Underneath my yellow skin

Try a Little Tenderness

One of the downsides to being sick is that I get depressed at the same time. It’s understandable, but it’s difficult to handle for someone (me) who has dealt with depression all her life. When I say depression, I don’t mean the blues or feeling a little down. I mean, “There’s no point. It’s all hopeless. I might as well be dead” feelings. The worst part for me is that it makes me not want to write, which is akin to death for me. My brain tells me, “Your writing is shit. No one cares what you have to say.” I read what I’ve written, and it’s horrid.* I’m hard on my writing in general, but I know I’m being extra-hard on myself.

I woke up this morning and thought, “I hate all my writing. I should just stop.” I actually considered quitting for several minutes, and then I stumbled across an article about Mr. Rogers on Facebook (h/t Krista Elliott) that made me feel better. The author, Anthony Breznican, recounts a terrible time in his life when he felt hopeless about his writing and life in general. He’s from Mr. Rogers’ hometown of Pittsburgh, and he (Breznican) caught an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on the television in the common room at his college. He watched the whole thing and felt better. Later. he ran into Mr. Rogers and poured his heart out to Mr. Rogers about how hard a time he was having and how watching one of Mr. Rogers’ episodes helped him. Mr. Rogers actually sat down with him and related his own story of grief (losing a grandfather for both of them), and said that it never went away, but the love was always there.

The story really resonated with me because of the writing aspect, and it was exactly what I needed to read at the moment. Writing is a lonely business especially for an intense introvert like me, and it’s hard to see the end of the tunnel when there’s no light along the way. It also reminded me that there is kindness in the world, which is hard to see when things are dark all around.

Breznican wrote this article in response to the Manchester bombings because the quote by Mr. Rogers about always look for the helpers was making the rounds, and he (Breznican) wanted people to know that Mr. Rogers was the kind and gentle soul he appeared to be.

This article reminded me that everyone needs an encouraging word now and then. My brother and I had a discussion about how to get other people to be receptive to you. It’s something I can do naturally, but my brother has difficulty doing it. He’s all about logic and has a hard time reading emotions. I, on the other hand, can easily read other people. We were talking about how no matter where I go, I get people pouring out their life stories to me. I can ask a cashier how they’re doing, and I get a litany of woes in response. I know part of the problem is that I look in their eyes while I’m talking to them, and I ask follow up questions.

Let me backtrack. My brother was listening to an audio book by an ex-FBI agent who was talking about how to make people confide in you (or something like that). As my brother was talking about the book, I gave several suggestions, and he said the FBI agent said the same thing. I joked that I should write a book and do speeches about it because it’s innate to me.  I have a background in psychology, and it’s just the way my brain thinks, anyway. My brother’s biggest problem is that he talks rapidly and in a clipped tone, so he always sounds as if he’s impatient. He is, but not with the listener, exactly. It’s because his mind goes a mile a minute, and he’s always thinking about the next thing he has to do. I’ve coached him in the past about how to make himself more approachable (he’s a realtor, so selling himself is important), and he’s improved dramatically over the past few years.

My problem is that I get overwhelmed with all the sob stories I hear, so I’m trying to be more closed to random people. The thing is, though, I know that many people are lonely and don’t have anyone to talk to. I know that five minutes of kindness can be a godsend. However, I don’t have to be that person to everyone, and it’s really hard on me to take on all that pain. It’s draining to hear other people’s sad stories, even if I have a wall erected between us. Also, I am not responsible for the world and all its broken people.

I don’t think I’ll ever be completely closed off because that’s just not my nature. I just need to find a way to balance it so it’s not harmful to me. I want to find a way to be empathetic without being codependent, and I’m not quite there yet. I don’t know how people like Mr. Rogers did it without it taking chunks of their souls.  I’m better at it than I was years ago, but it’s still difficult for me to set appropriate boundaries. Either I keep people completely out or I let them completely in, and neither is healthy for me. At least I’m aware of the issue, which is half the battle. It’s an arduous journey, and I’m sure it’s one I’ll be traversing my entire life.

I am grateful that I read this article this morning because it’s buffeted me enough to write for another day, and that’s a feat in and of itself. Thank you to Andrew Breznican and Mr. Rogers (and Krista for posting it) for getting me through one more day of self-doubts. I’ll take all the help I can get.



*It’s not. I know it’s not, and when I re-read it with a clear mind, I can see it’s not.

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