Depression is nice in a way because it forces you down to a very basic level. You sleep, you eat, and you exist because nothing seems fun or exciting to do. Even video games, one of my most basic hobbies, falls aside when I’m depressed. Like what’s the point? Despite this sounding awful, it is nice starting with a clean slate. When the depression wanes you get to decide what you actually want to do with your time. After a while video games and blogging start to sound appealing — sure that ever-present nihilism is still there, but it’s in the background — and you might as well do a few random things you find enjoyable even if they are ‘pointless’. Sometimes you have to play the game of life knowing well that is, in fact, just a game.
Depression also makes me really irritable and unwilling to put up with anyone’s shit. It’s the same as before — life is a total game — and with this outlook of ‘nothing really fucking matters’ it becomes a lot easier to tell people exactly how you feel. If someone is being stupid or a dipshit or an asshole there is no barrier to telling them off. Being nice is one of those social games we play in some vague way to keep people on our good side, network, and have opportunities and friendships in the future, but it’s all a game and sometimes you don’t want to fuck around with playing games, let alone bullshit social games. I still try to not be a dick about it, but it’s easier to speak my mind being somewhat depressed.
My mom came over last weekend while I was in one of my moods. Not angry, not looking for a fight, but ready to be as open with people as I could be. She was upset that the kids weren’t around (I’ve long since learned to not wait around for my mom) and that kind of set the tone for the day. She was going to be bitching a lot and I didn’t have any patience to deal with it.
Anyways, she’s been upset that we haven’t let her take the grandkids. She used to take them on Sundays but the pandemic ruined that. My wife is also very protective and a borderline germaphobe which doesn’t help my mom’s situation at all. Last Sunday she made another one of her pleas to let her take the kids. She gave me the whole spiel: she’s depressed, she’s lonely, she wants to take the kids, they’re like all she lives for, etc., and why wouldn’t we let her take them? I asked if she had her COVID vaccine yet. “No, I’ve been sick and I have IBS and I work a lot and…”
I said, “And what does any of that have to do with you getting a vaccine? If you get the vaccine I’d be much more willing to argue in your favor. If you get vaccinated why couldn’t you take the kids?”
The conversation moved on and wandered around until she mentioned something about getting a lawyer. I was shocked; surely I didn’t hear her threaten us with a lawyer. I ignored it. She brought up the lawyer topic again, but this time I was paying attention. “I might have to get another job and get a lawyer. I don’t want to but I miss the grandkids and we’ll see what the judge has to say about that…”
Excuse me? What?! Non-depressed me would probably let this slide — it’s surely a bluff so who cares, let her say whatever she wants — but depressed and irritable me couldn’t resist. It was such a stupid threat anyways, grandparents don’t have any legal rights to force visitation on the parents/grandkids, and if there’s one thing I find hard to resist it’s telling people when they’re wrong. What did she expect the courts to do for her? Sure, if there were abuse issues with the grandkids, lawyering up is a smart and good thing to do, but we’re good parents. So…huh?
“You know you have no legal rights to actually see the kids, right? Getting a lawyer won’t do anything.”
She must’ve misunderstood what I meant by “legal rights” here, seemingly interpreting it as me saying she “…no rights to see the kids, at all, so please fuck off mom. You’ll never see them again.” She did what she does when an argument doesn’t go her way and stormed off crying. She walked to her car, said some mean stuff to me that I don’t think I’ll mention here, and angrily drove off.
I sat on the steps outside and vaped. I was kinda shaking — that didn’t go as planned — but oh well. I took that detached view that I’ve been trying to hold onto lately when anyone is angry or depressed or upset. Their feelings are their feelings and I can’t blame myself for how someone feels. As long as I wasn’t an improper asshole that caused it by being an improper asshole that is.
A strange feeling to feel at the time: guilt. I made her cry. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything? Maybe she was right when she told me to “grow some balls?” But wait, I did show that I ‘grew some balls’ by telling her how stupid her idea was, didn’t I? Ugh, nothing made sense, and I felt terrible for what happened. Logically when I thought about it I felt okay about it. I finally stood up for myself and felt good about it, but subconsciously I felt like shit. I felt guilty. I felt like an asshole. Is that normal?
I did a Google search of “feeling bad when asserting yourself” and that was fun. Apparently that’s totally normal when you’re used to putting everyone else’s needs in front of your own. It makes sense too; if you constantly care about other people’s feelings you’d naturally feel selfish and dickish if you suddenly put yourself above someone else. Huh, cool, that’s a fun thing I learned that day. And where does that come from? Probably something from childhood, probably something caused by my mom always playing the victim that I feel responsible for, but that thought chain was getting a bit too deep and uncomfortable so I shut it off. I haven’t thought about it since.
I’m a chill, passive person who doesn’t really have any strong wants or needs. I’m fantastic at worrying about everyone else’s moods and feelings while disregarding my own. Despite this it felt immensely good to stand up to my mom, even if I didn’t really stand up too much at all. I didn’t have to. Let her get a lawyer and see how that works out. That’s an old-me outlook. I’m proud I told her how dumb the idea was and how I didn’t cave and cater to her as she stormed off angrily. I thought long and hard if I was an asshole that day. Did I speak my mind? Yes. Did I stand up for myself somewhat? Yes. Did I do it in an unkind/unprofessional/cruel way that might’ve not been necessary? No. Did I overreact at all? No. Am I writing this so I feel better about what happened? Maybe. Did I do anything really wrong to upset my mom as much as she was? No. Was this her overreaction? Yes, probably. Pulling myself out of my guilt logically worked wonders even if it did take some effort. I really think I did what I needed and I shouldn’t feel guilty about it at all. Sure there’s a mental battle about it, but I think it’s a good sign of progress.
One thing I’ve seemed to learn in life is that people like those who stand up for themselves. Everyone seems to think they like wishy-washy people that don’t have strong convictions or who always agree with you, but the people with the strongest convictions seem to be the most well-liked people out there. Not assholes mind you, just calm and reasonable people that actually believe and stand for something. They might tell you off if you deserve it or say something stupid, but they do it in a respectful way that doesn’t hint at them trying to cover up their own insecurities. Maybe you know the sort of people I’m talking about.
Two days after that, I saw my mom while visiting my dad. I acted chill and calm — I didn’t have any animosity towards her — only to be totally surprised by her. She said, “Here, give me a hug. I’m sorry about what I said Sunday, I just miss the kids and…” Huh, imagine that. I said a flat, “Eh, don’t worry about it, it’s not a big deal,” and we hugged. I still haven’t heard from her since, no text, no call, nothing, but an apology after I finally called her on her bullshit was the last thing I expected. But that’s what happens I guess. You put your foot down, show you’re worthy of respect, and people start to respect you. That’s fucking insane, who would’ve thought?, at least to me. I can’t believe I wrote a pretty lengthy blog post about this but that’s how mind-blowing the little idea of being assertive is to me. I think it’s a great start and am going to try to stand up for myself a bit more in the future. And of course not be a pompous asshole in the process.
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