Monday, December 7, 2015

Being Friends With Someone Who is Anxious/Depressed

I'm procrastinating on homework at school at the moment and there's a girl sitting next to me talking to her boyfriend, and she's getting really heated. The girl is extremely angry that her "best friend" is quote: "lazy, flaky, doesn't work, and doesn't go to school". She says the friend claims she's "too depressed" and has "too many anxiety attacks", and she's upset that this friend does not follow through with plans. She doesn't understand why the friend says she's going to put effort into "fixing herself" but never does. She also doesn't understand why her texts and calls go unanswered.

Please note that I'm not a specialist nor a professional in this field, but I feel the need to comment because I have a few friends who are struggling through similar issues, so these are my personal thoughts on the matter.

The thing this girl cannot understand is that her friend struggles with mental health issues. She can't switch her anxiety/depression on and off. She can't get better in the same way neurotypical people can. For some, behavior displayed by people with depression and anxiety is incredibly hard to understand. It's natural to think, why can't this person just buckle up and get over it? Apply for jobs? Take some classes? If everyone else can do it, why can't they? But to those with depression/anxiety these regular tasks may seem like the absolute most challenging things in the world. It's not a sign of laziness, what they're experiencing is more like a mix of fear and helplessness.

Instead of responding to a depressed and anxious person with anger and confusion, the appropriate thing is to be supportive. Especially if this person is your best friend, it's important to acknowledge that, at this moment in time, they need you more than you need them. If it means sending a quick text to make sure they're doing okay or offering to pick them up when you have plans to hang out, then as a friend I think it's important for YOU to buckle up and do these things. The friendship may not seem reciprocal at the moment, but getting your friend out of their downtrodden routine will be super helpful to them, even though it may seem hopeless to you. I feel like it's important to be persistent and to ensure that your friend knows that you're there for them. In some cases, if you give up on the friendship, not only are you losing a friend, but THEY are losing a potential lifeline and perhaps one of the few sources of happiness in their life.

We're taught that relationships require balance and equal effort on behalf of both parties, but I really believe this is one case that this theory doesn't apply to. Unless your own mental health is at-risk by supporting your friend, then I think putting that extra effort into your friendship is worth it. Continue to encourage them to improve themselves, and even though it may seem fruitless at first, the moment you stop insisting is the moment they give up, too. I know you may be dealing with your own set of struggles and issues, but you're mentally strong enough to overcome them. Your friend isn't. Also, and here's the harsh truth in this case: it's not about you and your needs at the moment. It's about them.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Latest Netflix Love: Jane The Virgin

I've been interested in watching Jane The Virgin ever since Gina Rodriguez won an Emmy award in 2014 for Best Actress in a TV comedy. This was the first time a CW network television show had ever won Emmy, so I figured it must be a good one.

The premise of the show is hilarious. Jane (Gina Rodriguez) goes to the gynecologist for a pap smear and is instead artificially inseminated when the doctor gets two patients mixed up. Jane finds out she's pregnant, which is of course impossible given that she's a virgin. Poor Jane has to decide if she wants to give birth to the baby whose father turns out to be someone she had a short fling with five years prior.

The accidental pregnancy sets off a ton of weird plot twists and absurdities that give the show its quirky character. At first, I thought I would be quickly annoyed with how unrealistic the storyline was, but I learned to suspend by disbelief and get to know the characters better instead. Eventually I warmed up to the soap opera/telenovela structure of the show. The characters, as is the case with any great TV show, are incredibly interesting and multi-dimensional.

I actually have three favorite characters: Jane, Rogelio, and Rafael. Jane is a type A workoholic with a huge heart, and she genuinely wants the best for others. The other characters often underestimate her ability to handle difficult situations because she's so sweet and sometimes comes off as naive, but Jane always rises to the occasion and is stern when she has to be. As far as role models go, I imagine Jane is perfect for a younger teen audience.

Rogelio is a telenovela star with a huge ego. His hubris is exaggerated on the show to the highest degree which makes him such a fun character. When things get too serious we can always count on a funny Rogelio scene to lighten the mood. He grapples with balancing his fame and family life, and of course, always puts his family first, making him lovable despite his arrogance.

Finally, what would Jane the Virgin be without Rafael *insert heart eyes emoji here*? Spoiler alert (but not really, because we learn this in the pilot episode), he is the father of Jane's accidentally inseminated child. Rafael has a morally-questionable past, but a recent bout of cancer softened him and made him more compassionate. (Admittedly, the gratuitous cancer story element annoyed me at first but I managed to let it go). Even though he's imperfect, he's infinitely more interesting than Jane's alternative love interest, Michael. So I'm definitely #TeamRafael.

Rafael and Jane

All in all, if you're looking for something lighthearted but interesting to watch, I highly recommend Jane The Virgin. You can find season 1 on Netflix, and season 2 is currently airing :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What I Learned in University

It's the last week of my undergrad! Woooooohoooo! I know I haven't blogged in a while but I figured my future self would be pretty upset if I didn't blog about the completion of my university degree. I thought I would document some of the lessons I picked up along the way.

First, I want to thank my parents who were able to finance my degree. Thanks to my dad who paid for most of my tuition, and thanks to my mom for supporting me in ways she was by no means obliged to. She paid for the majority of my cell phone bill, my train pass, big portions of my vacations, in addition to, of course, providing my housing and food. All I had to pay for is Netflix, new clothes, and socializing. I know I'm privileged to be subsidized by my parents when many my age are struggling and in debt. The lesson here is to acknowledge and be grateful for the help I've received. Thanks, parentals.

Second, I learned to stop denying my intellectual ability. In CEGEP, my strategy for getting good grades was to anticipate what the prof might want and replicate it to the best of my ability. This rarely led to any grade better than a B. In university, I decided I was smart enough to take chances with my assignments. I decided to have faith in my intellect and it paid off. I've been pulling straight As since the second year of my undergrad when I decided change my approach to school. Writing about what you like and what you think is much more rewarding and fun than having to write about boring topics that you don't feel connected to. Profs (good ones at least) recognize when a student takes risks with their writing and they grade accordingly. It's nice.

Speaking of good profs, I learned that not all profs are good. Some are arrogant and condescending. Some are so worried about academic bureaucracy that they forget what their job is. I had one prof that was so hell-bent on not giving As that no matter how hard you worked, how often you consulted the TA and got professional feedback on your work, you were doomed to a B+ at best. It's demoralizing. Bless McGill students who have to go through this on a regular basis.

I learned to reeelaaaxx about the future. Ever since high school it's been clear that I should be focused on one thing only: $$$. At this point, many of my friends are discouraged, anxiety-ridden, and stressed beyond belief about what they're going to do when they graduate. This is no bueno. I decided that I need to chill out a bit so as to not have a head full of greys before I hit 25. We live in a time that glorifies hard work, which is not to say hard work is a bad thing, but it serves to make those who are not constantly working feel incredibly guilty. We're trying so hard to transcend the notion that millennials are lazy and useless, that we're overworked and tired beyond belief. I refuse.

Finally, I learned that I need to celebrate my accomplishments more. Over the course of three years I completed an internship, secured a position that paid more than minimum wage, QUIT said position because I realized it wasn't making me happy, took my time to complete my major without stressing the hell out, and completed a minor along with it. I made Dean's List. My GPA is nearly a 4.0. I'm more socially and politically aware than I've ever been. My friendships are stronger than they've ever been. My bank account isn't in the negatives. I'm a small business owner. Am I on the road to riches? Who knows, but right now I'm good. It's all good and I'm proud of myself.