Sunday, January 29, 2017

Depression: Stop the Stigma

It's like I'm handcuffed to my couch and there is a drill sergeant in my face. He's screaming at me everything on my to do list as I struggle to get off the couch. No matter how much I try or how much I want to, I can't seem to get off the couch and get anything done.

This is how I described the depression I've been experiencing for the last year to my doctor. She put me on antidepressants on January 20th, of all days. I guess it takes a few weeks before I'll start to see any changes, so I'm waiting impatiently for that day to come. For the last year I have had an extremely difficult time doing basic household tasks like cooking and cleaning. My apartment looks like a tornado went through it most of the time. When I'm not at work I spend the majority of my time on my couch binge-watching TV shows on Netflix or playing video games. I've put off laundry, grocery shopping, and getting gas in my car for days until it got so dire that I was forced to. My sleep has been erratic. Sometimes I sleep a lot, much more than I should. Other times I can't sleep very well at all and only get a few hours of sleep at a time. The thing that is worst of all, is that I can't read. If you know me at all, you know how ludicrous that sounds. Just this month alone I've started 5 different books and haven't been able to make it past the 5th chapter in any of them before I lost interest. Most of these were books I've read before and I know I love.

I've heard a lot about the stigma attached to mental illness over the years. Having never experienced it or really known anybody who had I didn't realize that I was part of the problem. I've been struggling with the depression for (at least) a year that I know of. I kept it to myself for a long time. I finally confided in my mom when I realized I had a problem. I went through the Employee Assistance Program at my work and saw a therapist a few times. I told only a handful of close friends about my difficulties. I didn't want people to know that I was depressed. Why? Can you imagine having strep throat and not going to a doctor for antibiotics for over a year? It's crazy!

I've had a few friends stick up their nose at the idea of my taking antidepressants. I think they truly hope it will help me, but they expressed their disdain for this type of medication assuring me they would never take it themselves. I get it. I never thought I would have to, to be honest. I've always been a happy, optimistic, and generally good-natured person. I never thought depression would be a part of my life, but now it is.

2016 was a bad year for a lot of us. For me it was personally bleak because of the depression I was suffering from, the news that my father only had months to live, my deep unhappiness at my main venue at work, and of course the election. When I got home from my Christmas vacation this year things got worse. I called my mom and had a complete breakdown on the phone. It was so bad that she felt she had to ask me if she needed to worry about me doing anything stupid like a suicide attempt. I assured her that I was not that bad, but that really woke me up. I set up an appointment with my doctor and am finally taking care of the problem.

I am not asking for sympathy. In fact, that's the last thing I want. This post is just to share my story so that others who may be feeling the same way will go forward and get help. You don't have to go through this alone. Talk to your friends, your family, your pastor, a therapist, or me. See your doctor and if they think you should be on medication, take your medication without fear of other people's judgement. I almost started crying in my doctor's office when she said she was writing me a prescription because I was so relieved. I have been struggling with this for so long and it finally feels like I'm taking my life back. Don't wait to take back yours. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of. It just took me a while to realize that.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Divided States of America

It's 12:14 PM. I shouldn't be awake right now. I got home home from work around 6:30 this morning and went to bed around 7:30. Something must have woken me up around 11:30 and I fruitlessly tried to go back to sleep. This is happening a lot recently. As soon as I'm awake my stomach clenches and my mind starts churning with the worries I feel for my country. Maybe that sounds dramatic, but it is true nonetheless. I know this may surprise you, but I'm not a particularly political person. In fact I hate politics. I find them quite dull and uninteresting and in general, well, I guess I just don't care that much. So why is it that this election cycle I couldn't help but be more invested than I was with the previous elections? I think the answer is that I was forced to be.

My entire adult life Barack Obama has been my president. The first time I was able to vote was in 2008. Being a new voter and generally uninterested in politics, I didn't do a whole lot of research. I went to one of those websites where you put in your views and it tells you who you match with best and at what percentage. Obama was the winner. I didn't watch debates or campaign speeches. I didn't review policies or plans. I certainly didn't look into any of the other people on the ballot. I think I just figured since I matched with Obama, that meant I was a Democrat and just voted for all democrats based on that. In 2012 I was happy with what Obama had done in four years and I wanted to see how much more progress he could make with four more and I voted for him again. For the past eight years I haven't had to worry much about politics because I felt reassured that I was in good hands.

When the campaigns for 2016 began I didn't know or care who was running. I never cared before, so why start now? Then I started seeing things on Facebook about Donald Trump running. At first I thought it was a joke. In some ways I'm still waiting for Ashton Kutcher to jump out and yell "You've been Punk'd America!" Honestly at first I just didn't pay much attention, as is my usual way with political posts, but soon things started catching my attention. The longer the campaign went on and the more things I heard and saw from Trump the more worried I became. For the first time, I began researching politics, because I had to. I could tell that this election was far more important than the previous two.

In the case of the previous elections I felt secure that even if Obama didn't win, the other candidate was competent enough to run the country, even if I didn't agree with them on all of their political stances. That was not the case in 2016. Trump was one of the least (if not the least) qualified candidates running on either side. He had no political experience. He had basically no plans in place for how he would carry out all of these promises he was making. And worst of all he ran a campaign that was fueled by lies and hate.

Well, in November the country spoke and while Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly three million votes, Donald Trump was going to be our next president. I'm not going to talk about the days following the election because I've already discussed that.

