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4.13.2012

on learning to say shut up.

growing up, shut-up was not allowed in our house.

with good reason. it's a powerful little phrase. it packs a punch. and there wasn't a place for it in our home.

it's an expression that's overused. taken too lightly. made casual by how commonly it's tossed out.

but it's got some claws that one.

i can be far too judgmental. it's one of my worst traits. absolutely not something i'm proud of.

i'm judgmental of myself, of others (equal opportunist here), i make assumptions and take things too personally. and then, adding insult to injury, i rarely say what needs to be said, when it needs to be said.

but i'm working on it. and sometimes, shut up, as it turns out, is a great place to start.

i found myself in a situation recently with someone i barely knew and the conversation moved swiftly from global warming to scientific research to antidepressants.

ah antidepressants. why would anyone take them when they're known to increase the risk of suicidal thoughts? he asked.

a perfectly valid question. mostly posed by those who've never been in the grips of a knock-out-drag-down fight with the disease.

the thing is, that question is not terribly well informed. it's one-dimensional in nature. there are so many questions that can and must be asked. and that one is just the start. and to begin and end there is too miss the point entirely.

perhaps it was the way he asked it that pissed me off. perhaps it was his judgement that really drove me nuts. perhaps it was that after asking the question he just kept talking, with none of what he said grounded in experience.

here's the whole of my philosophy on depression: unless you've ever suffered from it, you don't get to judge those who have. unless you've gone to the mouth of the thing and managed to gather up your mangled limbs and trek back out, then shut up. because you haven't a clue. unless you've watched, helpless, as someone you've loved has lost the fight or lost years of their life to it, you do not get to stand on the sidelines and pass a judgment. and you certainly don't have the right to give voice to that judgement. so again. shut. the hell. up. because, with all due respect, you sound like an idiot. 


so is my stance on love. and relationships. no love story (throughout the entire human history!) has ever repeated. yes, similarities abound, absolutely. but my love story does not, nor cannot compare to yours. but because we all have experience with love, we assume we know. and so we judge. from the outside, we judge and we assume. he's all wrong for her, one of them must be cheating, and on and on the wheel does turn. but we are not there when two people fall into bed at night, nor are we there in the morning when a small pulse passes between two hands, a signal to begin the day. we are not there. and because we are not there, on the inside of the thing, we do not get to judge.

so we best just shut up (and trust me, i include myself in this).

the love stories that have colored my life have been mostly private. i keep them as such because in my experience people attempt to make small what i hold to be most dear, most true. well i've been in love, so i know. well i have more experience, so i get to say. 

you do know? how do you know? you do have more experience? how do you know you have more experience? is it that your love stories have followed a more traditional course that you're entitled to sit there on your high horse and pass a judgement?

shut. up. 

listening is a powerful thing. and there is certainly a place for silence.

38 comments:

katrina leigh said...

a great post meg. a reminder to not let others dictate my own experiences to me - and to take a step back before i hand out judgments of my own (a fault i carry too). thanks for sharing this.

Alivia said...

Thank you for this, Meg. It's entirely perfect in every way.

sharlyn emily said...

A. MEN.

Mary Kate said...

Thank you for this. I'm currently in the midst of that knock-down drag-out fight and faced with the decision whether or not to try antidepressants. Reading this came at a really good time for me today. Thank you.

Hazel said...

well said.
I can't tell you how many people I would like to forward this post into.
thank you.

Kayla said...

There was a time when "shut up" was not even on my radar. Not the words of course, but the ability to say them, or to even feel entitled to. Then I learned that I didn't have to take everything I heard as truth, and I started using "shut up" to protect myself. Now, I'm a little more capable of taking things in without letting them effect me, so I shut myself up, and try to rise above the judgement all around me. It's hard though.

A psyhiatrist once told me that the reason anti-depressants increase suicidal behavior is that they give people the energy to act on the thoughts that were already there. Not sure if it's true, but it makes some sense.

Lottie said...

There is a reason we have two ears and one mouth.

And I am way too judgemental of me and others too and I need to remember to just shut up.

Robby Spratt said...

Agreed.

maria said...

well said, people are ridiculous..it's the same that goes with anxiety when people say "why cant you just relax" it drives me nuts!

Brittan said...

yes. YES YES YES YES YES. love this. i think about this stuff all the time.

Alexa said...

i love thinking about that--how no one has ever lived out my love stories before. in some weird way, it's such a comfort.

Jenni Austria Germany said...

i wonder how many of your posts to date have given me chills. this is one of them, fyi.

MandyJean said...

So perfectly put! As someone who has struggled with depression and been painfully upset by people who feel the need to put down past loves, people do need to learn to shut up. It is easy to pass judgement from the outside. I'll bet it'd be a lot harder if we all got to be flies on the walls in those secret moments.

amandamwatkins said...

