The Sandwich Means I Love You

A while ago, Captain Awkward wrote this following post about sandwiches, and love, and boundaries, and things. You should go read it. It is good post.

The way you set boundaries around this is to accept what’s offered with grace and gratitude. You’re loved. Your friends are proving it to you all the time in small, cool ways that are not hard for them. They’ve been where you’ve been. They would not offer these things if they didn’t want to do them. Stop looking for evidence that you’re unworthy of this, and stop questioning these acts of kindness. Maybe your little turd-heart doesn’t deserve this love. Tough shit. You’re loved anyway. Deal with it. Let your friends feed you, and when you can in whatever way you can, feed them back.

(Now, admittedly, there are a lot of people who don’t have a support system of any sort– neither friends nor partners nor a therapist. Their concerns will not be addressed by this post. Please note that there are options for low-cost therapy, if you need it.)

This is something that I have whole fucking shitloads of problems with. My brain assumes, as a base principle, that no one wants to hear about my crazy, and that if I mention it too much or too seriously everyone will get bored with me but feel obligated to keep talking to me because if they stop I will feel bad and they don’t want me to feel bad. And God forbid I need some form of accommodation or help from my friends; I’m tharn because even asking might be an undue pressure upon them to do what they don’t want. I don’t want to be a burden.

And, you know, the whole idea of asking for help is really really hard for men in our culture. We have this fucking terrible male gender role that sets it up so that men can’t admit emotions, or weakness, or failure, for fear of being pussies and wimps and not real men. And when you need that kind of support from your friends… it’s emotions and weakness and failure.

Men are supposed to be Clint Eastwood! Loners walking off into the sunset, who don’t need anyone or anything, self-sufficient and independent and manly! Do you think Clint Eastwood ever sobbed over pancakes in a breakfast place because everything hurt for no reason? Do you think Clint Eastwood ever sat in his apartment for two days because the idea of talking to people made him seize up? Do you think Clint Eastwood ever needed his friends to hide the pills and the knives?

Newsflash: of the 3.5 billion men on the planet, 3,499,999,999 of them are not Clint Eastwood. And 3,500,000,000 of them will need some help occasionally.

Some people need more help than others, sure. But absolutely nothing is gained by hiding that you need help. Your friends want to help you. Your friends are fully capable of saying that they do not want to help you, if they don’t. (I made my partners all promise that they would tell me if they were bored or upset or didn’t want to do something, so I could confide in them without worry.) There is nothing wrong with being weak or sad or emotional sometimes. Everyone is. There is nothing wrong with being weak or sad or emotional a lot. It is not your fault.

And when someone wants to help you… don’t second-guess them. Don’t ask if they really want to.  Don’t make the entire thing a referendum on whether they really really like you. Just shut up and eat the motherfucking sandwich.

This entry was posted in blog responses, mental illness, noseriouslywhatabouttehmenz and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to The Sandwich Means I Love You

  1. dancinbojangles says:

    Nice post Ozy, this is something I have a lot of problems with too, and I’d like to share why:

    Basically, admitting that you need help in the psychological arena is fundamentally different than admitting you need help with literally anything else. I call a plumber when my pipes spring a leak, I go to the doctor when I have a serious injury or illness, and I call the exterminator if my house is infested with termites. However, these are all things that I COULD do. If I wanted to, I could learn how to fix my own pipes, kill my own insects, and treat my own ailments. All these skills just aren’t something I want to take the time to learn, because my time isn’t infinite and I have a life. However, going to a psychiatric or mental health professional, or even talking to a friend about my problems, means admitting that I CANNOT handle my shit in that arena. Not that I don’t want to bother, but that I am unable. It means forever discarding the idea that I can do whatever I set my mind to.

    A couple years ago, I thought a lot about killing myself. I told this to a friend, who immediately said (in a pushy and aggressive manner) that I should get help. We are no longer friends. “You need to get help” to me is about the most patronizing, insulting thing one person can say to another. It implies that I’m not only weak and unmanly, but incompetent as well. As though I’ve gotten myself into a such a situation due to my own stupidity that I need a PROFESSIONAL to extricate me from it. It means that in order to solve what’s so fundamentally wrong with me, I need adjudication by someone who has the power to ruin my life, take away my freedom and cause unending shame and humiliation to me and my family at will.

