Hello &

Hello &

Wentworth Earl Miller III

Wentworth Earl Miller III

V.I.P.

V.I.P.

Monday, June 5, 2017

#survivalmode


I love You!
♥♥


WENTWORTH MILLER·MONDAY, JUNE 5, 2017

I was struck by a blog post. Or maybe it was an editorial piece. It read like a letter. And a public apology. Of sorts. Written to someone (everyone?) the author had met when/while they were unwell.
"I wasn't myself back then," was the gist. "Back then I was depressed. But now I'm better. And I'd like a second chance to make a first impression."

That was the general idea. And it struck me.

I respected the writer. I respected their truth.

And (it's a "both/and" not an "either/or") it wasn't my truth.

The mental health community (by which I mean those of us who struggle with mental health issues/illnesses) is a diverse one. Ask a 100 people who suffer from depression what it means to be depressed, and you'll get a 100 different answers. All of them true.

It's important to respect that (IMO).

The writer's truth wasn't my truth but that didn't make it untrue. If that makes sense.

Side Note: This is why I don't claim to be a "voice for the voiceless." I may stand closer to the megaphone than some, but when I speak, I speak for myself. About myself. If what I say resonates with the next person, reflects some part of their story, great. But sooner or later I'm going to say something that's true for me and me alone. And I reserve that right. My survival - rooted in self-expression, in sharing my truth, in my own time and way - depends on it. So when it comes to mental health, I make it clear: I don't speak for other people. And they don't speak for me. Because that would be impossible. Unless they happen to be a 45-year-old gay man of mixed race born in the UK, raised in Brooklyn, and their name is "Wentworth Miller."

(Then yes, they speak for me.)

Back to the blog post. The one that struck me.

"I wasn't myself back then," was the gist. "Back then I was depressed. But now I'm better. And I'd like a second chance to make a first impression."

Like I said, this read like an apology. Of sorts. Which I got/get. Totally.

Over the years (decades) I suffered from depression, I did and said things I later felt the need to apologize for. Sometimes I did it in person, sometimes via phone call or email. Sometimes my apologies were accepted. Regardless, it was important that I say the words. "I'm sorry." That I take ownership of what I did and said during those years when I was struggling.

Two things I did not and will not apologize for:

1. Being depressed.

2. Being the person I was when I was depressed.

I don't/won't apologize for being depressed because I couldn't/can't help it. Like the color of my eyes, it was/is beyond my control.

I don't/won't apologize for being the person I was when I was depressed because while yes, that person (me) did and said things I later felt the need to apologize for, that person (me) also saved my f-cking life.

True story.

That person (me) - angry, grieving, bored, numb, rude, restless, hopeless, sleepless, shiftless, sluggish, selfish, unkind, awkward, reclusive, explosive, compulsive, erratic, unreliable and frequently unpredictable - is the reason I'm still here today.

I'm no longer in the business of shaming myself. These days, I recognize that self-love and self-worth look like embracing all of me. My entirety. My full spectrum. Up to and including who I was in My Darkest Days when I was Not My Best Self. When I was Just Getting By and Putting One Foot In Front Of The Other.

When my phone's running out of juice and switches to "Low Battery Mode," I don't get pissed at my phone. I'm grateful. It's doing what it needs to do to squeeze out those extra minutes.

I'm grateful to the me I was when I was depressed. The me in "Low Battery Mode." To him I say, "Thank you for squeezing out those extra minutes (years). Would I choose to be you again? F-ck no. That doesn't mean you aren't worth honoring. You did what you needed to do, dude. You were in survival mode. And you made a f-cking mess. And today I'm around to smell the roses. That's thanks to you."

The me I was when I was depressed doesn't deserve to be disowned now that I'm "better." That would be a) ungrateful b) disrespectful and c) potentially deadly. Because I may need him again someday.
Once upon a time, the disconnect between who I pretended to be ("okay") and who I really was ("not okay") caused me pain. As far as I was concerned, the me who was "not okay" was "not me." Not the preferred me. Not the likable/lovable/hirable/respectable/acceptable me. The me that was "not okay" was the "bad" me. The "wrong" me. Not the "real" me. To be denied and kept quiet in darkened rooms, a disappointment hidden behind lies and lowered curtains until he went away and the "real" me came back.

Now that I'm "okay," now that I'm the "real" me again, I'm aware of pressure - some internal, some external - to pretend the me who was "not okay" never existed.

