Tag Archives: family

Why Star Wars is Important

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The following is not yet another article on the impact that Star Wars has had on the film industry, genre fiction, or even fandom. There are already plenty of much more qualified sources on those subjects readily available if that’s what you’re looking for. In fact, if you’d like to read/listen to the most comprehensive, well written, and entertaining book I’ve ever read on those subjects, I cannot recommend Chris Taylor’s How Star Wars Conquered the Universe enough. (Read my review here!) Instead, the following will be a much more personal account of the importance and impact that Star Wars has had in my life, like the lives of so many others like me, over the last three decades.

Star Wars has literally saved my life on more than one occasion.

Before I get into how, let’s begin with a little context. I was born with a fairly rare medical condition. My body doesn’t produce testosterone. While this type of issue isn’t unheard of, it’s usually caught fairly quickly- typically during infancy, but almost always before puberty. My condition wasn’t discovered until I was thirty, long after puberty had had it’s way with me. My testosterone count was so low, and my case, given my age, so rare, that the specialist I was sent to got so excited that he had to go and get his colleague in the next room to show me off like I was a unicorn. They couldn’t do anything to help me with the issues that I went to see them about, but they wanted to do papers on me. They really wanted to do papers on me. They looked like a couple of coyotes that smelled a pork chop. I left as quickly as I could.

Life, just before puberty.

               Life, just before puberty.

Why did it take so long for a doctor to realize there was a problem? A fun side effect of not producing testosterone is that without testosterone you don’t build much muscle. Without muscle, it’s very difficult to burn fat. I’ve been overweight since I was a baby. My parents took me to doctors and even dietitians. It was generally believed that I was just a fat kid that needed to exercise more and eat less. I can remember being put on diets as early as the age of seven. Nothing worked. I kept getting bigger, no matter what I did or how hard I tried. The bigger I got, the more assumptions were made. That is until my current doctor, literally within five minutes of meeting me and after a quick physical examination, asked me if I’d ever been tested for low testosterone. He was shocked when I told him no, and that no one had ever mentioned it before. Thirty years and a number of doctors, dietitians, and specialists, and all it took was a simple blood test. Now, when I say that I have always been overweight I mean I weighed over one hundred pounds by the time I was twelve. I was clocking in close to three hundred by the time I graduated high school. This was me at Easter of this year:

I now weigh over 500 pounds.

I now weigh over 500 pounds. Still dead sexy.

As you can probably imagine, life was hell growing up. I was picked on and bullied just about every day. I hated myself and I felt like no matter what I did nothing helped or would ever change. My first suicide attempt was when I was eleven. I tried to hang myself. That began a long and constant war with depression and suicide, one I fought mostly in silence because I didn’t want to scare my parents like I did that first time, and I didn’t want people to think that I was nuts. Things were bad enough as it was. Even though I’ve since sought professional help, it’s a war that I’m still fighting to this day.

I’m sure by this point you’re saying, “Wow, that’s really sad and depressing, but what the hell does this have to do with Star Wars?”

Well, Star Wars is one huge reason why I’m still here.

Return of the Jedi was the first movie that I saw in a theater. I had just turned two years old. I watched my dad’s VHS copies (and later laser disc. REPRESENT!)  as I played with my Star Wars figures just about every day, driving my mom insane, until I was thirteen. I was nine years old when Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire was released. I read it cover to cover (along with my dad’s copies of the original novelizations and Splinter of the Mind’s Eye) and then I begged for the next two when they were released. This began a collection of books, comics, and media that continues to this day. If it was Star Wars,  I had to have it. It wasn’t just because I was a huge nerd and a super fan (and I was/am). Those movies, books, audio dramas, and video games saved me. They gave me a safe place where I could retreat when I started to feel the darkness surrounding me.  Whenever I felt like I couldn’t cope. Whenever I felt like my life wasn’t worth living. Whenever I felt like the dark side was winning, I’d put in a movie, or I’d pick up a book, or I’d turn on a video game. That beautiful John Williams theme would kick in (even if it was just in my head) and then I wasn’t me anymore. At that point, I was in that galaxy far, far away with characters that I loved. By the time I was done things certainly weren’t perfect, but they were better. They were manageable. The darkness wasn’t so all-encompassing anymore.

