Boggle on mental illness and “a cry for help”.

Here’s your feel good post for the day: it’s Boggle, the owl.  People write to boggle with problems and boggle then gives them some kind perspective.

This particular one caught my eye…

I don't like the phrase "a cry for help."  I just don't like how it sounds.  When somebody says to me, "I'm thinking about suicide, I have a plan; I just need a reason not do do it," the last thing I see is helplessness.  I think: your depression has been beating you up for years.  It's called you ugly, and stupid, and pathetic, and a failure, for so long that you've forgotten that it's wrong.  You don't see any good in yourself, and you don't have any hope.  But stll, here you are; you've come over to me, banged on my door, and said, "Hey!  Staying alive is really hard right now!  Just give me something to fight with!  I don't care if it's a stick!  Give me a stick and I can stay alive!  How is that helpless?  I think that's incredible.  You're like a marine: trapped for years behind enemy lines, your gun has been taken away, you're out of ammo, you're malnurished, and you've probably caught some kind of jungle virus that's making you hallucinate giant spiders.""

And you're still just going, "Give me a stick.  I'm not dying out here."  "A cry for help" makes it sound like I'm supposed to take pity on you.  But you don't need my pity.  This isn't pathetic.  This is the will to survive.  This is how humans lived long enough to become the dominant species.  With no hope, running on nothing, you're ready to cut through a hundred miles of hostile jungle with nothing but a stick, if that's what gets you to safety.  All I'm doing is handing out sticks.  You're the one staying alive.


About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Armored Scrum Object

    That’s kind of nice. It probably helps when you actually get a stick and not a soggy newspaper. I’m fairly sure that the group therapy program I’m currently attending is actually making me worse (social anhedonia + condescending, incoherent “education” curriculum = shit sandwich, basically). I can’t believe some of the nonsense spouted by the “therapists” (for example, TIL that bipolar disorder is just a set of coping behaviors triggered by another person in your life).

    • Anonymous

      You need a new therapist if they are trying to tell you that bipolar disorder is just a set of coping behaviors triggered by another person in your life. There are bad counselors yes, but there are MANY good ones out there, you just need to do your research. You do not have to stay with the first one you see.

      • Armored Scrum Object

        This is a group program in a hospital; I don’t get to choose therapists/counselors/leaders, they’re just assigned to the group. And in that environment it’s very difficult to call out bullshit because it gets interpreted as “noncompliance”. That’s why I’m leaving the program altogether: that kind of environment is the last thing I need right now.

        Anyway, derail over. Boggle = very yes.

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  • Lux Pickel

    Did anyone else cry a bit?

    “You’re like a marine: trapped for years behind enemy lines, your gun has been taken away, you’re out of ammo, you’re malnourished, and you’ve probably caught some kind of jungle virus that’s making you hallucinate giant spiders.”

    Spot on.

    • Person With Stick

      Yes, I did shed a tear. and then I got quickly back to looking for a stick.

  • Otrame

    Reminds me of what someone said to a friend who has a son who has had mental health issues since he was a very young boy (poor kid lost the lottery in the brain chemistry department). At one point my friend came into work upset because the kid had had a meltdown at school (he was in 2nd grade) that ended up with him sitting in the hall yelling, going limp if anyone tried to get him up, etc.

    One of the volunteers said “Good for him.”

    We all stared. She said, “He just let everyone know that he has reached the end of his endurance and he did it without hurting himself or anyone else.”

    That one sentence changed how my friend viewed what was happening. It still does to this day.

    The volunteer was a retired teacher who specialized in teaching kids with mental health issues and her attitude was very much like Boggles.

    • invivoMark

      It sort of feels like it shouldn’t be, but that’s very profound. Thanks for sharing.

    • Anonymous

      Absolutely! Good for him – and good for her (the retired teacher). It’s scariest when there’s nobody looking out at you from those eyes. Anger means a light still burns – someone is still “home”.

    • Mother of similar child

      Yes, thank you very much. I needed this tonight.

  • Glodson

    That was great. I think I needed a little pick-me-up this morning. Thanks for sharing.

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  • invivoMark

    I like this quite a lot. Thanks, JT.

  • Lurkpuppy

    This gives me shivers and makes my eyes suspiciously hot. I really needed to see something like this right now. Thank you.

  • Improbable Joe

    As a former Marine, I can tell you that the proper phrasing is “hooking and jabbing in a hot LZ, out of ammo and with a broken bayonet.

    Otherwise, I can relate: I suffer from major depression and I have the occasional fit of despair. And I don’t know if the “stick analogy” is exactly accurate either, but it is close. When I’m reaching out for help, I don’t need a stick, or a whole bayonet, or even a fresh magazine. I need to feel a hand reaching out to me, I need to feel another person at my back. Because my despair and depression is about me being alone against the world, and if I feel like I’ve got one other person there I can always fight my way to the other side.

    • Amyc

      Wow that’s me. like right now.

  • Treeshrew

    Ah, I love Boggle! That little owl has got me through some bad times!

  • Brad1990

    I was unaware of Boggle. I am now going to read him more often :)

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