My Thoughts Moving Forward

blog post 2019 june 25th

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES, UNLESS EXPLICITLY EXPRESSED OTHERWISE. FEATURED PHOTO TODAY IS FROM HIDDEN TRANSFORMATIONS COLORING BOOK PUBLISHED BY MINDWARE 2007. ALL RESPECTIVE RIGHTS RESERVED, 2019. 

I realize it has been a hot minute since I have posted anything on my blog. I have been going through some personal issues that I needed to take care of in order to move forward with my writing and other ventures.

As many of my readers are already aware of, I have been a lifelong sufferer of depression and anxiety. I sought help in 2002 right after college but I didn’t stick with the regimen because my doctor ended up dying and I was sick of feeling like utter crap and no one helping me or understanding me that I went rogue and stopped going to therapy and quit the medicine I was taking cold turkey. Until then, I’ve endured many hardships but I’ve had some happy moments mixed in and was able to compartmentalize my depression and anxiety and bounce myself back to my own state of equilibrium and I was able to function in my own way. Yes, the underlying issues still remained but I was able to be a functioning depressed and anxious person for a very long time.

This year, I’ve faced one hardship too many and this was the very first time in my adult life that I found it virtually impossible to bounce back the way that I needed to in order to continue being a productive member of society. I just couldn’t handle things on my own anymore. The very last straw was how I was treated at my old doctor’s office in early May. I snapped and decided that enough was enough. I have been shit on my entire life and I wasn’t going to allow anyone else to speak to me in the way that I was spoken to that day. That was the very last day I was ever going to allow people to speak to me like I was lower than they were. I have accomplished so much in my life, so much more than most around me. I am not nothing. I have value and I deserve to be treated like everyone else. Today’s photo is a coloring book page that I found from a book in 2007. When I first saw the picture I thought it looked like me in my twenties, that’s why I liked it so much. Upon coloring the photo, the picture came to life to me and I wished I was that person in that photo: strong, powerful, beautiful, graceful, and poised, instead of the falling down mess I became in my thirties.

I realized I desperately needed help and the first step to getting that help was seeking out a new primary doctor. Due to the limitations of my insurance, I had to settle for another male doctor. I was very nervous going into the appointment the first time. I was grateful that my mom was able to go with me both times that I went so far. Thanks, mom! I have developed this new mantra based on Adelita’s Way song “Ready for War.” They sing, “I pray for peace but I’m ready for war.” That’s my new mantra. I go into every new situation hoping for a peaceful interaction but secretly my fists are clenched and I’m ready to fight holy hell if I have to to get to a healthy place mentally and physically. I went into my doctor’s appointment, not at all hopeful and waiting for the same spiel, “You’re fat, lose weight, here’s a bunch of prescription, come back in six months.” But what I found, pleasantly surprised me. He just had this positive aura about him right from walking into the room. I just knew instantly that I could trust him. I spoke to him, choking back tears, bravely telling him every single thing that had been holding me back for years and he not only listened, he handed me tissues, he gave me permission to feel how I felt, he gave me permission to relax and just let life happen, and not bear the burdens of the entire world on my shoulder. He is teaching me to tackle one thing at a time and that I can do what I can but I’m not a failure if I can’t do it all in one day. I was so relieved to finally find someone who fucking understands. I waited twenty years to hear those words even though, I really needed that every day my whole damn life.

I am finally getting my life back on track. I did bloodwork and I’m happy to report that I’m a fucking healthy thirty-eight-year-old woman! Fuck the assholes who are so concerned about my weight. I’m metabolically healthy and I’m proud of my body and I don’t need to fit into the standards of society. I go for walks when I can, and I mix good food with the bad so fuck everyone else who has a problem with me. This bitch is fat and she’s most likely staying this way for a while, at least until I get my shit together.

I am going back to therapy, I also made appointments for other doctors like gynecologist, dermatologist, etc. I finally feel like I have control over my life again. Everything was collapsing around me beginning this new years eve with my breakup, my dad nearly dying, and just trying to deal with all of the drama around me. The force field around me that I used to protect myself was weakening and I couldn’t hold on any longer. I was so relieved to unleash all of my heart’s burdens to my doctor. Like Carrie Underwood’s song, “Jesus Take the Wheel,” I’m not a religious woman, but I was so the personification of that sentiment that day. I gave all of my burdens to my doctor and he was more than happy to take them away from me, give me permission to feel, and help me acknowledge that I won’t get the answers that I crave for closure and described my life experiences as a gallery in an art museum and he said that some exhibits I can visit freely pain-free, but some I’m going to have to put a tarp over and walk by and that’s okay. Sometimes things just don’t get resolved no matter how much I grieve or revisit, or self-blame, or torture myself over. Shit happens basically. I needed to hear that more than anyone will ever know. I want to thank that man so much for not only saving my life, but seeing my life as something worth saving. He will never quite understand the immensity of his words that first day. Even his entire staff was helpful and kind and that meant the entire world to me too. So, thank you!

