A song for Rule #4.
Rule #4 on Being Lovely: If you want something, ask. Give people chances to say “yes” before you say “no” for them. Don’t play Holy Spirit.
Even though Molly-Today has loved this rule since Molly-Ten-Years-Ago came up with it, presently, it was hard to write about. Writer’s block was imminent.
Because, on the surface, this rule is about the disservice we do to ourselves and others when we make what should be Their Decision for them.
We rob others of their agency when we make these unspoken choices for them. And in this way, we unknowingly violate their boundaries.
We do this in relationships. We do this in our workplaces. We do this in our friendships. And each time we turn away from asking others for something they can provide us, we ultimately hold ourselves back.
There were so many angles to approach the interpretation for Rule #4. Could it be simply about asking for help? Could it be about accepting our limitations? Could it be about addressing our need for control?
I really felt it was, at once, all of these options. And somehow none of them. I couldn’t fathom an eloquent way to emulsify ALL of these topics into one succinct Molly-style post. On top of that, my heart wasn’t in the answers to those questions.
So, in an effort to avoid discouragement, I asked myself one question: how does following Rule #4 help us to achieve our goal? That goal: being lovely.
After all, that’s the point of this blog. To discuss and address the variety of ways we hold ourselves back, from embracing our brightest lives.
Right, Molly? Right, Molly.
And then my answer came to me: this rule is about confronting the doubts we hold about ourselves and our capabilities, by confronting the full scope of emotions we allow to rule our lives. This rule is about leaning in to our fullest potential by trusting others with our vulnerabilities.
It is about accepting that we will not always have the ability to forge our paths alone. That we don’t always have everything we need to get where we want to go.
And that those truths absolutely do not make us inadequate. Nor do those truths make us imposters to our lives.
And that’s when I realized I want to talk about how engaging in this rule can positively affect our mental health. Because Rule #4 pares down to sharing how you are feeling.
Perhaps this has to do with basic day-to-day negative feelings you might hold regarding yourself. Perhaps it runs deeper, touching upon depression and/or anxiety.
But a large part of embracing loveliness is talking about the things that aren’t so lovely.
There have been so many times where I have felt such strong negative emotions that I could physically feel pain throughout my body. My brain had so many thoughts racing around, I thought my mind would implode. And all I wanted in those moments was to pick up the phone and talk to a friend.
Immediately followed by the intense fear of bothering that friend. Or burdening them with this knowledge. Or judgment.
Or possibly facing the fact that they might not care at all.
How many times have I said to myself: “This has been going on for a long time. Should I ask So-and-So if we can talk about how I’ve been feeling?”
Only for my next thought to be: “I’m sure they’re going to say No, so I’m not even going to bother.”
Not only did I make the decision for someone else. But I also removed the opportunity for So-and-So to possibly share a need of their own and-or connect with my experience.
Where does this knee jerk reaction to avoid asking for help come from?
Maybe we just don’t know how to approach someone with a need.
Maybe we hope that whoever So-and-So is, will be incredibly intuitive and Just Know.
Or that a little birdie will whisper to them our need.
Maybe we hope that we’ll overcome our feelings alone, not relying on anyone for anything. That way no one ever knows that we have bad days.
Or maybe we’re fearful of what happens next; after we successfully ask for someone’s help. How can you help someone understand what’s invisible, and sometimes impossible to describe?
I knew the reason I found this rule so difficult to write about. Because I ultimately knew it was going to get really personal for me. And being vulnerable is not a muscle I have flexed historically. So, I was spinning my wheels all week trying to avoid just that.
But that’s not the point of what I’m trying to do here.
So, after days of deliberation, I accepted that the right thing to do would be to share my own personal experience. Buckle up and grab some trail mix.
I’m going to share a long note Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years wrote to herself, several years ago.
As info, I hit the back of my head very hard and very solidly, on two separate occasions within the span of 2 years. This most likely resulted in compounded concussions that I chose to ignore.
Had I sought medical attention, I’m sure any good doctor would have informed me that a possible side effect of concussions is DepressionTM.
Instead, I was confused as to how and why I gradually developed deep sadness and anxiety, seemingly out of nowhere.
As someone who obviously enjoys writing her thoughts, it should come as no surprise to you that writing was how I coped with my experience.
This is the note that I developed over that period of time (Molly-Today inserted some memes to lighten the mood, and took out names for privacy):
Nothing feels right anymore. I can’t even think of how to put what I feel into words, and that frustrates me the most. The biggest thing I feel is that holding on any longer just scares me. But what am I holding on to? What is it I would be letting go to do?
It’s like I want to be asleep all the time, or just unconscious, in general. The idea of going to work makes me sad. But not having work to do makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, but this doesn’t feel right.
What’s most frustrating is that I don’t know what will feel right, so I don’t even know where to begin looking.
I don’t think there’s anyone I can to talk to about this, because I don’t want to worry anyone. And the idea of talking to anyone about it makes me so sad.
Like I’m weak and ridiculous and can’t handle my own problems. And part of me is scared that because I can’t verbalize it, whoever I talk to is just going to think less of me for being upset over what they perceive is Nothing…even though it feels like a huge something.
I think telling anyone about this will drive them away and make them want to avoid me.
But I know people would be upset if I—if I what? There it is again. What would people be upset if I did? Killed myself? Took a bullet for a stranger? Ran away? I think I would like an ending, but I won’t do anything to get one.
And I know I look forward to the bright moments in life, but right now they seem so far away. Like they might never happen again. I feel like I’m missing them. But even if I was free to join in, I don’t think they would happen for me.
