May is Mental Health Month, and all you geeks are on my mind.
So many of us geeks face challenges daily, just because we’re a little bit different. We like weird TV shows, we wear weird clothes, we prefer books and pets to people, we feel anxious in social situations, while desperately wanting to feel included. This can lead to anxiety, depression, and a list of other conditions that qualify as general mental stress and sometimes illness. But I’m here to tell you – there’s hope. You’re not alone.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness:
Mental health awareness campaigns always hit home for me, as I have struggled with depression for more than 25 years. Family and friends also deal with it, as well as generalized and social anxiety, ADD/ADHD, bipolar disorder, OCD, just to begin the list. I see so many geeks fighting this same fight too, and it breaks my heart.
A good friend of ours died by suicide last summer, and we still mourn her loss. Sara was a geek, too – super smart, a power reader, into anime and going to cons. Every time we see a penguin, we think of her, because penguins were “her thing.” She added so much to so many people’s lives, but now we’ll never know where her path may have led.
Before her death, however, I didn’t realize the loss from suicide isn’t just one person’s unrealized potential. The loss also impacts and scars the people left behind. The people who have to go on without her. It has changed my perspective during my own dark times.
I know there were times she felt different, like she didn’t fit in, and that she just couldn’t bear her personal pain. I hear the same thing at our Geek Girl Brunches – that high school was simply hellish and lonely. Or moving to a new town, and knowing no one with your interests. It can feel like no one understands, and no one wants to be around you, so you spend another weekend with your cat (not that your cat isn’t awesome). But being and feeling different can be so isolating.
A New Hope – you may have to resist and fight for it
That’s why I’m here to tell you there *is* hope, it *can* get better. I’m not saying it’s easy, though. I’m not saying it doesn’t take work – sometimes every.single.day it’s work, just to get through the day and do what you need to do.
There’s an online initiative called “depression lies.” I’m not sure where it originated – I know The Bloggess writes about it, and there’s a #depressionlies hashtag on Twitter. But basically it’s used to remind you/us that the brain…well, it’s a big, fat liar sometimes. And what feels like makes so much sense (“you’re just weird.” “you’ll never have friends.” “they’re talking about you.”) is just your brain whispering lies into your ear. And you believe it.
I found it very empowering to reconsider that all the terrible things I tell myself, may really just be my brain lying to me. And I don’t have to believe it.
Sometimes, the brain is a big, fat liar.
So when you hear those lies, you need to recognize that it might not be actual fact. It just *feels* like fact. That’s the time to RESIST. And find A New Hope.
Find people who *do* understand, and like what you like – or at least respect that you like what you like. Find and ask for help when you need it to get through the day(s). Find your tribe.
Sometimes you can’t do it by yourself – it may be that you need to seek out help, whether a professional counselor, and/or a psychiatrist and medication. There’s no shame in asking for and receiving help – especially if it allows you to be more of the amazing, unique person that you are. With the right help, things *can* get better.
At the same time, you can also breathe in, breathe out, and seek out people with your interests. That’s part of the reason I list every Kansas City geek group and geek event I can find on this website. I want KC Geeks to be a resource hub for geeks to find other geeks to geek out with. Life gets so much better when you have someone to share the ride with – you don’t have to be and feel alone. But sometimes you do have to take that step to not be alone.
We have a lot of first-timers at Geek Girl Brunch – ladies who have just moved to Kansas City, and know no one else but the people they work with, and unfortunately co-workers often don’t want to dissect the latest Doctor Who. Ah, but other Brunchettes do, and there are so many other amazing Kansas City geek groups that fill that need, too. Find your tribe.
But if you haven’t found your tribe yet, and you’re feeling alone, and like you can’t take the pain one more minute – PLEASE – reach out. Speak up. Get help. Check out the resources listed below, and then come find me for a hug at the next con, ok? I’m in the trenches with you, nerd.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
- Suicide Hotline: What happens when you call?
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Kansas (with local resources)
- NAMI Missouri (ditto)
- Greater Kansas City Mental Health Coalition
- Speak Up: Suicide Prevention (Kansas City founded/based awareness organization)
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention-Kansas City
- Kansas City mental health resources and services, many with a sliding scale