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Month: December 2017

Fighting For People You Love

I am someone who fights against injustices. When I see something that I feel isn’t right, I will fight against it, whether it’s racism, misogyny, homophobia, antisemitism, or any sort of discrimination. I’m not only a fighter when it comes to discrimination, I also fight for the relationships in my life. When I make friends with someone and they are important to me, I want to maintain that relationship. When there are bumps in the road, I will fight to keep that person as my friend. I won’t give up and I will work out any disagreements we might have. The same goes for romantic relationships; I fight for them. That’s why it’s difficult to understand when people won’t fight for me. I am worth fighting for and I know it. I fight for other people all the time. I am a fiercely loyal friend and I make that known. I enter into friendships taking them seriously and when the dynamic in the friendship in unbalanced and I don’t feel emotionally reciprocated, it’s extremely painful for me.

But one of the worst feelings is when a person chooses not to fight to keep me in their life. I make an extraordinary effort to help the people I love. I want them to know how much I care about them and what I would do for them. I fight for them hard. And there are people who fight for me too, whom I appreciate and then there are others who are more passive and take for granted that I will always be there because I am a loyal friend. That isn’t fair to me and I feel taken advantage of.

It’s not as complicated to fight for somebody as it might seem. “Fighting” is a subjective term and it might mean something different for you than it does for me. What it means to me to fight for your friends is to show them that you love them by taking action and never giving up on the relationship, unless it is toxic for either one of you. I love to demonstrate my ability to care for people. It’s a quality that I am proud of. My mama raised me well and I am happy to be an empathetic person who loves to show other people how much they mean to me. The trouble that I have is that not many people are like that in this world so I seek out others who share the same qualities. There are plenty of empathetic people out there, you just have to look hard and you will find people who can join your kindness tribe. For one insensitive person, there is one kind person; this isn’t based on any actual studies I’ve conducted, but rather on the informal empirical evidence I’ve discovered as a human living in the world.

I love my friends who are empathetic, just like I am, and I value their friendships exponentially. What about you? Do you consider yourself an empath? Do you have trouble showing people that you care for them? I would love to hear from you!

Labels Are For Cereal Boxes

What does it mean to have a mental illness? Maybe nothing. It’s like asking “what does it mean to have a computer?” Uh…I don’t know I just have one. It’s not like I bought mental illness from the store. It was given to me by genetics and neurochemistry. I’m not sure what it “means” but it probably doesn’t mean anything. It impacts my life, sure, but I don’t think it has objective meaning. It’s something that I have to manage in terms of symptoms. Sometimes I have trouble leaving the house in the morning because I’m having difficulty finding my keys, but not like a “normal” person. I have problems finding my keys because I’m distracted. I am trying to do 60 things at the same time and none of them are working because you can’t do 60 things at the same time. Multitasking is something that we’re told we should get good at as adults. Yet, we’re also told “one day at a time” and practice “mindfulness.” So which is it? I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do.

What I do know is that labels are for cereal boxes. I self-diagnosed myself with Complex PTSD, but I’m not even sure that’s helpful. It’s helpful in the sense that I have a framework for how to work with my therapist and create a treatment plan now. But, I don’t know that I want to assume that or any other label. I can tell you my symptoms, I can describe my feelings in utter detail, but I don’t want to assume any labels. I want to just be Sarah Fader. And “just” is complicated. There isn’t anything simple about being me; I’m complicated, and I don’t pretend that I’m not. Many people can’t handle my intensity, and that’s even a label. It drives me crazy when people call me intense. I am passionate, tenacious, fun, warm and real. But I’m not intense. Feelings can feel intense but to call a person “intense” isn’t kind. It makes them feel like they’re a burden. When you’re outside in a hot New York City summer and the temperature goes above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s an intense weather condition. I will not be a “100-degree person.”

I want the people around me to appreciate who I am, what I stand for and to understand that they might not always get me, but that doesn’t mean that I’m lacking in the awesome department. I like being quirky and weird. I love making people laugh and I’ve decided that just because you don’t understand someone doesn’t mean that you can’t love them. I love plenty of people that I completely don’t understand. They are amazing people that confuse the fuck out of me and I love them anyway. Because you can love people that are extremely problematic and remind you of puzzles that you can’t solve. The pieces are hiding in the closet and the lights are off and there are no light bulbs. But you still love them.

People are wonderful and confusing and if we can connect to one another on any level, it’s exciting. I guess my point in all this is that we don’t need to define each other so much as we need to communicate and appreciate one another. Stop reading the labels and open the box to see what’s inside.

