Depression, Isolation, and Social Shaming

Bullying in the Wake of COVID-19

Depression and Isolation

We are supposed to be living in a time where we are trying to end the stigma around mental health issues and yet, everywhere I look, there is something tragic going on, social shaming. As of right now, there is a rallying cry for people to stay home, isolate, and immediately end the spread of COVID-19.  We are at the critical containment phase, based on our best scientific information.  The current directive is to self quarantine for 14 days if you have any symptoms, and to seek medical assistance if your health gets worse.  But with that directive, something else is bubbling up.  People on social media are starting to panic, get incredibly passionate, and emotional about the current events.  And sadly, this is leading to actual bullying and social shaming of all of those who are socializing in public spaces.  And for me, it is difficult to watch.  Why? Because I have a very close connection to depression, and part of what keeps this at bay is socialization. 

Hanging out with friends, going out into the sunshine, and interacting with strangers is all part of my house holds mental health regime.  Whenever we are feeling low, the boost that comes from getting out of the house is enormous.  In fact, it is necessary for both of us to ensue that we keep a clean bill of health.  And yes, I know what you are going to say, that we are selfish.  That the only way to stop the spread of this virus is to just stay home.  That it is only for 14 days. But at what cost is this to individuals around the world who are social extroverts and need human interaction?

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I recognize this is a complicated matter.  And no, I am not saying I have all the answers, or even that my opinion is valid in the grand scheme of containment.  But, I am very much attached to the humans in my household.  And I fully believe that small bars, breweries, and pubs are doing everything they can to sanitize their facilities and try to keep their patrons safe.  And this is why, I will, for the time being continue to support their businesses.  And no, I am not doing this to be selfish, or with a blind eye to the pandemic we are facing. 

I am doing this because my mental health matters too.  We cannot just pick and choose which parts of ourselves we are willing to protect or keep safe.  We need to understand that we are whole human beings, and with an increase of depression, or increased stress levels, the science does back up the fact that we become more susceptible to disease and infections.  Perhaps not with corona virus, and I doubt there will be any time in the rampant spread to conduct studies about this, and nor am I asking any doctor to spend any time investigating this. It is far more important to try and find a cure, vaccine, and to treat all the individuals currently facing this incredibly fast moving infection. 

COVID-19 is spreading.  And it is spreading at an alarming rate.  But please, understand that there is new information coming out hourly about it.  So please, stop bullying or social shaming those who absolutely have to get out of the house.  Let those who require socialization to remain calm in the wake of this panic do what they need to do.  Isolation is hard on all of us, but, it can be life or death for those with depression.  Do not waste a minute more shaming or judging others.  Instead, concern your efforts on protecting yourself and your family.  And for goodness sake, wash your hands, and stop hoarding toilet paper!

Edit: After writing this post, and really listening to the information out there, and all you kind readers who took the time to say I was right out on left field… thank you. Sometimes I blog to work through something, vent my frustrations, or just simply voice an opinion that I may change with more information. And with that additional research and information I was able able to write a positive resource on Non-monogamy in Isolation that I hope helps us all!

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My Life is Not Perfect and It May Never Be

My life is not perfect

Over the past year, I placed a big carrot in front of me.  I wanted to achieve something I have never had in my adult life, and I focused my attention on that one thing.  At the age of 36, I was finally going to be debt free, by making a huge life change, and sacrificing home ownership for the removal of this mental burden.  Why am I sharing this with you?  Because, it hasn’t happened yet.  And in the interim of this will it, or won’t it scenario, I am learning a whole bunch about myself, and my mental health.

It turns out, having a carrot to work towards, is not something that gives me peace.  It is just too big a goal, and far beyond my direct control.  Thus, I placed my mental happiness on something in the future, and one that was not a sure thing.  I am going to tell you with complete honesty, that it came close to destroying me.  I forgot to find joy in the day to day.  I became consumed with this idea, that my happiness depended on this far off event, and if I just held out for a few more days, weeks, months, then I could finally smile again.  Then, I could breath a huge sigh of relief. 

I’ve made this mistake in the past.  I put all my eggs into a basket, that seems like a sure thing, and allow my mental well being to just kind of simmer, until this goal is achieved.  I’ve done this with my career, with my past relationships (maybe even my current one, but that is too close to home to analyze right now), and I just snapped myself out of doing this for a moment longer with my debt.

The thing is, I do have to make sacrifices right now.  I have put the exploration of my sexual fluidity on hold.  I was so excited to have a first date with a female, but the reality is, dating is expensive and very time consuming.  I know this.  And it would not be fair or even rational to put myself out there right now.  But, as I am figuring out, not everything I do has to feel like I am giving something up.  I can enjoy my 20 minutes of yoga a day, with clarity.  I can take breaks to play video games because it makes me happy, and my brain needs mental breaks throughout the day.  And yes, I feel proud of all the writing and progress I am making working from home part time. 