I’m not alone.

Stop any cosplayer at a convention. Ask any 501st Legion member. More often than not they’ll tell you a similar story: they were the outcasts, the nerds, they didn’t feel like they fit in until they found other Star Wars nerds. Star Wars was their refuge. Star Wars was their happy place. Star Wars gave them…a new hope.

Sorry...

                               Sorry…

Star Wars is universal. It’s transcended political borders, languages, and generations and spoken to millions of fans around the world over the course of the last four decades. It’s given us all a galaxy far, far away filled with wonder, and adventure, and a hope that good will always triumph over evil. It tells us that even the worst of us can be redeemed with love; that even the humblest of beginnings and a life that you can’t wait to escape could lead to an opportunity to do something amazing that will change the lives of countless others for the better.  It tells us that no matter how dark or desperate things are, there’s always a hope for things to change, to get better.

There’s always hope.

My new hope.

My new hope.

Things have changed a lot for me in the last few years. I got married to a beautiful woman who has a now-5 year old son. Family was something that I always desperately wanted but never thought would happen. Now I’m a husband and a father with a kid that I can share Star Wars with in the same way that mine shared it with me.

Speaking of which….

My body is ready.

My body is ready.

Words cannot describe how excited I was when I read the announcement that there would be new movies and a new canon that’s starting fresh. I’ve ravenously consumed every new book, comic, and TV show. (Reviews are here.)  I watch Collider Jedi Council every week. I spend all day checking news websites for new scraps of information. I managed to get tickets not only for opening night, but for the night after as well before everything crashed. I’m sure I’ll end up seeing it a half a dozen times (at least) in theaters. The promise of new movies in this franchise that I love has really helped during the more stressful times in the last few years. It’s something positive to look forward to sharing with my new family. Once again, it’s Star Wars helping me through the dark times, only this time it’s along with an understanding wife and an adorably goofy son.

I’ve been incredibly blessed in my life, even with everything I’ve gone through. I’ve had a great family and friends. I have a loving wife and son. And I’ve got a galaxy far, far away that’s always there when I need to make the jump to hyperspace and escape for a little while. For me, it’s not just been a fun movie franchise. For me, Star Wars is important.  For me, Star Wars has been a life saver.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective, the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, the fantasy novels The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1 & 2, and the superhero tale Just Super, all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here. Kindle editions are all available for $0.99.

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Down With the Thickness: Writing, Family Life, and Dealing with Depression

DWTT Final Cover

It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down and actually wrote something. My last blog post was in September. Before that I’d only done one other post for the entire year, which makes me incredibly ashamed of myself. I’ve toyed with edits on my new novel off and on, but I haven’t sat down and really tried to write since I got married. I’ve been telling myself it’s because I’ve been adjusting to my new life as a stay-at-home dad. It’s been an experience and my kid can be a handful. That’s true, but it’s not the real reason that I haven’t been writing. It’s taken me months to really nail down exactly what my problem has been, but for the past few days I’ve come to the realization that I haven’t been writing because I’ve been struggling with depression and thus have been actively avoiding writing, or really anything that requires motivation and a sense of self worth outside of the things that I HAVE to do.

That realization surprised me.

Struggling with depression is nothing new for me. I’ve battled it my entire life. For years I couldn’t go more than a month or two without depression rearing it’s ugly head, and a few times a year those funks would dip low enough where suicidal thoughts would come and go as well. The thing is I haven’t had a bout of depression that bad in over a year. I had honestly thought that I may have finally slayed the beast once and for all once I got married. For as long as I can remember the one thing that I’ve wanted more than anything was to get married and have a kid. I always felt like that achievement would be the crown jewel in my life. It’d be the key to my happiness and once it happened all the feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, and all that other junk that depression likes to torment me with would all be rendered moot.

In a lot of ways I was right.

I’m happier now than I’ve ever really been in my life. I don’t feel lonely anymore. I don’t feel completely worthless or like I’m unlovable. My wife is the most loving, supportive, and understanding woman I could ever hope to find. My kid is an adorable, smart, hyperactive, spoiled pain in the arse and I love him more than I thought it was possible to love another human being. The fact that he isn’t my “blood” doesn’t factor into it at all for me. He is my son in every way that matters and both he and his mother are the answers to decades worth of prayers, wishes, and hopes. I couldn’t ask for a better family.