I don’t know what to do for you and I feel bad

There are times that I want to help someone, but I feel like I’ve exhausted all the emotional resources I have and I don’t know what to do for them. This makes me feel bad because I don’t want to see anyone hurt or suffering. If there’s any way that I can help someone I love who is in pain, I’ll do that. I often ask people when they’re going through a hard time what they need. How can I support or help them? Sometimes people don’t know and other times they have a specific idea about what they need. It’s helpful for me when the person tells me what they need so that I can help them effectively. I don’t want to do something that will hurt them more than they’re already hurting.

But the specific situation I’m talking about now is: what do you do when you have no idea how to help someone? What if you’ve used up all your brain power trying to come up with creative ways to be there for your friend and you don’t have any more light bulbs going off. It’s not that you don’t care, it’s that you’re out of potential solutions. When I get to this place personally, I start to feel down and bad about myself, which is ridiculous because I didn’t cause the problem the person is having. I just don’t have a way to make the issue go away. I have empathy for their pain and I don’t want to see them suffering anymore but I don’t know what to do about it and how to stop their suffering.

What I’ve realized is that, as much as I care about people, it isn’t my responsibility to alleviate their pain entirely. I can give the best of my ability, offer them love and unconditional support, and if that helps them, then that’s wonderful. But if their pain remains after I’ve done everything I can do as a friend and loved one, it’s not my fault. I didn’t fail or do anything “wrong.” I don’t need to be the hero, swoop in and save the day for every situation where I love someone. I can give love to the best of my ability and the majority of the work to get well isn’t up to me anyway. The person who is experiencing the life challenge is responsible for doing the work to get through it, process their feelings and heal.

We can be there for people when they are suffering, lend an ear, be a good friend but we cannot fix people’s problems, nor is it our responsibility to do that. There’s a difference between being a supportive friend and swooping in wearing an imaginary cape or carrying a magic wand to make someone’s problems disappear. As much as we’d like to envision ourselves as superheroes or fairy godmothers, we are humans. Humans, for the most part, have good intentions but we don’t have the power to end pain and suffering entirely. When a friend is going through a rough time, you can be there to support them, but it’s not all on you to mend it for them. Be a good friend, be there for them however you can, and understand that pain is a real part of life that we sometimes cannot control. What we can control is who we choose to be and what we do for those we love.

How it feels to come out of depression

Coming out of a depressed episode feels amazing and exhilarating. Think about when you have a bad cold or even strep throat. You felt lousy for such a long time and all of a sudden when your infection clears it’s like you’re a totally different human being. You got used to feeling sick and that became the new “normal.” It was exhausting and possibly debilitating but you adjusted and took care of yourself and your symptoms.

This is what chronic depression feels like. You are not well but you still have to go on living anyway. Sometimes people get to the point where they are so unwell that they do not want to live anymore and become suicidal. That is a very scary dark place to be. Depression is a serious health issue and it can literally kill people. It’s not just a mental health issue but a medical condition that needs to be treated. This is what depression feels like. You are not well but you still have to go on living anyway. Sometimes people get to the point where they are so unwell that they do not want to live anymore and become suicidal. That is a very scary dark place to be. Depression literally can kill people and it is a serious health issue. Not just a mental health issue but a medical condition that needs to be treated. People that do not understand what depression is or how severe it can get often underplay the effect it can have on people’s lives. I’ve heard people call someone who is depressed “unmotivated” or “lazy.”  They tell the same person to “get over it.“  Depression is something that you can’t miraculously get over and forget about. It is a lingering persistent feeling that can drag you down. A good friend of mine said that depression feels like you’re walking around with weights on your body; this is an accurate description of what it feels like to be depressed.

If you feel like you’re walking around with weights on your body when those weights are lifted you feel incredible, invisible even. That’s what it’s like when you’re coming out of a depressed episode. The feeling is invigorating and your body and mind feel unbelievably well. Having that emotional weight lifted from you is a glorious feeling.
The tricky thing is that this feeling may be temporary. The relief you feel after being depressed isn’t “forever.” Especially if you have chronic depression, you can expect that another depressive episode will return. This temporary relief can feel deceiving to people who suffer from depression. They might believe that they are free from it. It might even result in a person getting off of medication when they don’t need to do that. If someone who has chronic depression stops taking medication for depression, it’s highly likely that they will have another depressive episode.
So, enjoy the relief you’re feeling when you come out of the depressive episode but remember if you have chronic depression it is likely you will get depressed again so do not be deceived by bouncing back.

