Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 16 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Perceived-Slight Dilemma

1. detected by instinct or inference rather than by recognized perceptual cues; "the felt presence of an intruder"; "a sensed presence in the room raised goosebumps on her arms"; "a perceived threat" [syn: sensed]
2. detected by means of the senses; "a perceived difference in temperature"

verb (used with object)
1. to treat as of little importance.
2. to treat (someone) with indifference; ignore, esp. pointedly or contemptuously; snub: to be slighted by society.
3. an act or instance of slighting indifference or treatment: Slights marred his work.
4. a pointed and contemptuous discourtesy; affront: She considered not being invited an unforgivable slight.


Alcoholics suffer from problems of perception. People with mental illness and personality disorders suffer from problems of perception. Since I used to fit into all of the above categories, you might guess that I've had a history of suffering from perceptual inaccuracies and blatant mistakes.

Historically, when I based my feelings, judgments or opinions on my perceptions, it was akin to walking through a field of land-mines. My past perceptions usually tripped me up and exploded in my face, resulting in serious injury to myself and others. Fortunately, I learned from these painful, bloody experiences, which is why I need your help today.

I perceive a slight from a person within an organization I care deeply about. This person is newer to the organization than I am. She is the part-time, paid coordinator who assigns volunteer speakers for community mental health education and awareness. I have been voluntarily speaking and training new public speakers for this organization for years. Prior to this person coming on board, I was one of the most frequent speakers, speaking several times per month to schools, churches, civic groups, live radio programs, and even the television news. I cherish the role, as I am passionate about educating the public about depression and mental illness.

After being stigmatized, fired, and losing everything because of my depression, I made the decision to use my experiences to enlighten others. I figured if even one person changed their perspective, developed a better understanding of a sick relative, or decided to seek help as a result of something I said, anything I had gone through would pale in comparison. Speaking gives some meaning to this otherwise meaningless illness. It's the same reason I write this blog. I enjoy it. I value the opportunity to squash the stigma and to hopefully effect change. It gives me a sense of purpose.

The opportunity to speak, however, seems to have been taken away. Over the past year, I've gone from speaking, or being asked to speak, several times per month to once or twice this entire year. I learned, after the fact, from one teacher that she had requested me for three speaking dates, but I was only offered the choice of one of the three dates. That was a couple months ago. I let it go. But since then, I have paid more attention to the number of opportunities I've been offered.

I assumed I wasn't being called because the organization wasn't getting as many speaking requests. I also knew that we'd made a big push to add speakers to our speaker's bureau, so perhaps that was the reason for fewer calls. For awhile, I was one of only a very few volunteers, but now we have several trained speakers. Unfortunately, today it became clear that I've been overly optimistic, stupid or naive. The organization has had many speaking requests, and other speakers have been called and scheduled multiple times. I've just not been called. That is my perception.

This sucks! I'm angry. I'm resentful. I'm confused. I perceive a slight. I've heard gossip from other volunteers about this person which, if true, would explain her actions. I don't like gossip, and while it's nice to have senior members of the organization reassure me, it doesn't help me fulfill my desire to educate people. I'm being kept from doing something I love. I'm being kept from assisting an organization I value. I'm being left outside the loop of an organization in which I've invested a lot of time and energy. And why? Not because of anything I've done according to those who've tried to reassure me. Just because.

And this is where I need help. I can act on my perception, which may or may not be true, and go after this person with both barrels. That's what I would have done in the past--not very effective. Part of me wants to say, "Fuck it! Fuck them!" I want to leave them in anger without saying a thing. Of course, that also solves nothing. In fact, my situation would be worse. I'd be a non-speaker full of resentment! That sounds like a prescription for mental health disaster. Not a great option...

Speaking to this person would be a better option. I need to say something, but I don't want to say anything! I don't want to deal with this BS! One of the benefits of volunteering, versus a paid position, is staying out of the office BS! That's how it's supposed to work, anyway. I resent having to deal with this crap! I'm pissed I have to deal with another person's (perceived) character flaws! Lord knows, I've got enough of my own to deal with! I didn't do anything to this person, but I'm apparently not on her Christmas list. That's her shit! Why should I have to deal with it? But I do...if I want to speak publicly again, I must deal with it.

There's another shitty thing about being forced to deal with this. Just because I deal with it maturely (hopefully) doesn't mean I'll get the outcome I desire. I can control my response to the perceived slight, but I can't control how my response will be received. This fact makes it even more difficult for me to approach this person. I don't want to expose myself, make myself vulnerable to this person, and then have nothing change. I guess this is the risk I have to take if I want any chance to continue speaking.

This sucks. I don't like it. I feel resentful. And I feel cornered--forced to act, despite the fact I didn't participate in creating the situation.
What would you do?

What would you do?


Bradley said...


Check my post today (Sunday) :-)


Asdquefty said...

