mental health, Uncategorized

5 Reminders One Week Later

  1. It’s okay to step away from social media. If it makes your heart feel like it’s dying every time you look at it, you are not helping anybody by constantly confronting a wall of pain. You don’t owe it to anybody to be present online.
  2. You can be concerned about what’s happening in the world and still enjoy the things that you like. Sometimes that’s the only way to stay sane.
  3. There is still a place in the world for kindness, compassion and happiness. Don’t let that get crushed.
  4. For every horrible person, there are many others who are wonderful. Connect with those people. Let them into your life.
  5. Everyone reacts to things differently. A lot of people are in a state of mourning. Just because you are not responding the same way as others does not make your feelings invalid.
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essays, Personal, Uncategorized

On Walking Away

I used to love drama.

Not the awesome spoken word kind, or plays about people kind, or even the crazy Greek ones that had weirder sex than Game of Thrones. No, I used to love hearing all the scoop, all the kerfuffle, all the flibbertigibbet. I was the undercover scandalmonger, who would just happen to be around when the most chaotic people would appear, obviously full of angst about someone else. “You can talk to me about it,” I’d say, “you can get it out.” And I wouldn’t just drink it all up. I would gulp it. I would gorge myself on it.

This only got bigger and stronger with my increasing online presence after college. The Internet is a lot like an adorable card and gift shop. You can walk around forever and ever and keep finding things to pick up and marvel at. Comments sections of news articles about things I already didn’t agree with were the best. Lists of all the things guys find wrong with women? Sign me up. Articles about how awful things I love are? Yes, please!

And I always found these things through my best friends, the people who think like me, the people who go, “This is so messed up” and “Am I crazy to think that this person doing this is not okay?” so that I could join the loud, cheerful choir of “Yes! That is the worst! It’s all awful and we are such better people for not agreeing with that garbage!” Because who doesn’t want to have that with their friends?

At some point, though, I realized that I wasn’t actually enjoying this feeling. I would start getting angrier, and I would seethe and look for any place to release all the fire I thought was building up in my stomach. I got into angry fights with people I had never met, and I would rip them apart. And despite the fact that, sure, most of the causes were pretty justified, I found that a few truths were becoming clear:

  • Many of these things were either outside my control or distant to my circle of experience.
  • A lot of it was pointless anger and frustration.
  • There wasn’t anything I was doing about whatever I was feeling not good about.
  • Most importantly, when I came back to the screeds later, I really didn’t like the person I was seeing online.

This step back also brought a lot of other things on the Internet into focus. I saw how often I just complained and griped. I saw how I would rant about these things that seemed like nothing a few days later. Mountains, molehills, anthills. It became very clear to me how negative I was, and I really didn’t like that. I also realized it wasn’t just on the Internet, that this was affecting the Real Life Me. I had started hiding away when I was angry instead of confronting people close to me. I would seethe and snarl in private, backstab, hurt under a cover of darkness. I had been for a while but now I knew that I was not being a good person. That is something that still haunts me.

So the first thing I did was decide that I was going to stop being utterly negative, both online in social media and in life. I started to recognize when I was repeatedly complaining without taking action. On Facebook and Twitter, instead of posting about how bad my day was, I’d share a cute video that made me smile. Instead of talking about how much something sucked, I would bring up something that I really enjoyed. I used the Internet as a force of good – literally, good things, good news, good times. I felt a lot better.

Recently, it’s become much more apparent that there is a part of the web that is what I call a Hateful Shame Machine. A lot of people use it as not a vehicle for their anger but more like a remote-controlled car they can run into people’s lives. They capitalize on the safety of distance and anonymity to respond in a way that doesn’t directly impact them and hurts the subject of their disdain. But, like with a remote-controlled car, they think what they are doing is only annoying at most and couldn’t actually do any lasting damage.

Have you ever imagined what could happen to a single person being struck by a hundred remote-controlled cars? A thousand? A million?

I’m not saying that it isn’t okay to be mad or to react to something unjust. But once you realize that what you’re doing is not only making you feel toxic but is raising a red flag in your subconscious that says, “This really isn’t good, is it?” it’s time to take a step back. Are you making a difference, or are you just adding to the screaming? Are you being the person online that you are in your heart, or are you wearing a mask? Are you treating everyone the way you would to their face, or are you exploiting the fact that you can attack them without attaching yourself to it?

Most importantly, though, you can stop. You can change. Get some distance. Unplug. Go do something by yourself and clear your head. Forgive yourself. Say you’re sorry, if it isn’t too late. Understand that you deserve love and comfort and every human is cracked and flawed. And if you are the victim, these things all apply to you, tenfold.

I dare you to walk away. It’s never too late.

Essay

Chill

If there is one thing I always feel like imparting to people, that I try to tell people that they can do, that I wish I could have told myself some number of years back, it’s this: chill.

It’s December, and I live near a very popular mall in the Pittsburgh area. As I was driving home from getting my car inspected, I watched a long line of cars get progressively longer on the way down the highway, heading toward the exit. I could read in the way people were driving – with stiff jerks, quick breaks, and wiggly swerves – that tensions were growing between two groups: the people trying to get to the mall and the people trying to get away from it.

If you let people get under your skin, you’ll never survive. Not right now and not in the future.

If you allow the persnickety voices in your head to snipe at you, you’ll lose your mind.

If you refuse to take a breath and remember that none of this will kill you and all of this shall pass, you’re going to die.

Okay, that last one is a bit dramatic. But have you seen the studies about getting stressed to death? Scary stuff!

And don’t think me a paragon of virtue (or do — and tell me all about it, in flowery detail!). This topic came to me because while I sat in the Ford waiting room – one of my favorite waiting rooms; does that sound crazy? – I took out a notebook to try to diagram out what was making me feel so overwhelmed recently. I had been feeling aimless. Stuck. I didn’t know why. So of course I was expecting needing some great amount of time to dissect all my inner turmoil and problematic scramble of ideas, mismanaged priorities and opportunities that had fallen to the wayside.

I was done in about…twenty minutes. And I was left, laughing to myself as I loaded up Hulu, going, “Uh. I was really built up over nothing.”

None of it is a big deal.

So there we go, folks. Which are you going to be? The serene Ford Focus that passed its inspection and is taking its time heading home while listening to Pinkerton, even if it make take an extra ten minutes? Or the honk-happy Buick who almost slammed into an elderly couple because if it had to wait through the light one more time, it was going to have a hernia?

Your choice.