Pro tips for being a friend to a person with depression

Trigger warning for suicide and depression-related thoughts – no physical details.

So, since I have neither the power of will nor the self-protection instincts in place to avoid the internet during a time when I know that it is going to wreck me, let’s see if I can do something to at least balance this shit out.


Robin Williams, a world-renowned actor who played roles that reside in so many hearts, killed himself yesterday.

Facts about Robin Williams:

 Do NOT include (at the time of this post, from what I have been able to find – please provide a credible source and I will amend) confirmed diagnoses of bipolar disorder, or clinical depression.

Facts from my life:

Depression is clinical, or situational, or both.

Depression is not easy to pin down.

Depression is not something you can sort-of have.


Everything is a lie when depression is involved. Including whether or not depression is involved. Do people commit suicide who are not clinically depressed? Probably, yes. A whole lot of people do a whole lot of things that harm or kill themselves, and I am not here to posthumously diagnose them.

If you have a friend who lives with depression, here are some things you can do.

Please note that I did not say things you SHOULD do, because we’re all different, and maybe something on this list would be a bad idea for someone I didn’t poll. If so, sorry, and please contact me so I can fix? Excellent.

1. Say to your friend, “I know [very little/only bookish things/ALL THE THINGS] about clinical depression, and we [have/have not] talked about it, but I want to reach out to you on this topic because I care about you.


3. Ask them, “How do you feel about all this stuff around Robin Williams?”

4. Tell anyone in your life, whether you think or know that depression is a part of their life, “I’m afraid/concerned/angry/feeling feelings I don’t understand, and I wondered if you can help me understand. Can we talk about this?

Because it’s important. I promise. Even if you, and your friend, are both super emotionally healthy, and all you’re doing is reassuring each other and checking in – checking in isn’t such an easy thing. So checking in with someone who’s in a good place is nice, right?? Yay, you’re feeling good, awesome! Next person! And maybe you check in with one or three or thirty friends, and they are all loving life, and feeling good, and then, you check in with one, and he falters a bit. Or doesn’t respond at all.

I could email someone I’ve been facebook friends with for five years and not get an answer and not think anything of it. Because, why would they respond? I haven’t made any previous effort, so maybe they think I want something from them, or it’s a mass/hoax/spam message.

But the fact is, direct contact saves lives. Like a hunter cautiously approaching the woodland animal whose home was invaded by a bullet or a trap, there’s good reason for mistrust. Similarly, a person who was previously perceived as a predator – a bully – can help undo the emotional damage that someone has felt since the first time s/he was your target.

I’m saving this post without sharing because I want to make sure I’m doing the right thing by anyone who may see themselves here. Most important was saying, I understand what he must have felt, and I both love and hate him for what he did, and I am going to use this to grow. And for any fucker who wants to give me shit for saying I hate him for what he did – talk to me first. Know how much I fucking love this man. Recognise that, as with a parent, I couldn’t hate him if I didn’t first love him. And he is, even now, helping me to grow.


I was reading an incredible and incredibly important story earlier, from Black Girl Dangerous, about identity, what we do not owe the people of this world, and what is owed to certain people by certain other people. I suggest you read it and I don’t care a whit if you don’t come back to the rest of my blog post.

This may be the most important thing you read in a very long time, so read this shit. Read it hard.

While I read this, it came into my head, “I’m not too this, I’m not too that,” which, inevitably, brought to mind the Divine Miss M’s, “I’m Beautiful, Dammit.”

Which you should also watch. Twice. Or three times – however long it takes for it to be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Or your life.

But there’s a flip side to this – another angle, another – equally acceptable – data point that this brings forward.

“I’m not ‘too’ anything. In general. I also accept that your preferences have parameters, and I may not fit within them. So, yeah, for you, I may be ‘too.’ And that is okay.”

In the piece linked above, Caleb states, “And while I make active attempts to interrogate, challenge and expand my own desire, I am not exempt from perpetuating these things either.” “These things” being [the preferential treatment of] “thin, masculine, cis, non-disabled male bodies.” And this is something that plagues me – because I definitely have a “type,” and I feel fucking BAD about it, you guys. I sometimes really freaking hate that my “type” is so very “normal.” And this brings me to a creepy segue about a quote from Dazed and Confused which I will NOT share now, but if someone calls me on it later, I might elaborate. Might.