I Don’t Want to Go to CODA Because I’ll Make Friends

Having an issue with codependency sucks. It’s hard to break that pattern when you are used to that dynamic. There are meetings for people with codependency issues. They are called Codependents Anonymous or CODA; think AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). Any addiction has meetings to support the addicts. People, for the most part, have intentions to get well, whether or not they get there or not. It’s challenging to have addictions of any kind. Codependency is an addiction that people have trouble breaking because it’s also a lifestyle. People like to feel needed and validated and many times they are unable to provide that need to themselves and as a result to turn to others to fulfill the emptiness or void inside. I am guilty of this behavior and it’s hard to stop being this way. It’s something that I would like to stop doing but I haven’t had much luck getting to an emotional place where I can break the chains of codependency.

I’m afraid to go to CODA meetings because I know I’ll make friends there who are also codependent. Then I may set myself back because they are involved in the same behavioral patterns that I am participating in. It’s analogous to an alcoholic going to meetings and meeting other addicts. Then this person goes on to do other substances because they are reintroduced to the concept of self-medication. It’s unfortunate that this occurs, but it does. Maybe I’m wrong, perhaps I can attend CODA meetings and meet other people who have the same goal: to get well from codependency. It’s feasible that this could happen, but I’m not convinced. Codependency is deep-rooted in emotional traumas from childhood, and from my experience, those traumatic incidents take a long time to recover from: sometimes years.

It could be fun to meet people with similar problems and share stories. That’s the concept behind AA or Al-Anon. I’ve been to Al-Anon and had a great experience there. It was great to meet people who had interacted with relatives who had treated them poorly and had trouble recovering. I could relate to their journeys and I wanted to be supportive of them, but then I second guessed myself and wondered if this was my codependent side! It’s so difficult to determine what is healthy and what isn’t. When you suffer from addictive behaviors, you are hypervigilant about what behaviors could possibly be detrimental to your emotional and mental health.

Remember that codependency is a legitimate mental health issue and you deserve to be well. It’s going to likely be a long road to recovery, but that is the case with most addictions. You have to get used to putting yourself first. And if you’ve been a caregiver or self-sacrificial person your whole life, this is going to feel foreign to you. But it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. You CAN do it when you put yourself above other people. I can relate to this struggle; I have a hard time placing my needs above the people I love, but I am learning! Maybe I will go to a CODA meeting and meet some buddies who can support me on my journey!


Misinterpreted Anger

People misinterpret anger often because it is an intense emotion that can sometimes feel scary. Anger can be a productive emotion if used in a proper way. I just used the word “proper,” and I feel British right now. Working through your anger issues can teach you about yourself. I know when I recognize what makes me angry I am able to grow from it. Anger can be misinterpreted as hostility, and these are two different things.

Hostility and anger can occur at the same time, but anger can be there by itself. It is OK to feel angry and it is part of being a human being. However, some people interpret anger as something “bad.” The most important thing is to learn is how to manage your anger without letting it get out of control. Like any emotion, when you are not able to control how it manifests that is when it is problematic. Because anger is so strong and intense it can be overwhelming when we feel that emotion.
Anger doesn’t have to be overwhelming and it doesn’t have to feel bad. Anger can help you work through some serious life issues.
Women who are angry often feel guilty about having that emotion. I struggled with being angry for many years and realize that I do have a right to feel anger and even rage. It doesn’t help to blurt out angry words before you think about what you’re saying. However human beings do this all the time and it’s part of life.
What is best to do when we’re angry? I like to write about my feelings so that I can process what they are and understand them better before I communicate to the other person what they are. I don’t want to say things that I “don’t mean, “ although I’m not convinced that we don’t mean the things that we say when we’re angry, we just say them more passionately and without a filter. Not that I have a filter, to begin with, but you know what I mean.
Managing your anger takes practice and that might mean working with a therapist. I am talking about what makes me angry with my therapist and understanding that helps me to manage my anger better. I don’t want people to misinterpret my angry words and think that I am trying to be unkind. Sometimes I don’t even know why am angry and it freaks me out. This gives other people the opportunity and window to misinterpret what I’m saying and accuse me of being cruel when all I’m doing is trying to figure out why I am so mad.
I wonder if I’m the only person who has this problem. I’m certain I’m not, and I know that everybody experiences anger to a certain degree. But I want to know: do you say things that you do not mean when you’re angry? Or are you saying things that you actually do mean but wouldn’t have the courage to say if you did not have rage in that moment?
Have you ever been misinterpreted when you are angry? What does that look like? What do people think when you are mad? Do you have trouble regulating your anger or do you feel like you have it under control? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

