Unfair. Unreasonable. Unequivocal.

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. I missed it, because there are so many “Day’s” these days that it’s nearly impossible to keep track of them, but I wanted to write this post anyway, because I wanted to share what I feel is one of the biggest struggles surrounding mental health, specifically depression.

There is plenty of stigma surrounding mental health, and with depression in particular one of the most frustrating reactions that I personally have had to endure is this idea of “what do you have to be depressed about?”

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The unfortunate issue is that mentally-healthy people see depression as a cause-and-effect situation: something bad happens, and the victim becomes depressed. They understand depression in relation to a loved one dying, or a house burning down, or a job being lost. But when they see someone living what is considered to be a good life, they scoff at the idea of that person being depressed. “What do you have to be depressed about?”

So I want to reiterate, as someone who has dealt with it: being depressed, mentally, is not the same thing as being sad, temporarily. We all experience sadness when bad things happen to us. We may even consider ourselves to be “depressed” if it’s a particularly difficult time in our lives that we’re having a difficult time getting through. But being depressed from a mental health standpoint – from a clinical standpoint – is not nearly the same thing. Being depressed is not a cause-and-effect situation. Depression does not require a cause, does not require something to set it off. Depression simply is. Unfairly. Unreasonably. Unequivocally.

I have a good life. I know this. I have a husband who loves me and regularly tells me so. I have a beautiful, intelligent daughter who adores me. I have a huge extended family of wonderful people who support me. I’ve published two books, have a mildly-successful YouTube channel, and have good friends and lots of followers who treat me like someone to be in awe of. I have a good life. I know this.

And yet, on a startlingly regular basis, my brain tells me otherwise. It tells me that I’m useless and pathetic. It tells me that no one loves me, that my life is worthless, and that there’s not a single person out there who could possibly understand how I feel. It tells me that I haven’t got a single thing in this world to be happy about.

Unfair. Unreasonable. Unequivocal.

Depression isn’t logical. A person suffering depression can have two voices in their mind at the exact same time – one telling them how lucky they are to be alive, and the other telling them that they’d be better off dead – and whether or not they are able to press forward depends on which voice manages to shout louder at any given time.

And then there’s the third voice – the voice from the outside, asking, “What do you have to be depressed about?” And I will tell you right now, and make no mistake about it: that outside voice lends power to the depression. Pointing out that a depressed person shouldn’t be depressed, does not magically make them realize that you’re right, and that they should be all sunshine and rainbows. Pointing out that a depressed person shouldn’t be depressed helps to prove to them that their brain is broken which – listen closely now – is a really depressing realization.

I understand that it’s difficult to comprehend what could possibly be going on in another person’s mind. It’s the great divide between us all that none of us will truly be able to understand the thoughts and feelings of another. But instead of fighting that realization, I ask you to accept it. Even if it makes absolutely no sense to you, even if you can’t understand for the life of you why someone with such a good life could possibly be depressed, I ask you to simply accept the fact that you don’t know. You have zero idea what’s going on in that person’s head. You have absolutely no clue about how they are truly feeling. You can sympathize, for sure, but in the end you can not understand, not truly. We’re all trapped in our own minds, for better or for worse, and you can never truly know exactly what’s happening behind the eyes of another.

So take that reaction – that desire to ask “What do you have to be depressed about?” – and clamp your teeth on it. Shove it away, and instead simply try to understand that depression – true depression – does not only affect those who are currently in sad or unfortunate situations. Depression – true depression – does not discriminate, doesn’t play fair, doesn’t have any rhyme or reason, and is unequivocally cruel.

Be aware, be empathetic, and be an ally, because the only way to truly fight depression is to fight it together.

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An Author Honor – Being Read in a Book Club

I’ll admit that, most days, I still find it hard to consider myself a “real” author. It’s a combination of being self-published (which, despite attempts at the contrary, still makes me consider myself to be an amateur) and the fact that my sales are mind-blowingly abysmal. I shouldn’t harbor such thoughts – I wrote TWO GODDAMN BOOKS, DAMMIT, and that makes me an author! – but it’s very difficult, and I hardly think that I’m the only self-published author to feel that way, so I give myself a break.

That said, every so often something happens that really does make me feel like a “real” author, and one of those things happened throughout the month of July. You see, over at the Basement Geeks Facebook Group, two of our most active members decided to start up a “Basement Geeks Book Club”. I thought it was a great idea, and joined up right away, myself, but I wasn’t expecting what happened next, because there was a poll set up to decide which book the group would read first, and the book they chose…was Nowhere to Hide.