So, here we go: I can accept and support and advocate for every single person’s right to be exactly who they are, and not be judged “too” this, or “not [this] enough.” I want to – it’s important to me for everyone to have the ability to claim an identity without it being policed by someone else.

But, when it comes to my intimate relationships, I do get to say, “too” this, “not enough” that. Not against some international barometer, not with any authority except what governs my self and my body and my wants. It will also almost never be my first explanation – unless you are being too aggressive or too handsy or too much of a dick. Those things do not take away from your identity, and so they do not feel as sacred to me (or if they are related to your identity, well, sorry, those are not okay things to be).

It isn’t a judgment of the person: it’s an awareness of how my body, my brain, and my environment work with an individual. Now, if I’d only ever slept with or dated slender, 6′ tall, CK-model androgynous beauties, then I might further question myself here. But I’d like to propose that, as long as we are actively engaged with the choices we make about who we’re attracted to, it’s okay if it is the same as the “norm.”

While I work toward a world in which the tall, slender, light-skinned body is not the only body we revere – those bodies are also beautiful and desirable and you, and I, don’t have to feel bad for finding them so.

Every body is beautiful, y’all.

“What do you do?”

In the course of engaging on a butch-femme discussion forum, as is my custom now and again, I came across an image that brought to mind a whole host of thoughts and feelings:


[Creator unknown: please tell me if it’s you, or you know who! I’d like to credit/link]

Instantly, I’m brought back to a moment in the backseat of a car, holding hands with my lover at the time. We’d just been apple-picking with friends of mine she’d recently met. My dear femme friend asked from the front passenger seat, “What do you do?” And my lover responded, hesitatingly and with a detectable note of shame in her voice, saying what her retail job was, trailing off at the end of the sentence. I added, “And she’s a landscape photographer: she has a piece that she’s sending up for Photo-a-GoGo, she sold the photograph she submitted last time, it was a beautiful shot.” And that got everyone talking about technical specs on cameras and framing and things that actually mattered.

Fast forward to that evening: E and I are in bed, talking about the day. “I felt lame, when M asked what I did – I didn’t want to answer.” And I say, knowing that it’s true, “But M didn’t want to know what you do for work – she knows that already — hell, she’s one of my best friends, she knows more about you than you want to think she does,” with a smile and a teasing nudge. “She wanted to know more about who you really are. That’s why I mentioned your photography. Because that’s who you really are.” I feel the tension slowly leave her body as we lay there in the half-light and I tell her that M has both a Job (working retail) and a Career (as a medical practitioner), and that my friends don’t hold her up to some high standard of prestige or income or power – what they want to know is that this person they love, me, is spending time with someone who knows what they love. Because having a passion – any passion, really – and sharing it with the world in some way, brings a light into your life that cannot be reproduced in any other way, and gives you something you want to share with those close to you.

It can manifest in so many forms: writing a piece of choral music; painting a mural; designing a custom gown; landscaping grounds; writing a piece of tricky code; finding the part of a machine that’s stopping up the works and fixing it; soothing a troubled soul; mending a broken bone; writing a bit of prose.

It isn’t what we do for a living. It’s what we do for ourselves, and each other. That’s what is important. I happen to be really freaking lucky, and I love what I do for a living — this is a very new thing to me, and I’m still getting used to the idea. And if someone asks me what I do, I could give them a stuffy “official” job description. But if I say, “I help libraries make their online catalogs sexy,” and they don’t understand all of what that means because they don’t know how to calculate its value, to turn it into an annual salary, or a marketable product – that’s sad, and we probably don’t have a lot to talk about. I want to hear about that photograph. Or that song. Or that healed bone.

Let your passion be your person. Let it define you. Let it tell the world who you really are. What do you do for the world?

