The Dumbest Things to Tell a Person with Depression

The Dumbest Things to Tell a Person with Depression

I’m, so far, a depression survivor. It’s a mixture of depressing and hilarious. I’ve started to collect the weirdest, dumbest and most illogical things people tell me when I mention that I have depression. I usually mention it as a disclaimer—and for comic relief because depressed people tend to love black humour. It somehow fits the dark mood.

While I’m risking that I will come across as a smartass (probably because I am that), I’ll share a selection of the most hilarious responses I’ve collected over the years. Sometimes it looks like people have no clue what they’re actually saying. It appears that some people have no sense to see what pearls of nonsense they are dispensing.

Let’s start with the usual:

Get over it.

Think: would you tell this to someone with cancer? I hope not. Let’s establish that there is a difference between manageable and curable. And guess what! Depression is the former, but not the latter. Who would have thought? (That’s not a real question, that’s the tricky rhetorical kind of a question, which is really a statement. Whew!)

My personal favourite:

Cheer up!

OMG, how come it didn’t occur to me before? I’m cured! Kidding. This is too ludicrous to deserve further commentary.

Another of my favourite exchanges:

Look at the bright side!

“Such as?”—”Well, you’re alive…”—”You realise I’m suicidal?”—”Uhuh?”—”That means that being alive isn’t the bright side for me!” Duh.

An inspirational story:

Look at [insert a famous actor’s name]! He functioned just fine with it, he’d just get on the stage and when his act was over, they’d take him straight to the hospital!

I’m not sure how being taken straight to the hospital could mean that someone is fine. Maybe I’m missing something. Or maybe you’re missing something. (Not you as the specific you, but you as the generic you, like someone.)

A piece of undeniable logic:

But you smile in photos!

Of course I smile in photos. I’m not a moron. (Okay, I am a moron, but not in this respect.) Please be aware that I didn’t have a stroke, hence my ability to lift the corners of my mouth remains unaffected. My exercising this ability doesn’t necessarily reflect the state of my mind.

A case of stating the obvious:

It’s just in your head.

I wholeheartedly agree that mental afflictions affect the mind, which resides in the brain, which resides in the head, so it is indeed all in my head. But, uh, how is this piece of information helpful? *shrug*

The list goes on, but I think you got the idea. The point is: let’s all mind what we’re saying and whether what we’re saying even makes any sense. Here’s an inspiration for a new year’s resolution!

I Am Where I Was Meant to Be

I Am Where I Was Meant to Be

I don’t even know what the title of the post means (but I can’t be bothered figuring out a more meaningful one). What is it, to be where you’re meant to be? Who does the meaning? I don’t know. I know who doesn’t do the meaning though: me. (Also, god, because I’m godless and faithless.)

I’m a self-declared Buddhist. Dalai Lama’s Cat advises to turn our prison into a monastery. The idea is that while you’re still confined, you bring into play an element of deliberate consent. I’m also Freudian. Freud advises that when you can’t have what you want, you must want what you have. These two are basically the same idea.

If it were entirely up to me, I wouldn’t choose to be where I am, physically and mentally. On the other hand, why not? There are sure worse places, literally and figuratively. I believe in determinism in the sense that where and when you are born predetermines your options. Don’t tell me that my life would be the same if I were born in a dirt hut in the heart of darkness (that’s literary speak for Congo, Africa).

Having been born in the second world has its amazing perks. Awareness, for example. We’re here an advanced society enough not only to know in theory that there are more advanced societies but also to practically know how exactly they live. I don’t think people in the dirt huts of the third world are quite clear on what life in the first world looks like. I have the benefits of internet, formal education and international friends, so I dare say I am quite aware of what it is to live elsewhere.

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Tesco does not sponsor this post

The second world awareness to me means that I know that I could have been better and also that I could have been worse. I can visualise both variants rather well. Knowing this, I’m also appreciative that I haven’t ended up worse. Sure, I’m a struggling overworked freelancer in a cold flat in a shabby small town, but hey, it’s not like I have to walk ten miles to get water from the well and there are rapists and robbers on the way.