    So yeah, this might be my problem, and a poor way of looking at the world. But that is a damn hard sandwich to eat when it comes with a side of possible imprisonment. social ostracism and permanent harm to life and ambition.

  2. Leum says:

    TW: Suicidal depression, voluntary committment

    Dancin, I can’t speak for you, but from my experience, and that of my numerous friends and acquaintances with severe mental illness (in my case depression), realizing that there were limits to our ability to help ourselves was vital to recovery. I don’t have the training, nor the external position, to properly analyze what’s going on with my brain, nor to know what techniques would be best to correct my negative thought patterns.

    This isn’t so different from calling in a plumber, really. I could have done the extensive research into depression, read up on self-help techniques, etc, but all of that would have taken months. And you know what? I didn’t have months. Assuming I’d had the energy to do that sort of research–which I didn’t, being depressed and a full-time student and all–I would probably have killed myself by the time I knew what I was doing. And that’s the thing. I strongly encourage everyone to learn about good coping techniques for depression and negative thought and behavior patterns. But the time to learn about them on your own isn’t when you’re depressed, just like the time to research immunology and pharmacology isn’t when you have a life-threatening infection.

    I struggled with humiliation when I first admitted I needed help. The first time I called a crisis line, the first time I went to therapy, the first time I admitted myself to the psychiatric emergency department I wondered if this meant I was weak, if I just deserved to die because I was unable to handle the problems I was facing. But I recognize now that this wasn’t the case. I was humiliated because I live in a culture which teaches that it’s wrong to need help, not because there’s something inherently humiliating about needing help. I cannot do whatever I set my mind to. Like any other part of my body, it has limits. When it’s sick, those limits are even greater.

    I could go on, but I think this comment is long enough.

  3. dancinbojangles says:

    @Leum: Let me first say that I don’t mean to say that you’re a weak person, or to condemn your decisions. I’m speaking purely about how I feel, and my experiences. If taking the standard, approved path worked for you, that’s awesome and I wish you only the best.

    I see this sort of as a corollary to Ozy’s law. Giving up the idea that one MUST be self-sufficient is tantamount to giving up the idea that one CAN be self-sufficient. We see it in radical feminism too (not trying to start a fight, this is just an example that popped into my head). Removing the idea that one HAS to be pretty is tantamount to removing someone’s ability to be pretty, or like being pretty.

    I would argue that the process of seeing a mental health professional, of taking the path that you took, is in fact inherently humiliating. It would have involved trusting people I don’t know with information I don’t tell even my closest friends. It would also likely have resulted in my life being ruined. This isn’t some fantasy or delusion, it’s a simple fact. I WAS a potential harm to myself at that point in my life. Having that known WOULD have resulted in my being unable to work in my chosen field. It WOULD have resulted in my freedom being removed, and likely my being medicated against my will. These things are humiliating, and not just because others say so. I would rather die, even now, and even knowing full well how it would affect those around me.

    We all have limits, and we must accept those, but we also have expectations of ourselves. I can’t drink a gallon of milk in ten minutes. I can’t deadlift six hundred pounds. I can’t run a four-minute mile. However, I SHOULD be able to simply be alive without the help of someone else. I don’t think it’s too much to expect of myself. Once again, this is not to impugn those who cannot; What they expect of themselves is different from what I expect of myself. Saying that it’s solely the fault of culture, however, seems like an escape route which would lead to even greater problems down the line.

  4. ozymandias42 says:

    Dancin, I don’t know where you live or what the laws are there, but in my experience with involuntary commitment (Florida and a very nice mental hospital) they will not give you medication without your informed consent. Also, generally they will not involuntarily commit people for merely wanting to kill themselves; they will for making a plan or preparations to kill oneself.

    I think one of the big things to understand about mental illness is that it is a disability. You wouldn’t say that a person in a wheelchair ought simply to be able to move around, without the help of a chair, right? Even though being able to move around is a completely reasonable expectation for the able-bodied. Why is it different if the disability is in your brain instead of your body?

    Also, in general, it is preferable to say “have you considered getting therapy?” instead of “you need to get therapy.” You knew more about yourself than she did, and you have to, you know, actually want to go to therapy for it to help.