Problem is:

1. That's not true.

2. It's a set-up for upset: "Now that I'm 'okay' I can never be 'not okay' again." Now that I've made a new impression - better than the first (phew) - I need to make sure I don't ruin it. (Or else.) Which means one day, if/when I find I'm "not okay," if/when my depression returns and the "bad" me or the "wrong" me shows his (ugly) face, I may feel compelled to deny it, to keep him quiet in darkened rooms until he goes away again. Like before.

And the cycle continues.

The following is Robert Bly speaking to our evolutionary process, our long road from the cave to the city. It works for my long road to recovery as well:

"There's a part of us which is dark, reptilian, and primitive... [which isn't] considered necessary for civilized life... We [want] to get away from that dark, moist, wet, reptilian thing... [But that's the part] that kept us evolving, don't you understand? For millions of years. That's connected with your survival. That snake thing in there... [A reptile] survives! It survives! It survives! [That's the thing] that kept us moving and without [it] we would never have gotten where we were. We'd have died. So now we've arrived to this point and we don't want him anymore. And he's thrown out..." ("What Stories Do We Need" Part 2)

I see him. My "primitive." My reptile. My crocodile. And I see his value. The part of me that's single-minded. Stubborn as f-ck. Me in "Low Battery Mode." The me that kept me moving, sometimes on my belly, crawling through those long, grueling years until I made it out of the swamp. I won't cast him aside now. My croc. Because life is challenging (still). Threatening and destabilizing (still). And he has A Very Particular Set Of Skills (obviously).

I once posted an essay on this page referencing koalas, all warm and cute and fuzzy. They've since become a synonym for "hugs." That brings me joy. #koalas

It's also how some people choose to perceive me. The part they like to focus on. My koala. To the exclusion of all else. "You're so sweet." Mm-hm. How many times have I heard that?

(Many. Many times.)

Well, it's true. I am sweet.

It's also not the whole truth. Thank goodness. Because if I were 100% koala (all warm and cute and fuzzy) I'd be dead by now.

True story.

If I'm alive today it's thanks to my croc. Tough and resilient. Like leather. When "civilized" me longed to Crawl Under A Rock And Die he was like, "Nopes." And "When's lunch?" It's important to respect that (IMO). To make sure he has a place at my table. Even if he chews with his mouth open and breaks the good china.

For me, these days, it's less, "I'd like a second chance to make a first impression," and more, "Your first impression was not incorrect. Back then I was myself. Yes - that was me. Me in survival mode. And I own that. I'm a 'both/and' not an 'either/or.' Cool?"

The answer may be "No."

Some people want All Koala All The Time. They insist on it. They're uncomfortable with me refusing to compartmentalize/criminalize my croc, alarmed by me reframing a negative as a positive, unable/unwilling to allow for the possibility that the "wrong" me (angry, grieving, bored) is as deserving of sunshine and airtime as the "right" me (likeable/loveable/hirable). They say, "You look sad," using sympathy to mask their dis-ease. Then attempt to mask me. "I wish I could put a smile on your face." Patting my arm they police me, signaling that there's an "acceptable" me and an "unacceptable" me. And limited space for the latter. "Why don't you take a break?" they whisper. 

"Come back when you've pulled yourself together?"

To them I say, "Adios."

If it's a choice between me loving all of me and others loving certain, highly selective parts of me, there is no choice.

I know where/what my work is, and it looks like recognizing that the me I was "back then," who previously I've felt the need to apologize for, make excuses for, the me I've considered broken/damaged/shameful/embarrassing, whose existence I consciously and consistently omitted from resumes, family gatherings and first dates, was and is central and essential to my continued existence on this earth.

"[A reptile] survives! It survives! It survives!"

Yes. Oh yes.

"[That's the part] that kept us evolving..."

Give credit where credit is due.

"[That's the thing] that kept us moving..."

Where would I be without him?

"We'd have died."

Damn right.

That's worth claiming. Celebrating. My croc deserves some love.

Don't get me wrong - I love me some koala. He, too, is worth honoring.

But on those dark, cruel nights when he tumbles from the trees and hits the ground hard, when he wants nothing more than to throw in the towel, wave the white flag and go (fuzzy) belly up, it's my croc who rises from the river and fixes death with unblinking eyes.

And death steps the f-ck back.








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