It wasn’t a huge book club or anything – less than ten people were actually reading – but, to be honest, it was kind of a huge deal to me. It felt wonderful, not only because they chose my book, but because I got to be a part of the process. The members discussed the chapters they’d read weekly, and I got to be there, joining in the conversation, fielding questions, and seeing what people really, truly thought. There were a few constructive criticisms, some awesome reactions, and a surprising amount of praise that all just made me feel warm and fuzzy and happy inside. My favorite part? The way everyone agreed on how I was able to really hammer them emotionally. No individual comment or review has ever made me truly feel like I’m doing something right, like I’m accomplishing what I set out to do when I imagine and reimagine my scenes over and over again.

It made me feel like I’m not only a “real” author, but also a good one. And I can’t describe how that makes me feel.

So thank you, Basement Geeks Book Club. You have no idea how great you made me feel just by sitting down to discuss a book.

What’s in a (Fictional) Death?

The other night Jason and I watched a movie. In order to protect you from spoilers, I won’t tell you what the movie was, but suffice it to say that a rather large number of characters died throughout its run-time. These deaths got me thinking… You see, I watch a lot of movies, a lot of TV shows and animated features, read a lot of books and comics, and…well, you get the idea. Thus, I see/read/experience a lot of fictional death, and what I’ve found is that, while I’m fairly desensitized to it at this point, there are certain manners, methods, and situations which cause a fictional death to become extraordinarily uncomfortable to me. As a writer these little details intrigue me, because, depending on the piece, I might actually aspire to infuse those uncomfortable feelings in others. So I thought I’d write this little list of those types of deaths and why they bother me so.

Uncomfortable Death #1: The person who (reasonably) didn’t even want to be there.

This is a common one in action adventure movies – think things like Jurassic Park. There is often a character who is a bit of a wuss, who doesn’t want to follow the group into the grand adventure, who is actually pretty reasonable when you really think about it. But for whatever reason this character ends up going on the adventure anyway, is terrified the entire time, and then just when he/she is in a fairly comfortable spot and feels confident that everything is going to be okay…they get eaten. Or ripped literally limb from limb. Or crushed from the bottom half so that their brain stays alert for a few moments. And they almost always die shrieking in fear and agony. And that’s what makes it so uncomfortable for me, I think. Just the thought of this poor fool who shouldn’t have even been there, and was even actually smart enough to know that they shouldn’t have been there, dies in horrifying pain and terror, freaks me out. I think it’s because I can imagine myself in that situation. I imagine that I would be the person who didn’t want to go, but got dragged along anyway, and paid the ultimate price for it.

Uncomfortable Death #2: The person who tries (and miserably fails) to be a sacrifice for their friends.

A sacrifice scene can be an extremely emotional moment in a movie. The monster is coming, the group isn’t going to get away, so this character turns around, weapon in hand, ready to die in order to afford their friends a few extra moments to run for their lives. It’s tense, and sad, and we’re meant to develop a strong sense of respect for the character… And then the character gets swatted away like a fly and dies horribly without accomplishing a damn thing. Half the time the death even ends up coming off as a little comical, as the character’s body ragdolls through the sky. It makes me uncomfortable because I hate the sudden change in tone. Working up to that moment I feel a mixture of sadness and respect for this character and then their death turns out to equate to something like a pie in the face. That bothers me. Quite a lot, actually. I don’t like having my emotions played with, is the thing, and that’s what this kind of death feels like to me.

Uncomfortable Death #3: The sniveling worm who you want to die, but then does so in the most pathetic manner possible.

At the risk of sounding repetitive, please think about Jurassic Park again (and if you somehow have managed to avoid seeing Jurassic Park for all these years…spoilers, I guess? Go watch the movie, dammit). Think about the lawyer in Jurassic Park. That guy was a sniveling, skeezy, creep, and don’t you dare say for a second that you weren’t rooting for him to get eaten. But the thing is, when he does, doesn’t it make you feel a little like bugs are crawling around in your skin? Maybe it’s just me, but when a sniveling character like that lawyer dies cowering, crying, snot running down his face, practically crying for his mommy…I don’t know. For some reason that makes my skin crawl. I hate the character, but I also feel a little bad for them and wish that they could just show a grain of bravery in the last seconds of their life, and that combination of feelings gives me gooseflesh. Maybe I’m just crazy.

Uncomfortable Death #4: Any child death in which the body is destroyed beyond any chance of recognition.