That all helped me put things into perspective and help re-set my mindset for my writing and other future ventures. I am a little behind on my editing of John of Art but I still have the tentative release date for both the song and the book as August 15th. I really want to make sure that this book is absolutely perfect. I don’t have any means of recording the song in a way that is professional so I’m just going to sing it and place it on my Bandcamp account when I’m releasing the book on the same day and will be sure to post links for both. If you noticed my Amazon Author Page, I did release the song lyrics already to the
John of Art song. It’s available for 99 cents for the Kindle, if anyone is interested in supporting me and getting a glimpse of song lyrics, I’d appreciate your support and feedback. You can access this and my other works on my Amazon Author Page here: amazon.com/author/psglopes

I found a wonderful resource in Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help. This book opened my eyes for a lot of reasons. I always felt like a loser asking people for donations for my work. I first utilized crowdfunding in 2014 when I was hoping to finish my phd. I ran out of funding for the oral defense and sought out the help of others. I will never forget my cousin, Julie, gave me one hundred dollars. I felt so touched by this gesture. I was not accustomed to having family believe in me and when she told me that she believed in me that moment changed me forever. Even though I didn’t meet my goal for the crowdfunding, I never forgot her kindness and I always promised myself to return the favor somehow someday but I never was in a position to do so. I was always struggling and coming up for air my whole life. But I want her to know that I will never forget that one moment of pure kindness. That moment taught me so much. It taught me that there are still amazing people out there. It taught me that there’s no shame in asking for help when you’ve exhausted all your other options. I’ve learned that it’s not being pathetic or foolish reaching out and asking for others’ help. I have just befriended an individual who lives in the deep south and he told me that in that area they are big on being neighborly and that’s what’s missing in the area in which I live, that long-lost concept of neighbors helping out neighbors.

I no longer feel foolish in asking for help when I need it. I feel that what I’m doing is powerful and can help a lot of people and I wish to continue fighting for my work. If others come along and help I’ll always be greatly appreciative but I’m no longer going to see it as modern day panhandling. Especially in the arts where people have to fight tooth and nail to keep art alive nowadays. Every bit of help counts and matters, as long as we work together to keep art thriving and alive.

On that note, I do have a Patreon account mostly for professional editing services and to produce my song professionally. If you are interested in taking a look you’ll find that page here: www.patreon.com/themoonlitgoddess

I thank you all as always for coming back and checking up on me and what I’ve got going on in my life. I hope that my words prove helpful and encourages others to seek help if they need it. What I’ve learned from my ordeal is you have to be persistent and not give up after the first try. You have to shout louder and louder each time until someone finally hears you. There are people out there who will listen. I wish you all a productive and fruitful week full of laughter, love, hope, and friendship. Let us continue to be good to one another and lift each other up when things are not going well in our lives. Judgment has no place at my dinner table.

The Wrong Kind of White

blog post june 10th 2019

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, 2019.

When I was a kid I was aware that my family and I were of Portuguese descent but I never really truly understood what that meant until I was much older. My initial observations of the culture happened to be negative and I found myself isolating myself from the Portuguese culture and focusing more on American traditions.

Aside from my dark hair and Portuguese features, everything else about me was Americanized. I enjoyed American foods, American music, American fashion, American actors, and so on. I never learned how to speak Portuguese either so I never really identified with that part of myself. I remember when I was growing up that all of our holidays incorporated Portuguese traditions. My mother would make Portuguese cuisine and desserts. My father was very active in the Portuguese community and was involved in many organizations for writers, artists, and teachers of the Portuguese culture. He used to drag us to different events when we were kids and I hated it. I always felt out of place. Everyone spoke a language I didn’t understand but regardless of the language barrier, there was something I understood even without translation. I was fat and that was something that always stood out to this culture. They didn’t want you to starve, there’s was always plenty of food and drink on the table, but heaven forbid you were heavy! The conflicting opinions held by this culture was unsavory to me and made me want to separate myself from them even further.

