I get asked this question a lot and this promotional video from United Way / 211MD does a GREAT job of explaining just what a “typical” day looks like for me. And I’m not just saying this because it features yours truly! (I’m totally just saying this because it features yours truly.)
There’s no “usual” or “boring” day. Being a crisis counselor and resource specialist is more than just talking people off that literal ledge, it’s being there during someone’s worst moments and helping them realize they can get through this.
That’s what has been running through my head the past few days after watching someone dive deep into depression and anger over the past few weeks. How long do you stay angry at the injustices you’ve experienced in the past?
The more I start to examine this, I’m starting to believe you are a victim when IT happens to you. Whatever IT is. After IT, that’s the real test of your mettle: you can either stay a victim or become a Survivor.
That doesn’t mean your anger has to go away, or will go away. But maybe it’s more about what you choose to do WITH that anger that becomes important. There are Survivors who work -HARD- to process what happened to them and move beyond it. Move to a place where they no longer judge themselves by IT happening.
IT becomes a (small) part of who we are, a tiny thing that makes up the larger SELF that is thriving and vibrant and moving towards freedom. They take their anger and they DO something with it.
But… then there are Survivors that can’t seem to understand that they’ve Survived. They’re still lost in their victimhood. They’re still fixated on their wrong, and allow their anger over being wronged to drive them forward (when really they’re regressing backward). Never to grow, never to move past IT.
We are a culmination of our traumas and our triumphs, and triumphing over a past trauma is a journey that never seems to end, but can get better and become incredibly rewarding with hard work.
What kind of Survivor do you want to be?
Sometimes it’s good to take lessons where we can get them. Today I was reminded that perspective is incredibly important when it comes to my mental health.
Cleaning up after breakfast this morning I was all ready to have the Worst Day Ever after spilling (room temperature) grease all over the counter, which made some of it spill onto the floor.
My immediate reaction was to curse at myself, tell myself horrible things, and generally try to make myself feel even worse after making a mess, par for the course for Vee.
Until my (ridiculously big but still a) puppy ran up – more excited than I’ve seen him in… well maybe five minutes because PUPPY. And he immediately leaped into fix-it mode, providing me with all the assistance I needed (and more) with cleaning up this “mess.”
I put that word in quotes the second time for a reason, because it struck me that my mistake was his gain. What I might have considered a horrible way to start the morning turned into the BEST MORNING EVER (this week) for my seven-month-old Rottweiler.
Seeing him so happy made me laugh and made me instantly let go of my anger. This is one of the biggest reasons why I love dogs, why I’ll always have a dog, and why they’re so integral to my mental health.
So THANK YOU UNIVERSE, for reminding me that problems need to be put into context, for reminding me not to be so hard on myself, and for letting me be a part of my puppy’s BEST MORNING EVER (until mom spills something awesome again).
And I’ll admit it, I’m a little afraid. I’m scared of what she might make me face about myself even though that’s exactly what I need. It’s been (oh lordy) maybe almost 20 years since I’ve asked for help from a professional? And I find myself going back and forth between being excited to work on myself and being scared to admit that I need help. I’m the one that helps people – I’m the one on the other end of the line helping someone else get through some serious shit, and here I am reaching out to someone else in my field.
But – that’s not fair, is it?
It isn’t fair for me to feel ashamed or scared of what’s going to possibly come up – because that would make me a liar to every one of my callers that I urge to seek treatment. How can I tell them that it’s okay to open up and trust a professional if I won’t do the same thing for myself?
Okay – mental, Cher-inspired “SNAP OUT OF IT!” slap-moment is over – LET’S DO THIS, let’s go get some help…
I was going to write this two months ago to mark a different anniversary, when I was laid off from a job that was the culmination of my career in entertainment and social media. The weeks and months ahead left me struggling with my self-esteem in a way that completely surprised me. I was going to take my time remembering the fear and anger, the sense of betrayal, and a resurgence of the depression I’ve struggled with my entire life.
But I changed my mind and decided to write this for a different milestone, celebrating when my life changed for the better in a way I hadn’t thought possible.
Crisis counseling was stumbled into on a total whim, after reading the job posting and thinking, ‘What the hell?’ Because hey, I’ve been through some SHIT. Good writing gigs are always hard to come by– at least, the kind that don’t make you question whether or not you’re a compassionate or productive member of society. So in the meantime, why not try <gasp> GIVING. BACK?!?
And you know what? This year of trying something totally new has become one of the most rewarding of my life. This job, while hard and emotionally draining at times, is also the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done professionally.
Yes, there are challenging calls and frustrating callers. There are also moments that are beautiful and profound that leave me walking away from my shift feeling like I’ve actually made a difference in the universe today, even if it’s just because of one conversation. It’s the most tangible proof I’ve ever had that I’m not alone, and we can still connect with total strangers in a way that can be life-changing.
So far I’ve figured this out: the Me from a year ago that thought my professional life was over was right in a way. That part of my life – the hustle for leads and scramble for pitches, the constant checking of feeds and measuring of trends – that part is over, for now. Just… for now. And maybe… it’s over forever… I’m at peace with that too if that’s how the cards lay out.
It’s been a year of a different life, a different career, a different purpose, and it’s been one of the best. I thought my life was imploding, now I know that wasn’t the end. But at the time I was so immersed in the pain that I just couldn’t see that, and maybe it’s like that for others, and if I can help in any way it’s to say this:
Please don’t give up – there’s always a chance that it can get better. Sometimes it’s working hard and keeping that chin up, sometimes it’s just getting to the next day and trying again, but never doubt that great things can be ahead if you keep fighting for them.
I’m sitting here in one of the greatest eras of my life. I can say that in all honesty. No job has been more rewarding, new friendships have never been so promising. I love someone more fiercely, more open and honestly than I ever have before.
So… Why am I still angry? Why am I still feeling inadequate? Why do the demons I’ve tried so hard to run from continue to nip at my heels?
And there’s no answer to that. Because mental illness doesn’t really have an answer. There’s no real explanation or rhyme or reason to it, there’s just the desire to overcome it. And that’s what I have to keep fighting for – I just have to keep fighting for the ability to fight this at all.
That’s the real point, right? In the words of the incredible actor Jared Padalecki, who has been so kind in being open with his fans about his own struggles: ALWAYS KEEP FIGHTING — ALWAYS!
We can have everything we’ve ever wanted: success, love, even happiness – and for people who struggle with depression it’s still a battle to keep your head up. Because the struggle wasn’t there at your job, the struggle wasn’t with your friends, your family, or any of your lovers. The struggle is there inside you – and it’s not going away.
So we keep fighting together, moving forward together. Because all I can do is keep striving to be that Better Me. The Me that feels the weight of my own thoughts but keeps going anyway, keeps pushing my whole self towards a Better Self.
No matter how long that struggle takes, if I devote my life to striving to be that Better Me, it’s never going to be a wasted life. And the alternative? The alternative is untimely death – and I’m Better Than That. We Are Better Than That. Together.
So please – please keep fighting. We’re together in this, no matter how far away you are, I’m with you, a lot of people are with you.