Which is why this current bout of depression has caught me by surprise. The depression has evolved. This time it didn’t attack me in the way it used to. Before, depression would come on hard and fast and put me on my ass for days. The world would go dark; I’d be a moody pain in the ass; and after a few days I’d emerge exhausted mentally and emotionally, but generally intact. But all of the old stuff that it used to use against me doesn’t work too well anymore, so it’s found new avenues to attack that are more subtle. In fact, I think it’s been something that I’ve been struggling with for months and I just didn’t fully recognize it for what it was until now.

Getting married hasn’t eradicated my insecurities or made the world a perfect place. My wife and I have had several very stressful things we’ve had to struggle with already. That’s just life. We’ve gotten through them together and we haven’t let those things affect our relationship. In fact, it’s only made our relationship stronger. That’s how marriage is supposed to work. That said, while the old insecurities may have been hammered down by the love of my new family, new ones have taken root and sprouted to take their place.

I have medical issues. They’re issues that are genetic and thus they are issues I’ll have to deal with for my entire life. They’ve caused a lot of physical problems, problems that have gotten progressively worse in the last couple of years.  As a result I’m unable to do much in the way of physical activity, I’m in constant pain, and I’m unable to work.  The dynamic in our house is my wife works full time and I stay home and take care of our little Tasmanian devil. I try to do things around the house: take care of the dishes, keep the house from being a complete disaster area, cook on the days my wife works, etc. I can’t do everything I want to do. I get tired and my body rebels on me after only short bouts of activity, so something that normally would take maybe ten minutes might take me half an hour or better. In a given day if I’m able to empty and load the dish washer, make dinner, and keep our kid from doing something that might hurt himself or others I call it a win. I’m not writing all this to throw myself a pity party or to garner sympathy. I’m just providing a bit of perspective.

I know that times have progressed. Gender roles aren’t what they used to be. I know that it is just as okay for me to be a househusband and stay at home dad as it was for wives to be housewives and stay at home moms. I know that having my wife bringing home the majority of our income doesn’t make me less of a man. I know that my wife understands my physical limitations and that she knows that I do the best I can with what I’ve got to work with, and that I work hard to provide for her in other areas to make up for what I lack in being able to help in the physical ones.

I KNOW all of this. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still bother me. That doesn’t mean that depression can’t use it as ammunition to assault me, and it has, because I was wrong.

The “war” with depression that I thought I won wasn’t the real war at all.  I’ve realized what anyone who has battled depression all their lives can tell you- it’s what Superman would describe as a “neverending battle”. Once you win one skirmish the enemy will find something new and attack again. It’s a war that you only win when you’re on your deathbed surrounded by your family and other people who love you and you realize that despite it you still lived a full and mostly happy life. It’s a war that you win by refusing to let IT win. Now I’m in a new battle with depression, but now that I’m aware of how it’s attacking, with the help of my loved ones, I’ll win this one too. Then it’ll be something else, but that’s okay. I have a family and friends that love me. I have a dream of becoming a published author.

I have things worth fighting for.

Maybe you’re reading this and you’re struggling in the neverending battle yourself. Maybe you’re in the thick of it and it’s hard to see around you. Maybe it’s hard to focus on what you have to fight for. Just know that you aren’t alone and that the only way you lose the battle is if you give up and let it win. Don’t give it the satisfaction.

Carry on.

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Down With the Thickness 2: Stay at Home Dad Boogaloo Part 1

DWTT Final Cover

I know this site has been really quiet these past few months. I’ve got a very good reason for that: on April 1st I got married to the most wonderful woman on the planet. Yes, that’s right. My wedding day was on April Fools.  We eloped, so the responses when we announced the good news on social media and through phone calls was about as entertaining as you’d expect. Every anniversary from here on out will be a ton of fun as well, I’m sure.