Hi Etta,
I totally understand what you're going through, I've been through this very often in the past, with a similar urge to just angrily walk away.

I have the added problem of not being able to "read" people and have problems with perception there as a result.

I'm about as clueless as you are, maybe more so, but you're not alone.

Take care

etta said...

Thanks asdquefty-

I am fortunate that I am generally able to read people--result of growing up in a very unpredictable, dysfunctional home, I guess. It would be tough NOT to be able to read people. The teen I mentor is like that. In fact, I think he may have Asperger's. So I understand what you mean.
One thing that has really helped me when I am "perceiving" something is to step back and think before I speak or act. Time is a great mellowing agent. Writing also helps me--go figure!
What bugs me about this situation is that I didn't create it! I'm doing things right for once, and I still have to deal with this crap!
Boo, hoo, hoo...
I'll get over it.
Thanks for your feedback, as usual.

crackedheadblog said...

I'm not sure what I'd do.

The thing to do, for an alcoholic, is trust that all is as it's supposed to be in God's world. He/She's either in charge or He/She's not.

"Let go, let God" I think is the appropriate slogan. You're responsibility ends when you discuss it with the perceived offending party.

I'm not sure but there are probably lots of things you can do other than speak. Perhaps you're being nudged (not too gently) into the next phase of your volunteer life?

etta said...

"I'm not sure but there are probably lots of things you can do other than speak. Perhaps you're being nudged (not too gently) into the next phase of your volunteer life?"

Hmmm...that's an interesting thought, crackedheadblogger. Thanks for that perspective.

bity said...

I think you need to appeal to her empathy. In order to do so, you have to set your anger aside. It would seem she's in this industry because she wants to heal people. You could probably make yourself relatable to her by letting her know that speaking heals you. Perhaps you threatened her with your skill at speaking, or didn't do enough to ingratiate yourself with her, but at the end of the day none of that matters if you don't get to speak. I think you need to go to her and tell her how much this means to you in an honest and modest way, but without a hint of anger. I.E. don't battle with her, get her on your side. Sometimes you have to be vulnerable to get what you want.

etta said...

Welcome to my blog, bity, and thanks for your very astute interpretation of the situation and your comments. You are so very correct. That is likely the very best approach I can take. Thank you. I need to give myself a couple days, I think, to let some of the anger release while I think about my response. And I still need to let go of wanting to control her reaction. I can only do what's best for me and let the rest work itself out, right?
Thanks again for your objective perspective. I really appreciate it!

Denise said...

The above comment was a nice perspective.... however if you would really like to speak for this place more than once or twice a year.... it seems like doing nothing will not achieve that goal. I would talk to this person... you sound like a well put together individual... I can see you tactfully and thoughtfully approaching her... even though your insides are churning. You have too much to offer, without at least risking the chance that it can continue. Just my humble opinion from not even knowing you, but I've visited your blog a couple of times and really like it.

etta said...

Hi denise, and thanks for visiting my humble blog!
You are right, doing nothing would not solve a thing. That's why I am planning to say something. Of course I don't want to, as I am certain I made clear in my post! I'd rather NOT have to deal with this! (Why can't we all just get along and the world be fair, huh?)
So, I am either procrastinating or letting my insides settle a bit before I approach her. It will be tough, but fortunately I have learned the skills, mostly thru DBT, I need to speak to her rationally and without malice.
I appreciate your comment and support. And thanks to bity's reminder, I'll try to approach her with some empathy, too. That's something I never, NEVER could have done just a few years ago! Sobriety and DBT have taught me a lot.
Thanks again for your vote of confidence. Please visit again soon!

Bradley said...

Etta, you have every right to feel the way you do. You're hurt and that's making you feel angry. If you ignore it you'll only build resentment.

What I would do is speak with the person who runs the operation. I wouldn't bring up any rumors or that I know that others have gotten more engagements. As a manager for many years I know that is not a good thing.

I would simply state that I use to speak more often and that I really enjoy it. I would ask why there are so many fewer engagements happening. Are less being booked?

I'd leave it at that and see what kind of response I received. If I didn't like it then I'd have to make a decision. If I decided it was time to move on I'd use every ounce of will in my body to try and leave as graciously as possible.

etta said...

Thanks for your comments. Again, we think a lot alike. I actually did ask the "....are fewer engagements being booked..." quesion. Problem is, I took the back door and asked it of this person's colleague, rather than of her or her supervisor. Chicken-shit, I know. Surprise, surprise--nothing changed.
I think I will use your suggestion as part of my approach this time around, and I will take my concerns to the correct person, too.
Thanks, Bradley-

Marissa Miller said...

What I would do is not what I recommend that you should do.

I would be angry, bottle it up inside, and do nothing.

But you're more motivated than that. I agree with Bradley. And ask for feedback and see if there have been any complaints for whatever reason. (There shouldn't be but it gives the person an opportunity to bring up any issues.)