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Link to the Tumblr post

I did this backwards today. It's probably the last one I'll do, since there's only one more day and I'll be busy tomorrow. Then I'll go back to the much more reasonable one post every three days or more that I've been shooting for.

The comic, however, does not represent my experience with anxiety or depression. For me, anxiety is like being caught in an infinite loop. You're too focused on what might happen  that you don't worry enough about what is actually happening. It often takes outside interference to get me out of this loop.   I can't say depression sucks my energy. It's more that it sucks my motivation if I'm dealing with the same unpleasant circumstances long term. After a while, I just don't see the point and give up. It leads to a despair where nothing matters. 
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{Trigger warning: bullying, classism, suicide, ableism. Do I have those right?}
(Note: I've done some brief editing on this, but this was difficult to write.  I am not sure I'll be revisiting it much.)

Telling someone to “toughen up” or “get over bullying” is not always as easy as it sounds. Even former members of my gaming circle have expressed sentiments like this. When he suggested someone else just get over his unhappy childhood, I asked one simple question. It was, “Do you really think getting over a psychological trauma is that easy?”  My problems did not develop overnight. Years of bullying and ostracism from my peers caused anxiety and depression. I may have learned to cope with one but not the other. Several high-profile suicide cases have made news. One was a child of a working poor family. Yet when a child of a working poor family makes the news in a high profile bullying suicide case, someone invariably says that person needed to toughen up. Another person will add that the parents should have gotten that person counseling.

Telling the family that they should have gotten counseling for their depressed child shows how ignorant many people are of the conditions working poor families face. If the family makes too much to qualify for food stamps or other forms of government assistance, they are worse off than other families who make less money.  When food, clothes, and shelter must be maintained, medical or mental health care becomes a luxury. The Affordable Care Act eased this situation slightly, but many states did not expand Medicaid coverage. Working poor families may not even be able to get in to programs such as Pennsylvania’s Adult Basic or Indiana’s Healthy Indiana Plan.

Someone who is bullied for years will suffer from depression.  Words may cause no physical injury, but repeated emotional abuse causes invisible scars. These scars stay with a bullied child for life.  Names, slurs, and repeated insinuations that an individual has no value harm a person’s spirit. It does not matter whether the emotional abuse comes from the child’s peer group or the child’s relatives. Such children may feel like they are never “good enough” or they may go through life with the nagging sensation of failure. These sensations typically become self-fulfilling prophecies. When bullies add violence to their emotional abuse, conditions like post traumatic stress disorder frequently develop.

Those make it through life with the nagging sensation of failure grow up to tell their tales, but adults who were bullied as children do not catch the attention of reporters. These children suffered deep wounds from the actions and words of others. These invisible wounds were never treated because school officials who tolerated the bully led the victim to desperation. A child of a working poor family who falls outside of the income guidelines may not even be able to afford the psychological help that can save their lives. In some cases, the child may have to deal with the same peer group until their graduation ceremony. It was certainly the case for me.

If I get angry when I see such behavior, it’s because it’s personal for me. I was one of those children, and I was lucky. I made it through those difficult years, but not everyone shares my stubbornness. Teenagers often cannot see a way out of a desperate situation. I know the hopelessness this causes.  Don’t expect a child or young adult to toughen up, especially if they deal with these problems day after day. They have been strong long enough. The victim of bullying may need to change because the victim learned maladaptive coping behaviors, but the people who try and sometimes succeed in driving these children to suicide need to have their behavior changed as soon as someone sees it.

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People frequently say that they are not the people they used to be in online fibro chat groups. Sometimes, it is easy to dismiss this is a product of the complaining that goes on in these environments. Sometimes,  the people there just need to vent about how things are for them at the moment. I'm not any better than anyone else at this.  

However, the topic of mourning the people we used to be came up several nights ago. I must admit that I had difficulty with this at first. After all, I was still the same person, even if I had a new challenge to deal with. I still did many of the same things I did before, including go to work. Sure, I switched my exercise routines and I avoided standing for long periods of time when possible, but at first these were solutions to a problem I hoped to be temporary.

But if it were not for the magical effects provided by denial and sheer stubbornness, I doubt I would have been able to continue as long in my job as I have. Most people would have quit when I experienced severe leg pain on a daily basis. I, on the other hand, persisted. I knew how hard it was to get disability benefits, and I doubted I'd qualify. (There's also the problem of me not knowing what was causing the problem at first.)

I'm still trying to cling on to how things used to be, rather than finding the proper balance for what my life has become. I want to believe I'm still the person who can go into noisy environment without the quick energy drain.  I felt surprise when someone described three people in the LARP group as handicapped. (I named two right away. I had a hard time thinking about the third one. When she uttered the phrase, "Lara is handicapped." I finally realized who the third person was.)

I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to think of myself in this way. I'm not sure that I want to. I know I've encountered something similar as a transgender person before. For the longest time I didn't want to identify as queer.  All of the social stigmas that went with it frightened me. A good dose of internalized transphobia and homophobia went with it. It was easy to blame this on my religious background. A similar excuse cannot be used for my own fear of having a disability.

Even when I went through the disability process the first time, I had the attitude that the term really didn't apply to me. After all,  I thought I functioned normally, although most people who knew me would question this. (They suspected that I suffered from some form of mental illness long before I told them in most cases.) When the administration denied benefits, I did not fight it too long. I just returned to the work force as best as I could.  The environment for people working for the content mills was much better at the time. My writing didn't make me rich, but it did provide money for basic necessities.  The new problems have physiological causes, and I still feel like I'm somehow cheating the taxpayers, even though the system was set up for people who could no longer work.   

I know I should not feel guilty, and I know that I am lucky that it wasn't something much worse.  Some part of me keeps thinking that others will see me differently during the times I use a walking stick or a cane.  

I should probably stop rambling. Anxiety, as usual, makes the problem worse. I need to get over my own fear of what admitting that things aren't what they used to be might mean. I also need to be less concerned about what other people think. After all, I'm probably the only one who sees myself all that differently. (Well, except for my employer who seems to be sending signals that I'm a less valuable employee than I used to be.)


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