I’m sure that a child’s death, for a lot of people, is uncomfortable enough as it is, and I’m definitely a bit more sensitive to them since having my own child, but in general fictional child deaths don’t really bother me any more than fictional adult deaths – it really depends on the individual character rather than their age. But with that said, child deaths in which the body is absolutely destroyed…those wig me the hell out. A specific one I always think about is from one of the Final Destination movies. (Spoilers for an extremely old movie again!) The character is practically a teen, but still counts in this case, and he’s killed by a falling pane of some kind of heavy duty glass that literally liquefies his body. There’s nothing left except a pile of mush oozing out his clothing. And although the special effects haven’t held up the greatest and the way his body folds in half backward actually looks a bit comical now, that death freaks me the hell out every time. There’s just something about there not being a body left behind that bothers me in a way I can’t explain. But it’s only with children. If an adult gets vaporized or blown into literal confetti, it’s not a big deal. A child? No no no no no, I don’t like it, I don’t want it, make it go away. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that a grown adult leaves behind a legacy, so it doesn’t seem to be a big deal if there’s no physical remnant left behind, whereas a child has yet to have left their mark on the world, so I feel like taking their physical presence away as well is extra horrifying.


So those are four types of deaths that regularly happen in fiction and bother me a great deal for a number of (both definite and possible) reasons. What do you think? Do you agree with my thoughts? Have any examples of your own? Please feel free to share!

A Few Thoughts about Comics and Collectibles Shops

Yesterday, while the little one was enjoying having a few sleepovers with Nana and Papa, Jason and I decided to take a shopping trip. At first the plan was to drive to PEI via the bridge and just hang out there until all the shops were closed, but there turned out to not be that many geeky-stuff-carrying shops in PEI, so we spent the first half of the day there before driving off to Moncton to hit a few more stores and then heading home. All in all, among other stores, we hit six “comics and/or collectibles” shops, and they all got me thinking about things that are frustrating about these kinds of shops and/or contribute to their eventual failure as small businesses. So I thought I’d share a few of these complaints and see if anyone agrees.

Complaint #1: Comic shops that ONLY have comics. 

This one might sound odd because, logically, the key aspect of a comic shop is to have comics, right? And for the record, the shop that prompted this complaint had a lot of comics – both individual books and trade paperbacks – so it definitely had that going for it. However, it’s my personal belief that if a comic shop really wants to attract customers, it should have a few more things than just comics. It should have collectibles of comic characters, for instance. Figures, small toys, that kind of thing. Perhaps some comic-related apparel, art, or even novelty items. You don’t have to go nuts and have some of every collectible item you can get your hands on, but the fact of the matter is that people like myself and Jason will search your shop, drop in to see what you have, and become very disappointed to find out that it’s only comics. Granted this shop did have a very small group of figures above some of the comic shelves, but it was barely enough to even be noticeable in the veritable sea of comics. Honestly, expand your stock a little and you’ll probably attract more customers.

Complaint #2: Refusing to adhere to your own hours.

The shop that sparked this complaint may have actually closed down and simply failed to remove the sign outside their shop – we’re not entirely sure because it was a basement shop and all we could tell from the door was that there were a few boxes of comics strewn on the floor at the bottom of the stairs. That said, we’ve had this issue with other shops before as well, so it bears mentioning. If your hours are posted as opening at 11:00 am, the goddamn door should be open at 11 on the nose, if not earlier. We’ve waited outside comic and collectible shops for nearly half an hour past opening and not seen a hint of movement inside. Once we were actually standing outside the door, staring at the owners inside as they talked to each other, and they failed to open the doors until about a quarter past the hour. The particular shop from yesterday? It was supposed to open at 11, didn’t, and when we came back at about 2 pm it still wasn’t open. No sign on the door or anything. What the literal hell? If there’s an excellent way to turn off prospective customers, that’s certainly it.

Complaint #3: Having ridiculous hours that don’t follow any normal store system.

This complaint actually doesn’t come from yesterday’s trip, but from previous trips to a store that’s a few hours from us. It’s hours are completely nonsensical. It’s only open on four non-consecutive days a week, and during different hours on each of those particular days. Why even have your own shop if you can’t commit to having it open on a normal schedule so that people can actually shop there?

Complaint #4: Shops that are effectively impossible to find.

I’ll grant that the issue with this one is that many shop owners are doing their best to find the cheapest possible rent, because renting a shop is outrageous and can completely demolish your possible profits. That said, if no one can find your shop, or if it’s so completely nondescript that people walk right past it without even noticing it, you’re not going to get any customers! The store from the previous complaint is in a small room above a Home Hardware building. Unless you just happen to be at that store and look up to the second-floor windows and notice that there are a few superhero posters and an “Open” sign up there, you’d never know that the store exists. There’s no outside advertising in a place where people would actually notice it; there’s not even a sign on the outside door saying that there’s a separate shop upstairs. The only reason we know about the shop is because it once existed in its own building, and when we asked another shop owner where it had gone, they directed us to the spot. Otherwise? It’s practically invisible.