  5. dancinbojangles says:

    @Ozy: Taking your example of paralysis or similar: While it certainly would be impossible for a person so afflicted to simply cast off that affliction, that doesn’t mean that the process of acclimating is not humiliating. Especially being unable to walk or perform bodily functions after taking it for granted one’s entire life would no doubt be intensely humiliating, and not just because of the culture. What I’m getting at is that the humiliation, the inherent humiliation involved in “getting help” in the traditional sense would have been more than I could have borne. I had a plan. I knew exactly how I would do it, I had a note written out which would hopefully have mitigated the effects to my friends and family. In every sense of the word, I was a danger to myself. Obviously, I didn’t kill myself. I embarked on a comprehensive campaign to better my situation until I no longer wanted (for the most part) to kill myself. I’m not saying that method would work for anyone else. I’m just saying that the therapy and possible committal route would likely have resulted in consequences which I would rather die, still, than bear. It of necessity would have involved revealing secrets about myself that I would rather die, still, than have anyone know.

    re: “have you considered therapy”: Thanks for that, I’ll be sure to keep it in mind. That’s definitely a better approach to it, and one which would no doubt have resulted in my being more open to discussing, if not eventually accepting, therapy. Sorry to make this all about myself, but I thought my experience might provide a relevant counter-point.

  6. f. says:

    @dancin, I hear you – I was raised to be tough and self-reliant, and now that I am struggling with depression it actually viscerally hurts to hear my doctor telling me, “You need to take the next week off of work”, the school counselor pointing out that I can go to the ER if my panic attacks don’t subside… etc. All too often when my friends come to me with the greatest intentions of reminding me I can get through this, they’re always there to help, when my parents tell me not to worry about money, all of that stuff feels both good and horrifying at the same time.

    Because I want to do it all by myself. Because I always have.

    So how do I deal, now that I realize I can’t?

    My dad, who I feel a ton of kinship with on this issue, pointed out to me that his competitive nature and drive to be a reliable, strong provider almost destroyed him a few years ago. I know I should be dealing with this constructively, like he eventually did. But it’s so, so, so hard when I’m conditioned to feel deeply uncomfortable with others’ concern or god forbid, pity for me.

  7. Suturexself says:

    I agree, being willing to ask for help is important. I think it’s also important to be willing to offer help to other guys, even in situations where the ridiculous “man code” says to let him fend for himself.

  8. The_L says:

    I’m one of the women who got this a lot. My father had only one sister, and she was quite a bit older than he was, so he never saw anyone being taught a way of dealing with emotions other than the “suck it up and be a REAL MAN” B.S. that he and his brothers were forced to learn.

    So, of course, he tried to push this stoicism on both of his children. My mother did not. My brother, being a cismale, had to learn this unrealistic standard of Hide Your Feelings, but I got weird mixed messages, which may actually have been even worse. To top it off, Dad was of the “don’t you cry or by God I’ll give you something to cry about” school of child-rearing.

    I ended up bursting into tears for increasingly petty reasons, and trying not to cry in front of people because crying, in my mind, is private. All Hide Your Feelings ever got me is a profound fear of my own negative emotions and a dangerously short fuse. I yell for no reason, too, and it makes me feel horrible because I feel like I’m turning into my father’s distaff counterpart.

  9. The_L says:

    Double-post!!

    @Ozy and Bojangles:
    I feel this way about my depression too. I figured out that it gets worse when I isolate myself or don’t have anything around to do except surf the Net, so I have ridiculous amounts of Stuff around, and force myself into social situations even when I may have things around the house that need doing, because otherwise…well.

    I measure my depression on the Korn Scale, which is in turn based upon which Korn songs I can tolerate at any given moment. “Got The Life” is sort of neutral-ish, because the bassline just sounds awesome to me. “Freak on a Leash” and “Falling Away From Me” mean I need to get out more, and try to focus a bit more on the positive. It hasn’t gotten to this point yet, but “Dead Bodies Everywhere,” “Dirty,” and “Coming Undone” mean I should probably consider *shudders* therapy.