I visited Portugal once when I was seven years old. Both sets of grandparents lived in Portugal but I was only close to my maternal grandparents. We visited them the summer of 1988 and I remember so much of that trip even though it was over thirty years ago. I remember the foods, the smells, the beautiful locale of my grandparent’s home, and I remember the people. This trip would mean more to me as an adult than it did when I was a child.

When I graduated high school, I started exhibiting my first signs of independence. When I had to get my financial aid settled for college I realized that I wasn’t going to get any grants or anything. Although my name sounded ethnic, I am categorized as white. I have this conundrum of having a Latina sounding name but categorically I am white. I was never afforded any kind of special treatment. I was stereotyped and discriminated against because of my name, yet people considered me white.

When I got my drivers license, my name was truncated in order to have my name fit on my driver’s license. When I fought the woman at the DMV she asked me if I was a citizen of this country and I knew I was fighting a losing battle. The racist woman’s true colors became visible and no matter how much I fought the bitch, I wasn’t going to win and now every single time I show someone my driver’s license I have to delve into my pre-prepared speech as to why I sound like a not quite de facto Star Wars character.

This would be the general theme throughout my entire adult life. I realized that I didn’t fit in with the Portuguese culture because I didn’t speak Portuguese and I wasn’t a stereotypical Portuguese woman. I didn’t enjoy the Rancho and I don’t wear multi-colored outfits and dance and drink red wine on Portugal Day. I don’t enjoy random pig parts mulled together into an unsavory stew. I don’t like fado music. I don’t visit the Ironbound. I’m not a part of any Portuguese associations.

I’m not American enough, or white enough either. My parents both speak Portuguese. They both have accents. I didn’t realize that my parents were different until I was about fourteen years old. My mother encountered two separate incidents of discrimination. Once I was at the furniture store with her and she was looking for a new sofa and the man explained something to my mom. My mom got snippy with the man because he changed his policy and was not forthright about it. As punishment for my mom asserting herself, he blamed it on her accent and not understanding what he was telling her. I was so angry on her behalf, not just because of the insult, but it was also a sexist remark. The mere thought of women asserting themselves makes men feel the need to denigrate and degrade us.

Another incident involved a neighbor we befriended when we first moved to New Jersey. She was an elderly woman who was old-school racist. She would use horribly racist words and we tended to avoid her or just be polite and say hello and goodbye. My mom got into a fight with her once and she insulted my mom basically calling her an immigrant and to go back to her own country. This became a common theme in our lives.

I spent my whole adult life trying to find my place in the world. I have no identity. I feel that both sides of the coin have betrayed me at some point. I have felt bullied and oppressed because of my name. This name that weighs down on me yet I still keep more to prove a point than because of pride. I spent my whole life educating people that my name is pronounced Lopes as in slopes not Lopez with a “z.” When I was in elementary school, I even had a teacher tell me that I didn’t know how to pronounce my own last name. I even went home to confirm that it was indeed Lopes as in slopes and my dad laughed and told me my teacher was a bitch. So from then on, I got that whole “us vs. them” vibe not only from the Portuguese culture but from the American culture as well.

I never fit in with the Portuguese crowd. I went to a very diverse college, which I loved, but I failed to really belong in any one crowd. I enjoyed talking to everyone. I remember there being a big Portuguese community in that college but I was never welcomed in their club. I wasn’t one of the “cool kids,” which was fine with me because they appeared fake and two-faced anyhow and I associated the Portuguese culture, at the time, with lacking in authenticity. My limited scope of my culture was always with people who I viewed as snobs and unwelcoming which made me hate the culture.

I remember moving to New Jersey and my neighbors to one side of our home were never very nice to us and they clearly are very racist as well. They had a daughter close to my age that they kept away from me because apparently being Portuguese was contagious.

I also remember taking a test in New York City to become a teacher and I was actually accused of cheating because I got near perfect scores. Apparently, you can’t have a name like mine and be smart too. I called them out on their racism and threatened to get the ACLU involved over it. I was just so sick and tired of the blatant racism and discrimination and oppression.

When I decided to finally become a writer full-time I was faced with a very important decision. Would I keep my name or would I develop a pen name? I thought about it a lot. This was a major decision for me. I was tempted to choose the name, Simone Lawler. Was I really going to be that person who hid her cultural identity for the sake of sales? And then I decided that I would keep my name; however, I would abbreviate it since my name is rather long. Those are my full initials and my own last name. This was the name my father gave me and I was not going to be ashamed of it. I wasn’t going to let the ignorance and blind hatred of others get to me. I realized that being a writer is a huge responsibility. My ultimate goal is to maintain my authenticity and I aim to be relatable and educational and responsible in what I write. I want to teach others to do better, to be better, and the way that I accomplish that is through my writing.