Complaint #5: Shops that host tabletop gaming/card game tournaments right in the middle of the store.

Now let me quickly say: I have absolutely no problem with gaming tournaments in shops like this. In fact, it makes total sense, and is probably pretty good for business, as participants will likely buy their game figures/cards/etc at the store in question. Where it becomes a frustration is when the tournament takes over the entire store. I know of several stores who have special rooms or areas off to the side of the store set up specifically for these types of purposes, and that’s awesome. But I also know of several stores who simply cram every square inch of their small stores with tables and chairs, thus making it impossible for anyone NOT involved in the tournament to browse through the store without climbing over players. I have actively witnessed possible customers walk into a store, see the situation, and turn right the hell back out, because honestly? Who needs to deal with that?

Complaint #6: The pricing.

Look, I understand that small, privately owned businesses are going to have to charge more for something than, say, Walmart, in order to make a profit, because they don’t necessarily get the same deals on wholesale purchases, and alternatively can’t necessarily afford to buy things in wholesale batches, and thus get their items at a markup to themselves to begin with. That said, if one such small shop is charging $50 for a figure, and another such small shop is charging $100 for that exact same figure…who do you think I’m going to buy it from? On a related note: I personally think that charging secondary market prices for “special” or “rare” items in a primary market establishment is extremely skeezy. If your small store is getting the exact same box of Funko Pops for the exact same wholesale price, but you turn around and take out the Chase figure and sell it for whatever it’s currently going for on Ebay? Congratulations…I’m going to actively choose not to purchase those types of items from you.

A side note to this one: there is a particular figure of a Crysis character that I have seen. I don’t know what the original retail price of the figure is, because, to be honest, I never saw it in retail establishments when it originally came out. The first time I personally saw it was when it began appearing in Dollarama stores for $4. And since then, all of a sudden, I’ve seen it in nearly every comic and collectible shop in the Maritime provinces going for anywhere from $20 to $40. Again…SKEEZY. It’s obvious that many of these stores bought the figure from their local Dollarama and then skyrocketed the price in their own store. I can understand why people do things like this on the secondary market, hoping to make a few bucks on someone who never knew that the figure actually landed itself in a dollar store for failing to sell, but when a BUSINESS does it, it..it’s just not professional, guys. Come on.


I could probably come up with a few more complaints, to be honest, but these are ones that come up regularly whenever Jason and I go on our toy-hunting trips, and they never become any less frustrating. Have you experienced these kinds of issues at stores you frequent? Do you have any complaints that I haven’t listed here? Please feel free to share!

How Much Do You Really Change Over 5 Years?

A few years back, I was browsing through a book store when I happened to come across something called the “Q and A a Day” journal. It’s a small book with 365 pages, one for each day of the year, each with a single question and five separate spaces for answers. The idea is to answer a question a day throughout the year, but then loop around and answer the same questions again the following year, repeating until you’ve filled up the journal and answered each question five times over the course of five years. In this vein, you could look back through the journal and see how you’ve changed over the years.

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I thought it was a really neat idea, so I picked up a copy and got to work…

…and in true “Tracey Tobin” fashion, I promptly forgot about it a few months later.

Now, recently I found the book and figured, hey…it doesn’t really matter if it’s five consecutive years of answers, just as long as I end up with five years of answers in the long run, right? So I started working on it again and have been doing so for a few weeks, scrawling answers to the questions for 2017 under the answers I had previously written back in 2014. And I have to admit, it’s been eye-opening to compare the two sets of answers.

So have I changed dramatically in three years, or am I practically the exact same person? Honestly, it’s a little of both! I make an effort not to look at my previously-written answers until I’ve come up with the new one, and yet sometimes I’ll glance up and realize that I’m writing the exact same sentence down, sometimes even word for word, making it seem as though my mind is a carbon copy now of what it was then. Yet, with other questions I’ll look at the previous answer and think that surely some other person must have written that, because it couldn’t have come from my brain.

In general I guess I just have to say that I’m surprised at both the similarities and the differences. For instance, stress is something that I feel like I’ve been dealing with for about a year or so, and yet according to some of the answers I wrote in 2014, I was very much dealing with it back then as well. When it comes to opinions on things that I never thought would change, however, my old and new answers are sometimes as different as day and night and make me wonder how I ever could have felt that way.

It’s been interesting to look at, for sure, which is the entire point of the journal, so I guess it’s doing it’s job! It only makes me wonder how much re-reading the answers is going to hurt my brain once I’ve actually managed to fill it up with five answers per question!

When you look back at yourself, do you see huge differences? Little ones? None at all? How do you picture yourself in the future? Do you expect that much will change, or do you feel that you’re pretty much set in your ways? Feel free to share!