I’m struggling with my Depression right now. I have been for about a week. While it fluctuated throughout the week, the general trend was that it was ebbing; that I was climbing out of it. My Depression had other ideas.
I’ve been sharing quick posts on various social media just about every day for several months, now. You can learn more about that effort here: #MentalHealthDailyCheckin » Can’t Juggle (cantjuggle.com). I find it helpful to take stock of how I am feeling at the time and put it into words. It gives me the benefit that others may get from keeping a journal. And sharing helps me. And my sharing helps others (feedback I have gotten from this effort has been profound).
The section below is a timeline of my check-ins during the week.
The Great Space Coaster of mental health challenges last week
Note: See The Great Space Coaster – Wikipedia for details on what that is. It’s a great 1980s reference that at least some of you will likely appreciate. That title is also an apt metaphor for the ups and downs I went through over the week. Try and keep up.
I had a big anxiety spike on the evening of Saturday, April 8th. It came out of nowhere. Just BAM! On Sunday, Easter Sunday, when Christians of various flavors celebrate Jesus Christ’s resurrection, I posted about it.
On Monday, I shared about the weekend.
That “giant bag of dicks” reference comes from this post: The Trouble With Postmortem Compassion » Can’t Juggle (cantjuggle.com)
I repost that section here for your convenience, although I do recommend reading the full post linked above. I’ve seen it; it’s pretty good.
A giant bag of dicks
A few years ago, I was on a leave of absence from my job due to my Depression and Anxiety being a giant bag of dicks. I should share a little background here and since it worked so well above, I’m going to use a List.
- Depression is a dick.
- Anxiety is a dick.
- “Depression and Anxiety” does NOT equal “Depression + Anxiety” in the way that having “two apples and three plums” means you have (2+3=5) five pieces of fruit.
- Rather, it is more like Depression to the power of Anxiety (or vice-versa); each one making the other “a lot worse.”
- Whenever something is troublesome, having “a giant bag” of that something is “a lot worse.” Since having one hornet nest is bad enough, having a giant bag of hornet nests would be a total shit-show.
- Thus, Depression (which is a dick) and Anxiety (which is a dick) yields a “giant bag of dicks” rather than “two dicks.”
- Math, y’all.
I didn’t have the energy to post on Tuesday. On Wednesday, my check-in showed some improvement, although I still didn’t have much energy.
Thursday included a session with my therapist that was super helpful.
On Friday, I was pretty proud of how I managed to get through the week.
This hopefulness seems to have pissed of my Depression. It pounced on me bigtime yesterday. What a dick.
I’ve done a lot of hard work over the past few years to work through, or “process,” trauma from my childhood. Essentially, this means I have, with the help of therapy and coping mechanisms, softened the sharper edges of my traumatic memories to make them less painful as they rattle around on in my head. You can read more about that here: Trauma, EMDR, and the Kobayashi Maru Test » Can’t Juggle (cantjuggle.com).
I’ve shared that a lot of my trauma stems from my Dad’s sexual assault of a minor and everything related to that. You can read more about that here (trigger warning: that post contains references to sexual assault and prison): John Cazale and Inmate 19250 » Can’t Juggle (cantjuggle.com).
When I was a kid, my Dad had always been calm and collected. I have zero memory of his having yelled at me or anyone else. Despite others of his generation subscribing to the idea that it is OK to hit your kids, I have zero memory of his having done so to me or my brothers. He had also been a firefighter and knew how to keep his head in a crisis. I always felt safe with him. I always felt that he would keep me safe.
Very soon after his arrest (the same day or the next, I cannot recall exactly), I was sitting with my parents at our dining room table while they chain-smoked. I don’t remember any particular topics of conversation; it’s possible it was just a chain of uncomfortable silences to go along with the cigarettes.
Then there was a knock at the outer door to our front porch. It was a TV news crew.
What the hell is a Meat Shield?
In fantasy role-playing games, and I suppose other games that would involve some form of fighting in groups, there are different roles that members of a group will play. The 3 most common are the Damage Dealer (who specialized in harming the enemy, but is not capable of sustaining a lot of damage), the Tank (who specialized in absorbing damage and trying to get the enemies to attack THEM rather than their more fragile group-mates), and the Healer (who is very fragile and works to keep the Tank alive). These are all roles that players CHOOSE to have their characters play.
I have an affinity for Paladins (see A Bully and a Hero: Depression and My Paladin » Can’t Juggle (cantjuggle.com)), who often make excellent Tanks. It is important to remember that a Tank CHOOSES this role. They choose to take lots of damage and risk to protect their friends, allies, whoever. They also choose to build their character to try to succeed at doing so: donning the best armor they can, maximizing their health and ability to survive. Some will also refer to Tanks at Meat Shields; someONE you hide behind so the enemy hits THEM instead of YOU.
More often, Meat Shield is the term used to apply to some living creature that you place between the enemy and you, absorbing damage, whether that creature wants to or not. They are more of a sacrifice than a partner. You can think of war movies in which soldiers will use corpses for cover when they don’t have better options like sandbags. There are also examples in movies where someone grabs an unwitting enemy to hold in front of them while they advance, protecting themselves at the expense of the enemy (who almost always gets killed). Non-evil characters tend not to use allies and teammates as Meat Shields because it’s a terrible way to treat a friend. Or someone you love.
I was on TV!
My Dad told me to go see who it was at the door. I told him it was a TV news crew. With out a pause, he told me to go tell them this was private property and they needed to leave. I was scared. I was nervous. I didn’t want to do that… But, I did as I was told. I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I was trapped.
When they heard me come to the door, the camera made a whirring sound as it turned on and quickly swung to face me. I opened that outer door and the reporter immediately swung the microphone to my face. I was fighting back tears, and it took everything I had to speak instead of sob. I felt embarrassed. I felt vulnerable. I felt scared. I managed to plead with them to leave and went back inside the house. They eventually left.
The story on the news that night showed me coming to the door and speaking while the reporter, instead of using the audio of what I said, just said that my Dad “sent his teenage son” to deal with them. The tone was not complimentary. It was plain to the reporter that I was being tossed to them instead of my Dad dealing with them himself.
My Dad’s Meat Shield
This scene has been playing out over and over in my mind all week. It’s not one of my favorite memories. It’s not a shining moment of courage from my Dad. It’s not an example of how parenting should work. On that day, my Dad, who had always helped me to feel safe, tossed me to the wolves to protect himself. He took his shame and embarrassment, laid them upon my shoulders and sent me out alone while he hid behind doors and curtains and HIS YOUNGEST FUCKING SON. And he didn’t even hesitate to do it. This has been the trauma that my Depression has been beating me with this past week.
I don’t have a witty connection to close out this post. I guess, the best I can come up with is this: There are ways to show someone you love them; using them as a Meat Shield isn’t one of them.