Now at thirty-eight, I am much happier and secure with my cultural identity. I embrace it and realize that just like everywhere else you’re going to meet good people and bad people and that’s with any culture. Just because I had a few bad experiences with the Portuguese crowds as a kid, that doesn’t mean that every single Portuguese individual is like that. I just had very limited exposure to individuals of my culture. Now, I have a lot of respect for my culture, I’m fully immersed in the foods, music, and rich history. I am proud of who I am. I am proud of my parents and all of the hardships they endured when they first moved to this country in the 60s. They are two of the strongest people I’ve ever known and my heart swells with pride for them both.

There are so many differences out there. That’s what makes us so interesting as human beings. Every single one of us has an amazing story to tell and it is worth listening to. To shun someone because of who they are is so ignorant and quite frankly boring. I am so bored of racist people who choose to remain willfully ignorant. I feel so sad for close-minded people who will never get a chance to know all of the wonderful people out there. I feel it truly is their loss! I’m done explaining myself, explaining who I am, explaining why my name is the way it is. This isn’t Ellis Island circa the 1800s. We are in 2019 and what do we have to show for it? What has changed really? There’s still so much work to be done!

Thank you for taking the time to read today’s blog. If you are interested in checking out my books, please visit my Amazon Author Page here: amazon.com/author/psglopes.

Also, please view my Patreon page here: www. patreon.com/themoonlitgoddess

I am looking to acquire funding for an editor and to create a song single for my upcoming release, John of Art, coming late summer 2019. Even a $5 donation would help. Thanks so much and I hope that you are all doing well.

 

The Spirited Writer-This Week’s Podcast

ducks pic

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, 2019.

This week’s Podcast is up! This week I discuss the latest updates on my writing and other projects. I discuss my new Patreon page and what I hope to gain from it and finally I discuss how sometimes strangers are more accepting and supportive of your art than friends and family. All this and more on this week’s Podcast! Thank you all for continuing to read my blogs and listen to my Podcasts and offer your support! It means the world to me!

LISTEN TO THIS WEEK’S PODCAST HERE

VISIT THE MOONLIT GODDESS PATREON PAGE HERE

My Radical Conclusion

Blog May 2, 2019

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, 2019.

I am still pretty much fuming over yesterday’s ridiculousness over the embarrassment I exhibited in the doctor’s office. But instead of being negative about it, I decided to be productive and spent the remainder of the day searching for a new primary care physician (female this time, and a real doctor not these cute P.A.’s or whatever bullshit scam this country is peddling upon its citizens in lieu of legitimate healthcare). I also found a reputable ENT relatively nearby so that I am able to officially get some sort of hearing aid device for myself. I am sick and tired of being treated like a second class citizen. And I shouldn’t have to explain why I decided to start taking better care of myself. I am doing so because I fucking want to that’s why!

I was born in America. I have worked incredibly hard over the years just like everyone else. My means for someday obtaining financial freedom may be unconventional and not understood by those who were brainwashed into thinking that having someone else signing your paycheck is the only way to be respected and valued in the community. I am fiercely ambitious and you may consider me crazy but I will not stop fighting for a better life, for a better world, and my way of doing that is through my writing and art. This year, I feel that I have seamlessly transitioned from hobby writer to career writer and even though I’m not rolling in the dough, I have value, I am respected in my field, and I do deserve the same consideration and care as everyone else on the planet.

I read this amazing quote by Audre Lorde today. She once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” That’s the mantra I am currently adopting. I’m not going to let anyone guilt me into thinking that I’m not worth proper healthcare and I don’t have to justify why I’m seeking assistance in getting hearing aids, or bloodwork, or any other thing that will ensure that I remain healthy and mentally happy and at peace.

For years, I’ve allowed people to bring me down, to mock me, to make me feel inferior. But what have those people truly accomplished in their lives? Anyone can get married and/or divorced, have a slew of unruly kids, settle for a nine to five job making someone else richer, buy a home, a car and buy other materialistic bullshit that they just don’t need. I once prescribed to that notion. I felt hollow, empty for not being like everyone else. I tried the whole relationship thing. I was fed notions of possibly having a happily ever after, living in my own home, and all that. But I realized happiness is found from within and I feel truly fulfilled and free when I’m writing. I feel validated and purposeful and I know that my message is a strong one and others need to hear this message too so that we can all break these damaging so-called social norms that make people believe they need to achieve certain things and reach certain goals in order to make them feel whole. Granted, one may feel fulfilled with the lives that they currently have. I’m not arguing that my way is better than anyone else’s. My argument here is to respect that there is more than one way to fry an egg. Happiness is individualized. My happiness differs from yours. And vice-versa. I realize I give too much clout to others and their opinions. But it makes me fucking furious thinking there are people out there who appear villainous and actually thrive on seeing people fail and falling flat on their faces. This rage fires deep within me and I will not stop until I am recognized for my positive contributions to society.

