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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

9. I Am Not Alone

I am not alone.  i can't tell you how many times i've felt alone.  not just because i'm religious... but just because i'm me.
it took me until i was about 14 to realize that friends were people that actually cared about you and loved you and thought a lot about you. up until then, i'm sorry to say, i was under the impression that friends were the people that put up with you for a few years until you moved away.  well, put up with me until i moved away.  i don't really know where that thought came from, maybe because we moved so much and i had to leave friends behind so many times that i just stopped allowing myself to get really close to people because then it was easier to move on when the time came.  that was before email and social networking was really a thing.
but then we moved to maryland and suddenly i had to open up. i had to trust my friends with pieces of me. and i realized that they cared about me just as much as i cared about them.  it was a pretty marvelous revelation.
so, like i said.  i've felt alone a lot.  i got into this whole, i know everyone but no one knows me shtick.  i didn't want to open up, but i was the one that people opened up to.  and it was really hard to break that habit. i always knew i was 'different' or 'special' in some way. i had seen more of the world before i was 10 than most people see in a lifetime. and i'll always be grateful for those experiences. but i have my demons, too.
and my demons happen to center around depression.
according to the ADAA (anxiety and depression association of america) the life risk of having depression is 17%, with 5-9% of the US being depressed at any given time.  being depressed, you think you're alone. you think you're not strong enough, you think you're weak, hopeless, nothing, disgusting.  and you think everyone else is perfect just the way you are.  if you were a better person, you would be like them.  but you're not. and it's because you're horrible.  and you're all alone.  you don't deserve anything.  you are the problem. just you. all by yourself.
but of course, none of this is true.  but depression, i've learned after many years of getting to know each other, is a disease of reason and logic.  reason and logic become twisted and evil, dark and dank.  and while it makes sense (in your twisted logic) it allows for no human factor. no love. no peace. no mercy.  and also, as i've learned. i'm not alone.  17% over a lifetime? that's more than 51 million people in the US alone.  and as far as extreme depression and suicides go? well... where i live didn't help with that either... where do i live? the state which is #9 for suicides per year. fantastic. but i can't blame it ALL on Utah (although i'd honestly really like to) i've got my demons and i've got to own them.
but i'm not alone. not by any stretch of the imagination.  and i've learned that, though it's been hard.  too many girls i've seen like me.  in the exact or similar situation.  i feel the worst for girls to enter depression like mine having never dealt with it before.  i was drowning, barely staying alive... and i knew exactly what was going on.  i can't imagine having the added shame and confusion of a first bout of depression mixed with the horror of what i have experienced over the last year and a half.  i really feel for those girls. and i've befriended a few.  we're not alone.  we have each other. and we have people who love us and want to help. sometimes we've just got to keep at it until the dawn finally breaks.  as hard as it may be.
but we are not alone. we are never alone.