    I don’t like the thought of getting psychiatric help. I’m down with others getting it if they need it or think they do. I just don’t want to go through it again myself. I have had bad experiences with Christian-Brand Psychotherapy (and since I was under 18, they told my parents what went on–which was one of the things I wanted to avoid doing) and am not too thrilled with the thought of medication either. I took Zoloft in high school, and it just made me MORE depressed that a tiny blue pill the size of a grain of rice was supposed to stop me from offing myself–it made me feel even more pathetic.

    Moving out and not dating horrifyingly abusive boyfriends have kept me from getting suicidal, though. I’ve reached the 6-year mark now.

    Re: wanting to do things yourself…oh GODS. As the girl, my parents fucking coddled me way too much. I didn’t iron anything until after high school, I didn’t learn to cook for a few more years after that, and I still have to ask mom what to put in professional emails–at which point she assumes I need help with shit I’ve already done and dispenses unneeded advice.

    With my dad, “concern” is more like “You’re not being the person I want you to be so that I can live vicariously through you. Please start being that person.”

  10. Tamen says:

    First just nitpicking one tiny point here. I realize that you’re probably talking about Clint Eastwood the persona as he exist in our collective minds from many (but not all!) of the characters he’s portrayed on screen, but to me your post conflates Clint Eastwood the persona with Clint Eastwood the human being. I got that impression when you contrasted him against the other 3.499,999,999 men on the planet. Let us not forget that Clint Eastwood is a person, a human being and he’s just as prone to depression and crying as the other 3,499,999,999 other men on the planet. Clint Eastwood the human being is not without awareness of mental health issues according to his sponsorship of the Clint Eastwood Youth Program, providing drug, alcohol, and mental health treatment for kids in and around Carmel.

    Depression is not necessarily just sad affects as crying and so on, but I also believe that it can manifest itself by many characteristics of the Clint Eastwood persona (as portrayed by many of his earlier characters). I read somewhere (going googling*) someone calling it “Clint Eastwood depression” (or cognitive depression) where one becomes apathetic and indifferent.Calling it denial on some level suggests it’s choice to cope this way. I suspect it’s mostly not a choice and it’s just the way the depression manifests itself. Influenced by the steretypical male role? Perhaps, but not exclusively. The stereotypical male role can in itself be a coping mechanism (“I don’t care. Kill me or I can kill you, life has no meaning. I am pretty well dead and alone anyway. I want you to fear me. It keeps you away so I won’t have to deal with you personally.” (from the link below)), not a masking strategy as many seem to suggest. I am getting rather sad thinking about why a coping mechanism of being apathetic and indifferent is so closely mirrored in the steretypical male role…

    When my father suddenly died when I had just turned 18 (it’s only a couple of weeks ago since I turned older than he became) I found myself completely numb and paralyzed and totally unable to cry. I resented those who suggested that me not crying was due to a facade I upheld since I now was “the man of the family”. (“It’s ok to cry, noone will think less of you” and so on). It certainly didn’t help me cry. I wanted, desperately wanted to cry, but there simply was nothing in me but a void. When I tell online (I generally don’t consider it safe to do so offline for many reasons) of my rape and how I was unable to cope and process that for a while due to lacking the concept of men being raped by women, I am being told that I was unable to process and cope with it because doing so would make me go “ew, that would make me a woman”. Again, not helpful at tall. Providing the concept of men being raped would be much more helpful than reducing my perceived fright of being seen as a woman.

    Suggesting (and here I just want to point out that I speak in general and not about this post in particular as it was not a bad offender) to men that their problem will go away if they just let go of their assumed stereoptypical male role can often be: 1) blaming them for not coping properly with their problem (it’s your fault for donning the male stoic mask/for being femmephobic). 2) mischaracterizing the problem (feeling apathy is the problem rather than donning a stereotypical stoic male role mask/lacking the concept of male rape rather than being femmephobic (scared of being seen as a woman)).

    *Found the link (http://www.corepsychblog.com/2007/04/depression-overlooked-tips-on-clint-eastwood-depression/#axzz1oFK5FpmR)

  11. I know that you’re pretty commited to your doctorine that getting traditional therapy would have been more than you could bear, Dancin, but I couldn’t help wondering about this part of your comment: “I’m just saying that the therapy and possible committal route would likely have resulted in consequences which I would rather die, still, than bear. It of necessity would have involved revealing secrets about myself that I would rather die, still, than have anyone know.”

