I am attempting to pull something elusive out from the ether that has been percolating in my brain. It is about the juxtaposition of the current American sense of of individualism and the basic human need for companionship.
I recently discovered the This I Believe radio series via Audible.com and, while it took awhile for the slower pace to grow on me, I am now a firm believer in listening. We would all be a lot happier if we slowed down and listened to others now and then, and this is a great jumping off point.
Two essays had content that jumped out at me, stayed with me, and are partially responsible for my current percolation. Albert Einstein and Robert A. Heinlein. How many of us are aware of the human side of Einstein? The title of the piece alone is illuminating, An Ideal of Service to Our Fellow Man. Here I will quote a snippet:
The individual feels more than ever dependent on society, but he feels this dependence not in the positive sense — cradled, connected as part of an organic. He sees it as a threat to his natural rights and even his economic existence. His position in society, then, is such that that which drives his ego is encouraged and developed, and that which would drive him toward other men (a weak impulse to begin with) is left to atrophy.Couple that vision of 1950's American individualism with Heinlein's observations of community in the same decade. His essay, titled Our Noble, Essential Decency, brought tears to my ears just from hearing someone so important to me expressing feelings of hope for humanity. Here is a snippet:
I believe in my neighbors. I know their faults, and I know that their virtues far outweigh their faults.
Take Father Michael, down our road a piece. I'm not of his creed, but I know that goodness and charity and loving kindness shine in his daily actions. I believe in Father Mike. If I'm in trouble, I'll go to him. My next door neighbor's a veterinary doctor. Doc will get out of bed after a hard day to help a stray cat—no fee, no prospect of a fee. I believe in Doc.
I believe in my townspeople. You can knock on any door in our town, say "I'm hungry," and you'll be fed. Our town is no exception. I found the same ready charity everywhere. For the one who says, "The heck with you, I've got mine," there are a hundred, a thousand, who will say, "Sure pal, sit down."
So what has been percolating for me, is this question of what happened to Heinlein's vision of his fellow Americans. What has happened to the notion of doing good for one another? How have we gone even further into Einstein's example, of Man avoiding Man, afraid of asking for help, afraid of needing anything or anyone at all?
So with those thoughts setting up my frame of mind, I have been dwelling on my loneliness and my depression. A recent conversation brought up, again, the concept that if I don't go out and find people, I will continue to be lonely. And I have gone out. I've gone out of my way to break through all of my blockages due to depression and anxiety, and the end result was very close to nil*. Zip, zilch, nothing. So I am back in my hole at home, nursing the wounds of extending myself without reciprocation.
[*No, not zero. No, not everyone's fault but mine. There was some reciprocation. There were near misses. There were huge failures on my part. In the end, I think nothing really panned out purely because of my inadequacies.]
I started thinking about all of the "checkpoints" to make sure that new mother's don't get lost in the depths of post-partum depression. How every single health worker I encountered during my daughter's first year of life asked me to talk about myself, how was I doing, who did I have to talk to and share my burdens. How both of my PEPS groups set aside blocks of time to talk about PPD and the need to reach out to those in need. How I revealed to both of my PEPS groups that I had depression.
And a completely new thought came to me.
Healthcare workers know they need to reach out to people at risk. They quiz me, the listen, some of them even sought me up for follow-up. So why is it that normal, everyday people around you don't know this? Or if they do know it, why aren't they acting on it?
I am a person very vocal about my depression. I am a first-time mother to a toddler who spends almost all of her time alone at home. Where is the line of people knocking on my door to make sure that I'm ok?
This thought shocked me. It is so self-righteous. People can't be expected to just drop everything and cater to me just because I'm sad and lonely.
Oh, but I'm not just sad and lonely. I have a disease. A disease with known symptoms of suicide, child abandonment, child abuse, and infanticide.
Long ago I discovered that I need medications for my depression the exact same way that a diabetic needs insulin: I need it to live.
Depression is like all diseases: there are things that help, and things that make it worse. So why not treat it like a disease? If I have Type 2 or 3 Diabetes, would you be inclined to sign me up for a Dessert of The Month or simply inquire about my health, my well being, and ask if I need help with anything? If I have a cancer and I'm taking chemotherapy, are you going to invite me to a rave complete with a hit of Ecstasy, or are you going to stop by for a visit, bring some chicken soup, and tidy up the dishes in the sink?
I'm guessing most people would enact any of those scenarios. Most people would just stay home and live their lives, maybe drop a line on Facebook or make a phone call now and then.
But while Diabetes is helped by insulin and cancer is helped by chemotherapy, depression is helped by companionship.
You are my medicine. I've asked for a regular dosage. So where are you?
I know it's difficult to get out of your comfort zone. Believe me, I've got a very small one and I stay socked in there constantly, so I know how hard it is to stand up, shake the dust of the rut off, and take the plunge into foreign waters. But I'm worth it, aren't I?
Maybe it's a tangent, maybe it's not, but I have to rant here. I am literally sick of hearing about "baggage" and how loathsome it is. The sentiment makes my blood boil. You've got baggage, I've got baggage, the freaking Pope has baggage, I assure you. I am not less of a person, I am not less worthy of respect and love and affection, because bad things happened to me in the past. When was the last time you looked in your closet and were surprised people still like you? That's what I thought. So can this sentiment about baggage making people less. Stop this sentiment that broken people aren't worth you time. Can we please halt this sentiment that someone is unworthy of you? I am all for girlpower, but who coined the phrases "You're better than him" and "He doesn't deserve you"? Those things sound nice when your heart has been stomped on, and they absolutely apply if your man beats you, but other than that... should you really be encouraging people to believe that they are better than others? That some people are beneath them?
That's about all I've got, folks. I said it was something percolating. I didn't say it was coherent. I have no solution. I have no Magic Wand of Fxing. I just have thoughts and hopes. And lately I'm hoping that we can find our way back to a sense of humanity where we're not afraid of each other or ourselves. I'm hoping we can all live in Heinlein's little town where all we have to do is ask for help and it will be given, no question asked. We're all hungry for something, and we all deserve to eat.
Finally, a disclaimer: This is not a cry for help. This is not a guilt trip. This is not about you. It's not really about me, except that these are my thoughts. My thoughts on humanity. People in general.