My wife has a four year old son. We’ve been dating for three years so I’ve been around since he was a year and a half, so this isn’t an entirely new experience for any of us. There isn’t a time in his life that he can remember where I wasn’t a part of the picture. The only real difference is I’m around all the time now as opposed to just a few times a week. I didn’t think that the difference would be that huge of an adjustment. Boy was I wrong. I worked as a youth director for close to a decade. I’ve designed and run after school programs, summer camps, and various other types of youth programs. I’ve been around kids, taught kids, practically helped raise other people’s kids my entire adult life. Again, I figured helping to raise a step-son wouldn’t be that much harder. I moved in like I was the new sheriff in town, completely confident in my ability to be a stay-at-home dad.

Boy, was I REALLY wrong there, too.

Let me tell you, there is a huge difference between taking care of someone else’s kids and taking care of your own. For one thing, when it’s someone else’s bundle of joy you get to send their little whiny butts home at the end of the day. I’ve always been a pretty solitary person but I enjoy being with the people that I love. My wife is my best friend and I enjoy her company most of all, even if it’s just sitting on a couch together doing absolutely nothing. That said, when you’re married with a young kid very seldom do you have ANY time alone. At all. Not even in the bathroom when you’re taking the browns to the super bowl. No, I’m not kidding, single folk.

Not. Even. Then.

That’s been a huge adjustment for me. I didn’t realize just how alone I was and how much I’d gotten used to it until I got married and moved in with my new family. Now from the moment I get up until the moment my son goes to bed I have a tiny hyperactive person, often literally, all over me. My only breaks are when I can get him to play in the bathtub (hooray bubble bath and toys!) or to take a nap (prepare for war). Before my idea of relaxation was to spend an entire day reading the new Dresden book or playing a video game. Now my idea of a relaxing vacation is parking in the Dairy Queen parking lot and eating a chicken strip basket while listening to an audiobook for half an hour.

That’s not to say that the experience thus far has been bad. Far from it. It’s just been…tiring. More tiring than I was expecting. Like I said, there has been a period of adjustment for us all, along with all the other fun trials and tribulations of everyday life that crop up. Trying to get student loans taken care of and all the fun red tape that comes with it. My wife has switched jobs. I’ve gotten hurt a few times in the last few months- my knee and my back- reminders that I’m not as young or spry as I used to be, which is made even more difficult and frustrating when it keeps me from being the dad that I want to be. I’ve also had to get to know my kid all over again under a different paradigm. He’s just now developing a little personality and learning to communicate and I’m used to working with slightly older kids, so it’s been difficult to adjust my expectations from him. I don’t want to be too hard on him, but at the same time I don’t want to be a push over either. He is a super smart kid. I mean, REALLY smart. With that comes the ability to know how to get your way and he is not above using emotional manipulation to his extreme advantage. He’s also so smart that it’s hard not to get frustrated with him quickly when he has difficulty with “simple” things that you’d think he’d catch on to right away. That’s not his fault, it’s mine, and it’s something I’ve had to try and avoid doing. Patience is definitely something that I’m working on.

A lot.

My experiences with kids has certainly helped, but this new sheriff isn’t exactly Buford Pusser. It’s been a learning curve, and one I’m still riding. I’m going to make an effort to update here more often about my experiences as a new dad. As for the writing, I finished my latest novel and am in the process of working up query letters to send out to agents. It’s slow going, for obvious reasons. That said, I really think that this book is “the one”. It is I think, by far, my best work to date, and responses from test readers has been really positive. Hopefully I’ll find an agent, and shortly after that a publisher that feels the same way.

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Rant Alert- Depression

depression_1-ad78d208bfd0907a122c249a74cd8f6ff184705e-s6-c10(Photo from NPR)

Depression sucks. This is not news. Though I think people get the wrong misconceptions about it sometimes. I think generally it’s because of how it’s portrayed on T.V. in various ways. Most of the times when people see depression it’s on commercials for some type of medicinal treatment where people generally look mopey or tired and then the next minute they’re running through fields with some pretty person and a puppy. There’s also a sort of stigma around it and I think people, in general, don’t know how to handle not only having depression, but how to interact with someone who is suffering from it. For most people it is not a temporary thing. It’s something that is always there, kinda lurking in the shadows, just waiting for an opportunity to pounce. Often it happens when you least expect it. Things can be fine one minute and then the next you catch yourself thinking about all the negative things going on in your life and how nothing works out right and everything sucks and it never gets better and why should I even bother trying and everyone and everything is annoying and I’m just so tired and I wish I could just make everything go away and why are they staring at me like that? Oh right, because I’ve been staring at the same spot for the last 5 minutes looking like a comatose patient.

