What To Do When Your Jerkbrain Might Be Right

Right now the world is doing a number of pretty shitty things for people who are minorities or oppressed. Brexit is a clusterfuck. Donald Trump may actually get elected. The Orlando shooting. The murder of Youtuber Christina Grimmie. The assassination of British MP Jo Cox. Continued police shootings of black men. Conversations about mental illness and gun control and race and cops and xenophobia and fear fear fear. It’s everywhere. The world right now keeps reminding us that it’s a scary place, and many people are feeling overwhelmed and depressed and hopeless.

I’ve seen in particular in my circles that people who already struggle with depression or anxiety are floundering. Our brains tell us that we should panic or we should give up. Normally we would use skills to remind ourselves that the world isn’t awful and things aren’t falling apart. Most of those skills involve looking at whether things are actually as awful as they seem. And sadly, right now…things might be as awful as they seem. My friend Greta Christina inspired this post by saying “TFW your depressed jerkbrain is telling you that the world is terrible and frightening, and you feel like this time it might be right.”

In the meantime, I’ve gotten engaged, adopted two gloriously hilarious kittens, and generally had one of the best months of my life. This puts me in the weird position of having excess joy to share with others, of being the one who has the energy to help remind people that we will get through this. I never thought I would be the one bringing optimism to the party, but I suppose when you’re handed a lot of awesome while others are getting a shit sandwich the least you can do is invite them to your table.

So I’ve been asking myself: is there anything that I can offer others right now? Is there any smidgen of happiness I can pass on to the people who are seeing very real pain and suffering, and wondering how they can survive in a world that doesn’t seem to want them?

My happy things in no way make any of the bad things that have happened recently better. Not even for me. The day after I got engaged I woke up to news of the Pulse shooting, and simultaneously was giddy with excitement at my own future and sick at what I was hearing. Nothing can insulate you from the shock and pain of death and cruelty.

But similarly, I still get to feel happy. I am still capable of feeling happy. The things that make me happy cannot be touched by guns or racism or even Donald Trump’s orange face. Here are some happy things.

Yesterday I asked my fiance (FIANCE) how we should ask our friend to be the officiant at our wedding and he replied “yes”.

This morning I was awoken by two very wiggly and very soft kittens throwing themselves all over me.

I have a shiny, rainbow ring that I get to wear every day.

I’m head over heels in love and I just asked someone if they want to permanently entwine their life with mine and they said yes. Not only that, but dozens of my friends jumped at the chance to help me propose, to dress up in silly costumes and play a ridiculous card game just to make my day great.

These are all small facts. They don’t fight gun violence. They don’t save lives. But they are why we care about life. They’re why we’re sad when people’s lives are lost. Remember that the reason you’re sad is because you think there’s something worth fighting for.

Objectively, things suck, but objectively, there are things that make me smile in my life. Those two facts exist at the same time, and both of them have to have a place in your understanding of the world. If you want some reminders of what might make you smile here are some things to think about:

Are there people in your life that you love? Think about them for a minute. Not just their name or their relationship to you, but the way they smile, or their particular brand of humor, or how they get gentle around kids, or how they ask to make you dinner when you’re sick. It’s easy to say that people are awful and cruel. In my experience, people are loving, delicious, complex, confusing beings that pour out light when you ask what fuels them. It only takes a few that give off the right shade of light to make your skin tingle and your eyes crinkle. We are capable of feeling love. I don’t really know what the fuck love is, but it’s a pretty heady drug and I find it really cool that we get to feel it, and accept it.

You get to make choices about your life. I can’t put into words how important it is to pay attention to all the things you have chosen in your life. I’m not denying that there are a billion things we don’t get to choose, but we get to choose who we spend our time with. We get to choose to have pets. We get to choose to read cool things and listen to weird podcasts and explore the internet. We get to choose (to some extent) where and who we live with. We get to choose what food we eat and how we wear our hair. And yes, I realize that all of these things are constrained in different ways for different people, but all of us have some choices, and those choices are so important. Pay attention to them. I chose a life partner. I chose goofy little kittens. I chose to spend my time at a big nerd convention. Those facts are powerful.

I realize that all of this is trite. I realize that it only makes me super happy because it’s new. But why does it have to be like that? Why can’t I always think it’s amazing that I have a fiance? Why can’t I spend hours playing with my kittens every week? Because of real life? THIS IS REAL LIFE. Real life is not just the bad awful things. It’s the times when you’re walking on air too. It’s the months where every good thing happens at once. Those aren’t fake reprieves from objective reality. They have to count in your schema too. You cannot make it through life without remembering those things that are good enough that you said yes. Those people that are good enough that you wanted to give them your time.

So just do me a favor and during the nastybad times, remember that all of the good things still exist. Pay attention to your people. Pay attention to what lights you up. It is not bad to look away for a moment and remember why it hurts when life is taken: because life is worth it. Even your life.

3 thoughts on “What To Do When Your Jerkbrain Might Be Right

  1. Mtap says:

    “I suppose when you’re handed a lot of awesome while others are getting a shit sandwich the least you can do is invite them to your table.”
    This is is the best sentence! I love your blog.

  2. Lisa W. Hughes RN, BSN says:

    I think you are INCREDIBLE! I admire you so much for embracing your mental illness! It is people like you who will break down the stigma, & change our world! ! Keep up your talented writing, & amazing work!! #talkaboutitsavealife

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