I noticed right away since I was a little girl that I was not like everyone else. My first bra was a neon green disaster. I wore neon pink bicycle shorts and a playboy t-shirt hand-me-down from my older brother. My hair cuts were never fashionable and always uneven. I always got dirty from doing somersaults in the park falling into piles of geese-poop horribly embarrassing family and friends. I have fallen down concrete steps, knees bleeding profusely, while my dad was part of a Portugal day festival in the city hall where I grew up totally shaming my family and godparents. I have fallen down stairs more often than not, that was a major theme in my childhood. I have fallen after attempting to climb a retaining wall in fear of missing the school bus as my sister watched in horror from the school bus in front of all of her friends. I am shy, I am weird, I don’t smell the greatest all the time, I cry a lot and can’t control my emotions and sometimes appear somewhat of a crazy person when I am horribly triggered by cruel and mean-spirited people. I’m outspoken and feisty and have this unusual blend of soft-heartedness and lion-heartedness that often fight together until they harmoniously decide to get along and help me be the productive person that I am today.

I say and do weird things making others uncomfortable. I curse like a sailor on leave, I burp, I fart, I eat with my elbows on the table, I am comfortable talking about my bowel movements in front of family at the dinner table, I laugh at fart jokes and enjoy potty humor, and I wear dresses with stains on them that are not ironed and have cat fur all over them. My hair is in knots, my mother and sister forced me to dye my hair because it had ten-inch gray roots and they bought me hair dye from the supermarket so that I’d look decent for my latest newspaper interview. I may look like I have it all put together in my profile picture, but I’m a wild, feral, hot mess and I have been this way since the day I popped out of my mom’s vagina.

I say and do awkward shit, I can count the number of friends I have on one finger, I eat noisily and fast, I enjoy Mexican food and ice cold root beer and I am done apologizing for who I am.

For those who question why I dress well and have nice boots even though I don’t currently make a lot of money with my writing, don’t realize that my clothes are either donated to me by my mom since we are the same size, or clothes I have purchased years ago when I was teaching. I am not fussy about clothes and just wear old stuff that I take care of because I’m not a behemoth beast. I also notoriously hate wearing shoes and I only own 5 pairs of shoes. I own flip flops to wear around the house, sneakers to go walking in outdoors, my very old Doc Martens flowery boots which may look nice on the outside but smell like your grandma’s crotch on the inside from years of wear, my sandals for the summer that are on their last leg and are about to bust apart at the straps, and my winter boots to ward against ice and snow. I am sick of justifying who I am to others who lack any sort of emotional intelligence or even general intelligence. The amount of willfully ignorant people around me are astounding and no amount of education can create the level of self-awareness and common sense people need to really pay attention to the things that really matter around us.

To the person who stole my quarter bug juice at snack time consecutively every day for 180 school days in Kindergarten and I never said a thing to stop her, to the kid who spat in my face with a mouth full of ham and mayo every day at lunch consecutively every day for 180 days in 1st grade and I never said a thing to stop him, to the little bitch who lied and told the teacher I threw her down the stairs during dismissal when I was nowhere near her in line and I never defended myself, to the teacher who shamed me when I didn’t understand long division showing the class my paper with a zero on it trying to shame me into somehow magically passing not realizing it wasn’t because I wasn’t studying, it was because I just didn’t understand what to do and she did a lousy job teaching me, who will also never know that I got straight A’s in math from senior year in high school all throughout my college career including bachelors, masters, and doctorate years, to the bullies who called me fat and have compared me to every fat actress out there like that is some sort of insult when all of those so-called “fat actresses” are the people whom I admire the most in Hollywood, to the student who called me an idiot who provided the final straw on my last day of substitute teaching and made me finally realize that it was time to move on and taught me that I deserved so much more than the bullshit I was being served, to all of my abusers and oppressors of all forms who have created this neurotic, anxious, and often, depressed individual, I will continue to fight not for you, not because of you, but in spite of you and your patheticness. I continue to write in spite of you. I pour my emotions on this page in spite of you. To send a message to the world, who so desperately needs to hear it that whatever someone does and whatever their circumstances are, happens to be none of anyone’s business but their own, and what works for one person does not work for all. Everyone is on the same team and we are all battling the same villains. Instead of turning on each other and being cruel and meanspirited, reach your hand out to heal, not to destroy. Because you don’t know what is going on in another person’s mind. You’ll never know. I’ll leave you all with another one of my all-time favorite quotes from R.J. Palacio’s marvelous book, Wonder, “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” Believe me. It makes all the difference!

