Thursday, January 31, 2008

Criticism with a Cherry on Top

As I celebrate this blog's third anniversary, I contemplate my approach to disability and wonder if there's a special place in Hell for drive-by anonymous posters who haven't anything nice to say.

(cc) roboppyThree years ago this month I pulled my weblog out of "I posted a picture today and edited a perl script" purgatory and posted it on Blogger as a form of therapy. I wanted to force myself to learn how to write about my disabilities without feeling sorry for myself or making people uncomfortable. It was a rough first year, but I made my goal by year's end. By the time I found my voice, Blogger found me and catapulted my little blog into A Lister-like status for a few weeks when they featured me on their Blogs of Note page. Suddenly, more people than my mother and mother-in-law were reading what I wrote. It was a rocket ride, thrilling and heady.

One big problem from being noticed, however, was the drive-by anonymous commenters. They loved to fling their poo at me then head off to the trees with the other chimpanzees looking for the next blog to soil with their presence. Of the several dozen incandescently rude posters over the past three years, most never returned to see what I wrote in reply. If they did, it was only to dig into their diaper pail of comments and smear more refuse in retaliation (I'm really having fun with the scatological imagery here). Although not everyone agreed with me, for the most part we had a dialogue and grew to understand each other. We respected each other's opinions. That meant I made my second goal, to connect with others and have fascinating conversation with them.

As a rule, however, negative anonymous posters aren't the best conversationalists. Not all anonymous posters are rude and many are quite insightful, which is why I still allow anonymous posting, but enough of them are that it can be tiresome. I try not to let attacks lie unchallenged, which is why I responded to the latest chimpanzee in detail over at my Cho Seung-Hui article. In that article, I covered the media's almost pathological need to pin Depression as motive for the unspeakable acts of violence done by seriously deranged individuals. I criticized Andrea Yates apologists as well. It was a controversial article that featured mostly polarized responses.

I wanted to repost my response to Anonymous because I felt the dialogue we had really defined who I was and how I feel about disability. Here is the part of the article I wrote that the commenter took issue with:

No, I didn't choose to have Depression, but I did choose to let it run its course in me. I chose to wallow in sadness. I chose to mindlessly watch TV and play RPGs for hours on end. I chose to cut myself off from friends and family. I chose to remain miserable. Until one day I decided I had had enough. Meds didn't work. Therapy didn't work. I decided to try a very radical treatment instead; I decided to think positive for a change. I decided to think "Can Do." The transformation wasn't immediate, nor was it miraculous. In fact, I spent many years retraining my mind, but I eventually succeeded and found relief and freedom from the nonstop waves of sadness that crushed my soul.

And here was their response:

I couldn't agree with you more. It's important to remind us that we can all pull ourselves out of it if we choose to, and that failure to do so is nothing more than pure laziness. Saying, "I can't do that because I'm depressed" is nothing more nor less than an excuse for poor behavior.

In other words, we can just pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

Thanks for your insight -- now I can have a heaping helping of guilt to go with depression. Please may I have a cherry on top?

I replied:

I have never said that people who fail to shake off Depression are lazy. That is an egregious misrepresentation of my message.

People who do not shake off their Depression, however, are either forced to a life of suffering, or medication, or both. I write to those who find no relief from medication. They are the ones who really suffer. One group tells them to "just" snap out of it without any thought as to how that is accomplished, and the other group defensively attacks because they can't function without medication and are hostile to those who suggest they try.

You are correct that you can pull yourself up by your own bootstrap. There's no "just" about it, however. It takes a lot of work, but is ultimately rewarding. I am thankful for Cognitive Behavior Therapy and my God who lead me to it, even before I knew what to call it.

With your thoughts you can change your world, Anonymous. Your thoughts are snide and mocking. I can only imagine what a dark, painful world you live in, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Now, here's your cherry.

As I begin my fourth year of blogging, I find that the critics don't upset me quite as much as they used to, though I do find the "You can't really be Depressed because you can manage it" comments tedious, and I don't look forward to more stern advice from people who see Big Pharma as the only solution to their or others' problems. I have found a method of dealing with my AD/HD and Depression that is very rewarding and successful for me. I know it has worked for others as well. In addition, I know many people whose lives have been ruined by the side-effects caused by meds. Why shouldn't I share what I have learned with the world? Why should I keep my voice silent because it is unpopular with the medicated crowd? I know that my blog could be more popular if I threw a pity party now and then. I've seen that work for other Depression and AD/HD blogs. Some people want to believe their ruined shell of a life is not their fault. They celebrate their meds and revel in drug culture jokes. Sometimes, they want to whine and feel sorry for themselves. I can't write that kind of blog. May God forgive me, but I just don't care about catering to whiners. I've whined enough in my life and it hasn't gotten me anywhere.

I have a choice. I can live my life as a victim or I can be proactive in my fate. I choose to fight and be proactive. So, I'll assume blame where I have to while understanding that my limits shape my solutions. I have hope that I will forge a path through my forties that will leave me happy and successful. It's not a path that everyone can take, but it is still a valid path. I won't apologize for it. Meds are dangerous to many people, especially me, and for those of us that cannot, or will not, take them there must be a resource out there for us to learn we are not alone.

The Splintered Mind is now read by thousands of people every month from all over the world. Over 200 people subscribe to the feed. An A Lister I am not, but I am very thankful for the comments and feedback I have received over these past three years. I am especially thankful for the friendships I have made. Many of you regular readers make my day whenever you leave a comment. Now that my schedule has opened up I will post more regularly and hopefully have time to poke a witty finger in the eye of these hardships as I have done in the past. Please continue reading and commenting as I move forward into 2008.

All the best,
Douglas Cootey

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