Media and Cultural Stories

(This was topical when I started writing it; it’s less so now that I’ve finally finished it. However, since the debate seems cyclical, it will unfortunately probably be topical again in the future.)

The Importance of Storytelling

I’ve always been a fan of stories, and I’m not too picky about how they’re told to me. I read, of course, voraciously and widely, though speculative fiction is my home (more on that in a bit). When I play video games, I play for the story; combat is something that happens in between story bits. When I listen to music, clever lyrics or a good ballad will light up my face. Movies, comics, anime, fanfiction … it all comes back to loving and emotionally investing in the story the creator is trying to tell.

Emotional investment is the value of stories. They make us think, but mostly they make us care. There’s a reason the Eight Deadly Words are “I don’t care what happens to these people,” not “I am not intellectually curious about the plot.” In the first level of caring about something, we care because it speaks to us: because something in the story resonates with our own lived stories.

At another level, stories speak to more than just our personal stories. I can read and appreciate stories about redheaded super-intelligent people in a futuristic setting (hi, Heinlein!), but I can also read and appreciate stories about a reluctant revolutionary out to change a horrible, dystopian future (hi, Katniss!). So our media does more than tell personal stories; it tells us stories about our communities and our cultures. But you knew that, because not every piece of media you consume is about people just like you.

Or it shouldn’t be. Continue reading

Creation vs. Consumption

There’s this idea going around that we create, curate, or consume*. Implicit in this assumption for many is that that list is in descending order of importance – or even virtue. It’s most virtuous, of course, to create. Who doesn’t want to be a creator? And if you can’t (or don’t want to) create, then at least curate, which involves actively engaging with the media. If nothing else – if you simply can’t be bothered – then you can consume. But we (the intelligent, the connected) are going to think you’re just a wee bit less smart than we are. Nothing personal. You still have time to go and create something, you know.

If you can’t write a video game, then at least you curate your collection based on data that would be of the most public good. If you can’t even do that, then I guess you can play a video game, but wouldn’t it be a better use of your time to ride a bike? (Insert your medium of choice here)

Setting aside the sheer falseness of this hierarchy of public good**, let’s just concentrate on “creating.” What do you need to create? An idea and (optionally) skill. Where do you get ideas? Inside your head. Where do you get skills? From first watching, then practicing.

Oh.

Continue reading

The realities of living with depression

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I’ve recently been (and still am) in a bad place. I can give you a lot of metaphors about depression, but it comes down to this: my brain doesn’t work the way someone without depression’s does. Sometimes it just … sputters to a stop.

I get a lot of praise for being able to “handle” my depression without medication. The thing is … that’s just the way my particular brain chemistry works. Every time someone praises me for not using meds, someone else goes without because they see it as a weakness. If you praise me, you have to praise everyone else that does what they need to do to live healthily. Sometimes, that means medication, sometimes not. But if praise is to be given, it needs to be given to everyone that’s learned how to deal with the brain chemistry they have.

Last week, I sent out a private call for help. It had gotten to the point where controlling it the way I do wasn’t working anymore, and I needed someone else to talk me out of the black box I was trapped in. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had finally dropped the ball on something that was very important to me. The thing is, I wasn’t. I had a flare-up. Something changed, and I changed my strategy.

I think it’s important to realize that anyone dealing with any disability goes through strategic changes in how they have to manage their care. That’s why we get frequent checkups. (And if only there were frequent brain checkups!) Things change. My needing to get care doesn’t mean I’m suddenly “sick,” it means I have to adjust my care for a bit. And people who need medication aren’t “more sick,” they need different care.

Normally, I wouldn’t say anything. In many ways, I’m not sure what I’m saying now. But with all the talk around depression this last year, I want to see mental health care destigmatized. I want to be able to say “I’m seeing a therapist for a bit,” and have people understand that doesn’t mean I’m suddenly suicidal, it means I’m pursuing appropriate care for something I have little control over. I want people to be able to say “I’m taking meds,” and have people understand that means they’re taking care of themselves. I want to be able to openly say “I have an appointment with my therapist today” the same way I say “I have an appointment with my dentist.”

I want you to understand that depression doesn’t always look like depression. That just because I’m dressed up and going to work doesn’t mean I’m suddenly “okay.” I want you to understand that the only way someone will be willing to talk to you about this is if you have shown a pattern of being trustworthy about mental health discussions. I want you to understand that not taking medication for mental health isn’t noble; it’s simply sometimes the correct treatment. I want you to understand that going to a therapist isn’t a weakness any more than going to a doctor is.

I want me to understand all that, too.

Aside

Welcome to the inside of my head

Oh, hey there.

Ahem.  I know I already run several blogs.  But I found myself needing somewhere to just put things, like the spare furniture.  So I dashed off a new one.

What you’ll find here are my random musings about various things, book reviews, costume diaries, knitting projects, maybe some other things I find amusing or thoughtful.  At least, that’s my intent.

It’s so shiny and new, though, so who can tell?

If you’re from one of my other online presences, this one is … personal.  You know how online marketing gurus tell you to have a definite focus, and avoid wide-ranging, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink, photos-of-my-cats types of blogs?

This is one of them.