I argue that second world people are the toughest. When you don’t know what you could have had, if only you were born differently, you don’t desire it—you have no idea. When you do know, however, that you could, but most likely won’t (don’t give me the nonsense that I can be anything I want to be), you have to get your shit together and deal with it. That requires both mental and physical toughness.

I mean, I’m not dependent on UNICEF food packets, I get my groceries from Tesco, but I still have to walk a mile to get there and carry the shopping on my back because I have neither a car nor someone to help me. It’s this undemonstrative everyday heroism that I value the most in others—and myself. I wouldn’t choose it, but since that’s what I got, I might just as well do it properly and with whatever grace and dignity I can put together.

Voting in Election Is Such an Act of Optimism

Voting in Election Is Such an Act of Optimism

I’m apolitical. Nay. I’m anti-political. I suspected that my country was holding a parliamentary election one of these days, and my fears were confirmed when I retrieved a set of ballots from my postbox. It was a bulky envelope bulging with two or three dozen ballots, one for each party running. I was unsure what to do with that shit. Should I build a bonfire? Should I start making origami? Should I just crumple it into a ball for the cat to play with?

I shared my decision paralysis on Facebook and asked for advice. Yes, this wasn’t the smartest idea, especially when you seek to avoid arguing about politics. I did receive a lot of advice though, some from people I don’t even know. I also got plenty of contradicting unsolicited suggestions on whom to vote for. This actually did ease my decision process because anytime I’m advised something, I go and do the opposite. I prefer to make my wrong choices myself so I’d have solely myself to blame.

One of the Facebook armchair advisers was a supporter of the Green Party. Well, nature is nice and all that, but I fear the Greens might give chickens more rights than I have and ban nuclear power plants, which would be a shame because I’m sentimentally attached to them. (Anytime a nuclear energy hater raises the argument, How would you like it to have a nuclear plant at your backyard?, I say, I literally grew up with a nuclear plant at my backyard and I fucking loved it!)

Halloween decoration at the polling station

While thus occupied on Facebook, I found there a test Which Party You Should Vote. Well, everyone knows that Facebook tests are serious and solid, so I took it. It wasn’t that sketchy after all. Your opinions on public issues were compared against the political programmes of the parties running in the election and the result was a percentual match of your opinions with the opinions of each party. Something like Tinder for politics. I matched from 90% with the Pirates. Why, yes, we do have a party called the Pirates here.

So I went and voted for the Pirates. The above-described procedure for choosing my preferred political representative makes it clear that I’m absolutely unfit to vote. I am convinced that most people are unfit to vote, either because they are not informed, like me, or they are not intelligent enough to process the information. That’s probably one of the reasons why democracy doesn’t work. Democracy is like equality, it’s a nice idea, but it’s just an idea. And no, I don’t have an alternative solution. I’m the dumb voter who went voting against her better judgement and so performed an act of visionary optimism.

Finding Everyday Inspiration: Why I Don’t Watch the News

Finding Everyday Inspiration: Why I Don’t Watch the News

Part of WordPress’s writing course Finding Everyday Inspiration.

I’m so inspired! I mean, I’m not inspired at all, therefore I asked actually inspired people for inspiration what to write about. This, and also because I was prompted to do so by the writing challenge that we The  Tribe (you know who you are!) are plodding through now.

Lynn proposed. I mean, she didn’t propose to me but she proposed that I write about something I don’t do and why I don’t do it. Lynn didn’t know that she shouldn’t feed animals because they may bite. That’s a far-fetched metaphor meaning that Lynn’s suggestion feeds my innate negativity and the result may be a biting post.

I’m unplugged

You do not do, you do not do
Any more, black shoe
In which I have lived like a foot
For thirty years, poor and white,
Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.
—Sylvia Plath, from “Daddy”

I don’t do any number of things. One wonders what I even do when I don’t do anything. Well, I mostly work. When I don’t work, then I’m thinking of work and feeling guilty that I’m not working (it’s happening right now). On an unrelated note, my one-year anniversary since my holiday in the psych ward is approaching and I bloody wish I had the time and means to go for a second round.

