Struggle Is Normal – It’s Okay To Be Depressed

Well Hey There!

I’m going to be very real for a moment. I deal with PTSD, it causes depression and anxiety in alternating strokes. It’s hard to deal with, it’s hard to do anything around it, it’s hard to motivate with it.

And yet, I’m still here, still writing, still trying to create something worth putting out into the world.

Earlier today, for most of my working day, I have been struggling to write and article that I have, in truth, been working on for most of the week. It’s personal, it’s political, and it requires me to put myself out there in a way that is uncomfortable and frightening.

I also think it deserves to be written and deserves to be shared.

But it isn’t what I’m writing right now. You see, I have also been struggling with a mental health crisis the last several months precipitated by the car crash I wrote about in more detail several months ago.

But one of the biggest struggles has not been writing, I do that all the time, it hasn’t been finances, I saved to make taking a shot at this possible, it hasn’t been interpersonal, my partner is the most loving and supportive human I have ever met, my friendships are stronger now than ever before, my family cares about me and also supports this attempt.

My biggest struggle has been going for this dream, still being depressed and anxious, and feeling like a failure because of it. Life is as close to what I want as it has ever been. The missing pieces are small, the benefits are huge. It often feels like I can’t possibly do this without loving every second of it.

That isn’t true.

Mental health crisis is a part of life. So is hardship, lack of motivation, and difficulty finding inspiration.

I don’t want to hide those things. This work is difficult. It doesn’t yet pay. It takes me doing research, writing well, and being honest with myself and with you.

I am learning, all the time. And I am often overwhelmed.

And yet it is still worth it.

I’m writing this to repeat and to emphasize a bit of wisdom that is often repeated, but, I think, less often listened to. It is okay to be depressed. It is okay to struggle. It is okay to occasionally be unhappy.

Your depression defines neither you nor what you do.

Even when your depression or anxiety becomes difficult to manage, when it makes you second guess everything, it is still not all that you are.

You can do great things while depressed.

You can be a wonderful person while depressed.

You can be fulfilled and make meaning in your life, while depressed.

It’s trite, it’s true, and I often need the reminder myself.

So. I’m posting this instead of the article I have been working on all week. That article is coming, as are future posts about the Just World Hypothesis, updates on my other writing endeavors, Cool Things Other People Do, and much much more. Because my depression and PTSD is not going to stop me from being the person I want to be and doing the things I want to do.

I hope you are well.
I’ll be keeping a light on.

R.

Now Enters the Kitten!

Updates on my personal life, kitten photos, and some thoughts on managing PTSD and big dreams.

Well Hello There!

I have good news! I have a new kitten, who is currently trying to distract me from writing. Pretty successfully too.

baby jasper
Jasper likes to curl up in my arms for a nap.

He’s from a local rescue that was holding adoption events to help find homes for the many kittens they get in spades this time of year.

But he wasn’t really a spur of the moment decision. Sure, we decided pretty quickly to go to the adoption event, and decided pretty quickly at the event on which kitten wanted to come home with us, but I’ve wanted a cat for years now, basically ever since having to leave my previous cat with my parents and her tight-bonded sibling when I left for college. I’m hoping Jasper will grow up to be on the cuddly side, certainly he has been so far, but it’s okay if he doesn’t.

More than just because I really believe that our pets are going to be themselves, and not necessarily what we want them to be, I’m okay with whatever his personality turns into because I got him as another connection.

Let me explain.

Having PTSD, at least for me, means managing a lot of complicated interactions between stress and pretty much everything else. What I want and what I need are often very different things.

For instance, I have to actively manage my stress and how much I work. It’s not a matter of just having a bad day or a bad week, or even month, if I get too stressed it interferes with my ability to think, to work, and to make good decisions for myself and the people around me.

Worst case scenarios are total shut-downs that can take hours or days to resolve, during which time I might need reminders to eat, to bathe, to do something to distract myself. Work, even work I enjoy, isn’t possible during those times.

Except. Taking care of a cat is always possible for me. It doesn’t matter how bad things are, or how upset I am, if there is a cat that needs food, water, or petting, I can do that. I can make that happen for that animal.

Jasper on the couch
Yes, I’m photo dumping my cat. Guest starring The White Dragon by Laura Resnick in the background. (I was cleaning)

Maybe this key to doing something even when I’m under extreme stress comes from having been raised with cats. I don’t remember a time I didn’t have cats. Usually I had a cat that was mine, and a cat that was my mom’s.

Jasper is more even than that to me. Yes, having a cat is important to managing my worst symptoms. Having a cat in the room helps immensely. But we have other cats, other animals in the house I can go to for that unique comfort than comes from our furry companions.

Jasper is a connection, a link, another string in the dream catcher of my social support network. Jasper needs me. He needs me as much or more than I need him. Already we are showing signs of the tight-bonding that occurs between some people and their closest pets.

You may be wondering if pets can be included in your network of social supports like that. I argue that yes, yes they can. The relationship between animal and human may not be the same as the relationship between two people, but it is still a strong bond.

More, animal companions can be there when people cannot. When my partner is at work, Jasper is still home. When I need to vent or reach out and can’t, whatever the reason, I can cuddle or play with Jasper. I can talk to him to order my thoughts, I can watch him to lift my mood, I can trust that he will be here at home when I need emotional support.

In exchange I can’t offer him the things I would offer a friend. But I can give him all the love in my heart. I can make sure he has healthy food and plenty of clean fresh water. I can get him toys and play with him. I can hold him and make sure he is warm and safe, and take him to the vet to make sure he’s healthy.

I can make sure he’s as happy as any house pet can be.

Jaspers ears
The Magnificent Marvelous Ears

We rely on each other. It’s a deep and meaningful two-way connection that brings value to us both.

That’s a huge part of managing PTSD. At least I think so. I don’t have a ton of friends. I don’t need them. I cultivate the few, deep, meaningful connections I need. I set the expectation for myself to be of benefit to the people who benefit me. To offer them the support and care they give me.

I manage it carefully. I can’t always do it, and neither can they. These sorts of bonds take lots of work, knowing when to take a step back, and when your friend needs you there even if they aren’t able to deal with the things bothering them.

It’s knowing when you need a break.

Jasper is quickly becoming my break space. He’s also a major motivation. Because he needs me he needs me to make good choices. He needs me to work toward being my best self.

His presence relaxes me. I can give myself permission to take a minute, to take a breath. Plus, he sometimes demands my total attention, trying to steal taco meat from my salad, curling up on my lap, licking my face, and purring like a motorcycle with all his tiny self.

And yes, being my best self means following my dreams too. My best self is someone with big goals. I don’t always have the confidence to get there, but I can give myself the additional motivation to make that happen.

Jasper, right now, lives for cuddles and toys. We’ll introduce him to catnip and treats and new toys soon, but for now, in our room, he lives for the fun of the space and the love from me.

He needs me. I need him. He keeps me going, and I’ll show him all the joys of cat life.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a pretty great friendship to me. A pretty great support. A pretty great tool in my mental health toolbox.