I’m So Glad I Talk About Being Crazy Online

I am so glad that I talk about being crazy online. I’m relieved that I don’t just have that dialogue exclusively in my therapist’s office because at the time I was seeing an LCSW as opposed to a Ph.D. Being able to talk about my mental illnesses online has been incredibly freeing. It’s allowed me the opportunity to be fully myself and not judge that person. It’s been a wild ride on the Internet. First I had to get comfortable enough with myself to be able to articulate that I lived with mental illness. I wanted to be real with my readers but I was afraid. I was scared they might judge me, think I was crazy (even though I am) and then choose to stop reading my words or write me off as unstable. Even though I had read so many blogs were the writer talked about taking antidepressants. Even though I knew the dialogue was changing for the better in our society, that people were better able to express the mental health challenges they were dealing with both in “real life” and online, I was afraid to unleash my “crazy” on my blog.

My blog had been a place where I talked about benign things like painting cardboard boxes from Fresh Direct or going to the park with my kids. How could I speak about my crazy panic attacks? It seemed random and not related to what I was talking about. I wasn’t able to fully justify why I would talk about my “crazy” if there was no relation or reason to. It was hard to do that when I didn’t even talk about it in my life. There were only certain people who knew about my battles with anxiety and depression. I’d even lost friendships and romantic relationships because of how crazy I was.

Then I started learning that there were more people out there who had anxiety, more folks who lived with mental illness like me. And my crazy wasn’t alone anymore. This was especially apparent when I started Stigma Fighters and people started talking about their mental health journeys. I wasn’t the only person talking about having panic attacks because I had other anxious homies. It was a wonderful feeling to be supported anxiously. Let’s also give a shout out to clinical depression, without whom I wouldn’t have recently written a blog.

I have a great friend, Trish Sammer, who encouraged me to “let my freak flag fly.” She is a great friend and told me that my crazy was part of what makes me awesome. And the truth is that “normal” is boring. Normal isn’t who I am or who I will ever me. I am a crazy person who embraces that crazy and in turn, make creative things come to life. If I wasn’t crazy, I would have no career. If I didn’t admit that I am a crazy individual I wouldn’t be true to myself. It’s okay to be different from other people and that’s why I’m glad that I talk about being crazy on the Internet.

Don’t Text Angry

We’ve heard the expression “don’t drunk text.” But have you ever heard anyone say “don’t text angry?” It’s the truth. When you are angry, you are more likely to tell the “truth,” however it will be off the cuff, blunt, possibly hurtful and not accomplish your ultimate goal. When you are feeling angry, it’s best to hold off texting, wait until you’ve calmed down and then reassess the situation. Unfortunately,  I don’t take this advice as much I as I should. When I get angry, I let that anger out via text to the person I am upset with. Even though these feelings are true and real, it isn’t productive to unleash them on others. It’s better to journal or even eat your feelings if you need to. Whatever you need to do to release that anger in a healthy and cathartic way, do that.

When you text angry, you might say things that are unnecessarily hurtful when there are other ways to handle situations that are more productive.

The problem that I have is that I am an incredibly kind person until you cross that boundary with me. When you disrespect my feelings, lie to me or make me feel small, my anger comes out. I hate being lied to more than anything in the universe. It makes me feel like my feelings, my truth, doesn’t matter. That triggers me and makes me experience a high level of anger. Once that boundary is crossed I find it hard to pull myself back from that state. I think it’s because when people have lied to me in the past it has cut me deeply. If I find out that you’re lying to me, a switch goes off and I lose it. I don’t know what comes over me, but to me lying is intolerable. I can’t handle being told things that aren’t true.

Recently, I was lied to and I got extremely angry. The lie was extremely obvious and though I pointed it out the person refused to admit that they were lying, which I actually understand. When you’re caught telling a lie, it’s embarrassing, humiliating even, and makes you feel a level of shame that’s palpable. Though I get it to an extent, even if I were caught in a white lie, I would confess to lying. It’s not that hard to have humility and admit what you did was wrong. In fact, if someone told me “sorry I lied to you,” and then explained why I would have respect for that level of honesty. If you admit that you did something wrong, whatever that something is, it takes real ovaries or balls to admit that you messed up. It takes a strong person to say that you hurt someone’s feelings. It’s not easy to do that, but if you can it shows an incredible strength of character.

I’m going to struggle with angry texting because I have a hard time experiencing that emotion. I’m working on letting my anger out in a healthy way. It’s going to happen because I want it to. And when I work towards a goal, I achieve it.