Instead I want to talk about January 21, 2017. I want to talk about the Women's March on Washington DC. As most of you probably know I participated in a sister march in Santa Ana with about 20,000 people in attendance. It was my first political protest and I was so proud to stand up for my beliefs and march with my fellow brothers and sisters in the hope of a better tomorrow. I was proud. Then I saw the messages of hate on Facebook and news articles and I was discouraged that so many people didn't understand why we were marching. So if it's okay with you I'd like to address some of the questions and statements I saw in regards to the Women's March though this article puts things much more eloquently than I ever could.

What are you even marching for? Women have the same rights as men.

You're not wrong...

Women legally have the same rights as men. We all have the right to vote. We have the right own property, the right to bear arms, and many other constitutional rights that we share. But that does not mean we are equal. The gender pay gap is not a myth and I believe women should have the right to equal pay for doing equal work. We currently have the right to safe and legal abortions if that is our choice, but Trump has already declared his intention to repeal Roe vs. Wade so we no longer have that right. Rape and sexual assault are illegal in this country, but that doesn't stop it from happening to one out of every four women. In America a woman is raped every two minutes. Why? Because what's stopping them? Not our justice system, that's for sure. Look at Brock Turner who was caught in the act, given a light sentence, and then didn't even complete the minimum time of that sentence. And that's just one story.

...But you're not right either.

In addition to the above rights for women, we also marched for equality for everyone, yes even Trump supporters, even if they didn't want us to. One of the most common signs I saw at the march I attended as well as photos I saw from the many marches around the world said something like this:

Women's Rights are Human Rights
Climate Change is Real
Immigrants make America Great
Black Lives Matter
Love is Love

This sign easily sums up everything that we were marching for. We were marching for equal rights for all people. Trump's campaign threatened the lives of many marginalized groups and that was who we marched for, regardless of whether we were in those marginalized groups or not. 

Trump has only been president for one day, what are you so mad about?

One thing I keep seeing constantly from Republicans is the sentiment that Trump is now our president and there is nothing we can do about it, so we just have to get over it and respect the position he holds. Here's the thing, we do respect the position he holds, we just don't respect the man himself, and can you blame us? He has given us no reason to. He does not take the position he holds seriously as his Twitter account confirms.

I think you guys think we want Trump to fail. You couldn't be further from the truth. We DESPERATELY want him to succeed in making positive changes for every American. We just don't expect him to. He has had a lot of chances to prove that he is going to work on behalf of all Americans and he's thrown away every one of them. His response to the over 3 million women and men who marched in the name of equality? Where were these people in November? Why didn't they vote? Um...we did, which was why Hillary won the popular vote by 3 million votes. That's all he had to say about it. Not, "I see you. I hear you. I promise I will fight for you." Do you understand? This is why so many are disheartened heading into these next four years. We have a president who refuses to acknowledge us even after we managed the largest demonstration in US history.

Respect is earned and so far, Donald Trump hasn't done much to earn mine. In his first days in office the Trump administration has removed the climate change page from the White House website as well as removing health care, civil rights, and LGBT sections. In the first White House press conference of his presidency, his press secretary lied to the American people, and about the crowd size at his inauguration of all things. Then the counselor to the president defended the lie calling it instead an "alternative fact." And we are only a few days into his presidency...

Why do you want to kill babies!?

This is something I would love to have a conversation with you about if you are interested. Here is what I want you to understand. Pro-choice individuals aren't fighting because they want to kill babies, they are fighting for their right to choose. If a man gets a woman pregnant, he can walk away from that pregnancy and not look back. Access to safe and legal abortions is the equivalent of that same right for women. Now, for my own personal safe, I tend to lean pro-life. I'd like to think that if for some reason I had an unwanted pregnancy I would carry to term and give the child up for adoption. However, I can't say for sure that if I was raped I would ever want to see that child. This is why I think that each woman has a right to make the best choice for herself.

Why are you even bothering protesting? It's not going to do anything.

You're right. Protests don't change laws, but they may change hearts or minds. A protest is a way to show unity against injustice. It's to make a statement and regardless of how you feel about the Women's Marches I think we did at least make a statement. The reason we bothered protesting was because we believe in equality and we wanted to stand together to show the new administration that we are not going to let them take our rights away without a fight.

Contrary to our name, our country is not united. We are a people at war. This is a virtual war with insults slung at both sides, propaganda, false news, bigotry, aggression, intolerance, fear, and hate. It is our job as American citizens, no, as human beings, to find a common ground in which we can stand together. I know how difficult a task this is. I feel sick inside when I read some of the hate-filled messages I see on Facebook and Twitter as well as comments on news articles. I'm sure you feel the same way about some of the things you read. If we don't want to see a civil war in our lifetime, we are going to have to push past that gut instinct to yell at each other that we're right and you're wrong. We're going to have to have real discussions. Hard discussions. I think if we do this we'll find that we have more in common than we realized. It's not going to be easy and I know at times we're going to want to throw our hands up in the air and wash our hands of it all, but we can't. Our country and our freedoms and our lives are too important.

So here I am. I want to have a discussion with you. Ask me questions. Tell me your concerns. Tell me why you voted for Trump. Try to make me understand. I will do the same for you and hopefully we can find some common ground to stand on. Hopefully we can start healing the wounds of this country one mutually respectful conversation at a time. Instead of throwing insults at each other, let's throw questions. Let's throw concerns. Let's show what it means to be a part of the UNITED States of America.