don’t feed the beast

August 31, 2012 | 53 Comments

Girl look in disbelief

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  • Catherine

    I have the double whammy – I’m on antideps, and also a recovering alcoholic. Like you, I’m not the type to be shy about either of them. So conversations with new acquaintances go something like:

    “Can I get you a glass of wine?”
    “No thanks, I don’t drink. Water would be great!”

    Some people, oftentimes people who’ve had experience with others in recovery, will leave it there. But lots of people will say one of the following:

    “Why don’t you drink?”
    “What, never?”
    “How about a beer instead?” (LOL!)

    Now, lots of recovering alcoholics don’t really feel like getting into the knitty gritty with someone they’ve just met, so they might say:

    “Oh, I don’t like the taste.”
    “I’m allergic.”
    “It’s just not for me.”

    But if someone asks me straight out, I say:

    “Because I’m a recovering alcoholic.”

    In America, the first response to that is INEVITABLY:

    “Wow, good for you!” or
    “Great job! How long have you been sober?”

    But in the UK, where people don’t talk about anything personal ON PAINS OF DEATH, the response varies between:

    “Oh gosh, sorry.”
    *averting eyes*
    *shifting uncomfortably*
    *not knowing where to put themselves*
    “That must be…hard?”

    Being me, I quite enjoy scaring the piss out of the Brits, and sometimes do it on purpose with someone who looks particularly English/reserved/repressed. Heh. But generally, once I say something like:

    “No, it’s actually a really good thing. I’m much happier, and I haven’t had a drink in 9 years, and I don’t miss it”

    it breaks the ice and we can talk about it. I feel like I’m performing a public service destigmatising this genetic disease for the UK. :)

    • Shannon

      Ha. I love you. I love your reaction to scare the piss out of ’em. That’s in me, too.

      It’s a crazy, strange world we live in with so much shame tucked away in surprising nooks an crannies. I’m glad you’re brave enough to stomp it out.

      I’m glad you’re you. You is amazing.

  • Eden

    xoxoxo! I have been trying to figure out how to do this better – I tend to joke about my mental illness, which comes pretty easily since OCD is a) often used as a hilarious shorthand anyway and b) actually be pretty hilarious sometimes.

    But on the other hand, I’m not cool with actually making fun of it, and I worry that the jokes come off as self-deprecation or shame. And while it’s funny, it’s also actually the case that I have a panic attack if I don’t load the dishwasher myself, and that if you put a bigger thing on top of a smaller thing I will be in genuine distress unless I fix it, and a million other little things. And it’s also the case that without my meds, there was nothing hilarious about the constant horror of potential disaster I felt. So I dunno. I don’t want to be a jerk to other people with mental illnesses, but it also feels good and appropriate to point out that my *treated* OCD is mostly fine and often totally absurd.

    Etcetera etcetera!

    • Shannon

      Eden, I can see how that would be a hard balance to manage. I think you handle it well and with thoughtfulness. And sometimes it takes just the right amount of lightheartedness to deflate a thing of its tension and taboo.

      I think the more we’re open about these things, the more opportunity we’ll have for extended conversations that relay all of what you just did.

      And sometimes we’re just going to screw up in our openness, and that’s okay, too.

  • Jocelyn

    Oh gosh, I’m sooo happy I met you via Steve’s TED talk, and now through your blog. Right, say it! Don’t whisper!! It’s not contagious. LETZBEFRIENDSKAYTHX.

    • Shannon

      You found me through Steve’s TED talk? He mentioned me? I had no idea.

      • Jocelyn

        No no no. I followed Steve on twitter after seeing hisTed talk, and followed your twitter feed yadayadayada BE MY BFF OKAY.

        • Shannon

          Ah. Makes sense. OKAY TO BFFS. :)

  • Gabrielle Valentine

    I too have been on anti depressants for years. At least 10 now maybe longer. Wellbutrin didn’t seem to be doing much after the last three years, I recently stopped them and rather than go back on something new just see how it went for a while. The last few weeks went okay this week I’ve noticed being more down and anxious. So we’ll see how it goes. But definitely people should talk about these things more often. Love your blog, also. : )

    • Shannon

      Thanks for saying so! It’s tricky finding the right meds. Mine are wellbutrin and they work well for me.

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