By the way, I chose today’s photo because it looked like the middle flowers were flipping the bird. It seemed apropos given today’s topic. Alright, NOW I will choose kind! 🙂

(Of course, I appreciate all of my readers and followers but I wanted to give a shout out to one new follower in particular who gave me props for yesterday’s blog–My message to you is to always keep fighting for what truly matters in life and never let anyone tell you no!)

 

The Old Depression Debate

blog pic february 5th 2019

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Before I begin tonight’s topic, I just want to say that the past two weeks have been incredibly hectic for me. I’ve been trying my darnedest to get my new work ready for publishing and I am very, very close to the finish line! I am tweaking and doing finishing touches before I am finally able to reveal what I’ve been working on for the whole month of January! I am so, so proud of my work and can’t wait for the big unveiling coming soon. That and more surprises are coming up by the end of the week, I promise!

Anyhow, for tonight’s discussion… depression and anxiety and how the “neurotypical” perceive issues concerning mental health.

I had an interesting debate this afternoon regarding depression and anxiety.

I was taken aback by one person’s perspective and decided to question the individual. A lot of thoughts flashed through my head, but my thoughts honestly weren’t combative. My questions and thoughts were coming from myself being a lifelong sufferer of depression and anxiety and trying to establish a teachable moment for an outsider who may “sympathize,” but not necessarily “empathize.”

Depression and anxiety are complex. A person may exhibit chemical or situational depression. There may be tons of factors as to why an individual becomes afflicted with such a debilitation. My depression and anxiety, coupled with me being overweight, carry an enormous stigma for myself. I hate leaving the house. I feel judged at every corner whether it’s my own perception or reality. I have had depression and anxiety and been overweight my whole life. I know of no other way of being. I have known fleeting happiness sprinkled sporadically throughout my life. I can still smile and laugh at jokes and have a good sense of humor. Those things don’t mask the fact that to my very core, I’m deeply hurting inside. So, for me, hearing this person’s thoughts and how a seemingly kindhearted act, which I found to be insensitive, would somehow both eradicate and invalidate this struggling individual’s feelings—it felt a little tone deaf to me.

I was reminded of the poor individuals in Flint, Michigan dealing with their water being unfit for bathing, cooking, and drinking. I remember reading about celebrities delivering bottled water to the residents of that area. There was a disconnect between the people and the outside world and their struggles were not being properly understood. I feel the same was true in this particular situation regarding mental health.

I honestly wasn’t meaning for it to sound judgmental or negative, but right away the person I was speaking to was so very offended and said that I had to “shit on everything” and that I was always negative about everything. Being negative and judgmental and being concerned and fearing that the individual’s seemingly well-meaning thoughts would do more harm than good are two totally separate issues. I was made out to be the bad guy because I was trying to get that person to reach a little deeper within themselves. The person even deflected and backpedaled stating that they too once suffered from depression. To me, if you can say you suffered from depression in the past tense, then it wasn’t truly depression.

To me, the way that I see it, depression is a lifelong struggle. It stays with you. Whether you seek counseling, are medicated, or choose to cope with your depression on your own terms, depression and anxiety are never going to disappear completely. One therapist I visited in my early 20s told me that I was never going to be the same me I was in my youth. She told me I was always going have depression and anxiety and told me that what I would learn in therapy were strategies to cope, learning to recognize triggers, and finding ways to combat the depression whether through medicine, diet, exercise, yoga, meditation, or other strategies. There’s no getting rid of it. That’s my own experience with it at least. This is my own experience throughout the years. I do not doubt that every experience is vastly different. Again, I am not here to judge. I respect everyone’s journey.

Also, you don’t know what a person is truly going through when they say that they are depression and anxiety sufferers. If the person revealed they had suicidal ideations the best way to handle that is to gear them towards professional help and help them develop ways of handling their depression whether it’s chemical or situational.

Do you think something as simple as throwing a party or saying a kind word would have helped Kristoff St. John’s son, and possibly himself, or Kurt Cobain, or Chris Cornell, or Chester Bennington, or Anthony Bourdain, or Kate Spade, or anyone else who has taken their own lives? No, the problem is so much deeper than you can imagine. The problem is real. The problem can’t be shaken off by one or two hours of laughter.

