So, let me get this straight.
Someone thought that threatening people with an ultimatum: make a video of you dumping a bucket of ice water on yourself or your punishment is parting with $100. Then burden another four poor unfortunate souls with the same ultimatum.
You know, I used to forward those chain emails to hundreds of people too. My wishes never came true. I also didn’t die.
I don’t know what bothers me more: That people are, to get out of paying $100, posting videos of themselves dumping ice water on themselves or that the act of donating has been marred.
The only good thing that came out of all this is the money has gone to a good cause.
Whatever works, right?
If there’s anything positive to come out of Robin Williams’ suicide, it’s the following:
- We’re reminded of how much laughter and joy he brought to our lives
- People are actually talking about depression, what it means and how it affects us
I decided I’d share my experience with depression, because maybe someone else will see it, and maybe it will resonate and maybe that person will get help and end his suffering.
I didn’t realize I was depressed until I stopped being depressed. And thinking back, I could say that I was depressed from ages 13 to 24, and severely so.
I didn’t know the signs. I thought it meant wrist-cutting and thoughts of suicide, which I didn’t do or have. I thought I was just a moody teenager (and later, adult). And I thought the latter because that’s what they told me.
Middle school and high school weighed on me heavily. On the left was the extreme pressure to perform, to get perfect grades, to secure my future. On the right was the agony of low self-esteem, being overweight with bad acne and the general awfulness of growing up, trying to fit in and find yourself. And it started to slowly crush me.
I couldn’t sleep. I wrote dark and emotional journal entries and stories. I overate. And then my parents began their nasty divorce. I changed high schools. The grip of the vice got tighter. I slept less. My writing became darker. I overate more.
I entered my 20s and my family continued to fall apart. I still couldn’t sleep but I filled those sleepless hours with work and school. I became obsessed with exercise. I ate nothing.
But regardless of how the depression manifested itself, I think the most difficult part of those years was that I thought it was normal to be that sad. I thought it was a stasis to be maintained.
I thought, how dare I feel this way? I have everything I have ever needed, so why am I being so selfish and so sad? Depression doesn’t happen to people who have a roof over their heads and food on the table. It doesn’t happen to people who have friends and spending money.
Had I known.
I know now that I wasn’t the only one suffering then. We were all depressed, especially my mom. And I lived with her the majority of those years. Neither of us knew how to ask for help. Neither of us knew that help was an option. She later attempted suicide.
Imagine, two severely depressed people in the same house. How could anyone be happy in that house? I used to hate both of us for it. I hated us both for not picking ourselves up, for being selfish, for being sad. This didn’t happen to two, strong, able women.
Had I known.
I like to think that if I knew that those 10 or so years were just a down - that depression was a legitimate thing that could happen to me, that there was a way up - the down wouldn’t have become such an insufferable holding pattern. That it wouldn’t have been such a struggle to wake up in the morning. That I wasn’t just being a hormonal, dramatic teenager.
I don’t know if this post makes any solid arguments other than depression is complicated. But if anything rings true, I hope it’s this: No matter who you are or where you come from, being well-adjusted takes work, support and maybe a bit of luck.
I hope we learn that depression doesn’t only come from extreme tragedy. I hope we learn that it doesn’t matter what causes it, that depression affects every human being and if left unchecked, it’s soul-crushing.
You know when you don’t feel right. Look at that. Examine it. And don’t be ashamed that you’re suffering.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
A post, a long time in the working about race and identity.
I’m an ethnic minority. And I’m always the minority among minorities.
Yet, I don’t have a lot of stories about racism. Oh, it’s happened. I’m sure it’s happened without me knowing it. But I don’t have stories about racial slurs and narrow eyed stares and angry muttering. Probably because they have no idea about me. Most people don’t have enough knowledge to bother rendering any judgment about me, positive or negative. They nothing me.
I’m Persian but I didn’t grow up with many other Persians. There were plenty in the cities surrounding where I grew up, but in my schools and neighborhoods, the Latinos and Armenians outnumbered the Persians. Much of my family lives abroad.
No one knew me. No one knew anything about my culture. I have a name that’s popular in several languages, all meaning the same thing. I don’t look like what most believe is a typical Persian person. My features are ethnically ambiguous. I’m not Muslim.
They look at me and think, “Question mark.” It’s a giant, “What are you?/Where are you from, really?/Are you sure?” type of experience that makes me feel lost, like I’m making everything up.
Persian? Like the Prince of Persia? There’s no Persia anymore. You mean you’re Middle Eastern.
Some may argue that they’d take my experience any day of the week. That sitting in class, learning about how the ancestors of the kids next to you owned your ancestors is pretty awful. That you’d never want to be pulled over because of the color of your skin.
But what about sitting in class and not learning about your ancestors at all? What about answering the question, “What are you?” and getting a blank stare in return? And the few people who do know, only know about your country’s nuclear sanctions? Or react like the language you speak is about as rare as Latin (Oh, so you speak Arabic?).
"What are you?" means they want to put you in a box. I get it, this is how humans function: We compartmentalize everything, because it’s just easier that way. But there’s no box for me, and I don’t know if that’s worse.
I don’t want to be put in a box. I don’t want to be judged. But I want to be recognized. I want to be familiar. I want people to see me and know that I come from a beautiful culture with a deep and rich history. That I’m not a novelty. That there are millions of people like me.
People develop bonds over their shared experiences, even if they’re negative. But what if no one else has shared your experience? The only jokes anyone can make about me are about terrorists and Al-Qaeda, or about being Muslim, or oppressing women. None of those apply to me, not even a little.
Some would say I’m lucky that I can slip through existence in this racially charged society without recognition, without too much trouble. Because really, how much of a sacrifice is one’s identity anyway?