Monday, February 29, 2016

Looking through black-colored glasses

I'm currently neck-deep in reference books while I'm preparing for the 3 classes I will be teaching during the two month Spring Co-op session of the homeschool group my sister's family is a part of. The topics are Poetry, Research Papers, and Homer's Iliad. (90% of you just groaned. Believe me, I'm just as thrilled by that middle subject as any 10th grader. LOL)

Anyway, I decided to pull out some of my research projects from school to take as examples to show them since I will be teaching all of this without the benefit of a library everyday. (Yes, I still have my old papers. English majors have a thing about never getting rid of a paper. haha) When I pulled them out of their file, though, I found a bunch of other random school papers in with them--crammed in there, I'm sure, in the moving chaos a few years ago.
My reading list. Jealous much?
One thing I found was a list from my senior year of high school. Shortly before graduation, I, as president of our 23-member class, handed everyone sheets of paper with all the class members' names listed on them. I told them that they were to fill them out with the one thing--Keep it positive, people!--that they would remember most about that person; then, in a year, I would mail each person the list of everyone's responses. They filled them out and gave them back, and I didn't look at them again, for a year. The next May, I pulled out the folder and started going through the pages, compiling the responses about each person; and everything was fine--some eye-rolling, a lot of laughs, a few groans--until I got to the last name on the list, mine. 

With the last name of Yerton, you get used to being the last at everything very early in your school career. I spent so many first months of school stuck on the back row by the door, that it became my favorite seat in the room. I always knew exactly which person would be sitting beside me in my first classes: the same person who sat beside me last year, and the 10 years before that. But in this case, being the last name was a disaster for me.

When I read what my classmates had written about me, I was devastated and cried for days. To this day, I don't know how anyone else reacted to receiving their lists, but I almost didn't mail them because I was so crushed by mine. I'm still not sure why I kept it, but apparently, my packrattyness kicked in and stuck it in a box for me.

So, here I am, seeing this orange piece of paper for the first time in nearly 2 decades. When I realized what it was, I cringed and almost put it down without looking at it again, but I stopped and decided to reread it because it has been so long. What I found shocked me.

It's not bad.

Let me say that again. It. Is. NOT. Bad.

Actually, most of it is completely positive, even complimentary.

The Infamous List
*names have been removed to protect the innocent ;)
I'm still a little in shock about it. I've had nightmares about this list and wondered how my classmates could've spent so many years with me and still known me so little. It colored how I approached new relationships in college and changed my opinion of myself.

As a college Sophomore
How could I have been so wrong, have seen it so incorrectly? One word: Depression.

I've realized much about Depression and its insidiousness over the years since I first began treatment, but I've never before seen just how clearly it alters one's perception of events. I looked at this list of what 22 people thought about me and, not only did I only remember the 1 or 2 negatives, I didn't even notice all the good things they had to say. In fact, some of the ones I remember hurting me aren't even negative; they are things that I would take as a compliment or just laugh at now. But I couldn't see it then. I couldn't hear it. My perception was completely twisted.

This is what makes Depression so dangerous: It literally changes how you see yourself and the world around you. Depression had me convinced that I was a failure, that no one liked me, that I had to act all the time to keep others from seeing how pathetic I really was. I was so convinced that I was ugly that I became terrified of dating and developed severe social anxiety that made me sick anytime I had a date, so I just avoided guys and hoped they would leave me alone. (Most successful thing I've ever attempted in my life, by the way. haha)

My point is, if you are suffering from Depression, don't take your world at face value. Don't trust yourself to be seeing things clearly. Get help. Reassess. 

And if you have a loved one who is dealing with this monster, remember that their view of the world is warped by their pain. Just like physical pain can cause other symptoms, emotional pain taints every aspect of a person's life. Support them. Help them. But whatever you do, DO NOT back off!! They will do everything they can to get you to leave them alone and go away. Ignore it! It's the last thing they need and, truly, the last thing they really want.

Just remember, silver linings are real. The sun really is shining. And it does get better.

Love, me!