50 Fierce Femmes

Tonight, Jack Tar posted a list that has been many months in the making. Honoring Femme-identified people for their work and their visibility, their words and their presence in a world that has a hard time understanding who and what they are, here’s our 50 Fierce Femmes list.

I’m grateful for these women and for their contributions to their communities, and for the new connections I’ve made while working on this project.


Zena Sharman, Queer and trans* health advocate. Gender researcher. Writer. Photo by Vivienne McMaster.

Been a while…

…since I’ve thought about Gratitude. Since I’ve dedicated some time to it. Reading the Father’s Day Postsecrets, and contemplating whether Father’s Day or Mother’s Day is the shittier holiday for me, I thought, “Maybe something positive would be a good idea right now.” So, here we go.

I am grateful for:

1. Joshua. This kid, man. He’s… he’s everything, really.

2. Pride, Portland. Not only have I made some wonderful new friends, but I’ve become part of this amazing organization that represents so much of what matters to me.

3. Strength. My tattoo says it all – I am stronger than I know. Maybe I’ll never know just how strong I am, because I will never be broken – I will always stand tall and meet what tries to break me down.

4. My job. My amazing, wonderful, perfect job, and the people who make that job amazing, wonderful, and perfect. Every single day, I love it more.

5. My brain. I don’t give it enough credit. Even when I think, “Life would be easier if I didn’t see/think/know/feel/understand XYZ,” I know that I wouldn’t give up a speck of my brain’s awesomeness for anything. It isn’t about being smart – there are tons of people smarter than I am, and my smarts haven’t exactly delivered a golden path of ease thus far. It’s about my brain’s ability to learn. To change and grow and change again. To adapt. To process. To retain information. My ultimate goal is not intelligence, but wisdom. And I have my brain to thank for the fact that I can even make that my goal, let alone hope to achieve it at some level.

There is so much to be grateful for in this life. Time to get back to acknowledging that on a regular basis.

For love of books.

This probably belongs on FolioFiles rather than here, but as it’s more about me than the actual book(s) in question, I’m sticking with my gut.

Earlier this week (late last week? permalink only has month, not day), Slate published a piece in which the author opined that adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.

…Anyone who knows me doesn’t need to ask my reaction to THAT opinion, but I plastered it in plenty of places around the interwebs, and as a result, Book Riot’s Amanda Nelson now follows me on Twitter (and I just spent the last ten minutes replying to ALL OF THE THINGS she has said since I last looked. She’s my most recent friend-lust.)

At any rate, I’d like to plug a not-marketed-as-YA book (because that’s all YA is, right? Marketing. You know this? Good, moving on): Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

I’m listening to the audiobook, and during the first couple of chapters, it was really difficult for me to decide what I thought of the narration. The narrator, Kathleen Wilhoite, has a distinctive voice, with undertones that remind me of Paula Poundstone, and Lily Tomlin. Very expressive, but occasionally maybe a bit too shrill, or giving a character a full head of steam too early in a diatribe. However, in some ways she is so very spot on that I continue to listen and feel as though this is still the best format for this epistolary novel.

14 year old Bee is perhaps the best-voiced character, and while she is the narrator, she is not the protagonist – or is she? Is this book YA? Or is it literary fiction? Or is it chick lit?

Does it matter?

What matters to me is that, for the first time since…. Okay, The Fault in Our Stars, but that’s practically cheating – maybe The Book Thief? a book has made me cry, sob so hard that I had to stop listening/reading before I could continue.

“I felt so alone in this world… and so, loved, at the same time.”

This line seems so trite taken out of context. But in context, when Bee says it, when her whole world is changing just, as she thinks of it — when you see an egg in its shell, it’s an egg, right? And when you see what’s inside that shell, heated up in a pan and flipped onto a plate next to two strips of bacon and homefries, it’s an egg, right? but, those eggs are so, SO not the same. That’s what comes to mind during this inner monologue of Bee’s.

There is something about being fourteen and a half, and realizing that everything is crumbling around you, and there’s not a thing you can do to stop it.

I don’t care who this book was written “for,” or even who it was marketed to. I don’t remember whether I first marked it as “to read” because it was on the LibraryThing Hot Books, or because someone told me I should read it.

