Sunday, October 23, 2016

To Fight or Not to Fight #AKF

Everyone goes through depression differently. There's no one cause, no one experience, and no one solution. But there are some commonalities.

Aside from the typical symptoms of depression (lack of interest in usual activities, sleep disturbances, feelings of hopelessness or that one has let others down, changes in appetite, thoughts of self-harm or worse, etc.), there are some other commonalities:

  • Worsening of self-esteem
  • Tendency to always see self in a negative way
  • Feeling at fault for everything
  • Belief that one deserves this depression as punishment for being at fault for everything
  • Certainty that one is a burden on friends and family
  • Belief that others will be happier if one is not there to drag them down 
  • Thinking that one is only ever taking from others and never giving
  • Feeling ugly, unloved, unwanted, alone
These are clearly untrue beliefs and thoughts, and I know that with every cell in my being. When I'm not depressed, that is.

Somehow, the depression shifts even "provable fact" and twists it to its own end, which seems to be solely to hurt the one afflicted. It's a kind of mental invasion. And what do we do with invaders?

We fight back. Of course we do.

Back in 2007, when I was blogging anonymously as Rivka through a severe depression, I likened the depression to my own personal, internal adversary (unlike the more hopeful metaphor of wing molt from earlier today).

In that adversary post, I wrote:
  • it breaks me down and consumes me and spits out what's left, and
  • I have this black cloud over my head or in my head and I can't see (both from here)
  • [it] takes that and twists it all around, that I don't deserve success, that my faults are too many, that I'm simply not good enough (from here)
  • I'm ... under the influence of my unstable emotions (from here)
  • It left me questioning my contribution to my marriage, my contribution to anyone, my value to the world (from here)
  • It's that I just feel less. Less everything that is meaningful to me, and
  • It diminishes everything important. It corrodes what makes my life meaningful and powerful and profound. It eats away at what makes me me (both from here)
And yeah, I want to fight that. Fight it and win. Fight it and hope it never comes back, and if it does, fight it again. And again.

There's an online campaign (initially launched as a t-shirt campaign for charity in 2015) started by Jared Padalecki, one of the stars of the long-running sci-fi show Supernatural, with the hashtag #AKF, standing for Always Keep Fighting. The t-shirt campaign raised money for three charities that all helped people dealing with mental illness (especially depression), self-harm, and suicide. Mr. Padalecki, who also shared his own bout with depression, stated the following on his personal interest in the cause:
"On New Years Eve, my dear friend lost his battle with depression. This, unfortunately, wasn’t the first time i lost a personal friend to suicide, and it hurt me deeply, in a way that only a personal experience with suicide can. Though he wasn't the first friend I’ve lost to suicide, I sure hope he’s the last. I wish i had the chance to go back and tell them what they meant to me. I wish I had the chance to beg them to seek help, to keep fighting. I wish they knew that they were surrounded by countless others who struggle on a daily basis.
I hope that this campaign, while raising money for a wonderful charity, can also raise awareness about issues that affect more people than we know. I hope it inspires people battling depression, addiction, mental illness and suicidal thoughts to be vocal about their struggles. I hope it helps people realize that they shouldn’t be ashamed of what they are going through, and I hope it helps people meet and find new friends that they can relate to. I hope it helps people take pride in the fight that they have been fighting, and gives them a push to never give up or give in. I hope it helps inspire people to keep fighting. no matter how hard it is.
For people who deal with mental illness, depression, addiction or suicidal thoughts, every day can bring about new struggles. Every hour and every minute can seem to bring insurmountable odds of happiness. I hope that the simple message of “always keep fighting” can help to bolster somebody through a tough time. I also hope this campaign can help alleviate some of the stigma that the terms “mental illness” and “depression” sometimes evokes.
Everybody has either dealt with these issues themselves, or had a loved one who deal with them. It’s time for us to put these issues front and center and not be ashamed of the path we are walking. If you’re out there and need help, please seek it. Be proud of your valiant day-to-day struggle. There is no shame in needing support. I hope this campaign will help you be vocal about your own struggles, or vocal in your support of those who might need a helping hand. Most of all, when life seems to want to beat you down, I hope you Always Keep Fighting."
 On the one hand, the warrior in me—the one who's been fighting for my life and identity since I was a child—loves this. Because it absolutely feels like a war, sometimes every minute.

And on the other hand, I don't want to fight anymore. Not that I want to give in—that's not where I'm going at all. But I've absolutely seen the effects of the adage, "What you focus on, you get more of" over the last 15 years, and I'd rather focus on hope and love and compassion and freedom and strength and beauty than on war and battles and being on the defensive and casualties and injuries and knowing that the next battle is just around the corner.

So I use the hashtag AKF because it connects me to others who find strength and hope in fighting their own personal demons, and at the same time, I look forward to a change in perspective when I can retire from fighting and wait for my feathers to grow in.


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