You’re missing the point.

Depression is not, “I’m having a bad day.

Depression is not, “I’m sad.”

Depression is not, “I hate the rain, it makes me depressed.”

I will tell you, from my own experience, what depression means to me:

Depression is not remembering what cash feels like in your hands because you’ve been poor for so long.

Depression is not being able to wash your hair for ten days straight because you just don’t have the strength.

Depression is talking to people who never listen to you and choose to talk over you because they find you inferior to them and you let them believe it because you have no more self-confidence to prove them otherwise.

Depression is not wanting to get out of bed in the morning because you can’t think of a single reason why you should.

Depression is leaving the house in old house clothes, not brushing your hair, or taking care of your hygiene because you just don’t have the energy to do anything about it.

I’ll tell what anxiety is not.

Anxiety is not, “I’m going to fail that test tomorrow if I don’t study.”

Anxiety is not, “It took me two hours to go to bed because I was nervous about that job interview that I had this morning.”

I will tell you what anxiety is to me:

Anxiety is not wanting your picture taken because you feel that the whole world will judge you because you’re so ugly and the thought of having someone take your picture makes your throat close up from fear of judgment.

Anxiety is staying up all night from remembering something stupid I said in front of co-workers ten years ago that no one remembers except me.

Anxiety is being afraid to speak up about your traumas and your past because people only ever tell you stuff like, “Why don’t you go to the doctor and get some medicine,” instead of offering empathy, compassion, understanding, and just being present and listening.

Anxiety is working hard to appear “normal” and human like the rest of the world so you don’t get labeled anti-social or an outcast on days you just feel like being by yourself.

I am not exaggerating when I say that depression and anxiety are crippling and debilitating. I’ve tried the whole therapy/medicine routine. I never found anyone who could truly empathize or understand. I don’t want to mask my pain with pills, I want to heal from it. I want to address my pain, I want someone to drag it out of me, I want someone brave enough to want to stick it out with me no matter how ugly or scary it may appear on the other side of that dark. I want someone to carry that burden with me and hold my hand on the dark days, and then laugh and triumph over the good days.

My pain is validated. My pain is real. My pain can’t be erased by one-hour of someone’s attention. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not miserable all of the time. I do have amazing days. I have days I wish I could bottle up like perfume and revisit them on the really dark days. My life is one big uphill climb. I just want someone to understand that, that’s all. I’m not arguing. I’m not suggesting I’m right and you’re wrong. I’m saying dig a little deeper and don’t be afraid to get your hands a little dirty because depression and anxiety are ugly beasts that need to be slain, sometimes daily. It’s exhausting, my body gets tired, I’m getting older and weakened. But I’m not giving up. And I ain’t dead yet. Which means I’m doing something right.

So, in closing, the debate turned ugly, but it didn’t have to. Sometimes you just need to listen and hear an individual’s pain. There is no worse feeling than not being heard or understood. An old friend once told me that pain is like shouting in the dark with the volume turned down. It is invisible to most, but it doesn’t have to be like that. Sometimes you can hear someone’s pain almost like a whisper if you stop trying to speak over someone’s softened, innocent voice. Louder does not mean right. Experience someone’s struggle firsthand. We don’t measure mental anguish on a scale. This isn’t a competition on whose pain is worse. All of our struggles matter. All of us deserve to be heard and understood. I’m a lover of love. I may be a shy introvert, but I feel that I exhibit much compassion and empathy towards other living beings. It took me many years of struggling to earn this level of self-awareness and introspection coupled with an outward-looking perspective of everything around me. It’s not hard to hear someone’s pain, sometimes you just have to stop talking, and just listen. Sometimes a person’s silence speaks volumes to those who were once too proud to listen.

The Literal Versus Creative Mind

blog photo january 29th 2019

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2019.

I had noticed a startling trend throughout my years as an educator. I noticed that kids just were not as imaginative and creative as they were when I was their age. I realized that the reason for this was due to the abundant access to technology. When I was a child, we didn’t have the internet, smartphones, Netflix or Hulu, or any of the fancy sophisticated video games that are out today. The kids of this generation are so overstimulated and are basically handed all the ideas without them having to work for any of it themselves.