All I know now is that, I am the target audience for this book. Bee’s story is, in many ways, my story – what my story might have looked like under slightly – but not significantly – different circumstances. And I don’t know if I’m ready to find out what she does next. I know what I did. And I like Bee, I admire her spunk and devil-may-care attitude and independent spirit. But that makes us so different. So moving forward in this book, it’s almost like… I have to prepare myself to be chastised. To be shown what could have happened. What could have led me, and maybe even my siblings, maybe even my mother – to a better place than each of us are now. And to listen/read on, I have to be ready for that.

That’s kind of a big deal.

There are books out there that elicit the exact same feelings in early teens, adolescents, and yes, young adults. They are marketed to a certain age range, but by whom? I don’t know the answer to this, but I’d be very curious to know. What’s the demographics breakdown of the people who market new books to booksellers? How many have 4 year degrees? How many from private universities? How many are working within a 50 mile radius of where they grew up? And maybe we’re not talking about the actual peddlers of books – maybe it’s the editors? the marketing team? the—- who decides these things, anyway? Who decided that this book was NOT intended for a YA audience, cuz I don’t see it tagged as such, or mentioned on the YA internet circuit…

Anyway. the bottom line is, this book hit a nerve I didn’t even know was exposed. And for that, I thank the author, and the narrator. Bee brought it home.


Just to write.

It feels like when some people encounter certain things that are essentially “me,” they feel the need to water me down, dilute me, stretch this piece of me so thin as to be transparent, made invisible, made less. Less powerful, less strong, less able to be and be seen and be important. I find myself in these conversations, with strangers and with lovers, with family and with friends, with colleagues and with collaborators, and always the same – why, why does it have to be, why can’t you be, why don’t you see, what does that even mean?

Where are the people who don’t have to ask?

Who don’t even think to?

And if not the questions, then the statements — oh no, you will. But you should. You’ll see.


Just… stop.

Take your directives off of me. Keep your questions to yourself.

If you really want to know about me, let me fill your senses, and make you uncomfortable, and bring you to a place where you are without words — and just be. Sit with it, with me in all my me-ness. Once you allow this, once you stop taking the goddamn brownies out of the oven every five minutes to see if they’re done yet — you will understand MY words. You will see me, fiercely me, 100% pure me, genuine, natural, not-from-concentrate me — and then you will not have any more questions except, may I, and, would you please. You won’t try to tell me anything about myself, because you realize that you have a lot to learn. And you will want to learn it.

And I will teach you. But, don’t worry about the questions. I promise, I will answer them all in good time.

Shut up and be grateful.

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and I want to stop being an employee, a parent, a taxpayer, a friend, a student, a support, a petowner, an advocate, an educator… Then, I realize there’s not much left to me when you take all of that away. And rather than feeling resentful, I feel humbled – damned near shamed.

I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be so much to so many. May I remember that feeling, and be thankful, every time I have the opportunity to decide whether I am responsible for, or responsible to. I have this knowledge, the ability to discern the difference between the two, because at least one someone made that decision about me,  as the recipient of their support and advocacy and all those things… and found me worthy of the emotional investment. (My therapist doesn’t count, because I pay him. But I pretend he would totally be my friend if I weren’t his client.)

Don’t let me not give back. Even when the sun is a teasing vixen and the temperatures could quite possibly indicate the next ice age. You can absolutely support my efforts to ditch this frozen tundra and find more temperate climes, but… Remind me that I’m here, now, for a reason, and to STFU about snow because I have some kickass boots and can make the teen carry all the groceries, and even shovel if there’s no time crunch. Even when I should absolutely be checking in daily because I know you are going through a Tough Time and I think about you every day but don’t say so. Even when the extent of my friendship is responding to your text that says, “Oh, Kirsten, hahaha” with an “Oy.” Even when I make even less sense than that, and you know that it is because of the things that make me feel like the first paragraph of this blog entry… Don’t let me get away with not giving back. Or paying forward, in a way that honors your gifts to me.