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In the past little while, I have resisted posting pity me social media status’s and it has been difficult.  I cried out loud to my partner, that I just wished someone would finally feel sorry for me, and tell me that I have come so far after such a difficult journey.  Let me just have one person feel sorry for me, I sobbed.  And you know what?  He did the complete opposite.  He told me that I could be proud of what I had done, and reminded me, that it is OK to take breaks and not work so hard.  I don’t have to prove to myself that I work 80 hours a week, to feel good about myself.  I can work half that, and enjoy my breaks and the little things.  And that my friends, is when I realized that I was using this carrot as my permission slip to be happy.  And, well, that is change I am making in my life.  I may never be out of debt, and I may never enjoy the financial freedom that I believe I would as a child.  And you know what?  I very well still could.  This isn’t that I am giving up on achieving a goal.  Instead, I am trying to be more aware and conscious that I can be proud of myself right now.  That I can celebrate small victories with as much intensity as the big ones.  And well, just writing that, the lump in my throat went down.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and the tears that were brimming as I typed, slowly just went away.  I don’t need to spell out all my obstacles and hurdles to you all to elicit sympathy.  Instead, I can let that go, and focus on the joy and the smaller moments.  Life is what you make of it right? 

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Sex and My Mental Health

Is the mischief being managed?

No matter how hard I try to pretend that my sex life is not intrinsically linked to my mental health, I cannot.  When I do not orgasm for a few days, my capacity to handle day to day tasks diminishes.  And when I have not been hugged, kissed, cuddled, or am starved for intimacy for any length of time I flounder.  I want to be better than this.  I want to be independent of my dependency on intimacy, but I just cannot do it.  I can be brave and strong for a while, and then, before my eyes, I see my judgement and basic autonomy over my own emotions faulter.  I see my confidence fade and worse, I begin to make negative correlations such as, my life is this way because I must have done something dreadful in a past life, and other such rhetoric.  And to be clear, I don’t even believe in past lives, so this dialogue makes absolutely zero sense.

I will admit, that I don’t enjoy asking for sex or intimacy.  It is one of those things that I take for granted and usually just falls into my lap (this is not a brag, just a pattern I have noticed).  Or I have developed a dynamic with a person who loves being the instigator and we fall into an incredible thing whereby I never quite know when I’m going to get laid (and I love that!).  But this time around, things feel different.  I’m not sure if it is age sneaking up on me, or what, but I just feel like I am looking for connections in all the wrong places.  And that is making me fail even harder.  I mean, I usually love a great challenge, and the thrill of something forbidden. This works well for me, because up until recently, I have always had something to fall back on.  So coming back from the “hunt” empty handed, was never an issue.  I have never felt this starved before. 

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And it is wearing me down.  I have questioned my self worth, my sex appeal, my value, and basically the whole, do I even deserve to be loved?  I can honestly tell you that being non-monogamous (a post about where I have been in the non-monogamous world for too long) does not make any of these feelings easier.  I feel the same loneliness I would if I was in a partnership with just one person.  Just because I am able to see multiple people does not mean that I am free of feeling this void, this emptiness.  And it would be melodramatic to state that it is even harder, because I am doubly or triply lonely.  That I should already have my tribe and never feel this way.  That somehow the whole point of this expansive relationship norm, should prevent this total collapse into my pity party.  But, I am no different from any other lonely person, figuring life out, and trying to get their needs met, both emotionally, and physically.

I just want to love with my whole being, and be loved the same way in return.  And until I can find a rational, and ethical way to get my physical needs met, I am going to struggle mentally.  I need the orgasmic release of endorphins to get me through this next little while.  I cannot fight this battle as it’s just a part of who I am.  I want to be wanted, and I want to continue going after things that make me feel amazing. And in this, there is no conclusion, simply putting out into the void the rock and hard place I find myself in. 

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Getting Back to Nudity and Nature

Nudity and Nature

For the past few years I have been running on empty, treading water so to speak (not that I actually knew what was happening or what was wrong at the time).  I found myself in a situation with too many changes at once.  I was forced to pick a new career, and that put everything I had and was into flux.  I was completely overwhelmed by uncertainty.  My default mode was to just stay positive.  Remain optimistic and hopeful that things would inevitably get better, because they had to.  If I just kept putting good things into the universe then at some point, the good would have to flow back to me.

Well, that dam finally broke and I was no longer able to hold it together.  As I watched everything around me crumble, I felt despair in the realization that hope was no longer going to feed me, or keep a roof over my head.  It was terrifying.  After what I believe was akin to a panic attack I reached out for professional help.  There was no way I could reset myself alone.  I was done.  What I had been doing for 3 and a half years was no longer working.  I needed guidance, and a new way to approach the seemingly insurmountable stress and help me find meaning in my new direction. 

At this point, I want to point out that I am not trying to give any medical or professional advice when it comes to mental health.  I knew I was in trouble, but the whole, you don’t know what you don’t know was rattling in my head.  And it took a highly trained professional to hone in on exactly what I was missing.  And that, was to give myself permission to recharge.  To take a break in my day, and do an activity that I loved, could bring me joy, and allow me to give myself a mental, physical, and emotional break.  For you see, I had been treading water for so long, that I got myself into a feedback loop whereby I could only get ahead if I gave it everything I had.  And if I failed, it was simply because I was not working hard enough.  But I wasn’t getting ahead, so I need to push harder, and not stop until I reached the goal.  In all that struggle, I lost myself.  I lost the joy in life, and I couldn’t relax.  Every single time I watched TV, guilt would strangle me.  That nagging voice telling me I should be writing, I should be networking, I should be taking photos, and podcasting and creating and on and on and on.  I was burnt out. 