I remember one assignment I presented to my fifth-grade students. They were to create their own short story. They had the ability to create their own characters, setting, time period, etc. We carefully went through what each component meant and once I was satisfied that they understood the assignment, I sent them off to work independently. The work I received in return was disheartening, to say the very least. What I got back were twenty-two regurgitated stories ranging from the origins of Mario and Luigi, Pokémon, or Disney princesses. I would remind my students that those stories were already claimed, and I wanted to read stories that came from their own minds. After revisiting the assignment once more, I then received much better stories. Some stories I genuinely felt had the potential to be expanded into novels someday and had encouraged the students to keep pursuing their writing. I had always wondered if their future teachers pushed them the same way that I had or if they reverted back to their literal way of thinking, completely forgetting they have the potential to be wondrous, creative minds!

When it rained or snowed in the 80s or early 90s, my siblings and I stayed indoors, and we used our imagination to create make-believe worlds and fight fictitious creatures and live to tell our harrowing tales! We made tents made out of blankets and used flashlights to scare one another, we would use our older brother’s or father’s camcorder and create screenplays and put on our own shows. We would use my younger brother’s playpen and pretend we were pro-wrestlers and kick the ever-loving snot out of each other. We would do arts and craft projects. I remember my mother buying me this magazine for kids that had tons of art project ideas and she would buy me all of the stuff I would need, and we would make the projects together. I know that when I had free time as a child, I would love to write in my diary or journal. I was always productive in some way that was not directly attached to technology.

Don’t get me wrong, there were days where I’d watch television. That was my vice as a child. I’d watch the heck out of soap operas or other trashy television with my parents and siblings, but in that era, we could take it or leave it. We weren’t addicted and we were able to expand our minds and create original ways of entertaining ourselves.

Here in 2019, I do not see any of these things that made my childhood so magical. Kids of this generation prefer instant gratification, have created a culture of cruelty and thrive on hurting each other, and everything is tied to electronics and the next greatest technological advancement. Parents are always trying to keep on top of their child’s demands and when new video games, cell phones, or other gimmicky devices go on sale, they have to be the first to get them or else they will suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out).

I’ve got a five-year-old cell phone and a just as old Nintendo 3DS and I’m pretty grateful for that. I can’t imagine feeling that pressure to constantly buy the next best thing. It’s tiring and damn expensive too. I guess since I’ve lived pretty humbly for the past four years financially, I have changed my mindset greatly. I recognize what matters more in life and objects and materials just don’t do it for me anymore. I’d rather have my health, the love of my family, good food, and a lot of laughs. Call me old-fashioned.

I remember one of my favorite episodes of the Twilight Zone, “The Shelter,” that perfectly describes how I feel people in 2019 treat each other when they are shown their true colors. “Damages? I wonder. I wonder if anyone of us has any idea what those damages really are. Maybe one of them is finding out what we’re really like when we’re normal; the kind of people we are just underneath the skin. I mean all of us: a bunch of naked, wild animals, who would put such a price on staying alive that they’d claw their neighbors to death just for the privilege. We were spared a bomb tonight, but I wonder if we weren’t destroyed even without it.” I think one major flaw of the current culture is our lack of empathy for one another as well.

Creativity and passion work best when people exhibit compassion, empathy, loyalty, and trust of one another. We need to feel that spark of creativity and instead of wounding each other or living for material goods, tap into that creative spirit and do so because you’re passionate about it not because you’re copying others or trying to compete. Do something creative that you identify best with, not what you feel matches the climate of the current FOMO culture. Quash the ego. Alleviate the troubles of a literal mind and allow yourself to find a passionate outlet within creativity.

I find it difficult being me most days. I feel like I live a very anachronistic life. I have always felt that I belonged in an earlier era in time like the 1940s or 1950s. I look around and see what kids are turning into and all of the politics going on around the world and my head spins. I just don’t recognize this place anymore and it deeply saddens me. Everything is happening much too quickly and often times I just wish for things to slow down. I’m reminded of a quote from one of my absolute favorite plays, Our Town, by Thornton Wilder. One of the characters, Emily, stated “I can’t. I can’t go on. It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize. So, all that was going on and we never noticed. Take me back—up the hill—to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Goodbye, Goodbye, world. Goodbye, Grover’s Corners…Mama and Papa. Goodbye to clocks ticking…and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths…and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?” I still cry when I read this play. This play has, for me, always captured how everyone still takes life for granted. Everything does move much too fast and it needs to slow down. We need to press pause and take a good look at ourselves and find meaning in our lives once more.

I think that Enigma song, “Return to Innocence” says it best: “If you want, then start to laugh. If you must, then start to cry. Be yourself, don’t hide. Just believe in destiny. Don’t care what people say. Just follow your own way. Don’t give up and use the chance to return to innocence.” With that “return to innocence” mentality, imagine what potential we can tap into for our own creative minds!