There Should Be An Empathy Class in Schools

I was talking to my friend Jess, and she is a sensitive person like me. Unfortunately, there is a lack of empathy in our school system. Children are taught to focus on themselves and bettering their academic education. Empathy is something that should be taught in schools so that we can learn to be better human beings and genuinely care about people.

There should be an empathy classes in school. Because the world is a self-absorbed place. Children have the capacity to learn empathy at a rapid rate if we give them the chance. And if we teach kids young to be kind to one another when would they become adults they will be healthier and perhaps we could even change the world. If you look at the world today it is full of selfishness and narcissism. I don’t like talking about politics but how do you think Donald Trump became president? The reason he made it into the oval office is that he has narcissistic traits. I’m lucky to live in a city that is quite liberal and unfortunately, the rest of the country is highly conservative. But that’s a tangent. Back to empathy.

Empathy Class
If we taught empathy classes in school, I think what we would do is show people how to care about each other. I know that should be intuitive but unfortunately, it’s not. So if a disagreement or crisis happens in the classroom then we teach kids how to solve it in an empathetic way rather than just look at each other as enemies. One of the reasons that people are victims of verbal abuse is that there is no empathy between them.
If the children see each other‘s point of view then they have a better chance of solving the disagreement rather than digging their heels in and not being able to compromise. One of the greatest tools I learned in elementary school was I-Messages And I’m not talking about the text messages that we use with iPhones or Apple products. By the way that is totally not an advertisement because Apple does not pay me to pimp their stuff.
I-Messages are when you say things like: I feel sad when you call me stupid. Keeping it on the “I “ removes the blame off of the other person. You are owning your feelings and not telling the other person “you did this to me.”
Teaching children how to solve conflicts with I-Messages is one technique that could be used in an empathy class. Another thing is learning to see things from the other person‘s perspective and genuinely caring about that perspective. Seeing things from someone else’s point of view helps you to learn about other people and their unique qualities. It also helps you to be more understanding. If we teach kids empathy from a young age, then they will grow up to be more sensitive and empathetic individuals. As the world is now, people are sometimes abusive to one another with words. Words can cut to the core. they have the ability to hurt people deeply. If we taught people how to use words in a kind manner the world could be a wonderful place. I think about developing this empathy curriculum quite often. Since I have an educational background maybe this could be something really great. Perhaps I’m onto something.
If you took an empathy class, what would you want to learn?


Do Not Use Mental Illness As A Character Assasination

I have experienced stigma so hard lately. I have a severe anxiety disorder that causes me distress if I feel threatened in any way. Unfortunately, many people have little experience with anxious individuals and so I am continually misunderstood. I sent too many emails, or I call you after I get your voicemail just to make sure you aren’t dead. You know, anxiety is weird like that. Still, if you took the time to understand what anxiety is like and what it does to people, you might be surprised at what you learn. What you interpret as impatience is actually fear. What you perceive as annoying is a symptom of my illness. So please don’t tell me that I am disrespectful when I have a medical condition that I am trying to manage. It’s not about you, it’s about me right now. I’m doing the best that I can to deal with my problems so please kindly sit down and let me be myself. If you don’t like my behavior then tell me it upsets you or makes you nervous or whatever. Tell me what I can do to help you but don’t stand/sit there and tell me that I am not an adequate human being because I don’t conform to your ideal version of a person.

I will not change to please you or transform myself into a neurotypical person because it’s more convenient for you. Maybe you need to understand me instead of attacking who I am. It’s not my responsibility to curb my impulses and you don’t have control over me. It’s sad that our society isn’t understanding of people who have disabilities. I have made an attempt to meet you halfway and understand you but you cannot give me the same level of respect and you shame me for behavior that I have a limited ability to control. I have a therapist and a psychiatrist and I utilize those people to work on my behaviors. You have no right to tell me who I am and what I should do. Focus on yourself and what you’re doing.

I feel depressed sometimes because people don’t take a moment to respect my boundaries or take a moment to find out who I am. They think I’m crazy or irrational when all I care about is helping people. They believe I am egotistical when I am kind and understanding. I don’t need your approval, I need you to have some empathy rather than judging me. I don’t want your pity, I want your respect. And respect is a two-way street. Do not tell me who I am and I won’t tell you who you are. Is that a reasonable request. It’s easier for you to paint me as “crazy” so you don’t have to look in the mirror at your own flaws. I am aware of my imperfections and you do not care about being truthful, which is a shame…for you.

Let’s try to be understanding of one another and change the way we treat one another.