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It took a professional for my stubborn self to let go, and accept that I needed this recharge.  And not only once.  I needed to work into my daily and weekly schedule a time to rest, relax, laugh, and just have some fun doing an activity outside of my normal routine.  Life will always have stress, and life will always have difficult times ahead.  It’s how we choose to react, and how we interpret the events that really matters.  Perspective is everything.  And if that perspective is based on facts, then guess what?  You’re laughing.  And I could only see that, once I had allowed my mind, body, and soul to stop running on empty.  To take a real break.  And to incorporate joy and rest into my day. 

So why then did I call this post nudity and nature you may ask?  Well, because for the past 2 weeks, I have been getting out into nature to write, and I am celebrating this momentous change in my perspective.  Or perhaps, more of a refresh, back towards something I used to do when life was just a little bit easier or at the very least with a clear path.  Once I got into nature, and found a beautiful secluded place, all I wanted to do was strip down and become one with it.  Cliché or not, I just felt incredibly joy in standing with my bare breasts in the sunshine, taking all the beauty in, and knowing for the next few hours this was my sanctuary.  To celebrate all the joy, to smile, and to sit down and write completely distraction and internet free.  If anyone wants to share in my joy, please check out my Patreon to see the full images of me at one with nature. 

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And, if any of you resonated with this post please reach out.  There is no shame in it.  We need to ensure that we are working together to end the stigma around mental health.  And that starts with talking about it.  Normalizing the stresses we feel, and removing shame or guilt in not being able to do everything on your own.

Breaking Free From Gaslighting

Gaslighting

First off, I am a survivor and not a victim.  I say that out loud to myself from time to time, because I find it helps me regain my power and control over the situation that I found myself in a few years ago (sorry I cannot give a specific timeline due to circumstance outside of my control).  Why did it take me so long to come out and write about it?  Because, it was difficult for me to put a label on it, and publicly address what happened to me, especially as, until recently, many of the people I considered extended family read my blog and knew this man.  The silly thing is, the fear of not writing this post, is a key reason why I need to.  I need to break any and all control that my former mentor, and confident has/had over me, and I need to do it from a place of serenity and autonomy, and try not to let the fear of him getting upset and isolating me any further (I still am keeping his full identity anonymous as this is about healing and not about starting a witch hunt). This is my experience as I am Breaking free from gaslighting.

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What is Gaslighting?

When I first read about the term gaslighting, I dismissed it as the latest buzzword.  A trend to label behaviour that was most likely a form of abuse and required a person to just get out of the situation.  For the most part, I dismiss labels, and by doing that I feel that I can be more fluid and not allow them to define or trap me.  However, as I recently discovered, I needed this term in my life, to come to full terms with what was happening to me, and just how bad things were about to get.  If you want a fuller description of gaslighting, please check out this link, but for the context of this post it is someone who never apologizes without making you feel guilty.  It is someone who makes you feel isolated and that everything wrong is your fault, and claims to love you unconditionally with caveats that are completely unachievable.  They lie repeatedly, refuse to take any personal responsibility, and what for me was even worse, they tell everyone that you are the crazy one.  Honestly, there were times that the magnitude of how cruel the whole situation was, I could barely catch my breath.  And being isolated from all my family friends, and not realizing how deep the isolation actually went, I would naively turn to them for help and end up making an even bigger hole for myself, by proving that I was the crazy one who was off kilter. 

All I can say, is that even though he tried numerous times to turn my partner against me, and drive a wedge between us, my partner has the most incredible B.S. detector I have ever met and he called him out for exactly what he was, and what he was doing to me.  Without my partner, I may have crumbled and gone crawling back to this man because I honestly was left with, a feeling of complete nothingness. 

Where Am I Now?

While I still feel the weight from time to time of this person’s years of abuse, and occasionally find myself asking if I am stupid or weak, I have far more good days than bad. I have incredible friends who ensure I do not feel alone, and are happy just to sit in silence sipping a beer with me if I need to, sometimes it’s not enough.  There are moments, that I dream about him, and honestly wake up believing that things are back to how I idealized they were when I was younger.  I feel this incredible calm, that maybe this nightmare I have lived is over, and I am free.  I go back and forth between fantasy and reality, sometimes worried that I will never know the truth.  I am not fully free of this man, and for my mental sanity, I have to just accept that for the time being and continue to find peace in what I can control.  And that, is how I move forward with my life, and how I can forgive myself for living so long with the mental hell of my past.  

And please, out of respect for me, and my families privacy as I continue to work through this difficult time, do not guess who this person is, or try and reach out to that individual.  There is zero good that can come from that.  And I have learned that the only person that I can control is myself.  I am not looking for apologies, answers, or even acknowledgment.  I am simply taking care of my own mental health by writing this very painful post out, and continuing to heal with purpose.

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