People tend to have varied reactions to depression. For some they just don’t want to get out of bed. Sometimes it physically hurts. For me I just generally feel like hammered crap and little things make me feel like I want to just curl up in a ball and die. It doesn’t take much to set you off into an internal rant of self-loathing. You feel very alone. You intellectually know that there are people who love and care about you. They may even try to cheer you up, which sometimes can only make things worse despite their best, well intentioned efforts. Often I crave solitude, because it just takes too much effort to interact with people and try to be “normal” when I feel this way. Ultimately suicidal thoughts aren’t too far behind. It doesn’t take much to set it off. For me, the bigger stuff doesn’t bother me nearly as much as small things. When the “big” negative stuff happens it generally just pisses me off and makes me want to fight back. It’s the little things that needle me and set me off into depressive, often borderline suicidal, bouts. I’ve been feeling that way a lot lately.

I went back and looked at what I wrote about depression and suicide in my book Down With the Thickness. I wanted to see if, a few years later and in the midst of depression, I’d feel the same way. Here’s a bit of what I wrote then:

What aided me most in helping other people deal with depression and suicidal thoughts or tendencies was simple: life experience. I may not have a doctorate, but I do have a lifetime of experience battling depression and suicide. In that regard, I’d consider myself somewhat of an authority on the subject.

Dr. Phil can bite me.

I was eleven years old when I tried to commit suicide. Let that sink in. Eleven. Years. Old. It wasn’t a joke. I wasn’t playing a game. I really intended to do it.

Some friends of mine were hanging out with a new kid who had just moved in and I felt pretty left out. I didn’t have a lot of friends at the time. My dad worked nights so I only got to see him maybe for an hour or two out of the day, if that, just before he went to bed or just after he woke up before he got ready for work. My mom loved my sister and me very much, but she was left alone to tend to everything while he was gone and the stress, mixed with a lot of other factors, meant she had her own issues she was dealing with. I knew, intellectually, that friends and family members cared about me, but when depression sinks its talons into you what you know doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you feel.

I think I’ve established that I was picked on constantly at school. Most of my aforementioned “friends” were my friends when no one else was around, and tended to be less friendly in a crowd. After all, I was the fat kid, the hang-around. I was the kid they tolerated and let hang out with them out of pity or so they’d have someone to mess with and amuse them. I felt like no one cared, that I was alone, and that I always would be. You may think that those are pretty deep thoughts and feelings for an eleven year old, but kids are like that beneath the surface. They’re just little people who may not be fully developed yet. They can be just as complex and deal with just as many issues that are, to them, as serious and stressful as those that adults deal with every day.

For me, I decided that I wasn’t worth much and maybe it was better that I just end it.

To be honest, I just wanted to see that people cared. It was like having dueling banjoes playing in my head; feeling like no one cared and wondering if after I was gone they’d miss me. I wanted to make my “friends” feel bad for the way they treated me. I wanted attention and to know that I mattered.

I got attention all right, though not in the way I’d hoped.

The new kid had a skateboard ramp in his back yard. Like I said, he was the cool kid everyone wanted to hang around. Having a skateboard ramp of his own made him the center of attention in the neighborhood. After all, this was the early 90’s when skateboarding was a big thing. So I decided that I’d show them. What better place to go out with a bang? I found a length of rope and tied it to the top of the skateboard ramp, tied the other end around my neck, and slid off.

The rope was too long.

I was probably lucky that I didn’t seriously hurt my neck. The rope was just long enough that my tip toes could reach the ground, but short enough that it was still doing a pretty decent job of choking me. When I realized that I wasn’t going to die, I did the next best thing that an eleven year old starving for attention could do – I faked it. I stood there like that, half choking myself, and waited for the other kids to get back from wherever they had gone to. When they finally did come around the corner into the back yard I didn’t get the reaction I was hoping for.