    I’m wondering what your deep, dark secret is… because most people’s deep dark secrets are often shared by millions of other people. Can’t have sex with your SO because you have a fetish for lampshades? Once mistook your wife for a hat? Unable to feel anything for your closest relatives? Addicted to eating toilet paper? Betrayed your best friend? Cut yourself with knives? The world’s seen it already. Your best friend or your boss might be horrified, but they’re only two people and the Internet literally has support groups for *everyone*.

    And then there’s “Removing the idea that one HAS to be pretty is tantamount to removing someone’s ability to be pretty, or like being pretty.” I’m not gonna hate yoy for saying it, but you might want to consider that “Changing the idea of what it MEANS to be pretty” is also an option. Plenty of fat, hairy, genderqueer feminists have kicked out the idea of being “pretty”–white, blonde, and thin–and done their own thing in a way that’s so magnificent that “pretty” looks dull by comparison. I have pictures to prove it.

  12. dancinbojangles says:

    @MollyRen: regarding pretty: Perhaps that was poorly phrased, should have added “traditionally”. I only meant to highlight the vilification of people who are traditionally attractive, and who do things to maintain that attractiveness, by a certain subset of those who reject traditional notions of attractiveness (see Twisty Faster). I.e. “being traditionally attractive is cooperation with the patriarchy.” Naturally, attractiveness being subjective and fluid, there’s awesome unconventional stuff going on everywhere. The problem comes in removing traditional attractiveness as an acceptable option for those who subscribe to it in a non-hegemonic, healthy way.

    Regarding my personal issues: First of all, I legitimately believe, based on considerable research, that I would have been committed involuntarily had I sought psychiatric care during the depths of my depression. This would have directly resulted in many of my ambitions being rendered null and void. My life is worth less to me than those ambitions. Secondly, my secret is BAD, let me tell you. I’d rather not say what it is, as I share this nickname with other sites. However, suffice it to say that the world has indeed seen it, and the general response has been “go kill yourself.” The problem is that the general response is, to my mind, the correct one. That’s why I wanted to kill myself.

    @The_L: Korn scale! I’m gonna use that one.

  13. f. says:

    @dancin, it sucks that your ambitions aren’t compatible with having “a history of mental illness” on file. I often feel like that is the case for me too even though it’s not technically true in any way, and I am probably overestimating the stigma I would face. Even in the midst of this depressive episode I’ve just told my work that “I’m sick” and have even lied to a classmate by implying I am physically ill.

    If it helps, I’m probably imagining worse things than your actual secret based on your description, and I still don’t think anyone should “go kill themself” based on their prior actions. I think everyone deserves a chance at life no matter what you have done in the past. I hope you have access to some kind of therapy or self-help group that would help you not repeat your mistakes, whatever they might be. But you don’t deserve death, no matter what.

  14. dancinbojangles says:

    @f.: Thanks for that, I really do appreciate it. Please, don’t get the wrong idea though. I no longer want to kill myself, and am quite happy. I’ve committed no crime, and my secrets are less and less a part of my life daily.

  15. “I’ve committed no crime, and my secrets are less and less a part of my life daily.”

    If you didn’t actually commit a crime, and people around you were saying “Go die”? They were fucking assholes.

  16. Ozy: Do you think Clint Eastwood ever sat in his apartment for two days because the idea of talking to people made him seize up?

    I bet you didn’t know he used to take Hydergine (and might still, not sure) that he got from Life Extension gurus Sandy Shaw and Durk Pearson… so that he could SPEAK EASIER on movie sets. He often found “fluency” in repeating lines difficult, credited the Hydergine with improving it. Shaw/Pearson used a pseudonym in their book, for the famous actor following their program… later they got his permission to use his actual name.

    So, see there? Even Clint Eastwood isn’t really Clint Eastwood. 😉

  17. Paul says:

    This is a good post, and normally I would agree with it completely. however, it hits a little close to home at the moment. I recently discovered that after years of being the one “making the sandwich” for people whom I thought were my best friends, I discovered that not only were they unwilling to help me out when I need it, they actively went out of their way to make my situation worse.

    -shrug- live and learn, I guess.

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