This is so true. As maria above said, it's the same with anxiety. I can't just stop it. I can't just calm down. I think all people are guilty of judging or even thinking that you can understand someone when you can't. You never will know 100% unless you yourself are going through the same thing and even then it's not the same for each person. What works for me might not work for you. I also completely understand what you mean about the love stories - it's annoying to hear, "Just get over him?" "Why do you even like him?" Well agian, I can't really help it and I can't even explain to myself so I can even expcet you to understand.
Anyways..sorry for the long comment but I really do love your blog! I always look forward to your post!

mwoodall said...

Oh man! Amen!!! As someone who considered suicide and had very severe depression and now I am depression free... I totally agree with everything you just wrote. Very well put!

Alice said...

It's funny. I swear like a truck driver but the word's shut up rarely have come out of my mouth (unless you count when my dog barks at the elevator...hehe). I think it's just such a nasty sentiment.

But I totally agree. Sometimes shut up is a great place to start. Especially when it comes to judgement. On yourself and others.

I've never dealt with pure depression. I've dealt with depression brought on by chronic illness, which is very different. But it took the life and will out of me when I most needed it. Prior to that period in my life, I was a total naysayer when it comes to antidepressants. And now, now I wouldn't dare to judge anyone on the subject.

The Rookie said...

I'm sitting here somewhere between speechless and having so much to say.

Oh, how true, Meg. How very, very true.

Anonymous said...

I think your use of shut. up. was very apt in this case.

As someone who has gone through depression and is still coming back from it, I couldn't be more with you on this.

and definitely something to keep in mind in terms of viewing other people's love stories and relationships.

Lamisa said...

I agree so much, Meg. Sometimes we assume so much without knowing anything at all. It especially gets under my skin when people say things like, "I don't really think depression is real," or "I don't believe in depression." Ahem, excuse me? You are not entitled to say that! How can you not believe every horror I've been through!

Megs said...

Amen to your comments on depression. Some people just do not get it. And they should accept that about themselves and SHUT UP!

Vivi said...

AMEN.

Tara said...

You've hit this nail on the head, girl.

cominghomesoon said...

I love your openness and honesty. Both traits are so important to me, thats the reason I love this blog.
Two things come to mind when I read this. First of all...you're right, no-one knows what its like to live with depression unless they've experienced it for themselves. You are absolutely spot on.
The second issue i'm torn on though...my mantra for relationships is "no-one knows what happens behind closed doors" like, no-one knows the love people have for each other, i'm not there, in their room at night when they look into each others eyes and proclaim their love for each other. I stick to that and dont comment or judge. BUT what happens when you know what is happening behind closed doors, when you see that something isnt healthy. thats its destroying a loved one? Do I have a right to comment then?

Louise xo

Anonymous said...

two wrongs never make it right

colleen said...

the end is so true. i always say to my friends, "i'm not in your relationship, there's a lot i don't know, so here's what i think based on what you've told". it can be important to listen to what others think, but know they can't possibly give you totally sound advice because they can't really know what it's like.

Julia said...

Oy Oy! I have been out of the Meg loop for much to long. Well said :)

emily.beth said...

too many times have I heard things like "anti depressants are for people that can't handle real life" or "anti depressants are for people who are too lazy to change". & far too often I have had very similar thoughts running through my head. so thank you, thank you, thank you, for, if nothing else, validating those feelings.

Sophie said...

A good friend of mine is depressed, something he's not too open about, and when he finally told me, I was really honored, and I always told him to call or something if he was having a bad day, to see if I could help, he always tried to tell me that it's not the kind of thing that can be cheered out of the way, and this post just reminded me of that, you know, as badly as I want to, I don't understand and most likely never will.
This was such a very valid post and I'm glad I read it.

Emily said...

Amazing post, Meg. Yes, yes, yes to all of it. Thank you.

Britti said...

Oh yes.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

Thank you so much for calling out all the people who have ever dared to tell me what they know about depression, who have never suffered from it themselves. I used to be judgmental toward people who went to counseling and therapy, until I started going myself... now I would recommend it to everyone.

BrightEyedWashingtonian said...

I absolutely LOVE this post!!! I want to copy it and send it to a few people. I can't even tell you how much this hits home. My now ex-boyfriend suffers from mental health issues including anxiety and PTSD. I've never had so many people judge me, him, our relationship, and why he can't be in it right now. It's none of anyone's business and no one asked for their opinion on things they know nothing about - my relationship and his mental health! Good for you for posting this!!!

Emily Tingey said...

The topic of quit-your-judging-and-quit-inserting-your-opinion-where-it-don't-matter set up shop in my mind a few weeks ago and doesn't seem to be in a rush to leave. It was addressed recently in a talk that, though spoken by a Mormon, carries reminders we can all use no matter our religious beliefs. You may find something you like:

http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/04/the-merciful-obtain-mercy?lang=eng

Shawnee said...

just found your blog. you are a fantastic writer.!! i am so enjoying your posts. this one included. xoxo

jorjiapeach said...

god. have i told you lately how much i love your blog??

cristie said...

i will try to be better. xox

Jaraka Drew Hansen said...

my goodness you're a beautiful writer.

Kate said...

Ahh once again you've spoken to my soul. I think it all boils down to overthinking situations and people. Sometimes I just have to force myself to say what I'm thinking because in the end the person I end up hurting the worst is myself.