They started laughing.

Considering I had my tongue lolling out of the side of my mouth in the classic “death pose” I can’t say I really blamed them. I started to laugh with them and played it off as a joke. I knew that if anyone really believed I’d tried to kill myself I’d be in big trouble. Even then I knew there was this stigma surrounding suicide, and I didn’t want to sacrifice whatever “cool credit” I had with these kids and go from being the fat kid they kept around for laughs to being the crazy fat kid that tried to hang himself. Needless to say, my parents didn’t find it nearly as amusing as the neighborhood kids, and I spent the rest of the summer sporting a very trendy rope burn around my neck.

I remember being afraid of how my parents would react. I knew that they’d freak out, obviously, but I wasn’t sure how far they’d take it. Would they take me to some doctor? Would they have me committed in one of those places on T.V. where everything is padded and white and you aren’t allowed to have shoe laces?

Well, I was right. They definitely freaked out. They weren’t mad at me like I was afraid they’d be, they were just really scared. I mean, their kid just tried to hang himself. Who could blame them? My mom wanted to take me to see a psychologist, but my dad convinced her that I’d be fine; that it was just a stupid thing that I did and I was just dealing with a phase. In reality I really wasn’t fine, but I think my dad was so scared for me that he just really wanted to believe I was. He needed to believe I was.

Incidentally, no, I haven’t seriously attempted to kill myself since, but I’ve had moments where it was a very close thing. Being suicidal isn’t something that just goes away on its own. It’s not a “phase” that you grow out of.  I’m in a war with myself every single day of my life. Depression is an enemy that is always there, always striking, and some days it hits harder than others. Some days outside factors: people, events, stress, act as mercenaries for the enemy’s side and can overrun your defenses. It’s on those days that you literally have to fight for your life. In that regard, I’m Patton.

Mindfreak 

I can’t profess to know what it feels like for other people. I only know how it feels for me. It starts as a sort of pressure, not just on your chest but all around you. It’s just this blanket of gloom that drapes around you like one of those old, heavy quilts. People tend to associate negative things with coldness, but when depression first strikes me it’s never cold, it’s hot. It’s got its own kind of warmth to it that grows and pulses the deeper you go. It’s not a comforting warmth, but oppressive, like the hot fog of a sauna that’s far too thick, and it helps to amplify every negative thought and emotion I have.

That’s really the problem with depression, at least for me. It’ll start out small, just a feeling of irritability or melancholy; but for every negative thing that happens, be it something someone says, a small event like accidentally dropping something- small things, it stokes that fire inside. Things that you’d normally shrug or laugh off suddenly makes you want to scream and lash out. The really frustrating part is I feel all this pressure building up inside but I don’t know how to vent it. There’s just this impotent rage building and I just can’t let it out. When I do finally end up exploding and start cursing at the top of my lungs or hitting stuff, I end up feeling like a complete moron for acting that way afterwards. That only helps to feed the frustration even more and it becomes a self-sustaining cycle. It’s when it gets to this point that my overly creative and active imagination takes over.

Normally my creativity is a positive thing. It’s the reason I’m good with kids. It’s what makes me (I hope) a good writer. The flip side of that is it can also be used for negative things. When I’m really angry, if I let it, I’ll play out scenarios in my head: replaying negative events, arguments with people that never took place, violent daydreams that I’d never actually do in real life.

When it’s really bad a lot of that stuff eventually stops being about other people and is replaced by negative thoughts about myself: Nobody understands. Nobody cares. Nothing I’ve done has ever really made a difference. My life has been a waste. I’ve been nothing but a burden to the people I care about. I’m worthless. I wish I’d never been born. I never asked to be here. What if I just took that knife and ended it? Would anyone care? Mom would freak. My family would be devastated, but would anyone else care? Would it really matter? I could stop hurting. I’d be at peace…

This Little Light of Mine

Being suicidal is a very dark place. It’s like being caught in a tide or the pull of a black hole. If you don’t manage to pull away as soon as it starts happening, you just get dragged deeper and deeper until thoughts and dark daydreams start to become actions. Often we try to reach out, desperately, to find someone or something that’ll make it alright. That makes it incredibly unfair to the people trying to help us. You’re so hypersensitive, like a bundle of raw nerves, and it’s always hard to tell just what might set us off and make things worse. What you might think of as being comforting could just end up, from the other side, sounding trite and cliché.