On a note related to this post’s title, I don’t watch the news. (That’s STD, I mean, STO, meaning Stating The Obvious, since I already said that in the post title). As to why I don’t watch the news, it’s mainly to protect any residual remainders of sanity I still might possess.

People often wonder why I don’t watch the news. I wonder why anyone would watch the news. I’m very stubborn-headed in not doing something only because other people do it. That’s not a legit reason to me. Even if most people do something, they might be wrong, or they might be right, but it might still not be the right thing to do for me.

A common argument for watching the news is to stay informed about the world. That sounds like a nice idea, but why exactly should I stay informed about the world? When I don’t close my eyes fast enough and a bit of news pops in my face, it’s mostly political intrigue, mass murder and natural disaster.

How exactly does knowing where the last terrorist attack happened broaden my horizons? Sure, it is a tragedy, but that’s sort of STO again, stating the obvious. What can I do in the light of this news? Tell me because I have seriously no idea. I don’t think I could prevent bombings, bribery or hurricanes.

I might be narrow-minded not to watch the news but it’s alright with me really. News is the perfect trigger for depression, and I already generate enough depression without that, so I’m good. I simply can’t see why I should expose myself to something that makes me feel helpless, hopeless and terrified. I don’t believe this exposure would make me a better person. If you do have a good reason to watch the news though, please tell me! I need inspiration.

Finding Everyday Inspiration: Arguing against Random Old Tweets

Finding Everyday Inspiration: Arguing against Random Old Tweets

Part of WordPress’s writing course Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Today’s challenge relies on a sound concept—using a tweet as inspiration—but to an unsound effect—the sampling of tweets provided does inspire me, but inspires me to undirected anger, hopeless frustration and profound sadness. I’m not sure why, you tell me.

Suggested reasons: chronic depression, overwork, stress [insert further psychiatric diagnoses here as applicable], also, sense of failure, purposelessness, hopelessness [feel free to insert more words from your thesaurus].

Or you can just tell me to shut the fuck up and deal with it because if I can afford to blog, it’s clear I’m privileged enough and have no right to rant about my supposedly miserable life. Your choice.

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A faithful reproduction of my muddy mind

How Does the Universe Relate to Me?

It seems to be fashionable to be global rather than local. Perhaps being global is necessary for fulfilling your civil responsibility. My shocking opinion is that our foremost duty is to ourselves. It sounds even more alarming when you put it in the first person: my foremost duty is to myself. This is either simply an unpopular and uncivilised thing to think, or it’s what many people think but are scared to say. My reasoning is that if you’re a mess, you’re not likely to be of any use to anyone else. Fix yourself first and then look around to see where you can help.

Circling back to the tweet, my work is a more immediate, real and relevant threat than a star dying in the universe. I suspect if people looked to the stars less and minded their own business more, the world might have been a less horrendous living experience. I have no means of preventing a star from dying, provided that it would even be a desirable result, and as long as the star doesn’t decide to die by dropping on my head, it doesn’t concern me at present. What does concern me at present are bills to pay.

There Is Such a Thing as Too Much Education

Besides its plagiarising Socrates, I have no particular grudge against this tweet. Since it’s a tweet, it’s naturally simplified. What I lack in the tweet—and what I lack in general—is an acknowledgement that education doesn’t necessarily equal a better job and that there is such a thing as too much education. Speaking from my own experience, obviously.

I have a hypothesis which might be wild (or not, I wouldn’t know, but maybe you do?) but I can’t help suspecting that the more educated, the more unhappy you are. Education usually brings about awareness (I assume that’s the point of education anyway), and already George Orwell (and surely many before him) knew that Ignorance is bliss. Therefore, I reason that the less education and awareness you have, the more ignorant and the more happy you are.

As to the falsity of the education = good job equation, I wish young people were more often and more strongly cautioned against pursuing education without a plan. I chose to study what I loved, which was a terrible idea. So, while I certainly give the impression that I only care about myself, I’d be pleased if other young people took my experience as an example of how not to do it. I’m aware that you can’t convince the young that you know better, but perhaps if they knew your story, they would take it into account just a bit.