8. No one can speak for me better than myself

I'm going to start this one out on a religious note. don't worry, we'll get to the secular stuff later.
As a Mormon... we have the Articles of Faith.  and #11 is "We claim the privilege of worshiping the Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience.  And allow all mankind the same privilege to worship how, where, and what they may."
In the last month or so, this particular article has really struck home.  I try to live it as best i can.  I'm aware of my religious beliefs and i'm also aware that Mormons, or even Christians don't have the corner on the market for good people.  I have a lot of friends.  The majority of which are not Mormon, and many of them aren't religious at all.  Worship or don't worship, so long as you're not trying to kill me or throw me in prison, i'm good with whatever you decide to do with your life.  I am, afterall, not my brother's keeper. We have freedom to choose all of us.  I can respect your beliefs, especially if you respect mine.  i can even respect your beliefs even if you don't respect mine. because i truly believe that we all have agency both moral and physical.
Now... sometimes i think Mormons forget that this applies to each other.  I claim the privilege of worshiping the Almighty God according to the dictates of my own conscience.  MY OWN. not yours, not any one else's. mine. and i think a lot of mormons, especially in happy valley utah, don't really get this.  There have been people i've met at BYU who 'caught' me studying on a sunday, or 'caught me' slipping out a curse word when i've stubbed my toe really hard after a long day, or 'caught me' with a can of diet coke (caffeinated) on campus.  And after having 'caught' me either lectured me on why i'm a bad mormon, why i'm sinning, or declared that i'm a bad influence and never spoke to me again.
i kid you not.
BYU just really irks me, to be honest.  i'm fine with the dress code and the honor code with few exceptions. things like facial hair... my brother (and several other of my friends) were sealed in the Temple sporting a beard.  so if you can go to the Temple with facial hair... what makes it so bad? My friend's dad was offered a stake calling, but they'd only give it to him if he shaved his mustache... because it was a 'poor example to the young men' ... seriously??
what ever happened to good ol' article of faith #11? Do we not allow all mankind, INCLUDING OUR FELLOW MORMONS, the privilege of worshiping how, where and what they may?
i include this under "no one can speak for me better than myself" because i've noticed something a bit disturbing trending the social networks, especially with my younger friends.
Some 'more experienced' people post articles bringing up a topic.  said younger friends post things that are basically pleading for advice.  which usually i wouldn't mind. we all need counsel sometimes. why not seek it out? but it's the way they ask.  they are not asking because they are gathering information.  they are saying "I'm confused about this.  someone tell me what to believe." and then, once the loudest person gets a grip on them, they're done thinking about it.
seriously?
Especially again as a mormon, this is deeply disturbing to me.  We're taught about the Gospel when we're young and then we're told, commanded, encouraged to pray for ourselves and to find out for ourselves what is true and what isn't.  and i believe some things are eternally true, but also that truth is different for every person.  I can say that i believe with my whole self that God is the Eternal Father and that He sent Christ to die for us... but i'm not running off to take the veil and become a nun.  the truth for some people may lead them to a life of a nun or a nanny or a teacher or a doctor or a physicist or a parent.  that doesn't make the truth less true, only that it affects us in different ways because we are all inherently different.
no one can speak for me better than myself. and so i need to stand up and speak! and say no, i don't believe caffeine is evil.  No, i don't believe in being a housewife and only a housewife.  No i'm not ready to have kids and it's none of your @)(#*$ business anyway.  and to own it.
that's the hard part.
owning it.
but i'm getting stronger. and i'm letting my voice be heard.  i'm saying you know what? this is what i believe.  and i've found my own truth. and i can ask for respect, and from most of my friends i'll probably get it, but not from everyone. and surely not from everyone on the planet. but you know what? that's okay. because i am who i am and i'm not a bad person and i'm standing up for myself instead of shoving and slinking off to a corner. that's all.
so follow the dictates of your own conscience.  and seek out what it is you believe.  you. not what anyone tells you to believe.  don't let other 'better' people speak for you.  who is better than you for your own situation?

7. If i don't teach what I've learned, then I never learned in the first place.

This one is also pretty straightforward.  After all, when endowed with wisdom, is it not unwise to keep it to yourself? This one also leads up to the next two, but we'll get there when we get there.
I guess this one in particular is the one that is the reason for all of these posts.  if i don't teach what i've learned, then how am i supposed to remember that i learned it in the first place?
I feel this a lot when i'm seeking revelation.  I'll be praying for something but be afraid of the answer. and so when i do get the answer (more than likely the answer that i'm afraid of) i sometimes have a tendency to brush it under the rug.  I was too emotional.  it was just my own feelings, it wasn't the Spirit telling me anything.  I haven't studied it out enough.  It wasn't revelation. and then i go on and on until the very last second when finally i'm brave enough to do what needs to be done.
I'm a very private person.  You may not think that if you know me, but i am.  Chances are i've kept a lot of things from  you.  Not that i don't trust you it's just that...well... i don't really trust anyone.  not where my emotions are concerned.  not that i don't love. i love freely! i love loving people! but in my mind and in my heart... i know one day those that i love the most will also hurt me the most. or disappoint me the most.  or break my heart. and well, for a long time i figured that if i'm expecting it then it doesn't hurt as much. and i'm right.  if you're always expecting people to disappoint you, then you're never really disappointed. because you're disappointed all the time. when you expect things to go wrong, you don't fight as hard for things to go right.
If i don't share what i've learned, then i don't deserve the knowledge that i've acquired. and it will soon fade away.  truths that i once cherished will wither into nothing if i don't teach them, share them, expound upon them.  and then i won't know them anymore.

and so, for probably the first time in my life, i'm trying--REALLY trying-- to be open and speak my mind, to teach and to share what i'm feeling when i'm feeling it. and not to shove.  and it is a way of exercising and sharing what i've learned. or what i think i've learned.
and it's painful.  really and truly painful.  swallowing emotion is so easy. it's so simple. it doesn't get me into trouble or in arguements with people that i love.  it doesn't bother anyone... except me of course. it's like when you clench your fist tight for a long time and then try to open your hand. it hurts. a lot. but it's worth it. because it's hard to do things like type with a balled fist.
i hope at least some of you take this to heart.  speak up! teach, share.  everyone needs counsel every once in a while, so why not yours? who cares if you're not an expert on something, share what you THINK. because you do think, don't you? you do have some life experience. you do have perspective. and an opinion. and don't be ashamed.  so what if people don't agree. that's their problem. your job is just to share your wisdom, whatever it may be, and to be professional about it.
for some it may be easy, and for some like me it may be really really hard. but i believe that it needs to be done. and that when it is done and done with professionalism and respect, it will lead to a better life for us all.