For some reason, I had the very concrete thought that “I just need to hold on until [my younger sister]’s wedding.” So, that she knows I love her and am proud of her, and so that I don’t spoil it for her.
But I wouldn’t want people to think I left because of some sisterly jealousy or envy or anything. I would want her to know I held on for as long as I could, so I could be there with her. Just like I did for [my youngest sister] and [my niece].
But then I circle right back to what it is I am planning…mostly because I’m not planning anything! I’m not looking to end my life or hurt myself. I’m just tired of feeling like this. Where I am sad more than I am not sad. Even when I think I’m happy, I can tell it’s not real.
So, what would I even say to someone? They wouldn’t understand.
The hardest part about understanding depression, as someone outside of my head, is that it’s not as simple as just some voice in your head saying mean or sad things. It’s so much more. It’s as complex and deeply accepted as your faith, or fundamental math and reading skills.
Depression itself is an understanding. Certain things add up, they compute, they make illogical sense in my mind. And they’re dangerous.
And if they could be turned off as easily as ignoring some ever-present voice, trust me, that would be the choice every single time.
So, it takes massive efforts to sneak past these dark areas of your mind. Like sneaking out of a hostage crisis. Hoping those black holes don’t catch you trying to better yourself.
Trying not to make goals, because if you did, your mind would trap you away from them. Only trying to gradually get better, the way you gradually had gotten worse.
Going to the gym only for small amounts of time; just enough to get in a session of cardio before your mental health problems usher you away.
Or hoping for nothing from the significant other in your life; only allowing yourself to be surprised pleasantly when they come through on their own.
Or never making plans; only meeting with friends at the last minute, because obligating yourself too far in advance would alert your mental captor to the positivity.
The thought of positive change is terrifying, because you know it won’t stay that way for long. You know you can’t count on it. You know it will leave you, as it has every other time.
And when trying to learn a new skill in positivity (because that’s exactly what these efforts are), this mental unhealth can creep back in so surreptitiously.
Undermining every single step taken forward. Twisting each new little goodness back on itself. To the point that you don’t care to do them anymore. They don’t matter. Your mind has already rendered the activities useless.
The only option is exhaustion: laying in the dark when not obligated to be somewhere else. Never promised the solace of unconsciousness but always wishing for it.
The only option is anguish: where you can’t keep from crying yourself to sleep each and every night. Or holding back tears throughout the day, because you can feel how unlovable you know you are.
The only option is loneliness: distancing yourself from your friends, so you don’t end up in their plans, when you know deep down they don’t really want you there.
The only option is denying any positivity you hear, because what you know in your mind is too strong to be contradicted with reality.
There’s never a voice. There’s never a worded thought. Speaking about it out loud doesn’t make sense. It’s just an understanding of the factless truth.
Just warped memories to substantiate the feelings. Just pain clenching your heart, gripping your throat, burning your eyes with tears. It’s like there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
Fighting the feelings only causes more tangible pain. Sharp lightning reaching through your arms, all the way to your fingertips.
Depression is not easy to get over. It’s not even easy to get through. It’s a one-man show, day in and day out.
Who knew fighting your own mind every waking minute could be so bedraggling?
It’s peeling yourself out of bed, to put on your disguise every morning. The disguise of a bright, shining, smiling face, so no one sees. So no one has to be bothered with your problems. Because, honestly, who would care anyway?
Some days are lesser, some days are greater. But it is always present, no matter who you are with, no matter where you go, no matter what you do. It’s so much more.
So, to those of us struggling, keep your heads up. It may not get easier, but you will get stronger. Sometimes only you know what you need to safely navigate the murky waters of your mental health. Figure out the habits that help you manage. That help you get by.
And get by.
If that’s all you can drum up: just get by. Don’t worry about thriving and achieving, if the thought of that makes you want to run and hide.
And to those of you hoping to help someone with depression, know that actions speak louder than words. Every time. Words can be disputed and warped, but actions make memories. And those memories make weapons to help us fend for ourselves. So, just show up.
My mind was so sure that it would be impossible to communicate how I was feeling, that it wrote itself out in great detail! Can you imagine the discussion I could have had with a true friend in my time of need, if I had simply shared this note with them?
Can you imagine the help my note could have provided to someone else who was suffering in silence in the same fashion? Or if speaking with me gave my friend the perspective to help someone else they knew?
Perhaps we are not all suffering from the same illnesses. Perhaps not everyone has travelled my same path. But imagine the compassion this world could learn if we all chose to share our experiences with each other!
If mental health was not such a taboo. If, instead of telling someone to swallow their emotions and get over them, we validated what they were feeling. If we had spent more time developing the vocabulary, the laymen’s words, to discuss what is harming us.
Could turning to each other have become a more widespread and sought-after solution, by now?
I’m hopeful, because this discussion is happening more and more commonly throughout the current world stage. Each new TV series, movie, song, or podcast, sheds more and more light on mental health.
I’m hopeful that those suffering in their own quietude can feel more confident about approaching their loved ones with their own experiences.
So, this rule is about caring for ourselves and others, by being vulnerable with those we trust.
This rule is about being the one to ask for help.
This rule is about being the one to answer someone’s call for help.
This rule is about embracing compassion.
So, let’s wrap this up:
What is something about yourself that you have hidden from those you trust?
How have you tried coping with it in the past?
What would you tell someone who might be going through a similar experience to yours?
Who is someone you trust to share your experience with?