I wholeheartedly encourage you to disagree with me and show me that you have more sense (which I’m inclined to believe). Along with you, I hope that tomorrow’s prompt will inspire me to something lighthearted and funny.

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What I Hated the Least Today 102/365: The Americans

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Spoiler alert: the following contains minor spoilers and alarming personal opinions.

The Americans (2013—15, aired on FX channel) is a TV show that I’m currently most fascinated with. I knew it’d be a match for me the moment I discovered the series and read its description. Set in the early eighties, it works with the premise of two KGB agents on a long-term mission in the States which entails their posing as an American family. Included is their having day jobs and two now teenage kids, who remain uninformed of their inherited schizophrenically split identity. As I was born in a Soviet satellite state and went on for a degree in English Studies, there’s hardly anything I’d watch with a greater involvement than The Americans.

Naturally, the series is USA-made, but I’ve long discovered that even the dumbest TV is made by smart people who mostly do their jobs catering for a dumb majority audience while occasionally creating something that gives away their capability of intelligent insight. It’s admirable how well the writers manage to convey Eastern European mentality, especially considering that it’s not merely alien but above all positively antithetical to the foundations of the North American way of life.

To me, the crucial difference between the West and the East in the context of this series is not as much the ideology as rather the way individual humans work out their existence as they are confronted with issues that, ultimately, have little to do with political alliances per se. The stereotypical Western way is to talk about shit and drag people down with you in the gutter – the customary Eastern way is to shut up and get shit done. No need to elaborate on which approach I prefer for myself.

When one manages to see past the red scare, what transpires are Eastern Europeans as a hardy set of people who persist despite defeating circumstances. I find the no-nonsense, utilitarian approach impressive and imitation worthy. However civilised we like to consider ourselves, I don’t believe that the Darwinian survival of the fittest has yet been surpassed or can be cheated. I’d rather be a practical survivor than a sentimental corpse.

In The Americans series, two opposing worldviews meet and clash, and their interaction illustrates, if anything, that there are differences that can’t be worked out. We might be all people alike at the end, but to think that any two or more thinking units could peacefully coexist without obsessively striving to dominate each other seems a misguided idea(l). This underlying motif is nicely shown in the relationships of the main characters in the series.

The show is particularly strong in female characters. The one that appeals to me the most is the supporting character of the double-agent Nina. She’s the perfect model of a powerful personality who indeed experiences emotions but knows better than to allow herself to be overwhelmed by them. She deceives and manipulates when required, yet she scrupulously avoids deceiving herself. She ends up betrayed by her American informer and lover, who is too engrossed in himself to know whether he prefers to do the right thing for the abstraction of his homeland or whether he will choose to do good to the very concrete fellow person.

Nina’s American nemesis, a tormented CIA agent with a disturbing facial tic, chooses his country and sends the woman whom he insists he loves to the Soviet jail. As an Eastern European, I’m likely to be biased, but I suspect that the CIA agent hasn’t checked the standard dictionary definition of love lately. The tension between a declaration of love and a manifestation of love recurs in his affair with Nina throughout the series. At one point, he is enlightened by another character that he should consider cutting the I love you phrase with Nina because Russian women don’t care for clichés. (Neither do Czech women, in case you wonder.)

To conclude this heavy post – which I set to myself as an opinion piece writing exercise – on a lighter note, here is a dialogue that was never literally spoken on The Americans but could have just been.

The American (heartfelt): I love you.

The Russian (distanced): Don’t make me say it.

The end.

Aside

A New Me, a New Blog Theme

I’m a promiscuous person. At least as far as blog themes are concerned. After some three months with Sela, I exchanged the poor babe for the brand new Nucleare.

With changes in my personal life (for the better) and the change of the season to spring(ish), I deliberately went for a brighter, bolder look for my blog. While I understand that the change from clean and neat to busy and colourful might not appeal to everyone, I’m more or less happy with the outcome.

There is still some fine tuning to do though. And here is where I’d love your input! Please vote in the poll below and/or tell me in a comment what you (dis)like about the current design and functionality and what changes you’d like to see. Your ideas are much appreciated!

