking time alone, or relaxing with some silly entertainment.


Reading this is enough, though too silly and disturbing  to qualify as entertainment.

 
Have you changed any of your medications in the past couple of weeks, including skipped doses or a change in generic prescription brand? That may be screwing with your head. Give things a few days, then talk to your doctor if it doesn’t settle down.


While I love the immediate assumption that anyone who ever feels bad is "on meds" because they can't cope like a normal person, I think this is laying it on a little thick. "Your medications"? It's like saying "your knee" or "your elbow" - a given. It's obvious you just assume you are talking to a psych patient. No one else would read or even NEED directions like this. Isn't it obvious it isn't meant for anybody "normal"? So fuck the cozy fuzzy-wuzzy teddy bear cures. I am about to fly into a psychotic rage!!




 

Have you waited a week? Sometimes our perception of life is skewed, and we can’t even tell that we’re not thinking clearly, and there’s no obvious external cause. It happens. Keep yourself going for a full week, whatever it takes, and see if you still feel the same way then.

"Wait a week" - now what could they mean? Wait for what? All the fuzzy jammies and recordings of rain on the roof can't disguise the fact that this is a totally patronizing, warm-fuzzy and lamentably unprofessional attempt at suicide prevention. I think the author of this Self-Care Printable should work in an ER for a week - a day, maybe! - or a psychiatric outpatient clinic, and listen to the despair and maybe bandage up a few slashed arms or try to pump out stomachs. Or talk to some cops about some of the things they find, cutting people down. But it's really a lot easier to hand out fuzzy blankets to imaginary "really not okay" people. It fixes them right up.

Oh, and one more thing. The voice in this thing is in the form of "you-questions", but all of a sudden it can change to "our (perception of life)": the "Royal we", or the "we" assumed by extremely patronizing persons who feign identification (such as doctors). "Now we don't want to do anything foolish, do we?"

It's the lack of respect. That's all. But it passes for help. Maybe it actually helps people - I don't know. But to me, anyone who would benefit from this kind of help doesn't really need it, because they already feel more or less OK. Not about to "give up" - whatever that may mean.

You’ve made it this far, and you will make it through. You are stronger than you think.








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