 As a couple of examples: the popular “Well, it could be worse” line, or comparing the depressed person’s situation to someone who is “worse off”  are two of the worst things you can say to someone who’s already depressed and/or suicidal. First, by saying “it could be worse” you’re not giving them anything positive to focus on, instead you’re just pointing out that it could be worse.

“Well, I feel like there’s nothing positive in my life, and everywhere I look it’s just negative, but thank you for reminding me that it’s possible that my situation can get worse. I appreciate that.”

Of course you don’t mean it that way, but you can see how it’s easy for someone who’s already in a bad frame of mind to flip it around to something negative. My favorite response to “Well it could be worse” came from Mark, who instantly deadpanned, “Give it time, I’m sure it will be.”

If we look at my second example, by comparing their situation to others you’re basically invalidating the way that they’re feeling. Just because their situation isn’t as bad as X doesn’t mean they don’t have the right to feel the way that they do. Again, this may not be your intention, but to be honest, in this type of situation your intentions don’t mean anything, the suicidal/depressed person’s perception does. Remember, the road to Perdition is paved with good intentions… and so is the road to an emotional breakdown.

I’ve found the best thing to do when someone is depressed and verging on being suicidal is to just listen to what they have to say. Let them vent. Show support, speak when you feel like you need to and let them know that they’re loved. Don’t let them drag themselves down any further. Be the light in the darkness. However, in the end it comes down to choice, and the choice ultimately isn’t yours.

I’m lucky in that I have a lot of good friends and family that care and listen to me vent. Sometimes I feel bad, though, because you get tired of talking. You get tired of feeling like you’re complaining about the same things all the time. Ultimately, I think, its a control issue. I don’t feel like I have any control over how my life is going and like I don’t have the power to change my situation. Everything I’ve tried has failed to improve things. I feel like I’m left having to rely on others for everything and nothing I’ve done, nothing I’ve accomplished, has ultimately meant anything in the long run. I’ve always tried to do the right thing, treat people the right way, help as much as I can, be the kind of man that would make my family and the God that I served so diligently proud. I served faithfully as a youth pastor for almost a decade. I graduated top of my class with three degrees. Now I can’t find a job and any interview I sit in I’m told that my resume is impressive but they go with someone else. Often times I can’t help but feel it’s because of my physical/medical issues. I’m a health risk. I can’t physically do what other people can. There’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve seen the specialists. I’ve been on the medications (which I can’t really afford any more). I’m stuck this way for the rest of my life and there’s little to no room for improvement. In all honesty I’m only going to get worse from here as I get older. It’s just the reality of the situation and at the age of 31 it’s hard not to feel incredibly cheated.

I know there are a LOT of people out there who feel the same way, to some degree. There are a lot of people out there struggling. A lot of people hurting. I’m incredibly lucky that I have family and friends that are helping me. I have a roof over my head and food to eat because they provide it. So far I’ve managed to find a way to pay what few bills I have left each month. I’ve been able to buy the medications I need because of those same friends and family sacrificing themselves to help provide it. I am really very appreciative of that. Many people don’t have that sort of support system. I just hate that it has to be that way at all. I guess there’s really no other point to this rant than to just express how I feel and put it out there so that others that are struggling might find some comfort in the fact that they aren’t alone. Sometimes that’s all you need to help get through the day- just knowing that you aren’t alone, that others are going through stuff like you are too. i don’t have any quick fixes or answers. Nothing I can say will take away the pain. Just know you aren’t alone, and feel free to sound off in the comments section if, like me, you just need to vent a bit.

J.R. Broadwater is the author of the non-fiction book Down with the Thickness: Viewing the World From a Fat Guy’s Perspective,  the sci-fi detective novel You Only Die Twice, and the fantasy novel The Chosen: Rebirthing Part 1- all available now in digital and paperback formats. Sample chapters and more information about these books can be found here.

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