On My Adopted Grandmother, Who Is a Hamster

On My Adopted Grandmother, Who Is a Hamster

My marriage replenished the staggering low number of my family members. Besides winning the smart and brave younger sister(-in-law) that I always wanted, I also got a silly younger brother(-in-law) and two complete sets of grandparents(-in-law) to replace those that I had lost to old age and death. I didn’t anticipate that I’d end up sharing one house with one of the pairs of grandparents, but now that it happened, I could very well use the opportunity for psychosociological research.

My husband’s and hence my adopted grandfather is easy-going, sociable and almost entirely deaf. He is too well-disposed to provide an interesting subject for analysis. A former caretaker, he makes it a point of pride to fix anything that breaks and improve anything that doesn’t. His upgrades admittedly work, but typically come with a health and/or life hazard due to things being different than fifty years ago, his increasing poor sight and decreasing fine motor skill.

The grandmother presents more of a puzzle in her complex combination of selflessness and self-centeredness, tolerance and judgmentalism, endurance and fragility. She bakes cakes to give away to family each week but demands to be praised for their exquisiteness to the skies. She ignores any fatal flaw in a family member but harshly criticises the neighbour for not mowing his lawn soon enough and good enough. She withstands physical ailment but breaks down at the smallest sign of family discord.

Grandmother's potatoes
Grandmother’s potatoes

The grandmother apparently doesn’t function as an individual person outside of her family circle. She serves as an extension of the house, garden and yard. When she doesn’t attend to any of these, she stares at the telly. She watches reality shows and turns other people’s business into her business. She watches crime news, gossip news and teleshopping and believes everything that they say on air. She is limited in education and experience, but why would she lack common sense?

She puzzles me. She lives by a set of idiosyncratic rules that have long become her habit. She doesn’t cook on Mondays because it’s the day for finishing leftovers from the weekend. She cleans the bedroom on Thursdays and the living room on Fridays. She bakes on Saturdays and spends most of the week eating her superfluous produce. She mops the floors every day after lunch. She uses a wet rag and wipes also the carpets with this. I don’t dare to suggest the vacuum cleaner for the task.

She has answers for all things. When you want something, pray to Virgin Mary. When you’re gay, you’re not normal. When it’s weekend, you bake cake. When you have a letter to pick up at the post office, you do it now because what would the post employees say? When it’s holiday, you wash the windows because what would the neighbours think? When the husband makes a mess, you clean it because it has always been like this.

The grandmother strikes me as both admirable and pitiable. It is certainly a triumph of will and stamina that she keeps on repeating her learned rituals no matter what. She doesn’t swerve from her schedule for illness or injury, and she went on even with her hand broken. Sometimes I’m thinking if she just shuts down or disappears when she is not cleaning or baking. She is a hamster running on a wheel forever until it kills itself by exhaustion.

All the Women in My Family, and Me

All the Women in My Family, and Me

The women in my family had it tough. As did and do most other women elsewhere. My female relatives led meagre lives during which they helped few and pleased none, least of all themselves. Generous people seek in their lives to be helpful, crooked people seek to be happy and ambitious people seek to leave something behind. I suspect my female family members fell outside these categories because they didn’t seem to seek anything. To compensate, and to fulfil my generously crooked ambitious self, I seek to help some, make most of all myself happy and leave much behind.

My maternal grandmother’s name was Rose, and this was the single most romantic thing about her life. Her life started and stopped when she was drafted in a labour camp in Nazi Germany during the war. She didn’t learn any German, besides the commands for lights off and take shelter used during air raids. After the war she had a brief glamorous stint of living and working in the country’s capital. When her sister died of pneumonia in her early twenties, leaving a widower and two small children behind, Rose was summoned home. She married the widower to supply a mother for the half-orphans, though neither of the new partners was overjoyed. The husband went on to hang himself, and the widow remarried.