Because every time someone reads this blog, it is a gift to me. And I don’t want just the sweet and loving gifts of praise and support. Don’t get me wrong: those feel amazing and are sometimes EXACTLY what I need. But sometimes, I need someone to see what else I really need, and to call me to task. I don’t get to take a break – but I don’t need one. I just need to accept the gifts you all offer, and recognize the way they supplement what I feel are my weaknesses. Because in the moment of weakness that began this post, I found something so big. So powerful. So intrinsic to who I am. And for that, I thank you.

It’s my life.

***If you wanna cut to the “good stuff,” skip down to the bullet point list.***

I started this post in my head many hours ago. I haven’t known what all of what I’ve listed in my head should actually make it onto the blog post. But really? About 4 people read it, so I don’t think I’m gonna end up in any worse a situation for sharing than I’m in for feeling how I do.

So here we go.

Some things about my life just are. I know that people looking in from outside have strong feelings about what my life has looked like, what I’ve experienced, what I’ve escaped. I have also been SO fortunate, and have had such great love around me, and have learned from situations I couldn’t have even dreamed into existence earlier in my life.

I made choices a few years ago. They were not these, but they meant these:

* There will be 1.5 squares of TP on the roll every time you go to the bathroom.

* even a closed door isn’t really closed.

* there will only be one sip or bite left of anything I intended to eat or drink. Every. Single. Time.

* dry cereal will show up in every kitchen crevice. Forever.

* the laundry will never be done.

* I will always have to make unpopular decisions.

* I will always – at least for two more years – have to make my life decisions based on the needs of a teenage boy.

* I will do the right thing and be accused of doing the wrong thing on a regular basis.

* my life will be exponentially more expensive forever and ever amen.

* and let’s not even talk about college expenses.

But you know what?

nothing in the world could stop me, even the me from 4 years ago, from taking this on. Because you know what else is a sure bet?

* a teen boy cackling with glee over some completely absurd YouTube video

* if I ever need to know anything about anything Nintendo related, I’ve got the wicked hookup.

* even if we disagree at first, my kid and I come to an understanding, and agree on a course of action. That’s some crazy progressive shit.

and the final point is that… This is all tongue in cheek, and none of it even begins to describe the hard parts of this sister-mom/brother-son relationship. But if this is all funny… Can you imagine what the serious shit looks like?

yeah, I have some big decisions to make. But you know what? I don’t have to make them alone. My kid and I are a team. He may not be the flesh of my flesh, but he is the heart of my heart. And we will find our home following those hearts.

A New Year.

I spent this evening and the turning of the year in the company of many of the same people I spent New Year’s Eve with two years ago. This year, there was a beautiful wedding and fun reception in lieu of a standard NYE shindig, which was kind of kick-ass, because this town is shit for new years parties, and I didn’t have any decisions to make about where I’d go or with whom. Oh, and the wedding couple are kind of kick-ass, too. :)

It got me thinking about NYE two years ago, and how, some of the people I saw tonight I know better now than I did then, some are still at the same level of friendly acquaintance, some are welcome new additions, some I don’t know as well, and some people who were present in my world two years ago are no longer. I went back and re-read this post, which I wrote right after that NYE party, and, rather than berating myself for not satisfying the commitments I made then, which was what I expected I’d have to do, I realized that I’ve actually done pretty well by my choices. I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone and made new friendships, developed close connections with people I would have previously thought wouldn’t give me the time of day, and graciously let relationships that were ready to change, do so.

There are things about that night two years ago that I also felt tonight. There are also things about tonight that the girl who went to that NYE party two years ago didn’t have anywhere near the capacity to feel. I am so grateful for everything that has happened to bring me to this place of knowing myself better, of growing into the person I now know myself to be, of growing beyond the person I thought I could only be. And I am so grateful to every person who has been a part of my life, both in the past two years and in the years before, for your contributions to who I am. Because it’s not only a part of me, but a part of Joshua, and a part of my Mamau, and a part of my other family and friends who cherish me. I am am able to give so much love, because you have loved me so. Thank you for that love, for your support in shitty times, and for reading; may 2014 beat the shit out of 2013.