My mother, Mary, was eighteen when the Soviet tanks came to Czechoslovakia in 1968. Hazardously, she went out in the fields to watch the occupants, not anticipating that they were to stay. Stay they did. Mother married the first man she met because there was no reason not to. So said my father’s family. Old photographs suggest that my father was not always bald, fat and bent; yet neither was he the tall handsome blue-eyed blonde as he liked to depict his young self. The couple first moved in with my father’s parents, who got however soon fed up with father’s budding alcoholism. The next stop was my mother’s parents. This was the terminal. My brother was born into a disrupted family, I was born into a broken one eleven years later. I was a lucky accident.

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This photo shows granny Rose and me; the header photo my brother, mother and the infant me.

My paternal grandmother, Dana, remains for me in the haze of the Alzheimer’s. Nobody bothered to tell me that her first only occasionally erratic behaviour was caused by a disease. It was my paternal grand-grandmother, Benedicta, who left a singularly deep trace in my memory. She was a miner’s widow and as tough as the black coal that was providing her living. She saw the death of her husband in a mining accident, the death of her grandson at thirty-two in military action and the decline and death of her only daughter. She lived on with wistful sadness. She broke her leg in her late seventies and lay on the floor in her flat for a day before help came. She walked again. She died at eighty-four, a little shrunk figure with yellowish face framed by a chequered headscarf lying in the coffin.

Out of these women, only my mother stills lives. She has a record of being an abused wife, a loving but failing mother and now a lonely divorcee with little to hope for. Interestingly, she appears to blame herself more for the death of her mother rather than the harm she unwittingly caused to her children. She left her job when grandmother Rose stopped being self-sufficient in order to attend to her. She could hardly stop her from dying though. I saw no gratefulness in my grandmother for her daughter’s care and no peace in my mother even after she has done her best. I view the lives of the women in my family as cautionary tales, if anything. If I could pray, I would pray that I do good to others only by doing good to myself first.

English According to Mara

English According to Mara

English may not be my mother tongue, but it doesn’t prevent me from having ideas about it. These ideas amount to a sizeable set of recommendations, nay, prescriptions about spelling and grammar and usage and style. My concept of proper English grew so refined over the years that it should be promoted to a variant of English on its own right.

I began my career of a self-appointed grammarian when my department gave me to teach a course in academic writing. My employer soon discovered that I was more of a writer than a speaker and smartly concluded that me teaching a course in presentation skills would be a disaster. They don’t quite do me a justice on this one though, I’m perfectly capable of demonstrating to students in person how not to present yourself.

Teaching my academic writing course while clutching papers in one hand, having my other hand in my pocket and sitting comfortably on the table, I intimate to my students the secrets of English according to Mara. At the end of the term, the victims of my ideas about education may end up with notes along these lines:

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  • Always use British English. It gives a sense of tradition, truthfulness and trustworthiness, exactly as you always suspected. Also, your teacher is insufficiently acquainted with American English and can’t be bothered looking everything up while marking your essays.
  • Never use –ize endings for god’s sake. Use –ise instead, as British English speakers have been doing for ages. That is, before the latest edition of the New Oxford Style Manual appeared and ruined it all by recommending –ize. I burnt the heretical book at stake.
  • Always place punctuation outside quotation marks when quoting fragments. Forcing your commas and full stops inside quotation marks will be considered an act of aggression. Also, every time you misplace your punctuation, a kitten dies. And your teacher loves kittens.
  • Never use the Oxford comma. It’s inaptly called the Oxford comma only to disguise the fact that it’s American grammar. If you imagine that the sentence We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin speaks about male strippers, you’re sick. If it were the case, there would be a colon, as We invited the strippers: JFK and Stalin.
  • Always use the most recent Chicago Manual of Style for bibliography and other formal considerations. Of course, you’ll need to translate the book into British English. If I catch you using MLA, APA or other such style, I’ll get drunk, cry myself to sleep and won’t mark your essay.

If you stick to Mara’s grammar Nazi rules, you should be fine. If you happen to be other than fine, such as when you use abbreviations in your essay, your essay will be marked by my WTF stamp. You can however still make it up by mentioning something Scottish or something cat. So as to show, after all, that you know what’s good when you see it. Because that’s how nice I am.